Is this “The Greatest Story Ever Told”?

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I heard this on the radio this morning.  The host said, “What if I told you a story about someone who could heal all your hurts.”  Then they went on to say, “well it is not a story”.  It is the greatest story ever told.  They went on to explain that Jesus came to heal all of their hurts.  Then they just said that we should have joy over that. It was not a bad thing to say at the first hearing.  I assumed that their reference was to the movie, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” that was released in 1965 by directory George Stevens.  This is a movie adaptation of the biblical telling of Jesus of Nazareth, from his birth to his ascension, after his resurrection from the crucifixion.  Or maybe it was referring to the Gather song, “It’s Still the Greatest Story Ever Told” which sings of the coming of the messiah as the baby Jesus, and how God became his own flesh and blood creation out of love for mankind.  Now, this is the greatest story ever told.  It also happens to be true.  God became man.  The Creator became his own creation to reveal his love of his to his creation. But to say that Jesus came to heal your hurts is the greatest story is a sweet little lie, or at the minimum a very incorrect statement, and no where near the truth.

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You see, since the ancient of times, we have had great men of renown (Genesis 6:4).  We have had wise men, like Solomon to give us sage advice and provide a model of sound judgement.  Men like his father King David to show us how to protect the weak and provide for one another have been around since the beginning.  We have even had men who have walked and talked to God, men like Enoch, Job, Noah, Moses and Abraham.  We even have references to peoples hurts and sicknesses being healed in the Old and the New Testament, without it being a miracle.  The author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts was a physician himself.  God, from his throne was already reaching out to his people and healing their lands, their health, and giving them protection from their enemies.  Jesus did not need to come here for any of that kind of stuff.  Jesus did not come here for that kind of stuff.  Did Jesus heal?  Yes, he did.  Did he come here to heal, yes, but not superficially.  Does he care for you and your problems? Yes, he does.  But that is not the reason why him coming is, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”.  You see we can already do all of these things for one another, if we so chose to do.

We can provide emotional support and care.  We can provide medical treatment, and life saving measures.  We can prolong life beyond what would have been.  We can deter the effects of many diseases and even put many in remission.  We can provide food and clothing to the orphans and widows.  We can encourage one another when going through rough patches.  But what we cannot do, is restore our relationship to God.  We cannot raise ourselves from spiritual death, and make ourselves holy before God. This is what makes “The Greatest Story Ever Told”.  God sent his only Son to restore our relationship to himself.  Only God can give life.  Only God can sustain life.  Therefore, only God and bring us back to life.

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In the beginning God created man with his own hands, and gave him life.  Genesis 1:26-27 – And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 2:7 – And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Here we see the special relationship that God and man had from the very beginning.  God created man with a special vision and purpose in mind.  He created man as a model after himself and man was to be the caretaker of creation.  He was God’s representative on earth.  God planned him out, formed him with his own hands from the earth.  This shows man’s relationship to God and to his creation. The God breathed life into man.  God gave man life in an intimate and direct manner.  Then man became a living soul.  Man from the very beginning was flesh, spirit, and soul.  Man was alive and if you were to continue reading in Genesis you would see that he was in fellowship with God.  He walked and talked to God with no mediator in between, no fear. 

Then a horrible event took place.  Man was deceived by an enemy of God, who was once one of God’s chief angels.  This fallen angel wanted to God.  So he used cunning words to deceive the woman and the man that God was unfair and unjust.  This deceptive picture of God caused man to question God’s word and authority.  This led to the first sin of disobedience against God.  Because man’s image of God had been distorted by what they were told about God, they believed incorrectly, and sinned.  This is the same reason that I am writing this today.  This false image of who Jesus is and why he came is a deception that must be confronted, lest anyone come to Jesus for the wrong reasons, and miss out on the real reason he came.  Did Jesus heal people of their hurts, diseases, and deliver them from devils?  Yes, he did.  However, those were just signs to prove his authority for why he really came.  The reason he came is so much more important than just physical healing or food for your stomach.  He came to give you life, life that you have never had before.  He came to deliver you out of the hands of death.

You see sin, brought death.  Not just spiritually, but physical death also.  Diseases, famine, pestilence, injustice, mental illness, and far more are all brought about by sin.  These are not brought about by God, but by our fallen condition, caused by sin.  We have never known a day without sin, since the fall of mankind in the beginning.  This is part of the reason we cannot redeem ourselves.  We do not even have an idea of what true justice, or righteousness looks like.  But God does.  He above all knows the cost that sin has had upon us, his special creation.  Therefore, Jesus came to make us his righteousness.  He was sent by the Father because someone had to die for the sin that we were trapped in.  It had to be someone who had never sinned, nor was a receiver of the curse of sin through the bloodline of Adam. 

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  This is the statement made by God through the apostle Paul. The only payment for sin is death.  That is the only reward that sin ever brings – eternal death.  But God gives eternal life through Jesus Christ.  The apostle John recorded the words of Jesus as this, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) So, let us take a moment to reflect on these two statements made by God.  Sin, of which we are all guilty of by inheritance, action, or omission is punishable by death.  There is no alternative to this debt.  Unless the debt is paid for us. 

Now, here comes the Creator.  He loves us so much, that he created us with a special purpose and in an intimate manner and remembers the intimacy we once had.  He desires to have this intimacy once again with his creation (you and me) so much that he decides to pay the death penalty for us.  He does this though sacrificing his own son, Jesus Christ. Since Jesus died in our place, anyone who believes and accepts this payment of our death debt through the death of Jesus can be saved based on that belief. Now we who believe are brought from death to life.  We are not just spared death and given a life, but we are given eternal life.

So what is eternal life? Jesus put it like this, And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3) Eternal life is the restoration of the creation to the Creator.  We once again are able to walk in fellowship with God.  Remember, he is the source of life.  Life emanates from him.  Without him there is no life. We are tied into the source of life for eternity because he is eternal.  He does not change, nor die, and neither do we.  We have eternal life through Jesus Christ unto God the Father, sealed by the Holy Spirit.

What is the difference in what you believe? He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36) You see we must have a clear understanding of who Jesus is and why he came.  He came to do far more that just heal our hurts.  He came to restore our relationship to God himself.  He came to deliver us from death and from the wrath of God.  Those who reject him, or who do not believe on him, are already under the wrath of God.  Deliverance from the wrath of God comes in this way…

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That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

Believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Believe that he was sent by God the Father to redeem you.  Believe that Jesus did everything necessary to redeem you though his death, burial, and resurrection.  Believe from the heart is not a feeling, but a choice to fully believe this as the truth.  Belief on Jesus is what makes you righteous before God, and confession of this faith in Jesus Christ is what ties this belief to your acceptance of salvation.  This is because it is prof of your belief.  Not for God, but for yourself and for those who need to hear the truth.  God Saves… this is “The Greatest Story Ever Told”.  It is the story of how God loved you so much that he sent his son Jesus Christ to die for you, so that you could live with him.  God has done for you what you could not do.  He saved you from wrath, and death.  He gave you eternal life. 

A Letter for My Son – Proverbs 3:1-7

A Letter for My Son

My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:

A father tries his best to pass on knowledge and life skills to his son. He tries to give him all the good things that he has learned and instructs his son on the pit falls of life.  He warns him of the dangers that certain things possess. A father strives to pass on more than knowledge.  He instructs in principles for the living of a successful life.  When these principles are adhered to, they guide the listener through proper decision making when the father is no longer present to turn to. These principles of life become the everlasting wisdom of the father in the heart of his son. 

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The father also establishes clear cut rights and wrongs in actions and thinking.  These are things that must be black and white, absolute right and wrong, unbendable truths.  An example, A man should never strike a lady. Another example of such would be, A man should never take advantage of the week or elderly.  Another one from times past would be in the saying, “For God and Country”. Thus establishing the two things that a man must be loyal to.  I would add to it in this order, “For God, Family, and Country”. These are things that a man should always know are wrong and never accept any excuse to violate.  Nor should he respect or accept that any man should be allowed to violate these rules of manhood.  Therefore, these rules that the father teaches his son should never be violated by his son.  This passage of a clear line that should never be crossed is the single most important thing a father teaches a young man of integrity.  A man’s word used to be his bond, that was because fathers used to teach and model this rule of integrity.  A man who does not honor his word, has no integrity.  The end never justifies the means.  Instead, the means is what makes the end justified or not.  So we see the law and the commandment of the father.  They are principles and standards for how a good and godly man will act.  A man who can be respected by man, beast, and God.

The father’s warning is simple.  Don’t forget what I have taught you.  Then he adds one more piece of sage advice. He says, “let”- “let thine heart”.  Many men know what is right to do, and yet they do it not.  Many of men know in their heart of hearts that what they desire to do is ludicrous, and wrong; yet they do it anyway. Therefore, the wise father tells his son that it is not enough just to know what is right and wrong, but you must live it correctly.  Knowledge of right and wrong must be evidenced in you very heart.  You must allow your heart to do the right things.  It is a choice to follow good advice or to ignore it.  You can choose to live by the good principles and truthful commandments of your father or you can disregard them.  So this good father tells his son, let your hear desire to do what you now is correct.  A man should always desire to do what is good and have the backbone to abstain from what is foolish.  If he does not, then he is not a man, but a child.  For a child cannot stand on his own, as a man must. This father’s will is for his son to stand… stand for what is good and just.  He desires for his son to not walk in shame before other men, nor before his God. Then he encourages his son.

For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. The things that you have learned from me, my law and my commandments; these principles and standards of conduct, will lead to success.  They will give you a long life, you will live longer if you do not take another man’s wife, for example.  Another such example is that incurable diseases come from acts of sexual immorality.  These diseases lead to a shortened, and painful life with ruined relationships, loneliness, and anger.  Keeping your life simple and clear of ungodly desires with give you a life the is happy, healthy, and peace will follow you, all the days of your life.  They will add to the quality of your life and the life of your family.  Prosperity comes in times of peace.  We can see how this leads to prosperity.  Then he tells him about another principle for this successful life.  Something we men all too often forget.

Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:  Many men are taught how to be tough.  We are taught how to stand up and to be strong, to hide our emotions and never show weakness.  We often misinterpret these teachings.  You see being strong and containing our emotions does have some benefit in lead and motivating others.  It does also instill in us an attitude to never quit doing what is right in the face of opposition.  Endurance in the faith is a godly quality.  But when we pervert it in our hears to become cold and brutal, ignoring the pleas of others, that is wrong.   Many young men today use the “respect” issue as a means to justify the using of fear and intimidation to demand respect of others. Fear is not respect.

In reality these brutish men have done nothing to deserve respect. Imposing your will on others through fear and intimidation is nothing to respect. Instead they bring shame to their families. It is the tool of the week in heart and cowardice, especially of, those who have no respect for themselves in seeking to hide their own frailties and shortcomings. A frightened adolescent who is afraid to be a real man and open his heart to the care of others. Hardheartedness is never approved of by God.  Instead, the father tells his son to always be merciful and to always seek the truth.  This is proper in judgement. 

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Someone who cannot invoke judgement and give a reward and punishment cannot show mercy.  Now you may empathize with someone and feel sorry for them.  However, you are in no position to be merciful to them.  You can plead for mercy for them to the one who can show mercy, but you cannot provide mercy.  A father can show mercy to his children.  A judge can show mercy to a criminal.  A king can show mercy to whom he governs over.  Here the father tells his son that a good man shows mercy and upholds the truth.  He holds himself accountable.  Mercy and truth should be a part of who he is as a man of integrity.

You see he says to put them about they neck and to write them on his heart.  This causes a man to examine himself and to keep himself in check.  I have a necklace that I wear every hour of every day.  It has an anchor pendant on the chain.  I wear this for a two-fold remembrance.  The first is to remind me of the calling of the gospel of Jesus Christ upon my life.  If reminds me that he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).  The second is that it reminds me of my dad, who was seaman, and an avid fisherman. 

Now, when I look in the mirror every morning the two things, I am reminded of are the commandments of my God. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40) and the promise to be a fisher of men.  Then I am also reminded of the many things my dad had taught me about the way a man should act and feel.  You see in looking at this necklace that I put about my neck, I am reminded of proper priorities in my life. 

In putting the things into my heart, this is a purposeful consideration and a constant meditating on the things I have been taught, by God through scripture and through the law and commandments of my dad, in every situation that comes up in my day.  I am forced to examine my thoughts, and the desires of my heart when I look in the mirror and consider the teachings I have received from childhood.  Because I have chosen to let my heart accept the truth, I know in my heart what is good and godly and what is not.  By choosing to do what is good and godly I choose to live at peace with man and with God in mercy and truth.  This brings the peace.

This peace is not just from men, but in living a righteous, faithful life before God, so God and I are at peace with one another.  So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  The law and the commandments given to a son, by a God fearing father are the passing down of the keys to success and happiness in life.  They are the means of having a successful relationship with God, family, and country (men).  The advice that is passed on?  Son, always trust God.  Son, always seek the truth (God). Son, always love God.  Son, always be kind and merciful.  He says this in another way.  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.  What then is a wise man, my son?  A wise man is one who knows his limitations, understands the fear of the LORD (Jehovah), and goes in the exact opposite direction from evil and even the very appearance of it. My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: for length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. 

Love Dad…

Pray, and Pray Now – John 16:26-27


At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. – John 16:26-27

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We live in a great age in the prophetic timeline. We live in the time of the Grace of God. We now have access to God in a way that the prophets of old so desired, and yet went to their graves not realizing. Moses met with God at the burning bush, had multiple conversations with God, and even went up to Mount Sinai several times to meet with God in the exodus. He saw the Lord descend from heaven in a pillar of fire and smoke. He even had a glimpse of God as he passed by Moses.


Abraham saw the angels of God and even the Son of God, talked with God, and was even called God’s friend. However, neither of these were allowed into the holy of holies. Neither of these had God indwell them with his Holy Spirit.


Even John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets who was on the cusp of the dispensation of the Gospel of Peace and the sending of the Holy Spirit did not have access to the Father as we do today.


We have intimate access to God that was previously not know. Even when Jesus told his disciples these words, “until now you have asked nothing in my name”. But now in that day, in this day we can ask in his name. We have a guaranteed audience and have been given access to the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ. No other religion in the world can make that claim, only Christianity. Therefore, we can ask in his name.

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We are to ask and to continue to ask. Paul says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And so in this day we are to pray in his name and to pray continuously in his name. We must understand that we have full access and permission to approach God the Father in the name and authorization of Jesus Christ. For Jesus said, “I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you”. No instead he tells us that I do not need to go to the Father on your behalf, because the Father himself loves you and desires to hear from you directly. The Father loves us because we love his son and obey him. The Father knows that we love his son because we obey him. (John 14:23; John 15:16; 1 John 3:21-22; Philippians 2:11)


The Father testifies of the son on more than one occasion saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5) Because we have loved his Son the Father loves us. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). He knows that we love him because we listen to him, and we keep his commandments. (John 14:15)
But as we read what Jesus said in our text, that the Father loves us “because ye have love me (Jesus), AND have believed that I came out from God.” So then loving Jesus unto obedience is necessary, but also the believing that he is the Son of God, and that he is from God. Jesus said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me…” (John 6:39).


What then is the will of him (God the Father) that sent him (Jesus the Son of God)?
• That all that the Father gives him should not be lost, not one
• That all that Father gives him should be raised up on the last day
• That all that see and believe on him (Jesus Christ) should have everlasting life
• That all that see and believe on him (Jesus Christ) should be raised up also on the last day


Therefore we can come before the Father with boldness to lay our petition before him. To pray and to seek and to find. For he says in our text that all we need to is ask. Ask for it. Ask for what it is that you desire of a sincere and concrete heart. In other places he tell us to seek, and to seek earnestly. So then we are to seek in earnest fervent prayer. For James, the half-brother of Jesus tells us that the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16) In east-Texas we would say that man’s words “hold water”. There is weight in the fervent prayer of a righteous man. It is because of who he is, who he knows, and what they mean to one another. Trusting in someone’s words means to trust that someone. John the one whom Jesus loves, said, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) It is with great relief that Jesus tells us in our text that all we need do is to ask.

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In the time of the Temple period only the High Priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies. The High Priest had to go through quit a lengthy ritual to enter into the Holy of Holies where the presence of God dwelt. To fail at any point in the preparations could lead to his death. Now we have free access to God. We can enter his gates with full joy knowing that we need not fear death. We do not have to worry if we have been properly cleansed, because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has taken care of all the requirements and removed all uncleanliness from us. We do not have to earn the right, pay a fee, or even plead for the audience. We only have to come and ask. Simply ask. We must never fail to ask. To ask should be our first act.

If one has never asked God for anything, then they must be an unbelieving, unregenerate soul. For if we truly believe that we can have anything we need to please the living God and to be of service to him, to receive the rewards he gives to those who ask, then surely we would ask. It is true that if you do not believe, you will not ask.


Therefore,
• If any lack wisdom, let him ask of God (James 1:5)
• If any lack in our health, let him ask
• If any lack in our homes, let him ask
• If any lack in a sound mind, let him ask
• If any lack in matters of the spirit, let him ask
For we know this, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask of him?” (Luke 11:13). We do not need a formal set of words. We only need to ask. Just as we would to anyone in whom we trust.


We do not need to worry about how accurate our word order is, or how proper our speech. There is no special formula. There is only the sincere desire of the need from a pure and upright heart. Not a seeking of evil, but because of a great care for goodliness and the desire in righteousness. For how can we ask in his name and pour out a selfish desire? Lord, please listen to me for his sake (Jesus).


When I was a young man, I went over to help my dad with a plumbing issue that he had. I did not have the right tools and could not afford the tools needed to complete the task. My dad sent me to the local hardware store. He told me that I should go see the owner and explain what tools and material were needed and who they were for. Then once all the items were totaled up the owner told me all I had to do was to sign on the receipt. I told him I did not have the money for the items, he told me it was ok, because I asked for them in my father’s name, and he trusted my father’s name. He knew that my father’s name was honorable and that he would take care of the bill. I left the hardware store with everything I needed to complete the repairs because I had asked in my father’s name.


You see Jesus says, use my name when speaking to the Father. For Jesus also said, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24) We are allowed to use that honor in speaking to the Father. The honor associated with the name of the only begotten Son who the Father is well pleased in. Therefore, this should be our governance, if Christ would not pray for it then I should not either. If our desire should conflict with the desire of the Father then we should decline our will to his. Who would dare bring shame upon another’s name by asking inappropriately for something that would be out of character for the one of who’s name they are asking in?


Surely if I would have gone into that hardware store and asked for an excess of materials, or for items that were not warranted for me to use for the job I was sent for, then he owner of the store would have been wise and denied my requests. In addition, any other time I approached and used my dad’s name, then he would have had suspicions against my motives. Eventually, he would not let anyone receive goods on my dad’s name. I would have ruined the reputation of my dad’s name. Shamefully many Christians have already ruined their witness for Christ, by abusing his name. We therefore should not, cannot defile the precious name of Jesus with such a request.


What then is the “day”? For Jesus does say, “At that day ye shall ask in my name…”. It is the day in which he has returned to the Father. It is the day in which the Comforter has been sent unto us. In reading the preceding chapter we see that this in all in the context of persecution. In that day, when persecutions arise, you will ask of the Father in my name. One thing is guaranteed that when persecutions arise so does the voices of the children of God.


Was not Gideon found hidden in the winepress while threshing his wheat in order that the Midianites might not discover him? Did not Israel turn to the Lord and cry to him for deliverance because of the persecution of the Midianites? Did the Lord then answer, and give Gideon all that was needed to deliver Israel from the Midianites, and return the prosperity of the land? Undeservedly, they asked. The Lord was gracious in his deliverance. Why? Because he loved them and desired to do good things for them.


The Lord God desires to do good for you.
Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Ephesians 2:8-10 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Psalms 37:4 – Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Titus 2:14 – Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.


If you are in persecution for Christ, then you shall ask in his name, and it shall be done unto you. When they beat upon for your testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pray, and ask. The Holy Spirit will equip you in your time of need. For the scripture reads, “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10: 19-20)


We pray not only in persecution, but also in deliverance and in the days of plenty. We then give thanks and ask for the continued blessings of God. We ask for wisdom to remain obedient and to never become slack in our praises. Ask and he will give you, because he loves you, and desires good things for you. Pray therefor for your real need. The hunger and desire to the believing is to be in his presence. Does not he say, in that day YOU WILL ASK?


You will ask because it will be your God given desire to pray. The Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance all things that we have been taught concerning the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit who prays for us and who teaches us to pray. So in our time of Joy we ask, and in our time of trial we ask. In the suffering of those we love, we ask. We ask in his name. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) For the labor of which we must set upon is intensive. We have not yet entered into his rest, for those who have entered into rest, labor no more. We instead look to him and pray in his name, our high priest unto God the Father, knowing that he has provisioned for us access to the grace of God. We can labor then and not faith, because we can pray, and ask what we will, for his will. We can pray, and pray without ceasing. For in that day, this day, we can ask what we will of the Father in Jesus’ name and the Father will give to us, because of the love for us and the honor to the Son. The Father is honored that the Son has been obedient and glorified the Father with his children. Every good Father loves his children. Pray, and pray now.

Some Arguments Don’t Make Sense..

Not so long ago I was talking to my wife in our dining room.  We had a guest over who had dropped by and were enjoying one another’s company.  I had finished whatever I was snacking on and went to discard the trash into the waste basket.  Seeing the trash can reminded me of something that had occurred earlier in the day. I decided that I would share it with my wife.  I told her that someone had given me a free study bible, but that I didn’t recognize the name of it.  So I went online and tried to find out as much as I could about the bible.  The bible was recently released in 1985 and it was reportedly a bible that was to have been translated from the original Greek and Hebrew texts.  I told my wife upon discovering this information I promptly through the book away.  This was of no surprise to her, but to our guest… well you should have seen the look on her face.

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I told her that that was not the bible, despite what the cover may have said.  The number one clue is that is says that it is translated from the original Hebrew and Greek, yet the sight did not say if it was the Messianic and Received Text or the Septuagint.  In fact is was very difficult to find anything on the translation or transliteration of the text of this version of the Bible.  This would indicate that either the publisher or the authors were ignorant or lying.  It did indicate that it was in a modern English version and therefore easier to read.  That would incline my thoughts that it was a transliteration, or paraphrased bible, as many are today.  This is the main argument that most new bible versions make.  The original translation and all before this one, were not quite accurate.  They were unreadable do to ancient English words, and their new version is more easily understood and more accurate to the intent of the original texts… of which do not exist.   

Some arguments just do not make sense.  What I am talking about is that many people have come to the belief that the King James Bible was written in Old English and is harder to understand than modern versions.  I believe that this is just because the lie has been told so many times, that it has become accepted as the truth.  Unfortunately, the truth is not even sought after.  The truth is that the King James bible is written in modern English.  Here is an example, below it the Lord’s Payer (Our Father), which is something that most all of us are familiar with from the King James version of the Bible. 

The Lord’s Prayer King James Version (KJV)

 9 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.  11 Give us this day our daily bread.  12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

 -Matthew 6:9-13 (https://www.lords-prayer-words.com/king_james_version_kjv.html)

The same thing if written in Old English would appear as:

Example of Old English

The Lord’s Prayer (Our Father)

Fæder ure ðu ðe eart on heofenum si ðin nama gehalgod to-becume ðin rice geweorþe ðin willa on eorðan swa swa on heofenum.  Urne ge dæghwamlican hlaf syle us to-deag and forgyf us ure gyltas swa swa we forgifaþ urum gyltendum ane ne gelæde ðu us on costnunge ac alys us of yfle.

(https://www.thoughtco.com/old-english-anglo-saxon-1691449)

I think that it is relatively easy to see the difference in the King James Version and the Old English version.  The King James is clearly written in modern English and is quite understandable in its delivery of the subject and the matter of prayer.  With a little work on ones English vocabulary, using a modern dictionary, we would have no difficulty in knowing the definition of any word we could not readily understand.  This is because the words are immediately identifiable in modern English.

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Now to look at another point.  Are the “latest and greatest” versions of the bible easier to understand than the English of the King James version?  Well, let us take a look at just one verse.  Psalms 12:6 is a great verse to consider.  The reason why is that if we believe that the bible is the inspired word of God and is therefore complete and authoritative then we should pay attention to this verse.  In the King James which comes from the Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Greek Textus Receptus which was used by the earliest Christians, it reads as follows.

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. – Psalms 12:6 KJV

We believe this, correct?  The words of the LORD (Jehovah) are pure.  They have been tried in a furnace like silver is.  They have been done so seven times, meaning that they are completely pure, and therefore do not need to be corrected by man.  Is that what we believe?  Well, let us take a look at this same verse in The Message Bible.  Let us see how they have improved the text and made it easier to understand.

God’s words are pure words, Pure silver words refined seven times In the fires of his word-kiln, Pure on earth as well as in heaven. -Psalm 12:6 MSG

Let us look at the obvious first.  How many of you know what a word-kiln is?  How many have even heard of such a thing?  Is this just some made up word to make the word furnace easier to understand?  I mean a furnace seems like a good word to put an image in your mind of a something that is extremely hot and used to purify precious metals in.  But the word-kiln?  Well, there is a reason for your not understanding.  It is a made up word that is a variation of an Old English word.

There is no word-kiln that I could find.  But there is a kiln and it is an Old English word which means an oven, or furnace.  It has it’s origins from the Latin “culina” meaning “kitchen”.  So, in making the bible more understandable to modern Christians he changed the wording to a language that no one has spoken since around A.D. 1150. Well maybe it was just this one thing in this translation, after all many of the original translators from the Masoretic texts had to revise their version as they grew in knowledge of Greek and Hebrew.  It would be possible except it is not a translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts at all.

Now if you read the publishers advertisements on this bible version, you will see things like “translation from the original languages” that “accurately communicates the original Hebrew and Greek”, and other such claims.  However, the author did not set out to make a more accurate translation of the bible.  Instead he noted, “his congregation was bored with the Biblical text as they knew it, and so, in order to stimulate them, he wrote a paraphrase”.  (http://www.bible-researcher.com/themessage.html

This is quite a difference from having a bible in your hand that you can believe is the authoritative word of God.  Instead you have the opinion of a man, who may have done some light translations, but then added to that his own meaning, in order to liven up the text.  He was just trying to help God out, because it appears that God, in his infinite wisdom, had obviously fallen short in reaching his congregation.  I don’t know how the devil talks to such men to pervert the very text they claim to believe in.  But he is not the only one who has been mislead by men and devil. It is clear in this referenced verse that his paraphrase of the verse has changed the meaning of the verse altogether.  In the Messianic Text version (KJV) God says that his words are completely pure, while in the MSG paraphrase it says that Gods words are pure silver words.  This takes away the everlasting context from the Word of God.  In other words… LOL the Word of God may have been good and relevant at the time God gave them, but not so much today, or in our current circumstance.  This is a dangerous, humanistic point of view.  Still not convinced?  Here is another one of many:

Romans 9:27-28 (KJV)

27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

Compared to the same verses in The Message Bible.

Romans -:27-28 (MSG)

27 Isaiah maintained this same emphasis: If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled “chosen of God,” They’d be numbers still, not names; salvation comes by personal selection. 28 God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus.

Well… do I need to go into this one?  OK, I will just to see if you see the same things that I see.  In the first verse there is passion in the heart of Isaiah (Esaias).  He is crying and pleading for Israel.  In the KJV we see that Isaiah is warning Israel that not everyone who is a citizen of Israel with be saved.  No matter how many there are, only a small fragment will be saved.  Because God is just and he will complete his work of righteousness, no matter they are prepared or not.  This is quite a different view of the text given by the MSG, whose main concern seems to be with arithmetic.  While it is still true that God call us all individually, it is of more concern that God can call a nation, and still not save the entirety of a nation.  There you see that the paraphrase version once again missed the meaning of the verse and stripped God of his authority to judge in righteousness. 

This is only one of many new versions of the bible that are out there.  They all have these smooth-talking words that sound good and great, but they totally miss the meaning of the text and the character of God.  What is worse is the subconscious effect on how we see the authority of God.  I cannot tell you how many times, as a preacher, that someone has come up to me and asked, what version should I read?  I tell them there is only one Bible, the rest are impersonators.  This one we were able to debunk in an easy textual criticism and research with a quick google on the authorship of the version.  Other versions we have to go deeper into the authorship, the texts, and the political climate, and financial reasoning for their releases. 

If you ask me which English version of the bible to use, I will always say to use the oldest and most reliable version that has been around for over 400 years and who the devil has been trying to discredit and burn since before it’s inception, the King James, Authorized Version of the Holy Bible.

Martyrs of Nigeria

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116.15)

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I read today from, The Christian Post, about Reverend Silas Ali of Evangelical Church of Winning All, and how he was brutally murdered. This church is located in Kaduna State, Nigeria.  Their pastor’s remains were found after a search was made when he had come up missing.  The police speculate that he was attacked around Kibori, near Asha-Awuce, where his body was found.  He had been mercilessly hacked to death by machetes.  While the assailant(s) are unknow, there is a pattern of Christians being killed Nigeria without any signs of relief. 

The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law repots that thousands of Christians have been killed in Nigeria.  They report that at minimum of 3,462 Christians have been killed in just 300 days.  They have been killed by Islamic extremists, and the government appears to be helpless to deter the genocide. [1]

We need to pray for Nigeria and for our Christian brother and sisters that are in harms way.  We need to pray for their strengthening and faithfulness.  As the apostle Paul says, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, … that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love…” (Ephesians 3)

We need to pray for the conversion of the souls of the Islamic extremists.  We need to pray that the Lord will open their eyes to the truth.  The truth that Jesus is the Son of God.  We need to pray that their hearts will be made ready for the planting of the seed and that they will receive watering of the seed of the Word, and that this will flourish into a white field ripened for harvest.  For we do not war against the individuals who commit such atrocities, but rather the spiritual principalities who have blinded the unfortunate followers of radical Islam.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

We must also encourage one another in this life and remind one another that we serve a God of the living, not the dead.  For the psalmist says, “For though hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from failing.   I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 116:8-9).  Who is this God?  Why he is the Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified and was buried, and then triumphantly defeated death, by raising himself from the grave.  It was he who left us no doubt when he said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:32) 

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What then do we have to fear of men?  Though they kill the body, they cannot kill the soul.  For the soul lives on.  Those who love the Lord and die for him are greatly loved.  The Lord spoke to us in the psalmist and let us know, “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”  What a labor of love it is towards the Lord God to lay down one’s own life for his sake.  The LORD loves and rewards those who are faithful unto death.  These extremists who think that they do God a favor by killing his children have only joined together the Father with his loved ones and have heaped coal upon their souls.  We should pray for their salvation, because they act in ignorance.  They have been deceived into thinking they are doing a favor for God and gained his approval.  Instead, they have gained his wrath to be poured out upon them, in everlasting torment in the Lake of Fire which was made for the Devil and his angels.  Much like Paul who was deceived by the foolish teachings of his own religion and persecuted the children of God, these men have gone astray.  However, like Paul, they can be made to see the error of their way, through the Lord Jesus Christ.  They can be given the opportunity to see, and hear, and to repent and turn to the God who loves them. We pray therefore that they will see the truth in Jesus Christ and come to repentance, and then reproduce disciples who love the Lord Jesus Christ. 

References

Kumar, A. (2021, September 13). Migerian Pastor Macheted to death; body foung by search party. Retrieved from The Christian Post: https://www.christianpost.com/


[1] (Kumar, 2021)

Is It Lawful to Put Away Your Wife -Just Because?

The Christian Husband and Divorce

Photo by L.N. Smith, 5 December 2008

I am amazed at how many professing Christians get divorced.  One study finds that a person who has strong religious beliefs has a risk of divorce that is 14 percent less than those who do not have strong religious beliefs, in the United States.  Something that I found interesting is that cohabitating prior to marriage actually increases the chance of divorce by 40 percent. [1] The numbers of divorced Christians may include the ones who have previously divorced prior to becoming Christians and therefore may have skewed the numbers a bit.  In addition, many Americans profess to be Christian but rarely attend weekly church services.

Of these who call themselves Christians and divorce or separated are reported to have these following beliefs, according to Pew Research [2]

Divorced or Separated Statistics on Beliefs

69% Believe in God with absolute certainty

57% Believe that religion is important to one’s life

32% Attend Church Services at least once a week

61% Pray on a daily basis

25% Participate in prayer groups, Scripture Study groups, or in religious education

34% Consider religion as a source of guidance on what is right and wrong

31% Believe in absolutes of right and wrong

39% Read scripture at least once a week

36% Believe that the scriptures should be taken literally

73% Believe in Heaven

60% Believe in Hell

These are frightening statistics for me as a Pastor.  That means that most of the people who call themselves Christians, are not.  It also means that most those who are, are confused, and mislead.  They are confused and mislead because they have listened to what the world says a Christian is and have not taken the authority of scripture seriously in their lives.  God call this foolishness, and it is dangerous.  Even at looking at this one statistic of divorce, we can see that worldliness has had a devastating effect on our Christian homes.  We see that in these broken families that 69% believe in God and that they believe in Heaven.  However, we also see that only 36% believe that scripture can be taken seriously.  They have no definite sense of right and wrong morality.  They have instead been seduced into the philosophy of situational ethics.  This stance takes the position that there are no absolute codes of moral context to ethics, instead decision is made depending upon the context of the situation.  So then, it is not wrong to have an abortion if the lady does not feel equipped to raise a child, instead of seeing the unborn baby as an image bearer of God and a special gift given by God to the mother, and understanding that taking of a life is wrong, especially if the life is totally defenseless and cannot speak for itself. 

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These professing Christians are actually not Christians at all.  They do not attend bible study groups, church services, read scripture for themselves.  They do not pray, because they do not think that God hears them, will answer, or even cares.  All of this is from their own self-imposed ignorance of God.  No, they may say that they believe in God, but in practice they do not.  This is why their families are in shambles and reeling in divorce. 

Now, I have upset some of you.  Well, I can only say read on, because this letter is written in love.  My heart is broken over the divorce rate of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  So then we will look at what God says.  In just one area of this debacle. We will deal with the husbands, “so-called”, rights of divorce.  You know… “boo hoo, my wife doesn’t do everything I want…” or “I’ve grown bored and need to live life…”, or what ever your spur of the moment, “just because” reason for seeking a divorce from your devoted and loving wife.  You see here in this scripture; we see the Pharisees came to ask Jesus about this very issue.  Now the Pharisees were the religious elite.  They spent years in seminary, they knew the 1st five books by heart.  They were the teachers of the law.  They sat in on the counsels to determine if a law was broken and if there was a penalty to be paid.

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?  And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matthew 19:3-6)

Do you see that?  These fellers thought that they would be slick.  They tried to catch Jesus off guard.  The know what the actual will of God was.  They also knew why Moses allowed Divorce.  They knew that the covenant of a man and a woman was to be an example of the covenant between God and man.  They knew these things and more that we are not going to discuss right now that concerned marriage.  But we will look at the husbands’ responsibilities in the marriage toward his wife and the response that Jesus gave concerning that.  They thought that they would be able to accuse him before the Law, because Moses had allowed divorce.  So, if he said that is was Lawful then this gave them authority, but if he said that it is not lawful then they would say that he did not honor Moses or the Law, or the prophets. 

But instead of Jesus being caught off guard, he went to a time that superseded the Law. This is because his priesthood is superior to the priesthood of Aaron.  Aarons priest hood was anchored in the Law.  But Jesus’ priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek.  This priesthood is preceding to the priesthood of Aaron and of the Law of Moses.  Jesus, therefore, goes back to the beginning.  He can do this because he was there, in the beginning.  All things were made by him, and without him was nothing made that was made.  Jesus is an eyewitness to the war in heaven and the affairs of the Garden. See, Jesus said, “at the beginning made the male and female.”  This means that God purposed the sexes and created them distinctly for a specific reason.  This purpose of the man and the woman to unite as one, marriage, would be the very reason why a man was to leave his parents, and woman to leave her home.  This is their purpose, not to be single, not to play the field, and most certainly not to have casual sex.  But we men are a selfish bunch.

We love to put our own needs and desires above anyone else’s.  Why not we are the strong ones, who have to go out and show our dominance in the home and in the workplace.  We are the “king of the house”.   Husbands are those of us who should no longer need to “sow our oats”.  We have put those childish things aside.  We should instead show do respect to our wives and a singleness of heart.  Even as a Christian we should show do respect to God for who he is and have a singleness of heart towards Christ Jesus who is our bridegroom. 

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Saint Peter puts it like this, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7) We should have an understanding that we are the provider and the safety and the strong hold for our wives.  We are their protector.  We are to protect them from the harm that comes from without the sanctuary that is our marriage.  We must realize that we are not put in authority as a husband to rule over them, but to help them.  We are not better than they are, we are both heirs of righteousness in Jesus Christ as a couple.  We are the one flesh that we were made by God to be.  Remember what God said in Genesis? “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This is the cause… to cleave to his wife and become one flesh.  Shall a man divorce his own hand?  Or shall a man remove his own eye for “just because”? This word cleave means to hold fast to or to cling to.  The husband is to hold on to his wife and not let go. 

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.. “ (Ephesians 5:28-31)  Ok wait a minute.  This is a deep concept here.  You hear what the saint says here?  He said the same thing I just did.  No healthy, in his right mind, man hates his own flesh.  It is in our DNA to protect ourselves from harm.  It is our instinct to protect ourselves from harm.  That is why we have that little chemical that flows through our veins and muscles that gives us the emergency burst of energy we need for a “flight or fight” response to danger. This is saying that we husbands are of one flesh with our wives and that we should treat a threat against our marriage in the same manner as we would a threat to our own body.  We should fight unto death or take our wife and flee.  Especially where sexual sins are concerned, we should flee and not allow ourselves to be tempted. 

Before we move on out of this chapter in Ephesians, you better get your bible out!  Paul compares the marriage of a husband and wife to the relationship of the Church and Christ. Even as Christ is to present his bride spotless before God the Father, so are to present you wife spotless before Christ.  What? You say?  You don’t believe me?  Listen to Jesus’ very own words on divorce, “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (Matthew 5:32) What a shameful mess we are in today that divorce is so vast in the church. Husband! Present you wife and your marriage as a sweet smelling incense before the throne of the Lamb. 

The least of the Apostles, who was born out of season says that we should honor our wives out of love. Listen to what he wrote the church of Ephesus and Colossae.

  • Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. (Colossians 3:19)
  • Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:25)

Wow, Paul says that a husband should not only love his wife but to love her sacrificially.  This is not a sexual love.  It is not even a “feeling” of “being-in-love”, no sir this is a mentally committed love that chooses to put the wife’s needs above his own selfish desires.  This is the love that God gives us.  This is the love that God expects from us towards him.  This is how he expects the husband to demonstrate his love for God, in that he should love his wife in the same manner.  This is the love you wife deserves, and it is the love that you deserve to give her. That is why the Apostle Paul also tells us, “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) Husband pay close attention, he says first love you wife, then the wife should show you do reverence. Not the other way around.  Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. (1 Corinthians 7:3)

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How do we do this?  Well, we must keep in mind that God gave us our wife as a help-mate.  The husband and the wife are a team.  We are to share intimacy in all levels of our lives.  We should know that we have been given to one another as a blessing from God.  This life is hard and has all kinds of trials and distractions.  There are many hardships, and the heart of man is a lonely place.  That is why we have been given a wife.  To share in these moments of traveling from hilltops to valleys.  To support one another and encourage one another in the hard times, to cry with in the times of heartbreak, and to rejoice with in times of joy.  This is the relationship that God lives with us, through our wives. God gives us wisdom in this.

Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

We would do well to remember that this world has perverted the institution of marriage, and the sanctity of the wedding bed.  God gave us this gift of one wife.  We should consider it an honorable institution and one worth fighting for.  There are great rewards in marriage and there are terrible consequences to walking away from it, once we have taken a covenant vow before God.

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)

So is it lawful for a man to put his wife away for any reason (just because)?  According to man, it may be done.  However, according to God, No it is unlawful.


[1] (Wilkinson and Finkbeiner, LLP, n.d.)

[2] (Pew Research Center, 2021)

Psalm 56 – Times of Distress

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Many of us are facing great distress in these days.  COVID has taken loved ones from us, or they are currently fighting against this virus and it’s ravaging effects on our loved one, maybe upon you.  I know of one young lady who was perfectly health and then contracted this virus.  Although she survived the virus, it made devastating changes in her health.  Causing her blood to thicken and as a result she has suffered a debilitating stroke. 

Some of use not only are dealing with these types of things, but we have also lost confidence in our government and our sources of information in the media.  It seems that every report from the government, and the media, contradicts the last thing that we have heard.  The only thing we know for sure is that the government is powerless to confront this virus and to protect it’s citizenry from it.

Meanwhile, the other troubles of life continue at an alarming pace.  We have lost loved ones, not only to COVID and it’s related effects, but to cancer, heart decease, and other chronic conditions.  We may have had more personal disasters like loss of employment, loss of transportation, and loss of a place to lay our heads at night.  The times we are living in seem to compound these issues and have taken a toll on our families.

Some of us have had to separate from our loved ones, not only do to isolation and death, but in divorce.  We are dealing with emotions of loss, betrayal, and frustration.  It seems that we have no recourse or no place to turn to for help.  We feel as if the whole world is against us, and that God is nowhere to be found.  My heart breaks as I look out of my window and see all the things that are working to tear us apart. These troubles make us feel overwhelmed and defeated. 

If this is the way you feel, then I encourage you to read Psalm 56. In this Psalm, that is connected to David when he was seized by the Philistines in Gath (possibly in 1 Samuel 21).  This Psalm is described as a lament with a strong emphasis that confesses trust in God.

Now David was under great distress.  We know this because he mentions, “he fighting daily oppreseth me”, “Mine enemies would daily swallow me up”, and “they wait for my soul”.  Is this the way that you are feeling?  Do you feel like you are just being swallowed up with everything that is going on around you?  Are you falling into a deep pit like David is here in this Psalm?  If so, then please continue with me as we see how David handled these powerful emotions of vulnerability and loneliness. For in this plea of David to the Most High we can see that David has not lost his hope.  David despite the loss of everything he had, and despite the father of his best friend and his one-time mentor desired to kill him with all the resources and reaches of king.  A king who hunted David so hard that he went to his enemies for a place to hide.  This desperate man, turned to the one who he knew he could trust.

David began, “Be merciful unto me, O God”.  David sought the mercy of God.  David understood that God is the one who could turn events around.  He also knew that if God chose to do nothing, that God was still God.  David needed for God to look at him and his situation.  David understood that God can change his predicament. This shows that David trusted God that if he would listen to his pleas, that God would be faithful and deliver him.  So, he sought the mercies of God.  He explained to God why he needed his aid.  David was surrounded and had no place to hide from his enemies.  There was no one that he could trust. 

David said, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”  What an amazing thing to say to God.  Notice that he did not blame God.  David did not ask God, “Where are you?”  Instead, David told God I seek you because I am afraid, and I know that anytime I have been afraid, I have sought you.  I seek you God because I know you have mercies that are revived daily.  The David goes even further. David tells God that I will praise you in your word.  David has trust in the word of the Lord.  What God has said he will fulfill.  David says these things, “In God I will praise…”, “I will trust in thee”, “I have put my trust in thee”, “I will not fear what flesh may do to me”, and “this I know; God is for me”

So here we see a proper response in our time of distress.

  • Understand the Lord is sovereign
  • Seek the Lord’s mercy
  • Praise the Lord in his Word
  • Put your full trust in the Lord, not men
  • Have confidence that when you cry, the Lord hears you
  • Know this… God is for you (you are his child)
  • Know this… God honors his Word (he is faithful)
  • Know this… God keeps his Vows (his word is he bond)
  • Remember that God delivered you from death
  • Remember that God keeps us from failing, because he desires us to walk with him. (You are important to God)

What an amazing God we serve in faith.  We trust him because in our past he has proven himself to be trustworthy – even when were not.  He loves us with an unconditional and unfailing love. God commended his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  He did this so that anyone who believes in him (Jesus), they can have eternal life.  No earning it, no trying to justify why you should deserve it.  No, not one single thing other than believing that Jesus is the Son of God and the one who bore our sin upon his back and dies in our place on the cross at calvary.  Believing that Jesus is the Lamb of God who was sacrificed to justify the forgiveness of your sin is what God has said, and that he is faithful to his Word. 

Scripture tells us the God is love.  We know this because it is God who laid down his own life for us.  Now knowing this, that we believe in Jesus and trust in God, we know that God loves us.  Therefore, since God is love and he loves us then we should not walk in fear.  We know that we can trust him in ever situation we find ourselves in.  David put it this way, in this Psalm, “When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know’ for God is for me.”  We, who are believers on Jesus Christ, can say the same thing in confidence.  “When I cry to God, I know that he will defend me.” 

Therefore, in our distress, we can cry to the Lord and give thanks and praise to the one who delivers us out of all our miseries. We can have joy knowing that he is our defender and our shield.  Isaiah wrote, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when though walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” (Isaiah 43:2) Now isn’t that promise a reason for praise? 

Thoughts About Nehemiah

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The name Nehemiah means Comforted of Jehovah.  As we read through the book of Nehemiah we can surely see how God was the only comfort for Nehemiah. He faced insurmountable odds of completing such an enormous task. God shows through Nehemiah that what ever tasks he sets us to, that he will be faithful to equip, defend, and enable us to the completion his ordained will, and for the glory of his name. God will leave or abandon us, and God remains faithful to his promises. He is a God who redeems and sanctifies.

The book of Ezra told of the events of the Jews return to their homeland after their exile to Babylon, for seeking other gods.  From Ezra we heard about the near 50,000 former captives that had returned to Palestine. We also see Ezra’s struggles in rebuilding the Temple and the great efforts of Ezra to re-educate the Jews on their Hebrew ancestry and the Law of Moses. 

The book of Nehemiah continues this story with Nehemiah receiving grave news concerning the state of things in Jerusalem.  In this continuation of the saga of the restoration of Israel we see the providence of God, and the intricacy of his planning.  God has positioned Nehemiah in a position that gives him access and favor of King Artaxerxes.  We also are given a proper manor in which we should deal with situations of great distress that are out of our hands.

Nehemiah has received word that the city and survivors in Jerusalem are, “in great affliction and reproach.” In addition, Nehemiah is told that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and the gates lay destroyed by fire. This leaves the city defenseless to bands of marauders and enemies of the Jews. There is no sense of cohesion, nor security from within or without.  In learning of these things, Nehemiah weeps and mourns in fasting and prayer for days.  He pleads with God for mercy and confesses the sins of his nation.  He reminds God of his promise to restore Israel if they repented and returned to keep his commandments.  Then Nehemiah calls to the Lord that he knows that the Lord has indeed redeemed his people by his great power and his strong hand, and that abandoning his children after delivering them is not in his nature.  Then we see that God opens the door for Nehemiah to come to Jerusalem with the blessings of King Artaxerxes, and with the full authority of the king and his protections to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. 

In this exchange we see that Nehemiah not only wept, confessed sin, and sought the Lord before he did anything else, but in the waiting on the Lord, Nehemiah also made plans and preparations for when the Lord would answer him.  Oh, what a model of faith we see in Nehemiah.  This is the constant pattern we see in the book of Nehemiah.  We should take note of this faith and responsibility to God that Nehemiah demonstrates.  For every obstacle that presented itself in attempts to thwart Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the wall and the re-education of the Jews towards their heritage and the Law of Moses was met with prayer and seeking of God first. God answered Nehemiah faithfully with resources, protections, and wisdom. 

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Jewish tradition tells us that Nehemiah is the author of this book. There is such detail and firsthand knowledge concerning the events which took place in this volume that leads to Nehemiah as the author of this chronicle. There is not knowledge of the life of Nehemiah prior to this event.  However, we can ascertain that he was raised in teachings and study of the scriptures.  We can also see that since he was the cup bearer to the king, he must have been a man of integrity.  King Artaxerxes himself must have been very familiar with Nehemiah’s character and attitudes, because he noticed a change in Nehemiah’s demeanor.  In addition, Nehemiah was a very trusted servant who was given the authority of the king as his Governor over Palestine. How great a witness we could have if we, as Christians walked in the integrity of the Lord, and in whom was no reproach found from our secular authorities appointed over us. For it is God who appoints kings of nations, not men.

Nehemiah shows us the importance of living a godly life, in a secular work environment.  Nehemiah was not a priest, nor was he some great prophet.  He was a single man, who feared God, loved his people, and endured many hardships.  God uses people from all corners of life, and every kind of careers. Surely each one of our secular jobs is a mission field that the Lord has appointed us to. Give thanks to the Lord for where you are today and plan for where he leads you tomorrow.

Paul Peterson on Evangelism

Paul Peterson wrote an article for Lifeway Research that was released on March 25, 2021 called, From Prayer to Practice: 4 Keys to Ignite Evangelism in the Local Church. In this article he sited a research assessment from 2019 that said, “results revealed that Hispanics (36%) and African Americans (29%) pray daily for evangelistic opportunities. Additionally, 68% of Hispanics had spoken to someone about becoming a Christian in the last six months, and 71% had invited at least one person to church.” He also mentioned that over half of the respondents did not share the gospel with anyone in the past 6 months prior to taking the survey.

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If you have ever wondered what happened to “In God We Trust”, and how men came to dress like women, and killing babies became the norm of society. Did you ever wonder how it is that someone who stands for pro-life can be identified as a domestic terrorist because they expose the truth of how babies are murdered for money? Well this might be the answer. We have stopped being the light of the world. The World System lives in darkness. Without the light they can no longer see the Way of Christ.

Matthew 5:14-16 KJV Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

We were commissioned to carry the light. We are told to hunger and thirst after righteousness. We are told to be an example of righteousness. We are told to teach, baptize, and make disciples until the end of the world. Here are a few verses for you to look up and study on being an example:

  • Matthew 5:16 – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
  • 1 Timothy 4:12 – Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
  • Ephesians 5:1-33 – Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; …
  • 1 Corinthians 15:33 – Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
  • James 4:17 – Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth [it] not, to him it is sin.
  • Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
  • Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
  • Colossians 3:17 – And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
  • Romans 12:2 – And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
  • 1 Peter 4:16 – Yet if [any man suffer] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
  • James 1:19 – Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
  • Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these thing

Where do you fit into those numbers found in the research? Are you in the active side? Or are you in the inactive side? Are you a light to those around you of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Or have you conformed to the world? Do you accept abortion, homosexuality, and feminism of men as just a persons choice, or do you identify them as the sins that they are? Is God a liar, or is man?

I am not asking you to give up on loved ones who are walking in those things or supporting them. I am letting you know that we need to pray for them. We need to show them the truth in what we say, and in what we do. We need to let them see that God does love them and wants them to know who he is and to love him also. God is not their enemy, and neither are we. They of course, are not our enemies either.

They have been deceived and need to be shown the truth. First that there is absolute truth. Second that they are trapped in death. Third there is a way out of the death, shame, and loneliness in Christ Jesus. We need to pray for them, but we also need to pray for one another and ourselves. That we may be faithful to the calling that we have received, and that we would do all things in love and not in anger, pride, or in superficial judgement. I hope that you will pray with me, and then that we would all get our hands and feet busy in our calling for the spread of the Gospel of Christ. Here is the article from Lifeway Research…https://lifewayresearch.com/2021/03/25/from-prayer-to-practice-4-keys-to-ignite-evangelism-in-the-local-church/?ecid=PDM233821&bid=753368757

Survey of the Epistle of James

Survey of James

            James is often referred to as the guide to practical Christian living.  That is to say that it gives us a picture of how we should put in effect the things we have seen, and heard concerning Jesus Christ.  James answers the questions concerning how a Christian should live out Grace in relation to the Law.  James is one of the letters known as the General Epistles.  The General Epistles are sometimes referred to as “Universal” or “Catholic” letters because they are not addressed to a specific church location.  These letters include 1st and 2nd Peter, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, the letter from Jude (the half-brother of Jesus), and of course James.

Authorship

The author of this epistle identifies himself as James (1:1) and only claims to be “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”.  There are several men named James in the New Testament writings.  We have a need to examine the information available, in these documents, concerning these men to determine the authorship of this jewel of church doctrine we refer to as the Epistle of James.

James: the son of Zebedee and Salome; who is the elder brother of the apostle John.  This James was one of the twelve selected by Jesus to be his closest disciples and his apostles.  He was a fisherman by trade and it appears that he was a partner with the apostle Peter (Matthew 20:20; 27:56). This James, along with John and Peter were a part of the inner circle of the apostles and was privy to events that most of the disciple would not have seen. He was allowed to see: the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2); the raising of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:37-43); and he was present with Jesus at the prayer and encouragement of Jesus in the garden of gethsemane (Mark 14:33-35).  He was called to be an apostle (Matthew 4:21-22; 10:2; Mark 1:19-20; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13) by Jesus Christ.  This James and his younger brother John was also referred to as a son of thunder because if their unbridled passion for Jesus (Mark 3:17).  As an apostle he would have been witness to many great things that Jesus had done in his ministry and of the resurrection. However, despite all of the great reasoning that this James might have been the author, there is one thing that excludes the possibility.  The Apostle James was the first Apostle to be martyred in 44 A.D by King Herod (Acts 12:1-2).  This letter is believed to have been written between 45-50 A.D. In addition, the council of Jerusalem concerning the argument of the circumcision of the Gentiles did not occur until Acts chapter 15. So the James mentioned in that passage was not the Apostle James.   

There were a couple of other mentions of different men named James in the New Testament.  These men were only mentioned once and then were lost to obscurity.  It is unlikely that these were the one who wrote such powerful theological addresses as are found in this letter.  No, there is one more James that was there from the beginning, but who was not an apostle.  This James would have had all the knowledge of Jesus’ whole life, death, and resurrection.  He would have been a Jew, and held the respect of the Apostles and the Jews.  This was James the brother of Jesus (half-brother).

James the half-brother of Jesus, although he was present from before the start of Jesus’ public ministry, was not a believer in Jesus as the Son of God until after he was a witness of the resurrected Christ.  In seeing the death of Jesus and then seeing him alive, James became a devout follower of Jesus.  He was the head of the Jerusalem council and was a respected pillar of the church and of the Jewish community.  He would have had the knowledge and understanding in seeing the whole earthly life of Jesus, listening to his teachings, and witnessing the miracles, and the resurrection.  This put him in a unique position to be a teacher and evangelist to the Jews concerning the Hebrew scriptures and how Jesus fulfilled the Law and the prophets.  Even his initial criticisms of Jesus would have been a great witness to the hard-hearted Israelite of the love of God towards them that was revealed in Jesus Christ the Son of God. 

Historical Settings

            At the time of this writing the church was still distinctively Jewish in nature because most of it’s members came from Jewish backgrounds and traditions. The letter suggests a simpler form of hierarchy in the local church.  The church leaders are referred to as elders (5:14) and teachers (3:1).  There is no mention of the soon to develop strife over Gentile circumcision. The Greek term for synagogue is used to designate the gathering place of the church.  Many believe that this letter and the letter to the Galatians are the earliest recovered letters in the New Testament.

            The Jews in Jerusalem were scorned and driven out by persecutions, not from Rome, but from their own kinsman.  Many Jewish believers in Christ would have lost their social status, homes, family ties, access to the temple and suffered economic loss and hardships that come with the inability to make a living because of their persecution.  Many left Jerusalem in order to make a living elsewhere and to escape the persecution. 

Major Themes

The letter is written to these Jews who had scattered abroad (1:1).  They were under severe persecutions and distress.  James writes to encourage them.  He tells them that the trials in which the find themselves in are expected and that they are for their betterment.  James tells them that these trials are being used to mature their faith.  They bring patients in the waiting of the fulfilment of their hope.  He encourages them to seek wisdom from God and that God has not abandoned them.  This is important because they had been ostracized from the religion of their youth and they needed to know that they had not erred.   He shows them in this letter that they have not abandoned God either, instead they have grown closer to God then they could ever imagine.  He also instructs them on how to live in the freedom that God has given them in Jesus Christ and how they should treat one another in order to be pleasing servants of God and his Messiah.

Key Verse: But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves (James 1:22)

Doctrine

James deals with a lot of controversial doctrines.  Even Martin Luther argued as to whether the Epistle of James should be in the Canon of the Bible because of the doctrinal approach that James appears to take.  It is important when we read through the scriptures that we understand that not all scripture is written to everyone.  That is we must pay attention to who the author is addressing his letter to and see what issues they are dealing with.  As in this case James is writing to Jews who have believed on Jesus Christ and are still in the process of dealing with this new way of life.  They came from a rigid system of rituals and prayers that had added to what God actually said and excessively burdened the seeker of God.  Remember Christianity was not a religion, the religion was still Judaism.  In this James unpacks the differences between the works oriented Jewish religion to the works resultant way of Christ.  Many Christians these days would do good to study this book and see how we are to live in obedience, now that we have been freely saved by God in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. 

The Doctrines that James deals with are a living in Christ once you have believed and received this forgiveness, not an earning of salvation through works.  James starts with the doctrine of persecution and it expectancy and the resultant spiritual growth. Then he moves into how to live a sanctified life.  This includes patience, slow to wrath, not rushing to judgement.  James presents the doctrine of humility by not judging other believers by appearance, money, reputation, or prestige.  The secret to this is that we are all servants who serve the same master.  Then James begins a discussion of the doctrine of Works by Faith.  Many confuse this portion to think that James is saying that to have faith you must do these things.  James is not saying that at all, he says that faith has certain works that accompany it as a byproduct. Without works in faith, you do not possess faith.  Because if you believed then you would act a certain way and be obedient to the will of the LORD.  

Then he discusses by example the use of the tongue, the truth of pride and wisdom.  James then tells them that if they were walking in the spirit (faith) then they would not have quarrels amongst the brethren.  So, peace and love in the church is a result of waking by faith.  James’s doctrine for walking in faith is to (1) Submit to God, (2) Resist the devil, (3) Draw close to God and let God draw close to you, (4) Be sincere in your repentance, and (5) Put away pride. James also sets the doctrine of laying on of hands. James urges his readers in the same manner that the author of Hebrews does, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:1-2)

Outline

  1. Greetings and Encouragement 1:1
  2. Trials 1:2-18
    1. Purpose of Trials 1:2-12
    2. Pedigree of Trials 1:13-15
    3. Purpose of God in Trials 1:16-18
  3. The Word 1:19-27
  4. Christian Conduct 2-5
    1. Partiality 2:1-13
    2. Actions of Faith 2:14-26
    3. The Fire in Tongue 3:1-12
    4. Real Wisdom 3:13-18
    5. Worldliness 4:1-17
    6. Proper Views 5:1-12
    7. Prayer 5:13-18
    8. Conversion of the Erring 5:19-20