The Point Of No Return

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the Earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:4-8)

The Point Of No Return

It is difficult to imagine the possibility of the impossibility of salvation. There is rooted in the creation of man a need for self-preservation. The instinct of survival is foremost in the spirit of every person. Doing harm to self is against the norm of who and what a man must be. This is recognized in the physical world as those in life-threatening situations make herculean efforts to fight for survival. Great stories of personal triumph are told when against all odds, a man survives a catastrophic event from a natural disaster, accident, or facing certain death. Courage marks the course for those who defy death. Sadly, that is not found in the spiritual world where sin is the doom of man.

The tragedy of the book of Hebrews is found in the stories of those who had enjoyed the blessings of God’s grace, mercy, and love and had turned their back on the Divine gift of salvation over time. Many saints were challenged in their faith and remained resilient to the cause of Christ. These bold warriors of Christ refused to draw back to perdition, believing to the saving of their souls. But some had turned so completely away from God, there was no hope. This was not a casual departure from truth. There were men and women who had been enlightened with the gospel of Christ through the preaching of the word. They had tasted the heavenly gift of divine grace and imbibed deeply in its mercy. When they obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ in baptism, they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit, becoming a partaker of the Holy Spirit. The word of God had filled their hearts with the manna from above. Leaving unchecked the power of sin, these same men and women succumbed to the temptations of Satan and turned their back on God, rejected Jesus Christ, and denied the Holy Spirit.

There can come a time in the life of a child of God they so totally rebel against God that nothing can be done to renew them to grace. It is impossible to renew them again to repentance. Their hearts are hardened as deeply as the heart of Pharoah, who defied Moses and the wrath of God. The Old Testament is filled with stories of God’s people, the promised nation of righteousness, who turned their backs entirely on God. Ahab was one of the most wicked kings of Israel and he was a Jew, a child of Abraham. Nothing could redeem him. In the body of Christ, Satan fills the hearts of the unsuspecting and through deceit and lies, corrupts the heart to the point of no return. It is impossible to renew them again.

The reality of total apostasy is a difficult concept to accept but it is real. It must have been difficult for the Hebrew author to pen those words with the probable knowledge of whom he spoke. The early Christians suffered greatly and while many remained loyal to the cause of Christ, many turned their backs and walked with Jesus no more. All the pleas and warnings of others could not and would not bring them back. The reality of total apostasy is alarming. This knowledge should arm the souls of the courageous to fight more valiantly for the cause of Christ, seeking the assurance of divine blessing to remain faithful and true. There must be diligent efforts to seek out those who are going the path of no return. All energy must be given before that place in the road is reached where there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin and it is impossible to renew them again. More importantly, I must guard against the wiles of the devil who would desire me to give up my hope and deny my faith. God give me courage.

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Tell No One You Were Healed

When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:1-4)

Tell No One You Were Healed

Leprosy was the most dreaded disease of Bible times. There was no cure and death was a slow and agonizing process. Lepers were required by the Law of Moses to separate from all people shouting out “unclean” if they walked among a crowd. Following his sermon on the mountain, Jesus was approached by a leper who came and worshiped him. What makes the story incredible is to turn the clock back a short time when the leper heard Jesus was in the area. He knew his disease was a certain death sentence. How long he had been a leper is not known. For all reasons, there was nothing that could be done for him. Hearing Jesus was in the area, the man resolved withing himself to seek out Jesus and beg for healing.

As the multitude followed Jesus, the leper approached Jesus. This immediately created an awkward situation as those in the crowd fell backward from the leprose man. No one would have come near him for fear of contracting the disease. It took great courage and faith for the man to come to Jesus and worship him. Also, the man’s faith was so great; he told Jesus that if he were willing, he would heal him of his impossible disease. This was an incredible measure of faith to come to Jesus earnestly seeking what he believed Jesus could do. He did not ask Jesus if he could heal him but that he believed Jesus could heal him. Faith on this level was rare for those who followed Jesus.

The Lord immediately granted the request with a heart of compassion as he put his hand on the man and healed. The first miracle was the touch of Jesus. Leprosy created a world where only other lepers would touch their fellow lepers. Family members would have to abandon their loved ones. Leprosy took away the joy of touching. Jesus did not hesitate. He put out his hand and touched the leper, and cleansed him of the disease. Immediately the leprosy was cleansed. The feeling of the man at that instant was remarkable beyond description.

After Jesus heals the leper of the most terrible disease imagined, the Lord gives him strict instructions. He tells the healed man not to tell anyone. The former leper must go and show himself to the priest according to the Law of Moses and make the appropriate sacrifice. To be proclaimed clean of leprosy, the man would take two living and clean birds, cedarwood, scarlet, and hyssop. Following the examination by the priest, the man could return home. Faithfulness to the law was required even for miracles.

When the man returned home, it would be clear he was no longer a leper. The Holy Spirit does not tell us how he explained to his family his healing. Jesus knew it would be evident to everyone the leper was no longer a leper. There could be many reasons for the man to be cured of leprosy. Jesus forbade the man from making a public proclamation of his healing.

There is wisdom in the request, as difficult as it might have been. At first glance, it would be hard not to tell everyone what great things Jesus had done. To be cured of leprosy was one of the great miracles of the Lord. Yet, Jesus told the man not to tell anyone. There was a subtle lesson in the request of Jesus for the man to remain silent. Being healed of leprosy was a powerful manifestation of the power of Jesus but the greater mission of Jesus was to cure the heart. The former leper would rejoice in being healed of such a dreaded disease but he still faced the reality of death. Instead of spending his life telling how he was cured of leprosy, he needed to share the news of the man who was God that healed him and gave him eternal hope. His spiritual healing was more important. Be humble. Live without the accolades and curiosity of men. Be a servant.

It would be hard not to tell everyone from the housetops to the mountains of the healing but the man learned a lesson about what is more important than physical healing. Seeing the power of Jesus should have changed the man’s life. There is much to the story that longs to be told. Did the former leper become one of the early servants in the Lord’s church a few years later? There is hope he brought his family into the kingdom of Christ. On more than one occasion, Jesus told those he healed to tell no man. The greater lesson points beyond the physical healing to the one who brought the power of the Divine to show the sonship of Jesus Christ. It was a blessing for Jesus to heal the leper. What made the miracle greater was the obedient heart of the man seeking the blessings of God. Tell no man you were healed but tell everyone you are saved.

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God Commands Musical Instruments In Worship

And he stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the Lord by his prophets. (2 Chronicles 29:25)

God Commands Musical Instruments In Worship

Music has been in the world from the beginning of time. Seven generations from Adam was a man called Jubal, the father of all those who play the harp and the flute. The appeal of music is part of creation as God formed man to be inventive to write music and invent many different kinds of instruments. When Moses gave the law to the people, there was music on stringed instruments, harps with eight strings and ten strings, lyres, cymbals, loud cymbals, timbrels, flutes, tambourines, lutes, trumpets, horns, instruments of fir wood, and sistrums.

David was a skilled harp player and invented many musical instruments. When David brought the ark to Jerusalem, there were singers and Chenaniah the music master with the singers accompanying the occasion. At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon had thousands of musicians singing and playing instruments. The book of Psalms is filled with musical instruments as praise to the Lord glorified Him with the sound of the lute, harp, timbrel, stringed instruments, flutes, cymbals, and clashing cymbals. Praise to the Lord filled the earth with musical instruments and singing. God was richly praised by the music of men worshiping Him with great fervor.

During the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah, a period of restoration swept across the nation. One of the most important acts of Hezekiah was to restore temple worship. The king repaired the temple and commanded the priests to make offerings to the Lord. He stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps. When the sacrifices were made, the Levites with the instruments of David and the priests with the trumpets began playing along with the singers as the sacrifices were made. They sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshiped. Hezekiah sought to restore temple worship to honor God. He gathered the musicians to play on the instruments of David according to the command of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for it was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets.

Musical instruments were used in temple worship by the direct command of God. Prophets like Gad and Nathan were divinely instructed to included musical instruments in the worship, and Hezekiah was obedient to that command. God commanded the use of musical instruments in the Law of Moses, and those who faithfully followed the law included musical instruments in their worship. Nearly three hundred years after David, the king understood the law of God. He gathered the singers and musicians to restore temple worship in accordance with the command of God.

When the New Testament church began on the day of Pentecost, there were devout Jews who became the first converts to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These men were well versed in the commands of the Law of Moses. The apostles’ preaching pricked their hearts, and they gladly received the word of truth. The first members of the church of Christ were Jews who were familiar with the use of instruments of music. They had long followed the commands and traditions of their forefathers in worship, which included musical instruments. For a short time, the gospel was taken to the Jews, but then the family of Cornelius became Gentile converts. Greeks used instruments of worship in their religion. The early church was filled with Jews and Greeks, and all of them were familiar with musical instruments.

Hezekiah restored temple worship and included instruments of music because it was a command of God. The New Testament church began with devout Jews and then Gentile converts who never once mentioned using instruments of music in worship. There is not a single passage of authority in the New Testament where the early church used an instrument in worship. The absence of musical instruments in the New Testament church is evident by the authority of God. At no time did the early church engage in worship with a musical instrument because God never commanded it. History shows the instruments were not introduced until much later and under heavy criticism. It was not until the 8th Century the organ was introduced.

God commanded musical instruments in the Law of Moses. He never suggested the use of instruments in the New Testament. What the early saints did to worship God was to sing. That is the kind of music commanded by God. This was the only music mentioned by the early church. Authority matters in the mind of God, and when men do what He has not commanded, they sin. Musical instruments are never authorized or permitted in the New Testament church. As Charles Spurgeon said, “We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it.” 

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Two Realities Few Believe

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the Earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)

Two Realities Few Believe

It is said that death and taxes are the two certainties of life but the two realities of life are found in Peter’s warning of the impending return of the Lord and the total destruction of the known world. Everyone agrees death is certain and every Spring taxes come due. Nobody likes paying taxes and everybody loathes what death brings. The certainties of life come with an accepted norm that all will die and the government will require its pound of flesh. Sadly, the greater reality beyond death and taxes is the eternal question of life being governed by a higher being that has reserved the known universe for destruction and the accountability of humanity. The day of the Lord is the most real thing a person can know. What the day of the Lord brings is the second most real thing that every soul should understand. Life for all humanity will end, and then comes a judgment.

Many pundits warn of the impending destruction of the world by global warming. Some have suggested a depletion of the ozone and pollution from fossil fuels or a host of other man-made calamities could bring the human race to an end. There is nothing further from the truth. Without reservation and any possible truth to the claim, nothing within the arsenal of man’s power could destroy planet earth. Nuclear holocaust, supposed global warming, and whatever level of air pollution is used to scare the population into believing the great lie of human power it pales in comparing who rules the world and the universe. Humanity can and never will destroy the world because that is left in the hands of the One who created the world and the universe.

God is coming back one day. He made that promise two thousand years ago and He has not forgotten. Death will take the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every day and this will continue unabated until the Lord God decides to send His Son. Oil spills will fill the oceans and skies will fill with pollution, but the power of nature will continue to cleanse and purify the environment as it has done from the beginning. Yes, man can harm the environment, but he can never destroy the planet. That judgment is left in the hands of the mighty God who formed the world from the abyss of nothing. When the Lord returns, planet earth will explode in a fiery ball. The moon will become a mass of dust, and the sun will burst into nothing. Every planet and all the stars will erupt in the fiery wrath of God, and in an instant – the universe will cease to exist.

When the Lord returns and the world is burned up and the universe destroyed, all life on Earth will also be burned up. The first reality is that when the Lord returns, every soul on Earth will lose their carnal bodies, but they will retain their spiritual image of the Almighty. When a man dies, his body returns to the dust from whence it came, but his eternal spirit returns to God who gave it. At the coming of Christ and the destruction of the world, the body will dissolve into nothingness amidst the burning heat of God’s wrath, but the eternal nature of man will be transported to the presence of the Creator – Lord, God Almighty. The Earth ends, but humanity does not.

There are two certainties that all men must consider. The certainty of the universe being destroyed is incredible and universal, but that is not the most important part of the story. The second certainty of the world’s destruction will be an instant in time and become the abyss of blackness again. The first certainty is the coming of Christ to gather all men together for a judgment of righteousness, truth, and justice. That is what all men should know and fear. The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, and most will be unprepared. Disbelieving in the return of Christ and the destruction of the world does not change reality and its certainty. There is a great day coming. It will be a loud and powerful scene when the world explodes. The greater noise will be the sound of those unprepared to meet their God – and it will be too late. Two realities. Whether you believe the second one is not as important as whether you are prepared for the first one.

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The Word Of Men Is Foolishness

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” Therefore let no one boast in men. (1 Corinthians 3:18-21)

One of the effective tools of Satan in destroying the work of God is to infiltrate the church with the wisdom of men and neglecting the word of God. Human wisdom is an appealing philosophy that can corrupt the authority of scripture to resemble truth but not be the truth. In the church at Corinth, the carnal mind divided saints into camps of allegiance based upon a man instead of Jesus Christ. The church was filled with contentions as some appealed to their allegiance to Paul, while others claimed to follow Apollos, and others put Peter up as their favorite. Human wisdom corrupted the unity of the church over the factions of the word of men. The result was the church became fractured over doctrinal, moral, and issues of authority. Through the wisdom of the world, the Corinthian church had become filled with envy, strife, and divisions.

After showing the futility of their divisions, Paul declares to the saints the wisdom of the world is foolishness and must be rejected. The self-deception of human wisdom led the disciples to vain deceit in their wisdom rather than the word of God. Every time God’s will is supplanted with the word of men, chaos, and confusion follow. By the world’s standards, the Corinthians looked wise. Looking at the church through the divine eyes of the Lord, the Corinthians were foolish. The philosophies of men have never helped man achieve his potential. Party affiliations bring division. Seeking the glory of self-worth creates disharmony. Unity comes when speak the same thing by the word of God that is unchangeable. God does not desire for divisions to be in the church. Unity is found when all the saints are perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Jesus built His church on one foundation – the word of God. The church can only grow when men reject the “good ideas” of human wisdom for the one truth. God is not impressed with the world’s wisdom, and the Father calls it what it is: foolishness. Paul quoted one of Job’s critical friends who said, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness.” This is a telling quote as Paul used the criticism of human wisdom seeking to understand divine law. Eliphaz was wrong (as were his two friends) about what was happening with Job. From a human standpoint, the three friends of Job found cause to condemn him. When they sought to comfort Job with human wisdom, they failed. Then Paul quotes the psalmist who declares that God is a refuge to those who are righteous and seek the knowledge of God.

The word of men is where men find their boast. There is nothing to brag about in the wisdom of men unless it mirrors the word of God. Human wisdom has done many wonderful things to alleviate the suffering of humanity. What it cannot do is to relieve the burden of sin. Only the word of God can accomplish the destruction of the flesh. When human wisdom is used to solve the human equation and burden of sin, it fails miserably. The wisdom of the world is foolishness when it comes to eternal life. There is only one Author, one Truth, one Way, and one Life. Let no one deceive themselves. If someone thinks they are wise by the world’s standards, they need to become a fool to be truly wise.

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A Just God

Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you who have escaped from the nations. They have no knowledge, who carry the wood of their carved image, and pray to a god that cannot save. Tell and bring forth your case; yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me. Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath. (Isaiah 45:20-23)

The contrast between the one true living God and a wooden carved image is stark. An idol is formed by a man who cuts down a tree, uses some of the wood to build and fire and cook his food, and the other part is formed into an image of a created being. He then falls down and asks his wooden carved image to save him. Isaiah declares those who worship idols are stupid or without knowledge. An idol cannot move itself. It requires its maker to carry it and protect it. There is no salvation in a wooden idol. The injustice of idolatry is there is no power, knowledge, love, grace, mercy, and justice. Idolatry is created by the imagination of man to fill his own desires. There is no God like Jehovah because He is a just God and a God that saves.

God is a just God, not because He does right things, but because His nature is Just. Everything about Him is right, and everything that is right derives its meaning from Him. There is nothing that God has done that is not just. When the world was formed, God declared that it was good. Through the just nature of a perfect Creator, the Lord created a universe that declares His glory through every generation. The sun, moon, and stars that fill the sky are the same sun, moon, and stars that filled the heavens gazed upon by Adam and Eve. Creation is a testimony of the character of God as being just. The world and its wonders are right because God is a just God.

The fall of man created the vacuum of morality that must find its meaning either by the will of God or the will of man. Sadly, since the beginning of time, the majority of humanity has accepted the will of man as the moral compass of what is right and wrong. The Bible is the testimony of how just God is. When the world was destroyed in the days of Noah, it was accomplished by the hand of a just and righteous God. It was right to destroy the world as well as save the eight souls in the ark. The destruction of Egypt when the Lord delivered Israel followed the divine pattern of a just God. Everything He did was an act of justice or rightness. God punished His own people allowing the Assyrians to destroy the ten tribes and the Babylonians to take the remnant captive. The rising and falling of nations like Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome were fulfilled with the divine will of a just God.

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners giving His life a ransom for all men. God is a just God through the grace of a loving Father, allowing His Son to be killed by men on a cross. It was the right thing to do. An idol could not have saved man. No man could save another man. Only the blood of Jesus unfolded the abundant love of God to save worthless men from their sin. There is no other God like the Father who shows His will as just and His purpose to save man. There is none besides the one true living God. Jesus said He was the only way, truth, and life to the Father. Only a just God would open an avenue of grace through His only begotten Son. Nothing created by man can match the love of God.

The word of God is how men know the character of a just God. His word reveals all that God has done to man and for man. The word has gone out by the mouth of God in righteousness and will never return to Him void or meaningless. Most men reject God’s word, but this same word will be the book opened in judgment where every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, and the Father rules. His justice will be determined on the final day. All that stand before the Father at judgment will know He is a just God. When they hear the sentence of death to be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone, they will agree it is the right thing to be done. God is a just God, and His word is righteousness. Those who are saved will understand the depth of God’s love and how just a God He is. The forgiveness of sins is the hallmark of God’s love for a man to show that He is right when He takes away sin through the blood of Jesus. God forgives sins, not because it is the right thing to do; it is who God is.

God is a just God. There is nothing in man’s character that finds truth, justice, and love as it does in the nature of the Divine. Comparing God to anything created by man is useless. The word of God is true and righteous. Salvation is perfected in Christ. Grace embraces the worthless nature of sinful man before a just God who is willing to forgive. Everything God does, says, and promises is just. Everything.

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Be A Christian First

And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:26)

Be A Christian First

Jeff Himmel relates the story of when he was in business school, Japan was the dominant economic challenger in the world. During the course of study in world business affairs, the focus was given to learn the customs of the Japanese. One such custom had to do with how they introduced themselves to others. Whenever someone would ask the name of someone in Japan, they would first tell them the company they worked for and then tell them their individual name. For example, a man working for Yamaha would first answer where he worked before telling his name. His value of what he did in life was greater than who he was. Jeff made a great point in the spiritual world that this is how Christians should live their life.

Everything about the life of a Christian begins with being a Christian. When the disciples at Antioch were first called Christians, there was a reason. Something in the pagan world stood out in the minds of those who recognized the disciples as followers of Jesus Christ. The attitudes of the disciples of Antioch impressed the world with who they were following. A Christian is a person who is a follower of Christ. Apparently, this was evident by those who saw the Antioch disciples interact with the community, one another, and the Roman government. Christians paid their taxes because Jesus said to render to Caesar what belongs to him. As a disciple of Jesus, forgiveness was a common trait among those of the church at Antioch. In the face of persecution, the disciples of Christ did not revile in return but accepted their plight with joy to suffer like Christ.

Too many Christians follow the example of Nicodemus, who came to Jesus at night. John does not disclose the reason for the visit under the cloak of darkness, but many of the leading Jews hid their faith in the man from Nazareth. In a dark world of compromise, many of God’s people move easily among the shadows of the world without anyone knowing they are disciples of Jesus Christ. Everyone should be identified as a Christian first before any other information is given about a person’s life. If an employer does not know his employee is a Christian, they should be ashamed. The community must be able to identify every member of the Lord’s body by the life they live, and the message shared in their lives. Neighbors should not have to wonder where the Christian is going every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday. As members of a local community, the home where the Christian lives are easily identifiable. Jesus warned those who were ashamed of Him in this life would be put to shame at the judgment.

Make a practice to let others know of the importance of Christ in your life. The disciples at Antioch were called Christians because their life reflected the glory of the risen Christ. Whether the name was given in derision or not, it was a name labeled after a manner of life that identified a person as a follower of Jesus. Let Jesus shine in your life. Show the world what is first!

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Jesus Is The Prince Of Life

But you denied the Holy One and the Just and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. (Acts 3:14-15)

The Prince Of Life

Not long after Pentecost, Peter and James go to the Temple to pray when they find a lame man asking alms from those entering the Temple. Peter heals the man, which causes quite a commotion among the people as they rush together to them on the porch, greatly amazed. Realizing an opportunity to preach Christ, Peter delivers a brief message about the power of Christ and the impact of the lame man being healed. His sermon is pointed, direct, and accusatory against the Jews for killing some days earlier Jesus of Nazareth. Peter boldly charges his fellow Hebrews of delivering up, denying, and killing the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead. Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of the prophets who spoke of Christ’s suffering and dying. Although the people acted in ignorance, the death of Jesus was part of the divine plan.

Peter refers to Jesus as the prince of life. A prince is someone who is a commander or captain, someone with authority. The Greek carries the thought further in suggesting Jesus as the Author of life or the originator of life. Paul would later call Jesus the author and finisher of the faith in his letter to the Hebrews. Jesus was the prince of life or author as one who has dominion over life. All rule and authority was given to Jesus following His resurrection as He Himself declared to the eleven. Life emanates from the Son of God as the author of eternal life through His blood.

It was the irony of human tragedy that men killed the source of their life. Jesus created the world and formed man from the dust of the ground. The breath of life came through the hand of the one crucified at Calvary. God was nailed to the cross by His creation. Jesus tells Pilate that it was within His power to call twelve legions of angels to destroy all of humanity. This was the power of God ruling through His Son. As the prince of life, Jesus is more than the Creator. The spiritual character of humanity was tainted by sin resulting in death, both physical and spiritual. Jesus did not come to take away physical death but to give all men hope in eternal life. As the author of salvation, Jesus offers hope through His sacrifice that all men could have life and have it more abundantly. The prince of life can give life to a sinful body through the grace of forgiveness.

Barabbas had been released at the demand of the Jewish people to fuel their hatred of Jesus and have Him killed. Peter does not shy away from the accusation of the Jews denying the Holy One, asking for a murderer to be set free. As Barabbas was released from prison scarred with the burden of sin, the Son of God died on a cross to release all men from the wrath of God. Jesus was innocent of all sin, and Barabbas represented the worst in all humanity. When the prince of life was killed, the joy of eternal life was opened for all who would believe Jesus to be the Son of God. As the author of faith, Jesus is the one who reigns at the right hand of the Father with all authority and power. No one can come to the Father but through Jesus Christ. He is the only way because He is the prince of life. The truth of God is found in the message of the author of life. Life comes from the prince of life. Jesus is the prince of life.

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Why Preach In A Sinful World?

Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper. And the Syrians had gone out on raids and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:1-3)

Why Preach In A Sinful World?

During the days of the divided kingdom of Israel, every king, without exception of the northern tribes, was wicked. Among the vilest of kings was Ahab, the son of Omri. The Holy Spirit declared that Ahab did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him. He incited the wrath of God by taking as wife Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. After the twenty-two-year reign of Ahab, his son Ahaziah inherits the throne and follows in the evil path of his parents. Ahaziah did evil in the sight of the Lord serving Baal and worshipping him, and provoking God to anger.

Two years after becoming king, Ahaziah falls through the latticework of an upper room at his palace in Samaria and is seriously injured. He sends messengers to the temple of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether he would recover. The Lord sends Elijah to tell Ahaziah he would die from his injuries. At his death, his brother Jehoram, son of Ahab and Jezebel, takes over the reign of the northern kingdom. Jehoram would be the last of the dynasty of Omri, ruling only twelve years.

For nearly one hundred years, the evil kings filled the land with wickedness from Baal worship, sacrificing children as burnt offerings, sexual immorality, murder, deceit, three kings assassinated, one king committing suicide, and Ahab killed in battle. Life in Israel is a cesspool of sin and incredible evil. There is nothing that can redeem Israel from the fate that is set before her. God sends men like Elijah, Elisha, Amos, and Hosea to warn the people and to preach the message of repentance, but it falls on deaf ears. The people refuse to repent, and the nation plunges further into wickedness.  In 722 B.C., the Assyrian army destroys Samaria, and the ten tribes are never heard from again.

Why would God send prophets to preach in a place like Israel? The world of the northern tribes was completely given over to do evil. Immorality was common, corruption was expected, and the political leaders were decadent despots seeking pleasure and power with no knowledge of God in the land. In this dark, dark world of sin shone a small light of God’s grace in the heart of a young maiden who believed in the impossible. During a raid from the commander of the Syrian army, a young girl from the land of Israel was taken captive. This unnamed maiden lived in the dark world of the northern tribes of Israel who never had a righteous king. Her parents raised her in the sinful world of Ahab and his sons.

When the maiden was taken captive, she became a servant of the wife of Naaman, a great and honorable man in the eyes of the king of Syria and a mighty man of valor. But Naaman was a leper. One day, the young maiden spoke to her mistress and told her if her master would seek the help of the prophet in Samaria, he could be healed of his leprosy. Where did the young girl find this kind of faith in a dark world of sin? Leprosy was not something anyone could be cured from, yet this maiden believed in the power of God to do the impossible. Jesus would speak of this young lady many centuries later when He said, “Many in Israel had leprosy in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” Naaman was healed because a family living in the putridity of wickedness kept the light of truth and righteousness alive in their home and changed the course of divine history spoken about thousands of years later.

The world can be a dark place. Sin abounds in greater frequency, and the dark forces of Satan continue to overshadow a land that once had a sense of moral rightness and truth. Homosexuality is common, adultery and fornication are expected, political leaders lie, cheat, deceive, and corrupt the system, and the world seems to be spinning in a whirlpool of immorality and sin. What God needs are families – parents teaching their children – to be lights of truth, righteousness, holiness, and godliness. The northern ten tribes of Israel were destroyed, but righteous men, women, and children held to the gospel of truth in the one true God. Like the church at Sardis, there will always be the few who walk in white. When the world turns dark, that is the time for the lights of God’s people to shine brighter. Who knows? Maybe someone with leprosy (sin) may find the cleansing power of the spiritual Jordan and be cleansed of their leprosy (sin). Why preach in a sinful world? There are souls that need the saving message of God.

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Four For’s

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:10-13)

Four For’s

There are four “For’s” in Paul’s letter to Rome explaining the mercy and grace of God’s love for mankind. Each one is an individual stamp of the plan to redeem men from sin. Paul had a deep desire for all men to be saved, especially for Israel. The problem many had with the preaching of Paul was while they expressed a zeal for God, they were not submitting the will of the Lord in righteousness. There was a need for obedience to be found in keeping the commandments of the Lord and for faith to dwell in the heart with all diligence. Part of the plan of salvation came from the verbal declaration of the Lord Jesus and the belief in the heart that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Salvation begins with these necessary ingredients.

‘FOR Number One’ is for the heart to believe in the story of Jesus. Hundreds of saints could testify, having seen Jesus resurrected from the dead. Believing unto righteousness accepts the word of the Lord, declaring Jesus of Nazareth as God’s only begotten Son. Understanding the right thing is to know Jesus was crucified, buried, and then rose the third day by the power of God. There are no doubts. The story of Jesus is not a myth but the manifestation of God in the flesh walking among men. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life before suffering as an innocent lamb led to the slaughter. Through the blood of Jesus, redemption is found.

Belief is not all that is required. Confession is made with the mouth. It is not enough to think one believes Jesus is the Christ. There is a demand to vocalize that belief before others. This takes courage to let others hear with their ears a statement of belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. A testimony is declared of belief in the resurrection. Modern men deny the power of God to raise a man from the grave. Visit all the tombs of the notable religious leaders, and every tomb will be filled with bones. The tomb of Jesus has been empty for two thousand years. Three days after to righteous men sealed Jesus in a tomb; two disciples found the tomb empty. Confession with the mouth acknowledges that belief.

‘FOR Number Two” confirms Jesus to be the fulfillment of the word of God. Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah to bridge the writings of the Old Testament to the life of Jesus. Believing Jesus is the Son of God is accepting the truth of the prophets who spoke of the coming Messiah. Jesus was not a good man doing good things. He fulfilled scripture as the Chosen and Beloved of God to bring all men to Himself. Jesus is the Christ – the Anointed One. Believing and making that declaration does not bring embarrassment or shame. The heart that believes in Jesus as the Son of God boldly proclaims allegiance to the King of Kings. Believing Jesus is God’s Son is proven by scripture encouraging the child of God to accept the word of God as truth. There is no doubt what the scriptures teach about Jesus. He is the promised Christ.

‘FOR Number Three’ is the beauty of God’s grace. Salvation is not given to a select group of people. All lives matter in the scheme of redemption. God could have selected one race to be the chosen ones. He might have only picked the Jews as His redeemed. There are many possibilities of whom God would grant salvation, but He chose every race, every nation, every time, and every person to be offered the measure of grace to save them. The early converts to Christ were Jews, Ethiopians, foreigners, men, women, rich and poor, and even among the household of Caesar. There was no distinction made of who could be saved. The color of skin did not elevate or declare unworthy a needy soul. A Roman jailor was saved, a successful magician found grace, and the great persecutor of the church found salvation in the bosom of Christ. All lives matter to God.

‘FOR Number Four” is the eternal message from the beginning. The prophet Joel declares that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. This message was from the beginning as men began to call upon the name of the Lord. There is a lot of confusion about what this means. Many think it just means to call (vocally) on God, and He will save them. Every time the idea of calling on the name of the Lord is found in scripture, it demands obedience. Calling on the name of the Lord is not a single act of declaration but a willingness to obey every command of God. Salvation by faith only has never been in the mind of God. No man has ever been nor ever can be saved only by ‘calling on the name of the Lord. If God’s name is called upon, the heart must obey. The final “FOR’ is where the heart turns entirely to the Lord in obedience to all God commands.

Four ‘FOR’S’ to consider.

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Knowledge And Sin

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. (Hosea 4:6-7)

Knowledge And Sin

The relationship between God and man has always been related to what God has told man and how man reacts to the will of the Lord. Adam and Eve had the knowledge of truth but denied it. Humanity in the days of Noah was not ignorant of the will of the Lord and continued to reject truth for their own desires, resulting in their destruction. God gave Israel the written Law of Moses to remind them of His counsel where they were without excuse when He finally punished them. Jesus came to be the Word, revealing to the world the word of God in the flesh. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, the written word was preserved for generations to read and understand the knowledge of the mystery of God. In time, the knowledge of truth was formed into what is called “The Bible.”

Everything man needs to know about truth is found in the Bible. There is only one truth, one way, and one life, and all the knowledge of the Divine is contained in the sixty-six books of Genesis to the Revelation. Reading the mind of God, a man can know and understand the nature of his Creator, the expectations and desires of God, and the path of eternal life. Sin is a dominant part of the divine story beginning with the fall of man in the Garden of Eden to the exultation of the redeemed in the heavenly garden of the Revelation. What has destroyed the work of men is the ignorance of the knowledge of God. There is evidence for God in creation, but His nature can only be discovered on the pages of holy writ. Without that knowledge, no one can know God. When men reject the word of the Lord, they reject the will of God, and He will turn away from them. This is exemplified by God’s dealing with His own people – Israel.

Hosea is a prophet sent to the rebellious northern tribes of Israel. Every king of Israel was wicked (without exception). In the final days of the ten tribes, the Lord sent Amos and Hosea to turn the people’s hearts back to the one true God. Hosea’s life is used as an object lesson between God and Israel. The prophet lays out the charge against Israel in plain language, unambiguous, powerful testimony of their wicked hearts. There was no truth or mercy, or knowledge of God in the land. Israel was filled with swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery because they had forsaken the knowledge of the one true God. Lack of knowledge kills. The people rejected God, denying His power and refusing to worship the only true and living God.

If men reject the knowledge of God, He will reject them. Sin is not the absence of truth but the rebellious heart leaving God’s will. Eve told Satan what the will of the Lord was and then ignored what she knew for her own selfish desires. Israel was not ignorant of the word of God. Many prophets were sent to Israel to turn their hearts back to God, but they were told to stop preaching and, in many cases, were killed for preaching the truth. When the word of God is ignored, sin reigns, and the judgment of the Lord awaits. The more the nation filled their hearts with ignorance, the greater the sin and the greater the condemnation. When a nation turns its heart away from the knowledge of God, doom is its future.

Knowledge and sin can either save or condemn. The righteous man knows the will of the Lord and changes his heart to defeat sin. Lacking the knowledge of the Lord allows the carnal spirit to prevail and sin to abound. It becomes a choice about what to do with knowledge. Those who will be saved in the day of eternal judgment are those who came to the knowledge of truth and obeyed. The vast majority of people will be damned to hell – not because there was a lack of knowledge – but because the knowledge delivered by God was rejected. Every page of the Bible reveals the love, grace, and mercy of God. Whether those words save or condemn will depend on whether you accept it or not.

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You Are My Portion

You are my portion, O Lord; I have said that I would keep Your words. I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; be merciful to me according to Your word. I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies. I made haste, and did not delay to keep Your commandments. The cords of the wicked have bound me, but I have not forgotten Your law. At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You, because of Your righteous judgments. I am a companion of all who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts. The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy; teach me Your statutes. (Psalm 119:57-64)

You Are My Portion

The world is filled with the desires of wealth, appeals of honor, enjoyments for pleasure, and recognition of fame. Life can be governed by seeking the greatest amounts of wealth in every form. Men will seek to accomplish a noble act of significance to be honored with awards, prestige, and recognition. Pleasures drive the heart to seek after everything carnal in the pursuits of the lust of the flesh. The greatest reward many seek is to be remembered in history as a person of note. To know a man’s character, find out what his life goals are and what he hopes to accomplish in life. Living in large homes with every finery of life in the glitzy world of the “jet-set” crowd of flash is all many men seek. Lives are devoted to honing a craft to be the best in the field of sports, science, entertainment, or politics. For the majority of humanity, living one day at a time with the gusto of a passionate desire to enjoy every part of life is all they desire. Fame is all some men seek, and then they are remembered by two generations and forgotten as quickly.

Goals define a man. What is important to a man is how he will spend his life. Some men achieve all aspects of life that bring them wealth, honor, pleasure, and fame. But then an incredible irony takes place. They die. Their wealth goes to another, the honor they had will be remembered for a short time and forgotten, and all the pleasure they enjoyed dies with them in the grave. Fame is fleeting. A few generations will remember, but quickly the fame they earnestly craved is lost in the cobwebs of history found only in museums that few visit. The portion of life achieved is lost in the grave.

The psalmist had a goal in life, and he had a desire. His portion or inheritance was what he could know about God. Nothing else was as important and special to him as the knowledge of God’s word. The words of the Lord were his desire. Following the commandments of God was his only need. All he wanted in life was to learn the statutes of the heavenly Shepherd. His portion was singular. The inheritance of the Lord filled his cup. As the author of Psalm 119, the appeal to the power of the Old Testament gospel was all he wanted to know, experience, understand and share with others. His portion was the knowledge of God in every aspect. The beauty of this desire was it would never be taken away from him.

Wealth for the psalmist was the rich treasures of God’s word. The honor he sought was the blessing of a benevolent Father who would acknowledge a humble spirit. Pleasure came from hearing and obeying the word of the Lord. The fame the psalmist desired was only to hear his Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” All the trappings of the world were of no significance to the heart of the man had not forgotten the law of the Lord. At midnight, he rose to give thanks to the Father. His companions were those who feared the Lord. Defining the life of the psalmist was explained by the word of God. None of these blessings would be taken away from him. Death would not end his pleasure but increase his joy. He had the right priorities in life, and God rewarded him for it.

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Things Improper For God’s Children

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:3-5)

Things Improper For God’s Children

Certain things should never be part of the Christian’s life. This has always been true how a child of God should live separate from the world’s influences. Saints are those who are in covenant with God through the blood of Christ, living above the standards of the world. It is not uncommon for the carnal mind to accept fornication as a part of life. Covetousness is an engine that drives the soul to look for happiness in material gain. The lottery is so popular because it is covetousness. Obscenities fill the airwaves, movie screens, social media and have become the language of the world. Foolish talking or coarse jesting is the speech of the worldly mouth engaging in the language of Ashdod. However, the Christian will not accept the standards of the world as their framework for life.

Ephesus was the capital of proconsular Asia. Paul visited the city near the end of his second missionary journey and established a church. There were many things in the city destructive to the character of the first disciples of the church. The Temple of Diana had been prominent in the city, with sexual immorality at the center of the religion. Ephesus was such a wealthy city, they rejected the coffers of Alexander the Great to rebuild the city destroyed by fire and paid for the project out of their own pockets. The background of Ephesus is strong in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. He admonishes them to reject the lifestyle of the Ephesians. Fornication may be acceptable to the Ephesian culture, but no one called a child of God should engage in such immorality. Premarital sex was sinful. No Christian should be accused of such degradation.

Covetousness is the quiet sin that is often overshadowed by perceived larger sins. Ephesus was a town filled with wealth and materialism. Material gain was the goal of a city filled with riches. Everyone lived prosperous lives with an abundance of fine homes, servants, food, wine, expensive clothing, and a couple of Lexus chariots parked out front. Wealth was not the problem. The heart longing for and desiring those things is where sin produced a bumper crop of covetousness. Paul pleads with the Ephesians saints to not be known as greedy, materialistic people in the midst of the dark, sinful world of Ephesus. They were to stand apart from that kind of greed. The saint was also to be distinguished by the nature of his speech. It is easy to fall into the speech of the world to fit in with the world. The saint must change his speech to mold itself perfectly with the language of God. Filthiness, foolish talking, and coarse jesting do not the Christian make.

Paul’s plea is a strong warning. He desires for God’s people not to let those things that defile even be named among the church, as is fitting for saints. This same plea is needed today for Christians to refrain from activities associated with the world that identify them with the world. The people of God (saints) should not engage in sexual immorality. Do not engage in such activity that would bring shame and reproach to the church of Christ. Let the conduct of life (speech especially) be filled with the grace of God and not the language of the world. Paul makes it clear that those who engage in such activities will not inherit the kingdom of God. Engaging in sexual immorality, covetousness, and uncharacteristic speech will damn a soul to hell. The saint does not act that way. They set themselves above the pollutions of the world to be near the heart of God. There are things proper for the child of God, and there are things improper. A Christian makes a distinction.

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It Begins With Desire

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

It Begins With Desire

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

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

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

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

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

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Kindness Toward The Unkind

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

Kindness Toward The Unkind

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

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

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

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

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

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The Winds And The Sea Obey Him But Not Men

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

The Winds And The Sea Obey Him But Not Men

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

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

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

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

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I Love To Go To God’s House

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

I Love To Go To God’s House

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

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

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

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

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

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Walking In The Shade Of God

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

Walking In The Shade Of God

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

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

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

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

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

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Especially Those In The Family Of Faith

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

Especially Those In The Family Of Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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The Two Greatest Words

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

The Two Greatest Words

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

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

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

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

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

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Judged By A Plumb Line

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

Judged By A Plumb Line

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

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

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

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

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

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The Doctrine Of Christ

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

The Doctrine Of Christ

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

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

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

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

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The Word Of Truth

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

The Word Of Truth

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

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

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

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

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God Is Love

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

God Is Love

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

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

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

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

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Guilty Of The Body And The Blood

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

Guilty Of The Body And The Blood

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

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

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

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

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

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If You Believe Jesus Is Real

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

If You Believe Jesus Is Real

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

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

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

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

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

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Defeating An Army Of One Million Men

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

Defeating An Army Of One Million Men

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

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

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

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

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