Revelation 3:11 – Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
Philippians 4:6 – Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Murphy’s Law says, “When you think it can’t get any worse; it usually does.” Things run down, wear out, and deteriorate. Society is worse. Families are worse. Government is worse. But to be optimistic about it: if it is going to get worse then things are better now than they are going to be so…
We should rejoice that it is not worse. Verse four uses the word “alway” which means “at all times,” and “in every kind of way.” Your health could be worse. Your job could be worse. Your family could be worse. Your finances could be worse. You could be going to hell instead of heaven, in pain instead of peace, experience loss instead of reward, and agony instead of comfort. It could be worse. Rejoice that it’s not!
Quit worrying and start praying. There are many “jigsaw Christians.” Every time they are faced with a problem they go to pieces. Instead of worrying pray. It could be worse. Pray!
Change your focus. It is not worse yet! Quit worrying about things you cannot change. Quit looking at this wicked world and our fallen nation. Fill your mind and heart with things that are true…honest…just…pure…lovely and of good report. Things are bad but you don’t have to wallow in it! It could be worse!
Finally you need to learn to be content. God could have given you what you deserve! You could have been born in another country. Your situation could be worse. We need to thank God and learn to be content with the lives He has given us because it could be so much worse!
We need to rejoice (vs. 4), request (vs. 6), reflect (vss. 8-9), and relearn (vss. 10-13). How is your attitude? Are you grateful or grumbly? Remember – It could be worse!
Hosea 4:6 – My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…
Is what you know worth knowing? We are living in the information age. There are people who know more about their iPhones than they do God and the Bible. What a shame!
You should know that the Bible is true. It is inerrant and infallible and doesn’t change, because God doesn’t change.
You should know that sin is wrong. I don’t care if they legalize it, license it, or liberate it. It is still wrong. Drunkenness is still sin. Adultery and fornication are still sins. Cursing is still sin, and sodomy is still sin no matter what the courts say!
You should know that Jesus is the only way! Jesus is the Saviour. Not Buddha. Not Mohammad. Not Mary. Not Joseph Smith. Not the popes or any “saint.” There is only one way to God and that is the way provided by Jesus Christ and His blood sacrifice He made on the cross.
You should know that your sins are forgiven. The problem is unforgiven sin. People die because of sin. People go to hell because of sin. And unless your sins are forgiven you will have to pay for them in the lake of fire. The tragedy is that people don’t have to go to hell. If they would only believe on Jesus Christ they could have the pardon for their sins – complete and total forgiveness by God!
You should know that your flesh is no good. The reason you sin after you are saved is because your flesh is still sinful. Your spirit was born again and your soul saved. But not until the rapture will our bodies be changed “like unto his glorious body.” You should know that God is in control. Romans 8:28 is still in the Book! God’s promises are true. God cannot lie. He is still running things and His return is closer than ever! You should know that too!
Romans 4:16 –…Abraham; who is the father of us all,
I know Abraham had his shortcomings and failures, but he is still considered “the father of faith.” He believed God and followed God. He is a great example of how fathers should be.
He led his family for God. He didn’t wait for his wife or children to follow God because he was the leader and the head of the home! Fathers are supposed to be the leaders, not the “lag-behinders.” He led by first leaving his own family in the land of Ur, and then by trusting God’s word and going where God wanted him to go. We need some fathers with courage and backbone! We need fathers who won’t miss church; who read their Bibles; who pray with their families! We need leaders!
Next, he gave his family to God. Chapter twenty-two of Genesis tells us the story of Abraham giving up his son Isaac. He was a great leader for his family because he loved God more than his family and was willing to put God first in his life. The safest place for your kids is in the hands of God. He gave them to you and He can take them from you. It’s best to give them back to the One who gave them to you in the first place.
Finally, Abraham left behind a legacy for God. He knew that he wouldn’t live forever, so he prepared a bride for his son, as well as an inheritance. He knew that the only way for his son’s future to be secure was for his son to follow God’s will. If his son married the wrong person his entire future would be marred. Fathers need to prepare and plan to pass on a spiritual legacy that will help their children in their own spiritual walk with the Lord. It is the most valuable thing you can pass down to them.
We need godly fathers who are going to be holy men of God, leading their families in the old paths for Jesus Christ! Your kid’s future depends on it!
1 Samuel 17:4 – And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
The most famous battle in the OT is not between two armies, but between a young shepherd and a giant. This giant stands in the way of victory, keeps Israel in bondage, and has destroyed morale. Everyone’s except David’s, that is. We all have giants in our lives, but we can learn from David how to defeat them.
First of all you need to win some small battles (vss. 34-36) and be faithful fighting off the lions and bears. How can you expect to do great things for God if you can’t do small things? Jesus said, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.” (Luke 16:10).
Next, you must leave your baggage behind (vs. 22). Planes, trains, and automobiles all have weight limits. They can only take so much weight before they give in to the pressure. We aren’t much different. You can’t fight a giant when you are weighed down with the cares of this life or besetting sins.
Thirdly, you must believe in the cause and dismiss the criticism (vss. 23-30). David’s own brother ridiculed him. And when he was brought before the King, Saul basically told him he was going to lose the fight. David didn’t let this discourage him. Instead I think it stirred him up even more! The cause of Jesus Christ is worth fighting, dying, and living for! Rod Mattoon said, “It is better to die for something that to live for nothing!” Amen!
Also, you can’t fight in someone else’s armor (vss. 38-40). David couldn’t be someone he wasn’t. He admitted his limitations, but wasn’t any less confident because he was fighting in God’s strength not his own (vss. 45-47). David’s greatest weapon was not his sling, or the five smooth stones. David’s greatest weapon was the “name of the LORD of hosts.”
Hebrews 11:5 – By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Many are familiar with the idea that one’s testimony is no good if you only “talk the talk.” You must also “walk the walk.” Enoch’s faith changed how he lived. And it was Who he walked with that made all the difference.
Walking with God will make you different. Scripture says, “Enoch…was not…” For Enoch God was first priority, not himself. For Enoch, God will and God’s ways were preeminent over what the ungodly world thought or promoted. Enoch lived in wicked times, and he stood out as one who not only “talked the talk” but “walked the walk.”
The only years that count are those in which we walk with God. In Genesis nothing is said about the sixty-five years of Enoch’s life before he started walking with God. I’m sure he did some things and went some places, but the scripture is mute. Every place you walk without God is of no account and value. All your days spent without God are wasted. Wasted days turn into months, years, and sometimes, and entire life wasted away.
You can start walking with God now! Enoch didn’t always walk with God. It appears that Enoch starting walking with God when Methuselah was born. Maybe having a son changed his perspective and priorities in life. Salvation is a definite changing point in a person’s life, but often people quite walking in fellowship with God and start walking with others. If that is your case, you can repent and start walking with God now!
Enoch didn’t leave an epitaph on a gravestone, just a testimony. Matthew Henry said, “He didn’t live like the rest, so he didn’t die like the rest.”
Ruth 1:21 – I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty…
Have you ever run of out gas? Maybe your gauge didn’t work or you thought you could make it a little further. Cars can’t run on fumes, and spiritually neither can we.
I don’t believe Naomi envisioned herself empty, defeated, and dejected when they first left for Moab. It all began with a choice. Their intentions were only to “sojourn” (Ruth 1:1), but the convenience of Moab was greater than their convictions.
Running on empty is a sin. It begins with compromise. “Giving in just a little will not hurt” many claim. Naomi’s boys married Moabite women, and that was forbidden in the OT law. Plus they couldn’t worship in Moab because they were away from the temple. There are many Christians that leave good churches because of a better job offers. Sin begins with compromise but it has consequences – death and despair to name a few. And when you run out of gas all those riding with you will be effected. Ruth followed Naomi, and if she would have listened to Naomi she never would have left Moab for Bethlehem. Backslidden Christians are not good counselors!
The solution for running on empty is simple. First you must confess that you are running on empty, others can tell it anyway (Ruth 1:19). You aren’t just pulled over on the side of the road sight-seeing, you are broke down! Next you must come back to Bethlehem; to the place where you can get filled up again.
Don’t keep passing gas stations! Don’t ignore the yellow light or the beeping sound! You are running on empty and you are about to break down. The heavier a load you carry the more gas you will use up. If you are burning a lot of fuel you will need to make frequent trips to the FILLING STATION! Get filled up!
1 Samuel 16:19 – Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep.
People do a lot of crazy things to get noticed. Some dye their hair weird colors or get tattoos, earrings, and nose rings. Some sports fanatics will go shirtless in freezing temperatures with a number painted on their chest in hopes of being seen by cameras. Others still are loud and obnoxious eager for people to see them.
David was noticed by Saul’s servants because he had a reputation of being spiritual, skillful, and sensible. But long before the servants of Saul saw David, God noticed him.
God noticed that David was faithful with the sheep. The biggest thing in David’s life had just happened – he was anointed to be the next King in Israel! Since he had no further instructions he simply went back to his duties of feeding his father’s sheep.
Long before David was anointed with the Spirit, God noticed that he was filled with the Spirit. He didn’t have to put on a different face around people. He was transparent and real. Unlike Saul, he was at peace with God and obedient to God. His music epitomized the depth of his spiritual life, and when he played others could sense the presence of the author of David’s music.
David’s fervency with his skills was also something God took note of. He wasn’t idle, slothful, and lazy! He put his hands to use practicing with his sling, playing his harp, and praying to his Lord. It was his harp that brought him into favor with the King, and his sling that brought him into favor with the kingdom.
Finally David was a good follower. Saul needed him and he came. He didn’t complain, he just followed. He became a great leader because he was a great follower. He was noticed by men, but not because he tried to get noticed. His priority was what God thought of Him. That’s why God noticed David.
1 Corinthians 11:28 – But let a man examine himself…
One thing is true of most when it comes to going to the doctor – we don’t like to go. We don’t want to be preached at about our blood pressure, lack of exercise, or bad eating habits. And just like the doctor checks our vitals with a standard of measurement, so does the Lord with the absolute standard – the word of God.
He might ask us if we have religion or a relationship. The woman at the well was prejudice because of her religion. She claimed to be right because her religion said she was right. Her pride was evident too, until the Lord revealed that her religion was never going to quench her thirsty soul. Religion is not true worship and can never satisfy, only a relationship with Jesus Christ can give us everlasting life.
Next we need to check-up and make sure we walk in liberty instead of legalism. Many Galatians even though they were saved by grace, succumbed to a system of works after salvation. They put themselves back into bondage with deeds and rituals, instead of living for Christ out of liberty and love. If your Christian life consist of only rules and regulations you will eventually become “bitter with hard bondage” (Ex. 1:14). “Christ hath made us free” (Gal. 5:1). We should serve out of devotion, not merely duty or discipline.
Finally, I believe the Lord would check our temperature and see if we were “cold or hot” (Rev. 3). If you are lukewarm it means you are sick, and you are making the Lord sick. Apathy and indifference will quench the fire of the Spirit of God. The fire on the altar of burnt offering was always burning, ready for a sacrifice at any time. We should be on fire for God, not cold and indifferent.
How is your spiritual check-up? Are you a healthy Christian?
2 Peter 1:12 – … be established in the present truth.
For many, virtual reality is more important than reality itself. But for the Christian God’s truth should be ever on our hearts and minds. Below are four present truths that will keep us in balance and -mindful of what really matters in life.
Truth 1: We owe Him everything! We have been grabbed by his grace (Eph. 2), constrained by His love (2 Cor. 5), and bought with a price (1 Cor. 6). Why wouldn’t we give Him our best? He will never demand the unreasonable, nor does He ever mean us harm. We owe Him. He has saved us from hell, and that is reason enough. Like Mephibosheth, we’ve been rescued from Lo-debar and given a seat at the King’s table. The least we could do is honor him with our lives and serve Him with our best!
Truth 2: We are complete in Him (Col. 2:10)! As believers we are a “new creatures in Christ” and shouldn’t be intimidated by the world, our peers, fashion, society, or even other Christians. We have been accepted by God, and that should suffice! I’m sorry if your mother didn’t love you or your Daddy was a bum! It’s time to build a bridge and get over it. You mean something to God and are complete in Christ now!
Truth 3: Many are headed for hell! We need to have compassion and concern for those without Christ. Lost people are just acting like lost people. We shouldn’t forget where we would be if someone didn’t care for us. We have a commission to reach people with the gospel (Mark 16).
Truth 4: Jesus could return today! The coming of Christ is a sure hope – it is going to happen. It is a glorious hope – to see Him in His splendor and majesty! It should be an anticipated hope. Every day it should occur to you that perhaps today will be the day of His return. We should live in that present truth!
Luke 3:4 – …The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Four-hundred years had passed since the last prophet had spoken. There had been those who reported what others had seen in the past, but none that had seen anything themselves. John had a vision and his vision catapulted his voice. He cried out because he couldn’t be silent. It was time to get things prepared for the Lord to do His work.
To prepare the way we must straighten up (vs. 4). Crooked roads with many curves will slow you down considerably. They will also make you sick with all the turning back and forth. Plus, they are dangerous, and deceptive. It’s hard for others to follow you when you are not going straight. Straighten up!
To prepare the way we must fill up the valleys (vs. 5). The empty places in the wilderness are ruts and they are not conducive to the chariot wheels of God! The deeper the rut the more it will take to fill it. Repentance is not just from sin, it is toward God. We must fill up our ruts with the right things!
Next we must bring down every mountain and hill (vs. 5) where we worship our false idols. High places are not tolerated when the Lord is the center of worship. We will never be able to see the Lord coming to our wilderness until we remove the high things in our lives.
Finally, we must smooth out the rough ways (vs. 5) for Him to have complete access. This takes time and humility. If a rock is in the way, move it. Sometimes those stubborn rocks show up after years and years of being below the surface. Smooth out!
Our job is much like John’s. We are to prepare the way, and make it perfect and acceptable to Him, and then “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (vs. 6).
Matthew 7:13 – Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
In the passage there are two gates, two ways, two groups, and two destinations. The narrow way is diametrically opposite of the broad way. The narrow way is not popular, the broad way is. The narrow way is not painless, easy, or convenient. The broad way is.
The course of the broad way is according to this world and the god of this world: Satan. It is popular and familiar because everyone starts out through the wide gate.
The crowd of the broad way is composed of both false prophets and professors. The false prophets disguise themselves in order to fool any sheep who may have wandered off course. And they are very dangerous, for they are “ravening wolves.” The professors are just that – those that profess something but don’t really believe it. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1:16). Both may have leaves, but they do not have any fruit for God. Their entire lives are a deception. They are liars, and their lives are a lie.
The culmination of the broad way is destruction (vs. 13) and everlasting separation from the presence of God in the lake of fire (vs. 23). No doubt there is temporary excitement from sin, much like you might experience if you jumped off a cliff, but eventually you must face the culmination of your decision. Sin is exciting, evasive, and enticing. But it is also expensive, exhausting, and enslaving. The end result of sin is still death!
The crossroads of the broad way is the cross of Jesus Christ. The gate is strait and the way narrow, but it “leadeth unto life.” The invitation is for all to “Enter.”
John 11:44 – And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
The resurrection of Lazarus was a defining moment in our Lord’s ministry. Like Lazarus, we were raised from the curse of sin by the cure of Jesus! Before we were saved we “were dead in trespasses and sins” but now are “risen with Christ.”
But Lazarus had a realization: Even though he was raised he was still in bondage because of those grave clothes. He was ALL WRAPPED UP! Practically speaking he was not much better off than if he had stayed in the grave. He couldn’t do anything, even if he wanted to. He didn’t stink anymore, but those grave clothes did. They prevented him from seeing, and following Christ.
The releasing of Lazarus was entirely dependent on others. It’s amazing how believers who were saved “by grace…through faith” try to unwrap themselves by works! No matter how hard you try you cannot remove the grave clothes from the old man! Those grave clothes were strips of cloth that were wrapped around each appendage. There are Christians who have been saved for years that still have some stinking grave clothes hanging on them, and other believers just look at them and never help loose them.
The responsibility of Lazarus after he was resurrected is seen in John 12 where we read of people coming to Bethany just to see him. How would he look if he still had smelly grave clothes hanging off him? The Lord resurrects but then expects us to remove grave clothes off of each other. Believers are so wrapped up today, they can’t serve the Lord. They need to be loosed from the bondage of the old man. Do you know a wrapped up Lazarus? Go “Loose him, and let him go.”
John 4:28-29 – The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
When the woman at the well heard the words of Jesus, they created a thirst for something that would really satisfy once and for all. After He dismissed the question of religion, He dealt with relationship. And when she realized Who He really was, she dropped her waterpot and ran to tell others!
Waterpots were clay vessels, or jars usually carried on the head or shoulder. They were essential to life back then. Without them people wouldn’t be able to bring much needed water from the local wells to their homes. But after meeting Jesus, the waterpot meant very little to the woman.
Waterpots can be weights in our lives. Weights are not necessarily sins. They might have their place in life, like waterpots, but they shouldn’t have God’s place. Paul said “let us lay aside every weight…” The woman knew she could run faster if she left her waterpot. You can too. Leave your waterpot!
Waterpots can be worries. The load of that waterpot would hinder her from helping others. She would need both hands free. She didn’t want to be bogged down. Many believers can’t help others because they need help themselves! Leave your waterpot!
Waterpots can be woes. Many woes come because of our sins. After the woman drank of the well of life she didn’t need her waterpot anymore. Many Christians keep their waterpots of sin on their heads and it affects their thinking. Leave your waterpot!
Why do you keep holding that waterpot? Are you so use to it that you can’t let it go? Does it have that strong of a hold on you? Think what all you could do without it. Leave your waterpot!
Titus 2:4 – That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
The enormity of motherhood cannot be overestimated. There have been many great men who have had worthless fathers, but not many of them had bad mothers. There were four preachers in the family of the great expositor G. Campbell Morgan (1864-1945) including him. Someone asked, “Which Morgan is the greatest preacher?” One son looked at his father and then promptly replied, “Mother!”
The examples of motherhood cannot be forgotten. When Eve bore her first child she acknowledged that he came from God. He wasn’t a “mistake” or an “accident.” He was a gift from the Lord. Jochebed, the mother of Moses, protected her son from death, planned for her son’s future, and trusted in God’s providence, that He would take care of her son after she let him go. Hannah, after she weaned Samuel, whom she had asked the Lord for, gave him back to God. The Syrophenician woman begged Christ to heal her daughter even though she had no right as a Gentile to claim Israel’s sign promises. She was humiliated and humbled, yet persistent – all because of her love.
The expectations of motherhood cannot be ignored. Mothers are to be the child’s parent, not friend! They must tell, teach, touch, and take care of their children. They should speak words of punishment, praise, and passion. Kids need to know and hear that their mothers love them. Teaching doctrine (what is true), as well as discipline (application of that truth) must be carried out with consistency. The touch of a mother’s hand, or hug from a mother’s arms should never be underestimated.
God’s blueprint is for mother’s to take their job seriously. To “guide the house” (1 Tim. 5:14) biblically and lovingly.
John 20:25 – The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see… I will not believe.
Thomas – “Doubting Thomas” is how we think of him. Like Thomas, there are many today that still say “Except I shall see…I will not believe.” They have resurrection doubt.
Thomas’ suspicion was evident (vs. 25). He doubted the united testimony of the disciples, as well as what Jesus had promised – that He would rise again from the dead (Matt. 20:18-19). His doubt was not a problem of the mind but of the heart and will. He said, “I will not believe” (vs. 25).
The scarcity of Thomas didn’t help his doubt (vs. 24). Had he not missed the meeting, he wouldn’t have missed Jesus Christ. It matters little if he missed because of fear, fury, or maybe he simply folded and quit! For whatever reason, he was not there when Jesus came.
Thomas was a sincere skeptic however, because he came back eight days later. When the Lord appeared “in the midst” (vs. 26) Thomas’ belief was prompt, personal (“My Lord”), and proper (“My God” – declaring Jesus as God). But it is the words of Jesus that should get our attention. It is after Thomas sees the Lord that Jesus says “be not faithless, but believing” (vs. 27). Belief is still demanded after one sees. The old adage “seeing is believing” is not really true. Faith in what one sees is still necessary.
For the honest skeptic like Thomas, revealed truth is embraced and received. For the dishonest skeptic, cynicism and incredulity win the day. To them there will never be enough proof; they will always doubt.
If you are a doubting Thomas take heed. Go where Jesus is likely to appear – church, the Bible, the prayer closet etc… It will help you dispel resurrection doubt!
Colossians 2:10 – And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
As believers, we are “complete in him,” not incomplete. There isn’t anything to finish regarding our salvation because Jesus already said, “It is finished.” There won’t be anything to add, for what can you add to Jesus? And as far as perfection goes, “Jesus” is perfection!
To acquire completeness you must first see your utter incompleteness without Christ. When Adam sinned, his spirit died breaking the connection with God. Every person born today is born incomplete! The prescription for completeness is to be born again by faith in Jesus Christ! Then, in Him, you will be seen as sinless and righteous as He is – and complete!
Many believers struggle with accepting being complete in Jesus. They believe what the world says when they belittle and demean Christians. They believe Satan when he constantly accuses them of unworthiness. And they believe their own flesh when it unceasingly drags them down to despair and ruin. The cure is to accept what God says! You have been adopted, accepted, acquired, absolved, and assured that He will take you home to heaven one day (Eph. 1).
We need to act on being complete. We should walk “in Him” (vs. 6) not in the flesh! Live like Jesus wants you to; His opinion is the only One that matters! We should be “built up in him” (vs. 7). Instead of looking back like Lot’s wife and being frozen never to go forward again, we should build upon the foundation Christ has laid. Quit making a parking lot out of your past. Don’t build yourself by what others think, or what standards you have set. Be built up in Him! Quit condemning yourself and thank God you can be who He wants you to be in Christ Jesus!
1 Kings 17:12 – And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse…
The widow woman of Zarephath knew what it was like to reach bottom. The famine had taken its toil on her and her son. She didn’t have any food left. The barrel of meal was almost empty, then up popped Elijah asking for food and water.
The command was clear (vs. 9); she was supposed to take care of Elijah. But the conditions were bad at this time. Surely the Lord wouldn’t expect her to follow through with this order. She tried to use this as an excuse by saying, “I have not” (vs. 12). But the Lord didn’t ask her to give what she didn’t have, but what she had – “an handful of meal in a barrel.” Don’t disobey God when you are at the bottom of the barrel!
After she said, “I have not” Elijah said, “Fear not” (vs. 13). There is no need to be afraid to obey and serve God. We should serve him primarily, completely, and sacrificially. It proved beneficially helpful to her and her son, because they also were sustained by the meal. “Fear not” because “the barrel of meal wasted not.” They were living from hand to mouth – God’s hand to their mouths. Don’t doubt God when you are at the bottom of the barrel!
Things went well for a while, but then tragedy struck, as the woman’s son died (vs. 17). At first Elijah is blamed, then the lady is blamed, and finally it is the Lord who is blamed (vs. 20). The barrel is emptier now than ever before. Why would God take her son? We may not always know the reasons, but we can trust God who does! Her son is raised from the dead, and it is then that she gains assurance (vs. 24). Don’t despise God when you reach the bottom of the barrel. His plans might include us living off the bottom of the barrel so He can get glory out of our lives!
1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
None of us want to be drop-outs or quitters. But, unfortunately many Christian workers never make it to the finish line. Maybe they never understood the preliminaries – that no one is better than another (1 Cor. 16:10), or the purpose – that this is “the work of the Lord.” Who knows why they quit, but they do.
We must understand that the power behind our service is the resurrection power of Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). We use many electronic devices today that have great battery life, but they must all be plugged in to be recharged. We must stay plugged into the power source or we will drain out and quit.
Next, the priority of our service must constantly be checked. The “house of Stephanas…addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints” (vs. 15). Their addiction was the key to their abounding. They did their best job; not second best!
The progress of their service was consistent, compassionate, constructive, and charitable. You could depend on them. They didn’t fail to show up, neither were they late or unprepared. They did good quality work, and always did it with a charitable heart attitude. They wanted to be better year after year. We should too.
There are variables to the profit of our service. First, you can’t do everything alone (see vss. 1, 10, 12, 15, 17-19). Some things are unexpected (vss. 3-7), and “Lord willing” must be our mantra (vs. 7). People also have their own wills (vs. 12), and circumstances have an effect as well (vs. 12). Don’t discount that!
Finally, there will always be adversaries (vs. 9), but we must go through the open doors (vs. 9), and truly believe that our “labour is not in vain in the Lord.” Don’t be a drop out!
Genesis 26:19 – And Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water.
Isaac made some of his father’s mistakes and he wound up in the same valley on the edge of Egypt without any water. He had to adapt real quick in order to survive the valley. He learned that:
The facts of the valley are apparent. First of all you may be in the valley a while. We all go through valley experiences in our life. The truth is that we spend more time in the valleys than on the mountain tops. But thank God, He is faithful to supply our needs in the valley! Others have been in the same valley you are in (vs. 18). Their wells may have been covered up with the dirt of the Philistines but you can reopen them and find the same fresh supply! Don’t dig new wells, reopen the old ones!
The foes in the valley are certain. Expect trouble when you try to do a good thing in the valley. There will be contention like at Esek (vs. 20), contempt like at Sitnah (vs. 21) and carelessness like at Rehoboth (vs. 22). Dig out those old wells anyway!
The fruit in the valley is encouraging (vs. 22). After much diligence Isaac saw that they could survive in this valley. Don’t wait till things ease up to start digging wells for God! Work in the valley, toil in the hard times and the fruit will come.
The fellowship in the valley is comforting (vss. 24-25) and the feast in the valley is reassuring (vs. 30). The Lord appeared to Isaac and assured him of His peace and His promises. As a result Isaac got his own priorities in order. He built an altar first and then set up a tent. The altar was for worship and the tent for wandering. Isaac would be a stranger and a pilgrim in the earth (Heb. 11:13). And then a miraculous thing happened – a feast with his enemies, and a covenant of protection. None of which would have happed if Isaac would have given up!
Matthew 17:8 – And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
This scene, a type of Christ’s Second Advent, was witnessed by those in the present (Peter, James, and John), those in the past (Moses and Elijah), and those eternal (the Father and the Son). As Jesus “prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered” (Luke 9:29). What a prayer that must have been! When the disciples awoke they only saw Moses and Elijah for a short time, then they heard a foolish voice (Peter’s), a fearful voice (God’s), and a familiar voice (Jesus’). It was then they saw Him like they should have always seen Him – “Jesus only.” And that’s how we should see Him too: Jesus – minus everything, plus nothing.
If we are to see Jesus only we need to quit talking and start listening (vs. 4). Mark tells us that Peter didn’t know what to say and Luke said when he spoke he didn’t know what he had said! He would have been much better off saying nothing! Someone said, “An open ear is the only believable sign of an open heart.”
Next, we need to get our eyes off of others (vs. 5) whether sinners or saints. Peter was in effect putting Jesus on the same level with Moses and Elijah. Jesus is like none other (Acts 4:12) but focusing on others will detour us from gazing on Him.
Finally, we need to feel His touch (vs. 7). What we believe shouldn’t remain in our heads only; we need a heart-felt belief. Your fears can be calmed by Jesus’ touch. Don’t shrug the shoulder when He touches. Turn to Him, not away from Him.
The disciples didn’t just get a glimpse of the glorified Christ and move on with their lives. Both Peter and John wrote about it, and not once did they mention Moses or Elijah. They didn’t merely see “Jesus only” but “Jesus only with themselves” (Mark 9:8). Fellowship unhindered and unaltered by anything else.
Isaiah 22:1 – The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?
You would think the best view is from the mountain top, but that isn’t always the case. Isaiah saw a vision down in the valley of judgment, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. We sometimes get in these valleys ourselves. It is there we need a vision from the Lord.
The difficulty of the valley necessitates a vision. The trials, tests, tribulations, and troubles will only spell destruction without a vision. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18). A vision brings hope and help. John’s heavenly vision on the isle of Patmos has encouraged saints through the ages who grow tired and weary walking through the valleys of this earth.
There are critical decisions to be made in the valleys of life for which we need a vision. Life doesn’t stop just because we are going trough a valley. We need a vision to help us see through the fog so we can make the right choices during desperate times.
We also need directions in the valleys of life. A biblical vision defines our purpose and authority for those choices and brings clarity and eventually culmination so we can make it out of the valley safely. It helps us see the big picture. Soon after the completion of Disney World, someone said, “Isn’t it too bad that Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?” Mike Vance, the creative director said, “He did see it – that’s why it’s here!”
We must keep our vision on the Lord (Heb. 12:1-2), and stay faithful until the vision is fulfilled. We must not live on someone else’s vision, and should never let the fire of our vision die down (Lev. 6:13). When Helen Keller, the phenomenal lady who was both deaf and blind, was asked, “What would be worse that being born blind?” she replied, “To have sight without vision.” Do you have a vision! It is a must in the valleys of life!
1 Kings 21:3 – And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.
Ahab thought Naboth was like most people. He thought he had his price. But Naboth had conviction. His vineyard was more than a glorified flower garden. It had been in his family for years and was his inheritance. He put principal over profit. His vineyard was more valuable than anything Ahab could offer him. He put priority over pressure. Ahab’s pleading was to no avail, Naboth wouldn’t budge. And he put purity over peril. Old Testament Law forbad selling your inheritance, and Naboth was going to obey that even if it meant disobeying the King of Israel; even if it meant his life, which eventually it did.
Esau, Jacob’s brother had a reputation as an outdoorsman. He was a carnal man who always did what he wanted. You might say he followed his appetites. One day he came in from the field and was so hungry he sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of chili. His ruin came about because he was a temporal man. He only thought of the moment, not the future. He also was a tired man. Jacob bargained with him when he was weak and vulnerable. He later regretted his decision, but it was too late. Scripture says, “he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” (Hebrews 12:17).
What about you? What’s your price? Could just the right job with higher pay get you to compromise your convictions? Could someone pressure you enough to sell the rewards of your inheritance at the Judgment Seat of Christ? Will you “suffer loss” (1 Cor. 3:15) or “receive a full reward” (2 John 8)? Will you be like Naboth or Esau? A father warning his son about compromise, said, “Son there’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow line and dead possums.” Hold on, don’t sell your inheritance!
Mark 4:41 – And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
Those rugged fishermen had been through storms before on the Sea of Galilee, but this was different. They really thought they were going to die and there lay Jesus asleep through it all.
He had been preaching and teaching to the multitudes for days. He had spent one entire night in prayer. And then while teaching He had friction with the religious rulers and even His own family tried to stop Him (Mark 3:31-35). Then He was thronged again, so He taught out of the bow of a boat. It was that evening when He and the disciples went across the sea for some solitude, which they didn’t get. He was asleep because He was absolutely exhausted and the disciples were frustrated because they wrongly assumed that Jesus was just like them – a man like other ordinary men. They had knothole perception seeing through their sinful eyes of flesh. He was human, but not only human!
When Jesus calmed the storm they quickly perceived the true actuality – Jesus is nothing like us! He never apologized for sleeping. He didn’t ask them what to do. He didn’t ask how He could assist them. He didn’t panic. And He didn’t try to calm them down. Instead He calmed the storm down! Yes there are similarities between us and Him because He is a man. But! He is also God! He is the Creator, we are the created. He is the Designer, we are the designed. He is the Giver, we are the receivers. He is infinite, we are finite.
Jesus is human and divine. He not only understands us, He knows more than we know; He sees more than we see; and He can do anything because He is God. If He sleeps during your storm, don’t get frustrated, just trust Him. He is in control of the ship, the waves, the rain, and the storm. He’s nothing like us!
1 Sam 17:40 – And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had…
Goliath stood between Israel and victory much like giants stand in the way in our Christian lives. David is an inspiration for us. He went against the odds and defeated the giant.
He knew the cause was greater than the curse that they would be under if Goliath had his way (vs. 29). The risk didn’t matter to David because there was something worth fighting for. Parents need to see this when raising their kids. Husbands and wives need to see this when faced with marital problems. Young people need to see this when faced with decisions that can impact their future.
David had an advantage because his confidence was greater than his criticism. His brother criticized his purpose for being there (vs. 28). Saul criticized his proficiency in fighting (vss. 33-37). And Goliath criticized his power to win (vss. 43-44). But David’s faith and confidence was in God (vs. 37). Don’t listen to the critics. Someone aptly said, “Those that don’t often criticize those that do.” You will never face the giant, let alone defeat him if you listen to the critics.
David realized that the common was greater than the customary (vss. 38-40). David couldn’t fight in Saul’s armor, even if it was the conventional thing to do. He had to fight with what he had and what he knew. He gathered five stones. He was prepared. If he missed with one, he could sling another. All too often Christians only put one stone in their bag, and then when they miss they use that as an excuse to quit.
Finally, David knew Christ is greater than the conflict. Christ is the greater power (vs. 45) and purpose (vs. 46). Most can’t see God for the giant, but David could. He knew God was bigger than Goliath. That’s how David did it!
1 Thessalonians 1:3 – Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…
In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians he commended their growth in three areas. These essential are not only vital to new believers but are necessary for Christian growth and health.
The first was their work of faith which is defined and demonstrated by them “turn[ing] to God from idols” (vs. 9). Faith is often defined by the acrostic, Forsaking All I Trust Him. They forsook their idols and received Christ. We must be honest when something takes precedence over the Lord and turn from it. It may be a position, a person, a pleasure, or a problem. It is essential that you live and walk by faith. This means you believe what God says about your idol and you leave it – repent from it!
The second essential was their labour of love which was not only sensed by their love for God, but seen by their service to God (vs. 9). We should serve not only out of duty and discipline, but also from devotion. On a plane a pastor was sitting next to a young lady with Down syndrome. He knew he probably wouldn’t get much rest. She began talking and asked him, “Do you eat candy?” He said, “No.” She said, “Good because it will rot your teeth.” “Do you smoke?” she asked. He said, “No.” She said, “Good, it causes cancer.” Then she said, “Do you know Jesus?” He said “Why yes! I sure do!” She said, “Well, then ask those questions to man next to you!” We should wake up each day and see our life as one of service to Jesus Christ!
Finally, Paul commended their hope in Jesus’ return (vs. 10). Maybe you need to exercise faith by turning from idols, or start serving out of your love for Him. Add to that patience that comes by knowing Jesus might return today, and it makes life’s trials a bit easier and heaven a lot sweeter! Those are three essentials!
Genesis 13:8 – And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee…for we be brethren.
Everyone has to deal with strife. It may be at home with a spouse or kids, at work with an employer or employee, at family functions with brothers and sisters, or at church.
Scripture says, “Only by pride cometh contention” (Prov. 13:10). Strife originates from pride and envy. Failure to resolve strife breeds more controversy and conflict.
Abram did three things to resolve strife with his nephew. First he faced the problem (vs. 8). He went to Lot and addressed the issue of conflict. He knew pretending everything was okay would only make things worse. He was willing to confront his nephew even though it was uncomfortable. He wanted to stop it before it spread and ruined their testimony among the heathen (vs. 7).
He was also willing to compromise (vs. 9). Instead of pointing fingers and stirring up strife he gave Lot first choice of the land. Abram chose the honorable way (Prov. 20:3) exemplifying Paul’s admonition, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” (Rom. 12:10)
Finally, he didn’t hold a grudge after they came to an agreement. When Lot was in trouble it was Abram who came to the rescue (Gen. 14). But we never read of Abram vilifying Lot for his ill choices, rather he prayed for him (Gen. 18).
I have heard that if horses are attacked in the wild, they will group up together facing inward so they can kick the enemy. Donkeys however do just the opposite; they face the enemy and kick each other! We shouldn’t react like donkeys! Vance Havner said, “Some fights are lost even when you win. A bulldog can whip a skunk, but is it worth it!”
“Let there be no strife, I pray thee…” Amen?
Luke 15:17 – And when he came to himself…
The main lesson in the story of the Prodigal Son is clearly that the Father will take you back if you return from the far country. But before you can face the Father you must face yourself.
First, the prodigal had to face his choices (vss. 12-13). He chose the far country over the father’s house. He knew he couldn’t sin in his father’s presence and get away with it, so he decided to leave instead of stay. He chose to sin instead of serve; to rebel instead of obey; to party instead of pray; to lust instead of love; to waste instead of work. In short, he chose personal freedom over paternal fellowship. Now he had to face his choices and see the mess he made. He blew it and he had to face it.
Next, he had to face his circumstances (vss. 14-16). He was enduring a famine instead of enjoying the fullness of the father’s house. He chose his sin, but he didn’t choose the consequences. He was dissatisfied, disappointed, destitute, and for all practical purposes, dead (vs. 24). His funds ran out, his friends took off, and the famine moved in. He was like a child in a department store that drifted away from his mother; whose face goes from a confused look to one of shock and horror when he discovers he is lost. He was lost in the world and he finally admitted it.
Finally, he had to face his conscience (vss. 18-19). He was regretting instead of rejoicing. He made a decision to “arise” (vs. 18) and followed it with a declaration: “I have sinned.” Others have said it, like Pharaoh, Balaam, Saul, and Judas; but he meant it! His conscience was pricked and he faced it and followed it.
Someone said, “The longest road in life is usually the road to one’s own self.” That the father had already forgiven him was evident, but he would never have known it if he didn’t return. And he never would have returned if he didn’t face himself!
Phil 4:6 – Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer…
The word “worry” is derived from an old German word “worgen” meaning “to choke.” This mental strangulation affects many Christians. Dr. Charles Mayo, the founder of the Mayo Clinic said, “I’ve never known a person to die of overwork, but many who died from worry.” The analogy of worry is like a stream of fear trickling through the mind, when encouraged and fed forms a huge channel into which all other thoughts are drained. But, these verses have an answer for the sin of worry!
First of all, there must be a change of attitude. Verse 6 is a command for us to quit being “full of care” and consumed. We are to be “care free” instead of control freaks. To do this we must fully trust God instead of trying to plot and plan our own lives.
Next we must learn to ask God. The way to “be careful for nothing” is by praying about “every thing.” Often worry is what is substituted for praying and letting the Lord handle our problems. We are to invite the Lord into every aspect of our life. We belong to Him, and He really cares about our needs.
Then we are to trust God. I’m not saying we should be so care free that we are lazy by not doing what we are supposed to do! Some people use verses like this as an excuse for not being responsible. Trust is simply letting go like Moses’ mother did when she put him in the ark. She did the right thing even though it was not popular and not permissible. And she did the best thing even though it was hard and it hurt. Holding on is one of the worst things you can do and will consume you!
Finally we must thank God as we pray. We must thank Him when He says “Yes” and when He says “No”. As Joseph Scriven wrote: “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer!
Genesis 14:10, 12 – And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there…And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
Lot is a type of lukewarm believer who doesn’t approve of the world but doesn’t leave it either. In this passage he gets caught up in a war and is taken captive. Providentially, Abram comes to his rescue, but not before the valley of sin does its damage.
The course to this valley was one of rebellion (vs. 4). The source of which is Satan, who said, “I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14:14). But sin is the root of rebellion, first tasted by man in the Garden of Eden. It was there Adam refused to obey what God said, following his wife instead of his Creator. The steps of Lot’s rebellion began with what he saw (Gen. 13:10), then what he selected (Gen. 13:11), then in the direction he slanted (Gen. 13:12), followed by where he settled (Gen. 14:12), and finally manifested by him selling out (Gen. 19:1).
The crisis in the valley of sin is never a good experience. One old preacher used to say, “Sin never leaves a man any better than it finds him.” They got stuck in the slimepits (vs. 10). Saying “I’ll quit anytime” and actually getting out are two different things. Many folks are just spinning their wheels in the slimepits of sin, going no where year after year. They also were robbed (vs. 11). They were sitting ducks for the enemy. And then Lot was taken captive (vs. 12) as a slave.
The consequences of going through this valley at first do not seem so bad. Lot is rescued by his uncle and the enemy is defeated. You would think Lot would have learned his lesson in this valley, but he goes right back to Sodom! We need to learn the lessons of the valley of sin so we are not destined to return again.
1 Kings 11:6 – And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.
“…Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth fro riches and for wisdom” (1 Kings 10:23). But something went wrong. It wasn’t that he didn’t follow the Lord, but that he didn’t follow Him “fully.” And so history records that “Solomon did evil…”
Our purpose is clear in scripture. We are to follow the Lord. It is a command. Jesus said many times, “Follow me.” Regrettably many Christians live like the Lord is supposed to follow them. They do what they want to do and then think the Lord should bless them anyway and assist them in their plans and dreams.
We have been given several patterns for following the Lord. King David is one. Although we should avoid David’s outward sins, we should nonetheless follow his heart. He loved the Lord and not once did he ever turn and worship false gods. He said:
“God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is…My soul followeth hard after thee…” (Psalm 63)
Caleb is also a pattern for us because he fully followed the Lord. He wasn’t half-hearted. He went against the crowd to please the Lord. And he did this year after year.
Our problem in following the Lord is much like Solomon’s. He compromised his convictions (vs. 2). He didn’t take the commands of God seriously and multiplied wives, horses, and money which was specifically forbidden (Deut. 17:16-19). He did this for political expedience (by marrying “princesses” (vs. 3) and personal expedience. He could get away with it, so he did it.
The Lord doesn’t force any of His children to follow Him. Our possibilities are before us. Follow the Lord and please Him, or follow someone else. What will history record about you?
2 Chronicles 15:7 – Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.
Asa didn’t follow in his father Abijah’s wicked footsteps. He broke the cycle of sin. He followed the Lord instead of his family. He broke the idols in the land, built up walls of protection, and battled against the Ethiopians. After the Asa’s victory the prophet Azariah tells him what to do to now, after the revival.
Azaraiah told him to keep his hands up (vs. 7). It’s easy to let up, slack up, and give up after a great victory. Boxers are trained to keep their hands up at all costs. Sometimes we must be rebuked and reminded (vss. 2-6) that failure is just around the corner. But thank God there is a reward (vs. 7) if we continue to be faithful. Serving God and pleasing God is well worth it!
After hearing the preaching Asa renewed the altar (vs. 8), something he never did previously. You might move a great distance away from the world by breaking idols, building walls, and battling sin, but you will not get closer to the Lord until you renew the altar. Repairing (1 Kings 18:30) and cleansing (2 Chron. 29:18) the altar are part of renewing it.
Once the altar was renewed they could make the sacrifice (vss. 9-16). The sacrifice of participation was apparent: they gathered and they gave. The sacrifice of pursuit was evident (vs. 12). There was demand and death related to seeking God. There are no other options, we must “die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31). They also sacrificed by praise (vss. 14-15) that was powerful as well as pure.
Finally, Asa finally dethroned his wicked mother Maachah (vs. 16), finishing what he started five years prior. Most revival decisions are rarely followed through. If you don’t get rid of the high places (vs. 17) now, the ramifications will destroy you, as it did Asa twenty years later (2 Chron. 16).
1 Peter 5:8 – Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
If you are saved, your soul is safe. But Satan is still your adversary and can destroy your life, your testimony, and family. Like a lion he “walketh about, seeking” the easy prey, the most vulnerable. You are not to rebuke or antagonize him; only resist. The best way to resist is to stay out of range. Don’t become easy prey.
Satan preys on the proud (vss. 5-6); those who refuse to submit to God and others He has put in their path. Their spirit of insurgence and independence actually causes God to resist them. And when the Lord pushes you away, it is harder to resist Satan.
The burdened (vs. 7) are often taken down by this lion because they are way behind the rest of the herd. They are moving much slower than everyone else thus becoming easy prey. They should cast their cares upon Jesus and let Him carry their heavy load, then they wouldn’t always be lagging behind all alone without support.
The careless (vs. 8) will survive for merely a brief stint. Not taking the things of God seriously will eventually catch up with them. Not paying attention to spiritual things will cost them dearly in the end.
Finally, it is certain that quitters (vs. 9) will be devoured by this fearless fiend. Just because they used to resist, and used to “be vigilant” means nothing now. Giving up has sealed their fate.
What will become of you? Will you become prey for Satan? Will you humble yourself and listen to others? Will you give your burdens to the Lord? Will you “be sober” and take your spiritual life seriously? Will you resist, and keep fighting till the end? Don’t be a victim, be a victor! Resist. Resist. Resist!
2 Kings 7:9 – … We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us…
A few years back at weddings preachers would ask, “If any person can show just cause why this man and woman cannot be lawfully joined together, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.” The meaning was clear: speak now, or shut up forever!
We should never hold our peace when it comes to telling the world what Christ has done for us and what He can do for them.
Christians often hold their peace because of skepticism (vs. 2). They really don’t believe God can do anything. They haven’t seen God move in years, so they simply count God out. Consequently, they hold their peace and don’t say anything.
Many hold their peace because of procrastination (vs. 3). They know what to say, but they just don’t get around to saying it. They put it off. Someone aptly said, “In just two days, tomorrow will be yesterday.” Time is fleeting, don’t hold your peace. The Lord says, “Come now” (Isa. 1:18) for salvation and for service (Ex. 3:10).
Some hold their peace because of indecisiveness (vs. 4). They just can’t make up their minds what to say, or just when to say it. They are worried about being too soft or too harsh. They are lukewarm, on the fence with a “divided heart” (Hos. 10:2). “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).
Finally, some hold their peace because of egotism (vs. 8). They really don’t care about anyone other than themselves. In the passage the lepers changed their mind because they saw what a great gift they had been given, and then thought about others who needed their help. They then found purpose in their pain and glorified God by fulfilling prophecy. Quit holding your peace. Speak up, share what God has done for you!
Josh 5:2 – At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.
Ever since the patriarch Abraham, the Jews were required to circumcised all male children. But since leaving Egypt they had failed to perform this sacred token, and the Lord wasn’t going to let them go any further until they stopped at Gilgal for surgery!
The purpose of Gilgal is clear. There is a removing. They were out of Egypt, but now it was time to get Egypt out of them. The foreskin of the heart as well as the flesh had to be removed if they were going to move beyond the wilderness stage to war stage of the journey. There was also a reviving that would take place after they healed that would enable them to go into battle.
There is a price at Gilgal however. The pain and the penitence go together. The pain is a reminder how bad sin is. But it is also a pruning process. Jesus taught that the Father would prune the vine “that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:2). A.W. Tozer once said, “Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience. The cross must kill our ‘self’ to set us free.”
Finally there is profit at Gilgal. They had to have faith (vs. 8) that God was going to protect them until they were healed. They could now have fellowship (vs. 10) around Passover lamb and really appreciate their salvation. Their food (vss. 11-12) also changed. You can’t live off of John 3:16 for ever! The manna is a type of Christ dying, the “old corn” (vs. 11) the risen Christ.
Will you stop at Gilgal? Joshua did, and he met the “captain of the host” (vs. 14): the real captain of the army. Are you willing to let Him operate on you, to get you ready to go into the land of Promise and victory? You will never make it to Jericho until you go through Gilgal. Stop at Gilgal; you must!
Mark 14:8 – She hath done what she could…
Undue pressure is everywhere especially in the church. Pressure to attend, give, and participate are often sermon themes. Many do what they do out of obligation to people instead of love for the Lord. In this statement to Mary our Lord relieves us of pressure that may be imposed on us by the brethren. But He also applies pressure if we are not doing what we can for Him.
The oil Mary poured on Jesus came from the dried roots and stems of the nard plant and was very aromatic as well as expensive, not to mention the alabaster marble like stone it was contained in! According to most calculations this ointment would have cost her a year’s salary. Mary did what she could and what she could was her best. Men may not deserve our best, but the Lord Jesus does! Do what you can, but make sure it is your best.
When Mary anointed the Lord, the fragrance filled the room. It could not be hid. But just as sure as day follows night, what she did was criticized. Do what you can despite the criticism because it will come. Just consider the source! Judas had instigated the complaints. He basically said, “She didn’t do it like I would have! I would have been more spiritually minded; more humanitarian!” Don’t let someone guilt trip you, pressuring you to do something they want you to do. Do what you can and forget the criticism!
After the criticism our Lord defends Mary’s act, and even commends her. You see, she did what she could because it mattered to Jesus! Her act is said to be “good” (vs. 6) and it glorified the Lord, not her or any man.
What she did lasted (vs. 9). We are still talking about it today. And we should do what we can because time is running out (vs. 8). As the old saying goes, “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last!” Do what you can!
Psalm 126:3 – The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
Historically and prophetically Psalm 126 is Jewish, but devotionally it is true for any Christian. If you are saved God has done great things for you! Aren’t you glad that you are shacked up, hooked up, doped up, hung up, or all washed up? An old black preacher said it like this: “Where we are you brought us. What we know you taught us. What we have you gave us. Who we are, you made us.”
Aren’t you glad your dream became a reality (vs. 1)? Before you were saved you were in captivity, held in bondage to sin and Satan. You were headed for hell without purpose and meaning in life. The dream of deliverance became a reality when Jesus saved you. Aren’t you glad God is your Father, the Holy Spirit your Comforter, Jesus your Saviour, and the Bible your guide? We don’t hope for deliverance, we have it; it is ours!
Aren’t you glad there is a song in your heart (vs. 2)? There is a filling as well as an overflowing. The “steams in the south” (vs. 4) are places where the northern rains quickly filled up the desolate valleys. Aren’t you glad the Christian life is not gloom and doom? Aren’t you glad we can laugh and sing? We have something, and Someone to sing about! We are not beggars anymore, but “heirs of God” (Rom. 8:17)! People sing when they are happy. Aren’t you glad God gave you a song?
Not only do we rejoice and experience the presence of God. We also can rely on the promises of God. Aren’t you glad God’s promises keep us going (vss. 5-6)? He tells us the reality of life – there is a sowing, and plowing always precedes it. Life is not easy and the Lord never promised that it would be. But he did promise we would reap in joy one day if we are faithful. Aren’t you glad He did?
Phil 2:12 –…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
No one is saved in this age by works, but the importance of working out what God has worked in us cannot be overstated. We should all be enrolled in a spiritual workout routine!
We should take this workout seriously – “with fear and trembling” because “it is God…in you”! The Almighty God of all creation literally dwells inside of your body if you are saved, and He expects you to do something with the truth He has revealed to you! It’s amazing how serious the world can be about a physical workout. They will sacrifice time, money, and physical comforts in order to get their bodies into shape. But many believers are so flippant and careless about the condition of their spiritual life! Some can’t even make it to Sunday school on a consistent basis.
We should also take this workout cheerfully (vs. 14). I think the key to a cheerful attitude spiritually is to see the blessings of the Christian life. We signed up for this workout when we got saved! There was no price for our salvation, but there is a price to discipleship. We are to take our cross daily (Luke 9:23) and see opposition as opportunities to grow spiritually.
Next, we should do this workout publically (vs. 15). A physical workout routine often involves getting out on the streets, or attending a public gym. It’s similar spiritually. We have to publically practice what we have learned privately. Our sinning needs to be at a minimum. We should strive to be “blameless and harmless…without rebuke”. And our shinning needs to be maximized because so many are living in utter darkness.
We need to get off our Laodicean couches and start running for the Lord. Paul didn’t want to “run in vain” (vs. 16). He wanted to be able to “rejoice” when he saw the Lord, knowing that his spiritual workout paid off. I hope that is your prayer too!
1 Sam 14:27 – … he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.
The Bible is likened to apples, bread, meat, milk, and honey. David said it was “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” In this passage Saul prevents the weary, worn warriors from tasting the honey. He is like Satan, who wants to keep you away from the sweet honey of the word of God.
We notice first the appeal of honey. Here was something that was both good and viewed as a gift. When Jacob sent his sons back to the mysterious governor of Egypt, he sent “a little honey” as token of appreciation (Gen. 43:11). It is good eat it! It is a gift from the Lord of Glory to His children – eat it!
The accessibility of the honey was apparent. It was all over the ground where they could get it, just like the Bible. It is written in a plain manner (Prov. 8:9). It also destroys bacteria. It contains vitamins B, C, D, and E. It promotes energy and healing. It helps depression, is used as an antiseptic and salve for burns and injuries. It was exactly what the soldiers needed and the honey of the word is just what you need. Eat the honey!
But Saul had animosity against the honey (vss. 24-28). He argued that they didn’t have time for stopping to eat. They had to stay busy and keep fighting. This was all wrong then, as it is today. You need to take time and make time for the word of God!
The advantage of eating honey was that it brought perception (vss. 27-29); it was proactive (vss. 29-30) as well as preventative. If you eat the honey of the word of God now, it may stop you from eating the junk food of the world later (vs. 32). You can’t keep living off of Sunday’s reserves. You need to dip your rod in the honeycomb and eat. You are too faint not too! Eat the honey!
Esther 8:11 – Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life…
Even though King Ahasuerus has hanged Haman, his decree has already been issued, and it couldn’t be changed. On the 13th day of the month Adar the slaughter of the Jews will begin. So the King issues another edict, sealed with his ring showing his favor. This decree tells the Jews to stand for their lives; to defend themselves; to fight their enemies; all with the King’s blessing.
We learn that some things can never be reversed (vs. 8). There are things in our culture and society, that are wicked and against God, and they are not going away. We have to make a choice whether we are going to let them influence us for evil or if we are going to “abstain from all appearance of evil.” The world might be going to hell, be we are not. Carnal Christians might be giving in to societal sins, but we don’t have to!
With the issuing of the new decree the Jews understood that they had a higher power to obey (vss. 10-11). The message was to draw together, defend, and destroy the enemy. The man behind the message was the King himself. And the manuscript was published (vs. 13) so it could prepare the people. It was also posted, or sent out, so all the Jews would hear the orders. We have been given our orders in the Bible. It’s time to follow them!
Once the word was spread the Jews “had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day (vs. 17).” We can have a “good day” even in bad times. They had contentment, communion, and even conversions – “And many of the people of the land became Jews” all because of the published word. Their hope and constant source of peace was in the word of the King and what they could accomplish because of it! Things are bad and they are going to get worse, but you can fight, you can stand for your life!
John 18:38 – Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?
No doubt countless people have asked this question, and numerous more have attempted to answer it. The search for truth is a confession that many profess but few have.
Many believe in relative truth. They insist that what is true for you, might not be true for me. But the Bible is absolute truth just like the laws of gravity and the rules of Mathematics. And as such, it declares truth in an untarnished way. There is a heaven and a hell; righteousness and sin; God and Satan.
Jesus Christ Himself said that the God of the Bible was the “true God” (John 17:3) and He Himself “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Any other “god” is a fraud; a fake.
The problem man has with truth is not finding it, but running from it. God wants all men to know the truth and be forgiven of their sins and saved from hell (1 Tim. 2:4). He has given us a perfect absolute revelation of truth in the King James Bible.
You can know the truth as an absolute imperative. The truth is not relative and dependent on interpretation and opinion! The God who created you seeks to save you from your sins and hell. He has given you the truth in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the written revelation called the Bible. Why not turn from all the lies of false religion (salvation by works and deeds) and turn to the God of the Bible? Jesus Christ died for your sins. You cannot save yourself. If you reject the Lord Jesus Christ you will spend eternity in hell and the rest of your life enslaved to “relative truth.” Instead, receive the truth and be set free from your sins and the punishment thereafter.
Jesus said “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32).
1 Peter 1:19 – …Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
There was a man at West Point who tried hard to achieve a perfect room inspection, and one morning he thought he had succeeded. The white gloved company commander checked every corner of the room, and the gloves came away clean. The young student was feeling pretty good and proud. But then the commander said, “Raise your left foot!” and ran his white gloved finger along the sole of his shoe. It was not a perfect inspection!
There is only one man who ever achieved a perfect inspection. His name is Jesus Christ. He lived a sinless perfect life that you and I could not live. His record is spotless. The Bible says that He “knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus Christ lived the life you and I couldn’t live and died the death that we deserved. You see, Jesus Christ did not die for sins that He committed. He was put to death for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3).
After three days He arose from the dead and He is living today! He wants to trade records with you. He will take your sins and give you His Righteousness, if you will receive Him by faith. The Bible says “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
Do you want a perfect inspection when you stand before God? You can’t get it on your own. Scripture says “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” (Prov. 20:9). Jesus Christ has earned the only perfect mark. Don’t be like the proud cadet who deceived himself into thinking he had everything clean and ready. Admit that you are a sinner in need of a Saviour. Jesus Christ will save you if you call upon him. The Bible says “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13).
Hebrews 2:3 – How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation…
There was a lady who began noticing a few bees buzzing around the attic vents of her home. Since they were few in number she wasn’t concerned and made no effort to deal with them. The summer passed by and still the woman did nothing about the ever growing city of bees in her attic. The entire attic had in fact become a hive, and the ceiling of the bedroom finally caved in under the tremendous weight of hundreds of pounds of honey and literally thousands of angry bees. Thankfully the woman escaped injury, although the damage done to her house was almost irreparable. Her neglectful attitude eventually cost her.
Maybe you are aware of sin in your life. Maybe you have felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit, reproving you for your sin, but you have refused to deal with it. One day the ceiling is going to cave in. The Bible says, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). In the end the tragedy is not that the ceiling caved in, but that you let it cave in. You can come to Jesus Christ with your sin, and He will wash you clean. The Bible says, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool”(Isa. 1:18).
Why don’t you admit that you are a sinner in need of a Saviour? Why don’t you quit pretending you can’t hear a buzzing in the attic of your heart? Please, be honest and face the problem of sin before the price of neglect comes due. Receive Jesus Christ as your Saviour before it is everlasting too late.
Pray this prayer: “Lord I know I’m a sinner and don’t want to go to hell. I believe you died for my sins and now I receive you as my Saviour. Thank you for saving me!”
Luke 10:39 – And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
Our Lord had enemies, but He also had friends, three of whom were siblings: Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. On two occasions the Bible records Him feasting with them, both times we find Martha serving and Mary sitting – sitting at Jesus’ feet. And when their brother Lazarus died, it was Mary who fell at his feet in prayer, not Martha. She learned the value of sitting at His feet.
She knelt deliberately when she sat and listened to Him teach. To her it was a privilege and a priority to hear Him speak. And she could always learn better at His feet, below him in humility and contrition. Martha was too busy serving Jesus that she couldn’t sit at His feet and learn.
When Lazarus died, it was Mary again who “fell down at his feet” (John 11:32) kneeling desperately. Before she had been learning at His feet, now she was weeping at His feet. The shortest verse in scripture sums up His response to Mary – “Jesus wept.” She moved Him to an expression of tears. If we are ever going to move the Lord, it will be at His feet!
After the raising of Lazarus, less than a week before Jesus’ crucifixion, we find Mary at His feet again (John 12:3) this time kneeling devotedly. She knew it cost something to truly worship Him. She wanted Him to have the best. For her it was an alabaster box of ointment, valued at one year’s wages. There was also criticism, as before, with her kneeling. Judas rebuked her for not selling the perfume and giving the money to the poor, but Jesus commended her for what she did, saying, “She hath wrought a good work upon me” (Matt. 26:10).
Today, why not seek for wisdom, why not weep in prayer, why not worship Him – at His feet?
Ex 17:11 – And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.
Redeemed, rescued, refreshed. These are all terms that described how God delivered Israel out of Egypt. But now they were attacked; taken by surprise. Deuteronomy tells us that the Amalekites targeted the feeble and weary that brought up the back ranks. Moses had to do something, and that something was pray! But he couldn’t “lif[t] up holy hands” (1 Tim. 2:8) indefinitely. It was easier to let them down than hold them up.
We should keep our hands up at all times because the battle is coming (vs. 8). Just when you think things are going well and Satan has left you alone – WHAM, you are attacked again! The timing is normally after a great victory, the nature of it is normally by surprise, and the certainty of it is written in stone. You better “pray without ceasing!” Keep your hands up the battle is coming.
Others are counting on you. If you don’t pray for them and intercede in their behalf who will? Your faithfulness affects more people than you may realize. Statistics show that parents who aren’t faithful to church are more likely to have kids who follow their pattern. Keep your hands up! It matters to God, and others!
If you are going to keep your hands up for an extended period of time you are going to have to accept some help (vs. 12). In this case Moses didn’t have to ask for help, Aaron and Hur volunteered it. Often pride and problems are obstacles for either offering help or receiving it. But the fact remains that you cannot do this alone.
The victory was won because of faithfulness. It paid off and was worth it all in the end. The sun will set one day for us as well. Then we can rest. Until then however, keep your hands up!
Proverbs 27:7 – The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.
Many Christians are sick today. We know this by certain symptoms: missing church, a lack of Bible reading, and a weak prayer life to name a few. But treating the symptoms will not cure the problem. The real crisis is an appetite problem. They are not hungry for God and the things of God anymore. It’s that simple.
The rudimentary cause of this is illustrated in Numbers 11 where Israel complained about the food (manna) God had given them. It all began with a lack of partition, or separation. It was the Egyptians among them (“the mixt multitude”) that started the murmuring and complaining. Their love of provisions was greater than their love for God. They wanted the illustrious food of Egypt, not the boring manna of God. This caused them to lose their perspective. They claimed that they “did eat freely in Egypt.” “Freely?” They were slaves in bondage! This unholy alliance changed their perspective. You should be careful who you allow to influence your thoughts and opinions! It may cause your appetite to diminish for God and grow for worldly things.
What can be done if this happens? Can a person get their appetite back for God? The right cure is God’s cure. In Numbers it was judgment – “they buried the people that lusted.” Today it is judgment. We must “judge ourselves” (1 Cor. 11:31) and deal with the real problem, not merely the symptoms. Getting busier for God is not the answer. Forcing ourselves to read the Bible and attend church is not the answer. We need to admit we are sick, quit eating junk, and start eating God’s manna again. Eat a little at a time until God gives you your appetite back. And then you can say, “He hath filled the hungry soul with good things…” (Luke 1:53).