Friday, May 31, 2024

Religious, But Lost

John 3:1-16

Many churches have them, and there is a good chance that you know some among your acquaintances.   What am I referring to?  I’m talking about people who are very religious, but who are lost, who are unsaved.  Many people think that if one is religious, if they meticulously follow a set of religious rules or practices, that this will certainly gain them entrance into heaven.  In our Scripture today we read about a man who was extremely religious, but while having a private conversation with Jesus, the Savior instructed him in the only way that one can receive salvation.  Let’s listen in on this conversation.

Sometime early in Jesus’ ministry He received a night-time visitor for a private meeting.  This visitor was a gentleman by the name of Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was an observant, practicing Pharisee who diligently kept the Old Testament Law.  He was also a member of the Sanhedrin.  The Sanhedrin was a Jewish council in Jerusalem that held political, religious, and judicial functions.  They acted like a Supreme Court. The overwhelming majority of both Pharisees and the Sanhedrin did not follow or approve of Jesus.  However Nicodemus had an open mind, along with many questions, and he wanted to talk with Jesus and try to find some answers.  He came by night, though, to keep this meeting private from other Pharisees and Sanhedrin members (vs. 1-2).  Nicodemus was a very good and moral man by the world’s standards, yet Jesus told him that would not get him into heaven.  He needed to be born again.  It’s still the same today.  Going to church, singing in the choir, giving money, doing all sorts of good deeds and works will not gain anyone entrance into heaven.  As Jesus said, you must be born again.

Nicodemus started by paying Jesus a compliment, saying that he believed Jesus was a teacher from God, because He would not be able to do the things that He did unless God was with Him.  Jesus, though, immediately came to the point.  He didn’t waste any time, and told His visitor that he needed to be born again if he wanted to see the kingdom of God (vs. 3).

Jesus repeatedly spoke to Nicodemus about being born again.  What does it mean to be born again?  This occurs when the Holy Spirit leads a person to understand that Jesus Christ died on the cross to provide forgiveness for their sins.  We are born again the moment we accept that Jesus Christ is the only One who can redeem us, and we confess Him as our Savior and Lord.

As Jesus continued, He gave a reference to the type of death that He would suffer, and how it connected with an incident with Moses (vs. 14).  In Numbers 21:4-9 we read of how the people of Israel had been complaining to Moses about God’s care for them, and then the Lord sent poisonous snakes as a judgment.  The Lord told Moses to put an image of a snake on a pole and hold it up.  Whoever was bitten and looked at it was healed.  In the same way those who face the penalty of death because of sin (that includes all of us), can look upon Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and receive eternal life.

In verse 15 we read the word “whoever”.  That word means that any one who does what Jesus said, which is to believe in Him, will receive eternal life.  Not just a select few.  So if you believe in what Jesus did, that is, died on the cross for your sins, you are saved.  This puts to wrong the heretical belief of Calvinistic predestination, which says that some are predestined to heaven, while some are predestined to hell.  “Whoever” means none are excluded from being lost, and none are excluded from being saved.

To believe in Jesus is more than just intellectual knowledge (vs. 16).  One must believe that He is the virgin-born Son of God, who died to save us, and rose again the third day.  If you continue to believe that you can earn your salvation by all of your good works or religious practices you are not born again, you are not saved.  You may be religious, but you are lost.  Nicodemus was in that condition when he came to Jesus.  He later came to faith in Jesus, and was there when He was taken down from the cross, providing spices and ointments for His burial (John 19:38-40).  When you place your faith in Jesus Christ you receive His gift of eternal life.  God paid dearly with the life of His Son, the highest price He could pay.  Jesus accepted our punishment, paid the price for our sins, and then offered us the new life He had bought for us.

John 3:16 is a very well-known and often quoted verse.  This verse applies to everyone, not just a select few who have been supposedly “predestined”.  This includes you!  Don’t believe Satan’s lies.  There is no one too sinful, too scarred, no one of any particular race or nationality that God can’t or won’t save.  However, they must come to Him and accept Jesus as their Savior.  If you haven’t already, won’t you come to Jesus today?  Don’t go into eternity religious, but lost.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

A Child And Heir

Romans 8:12-17

It might be nice to discover that you were an heir to a big fortune.  As I am now in my mid-60s, I have yet to discover a hugely wealthy uncle I never knew before, who left me a great sum of money, and that is unlikely to ever happen!  However, if you are a Christian, then you are an heir, and an heir to something greater than any earthly fortune!  Our Scripture today speaks of being an heir of God, and joint-heir of the Lord Jesus, and begins by letting us know how we should live since that is our position.  Let’s look into our Scripture.

The Apostle Paul is speaking to believers here, as he addresses his audience as “brethren”, so what he says is applicable to Christians, not the lost (vs. 1).   He instructs believers that we are not to live after the flesh.  The word “flesh” here, and in most instances in the New Testament, refers to our unredeemed humanness, with all of its sinful desires.  That is what Paul says should not be what is directing our life.

Living by the flesh will lead to death, spiritual death, which is why we are instructed to put to death our fleshly desires (vs. 13).  We are to put to death the sinful deeds of our carnal nature, and regard as dead the power of sin in our body.  The Holy Spirit provides us with energy and power to continually put to death the power of sin in our life, and then we are better able to ignore temptation when it comes.  We cannot achieve this in our own strength, but instead we do it through the power of the Holy Spirit.  God’s grace enables us to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to put to death our sinful desires.  We need to address all actions that keep us from having a deeper relationship with God, and when they pop up, to destroy them as quickly as we would a bug in our house.  This process is never complete in this life.  We do this by faithfully obeying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Paul continues on in verse 14 he tells us who can call themselves sons (or daughters) of God, who can claim to be children of God.  Again, Scripture teaches us that not every person is a child of God.  Everyone is created by God.  He is their Creator, but He is not Father of all.  We become a child of God when we repent of our sins and ask Jesus to save us.  This is also stated in John’s Gospel - John 1:12.  Paul tells us that those who are led by God’s Spirit are truly His children.  Being led by the Holy Spirit is just that, letting Him lead the way in our life.  We can stop our fretting and follow where He leads.  The Holy Spirit will confirm that one is truly a child of God and adopted by Him by the fruits that He produces in us, and the power that He provides (vs. 16).

When we are saved we become God’s children, and can come to God without fear or hesitation because He is our Daddy (vs. 15).  We are no longer cringing and fearful slaves.  Instead, we are the Master’s children.  We share in great treasures as co-heirs with Jesus (vs. 17).  Unsaved people are a slave to their fears, particularly the fear of death and of the Final Judgment (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Every believer is an heir of God (vs. 17).  Every adopted child of God will receive by divine grace the full inheritance that Jesus Christ receives by divine right.  Whatever Jesus has through inheritance has become ours through the very same inheritance.  I am an heir of God, and a joint heir with my elder brother Jesus!

Paul closes with reminding us that though we are joint-heirs with Jesus of all the treasures of heaven, we also share in His sufferings (vs. 17).  There is a price for being identified with Jesus.  Along with great treasures, Paul mentions the suffering that Christians must face.  All around the world Christians are suffering for their faith.  For some it may be ridicule, or some may feel the repercussions at their job.  Others may pay a bigger price, such as being disowned by their family, and still others pay with physical violence and persecution, including death.  Are you ready and willing to suffer with the Lord Jesus for your faith?  This world is becoming more and more hostile to those who faithfully follow Him and His Word.   Stand true and strong, and we will one day receive our crown of glory!

Monday, May 27, 2024

Jesus Is Mightier Than All

Psalm 93

When I was a child I had the opportunity to go see Niagara Falls, a spectacular and majestic waterfalls that straddles the border between the U.S. and Canada in western New York State.  Even though that was at least 55 years ago or more, I still remember that sight.  We went on the Maid of the Mist boat cruise, which goes right up to the rapids beneath the falls.  The water there is quite powerful.  Another powerful display of water are the mighty waves that crash against the ocean coasts.  I don’t live anywhere near an ocean, but have seen some rather significant waves crashing in Lake Michigan during and after storms.  As mighty as the powerful waves and waterfalls are, they are nothing compared to the majesty, power, and might of the Lord God, which our psalm today speaks of.

Psalm 93 is a short psalm, and in the five brief verses it pictures the Lord God as a great and majestic King in all of His glory.  As the Scripture opens, we read how Yahweh is clothed as a great King (vs. 1).  The first thing that the psalmist indicated that the Lord was clothed with is majesty.  This pictures Him with great dignity, awesomeness, and regal manner.  This is appropriate, as He is the King and Ruler of all of creation.  The psalmist continues by saying Yahweh is also clothed with strength.  Any great king would need to be a powerful one.  He would have to be able to defend his realm against all enemies, and maintain control.  Yahweh is more powerful and has more strength than any person or creature, as he created all.  There is no fake god greater than He, and He even has all power over Satan and his minions.  Yahweh is the sovereign Lord of all that exists. He has the power and wisdom to make everything happen as He desires.  Nothing can change that.

We continue to read that the Lord’s throne is from of old, and that He is everlasting (vs. 2).  Yahweh has always existed, and will always exist.  He had no beginning and will have no end.  He is not a created being.  There was not something before that created Him.  Rather, He is the One Who created everything.  We read in the Book of Revelation where Jesus called Himself the Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13).  He is the beginning, the end, the start, the finish, and everything in between.

The psalmist then compares the Lord’s power and might to that of the mighty waves and powers of water (vs. 3-4).  This is where I picture the powerful waves of oceans and great lakes of the world during storms, crashing upon the coastline.  Many people who have ignored or not respected the power of the oceans or other great bodies of water have lost their lives.  How many boats have been tossed about like nothing, being flipped completely over by angry waves when a storm rages?  Many times every year Chicago issues beach warnings because of dangerous waves, as they can easily sweep a person out into the water to their death.  And there have been a number of people who have lost their lives because they did not heed the warning as they approached waterfalls, such as Niagara Falls, in their boats.  Once they reached a certain point, it was too late, and the power of the falls as they went over took their lives.  Power as great as this is nothing compared to the power of the Lord God!

The sound of mighty waves and waterfalls is awesome, too.  Niagara Falls can be heard at a distance of forty miles away.  If God were to shout out, His Voice would be heard clear across the universe with no problem!  If we can’t outshout Niagara Falls, what makes us think we can shout louder than God?  Yet so many people sadly think they can.  Looking around the world today, there are so many angry voices raised against God.  They don’t want Him or His Word, the Bible, inhibiting what they want to do with their lives.  They don’t want Jesus telling them how to live, as they angrily scream for believers to get God out of here.

As our psalm ends, we are reminded of how holy Yahweh is (vs. 5).  The key to God’s eternal reign is His holiness.  His glory is seen, not only in His strength and majesty, but also in His perfect moral character.  God will never do anything that is not morally perfect, and He also calls us to be holy, as well (I Peter 1:15-16).

In closing, we see just one example and comparison with how mighty and powerful the Lord God is.  Just as it is foolish to underestimate how powerful waves and waterfalls are, so too it is foolish to think one can come against the Lord.  Do you know the Lord Jesus as Savior?  If so, His mighty power is there to help and sustain you.  He is always greater than all of our troubles.  No matter how high the floods or waves of trouble in our life is, the Lord remains greater than them all!

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Alert And Listening

Exodus 3:1-6

How observant and attentive are you?  Do you notice if there is a change in something that you see occasionally?  How well do you pay attention?  When someone is talking, are you really listening to what they are saying, or is your mind a million miles away?  And are you curious about what you see and hear, or is your mind dulled?  Our Scripture today tells the account of someone whose whole life was changed because he noticed something, was curious, and was listening.  Let’s listen to what God’s Word says to us today.

As our Scripture passage opens, we find Moses out watching his father-in-law’s flocks.  What a change Moses’ life had taken over the years.  In the previous chapter in Exodus we read about how, as a baby, Moses’ mother placed him in a basket which she put into the Nile to save his life from Pharaoh’s decree to kill all baby boys.  Then a royal princess found him, and raised Moses as her own son.  The first forty years of his life, Moses spent as a member of the Egyptian royal family (Exodus 2:1-10).  However, after killing a man, he had to flee out of Egypt, and ended up in the land of Midian, where he joined the family of Jethro (Exodus 2:11-21).  Now, forty years later, at age 80, he is out in the wilderness as a shepherd.  That is where we find him today.

Moses is out watching the sheep.  For a man who had the very best education in the world at that time, who had had access to the best entertainment, books, and conversations with learned and interesting people, sitting out in the wilderness watching sheep day in and day out would probably become rather dull quite quickly.  At his age, I can easily see him leaning back against a large rock and taking a nice afternoon nap!  However, that was not what Moses did.  He was quite alert to what was going on.  There were dangers in the desert wilderness - large wild cats, venomous snakes, scorpions, etc.  One false step and one could get bit or lose your footing and break a bone.  He must be alert to keep both himself and the sheep safe.

That day Moses noticed an unusual sight.  Off in the distance there was a bush on fire.  That sparked his interest, and he stood there and observed it.  Curiosity, interest.  Those two qualities would very shortly change his life.  God gave us good minds for a purpose, and we shouldn’t let them get filled with cobwebs.  Moses noticed that though the bush was burning for a certain length of time, it wasn’t disintegrating, so he decided to check it out (vs. 2-3).  Some have said that this was not a miracle or supernatural event.  However, those who try to put down everything miraculous in the Bible are wrong.  Moses had spent the last forty years in the wilderness tending sheep.  He would not have been in wonder over something that was normal and usual.  This aroused his curiosity enough for him to investigate.

God observed that Moses had taken notice of the bush, and He called to him from out of the bush (vs. 4).  God knew Moses’ name, and He called him by his name.  There are about 8 billion people on earth, and yet God knows each of our names.  He loves us so much that He bothers to know us each individually.  God knew Moses, and called him by name.  Moses, on his part, was both paying attention and listening.  When God called him, he heard and responded.

As Moses approached, the Lord told him to stay back from the burning bush, and to remove his sandals, as the ground was holy ground (vs. 5).  Taking one’s shoes off showed a sign of reverence in a holy place.  God was present there.  This was to prevent Moses from rashly intruding unprepared into God’s presence.

Taking off his shoes conveyed Moses’ own unworthiness before God.  God is our Friend, but He is also our Sovereign Lord.  To approach Him frivolously shows a lack of respect and sincerity.  This world today has no respect at all for God.  He is either completely ignored, or cursed and cast down.  Often even Christians have too casual an approach to God.  They refer to Him as their “buddy” and their “pal”.  There is very little bowing in reverence to Him anymore, which should not be the case.  Moses showed reverential fear in the presence of God.

The Lord God then spoke to Moses, telling him who He is (vs. 6).  The Lord didn’t say “I ‘was’ the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  Instead, He said “I am”, proving that these patriarchs were still alive with God, though they had died physically several hundred years earlier.  As Jesus said centuries later, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Mark 12:26-27).

In closing, are we alert and paying attention?  When God speaks, are we listening?  When He moves in our lives, do we notice?  And equally important, do we show the Lord God the reverence, respect, and worship that He deserves, for He is an all-holy God!

Friday, May 24, 2024

Thirsty? Come Drink Of The Living Water

John 7:37-39

Think back to a time when you were really, really thirsty.  Perhaps you had gone for an afternoon hike and forgotten to take along a water bottle or canteen.  Maybe you were working outside, doing chores in your yard on a warm summer day.  All you could think about is a glass of refreshing lemonade or ice water.  That is physical thirst.  How about spiritual thirst?  How do you know if you are spiritually thirsty?  We know what to do for physical thirst, but what do you do for spiritual thirst?  Our Scripture today gives us the answer.

As we open our brief Scripture passage from the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus was in Jerusalem at a certain religious festival (vs. 37).  The festival that John is referring to is the Feast of Tabernacles.  This religious festival was to celebrate and give thanks to God for the ingathering of the fall harvest, particularly grapes and olives, both very important crops for the Jewish people at this time.  This festival usually falls in September or October.

There was one tradition that the religious leaders would practice during the Feast of Tabernacles.  In this tradition a golden container of water from the pool of Siloam was carried by the High Priest into the Temple, and was then offered on the altar in thanksgiving for the rainfall the Lord gave, producing the harvest.  This ceremony was an important part of the festival, and the people would line up to see this procession of the High Priest carrying the water into the Temple.

As every farmer and gardener knows, plenty of rain and water is essential for a good crop.  This is particularly a concern in a desert-like climate, such as the Middle East.  One thing that particularly worried the Israelites during their 40 year wandering was having sufficient water.  A person can go a few weeks without food, but only about three days without water.  Again, this is physical food and water.  What about food and water for spiritual hunger and thirst?

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stood up before some of the people and gave an answer to that question.  He told the people that if they thirst, that is, a spiritual thirst, they need to turn to Him and be spiritually refreshed (vs. 37).  If anyone believes in Him, they will have rivers of living water flowing out of their heart (vs. 38).  If someone accepts Jesus as their Savior, they will receive the Holy Spirit, who is that living water (vs. 39).

In a physical sense, living water is water that is moving, that is good and healthy to drink, like a crisp, clear high mountain brook that is flowing over stones and rocks, on its way downhill.  That is generally fine to drink from.  However a pond where there is no movement of the water, that water soon becomes quite stagnant, especially on a warm day.  It is certainly not safe to drink.  We want living water, both physically and spiritually.

Jesus said that those who came to Him would receive living water, something that is good, and brings spiritual health and life.  Earlier in His ministry, Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at a well, and said He would give living water, referring to salvation and eternal life (John 4:10).  Here He is referring to the Holy Spirit.  They go together.  When one accepts Jesus as Savior, they receive the Holy Spirit and eternal life.

Jesus used this event, the bringing of the water into the Temple during the festival as an object lesson to make a public invitation, the greatest invitation ever given to man, for the people to accept Him and receive eternal life.  The Messiah has life-giving blessings, and promised the Holy Spirit to all who believe  The imparting of the Holy Spirit is the source of spiritual and eternal life.  His presence and power poured out on us are like these rivers of living water.

“Thirst”, “Come”, “Drink” - three words summarizing the Gospel invitation.  First we have to recognize our need for the Living Water by acknowledging our lost condition, our spiritual thirst.  Once we realize we are spiritually lost, spiritually thirsty, then we need to approach the source of provision.  We need to come to the Savior.  Once we come, then we receive what is needed.  We can drink of the life-giving water, receive salvation and the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024


Acts 2:1-11

Waiting for something that has been promised can sometimes test one’s patience.  Will it come?  Can I trust and believe the one who made the promise?  How long do I have to continue to wait?  What do I do in the meantime?  Will I even recognize it when it arrives?  These questions might have gone through the disciples mind while they waited for what the Lord Jesus had promised would come.  Our Scripture today gives the account of when His promise did arrive, and what happened then.

Shortly before our Scripture passage begins, Jesus had taken His disciples to Mt. Olivet, and gave them a few instructions before He ascended into heaven.  One of these was to remain in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit would come upon them (Acts 1:4-8).  So they waited and they waited. Several days passed, and nothing happened.  There are some people who would begin to get impatient.  Had Jesus forgotten?  They had no one to ask about this.  Rather than lose patience, give up, and just go back to their former life, the disciples got it right.  They spent the time in prayer together while they waited (Acts 1:14).  Whenever we don’t know what to do, whether the situation is stressful or not, such as this time, prayer is always a good choice.

While they waited, the Jewish festival of Pentecost approached (vs. 1).  The Greek word “Pentecost” means “50th day”.  This festival occurs 50 days following Passover.  It was also known as the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot in Hebrew.  It was a festival of celebration to the Lord for the beginning of the harvest, falling between May and June, where an offering of fruits and vegetables was made to the Lord (Exodus 34:22-23; Leviticus 23:20).  That holy day was a celebration of thanksgiving for God’s provision, and devout Jews would come from all over the world, bringing their offerings of the first fruits of their crops (vs. 5). The Holy Spirit came on this day as symbolic of the first-fruits of the believer’s inheritance.

While the disciples were gathered together in prayer on the festival of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon them in a dramatic way.  There was the sound of rushing wind, “tongues of fire” appeared upon them, and they were able to speak with “other tongues” (vs. 2-4).  This was a fulfillment of John the Baptist’s words about the Holy Spirit baptizing with fire (Luke 3:16), and the Prophet Joel’s words about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-29).

Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit’s work had come from without, outside of the person.  It was temporary, and only occasional.  After Pentecost the Holy Spirit now indwelt believers.  The Holy Spirit permanently remained, indwelling Christians, and would work in and through committed believers regularly.

Why “tongues of fire”?  Tongues symbolize speech, and the communication of the Gospel.  Fire symbolizes God’s purifying presence, which burns away the undesirable elements of our lives.  The Holy Spirit sets our hearts aflame to ignite the lives of others as we speak and share the Good News of Jesus with them.

One very noticeable effect of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was the speaking with other tongues.  What they spoke that day were the dialects of the people from other nations who had come to Jerusalem for the holy day.  Scripture says that the people “heard them speak in his own language” (vs. 6).  We see listed some of the countries and areas around the Middle East and Mediterranean world whose languages were miraculously being spoken by the disciples (vs. 8-11).  They did not speak meaningless babble, or some unknown language.  Rather, they spoke the established languages of the people visiting Jerusalem.  This was a miraculous occurrence, enabling the disciples to speak a language they hadn’t learned, in order to tell of the wonderful works of God, giving a witness for Jesus.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a one-time occurrence, and happens when a person is saved.  God puts His Spirit in the believer, and they become part of His Body.  The Filling of the Holy Spirit is a different thing.  This is something that happens over and over.  It is an ongoing process that happens as believers yield themselves to the Holy Spirit’s control in their life.  As they yield themselves to the Lord, He fills them with His Spirit.  If they ignore the Lord in their life, and instead live for themselves and the world, the Holy Spirit’s power in their life is weakened and depleted, but He still remains indwelling them if they are a genuine Christian.

As we see in this passage, there were many different languages, from all around the known world at the time, that the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to speak.  Christianity is not limited to any race or group of people.  Jesus offers salvation to all people, without regard to nationality.  Come to Him today!

Monday, May 20, 2024

Our God Provides Food And Breath

Psalm 104:24-35

Our psalm this week from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer for the week of Pentecost is the last half of Psalm 104.  This is a psalm proclaiming Yahweh as Creator of all things, and His care over all that He has created.  It is a moderately long psalm, and we’ll focus only on the second half today.

Our psalmist doesn’t debate whether or not Yahweh is the Creator of all, or whether perhaps life just somehow started on its own and evolved into all of the different species.  He states God’s Word as a fact that Yahweh created all (vs. 24).  Creation reveals that God has a vast intellect that we cannot completely comprehend. Our knowledge is finite, while His is infinite.  We see His intellect when we take a closer look at just about anything in creation, whether throughout the universe and galaxies, or here on earth with the multitudes of plants and animals.

In our segment of Psalm 104, our psalmist looked into the oceans, and the multitude of life found there (vs. 25-26).  Living in the Chicago area I am quite far away from any oceans, and have only been at either coast many years ago, as a child, but I have seen many documentaries and read about ocean life.  As verse 25 states, the oceans are teeming with innumerable types of fish, marine animals, corals, etc.  These range from tiny, microscopic cellular creatures all the way to the giant blue whale.  And He made such a variety, from whales with a horn like a unicorn, to the great variety of colorful tropical fish, to sea turtles, and then the other types of sea creatures like jellyfish, starfish, seahorses, squids, etc.  The psalmist mentions the Leviathan in verse 26.  This was some type of mighty creature, mentioned only a few times in the Bible, who could overwhelm man but who is no match for God.  Some believe that this might be a type of large whale, others believing it is a reference to some type of aquatic dinosaur, or unspecified sea monster.  Whatever the leviathan is or was, it was created by God.

All of creation, whether on land, in the air, or in the oceans, depends upon God for life (vs. 27-28).  Many people go through life without giving God a thought, not caring that it is only through His mercy and love that they have food to eat and air to breathe, the atheist saying He doesn’t exist, and the agnostic not knowing or caring.  Yet it is the Lord God who provides for their food.  Let there be a shortage of their favorite food item, a few bare shelves in the grocery store, and they will complain and even curse.  Yet when they sit down to a full plate, do they think to thank the Lord who provided it?  It is the Lord who provides for our food, and the food of every living creature.  And what a variety He provides!  Just think for a moment of all the delectable food we get to enjoy, and then the wide variety of food that each animal, fish, and bird needs to eat, and the Lord provides for it.

The psalmist reminds us that every breath we take comes from the Lord God (vs. 29-30).  He breathed into man’s nostrils when He created Adam, giving him the breath of life (Genesis 2:7).  He gave man breath and He can take it away.  I have asthma and a few other periodic respiratory problems, and I know what it is like to sometimes not be able to take a full breath, so I am thankful and grateful to the Lord for every good breath I take.  Just a few years ago the whole world saw the Covid pandemic, and countless people were hospitalized and on respirators to breathe.  Did they think to thank God for being able to breathe when they recovered?  I’m sure some did, but how many didn’t give Him a second thought?  Our every breath depends on God’s Spirit that He has breathed into us.  We depend on Him for our very lives.

Our psalmist closes his psalm with a brief reference to the mighty power of God in natural events, such as earthquakes and volcanoes (vs. 32). I have experienced neither of those, and don’t really care to!  If either of these events doesn’t get one to think about God, I don’t know what would!  God has awesome power, and He is able to do with His creation what He desires.

Our Scripture closes with a benediction to the Creator (vs. 33-35)., and also a prayer that the ungodly might no longer spiritually pollute God’s universe.  Although God has been merciful to let His fallen human creation live on, those who bless and praise the Lord desire to see the day when sinful men have been abolished from the earth, and the curse of the earth is reversed.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Only One True God

Isaiah 44:1-8

Today marks the Christian holy day of Pentecost, the day on which the Holy Spirit descended upon the believers.  Our Scripture selection from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, is perhaps one of the lesser known or referred to passages where this event is prophesied.  In addition to prophesying the coming outpouring of the Holy Spirit, there are several lessons in this Scripture passage.  Let’s take a brief look at these Words of the Lord through His prophet Isaiah, and see what He will speak to us and teach us.

Immediately prior to the opening of our Scripture passage, in the last several verses of chapter 43, the prophet Isaiah was pleading with unfaithful Israel to return to the Lord.  He had been proclaiming to the people exactly what they were, which is sinners.  However, now the Lord assures them of His love and grace.  As believers, we may stray from the Lord, but that does not mean that He will stop loving us.  He will always love His Blood-bought children, and will call them to return to Him.

God is our Creator.  Throughout Scripture the Lord tells us how He has formed each baby in the womb (vs. 2).  David proclaims that in one of his most beloved psalms, Psalm 139:13-16.  God’s Word states that both the Prophet Jeremiah and the Apostle Paul were set apart by God from the womb for the ministry He had for them (Jeremiah 1:5 ; Galatians 1:15).  God looks at unborn babies as people, people that He has a purpose for, and thus they most certainly should not be killed in the womb!

The Lord calls the people of Israel “Jeshurun” in verse 2.  That is a poetic name for Israel, and it means “upright one”.   The name is also used in Deuteronomy 32:15 and Deuteronomy 33:5, 26.  The word upright implies being honest, honorable, virtuous, moral, and ethical.  After centuries of straying from Yahweh and worshiping pagan idols, and all the other immoral practices that went along with idolatry, Israel could hardly be called “upright”.  Yet that is what the Lord called them, as He would redeem them from their sins.  The sinless Son of God took our sins upon Himself to pay the price of our redemption.  When we accept Jesus as our Savior, our sins become His, and we are given His righteousness.  When God looks at us, He does not see the sinner, instead He sees Jesus’ righteousness.  Even though we continue to make mistakes and fall into sin, we, too, can be called Jeshurun.

As Isaiah continues, he brings a prophecy from the Lord of His promise to pour out His Spirit upon His children (vs. 3-4).  This promise had a fulfillment on the day of Pentecost, ten days after the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven.  The term “water” here is a figure of the Holy Spirit.  The Lord’s blessings will be poured forth, and multitudes will come to know the Savior.

Both Jews and Gentile nations will hasten to count themselves as worshipers of Yahweh (vs. 5).  If we are truly saved and God’s children, we should not be ashamed of Him.  In today’s world, society has made being a Bible-believing Christian a shame and mockery.  Nevertheless we should not hide our relationship with Jesus.  We are to be His witnesses (vs. 8).

Isaiah continues on to proclaim the truth that there is no other God, no redeemer except the Lord Jesus (vs. 6).  There is only one God, manifest in three Persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Who are all One in essence.   He continues to describe how the false idols cannot predict the future, nor all of the occult practices people so often turn to (vs. 7).  If idols can foretell the future, let them predict accurately, as Yahweh has.  From ages past we have had the words of the prophets, giving us God’s Word in the Bible, telling us of what is to come.  And each word of what has been prophesied has come to pass.  We are His witnesses to that.

Scripture consistently teaches that only one true God exists (vs. 8).  All other so-called gods are actually demons, trying to usurp the worship that belongs to Yahweh, alone.  All those who have come to God through His Son, the Lord Jesus are His, and always will be His.  He will never forget them.  God is our Rock, the only sure ground of trust and confidence.  There is no one else.

Friday, May 17, 2024

A Prayer Of Jesus

John 17:11-19

What a blessing it is to hear some great man or woman of God pray to the Lord.  I don’t mean some pre-written prayers out of a prayer book (and I’m not implying that there is anything wrong with those prayers), but I mean listening to some personal, heartfelt prayers from a devoted child of God to their Heavenly Father.  That is what the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John is and our Scripture today is a portion of that.  The whole chapter of John 17 is a personal prayer of the Lord Jesus to God the Father.  He prayed this prayer out loud on the last night before He was crucified.  This was right after He gave some final teachings to His disciples that were gathered around the table when He instituted the Eucharist, or Holy Communion.  Let’s look at a portion of this chapter, of this prayer, and see what we can learn from the prayer Jesus made to the Father.

As our passage begins, Jesus stated that He was no longer in the world (vs. 11).  Even though the crucifixion was still to occur, and that He had not yet given His life for our sins, Jesus prayed as if that was a completed event.  Jesus’ mission would soon be accomplished with His death on the cross, and then He would actually return to the Father.  However believers remain in the world, and the Lord prayed for them, that the Father would keep them through His Name. This world that we live in is a hostile environment for believers who are living for the Lord.  It is God, alone, Who is able to keep us safe while remaining in the world, and Jesus prayed for that care.

The Lord also continued to pray that all of His followers would be united together, just like He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are united (vs. 11).  Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate divine Persons that are co-equal, and are united, God desires that all believers be united together.

As we listen further to Jesus’ prayer, we see that He keeps believers safe from being lost again (vs 12).  Jesus stated that all those who He had, the disciples, including the twelve inner circle, were kept safe and not lost, except for Judas, who was never a true believer to begin with.  Once someone is kept by God, they can never be lost again, there is eternal security.  Believers are secure forever because we are held by Jesus.  He also prayed that we would have joy in our life, just like He does (vs. 13).  The key to immeasurable joy is living in close contact with Jesus, Who is the source of all joy.  When we do, we have God’s special care and protection.

The world hates Christians because our values differ from theirs (vs. 14-16).  The spirit of the world is ruled by Satan, the prince of darkness.  It is greatly antagonistic towards Jesus and His followers.  We do not cooperate with the world by joining in their sin.  We are living accusations against the world’s immorality. The world follows Satan’s agenda, and he is the avowed enemy of Jesus and all true Christians.  We are to be light in the face of the darkness of this world, but not be a part of it, just like Jesus wasn’t.

Jesus continues to pray that His followers be sanctified (vs. 17).  To sanctify means to be set apart for God’s purpose and use, to be cleansed and made holy.  Jesus prayed that we be set apart for God, and not part of the world.  We are sanctified through believing and obeying the Word of God.  Daily application of God’s Word has a purifying effect on our minds and hearts.  Jesus then makes a very clear statement - God’s Word, the Bible, is truth.  The Bible does not merely contain some truth in it, but instead it is Truth!

As our Scripture passage concludes, Jesus prays for us as He instructs us to go out into the world with His message (vs. 18).  Jesus didn’t ask God to take believers out of the world, but instead for Him to use us in the world.  We are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).  Our assignment from Jesus after we are saved is not to sit around and look holy.  It is to go out into the world, not to be a part of the world, but instead to bring the Gospel to the lost, just as Jesus was sent into the world to bring salvation.  We are to do the work God sent us to do.

As we read through the prayer of Jesus for His followers in this chapter, we don’t see Him praying that we strike it rich (like some televangelists promise), nor that our life will be smooth sailing.  Instead He prays that the Father keeps us safe from Satan, that we are one with each other, that we have joy, and that we go forth into the world with His message.  This is His prayer for each of us.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Are You Calling God A Liar?

I John 5:9-15

Nobody likes a liar.  And equally so, nobody likes to be called a liar, either.  We all know or have heard of some people whose word isn’t worth a cent, their testimony in court wouldn’t stand for a second.  And then there are some whose word you could take to the bank.  We believe what they have to say.  How about with what God says?  Do we believe Him, or do we call Him a liar?   Our Scripture comes from the first letter of the Apostle John, and he warns his readers about whether we are calling God a liar.  Let’s see what he has to say.

Most of us have family and friends who are unsaved, they have never accepted Jesus as their personal Savior.  Some of them are so stubborn, too.  They just refuse to believe what the Word of God says.  Yet they will tell you this or that which they heard on the news, and they believe every word.  Or they accept some supposed “fact” that they read on some internet news site.  As John states in his opening verse, they receive the witness of men but they do not believe the witness of God (vs. 9-10).   Now not everything we read and hear is going to be false, not everyone is constantly telling us lies.  However, if we receive the witness, the word of sinful people, who can so easily deceive, we should gladly receive the witness of God, who cannot possibly deceive.

Mankind is sinful.  We all have a sin nature, and one attribute of that sin nature is that we are not always truthful.  However, God is all-holy, all-pure, and sanctified.  He does not lie, nor can He, for He is the embodiment of all truth.  He is Truth (John 14:6).   The Bible is His Word, and if someone is going to accept what some fellow, sinful human says is the truth, but refuses to believe the testimony of God regarding Jesus, regarding what is a sin, and anything else He says in the Scriptures, such rejection is the ultimate form of blasphemy.  They are calling God a liar.

What is the most important word that God has said, that so many refuse to believe is true?  That would have to be His testimony that eternal life is only through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 11).   God’s Word and testimony states that if someone has the Son, meaning that they have accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior, they have eternal life, and those who have not accepted Jesus, do not have eternal life (vs. 12).  This is quite clearly stated.  Yet so many people, including some people who claim to be Christians, state that everyone, as long as they are “good”, no matter what religion they may follow, or even if they have no religious adherence to anything, will go to heaven.  They say that since God loves everyone, and everyone is His child, that everyone goes to heaven, whether they follow Jesus or not.  This is blatantly false, and as John states, is calling God a liar.

As John continues, he gives those of his readers who have accepted Jesus as Savior some assurance of eternal life (vs. 13).  Our certainty of eternal life is based on God’s promise that He has given us eternal life through His Son.  Sometimes, especially with newer Christians, the devil tempts them to doubt their salvation, to make them wonder if it was genuine, or make them feel they weren’t good enough, etc.  If one doesn’t have any real assurance of salvation, there can be a lot of fear and little joy in their life.  However, we must take God at His Word.  He states that if we have accepted Jesus, if we have His Son, we have eternal life.  It doesn’t matter whether we “feel” like we are saved or not.  Eternal life is not based on feelings, but on facts, and God’s Word is true!  Do we believe what God tells us, or don’t we?  Assurance grows as we believe God’s Word.

John closes this portion of Scripture with a couple of verses on prayer, and having confidence that God hears and will answer (vs. 14-15).  Our confidence in prayer is not based on our earnestness or passion but on our relationship with God.  It is not based on how long we pray, or if we stay on our knees until they ache and are bleeding.  It is not based on how many tears we shed, how eloquent our words are, or how loudly we plead.  Instead, it is based on our relationship with Jesus.  We need to ask according to God’s will, and be in tune with what God knows is best for us.  The more we read and study the Bible, the closer and stronger our relationship is with God, the easier it is to often determine God’s will.  We might not always know His will, but the more we know Him, the less likely it is that we would pray for things that are obviously not within His will.  And when we know God’s will, we can know with absolute confidence that God answers prayer when we approach the throne of grace according to His will.  We can pray in accord with what God would want, not just with what we desire or insist (John 14:13-14).

In closing, do you believe God?  Do you trust what He has said in His Word to be true?  Or do you reject the truth of the Bible, or even just some parts, sections that you might not feel apply to this modern world today?  Doing that is calling God a liar.  Believe God’s Word, especially what He has said about His Son, Jesus Christ.  Accept Him as your Savior, for then, and only then, will you have eternal life.

Monday, May 13, 2024

A Victory Song

Psalm 68:1-20

We hear victory songs for many different events.  Many sports teams, whether professional or school teams, have songs that the crowds sing to cheer them on to a win.  Maybe not so much today, but in the past, various militaries on either side in times of preparing for battle, had songs that would hopefully boost their morale.  Today’s psalm is one written by King David, for the occasion of something grand, something he felt was a great victory for the Lord and His people.  Let’s take a look, as there are several verses of interest in this psalm.

Psalm 69 was written by the great psalmist, King David, and it was possibly written when the Ark of the Covenant was transferred from the house of Obed-Edom to the new location on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.   The Ark of the Covenant had been taken by the Philistines in battle during the final years of the time of the Judges (I Samuel 4:1-11).  The Philistines kept the Ark for a while, but the Lord showed His vengeance against the Philistines and their pagan gods (I Samuel 5), and the leaders decided to send the Ark back to Israel, where it remained in the house of Abinadab for twenty years (I Samuel 7:1-2).  After David became king, he desired to bring the Ark into Jerusalem, and organized a procession to do so.  However, when the Ark became jostled on the wagon which was carrying it, Uzzah tried to steady it, and was struck dead.  David feared to move the Ark further, so he left it in the house of Obed-Edom for three months (II Samuel 6:1-11).  Afterwards, David resumed his plans, and the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem (II Samuel 6:12-18).

This was a time of great rejoicing for King David and the people, and David’s psalm reflects that.  The Ark represented the presence of God with His people.  Its movement to a new location is a reflection of God’s continual blessing and conquest of their enemies.  The Philistines had thought that by capturing the Ark, they could now control Israel’s God, but they soon found out how wrong they were!  Then, as now, God’s enemies will soon be scattered and forced to flee (vs. 1-2).  These verses are reminiscent of what Moses called out in Numbers 10:35, when they moved the Ark from place to place in the wilderness.  David continues to describe the Lord as an all-powerful and mighty God, who rides on the clouds (vs. 4).  The Name YAH is a shortened form of the Lord’s Name Yahweh.

Have you ever felt totally alone, that there was no one to help you in your time of need, no one who cared anything about you?  At risk, vulnerable, and powerless people, such as orphans, widows, and the poor will always find the Lord as their Defender against those who come against them (vs. 5).  And those who are lonely, again often those helpless folks, will find comfort and fellowship with Him (vs. 6).  Only in God is there hope for these people.  God is a father to the fatherless, and a defender of widows.  He is there for everyone who feels an empty void in their heart for the love that can only come from God.  The love of God promises to fill every love deficit in our heart.

Further along in our psalm David describes a little scene involving some mountains in and around the nation of Israel (vs. 15-16).  The land of Bashan was an area northeast of Israel, including present-day Syria, and it has several mountain ranges.  The tallest mountain there is Mt. Hermon, which is possibly where the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus occurred.  Mt. Zion in Jerusalem was just a foothill in comparison.  David humorously describes those mountains in Bashan as being jealous of Mt. Zion, which God chose to dwell in and place the Ark of the Covenant.  They might have felt that they “deserved” that honor, being that they are much bigger.  Sometimes Christians get jealous of one another, wondering why God chose this or that one for some special task, even though they felt they were “more qualified”.  God chooses who and what He will, just like He chose Mt. Zion in Jerusalem where the Ark of the Covenant would reside, not a more spectacular mountain.

Continuing in celebration and victory, David describes God ascending on high, and leading the rebellious captive (vs. 18).  This verse was quoted by St Paul in Ephesians 4:8, and is applied to the ministry of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ, celebrating His victory over the evil powers and dominion of Satan.

In closing, when we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, we can know that we are not called to carry the burdens ourselves (vs. 19-20).  The Lord Jesus told us we can turn to Him to carry our burden for us (Matthew 11:28-30).  Just as a bedraggled rooster will crawl out after a devastating storm to still crow for the new day, we can still turn to the Lord in praise during times of trouble.  It is then that we can know that there is no one closer to us than the Lord Jesus.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

The Pretend Disciple

Acts 1:15-26

There was a traitor in the group.  He did his dirty deed, and shortly thereafter was dead.  Now, several weeks later, the group is wanting to replace the traitor, and fill his empty spot.  This isn’t the plot of some action or espionage thriller movie.  Instead it is from the narrative of the Apostles, during those handful of days between the Ascension of Jesus back into heaven and the day of Pentecost.  Let’s take a quick look at this account from the first chapter of the Book of Acts.

One of the last instructions of the Lord Jesus before He was taken up into heaven was for the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them.  There were now eleven of the original twelve disciples specifically chosen by Jesus.  However, there were many others who had followed Jesus from the early days of His ministry and who believed in His Words.  At least 120 of them were gathered with the eleven (vs. 15).  During those days between the Ascension and Pentecost, Peter spoke, saying that a replacement for the traitor Judas Iscariot needed to be selected, as Scripture predicted this (vs. 16-17).  Peter then quoted from Psalm 69:25 and from Psalm 109:8.

With the exception of Peter, Judas Iscariot is probably the most well-known of the apostles.  If you ask any random group of Christians to name all twelve, they aren’t likely to forget his name.  What do we know about him?  Judas was one of the twelve that Jesus specifically chose to be His close disciples, but he was never truly saved, which is why he was called “son of perdition” (John 17:12).  Judas was also a thief who helped himself to the group’s petty cash, which he was in charge of (John 12:6).  He allowed his desires to place him in a position where Satan could manipulate him when he betrayed Jesus.  He was possibly trying to force Jesus’ hand to rebel against Rome and set up a new political government.

Judas chose to reject Jesus’ warnings, as well as His offers of mercy.  He hardened his heart and joined the plot with the enemies of Jesus, and he remained unrepentant to the end.  Those privileged to be close to the truth are not necessarily committed to the truth.  Some may think that Judas didn’t have a choice, as this was prophesied centuries earlier.  However, Judas was not a puppet of God’s will.  He made his own choice.  God knew what that choice would be and confirmed it.  Judas didn’t lose his relationship with Jesus.  He never had a relationship to begin with.  We should ask ourselves whether we are a truly committed disciple, or are we an uncommitted pretender?

There are two accounts as to how Judas died.  In the Gospels we read that Judas Iscariot hung himself (Matthew 27:5).  In Acts we read here that in the field that was purchased with the money he received from betraying Jesus, he fell and his intestines came out (vs. 18).  What likely happened is that the rope or the branch of the tree broke, or the knot slipped, and Judas’ dead body, which by then would have been bloated, was shattered on the rocks below.

Peter, in accordance with the prophecy of Psalm 109, decided that a successor to the traitor needed to be selected.  They wanted to be sure that they were making a godly choice, so they had a few requirements.  The one selected had to have been a follower of Jesus from the very early days of His ministry, and he had to have seen the resurrected Lord (vs. 21-22).  Two were picked to be runners-up, and then they cast lots, and Matthias was chosen (vs. 26).  Lots were a common Old Testament way to determine God’s will.  The coming of the Holy Spirit in a few days then made casting lots unnecessary.  The ancient church historian, Eusebius, claims that Matthias was among the seventy that Jesus sent out in Luke 10:1.  The Scriptures do not mention him again, though tradition says that he was a missionary both in Ethiopia, and then later in the areas around the eastern shores of the Black Sea where he was martyred.

In closing, let us take one last look at Judas Iscariot.  He chose his own fate of hell by rejecting Jesus (vs. 25).  Whoever goes to hell has chosen to do so themselves because they do not accept Jesus as their Savior, just as he did.  It is a sad fate, as Judas had just as much potential and chance as the other eleven.  As Peter said, he “was numbered with us” (vs. 17).  He was one of them, not a stranger who betrayed Jesus.  Any one of them could have done that, but they didn’t.  Only Judas did.  What about us?  Do we betray Jesus in our words, our acts, or our thoughts?  Are we a truly committed disciple, or only a pretender?

Friday, May 10, 2024

Keep God's Commandments

John 15:9-17

Obedience is a word that a lot of people are not that fond of hearing.  Ask any child if they like to obey their parents, their teachers, and others, and if they are honest, they will frequently say no.  Ask adults the same thing, if they enjoy obeying the boss, the government, etc. and the answers will likely be the same.  We like to do things our own way, and don’t like restrictions.  This even, and sometimes especially, holds true for many people when it comes to obeying God and His Word.  People want to live their life their own way, and if they disagree with something in the Bible, they just won’t obey.  Our Scripture comes from the final teachings that the Lord Jesus gave His disciples on the night before He would be crucified, that evening when He instituted the Lord’s Supper. Among other things that the Lord taught that night, He spoke about obedience to God and His Word.

There are several results that we can find in our life when we obey the Lord and His Word.  One is abiding in His love (vs. 10).  Another is receiving His joy (vs. 11).  A third is that we will have love for one another (vs. 12-13, 17).  Another is that the Lord counts us as His friends, not servants (vs. 14-15).   Another is that we will bear fruit for the Lord, and that fruit will remain (vs. 16).  And lastly is that we can come to the Father in Jesus’ Name and have answered prayer (vs. 16).

Immediately prior to our Scripture verses for today, the Lord had given the teaching about Him being the vine, and believers being the branches, and our need to abide in Him.  As our passage opens, Jesus tells us how the Father loves Him, and how He in turn loves us, and we need to abide in His love (vs. 9).  How can we do that?  Jesus answers that question in the very next verse, by instructing us that in order to abide in His love, we need to be obedient to His Word (vs. 10).  We can continue in His love only as we continue in obedience and faith.

Obedience is an essential aspect of abiding.  It is vital that we obey God’s commands if we want fellowship with Him.  People who claim to know Jesus as Savior, but who don’t obey Him, are not being honest.  Jesus says that love and obedience go together.  There is no love if there is no obedience.  True believers will obey the Lord’s commands and submit to His Word.

When we obey God’s commandments, we will experience His joy (vs. 11).  Joy comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus.  When we have that, He will walk through all trials with us.  Time spent in the Word of God, and then obeying it, produces lasting joy.

An obedient disciple will also show love for his fellow believers (vs. 12).  We are called to show the same kind of sacrificial love that Jesus did towards one another.  Every person who trusts in Jesus becomes His friend, and the ultimate proof of His unwavering love is that He laid down His life for whoever would believe.

One very great result of obedience to God, is that when we do obey Him, He considers us His friend (vs. 14-15).  Jesus is our Friend, not because of natural interests or experiences, or because we went to college together, or are neighbors.  Those friendships can be broken and cause deep hurt.  Jesus is our Friend because He came to earth to die for sinners, and is Friend to those who accept Him as Savior, and obey His Word.  He knows our sins and weaknesses, and still is our Friend.  Jesus is Lord and Master, and should call us servants, but instead, He calls us friends.  He is always there for us.  We owe Him unqualified obedience.

As this Scripture closes, Jesus tells us that believers were chosen by Him to go forth and bear fruit for Him (vs. 16).  We didn’t find the Lord.  He wasn’t the one lost.  We were lost, and He found us.  We were chosen for a purpose, and that is to bear fruit for Him.  Jesus chose us, not only for salvation, but also to play a significant role in His kingdom.  He wants each of us to fulfill the particular purpose He created.

Lastly, Jesus tells us here that those who are abiding in Him, those who are His friends and are obedient, are able to come to the Father in His Name, and receive answers to prayer (vs. 16).  There is power attached to genuine prayer offered in Jesus’ Name.  We can approach God in prayer through our relationship with Jesus.  His death opened the way for us to have immediate, unhindered admittance to the Father’s present.

Do you want answered prayer?  Do you want to abide in the Father’s love?  Do you want joy in your life, and be considered a friend of Jesus?  All of this can be ours if we only obey God and His Word, the Bible.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

God's Sacrificial Love

I John 4:7-11

One major theme of the Apostle John’s first epistle is that of love, of how much the Lord God loves us, and how we are to show our love, not only back to God, but also for other believers.  Today’s Scripture continues the same theme from last week’s passage, and the admonition of believers to show love one for another.

John teaches us here at the opening of this portion of Scripture that love originates from God (vs. 7).  Love is inherent in all that God is and does.  Those who are born again receive God’s nature  Since that nature of God exhibits love as a chief characteristic, God’s children should also reflect that love.  As we are being transformed into His image, we should increasingly reflect Jesus’ loving character in our behavior and attitude.

Perhaps you know someone who professes to be a Christian, but is filled with anger and hatred towards this person or that group, even against fellow believers, not only in his own church, but in others, as well. Someone may profess to be a Christian, but only those who display love like Jesus had, truly possess His divine nature, and are truly saved.

The world’s view of love is contrary to that of God’s.  The world’s view of love is that it is alright to sacrifice moral principles and other’s rights in order to obtain “love”.  It is selfish.  The world says “Love is God”.  The Bible says that “God is love”, and He is holy, just, and perfect.

God’s love is a sacrificial love, and we are to show that type of love to others, as well.  Sometimes we show love to others by doing something special for them, maybe making a favorite meal.  If we deeply love someone we might buy them something expensive, like an expensive piece of jewelry.  Some people have spent a fortune on jewelry for their beloved.  There is an eternal monument of one man’s love for his wife, one that is visited by thousands every year, and that is the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century for his favorite wife.

The world shows love that way, but God’s love is a sacrificial love.  How about dying for the one you love?  Would you be willing to do that?  We might not have a problem in giving them a kidney, or even part of our liver, but to die for them?  That is sacrificial love, and that is what God did for us.  He sent His Son to die for our sins.  As Paul said, we might be willing to die for a dearly beloved one, or some really great person, but Jesus died for us while we were sinners and His enemies (Romans 5:6-8).  God’s sacrificial love for us is an example and pattern we should follow in showing sacrificial love to other believers.

We might think that we can’t show love to this or that particular person because they did this or that to us, that it would be impossible to “feel” any love for them.  However, love is a choice and an action, not just a feeling.  God is the source of our love.  He loved us, even when we were wretched sinners, enough to sacrifice His Son for us.  He is our example of what it means to love.  Our love for others should be very obvious to the world.  It should stick out in a world consumed with hate.

There are some that say and teach that because God is love, that He will never condemn anyone, that He will never judge anyone, that we can live and do what we choose, because God is love, and He will never punish or condemn anyone’s actions.  God is love, but He is also a holy and righteous God.  Nothing sinful or evil can exist in His presence.  He cannot overlook, condone, or excuse sin as though it never happened.  His love does not make Him morally lax.  However, if we trust in Jesus, we will not have to bear the penalty for our sins.  We will be acquitted by His atoning sacrifice.

In closing, remember that God loved us so much that He died for us.  He didn’t save us because of anything good we did, or because of some great quality of ours.  He saved us only because of His all-surpassing love, a love that we are, in turn, to show to our fellow brothers and sisters.

Monday, May 6, 2024

A Sure Hope In Troubled Times

Psalm 33:12-22

Many people would agree that these are very troubling times that we live in.  Wars are being fought in various parts of the globe.  Civil unrest is happening in many major cities around the country.  With a major political election looming in my country towards the end of the year, there is a great political divide, with so much animosity and hostility from both sides.  People are afraid and are looking for something or someone they can turn to and cling to for safety and help.  Our psalm this week gives us the answer of who we can turn to in the times of the dire trouble and turmoil that surrounds us.

We are looking at the second half of Psalm 33, and in this passage the unknown psalmist tells his audience, the people of his country, who alone they can trust to help them.  Since we do not know who the psalmist is, we cannot be certain of the times or the circumstances occurring then, but no matter whether things are going smoothly or not, he lets us know who to turn to.

As we read from our Scripture, the nation or people who have turned to the Lord God, and are worshiping Him, are blessed (vs. 12).  They can look to Him and be protected.  They have His favor and will be happy and be fully satisfied.  The more they turn to and depend upon Him, the more joy they will have.  As we look around the world today, who do we see the nations and peoples worshiping?  In addition to some nations that continue in worship of multitudes of idols and pagan deities, we see other nations worshiping power, worshiping pleasure and perversity, and worshiping money and technology.  None of these will ever bring happiness, joy, or satisfaction in one’s life or the life of the nation as a whole.  When countries turn away from the Lord Jesus, then they begin a downward spiral that will not end well.  Blessings only come when our God is the Lord Jesus.

People may think that they can hide from God, that He can’t see what they are doing.  That is a mistaken notion, as God sees all of us, everyone, and knows what we all are doing (vs. 13-15).  No sin, no attack, no crimes ever go unnoticed by Him.  Some may criticize and say that either there is no God, or else He is heartless, but He takes note, and will one day judge all those who have opposed Him and His Word.

As we continue to observe the nations of the world, both in the present day, and throughout history, who do the people trust in to protect them from their enemies?  Fear of enemy attack has caused many nations to build up their military, amassing weapons, armored tanks, etc., in the hopes of protecting themselves (vs. 16-17).  However, our psalmist reminds us that this is futile.  No matter how big one’s military is, that ultimately will not save them.

In ancient times a war horse was a powerful weapon.  We can think of tanks or highly sophisticated aircraft and drones as equivalent today.  But even if one’s military has the best, we are reminded that they are a vain hope for safety.  They cannot always deliver us.  We need to trust in the Lord God, not a military, not a political figure, nor in amassing great amounts of money and gold.  For sure protection, we must look only to the Lord God (vs. 18-19).

Not only do we face seemingly endless battles and warfare in the world, as believers we also face spiritual battles against Satan and his kingdom of darkness.  In our warfare against Satan and his powers of evil, our own efforts of good works are useless.  Our only hope in this battle is by placing our hope and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Only He can deliver us from sin, death, and Satan.  He, alone, is our help and shield, by putting our faith in His death on the cross.

Sometimes we may feel abandoned and alone in our struggles, whether it is a personal struggle or a national one, whether we feel like our own life is falling apart, or we look around and seem to feel that society is falling apart.  How comforting it is to know that God is, in fact, watching over us all the time.  Even though we can’t see Him, He is there.  Like a loving parent, His eyes and His heart are constantly on us wherever we go.  Don’t look to either man, money, or military for your help.  Instead, put your faith and trust only in the Lord Jesus for your deliverance.