Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Friend Who Will Never Leave

Hebrews 13:1-8

More and more these days it seems that taking a stand for Christ brings about an animosity with the world, and separates friends from each other, along with family members.  Sometimes taking a Biblical stand can bring about hostility from the church one attends if they are wanting to please the world rather than God.  If this happens, we may feel like we are all alone, like we are walking one way, while everyone else is racing the opposite way.  In our Scripture passage for today we have the Lord’s promise to us that He will never leave us.  As we look into God’s Word this morning, we can take comfort and hope.

The unknown author of the Book of Hebrews is bringing his letter to a conclusion, and he seeks to give a few final instructions for these believers who are struggling with strong persecution for their stand for the Lord.  Despite what they are going through, the author reminds them that God wants them to continue to show love for each other (vs. 1).  Real love for others will produce real actions.  God’s Word tells us to show kindness to strangers (vs. 2), empathy for those in prison or who are being mistreated (vs. 3), respect for marriage vows (vs. 4), and contentment for what we have (vs. 5).  When we show this kind of love to others, one never knows how far-reaching an act of kindness might go, as some in the Bible were hosts to angels.  Jesus said that a kind act shown to others was also a kind act shown to Him (Matthew 25:34-40).

One way that helps us when we go through difficult times is to have contentment (vs. 5).  We become content when we realize God’s sufficiency for our needs.  When we become materialistic we are saying, in effect, that God can’t take care of us.  Don’t we know that is not true?  Hasn’t He shown His provisions all throughout our life?  We can trust God to meet our needs.  We can be content in every situation because of Jesus’ promise that He will never leave us, and that He will never forsake us.

Sometimes we find ourselves in frightening situations.  Like a child does when they are afraid and can’t see their parents, we might feel that God has abandoned us.  God has promised us, given His Word, that He will never leave, forsake, or abandon us.  We may not always feel God’s arms beneath us, but we can rest in His care and promise that He is there.  Jesus has shown us in the past that He has always been faithful, so we can trust that He will remain faithful to us.

God does not lie.  We can trust His promises to us.  His Word is sure and true.  Verse 5 says that He Himself (the Lord Jesus Christ) has said this promise to never leave or forsake us.  We have His Word, the word and promise of the God of the universe.  Can you ever doubt that word?  Jesus doesn’t save us one day, and then abandon us the next.

When Jesus promised to never leave us, He meant in the hard times as well as the good times.  Our mission in the difficult seasons of life is to work and serve, remembering we are doing our work for God, and then to watch as God works to accomplish His purpose.  Because God has promised to never leave or forsake us, we can be content with our lives.  We can rest in His nearness.  We don’t have to be anxious about anything.  No matter where we go, God goes with us.

As we contemplate this incredible promise of God, we may be reminded of promises that others have made to us, and how they changed and turned their backs on us.  Will that ever happen with Jesus?  Sure, He loves us now, but how about in a year, in ten years?  Will He then?  Our concluding verse states that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (vs. 8).  Friends may change, but Jesus doesn’t.  Friends may leave, but Jesus won’t.  He is immutable, unable to change (Malachi 3:6).  He is the eternal God whose ways are everlasting.

When the storms of life come, and they will, we have a sure anchor - Jesus, who never changes.  If we try to hold tight to things of this word, such as our belongings, friends, and abilities, they all change.  However, Jesus does not change, and He never moves or leaves.  He is the same as He has always been, and we can also be assured that there is absolutely no way whatsoever that He will ever, ever leave us.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Deliver Me From Lying Lips

Psalm 120

Can lies really hurt anyone?  Some people think that lying is no big deal.  However, I have known some people whose lives have been completely shattered and torn to shreds by some vicious lies told about them.  Lies can easily send an innocent person to jail, or even to their death.  The author of our psalm for today was the victim of someone’s ruthless lies.  Though no one knows for sure who the author was, it possibly could have been King David.  Let’s take a look at this very brief psalm, and see both what he has to say, and what we can learn.

As our psalm opens, the author is crying out to the Lord (vs. 1).  He is in great distress, and why so?  As we continue to read, the psalmist is in distress because of nasty and hurtful lies that have been told about him (vs. 2).  He doesn’t specify what the lies were, but they were obviously damaging and derogatory to him and his character.  If this was David, we know that there were plenty of enemies who told King Saul lies about him, causing him to have to flee for his life numerous times.  Whoever this was, the lies were causing distress and anxiety, and the psalmist was crying out to God in anguish.

Have you been the victim of lying lips and a deceitful tongue?  If so, you might know the pain, heartache, and torment some lies can cause.  Hopefully none of us have ever been behind telling any such damaging lies!  What do we do when such lies hit us, and others believe them?  Our psalmist knew where to turn.  He didn’t take matters into his own hands.  Instead, he turned to the Lord with his distress, and he knew that Yahweh heard him.

As this brief psalm continues, the author now turns from speaking to the Lord to speaking with these vicious liars (vs. 3-4).  The Bible is replete with commands against lying and speaking things that just aren’t true or right.  Rather than going after them himself, though, the psalmist prays for God to handle this.  As he speaks to the liars, he tells them what God can and will do to them.  The Lord will send His arrows and hot coals of punishment to them.  We may think that the liars are getting away with what they have done to us, and this might make us tempted to go after them ourselves.  However, rather than stooping to their level, or making a bad situation even worse, we should let the Lord handle them.  His punishment will be honest and right, and His Word says that liars will get what they deserve.

Now the psalmist turns his attention to the fact that he is being forced to dwell among his enemies and those who hate peace and cause trouble (vs. 5-7).  Our author was lamenting that he was far from his homeland, and surrounded by pagan or unsaved people.  Meshech was thought to be ancient lands north of the Holy Land, and Kedar was in the south, in the Arabian peninsula.  Whether in the heathen north or pagan south, the psalmist was not at home, and was among both physical and spiritual enemies.  He desired peace, but all they wanted to do was fight, cause trouble, and be argumentative.

We hear a lot about peace today.  One would think that everyone would be for peace, especially when so many talk about it.  However, if we take a close look at some people, we see that this really isn’t always true.  Peace-making is not always popular.  Some people would just always prefer to fight all the time.  Being a peacemaker, though, is God’s preferred way (Matthew 5:9).

As Christians, we live in the middle of an ungodly world, just like the psalmist found himself in.  Jesus did not pray for us to be taken out of this world (John 17:15-16).  Instead, Jesus prayed that God would keep us from evil.  All believers must live with the tension of being in the world, but not belonging to it.  Jesus reminded us that as Christians, we are not of this world.  The worse the people are among whom we live, the more they need our witness, the more they need to hear the truth from us.

In closing today, our psalm highlighted for us where we can turn to when our enemies spread evil lies about us.  We can trust that the Lord God will handle this for us.  We also learned that even when surrounded by those who hate peace and want to stir up trouble, the Lord knows, and He desires us to be a peaceful witness for Him wherever we are.  


Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Trials of Joseph

Rolling downhill as a child can seem fun, though most adults would not want to join in.  How about when your life is figuratively seeming to be rolling downhill, faster and faster, with one disaster after another rapidly happening?  Some of us have had periods in our life that seemed like that.  As believers, we might wonder where God is.  Doesn’t He see us, with our life spinning out of control, and likely to end in disaster?  Today let’s take a quick look at the life of Joseph in the Old Testament, with what happened to him, and how he reacted.

Joseph was the eleventh of the twelve sons of Jacob, grandson of Abraham.  Because he was the first son of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel, Joseph was his favorite son, which Jacob never refrained from showing, including getting him an elaborate and probably very expensive multi-colored robe.  It is never good for a parent to show favoritism of one child over the others, and the results of this mistake on Jacob’s part would greatly affect the family, particularly Joseph, for many years.

As we read in Genesis 37:12-36, Jacob sent Joseph one day to check up on his older brothers who were tending the flocks in a distant field.  The seventeen year old was wearing his colored robe, and the brothers could identify him from a distance.  They all hated Joseph because he was “Daddy’s favorite”, and plotted to get rid of him, some even wanting to kill him.  When Joseph arrived, they stripped him of his robe, probably beat him up, and threw him in a pit.  A short time later they sold him as a slave to passing traders.  Naked, beaten and battered, and now in shackles, he was forced to walk through the wilderness and blazing sun from central Canaan all the way to Egypt.

We pick up our account now in Genesis 39.  Joseph has been sold as a slave to Potiphar, a high-ranking official in Pharaoh’s court.  One could completely understand if Joseph’s faith in God waned or even disappeared.  That was not the case, though.  God had not forgotten Joseph, and he knew it.  His faith and trust in God was as strong as ever.  We read that the Lord was with Joseph (vs. 2-3), and He blessed all that he did.  Potiphar saw how Joseph’s work excelled, and within a short time promoted him to the point of putting everything in his hands (vs. 4-6).

However, Joseph’s problems did not end.  Very soon Potiphar’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph, and she desired to have an affair with him (vs. 7-10).  Joseph, though, was a godly young man, and he determined that he was not going to sin against God or against his master.  This angered the woman, who then turned her desire into a plot of revenge, accusing him of attempted rape, and Joseph was quickly put in prison (vs. 11-20).

It would have been easy for Joseph to give in, however he viewed adultery as a great violation of his ethical convictions.  He desired to live a life of holiness before God.  Any sin we commit is really an offense against God.  Joseph was faithful, and it cost him greatly.  Joseph knew that when tempted by the sin of lust, the best, the only sure defense was to flee.  Better that he lose his coat than lose his virtue, testimony, and character.  His relationship with God was far more important than a night of pleasure.  You can’t play with fire without getting burned.

It seems Joseph was rolling down that hill faster and faster.  From favored son to beaten and thrown in a pit, then sold as a slave, now falsely accused and thrown in prison.  Did Joseph lose faith and turn his back on God?  No!  Joseph did not, and the Lord blessed him there, as the jailor quickly put him in charge of the other prisoners (vs. 21-23).  As we read later, God brought Joseph out of prison and placed him as Prime Minister of all Egypt.

Through all that Joseph went through, he was neither angry nor discouraged.  The Bible never records any bitterness or revenge in his response to all his circumstances.  Joseph maintained a faith-filled outlook because he consistently relied on God, who was always with him.  During our problems, we can experience God’s presence and thrive.  We need to remember that the Lord is with us, even when our circumstances seem to shout that He has deserted us.

The difficulties we find ourselves in will continue until God’s purpose is accomplished.  Joseph was put in the various places and difficulties so he could learn key lessons needed for the future, when God would put him in the highest of spots.  He learned skills, and his faith and relationship with God was strengthened.

We learn more in the dark than we do in the light.  Joseph learned how to discern God’s presence, reject temptation, and handle any position, whether high or lowly.  In stressful times we discover how much we really trust the Lord.  If doubt about His promises take root in our thinking, it can lead us off His chosen path.  But with steady belief, we can recognize God’s presence, and we can persevere wherever we are.

Friday, August 26, 2022

The Narrow Gate

Luke 13:22-30

Have you ever driven on some narrow roads?  There are some roads where only one vehicle can go through at a time.  If someone comes from the other direction, they have to wait for the first car to go through before they can.  If they don’t, the cars are going to end up with scraped sides.  When I was younger and able to walk around much better than now, my children and I went down to the State of Kentucky to go through some of the caves there.  In parts of those caves the pathways are very narrow, and one needs to be careful going through.  In our Scripture today from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus talks about the narrow way which leads to salvation.  It is narrow, not broad and wide.  Let’s look at what He said.

As our Scripture opens, Jesus was going through villages, teaching God’s message to the people, while heading towards Jerusalem.  These were the last few months of His ministry, and by now He was most likely not welcome in most of the synagogues due to the Pharisees' opposition.  As Jesus taught, one man in the crowd spoke up and asked Him if there would be few people who get saved (vs. 22-23).

What a question!  What would the answer be?  In Jesus’ day, most religious Jews did not believe that any Gentiles would go to heaven.  Today, there are a lot of preachers and people who feel that everyone goes to heaven.  If anyone would have an answer, it would be God, of course.  Let’s see how Jesus, the Son of God, and the Second Person of the Trinity, answered this man’s question.

The first thing that Jesus said in response to the question was that the gate, the way to heaven, is narrow, not wide and open (vs. 24).  In Matthew 7:14, Jesus said that not only is the gate narrow, but the way is difficult, and there are few who find it.   Entering the narrow gate is difficult because of its cost with human pride, the sinner's love of sin, and the world’s and Satan’s opposition to the truth.  The effort we must put out to enter the narrow gate is to earnestly desire to know Jesus, and to diligently strive to follow Him, whatever the cost.  We dare not put off making this decision, because the door will not stay open forever.

As is very clearly taught here, and throughout Scripture, one must come to God only through the way that He set forth in Scripture.  Everyone else will be denied (vs. 25).  It is not that God refuses some people.  Rather, it is that some people refuse God and His way of salvation.  People try to get in by some other way than through Jesus.  They want to enter heaven through their own works.  They also like to believe that any number of religious leaders or philosophers have an equally valid claim on salvation and heaven.  Jesus said that He is the way, the truth and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).  Whether anyone likes it or not, God has set the way to heaven, which is clearly stated in the Bible, and there is no other way.

There is a saying which is popular among a lot of people, but which has absolutely no validity through Scripture, and that is that there are a lot of roads which lead to heaven, and a lot of different ways to get there.  However, as we read in our passage today, the road is not a broad, wide open highway.  It is a narrow gate.  The only way to heaven is through the Lord Jesus Christ, and not any other religious leader or guru.  God is not exclusive, as some might think because of this passage.  He is very inclusive.  Jesus wants to draw all men to Himself (John 12:32).  However, not all choose to come.  Only a few ever do.  Jesus offers salvation to everyone, and would never turn anyone away who put their faith and trust in Him (Romans 10:9-13).  Jesus is the only way to the Father, and everyone has the opportunity to come.

As Jesus continues His teaching, He tells how many will claim that they knew Him, ate and drank with Him, but that they will be turned away (vs. 25-27).  This might include many preachers and religious leaders of our churches today, along with many people we see sitting in the seats at church.  They were not of His flock, nor were willing to enter in through the way He said one must.  Not everyone we thought would be in heaven will be there.  Also, some we thought would never be in heaven will be.

As we look back on our Scripture for today, the man asked Jesus a question.  Rather than answering the question directly with a yes or a no, or giving a specific number amount, Jesus told the person, and the group at large, to check and be sure that they are going in through the narrow gate.  What about you?  Jesus is asking each of us the same question.  Are you going in through the narrow gate, or are you trying to get in some other way, or are wrongly believing that the way is wide and broad?  Don’t be deceived!

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Heed The Warning!

Frequently we run across warnings as we go about our daily life.  As we drive through the city there are traffic warnings, such as stop lights and railroad crossings.  In some buildings there are warnings to not enter a certain room, perhaps because of radiation.  Medications come with warnings.  They are all around us, and it is wise to heed the warnings.  Ignoring these warnings can bring dire consequences.  In our Scripture today from the Book of Hebrews we have some warnings, warnings that are very important that we read and heed.

As our Scripture opens, the author describes a scene from the Jewish people’s past, when they were gathered around the base of Mt. Sinai when Moses ascended the mount to receive the Law from the hand of God (vs. 18-21).  At that time there were dark clouds, lightning, fire, and the earth shook.  They knew that this was a sacred place, a solemn event, and respected the warning that was given to not touch or come up the mountain.  The voice of God sounded with such power it could not be stood by the people (Exodus 20:19, Deuteronomy 5:22-27).  This portrays the holiness of God.  To ignore that warning brought death.

We are told that as believers, we have come to Mt. Zion, not to Mt. Sinai.  Mt. Sinai represents the Old Testament Law and of works.  The beauty of Mt. Zion represents God’s grace and the believers' new life in Jesus (vs. 22-24).  It is through Jesus that we are saved, not through the keeping of the Law.  He is the Mediator of the New Covenant, and we must come to God through His shed Blood (vs. 24).  There is no lasting blessing that can come to fallen man through the Old Testament Law.  To those who do come through His Son Jesus, God has judged as perfectly justified in His sight, which is justification by faith (vs. 23).

Our author gives us a stern warning not to refuse or reject the Lord Jesus (vs. 25).  There was judgment at Mt. Sinai, and to reject Jesus will be even worse.  If we reject God’s Son, judgment is sure!  The consequences of apostasy are dire.  The judgment to be experienced and the expected terror is far in excess of that on Mt. Sinai.  It is dangerous to refuse to hear the warning of God who speaks from heaven, for if those at Mt. Sinai did not escape God’s wrath, we surely will not escape.

When Jesus comes a second time, God will shake the earth, and no one will escape (vs. 26-27).  At Mt. Sinai, God shook the earth.  From Holy Zion, or heaven, He will shake the whole universe.  Only faith in Jesus and His death on the Cross cannot be shaken.  That alone will remain.  Faith or trust in anything or anyone else will be destroyed.

What are you trusting to get you through this life?  What are you trusting to get you to heaven?  What rock are we building our life on? To those who put their trust in Jesus, there is a kingdom to be inherited that cannot be moved (vs. 28).  It cannot fall apart.  It will endure.  We are safe if we are in Jesus’ kingdom, and do not need to fear.  However, we should justly fear if we are outside of that kingdom.  When everything else is being shaken, those within His kingdom will remain standing.  Stop trusting the transitory defenses of this world, and the false hope of anything other than Jesus.  He is completely unwavering and immovable.  His is the only kingdom that will endure.

Our author ends with another serious warning, and that is that God is a consuming fire (vs. 29).  God is loving, but He is also a consuming fire.  He is not just some jolly Santa Claus-like figure, who winks when we do wrong.  He will never condone any sin.  We must worship Him acceptably and with reverence and awe.  The fire of God will consume everything that is not of faith in Jesus and His death upon the Cross (I Corinthians 3:10-17).

Have you come to the sprinkled Blood of Jesus, shed upon the Cross of Calvary?  (vs. 24).   We don’t ask if you have come to a knowledge of doctrine, or an observance of ceremonies, or to any certain experience.  The question is have you come to the Blood of Jesus?  The Blood of Jesus is the only thing that will save our soul.

Monday, August 22, 2022

A Refuge In The Storms

Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, earthquakes, scorching summer heat, drought.  These are all some of the natural disasters that have been occurring in various parts of the world recently, and continue to happen even today.  Additionally there are wars, as well, in various spots around the world, along with riots and violent crime.  Living in an area where any one or more of these events are occurring can be very fearful and stressful, even bringing panic.  Is there anywhere one can turn to during such times?  Is there any help?  Our psalm for today is one that many turn to when the storms of life, both literal and figurative, come upon us.

As our psalm opens, our psalmist, one of the sons of Korah, describes a very severe natural disaster (vs. 1-3).  It was quite possibly a devastating earthquake, as he describes mountains shaking and falling into the ocean, causing a likely tsunami.  When something like this, or any other natural disasters, such as hurricanes, wildfires, etc. happen, who do we look to for help, reassurance and relief?  Can the government help?  What about charity organizations?   All too often those are woefully inadequate or even nonexistent.  How about when wars, riots, and violent crimes occur?  The psalmist describes wars and violence, with the weapons of his day, such as bows, spears, and chariots (vs. 9).  Is there reliable help then?

Our psalmist gives us an answer, really the only answer of where to get help during disasters, and that is the Lord God (vs. 1, 10-11).  Yahweh is adequate to face any threat we may have from nature, from other nations, or violent criminals we face.  He will protect His people from these problems that come against us.  God is our very present help for us.  He is right there, right now.  We don’t have to wait to call upon Him.  Human help may not be available to call upon at all times, especially when there may be numerous disasters or problems for them to deal with.  The help we seek from others may be inadequate with what assistance they can offer.  However Yahweh is a present help and refuge, always there for us, no matter what the need.

Even if the world ends, we do not need to fear.  God is able to save us.  He is our refuge, even in the face of total destruction.  God isn’t a temporary retreat.  He is our eternal refuge.  Yahweh is always there to help, providing us with a safe and sure shelter, security, and peace.  His power is complete, and His ultimate victory over any enemy that threatens us is certain.  God will not fail to rescue those who love Him.

Sometimes the Lord will allow all of our earthly security to fail us so that we will learn to depend upon Him better.  Even then, though, we do not need to fear.  We just need to be still and reverentially honor God, His power, and His majesty (vs. 10).

Some of you may remember being afraid of storms as a child.  You may have run to a loving parent who took you into their arms and provided a sense of safety and security. In the storms of life, we can come to God and find shelter and protection in His arms, just like a child in a thunderstorm.  Jesus did not scold the disciples when they feared the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  He stood up and calmed the storm, bringing them peace (Mark 4:35-41).  Because of the presence of God, the forces of nature and the nations are no longer a threat to the people of God who dwell with Him.

When chaos threatens, remember to seek God, and we will have peace (Isaiah 26-3-4).  We do not need to panic.  God is sovereign over everything we will ever face in life.  As the hymn writer reminds us, “Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side.”

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Grounded On A Sure Foundation

Isaiah 28:14-17

When a crisis is on the horizon, and we fear it is coming our way, who do we turn to for help?  Do we look to the Lord for our help, or do we think that perhaps an earthly source can rescue us, possibly quicker or in a more preferred way than God can?  In our Old Testament Scripture for this week, we read in the Book of Isaiah the Lord’s condemnation of His people when they made such a choice.  Let’s take a look.

To understand our passage better, it is important to know the background from when the prophet Isaiah gave this message to the people.  For around two hundred years, the nation of Israel had been split into the southern Kingdom of Judah, and the northern Kingdom of Israel.  Then around 732 BC, the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrian empire, dispersing the people.  The Assyrian army set their eyes on Judah and Jerusalem, and the people feared that the same fate which befell their sister nation would happen to them.  What were they to do?  Would Yahweh help them?  What if He didn’t?  Where would they turn?  How could their relatively small country hold off the mighty empire of Assyria and their powerful war machine?

It was at this time that the politicians and leaders of Judah turned to foreign allies, such as Egypt, for help, instead of turning to God and getting their lives right with Him (vs. 14-15).   The problem with this was, that not only did this show a lack of trust in Yahweh, it also was a strong temptation for the people to incorporate their foreign allies pagan gods into their own worship.  For centuries whenever the people looked to foreign countries for help, they also accepted their foreign gods and goddesses.  When Isaiah spoke out against the alliance Judah was making with Egypt and others at this time, he called it a covenant with death, of lies, and of falsehood.

As Isaiah’s message continues, he speaks for God, saying how the Lord will lay a sure foundation and cornerstone (vs. 16).  Every building needs a good, strong foundation.  Without a good foundation, the building will settle and sink, and the building will become off-kilter, walls crack, become unstable and possibly collapse.  A good foundation for a building is a lot more than just digging a hole and pouring in concrete.  The base must be properly compacted, the formworks properly set up, the right soil conditions and water tables checked.  The cornerstone is the first stone laid down after the foundation is laid.  All other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus it is important that this stone is carefully laid.  If it is laid crookedly, the walls will be off, and nothing will line up properly.

In verse 16 Isaiah was speaking about the Lord Jesus Christ.  When Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, He said that He was the chief cornerstone which the builders rejected (Mark 12:10; Psalm 118:22).  Both the Apostles Paul and Peter spoke of Jesus being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20; I Peter 2:6-8).  As believers, we can have no other foundation than the Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 3:11).  The foundation on whom we should build our lives is Jesus, the true cornerstone.  Anything or anyone else is a flimsy and faulty base.

The leaders of Judah were looking elsewhere to put their trust and hope in, rather than the sure foundation they had in God.  However, He is the only perfect foundation, the one that will hold no matter any storms.  The sure and true foundation and cornerstone is Jesus.  We must trust in Him, rather than seeking a false refuge.  Those who do will not be put to shame.

Jesus is not only the foundation and cornerstone, He is also the plummet or plumb line (vs. 17).  A plumb line is used to make sure a wall or line is straight.  Again, if they are not straight, the building will be off-kilter, and could likely collapse.  Jesus is the standard of righteousness that we need in our life so we will stand in judgment.  All who stand on Judgment Day will be measured by this Divine Line, and those who are not found as perfect and sinless through Jesus’ righteousness will be rejected.

The people of Isaiah’s day traded their sure foundation and cornerstone for a cheap substitute.  They had a safe refuge in God, but instead looked elsewhere, making a covenant of death.  We see the same today.  This world seems to be spinning out of control, and where are people looking to for their salvation?  What type of foundation are they building on?  Will it withstand the storms of this world, or come collapsing down?  The only sure foundation and cornerstone, the only true plumb line, is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Family Feud

Luke 12:51-56

It’s always pleasant when family members get along with each other.  No one wants to sit down at the table on Thanksgiving Day, at the Christmas get-togethers, or the summertime backyard barbecue and there be a family feud.  We hope that mom won’t start in with the criticisms, grandfather with his judgments, or any number of other fights being picked.  Often we do what we can to keep the peace.  Only on the game show is a family feud any fun!  What about when the family rises up and attacks one’s faith in the Lord Jesus?  We may want peace in the family, but sometimes that’s not possible, especially when it comes to the Savior.  This is something that Jesus, Himself, said would happen.  Let’s look at what He said.

Most of the time we think of the Lord Jesus as Someone who brought love and peace to everyone.  However as our Scripture passage today opens, Jesus speaks about not bringing peace, but division (vs. 51).  What kind of division?  Why not peace?  We do know that Jesus said that He would give peace to His followers (John 14:27).   And we know that He wants unity among His children, fellow believers one with another (John 17:21-23).  However, here Jesus is talking about the division that arises when one person accepts and follows Him, and the other doesn’t.

There are countless believers, both now and in the past, that faced opposition from their families when they accepted the Lord Jesus as their Savior.  Sometimes this opposition is in the form of ridicule and scorn, as the family mocks the new Christian for the belief in Jesus and the Bible.  At other times, especially in certain parts of the world, the opposition is much more violent against the new believer, sometimes even leading to death.

When someone gets saved and starts living for Jesus, there are often divisions in the house and families (vs. 52-53).  Blood ties are not strong enough to stop the hatred that is thrown at the believer.  The presence of Jesus Christ brings to the surface the evil of the human heart.  The depth of that evil and the hatred of the heart for God were manifested in the Cross.  The division is caused by the rebellion of men against the Gospel.  Doing the work of the Lord will bring about persecution.

So what should the believer do to keep peace in the family?  Should they just keep quiet, and never mention the Lord Jesus or His Word?  Should they continue to attend the false religious practices that their families may take part in, attend a church that has long since turned away from Scripture and fundamental doctrines, or even participate in rituals from a false religion?  No, the Scriptures repeatedly tell us that we should never participate in false religious practices.  Jesus told us that He wants us to bring the Gospel to the whole world, which certainly includes our immediate family.  We should always be polite and tactful when we speak with our families, but at the same time be clear and certain when we tell them about Jesus.  If they refuse to listen we should never be obnoxious, but instead just politely tell them we are praying for them, and then if at a later time the opportunity arises for us to speak about God and His Word, again give a witness for the Savior.

However, there is no middle ground with Jesus.  There is no having one foot on the side of the Savior, and the other in either false religious, agnostic, or atheistic family beliefs, just to keep the peace with them.  Loyalties must be declared, and commitments made, sometimes to the point that families are severed due to the unsaved person’s hatred of Jesus.  Sometimes this will mean a break in the family structure.  Jesus said this would happen, that with Him there will not always be peace.  There can be no peace between God and His followers and Satan and his followers.

As our Scripture passage concludes, Jesus quoted some old weather-related proverbs, which are still often in use today (vs. 54-56).  He told us that if we are knowledgeable enough to read the signs of the weather, we need to be paying attention to the signs of the times.   The Bible tells the signs that will indicate that Jesus’ return is near.  Are we paying attention?  Are we ready?  That is so much more important than the weather.  As we are looking and awaiting the Lord’s return, we need to take a stand for Jesus, even if it means our family and others turning against us.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Time For Discipline

Hebrews 12:5-12

Recently I was in a grocery store where I witnessed several young children racing up and down the aisles, screaming, knocking into shoppers and their carts, knocking food off the shelves, all while their mother ignored the bad behavior and continued to shop and talk on her phone.  At the other extreme, I have known of parents who abused their children to the point of them needing to go to the hospital.  That is naturally worse, but the former also shows very poor parenting and discipline, and will certainly be detrimental to the child when they get older.   In our Scripture passage from the Book of Hebrews we will look at the discipline of the Lord, and how important that is for believers.

Those children racing through the grocery store may have thought they were having a good time, and probably would have resented anyone telling them to stop their wild antics.  However, undisciplined children grow into undisciplined teens, and then adults, and all sorts of problems come from that.  They really need to have a parent who will set guidelines and limits to behavior, and punish them when they need it.  A good and loving parent will do this.  The same is true in our spiritual life.  Our good and loving Heavenly Father will discipline His children when necessary.

The Christians who the author of Hebrews wrote to were not happy about any godly discipline they were experiencing, and were complaining and resenting it, so he wrote to them, explaining why this was necessary.  Had that mother called her children to her, and kept them by her side in a well-behaved manner, that would have been good for them in the long run, and good for everyone else, too!

Trials and suffering in the Christian life come from God, who uses them to educate and discipline believers by such experiences (vs. 5-6).  Afflictions are designed on the part of God to produce positive effects in the lives of His people.  We need to learn the lesson desired to be taught. They are evidence of God’s love for His children.

Our author gives a quote from Proverbs 3:11-12, which tells us that it is because the Lord loves us that He disciplines us when it is necessary, and that this is not something that we should despise or get discouraged over.  Who really loves their child more - the parent who lets the child do whatever they want, even if it could lead to harm, or the parent who corrects, trains, and punishes the child to help them learn what is right?  God’s correction is proof of His love for us.

Chastening from the Lord shows we are His children (vs. 7).  Many claim to be believers while continuing in sin, and the Lord never chastens them.  Such shows that they are illegitimate, having never truly been saved (vs. 8).  Because we are all imperfect and need discipline and training, all true children of God will be chastened at one time or another, in one way or another.

Imperfect human parents will discipline imperfectly, yet most people realize as they grow older that their parent’s discipline was good and necessary.  God is our perfect Father, and therefore His discipline is perfect, and always for the spiritual good of His children (vs. 9-10).  Respect for God will show submission to His will and law.  Those who willingly receive the Lord’s chastening will have a richer, more abundant life.

There are some Christians today who feel that we cannot displease God, and that He will never punish believers.  Perhaps they are responding to harsher views and teachings about God from centuries ago, and a misunderstanding of unconditional love.  However, God’s purity, justice, and hatred of sin are a part of His love for us.  God is not a permissive grandparent, overlooking our sin.  The condemnation spoken of in Romans 8:1 is different from discipline and punishment.  Condemnation is the final verdict.

In closing, we all agree that we usually don’t like discipline (vs. 11).  We didn’t like it from our parents, and we aren’t overjoyed with it from God.  It is never pleasant.  It requires a change in us.  Deeply entrenched sinfulness and destructive habits are rooted out, and our earthly sources of security are destroyed.  God does it for our good, and it can increase our faith.  If we cooperate with God when He corrects us, we will become more like Him, and great blessings will result.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Corrupt Leaders

Psalm 82

Every so often we might hear on the news that a judge, a politician, or a major business leader is being brought to court to stand trial for some major infractions.  They were doing wrong, and have not done what they were supposed to be doing.  As they stand before the court they are severely reprimanded for their behavior.  If they don’t change their actions and behavior, their punishment will be worse.  In our psalm for this week we read of the Lord God, the Righteous Judge, bringing His judgment on those who have not been doing what they were supposed to be doing.  Let’s see what He has to say.

Today’s psalm was written by Asaph, who was one of the Temple musicians and worship leaders.  This psalm, however, was not a psalm of praise or worship.  Instead, Asaph brings a warning message from God.  This Scripture is concerned with the problem of unjust judges, and would easily include both the political leaders and business leaders of the day, as well.  In this psalm these leaders are called the Hebrew word “elohim” or “gods” because of their responsibility to represent Yahweh to the people, as the word also has the meaning of a judge or ruler.

Our psalm’s setting is similar to the court cases we are familiar with.  In verse one, we see the Lord God, the Judge of all, arriving for the hearing.  In verses two through five the accusations against these leaders are given.  In verses six and seven the Lord, as Judge of all mankind, sets forth His verdict.  And the psalm concludes in verse eight proclaiming that Yahweh is indeed the Judge of all the world, and thus, His verdict is a just one.

The accusations that were brought against these judges, political, and business leaders were that they do not give fair and just judgment, but instead show partiality to friends, those who pay them bribes, and other criminal sorts (vs. 2).  They do not use their power and resources to help the poor, the afflicted, or the needy, but instead only care for those who are wicked like themselves (vs. 3-4).

As we know, of course, this is not something that is unique to the days of the Bible.  We see this all the time with unscrupulous, unethical, and amoral business leaders and politicians today.  These types of judges and politicians frequently take bribes, and are not impartial in their judgments.  These business and political leaders do not care for the poor, the needy, and orphans.  They are more interested in their own, or the company’s bank accounts, and how much money they are making for themselves and their stockholders.  If that makes it extremely burdensome and costly for poorer people, they just shrug their shoulders and do not care for their difficulty.

When leaders leave the way of God, and devise their own ways, the people, particularly the poor and vulnerable, become victims of corruption, abuse, and neglect.  The Lord God is not happy or pleased with this type of behavior from these leaders, either back then or today, and He is calling them in for judgment.  These leaders are to represent Yahweh to the people as His servants, and are to serve the people, not prey on them.

As our psalm continues, we see that these people do not follow the Lord God (vs. 5).  They do not know or understand His Word, and they are walking in darkness.  Until these leaders turn to Jesus, they will continue to be in darkness, and as such, believers should turn away from them, rather than giving them support.

Asaph saw that in his day, the foundations of the earth were unstable (vs. 5).  These were legal, political, and business leaders who were to provide the foundation for society and the country.  Yet what type of foundation were they giving when they were all corrupt and wicked?  It was all faltering and unstable, and would be bringing the judgment of God.  When leaders rule unjustly, the divinely established moral order which undergirds human existence is undermined.  Don’t we see this as we look across our country and around the world?  What can we expect when our leaders turn away from God and His Word?  The Lord allowed them to obtain these positions, and yet they have turned their back on Him.  Thus, He has promised special judgment upon these leaders.  If we are so privileged to be in such a position, let us make sure that we follow God’s Word and ways, rightly representing Him to the people.  If we aren’t in any such position, let’s make sure that we actively support those who are following God’s ways.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

God Hears And Sees

Jeremiah 23:23-29

Young children sometimes wish that they could be invisible.  That way they could sneak around, get into some mischief, and their parents or teachers wouldn’t see them.  Without that invisibility power they always seem to get caught when they do something they’ve been told not to do.  That desire doesn’t always leave when we get older.  Employees often look over their shoulder to see if the boss or supervisor is around, checking what they can get away with.  Motorists are always checking for the police to see if it’s safe to speed up.  Do we wish we could be invisible to God?  Some of the religious leaders and people of Israel during the days of the prophet Jeremiah felt they were unseen by God, and could do and speak as they wished.  However, God had a response for them.

Nobody likes to hear bad news, nor do they like to hear any criticism or scolding for their actions and behavior.  They don’t like hearing it from their boss, their friends, or their spouse.  Knowing this about people, many preachers have tailored all of their sermons for their congregations to be positive, feel-good messages.  This is not only true today, but was also in the days of the prophets.  The true prophets of God, who proclaimed His Word faithfully, would often call the people out on their sins and when they strayed into worshiping idols.  However, the false prophets preferred to gain the people’s favor, particularly royalty and political leaders, so they only spoke positive messages.  They told the people lies, saying that Yahweh didn’t mind what they were doing, and that depending on where they were, He couldn’t see them.  These false prophets preached that the messages of judgment that the true prophets spoke were wrong, and that Yahweh would not judge or punish them, as after all, they were His children.  These false prophets even claimed to have special revelations from God through dreams and visions.

Yahweh had a message for these false prophets and religious leaders who had forsaken His Word in Scripture, and His messenger Jeremiah was ready to give it.  As our passage opens, Jeremiah tells these false prophets and the people that Yahweh can see all that they do (vs. 23-24).  He is not stuck just inside the Temple in Jerusalem.  He sees what is going on nearby, and also far off.  He is also not a remote God that is not interested in what is happening.  No one can hide what they are doing from God.  He is omnipresent and omniscient, seeing and knowing all.  God is always at hand, noting all that is being done, whether good or bad.  No one can hide from Him.

When religious leaders and preachers do not faithfully preach the Word of God, exactly as it is written, they are then speaking lies.  Preaching only messages that the people want to hear, ones that make them feel good, and not ones that bring repentance and a change in their lives, is preaching lies in God’s Name (vs. 25-27).  Jeremiah, Isaiah, and other faithful men of God preached against the sins of the people, calling them back to the Lord.  They preached that if the people continued in their sins and worshiping the false pagan gods, that the judgment of Yahweh would come.  The people, religious, and political leaders did not want to hear that.  They only wanted feel-good messages, and this is what the false prophets gave them.  They claimed that they had special mystical and divine messages from dreams.

Many of today’s preachers, including many well-known ones on TV, are the same.  They are not faithfully preaching God’s Word, but instead only fluffy, feel-good messages.  They feel that preaching anything about sin makes people feel bad.  They even claim that God’s Word, the Bible, is wrong about what is or isn’t sin, that God’s Word is outdated, He doesn’t see, or doesn’t care.

True, godly preachers and teachers, and the false ones are as different from each other as grain is from chaff or straw (vs. 28).  These false preachers are deceptive, and have nothing compared to God’s Word.  God’s Word is like a hammer and a fire, and will prevail against the false messages (vs. 29).  The Word of God lasts forever, and always accomplishes His will (Isaiah 55:11).  His Word will also destroy the false prophets, preachers, and teachers who twist His Word for their own evil purposes.  It will destroy them just as fire does when it is mishandled.

Who are we listening to?  Are we only wanting to follow those who tell us what we want to hear?  Who only gives us cotton-candy messages to make us feel good?  Or will we follow those who give us the true Word of God from the Bible, messages that bring us to repentance, and help us grow as believers?  God wants us to be careful as to who we listen to and follow.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Be Ready!

Luke 12:32-40

Pay attention!  Be alert!  Don’t let your guard down!  These are warnings that we often hear.  We heard them from our parents and teachers when we were younger.  We’re given that warning when we might have to venture into an unsafe neighborhood.  In addition, no one wants to be unprepared when someone unexpectedly comes around, whether that person is our boss, the city inspector, or our in-laws.  In our Scripture today, the Lord Jesus gives this warning, along with some teachings on what holds our hearts, to His disciples.  Let’s see what He was referring to.

As our Scripture passage opens, Jesus was talking to His followers, and He spoke to them with a term of endearment in verse 32 that I have always liked to read.  Jesus called His followers here “little flock”.  Several times in the Gospels Jesus is referred to as the Good Shepherd, and His followers as His sheep.  True, genuine believers may not be many in any given location, and we often don’t feel strong when the opposition comes against us, just like a helpless sheep.  However, we are Jesus’ little flock, and as the Good Shepherd, He watches over and cares for us, and it is His desire to give us the kingdom.  He doesn’t want us to live in fear.  Rather, Jesus wants us to live in the safety and security of knowing that He loves us and is for us.

Jesus then told His followers to carefully consider where and what our treasure is (vs. 33-34).  Whatever has our heart, our desires, our love, is where we will focus our time, energy, and our money.  What are we thinking about the most?  Is our heart, interests, and money focused on things in this world?  Or does the Lord, who redeemed us from sin and death, have our heart and mind?  What we invest our time and money in, what we talk about (Matthew 12:34), and what we keep returning to in our mind reveals what’s really on our heart.  God needs to be first place in everything.

Those who amass earthly possessions falsely think their security lies in material resources.  Instead, Jesus teaches us to lay up treasures in heaven.  Treasures here on earth will fail because of thieves and corruption.  Treasures in heaven will never be stolen or damaged.  Jesus wants us to use all of our material assets in a way that will glorify God, not to just accumulate here on earth for ourselves.

Jesus continued on with instructions for His disciples and followers to be ready and in expectation of His return (vs. 35-40).  We need to be ready and eager for the Lord to return for us.  Be ready for His coming at all times.  How many times have we heard about a worker being caught off guard by their boss when the boss returned unexpectedly and caught that worker slacking off.  We remember as children, when our parents gave us a task to do, and then later came back and found that we were goofing off and not hard at work.  There were penalties to pay from our parents, and also from the boss at work.

We are then given the example of the homeowner and the thief (vs. 39).  If the homeowner was alert and paying attention, he would have been prepared for when the thief came.  It is when one is not paying attention, and letting their guard down, that the thief has the advantage, and will run off with the valuables.  The thief is Satan.  He comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  We should not be ignorant of his tactics (II Corinthians 2:11).  Also, we should never leave the door of sin open in our life.  To do so allows Satan an open entrance (Ephesians 4:27).  Often he will come as a wolf in sheep's clothing, so we need to be alert and strong in the Word of God (Matthew 7:15).  If we are prepared, working and waiting for Jesus’ return, we will also be on guard against any of Satan’s tactics.

In closing, we need to ask ourselves two things regarding the two teachings Jesus gave in this passage.  First, where are our priorities?  Where have we stored our treasure?  That will determine where our heart is, with the Lord or here on earth.  The second is, are we ready and waiting for the Lord’s return?  It would be sad for any believer to be caught unprepared, and not alert, ready and waiting for their Savior to come back.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Faith And Hope

Hebrews 11:1-6

Remember back when you were a child, when your birthday or Christmas grew near.  There was always a special item that you hoped you’d receive each year.  You’d hope and hope, and sometimes you got it, and often you didn’t.  Now as adults, we still hope for things.  Perhaps for the money and time to take a special trip, or maybe a larger house where you all aren’t bumping into each other all the time.  We all have our hopes for things.  Our Scripture passage for today, from the Book of Hebrews, speaks of both faith and hope, however this is a much different type of hope.  Let’s look into the passage and see what we can learn about both.

The beginning point of faith is believing in God’s character, that He is who He says He is.  The end point is believing in God’s promises, that he will do what He says He will do.  Faith is the confidence that the Lord will do what He has promised.  It is not simply wishful thinking.  It is the absolute conviction that God is willing and able to accomplish all He has promised regardless of our circumstances or obstacles.  When we believe that God will fulfill His promises, even though we don’t see them yet, we demonstrate true faith (vs. 1).

True faith is not obtained or based on scientific evidence, but on divine assurance.  True faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).  Faith is not based upon the senses, but rather on the Word of God.  Faith gives assurance of our future hope of the resurrection, of Jesus’ return, and our glorification in heaven.  It gives evidence of present realities that are unseen, such as our forgiveness and Jesus’ intercession for us in heaven.

Christians are people who should not only have faith, but should also be people filled with hope.  In the New Testament this word is not the wishful thinking that we usually take the word to mean, such as in the examples I gave at the top of this page.  It is not that “I hope I can visit Hawaii someday” type of hope.  That is just wishful thinking, and that might happen, but then again it may very well not.  Hope as described in the New Testament Scriptures is an expectation, trust, and confidence.  Hope underlies all of our Christian beliefs.  When we read the word “hope” in the Bible we can think “trust”.

Faith is important, as believers from the past lived by faith, and divine approval was granted to them (vs. 2).  Chapter 11 of the Book of Hebrews highlights many of these believers.

As our passage continues, the author says that we believe by faith that God created the universe out of something which cannot be seen (vs. 3).  God called the universe into existence by His Word.  He declared that it was to be, and it was.

Our passage then highlights two early Old Testament believers who showed great faith in the Lord, Abel and Enoch (vs. 4-5).  Both Abel and his brother Cain knew what God required.  However only Abel obeyed the Lord, and Cain did not.  Abel offered his sacrifice and acted with faith.  Cain acted in unbelief.  His heart was not right with God.  Through Abel’s faith he left testimony to all succeeding generations that a person comes to God by faith to receive righteousness.  In Genesis we read that Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:22-24).   He pleased God because he had faith.   Without such faith it is not possible for anyone to truly walk with God or please Him.

Genuine faith does not simply believe that a Divine Being exists, but that the God of Scripture is the only real and true God who exists.  Not believing that God exists is equivalent to calling Him a liar (I John 5:10).  Believing that God exists is only the beginning.  Even demons believe in His existence (James 2:19).  God will not settle for mere acknowledgment of His existence.  He wants a personal relationship with us.

As we read in verse 6, we cannot please God unless we are convinced that He not only exists, but also that His plans for us are good, acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).  Faith in God is the only way to receive from Him.  Faith pleases God, especially when we trust Him enough to walk in His will.  Faith comes to us by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17).  So the best way to grow and strengthen our faith is to get into God’s Word and read the message of Jesus. 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Under The Shadow Of His Wing

Psalm 36

With the rise of crime and violent acts on a daily basis, it seems to be that there is a clear line between the godly and righteous people and the ungodly and wicked.  As David looked out at humanity in his day, he saw the same thing.  Our psalm this week is one of the many that he wrote.  David contrasts the wicked from those who put their faith and trust in the Lord, and how He will preserve and protect them.

As our psalm opens, David begins to describe the wicked man.  Their basic description has not changed over the many centuries since his day.  One sure mark of the unsaved is that they have no fear of God (vs. 1).  The wicked certainly have no reverential awe or respect for Him.  The unrighteous look at themselves as the most important thing in the universe.  They flatter and deceive themselves, along with plotting and scheming against others.  The wicked turn away from all wisdom as they plan their sin (vs. 2-4).  Because the wicked have no fear of God, nothing restrains them from sinning.  They have followed the path of wickedness so much that they are unable to understand enough to hate their iniquity.

The main distinction between the righteous man and the unrighteous man is that the righteous fear God, and recognize their dependence on Him, while the unrighteous do not.  While both commit sin, the righteous will confess their sins to God.  In contrast to the unsaved, believers see the Lord’s attributes of love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice (vs. 5-6).  In contrast to evil people and their wicked plots which end in ultimate failure, God is faithful, righteous, and just.  His love and faithfulness reach the heavens, and His righteousness is as solid as a mountain.  God’s judgments and wisdom are as deep as the oceans.  He loves to show mercy, and remains eternally trustworthy to do exactly what He has promised.  God will never be unfaithful to us.

The wicked, who have never put their trust in Jesus, will often say that God is judgmental, harsh, and destructive.  However, the Holy Spirit lets His children know that God is merciful and is Lovingkindness itself (vs. 7).  As we read here in this psalm, and elsewhere throughout the Bible, God will hide His children under the protection of His wing.  The safest place for young chicks to be against predators is under the mother hen’s wings.  A Canadian goose, usually the male, can and will attack when danger threatens its young.  A whack from its strong wing can really hurt, and even break a bone.  Their wings both shelter the goslings and bring danger to the enemy.  God offers such protection to all who take refuge under the shadow of His wings.

Anyone who follows Jesus will be abundantly satisfied (vs. 8).  He is the only true satisfaction there is.  He is the fresh, cleansing water that gives life to the spiritually thirsty (vs. 9).  Jesus spoke of Himself as Living Water that could quench thirst forever, and bring eternal life (John 4:14).  For a thirsty soul, the world may lure us with promises of satisfaction, but they are empty promises.  Only Jesus can give us the rivers of Living Water (John 7:37-38).  He, alone, is the Fountain of Life.  The wicked unsaved may think that they have a great life, but there is no life outside of God.  All they have is death, both now and in eternity.  God offers the only real life there is.  When we walk by the light of His Word and His Spirit, we can enjoy life to the fullest.

In conclusion, God has given us several promises in this psalm. One, we learn that God’s love for His redeemed children is constant, as high as the heavens and as deep as the ocean.  We learn His promise of providing us with living water from the fountain of life.  And we also see God’s promise of protection as our shelter and refuge.  He promises to watch over His children as surely as a mother bird protects her young under her wings.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

An Inpatient Decision

Genesis 16:1-16

Waiting is often difficult for people.  It is particularly difficult to wait for the fulfillment of an important promise.  Children often get impatient waiting for their parents or other adults to fulfill their promises to them.  Children aren’t the only ones, though, who get impatient waiting for a promise to be answered.  Adults also get restless and anxious when they see time passing and the answer to a promise still hasn’t been fulfilled, including when the promise-maker is God, Himself.  Sometimes the person will take matters into their own hands.  However, that doesn’t always turn out well, as we will see in today’s Scripture passage.

Abraham, the great patriarch of the Old Testament, and his wife Sarah, were an older couple, and were childless.  When Abraham was approximately 75 years old, and his wife about 65, God promised him a son (Genesis 12:1-4).  Now, some ten years later, there is still no child.  Was God going to keep His promise, or had He forgotten?

At this time, and particularly in the Middle East, a barren woman was shamed and humiliated by society.  It had been many years since God made His promise, a whole decade, and the couple was getting restless.  So like so many of us, they decided to take the matter into their own hands, perhaps try to help God out a bit.  Without going to God in prayer to seek His guidance, the couple decided on a plan.  Sarah took her servant girl, Hagar, and gave her to her husband Abraham, telling him to have a child through her (vs. 2-3).  What Sarah did was an accepted practice in that day.  Any children the servant had would be counted as the wife’s.  However, this was not God’s plan, and it showed their lack of faith that God would fulfill His promises.

When we take matters into our own hands, rather than wait for God, we only bring misery and more problems, as Abraham and Sarah found out.  When she found out that she was pregnant, the servant Hagar became very proud and haughty, flaunting her condition in front of barren Sarah (vs. 4).  Sarah, in her hurt and angry state, blamed Abraham, and began to mistreat Hagar, who then ran away (vs. 5-6).  God does not need our help in bringing His promises to pass.  If He wants us to do something, He will let us know.  Whatever we try to acquire outside of God’s will turns to ashes and comes to no good.

Hagar ran away, and found herself alone in the wilderness.  What was she going to do?  Where was she going to go?  She was just a simple servant girl with no resources.  God did not forget about her.  The Angel of the Lord appeared to her in her desperate situation, assured her that God cared about her, and told her to return home and be Sarah’s maidservant again (vs. 7-12).

How often does it feel as if God doesn’t see what we’re going through?  Hagar, a seemingly insignificant runaway servant, out in the wilderness, was seen by God.  He knew her problem, and gave her the solution.  God is not surprised by our circumstances.  He cares about them, and about us.  He is “the God who sees me”, as Hagar called Him (vs. 13).  Even this humble maid became the object of God’s gracious attention.  He saw her.  Our own tears have not gone unnoticed.  He is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).  He can bring blessings out of the gravest situation.

The flesh quickly tires of waiting for the Divine promise.  The path of faith is full of dignity, which would have been the case if Abraham had a son by his lawful wife.  The path of unbelief was full of degradation, shown in Abraham going and having a child by the servant girl.  Tired of waiting, they no longer set their hopes on God, but instead it was on their own plans.  God’s plan was not going to be fulfilled through Ishmael, and that decision had terrible repercussions for the children of God, still felt today.

In closing, ask yourself if you get impatient when you are forced to wait for God to act?  Do you try to take matters into your own hands, interfering with God’s plan?  Remember, God keeps all of His promises (Joshua 21:45).  Also, we can take comfort in knowing that no matter what we are going through, God sees us, and cares about us.  He cared about Hagar, and He cares for us, as well.

Friday, August 5, 2022

The Rich Fool

Luke 12:13-21

Do you know someone who always has to buy the latest new thing?  A new edition of a smartphone comes out and they need to buy it, even though the one they currently have is still perfectly fine.  They keep buying more and more of the latest technology.  They get themselves a brand new car each year, too.  Their possessions mount up, and their desire for more seems to be insatiable.  Our Scripture for today is a warning that Jesus gave to avoid being such a person.  Let’s look into our Gospel reading.

As our Scripture opens, a man came to Jesus asking Him to settle a financial disagreement he had with his brother.  Jesus declined being asked to do this, and then warned the man to not fall into the trap of desiring possessions (vs. 13-15).  Jesus’ statement that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” is one that this world really needs to hear.  This is a trap that even Christians need to be careful of being ensnared with.  Most of the world tries to find life in possessions, however there is nothing of any real or lasting value in these things.  Life is found only in Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  Wealth can never substitute for a relationship with God.  It will ultimately only make the heart feel hollow (Ecclesiastes 6:2).

Living a good life has nothing to do with being wealthy.  Jesus warns us to be on guard against greed.  Greed is an inordinate desire for more, an unsatisfied hunger to possess more and more.  It is forever discontent, insatiably craving, longing, wanting, and striving for more.  Are you and I like that?  Having a truly good life is living in a relationship with God, and doing His work.

Jesus proceeded to tell a brief parable, one about a rich man who had spent his whole life accumulating goods and money, but he had neglected the most important thing (vs. 16-21).  This man had so many goods that he had to build a bigger building to hold them all.  His wealth allowed him to live a life of wining and dining like a playboy.  However, this rich man couldn’t see beyond his present life.  His enjoyment and security were in his wealth and possessions.  Others may have admired him, but God thought he was a fool.  He had stored up treasures, but was bankrupt before God.  The man had provided for the flesh, but not for his soul.  His soul had nothing.

What did God call this man?  He called him a “fool”! (vs. 20).  He was someone who acted unwisely, who acted imprudently.  God had given him, and all mankind His Word, which contains true wisdom, including about what true riches are, and how we should handle earthly wealth and possessions.  However, this man had not heeded God’s Word, and was a true fool.  He was going to die, and then whose would his wealth belong to?  He couldn’t take his wealth with him when he died, either to heaven or to hell.

There is nothing wrong with preparing for our retirement, our life before death.  However few prepare for their life after death, which is disastrous to neglect.  God had blessed this man with years of financial prosperity.  Riches, if rightly acquired, should be thought of as a blessing from God, and treated accordingly.  Instead of using these blessings from God as He would want, this man just heaped them up for himself.

God does not want us to set our heart on the things our money can buy.  Instead, we need to work at being the person God wants us to be, and not depending on the number of our possessions.  Jesus notices what we keep, as well as what we give.  Our real values in life are revealed by what we keep and what we give.  We need to be busy making deposits in heaven’s bank, not here on earth.  A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth, but not have a rich relationship with God.

There is a penalty for misplaced priorities.  The foolish man passed away with no opportunity to enjoy his goods.  Even worse, he died with a bankrupt soul.  What about you?  Are you rich in earthly possessions, but poor in treasures in heaven?  If riches come our way, will we use them for ourselves, or for God?  Jesus ended the parable by saying that that very night the rich man’s soul was called (vs. 20).  “This night” will come to each of us sooner or later.  Will we be ready?