Daily Devotion September 2020

9/30/20


Good morning! Can you believe this is the last day of September?


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/KLTu1xv2-Us



Complete the Verse & Name the BookSo then, each of us will give an account of . . . (completion at the end)



If I were to compile a list of my favorite chapters in the Bible, Galatians 5 would surely be included. It talks about the freedom we have in Christ. 


The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862. It declared that all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free” effective January 1, 1863. There were some slaves who had compassionate, generous, and kind owners and chose to stay working for their owners as freed slaves. On the other hand, there were slave owners who were ruthless, unreasonable, and heartless. This was likely the happiest day of the slaves’ lives when they were able to walk away from these uncaring owners as free people.  


Can you imagine a slave who had a ruthless owner, was freed, and then returned to owner? It wouldn’t make any sense, and yet that is what we do when we have been freed from the slavery of the law and then return to it. 


Galatians 5:


So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. 


Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.

Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended. I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves.

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t just use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another!

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them thereSince we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. 

Let’s thank Jesus for the freedom we have in him! How truly blessed we are! Let’s ask the Spirit to guide us in all we do. We can tell to what degree we are following the Spirit’s leading by the fruit that is evident in our life. Let’s look over the list of the fruit of the Spirit and choose one that we ask the Spirit to  grow in us this week: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. 



Verse Completion. . . himself to God. Romans 14:12 (NIV)


Continuing Brotherly Love


9/29/20


Good morning, Strong and Courageous. 


Song for the Day: https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AKGuLJmZwMm4aWU&cid=2EB13133EC9F291E&id=2EB13133EC9F291E%2113829&parId=2EB13133EC9F291E%2113815&o=OneUp


Complete the Verse & Name the BookEvery good and perfect gift is from . . . (completion at the end)



As Christians we aren’t to think like everyone else thinks. Paul tells us:


Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)


When we think like the world,:


·      we think riches will make us happy

·      we overemphasize physical appearance

·      we look out for #1

·      we put our needs over the needs of others

·      we develop a sense of entitlement

·      we think we’re good people (we don’t look at ourselves as sinners)

·      we think we are the ones responsible for all our accomplishments

·      we think we are the ones who put food on our table

·      we think we are the ones who control our destiny

·      we think God is a crutch needed by some people

·      we trust science, not God

·      we think our future is dependent on politics

·      we think we can build a secure future for ourselves


When we think like the world, God is not in the picture. We are in the picture, and usually you will find us right in the very center with everything happening around us. 


Have you heard of any conspiracy theories in your lifetime? I’ve heard of quite a few, but I had no idea of how MANY are out there. Take a minute to scan over the list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_conspiracy_theories


Did you buy into all of them? Who has the time and energy to create some of these? This isn’t an exhaustive list either as I’ve heard of other conspiracies that aren’t listed here. A person could waste a lot of time on something that is completely false. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) When we spend time with Jesus and study his word, we are assured we are spending time dealing with truth. There’s no falsehood or deception in Jesus. 


Isaiah had something to say about conspiracies. It’s found in Isaiah 8:11-14a:


The LORD has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the LORD of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe.”


What do people live in dread of in 2020? A partial list might include:


·      COVID-19

·      Fires

·      Floods

·      Tornados 

·      Collapse of the financial market

·      Their political candidates not winning the election

·      Cancer

·      Global warming

·      Not having enough money to pay the bills

·      Anarchy

·      Violence

·      Losing a loved one


Shouldn’t we fear these things? Not really; we should be smart and do what is in our power to do:


·      COVID-19: practice social distancing, wear masks, wash hands

·      Fires: build a perimeter around a house of materials that can’t burn, avoid burning outside, evacuate when called upon to do so

·      Election: vote for the candidate of your choice

·      Cancer: avoid chemicals known to cause cancer, eat foods known to resist cancer, follow the orders given by a doctor


When we have done what we know to do, we make the LORD of Heaven’s Armies holy in our lives (not necessarily in that order)We acknowledge the sovereignty of God. He is ultimately the One in control; we are not. I find that to be very comforting. The world isn’t this scary place that is out of control. God is in control. Nothing catches him by surprise or startles him. God never says, “I didn’t see that one coming!”


If we vote for a candidate and that candidate loses the election, we don’t become fearful. God is in control. God is able to fulfill his will no matter who is in office. If we do all we know to do and still contract the coronavirus, we don’t become fearful. God is in control. God is able to fulfill his will in our lives whether we have COVID-19 or don’t have COVID-19. 


There’s only One we need to fear, and that is God himself! He’s the one who controls our eternal destiny. Violence doesn’t control my final destiny. Losing a loved one doesn’t control my final destiny. Not having enough money to pay my bills doesn’t control my final destiny. COVID-19 doesn’t control my final destiny (even if it kills me). Only God controls my final destiny. That simplifies everything. I only have ONE thing to fear—not an unending list of things! 


Here’s another comforting word from God: he has the power to keep us safe. Social distancing, masks, and washing hands can lessen our chances of getting COVID-19, but those things can’t guarantee us safety from the virus. However, God can guarantee us safety. If his sovereign will is that we don’t get the virus, we won’t get the virus. 


We don’t have anything to fear except God. Jesus said:


“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?” (Luke 12:22-26)


Let’s not be like the world and live with a long list of things that frighten us. Let’s let God transform us into new people by changing the way we think. Let’s be strong and courageous and fear only God!



Verse Completion. . . above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 (NIV)


9/25/20


Good morning, People of Grace and Peace. 


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/WLmI0lT_prA



Complete the Verse & Name the BookLook straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday, Dr. Wedman started Season 2 of Fireside Fellowship with an introduction and background to 1 Thessalonians. The church at Philippi was the first church that Apostle Paul established in the province of Macedonia; Thessalonica was the second. Acts 16 is about Paul in Philippi while Acts 17 is about Paul in Thessalonica. 


Paul and Silas then traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people. He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.” Some of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women. (Acts 17:1-4)


There were more Greeks who were open to what Paul was preaching than Jews. It was not the norm, but women held positions of prominence in Thessalonica. Paul preached the gospel message to all people. 


But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.”

The people of the city, as well as the city council, were thrown into turmoil by these reports. So the officials forced Jason and the other believers to post bond, and then they released them.  (Acts 17:5-9)


Not everyone wanted to hear or receive the gospel message in Thessalonica. The Pharisees were not happy about people leaving their synagogue and becoming Christians. A rift was developing between those who followed Judaism and those who followed Christianity. Those who followed Christianity believed Jesus was the Messiah—God with skin on—the Savior of the world. Those who followed Judaism did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. The Pharisees wanted the people following them, not following Paul or anyone else. The gospel was standing in the way of their prominence and success, and it made them jealous.


They rounded up troublemakers to do what they wanted done but weren’t willing to do themselves. They wanted to get rid of the gospel and the messengers of the gospel. They rounded up bad people to do bad things—riot. Riots and mobs are all about chaos, destruction, noise, confusion, and creating disorder. 


Have Jason, Paul, or any of the other Christians in Thessalonica done anything illegal, unethical, immoral, or unbiblical? No! And yet those of bad character are accusing those of good character. They deflect their own bad behavior onto those who have behaved properly. Rioters always blame their bad behavior on someone else. They turn truth into falsehood. Jesus and His followers weren’t trying to overthrow the Roman Empire, but the Jews were trying to put fear into the people telling them the Romans would have to come to Thessalonica and likely remove their free status if the Christians were not stopped. 


Turmoil is designed to bring about an emotional reaction. The emotions run high and rational thinking diminishes. Turmoil causes fear. Making decisions out of fear is never a godly thing to do.


The rioters wanted to force their will upon others. They forced Jason and the other believers to post bond. The ones who had no guilt are proclaimed guilty by the ones who did have guilt. 


This was the climate Paul was faced with as he tried to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s not unlike the climate and culture of our modern times; people are against the gospel. 


The province of Macedonia was the kingdom of Alexander the Great. Philippi was named after Alexander the Great’s father, Philip. Thessalonica was named after Alexander the Great’s half-sister. Thessalonica was Greek and they want to stay Greek. Originally, Thessalonica was named Therma because there were hot springs close to there. 


The Romans took over the Greek Empire and took over the province of Macedonia in 146 B.C. Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C. The Romans made Thessalonica the capitol of Macedonia. 


The first civil war that took place in Rome involved the great general Pompey. His headquarters was located in Thessalonica. He was able to put down the civil unrest, but he eventually fell out of favor with Rome. In the second civil war, Pompey was defeated by Octavian, Mark Antony and Cleopatra. This put Thessalonica in a good position to be rewarded by Rome as a free city: no garrison of Roman soldiers, didn’t have to follow Roman law, they could be self-governing, free to follow their own customs and religions, free to be Greek, allowed to have public protests. Thessalonica was proud of their Greekness. This was very different from Philippi which was through-and-through Roman. Roman soldiers would retire in Philippi. 


Thessalonica was an important city economically. It was a center of trade. It connected the east with the west. It was a port city that did business overseas. It was wealthy and prosperous. The population was around 200,000; rivaled only by Constantinople to the east. Paul knew Thessalonica would be a great place to plant seeds of the gospel because the gospel would likely spread to the outer parts of the earth since Thessalonica was a hub of sorts. Since it was a free-thinking place, people might be more open to hearing about Christianity. Emperor worship was not stressed like it was in other places. 


Paul said the way to know God was through Jesus because Jesus was God with skin on. On the other hand were the Judaizers who said, “We know God. We have the corner of the market for God. Afterall, we’re his people. If anyone knows God, it’s us.”  


1 Thessalonians was written around 51 A.D. It was the first epistle that Paul wrote, and he wrote it from Corinth. He loved those living in Thessalonica just as he loved those living in Philippi. Paul is concerned about them, and that’s why he sent them Timothy. When Paul heard the report from Timothy, he was concerned about their faith and found it necessary to write them a letter. He knew it was difficult to follow Christ when there’s a lot of opposition and when the surrounding culture doesn’t follow Christ. Paul knew the church in Thessalonica needed encouragement. He wanted them to be rooted and grounded in the gospel. 


Paul also defends himself from slander in this letter. 


Paul starts the letter with these words:


This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy. We are writing to the church in Thessalonica, to you who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May God give you grace and peace.

We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. (verses 1 and 2)


Notice how he says God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ all together in the same sentence. Jesus is God with skin on. The Savior of the world is Jesus. Paul wants them to experience grace and peace in this place of turmoil, chaos, falsehood, and rioting. God’s grace and peace are able to be experienced in times of persecution and turmoil.



Verse Completion. . . sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. Proverbs 4:25-27 (NLT)


Esau's Negative Example


9/24/20


Good morning, Harmless as Doves. (see Matthew 10:16)


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/YiUWK8HK1bA



Complete the Verse & Name the BookHeal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, . . . (completion at the end)



Today we continue with more of the wisdom of Solomon found in Ecclesiastes:


Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. (7:3)


There have been times of refining in my life, and they have always been during times of sorrow or sadness. I like to laugh and have a good time, but I can’t say that I’ve ever been refined by laughter.


Psalm 66:8-12 says:


Let the whole world bless our God and loudly sing his praises. Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling. You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver. You captured us in your net and laid the burden of slavery on our backs. Then you put a leader over us. We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance.


Isaiah 48:10 says:


I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering


Daniel 12:10 says:


Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials. But the wicked will continue in their wickedness, and none of them will understand. Only those who are wise will know what it means. 


James 1:2-3 says:


Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.


Romans 5:3-4 says:


We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.


2 Corinthians 7:10 says:


For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.


Solomon said:


A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time. (7:4) Why would a wise person think a lot about death? Whenever I attend a funeral service or a celebration of life, I walk away with renewed purpose. I am reminded that we don’t live forever here on this earth. Life is short; it’s here one day and gone the next. Thinking about death helps us to reprioritize our lives and put more emphasis on what’s important and less on having a good time.


More wisdom from Solomon:


·      Better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool. (7:5)

·      Finishing is better than starting. (7:8a)

·      Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life. (7:14)

·      I have seen everything in this meaningless life, including the death of good young people and the long life of wicked people. (7:15)

·      When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong. (8:11)

·      In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless! (8:14b)

·      There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!” (9:4)

·      I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.

People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or birds in a trap, people are caught by sudden tragedy. (9:11-12)

·      If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes. (10:4)

·      Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed. (10:10)

·      But divide your investments among many places, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead. (11:2)

·      Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. (11:4)

·      When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless. (11:8)

·      Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. (11:9a)


If Solomon said everything is meaningless, then it would reason that nothing has meaning. If nothing has meaning, then is Solomon saying, “Do whatever you want. Nothing you do makes any difference.”? Here is his conclusion:


The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep.

But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out.


That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.



Verse Completion. . . freely give. Matthew 10:8 (NASB)


The Discipline of Sons


9/23/20


Good morning, Shrewd as Snakes. (see Matthew 10:16)


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/j7rIvi2eKbE



Complete the Verse & Name the BookGuard your heart above all else, for . . . (completion at the end)



Are you a pessimist or an optimist? I try to be an optimist, but I try to be realistic at the same time. I don’t want to be like the optimist that fell ten stories and at each window bar said, “All right so far!”


When I joined the Air Force, I couldn’t believe how negative everyone seemed to be. It almost seemed like grumbling and complaining was required behavior. People seemed to complain about every little thing there was that they didn’t like. I found it to be wearing. I was thankful for those times when I could get away from the base and be free from all the negative chatter. 


Solomon is said to be one of the wisest men who ever walked the earth. When he wrote Ecclesiastes, he seemed to be disillusioned with a lot of what he saw. If life had been compared to a glass of water at the halfway mark, Solomon probably would have said the glass was half empty. He said things like:


·      Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content(1:8).

·      History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new (1:9).

·      We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now (1:11).

·      But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere (2:11).

·      Yet I saw that the wise and the foolish share the same fate. Both will die. So I said to myself, “Since I will end up the same as the fool, what’s the value of all my wisdom? This is all so meaningless!” (2:14b-15)

·      I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned (2:18).

·      So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless (2:22-23).


Sometimes when we complain, we release some things that are bothering us, and then we gain a new perspective. That seems to be what happened to Solomon. In Chapter 3 he said:


What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again. (verses 9-15)


Solomon had some interesting thoughts on money. Even though this was written around 935 B.C., notice how much of it sounds like it was written in 2020 and is wisdom that can be applied in 2020:


Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!

People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.

There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver. Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.

And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry. 

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past. (5:10-20)


Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny. (6:9-10)


Tomorrow we will continue with the wisdom of Solomon recorded in Ecclesiastes.



Verse Completion. . . it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23


Running the Race of Faith


9/22/20


Good morning, Truth Spreaders.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/usADINi17cI



Complete the Verse & Name the BookWe can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops . . . (completion at the end)



Today we continue with ways we can be deceived. The world tells us that in order to be accepted by God, we must measure up to certain religious standards. If we are good enough, God will accept us. Galatians 3:2-4 says:


Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?


Galatians 5:1 says:


So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.


Ephesians 2:8-9 says:


God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 


We can be deceived into believing what the world teaches us: there are many paths to God; Jesus is only one of those paths. John 14:6 says:


Jesus told [Thomas], “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”


1 Timothy 2:5-6 says:


There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. 


John 17:3 says:


“And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.”


We can be deceived into believing that the way to feel good about ourselves is to live up to worldly standards—to go along with the crowd. 1 Peter 2:1-12 says:


So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.

And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say:

“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”

Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him,

“The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”

And,

“He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. 


But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

“Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.


It’s not only the world that can deceive us; we can deceive ourselves. We think we can hear God’s word but not do what it says. We feel like we have done our Christian duty by going to church or listening to the service online. We don’t make the connection of hearing God’s word and then applying it to our lives. James 1:22 says:


But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 


Matthew 21:28-32 says:


“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyards today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.

“Which of the two obeyed his father?”

They replied, “The first.”

Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.”


We can deceive ourselves into thinking we have no sin. 1 John 1:8-10 says:


If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. 


Romans 3:23 says:


For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.


We can deceive ourselves into believing we are something we are not. Galatians 6:3 says:


If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.


Romans 12:3 says:


Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.


We can deceive ourselves into believing we are wise by buying into the standards of wisdom used in this world. 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 says:


Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.”


We can deceive ourselves by believing we can say to others whatever we feel like saying. James 1:26 says:


If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.


Colossians 4:6 says:


Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. 


Ephesians 4:29 says:


Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.


Matthew 15:11 has the following words of Jesus:


“It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”


Matthew 12:33-35 has the following words of Jesus:


“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”


We can be deceived into thinking that God is the source of my problems. Lamentations 3:13-24 says:


[The LORD] shot his arrows deep into my heart. My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs. He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink. He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!”

The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:

The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”


We can deceive ourselves into thinking we can live successfully without the help of anyone else.  We say, “Our country was built on rugged individualism, and I can make it on my own just like the pioneers. I’m proud that I’m not dependent on anyone else.” 1 Corinthians 12:14-21 says:


Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”



Verse Completion. . . strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. Romans 5:3-4 (NLT)


9/21/20


Good morning, Humble Servants of Jesus.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/8S0O5kGQY5o



Complete the Verse and Name the BookMy child, don’t reject the LORD’S discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the LORD corrects those . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday Pastor Michael gave the sermon “Seeking and Silencing” based on Matthew 21:1-17


The book of Matthew is divided into five parts. Chapter 21 starts the last part. The timing of the events here are about a week before Jesus was crucified. He has been traveling with his disciples for around three years, and now they are entering Jerusalem for the last time before Jesus is crucified. 


As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. (verse 1)


The number of people that would have been in Jerusalem for the Passover was around two to two and a half million. There were 250,000 lambs that were sacrificed. Jerusalem was busy. There was a lot of activity. It was a festive time, and everyone wanted to be in Jerusalem for Passover. Every male within 20 miles of Jerusalem was required to be there. It was a wonderful time of celebration when they remembered when they were freed from bondage in Egypt—when they placed the blood of the sacrificial lamb on their doorpost so the angel of death would pass overtheir dwelling. Passover was a time when they remembered how God showed up in their past, and they looked forward to and expected a time when God would show up again in their present. This was a very special Passover because Jesus was going to show up. They anticipated that he would reveal that he was the Messiah. 


“Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.” (verses 2-3)


Why would Jesus want to ride on a donkey? He’s walked everywhere with his disciples. Why would he want to ride a donkey now with only two miles left before entering Jerusalem? There are three reasons:


·      Donkeys were used by those in royalty/leadership. Donkeys were ridden by rulers and kings during times of peace. They were ridden to show authority. The donkey became a symbol of peaceful authority. 


White horses, on the other hand, were used by military commanders to ride into town after a successful battle. White horses were the symbol of the powerof their authority while donkeys were the symbol of the position of their authority. Jesus is riding on a donkey to show the position of his authority. He was clearly showing his authority as the Messiah. 


·      Jesus was bringing to mind an incident that happened in ancient Israel (see 2 Samuel 16, 17, and 18). David’s son, Absalom, decided he was going to take over the kingdom. When David found out about it, he left Jerusalem. Absalom then took the throne, and set out to kill his father in order to secure the throne. Absalom’s plan doesn’t go as planned, and Absalom is killed. David returns to Jerusalem traveling through Bethphage riding on a donkey. David wanted to show the people he was returning as a man of peace; he was not returning as a man of war. Jesus took the same route that King David took. By riding on a donkey, he may have been bringing back that imagery of David riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus was saying to the people that he was entering Jerusalem as a man of peace. 


·      Jesus knew he needed to fulfill prophecy. 


This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.’” (verses 4-5) This prophecy is from Zechariah 9:9. It could also be from Isaiah 62:11


Jesus was unmistakably declaring, “I am the Messiah.” Year after year they celebrated the Passover in expectation of the Messiah coming, and now the Messiah was there. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus didn’t want people to know he was the Messiah because he knew that would start the road to the cross. It wasn’t the right time back then, but now is the right time to announce that he was the Messiah—the Savior of the world, the son of David, the King. Jesus wanted the people to have salvation. He wanted them to know who God is, and the only way to know God is through Jesus. 


Matthew wanted his audience back then to know Jesus was the Messiah, and he wanted his modern day audience, you and me, to know Jesus is the Messiah. Earlier in his book, he showed how the birth of Christ fulfilled prophecy. Now at the death narrative, Matthew is doing the same thing. Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world. There is no other Savior. 


The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.

Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Praise God in highest heaven!” (verses 6-9)


To understand what is going on here, we need to look at 2 Kings 9:1-13. Elisha the prophet anointed Jehu as the next king. When Jehu’s officers found out what had taken place, they spread out their cloaks on the bare steps. Spreading cloaks or branches on the ground was symbolic of recognizing kingship and to show submission to that kingship. It’s similar to rolling out the red carpet. The disciples of Jesus and the crowd recognized Jesus as the King, the Messiah, and they were showing submission to him. 


Hosanna means “save us” or “Savior.”  The people were recognizing Jesus as the Savior, the only one who could save them. The Son of David is a direct reference to the Messiah. The people are praising God that the Messiah has finally come. Jesus is receiving worship as the Messiah. 


The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.

And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”(verses 10-11)


This was a seismic event! This was bigger than the Super Bowl. The prophet is a clear reference to Deuteronomy 18:15-20:


Moses continued, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you yourselves requested of the LORD your God when you were assembled at Mount Sinai. You said, “Don’t let us hear the voice of the LORD our God anymore or see this blazing fire, for we will die.’

“Then the LORD said to me, ‘What they have said is right. I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him. I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf. But any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must die.’”


When Matthew was recalling the birth of Jesus in 2:3, he uses the words: King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.The people are again deeply disturbed by the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. 


Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” (verses 12-13)


The Jews were looking for a Messiah who would be a conquering king. Riding into Jerusalem on a donkey instead of a white horse didn’t fit with their expectations. However, someone knocking over tables and chairs would seem to fit their expectations, but it wasn’t the tables and chairs of the Romans; it was the tables and chairs of some Israelites. 


There were three Temple courts. The outer court was called the Court of the Gentiles. The Gentiles were allowed to hear instructions, hear teaching, and pray in this court, but they were not allowed to go any further into the Temple. Next came the Court of Women, and after that was the Court of Men. Beyond that was the place where the priests worked burning incense and offering sacrifices. Finally, there was the Holy of Holies where only the high priest could enter once a year. 


The money changing tables were located in the Court of the Gentiles. These were necessary because once a year all Israelites had to pay the Temple tax. Normally, the tax was paid at Passover. However, it could be paid earlier. We see an example of this in Matthew 17:24-27 when Jesus told Peter to take the silver coin from the fish’s mouth and pay the tax. 


The Temple tax had to be paid in a particular currency, and it was always the currency with the most value. People would enter the outer court with their currency from wherever they were coming from, and they would be required to exchange it into the prevailing currency. An exchange rate would have to be paid if the value of a person’s money was below the value of the prevailing currency. For most people, an exchange rate would have to be paid. Money changers would inflate the exchange rate in order to pad their pockets. They would typically rip people off because they had a monopoly on the system. If the people wanted to participate in the festivities, they would have to exchange their money to the prevailing currency. 


There were those selling doves and lambs in the outer court as well. Sacrifices were required. People were allowed to bring their own animals to sacrifice, but those animals had to be inspected. If the animal didn’t pass the temple inspectors, then a purchase would be necessary. You can imagine how many of those animals didn’t pass inspection! And you can also imagine how inflated the prices of the doves and lambs were in the Gentile Court—even 10 times higher than the normal price one would expect to pay! People were being ripped off! That’s why Jesus turned over tables and chairs and said, “You’ve turned my Temple into a den of thieves!”


The money changers were greedy. They weren’t interested into the spiritual growth of those who came. In fact what they were doing was driving people away from God. We have to be careful today that we don’t do anything that would drive people away from God. If people come to our church and hear grumbling and complaining, it could drive people away rather than drawing them in. We don’t want to do anything that would hinder people from knowing God.


The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. (verse 14) This clearly indicates Jesus wasn’t in some kind of blind rage. Jesus was under control of his emotions. Blind and lame people do not approach those who are in a rage. They recognized Jesus was angry at the injustice that was taking place. They recognize Jesus was a person of grace. 


The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.”

But the leaders were indignant. (verse 15)


Why were they indignant? What they saw was offensive to them. It wasn’t fitting in with their plan. They weren’t getting their way. They heard praises being given to God, but they preferred to hear praises being given to them. They weren’t moved to thanking God for the healings. They were moved to anger because Jesus was receiving so much attention and they—the leaders—were not. Jesus was not bowing to them, but others were bowing to Jesus. 


They asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

“Yes,” Jesus replied. “Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.’” Then he returned to Bethany, where he stayed overnight. (verses 16-17)


Jesus was quoting Psalm 8:2. The children, the weak, the lonely, the lost, the humble, the least of these will come to know God. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). There are those who try to seek God and those who try to silence him. Any time we live by our pride and think we are something and want people to know how good we are, we are silencing the voice of Jesus in our lives and the lives of others. In humility we seek Jesus. In humility Jesus gives us grace. 


Are you seeking Jesus, or are you silencing Jesus? Are we humble before Jesus, or are we self-righteous? 



Verse Completion. . . he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12


9/19/20


Good morning, Truth Finders.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/xrbykRFzggo



Complete the Verse & Name the BookFor to me, to live is Christ and . . . (completion at the end)



Today we continue with the topic of deception. The world teaches that humility is not a virtue. It teaches us to be assertive and walk over others to get to the top. It’s a dog eat dog world out there. You have to look out for #1. Don’t be anyone’s servant. Rise to the top and be proud of what YOU have done. The Bible teaches humility is a virtue and we are to put others before ourselves. 1 Peter 5:5b-11 says:

And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.


Philippians 2:3-4 says:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.


Luke 22:26 has the following words of Jesus:

“But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”


Obadiah 2-4 says:

The LORD says to Edom, “I will cut you down to size among the nations; you will be greatly despised. You have been deceived by your own pride because you live in a rock fortress and make your home high in the mountains. ‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’ you ask boastfully. But even if you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down,” says the LORD.


Proverbs 16:18 says:

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.


The world deceives us into believing “everyone” goes to heaven when they die. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says:

Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.


Matthew 7:13-14 has the following words of Jesus:

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”


The world tells us that nobody has the right to tell us who we can or can’t associate with. We are entitled to our friends, and we can pick whoever we want. Just because we hang around chickens doesn’t mean we will turn into chickens. 1 Corinthians 15:33-34 says:

Don’t be fooled by those who say such things [“Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!”], for “bad company corrupts good character.” Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all.


Proverbs 1:10-19 says:

My child, if sinners entice you, turn your back on them! They may say, “Come and join us. Let’s hide and kill someone! Just for fun, let’s ambush the innocent! Let’s swallow them alive, like the grave; let’s swallow them whole, like those who go down to the pit of death. Think of the great things we’ll get! We’ll fill our houses with all the stuff we take. Come, throw in your lot with us; we’ll all share the loot.”

My child, don’t go along with them! Stay far away from their paths. They rush to commit evil deeds. They hurry to commit murder. If a bird sees a trap being set, it knows to stay away. But these people set an ambush for themselves; they are trying to get themselves killed. Such is the fate of all who are greedy for money; it robs them of life.


The world tells us we can read whatever we want, watch whatever we want, and listen to whatever we want. Just because I read about a murder doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and commit a murder. There’s nothing wrong with reading, watching, or listening to the latest and greatest. We need to keep up with the times. We don’t want to get stuck in our old ways. Proverbs 4:23-27 says:

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech.

Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. 


Proverbs 14:12 says:

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. 


Romans 6:12-13 says:

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 


Matthew 18:7-9 has the following words of Jesus:

“What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”


The world says the sinful life is the good life. You only go around once so hold nothing back. Go for the gusto. You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced everything the world has to offer. Consequences? There really aren’t any. Eat, drink, and be merry because we all end up dead in the end. Galatians 6:7-10 says:

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.


The world tries to deceive us into believing we have to gain the approval of those around us. When others approve of us, we will move up the social ladder and be happy. Sometimes we have to do things that some might classify as unethical in order to gain the approval of others, but that’s how the system operates. Everyone knows that’s how it works, so it’s fair. We’re all in this together. We’re simply doing what it takes to get ahead in life. Galatians 1:10 says:

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. 


Next week we will continue with the topic of deception. 



Verse Completion. . . to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 (NIV)


The Life-Giving Seed


9/18/20


Good morning, Truth Seekers. 


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/0DpSIIiWkEM



Complete the Verse and Name the Book: Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and . . .(completion at the end)



When was the last time you were deceived? I recently purchased some food in a box. I thought I was getting a fair amount of product based on the size of the box. When I got home and opened up the box, I found I had been deceived. I received a much smaller portion of food than I anticipated. I was deceived by the packaging. 


When I lived in the Philippines, I heard the story of a lowlander who traveled into the mountains to a remote village. He told the people in the village that if they would give him any amount of money, he could make it grow to twice the size it formerly was. At first the people were skeptical and hesitant to buy into what he was telling them. However, one or two people were willing to take a risk. They gave the man their money. He placed their money under a “magic” blanket, and they were told to return the next morning to collect their money.


Sure enough, when the lowlander pulled back the blanket the following morning, there was their money—doubled! To their delight he gave them back twice the amount they had given him.


He then announced he was doing this again, and asked if there was anyone interested in doubling their money. This time there were more people who bought into the idea. The next morning, when the “magic” blanket was pulled back, everyone received twice the amount they had given. This continued for several days. Each day there were more and more participants. People started giving the lowlander higher amounts of money to place under the blanket.


The lowlander was seen as an amazing magician. He had come to help the people in the village become rich. He was a hero. They were so thankful he had come to their village. After about a week, most people in the mountain village were giving the lowlander money to duplicate.


One morning when the villagers went to the blanket to watch it be pulled back, the lowlander was late in arriving at the blanket. Finally, someone got brave enough to look under the blanket, and found all the money was gone. The lowlander had skipped town never to be seen again. All the participants had been deceived.


The Bible warns us about being deceived by the world. The world tells us riches will make us happy. 1 Timothy 6:9-12 says:


But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.


But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you.


The world deceives us into thinking an abundance of food and alcohol will bring us comfort and lift our spirits. Proverbs 23:19-21 says:


My child, listen and be wise: Keep your heart on the right course. Do not carouse with drunkards or feast with gluttons, for they are on their way to poverty, and too much sleep clothes them in rags.


The world tells us to dress for success. Work out at the gym to sculpt a beautiful body so others will admire you. By looking good you will be accepted by others, and you will find yourself to be significant compared to others. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says:


Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 


1 Timothy 4:8 says:


Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.


The world tells us that satisfying sexual lust will bring satisfaction and no negative consequences. Ephesians 4:21-24 says:


Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.


1 Peter 2:11-12 says:


Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.


The world tells us that sin does not have eternal consequences. Hebrews 3:11-14 says:


So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.


Romans 6:23 says:


For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.


The world tells us they are doing what is right. We are wrong when we say what they are doing is sinful. What’s right for us may not be what’s right for them and vice versa. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 says:


These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.


Tomorrow we will continue with the topic of deception. 



Verse Completion. . . he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)


Moses Identifies with Israel


9/17/20


Good morning, Receivers of God’s Grace.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/fqOqcTafPv8



Complete the Verse & Name the BookAnd we know that God causes all things to work together for . . . (completion at the end)



Does God want us to experience sorrow? According to 2 Corinthians 7:10 he does:


For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.


There are two kinds of sorrow. One is a mere worldly sorrow—a remorse because one’s sin has been exposed. Sorrow is involved as one dreads the painful consequences of that sin. However, the sorrow is present only a short time. It doesn’t bring about repentance. This kind of halfhearted dissatisfaction with sin results in spiritual death. Romans 6:23 says:


For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. 


Romans 7:7b-13 says:


It was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.

But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.


The other kind of sorrow is a godly sorrow which produces repentance and results in salvation. There’s no regret with this kind of sorrow. In order for there to be repentance, a person must have a change of attitude. This change in a person is a sign the Spirit of God is at work in the person. 


Acts 11:15-18 says:


“As I began to speak,” Peter continued, “the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”

When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”


Romans 5:9 says:


And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.


In The Christian Experience of Forgiveness, Mackintosh wrote the following:


“Repentance, like every religious act, concerns the three cardinal modes of being conscious—knowing, feeling, willing. Sin is recognized, it is disliked, it is disowned. Recognition of sin by itself is not repentance; it may be defiance. Nor is sorrow for sin repentance, if it be alone in the mind; it may be remorse or despair. Abandonment of sin, by itself, may be no more than prudence. The regenerating fact is all three, as a unity, baptized in a sense of God’s personal grace to the sinful.”


I’m thankful for the sorrow that God wanted me to experience for it led me away from sin and resulted in my salvation. I heard the truth of the gospel proclaimed by a servant of the Lord, and the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sins. I felt sorrow for what I had done. I recognized it was my sins that put Jesus on the cross to die in my place. God changed my life that day. He gave me a different attitude. 


Let’s praise God today for the sorrow we experienced that led to our salvation!



Verse Completion. . . good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (NASB)


The Faith of Abraham and Sarah


9/16/20


Good morning, Friend of God.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/TpELMk4-3n8



Complete the Verse & Name the BookNever let ____________ and ______________ leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. (completion at the end)



2020 has been quite a year so far: worst pandemic in most people’s lifetime, worst fires in Oregon’s history, worst smoke to hit Puget Sound, the South getting blasted with hurricanes, people out of work, businesses closing, anarchy in downtown Portland and Seattle (and numerous other places) and don’t get me started on my personal aches and pains of 2020. If you had to listen to all mine, then it’s only right that I would listen to all of your aches and pains, and that would shoot the day. You probably have me beat anyway. 


What does the Bible have to say about our present troubles? Let’s read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and find out:


That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.


We all know our bodies are dying—nobody gets out of this life alive. However, if Jesus returns during our lifetime, that will change everything. It could happen! The Messiah had been promised for hundreds of years, but there was a generation that actually got to see the Messiah arrive on the planet. Just as sure as the Messiah’s arrival over 2,000 years ago is the second coming of Christ. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be the generation that would get to witness that?! One generation will see the return of Jesus! We can hope it’s ours. If it’s later than ours, that’s a good thing as it gives more time for people to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. 


Notice how this passage of Scripture says our present troubles are small. When you’re in the thick of it, the troubles don’t seem small at all. However, when we put everything in perspective, they truly are small. They won’t last very long. We’re in the thick of it with the smoke right now, but in a few days it will all be gone. Some predictions for the pandemic are three to five years. In a lifetime, that’s a short period of time.  


If you fix your eyes on all the troubles in our area and in the world (by watching the daily news), your spirits are likely to get down. I think Paul would say to watch the news sparingly. He said we don’t look at the troubles we can see now. What’s on the daily news is not the focus of our lives. What happens when we take our eyes off the present troubles? Our spirits are renewed! Our spirits are lifted. We aren’t focused on the here and now; we’re focused on the future. What’s in the future can’t be seen, but what’s in the future will last forever. In the future Jesus will return to take us to heaven to be with him forever. It won’t matter if we’re dead or alive at that point. Jesus is coming back for us. He said, “You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when  least expected.”


1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 says:


We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.


We need to fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen (Jesus, heaven) while we go about living our lives. Why? Because this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever (1 John 2:17).


Do you need your spirits renewed today? Take your eyes off the present troubles all around you, and fix your gaze on Jesus. The troubles we see around us will soon be gone. Jesus is forever!



Verse Completionloyalty, kindness  Proverbs 3:3 (NLT)


A Further Explaination of Faith


9/15/20


Good morning, Forgiven by Jesus.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/_kvzgoH-l90



Complete the Verse & Name the BookSo then let us pursue the things which make for peace and . . . (completion at the end)



Today we will continue with the topic of forgiveness, focusing on the Lord forgiving sin. The following article is from Our Daily Bread Ministries. The full article can be found here:  https://discoveryseries.org/courses/the-forgiveness-of-god/lessons/examples-of-the-forgiven/


The Forgiveness of God


The story of the Bible is the story of God making a way to rescue His creation from their sin and restore relationship with Him. Time and time again, God’s people hurt each other and hurt Him. Yet God forgave them every time they turned to Him. The first human beings were also the first humans to sin—and the first to experience God’s forgiveness. Given the freedom to choose to obey God, Adam and Eve opted for rebellion. Yet God pursued them and made a way for the human race to experience redemption (Genesis 3). Here are just a few more examples of God’s forgiveness.


Moses murdered an Egyptian in anger. Yet God used him to rescue His enslaved people. Aaron made a golden calf and helped the people participate in idolatry, yet Aaron was later appointed head of the priesthood (Exodus 32; Leviticus 8).


Rahab, a prostitute in Jericho, turned to the Lord of Israel and became part of Jesus’ family tree (Joshua 2; Matthew 1:5).


 After decades of opposing God in the worst ways imaginable, Israel’s most immoral king, Manasseh, repented. He found forgiveness and was even restored to his kingdom after having been a captive (2 Chronicles 33:1–20).


 Matthew, a tax collector with a bad reputation, became Christ’s disciple (Matthew 9:9–13). A repentant criminal who was crucified with Jesus cried out to Him and was welcomed into paradise (Luke 23:40–43). Peter denied Christ three times at the hour of Jesus’ deepest need, yet he became a pillar in the church (John 21:15–19). When the Pharisees trapped a woman in adultery, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy and forgave her sins (John 8:1–11). A greedy tax collector named Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus and came down to receive forgiveness (Luke 19:1–10). Paul, the killer of Christians and self-confessed “chief of sinners,” is a prime example of the grace of God (Acts 9; 1 Timothy 1:15).


 Luke gives us one of the most powerful accounts of the love and forgiveness of God. A woman with a bad reputation was washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. The Pharisee in whose home Jesus was a guest found such behavior scandalous and objected that Jesus would let such a woman even touch Him (see Luke 7:36–39). So Jesus said, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, Teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

 The Lord then explained how she who had sinned greatly was forgiven much, and so she loved much. But those who had not sinned as much loved less. Then Jesus told her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:40–48).


Common questions


It’s normal to have persisting questions about the forgiveness of God. We can’t ignore relational and emotional issues that stubbornly refuse to be put to rest.


What if I don’t feel forgiven?” Most of us struggle with feelings of guilt and shame. Long after we have confessed our sins to God, we are apt to feel unforgiven. We might fear we have been rejected by God.


Tracy, who struggled to forgive herself, understands this. “It’s pride that keeps us from forgiving ourselves,” she said. “We’re telling God that His grace isn’t powerful enough. Somehow, we have to do something else to earn His forgiveness. That’s pretty insulting to God when you think about it.”


When feelings of guilt hound us—and they will—we need to remind ourselves that our forgiveness does not depend on how we feel. Forgiven people can feel like they are hanging by a thread over the fires of hell. Forgiven people can be oppressed by the accuser of our souls, Satan, who stirs up old emotions. Suddenly we are oppressed by anxiety and despair. But our emotions are not telling us the truth about the forgiveness of God. Forgiveness is something God does. It is not rooted in our own emotions. It doesn’t depend on whether we forgive ourselves. Forgiveness is what God does when He marks “cancelled” over our debt of sin. We are forgiven when He declares us legally acquitted, regardless of how we might be feeling at the moment.


“Isn’t forgiveness something between us and God alone?” Yes, forgiveness is personal. No one else can decide for us whether we are going to believe in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. But personal doesn’t mean private. When we know the joy of forgiveness of sin we have every reason to go public. If we had found a cure for AIDS or cancer it would be criminal to keep the information quiet. Those who have experienced forgiveness must share their discovery with those still struggling.


“Why does the Bible say God will not forgive us if we don’t forgive one another?” The answer is in the context. Jesus said, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14–15). By this statement, Jesus was not teaching lost people how to earn salvation. Rather, He was teaching His disciples how to stay in a healthy family relationship with the Father.


“Does this mean we should always forgive others unconditionally?” No. Like so many other principles of Scripture, there is a time to forgive and a time not to forgive. While we are always to love others unconditionally by seeking their good rather than their harm, Jesus teaches us to forgive people when they acknowledge their wrongs (see Luke 17:1–10 and Matthew 18:15–17). We do not love well when we allow our brothers or sisters to knowingly harm us without holding them accountable.


By comparing Luke 17:3–4 with other passages, we must conclude that Jesus was referring to an unwillingness to love those who have harmed us and an unwillingness to forgive those who have repented of the wrong they have done. What He will hold against us (in a family sense) is our determination to withhold from others the kindness and forgiveness that He has shown to us. This is a “family issue,” and not a factor that determines our eternal destiny.


“But doesn’t God forgive us unconditionally?” When the apostle Paul told us to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32), he made it clear that we are to pattern our forgiveness after God’s forgiveness of us. God does not forgive unconditionally. First He grants legal pardon to those who meet the condition of acknowledging their sin and believing in His Son. Then He extends family forgiveness to those sons and daughters who confess their sin and seek to be restored to the Father.


“If we have been forgiven by God, why won’t people let us forget the past?” Being forgiven by God does not release us from the natural consequences of our sins. Crimes against the state must be subjected to legal due process. Acts against individuals deserve restitution. The forgiveness of God does not qualify former embezzlers to be entrusted with other people’s money, just as it does not give us reason to entrust our kids to someone with a history of harming children. This is wisdom.



Verse Completion. . . the building up of one another. Romans 14:19 (NASB)


9/14/20


Good morning, Faithful Followers of Jesus.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/a9xsUmo_zRA



Complete the Verse & Name the BookFor the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday Pastor Michael continued his first person sermon with “Isaac—The Crushing Victory” based on Genesis 22. Here is “Isaac” to tell his story:


I’ve had a very interesting life full of different stories:


·      How God brought me my wife, Rebekah

·      The birth of my twin sons, Esau and Jacob

·      How Jacob tricked me into believing he was Esau and, consequently, I gave him Esau’s blessing. 

·      Stories of good and stories of bad

·      Stories of joy and stories of sorrow

·      Stories of my life with God


Today I’d like to talk about who God is. You’ve heard how my father was 100 years old when I was born. I grew up hearing that I was the son of the promise God had given my father. I grew up hearing about Jehovah from my dad. I grew up hearing from others that my dad was a wealthy man, a powerful man, a respected man, and an honorable man. All I knew was he talked a lot about God. He also loved telling the story of my birth when my mom was 90 and he was 100. I would listen as he would tell others how God had promised him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Dad would tell me that I was the first of the stars, and my descendants would end up being as numerous as the stars.


Rebekah and I were married when I was 40 years old. Year after year we tried to have children, but we were unable to have any. We were just like my mom and dad. I would get discouraged about our situation, but Dad would say to me, “Isaac, you’re only 50. I was 100 when I had you. Don’t worry. Trust God. If God has promised it, He will do it.”


We ended up having twice as many kids as my parents, and we had them at a much younger age; we had Esau and Jacob. It wasn’t exactly like the stars at night, but it was a start. Let me tell you how my journey with God got started.


One day my Dad said, “Let’s go on a journey.” I was all excited, because I loved going on journeys. My dad, two servants, and myself would be going. We loaded up one donkey with supplies and took off. My dad rode on his own donkey (after all, he was over 100 years old) while the rest of us walked. Part way into the journey I asked, “Where are we going? What are we going to do?”


“Not too awfully far. We’re going to worship God,” was his answer.


We had done this before, so I had a pretty good idea of what was going to take place. While we walked, Dad talked about knowing God and having a relationship with Him. Nobody else I knew talked about anything like this. Most people I knew had idols they worshiped, and they spent their time trying to keep the idols happy. If the idols were happy, good things happened to you. If the idols weren’t happy, bad things happened to you. My dad said idols were nonsense. Instead, he talked to God and he listened to God. When God told him to do something, he obeyed. My dad always told me that if I wanted to have a relationship with God, I would have to listen to Him and obey him. I liked being able to ask God to do what I wanted Him to do for me, but it was difficult to listen for His voice and then obey it.


I asked my dad once again, “Where are we going today?”


“God will let me know,” was his answer.


We traveled a full day, and then we set up camp for the night. We built a fire, but before long Dad got up and went on one of his long walks where he would look up at the stars and converse with God. 


The next day we continued our journey, and Dad told me we were going to Mount Moriah. While we were walking, I said to my dad, “I think you forgot something. We have wood and fire, but where’s the lamb we’re going to sacrifice?”


Dad didn’t answer right away, but finally he said, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son.”


When we approached Mount Moriah on the third day of our journey, my dad told the servants not to go any further. He told them to wait for our return because just Dad and I would be going to the place where we would worship God. Dad put the wood on my shoulders while he carried the fire and knife, and the two of us set off.


We arrived at a place where we built an altar and placed the wood in it. I kept looking for the lamb, but saw nothing. Dad came over by me, gave me a big hug and said, “Isaac, I need to tie you up. God has asked me to make you the sacrifice today.”


I couldn’t believe my ears. My own dad was going to sacrifice me?! How could he do such a thing?! It all got real when he actually tied me up and placed me on the altar! I was my dad’s only son! I was going to be the one through whom the promise of many descendants would be fulfilled. This made no sense! I knew my dad loved me, and that’s what made this ordeal so confusing. I knew I was my dad’s most prized possession! His whole world revolved around me. How could God ask my dad to do such a cruel thing?!


While I was tied up on the altar, my dad raised his knife, and I knew my life was over. I looked into his eyes and I could see his love for me. It was still there. I knew he didn’t want to offer me as a sacrifice. Both of us started to cry. I saw pain, fear, confusion, and hurt in his eyes. He seemed as confused as I was. With the knife raised above me, I knew my dad was going to follow through with what God had asked him to do. 


I closed my eyes and waited for death. Then I heard a voice that said, “Abraham! Abraham!”


I opened my eyes. My dad was looking around because he had heard the voice, too. He answered, “Yes, here I am.”


The voice then said, “Don’t lay a hand on the boy! Don’t hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”


We heard a rustling in the bushes and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. My dad untied me, and together we quickly got the ram, placed it on the altar, and sacrificed it to God.


I knew that day I was my dad’s most prized possession; there was nothing he cherished more than me. But I also knew that more important than me was his relationship with God. My dad was willing to give up the most prized possession in his life to obey God. God was most important to him.


I learned that day that God can be trusted. I learned about God’s heart. God doesn’t want to hurt us or destroy us; God wants to love us and bless us. It was through that crushing experience that my dad gained victory and blessing. He went deeper with God that day. My dad showed me that the one thing that I prized most, that special thing I just couldn’t live life without, is the thing I needed to give to God in order to obey Him and be in a right relationship with Him. I was my father’s most prized possession, but he was willing to give it up for God. I learned that day that God loves me, and He can be trusted. That was really the beginning of my journey with God. I learned not just about Him, but I started to get to know who God was. I started a relationship with God that day. 


What is your most prized possession? What is it that you hold most dear to your heart? Are you willing to give it up for God? Is a relationship with God and obedience to God more precious to you than that one thing you have held dear to your heart for years? When we give our hearts, prized possessions, hopes, dreams, relationships, and everything else to God, God gives us something in return—His heart. When we give God our heart, He gives us His heart in return. 


Start your journey with God today. Give Him your heart. He can be trusted. He wants to give you His heart. Won’t you give Him yours?



Verse Completion. . . knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6 (NLT)


Encouragement in Love and Good Works


9/12/20


Good morning, Forgiven and Forgivers.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/A98YQHG8tLY



Complete the Verse & Name the BookDo nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you . . . (completion at the end)



The Bible has many stories of forgiveness. One of my favorites is the story of Joseph found in Genesis 37-50. There’s also the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 24-33. Other stories of forgiveness found in the Bible include:


·      David and Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9


·      The Prodigal Son in Luke 15


·      The woman taken in adultery in John 8 


As great as these stories are, the greatest forgiveness that ever took place was when Jesus left the glories of heaven and became the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God and died on the cross so we sinners could receive salvation. He endured persecution, humiliation, wrongful accusations, betrayal, beatings, and finally death . . . all for us.


We certainly couldn’t save ourselves because all of us are sinners. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.” 1 John 1:8-10 says, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.” Jesus was the only perfect person who never sinned and was qualified to stand in our place and die for our sins. He loved us so much He willingly gave up His life for each of us. Each time we go to him in true repentance, He forgives.


Jesus taught us about forgiveness with a parable found in Matthew 18:23-35:“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’  Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”


So where are you and I in this parable? We’re the king’s debtor who owed him millions and was forgiven the entire debt when he pleaded for mercy. That translates to the king being Jesus, and the millions of dollars are our sins. But we’re also the same debtor who wouldn’t forgive a servant who owed him a few thousand dollars right after being forgiven millions. Even though he was shown so much mercy, he wasn’t willing to extend a tiny bit of mercy to the servant. That’s exactly what we do when we won’t forgive others after Jesus has forgiven us so much. 


Psalm 103:12 addresses the extent to which God forgives us: He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. You’ve heard the saying, “Out of sight; out of mind.” If we would distance the wrongs done to us as far as the east is from the west, I think that would probably get that wrong out of sight and out of mind. God did it for us; let’s do the same for others. Micah 7:19 states, Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean. Let’s throw the wrongs done to us into the depths of the ocean.


The bottom line is found in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:14 and 15:If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Those are very sobering words.


So when are we off the hook for forgiving others? Peter asked Jesus that question in Matthew 18:21: “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” It looks like we are never off the hook. We are always to forgive others.


We’re pretty good at seeing the faults of others—in fact, I’d say we’re probably experts at it . . . maybe it’s from all the years of experience. Unfortunately, we’re not so proficient when it comes to seeing our own faults. Here’s how Jesus put it in Matthew 7:3-5:


And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.


The two verses before this are very applicable to forgiveness also:


Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. It’s easy for me to have two standards; one for myself (nice and low) and one for others (way up top). God says there’s one standard. The question is at what level am I going to place that bar. For my own good, I better put that bar nice and low, and, of course, that means one thing . . . forgive, forgive, forgive!


Nancy Guthrie wrote an article in Tabletalk Magazine called, “The Slow Burn of Bitterness.” She said, “A person who has truly experienced the mercy of God will be merciful. As we lean into and cherish that mercy, we begin to find it dislodging the bitterness that has made its home in our hearts. As we welcome the Spirit’s work in our lives, we find the fires of bitterness are being replaced by the fruit of the Spirit—love replacing contempt, joy replacing irritability, peace replacing our tendency to be so easily offended. We find ourselves increasingly able to be kind instead of cold, appreciating the good rather than looking for the bad, responding with gentleness instead of harsh words, faithful in friendship instead of settling for ongoing alienation, self-controlled instead of being forever controlled by bitterness. The fire goes out, and we are free.” Let’s be merciful people.


What else is God asking from us? Several more things:


·      He wants us reconciled with each other. Matthew 5:23 and 24: So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.


·      God doesn’t want us to retaliate either. Matthew 5:39: But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.


·      Then there’s the Golden Rule found in Luke 6:31: Do to others as you would like them to do to you. Do you like being forgiven for your mistakes? Forgive others. 


·      When Jesus was dying on the cross, He said in Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing. I know I’ve never experienced anything close to death on a cross, and yet I have had the audacity to have an unforgiving spirit. I’m a work in progress, for sure!


·      Stephen was lied about by false witnesses. Acts 7:59 and 60 tells what happened: As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died. What a spirit of forgiveness! I imagine Stephen had a spirit of forgiveness about him in the little things, so when it came to the big forgiveness, it wasn’t a leap. I’m still working on forgiving the little things.


·      What about us Christians in the church? Romans 14:10 says, So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. Ephesians 4:31 and 32 tells us to: Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.


·      James 3:5-10 warns us about the power of the words we speak. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!


·      Proverbs 15:1 says, A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. You know, I’ve never had to seek forgiveness after giving a gentle answer, but I have had to ask for forgiveness for words spoken in anger. Proverbs 19:11 says, Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs. Overlooking wrongs . . . am I the only one who struggles with this? I love it when others overlook my wrongs. I need to do the same for them.


·      When we dwell on the sins of others, we develop bitterness. Philippians 4:8 tells us what our minds should dwell on: And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellentand worthy of praise


Let’s wrap up the last two days:

·      Forgive others as Christ has forgiven us.

·      If we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us.

·      God can transform us into new people.

·      Forgive 70 X 7.

·      Be kind, gracious, and merciful to others.

·      God has forgiven us much; we can forgive the little things done to us by others.

·      The same judgment standard we use for others will be used on us.



Verse Completion. . . regard one another as more important than himself; Philippians 2:3 (NASB)


9/11/20


Good morning, Forgiven.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/-f4MUUMWMV4



Complete the Verse & Name the BookCry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for . . .



Proverbs 17:9 says, “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Forgiveness is so critical to our lives. For the remainder of the week, we will discuss this topic.


In my lifetime, I’ve seen some amazing stories of forgiveness. Here are three of those stories that were made into movies:


·      I Can Only Imagine is the story of Bart Millard who wrote the popular Christian song by the same title. Bart suffered terrible physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father, but he chose to forgive his father.


·      Unbroken started as a book by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s the story of Louie Zamperini, the track star, who joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. He then became a bombardier on a B-24. In 1943, his plane had mechanical difficulties and went down in the Pacific Ocean killing 8 of the 11 aboard. After 47 days adrift, there were only two survivors. Unfortunately, they were captured by the Japanese Navy. Louie ended up a POW until the end of WWII in 1945.


The prison guard at the POW camp singled Louie out and picked on him unmercifully. It’s surprising Louie was able to survive the abuse. Long after the war was over, Louie read an article in the newspaper about a POW, and it brought back some bad memories. Here is how Hillenbrand described it in her book:


As Louie read the story, all of the fury within him converged. He saw himself finding the [prison guard], overpowering him, his fists bloodying the face, and then his hands locking about the [guard’s] neck. In his fantasy, he killed the [guard] slowly, savoring the suffering he caused, making his tormentor feel all of the pain and terror and helplessness that he’d felt. His veins beat with an electric urgency.


This was how Louie felt before he turned over his life to Jesus. An amazing transformation took place described inRomans 12:2:Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.


    When Louie prepared to return to Japan in 1998, at the age of 80, to carry the Olympic torch, he wrote a letter to his guard. Here is what he said:


As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment, my post-war life became a nightmare. It was not so much due to the pain and suffering as it was the tension of stress and humiliation that caused me to hate with a vengeance.


Under your discipline, my rights, not only as a prisoner of war but also as a human being, were stripped from me. It was a struggle to maintain enough dignity and hope to live until the war’s end.


The post-war nightmares caused my life to crumble, but thanks to a confrontation with God through the evangelist Billy Graham, I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you. Christ said, ‘Forgive your enemies and pray for them.’


As you probably know, I returned to Japan in 1952 and was graciously allowed to address all the Japanese war criminals at Sugamo Prison . . . I asked then about you, and was told that you probably had committed Hara Kiri, which I was sad to hear. At that moment, like the others, I also forgave you and now would hope that you would also become a Christian.


 Louie was hoping he would be able to deliver the letter to his former prison guard. Hillenbrand described what happened next:


    The meeting was not to be. CBS contacted Watanabe [the guard] and told him that Zamperini wanted to come see him. Watanabe practically spat his reply: The answer was no.


    I’m sure the guard couldn’t comprehend that kind of forgiveness. 


·       Invictus came out in 2009 and is part of the story of Nelson Mandela. After being held in prison for 27 years, Mandela was released, and four years later he was elected the first Black President of South Africa. Here is what Sara Nowlin had to say about Mandela:   


Mandela suffered for decades at the hands of the prison guards and the Apartheid government.  Tens of thousands of his brothers and sisters jailed, beaten or worse…left for dead in the streets.


The crimes against humanity were horrific.  Mandela had more than enough reasons to seek revenge, but he knew it would only extend the suffering; more lives would be lost.  Forgiveness would be the key to bring the country together, create a unified country rather than one of suffering and segregationCommitted to a larger goal, a bigger vision, he worked through the pain and found a place of peace.  First within himself, he then worked to create that for his country.  It wasn’t about forgetting what happened, but about healing the pain for the greater good of the country.  When we hold onto the resentment, we hold ourselves back, we limit our impact, we limit our power. By letting go, we can attain something far greater than ourselves. By Mandela’s capacity to forgive, he was able to attain something incredible for his country and the world.


R.T. Kendall, in his book Total Forgiveness, lists what forgiveness IS NOT:


·      It is not approval for what was done.


·      It is not excusing what was done.


·      It is not justifying what was done (in other words, we shouldn’t attempt to make what is wrong look like it’s right).


·      Forgiveness is not pardoning what was done. Consequences may be necessary.


·      Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation requires two people to participate, and that’s not always an option.


·      Forgiveness is not denying what the offender did.


·      It is not blindness to what happened. In other words, we don’t pretend we didn’t see anything happen.


·      Forgiveness is not forgetting. The author explains, “Love doesn’t erase our memories. And it is actually a demonstration of greater grace when we are fully aware of what occurred, and we still choose to forgive. God doesn’t literally forget our sins. He chooses to overlook them. He knows full well what we have done—every sordid detail. But He chooses not to remember so to hold our sins against us.”


·      Forgiveness is not a refusal to take the wrong seriously. Kendall explains, “The greater victory for the one who does the forgiving is to face up to the seriousness—even the wickedness—of what happened and still forgive.” God doesn’t think of our sins as inconsequential either. They were so serious He was willing to give up His life so our sins could be forgiven. 


R.T. Kendall also wrote about what forgiveness IS:


·      It is being aware of what someone did but still choosing to forgive them.


·      It is choosing to keep no record of the wrong. One time my daughter did something we didn’t approve of, but she was denying she did it. I told her to write out everything that went on in a certain time span and at the end I asked her to write, “That’s really what happened, Dad. You have my word.” The truth came out, and after I talked to her, right in front of her, I ripped up the sheet of paper so she could see I wasn’t keeping a record of her wrongs. I Corinthians 13:5 states in part, “. . . [love] keeps no record of being wronged.


·      Forgiveness is not telling others what the person did. When we hurt another person’s reputation or credibility by gossiping, we are punishing them. Leave the punishing to God. Romans 12:19 says, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord.”


·      Forgiveness is being merciful. Matthew 5:7 states, God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Mercy is the opposite of justice. Graceis getting what we don’t deserve (favor), and mercy is not getting what we do deserve (justice).


·      Forgiveness is  graciousness. It’s the opposite of a legalistic spirit. Jesus showed graciousness when the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees placed a lady in front of Him. John 8:4-11 tells what happened: “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  We are being gracious when we withhold certain facts we know to be true, because we want the offender’s reputation unscathed. Graciousness is shown by what we don’t say, even though it may be true.


·      Forgiveness is an inner condition. If we haven’t truly forgiven a person, we’ll be able to tell because it will come out sooner or later. However, if the forgiveness has taken place in the heart, our words will reflect that forgiveness. We have to remember, most people we forgive don’t think they’ve done anything wrong, and even if they know they did something wrong, they feel it was justified.


·      Forgiveness is the absence of bitterness. Bitterness is a strong desire for vengeance that comes from resentment. To get rid of bitterness, we have to forgive. We’ll know when bitterness is gone when we don’t want to get even with the offender or see him punished. We’re no longer bitter when we don’t say anything that would hurt the offender’s reputation. We know we’ve totally forgiven the person when we wish them well in all they do—and I mean wishing from the heart. Think of someone who has wronged you; can you pray that God would bless them? It is possible! I struggled to forgive someone but eventually got to the point of praying God would bless that person. It felt good. It was freeing.


·      Forgiveness also includes forgiving God. Bitterness is often aimed at God. 


·      One more action is necessary. While we’re forgiving others, we can’t forget to forgive ourselves as well. 


There’s more. I hope you can join us tomorrow.



Verse Completion. . . silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Proverbs 2:3-4


9/10/20


Good morning, Children of God.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/2p8_4NbrcKA



Complete the Verse & Name the BookAnd the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, . . . (completion at the end)



Who is Jesus? Josh McDowell presented the question and concluded we have three choices: Lord, liar, or lunatic. The choice we determine will have eternal consequences.


Using the very words of Jesus in John 5:31-47, let’s see who Jesus was:


“If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid. But someone else is also testifying about me, and I assure you that everything he says about me is true. In fact, you sent investigators to listen to John the Baptist, and his testimony about me was true. Of course, I have no need of human witnesses, but I say these things so you might be saved. John was like a burning and shining lamp, and you were excited for a while about his message. But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me. And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me—the one he sent to you."

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life."

“Your approval means nothing to me, because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God."

“Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”


John spoke the truth about Jesus. “God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:6-9) Those that heard John’s words vacillated between rejoicing over the Messiah coming and rejecting his words when he started preaching, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2) It’s the same today: there are those who are interested in knowing about Jesus, but when it gets personal and repentance is involved, they shy away. 


If there was any doubt in John’s mind as to whether Jesus was the Messiah, that doubt vanished when John baptized Jesus.


After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”(Matthew 3:16-17)


John was a witness as to who Jesus was, but Jesus said he had a greater witness than John. In fact, Jesus had two witnesses that were greater than John: Scripture and the many miracles performed by Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the prophesies of old about the coming Messiah. If one chose not to believe John, it would be difficult to ignore the fulfilled prophesies that spoke out even louder than John. If one chose to reject John and reject the prophesies, there were still the many miracles of Jesus:


·      Water into wine at the wedding in Cana

·      Healing of an official’s son at Capernaum

·      Evil spirit driven out from a man in Capernaum

·      Peter’s mother-in-law healed from a fever

·      Miraculous catch of fish on Lake Gennesaret and then on the Sea of Tiberias

·      Man cleansed of leprosy

·      Centurion’s paralyzed servant is healed

·      Paralytic lowered from the roof is healed

·      Man’s withered hand is healed

·      Widow’s son raised from the dead in Nain

·      The storm on the sea is calmed

·      Woman who suffered from bleeding for 12 years is healed

·      Jairus’ daughter is brought back to life

·      Two blind men healed

·      Man unable to speak is healed

·      Invalid at Bethesda is healed

·      5,000 plus women and children are fed

·      Walk on water

·      Demon-possessed daughter is healed

·      4,000 plus women and children are fed

·      Blind man at Bethsaida is healed

·      Man born blind is healed

·      Boy with unclean spirit is healed

·      Temple tax collected from a fish’s mouth

·      Blind, mute, demoniac is healed

·      Crippled lady is healed

·      Man with dropsy is healed

·      Ten lepers healed

·      Lazarus raised from the dead at Bethany

·      Blind Bartimaeus healed in Jericho

·      Severed ear healed


All these miracles clearly stated who Jesus was—the Messiah; God in the flesh. People saw God face to face when they saw Jesus. 


Knowledge of the Scriptures can’t save anyone. However, the knowledge of the Scriptures can point a person to Jesus who alone can save. Knowledge doesn’t save; a person saves—Jesus. We essentially have today what the people had when Jesus walked on the earth: preachers who declare the truth (we are blessed with one at NCCU), Scripture, and Jesus. Jesus isn’t visible any longer, but we have the Holy Spirit which is even better than having Jesus in the flesh. If Jesus was in the flesh, he could only be in one location at a time on the earth. The Holy Spirit is able to be everywhere at the same time. Jesus said“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.” (John 16:7-11)


Who is Jesus? He is Lord!



Verse Completion. . . and is set on fire by hell. James 3:6 (NASB)


The Faithfulness of God


9/9/20


Good morning, Citizens of Heaven.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/twL3v5r8s6o



Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Wise people think before they act; fools don’t—and even . . . (completion at the end)



The Washington State Motor Vehicle Codes are quite extensive. The Revised Code of Washington (RCWs) that involves motor vehicles has fifty chapters such as: Certificates of Title, Special Parking Privileges for Persons with Disabilities, Uniform Commercial Driver’s License Act, Vehicle Inspection, Abandoned Recreational Vehicles, Ride Sharing, Traffic Schools, Reciprocal or Proportional Registration of Vehicles, and so on—50 in all!


ONE of those chapters is 46.61 Rules of the Road. Take a second and glance at how much there is in just this ONE chapter: https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61


There’s some reading for you for the next time you can’t sleep.     


My guess is most people who drive have never read these laws and never will; I know I fall into this category. What people want to know is what’s most important. They want a summary of the key points. They want to know the important parts that will keep them safe and keep them from getting tickets. Fortunately, the state has produced that with the Washington State Driver Guide.


The Bible is quite extensive, too. My New Living Translation Bible is 1,990 pages (not including the concordance). Unlike the RCWs involving motor vehicles in Washington, I have read the entire Bible. I want to understand it the best I can since it is inspired by God and allows me to get to know the God who created the universe and Jesus who gave his life for me. But even after reading every page, I ask myself, “What’s most important?” It’s difficult to remember everything.


Jesus told us what’s most important in just a short paragraph:


“ ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40


In a sense Paul gave us A Christian’s Pocket Guide in 1 Corinthians 15 and 16:


I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.(15:3-9)

But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. (15:12-23)

Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere. (verse 28)

But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. (15:51-53)

But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (15:57-58)

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. (16:13-14)


I suppose one could say that everything in Revised Code of Washington that involves motor vehicles is important, but there are certain things in it that we can’t lose sight of or the results could be serious. One could say the same about the Bible. However, there are things so important in the Bible that if we lose sight of them they can have serious eternal consequences. Let’s not loose sight of what’s important.



Verse Completion. . . brag about their foolishness on social media. Proverbs 13:16 (NLT)


Drawing Near Through Christ


9/8/20


Good morning, People of Faith.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/JTZbbkn-4ZU



Complete the Verse & Name the BookThe jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Men, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, . . . (completion at the end)



The Bible has several stories of people being raised from the dead:


·      The widow’s son who lived in Zarephath


Some time later the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. Then she said to Elijah, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?”

But Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. Then Elijah cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?”

And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” The LORD heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!”

Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.” 1 Kings 17:17-24


·      The couple’s son who lived in Shunem:


One day when her child was older, he went out to help his father, who was working with the harvesters. Suddenly he cried out, “My head hurts! My head hurts!”

His father said to one of the servants, “Carry him home to his mother.”

So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died. She carried him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and left him there. She sent a message to her husband: “Send one of the servants and a donkey so that I can hurry to the man of God and come right back.”

“Why go today?” he asked. “It is neither a new moon festival nor a Sabbath.”

But she said, “It will be all right.”

So she saddled the donkey and said to the servant, “Hurry! Don’t slow down unless I tell you to.”

As she approached the man of God at Mount Carmel, Elisha saw her in the distance. He said to Gehazi, “Look, the woman from Shunem is coming. Run out to meet her and ask her, ‘Is everything all right with you, your husband, and your child?”

“Yes,” the woman told Gehazi, “everything is fine.”

But when she came to the man of God at the mountain, she fell to the ground before him and caught hold of his feet. Gehazi began to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone. She is deeply troubled, but the LORD has not told me what it is.”

Then she said, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? And didn’t I say, ‘Don’t deceive me and get my hopes up’?”

Then Elisha said to Gehazi, “Get ready to travel; take my staff and go! Don’t talk to anyone along the way. Go quickly and lay the staff on the child’s face.”

But the boy’s mother said, “As surely as the LORD lives and you yourself live, I won’t go home unless you go with me.” So Elisha returned with her.

Gehazi hurried on ahead and laid the staff on the child’s face, but nothing happened. There was no sign of life. He returned to meet Elisha and told him, “The child is still dead.”

When Elisha arrived, the child was indeed dead lying there on the prophet’s bed. He went in alone and shut the door behind him and prayed to the LORD. Then he lay down on the child’s body, placing his mouth on the child’s mouth, his eyes on the child’s eyes, and his hands on the child’s hands. And as he stretched out on him, the child’s body began to grow warm again! Elisha got up, walked back and forth across the room once, and then stretched himself out again on the child. This time the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes!

Then Elisha summoned Gehazi. “Call the child’s mother!” he said. And when she came in, Elisha said, “Here, take your son!” She fell at his feet and bowed before him, overwhelmed with gratitude. Then she took her son in her arms and carried him downstairs. 2 Kings 4:18-37


·      The daughter of Jairus:


While [Jesus] was still speaking to [the lady who had just been healed from constant bleeding for twelve years], a messenger arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. He told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”

But when Jesus heard what had happened, he said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith, and she will be healed.”

When they arrived at the house, Jesus wouldn’t let anyone go in with him except Peter, John, James, and the little girl’s father and mother. The house was filled with people weeping and wailing, but he said, “Stop the weeping! She isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”

But the crowd laughed at him because they all knew she had died. Then Jesus took her by the hand and said in a loud voice, “My child, get up!” And at that moment her life returned, and she immediately stood up! Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were overwhelmed, but Jesus insisted that they not tell anyone what had happened. Luke 8:49-56 (see also Mark 5:21-43)


·      The widow’s son who lived in Nain


Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people today.” And the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside. Luke 7:11-17


·      The Israelite man: 2 Kings 13:20-21


·      Lazarus: John 11:1-44


·      Jesus: Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:1-49; John 20:1-21:25


·      Tabitha: Acts 9:36-43


·      Eutychus: Acts 20:7-12


Only God has the power to raise a person from the dead. There are many stories of people who were dead for a matter of minutes and then were brought back to life using CPR, a defibrillator, or some other means of medical help. I don’t know of any substantiated stories in my lifetime of a person who was brought back to life after being dead for over a day. It got me to thinking about why there aren’t any resurrection stories in the Bible where the person had been dead for more than three days. God is omnipotent. There’s no limit to his power. He definitely has the power to raise someone who has been dead for a year or longer.


Matthew wrote about the death of Jesus on the cross. As he told the story he recorded these words:


Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. Matthew 27:50-53


It would be nice to have more detail about these resurrections like we had with the stories involving Elijah and Elisha. We can only speculate as to how long these people had been dead. I’m doubtful only those who had been in the grave three days or less rose from their graves. However, there’s a passage in Scripture we don’t have to speculate about. It’s very clear that people who had been dead for years were alive:


“But now, as to whether there will be a resurrection of the dead—haven’t you ever read about this in the Scriptures? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead.” Matthew 22:31-32


Concerning these verses, Beacon Bible Commentary says:


If at the time of Moses, God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and these men had long since died, the clear implication was that they were living in a state of immortality though no longer living on the earth. The relation of this passage to the resurrection is thus expressed by Bengel: “God . . . is not the God of that which is not: He is the living God; they therefore who possess God must themselves also be living, and as to any portion of them in which life has been suspended, must revive forever.”


God’s resurrection power has no limits. As disciples of Christ we are promised eternal life. After we die we will experience firsthand God’s resurrection power. Praise God!



Verse Completion. . . “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Acts 16:29-31 (NIV)


God is Power


9/7/20


Good morning, Sons & Daughters of Abraham.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/y3DjT6kS4-4



Complete the Verse and Name the BookFear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday Pastor Michael gave a first-person sermon titled “The Pain of our Past—a Journey with Abraham” based on Genesis 15, 16, 17; 21:1-7. Let’s let Abraham tell his story:


My journey is about pain and promise. I used to live in the land of the Chaldeans in Ur. We had flocks and herds and were nomads of a sort. I lived there with my family: my wife (Sarai), my father and mother, my brother (Haran) and his wife, my nephew (Lot) and his wife. 


We knew about the gods: god of the water, god of the sun, god of the herds, god of the crops, and so on. We sacrificed to these gods. We learned how to manipulate these gods to get what we wanted. But then we learned about the one, true, unseen God who was above all the other gods. 


When my brother, Haran, died, it hit us hard. It rocked our world. It changed the way we looked at life. We started to think about God more. 


My father decided it was best if we move to Syria which was about a year’s journey away. We gathered our possessions and began the move with the entire family. In some ways I became like a father to Lot. When we arrived in Syria, my father found some land and named it Haran after my brother. 


On the journey to Haran, I got to know who God was. After the others had retired for the night, I would remain outdoors and stare up into the night sky and look at all the stars. I would wonder how the stars got there. I knew they didn’t just fall into place on their own, so I began to talk to the One who put the stars in the night sky. As strange as it may sound, I heard the Creator talk to me. Our spirits connected. I started to get to know the God who created the universe. God became more and more a part of my life. I discovered He cared about me and wanted to get to know me. He wasn’t an inanimate object like the other gods; He was alive, and He loved me. He wanted to be my friend. I began a relationship with Him. I was just a speck in the universe, and yet God cared about me. That made me feel comforted and secure.


After we settled in Haran, I continued my quiet times with God out under the stars. Our relationship grew. One day God said to me, “I want you to move and go to the land of Canaan.” This would be about a three month journey, so it wasn’t near as far as the previous move. Lot and his family (along with all his flocks and herds) came with us. 


God said to me that He wanted to bless me and make me great. He told me He would bless those who blessed me and curse those who cursed me. I was going to be the one God would use to bless the nations. I didn’t even know what that meant. I just knew God had a plan for my life. I had never thought in terms of God using me to bless others. I began to see how God was taking the pain in my past and giving me His presence. He gave me a hope for my future. 


One night in Canaan God said to me, “Look around. Everything you see I will give to you and your descendants. I will make you into a great nation.” When God told me that, I was 80 years old, my wife was 70 years old, and we had no descendants! It wasn’t that we didn’t want to have any kids! We were desperate to have children, but we were childless. Everyone around us had children, but we had none. We had given up hope of ever having children. 


It was painful for me when God brought this topic up. This topic was taboo around our house. We did not want to be reminded that we were childless. The topic brought us anxiety and even shame. This was the one topic that would make us hurt the most. I’m sure you have a topic like that in your life. You want to avoid it like the plague, and yet God stuck His finger in the most painful part of my past and told me I was going to have many children. I was confused. On one hand, God was so loving and kind to me, but on the other hand, He allowed there to be excruciating pain and suffering in my life. I wondered where God was when I was crying out for children. 


One night God told me to look up at the stars and count them. I told Him there were far too many to count. God then told me that’s how my descendants would be—far too many to count. When I told Sarai, she was skeptical to say the least. After God spoke to me, every time I looked up at the stars I saw children, and I wondered about God’s promise to me. 


I finally did something I hadn’t done before; I talked to God about my pain. As I opened my heart to God, I realized I was starting to let the past go. I realized God was helping me with my pain. He replaced my pain with His presence. I came to the point where I told God, “I trust you.” I trusted God with my pain, my past, and my future. I gave everything to Him. I believed God’s promise of my future. 


It got tough though when year after year we still didn’t have any children even after His promise. Finally, Sarai suggested we take matters into our own hands and give God some help in making His promise happen. So I took Sarai’s servant and had a child with her. We named the baby Ismael. That did not go well; it actually brought more pain to Sarai!


I was 80 years old when I received the promise of descendants, and I lived with that promise for 20 years. When I was 100 years old and Sarah and 90, the promise was fulfilled. We had a son together, and we named him Isaac which means “one who laughs.” We finally had happiness, and we were able to experience for ourselves what everyone around us had already experienced. My named was changed from Abram to Abraham which means “father of nations.” God’s promise came true. It cemented the truth that God loves me and has a plan for me. God took the pain of my past and replaced it with the promise of His presence for the joy of my future. 


How’s the pain in your past? Is it locked away? Is your pain something you don’t talk to God or anybody about? God wants to talk to you about your pain. God wants to take your pain and replace it with the promise of His presence for the joy of your future. Tonight, take a walk, look up at the stars, and give God your pain, because He has a promise for you. He has joy in your future. 



Verse Completion. . . despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:7 (NLT)


Lessons from the Good Samaritan


9/5/20


Good morning, Disciples of Christ.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/jbCu4gBKX-I



Complete the Verse & Name the BookAnd Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to . . . (completion at the end)



Today we continue with the topics of justice and mercy. In his book, The Holiness of God, the late R.C. Sproul had the following to say:


We cringe at God’s justice because its expression is so unusual. As Küng observed, His usual course of action is one of grace. Grace no longer amazes us. We have grown used to it; we take it for granted.


Perhaps the best illustration of this may be found in the teaching of Jesus:


Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:1-5, NIV


This is one of the most difficult of the “hard sayings” of Jesus. The question is raised, “What about the people Pilate slaughtered, or the innocent people killed by the falling tower? Where was God in these events?” The question under discussion was: “How could God allow these things to happen?” The question is actually a thinly veiled accusation. The issue was, as always, how can God allow innocent people to suffer?


Jesus said was, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” In effect what Jesus was saying was this: “You people are asking the wrong question. You should be asking me, ‘Why didn’t that tower fall on my head?’” Jesus rebuked the people for putting their amazement in the wrong place. In two decades of teaching theology I have had countless students ask me why God doesn’t save everybody. Only once did a student come to me and say, “There is something I just can’t figure out. Why did God redeem me?”


We are not really surprised that God has redeemed us. Somewhere deep inside, in the secret chambers of our hearts we harbor the notion that God owes us His mercy. Heaven would not be quite the same if we were excluded from it. We know that we are sinners, but we are surely not as bad as we could be. There are enough redeeming features to our personalities that if God is really just He will include us in salvation. What amazes us is justice, not grace.


Our tendency to take grace for granted was driven home to me while teaching college students. I had the assignment of teaching a freshman Old Testament course to 250 students at a Christian college. On the first day of class I went over the course assignments carefully. My experience taught me that the assignment of term papers required a special degree of explanation. This course required three short papers. I explained to the students that the first paper was due on my desk by noon the last day of September. No extensions were to be given except for students who were physically confined to the infirmary or who had deaths in their immediate family. If the paper was not turned in on time, the student would receive an F for the assignment. The students acknowledged that they understood the requirements.


On the last day of September 225 students dutifully handed in their term papers. Twenty-five students stood quaking in terror, full of remorse. They cried out, “Oh, Professor Sproul. We are so sorry. We didn’t budget our time properly. We didn’t make the proper adjustment from high school to college. Please don’t give us an F. Please, oh, please give us an extension.”


I bowed to their pleas for mercy. “All right,” I said. “I’ll give you a break this time. But, remember, the next assignment is due the last day of October.”


The students were profuse in their gratitude and filled the air with solemn promises of being on time for the next assignment. Then came the last day of October. Two hundred students came with their papers. Fifty students came empty-handed. They were nervous, but not in panic. When I asked for their papers, again they were contrite. “Oh, Professor. It was Homecoming Week. Besides it is mid-term and all of our assignments are due in other classes. Please give us one more chance. We promise it will never happen again.”


Once more I relented. I said, “OK, but this is the last time. If you are late for the next paper, it will be an F. No excuses, no whining. F. Is that clear?”


“Oh, yes, Professor. You are terrific.” Spontaneously the class began to sing, “We love you Prof Sproul. Oh, yes we do.” I was Mr. Popularity.


Can you guess what happened on the last day of November? Right. One hundred fifty students came with their term papers. The other hundred strolled into the lecture hall utterly unconcerned. “Where are your term papers?” I asked.


One student replied, “Oh, don’t worry, Prof, we’re working on them. We’ll have them for you in a couple of days, no sweat.”


I picked up my lethal black gradebook and began taking down names. “Johnson! Do you have your paper?”


“No, sir,” came the reply.


“F,” I said as I wrote the grade in the book. “Muldaney! Do you have your paper?”


Again, “No, sir,” was the reply. 


I marked another F in the book. The students reacted with unmitigated fury. They howled in protest, screaming, “That’s not fair!”


I looked at one of the howling students, “Lavery! You think it’s not fair?”


“No,” he growled in response.


“I see. It’s justice you want? I seem to recall that you were late with your paper the last time. If you insist upon justice you will certainly get it. I’ll not only give you an F for this assignment, but I’ll change your last grade to the F you so richly deserved.”


The student was stunned. He had no more arguments to make. He apologized for being so hasty and was suddenly happy to settle for one F instead of two. 


The students had quickly taken my mercy for granted. They assumed it. When justice suddenly fell, they were unprepared for it. It came as a shock, and they were outraged. This, after only two doses of mercy in the space of two months.


The normal activity of God involves far more mercy than I showed those students with their term papers. Old Testament history covers hundreds of years. In that time God was repeatedly merciful. When His divine judgment fell on Nadab or Uzzah, the response was shock and outrage. We have come to expect God to be merciful. From there the next step is easy: we demand it. When it is not forthcoming, our first response is anger against God, coupled with the protest: “It isn’t fair.” We soon forget that with our first sin we have forfeited all rights to the gift of life. That I am drawing breath this morning is an act of divine mercy. God owes me nothing. I owe Him everything. If He allows a tower to fall on my head this afternoon I cannot claim injustice.


One of our basic problems is the confusion of justice and mercy. We live in a world where injustices happen. They happen among people. Every one of us at some time has been a victim of injustice at the hands of another person. Every one of us at some time has committed an injustice against another person. People treat each other unfairly. One thing is certain: no matter how much injustice I have suffered from the hands of men, I have never suffered the slightest injustice from the hand of God.


Suppose a person falsely accuses me of stealing money. Charges are brought against me and I am arrested and sent to prison. Touching my relationship to men, I have been a victim of gross injustice. I have every right to cry out to God and plead for vindication in this world. I can complain about being falsely persecuted. God is angry with men for unjustly putting me in prison. God promises to vindicate me from this injustice some day. Injustice is real and it happens every day in this world.


The injustices we suffer are all of a horizontal sort. They happen between actors in this world. Yet standing over and above this world is the Great Judge of all. My relationship to Him is vertical. In terms of that vertical relationship I never suffer an injustice. Though men may mistreat me, God never does. That God allows a human being to treat me unjustly is just of God. While I may complain to God about the human, horizontal injustice I have suffered, I cannot rise up and accuse God of committing a vertical injustice by allowing the human injustice to befall me. God would be perfectly just to allow me to be thrown in prison for life for a crime I didn’t commit. I may be innocent before men, but I am guilty before God.


We often blame God for the injustices done to us and harbor in our souls the bitter feeling that God has not been fair toward us. Even if we recognize that He is gracious we think that He has not been gracious enough. We deserve more grace.


Please read that last sentence again: We deserve more grace. What is wrong with that sentence? Grammatically it is fine. It has a subject, a verb, and a direct object. There is no need for the editor’s red pencil in that regard. But there is something seriously wrong with the content, with the meaning of the sentence.


It is impossible for anyone, anywhere, anytime to deserve grace. Grace by definition is undeserved. As soon as we talk about deserving something, we are no longer talking about grace; we are talking about justice. Only justice can be deserved. God is never obligated to be merciful. Mercy and grace must be voluntary or they are no longer mercy and grace. God never “owes” grace. He reminds us more than once, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” This is the divine prerogative. God reserves for Himself the supreme right of exclusive clemency.


Suppose ten people sin and sin equally. Suppose God punishes five of them and is merciful to the other five. Is that injustice? No! In this situation five people get justice and five get mercy. No one gets injustice. What we tend to assume is this: if God is merciful to five He must be equally merciful to the other five. Why? He is never obligated to be merciful. If He is merciful to nine of the ten, the tenth cannot complain that he is a victim of injustice. God never owes mercy. God is not obligated to treat all men equally. Maybe I’d better say that again: God is never obliged to treat all men equally. If He were ever unjust to us, we would have reason to complain. But simply because He grants mercy to my neighbor gives me no claim on His mercy. Again we must remember that mercy is always voluntary. “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy.”


There are only two things I ever receive from God—justice or mercy. I never receive injustice from His hand. We may request that God help us get justice at the hands of men, but we would be utterly foolish to ever ask Him for justice from Himself. I warn my students: “Don’t ever ask God for justice—you might get it.” 


It is the confusion between justice and mercy that makes us shrink in horror when we read the stories of Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah. When God’s justice falls, we are offended because we think God owes perpetual mercy. We must not take His grace for granted.


God’s grace is not infinite. God is infinite and God is gracious. We experience the grace of an infinite God, but grace is not infinite. God sets limits to His patience and forbearance. He warns us over and over again that someday the ax will fall and His judgment will be poured out.


Since it is our tendency to take grace for granted, my guess is that God found it necessary from time to time to remind Israel that grace must never be assumed. On rare, but dramatic occasions He showed the dreadful power of His justice. He killed Nadab and Abihu. He killed Uzzah. He commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites. It is like He was saying, “Be careful. While you enjoy the benefits of my grace, don’t forget my justice. Don’t forget the gravity of sin. Remember that I am holy.”



Verse Completion. . . enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:23 (NASB) See also Mark 10:23


9/4/20


Good morning, Praise Singers.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/AvbrKRQZurs



Complete the Verse & Name the BookSuppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, . . . (completion at the end)



For the next two days we will explore justice and grace. In his book, The Holiness of God, the late R.C. Sproul had this to say:


Is the death penalty for sin unjust? By no means. Remember that God has created us voluntarily. He gave mankind the highest privilege of being His image-bearers. He made us but a little lower than the angels. He freely gave us dominion over all the earth. We are not turtles. We are not fireflies. We are not caterpillars or coyotes. We are people. We are the image-bearers of the holy and majestic King of the cosmos.


We have not used the gift of life for the purpose God intended. Life on this planet has become the arena in which we daily carry out the work of cosmic treason. Our crime is far more serious, far more destructive than that of Benedict Arnold. No traitor to any king or nation has even approached the wickedness of our treason before God.


Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself. Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, “God, Your law is not good. My judgment is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.”


The slightest sin is an act of defiance against cosmic authority. It is a revolutionary act, a rebellious act where we are setting ourselves in opposition to the One to whom we owe everything. It is an insult to His holiness. We become false witnesses to God. When we sin as the image-bearers of God, we are saying to the whole creation, to all of nature under our dominion, to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field: “This is how God is. This is how your Creator behaves. Look in this mirror; look at us and you will see the character of the Almighty.” We say to the world, “God is covetous; God is ruthless; God is bitter; God is a murderer, a thief, a slanderer, an adulterer. God is all of these things that we are doing.”


When men join together in sin they “speak of kings and things.” It is the ultimate conspiracy. We reach for the crown and plot for the throne, saying in effect to God, “We will not have You rule over us.” The Psalmist put it this way:


Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.”Psalm 2:1-3, NIV


When we sin we not only commit treason against God but we do violence to each other. Sin violates people. There is nothing abstract about it. By my sin I hurt human beings. I injure their person; I despoil their goods; I impair their reputation; I rob from them a precious quality of life; I crush their dreams and aspirations for happiness. When I dishonor God I dishonor all of mankind who bears His image. Wonder then that God takes sin so seriously?


Hans Küng, the controversial Roman Catholic theologian, writing about the seemingly harsh judgments of sin God makes in the Old Testament, says that the most mysterious aspect of the mystery of sin is not that the sinner deserves to die, but rather that the sinner in the average situation continues to exist.


Küng asks the right question. The issue is not why does God punish sin, but why does He permit the ongoing rebellion of man? What prince, what king, what ruler would manifest so much patience with a continually rebellious populace?


The key to Küng’s observation is that he speaks of sinners continuing to live in the average situation. That is, it is customary or usual for God to be forbearing. He is indeed long-suffering, patient, and slow to anger. In fact He is so slow to anger that when His anger does erupt we are shocked and offended by it. We forget rather quickly that God’s patience is designed to lead us to repentance, to give us time to be redeemed. Instead of taking advantage of this patience by coming humbly to Him for forgiveness, we use this grace as an opportunity to become more bold in our sin. We delude ourselves into thinking that either God doesn’t care about it or that He is powerless to punish us.


The supreme folly is that we think we will get away with our revolt. 


Far from being a history of a harsh God, the Old Testament is the record of a God who is patient in the extreme. The Old Testament is the history of a persistently hard-necked people who rebel time after time against God. The people became slaves in a foreign land. They cried out to God. God heard their groans and moved to redeem them. He parted the Red Sea to let them out of bondage. They responded by worshiping a gold cow.


We must still face the difficult question of the conquest of Canaan. There God explicitly commanded the slaughter of men, women, and children. The Promised Land was given to Israel by a bloody sword, a sword dripping with the blood of infants and women. God directly issued the order for the bloodbath:


When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you—and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Deuteronomy 7:1, 2, NIV


Why did God issue such a command? How could He have ordered the slaughter of women and children? Again we find modern attempts to soften the event. A curriculum for high school students prepared by a major church denomination in the United States explained that in light of the New Testament revelation of God’s love we know that God did not ever issue such a belligerent command. The Old Testament is merely the record of a primitive warlike group of Hebrews who tried to justify ruthless policies by attributing them to a divine sanction.


The writers of the curriculum did not believe that God ever issued such a command. It was to be a case of intrusion of mythology into the biblical record. Such interpretations overlook some vital aspects of the matter. First, there is a historical precedent that is far more severe than the conquest of Canaan—the Flood. In the Flood God destroyed the entire population of the world except for Noah and his family. The Flood was a “conquest of Canaan” on a grand scale. More important is the failure to understand the nature of sin. The assumption of the commentators is that God wiped out innocent people in Canaan. In fact there were no innocent women or children living in Canaan. There were multitudes of women living there and multitudes of children. But there was none who was innocent. The conquest of Canaan was an explicit expression of God’s righteous judgment on a wicked nation. He made that point clear to Israel. He also made it clear to Israel that she was also not innocent. It was not as if God destroyed a wicked people for the sake of a righteous people. To the Canaanites God poured out justice. To the Jews God poured out mercy. He was quick to remind the Jews of that:


After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.Deuteronomy 9:4-6, NIV


Three times in this passage God reminds Israel that it is not because of their righteousness that He will defeat the Canaanites. He wanted to make that point clear. Israel might have been tempted to jump to the conclusion that God was “on their side” because they were better than pagan nations. God’s announcement made that inference impossible.


The holiness of God is at the heart of the issue of the conquest of Canaan. It was because of His holiness that the act was ordained. On the one hand He moved to punish the insult to His Holiness that was daily perpetrated by the Canaanites. On the other hand He was preparing a land and a nation for a holy purpose. God commanded that no mercy be shown toward the inhabitants of the land. He explained why:


Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’S anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. Deuteronomy 7:3-6, NIV


God did not choose Israel because Israel was already holy. He chose them to make them holy. Israel was called to be holy in two senses of the word. She was called to be different; to be set apart as a vehicle of God’s plan of redemption. She was also called to be holy in the sense of being purified. Pagan practices were to be absent from her midst. She was to be sanctified by drawing near to God. Salvation for the nations was to come out of Israel. The Promised Land was to be the breeding ground for the coming Messiah. There was no room for pagan shrines and pagan rites. God ordained a scorched-earth policy to purge the land for future generations.


Tomorrow we will continue with the topics of justice and mercy. 



Verse Completion: . . . faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.James 2:17 (NIV)


9/3/20


Good morning, Worshipers of an Awesome God!


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/bWGQqZ2jz6o



Complete the Verse and Name the BookAnd I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as . . . (completion at the end)



We continue with praise to God today. One of the songs on Chris Tomlin’s album, Holy Roar, is the song “Praise Him Forever.” Here are the lyrics: 



Praise Him you stars above

Galaxies all in motion

Praise Him you thunderclouds

Ringing throughout the Heavens

From every mountaintop

To every wild ocean

Oh, hear all the universe sing praise


Oh, sing praise

Let everything that breathes

Let all the earth proclaim

Great is the Lord our God

Praise Him forever

Let all that is within me

Magnify His name

Great is the Lord our God

Praise Him forever

Praise Him forever


Praise Him you beating hearts

Sing for the life He's given

Praise Him you rescued ones

Join in the sound of Heaven

From every mountaintop

To every wild ocean

Oh, hear all the universe sing praise


Oh, sing praise

Let everything that breathes

Let all the earth proclaim

Great is the Lord our God

Praise Him forever

Let all that is within me

Magnify His name

Great is the Lord our God

Praise Him forever


Hear the holy roar

Hear this anthem rise

In the house of God

All creation cries

Hear the holy roar

Hear this anthem rise

In the house of God

All creation cries

Hear the holy roar

Hear this anthem rise

In the house of God

All creation cries

Hear the holy roar

Hear this anthem rise

In the house of God

All creation cries


Oh, sing praise

Let everything that breathes

Let all the earth proclaim

Great is the Lord our God

Praise Him forever

Let all that is within me

Magnify His name

Great is the Lord our God

Praise Him forever

Praise Him forever

Praise Him forever


Hear the holy roar

Hear the holy roar

Hear the holy roar

Praise Him forever


CCLI Song # 7117454

Chris Tomlin | Jonathan Smith | Phil Wickham

© Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) S. D. G. Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Hickory Bill Doc (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) So Essential Tunes (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Phil Wickham Music (Fair Trade Music Publishing [c/o Essential Music Publishing LLC]) Simply Global Songs (Fair Trade Music Publishing [c/o Essential Music Publishing LLC]) Sing My Songs (Fair Trade Music Publishing [c/o Essential Music Publishing LLC])

CCLI License # 2796866



Psalm 149 says:


Praise the LORD!


Sing to the LORD a new song. Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful. O Israel, rejoice in your Maker. O people of Jerusalem, exult in your King. Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp. For the LORD delights in his people, he crowns the humble with victory. Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them. Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.


Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands—to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to blind their kings with shackles and their leaders with iron chains, to execute the judgment written against them. This is the glorious privilege of his faithful ones.


Praise the LORD!



Psalm 150 says:


Praise the LORD!


Praise God in his sanctuary, praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness! Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp! Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes! Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals. Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD!


Praise the LORD!



Since praise to God is celebrating God for who he is, people all over the world can praise God. God is who he is, and he does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 


A prayer of praise would be a praise that every believer in the world could pray. Let’s pray a prayer of praise today that all disciples of Christ anywhere in the world can join us in praying:


Father in heaven, we give you praise. We lift you up. We give honor to your name. You are like no other. You created the heavens and the earth. You are the one who put everything in motion so we have the rising of the sun and the setting of the same. You tilted our earth on its axis so we have the different seasons for those of us who live north and south of the tropical area around the equator. You made all those delicious fruits that grow in the tropics. 


We praise you for being King of kings and Lord of lords. Father God, you are good and your faithful love endures forever. You are LORD of Heaven’s Armies, and you are here among us. You are the LORD Most High, and you are awesome. You are the great King of all the earth. You reign above all the nations of the earth, sitting on your holy throne. 


You, God, are our refuge and strength. You are the one who is always ready to help us in times of trouble. We are not fearful when earthquakes come, mountains crumble into the sea, tsunamis cause the waters to surge, or there’s a pandemic for you are LORD over all these things. They all answer to you. You are sovereign over everything. 


We praise you for who you are. You are the only one who can forgive sins. You are the Rock of my salvation. I exalt you. You are the only one who can raise a person back to life from the grave. You are the only one who can give everlasting life. 


We give you praise for parting the waters of the Red Sea. Only you could perform a miracle like that. We praise you for all the miracles recorded in the Bible. We acknowledge you as the only one capable of doing them. Your power has no limits. When you go to battle for us, you are invincible. You are the King of glory. 


God, you are omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscienct (all-knowing), and omnipresent (all-present). Nothing comes close to you. We stand in awe of you. Who you are is beyond our comprehension. You have always been in existence and you will always be in existence. You are our forever God. We bow in humble adoration of you.


In the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.



Verse Completion: . . . a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:2 (NASB)


Gentle Christian Discourse


9/2/20


Good morning, Praise Lifters.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/TZrvLRgHaVY



Complete the Verse & Name the BookAnd whatever you do, whether in word or deed, . . . (completion at the end)



Each “Song for the Day” this week will focus on praise to God. Here are the lyrics to “I Stand in Awe” from Chris Tomlin’s album Holy Roar. This song features Nicole Serrano. 



When I consider what You have made

The mighty oceans, the fiery stars

The fields and forests give You praise

My Lord, my God


I stand in awe

I stand in awe

I stand in awe of You


When I consider what You have done

I see Your suffering, I see Your scars

Oh, the wonder, and oh, the love

My Lord, my God 


And I stand in awe

Yes, I stand in awe

I stand in awe of You


All glory, all honor

All worship and all praise

All blessing, all power

How worthy is Your name

All glory, all honor 

All worship and all my praise 


All blessing, all power 

Is Yours

All the power is Yours


And I stand in awe

I stand in awe

I stand in awe of You 

God, I stand in awe

Yes, I stand in awe

I stand in awe of You


CCLI Song # 7101945

Audrey Assad | Chris Tomlin | Mark Alan Schoolmeesters | Martin Chalk

© 2013 Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Common Hymnal Digital (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Martin Chalk Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) S. D. G. Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Standing Room Only (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Fortunate Fall Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

CCLI License # 2796866


Psalm 147 gives praise to God:


Praise the LORD! 


How good to sing praises to our God! How delightful and how fitting! The LORD is rebuilding Jerusalem and bringing the exiles back to Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. He counts the stars and calls them all by name. How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension! The LORD supports the humble, but he brings the wicked down into the dust.


Sing out your thanks to the LORD; sing praises to our God with a harp. He covers the heavens with clouds, provides rain for the earth, and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures. He gives food to the wild animals and feeds the young ravens when they cry. He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might. No, the LORD’S delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love. 


Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he has strengthened the bars of your gates and blessed your children within your walls. He sends peace across your nation and satisfies your hunger with the finest wheat. He sends his orders to the world—how swiftly his word flies! He sends the snow like white wool; he scatters frost upon the ground like ashes. He hurls the hail like stones. Who can stand against his freezing cold? Then, at his command, it all melts. He sends his winds, and the ice thaws. He has revealed his words to Jacob, his decrees and regulations to Israel. He has not done this for any other nation; they do not know his regulations.


Praise the LORD!



Psalm 148 continues with praise to our God:


Praise the LORD!


Praise the LORD from the heavens! Praise him from the skies! Praise him, all his angels! Praise him, all the armies of heaven! Praise him, sun and moon! Praise him, all you twinkling stars! Praise him, skies above! Praise him, vapors high above the clouds! Let every created thing give praise to the LORD, for he issued his command, and they came into being. He set them in place forever and ever. His decree will never be revoked.


Praise the LORD from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, fire and hail, snow and clouds, wind and weather that obey him, mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all livestock, small scurrying animals and birds, kings of the earth and all people, rulers and judges of the earth, young men and young women, old men and children.


Let them all praise the name of the LORD. For his name is very great; his glory towers over the earth and heaven! He has made his people strong, honoring his faithful ones—the people of Israel who are close to him.


Praise the LORD!



In his book, The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul had this to say:


[Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:39, 40, NIV


The life of Jesus was a blaze of miracles. He performed so many that it is easy for us to become jaded in the hearing of them. We can read this narrative and skip quickly over to the next page without being moved. Yet we have here one of the most astonishing of all Jesus’ miracles. We have an event that made a special impression on the disciples. It was a miracle that was mind-boggling even to them.


Jesus controlled the fierce forces of nature by the sound of His voice. He didn’t say a prayer. He didn’t ask the Father to deliver them from the tempest. He dealt with the situation directly. He uttered a command, a divine imperative. Instantly nature obeyed. The wind heard the voice of its Creator. The sea recognized the command of its Lord. Instantly the wind ceased. Not a zephyr could be felt in the air. The sea became like glass without the tiniest ripple.


Notice the reaction of the disciples. The sea was now calm but they were still agitated:


They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:41, NIV


We see a strange pattern unfolding here. That the storm and raging sea frightened the disciples is not surprising. But once the danger passed and the sea was calm, it would seem that their fear would vanish as suddenly as the storm. It didn’t happen that way. Now that the sea was calm, the fear of the disciples increased. How do we account for that?


It was the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, who once espoused the theory that men invent religion out of a fear of nature. Man feels helpless before an earthquake, a flood, or a ravaging disease. So, said Freud, men invent a God who has power over the earthquake, flood, and disease. God is personal. We can talk to Him. We can try to bargain with Him. We can plead with Him to save us from the destructive forces of nature. We are not able to plead with earthquakes, negotiate with floods, or bargain with cancer. So, the theory goes, we invent God to help us deal with these scary things.


What is significant about this story in Scripture is that the disciples’ fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm made them afraid. Jesus’ action to still the tempest made them more afraid. In the power of Christ they met something more frightening than they ever met in nature. They were in the presence of the holy. We wonder what Freud would have said about that. Why would men invent a God whose holiness was more terrifying than the forces of nature that provoked them to invent a god in the first place? We can understand men inventing an unholy god, a god who brought only comfort. But why a god more scary than the earthquake, flood, or disease? It is one thing to fall victim to the flood or to fall prey to cancer; it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


The words that the disciples spoke after Jesus calmed the sea are very revealing. They cried out, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The question was, “What manner of man is this?” They were asking a question of kind. They were looking for a category to put Jesus in, a type that they were familiar with. If we can classify people into certain types, we know immediately how to deal with them. We respond one way to hostile people and another way to friendly people. We react one way to intellectual types and another way to social types. The disciples could find no category adequate to capture the person of Jesus. He was beyond type-casting. He was sui generis—in a class by Himself.



God is worthy of our praise and worship. He desires us to praise him and worship him. Let’s give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.



Verse Completion: . . . do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 (NIV)


9/2/20


Good morning, Praise Lifters.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/TZrvLRgHaVY



Complete the Verse & Name the BookAnd whatever you do, whether in word or deed, . . . (completion at the end)



Each “Song for the Day” this week will focus on praise to God. Here are the lyrics to “I Stand in Awe” from Chris Tomlin’s album Holy Roar. This song features Nicole Serrano. 



When I consider what You have made

The mighty oceans, the fiery stars

The fields and forests give You praise

My Lord, my God


I stand in awe

I stand in awe

I stand in awe of You


When I consider what You have done

I see Your suffering, I see Your scars

Oh, the wonder, and oh, the love

My Lord, my God 


And I stand in awe

Yes, I stand in awe

I stand in awe of You


All glory, all honor

All worship and all praise

All blessing, all power

How worthy is Your name

All glory, all honor 

All worship and all my praise 


All blessing, all power 

Is Yours

All the power is Yours


And I stand in awe

I stand in awe

I stand in awe of You 

God, I stand in awe

Yes, I stand in awe

I stand in awe of You


CCLI Song # 7101945

Audrey Assad | Chris Tomlin | Mark Alan Schoolmeesters | Martin Chalk

© 2013 Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Common Hymnal Digital (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Martin Chalk Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) S. D. G. Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Standing Room Only (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Fortunate Fall Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

CCLI License # 2796866


Psalm 147 gives praise to God:


Praise the LORD! 


How good to sing praises to our God! How delightful and how fitting! The LORD is rebuilding Jerusalem and bringing the exiles back to Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. He counts the stars and calls them all by name. How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension! The LORD supports the humble, but he brings the wicked down into the dust.


Sing out your thanks to the LORD; sing praises to our God with a harp. He covers the heavens with clouds, provides rain for the earth, and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures. He gives food to the wild animals and feeds the young ravens when they cry. He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might. No, the LORD’S delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love. 


Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he has strengthened the bars of your gates and blessed your children within your walls. He sends peace across your nation and satisfies your hunger with the finest wheat. He sends his orders to the world—how swiftly his word flies! He sends the snow like white wool; he scatters frost upon the ground like ashes. He hurls the hail like stones. Who can stand against his freezing cold? Then, at his command, it all melts. He sends his winds, and the ice thaws. He has revealed his words to Jacob, his decrees and regulations to Israel. He has not done this for any other nation; they do not know his regulations.


Praise the LORD!



Psalm 148 continues with praise to our God:


Praise the LORD!


Praise the LORD from the heavens! Praise him from the skies! Praise him, all his angels! Praise him, all the armies of heaven! Praise him, sun and moon! Praise him, all you twinkling stars! Praise him, skies above! Praise him, vapors high above the clouds! Let every created thing give praise to the LORD, for he issued his command, and they came into being. He set them in place forever and ever. His decree will never be revoked.


Praise the LORD from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, fire and hail, snow and clouds, wind and weather that obey him, mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all livestock, small scurrying animals and birds, kings of the earth and all people, rulers and judges of the earth, young men and young women, old men and children.


Let them all praise the name of the LORD. For his name is very great; his glory towers over the earth and heaven! He has made his people strong, honoring his faithful ones—the people of Israel who are close to him.


Praise the LORD!



In his book, The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul had this to say:


[Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:39, 40, NIV


The life of Jesus was a blaze of miracles. He performed so many that it is easy for us to become jaded in the hearing of them. We can read this narrative and skip quickly over to the next page without being moved. Yet we have here one of the most astonishing of all Jesus’ miracles. We have an event that made a special impression on the disciples. It was a miracle that was mind-boggling even to them.


Jesus controlled the fierce forces of nature by the sound of His voice. He didn’t say a prayer. He didn’t ask the Father to deliver them from the tempest. He dealt with the situation directly. He uttered a command, a divine imperative. Instantly nature obeyed. The wind heard the voice of its Creator. The sea recognized the command of its Lord. Instantly the wind ceased. Not a zephyr could be felt in the air. The sea became like glass without the tiniest ripple.


Notice the reaction of the disciples. The sea was now calm but they were still agitated:


They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:41, NIV


We see a strange pattern unfolding here. That the storm and raging sea frightened the disciples is not surprising. But once the danger passed and the sea was calm, it would seem that their fear would vanish as suddenly as the storm. It didn’t happen that way. Now that the sea was calm, the fear of the disciples increased. How do we account for that?


It was the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, who once espoused the theory that men invent religion out of a fear of nature. Man feels helpless before an earthquake, a flood, or a ravaging disease. So, said Freud, men invent a God who has power over the earthquake, flood, and disease. God is personal. We can talk to Him. We can try to bargain with Him. We can plead with Him to save us from the destructive forces of nature. We are not able to plead with earthquakes, negotiate with floods, or bargain with cancer. So, the theory goes, we invent God to help us deal with these scary things.


What is significant about this story in Scripture is that the disciples’ fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm made them afraid. Jesus’ action to still the tempest made them more afraid. In the power of Christ they met something more frightening than they ever met in nature. They were in the presence of the holy. We wonder what Freud would have said about that. Why would men invent a God whose holiness was more terrifying than the forces of nature that provoked them to invent a god in the first place? We can understand men inventing an unholy god, a god who brought only comfort. But why a god more scary than the earthquake, flood, or disease? It is one thing to fall victim to the flood or to fall prey to cancer; it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


The words that the disciples spoke after Jesus calmed the sea are very revealing. They cried out, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The question was, “What manner of man is this?” They were asking a question of kind. They were looking for a category to put Jesus in, a type that they were familiar with. If we can classify people into certain types, we know immediately how to deal with them. We respond one way to hostile people and another way to friendly people. We react one way to intellectual types and another way to social types. The disciples could find no category adequate to capture the person of Jesus. He was beyond type-casting. He was sui generis—in a class by Himself.



God is worthy of our praise and worship. He desires us to praise him and worship him. Let’s give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.



Verse Completion: . . . do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 (NIV)


9/1/20


Good morning, Praise Singers.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/XCOnRwDOI1c



Complete the Verse & Name the BookLet everything that has breath . . . (completion at the end)



The only one worthy of our praise and worship is God. Psalm 145 and 146 do a great job of offering up praise to our God:


I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise your name forever and ever. I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever. Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness.


Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles. Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness. Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness.


The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. The LORD is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation. All of your works will thank you, LORD, and your faithful followers will praise you. They will speak of the glory of your kingdom; they will give examples of your power. They will tell about your mighty deeds and about the majesty and glory of your reign. For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations.


The LORD always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does. The LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. The LORD protects all those who love him, but he destroys the wicked.


I will praise the LORD, and may everyone on earth bless his holy name forever and ever.


Praise the LORD! Let all that I am praise the LORD. I will praise the LORD as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath.


Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. 


He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The LORD frees the prisoners. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are weighed down. The LORD loves the godly. The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.


The LORD will reign forever. He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations.


Praise the LORD!



In his book, The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul had this to say: 


The word transcendence means literally “to climb across.” It is defined as “exceeding usual limits.” To transcend is to rise above something, to go above and beyond a certain limit. When we speak of the transcendence of God we are talking about that sense in which God is above and beyond us. It tries to get at His supreme and absolute greatness. The word is used to describe God’s relationship to the world. He is higher than the world. He has absolute power over the world. The world has no power over Him. Transcendence describes God in His consuming majesty, His exalted loftiness. It points to the infinite distance that separates Him from every creature. He is an infinite cut above everything else.


We have seen that the term holy calls attention to the transcendence of God, the sense in which He is above and beyond the world. We have also seen that God can “reach down” and consecrate special things in this world and make them holy. His touch on the common make the common suddenly uncommon. Again we say that nothing in this world is holy in itself. Only God can make something holy. Only God can consecrate.


When we call things holy that are not holy we commit the sin of idolatry. This is the grievous error of idolatry, giving to common things the respect, awe, worship, and adoration that belong only to God. To worship the creature instead of the Creator is the essence of idolatry.


The mysterious character of a holy God is contained in the Latin word augustus. The early Christians had problems giving this title to Caesar. To the Christian, no man was worthy of the title august. Only God could properly be called the august one. To be august is to be awe-inspiring, or awe-ful. In the ultimate sense only God is aweful. 


In his study of the human experience of the holy, Otto discovered that the clearest sensation that a human being has when he experiences the holy is an overpowering and overwhelming sense of creatureliness. That is, when we are aware of the presence of God, we become most aware of ourselves as creatures. When we meet the Absolute, we know immediately that we are not absolute. When we meet the Infinite, we become acutely conscious that we are finite. When we meet the Eternal, we know we are temporal. To meet God is a powerful study in contrasts. 



“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5, NIV


If ever there was a man of integrity it was Isaiah Ben Amoz. He was a whole man, a together type of a fellow. He was considered by his contemporaries as the most righteous man in the nation. He was respected as a paragon of virtue. Then he caught one sudden glimpse of a Holy God. In that single moment all of his self-esteem was shattered. In a brief second he was exposed, made naked beneath the gaze of the absolute standard of holiness. As long as Isaiah could compare himself to other mortals, he was able to sustain a lofty opinion of his own character. The instant he measured himself by the ultimate standard, he was destroyed—morally and spiritually annihilated. He was undone. He came apart. His sense of integrity collapsed.


With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3:9-12


The tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. This was the realization of Isaiah. He recognized that he was not alone in his dilemma. He understood that the whole nation was infected with dirty mouths. “I live among a people of unclean lips.” In the flash of the moment Isaiah had a new and radical understanding of sin. He saw that it was pervasive, in himself and in everyone else.


We are fortunate in one respect: God does not appear to us in the way He appeared to Isaiah. Who could stand it? God normally reveals our sinfulness to us a bit at a time. We experience a gradual recognition of our own corruption. God showed Isaiah his corruption all at once. No wonder that he was ruined. For the first time in his life Isaiah really understood who God was. At the same instant, for the first time Isaiah really understood who Isaiah was.




As I said at the beginning, the only one worthy of our praise and worship is God. Let’s give him the praise he deserves.



Verse Completion. . . praise the LORD. Praise the LORD! Psalm 150:6 (NASB)


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