It Begins With Desire

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)

It Begins With Desire

Carrying a cross would not have been an appealing thought to the first-century disciples following Christ. Crucifixion was a common occurrence. The Romans perfected the craft of slowly killing a man with surgical precision with thousands nailed to crosses all across the empire. Golgotha was a place of crucifixion stinking with the smell of death. Many had suffered the cruel privations of humiliation and torture in the place where Jesus was crucified. The cross of Jesus was a frequently used piece of wood that had the blood of men filling its gaps and crevices. Birds flocked around the place of the skull feeding on the rotting remains of previous criminals left to die. Everything about the picture of crucifixion was a scene of horror, incredible suffering, and intense smells revolting to the nostrils of everyone.

Jesus called me to Him with an appeal to carry a figurative cross. The illusion of the price paid in cross bearing was the cost a man would pay to be a disciple of Jesus. This would not be a matter of choice whether to take up a cross or not. The only way – with no exceptions – to be a follower of the Son of God was to take up a cross daily and follow Jesus. A. W. Tozer explained the price of crucifixion when he wrote, “To be crucified means, first: the man on the cross is facing only one direction; second: he is not going back; and third: he has no further plan of his own.” The sanitized version of this crucifixion has led many to believe they can follow Jesus without taking up a cross. There is not only a price to be paid to be a Christian; it is a high cost. The will of man has become void, empty, and of no worth. Any man who comes to Jesus must empty himself of everything. Taking up a cross demands surrendering the total will.

The picture of the cross is the invitation Jesus used, drawing men to His kingdom. Before the cost of the cross is accepted, there must first be the desire of the heart to bear a cross, experience the suffering of crucifixion, and the willingness to endure until the end. Desire is where it must begin. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me.” Until this commitment is met, there will be no cross bearing. When the heart is not dedicated to suffering for Christ, they bear a plastic cross with wheels. There is no suffering. A cost has not been paid. The desire is to follow Jesus on the easy path. If there are conflicts involved, the heart is unwilling to comply. Desire is the total dedication of facing Jesus and asking for a cross.

The Romans gave Jesus His cross, but now the Lord delivers His cross to His followers and demands they desire it. Before a man is nailed to the cross of Jesus, he must confess his desire to be crucified. The irony of discipleship is Jesus had no choice when He was crucified and now demands all who come to Him choose to take a cross. That is where desire comes in. God will not force anyone to bear a cross. The cross of the Christian is one taken with a fervent desire to be like their King who suffered on a Roman cross and was without sin. Desire demands a choice. Bearing a cross is the ultimate sacrifice of self. When the desire is lacking, the commitment fails.

Picture for a moment standing at the cross of Jesus and seeing His suffering. As the Son of God dies, Joseph and Nicodemus come and take the body down. You raise your hand and tell the Roman centurion that you would like to be nailed to a cross. He asked you why and you tell him your heart’s desire is to be crucified like the man from Nazareth. The Romans comply. Your desire is fulfilled. Glory to God. Like Jesus was buried and arose, you suffer crucifixion and one day die so that you also can raise from the dead to the glory of the Father. And that was your desire at the beginning.

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Kindness Toward The Unkind

If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it. (Exodus 23:4-5)

Kindness Toward The Unkind

An enemy is someone antagonistic to another, seeking to injure, overthrow, or bring harm to another. To have enemies is to know that relationships are strained to the breaking point of anger and hatred. Since the beginning of time, the world has been filled with individuals that seek harm to others and nations that go to war against perceived enemies. Jealousy, envy, strife, and selfishness have led to families becoming enemies of one another, nations dividing into a civil war where brother fights against brother, and among the people of God, friendships deteriorating to hostility (King Saul and David). Among the many commands of the Law of Moses, God required His people to treat their enemies with compassion.

The natural response when a man finds the animal of his enemy going astray is to help it go in the wrong direction or to make sure the animal never returns to its master. That would bring satisfaction of revenge against the one who seeks to injure the person. A man walks down the road and finds the donkey of his enemy collapsed under a heavy load crying out in pain, unable to gain its footing. It would be easy to laugh at the plight of the stricken animal and allow it to die because it belonged to an enemy. That would teach the enemy a lesson and bring pain to him. God forbids the act of vengeance against an enemy. Moses is not writing about good suggestions for learning how to get along with an enemy. What he writes down in the law are commands, judgments, and statutes requiring the individual not to have feelings of hatred toward their enemies.

Using animals as an illustration of compassion shows the depth of love and concern a child of God must have for their enemies. An animal can be abused at the enemy’s expense, but God forbids the child of God to allow such abuse. Two things happen when the law is followed. The animal is relieved, and the enemy is shown compassion. Then animal does not learn any lesson, but the enemy does. This is a character-building and humbling experience. Imagine the surprise on a man’s face when he looks out over the field and sees his enemy leading his ox back to the corral. In an agrarian society, animals are the lifeblood of survival. They are not pets. These animals are necessary for life itself. As a beast of burden, a donkey is a machine to move vital goods to market. Finding a donkey of an enemy lying under a burden could be financial ruin for him. God commands holy people to help the enemy and bring a blessing to the enemy.

Jesus instructs His disciples to love their enemies and do good to them. This is not a new command, but now the example of love for enemies is found in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Humanity had gone astray in a rebellious spirit of defiance against God and became burdened with the weight of sin. Like the donkey, which could not lift the burden, sin oppressed the soul of man with no relief. There was no help. God did not look upon humanity with hatred and malice. Mankind was the enemy of God. Make no mistake about the putridity of man’s condition before a righteous Lord. Only through the benevolent love of a gracious God was the burden of sin lifted and man restored to the sheepfold of God. What God did for man is what God demands men do for one another.

The world has a view of enemies that is based on revenge. Anyone who is an enemy deserves all the harm that can be done to be brought upon them with full force. No quarter and no relief. If that were the view of God, the world would have been destroyed long ago. An example of God’s love is how holy people view their enemies. When we were enemies of a righteousness God, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. Because God loved humanity (enemies), in Christ, we have been reconciled and saved by His life. In this world, there will be those who seek the harm of God’s people. Let no animosity or hatred spring up in the hearts of those devoted to the love of God. Be kind to the unkind, and you will find the forgiving grace of God.

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The Winds And The Sea Obey Him But Not Men

Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

The Winds And The Sea Obey Him But Not Men

Jesus proved He was the Son of God through the miracles, signs, and wonders He did in the presence of the people. There was never a doubt a miracle happened with the harshest critics of Jesus acknowledging a miracle had taken place. The variety of wonders performed by the hand of the Lord established His dominion over nature, time, distance, quantity, disease, and death. Jesus was not limited by His miracles. He took five loaves of bread to two fishes and fed more than five thousand people. His rising from the dead exalted His place as a divine being sent from the Father. Walking on water was natural for the One who created the seas.

It was a challenge for the peers of Jesus to see Him as anything but a man. Even the disciples of Jesus, while witnessing the power of Jesus to heal lepers, a centurion’s servant (long distance), the mother-in-law of Peter, demon-possessed people, and all who were sick could not grasp the enormity of His power. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were seasoned sailors accustomed to the dangers of the open water. Leaving the multitudes and seeking solitude on the sea, Jesus and the twelve find themselves in a great tempest with waves covering the boat. The Lord is exhausted from His work and has taken refuge on the boat, falling fast asleep. As the storm rages, the Lord sleeps but not so with the twelve. The violence of the storm brought great fear to their hearts believing they would perish. They are so fearful; they wake Jesus to warn Him of the impending doom.

Rising from sleep, Jesus is frustrated with the faith of His disciples. If they had seen the miracles by His hand earlier, what reason would there be to fear a storm? Miracles, signs, and wonders confirm deity, and if Jesus could do all manner of signs, what fear would there be for the disciples who saw Jesus sleeping in the storm. They may not have been able to sleep but looking at Jesus asleep in such a violent storm should have assured them that nothing would happen to them. Jesus arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and immediately, all was calm. That must have been an incredibly powerful moment from terrifying chaos and impending death to the Sun shining, calm seas, and safety. The twelve stood in awe at the power of Jesus. Why should they wonder who the man before them was, but they did? Who else could calm a storm but the Son of God?

The faith of the disciples had a long process to understand the power of Jesus. Eleven of those terrified men would go on to preach the gospel to the world, and ten would die a martyr’s death. They were unsure how powerful Jesus was, but they learned there were no limitations to His power. Belief overwhelmed them when they saw the miracles. Jesus performed many miracles, but eventually, most men denied the Lord and refused to walk with Him. The winds and the waves obeyed the voice of the Lord because they understood who held dominion over them. Sadly, most men today hear the voice of Jesus and refuse to acknowledge Him. The miracles of Jesus proved Him to be the Son of God, instilling faith in honest hearts to obey Him. Nature cries forth with obedience from its Creator and Maker, and the one creature made in the image of God denies Him. When the Lord returns, the winds and the waves will be destroyed. Man will not. He will stand before the judgment bar of God to answer for how he accepted or rejected the power of Jesus. Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him? Jesus Christ is His name.

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I Love To Go To God’s House

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (A song of ascents. Of David. Psalm 122:1)

I Love To Go To God’s House

The heart of David was entirely devoted to the worship of God. There was a pure sense of dedication to the spirit of David that reflected in his memorial as a man after God’s own heart. The closeness, intimacy, familiarity, and deep love David shared with the heavenly Father did not come from his intellectual knowledge of the Divine. His purpose in life was worship, and his favorite place to be was the house of the Lord. When the time came to go to the Temple and enjoy the fellowship of spiritual feasting with the people of God, David was at the head of the line. The Hebrew word David used to describe his joy was SAMACH, meaning “to brighten up,” “glee,” “cheer,” filled with joy, and made merry. This was not a frivolous kind of gladness. The spirit of David loved to go to the house of the Lord to sing praise, hear the powerful word of God spoken, listen to devout prayers, and witness the faithful making sacrifice.

There was no drudgery to David’s journey to the house of the Lord. When the time came to go, there was no question where he would be going. His time at the house of the Lord was not settled by a clock as if on a timer. The day of worship was a joyful occasion for David. Along with the thousands of worshipers, David was a common man bowing in reverence to the blessings of a benevolent God. He was king of Israel, but at the house of God, he was a humble man of faith. Mingling with the common people of Israel, David was like a gentle shepherd tending his flock. The union of faith united the hearts of everyone to the joy of worshipping the Lord at the house of God.

The house of God is no longer in Jerusalem, but in many communities throughout the world, a house of God can be found. Jesus built His church to be the body of the saved, the bride of Christ, a house of God, and a place of worship. Every first day of the week, the early disciples gathered together in a place to worship God. It may have been in a home, by a riverbank, in a cave, or in the catacombs of Rome the church would meet, but they gathered together as the house of God for a single purpose. The desire of all those who came together in one place was to worship the Lord.

“Going to church” is a similar phrase used in the modern setting, describing being in a particular place for worship. David said he was glad when they said, “Let’s go to the house of the Lord.” Sadly, there are many in the church today that have no gladness in assembling with the saints. Many want to stay home with a myriad list of excuses of why they cannot join with fellow Christians in the worship of Jesus Christ. Social media has spoiled many to become “Mattress Christian” or “Couch Members” who enjoy the show rather than the worship. There is no joy to go to the house of the Lord when the convenience of Dan and Bethel are offered. The spirit of David was pure joy to go to the house of the Lord, and nothing would hinder his journey. There must be the spirit of David among God’s people who love to go to the house of the Lord.

It is sad when children grow up never knowing if they are going to church or not. That is an indication the parents have taught them well the carnal materialism of the world is more important than worship. Any excuse will keep some from going to the house of the Lord. When the children grow up and leave the faith, there should be no surprise because they were never taught to love to go to the house of the Lord. There is nothing more important for a child of God to do in life than to go to the house of the Lord. Sitting in a church building will not save a person, but it is where devotion to God begins. The Lord commands His people to assemble, and to neglect the assembly brings the wrath of God. Under the Law of Moses, the Sabbath was not to be trifled with. The joy of going to the house of the Lord is why we assemble every first day of the week. What is your joy? Where do you want to find joy? Are you glad when it is time to go to the house of the Lord?

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Walking In The Shade Of God

I will lift up my eyes to the hills — from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The Sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore. (A song of ascents. Psalm 121)

Walking In The Shade Of God

The Sun can be an unbearable burden in the heat of the day as it radiates its power over the earth. Deserts are scorching wastelands baked by the intense rays of an unshaded world. Being cast adrift on the oceans of water, men are desperate to find shade from the burning Sun. When God created light, He also created shade as a reflection of light on a solid mass. There is relief in the shadow of a tree or the cleft of a rock. The atmosphere was created at an exact density and makeup to allow sufficient rays of sunlight to penetrate but to protect the inhabitants from overexposure to dangerous radiation of ultraviolet light from the Sun. God created shade to allow relief from the heat of the Sun. Since the beginning of time, men have recognized the blessing of a little shade to relieve the suffering of heat.

As the Hebrews made their way to Jerusalem to worship the Lord God, they sang familiar psalms and hymns passed down from generation to generation. Songs of ascent describe the attitude of heart of God’s people preparing to worship. One of those psalms is a declaration of trust and faith in the providing care of the Lord God. Throngs of crowds moved toward the house of God, singing of their trust in the providential care of the Lord, singing their only help came from the Creator of the universe. There is no greater help than the Lord who made heaven and earth. Trusting in idols was foolishness. Seeking help from idols was folly. Looking for help from the Lord God of creation was the only true hope.

Trusting in God gives assurance that no harm can befall those who seek Him. He will not allow His children to stumble. The joy of walking in the light is seeing the things that will cause a man to stumble and avoiding them. God lights the way not allowing His children to be tempted beyond their abilities. Sin comes when we ignore the lighted path and stumble anyway. The overshadowing of the Lord is constant because He never slumbers, sleeps, or closes His eyes. Nothing can overwhelm the child of God when they are walking in the light of God.

Worshipping the Lord brings comfort from the heat of the world that bears down upon the soul like the heat of the noonday sun. The Lord watches over His children and shades them from the cruel heat of the day. Like the cooling shade on a hot day, God overshadows His children with a blanket of grace and love to soothe their troubled souls bringing comfort and hope. He will stand next to His children and protect them. The imagery of the Lord being a shade at the right hand is a powerful testimony that nothing is lacking in the protection of God. Being at the right hand is a place of ultimate protection. When a foe comes, those on the right hand are the defenders and protectors. God stands at the right hand of His children, protecting them as a shade in the day. He will not allow the Sun to strike His child nor the moon by night. The soul is preserved from evil by the shade of God’s grace.

Standing in the shade of God’s grace is a choice. Remaining in the heat of the noonday sun will bring death. The world stands in the burning Sun while few have found sanctuary in the shade of God’s protection. Every child of God who submits their will to the Father will find the cooling shade of grace flow over their lives, protecting them from the travails of a sun-drenched world dying of thirst. Jesus invites all men to come to the fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.  That fountain is found in the shade of God.

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Especially Those In The Family Of Faith

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:9-10)

Especially Those In The Family Of Faith

The early disciples were a close-knit band of brethren willing to share and provide for everyone as they had need. Luke writes about how following the conversion of three thousand saints on the day of Pentecost, all who believed were together and had all things in common, selling possessions and goods to divide among all, as anyone had need. The early church began with devout hearts dedicated to the spiritual feast of unity in the body of Christ with gladness and simplicity of heart. God was praised through the benevolent acts between saints. The need to care for one another was a foundational character of the church of Christ.

As the church began to grow, there were needs that had to be met among the brethren. No one lacked among the saints for all who had possessions of lands or houses sold them to care for the brethren who were in need. The church was not a civic organization to care for the poor and needy of the world, as the work of the church was limited to the needs of the saints. Every example of the New Testament church’s authority to care for others is limited to the members of the body of Christ. Individual responsibilities cared for others, but the church was not to be burdened with worldwide benevolent needs. The focus was saints giving preference to saints. When the great famine throughout the world came in the days of Claudius Caesar, the disciples determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they did and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

Corinth was a church of God filled with strife and immorality because they had lost the love and care for their fellow brethren. Division marred the church as factions fought against one another through envy, jealousy of gifts, and general lack of love for one another. There was a man with his father’s wife, and the brethren did not show love by rebuking his sin. It seems the central problem of Corinth was everyone was looking after their own needs. Writing to the churches of Galatia, the apostle Paul admonished the brethren always to give preference to the saints and members of the body of Christ.

Life can be filled with so much hardship, and the heart can become weary. Paul admonished the brethren not to get tired of what is good and, whenever the opportunity arose, do good to everyone but especially to those in the family of faith. Christians should do good to all men, but their first obligation is the care for their fellow brethren. One of the sterling characters of a Christian is their example of being good to all men. The world should see the Christian as a kind, compassionate, giving, and loving individual. While this is an important part of being a godly example, the Holy Spirit directs the saints receive a “double portion.” Saints should especially give preference to their brethren.

In the local church, brethren receive priority. This can be seen in the type of business we conduct, helping saints in a benevolent way, making sure the saints of a local congregation are cared for in their needs and a host of other things that always put the welfare of a fellow saint above the care of the world. There is a time and place to show the world a benevolent spirit, but it must begin in the household of faith. What would the world see when fellow saints are neglected by their own brethren? The Christian must do good to all men but especially those of the household of faith.

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The Two Greatest Words

After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he left all, rose up, and followed Him. (Luke 5:27-28)

The Two Greatest Words

When Jesus called disciples to Him, He used a powerful and concise statement to draw men to Him or send them away. There was little fanfare to the appeal of Jesus. He never spent long hours trying to convince people to follow Him and accept His teachings. Jesus’s words were two simple words: Follow Me. Matthew (or Levi) was a man of importance in the Jewish and Roman world. His brethren did not like him as he was used by the Romans. Being a tax collector came with its own distrust, dishonesty, and oppression. It was not uncommon for tax collectors to ask more than demanded by the Romans to line their own pockets. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector who admitted to being dishonest. Matthew was sitting at his place of business collecting taxes when Jesus came by. Jesus said, “Follow me.” Matthew rose and followed Jesus for the rest of his life.

There was some background to Jesus and Matthew, and the appeal was that powerful. It was not as if Matthew had no understanding of who Jesus was. When the time came for Matthew to dedicate his life to the Lord, he acted like a man who fully trusted with no doubting in the truth that Jesus was the Son of God. When Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew casting a net into the sea as they had done all their life. They were fishermen working the family business for generations. Jesus said, “Follow Me,” and they did. When Jesus found Philip, He told him to follow Him, and Philip obeyed. All these men gave up their lives to follow a man who claimed to be the Son of God. These same men would give their lives in martyrdom because they followed Jesus. Following Jesus was not for entertainment or worldly gain, or notoriety among men. Jesus demands His disciples to follow Him without doubting and in complete faith.

Following Jesus requires two things. First, a follower of Jesus is subject to everything the Lord demands. There are no options, democratic voting, or selecting which parts are desirable and which are not. When Jesus calls a man to follow Him, it demands a full heart of obedience to everything the Lord requires. Secondly, there is only one way to follow, one truth to accept, and one life to live. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and to follow Jesus requires allegiance to Jesus only – no one else. Many who want to follow Jesus will only do so on their terms. They claim to be followers of Jesus but deny Him in their obedience. Following Jesus is either all or nothing.

Not everyone Jesus invites to follow Him accepts His invitation. Being a disciple of Jesus requires taking up a cross, and few are willing to accept self-crucifixion. A rich young ruler came to Jesus seeking eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell all he had and give to the poor and to follow Jesus. The man went away sorrowful because while he desired to follow Jesus, he was unwilling to pay the price. Men try to make excuses when Jesus calls them. Jesus urges a man to follow him, but he excuses himself so he can bury his father. This ritual was probably what the Jews did a year after a loved one died by going into the tomb to bury the bones. Following Jesus cannot be done beginning with excuses. After this man rebuffed the invitation of the Lord, someone comes to Jesus and tells Him he would follow Him, but first, he must tell his family goodbye. Again, Jesus explains that to follow Him requires a man not looking back.

The two greatest words given by Jesus is asking men to “Follow Me.” When a man accepts the invitation of Jesus, he will hear two more words when judgment comes as the Father will say, “Well done.” To finalize the greatest joy a man will hear are two words: “Enter in.” Two words. First to follow, then to be commended, and finally to enter in. What a joy. Praise God (two more words).

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Judged By A Plumb Line

Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said: “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste. I will rise with the sword against the house of Jeroboam.” (Amos 7:7-9)

Judged By A Plumb Line

There is no certainty when the plumb line was invented, but Cain, son of Adam and Eve, built a city and named it after his son, Enoch. Building a city requires mathematics, science, and an understanding of foundations, structures, and walls. A wall can be constructed, but the key is to make sure the structure is secure and stable. Making certain the wall is at the proper angles vertically and horizontally would be required. Whatever means Cain used in building the city of Enoch is unknown, but it can be surmised a pattern of a plumb line would be necessary. Early in the genealogy of humanity, workers of iron and bronze are shown lending the creation of tools as rather advanced for the beginnings of the world. A plumb line would be one of the oldest tools still used today, and it accomplishes the same purpose as it would have in the days of Cain.

Amos was not a prophet, nor was he the son of a prophet, but God called him to speak to the wicked people of Israel seeking to bring them back from destruction. The prophet brings severe warnings to Israel for their idolatry and desire to be like the nations around them. All the kings of Israel (the ten northern tribes) did evil in the sight of the Lord. Amos delivers a blistering condemnation of their wickedness ending with four visions of locusts, fire, a plumb line, and a basket of summer fruit. The Lord stood on a wall He created with a plum line. Israel is the wall. When the Hebrews cried out to God in Egypt, the Lord God delivered them with a mighty hand, raising them to be a great nation. He gave them a law that would be their plumb line to know what is right and wrong. Everything they needed was contained in the Law of Moses with the promise that if they obeyed the commands, statutes, and laws, God would bless them without measure. Less than seven hundred years later, the Lord stands with a plumb line to see where the people stand, and the wall is nearly fallen over.

The word of God is the plumb line remaining constant and true through each generation. God’s word has not changed any more than gravity changed from the Egyptians who built the pyramids to modern-day skyscrapers. Israel had moved away from the word of God. The divine plumb line exposed their wickedness. They could argue and try to persuade the Lord they were still obedient, but the evidence was clear when God held up the plumb line on the wall He had built – they were out of line – in a huge way. The wall was leaning so far off center it was about to fall. In 722 B.C., the wall collapsed when the Assyrians captured Samaria and destroyed the ten tribes of Israel. Warnings were given. Measurements showed the wall in danger of falling. The people ignored the warnings, and then the wall fell. The plumb line of God was true.

God gives a plumb line to the world that will show the destruction as in the days of Israel if not heeded. Gravity has not changed since it was created by the hand of the Creator. A plumb line will show the purity of science of a continuous vertical line. Mathematics is the purest of sciences because one plus one has always equaled two and will never change. The plumb line of God’s word is the purest of doctrines because it has remained unchanged and unmoved by the whims of human wisdom.

Nothing will change the word of God settled in Heaven. The Bible is the plumb line of God judging nations, churches, and individuals. When a nation no longer fears God, they will fall because the plumb line of the Lord no longer centers them. Churches that refuse to model themselves after the New Testament pattern deny the model of the early church building the wall of truth in accordance with the divine plumb line. All of humanity will be judged by the Father, who holds the plumb line of truth in His hand. There is only one judge who holds the only plumb line that will judge the hearts of men. Either the heart is in line with truth, or it is not. The word of God is the plumb line of redemption. Jesus is the plumb on the vertical line of the Word. Do you measure up?

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The Doctrine Of Christ

Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. (2 John 9-11)

The Doctrine Of Christ

What is the doctrine of Christ? A doctrine is a body of beliefs or principles of law established by teaching or instruction. The doctrine of Christ is the formation of the laws of God concerning the salvation of man. Throughout His ministry, Jesus spoke of His words as the words of the Father. After His death, the disciples of Jesus took the words of their Lord and taught them to others who were disciples or learners of the doctrine of Christ. The complete body of truth is found in the doctrine given by God through His Son Jesus Christ and Him alone. There is no other true doctrine. If a belief or teaching is not according to the doctrine of Jesus Christ, there is no truth.

John makes it clear that not abiding within the teachings of Jesus would bring the disfavor of God. When a man does walk according to the precepts of Christ, he has no relationship with God. Fellowship with the Father demands obedience to the word of Christ. Someone can’t claim to be a Christian and refuse to follow the law of God in Christ. Jesus reminded His disciples in the mountain sermon that calling Him “Lord, Lord” did not suggest salvation. Truth must be founded upon the will of the Father, and without obedience to the law, there is no salvation. Since there is only one Lord, there can only be one doctrine.

John made it very clear to the early disciples of Christ, accepting any other gospel than that which was delivered to the saints would bring the wrath of God. There was to be no fellowship with those who refused to abide in the doctrine of Christ. In the first century church, there were no other doctrines accepted. Apostasy came from doctrines such as John writes about in the Revelation, like the doctrine of the Nicolaitans (which God hated) and the doctrine of Balaam. These were doctrines contrary to the doctrine of Christ. There was only one church and one doctrine. Accepting any other doctrine was sinful. John goes further to tell the saints not to allow false doctrines to come into the home. There can be no harmony between the doctrines of men and the doctrine of Christ. Accepting a person who teaches error is to join in their evil deeds.

Religion has become more of a compromise than a distinct set of doctrines. In a ‘cancel’ world of denying distinct laws of authority, people look at the many churches and faiths as an expression of the will of men serving the will of God. Prayers are offered thanking God for the diversity of religion that abounds in the world. The apostle John, by authority of the Holy Spirit, writes that to abide in any doctrine other than the doctrine of Christ will not bring blessing but wrath. There is only one doctrine, one faith, one church (body), one Lord, and there is only one God (authority). Rejecting the teachings and instructions of Jesus Christ will not bring joy. Accepting the doctrines of men does not please the Lord. Abiding in the doctrine of Christ brings the blessing of the Father and the Son. There is only one doctrine: Jesus Christ.

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The Word Of Truth

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

The Word Of Truth

From the beginning of time, God has revealed His mind for men to know and understand what they must do to be saved. Sin brought condemnation and the fear of God’s wrath. Christ came into the world to become the atonement for sin through His blood. Entrance into the kingdom of God is only through the Son of God. The only way of salvation is Jesus Christ. Eternal life can only come by the blood of God’s Son. The whims of human wisdom do not measure truth but the word of truth that comes from the Father. There are two distinct elements to the way of salvation. First is the necessity of the word to impart knowledge, and second, a body of truth that will tell a man how to be saved. The word of truth is the information given by the grace of God showing sinful men how to find hope in eternal life.

There are many words spoken today that are powerful, but they are not according to truth. False doctrines or false truths are presented as the word of God. The world is filled with different churches teaching different doctrines with many avenues of salvation offered within each distinctive group. Some teach salvation by faith alone as truth. One group believes in following a man in Rome as God on earth. Churches vary in their patterns of worship, organization, doctrines, and membership. There are volumes of differences in the religious world defining truth by the word of their belief. While professing allegiance to Jesus Christ, they deny His teaching and His truth.

The word of truth is the body of truth that comes solely from the mouth of God. Paul admonished Timothy to examine the word of God in a proper manner to understand the word of truth. When Paul wrote his second letter, the canon of the New Testament had not been completed, but there were many books established as authoritative as truth. The Old Testament was truth verified by Jesus speaking of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. In the present world, the fully revealed word of God has been delivered for all men to read and understand the mystery of God as presented through the Holy Spirit, inspiring men to write the will of the Father. The sixty-six books of the Bible is not a book of myths but the complete revelation of God’s word – the word of truth. Everything from Genesis to the Revelation is the mind of God delivered to the world to know how to find eternal life. There is no other truth, no other book, and no other revelations. If truth is to be found, it must be contained within the pages of the Bible.

Finding truth requires looking in the right place. Understanding the truth of God demands acceptance of the Bible as the fully revealed and complete word of God. The Bible cannot be trifled with by taking away its doctrines or adding to the word of God. Rightly dividing the word of truth is examining with a proper spirit how God has revealed His word. The word of truth sees the importance of the Old Testament to learn about the Divine and accept the message of the New Testament as the only means salvation can be found. The church of Christ is the only body where the saved are found, and those who give allegiance to the Lord must do so with complete obedience to the word of truth. There is no other truth. Whatever is believed and accepted is found in scripture because truth resides in the word of God. The word of truth. Jesus is the word, and Jesus is the truth.

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God Is Love

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:15-16)

God Is Love

The greatest hope that man can find in a dark and unyielding world is the knowledge that beyond the clouds of doubt, fear, hatred, and hopelessness resides a God that is fully capable of love beyond the bounds of understanding. Nothing is redeeming about the nature of man. From the beginning, the sway of rebellion has been in the heart of men. The greater portion of humanity has rejected the overtones of a loving God to live for the moment and die for their pleasures. Noah only saw seven other souls that were righteous in a world destroyed by the flood. Moses witnessed the death of his people for forty years because they rebelled against the power of the Almighty. The nation of Israel rose to be the greatest nation on earth before falling headlong into destruction with only a remnant to be saved. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and was murdered on a Roman cross by His own people, the Jews. As He died, Jesus prayed to the Father to forgive humanity. God is love.

How can man explain the longsuffering of God? Where can the human mind find compassion, forgiveness, and mercy in a wholly evil creation? God is not love because He is a loving being. He is the fullest expression of love because He is love. The abiding love of God is the manifestation of eternal mercy to allow a sinful world to find grace in the death of God’s Son. God’s love begins with believing that Jesus is the Son of God. Without a conviction that Jesus is God, there is no hope and no love. It either starts with Jesus or ends with Jesus. God is love because Jesus is the Son of God. The totality of the life of Jesus is the embodiment and expression of how much God loves man. God spoke the world into existence, and He will destroy it by the same word. Instead of destroying the world by His word, God sent His Son, the Word, into the world so that all men could find abundant life. Why? God is love.

When a man comes to understand that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, the love of God abides in him. He sees clearly the grace of God saving worthless men, the mercy of God delivering rebellious hearts, and the act of love in sending His Son to die for the sins of all humanity. As Jesus suffered incredible pain on the cross at the hands of His tormentors, He prayed to Father to forgive them. What man is there that does not bear the shame and reproach of why Jesus was nailed to the cross? Jesus died two thousand years ago, and He was delivered up by the Jews to be executed by Roman law, but every time I sin on earth, I am the one who drove those nails and mocked Him and denied Him. There is no man worthy of the death of Jesus. He lived a sinless and perfect life and died perfected by His Father as the unblemished sacrifice of the lamb. Jesus died for my sin – every one of them. Why? God is love.

The children of God manifest love toward others because the Father showed His love to humanity by sacrificing His Son. Love is not defined by words but actions. To know the love of God, the offerings of the Father express the eternal nature of His love. As children of the Father of love, the Christian is to be filled with forgiveness, compassion, mercy, and the love of God. Love must be an abiding characteristic that resides in the soul every day. It is not a prosthetic that is put on when needed. The world must see in the life of the Christian the spirit of God’s love living within them by the example of their lives. Abiding in God is where true love is found because the conclusion of the matter is: God is love.

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Guilty Of The Body And The Blood

Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27)

Guilty Of The Body And The Blood

The Corinthian church was in a spiritual conflict. Division filled the hearts of the saints, immorality was condoned, authority was being abused, and a concern for how the church was remembering the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ filled the pages of the apostle’s letter. After Paul addressed the conflict of authority in the church, he rebuked the brethren for their lack of consideration for the communion of Christ. He reminded them of when Jesus instituted the supper as a memorial of His sacrifice and the admonition to reflect upon the eternal nature of the feasts. Sadly, early in the church’s infancy, the Lord’s Supper had become a common meal with little or no regard for the worship of remembrance.

One of the strongest languages used about the importance of the Lord’s Supper is found in the Corinthian letter. The church had not come together for the good but the worse. They should have been ashamed of their conduct, but they were not. After reminding them of the pattern of the institution, Paul makes very clear the consequence of their rebellion. Taking the communion in an unworthy manner brings guilt before the throne of God. Paul does not suggest any man is worthy of the sacrifice of Christ in the eternal sense. No one can stand worthy of God’s love. His point about worthiness is the attitude of heart that accompanies the communion. The Lord does not look on the outside but on the heart of a man. Taking the supper of the Lord is a matter of the spiritual yearning for the blessing of God.

There is a need to open the heart and examine one’s life when the supper of Christ is given. This moment in the worship of God’s people is central to the purpose and design of salvation. The Feast of the Passover was not a time for the Hebrews to eat some bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and drink the fruit of the vine. It was a time of contemplation on the memory of what it cost to deliver the people from bondage. The Egyptians suffered terrible losses with the death of every firstborn among men and cattle. Untold thousands of lives were sacrificed that night to atone the deliverance of God’s people. During the Feast of the Passover, God wanted the Hebrews to remember the price paid by the Egyptians to free them. The sacrifice of the Egyptians is nothing compared to the cost of God’s only begotten Son being offered as a sacrifice for the sins of every man. Jesus was the sinless Son of God who gave His blood to redeem every man.

One of the New Testament church pillars is to remember what it cost God to save mankind. He demands His people assemble together on the first day of the week and remember the Father’s love in giving His Son as a sacrifice for sin. Taking the Lord’s Supper in a frivolous, uncaring, and unloving way brings shame upon the name of Jesus Christ, counts the blood of the covenant by which all men are set apart as common and unholy, and insults and disdains the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to all men. The warning of Paul reminds those who gather for the communion to be very aware of what they are doing. This was not the case at Corinth, and it was sinful.

A final observation about the warning by Paul is that he challenges the Corinthians to consider themselves and examine themselves when they take of the supper. It has always been a problem in the church of the Lord for some of God’s people to take a casual view about assembling with the saints. There are untold reasons people decide to miss “church services” for work, recreation, laziness, and lack of faith. The problem comes from the misguided notion that church attendance is not required on Sunday. That is incorrect. What is required is for the child of God to assemble with the body of saints to take of the Lord’s Supper (among other things). It should also be noted the Lord’s Supper is the only worship that specifically has penalties attached to it by abusing the supper. There are suggested penalties attached to the other but nothing as clear as the supper. If a man is challenged when present to the manner he takes of the supper, what kind of view does God have of those who are unwilling to assemble with the saints? The Lord’s Supper is something that requires coming together. It cannot be done through a proxy. It requires assembling.  When a man does not take of the supper in a worthy manner, he is guilty of the body and the blood of Jesus Christ. If a man chooses not to assemble with the saints, will his guilt not be greater?

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If You Believe Jesus Is Real

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Luke 9:20-22)

If You Believe Jesus Is Real

In a recent poll titled the “American Worldview Inventory 2020” by Dr. George Barna, Director of Research for the Cultural Research Center, research has revealed a “razor-thin 51% majority of Americans believe in a biblical view of God – this is down from 73% thirty years ago. This research adds to the mounting evidence that Americans are both redefining – and rejecting – God. Americans are almost evenly divided on the nature of Jesus Christ. Overall, 44% agreed that ‘when He lived on earth, Jesus Christ was fully divine and also fully human, and therefore committed sins, like other people.’ Slightly fewer (41%) viewed Jesus as fully divine and fully human, and sinless while on earth.” (Dr. Craig von Buseck; https://inspiration.org)

There is a great irony suggesting that Jesus was a real person and that He lived on the earth and yet disbelieved He was what He claimed to be, the Son of God. Studies have examined the texts of the gospels, trying to determine if the stories are true, with conclusions often returning that much of what is written about Jesus is a fabrication of human philosophy. There is an uneasy calm between wanting to believe that a man called Jesus lived in Nazareth two thousand years ago and accepting Him as a divine being. The great ploy of Satan is to allow men to accept that Jesus was a real person but then reject that He was anything more than a good man who went about doing good things.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John paint a very different picture of Jesus because they are the only ones whose writings are preserved to tell His story. The man Jesus is hinted at by many sources as a real person, but only the gospel writers detail the life of Jesus in His teachings and miracles. John claims that what he wrote should convince the reader that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Luke tells the story of Jesus asking His disciples who the crowds say that He was. There were many different opinions of people of what to make of the man from Nazareth. It was hard for some to see Jesus as divine because they could only see Him as a carpenter’s son. Peter spoke up and said that Jesus was the Christ of God. Jesus tells His disciples that He must suffer many things from the Jewish leaders, and they will kill him. The elders, chief priests, and scribes will reject Jesus as the Christ and have him killed through the authority of the Roman government.

On more than one occasion, Jesus says that when He is killed, He will rise from the dead. That is a remarkable claim. No man has made such a claim and proven its fulfillment. During the early days of the church, more than five hundred people claimed to have seen Jesus after His death. The New Testament church was established upon the faith of thousands of people willing to die for a risen Savior. Outside Jerusalem, an empty tomb stood as testimony to the proof of the resurrection. A dead man was put in the tomb, sealed with a huge stone, and guarded by the elite of the Roman army. The only way Jesus could have been taken out of the tomb was by the power of God. Jesus said He would rise from the dead, and He did.

The challenge to believe in Jesus is whether a person accepts the word of Jesus or to admit Jesus was the greatest con man in history and a prolific liar. It is contradictory to hear a man say he believes Jesus is a real person and then turn around and deny what Jesus said. Jesus claimed to be God, He claimed to have the power to forgive sins, He showed miraculous powers even the Jewish leaders never denied, and everything about the life of Jesus shows Him to be divine. The philosophies of men are contradictory to accept Jesus as real and then turn away from what He said. Either the story of Jesus is true, or it is a lie. If Jesus is a liar, then He is not a good man. Gandhi was a good man, but he never claimed to be the Son of God and promise he would rise from the dead. Jesus said He would be killed and raised the third day. He died on a Roman cross, buried in a new tomb guarded by Roman soldiers, and raised the third day by the power of God. If you believe Jesus is real, you have no choice but to accept the truth that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of the living God.

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Defeating An Army Of One Million Men

Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God, for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to observe the law and the commandment. He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah, and the kingdom was quiet under him. And he built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest; he had no war in those years, because the Lord had given him rest. Therefore, he said to Judah, “Let us build these cities and make walls around them, and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet before us, because we have sought the Lord our God; we have sought Him, and He has given us rest on every side.” So they built and prospered. And Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from Judah who carried shields and spears, and from Benjamin two hundred and eighty thousand men who carried shields and drew bows; all these were mighty men of valor. Then Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots, and he came to Mareshah. So Asa went out against him, and they set the troops in battle array in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. And Asa cried out to the Lord his God, and said, “Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name, we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” So the Lord struck the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. And Asa and the people who were with him pursued them to Gerar. So the Ethiopians were overthrown, and they could not recover, for they were broken before the Lord and His army. And they carried away very much spoil. Then they defeated all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the Lord came upon them; and they plundered all the cities, for there was exceedingly much spoil in them. They also attacked the livestock enclosures, and carried off sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 14:2-15)

Defeating An Army Of One Million Men

The largest army in the present-day world is China, boasting an army of 1.6 million troops. India has the second-largest military with a population of 1.2 million, followed by the United States with a combined number of active-duty, reserve, and National Guard members at one million. A little over eight hundred years before Christ, Ethiopia came against Asa, king of Judah, with an army numbering one million men. When Asa heard of the approaching army of Ethiopia, his heart must have felt an overwhelming crush of fear at fighting against a seemingly impossible foe. The army of Judah only numbered 300,000 men who carried shields and spears, with an additional army of 280,000 from Benjamin. The odds were 2-1 at best, to say nothing of the three hundred chariots of the Ethiopians.

Asa did not flinch, and he did not cower inside Jerusalem. The king of Judah took his army into the Valley of Zephathath at Mareshah and set his troops in battle array. The Ethiopian king came with a million soldiers, and Asa came with the Lord God Almighty. Asa’s prayer is a powerful declaration of faith and trust in the power of the Lord to do the impossible. The king knew that God would help His people. History was filled with the victories of the Israelites over incredible odds, including the defeat of Egypt many generations before with Moses. Asa knew that God had not forsaken His people. As a godly king, Asa had sought to turn the remaining remnant of Israel back to serving the one true God. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers and observe the law and the commandment. Asa trusted in the power of God to over a million-man army.

God had the power to win a battle with an army of 580,000 men or one young man in the Valley of Elah. The Lord had shown through King David that one man standing alone with God could defeat all the Goliaths of the world. When the Ethiopians came against Asa, he was the David and Ethiopia the Goliath. Asa knew that God could defeat any army, whether with many or those with no power. His faith is remarkable. There was no doubt or fear in the heart of Asa. He stood before the Ethiopian army with full assurance that victory would be given. The prayer of Asa put all confidence in the power of God. Godly people rest their faith on the will of the Lord and in His name. With a shout of defiance against the million-man army of Ethiopia, Asa cried out, “O Lord, You are our God: do not let man prevail against You.” And it was done. The Ethiopians were completely defeated, overthrown, and they could not recover.

There is a greater foe standing before the child of God. Paul describes the enemy beyond the terms of one million men when he writes about the principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness, and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places that defy the will of God. Satan leads the charge against the people of the Lord. One child of God who kneels in prayer can defeat the vast army of the devil. A life filled with the word of God can destroy the influence of the hosts of wickedness. Death is no longer feared by the people of God through Christ, who overcame death and gave the victory to His disciples. Every Christian should pray the prayer of Asa, who believed in the overwhelming power of God to win the victory against insurmountable odds. One man standing alone with God is the greatest army in the world. Bring it on, Satan.

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Without Authority Is Without God

Then they came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Him. And they said to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?” But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me.” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’ “—they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed. So they answered and said to Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11:27-33)

Without Authority Is Without God

The conflict of good and evil has always been fought on the battlefield of authority. This was true before the world was created as God prepared a plan to destroy Satan and his spiritual hosts of wickedness. The authority of the Divine Godhead versus the rebellion of the principalities, powers, and rulers of the darkness is where the deciding moment of truth is found. Satan challenged the authority of God when he deceived Eve in the garden. The destruction of the world in the days of Noah came about because all but eight souls followed the word of the evil one. Israel was a great nation created to show the glory of the Lord, but when they rejected the authority of the word of God, they were destroyed. Jesus faced harsh criticism from the Jewish leaders who tried vainly to trap Him in His speech, dismiss His powers, and sway the multitudes to turn away from Him.

There came a day when the chief priests, scribes, and elders realized that to undermine the teachings of Jesus, they would need to attack His authority. Ironically, by their attack on Jesus, they declared the essential elements of divine truth. Everything in the world requires authority, and authority must be given by someone who has the power to exercise that authority. The Jewish leaders asked Jesus two questions. First, by what authority does Jesus act. Second, the leaders wanted to know who gave the carpenter’s son from Nazareth His authority. Unknowingly, the question was the proof of who Jesus was and why He had come. The priests, scribes, and elders recognized authority was needed, and the transference of that power must be given by one who has the right to carry out that authority. That is the basis of religion or the foundation of the purpose of man and the will of God.

Jesus answered with a question to the Jewish leaders about the baptism of John. Was it from heaven or from men? The Lord reminds His critics that all authority on earth comes from the human wisdom or the will of God. There is no third choice. Everything man does will come from the mind of God or the mind of man. God ordains governments, but the laws of men are established according to their own will. The relationship of eternal matters can only be settled by the authority of God. Within the structure of a government, men have the right to exercise dominion in whatever fashion they choose. They have this right according to the dominion of human wisdom upon the earth. Eternal matters can only be settled in heaven, and God is the only one who establishes what is right and wrong. All authority on earth will end, but the authority of the eternal nature of God will not. Man is created in the image of God, which requires him to subject himself to the authority of God. Eternal life comes from the law of God, which determines who will be saved and who will be lost.

The key to understanding authority comes from the reality of what happens after death. Authority on earth will end when God destroys the universe on the last day. Whatever laws created through the generations of men will be extinct. Only the word of God will remain, and by it, all souls will be judged. The submission to God’s authority must be foremost in the lives of those who believe in God and desire eternal life. Accepting the existence of God is not enough. Salvation comes by obeying the will of the Lord and submitting to His authority. Without authority, a man is without God. Going beyond the word or subtracting from the word will bring consequences to those who refuse to accept authority from the Lord. Everything must be done in accordance with the authority of God.

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Old Wives Fables

If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:6-8)

Old Wives Fables

Man’s imagination has created wonderful stories of childhood that fill the mind with fantasy, creativity, and inspiration. Walter E. Disney took a mouse and built an empire on the whimsical tales of heroines and villains that remain a culture of its own. Stories handed down from generation to generation created legacies of family treasures of gnomes, fairies, and leprechauns. All of these stories are vivid creations of the mind given by God to entertain and amuse and, for the most part, harmless. There is a danger when myths become part of the standard of belief in the will of God where men have more faith in the legends than in the word of God. The purity of the word of God has always been under attack by the philosophical renderings of Satan’s whimsical allurement to change what God has said. It seems innocuous at first, but then it takes a life of its own.

An example of this is found in the story of a fifth-century missionary by the name of Patrick. He was known as the “apostle of Ireland.” One legend said when Patrick died, his friends refused to bury his body. After four days, the “body swelled up, burst, and emitted profusely the most marvelous perfume men had ever smelled” (James Burton Coffman). The legend of the shamrock is from a story that Patrick used the flower to describe the Godhead. Other legends about Patrick include banishing all snakes from Ireland, his walking stick grew into a living tree, and he spoke with ancient ancestors. St. Patrick’s Day was established by the Roman Catholic Church in the 17th Century.

Paul warned Timothy of how the imagination of men would creep into the church and fill the hearts of the weak and unsuspecting of godless ideas and tales told by old women. These were irreverent and silly myths that took on more importance than the word of God. The danger is going beyond what the Bible says and believe in stories that are not true. Christmas is a classic example of an old wives fable when people believe the wise men visited Jesus at His birth and a star hovered above the manger of the newborn. Nothing is further from the truth but trying to convince people is nearly impossible. Sadly, more faith is put in fables and myths than the clearly written word of God. When men begin to follow myths more than the word, they are led astray to their own destruction.

Combatting the error of old wives’ fables is done by staying in the word. God has delivered His will in written form so that everyone can read and understand the knowledge of the Divine. Traditions are often more powerful than truth. Practices are followed because that has been the way things have been done for generations. The failure of studying the scriptures has led to many doctrines being followed that were never in the original pattern of the New Testament church. Most churches use instrumental music as if it were part of the early church; not realizing it is a modern innovation. There is never a record of the saints using an instrument of music. Salvation by faith alone is an old wives fable. In other words, it is a myth, an untrue, a made-up story from the imagination of human philosophy.

The Athenians were known as people who loved to hear and discuss some new things. A new thing can be an old thing. The Holy Spirit warns about following deceptions of men that lead men away from the one trustworthy source of divine will. Godliness is a character that expresses sole dependence on the word of God and His word alone. It is necessary to reject all false doctrines as fables. Little children enjoy a tall tale because they don’t know any better. Serious children of God must know the difference and know what to reject.

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Pondering The Deeds Of God

The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them. (Psalm 111:2)

Pondering The Deeds Of God

There is little doubt the universe is a wonder to behold. The night sky is filled with so many stars, human wisdom can’t count them. With all the technology and advancement of science, no computer can calculate the numerical tally of the heavenly hosts with precise clarity. This knowledge is hampered by the reality that much more lies beyond when a man reaches the limits of space. The oceans teem with life that still reveals secrets never known the man. It is hard to believe that 80% of the earth’s oceans have yet to be explored and mapped by humankind. Every year, new species of aquatic life are found. The world abounds with new discoveries and places on earth that are unknown, both terrestrial and subterrestrial. Science continues to open doors never imagined by human wisdom before. The study of DNA has changed the face of medical science, including the field of forensic science. Medicines have evolved to complex treatments of targeted cancers and diseases, helping to save countless lives.

Looking at all the incredible wonders of the world, a man can fill his mind with such knowledge that it is too vast for him to comprehend. The mistake in human wisdom is to attribute such knowledge to an evolutionary series of millennial mistakes forming a union of design to create life. The world is a science lab of divine discovery for the man who believes in an eternal God. One thousand years before Christ, the psalmist sees the world as the work of God, and he takes pleasure in peering into the unfolding elements of his universe. He sees the hand of God in everything. The world shows the glory of the Creator. Through the word of God, the psalmist understands the power of the Divine works. The knowledge of God assures the psalmist that all the Lord does is just and good, and all the commands of God are trustworthy.

The awe of the psalmist comes from examining the works of God. He is astounded by the creative majesty of the universe and the incredible wisdom of the word of God. His life is spent studying the world and spending countless hours meditating on the will of the Father. There is nothing he ponders he cannot find from his search of the mind of God. He learns where he came from, why he walks on the earth, and what lies on the other side of the river of death. All of his questions are answered in his faith in the Divine, and he is humbled by such knowledge. The focus of his life is directed by one cause, and that is God.

Knowledge is given to all men to come to know the Lord and to find redemption in the Son of God. The Bible is the mind of God revealed to all men so that no one will be found lacking. Creation declares the glory of God, and the word of God determines the counsel of God. Both are necessary to understand the life that now is and that which is to come. Human wisdom will always fail, but God’s word endures. It took the psalmist only 162 words to declare the simple truth of God’s works and the wonder of His hands for generations. His words remain, and the truth of God’s faithfulness and justice continues. There is reason to praise the Lord, and the psalmist does so with his full heart in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. Look around you. Praise God.

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Not Ashamed To Die

For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. (Philippians 1:19-23)

Not Ashamed To Die

The apostle Paul was languishing in a Roman prison when he wrote his letter to the saints in Philippi. He was not despondent or downtrodden by his experience, as evidence by the amount of joy and rejoicing sprinkled throughout the book. There was much Paul was thankful for. He had a positive view of his circumstance, a hopeful expectation of the Philippian church, and a powerful understanding of life and death. It was not clear how the imprisonment would turn out for the apostle. Would he suffer death at the hands of the Romans or be released to preach the gospel? The latter became his future but only for a short time. Paul would be arrested again, and the blade of a Roman sword set his soul free to see his Lord face to face. Death was a familiar companion to Paul. He knew of many Christians who suffered death because they served the King of Kings. His place of honorable death would not come with a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Paul faced death without fear and shame. He knew if he was delivered from prison, there was much work to be done. However, if he suffered death, he knew it would be for the glory of Christ. There would come a day when Paul would be arrested and not delivered from death. Understanding the reality of death was vital to his service as a Christian. Paul could only imagine how much work had to be done to teach people, encourage the saints, establish churches, and further the cause of Christ. But God had not entrusted that work totally to the life of the apostle. As with all men, Paul would die, and others would take up the work. There was a fire burning in Paul that wanted to save lost souls until the coming of the Lord. His time was limited, and it was short. To live was Christ. There was a need to stay and preach. The glory of God would be magnified in the body of Paul. That was not the plan of God. Death will come to everyone regardless of how busy they are in the kingdom of God. Paul’s time was complete, and he joined the hosts of heavenly redeemed.

The way a person views life and death will measure how they face the trials of life. There is a misguided view living is “better than the alternative.” Many things hold the heart captive in this life. Family, friends, magnificent earth, the desire to see life blossom, and the joy of this mortal world. Death is feared with great anxiety. It is viewed with dread and doom. This should not be the case for the Christian. The world is filled with suffering, sadness, pain, misery, and hopelessness. Nothing in this world can be compared to what waits for the child of God. For the person who is not redeemed, there is much to fear. Sadly, Satan has put this same fear in God’s children. If a person is a child of God, there is nothing to fear about dying. Paul looked at death with both eyes and said he would be glad to die. Death was a “gain” for the apostle. Great faith comes from understanding the value of death. The reality of death is inevitable and why people try to deny death is remarkable. It will happen to everyone. The difference is how a person views death.

Paul suffered death by a Roman sword, but the cruelty of the moment was the blessing death afforded the weary apostle. Did Paul remember the faith of Stephen as he was dying at the hands of the mob Paul was a part of? Were the words of Stephen filling the mind of Paul as he himself said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and do not charge them with this sin?” Christians have faced death from persecution, famine, sword, disease, pestilence, and tragedy for two thousand years. Is there no joy in the death of God’s saints? A man faces death with courage from a cancer that has ravaged his body because he knows the love of God. He will miss his wife and children, but they know how much he loves God. Sorrow experienced in death is but for a short time. There are many unanswered questions about why people die. Even in the COVID world of a virus that has taken so many of God’s people, questions are asked about why. The answer remains the same for the child of God. To live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul was not ashamed to die. He knew its ultimate blessing. There is heartbreak in the loss of our dear brethren, but oh, the joy they experience in death when angels carry them to the bosom of Abraham. Are you hard-pressed between the two – having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better? Find the peace of God in knowing the death is but a “sleep.” And then we awake. Praise God.

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The Custom Of Jesus

Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. (Luke 4:14-16)

The Custom Of Jesus

Very little is known about the childhood of Jesus. Luke describes in detail the birth of God’s Son and the first few weeks, but with the exception of the trip to Jerusalem at the age of twelve, nothing is written about the life of Jesus until He is thirty years of age. When Jesus begins His ministry, the devil seeks to tempt the Son of God as he did the woman in the garden. Jesus does not fall prey to the cunning craftiness of the adversary. Following the time in the wilderness, Jesus returns to Galilee and goes home to Nazareth, where He does something that He has done frequently and with great persistence. The Son of God goes to the Synagogue. When Jesus was twelve years old, He astounded the teachers at the Temple, both listening to them and asking questions. Everyone was astonished at His understanding and answers. Joseph and Mary find Jesus in the Temple and taking Him back to Nazareth; Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. Part of this increase in wisdom and favor with His Father came from His custom of going to the Synagogue on a regular basis.

It is hard to understand how the Son of God needed to learn things as a mortal man. There were many aspects of the life of Jesus that were remarkable, but for the first thirty years, Jesus was as humanly normal as his brothers and sisters. He had to learn how to walk, put sentences together, and figure out what one plus one equaled. Since Joseph was a carpenter, it is most likely Jesus followed in the same profession learning how to use a hammer and saw. From early childhood, Jesus learned the stories of old about Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets. Going to the Synagogue on a regular basis, Jesus would hear the reading of the Law. When He was old enough, Jesus would take one of the scrolls and read for the assembly. As a young man 25 years of age, He took on greater responsibilities for the family. He would be part of the family as they went to the Synagogue together.

Jesus had a custom of going to the Synagogue. What does the Son of God need to go to the Synagogue if He is Divine? As Jesus grew to manhood and as a thirty-year-old man, His understanding and awareness of who He was increased, but He still went to the Synagogue. He knew the value of listening to the Law being read and the discussions that followed. The Synagogue was a place of worship central to many communities. Jesus took advantage of the opportunity to be in a place of worship. He went to the feasts according to the Law of Moses, offered sacrifices according to the Law, and kept the Law perfectly. Being the Son of God did not void His responsibilities or obligations. Going to the Synagogue was a vital part of the growing process for God’s Son.

There is a correlation between the worship of the Synagogue and the church Jesus would build. When the church first began, one of the immediate responses of the early saints was a need to gather together to hear the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, remember the sacrifice of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, and pray. This continued to be the pattern of the New Testament church because this was the will of God for His people. Under the Law of Christ, a weekly gathering of saints was prescribed as mandatory. Assembly with the church was not an option but a divine commandment. Two thousand years removed from the early church, many look upon Sunday worship as a part of their lives if it becomes convenient. Jesus had a custom of going to the Synagogue, and He was the Son of God. When a person does not make it a custom to gather with the church each first day of the week, they disregard the example of Jesus and the word of God. Children who grow up with parents who seldom darken the church building doors will reap the whirlwind of lost children because it was not their custom. When Daniel was told not to pray to the Lord, he went into his room and did what he did from early childhood – pray. Sadly, many children today never pray and have no such custom. When the heart becomes hardened to neglect the assembly of the saints, they establish a custom that will destroy their souls and jeopardize their children’s lives. Be like Jesus. Make the right custom.

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The Balm Of Gilead

For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt. I am mourning; Astonishment has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery For the health of the daughter of my people? (Jeremiah 8:21-22)

The Balm Of Gilead

Mary Ann Kidder was a prolific nineteenth-century hymnist who is thought to have composed more than 1,000 hymns during her lifetime. She wrote the hymn, “Did you think to pray,” with the haunting question of whether the disciple takes time to pray. First, when a disciple leaves the room in the morning and when the heart is filled with anger. Finally, when sore trials come upon the disciple, is there time for prayer? She writes that praying rests the weary and changes night to day. In her final stanza of the song, she uses an Old Testament example of seeking the healing hand of the Lord. She writes, “When sore trials come upon you, did you think to pray? When your soul was bowed in sorrow, balm of Gilead did you borrow at the gates of day?” It is a powerful appeal to find the divine ointment of grace to face trials in life.

The use of balm is found in other songs, including “‘Tis the Blessed Hour of Prayer,” which says, “What a balm for the weary! O, how sweet to be there! Blessed hour of prayer.” Edmund S. Lorenz calls the “Wonderful Love of Jesus” a balm in times of pain. In the song, “Jesus, I Come,” William Sleeper implores the blessing of coming out of earth’s sorrows into the balm of Jesus. Fanny Crosby also shows how Jesus is the balm for an aching breast in the hymn, “Jesus Will Give You Rest.” Other writers speak of the balm used for healing and the balm of His counsel for strength.

Balm was a medicinal balsam used widely in the Bible times. When the brothers of Joseph decided to sell their brother, they saw a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt. Jeremiah uses the plea of the balm of Gilead in a desperate appeal for Judah to find the healing mercies of God. The northern tribes had been destroyed nearly one hundred years before, and Judah had not learned from the mistakes of her northern sister. Now, the remaining people of God needed the balm of the Lord’s grace to heal them, but there was no balm. The hearts of the people had turned away from God, and there would be no healing. Balm was only helpful if applied to the wound.

Prayer is a balm that heals the troubled soul. Through the soothing ointment of God’s love, a troubled soul can find peace amid the trials of life. When balm is applied, there is an immediate feeling of comfort. Approaching the throne of God in prayer brings joy to the heart. Through the healing hand of answered prayer, the Father holds His children close and comforts their fears. The balm Jeremiah spoke of was the best ointments from Gilead. God has given His children the greatest blessings paid for by the blood of Jesus. The spiritual balm of Gilead is the enduring grace of God offered through His son, Jesus Christ, who Himself is a balm. Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the Father provides all mankind the healing power of forgiveness as His Son becomes an ointment that heals the soul of sin. The putridity of moral imperfection can only be healed by the agency of healing found in the Son of God. No other means will men find that will take away the sting of sin and its corruption. The key will be whether the balm of Jesus Christ is applied to the heart. When a man possesses the balm of Gilead yet refuses to apply the ointment, his death is tragic. Jesus comes to be the divine balm of Gilead, and all who come to Him must apply the teachings of the Lord to their sinful hearts. Relief from sin comes when the soul comes in contact with the balm of God. Refusing to make an application will have no value. Thank God for His perfect gift of Jesus Christ – the greatest gift found in the form of the balm of Gilead.

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We Preach Christ Crucified

For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)

We Preach Christ Crucified

Doctrine is a teaching or instruction setting forth a principle or position of a particular group. Whatever is taught is what becomes the basis of the belief held by the organization. Often, in the religious connotation, doctrine refers to the core beliefs of the religious group. Jesus referred to His teaching as the doctrine of His Father. The early church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship. Paul calls the gospel of Christ the doctrine of God and warned Timothy of those who would oppose sound doctrine. The scriptures are profitable for doctrine. John writes those who do not abide in the doctrine of Christ do not have God. He goes further to admonish not to receive anyone who does not hold to the doctrine of Christ.

What is the core element of doctrine in the church Jesus built? Listening to many religious groups today and among many of the Lord’s body, it is difficult to know what the core doctrine of a group is supposed to be. Focus is given to the carnal side of things like the entertainment of bands, musical groups, concerts, and fun times. Churches have coffee shops and donut shops, gymnasiums, and family life centers with a myriad of fun and recreation activities. Lost in the noise of self-gratification is the sole purpose of the church: Christ crucified. It is argued all the entertainment venues seek to praise Jesus and honor His name, but that is in stark contrast to the message of Paul when he said he preached Christ crucified, and that was it. The Jews wanted something more than the message of a dead Jew. To the Gentile (Greek) mind, the story of Jesus dying on the cross was pure foolishness. It sounds like there are many like-minded Jews and Gentiles in the religious world today.

Jesus said He would build His church, and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. Later, the Holy Spirit said that many hearts of the disciples would be drawn away and enticed. The gates of Hades have not prevailed, but its open doors begin in the lobbies of most churches and find fulfillment in their pulpits. There is little preached, taught, discussed, and valued about the true nature of the death of Jesus Christ. The crowds desire a sign, and the multitudes seek human wisdom, and Christ crucified is shunned. Preaching the gospel offends the delicate souls of the weak-hearted. Accepting the teachings of the Bible is viewed as narrow-minded and useless. Preaching the message of Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection is refuted with the modern principles of humanism, acceptance of immoral conduct, and contemporary religious thought. Health and wealth are the modern-day versions of the Jews and Greeks.

The pursuit of human wisdom, earthly possessions, the happiness of the flesh, and a form of godliness is more important than the message of Christ crucified. Paul offended many who heard him preach, but he preached the message of the cross. Many walked away from Jesus when He offended their delicate senses of religion. Drawing men with the honey of human wisdom will draw more souls to a movement, but it will take more souls to perdition where there is no honey or money. Christ crucified is the DNA of the gospel’s message, and preaching anything less will only bring eternal misery. Going beyond the message of the cross jeopardizes the eternal soul. Under the Law of Moses and in the writings of the New Testament, stern warnings are given of not preaching the whole truth and going beyond what is written. Paul said he preached Christ crucified. Nothing more. Nothing less. Preach Jesus. Tell the story of the crucified Savior.

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The Coming Of The Word

“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)

The Coming Of The Word

There has never been a time God has not sent His messengers to reveal to men the will of the Lord. In whatever form the messenger came, no one could offer excuses of not knowing what they must do to be saved. The eternal message has always been to find a way back to the Father. Nearly a century after the Jews had returned from their captivity, the hearts of the nation had turned apathetic, and the people began to disregard the law of God. The offerings were polluted, religion had become a formality of ritual, and against the will of God, the chosen people of the Lord married the daughters of the world. There would be a four-hundred-year famine of the word when Malachi laid his pen aside. The Lord would not reveal Himself until the coming of the herald of Christ bore witness to the coming of Jesus, the Son of God.

The first messenger of God was John the Baptist. As the Elijah of the new covenant, John would prepare the way for the coming of the Anointed of God. He would seek to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord so that Jesus could show His glory and power to a lost and dying world. John’s preaching was harsh, direct, and demanded righteous obedience. His message would not be for the faint of heart. The physical presence of the man matched the preaching of the baptizer. He dressed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. His preaching was as tough as the camel’s hair, tight as the leather belt, and basic as the insects and honey he ate. There was no mincing his message. God sent him on a mission, and he preached it hard, heavy, and honest. The people were startled by John the Baptist. He called the Jewish leaders a brood of vipers demanding they bear fruits worthy of repentance.

Shortly after John the Baptism began his work, Jesus began His short ministry gathering disciples around Him and choosing twelve to serve as apostles. In the early days of His ministry, multitudes were drawn to the teaching of Jesus. As the preaching of Jesus became clearer and His message more direct, many disciples turned and walked with Him no more. The people began to dislike the way Jesus taught. His words were offensive. The word remained the same. Jesus taught the people what the Father had told Him to say. He claimed to be divine because He was. His miracles attested to His divinity. Jesus was the Messenger of the covenant to show men the way to salvation. John the apostle called Jesus the Word because Jesus was the Word. Jesus said there was no other way to the Father but by Him. The truth could only be found in the Son of God, and eternal life promised to those who followed Jesus. All of the grace of God is found in the Messenger of the covenant. Refusing to listen to the word of Jesus Christ is refusing to listen to the word of God.

God has always sent His messengers to tell men the good news of salvation. John the Baptist was a messenger to prepare the path of the Son of God. His work of proclaiming the coming of Christ was finished, but the work of Jesus continues to testify to the message of hope found only in the man from Nazareth. The Messenger of the covenant remains the only way a man will find eternal life. When all men are gathered before the throne of God, the question from the Father is whether men listened to His Messenger, the Word. Everyone has the responsibility to seek the word of God to know how to be saved and obey the word. Communication is the basis of how God revealed Himself. The Bible is the message of the Father proclaiming the Messenger of the covenant through the written word. There are no more messengers. If an angel brought a message, they would be accursed. When a man rejects the Bible as the testimony of God seeking to present himself as a messenger of the Lord, he is accursed. There is one message, one hope, one word – and one way. Jesus Christ is the Messenger of the covenant – hear Him.

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God Our Help

A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore. (Psalm 121)

God Our Help

Songs of ascent were psalms that were sung as the pilgrims journeyed to Jerusalem. Ascending the hill of Zion to worship at the Temple of the living God was an emotional and moving experience. The people prepared themselves to worship the Lord by singing psalms in their journey as a family together. They were teaching their children the stories of the work of God through the psalms recited, instilling a love of the Father as a helper and benefactor. The work help in the psalm is the same word used of the promise made to Adam when God created the woman. As a helpmeet, God is always there to aid and comfort His people. The psalmist directs his attention to the magnificence of the Creator as one who cares for His creation. God did not create man and leave him to his own devices. When Eve disobeyed the word of the Lord, she was not cast out without hope. A Seed promise was given. Hope is found in the eight saved in the flood and the one sheep who went astray. God is a help in life because He cares for His children.

As a father, the Lord watches over the steps of His children. This does not suggest God has taken the will of man away. There is never a moment the heavenly Father is not looking at the life of those who follow Him. He does not slumber nor sleep. His care is constant. The overshadowing power of the Divine is always ready to assist, help, and lend His eternal hand to guide, protect, and soothe the troubled soul. As the divine helpmeet, the Lord God is like a wall around His children, keeping them from evil. He will always offer a way of escape from the clutches of sin. A rebellious heart causes one to sin, rejecting the power of God to keep them from temptation. Jesus taught His disciples to ask the Father to deliver them from temptation. God will always offer a better way to resist the devil.

Life can be like a burning desert that is harsh and cruel. The Lord is a keeper providing shade in the heat of the day. His help overshadows the Christian with grace, love, mercy, kindness, and care. Like a soothing shade that comforts from the hot sun, the Lord will protect and keep the Christian. Through the word of God, the child of God finds the comfort of God’s shadow stretching over their life as an eternal shade. Satan cannot burst through with his evil ways. The Lord helps His children walk in a protective cover of His love.

One of the greatest joys of being a Christian is to know the Father will be a helper to preserve the soul from evil. There is nothing to fear from the devil and his minions because their power is empty compared to the word of God. When a man resists the devil, he causes the adversary to flee. Jesus refused to follow the cunning craftiness of the devil with a “thus it is written.” Satan was defeated. The Lord will help the Christian in time of need because He promised to keep them from harm and watch over their lives. The problems of men come when they do not trust in the Lord to protect them. Living in the word and the power of the Holy Spirit, Satan is defenseless. God is the help of those who seek Him and follow His word. He will keep watch over His children day and night, and He will never slumber. Thank you, God, for being my helper.

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It Is All About Perspective

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

It Is All About Perspective

Life is how a person views the reason they exist and what happens after death. Everything is measured by the reality of the brevity of life compared to the eternal expanse that all men will fill. Death is inevitable, and nothing man can do will change that. Life can be a harsh landscape to walk. With no choice in how a person comes into the world, choosing life courses is like walking through a vast minefield. It can be overwhelming. There are certain ideals everyone has in life, and few are attained. Suffering, tragedy, disease, and sorrow lurk beyond the horizon, often bursting on the scene without warning. Natural disasters destroy lives. Wars take the youth at too early of an age. Injustice pervades the streets with crime, murder, rape, and abuse. There is a lot of suffering in the world, and this can overwhelm the soul with despair.

God is not unaware of suffering. He created a world of perfection, desiring to dwell with men in harmony. It was the failure of humanity that brought so much suffering and despair. Jesus came to take away the world’s darkness, offering men the light of hope to live for greater glory. He did not take away suffering as it remains in every form, but the Son of God came to give men a means to live in a dark world of sin. Paul expressed that hope when he compared the suffering of this world to the glory revealed with the heavenly saints. Before Paul became a Christian, he lived a privileged life. After he became a Christian, his life was filled with suffering, yet he remained faithful to the cause of Christ. He understood the perspective of suffering in his life would not compare to the glory he would receive as a redeemed child of God. Paul told the saints in Corinth he had been beaten five times, left dead after stoning, suffered shipwreck, and faced dangers from rivers and robbers. The Jews tried to kill him. Paul knew hunger, thirst and often went without food. He was cold and did not have enough clothes to warm him. His perspective was those things were temporary, but glory was eternal. It all had to do with how he viewed his life.

Perspective is looking through the sorrows of life and seeing that God has prepared something much greater for His children. The world is filled with uncertainty. A pandemic of global proportions has changed the world. COVID-19 is a common yet dreaded word. There are few families (if any) that the tentacles of this virus have not impacted. Some have suffered death. The political world has created a world of fear and doubt. There is no unified spirit of patriotism with efforts to destroy law and order, teach ungodly doctrines that generate hatred and prejudice, disrespect for authority, road rage, and economic ruin. Arguments over a mask are destroying the church. Immorality has taken the high road of acceptability with homosexuality, transgender allowances, and crisis in the identity of males and females. It is a dark world, but perspective is how the child of God navigates the dark roads of life. The glory promised by God is not here but there. Few generations have not had their times of trial and despair, but the joy of eternal life is where the heart should remain. There is no comparison to what is coming for the saved with the present world.

If you are unhappy, it may be you have the wrong perspective. Looking at this evil generation can bring despair and hopelessness to the soul. Watching the news every day will destroy happiness. Change the view. Have a godly perspective that glory is not found here but awaits the faithful in the world to come. That glory is indescribable, without words, and far beyond the darkness of this world. Knowing what good things are coming will help us all to walk in this dark vale of life and know God is still light and joy, and He will not forsake His children.

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Sorrow Does Not Change Truth

And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that, he became very sorrowful. (Luke 18:21-24a)

Sorrow Does Not Change Truth

A young man came to Jesus wanting to know what good thing he should do to have eternal life. The young man was a ruler of the Jews and very wealthy. His life was characterized by all the blessings of God with success and glory. When his fellow Jews looked at his life, they saw an exemplary individual that any young Jewish boy would seek to emulate. The spirit of the young man was entirely devoted to the Law of Moses. He had striven to mold his life in perfect harmony of the will of God, zealous for righteousness, and a keeper of the law. Jesus had struck a chord in the heart of the young man, and it was the man from Nazareth that had shown His miracles and power influencing the young man to come to Him. As Jesus answered the ruler, his heart was filled with satisfaction and joy for the knowledge he had done everything needed for eternal life.

There is little doubt the rich young ruler was a model citizen of the nation of Israel. As far as he could see, he had accomplished righteousness to a high degree with meticulous and careful detail. When he asked what he lacked, it was more of a statement than a question. In his mind, there was nothing more he could do to assure him eternal life. His heart was filled with a righteous pride of self-satisfaction. Jesus faced a crossroad as He looked into the eyes of the young man. He could tell the assurance the young man felt about his place with God. Jesus could hear from his voice a confidence of faith. It would be easy to let the man go and live a full life of devotion to the Father, but Jesus knew the young man lacked one thing. Only one thing? Was it necessary to wreck his life over one thing? The ruler seemed to be all that God wanted His people to be – save one thing. There was a danger that if Jesus told him the one thing he lacked, he would walk away and never return. Could Jesus afford to tell the rich young ruler what he needed to hear?

The words fell like a torrent of unyielding water as Jesus answers the young ruler. If the man wanted to find perfection before the Lord God, he would need to dissolve his life of every privilege he held dear. He would have to sell everything he had with no exception and no holding back. All of his wealth would be given to the poor. He would be without the comfort of riches, the privilege of position, and probably held in derision by his peers. Only after selling all he had and giving everything to the poor could the young man have eternal life. Why did Jesus tell him to do something so drastic? This is not a requirement for everyone to follow Jesus. What Jesus saw in the heart of this young man was a covetous and greedy heart. The young man had exemplified himself as a model citizen of Israel, but there was a dark secret seen only in the eyes of the Divine. Salvation for the rich young ruler required walking away from everything he held dear.

Sorrow filled the heart of the young man as he walked away. Jesus was filled with His own sorrow to tell the young man what was required, but the Lord could not answer any other way. The one thing lacking was the one thing necessary. The sorrow of the young man did not change the truth. Jesus told Him what the Father demanded. Truth is a two-edged sword that brings hurt, sorrow, and despair. It is hard to inflict truth, but there is no other course a man can take but teach the truth. Preachers face the daunting task of preaching the truth and not shying away from the truth that will hurt. They must remember it is the word that brings sorrow because the heart is unwilling to accept the will of God. There will be many who stand before the judgment bar of a Holy God, who will appeal the task required asked too much, but it will not change the reality of truth. Sorrow does not change the truth.

The spirit of compromise comes from a refusal to teach the painful truth. Churches are filled with hearts deceived by the appeal of a kind and wholesome gospel. Sin is not condemned, immorality is not challenged, and truth falls by the wayside to the whims of human wisdom. If the rich young ruler were alive today seeking the same answer, most would accept him with great fanfare and confidence, assuring him of eternal life. Sadly, he would be lost along with those who refused to tell him the truth. Jesus said there are few saved. The gospel is narrow. Truth does not change to pacify the feelings of the entitled. There is one body of truth. If the truth hurts, accept the pain and repent. The rich young ruler walked away from eternal life. Do not make the same mistake. Sorrow did not change the truth. Jesus did not rush after the young man and apologize. Truth was the will of the Father.

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Do Not Complain

Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp. (Numbers 11:1)

Do Not Complain

The descendants of Abraham found themselves as an enslaved people in the land of Egypt for nearly four generations. They cried out to God for deliverance, and through the power of the Lord, Moses leads the people out of bondage into a world of freedom. Arriving at Sinai, the Hebrews became a nation and were given a law. Everything they would need is provided by the hand of the Lord. If they obeyed the commands of God, He would bless them as a mighty people. The Lord had already promised the land of Canaan to the children of Abraham as a land flowing with milk and honey. No enemy would stand against the might of the children of Israel who had the Lord God fighting their battles. There was nothing the people would lack, and through the miracles, signs, and wonders shown in Egypt and the journey to Sinai, the people could trust in the word of the Lord and His promises.

Shortly after leaving Sinai, the heart of the people grew tired. They began to complain about the hardships of their journey. Spending nearly a year at Sinai had settled the people in a place the Lord did not intend on them remaining. Now, the journey to Canaan was difficult, unsettling, and uncertain. The people began to complain, and God got angry. Ingratitude would become a constant character of the Hebrews for the next forty years. They wandered aimlessly for forty years because their reckless hearts of unbelief had more complaint than complying. They were not happy with God’s way of treating them as they viewed themselves as entitled people deserving so much more. Through the lying eyes of yesterday, the people longed for the fish they freely ate in Egypt, along with the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. It was as if the people dined on fine food while slaves in Egypt. The truth was the people were oppressed and their lives bitter with hard bondage. It was the voice of the desperate Hebrews that cried out to God for deliverance. It was not long after leaving Sinai the people complained, and God got angry.

The Lord blessed Israel as no people on the face of the earth, and all they could do was complain. He brought them out of Egypt by His mighty hand, and they complained. The Lord gave them fresh water, bread, and meat to their full, and they complained. No army could match their power, and they complained. The Lord gave them a law to live by, and they complained. He promised to take them to a land that had cities prepared for them, vineyards, orchards, and gardens planted for them, and a land of incredible blessings; and all they could do was complain. Through the promises of God, the people would have increased in children, livestock, crops, and wealth, but they could only complain. The history of Israel is characterized by God blessing the people with every blessing from the heavenly storehouse. On every occasion, the nation complained against the benevolent hand that cared for them. This made God angry.

A complaining heart is an ungrateful heart. There is nothing more irreverent to the will and power of God than when a man complains to the Divine. It is easy to find fault with men, but how is it possible to find a complaint against the One who counts the stars and gives each one a name? The sun rises and sets by the will of the Creator, and the heart of men complain. For the most part, humanity is ungrateful. God has given them everything that pertains to life and godliness. They complain it is not enough. Life can be hard and is difficult at times, and people turn against God with anger. How can the clay complain against the potter? Why would anyone blame God for anything? The heart of complaint is something that angers God. Unbelief breeds complaint. The oxen knows the hand of the one that provides for it, and he does not complain. Birds sing because they have nothing to be ungrateful for while a man walks around grumbling with discontent.

The spirit of murmuring and complaint is a poison that can destroy a church. God hates it. He has given His people direction, purpose, and a way to find an abundant life, and there is nothing to complain or criticize. A heart of faith believes in the word of God. Abraham did not complain about his journey. Joseph had many reasons to complain, but he trusted in the God he served and was blessed. Moses was told he would not enter the promised land, and he did not sulk and complain but continued to lead the people to their destiny. The prophets faced many hardships, and they continued to serve the Lord. Jesus did not complain on His journey to the cross. Men like Paul gave their lives to teach others the gospel of Christ and did so with no complaint. What is there in my life that I complain about that becomes a spirit of ingratitude toward the immense blessings of God? I am not here to complain but to honor God and glorify His will in my life. Let others see my light of gratitude so they can find the peace that passes all understanding. This will bring contentment and joy. No complaints. Thank you, God.

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Spiritual Cancer

But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:16-18)

Spiritual Cancer

False doctrine is not merely a different opinion or conflicting viewpoint; it is a cancerous disease that will kill the body of a child of God. The word Paul uses in his letter to Timothy describing a cancer is the word canker or gangrene. A canker is not as familiar as cancer, but it has the same result as something that begins small and, like cancer, spreads to the healthy parts of the body, destroying cells and inflicting death. Gangrene is the pervasive decay or corruption of the cells due to loss of blood supply. Satan has brought his doctrine of cancer to the soul of man from the beginning. His corrupt doctrines destroyed the world in a flood and brought down the nation of Israel. The early church began with great power but soon, the influences of a corrupt doctrine began to spring up. Some taught circumcision as a means of salvation. It became a cancer that needed to be cut out. Through the surgical wisdom of the Holy Spirit working through the apostles, elders of Jerusalem, and devoted brethren, the error of circumcision for salvation was nullified.

Satan did not stop his infectious pursuit of the souls of saints. Paul named two men who fell victim to the wiles of the devil. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul mentions Hymenaeus, who, along with Alexander, shipwrecked their faith. The storms of apostasy and false doctrine overwhelmed Hymenaeus. In Paul’s second letter, an unknown disciple named Philetus was included in the company of the one who had strayed concerning the faith. Whether through shipwreck or spiritual cancer, Hymenaeus and Philetus would be remembered as faithless disciples. There was an Athenian attitude toward scriptures that brought about false doctrine. Luke says the people of Athens and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but telling or hearing some new thing. This produced a cancer that would take men away from the inspired word of God to the doctrines and philosophies of men.

Profane and idle babblings are nothing more than godless and foolish discussions creating controversy and doctrines tending only to produce strife. The end result is more ungodliness as men leave the word of God to appeal to the nature of the carnal spirit. The root of the denominational world of division is that everyone can believe what they want to believe and teach whatever they desire. Their motto is “attend the church of your choice.” This doctrine is false and strays from the truth. Hymenaeus and Philetus taught the resurrection had passed. Whatever form of doctrine this was destroyed the faith of some of God’s people, like cancer. Satan does not attack with massive armies overwhelming the soul of men. He begins as a small and innocuous cell of false doctrine left untreated with replication to the rest of the body, where death follows.

False doctrine is an insidious and odious cancer that has destroyed millions of souls. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation through the only Lord, Jesus Christ. God is the only living God, and there are no others. The Bible is the only book that expresses the mind of God. There is only one church as Jesus taught His disciples and the early disciples believed. Spiritual cancer is when men take the word of God and change it to fit their golden calves. Believing in a god of this world is folly. Accepting a book other than the Bible is an exercise in useless philosophy. Following man-made churches is allowing the cancer of false doctrine to destroy the soul. Hymenaeus and Philetus strayed concerning the truth, teaching what God had not approved. Their teachings were a cancer. Preventing spiritual cancer is abiding in the word of God. The Good Physician seeks those who desire the cure.

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