Treating God’s Word With Contempt

stoning 2

You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native-born among the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwells among them. But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him. Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him under guard because it had not been explained what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died. (Numbers 15:29-36)

Treating God’s Word With Contempt

The Law of Moses was very specific in the institutions of the commands of God. One section of the law concerned unintentional sins committed because all the people sinned or in the case of the guilty individual. The priest would make atonement for the people after the proper sacrifice was given in accordance with the law. There was one law for the one who sins unintentionally but there was a different law for one who sinned presumptuously. If a man brazenly violates the law of God and blasphemes the name of the Lord by boldly rejecting the will of the Lord, that man would be cut off and his guilt is upon him. To presumptuously disregard the word of God is to despise the word of the Lord and to break the commandment of God. Treating the word of God with contempt was a grievous sin. Deliberately disregarding the word of the Lord was a very serious offense. The law was very specific this individual would be cut off from the community of God’s people.

Sandwiched in between the regulations of the law is a story that shows the nature of presumptuous sin. While the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. Nothing is said of the motive for the man to gather sticks together but it was a clear violation of the Ten Commandments; specifically, the 4th commandment that required the Hebrews to observe a Sabbath day and to keep the day holy. They were not allowed to labor on the Sabbath or to do work. The seventh day was a day of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever did any work on the Sabbath would be put to death, according to the Law of Moses. This day was a holy convocation to the Lord. The children of Israel found a man who was gathering sticks together on the Sabbath bringing him to Moses to determine his disposition.

There is nothing immoral or wicked about picking up sticks. Many reasons can be given for the man to be gathering sticks together. He may need to cook his food, warm his home, or to use the fire to work with metal or other things requiring heat. Picking up sticks is not the sin but the presumptuous attitude of the man to disregard the day set aside by God to be a holy day is the motive behind his actions. After the man is brought to Moses, the Lord commanded Moses (along with all the congregation) to take the man outside the camp and stone him to death. The accused was taken outside the camp and Moses and the people picked up stones hurling them at the man until he lay dead on the ground. There can be little doubt the guilty man pleaded for his life but to no avail. A Hebrews was executed that day for picking up sticks on the Sabbath day.

It would seem a trivial thing for a man to be picking up sticks. If this were to happen today there would be a public outcry and demonstrations against the execution of the man for the nature of his act. Politicians would decry the inhumanity, activists would demand change and many religious leaders would distance themselves from the Hebrews for such a terrible crime. The guilty man’s effigy would be paraded through towns and cities as people angrily denounce the action of the congregation to stone a man to death for picking up sticks. Lost in the plethora of dissent and discord is the law of God that demands justice for those who disobey His will. The man was not executed for picking up sticks. He had six days to pick up all the wood he wanted. What he did was to despise and treat with contempt the word of the Lord. God’s law for the Sabbath was very clear and demonstrated the nature of obedience. Death may have seemed a harsh penalty for picking up sticks but the heart of the man was filled with presumptuous sin.

The guilt of the accused remains upon his soul as one who died for disrespecting the word of God. It is a simple thing for men to trample with the word of God but a day of reckoning always comes to those who trifle with the word of the Lord. Treating the will of God with contempt brings the vengeance of the Lord. The story of the man picking up sticks on the Sabbath was used to illustrate the putridity of men who defile the word of God by treating it with contempt. Disregarding the word of God will not be tolerated by the One who demands obedience.

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You Either Do Or You Don’t

righteous wicked malachi

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. (Malachi 3:16-18)

You Either Do Or You Don’t

There are two kinds of people in the world. Every human being regardless of nationality, age, gender, or place in history falls into one of two categories in the scheme of eternity. This is not determined by social, economic, or education status. It comes down to a matter of choice. There are righteous people and there are wicked people. Those who are righteous serve the Lord God of hosts and those who do not serve the Lord God of hosts are wicked. It is that simple and yet profound. Nationalities separate all of humanity into a vast tapestry of ethnic and cultural characteristics distinguishing each person into a unique and special group. Economics can displace one group from another as one possesses wealth and the other wallow in poverty. Various levels of education allow many to have greater advantages than others. There are many variations found within the human story but one reality remains constant throughout every generation and that is found in those who are righteous and those who are wicked.

Defining what is righteous and unrighteous is not determined by the will of men. One of the traits of unrighteousness is the desire of man to create his own gods to serve his selfish desires. He may ascribe his beliefs as righteous because his actions are determined by his moral code or system of belief. His religion may allow sexual immorality to serve his fleshly and carnal desires and thereby soothe his conscience that he is righteous when engaged in an unrighteous act. Having a system of belief that allows for sexual immorality does not make it right. There are many different types of churches that proclaim allegiance to Jesus Christ. They are filled with religious people who are devoted to their particular brand of doctrine. Following a system of belief does not make a man righteous. Wars have been fought in the name of God and fueled by a misplaced allegiance to Jesus Christ. War is not righteous because a man calls it righteous.

Malachi declared there are two kinds of people: those who fear the Lord and those who do not fear the Lord. Those who feared the Lord meditated on His name. Discerning the righteous and the unrighteous is accounted to those who serve the Lord and those who do not serve the Lord. That is the deciding factor. Being righteous does not make a man righteous. What separates one man from another is whether the individual is serving God. What is the difference between the righteous and the wicked? One is willing to do everything God commands and the other is willing to follow their own will.

A wicked person conjures images of immoral, degraded, and dishonest people. Malachi said there are only two kinds of people. One is righteous and the other is wicked. The righteous man serves God. Wicked men do not serve God. This is not determined by morality but whether a person is willing to do what God says. A man can be very religious, good, upright, and honest and live a good moral life and be wicked. He is a wicked person because while being religious he is not following the will of the Lord. Jesus reminded His disciples that saying, “Lord, Lord” will not save a man but he who does the will of the Father. The world is filled to overflowing with wicked people who do not serve God. Discerning between the righteous and the unrighteous comes from who serves God and who does not serve Him. You are either righteous or you are not. Your choice.

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Troublesome Times Are Here

Troublesome Times Are Here

But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. (Mark 13:7)

Troublesome Times Are Here

Robert E. Winsett was an American composer and publisher of gospel music. One of his popular songs is titled; “Jesus Is Coming Soon” published in 1956. The beginning refrain says, “Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear, freedom we all hold dear now is at stake.” It seems a fitting tune for the trouble times the world is experiencing. There is the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to scourge the world with millions of infections and a half million deaths. The United States is faced with racial unrest, economic shut-down, social conflict, political posturing, and an ever-increasing fear of the influence of national media. These are troublesome times without a doubt.

For those living in the tiny cocoon of time known as 2020, it seems the world is crashing down around them. Fear drives the heart to think these days are unparalleled in the history of mankind. One of the factors that cause great trepidation is the chaos of the world and the unending feelings of doom and despair. It is interesting to reflect on history and realize that when many of the adults living today grew up in the 1960s, the world was filled with troublesome times. It might be argued that as bad as things seem right now, it pales in comparison to one of the most turbulent decades of history. The 1960s was a time of mass protests against the war in Vietnam. Soldiers returning were shunned, mistreated, disrespected, and abused. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Five years later Martin Luther King was assassinated. In June of 1968, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. Black Power became a dominant force in the civil rights movement. Women’s liberation unleashed a barrage of feminist movements that still resonate today. Hippies became popular with long hair and free love creating communes of social rebellion against authority.

In October of 1962, the world stood on the edge of nuclear holocaust as the United States and Russia rattled sabers on the tiny island of Cuba. There were wars in Indochina, Portugal, Indo-Pakistani war, Algeria, Nigeria, Laos, Sudan, and Yemen. Conflicts raged in China, Ireland, Mexico, and Eastern Europe. The Democratic National Convention in Chicago turned into a riot with police breaking up protestors with tear gas, clubs, and dogs. Riots were common all over America and especially in Detroit and Los Angeles (Watts). Churches were bombed, Satanism became popular and religion vilified. During a protest at South Carolina State University police fired on a crowd of 200 unarmed protestors killing three and wounding 28. The list could go on with the troubles our parents faced in troublesome times.

Jesus said two thousand years ago that troublesome times were coming. He did not suggest this was anything new. His teaching about wars and rumors of wars did not confine this to an “end of time” era when the world will come to an end in a conflagration of chaos. Both in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 Jesus is pointing to the coming destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Many pundits of religious error use these passages to incite the masses to paranoia and fear with misapplication of the teaching of Jesus. The one thing assured by Jesus was that man has changed little (if any) since the beginning of time. Someone may say that times are bad today and chaos fills the world like no other time. In fact, times have been bad since the day Eve listened to the serpent. Days are difficult now but imagine how bad they were when Noah had to build an ark and witness the destruction of every human being on the face of the planet save his family. The Egyptian people thought the world had come to an end when God brought ten devastating plagues against their nation. It must be remembered that after the Hebrews left the economy of Egypt was crippled and all the families still had to bury their firstborn. Many years later when the Assyrian army came into the northern tribes of Israel and then the Babylonians marched into Jerusalem destroying the House of God, troublesome times had come to Israel. When the Romans marched on Jerusalem in 70 A.D. the warning from Jesus became crystal clear. In the past two thousand years, there have been wars killing billions of souls, plagues that scourged the earth and famine and pestilence without end.

Troublesome times are here. That is nothing new. What did Jesus say? He said, “Do not be troubled.” These troubles and trials and heartaches will continue until the end of the world and when that day comes it will be by the hand of God – not man. It may be bad today but it has been worse before (the 1960’s) and it can become worse tomorrow but what does it matter to the child of God who trusts in the will of the Father. The prophet Jahaziel said long ago not to be troubled or dismayed because of the chaos that swirls around the souls of men. The battle is not ours. The battle belongs to the Lord. Let God fight the battles and let the child rest in the comfort of his Father’s arms. I remember the 1960’s from a child’s perspective as one of the most deeply religious times of my life and yet my parents lived seeing all that happened. They faced an uncertain world but they were wholly devoted to God and it made a difference in their life and my life. 2020 is a challenging world. Where is my faith in God?

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Joshua And Baptism

Joshua Baptism

At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” So Joshua made flint knives for himself and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way after they had come out of Egypt. For all the people who came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness, on the way as they came out of Egypt, had not been circumcised. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people who were men of war, who came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord — to whom the Lord swore that He would not show them the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers that He would give us, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Then Joshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place; for they were uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way. So it was, when they had finished circumcising all the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day. (Joshua 5:2-9)

Joshua And Baptism

The apostle Paul declared in his letter to the saints Colosse that baptism was the spiritual covenant of circumcision. In Christ, all men are circumcised but not by a physical procedure. Paul said that Christ performed a spiritual circumcision when a person is buried in baptism by the cutting away of sinful nature. Then a man is raised to a new life because they trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Before baptism (like circumcision) a man is dead because of sin and their sinful nature is not yet cut away. God makes a man alive with Christ when He forgives all sins. In other words, He cancels the record of the charges against a person nailing it to the cross. Baptism (like circumcision) establishes a covenant with man and God through the grace and mercy of the Lord.

After forty years the children of Israel arrive at the land of promise. Joshua prepares to lead God’s people across the Jordan River and take possession of Canaan. When the Hebrews first left Egypt all the people had been circumcised but those born in the last forty years of wilderness wanderings had not been circumcised. The new generation of Hebrews stood before God uncircumcised and they would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land until they had entered the covenant established with Abraham. Circumcision was the sign of promise and without it, there is no promise and no hope. The Lord told Abraham any man who refused to be circumcised would be cut off from the grace of God and has broken the covenant. Now the whole of Israel stood on the brink of salvation but they could not enjoy God’s blessings until they obeyed His command.

Return to the story of Joshua and the command to circumcise the people with a modern eye to how most religious people view baptism. Replacing circumcision with baptism the student of scripture can see God’s will has not changed in the obedience required of man. The story begins: “At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make pools of water for yourself, and baptize the sons of Israel again the second time.” So Joshua made pools of water for himself and baptized the sons of Israel at the hill of the fountains. And this is the reason why Joshua baptized them: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way after they had come out of Egypt. For all the people who came out had been baptized, but all the people born in the wilderness, on the way as they came out of Egypt, had not been baptized. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people who were men of war, who came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord — to whom the Lord swore that He would not show them the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers that He would give us, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Then Joshua baptized their sons whom He raised up in their place; for they were unbaptized because they had not been baptized on the way. So it was when they had finished baptizing all the people that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were dry. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “This day I have rolled away the reproach of SIN from you.” Therefore the name of the place is called Jerusalem to this day.

I believe if Joshua were standing before a group of religious people today and told them God required baptism for salvation they would mock and scoff at his teaching. More than three thousand years ago Joshua told all the men they had to be circumcised and they willingly endured the incredible pain involved in the procedure. No one refused. There were not rebellious. Everyone obeyed because they believed God. A religious leader did not try to convince the people that if they just believed God would allow them into the Promised Land. No preacher tried to convince the men standing with sharp flint knives in their hands that a sinner’s prayer would save them. Those who obeyed had to take the flint knife and cut off their foreskin and wait to be healed. And they all did so obediently. And yet today men are asked to immerse in water (not painful) for the remission of sins and they refuse.

All those who would have refused to be circumcised would have not been allowed to enter Canaan. When a man refuses to be baptized for the remission of sins God will not allow him to enter eternal life. Joshua proves that baptism is necessary for salvation because it is not a matter of a flint knife and a piece of the foreskin; or today a body of water and immersion. The men who were circumcised that day had hearts that were willing to obey God – no matter what was asked of them. If a man refuses to be baptized for the remission of sins his heart condemns him. The Holy Spirit declared in the word of God that baptism is spiritual circumcision. To deny baptism is to deny a covenant with God. No circumcision – no hope. No baptism – eternal damnation.

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Two Roads To Walk

narrow way

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Two Roads To Walk

When God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He gave them two choices: obey Him or disobey Him. In the days of Noah, all men had a choice to believe salvation in the ark or outside the ark. Joshua’s final words to the people of Israel were to realize the importance of making the right choice. Moses giving the Law to the Hebrews was founded upon obedience that would bring blessings or disobedience which brought penalties. Elijah exhorted the people to make up their minds if they were going to serve God or Baal. The friends of Daniel knew they had a choice to either bow to the demands of the king or to serve the one true God.

The gospel message has always been about whether a man will obey the will of the Lord or if he will choose to seek his own course. The existence of a man’s soul is narrowed down to this reality. There are no other choices. A third option is not available. There will be no multiple choices granted. The strictness and narrowness of God’s law are only found in two choices. Jesus taught the multitudes there were only two ways to walk, two precepts to accept and only two ends of the road. The people were astonished at His teaching. His message rang with authority unlike the Jewish teachers of religious law. Challenging the traditional views of scripture, Jesus unfolded the will of the Father to the disciples of a new kingdom yet to be born. Core to the principles of the gospel was the same message heralded from the beginning of time. There is a way that pleases the Lord but is often hard to follow. Most men find greater satisfaction following the easy path and the broad way. The lesson is not so much the journey people take but what is found at the end of the road. Traveling the broad way will be an easier life and more enjoyable but the end is destruction and damnation. The gateway to life is very narrow and restrictive but it leads to life.

Numbers are important to God. The admonition of Jesus is highlighted by the “few” and the “many.” Jesus recognized the majority of humanity will not find eternal life. This is contrary to the doctrines of men who believe most men will be saved. It is not the will of God that any man should perish but the reality is the majority of men will perish in destruction. Few will find salvation. How sad to realize that from the six billion souls that possess the earth the majority will never find eternal life. Like in the days of Noah, only eight were saved out of thousands if not millions. Jesus sadly reported the nature of man is to follow the broad boulevard of carnal pleasures rather than the word of God.

Obedience is found when a man enters the narrow gate. He has to choose to leave the easy and broad path to follow a way that is hard and difficult. Every person must choose which path to follow. There are certain characteristics of the narrow way and the broad way. Those distinctions will determine where a soul finds itself before the throne of God. Complicating the journey is the problem of false teachers. Jesus warns His disciples against following the wrong path by listening to men who come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. There is a real danger in believing that all men will tell the truth. Knowing the difference between truth and false doctrine is to examine the fruit of a man’s doctrine and the manner of their life. In nature, grapes will only come from grapevines, not thornbushes. Figs come from fig trees, not thistles. Good trees bear good fruit and bad trees produce bad fruit. Truth comes from the teaching of God’s word alone.

The broad way and the narrow way are filled with teachers but a choice must be made. Which teacher will I follow? Those who walk the broad way preach a gospel of ease, enjoyment, and pleasure. Their siren song is the wisdom of man. Traveling the wide boulevards of sin appeals to the carnal nature of men who love only themselves and their money, boasting in proud arrogance at God. Religious leaders fill the streets of the broad way teaching the commandments of men. Like bad trees that do not produce good fruit, they are cut down and thrown into the fire. False teachers can be identified by their fruit. It will be a perilous time to stand before the judgment seat of God and realize the soul followed the wrong path as a consequence of listening to false teachers.

The saddest words in the Bible are found in the concluding remarks of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus declares the strictness of the will of God above the doctrines of men. The only ones who will enter the kingdom of heaven are those who do the will of the Father. Either a man is following the will of God or he is following the teaching of false doctrine. Many, many people are religious, passionate, and devoted to the Lord but are not following the word of God. At the judgment, condemned souls will cry out to the Lord of all the things they have done for Him, and yet they will find no mercy because they have not done the will of the Father. The final curse will fill their ears with the haunting words of the Lord proclaiming, “I never knew you; depart from Me.” How sad to find souls who thought they walked the narrow path but never obeyed the gospel of Christ. They made the wrong choice.

Bringing the Sermon on the Mount to a close, Jesus exhorts His disciples to choose which foundation to build their lives. Hearing the word of God will not save a man if he refuses to change his life. Many heard the teachings of Jesus but turned and walked away. They were unwilling to obey the commandments of the Lord. Hearing and not doing is condemnation. It is like a man who builds his house on the sand and when the storms come the house falls. What value is there for a man who hears the teachings of Jesus and is unwilling to obey His commands? The narrow gate is a difficult way requiring fidelity to the will of God. Hearing and doing the will of God will protect against the opposition and challenges of life. Only the house built upon the rock will stand. Hearing and doing the will of God is salvation; hearing and not doing is destruction. The choice is given: build your life upon the will of God and do His will or perish for not doing His will. The choice is yours but there are only two roads to walk: the broad way or the narrow way.

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Reading To Understand

bible reading cup

How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets. (Ephesians 3:3-5)

Reading To Understand

There is no greater power a man can possess than knowledge. Everything in life comes from the seed of knowledge. When the Lord placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He gave them instructions on how to care for the garden and what they could enjoy and what was forbidden. Through the avenue of words, God imparted His will to Adam and Eve in a manner easily understood and without confusion. There were two trees in the midst of the garden: one was a tree that would give them life without end and the other tree would reveal the knowledge of good and evil. The tree of life was a blessing from the Creator that Adam and Eve could eat and enjoy. God forbade His creation to take of the tree of knowledge of good and evil for in the day they ate they would die. Knowledge empowered the first man and woman to look upon the forbidden tree and know it was not to be touched or eat lest they die.

Satan came upon the woman with a plan to destroy the paradise of God. There were many ways the devil would seek to deceive the woman but he chose the most powerful tool in his arsenal. The first words out of the serpent’s mouth challenged the word of God. Satan knew that knowledge was power but he was using the knowledge of evil to deceive the woman to take of the forbidden fruit. Through the subtlety of deceptive words, he deceived Eve into taking what she knew was forbidden. The law in Eden was clearly stated and easily understood. If Adam and Eve had taken a moment to investigate the claim of Satan against the word of God, they would have immediately seen the inconsistency of the devil’s ploy. God had told the first couple they could eat of every tree in the garden but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they were not allowed to eat. There was no deep theology, difficult passages to unravel, or confusing language to decode. God’s word was plain.

Throughout the history of humanity, the struggle with man and God has always been the neglect of prideful men to accept the fully revealed word of God. There has never been a time in history where the Lord has not revealed Himself in one manner or another to His creation. When Jesus came into the world, He became the Living Word. As the New Testament church began to grow, men like Matthew, Mark, Luke, Peter, James, Paul, and John began to write letters telling the story of Jesus and the organization of the kingdom of God. Many books and letters were written and through the work of the Holy Spirit, a few were retained in canon form to become what is known as the Bible of sixty-six books. Paul best described the process of knowledge when he tells the saints in Ephesus how he had received the revelation directly from God and when they read his letters, they could understand his insight into the plan regarding Jesus Christ. It was possible to understand a mystery hidden from other ages. This knowledge came from reading the word.

There is nothing more fundamental to the life of a Christian that his ability to read and understand the scriptures. God has not given His creation a book that cannot be read. Everyone can understand God’s will. What is lacking in so many lives is the time spent reading the word of God. Paul told the Ephesians they needed to read his message. When they read his letter they could understand things long hidden. To the Romans, Paul said that faith would blossom from the desire to hear the word. If a man never reads the word of God his faith will diminish into nothing. Reading and knowledge are tied eternally together. Jesus has returned to the Father but His Word remains in the printed form so that all men can come to repentance.

Owning a Bible does not save a man. Finding occasional time to flip through the pages of the Bible will not increase knowledge. Listening to a man preach on the word will help but it will not increase the overall knowledge of the heart without an open Bible to examine the text. Greatly lacking in the hearts of many of God’s people is the time devoted to reading the word of God. There was a time the Lord’s people were known as people of the Book but those days are long gone. Fewer hearts are stirred by the stories of Holy Writ. Ignorance of basic Bible doctrines is commonplace among the saints. Like Israel of old, the church is being destroyed for lack of knowledge. Paul admonishes in a kindly manner that when one reads the word of God they will be able to understand the mystery of Christ; a knowledge that God did not reveal to previous generations, but now by his Spirit has revealed through the Bible. Take time to read the word of God. You will be amazed at what you will learn. When you read …

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In The Sight Of The Lord

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Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. But he did evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done; for Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and served them. And he did not humble himself before the Lord, as his father Manasseh had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more. Then his servants conspired against him and killed him in his own house. But the people of the land executed all those who had conspired against King Amon. Then the people of the land made his son Josiah king in his place. Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. (2 Chronicles 33:21-34:2)

In The Sight Of The Lord

Two kings of Judah are contrasted by a single identifying mark of character: whom they served. The first king was 22 when he became king and reigned for only two years. The second king was a mere boy of 8 years when the kingdom was thrust upon him and he ruled for 31 years. Amon died at the age of 24 by the hand of his servants and Josiah died at the age of 39 in the battle against the king of Egypt named Necho. There was great lamenting at the death of Josiah including Jeremiah the prophet. Nothing is said of the mourning for Amon. Josiah was remembered for his goodness but Amon is forgotten as a worthless king who served himself. For many years after the death of Josiah, the Laments filled the hearts of the people as they sang of Josiah in their lamentations. No songs were written for Amon.

The chronicle tells the short life of Amon as almost an afterthought. He ruled the people of God for two years but the text says that he did evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done. The people of the land made his eight-year-old son king and Josiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David. Amon and Josiah walking in the sight of the Lord and how they walked in the sight of the Lord determined their remembrance and their eternal destiny. Amon’s father ruled Judah for 55 years and died at the age of 67. His influence upon Amon was clear and tragic. Amon walked in the ways of his father and did much evil in the sight of the Lord. Josiah had a clearer view of his service to God and sought to fill his reign with the righteousness of God. One king lived an evil life and another king sought to do things right in his life. They both walked in the sight of the Lord.

All men stand naked before the Creator who holds the universe in his hand and possesses the breath of man. There is no place on earth that a man can go that God is not there. Standing on the peak of Mt. Everest is merely a footnote in the mind of the One who formed the mountains. Seeking shelter from the eyes of the Lord at the bottom of the Mariana Trench is useless. Cloaking oneself with the veil of darkness is all but bright sunlight to the eyes of the Lord. Whispers ring loud in the ears of the Lord and the mind of God retains every word and deed said and done in a man’s lifetime. Compared to the magnificence of the presence of the Lord the exaltation of humanity is nothing but dust on a scale; hardly measurable.

Life is measured not by the heroics of a man’s life, achievements, awards, wealth, or knowledge. Everything a person is can be defined by how he walks in the sight of the Lord. All of the deeds of Amon were revealed before the face of the Lord as were the deeds of Josiah. They both walked in the sight of the Lord and what made the eternal difference for each man was how they walked. The question is never if a man lives in the sight of the Lord but rather how a man walks in the sight of the Lord. Every soul that has lived will be measured by the manner of his life beheld by the eternal gaze of the heavenly Father. Through the mercy of God, each soul is a free-will creation who makes a choice in his life to serve the Lord or to live for himself. Death comes to all men and then the judgment. What happens in eternity is what God has seen in life. All men walk in the sight of the Lord. What are you showing your Creator?

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Seeing The Salvation Of God

simeon-jesus2

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:25-32)

Seeing The Salvation Of God

The little child Simeon held in his hands was just over a month old. He was still wrapped in the swaddling clothes of His infancy as the baby peered deeply into the aged prophet’s eyes. Simeon was a devout man who lived for a single promise made to him by the heavenly Father and that promise was what he held in his hands. Joseph and Mary had brought the infant Jesus to the temple to be presented with a sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. God had promised Simeon that he would not die before seeing face to face the Messiah or Lord’s Christ. Being filled with the Holy Spirit on the day Jesus was brought to the temple, Simeon blessed God and proclaimed the glory of the Son of God for the child Jesus he held in his hands. He knew his eyes beheld the salvation of God and the hope of redemption for the world.

Simeon was ready to die having seen the Lord’s Christ. There was no doubt in his mind as he rejoiced looking into the face of an infant child that God always keeps His promises whether in the scheme of all humanity or just one promise to an old man. The Lord is God whose word is faithful and true. Simeon saw the child but he recognized the power of God’s word. The word of God was true, faithful, and never failed. He would not live to see how the infant he held in his arms would one day be nailed to a Roman cross. God’s salvation was fulfilled three decades after the death of Simeon when Jesus gave His life to prepare the way of salvation. Following the resurrection of the Lord’s Christ, the church was established ushering in the final eternal plan of redemption as a light to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel.

Joseph and Mary marveled at Simeon and his words. The aged man of God spoke a prophecy of sorrow for the mother of Jesus who would often have her heart pierced with grief. Mary knew with no uncertainty that her son was the Son of God. She stood at the cross and witnessed the words of Simeon come true as the small baby boy honored by the man of God in the temple was now being honored by the heavenly Father as an obedient Son. Salvation had been prepared by the Lord before time began. The bookends of the life of Jesus were found in the joy Simeon’s face looking upon a baby later framed by the face of sorrow for Mary at the cross. Simeon could only see salvation yet to come but salvation came through the word of God.

The salvation of God is still visible today. From the pages of holy writ, the Lord has revealed to all men the Lord’s Christ from His birth in a stable of Bethlehem to a place called Golgotha outside the city of Jerusalem. The story of Jesus began as Moses penned the words of the book of beginnings and concludes with the revelation of John writing about the victorious Christ riding before His army victorious over Satan. To see the salvation of the Lord is to see the divine Word as the light to reveal God to the world and to express by the providential hand of God the glory of His people Israel. All men can see the salvation of the Lord in Christ. Simeon believed in the promises of God’s word and salvation is found in hearts willing to accept the promises of God as true. The Lord has never failed in His promises. Truth fills the Word with the unmovable promise of the one true God. See the salvation of the Lord. Look unto Jesus Christ.

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Are We Enoch Ready?

Enoch

Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years and begot Enoch. After he begot Enoch, Jared lived eight hundred years and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years, and he died. Enoch lived sixty-five years and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:18-24)

Are We Enoch Ready?

Only two people are described in scripture who were taken by the Lord without death. The first was seven generations removed from Adam and the second was the great prophet Elijah spirited away on a chariot of fire in a whirlwind. It must have been an amazing experience to be transformed in an instant to the glory of God. Much is known about Elijah but little is said about the prophet Enoch. His place in divine history is a reference to the genealogy of Adam. The New Testament writer Jude refers to Enoch as the seventh from Adam. He lived to be 365 years old before being translated by the Lord. Luke lists the man Enoch in the genealogy of Jesus in his gospel. The Hebrew writer declares the faith of Enoch in his great chapter of faith describing how Enoch was taken up to heaven and disappeared because God had taken him. A hint of Enoch’s life is given that he was a man who knew God and was known by God as a faithful and devoted servant. Enoch pleased the Lord. God does not reveal His reasons for translating Enoch but he did. Finally, in his small epistle, Jude declares the fervent faith of Enoch as a man that prophesied about the judgment of ungodly men. Some generations removed from Enoch the world was destroyed in the flood.

There are two great lessons about the heart of Enoch. His life pleased God and Enoch was ready to go and be with the Lord at any time. Compared to many other patriarchs, Enoch was a young man at the age of 365. Adam lived to be 930, Seth died at the age of 912 and the son of Enoch, Methuselah, lived to the incredible age of 969 years. Enoch was ready to meet the Lord as a ‘youth’ in his day. It is tantalizing to consider how faithful Enoch must have been to bring God to point of extracting him from the wicked world he lived to the glory of eternity. What was the measure that moved the Lord to make such a bold decision? There are no answers but the faith of Enoch and his life so meshed with the will of God that the greatest blessing of life to evade death was granted to the son of Jared. He lived to be ready to meet God. Enoch purposed every part of his life that if he died at 145 or lived to be 1,000 years of age; his life was a pattern of righteousness that pleased the mind of God.

Enoch was not a lazy man. He was a man of courage who preached against the wicked hearts of men as the world grew dark in immorality, corrupt minds, and willful disobedience to God. His message of the coming of God’s angels to execute judgment on all who disobeyed the Lord and to convict the ungodly of their sin was heard by the angelic host and the Creator of the world. He was bold in his message and did not cower from the obvious persecution he would face. Enoch lived ready to see God with no regard for what men thought of him.

Not only did Enoch live ready to meet the Lord, but he also wanted to go and be with the Lord. It is easy to say a person can be ready to see the Lord but then find it difficult to leave the world. Enoch knew life would not last. Methuselah lived to be 969 years but the text says he died. All men die whether young or old. Enoch understood that one day he would die like all men and prepared himself for that day when he would breathe his last. This was interrupted by the plans of God and Enoch did not see death. God took him and he passed to glory without the pains of death. A little girl was trying to tell the story of Enoch and she said that God and Enoch were going for a walk one day and God said, “Enoch, would you like to come home with me today?” Enoch replied, “Yes, Lord.” And so he did. He wanted to be with the Lord. The reader would like to know how that event happened if it was like the chariot of fire and whirlwind or like Jesus who just ascended into heaven. Whatever the case when the day came, Enoch was willing to go and he did.

You and I must do two things: live to be ready to meet the Lord and to be willing to leave the world. The first part is necessary to enjoy salvation. Jesus often told His disciples of the need to watch and pray and always be ready for the coming of the Lord. Like a thief in the night, death will come upon all men and one day in the same manner the world will come to an end. If a man is not prepared to meet the Lord there will be no time to change. Most importantly, if God came to you today and said, “Would you like to go home with Me today?” – what would you say? Some might want more time to raise their children or enjoy their grandchildren. Many might want to finish their bucket list before leaving for eternity. There are a host of things people could say why they would like a little more time but when is a more important time than now to go and see God? Death is not to be feared. It is only the conduit to an eternal home prepared for the righteous. If the time has come for either death or the end of the world, can we not say, “Lord, come quickly”? We want to be with him and no matter how beautiful and marvelous this world is, there is nothing compared to what we will see in the eternal dwelling of God. Be ready. Be willing. Be an Enoch.

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Nothing Has Changed

sin evils

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Nothing Has Changed

When the world turns itself on its head and things seem to spiral out of control, voices are raised in alarm at the signs the end of times are nearing. The consciousness of morality degrades as society sinks into more wickedness with the acceptance of sin and immorality as the norm and people begin to fear the world is coming to its fiery end. There is coming a day when the Lord will return and the universe will be obliterated from existence and when that time comes is secured in the mind of God. No man knows when that day will be. Like a thief in the night, the end of the human race will cease in a sudden and instantaneous moment. No warning. No heeding impending doom. Not a sign in the world that God is coming.

Paul’s final letter to Timothy is a plea from the aged apostle to exhort the evangelist to hold fast to the truth of God. He will be facing great trials as the world will bring heavy persecution against the body of Christ. Paul also tells Timothy that in the last days it will be difficult times as the world becomes very wicked. He does not suggest this is a new problem. What Paul describes happening in the last days is something that has been going on since the first days. As society becomes more carnal in thinking and turns more and more to the wiles of the devil, some believe the world has become more wicked than before. In fact, what Paul describes has been around since the post-Eden days. The world has always been wicked since man was removed from the paradise of Eden. In the days of Noah, the world became so vile it was destroyed by God. Throughout the generations of the human struggle, there have been greater times of wickedness than others but the fact remains sin is common.

There are nineteen examples of the sinful nature of men. Heading the list is the most evident sin where men worship themselves and their possessions. Everything in life is about them as they live a shallow and meaningless life. Going for all the gusto, the hearts of men love only themselves and their money with no regard for God. All their life is spent in carnal pursuits and then they die. In life, they boast of their power, wisdom, riches, and arrogance. How often the voice of men cry out they fear no man and deny there is a God. But like all men, they die and their human achievements are lost in the dust of time. Pride exalts the heart of man and death awakens a soul now humbled in the presence of the Almighty. Men will blaspheme the name of God and then proclaim His glory in eternity.

Perilous times are filled with calamity. Families are destroyed by rebellious children who abuse their parents. There is no thankfulness in the heart for anything. Pursuing unholy lives without love, forgiveness, and slandering anyone who stands in their way, the proud man goes through life as a self-centered egotist who worships himself as his own god. They are brutal and cruel in their life. There is no good in them as they push their way through life demanding their rights and their privileges. The only person that matters is what they want and all the world must bow down to their wishes or suffer the consequences. If they have to betray their friends to rise to the top of the human heap they expend any who oppose them. Reckless and motivated by pride, the cargo of carnal desires fuels the spirit of men who love pleasure above all things. Some will act religious but in their hearts squirm in the blackness of despair with the unholy offspring of sin their guiding light. These things will come about in the last days because this is the way the plight of humanity has always been.

The days in which we live can be viewed as dark and troublesome. Changes take place in every generation that shock and dismay the passing generation but there is nothing new under the sun. What has been will be again and what is now has been before. Sin has not changed from the moment Satan whispered in the ear of Eve. However long the Lord allows the earth to stand, the mass of humanity will plunge into the deep crevasses of ungodliness with great vigor. What they fail to recognize is that death comes to all and that in death all come to realize there is a God in Heaven. And that has not changed since before the world was made.

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Receiving The Word

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

Receiving The Word Of God

The word of God has been around since God spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There has never been a time when humanity has been without the word of God. In the beginning, God spoke the world into existence. During the days of the patriarchal fathers, the Lord spoke directly to men. When the Hebrews became the nation of Israel, God spoke through Moses and the written word found in the Law of Moses. Jesus Christ came into the world as the living Word proclaiming the teachings of His Father. As the church began to grow in the first century, disciples wrote down the gospel of Christ with instructions, commands, admonitions, and letters to places and people forming the canon of divine truth. For two thousand years, the fully revealed word of God has been given to man to read and understand the mystery of God.

Ignorance has never been a problem for men. There has never been a time when God has not or does not reveal Himself fully to men. No man can stand before the Lord God and declare they did not know the will of God. All truth has been revealed. The problem is found in what men have done with the divine word revealed through the ages. Ignoring the word of God does not diminish or destroy the word. Adam and Eve heard and understood the command of God but chose to disobey God’s word. The early world of Noah knew the word of God but perished in the flood because they chose to live carnal lives apart from the word. Israel was given the written law clearly defining the will of the Father. Their history is a wasteland of broken promises, rebellion, and rejection of the law. Jesus came into the world as the Word and they killed Him. The early church would suffer great persecution because of the Word. Religion is divided into many denominational camps today from the teachings of human wisdom are more important than the word of God.

Paul’s first letter to the church of the Thessalonians commends the saints for their keen insight into the word of God. Luke had written in his history of the early church the people of Berea were more noble than those of Thessalonica. Paul had visited the city on his second missionary journey. Later, from Corinth, Paul wrote his first letter to commend the saints at Thessalonica for their acceptance of the preaching of Christ. A change had taken place. They accepted the preaching of the gospel not as mere human ideas but as the very word of God. When the gospel of Christ was preached in the city, the saints received the word as the divine will of the Father. Their faith and love for truth were evident to all.

If the faith of the saints at Thessalonica were replicated today there would be less division in the church. The religious world would find a common ground of truth in the word of God without their creed books and doctrines of men. Within the body of Christ, unity can only be found when the people of God unite under the same message of truth. The Bible is the revealed word of God with all truth delivered to the saints. Changing its message does not produce truth. Denying the word will not diminish the truth of Jesus Christ. The spirit of the Thessalonians is to receive the word of God not as the word of men but as it is in truth, the word of God. Rejecting the Bible is to reject God. Let the Bible speak where the word of God declares the message of the Father. Do not add to His book and do not take away from His book. Receive the word of God as it is: the word of God.

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Does Faith Require Fear?

You believe that there is one God

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

Does Belief Require Fear?

Faith comes in many forms. The salvation of man is founded upon the measure of belief he has in the word of God. Faith alone can never save a man because there must be a manifestation of faith coupled with fear as man responds to the will of God. This is clearly seen in the story of Noah and the destruction of all humanity by the flood. God’s grace made known to the son of Lamech the impending doom of the world and what must be done to be saved. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord and believed the word of the Lord to be true. The grace of God alone did not save Noah as he was told to build an ark for the saving of his household. Moving with godly fear, Noah did exactly what God told him in the manner outlined by the grace of the Lord. His belief was expressed through his fear of the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience. Noah and his family were saved from the flood by the grace of God, their faith in the word of God and understanding the terror or fear of the Lord.

The epistle of James is a book of practical Christian living. James makes a strong argument that a child of God that does not show their faith by their works is judged by the whole law and condemned. Faith alone cannot save and must be justified by works. Arguing for the effectual working of faith to be manifest by works, the writer uses an unusual illustration to drive his point to the heart of the matter. As in all generations, the danger of speculative faith is a common malady that on the one hand gives a veneer of false security through faith but has no effect on the heart. If a man says he believes in God he has done nothing more than what the demons of the abyss have done. Evil spirits do not deny Christ because they know of a certainty He is the Son of God. Throughout the ministry of the Son of God, the demons acknowledged Jesus as the Son of the Most High God. What makes the demons more credible than men is they believe in God and tremble; most men believe in God and never shutter.

Finding obedient faith is having a belief that will lead to a change in life and bring about a holy life. Religion can easily be viewed through the lens of complacency by acknowledging that God is real but making no effort to mold their life into His image. Demons believe and tremble. Every man on the face of the earth must believe and tremble at the word of God or what good has the word? Failing to fear God comes from the mistaken idea that man and God are equal. The pride of the human heart accepts a false notion of equality leading to the exaltation of the word of man over the word of God. That is why there are so many churches in the world today. Men claim they believe in God but do not tremble.

Faith leading to fear is not a hypothetical belief but a vivacious and productive belief. It changes the heart. Fearful belief is a vibrant and exciting faith seeking to mold the character of a man’s heart into the image of Jesus Christ. There is a deep respect for the holiness of God and the imperative nature of His word. On the one hand, the knowledge of judgment permeates the soul as a fearful expectation but the love of God overshadows the heart with the grace of God. Fearing God is respecting who He is. The demons believe but are unwilling to honor God. If a man believes that God is and will not submit to His rule, he dishonors God. Fear without works is dead and faith without trembling is dead.

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The Epistle Of My Brethren

brethren

James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (James 1:1-3)

The Epistle Of My Brethren

There are few books in the sacred writings that are as practical and applicable to daily living as the small epistle of James. Spanning a little over 2,300 words, the half-brother of Jesus (as suggested by many commentators) exhorts the disciples to mold their lives in the fashion of Christian conduct. James is the epistle of brethren as he uses the term frequently in his epistle. Fifteen times in the text, James exhorts the “brethren” to be examples of trust and faith as they faced trials, prejudice, neglect, abuse, and the ever-present danger of the devil in all forms of temptations. Eight times he calls them “my brethren” and three times “my beloved brethren.” Each writing exhorts to a different admonition.

At the beginning of his letter, James pleads with his brethren to face their trials as an opportunity for joy. The early Christians suffered from persecution and it would take courage and faith to endure the hardships of the testing of their faith. Through prayer and the wisdom of God, the heart would be able to endure the trials and temptations placed upon them. James reminds the saints not to blame God. He calls them his beloved brethren to remind them that all good and perfect gifts come from the hand of the Father. A second time he implores his beloved brethren to be careful of their speech. It is a time to remain resolute in doing the will of God without question. James warns against allowing the wrath of man to destroy the blessings of God.

In the second series of admonitions, James encourages the brethren to hold fast their faith in Jesus Christ without showing partiality to others. The danger of pride can lead the people of God to think of themselves more highly than they should when they honor the man wearing fine clothing and gold rings. At the same time as they honor the powerful and rich, they dishonor the poor man as rejected and despised. A third plea for his beloved brethren to consider how God views all men and the Lord has chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith. Showing partiality is sinful because God does not do not with His creation. Within the body of Christ, all men are the same. This will be evident by the works of those who show their faith through their works in caring for others. If a man is naked and destitute, the love of God will extend a hand to help and supply what is needed. There is great hypocrisy in saying you love God and yet deny a brother the necessities of life. Faith without works is dead. For a third time, James addresses the saints as “my brethren” to ask if someone says he has faith but does not have works can that person be justified? Abraham and Rahab are used to illustrate the need for faith to be justified through works as brethren take care of one another. Like a lifeless body that has no spirit, faith lacking works cannot save.

The fourth exhortation by James to his brethren is to be careful with the unruly tongue as a little member that boasts great things. Many of the sins afflicting the heart of men fall under the heading of the tongue and without taming the tongue will destroy the soul. Like a bridle in a horse’s mouth or the rudder of a great ship, the small tongue is a powerful instrument of either good or evil. Again, James calls the saints “my brethren” when he admonishes them against speaking blessings and cursing from the same mouth. Emphatically, James says these things should not be for brethren of Christ. Immediately he emphasizes the need of his brethren to recognize that what proceeds from the mouth comes from the heart. This can only be earthly, sensual, and demonic wisdom. When the wisdom from above possesses the heart the tongue will only speak blessings. Wars and fighting come from unruly hearts. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

James reminds the disciples to not speak evil of one another, to be patient, and not to grumble against one another because they were brethren. In his final message, James implores the disciples as “my brethren” to be reminded of the prophets who left an example of suffering and patience and to let their speech be without swearing but in honesty and truth. His final sentence as he closes his message is asking the brethren if someone wanders away from the truth to seek every opportunity to bring them back. When they do so (as brethren showing faith and works) they can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from an eternal judgment of God and to bless them with the hope of salvation. Brethren must look out after brethren because all are brethren who are in Christ. James wants all the disciples of Christ to care for one another as brethren. Your fellow Christian is your brother and your sister. Be a family.

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We Are Unworthy Servants

unprofitable servant

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” (Luke 17:5-10)

We Are Unworthy Servants

Finding the courage to forgive another takes a lot of faith and can seem an impossible task at times. The early disciples faced this when Jesus taught them to forgive someone even if he sins against them seven times in a day. They asked Jesus for greater faith and the Lord told them a story about a slave who served his master after a long and grueling day of service before preparing his own meal. Servants were common in the Biblical days and the disciples could easily see the lesson. A man works in the fields plowing or tending the sheep and when the work is done enjoys the respite of the end of the day. When the servant comes to the house, the master requires him to fix his supper and serve the master before preparing a meal for himself. This was the common practice of master and slave. Jesus asks the disciples if the master thanks his servant for the work he has done. It was not likely the servant would receive any remuneration for what he was required to do. The conclusion Jesus teaches the disciples is while it may be hard to forgive others for the harm done to them, the Father grants mercy to all men who have never deserved His mercy.

Man must serve God. There is nothing more fundamental to the existence of all humanity than to see their place in the scheme of all things. No man is more important than another and no man matters more to God than another. The reason is that all men are unprofitable slaves who are indebted to the grace of God. Jesus did not die for worthy men. God loved the world so much He gave His only begotten Son to die for those who His enemies, who were ungodly and those who had no strength. What right has a man to demand anything from God when the Creator is the Master of all men and holds their breath in His hand? When an individual does all he can do to please God he remains an unworthy slave who has simply done his duty.

Pride calls for the heart of men to demand freedom from servitude to the Lord. The world revolts against the law of God demanding their rights to live the way they choose. From the story of Jesus, it seems the slave comes in from the field and tells the master to fix his own meal and to make himself an equal. Man can never be equal to God. The teaching of Jesus is to show how unworthy, unprofitable, undeserving, and unfit every man is who stands before God. This does not diminish the character of man but exalts him if he submits to the rule of the Lord. God so loved the world (every man without exception) that God gave (His grace) His only begotten Son (His gift) to die for every man and woman that walks on the face of the earth. Jesus died for the rich and the poor because they were all slaves to sin. All nations are welcomed to the throne of God for grace if they would accept His will. It does not matter what color skin a person is, whether he is educated or not and it matters not if he lives three centuries ago or in the modern world; Jesus loved and died for all men because all men matter.

Every person needs Jesus Christ because all men are unprofitable servants. There is no grace greater or love higher than what God did in allowing His creation to kill His Son. In the body of Christ, all distinctions are removed as the blood of Christ cleanses the hearts bowed in submission. When the final judgment comes the souls of men will be presented uncolored before the Eternal Judge for either His love or His wrath. The unprofitable servants who have devoted their lives to serving Jesus Christ will be blessed. Those who have refused to submit to the servant-hood of Jesus Christ will face eternal darkness and suffering. At the end of the day, every man is unworthy. You chose whether you want to be a bond-servant of Christ.

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Why The Man Of God Was Killed

11013024 FST - 1 Kings 13 24 - A lion kills the prophet from Judah

And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’” And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: Surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out.”

So it came to pass when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, who cried out against the altar in Bethel, that he stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Arrest him!” Then his hand, which he stretched out toward him, withered, so that he could not pull it back to himself. The altar also was split apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.

Then the king answered and said to the man of God, “Please entreat the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” So the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored to him and became as before. Then the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.” But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place. For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came.’” So he went another way and did not return by the way he came to Bethel.

Now an old prophet dwelt in Bethel, and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; they also told their father the words which he had spoken to the king. And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” For his sons had seen which way the man of God went who came from Judah. Then he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him; and he rode on it, and went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak. Then he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” And he said, “I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place. For I have been told by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.’ ” He said to him, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (He was lying to him.) So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.

Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried out to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’”

So it was after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, the prophet whom he had brought back. When he was gone, a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his corpse was thrown on the road, and the donkey stood by it. The lion also stood by the corpse. And there, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown on the road, and the lion standing by the corpse. Then they went and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt. Now when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard it, he said, “It is the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the Lord. Therefore the Lord has delivered him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to him.” (1 Kings 13:1-26)

Why The Man Of God Was Killed

The commandments of the Lord are not burdensome. No command given to man is impossible to obey and God has never asked of any man more than he can do. Adam and Eve were told not to eat of the forbidden fruit but they disobeyed the word of God. The world of Noah rejected the counsel of the Lord and died in the flood as a consequence of their rebellion. When Moses instructed the Hebrews on the law of God, he declared that disobedience would be met with the severe penalty of God’s wrath. The history of Israel is a testimony to the rebellious heart of humanity and God’s punishment on those who trifle with His word.

During the divided kingdom when Jeroboam ruled over the northern tribes, a man of God visited the king to warn him of his rebellion to the will of the Lord. Jeroboam had set up golden calves in Bethel and Dan for the people to worship. On a day when Jeroboam was in Bethel burning incense before the golden calf, an unknown man of God approached the king warning him of the doom of those who follow idolatrous worship. Jeroboam tried to have the man arrested by was cursed with a shrunken hand. Pleading for mercy, the man of God entreated the Lord and the king’s hand was restored. Jeroboam asked the man of God to join him at the palace for something to eat and the king would give him a gift. The man of God replied that he had been forbidden to eat or drink anything in the place and was to return to Judah differently.

An old prophet heard of the man of God and went looking for him. He too invited the man of God to join him for a meal and to refresh himself at his home. The man of God said again the word of God prohibited him to do so. But the prophet told the man of God that since he was a prophet also that he could trust his word. The old prophet went on to tell the man of God an angel had told him it would be permissible by God for the man of God to enjoy a feast at the prophet’s home and rest up. He was lying to the man of God but the man of God believed him. Returning to the old prophet’s home, the man of God ate bread in his house and drank water.

For his disobedience to the word of the Lord, the man of God would be killed. After leaving the old prophet’s house a lion found the man of God and killed him. Remarkably, the lion did not devour the man but stood by the corpse along with the donkey. Hearing of the death of the man of God, the old prophet took the torn and mangled body of the man of God and placed him in his personal tomb for burial.

The story of the man of God is a purposeful examination of the meaning of obedience and the consequence of disobedience. This is highlighted by the story of the man of God because God is not a respecter of persons. Men of God must obey the word of the Lord as much as anyone. The man of God had a clear mandate to follow and in regards to his work of warning Jeroboam, he excelled. Why the man of God failed became apparent when he allowed another prophet to dissuade him with something he fully knew conflicted with the word of God. Just because the old prophet said an angel had told him the word of the Lord had changed did not change the word of the Lord. The man of God was not permitted to eat bread or drink water in that place and was commanded to return to Judah by another route. This is not hard to understand or difficult to follow. What God said was clear, plain and easily understood. He disobeyed the word of God and it cost him his life.

Blame can be placed on the old prophet but to what degree? He did not force the man of God to return with him but challenged his understanding of what the Lord had said. The man of God should have told the old prophet that even if an angel from heaven gave any other word than what he had been instructed, he should be accursed. There was one truth and the man of God failed to honor that truth. The men were alike in their duties as prophets but this did not allow one prophet to change the word of God.

There is religious division today with many different churches because so many people have been lied to by those who call themselves followers of Christ and are not. Televangelists, pastors, and religious leaders are leading the multitudes to an eternal slaughter because they, like the old prophet, are weaving webs of lies. There is one truth and that is found in the word of God. The man of God should have remained steadfast to the only truth he knew and he would have lived. God has revealed His will to all men who can read and understand what they must do to be saved. The siren call of apostasy rings loud in the world appealing the senses of the unsuspecting and unaware. Are you listening to another man or are you listening to the voice of God?

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Three Things Every Man Must Do

three things Paul Agrippa

Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. (Acts 26:19-20)

Three Things Every Man Must Do

The apostle Paul preached throughout the Roman Empire to kings, queens, dignitaries, governors, religious leaders, and more often the common man. His message was the power of the cross of Jesus Christ persuading souls of the grace of God. Sent by the will of God to the Gentiles, Paul never hesitated in declaring the unvarnished gospel of salvation. His message was radical to the thinking of his peers because it demanded personal accounting and a willingness to give up the pride of the heart in submission to one God. Further, the gospel did not save a man alone but required continued obedience in showing the manifestation of faith in works showing the good things of righteousness in the heart. Paul’s three-point lesson to King Agrippa illustrates the simple message of salvation that saves men then and will bring a soul to Christ today.

All men need to repent. The first word of the gospel is repent. John the Baptist paved the way for Jesus when he taught the people to repent. Jesus began His ministry with the same message. On the day of Pentecost, Peter’s first message was to repent. The early disciples went through the world preaching repentance. Without repentance, no one can come to God. The challenge of repentance is it will require a man to empty himself and many are unwilling to give up the rule of self-determination and accept the will of God. They say they have turned to God but without a penitent heart emptied of self-will. Conversion for the prideful heart is to declare allegiance to the Lord without having to accept the terms of God’s authority. Repentance demands an emptying of all of self. It realizes the need for salvation because of sin. There is nothing man can do to save himself apart from the grace of God. Repentance is the first sign of man’s submission to the will of the Father.

Every man needs to turn to God. Repentance pricks the heart with the sorrow of sin crying out for salvation but salvation is not granted yet. There can be repentance but without the act of turning to the Lord, hope is lost. No man can be saved by repentance alone. When Peter told the Jews at Pentecost to repent they had to turn to God to be saved. They heard the message of the apostles what they had to do to be saved and then turned to God in obedience. Jesus said in the mountain sermon that many will call upon the Lord but unless they do the will of the Father they will not be saved. Turning to God is the action of a contrite heart doing what the Lord requires a man to do to be saved. Salvation is not just a good feeling. Many believed in Jesus but refused to join Him. Refusing to turn to God will bring the wrath of God. Paul’s message of the gospel was for all men to repent and to turn to the Lord. And there is more.

The grace of God requires a follower of Christ to do works befitting repentance. A man must repent and then turn to God but this is not a once saved always saved type of religion where there is nothing more required of a man. Turning to God is the act of obedience to the will of the Lord and then works befitting the act of repentance. A man must prove they have changed by the good things they do. This is the message of Paul to King Agrippa who was an expert on the customs and questions of those things pertaining to the Jews. The king was not unaware of religious requirements as taught in the Law. Paul emphasized the same principles in the message of Christ that every man must repent and turn to God and do works that show their faith in the Lord. Without these works, there can be no salvation.

Paul’s words continue to resonate for lost souls today who must first change their lives through repentance and turn to God. There is no hope apart from the grace of God. All men stand to face the wrath of God if they do not repent. Turning to the Lord requires a life of devotion and worship to the will of the Lord. A man cannot be saved by grace alone nor is he justified by works alone. The character of obedience is three-fold with repentance, turning, and doing. There is no reason a man should be lost when the mercy of God is revealed in His word. Hearts turned to the message of the gospel will find God’s love in sending His only begotten Son and the blood that will cleanse them of their sins. What have you done? Listen to Paul. Repent, turn to God and prove yourself worthy of the name of Christ in works worthy of repentance.

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Three Pillars Of Righteousness

righteousness path of

Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel, for the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land.” (Hosea 4:1)

Three Pillars Of Righteousness

There are three basic foundations of righteousness that when present will exalt a people and destroy a nation if absent. Truth, mercy, and knowledge are the building blocks of God’s grace upon the world. From the beginning of time, these principles have remained the same. Noah’s world was destroyed in the flood because there was no truth, no mercy and God had been abandoned by men. Israel was destroyed for the lack of righteousness that made them a great nation. Their history was replete with the warnings of the Lord against denying the truth of His word, showing mercy and kindness to others, and filling their hearts with the word of God. When the people turned away from the Lord they denied His truth as law becoming a law to themselves. As a result, they did not show love for one another through acts of mercy but rather they sold one another for silver and poor people for a pair of sandals. They crushed the helpless in the dust and pushed the oppressed out of the way. To make matters worse, both father and son sleep with the same woman. Without the knowledge of God, there was no restraint. Righteousness had been abandoned for the carnal pleasures of the flesh. There was no truth or mercy or the knowledge of God in the land.

When the world at large rejects the truth of God’s word it becomes a place of darkness in the putridity of man’s abuse of others in impurity, lustful pleasures, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, envy, drunkenness, and the wanton pleasures of self. Without truth, there is no law. In the absence of law, there is no restraint. Society breaks down to lying, killing, stealing, sexual immorality of adultery, homosexuality, and perverted sexual abuse. There is no restraint. Knowledge is rejected. Unrighteousness is the mantra of the day. Humanity implodes on itself is self-destruction. The wisdom of man is seen for the failed system of self-gratification that it is. Only when truth is restored, mercy is given and the knowledge of God retained will peace come to the world.

Jesus came as the truth of God to show mercy in dying for all men so that lost souls can come to the knowledge of salvation. The three pillars of righteousness are found in Jesus Christ. He is truth. Everything He said is the faithfulness of the will of God. No man has lived in perfection but Christ became flesh and was sinless. His truth is pure because there is no falsehood in Him. Truth is measured by the word of God and Jesus is the Word. Righteousness is Jesus Christ. His word is truth. The example of Jesus shows the incredible gift of God to willingly offer His Son as a sacrifice for the sins of all men. Mercy is discovered at the cross of the One who is Truth. Jesus offered to humanity the kindness of God to leave His place with the Father and endure the sufferings of the flesh so that righteousness could be exalted before the heart of men. The cross is righteousness.

Without knowledge, man is destroyed. The Word became flesh and expressed the love of God’s mercy. Jesus came to open the portals of eternal life through the knowledge of God’s grace. Through the knowledge of God, no man should be lost but Jesus said that most men will not find eternal life. Sadly, the knowledge of salvation is given to men but they reject this knowledge for their carnal wisdom. Righteousness is establishing what is right in the eyes of the Lord and this knowledge can only come from the One who formed man in His image. What is right is what God says is right. When the Lord declares a thing to be evil it is because it stands against His will. Righteousness is the word of God.

The three pillars of righteousness are truth, mercy, and knowledge. When these characters are absent in a person’s life they will never find joy, happiness, or fulfillment. All of the tragedies of humanity come from the absence of truth, mercy, and knowledge. For the child of God, filling their hearts with the truth of God’s word, showing kindness to others, and growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ will transform their lives to a full and complete life. The greatest joy of living righteous lives will be found when the Father says, “Enter in.” Without truth, mercy, and knowledge men are destroyed. Their doom will be eternal. Build your house on the rock. Everything else is sand.

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Two Views

two views

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:14-15)

Two Views

Jesus often found Himself at odds with the Jewish leaders of His day because of His teachings, miracles, and condemnation of their religious hypocrisy. One of the remarkable causes of disdain from the Pharisees and scribes came from the willingness of Jesus to accept the common man and to eat with them. The offscourings of the world were the tax collectors (also called “publicans”) and the morally destitute sinners. Jesus was willing to spend time with them and show them the love of God in teaching how to rise above their sins. He told the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin to show the Pharisees and scribes that everyone is important to the Father. In the parable of the prodigal son, it was the elder son that stood aloof against the humility of the repentant son. The failure of human wisdom is to forget when men try to justify themselves in their own sight they are trying to make themselves greater than God. Jesus dined with the publicans and sinners to show them the way of God. The religious leaders despised those who were not like them esteeming themselves righteous by their own standard.

The common failure in religion is the importance of looking pious to the world while having a heart that is filled with pride and arrogance. What the world gives as honor and praise means nothing to God. Accolades of men are hollow when they do not measure up the standard of the Lord. The root of the problem is when men fail to understand the two views of life are found in what man sees and what God sees. One is fantasy and the other is reality. The view of man is skewed by his own self-importance. God looks directly on the heart and all that man is can be seen from the eyes of God. The infinite power of God knows all that a man thinks, what he says, where he goes and nothing is hidden from His sight. God knows the heart. When man was created the Lord did not allow him to have the ability to see in the soul of another man but as Creator God holds the keys to the mind, soul, and heart of every person. Jesus is reminding His disciples that man has his view and God has his view.

The second part of Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees who scoffed at Him was to know that it did not matter what man said was good and what man said was evil. The eternal challenge of humanity has been to try and change the will of God. Sin is defined as a transgression of the law. Man thinks he can change the law to redefine what sin is. The prophet Isaiah warned the people of calling good things evil and evil things good; or putting darkness for light and light for darkness; trying to change bitter to sweet and sweet to bitter. Israel of old justified themselves by declaring idol worship as the gods who delivered them but that did not change the reality of the word of God that said idolatry was an abomination. When Aaron created the golden calf at Mt. Sinai he told the people it was the god that delivered them from Egypt. What he said did not change the truth of God and the Lord punished the people because of their rebellion. Man’s view conflicted with the truth of God and nothing man could do would change the will of the Lord.

Every generation attempts to rewrite the word of God to fit their code of immorality. There are many churches today that appear as followers of Jesus Christ when in reality they have recreated the law of God to fit their own religious needs without any Bible authority. Their view is very different than what can be read in the word of God. There is an abundance of accepting sexual immorality like fornication, adultery, and homosexuality among religious groups but Jesus says that what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. It is an utter failure for human wisdom to try and establish its code of morals apart from the word of God. Being religious does not change the word. The final reality is that when a man dies he learns the view of man has no bearing upon his eternal state. There will be no arguments at the throne of God, no debates, no appeals, and no attempts to justify self. Everything will be laid bare at the judgment bar of God because what man esteems is a stench in the nostrils of a holy God. The only view that will matter is the one that comes from the mind of God.

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The Eleventh Hour Saints

The Eleventh Hour

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour, he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.”

So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, “Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.” And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.” But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen. (Matthew 20:1-16)

The Eleventh Hour Saints

The parables of Jesus taught the disciples eternal lessons that would continue to dominate the teaching of the church for generations to come. Taking stories from everyday life, Jesus helped His followers to understand the will of the Father, and these same stories are used today in preaching the gospel of Christ. After some hard discussions with the Pharisees about marriage and divorce, Jesus took His disciples aside and explained further the word of God. A rich man sought eternal life but was unwilling to pay the price required. This astonished the disciples as they watched the young ruler walk away but Jesus reaffirms the love of God by telling the parable of the workers in the vineyard. This was a common scene throughout the Bible lands where workers would gather in a place waiting for someone to hire them. Throughout the day, the landowner would hire men to work for him. The object of the lesson came at the conclusion.

As the story unfolds, Jesus describes what happens when the day’s work is done and the landowner tells his steward to pay the laborers. He instructs his steward to pay the workers who were hired last before paying those who were hired first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a denarius as agreed upon when they were hired. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more than a denarius. To their surprise, they received the same amount as those hired near the evening.  When they saw what they received was the same as those hired in the evening, they protested to the landowner. It seemed unfair that while the first group had worked all day in the heat they should be paid more than those who came so late in the day. The landowner replied that it was according to his will how the servants would be paid and what he was doing was a good thing.

There are many lessons to take from this parable but one that stands out is the joy of knowing the power of salvation is not measured by the length of time a person serves the Lord. The illusion to the workers in the kingdom can be viewed as those who obey the gospel at different times of life. One man may become a Christian when he is twenty years of age and serve the Lord for fifty years. However, another man may not learn of the gospel until he is in his eighties. The first man served the Lord for fifty years and dies and the other man becomes a Christian in his eighties and dies soon after. God is not a respecter of persons to deny the latter man the same joys of eternal life as the first man. This point is driven home in an amazing story of a woman named Sharon.

There was a family of three sisters with the youngest of the siblings named Andrea. Sharon was the middle sister and was battling Stage-4 cancer for some time. Andrea was a faithful child of God and wanted very much to visit her sister who lived nearly two thousand miles away. Because of COVID-19, Andrea was unable to see her sister. Tragically, Andrea got sick and passed away suddenly. Andrea and her sisters talked often about God when they would call one another as they often did. After the death of Andrea, her husband and daughter traveled to see Sharon. That Sunday morning, Sharon was baptized into Christ for the remission of her sins. The rejoicing was overwhelming and hearts were lifted to the throne of God in joy. It was not an easy task for Sharon to be baptized. She was in the hospital battling Stage-4 cancer. They took her to the burn unit where they had large metal tubs. They filled one and used a Hoyer lift to pick her up and lower her into the tub.  Only her head was above water so it was easy to completely immerse her after her confession.  She had done pretty well all day, but after the baptism and upon returning to her room, she took an almost immediate turn for the worse.  No reason to continue to fight.  She was ready to meet her Lord.  Her last words before being placed in the tub were, “I don’t know why I waited so long.” Sharon died Monday morning called to be a saint of the Most High God. Joy found its way in the heart of sorrow.

The lesson of the parable and the story of Sharon is not to wait until the eleventh hour because many a man who thinks he can wait until the midnight hour to obey will die at 11:30. But there is joy in knowing that even someone who obeys the will of the Lord at 11:55 can enjoy the blessings of heaven as those who became a child of God early in life. What are you waiting for? No one knows when death will come. Today is the day of salvation. Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call. Be saved from this perverse generation – today! (Sharon’s story used by permission of the family. My thanks to Dave Shamblin for helping with the story).

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Building Walls That Are Torn Down

Nehemiah

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it happened when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God. (Nehemiah 6:15-16)

Building Walls That Are Torn Down

Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was a herculean feat that was accomplished in fifty-two days. After the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC, the city lay in ruin for 142 years. A cupbearer for Artaxerxes, king of Persia, became the man to lead the people to rebuild the city walls and burned gates of the city of David. Nehemiah cared deeply for a city he had never seen but worshiped as the place where God dwelt. In the year 516 BC, the Temple had been rebuilt but the city still remained in shambles. Facing an insurmountable task and persecution from his own brethren, Nehemiah rallied the people to work on the repairs of the gates, towers, and walls. The fear of retribution was so great the builders had swords on their sides as they worked with watchmen keeping guard over the project. In the face of all the fear and opposition, the walls were completed in fifty-two days.

The efforts to rebuild the walls were not accomplished through the miraculous power of God. When Israel entered Canaan and came up against the city of Jericho, the city was taken through the intervention of the hand of God that at the sound of the trumpet the walls of the city fell flat. Nehemiah guided the hearts of the people to rebuild the walls through the determination of their will to show the world the glory of God. It was hard and difficult work that seemed at times impossible. Many tried to discourage the hearts of the workers. Nehemiah was targeted with threats to his life. Still, the workers labored in their sections rebuilding the walls. Some of the people refused to work. Others stepped in where others failed. The unity of the people was an incredible infusion of devotion to a cause, to a purpose, and a common goal. What became of the spirit of the people was a unity to accomplish what the enemies of God were unmanageable. Fifty-two days after they began, the people stood and gazed at the restored walls of Jerusalem.

The world took notice of what was happening in Jerusalem. When the enemies of the Jews and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of God. The hard work of the people had shown the world what kindred spirits can accomplish when united together as one. It was hard labor. The days were long and the work labor-intensive with massive stones being moved and timbers restored. Hanging the gates of the city was not easy but the people persevered. The purpose of restoring the city walls was for protection but the greater lesson was what people united under the banner of God’s will can accomplish. For many years the walls had remained crumbled and strewn about in piles of rock but when one man stood in the gap declaring the work of God as good, the people united and did the impossible. Hearts united with hands working diligently for a common cause produces incredible rewards. There was a feeling of exhilaration when the workers stood before the restored walls of Jerusalem. They could see the glory of God in their work and the world also took notice.

Nehemiah was only a cup-bearer but he found a purpose in his life to be remembered as the one who helped rebuild the walls of the city of David. His story is one of courage, faith, determination, and a will to show the glory of God to the world. When he died he may not have considered his life accomplishment as anything more than rebuilding the walls of a torn down city but the example of a simple man continues to move the people of God. He accomplished an incredible work because he believed in God. The world saw what the people did and took notice. Rebuilding the walls in fifty-two days disheartened the spirit of the enemies of God. They could see what the people of God could accomplish when united.

There is no greater task in the world today than the church to rise up and build the walls of the gospel to a lost and dying world. Fear, hatred, prejudice, and discontentment reigns in the hearts of men and the message of Jesus Christ will be the only answer that will solve the malcontents of a troubled nation. While things are being torn down the spirit of God’s people must rebuild with the grace of God. Light always dispels darkness and the light of God must shine in a dark world. If there is any hope for our country it will begin with Jesus Christ. He is the light and in Him is the peace that passes all understanding. His peace will change hearts. Let him live in your heart first and then share that message with your neighbor without regard to who they are. God loves the world. All of it. Jesus died for everyone because everyone matters. Roll up your sleeves and unite in rebuilding the walls of a tattered world with the faith and courage of Nehemiah. Let the world see what God’s people can do. Are you ready?

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Joining The Disciples

body of Christ 2

And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. (Acts 9:26-28)

Joining The Disciples

The New Testament church began on the Day of Pentecost as the Lord added the saved to the body of Christ in Jerusalem. In time, disciples began to establish congregations in the surrounding areas of Judea, Galilee, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. Luke describes the work of Paul, Barnabas, and Silas taking journeys to Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece to establish churches and ordaining elders in every church. Local congregations sprang up in Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica, Rome, and Philippi and throughout the region of Galatia. The church in Antioch of Syria was a vibrant, active, and missionary congregation where Paul spent much of his time before taking his three preaching trips. It was an event at the beginning of Paul’s work as a preacher that is fundamental to the nature of the church.

Following his conversion in the city of Damascus, Saul of Tarsus immediately began preaching Christ in the synagogues confounding the Jews, proving that Jesus was the Christ the Son of God. A plot to kill Saul was discovered and with the help of the disciples in Damascus, Saul escaped and came to Jerusalem. Arriving back at the city, Saul tried to join himself with the church in Jerusalem but was received with great fear. The saints in the church at Jerusalem did not believe the former persecutor was a follower of Christ. Barnabas took Saul and brought him to the apostles declaring the wonderful story of Saul’s obedience to the gospel and that he had boldly preached in Damascus in the name of Jesus. Saul was received as one of the saints in the church of Jerusalem where he stayed for some time.

Luke says that Paul tried to join himself to the disciples. What Paul recognized and would later discuss with the elders from Ephesus is the need and the importance of being a part of a local congregation in the work of the kingdom. The Greek word used by Luke describes a gluing together, cleaving, joining, or keeping company with showing Paul desired to be part of the group in an active manner. Paul wanted to be recognized as part of the church in Jerusalem. He understood as did all the New Testament converts the work of the church including being a part of or have a membership with a local congregation of God’s people. Paul could have come to Jerusalem and become a ‘Christian-at-large’ but that was not his understanding of the will of God. After his trips to Galatia, Macedonia, and Greece, Paul returned to Antioch and reported all the things God had done. The apostle was part of the church in Antioch under the eldership of the church.

When Paul called for the elders of Ephesus to meet him in Miletus, the apostle warned the shepherds of the duties given to them by the Holy Spirit. He tells them to guard themselves and care for God’s people like a shepherd does his flock. They were to feed and shepherd the flock that was among them indicating a fellowship of members who were overseen by their leadership by the authority of the Holy Spirit. Church membership was a vital part of the New Testament pattern of church authority. Paul admonished the church in Corinth concerning their actions when they assembled together showing the pattern of discipleship as a collective effort. Every Christian should strive to find a congregation to join with and cleave in the effort of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in that community. At-large-membership is not authorized in the New Testament and defeats the work of the shepherds of the flock and the ministry of Jesus Christ.

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The Amazing Word

in-the-beginning-god

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

The Amazing Word

When Moses began penning the history of humanity the Spirit directed him to begin with the only place that man can begin: the word. God reveals Himself through natural revelation as the heavens declare His glory and the earth is a manifestation of His power but without the written word the character of the Creator remains unknown. From the beginning of creation, God spoke to man words whereby he would know what to do to be pleasing to the Lord. Through various ways over eons of time, God spoke to the fathers directly or through prophets so that all men would come to a knowledge of the truth. The imperative of the divine was to speak words to His creation and without a word He never failed to place a man in a position of accountability to obedience. Without the revealed word, God could be held to blame for the failure of men. There has never been a time in the history of humanity where men have been ignorant of the word of God. The creation often rejects the word of God but they must acknowledge the presence of the word.

What is amazing about the word of God can be seen in how the world was formed by the word of God. On the first day of creation, God said (spoke) for light to appear and it did. Throughout the process of creation, the word was spoken and creation was formed. Gazing into the limitless sky of stars that fill the night a man must acknowledge that everything is in its place because God spoke and it was ordained. The apostle Peter will declare that all the world is held in place by the same word that created it. In the beginning, God spoke and the earth and universe came into being and the sun rises and sets with the seasons filling each year and all of this is held together by the word of God. The breath of life that fills the body of a mortal man exists because the word of God declares it to be. Man’s habitation or boundary is established by the word of God and cannot be changed. Nations rise and fall by the declaration of the word of God. There is nothing that man can do to escape the word of God.

Creation was ordained by the word of God and the world that now stands is determined by the word of God held until the day the word of God speaks and the universe is destroyed. When the final day of man’s existence comes and the Son of God returns with His holy angels in flaming fire it will be because the word of God has spoken. This word will be an instantaneous moment of destruction and salvation. Most men will hear the word of the Lord to depart into outer darkness and the blessed with hearing the words of salvation when the Father says, “Enter in.” What separates men from the curse of eternal perdition and the joy of eternal life will be words. All men will be judged by the word of God and no one will escape the word of the Lord. His judgment is based on divine the truth that is fully revealed to all men in every generation. The word of God created the world, sustained the world, and destroyed the world. This same word opened the doors of salvation for all men, gave the creation of God the knowledge to save themselves from His wrath, and will either condemn or save the soul in eternity.

Two thousand years ago a baby was born in the city of Bethlehem to a virgin named Mary. This little child would grow to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus is the Word, He was with God as the Word and as the Word He is God. The love of the Father sent His Son to die for humanity so the fullness of the Word could be revealed to the sinful nature of men. Jesus created the world, He gave His life for the world and at the word of His Father will return to take the saints home with Him. He is the embodiment of the Word because salvation comes through Jesus Christ as the eternal word. Life comes from the divine Word and eternal light is created by the sacrifice of Jesus through the word of grace and the word of mercy. While Jesus was dying He spoke seven sayings to show the great love of the Father to all men. Shortly thereafter the word of God was contained within the pages of the holy writ as men called the book, “The Bible.” Reading the words of the Bible creation is revealed, salvation declared and Heaven opened through the amazing revelation of the Word.

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Keeping The Name Of God Holy

name of God

So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Luke 11:2)

Keeping The Name Of God Holy

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, the Lord presented a powerful message of the character of His Father and the respect due to the Almighty. He was not giving them a formula to follow in some rote manner of vain repetition but an understanding that when addressing the Holy God of Heaven the man must come with fear and trembling. God is not the fishing buddy or golf pal where men can speak to and with God in a cavalier and casual manner. When a man approaches the Father in prayer it begins with the honor due to His name. Without this kind of respect, nothing else matters what the man says. Failing to hallow the name of God or respect the name of God as holy will bring the wrath of the Divine upon the prideful heart of man.

Moses instructed the Hebrews not to take the name of the Lord God in vain because the Lord will not hold a man guiltless who takes His name in vain. There will be severe punishment upon those who misuse the name of the Lord. The Ten Commandments was not the first time God told men not to use His name in vain. When the Hebrews came to Mount Sinai God gave them a law as a peculiar nation set apart for His purpose including various laws that had been established since the beginning of time. It was a sin to commit murder when Cain killed Abel. The first son of Adam did not break one of the Ten Commandments. He dishonored the name of God in taking a life. Sexual immorality was an abomination to God before Abraham was born and the lineage of Israel rose from his loins. Using the name of God in vain was sinful in the days of Adam and Eve.

The Ten Commandments have been abolished through the blood of Jesus Christ but the respect due to the name of God remains as clear as to when first established by the Creator in the beginning. Jesus taught through the avenue of prayer that His Father will not hold innocent those who either use the name of God in vain or allow His name to be defiled. It seems among some that as long as they do not use God’s name in vain in their speech they are not accountable to the Lord. At the same time, they will watch entertainment that uses the name of God and Jesus in an obscene and dishonored manner. Television shows, videos, and movies are filled with profane speech including the abuse of God’s name. What is tragic is when a Christian will ignore the use of God’s name being profaned as if it is part of a culture that is acceptable. Where did God change His mind about His name? How can a child of God justify the use of “Jesus” or “Jesus Christ” or the profaned name of God being damned as pleasing to the ears of the Almighty?

An illustration of how full the world has become in disrespect to the Lord God is to see the popular movies of recent years. In 2019, a movie sequel was released called, “Jumanji: The Next Level.” It was rated PG-13 which might put parents and children at ease. However, examining the context of the movie will find frequent uses of “damn”, “hell”, and the use of God’s name damned. Other foul words are included. And this is family entertainment? Television series found either through cable, YouTube, internet companies, and popular video programs are filled with entertainment laced cursing.

How many times in a movie does God allow His name to be used in vain before He is offended? It is easy to shrug off the words as what is heard every day but how insensitive the people of God have become to the holiness of God’s name. Does God mind if every other word is “My God” or “Good God” or “O my God?” The world has no respect for the name of God and many saints who call upon the Lord through prayer lie when they say, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” They are not honoring the name of God. Yes, the world is going further away from God and denying His authority. What is sad is when the Lord God looks down on the church His Son died for and see what His children are watching and allowing to be part of their homes. There are times when watching some entertainment a sudden burst of unholy language is used and the opportunity is taken to change programs. How often before renting movies like Jumanji do we verify the language content and decide not to purchase damnation to our souls? God’s name is holy and it will remain holy. What becomes unholy are the hearts that ignore the respect for His name.

The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.

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Christian Behavior In Times Of Conflict

Conflict

Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)

Christian Behavior In Times Of Conflict

The world by nature is reactionary. Newton’s law that states for every action there is a reaction is true with the elements of earth and can sadly define the character of a man negatively. Everyone reacts to something whether good or bad. If a man slaps another on the cheek there will be a reaction. Either the abused man will strike back or he will choose to refrain from returning the insult. What separates the children of God from the children of the world is how they behave in the face of conflict. It is accepted in the world view the old principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and more often than not carried to extremes by those who are retaliating. A slap on the face can lead to murder. Cursing and insults can result in chaos, fights, and injury. Wars have been fought between nations over matters of insignificant minutiae. Cain killed Abel because he did not get respect from God. The history of man is filled with the legions of stories born from the inability of one man to refrain from retaliating against another.

Sin has always been at the root of the problem. The carnal heart demands justification and reprisal for any slight done against another. God has given man a law to curb his appetite for revenge and payback by establishing principles of character that will bring peace rather than war. Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father but then the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with him and took his wells. He moved to another place and dug more wells. The herdsman again quarreled with Isaac and took the wells. Isaac once again moved from there and dug another well. This time there was no dispute over it, so Isaac named the place Rehoboth which means “open space.” Isaac exemplified the character of divine patience by not seeking revenge. He honored God saying “At last the Lord has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”

The lesson from Isaac is the character of God’s people looks for peace. When reviled they do not revile in return. Jesus taught His disciples if they are sued in court and their shirt is taken, let them have the coat, too. Paul the apostle exhorted the Corinthian saints that when a brother takes brother to law against another it brings shame to the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit told the Christians why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? The child of God seeks peace in the face of chaos. This may mean that wrong is done to a person or he may even be cheated on something but at what cost will a man lose his soul?

Reviling is a harsh pill to swallow. When a man insults another the first reaction is to seek recourse for the slight. The Lord God does not suggest but demands His children to act in a certain manner by refusing to return an insult with an insult or injury with wrong. Jesus was reviled worse than any human being can ever lay claim but Jesus Christ never reviled in return. How dare the children of God take it upon themselves to return insult with insult when vicious words of defamation are leveled against another. There is a lot of hatred, prejudice, envy, animosity, bigotry, and bitterness in the world but this should not be in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Evil must never be repaid with evil and insults can never be solved with retaliatory insults. A Christian rises above the chaos of the carnal world fueled by the wiles of the devil who delights in destroying lives. The godly character of a child of God is one of blessing because they have been called to be a blessing in a world absent of blessing. The Christian character in the face of conflict is a model of Jesus Christ. If you want to know how to act in our world of conflict – go read the life of God’s Son and then live it.

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Who Will Follow Jesus?

follow Jesus

Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.” So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him. (Matthew 20:29-34)

Who Will Follow Jesus?

It was less than a week before Jesus would die. The events of the next few days would be a grueling and difficult mission to prepare for what Jesus knew was going to be a horrible experience. His ministry would be completed. The work He had come to do would find its fruition at Golgotha. In the past few months, Jesus had told His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things but His followers were unaware of how short their time with the Lord was going to be. In a few days, the complete plan of God to save all men from His wrath was coming to pass. No other event in the history of man would have such significance.

As Jesus and His disciples came out of the city of Jericho, two blind men sitting by the road began to beg mercy from the Lord calling Him the Son of David. The multitudes reproved the two men warning them to be quiet but they cried out the more. On this first day of the week, Jesus was going to Jerusalem where He would be received with a triumphal shout from the people. Would He take time to heal two blind men? There was much to do and time was short. From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus had shown His power by healing the lame, the deaf, and the blind. Why take time now to heal two blind men?

Jesus stops and asks the two blind men what they desired for Him to do. They asked the Lord to take away their blindness. Having compassion for them He touched their eyes and instantly they could see! The first thing the two blind men could see was the face of Jesus. They could see a face of compassion and kindness. What joy must have filled their hearts as their eyes filled with the wonder of the world they had never seen. Jesus turns and continues His journey to Jerusalem and the two blind men gather their meager belongings and follow Jesus. Why would they follow Jesus? What motivated them to leave the comfortable surroundings of their lives and follow after this man? Jesus had done the impossible. He had opened their eyes. The wonder of the miracle flooded the souls of two men who could now see the world about them. Darkness was no longer their captor and demon. The light of the world flooded their eyes and their hearts filled with joy.

A sad tragedy of the story is what the two men would see in the next few days. The record is silent to where the men went and if they continued to follow Jesus into Jerusalem. Did they witness His crucifixion? After the death of Jesus would they become the early disciples of the church? What is clear is that when they received the sight they followed Jesus. He had changed their lives by doing the impossible and the immediate response was to follow the One who set them free. Their fears had been taken away by Jesus. They followed Him because of what Jesus had done to their lives.

Jesus is the great physician that heals the spiritual darkness of sin. Obedience to the gospel of Christ translates a person from the power of darkness into the kingdom of light. Christians are children of the light and the day. Through the grace and mercy of God sin has been defeated and the blindness of Satan’s wiles has been removed. People of God do not belong to darkness and night. The two blind men received their sight and followed Jesus because they knew what He had done for them. It changed their lives. They could not but follow Jesus. When a heart is touched with the gospel of Christ and sin is removed, it should be the natural response to follow Jesus and obey His will in everything. If nothing more than a heart of gratitude fuels the soul, how can anyone not desire to follow the one who saved them from the wrath of God?

The two blind men did not make demands of Jesus after their eyes were opened. They followed Jesus and that was enough. Humbly bowing to the power greater than any the two blind men received their sight and dedicated their lives to Jesus Christ. A Christian is someone who was blind but given sight by the power of God. Who will follow Jesus? Those who honor the Lord with an obedient life and devoted life in service to the one who saved them will show their love in gratitude. Thank God He saved me from the darkness of sin. There is nothing I can do that will repay the grace of God but I will live every day showing my love for Him. Where He leads I will follow.

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The Heart Of David

David heart

And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” (2 Samuel 24:10)

The Heart Of David

Character comes from the heart and the Holy Spirit described the heart of David as one that was like the heart of God. Jesus taught His disciples that what comes out of a man is what dwells in the heart. If the heart is evil the spirit of the man will be evil and when a man has a good heart his character will show goodness. David, son of Jesse, was a man after God’s own heart and this is found repeatedly in his life. He had a heart of courage to face the giant, Goliath. His heart of humility recognized the rebuke of the Lord when Nathan came to him after the sin with Bathsheba. David did not argue about his sin but admitted that he had sinned against God and begged for mercy. Near the closing years of his life, it came to the heart of David to count the people to know the number of the nation. Joab, commander of the army, tried to dissuade the king from asking this thing but the king insisted. When the final count was made 800,000 valiant men drew the sword and the men of Judah were 500,000.

The numbering of Israel was a plan devised in a heart of pride and mistrust for the power of God. David was a righteous man plagued by the nature of sin. He knew that with little or many God would be able to win the victory. It did not matter how many men were ready to fight. The king had defeated the bear and the lion that came against his sheep when he was a young man. Goliath was killed because of one boy who stood in the Valley of Elah with the Lord God on his side. David had gained victory over his enemies through the will of the Father. The grace of God had forgiven David and Bathsheba of their grievous sins. Satan had succeeded in tempting the man of God to do something he knew was wrong.

After the census was completed, David had a change of heart. His conscience began to bother him. The heart tendered by the mercy of God acknowledged what he had done was sinful and David asked for forgiveness. He admitted what he did was a foolish thing. Repentance demands recognizing that sin is an affront against God and that only with a contrite heart will forgiveness be granted. Pride hardens the heart to believe that nothing was done that was wrong. The Lord did not come to David nor did Nathan the prophet. David was convicted by his own heart. He responded to the Lord in the spirit of humility seeking the favor of God because his heart was moved to please God.

Godly men make mistakes and righteous men have a heart willing to admit sin and seek the favor of God. Refusing to repent will not bring forgiveness. A heart like David will condemn actions against the will of the Lord. It seemed like a good idea at the time to number the people but after consideration within his heart, David realized his mistake. It is not easy for the human spirit to admit wrong. The true character of a Christian is to stand before the Lord and bare the soul with the honesty of sin’s influence and consequence. David’s heart condemned him. May more hearts be condemned.

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Tradition

scribes-and-pharisees

Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:1-9)

Tradition

G. K. Chesterton said tradition was the “democracy of the dead.” He said that “tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors.” By definition, the word tradition implies a handing down or to hand over a custom or practice. There are many good traditions among families that are passed down from generations. Cultures hold dear certain traditions that make them unique among men. Traditions play a large part in so many aspects of life that endear groups as one and establish life-long cherished principles within certain disciplines. Religion does not escape the role of tradition and while often is harmless can become counter-productive in understanding the will of God.

The scribes and Pharisees in the time of Jesus were firmly entrenched in the traditions handed down from generation to generation. Some of the greatest battles between the Lord and the Jewish leaders of the day came from a conflict with the perceived traditions of men and the will of the Father. The disciples of Jesus were ignoring the age-old tradition of ceremonial hand washing before a meal. When the leaders came to Jesus they complained His disciples were not following the tradition of the elders or customs long held by the Jews. These traditions were not commanded in the written law but which the scribes and Pharisees viewed as law and accountable to God. Albert Barnes adds, “They had many foolish rules about it respecting the quantity of water that was to be used, the way in which it should be applied, the number of times it should be changed, the number of those that might wash at a time, etc.” The scribes and Pharisees were offended not because the disciples broke the Law of Moses but the tradition of the elders.

Jesus appealed to the commandments of God as a contrast to the long-held traditions of men. When men impose their traditions as law upon the people when God has not spoken in His word, they transgress the commandment of God. Jesus was not against washing hands but to make it a law with the consequence of sin if a man fails to wash in a proper manner created sin by its conclusion. The Lord illustrates with how the scribes and Pharisees failed to keep the basic elements of the Law regarding honoring parents and that by their skewed interpretation and abuse of the law made the commandment of God of no effect. The result was hypocrisy. They would fain keeping the Law of Moses but impose regulations never suggested by the Lord as commandments for the people to follow.

Tradition can create an apostasy of vain worship. Jesus quotes from the prophet Isaiah when he described the actions of the people as very religious but in their hearts, they defiled the worship of God. Outwardly they draw near the Lord and honored the Lord with their lips but their hearts were filled with the traditions of men and far from the will of God. Worship becomes a farce or a travesty of apostasy when man-made ideas have greater significance than the truth of God. Jesus condemned the traditions of men that have no foundation in truth.

The doctrine of God is established upon concrete principles of truthfully revealed in His word. Every man can read and understand the mystery of God as it has now been revealed. There is no reason for a soul to stand before the Divine Judge and plead ignorance. God has delivered the message of salvation to all men. Only the Bible can shed light on the grace of the Lord and through the power of God, the Bible has been preserved intact so that all men can come to the knowledge of the will of God. Some traditions are harmless because they do not conflict, add or take away from the word of God. Traditions are acceptable as long as they do not teach doctrine not found in the Bible. There are so many religious bodies that teach and practice things not found in the word of God. They transgress the commandment of God because of their traditions. The traditions of men have made the will of God of no effect or useless. Worship becomes vain because it comes from man-made ideas.

Traditions of men must be challenged and rejected when not in keeping with what a man can read in the Bible. It is an easy exercise to examine the teaching of men with the word of God. If what a man is doing is found in the context of the will of God, he pleases the Lord in following divine tradition. When a man or group practice things that have no Biblical foundation, these are man-made traditions that make worship vain and can destroy the soul in the pretense of false doctrine. Do not follow a tradition unless it comes from God. Traditions of men will die with them but God’s word will remain eternal.

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