Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A Debt That We Owe

Romans 13:8-14

Most people have, at one time or another, owed a debt.  It might be with a mortgage on a house, or a car payment.  Perhaps a medical bill or a credit card bill.  Hopefully, as good, honest people, we do what we can to make our payments faithfully and on time.  If we do so, then after a period of time, the debt is finally paid off.  However, as we read in today’s Scripture, there is one debt that we owe others, that we will always owe.  Let’s look into God’s Word and see what that is.

Today’s New Testament reading, this first week of Advent, comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.  In our passage, Paul talks about having outstanding debts (vs. 8).  The Apostle is not saying that we should never have any debts, or that we should only pay cash for everything.  In today’s world, very few would ever be able to afford to pay for a house outright, or even a new car.  Some countries do not have free medical care, so doctor and medical bills can be quite expensive.  When we do borrow or buy with credit, we need to make the payments when they are due.  In these verses, though, Paul is talking about our social responsibilities in not acting in any way towards others as to have a debt other than to love them, a debt which is never fully paid.  In general, a believer should never be constantly borrowing from others, whether money or personal items, and failing to pay back.

As Paul continues, he reminds us that we need to treat others as we would want to be treated, to love others as we do ourselves (vs. 9-10).  Loving others as ourselves means to be actively working for their good and for their welfare.  Paul quotes five of the Ten Commandments, those that deal with human relations.  He then quotes from Leviticus 19:18, which sums these five commandments up.  If we truly love our neighbor, we will only do what is in their best interest.

So often, though, we don’t act in a truly loving way towards others.  We come up with excuses, such as that they are not my family or close friends, so it doesn’t matter, or that since our behavior isn’t actually breaking a law, it’s okay.  How easy it is to excuse our indifference to others merely because we have no legal obligation to help them, or even justify harming them if our actions are technically legal.  However, Jesus doesn’t leave any loopholes in His law of loving others.  It is a debt we owe.

As he continues, Paul reminds us that the day of Jesus’ return is drawing closer (vs. 11).  Each day brings us one day closer to seeing Jesus.  Our behavior ought to reflect that belief.  We need to wake up out of our spiritual apathy and from being unresponsive to the things of God.  Since we know that Jesus’ return gets closer each day, we need to repent of, and forsake our sins.

Right now the world is in darkness.  At this present time, while Jesus is not physically present and the control of the world is in the hands of the prince of darkness, it is like night (vs. 12).  Believers need to cast off all works of darkness, and put on God’s armor of light.  We should conduct ourselves in a manner befitting those who bear the Name of Jesus (vs. 13), living a life that pleases God by our behavior.

Paul closes this Scripture passage by instructing us to make no provisions for the flesh (vs. 14).  By that he means that we should not be seeking opportunities to satisfy the desires of our sin nature.  Our behavior should be consistent with our new life in Christ.  We do that by not allowing wrong ideas or lustful desires to linger in our minds.  When we know we should avoid going somewhere, but we go anyway, that is a sin.  If some activity is a temptation, but we still do it, we dishonor Jesus.  We are to pursue God’s will in our lives, which leaves no room for sinful behavior. We will either commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, or we will be preoccupied with sin.  We cannot do both.

In closing, let’s wake up and cast off the works of darkness from our lives, and actively live for the Lord Jesus!  Let’s pay that debt we owe, whether it is an actual debt of money, and certainly the debt of love we owe to each other!

Monday, November 28, 2022


Psalm 122

My previous blog posting spoke about the hills or mountains surrounding the City of Jerusalem.  Today’s Scripture for this first week of Advent talks about the city itself.  Jerusalem is one of the most famous cities in the world.  Photos from different vantage points are almost immediately recognized.  Several million people each year travel to Jerusalem, as it is a holy city for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  Let’s look into today’s psalm, Psalm 122, and see what God might tell us today.

Psalm 122 is one of the Songs of Ascent, which are a collection of fifteen psalms (Psalms 120-134), which pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the religious festivals in Biblical days would often recite or sing.  This particular one, along with three others, was written by King David, and we can feel the love that he had for the city he chose to be his capital.  When David first became king over just the tribe of Judah, his capital was in Hebron.  Later, when he became king over the whole nation, he moved the capital to Jerusalem.  Later he moved the Tabernacle with the Ark of the Covenant into the city, and made his plans for the Temple to be built there.  Prior to that time, Jerusalem had been a Jebusite stronghold.

Jerusalem was the setting for many important events in the Bible.  Though it was not a city at the time, it was near where Jerusalem would later be that Abraham was called to sacrifice his son Isaac and where God provided the sacrifice to spare him.  It was where David brought the Ark of the Covenant back from the Philistines, and later where Solomon would build the Temple.  Most importantly, it was where Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose again, and where the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples at Pentecost.

For King David, going to God’s Tabernacle (this was before the Temple was built) was a delight, not a burden or a chore.  This is unfortunately unlike how many Christians feel about attending church today.  If one is physically able, and if there is a good, Bible-preaching church in the area, believers really ought to be going to church on a regular basis.  David proclaimed that he was glad when friends or family invited him to come to God’s house to worship! (vs. 1).  If we have unconfessed sin, or our love for God has grown cold, we may not desire times of worship.  However, we can remedy that by confessing and repenting of any known sin, and stir up our love for the Lord through prayer and Bible reading.

As our psalm continues, we read that God’s Word says to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and to seek its good (vs. 6-9).  The name “Jerusalem” means “city of peace”.  That is a very ironic name, as Jerusalem has been fought over throughout history, more than probably any other city in the world.  David fought the Jebusites to gain control of Jerusalem.  His son Absalom sought to wrest control of the capital when he attempted a coup against his father.  Throughout the Bible we read of various empires fighting for control over the area, from the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans.  Since that time, various Muslim empires, along with the Christian crusaders, and the British empire have sought and held control.  The Jewish people regained control over Israel in 1948, yet there has continued to be fighting since then.  True peace will not come to Jerusalem until Jesus returns to set up His Millennial Kingdom, and all people acknowledge Him as Messiah and Savior.

The world cannot provide real peace.  All of the peace movements in the last century have really failed in their efforts, as there has not been any period of time where there wasn’t war or fighting somewhere in the world.  Real peace comes from faith in Jesus, because He, alone, embodies all of the characteristics of peace (John 14:27; John 16:33).  To find peace of mind and peace with others, we must find peace with God.  When the people of Jerusalem acknowledge Jesus Christ, and call upon Him as their Savior and Messiah, then they will have peace.  In the meantime, until that day, let us do as verse 6 says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

The Hills Of Jerusalem

Isaiah 2:1-5

If someone asked you to name some of the great mountains of the world, you might immediately think of Mt. Everest and its sister mountains in the Himalayas.  You might also think of some of the peaks in the Alps of Central Europe, or of the Rocky or Andes Mountains.  One doesn’t typically think of any of the mountains in Israel, as they are not very high at all.  The highest point in Israel is Mt. Hermon at 9,232 ft, in far northern Israel, near the Lebanon and Syrian border.  Even the highest peaks of the Rockies, Andes, or Alps don’t make the top 100 highest, and Mt. Hermon comes nowhere near them.  Yet in our Scripture for today, from the Book of Isaiah, we see where the mountains in Jerusalem are said to be the most exalted.  Let’s look into these verses and see why this is so.

In the nation of Israel, the capital city of Jerusalem does sit on one of the higher elevations in the country, yet that is all relative.  Jerusalem’s average elevation is only about 2,490 feet.  The city has several mountains very nearby, yet many people would only call them hills.  Right to the east is the Mount of Olives, with a height of 2,684 ft., and right northeast is Mt. Scopus, with a height of 2,710 ft.  Neither are impressive in height.  Most able-bodied people could easily climb them.  So why did Isaiah say that these mountains, these hills will be exalted above all?

God, in His Word here, is not speaking of the height or majestic grandeur of these mountains or hills that surround Jerusalem.  He is speaking of the holiness and sacredness of His city, particularly in His coming Millennial Kingdom, where Jerusalem will be the capital.   When Jesus returns to earth at His Second Coming, defeating His enemies and Satan, He will set up Jerusalem as His capital, and as Isaiah prophesies, all people and nations will come there (vs. 2-3).  They will come to learn from Him and His Word.  They will be taught God’s ways.  Right now the world does not want to come to God and learn from His Word.  They reject Jesus.  But there is coming a day when Jesus sets up His Kingdom, and at that time men and women will seek to be taught from Him.

As we read through this Scripture we come upon a rather familiar verse which speaks of people turning their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks (vs. 4).  This speaks of turning weapons of warfare into useful tools, such as farming equipment.  This prophecy will not happen until the Millennial reign of Jesus, either.  Many people speak these verses with a desire for peace between nations, which naturally everyone would wish.  However, no matter how ardently peace movements work for that, we don’t see this happening at all today.  The world cannot and will not find peace without Jesus, and until the world accepts Him as their Savior, Lord, and King, nations will continue to lift up swords against each other.  Until all nations worship Jesus, there will be no lasting peace anywhere.

We find the verses of this Scripture repeated by the prophet Micah (Micah 4:1-3).  These two prophets weren’t just copying each other's words.  When God repeats a message, the repetition shows how important it is to Him, and should be to us, as well.

The prophet Isaiah calls us to come and walk in the light of the Lord (vs. 5).  God doesn’t expect us to find our own way in life, or to find our own way to Him, so He lights our path by His Word.  We don’t need to grope in the dark.  Let us walk confidently with the truth of God’s Word to guide us.  As we walk confidently, being led by Him, the way will open up before us.

As we close our Scripture, let us return to the hills surrounding Jerusalem, hills that God has highly exalted.  Jesus said that when He would be lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself (John 12:31-33).  When Jesus was crucified, it was on one of the hills just outside of the Holy City, called Calvary or Golgotha.  His death on that hill, smaller in size than most of the other hills surrounding Jerusalem, has brought salvation to man, reconciling us to God.  Because of that, alone, we can join in saying that these hills are indeed, exalted above the rest.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Christ The King

Luke 19:29-40

This past week was the final week before the season of Advent begins, and this past Sunday was the Feast of Christ the King, which several denominations recognize and honor.  In keeping with that day of recognition, the Gospel reading from the Lectionary for this past Sunday highlights an event in the life of Jesus, where for a brief moment He was recognized as King.  Let’s take a quick look.

Jesus had been slowly making His way towards Jerusalem, where He knew He would be betrayed, arrested, and then crucified.  It was now just a few days before one of the most important and sacred of Jewish holidays, the Passover, and many people were gathering in the city to celebrate.  Jesus planned a special entry into the capital city, and He instructed His disciples what to do (vs. 29-34).

The disciples were instructed to go into a village nearby, where they would find a donkey, which they were to untie and bring to Him.  They did so, and when the owners asked what they were doing, they told them that Jesus needed them (vs. 33-34).  The owners immediately consented and allowed the disciples to take them.  What a privilege it was for them to supply the animals used by the Lord at this time!  (Matthew’s Gospel records that there was a female donkey and a young colt, Matthew 21:1-3).  Is there some belonging of yours that the Lord might wish to use for His ministry?  Perhaps your car to bring people to church.  Maybe use of your home for a group Bible study.  Or maybe your time to help in any number of activities.  When told that it was Jesus who needed the use of their donkey, these folks immediately said yes.

The donkey was chosen by God, and his role was announced many years in advance, as prophesied by Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9).  She had a good work to do for her Creator, and so do we in God’s plans (Ephesians 2:10).  The donkey didn’t put up a fuss when Jesus decided to use her, and neither should we when He wishes to use us for His purposes.  The donkey also had to be untied in order to be used.  She had to be figuratively set free.  We need to be set free from the bondages of our sins to be used by God, as well (John 8:32).

As just mentioned in the previous paragraph, centuries earlier the prophet Zechariah prophesied that the Messiah would come to Jerusalem as a humble king, riding on a young donkey.  Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, and is the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity.  He is God and Creator of all, and is certainly King.  Briefly, at this moment, the people were acknowledging Him as such, as He rode into Jerusalem.  The crowds that gathered were basically saying “Long live the King”.  This was just prior to the Passover, and large crowds were in Jerusalem then.  The crowds could see Jesus, and here He had a way to proclaim His mission that was unmistakable.  The people were wildly cheering, expecting that Jesus would proclaim Himself king, and liberate them from Roman rule.  However they were deaf to the words of the prophets, and blind to Jesus’ true mission.  This first time Jesus came to earth, He came to die for us, redeeming mankind from their sins.  The second time Jesus comes, it will be as the conquering king.

The people were shouting out praises, including shouts of peace (vs. 38).  Jesus was to suffer and die in a few days, and by His death He would bring peace between God and mankind, between heaven and earth.  Jesus completely defeated Satan, making it possible for all things to be reconciled in heaven and earth.

In the middle of all of the rejoicing, the Pharisees tried to stop the celebration (vs. 39).  They did not like Jesus, and rejected His message.  They tried to stop the people from calling out Hosanna and praising Him.  Jesus told them that if the people were quiet, the stones would cry out (vs. 40).  Natural stones would cry out, but not stony hearts, like the Pharisees had.  They would not join the praise.  All that the Pharisees' stony hearts would do is try to stop the praise.  Do we have a stony heart, unwilling to praise God?  Their stony hearts would quickly grow so hard that they would end up crucifying their Savior and God in just a few days.  We need to make sure our hearts never become that hard to God.  Instead, let’s sing our praises to Jesus as the crowds did that day, and willing give ourselves to His use, as that gentle donkey did.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Jesus, The Creator

Colossians 1:11-20

Heresies and false doctrines have always been a problem that the Church has had to deal with.  We see that today, especially with people being so hesitant to judge others, and feeling that everyone has the right to believe what they want.  The spreading of heresy and wrong beliefs started even in the early Church, during the Apostle Paul’s day.  Paul sought to correct the spread of false doctrines, and to teach the truth of God.  Let’s look at the truth of God's Word today that counteracts one prevalent heresy.

In our Scripture passage today from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we are presented with the doctrine that the Lord Jesus Christ is divine, and has always been pre-existent.  Jesus was not a created being, like every other person.  He is divine and the Second Person of the Trinity. There are some denominations today, actually cults, which teach that Jesus was a created being, and is not the Creator Himself.  This is not something new, as these teachings began to spread during the early days of the Apostles.  As we look at God’s Word, we see that this is a heresy that Paul sought to correct.

Looking into our Scripture, we are taught that Jesus is the Creator, not a created being (vs. 15-19).  He was present at creation, and is divine.  He existed before any of creation, before the universe came into existence.  He is greater than all that He made.  Jesus is supreme over all, including all ranks of angels.

Jesus is not only equal to God, He is God.  He is the visible image of the invisible God, the exact representation of God (vs. 15).  The fact that Jesus was “born” into this world at a certain time and place is part of His choice to become a man and die for our sins.  That was part of redemption’s plan, which Jesus freely decided before the dawn of time.  That does not negate His infinite role in the Trinity.

As the first-born over all creation, Jesus has all the priority and authority of the first-born prince in a king’s household.  Jesus came from heaven, not from the dust of the earth, as every other created person is.  He is Lord of all.  Jesus is supreme over all creation, including the spirit world (vs. 16).  There are some people today, as there were back in the days of the early church, who are over-enamored with angels and angelic beings, making them out to be divine beings.  Angels are not divine.  They are created beings, and Jesus neither was, nor is an angel.  He created them to be His ministering servants (Psalm 104:4; Hebrews 1:13-14).

We might wonder, then, why Jesus, who is God Himself, chose to become man, come to earth, and die for mankind?  It was because of His great love for us that He did (John 3:16).  Here in the U.S. we are celebrating Thanksgiving, and even if we feel that we have very little to be thankful for in this world today (and really, there is so much to be thankful for!), we can and should be thankful for God’s redeeming love for us!  All those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior have been delivered, rescued from the dominion of darkness, Satan’s rule, and transferred to the Kingdom of Christ (vs. 13).  Jesus defeated Satan through His death on the cross.  All who believe in Him are rescued and brought out of Satan’s kingdom of darkness, and into Jesus’ Kingdom of light.  We do not need to fear the dominions of darkness anymore.

Before we were saved, we were alienated from God, rebellious, sinful enemies, separated from His presence.  Our relationship with God has been restored through Jesus’ Blood on the cross (vs. 20).  His Blood should remind us of the enormous price and sacrifice paid to secure our salvation.  For this we need to walk in gratitude (vs. 12).  When we realize what Jesus has done for us, in addition to all the many good gifts He has given us, we can and should live with thankfulness, contentment, and joy, with a grateful heart.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Who Is A Fool?

Psalm 53

Nobody likes to be called a fool.  Perhaps an overbearing parent called you a fool because of a poor test score at school.  Maybe a neighborhood bully called you that, or an unkind boss.  Perhaps even an unloving spouse has called you a fool on a number of occasions.  The dictionary defines a fool as a person who is lacking in judgment or prudence.  It also gives another definition as a harmlessly deranged person or one lacking in common powers of understanding.  God has His definition of a fool, as we shall see when we look into today’s psalm.

Psalm 53 is one of the several psalms that King David wrote.  It is also almost identical to Psalm 14.  Paul also repeats parts of verse 1 and verse 3 in his letter to the Romans (Romans 3:10-12).  Every word in the Bible, God’s Word, is important.  However, when God repeats Himself, when He says something twice or more often, we do well to pay attention!

God’s definition of a fool is that of a person who does not believe in Him.  He calls people who say there is no God the real fools (vs. 1).  In His eyes, being a fool has nothing to do with someone’s intellectual ability.  He doesn’t call us fools because we do poorly on an exam, or we mess up with that home repair we tried to tackle.  He doesn’t even call us a fool for getting that speeding ticket.  God’s Word calls fools those who deny Him, the atheists and agnostics.  These fools don’t necessarily lack intellect, as many atheists and agnostics are highly educated.  Fools are people who reject God, the only One who can save them.

As David continues in this psalm we read that he is specifically referring to Yahweh, not just any gods.  In the days of the Bible, and up until just a couple hundred years ago, most people did believe in some type of divine being.  Today we see plenty of people who deny the existence of Yahweh or any type of divine being, and millions more who go after all sorts of pagan and false gods.  The Bible calls those who specifically deny Yahweh, and His only begotten Son the Lord Jesus Christ, as the real fools.

God proceeds to tell us that all mankind is under condemnation as sinners.  This indictment is universally applicable (vs. 1-3).  There is none who does good.  God continually observes all mankind, and sees that everyone has turned away from Him and His Word.  The Apostle Paul repeats this indictment, that everyone, all mankind are sinners in Romans 3:9-20.  Even the very best people we can think of throughout history, are actually sinners in God’s sight.  We are unclean, and all of the so-called good works we have done are nothing but like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

There are many who believe that science has now replaced man’s need for any type of deity, and thus, in their pseudo-intellectual mind they say we have no need for Him.  There are others who may say there is no God in order to cover their sin.  In their mind if there is no God, there will be no judgment, and this way they have the excuse to continue in their sin.  Though we all are sinners, including believers, with the denial of God’s existence often comes even more moral decay.  We see that so clearly today, as the morality of society steadily grows worse and worse.

No one but God is perfect.  All of us stand guilty before Him (Romans 3:23).  No matter how well we perform, none of us can boast when compared to God’s standard.  Because we all fall short, we must turn to Jesus to save us.  He, alone, is sinless, and His death on the cross obtained our salvation, if we will only call upon Him (Romans 10:9-10).

God is observing those who are seeking Him, so that He can bless us with His presence (II Chronicles 16:9).  He makes a clear distinction between those who worship Him, and those who refuse.  If we want to be restored, to be joyful and truly wise, we must seek the Lord in every situation (vs. 6).  When we do, we will realize that Jesus is the only One who can save us.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Righteous Shepherd

Jeremiah 23:1-6

When someone has been put in charge of caring for something, naturally we would want and expect them to do a good and careful job.  This is particularly true if they are hired to care for one's animals, and most especially if it is for one's children.   We want what we love and cherish to be well cared for and looked after.  This is true also of God.  He loves and cherishes His children, and when He appointed leaders to watch over them, both religious leaders and political ones, He expected them to do right by them.  In our Scripture today from the prophet Jeremiah, we will see what God has to say regarding those who fail to care for what He has put in their keeping.

Frequently throughout the Bible the Lord has compared His people to a flock of sheep, and Himself as their Shepherd, with the religious leaders as under-shepherds, placed in their position to guide and care for the flock.  Today, the Lord gave Jeremiah a message to bring to those that the Lord had appointed to guide and lead His people, but who were failing in that assignment.  This is a message that holds true for today, as well as in the days of the Old Testament prophets.

As the prophet Jeremiah begins his message today, he speaks out against both the religious and political leaders of the people of Judah.  Today most countries have a strict separation of church and state.  Our religious leaders are not to get involved with politics, and political leaders are to leave religion out of politics.  However, in the days of the Old Testament there was not such a division.  In the Kingdom of Judah, religious and political leaders went hand-in-hand.  If the king and the princes strayed from Yahweh, the religious leaders and country often followed.  It was King Solomon who officially introduced idolatry into the country, leading the people astray.  The kings and the Levitical priesthood worked closely together.  For centuries the kings and religious leaders of Judah swayed back and forth between good leaders or shepherds, who rightly guided the people, and bad shepherds who led them astray.

As time progressed, there were fewer good shepherds, and more bad ones, and now the Lord is calling down His condemnation upon them (vs. 1-4).  The Lord had set them up as leaders for a purpose, to spiritually guide and care for His people.  Instead, they have scattered and destroyed them, leading them astray, and not attending to them.  This is the same today with our spiritual leaders.  Those who are to be leading and guiding God’s people spiritually, are failing to do so.  They cast aside God’s Word for messages that tickle the ears of those in the congregation, preaching messages that only make them feel good, or are politically correct for the times, and not what God’s Word truly says.  It was the same then as it is today.  God says that He will judge those shepherds.  Israel’s leaders in the Old Testament, and pastors both today and throughout the Church era, have been charged with the care of God’s people, as a shepherd would watch over their sheep.  Too often they prove to be false shepherds.

God will not leave His faithful remnant without a shepherd, though.  He will give His people good shepherds (vs. 4).  God, Himself, as the Good Shepherd will gather His scattered sheep.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the smitten Shepherd (Zechariah 13:7), who laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11).  He has entrusted His work to other under-shepherds who serve under the Chief Shepherd (I Peter 5:1-4), until He comes again for His flock.

Jeremiah finishes this passage with prophecies about the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 5-6).  He is called the Branch, because He came from David’s fallen family tree.  Though there were a few good kings of Judah, descendants of David, more of them were evil and led the people astray.  Jesus, the Branch from David, is righteous.  He will sit on the throne of David, and His reign will be a time of renewed peace, justice, and righteousness.

In closing, one of the many names or titles of God told in Scripture is “The Lord our Righteousness (Yahweh Tsidkenu), which comes from verse 6 of our passage.  As fallen sinners, we have no goodness, no righteousness of our own.  The righteous Son of God took our sins upon Himself on the Cross, and made it possible for all who call upon Him as Savior to have His righteousness (II Corinthians 5:21).  Have you accepted Jesus as your own personal Savior?  Call upon Him today, and know personally for yourself, Yahweh Tsidkenu, The Lord our Righteousness.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Jesus Speaks Of The Future

Luke 21:5-19

A popular topic of many Bible studies, and also of Christian books and novels is End Time events, including the Rapture and the Tribulation period.  Some give biblically inaccurate or false information, but others are Scripturally sound.   Another thing that we see every so often are false-messiahs that show up on the scene, and lead gullible, misled and misinformed people astray.  As the last days of Jesus’ life were drawing to a close, He warned His followers of what to expect during the end times, and as we look carefully at these passages, we won’t be deceived, as Jesus warned.

During Jesus’ final week, as He and His disciples were in Jerusalem, the disciples were admiring the structure of the Temple, its beauty and architecture.  They pointed out to Jesus what a grand and beautiful building it was (vs. 5-6).  This was not the Temple that Solomon had built, which was said to have been a magnificent structure.  That Temple was destroyed several centuries earlier by the Babylonians.  This was the second Temple, which was built under the supervision of Ezra, and later greatly expanded by Herod the Great.

Jesus responded by prophesying that this Temple, too, would soon be destroyed.  Not one stone would be left standing upon another.  This event took place in 70 AD, forty or so years later, when the Romans came, led by future emperor Titus.  He and his army put down a Jewish rebellion and revolt, destroying Jerusalem, including the Temple.  The Jewish Temple has never been rebuilt since that day.

Jesus then continues to teach the disciples and us, as well, giving several signs of what the end times would be like.  His first warning in this passage was that of the need to beware of false messiahs and teachers (vs. 8).  Every generation has had plenty of false religious teachers who claim special biblical knowledge, and every once in a while one will claim to be the Messiah, a new special messenger from God, a new, replacement of Jesus, or even a reincarnated Jesus Himself.  However Jesus told us all to not be deceived by these imposters.  No one should consider the claims of self-styled messiahs, because all of them are false.  When Jesus does return, no one will miss it.  The whole world will see, and we will know Him by the prints of the nails in His hands.

Another thing that Jesus warned us all of, will be the increase in the persecution of His followers.  The bulk of this passage describes that, as it is inevitable, it will happen, and we need to be forewarned.  Persecution began right away for Christians, starting with the first martyr, Stephen.  It has never really ended for true believers.  There are some public figures, including many in the media who might want to deny that there is persecution of Christians today, but it is happening all around the world.  God uses persecution, though, to help further His message and make His Word known (vs. 13).  Paul and the other apostles used those occasions to preach, as many oppressed Christians today do, even down to their last breath.

It is an unfortunate thing, but there are times when a believer’s family and friends may turn against them because of their faith (vs. 16).  Jesus warned us that in certain times and countries where Christianity is illegal, there will be occasions when one’s family will be the ones who betray them and turn them over to the authorities for arrest, and possible death.  When we feel completely abandoned, the Holy Spirit will stay with us.  He will comfort and protect us, and give us the words we need (vs 14-15).  He will give us the courage we need to stand firm for Jesus, no matter how difficult the situation.

As Jesus closed this passage, He promised us that not a hair on our head will be lost (vs. 18).  He was not saying that believers will be exempt from persecution, physical harm, or death because of their faith.  As we all know, and as Jesus had just finished saying, Christians will suffer all of that.  However, Jesus promises that none of His followers will suffer spiritual or eternal loss.  We may lose our physical life for following Jesus, but not our eternal life.

Jesus is always in control.  He assures us that He is with us, and will make His kingdom known through us.  Every detail of our life is safe in His hands.  Not a hair of our head is touched without Jesus’ permission.  If we lose our life for His sake, it will be according to His purpose and timing.  Our eternal life is secure.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Bible's Warning Against Idleness

II Thessalonians 3:6-13

Sometimes a church congregation starts to drift into wrong or faulty beliefs and practices, and church leaders need to firmly but lovingly correct them.  Wrong thinking and behavior needs to be addressed and nipped in the bud as soon as possible.  The church in Thessalonica was a good church, and didn’t have too many problems, unlike some other congregations in those beginning years of the early church.  However, there were a few things that the Apostle Paul heard about, that if left untended could grow into something worse.  In our Scripture passage today from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church, he brought up a few items that needed to be corrected.

The first behavioral issue that Paul brought up in our Scripture passage has to deal with being careful with whom we, as believers, associate with.  Paul instructed the Thessalonian Christians, that if there was a fellow believer in their congregation who was not behaving properly, was not living the way a believer should, or was persistently involved in some type of sin, that the congregation should withdraw from him (vs. 6-7).  This is not specifically referring to excommunication, but rather a way to show that wayward believer that his actions and behavior are not fitting for one who names the Name of Jesus, and for them to amend their ways.

If a Christian falls into willful sin, and no one in the church says anything, they may believe that there is nothing wrong with what they are doing.  Also, as we all know, sin can be contagious.  The more we associate with people who practice sin, the more likely it is that we, too, will soon participate in that behavior.  Paul did not want to see this happen.  He wanted to stop the spread of sinful behavior and to restore the wayward ones, so he instructed us to withdraw our fellowship from them.

There was a second problem that Paul sought to address in this letter, and that was there were several in the church there who had quit working, had left their places of employment, and were becoming a burden to others (vs. 7-12).  There was a false teaching that was slowly spreading around some of the early churches that Jesus was going to return right away, literally any day now.  So some quit their jobs to just sit and wait for that moment.  It was almost as if they believed that if they were busy at work when He returned, they might miss it.  Without their jobs and income, these folks were becoming a financial burden to the rest of the believers, as they took advantage of the early church’s charity to support their idle behavior.  Paul strongly admonished these folks that if they will not work, they shouldn’t eat at the congregation’s expense (vs. 10).

Today we don’t generally see believers quitting their jobs to just wait for Jesus’ return.  Our belief in the Lord’s return should not give us an excuse to be lazy.  It should inspire us to work hard and do our best, so that if we are still alive when Jesus does return, He will find us diligently at whatever work He has us doing.

Every so often we do find people who try to take advantage financially of a local church.  Paul’s admonition should hold true in these instances, too.  Willful laziness and idleness are not behaviors the church should support.  Of course there are legitimate reasons one might not be working, such as poor economic conditions, which we know is a problem in many countries and can’t be helped, and there are people who are physically or mentally disabled and cannot work.  The Scripture here is talking about those who just don’t want to work, and would like to live off the charity of the church.  This, Paul said, was wrong.  Although the Lord is the ultimate source of all we have, He has given us the responsibility of working in order to provide for our basic necessities.  God will not reward laziness.

Being lazy and idle led to another problem, which Paul continued to address, and that was becoming busybodies (vs. 11-12).  Without any work to occupy their time and minds, these folks were sticking their noses into other people’s business and becoming gossips.  This was wrong, and one of the many reasons Paul wanted them to find some sort of worthy work.  Remember, idle hands are the devil’s workshop!

In closing, Paul reminds us to never give up doing good to others (vs. 13).  He instructed us to refuse to support those who are just being lazy and are busybodies, but to not forget the worthy poor.  Jesus always taught us to show compassion to others.

Monday, November 14, 2022

The Lord Has Done Marvelous Things

Psalm 98

Many people find the sound of water comforting.  My daughter Lucy has a sound machine to help her sleep better at night.  This machine has several sound settings, and the one she likes the best is the one of water.  Our psalm for this week is one of giving praise to God.  It includes mankind giving Him praise, particularly with musical instruments, but also of nature giving Him praise, including the sound of water.

Our psalm begins with an encouragement to sing a new song of praise to the Lord (vs. 1).  And what are we to praise Him for?  He has done marvelous things!  For one, the Lord has brought salvation to mankind, and made the way to accept that salvation known to everyone (vs. 2-3).  With the fall of Adam, all mankind has sinned, is under God’s condemnation, and in need of salvation.  In His love and mercy, God sent His only-begotten Son to die for our salvation.  His plan of salvation is clearly recorded in the Bible.

God’s Word, the Bible, has been translated into nearly every language on earth, and is available for everyone to read.  Down through the ages, and including today, many have tried to destroy the Bible.  However, God has faithfully preserved His Word.  We can sing a new song of praise to Him for this marvelous thing, that He has made known His salvation to us, and revealed it in the sight of the nations, for all the ends of the earth to see.

As our psalm continues, the psalmist encourages people to praise the Lord on all different types of musical instruments (vs. 4-6).  He mentions the harp, the trumpet, and horns.  As long as our songs are godly, holy, and with respect for the reverence of God, we can use any instrument, and especially our voices to praise the Lord.  He wants us to shout joyfully, break forth, sing, and rejoice.  Why?  Because the Lord Jesus has done marvelous things, and has brought salvation to all who will accept Him.

The psalmist follows this with a call for all of nature to sing their praises to God, particularly the sea, the rivers, and hills (vs. 7-8).  Like I mentioned at the beginning, the sound of water can be soothing and relaxing.  Nature knows its Creator, and readily sings praises to Him.  The musical sound of a bubbling creek and of waves gently hitting the shore, the sounds of all nature echoing in the hills, are all songs of praise to the Creator.

I remember many years ago when I went to see Niagara Falls. The sound of the roar from the water crashing over those falls can be heard long before you come anywhere near seeing them.  Then when you do see the majesty of that great waterfall, a believer can’t help but give praise to the Lord, the Creator!  We see and hear the roar of the sea when we watch the mighty waves crashing against a rocky coast.  Living in Chicago, I am far from any ocean, but we do have Lake Michigan right at our door, which can have some significant storms and large waves.  We may wonder how the roar of oceans, seas, and large lakes can be a song of praise to the Lord, as that might indicate a storm of some magnitude.  Storms of any size can elicit praise to God, especially when we see how He delivers us from these storms, as Jesus did for the disciples on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41).

In closing, Psalm 98 reminds us that the Lord is coming to judge the earth (vs. 9).  The first time the Lord Jesus came, it was to die for our sins, and bring salvation to all who will accept Him as their Savior.  The second time He will come it will be to bring judgment to mankind.  The wicked, and all who have refused to obey His Word and accept Him as Savior will be judged.  This will be a righteous judgment, for as we read earlier in the psalm, God made known His salvation to all the earth.  Everyone has had a chance to accept Jesus as Savior, and are without excuse.  Turn to the Lord Jesus now, for He is longing to accept you into His family!

Saturday, November 12, 2022

God's Book Of Remembrance

Malachi 3:13-4:2, 5-6

Have you ever felt that the Lord might forget you?  What with everything that happens in this world, and all of the billions of people that He has to look after, do you fear that you might just fall through the cracks and be forgotten by Him?   In our Old Testament Scripture reading this week, from the Book of the Prophet Malachi, we will read how God will never forget His faithful followers, and read of one way in which we will be remembered.  Let’s look into our Scripture passage.

The Book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament.  In it the prophet gave voice to some of the issues that the Lord had with the Jewish people after they returned from almost a century in exile.  Malachi was a contemporary of both Ezra and Nehemiah, along with some other prophets, namely Haggai and Zechariah.  It would be the final official Word from the Lord, as afterwards there was some four hundred years of silence until John the Baptist would appear on the scene, preparing the way for the Messiah.

As our passage begins, the Lord had some issues with the people.  Many of the people who had returned to the Promised Land, following years in exile, were beginning to complain about following the Lord and obeying His commands (vs. 13-15).  They wondered what the purpose was in obeying God and serving Him, when the wicked seemed to be living a blessed life.  Here they were, doing what God wanted, and there seemingly wasn’t any payoff, while the wicked were living how they wanted, and everything was going fine for them.  So why bother, they wondered.  They claimed that serving God brought no acknowledgment or reward.  The wicked get wealthy.  Those who sin seem to escape punishment.  God promised, though, that ultimately there would be a reckoning day.

Today as we look around, we may see people who give no thought to God seemingly blessed and prospering.  We may ask the same questions that the people in Malachi’s day did.  The mistake of that thinking is in what one considers a blessing.  The measure of success is not wealth, fame, or power.  If we complain about the blessings that evil people receive, we are actually exposing the immaturity of our own faith.  We show that we are still struggling with the desire to place our trust in material blessings rather than in Jesus Christ.

God then spoke to those who continued to remain faithful to Him, who continued to fear and obey His Word.  All through history, during the good times, and especially during the dark days, God has a faithful remnant who remain true to Him.  God wanted this remnant to know that He has not forgotten them.  The prophet Malachi spoke to the people, telling them of a special book that the Lord had (vs. 16).  This book is called the Book of Remembrance, and it contains the names of all those who fear the Lord and meditate on His Name. Unlike a forgotten grave whose name has been erased by time and weather, believers are forever remembered by God in His Book of Remembrance.  He knows those who love and serve Him, and He records our names for eternity.

The faithful remnant fear the Lord and honor His Name.  They do not consider following Him to be futile.  They talk and encourage each other to remain faithful.  God takes note of this, and records these believers' names in His book, which is also mentioned in Daniel 12:1 and in Revelation 20:12.  They are His treasured possession, like precious jewels (vs. 17).   Those who live for God, serve Him, and are faithful to Him are God’s peculiar treasure (I Peter 2:9).

Malachi then gave a prophecy of the coming Messiah (vs. 1-2), comparing the Lord Jesus to the sun with its healing rays of light coming over the earth, overspreading it, like wings do.  In the Day of the Lord, God’s wrath towards the wicked will burn like a furnace.  However, He will be like the healing warmth of the sun to those who love and obey Him.

After Malachi, there was no prophet or word from God for 400 years (vs. 5-6).  The next bold words for God came from John the Baptist, who was a type of Elijah, both in word and looks.  He came in the spirit and power of Elijah.

Is your Name written in God’s Book of Remembrance?  Are you one of His treasured jewels?  When the Day of the Lord comes, you do not want to be part of the wicked who will be burned like an oven.  No one will.  They will be wishing their names were in God’s Book!  Don’t wait until it is too late.  Turn to Jesus and accept Him as your Savior, and then your name will be forever written in God’s Book of Remembrance.

Friday, November 11, 2022

The Sadducees' Question

Luke 20:27-38

Our Gospel reading this week from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer tells the account of a group of people who tried to entrap Jesus with a rather outlandish question they had asked.  Let’s take a look at their question, and how Jesus answered them.

At the time of Jesus, the Jewish religion had two main sects, the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  (There were a few other, much smaller sects, but these two were the primary ones.)  The Sadducees were a theologically liberal sect, who rejected belief in the supernatural.  They particularly did not believe in angels, nor in the resurrection of the dead.  They rejected all the books of the Old Testament except for the Torah, the first five Books of Moses.  They tended to be an intellectual group.  The Sadducees also pretty much controlled the high priesthood and the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus, and were basically opposite in beliefs and practices to the Pharisees.

As our Scripture begins, a group of Sadducees approached Jesus with a question.  As mentioned, this religious sect of Judaism did not believe in any resurrection of the dead, and their question was for the purpose of entrapping Jesus and proving their point in denying any resurrection.  The group came up with a ridiculous hypothetical situation of a family with seven brothers.  The first brother married a woman, but then soon after died without any children.  The second brother then married that woman, and also quickly died without any children.  So the third married her, and on down to the seventh, each dying without any children.  So, they asked Jesus, if there is a resurrection in heaven, whose wife is she going to be, as all the brothers had her? (vs. 28-33).

What these Sadducees were describing was a levirate marriage, which was instituted in Deuteronomy 25:5.  The term levirate comes from the Latin levir, which means “husband’s brother”.  When a married man died without any children, an unmarried brother would take his brother’s widow to be his wife, and their first child would be counted as the dead brother’s child, thus continuing his line.  This was frequently done by many societies who had a very strong clan structure, some even practicing this today.

Let’s look at Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees.  Jesus acknowledged that people, back then and today, get married (vs. 34).  The marriage relationship, when done Biblically and to honor God and spouse, is a gift God gave to man for here on earth.  The marriage relationship is not in heaven (vs. 35-36).  Our life in heaven is not the same kind of life as it is here on earth.  This does not mean that our earthly, family relationships are lost in heaven.  However, heaven is not just an extension of our life here on earth.  Relationships will be different from what we are used to here.  The resurrection state is a life different from what we know now here on earth.  It is something incomprehensibly superior to our present life.

Also, Jesus is not saying that we become angels when we are in heaven, because we do not.  Sometimes we hear some people say that some dear departed relative or friend is now “an angel in heaven”.  They may be well-meaning, but they are completely wrong.  No one becomes an angel when they die.  Angels are a completely different type of being than human people.

Jesus continued His answer to the Sadducees, proving that they were wrong in denying the resurrection (vs. 37-38).  He quoted to them Exodus 3:6.  God said to Moses that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not that He was their God.  This was indicating that these patriarchs were still alive and present with God, some 400 years after their earthly death.  They were presently alive and well with God in His Kingdom, not non-existent following death, as the Sadducees (and even many today) claimed.  God has a relationship with all departed believers.  They are not truly dead, but are eternally present with Him in glory.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Standing Fast

II Thessalonians 2:13-3:5

A person with strong convictions is not likely to be swayed by any arguments from the opposition.  You can debate and debate for hours with them, but they will likely hold tightly to what they believe.  However, a weaker-willed person can often be turned from what they proclaim to believe.  Even an army can often be quickly crushed if the soldiers are not firmly and strongly committed to their leader.  In our Scripture today from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church, we read of the importance of standing fast and holding tightly on to what we believe.

The Apostle Paul was only in the city of Thessalonica for a few short weeks before he was chased away by enemies of the Gospel, but during that brief time, many people came to salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.  They became saved through trusting in His death on the cross for them, and were sanctified by allowing the Holy Spirit to continue to work in and through their lives (vs. 13).

The persecution that drove Paul and his companions from the city, also continued to attack these new believers.  Their lives were now beset on every side by attacks, abuse, and oppression from their enemies.  Sometimes when that happens, some who claim to believe will fall away.  They cannot endure any hardship in their life, and they will adapt to whatever makes life easier for them, including denying their faith.  When he heard of the ongoing persecution they were experiencing, Paul wrote to the new Christians in Thessalonica to urge them to stand fast and not give up the faith.  He also urged them to not stray from the sound doctrine they were taught by him, as not only was that early group of believers being persecuted, but false teachers had crept in, spreading false beliefs. (vs. 15).

The same should hold true to us today.  With all that is happening in the world and in our lives today, God calls us to stand fast and firm.  Just like a public debater stands true to their beliefs and is not easily swayed, we need to stand firm in our faith and not be turned away.  When cunning false teachers creep in with their insidious lies portrayed as truth, we need to keep a firm grip, holding tightly to the truth that we were taught from the Bible.

As we look around today, we see some people who once stood strongly for the truth of God’s Word, we see churches, Bible schools, and organizations that once boldly proclaimed the Scriptures, but have now been swayed by the current conditions and situations of public opinion and the world, and no longer stand firmly on God’s truth found in His Word.  They failed to stand fast  and hold to the truth they had once known (vs. 15).  As the world and its ungodly beliefs and standards strayed farther and farther away from God, they held on for a brief while, but then released their grip on the truth, and their convictions followed the world.  This should not be the case with devoted followers of Jesus.  Unshakeable trust in God and His Word is what needs to be what grounds our beliefs.

As Paul continued in his letter, he urged the Thessalonians to pray for their fellow believers, and especially those who spread the Gospel.  He asked that they pray that God’s Word would continue to be proclaimed (vs. 1).  When the Word of God is preached, some will accept the message, and some will oppose it (vs. 2).  There will always be those who actively oppose God and His Word.  Opposition to the Gospel will exist until the Lord returns.

Our main defense against the powers of Satan is prayer that God will protect and strengthen us.  God is faithful to His promises in salvation, and to strengthen and protect us from Satan (vs. 3).  Though some men cannot be trusted, God can always be depended upon.  The Lord is faithful to protect us in every situation, so we should always stand firm and hold fast to His Word.  Our message today is to stand fast in the truth of the Gospel, and God’s Word, the Bible.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Watching Our Words

Psalm 17

For many people, lying may not be such a big deal.  We may think that everyone tells a lie now and then, and that generally they don’t do any harm to anyone.  Sometimes lying can be very hurtful.  They can damage a person and their reputation, and can destroy lives.  We see some of this in our psalm today written by David, about some of his lying enemies.

Throughout his life, David had many enemies, and those who wanted to bring him down, both before he became king, and certainly afterwards.  Though he was a skilled warrior, and knew how to conduct guerrilla-type fighting, especially out in the wilderness areas, David always put his trust in the Lord to protect him.  At the time of the writing of this psalm, he was being falsely accused of some wrongdoing.  Whoever this particular enemy was, they wanted to take David down, and they were spreading lies about him in order to do so.

In the time of this trouble, as he always did, David turned to God in prayer.  As he came to God, he proclaimed to the Lord that what he was saying to Him was not a lie, that his lips were not deceitful, and that he was not in the habit of spreading lies around (vs. 1).  Other people, particularly those who were coming against him, were liars, but he wasn’t, and he prayed that God would vindicate him (vs. 2).  David saw God as the eternal Judge, and that He saw and observed everything that was happening to him, so he prayed that God would proclaim him innocent of the lies told against him.

As David continued his prayer to God for His help, he made a promise, a vow and pledge to the Lord that he would not sin by what he ever said (vs. 3).  He purposed and resolved that his mouth would not transgress.  David did not want to sin or offend in any way by what he said.  That would include lying, but also gossip, cursing, and crude, off-color speech.  As believers, that is something that we should also purpose.  Followers of the Lord Jesus should always be careful of what comes out of their mouth.

David also wanted to make sure that in every other area of his life there would not be anything that could be brought against him.  Of course he knew that he wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t want a whole list of faults that could be brought against him, things that he hadn’t confessed and found forgiveness for (vs. 3).  David knew he was accountable to God.  He feared Him, and when he sinned he repented and called out to God for help. His relationship with God was one of close fellowship, and constant repentance and forgiveness.

When he prayed to God, David knew that those prayers wouldn’t be in vain, or a waste of his time.  God delights in those who trust Him.  They are the object of His special devotion (vs. 8).  This wasn’t something that was unique, just for David.  We, too, can find protection and shelter in His presence, just as he did.

As our psalm continues, David described his enemies as acting like lions, crouching and ready to tear him to pieces (vs. 11-12).  We may sometimes feel as if our enemies are like lions in how they attack us!  The Bible describes our greatest enemy, Satan, as a lion.  Satan comes as a roaring lion, seeking whom he will destroy (I Peter 5:8).  He is the enemy of every child of God.

These enemies of David weren’t concerned about God, about His judgment, nor about what they may face in the next life (vs. 14).  That marked a difference between David and them, and should also mark a difference between the Christian and the unsaved.  David’s enemies, and the unsaved in general, look for their reward in life to be given them here and now.  They did not think they would be held accountable for anything.  The believer and follower of the Lord Jesus looks for their rewards in the next life.

The true goal of life is to know God, and the true reward of life is to see God one day (vs. 15).  This is one thing that David truly believed in.  There is coming a day when we will see Jesus as He is, and we will be transformed into His Image (I John 3:2).  Our desire should be to see God’s Face, and to be like Him.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

Job 19:23-27

Sometimes life can be very difficult.  We can go through some very trying times, and then, just when we think we can see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, another wave of difficulty knocks us over.  That cycle can seem to endlessly keep going on.  When this happens, some people just give up all hope.  They may plunge into a depression from which they never emerge.  Most of us know about Job and the trials and suffering he went through.  A read through of his book in the Bible does reveal much negative thought, but did Job completely give up all hope?  Let’s look.

Though no date is given for when the events in the Book of Job took place, it is generally believed that he lived sometime around the time of the patriarchs Abraham or Isaac.  He was a wealthy rancher, with thousands of sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys, along with seven sons and three daughters (Job 1:2-3).  Then in a matter of a few days, Job lost everything, including all ten of his children (Job 1:13-19).  Afterwards, he became sick with a terrible skin affliction (Job 2:7-8).  And to make matters worse, along came three friends who sat and criticized Job, telling him that all this that happened to him was his own fault, and did nothing but kick him when he was down.

Job’s afflictions went on for a number of months, with no relief in sight.  We read through chapter after chapter in his book, hearing Job cry out to God.  He can’t understand why all this happened to him when he was trying to live a good and decent life before God.  We read the things his rotten friends said to and about him.  Even his wife told him to give up, curse God, and die (Job 2:9).  It would have been understandable if Job had done just that.  How many of us would be able to go through relentless, unending suffering, and still maintain our integrity?

So, did Job give up all hope?  We must remember that when Job went through all of his suffering, he did not have the Bible to turn to, like we do in our trials.  He could not turn to the Book of Psalms, or any of the Gospels with the words of Jesus, nor were there any hymnals with songs to bring him comfort and hope, like we have.  Yet Job did not give up!  Buried deep within his book, hidden amidst all of his tears before God, we find a glimmer of hope that Job expressed.

In his misery, Job cried out that he wished that his words were written down, so that all could see what he went through, and know the truth (vs. 23-24).  Little did Job know that his account would be part of God’s eternal Word, including what he would next say, his testimony of the resurrection.

Though Job didn’t seem to hold much hope left for his life, he did faithfully believe that his Redeemer would vindicate him (vs. 25-27).  He wanted that put on record for all to know.  Job counted on the promise of the resurrection.  He looked ahead, counting on the Lord’s promise to make all things better and beautiful in the life beyond.  He knew that at that time, all pain, death, sorrow, tears, and adversity would be removed.  Job endured what he had to go through by envisioning what he would later receive.

Job knew that he had a big God who was in control, and that one day all of his suffering would be over.  Maybe the suffering would not end in this life, but he knew that this world was not all there was.  Job knew there was a life beyond this, where all would be right.  He knew there would be an actual, physical resurrection, not just some spiritual or ethereal one.  In that next life, Job would then understand what he had gone through.  He could trust that God was in control, and had a plan for his life.

What about the sufferings that we are going through in our own life?  Can we, like Job, look beyond them, knowing that our Redeemer lives, and that one day we will be with Him?  On that day, He will make all things right.  We may not understand now why things happen the way they do, and why we are going through the trials we have.  However, like Job, we can envision that in heaven our understanding will be clear.  Even when things are a mess now, we can trust that the God of the universe is still in control.

Friday, November 4, 2022


Luke 19:1-10

Today’s Scripture passage from the Gospel of Luke is an account of a man that many of us should be familiar with, that of Zacchaeus.  Many of us grew up in Sunday School singing a song about him, or perhaps if we led Sunday School or Children’s Church, we taught the youngsters the song “Zacchaeus Was A Wee Little Man”.  Let’s look into the life of this man who little children like to sing about.  There is much more we can learn, besides the fact that he was “a wee little man”.

As our Scripture begins, Jesus was visiting the city of Jericho, and was on His way towards Jerusalem (vs. 1).  Word would have quickly spread through the city of His visit, and Zacchaeus heard the news.  Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector of Jericho, which was an important and prestigious position.  Jericho was a rather prosperous city at the time of Jesus, as it was a flourishing trading center, and an important stop along several trade routes.  As the chief tax collector, probably with other people working under him, Zacchaeus was very rich (vs. 2).  However, with that wealth also came a huge stigma, as tax collectors were especially hated by the Jewish community.  Nobody likes to pay taxes, and thus being a tax collector is never popular.  They were particularly hated by the Jews, as the taxes were collected for Rome, the conquering overlords of the land.  Also, they frequently would extort as much money as they possibly could from the people, keeping for themselves whatever wasn’t owed to the Romans.  Zacchaeus was not liked by the citizenry of the city, and was probably a lonely man, despite his vast wealth.

Zacchaeus quite likely had heard about Jesus, had heard talk around town of His miracles, and possibly even heard about a few of His messages and teachings.  Though he undoubtedly was a scoundrel and had gained a lot of his wealth dishonestly, the Holy Spirit was working in the heart of this man, making him spiritually unsettled and longing for peace.  So when Zacchaeus heard that Jesus had come to town, he wanted to see this Preacher.

However, there was a problem.  As Luke tells us, Zacchaeus was a short man (vs. 3).  As the crowds gathered in the street, he could not see past them.  Being an unpopular person, no one was going to move aside to let him get to the front, so he came up with a plan.  Zacchaeus climbed up into a tree by the roadside, and sat on one of the lower limbs, thus getting a good view of the street, and of Jesus when he would pass by (vs. 4).  This would have been a rather undignified thing for a man of his position and wealth to do, but the spiritual hunger of his soul led him, and it ended up being one of the best decisions he ever made.

What happened next surprised and shocked everyone, not the least of whom was Zacchaeus.  As Jesus passed by, He looked up into the tree and called Zacchaeus by name, telling him to come down because He was going to have dinner with him! (vs. 5-6).  Jesus saw something in Zacchaeus that only God can see in a person.  He saw the man he could be.  This tax collector’s transformation was dramatic.  He not only accepted Jesus as the Messiah and his Savior, but he turned his life around, willingly giving back the money he took falsely, and also giving half of everything he had to the poor (vs. 8).

Zacchaeus’ willingness to make restitution was proof that his conversion was genuine.  It was the fruit, not the condition, of his salvation.  His salvation came not because he returned a large part of his riches, but because he received the grace and mercy of Jesus, and it changed the way he lived.

Jesus noticed Zacchaeus.  Perhaps not many else on the street knew he was up in the tree, or would have cared, but Jesus did.  There may be times in our lives when we feel invisible, and we may hear about the great things Jesus is doing for others, but have a hard time seeing or believing that He might notice us.  No matter who we are, or what we may have done, Jesus can see us, and wants to invite Himself into our lives.

When it seems that no one knows us, or cares who we are, remember that Jesus does.  He knows us by name, and longs for us to know Him in a personal way.  Our Father in heaven sees us through His eyes of love, just as He saw Zacchaeus up in the tree, a soul who needed Him, and He cares about every detail of our life.  Everything that happened that day for Zacchaeus was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.  A hungry, seeking heart will always find the Lord.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

When Persecution For The Faith Comes

II Thessalonians 1:1-10

While many of us could not really say that we are severely persecuted for our faith, there are many believers in various parts of the world who genuinely are strongly persecuted for believing in and following the Lord Jesus.  For most of us, the worst that it gets might be some sarcastic or snarky comments from unbelievers at work or in the family.  For some, they may have lost a few friends, or even various family members may no longer talk to us, but it doesn’t get much worse.  However, there are many places around the world where Christians are severely persecuted, beaten, arrested, locked out economically, and even killed.  True Christians have been persecuted down through the ages, going all the way back to the days of the Apostles.  The church in Thessalonica was one place where the believers faced a great deal of persecution.  The Apostle Paul wrote them several letters of encouragement, persuading them to carry on and not give up the faith.  Our Scripture today comes from Paul’s opening remarks in his second letter to the believers there.

After the Apostle Paul and his companion Barnabas’ arrest and subsequent release from prison in the city of Philippi, the two traveled on to the city of Thessalonica.  For three weeks Paul preached and taught at the local synagogue how that Jesus was the promised Messiah, how He died for their sins, and rose on the third day (Acts 17:1-4).  Many people in Thessalonica came to accept Jesus as their Savior through Paul and Barnabas’ teaching.  However, their message of salvation was not well received by many of the Jewish leaders in the synagogue, and riots broke out.  Paul and his companions had to flee for their lives to the nearby village of Berea.  The enemies of the Gospel, though, followed them there, threatening their lives, and they had to flee again (Acts 17:5-15).  Even though Paul, Barnabas, and their companions were driven out of town, persecution of the newly founded church in Thessalonica continued.  These new Christians there did not have it easy.

Did this persecution extinguish the faith of these new believers?  Did they give up and quit, going back to their old beliefs, thinking that it just wasn’t worth it?  No, they did not!  Paul was concerned for the new church and the brand new Christians there.  He looked on them as his spiritual children.  However when word got to him about the believers in Thessalonica, he was told that their faith and love were growing, and that they were patiently enduring all the persecutions and tribulations that came to them, both from the Jews and the pagan Gentiles (vs. 3-4).  Their faith was genuine and strong.

What happened to the church in Thessalonica continues to happen to many believers around the world.  And though strong persecution doesn’t happen too much in the Western world, opposition to faith in Jesus and His Word, the Bible, is increasing everywhere, and will continue to increase as time goes on.  Afflictions and persecutions are to be expected as believers live in an evil world.

The Thessalonians wondered whether this was judgment coming on them from God, and some today wonder if persecution is a judgment from the Lord, as well.  Paul reassured them that their suffering did not reflect God’s judgment on them, but rather, that it will be evidence used in judgment against those who persecuted them (vs. 5).  God will repay the wicked for what they have done to Christians (vs. 6).  However, vindication and retribution are to be in God’s hands, not ours.  When God repays, and how He repays, are to be determined by Him.

Paul continued in his letter to the believers suffering for Jesus in Thessalonica, reminding them that there will be rest and rewards for all of those who have suffered for God (vs. 7).  He told them that though this wouldn’t likely happen now, that it most assuredly will when Jesus returns to judge the ungodly.  When Jesus returns, He will give full punishment to those who did not accept Him as Savior, and who were persecuting His children (vs. 8).  They will be given everlasting destruction (vs. 9).  It is forever.  They are not annihilated, but punished and tormented forever, just as heaven is forever.

In closing, we know that there are Christians around the world who are being persecuted, some quite severely.  We should be in prayer for them.  We should also be praying for the lost and those who are perpetrating this persecution, that they would come to salvation in Jesus.  For those who are suffering persecution, hold fast to the Faith, for the Lord Jesus will soon return!