Teach Me To Walk In Truth

Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. (Psalm 86:11)

Teach Me To Walk In Truth

David had a deep longing to be as close to God as he could be. Everything about the life of the sweet psalmist of Israel was how he walked with the Lord. As a shepherd caring for his sheep, David felt the comfort of God’s presence to protect, provide, and lead him in the paths of righteousness. David was a man of prayer. He frequently spoke to his Father with longings to know more of His will, His way, and His work. The knowledge of the Lord was all that David needed to sustain him. He knew knowing the will of God would give him peace in a world of chaos. Facing his guilt of adultery, David remained steadfast in his devotion to God. When his sons turned against him, the embattled king retained his faith in the will of God. His desire to build a house for the Lord was an outgrowth of a yearning to exalt the name of the Lord for all the world to see. While he was forbidden from building the house of God, the heart of David spoke volumes to his love for God.

The life of David was remarkable because he understood the simple principle of personal growth. He knew his life could take the path of least resistance and rely upon self, or he could turn his life over to the will of God and find eternal security. This process of change could only take place when he was taught the way of the Lord. Most men did not desire the truth of God to guide their lives and took no occasion to know the word of God. David prayed to the Lord for the knowledge of the right way. He relied on the wisdom of God to teach him the way of truth. David wanted to mold his life to be an example of righteousness so that others could see God living in him. When Saul was trying to kill him, and on more than one occasion, David could have killed the king, he refused because he was the anointed of God. Even with the sin of Bathsheba, David showed the heart of devotion when he acknowledged his sin and begged forgiveness. He was not a man without sin, but he faced his sin with courage and faith. This type of devotion could only come from knowing the way of the Lord.

Life is a manner of walk determined by the wisdom of carnality, or God’s truth measures it. Knowing how to walk in the narrow path requires teaching. There is a responsibility that when knowledge is given, that duty demands action. Faith comes from hearing the word of God, and then action must come from that teaching to walk in the one way of truth. The purity of the heart does not come naturally. It requires instruction and walking or practicing the word that has been taught. David prayer to the Lord to teach him how to walk. He knew he could not walk in truth without the knowledge of God. He desired to live according to the truth of God. And he did.

David lived nearly three thousand years ago, but the principles of obedience remain the same. People of faith are praying people who desire to know the word of God and then allow their faith to be seen in the action of their example of walking in the truth. David wanted God to teach him. He told the Lord he would walk in truth. David also prayed for the Lord to unite his heart to fear the name of God. Three elements of a Christian’s life are found in teaching, walking, and uniting. The child of God needs teaching. They must learn to walk in truth, and their hearts must be filled with the respect of honoring the name of God with fear. Then a man can praise the Lord God with all their hearts and glorify His name forever.

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What God Hates

“Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor, and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,” says the Lord.” (Zechariah 8:17)

What God Hates

Hate is a strong word. It connotates a feeling of strong antagonism and dislike. The idea of hatred is seldom referenced to God’s character, but there are many things the scriptures say God hates. Among them are pride, lies, murder, wicked hearts, falsehood, and the spirit of discord, to name a few. The purity of God is manifested by His love for righteousness and His wrath described by his hatred of those who defile His name and His character. When men begin to rationalize the nature of God to be a kind and loving, benevolent Father incapable of discipline or wrath, they fail to understand the character of the Lord’s righteousness fully. What God hates comes from what God loves. Men hate with a cruel passion. The hatred of God is the purest form of righteousness against the works of the evil one, Satan.

There is no middle ground with evil. The message from the beginning of time is there are only two paths a man can walk. He can choose the broad way of self-satisfaction and pleasure or choose a narrow and challenging path of obedience. The roads of life have an inevitable ending, and that is where God’s nature is discovered. Willful disobedience to the word of the Lord will bring the wrath of God because the Lord God hates those who rebel against Him. The broad path of life ends in destruction. Only at the end of the narrow path of righteousness will joy and life be found. There is no other path a man can follow. He will choose the path that leads to the eternal love of God, or he will find the way leading to the eternal condemnation of the Father.

Zechariah the prophet lived in a day after the captivity of Israel to Babylon and Persia. Returning to their fathers’ land, the Jews struggled to regain their place in the worship of the Lord. The prevalent sins in the prophet’s days were not idolatry but cheating and lying, and injustice. Captivity had cured the hearts of the people from the idolatry that destroyed their nation earlier. Sin stilled burdened the hearts of the people with their neglect to consider their neighbor, and the prophet Zechariah admonishes the nation to see God’s view of their evil. God hates sin. He punished the generation before them, and He would punish them if they did not turn from their wickedness. Why does God warn of impending doom? He hated sin before, and He still hates sin.

God is a loving and kind Father, but He hates sin. His desire is for His children to speak truth to their neighbors with judgments of truth, justice, and peace. Anything short of that God hates with divine wrath. Men try to excuse their actions by pleading to the mercy and kindness of the Lord. This does not change the nature of God that He hates what sin does to His people. The hatred of God will determine the damnation of those who refuse to follow His word. This hatred is not a spiteful and evil emotion but the purity of divine righteousness. It is real. God’s love is unsearchable, and His hatred of evil is unending. He is a God of mercy and kindness, and He is a God of severity and punishment. It is proper to view God for whom He is and for whom He will be when all men stand before Him.

“For all these things I hate,” says the Lord. These are hard words. It is difficult to image God hating anything, and while He is not willing that any should perish and that all men should come to the blood of Jesus Christ – the wrath of God is against evil. The nature of God cannot abide by the spirit of rebellion. Sin was so severe and hated so much by God that it took the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to die for the sins of all men. God’s love is found in how He answered the question of sin. He loved the world and gave His only begotten Son. The cross is the answer to sin. Found in the blood of Christ is the love of God against all that He hates.

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As Little Children

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)

As Little Children

There is something magical about the innocence of a little child. The character of a pure heart fills the mind of children with trust, love, and devotion. Their allegiance is a natural acceptance of the world they are born in, with dependence measured by an inability to care for themselves. One of the greatest attributes of a child’s heart is the absence of pride and arrogance. These are learned later in life by hearts that have been corrupted with the envy of self-worth. Children can be fighting one minute, and the next to be the best of friends with all slights forgiven. The heart of a child cannot harbor anger and hatred. Innocence is not a failing but a noble attribute of their nature that makes beautiful children.

Jesus was an amazing man. He could cast out demons, raise the dead, heal all manner of diseases, and walk on water. The Lord rebuked the Jewish leaders’ hypocrisy, debate with impunity the cleverest of legal Jewish minds, and rebuke the harsh critics who attacked Him. There was a gentle side of the man from Nazareth as He enjoyed spending time with little children. Mothers would bring their little boys and girls for Jesus to bless them. He would take them in His arms and tell them words from His Father. It seems that children were often in the company of Jesus as on one occasion when the adults were arguing about greatness, Jesus took a little boy and set him in the midst of the disciples. He takes the little boy and tells the disciples that they will not enter the kingdom of heaven unless they become like a child. Jesus must have amazed the adults as they looked upon the pure face of a little boy who had little idea how important he was to Jesus. What was the boy’s name? Who were his parents? What became of the little boy that became an object lesson for Jesus?

Children are born in innocence and grow to adulthood where sin fills the heart. Salvation comes by conversion and this transformation happens when the spirit of the man returns to his childhood. Unless a man changes his heart to be trusting, loving, and forgiving, he cannot be pleasing to God. Adults are tasked to teach children, but adults must learn how to be faithful to the Lord.  The greatest in the kingdom are those who are humble. A child is not filled with pride. They depend wholly on others. When conflict arises, they forgive easily. The safest place they find themselves is in the bosom of their parents. When danger comes, they immediately run to the safety of their parents. Children of God depend wholly on their heavenly Father in a humble spirit of love. When conflicts arise in the family of God, they forgive easily. Their security is in the word of God, and when danger comes, they seek the word of the Lord through prayer. Christians must learn from children how to serve the Lord.

Life problems will be solved if children are placed in the midst of those who seek greatness. Jesus was a humble Son devoted to the will of His Father fully trusting in His Father’s will. The life of Jesus is a testimony to the heart of a child. If the Lord did not have the heart of a little child, He would never have accepted the cross and its suffering. Thank God Jesus had a child-like heart. His followers must develop a heart that is like a child. A servant’s heart. The spirit of love. A pure heart. Willing to sacrifice for others. Forgiving heart. A heart filled with God. Overflowing.

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Faith In Prayer

Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:20-26)

Faith In Prayer

Prayer is the most fundamental part of the relationship between God and man. It is not so much for God as it is for man to learn to talk with his Creator and trust the Lord to care for his needs. God created man to show the glory of the Divine. There is a dependence of the creature to his Maker. Prayer is the exercise of knowledge where a man learns the Father’s will and conveys his needs to God. The challenge of prayer is that it is more than just words spoken to impress or say the right things. Rooted in the character of talking to God is the germ of faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God, and this is especially true of prayer.

Faith believes in something unseen with the assurance that what is hoped for is real. The word of God opens the door of faith, accepting the Father’s promises as the heart obeys God’s will. From the beginning of time, men have prayed to God. It is in the nature of humanity to express deep feelings to his Creator. Jesus spent many hours in prayer. As the Son of God, He longed to speak to His Father and share His thoughts with His Father. The remarkable faith of Jesus is found in His prayer on the cross when He begged the Father to forgive those who were killing Him. These were not words of insincerity. The prayer of Jesus was as pure as His sinless heart. Faith and prayer are essential to one another.

A few weeks before Jesus was crucified, He came out of Bethany and was hungry. Seeing a fig tree afar off, the Lord went over to take of its fruit. When He arrived at the tree, He found nothing because it was not the season for figs. In response, Jesus cursed the tree. The next day, as the disciples and Jesus passed by the condemned fig tree, Peter took note the tree had withered. The Lord used the occasion to teach a lesson about faith and prayer. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus had cursed the tree, and it withered. The miracle of the cursing showed the power of faith in God to do an incredible thing. Jesus encouraged His disciples that prayer, coupled with faith, could move mountains. Doubt is a hindrance to effective prayer. When men pray to God, they must possess the spirit of faith to believe what they ask is possible. If God can show His power by withering a fig tree, what can He not accomplish in men?

Faith in prayer takes away the vain repetitions of impressive prayer. Some men like to hear their own prayers for verbosity, cleverness, and pride. Their words are not directed to God but to impress the heart of men. These careless words have no faith in their boasting. True prayer begins with faith and lives in faith. Jesus tells His disciples they can pray for anything, and if they believe that they will receive it, it will be theirs. Faith exemplified.

One of the most challenging parts of prayer is forgiveness. It is easy to ask God to forgive oneself, but it is hard to forgive others. Prayer comes with requirements. If a man prays and he is unwilling to forgive another, God will refuse to forgive him. Prayer is a vertical relationship between God and man, but it depends on man’s horizontal relationship with others. The will of the Lord is clear: if a man does not forgive his brother, God will not forgive the man. Faith can move mountains, and sometimes it requires greater faith to forgive another. Loving enemies and praying for them demands faith that will move the world. Without faith as the center of prayer, the plea becomes nothing but useless words. Faith in prayer allows God to take the reins of the heart and guide the soul of man according to His will. Trusting in the love of the Father is where faith finds its home in prayer. Pray fervently but pray in faith.

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It Was Necessary

And according to the Law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. (Hebrews 9:22-23)

It Was Necessary

Blood is essential for life. Without blood, life cannot survive. Following the flood, the Lord told Noah that life is sanctified in the blood because men are made in the image of God. Many animals have blood, but no creature is made in the image of God but man. Killing an animal is not murder but killing a man is an abomination before God. Before Christ, blood was used as the sacrificial offering for the sins of those under the Law of Moses. Untold numbers of bulls, goats, sheep, and oxen were slaughtered, and their blood poured upon the altar to appease the wrath of God. After all the blood that was shed by animals, sin still had not been defeated.

God commanded the offering of animals in the Law of Moses. Without blood, nothing was purified. The High Priest garments were stained with the centuries of sacrificial blood offered to atone the sins of the people as a reminder that nothing could wash away the defilement of sin. In those sacrifices, there was a reminder of sins every year. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins, although their blood was used to atone the people. Blood was the central image of the Law, but something was lacking.

The purpose of animal sacrifice was to impress upon the hearts of the Jews the sanctity of life. Something had to die so the people could live. Animals are sacred to the Creator and using them as a sacrifice was not without cause. Their blood was used to atone the people, but the problem lay in the reality that animals were not made in the Divine’s similitude. Only man’s blood would establish the reality of sin and the price required to pay for redemption. But human sacrifice was an abomination to the Lord. Under the Law, only animals without blemish were to be sacrificed. The problem with finding a man who had no sin was evident. There was never a man who did not battle sin and allow its corruption to defile them. Every man was blemished and forbidden to be offered as a sacrifice.

It was necessary for the blood of bulls and goats to be offered, seeking atonement for man’s sins because that was the will of God. However, because of its failure, there was a greater necessity to redeem man with the blood of a person who was without blemish. This person must be sinless. From Adam to Moses and David and all the great saints of God who lived righteous lives, no one was innocent. Therefore, the Son of God needed to take man’s form and shed His blood as an offering without blemish. It was required for the blood of Jesus to redeem man from sin. The death of Jesus was not a mistake. His sacrifice was a necessary part of saving men from the wrath of God.

For more than thirty years, Jesus suffered in the flesh resisting sin and battling Satan at every corner so that He could offer His blood for the redemption of humanity. He knew His death was necessary. It was a requirement to save men. Nothing could take the place of the blood of Jesus. As He faced the cross, He knew what He must do was necessary. His suffering was all that stood between man and God. In His agony, the Son of God cried out with the realization that His blood would redeem men. Thank God for what became necessary for His Son to endure. Thank God.

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The Stork Is Wiser Than A Man

I listened and heard, but they do not speak aright. No man repented of his wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Everyone turned to his own course, as the horse rushes into the battle. Even the stork in the heavens knows her appointed times; and the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow observe the time of their coming. But My people do not know the judgment of the Lord. How can you say, “We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us”? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have? (Jeremiah 8:6-9)

The Stork Is Wiser Than A Man

Animals are amazing creatures. The Arctic Tern is an example of the incredible power of a small bird no larger than 14 inches and weighing no more than 3 to 5 ounces. Each year the migration of the Arctic Tern covers around 25,000 miles flying from one end of the globe to the other. They do not have any roadmaps or GPS to guide them on their way. Their migrations have continued since the beginning of time without the aid and assistance of man. Embedded within their tiny brains is the imprint of God’s creative power to know their appointed seasons and times.

The prophet Jeremiah may not have known what an Arctic Tern was but his comparison of God’s creation and the wisdom of man is clearly evident. Israel had fallen into the darkness of idolatry rejecting the word of God for their own wisdom. Based upon their carnal desires the people of God had rejected the word of the Lord to follow after broken down trees carved into idols. Sin had so consumed the hearts of the people that no one was sorry for doing wrong. There was no remorse for the evil brought through immorality, corruption, wickedness, and false worship. It seems as if the nation was running headlong as fast as they could into everything vile and depraved. The Lord compares the wisdom of birds to the wisdom of men and finds the wisdom of men lacking. Birds may have small brains but they know the time of migration. Men are made in the image of the Divine and show no wisdom in following their Creator.

The law of nature determines the course of the sun, moon, and stars. Oceans and rivers flow around the world according to the divine plan of creation. Animals go about their lives without the aid of man’s wisdom. They know instinctively when to move to warmer climates or when to return to their spawning origins and do so without the guidance of human wisdom. Since the beginning of time, God has given man His word so that he can know and understand the eternal truth of the nature of man. What separates man from animal is that man is an eternal being that will never cease to exist. Animals die and they are no more. Men possess the intellect of eternal wisdom but animals live by instinct. The law of God is given to guide man and give him direction but he refuses to listen. History repeatedly shows the failure of human wisdom. Compared to human wisdom, animals are the wiser species.

Human wisdom is a quagmire of foolishness that has never elevated man to a higher plane. As hard as a man will try, his knowledge will fail him every time. Only when the creation listens to his Creator will the human spirit find the purpose to which they were created. Human wisdom makes man nothing more than an animal with no purpose in life. Animals have a purpose in life and live each day fulfilling the divine pattern of life prescribed by God. The stork is smarter than a man who does not follow the word of God. Men twist the word of God to their destruction and make themselves more foolish before all the animals of the world. Is a man so wise after all when he rejects the word of God? What wisdom do they have? Consider the stork.

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The Johnstown Flood

Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:1-4)

The Johnstown Flood

Located about sixty miles east of Pittsburgh, the town of Johnstown was an industrious and booming coal-and-steel town in the late 1900s. It was a hard life for the people of Johnstown as the dawn of the twentieth century ushered in an industrial boom that would change the landscape of what was once a quiet town nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Like many communities across the land, Johnstown had its share of disasters in the form of floods, fires, and epidemics that seem hardest on the children. In 1879, diphtheria killed over a hundred children in a short time. Accidents at the mills and mines would always be a present danger. Located in the mountains above the town was a reservoir built in the 1850s with an earthen dam roughly 72 feet above the valley floor and more than 900 feet long. The locals called it the South Fork dam.

The purpose of the dam was to cater to the rich and privileged who built the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club on the shores of the lake. Members included men like Andrew Carnegie. Over the years the dam would suffer damage and breaks due to lack of maintenance and repair. This led to the complacency of the danger lurking above the town. Warnings would be sounded and when nothing happened, the residents would quickly return to the lives. Finally, an air of contentment settled among the citizens that few took to heart any warnings about the dam. Most turned a deaf ear to the impending disaster that never came. They believed the owners of the dam, who were powerful and wealthy industrial leaders of the day, would take care to make certain nothing would happen. On May 31, 1889, the people of Johnstown got their answer.

An unusually severe storm hit the area of east Pennsylvania causing rivers and lakes to swell in size. Warnings of the dam being compromised went out, but few heeded the message. At 3:10 pm, the dam broke sending a wall of water rushing through the valley. The water tore through Johnstown with a thunderous roar killing 2,209 men, women, and children. Destruction was everywhere. The town was nearly wiped off the face of the earth. Many lives would have been saved if only the warnings had been heeded but because of the complacency of those who lived in the shadow of the dam, those warnings were ignored.

The apostle Peter through the direction of the Holy Spirit penned an epistle warning of impending doom that will not be a local catastrophe but global destruction. There is coming a day when the world will come to an end in a conflagration of eternal consequence. Everyone will see the coming of the Lord and His holy angels. No one will escape the brilliance of the image of Jesus Christ as He brings the world to an end with a great noise. The heavens will pass away and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. God’s wrath will be brought upon the world against those who deny Him and His grace upon those who serve Him.

No one knows the time of the great day of the Lord but it will come. Sadly, most do not believe the world will be destroyed and that God would judge them. They go about their lives living in the shadow of death and the end of the world with no regard for their eternal destiny. That day will come. Unlike the Johnstown story where warnings were given of the impending failure of the dam, there will be no warnings of the coming of the Lord. When God sends His Son, there will be no second chances. Are you ready? There’s a great day coming.

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Was Jesus Born West Of Nazareth?

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)

Was Jesus Born West Of Nazareth?

The birth of Jesus was not only an incredible miracle of a virgin birth, but it was also a fulfillment of some amazing prophecies made hundreds of years before. More than seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Micah declared the place the Christ would be born. It was a time of upheaval in the land of God’s people as the fall of Samaria was imminent and within one hundred fifty years, Jerusalem would be burned and the Temple destroyed. Micah tells of hope for a restored Zion and universal peace including the coming of a shepherd king who is to be born at Bethlehem. From the pen of God’s prophet, the place of Christ’s birth is determined to be in the tribal land of Judah.

Bethlehem of Judea was a small village of no particular importance. Located some five miles south of Jerusalem, it had a long and important history in the story of God’s people. This was the place that Rachel, wife of Jacob, died and was buried. East of the village was the field Ruth the Moabitess gleaned when she met Boaz. Her great-grandson, David, was born in Bethlehem and became one of the kings of Israel and notable figures of the Old Testament. Joseph and Mary returned to Bethlehem when Caesar Augustus decreed a universal census. This must have been a most difficult journey for Mary as she was full with child and arriving in Bethlehem, gave birth to Jesus. A few years later, wise men from the East came looking for the Christ. They first inquired in Jerusalem where the King of the Jews was born and the chief priests and scribes said the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, in the land of Judah. The wise men found the child Jesus with his parents in a house and after leaving gifts for the young boy, returned home.

The significance of Bethlehem of Judea is to know there is another Bethlehem located about six miles west-north-west of Nazareth. When Herod learned how the wise men had deceived him, he sent his soldiers into the Bethlehem of Judea and killed all the male children from two years old and under. Warned by God, Joseph had taken his family to Egypt and stayed there until the death of Herod. Instead of returning to Bethlehem of Judea, Joseph took his family seventy miles north to Nazareth. Jesus would grow up in the northern border of the Plain of Esdraelon just a few miles from Bethlehem of Galilee. Throughout His life, Jesus would be known as the man from Nazareth.

During His ministry, many argued about where the Christ was born and rejected Jesus because was not from Bethlehem. They knew the Christ would not come out of Galilee and that the Messiah would come from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was born. It seems remarkable that no one asked Jesus directly where He was born. Jesus was born in the town prophesied by Micah to fulfill the divine will of the Father. He was not born in Nazareth and He was not born in Bethlehem west of Nazareth. The timing of Jesus’ birth was in accordance with the plan of God as Mary gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea and not Nazareth.

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The Main Thing Is The Only Thing

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

The Main Thing Is The Only Thing

Paul was a former blasphemer, persecutor and as he would reflect to his traveling companion, Timothy, the worst sinner for what he had done to the church of Christ. Through the grace of God, the man from Tarsus became an apostle of Jesus Christ spending the rest of his life fully dedicated and purposed to preaching the good news of the risen Christ. His preaching was direct and simple. He did not try to impress men with human wisdom. The style of Paul’s preaching was not to receive the praise of men but only to teach what the Holy Spirit guided his mind to say. This would not please the ears of most people and he often would find himself at odds with his fellow brethren, the Jews. He suffered a great deal because of what he preached. At Lystra, the mob tried to kill him. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. What would cause men to want to kill the apostle? Jews from Antioch and Iconium came to Lystra persuading the multitudes to kill the preacher because he taught a resurrected Christ.

The preaching of Paul brought many hardships to him personally. He told the Corinthian brethren he spent many days in prison, he was whipped often facing death on numerous occasions. Five different times he was beaten by the Jewish leaders and three times he was beaten with rods. He faced danger almost constantly but he never flinched or stopped preaching his message. With all the dangers that swirled around him, Paul never gave up on the God who saved him and gave him mercy. Why did so many people hate the apostle and want to kill him? He preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The main thing in the preaching of Paul was the only thing that mattered to him. He preached Jesus Christ. There was no fanfare, fluff, exciting stories to regale the crowds with and the apostle did not present a health and wealth philosophy of everyone was going to heaven preaching. Preaching a crucified Christ required a crucified message from a heart crucified by the message of Jesus Christ.

Many preachers preach a message of hope and joy based upon the desires of the carnal spirit. Jesus taught the purest doctrine of God and they killed Him. Paul was not popular in the world because he preached Christ crucified. Many would accept and follow the message of Jesus Christ because they recognized the message of saving truth. The message of Paul was not to bring in large crowds and tickle the ears of the multitudes. Three thousand devout Jews believed the message of a crucified Christ on the day of Pentecost because their hearts were open to the grace of God. Peter boldly declared to those gathered in Jerusalem that God made Jesus, whom they crucified, both Lord and Christ. Many people were angered by this message and refused to believe the preaching of the apostles but Peter was not going to preach any other message. The main thing was the only thing he could preach.

The preaching of Jesus Christ has not changed. To love God and obey His commandments requires a message of a risen Christ that demands His followers to take up a cross and follow Him. This cross does not come with padding and is not equipped with a wheel to make it easy. Jesus refused the anesthetic gall at the cross because He wanted the world to know He bore the sins of all men in its full measure. When preachers offer a diluted or softened message of an accepting God for all the sins of men, they deny the Lord they falsely preach. There is only one message a true preacher of the gospel can preach and that is the only truth found in the word of God. Those who preach the gospel will receive a heavier penalty in judgment. If the message is not Christ crucified there can be no hope. Preach the word! There is only one way, one truth, and one life and this is the foundation of any true sermon. The main thing is the only thing.

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The Influence Of A Godly Life

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12)

The Influence Of A Godly Life

One of the most powerful tools in the arsenal of a child of God is the influence of their life on others. Nothing shines as bright as the example of how a person conducts himself before the world. It is impossible to lose influence because everyone influences another whether good or bad. We suggest a person can lose their influence but what we mean is the conduct of a person’s life can have a negative impact on others. In fact, the influence remains and it can be one that helps to encourage, exhort, and uplift the lives of others or it can bring harm, hatred, and mistrust. This is especially true for those who profess to follow Jesus Christ. The world judges the character of a Christian by the conduct he follows as a child of God. Whatever the life of that man or woman is will reflect upon the nature of God.

The influence of a person’s life leaves an indelible impression on others. Peter begs and warns the early disciples to stay away from the influences of the world that will damage their impact as righteous, faithful, and holy people. In a world filled with the desires of the flesh, the Christian must rise above the carnal pleasures and show a life of purity devoted to the will of God. Hypocrisy will turn the hearts of people away from the truth that will save their souls if they see the Christian preach purity and yet indulge in the same sins. The lusts of the flesh war against all souls – righteous and unrighteous. Ungodly people do not resist their desires because they are not living after the righteousness of God. There is no hypocrisy in their lives because they do not profess to be different. It is the child of God that declares they will serve the will of the Father and follow guidelines of holiness that set them apart from the world.

With all the efforts of the Christian to live a good and peaceable life before all men, there will be criticism. Righteousness has always suffered at the hand of persecution. Even when a person lives with noble aspirations, the world will speak evil of them. Desiring to live a godly life will bring persecution from a world that has no restraint and no love for God. The Holy Spirit never suggests that living a righteous life will be without oppression. What He does say is that if a man is to be spoken evil of, let the evil that is spoken be the good a person is doing. It seems a conflict but the world does not recognize the value of righteousness. Honorable conduct will be spoken evil of because the world is threatened by the judgments of God’s will. The Christian must conduct their life in keeping with the character of Christ. Jesus never reviled any man and yet they killed Him. The world will do the same with the Christian so by the good works of the child of God, the world will see the glory of the Father. Everything should be for the glory of God so the world can know how much God loves the world.

The influence of a godly life may be the only way some will come to know the truth. Evangelism requires more than a good example but without the proper influence, it will be impossible for a heart to see God when the life of the Christian is without God. The world is only a temporary place for those who see God. This becomes the basis of life to show the world that life is but a vapor and eternity is the most important part of life. The conduct of the Christian is to show the world that life is a brief moment but eternity is without end. Any life that is measured by eternity will live with a fully purposed life glorifying God. The sad reality of those who measure their lives by the world will find nothing at the end of life. As temporary residents of a world destined to be destroyed, the influence of the child of God will show what is of greater value. Honorable conduct can change a life.

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The Reality Of False Teachers

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:1-3)

The Reality Of False Teachers

Satan is the father of lies. He deceived the woman in the garden of Eden and his onslaught against truth and righteousness has continued unabated. The sad reality is that because of the lies of Satan, most people will be condemned to eternal fire. Jesus told the multitude on the mountain that few would find salvation. Most people will find the broad way an easy path and listening to the sirens of Satan’s whisper will lead them not to life but to damnation. God has never left men without knowledge of the truth. His word has always instructed the way of man but the lust of the flesh and eye and pride of life takes a greater hold on the desires of men. Many souls are lost because of the lusts of the flesh but one of the tools used by Satan is to allow men to believe in God but accept a perverted form of worship.

False teaching is just as effective as tempting a man with the lusts of the flesh. The world is filled with religion in various forms and doctrines tempting men to worship how they believe. Worship is one of the strongest emotions driving men to create systems of belief whether idol worship or a tainted view of worship to Jesus Christ. At the end of the day, man is a deeply religious creation. The difference is what he worships that will determine his eternal destiny and the reality has always been there is only one way to worship. There is one God and one way and one truth. This is the way the world was created. Adam and Eve rejected obedience to God and His way and the truth given by the Creator. They accepted the word of a false doctrine. Sin is the rejection of the word of God for the word of Satan. Today the world is filled with multitudes blindly following a form of worship that serves the will of self rather than the will of God.

Paul warned the early disciples of those who would depart from the faith. That is an astonishing fact that was not easy for the apostle to write. Consider the implications of those who tasted the heavenly gift and tasted the good word of God and then to turn away from salvation. Giving heed to deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons, people will follow the lure of Satan’s call and find nothing but condemnation. They will become hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. That is tragic. It is an eternal consequence. The end is deceived religious people lost in a lake of fire. That seems impossible but it is more reality on a larger scale.

What most people refuse to accept is there is such a thing as false teaching and false teachers. It seems that if a man and woman present a pleasing presence of truth that everyone should accept them as followers of God. The Holy Spirit expressly said that many will arise that will lead the masses to Hell. They will teach things not found in the word of God. This is a reality. The world is filled with religions that deny Jesus as the Son of God. Among the followers of Christ, salvation is offered as nothing more than a feeling. Churches abound throughout the world that teach different doctrines, call themselves by different names, worship God in a variety of ways and all call themselves faithful to God.

The early disciples taught one church, one way, one truth and one avenue of salvation. False teachers will have a person believe it does not matter what is believed. This is a lie. Jesus preached in the sermon on the mount that some religious people will be condemned because they did not follow the will of the Father. Are there false teachers? Yes – lots of them. The truth is found in one book – the Bible. Salvation is found through one man – Jesus Christ. Hope can only be offered in one way – the will of God. If you do not follow the truth you will be lost. Do not follow a man – follow Jesus Christ and His word alone. If it is not in the Bible – IT IS NOT!

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Hearing The Word

So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God. (Acts 10:33)

Hearing The Word

It was an exciting time in the early church as thousands obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Devout Jews gathered in Jerusalem were the first Christians and for a time the focus of the church was directed toward the nation of Israel. A time would come for the rest of the world to hear the good news of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ and this story would be told to a most unlikely person. Cornelius was a Gentile. He was not a common man and he was not someone of political importance or position of wealth. The man chosen to be the door of salvation for all non-Jews was a soldier in the army of the Roman Empire. It would seem the most improbable selection for a centurion to be chosen. What set Cornelius apart from many of his counterparts was not that he was a leader of soldiers but his spiritual life. The text reveals he was a devout, God-fearing man and those in his household were of the same persuasion. His life exemplified faith in God as he gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. But this good man was not saved.

Through the providence of God, an angel came to Cornelius and told him to send for Peter who was staying in Joppa at the time. The angel told the captain that Peter would tell him what he needed to do. Following the instruction of the heavenly messenger, men were sent to Joppa and brought Peter along with some brethren from Joppa. When the party arrived at the house of Cornelius, the Roman centurion explained to Peter why he had sent for him. He understood that he was not saved and needed Peter to speak words to him that he may know the path of salvation. The apostle replied that he clearly saw the work of God in bringing him to Caesarea and began teaching Cornelius the words of truth. Later, Peter would recount to the brethren in Jerusalem that he went to the house of Cornelius to tell them words by which he and his household would be saved. Following the sign of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles, Cornelius and his household were baptized in water for the remission of sins.

Cornelius was not saved by the appearance of an angel. The divine messenger could have told Cornelius what he needed to know but the agency of the gospel was always through the means of men teaching other men. The Roman Centurion was a man of authority but he needed to send to Joppa for Peter to come and tell him words by which he would learn the path of salvation. Peter came to Caesarea and taught the household of Cornelius the words of truth. The gospel is transmitted through the word of God. Salvation comes from learning the grace of God through the word. On the day of Pentecost, twelve men stood before the multitudes and preached the word. Phillip the evangelist went throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria teaching the gospel. Directed by an angel of the Lord, Phillip found an Ethiopian reading the book of Isaiah and beginning at a passage in the ancient text, taught the man the gospel of salvation. Every example of conversion in the book of Acts is where men taught others the words of truth. Salvation came to those who heard the word and obeyed the message of grace. Hearing the word was essential. No one was saved apart from the preaching of the word.

Faith comes from hearing the word of truth and without the word, there can be no faith. Cornelius is an example of the many opportunities for salvation to be accepted through divine messengers, being a good man, or some miraculous story but he and his household were not saved until they heard the word of truth and obeyed the gospel. Many people are diluted into thinking salvation is some personal experience or simply a feeling. Others accept the idea that if they are good people and religious they will be saved. The world rejects the need of preaching the word of God as a means of salvation. This is found in the ‘better felt than told’ experience many find in the churches of men. At the core foundation of salvation, the word must be preached and acceptance of the word is where truth is found. Jesus sent His disciples into the world to preach the gospel. That same word is where the joy of salvation is found.

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Man Cannot Destroy The Earth

But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7)

Man Cannot Destroy The Earth

There is a lot of talk of global warming and many pundits of scientific technologies declare that if changes are not made with humanity the world will come to an end. Political machines are driven on a green deal that will save the earth from the destruction of man. Scientists talk of the emissions of industry, pollutions of commerce, and the overall impact of the human footprint on the delicate mother earth leading to the cataclysmic destruction of the atmosphere and death of humanity. Children are taught the fear-mongering lessons of the doom of mankind in the next century. Governments ban together to direct accords that will force nations to submit to a global policy fraught with despair and dread. If the politics of fear have their way, mankind will be dead within fifty years. And yet there is one study that is denied, rejected, and never discussed. It is the study done of the climate changes by the Creator of the world.

Man cannot destroy the earth. That is not a supposition. It is a Biblical fact. Of course, if a person does not believe in God and accept the Bible as an authority, nothing God says about the matter will matter. For God-fearing children of God, the Bible clearly teaches that as long as the earth stands there will be seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night. God told Noah after the worldwide flood that destroyed every living thing on the earth outside the ark – the world would remain. Noah built the ark but he did not unleash the flood. God brought destruction on the earth. The rainbow is the promise God made that he would never destroy the world with a flood again. This is a covenant that has been in place for thousands of years and God has not changed His mind. Man cannot destroy the earth because God has placed a covenant between Himself, all animals that live on the earth, and a covenant promise made to man.

There are many things that man can do that can and will harm the environment. While these things can have an immediate impact, they are not lasting. An oil spill will devastate the waters of the gulf but in time God’s creative plan will return the oceans to their beauty. Pollution can change the air but there is not enough pollution man can generate that will destroy all life. In the early days of the nuclear world, fear was raised at the annihilation of humanity by a global nuclear war. Man cannot unleash enough bombs to destroy the world. In the recent pandemic, fear of a virus causes some to believe humanity will be wiped off the face of the earth. Millions died in the Black Plague but billions remained alive. Man cannot destroy the earth.

The philosophy behind the political movements of global warming is from the belief there is no God and that man is his own god. Imagine the tiny human speck of flesh having the immense power to destroy the earth. That is laughable at the highest level of an angel’s perspective. The pride of man is nothing considering he is made a little lower than the angels. Mankind moves about as tiny ships on the vast ocean of God’s creation with barely a ripple in the scheme of God’s creation. The Bible teaches the earth is reserved for the power of God and nothing man can do will change that. One day the world will burn up but not from the efforts of men but the will of the Creator who has reserved the earth and universe for fire. Man cannot destroy the earth. God will destroy the earth. Nothing man can do will change that. The elements are going to melt with fervent heat and dissolved. Praise God. He reigns and He is in control.

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Washed

And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood. (Revelation 1:5)

Washed

The human body is a frail organism. It requires care and nurturing allowing it to grow with a prosperity of health and wholeness. Disease is an enemy of the body as it destroys the cellular design of creation leading to death. The world is filled with many agents of infection that without proper care will bring harm to the body. One of the most important tools for keeping a healthy life is cleanliness. The Black Death or Bubonic plague in the 1300s killed millions of people largely due to unsanitary conditions allowing the spread of the disease throughout Eurasia and North Africa. So-called “filth diseases” are responsible for numerous conditions leading to multiple medical conditions and death. Keeping a clean and healthy environment is paramount to maintaining a quality of life free from disease. Children are taught early to wash their hands, take baths, and keep clean as much as possible. In every society, the need for washing is understood as necessary for a good life. This is especially true in the spiritual world.

Sin is the filth of the world that invades the pure soul of man. Every person is born with a clean heart that will become corrupted with the disease of sin. Children are innocent from the burden of sin because their hearts are pure. As the heart of accountability becomes aware of sin the spirit of man becomes defiled, filthy, and filled with the darkness of sin. There is nothing man can do to rid himself of this filth. The blood of bulls and goats could not wash away the stain of sin. There were millions of animals sacrificed for the sins of men but to no avail. Men sought to use their own wisdom to remove their sinful nature but failed. They sought to live good lives but this could not remove the ugly stain. Sin had a stranglehold on mankind.

Jesus was made in the fashion of humanity to bear the frailties of the flesh and to show His life a pattern of purity. What is remarkable about the life of Jesus is He lived for more than thirty years and never once soiled His life with sin. No one can live long without becoming dirty in one form or another and this is abundantly clear in the spiritual life of every human. No man (with no exception) has lived a perfect, sinless, and pure life without the ugly stain of sin. Jesus Christ is the only human to fulfill His life without one speck of dirt upon His soul. All men are dirty – all men sin. The question for eternity is this: what can wash away sin?

The dirt of the physical world can bring disease and death but this does not compare to the dirt of sin that will remove a soul from the presence of God. Sin is the ultimate dirt factor with the ultimate consequence. This required the ultimate sacrifice so that all men could find a way to remove the stain of sin and become clean. Jesus provided that way when He died on the cross and rose the third day to overcome the power of sin. The victory of the cross is the means to remove the dirt of sin. When the devout Jews assembled in Jerusalem heard the first gospel sermon and pleaded with the apostles what to do to be saved, they were told to be washed. Peter told them to be baptized for the remission of their sins. Throughout the Acts of the apostles, untold multitudes were washed in the blood of Jesus with their sins removed in the waters of baptism. In the Revelation, John declared the Son of God as the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. John writes that Jesus loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood. This is the joy of God’s grace to know that we are clean. There is no dirt.

Washed in the blood of Jesus is where salvation is granted by the grace and mercy of God. Without the blood of Jesus, a man remains in his filthy state. Salvation becomes a question of if a man has bathed in the blood of Jesus. Belief alone is not washing. Grace alone will not clean the body. Doing good works cannot remove the ugly disease of sin. Washed in the blood is the only place sins can be removed. Ananias told Saul to arise and wash away his sins. He did. So can you. Let the blood of Jesus wash your sins away.

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Salvation Is In Burial

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. (Romans 6:3-5)

Salvation Is In Burial

The scheme of redemption is the plan of God to save mankind. Created in the image of the divine, man quickly turned away from his eternal nature serving the desires of the flesh. There was no means of escape from the wrath of God whether in being a good person, offering thousands of animal sacrifices, or worshiping himself as a god. Every attempt made by humanity to find light in the world of darkness failed. Jesus came to open the path of salvation from God to man. It was not the desire of the Father for men to perish. Throughout the ages, the Lord gave man directions to find mercy in his presence but there remained the debt of sin that could not be washed away with the blood of bulls or goats. Before the world was created, the will of God determined that salvation would only be found in the blood of His only begotten Son. Jesus became the image of flesh to live in the world as a man and suffer death. God would experience the suffering of the flesh in crucifixion. Jesus gave His life to take away the sin of mankind.

A perfect sacrifice needed to be offered as the penalty of sin. The heinous nature of sin required the highest sacrifice and Jesus willingly went to the cross to die and bring hope to humanity. He knew the incredible pain to be endured as the hatred of men beat Him, spit on Him, cursed the Son of God, scourged His flesh with brutality, and finally nailed His hands and feet to the cross. The suffering of Jesus was intense. Finally, relief from the fleshly suffering came when Jesus died. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus from the cross and buried Him in the new tomb belonging to Joseph. They were unaware of their place in the scheme of redemption but their act of love set forth the eternal plan of God. Burial was necessary for the light of hope to spring forth from the darkness of sin.

Death alone did not save men. Jesus was crucified like many thousands of men were. A man dying on a Roman cross was a familiar picture and Jesus died in the same horrible manner as those before Him. Not every man was buried after death. The burial of Jesus was a powerful testimony to the scheme of man’s redemption. Nicodemus and Joseph established a pattern of salvation that would last until the Lord’s return. The apostle Paul told the saints in Rome that redemption was found in the death and the burial of Jesus. Salvation is found in the burial for two reasons. First, it shows the need for death. Dead men are buried, not living men. A burial requires first a death. Jesus was dead when He was placed in the empty tomb. Salvation comes for a man when he dies in Christ. He is not saved yet. He must be buried. That burial is an overwhelming experience.

Second, burial precedes a resurrection. The greatest miracle is the will of the Father to bring Jesus from the clutches of Hades and for Jesus to reign supreme. Many were resurrected but they all suffered the pains of death again. This is not the case with Jesus. Two thousand years ago Jesus was buried in an empty tomb and on the first day of the week, the sealed tomb was empty. Jesus reigns as the Son of God who lives in the presence of the Father. Resurrection required a burial. The fulfillment of redemption is found in the resurrection. Baptism is the burial where a dead man is placed by the grace of God to be brought from the tomb – resurrection. If there is no burial there is no death and there is no resurrection.

Baptism is the moment a man dies in Christ and sins are washed away so a new man can rise in the newness of life as a new creation. Without baptism, there is no salvation. If a man is not buried in Christ, there is no salvation. Without the resurrection, there can be no hope. Only in baptism can a man find the power of the resurrection. Baptism requires immersion. Sprinkling or pouring is not burial and is not salvation. Belief is a part of salvation but faith alone does not save. Resurrection requires a burial. Have you been resurrected? If you have not been buried, you are not saved. Crucify the old man, be buried in baptism to rise saved in Christ.

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The Final Sunday Of 2020

It has finally arrived. The final Sunday of a year that has been the most life-changing time in recent history. This time a year ago, spirits soared with the hope of a brand-new year filled with exciting plans and promises that would make 2020 an incredible year of hope, prosperity, and joy. January began with a renewed strength of purpose. As February unfolded into March, the hopes and dreams of a prosperous year began to fade. March blew in with the overwhelming reality of a worldwide pandemic. The year never recovered.

It was thought in the beginning, the virus would be short-lived and life would soon return to normal. This dream was shattered as the reality of the longevity of COVID-19 entrenched itself in the lives of a worldwide population. More than 1.7 million people lost their lives to the pandemic. National economies will take years to recover and some industries will never recover. The year 2020 has become an indelibly marked history with the story of a social distancing, wearing masks, and fear of the unknown.

And the year 2020 will be remembered as one of the bloodiest, most divisive, and politically explosive time in recent history. The moral fiber of America was put to a severe test in the arena of a Presidential election. Not since the days of protests against the Vietnam war have the opposites attracted such attention. The fallout from the election will carve a new direction for politics in the decades to come. It is safe to safe that no one will forget 2020.

Today marks the final Sunday of a tumultuous year and that is the joy of this day. With all the dark prophecies of the past 361 days and fears that filled the hearts of the world, a new day has arrived and the sun is shining. The world continues to revolve on its axis at the amazing speed of 1,037.5646 miles per hour. Birds flitter around seeking food and the seas abound with life. Life continues as it has since God first placed the universe in its order. And so it goes.

There is much to reflect in the year 2020. For many, it is a year of incredible loss as loved ones have died. It is a time of renewed hope with families welcoming the birth of a child. New directions are taken that promise hope. The world has changed. Wearing a mask seems normal. The impact of the virus has changed the lives of everyone. For many, it has been a test of faith, and sadly for many – it has been a defeat in their faith. Many have left the Lord. Churches are dealing with efforts to keep the family of God together. Some are winning while others struggle. This has been a time of spiritual challenge.

Today is the final Sunday of the year and should be viewed as a milestone to reflect upon the previous year and to look with anticipation to a new year. God is still in control and regardless of how 2020 has impacted our lives, the work of the Kingdom continues, souls must be saved and churches around the world must find ways to grow stronger. It is a new year by the grace of God. The death of Jesus remains at the forefront of the need of every man. Holy lives must be lived showing the love of God in a world filled with despair.

This final Sunday is a time to reflect upon another time of change and the lessons learned and the instructions given. Joshua stood on the banks of the Jordan River peering into a land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses had died and now the leadership of the nation of Israel was in the hands of the son of Nun. He must lead the people. The past forty years were filled with great strife and heartache. Joshua and Caleb were the only ones of the age to see the promised land and enjoy the fruits of God’s promises. The lessons given to Joshua will serve the hearts of God’s people on this final Sunday of 2020.

The Lord tells Joshua: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:2-9)

Here are the lessons for 2020. This year is gone and cannot be changed. It is time to arise and enter the new year with a renewed resolve to serve the Lord. God will be us every step of the way if we walk in the paths of righteousness. Nothing will stand against us when we walk with the Lord. God will not leave us nor forsake us (just look at 2020 and you will see that). We must be strong and of good courage. The new year demands we observe to do according to all the law of God. Our lives must be directed by the gospel of Christ without turning to the right or the left so that 2021 will be a year of hope. The word of God must not depart from our hearts. It shall be our meditation day and night to observe to do according to all that is written in it. Has our Father not commanded us to be strong and of good courage? There is nothing to fear and no reason to be dismayed. THE LORD GOD IS WITH US!

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Gaius, Erastus, And Quartus

Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother. (Romans 16:23)

Gaius, Erastus And Quartus

There are names in the Bible that jump off the page with familiarity, popularity, and recognizable stories attached to them. Most people would know who Adam and Eve were and would recognize names like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, John, Paul, and of course Jesus Christ. There are many people in the Bible that nothing is known of them and yet they are enshrined on the pages of holy writ for all time. As the apostle Paul concludes his letter to the saints in Rome, he commends a host of Christians with nearly thirty people specifically named including men and women. Three of these individuals are Gaius, Erastus, and Quartus.

Gaius is a name found two other times in scripture. Paul mentions in his letter to Corinth that he was thankful he had not baptized any of the Corinthians except Crispus and Gaius. There was a controversy among the brethren of sectarianism with some appealing to Paul, to Apollos, to Peter, and Christ as to some type of spiritual badge of honor. The apostle John will also mention Gaius in his third epistle as a beloved saint. John’s love for Gaius is noted in the epistle as a faith rooted in truth and the life of Gaius as one exemplifying the qualities of Jesus Christ. There was a man named Diotrephes in the church that was causing a great deal of trouble and men like Gaius and another saint called Demetrius were the stabilizing force to neutralize the preeminent rule of Diotrephes upon the brethren.

One of the notes Paul makes about Gaius is he hosted the apostle in his own home. Considering the many places Paul had to stay in his work as a preacher, the home of Gaius was a splendid relief from the rigors of missionary work. Gaius seems to be a man of wealth who was willing to use his blessings for the work of the Lord. The house of Gaius was also the meeting place for the church at Corinth. Gaius was a man of great hospitality enjoying the abilities to help the church with his home which was no small undertaking. The character of Gaius was sterling. His example as a man of position but a man with a humble heart serving the Lord is clearly defined.

Erastus was the treasurer of the city of Corinth. This was a position of great influence and power. He presided over the financial affairs of the city. Serving as the steward of the city was an office of high respectability and responsibility to the Roman Empire. This suggests that many first-century Christians were people of note, influence, and power. The gospel can change the heart of a man who holds a high position of authority because the heart is willing to accept the grace of God. Luke mentions a helper of Paul in Ephesus named Erastus and it is unknown if this is the same man or not. It is suggested Paul’s reference to Erastus in the Roman letter was simply a designation of the former position held by Erastus but any conclusion is conjecture. In Paul’s final letter to Timothy, the apostle does mention that Erastus stayed in Corinth and could suggest the steward of Corinth had been involved in the mission work of Paul at one time.

Finally, Paul mentions Quartus. The letter to Rome is the only place where this saint is mentioned and all that is said of him is that he was a brother. It is interesting and should be noted that Quartus is mentioned in the same exhortation as Gaius and Erastus. What qualities Quartus had is unknown. His place in life whether rich or poor, a man of authority or a common man is unknown. He is listed with Gaius and Erastus, men of note and wealth, and to Quartus Paul simply says that he was a brother. It does not take away from Gaius and Erastus to recognize their place in the work of the Lord and all the contributions they gave to the Corinthian church, but Quartus stands out in the kindly tone of Paul calling him his brother. To be wealthy like Gaius would have been an advantage. Being the treasurer of a Roman city like Corinth was a place of great honor. But Quartus was a brother and while Gaius and Erastus were brethren also, the quality of the unknown man was that he was a brother in Christ to Paul.

Not every person can be like Gaius and Erastus but these two men would agree that to be called a brother was all that mattered. Quartus was a brother. Simple. Direct. Honorable. Defining. He may not have been a song leader, fill-in preacher, or Bible class teacher but he was a brother. His work may not have been recognized as much as Gaius and Erastus but Paul penned his name on a letter two thousand years saying Quartus was a brother. There are many saints like Quartus that quietly go about their lives showing Christ and the love of God with little or no fanfare. These are the saints that build churches up and keep them strong. They are at services every time the doors are open. The singing is infused with their joyful hearts singing to the Lord. Their kind words and humble presence encourages the downtrodden and weak. The examples of saints like Quartus are treasured. We are brethren. God bless the men and women who may only be known as brother so-and-so or sister so-and-so. We need those saints like Quartus. Lots of them.

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The Churches Of Christ

Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you. (Romans 16:16)

The Churches Of Christ

Jesus came to establish His kingdom and to open up the avenue of salvation for all men. His death was the sacrifice for sin. The burial was the reality of God inhabiting the abode of the dead. It was the resurrection that became the greatest miracle as Jesus came forth from the grave to build His church upon the truth that He was the Son of the Living God. Fifty days after His resurrection, Jesus witnessed the apostles gathered in Jerusalem preaching the gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world. On the day of Pentecost, three thousand souls were baptized for the remission of their sins and the Lord added them (and others) to the church. It was the beginning of the church of Christ. No plan has ever been as complete, no vision so fulfilling and no purpose more divine than the establishment of the church that would belong to Jesus Christ.

The first few years of the church saw an amazing amount of converts as Jews turned to the good news of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. Soon the Gentiles would be added to the fold when Peter went to the household of a Roman centurion and taught them the gospel. Men like Paul, Barnabas, and Silas began traveling around the Roman Empire establishing churches in every city. There were oppositions and persecutions but this only fueled the fires of the new covenant disciples with more faith. Churches were found in cities like Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, and even the imperial city of Rome. Spread throughout the world, the churches of Christ filled the landscape of communities far and near. It was a regal time in the development of the church. Facing the fierce oppression of the world against the disciples of Christ, the church grew stronger and bolder never accepting defeat. As a result of their faith, the church of Christ remains today a viable and influential part of the human fabric all over the world.

Paul penned a powerful letter to the saints in Rome whom he called beloved of God. His message was a bridge between the old law and the new law found in Christ. Throughout the Roman letter allegiance to Christ is set forth as the purpose of the gospel. As he concludes his letter naming many saints who inspired him and helped him in his work of preaching the gospel, the apostle sends greetings from the churches of Christ. This was not a title but a description. Paul recognized the church as belonging to Christ and none other. He gave glory to Jesus Christ by calling the church as that which belonged to the Son of God. The churches of Christ filled the world. Each congregation was a representation of Jesus. There were many names given to the early saints describing their relationship to Jesus but none so fitting as the churches of Christ. He died for the church and bought the church with His blood. As the head of the church, Jesus rules alone with no man to be a representative on earth. All authority comes from Jesus to rule over His church. The churches of Christ give honor and glory to the name of the Son of God. For two thousand years, the church of Christ has stood for He who is the way, the truth, and the life. Rooted in the rich tradition of the first century, the churches of Christ remain devoted to the cause of the first gospel sermon preached by Peter and the other apostles.

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Judged By The Word

He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. (John 12:48)

Judged By The Word

Judgment must always be measured by an appropriate discipline of law. When judgments are made without cause, the conclusion is biased and corrupted. There can be no legality to unrighteous judgments as the law must bear an honest case against the accused. In the courts of men, cases are thrown out because the judgment was tainted with a corrupted or misguided conclusion based upon lack of evidence or misapplied law. This is not uncommon in the legal systems of men. The reason for the imperfection of human justice is because of the imperfection of the wisdom of men. Appeals are made in the hope that some mistake was made in the series of evidentiary discovery which may overturn a conviction. Sometimes appeals are made after a person has served a long time in prison and is released due to irregularities in the process of the case. The judgment was corrupted.

There is a great day coming when all men will stand before the Creator of the universe and give an account of their lives. This is as certain as death. Denying a judgment does not change the reality of the judgment no more than denying death will stop a man from dying. The resurrection of Jesus Christ affirms the certainty of a day of reckoning. On this day, all men will stand before the peering eyes of the Lord God who will look into every soul and judge according to one standard – the word. Jesus taught His disciples that on the final day of judgment, every man will be judged by the word of God. It will be not based upon popularity or how famous the person was in life. The greatest heroes of men will stand shoulder to shoulder with the poor beggar forgotten by the world. Judgment will not come from the pages of Wall Street or the financial markets of the world. Rich men will stand alongside the poorest people of the world. The great day of the Lord will bring kings, dictators, rulers, and presidents to stand in the multitude of servants, workers, common men and women, and all walks of life. There will be no distinction made.

As the mass of humanity from Adam to the coming of Christ stand before the Lord, every man and woman will be judged by the same measure in the same rule under the same authority. The word of God will be the judgment. Abraham and Lot will be judged by the word as will the person reading this article. You and I will be judged with the same word as will Charlemagne, Shakespeare, George Washington, Adolf Hitler, Albert Einstein, and David Valdes. Catherine Scruggs will be measured by the word of God. The rule of God’s word will determine the eternal destiny of all the Presidents of the United States. It is the same word without deviation. While men have lived in different dispensations of God’s revelation (Abraham, Moses, and the first-century saints), the word will judge them all. Everyone born this year and the year to come will be judged by the word.

What makes the judgment powerful is there will be no mistakes and there will be no appeals. The word of God is perfect. Judging the hearts of men will be accomplished through a perfect law because the Lord is perfect. He is omniscient in the dealings of men. His word perfectly attributes guilt or innocent to all men. Every judgment made will be the right decision and no soul judged will think the judgment unfair. The word of God determines only two decisions to be rendered in judgment. There will either be words of blessing or words of condemnation. All those who are judged by the word and found faithful will know why they are saved. Sadly, every soul that hears the words of doom to everlasting torment will agree the sentence is just and right. There will be no souls in hell who do not believe they deserve the judgment of the Lord. And finally, they will know there will be no appeals. The word of God is perfect and there is nothing to appeal to. Salvation is just and right. Condemnation is just and right. The word of God affirms the doctrine of salvation and condemnation to those who live to help them decide what the word of God says when they die. Judgment is coming. Those who reject Jesus Christ and refuse to receive His words has that which judges them – the word that He has spoken will judge all men in the last day.

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Seeking The Praise Of God

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (1 Corinthians 4:1-5)

Seeking The Praise Of God

The apostle Paul had his critics. There were those in the church who did not accept him as an apostle and some judged the former persecutor with a suspicious eye. Paul was not an orator as Apollos. His presence was weak and his speech some considered contemptible. He ruffled a few feathers along the way because his preaching did not tickle the ears of human reasoning. The message of Paul was directed to the cross of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Nothing else mattered. He describes to the saints in Corinth the work of preaching is like a man who plants the seed while another man waters the efforts of the seed planter with God giving the increase for the glory of the kingdom. Each man has a role that he fits into the scheme of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like building a structure, every man has a role in establishing a foundation and building upon those efforts. The conclusion is that whether the man is Paul, Apollos, and Peter, everything works together for the cause of Christ with no man receiving the glory.

Paul had a single purpose in mind in his work of preaching. He sought to live in such a manner that would bring glory to God. Apollos and Paul were servants of the same Lord serving the same purpose as faithful stewards of the mystery of Christ. The judgment of men was not the criteria of Paul’s preaching but if he pleased God. Whether any man on earth would commend the apostle for his work, his many trips in difficult places, and all the sufferings he endured for the cause of Christ was not a concern from him. He wanted to receive praise from God and that is all that mattered. Each man will receive praise from God as the discerner of the hidden things of darkness and the revelation of the hearts’ counsel. Praise of men was of no value. Receiving praise from God was eternal.

During the ministry of Jesus, many people believed in Him including some of the Jewish leaders. But they would not admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. The reason was as old as mankind: they loved human praise more than the praise of God. They found the worth of human honor more appealing than the eternal praise of God. Sadly, this caused them to reject Jesus refusing to confess Him before men. Praise comes from either men or God; one is temporary while the other is eternal. Men can accomplish great things in life and make a name for themselves but to what end? Preachers can be adored by thousands of people and yet to confess the doctrine of Christ. They will soon be forgotten as they pass into eternity but the Lord will not forget. Paul is remembered today not because he gained the attention of men but that he pleased the Lord and gained praise from God.

All things will be laid bare before the judgment bar of the Lord God. In that final day of reckoning, nothing will matter in the minds of men and women who made a name for themselves on this side of eternity. God will not be impressed by how many books they wrote and how large their television or internet audience was and how big a house they lived in. In the heart of every human being standing for the great I AM, the question will be: will I receive praise from the Father? At that moment and at that time that is all that matters. The truth is – this is all that matters now. Don’t wait to find out too late how important the praise of God is. Do not please men. Seek the praise of God.

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His Life

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

His Life

Jesus is the Son of God. He is God. His divinity is proclaimed by the manifestations of His power over everything in this world and the spiritual world. The sacrifice of Jesus is the foundation of faith for every believer. His death, burial and resurrection affirm the belief that Jesus is the Son of God and in like manner as He was raised from the dead, all saints will rise in the last day. When Jesus bowed His head on the cross and said, “It is finished,” the will of God was completed. From the dawn of time until that moment cloaked in darkness the Lord unfolded the plan to redeem from sin all those who would come to Him. Jesus became the lamb that was slain. His blood cleanses and purifies the soul. Everything from Genesis to the Revelation is a proclamation of the story of Jesus.

It is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Examining the story of Jesus, the Bible reveals Him to be the Son of Man. He came to serve others. He would die for the sins of all mankind. What can easily be lost in the knowledge of the deity of Jesus is the matter of HIS LIFE. God became flesh and dwelt among men as a man. Jesus entered the world in the same fashion as all men. His conception was a great miracle but the Son of God grew in the womb of Mary as all babies grow. She delivered her child in the fashion as all women. The little baby Jesus had to learn to walk and talk and care for Himself. He was educated like other Jewish boys and learned many things about carpentry from his carpenter father, Joseph. Jesus enjoyed certain foods and probably disliked other foods (like brussels sprouts). He enjoyed long walks, quiet evenings and talking to His brothers and sisters. Jesus admired His loving parents and their diligent care for Him. It seems very probable sometime before the ministry of Jesus, Joseph died and the eldest Son would take a role of caring for the family. Jesus cried. He hungered, knew thirst and enjoyed a good night’s sleep.

The life of Jesus was a life most common to all men. If He were in a crowd of people, no one would know that He was divine. His face did not glow and there was not a light above His head. There was nothing on the outside that made the people think He was different. His speech was like the people of Galilee as was the manner of His dress. He had a deep sense of understanding that made Him stand out in a crowd. At the age of twelve, He astonished the religious teachers at the temple with His knowledge of scripture. There can be little doubt He continued to amaze those who talked with Him about the world and spiritual matters. In every way, Jesus lived a life as common as any other man from Nazareth.

To understand fully the sacrifice of Jesus is to know His life. When the Romans nailed Him to a cross, they looked upon Him as a criminal like the other two crucified with Him. Jesus felt the searing pain of His persecutors because He was in the flesh. God suffering at the hands of what He created. When He hung on the cross and saw His mother, Mary, He was moved with compassion. He asked John to care for His mother. What memories flooded His mind as He remembered the soothing sound of Mary’s voice singing songs to Him, teaching Him to pray, and telling Him the stories of the Hebrews. Jesus gave His life – and what a gift He gave. God became flesh and offered His flesh to redeem all men. To know the love of God is to know the life of Jesus and what He experienced as a man. He was willing to leave the ivory palaces of the divine presence of His Father and give His life a ransom for many. Thank God for the LIFE of Jesus.

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Kicking Against The Goads

And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ (Acts 26:14)

Kicking Against The Goads

Beasts of burden have been a common picture of rural life since the beginning of time. Man was given dominion over the animals and utilizing their great strength and endurance, he was able to subdue the land and carve out for himself means of survival. The oxen were an especially durable animal used often in plowing the land but it was also a very stubborn and rebellious creature. Jabal, son of Lamech (early descendant of Adam) is noted as the father of those who dwelt in tents and had livestock. He would have learned early how stubborn the oxen would be. It is uncertain who invented the first goad, but it seems like a practical solution to a persistent problem.

A goad is a length of wood about eight feet long. In time goads had iron spikes attached to the end or would sharpen the end of the wood to prod the animal to move. It is the nature of oxen to be stubbornly refusing to walk but a well-placed goad encouraged the beasts to continue moving. However, instinctively, feeling the sharp jab of the goad, an ox would kick against the goad resisting the prodding. The animal continued to move but it was unhappy at the pain inflicted by the goad and fought the plowman’s efforts. Fighting the goad did not solve the problem as the plowman would continue to enforce the goad. The only thing the ox accomplished was to hurt himself. It did not change its station in life.

Jesus used the proverbial saying of goading oxen to ask Saul of Tarsus why he continued to fight against the church dragging off men and women to prison. Saul was intent on destroying those who followed Jesus Christ and was quite effective in his passion. When Jesus came to Saul on the road to Damascus, He enforced a clear lesson for the zealous Jew to know that all he was doing was hurting himself. In the first place, his efforts to destroy the church were powerless. There was nothing Saul could do that would change the divine plan of God. Any resistance to the cause and will of God would be fruitless. Like an ox kicking against the goad, Saul was only hurting himself. He would later recall how vehemently he persecuted the church and how great a sinner he was for what he did.

Albert Barnes said of the expression to kick against the goads is to rebel “against lawful authority, and thus getting into greater difficulty by attempting to oppose the commands to duty.” Saul’s persecution of the church is the same malady experienced by those who reject the clear teaching of the gospel and the word of God. Refusing to obey the commands of God does not change the law of God. Attempting to resist the will of the Father will never change the mind of the Father. Trying to save oneself by good deeds is commendable but will never save a man. Believing that a person can live with the carnal pleasures of the world and be acceptable to the righteousness of the Lord will never bring one into a holy covenant with God. Changing the church to fit the ideals of human wisdom does not mean the church of Christ is diminished. There is only one body and one church and that has not changed in two thousand years. Opposing God and refusing to submit to the authority and will of the Father will only bring the disapproval and wrath of God.

Kicking against the goads is a common malady. The nature of man is to resist. He wants to rule his own life. His wisdom seems greater than the wisdom of God. Most refuse to accept the authority of God in their lives and like the ox, kick against the goading of God’s word – but to no avail. The ox resists the goad but they are still shackled to the plow and they still serve the will of the plowman. This will not change because all that man can hope to be is an obedient servant of the divine master who is the Lord God. The goad can be painful but the blessings of those who lovingly guide the lives of the faithful are immeasurable. Submit to the goad of God and you will be blessed.

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The Little Things Matter

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’ ” So Aaron held his peace. (Leviticus 10:1-3)

The Little Things Matter

Growing up with a famous uncle should have had a great impact on the lives of two young boys. Born into a land of harsh bondage in the land of Egypt, Nadab and Abihu experienced the deprivations and severity of the Egyptian taskmasters as they forced the Hebrews to make bricks and toil in the fields. They had heard of their uncle who had been raised in the house of Pharaoh but fled when the king learned his adopted son killed an Egyptian. After forty years, Moses returned and challenged Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go. After a series of incredible plagues that crippled the Egyptian nation and the final blow of a night of widespread death, Nadab and Abihu left Egypt along with nearly two million souls bound for a land of promise. The sons of Aaron saw their father ascend with Moses into that terrible mountain filled with fire, blackness and darkness and tempest and the sound as if it were a trumpet. It was so frightening the people begged for it to end.

During the long stay of Moses on the mountain, Nadab and Abihu saw their father yield to the cravings of the people who demanded gods to worship. Aaron told the people to bring gold to him and he fashioned a molded calf and an altar with a great feast of celebration. The people rose early in the morning offering burnt offerings and peace offerings to the golden calf and worshipped the idol as the god who delivered them from the land of Egypt. Their father Aaron did not restrain the people from all of their carnal desires. Suddenly, Moses appeared filled with wrath and anger. He took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder. Scattering the dust on the water, Moses demanded the people to drink. Moses publicly rebuked Aaron for his failed leadership. He then commanded the sons of Levi to kill those who refused to refrain from idolatry. At the end of the day, three thousand Hebrews were dead. Nadab and Abihu saw the penalty for disobeying the word of the Lord.

As priests, Nadab and Abihu learned the law concerning the regulations of worship. They were trained in the requirements of offerings, sacrifices, and rituals in the law of Moses. The garments worn by Nadab and Abihu were exquisite in detail artistically woven of fine linen. Attention to detail was in everything the sons of Aaron were commanded to do.

The Law of Moses was written with expectations of obedience on every page. Aaron and his sons were consecrated before the people as priests. Eight days following their consecration, the Lord demanded a sin offering and a burnt offering. After making the sacrifice, Moses and Aaron went into Tabernacle, and when they came back out, they blessed the people and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When the people saw this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground. Then Nadab and Abihu offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded. Fire went out from the Lord and consumed Nadab and Abihu and they died before the Lord. They failed to respect the holiness of the Lord God as those allowed to come near Him and to glorify God.

Having Moses as their uncle did not save them. Being the sons of Aaron the High Priest did not protect them. Nadab and Abihu received the wrath of the Lord because they failed to consider the little things. They took their censers and put fire and incense which the Lord had not commanded and paid the price of rebellion with their lives. Everything matters to God and many times the little things are ignored by those who fail to honor the Lord with respect. Many in the religious world practice the doctrine of Nadab and Abihu when they fail to teach the little things of God’s word. The word of God is not respected as the authority. Worship is not designed according to the New Testament pattern. The organization of the body of Christ is filled with human wisdom. The little things matter to God. One of the greatest lies taught by the religious world today is salvation by faith only with a refusal to accept baptism as necessary for salvation. Faith is necessary and so is the washing away of sins in the waters of baptism. A little thing? You decide.

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God Still Provides In 2020

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. (2 Corinthians 9:6-11)

God Still Provides In 2020

The year 2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years since the Great Depression. With the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) raging around the world and 1.5 million deaths worldwide, the economic, political, and scientific repercussions have yet to be fully realized. The next few years will tell the measure of how great the impact of COVID-19 will be upon the world. Economies around the globe have been hard hit. Families have torn apart with the loss of industries, jobs, closures, and financial ruin. In the United States, seemingly secure business is struggling to find ways to continue amidst the social distancing and masking regulations imposed by various institutions. In many places, churches are not meeting as a result of legal impositions or decisions by leaders of the congregation to mitigate the spread of the virus. The disruption of the assembly has been a heavy burden on the church. What was taken for granted before is now a challenge to find ways to fulfill the will of the Father.

As the year draws to a close there is one truth that has remained constant. In the face of the viral turmoil of COVID-19, God has remained constant. Many parts of society have been altered permanently but the word of God remains as true as it has been from the beginning. God’s grace and providence continue to fill the world. The people of God have suffered much loss in the year 2020 but for the spiritually acute souls, it has been a year of deep reflection. God has not abandoned His people. He remains constant in the face of turmoil. Like the persecuted saints of the first century, God’s message to the beleaguered hearts of the downtrodden is that He still rules and reigns in the affairs of men. His purpose remains the same. The work of the church continues. Souls must be saved through the power of the gospel. That is God’s way of showing the world the power of His love and the purpose of His Son.

Looking at how God has continued to bless His people with courage and faith, there is a need for the family of God to remember its commitment to the will of the Father. God has remained constant in His love and He expects His children to continue their commitment to His kingdom. One such example is the reciprocation of gifts received from the Father in the manner of laying aside the bounty of giving. The churches of Macedonia were a great example to the early Christians in their example of sacrifice. In the face of a great trial of affliction, the brethren abounded in the liberality of their giving. They did not allow the present distress to dissuade them from showing God their joy in the face of deep poverty. First, they gave of themselves and then to the Lord in actions of gratitude. Paul is admonishing the church at Corinth to follow the pattern of the Macedonian churches to give as they purpose in their hearts, not grudgingly or of necessity but cheerfully pleasing God.

Laying aside the contribution to the Lord is a way to show faith and courage in the dark days of COVID-19. The work of the church will continue and His people remain obligated to fulfill their role in laying aside a gift required by the Lord. It comes from a purposed heart that trusts in the providence of the Lord. Giving during the days of peace was easy; having a trusting heart to do so in these troubled times shows a greater faith. God will generously provide all the needs of His children. They will always have everything they need and plenty left over to share with others. Christians will be enriched in every way so that they can always be generous. And when a faithful child of God ministers their gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. Don’t forget to show loyalty to the Father.

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I AM The Alpha And The Omega

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:8-11)

I Am The Alpha And The Omega

Everything about man is finite. He has a beginning and he has an end. Life begins in conception and concludes in death. Time is measured by days, weeks, months, and years. When a man dies the inscription on his tombstone reflects a beginning point and an ending time. This is the nature of man’s mortality. The habitation of man is limited by space and time. There are depths the human body is unable to bear. While technology has allowed men to explore the vast oceans of the world and walk on the moon they cannot live there. Life on the International Space Station is limited by time. The longest single stay in space is 14 months. Travel to Mars is a one-way ticket (if even possible by humanity). The nearest star to the solar system is Proxima Centauri at a distance of about 4.22 light-years (40 trillion kilometers or 2.48548477 x 10 to the 13th power miles). And there are billions of stars in the universe. A French woman lived to be 122 years of age dying in 1997. She lived a very, very long life but she died. Everything about man is finite.

The early Christians were under the heavy hand of persecution and the Lord comes to the apostle John with a revelation to give hope and peace to the tormented saints. In the book of the Revelation, God reassures His children that life will be hard, filled with great trials and adversity and many will suffer great hardships for the cause of Christ. The reality of persecution is the inability to see a larger picture of what these trials will mean in the greater scheme of God’s plan. Faced with torture and cruelty, the early disciples needed the courage to endure to the end and to see hope in the victory of Jesus Christ. The Revelation will unfold the “behind-the-scenes” divine will of God for His church which the suffering saints could not see. To bolster the faith of His people, Jesus declares at the beginning of His message that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; and He has a message for them. The Greek alphabet has 24 letters including seven vowels. Alpha is the first letter and Omega the last. Jesus declares that He is the Alpha and the Omega because He is not finite, He has no beginning and He has no end. He is everything.

The reassurance needed by the early Christians was to remember that the Divine was from eternity to eternity. Man was created on the sixth day but God existed before the first day. The history of mankind began when God formed man from the dust of the ground. This is the emphasis of the Alpha and the Omega to see that God existed before the creation of man. All men die and even though Methuselah lived to be 969 years old, he died. God does not die. The Divine has power and presence beyond death. The span of man’s life is limited in every way but God is unlimited in everything. There is no comparison to how great God is and how small man is. As someone said, “Oh God how large your ocean and how small my boat.” The infinite wisdom of God is beyond the scope of human knowledge. His power is so great the same sun, moon, and stars beheld by Adam and Eve on the first day of their creation is the same sun, moon, and stars filling the sky today.

Jesus is telling the Christians that He is the beginning and the end as the totality of all things measured by the will of God in the affairs of men. There is nothing men should fear when they serve the One who fills the time with His presence. No ocean is so deep the Lord cannot dwell. No particle of the universe is not touched by the finger of God. Life can be filled with sorrow, pain, and tears but the Alpha and the Omega will wipe away those tears. It was encouraging for the saints to be reassured that God cared for them and knew their trials. The Alpha and the Omega is larger than man. He is the entirety of all things. What is there to fear? Courage comes from knowing that the One who made the world still rules in the affairs of men. It matters not what happens in this life when the King of King and Lord of Lords rules with all power, dominion, and authority. He is the Alpha. He is the Omega. Praise God.

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There Is No Comparison

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:25)

There Is No Comparison

Wisdom is the quality of possessing the knowledge to discern and apply various disciplines to life. Admittedly, many people possess a higher level of knowledge than most men. Some surveys suggest the top four individuals in history who excelled in knowledge were Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Johann Goethe. These men had an intellectual prowess far beyond the common man. Albert Einstein is famous for the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). His name is synonymous with being smart and having an incredible mind. History has been molded by the theories of Newton, the beauty and designs of da Vinci, and the conclusions of Einstein. Much of the modern world still revolves around the conclusions of great men who shaped the course of humanity. While the lives of great men and women who lived genius lives are admired and sought after, there is a rudimentary knowledge that young children possess and common men and women have that far exceed the greatest minds in history. The foolishness of God is greater than the heights of man’s wisdom.

In 1969, an incredible human accomplishment took place when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon. Few things come close to how human wisdom was able to transport three men to the moon and back especially considering the technology available at the time. What is forgotten is who put the moon there in the first place. Science has launched spacecraft to deep recesses of the universe and put machines on Mars sending back incredible pictures. By comparison, the wisdom of man has put a few men on the moon, perused the Martian terrain and opened the depths of the seas, and unraveled many mysteries of disease but cannot explain the order of the universe, its creation, and the love of God. The story of a carpenter from a small Galilean village of Nazareth who lived two thousand years ago does not cause a ripple in the curious wisdom of humanity. If the story is to be believed, this itinerant early century teacher was convicted as a criminal and executed by the Roman government. Where is the wisdom in that story?

The comparison between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of man is separated by such a wide chasm there is no tool to measure the infinite disparity of the two. At best, the foolishness of the Divine is greater than all the minds of humanity since the beginning of time – combined. It’s like comparing an atomic particle of dust (human wisdom) to the expanse of the known universe (God’s wisdom) and that pales in comparison. Jesus Christ dying on a cross does not compute to the wisdom of men. It makes no sense. There is no purpose. To most of humanity in the last two thousand years, the death of Jesus was of little or no consequence. Human wisdom could not and would not accept a story so outlandish. And yet in the story of the gospel of Jesus, the incredible wisdom of God is found.

To those who are drawn to the cross of Jesus, there is power. The wisdom of God unfolds every day through creation. When the heart spends time in the word of God, the value of God’s wisdom fortifies and solidifies the soul with peace, knowledge, understanding, joy, and hope. Human wisdom cannot give this. Only through the word of God will man find his role in life and the answers to what is beyond the vale of death. Great men can change the world and leave their mark on the pages of history. But the real question is what happened when Albert Einstein died and discovered the world beyond the grave. How important was the theory of relativity? The only thing relative to Einstein at the moment of his death was his relationship with God. That is the wisdom of God compared to the wisdom of man. The wisdom of man ceases at death. Knowing the wisdom of God will take one safely through the valley of the shadow of death. I love the foolishness and weakness of God because it makes me wiser and stronger.

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Who We Are Is What We Are

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. (Ecclesiastes 7:1)

Who We Are Is What We Are

There is one thing in life that we had no choice in yet defines everything about us. The choice of being born was made by our parents and the name given in birth was not by our design but the will of others. We learn early to recognize the name when it is used. From a young age, children respond to a name. Like blank pages of a book, a child’s mind is receptive to the language that identifies them without regard to the meaning. All children are born with an open and receptive mind to accept whatever culture they are born into. A child born in a German family will respond to the German language much like a child born to an Italian family will grow up speaking Italian. No one tells them why they speak the language. They accept it as natural. The name given is the same identifying marker that separates them from all the billions of people on earth. A name is who we are in the world we grow up and identify with.

The influence of a name is determined by what a person does with that name. A name begins as a neutral identity with no significance or importance. If the character or reputation of the person becomes evil, the name becomes evil. In April of 1889, a little boy was born to Alois and Klara Hitler that was as unassuming as any boy in Austria. However, the name Adolf Hitler is synonymous with evil and hatred. In the late 1700s, a family migrated from a German village near the French border to America where the family would settle in Kansas. The family moved to Texas for a short time where they had a son born whom they called Dwight David Eisenhower. This name would be recognized as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe that would help bring World War 2 to a conclusion. Dwight Eisenhower would become the 34th President of the United States. His name is respected in the annals of history as a soldier and leader of the free world.

There are many things to seek in life, but the only thing left on a marble headstone is a name and a date. The name inscribed speaks to the volume of life. It speaks to the character, reputation, and influence of the person. When all is said and done, all that a person leaves behind is their name. Solomon writes that a good name is better than anything a man may attain in life. A costly perfume will pass away but a good name will endure. The day of death is what seals a name in the eternal vault of knowledge. It takes a lifetime to create a good name but only a moment to destroy it. King David is remembered as a man after God’s own heart but his name will always be soiled with the story of Bathsheba. A good name is hard to come by and even harder to keep.

The Bible begins with a name. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The Lord identifies Himself immediately by telling a man what His name is. This name must be revered and honored and respected. The end of the Bible also includes a name: the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything between Genesis and the Revelation is about the name of divinity. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit give their names to identify who they are and what they have done for mankind. Every child is given a name by their parents and God will use that name to either inscribe it on the pages of the Book of Life or to cast it away from Him. God knows the names of every person that lives on the earth and He will recall that name on the final day of judgment. The day of death seals our names in eternity. What we did with that name will determine our destiny whether it is a good name or an evil name. That decision is yours. What you do with your name is who you are and who you will become. A good name is to be treasured above all things.

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