Friday, September 30, 2022

The Rich Man And Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31

The discussion of hell is not a favorite one among many people.  I would guess that most church-goers don’t look forward to a sermon or a Bible study all about hell.  And over the years even the belief in hell has dropped some.  However Jesus spoke more about hell in the Gospels than He did about heaven.  In our Gospel reading for today the Lord Jesus gives an account about two men and their eternal destinations, and the reality of each destination.  If He spoke about it as often as He did, it is well worth our taking a look.

As our Scripture opens, Jesus is telling His audience about two men.  Nowhere is this account called a parable, a fictional story that just teaches a moral lesson.  This was an actual account, as Jesus called one of the men by their actual name.  In none of Jesus’ parables does He name one of the characters.  He never named the Good Samaritan or the victim, the prodigal son and his father, nor even the sower of seeds.  But in this account, Jesus gives the poor man’s name, Lazarus.  He was not, though, the same Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead, the brother of Martha and Mary.

These two men were opposites.  One was extremely wealthy, wearing fine clothing and eating the best meals.  Lazarus, on the other hand, was a homeless and hungry man, in poor health with sores all over his skin, and who sat at the gate and begged (vs. 19-21).  He was so poor and hungry that he would have gladly gathered up the crumbs and scraps that were discarded from the rich man’s table, yet that rich man was oblivious to him and his needs.

As Jesus continued, both Lazarus and the rich man died around the same time.  Because of his faith, Lazarus was given a place of honor after death, despite his poverty (vs. 22).  Society at that time thought that the rich were blessed by God, both in this life and in the next, but the poor were neither.  Jesus showed that belief was wrong.  The rich man also died, and because he had no faith in God, found himself immediately in hell.  God did not judge him because he had wealth.  It was because he had cared only for that life, and had cared nothing for his soul.  These two men were opposite in this lie, and also in the next.

Jesus proceeded to describe some of the torment that the rich man was going through (vs. 23-26).    Unlike many jokes that are often passed around about hell, such as that it’s like a tavern with friends, hell is a place of terrible torment.  This man probably had people he had known and were friendly with, who were also in hell, but he wasn’t enjoying himself with them.  This man had memories of his previous life, and screamed out for mercy, but it was too late.

Though hell is filled with people, each one is alone and solitary.  It is a place of flames and great thirst (vs. 24), and a place of torment (vs. 28).  Jesus described in the Gospel of Matthew that it is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).  And in Mark’s Gospel He says that it is a place of unquenchable fire and where worms never die (Mark 9:48).  It is a place of darkness (Revelation 9:2), a place of eternal damnation (Mark 3:29), of everlasting destruction (II Thessalonians 1:9), and where God’s wrath is poured out (Revelation 14:10).

This rich man was a success by earthly standards, but discovered too late that his riches and comfort were only temporary.  He lived for himself, but ignored the Lord.  After he died, he experienced the consequences of his choices, which was eternal separation from the Lord.  The rich man was treated very well in life, but he showed no thankfulness for his blessings.  He didn’t allow his blessings to bring him to the Lord.  Lazarus, as poor and destitute as he was, didn’t allow his poverty to keep him from the Lord.

The rich man, while in hell, and realizing that there was nothing he could do then for himself, begged God to send Lazarus or someone from the dead to speak to his still-living brothers so they wouldn’t end in hell (vs. 27-31).  God told him that they have God’s Word, and if they won’t believe that, they won’t believe a messenger from the dead.  People have been given the Word of God.  They do not need voices from the dead, which is a type of spiritualism (vs. 29-30).  Even when Jesus had risen from the dead, most of the religious leaders of His day, and even today, do not accept Him (vs. 31)

There is a heaven, and there is a hell.  Every soul who has ever lived has gone, or is going to go, to one or the other.  The only way to make heaven one’s eternal home is to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as one’s Savior.  He, alone, is the Door.  Everything else leads one to hell, exactly as the rich man found out to his eternal dismay.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

A Good Confession

I Timothy 6:11-19

Are you giving a good confession?  I’m not talking here about confessing your sins to God, or talking to a priest or some other minister about the things you have done wrong and are struggling with.  This is the confession of your faith by both word and the way you live your life or your actions, of what you believe.  In our Scripture today from the first letter Paul wrote to Timothy, he wanted to make sure that the young man was continuing to give a good confession.  Timothy was Paul’s frequent companion on his missionary journeys, and the one he was instructing to be a church leader.  Let’s take a look at what Paul taught.

As our Scripture opens, Paul wanted Timothy to make sure that he wasn’t falling into some of the sins he had mentioned earlier in the chapter, such as envy, strife, arguing, and a selfish love of money.  Rather, believers should be pursuing righteous living, love, patience, and other virtues (vs. 11).  As we live out our Christian lives day by day, we need to remember that the unsaved, those of the world, are constantly watching us.  Some are eager to see us slip up.  Others want to see if the faith we talk about and profess is really genuine.

As believers, we are also called to fight the good fight of faith (vs. 12).  This isn’t a fight with fists.  Paul wasn’t telling Timothy to go out and clobber those who don’t believe, or those who oppose or mock him.  There is a spiritual battle we are engaged in, as Satan, the enemy of our souls, is actively trying to destroy the Christian Faith, and the faith that every believer has.  This is a spiritual conflict with Satan’s kingdom of darkness in which all true believers are involved in.  Every attack by Satan against believers is to destroy or seriously weaken our faith.  He wants to push our faith from Jesus and on to other things, whether they are material possessions, ourselves, or other people.

This is where Paul told Timothy, and us as well, to look at the confession, the testimony and witness we are giving.  As believers we need to be unreservedly committed to Jesus.  This will lead to spiritual victory and eternal hope.  We need to be obeying Jesus, standing firm for Him, and representing Him well in the world so others will believe in Him and be saved.  Christians should have an active faith, obeying God with courage, and doing what we know is right.  Live a life, and minister with a heavenly and eternal perspective.

Paul then reminded Timothy that Jesus gave a good confession in front of Pontius Pilate (vs. 13).  The confession of Jesus before Pontius Pilate was a bold confession of the truth.  Jesus didn’t back down out of fear.  He knew that Pilate had the authority to let Him go free, and was even wavering and thinking of opposing the Jewish religious leaders, and setting Him free.  However, Jesus didn’t compromise the truth and say things that might lead Pilate to let Him go.  Instead, Jesus gave a good confession of faith, even with the sentence of death before His eyes.

We are instructed to keep God’s Word without spot and blameless (vs. 14).  We must not compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  Paul then reminds us of exactly who we worship (vs. 15-16).  God is absolutely sovereign, and omnipotently rules everything and everywhere.  Only He is worthy of worship.  God is a Spirit and invisible.  He is unapproachable, as sinful man has never seen, nor can he ever see, God’s full glory (Exodus 33:20).

In the final verses of this passage, the Apostle Paul warned Timothy against having a desire for money and to be rich, and for those who do have riches to not be proud (vs. 17-19).  This is an important warning for us, as well.  We are to shun a love for money and striving for material wealth, with all of its resulting woes, and instead to conform to God’s will in one’s thinking and acting.  One can be rich in this world and not in the other.  It is very difficult to have great wealth without trusting in it.  We need to remember that God is our Source, not money!  We need to use our money to take the Gospel to the world, and thus lay up treasure in heaven, and not here on earth (Matthew 6:19-21).

In closing, God’s Word reminds us that we can follow the Lord or we can follow other things.  We can’t follow both.  We must make a choice.  If you choose to follow the Lord, give that good confession with your life, your words, and your actions.

Monday, September 26, 2022

The Only One To Trust

Psalm 146

Here in the U.S., we are holding elections this fall for congressional offices, with many states also holding elections for governors and various other state offices. Where I live in Illinois, very near to Chicago, we are having elections for our governor and several other political races.  The advertisements on TV tell us to trust this candidate, and not the other one.  Political fliers tell us to trust in this person or that political party, and not the other.  It’s probably the same where you live.  Who can you trust, especially when the economy is doing so poorly, crime is on the rise, criminals being let out of jail as political maneuvers, and so many issues getting people worked up to the point of rioting?  Can you really trust any candidate?  Every time there is an election for president, governor, or for any political position, we ask ourselves that question.  God gives us an answer in our psalm for today.  Let’s take a look.

After an introduction of singing praise to the Lord, which the last several psalms in the Bible focus on, the psalmist then gives us a warning to not put our trust in princes (vs. 3).  Princes and kings were the political rulers of the day.  The king held absolute power, and the princes were his advisors, and helped in the administration of the country.  The people would look to them for help in times of trouble, and depended on them to muster an army in times of war.  However, like any political leader, some were good and godly men, and many were not.  The Southern Kingdom of Judah had several good kings, and several bad ones, but the Northern Kingdom of Israel had only bad, ungodly kings.

Even a good political leader, though, has their failings and is not without fault, as they are human.  Will their decisions always be perfect for everyone?  Can they always protect against a bad economy?  Will their decisions continually keep crime down, keep everyone in a good job, and with good healthcare?  And will they always be able to protect the country in times of war?  These were questions then, and they are the same today.   Who then can we trust in?   We are in desperate times.  People are oppressed.  Their wallets and bank accounts are empty.  They or their children are sick, and can’t pay for medical care.  There is little or no justice in the courts.  And we see that our political leaders cannot be trusted to help.

The psalmist gives us the answer, and that is for us to not put our ultimate trust in princes or in any person, for we can’t find help with any of them.  Man is an inadequate savior, and a false hope.  Even good national leaders cannot truly help.  The psalmist tells us to put our trust in Yahweh, the God of Jacob (vs. 5).  God is the hope and help of the needy.  Our allegiance should not be to things of this world.  As believers, we are a people whose hope is in the Lord.  Unlike a human leader who lives and then dies, God is eternal.  He is all powerful, the King of Kings, and Creator of all (vs. 6).  Unlike any human leader, He alone can give true justice for those who are oppressed, and we can trust Him to provide for our needs, such as for food, and our health (vs. 7-9).  Help from man is temporal and unstable, but help from God is lasting and complete.

For this the Psalmist urges us to bring praises to the Lord.  Praising God helps to center us, and reminds us of where our true help lies.  Praising God should inspire us, also, to acts of compassion as we follow and imitate our Lord Jesus, who gave justice, who fed the hungry, and who helped the orphans and widows.  If He cares for the vulnerable in the world, so should we.

God’s plans frustrate the ways of the wicked and evil people of this world because His values are opposite that of society today (vs. 9).  Jesus turned the people of His day’s values upside down when he said the first will be last and the last first (Matthew 19:30).  Also when He said that those who try to save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for the Lord will save it (Matthew 16:25).  Those who follow the Lord and His ways, whether it is us or even a political leader, will find opposition from the world.  Let us be sure that we place our trust in Him for our needs and ultimate protection, and not in the hands of any human.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Danger Of Complacency

Amos 6:1-7

Everyone likes for things to go well in their lives, in their neighborhoods, and with their country.  Nobody likes to see trouble looming ahead.  Nobody wants to go through trials and problems.  However, the more at ease one’s life is, the easier it is to forget God and grow complacent.  This was one of the problems that the Prophet Amos sought to address with the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Let’s take a look at our brief passage from Scripture today.

The prophet Amos preached his messages from the Lord to the nation of Israel during the mid-8th century BC.  The two kingdoms of Israel and Judah had split from one another during the early years of King Rehoboam, son of King Solomon, about two hundred years earlier.  The northern Kingdom of Israel was a rather prosperous country, with the vast, fertile fields of the area of Galilee.  Very soon after the split of the two countries, the majority of the people of Israel fell into idolatry, and forsook the rightful worship of Yahweh.  What did they need Yahweh for, they felt.  Their fields were producing, their businesses were going well, they were prosperous, and becoming very wealthy.  They had nice houses, fancy clothes and jewels, their dinner tables held the choicest of meals, and their children had the best of everything.  They had no need for God in their life, as everything was going fine without Him.

We see a lot of that today.  When everything is going fine in one’s life, they quickly forget God.  When one’s job is going well, the paychecks keep rolling in, and often with increases in salary, they have a nice house or two or three, several nice cars, the best clothes, the best food, etc. they feel there is no need for God.  Even if they get sick, they can afford the top doctors and hospitals in the country.  That is the condition of countless people today, very content, complacent, and careless.  That was the condition of the nation of Israel when Amos preached to them between 765-755 BC.  However, God had a warning for them, as He does for us today.

Great wealth and comfortable life-styles may make people think they are secure, but God is not pleased if we turn away from Him and from other’s needs, as the Israelites did.  Amos warned that if they did not return to the Lord God, they would face His judgment, and the kingdom would soon fall.  God had destroyed other kingdoms and cities in the past because of their pride.  What happened to them would happen to Israel, and then even later to their sister country of Judah in the south.  They were filled with pride, but God warned them that they were no better than the countries He had already destroyed.

The Israelites were so caught up with their prosperity that they had completely written Yahweh out of their lives.  They were prideful in their affluence and military victories, they believed they didn’t need Him anymore.  They could just go home and stretch out on their beds inlaid with ivory, eat their elegant meals, and listen to their fine music.  No need for them to worry about anything, or so they thought.

When called to repent, Israel refused.  They were not willing to give up their wealth and ease for God, and it ended up costing them everything.  In just a few short decades the Assyrian Empire would come in and destroy their nation.  All of their wealth, their homes, beds inlaid with ivory and gold, their jewels, chariots, would all be in the hands of the Assyrians.  If they weren’t brutally killed, they were taken captive.  Where did what they trust in get them?  God had promised to love and care for those who were faithful to Him, but they had, instead, turned their backs on Him.

What about people today?  Most of the world seeks to accumulate riches and wealth just like the people of Israel did in the days of Amos.  They feel they have no need for God, just like those folks did.  And most preachers today, instead of faithfully preaching God’s Word, instead preach a feel-good or prosperity message.  No matter what they preach today, the Day of Judgment is coming.  It came for Israel.  Amos and other prophets and preachers sounded a warning, and few listened.  What about us?  We are no better.   We need to examine our life, rid ourselves of any spiritual complacency, and turn to the Lord Jesus and His Word.

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Dishonest Steward

Luke 16:1-13

Would the Lord Jesus ever commend or praise a scoundrel, someone who is a cheat and a swindler?  We would not think so.  In our Scripture for today, which is the parable of the unjust steward, a casual and superficial reading might think that was the case.  However, this is a Scripture passage that needs a closer look to determine exactly what the Lord Jesus is saying, so one does not go away with a misconstrued interpretation.  Let’s take a look at what this parable is saying.

As Jesus began telling His disciples this parable, He spoke of a rich man who had a steward that he was going to let go from his position because the steward was wasting his money, possibly being dishonest with the accounts or embezzling the money (vs. 1-2).  The position of a steward was a trusted servant who was chief of management and distribution of the household provisions.  He was to manage the master’s resources, and often acted as an agent to transact business in the master’s name.  The wealthy man found out, though, that this steward was not one to be trusted.

So what did this dishonest steward do?  He didn’t want to be out on the street with no job or place to live.  Word might soon get around that he was dishonest, and he would not be able to get another job.  He was a dishonest man, but he was also a clever one.  He used his wily senses to make sure he would not be friendless and unprovided for.  He called a number of his master’s clients and had them change their bills to read less, thus making sure these folks would appreciate him (vs. 3-7).  When the steward was kicked out, these people would owe him a big favor, and would help him.

Outwitted, the master applauded the steward’s cunning.  His admiration for the sinful steward’s deceitful genius showed that he, too, was probably just as unscrupulous, but naturally didn’t want to be cheated against.  The scheming, devious, and underhanded plots are the ordinary course of events in this world, all to obtain transitory and corruptible treasures.

Jesus did not commend this man’s dishonesty.  However, He does want us, His followers, to be wiser when we are concerned with eternal matters and not just with earthly ones.  Most unbelievers are wiser in the ways of the world than some believers are towards the things of God.  The unjust steward used his master’s money to buy earthy friends.  Believers should use our Master’s resources, what He has given us here on earth, to get friends for eternity by bringing sinners to salvation, souls who will be in heaven and who will welcome us there.

If we use our money to help those in need, or to help others find Jesus, our earthly investment will bring eternal benefits (vs. 9).  We should be using our finances and other resources to bring people to the Lord, not just for our own pleasure.  Faithfulness in small assignments the Lord gives us qualifies us for the opportunity to serve in greater and more influential ways (vs. 10).

If a believer is faithful with the money God gives him, he will more likely be faithful in all other aspects of his Christian life.  If the believer will not allow the Lord to have first place respecting money, he will likely be unjust in other spiritual matters.  If we are not trustworthy with our money here on earth, we will be unfit to handle the vast riches of God’s kingdom (vs. 11-12).  If we can’t handle the “least” money, then how can we handle “much”, such as spiritual wealth?  How we use our money is a good indication of how we are following Jesus.  If our money is not at God’s disposal, our heart is probably not surrendered to God, either.  We need to use our money for Him.  Faithfully using our earthly wealth will ensure heavenly treasures.

The steward used his brains and mind to figure out a way to survive, although it was in an unscrupulous way.  Are we using our brains and mind for the Lord in a good, wise, and righteous way?  When believers are before the Judgment Seat of Christ, one thing we will be asked is to give an account of our stewardship.  Are we wasting what the Lord has put in our hands?

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Our Divine Mediator

I Timothy 2:1-6

If you had an issue, a difficulty, or a legal problem with someone important, someone who held rank or stature far above you, or perhaps you needed to ask a favor of them, you might seek another person to act as a go-between, someone who was known to that other person, and who they held in high esteem.  This person would act as a mediator between you both, and depending on what the issue was, and who the problem was with, you might not stand a chance of seeing it resolved unless you had that mediator, that go-between.  You may be fortunate to never have a need for such a person in your life, but when the day comes when we will stand before God for the final judgment, we will all need a mediator, someone who is able and willing to plead our case.  Let’s look into our Scripture for today and see who is able to be that mediator.

As our Scripture passage opens, the Apostle Paul is writing a letter to Timothy, a young man who Paul has taken under his wing to teach and guide to be a pastor and man of God.  First, Paul instructs Timothy in how important prayer for others is, especially for those who are our leaders and who are in authority (vs. 1-3).  Corporate prayer by the believers with each other should be an important part of our church services.  These can be prayers for our own needs, intercession for others, and giving thanks to God for His blessings and for answered prayers.  Paul specifically mentions that believers need to pray for their political leaders, and this holds true whether we are in agreement with them or not.  They desperately need our prayers, especially if we feel they are making unwise or ungodly decisions.

As Paul continues, he tells us that God desires that everyone would be saved (vs. 4).  God wants everyone to be saved, but that doesn’t mean all will be saved, because there will be many who reject Jesus (Matthew 25:41-46; John 12:44-50; Hebrews 10:26-29).  God does not rejoice in having to judge and punish the wicked, but wishes to redeem those who believe in His Son as Savior (II Peter 3:9).  Jesus is the only way to be saved.  Salvation through Jesus Christ is offered to all people, but unfortunately not everyone will accept it.

We are then told how we are able to approach the all-holy and all-powerful God, for as weak and sinful creatures we are not able to approach Him on our own.  That privilege was broken at the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  There is only one Person who can be our Mediator, and stand between us and God.  There is only one who can bring us together again, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is both God and man (vs. 5).

Jesus acts as a Mediator between individuals and God.  A price was paid so that we may be released from the bondage of sin.  This price was paid through the death of our Mediator, Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ death was a voluntary sacrifice on His part (vs 6).  He paid the price owed by man to God, which was His Precious Blood (I Peter 1:18-20).  Through His death believers are given open access to God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ.

A mediator can only be really effective if they have sympathy and understanding of both parties, and if they are understandable by and clear to both.  Jesus is able to be that effective Mediator because He is both truly God and truly man (vs. 5).  Jesus is not just some good teacher or person to look up to, but God Himself who became our Mediator.  This truth is a key foundation for the Christian faith, that there is one God, manifested in three Persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

On that day which is surely coming in the future for each of us, when we stand before the Lord God, will you have access to that Mediator through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son?  God desires you to be saved, and when you accept Jesus’ death on your behalf, you will then have a sure Mediator on your behalf.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Someone We Can Trust

Psalm 138

Trust.  It is an important word, and it is even more important that we have someone that we can trust.  For some, trust is difficult.  And it is always important that we put our trust in someone who is worthy of that confidence.  Our psalm for this morning is one showing just Who we can put our trust in, Someone Who protects us in trouble, Who guides us all through our life, and Who is worthy of all of our praise.

As our psalm begins, we see Who we can place our trust in, Someone who King David knew from many years of hardship and also of joy that he could unequivocally trust in.  Yahweh God is the highest in the whole earth.  He is above all the rulers past and present, of all the nations on earth, and above every military leader that has ever been, as well.  And most assuredly, Yahweh is certainly above all the pagan gods and deities that are faithlessly worshiped around the world (vs. 1).  King David was never afraid nor ashamed to proclaim his allegiance to Yahweh, and nor do we need to hesitate to proclaim our allegiance to the Lord Jesus to the world.

We are called upon to praise the Name of the Lord God (vs. 2).    God’s Name means His reputation and Character for faithfulness and goodness.  As we continue that verse, we are told of something that God has magnified, or blessed, venerated and praised even above His Name, and that is His Word, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible.  God’s Word is His promise.  He magnifies His Word above even His Name, which is holy and not to be taken in vain.  How much more are we to sanctify the Bible, and not to treat it lightly!

As our psalm continues we see that as believers and thus children of God the Father, we should never take God’s provisions and answered prayers for granted.  We need to thank Him for all material and spiritual blessings, along with thanking Him for each answered prayer.

We learn whether or not to trust someone by listening to what they say, and also observing what they do.  David proclaims that people, particularly the kings and rulers of the world, will praise the Lord when they hear what He says in His Word (vs. 4),  When they see what He has done, His ways, they will sing of His glory (vs. 5).  By observing and hearing these things, how great and praiseworthy they are, we know that Yahweh is Someone we can trust.  We know that even though He is an almighty God, the Creator and King of the universe, He cares for mankind, even the very lowest of us (vs. 6).  That shows His deep and personal love for each and every one of us, and another real reason we can trust Him.

We walk in the midst of trouble throughout all of our life.  Our troubles are real (vs. 7).  They may be illness, family problems, loss of job or home, financial problems, etc.  We may have literal enemies attacking us.  Who can we trust to come to our aid?  We may call upon any number of people or organizations, but will they really help us?  Can we depend upon them?  Instead of collapsing in fear, King David gave praise to God.  Throughout a lifetime of problems, David knew that the Lord God could be trusted and depended upon.  He knew that God would preserve his life, reaching out His hand to deliver him.  No matter what our circumstances are, no matter how insurmountable the odds, God promises to save us in the middle of our troubles.

As our psalm closes, we read that God will fulfill all of His purposes for our life (vs. 8).  We can trust Him with our future.  God has a plan for our life.  He alone knows what is best for us, and He alone can fulfill His purpose for us.  David knew this, and centuries later the Apostle Paul knew this, as well, when he instructed young Timothy for the ministry.  When we commit our life into His hands, He will keep us, and perform His good purpose for us (II Timothy 1:12).  The Lord Jesus promises never to leave us throughout our life (Matthew 28:20), and whatever His plans are for us, we can surely trust Him that He will fulfill or perfect that purpose.  Jesus is truly Someone we can trust.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Will We Hear God's Word?

Amos 8:4-12

As we look around the world today, when we listen to the nightly news or read in the daily newspapers or online news websites, we see so much injustice being done.  The poor and the vulnerable are being taken advantage of by the rich and powerful, and nobody seems to care.  Those who might care are powerless to do anything.  We wonder, does God see, and if He does, will He do anything?  As we read in today’s Scripture passage from the Old Testament Prophet Amos, we see that, yes, God does see, and He will not sit idly by.

The prophet Amos did not set out in life to be a preacher and prophet of God.  He was originally a farmer of sycamore figs and a sheep rancher.  Then the Lord called him from that line of work, at least temporarily, to bring His message to the people, sometime between 765 - 755 BC.  Amos was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, but his message was to the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

As our passage today from Amos opens, he addressed his message to those who were oppressing and trampling over the poor and needy in the country (vs. 4).  The Northern Kingdom of Israel was rather prosperous, and many of the people lived in relative wealth.  However, just like in any nation, there were the poor and needy.  As descendants of Abraham, and a people who had God’s Law, they should have been showing love and care for the poor.  However, they didn’t show any compassion, and even took the opportunity to oppress the poor and needy even more.

Their disregard for God’s Law was so strong, they longed for the holy days, such as the monthly New Moon feast and the weekly Sabbath when no work was to be done, to pass so that they could get back to their business and accrue more money (vs. 5).  Do we look at worship as a burden we must endure, rather than a privilege to look forward to and enjoy?  When I was a child I remember that most places were closed on Sunday, honoring the Lord’s Day.  Only very necessary places were open, such as maybe a pharmacy for emergency prescriptions or medical supplies, and perhaps a few gas stations.  That started changing by the time I was in high school, and by the time I was out of college just about everything was staying open seven days a week.  Today places don’t even close for Christmas!

The rich businessmen and elite of Israel even tried to become more wealthy through exploiting and cheating others by using false weights and measures, decreasing the amount the customer received, but increasing the cost.  They would sell their grain with chaff and other “fillers” mixed in to cheat the buyer (vs. 6).  How often do we see the same thing today?  Just look at the slick advertising to get you to buy something you don’t need just so you’ll fit in and be popular.  Today with online shopping it is even easier to cheat the buyer as you can’t inspect the merchandise first.  These people become unbelievably wealthy at the expense of the poor and the downtrodden workers.

Amos brought God’s message to these people, telling them that God saw what they were doing, and that He would not forget (vs. 7).  God pities the oppressed, and He has eternal anger against those that abuse and mistreat them.  Just as the Nile River would annually overflow the banks, so the judgment of God would overflow the land (vs. 8).

The people that Amos preached to had no appetite for God or His Word when he and other true prophets and preachers brought it.  They had rejected the Word of God and His messengers, so God said He would take away even the opportunity for them to hear His Word (vs. 11-12).  From the time of the prophet Malachi to the time of John the Baptist, almost 500 years, there were no prophets or preachers of God’s Word.

Many people today are “running to and fro”, trying to seek peace for their souls, and some type of spiritual enlightenment, but they do not look to the Lord Jesus, the only real source of enlightenment and peace.  Today there is a proliferation of spiritual gurus spouting their feel-good nonsense, and a scarcity of real sound Bible-based preaching.  Just as Amos prophesied, we see a time when God’s true Word is becoming scarce, rare, and not readily available, and instead the oppression of others is commonplace, along with an abundance of “spiritual” messages that only make one feel good.  God warned the people then, and He warns us today, as well.

Friday, September 16, 2022

I Have Found My Sheep Which Was Lost!

Luke 15:1-10

We’ve all had occasions where something of ours goes missing.  Often the missing item is important, and/or valuable.  We then frantically search high and low, even enlisting the help of our family in trying to find that lost item.  Sometimes the item is found fairly soon.  Other times it may be hours, days, or even longer before it is recovered.  And there are times when we never find the item again.  How glad we are when we find our missing treasure, whether we find it quickly or after days, and how sad or disappointed we are whenever we think of the item that is never found.  In our Scripture today from the Gospel of Luke, we read of two different lost things, and the great effort that is gone to find and retrieve those things.

As our Scripture passage begins, the Pharisees and other religious leaders were criticizing Jesus for preaching and teaching the lost people who had come to Him, people with disreputable backgrounds, who they felt He should shun just as they did (vs. 1-2).  Jesus then proceeded to tell them two parables, in the hopes that these might change their thinking about the lost souls all around them.

The first parable that Jesus told was about a shepherd who had a flock of 100 sheep (vs. 4-7).  Throughout the day, a shepherd would keep track of all of their sheep, noticing if any were wandering off where they shouldn’t, and if any were missing.  Sheep are not real intelligent or alert animals, and they need the shepherd to take care of them, or they quickly get themselves into a bad situation.  In Jesus’ parable, the shepherd noticed that one of the sheep was missing.  So immediately the shepherd leaves the flock to go search for that lost sheep.  When he finds that sheep he returns with the lost one, and rejoices with his friends.

The second parable is quite similar.  A woman loses a valuable coin, and so begins to search all throughout her house until she finds it (vs. 8-10).  When she does she, too, rejoices with her friends.

In both parables, the lost item refers to lost sinners, lost souls, those who have never turned to God for salvation, and need to be brought to Him.  Before we accepted Jesus as our Savior, we were that lost sheep, that lost coin, and Jesus came looking for us.  Our Good Shepherd loves each of us so much that He is willing to go and search, no matter how long, and no matter the effort, until He finds us.  Jesus was emphasizing that every effort was made to retrieve the one that was lost, including His coming to earth to die for our salvation.

Sinners are the lost sheep who need to hear about the Savior.  Jesus didn’t think it was okay for them to be lost.  He would search for them until He found them.  Every single sheep matters to God.  Our Shepherd actively seeks and cares for the lost.  Notice that it is not the sheep seeking the Shepherd, but the other way around.  God’s love pursues us.  God’s love for each individual is so great that He seeks each one out, and rejoices when they are found.  Each individual is precious to God.  He grieves over every loss, and rejoices whenever one is found and brought into the kingdom.

The same was the case with the woman and the lost coin.  She searched all over with a light, trying to find the missing one.  The light of the Gospel, which is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, can alone find the lost soul.  We didn’t find Jesus, He found us!

Are we someone who prays as passionately for the lost and unsaved as we pray for our lost treasures to be found?  If a woman and her neighbors delight in recovering a lost coin, and if a shepherd takes joy in rescuing a single sheep, how much more praiseworthy is the salvation of a sinner? (vs. 6-7, 9-10).  God is concerned for every single individual.  He is not an aloof God.  He puts great value on even one soul.  Since all heaven rejoices in the salvation of one sinner, surely we can do the same!

One of the greatest statements that can ever be said is when Jesus says “I have found My sheep which was lost”.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

A Sinner Saved By Grace

I Timothy 1:12-17

A number of years ago I remember the pastor at the church I was attending at the time telling of an incident that had occurred several years earlier.  At that time he had the opportunity to talk for a while to a rather prominent Chicago baseball broadcaster at an informal gathering.  Their conversation drifted towards spiritual matters, and my pastor spoke to him about salvation through Jesus.  The gentleman showed a moment’s interest, but then said that he was way too much of a sinner to ever obtain mercy from God.  When my pastor assured him that was not the case, he still wouldn’t believe it, thinking that he had sinned way too much in his life.  Sadly, as far as anyone knows, this gentleman passed into eternity several years later, having believed he was too much of a sinner to save.  Is there such a thing as someone who is too much of a sinner to save?  Does God have a limit as to how bad a sinner He will accept, and if one crosses that line, well, that’s too bad, because they’re unsavable?  Let’s look into our Scripture for today and see the message from God that the Apostle Paul brings.

When we look at the New Testament, and see how much of it was penned by the Apostle Paul, and how much God used him to spread the Gospel message across the Mediterranean world, one thinks what a holy and godly man he was.  However, that was not always the case.  Much earlier in his life, when Paul was a young man, he violently opposed the early Church.  Paul was a devout Pharisee in the Jerusalem area, and he did everything he could to oppose the spread of the message of Jesus.  He searched out Christians like a bloodhound, and dragged them before the Jewish legal courts to have them put to death.   As we read in Acts 9:1-19, Paul (known as Saul at the time) was on his way to Damascus to find and arrest Christians when he had a vision of Jesus and was converted.  From that day on, he actively served the Lord by starting churches and bringing countless people to salvation.

Though he was used by the Lord in a mighty way, Paul never forgot what he had been before.  Before salvation, Paul was a very self-righteous man.  After salvation he saw himself for what he really was.  He had been ignorant, as a zealous Pharisee, of what Jesus taught (vs. 13).  He had actually thought at that time that he was doing God a service.  However, God had mercy on Paul, and gave His grace, His loving forgiveness, where He granted Paul, and anyone who believes, salvation apart from any works (vs. 14).  Christ’s abundant grace, His undeserved favor, far outweighed Paul’s previous sinful life.  Paul was living proof that God could save any sinner, no matter how great a one they might be.

Sometimes people don’t come to Jesus for salvation because they feel that they have sinned too badly for Him to save them, just like that Chicago baseball broadcaster told my former pastor.  Paul understood that, as his own background was sinful.  He saw himself as a chief of sinners (vs. 15).  But thankfully that did not stop him from coming to Jesus.  Though we should repent and confess our past sins, we should not be so guilt-ridden that we feel God cannot forgive us.  God forgave Paul, and used him in a mighty way.  No matter what our past is, God can forgive and use us.

Since God would save Paul, someone who tried to destroy His Church, then He would be willing to save anyone who believes in Him.  It is not by our goodness that we are accepted by the Lord, but it is because of His great love and provision for us on the Cross.

Jesus came to save sinners (vs. 15).  We all are sinners, and His grace is available to us for salvation.  No matter how vast our sins, God’s grace is greater.  No sinner is beyond Jesus’ saving power (Luke 5:32).  Jesus didn’t come merely to show us how to live a better life, or to challenge us to be better people.  He came for one purpose, and that is to save sinners.

Only a sinner saved by grace!

Only a sinner saved by grace!

This is my story, to God be the glory!

I’m only a sinner saved by grace!

Monday, September 12, 2022

A Psalm Of Repentance

Psalm 51

How do we respond when we know that we have sinned, when we feel the Holy Spirit convicting us for something we have done?  Do we quickly respond with repentance, and get ourselves right with God?  Do we try to ignore the Holy Spirit and His conviction, hoping He’ll go away?  Or do we brush it off and think that it’s no big deal, especially if the rest of society thinks that way?  Our psalm for this week is King David’s response to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of a grave sin he had committed.

Psalm 51 is a psalm of repentance which David wrote following the darkest period of his life, that being when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his leading soldiers.  Then, when he learned she was pregnant, David at first brought Uriah back from the battlefront, hoping he would sleep with his wife, and then they could pass the child off as his.  Uriah was too honorable for that, so David ordered him to be put into the thick of the battle, and there abandoned to die by the enemy’s hand.  David then took Bathsheba as his wife, and acted as if nothing unusual happened (II Samuel 11).

Naturally God was not happy with this, and the Holy Spirit would have been convicting David of these sins of adultery and murder.  However, David tried to ignore the conviction he was feeling.  He tried to sweep it under the rug.  It took until after this baby was born and a few months old before David faced this sin, and then only after one brave prophet, Nathan, dared to confront the king over his sin (II Samuel 12:1-14).  Like many people, David refused to deal with his sin right at the start.  He had grown comfortable with it, so much so that he probably didn’t even think about it any more.  That is, until a man of God made him face it again.

Once the prophet Nathan confronted David with his sins, he acknowledged and genuinely repented of them.  David did not point the finger at anyone else, saying that they were partly responsible.  He blamed no one but himself.  David didn’t blame Bathsheba for bathing where he could see her.  He didn’t blame Uriah for not going home to his wife.  David took full responsibility for his sins.  He called it “my transgressions”, “my iniquity”, and “my sin” (vs. 1-3).  He never blamed anyone else.

Genuine repentance involves confession, and true confession acknowledges guilt.  Repentance includes taking responsibility for our sins.  If we are blaming others for our sins, we haven’t truly repented.  Repentance is not complete without honesty.  Are we truly asking God for forgiveness, or are we just asking Him to excuse our bad behavior?

David knew that the sins he committed were against God (vs. 4).  Bathsheba and Uriah were victims of David’s sin, but his sin was ultimately against God.  That is true for us, as well.  Whenever we sin, and whatever it is that we do, even when others are involved, our sins are done against a holy God.

The sins that David committed are two rather significant sins, ones that some people may not want to forgive, ones that fellow believers may shun the sinner for.  However, we need to remember that there is no sin that is too great to be forgiven for, if we come to God in sincere repentance.  God can and will forgive us of any sin.  And when David truly repented, he also forgave himself.  Despite the gravity of his sins, he accepted God’s forgiveness.

A repentant sinner can know God’s peace and joy again (vs. 12).  When we are saved, we can never lose our salvation.  However, when we fall into sin, the unrepentant sinner can lose their joy.  With unconfessed sin, all joy is lost.  I am fairly certain that the year or more when David was unrepentant was probably the most miserable in his life.  That is why we need to confess and repent as soon as we realize what we have done, and our joy and peace can return.  The longer one goes without confessing, the more difficult it becomes to do so.  With sin confessed, cleansed, and put away, the joy of salvation returns.  Also, a repentant and forgiven sinner can then be used by the Lord again (vs. 13).

We all stumble and fall during our Christian walk, and we fail the Lord.  The best thing to be sure and do is confess and repent as soon as we can.  When we do the Lord will wash us, and we shall be whiter than snow.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Seeking Our Own gods

Exodus 32:1-14

Our Scripture today brings us to a very dark day for the people of Israel, a day where the people fell into grave sin and idolatry, one which seemed to foreshadow their penchant for sin and idolatry for centuries to come.  Let’s look into these verses from the Book of Exodus.

Several weeks prior to the time of this passage, the Lord God had miraculously and powerfully delivered the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt, including the dramatic parting of the waters of the Red Sea for them to cross.  Now they were at the base of Mt. Sinai, and Moses had gone up the mountain to meet with God, and receive the Law at His hand.  Moses would be with God on the summit of Mt. Sinai for forty days.

This should have been a joyous time for the people.  They had just been miraculously delivered from slavery.  They had seen first-hand this miracle, and had seen the Lord’s miraculous providing of food and water for them.  They had His love and provisions each day.  Now they were to receive His Words and covenant, showing that they were His people.  That should have been a cause for great joy and praise to the Lord.  Instead, the people became restless and impatient.  Where was Moses?  Why is he taking so long?  We’re bored just sitting here!  The people gathered together and came to Aaron, Moses’ brother, and demanded that he make them some idols for them to worship, so they could forget about the absent Moses and Yahweh who spoke to and through him (vs. 1).

Aaron gave in to the people’s sinful demands and made a golden calf for them to worship and follow (vs. 2-4).  That was a grave sin that Aaron committed.  As their temporary leader while Moses was gone, he should have forbidden such wicked acts.  Instead, probably in fear of the people, he gave in to their demands.  We need good, strong, spiritual leaders who remain close to God.  Aaron gave in to the demands of the people.  That is done too often today, when we see otherwise godly pastors giving in to their congregation when they want to follow the ways of the world, rather than standing true to the Bible.  Aaron gave them what they wanted, not what they needed, just like the “seeker-sensitive” churches of today.

The people did not want to wait for Moses to return, and they persuaded Aaron to make an idol, breaking the second commandment.  Aaron produced a replica of the familiar Egyptian god Apis.  The people wanted a religion of their own choosing, that would appeal to their own natural heart.  By choosing a foreign, pagan god to worship, they were seeing the “good in all religions”.  Again, this is a common sin that many fall into.  They believe that every religion has some good in it, and that there is nothing wrong with picking bits and pieces of these false religions, and incorporating them into their own beliefs.  This is something that is an abomination to the Lord God, and is expressly forbidden in Scripture.

The Israelites wanted to shape God into their own liking.  We see that frequently today.  People try to make God convenient to obey or ignore.  They want to shape Him into what they want Him to be like, not as what the Bible states Him to be.  They want all love and acceptance, no matter what, and no judgment of sin and ungodly behavior.  They want an “anything goes” God.  However, just because that is what so many people’s perception of God might be, that doesn’t change Him to be like that.

God’s wrath will come when people try to change Him to be what He isn’t, or when they elevate anyone or anything above Him.  God saw what the people were doing, and was going to destroy the people in an instant if Moses hadn’t interceded for them (vs. 7-14).  Their sins were so grave that God actually disowned them for a while, calling them Moses’ people, not His own people (vs. 7).  Moses prayed for the people, basing his prayers on God’s Word, on what He had pledged to do, not on his own feelings, and God spared them (vs. 13-14).  Even though God spared them here, that entire generation would not come into the Promised Land.  They all died in the wilderness because of their sins and unbelief.

Have you succumbed to sin similar to this?  You probably have not made yourself a golden calf to worship, but have you tried to mold God into the way that you want Him to be?  Do you ignore parts of His character, parts of His Word, that you don’t care for, and try to shape Him into just what you, society, and the world view prefers?  Let’s worship God as He is, not as what we want Him to be.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Total Commitment

Luke 14:25-33

When you start a project in your life, either in your personal life or at your job, or join an organization, or even in relationships, are you one to go all in, or do you hold back a bit?  Perhaps you are one that hesitates to make any real commitments, possibly out of fear or uncertainty.  Maybe you did at some time before, but then felt used or got burned.  In today’s Gospel reading from Luke, the Lord Jesus speaks about real commitment, and to be willing to give all for Him.  Let’s look at what Luke has to say.

As our Gospel passage begins, Jesus said something that has shocked and puzzled people from that very day until now, and that is when He spoke about “hating” one’s family in order to be one of His disciples (vs. 26).  Does Jesus really want us to hate our family, our parents, our children, those we hold dear?  We have to understand what Jesus is meaning here.  Scriptural commands and instructions cannot contradict each other.  In the Ten Commandments, God said for us to honor our parents.  We can’t really honor them if we hate them, can we?  Jesus later told us to love one another (John 13:34-35; John 15:12), and elsewhere in the Bible we are also told to love others (I John 4:7-10).  Obviously this must not mean that we loathe and are hostile to our families.

What Jesus is telling us here is that we should have so much love and devotion to Jesus that our attachment to everything and everyone else would seem like hatred by comparison.  Have you ever been so enthusiastic and eager over something that everything else just seemed so much less important?  A professional baseball player devotes himself to that sport completely.  Does that mean he hates other sports, like basketball or football?  Not necessarily, but it just seems like it because he is so into baseball as that is all he spends his time doing and thinking about.

Jesus calls for an exclusive commitment from His disciples.  Everything else should pale in comparison to our love for Jesus.  No affection, however strong, must be permitted to compete with or displace Jesus.  No exceptions.  He, alone, must be enthroned in our hearts.

One’s devotion to family must be secondary to one’s devotion to Christ.  If a family member, such as a parent, sibling, or even spouse, says that we are becoming “too religious”, and perhaps should scale it back a bit, or tries to talk us out of going into some type of Christian ministry or work for the Lord, we shouldn’t put their desires and wishes ahead of the Lord Jesus.  That doesn’t mean we hate them, but it does mean putting Jesus first.  Unfortunately it sometimes happens that a family member becomes hostile to us because of our faith and wants us to forsake the Lord, in which case we might have to turn away from them altogether.  Absolute loyalty to Jesus is paramount.

God does not want superficial followers.  Following Christ does not mean a trouble-free life.  Christians often face a loss of social status or wealth.  We might have to give up money, time, or career.  We may be hated, including by our family.  Following Christ means total submission to Him, perhaps even to the point of death.  There will be a price to pay for the acceptance of Jesus and the Cross.

This was not an easy saying to hear for the people who came to listen to Jesus, nor for us today.  However, Jesus’s aim was not to gain appreciative crowds, but to make true disciples.  He never adopted His message to the majority preferences.

Family is important, but are we really willing to put Jesus and His will ahead of everything, including them?  Are we willing to put Him ahead of our own wishes and desires, as well?  Jesus wants absolute, unconditional surrender of all we have and all we are for Him.  Our commitment to Him must be without reservations.  We must be willing to renounce or give up everything for Jesus, and be ready to put all that we have at His disposal.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Doing The Right Thing

Philemon 1-20

Apologizing can sometimes be difficult.  But what is even more difficult for many of us is making right on our transgressions.  When we’ve done something wrong, especially if it involves and has hurt someone else, more than just a simple apology is needed.  We have to correct the wrong we’ve done, repair the damage, or pay back what was taken, and that can be a difficult thing to face.  Today our Scripture from the Book of Philemon touches on this difficult task.  Let’s take a look.

When reading the Book of Philemon, it is important to know the background of this epistle.  The Apostle Paul was a prisoner in Rome when he wrote this letter.  At this time his captivity was more like being under house-arrest than being in a dungeon.  Later imprisonment would be in a dungeon with chains.  While under house-arrest Paul somehow came to know a young man named Onesimus, who he led to the Lord, and who became a great help to him, perhaps by running errands and such.  Onesimus, however, was a runaway servant, who had fled his master after having stolen a great deal of money from him.  That master happened to be a wealthy gentleman, Philemon, who was also an elder of the church in Colossae, a church which Paul had started, and the subject of the Book of Colossians.  The church of the Colossians met in Philemon’s house, as there were no church buildings until about the 3rd century.  Now Philemon’s runaway, thieving servant was with Paul.

Onesimus had now accepted the Lord Jesus as his Savior, and was a changed man.  He knew that what he had done was wrong, and he and Paul had discussed what he knew he needed to do.  Onesimus knew that he had to return to Philemon, and to begin paying back the considerable money he had stolen.  However, that didn’t make it easy to do, so Paul sat down and wrote Philemon a letter, urging him, as a Christian brother to Onesimus, to forgive him his transgressions, and welcome him as a fellow believer.

Onesimus was probably afraid to return to Philemon and face the consequences of his wrong actions, yet he made the decision to do the right thing, no matter how difficult, and even fearful it was.  No matter how much easier it is, we are not to avoid the difficulties of life, but instead to obey God.  We are to follow Him in faith, regardless of the cost.

The name Onesimus means “useful”.  Prior to his salvation, Onesimus was not useful.  He was useless to Philemon, and a thief of a lot of his money.  His salvation, though, was genuine, and Onesimus had become quite useful to Paul.  He was now sending him back a changed man.  No longer useless, but useful, one who would live up to his name (vs. 11).

Paul desired that Philemon forgive Onesimus, and welcome him back with love, as a brother in the Lord.  As a leader and elder of the church in Colossae, Paul expected that of him.  He also wanted this personal letter read in the church that met at Philemon’s house (vs. 2).  This would hold Philemon accountable, as well as instruct the church on the matter of forgiveness.  Paul wanted Philemon’s actions to send a powerful message to the church about the importance of forgiving in love.  They were now brothers, and children of the same Father God.  As Christians, we should forgive as we have been forgiven (Matthew 6:12; Ephesians 4:31-32).  Are we willing to do that when someone has sinned against us?

How do we treat our fellow Christians?  A Christian’s status as a member of God’s family transcends all other distinctions among believers.  Do we look down on any fellow believer?  Paul did not want to see this happen in any of the churches he had ministered at, and especially now between Philemon and Onesimus.  Each believer is equal before Christ (Galatians 3:28).

In closing, this Scripture shows that God can take our sinful mistakes and turn them around for His glory.  Onesimus, a once sinful, fugitive, runaway thief had become an immense help to Paul while in Rome.  And if allowed by Philemon and the church in Colossae, he could be a productive witness there.  God can do the same with each of us.  When we do the right thing, no matter how difficult it is, whether seeking forgiveness and restoration, making good on our transgressions, or bestowing that forgiveness, God can use that for the good of His Kingdom.

Monday, September 5, 2022

The Choices We Make

Psalm 1

I remember years ago, when my son was just a little boy, we would occasionally take a walk in the woods.  The path would split into two, and we had a decision to make.  Should we go this way today, or that way?  Both ways were fine, so the choice really didn’t matter.  However, that is not always the case.  Quite often the choice makes a big difference!  In our psalm for this week, the psalmist describes two different paths, paths that we have the choice of walking throughout our lives.  The choice of which one we will walk down is very important, the most important decision we will ever make, one with eternal consequences.

As our psalm opens, we read of two people, the godly person and the ungodly one.  Each person takes a different path through life.  One takes God’s way of obedience.  The other chooses the path of rebellion.  One leads to blessings, and ultimately to heaven, while the other leads to destruction.

The choice of which way we walk through life, not only has eternal results, but also will affect our life here on earth.  As is described throughout this psalm, the godly person who has chosen to follow Jesus is blessed many times over.  They have uncompromised purity, they are guided by God’s Word, the Bible.  They stand strong as a tree with sturdy roots.  They are able to stand before God through Jesus’ righteousness which they have taken.  They are the special objects of God’s care, with a destiny secure, safe, and prosperous.

In contrast, we are shown the effects of following the path the ungodly person has chosen.  They do not have God’s blessings in their life.  They have no guide, and unlike a sturdy tree, they are like chaff which is blown away in the wind.  They cannot stand before God with their sins, as they have rejected Jesus.  They have no right to stand among the righteous, and they will ultimately perish.

One important decision that the godly person makes, one which greatly affects the path they go on, is that they do not listen to ungodly advice or the false philosophies so popular in the world (vs. 1).  They refuse to be influenced by the advice of those who do not serve God.  They know that unwise, ungodly counsel can lead to unseen dangers and costly consequences.  Our holiness and walk with God is greatly affected by the company we keep.  We should ask ourselves - do our friends build up our faith, or do they tear it down?  True friends should help, not hinder us to draw closer to God.

We need to maintain a pure walk, free from flirtation with sin and evil.  Don’t ever compromise with sin, allowing evil to wrap its tentacles around us, squeezing the rewards of obedience out of us.  The godly person avoids evil influences, deeds, and attitudes.  As verse two states, they delight in God’s Word, spending time studying and meditating on it.  (I Timothy 4:15).

Our psalmist compares the godly person with a thriving and fruitful tree (vs. 3).  When we abide in Jesus, we can’t help but bear fruit in our life.  Following God’s Word and guidance leads to stability and fruitfulness.  The more we delight in God’s presence, the more fruitful we are.  When we apply God’s wisdom, the fruit we bear will be good, and receive God’s approval, producing actions and attitudes that honor God.  Dry times may come when we do not feel God real close.  But our faith will remain strengthened when we are deeply rooted in Scripture and prayer.

What kind of fruit are we producing?  Is our life full of praise for God and faithful devotion to God’s Word?  Or are we filled with fear, anger, and other sins?  Plant yourself in Jesus so you can produce good fruit for His Kingdom.

In closing, let’s consider that “Follow the Leader” is not just a children’s game.  Adults play it, too.  Who are we choosing to follow the way of?  Are we following the godly, or the ungodly, the sinners, and the scoffers?  Our decision will make all the difference in our walk through life, and also in our eternal destiny.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Underneath Are The Everlasting Arms

Deuteronomy 33:25-27

A little baby rests securely in the arms of his mother.  He doesn’t worry that he will fall, but completely trusts that his mother will protect him.  Often in summer we see a young child jump into a swimming pool, into the arms of their father, knowing and trusting that he will safely catch them.  Actors trust their fellow actors to catch them if the scene requires them to fall towards them.   And what about the frantic mother two or three stories up, leaning out of the window with a fire raging behind her, as she throws her young child down into the arms of a fireman to catch?  She has to trust him to catch her baby!  Have you ever thought that there are strong arms underneath you, ready to catch and protect you?  Our Scripture today from the Book of Deuteronomy reminds us of the assurance that God’s arms are always underneath believers who have put their trust in the Lord Jesus.

Our passage comes from the final message Moses gave to the people shortly before they were to enter the Promised Land, and right before he would die.  All of the blessings contained in the Scriptures would be theirs if they would faithfully follow the Lord God, and obey all of His Words.  They would have His protection against their enemies and against all evil, and the assurance of His promises if only they followed Yahweh.

One of the first promises in our Scripture passage was that the Lord would renew the people’s strength (vs. 25).  They would need a lot of strength, both physical, mental, and spiritual in order to claim the land that God had promised to their fathers, and as long as they were obedient to Him, they would have that strength each day.  Believers today are promised God’s strength for all He has for us to do (Philippians 4:13; I Peter 5:10).

In verse 26 we see the Lord God referred to as the God of Jeshurun.  This may be an unfamiliar term for many people.  The word Jeshurun means “righteous” or “the upright one”.  Yahweh is the God of the righteous and upright ones.  Israel did not live up to that name after entering the Holy Land, as they quickly forsook Him and His laws.  How about us?  Are we living uprightly and walking righteously?

Moses continues with a very comforting verse and promise from the Lord in verse 27.  Here we read that the eternal God is our refuge, and underneath us are the everlasting arms.  God is the refuge and dwelling place of His people.  Over us is His sheltering protection.  Underneath us is the support of His everlasting arms.  Our only true refuge is the eternal God who always holds out His arms to catch us when the shaky supports that we trust in collapse and we fall.  No storm can destroy us when we take refuge in Him.  Those without God must be careful and forever cautious.  One mistake and they are wiped out.

God is our abode, our home in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).  We usually feel safe at home.  We can shut the world out and dwell in security.  When we are with God we do not need to fear any evil.  He is our shelter and our retreat.  Just as we rest at home, we can find rest with God when we are weary with life’s conflicts.

When we are deep in a trial, distress, or affliction, Jesus’ arms are still underneath us and encircling us.  No matter how deep in trouble we are in, all of Satan’s efforts to harm us come to nothing.  Jesus gives us strength for each day, grace for each need, and power for each duty.  Even when death comes, God’s promise here still holds good.

When we are at our lowest, at our worst, even then underneath us are the everlasting arms.  Sin may drag us low, but Christ’s atonement is still under us.  We may have descended into the depths, we can fall down to the uttermost, however as Hebrews 7:25 states, Jesus saves “to the uttermost”!

We have a Friend who is infinitely strong and mighty, yet at the same time loving and gentle.  Our God tenderly loves us and protects us, yet has defeated all of our spiritual enemies, including the devil.  If you have Jesus as your Savior, you can trust that His everlasting arms are right there beneath you!

Friday, September 2, 2022

The Best Seat

Luke 14:7-14

It happens at fancy wedding receptions, and at State dinners.  It also happens at big corporate dinners and meetings.  What I’m referring to is people vying for the best or most prominent seat available.  People want to sit as close to the President or other political leader as they can.  They want to sit at or near the bride and groom’s table.  Or they want to be seated next to the top corporate executives, thinking that they might get his ear with their ideas, and might improve their job position.  If the seating arrangement for the dinner has not already been preselected, then there is a mad scramble for those select seats, and if they have been predetermined there is possibly a lot of grumbling and nasty words muttered under breath.  This is nothing new.  It was something that Jesus noticed, and had some comments about, which we read in our Scripture passage today.

Earlier in the chapter we read how Jesus was invited to dinner at the house of one of the prominent Pharisees in the village He was in (Luke 14:1).  While there, Jesus noticed how the invited guests all tripped over each other trying to get the best seats in the house.  Everyone wanted to be seated next to the host, or perhaps next to some other important guest of honor at the meal.  No one wanted to be seated down at the end of the table.  Perhaps even before the meal was served, they may have sought after the more comfortable or well-placed seats in the house.  Jesus had something to say about what He was noticing, which might have annoyed and not have pleased His audience.  However, it was a needed lesson in humility, which many could use today, as well.

Jesus spoke to the other invited guests, telling them that it would be better to go to a more lowly seat, and then be invited to come sit closer to the host or guest of honor, rather than to take a prominent seat and then be told to sit further down the table because someone else was to have the honored seat (vs. 8-10).  His words echoed Old Testament Scripture from the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 25:6-7).  These were words that these people should have been familiar with and taken to heart.  However, their actions showed that they either had never bothered to read them, or certainly not applied them to their life.

This is a lesson in humility, to not think so highly of oneself, and then later be put to shame because of that (vs. 11).  We should not be seeking after places of honor.  Humility and serving others are more important than status.  People are eager to raise their social status by being with the right people, dressing the right way, and having the best belongings.  Jesus said that is not what we should seek after.  A person with real humility will compare themselves only with Christ, realizing their sinfulness, and understanding their limitations.  Humility is not self-degradation.  It is a realistic assessment of oneself, and having a commitment to serve.

Jesus continued with His teaching, and again made comments about the practices of the day, which are also so common today.  He spoke of how when we plan a dinner party or other event, we like to invite our family and friends, and also prominent people if we can.  That way, when they plan their parties, they will likely invite us, and we can feel honored.  Jesus instructed His followers to invite the poor, despite the fact that they won’t be inviting us to any social events.  He said we will, instead, be blessed by God (vs. 12-14).

If we really want to be blessed by the Lord, we are to do good things for people who in turn, cannot do good things for us.  This goes against all those who like to invite the rich, who will feel obligated to return the favor.    Inviting our friends and relatives cannot be classified as a spiritual act of true charity.  Jesus isn’t telling us to never fellowship with friends and family.  However, He wants us to reach both friends and family, and also those outside our circle.

We shouldn’t be so exclusive about who we associate with, such as only the rich or prominent who can raise our social status.  God loves the poor and the humble.  If the unevangelized and needy are to be reached, God’s people must reach out to them.

No one can ever outgive God.  Any kind deed that we do for someone else, without selfish motives, but done in Jesus’ Name and for His sake, will be rewarded in heaven.