Stan Schmidt: Committed to the Word of God

A graduate of Bethany College of Missions, Stan and his wife Vangie worked with various churches in south India for one year for their internship. Presently working for the Bethany House Publishers, Stan has published three books in India for distribution among the pastors and other Christian workers, all with the focus on understanding and following the Word of God. Stan is also a poet, his poems speak the glory of the Lord and exhort the people to put their total trust in Him.

Stan may be contacted in his e-mail address stan.schmidt@bethanyhouse.com

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Copyright © 2001
M. S. Thirumalai

CHRISTIAN LITERATURE TODAY

Was blind, but now I see.

1 : 1 November 2001


GEMS OF TRUTH

by

Stan Schmidt


Gems of Truth by Stan Schmidt


CONTENTS

Introduction

Transparency

Genesis - Job

Stand in Awe

Psalms - Isaiah

Divine Forbearance

Jeremiah - Malachi

Failure

The Gospels

The Yearning

Acts - Colossians

The Furnace

Thessalonians - Revelation

Eternity

Epilogue


INTRODUCTION

There are quite a number of verses in the Bible that make a person stop and say, ‘wow.’ There is just an intenseness about certain passages that need meditation. This book will examine some of those verses starting with Genesis and going orderly through Revelation.

These passages include something God said or did. They also include something a person said that makes one shake their head in either awe or disbelief. I certainly have not included all the verses that pertain to this subject, but a good sampling. I think and hope that these pages will be a blessing and inspiration to those who read them. They reveal the greatness of God as well as the depravity of mankind. They also include some of the great things mankind has done with God’s help.

I have not seen a book in this format before so I hope you will read, enjoy and love God more when you are finished. To God be the glory through Jesus Christ.

I would like to thank Thirumalai for his heart and care in publishing this book. Thanks to my wife, Vangie, who reads all my stuff and interacts with me on the content. Thanks also to her and Steve Darula for their efforts on making the cover for the book.

Stan Schmidt

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TRANSPARENCY

you think I’m standing tall
and looking good
but my heart by me alone
is understood
‘a man of God’
‘a pillar’ as it were
I beg to differ
the warrior is a child
and the war is not mild
at times my mind
is quite a mess
but I press on
nonetheless
where is our faith
as of late
circumstances need not dictate
there may be valleys
and there may be hills
but God said
‘be still’

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GENESIS – JOB

Taking the Bible sequentially, we begin with Genesis. Early on in the book we have an embarrassing display of ‘passing the buck.’ After Adam and Eve fell into sin we have God confronting Adam and Adam saying,

The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate. (3:12)

So we have both of God’s prize creations falling into sin. What is worse, when confronted with the sin, Adam first tries to pass blame onto God, “The woman whom Thou gavest.” Then Adam tries to pass some blame on the woman as well, “She gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Instead of sincere repentance, we have pride distorting Adam’s perspective. When we sin, do we point fingers at others or take the blame and repent? God is impressed with honesty.

Later in Genesis we have God telling Abraham and Sarah that they will have a child. Sarah, being too old to bear a child, laughed. What did God say?

Is anything too difficult for the Lord? (18:14)

Just because something is beyond our abilities does not mean that God is bound by our same limitations. Why would having an old woman bear a child be difficult for a God who set the sun and stars in their place? We need to remember when it comes to God, He sees from an infinite angle and we only from a finite one.

So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them. (Ex. 2:24-25)

If ever we wonder if God knows what is happening to us, this verse should help. We have God hearing, remembering, seeing, and taking notice of His people. God is not in a heavenly lounge chair letting the world pass by. He is intimately involved in our lives. As chapter 3 and verse 7 of the same book says of God, “I am aware of their suffering.” How can we see the deep suffering of a parent when their child is distressed and not know that God even suffers deeper when His people are distressed? It has been said that the Incarnation should forever settle the question of whether God really cares what happens on this planet.

When Pharaoh was confronted by Moses and Aaron and told to let God’s people go, he said,

Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? (Ex. 5:2)

Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice? Oh, Mr. Pharaoh, if you only knew. Here we have ignorance and arrogance united in one statement. One day, this Pharaoh will know who this Lord is. God is very patient. He is willing to wait until the end to rebuke people and show them they are wrong. We seem to want that to happen now, but again, God sees from an infinite perspective.

Then they said to Moses, ‘Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? (Ex. 14:11)

After all the miracles God performed in the midst of Pharaoh to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, they stand there and complain and doubt. How short sighted we are without God’s Spirit! How God must grieve that His people are so ignorant of His provision. Where is faith? Where is gratitude?

And he named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us, or not?’ (Ex. 17:7)

If there were ever a verse to shake your head about it is this one. First we have the crossing of the Red Sea. Then we have the bitter water turning sweet. Then we have the quail and the manna. With all those events we still have the Israelites saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ Wow! That is probably one of the dumbest statements ever made. Let us not fall into that same blind pessimism ourselves. I think giving thanks to God fosters faith in our hearts and keeps us from becoming callous.

And he took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ (Ex. 32:4)

Is this ignorance or willful rebellion? How can a whole group of people be so blind? It must be the blind leading the blind, a kind of mob mentality. Why doesn’t somebody stand up and remind them about all God’s provision over the past days? It must also pain the heart of God because He wants to be known as the One who brought them out of Egypt.

Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?’ And Aaron said, ‘Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. For they said to me, “Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” And I said to them, “Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.” So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”’ (Ex. 32:21-24)

To see such compromise in the high priest is discouraging to say the least. First he blamed the people for being evil, then he said the calf just came out of the fire on its own. What? Again, instead of repentance, we have avoidance of responsibility. How God must grieve at the human experiment. I wonder how much the indwelling Holy Spirit would have made the whole wilderness experience different.

For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel. (Ex. 40:38)

Never did God guide a people like He did the Israelites. They all saw the miracles and the cloud and fire, yet was their obedience on scale with their revelations? It is an insight that miracles do not necessarily produce faith and obedience. We do not need to seek signs and wonders. We need to seek the face of God.

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.’ (Nu. 13:30)

The other spies were fearful of Canaan because the people were stronger. By faith, Caleb saw past the situation and saw God’s power. They all saw the same thing but from different viewpoints of faith. Can we see God behind our trials or do we only see the trials? Has something come in our lives that God cannot handle? I think not. His hand is not too weak and His arm is not too short. Faith overcomes the world.

And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?’ (Nu. 14:11)

I think of the loneliness of God. He just wants people to trust Him and love Him. However, what He gets is complaints and lack of faith. No matter what some theologians may say, I believe God has feelings and can be hurt. He has made Himself vulnerable to human beings who have the capacity to grieve Him. He is a Person, not a machine. He desires relationship. Think of a parent who loves and cares for their child yet the child is not trusting the parent. If that would hurt the parent deeply, how much more would it hurt God?

And the people spoke against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.’ (Nu. 21:5)

And we loathe this miserable food! Wow, now we have some serious ingratitude. How short memories and wicked hearts betray us. How can they loathe a miracle food? I don’t think Elijah loathed the food the ravens brought him. The Israelites in Numbers had the very presence of God and His ever present miracles, but that did not foster long term faith. What gifts from God are we not being thankful for?

But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rains of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year. (Deut. 11:11-12)

God has a special place in His heart for the land of Israel. He specifically gave it to the Jews as His chosen people. About 20 times in the book of Deuteronomy alone it speaks of the “land the Lord your God is giving you.” I think God is making a point. Not only should that give them confidence in battle but also to never forget that God gave them the land. They did not earn it or deserve it, nor can they take any credit for having it.

And the Lord gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass. (Josh. 21:44-45)

Need we ever wonder if the God of history is faithful? Have we a God whose arm is too short or strength too weak? I think not. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has been faithful since the beginning of time and I don’t think He plans on changing anytime soon.

Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing. (Judges 8:4)

I really like that last phrase, “weary yet pursuing.” Regardless of the situation, Gideon and the men kept going even though they were faint. I think that is a great analogy to our walk with the Lord. There are many times that we are under heaviness through many trials, we are weary. However, because of our faith in God, we pursue, we press on toward that goal of the high calling we have in Christ. As believers in the risen Christ, giving up is just not an option. Our marriage to Christ is until death do us part, and then some.

[God said] ‘Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress.’ And the sons of Israel said to the Lord, ‘We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to Thee; only please deliver us this day.’ So they put away the foreign gods from among them, and served the Lord; and He could bear the misery of Israel no longer. (Judges 10:13-16)

No matter how much God got angry at the Israelites and wanted to wipe them out, He just could not bear to see them suffer. He was like a wounded lover who was always being frustrated, yet would forgive quickly upon repentance. God is so good. A holy Deity having great concern for finite rebels.

Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. (1 Sam. 5:1-4)

Does God have a sense of humor or what? Here we have a pagan god that cannot even sit beside the ark of the Lord. I think God has a sarcastic, humorous side to Him that drives the point home powerfully.

Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, ‘No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.’ (1 Sam. 8:19-20)

God’s very own people, instead of wanting God to be their King, they wanted to be like the other nations. Again, the heart of God must ache when His people spurn His love and reject His longing for intimacy. What is it with people? Are there things in our lives that we want to be like the world instead of wanting to be what God wants us to be?

Then it came about when they entered, that he looked at Elaib and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ (1 Sam. 16:6-7)

In the choosing of David, all his brothers were physically more impressive, but God is not impressed with the physical. God saw David’s heart and that is what impresses God. All the things that impress the world are of little value in the kingdom of God. It is those who have clean hands and pure hearts that ascend the hill of the Lord. God help us see past the temporal and see the eternal.

Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, ‘What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?’ (1 Sam. 17:26)

Here we have David, not being impressed with the physical. He was not even afraid of a giant, but only wanted God to receive His due glory. While all the others were in fear, we have a shepherd boy jealous for His God. Shall we not all long for such faith and tenacity for God’s honor?

Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the armies of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. (1 Sam. 17:45-46)

I am sure every believer who has ever read that story says, ‘Go David.’ What faith, what jealousy for the glory of God. While others cowered, David stood tall. David was apparently not intimidated by the huge man. Again, one person plus God is a majority. What giants are we afraid of that are keeping us from standing tall for our God?

For it came about when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. (1 Kings 11:4)

What a sad commentary on a life that one time was so grand. Old hearts should not become cold to the Lord, but soft. Things do not turn black overnight, they go through a process of gray. We need to be careful about anything turning our hearts away from the Lord. We cannot become too proud on how we stand, lest we fall.

Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, ‘Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.’ But Micaiah said, ‘As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.’ (1 Kings 22:13-14)

Micaiah did not follow the crowd to appease his leaders like other people did. He stood for truth and for what the Lord wanted, regardless of the consequences. Are we willing to stand alone in the face of peer pressure? Will we be afraid to acknowledge Christ in this wicked and perverse generation? The fear of man is a trap, but the fear of the Lord gives life.

[King of Assyria said] Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria from my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem from my hand? (2 Kings 18:33-35)

That the Lord should deliver Jerusalem from your hand? You puny finite creature! You think your empire is stronger than the Lord of Hosts? The weakness of God is stronger than the strength of men. Regardless of your high position on earth, you must hold your tongue when speaking negative about God. Obviously, this king was arrogant and deceived. Pride is good soil for seeds of deception.

And I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become as plunder and spoil to all their enemies; because they have done evil in My sight, and have been provoking Me to anger, since the day their fathers came from Egypt, even to this day. (2 Kings 21:14-15)

I think of the loneliness of God. He stood by His people all along and they, in return, rebelled against Him. His heart must have broke. He cast them aside for a time to discipline them, but we know He would never cast them aside forever. He loves them and has many promises to fulfill to them.

Now, therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be a leader over My people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make you a name like the name of the great ones who are in the earth.”’ (1 Chr. 17:7-8)

What was it that made David great? His strength or wisdom or place in society? It was God who made David great. God is the hero. He takes the small things and glorifies Himself. Anybody that God has chosen over the centuries was not chosen because of their greatness, but because of God’s mercy and grace. God is the primary hero of any situation. Without God’s working in our lives, where would we be?; probably in sin and degradation. As the saying goes, ‘Except for the grace of God, there go I.’

And the house which I am about to build will be great; for greater is our God than all the gods. But who is able to build a house for Him, for the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain Him? (2 Chr. 2:5-6)

Solomon was building a house for God. He knew, however, that to build a house for God was somewhat of an oxymoron. How can you build a finite house for an infinite Creator? Not even the heavens can contain Him. Great is our God and greatly to be praised. We often say that such and such person is awesome at something. Thoughtfully though, it can only truly be said that God alone is awesome.

And he [Uzziah] continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him. (2 Chr. 26:5)

We see God blessing Uzziah as he sought the Lord. Although, nothing is automatic. We see what happens later to this same person in verse 16,

But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God….
Someone said appropriately that anyone can stand adversity, but to really test someone’s character, give him or her power. Some people just do not have the humility to be in places of leadership, especially in God’s kingdom. Leaders should not, and cannot be, power hungry. They need humility and a genuine concern for those under them.
And I said, ‘I beseech Thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Thine ear now be attentive and Thine eyes open to hear the prayer of Thy sevant which I am praying before Thee now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Thy servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which WE have sinned against Thee; I and my father’s house have sinned.’ (Ne. 1:5-6 emphasis mine)

Notice the WE in that prayer. That has been called the pronoun of intercession. Nehemiah did not say, ‘they’ have sinned but, ‘we’ have sinned. Even though he probably was not part of the sins in question, he still identified with his beloved Israel. Should we not take a lesson here to help us in our own self-righteous prayers?

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. (Ne. 8:5)

Here we have a testimony of the people’s reverence for God’s Word. God forbid that we should take His Word casually and without respect. I remember in the church I grew up in, they would always stand when the Gospels were read. His Word is alive and powerful and demands attention. It has been preserved all these centuries, let us cherish it deeply and tremble at it (Is. 66:2). Some people in prison for their faith would give anything just to have one page of Scripture. We dare not let our Bibles sit on a shelf collecting dust, otherwise we are vulnerable to spiritual bankruptcy. If we have not yet understood our desperate need for His Word, then we are children in the faith or not in the faith at all.

Therefore Thou didst deliver them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them, but when they cried to Thee in the time of their distress, Thou didst hear from heaven, and according to Thy great compassion Thou didst give them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors. But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before Thee….(Ne. 9:27)

Here we have the great mercy of the Lord in action. We also have the great inconsistency of humans. If we only cry out to God when times are difficult and then abandon Him when times are good, we do not love Him and are only using Him. We cannot be so fickle. We love God when times are bad and we love God when times are good. We seek God daily regardless of circumstances. Day in and day out we pray and meditate on His Word and worship Him. Faith is what rises up and conquers when life is a struggle.

And letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children….(Es. 3:13)

Here we have an edict to get rid of all the Jews. Does that not sound familiar through history? Satan has tried more than once to kill off the Jews, but he will not succeed. Satan probably thinks that if he can wipe out the Jews, then he can show that God is a liar. God, however, has promises to the Jews that WILL come to pass. He will bless those who bless the Jews and curse those who curse the Jews. God takes a dim view of those who persecute the Jews.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. (Job 1:20-21)

This response by Job should set an example for all of us. He did not blame God. He had just found out that his livestock and children and servants were all dead. He had a trust in God that transcended the earthly perspective. Sometimes we think that life is supposed to be fair. It is actually quite the opposite. Once we decide to follow Christ, life does not get easier necessarily, but because of spiritual conflict, it may get more difficult.

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STAND IN AWE

oh the vastness of God our King
ashamed of how little I sing
for God is more wonderful than life
I say, for God is more wonderful than life
the depths of His wonders and love
oh may our heart be set on things above
eternity will never get old
for His face we will behold
He is so holy
He is so great
so now I wait
to know Him deeper
and see Him as my Keeper
the wonders of His Person
my mind cannot contain
for the showers of His nature
have only begun to rain

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PSALMS-ISAIAH

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. (Ps. 19:1-2)

This is a clear statement of God’s creative wonders. It’s obvious to those of reason that the universe has a Creator and an awesome one at that. The stars shining on a clear night boldly announce that God is alive. True, unbiased, scientific research should bring us closer to God. I think the problem is that many scientists are biased and that bias blinds them to reality.

Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps. 73:25-26)

Should this not be our cry as well, that God is the prize in our lives, the jewel that we forsake all else to have? He is our source and joy. God help us long for You as the Psalmist did. This certainly goes along with Paul in Philippians when he said that for him to live was Christ. Also in Colossians 1:18 it says that Christ should have first place in everything. Is Christ a part of our life or is He our life? What else in our life battles Christ for adoration in our hearts? God, work in us that which is pleasing in Your sight. May Your Spirit rise up within us with those streams of living water and set our affections on the Savior.

Before the mountains were born, or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou are God. (Ps. 90:2)

Another affirmation of God’s power and majesty. Another slam to the evolutionary thinking of ignorant humans who put the world in the hands of chance instead of in the hands of our grand Designer. The depravity and blindness of man shines boldly in the evolutionary world view. Those of truth can only shake their heads.

If the Lord had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, ‘My foot has slipped,’ Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Thy consolations delight my soul. (Ps. 94:17-19)

Cannot all of us agree that without the Lord’s help at critical times in our lives we would have ‘dwelt in the abode of silence’? How often has His Word and His love been our support to get us back in the race? He certainly is the restorer of our soul and fountain of our strength. Only self-righteousness would glory in our own ability to stand firm.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him….Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him….But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him….(Ps. 103:11, 13, 17)

Studying the fear of the Lord in Scripture is an extremely advantageous pursuit. It is mentioned countless times in the Bible. It is something that God takes very seriously as we can see from the above verses. God does love the world but it seems that He has a special place in His heart for those who fear Him. Proverbs 8:13 says that the fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil. The fear of the Lord is a deep reverence for God. It is standing in awe of Him as seen in Ps. 33:8-9 and Malachi 2:5. Let us cultivate this in our lives by seeking for it and asking God for it (Pr. 2:1-5).

Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee. (Ps. 119:11)

Psalms 119 is not only the longest chapter in the Bible, but one of the most inspiring. Usually when I want a fresh love for the Word of God I read Psalms 119. The chapter is filled with admiration for God’s Word, His statutes, His testimonies, His law. This verse 11 is a cry I hope we all use when praying. This should be our daily attitude in life. The phrase, ‘love God and hate sin’ applies perfectly here. This verse describes the fear of the Lord exactly.

My soul is crushed with longing after Thine ordinances at all times. (Ps. 119:20)

Wow! How many of us can say that? To be so in love with God and His Word that all else pales in comparison. What does our heart yearn for? Where do we get our strength from? God help us to yearn to know You and also yearn to obey You.

Thy testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors. (Ps. 119:24)

What an awful thought that the lost do not know the Word of God as a help and a salvation. To whom do they go when they suffer? To whom do they go when they need direction? From Genesis to Revelation there are jewels to enjoy, but the lost do not know it. What a tragedy! Who are their counselors? We have God to pour out our hearts to.

The law of Thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (Ps. 119:72)

If the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, then the love of God’s Word is the root of all kinds of righteousness. The motive of the Psalmist is that riches are of very little value in view of having God’s Word. Paul had similar sentiments (Phil. 3:8). What can we live without? What do we desire most? By the way, the next time you hear somebody say that Jesus died so we could be financially prosperous; correct them with love, but please correct them nonetheless.

If Thy law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction. (Ps. 119:92)

I am sure many of us can testify that we may not have made it unless we had God’s Word during those dark hours. Nothing gives hope and strength like spending some time in the Word. If we are living through difficult times and not meditating of God’s Word, we are only fooling ourselves. Is not the Word a life preserver when we are drowning in the flood of trials? Scripture is much more than words on pages, it is the Word of God, it is spirit and it is life. There is not another book like it on the planet.

O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. (Ps. 119:97)

Oh, that we had a heart like the Psalmist. How can we neglect the Words of our Savior? As it says in Psalms 42:1, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God,” so should our hearts long for God. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth. If we are not feeding on God’s Word, then we are starving or at least malnourished.

My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Thy law. (Ps. 119:136)

A friend once said that the greatest injustice is that God does not get the glory that He deserves. Oh, that we would have such a heart that longs to see God glorified and a heart that grieves when He is not glorified. Certainly we love people and wish them good. However, God’s honor and desires must be supreme, otherwise we have a man-centered religion.

Those who love Thy law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble. (Ps. 119:165)

Even in the midst of the storm we can have peace. Sometimes the load is so heavy it almost breaks our back. However, God and His Word can get us to stand erect once again. We cannot be so fickle to let trouble come between us and our God. Why would I abandon the One who loves me most? Why would I leave my only source of strength? There is an oasis in the desert of life and there is peace for those who love God’s Word. I think God’s Word implants in us a tenaciousness that refuses to give up.

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning. (Ps. 130:5-6)

Going in to a day without prayer is like going on a long journey without putting fuel in the car. Is our time with God a ritual or a relationship? Is it something we HAVE to do or something we GET to do? Is God our way out of hell or the love of our lives? I am sure the watchmen waits for the morning with eagerness. Do we wait for the Lord with more eagerness than the watchmen? God, may Your Holy Spirit rise up within us and may those streams of living water flow through us. God is so utterly transcendent that He blows the finite mind. He is also so utterly immanent that He blows the finite mind.

He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite. The Lord supports the afflicted; (Ps. 147:4-6)

What a contrast! The great God who names the stars also is attentive to the cry of the afflicted. Not only is He high and lifted up, but remembers the lowly. It is as if the Prime Minister or President tenderly cares for the street sweeper or garbage collector. What is man that God is mindful of him? I don’t know, but I am glad He is mindful of us.

He is on the path of life who heeds instructions, but he who forsakes reproof goes astray. (Pr. 10:17)

I think it is a lost art in the church that people do not sharpen each other because we are too prideful to receive correction. Humility demands that we are open for others to rebuke and reprove us. God help us. If our goal is to be like Jesus then we had better listen to our critics.

He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. (Pr. 14:29)

If character is not the priority of the God-honoring life I do not know what else is. Outward actions need inward righteousness if God is to be pleased. Anger and patience are opposites. We need to be slow to anger and quick to listen (James 1:19). No one needs to hear this more than I do. God help me. How easy it is to ruin a great testimony by undue anger.

He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered. (Pr. 21:13)

God is very serious about our generosity. His blessings to us are not an end in themselves. He blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. We are to be channels, a flowing stream, not a stagnant pool. Have we helped the poor, the naked, the sick, the prisoner, the lost? If we do not have a giving heart, I wonder if the Holy Spirit is in residence?

And the pride of man will be humbled, and the loftiness of men will be abased, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. (Is. 2:17)

We all wonder at times whether evil will be judged and the righteous vindicated. The Bible is clear that the day will come when the wicked WILL be judged. We may want that judgment now, in this life, but God knows what He is doing. We also want the righteous to be honored in this life, but again, God most certainly will honor them, but in His time. Faith in God lets us rest in His timing. He will humble the proud, and He will exalt the humble. The judge of all the earth will do right. We see from our finite earthly perspective, but He sees from His infinite Divine perspective.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. (Is. 40:28-31)

Isaiah 40 is a powerful chapter on the majesty and greatness of God. After reading it there is no argument, we only need to bow in worship. This is yet another section that initiates the fear of the Lord in us. He does love us but He is totally OTHER than us. He is the Creator and we are the created, and it will always be that way. This verse is an autobiographical sketch from God about Himself. What happened to people of God when they came into God’s Presence? Peter told Jesus to depart from him because he [Peter] was a sinful man. John, in Revelation, fell down as dead when he saw Jesus. Isaiah said ‘woe is me’ when he saw the Lord. We also see though, in the Isaiah verse above, that those who trust in this awesome God will have strength beyond their own. I think ‘waiting’ on God implies trusting and seeking. Maybe that is why it says in the New Testament that faith can move mountains.

Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. (Is. 45:22)

This is certainly God’s desire, that all people would turn to Him and be saved. He does not force His will on people, but lets them voluntarily choose Him. He invites and encourages people to come to Him but leaves the final decision to them. If He forced His will on others it would destroy the very foundation of the relationship which is voluntary action. His mercy is open to all. He also says that He is God and there is no other. Whether the world likes it or not, the God of the Hebrew Scriptures and Greek New Testament is the only God and the only way of salvation. We do not have the right to create our own way of salvation based upon our own bias or upbringing. There is only one truth for all the world: the one true God took on human flesh and died for our sins and rose again and will someday come back as Judge and King.

But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.’ (Is. 49:14-16)

Even if the Jewish people thought the Lord had forsaken them, He did not. He had engraved them on the palms of His hands. God is the personification of faithfulness. His love and fondness for His people is probably one of the most fascinating concepts in Scripture. The God of the universe rejoicing in fallen finite humans. What a God!

For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit….’ (Is. 57:15)

Eternity entering time. The God who inhabits eternity showing affection to sinful creatures. It is not power and fame and fortune and talent that impress God, but a humble and a contrite heart. The meek shall inherit the earth. Here again, we are introduced to the transcendence of God and the immanence of God at the same time.

Thus says the Lord, ‘Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,’ declares the Lord. ‘But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.’ (Is. 66:1-2)

This verse also contrasts the greatness of God and His love for the least. He is the infinite source of all yet He looks favorably upon those who respect Him and walk humbly. The Bible says that the friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him. Can you imagine being a friend with God? Nothing in all existence could compare with such a thing.

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DIVINE FORBEARANCE

I have wondered why God did
wait and wait and wait
why didn’t He just
shut that gate?
but years ago
when hope was diminished
there was the One who said
‘It is finished’
that sacrifice
that offering
that incredible fate
is the reason why God
does wait and wait and wait

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CONTENTS PAGE


JEREMIAH-MALACHI

An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it? (Jer 5:30-31)

People are so faithless. They want lies told to them because they sound nice. The New Testament declares that God will give people over to delusion because they did not love the truth. The same is true here in Jeremiah—the people did not love the truth. But, in the end, what good is falsehood? Reality may be difficult, but it is the only way.

Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them. Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did evil more than their fathers. (Jer. 7:24-26)

Wow! The heart of God must ache at the shallowness of His own people. Regardless of God’s love and forgiveness, they just persisted in their rebellion. God tried and tried to influence them to righteousness but they would have nothing to do with it. This is a prime example that God’s will can be thwarted by humans and His heart grieved. God has set up His kingdom in such a way that His will is not always done by free beings. It is not that the free beings are more powerful than God, but that God is powerful enough to allow humans freedom and yet God still be in control. It is not to God’s detriment that humans can thwart His desires but to His glory. Beyond that, God longs for relationship with humans and has opened Himself up to be hurt. The Infinite has made Himself vulnerable to the finite. Now there is a concept to sit back and ponder.

‘For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise, and for glory; but they did not listen.’ (Jer. 13:11)

Again we have God desiring His people to be something, but they, in return, resisting. There is a theology that says that God’s will cannot be thwarted, otherwise the one doing the thwarting is more powerful than God. I find that theology childish. It misses the whole point. God has chosen to let people reject Him if they want. He allows it, but in His sovereignty it is certainly nothing that threatens Him. Without voluntary action there can be no true relationship. If God does not allow His creatures the freedom to oppose His will, then the whole human experiment is meaningless.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. (Jer. 17:7-8)

A magnificent picture of faith in God. Regardless of the trials and tribulations of life, those who trust in the Lord will endure. Whether in droughts or floods, they not only will survive; they will actually thrive. They will, as said earlier, mount up with wings as eagles. Circumstances need not dictate our disposition.

At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. (Jer. 18:7-8)
….and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind….(Jer. 19:5)

These verses reveal something about God that is interesting. We have God changing His mind in one instance and in another instance something is happening that He never even thought about. It would seem from these and other similar verses (26:13, 32:35) that the future may not be exhaustively settled. No one questions God’s power and eternity, but do we really know how He experiences time and events? Is the future eternally set so that God is just sitting back watching it play out? I do not know, and will not be dogmatic either way. God is certainly dynamic and interacts with His people. In any case, our prayers are effective and not mute. They are powerful and can change history. I don’t have the answers, but I do know that prayer is not empty ritual. Anyway, it is something to think about and thinking is good.

But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it. (Jer. 20:9)

Jeremiah felt like being quiet because his message was not being listened to. However, the Word of God inside him was like a burning fire. I believe God’s Word also should burn within us so that we cannot keep it inside of us. How many of our Bibles are on a shelf collecting dust? The Word is living and active, so may our hearts yearn after it as a deer yearns for the water.

‘He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?’ Declares the Lord. (Jer. 22:16)

A powerful statement about what followers of the Lord should look like. If we do not love the lowly, if we do not help the poor and needy, if we do not help the cause of the afflicted, the question remains: Do we know Him? How can we say we love God if we do not love our neighbor? Christ lives on the inside of us so let Him shine! May it no longer be us who live but Christ who lives in us.

I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds. (Jer. 23:21-22)

It appears that the reason these prophets were messed up and giving false information was because they did not stand in God’s council. I think it is dangerous to live our lives without close communion with God. The praying man stops sinning and the sinning man stops praying. We need to spend time in the Lord’s presence communing with Him. It is a sure way to get off track when we stop our intense seeking of God’s face.

Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day, and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; the Lord of hosts is His name: ‘If this fixed order departs from before Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘The offspring of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,’ declares the Lord. (Jer. 31:35-37)

It appears that as long as the moon and the stars keep doing what they do then the Israelites will always be promised a nation. God will not cast off the Israelites. His faithful promises to them are secure. Throughout history many have been anti-semitic, but God has always loved the Jewish people.

However, I shall leave a remnant, for you will have those who escaped the sword among the nations when you are scattered among the countries. Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations to which they will be carried captive, how I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me….(Ez. 6:8-9)

The broken heart of God should break our hearts. The most wonderful Person in the universe, probably also the saddest, by the wandering hearts of His people. Let us live to please Him. If we grieve when we fail our parents or spouses, how much more should we grieve when we fail our God?

Then the glory of the God of Israel went up from the cherub on which it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case. And the Lord said to him, ‘Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.’ (Ez. 9:3-4)

The fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil. Here we have those singled out who sigh and groan over the sins of the people. Would we find ourselves in that group or have we learned to put up with evil? Being in an evil society tends to desensitize people. Do we grieve over those things that God grieves over? How close to His heart are we? God help us.

The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice. And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. (Ez. 22:29-30)

What a tragedy! God only wanted someone to intercede for the land and He could find no one. The heart of God breaks again. If He were looking today for someone to stand in the gap would we be one that He would find? How important is prayer to us? Is not prayer the main business of the day?

Therefore, say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,” declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.’” (Ez. 36:22-23)

God is very jealous about His name. We should be too. Our purpose in life should be to honor the Lord. We should make it our aim to please Him (2 Cor. 5:9). Sometimes the Lord acts not because we have obeyed, but because He will vindicate His holy name and His reputation. Again, let us fear the Lord. The Bible does not say to love the Lord with ½ your heart.

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. (Dan. 3:17-18)

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego is a profound example of loyalty. When confronted with bowing to a false god or death, they chose death. That story is being played out around the world in our own day as followers of Christ are being killed because of their faith. It is a high calling to choose death over compromise, but with God’s Spirit we can follow Him anywhere. Being that more Christians have been martyred in the last 100 years than in the past 1900 shows that hatred against God’s people is stronger than ever. I believe more and more that followers of Christ will be hated because we will not compromise the truth like other ecumenical religions. We believe that Christ is God and the only way, period.

but you [Belshazzar] have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified. (Dan. 5:23)

Our very breath is in the hands of God, yet so many walk arrogantly as if they control their own destiny. The very air we breath is a gift from God. The eyes we see with and the ears we hear with are gifts from God. If He took away His sustaining grace from this world, it would vanish. May we never cease to give thanks to God.

Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. (Dan. 6:4)

Daniel was squeaky clean. How many of us can say that we are? If someone tried to find corruption in us would they find us faithful or in need of help? God help us. If our actions do not follow our words and our deeds do not follow our creeds, then we are not genuine. We need to come to grips with the urgency of character.

In Daniel 9 we have a great example of intercession. Daniel is pouring out his heart to God in confession and he uses the pronoun of intercession ‘we, us.’ He does not say them and they. He stands with his people and joins them in their guilt, identifying with them. He said, “we have sinned” (vs. 5), “Open shame belongs to us” (v. 8), “for we have sinned” (v. 11), “we have sinned” (v. 15), and finally in verse 20, “Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel.” I think God hears prayers much more that come from contrite hearts like that instead of prayers coming from prideful hearts that have not taken the log out of their own eye. Let us remember to use the ‘pronouns of intercession’ which are we/us/our/my.

Hear this word which the Lord has spoken against you, sons of Israel, against the entire family which He brought up from the land of Egypt, you only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities. (Amos 3:1-2)

Regardless of what some may say, Israel has always had a special place in God’s plan and always will. Of all the peoples on earth, God’s eye is always on Israel. However, with that privilege comes responsibility as seen in the above verse—they will be punished for their sin. To whom much is given, much will be required.

‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord. And people will stagger from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.’ (Amos 8:11-12)

They would not hear from the Lord and would become desperate. It is true that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God’s mouth. Jesus is the Bread of Life, let us feed on Him and His Word. The source of our sustenance is not ourselves. If we live our lives only eating from God and His Word occasionally, we will obviously not be strong enough to fight evil and sin.

When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. (Jonah 3:10)

Here is another verse, not only about God’s mercy, but about the question that the future may not be completely settled. Is the future eternally settled in stone and God is just watching it all play out or is some of history being made as we choose to obey or disobey? Is God a static, unemotional Deity or a dynamic interacting God whose mind can actually be changed by our actions? I don’t know, but my God is alive and hears my prayers and I think my choices can have eternal impact on myself and on the world. If my prayers cannot influence God then what is all my passion for?

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In the whirlwind and storm is His way, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet. (Na. 1:3)

We have a patient, powerful, and just God. I love the last line of the verse, “clouds are dust beneath His feet.” How small we really are. That must be why Isaiah says the inhabitants of the earth are like grasshoppers. How can we arrogantly glory in ourselves in any way? God give us a fresh revelation of who You are so that we might fall down with our faces to the ground.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds feet, and makes me walk on my high places. (Hab. 3:17-19)

Even in the worst of times, we can press on by faith in God. Faith is seeing past the circumstances and seeing God. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, God is with us. It is interesting that in the Old Testament there was the tent of meeting and the Temple in which God fellowshipped with His people. Then, in the Incarnation, God took on flesh and got even closer to us, up close and personal. Finally, after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was given and God got even closer—now He is on the inside of us. Glory to God.

I said, ‘Surely you will revere Me, accept instruction.’ So her dwelling will not be cut off according to all that I have appointed concerning her. But they were eager to corrupt all their deeds. (Zeph. 3:7)

God had a desire but the people chose sin instead. If we think how a parent feels when their child does wrong how much more does God hurt when we disobey Him? A side note on this verse is the nature of sin. Were these people forced to sin? No! Otherwise judgment would be unfair. Were these people victims of their own nature? No! They willfully chose to sin; they are criminal. Sin has to be attributed to choice otherwise the whole meaning of sin and judgment is lost.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. (Zeph. 3:17)

This is a great insight into the Person of God. A Being that loves and shouts for joy over the people He loves. I believe we all need a deeper understanding of just how much God loves His people. In our adoration of His power, let us never forget His tenderness.

Then the word of the Lord came to Zechariah saying, ‘Thus has the Lord of hosts said, “Dispense true justice, and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” But they refused to pay attention, and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing.’ (Zech. 7:8-11)

Again we have God desiring something of His people and yet those people refusing to obey. Some theologians promote an idea that says if God moves upon a person then that person WILL respond accordingly. However, as I read Scripture, people are habitually resisting God and His will. I think obedience is meaningless unless it comes from the heart. God can and does move upon us for righteousness, but the final decision rests with us. God will one day rule and reign this world in righteousness, but in the mean time, He has given mankind a lot of freedom to do as they please. Let us be a friend of God by obeying Him.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. (Mal. 3:16)

God has a special place in His heart for those who fear Him and who honor His name. For those in this verse God heard and took notice of them. Oh God, may the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight. The above verse says that God gave attention. Wow, God gave attention. There was a saying that said, ‘If you want to capture someone’s attention, whisper.’ I think when it comes to God we can say, ‘If you want to capture God’s attention, fear Him.’

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FAILURE

on the post side of failure
just wanting to be a sailor
like Peter
who just wanted to get away
and hold reality at bay
solitude rushes to my side
and lethargy has taken over my stride
I want to get lost in my distress
and hide during this duress
but responsibility must return
and I once again must learn
that I have not arrived
no matter how I’ve tried
God have mercy on me
as I clumsily serve Thee

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THE GOSPELS

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me.’ (Mt. 7:21-23)

This is a very revealing passage and even alarming. We have people calling Jesus ‘Lord’ who do not know Him. That is not too dramatic, but it is the next part that is unnerving. There are people who are performing charismatic acts like prophecy and miracles and exorcisms who are using the name of Jesus Christ, but they do not know Him. They are wicked people. We should not let manifestations dictate whether the messenger is genuine.

The result was that when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Mt. 7:28-29)

When Jesus walked on earth He amazed people with His words. He taught like no one ever did. There was something about Him that set Him apart from the others. Obviously, He is Deity and will forever be ‘other’ than we are. The Bible, likewise, is like no other book. It is the only book on the planet that is inspired. It is alive and powerful. There is something about it that is like no other book, whether you call it authority or anointing or something else.

And when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES, AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.” (Mt. 8:16-17)

This is one of the verses used by extreme healing teachers to support their view of guaranteed healing. A brief look at the context, however, destroys the healing in the atonement doctrine. The point is that what Jesus was doing then and there—healing people of their sicknesses—is the fulfillment. The atonement IS NOT what is being spoken of here as is clear with a cursory reading. If Jesus did die for our sicknesses then healing IS guaranteed. However, Biblically and practically, that theology just does not work. Thousands of Jesus-loving people pray for healing that does not happen. Healing is God’s prerogative. He is the sovereign One, not us.

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Mt. 10:30)

So much for thinking that God is some stagnant deistic creator out there somewhere unaware of earth’s events. We say that God loves us, but is it just a cliché or a powerful life-changing dynamic? If we only knew how passionately God knows us and desires us, I think we would live differently. If my close friends, who are humans, deeply love me, how much more God?

And someone said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.’ But He answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.’ (Mt. 12:47-50)

This certainly refutes the Catholic veneration of Mary. Jesus does not see Mary as one who was not touched by sin or a perpetual virgin or one who would never die or one we should pray to. All those doctrines are man-made traditions. We also see in this passage that faith is thicker than blood.

‘Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’ And they took offense at Him. (Mt. 13:55-57)

When Jesus went to His home area they did not accept Him as Messiah. Basically, they were saying, ‘You grew up with us, you are a carpenter’s son. How can you be the Messiah?’ There must not have been too much in His life, His first 30 years, that would draw a lot of attention to Himself. He did not walk around with a halo on his head. He was human: He got tired, cold, hungry, and maybe even sick. The point is that He was a man. Yes, He was fully God, but He was also fully man.

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’ (Mt. 18:2-4)

Christianity is not a mechanical thing, but one of relationship. Religion, however, can be deadly if one is numbed into a false sense of security. If we are dependent upon our weekly rituals and duties for our acceptance before God, we are lost. Christ died in vain if we are saved that way!

Man-made works don’t atone. We need to understand our desperate need for Christ and His forgiveness. Outside of the blood of Christ there is no hope, regardless of how nice or good we may be. Good works outside of Christ have no reconciling power.

Man depends on what he does so he can feel good about himself. What does it mean to become like a child to enter the kingdom of God? Until we see our need for a Savior from the penalty of sin and the power of sin, how can we be saved from either? It is not a percentage deal where we have 70% blood of Christ and 30% good works. Imagine a sinful man displaying his efforts before a holy God in order to gain approval. Those people who are still working on the percentage system need to ‘become like a child.’

Remember those people in Mt. 7 who said ‘Lord, Lord, did we not do this and this and this’? The Lord told them to depart. They did not understand the difference between pride and humility. Pride says, ‘Look at what I have done.’ Humility says, ‘Look at what Christ has done.’

What are we planning to present to God on that day? Will we exhibit our accomplishments or will we point to that cross on Calvary? Will we make void the grace of God or will we glorify God by showing His hand in our salvation?

There is a life and death difference between working with all our hearts because we love God and working with all our hearts in order for God to love us. Are we working towards security or from security? Do we work and obey so God will accept us or do we obey because God has already accepted us?

So shall my heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your hearts. (Mt. 18:35)

Wow. God help us realize the gravity of not forgiving someone. We should not wish evil upon anyone. I do not think God requires that we like all people, but He does require us to love everybody. All persons are made in the image of God and are potential heirs of salvation. No one is outside the bounds of God’s love and no one should be outside the bounds of our love either. I know some people take a lot more to love but by God’s grace all things are possible. If we are Christ’s followers, we need consistency.

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ (Mt. 19:13-14)

Is it not odd that the disciples would rebuke the children as if Jesus was too important for children or did not have time for them? Jesus loves children. No one is insignificant to the Lord. Sometimes we adults think we are so important.

Another interesting theological nugget in this verse regards being born sinful. If we are born sinners and incur Adam’s guilt, then how can the kingdom of heaven belong to children? I believe it belongs to them because they are born innocent. Matter is not evil. Our physical nature is blood and muscle and bones, etc. which obviously is not sinful, otherwise we have a whole new definition of sin. Sin has to be voluntary choice otherwise it cannot be sin. Involuntary sin is a contradiction in terms. The Bible never says sin is caused by some inevitable force that we cannot help. Otherwise, God’s judgment would be a farce.

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him with her sons, bowing down, and making a request of Him. And He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left.’ But Jesus answered and said, ‘You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ (Mt. 20:20-22)

Sometimes it is better to keep our mouths shut. It reminds me of Peter speaking before thinking. Do the two sons have any clue when they said, ‘we are able’? I doubt it. We should think before we emotionally just say things that we could very well regret later. There is wisdom in silence.

Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.’ All the disciples said the same thing too. (Mt. 26:35)

Yet another example of not knowing when to be quiet. We need to be careful what we say in an emotional moment. Maturity speaks from the will, not the emotions. It is also interesting to note that after Pentecost, Peter not only did not deny Christ but was apparently crucified. What a difference the Holy Spirit makes in one’s life.

Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?’ And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so that the governor was quite amazed. (Mt. 27:13-14)

If ever a man had a right to defend himself it was Jesus. Yet, He held His peace. If ever a person was wronged and slandered unfairly, it was Jesus. However, He opened not His mouth. Jesus had trust in His Father to bring about justice in His time. Jesus did not take matters into His own hands but walked in the light of His Father’s will. Patience is the ability to trust God even when things are not going our way.

[Pilate said] ‘I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.’ And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ (Mt. 27:24-25)

These people may forever regret that statement. What fools to say, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’ More than most verses in this book, this one leaves me quite speechless. How can one respond to such insanity? How blind to the plan of God!

And after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they kneeled down before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ (Mt. 27:29)

I can only shake my head in disbelief. The irony of bowing in mockery is staggering. One day these same people WILL bow before this same King of the Jews, but not in mockery. As an aside, the humility of God is mind-boggling, allowing Himself to be mocked by mere grasshoppers.

Now on the next day, which is the one after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, ‘Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I am to rise again.” Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, lest the disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, “He has risen from the dead,” and the last deception will be worse than the first.’ (Mt. 27:62-64)

What deceived people. They call white black and black white. The irony here is that it would not be the last deception being worse than the first, it would be the last truth would be more wonderful than the first.

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. (Mk. 8:38)

It says in Scripture that the fear of man is a snare. Are we ever ashamed to reveal our faith in this wicked generation? Do the eyes of disapproval from peers cause us to shrink in fear to acknowledge Christ? Why should we allow the acceptance of the wicked to have any affect on our lives? The temporal approval from finite creatures should not dictate our walk with the Infinite God.

And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell. (Mk. 9:47)

This verse is certainly figurative but not by too much. It demonstrates the seriousness by which we should approach sin. Jesus did not say to go and sin less. He said to go and sin no more. He said to deny yourselves and take up your cross and follow Him. Sin should be foreign to us and not domestic. Like oil and water are incompatible, so should sin be to the believer.

And when he [blind beggar] heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many were sternly telling him to be quiet….(Mk. 10:47-48)

Jesus is not a high class snob. Why would the people sternly tell children and now sick people not to bother Jesus? What irony! One need not be rich or healthy or important to get the attention of the Lord. Jesus cares for the least and we should too. We should not consider ourselves too good for anyone or for anything. Being a follower of Christ demands that we be servants. God help us.

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. (Mk. 11:25)

What gives us the right to think that we can have unforgiveness towards someone else and yet think that God will still hear our prayers? Is it not those with clean hands and pure hearts who will ascend the hill of the Lord (Ps. 24)? Character may not be much to politicians but it is everything to God.

Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimonyagainst Jesus to put Him to death; and they were not finding any. (Mk. 14:55)

And they were not finding any! I wonder why? What a portrait of the character of Christ that He was so spotless that people could find nothing against Him. His innocence is truly astonishing. Jesus confirms this when He said in John 14:30, “I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.” Satan had nothing on Jesus or in Jesus. He was completely free of darkness. He was innocence personified.

But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. (Lk. 5:16)

Jesus would get alone with His Father regularly. He knew who loved Him and He knew His source of strength. Jesus did not do His own thing, but only those things He seen the Father doing. He lived in continual communion with His Father. Do we consider prayer a ritual or a lifeline?

And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them. (Lk. 6:12-13)

Again, Jesus was a man of prayer. We see what place prayer had in His life, especially in this text. The night before He chose the twelve disciples He spent the whole night in prayer. It is a great example for us and what place prayer should play in our lives, and mostly when we need to make major decisions that relate to the kingdom of God.

But love your enemies….(Lk. 6:35)

Certainly not what you may hear from the world. Christians, however, are not always the best illustrations of this verse either. Of all people on earth, the followers of Christ should be the most gracious. The church does not always have the best reputation in this regard. God help us to turn the tide and show the world that Christ is alive. Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men.” Our gentleness should be evident to others, even our enemies.

And He answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.’ (Lk. 7:22)

It is revealing to notice that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear and the dead are raised up. When it comes to the poor it does not say they become rich. Rather, it says the poor have the good news preached to them. The answer to being poor is not prosperity, but to know God.

And taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida.But the multitudes were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. (Lk. 9:10-11)

Jesus went to be alone but the crowd followed Him. How many times have we wanted to be alone but were ‘bothered’ by others in need? What was our response? Jesus, it says, welcomed them, He spoke to them, He healed them, and after, He fed them. All the while He was probably tired and wanted to be alone to pray. Jesus, however, gave Himself to others. Jesus could always give because He drew from a fountain that never runs dry.

And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem; (Lk. 9:51)

Nothing could detract Christ from His purpose. As Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem, we too need to set our hearts on lifetime obedience to God regardless of the cost. We need to get off the throne of our lives and let Jesus be Lord in our hearts. A funeral needs to take place and infatuation with self needs to be the deceased. It is like marriage in that just because there may be bumps along the way, that will not get us off track from our purpose. We have ‘set our face to go to Jerusalem.’ The goal of a baseball player is the World Series and nothing will distract him from that goal. The goal of the believer is to love God and do His will and nothing will distract us from that.

And it came about while He said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.’ But He said, ‘On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it.’ (Lk. 11:27-28)

Another verse that destroys the non-biblical veneration of Mary. Again, when Jesus was confronted with His earthly family and their importance to Him, He turned the emphasis rather on anyone who hears and obeys God as being the blessed ones. Faith must be thicker than blood.

And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.’ (Lk. 16:15)

It says in verse 14 that thes Pharisees were lovers of money. I am sure there are many religious people today who are highly justified before men but their hearts are far from God. I ask what good is it to have the praise of men if we lack the approval of God? What good is it to gain the whole world and forfeit our souls? What good are the world’s riches if our soul is barren, or having a bulging bank account with a bankrupt heart? Gaining the approval of the world is of little value in the kingdom of God. Let us seek the approval of God.

And a certain one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, ‘Stop! No more of this.’ And He touched his ear and healed him. (Lk. 22:50-51)

So here is this group of people who came to arrest Jesus and Jesus does a miracle right in front of them and yet that does not even break their stride. They refuse to believe even in the face of another miracle. They were committed to their dogmatism and obstinacy. Again, in verse 67 they said, “ ‘If You are the Christ, tell us.’ But He said to them, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe.’” These people were not interested in truth. They were blinded by their bias. It reminds me of the evolutionists. They are committed to their agenda even when confronted with truth. It is voluntary ignorance. Being close-mindedly committed to a life and death cause without knowing the facts is intellectual suicide.

And Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept on calling out, saying, ‘Crucify, crucify Him!’ (Lk. 23:20-21)

Some people through the centuries have called the Jews, ‘Christ killers.’ I think anyone who says that is a self-righteous moron. The point is that we were all in that crowd that said, ‘Crucify Him.’ We have all sinned and said, ‘I don’t want Christ, I want to live my own life.’ Anyone who has ever sinned can be called a Christ killer. It was for our sins that He was crucified. Let us all humbly admit our part in the crucifixion.

And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.’ (Lk. 23:46)

Even in our darkest hour we can trust God. The darker the hour the more faith it takes. Faith is trusting God even when life is dark. In Jesus’ dark hour, feeling forsaken by His Father, He still committed His spirit to His Father.

and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen.’ (Lk. 24:5-6)

Why do you seek the living among the dead? Praise the Lord, He is not here, He is risen! The grave could not hold Him. Death has no power over Him. He lived the life and He died the death and now He is alive forevermore. Now, we too, can have new life and power over sin and the grave. It certainly is the greatest story ever told.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us….(Jn. 1:14)

Jesus is the Word become flesh. The eternal God took on human flesh. In a more casual phrase, Jesus is ‘God with skin on.’ The Incarnation is a profoundly powerful act of God. It is when eternity entered time. It is a holy God becoming one of us in this dirty sin-filled world. It was ‘the great descent.’ Think of yourself becoming an ant so that you could communicate your love and plan to them. Think of a king throwing off his robe and living as a street sweeper so that he could show them his love. Think of a president leaving his office and becoming a janitor to show his love for those on the bottom. None of these analogies do true justice but they do help nonetheless. The difference is that He was the uncreated entering the world of the created. We can never say, ‘God, You just do not understand what I am going through.’ The good news is that He does understand because He has been there and done that. Does the president of your company know the garbage collector? He should if he wants to be like the Lord. We all put our socks on one foot at a time. We are all equal in God’s sight.

Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.’ (Jn. 1:48-49)

This is early in Jesus’ ministry and we already have someone calling Him the king of Israel. We cannot miss the power of such a statement. The Old Testament is clear who the king of Israel is, it is God Himself. What right does this man called Nathanael have to call some man the king of Israel? He can because he knew who Jesus was. It is also very significant to notice that Jesus did not deny that title.

Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.’ (Jn. 4:34)

The disciples were wanting Jesus to eat something and Jesus said He had ‘food to eat that they knew not of’ (vs. 32). They were thinking of physical food and He was not. What sustained Jesus was doing the will of His Father. Jesus was certainly not all caught up in trivial pursuits in life. May some of that spirit rub off on all of us.

in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (Jn. 5:23)

This verse alone refutes all who would say that Jesus is not God. Even in heretical faiths like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who deny the Deity of Christ—it says in their own holy book the very same words of the above verse. They are caught ‘dead in the water’ using their own book. One MUST admit the Deity of Christ by the above verse. I love those words, “that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” Praise the Lord.

They said therefore to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’ (Jn. 6:28-29)

This verse destroys the theology of universalism, either that all people will eventually be saved or that all roads lead to God. Jesus makes it clear what it means to do the works of God—it is believing in Jesus. In other words, if you do not believe in Jesus Christ, then you are not doing the works of God.

As an aside, we need to believe in the Jesus Christ of history and not some Jesus Christ that we make up in our own minds. Many faiths believe in some sort of ‘Jesus’ but not the Jesus of the Bible. We cannot create God in our image. He has told us what He is like and who He is, let us believe in Him.

For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world. (Jn. 6:33)

I have always been encouraged by this verse. Jesus is the Bread of God that came down from heaven and gives life to the world. If we feed on that bread we will live. It will sustain us. Without Christ we will starve. Again, man shall not live by bread [physical] alone, but by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth. It is not the food that perishes but the food that endures to eternal life (Jn. 6:27)

The officers therefore came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, ‘Why did you not bring Him?’ The officers answered, ‘Never did a man speak the way this man speaks.’ (Jn. 7:45-46)

Nor will any man ever speak again like that man spoke. I am sure we all have our favorite teachers and preachers who we could listen to for hours. I doubt, however, they would ‘hold a candle’ to how Christ captivated one’s mind and heart. But, then again, what else would we expect from God Himself? The words that Jesus Christ speaks are ‘spirit’ and they are ‘life’ (Jn. 6:63), sustaining the world (Heb. 1:3). Peter said to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68). God said ‘Be,’ and the world leaped into existence.

The Jews therefore said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’ Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him….(Jn. 8:57-59)

This has always been on of my favorite verses. It is such a clear declaration of His Deity. He was probably referring back to Exodus 3:14 where God calls Himself ‘I AM.’ It sure looks like that is what those around Him thought too because they wanted to stone Him. They did not think this Jesus had any right to say He had not only seen Abraham but existed before Abraham as the I AM. Jesus had a unique subtle way of getting His point across.

Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. (Jn. 12:27)

This is the same reason Jesus earlier ‘set His face to go to Jerusalem.’ He knew He came to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Some people want to deemphasize the cross in Christianity. I wonder how that is possible without taking away the heart of the Gospel. The cross permeates the Bible from front to back. The cross is where infinite mercy and judgment kiss each other.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel….(Jn. 13:3-5)

What an image—the Messiah washing other’s feet. The holy washing the unholy. It says that He did that after He knew who He was and where He was going. He was so secure in who He was that He could do the lowliest task without an ego problem. God help us follow His lead. It has been said that Christians like to be called servants until someone treats them like one. We need that spirit of sacrifice that Christ had. If we think we are too good for certain tasks, that actually makes us not good enough. Jesus died so that we would no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died for us and was raised (2 Cor. 5:15).

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.’ (Jn. 14:6)

Just because someone was raised in a particular religion does not make that religion the truth. That would be universalism. It would also be arrogant to claim truth without research. If I claim to know truth, I better have done my homework to see if it is, in fact, truth. Humility should be present, however, because if our theology is accompanied by arrogant dogmatism, it becomes irrelevant.

If all roads lead to God then Jesus was wrong. He would have been a liar. He said that He was IT, period. There are no other ways or truths or lifes. Jesus supersedes all other religious figures. All others are dead and gone, but Christ is God Himself and still alive.

They answered Him, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ He said to them, ‘I am He.’ And Judas also who was betraying Him, was standing with them. When therefore He said to them, “I am He,’ they drew back, and fell to the ground. (Jn. 18:5-6)

Coming in a mob mentality and confronting Deity is not a good combination. What blindness to reality! Not only was an ear miraculously healed right there, but they all fell to the ground when He said ‘I am He.’ Should not these things wake the mob up that they are messing with something they know not of? Even in the face of powerful reality, they go blindly on. Ignorance is not bliss.

Jesus therefore came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, ‘Behold, the Man!’ (Jn. 19:5)

Behold the Man. If that is not the understatement of the century. He IS the Man and one day all those people will see Him again and acknowledge that He is the Man. There He was in their midst, the God-Man, their Redeemer. However, ‘the lights were on but nobody was home.’

They therefore cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ (Jn. 19:15)

The curious thing about this verse is that it is the chief priests that said that they had no king but Caesar. The chief priests were Jews. What did they mean that Caesar was their king? They so disliked Jesus that they said the unthinkable, they were saying that God, even the Hebrew God, was not their King. It sure could have been just an emotional outburst in a mob, but that is not what a Jew would normally say.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop, and brought it up to His mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished.’ And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit. (Jn. 19:28-30)

What a wonderful statement, ‘It is finished.’ The atonement is complete. The door is open for all to come for forgiveness. Some teachers would say that Jesus had to go to hell after He died to suffer some more for our redemption. So when Jesus said ‘It is finished,’ He meant the Old Covenant is finished. That theology is misguided at best and heretical at worst. It is clear from verse 28 that Jesus knew all things had been accomplished. He did not have to go to hell and accomplish more. These same teachers also say that Christ took on the nature of Satan on the cross and when He was in hell He was born again. Well, you would not get such strange theology from reading the Bible. Those teachers are only imposing their own ideas onto the text and not letting the Bible speak for itself.

When Jesus said it was finished, it was. That sacrifice was so powerful that it will bring forgiveness to anybody who repents and believes, regardless of how evil that person was. If you wanted to find one statement in the Bible to sum up the heart of God it certainly could be ‘It is finished.’

Some people think the cross is too violent and how could the death of someone be part of a plan of God? We first need to realize the gravity of sin and the holiness of God. Then we can begin to see the need of the cross and the great mercy of God in finding a way to forgive fallen humanity.

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CONTENTS PAGE


THE YEARNING

when we see the character of Jesus
in view of our own
when we see how little we’ve grown
and that our hearts may still
possess some stone
do we flee in despair?
and wonder if we’ll ever care?
the introspection that breeds guilt
the foundation on which anxiety is built
‘God I want holiness today’
oh, my soul longs for That Day

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CONTENTS PAGE


ACTS-COLOSSIANS

And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, ‘Look at us!’ And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!’ (Acts. 3:3-6)

Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold.” I only highlight this verse in response to the prosperity theology that says Jesus died so we could be prosperous. That theology just does not line up with reality. Some of the greatest saints have been poor. Besides, the New Testament give very little attention to financial prosperity. Some Christians today teach prosperity, but biblically their doctrine is bankrupt.

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. (Acts. 4:13)

I would find that a nice compliment if someone recognized me as ‘having been with Jesus.’ Peter and John were not trained theologians but they handled themselves very well with truth and confidence. Others recognized that there was something special about them. Taking it a step further, I wonder if our characters are such that people recognize that we ‘have been with Jesus.’ Christians do not always have the best reputation for being like Jesus. God help us so that the Jesus Christ on the inside of us shines forth.

And he called for lights and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.’ (Acts. 16:29-31)

Is it not amazing that God will forgive a life of sin in an instant when people repent and believe? All the rebellion and evil—gone, washed away by the blood of Christ. All the times when willful sin was done and pain was sent through God’s heart—all that thrown in to the sea of forgetfulness. What a God! Is it not true that His forbearance is Divine? We deserve nothing. God owes us nothing. Anything this side of hell is grace.

And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. (Acts. 17:10-11)

These people were praised for their diligence in studying the Word of God. They even put Paul to the test. They did not just gullibly believe whatever was spoken. Some people today do not question the teaching of their leaders because they are told not to ‘touch the Lord’s anointed.’ First of all, that verse is taken kicking and screaming from it’s context. It has nothing to do with making sure your leaders are teaching biblical concepts. Second, we are responsible to keep each other accountable theologically. Those teachers who do not want their teachings challenged are insecure and probably have some kind of selfish agenda.

And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22-24)

That is one of the most powerful passages in God’s Word. He does not know what awaits him except that in every town he will be afflicted and in prison. What is his response? Basically, he is saying, ‘that’s life.’ His life is not important to him, he only wants to do what the Lord has called him to do. What a testimony of a man after God’s own heart. He was so in love with Jesus that all else pales in comparison. Wow, may that same spirit rise up within each of us.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind. (Rom. 1:28)

They did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer! What? How can God not be worth knowing? Is knowing God a waste of time? What a pitiful condition to be in. God, the very essence of life, not worth knowing. Wow. If that is not depravity personified, I don’t know what is.

We see in this verse and also verses 24 and 26 that God ‘gave them over’ to their sins. I think the wrath of God is not always something He does but something He doesn’t do. God took away His protection and influence and let those people go their own sinful way. That is a terrifying journey. God loves people and works with them to follow Him, but a willful and persistent rejection of God’s influence has eternal consequences.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us….For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son….(Rom. 5:8-10)

There are religions in the world where their ‘god’ does not love the wicked. Where would any of us be if God did not love the wicked? Even when we were living in rebellion God loved us and ‘waited’ for that day when we would ‘become like a child.’ That sacrifice of Christ must have been an awesome event in the eyes of God to allow Him to wait and wait and wait for rebels to repent. Until death there is still hope for the rebel to repent. The patience of God is Divine and so ‘other’ than we are. Why would a holy God pursue an unholy species? I think God made us for fellowship and even though mankind has chosen independence from God, He just cannot get humanity out of His mind. It has been said of believers that if God had a billfold, their picture would be in it.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Rom. 6:12-13)

I love those verses. That is a summation of our part in the holiness God wants for us. We do not sit around waiting for God to make us holy. We are partners, if you will, with God in this life of obedience. We do not need to let sin control us, we can give ourselves to God for His glory. We do not need to live in sin. Sin is a choice (otherwise judgment would be meaningless), therefore we can choose NOT to sin. There is never a time when we HAD to sin.

Once we have been converted, sin is no match for holiness. Our minds are transformed. We have went from serving self to serving God. Sin now has a very difficult time taking over our conduct. It is now the ‘weaker’ party. ‘Much more’ is there in God and His Spirit and His Word to keep us in truth than there is in sin to make us stumble. Now sin is difficult and holiness is easy.

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin….and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness….having been freed from sin and enslaved to God….(Rom. 6:17-22)

As a believer in Christ, slavery to sin is in the past tense. We are now slaves of righteousness and to God. We have a new master. We do not need to listen to our old master who still beckons us to follow. We have been bought by Someone else and are free to serve Him. The chains have been severed and we can live a new life.

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)

This is one of the most delightful passages in the Bible. God stopped at nothing to reconcile mankind to Himself. Even when we were His foe, He still ‘gave.’ That is why God can say ‘love your enemies,’ because He has done it first as an example. If He gave even while we were His rival, now that we are allies, how much more will He give us? His heart is so big we will never know it’s depths.

For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (Rom. 12:3)

The body of Christ has many parts and each has a different function. We cannot, we dare not, judge others because they are not strong in the areas we are strong in. God has gifted all of us in different ways. We need to celebrate our diversity, and not boast in our strengths and criticize other’s weaknesses. We have all been given a measure of faith, let us use it to His glory.

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2)

I read a book recently that thought the cross should not have centrality in Christianity. Well, I disagree, and so does Paul, according to this verse. Christ crucified IS Christianity. If we take away the cross, we take away the foundation of our entire religion. There is no reuniting with God without the cross. Just because some may have misused the cross is centuries past as a symbol of violence does not negate it’s true reality. The answer to misuse is not disuse, it is proper use. For example, if a parent abuses their child does that mean parenthood is bad? Of course not, but some people misuse it. We need to think maturely on these things.

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. (1 Cor. 15:17)

Along with the cross is the resurrection. They are the two legs on the body of truth. They are like faith and obedience, you cannot have one without the other. If you remove one, the other one falls. So if Christ is not raised, our faith is no good and we are still in our sins. If Jesus did not rise, then the cross would have been a nice gesture but not enough. The resurrection is the icing on the cake, the sign of approval from God that at the cross, ‘it was finished.’ Praise God our faith is not worthless and we’re not in our sins.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

Suffering is an interesting thing. We do not like suffering nor do we want it to come our way. However, there are redemptive factors in suffering. One is that it is a major step in helping us to mature as believers. There is nothing like suffering to keep us humble and crying out to God. We are not invincible and we are not sovereign. Suffering is a good reminder of that. Secondly, we cannot really help those who are suffering if we ourselves have not suffered. It means much more to a sufferer when someone can say, “I am there for you and I know how you feel.” Can we really be effective ministers if we have not really suffered? That is why Christ is such a good minister—He has taken on flesh and experienced the human condition.

And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God. (2 Cor. 3:4-5)

That is certainly an understatement, that our adequacy is from God. Anyone with ½ a brain knows that we are nothing without Christ. That is why the Bible says that the person who boasts should boast in the Lord. Let us remember not to get too caught up in ourselves. We are only what we are because of the grace of God.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor. 4:3-4)

Have we wondered why so many people do not accept the claims of Christ? This verse gives some insight into one major reason—the devil. Whether we like it or not, the devil is not on holiday. He is alive and active in the world and hates God. We do have an enemy, an adversary who seeks to devour us. I believe prayer breaks down strongholds of evil. If we know someone who rejects Christ, pray for them often so those walls can be broken down. We, who are already saved, need to be alert to fight evil. Satan lies to us about who God is; let us not fall for his lies.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. (2 Cor. 4:16)

What a testimony of faith. Regardless of circumstances, Paul pressed on. He did not lost heart, knowing this life is only temporary; he rejoiced that his inner life is flourishing. Paul kept eternity in view. Even though we want this life to be comfortable, that cannot be our focus. Ultimately, we will be with the Lord, so do not lose heart.

and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. (2 Cor. 5:15)

Jesus did not die for us so that we could go on living for ourselves. There is an old acronym JOY—the J for Jesus, the O for others and the Y for you. That should be the order of priority in our lives. The Lord comes first and then others before ourselves. Philippians 2 talks about looking not at our own interests but also the interests of others. We should consider others as more important than ourselves. The day will come that the love of many will grow cold. Let that not happen to us.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:20)

Representing Christ is a very high calling, one we should take seriously. God is in the reconciling business and we are His agents. It has been said that God is only doing two things in the world: evangelism and discipleship. How are we doing in the area of helping people get saved and then helping them become more like Christ?

Another interesting side note on the above verse is Paul saying that he was begging people to get saved. This verse sure seems to go against the grain of irresistible grace. If it is true that when God moves on someone they WILL get saved, then why would Paul have to beg people? I believe Paul begs because God leaves the final decision to the individual. God is not in the habit of overriding people’s free choices. If a choice does not come from the heart, then what good is it? Why would God want someone to choose Him if He had to MAKE that person choose? Voluntary choice is the basis of a relationship.

But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal. 6:14)

Paul was deeply in love with Christ and the cross was the supremacy in his theology. He certainly was not lost in all kinds of side pursuits. His focus was Christ and His cross, that is all that Paul talked about. What dominates our life and our thoughts? What do we boast about and glory in? Is Christ more important to us than life? It has been said that if you do not have something to die for then you do not have anything to live for.

you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance….(Eph. 1:13-14)

The Holy Spirit is the pledge of our inheritance. He is the earnest or down payment of our inheritance. That is such a comforting thought. When we make a down payment on something that means we will have that something. When we make a pledge for something that means we will follow through and bring that situation to fruition. When God gives us His Holy Spirit as a pledge, I think we can be quite sure that He will follow through. I know I have the Holy Spirit in my life so I can be secure in knowing that I will be the Lord’s for all time. He will not back out of His pledge. I am not talking about some stagnant eternal security. I only mean that God is committed to His people and will always be faithful to them.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:4-5)

The previous verses to 4 and 5 speak about being dead in sin and under the power of satan. A place we were all at at one time. But then the most powerful ‘BUT GOD’ in the Bible shows up and changes everything. God can bring something out of nothing. He can bring life from death. He can bring found from lost. We have all had sin in our past and for those of us who are in Christ, we know how grand that BUT GOD really is.

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Eph. 4:26)

Some anger is just anger that is childish and needs to be repented of. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. As the body of Christ we need to bear with one another. There are many different kinds of personalities and gifts in the church. We think differently and have different backgrounds. The beauty of the church is not uniformity but diversity. My love for God has to supersede any anger I may have for another person. There is just something higher than humans reacting to humans, it is humans responding because of God. Therefore, because I love God, I will treat you correctly.

On another issue like righteous indignation, anger is not an end in itself. If we are angry about injustice or the slaughter of the innocent in abortion, we cannot stop at that. Anger needs to drive us to prayer. Anger without a righteous purpose is dangerous.

Another side note are those believers in prison for Christ. Some of them love their torturers. They love their enemies who are persecuting them. Then there are us in the church in much more favorable conditions who cannot get along with fellow believers. If fellow believers can love their enemies in hard times, why cannot we love our brothers and sisters in easy times? God help us.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Eph. 5:25)

My wife and I chuckle when we think about a wedding we were at some years back. The verse ‘wives be subject to your husbands’ was read and that was it. You just cannot throw that one part of the verse out and leave it hanging. We dare not leave out ‘husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.’ Jesus, being secure in who He was, washed His disciples feet. Now, husbands want to reverse that and have their wives wash their feet. I can think of no better way to have your prayers hindered than to treat your wife with arrogance and selfishness.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21)

Wow, what a statement! To live is Christ. God help us have some kind of devotion like Paul’s. Dying would be good because then we would be with the Lord, but as long as we are alive, we have one purpose—Christ. The Bible says if we ask according to God’s will He hears us, so let us ask Him for a love for Christ like Paul had.

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:8)

My favorite verse in the Bible. I have always loved this verse. Paul lost all things valuable in this life, but he counted them as garbage, refuse, and dung. Knowing Christ had more value to him than anything this world had to offer. God help us.

And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Col. 3:12)

The action of this verb is on us. Holiness is not something we wait for God to do to us. God does not make us holy by osmosis. We are the ones who are to ‘put on’ these traits. Actors on stage, after studying the script, ‘put on’ the one they are portraying. They are ‘them.’ In a similar way we are to ‘put on’ Christ and His character. Let us put on grace and mercy and not let sin and selfishness rule. If people cannot see Jesus in us then our faith is in vain.

Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. (Col. 4:12)

This verse is just there in the middle of closing remarks but I find some great inspiration in it. This guy is laboring earnestly in his prayers for the Colossians. What mental picture do you get when you think of ‘laboring earnestly’ in prayer? Is it on your knees or crying out loud or intense passion? I don’t know what it is but I want some of it.

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THE FURNACE

I am in desperate need but I don’t have to bleed
so I can’t have pity on me
for just remember Gethsemane
I’m in my darkest hour
oh I need God’s power
the mountains are so high
how am I going to get by?
tribulation at many a turn
oh the trial doth burn
I know it’s good for me
but right now it is hard to see
the chastening for now is tough
but I know it will yield good stuff
so please God by Your grace
keep me going in the race
and I will see when it is through
how much more I will love You

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CONTENTS PAGE


THESSALONIANS-REVELATION

and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. (2 Thes. 2:10-12)

These verses are in regards to the time of anti-christ but there are principles to be observed nonetheless. The people did not love the truth, and God, in turn, sent a delusion. It is a frightening place to be—giving ourselves to lies and living in sin. God is a wonderful refuge, let us never forget that by choosing wickedness. It is similar to Romans when God ‘gave them over’ to their sins who did not fear Him. Pride makes us pliable putty in the hands of deception. Humility is a gem which we cannot live without.

I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day (2 Tim. 1:3)

I like finding little nuggets of truth either in the closing remarks or like here, in the introduction. What a powerful declaration, ‘I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.’ I think the phrase ‘prayer warrior’ would apply in this situation. Paul had such a passion for the people he had influence over that he could not help but habitually pray for them. Prayer is the business of the day. I think part of our giving an account of our lives in the end will be our prayer life. Is prayer a toilsome ritual, a legalistic effort? It should be the passion of our soul. I think our prayers can have a ripple affect throughout the cosmos.

And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim. 3:12)

Some people are in the habit of ‘claiming’ verses in the Bible as if their ‘claiming’ is going to bring about the desired result. I wonder if any of them ever claimed this verse? We need to be careful how we pray and what we ‘claim.’ Whether people like it or not, there are many things in Scripture that just are not claimable. I think a lot of times people are either arrogant or taking something out of context. For one thing, the Bible just does not guarantee an easy life. It is actually quite the opposite—when we decide to follow Christ we are signing up for a lot of difficulties. When we come to Christ we should expect trials and tribulations, and not assume we are going to get out of them. God does not promise to solve all our struggles. He promises love and grace, and that is what we can claim.

For the confused preachers who think we can claim health and wealth, I have a question: what are you going to say to all those faithful believers over the centuries who have rotted in prison cells for their faith? I think the health and wealth teachers need to either change their theology or just quit preaching and confusing the church.

Christians are just not exempt from the dung of this life. Be it cancer, financial problems, slander, etc., life is not fair to believers or non-believers. Until eternity, we, along with the lost, are stuck here in these time bound bodies. The difference is that we have a refuge and strength.

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….(Heb. 1:3)

Do I hear an Amen? A verse that certainly stimulates our worship. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and God’s exact representation. I do not think we can ever fully grasp the wonder of the Incarnation. A thought-provoking text to say the least. That is why Jesus said when they saw Him they had seen the Father. I remember once an atheist said that if God would just come down here he would believe in Him. I said He did come down here.

And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him.’ (Heb. 1:6)

When did God ever tell the angels to worship Moses or Peter or Mary for that matter? All esteemed religious figures throughout history have been human only, but the Messiah was Deity. All those who say Jesus was a just a great man or just a prophet have missed the whole point. It was God Himself taking on human flesh. Don’t try to show respect to Jesus by saying He was a good teacher and prophet only. That is not respecting Him, that is calling Him a liar.

But of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever’ (Heb. 1:8)

This is the clearest statement of the Deity of Christ in the Bible. It calls Him God right there in the verse. It would take some maneuvering to distort the clarity seen here. Some groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who deny the Deity of Christ, have manipulated a number of verses to their own evil ends, including this verse. They change this to read ‘God is your throne,’ obviously trying to remove the powerful impact of the nature of Christ. Besides, how can God be a throne? He is not something to be sat upon.

Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same….Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest….(Heb. 2:14-17)

This is another Incarnation passage. I would like to challenge the view that says we have a sinful nature. I know Christ did not, but I don’t think we do either, according to Scripture. It says in the above verse that Jesus partook of the same nature as us. It also says that He had to be made like us in all things. Rationally speaking, what other conclusion can we have? If He was to be our merciful high priest, how could He be that if He had no sinful nature and all the while we did?

The whole point of Him identifying with humanity is lost when we say we have a different nature than He did. Sinful nature is a confusing concept. I think we have human nature, but to call it sinful is mixing apples and oranges. Sin is a choice, not some mysterious physical property. Sin means guilt and we certainly cannot have guilt for a nature we had no choice in acquiring. God judges people for their rebellion, not their nature. If He judged us because of our nature, that judgment would not be rational or fair. You will never see the Bible judging people because of their nature. Would we say the rebellion in the wilderness was because of their nature (that would make them victims), or their voluntary choice (which would make them criminal)?

Take care brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb. 3:12-13)

First of all, this seems to give the impression that falling away from the faith is a possibility. Warnings, I think, are there because danger is not a myth, but a reality. Iron sharpens iron and the fellowship of the believers is not only for worship and teaching, but also challenge and exhortation. None of us is immuned to the temptations of life. If we think we stand we need to be careful lest we fall. Pride comes before a fall. As the saying goes in relation to sinning, ‘except for the grace of God, there go I.’ Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15 that it was by the grace of God that he was what he was. Anyway, sin is deceitful and we need to stick close to God and other believers. Close friends are hard to come by, the ones who really care and who can be counted on. God give us a few friends like that.

For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb. 9:13-14)

There is not another power on earth that will clear the guilty conscience like the blood of Christ. Praise the Lord. That is the good news. The cleansing of guilt and sin is a powerful dynamic that the human heart longs for. The power of guilt is crippling. Let us go to the fountain filled with blood and be clean.

Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh (Heb. 10:19-20)

This is an especially strong concept to a Jewish person living at that time. If we only knew the power of it, the sensitivity of it, the fear of it, the details of it, the holiness of it—entering God’s very Presence. The Temple imagery here is significant. When Jesus died, the veil in the Temple was torn in two. Christ is greater than the Temple was and because of His sacrifice, we can enter into the very presence of God by Christ’s blood. What an intense image—that a holy God would allow fallen humans into His presence. He must put a lot of stock in the death of His Son.

By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (Heb. 11:3)

It is evident by rational people that God created the heavens and the earth. Evolutionists, who think that things evolved by chance, have taken leave of their senses. Their committed atheism betrays their objectivity. If we are searching for truth we need to be very careful about letting our biases and agendas cloud our vision. I think that it takes more faith to NOT believe in a Creator than to believe in one, given the obvious evidence around us. Consider the human body with it’s respiratory, digestive, reproductive and nervous systems. What about the stars in the heavens? A grand design needs a Designer.

An odd teaching in the church in regards to this verse is that it is said that the ‘by faith’ in the above verse was God’s faith. In other words, God had to have faith in order to create. I don’t think God needs to exercise faith. He is the object of faith, not the one who needs faith. That teaching seems to downgrade God and put Him on a human level.

This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

I have noticed that there are very few people who are really good listeners. Even amongst believers, a lot of people seem more concerned about their own interests than the interests of others (Phil. 2:3). It is rare to find someone who is quick to listen, someone who obviously cares about the concerns of others. It must be a gift because most believers are not good listeners. The verse also says, ‘slow to speak.’ That is the other side of listening well. You cannot be a good listener if you are quick to speak. Let us all cultivate the art of listening. It is really only loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? (James 2:5)

This is a good example that some who are rich in faith are not necessarily financially prosperous, they are actually poor. There is a disturbing doctrine that says, ‘You don’t have to be poor if you have faith because Jesus died so you could be prosperous.’ Those who promote such teachings are not good Bible interpreters. The value of being rich in the New Testament is quite minimal. As a matter of fact, the New Testament actually says that being rich is something that we should not aspire to.

who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1 Pet. 1:5-7)

Even though we encounter various trials and tribulations, we can rejoice that our names are written in heaven. We should not wonder why difficult times come our way when we are following Christ. Sometimes they come BECAUSE we are followers of Christ. We do not follow Christ so He will solve our problems; we follow Him because we love Him, problems or no problems. Circumstances cannot dictate our love for God. Even if our problems never go away, yet will we follow.

Our faith is so important to God. I think He is so happy when we trust Him. I think it means more to Him than anything. He considers our faith much more precious than gold. Is that not the reason for the whole human experiment in the first place?

and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; (1 Pet. 2:23)

This is a fantastic verse and a great example of trusting God under suffering. When Jesus was abused, He did not retaliate or threaten in return. What did He do? He entrusted His situation to His Father. He let His Father deal with the situation. That is such an example of patience and trust. He did not defend Himself but left that up to the Father. How many of us would do the same? Why do we insist that everything come out in the wash this side of eternity?

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. (1 Jn. 3:14)

Wow, now there is a challenge. Can we say that we have passed from death to life? We can say that but can we say that because we love one another? Do any of us live up to that challenge? Our we satisfied in how we love each other? Are we still jealous or bitter or selfish when it comes to others? People will know that we are believers because we love one another.

The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son. And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. (1 Jn. 5:10-12)

A very clear testimony that not all roads lead to God. If we do not believe in Jesus as God’s Son then we are calling God a liar. Jesus is not A way, He is THE way. All roads do not lead to God, only Jesus Christ leads to God. If all roads lead to God then God is a liar and double minded.

Without Christ we are without life. Those who reject Christ have missed reality and their very reason for existence. Verse 12 is one of my favorite verses. He who has the Son has life. Powerful! It does not say that he who has money has life. It does not say he who has good health has life. It does not say he who has power has life. It does not say that he who is conflict free has life. No, it says he who has the Son has life.

And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. (1 Jn. 5:14-15)

This is a key Scripture in regards to answered prayer. We need to ask according to God’s will and in His name. Some think that using ‘according to Your will’ in prayer is faith destroying. These are the same people who probably want to claim all kinds of things that are not claimable. Using ‘according to Your will’ in prayer is the response of a humble child. Those people who don’t like using ‘according to Your will’ in prayer must think their prayers run the universe and they can just speak reality into existence. They need to quit assuming and presuming and humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. God is the sovereign One, let us not forget that. God is not a cosmic vending machine or a waiter where we just give Him our requests and He gives them to us. We are here to do His will, He is not here to do our will.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. (3 Jn. 4)

A powerful verse on the heart of John. It is so important to see those you have lead to Christ grow in faith. To see young believers flourish in faith and character brings deep joy. We see that here with John and of course with Paul in his epistles. It is awesome to see not only someone pass from death to life but even further seeing them become Christlike. God not only wants to save people from hell but to make them fit for heaven.

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last’ (Rev. 1:17)

What a picture—seeing the glorified Christ. What else could John do but fall at His feet as a dead man? In the presence of Majesty, we humans cannot stand. We should not forget that God is uncreated and self-sustaining. We need to be careful how casual we are in His presence. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (Rev. 2:4)

One interesting thing about this verse is obviously that the church had left it’s first love of Christ. That is something all us believers need to guard against. I am sure when we are battle weary, our freshness for God can begin to sour. But, like Gideon, even if we are faint, we still pursue.

An interesting side note to this verse is that it is the church at Ephesus that had lost it’s first love. It is ironic because if we look back at the book of Ephesians, it has a closing salutation that other epistles don’t, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.” It is almost prophetic that this specific church was challenged to have a special love for Christ, and it is they who lost their first love.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. (Rev. 3:20)

This verse at times is used as an evangelism text. However, in context, it is speaking about the church. How tragic for the Lord to be ‘outside’ of His church. It sure seems like humans can get busy with religion and lose their passion for God. Again, back to Phil. 3:8, we need to consider all things as rubbish in order that we may gain Christ. Is Christ knocking on the door of our church or is He already on the inside?

And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came, and He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And when He had taken the book…(Rev. 5:6-8)

I have always been impressed with this verse. We have Jesus coming and taking the scroll from Him who sits on the throne. He did not bow and ask for it, He just came and took it. What an awesome picture of the Majesty of Christ and His equality with the Father.

And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ (Rev. 5:13)

This is a powerful section for the Deity of Christ. We all know that there is only one God. We see here that the Lamb is to receive as much honor and glory as the one seated on the throne, ‘AND to the Lamb.’ Jesus is not some lesser God like the Jehovah’s Witnesses would have us think. Jesus is God almighty.

And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Rev. 20:10)

This is the clearest statement on the nature of hell in the Bible. There is a debate whether hell is eternal conscious torment (you are awake and suffering) or annihilation (destruction into non-existence). Objectively speaking, most verses on hell could be taken either way. This verse, however, along with Rev. 14:11 certainly make it look like the people are alive and conscious in hell. Either way, people in hell will be eternally separated from God—that is the hell of it. It is not necessarily that we are conscious or not, the point is that we forfeited our chance to live with the Savior forever.

Some people think a loving God will not send anyone to hell. Well, the primary reason for someone going to hell is not God but the sinner. The person chose to live in sin and reject God’s way of salvation; therefore, hell is the only option (the holiness and justice of God demands a punishment for sin). The other option is heaven, but they do not want to be there because God is there and they hate God (which is evidenced by their life of sin).

And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Rev. 21:22-23)

Wow, this should cause us to stop and contemplate the glory of God. Sometimes we humans think we are so big, but in view of verses like this, I think we need to shut up and gaze up in awe. What is man that God should think of him? Looking at the stars makes one realize how much of grasshoppers we really are. Even if we have eternity, will we ever get over the wonder of God?

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ETERNITY

are we guaranteed tomorrow
are we guaranteed a life without sorrow
invincibility is not ours
we have not those powers
some say survival of the fittest
I say
without Christ no one liveth

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EPILOGUE

Thanks for taking this short journey with me through some of those interesting statements in God’s Word. Mankind is a curious lot and as long as we have human beings we will have fascinating utterances that make us stop and say ‘wow.’ As well, as long as we have a God whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours, we will have accounts that also make us stop and say ‘wow.’

I hope the deeper spiritual side of life will always intrigue us and keep our hearts and minds alive. One reason I tell people I read so much is that I do not want to have mush for brains. We need to be people with a critical mind, but at the same time, we need a gracious spirit. God has only given us one mind and one life—let us use it to the maximum. Let us read all we can and pray all we can and ultimately know God all we can.

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Stan Schmidt
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E-mail: stan.schmidt@bethanyhouse.com