Christians Walking In Wisdom

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. (Colossians 4:5)

Christians Walking In Wisdom

The world is a dark place spiritually. Jesus taught the majority of people in the world are unrighteous, with only a few that will be saved. This speaks to the appealing nature of sin and the desire for the pleasures of life. Obedience to the will of God has always been the least desirable trait in the heart of humanity. Satan easily lures the heart to look at life as a time of fun and frolic with no eternal consequence. Noah lived in a world where only eight people were righteous. Abraham’s world was filled with the pagan gods of polytheism, and yet he remained righteous. Moses chose to reject the religion of ancient Egypt to serve the one true God. The early Christians faced persecution from the government, religion, and a harsh society to worship the gods of the Romans, including Caesar as a god.

Colossae was a small town in Asia Minor, not far from Ephesus. Like many Roman towns, Colossae was a mixture of nationalities and pagan religions. A faithful church had begun there at some time, and Paul wrote to the brethren as they faced those who challenged their faith in Christ. Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote his letter to Colossae, but the spirit of the letter was to encourage the saints to walk as lights of Christ in a dark world. The gospel was the means of salvation for Jews and Greek. Colossae was where the gospel had taken root, with a local congregation of saints showing the light of Christ to a city filled with darkness. Among the apostle’s exhortations, Paul reminds the Christians to live with wisdom among their Colossae neighbors, using every opportunity to share the good news of Christ with them. A pattern of evangelism is given that the word of salvation could be spread throughout Colossae.

The example of a Christian’s life carries a powerful testimony to the gospel of Christ. There is a need to preach the word and to be constant in establishing the authority of Christ as the framework for the one true church. The example of faithful Christians carries great weight in a community, whether the gospel of Christ has changed their lives or not. Paul’s exhortation is a simple reminder to the saints to live wisely with their neighbors to show how Christ has changed their lives. Insincerity is always a sign of doubt when a man professes allegiance to Christ and lives like the world. People of the world will judge a local church by the veracity of its members. The daily walk of the Colossian Christians carried greater weight in many cases than a sermon. Paul reminds the Christians of the power of their influence. Walking wisely among those outside the church is one of the greatest evangelistic conversion tools.

A higher value is placed on day-to-day living than the lengthy sermons of the preacher. Paul exhorts the Christians to remember the powerful influence they have on their neighbors in the manner of their lives. The example of a Christian’s life carries great weight in converting the lost. It is very difficult for a worldly saint to convince an unsaintly person in the world to follow Christ when they refuse to follow Him themselves. Walking with wisdom to those in the world is seeking opportunities to be a light for Christ. Paul did not only want the saints to consider how they walked before those in the world but to seek opportunities to share the gospel.

Looking for opportunities in a dark world is letting the light of Christ shine before others. Evangelism is where saints share their love for God with others. Walking with wisdom in the world and seeking opportunities is connecting with the person at the grocery store, the auto store, the neighbor, the friend, and the coworker. Unless a person lives a hermit life, opportunities abound. Paul wanted the saints to walk in such a way they could open a discussion with someone about the saving grace of God. This task is easier for Christians when they walk in God’s wisdom. Walk in wisdom. Look for open doors. Knock on some doors spiritually. Seek opportunity. Be the light of Christ in a dark world, a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden.

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Forty-One Funerals A Day

According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I the Lord have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die. (Numbers 14:34-35)

Forty-One Funerals A Day

No single group of people in the history of mankind witnessed the power of God, as did the nation of Israel. By a mighty hand, the Lord brought the Hebrews out of Egypt. Through the plagues upon the Egyptian nation, God turned the water into blood and infested the land with frogs, lice, and flies. The hand of the Lord was against the cattle in the field, on the horses, donkeys, camel, oxen, and sheep (a severe pestilence). Boils spread throughout the Egyptian community with a great plague. Hail rained down, destroying crops, followed by the scourge of locusts. The ninth plague of darkness was the prelude to man’s greatest night of terror. On the night of the Passover, the Lord God killed every firstborn of every household in Egypt, including killing the firstborn of the animals. The Hebrews were spared the plagues, but they saw the destruction. When the Hebrews left Egypt, they saw the power of God divide the Red Sea and then destroy the greatest army on earth.

Miracles continued to impress themselves upon the people as bitter water was turned sweet, bread from heaven called manna fed the people, followed by quail. Water came from a rock. The Amalekites were soundly defeated. Standing at the foot of Sinai, the Hebrews witnessed the awesome presence of God as the Lord descended upon it with fire, blackness, darkness, and tempests, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of God. So great was the power of God, Moses was exceedingly afraid and trembled. When the people turned to the golden calf in unrestrained worship, more than three thousand Hebrews died. Two sons of Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, were destroyed by fire for offering profane fire before the Lord.

After leaving Sinai, the people came to Kadesh-Barnea. God instructed Moses to send men into the land to spy the land which He was giving them. Leaders for every tribe were assembled, and the twelve leaders went up and spied out the land. After forty days, the spies returned to tell the people what they had found. The land flowed with milk and honey, but powerful enemies with fortified and well-secured cities also possessed it. Ten of the spies did not believe the Israelites could win the war. Joshua and Caleb believed in the power of God to do the impossible. Hearing the discouraging news of the ten spies, the people refused to enter the land. The decision by the people dishonored the promise of God. He had told them the land was theirs. He would give them the land, but they did not believe it.

For the past few months, the Hebrews had seen the greatest miracles of God work in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, against the Amalekites, and the continual provisions given by God. Refusing to trust in God was an affront to the name of God. As punishment for their rebellion, the Lord declared the nation would wander through the wilderness for forty years. Everyone twenty years and above would die and never see the promised land. The nation numbered 603,550 fighting men when they were at Sinai. When the forty years were completed, the number was 601,730. Everyone twenty years and above died. Using a common denominator factoring on the average per day that would die shows that there were at least forty-one burials daily. In reality, there were probably not that many every day, but the illustration shows the immense number of burials that took place constantly for forty years.

Four decades passed as the people were reminded of their rebellion. When families buried their loved ones, who could they blame? The constant funerals became a reminder of the righteousness of a holy God whose name must be revered and the consequence of sin. Joshua and Caleb were spared because they were faithful. The ten spies died immediately, and then a forty-year funeral dirge occurred as no nation on earth experienced. Israel had seen the power of God with their eyes, and it did not move them to obey Him. They would spend forty years wishing they had believed in the power of God.

God is a wrathful God against all unrighteousness. The power of God is found in the word of God. All the evidence a person needs to obey is found within the pages of holy writ. Rejecting the Bible as the word of God will not bring a forty-year sentence – it will be an eternal day. Forty funerals a day for forty years would be an incredible experience. Israel stands as a monument to the folly of men who fail to learn lessons from the power of God. Do you believe in the power of God? Are you willing to trust in the Lord and obey Him? If not, get your shovel out. There will be a lot of holes to dig.

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The Value Of Friendship

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great. (Job 2:11-13)

The Value Of Friendship

Few stories strike at the heart of suffering than the Old Testament story of Job. He lived in the land of Uz and was blameless, upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. He and his wife were blessed with seven sons and three daughters whom they loved very much. Job was a blessed man with great wealth, making him one of the greatest men of his time. He never took for granted the blessings received by the hand of God. His place was prominent among the heavenly hosts when Satan challenged God for the hedge around Job. Allowing Satan to bring tragedy to the family of Job, everything the man from Uz possessed was taken in one day. His children were killed, all of his possessions taken, and servants killed, and finally, Job was afflicted with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. In all of this, he never cursed God.

The story of Job was told by his family, friends, and everyone who knew him. They were shocked and amazed at the incredible tragedy that had befallen the family of Job. Nothing like this had happened to any man. How could Job maintain his integrity faced with such insurmountable suffering? There were many who talked about Job’s plight. The talk of society was filled with sadness at the house of Job. Many would wring their hands in unbelief. Hearing of the misfortune of Job, three men made an appointment to go to the home of Job and comfort him. Their names were Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. They each came from their own homes to visit Job.

Nothing is known of Job’s friends before the story’s telling. Whatever it was, Job’s three friends had their own lives to be concerned with. They could mourn the loss of their friend, but what of their homes and at what cost to their livelihood? Hearing how their friend had suffered greatly, the three friends decided to visit Job together. Preparations were made, and plans finalized. They left home and began the journey to the home of Job. The purpose of their visit was to mourn with Job and to find ways to comfort their friend. Their hearts of sympathy overflowed for Job and his wife. Visiting with Job would bring some consolation to their friend. The nobility of their cause was singular. Their lives were put on hold to spend time with Job.

They could not have expected what they found when they arrived at the home of Job. As they drew near the house of Job, they could barely distinguish their friend. He was in such an incapacitated way they immediately began to weep. It tore their hearts deeply to see Job under such suffering. Their hearts were filled with love and sympathy. How could such a thing happen to their dear friend, and why? Tearing their robes, the three friends poured dust upon themselves as a sign of mourning and deep grief. They could barely look at their dear friend in all his misery. Their hearts were broken. Approaching Job, they remained speechless. They sat for seven days and said nothing. Each day they looked upon their friend with love and compassion. There was nothing they could do to bring his children back or restore his possession. None of them could relieve him from his painful boils. But when Job looked through his blurred eyes filled with misery and pain, he saw three friends sitting with him and not leaving. It brought some comfort.

The bulk of the book of Job is about the speeches made by Job and his three friends as they try to understand what happened. Job speaks first, and his friends try to find words to comfort him. They said more when they remained silent than when they tried to explain the plight of Job. It must be noted before the debate that three friends came and sat with Job. There is value in friendship. They missed the mark trying to explain the suffering, but the lesson cannot be lost that three friends came to stay with Job. It would have been easier to send a card, mail a letter, send a messenger, or let the family know their concerns. The three friends of Job came to visit him. They wanted to comfort their friend with their presence. And they did. Their friendship was based on being there for one another. We must see the same value of friendship. Sometimes it calls for action on our part—more than a text, telephone, card, or Facebook post. Real people were visiting with real people in need. That is the value of friendship.

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Concern For The Body

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)

Concern For The Body

The beauty industry responsible for selling cosmetics and body imaging is worth around $532 billion. In the United States alone, the fashion industry is valued at approximately $343.70 billion, with store sales in 2019 totaling $195.85 billion. Tattoos and body art has soared from years past to be worth nearly $3 billion. Jewelry worldwide is an industry of well over $300 billion, with the United States earning an annual revenue of almost $61 billion. Health foods globally will increase to an industry worth nearly 1 trillion U. S. dollars by 2026. Fitness and wellness companies make up $100 billion globally. It is clear to see that billions of dollars are spent on body appearance every year.

There is great emphasis placed on body appearance. This takes the form of the types of clothing, hairstyles, makeup, and body image. Body art has no age limit or boundaries. The bold at heart will tattoo most of the body with images and statements and add as much piercing of jewelry as possible to the body language. The world is consumed with a “me, me, me” attitude of focus on the body and everything attached. Supermodels parade with glamour, portraying wealth, beauty, and power. Athletes boast of their physique as indestructible. The peer pressure to conform to the styles of the world are immense in every form. There is pressure to fill life with all the trappings of the carnal world of beauty, glamour, physical prowess, and the glorification of the body.

Jesus warned against the emphasis on the body. There is a need to provide those things necessary for the demands of life but dwelling on and worrying over the matters of the body and clothing destroys the spiritual eye of the child of God. Life is more than all the billions of dollars spent on cosmetics, jewelry, tattoos, body piercings, health foods, and health clubs for one single reason: the body will die. People of all ages die. It will not matter whether a person is rich or poor. The funeral director can only put one set of clothes on the body. Some jewelry may be placed on the body, but then it is buried in the ground. All the money spent on tattoos and body art will be food for the worms. A life consumed is wasted.

The challenge of life is to understand the real value of living. Solomon had fame, fortune, pleasure, and knowledge, and his wives turned his heart away from God. He summed up pursuing the carnal life as nothing more than vanity. There is no profit to the worldly pursuits because the end of the road is death. The end of life should be the awareness of the purpose of life. Having good things in life is not wrong but not to the exclusion of the preparation for the moment after death. Dwelling on all the worldly things is useless. People grow old and die. Get ready for that reality. Nothing in this world is real because it is not tangible. The billions of dollars spent for the glorification of the body are a waste of money, time, energy, and focus. Place your treasure in the heavenly matters where the thief will not break in and steal, and nothing will rust. Then, and only then, will you find true peace, happiness, joy, and contentment.

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The Cockles Of Life

“Then let thistles grow instead of wheat and weeds instead of barley.” The words of Job are ended. (Job 31:40)

The Cockles Of Life

As a penalty for taking of the forbidden fruit, Adam was not only expelled from the paradise of Eden, where he tended the garden’s trees; he would now have to work by the sweat of his brow to sustain life. The Lord cursed the ground with thorns and thistles. After the flood, the Lord assured Noah that there would be seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summers, and day and night as long as the earth remained. What the Lord did not do was take away the weeds, thorns, and thistles. It would be a challenge for men to grow their food. In the Garden of Eden, food was provided by the hand of God, but now the man had to work by the sweat of his brow to produce a crop. Part of this curse was the introduction of weeds.

Weeds are amazing but undesirable plants. They are odious, useless, troublesome, and damaging to good crops. The life cycle of weeds moves very quickly compared to a healthy crop. Jesus illustrated in the story of the four soils where the seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns sprang up, choking the seed. Explaining the parable to the disciples, Jesus shows how the word of God is sown in the hearts of men, but the cares, riches, and pleasures of life choke the word, and there is no maturity. The contrast between receiving the word of God and the life cycle of weeds is understood as how worrying about the cares of life consumes the hearts of men to make them unproductive in the kingdom of God. Riches are weeds because they are useless and troublesome. When the heart spends its life on pleasures, it finds the experience an empty and vain existence.

When Job finished defending his character, he summed it up by pleading for the thistles to grow instead of wheat and cockles (weeds) instead of barley if he was guilty. While he tried to justify himself before his three friends and ultimately God, he did know the frustration of the cockles of life. A good crop takes time to grow with great effort to remove the thorns. Weeds have no trouble growing. Great amounts of money are spent on fertilizer to help the crops grow healthy, but there is no fertilizer for weeds. They grow profusely without it. If left unattended, the weeds, thorns, vines, and thistles will overtake and choke the healthy plant. Without removing the thorns, the plant will die.

Removing weeds is arduous and exhausting work. The tender plant has tender roots, but weeds have vicious foundations. Culling through the undergrowth of overgrown thorns and thistles will leave the body bloody and wounded. Ignoring the overgrowth will lead to certain destruction. Weeds are easily identifiable. Removing them is imperative to a healthy and productive crop. The cockles of life have the same resemblance. Eliminating the things in life that drain the energy and purpose of life is difficult. Rooted with deep resources, the cares of life can overwhelm the soul to worry about what to eat, what to drink, and how to provide the necessary needs. Jesus warned about placing the treasures of life too heavily on the needs of the body when the soul needed more care. It takes time to nurture a healthy spirit to serve the Lord. Growing the weeds of life is the easy way, the broad way, and the way that leads to destruction.

A good gardener will recognize the need for weeding the flower bed, plowing the ground to remove weeds, and putting every effort into preventing the growth of thorns. The soul who loves the Lord will daily remove the temptations of life’s cares, pleasures, and riches to overtake the soul. Many cockles of life damage the fertile ground of righteousness. It takes a discerning heart to identify those things that hinder growth. When a farmer plants a crop, he expects a bountiful harvest. No harvest can come without effort. Life is not about the here and now but about the life to come. The small amount of farming done in this life will bring about the bounty of an eternal harvest with God. Failing to weed the garden here will only bring death in the life to come. It’s time to get rid of the cockles. Put your gloves on. It’s hard work but worth it.

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Living For Christ

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

Living For Christ

Freedom and democracy are the patriotic sounding board for those who want to choose how they live, where they live, and how they live their lives. Throughout the ages, nations have established realms allowing citizens to choose and decide how to live. Inalienable rights supersede governmental laws and cultural norms. These natural rights include the right to think for oneself, the right to life, and the right to self-defense, and they remain throughout every human’s lifetime. Thomas Jefferson, one of the main creators of the Declaration of Independence, explained the unalienable rights of each citizen were life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The democratic republic of the United States was founded upon the principles of rights for every citizen.

Democracy is a powerful platform to build a nation but contrary to the foundation of the kingdom of God. There is no democracy in the kingdom belonging to Jesus Christ. A theocracy of the sovereign rule of God alone characterizes the kingdom Jesus established. The subjects of the kingdom are to obey the word of God. When someone obeys the gospel of Jesus Christ, they turn their lives totally over to the will of the Father. The church is not a democracy where the individual can vote for or against the law of God. There is no choice. God establishes law and expects the citizens of the kingdom to obey the word without reservation.

Obedience to God is not forced as if the Lord ruled as a dictator. The love of Christ compels the Christian to honor God in his life by giving his whole spirit to the will of the Father. This is based on the realization that Jesus died for the individual. It is easy to view the death of Christ as a global event, but in reality, the death of Jesus must be considered in a personal and singular manner. If a man cannot take into his heart the personal sacrifice Jesus made for him, he cannot and will not willingly subject himself to the will of God. The love of Christ compels a man, controls his will, and constrains the spirit to obey. When a man learns to subject himself to Christ, he empties his will for the one truth, one way, and life.

Jesus died for the individual. When the individual accepts the sacrifice of Jesus as a personal testimony of divine love, he is willing to give his life entirely to God. The decision must be made that when a man becomes a Christian, he no longer lives for himself. That is a hard decision to make. The spirit of freedom resides deep in the heart of all men, but that spirit cannot be in the heart of the Christian. Freedom can only be found in Christ measured by completely removing self and subjecting the soul to God’s will. Those who live for Christ should live no longer for themselves. They must put Christ first in everything. Are you compelled to live for Christ? Subject yourself to His will, and He will lift you up. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. Bow in the presence of the I AM, and He will raise you up. Live no longer for self but for Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Living for Christ is the only way to die in Christ to gain eternal life.

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Naboth The Jezreelite

And it came to pass after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel, next to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. (1 Kings 21:1)

Naboth The Jezreelite

The city of Jezreel was located in the tribal lands of Issachar. It was of little importance until the days of Ahab and Jezebel when they made Jezreel a place for one of the palaces. On the eastern slope of the hill of Jezreel, a man named Naboth owned a parcel of ground given to him through ancestorial rights by his fathers. Naboth tended a vineyard on his land, which was close to the house of king Ahab. The king wanted to put a garden next to his house and offered Naboth money to buy the land. He also offered to barter the land for a better vineyard if Naboth agreed.

Under the Law of Moses, it was forbidden to sell a paternal inheritance. Naboth refused the offer by the king not for personal reasons but because to sell the land would go against the command of God. Ahab had no right to ask Naboth to sell or barter his land. The king was bound by the Law of Moses as much as Naboth. When the king inquired about the parcel of land, Naboth reminded the king the Lord forbade selling the land of inheritance. This displeased Ahab, and he went into his bedroom, where he lay down on his bed and turned his face to the wall. He was so upset he refused to eat. Ahab knew Naboth was right.

Jezebel heard that Naboth had refused to sell the land, but she reassured Ahab she would make sure the land was his. She writes letters to the elders and nobles of Jezreel bearing false witness against Naboth. In a cunning ruse of deceit, the men of the city proclaim a fast and seated Naboth with high honor among the people. Two evil men came and sat across from Naboth, accusing the good man of cursing God and the king. This was an offense worthy of death. Naboth and his sons were dragged out of the city and stoned to death without recourse. The wicked leaders of the city sent word to Jezebel that Naboth was dead. Ahab took possession of the vineyard to make his garden.

While the king basked in the success of obtaining the vineyard of Naboth, Elijah, the prophet, came to Ahab and told him because he had murdered an innocent man, his blood would fill the place where the dogs would lick up his blood. Further, the dogs would eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel, whoever belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field. Ahab and Jezebel had taken an innocent man who, by right of the Law of Moses, refused to sell his land; and was murdered by the king. The sons of Naboth were also killed to remove any inheritance rights.

Nothing is known of Naboth except he was a man who owned a parcel of land coveted by the king. He was an ordinary man who worked hard in his vineyard to provide for his family. His sons worked alongside their father. The family of Naboth was like any other family living around Jezreel. They were honest people who lived in a kingdom filled with wickedness. In order to frame Naboth, false witnesses had to be brought in to accuse him of blasphemy, suggesting Naboth was a man of good character. The leaders of the city were corrupt and evil to put the plan of Jezebel into action to murder a man and his sons. They were also accountable. The sad part of the story of Naboth is the injustice of evil against the righteous. A man and his sons were falsely accused and stoned to death.

The prophet Elijah made it clear to Ahab and Jezebel that God was fully aware of their evil. No one like Ahab sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord because Jezebel, his wife, stirred him up. Naboth and his sons were murdered, and God would bring recompense to the family through divine justice. Ahab would die in battle, and the dogs licked his blood when his chariot was rinsed of his blood. Jezebel was killed when she was thrown from the window of her palace by her eunuchs. She was trampled underfoot by Jehu’s horse. After Jehu had eaten a meal, he sent servants to bury Jezebel, but all they found was her skull and the feet and palms of her hands. The dogs had fulfilled the word of the Lord.

There are many injustices brought upon people by evil men and women. As they stoned Naboth and his sons to death, the condemned wondered why God allowed the travesty to happen. God could have stopped the stoning, but He did not. Naboth and his sons died, but the judgment of God came true. Ahab and Jezebel died, and they will remain in the fires of hell without end. Life can be unfair, but eternity is just. Men will commit injustices in this life, and God will settle accounts in the world to come. Serve God today. You can hide nothing from God. Nothing.

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God Pleads The Case Of The Poor

Do not rob the poor because he is poor, nor oppress the afflicted at the gate; for the Lord will plead their cause and plunder the soul of those who plunder them. (Proverbs 22:22-23)

God Pleads The Case Of The Poor

There has always been injustice in the world since sin began to dominate the hearts of men. The persecuted come from the ranks of the feeble, helpless, and poor among humanity. They are defenseless against the bullies of the world who seek to abuse them, take their possessions, and use them for their own gain. Poor people are abundant in the world. Because of circumstances often beyond their control, they cannot rise above their station in life. A cycle of continual misery accompanies their meager existence as they try to live above the poverty level.

God has always been mindful of the unfortunate. Under the Law of Moses, the corners of the fields were not to be harvested. The Lord forbade harvesting the grain along the edges of the field. Whatever the harvesters dropped was to be left for the poor. This was also the case with the harvest of grapes. The people were not to strip all the grapes from the vines nor pick up the grapes that fell to the ground. They were to be left to the poor and the foreigners living among them. This was a command with as much force as not to kill or commit adultery. God’s law prohibited the abuse and neglect of the poor.

A stern warning is given in the wisdom literature concerning the abuse of the poor. Taking advantage of the poor because he is impoverished is a sin. Robbing the poor because he is poor is an abomination before the Lord. All men were created in the image of God and bear His mark. Robbing the poor is robbing God. Mistreating another human being based on economic status is mistreating the creation of God. Courts of law were often held at the city gates, and another stern warning was given against the miscarriage of justice against the poor. Powerful men could easily abuse a man of lowly rank who has not have the means or funds to defend himself. Abuse of the poor was common in the courts of men. Without a proper defense, there was nothing the poor could do.

The nation of Israel represented the family of God’s people. They lived under the Law of Moses, which protected the poor against maltreatment. The wisdom literature was written for the people of God to treat the poor with respect and honor. God warned His people against the abuse of the poor and offered hope for those treated poorly. A court of law may rule against the poor man and take away all his possessions, but a day will come with God will settle all accounts. The men who testified against Naboth so that Ahab could steal his land were innocent in the courts of men, but when they died, they stood before the One who knew all they did. The Lord pleaded the case of Naboth, and the false witnesses, Ahab and Jezebel, all received their reward for abusing the poor.

When men plunder the goods of the poor in this life, they find that God will plunder their souls in judgment. Nothing escapes the eyes of the Lord. The poor can suffer in this life and find joy in the life to come. Those who oppress the poor now will enjoy the bounty of their possessions and then face the wrath of God in judgment. The lesson of accountability is to show love and compassion to the oppressed because eternity depends on it. Jesus told about the gathering of all humanity before the throne of God was likened to separating the sheep from the goats. The basis of this judgment was how the child of God treated others. If the heart showed benevolence, the soul was rewarded. When the heart showed cruelty and neglect to the unfortunate, they were cast into the everlasting fire with the devil and his angels. God looks after the poor. Mistreat the poor, and you will have God to deal with.

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Figs And Faith

“And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for the sake of My servant David.” Then Isaiah said, “Take a lump of figs.” So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. (2 Kings 20:6-7)

Figs And Faith

Hezekiah was the thirteenth king of the southern kingdom of Judah. In contrast to his father, Ahaz, Hezekiah was a king who loved the Lord and did what was right in the sight of God. He inherited the throne at age twenty-five, ruling for twenty-nine years. At thirty-nine, Hezekiah developed a boil that made him sick nigh unto death. Isaiah went to Hezekiah and told him to set his house in order, for he would die and not live. Hezekiah prayed fervently to the Lord with bitter tears pleading for his life. Before Isaiah could leave the palace, the Lord told the prophet that Hezekiah’s prayer had been heard. Through the mercy of God, the king would enjoy fifteen years of life.

The power of God to heal is instantaneous in many cases. Jesus healed the multitudes of all diseases and infirmities. Many of those the Lord healed experienced the cure immediately. The paralytic man delivered to Jesus through the roof was told to rise from his bed and go to his house. He immediately stood up, took his bed, and went out in the presence of them all. Jesus healed a blind man by spitting on the ground and making clay from the saliva. He then anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. The blind man was not healed immediately. Jesus told him to go to the pool of Siloam (still blind) and wash. The blind man went to the pool and washed and was made whole.

When Isaiah told Hezekiah he would not die, the king rejoiced in his heart. Hearing that he had fifteen more years to live would have given him a more profound love for the God he served. However, the boil had not been removed at the word of Isaiah, and the king remained near death’s door. Isaiah told the servants of Hezekiah to take a lump of figs and press it on the boil. When the cake of figs was placed on the boil, the king recovered. God could have removed the boil immediately, but He chose not to do so. If the king had rejected the fig remedy, he would have died. God promised to give Hezekiah fifteen years, but the king had to obey the word of the Lord. Without his faith in the promises of God and placing the figs on the boil, the king would have died. Like Abraham, Hezekiah found faith working together with his works, and by works, faith was made perfect. The king was justified by works when he placed the fig remedy on the boil. You see then that a man is justified by placing the cake of figs on the boil and not by faith only.

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The Great Escape

In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped from his hands. (2 Corinthians 11:32-33)

The Great Escape

Paul’s defense to the Corinthians of his suffering as a disciple of Christ included one of the earlier trials he faced when he became a Christian. The early life of Paul was very different than what happened that day when he approached the city of Damascus. Paul’s early life was robust with training in Jewish law, learning from the esteemed teacher Gamaliel, and becoming one of the most powerful men in Jewish leadership. When the followers of Jesus banded together and began to increase in number, the leaders of Israel became alarmed. They arrested Peter and John and warned them not to teach in Jesus’ name. Then they arrested the twelve apostles and, after beating them, warned them again. When Stephen withstood the Jewish council (which included Saul of Tarsus), they took him out and stoned him. Saul consented to his death.

Following the death of Stephen, Saul launched a furious attack on those who were of the Way. He gained authority from the high priests in Jerusalem to arrest the disciples of Jesus in Damascus and bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he approached the city, a bright light shone around him from heaven. The Lord told Saul to go into Damascus and wait. Three days later, Ananias came to Saul and baptized him for the remission of his sins. Saul of Tarsus was now a Christian. His enemies had become his brethren, and his former brethren had become his enemies.

After Paul became a Christian, he remained in Damascus and immediately began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues. Everyone was amazed at the transformation that took place in the man from Tarsus. Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and no one could refute his proof that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. His preaching also brought a renewed source of enemies. His former Jewish brethren wanted Paul dead. Watching the gates day and night, the Jews plotted to kill Saul and solicited the governor’s help under Aretas, the king, to arrest him. Neither plan would succeed. Being told of the plot to kill Saul, the disciples of Christ lowered Paul down in a basket through a window in the wall. He escaped and made his way to Jerusalem, nearly 150 miles away.

Paul’s escape was an inglorious end to his trip to Damascus. He had arrived with the authority of the high priests and left in a basket, being let down in the dark of night. God’s providence overshadowed his escape, for there was much work for the new apostle to carry out for the kingdom of God. As Paul bumped along the Damascus wall, he must have reflected on the irony of his plight. A man with great authority and privilege in the world escaping for his life in a basket down the city wall. But he now served the King of Kings, and his escape would further the cause of Christ in years to come. God had a plan for the apostle, and he never let the persecutions and humiliations of life cause him to waver.

Suffering for Christ was a common thing for Paul. He had been beaten, locked in prisons, threatened, persecuted, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked and in perils often. His best days were being let down in a basket to escape the watching eye of the guards seeking to arrest him. Paul knew how often God had blessed him with those baskets in life. The apostle took his suffering in the stride of an eternity-bound man. If Paul had anything to boast about, his boasting concerned his trials that made him stronger. The great escape. Down a wall in a basket. Incredible.

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The Valley Of Decision

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. (Joel 3:14)

The Valley Of Decision

Joel is the prophet of decision. Using a catastrophic locust plague as a backdrop, the prophet of God unleashes a barrage of appeals to Israel to repent or face the wrath of God. The day of the Lord was coming, and severe destruction would come if the people did not repent. Repentance is the message of the book. The totality of God’s destruction would be thorough, complete, and exhaustive. There would be no mercy to an unrepentant nation. God’s wrath would burn hot on the people if they did not heed the day of the Lord. Joel told the people the judgment of God was at hand, it was coming, and it would be great and very terrible. A day would come that would be coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. Joel’s conclusion is the appeal for the people to make a decision. He tells them the day of the Lord is at hand, and they are standing in the valley of decision.

The metaphorical language of Joel is very strong. There is no doubt the judgment of God was coming. History is replete with how God does not lie, and when He promises judgment, it comes. Israel had turned away from the Lord to serve idols. Moses had written in the law when Israel turned away from God to serve idols; judgment would come. The Lord had sent prophets into the land to turn the hearts of the people back. They rejected the messengers of God. Israel experienced a time of prosperity, but this came from becoming like the nations around them. God had not blessed them, and they forgot God. Now the Lord demands the trumpet be blown in Zion and an alarm sounded in His holy mountain. The people should tremble at the day of the Lord when they see the dust of the consuming armies coming to destroy them.

God pleads with the people to turn to Him with all their hearts, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. If they would rend their hearts, a merciful God would save them. He demands they blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, and call a sacred assembly. When the people show works of repentance, God will relent from His fury. The day has come for a decision. Joel calls it the valley of decision. Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Those who refuse will be destroyed.

The figure of the valley of decision is how God displays His mercy for all humanity. When men refuse to follow the will of the Lord, the wrath of God comes with a furious swarm like a destructive army of locusts. The crawling, consuming, and chewing creature leaves nothing in its path, and so will the Lord bring swift and utter destruction. Jesus pleaded with the people to repent or perish. They killed the Prince of Life. God has revealed His word to all the world through the Bible, and men reject His message. There is coming a day when all men will stand before the judgment bar of God. When that time comes, there will be no hope. The time for a decision is now. Salvation must come today. There can be no waiting or indecisiveness. We all stand in the valley of decision and must decide whom we will obey. Like Joshua declared so long ago, a day must come when a decision is made. Elijah implored the people to make up their minds about whom they would obey. The Lord has done all He can do and all He will do. Every man stands in the valley of decision. What is your decision? You will decide.

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What Must I Do To Be Saved?

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

There is no doubt that God desires all of creation to be saved. He has given the world all the knowledge needed to answer the question of salvation. When the early church began, the first question was what needed to be done. Devout men gathered for Pentecost heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and how they had killed the promised Messiah. Their hearts were pricked, and they responded by seeking the answer to salvation. Peter told them to repent and that everyone should be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Three thousand responded and were baptized.

Peter and John went to the temple to pray and met a lame man at the temple gate. After healing the man, Peter spoke to the people reminding them once again they had denied the Holy One and the Just, and killed the Prince of Life, whom God raised from the dead. He tells them to repent and be converted so that their sins may be blotted out. Many of those who heard the word believed. When Saul of Tarsus began persecuting the church, faithful saints went everywhere preaching the word. Philip went to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. The multitudes heeded the gospel of Christ, and there was great joy in the city. Simon, a notable sorcerer, also heard the teaching of Philip, and he believed and was baptized.

The Holy Spirit directed Philip to find a man traveling from Jerusalem to his home in Ethiopia. Philip approached the Ethiopian and asked him if he understood what he was reading. The man was reading from the prophet Isaiah. Invited to join him, Philip began where the man was reading and preached Jesus to him. As they went down the road, the Ethiopian asked Philip why he could not be baptized. Philip told him if he believed with all his heart, he could. The man confessed he believed Jesus Christ was the Son of God. They stopped the chariot, and both Philip and the Ethiopian went down into the water, and he baptized him.

Saul had begun to persecute all the disciples of the Way, disciples of Jesus Christ, with fierce persecution. He made plans to go to Damascus and arrest all the followers of Christ he could find. As he approached the city, the Lord appeared to him and told him to go into the city, and he would be told what to do. Blinded, Saul entered the city and stayed with a man named Judas, who lived on a street called Straight. Three days later, Ananias comes to where Saul is and heals him of his blindness. Ananias then tells Saul to arise, be baptized, and wash away his sins. Saul obeys.

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the Roman army. He was a devout man who feared God with all his household, giving alms generously to the people and always praying to God. He was not a Christian, and none of his household were Christians. An angel appears to Cornelius and tells him to send to Joppa for a man called Peter. This man would tell Cornelius and his household words whereby they would be saved. Cornelius obeys, and when Peter comes, the family of Cornelius is baptized in water.

Paul and Barnabas go throughout the regions of the Roman Empire, preaching the gospel of Christ. Multitudes believe and are baptized. People from Cyprus, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, and Derbe believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Lydia and her household were baptized in Philippi. The Philippian jailer and his household were baptized. Many in the city of Thessalonica believed, including a great multitude of devout Greeks and not a few of the city’s leading women. The Bereans believed. Converts were made in the city of Athens. Many in the city of Corinth would believe as Paul spent a year and six months teaching. Paul found twelve men in the city of Ephesus who knew only the baptism of John. The apostle baptized the men into the name of Jesus Christ.

There are many untold stories of those who heard the word of God, repented of their sins, confessed that Jesus Christ was Lord and Savior, and were baptized for the remission of their sins. Luke offers the story of the early church, and every conversion story is the same pattern. Jesus had told the apostles to go into all the world and preach the gospel, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Luke testifies this is what the apostles did. There are no stories of people being saved because they were good people. The apostles never taught salvation by faith only or grace alone. If you are a good person, that will not save you. Believing faith alone will save you is a lie. Thinking God’s grace alone will save you is a false hope. The book of Acts contains a little over 24,000 words. Read the book of Acts and see what you must do to be saved. Stop believing men and believe the word of God.

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The Innocent Cry Of The Guilty

This is the way of an adulterous woman: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wickedness.” (Proverbs 30:20)

The Innocent Cry Of The Guilty

The nature of sin is realized in different ways. For some, transgressing God’s law brings shame and fear. Adam and Eve hid in fear because of sin and were ashamed. Cain had no fear or regrets about killing his brother. For most people, sin is a religious term that does not apply to them. The popularity of sin attests to the fact that most of the world is under the persuasion of the deceiver, who denies the guilt of sin. Agur points out in the proverb an adulterous woman engages in sexual immorality without any guilt or shame for what she does. This explains the nature of sin and why so many people have no guilt about the kind of lives they lead.

Satan has done well to blind the minds of sinful man to the reality of God’s omniscience. The omniscience of God is His all-knowing spirit that knows everything done by every person on the face of the planet – at the same time (which is part of his omnipotence). A woman can engage in sexual immorality in secret, but the man she is with knows, but most importantly, God knows. No darkness can keep things from the eyes of God. No place on earth exists where the Lord is not there. Men brag about reaching the summit of Mt. Everest, but God has been there since it was formed. The deepest part of the oceans is the dwelling place of God.

An adulterous woman forgets that God sees in secret. She may have escaped the detection of the world, but she (and he) can never escape the eyes of the Lord. Assuming the character of a good woman is a fantasy built upon hypocrisy. The world may see her as a beautiful debutante, sophisticated, and happy, but the Lord sees the blackness of her soul. Sin looks appealing. The lesson from Agur is the deceptive nature of sin. Satan has filled the world with souls bound for perdition who appear innocent and pure. Like the immoral woman, they wipe their mouths of sin and proclaim their innocence. “I have done no wickedness,” they chant. Their lies do not change the evidence of God’s knowledge.

There will be many shocked souls at the judgment bar of God when they hear the words of destruction. They will die believing they are innocent because no one found their guilt. Nothing they have done is wrong because they lived according to their desires with no guilt or shame. Sadly, the measure of sin is weighed in the divine balances of mercy, grace, and truth. Those who have failed to keep the will of the Father will find no favor on the last day. They may have fooled the world but can never fool the Lord. Let it be known. God sees and knows all. Every man will stand before the Lord God and Judge and give an account of all they have done in this body. Nothing will be left out. No one will claim innocence who is guilty when the judgment comes. All the guilty will know the power of God’s truth. He sees all, and He knows all.

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Why Men Are Weary

But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

Why Men Are Weary

The sheep is an animal wholly dependent upon someone to care, protect, and provide for them. When God created the sheep, He did not instill any means of protection like large teeth or razor-sharp claws. The feet of a lamb cannot deliver him from the fierce attack of a lion or bear. There is little a flock of sheep can do against wolves who come to feed. By themselves, the sheep are the most helpless of animals. Left to themselves, they would wander about without direction and starve to death or die of thirst. The only salvation sheep have is a shepherd’s guidance, protection, and care.

God created the sheep to be helpless, and God created man to be powerless. A lion is a fierce beast who devours its foe with ease. The instincts of the lion will find food and water. A lion is independent and singular in its purpose. This is not the case with the poor lamb, which cannot protect itself or provide its own nourishment. The nature of a man is like that of a lamb. God created humanity to be a creature wholly dependent upon the blessings of the Creator. The difference between a lamb and a man is that man was created in the image of God. He can choose evil or good, light or darkness, and righteousness or unrighteousness. Made in the image of God separates man from animals, but more often, the animals know God better than man. The ox knows its master’s crib. Man refuses to acknowledge that God is his Creator. With all the blessings of creation where man is created in God’s image, he struggles with accepting the will of God.

Jesus saw the people in the way a shepherd looks upon aimless sheep. Multitudes followed Jesus to hear His teaching and to be healed of their diseases. The miracles of Jesus were to confirm that He was the Son of God, but most people saw only the miracles. Jesus taught the word of the Father, and most turned a dull ear. The work of Jesus was complete with signs, wonders, and miracles confirming the message of salvation to a lost world; and often, at the end of the day, Jesus could only see the people as sheep without a shepherd.

The people that followed Jesus were weary, harassed, scattered, and helpless. This was not in an economic, political, or religious sense. What Jesus saw lacking in the people was a spiritual purpose. They were burdened under the weight of a failed religious system that exalted the rich and oppressed the poor. The Jewish teachers had corrupted the Law of Moses to their advantage at the cost of the people. Jesus taught as one with authority, not like the scribes. The people were amazed at the teaching of Jesus because it was direct and true. He fed the people the pure manna of God’s word. Those who followed the teachings of Jesus found peace in His word because it gave them purpose and direction. Jesus was sad when He looked upon the multitude and saw they looked so helpless.

Jesus came to take away the hopeless spirit of a destitute world. The Son of God came to seek and save the lost. There would always be the poor among the nations of the world, but Jesus came to give life to those dead in sin. The world is filled with helpless, wandering, aimless lives of people who seem fine on the outside but are inwardly empty shells. Jesus wants His people to see the fields are white to harvest in sharing the good news of Christ to a lost and dying world. We must recognize the need to show a world full of empty shells: Jesus Christ. Sheep without a shepherd – need a shepherd. Your neighbor without Christ – needs Christ.

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What Is The Love Of God?

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)

What Is The Love Of God?

There has always been one thing God wants from His creation. Creating man and woman was the highest of His creation, and He crowned humanity with the divine image of an eternal nature. God did not ask much, but He expected everything. To love God, one must keep His commandments. God has always wanted men to love Him enough to keep His commandments. Rejecting the word of God is an affront to the nature and character of God. It shows disregard for the love of God. Man was created to show the glory of the Father. When men refuse to keep the will of the Father, it shows the lack of love needed for God’s blessings. The love of God is found when men keep the commandments of the Lord.

It is easy to say one loves God. What becomes difficult is to have that love and keep His commandments. The problem men have faced with their relationship with God is that they want to say they love Him but are not interested in doing what God says. Many will claim to love Jesus and never consider following His commands. Today’s health and wealth religion hawks the pleasure-driven-do-what-you-want-to-do gospel of loving Jesus and not worrying whether one is following the will of God. If a person believes in Jesus, that is all required. Loving God is an expression of outward faith without any action on the part of the individual. Religion becomes nothing more than a shallow emotional experience.

Keeping the commandments of God requires obedience to the word. This is called action. It is not possible to choose and pick which commands to keep. Obedience comes from the act of doing what the word of God says one must do to be saved. Saying you love God and refusing to be baptized for the remission of sins will not change a person into a saved individual. Proclaiming love for Jesus does not bring salvation apart from keeping the commandments. The faith-only doctrines of men destroy the fabric of the gospel to its core. There is no doctrine of faith-only in scripture, with the exception that salvation does not come by faith alone. Too many souls walk aimlessly through life, saying they love God and Jesus Christ and never do one thing to keep the commandments of the Lord.

The striking character of the commandments of God is to know that none of them are burdensome. When has God asked any man or woman to do something they could not do? The Lord told Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering because God knew the test that would go through the mind of Abraham would be proven by his faith. God did not ask too much of Jonah, but Jonah thought so. On the day of Pentecost, when Peter and the apostles preached to the multitudes gathered at the temple, did the Holy Spirit ask them to do something they could not do? Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, and three thousand people obeyed. Why? They loved God.

When the scriptures say that salvation is found when a man repents and is baptized, refusing to obey the command shows a lack of love for God. Whatever the Lord has told men to do is not hard to understand and no less challenging to follow. At the root of the problem is love. People who refuse to do what the scriptures say show a lack of love for God. Do you want to love God? Keep His commandments, and remember that God has not and will not ask you to do something hard to do. Jesus did the hard part so that we could enjoy the grace of His Father. Love God. Keep His commandments.

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What Happened When The Creator Died

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:50-53)

What Happened When The Creator Died

The death of Jesus is the focal point of God’s scheme of redemption. There is nothing in history before or that which is to come that will rival the significance of what happened at Golgotha in the city of Jerusalem. Jesus died to save men from sin. Through His sacrifice, death is defeated, Satan is limited, and the portals of Heaven are opened for those who seek its glory. Every first day of the week, faithful saints gather to remember the sacrifice of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. The blood of Jesus is explained in the cup, and the bread representing the body of Jesus is taken to remember the love of God. For two thousand years, God’s people have memorialized the death of Jesus. There is something else that happened when Jesus died that is remarkable.

Jesus claimed to be God. He told the Pharisees He existed before Abraham. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the man from Nazareth healed every disease, cured all ailments, raised the dead, walked on water, and performed many signs and wonders before the people. His miraculous power proved He was the Son of God. No man could do what He did, and no man taught like Jesus. Accepting the miracles of Jesus as proof of His divinity also proves that He is the Creator of the world. He could not have power over the world unless He had greater power over the creation of the world. Jesus could curse a fig tree because He made the fig tree. Healing blindness was Jesus exercising divine authority over disease. Raising the dead comes from the creative power of the Son of God. Everything Jesus did proved He was the Son of God, Creator of the world. All things were created through Him and for Him.

The death of Jesus on the cross was unlike the death of the two men crucified on His right and left. Their legs were broken, and they died. Jesus died, and creation erupted. When the two thieves died, no one took notice. They were taken down and buried in some unmarked graves. Jesus Christ died, and the world almost came apart. The veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This veil was not a thin fabric easily torn. Ancient texts suggest the veil was so large it took nearly two hundred men to manipulate it. It was so thick when ripped in two the noise would have been deafening. When Jesus died, the priests would have begun the service for the afternoon. The veil was torn from top to bottom. This was not something any man could do. The world tore that veil asunder. It was the declaration by the hand of God the new covenant had come to the world, and the Law of Moses was obsolete.

When Jesus died, the literal earth reacted. There was an earthquake, and the rocks were split. Creation shook at the death of its Creator, the Messiah, the Son of God. When Jesus died, the world suffered the death of the One who created it. Graves were opened up throughout the region. After Jesus rose from the dead three days later, many saints who had died rose from the dead and walked into Jerusalem. Wives received their husbands alive again, fathers returned to their families, and a host of righteous people rose from the dead to testify to the death of the Creator. When Jesus died, the world responded. What a day when Jesus died.

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Nations Are Only Drips

Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing. (Isaiah 40:15)

Nations Are Only Drips

A 2021 survey ranks nations according to military alliances, international alliances, political influence, economic influence, and leadership. This survey determines how to define the nations that exert the greatest power on earth. In the 2021 survey, the top five nations are the United States, China, Russia, Germany, and the United Kingdom (in descending order). Ranked number 1, the United States boasts an economy with a GDP of $20.93 trillion in 2020. The United States spends more on its military budget ($778 Billion) than China, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, and South Korea combined.

Great empires in history covered vast areas of land. The British Empire at one time covered 26% of the world. Rome built an empire spreading across three continents. In the steppes of Mongolia, the Mongol nation rose to one of the most powerful nations on earth. Russia, China, Spain, and the French once ruled vast tracts of land. Throughout history, nations have risen to prominence, boasting of powerful armies and navies, conquering peoples throughout the world. The empires of Rome, Britain, Mongolia, Germany, and Japan have all vanished in the dustbins of history, as will all nations. There will come a day when the United States of America will be a nation of no importance. All nations are nothing but a drop in the bucket in the eyes of God.

Isaiah wrote his message about God during the days of world upheaval. The Assyrians had been a fierce and powerful nation conquering the nations around them. Nineveh fell in 612 B.C. when the Babylonians, Scythians, and Medes attacked the city. In 605 B.C., the end of the Assyrians came at the battle of Carchemish. Babylon rose to world power after defeating Assyria. Isaiah lived through these turbulent times and offered a fresh view of world domination. God sees nations as nothing more than a drop in a bucket – a drip. Compared to the Lord God Creator, the greatest nation is but dust on a scale. The same Creator that formed the earth and destroyed the world in the days of Noah looks upon nations as merely a drop of water – nothing.

Everything must be viewed in perspective. God knows exactly how much water there is on earth to the ounce. Science has opened the vista of the heavenly portals but admits it has yet to reach a point of conclusion. God has measured the heavens and knows how big the universe is and how many stars there are to an exact number (He has a name for every star). If a man were to inquire how much the mountains weigh and the weight of the hills, God would give him an exact number. Why would a nation that spends $778 billion on the military cause any concern for God? Does it matter to the Lord if a country has a robust GPD of $20.93 trillion? As much as He is concerned about one drop of water.

Humanity is a funny creature, unlike the animals of the world. Isaiah began his book declaring the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel did not know God. The animals know how great God is, but man refuses to acknowledge how small he is. Nations boast of their power and strength to the amusement of the animal kingdom. A nation will rise and fall, but God does not change. Nations are nothing more than a drop in the bucket and dust on the scale held in the hand of the Almighty. This is true of our country and any other country in the world. Praise God.

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We Don’t Get What We Deserve

He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10)

We Don’t Get What We Deserve

It is hard to understand the depravity of the human spirit when the character of the human soul considers itself to be worthy of honor. For the most part, a person is a good character in many ways. Many elements of the world are vile, rebellious, wicked, and immoral. The majority of the people on earth have a good moral compass, but their lives are not governed by a higher righteous law. A nonbeliever can be a good man. The goodness of a man’s worth can be measured in his kindness, generosity, love, and willingness to help others. These are good traits that help make the world a better place. It does not make a man righteous.

The struggle of the human identity has always been to see the value of the human soul in regard to the righteousness of God. When a man is told he is a sinner, he evaluates his life by his good deeds failing to appreciate the deeper consequence of his relationship with God. There are only two kinds of people in the world – righteous and unrighteous. This characterization can only be defined as good and evil, holy and unholy, or saved and lost. There is no third option to call a man good or benevolent. In the eyes of God, there can only be righteous and unrighteous. A man’s relationship with God is measured by whether the man does the will of the Father, not if he is religious or not. Understanding the true character of a man is where seeking salvation begins.

Sin is a transgression of the law of God, and every man sins. The relationship between man and God is solely based on how man acknowledges the nature of sin. If he refuses to admit he is a sinner who needs grace, God will never mean anything to him. Each time the Bible reveals a person’s true character is when the heart understands the nature of sin. Noah built the ark, moved by godly fear, believing in the power of grace and mercy because he understood the consequence of sin. Abraham was justified by faith as a measure of knowing his need for a loving God. David experienced the forgiveness of the Lord God when the man after God’s own heart sinned with Bathsheba. He said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

David wrote in Psalm 103 how he understood the grace of God. Looking at himself through the mirror of self-introspection, David knew if God dealt with him as he deserved, he would not live. Comparing God’s righteousness and man’s sinful nature is where man realizes how God should punish man but does not. Everyone deserves God’s wrath, the Lord’s anger, and the righteous judgment of a fearful and living God. And yet – God does not punish according to what a man deserves. He should deal harshly with sinful men. There is every right for the Lord to punish a man for what he really deserves. God does not.

There is no comparison to the mercy of God. On his best day, a man can never measure up to the loving-kindness of a forgiving Father. As the man who prayed at the temple implored, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” There is nothing else to say. When we have done all we can do, we are still unprofitable servants worthy of death. The grace of God says otherwise. First, God sent His Son so that we can have forgiveness through His blood. Allowing sinful man to be in His presence is the great measure of grace given to man. Second, the Father has promised sinful man to dwell with Him in eternity, washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, and risen to walk in newness of life. We are not punished according to our sin and iniquity. Thank God.

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Catching A Snake By The Tail

Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’ ” So the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A rod.” And He said, “Cast it on the ground.” So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail” (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand), “that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” (Exodus 4:1-5)

Catching A Snake By The Tail

When the Lord spoke to Moses at the burning bush, He told him he would return to Egypt to bring the Hebrews out of Egypt. Moses had fled forty years earlier and had become a shepherd with his father-in-law, Jethro. The time had come for God to fulfill His promise to Abraham giving the children of Abraham a law and the land that was promised in the covenant of circumcision. Pharoah would not willingly let the people go. The ruler of Egypt refused Moses on multiple occasions until the final plague, where the firstborn of Egypt would die, and Pharaoh relented.

Moses had left Egypt after killing an Egyptian fighting with a Hebrew. He believed he would deliver the Hebrews from their oppressors, but God had other plans. After forty years, the Lord appears to Moses at the burning bush, telling him to return to Egypt, but Moses hesitates. He did not consider himself qualified to do the work of the Lord, arguing with God about what he was asked to do. The day after he killed the Egyptian many years earlier, two Hebrews were fighting when Moses tried to break them up. They asked Moses if he intended to kill them as he did the Egyptian. Moses had no confidence in himself to carry out the will of the Lord. He questioned God about what qualified him to be the deliverer of the people.

The Lord told Moses to look at what was in his hand. As a shepherd, Moses carried a shepherd’s staff or rod. God instructed Moses to throw the staff on the ground which Moses did. Immediately, it became a serpent. The scriptures do not suggest what kind of serpent the rod of Moses became, but it scared Moses enough that he ran from it. God was proving something more than turning a rod into a serpent. It would also test the faith of Moses. The Lord told Moses to reach out his hand and take the serpent by its tail. Anyone who handles snakes, especially poisonous snakes, knows how to catch the snake by the head. Catching a snake by the tail makes certain the snake will bite, even if it is not poisonous. Moses had to have faith and courage to obey the word of the Lord, and the writhing snake became a rod again.

There are many lessons found when Moses took the snake by the tail. Later, after God sent fiery serpents among the people killing many, Moses made a bronze serpent placing it on a pole which became the salvation of the people. The rod turning into a snake could have symbolized the cobra, an imagery of Egypt. There is an allusion that could be drawn from the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Whatever lesson is drawn from the rod becoming a snake, the image of Moses grasping a serpent by the tail is an object lesson of trusting faith in the will of God.

The scriptures do not say what kind of snake it was, but it can be easily assumed that it was a serpent with deadly intentions. Moses fled from the snake. He was afraid of the snake. As a seasoned shepherd, he knew the difference between a harmless and a poisonous serpent. God told Moses to take the serpent by the tail demanding a lot of faith on Moses’s part. Later, Aaron, brother of Moses, threw down his rod before Pharaoh and it became a serpent. In a similar manner, the magicians of Pharaoh also threw down their rods, and they became snakes through enchantment. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. This was a sign to the court of Pharoah, but it was also a reminder to Moses that God was with him. He was to lead the people out of Egypt. It would not be an easy task. The will of God was accomplished through His power working through Moses.

There are times God asks His people to trust Him enough to take a snake by its tail. The business end of the snake can bring a lot of harm and damage, but God says to take it by its tail. With faith, courage, and trusting in the will of God, we can face those challenges knowing that God will turn our serpents into wooden staffs – harmless and useful. We can grab that wily serpent called the devil by the tail and defeat him through the power of God. When heartaches and trouble come upon us, we can know that God will use His power to make those trials useful in our lives. When Moses took the serpent by the tail, it turned into a rod. The shepherd’s staff was one of the most important tools in his work. It saved lost lambs and drove off the wolves who tried to take the sheep. Let God turn your serpents into a useful staff – grab it by the tail and believe in God’s power.

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Why Is It Well With My Soul?

When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.” So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. (2 Samuel 12:19-20)

Why Is It Well With My Soul?

The hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” is one of the most influential and enduring songs written. Singing the hymn is a moving experience of the deep emotion set as the backdrop to a terrible event that happened to the author of the hymn, Horatio Spafford. The Spaffords had suffered the loss of their four-year-son, and the 1871 fire in Chicago financially ruined the family. Horatio had been a successful lawyer who invested heavily in the area of Chicago that was destroyed by the fire. In 1873, the family suffered an economic loss when things took a turn for the worse. Deciding a trip to Europe was needed for the family; the Spaffords booked to travel on the SS Ville du Havre to join D. L. Moody in an upcoming evangelistic tour in England. At the last minute, Horatio could not go and sent his wife and four daughters ahead.

Tragically on the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, the SS Ville du Havre collided with another ship, the Loch Earn, and sank quickly. Horatio’s four daughters perished, and only his wife survived. When she arrived in England, she telegraphed her husband a simple telegram, “Saved alone.” Rushing to her side, Horatio came to the place where the SS Ville du Havre had sunk, and his daughters perished and wrote the words of the hymn. Originally the hymn was called Ville du Havre, from the name of the stricken ship. Philip Bliss put the words to music in 1876, and it has become the hallmark of hymns describing the deep pain of loss but the resilient spirit of hope in Jesus Christ.

How is it possible to have hope in the face of such sorrow? What brought Spafford to write that it was well with his soul when the sadness of loss overwhelmed him like the rolling sea billows? Many answers can be given. Those who have suffered this loss are the only ones who truly know the depth of pain the Spaffords suffered that day. What is found as the pinnacle of hope in the song is the spirit of promise that God has given His children that whatever happens to them in life, God has taught His children to trust Him and know that all can be well with their soul. This will not take away the searing pain of loss. It will find a place to live with the emptiness and void that is left.

Perspective has much to do with the value of life and how it is viewed. Job suffered the loss of ten children in one event in one day. There were ten burial gowns made for his children. Ten burial plots were chosen. One funeral for ten children. How can anyone endure this kind of loss? All of the sufferings of Job came from the loss of everything else. He was a very wealthy man who became a very poor man in an instant. And then he lost his health. He did not sin, and he did not blame God. There were times of struggle, and he debated his friends, and he would find himself questioning the will of God, but Satan could not destroy his faith and trust in God. Most would have cursed God and given up hope. Not so with Job. He sang long ago, “It is well with my soul.”

David was punished with the death of his child born to Bathsheba. He knew the cause of the child’s death was the consequence of his sin with Bathsheba. It should be remembered that Bathsheba lost a child that day also. David and Bathsheba mourned their child and were able to continue to serve God in faithfulness. When he knew of the child’s death, he dressed himself and worshiped the Lord. Afterward, he returned home to eat. The servants were nervous about how David was acting. He assured them he was of sound mind. He was at peace with the will of God.

How can it be well in the soul of one who has suffered such great loss? The wellness of the soul is the peace found in the love of God and His protective care that He knows, He understands, and He has a family that embraces those who mourn. There is no family like the family of God made up of people who share their loss as a victory in Christ to overcome. The joy of eternal life is when the Father wipes away all the tears from the eyes. Those eyes that mourn their loved ones gone too early. It is possible to be well in the soul. Find your comfort in God, in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the family of God. It is well with my soul.

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God Always Says Yes

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

God Always Says Yes

Prayer is pleading the promises of God. The ability of creation being able to talk with the Creator is a gift of grace God allows for sinful man. There is nothing man has done to merit a merciful God accepting the petitions of men, but the Father implores His children to speak to Him. The promises of God have been written down so the world can know the personality of God so that men can know what to ask in prayer. Prayer and the Bible go hand in hand. Everything that is needed to arm the soul with prayer is found in the scriptures. From the beginning of the stories in Genesis to the unveiling of the eternal paradise in the Revelation, God has shown the answer to prayer is always yes, and He never tells man no. Understanding how God answers prayer will help to know the power of God.

At first glance, the idea that God always says yes is contradictory. When the question of answered prayer is discussed, the answers are given that God will say yes, no, and or it is time to wait. Paul had a problem. He was experiencing a thorn in the flesh, a great problem in his life. The Holy Spirit does not reveal what the thorn was because the lesson is not about the thorn but the manner God answers prayer. Paul entreated the Lord three times to remove the thorn. Whatever the thorn was, it became the focus of Paul’s life to remove it. He pleaded with the Lord begging Him to take away the messenger of Satan. The answer God gave Paul was not a no but rather the strength that God said yes according to His will.

God told Paul all he needed to endure the thorn in his flesh was the grace of God. Through the power of the Lord, Paul would be strengthened. This was a positive, not a negative. If a man asks for something and is told no, he may feel rejected, and his petition is useless. God never answers prayer in a negative way because His way is true, just, holy, and purposeful in the lives of His children. Every time God answers a prayer, the petitioner must realize the answer is yes, according to the grace of God. Paul realized that in his prayer. He pleaded with the Lord to remove the thorn three times, and through the infirmity of the thorn, Paul became stronger. God did not say no to Paul; He said yes.

Prayer is not a vending machine demanding God give a man what he wants. God knows more about what a man needs than a man knows what he needs. He always says yes because the Lord sees the larger picture. If a man prays about a job he earnestly desires and prays fervently about that job to the Lord, he must learn to leave that prayer with the Lord and allow His grace to answer the petition. If the man does not get the job, does He blame God for telling him no, or does he, like Paul, accept the word of God with joy that God knows more about whether the job was a good decision or not? God said yes – according to His will.

Men get a little spoiled about prayer when God tells them no. They think God does not understand and that He is not giving them what they need. The truth should be realized that when a man prays to God, whatever answer is given is the correct answer for the good of the individual. God is always right because His answers are always yes! Paul was told the grace of God would allow him to overcome the thorn in the flesh. When the apostle saw the answer of God as a positive yes, he took pleasure in his infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distress. Everything Paul did was for the sake of Jesus Christ. He realized that God answered his prayer with a yes so that when he was weak, he could be strong. God is right all the time. He always says yes, and I am thankful He never tells me no.

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Glory In The Lord – Righteousness

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

Glory In The Lord – Righteousness

The Chinese language is one of the oldest continuous languages in the world, first written over 4,500 years ago. The inventors of the written language drew pictures to express words or ideas that formed words. Simple pictures were combined to make more complex thoughts. The word for “older brother” came from the diagram of the word “mouth” and “man.” The “mouth man” or “spokesperson” for the family was usually the oldest son or brother. Well-known history and common everyday things were used to make a word so people could remember it. Through the centuries, it has transformed in different ways, but the framework of the language remains the same. Words are formed by putting together characters in relationship to one another.

Many interesting words in the ancient Chinese language have Biblical references. The word “migrate” comes from the words “great,” “division,” “west,” and “walk.” This seems to speak of the tower of Babel when the early descendants would have walked from the west to the area of China. The word “forbidden, to warn” comes from “two trees” and “God” (abbreviated form). “Boat” is derived from “vessel,” “eight,” and the word “people.” All of these point to stories in the Bible.

The Chinese language is very descriptive when it comes to the word for “righteousness” (yi). This word comes from the derivation of two words, “lamb” (yang) and “me, self, or I (wo).” The significance is found where the lamb is the top character, and the personage of self is the bottom character. To be righteous or to live according to righteousness can only be done when the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) rules over the man. This principle is foundational to living a Christian life – Jesus Christ must always be first.

Righteousness is not determined by the desire for human wisdom. What is right and wrong can only be determined by the One who established authority. As Creator, God the Father rules supreme with all authority. God gave His Son, Jesus Christ, all authority. Submission to the rule of Christ is paramount to being a faithful servant of God. Righteousness is where Christ is all and man is nothing. Obedience is measured by the law of God. Faithfulness comes from a righteous heart subjected to the will of the Father. A Christian is a slave of righteousness because they have placed the Lamb of God above all things and humbled themselves to a subservient role.

When a man obeys the gospel of Jesus Christ, God unites him with His Son. Righteousness is measured by what the Lamb (above) places upon the man (below). Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy and freed us from sin. Righteousness is living for the glory of God. If there is anything a man can boast in, it must be to boast in the Lord. Seeking righteousness is submitting to the rule of God. The example of godliness is found in the righteous lives of those who profess allegiance to Jesus Christ. He must be first (top), and man must be last (bottom). Changing that order is not righteousness.

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God Has A Covenant With Animals

And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth. (Genesis 9:9-11)

God Has A Covenant With Animals

The flood in the days of Noah was a global death sentence to all flesh, man and animal alike. God had warned Noah of the impending doom and the finality of its destruction upon the world. The flood was on the earth for forty days and rose above the highest mountains by more than twenty feet. All flesh on earth died. Every person outside the ark perished. The birds, cattle, beasts, and every creature, large and small, died. Everything that breathed and lived on dry land died, including dinosaurs. The flood wiped out every living thing on the earth. The only people who survived were the eight souls in the ark.

After more than a year inside the ark, the floods abated, and Noah and his family were able to walk on dry land again. Noah made an altar to the Lord and took of every clean animal and every clean bird and offered them as a burnt offering to the Lord. God smelled the soothing aroma of the sacrifice and told Noah as long as the earth remained, there would be seasons of seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night (so much for global warming theories). The world changed when God placed the fear of man on the animals for the first time. God allowed man to eat meat, provided it did not contain its lifeblood. Then God spoke to Noah and his sons and established a covenant the world would never be destroyed by a flood again. This did not suggest the Lord would never destroy the earth. He promised never to bring a global flood to destroy man.

While the focus of the flood story is on Noah and his family and the covenant of the rainbow in the sky, it is often overlooked that the covenant God made with Noah and his sons included every living creature, including the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth. The rainbow is a sign between God and man and also a sign between God and animals. There was a reason the Lord instructed Noah to preserve the animals in the ark. When God told Noah to build the ark, He said He was bringing a flood on the earth to destroy all flesh with the breath of life; everything on the earth would die. Before Noah began building the ark, He promised that He had a covenant with every living thing of all flesh to save them. God saved the animals through the obedience of Noah to build the ark and preserve the animals.

God’s covenant with the animals shows His concern for His creation. Creatures of the sea were created on the fifth day, along with the birds of the heavens. God saw His creation as good and blessed the sea creatures to be fruitful and multiply, fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth. He looked upon the world filled with birds and the seas with animals, which pleased the Lord. On the sixth day, before creating man, the Lord  brought forth every living creature of the earth, like cattle, creeping things, and beasts. This would also include what is commonly referred to as the dinosaurs. He blessed these animals, and when He looked upon the earth filled with land animals, it pleased the Lord.

The creation of man was eternally different than the animals of the water, sky, and land. Man was created in the image of God. This separates man from animals as an eternal creature. No creature is made in the image of God; only man. Animals were not beguiled or sinned when the serpent came to Eve, and the woman was deceived. Only man has the capability of transgressing the law of God. It is only within the character of man to sin. Jesus came into the world to save man, not animals. An animal has no redeeming value (spiritual) as it has no eternal spirit.

After the flood, God told Noah he could eat animals. To kill an animal for food is not murder. Every living thing that moves is food for man. If a man kills another man, it is murder because man was created in the image of God, and the Lord will hold him guilty. Killing a cow for a hamburger is not murder. Having permitted the world to eat meat, God reminded Noah the covenant He made not to destroy the world was also made with the animals. This covenant does not elevate the animal kingdom to any spiritual level but shows God’s concern and care for the animals. To treat God’s creation with cruelty is sinful as it abuses what the Lord has created for man’s benefit and enjoyment. The rainbow is a covenant established between God and all flesh on earth.

Jesus came to die for sinful man, not animals. When men die, they stand before a righteous God who will judge whether they are good or evil. Animals die, and the breath of life given to them by the hand of God returns to Him. There is no judgment for the animals, no eternal life, and no life hereafter. Animals cannot be judged as good or evil. But it must be remembered that God has a covenant with the animals.

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Two Different Minds

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him. (Mark 14:10-11)

Two Different Minds

The betrayal of Jesus is the most despicable treachery in the history of man and yet the most ironic event involving two parallel but different purposes. Everything about the arrest, trial, and conviction of Jesus is established in prophetic literature through the divine plan of the Father before time began. Jesus knew His hour had come to die. On Thursday night, He partook of His final Passover with the twelve in an upper room somewhere in Jerusalem. Judas is identified as a betrayer during the supper and then leaves the company. He returns to the chief priests to begin his plan to betray his teacher. Jesus and the eleven left the upper room for the Garden of Gethsemane, where Judas brought the mob to arrest Jesus. After a grueling night of mock trials, Jesus is convicted and sentenced to death. Somewhere around three in the afternoon on Friday, Jesus dies.

Before the events of His arrest, an ironic twist of human nature converges in the minds of the Jewish priests and the disciple of Jesus. The Jewish leaders desired a way to get rid of Jesus. He has troubled them for nearly three years, and every attempt to silence Him or discredit Him has ended in disaster. They are desperate. Their plan is no longer to find a way to diminish His followers through intimidation; they want Jesus dead. The problem they face is securing the right time to arrest Jesus without the people raising an insurrection to defend Jesus.

Word came to Judas the chief priests wanted to arrest Jesus and needed someone to betray Him. He looked at the request of the leaders as a chance to make some pocket change and went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. It must have surprised the leaders of one of Jesus’ own disciples; part of the inner circle would be the betrayer. Their reaction to the agreement with Judas was delightful. Finally, they had someone that could take them to Jesus and help them arrest Him for trial. When Judas told them he would betray Jesus, they were glad and promised to give him some money. They knew what their evil plan was going to be. If possible, they hoped to create enough doubt with men making false charges; they could make a case to the Romans to have Jesus killed. This made them happy.

Jewish chief priests are the cream of the crop leaders among the people of God who are to be instructed in the Law of Moses. They are to be the students of the law of God. How could these chief priests be delighted at the prospect of having Jesus killed? They did not want to silence Jesus; they wanted Him dead. They did not intend to mitigate His ministry; the chief priest wanted to murder an innocent man. When they heard Judas would betray Jesus, they were glad and promised to give him money.

When the chief priest agreed to pay Judas to betray his Lord, Judas turned his attention to the opportunity to betray Jesus. Thinking of the money he would receive for the betrayal; Judas began to look for times that would fit the plan of the chief priests. He no longer paid close attention to what Jesus said or did. His focus was finding a convenient time to set Jesus up to be betrayed. No one knew where Jesus would have the Passover with His disciples. The Lord tells Peter and John to find a man carrying a pitcher of water. There was an upper room prepared, and that is where the Lord took the twelve.

After Jesus identifies Judas as the betrayer, Judas realizes the opportunity to fulfill his plan is at hand. He leaves the gathering and goes to the chief priests, telling them the time has come and Jesus is easy prey to arrest. It is possible that Judas and the crowd first go to the upper room. Finding no one there, Judas knows precisely where to find Jesus. There is a place in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus often went to pray. Judas takes the mob there, and Jesus is arrested. Then the story takes a divergent turn between the chief priests and Judas.

The chief priests are glad Judas will betray Jesus and gladly offer him money. Judas is paid thirty pieces of silver when he tells them where to find Jesus. With great satisfaction, the chief priests gather the temple captains, elders, scribes, and a great multitude with swords and clubs and make their way to Gethsemane. Judas identifies Jesus with a kiss, and they arrest Jesus. Dragging Jesus before Annas first (father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year) and then the Sanhedrin, the Jews successfully solicit the help of Pilate to adjudicate final judgment. Jesus is taken to Herod briefly, but His condemnation comes by the hand of Pilate. The Jewish leaders are still delighted. Jesus is led out of the city and crucified. He dies on the cross. The chief priests return home satisfied and glad.

Judas had sought an opportunity to betray Jesus, and he found the convenient time. What he found in himself was the opportunity Satan had led him to betray a man he loved and admired. Devasted by his actions, Judas threw the money at the Jewish leaders and went and hanged himself. What he thought was a moment in time to have a little money by betraying his Lord became a nightmare of guilt and remorse. The delight of the chief priests did not last either. Jesus died on Friday, and Saturday was a high Sabbath. And then Sunday came.

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He Is Gone … But

So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:22-23)

He Is Gone … But

The story of Lazarus and the rich man is a compelling story of life’s inequalities and God’s righteous judgment. Lazarus was a man whose earthly journey was marked with misery, suffering, neglect, and abuse. The rich man represents the whole of humanity that lives each day in the sumptuous enjoyment of life with riches, pleasures, frivolity, and self-indulgence. What separated the two men in life ended in the commonality that all men face: death. Lazarus welcomed death. The rich man was unprepared to die. All the riches in the world could not keep a wealthy man from dying.

When someone noticed Lazarus had died, they cast him into the pauper’s grave without markers or fanfare. Few took note of Lazarus, and few mourned his death. The rich man’s death shocked his five brothers and the community at large. There was no doubt a lavish funeral procession ending at an extravagant tomb of marble where great lamentations were made for the rich man. The contrast in deaths could not have been more remarkable. Where Lazarus had been laid for many years, no notice was given by those who passed by. Days following the rich man’s death were busy sorting out his wealth. Relatives and friends divided up the estate and greedily devoured the dead man’s riches.

What everyone did not realize or take note of is that while Lazarus and the rich man were gone, they were not gone. Lazarus died and was carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man died and was cast into the abyss of darkness and suffering. Jesus makes a significant statement by calling Lazarus by name and leaving the rich man nameless. Those found in the Book of Life have their names inscribed on the heavenly ledger. The Lord knows the names of His saints. Those who reject the will of the Father assemble with the nameless and the rejected. The rich man was left to the suffering of eternal flames where the fire is not extinguished, and the worm does not die.

Death is the saddest of emotions to share. It is final, complete, and without mercy. The righteous and the unrighteous die. No one can escape death. Denying death does not remove the tentacles of its far-reaching grasp on young and old. One thing remains as certain as death itself: death only begins eternity. Lazarus did not disappear. The rich man did not fade away into non-existence. Jesus told the story of Lazarus and the rich man two thousand years ago, and Lazarus continues to feel and know the presence of God’s loving grace and mercy. The rich man continues to feel the anguished pain and suffering of an eternal flame. His thirst remains unquenched, and his misery unending.

The joy for the Christion is two-fold. Many loved ones have died in Christ. Reflections are made that our loved ones are gone. They died thirty years ago, twenty years ago, two years ago, and last year. The joy for the Christian is to know those loved ones who died in Christ are enjoying eternal showers of blessing that are without description. They still live, feel, think, and see. There is no more suffering, pain, and sorrow. The list is filled with names of those that are missed in life but thrive in eternity. I can only wonder how marvelous what they share must be. The second joy for the Christian is to know that I will share in that glory. Death will take my life, and I will slip the bonds of this earth to the eternal blanket of peace. My eyes will behold the glory of God. The pain and suffering of life will vanish. Angels will carry me to eternal bliss. I will see, know, feel, and remember. And all I can think about is how to praise God.

I am gone, but I am not gone. Death has opened the portals of life. The darkness of life has turned to the light of eternity. Sadness is turned to joy. Loved ones will mourn my passing, but my passing will find its love in God’s grace. Death is not to be feared for those in Christ. We welcome with anticipation an unknown that has been made known in the joy of death. We are not gone. Eternity opens its arms and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter in.” And I get to enter in.

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Serve The King But Fear The Lord

Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen and whom you have desired. And take note, the Lord has set a king over you. If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. (1 Samuel 12:13-14)

Serve The King But Fear The Lord

When the prophet Samuel was old, he set his sons to judge Israel, but his sons did not walk in his ways. The elders of Israel came to Samuel and demanded he give them a king like all the nations. Samuel was displeased with the lack of faith on the part of the people, but God told him to establish a king for the people. God reminded the prophet the people had not rejected Samuel. They had rejected God. A man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, had a son who was a choice and handsome man. From his shoulders upward, he was taller than any of the people. His name was Saul, and he would become the first king of the united kingdom of Israel. The people had been given a king as they had wished to be like the nations around them.

At the coronation of Saul, Samuel instructed the people to the dominion of their new king. He reminded them that God had established Saul as king, and they were to obey him as the nation’s leader. Samuel warned the people the king would tax them and take their children for his servants as he oppressed them. The people wanted a king, and God gave them what they wanted. When they went to war, their king would lead them. Israel would now be like the nations around them, but they had one condition to obey. God gave them a king, but they must fear the Lord and serve and obey Him. The king was required to keep the commandments of the Lord. Having a king did not release the people from serving God. Honor the king and obey the Lord.

The downfall of Israel began when Saul thought too highly of himself as king of Israel. Soon after he began ruling God’s people, the king waited impatiently on Samuel and offered an unlawful sacrifice. Later, Saul was told to attack Amalek and utterly destroy all they had and spare no man, woman, child, or animal. Saul disobeyed the Lord’s command, sparing King Agag’s life and the best of the flocks. God demanded the king obey Him. Saul refused.

Israel desired a king, but Samuel reminded the people they must obey God. Saul ruled for forty years and was followed by David and Solomon before the kingdom was divided north and south. Many kings ruled over the nation of Israel, with the majority refusing to obey God. This did not excuse the people’s actions from being faithful to the word of the Lord. The prophets charged the kings, princes, priests, and leaders of the nation for being corrupt, but he also charged the people for their disobedience. Samuel brought the people a king and told them they must fear the Lord, serve Him, obey His voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord. They had a charge from God to be obedient even if Saul and the other kings did not.

The early church faced persecution from religious leaders. When pressed for an answer, the apostle Peter told the Jewish council obedience to God superseded obedience to them. Peter knew the importance of honoring civil law, but he also remembered obedience to God was the higher law, and the apostles served the will of God. God establishes government, and the people of God are commanded to honor those who rule and respect the authority of government. However, the rule of God is higher than the law of men, and obedience to the Lord is of greater consequence. The only time the Christian can disobey the law of the land is when that law usurps the authority of God. This does not apply to the Constitution of the United States and the amendments. Men must fear the Lord and serve Him and His law. Samuel told the people to serve the king but fear the Lord. That is the same principle for Christians. The laws from Washington, D.C., must be obeyed with respect and honor. Fearing God and serving His word takes first place and precedence.

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He Came To Save Those Who Refuse Him

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:9-10)

He Came To Save Those Who Refuse Him

For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son to bear the body of flesh as a man, suffer the pains of crucifixion, and raise Jesus from the dead. There is no greater sacrifice. Nothing man can imagine in his wisdom can equal the story of Jesus Christ. God became flesh, and then God died. The image of the eternal took on the image of corruption. Spirit possessed flesh. Jesus gave up his divine privileges and took the humble position of a slave. God was born as a human being. He was obedient to the point of death. The cruel hatred of humanity was unleashed with all the fury of the evil one upon the Son of God. He was despised and rejected.

The prophet Isaiah described Jesus as a man of sorrows, acquainted with the deepest grief. When Jesus came from the Father, humanity did not embrace the Son of God. They (we) turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. They beat Jesus, spit on Him, mocked Him, and treated the divine Beloved as nothing, and no one cared. Everything that was done to Jesus was not because of anything He had done. Throughout His life, Jesus showed love and compassion. His teachings embraced the mercy and love of God. He reminded the people of the wrath of God, and Jesus would often challenge the hypocrisy of those who claimed to follow the law. Through His many miracles, the man from Nazareth proved without a shadow of a doubt, He was divine. Who but God can raise the dead, calm the sea, heal all diseases, and cast out demons? Jesus was pierced for our rebellion and crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole and whipped so we could be healed.

Zacchaeus was a man with a heavy burden. When he heard Jesus passing by, he climbed into a sycamore tree to see Jesus. The Lord approached the wealthy tax collector and declared He was going to the house of Zacchaeus. Upon the confession of the chief tax collector, Jesus announced the joy of salvation at the home of Zacchaeus as the son of Abraham. The Lord declared His purpose in coming to the world of sin and sorrow: He came to seek and save that which was lost. Jesus did not have to look far to find those who were lost. They were all around Him. Zacchaeus had found salvation in Jesus Christ but what about his neighbors? What became of those in the crowd that followed the Lord? Did they find salvation that day?

Leaving the area of Jericho, the Lord comes to Jerusalem with the status of a conquering king. As the Lord rode a colt into the city, the people threw clothes on the road. Drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude began to shout with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen Jesus perform. They heralded Jesus as the blessed King coming in the name of the Lord. It was an amazing scene that stirred up the city as Jesus entered the city of David. Jesus was seen in all His glory. It did not last. Five days later, they crucified Jesus.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost, but most of the lost want to remain lost. They refuse to accept Jesus as the Son of God. It is not a small number who have no interest in what Jesus came to do but a vast number of souls who live every day oblivious to God’s saving grace. The story of Jesus is one of redemption and rejection by those who heard His voice, saw His miracles, and walked in His footsteps. They killed Jesus within a few years of His ministry beginning. The charges made against Him were made by liars, and they murdered an innocent man. Jesus died to save men today. Look around the world. How many are taking notice of what Jesus did?

How sad to know the Son of God – the Son of the Most High Almighty Living God – came to earth to save everyone – and only a few will listen, and fewer will be saved. The greatest tragedy of the final day of judgment when all men stand before the throne of God is for every eye to see the face of Jesus and to know they rejected the only hope of salvation given to men – and there is nothing more they can do. Jeremy Taylor said, “Life is short, and yet upon this short life, eternity depends.” Our short life must accept that Jesus Christ is Lord and King. We must do His will. Not just have a good talk about Him and say we love Him. If we do not obey the will of the Father, we are lost – damned to hell. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. If you are lost – He came for you. What are you going to do about it lost person?

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