Monday, July 31, 2023

A Look Into Psalm 119

Psalm 119:121-136

The psalm selection this week from The Book of Common Prayer is a portion of a very special psalm in the Bible, Psalm 119.  This psalm holds several ranks in the Bible.  First, though there are several long psalms, Psalm 119 is by far the longest one in the Book of Psalms.  Secondly, it is the longest chapter in the Bible, with a total of 176 verses and 2,445 words.  The next longest chapter lags behind by a bit, being Numbers 7, with 89 verses, and 1,939 words.

The subject or theme of Psalm 119 is to celebrate God’s Word.  All but five of the 176 verses mention God’s Word or law by several different names, such as word, law, statutes, precepts, testimonies, commandments, ordinances, judgments, ways.  Verses 84, 90, 121, 122, and 132 do not have a word that refers to Scripture.  Verse 84 speaks of asking God to judge those who persecute us.  Verse 90 speaks of God’s faithfulness.  Verse 121 speaks of the writer having done what is right.  Verse 122 asks God to defend the writer from the proud and arrogant.  Lastly verse 132 asks God to be merciful to him.

Psalm 119 is also an acrostic psalm.  An acrostic poem has the first word of a line begin with a successive letter of the alphabet, or to spell out a certain word. There are several acrostic psalms, where the first word of the verses begin with a sequence of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  Psalm 119 is divided into groups of eight verses, one for each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, where each verse begins with that specific letter.  Our portion of Psalm 119 begins with the Hebrew letter Ayin (Latin alphabet equivalent of letter O), and the Hebrew letter Pe (Latin alphabet equivalent of letter P).  Let’s take a quick look at just a few verses in this portion of Psalm 119.

The unknown author of Psalm 119 speaks in verse 127 of how he loves God’s commandments more than he does gold.  As we know, gold is quite valuable.  People desire to have gold jewelry.  Very wealthy people have other objects made of gold.  Some people, if they have the money, will invest in gold coins.  Yet our psalmist values God’s Word, the Bible, even more than the purist of gold.  If we were offered the Bible or a stack of gold coins, which would we pick?  Our psalmist would pick God’s Word!

The psalmist believed God’s Word to be right, good, and true (vs. 128).  He hates falsehood, and who is the father of falsehood or lies?  Satan.  Jesus called Satan the father of lies (John 8:44).  The psalmist knew that he could find the truth in God’s Word.

Another good verse in our portion of Scripture is verse 130.  It’s not safe to stumble around in darkness.  If we get up in the middle of the night, it can be dangerous to walk without at least a small night light on.  When I was a teenager I fell down a flight of stairs trying to feel my way through a pitch black hallway.  Walking outside in the dark is also quite dangerous.  It is even more dangerous to be walking around in spiritual darkness.  However, we have a light, and that is God’s Word.  His Word gives us understanding to help us with anything we may face.  We should ask God for discernment and understanding in order to apply Scripture to our daily tasks when we need His help.

Verse 132 is a quick prayer the psalmist made, asking for God’s mercy in his life.  We all need God’s mercy, for Him to withhold the just punishment we deserve for our sins.  The psalmist love’s the Lord, and honors His holy Name, and prays as a child of God for Him to show him mercy.

The psalmist knows that God’s Word is the best thing to guide us throughout our life (vs. 133).   We can travel safely through life by placing our feet firmly and securely in God’s Word, and in His faithfulness to His Word and promises.  By following the Bible we can avoid having sin rule over us.

The last verse of this portion of Psalm 119, verse 136, tells us how the psalmist is brought to grief over the sins of others, over those who do not follow God’s Word.  How do we feel about those who have no belief or respect in the Bible?  Are we indifferent to that, thinking that is just their choice, or does that sadden us?   Does it distress us that more and more the Bible is being driven out of society at every level?  This brought the psalmist to tears.

If you haven’t read Psalm 119 in a while, why don’t you take several minutes to read it over once again.  Give praise to the Lord for His Holy Word!

Saturday, July 29, 2023

What Would Your Wish Be?

I Kings 3:5-12

People like to make wishes.  They like to make a wish when they blow out the candles on a birthday cake.  They make a wish when they break the wishbone of a turkey.  Some people like to make a wish on the first star they see in the night sky.  We have fairy tales of people finding a magic lamp with a genie inside who grants wishes, and legends of leprechauns who grant wishes when caught.  If those were true, and you had a genie or a leprechaun, what would you wish for?  What would you wish for if you knew that blowing out birthday candles would guarantee a wish?  Many people would wish for wealth, or maybe good health.  In our Scripture today we read of a young man who was offered a wish by One who could definitely grant any wish that was made.  Let’s take a look at this account, and what he wished for.

Solomon was a younger son of the great King David.  He was the second child born of Bathsheba, the son following the one who had died as a baby.  Though he had several older brothers, he was the one that God and King David had selected to take the throne when David died.  When our Scripture opens, Solomon has recently been crowned king, following the death of his father.  Very early into his reign, God came to Solomon in a dream.  God often spoke to people in the Bible through dreams (Joseph, Daniel, and Joseph the foster father of Jesus are some examples).  This time it was a bit different, as God had a two-way conversation with Solomon.  He asked Solomon what he would like Him to give to him (vs. 5).  Imagine God asking any one of us what we would like, and He would give it to us!

As a king in the ancient world, what would be the likely things he might ask for?  Just like we might ask for, wealth would be one thing.  Another would be for great power, that his kingdom might spread, and that he would be able to defeat all of his enemies.  Another likely request might be for a long life.  Solomon, though, was not so hasty in giving a response.  He asked for wisdom to rule the nation (vs. 7-9).  Though the exact age of Solomon when he became king was not given, most scholars believe he was a young man, possibly in his early twenties.  When he answered God that he was just a little child, that wasn’t referring to him being a child by age.  Solomon was referring to being a “child” with regards to experience in ruling the country.  Despite being somewhat physically feeble during the last couple of years of his life, David had not shared any of the ruling responsibilities with Solomon, and thus taking the throne at a young age was a bit intimidating.  Instead of asking for money and belongings, Solomon asked for wisdom, or an understanding heart, in ruling the nation.

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had not asked for personal benefits, such as wealth or the defeat of his enemies (vs. 10-11).  It was very pleasing to God that he had asked for wisdom.  Throughout the Bible the value of having wisdom is expounded. We are also instructed to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5).

God granted Solomon his request, and gave him a wise and discerning heart.  However, it was up to him to apply that wisdom to all areas of his life.  Solomon may have been wise in many areas of governing his kingdom, but he was very foolish in other areas.  Many times throughout God’s Law, He instructed the people to never marry unbelievers (Deuteronomy 7:1-4).  Yet Solomon disobeyed that command and married many hundreds of pagan women.  In order to please these women, he set up altars to their pagan gods throughout Jerusalem, and thus led the nation into idolatry.  Not only did he allow these women to worship idols, Solomon himself fell into idolatry (I Kings 11:1-11).  This was far from following wisdom!

Solomon was offered a wonderful thing - anything he would wish from God.  However, he did not continue to use the gift that God had given him.  Very quickly he tossed it aside to please the pagan women he took as wives.  Solomon began the terrible legacy that the majority of the future kings of Israel and Judah were to follow - that of worshiping idols and pagan gods and goddesses.  He started out good, but ended bad.

How about us?  Have we started out good when we accepted Jesus as our Savior, but later have strayed away from Him?  Do we have gifts that the Lord has given us to use for Him, but we have set aside?  We like to remember Solomon, unselfishly asking for wisdom, rather than for personal benefits.  That is something good to follow as an example.  However, we also need to take heed and not continue to walk in Solomon’s footsteps, following his later example, by letting wisdom slip.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).  If only Solomon had remembered this through his life!

Friday, July 28, 2023

Wheat Or Tares?

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Most of us can usually distinguish a weed from a good plant.  I’m certainly not much of a gardener, but I can usually determine weeds from plants.  When the plants are first coming out of the ground, though, it might be a bit more difficult to determine which is the weed and which is what you had planted.  In your desire to get rid of the weeds, you might accidentally pull up a good plant.  In our Gospel reading for this week, Jesus uses this picture to teach us a truth about His kingdom.  Let’s look at what He would teach us.

Many of the lessons that Jesus taught were in the form of parables, little stories that taught spiritual lessons.  In this parable, Jesus presented a familiar scene, a farmer who was planting wheat seed on his property.  They were good seeds, not a mixture of good wheat and wild weed seeds.   However, at night an enemy of the farmer came in and spread weed seeds throughout the field, and when the plants grew, the farmer and his workers noticed that there were tares among the wheat (vs. 24-26).

A tare was a type of weed, possibly darnel.  Darnel is a weed that looks very similar to wheat as they grow, and to the average eye could be mistaken for each other.  Once they are mature, though, then one can tell the difference.  When the farm workers asked the landowner whether he wanted them to pull out the tares, he told them no, not yet, as they might mistakenly pull out the wheat, as well (vs. 27-30).  At the time of the harvest, then they can gather the tares and burn them.

After Jesus told this brief parable to the crowds, He then explained to His disciples what this story meant.  According to the Lord, the farmer is the Lord Jesus.  The world is His field.  The good seed are believers, and the tares are the unsaved, as Jesus called them the sons of the wicked one, or Satan (vs. 37-38).  The enemy who came and sowed the bad seed is Satan, the devil, and the workers at the time of harvest are God’s angels (vs. 39).   Satan, the enemy, is the one trying to destroy the Church, and one of his ways is to attempt to bring it down by infiltrating it with his children, the tares.  The true sower of salvation is the Lord Jesus Christ.  He, alone, saves sinners.

Ideally the Church here on earth should be filled with true believers (wheat).  However, as we see, there are many, many unsaved there, trying to pass themselves off as believers, but who are not.  Satan tries to deceive the Church by mingling his children, the unsaved, in with God’s children, the saved.  Sometimes it is very difficult for believers to tell the true from the false.  The unsaved often speak piously, quoting Bible verses, and seemingly acting like a Christian, but they are really tares, not true wheat.  True believers will produce fruitful lives, just like the wheat produces grain.  The unsaved, who are only posing as Christians, will produce no lasting fruit, just like a tare, or darnel, which is poisonous when eaten.

Believers (the wheat) and the unsaved (the tares) must live side-by-side in this world.  God allows unbelievers to remain for a while.  Then at the harvest the weeds will be uprooted and thrown away.  When Jesus returns He will instruct His angels to gather the tares, the unbelievers, and they will be bound and cast into the fires of hell (vs. 41-43).  The wheat, God’s true children, will be gathered into His kingdom.

There are true and false believers in the Church today.  Only God is truly qualified to judge who is who (vs. 40-43).  The roots of the wheat and the weed plants were already intertwined before this act of sabotage by the enemy was detected.  Weeding out the false plants would have destroyed the good with the bad.  God is intent on preserving His people until the harvest.  Too much scathing of people’s genuineness of faith may damage the saved before it exposes the lost.  As we see, there are pretenders in the Church, and we must not let them influence our faith.  Instead, we should be influencing theirs.

In closing we need to know that the day of harvest, God’s judgment of all people, is coming.  Do you belong to the wheat or to the tares?  Have you asked the Lord Jesus to be your Savior, and are one of His children?  If not, then you are one of the tares, and belong to Satan.  Though a real weed cannot change and become a good plant, in God’s kingdom a tare has a chance to become wheat any time before the harvest.  After that time, though, it’s too late.  They will be gathered and thrown into the fire.  While there is still time, turn to the Lord Jesus, and change from a tare to wheat, from being an unbeliever to becoming one of God’s children.  The day of harvest is coming soon!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Waiting Will Be Worth It

Romans 8:18-25 

Waiting to get what we really desire, and going through some very trying and difficult times, sometimes we might wonder if it’s worth it.  When a young person decides what career they want, they might need to prepare themselves for many years of study before they can actually practice in that field.  There are many years of medical school, internship, and then residency before one becomes a doctor.  Attorneys have years of law school, and then study to pass the bar examination, before they can practice law.  Many science fields, such as astrophysics, take years of study, as well.  None of their studies are easy.  It’s years of grueling work, but they feel it is definitely worth it when they actually sit down to practice law or medicine.  Sometimes a mother has to go through a very dangerous and difficult pregnancy.  It can be a very rough nine months, but in the end, when they hold their baby, it is worth it.  Scrimping and saving for many years may be rough, but when you finally have the money to buy that property you think it’s worth it.  In our Scripture today, the Apostle Paul talks about going through some times of suffering, but afterwards, what we have at the end will make it all worthwhile.  Let’s look more at what he has to tell us.

If someone was to offer us a lifetime of pure happiness and no troubles, but first we had to endure just one day of pain, would you take it?  One day for a whole lifetime.  Many would.  Those attorneys and doctors mentioned above felt it was worth several years of difficulty to achieve their dreams.  The Apostle Paul shares here that the struggles we go through in our whole life isn’t even worth comparing what believers will have when they enter eternity (vs. 18).  Compared to eternity, what is our lifetime?  It is just a vapor, a snap of the fingers, compared to heaven.

For the Christian who is living their life for the Lord Jesus, the difficulty, or even misery of the present is no comparison to the glory of the coming future.  Our pain won’t last forever, but we will.  God is in each day, both the good and the bad.  We may go through some tough times, but we can be confident that the Lord has a purpose in them, and will show His glory through them.

When mankind fell after Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, not only did that bring sin and eventual death upon every future person who would later be born, but it also brought death and destruction upon all of creation (vs. 19-22).  Everything in creation, including all animals, plants, and even the planet, was affected by Satan’s rebellion and Adam’s fall.  Sin has caused all creation to fall from the perfect state in which God had created it.  All creation is in bondage to decay.  From the Fall of Adam until now, creation has been groaning over the misery caused by sin.  However, one day it will all be liberated and transformed.  We, along with God’s creation, have a hope for future glory, a new heaven and a new earth that God has promised.  We wait for His new order, looking forward to the time when the curse will be lifted, and where there will be a world free from sin, sickness, and evil.

Sometimes it feels like forever before Jesus will return and set everything, including creation, right.  We wait and long for that day, and sometimes wonder if it will ever happen.  Yet that day will come, for this is the promise of God (vs. 24-25).  He does not lie.  He never makes a promise that He won’t keep.  However, it is not always in our timing.

Faith without patience falls short. They are partners.  One without the other brings discouragement.  Faith gives us the ability to trust God’s Word.  Patience helps us trust His timing.  Just as those students who await the day when their long and hard studies will be over, or the mother endures the difficult months before her baby arrives, so we, as believers, eagerly wait with patience for the day when Jesus will return.  When that day arrives, everything that we have gone through will make it all worthwhile!

Monday, July 24, 2023


Psalm 86

The definition of mercy is to show compassion and forgiveness to someone when it is in our power to punish or harm them.  We often hear of people who cry out for mercy when they are in court and about to be sentenced.  They desire mercy from the judge.  There are others who might owe a large amount of money, and they beg for mercy from their creditors.  They desire mercy for time to pay their debt, or for a reduction of their debt.  When someone is attacked by a mugger, it is natural that they might plead for mercy that they not be harmed.  In the Bible, the definition of mercy is God withholding the just punishment from someone that they rightly deserve.

Psalm 86, one of many psalms written by King David, mentions the word mercy or a form of the word five times.  David was someone who knew God’s mercy.  Though he was a strong believer and follower of Yahweh, like all of us he occasionally fell into sin, sometimes into deep sin.  Though these sins would deserve just punishment from the Lord, he received God’s mercy when he confessed and repented.

Showing mercy is just one of the many characteristics of Yahweh.  David takes note that God is also a good God, and one who is always ready to forgive (vs. 5).  He recalls that Yahweh is a great God, and one who does wondrous or marvelous things (vs. 10).  He is gracious or kind, and long-suffering (vs. 15).  He is patient and puts up with our failings, not condemning and destroying us after just one slip-up.  Yet He is also a God of truth.

It is Yahweh’s mercifulness that David praises in this psalm, and it is something that he continually prays for from the Lord.  He knows that without God’s mercy, he will be defeated, both literally from his enemies, and also spiritually.  As David opens this psalm, he prays that the Lord will hear him (vs 1).  Though he was the king, David was humble in God’s sight, declaring that before Him, he was poor and needy.  Without God’s mercy, David knew he was lost.  Without His mercy, without Him holding back the just punishment that our sins deserve, we are each of us lost, as well.

David came to the Lord in prayer often, every day, and all throughout the day (vs. 3).  He didn’t just wait for a specific time when he might have gone to the tabernacle with a sacrifice.  He came to God in prayer all throughout the day.  We don’t have to wait until Sunday to come to Jesus in prayer, nor wait till it’s mealtime or bedtime.  We can, and should, pray to Him throughout our day.  David also knew that when he prayed to the Lord God, that he could trust that He would hear and answer him.  In the day of his troubles, David could trust that the Lord would hear and answer his cries, because God is merciful.

The proud, the arrogant, and the insolent act independent from God, rebelling against Him and His people (vs. 14).  They do not feel that they need His mercy mainly because they do not believe that they have done any wrong.  Since they feel that they have never done anything wrong that deserves God’s just punishment, then they do not feel they will ever need His mercy.  The world views God as cruel and irrelevant.  However, His children know that it is just the opposite (vs. 15).

Troubles will come.  David knew that for sure (vs. 7).  When they do, we need to remember to call upon God.  He will answer.  He assures us that He hears us, and will provide for our needs when we seek Him.  We should not look for other ways, such as our own strength and ability, or ways other than prayer to solve our problems.  Call upon God with full assurance that He will help us.

Many of us know in our heads that God is good and merciful, but we don’t know it completely in our hearts.  When bad things happen, we need to remember that no matter what happens, God is a God of mercy and grace.  If we really believe that God is good, then we will never doubt it, no matter what happens in our life.  Remember the truth that David gives us in the middle of our psalm - For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Lord, Open Our Eyes

II Kings 6:8-17

I remember years ago when I was a child, looking at some special pictures through some colored glasses.  The pictures were special in that if you looked at them without the glasses, you would see one thing, say for example, an open field with a few trees.  But when you put on the special colored glasses, you would see more, like maybe some horses and flowers in the field.  Maybe the picture was of a large lake, but with the glasses you would see a boat on the lake and some white, puffy clouds.  The glasses enabled you to see things that didn’t seem like they were there before.  They were there, only hidden from “regular sight”.  In our Scripture today we will see how the prophet Elisha prayed for his servant, that the Lord would let him see what was really there.  Let’s look into our Scripture.

The prophet Elisha was the successor of the great prophet Elijah.  He succeeded Elijah when that prophet was taken bodily up into heaven.  Like Elijah, the prophet Elisha’s main field of ministry was the northern kingdom of Israel.  As our Scripture opens, we read that the kingdom of Syria, which was north of Israel, was at war with Israel.  However, the king was quite disturbed, because it seemed that whenever his generals came up with various war plans and tactics, somehow the king of Israel found out about them, and was able to successfully maneuver his armies to avoid defeat.  The king of Syria believed that he had some traitors on his staff and within the army generals, and that there were Israelite spies in his palace (vs. 8-11).   One of the king’s servants told him, though, that it wasn’t a spy or a traitor, but that somehow Israel’s great prophet Elisha knew all of his plans, and was able to tell the king of Israel.  So the Syrian king demanded that Elisha be captured and brought to him (vs. 12-13).

When the Syrian army found that Elisha and his servant were in the city of Dothan, the army went and surrounded the city.  Elisha would not be able to escape, and they could bring him bound to the Syrian king.  Elisha’s servant saw that the armies of Syria had surrounded the city, and that there was no way to possibly escape.  They were doomed, and he was understandably afraid.  Even after having been with the prophet for a long time, he still had moments of weak faith.  That is when Elisha prayed for him, and the Lord opened his eyes to see that He had provided an army of heavenly angels, bigger and more powerful than the Syrians (vs. 14-17).

That is a nice Biblical account, but how does that relate to us today?  Do you ever feel like you are in a hopeless situation, surrounded by enemies, either literal or figurative?  We fear enemy forces, just like the Israelites saw.  They saw literal armies.  We might have that, but the enemy may be hunger, financial, sickness, debt, death.  God provides protection and hope for us.  Jesus will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  He is always near, even when our circumstances make it difficult to see the help that is available to us.

We are in a spiritual battle in this world.  Satan and his hosts use whatever they can to bring down believers and followers of the Lord Jesus, including using unbelievers, or things like financial hardships, sickness, etc. However, we also have the unseen armies of the Lord on our side.  We don’t see them surrounding us, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Situations that seem hopeless are not always the way we perceive them to be.  When we feel overwhelmed and outnumbered, we need to remember that God is by our side.  When we focus on our troubles, we become alarmed.  But when we focus on God and what He has provided for us, the picture changes and we find peace.

Elisha didn’t pray for his servant to stop seeing the enemy, he prayed for him to start seeing the goodness and provision of God.  Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see, to what He sees.  God is surrounding us with His care, protection, and provision.

Just like Elisha’s servant, we need to stop walking in spiritual blindness.  Don’t only look at our troubles.  When our eyes are opened, we will see that Jesus has already won the victory, and that He rules in heaven.  If God is on our side, who can stand against us? (Romans 8:31).  Faith reveals that God is doing more for His people than we can ever realize through sight alone.

The next time you feel surrounded by trouble, by a situation that seems hopeless in your own power, open God’s Word and see what He has promised you.  In a manner of speaking, put on your spiritual glasses and see the army He has provided for you, and trust Jesus to come to your aid.

Friday, July 21, 2023

The Parable Of The Sower

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

If asked, most Christians can name a number of the parables that Jesus told, and which are recorded in the Gospels.  Several are easily familiar to most of us.  The Parable of the Good Samaritan and the Parable of the Prodigal Son would likely be right up there as one and two, with the Parable of the Sower coming in a close third.  The Parable of the Sower is the subject of our Gospel reading for this week.  Let’s take a closer look at this familiar teaching of the Lord Jesus.

A parable is a short, simple story that teaches a spiritual lesson.  Jesus often used parables to teach His lessons when He spoke to the common people, rather than preaching a deep, theological sermon.  To those who read the Parable of the Sower, we might think that it is just a brief account of someone who was rather careless in planting seeds for the next harvest.  However, Jesus had a very specific lesson to teach.

As Jesus presents this story, He describes the sower as a man who randomly scatters the seed he has, not giving much care as to where the seed lands (vs. 3-9).  Some land off to the wayside, not even in the field, where the birds quickly eat them up.  Some land on stony places, an area where there is very shallow soil which is on top of a layer of bedrock.  Here the plants may start to grow, but there is no room for roots to develop or to reach water, so they quickly die.  Some seed lands where there are weeds which choke the plants, and they can’t fully grow to their potential.  Then, fortunately, some seed lands on good ground, where they grow and thrive.

This tale wasn’t just told to entertain people.  There was a lesson that the Lord wanted us to learn.  In the second half of our Scripture passage, Jesus explained to the disciples what this parable meant (vs. 18-23).  The seed that the sower was scattering represents the Word of God.  We, as believers, are to be active in bringing God’s Word to others.  The various soils represent the hearts of those who hear God’s Word.  We are given good seed, but it’s the soil that sometimes has problems.

The wayside represents those who give no response at all to the Gospel that they superficially hear (vs. 19).  The Gospel never penetrates these souls, so it disappears from the surface of their understanding.  The “birds” or demon spirits snatch it away.  These people have a closed heart.  It is not that they are incapable of understanding, but they have no desire to understand.  Their heart is hardened against the truth.  No truth is able to penetrate because their mind is closed to any message that they don’t want to follow.

The next group Jesus speaks about are the seeds that fell on the stony place (vs. 20-21).  A lot of people say that they believe, and get all excited.  But their seeming “faith” is very shallow.  It has no root.  They are not true believers.  When trouble comes, or they have to deal with suffering, they are out.  Some people make an emotional, superficial commitment to salvation in Jesus, but it is not real.  They seem interested only until there is a sacrificial price to pay, and then they abandon their “faith”.

God uses trials to strengthen our faith.  Jesus said that those who don’t truly believe fall away when afflictions arise.  To go through suffering and remain true to Christ testifies to others about our salvation.  Each test we go through will make our faith stronger.  That second type of soil showed a shallow heart.  They seemed passionate when they first heard the Gospel, but they fell away when difficulties came.  They would never learn how Jesus provides in hardship.

The third type of soil is one filled with weeds and thorns, and represents those who have a cluttered heart (vs. 22).  These are those who hear the Gospel and receive it superficially.  Their commitment to Jesus is not strong, as they just cannot break with their love of money and the world.  The “thorns” in their life are the cares of the world, and their materialistic belongings and desires which they don’t wish to part with.  The cares and values of the world distract them, and they have no room in their heart for a committed devotion to Jesus.  They produce little or no fruit for Him.

The final group is the good soil, which represents an open heart for the Lord Jesus (vs. 23).  This is a heart that hears, understands, and applies the truths of Scripture.  Jesus relates about these believers that some would bear a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.  Not all are equally fruitful, but a true and faithful believer will bear some fruit.

Are we listening to God?  We have ears - are we hearing Him through the Bible and worship? (vs. 9).  Whenever God speaks to us, it’s up to us to pay attention.  What kind of “soil” condition is your heart?  As believers, we are to be like the sower, spiritually sowing God’s Word to the world.  We might not always see results, just as many times this sower didn’t, but we are to be faithful in spreading God’s message.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

A Victorious Christian Life

Romans 8:9-17

Who is the master of your life?  Everyone has someone in control in their life.  Often it is ourselves.  We like to call the shots when it comes to what we do, and how we live our life.  If we are saved, who is directing our choices?  Is it our old, sinful nature, or is it the Lord Jesus Christ?  This was something that the Apostle Paul wanted the readers of our Scripture today, from the letter to the Romans, to ask themselves.  It is something we should be examining in our lives, as well.  Let’s take a look.

The Book of Romans was written to believers in the church in the capital city of the Empire.  As Paul has instructed in various portions of Scripture, when someone accepts the Lord Jesus as Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell that new believer.  When we are saved, the Holy Spirit, the very life of God, is in our body.  And with the Holy Spirit in residence within our life, we should be letting Him take control of our actions and behavior.  Our life is to be led and controlled by the Spirit, not by the flesh (vs. 9).  Since we are now believers, and no longer depending on the flesh to direct our life, why do we resort to the flesh with our behavior and actions?  We now have the privilege of being led and empowered by God’s Spirit.

Paul warns his readers that if there is no evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence through any fruits of the Spirit in their life, then that person has no legitimate claim to the Lord Jesus.  If our life is out of control, we are in bondage to the flesh and the devil.  We cannot live a victorious Christian life through our own power, strength or ability.  The flesh nature is not something that we can overcome through our own willpower, but only through the power of the Holy Spirit.  We are unable to successfully live the Christian life on our own, but when we are obedient to God and His Word, the Holy Spirit guides us, and enables us to be victorious (vs. 11).  We need to break loose and empty our life of all things that are not of God.

Many of us try to live a “good Christian life” through our own power.  We make resolutions, especially on New Year’s Day, in an effort to do better, and be a better Christian.  We cannot live the Christian life in our own strength.  Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to.  As mentioned above, and as we read in numerous portions of Scripture, when we are saved, the Holy Spirit indwells us.  We have the same power in us which raised Jesus from the dead (vs. 11).  The Holy Spirit will enable us to live His life through His grace.  As He lives through us, we can put to death our sinful urges and desires.  Through the Holy Spirit, we are to put to death all of the misdeeds our sinful nature does, and separate from the sinful deeds of the flesh.

So how is this possible?  The more we try in our own strength, the more we fail.  When we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God, we can relax (vs. 14).   He is in control of everything.  We don’t have to chart our own course in life.  Jesus promised the Holy Spirit will lead us and guide us in all truth.  All we have to do is to follow Him.

Paul concludes this portion of Scripture by relating again a very blessed truth.  Because of the finished work of the cross, we are now one with Jesus, and co-heirs of His glorious inheritance (vs. 15-17).  The moment we are saved, we go from being an orphan to an heir.  Jesus and us share the same inheritance.  Whatever He inherits from God, we also inherit.  We are His co-heirs, and He is pleased to share it with us.

In order for this to become true in your life, you must accept Jesus as Savior.  This is not handed to everyone who has ever lived.  God is the Creator of everyone, but not everyone is His child, and He is not Father to everyone (John 1:11-12).  God’s inheritance is only for those who accept and follow His Son, and we must each accept Him ourselves.  Just because your parents or grandparents were Christians doesn’t make you one.  God has no grandchildren!

The question that each of us must ask ourselves is have we, personally, accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior?  As we read in our Scripture for today, if we have, then we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and we can live His life, not that of the flesh.  And as believers, we are also God’s children, and co-heirs with Jesus.  What could be more blessed than that!

Monday, July 17, 2023

Who Do You Put Your Confidence In?

Psalm 65

Do you know someone that you have complete confidence in?  Someone that you can fully trust, someone that you can rely on without hesitation at any time?  If you know someone like that, you are quite fortunate!  We all would love to have such a friend, but not all of us are so blessed.  Or are we?  As we look into our psalm for this week we will see that there is Someone we can have full confidence in, Someone who is worthy of such trust and reliance.

Who are some of the individuals that most people feel they can trust?  Some people trust a favorite teacher.  Many feel that they can trust their doctors or lawyers.  We hope that we can trust our pastor or priest, and that they can be relied on when we need them.  The same would be said about family members.  Are they worthy of our confidence?  Many times, yes, but many of us have seen that teachers or pastors have let us down.  How many people find that their doctor, or an attorney they hired, could not be faithfully relied on.  Sadly, many cannot trust or rely on family members.  King David knew that there were very few that he could put his confidence in.  However, he knew that there was One who could always be relied on in his life, and that was Yahweh (vs. 5).

As we look into Psalm 65, we read of several reasons why David felt that he could put all confidence in Yahweh.  First off, David stated that Yahweh was a God who heard prayer (vs. 2).  He is always present, and hears the prayers and cries of His children.  It doesn’t take us too long to find that those we felt we could trust and rely on in our problems, just aren’t always there for us.  We call on them and they aren’t available, or our problems are out of their league.  That is never the case with God.  He is always available to pray to and talk with.  It’s never too late, He’s never asleep or out of town.  Pagan gods are non-existent, and thus prayer to them is meaningless.

When we put our trust in certain people, we have to always be careful that we remain on their good side.  If we do something to anger or offend them, then we can be rather sure that they won’t be there for us when we need them.  David knew that with Yahweh, if he confessed his sins, He would forgive him.  As we know, David was not perfect.  Like us, he fell into sin, sometimes rather serious sin.  Yet he knew that if he repented and confessed, God was all-forgiving (vs. 3).  Sadly, that is not always the case with family or friends, and we can no longer rely on them.

David continues in our psalm by describing many reasons why Yahweh is the only One who is worthy of our trust and confidence.  He is the Creator of the whole earth and universe.  He is such a powerful God as is shown forth in creation.  He made the mountains and the oceans (vs. 6-7).  He controls the rotation of the earth, bringing both morning and evening in a continual cycle (vs. 8).  He waters the earth so that it brings forth food for all mankind (vs. 9-13).

When we put confidence in any certain person, they, being human, are limited in their power or ability to help us.  However, Yahweh, who is as powerful and able to do all that David listed, and even more so, is certainly worthy of our trust and dependence upon.

Are we putting our confidence in the Lord God?  David declared that Yahweh is the One that all the ends of the earth, and across the far-off seas could and should put their trust in (vs. 5).  Unlike local heathen gods, Yahweh is not just the God of a single locality.  The universal worship of the one, true God is required of all men.

As mentioned, God forgives everyone who sincerely comes to Him through Jesus Christ.  God can, and will, forgive them.  Nobody is beyond redemption, and nobody is so full of sin that they cannot be made clean through the Blood of Jesus.  God always hears our prayers, as David opened this psalm with that confident statement.  He is the One we must turn to when we have a need.  False gods are non-existent, and other people can, and will, fail us.  Jesus, alone, is worthy of all of our trust, our confidence, and our praise!  With Him, we can sing and shout for joy!

Saturday, July 15, 2023

God's Open Invitation

Isaiah 55:1-5, 10-13

Do you like to eat?  Most of us do!  And we like good, wholesome, nourishing food.  However, with the economy the way it is, food prices today are rather high, and the average person on a fixed budget has to be careful with how they shop.  For many of us, the days of walking into the grocery store and getting just about anything we want are long gone!  Yet our physical bodies need good food to survive.  Now what if someone offered you the opportunity to get all the food you need without having to pay a cent!  I’m sure most people would jump at that chance!  People have a spiritual nature, in addition to their physical one, and that nature needs to be fed, as well.  Our Scripture for today tells of an offer of free nourishment for our spiritual nature.  Let’s take a look.

We’ve all had moments when we’ve been hungry, and when that happens we go in search of something to eat.  How about when we’re spiritually hungry?  Everyone has felt that way at one time or another, though they may not all realize it.  They are spiritually hungry and thirsty, and they need to know where to go to satisfy that need.  In our opening verses, God calls out to come to Him to receive spiritual food - bread, wine, milk, all without cost.  God offers us free nourishment that feeds our soul.  We come to God (vs.1), listen to Him (vs 2), seek and call upon Him (vs 3).

God’s salvation is freely offered.  However, to nourish our soul we must receive it.  We will spiritually starve if we do not accept the food of God’s Word.  God’s free gift of salvation is offered to all who will receive it.  Three times the word “come” is used, as God invites us.  This corresponds with Revelation 22:17, where the word “come” is also used three times.  Those who are spiritually hungry and thirsty may come to eat and drink freely without money.  We cannot buy salvation.  Accepting the Holy Spirit’s invitation will satisfy fully. This invitation is for all, both Jew and Gentile.  No one who comes to God will ever be turned away.

Just as you are careful about what food you consume, not wanting to eat anything that would make you sick, Isaiah warns us to be careful about what spiritual food we eat.  Don’t go after something that is “not bread”.  This is the bread of deceit (Proverbs 20:17), and is spiritually harmful.  Instead, seek the Bread of Life, (John 6:32-35), which comes from the Lord Jesus, and will bring us eternal life.

In the second portion of our Scripture this week, Isaiah tells how God’s Word will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it.  It will not come back to Him empty (vs. 10-11).  When God sends the rain or snow, the moisture it brings to the ground fulfills its intended purpose.  In the same way the Word of God will also fulfill its purpose, and that is to bring salvation to hungry souls, and build them up spiritually. He reveals Himself to us by His Word, which will not return to Him void or in vain.  The Bible accomplishes God’s purpose in announcing salvation to all mankind.  The Lord promises to bless His Word, and we are wise if we honor Scripture by obeying it, and speaking it to others.

As our Scripture closes, Isaiah speaks of the day in the future when Israel will finally be restored, when they finally accept Jesus Christ as the Savior and Messiah (vs. 12-13).  On that day, the entirety of the world will be greatly blessed.  Exiled Israel will return from her dispersion, rejoicing in her deliverance.  In God’s kingdom, the curse upon nature will be reversed, and mankind will be restored.  Sinful man is born morally a “thorn” and a “brier” (vs. 13).  But the Messiah and Savior can recreate him as a “cypress tree” and a “myrtle tree”.

You have been given an invitation to come and be fed with God’s unlimited food at no cost.  Will you accept?  Though it is without cost, to reject will ultimately be most costly to you.  Come, buy without money or price, and eat!

Friday, July 14, 2023

Whose Yoke Are You Wearing?

Matthew 11:25-30

A visit to an old-fashioned, historic farm often includes some old, antique farm equipment.  One thing that you might find may be a wooden yoke, a tool that the farmer would put over the shoulders and neck of large animals, often a pair of oxen, to pull wagons or plows.  This was very common, actually necessary, on a farm in the days before motorized tractors.  The heavier the load that needed to be pulled, the larger the animal, and the heavier the yoke.  The yokes helped the pair of oxen to pull together at the same pace, and go in the same direction.  In our Scripture, the Lord Jesus invites us to take His yoke upon us.  Let’s see what this means.

Just prior to this portion of Scripture, John the Baptist, who had been imprisoned by King Herod, had sent several of his disciples to Jesus to question exactly who He was.  After Jesus sent them back with His answer, He turned to some in the crowds, to rebuke them for their rejection of John and his message, along with their rejection of Him, as well (Matthew 11:1-19).  Jesus then rebuked the various cities that He had ministered in, for their rejection of His message (Matthew 11:20-24).

Jesus then said a quick prayer of thanks to the Father for those who did believe (vs. 25-26).  The “wise and prudent” that Jesus spoke of are those who feel wise in their own eyes.  They are the proud and arrogant.  They are the people who feel that they know better than anyone else, including even God.  The “babes” that Jesus spoke of are those who, like little children, are humbly open to receive the truth of God’s Word.  God will reveal His truth to them because they are willing to receive it, and learn from Him.  Those who think they are so wise, are not willing to learn God’s truth, and thus will not receive it.

The Savior then gave an open invitation to all to come to Him and hear God’s truth (vs. 28).  The ones who respond are those who are burdened by their own spiritual bankruptcy, and the weight of trying to save themselves by keeping the Old Testament Law.  We see the same today.  There are so many people who believe that the only way they will be accepted by God and get to heaven is by doing all sorts of religious works. They may try keeping portions of the Old Testament Law.  They may try to earn or work their way to heaven by doing good works, and giving to many charitable causes, by saying certain prayers, singing in the choir, or leading children’s church, etc.  They labor and are burdened by the excessive demands of certain religious leaders (Matthew 23:4; Acts 15:10), and just plain weary in their search for God.  They need rest from the endless and fruitless effort they have been putting forth to save themselves by all the works of the law they have been trying to keep.  If they will turn to Jesus, He will free them from that effort, and give them rest.

Working for one’s salvation, trying to be “good” and doing “good deeds”, whether secular or religious, is the world’s yoke.  It may look light, at first.  Throw a few dollars at some charities, do a few good deeds here and there, be a basically good person, help out at one’s church.  In reality, though, it is a heavy yoke, because no one, not even the holiest of saints, could ever do enough to merit salvation.

The yoke that Jesus offers us may sound heavy at first, but it leads away from error, and into eternal joy (vs. 29-30).  What Jesus requires of us is very little.  We just need to have faith in Him, and in His sacrificial, atoning work.  Jesus tells us that all we need to do is come to Him.  We don’t need to do a lot of works, give sacks of money, eat or not eat special foods, or go on any pilgrimages.  Jesus just says to come to Him.  His yoke is a light one, and we can then rest from all the weary work of trying to earn a spot in heaven.  That “rest”, though, can only be found by placing one’s faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

Once we have come to Him, and placed His yoke on ourselves, we find that we don’t have to carry all of our own burdens by ourselves, those burdens that we face every day.  Jesus tells us to cast them upon Him (I Peter 5::7; Psalm 55:22).  With the world’s yoke upon us, we are forced to carry those burdens ourselves.  However, to those who have come to Jesus, He promises to carry them for us.  We do not have to carry our burdens alone.

As the old-time hymn says, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me.”  Jesus calls us to come to Him, let go of the world’s yoke, and take His yoke upon us.  With Jesus we can find rest for our souls.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

No Condemnation

Romans 8:1-6

Someone committed a crime.  They’ve been caught, and are now standing before the judge.  The judge proclaims that the criminal is condemned, and is given a sentence.  Depending upon the crime there could be a very strong penalty.  However, what if there is someone to take that penalty for them?  If the judge allows that, then that other person takes the penalty, the criminal’s record is wiped clean, and they are free to go.   There is no condemnation.  Such things are not likely to happen.  Perhaps if the penalty was just a minor fine, a relative or friend might help pay it.  However, not if it is a serious penalty, like years in prison and in a harsh prison, at that.  In our Scripture for today we read of just such a thing happening.

Throughout the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul has been instructing believers how mankind has stood condemned before God for their sins, and that the penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God.  That was bad news.  All of humanity is on death row for repeatedly breaking God’s law.  Without Jesus, we would have no hope at all.  But thank God, when we accept Jesus as Savior, He declares us not guilty, and He has offered us freedom from sin and the power to do His will.  The Apostle told of the Good News, how God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to take our penalty. All who believe in Him, accepting Him as Savior, are no longer under condemnation, and will spend eternity in heaven.

If the scenario in my opening was true, and someone took the penalty for a criminal, the judge letting them go free, there may be some people that still felt the person was guilty.  They may call them guilty, call them a criminal.  However, regardless of what people called them, the judge proclaimed them no longer guilty.  Their record was expunged, and the penalty paid.  Satan wants to do this same treatment to believers.  He brings up our past sins, sins that the Lord Jesus has forgiven us of when we accepted Him as Savior, sins that He paid for on the cross.  He whispers in our minds that we are guilty.  People also often bring up our past sins and mistakes, throwing them in our face, and if we’re not well grounded in Scripture, we may plunge into feelings of guilt for past sins.  God’s Word tells us that for those who are in Christ Jesus, those who are saved, there is no condemnation (vs. 1).

Feelings of condemnation do not belong to us.  They are from Satan.  Satan wants us to feel guilty, and he lies to us, saying that God still condemns us.  Condemnation, though, is reserved for the unsaved, not for believers (John 3:36).  Satan tries to plague us into still feeling guilty over sins that God has already forgiven us of.  When we come to Jesus for salvation, and accept Him as Savior, our sins are forgiven (Psalm 103:12).  He will not condemn us when we believe (John 3:16-18).  God’s love and forgiveness are greater than any sin.  He has promised that there is now no condemnation for His followers.  All blame has been removed from us.

Believers have been set free from the bondage of sin.  However, many choose to remain imprisoned, living still controlled by the sin nature, or that they must keep a set of religious laws in order to be righteous.  The Old Testament Law cannot deliver sinners from the penalty of sin, nor make them righteous.  We are no longer under the law of sin and death, but now under the law of the Spirit.  We are free from sin’s condemnation to death. If we live our lives focused on our flesh nature and things of this world, we will live by our fallen, corrupt nature (vs. 5).  Instead, focus on things of the Spirit, as God’s Spirit is dwelling within us.  Where our mind is set will determine where our actions go.

For those who continue to feel the weight of guilt on their shoulders, even after accepting Jesus as Savior, we have God’s promise right here in Scripture that we no longer have the sentence of condemnation upon us.  The penalty was paid!  We are no longer under the penalty of the Old Testament Law and of death.  Let us rejoice in that, and focus our minds on the things of the Spirit, allowing Him to live the life of Christ through us.

Monday, July 10, 2023

An Appeal For Deliverance

Psalm 143

Have you ever felt really down and depressed, feeling that you have nowhere to turn?  Your friends aren’t there, can’t or won’t help, and you are beginning to feel that God has disappeared, and that He doesn’t hear your prayers anymore.  Many of us have felt that way at one time or another, especially when problems come and seem to stay, and perhaps even some depression comes, too.  Is there anyone out there who will hear our cries?  Our psalm for today has the answer.  Let’s take a look.

In the Bible we read a lot about the life of David, with all the struggles and even life-threatening situations he was in.  We know that he became king, but even then, David’s troubles did not disappear.  In reading through many of the psalms that David wrote, it is evident that there were times when he seemed to fight against depression.  However, David never gave up or felt like he was ever in a hopeless situation.

As Psalm 143 opens, David knows who he can turn to when the problems arrive.  There are hints in several places in Scripture indicating that his family was not always very supportive of him (Psalm 27:10; I Samuel 17:28).  His father didn’t even want to include him when the prophet Samuel wanted the whole family gathered for a ceremony (I Samuel 16:11).  During the years he was on the run from King Saul, and then after he became king, David learned very quickly that there were many people he could not trust.  Who could he turn to for help and support in his troubles?  Was there anyone he could go to, who would listen to him and show compassion?  David knew that if everyone else turned aside, he could still count on the Lord.  He could go to God in prayer (vs. 1).  David knew that God is faithful and righteous, and because of that, he could make his prayer to Him.

Scripture teaches us that if we are living in a state of ongoing sin, if we are holding on to sin in our life and not confessing it, then our prayers will not be heard (Psalm 66:18).  In order to keep the line of communication open between ourselves and God, we need to confess our sins, and receive His forgiveness. David knew that he could not depend on his own righteousness in order to be justified in God’s sight (vs. 2).  He readily admitted his own unrighteousness.  He knew that he was a sinner, and realized that if he was going to be delivered for righteousness sake, it would be because of God’s righteousness, not his own.  That is the same for all of us today, as well.  Man cannot justify himself, but God will freely justify the one who has believing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because of that, David knew that the Lord God is the only one he can always rely on.  At this certain time, David had some unspecified problem, and he was turning to God for desperate help, holding his hands out in supplication (vs. 6).  He knew that he needed God.  In a drought, the dry earth, and the parched plants and trees, yearn for water.  David felt his soul was just like a dry and thirsty land, wanting God with great intensity.

Whatever this unnamed problem and situation was, it was a desperate one, and most people would feel hopeless.  Fear and depression were swirling around David, threatening to pull him in.  However, David knew that God was there for him (vs. 7).  We also may feel caught in deepening depression, and are unable to pull ourselves out of that pit.  In those times we especially need to turn to God and remember all that He has done for us in the past (vs. 5).

We need to reach out to God in prayer as David did, coming to Him every morning (vs. 8), looking for His help throughout the day.  When our enemies, literal or figurative, come against us, we can find shelter, hiding ourselves in our God (vs. 9).

In closing, we need to remember that every day we either surrender ourselves to our sin, which leads to death, or we obey God, which leads to righteousness (vs. 10-11).  God is to be our Master, and we should submit ourselves to Him.  David wanted to do what would bring honor to God’s Name, and he knew that when the Lord delivers him from a terrible situation, that will bring praise and glory to His mighty Name. 

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Calling Evil Good, And Good Evil

Isaiah 5:18-25

Today’s Scripture comes from the prophet Isaiah, and is an important message that the Lord needed His servant to give to the people.  Isaiah ministered to the people of Judah approximately 100 years or so before the Lord brought His punishment upon the nation for their sins, and sent the people into captivity in Babylon.  Though there were still a number of people who followed the Lord, and worshiped only Him, the population and nation as a whole were rapidly falling headfirst into wickedness and ungodliness, and things were turning topsy-turvy.  As I look out at the world in which we live in today, I see the same thing in a very astonishing and terrible way, perhaps just as bad or worse than the days of Isaiah.  Let’s look at what God’s Word has to say.  It was important back in the days of Isaiah for the prophet to speak His message, and it is vitally important for God’s people today to speak out, as well.

Isaiah had a strong message for the people from the Lord God, and he was not going to mince any words.  God had something to say to these people, and he was going to bring the message!  The prophet begins this passage with calling out woe or doom to those who are doing things that the Lord says is wrong.  As he begins, there were many people who were going around and just parading their sins and wickedness right out in public (vs. 18).  It was like they were out in public, pulling their sins in a cart right down the road.  Today it would be like they were in a parade, on a float being pulled down the street, bragging and flaunting their sin and immorality, all out in the open to see.

Sin has been around since the days of Adam and Eve, so that is nothing new.  But until not that long ago, most people, if they were practicing some sinful behavior, would try to do it out of sight.  They didn’t want everyone to know what they were doing, as deep down they knew it was shameful.  However, today it seems that people want to openly flaunt their sin.  They literally parade it down the street in public, with crowds on the sideline cheering them on!  People are openly mocking God’s Word, and defying the Most High, and society is cheering them on!  However, God says “Woe!” to them.  God is angry, with a great indignation at this.

Isaiah continues by calling woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who say something is right when it is wrong, and vice versa (vs. 20).  This is exactly the picture of the world today!  As I look out at society right now, it is like the world has been turned upside down!  Everything that is wrong or sinful is now being called good and right, and what we know to be right is now said to be wrong, and people don’t dare to say otherwise as they may literally lose their job and be “canceled” by society.  There is a standard by which to measure things, and that standard is Jesus and the Bible.  What God says something is right in His Word, the Bible, then it’s right, and what He says is wrong is wrong.

God calls out woe to those who justify the wicked, who say that what wicked and sinful people do is right, and who defend their iniquity (vs. 23).  The Lord calls woe to those who, in the same way, condemn and attack those who are doing right in His eyes, and who stand by His Word.  How often do we see this today, with everyone trying to shut up those who speak righteousness, and having their justice taken away.

Unbelievers in Isaiah’s day, and the same today, taunt those who follow the Lord God by belligerently questioning where He is, and mocking the truth or validity of what the Bible says (vs. 19).  They contemptuously challenge Jesus to act against their sins!  There is a day coming, it may not be today or tomorrow, but that day is coming when He will act against the blatant sins going on today (vs. 24-25).

Jesus will judge those who defy Him, and who ridicule His messengers and followers.  He will judge those who reverse His morality, saying and doing what He has said is wrong and evil, and who condemn what He says is right.  God will judge those who arrogantly think they are right in opposition to His Word, the Bible.

This is not an easy lesson today.  It was not an easy one for Isaiah to preach, and it was not well-received.  Neither was it heeded, as the people went into captivity due to their continued sin.  Few today are heeding God’s Word, either, and time is running short before the Lord Jesus returns.  When He does, it will be too late for them.  When God, in His Word, calls something evil, then we’d better believe that it is evil!

Friday, July 7, 2023

Not Peace But A Sword

Matthew 10:34-42

Today’s Scripture is one that some might find puzzling.  It seems to contradict all that we picture the Lord Jesus to be.  There are some, including some preachers, that actually just avoid this passage altogether.  They do not like the idea of some of the words contained in this Scripture, some even doubting if these were actually the words of Jesus.  Let’s look into this portion of the Gospel and see what Jesus has said.

Many of us know one of the many different names of Jesus, names that refer or describe His many characteristics, and that being the name of Prince of Peace.  However, as we read the opening verse of our Scripture we read that Jesus said that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword (vs. 34).  What could Jesus mean with His words here?  As He continues, Jesus describes that He will set various family members against each other (vs. 35-36).  This does not sound much like a Prince of Peace.

There are many believers who come from a non-believing family, particularly a family who is antagonistic against the Bible.  When they got saved, started following Jesus and believing the Bible, their family strongly turned against them.  Fathers and mothers turned against their sons and daughters, or those children turning against parents who may have come to Jesus.  Husbands turn against wives, and vice versa.  Siblings stop speaking to one another, and even one-time friends turn away.  All of this sometimes comes about when a person accepts Jesus as their Savior.  As He said, a sword seems to come, not peace.

The peace of God is not the result of living any way we want to.  It comes from living a godly life, a life of obedience and faith in the Lord.  Jesus brings a sword, dividing those who are living in sin from the righteous.  He who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God (James 4:4).  If you are true to Jesus, others will resent our uncompromising commitment.  A dedicated and loyal Christian will do the right thing, regardless of the consequences.  The Christian, truly committed to the Lord, will make enemies.

There are some who think that having peaceful relationships with everyone, especially within the family, is most important.  In order to have such peace, they say we should not speak about the Lord, or to relax some of our convictions for the sake of harmony.  Jesus says here that those who are His followers are not to ignore deep differences just to have superficial harmony.  Conflicts and disagreements will arise between those who follow Him and those who don’t.  This can separate friends and loved ones.

As we continue reading, Jesus says that we cannot become His disciples unless we place Him as our top priority, which may very well cause unbelieving family members to reject us (vs. 37).  Jesus Christ must come first in all things, to the exclusion of everything else.  The Christian life is not one that is unchallenging or effortless. He demands total commitment and surrender from believers (vs. 38-39).  We must be willing to publicly identify with Jesus.  That frequently brings opposition.  But faithful believers will be willing to face suffering and death for His sake.

Jesus concludes this Scripture by reminding His followers that when they go out into the world bringing His message, those who receive them will in essence be receiving Him, and they will receive a reward (vs. 40-42).  He who receives Jesus’ followers, receives Him.  Do we do what we can to help those who work for the Lord?  Jesus says that we will receive a reward for that.  How much we love God can be measured by how well we treat others, particularly those who preach and teach His message.  God doesn’t only reward big jobs and important works.  Even the smallest service done to the most insignificant of Christ’s servants shall be rewarded by the Lord.  He rewards obedience, no matter how small or insignificant it seems to us.  Even a cup of cold water given to a thirsty disciple will not be overlooked on Judgment Day.

In closing, it is important to remember that sometimes our decision to follow Jesus may bring conflict with others, including our family and former friends.  A faithful and committed believer will stand true for the Savior.  It is better to have brief warfare and then eternal rest than to have a false peace and then everlasting torment.  Jesus promises to reward those who faithfully follow and serve Him.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

You Are A Dead Person!

Romans 6:3-11

Most of us, at one time or another, have attended a wake or visitation at a funeral home of a deceased friend or relative.  As we look at the deceased person lying in their coffin, that body lies there stiff and unmoving.  No matter what is going on in the parlor at the funeral home, even a loud noise, won’t cause them to open their eyes or turn their head.  Any words we may say while standing over them will not cause any reaction to them.  Though no one would likely do this, but if someone reached over and pinched them, they wouldn’t move.  They are dead.  In our Scripture today, the Apostle Paul instructs us that in some ways, Christians are dead, and need to be as unresponsive as that body of the loved one lying in their coffin.  Let’s see what Paul means.

As our Scripture passage opens, Paul reminds us that if we are saved, we need to know and believe that our old sinful life is dead and buried (vs. 3).  Jesus died as our substitute, and our identification with Him in His death gives us all the benefits for which He died.   The type of baptism that Paul is talking about in this passage is not water baptism, but a metaphor meaning being totally immersed, devoted to, and consumed with something.  By placing saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have been spiritually immersed into Jesus, united and identified with Him, specifically with Jesus’ death and resurrection.

We are buried with Jesus.  All of our sins and transgressions were buried when they put Jesus in the tomb. Since we are united by faith with Jesus, His death and burial become ours (vs. 4). We are also united with Him in His resurrection.  Jesus’ resurrection is our resurrection.  We now have a new quality and character in our life.  That should be a powerful motive to resist sin.  We need to treat the desires and temptations of the old nature as if they were dead, just as dead as that corpse we see lying in the coffin at the funeral home.  We should live our lives manifesting resurrection life, free from sin’s control.

When we became a Christian, the sinful nature that we have died.  Our evil desires, our bondage to sin, our love of sin, died with Jesus (vs. 5-7).  Our old self died with Jesus.  However, some sinful aspects of our character did not go to the grave willingly.  Even though it still tries to retain a foothold, our old, unsaved life no longer has control.  We should not follow its old sinful ways.  We are now united with Jesus in His resurrection, and have unbroken fellowship with God, and freedom from sin’s hold on us.

Knowing this truth revealed in Scripture, we should never say, when some sinful habit or character flaw rears its ugly head, “Well, that’s just the way I am.”  That is the way you were.  That person died with Christ.  We are now a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17).  We now need to allow Jesus to complete His work in us.  The power of the sin nature is ineffective in us.  It no longer rules within our hearts and lives.  We now need to serve Jesus, not the old master of sin.

When Jesus died, He met the legal demands of sin’s penalty.  And He forever broke the power of sin over those who belong to Him.  Before we were saved  we were slaves to our sinful nature.  Now, though, we can choose to live for Jesus.  For some this may be hard to comprehend or to accept in practice in their life.  However we now need to embrace by faith what God has revealed to be true.

When sin comes knocking at the door of your life, you need to answer by saying, “No, I can’t do it.  I’m busy being dead!”  You are a dead person, so act like it!

Monday, July 3, 2023

A Promise Kept

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Have you ever had someone break a promise that they had made to you?  Or have you perhaps broken a promise you made to someone?   Most of us have had a promise made to us broken, or we were the ones doing the breaking.  Very few, if any people keep every single promise they make.  Sometimes these broken promises can be upsetting.  They are especially for children, but adults can be disappointed, as well.  There is Someone who makes promises, yet never breaks a single one, and that is our Lord God.   In our psalm today we read of one promise that He made, and which despite all odds, has been kept.

Psalm 89 was written by a man named Ethan the Ezrahite.  He was of the tribe of Levi, and along with two others, were assigned by King David to lead in song at the Tabernacle and in his court.  He served during parts of the reigns of both King David and that of his son King Solomon.   Ethan was also mentioned in I Chronicles 6:44, and in I Chronicles 15:17-19.   Ethan was said to be one of the wisest men in the country during his life.  He also wrote one psalm, one that focused mainly on the promise or covenant that the Lord made with David, and on giving Him praise and glory.

The psalmist Ethan spoke of the special promise or covenant that the Lord made to King David.   The promises that God makes, and which we read of in the Bible, generally fall into two categories.  There are conditional and unconditional promises.  Most of the promises in the Bible fall into the category of conditional ones, where if we obey God, He promises to do this or that.  The conditional promises depend on whether we keep our end of the deal.  Some conditional promises are that God promised to bless the people of Israel in their land, if they obeyed Him and did not worship false gods.  They failed to keep their end, and ended up losing their land.  Other promises in the Bible are unconditional ones.  Unconditional promises are guaranteed, no matter what man may do.  God’s promise to Noah that He would never again destroy the whole world with a flood is one.  The covenant that Yahweh made with King David, that He would send the Messiah, and that this Savior would be a descendent of his is another unconditional promise.  We read about this unconditional promise here in this psalm (vs. 3-4).

God had promised David that his family would sit on the throne of Israel.  That promise might seem like it was conditional, but in truth is unconditional.  They would reign in Israel as long as they obeyed Him, and they did for several hundred years.  Right away, David’s son King Solomon, turned away from the Lord God, and started worshiping the false gods of his many foreign wives.  Though some of David’s royal descendants stayed true to God, many didn’t, and eventually God lost all patience with the people, and the Babylonians came and conquered the country, destroyed the Temple, and took the people captive.  No more did David’s family line sit upon the throne.  However, the promise of the Messiah coming from David’s descendants was unconditional.  This was a promise that God made to David in II Samuel 7:8-16.  Though after the Babylonian captivity the Davidic family line no longer reigned upon the throne, the family line still existed.  The Lord Jesus came from that line, and He was the promised Messiah.  As the Son of God, and also being of David’s line, His reign is forever.  He reigns in heaven now, and someday He will return to earth, and set up His throne again in Jerusalem.

Knowing this promise was sure to be kept, despite all odds, brought a song of praise to God from the psalmist Ethan (vs. 15-18).  He knew that when God makes a promise to His people, He keeps it.  He knew that God was righteous, He was moral, ethical, and did what was right.  His Name, His countenance was holy.  We can glory in His strength.

Though the Jewish people are still looking for the Messiah, we know that He has already come in the Person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  He is the rightful heir to the throne of David.  He is reigning in heaven at the right hand of God the Father, and one day soon He will return, and will fulfill the promise God made, and sit upon the throne of David in Jerusalem.