Jesus and the Samaritan Woman (John 4)

Last week we learned what Jesus meant when He said that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, and that “whoever believes in Him is not condemned” and in fact would have eternal life (John 3:16-18). This week in John Chapter 4, we see Jesus put those words into practice in a way that you and I can understand and even act on in our own lives.

John 4
1 Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John
2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),
3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.
4 But He needed to go through Samaria.
5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”
8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

David Guzik:
“Although the road through Samaria was the shortest route to Galilee, pious Jews avoided it. They avoided it because there was a deep distrust and dislike between Jews and Samaritans.

When the southern kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians, they took almost every captive, exiling them to the Babylonian Empire. All they left behind were the lowest classes of society, because they didn’t want “that type” in Babylonia. These that were left behind intermarried with other peoples who slowly came into the region, and the Samaritans emerged as an ethnic and religious group.

Because the Samaritans had a historical connection to the people of Israel, their faith was a combination of law and ritual from the Law of Moses, and various superstitions. Most Jews in Jesus’ time despised the Samaritans, even more than Gentiles.

Why must Jesus go through Samaria? Because there were people there who needed to hear Him.”

What people are there in our world that we find really difficult to love, much less have a normal conversation with? Every time I read this chapter I am convicted by the story. For Jesus to have a simple conversation with this woman was a remarkable thing. Incredibly, we will see that He took things a step further and explained to her the way of eternal life. How is God calling you and I to act today?

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?
12 “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,
14 “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The idea of God being the “Living Water” was not new, as a matter of fact it was an old statement made by the Lord God about Himself:

For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
~ Jeremiah 2:13

“On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.
~ Zechariah 13:1

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
~ Isaiah 12:3

We all need water to live. The human body is 65% water. Your body can only survive so long without drinking water; some say 3 days, others say as long as 10 days. Jesus is making the bold offer of water that gives eternal life.

Jeremiah calls God a fountain of living water. Zechariah says it’s a fountain-like shower that can wash us from our sins. Isaiah tells us it’s like a deep well where we can pull out water that gives us eternal life. Jesus Christ is that living water for each of us.

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’
18 “for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
20 “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Here, Jesus knows exactly what this woman needs to hear to cause her to understand that He is God in the flesh. She initially believes that He is simply a prophet, but as they continue their conversation, she realizes He is the Messiah.

There are so many examples throughout God’s word of wise prophets from God revealing truth to the unbeliever – Daniel and Joseph come to mind. But Jesus is different from all the rest in that He makes the claim to be God. He was clearly not simply a prophet as other religions suggest. No other man in the Bible claimed to be the Son of God and performed such miracles to prove His authority.

C.S. Lewis made the point that Jesus was either a complete liar, or He was a crazy lunatic, or He was in fact Lord God in the flesh. Liar, Lunatic, or Lord. He couldn’t be anything else.

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
24 “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

Jesus points her to the way of salvation. He says: “Believe me.” He tells her to “worship the Father in spirit and truth”. She firmly believes that the Messiah is coming, and he says “I am He”.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ~ Romans 10:9

27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”
28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men,
29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”

This woman believed and very quickly went out to tell others. She immediately acts on her new belief. Without knowing it, she is following God’s call to each of us to proclaim the Gospel.

In Mark and Luke, we see that Jesus instructed the man who had been relieved of demons was told to go tell others what Christ had done for him:

And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” ~ Mark 5:19

Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
~ Luke 8:39

This Samaritan woman is simply responding to what God has done in her life. In this short conversation, Jesus showed this woman more love, kindness, and compassion than probably any man had ever shown her. Consistently throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus reached out to those who were difficult to love.

Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.
And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” ~ Matthew 9:10-13

I love this: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” Jesus is calling each of us to help “those who are sick”. To show them “mercy and not sacrifice”. That’s exactly what Jesus did with this Samaritan woman in a Samaritan town, and in doing so, He changes the whole city!

30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him.
31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.
35 “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
36 “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.
37 “For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’
38 “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”
39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”
40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.
41 And many more believed because of His own word.
42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

The love, kindness, compassion, and mercy Jesus showed to one woman changed this entire town! “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” Each of us is called to “look up” right now, right where we are. If you are in Spokane, Minneapolis, Decatur, Berlin, Tokyo, or Seattle – we are each called to show Christlike mercy to those around us who are among the most difficult to love.

Verses 36-38 show us that sometimes we are called simply to plant the seeds of faith – to “sow” by sharing Christ by reflecting love and mercy, or by telling our own testimony. Other times, folks before us have done the seed-planting and we are there to reap the harvest by praying with someone as they believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation.

43 Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee.
44 For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.
45 So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast.
46 So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.
47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.
48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”
49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!”
50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.
51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!”
52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”
53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household.
54 This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

This man simply man “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way”. Jesus made the way to salvation very easy so even the simplest mind can have eternal life. He is the living water, all I need to do is to accept that he died for me so that I can have eternal life with Him in heaven.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~ Romans 6:23

Adversity, Trials, and Trouble (1 Peter 4)

The first letter of the Apostle Peter is so encouraging in times of trouble!

    12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
    13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
    14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
    15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.
    16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
    17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
    18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
    19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
    ~ 1 Peter 4:12-19

In the first of two letters written by Peter, this disciple of Jesus addresses the subject of trials and suffering. In 8 simple verses, God writes directly to you and I about how we should receive trials in our life, why they come to us, and how we should respond.

    Verse 12-13 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

God is saying “Don’t be shocked. It’s going to happen.” Keep in mind too that it’s not just you or me that is going through that horrible circumstance. There is almost nothing that we go through that is unique to you or I.

    What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
    ~ Ecclesiastes 1:9

David Guzik: “Instead of thinking of trials (even fiery trials) as strange occurrences, we see them as ways to partake of Christ’s sufferings. And if we partake of His sufferings, we will also partake of His glory and joy. Peter once told Jesus to avoid the suffering of the cross.”

    And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
    And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
    But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
    ~ Mark 8:31-33

“Once it seemed strange to the Apostle Peter that his Master should think of suffering. Now he thinks it strange that He could have imagined anything else.” (Meyer)

    Vs 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

God tells us in verse 14 that if we are insulted or reprimanded (reproached) because of our faith in Jesus, we are blessed! And while the world abuses the name of God (blasphemes) when the storms of life hit, we are called to praise Him even in the foul weather.

    Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ~ Matthew 5:10

    Vs 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.

“Suffering as an evildoer is deserved and brings shame to the name of Jesus. Peter recognizes that not all suffering that Christians experience is suffering in the name of Jesus.”
~ Guzik

We have all seen or heard about a Christian pastor that is popular or famous that has fallen because of his own sin. They get caught in their sin and suffer as a result. Peter warns us against that. Don’t let it happen!

    Vs 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

The suffering of us as Christian believers is sometimes difficult to understand and we ask “why is this happening God?” or “why me?”

There are times when adversity is simply the Lord allowing difficult things in our life to smooth out our rough spots or to prompt us to change. In these times, perhaps He is teaching us patience, or to be more cautious, or to be more loving, or He is prompting us to learn to show kindness or generosity to others. There are many ways God uses adversity to challenge us to do things differently or to turn from sin.

    And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.
    And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
    ~ Isaiah 30:20-21

God cares way too much about you and I to leave us the way we are! I’m so thankful for that. I can picture Him standing behind me saying “This is the way, walk in it,” when I “turn to the right” or when I “turn to the left”.

At other times, God will allow adversity so that He can be glorified in us and through us. As difficult as they are, in these trials we must remember to glorify God in all things.

    To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,
    so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

When we are listening to the Holy Spirit by spending time in prayer and daily reading God’s word, He will speak to us. At times it’s very quiet, and it may simply be so that in that awfully difficult moment we choose to praise Him and glorify Him.

    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
    For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
    ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
    Vs 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?

Guzik: “Peter tells us that judgment begins at the house of God. God uses suffering as a judgment (in a positive, purifying sense) for Christians (the house of God) now. It is right for judgment to begin at the house of God.”

“There is equity in it; for Christians profess to be better than others, and so they ought to be. They say they are regenerate, so they ought to be regenerate. They say that they are a holy people, separated unto Christ; so they ought to be holy, and separate from sinners, as he was.” (Spurgeon)

Guzik: “Now is our time of fiery trial (1 Peter 4:12); the ungodly will have their fire later. The fire we endure now purifies us; the fire the ungodly will endure will punish them. Yet we always remember that there is never any punishment from God for us in our sufferings, only purification. For the Christian, the issue of punishment was settled once and for all at the cross, where Jesus endured all the punishment the Christian could ever face from God.

The same fire that consumes straw will purify gold. The fire is the same, but its purpose in application is different, and its effect is different upon the straw and the gold. Even so, Christians do suffer some of the same things the ungodly do, yet the purpose of God is different, and the effect is different.”

This “judgment” (the purifying trials) that we go through can be awful! There is no doubt. It’s an incredible comfort knowing that God is using them in our lives to change us from the inside out. Yet for the unbeliever that dies in unbelief, how much worse will it be for them? “What will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

As we glorify God in the midst of our suffering, the non-Christian will see that faith in us. They will recognize our faith as something that is supernatural. When we share our faith in Jesus with them, what a powerful testimony that is!

    Vs 18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

My Bible footnotes say: “Scarcely saved does not mean that the righteous just barely receive salvation. “Scarcely” (Greek molis, “with difficulty”) means that the righteous are saved in the midst of suffering; their salvation is not easy and simple”.

And again Peter says in essence “if it’s that hard for the Christian, how much worse will it be for the non-Christian?”

    Vs 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Verse 19 really sums up the message of 1 Peter. Even in our suffering, we are called to love God and hold fast to faith. That can be so tough!

    Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.
    ~ 1 Peter 2:23-24

This verse is talking about Jesus who suffered pain beyond our imagination, but still committed Himself to God the Father. He did that so “that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness”. He died so that we could live for Him!

I pray that I will forever and in all circumstances “entrust my soul to a faithful Creator while doing good”.

If you’ve not yet believed in Jesus as your Savior, let me tell you how simple it is. All you need to do is to admit that you and I each do wrong things (sin), and that Jesus died for your sin and for mine to take away that punishment, and that God raised Him from the dead so that we’ll live forever with Him.

    But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
    For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. ~ Romans 10:8-10

No one is too far gone down the path of sin. No one! Take a look for yourself and see what the Bible says:

    Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
    ~ Isaiah 1:18

    Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
    ~ Jeremiah 32:37

    For nothing is impossible with God.
    ~ Luke 1:37

    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
    ~ 1 John 1:9

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
    ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

All is takes is for you to believe it and say it with your mouth. Feel free to message me below if you’ve done that and you don’t know what the next step is.

It’s Resurrection Sunday – Hallelujah, He is Risen!

This Sunday is Easter Sunday, the day Jesus was raised from the dead three days after being killed as a criminal, also in fulfillment of the prophecies about Him. I love the account we read from Luke chapter 24.

Last week we talked about Palm Sunday. Jesus came riding into Jerusalem humbly, on a young colt, not as the victorious King the Jews expected. Yet they praised and worshipped Him in fulfillment of the prophecies.

    1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.
    2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
    3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
    4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.
    5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?
    6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,
    7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
    8 And they remembered his words,
    9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Jesus knew what was coming for Him, He even told the Apostles about it ahead of time.

    And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” ~ Luke 9:21-22

    “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” ~ Luke 9:44

These angels are here to remind the disciples of Jesus’ words and to testify that it had happened just as Jesus said it would. If you are a believer in Jesus, you also have that testimony!

The New Testament teaches that God sent the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…. He will glorify me” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit …. opens our eyes to see the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the narrative of his life and death and resurrection. He enables us to see Jesus as he really was, so that he is irresistibly true and beautiful. The apostle stated the problem of our blindness and the solution like this: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God…. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4, 6). ~ Pastor John Piper

Even King David believed and foretold Jesus’ resurrection, and the Apostle Paul saw Jesus after His resurrection, he believed, and then he spoke in his testimony about it:

    22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—
    23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
    24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
    29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
    30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne,
    31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
    32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
    ~ Acts 2:22-24, 29-32

Others will also testify of His resurrection

    10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,
    11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
    12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
    13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,
    14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
    15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.
    16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
    17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.
    18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
    19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
    20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.
    21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.
    22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning,
    23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.
    24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
    25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
    26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
    27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
    28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther,
    29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.
    30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.
    31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.

These disciples don’t recognize Jesus at first. Though they’ve been told that He has been raised from the dead, somehow they can’t see the miracle of Him standing right in front of them! Luke tells us “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself”. The whole of the Bible points us to Jesus as the Savior of the world. Here we see that Jesus is able to show them the Old Testament scriptures that point to Him. Yet, even as He is doing so, they are still unable to see the risen Savior. It reminds me of how the Holy Spirit works in the lives of those around us, and yet they can’t recognize Him. He is doing miracles in their lives, for their good and His glory. Yet they don’t seem to see or understand that it is God working.

Suddenly, we see a transformation that happens when “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him”! What a beautiful thing it is when that happens today! It brings joy to my heart when a unbeliever is beautifully transformed as the light of Christ dawns on their dark heart, and they choose to believe on Jesus to be saved. Or a believer that has strayed far from God has suddenly had his or her eyes opened to see and remember of who Christ is. These disciples remind us that God does these miracles, He opens minds and hearts to reveal Himself.

As we read the Bible, learn the Scriptures, and testify of what God has done in our lives, God uses what we’ve learned and our testimony to reveal Himself to others around us.

    32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
    33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,
    34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
    35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
    36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”
    37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.
    38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

Sometimes the work of God can be frightening or startling. That’s our human flesh, our doubt, our lack of faith. That is simply human. Jesus responds to their fear with “why?”

God has done miracle after miracle after miracle after miracle in my life. I have no reason to fear. I’m still afraid.

I’m afraid of the future. I’m afraid of the unknown. I’m afraid for my family. I’m afraid of evil. I’m afraid of crime. I’m afraid of my bank account. I’m afraid of what others think. I’m afraid I’m dumb, boring, ignorant, pompous, self-righteous, angry, abrasive, and sinful.

Yet Jesus assures me. He shows me how powerful He is just as He assures the discipes.

    39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
    40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

He shows us in the Bible that He has risen from the dead. We have many eyewitness accounts of His resurrection. Why should I be afraid? I have a Savior God that does miraculous and wonderful things!

Jesus Eats with the Disciples

    41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
    42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
    43 and he took it and ate before them.
    44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
    45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
    46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,
    47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
    48 You are witnesses of these things.
    49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Here we see Jesus remind them with His words that He was to suffer, die, and rise again “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations”. He explains the Scriptures to them and in doing so, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”. As we read God’s word, the Bible, God does the same for us. It’s important to read and study both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Both of them point to God’s eternal plan for us and they point to Jesus Christ. If we read only one of the other, we don’t see the whole picture that God has given us. Jesus gives us that example, right here in Luke 24 and also throughout the New Testament, as He uses the Old Testament in His teaching.

    50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.
    51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.
    52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
    53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
    ~ Luke 24:1-53

The Gospel of Luke begins it’s story in the Temple in Luke 1, and Luke also ends his gospel account in the Temple here in Chapter 24. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Temple. God shows us again and again throughout His Word that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah – and the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan.

    18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”
    19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
    20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
    21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
    22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
    John 2:18-22

The temple was designed by specifications given from God early in the Old Testament. God uses His entire Word to testify of Himself. We have that testimony as well! We can be witnesses, just as the disciples were, of a risen Savior.

Hallelujah, He is risen! He is risen indeed!

The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sins of the World

Last week we discussed how Jesus is our Passover Lamb.

This week we want to take some time to look at the many way God shows us that Jesus is the Passover Lamb. He is the Lamb of God that was offered as a sacrifice for our sins. Much of the below was taken from Matthew Henry’s commentary on Exodus 12:1-20. Matthew Henry’s words are in italics:

(For a primer on the verses from Exodus 12 click here.)

The (Passover) lamb was typical (or a ‘picture’) of Jesus

Christ is our passover

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
~ 1 Corinthians 5:7

Christ is the Lamb of God

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1:29

Often in the Revelation he is called the Lamb.

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.
Rev 13:18

The Lamb was to be in its prime; Christ offered up himself in the midst of his days, not when a babe at Bethlehem. It was to be without blemish; the Lord Jesus was a Lamb without spot: the judge who condemned Christ declared him innocent.

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Exodus 12:5

It was to be set apart four days before, (from vs 3 and verse 6 – the 10th and 14th of the month) denoting the marking out of the Lord Jesus to be a Savior, both in the purpose and in the promise. (Jesus was “preferred” or chosen and set apart).

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ~ John 1:29-30

It was to be slain, and roasted with fire, (vs 6 and 8) denoting the painful sufferings of the Lord Jesus, even unto death, the death of the cross. The wrath of God is as fire, and Christ was made a curse for us.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. ~ John 3:36

Not a bone of it must be broken, which was fulfilled in Christ, denoting the unbroken strength of the Lord Jesus.

But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.
~ John 19:33

The sprinkling of the blood was typical (or a ‘picture’) of Jesus

The blood of the lamb must be sprinkled, denoting the applying of the merits of Christ’s death to our souls; we must receive that atonement.

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
~ Romans 5:10-11

Faith is the bunch of hyssop, by which we apply the promises, and the benefits of the blood of Christ laid up in them, to ourselves.

These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
~ 1 Peter 1:7

It was to be sprinkled on the door-posts, denoting the open profession we are to make of faith in Christ.

Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. ~ Matthew 10:32

It was not to be sprinkled upon the threshold; which cautions us to take heed of trampling under foot the blood of the covenant. It is precious blood, and must be precious to us.

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
~ Hebrews 10:29

The blood, thus sprinkled, was a means of preserving the Israelites from the destroying angel, who had nothing to do where the blood was. The blood of Christ is the believer’s protection from the wrath of God, the curse of the law, and the damnation of hell.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. ~ Romans 8:1

The solemn eating of the lamb was typical (or a ‘picture’) of our gospel duty to Christ

The passover lamb was not to be looked upon only, but to be fed upon. So we must by faith make Christ our own; and we must receive spiritual strength and nourishment from him, as from our food.

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.”
~ John 6:53-55

It was all to be eaten; those who by faith feed upon Christ, must feed upon a whole Christ; they must take Christ and his yoke, Christ and his cross, as well as Christ and his crown.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 16:24-26

It was to be eaten at once, not put by till morning. To-day Christ is offered, and is to be accepted while it is called to-day, before we sleep the sleep of death.

For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
~ 2 Corinthians 6:2

It was to be eaten with bitter herbs, in remembrance of the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt; we must feed upon Christ with sorrow and brokenness of heart, in remembrance of sin. Christ will be sweet to us, if sin be bitter.

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of The Lord.
~ Acts 3:19

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

It was to be eaten standing, with their staves in their hands, as being ready to depart. When we feed upon Christ by faith, we must forsake the rule and the dominion of sin; sit loose to the world, and every thing in it; forsake all for Christ, and reckon it no bad bargain.

The Hebrews were called to be ready to leave everything behind them. This world offers nothing for us that we can take into eternity.

Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. ~ Hebrews 13:12-14

The feast of unleavened bread was typical (or a ‘picture’) of the Christian life

Having received Christ Jesus the Lord, we must continually delight ourselves in Christ Jesus. No manner of work must be done, that is, no care admitted and indulged, which does not agree with, or would lessen this holy joy. The Jews were very strict as to the passover, so that no leaven should be found in their houses. It must be a feast kept in charity, without the leaven of malice; and in sincerity, without the leaven of hypocrisy. It was by an ordinance for ever; so long as we live we must continue feeding upon Christ, rejoicing in him always, with thankful mention of the great things he has done for us.

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 5:7-8

Jesus – He truly is our Passover Lamb.

See also “No Roof Over Your Head” for a great blog on how God covers us.

Simple Basics about God and the Bible

The Bible itself was not written by men, it was written by God through men

    All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
    ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

    “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
    ~ 2 Peter 1:20-21

The various Bible writers lived at different times, some separated by hundreds of years. In many cases they were complete strangers to one another. Some were businessmen or traders, others were shepherds, fishermen, soldiers, physicians, preachers, kings-human beings from all walks of life. They served under different governments, and lived within contrasting cultures and systems of philosophy. But here is the wonder of it all: When the 66 books of the Bible with their 1,189 chapters made up of 31,173 verses are brought together (KJV), we find perfect harmony in the message they convey.
(From http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/who-wrote-it )

“Thus says the Lord” occurs 418 times in the NASB, 413 in the KJV; and “God said” occurs 46 times in both the NASB and the KJV. (From http://carm.org/bible-inspired )

God was not created nor born, and God will live forever
God tells us that He exists “from everlasting to everlasting” meaning eternally in the past and eternally in the future, He has existed and will always exist. Think of a timeline with no ends in either direction.

    Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. ~ Psalm 90:2

    I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. ~ Revelation 1:8

In the beginning no one else existed – except that God was God in three parts: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit
We know that God the Father/Creator and God the Holy Spirt both existed at the time of creation based on what we read in Genesis.

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. ~ Genesis 1:1-2

We also know that Jesus Christ, also called the “Word of God”, was with God at the time of creation

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

And here we see that God created everything that exists, including angels and demons (demons were originally created as angels before their fall)

    For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
    And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. ~ Colossians 1:16-17

Angels were created by God as servants of Him for a variety of jobs
Some are assigned the special job of being God’s messengers, some are protectors, some serve Him in His heavenly courts, others as warriors, some are used in judgment, and Michael as an Archangel is a protector and defender of Israel.

As a messenger and as a protector:

    Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.
    Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him.
    But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
    For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off. ~ Exodus 23:20-23

As agents of God’s judgment:

    So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
    ~ Matthew 13:49-50

    And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. ~ Luke 1:19

As warriors, particularly Michael the Archangel:

    And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought. ~ Revelation 12:7

    But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.
    ~ Daniel 10:13

God needed no tools or help when He created the world
He is so almighty and powerful, He simply spoke it into existence.

    Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
    Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”
    Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so.
    Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so.
    ~ Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11

    By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
    He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses.
    Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
    For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
    ~ Psalm 33:6-9

There are other Bible verses that say God created the earth in six days besides those in Genesis 1
(Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. ~ Genesis 1:31)

    Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
    Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
    For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
    ~ Exodus 20:8-11

Jesus even confirms that what Moses wrote in Exodus (above) is true:

    For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.
    But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?
    ~ John 5:46-47

God specially created each and every one of us
He created us in His image, and that makes us unique and special among all of His creation.

    Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
    So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. ~ Genesis 1:26-27

    But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’
    ~ Mark 10:6

    For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.
    I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
    My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. ~ Psalm 139:13-15

God is Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient
“Is God omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient? In answering such questions, we should always begin with another question: ‘What does the Bible teach on these matters?’ If our beliefs are not rooted in God’s inspired word, they are not beliefs worth having!” ~ Wallace Smith

Omnipotent – God is all-powerful

    And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!
    ~ Revelation 19:6

Omnipresent – God is everywhere

    Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
    If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
    If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
    Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.
    ~ Psalm 139:7-10

Omniscient – God knows everything

    Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
    ~Psalm 139:12

    Would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.
    ~ Psalm 44:21

The world and everything in it
My money, my car, my house, City Hall, the White House, the city of Spokane, the state of Washington, my wife, my kids, my mom and my dad, the sun, the moon, the stars, and me – everything belongs to God. Why? He made it all.

    A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.
    For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters.
    ~ Psalm 24:1-2

    Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.
    ~ Deuteronomy 10:14

    Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all.
    ~ 1 Chronicles 29:11

God made the earth beautiful so that it could glorify Him, and also because He loves us

    Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights!
    Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!
    Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light!
    Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, And you waters above the heavens!
    Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created.
    ~ Psalm 148:1-5

    For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. ~ Isaiah 55:12

“…Turn to Genesis 2 and see what we can see. The first thing to notice is that the beauty and goodness and lavishness of creation is God’s idea. The trees are described as pleasant to the sight and good for food. Then God says, ‘You may eat from every tree, except that one.’ One ‘No’ in a world full of yes. Beautiful trees, tasty fruit, a party in your mouth—and it’s all for you, with divine endorsement.”
(From http://www.hopeingod.org/sermon/why-god-created-world )

God’s “rules”
God creates rules and laws for our benefit, our good, our protection, and for His glory.

    Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go.
    Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
    ~ Isaiah 48:17-18

None of us can follow the rules and laws perfectly. Therefore, we have what the Bible calls sin which leads to eternal death (or separation from God).

We cannot be saved from eternal death by following the rules, rather only by faith in Jesus Christ.

    For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
    For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
    ~ Ephesians 2:8-10

    And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
    So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” ~ Acts 16:30-31

Have you been saved by Jesus? God made it so easy! Simply talk to God and tell Him you believe in Jesus, and ask Him to save you.

Also take a look at From Useless Things to Mercies and Manna

Sowing and Reaping, Planting and Harvesting

Do you garden? We sure enjoy it. At our home we have enjoyed a beautiful variety of produce, from actual fruits and vegetables to the flowers and trees. It’s such an incredible blessing to harvest and eat what you’ve been working so hard on all year long. We’ve harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, pears, zucchini, pumpkins, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, grapes, spinach, beets, carrots, and more. We love it! The work that goes into gardening is not easy and it’s not for the lazy or faint of heart. For that matter, some folks simply don’t enjoy the kind of work that involves digging in the wet muddy soil in a light rain at the spring planting, or working under a sweltering sun in the summer pulling weeds whose roots seem a mile deep. But at our house, we survive long white winters looking toward that springtime tilling and planting.

It seems Paul knew a bit about gardening, at least of the kind that we do in our spiritual lives. He offers some instruction to the church in Galatia:

    6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.
    7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
    8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
    9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
    10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
    ~ Galatians 6:6-10

Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.
~ Galatians 6:6

Let’s start with verse 6. “Let him who is taught the word…” is talking about those believers that sit under the teaching of a local pastor in their local church every week.
“Share in all good things with him who teaches” means we need to support our teachers, our pastors. All good things certainly means we need to support them financially, but we need to also share other good blessings that have been given to us. Talk to God about what that means to you. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you in how you can share with your pastor. Keep in mind that your church probably has several or even many pastors – this can mean the worship leader, the children’s ministry leader, the women’s pastor, and so on.

Now we get to start gardening!

It’s spring, and we get to plant! First, let’s talk “sowing and reaping”. In our garden, we love planting by seed when we can rather than buying live plants at the nursery and planting those. Pumpkin seeds and and sunflower seeds are two of our absolute favorites. We also fertilize our soil in the spring using horse manure and goat manure. Now the horse and the goats eat out in our pasture every day much of the year, and they eat whatever they find – including different grasses, dandelions, thistles – they eat virtually every plant out there. When we use that manure in our garden, the seeds from those plants have often survived the digestive process so that along with our sunflowers and our pumpkins we are also planting weeds.

Later as plants start sprouting, guess what comes up? Pumpkins, sunflowers, grasses, thistles, and dandelions! The same is true in our lives.

The psalmist talks about this:

Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; For You render to each one according to his work.
~ Psalm 62:12

Or let’s say we make fun of that kid in school or that guy at work? We are sowing more weeds. What happens when we need a favor from that person? We have sowed/planted weeds in our life, and what comes out as a result (the reaping) is weeds. That’s the harvest that we’re reaping.

Or it can be so much more severe too. Let’s say we cheat on something at work, and lose our job. Sowing and reaping.

But this can go the other direction too! What if my wife and I planted the pumpkins and sunflowers after fertilizing with a mixture that had been cleansed of the seeds? We would reap the blessings of bounty without all the weeds!

So if we listen to music and watch movies that glorify God, when we stub our toe on that table leg we’re more likely to say a little prayer. (:-)

Or when we see that person that drives us crazy at work or school and instead of making fun of them we ask them how we can pray for their life? When we need that favor, maybe we’ll harvest a blessing.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. ~ Galatians 6:7

Paul is saying: Don’t be fooled, don’t kid yourself, don’t misunderstand, and don’t think you can get away with it! How would God be “mocked” in our sowing?

There was a time in our life where my wife and I met fairly regularly with a local group of other married couples (believers) for a time of games and fellowship. On this particular occasion they had a get-together and my wife couldn’t attend because she was ill, so I went by myself. The evening ended with a two-person game proposed by another guy where he and I would play against each other. I had no idea at the time, but the game was purely a joke on me, and the whole idea was that while we “played” against each other, everyone else circled around us and watched. The entire group watched as I was fooled by this game over, and over, and over. In the beginning, they were laughing hard and found it funny. As it continued, the laughter started to die down a little and I think some folks were embarrassed for me. In the end, I found out it was a prank, laughed it off, and went home a little more humble.

You see, this group all knew of the prank being pulled. They knew it was a lie, and they knew I was being mocked. That’s what we do with God sometimes. When we “sow to the flesh” we are doing something we know we shouldn’t, and we think we’re getting away with it. We believe that God doesn’t know or God doesn’t care. Or perhaps we think that, since we are forgiven Christians, God won’t allow any consequences. So we “mock” God. (HA! I got away with it and no one knows!)

Paul is saying “don’t kid yourself, God is not to be fooled.” You are not tricking God. He knows full well what you’re doing. And when we go down a path of sin, we will see that the path ends with a bad consequence. If we plant weeds in our garden, we will reap many more weeds.

For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. ~ Galatians 6:8

In Galatians 6:8, Paul reveals how this sowing and reaping can lead to eternal death or eternal life.

If we spend our life sowing to the flesh and never surrender our lives to God, accepting His free gift of salvation, we won’t see heaven. Instead, we’ll spend eternity apart from God in a terrible place called hell. It’s our choice to make.

The Lord also teaches us this lesson in the Old Testament:

    15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil,
    16 “in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.
    17 “But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them,
    18 “I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess.
    19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;
    20 “that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
    ~ Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Within the lesson of reaping and sowing, it’s so important to remember God’s heart for us which is one of mercy and grace!

Mercy can be defined as NOT giving us the punishment we deserve. That’s why Jesus died for you and for me, to take that punishment of death for us.

    Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. ~ Micah 7:18

Grace can be defined as giving us a gift, one that we don’t deserve. When we accept Christ’s atoning death for us, it comes with a free gift – the gift of eternal life with Him.

    For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9

My wife writes a beautiful blog and she’s explained it this way:

“Our God is abounding in lovingkindness and compassion! He desires to spare us from the consequences we face because of our sin. He gives us chance after chance after chance.

Look at the example given here of Pharaoh and the Egyptian people:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say to him, “Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me, for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth. But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. As yet you exalt yourself against My people in that you will not let them go. Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to rain down, such as has not been in Egypt since its founding until now. Therefore send now and gather your livestock and all that you have in the field, for the hail shall come down on every man and every animal which is found in the field and is not brought home; and they shall die.’ ” ‘ He who feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his livestock flee to the houses. But he who did not regard the word of the LORD left his servants and his livestock in the field.” ~ Exodus 9:13-21

Therefore send now and gather your people and animals from the fields. God gave Pharaoh advance warning, so that none of the animals or people would die from the coming hail. And “He who feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his livestock flee to the houses. But he who did not regard the word of the LORD left his servants and his livestock in the field.”

Our pastor has been teaching through the book of Exodus on Friday nights, and I was struck by this passage and by what he had to say on it. We get needlessly pounded when we don’t heed, believe, and act on God’s word. Needlessly pounded.” (From “Another Chance” by This One Will Be Our Peace.

God gave Pharaoh chance after chance after chance after chance – through 10 different plagues as a matter of fact. (See Exodus 7-12) Each time, Pharaoh continued to harden his heart against God. In the end, after 10 horrible plagues, he finally allowed the Hebrews to leave Egypt. Then in one final act of defiance, Pharaoh gathered his army and chased after them to his own demise.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. ~Galatians 6:9

Finally, Paul tells us not to weary “while doing good”. Have you ever felt exhausted from being “the good guy” that does the right thing? The curveballs of life that get thrown at us are meant to discourage us, and don’t they do a good job? Wow, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been discouraged! I felt like I was doing what God was asking and yet it seemed to be to my own detriment. I can lose heart and grow weary as much or more than anyone. But Paul tells us that “in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart”. That means we need to wait for God’s timing! Just continue to hang on in faith – do not lose heart!

    But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
    ~ 1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Lost Something? (Philippians 3:7-14)

What have you lost lately? Some money? During the past 6 years or so, lots of folks have lost a lot of money.

Your home? In this recent financial crisis, so many have lost their home either to the bank or simply because they could no longer afford it.

The company I worked for years ago was hired by a few law firms to go read the foreclosure sales of houses at the courthouse steps. I was the man that had to go and stand there and read from a script the words that the law required in order to take away a home and return it to the bank. At these foreclosures, anyone could bid as a buyer if they had the cash, so I would sometimes see a buyer or two actually bid on the property, so they bought the house instead of the bank.

I vividly remember one day an elderly lady came up along with a younger gal, probably her daughter or a family member, to hear me read the script. It was raining a bit that day, so they shared an umbrella to stay dry. Since there was just the three of us there and I hadn’t started reading yet, I asked her if she was a buyer. No, she said, this was her home I was foreclosing. She just couldn’t believe it was really happening and wanted to see it for herself.

This poor woman couldn’t afford her house payments for one reason or another. Perhaps it was her health and medical bills, maybe she’d been unemployed for some time. Maybe she’d been taken advantage of by a predatory lender, or sometimes folks simply borrow more than they should. Regardless, I was the one chosen to stand there in the damp drizzle and read from the document that took away her home, while this woman watched me and wept.

Paul writes to us about loss in Philippians 3.

    Vs 7-9 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.

Paul is teaching the Philippian church what he has learned through his own experience. He was once a powerful figure in the Hebrew and Roman world. He was well educated in the Hebrew law, having been taught by one of the most respected instructors. {Acts 22:3 3 “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.”} The Apostle Paul was also respected by the Roman government as a chief persecutor of the young Christian church.

Yet here in this short book of Philippians we find Paul poor and completely without possessions of any kind. He writes from his prison cell, probably in Rome, a loving letter to this church in the town of Philippi. Paul owns virtually nothing other than the clothes on his back, everything he ever held has been stripped away from him.

    As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand.
    ~ Ecclesiastes 5:15

There is nothing in this world that we will take with us into the next. Of course, there is nothing here worth taking!

In this place, Paul finds incredible peace. He counts these things he has “lost” as the price he needed to pay in order to know Jesus better. As a matter of fact, Jesus Himself taught on this.

    Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
    Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. ~Matthew 13:44-46

Paul tells us that he chooses to “count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him”. He counts the possessions of this world as trash, worthless, of no value at all. It’s garbage to him in comparison to knowing Jesus. Not only that, Paul also knows that he brings nothing to God. He has no righteousness, no goodness of his own to offer The Lord. He says “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith”.

If we could possibly be righteous without Jesus, it would only because we’d been able to obey every single letter of the law of God. We can’t do it. The law of God is vast, it’s deep, and it’s incredibly specific (look at the book of Leviticus alone!) Go read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and think about how many of those you’ve broken, then consider that God’s law is so much bigger than those ten.

    But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
    ~Romans 3:21-24

Without Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sin, we are completely unrighteous. Yet, once we have accepted his free gift of salvation from sin, we are completely righteous! He offers us His own righteousness – “even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe”.

To Know Jesus

    Vs 10-12 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

“To know Jesus is not the same as knowing His historical life; it is not the same as knowing correct doctrines regarding Jesus; it is not the same as knowing His moral example, and it is not the same as knowing His great work on our behalf.
– We can say that we know someone because we recognize them; because we can distinguish what is different about them compared to other people.
– We can say that we know someone because we are acquainted with what they do; we know the baker because we get our bread from him.
– We can say that we know someone because we actually converse with them; we are on speaking terms with that person.
– We can say that we know someone because we spend time in their house and with their family.
– We can say that we know someone because we have committed our life to them and live with them every day, sharing every circumstance as in a marriage.
– Yet beyond all this, there is a way of know Jesus Christ that includes all of these yet goes beyond them.” ~ Guzik

In order for us to know Jesus, all we need to do is believe and we will be saved.

    That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
    ~ Romans 10:9

Aren’t I Already Perfected Once I’m Saved?

“Just as a little child is a perfect human being, but still is far from perfect in all his development as man, so the true child of God is also perfect in all parts, although not yet perfect in all the stages of his development in faith.” (Muller)

“But while the work of Christ for us is perfect, and it were presumption to think of adding to it, the work of the Holy Spirit in us is not perfect, it is continually carried on from day to day, and will need to be continued throughout the whole of our lives.” (Spurgeon)

God has given us the perfect gift in His perfect Son to offer us a perfect eternal life. If we have accepted His free gift of salvation, we have been “perfected” in Jesus such that we can now go to live in a perfect heaven with our perfect Father. But while here on earth, God is still working in us and through us to do His will and shaping us into the person He wants.

Forget the Losses, Look Forward to the Future!

    Vs 13-14 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Have you ever heard someone talking about something of value that they used to own, and wistfully they say “I used to have a _______ just like that.” Then they go on to tell you why they had to sell it, or how they lost it. I’m sure I’ve even done that myself. I’ve heard folks say it about a boat, a car, a house, a Michael Jordan rookie basketball card, a job, and the list goes on and on. Paul tells us that one thing he has learned to do is to forget “those things which are behind”. He tells us to forget the losses. Move on. Look forward to what God has in store for us!

In the book of Genesis, God tells us the story of Lot and his family. They were in the terribly sinful city of Sodom and God had provided a way of escape for them. The Father was going to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and He provided an angelic escort to take them out of the city before it’s destruction. The Lord was giving them a better future to look forward to, he was bringing them to a better place in another city.

    Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
    ~ Genesis 19:24-26

The point here is when God is taking you to a new place in life, Paul calls us to look forward! He calls this “reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” Paul also tells us that he chooses to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. The goal or the finish line is eternity with Jesus. Keep your eyes on the prize.

    But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    ~ Romans 6:22-23

Check out these other great resources:

Believing Without Seeing

Let It Go and Tend the Sheep

High Self-Esteem as Opposed to Humility (Philippians 2:1-16)

In the wisdom of this world, we are taught to have a high self-esteem. We’re to be proud of what we’ve achieved. Our culture says we should think we are better than others or strive hard to be the best. Is that what God’s word teaches us?

Humility is such an rare trait in our world isn’t it? From Wiktionary humility is “modesty, lack of pride (with respect to one’s achievements)”.

God Honors the Humble

Let’s look at what Paul tells us in Philippians 2:

    Vs 1-4 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

The Apostle Paul wrote that “in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself”. That’s the opposite of high self-esteem! We are called to think of others as better than us. We are tasked with taking care of ourselves and at the same time we are to look out for and help others around us. (If by now you are concerned that I’m saying that you and I are no good or unworthy of love, see my clarification note at the end.)

King David was a beautiful example of humility. While the world teaches us to believe in ourselves and have confidence in what we can do, that was the opposite of how King David lived his life. David’s confidence was in The Lord!

    It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man.
    ~ Psalm 118:8

    Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.
    O my soul, you have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You. ~ Psalm 16:1-2

    The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me To eat up my flesh, My enemies and foes, They stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, In this I will be confident. ~ Psalm 27:1-3

Later in Philippians we read from Paul:

    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
    ~ Philippians 4:13

The Bible very simply instructs us not to have confidence in ourselves but in The Lord. We see that lesson all throughout Scripture.

No one seemed to know that better than Job. Here was a man who was incredibly wealthy and prosperous for his time. Yet when all of that was taken away from him and he was stripped of all wealth and even his children were taken, he knew it was God that had given it all to him.

    And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
    ~ Job 1:21

Job had not “earned” his wealth and his good life in his own strength, or wisdom, or cunning, or power. He knew it all came from the God of the universe.

Jesus as the Ultimate Example

    Vs 5-11 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is God. He is one person of the Trinity along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Yet He set the example for the rest of us to follow. Jesus Christ was humbly born on earth in a human body that suffered all of the limitations our bodies have. He was born into a lowly and humble family, and He died the death of a criminal for a bunch of sinners (you and me).

From David Guzik:
– He was humble in that he took the form of a man, and not a more glorious creature like an angel.
– He was humble in that He was born into an obscure, oppressed place.
– He was humble in that He was born into poverty, among a despised people.
– He was humble in that He was born as a child instead of appearing as a man.
– He was humble in submitting to the obedience of a child in a household.
– He was humble in learning and practicing a trade – and a humble trade of a builder.
– He was humble in the long wait until He launched out into public ministry.
– He was humble in the companions and disciples He chose.
– He was humble in the audience He appealed to and the way He taught.
– He was humble in the temptations He allowed and endured.
– He was humble in the weakness, hunger, thirst, and tiredness He endured.
– He was humble in His total obedience to His Heavenly Father.
– He was humble in His submission to the Holy Spirit.
– He was humble in choosing and submitting to the death of the cross.
– He was humble in the agony of His death.
– He was humble in the shame, mocking, and public humiliation of His death.
– He was humble in enduring the spiritual agony of His sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus became as humble as possible. You and I could not become more humble than Christ was. He was ridiculed, beaten, abused, poor, accused, on trial multiple times, and then murdered. Yet, “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name”.

God wants us to be humble, and He honors and exalts (lifts up) the humble.

    He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
    ~ Micah 6:8

    A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor.
    ~ Proverbs 29:23

Work Out Your Salvation – What?

    Vs 12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

“We know that Paul did not mean ‘work so as to earn your own salvation.’ Such a statement would contradict the whole of Paul’s gospel. What Paul did mean is to call the Philippians to put forth real effort into their Christians lives. This is not to work their salvation in the sense of accomplishing it, but to work out their salvation – to see it evident in every area of their lives, to activate this salvation God freely gave them.”
~ Guzik

“These words, as they stand in the New Testament, contain no exhortation to all men, but are directed to the people of God. They are not intended as an exhortation to the unconverted; they are, as we find them in the epistle, beyond all question addressed to those who are already saved through a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
~ Spurgeon

No Whining!

    Vs 14-16 Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

It’s winter where I live as I write this. This week it the temperatures have been below zero at times. I really don’t like being cold. As a matter of fact, I whine a lot when it’s cold – I’m a wimp like that. I admit to having a difficult time doing “all things without complaining”.

But on a deeper and more sinful level, I have also been known to complain and dispute about doing things asked of me at school, at work, and at home. God certainly calls us to obey those in authority over us. Many times my complaints were not spoken to those I was responsible to – like my teachers, bosses, parents, or spouse. Rather I complained to people around me about how I was treated or about what I was asked to do. This would be my school friends, or perhaps my coworkers. In those times of sin and selfishness when my faith and my humility was weak, my “light in the world” was dimmed. When I’m complaining to those around me, they don’t see Jesus! They see my flesh and my weakness. They see a whiner when they look at me in those times.

Often, God calls us to do things or to serve Him and others in ways that we don’t like. God is asking us to do those things not only without complaint, but with a cheerful heart!

Check out the how blessed the man is who obeys God with a cheerful heart versus how cursed the man is who disobeys, or who doesn’t serve with a cheerful heart.

    Vs 1-6 Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.
    And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:
    Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
    Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
    Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
    Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

    Vs 47-48 Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.
    Deuteronomy 28:1-6, 47-48

God desires that we serve Him in gladness and joy, and with a whole heart! It’s a choice we each have to make. Lord help me to serve you joyfully no matter what you ask of me!

The Israelites Response

Joshua speaking on behalf of God to the Israelites when he said:

    Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
    ~ Joshua 24:14-15

We are each called to serve God. Period.

We’re called to serve God humbly, knowing that He has given us everything.

We’re also called to serve The Lord joyfully and with hearts of gladness and thankfulness.

Some will choose to serve Him. Some will choose not to serve Him. But as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord.

{For clarification, let me add that I don’t believe that in regards to self-esteem, God is saying that we are not worth His love. As a matter of fact, we are created in His image and He loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us! When He created the earth and mankind in the Genesis, the Bible tells us “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” (Gen 1:31)

The point I’m trying to make regarding humility is simply that we are to know our place. We are not strong, brilliant, fast, wealthy, or blessed – unless God makes it so. We have no reason for confidence in our own awesomeness. If we have anything good or are good at anything, it comes from The Lord.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
~ James 1:17}

Other great resources:

These Things I Have Spoken

Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly, By Faith

Overview of Paul’s Epistles (letters)

This week we’re going to do an overview of Paul’s letters called the Epistles. In order to do that, we first need to take a look at how the New Testament books all fit together. Here’s a little song that can help you to memorize all the books of the New Testament. If you can memorize this song, you’ll know these books by heart for the rest of your life – and it’s SUPER-EASY!

Books of the Bible New Testament song

Now let’s look at how all the books in the New Testament were put into their order:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the four “Gospels”. These books are unique to the New Testament in that the names of the books are the names of the authors of each. So they are the ‘Gospel according to Matthew’, the ‘Gospel according to Mark’, etc. Taken together, the four Gospels tell the history of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, and resurrection.

Next we have the book of Acts, also called the “Acts of the Apostles”. This is a book that not only shows the birth of the early Christian church immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it also relates for us some of the sermons and doctrine from the Apostles – namely Peter and Paul. This book was written by Dr. Luke, the same man that wrote the Gospel of Luke.

Together, these 5 books are known as the “Historical Books”. They all tell a history. The remaining 22 books in the New Testament are all together known as “Epistles”. There are two groups of them: the “Pauline Epistles” and the “Non-Pauline Epistles”.

The Pauline Epistles were all written by the Apostle Paul either to groups of people in a local church (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians) or to individual people (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). To help you remember them, notice that the letters to the churches come first, and then the letters to the individual people.

The “Non-Pauline Epistles” were written by a variety of authors, but were all letters to others – again either individuals or to churches.

The first of these is Hebrews and it’s authorship is widely debated, but may have been the Apostle Paul so it’s easy to remember that it comes after Paul’s letters.

The others Non-Pauline Epistles were written by James, Peter, John, and Jude. The very last book – Revelation – is like a bookend to the Bible since it teaches us about the final days of earth. (The other bookend is Genesis which is the first book of the Bible and describes the dawn of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth.)

Now let’s look at a very brief and simple summary of the Pauline Epistles (as taken from a piece written by Matt Slick from carm.org called New Testament Books )

Romans –A systematic examination of justification, sanctification, and glorification. Examines God’s plan for the Jews and the Gentiles.

1 Corinthians – This letter deals with factions and corrections due to immorality, lawsuits, and abuse of the Lord’s Supper. Also mentions idols, marriage, and the resurrection.

2 Corinthians – Paul’s defense of his apostolic position.

Galatians – Paul refutes the errors of legalism and examines the proper place of grace in the Christian’s life.

Ephesians – The believer’s position in Christ and information on Spiritual warfare.

Philippians – Paul speaks of his imprisonment and his love for the Philippians. He exhorts them to godliness and warns them of legalism.

Colossians – Paul focuses on the preeminence of Jesus in creation, redemption, and godliness.

1 Thessalonians – Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians. Teachings on purity and mention of the return of Christ.

2 Thessalonians – Corrections on the Day of the Lord.

1 Timothy – Instructions to Timothy on proper leadership and dealings with false teachers, the role of women, prayer, and requirements of elders and deacons.

2 Timothy – A letter of encouragement to Timothy to be strong.

Titus – Paul left Titus in Crete to care for the churches there. Requirements for elders.

Philemon – a letter to the owner of a runaway slave. Paul appeals to Philemon to forgive Onesimus.

It is incredible and absolutely unique that God created the Bible to all fit together into one Book that compares to no other. There are 66 individual books of the Bible and scholars believe these books were written by at least 39 authors over a period of 1,500 years. The Bible speaks to people of all different nationalities and cultures and the Jesus of the Bible changes lives all over the world.

Paul on the Island of Malta and Then on to Rome (Acts 28)

At the end of Chapter 27, Paul was shipwrecked and stranded on an island, and here we now in Chapter 28 find out that they had made it to a tiny island off the coast of what is now Sicily, Italy called Malta. Malta is now it’s own country and one of the smallest in the world.

    Vs 1-5 Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta. And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.

God Protects Paul

This has not been an easy trip for Paul! He has been wrongly accused over and over, he has had to go before one official after another to claim his innocence, his life has been threatened by assassination at every town, he just went through a terrible hurricane-like storm that tore the ship apart, he and the others just barely made it to land, and then he gets bit by a poisonous snake! But through all of the difficulty, God has had His protective hand upon Paul’s life.

I love this story out of the book of Ezra. Ezra was leading a group traveling back to Jerusalem through some dangerous territory:

    Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.
    ~ Ezra 8:21-23

Ezra had bragged to the king about how mighty his God is, and then he didn’t feel like he could go ask for a protective force from the king’s army. That makes me smile.

Another story that encourages me and my fearful heart is the crossing of the Red Sea by the new Hebrew nation. They were being furiously chased by Pharaoh’s army and had their back up against a wall. They came to the Red Sea with no way to get across and escape.

    And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
    ~ Exodus 14:13-14

The Israelites had no where to go. But Moses knew the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would deliver them: “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today.” How many times when I am in fear, I want to take action! I tend to want to make things happen rather than wait for them to happen. Moses tells the people to “stand still”. Wow, that is so difficult for me! To stand still and wait for God to act – what a lesson for you and me.

And then God delivered them:

    Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
    ~ Exodus 14:21-22

Trust in God

Time and time again here in Paul’s life, we see him trust in God’s protection. And we see God’s might hand of deliverance over and over. The natives welcome Paul and the rest of the travelers – 276 of them according to Acts 27:38 – and the native people show kindness to them. That’s a pretty large crowd of people to wash up on the beach in the middle of a storm! Yet God has His hand on Paul. What an encouragement to us! As Paul follows Christ and continues to do His will, God repeatedly blesses Paul.

Here we see King David with the same kind of faith.

    I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
    ~ Psalm 16:8-11

When King David says “I have set the LORD always before me this speaks of a decision David made to put God first in his life. He determined that God would always be his focus, his perspective.” David Guzik

God Directs Paul’s Life and Actions

    Vs 6-10 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed. They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary.

Again, Paul is following God’s direction that he should minister to the people of Malta while he is there. He could have simply tried to take things easy and make this a little vacation from his troubles. But that’s not what God has called him to do. The lesson to us? Follow God’s call! He will lead you and me! As He leads us, He will also provide for us in His perfect will and for His glory. Paul moves about the island healing the sick and praying for them. He is doing the work of The Lord, even while shipwrecked!

    Vs 11-15 After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.

As Paul now continues on his voyage toward Rome, he knows he is headed toward another trial and perhaps his own execution. In spite of all that God does in our lives to defend, protect, and provide for us, we still have fear don’t we? I’m sure Paul did as well. When Paul encounters these other believers, he is encouraged. How I understand that! To see and talk with others that have a solid faith in Jesus is so encouraging to my own soul.

Our Marriage Verse is an Encouragement

When my wife and I started dating, we found Romans 1:12 to be the verse that we wanted to use to help us focus our relationship on Christ. Here it is in the greater context:

    First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— (and then our key verse is vs 12) that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
    ~ Romans 1:8-12

We are encouraged by the faith of other believers, and we need to encourage the faith of those around us. My wife and I encourage each other’s faith by praying for each other and with each other, we hold each other accountable, and we spur one another on in trusting God for the future.
Our Hope and The Hope of Israel

    Vs 16 Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.

Again, God shows care for Paul by using those people around him. Paul was not stuffed into a terrible jail cell but was allowed to dwell by himself in nicer quarters.

    Vs 17-20 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

Paul has committed no crime, he has done nothing wrong. Nevertheless, he is being persecuted simply because he preaches Jesus Christ.

Paul says “for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain”. What is “the hope of Israel”? This hope is Jesus Christ, who was rejected by Israel, died for the sins of all, and was resurrected again on the third day so that all of us (including Israel) could have eternal life. That has been Paul’s message all along, even on this latest journey:

    But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”
    ~ Acts 23:6

    I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.
    ~ Acts 24:15

    Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?….that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.
    ~ Acts 26:8, 23

Paul tells us earlier in Acts that all we need to do to be saved is to believe in Jesus:

    And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
    ~ Acts 16:30-31

    Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
    ~ Acts 4:12

Jesus is not only our hope, in fact He is our only hope! There is no other.

Some Accept While Others Do Not

    Vs 21-31 Then they said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”

    So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying,

    ‘Go to this people and say:
    “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
    And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
    For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
    Their ears are hard of hearing,
    And their eyes they have closed,
    Lest they should see with their eyes
    and hear with their ears,
    Lest they should understand with their hearts
    and turn, So that I should heal them.” ‘

    Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.

    Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

The people ask for an explanation of “this sect”, and Paul teaches them the truth from God’s word. The quote Paul uses is from the prophet Isaiah, in Isa. 6:9-10, where he prophesies that some would not believe. This still happens today when people hear that Jesus can save them. Some who hear will believe God’s word and accept Jesus as their Savior for all eternity. Others will deny Jesus and will spend eternity in hell. It is the choice of every single person. If you haven’t already, it’s time to make your choice.

    Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!
    And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
    ~ Joshua 24:14-15

Love, Love, LOVE