Four Words On A Wall

In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other. The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. The king spoke, saying to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and tells me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck; and he shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Now all the king’s wise men came, but they could not read the writing, or make known to the king its interpretation. (Daniel 5:5-8)

Four Words On A Wall

The feast seemed to be going well. It was a grand affair for a thousand of the king’s nobles filled with wine, women, and merriment. Everything was going along so well; the king ordered the gold and silver vessels his predecessor had taken from the temple in Jerusalem to be brought and used for the debauchery. Quickly, the servants went to the storehouse, gathered all the Jewish vessels together, and brought them to the grand hall. His lords, wives, and concubines filled the vessels with wine and continued the drunken feast with great enthusiasm. As they lifted up the vessels of Jehovah, they praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. It was a time of extravagant feasting as the carnal spirits of ungodliness filled the hall.

In the same hour of the abomination of Belshazzar, the fingers of a man’s hand wrote upon the wall opposite the lampstand. The king saw part of the hand that wrote the words. His face turned pale with fright. His knees knocked together in fear, and his legs gave way beneath him. He demanded his astrologers, wise men, and soothsayers to declare the meaning of the words. The king promised a reward to any man who could tell the meaning of the words purple and gold and third place in the kingdom. All attempts to read the words failed, and the king was left without an answer.

Hearing what had happened, the Queen comes to the hall to find the king trembling with great fear. She assured him there was a man in the kingdom with whom the spirit of the Holy God was upon who could tell the meaning of the words. Daniel was called to tell the interpretation of the words “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin,” meaning the king the Holy God whose vessels the king had defiled had numbered the days of his kingdom, and it was at an end. Further, the kingdom of Belshazzar would be given to the Medes and Persians because the king had been weighed in the balance and had not measured up to the grace of God. Daniel received the honor promised by Belshazzar, but that night Darius the Mede was already outside the city of Babylon. In the same night, the Medes entered the city and killed Belshazzar, just as the word of the Lord had said.

There is a contrast of worldly views found in the story of Belshazzar and the writing on the wall. On one side is the carnal pursuits of the fleshly nature fulfilled in the debauchery of the feast. It was a feast filled with drunkenness, sexual immorality, lewdness, and blasphemy. None of those gathered had a thought of what tomorrow would bring. They lived for the moment. In the midst of their frivolity, a sign was given to remind them of who was in charge of the world. Ironically, all the wisdom of Babylon gathered in one room could make no sense of its meaning. The best and brightest of the kingdom were oblivious to interpreting and explaining the meaning of the words. Their passions were centered upon their self-indulgence. Trying to understand four words escaped them. They were doomed and did not know it.

Daniel is on the other side of the story. The words were not complicated or hard to understand, but the need was to see them from God’s mind. Belshazzar was king of Babylon, but the Holy God of Israel, whose vessels the king had defiled, was the Creator of the universe holding the king’s breath in His hand. God owned all the king’s ways, and the king did not glorify the true God. All the wisdom of Babylon or the world could not make sense of four words. The wisdom of man is useless in the face of the divine word. It took a humble servant of the Lord to explain the meaning of the words. Daniel showed an incredible amount of courage to tell the king – to his face – his kingdom was over, and he would die.

The world is filled with souls who go through life enjoying the sensual joys of fleshly indulgence with no care or concern for God. All the wisdom of humanity will never bring them true happiness, answer the more profound questions of the human equation, or promise anything of value. Like Babylon’s knowledge failed as it faced the word of God, desperate hearts seeking worth in themselves will fail. God’s word is not four words but the message of a graceful God found in the Bible. Only when men turn to the Creator and listen to His words can happiness in life be found. Who do you follow? The wise men of the world or the voice of God?

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Is There Life On Other Planets?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Is There Life On Other Planets?

The news recently rekindled an age-old question of flying saucers, UFOs, and the quest to find life on other planets. Presently, NASA’s Perseverance rover is on the planet Mars to collect samples and find evidence of ancient life. Missions to Mars have taken place since 1965, with plans to launch manned flights to the lunar south pole by 2024 as proving ground for strategies to reach Mars. Neil Armstrong found when he first stepped foot on the Moon the same thing when vehicles landed on Mars – no extraterrestrial beings live there. Scientists believe they will find evidence of life on the planets to understand the origins of the Earth, which is contrary since the only life to be seen is on Earth.

When Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon’s surface, it was a remarkable feat of human engineering. Since 1969, other men have walked on the Moon with Gene Cernan, the last man to stand on the lunar surface in 1972. Mars is the next closest planet to land vehicles upon but requires nearly seven months to arrive on the surface when Mars and Earth align, allowing for a quicker and more efficient journey (occurring every 26 months). While the pictures coming back from the surface of Mars are outstanding, there are no primitive buildings, smiling Martians, and evidence of life. It is a barren, frigid, inhospitable world half the size of Earth.

Is there life on other planets? Will the day come when, like early explorers, new lands and new peoples are found dotting the landscape of the vast tapestry of the star-filled heavens? Long before the advent of Flash Gordon’s Hollywood productions, My Favorite Martian, Star Wars, and Star Trek, men have imagined aliens from the heavens landing on Earth. In 1938, Orson Welles scared the world with his rendition of the War of the Worlds, suggesting Martians had landed on Earth terrorizing the world. Sightings of unidentified flying objects find their way into the news, fueling speculation the government is hiding a covert program of extraterrestrial beings used for science studies. Many believe the day will come that space travel will be as common as going to the store for milk.

The Bible is a book that answers many questions, and it addresses the question of whether there is life on other planets. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. Whatever is seen in the sky was made by the hand of the Divine. The Moon and Mars did not take billions of years to form. They were created at the instant the Creator spoke. Moses reveals that when creation was finished, God formed man from the dust of the ground (Earth) and then took a rib from the first man and created the woman. Adam’s name means “red earth.” Paul will later tell the saints in Corinth that Adam was the “first man” and that he was “of the earth, made of dust.” Whatever beings are in the universe were created by God.  Since Adam was the first, all beings are human or in Adam’s image. The first time a human left the bounds of Earth to travel into space was in 1961 when Soviet pilot and cosmonaut, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, entered the void above the circle of the Earth. He was not a Martian or a being from another planet. The search for life on other planets is an exercise in futility because God created Adam as the first and all other creatures follow in his similitude.

A final reason there are no extraterrestrial beings running around the universe is found in the words of Jesus. He told Nicodemus that God so loved the world – limiting the geography of God’s grace. Jesus came to Earth to become a man and die for the sins of the world, not for Moon-people, Martians, or Klingons. If God created all that is in the universe and Jesus only came to Earth to die for humankind, there are no other civilizations on planets spread throughout the universe. UFOs do exist, but only in the context; they are flying objects that are not identified. It may do well to consider governments’ secrets creating machines that are unknown to the public (stealth technology, for example). One thing is sure about UFOs – they do not have little green creatures that look like an octopus on steroids flying them. The suspicion is they are human-made, earthy, and secret. Look to God. He is real.

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Bring Your Glove To Church

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. (Acts 17:10-12)

Bring Your Glove To Church

The American Baseball season is well underway, with games dotting the landscape of towns across America. It has been called “America’s Pastime” and the essence of the American spirit. A most unusual game took place recently. The time was set for the teams to play, and the fans gathered to watch a rival match between two champions. Batting first, the visiting team sent their first batter to the box to prepare for the opening pitch. As he gazed over the field for a strategic place to play the ball, the batter noticed that five or six of the nine players did not have gloves, including the catcher. The visiting team routed the home team as players were unable to handle the balls without the glove.

Tim Kurkjian writes, “A player’s glove, especially for a good defensive player, is his most personal piece of equipment, and it is treated with great respect and care.” No one would imagine a game where the teams would show up without their gloves. Kurkjian relates how “former Indians pitcher Brian Anderson once forgot his glove on a spring training bus trip to Winter Haven, Fla., so, in full uniform, he borrowed a car to go buy a glove” at Walmart. The glove is one of the most important tools a player has to play the game. If a player refused to bring his glove to the game, he would not last long in the sport.

When Jesus promised the apostles that He would build His church, there were expectations included in that promise. The saints would gather on the first day of the week to worship the Father, remember the Son of God’s sacrifice, and fellowship as saints in the grace of God. Every first day of the week would be when God’s people would gather together in the same place for the singular purpose of obeying the Lord, receiving edification and instruction, and admonishing one another in love. The focus of the assembly would be worship. Reading from the pages of holy writ would be the primary foundation of worship. It would be impossible to worship God in spirit and truth without the written word. As the canon of God’s word was established, it became known as “The Bible.” This book would become the foundational rock of truth in the church of Christ.

For many years, the Bible was considered a person’s most personal possession, and it is treated with great respect and care. Families would go to church each Sunday carrying their Bibles in their hands. Children learned early how to find the books of the Bible. Memory verses were learned to gain knowledge of scripture. Preachers would preach from the Book, citing many passages the audience would turn to and read along with the speaker. Almost everyone had a Bible, and if they happen to forget their Bible, they used the one found in the pew. Worship service was a time of investigating, learning, and opening up the word of God.

Sadly, so often in today’s busy world, many of God’s people come to services without a Bible. Pew Bibles are available to open and follow along, but many sit dispassionately listening to the message. Few Bibles are opened. With the advent of media, there is no need to open the Bible as all the scriptures are displayed on the screen for the audience’s convenience. There is a good reason for showing the passages on the overhead because many of those sitting in the pew have no idea where the books of the Bible are located, much less how to find chapters and verses. This again is a sad commentary on how God’s people have little knowledge of God’s book. The church is like a baseball team showing up to play but without their gloves.

Sometimes, the innovations of men have crippled the instructions of the Lord. When churches begin to fill with saints who do not bring their Bibles and who do not open a Bible to read along with the message or spend time examining the text, the work of the Lord suffers. A lot. Bible class teachers who do not teach the Bible in class but instead spend the hour playing – are preparing a generation to forget God. Churches who do not put the word of God first will be first in apostasy and worldliness. The Bereans were more noble than those of Thessalonica because they knew what to do with a baseball glove.

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Lovers Of

For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:2-5)

Lovers Of

The world at large is made up of those who love themselves and those who love God. It is not hard to distinguish the two apart from one another. The majority of the people of the world have little or no interest in God and live to please themselves. Life for the mass of humanity consists of waking each day to fulfill whatever desires and wishes they deem necessary and valuable to their lives. It could be their job that brings them complete satisfaction. Life can be measured by schemes to make more money. Many spend endless hours grooming their bodies to be the most beautiful, glamorous, and seductive allurements for others to gaze upon. The fame of the red carpet is where the heart of prideful spirits seeks fulfillment. Young minds are filled with the desire to be a famous athlete or musician, or actor to be looked upon with admiration.

Paul offers a concise list of challenges facing the majority of souls in the world. For most, life is about self and the love of self. Those who are lovers of themselves believe the world revolves around their life. They have the spirit of entitlement expecting the world to cower to their whims and desires. Lovers of money spend their lives conniving, scheming, and manipulating to gain as much wealth as possible. Many faithless hearts boast in arrogance to their self-worth. Pride is the spirit of the self-entitled men and women who view the world as their playground to do as they wish. Blasphemers are people who become their own gods, creating an air of self-worship and personal exaltation.

Family relationships have no meaning to lovers of self. There is no honor to parents or older adults as families are abandoned for the pleasures of self-indulgence. Life is characterized by what can be taken without any thankfulness or gratitude for others. The daily life of lovers of self is wholly unholy, immoral, and ungodly. They are unloving, unforgiving, and will slander others, and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. It will mean nothing to betray friends, act reckless, and boast of their superiority to all the world. These hearts are filled with the love of pleasure and nothing else.

Jesus told the multitude on the mountain most people will follow the broad path to destruction, and few will find everlasting life. It will only take a moment to see the picture of carnality in the world. These traits fill the landscape of the human experience. Look around and see how many lives follow the path in one form or another described by Paul. Sadly, the lovers of pleasures will enjoy life until they die and find no happiness after life. Lovers of God will be the only souls who find peace, happiness, and hope in this life and enjoy eternal rest in the life to come. The greatest tragedy for lovers of themselves is they live for pleasures that have no lasting value. It never brings the happiness they desire. Misery and hopelessness is the only answer they find. Lovers of God lived fulfilled lives full of value and worth. There are two kinds of people: they are both lovers of something. What they love is what makes a difference in their life now and, more importantly, what they find after life is gone. Your choice. What do you love?

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Throw Jesus Over The Hill

So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way. (Luke 4:28-30)

Throw Jesus Over The Cliff

Nazareth was the hometown of Jesus where He grew up with his brothers and sisters in a village known for its carpenters. The family of Joseph and Mary was well-known among the tight-knit community. Beginning His Galilean ministry, Jesus returned to Nazareth where he had been brought up, and as His custom was, went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He had often read from the scriptures, and when he was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah, Jesus read from the section of the text describing the coming Messiah and how the Spirit of the Lord would be upon Him. Closing the book and handing it back to the attendant, Jesus sat down, and the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.

No one in the synagogue could have expected what happened next. Following the reading from Isaiah, Jesus told the crowd the He was the fulfillment of the passage from Isaiah. Jesus spoke graciously to the crowd, but they became angry when He suggested they were hard-hearted and unwilling to hear His teaching. The only thing the people of Nazareth could see was a lowly carpenter’s son. They refused to accept Jesus was anything but common. As Jesus spoke, the fury of the people increased to murderous anger. Grabbing Jesus roughly, the crowd shoved their fellow citizen out of the town to throw Him headlong over the cliff in the hopes of killing Him. Jesus did not fight back or resist. Tussled along the road and out of the city, the men held Jesus firmly with rough hands, screaming at him and threatening His life. As they neared the place at the top of the hill, Jesus passed through them and went His way.

A miracle was done in their presence, and no one seemed to take note. As the men carried Jesus to the hill, He disappeared. Were they so intent on their murderous plot, they could not see the miracle before their eyes? Jesus went to Capernaum, about 30 miles, and began teaching in the synagogue. He healed many people in the area and spent time preaching throughout the synagogues of Galilee, but no one from Nazareth came and acknowledged what happened in their city. How did they explain what happened to Jesus when they returned to the city? Throughout His early ministry, Jesus would visit the area around Nazareth, and again, the people of the city made no special effort to acknowledge what Jesus had said and done.

God has always made Himself visible to the world. His Son came in the flesh and through teaching and miracles showed Himself to be the Son of God. The spirit of the people of Nazareth pervades the hearts of men who shut their ears to the teaching of Christ and would rather throw Him over the hill headlong to kill Him than to accept His message. Many opportunities are given for the people to see the power of Jesus, but they refuse. The Bible is the mind of God revealed to help man find peace and truth, and like the people of Nazareth, men squander the opportunities until it is too late. Their disbelief did not change the fact that Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah. He died to bear the sins of humanity and to open a pathway to the grace of the Father. Pardon cannot be given to a man who refuses to accept it.

Jesus came to show men He was the only begotten Son of God, and through Him, salvation is found. Everything man needs is provided in the Bible to direct him to God. The words of Jesus are true, and He is the light of the world. Sadly, none of this will matter to hearts that are stopped up. Men would rather throw Jesus over the hill than listen to Him. When the miracle of the final day comes, there will be no more hope. As Jesus disappeared from the crowd the day they wanted to kill Him, so will the opportunities for salvation fade away. What will you do with Jesus?

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The Word Of God Is Pure

Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6)

The Word Of God Is Pure

In metallurgy, metal is refined to its purest form purifying the metal of all impurities. 24-karat gold is the purest gold, but it is only 99.9% pure. Its value is increased from 9-karats to the highest of 24-karat. The word used by the wise man about the word of God is that it has been purified like a refiner’s fire. Every word of God is pure without any contaminants. It is not 99.9% pure – it has nothing added to it, giving it a purity rate of 100% without a mixture of error and dross. Whatever trials it may be exposed to, it is always like gold: it bears the fire and comes out with the same luster, the same purity, and the same weight. The difference is that every word of God is pure, and nothing is added that will contaminate.

The problem has always been the meddling of human wisdom mixed with the word that has created a tainted gospel. It is not uncommon for men to take the word of God and incorporate it in their own doctrines, and while retaining a luster of gold, it is not the pure word. To the untrained eye, there may be a slight difference between 14-karat gold and 24-karat gold. It will require investigation to determine the mixture of metals in the gold, but a trained eye will notice the subtle differences and, upon examination, declare the gold impure. Every word of God is pure when it is received as it is, the word of God. The warning of the Lord has always been not to add to the divine will. If a man presents a piece of gold and tells the buyer it is 24-karat when it is of less value, the man will be found a liar. Preaching a gospel that is not the pure word of God makes the man a liar.

Gold can be found in different qualities and value, but the word of the Lord is of one quality and one value. It is the purest of all things on earth. Another mistake human wisdom will make to God’s pure word is to reject one part of teaching. The wise man said every word of God is pure. When a man refuses to accept one piece of scripture because he does not like it, he rejects the whole word of God. A man will say that he believes in Jesus Christ and believes Him to be the Son of God but refuses to follow all the teachings of Christ. Religion becomes a choice of what pleases men rather than what the word of God demands. Satan is careful to allow a man to believe in God and taint the picture of God’s word with a mixture of human wisdom. There are 2 billion followers of Christ in the world, but the large majority of that number will not accept the whole word of God. Either a man must take every word of God as pure or reject the entire message of God as error. Every word of God is pure without exception, or it is not the word of God.

There is a figure by which everyone must be a spiritual metallurgist. In other words, when the Bible is presented in its golden form, the true disciple of Jesus Christ will examine the quality of the word to make sure it is 100% pure the word of God. The best gold can be refined to its highest value of 99.9%, but God’s word is 100%. This requires investigation, comparison, and examination to know if what is being taught is the word of God. Too many souls have accepted the golden message of God tainted with the impure metals of human wisdom and carnal doctrines. Like gold, mixing in other metals decreases the worth of the word of God. The true value of God’s word is when a man accepts every word as pure – with no exceptions.

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Repent Or Face The Lord’s Anger

Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you! Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zephaniah 2:1-3)

Repent Or Face The Lord’s Anger

The message of Zephaniah begins with an immediate, forceful, and demonstrative declaration of the wrath of God. He begins his book by declaring the Lord will utterly consume all things from off the land because of the people’s idolatrous practices. God’s people had turned back from Him and did not seek the Lord nor inquire of the word of the Lord. Zephaniah fearlessly proclaimed the day of the Lord. If the people were to be saved, they must repent or face the Lord’s anger. God warns Judah, including the scope of divine judgment if the nation fails to change their hearts. Hope is found in the remnant of Israel to be restored.

Judah, under the rule of Josiah, will experience a time of restoration. The young king did that which was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in all the ways of David his father. Along with Jeremiah the prophet, Zephaniah will seek to bring the people’s hearts back to the Lord. Zephaniah’s message is with a clear tone of divine warning that there would be no hope without repentance. The prophet begins his message with the terrors of the judgment of God to demonstrate the holiness of a jealous God who demands obedience from His people. There is an unmistakable tone of doom against those who would refuse to turn away from sin. Judgment would come in certain terms without regard to the person. Sin defiles the heart of man, and the wrath of God cleanses the filth of sin. The message of Zephaniah is loud for all the people to hear and for them to know the coming judgment of the Lord was absolute.

The language of Zephaniah speaks of the Lord’s fierce anger and the day of the Lord’s anger. Repentance demands recognizing the wrath of God. Sin will not go unpunished. When men seek to come before the Lord, they must change their hearts not because they are worthy of anything but to know how terrible sin is to the eyes of the Lord. Fear is a motive behind repentance as well as godly sorrow. To say one is sorry for a deed without remorse or fear cannot bring repentance. Zephaniah pleads with the people to seek the Lord, seek righteousness and seek humility. A man who does not fear God will not seek Him. Righteousness demands knowing the wrath of God. Humility is found when the heart of man meets the will of the Lord.

Forgiveness is joyful because the wrath of God is hidden. No one deserves the mercy of God, yet, through a penitent heart, the Lord will take away His wrath and accept the contrite person who knowing the anger of the Lord, seeks His favor. The words of the Publican who could only pray to the Lord for mercy as a sinner knew the fierceness of God’s wrath and the soothing peace of forgiveness. A man will deceive himself into believing he can seek forgiveness without a heart filled with the fear of God’s wrath. The joy of God’s grace is His willingness to remove sin as far as the east is from the west and take away His anger. What a joy to know of the divine love of God and His eternal mercy.

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The Word, The Creator, And The Light

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

The Word, The Creator, And The Light

John describes Jesus in the three roles necessary for man to come to God. Human wisdom cannot bring happiness to man’s soul, and God has always given His word as guidance. Hearing the word of God will have no importance if man does not believe that God, as Creator, has all power to accomplish what He says He will do. Thirdly, as the word of God is manifest to humanity and the assurance of God’s power is seen, the human spirit can find the true light that will guide him to live a life with hope and promise. All of these traits are based on the truth that Jesus is God.

Adam and Eve were helpless without the guidance of their Creator. When God placed them into the garden, He gave them instructions. There were things they were permitted to do, but God prohibited them from eating the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When human reasoning caused them to disobey the word of the Lord, Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, and sin took dominion of the soul of man. The world rejected God’s word, but Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord because he believed the word. Obeying the instructions of God, Noah built an ark to save his household. Abraham received the word of the Lord and obeyed. Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David all obeyed the word of the Lord and were blessed in their lives.

Jesus came to be the Word of God and to share the Word of God with all men. The Son of God was the embodiment of the message of the Father as Jesus taught the people, lived an example of the word, and gave His life in a demonstration of the word. Everything about Jesus exemplified the message of a loving Father seeking His children’s renewal to His love and care. The word of God is the message of a dying Savior. Before time began, Jesus was with the Father and knew God’s will was to come to earth and die for the sins of humankind. He willingly offered His life to become the eternal word and show the glory of the word of God to humanity.

Hearing the word of God could not save a man alone. This required a belief in the message. Jesus performed many miracles to prove He was the Son of God. Unlike His faithless disciples, there was nothing Jesus could not do. As Creator, Jesus had dominion over substance, time, spirits, and death. He could not have this power if He were not the Creator of all things. It was a marvelous thing to consider the Creator walking among men. The signs, wonders, and miracles Jesus performed pointed all men to the Father to confirm the Word and to confirm Jesus as the Divine word. Rejecting the miracles meant that men were rejecting the Creator.

Hearing the word of the Lord and believing it through the power of Jesus, the light of salvation shone in the hearts of honest men. The challenge of humanity is to know where to go and how to live. Living in darkness, human wisdom could not answer the questions of life. Jesus came as the Word to give hope, as the Creator to show His power, and as the Light to guide all men to the Father. Light gives life. Jesus came to give life to dying souls burdened with the guilt of sin. Only the divine light can separate the darkness of sin and open the vistas of divine grace. Jesus taught the word as the light of the world. His power as Creator established His authority to dispel the darkness. Through the light of His life, Jesus opened the doors of Heaven for all who would obey to come to the Father.

Jesus was the Word, and through that word came truth. His authority was Creator establishing His word from the Father. Through the teachings of Jesus Christ, the light of salvation shines throughout the world for all to see, know, and hear the redemptive grace of a loving Father. When men read the word, accept the dominion of Christ in their lives, and walk in the light, they will find the glories of heaven waiting for them and the blessings of the Father. The Word. Creator. Our Light.

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The Second Crossing

And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan. (Joshua 3:13-17)

The Second Crossing

When the Lord brought the Hebrews out of Egypt, they walked across the Red Sea on dry land. Moses had stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all night, turning the sea into dry land. The waters were divided as a wall on the right and left. There was no escaping the Egyptian army before God’s deliverance, and the people feared the Lord and believed the Lord when they walked through the sea. When the Egyptian army came after the Hebrews, the Lord caused the waters to return and cover the chariots, horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh, killing every man. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt would be recounted for centuries as a story of the goodness and severity of the Lord. By grace, the Hebrews are delivered, and by the wrath of God, their enemies are destroyed.

The crossing of the Red Sea would be a story vividly told forty years later when the harlot, Rahab, hid the spies in her home at Jericho. No one would forget the story of the people walking across on dry land in the midst of a great sea. The God of the Hebrews was the greatest of gods showing His power as greater than anything. When the Lord gave the Law to the Israelites at Sinai, He reminded them that it was by His power they were brought out of the land of Egypt and the house of bondage. The Hebrews did not deliver themselves – only God could do that. Crossing the Red Sea was the grace of God, His infinite mercy, and undying love for His own special people.

There is an illustrative lesson in the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt. The Hebrews were in bondage to the Egyptians like man is in bondage to sin. There was nothing the descendants of Abraham could do to deliver themselves and, without God’s power, would have remained in bondage. Sin has the power to enslave the heart, and man cannot save himself. Only through the love and grace of God was Israel delivered, and only through the love and grace of God can a man find grace to wash away sin. God parted the Red Sea, allowing Israel to escape. The Father gave His Son a sacrifice to release man from the bondage of sinful man could walk across the sea of grace to redemption.

In obedience, man is given a law to bring him to the promised land. Israel wandered through the wilderness forty years before reaching the Jordan River with the land of promise on the other side. When a man is baptized into Christ (crossing the Red Sea), accepts the covenant of Christ (Sinai), and lives a faithful life (wilderness), he stands on the banks of the Jordan looking over into Beulah land. He cannot enter on his own because the land of milk and honey is a place provided by God’s grace. Crossing into the land of rest can only come about by God’s will and His will alone.

Israel stood at the banks of the Jordan as the people had stood at the shores of the Red Sea forty years earlier. Once again, the power of God will translate the people from a wilderness journey to a land of rest. As the priests carry the ark of the Lord through the waters of the Jordan River, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off. The waters that flow from the north will stand up in a heap, and the water flowing to the south will disappear. Once again, the people will walk across a body of water on dry land. God’s grace and power will not deliver them but translate the people to a land of rest. The journey is over, and the promise is fulfilled.

While in Egypt, the Lord promised to deliver the Hebrews to a land of goodness. The faithful kept the word of the Lord and received the promised land. Sin enslaves the heart, and through the gospel of Christ and the waters of baptism, the soul is delivered from the power of sin. When the wilderness of life is completed, God translates the faithful across the Jordan River, symbolic of death on wings of angels to the bosom of Abraham. The second crossing is when the saints die, and God delivers them to His dwelling place. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan, their eyes saw a land more beautiful than they had ever seen. As the people of God close their eyes in death, they will awaken to a land more beautiful than they have ever seen. God’s grace led the Hebrews through the Red Sea and then brought them home through the Jordan River. His grace leads believers out of sin so that one day they can cross the river of death to a land flowing with milk and honey. Lord, divide the waters today.

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The Commission

Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece. “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. (Luke 9:1-6)

The Commission

Preaching the gospel has always been at the forefront of God’s will. Jesus sent the twelve apostles to spread the message of God’s grace accompanied by the working of miracles. He gave them power and authority over the demon world, exercising dominion over Satan. The working of miracles and healing diseases confirmed the word as from the mouth of God. When the apostles entered a city and began to preach Jesus, crowds would gather and listen intently to the preaching. If necessary, the apostles would heal those who were sick, receiving a similar response when Jesus healed the multitudes. The people recognized that no man but someone from God could do the miracles He did. Likewise, the apostles confirmed the word by miracles that astonished the crowds. Lepers were cleansed, the blind made to see, and the lame were given new life. The apostles could cast out demons from the possessed and raise the dead. These miracles, wonders, and signs were to confirm the word.

Jesus gave the twelve power to perform miracles, but the purpose of their mission was to preach the gospel. A man who was healed of leprosy was not saved from sin; he was saved from a terrible disease. His greatest disease remained. Sin was the need of the hour, and miraculous powers did not save a man. The commission of Jesus was for the apostles to preach God’s word to lost souls so they could be cured of the disease of sin. With all the sicknesses and illnesses the apostles encountered, nothing was as great as the hope found in the word of God. The gospel was the focus, the primary purpose, and the drive of the commission. During the early days of the church, men had the power to perform miracles, signs, and wonders, but it remained the purpose of the church to preach the gospel. Paul would tell the Corinthians that he would rather speak five words of the gospel to teach others than to have 10,000 words in a foreign language. Speaking in tongues may impress someone but preaching the gospel will save them.

The commission of Jesus fundamentally remains the same. Two thousand years have passed since the days of miracles, and no one can heal illnesses, cast out demons, raise the dead, or miraculously speaking a foreign language. When the perfection of the word of God came, those things done in part were done away with. What remains today is the fully revealed word of God that contains all truth. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of the Revelation, the gospel of Jesus Christ is declared. The church’s commission is as clear today as when Jesus sent out the twelve: preach the gospel. Anything less than the gospel is not the work of the church.

The religious world is enamored with the social gospel trappings seeking to appeal to hearts through excitement, recreation, and popularity. Churches have become social institutions that build Family Life Centers to fill the needs of the world. Worship services are concerts of praise worship that appeal to the carnal hearts of the masses. Services must be fun, exciting, filled with lights, cameras, and lots of action. The veneer of religion is just thick enough to make people feel like they have a relationship with God, but like miracles in the apostles’ days, it will not save the soul. Preaching the gospel is the commission, and anything less will have no lasting value to the soul. It may not be the most popular venue the church offers, but it is the only means where eternity is measured. Healing a blind man brings joy to the eyes. Taking away sin from a darkened heart brings eternal joy. Preach the word.

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The Blessing Of The Word

But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:25)

The Blessing Of The Word

Before the advent of electronic devices like radio, television, and the digital world of computers, smartphones, and social media, reading was the fundamental avenue of knowledge. Libraries were the central hubs of communities thriving with seekers of the next adventure in books, magazines, or newspapers. School books were the norm of a student’s life with dazzling book covers that were works of art. A chivalrous boy would carry the books of his sweetheart. The printed word was in every part of life. Books would be passed down from generation to generation as more than family heirlooms but libraries of knowledge. Reading was knowledge, and through this knowledge, a sense of purpose filled the mind.

For many years, one of the essential books in the home was the Bible. Genealogies would be traced through records kept in the family Bible. Children would learn to read as their parents would take out a copy of the old book, worn and torn from years of use, and read the stories of old to the wonderment of young minds. The Bible taught the ethics of hard work, honesty, truth, and righteousness that helped build a great nation. There was a sense of moral direction permeating the homes in the Norman Rockwell landscape of a time long forgotten. A time when men read the Bible and became better for it.

James emphasizes the need of not just hearing the word but doing what the word says. His example of looking into a mirror is a vivid lesson of applying the word when correction is needed, and who can look in the mirror of God’s word and not need correction? The greater reward of spending time in the Bible is to know how blessed life will be when the word is ingrained in the heart daily. The man who will apply the word of God to his life will find incredible blessings beyond anything human wisdom could imagine. The Bible is not just a book of correction and hard discipline. It contains the mind of God to point man in the direction of peace, happiness, contentment, and hope.

The Lord created man and placed him in the Garden of Eden. There was no sin, no evil, and as long as man ate of the tree of life, there was no death. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they were cast out of the garden. Now there was sin, evil, and death. Man needed a way to find happiness and purpose with hope. The word of God gave him that direction. Through every generation, the word of the Lord brought the promise of God to the hearts of those who would embrace the divine knowledge. Today, the Bible is the library of God’s truth that will produce peace in a troubled mind, hope in a fearful heart, and moral direction in a world of darkness. The man who follows the word of God will be blessed in all he does.

There is a lot of despair in the world. The fear of a global virus, racial tensions, political uncertainties, financial insecurities, and a host of dreadful doom and gloom pontifications that beat the spirit down to despair. God is not unaware of the condition of the world. This is not the first time the world has been in a state of hopelessness. It’s been going on since Adam and Eve lost the garden. The same answer the Lord gave Adam and Eve is the same answer that is needed today. If a man wants to find happiness and hope, he will only find it in the word of God. The Bible, the word of God, is the mirror of truth, and when a man lives by the words of this book, he will be blessed with a clear conscience, a pure heart, a trusting spirit, and the joy of peace. Families will be blessed, marriages full of joy and life with a purpose. Read the Bible. It will do you good.

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Severe Sanctification

But Moses was angry with the officers of the army, with the captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, who had come from the battle. And Moses said to them: “Have you kept all the women alive? Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now, therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately. (Numbers 31:14-18)

Severe Sanctification

When the nation of Israel came to the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho, Balak, king of Moab, sent for Balaam to prophesy against the Hebrews. Thwarted by the word of God, Balaam was unable to curse the people. As Israel camped in Acacia Grove, the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. Twenty-four thousand would die from the plague brought on by the anger of God. After forty years of leading the Israelites through the wilderness, the Lord instructed Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites. They had brought about Israel’s seduction to follow after Baal of Peor. The Midianites were responsible for the Israelites going after the Moabite women and adulterating themselves with pagan worship. Zimri, the son of Salu, a leader from the tribe of Simeon, brought Cozbi, the daughter of Zur, head of the house of Midian, before all Israel to commit adultery with her. Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson, took a javelin and thrust both through, killing them. Because of the action of Phinehas, the plague devastating Israel stopped.

God’s wrath was not finished with the people of Midian as the Lord instructs Moses to destroy them. Gathering 12,000 armed men, Phinehas warred against the Midianites, killing all the males, including the kings of Midian. Balaam, the son of Peor, was also killed with the sword. The army of Israel took Midian captive women, with their little ones along with cattle, flocks, and goods. They also burned with fire all the cities and all their forts. When the captains presented their plunder before Moses and Eleazar, the priest, Moses became very angry. He was astonished the captains of the army had kept all the women alive. These were the cause of the harlotry of Israel. All the captains’ reasoning did not change the will of God to destroy the influences of evil that cost Israel 24,000 lives.

Moses tells the army to kill every male child (the little ones) and kill every woman who was not a virgin. They could keep the virgins for themselves. The Midianites’ influence was a danger to the people of God, and He demanded them to set themselves apart from them. This is a severe separation, but it was the sanctification of righteousness against unrighteousness. It is hard to imagine the soldiers going through the captives and killed all the little boys and then turning upon all the women killing all that were not virgins. The cries must have been incredible, and the fear among the people unmistakable. There was a certain message indelibly marked upon the hearts of the Israelites: sanctification to God can be severe.

Stories like this permeate holy writ and are given as examples of God’s wrath against ungodliness and the need to separate righteousness from unrighteousness. Satan has never feared the believer in God as he continues to attack them, seeking to draw them away. While his evil desire is the destruction of every man’s soul, his greatest victory is the destruction of righteous souls. Sanctification is the channel that keeps the darkness of unrighteousness away from the hearts of righteousness. This requires separation, and sometimes that separation can be severe, and need be severe. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give to the poor, but the man refused. Too harsh. Many are unwilling to give up a spouse, although they know they have an unlawful marriage. God is asking too much. Keeping the commandments of the Lord is viewed as archaic and out of step with modern philosophy. Too strict.

Severe sanctification is often how purity is attained in the lives of God’s people. Jesus left the eternal glory of Heaven to come to earth and be killed. This is the greatest example of severe sanctification and thank God He was willing to suffer so that we could be drawn to the Father. There may be things in life that we must take drastic action against to preserve our souls’ salvation. Are we willing to pay the price? Would you be able to be a soldier who obeyed the word of the Lord against the Midianites? Take stock. Severe. Sanctification. Righteousness.

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Remember The Mission

Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. (Acts 9:31)

Remember The Mission

The early church enjoyed a outpouring of growth in the days of its existence. Three thousand souls obeyed the gospel during the Feast of Pentecost, and in less than five years, the historian Luke writes the church had peace and was multiplying. There had been persecution from the Jewish leaders with the arrest and beating of the apostles. Stephen had been stoned to death, and Saul of Tarsus made havoc of the church, dragging off men and women to prison. Despite this severe threat, the church was growing in the thousands. Churches would be established throughout the Roman Empire from the apostle Paul’s work, with untold numbers of Jews and Gentiles obeying the gospel and becoming members of the kingdom of God.

Two thousand years after the beginning of the church, the people of God would continue to plant the seed of the word of God throughout the world. The New Testament church is found in every country, with adherents numbering in the thousands as churches are established and many souls brought to Christ. In many places in the United States, congregations are dying and, in some cases, closing doors. What are the causes for churches dwindling to small groups and not growing? Steve Forbes said about growth: “The important element of growth is to remind all what the mission is.” When the mission of the church is forgotten, the need for growth is removed.

Too often, churches do not know what the mission of the kingdom is. They have assembled on the prescribed days at the assigned hours to go about the predetermined course of activity for so many years that worship has become a numbing experience of rote repetition. Long forgotten is the purpose and design of the church. The baptistery is in disrepair from lack of use. Preaching has become a dull monotone of social issues or disconnected sermons with little application, and the work of teaching the lost is left to the few or the one. Without a focus to know what the mission of the church is, there can be no growth. Churches that are growing and multiplying are doing so because they understand the mission and implement the New Testament pattern of having peace, seeking edification, walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told the apostles to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. Teaching the gospel was at the forefront of the mission. The apostles followed God’s mission plan, and the church was preached to every creature under heaven in less than forty years. In the modern world of easy transportation, comfortable accommodations, instant access and information, and a lifestyle open to discussion, the church has forgotten its mission. The work of the kingdom is likened to the vineyard. The vineyard’s mission is to have workers willing to work to produce the bounty of the vines. When the church is viewed as a place of work where the local congregation members are united together in sharing the gospel with their friends and neighbors, the church will grow. Stagnant churches are not growing churches. “Sound churches” who do the same thing in the same way on the same day will die because they do not know what the mission of the church is supposed to be. The church’s work is to remind the workers what the mission must be and how to carry out that mission. Every soul is precious. Let the mission of the Lord’s kingdom be implanted in the hearts of devoted saints willing to work for the glory of God.

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Four Kinds Of People

And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things, He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Luke 8:4-8)

Four Kinds Of People

The parable of the sower is one of the most familiar teachings of Jesus. Even the casual student of scripture knows the story of the man who sowed seed and the results of the seed falling on four different grounds. Parables were early mental visual aids to help the multitudes reflect on particular teaching the Lord wanted them to remember. The beauty of parables is the lasting value of the picture as it was common to see men going into the fields to sow wheat or barley, and the spiritual lesson from Jesus would come to the hearts of those who heard the parable. It was a powerful tool Jesus used in teaching. Not everyone would be impressed with the story Jesus told. Many would listen to the parable and go away unchanged. The true disciples would ask the meaning of the parable to learn the deeper teaching of Jesus.

Farming in the early world was not as precise and mechanical as today. Growing up in Nazareth, Jesus would have often seen the fields in the lowlands outside the city filled with wheat. Planting the seed in the ground was done by broadcasting the seed as the farmer walked the length and breadth of his fields. He would carry the seeds in a basket or a fold in his mantle, scattering fistfuls in all directions. This meant that some seeds would fall on the hard paths in the fields and others in the places that had yet been prepared for planting. After the fall planting, the anxious time of waiting for the crops to grow would continue throughout the winter hoping for rains to nourish the seed. Like all farming, weeds were a problem. The diligent farmer would keep the fields free of thorns and weeds, allowing the wheat to grow to maturity. Then the day came for harvest and great rejoicing. From these images, Jesus draws the eternal story of the four kinds of people in the world.

The parable of the sower is about people. Jesus narrows the lesson to the reality of only four types of people in the world and no more. This is a hard lesson because everyone will find themselves in one of these four places in the teaching of Jesus. There are people that have the wayside heart that have no desire for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their lives are filled with the frivolity of sensual desires, covetousness, and human pride. It is tough to reach these hearts with the grace of God and, more often than not, fail to respond to the gospel. If there is a number to place on each group of people, the wayside has a larger population than the other three. When Jesus explains the parable to the disciples, He tells them those people who are the wayside will not be saved. The word was given to them to save them, but they would not hear.

It was important for the farmer to clear the land before sowing the seed. A lazy farmer would not take the time to remove the rocks and try to sow the seed on the rocky ground. There is just enough soil to germinate the seed but not enough for lasting growth. It does not take long before the sun’s heat and the abuse of the elements tear at the tender plants and destroys them. In the spiritual application, some people are open to hear the gospel of Christ and immediately embrace it. They are filled with joy and excitement and seem to be filled with a love for God. Sadly, without root in their hearts to endure the trials to follow Jesus, the people soon lose their faith and return to the world. They believe for a while and, in time of temptation, fall away. Like the first group, they too are lost.

The final two people are similar with one distinction. Sowing seed on good ground that has been broken up from the hard wayside soil and removing the rocks that would impede growth will bring about a bountiful crop. However, the farmer who is not diligent in keeping a watch on his field will find many weeds and thorns growing up with the good seed. Unless the thorns are removed, the wheat will get choked and die. The third type of person is the man who is serving the Lord as a faithful follower but allows the cares, riches, and pleasures of life to choke his spirit to maturity. What is sad about this person is that he has the love and grace of the Father, and he is more concerned about social position, fame, popularity, and the things of the world than his relationship with God. Wheat that has weeds growing up among the field will choke it to nonproductivity. The third person has all the opportunities of God’s grace and squanders it all on useless things.

Only the fourth and final person is the one that brings fruit. A ground that is broken up from the wayside, rocks removed, and weeds managed will grow to a bountiful harvest. The noble and good heart has opened their lives to completely trust in the Lord and diligently serve the will of the Father. There is a lot of work involved in clearing a field of rocks and weeds. Bountiful crops do not happen on their own. Hearing the gospel with a good heart void of the impediments that will hinder growth brings a bountiful crop of divine blessings. This requires effort. The result is a harvest of good things.

Four grounds. Four people. Four receptions. Three failures. Only one succeeds, and only one finds the bounty of joy in the spiritual harvest. Each ground is a person, and that person is you. Everything Jesus tells in this parable describes your heart. Without exception, you and I make up one of these grounds. The question that you must answer is which one of these grounds describes my life. There are not three grounds or five: only four, and I am one of those grounds. The lesson from Jesus is that harvest only comes from the fourth ground. That is the person who will enjoy the harvest of eternal joy. So here is the question: which ground am I?

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The Irony Of Easter

And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him, intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. (Acts 12:4 KJV)

The Irony Of Easter

Spring always heralds in the dawning of warmer days, flowers blooming, and preparations for Easter. Like most holidays, there is a mixture of Easter that incorporates the Son of God’s death and resurrection and a rabbit running around the countryside, leaving colorful eggs. That is such an odd mixture of the divine and the ridiculous, but such is the whimsical connotations of human vanity.

Easter is one of the most important days in the Christian world without any Biblical basis. The early Christian’s never celebrated Easter in the manner of those who decide to worship God on one of two days of the year (Christmas is the other). When the translators of the King James Version of the Bible came to Acts 12, they decided to include a word, not in the original language. Albert Barnes said it best: “There never was a more absurd or unhappy translation than this.” The word should have been “Passover,” but because the feasts were at similar times of the year, the translators used Easter. Honest scholars agree the early disciples never celebrated Easter, and it was not until later centuries the apostate church accepted the feast.

The origins of the Easter name may have come from ‘Eostre,’ a Teutonic goddess of spring, or from the Teutonic festival of spring called ‘Eostur.’ When the Roman Catholic Church blended the pagan festivals with the Christian teachings (like Christmas), the world began to embrace the false worship of Easter. It is a favorite holiday of many churches with elaborate, early morning services on Easter morning, followed by Easter egg hunts, picnics, and meals. Easter is a time to buy new clothes and to wear the clothing to church for everyone to see. The irony of the modern Easter is not far from the origins of the pagan festival of spring. While there is a veneer of religion associated with Easter, the holiday is more secular than spiritual. Walking through Wal-Mart will convince the skeptic.

While a small group of worshippers celebrates the death of Jesus, the devotees to modern Easter dress up in bright colors and new clothes to impress others.  Chocolate is the staple of Easter compared to the offering of Jesus in the communion. Frivolity and fun and games fill the Sunday afternoons in the face of the Son of God dying a horrible death on a cross. Easter celebrates all the fleshly appetites of humanity while the death and resurrection of Jesus mark the putridity of sin. It must be recognized that Easter – while clothed in the robes of Biblical reference – has nothing to do with the will of God. It was never in God’s design and purpose for men to celebrate Easter no more than He wants Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus. These are human traditions to satisfy the thirst of human cravings for fleshly desires. The irony of East is that it barely resembles anything closely related to what Jesus went through.

It is common for the doctrines of men to cloud the teachings of the Lord. Human tradition offers just enough attraction to bring people to think they are worshiping God when they are doing anything but giving honor to the resurrection of Jesus. Going to church when the Easter lilies bloom and poinsettias blossom will not save. Following silly religious holidays like Easter as the resurrection of Jesus will not save. The irony of Easter is how it fails to incorporate the true nature of the will of God. An Easter bunny leaving eggs has nothing to do with Jesus Christ dying on a cross and coming out of the grave on the third day. If a man cannot worship God every week to celebrate the resurrection, getting up early Sunday morning for a sunrise service will have no lasting value. The focus remains that God loved the world to give His only begotten Son. There is no irony in that. It is the gospel – without the eggs.

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Run Right

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Run Right

The Christian life has been described as a race. Paul used the imagery of running a race as a metaphor for how a person becomes a Christian and strives for the imperishable crown given to all who finish the course. Running a race like a marathon takes discipline to train the body to endure the race’s rigors. It is not an easy task requiring preparation, diligence, patience, endurance, and finishing the race. Like all sporting events, running a race demands adherence to the rules of the sport. In 1980, Rosie Ruiz crossed the Boston Marathon’s finish line in the record time of 2 hours, 31 minutes, and 56 seconds. Officials became suspicious of her time when it was discovered her presence in portions of the race could not be verified. She was stripped of her title because she had not run according to the rules. Paul explains the need to run the Christian race in such a manner as to obtain the prize, and this must be according to the will of God.

When a race begins, participants must be qualified to run. Without qualifications, the person is not eligible to run, and not everyone can qualify. The Christian race is not open to anyone and everyone but only those who have qualified for running the race. God has made available to all men the course of salvation laid out through the blood of Christ that when a man runs the divine race, eternal life will be granted at the end. Some try to enter the race in a manner different from the word of God. Some are running the race which qualified because they believed in faith only. Some run the race thinking being a good person will save them. Many run the race following the doctrines of churches created by men. None of these will receive the prize. They are not running according to the commandments of the Lord and are disqualified. When the Jews were pricked in their hearts on the day of Pentecost and asked Peter and the other apostles what to do to be saved, Peter told them the rules for admission. Three thousand people began their race that day because they followed the word of the Lord.

Becoming qualified to run the race will not grant the prize promised by God. That would be like a man who qualifies for the Boston Marathon and expects to receive the prize without running. He believes that he is good enough to be granted honor and glory without putting forth any effort as he stands at the beginning of the race unmoving. The race begins, and the race must continue until the end. Some may grow weary halfway through the race and give up. Some come very close to the end of the race and walk away. Sadly, they will not receive the crown. Why? They ran the race and put out some effort but did not endure until the end. Eternal life will only be given to those who begin the race in accordance with the will of the Father and finish the race by the word of the Lord.

Running the race of a Christian requires running in such a way to obtain the prize. God has given His people many things He expects them to do to be saved. In the church of the Lord, there are requirements of citizenship in the kingdom of God that must be met. Worship is the central part of a Christian’s life, and running the race means to worship the Lord in spirit and truth. Both are required to run the race in the proper manner.

An example would be the Lord’s Supper. This is part of the Christian’s life in service to the Father. Another feature of running the race is learning about the will of the Father through study, expressing love to God in prayer, assembling with the people of God weekly, and letting the light of Christ shine in the workplace, community, and the home.

The greatest joy of the Christian race is what is found at the end. It will be a weary, tiring, and exhausting race, but the joy of a crown of life and eternal rest in the bosom of the Father will make all the sacrifices worthwhile. God will wipe away all the pain of the race and the sorrows endured to receive the prize, and Heaven will be worth it all. Run the race in such a way to obtain. Begin your race today.

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Life Is In The Blood

But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. (Genesis 9:4)

Life Is In The Blood

The heart is an amazing testimony of the creative power of God. Formed in the womb, the muscular organ begins to pump blood through the child’s developing body and will not cease its work for many, many years, sometimes lasting more than one hundred years. Every day, the heart beats nearly 100,000 times, moving the life-giving nutrients and oxygen to the organs. Blood is necessary for life in most animals and required for life in all humans. There are different kinds of flesh: one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. After the flood in the days of Noah, God permitted man to eat from the animal kingdom. The animals were given to man to subdue and have dominion to supply his needs for food. Shedding the blood of animals was not prohibited, but the eating of flesh with its life, that is, its blood, was an abomination to the Lord. Killing an animal was not sinful, although blood was shed because an animal was not created in God’s image. Whoever kills another human being commits murder when he sheds the blood of one made in the image of God.

Blood is different in animals. Transfusing blood from one human to another is possible but using animal blood is impossible. Life is in the blood, but an animal’s life is nothing more than a creature that has no eternal existence. When an animal dies, he returns to nothing. When a man dies, the spirit returns to God who gave it, and he continues as an eternal creature never to cease from existence. One of the things that separate men from animals is the nature of the blood. The blood of man is precious to God as He formed His creation into His own image. Throughout humanity’s history, animals have been used for sacrifice without penalty because their blood was not sacred. One of the greatest abominations before the Lord was human sacrifice. The distinction between animal sacrifice and human sacrifice was the blood. Offering the blood of bulls and goats was commanded by the Lord. Human offerings and the shedding of man’s blood in sacrifice were sinful.

Life is in the blood. Over the centuries, thousands upon thousands of animals were sacrificed to appease the wrath of God. While commanded by the Lord, the blood given on the altar could not take away sin. The nature of the blood was not composed of a sacrifice worthy of the holiness of God to take away sin. No animal was created in the image of God, and so the blood was nullified by its nature. Human blood was sacred before the Lord as man was created in the image of the Divine. Shedding the blood of a man would bring redemption because the man was created in the image of God. The problem was the blood required had to be without blemish. In animal sacrifice, an animal must be without defect, or it was an unholy sacrifice. The blood of man would be acceptable to God if man were perfect and without sin. Among all the great men that lived holy lives, there was never one found that was sinless. Redemption remained distant, and the man was without hope.

In the little town of Nazareth, a young maiden conceived in her womb the Son of God. The heart of Jesus formed to pump blood throughout His tiny frame as it developed into a human body. Nine months later, while Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem for the census, Jesus was born. For more than thirty years, the heart of Jesus beat nearly 100,000 times a day, supplying His human form with the nutrients and oxygen required for life. The Jews rejected Jesus as the Son of God and killed Jesus on a cross through the authority of the Roman government. Like all men, Jesus bled. His blood became the atoning sacrifice for sin because not only is physical life in the blood; eternal life is in the blood of Jesus because it was from a man created in the image of the Divine that lived a perfect life. Jesus had done what no man could do. His blood was without blemish. The blood of Jesus could redeem man. His sacrifice appeased the wrath of God. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, and no man has ever lived a perfect life but Jesus of Nazareth. Thank God for His blood because eternal life is in the blood of Jesus.

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The Value Of A Friend

A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

The Value Of A Friend

Eighty-year-old Blanch Hansen lived alone in Duluth, Minnesota, and shunned her neighbors, including her children. Her mummified body was discovered on February 5, 1985. The St. Louis County Medical Examiner determined Blanch had been dead since May 1981. A family feud was blamed for the family’s failure to check on Blanch, with neighbors avoiding the woman thinking she was mentally ill because of her antisocial behavior. Officials suggested the body found in the house was four years old. There were signs of disrepair with the lawn and house neglected. Her daughter continued to pay the bills, and neighbors assumed Blanche was staying with the children. The family had avoided contact with the matriarch since an argument involving the family’s lake cabin and her request for everyone to stay away.

When God created man, there was a void in Adam’s world that animals could not fill. The Lord took a rib from the man and created the woman. Companionship is essential to the creative nature of humanity. It is not suitable for a man to be alone. Friendship, comradeship, companionship, and family bond are essential parts of the human makeup. What is sad about broken relationships is how someone created in the image of the Divine is forgotten, ignored, and overlooked. In the case of Blanche Hansen, her body was not discovered for nearly four years. Mental illness may have attributed to estrangement from friends and neighbors, but everyone is deserving of awareness by others. The greater tragedy remains for the untold numbers of people living alone and dying alone without friends and without anyone to mourn their passing.

Friendship is not just a relationship of the close association of two people sharing everything in life. The Lord desires for people to recognize people as His creation. Everyone is important to God. Jesus did not die for only a select group of people. Each person is an eternal spirit that will never cease to exist and worthy of recognition and honor as the manifestation of God’s image. There is a need in the world for friendship. It takes effort and concern for the welfare of others. One of the great tools of sharing the gospel is to begin by being a friend. Every person’s value is essential to find and help others see the joy of living for Christ. The unhappy and disgruntled need the gospel. Jesus was interested in the lepers, the blind, the abused, the rejected, and accused to show them His Father’s love. When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Him, He showed compassion measured by the admonition to sin no more. Being a friend disapproves of a sinful life as acceptable but as a potential opportunity to teach.

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The Unknowns Will Not Save You

And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch. (Genesis 4:17)

The Unknowns Will Not Save You

There are many great mysteries of the Bible, beginning with where Cain found his wife. After the Lord pronounced a curse on Cain for killing his brother, the text says that Cain knew his wife, and they had a son named Enoch. This mystery has puzzled people for as long as the earth has stood because nothing is said to his wife’s origin. There are apparent conclusions that must be made about his wife but never has the subject of one man’s wife taken up so much speculative fodder. Many unknowns have puzzled Bible students. What happened to the ark build by Noah after it landed on Mount Ararat. It is more remarkable that many still believe the ark’s remnants can be seen after thousands of years.  

Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. The Lord buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor, but no one knows his grave to this day. Later, Jude will tell how that Michael and the devil argued about the body of Moses. Nothing is known in scripture about this taking place. The Bible is silent. The ark of God was a holy and dedicated small box housing the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God, the rod of Aaron that budded, and a sampling of manna from the days of wilderness wanderings. Carried by Israel throughout the forty years of wandering, the Ark of the Covenant would not find a permanent home until Solomon built the Temple. In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple, and the ark was never heard from again. It has disappeared from the pages of history.

The most incredible story ever told is the life of Jesus Christ, and yet 90% of the earthly life of Jesus is unknown. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke focus on three years in the life of Jesus. Matthew gives a few details about the birth of Jesus and the flight to Egypt but nothing else. Luke is the only writer that talks more about the early life of Jesus with details about the announcement of his birth and the trip to Bethlehem where Jesus is born and visited by shepherds that same night. He refers to the circumcision of Jesus, presentation at the Temple, and an event when Jesus is twelve-years-old and then nothing for the next eighteen years. Jesus is thirty years of age when He begins His ministry. John’s account of Jesus covers about twenty days in the life of God’s Son. There is so much that is unknown about the life of Jesus. Luke will offer a morsel of the teachings of Jesus when he writes to Theophilus in the acts of the apostles and refers to Jesus saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This account is unknown in the gospels.

What do the unknowns tell the world about the will of God? The secret things belong to the Lord and while there are myriads of stories never told in the Bible, what is revealed is what saves. There are many unknowns, but these will not save a man. The majority of the life of Jesus is never preserved in writing, and yet the portion found in nearly 84,000 words contains the message of eternal life. Men can spend a lifetime speculating about the mysteries of scripture. Sadly, energy is wasted and lost if this is all a man can focus upon. The Bible contains everything a man needs to know to save his soul. Some questions will never be answered because they are not relevant, pertinent, and essential to change a soul from the darkness of sin to God’s light. What is revealed in the Bible will save a man. Read it to be wise. Believe it to be saved. Accept it as final. It is only what is known that will save us.

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Possibly Outdated Term

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

Possibly Outdated Term

The days of manual typewriters have been delegated to the dusty corners of the Smithsonian Museum. When the IBM Selectric typewriter was introduced in 1961, it changed the face of the business world. The limitation of manual and electric typewriters was keeping a dictionary or word search manual close by to correct spelling. Checking grammar still required the author to know the proper syntax of English and make needed corrections. All of this changed when the computer took the place of typewriters, evolving into an instrument that can correct spelling immediately and correct grammar upon review through various programs. Using a grammar program like Grammarly still requires a choice by the author to decide if the suggested review is necessary or not, but it offers many suggestions to improve the writing skills of those less versed in the discipline of proper grammar.

A program is only as useful as the information embedded within its design. Programs like Grammarly reflect society’s social and moral norms because they are created by individuals swayed by the winds of change that try to keep in touch with the needs of the people. One such example is found with the review of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. The word “homosexual” was flagged, “Possibly outdated term. Some readers may consider the word homosexual outdated or clinical and may prefer other terms they regard as more modern and inclusive.” Additionally, the word “sodomites” was flagged with the following disclaimer: “Potentially offensive language. The word sodomites may offend some people. Consider using more inclusive language.” Nothing was said about the word’s fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, or extortioners. Apparently, these words are inclusive.

The Holy Spirit inspired men to write as the will of God moved them. Paul addresses a problem in Corinth that is as old as the world: sin. The world of the early church was filled with idolatry that thrived on the sensual provocations of the flesh. Homosexuality was common in the Roman Empire, especially among the leaders. Sexual immorality was an accepted part of society. Fornication and adultery were common. Drunkenness flourished as the degradations of idol worship filled with land with debauchery, depravity, and corruption. It was in this world the early disciples faced the battle of the flesh and the spirit. Were there those in the city of Corinth that would have been offended by Paul’s use of the words “homosexual” and “sodomites”? There is no doubt these words were not inclusive in society. Paul was not writing to please the masses, but his words were clearly from a divine source with divine authority.

Society can change sin to be a more inclusive and acceptable word, but the nature of sin remains the same. Paul defined homosexuality to the Roman Christians as shameful and degrading. He said that God called it unnatural and vile passions. This will never be inclusive to the world’s view, but the divine word of God determines what is right and wrong. The moral compass of humanity never defines righteousness. Calling homosexuality a “lifestyle” does not suggest acceptance from the Lawgiver. Jesus died so that all men could find salvation in the will of His Father. Those who disregard the law of God will not inherit the kingdom of God. Sexual immorality such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, sodomites, and transgender will keep a soul from eternal life. Those who practice such things will suffer eternal damnation. Only through the blood of Jesus will the sins of the sexual immoral be washed away, and a person is sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God. Sin may offend you but pray you do not offend the Lord God. He is not inclusive of the whims of human reason.

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A Just God Repays Evil Men

Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of the people of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they ripped open the women with child in Gilead, that they might enlarge their territory. But I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall devour its palaces, amid shouting in the day of battle, and a tempest in the day of the whirlwind. Their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes together,” says the Lord. (Amos 1:13-15)

A Just God Repays Evil Men

The cruelty of humanity against itself is legion in the annals of history. There have been stories of human horror in every generation and will continue until the end of time. During the days of Uzziah, king of Judah, and Jeroboam, king of Israel, the prophet Amos declared the justice of the Lord to the nations that had abused His people. Damascus, Gaza, Edom, Moab, and Ammon would receive the Lord’s wrath along with Judah and Israel. The transgressions of the ungodly nations that corrupted His Holy nation would not go unpunished. Bringing judgment against the people of Ammon was especially harsh for the crimes they committed against the people of Gilead.

Ammon was from the lineage of the incestuous union of Lot and his daughter. The Ammonites worshiped Milehem or Molech, which included the human sacrifice of children. Israel had fallen into the idol practices of Molech to be like the nations around them. There was a certain ferociousness to the cruelty of the Ammonites described by Amos. Fighting against the people of God, the Ammonites sought to destroy all the vestiges of the Hebrews, including ripping open women pregnant with child, killing both the mother and the child. All of this was to enlarge their territory. The action and motives of the Ammonites did not escape the watchful eye of the Lord. Their hatred led them to do great cruelties against others. The land was filled with the blood of the innocent, and the Lord God took notice.

Rabbah was an Ammonite stronghold with a stronger citadel. It seemed impregnable. God would bring it down to destruction through His judgment. The king and princes will face the wrath of the Lord as He brings judgment upon those who defiled His name and disregarded His will. All of the cruelty the Ammonites brought upon the people of God would be repaid by the vengeance of a greater God than the puny idols worshiped by Ammon. This judgment would come swiftly. All that remains of the Ammonite power are broken stones of ruin. A once proud and vicious army that brought fear and dread in the hearts of their victims met the judgment of God.

The lesson from Amos is the judgment of the Lord is absolute and complete. There are many things that men will do against one another. Nations will seek to destroy other countries, and the Lord will repay the evil. Men will revolt against other men and do horrible things, and the Lord will remember and repay the evil that was done. Nothing escapes His eye. No man will escape the wrath of God. A man will take a knife and rip open the womb of a woman and glory in his evil he has done, but the day will come when a greater horror will stand before him as he hears the word of the Almighty cast him to hell.

Injustice is not uncommon in the world of evil men. The sad reality is that across the globe, horrible things are done to the innocent. Murder, rape, plundering, corruption, and injustice are rampant in a world driven by the evil hearts of corrupt men.  Judgment may seem impossible or far off, and often there never seems to be a measure of justice against the evil, but a day will come when all men stand before a just God. It is then the unjust and evil men will receive their due reward by the hand of a pure, righteous, and holy Lord God who is Almighty, Jealous, and Creator. He never sleeps, and He knows what all men do. For three transgressions of the people of Ammon, and for four, the wrath of the Lord will not turn away its punishment. Neither will this same God turn His wrath upon the evil today. Thank God for a just and merciful God.

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The Struggles Of A Man Of Faith

O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your wrath, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure! For Your arrows pierce me deeply, and Your hand presses me down.

There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor any health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness.

I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are full of inflammation, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart pants, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.

My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague, and my relatives stand afar off. Those also who seek my life lay snares for me; those who seek my hurt speak of destruction, and plan deception all the day long. But I, like a deaf man, do not hear; and I am like a mute who does not open his mouth. Thus I am like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth is no response.

For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God. For I said, “Hear me, lest they rejoice over me, lest, when my foot slips, they exalt themselves against me.” For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin. But my enemies are vigorous, and they are strong; and those who hate me wrongfully have multiplied. Those also who render evil for good, they are my adversaries, because I follow what is good.

Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation! (A psalm of David. To bring to remembrance. Psalm 38)

The Struggles Of A Man Of Faith

Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen, but it can be a harsh lesson to learn and keep focused when sin assaults the spirit with deadly force. No one is immune from the tentacles of temptation, despair, and hopelessness. It consumes the soul with guilt and the foreboding judgment of a wrathful God. Sin easily entangles the unwary and can destroy hope, but it can overpower the godly and the righteous. Of all the great men and women who have walked before the Lord in faithfulness, none remained aloof and untouched by the tragedy of sin. The sweet psalmist of Israel sang his heart away with the dread of the wrath of God and the consequence of his foolishness and rebellion. David was a man of faith struggling to face the reality of his sin.

There are elements of sin that are very clear. It brings the hot displeasure of God like arrows piercing deeply within the soul and like the heavy hand of the Lord pressing upon the weakness of the soul. The faithful heart feels the pain of sin, recognizing that God has been offended. There is fear in the soul because of the hurt that has been done to the heart of the Almighty. Godly sorrow comes from a broken and contrite heart aware of what sin does to the righteous character of a Holy God. There are no excuses for sin. It is not a matter of a simple mistake or sowing of wild oats. Sin is the repudiation of the righteous character of a jealous God who has blessed humanity with His grace, His love, and His mercy. David was troubled. His grief was overwhelming because he had sinned against God. He did not grieve because he got caught in whatever unrighteousness that tore at his soul. David was hurt deeply that he had hurt God deeply. As the man of God stood before his Lord, he was feeble, severely broken, and groaning because of the turmoil of his heart. A man of faith was seeking forgiveness.

Sin is not a surprising event but a harsh reality that all men suffer. Jesus was and will only be the one man who never sinned against His Father. The greatest of men who walked faithfully before the Lord were guilty of sin. David was a man after God’s own heart, and what made his character so powerful was his deep humility to face his own failures and the willingness to acknowledge his failures were his own. His desire was for the Lord. David said his heart was weak and his strength failed, and the light had gone from his eyes because he faced his sin and failure. His friends forsook him, but he knew God would never leave him. All of his hope was in a compassionate and loving Father who would welcome him home and take away his guilt.

Faith is hoping in the Lord and finding in a sorrowful heart of repentance that God will forgive, He will remove sin as far as the east is from the west, and joy will return to the soul. David was a man of faith who struggled with sin. He knew the depths of eternal sorrow, and that is what made him a man of great faith. Sin would not have dominion over the heart of David. He pleaded with the Lord for grace from a heart that was broken and filled with anguish. All of his hope lay in the promise of God who would not forsake him. His psalm began with God’s chastening hot displeasure and ends with the song of hope in the nearness of God and the Lord of salvation. Thank God for his wrath and chastening to prick the soul of sin. Thank God for godly desire that brings a faithful man back to a compassionate Father who will forgive and save.

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Only The Blood Of Jesus

But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. (Hebrews 10:3-4)

Only The Blood Of Jesus

Animal sacrifice and sin have been perpetually connected since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. When God clothed Adam and Eve, He covered them with the skin of animals. Abel was a keeper of sheep, and in the process of time, following the Lord’s command to make an offering in worship, he brought of the firstborn of his flock and their fat. Following the great flood, Noah built an altar to the Lord and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. Abraham is a man whose travels were marked by the smoke of his offerings to the Lord God. The covenant with Abraham was confirmed when an offering of a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. When the Hebrews faced the final plague against the nation of Egypt, their salvation came from the sacrifice of a lamb without blemish, a male of the first year which was taken from among the sheep or goats. The lamb’s blood was put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses so that when God saw the blood, He would pass over the house and not bring the death of the firstborn.

Under the Law of Moses, there were thousands of sacrifices offered each year for the atonement of the people. At the coronation of King Solomon, 1,000 bulls, 1,000 rams, 1,000 lambs were sacrificed. When Solomon dedicated the temple, 22,000 bulls and 120,000 sheep were offered to the Lord. Asa offered to the Lord 700 bulls and 7,000 sheep from the spoil they had brought. Hezekiah restored temple worship and sacrificed 70 bulls, 100 rams, 200 lambs along with 600 bulls and 3,000 sheep consecrated to the Lord. He would also give the assembly 1,000 bulls, 7,000 sheep, and the leaders gave the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,0000 sheep for sacrifice. Josiah gave the people lambs and young goats from the flock to the number of 30,000 plus 3,000 cattle. More than 7,600 from the flock and 800 cattle were offered at the Passover. Untold thousands of animals were sacrificed throughout the generations of Hebrews who kept the law.

When Jesus was born, and Joseph and Mary took their infant son to the temple, they offered a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons as they were unable to afford the offering of a lamb. One bird was for the burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. Throughout the life of Jesus, the Son of God would witness the sacrifice of thousands of animals. Jesus would keep the Law during His lifetime following the sacrificial laws. All the millions of animals offered as a sacrifice since the beginning of time could not atone for the sins of one man. This would require the blood of the Son of God.

Animals could not take away sins because they were not created in the image of God. David McClister writes, “Why could animal blood not take away sins? The first answer is: because the animals had not done the sinning. How could the death of a dumb animal (bulls and goats) suffice to atone for the guilt of a rational human being? Technically, it could not. There was no connection, no fellowship, between the sinner and the sacrifice. God’s penalty for sin is death, and the sinner, not some animal put in his place, must die to pay for his sins (Ezek 18:4). Human blood was required to atone for human sin.” With all the blood of bulls and goats sacrificed through the centuries, only the blood Jesus can save. God’s Son’s death was required to redeem man because that was the severity of the condition between God and man. No animal could take away sin. Jesus knew as He went yearly to the temple and witnessed the multitudes of sacrifices that His blood would be required to redeem humanity. He faithfully kept His Father’s command and suffered on the cross so that all men could taste the fruit of redemption in His blood. There are no other means of salvation. What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

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Mistakes Of Old Men

For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. (1 Kings 11:4)

Mistakes Of Old Men

As a young man, Solomon had more profound wisdom than most men. When the Lord appeared to him at Gibeon, he could ask anything from the divine storehouse of blessings, and it would be granted to him. He did not ask for riches and honor or long life, but he desired to have an understanding heart to judge the people to discern between good and evil. This pleased the Lord, and Solomon was blessed with the greatest wisdom, including the greatest wealth and honor among all the men on earth. Solomon’s reign was an incredible demonstration of the knowledge of righteousness, discernment, devotion to God, and prosperity never known in the history of humanity. Under the leadership of David’s son, the house of the Lord was constructed that would stand as the dwelling place of God with His people in the city of Jerusalem. No edifice was a grand and beautiful as the Temple of the Lord God. The Queen of Sheba would survey the world of Solomon and proclaim the half had not been told her to the expanse of the kingdom of Solomon and his wisdom. All the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.

The reign of Solomon would last for forty years. At the beginning of his kingdom, there was great success, and God was glorified through King Solomon’s wisdom, wealth, and power. As the prosperity of his wealth increased, so did the many foreign women increase including the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites. When Joshua brought the people of God into Canaan to conquer the land, God had forbidden His people to intermarry with the women of the land lest they turn the hearts of the people away from Him. They disobeyed the Lord, and so did Solomon. Solomon clung to the forbidden women in love, and when he was old, his wives turned his heart away from God. The wisest man on earth sought after the gods of the Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon had one thousand women surrounding him that he allowed to turn his heart away from the righteousness of the Lord. He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God.

Old age is supposed to be characterized by a maturity of years that emboldens wisdom. The hoary head is revered for the knowledge of old men. There is a sense of purpose in the eyes of those who can look back over many years of experience to discern between the wise path and the path of folly. Men who have served in the house of the Lord are to bear fruit in old age with a fresh and flourishing spirit of divine wisdom. The desire of those of old age is to declare the knowledge of God to the generation of youth and the power of God to the world. No man possessed the wisdom of Solomon, and yet the wisest man that lived allowed the sensual pleasures of his flesh to destroy his life in his old age.

Righteousness is a commodity that men of all ages must possess, especially when a man approaches the end of his life. Solomon’s sad tragedy was he began his reign with such promise and ended his reign with unexpected failure. Devotion to God must continue until death. Old age should be a time of more profound meaning for the heart of the faithful. The lie of evil is to seek youth in old age when this is impossible. Billions of dollars are spent each year on men and women seeking the fountain of youth which can be an eternal folly. Time marches on, and nothing will stop or slow its progress.

Solomon grieved over the mistakes of his old age as found in the book of Ecclesiastes. His life stands as a monument to the failures of men and women who have served the Lord for many years and then choose to seek the follies of youth at the brink of eternity. The end is worse for them than the beginning. A faithful heart must remain faithful until the end. There can be no exception. Old age is a beautiful time of enlightenment, joy, productivity, and letting the world see the glory of God. When the almond tree blossoms, the world should see the eternal tree of life blooming in the hearts of older men and older women. Do not give up, and do not turn from the Lord when eternity is so close. Be thou faithful until death.

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Change The Priesthood

For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the Law. (Hebrews 7:12)

Change The Priesthood

The Law of Moses is no longer binding as law which includes the law’s preamble called the Ten Commandments.  It becomes increasingly difficult for Bible students to understand the law of Christ when they fail to clarify divine authority changing from the children of Israel to men of every nation. Part of the confusion occurs when a separation between the Old and New Testament is not put in its proper order. The Lord gave men the Old Testament as the evidence of His divine will but not as a binding law for all men to follow. Like Paul’s argument to the church at Rome, justification did not come through the Law of Moses. Abraham, who did not live according to the Law of Moses, was justified by faith. Moses lived most of his life without the law named after him. He was eighty years old when the law was given to the Hebrews. The Law of Moses was only given to the nation of Israel.

One of the foundations of the Law of Moses was the priesthood. Moses’ brother, Aaron, was the first High Priest of the nation. His sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, were the first priests, with Eleazar succeeding his father as High Priest. The Law was stringent that only those from the tribe of Levi could be priests and serve as High Priest. None of the other tribes could serve as priests, including the tribe of Judah. The apostasy of Israel began when after Solomon’s death, the kingdom was divided, and Jeroboam made shrines on the high places and made priests from every class of people who were not of the sons of Levi. This continued until the destruction of the ten tribes by Assyria. The Law of Moses clearly established the true priests could only come from the tribe of Levi.

Jesus was born of the house of David, the tribe of Judah. Matthew and Luke record the genealogy of Jesus, showing the Lord came from the lineage of David. Under the Law of Moses, Jesus could not be a priest nor a High Priest, and yet the book of Hebrews is a thesis on how Jesus of Nazareth, a man from the tribe of Judah, is now the Apostle and High Priest of those who confess Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus was called by God as High Priest not according to the order of Aaron but the order of Melchizedek, High Priest and King of Salem in the days of Abraham. In the Law of Moses, nothing is said that a man from the tribe of Judah could be the High Priest. Under the law, He would sin by taking on the High Priest role because He was not from Aaron’s lineage. David was a king but was not a High Priest. Jesus was from the house of David.

The argument Paul makes in Hebrews is clear that Jesus is the High Priest appointed by God to serve as King and High Priest. Believing that Jesus is the High Priest over the house of God establishes the Law of Moses (including the Ten Commandments) has been done away with, and the Law of Christ is the only binding authority for salvation. And if the priesthood is changed, the Law must also be changed to permit it. There can be no authority for instrumental music, keeping the Sabbath, and imposing the Ten Commandments as the priesthood has changed, nullifying the old Law and its ordinances. Jesus is both King and High Priest, establishing a law apart from the law given to Israel because He came from the tribe of Judah. It is impossible to serve Jesus as Lord and hold to the Law of Moses.

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The Scaffolding Is Gone

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:8-11)

The Scaffolding Is Gone

Jesus promised to build His church and following His return to the Father, the church was established on Pentecost. The twelve apostles received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began speaking in different languages of those gathered for the great feast in Jerusalem. Peter stood up among the apostles and opened the door of salvation to the Jews as promised by Jesus. It was the first day of the church, and three thousand souls obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ. God added to the church those who were being saved. The day following Pentecost saw more teaching and preaching as the infant church began to grow daily. Disciples of Christ began to learn the new message of salvation apart from the Law of Moses. It was not an easy transition, and questions arose on the new worship and teachings of a risen Christ. More Jews were baptized for the remission of sins. Disciples increased daily.

The teaching, worship, practice, and organization of the church was new to everyone. There were only the writings of Genesis through Malachi in existence in Hebrew and Greek. Philip would begin at Isaiah 53 and teach a man from Ethiopia the gospel of Jesus Christ, leading to him asking why he could not be baptized in water. It would be over ten years before the first book of the New Testament would be written, and throughout the coming years, the canon of the books Matthew through Revelation would be written and reproduced. One of the great providential works of the Godhead is found in the manner of the church’s remarkable growth during the time of its infancy. This work was accomplished by the promise of Jesus to the eleven when He told them a Helper would come and guide them into all truth.

When a building is planned and designed, one of the most important parts of the construction occurs in the early phases of its design. To properly build a firm foundation and construct its walls, scaffolding is used to shore up and hold together the building. Without the scaffolding, it would be impossible for the walls to remain secure and the building to be finished. There comes a time when the building can stand on its own, and the scaffolding is taken away. Then the building’s beauty is seen apart from the skeleton structure of what helped form its structure in the beginning. Jesus said His church would be built, and like a building, the church required a time of scaffolding to help the new kingdom of God come into existence. One of the most critical parts of the success of the early church was the nine miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus promised to send the Helper or the Holy Spirit to guide the church into all truth. The Spirit’s work was found in the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healings, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. Within forty years, when Paul wrote the epistle of Colossians, the church had been preached to every creature under heaven. The remarkable speed of the spread of the gospel was accomplished through the scaffolding of God’s divine plan to establish the church. When the work of the Holy Spirit was no longer needed, the gifts were taken away. Only those baptized with the Holy Spirit baptism could pass the gifts to others and when those who possessed the gifts died, so did the power. When the generation of those who had the gifts died, the Holy Spirit’s work ended through the agency of spiritual gifts.

Paul explained to the Corinthians a day was coming when the gifts would cease. The reason for the ending of the gifts was because, like scaffolding, a day would come when the church would stand on its own with the fully revealed word of God given to all men. The nine gifts of the Holy Spirit are not needed because the Bible has everything a man needs to know how to be saved. Contained within the sixty-six books of the Bible is the mind of God. Paul wrote that when that which was perfect came, that which was in part was to be taken away. The spiritual gifts were necessary to the building of the church as scaffolding is necessary for the early construction. But the day comes when the structure of support is no longer needed. What can a spiritual gift accomplish that is not found in the word of God? Its purpose is finished, and the Lord removed the spiritual scaffolding so the beauty of His word can be seen.

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A Prayerful Believer But Not A Christian

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people and prayed to God always. (Acts 10:1-2)

A Prayerful Believer But Not A Christian

Religious people are easily identified. They are unlike the world in their demeanor, attitudes, and dispositions. There is a certain air about a religious person that shows the world devotion to a belief or a cause separating them from others. Sometimes it can be a type of clothing that distinguishes them or their manner of speech or deportment, suggesting a different kind of lifestyle. During the early days of the church, a Gentile named Cornelius was recognized as a religious man for many reasons. His life was one of pious devotion to the Lord God. He was unlike so many in the pagan world of idol worship, sensual pleasures, and self-importance. Cornelius stood in contrast to the world he served as a Roman military commander.

The household of Cornelius followed the ways of the Lord God with fear and reverence. His family honored God with respect and worship. As part of Roman society’s privileged, Cornelius and his family shared their blessings with others in many acts of benevolence. They were liberal in giving charity to those in need. The citizens of Caesarea knew of the kindness of the household of the Roman centurion who had done so much for them. Many of them also knew the Roman was a man of prayer. Cornelius was not a man of wrath and anger but a man of peace and prayer. He did not abuse his authority as a Roman military commander to neglect the Jewish population or any citizen of Caesarea. The people of the coastal town seventy miles from Jerusalem felt very secure with the Roman centurion Cornelius watching over them.

Cornelius was a devout, God-fearing man who gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God, but he was not a Christian. As good as his character and reputation were among the citizens of Caesarea and any respect he may have had among the early Christians for the type of religious man he was, in the eyes of God, he was lost and without hope. The story of Cornelius is the message of God’s grace and love. When the angel appeared to Cornelius, he did not suggest that Cornelius was saved. The angel did not tell the centurion what he needed to do to be saved but instructed him to send for a man. Following the instructions of the messenger of God, Cornelius sent two servants and a soldier to Joppa for the apostle Peter.

A few days following the angel’s visit, Peter and a company of six men arrived at the house of Cornelius. There was a gathering of family and friends to hear the words of Peter. As Peter began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon those gathered in Cornelius’s house as it had done on the twelve at Pentecost. Peter then baptized in water, for the remission of sins, those in the household of Cornelius.  Later, the apostle will tell the apostles and brethren in Jerusalem that when he arrived at Cornelius’s house, he came to tell those assembled words by which they could be saved.

It is difficult to imagine a devout man, fearing God, benevolent, and praying always as lost, but Cornelius and his household were not saved because they were religious. God did not send the angel to tell Cornelius to send for Peter because Cornelius was already a Christian. The angel did not give instructions to Cornelius on what to do to be saved. This required a man to teach another man because the man was lost and required the word of truth to be taught. The baptism of the Holy Spirit did not save Cornelius and his household. It was a sign that God had opened the doors of the gospel to the Gentiles. Only when Peter baptized Cornelius and his household in water did they become Christians.

There are many religious and devout people in the world today. This does not make them Christians and give them eternal hope. Obedience to the will of God is how a man finds redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ. Until the heart obeys the word of God and finds the blood of Jesus in the waters of baptism, there is no salvation. You can be a great person like Cornelius, but you will not be saved. An angel will not save you. Follow the pattern of Cornelius and obey the word of the Lord.

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