Manaen

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Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. (Acts 13:1)

Manaen

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Jesus of Nazareth began His ministry of spreading the gospel of salvation to all men. John the Baptist preceded the work of Jesus in preparing the way for the Savior. When John opposed the marriage of Herod to his half-brother’s wife he was imprisoned and beheaded. Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great who had killed all of the infants in Bethlehem following the birth of Jesus. The household of Herod would rule throughout the life of Jesus and the early church. Herod the Great was a powerful ruler who bathed the land in blood. His son Antipas was a superstitious immoral despot. Jesus referred to him as a fox. Luke records the acts of Herod Agrippa I (grandson of Herod the Great) in beheading James the brother of John and subsequent arrest of Peter. The Lord delivered Peter and afterwards Herod Agrippa was struck by an angel of the Lord for receiving God-like praise from the people. The political bastion of the Herod’s left an indelible mark upon the landscape of the people of Judea, Samaria and the Roman Empire.

In the church of Antioch (Syria) there were certain prophets and teachers and Luke names a few of them of note. Barnabas and Saul are familiar names. Nothing is known of Simeon who was called Niger (Black). Lucius of Cyrene is mentioned in Paul’s closing of his letter to Rome but nothing is known about him. One final character in this list of church leaders is the man called Manaen. What makes his name stand out is where he was raised as a young boy. Luke writes that he had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch or Herod Antipas. The Greek language suggests “one who is educated or nourished at the same time with another.” Adam Clarke says, “Manaen was the son of the woman who nursed Herod Antipas; and the son, also, whose milk the young Herod shared.” It is clear by Luke’s reference that Manaen had the advantages of Herod in schooling and was probably a companion of young Herod. There was a familiarity between Herod Antipas and this man who is a devout Christian serving the church at Antioch.

The gospel of Christ is an amazing message. It is readily received by the common people as often seen throughout the ministry of Jesus. The early church also changed the hearts of the simple man and those who were outcast. What is exciting about the New Testament disciples is to realize the gospel of Jesus Christ also reached the ears of the higher classes of people and those of nobility – even close friends of Herod. There is a curious anticipation to know how Manaen came to know the gospel. How did he obey the gospel and who was the one who saw a glimpse of hope in talking to a man of such distinction? What impact did this have on the relationship with Herod? These are exciting questions that will never be answered but the lessons are many. The gospel of Christ is for all men. Paul would later share in his letter to Philippi there were Christians in the household of Caesar. It is amazing to think those reared in the household of Herod and Caesar would be children of God one day. But the gospel can change hearts regardless of the world they grow up in. Honest hearts obey the truth of God’s love whether rich or poor.

Manaen is a beacon of hope to know of the opportunities that lay before us to tell others about the love of God. It is easy to make prejudgments about people thinking they would not be interested in truth. Who would have thought a man brought up with Herod Antipas would be a vital part of the early church? Thank God someone took the time to show Manaen the grace of God and nurture him to be such a great leader in the church at Antioch. There is no distinction in the body of Christ. All men share the same grace in Christ whether rich or poor, educated or illiterate and powerful or common. God’s message of hope stirs honest hearts. It does not rely on what kinds of clothes are worn or pedigree of station. The gospel of Christ saves men – all men. Never lose an opportunity to talk to the one who needs the saving blood of Jesus Christ. Look for the heart and ignore all else. Manaen – brought up with Herod the tetrarch – is the pattern to follow.

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It Is All About Perspective

Sunrise-Over-Mountain

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

It Is All About Perspective

The people of God have always had a different view of life and the daily struggles that encumber the body, soul and mind. There is something inspiring to see in the hearts of those who have devoted their lives to serving the Lord yet facing multiples trials of conflict whether from disease, sorrow, persecution or death. The world swirls around the saints of God with all of its confusion and chaos but they are unmoved. Paul was constantly bombarded with the trials of those who sought to kill him, perils on his journeys and concern for the spiritual welfare of the church. In all of the mounting pressures from the world about him the apostle calmly walked the path of righteousness with the resolve of hope guiding his life. He did not do something herculean in its nature as if no one else could have the same kind of faith. What moved the heart of the apostle Paul was his perspective of life and all the trials that he faced. Without a clear view of life and the proper placement of what happens in this world and what is to come; no one can truly reach the maturity of abiding trust in the promises of God.

Paul suffered a lot in his life. When he obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ his life took on the suffering servant work of spreading the word of God to the world. It was not an easy task. He was beaten, imprisoned, scorned and sought after by assassins. The heavy weight of the church pressed hard upon his soul as he wrote letters upon letters to exhort and rebuke and chasten the brethren to follow the path of divine authority. His life was an incredible story of servitude. While sitting in a Roman prison the apostle penned the epistle of joy to the saints at Philippi. This could only be done because of how he viewed life. It was hard on Paul and he did not welcome the pain inflicted whether bodily or spiritual. All he could think about was how short life was but how wonderful the glory of eternal life would be. Perspective. He put the sufferings of life in a box and understood that whatever he endured in this life was nothing compared to the inexpressible joy of what was to come. Life was a vapor and Paul knew that. No matter how many years he lived his life was a wisp of air that was only an atomic particle of time. He did not look at life from the lists of his birthdays but that final day of rebirth when he would never die again. It all has to do with perspective.

The aged apostle has been dead for nearly two thousand years. His legacy lives on through the writings of the Holy Spirit. Many of God’s saints have been laid to rest in the glory of the resurrection that is to come. A person’s view of life will determine how life is viewed. Paul knew the sufferings of life were temporary. His focus was not on the trials of the flesh but the joys of eternity. There is no comparison of what is to come with what is now. It is easy to consume life with the trinkets of this world and never raise the eyes to the glory that is to come. Many will miss Heaven because they were too concerned for the pleasures of life that are temporary. Sadly they believe that everything that is to be gained is in this world. Death is the same for all men. What lies beyond death is what separates men. Knowing that eternity is without end brings joy to the saints who trust in the promises of the Lord. This life can be hard and there will be challenges but looking to the author and finisher of faith in the hope of eternal glory will make the journey joyful.

Jesus came to earth so that we could look into the portals of Heaven and see our Father who has so much to bless us with in eternity. The Son of God gave His life and through His life we can live with hearts and minds focused on what lies beyond the grave. The suffering of this world cannot be compared to eternal life. What happens here is temporary. Eternity is without end. Life at its best is a vapor that appears for a little while and then is gone. Suffering is but for a moment. Having faith in God to trust His promises will ease the pain of mortality so that we can put on immortality. Joy awaits. Death is welcomed because it is no longer feared. What can compare to the blessings of eternal life? All of the joys of redemption await those who keep their eyes on the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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He Alone Is Wise

God alone wise

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith— to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)

He Alone Is Wise

Everything has its source and there is nothing that does not have its beginning. Man was created by God as the world was formed by His hand. Nations rise and fall in accordance with the power of the one who rules all things. Nature continues its daily cycle established in the six days of creation directed by the mind of the Lord. Nothing is without cause and purpose as the wisdom of God overshadows all things. Knowledge is pursued and gained through the centuries as man unveils what has already been known. Solomon declared long ago there is nothing new under the sun. Of all the grand accomplishments of the history of man he remains the minor player on the stage of God’s creation because wisdom comes only from God and from Him alone.

There is nothing known that is new. Man discovers what was already established by God. Columbus did not discover America; he merely found a land mass that had been inhabited since the beginning of time. When inquisitive man realized the world was not flat but round, he found a truth that had always been true. One plus one equaled two before Adam was formed. The best man has ever done in his quest for knowledge is to crack open the shell that already contained the walnut. Before God created man He placed in order the world with all its knowledge and power. Man was created last so that he could discover all the things that preceded him. Someone said the Lord created the mosquito before he formed man to remind him of his place in creation. The wisdom of God is before the wisdom of man and He alone is wise.

Sin came into the world because Eve thought she was smarter than God. Satan’s tempting of Eve was to challenge the word of God believing that her wisdom could overrule the command of God. She looked at the fruit and decided that God was wrong. It was not until after she and Adam ate of the forbidden fruit did they realize how true God’s word was. The wisdom of God was rejected that day but the fact He alone was wise did not. Satan’s greatest ploy to destroy the hearts of men is to make them believe they alone are wise. Paul declared the gospel as the complete and perfect wisdom of God to save all men through Jesus Christ. The scriptures proclaim to all nations the commandments of the everlasting God as He alone is wise. If any truth is to be known it must come from the mind of the one who created man. The scriptures declare that God made the world and its existence is held together by the word of God. Disbelieving this does not discount the truth. Only the wisdom of God could bring about the salvation of fallen man when sin separated him from his Creator. Where is the wisdom of man in the story of Jesus Christ? Man was so blind to the power of God in the flesh they killed Jesus on a cross. The death of Jesus is the final proof of how weak the wisdom of man is but the cross is the glory of the God who alone is wise.

Of all the achievements of man nothing compares to the vast universe of knowledge contained in the mind of God. In 1969 man did something no one in history would have imagined: man walked on the moon. The irony is that the Lord God walks upon every planet and every star and fills the sun itself with His presence. What is man when he stands next to the Almighty Lord God who alone is wise? And yet this great and wonderful God loved all men to send His Son to die for their sins and make a way that His noble creation could spend eternity with Him. To God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

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The Challenge Of Faith

faith pebble

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11:1-3)

The Challenge Of Faith

It is not easy to believe in something that is unseen. Faith is a contradiction of the senses. There is a need to see, touch, taste or hear a thing to allow clarity of belief and often without that assurance there is no faith. This is more prevalent in matters of believing in the one God than anything else. No one would doubt that wind exists but the only reality is the unseen power of what it does. Wind is invisible and unseen. The evidence of wind is what it does with dust, water or the movement of trees. Faith is found in ordinary matters of life. Flying in an airplane takes a great deal of faith all the forces of nature will allow a huge piece of metal to soar through the air and land safely. Ships that sail upon the oceans of the world depend on the laws of buoyancy to safely go from port to port. Sending men to the moon required an immense about of faith in science to accomplish the incredible accomplishments of space. The heart begins beating in the creation of life and continues for many years with no thought given as to how or why. Considering the immense amount of information retained by the brain and all of the intricate manifestations of the mind throughout life is without explanation. Everything in this world is based in part or whole to the idea of faith and few would dismiss the truth of believing what is unseen. Believing in one God is easily rejected by the same minds that accept faith in everything else in life.

There is no argument the world was created; only the manner of its creation. Moses did not witness the creation of the world when he wrote the book of Genesis. Faith guided his hand to describe the Lord speaking and forming the world. All of the stories of Genesis came solely by the hand of faith inspired by an unseen God who declared the message of the early world to Moses. He described the circumstances surrounding his birth coming from the pages of faith. Faith is the evidence or proof of things that cannot be seen – the invisible. Men believe in the invisible every day but when it comes to accepting the Bible as the word of God unbelief clouds the eye. Faith is evidence as clear as the sun, moon and stars. How does man believe in life when life cannot be seen? Life begins in the womb – explain that. A man lives 70 years – explain this. Death takes life away – how is that understood? Faith is the evidence the force of life comes from the hand of God and in death returns to the One who gave it. Science cannot color it, create it or reproduce it but who does not believe in life? The sad irony of those who reject faith as a basis for belief in God cannot explain why they have life and where it comes from. They attempt to answer with science but they can never go to the question of who created what and how.

Faith is the fundamental challenge all men face. It is accepting what they cannot see and what they may not be able to fully understand. Rejecting God because they do not see Him or cannot recreate Him in a test tube is as foolish as the watch rejecting its maker as a lie. A watch is formed by a creator with design and purpose. Man is created in the image of God with design and purpose. Disbelieving in a Creator is man becoming his own creator so that he may worship himself. Faith is the evidence of things unseen and that troubles men. The worlds were formed by the power of God with no one to witness its creation. Adam and Eve saw the result of creation and all we can do is see the same world. The visible is accepted by faith through eyes which do not see. Without having a faith in God and Him alone there is nothing to hope for – man is nothing more than a miserable morsel of flesh. Here is the story of faith: the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. Believe.

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Yearning For Forgiveness

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To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. I said, “I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.” I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good; and my sorrow was stirred up. My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned.

 Then I spoke with my tongue: “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them.”

 And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions; do not make me the reproach of the foolish. I was mute, I did not open my mouth, because it was You who did it. Remove Your plague from me; I am consumed by the blow of Your hand. When with rebukes You correct man for iniquity, You make his beauty melt away like a moth; surely every man is vapor.

 Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not be silent at my tears; for I am a stranger with You, a sojourner, as all my fathers were. Remove Your gaze from me, that I may regain strength, before I go away and am no more. (Psalm 39)

Yearning For Forgiveness

Sin has a troubling effect upon the soul of the righteous. For those who have no desire to serve the Lord or to walk in the paths of holiness, sin is a comfortable companion. Sharing a love for God makes the spirit aware of the sadness that comes when deeds mar the joy of fellowship with the Lord. It hurts deeply as disappointment cloaks the soul with the conduct of disobedience. Life is viewed in a proper setting of brevity and a desire to make things right with God is immediate. The tongue is an unruly evil and can often spew forth unkindness without thought bringing sorrow and pain to self and others. Anger destroys relationships bringing sin into the heart. Forgiveness is the cleansing of the impurity of sin. Yearning for the blessing of God upon a heart caught up in the tangles of sin will only come from a knowledge of His grace and love to forgive. How great is that measure.

David was a man after God’s heart because he knew the power of forgiveness. His greatest act of sin was with Bathsheba but he was a sinful man in other ways. He had to deal with sin as any man and sometimes did not do a very good job at keeping it at bay. Whatever the circumstance surrounding the writing of his psalm, it is clear he is disturbed by his actions and the hurt he may have brought to others. What is more paramount to his heart is what he has done to God. David understood the vertical and horizontal relationship of holiness that required one to love the Lord and also to love his brother. Sin cannot be forgiven if there is hatred toward others. He had harmed a child of God and he wanted forgiveness from his heavenly Father. Looking at the brevity of life David pleaded for the mercy of God to remove his sin far from him. He understood the importance of perspective. Wisdom was needed to guide his speech in dealing with others and he also pleaded for the kindness of God to remove his sin. The two are inseparable.

Love demands chastening. God has always loved His children and through the act of chastening has formed the heart of the faithful to know His love. David felt the sting of the Father’s displeasure but he looked at it as an act of love. He did not rebel against it but embraced it. His relationship with God was one of devotion knowing that everything the Father did was righteous judgment against the frailties of human suffering. Sin will strike the heart with guilt. David left his life in the hands of a righteous God who would purify his soul from the draught of wickedness. He acknowledged his sin. Begging the forgiveness of God he left in the hands of a holy judge. Humility was the strength of his plea of the Lord and David longed for the Lord to look upon him with kindness.

The righteous struggle with sin like David. There are times we take the wrong path, say hurtful words and act in ways of unrighteousness. The joy of forgiveness comes from the right perspective and desire to serve the Lord. Having a heart like David will bring the joy of forgiveness back to the soul of those who are righteous. Jeremy Taylor said, “God hath given to man a short time here upon earth, and yet upon this short time eternity depends.” David understood this. Nothing mattered but receiving forgiveness and David trusted in the Lord to exercise His grace when the heart of David was humbled. The joy of forgiveness will come to all who accept the chastening of the Lord as a means to bring about a heart of humble trust in the mercy of God. Yearning for forgiveness must be paramount in the heart of the righteous.

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In The Beginning

john-1_1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)

In The Beginning

Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This is a fundamental truth upon which every part of salvation depends. It declares the character of the Father who loved men so much that He sacrificed His only begotten Son for the sins of all humanity. There is nothing man has done that deserves such a gift and no amount of works can repay the price Jesus paid to offer His life for a sinful creature like man. Incredible does not begin to paint the picture of God’s love upon the canvas of mercy extended to a world clothed in darkness than the Word becoming flesh and living among men. The apostle John transcribed with pen the story of Jesus Christ dwelling in flesh to raise man from the mire of wickedness to the glory of the Father. Jesus was born of woman and endured all the trials of humanity but He was before the beginning of time existing as the Word with God as He Himself was God. The man known as the carpenter’s son was Deity, Divine, and with no beginning and no end. He was the beginning because He was the Creator. He fashioned the sun, moon and stars. Infusing man with the image of the Father, Jesus Christ gave life to men bodily and spiritually. What He felt as a human being is all that He created in the beginning. God took the form of the creature.

The Son of God shared the suffering of Satan’s onslaught against the desires of the flesh. All of the temptations of pride, lust of the eyes and fleshly enticements battled the spirit of the Word. Through the power of His Father Jesus was able to endure the sorrows of the flesh finding victory in the resurrection from the dead. The Word became life and the light of the world so that all men could see the power of Him who was in the beginning. He was God and yet He became man. Jesus was with His Father and He chose to dwell among men. The Word was before time began forming all that is in the world so that He could come into the world to share the word of hope for condemned men. In the Garden of Eden death came to all men but in Christ life was given. Darkness fell upon humanity when sin conquered the soul of man and light saved man when the Word became flesh. In the beginning man would lose his way. Through Jesus Christ he would find the only way, the only truth and the only life.

Jesus Christ is the Word as the embodiment of every morsel of truth given by the Father. His life, deeds and words declare the grace of God to all men. Only His words can change the hearts of sinful men to find the love of God. His word is true because He was with God as eternal yet considered it not robbery to be equal with God but made Himself a man so that all men could hear the Word of salvation. He emptied Himself to fill the souls of men. Jesus left His place with God to be among men. Christ became the Savior of the creation He formed. In the beginning He was the Word and in Him all truth was found. He was killed on a cross for the sins of His murderers. God raised Him from the dead as proof He was the Word to show His glory in the promise of eternal life.

The hope of all men is found in the beginning. It is there the grace of God is unveiled as the promise of a Seed would redeem the failures of men to the glory of the Father. Jesus Christ became that new beginning when eternity dawned in the hearts of men by Him who was the Word and was God. Peace can only be found in the Word who was God and became the light of the world showing the path of life through the Father. Man can only understand his destiny when he understands the importance of the beginning. When he learns the meaning of the beginning he will find the joy of tomorrow. Jesus Christ was in the beginning. He will be the cause of the end. Those found in Christ will experience a new beginning in the Word as eternity opens its doors.

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Forgotten Leaders

book of life

These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua. (Numbers 13:16)

Forgotten Leaders

There was a lot of excitement and anticipation as the nation of Israel drew near the land of Canaan. Surviving the brutal bondage of Egypt, the Hebrews had escaped by the power of God and became a nation with allegiance to the one true God. At Sinai the people were given a law that would define their nation. Enemies fell before them as the Lord showed His power upon all those that opposed the apple of His eye. The people experienced the blessings of God as he fed them with manna, quail and all the water they needed. Standing on the verge of a land flowing with milk and honey, Israel was ready to receive the land promised by the Lord.

The Lord spoke to Moses and told him to send men to spy out the land of Canaan. This would be a test for the people because the Lord had told them He was giving them the land. God knew what kind of people were there. He knew their defenses and weaknesses. The giants in the land were no match for the army of God because He fought for them. Just a few months earlier they had defeated Amalek under the leadership of Joshua. Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of a hill and while Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed. Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Conquering the people of Canaan would be accomplished through that same power that delivered them from the armies of Egypt and Amalek.

Twelve leaders among the people were chosen. These were the men who were looked to for their wisdom, faith and courage. Each tribe picked one man they considered to be a leader and sent them into Canaan. All of them were heads of the children of Israel. For forty days the spies wandered the land collecting information about the people, the cities and the crops. When they returned to Moses and the people they praised the land as a place flowing with milk and honey and an abundance of fruit. There was no land like it in the world. However they saw the cities as too large and the descendants of the giant Anak living in the land. Fear gripped the hearts of ten men declaring to the people conquering the land was impossible. They could only see what their eyes could see without faith in God’s power. Troubling the people the ten men convinced Israel to abandon the plans of entering the land promised them by God. Only two of the spies – Joshua and Caleb – believed the victory was theirs. Forty years later only these two men would cross the Jordan and conquer the land by the mighty power of the Lord.

Do you remember the names of the ten spies who troubled the people? Each tribe sent a man who was a leader among them; those who were heads of the children of Israel. Rarely does anyone remember Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi and Geuel. These men are not remembered because they did not remember the power of God. Lost in the dust of history ten leaders are forgotten and dismissed because they did not believe in what God had promised the people since leaving Egypt. All twelve of the spies had seen the glory of God and the signs which He did in Egypt and in the wilderness. The ten spies who rejected the Lord died by the plague before the Lord. Only Joshua and Caleb are remembered because of their faith in the promises of God.

There is a book that God has called the Book of Life. Contained on its sacred pages are the names of the faithful. These are the names of those who will be remembered in the final judgment as the saved. Some names were in the Book of Life at one time but were blotted out because of unbelief. Many names were never added to the Book of Life because they never believed in the glory and power of God. When all men gather before the great throne of the Lord God Creator the only thing that will be on their minds is whether their names are remembered. Salvation will only be given to those names that are remembered like Joshua and Caleb. Your name will be called one day. Is it a name that will be retained in the Book of Life or will it be a name forgotten? You decide.

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