It Did Not Change The Mind Of God

So Ahaziah died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken. Because he had no son, Jehoram became king in his place in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. (2 Kings 1:17)

It Did Not Change The Mind Of God

Ahaziah was the eighth king of the northern kingdom of Israel. It had been just over eighty years since Solomon died, and the nation of Israel divided. All the northern kingdom’s rulers were evil, provoking the Lord with anger. Ahaziah had succeeded his father, Ahab, who filled Israel with great wickedness for twenty-two years. Like his mother and father, Ahaziah served Baal, worshipped him, and provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger. He would only rule for two years before his untimely death.

While at his palace in Samaria, Ahaziah fell through the latticework of an upper room and was seriously injured. He sent messengers to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, whether he would recover from his wounds. Ahaziah’s complete disregard and insult toward the Lord God of Israel was clearly evident as he denied any help from the prophets of the one true God. When Ahaziah sent messengers to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the angel of the Lord told the prophet Elijah to intercept them and tell them the king would die.

When the messengers returned early, the king asked the reason. The messengers told King Ahaziah Elijah had said he would die, which infuriated the king. He dispatched a captain of fifty with his fifty men to arrest Elijah. Finding the prophet sitting on a hill, the soldiers demanded Elijah to come down. Instead, Elijah called down fire from heaven and killed the troop. Hearing of the deaths of his first guards, Ahaziah sends another army of fifty men to arrest Elijah. Again, the fifty soldiers and their captain are devoured by fire. A third captain and his troop are sent, but the third captain comes to Elijah and falls on his knees, pleading with him to spare their lives. The angel of the Lord tells Elijah to go with the captain, and Elijah obeys.

Ahaziah is in his bed, seriously injured, when Elijah arrives. The prophet again tells the king that because he sent messengers to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, and did not seek the counsel of the prophets of the Lord, the king would die. Elijah leaves, and Ahaziah dies. Nothing changed from the first command of the Lord. Ahaziah tried to defy the will of the Lord by sending his army against Elijah, resulting in the deaths of 102 men. No army can stand against the will of the Lord. Ahaziah should have learned from his parents’ deaths (Ahab & Jezebel) that the word of God is true, and nothing can change that.

There are many Ahaziahs that believe they can change or ignore the word of God. Denying the Bible does not suggest it has gone away. Thinking that man came from green slime billions of years ago will not change Genesis 1. Indulging in the lusts of the flesh will reap the consequences of sin. What a man sows, he will reap. That law does not change. Ignoring the will of the Lord and the church does not suggest Jesus did not build His church. Failing to follow the word of the Lord cannot change the mind of God. Denying baptism as necessary for salvation will not allow a man to be saved by faith only. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; nothing will change that. There is no other way to eternal life. The Bible teaches there is one church, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and get ready for this one – only one God and Father of all, who is above all.

A man will reject the will of God and say he will do it his way. When men seek their own paths, they seek the ancient counsel of Baal-Zebub. Ahaziah ignored the word of God, but the word of God did not ignore Ahaziah. He rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord rejected him. After all that Ahaziah tried to thwart the will of the Lord, nothing changed. You can argue all day long until you are blue in the face about what the word of the Lord says, but at the end of the day – nothing changes. Why don’t you change – instead?

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The Secret Of Life

That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)

The Secret Of Life

Nothing has been more pressing on the hearts of men than to find why they exist and what the purpose of life is meant to be. Men are seekers. The yearning to explore is wanting to know what lies beyond the mountain range or the endless oceans. Before the days of technology, the sphere of man’s knowledge was limited. Men like Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan & Juan Sebastián Elcano opened the world to discover new lands and shrink the view of the earth. With all the modern tools to probe deep into the universe and plumb the depths of the oceans, men still seek meaning in life.

There are thousands of books written on the secrets of life. Human philosophy exhausts the subject ad nauseum. One book has had the answer for thousands of years. God delivered His word to humanity to allow men to know what they are, who they are, and the purpose of life. The Bible is filled with answers to the identity of man and commonalities that never change. There is a misguided notion that each succeeding generation has greater knowledge than the previous. They are called “advancements” as if it is a new revelation. While the technology has not been realized before and changes the landscape of how the world functions, the Lord declares there is nothing new under the sun.

Solomon lived a little over nine hundred years before Christ. His kingdom was the greatest nation in power, wealth, and influence. He writes that life is vanity, suggesting a fruitlessness to the immense activity men put into life without regard to the eternal. No nation in the last three thousand years has reached the zenith of the United Kingdom of Israel under Solomon. He possessed the greatest wisdom any human being could have, including the intellectuals of modern history. And the wisest king on earth said there is nothing new under the sun. The reality of the frailty of the human struggle is underlined by the same problems men have always faced and the same solution God has given to His creation.

There is nothing new under the sun because men still fail when it comes to sin. Solomon faced the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life as all men face today. He failed often. His life was marred by ill-advised decisions based on his lusts that brought him the displeasure of the God who gave him everything. But Solomon was not unlike Abraham, Moses, Samson, Samuel, and his father, David. Sin plagues the souls of men today, thousands of years later, and will continue to do so until the Lord returns.

The answer to sin has not changed fundamentally. God has always shown His mercy, love, and grace to failed man. He did in the Garden of Eden, to Noah when he got drunk, for Abraham lying about his wife, to Moses who murdered a man and faced his own demons in the wilderness. Samson struggled as a man of God, David failed as a man after God’s own heart, and Elijah wanted the Lord to kill him. Peter denied the Lord three times. Paul struggled in his faith to be a faithful servant. The covenants changed over time to bring all men to Christ, but ultimately, the gospel of salvation was the same. God did not change His desire to save man. His will has never changed. Jesus said those who do the will of the Father would be saved. That is true of Abraham, Moses, and Paul; and of you who live in this generation.

The secret to life is to understand that sin still exists and that God continues to offer His grace to those who seek to overcome sin. That answer can only be found in Jesus Christ. There is nothing new under the sun. Man is the same. God is the same. Salvation is the same. Heaven and Hell are real and will not change. Eternity is the same. Nothing has changed. What God asked is that YOU change. You can do that. One thing that can be new under the sun is you can obey God’s word. Why not make your life new in Christ? It is then you will discover the greatest secret of life.

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The Prodigal Who Did Not Return

Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. (Luke 15:11-13)

The Prodigal Who Did Not Return

When the Pharisees and scribes complained about how Jesus received ‘sinners’ and ate with them, the Lord spoke parables to them, showing how His Father loved everyone, even the one sheep who went astray. The parables of the lost sheep and lost coin declare God’s eternal love for those who cannot find their way home. Jesus tells another story about a young man who left home for a far country and lived a wicked and prodigal life. When the young man came to himself, he repented, confessed his sin, and was restored to the father. The story of the prodigal son is a powerful testimony to God’s love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. But not all prodigals come home.

There are souls in the church who obeyed the gospel of Christ with great joy and, like the seeds of the sower’s parable, find the world’s attraction too great and succumb to its power. It is a tragic story when faith is lost, and the child of God lives apart from the grace of God. Sin attracts the holy to live unholily. Because of the influence of friends, reputations are lost. Children of God fill their lives like the prodigal son in the parable with wine, women, and merriment without regard for their souls. Hearts are broken. Lives are shattered. There is hope the soul will turn to the Lord again. Some do come back to the Lord. Their stories are powerful testimonies of how God will forgive and cleanse. When they tell how they forsook the Lord and returned, hearts are filled with courage and hope. But some never had a chance to return.

The tragedy of prodigal living is there is no guarantee of a day to repent. When those who tell of their struggles with sin find grace in forgiveness, they realize by the grace of God, time was allowed to change their lives. Sadly, those who think they have until midnight to repent die at 11:30. There are many prodigals who run out of time. If more time were given, maybe they would find in their hearts the comfort of a forgiving heavenly Father. There is no promise of today to repent. Listening to the stories of those who have returned is measured by all those who did not return. There is great joy in the prodigal coming home and greater sadness at the prodigal left in the hog pen dying.

Sin brings consequences. The example of the prodigals who changed their lives to serve the Lord should always be greeted with great enthusiasm and hopeful courage. A deeper question must be answered why they took that path to begin with? There is power in the story of those who fell away from the Lord and returned, but greater still are those who never fell away and remained faithful. The circumstances are not different. What makes a difference in life will be the choices that are made. The story of a man or woman living faithful and devoted to God all their lives may not be as exciting as the one who falls into drug abuse, alcohol, and sexual immorality, but the greater story is the first one. It grieves the heart of God to see His child live in a prodigal world. He will forgive if there is repentance. God is also aware of those who struggle with sin and refuse to allow its overwhelming power cause them to leave His grace.

Being faithful until death is not easy, but it makes for a more remarkable story. The baggage of sin is not carried, the guilt of a sinful past does not fill the heart, and the wasted years of righteousness are replaced by a lifetime of glory and honor to God. It is always a blessing to know of those who came back home. Thank you. To those who fought the good fight and won – thank you especially.

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Killed For Picking Up Sticks

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29)

Killed For Picking Up Sticks

There is a tragic story in the history of Israel involving the execution of a man for picking up sticks. The children of Israel were in the wilderness when they found a man gathering wood. Nothing in the story indicates the purpose of this wood collection, whether it was to build a fire to warm by or to cook food. Whatever the case, the man was walking around bundling wood for himself. The people brought the man to Moses and Aaron, seeking guidance on what to do. All of Israel was brought together trying to find out what must be done to the man. As guidance was sought from the Lord, the man was arrested and put under guard. His crime was apparent: he was picking up sticks.

After inquiring of the Lord, Moses and all the congregation took the man outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones. It was a horrific way to die. The people took stones and threw them at the man. His death was slow as each stone bruised and broke him until he was unconscious. Finally, death came, and the rocks stopped flying. As the congregation walked away, the image of the battered and bloodied man burned in their minds. He was not executed by an unknown hooded executioner. Each member of Israel had taken part in killing a man who was found picking up sticks.

The story is not about gathering sticks. There is nothing immoral about working to gather wood for a fire to warm by or cook food. The people brought the man to Moses and Aaron because the man was picking up sticks on the Sabbath day. Under the Law of Moses and expressly declared in the Ten Commandments was the prohibition of working on the day God set aside as the Sabbath. The law clearly stated that any person who profaned the Sabbath day would be put to death. Any work done on the Sabbath day would bring a judgment of death against the individual. God had set aside the Sabbath day as a holy day, and the man picking up sticks on the Sabbath found the word of God to be faithful.

When Christ died and rose from the dead, the Sabbath law was abolished. Before His death, Jesus instituted the memorial feast of His death, burial, and resurrection. The Lord commanded the early church to meet on the first day of the week and remember His sacrifice. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, warning them against taking the memorial feast in an unworthy manner. Eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner brings guilt and judgment to the individual. Like the man picking up sticks, taking the supper in an unworthy manner can bring severe judgment as being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

The early Hebrew Christians struggled with their faith, and the book of Hebrews is a message of hope found in the covenant of Jesus Christ. Throughout the book, the appeal is made to see the failure of the old law and the glory of the new law. As the author begins to close the book’s message, he warns those who would refuse to assemble with the saints on the first day of the week. He exhorts them to remember the purpose of the assembly to consider one another in order to stir up love and good works. Another reason not to forsake the assembly is to realize that they profane the Lord’s Supper when a person refuses to worship on the first day of the week.

God requires His people to worship every first day of the week. This is not a suggestion from the Lord but a command He expects His people to keep. The man picking up sticks may not have thought it was a big deal to do so on the Sabbath, but God’s law was clear. He was put to death for profaning what God had made holy. The first day of the week is not an optional gathering that Christians can choose to ignore. When a person refuses to assemble with God’s people on Sunday, they trample underfoot the body of Jesus Christ, count the blood He shed on the cross as a common thing; and they insult the Holy Spirit. If a man can be judged for taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner while sitting in the building, imagine the judgment of the man who refuses to assemble.

The church has long turned a blind eye to those who fail to assemble as if some small thing is done. In the story of the man picking up sticks; it was not about the sticks but profaning what God had called holy. When a man or woman chooses to forsake the assembly purposely, they deny the memorial feast of Jesus Christ. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the One who commanded the memorial. These words from God must echo in the hearts of the disobedient: “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay. The Lord will judge His people.”

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The Consequences Of Unbelief

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. (1 Corinthians 15:13-14)

The Consequences Of Unbelief

The early church lived in a time when many of the saints were eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. Paul reminded the Corinthians that over five hundred brethren saw Jesus at once, and most of those saints were still alive when he wrote to them. There was ample proof that the resurrection of Jesus took place. The twelve apostles had seen Jesus. James had testified to the resurrection of Jesus. Paul had seen the Lord himself. However, the false doctrine denying the resurrection plagued the church at Corinth. Paul had preached the resurrection when he was at Corinth. Why were their brethren who were denying the resurrection?

There were serious consequences to saying there is no resurrection of the dead. Paul’s argument is straightforward and demonstrative. He preached Christ was resurrected. If there is no resurrection, Paul is a liar. When a man denies the possibility of resurrection, he must deny what Jesus said He would do. He often told His disciples he would rise on the third day. Refusing to believe in the resurrection makes Jesus a liar. If the dead do not rise, the empty tomb is a lie. Resurrection is the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without the belief that Jesus died and rose on the third day, faith is empty, useless, vain, and the biggest lie committed to humanity.

Jesus came to take away the sins of the world. He died, was buried, and rose on the third day to confirm the covenant of grace with God and man. Salvation did not come because Jesus died and was buried. All men die and are entombed in one form or another. What makes the life of Jesus the eternal grace of God is that He rose from the dead and lives. The resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of the scheme of redemption. Without it, everything falls. With it, everything stands. The consequence of unbelief impacts the lives of all of God’s people who seek to die in the Lord. John writes in the Revelation that those who die in the Lord are blessed and rest from their labors. If there is no resurrection, this is a lie. Paul tells the Corinthians that all those who died as faithful children of God will be cast into Hell if there is no resurrection.

There are serious consequences to unbelief. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, but this will not happen without resurrection. Personally, a greater consequence to those baptized into Christ who see their loved one die in the hope of resurrection is knowing it is all a lie. Those who are baptized for the dead live in the hope of the saints who died in the Lord. Take resurrection away, and there is no reason to be baptized for the remission of sins. It is a hopeless and useless act. Paul would need to stop preaching salvation in baptism because what difference would it make? All of the work of the early disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is empty if there is no resurrection.

The language Paul uses of the baptism of the dead connects the spiritual death found in the waters of baptism to the hope of eternal life in physical death. Without the resurrection, none of this is necessary and has any purpose. The church Jesus died for needs to close shop, go home, and die miserable sinners with no hope. When a loved one dies in Christ, it is hopeless if there is no resurrection. But there is a resurrection! Jesus did rise from the dead. Baptism is the spiritual death, burial, and resurrection of the crucified old man. We preach Christ, and we preach the glory of the resurrection in baptism and the resurrection of the body. Many have gone before us and stand as spiritual sentinels of God’s grace that eternal life is real. Resurrection. Thank God for resurrection.

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The Baptism For The Dead

Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:29)

The Baptism For The Dead

There are passages in the holy writ that challenge the Bible student, and Paul’s letter to Corinth fits that bill. The essential part of Bible study is ensuring a text provides the context. Paul wrote a letter to the church, not a book. His style and approach were to write to the Corinthians about things they had written to him and to address serious problems that arose in the church. There are many subjects in this letter. Some of the discussions in Paul’s letter relate to apparent concerns, while others come from a background only the Corinthians knew. When Paul wrote about the conduct of husband and wife, it was in response to some things they had written to the apostle. Nothing further is known about this correspondence but what Paul reveals in this part of the letter.

It is also important to know that Paul did not write in chapters and verses. The “book of 1 Corinthians” is nothing more than a letter written by the apostle to the church at Corinth. As someone said long ago, “We are reading someone else’s mail.”  The style of writing and the measure of the Greek language has a bearing on how a passage is read. Punctuations are added by translators and by those who publish the Bible. When unpacking a series of passages, these factors must be considered to understand their meaning best.

The question of what Paul meant about those baptized for the dead has created a myriad of answers and discussions to its meaning. It is recognized as a difficult passage but not a text that is without understanding. Consider the context is the first order of business in trying to flesh out the teachings of Paul. Beginning in the part of the letter where Paul mentions the baptism of the dead is paramount and essential to understanding what he may refer to. Without this foundation, there can be no full understanding of the text. One of the glaring problems at the Corinthian church was the teaching that the resurrection had passed, and there would be no other resurrection. Some were teaching that there was no resurrection of the dead. Paul argues that if there is no resurrection of the dead, Jesus did not rise from the dead, and there was no hope.

Eleven times Paul mentions death in the first Corinthian letter. All of the references are in the section of his letter where he writes about the resurrection. He first established that Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus died, was buried, and rose on the third day. Many people saw Jesus alive after the resurrection. Paul saw Jesus with his own eyes. The question he poses to the doubters of Corinth is if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, why would a child of God believe otherwise? Paul outlines the consequences of denying the resurrection of Jesus. The end is a useless and empty faith if Christ has not risen.

Paul affirms that Christ is risen, and every part of the doctrine of Christ rests upon the fact of the resurrection. Christ became the firstfruits by the resurrection of the dead. He was given all authority and power by the Father when He became Lord and Christ. The New Testament church is built upon the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Without the resurrection, Christ is nothing, the church is invalid, and faith is empty. When a man denies the resurrection, he voids the very act that brings a man into a covenant relationship with God – baptism.

The question of the baptism of the dead can only be answered by its context. It is clearly evident and strongly argued in scripture against the idea that anyone can be saved for another. Everyone will give an account of themselves before God. The soul that sins shall die. Mormonism is built upon the false teaching that many embrace. If a man refuses to accept the resurrection, he makes the power of baptism void. Paul’s letter to the Romans explains how baptism is being buried into the death of Christ Jesus. Denying resurrection denies the purpose of baptism. Earlier, in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul asked what good it would be for those who had died (literally) in Christ if there was no resurrection and baptism meant nothing. All those baptized into Christ (spiritually dead) and died physically had no hope – if there is no resurrection of the dead.

There is no baptism of the dead in a literal sense (to be baptized for someone else). That is a false doctrine and a lie. Paul wanted to reassure the Corinthians of the hope of salvation found in the resurrection, first experienced in baptism and then in death. Why be baptized if there is no resurrection of the dead (literal dead)? Thanks be to God, who gives victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Four Woes

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full, For you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, For you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:23-26)

Four Woes

The sermon on the mount is a fundamental framework of the kingdom of God. Matthew’s account is a longer version of a sermon Jesus preached throughout Israel. Luke has a similar rendering of the sermon in his book with a few additions and lacking material from Matthew’s account on other parts. One notable inclusion of Luke is the four woes pronounced by Jesus to His disciples. The woes are not meant to be matters of judgment but rather lamentations of sorrow over the plight of those whose hearts were not devoted to the Lord.

Covetousness has always been a challenge of faith for God’s people. Many warnings are given throughout scripture showing the danger of greed and the desire to be rich. Jesus laments those trapped in the futile effort to find happiness in the possessions of this world. One of the deceitful temptations of seeking riches is to believe that life will be complete if only one possesses the right amount of money. Riches cannot buy a baby’s smile. Money does not bring happiness. The commerce of money is necessary for life, but at the end of life, money will not change anything. If a man puts all his happiness in the amount of money he has, he will be a sad and miserable person.

In contrast to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the soul full of the worldly pleasures of this life will only find famine. These people do not desire the spiritual manna of God’s word. They live their lives seeking the joys and pleasures of life. There is no regard for eternal consequences. The motto of this type of person is that whoever dies with the most toys wins. Jesus laments the empty lives that fill themselves with the drudgeries of life without purpose. God created man for His glory. Man decides to live for his own glory, which becomes his demise. Woe to those who are full because they will always find themselves hungering.

The frivolity of life is the favorite pastime of most people. Life has little purpose except to eat, drink, and find merriment. This is the opposite of those who mourn and weep for righteousness’ sake. It is sad to Jesus to see so many who waste their lives seeking the pleasures of life and not preparing for the judgment of God. Life is filled with laughter and the superficiality of seeking things carnal. There is no hope found in this life. Jesus mourns the souls who waste a lifetime seeking the enjoyment of life and only find misery and hopelessness.

Courting the favor of men is a temptation of pride. Seeking the accolades and favors of men will only end in an empty vacuum. Jesus uses the example of those who spoke well of the false prophets to gain favor with them and to be known among all men. This was a useless expression of false humility. When the godly refuse to admonish the ungodly and commend them in their spirit, danger awaits. Jesus reminds the disciples how the fathers of old sought to please the false prophets by encouraging them in their wicked ways. If all men (of the world) speak well of the righteous, the righteous have something to fear.

Jesus is not lacking in offering woes upon the miserable condition of the people who have fallen to the wiles of the devil. He provides a perspective on how to live. Most men live for themselves, seeking riches, pleasure, entertainment, and fame. This is sad to the heart of Jesus, who sees the consequences of all things as a wasted life. Through the knowledge of the word of God, life is measured by those things that last and have worth. It is to this measure that Jesus rejoices. If Jesus looked at your life, would He declare four woes or four blessings?

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Dead Faith

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! (James 2:19)

Dead Faith

The religious world is a world of religious diversity and non-unity. There are as many ways to find God as there are modes of faith described through human wisdom. Satan has thoroughly filled the landscape of religion to be a potpourri of appeasing and appealing theology to soothe the fragile consciousness of those who seek God. As the father of lies, the devil created the greatest lie perpetrated on the human race. He does not object to someone believing in God and sometimes encourages such a belief. How he deceives the hearts of the unaware is to convince them to trust that God will save them only if they believe.

The modern world calls it salvation by “faith only.” Nothing is expected or demanded, but the heart must accept Christ as a personal Savior and believe He is the Son of God upon that acceptance. Based upon a feeling of joy in accepting Christ, the individual rejoices that he is now saved in Christ and Heaven is the glory awaiting them in death. There is nothing further from the truth. The blinded hearts of the deceived accepting the doctrine of salvation by faith alone die expecting to see the Lord in glory; finding only the misery of a false doctrine perpetrated by Satan.

Few passages can be any more explicit than the declarations found in the book of James. The text’s subject matter is about the relationships found in the body of Christ, but the application of such principles is rooted in the question of salvation. If a man can be saved by faith alone, it must be concluded that demons will also be saved – and with greater clarity.

Will a man be saved because he believes there is one God? Impossible. During the ministry of Jesus, the demons proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God. The Lord refused the demons to acknowledge who He was, but they knew and trembled in His presence. If there is any being that knows without doubt Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God – the demons know. This knowledge does not save them even if they tremble. James shows that salvation by faith alone is impossible. He does not deny the power of grace, faith, love, forgiveness, and mercy. He affirms that belief alone or faith alone cannot and will not save one person.

The only time faith alone is found in the Bible is when James writes that a man is justified by works and not by faith only. There is a dead faith, and faith only is a dead faith. Sadly, thousands of helpless souls follow the religious dogma of faith only (sinner’s prayer) and have no hope of Heaven. Believing there is one God is the beginning of faith that saves but refusing to go beyond the acceptance of God’s existence cannot save. Noah believed in God, but that alone did not save him. He accepted the grace of God and moved with godly fear in preparing the ark to the saving of his household. If he had thought faith only would save him, he would have died in the flood with the millions of others who rejected the word of God. Do you believe there is one God? That alone cannot save you. Salvation will only be found by those who do the will of the Father.

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He Gave Him A Tithe Of All

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all. (Genesis 14:18-20)

He Gave Him A Tithe Of All

It was not uncommon for regional kings to go to war against one another. In the days of Abraham, four kings decided to go to war against five kings. For twelve years, Chedorlaomer king of Elam had ruled over all the kings, but after twelve years, the five kings rebelled. In the fourteenth year, Chedorlaomer and his allies captured the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, taking all the goods of the cities with their provisions and people as captives. Included among the number of slaves was the nephew of Abraham and his family. Lot moved his family into Sodom when he and Abraham agreed to separate their flocks from one another. Sodom was an excessively wicked and evil city.

When Abraham heard that Lot was captured, the patriarch gathered three hundred eighteen of his trained servants born in his house and attacked the forces of the five kings. God delivered the kings into the hand of Abraham. Lot and his family were rescued, along with the people taken from Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham destroyed the alliance of kings taking all of their possessions along with the provisions and goods from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Holy Spirit does not tell the worth of the goods returned from the two cities, but it would have been a staggering amount. Lot’s material wealth was such that he and his uncle, Abraham, needed to separate to allow their flocks to survive. Abraham and Lot’s possessions were so great that the land could not support them.

After Abraham returned from defeating the five kings, he was met by Melchizedek, king of Salem. Melchizedek was not only the king of Salem but also a priest of God Most High. Melchizedek blessed Abraham for his great victory, and Abraham gave the king of Salem a tenth of all he had. A tithe is a tenth of something and was part of the worship of God before the Law of Moses. Abraham recognized the importance of Melchizedek as a king and priest. Giving him one-tenth of what he had (including all he had captured) was immense. There was no hesitation on the part of Abraham. He honored God with his giving to show glory to God Most High.

The Law of Moses would establish a covenant with the Jews about tithing. It is clear tithing was a part of God’s law before Moses. When the early church was established, tithing was taken away as a command. From the days of Abraham (and before) to the modern world, God Most High has required of His children to return to Him what they have gained in this world. In the early church, the Holy Spirit directed that giving must come from the heart as a man will purpose. Moses gave a tenth. The Law of Moses required a tenth and more. In the Law of Christ, the decision is left to the individual as a test to see how much a man will give.

Giving has been a delicate question because of the covetous desires of the heart. While tithing is no longer a command of God, some think it gives them the license to give sparsely and minimally. Failing the test of giving can bring judgment on the heart. Abraham is an example of a heart willing to give to God Most High all He desires. The amount of the gift to Melchizedek was enormous, but without hesitation by the hand of Abraham. What is offered today is measured by the heart. It really is not so much the amount of what is given but what is kept. At best, as an example only, if a man gives ten percent of all he has, he keeps ninety percent for himself. Abraham was not concerned about numbers. He had defeated five kings by the power of God, and he was giving glory to God Most High for His grace and mercy. What you and I have is only by the grace of God and His mercy. Think more deeply when returning to God what He can take from us. Give cheerfully. Abraham did and never regretted it.

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Overcoming Sin

So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

Overcoming Sin

Satan deceived the woman in the garden to disobey the command of God, and when Adam took the forbidden fruit, the world’s fate was sealed. The righteousness of the Lord could not abide the transgression of Adam and Eve, and they were expelled from the garden. Nothing is known of the first years of life outside the garden, but the first child born in the world was called Cain. Another child was born, and they named him Abel. In time, Cain and Abel grew to adulthood. Following the command of God, Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the Lord.

From the beginning, God has required worship in spirit and truth. Adam and Eve understood this, as did Cain and Abel. Cain brought the offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord as an acceptable sacrifice as he was a tiller of the ground or farmer. Abel shepherded flocks and brought to the Lord the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. There does not seem to be anything wrong with the sacrifices, but the heart of Cain was evil. God respected the sacrifice of Abel and refused to acknowledge the sacrifice of Cain. Because God refused to accept the offering of Cain, the firstborn son became upset and full of anger.

Sin had troubled man from the first day Adam and Eve walked out of the garden. In the passing of time, before the offerings of Cain and Abel, Satan sought to destroy the creation of God. The devil had gained a foothold in the heart of Cain. He had a wicked heart. His jealousy and hatred for his brother increased daily because Abel’s sacrifices were more excellent than Cain’s, and God accepted Abel’s offerings. Sin also comes with a warning. When Cain’s heart turned dark toward Abel, the Lord came to Cain and warned him. Cain could have changed his heart and found love for his brother. He refused the admonition of the Lord and killed Abel.

God did not leave Cain without an avenue of escape. Rarely has the Lord come to a man about to commit a terrible crime and warned him directly of the consequences. God comes to Cain and asks him why he is so angry and dejected. Sin does not have to conquer the soul. A penitent heart can change angry hearts and bring joy. If Cain changed his heart and did the right thing, God would accept him. The problem with sin is how deeply entrenched the tentacles of evil can reach the spirit of a man. If Cain did not change his heart, dire consequences would occur. God warns Cain that sin is crouching at the door of his heart to murder his brother. Satan was eager to control Cain, and Cain was allowing it.

Sin does not have to have dominion over the heart. God tells Cain he can win this battle. Warning him of the consequence of uncontrolled anger, the Lord reminds Cain he can subdue sin and be its master. Evil can be overcome, and Cain could win that battle if he chooses. Sadly, Cain’s heart was full of hatred, and it came to pass when Cain was talking with his brother in the field; Cain attacked Abel and killed him. Satan rejoiced. Cain murdered his brother. The devil’s evil plan had taken wings, and the world would be held under the sway of sin. Many generations later, God would destroy all life on earth because the intent of the heart was only evil continually. The only souls saved during the devastating flood were the eight found in the ark.

There is no reason to sin, and man is without excuse. The three-fold plan of Satan is clearly defined in scripture as the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. There is no doubt about how the devil operates. God offers a three-fold plan to defeat Satan. It is possible for a man to do well. He can do the right thing. Secondly, he must choose which path to follow. Will the heart seek the path of truth and righteousness or the broad way of destruction? Sin is a choice. Man cannot blame God or others for his decision. Sin is personal. The third part of God’s answer is that man can rule over sin. Sin can be mastered. There is no excuse for sin to have dominion over a man’s heart. God has given men the ability to reject, refuse, and deny sin. Cain killed Abel because his heart was evil, and he refused to bring it into subjection.

Cain killed Abel, but his murderous act did not happen without warning. It is possible to do the right thing. There is a right path to choose. Sin can be defeated. Jesus lived a perfect life because He overcame the power of sin. We should not use sin as an excuse to sin. It is possible to sin less in life if we have the will. Choose to do the right thing. Sin crouches at the door. Don’t open the door. Stay away from the door. Remove yourself far from that door. Master the spirit to serve the Lord. Don’t sin.

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They Both Died

There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. (Luke 16:19-22)

They Both Died

Life is unfair, but death is not. No greater contrast is seen than a man who lives a sumptuous life enjoying all the benefits the world can offer and a man who lives in such abject poverty only the dogs have mercy. Death has no inequality. The rich man’s choices were self-created to serve the passions of his carnal desire. Everything he did was about the satisfaction of his needs. Whatever business he had in life gave him the greatest power of wealth. He lived life to its fullest measure. Accompanied by five brothers, the legacy of the rich man’s family was known as one of the most blessed families on earth.

At the gate of the rich man sat the antithesis of his wealth. Lazarus was a poor man begging for crumbs. The body of Lazarus was covered with sores. His life was of misery and despair. Every day was a struggle to stay alive. Just a short distance from where the beggar lay dying, the rich man filled himself with all the finer things of life. Hunger wracked the stomach of Lazarus with sharp pains. The sores covering his body burned with intensity. When the dogs came up to Lazarus, they knew his suffering and licked his wounds, easing his misery. What a contrast between the rich man and the poor man.

Death is feared and misunderstood, but one thing death does to all men is bring reality. Rich men die just as certain as poor men. It matters not how much money a man has; he will die. Power will not change the destiny of a man. Arrogant and proud men die. The poor die. Their plight is different in life, but death is the one equality shared across the human divide. All men die in the same way. A man lying in an expensive bed with his rich friends surrounding him will die like a beggar will die on the street surrounded by dogs. The cruelest man on earth will die the same way the righteous man will. Life is gone, and eternity begins. And that is where the difference begins.

There can be little doubt when the rich man died, his funeral was an elaborate display of his accomplishments in life and his wealth. The community of friends enjoyed a feast in his honor, lavishing great words of praise on the rich man. His five brothers mourned their brother’s passing with fond words of memory. Soon the funeral was over, and life returned to its normal pace. All of the wealth of the rich man was gathered by his family and distributed among them. The rich man remains unnamed and unknown. When Lazarus died, only the dogs took notice. A few days may have passed before someone noticed he had died. When did the ones who laid Lazarus at the gate discover his dead body? There was no funeral of great pomp and circumstance for the beggar. A place was found, and his body was interred. No headstone. He died, and few took notice. Death changed the story of the rich man and Lazarus.

The rich man died unnamed, but God preserved the beggar’s name. Lazarus died, and God took notice. Angels carried Lazarus to the bosom of Abraham. No angels carried the rich man. He just died and was found in a place of torment. Death brought equality to the rich man and Lazarus. The poor man did not get what he deserved in life, while the rich man enjoyed all the bounties of life. Death gave the rich man what he deserved and blessed Lazarus with what he believed. Even in a state of abject poverty, Lazarus was a righteous man. He lived a faithful life devoted to the God he trusted. Death was a blessing because it brought equality.

The rich man and Lazarus died. They both died. What happened next is the real story. You are either the rich man or Lazarus. What you have in this life will be taken away. Have you made yourself ready for death? You will die – that is certain. Where you spend eternity – that is your decision.

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Love And Commandment Keeping

I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. (2 John 1:4-6)

Love And Commandment Keeping

There is a feeling among many religious people that God is a God of love, and as long as a person loves God, eternal life is guaranteed. Commandment keeping is frowned upon as salvation by works. The idea is that if a person loves God, he can live in accord with his own desires, and God accepts this because the person loves God. Salvation is only measured by God’s love and the person’s love. To keep rules and regulations is inhibiting the grace of God. The result becomes people feeling good about their religion because they ‘love’ God but never do anything expected of them.

John is considered the apostle of love. His final three epistles abound with the story of love, with more than forty references to the attribute of love. Four times in the second epistle, John speaks of love, and three times, he connects commandment keeping with love. It was a joy for John to write about those walking in the truth. Suggesting a person is walking in truth shows the necessity of works on the part of the disciple. The Christians were walking in truth according to the commandment from God. Love and law keeping go hand in hand. John admonished his readers to follow the new commandment to love one another. Loving one another is commandment keeping. If a man is not saved by works (commandment keeping), then he cannot love others.

During the ministry of Jesus, the people asked Jesus what they must do to work the works of God. The Son of God told them that God’s work is to believe He was the Son of God. If a man cannot be saved by works, he cannot be saved by belief. Commandment keeping is showing the love of man toward God. John declares that love is walking according to the commandments of God. James discussed in his letter how that faith without works is dead. It is also true that if a man says he loves God and does not follow the commandments of God, he is a liar (John established this in his first epistle).

Love and commandment keeping cannot be separated. Obeying the will of the Father is a demonstration of the love one has for God. Refusing to do what God says demonstrates the heart lacks love for God. Jesus loved His Father and obeyed His Father’s command to die on the cross. Without commandment keeping, Jesus would have never saved mankind. He expects the same measure from His disciples, who say they love Him. Loving Jesus is where the heart begins to know the love of God. Keeping the commandments of God shows how much a man loves God. Do you love God? Check your commandment keeping.

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Ezra’s Three-Fold Plan

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. (Ezra 7:10)

Ezra’s Three-Fold Plan

The destruction of Solomon’s Temple occurred in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and carried off the people. Seventy years passed according to the word of the Lord before the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland. The first captives to return to Jerusalem faced great hardship as the city was in ruin, with walls destroyed and the gates burned. It would take nearly twenty years to complete the second Temple under great persecution. Zerubbabel and Jeshua spearheaded the restoration along with the brethren, priests, and the Levites.

Ezra was a priest and skilled scribe in the Law of Moses who lived in Babylon at the time of the second temple’s building. About fifty-seven years after the temple’s completion, Ezra came to Jerusalem. He was on a mission for the Lord. The work of restoring worship and the teaching of the Law was paramount to the work of Ezra. With the blessing of King Artaxerxes, Ezra brought papers of authority to establish himself and to bring silver and gold to buy bulls, rams, lambs, grain, and drink offerings to offer on the altar of the house of God. He prayed to the Lord for safety on his journey, refusing the escort of soldiers and horsemen from the king.

One of the first things Ezra faced when he arrived in Jerusalem was the intermarriage of the Jews with the people of the land. This distraught Ezra greatly, and he begged for the grace and mercy of God to forgive the people. While Ezra prayed to the Lord, the people gathered and wept bitterly for the transgression of the people to intermarry with the people of the land. A decree was made for the people to put away their pagan wives, and in solidarity, the pagan wives were put away.

The story of Ezra’s return to Jerusalem is one of faith, courage, devotion, and dedication to the word of God. How did this priest and scribe journey to Jerusalem without an armed escort from the king? Facing the many problems of the people, including the intermarriage with pagan wives, how could Ezra hope to affect change and bring the heart of the people back to the Lord? It all began before Ezra left Persia. The Holy Spirit says that Ezra prepared his heart to do three things: he would seek the Law of the Lord; he would do what the Law of the Lord said; and he would teach the people the Law of the Lord.

Faith begins in the heart, but faith without works is dead. Ezra had faith in God and prepared his heart to serve the Lord, but he had a huge task ahead of him. He had to seek the Law of the Lord to understand what God required of him. Faith comes from hearing the word of God. It does not come through osmosis and magically appear. A heart must be devoted to seeking, reading, and knowing what God’s word says. No one can know the word of God without opening the word of God. Ezra was a diligent seeker of what the Law of the Lord said.

Knowing the word of God was not enough. The second part of the ‘Ezra-Plan’ was to do what God said. Understanding the word of God will have no value if the heart is unwilling to practice what the law says. Whatever the Law of the Lord said to do, Ezra planned on doing it. When faced with the reality that many of God’s people had married pagan wives, Ezra sought the Law to know what to do. He read the Lord forbade the people to marry from other nations. After seeking the Law of the Lord and finding out what God required, Ezra did what the Lord said. He was not just a hearer of the word; he was a doer of the word of God. The people put away their foreign wives in accordance with the Law of the Lord. Ezra sought the word of the Lord and did what the Law of the Lord required.

Finally, as a priest and scribe, Ezra taught the people what the Law of the Lord said. The book of Nehemiah describes how Ezra took the Book of the Law of Moses and, in the presence of the people in the open square that was in the front of the Water Gate, Ezra read the word to the people from morning until midday. He read the book distinctly, gave the people the sense, and helped them understand the reading. Seeking the Law of the Lord and doing it also required teaching the people the Law. The people needed to know the statutes and ordinances of the Lord, and Ezra accomplished that.

Ezra lived five hundred years before the church began in Jerusalem at Pentecost. His three-fold plan is the foundation of the New Testament church. The people of God must seek the Law of the Lord, do it, and teach statutes and ordinances in the church. That is how the church grows. The lost are brought to Christ by disciples who prepare their hearts to teach the word. They show the word in action, and they show the word in practice. Prepare your heart. Seek the Law of the Lord. Do what the Law of the Lord says. Teach others the Law of the Lord. Thank you, Ezra.

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Abraham In The New Testament

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3)

Abraham In The New Testament

Abram was seventy-five years old when God called him to go into a land of promise, which he would receive as an inheritance. Twenty-four years after the Lord called him, Abram’s name was changed to what he would be known by as Abraham. No single character is the central theme of the Old Testament than Abraham. God made three promises to Abraham. He promised to make of him a great nation, to give him land for his descendants, and through his blood, all nations of the earth would be blessed. The final promise is the Seed promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Abraham is also a central character of the New Testament. Eleven books include him in their story. The four gospels often record Abraham’s story, with Jesus mentioning the patriarch many times. Luke, Paul, James, and Peter refer to Abraham in their writings. Each story has a backdrop showing Abraham’s faith as a lesson for the Christian. The New Testament writers relied heavily on the story of Abraham to show the character of the child of God. Stephen uses Abraham in his defense before the Jews. Paul preached about Abraham throughout his journeys. Abraham was the foundation of Paul’s argument in Romans of justification. In the Galatians, Paul shows the promises of Abraham fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Writing to Hebrews, the author of the book reminds the Jewish Christian of the spiritual heritage of Abraham and his faith. James and Peter mention Abraham to the New Testament Christians as an example to follow.

A great storehouse of character building is found in the stories of the Old Testament. Abraham’s life is idyllic to understand the character of the New Testament Christian. He lived many thousands of years ago, but his faith shines through the vale of time as one who trusted in God for everything. Why would a seventy-five-year-old man leave his family at the urging of a voice? Where did faith come from to believe a man of one hundred years could produce a son with a woman ten years his junior? When God told Abraham to kill his only begotten son, Abraham did not waver. He immediately obeyed God’s voice to do something against everything he believed and what he believed to be an abomination to the One who demanded it. Faith moved Abraham to trust in the word of the Lord.

Paul argued in his letters about a problem that has plagued God’s people for generations. Men often equate salvation to works and believe they can do enough works to justify themselves before a righteous God. Abraham proves that being justified by the Law of Moses fails. He was justified apart from the law. Faith reigned in the heart of Abraham as he obeyed the word of the Lord. James would use the same example of Abraham to prove that a man is not saved by faith alone. God told Abraham to kill his son, and Abraham’s faith did not prove himself before God. He rose early the following morning and traveled three days to Moriah, where he took Isaac and offered him as a burnt offering before God. He believed and knew God would raise his slain son from the dead. Abraham was not allowed to kill Isaac as the angel of the Lord stayed his hand. Faith alone did not save Abraham, and God’s grace alone could not save him. Abraham was justified by faith and works.

It is impossible to be saved by faith alone. The grace of God alone cannot save a man. Abraham’s story shows the power of faith, the need for grace, and the works of his faith that justified him before God. No man can be saved unlike Abraham. If you want to know what to do to be saved, read the story of Abraham (Genesis 11-25). It will help you learn how to become a Christian and serve the Lord as a disciple of Christ.

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Setting The Heart To Seek The Lord

And after the Levites left, those from all the tribes of Israel, such as set their heart to seek the Lord God of Israel, came to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 11:16)

Setting The Heart To Seek The Lord

Following the death of Solomon, his son, Rehoboam, reigned in his place. The forty years of Solomon’s rule was a period of immense wealth and prosperity. Israel was at peace as God blessed His people. Rehoboam inherited a kingdom blessed beyond any nation on earth. Sadly, the cost of the prosperity of Solomon’s kingdom came at a cost to the people. After Solomon died, the people hoped Rehoboam would ease the burden of his father’s rule. Instead, Rehoboam made the burden greater, leading to a revolt led by Jeroboam, the son of Nebat. Jeroboam had fled to Egypt after he revolted against Solomon. Because of Rehoboam’s harsh rule, ten tribes gave their allegiance to Jeroboam, and the northern kingdom was formed.

When Israel divided between the ten tribes in the north and Judah and Benjamin in the south, the priests and the Levites left their common lands and their possessions and came to Judah and Jerusalem. Jeroboam created a false religion of convenience for the people of the north, but Rehoboam maintained control of the Temple built by his father. Jeroboam had rejected the priests and Levites who served according to the Law of Moses. He set up a different priesthood allowing anyone from any tribe to serve. Jeroboam set up two calves of gold in Bethel and Dan. He made shrines on the high places, changed the feast days, led the people to follow idols and other gods, and molded images. Jeroboam polluted the land with the wickedness of the nations around them.

As the northern tribes began to follow the idolatry of Jeroboam, there remained the faithful and true among the people of God. From all their territories, the priests and the Levites took their stand with Rehoboam. Leaving their ancestorial homes, the priests and Levites came to Judah and Jerusalem. Seeing the faith of the priests and Levites, many of the people set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel, and they, too, left their ancestorial homes and families for Jerusalem. The first three years of the southern kingdom of Judah were a time when the people followed the way of David and Solomon. Judah was filled with people who set their hearts to seek the Lord.

Moving from their territorial lands of the north to Jerusalem was an incredible example of faith. When Joshua conquered the land more than four hundred years before, the land was divided by tribes for people to dwell. According to the Law of Moses, the tribal lands always remained in the family of the tribes. The people of the northern tribes had lived on their land for more than four hundred years, and they abandoned this land for the security of the faithful few in Jerusalem. They walked away from homes, gardens, burial plots, and family. Turning their backs on everything they knew for generations took great faith.

The Holy Spirit explains why the faithful left their homes in the north for Jerusalem. They had purposed in their hearts to seek the Lord. Their decisions were not based on which tribe they belonged to, where their homes were located, how many years they had toiled on the land, or the comfort of friends and neighbors. The multitudes that left their homes in the north set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel. Jeroboam was turning their land into a place of wickedness, and the faithful refused to bow their knee to Baal. Many faithful remained like the little maiden of Israel captured by Naaman, the Syrian. But these people set their hearts on doing what was right and paid a high price.

There is a spirit in the people who left their homes which is the core of the Christian life. The world is a dark and wicked place growing darker each day. What the Lord needs to see are the spirits of the faithful who are setting their hearts to seek the Lord God – regardless of the cost. There was no question where their loyalties belonged. No one could deny the faith of those who left their homes. What did their neighbors say when they heard they were leaving? Were they laughed at, mocked, and ridiculed for leaving their northern homes? It did not matter because they had set their hearts on seeking God.

I must set my heart to seek the Lord. Nothing else matters. If I lose my job because I have set my heart, praise God. When times of trouble arise, and I must make a decision, mine will be to set my heart on the Lord. If the Lord requires me to give up all I have and give to the poor to follow Him, I set my heart to seek the Lord. Nothing stands in the way of my seeking the Lord because my heart is set – period. Face to the wind. Courage in my heart. Standing fast with the Lord God Almighty. My heart is set.

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Fill Your Life With Jesus

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats so that they began to sink. (Luke 5:4-7)

Fill Your Life With Jesus

Commercial fishing can be exasperating when the family’s livelihood depends upon success. From the beginning of the world, men have found ways to catch the creatures of rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans with great success. Four of the apostles of Jesus were commercial fishermen. One day when Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Peter and Andrew, casting a net into the sea. Nearby were James and John, mending their nets in their father’s boat. Peter and Andrew were in partnership with Zebedee, the father of James, and John, who also had hired men working for him. Calling the four men to His ministry, Peter, Andrew, James, and John became early disciples of the Lord and then called to be apostles.

Multitudes thronged to Jesus to hear Him teach about the Father. Coming to the Sea of Galilee, Jesus sat down in one of Simon Peter’s boats and taught the people. After Jesus taught the multitude, He told Peter to launch into the deep and let down his nets for a catch. The night before, the fishermen had toiled all night unsuccessfully, and Peter told Jesus of their empty nets. Obedient to the voice of Jesus, the fishermen launched into the deep to set their nets. What happened next astonished the seasoned fishermen.

As the nets were put into the sea, a great many fish filled the nets. There were so many fish the nets began to break. Calling to James and John, and the other fishermen, Peter struggled to bring the nets into the boat. The catch of fish was so large the boats were sinking. This was a miracle that stunned the fishermen. Peter recognized he was in the presence of deity. The night before, the fishermen worked all night without any fish. When Jesus came into the picture, their boats nearly sank for the weight of the abundance of fish.

The Holy Spirit records the miracles of Jesus to prove the man from Nazareth is the Son of God. When the fishermen saw the incredible catch of fish, they could see the power of God. There was a more subtle lesson that is taken from the efforts of the fishermen the night before and how things change when Jesus comes into the story. Fishing is a tedious and arduous job, often leading to empty nets, as the fishermen experienced that night. The labors of men are empty and fruitless when they try to fill their lives through their own wisdom. Men strive through the darkness of the night to find happiness, joy, satisfaction, and answers to life. As the morning breaks, they find empty nets without answers. All the strivings of men will be fruitless. It is not in man to know how to find real joy.

Lives change when Jesus is accepted into the will of man. Everything changes. What was an empty night of fishing becomes an overflowing catch of blessings. Jesus could have filled the nets with a few fish to satisfy the work of the fishermen, but the catch was so great the boats began to sink. The blessings of God do not come in small measure but overflowing. Putting the word of God into the heart does not make a man religious; it fills him with the glory and power of God. Intimately knowing the Jesus of scripture will change the life of the one who allows the blessings of God to flow through him.

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who fish all night without Jesus and those who come to the Son of God for salvation and find blessings overflowing. The grace and mercy of God are not given in small portions. It breaks the boat. Trying to find happiness apart from God will always fail. Believing Jesus is the Son of God and asking for His power to work in your life will change everything. The blessings will overflow. And then eternity comes, and those blessings will never end. Who are you fishing with?

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I Have Power

Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:10-11)

I Have Power

Pontius Pilate was Judaea’s sixth Roman procurator (governor), appointed in Tiberius Caesar’s 12th year (A.D. 25 or 26). As the procurator, Pilate acted as a collector of revenue and judge in cases arising under it. He also had full military and judicial authority in the region and, like many Roman leaders, carried out his authority ruthlessly. Pilate angered the Jews when he brought the Roman standards with the emperor’s image to Jerusalem. Tiberius made him remove them. In his palace in Jerusalem, Pilate hung gilt shields with the names of idol gods on them. When Pilate took the Corban revenue of the Jews to build an aqueduct, the Jews rioted. Pilate sent in soldiers with concealed daggers, killing many of the rioters. Jesus refers to an incident where Pilate killed many Galileans while they were conducting sacrifices.

The Jewish leadership sought to bring Jesus before the Roman authorities to have Him killed. When Judas agreed to betray Jesus, the Jews found their time. Jesus was arrested and brought before the Jewish Council and then to Pilate. They caused a riot to have Pilate declare Jesus guilty and sentence Him to death. After Pilate had his soldiers scourge Jesus and beat Him, Jesus came out wearing the purple robe the soldiers put on Him along with a crown of thorns so that Pilate could present Jesus to the crowd. Pilate thought that might satisfy the crowd because he had found no fault in Jesus. The governor became upset when the crowd shouted to Pilate that Jesus considered Himself to be the Son of God. He returns to Jesus, asking Him where He was from. Jesus did not answer. This angered Pilate, who screamed at Jesus that he had the power to release Him or kill Him.

Bloodied, beaten, barely able to stand, and weakened by the scourging, Jesus looked into the face of Pilate and told him he had no power but what was given to Him by God. The only reason the Son of God stood before Pilate, nearly beaten to death, was because God allowed this to be done. Jesus knew what He was suffering was the will of His Father. He endured all of the beatings, scourging, and crucifixion because He understood before time began this was His sacrifice. Pilate was nothing more than a pawn in the scheme of God’s redemptive plan to save the world, yet Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, thought he had all the power. He had nothing.

The angels of heaven must look down upon mankind with an eternal sense of dismay. Men will exalt themselves in pride because of the arrogant power they think they possess. Despots have risen over the eons of history, trying to conquer the world and, without exception – failed. The Roman Empire is the greatest manmade dominion to exist on the face of the earth, but it was only a part of the fullness of time to show the greatest power on earth – Jesus Christ. Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, the Japanese Empire, Saddam Hussein, and an endless list of leaders tried to rule the world and found the common denominator: death. All men who seek power fail.

God gives power and takes away power. He raises nations and brings them down. If God has a name for every star in the heavens and can hold the universe in the palm of His hand, what is man? Pilate stood before the Son of God, bragging about his power. When Pilate died, he came face to face with the One who had all power. You may not be the leader of a great country but if you think you have the power in your life, talk to Pilate. Refusing God does not make God go away. All men will stand before the only One with all the power and authority. And that person is not you or me.

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The New Man

Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. (Colossians 3:9-10)

The New Man

At the beginning of each year, resolutions are made to become a better person in the next year than one in the previous year. Much of this cultural awareness comes from the awareness of time, twelve months, and each passing year. December 31 and January 1 are never different in their composition than any other day, but the acuity of what these dates represent brings out renewed feelings of change and resolve. Losing weight and getting in shape is at the top of the resolutions list. What is a gym in January becomes a donut shop in February. Quitting bad habits, getting out of debt, and traveling are common themes for the new year.

Using the change of year as a motivation to improve life is a noble aspiration. Like losing weight, most have to do with the physical and temporary. Diets are quickly forgotten. The determined spirit of January 1 gives way to the rhythm of life in March and April. Life finds a steady path of doing what has always been done. In reality, few people make spiritual goals the priority of their lives. There are many good and noble resolutions, but they all focus on short-term goals that will all fade away. Establishing good habits in the relationship with God will have eternal consequences.

Paul wrote about having goals in life. He reminds the saints at Philippi to seek after the new man. As people of God seek the higher calling of Christ, the Christian changes his mind to be more like Christ. Many things need to be taken out of life. Starting a new year must begin with removing harmful things before any good things can succeed. Sexual immorality, desiring money and things of this world, anger, and filthy language are some of the traits Paul says need to be taken away. It will be impossible to fill the heart with the spirit of God if these things persist in life. Lying to one another is sinful and must be taken away. The first resolution is to get rid of those things that are harmful.

The new man in Christ renews himself in the Spirit of God. When those things that harm are taken away, the void must be filled with kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, and forgiveness (to name a few). A new man is someone who is new. What makes them new is the new things they put into their lives. Instead of the old ways of living, the Christian seeks to renew himself as a new man with new things to show the world the newness of Christ. This takes time to process all the wrong things and implant the good ones. Changing from old to new is not easy, but the rewards are eternal.

Seeking the things above will make a marriage better. Wives and husbands are becoming new in Christ. Children renew their spirits to be obedient to their parents. Fathers become a new man to guide the home in the covenant of godliness. Employees and employers are better at showing the world how the Christian is a new man. The world sees a bright light shining in a dark world. A new man prays a lot. They walk in wisdom, redeeming the time. Their speech is seasoned with grace. The new man is evident to all. If you want to have one single resolution for the new year, resolve to be a new man in Christ. The rewards will be found in your example before others and your faith before God. Be a new man.

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Called According To His Purpose

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Called According To His Purpose

The grace of God is an unfathomable blessing of divine love to a creature that merits nothing worthy of salvation. There is a complete absence of worth for what man has done against God. Everything man needed was provided for him without measure, and he turned his back on God and screamed in the face of the Divine with his rebellious heart. The hatred and anger of humanity became so great they joyfully murdered an innocent man who went about doing good. Jesus was a man who lived for more than thirty years in sinless perfection. He was not a good man – He was a perfect man. Because of the nature of sin, His countrymen had Him murdered by the Romans. God watched His Son die and did the greatest act of love known to man – He did nothing.

Before the creation of the world, the Father knew what the Son must do. Throughout the history of time, God’s plan began to unfold in its eternal beauty. Jesus dying on the cross accomplished something that God desired and longed for. The Father wanted to call His children to Himself, so His children could show the world His grace. Jesus being murdered by His kinsmen was not a mistake but a divine plan. Through the death of Jesus, God would call the faithful to Him and give them a purpose in life. The joy of the early church was found in the hearts of the disciples who experienced the message of hope found in Jesus Christ. Those who came to the gospel of Christ found their calling and purpose.

A Christian is called by God to be special. Through the adoption in Christ, a sinner can be cleansed and set before the Father as holy. All those who hear the word of the gospel and believe its message find a need to change their lives. With penitent hearts, men will confess the need for the blood of Jesus Christ and do whatever the Lord tells them to do. In the waters of baptism alone will the blood of Jesus wash away sins, and the lost sinner will become a saint of God. The calling of grace is completed in the Christian. By grace is a man saved through the obedience of the gospel.

There are two things the Christian must never forget about the grace of God. A Christian is a called being created for a purpose. To be called by God is to know that salvation comes from Him alone. The Lord calls people to come to Him. Most people hear the call and refuse to obey. Those who hear the call and obey have been called to a purpose. It is not the design of eternal salvation to save a man, and that is all. Man was created for God’s glory, and the Christian was created to show the glory of God’s grace. Christians are called and purposed.

When Christians realize God calls them, a weight of thankfulness and responsibility should come over them. There is much to be thankful for in the grace of God. But that grace should not become empty. A Christian is called out, called up, and called to God’s grace to show the Divine’s glory in their lives. Each day is a purposed life to show their calling. A life without purpose is a wasted life. Living for God with an eternal purpose is a life filled with hope, joy, love, forgiveness, and grace. Christians are called to live before the world as purpose-driven souls who have been saved by the grace of God. Remember your calling. Find your purpose. You were called for a purpose.

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I Need Help

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26)

I Need Help

Prayer is the privilege of approaching the Almighty God and Father and seeking petitions from His storehouse of blessings. It is impossible to receive anything from the Lord with an arrogant or prideful heart. Asking for forgiveness will not be granted if a man is unwilling to forgive another. Prayer requires faith. Persistence is the jewel of prayer. God has opened the door of His divine presence, allowing His creation’s feeble attempts to speak with Him. Prayer is an incredible avenue of grace because everyone needs the blessings of God.

The challenge of prayer is how to speak to someone so infinitely great. How does an atomic size creature stand in the presence of the one who can hold the universe (known and unknown) in the palm of His hand? The wisdom of God is so vast He knows how much water exists on earth and the amount of dust in the world. God knows the hearts of every living being on the planet – at the same time. Before the world was created, God was. By the power of the spoken word, the Lord God formed the world and all that is in it. God sent His only beloved Son to show His power through miracles: healing all disease, casting out demons, raising the dead, walking on water, and coming out of the grave after three days, never to die again. This is the God a man seeks to pray before and ask anything!

Prayer is simple, but it is complex. God has given man the promises of His divine word, and men seek to petition the Lord from these promises. Prayer is pleading the promises of God. The Father will not grant what He has not promised. As man prepares to pray, he stands before the throne of the Almighty and seeks to find words to express his heart. Prayer cannot be accomplished by the will of man alone. Through grace, God has afforded the Holy Spirit to intercede for the frailties of the human spirit. Prayer demonstrates that man cannot save himself and desperately needs help.

The Holy Spirit is given to all who obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. He dwells in the child of God through the Father’s love to help His children speak to Him. When a man seeks to pray to the Father, the Holy Spirit helps to guide and focus the petitions to the Heavenly Father. How the manifestation of prayer is conducted before the Father is beyond the mind of man. Prayer is a reminder of the human spirit’s need for and dependence upon the Divine. The Holy Spirit reminds man he needs help in talking to God.

Learning to pray is a vital part of the Christian experience. A deep and personal prayer life comes from years of experience of seeking the will of God through a study of the word and a trust in the manner God answers prayer. Using prayer as a vending machine in a time of need is not prayer. A constant presence of prayer in the heart draws a man closer to the Father and helps him enjoy a greater relationship with the Holy Spirit. Prayer shows a man his need for help in matters eternal. One of the great blessings of being a child of God is who our Father is. He gave His Son to die for us. And He also gave us the Holy Spirit to help us. What a three-fold blessing of being a child of God. I need help. Thank you, Holy Spirit.

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The Poison Of Jealousy

Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul eyed David from that day forward. (1 Samuel 18:8-9)

The Poison Of Jealousy

Israel had the greatest army in the world, and it was under the leadership of King Saul. From the beginning of the nation at Mount Sinai, the army of Israel was victorious in almost all of its battles. Only one battle was lost during the wilderness wanderings, and then the travesty of Ai. Saul had a small army compared to the Philistines, but God was on the side of Israel. Nothing could stop the army of Israel.

The Philistines gathered their armies together to battle around the valley of Elah. Saul positioned his army before the great Philistine force in battle array. A champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath. He was a giant of a man in size and spirit. Every day for forty days, Goliath would stand before the army of Israel, spewing out curses and threats. Morning and evening, the Philistine challenged anyone in the army of Israel to fight him. When Saul and all of Israel heard about Goliath, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. No one had the courage to face Goliath.

A shepherd boy named David brought food to his brothers, who were among the frightened soldiers of Israel. When David heard the threats of Goliath, he wanted to know why someone had not killed the profaner of the Lord God. His brothers chastised him, and King Saul discouraged the young man not to face Goliath, for it was certain death. David went before Goliath in the name of the Lord and killed the great giant. Israel had a great victory that day at the hand of a shepherd boy who believed in the power of God.

After the defeat of Goliath, Saul enlisted David into his army and became one of the military leaders in the Israeli army. David went out wherever Saul sent him, having great success in his battles. The shepherd boy showed great wisdom in his fighting abilities, winning him many victories over the Philistines. When Saul set David over his men of war, it pleased the entire army and the people. Through the power of God, the Philistines were defeated through David’s leadership. As King of Israel, Saul should have enjoyed the victories gained by his young protégé, but there was a poison of jealousy that filled the heart of Saul.

When the army returned from its victories, the women came out of the cities singing of David’s victory over tens of thousands and Saul’s victories over thousands. Saul was very angry because the people ascribed tens of thousands to David but only thousands to the King. His heart became bitter. The poison of jealousy would drive the King to hate David. Saul would spend the rest of his life chasing David like a flea in the wilderness. His wrath was because David received more accolades than he did, and it infuriated him. Jealousy slowly began killing the heart of Saul.

The sad part of Saul’s jealousy was he could not see that thousands of God’s enemies were being defeated. Saul made a matter of numbers to be a matter of hatred. If David killed ten thousand and Saul killed one thousand, could not the King see that eleven thousand were defeated? Did it matter who received the credit? The truth came from the lips of Goliath when he defied the army of God. Goliath said, “Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul?” If Saul had dared to trust in God and fight the Philistines, Goliath would have realized the army belonged to the Lord God, not Saul. The jealousy of Saul destroyed him because he did not give glory to God.

It is easy to be consumed by jealousy. Preachers suffer from it, businessmen and women are consumed by it, and young people are pressured into conforming to the world to be accepted. God created man to show His glory in their lives in whatever abilities they have. The only man who was a perfect example of the glory of God was Jesus Christ, and He never was jealous of anyone. The Jewish leaders were jealous of Jesus, and they killed him. Saul should have gloried in the life of David. Instead, he allowed jealousy to destroy his life and good name.

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Argue With God, Not Man

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

Argue With God, Not Man

The longest argument in the history of man is the history of man and the word of God. No debate can match the thousands of years of argumentation against and for what God says and what He does not say. The devil is the one who began the debate when he deceived Eve. In the days of Noah, all but eight argued against the word of God. Those who opposed the word of God died, and the eight righteous souls who accepted the word of God lived.

Noah preached to a world filled with wickedness. His preaching was based on righteousness, holiness, and the judgment to come. Moved by godly fear, Noah prepared an ark for the saving of his household. The rest of the world laughed and mocked him and denied the word of God. When the Lord shut the door of the ark, and the water came, everyone believed in the word of the Lord. Sadly, it was too late for those who perished, but they knew their argument with Noah was against God.

When Jesus came to earth, He testified to the word of His Father. He constantly reminded the people the words He spoke were not His own but from the One who had all power and authority. The miracles of Jesus affirmed He spoke in the Father’s name. When the Jewish leaders rejected the teaching of Jesus, the Lord reminded them they rejected not Him but the Father. Everything Jesus said was true because it was the word given to Him by His Father. Rejecting the teaching of Jesus was to reject the word of the Divine. Killing Jesus on the cross was the final demonstration of how far men will go to deny the word of God. But then Sunday came, and the world shuttered. The Word arose from the dead.

Through the divine providence of the Holy Spirit, the Bible has come into existence to guide men into all truth. The Bible’s purpose is to open God’s mind to the hearts of men. Contained with all of its pages, the Bible unfolds the plan of redemption promised in the garden of Eden and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The early church was established on the word of God. Letters and books form the canon of the new covenant written down so that men could read and understand the will of God. Paul commended the saints at Thessalonica because when the word was preached to them, they accepted it as the word of God, not the word of men. The Bereans may have been more noble than those at Thessalonica at one time, but there is no book of the Bereans preserved.

Religious division is rampant among those who profess to follow Christ. Multiple churches abound with different doctrines, practices, beliefs, and names. For some, unity is found in the diversity of churches, but this is against the prayer of Jesus, who sought for all men to be one. The reason religious division exists is that few men see the word of God as divine authority. They follow the words of men rather than what is plainly written in the Bible. God did not craft a book that is hard to understand and follow, yet human wisdom has denied the power of God’s word.

The only time there will be religious unity is when the Bible is accepted as the word of God. When men argue about the doctrines of the Bible, they must realize they are arguing against God. This is an argument that cannot be won. All the reasons and excuses were given in the days of Noah to view the coming flood as a myth. But those who saw God’s word as a myth, ‘mythed’ the boat and died. Let all men be liars, and God be true. His Word is His word. Deny His word and you die.

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Desiring The Adoption

Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)

Desiring The Adoption

Death is the greatest reality that is the greatest fear. All men die, yet all men live as if death were a surprise. Methuselah lived nearly one thousand years, but he died. The old must die, and the young can die. Cemeteries fill the landscape of every community with its marble markers reminding passersby that death comes to all. Researchers estimate nearly 150,000 people die daily, which amounts to 6,000 people dying every hour of every day. The news always reports the deaths of those murdered, killed in accidents, or victims of nature’s rage, disease, pestilence, famine, and old age. Science seeks to find answers to extend life. Medical advancements have saved lives, but people still die. Death is real.

The view of death says a lot about how death impacts life. For most, death is filled with great fear and trepidation. They can live all their lives seeking every form of remaining young and lose in the final battle because there is no such thing as a fountain of youth. The reality of life’s finality begins when a child is born. Babies die, and this is great sadness. Young people die; middle-aged and old all share the common reality of death. Visiting a cemetery will tell the tale of every age. Reading an obituary is a testimony to the ages people die. Talking about death is considered morbid, gruesome, and sad.

For the child of God, the view of death has a different meaning – or at least it should. The Holy Spirit fills the Bible with how God’s faithful understood the dying process. Adam and Eve experienced the first pains of death when they buried their son Abel. The scriptures say that Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man full of years, and was gathered to his people. When Jacob died, Moses writes the son of Isaac drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

The Bible pictures the death of God’s saints as a beautiful experience. Paul uses the image of adoption as the reality of death. Children of God are first adopted into Christ when they obey the gospel in the waters of baptism. This adoption establishes the greatest adoption when death removes the fleshly tabernacle from the eternal spirit, and the child of God is with the Father. Death is an adoption. Salvation in Christ gives hope that death is nothing more than a sleep, a transition, a time when the frailties of life are left for the glories of Heaven. Life is filled with suffering. Death for the saint is joy. As children anxiously wait for someone to adopt them, the child of God eagerly looks to death as a time to be with God.

Death is something difficult to view as exciting. It is hard for the human spirit to accept death as good, yet God wants His children to have an eager expectation to die and be with Him. There is great sadness when loved ones die. When that loved one dies in Christ, there is joy. This brings comfort to the family, but hearts are still heavy. What makes it more bearable is the knowledge that all the faithful can take death for what it is and change how they feel about it. Paul urged the brethren to eagerly desire death. He wanted the saints to have happy hearts about death. There will be no denying death is coming, so why not accept it in its positive light.

Letting go of this world is where the eagerness for death (adoption) begins. The child of God cannot wait to be eternally adopted by the Father. There will be no death, sorry, or crying, and there will be no more pain. Who would not want to experience the blessings of God’s grace found in the adoption of eternity? Tertullian said, “Death ought to be a pleasure.” Paul said, “Eagerly wait for the adoption, the redemption of your body.” Praise God. I get to die.

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Hope Saves

For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? (Romans 8:24)

Hope Saves

The joy of salvation is found through the blood of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice to die for the sins of the world. God’s love redeemed man from the blight of sin when he did not deserve it. No matter how good and just they are, the debt of salvation can never be repaid by anyone. Jesus Christ is the only man that lived a sinless and perfect life. The great heroes and heroines of scripture could not boast of sinless perfection. Jesus lived for more than three decades and never once disobeyed His Father. Grace saves man by the measure of God’s love. Water establishes a covenant with God when men obey the will of the Father. The list of reasons why a man is saved is almost endless.

One of the great joys of salvation is the hope of salvation; which also saves. Hope is defined as the favorable and confident expectation of the unseen. When the heart lives with the confidence of eternal life, hope guides the mind to trust in the promises of God. There are no doubts or fears. It is not a matter of ‘maybe” when it comes to salvation. The confidence of the heart is rooted in the knowledge of God’s love and that what the Lord has promised will come true. Having a hope of something not seen is the germ of faith growing the tree of hope in the fertile soul of the Christian. Hope looks beyond the trials of life. Looking through the vale of sorrow gives hope to the spirit. Having a view of what is beyond death is how hope saves.

Hope that is seen is not hope. True hope comes from believing in and trusting what cannot be seen. For the child of God, it becomes the faith of believing in Jesus Christ, whom they have not seen, and the promise of eternal life, which they have not possessed. Saving hope destroys the doubts and fears of life. When the trials of life seem to overcome, an upward vision of better things sustains the heart to endure and overcome. Hope makes a darkened world fill with light. The joy of eternal life overshadows the circumstances of a meaningless life.

God gives His children the earnest expectation of more than what can be seen with the eye. The world is limited and finite. Through hope, the heart is filled with visions of heaven. When John described heaven in the Revelation, he was instilling the eternal portraits of God’s promises in the hearts of the persecuted saints. Nothing can compare with the measure of what awaits the child of God. The finest possessions on earth cannot offer hope. True hope comes from knowing God’s word of what is yet to be. Through this anticipation, hope saves.

Having hope alone will not save. Hope springs eternal when God removes the sins of the heart as far as the east is from the west. Doing the will of the Father assures the obedient of salvation. Hope is born. Knowing God never lies, and all His promises come true, the hopeful heart will live daily with a firm determination of courage wrapped in the blanket of hope. The Ethiopian eunuch went on his way rejoicing because he had found salvation in the waters of baptism, which gave him the greatest hope of his life. A man is saved by grace, faith, love, baptism, and hope. It will change your life when you live with the hope and expectation of eternal life. Having obeyed the will of God, salvation awaits. Hope in Christ. Hope saves.

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Eager Like A Roman

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (Romans 8:18-25)

Eager Like A Roman

The first-century Christians lived within the lifespan of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Many of the early saints were disciples of Jesus who had walked with Him, saw His miracles, and heard His stirring sermons. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to more than five hundred people. The early church consisted of those who had seen Jesus after He died. During the ministry of the Lord, He told how He would return from the Father. One of the primary teachings of the early church was the imminent return of the Son of God. It was to this belief that many held firmly to their expectations of the return of Christ.

Two thousand years have passed since Jesus promised to return, which has jaded the feelings of God’s people to expect His return at any moment. There is little eagerness for the return of Jesus. Life is so busy for most people that little thought or care is given to considering that at any moment, the shout of the archangel and the trumpet of God will sound, and the world will end. Unless the preacher presents a lesson on the second coming of Christ, no thought is given to its reality. People are eager to know what next week will bring or how the economy will survive in the new year. Jobs consume the thoughts of the heart, worried about paying the bills and taking care of the family. Everything weighs heavy on the mind but eagerly waiting for the Lord is noticeably absent.

Paul wrote to the Roman Christians in the spirit of the quick anticipation of Jesus’ return. Life was difficult for the apostle, but he could see the sufferings of this world could not be compared to the glory awaiting the faithful. Because of this, Paul expressed an eager anticipation for the coming of the Lord. He knew there was much to do in this life, but he could not wait to see his Lord face to face. He was eager for the adoption that was sure and steadfast. His salvation was promised by God, who cannot lie, and Paul lived to be adopted. His hope in Christ came from his eagerness to serve the Lord and his desire to die in the Lord.

Having a desire of eagerness is to fill the heart with a promised hope. This eager spirit was not trusting in the wisdom of men. Paul’s eager spirit fully trusted in the promises made by God to save him. He was looking forward to the coming of the Lord with great anticipation as though it would take place in his life. For the Christian thousands of years removed from the life of Jesus, it becomes hard to be eager about the return of the Lord. There is more anticipation for the events of life than the joy of eternity. Death is feared and dreaded. There is little thought given to eternal life.

The earnest expectation for the coming of Christ can only come from hearts longing to leave this world and seek for eternity. Life will take on a different meaning when, instead of being anxious about this world, the heart is eager to embrace the world to come. Having an eagerness requires faith to take the eyes away from the comfort of this short life and fill the heart with a “can’t wait” attitude of being with God. Learn to be eager. Allow the promises of God to loosen the chains of a world destined for destruction. Be excited. Eternity is coming.

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Perspective

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

Perspective

Life is better lived with a proper perspective. To have a perspective of a thing is to look at something with a point of view or confident attitude. Whatever perspective is taken about a subject will enhance or diminish the worth of the object. If a man has an optimistic viewpoint about his job, he will do an excellent job. When the perception changes and negative thoughts fill the mind, it isn’t easy to do a good job. This is true in every aspect of life. How a person views life will largely determine their happiness or lack thereof.

The Christian possesses the greatest perspective. Through the knowledge of the word of God, life is defined by its beginning, the present day, and what happens in death. The Bible tells man where he came from and why he was created. Moses opens the book of Genesis with the creation of man as an eternal creature loved and nurtured by his Creator. Man is not a blob that crawled out of a primeval soup of chaos but the highest of creation formed in the image of the Divine. The worth of a man is found in whose image he is made. No creature is of a higher order than the human spirit.

Questions arise about why man exists and what his purpose is. God created man for His glory and, through that glory, identified the man as of value to his Maker. When men view life as the perspective of the carnal nature, he defeats the purpose and design of man’s creation. The human spirit is not to serve the flesh because there is no lasting joy and fulfillment. Life is filled with suffering, agony, pain, and sorrow. This comes about because sin brings death; spiritually and physically. Finding the peace of God that passes understanding gives purpose to life. Serving the Lord will not take away the sorrows of life. Carrying the cross of Christ removes the burden of sin and provides joy in the face of the grief of the world.

Paul suggested to the Romans that perspective changes the view of life. There is no doubt life is filled with suffering. As an apostle of Christ traveling throughout the Roman world, Paul was destitute, despised, hungry, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, mistreated, and misunderstood, but he never wavered in his faith. He endured the afflictions of life because of what he could see beyond the vale of death. Paul concluded what a man suffers now is nothing compared to the glory God will reveal later. The value of a proper perspective is to realize that happiness comes later; not now.

Too often, the realities of life cloud the eternal view. Life can be hard. Plans do not turn out the way a person hopes. Death invades. Sickness changes life. The reality of life is that life is not fair. When the heart can turn the perspective of what life on earth means compared to the glory of eternity, the burdens of life begin to be lifted away. What a man experiences in this life is like a microscopic atom of what eternity will be. A man could live to be one hundred years, but what is that to the vast tapestry of an eternal world without end? The sufferings of this world (short) are not worth being compared with the glory (eternal) that the child of God will realize. Perspective changes everything. You will live life according to what you see as of more value. Consider this world. Then peek behind the door of eternity and see God’s glory.

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Blasphemy Against The Spirit

Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. (Matthew 12:31)

Blasphemy Against The Spirit

There is nothing more basic to the failure of humanity than the blatant rejection of the word of God. When Eve fell to the whispering voice of the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit, she cast the spell of darkness on the hearts of men to openly rebel against the power of the Lord. She understood clearly what God had said about the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Adam knew the warning of God not to partake of the one tree. There was no excuse for their actions. The tragic end of their decisions was the refusal to accept the will of their Creator. Rebellion to the word of God has been the hallmark of the human story.

God sent His Son into the world for men to see God. Jesus was God who came in the flesh. John said the word became flesh dwelling among men, and they beheld His glory. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit, Jesus proclaimed He was God. The authority to forgive sins was demonstrated by showing His power. His teaching was authoritative and indisputable.

The Jewish leaders repeatedly tried to trap Jesus, accuse the man from Nazareth, and find any means possible to discredit Him. All of their efforts were for naught. The height of the arrogance and hatred of the Pharisees came when Jesus healed a demon-possessed, blind, and mute man.

Some miracles have a more significant impact than others. Raising someone from the dead was quite remarkable. Casting out demons by itself was noteworthy. Restoring a blind man’s sight would astonish the crowds. When Jesus cast out a demon from a blind man to whom He restored sight and then loosened the tongue of the man who could not speak; the power of the miracle was without question the power of God.

As the Pharisees witnessed the incredible power of Jesus upon the poor man possessed, blind, and mute, the Jewish leaders could only accuse Jesus of a miracle by the power of Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons. Albert Barnes notes the accusation by the Pharisees “was an opprobrious (scornful, disgraceful) name given to the leader of the devils as an expression of supreme contempt.”

The depth of depravity in the hearts of the Pharisees was so dark there was no hope for them. Their total rejection of the power of Jesus was utterly an unmitigated failure of their hatred for Jesus. Rejecting the miracle of healing the man was rejecting the power of the Holy Spirit. To blatantly reject a powerful miracle was to blaspheme the Holy Spirit of which there was no recourse.

The context of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit must be seen in the incarnation of Jesus on earth. The Son of God had a ministry of around three years in length. During this time, He taught with authority and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, confirmed His authority from the Father. This is the only time in the history of mankind God walked among men as Jesus did.

If there was a time that all men could see the glory of God in the flesh, the ministry of Jesus was such a time. Because of the prejudice and hatred of the Pharisees (and others), they rejected Jesus and thereby rejected God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Rejecting the miracles of Jesus was the height of rebellion. The Pharisees never denied a miracle performed by Jesus because there was no way to argue the evidence. They accused Jesus of working by the power of Satan – which was the spiritual last straw.

Jesus warns the Pharisees that every sin can be forgiven, but to blaspheme the Holy Spirit would damn the soul without measure. This contextual warning only applied when God walked among men manifesting His power. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit was to reject the miracles of Jesus seen with the eyes.

The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not a single word or phrase given or, even as some have argued, suicide. It is a perpetual rejection of the word of God, as seen in the manifestation of Jesus on earth. In the strictest sense, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be done today because Jesus is not in the flesh. There is a manner in which men suffer the same consequence when they reject the gospel of Christ.

Every sin committed by the heart of man can and will be forgiven when a man repents and changes his life. There is power in the blood of Jesus. The Pharisees were guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit when they charged a visible (and powerful) miracle by the Son of God to the work of Satan. There is no hope when the heart is that dark, and it is impossible to bring them to Christ.

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