Monday, January 30, 2023


Psalm 41

Have you ever had someone you considered a friend turn on you?  Being betrayed by someone close to us, a friend or relative, can be one of the most painful things we could go through.  The hurt, and often the consequences of a betrayal can hurt for many, many years.   Our psalm this week was one written by King David, and speaks of a betrayal that he suffered.  The psalm also foretells of an even greater betrayal many years later, that being of the Lord Jesus Christ at the hands of one of his disciples.

During the reign of King David he experienced a coup orchestrated by his son Absalom.  That alone would have been hurtful enough, but then David found out that his good, close friend Ahithophel turned against him and joined with Absalom in his attempt to seize the throne (II Samuel 15:12, 31).  How distressing that must have been, having a close and trusted friend turn against you and join your own son in a rebellion to take over the throne, and possibly even have you killed!

Betrayal is painful.  Only those we love or trust can really hurt us with such a betrayal as David had experienced.  Often when we suffer an emotional upset, such as a betrayal by a close friend, we can become physically sick, as well.  Such an event happened to David.  He became physically sick and had to take to his bed for a while (vs. 3-8).  Then, to add even more insult and pain to him, some of his untrue and faithless “friends” came to visit and see how he was.  Their hypocritical “sick call”, added insult to injury.  These visitors lied to the king, and were really there to gather information for more slander (vs. 6).

As mentioned, this psalm not only recalled a very low point in King David’s life, it also was a prophecy of the betrayal that the Lord Jesus had at the hands of Judas Iscariot.  The Gospel of John connects verse 9 with what happened with Jesus, telling that David prophesied in this psalm of the incident when Judas would betray Him (John 13:18).  The enemies of David wanted him dead (vs. 5), and we definitely know that this also applies to Jesus.  Israel desired the death of their Messiah, Jesus, and for His Name to perish.  That has been the case with all of Jesus’ enemies throughout history.  Even today they are continuing to try to make His Name perish.

We can take this psalm and apply it to ourselves, as well, when someone we trusted turns on us in a nasty betrayal, and when we feel down and depressed when so-called “friends” turn against us.  The psalm is a prayer for God’s mercy when we are feeling sick or abandoned.  When we’re sick, or when everyone deserts us, God remains at our side.

One thing that can happen when we are betrayed by others, when they tell and spread lies about us, is that our reputation can be destroyed.  A good reputation is very hard to recover after it has been ruined.  It is devastating if one friend after another starts to believe the gossip, and then turns away from us.  We can take matters into our own hands, and try to strike back at this person who betrayed us or told lies about us, or we can do what is best, and leave the matter in God’s hands.  Vindication may not come in this life, but it will be revealed in eternity, when the truth about everything will come to light.  At that time the lies that people may have told about us, especially the ones that may have left our reputation in shreds, will be revealed, and then the Lord will vindicate us.

In closing, we may be depressed and discouraged when we are confronted with betrayal, when we face the day when our friends turn against us.  However, just as David did, just as the Lord Jesus Himself did, we can turn to God at these times.  The problems such betrayals bring may be bigger than us, but they are not bigger than God.  The sicknesses that come may be stronger than us, but they are not stronger than God.  And our enemies may be smarter than us, but they are not smarter than God.  In all of our trials and tribulations we can turn to Him, and bring these problems to His throne.  Jesus is our sympathetic High Priest, as He knows what we are going through because He went through them Himself.  As David said, being God’s children, we can trust that our enemies will not triumph over us!

Saturday, January 28, 2023

God's Pleading With Us

Micah 6:1-8

When we have a problem with someone, some issue that is bothering us, the best thing to do is bring it out in the open, discuss it, and try to work the problem out.  Sometimes, if the other person is stubborn or doesn’t want to listen, we may need to plead our case with them, sometimes even enlisting the help of witnesses, if possible.  In our Scripture today, the Prophet Micah, speaking the Lord’s Word, brought God’s case against the people of Judah.  Let’s see what the Lord had to say.

As chapter 6 begins, the Lord addresses His people, and He calls the mountains and hills throughout the country to be His witnesses (vs. 1-2).  He invites the people to bring their case against Him, too.  God wanted to know what the people could possibly have against Him.  Why were they tired of Him?  Hadn’t He brought them up out of slavery in Egypt, redeeming them from bondage?  Didn’t He provide them with protection from every neighboring enemy nation, as Balaam could witness? (vs. 3-5).  God had only ever done good to them, and had faithfully kept all of His promises to them.

Despite all of God’s blessings to them, both the nations of Judah and Israel had so often turned aside from faithfully following Him, and instead went after the pagan idols that the surrounding nations worshiped.  The mountains would serve as excellent witnesses, for it was in the high places that the people had built their pagan altars, and had sacrificed to the false gods (I Kings 14:23; Jeremiah 17:2-3).  The pagan people had frequently built their altars to their pagan deities on hills, and also in groves, and these were also often places for religious prostitution to take place.  Many of the Hebrew people resorted to worshiping idols there, as well.

What has God done to us that we so quickly forget about Him, or even turn against Him?  Hasn’t He brought to us every blessing possible, providing for all of our needs?  And most importantly, hasn’t the Lord brought us forgiveness of our sins and salvation through the Blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ?  Yet we are so quick to turn away from Him, and make our own version of pagan gods to worship.  The Lord asks us the same question He asked the people of Judah - what have I done to you and how have I wearied you?  It is all too easy to start taking God’s blessings for granted, or even to forget them.  We need to regularly remember God’s goodness and thank Him.

Though many of the people were worshiping and sacrificing to pagan deities in the high places on hills, mountains, and groves, they still continued to bring sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem (vs. 6-7).  They were being outwardly religious, but inwardly they remained sinful.  Jesus condemned such hypocrisy in the Pharisees.  Though the Pharisees didn’t worship pagan gods, they made a great show of religiosity, following all sorts of man-made religious laws, but inwardly they were filled with all sorts of sins (Mark 7:20-23).

The Lord then brings His argument and pleading against His people to a climax, which we see in verse 8.  God is not satisfied with an outward show of religiosity if our hearts are not right with Him.  God had very openly shown this truth when He condemned King Saul for thinking he could make up for his flagrant disobedience of God with some animal sacrifices (I Samuel 15:22-23). Spiritual blindness had led the people to offer everything except the one thing God wanted - a spiritual commitment of the heart, which would bring right behavior.

Some people do not like this verse, as they think it portrays a “works salvation”.  Others say that this shows that salvation through Jesus isn’t necessary, as long as we are “good people”.  This verse does not show the way of salvation, but instead it shows the results of true salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).

God wants His people to be just, merciful, and to walk humbly with Him.  Mercy is very important to God, as He so readily shows that to us.  He withholds the just punishment that our sins deserve, choosing instead to give us His love and blessings.  Because He has done that for us, God says He wants us to show the same mercy to others.  As Jesus told us, if we are merciful, we will receive His mercy (Matthew 5:7).  We need all the mercy we can get, so if we want mercy, we need to be a dispenser of mercy to others.  To live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to live His life in and through us.  We need to be humble, merciful, and to act justly, just such behaviors as Jesus would exhibit.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Bringing The Light

Matthew 4:12-17

No one likes to be considered ignorant, not knowing important information, instructions, or benefits.  No one willingly wants to be kept in the dark, however sometimes they are ignorant through their own stubbornness and refusal to hear or accept the truth.  That is why it is important that someone brings them the information that they need.  In our Scripture this week from the Gospel of Matthew, we read of a group of people who had been in the dark, but now Someone brings them the truth they need to hear.

As our Scripture opens, Jesus left Nazareth and headed to the village of Capernaum, which was located at the north end of the Sea of Galilee (vs 12-13).  It was the hometown of four of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, his brother Andrew, and the brothers James and John.  The disciple Matthew had also worked as a tax collector in Capernaum before Jesus called him to follow Him.  The village was on an important trade route coming from the north and east as merchants made their way south into Galilee and on to Jerusalem and Judea.

Matthew saw Jesus’ move to Capernaum, setting up a type of home base there, as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-2 (vs. 14-16).  Capernaum was in the territory of Galilee, which was on the route through which all Gentiles (non-Jewish foreigners) would pass through both in and out of Israel.  This was the case both in Isaiah’s day and hundreds of years later in Jesus’ day.

It was into this area that Jesus came at the start of His ministry, an area that had been in spiritual darkness for many centuries.  The Gentiles did not have the Word of God, nor knowledge of Him.  Instead they worshiped pagan idols.  Many of the Jewish people living in the area had weak or superficial faith in the Lord, going back to the days when the Kingdom of Israel split into two after the reign of Solomon.  They were in darkness, and now the Lord Jesus came with the truth of God, bringing light into that darkness.  No longer would they be in spiritual ignorance, as the Son of God came with the truth.  He would bring knowledge of salvation to people who did not know God’s Word.

What was the first message that Jesus preached?  We read that in verse 17, where Jesus said “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Some preachers today like to say that Jesus didn’t preach about repentance, and that neither should people today.  They like to say that repentance isn’t important.  They often say that because Jesus kept company with sinners and accepted them, it is not necessary for anyone to turn from sin and repent.  Yes, Jesus did eat with sinners, but He never let them stay that way.  When sinners came to Him, He always told them to go and sin no more.  It is very clear here that Jesus did preach repentance.  In Jesus’ closing message before He returned to heaven, He told the apostles to preach repentance, as well (Luke 24:47).

The word “repent” is like the military command “about face”.  We need to turn from going one way, our own sinful way, and start going another way, that of following Jesus.  Jesus pointed out sin in His ministry, and He called people to repentance.  Becoming a follower of Jesus means turning away from our sins, and turning our lives over to His direction and control.

The Gospel message is not about feeling good about oneself just because God loves us.  Yes, God does love us, but the Gospel is about realizing that it was because of our sins that Jesus died upon the cross.  Jesus loves us, and gave His life for our sins.  Without understanding our sin, we miss the depth of His sacrifice.  We need to realize that it is because of our sins, Jesus died on the cross.  We must repent and turn to Him.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Who Holds Our Allegiance?

I Corinthians 1:10-17

We all have favorites.  We have our favorite music and singers, our favorite foods and drinks, and favorite books and movies.  Sometimes, if we’re stubborn, we think that our favorites are better than those of others.  We think we know better than they do, and that our opinions are more like facts.  This problem was one that the Christians in Corinth had in their church, and one that Paul felt needed to be confronted and dealt with.  Let’s take a quick look at what he said.

As we read the letters that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, we become very aware that they had several problems that the Apostle sought to correct.  One problem was that the church was becoming divided into different groups, different factions.   Each group felt that their opinion was the right one, and things were becoming contentious (vs. 10-11).  Paul was urging the believers there to put an end to their divisions.  He pleaded for this in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as he felt this was that important.  Jesus had prayed for unity among His followers (John 17:21-23), and Paul wanted to see one of His early groups of believers heeding that prayer.

Doctrinal unity, clearly and completely based on Scripture, must be the foundation of the Church.  God’s Word establishes the standard of truth on which true unity rests.  On essentials, on the fundamentals of the Faith, such as Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, His resurrection, the inspiration of the Scriptures, there can be no compromise.  However, on other non-essential issues, such as when in the service the offering is taken, or whether there should ever be candles and incense or not, there should not be fighting.  Churches have split over issues such as the color of carpeting, and Paul says this is not right.

One thing that the Corinthians were squabbling over was their favorite preachers (vs. 12-13).  It seems that there were at least three different groups, each one claiming that their favorite preacher was the best.  One group was backing the Apostle Paul, another the Apostle Peter (called Cephas here), and another Apollos.  Apollos was a young man that Paul had met in Ephesus, and had been discipled and mentored by Paul’s companions Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:24-28).  He then moved to Corinth, and by this time was one of the leaders and preachers there.  There also seems to have been another group in Corinth, who rightly were giving their allegiance to no one but the Lord Jesus.

We sometimes find the same problem in churches today, where believers become so enamored with charismatic personalities, and blindly follow them, no matter what.  Our allegiance should be to Jesus and His Word alone, not some gilded-tongued orator, no matter how many books they publish. No human leader should be given the loyalty that belongs only to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Preachers should not be making disciples for themselves, but only for Jesus.

It seems, too, that the church members in Corinth were also placing importance on who had baptized each of them, as if there were some greater honor if one was baptized by this preacher rather than that one.  Again, Paul states that this was not right, and then told them he was thankful that he had only baptized a very small handful of them (vs. 14-17).

Baptism is important, and because Jesus told His followers that they should be baptized (Matthew 28:19), every believer should be baptized.  However, it is not an essential for salvation.  We can see that through taking a closer look at the final few verses of our Scripture passage.  If water baptism were essential to salvation, which it is not, then Paul would not have blatantly stated as he did here that he had only baptized these few.  If baptism was essential for salvation, then in giving thanks for having baptized so few, Paul was giving thanks for so few having been saved through his ministry.  In our Scripture Paul openly thanks God that he only baptized Crispus, Gaius, and Stephanas’ household, so possibly 5-10 people.  Paul would not have been so openly thankful that these were all that were saved in over 1 ½ years of ministry in Corinth, so we can see that baptism is not essential for salvation.

Salvation is not through baptism, but through the preaching of the Gospel.  We are saved by the Blood of the Crucified One, the Lord Jesus Christ, putting our faith in Him alone, and nothing else.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Who Knows You Best?

Psalm 139:1-18

Who knows you best of all?  We might answer with our spouse, if we have one.  Or perhaps our parents, or siblings, or maybe a very close friend.  However, even our closest of relatives or friends don’t know everything about us.  Many times we don’t want someone knowing all of our secrets.  Most of us have at least one hidden secret that no one but ourselves know, often more than one!  Some people try to even become a whole different person with others, as they try to hide their true self from everyone, sometimes even actually running away from others to keep themselves a secret.  There is One, though, that we can never hide anything from, nor can we ever get away from.  Let’s see what God’s Word has to tell us.

Our psalm this week is Psalm 139, which was written by King David.  In this psalm we learn in great detail one of the Lord God’s characteristics and attributes, and that is His omniscience.  As mentioned above, we might feel we know everything about our spouse, our child, our best friend, yet we can’t possibly know everything.  Yet as David details here in Psalm 139, God knows everything about us.

When you’re not with someone, do you know whether they are sitting down or standing up?  Do you know exactly what they are doing at any given moment?  No, we don’t.  Without being physically there, we can’t know.  But the Lord God does.  He knows exactly what we’re doing at every moment in our life (vs. 2-3).  We might find it hard to keep track of just the few people in our immediate family, but God is keeping track of everyone in the world with no difficulty.  He knows when we’re sitting, standing or walking somewhere, and exactly what we’re up to.  Sometimes parents and children joke about Mom having eyes in the back of her head, as they seemingly always know what their children are doing.  God doesn’t need an “extra pair of eyes”, as He knows everything we do.

How about what we’re thinking?  Once in a while there are people who are so close to each other that they can often tell what the other is thinking.  As close as they may seem, they don’t know every single thought.  Yet again, the Lord God knows every single one of our thoughts, morning, noon and night (vs. 3-6).  Nothing about us is hidden from God.

For some people, the knowledge that God knows exactly what they are doing and thinking at every moment, is quite distressing.  They don’t want anyone, including God, to know all about them, and so they think they can run away and hide.  As David continues in describing God’s omniscience, he tells us that there is nowhere in the whole universe that we can go to in order to hide or escape from Him (vs. 7-12).  From the highest heavens to the deepest parts of the oceans, God is there.  No matter how dark it gets, God can still see us.

For people who want to hide from God, this isn’t news they want to hear.  No one can hide from God.  However, how about for the believer?  This should be news that warms and comforts our heart.  No matter where we are, God is there with us.  We may be literally lost, we may find ourselves in some dangerous neighborhood, or we may be facing down an enemy, someone who wants to hurt us, but we can be encouraged that God is right there with us.  God knows what we’re doing, as well.  No matter how difficult the task is before us, God is there with us.  He knows our discouraged thoughts, our angry thoughts, and our happy ones, as well.

As we continue in our Scripture, the Bible tells us that God even knew all of us before we were born, while we were still in our mother’s womb (vs. 13-16).  God’s Word says that He made us and formed us inside our mother.  In the Lord God’s eyes, during those nine months, the baby is already a human being, not a lump of tissue that can be ripped out and thrown away.  God watches over the development of the child while yet inside the mother, and even at this point, the child is recorded in His book.

God already knows everything about us, even to the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30), and He still accepts and loves us.  As both Romans 8:35-39 and Jeremiah 23:24 state, no matter what we do or where we go, we can never be away from God’s presence.  Let us rejoice in the fact that no matter where we are or what we are doing, God is with us.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Heed The Warning!

Amos 3:1-8

The elderly man, Harry R. Truman, (not the former President or any relation to him), had been warned numerous times in the spring of 1980 to leave his home at the base of a mountain, as it was in danger of a volcanic explosion.  Harry refused to listen, or even believe that there would be a volcano.  Shortly after 8:30 am on the morning of May 18, 1980, the volcano in Mt. St. Helens erupted, and Harry Truman was instantly killed.  He refused to listen or believe the warnings, and he paid for it with his life.  Often people are given warnings about this or that, and they refuse to heed those warnings, or make changes to avoid potential danger or harm.  In our Scripture from the prophet Amos, we read how God gives us warnings.  How do we respond to those warnings?

Scattered throughout the Bible, God has given mankind warnings about heeding and obeying His Word.  Disobedience to God brings punishment.  As our Scripture for today opens, we see that God’s children are not exempt from punishment for disobedience (vs. 2).  A relationship with God is a great privilege, but also a great responsibility.  When God puts His Name on us, it is so we can represent Him in the world, so that people will seek Him and accept His salvation.

The prophet Amos gave a brief list of things that are fairly certain in nature (vs. 3-6).  Two people being together as close companions are likely to be in agreement on most things, and share the same opinions (vs. 3).  Lions roar out when they have caught their prey (vs. 4).  Birds, or any other animal, will not get caught if a trap has not been set for it (vs. 5).  And people get concerned, even worried, if warning sirens go off (vs. 6).  Some things are certain in nature.  Nothing happens that is outside of God’s sovereignty.  Certain actions have certain results.  When Yahweh speaks a word, His prophets will give the message (vs. 7).  He will not do anything, particularly judgment upon mankind, except He gives a warning through His messengers, the prophets, which we find today written in the Bible.

All throughout Scriptures, God gave mankind warning ahead of judgment that was coming.  For countless years before the flood, God gave warnings to the people through Noah, who preached to them to amend their ways.  Just like Harry did not heed the warnings about Mt. St. Helens, they did not heed Noah’s warnings, and they were destroyed in the flood like he was in the volcano.  God warned through Abraham of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  He warned the nations of Israel and Judah of coming judgment through Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and countless other prophets.  However, few listened and repented of their sins, so judgment came.  Two events can be linked together.  Once one event takes place, the second will surely follow.  When God warned Abraham of Sodom and Gomorrah, when He spoke His words to the prophets, it was a sure sign that judgment would follow.

How about us today?  We have God’s Word readily available to us today.  We have the Bible easily available as the book on our shelf or table at home or in church.  We have it available online and even on our phones.  Godly preachers give the Lord’s message in their sermons, which are not too difficult to find online, either.  Today we have no excuse to not hear God’s message and His warnings to us.  Because we have been warned about our sin, we have no excuse when punishment comes.  We can never say that we didn’t know!

God will judge evil.  However, He always forewarns those whom He is about to judge.  We have those warnings in the Bible.  These are evil days, and getting worse with the passing of time.  There are preachers and teachers of the Bible who are bringing God’s message to others, just like Noah did, and just like Isaiah and Jeremiah.  Are people heeding their warnings?  Or are they stubbornly refusing to listen, thinking they know better and believing it is all a lie, just like elderly Mr. Truman did at the foot of Mt. St. Helens?  Don’t be like him!  Believe God’s Word and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, before it’s too late!

Friday, January 20, 2023

Look To The Lamb Of God

John 1:29-41

Our Gospel reading this week, from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, and as we finish out the second week following Epiphany, comes from John’s Gospel.  We read of when John the Baptist introduced Jesus to some who were to become His first disciples.  How did John the Baptist, possibly the most popular preacher at the time, introduce Jesus to the others?  What did he say?  Let’s look into our Scriptures for today.

John the Baptist and Jesus were related, as their mothers were most likely cousins.  The two had probably met on several occasions while growing up.  John the Baptist’s ministry was a bold one, calling upon everyone, including the religious elite, to repent of their sins and be baptized.  The crowds of people flocked to him, many consenting to be baptized, including the Lord Jesus.  As He left the water, John the Baptist called out to those who were present, introducing who this was.  John didn’t tell them that this was his cousin.  He didn’t tell them that here was another good preacher, and that they should listen to some of His sermons.  John introduced Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (vs. 29, 36).

What did John mean by calling Jesus the “Lamb of God”?  All throughout the Old Testament day animals were brought to the Temple as sacrificial offerings, the most important being the sin offering.  God had instituted this, as without the shedding of blood there could be no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).  Frequently the animal sacrificed was a lamb, including for the Passover holy days, and on the Day of Atonement.

Could the blood of a lamb really make atonement for someone’s sin?  As we study Scripture, the animal blood could only cover our sin, not take it away (Hebrews 10:4).  These sacrifices only covered our sin, just as a garbage can lid covers up the garbage in the can.  The stink and filth of the garbage is still there, underneath the lid.  We needed something that would take it away.  To pay the penalty for our sins, a life had to be given, one that would fully take away the sins, not just cover it up.  God chose the perfect sacrifice, Himself.  That was the reason Jesus came to earth.  He came not merely to be a good preacher, nor to be a good example of a life well-lived.  He came to die on the cross for our sins.  The sins of the world were paid for when Jesus died as the perfect sacrifice.  That is what John was announcing that day.

When John saw Jesus that day, the Holy Spirit revealed to him exactly who Jesus was (vs. 32-34).  He knew on that day that Jesus wasn’t just his relative, but that He was the Messiah.  This wasn’t just his bragging about his cousin according to the flesh.  He didn’t know this by personal knowledge, but by divine revelation.

Twice John the Baptist called Jesus the “Lamb of God” proclaiming Him as the sacrifice for our sin, the sin offering, whom all of the multiple millions of sacrificed lambs before had represented.  All of the Old Testament sacrifices foreshadowed what Jesus did on the Cross.  He is our Passover Lamb.  Jesus offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice, and took away the sin of the world.

John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the One that the people should now follow.  “Behold, the Lamb of God”.  He is the One who can take away our sins, John was saying.  He is the One who can bring eternal life, not John.  John wanted his disciples, and everyone present, to turn to Jesus.  So what did his disciples do?  Two of his disciples, Andrew, and most likely the Apostle John, started to follow Jesus (vs. 37-39).  Andrew also went and brought his brother Peter to Jesus, who later became the leader of the Apostles and one of the leaders of the early Church (vs. 40-41).

What about you?  Are you still trying to bring your own sacrifices to atone for your sins, or have you followed what John the Baptist said, and looked to the Lamb of God?  As one great old-time hymn clearly proclaims:

If you from sin are longing to be free,

Look to the Lamb of God.

He, to redeem you, died on Calvary,

Look to the Lamb of God.

Look to the Lamb of God, 

Look to the Lamb of God.

For He alone is able to save you,

Look to the Lamb of God.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Are You A Saint?

I Corinthians 1:1-9

Every once in a while we hear someone call another person “a saint”.  They may be referring to someone they know who does a lot of good deeds, or perhaps they know someone who is putting up with and enduring some great hardship.  Some Christian denominations formally recognize some special, deceased people who lived especially good and holy lives.  We know and honor them as Saint this or that, St. Francis, St. Therese, and many others.  In our Scripture today from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we read something that might surprise us.  Let’s take a look.

Just as Paul does in all of his epistles, he begins this letter with a special greeting to the believers in the church he is writing to.  Here in his introduction to his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul calls the church members, the believers here saints (vs. 2).  The church in Corinth was a large one compared with other churches of the time, made up of a wide variety of people, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, and from a wide variety of backgrounds.  The Corinthian church also had several problems among its members, which the Apostle confronted in his letters to them, including some very grave sins.  Yet, here Paul is, addressing his letter to the church membership by calling them saints.  From what we read about what some of these members were doing, we would think they were anything but saints!

Our word saint derives from the Latin word sanctus, which means holy, or sanctified.  When something is sanctified, it is specially set apart for God’s purpose and use.  Paul addressed his letter to the saints at the Church in Corinth, to those who had accepted the Lord Jesus as their Savior, and because of that they were sanctified in Christ Jesus, set apart for God’s purpose and use.   Even though many of these believers had some serious problems and troubles, they were still clothed in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, and were holy, sanctus, or saints.

As Paul continues his epistle, he tells these saints in Corinth that when the Lord returns, they will be presented to him “blameless” (vs. 8).   That is, these believers will not be called into account for their past sins, they will not be reproved or accused.  How can they, or we, ever be blameless before God?  I know that I have plenty of sins that I have committed, all throughout my life.  We all do, so how could we possibly be blameless before the Lord?  The answer to that is only through the Lord Jesus Christ.

When Jesus died upon the cross of Calvary, He paid the penalty for the sins of the world, for your sins and mine.  When we accept Him as our personal Savior, the penalty for all of our sins, every last one of them, is marked “paid in full”.  Jesus took the penalty for our sins, and we are clothed in His righteousness.  Thus we are able to stand blameless before the Lord.  As Paul stated in his letter to the Romans, believers will not be condemned when they stand before the Lord (Romans 8:1).  There will be no condemning sentence passed down upon us because of what Jesus did for us at Calvary.

If you have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, then you too, are a saint.  We may not feel very saintly some days, and our day to day lives may never reach the sanctity that some have, those who have been officially canonized.  However, when God looks at us, He sees us through His Son Jesus, and that is as a Blood-bought, sanctified believer.

Here in our lives, here and now, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, to make us more each day into the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus.  We can seek to allow Him to live His life through us, where, when people look at us, they see Jesus shining through us in our actions and speech.  God calls us saints.  Let’s strive to reflect that in our actions.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Falling Into A Pit

Psalm 40:1-4

Many people enjoy hiking in forest preserves and state or national parks.  Some more heartier folks might select more rugged paths.  It is important, though, to make sure you’re careful, as one false step can send you slipping off the path, which can mean an injury, disaster, or worse.  What about the path of life that all of us are on?   What happens when we take a spill while going down that path, and find ourselves in trouble?  King David, who wrote today’s psalm, certainly had several occasions where life events knocked him off the path.

As our psalm opens, David had found himself in some type of trouble, one that he described as like being in a pit of miry clay (vs. 1-2).  During his many years of living on the run for his life in the wilderness, he knew how dangerous it was to slip off the path, maybe going careening down an embankment or cliff.  It may be very difficult or impossible to get back up on the path by oneself, especially if one got injured.  You need to call for help, and hopefully someone is there to hear.  David knew that the best help came from the Lord, and that is who he turned to whenever he found himself in some trouble, when life’s events found him landing in a miry pit.  David gave testimony of how the Lord came to his aid when he called out to Him.

When we find ourselves in any sort of trouble, be it financial, legal, or with some other people, if we try to extricate ourselves by our own means, we more than likely will only sink deeper into the miry clay.  Our own efforts are no good, and we need help, just like that hiker who slipped off the path and down the embankment of a cliff.  This is when we need to turn to the Lord God, and call out to Him for help.  He is there to help us get back up out of the pit, even if it was due to our sin that we found ourselves down there to begin with.  He is there to set our feet upon a rock, and regain our sure footing.

David also instructs us that we need to wait patiently for the Lord (vs. 1).  Sometimes when a hiker falls off the path, and cries out for help, he might have to wait awhile before that help comes.  They don’t just cry for help once, and then give up hope.  No, they keep on calling.  David tells us to wait patiently for God, and He will hear our cry.  When we wait for God, He will lift us out of despair.  We may have felt that we would never get out of that pit, but here the Lord comes to rescue us!  God not only pulls us out, He sets us on a good, solid rock, giving us a firm place to stand.  God’s help never leaves us floundering around in a more slippery place.  Once the Lord rescues us from our troubles, He gives us a new song of praise to sing! (vs. 3).

When someone finds themselves sinking in sin, and in danger of slipping into the eternal clutches of Satan, they need to cry out to God, and trust in Him.  When anyone turns to Him, He will reach down and pull them out of the pit of sin and Satan, and set them upon the Rock, and that Rock is the Lord Jesus.  As David said in another psalm, Jesus is our Rock and our Salvation (Psalm 62:1-2).  God’s grace takes us from no footing to sure footing when He sets us upon the Rock of the Lord Jesus Christ.

David also warns us about who we are putting our trust in (vs. 4).  When the hiker slips off the cliff, and is dangling in a precarious spot, he would be wise to trust in a seasoned rescuer and not an amateur, however well-meaning.  This certainly is the case when it comes to our salvation.  We may have some well-meaning friends or relatives who would like us to follow them in believing in some false religion or philosophy.  We may listen to some preachers who seem sincere, but their message is not holding Biblical truth.  They are like the amateur rescuer whose faulty attempts only send the hiker plummeting to their death.  We need to trust the real Rescuer!  We need to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word, the Bible, not in the lies from false religions and false preachers.  Trust placed in anything other than Jesus Christ is trust placed in a lie.

Whenever you find yourself fallen into a pit of any type, whether real or figurative, who will you call out to?  The only sure One is the Lord Jesus.  Trust in Him, and He will bring you up out of that pit, and set your feet upon the Rock.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The Sword Of God's Word

Isaiah 49:1-3

Words are important.  When we speak, we want our words to mean something, and hopefully something that is good.  When we do have something important to say, we want the other person to listen.  We hope that our words will get through to the other person, that they cut through any stubbornness, lack of attention, or foggy minds.  This holds not just for us, but even more importantly for the words that the Lord God has to say to us through the Bible.

There are times when we want our words to be soft and gentle.  When we want to comfort someone, whether a baby, a child, or even an adult, we want our words to be gentle and kind.  However, there are times when we need our words to be stronger.  If we have something important to say where it is crucial that the other people are listening, and we need to be taken seriously, then soft and gentle words aren’t what’s needed.  We need our words to get through to the listener.  They need to hear, to pay attention, and to understand.

As most of us have at one time or another encountered, there are times when it seems the people we are talking to have a thick blanket wrapped around their brains.  Our words just don’t seem to be penetrating, and they aren’t hearing us.  Or their minds seem to be enveloped in a thick fog.  How can we reach the person?  We need to find something to cut through to their mind.

God has had an even greater problem with mankind since the days of the Garden of Eden.  We have consistently closed our ears to what He has tried to say to us.  He, too, has needed something to cut through what is wrapped around our minds, keeping us from hearing and understanding what He is saying.

The usual way that God speaks to us is through His Word, the Bible.   In our Scripture, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the Messiah, that He was called as God’s Servant from birth, and that God is glorified by Him.  Isaiah also says that His mouth, with which He speaks, is like a sharp sword (vs 2).  Several times in the Bible, God’s Word is compared to a sharp sword.  In the first chapter of the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John sees the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus, and John describes something similar to what we read in Isaiah.  John describes a sharp, two-edged sword coming forth out of the mouth of Jesus (Revelation 1:16).  When talking about something that comes out of our mouth, most generally we are speaking of words.  In both Isaiah and Revelation God speaks of a sword coming forth.  God’s Word is sharp and cutting like a sword.

In Hebrews 4:12 God’s Word is described as being sharper than a two-edged sword.  A sword that is only sharp on one side, one edge, can only cut in that one direction.  Most knives that people generally use, for cooking, camping, or at the dinner table, are single-edged.  A double-edged sword can cut and slice in every direction it is swung.  In that respect it is more dangerous.  If someone wanted to cut through something quickly that was blocking their way, a double-edged sword would work best.  God’s Word is described as that type of sword, cutting through our soul and spirit, to get to our thoughts and heart.  It cuts through all the lies that the world and the devil have wrapped around our minds and heart, penetrating with God’s truth.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he describes the armor that a Christian is to put on everyday.  One thing we are to take is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).  Here, again, God’s Word is described as a sword.  When the enemy attacks us we are to use God’s Word as our weapon.  His Word can counter any attack that the devil throws at us if we have studied and know how to use it.  When people try to trap us with their philosophical arguments or false religious teachings, if we have God’s Word in our hearts and minds, we can come against those arguments with His sword.

God’s Word, properly used, can cut through all of the lies and deception that is wrapped around someone’s mind and heart when we are trying to reach them for Jesus.  Our own words will have little effect, but the Words from God, the Holy Scriptures, are a sharp, two-edged sword, and can cut through anything the devil may bring.  Let’s pick up our sword!

Friday, January 13, 2023

A Mystery Revealed

Ephesians 3:4-12

One interesting activity is when a picture is covered up, and only a small portion is revealed.  Then the group tries to guess what the picture or drawing is.  Slowly, one by one, small segments are uncovered and more guesses are made.  Eventually when the whole picture is uncovered, the mystery is revealed.  God has some mysteries, too.  In our Scripture from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, we will see one mystery revealed.

There were many truths hidden during the years of the Old Testament, and later revealed in the New Testament.  Scriptures called these mysteries.  Our Scripture for today tells of one mystery that had been alluded to by several prophets, and also in the Psalms, but had never been clearly or openly revealed.  This mystery was regarding the Gentiles.  Let’s look into this.

The term “Gentile” refers to anyone who was not descended from Jacob, and his twelve sons, so technically anyone who is not Jewish.  Old Testament Scripture forbade the intermarriage of the Jews with those who did not worship Yahweh.  God wanted them to be completely separated from those who did not worship Him, so as not to learn and follow their idol worshiping and pagan ways.  Though they failed in obeying the command to not worship pagan gods and idols, they did look at themselves as a special people, ones that God loved, and the Gentiles as those whom God hated.  Over the centuries, especially by the time of Jesus, the Jews’ dislike and abhorrence of Gentiles had grown quite strong, as we see referenced in Acts 10:28.  They felt that Gentiles had no part with Yahweh, and that they were eternally condemned and cut off from Him.

However, there are mentions of the Gentiles coming to faith in Yahweh, and worshiping Him scattered throughout the books of several of the Old Testament prophets and in Psalms.  Yet the Jewish people could not understand this, just like small segments of a picture being revealed, but the viewers not knowing what it really is.

The Old Testament spoke of a time when Gentiles would be offered salvation, and the Apostle Paul said that this time was now, following the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  Despite an often strong opposition, Paul, along with others, were bringing the Gospel message of salvation to the Gentiles (vs. 8-9).   God wants all people, everywhere, from every race and nation to be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4; II Peter 3:9).  As we read in Scripture, God has no favorites (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11), and He welcomes both the Jew and the Gentile to be saved and come into His family.

This brings us to another part of this mystery, one that was not really alluded to as much in the Old Testament as the first one was, and that is that both the Jew and the Gentile would be one body in Christ Jesus (vs. 6).  The Apostle Paul here explains this mystery, that the Gentiles, when they come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, will be joint heirs, and part of the same spiritual body.  He proclaimed that the Gentiles will also be partakers of all of God’s promises that come through the Gospel.  The Jewish believers in the Lord Jesus and the Gentile believers are one in God’s sight, and in His kingdom and family.  There is to be no racial or social distinction.

Today there isn’t such an issue with whether Jewish or Gentile people come to faith in the Lord Jesus.  Most believers would welcome a Jewish person coming to faith in the Lord Jesus as their Messiah.  However, do we make other distinctions or harbor other prejudices against any other group?  Are we reluctant in our hearts to accept someone of a different color, race, or nationality into our congregation or fellowship?  That was the case in the early church, as many of the Jewish believers did not want to welcome a Gentile believer.  Paul showed that the mystery had been revealed, the whole picture had been uncovered for all to see, and that God welcomes all who believe in His Son into His family.  Let’s be sure that we welcome them, too!

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The Righteous And Just King

Psalm 72

Having a ruler over a country, whether president or king, that the people really like is so much better than the opposite.  In the past, when a country really loved their ruler, they often came up with songs or poems expressing their love for their leader, singing of all his special qualities.  Our psalm for today sings the praises of the king’s son, who will one day soon come to the throne.  As we read through this Scripture, though, it is quickly seen that the words, the praises and blessings that are spoken are even grander than could be expected for any usual ruler, and can only be truly speaking of the coming Messiah.

Psalm 72 speaks of the perfect king, and is a prayer that the king’s son, the heir to the throne, will be like that perfect ruler.  Perhaps at the time of writing, the current king was elderly, and there was expectation of a new monarch soon.  This was possibly written during the last months or weeks of the reign of King David, and in anticipation of his son, Solomon, coming to the throne.  The psalm was not just the prayer for a soon-to-be ruler over their nation, but also a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, the ultimate Ruler of not only the nation of Israel, but also of the whole world.

The first thing that the psalmist prays for, is that the king and the future king, the son who is heir to the throne, will rule with righteousness and justice (vs. 1-4).  He prays that God will help the king’s son to rule the nation justly and wisely.  This is a prayer that we should also be praying for our rulers, whether a president, prime minister, or a king.  We don’t need to be told how often that is not the case, whether it is a national, state, or local government official.  Corruption, shady dealings, and even outright wickedness seem to be the norm, not the exception, unfortunately.  Even the best of leaders are not perfect, though.  The only One who is perfect, who will bring true righteousness and justice, is the Lord Jesus.  When He returns to reign in His Millennial Kingdom here on earth, and then throughout eternity, there will be perfect justice and peace.

The psalm continues, praying that the people will fear, or willingly follow and obey the king, for as long as the sun and moon endure (vs. 5), and that his reign will bring peace until the moon ceases to exist (vs. 7).  That speaks of an eternal reign.  The longest recorded reign of a monarch was King Louis XIV of France, at 72 years.  Queen Elizabeth II comes in second, at 70 ½ years.  Obviously no human ruler could rule as long as the psalmist prays for, so he is speaking prophetically of the Messiah.

The psalmist also prays that the king will rule over the whole earth (vs. 8).  Various earthly monarchs have held rule over vast empires throughout history, but none have ruled over the whole earth.  He also prays that his enemies will be prostrated before him, and that the kings and rulers of other nations will be subservient to him (vs. 9-11).  Again, this could only refer to the coming reign of the Lord Jesus here on earth.

The psalm continues with prayer that the king’s son, when he comes to the throne, will care for the poor and needy (vs. 12-14).  This is a prayer that we can make for our political leaders, as well.  Many politicians make care for the poor a big campaign point, but when they get elected, little, if anything is genuinely done.  In the past, monarchs all around the world took little, if any notice of the poor, as they lived their lives in wealthy palaces, oblivious to the poor, the starving, sick, and oppressed right outside their doors.  God cares for the needy, the afflicted, and the weak because they are precious to Him.  If God feels so strongly about these needy ones, and loves them so deeply, how can we or our leaders ignore their plight?

Lastly, the psalmist speaks of how the king’s son’s name will endure forever (vs. 17-19).  Outside of history books, after a generation has passed, how many people really remember the kings or presidents of the past?  They are just names in history books.  Nobody continues to sing their praises centuries later.  Again, this psalm is being prophetic, and speaking about the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  His Name, alone, will endure forever, and people will always call Him blessed, and be blessed by His Name.  Jesus alone fits the description of this future king, and one day soon He will return and take up His throne.  Are you ready?

Monday, January 9, 2023

The Light Has Come

Isaiah 60:1-3

One thing that is noticeable during the months of November and December here in the Northern Hemisphere, especially the further north one goes, is that we rapidly begin to lose daylight, and the nights grow longer.  For some people, myself included, that is not a big deal.  It doesn’t really bother me.  But for others, the lack of daylight can really affect their mood.  Now that we are getting close to the middle of January, the return of more daylight hours is observable.  In our short Scripture today from the Prophet Isaiah this morning we read about coming out of darkness and into the light.  Let’s see what we can learn from God’s Word.

With the exception of sleeping or watching a movie in a theater, most people prefer to be in a room with ample light.  If you’ve had a string of cloud-covered days, many people begin craving the sunlight to return.   And when we might find the need to go into more dangerous neighborhoods, we always try to stay on well-lit streets.  Those streets are the ones the criminals tend to avoid.  You’ll find them in the dark, where their actions and sins are hidden.  Throughout the Bible we see that the words of “light” and “darkness” are often being used as symbols of righteousness and godliness versus sin.

This world is in darkness, the darkness of sin and Satan (vs. 2).  Ever since that first sin in the Garden of Eden, the world has been plunged into darkness.  All of our attempts to find salvation through our own efforts are like groping around in the dark trying to make our own way.  When there is no light, we are at risk of banging into things, tripping, and even getting seriously hurt.  Spiritual darkness is even worse.  The longer we stay in the darkness of sin, the harder it is to get out.  We need light!

Isaiah tells us here that we can get up and shine, for light has come! (vs. 1).  After those long months in the winter with little sunshine, we all rejoice when the daylight increases.  After the electricity has been off for a while due to a powerful storm, we’re happy when the lights pop back on. If we’re stranded somewhere in the dark, we are so grateful to see some light coming towards us.  The world had been in the darkness of sin for so long with no hope, but now light has come.

What light is that, someone may ask.  Who is the only One who is able to break the darkness of sin?  The answer is the only One who has never sinned Himself, who is thus able to pay the penalty for sin, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12).  Those who follow Him, who accept Him as their Savior, believing that He died for their sins, are no longer walking in darkness.  Jesus brings light and life, and His life brought light to men (John 1:4, 9).

Satan tried to put out the light that Jesus brought.  All through the Gospels we read of many attempts that were made to silence Jesus, and to even kill Him.  Eventually the Jewish Sanhedrin arrested Jesus and had Him crucified.  Satan may have thought that he succeeded, and that he had extinguished the Light, but he hadn’t, as Jesus rose again the third day!  The Light of Jesus shines in the darkness of sin, and that darkness cannot, and will never be able to overcome that Light! (John 1:5).

Isaiah continues, and tells how the glory of the Lord Jesus, His light and brightness, is seen by everyone.  Though Jesus first came to His own Jewish people, for the most part the majority of them did not accept Him (John 1:11-12).  His light brings salvation to the Gentiles, and today there are believers of every race, nationality, and language (vs. 3).  The Feast of Epiphany, this past week, celebrates that Jesus brought the Light, the gift of salvation to the whole world, to both Jew and Gentile.

When we come to the Light of the Lord, and accept Jesus as our Savior, following in His steps, His glory will be seen in us (vs. 2).  When we look at the moon at night, often it can seem quite bright.  Yet it actually does not give off any light of its own.  Moonlight is actually sunlight reflected off of the moon’s surface.  When we are closely following Jesus, His glory will be seen upon us.

Have you come to the Light of Jesus, or are you still walking in darkness?  Do not stumble around in darkness any longer.  Come to Jesus, the Light of the World!

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Three Gifts

Matthew 2:1-12

When a new baby is born, the family frequently gets gifts from friends and relatives to honor the occasion.  Often the gift is baby clothes, perhaps some baby toys, or maybe even a stroller, high chair, or some other baby equipment.  Sometimes a talented person might make something for the newborn, putting a lot of thought and effort into their gift.  In our Scripture today we read of some gifts that were given to the Lord Jesus after His birth by several strangers.  Today’s Scripture describes this event, which is also known as the Feast of Epiphany.

Most Christians are familiar with the account of the Wise Men who saw the star of Bethlehem, and searched for the Baby Jesus, bringing with them gifts to honor Him.  Sometimes people have referred to these men as three kings.  However, they were not kings, or rulers of any country.  These men were magi, which were most likely Zoroastrian priests from ancient Persia.  They were highly intelligent and well-educated, and part of their learning was studying the stars and planets at night, charting the movements of the heavenly bodies.  They were also very familiar with the Jewish Scriptures, particularly following the captivity of the Jews by Babylon and Persia.

When these Magi suddenly saw this new star in the sky (vs 2), they knew by divine revelation that this was the star prophesied by Balaam in Numbers 24:17.  This star, whether a natural phenomena of the conjuncture of several stars or planets, or whether it was a miraculous star, was there to honor God as Creator.  The Magi followed the star by faith, not knowing where this would lead.

When in the Holy Land, the Magi first went to the capital, Jerusalem.  Enquiring about the birth of a new king, King Herod became upset, seeing this birth as a threat to his throne (vs. 3-8).  Herod was an evil king, who even put to death sons and one of his wives.  Many of the Jews at this time, particularly devout ones, did not like Herod.  They felt he had no right to be king since he was not descended from David, and not even fully Jewish.  When Herod got the information about where the Scriptures said the Messiah was to be born (vs. 4-6), which was found in Micah 5:2, he sent them on their way, stating he wished to worship the Messiah, as well.  Anyone can pretend to love God, but the proof is in a person’s character, and Herod’s was evil.

When the Magi arrived at the home of Mary and Joseph, it must have been a shock to them that these distinguished, foreign visitors had come.  Then there would have been even more surprise when they saw the odd gifts they brought to honor the birth of their Son (vs. 11).  These were not typical gifts that anyone gave for the birth of a baby, whether today, or even back then.  However these gifts had special significance.  Let’s take a look.

There were three gifts given, which is why we typically think of three Magi, or wise men, though the Scriptures never gave a specific number.  The gifts are symbols of Jesus’ identity.  The first was gold.  Gold is a gift for a king.  It is a gift of great value.  These men were willing to give everything to God, because He alone is worthy.

The second gift was frankincense.  Incense is a gift for deity.  Frankincense comes from the resin of the olibanum tree, which is found in the southern parts of the Arabian peninsula, specifically in Yemen and Oman, and in the Horn of Africa. The gift of frankincense demonstrated that the Magi acknowledged Jesus not just as a king, but also as the Son of God, and as a Priest who would intercede for humanity before God (Hebrews 4:14-16).

The third gift was probably the most mysterious of all, which was the gift of myrrh.  Myrrh was an ointment also derived from plants.  It is very aromatic, and in ancient times was used in embalming the dead.  This was a gift that was very appropriate for Jesus, whose death would change history, and would bring salvation to all who would turn to Him.

As we contemplate these odd gifts that were given to the baby Jesus, given by the first of the Gentiles to acknowledge Him, we see that they were each very appropriate.  Jesus is our King, He is Deity, the Son of God and Great High Priest, and He is the Sacrifice that God paid for our redemption from sin.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Unlikely Messengers

Luke 2:15-20

If we have an important message to get out to others, who are we going to give that task to?  Since it is an important message, we are going to want the best, most reliable messenger.  God had a very important message that He wanted others to know, and our Scripture shows to whom He entrusted this news, to get it to others.

The Christmas holiday and season has recently passed, and during that time many of us have read the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke. In Luke’s Gospel we read of how Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and laid in a manger, as there were no available rooms in the local inn.  In the meantime that evening, in the fields outside of the village of Bethlehem, there were shepherds watching over their flocks (Luke 2:8-12).  We all know the account, that angels appear to the shepherds, telling them that the Messiah has been born, and they would find Him lying in a manger.

Jesus is the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, who came to earth to redeem mankind from sin.  His birth is very important news.  The angels cannot hold back their praises.  So who does God send the angels to, to bring this glorious message?  Since we have heard this Nativity account dozens of times, probably from our early childhood, we might not think anything unusual about the fact that the shepherds were the ones that the angels told.  It makes such a nice scene for Christmas cards!

However, shepherds were among the lowest groups of people in society at the time of Jesus’ birth.  Beggars, lepers, and prostitutes were probably the only ones lower down society’s ladder.  It seems to have been somewhat forgotten that Israel’s greatest and most loved and revered king, King David, was a shepherd boy in his youth.  Now shepherds were a lowly group.  They were often illiterate and uneducated.  They spent a large part of their life out in the fields with their flocks, even sleeping nearby.  Without the opportunities to bathe regularly, they would have smelled like one who spent their life with animals.  Proper society generally avoided much contact with these men.

As we read in the Gospel, these were the people that God chose, of all people, to send the angels to, bringing the first news that the Messiah had been born.  He didn’t send the angels to the High Priest, the Sanhedrin, or to anyone else who lived and worked in the Temple.  God didn’t send the angels to any of the learned scribes or Pharisees.  He didn’t even send them to any of the “respectable” working folk in town.  God chose some of the lowliest people to bring the first message of Jesus to.

God often uses ordinary people, and unlikely candidates to do special work for Him.  When Jesus chose His twelve apostles, He didn’t go to the universities to look for His men.  Several of the apostles were fishermen, a respectable, but not prestigious occupation.  One was even a despised tax collector.  God used those men to bring the message of Jesus to the world, and He chose the lowly shepherds to be the first to witness to and about Jesus’ birth.  As believers, we should never be ones to look down on anyone, thinking they are beneath us.  God is not a snob, and we certainly shouldn’t be either!

When the angels brought the shepherds the message of the birth of Jesus, they told them that they would find the baby lying in a manger.  Then after a chorus of praise to God, the angels left.  Now the shepherds had to make a choice, a decision.  Would they leave their flocks for a while to search out the newborn Messiah, or would they stay?  Were they going to go and see if what the angel said was true?  They chose to act on what they heard.  They moved in faith, for they believed what the Lord had said through His messengers.

What about us?  We have heard the Gospel, God’s Good News.  Are we going to just sit tight, and stay by “our flock”?  Or are we going to take a risk and go out, and do as the shepherds did, making the news widely known? (vs. 17-18).  When the shepherds heard the Good News about the Messiah, they couldn’t keep it to themselves.  They hurried to bring the news to others.  They took that risk, and told everyone they could, even though they were not a well-liked group.  People may laugh at us, or shake their heads, thinking we’re fanatics or crazy, just as some may have done to the shepherds.  We’ve been given fabulous, wonderful news.  Let’s not keep it to ourselves, but let our world know, as well!

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Bow The Knee

Philippians 2:9-11

Sometimes we run into people who stubbornly refuse to do something that they should do, ought to do, and something that they will need to do later down the road.  Maybe it is something medical, or related to their job, or something to do with their house or belongings, and they’ve been warned about it, but they stubbornly, maybe even angrily, refused to listen.  We know, though, that they should listen, and the longer they refuse, the worse it will be when they have to eventually do what they don’t want to.  In our Scripture today, we read about something that everyone will have to do one day, and how it is better to do it willingly now, rather than being forced to later.  Let’s see what this is. 

As Scripture clearly states, the Lord Jesus Christ is divine, and has always existed as part of the Trinity for all eternity.  In order to redeem mankind from their sins, Jesus humbled Himself, left His throne in heaven, and became man and died a cruel death on the cross for our redemption (Philippians 2:5-8).  Because Jesus obeyed the Father by this, He was exalted.  When He returned to heaven, Jesus was given a seat at God’s right hand.  We also read here in our Scripture that Jesus was given a Name that is above every name on earth, a Name that one day, all creation will bow to.

Before His birth, an angel told His step-father Joseph that He was to be named “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).  The Name “Jesus” means “Yahweh is salvation”, and shows His humanity and mission.  That was the purpose that Jesus came down to earth, to bring salvation to all who accept Him.

The Name “Christ” comes from the Greek word “Christos”.  In Hebrew the word is “Messiah”.   Christos or Messiah means “the Anointed One”.  Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies that spoke about the Messiah’s first coming.   The remaining prophecies will be fulfilled when Jesus returns to earth again.

The word “Lord” is a term we use for someone who has power or authority over others.  In times past the term was often used for powerful noblemen, such as barons, dukes, and especially princes or kings.  They are the master and ruler.  When we use that title for Jesus, when we call Him Lord Jesus, it is showing that we acknowledge His power and authority over us and our lives.  Jesus is the only Sovereign, the King of kings, and Lord of lords (I Timothy 6:15).

In light of this, we must acknowledge that God is the One who gives the orders.  He is the Lord, we are the disciples.  He is Master, we are His servants.  We are called to do what He says, not what we think is right.  Some false teachers today preach that Christians have the right to go up to God and expect, even demand, what we want.  We do not have that right.  God is the Potter, we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8).  We are the ones to acknowledge that He is Lord, and we are His servants to obey, not the other way around.

As we all know, there are millions today who do not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior, or Lord.  Some are just indifferent to Jesus, finding no need for Him in their life.  Then there are millions more who have a bitter and hostile hatred for Jesus.  They heap scorn and ridicule upon Him and His Name.  They may think that they are getting away with this, but they aren’t.  There is coming a day when they will acknowledge Jesus for Who He really is, the Son of God.  There is a time coming when everyone will acknowledge that only Jesus is truly worthy of praise, including those who have spent their lives opposing Him, and then they will bow the knee to Him.

The entire universe is called to worship Jesus Christ as Lord.  “Confess” means to agree, acknowledge, and to affirm.  This includes angels, demons, all of creation, and both the saved and lost of the living and the dead.  They will all acknowledge Jesus as Lord, either willingly and blessedly, or unwillingly and painfully.  At the Last Judgment, even the unsaved, those who are condemned to hell, will recognize Jesus’ authority and right to rule.  People can choose to regard Jesus as Lord and Savior in willing and loving commitment, or be forced to acknowledge Him when He returns.

What about you?  Have you confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior?  You can do it willingly now, and become a child of God, joint heir with Jesus, and be welcomed into eternity with Him when you die, or be forced to bow the knee at the Last Judgment, and then be damned for eternity.  Make the wise choice today!