Leave the Pig Pen Behind

In the gospel of Luke we find a story about a son who had taken his inheritance from the family and went away to a far land.  While there he wasted the inheritance on unwise and questionable living.  Much like many of us do when we first leave home.  When he had run out of money, there was a famine in the land and he was caught with no money, no job, and no way to come home.  Stranded in the this foreign land he took a job as a servant to an unrighteous man who took advantage of him.  After some time of this the young man, out of desperation decided to swallow his pride and return home.

The time away had beaten the young man in more than one way.  His heart was broken and his life was in shambles.  He had no hope, he only wanted to get home and beg his father for mercy and help.  I can think of times in my life when I had ruined all the opportunities that youth had given me, and squandered my money and eventually was left with nothing but burned bridges.  Shamefully I turned to family for help.  Not knowing if they would help, but desperately needing it.

Some of you are very familiar with this story, but I want to concentrate on this one aspect.  When the father saw the young man in the distance, he ran to him.  Then he called his servants and told them to put a robe on him, and a ring on his finger.  This is what I want us to see.  The son had travelled a far way.  His previous job had him living with pigs, and eating the leftovers of what the pigs did not eat.  He was malnourished, unclean, smelling.  Yet his father loved him anyway.  His father did not say, “Oh my, go get a bath, and put on some perfume before you hug me!”  No his father instead ran to him, and kissed him passionately over and over again.

This is the love that God has for us.  He loved us before we were cleansed.  We did not have to clean ourselves up and be presentable before he embraced us.  A lot of Christians will tell you that God loves me just the way I am, and that is true.  He does love us, just the way we are.  But if we look closer at this parable, we see that his father loved his son so much that he did not let him remain unclean.  This is the way our heavenly Father also loves us.  He loves us so much that he cannot leave us in the mire and stench that Jesus saved us from.  He renews our minds and transforms us into his image.

Psalm 3:3 says, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap”.  In other places in scripture it describes how the Lord brought the writer out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set his feet upon a rock making his footsteps firm (Psalm 40:2).  The Lord wants better for us than to just be saved from hell.  He wants us to be what we were meant to be in Him.

Romans 8:37 explains how that we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. We are more than victorious, more than vanquishers, more than subjugators. Christians need to study scripture and awaken to the truths that God has given us.  We do not need to be sheepish and tied to the things that kept us bound before.  When the son in this story had returned home to his father’s embrace, he had also left the pig pen behind.  He was not living in that filth anymore.  -Amen

1 John 1:1-4 What Have Your Heard?

1 John 1:1-4 What Have You Heard?

  1. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
  2. (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
  3. That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
  4. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

John was so overwhelmed with the importance of his message that he dispensed with normal salutations and introductions what would normally arrive in such a letter. During the time of the writing of this epistle the church was being influenced with by the acceptance of Gnosticism.

The Gnostics were marked with a philosophy that had a variety of views, one such basic view is that the spirit is good and matter is inherently evil, and the two constantly war against one another.  So then the one who is more knowledgeable or of a strong enough will, could overcome the weaknesses of the flesh. As a result Gnosticism held two major thoughts on Christ.

Docetic Gnosticism held that the humanity of Christ was ethereal, and that he only appeared to have a body. That is that Jesus was just a phantom force, which appeared and had no real physical substance.

Cerinthus Gnosticism held that the man Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary was not the “Christ” until is was bestowed upon him at his baptism and then the Spirit empowered his ministry, and then it left him before the crucifixion.

Now you may ask, who cares if they believed this?  What does it matter?  Well either view of Jesus in this manner removes the incarnation of Christ, and the atonement of his sacrifice.  The word “incarnation” simply means “the act of being made flesh”.  In other words, Jesus was indeed the Son of God and became man through his divine intervention and as such remained both God and man.

The Gospel of John puts it this way.  “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1).

If Jesus was not “Christ” from before his birth, through his death, and resurrection then he would have been just a man.  As a man, he could not have escaped the original sin of Adam. Jesus could not have brought atonement because he would have had sin.  It doesn’t matter how enlightened he may have been.  Knowledge does not relieve us of sin, knowledge exposes sin.

You see Adam (man) was created by God.  In fact man was singled out from all of God’s creation to be made in the likeness of God.  As part of this likeness of God man was created with a free will.  When man was created and set in the world he was given dominion over all the earth and man was without sin.  In fact when God finished creation He looked at it and said that it was “good”.

But man rebelled against God, of his own free will, and then sin entered into man, and a curse has since followed man.  Now that man was in sin and darkness, he was separated from God, because God is pure and righteous.  His presence would destroy man.  Romans 5:12 tells us, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered in to the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”.

So you see a man cannot save man, because he is already tainted with sin.  Only God can save man, through a sinless sacrifice that would only be made once, one that could cover all of man’s sin, past, present and future.  There could only be one way to bridge the gap between man (creation) and God (Creator), God would have to provide the sacrifice.  This shows the necessity of God becoming man.

God had compassion on man.  God in his grace, had a plan to redeem man, from the very beginning.

The whole bible from beginning to end is a revelation of God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ.  In Genesis 3:15 God tells the serpent that deceived Adam and Eve into rebellion that, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

This is the first prophecy concerning the salvation that would come through Jesus.  There are over 300 prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus in his short life here on earth, and there are still more prophecies yet to be fulfilled upon his return.

The author of this letter claims to be an eye witness to the ministry of Christ.  This makes the author and authority on who Jesus is and what he is doing. We must not ever forget the importance of having a witness.  John is telling his readers of this epistle that the things that they have been taught concerning Jesus is the truth and has been witnesses by them.  The witnesses are in what they have heard, both in the scriptures and in the words of Jesus.

  • Your testimony of what Jesus has done in your life is your witness of the truth of Jesus.
  • No one else can stand up and proclaim what you have seen and what you have heard from God.
  • No one else can explain how the love of Jesus has changed your heart.
  • No one else can explain the release of the guilt and the shame that you have suffered.

There is an old saying that people love to use.  “Who are you to judge me?” This is a true statement.  Who are you?  To many Christians get saved and in their enthusiasm to have others convert, forget that they were once lost and in rebellion.  They forget that it took someone who in genuine concern reached out and connected with them.

And you know how they did that?

  • They shared who they were, and who they are now.
  • They shared how Jesus made that difference and they shared the love that was given to them – freely.

It does not matter how much time we spend in church, Sunday school, or in memorizing bible scriptures.  It doesn’t even matter if we speak in tongues, or if we can heal others at a touch.  What matters is if we can reach out in love.  We have to love others enough to overcome the fear and insecurity of sharing our testimony.

Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one to another.” (John 13:35).  He also said that I speak that which I have heard of the father.  Jesus led by example.

He didn’t talk about things he didn’t know.

  • He talked about things of heaven.
  • He explained the things that pertained to the Kingdom of God.
  • He gave examples and illustrations.
  • He testified of things he knew, that he had seen, and he had heard.

How?

  • Because he is God.
  • He existed before creation.
  • He was the creator.

So what do you know? What have you seen?  What have you heard?

You know the truth

  • Jesus is the Son of God
  • Jesus is faithful
  • Jesus loves you
  • Jesus forgave you
  • Jesus provided atonement for you
  • Jesus released you from your bondage
  • From sexual immortality
  • From lies
  • From disease
  • From the bondage of sin
  • Jesus gave you a choice again
  • You are no longer a slave
  • You have eternal life

These are the things that are in your testimony.  Henry Clay Trumbull (1830-1903) is considered one of God’s pioneers in soul-winning evangelism.  In fact he wrote the first books ever devoted strictly to the principles of personal evangelism.  He was a renowned expositor of scripture, missionary, organizer and lecturer.  He was the editor of the Civil War era publication. “The Sunday School Times”.  He was the author of 38 books in total.  He lectured at Yale University and traveled relentlessly spreading and teaching the gospel.  Yet here is what he said concerning personal evangelism.

“Looking back upon my work in all these years I can see more direct results of good through my individual efforts with individuals that I can know of through all my spoken words to thousands upon thousands of persons in religious assemblies, or all my written words on the pages of periodicals or of books.  Reaching one person at a time is the BEST way of reaching all the world in time.”

When Jesus said no man lights a candle and puts it under a table, but he puts in on top of the table so that all who enter the house can see the light, he was talking about you.  You are the light of Christ!  Don’t put it under a table and hide it!  Tell somebody what Jesus has done for you. –Amen!

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Mark 12:28-31 The First Commandment

Mark 12:28-31 The First Commandment

If I were to ask 100 different Christians what they thought was the most important part of Christianity I would undoubtable get many different answers.  Some would say it is Faith, others study of the Bible, or Prayer.  Even others would say the Holy Spirit, or service in the church.  I am of the persuasion that while all of these are important, they are merely manifestations that come out of the most important aspect of your belief in Christ.

*******************Read the Passage Mark 12:28-31********************

In Mark 12:28-33 Jesus is asked this very question.  Jesus said that the first thing we should have is a directed love towards God.  We should be careful, that we don’t misunderstand this word love.  It is not a general kind of love.  It is not like when we say, “Oh I just love that dress, or I love this new car!”  It is not even like a when we say that we should “love all mankind”.

Jesus didn’t say that the most important commandment is to love God and to second, love animals.  Had he said that then we could take away that he was talking about a general kind of love, where we should express love for everything, love people, love animals, love the planet, love everything.  But “love” in itself is not the main topic Jesus is speaking of.

Even when he goes on to say that the second commandment is like it, to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Instead he is still stressing the importance of the first command.  Jesus is saying the main point is to LOVE GOD!  The second is like it because it is still loving God, man was made in the image of God.

1 John 4:20 says that if a man says he loves God and hates his brother, then he is a liar!

James 3:9-10 says, “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessings and cursing.  My brethren this ought not so to be.”

This love Jesus is speaking of is not a blanket that we throw over our shoulders and sing warm little campfire songs for.  It is a more specific kind of love.  It is even more specific than a love for a spouse, or a child.  Instead it is a living love directed explicitly at God above all other things, places, or persons.

You see, God is Love (1 John 4.8 ”He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”).  So then whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16).

How do we then love God?  Jesus tells us this also.  We love with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.  We demonstrate this with our love for one another.  This is all simple words and easy to say, but how do we put this in action?

Our natural state as fallen creatures is not to love God, but rather to regard him with suspicion and resist his authority.  Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to enter heaven you must be born again.  You have to know that you are fallen and in danger of judgement, and in danger of eternal separation from God.  Matthew 25:41 “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”

But also as apostle Paul told us in the Colossians 1:20-22, that even though we were enemies with God, he had mercy on us and provided a sacrifice for our sins, in Jesus’ blood, to that we could be reconciled to God the Father.  So we were once alienated from God because of our evil nature.  But God Himself made a way for us to be with him.

“The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” (Deuteronomy 30.6)

God himself gave us the way to love him, buy wiping out our record of sin.  By this I mean past, present, and future… This gives us the ability to love God with a pure heart and in good conscience, having a sincere faith.  Jesus has set us free, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” (Tutus 1.15)

God knows that we cannot love him of ourselves.  He provided the way through Jesus Christ.  Jesus suffered so that we would not have to suffer in our sin and bondage.

Psalms  22: 14-16 records a portion of his suffering, “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it has melted within Me.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; you have brought Me to the dust of death.  For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation if the wicked has enclosed Me.  They pierced My hands and My feet;”

So knowing these things we desire to please him.  The question is not “What would Jesus do”, but “What would please Him?”  We put Him first in all things.  The psalmist said “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73.25)

We love the Lord with our all in all; as a result of salvation through Jesus.  This is the starting point, without this relationship with Jesus, we cannot love God.  The love of Jesus must be the key feature in our lives.

We love the Lord by eliminating competing loves.  Loving God must become the key feature in our lives.  Don’t compartmentalize God into on little piece of your life. 

Each one of us have 168 hours in a week.  In that week the average Christian devotes 7 hours in Church, Sunday School, and a small group devotion or study.  During each week if you sleep 8 hours a day, every day then you spend another 56 hours in sleep.  That leaves 105 hours that are spent in eating, school, work, shopping, social events, or other leisure activities.  The question is how much of that 105 hours is spent demonstrating an active love for God?(Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, 4/25/2017)

This isn’t just a temporary fasting. Not just a time where we skip a meal or that we don’t eat red meat for few weeks.  It is not even a deprivation of sleep from an all-night prayer meeting, or a week of revival.  It is instead a way of living for God. 

In fact the Lord said in Isaiah 58:6-7 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? 

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and hot hide yourself from your own flesh?”

Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone were to ask your best friend, or your wife, or husband, or your children, “Tell me one thing about so-in-so…” and they could say, “That you really love God.”  Shouldn’t your life SHOW others that you truly love God!

This is a conscious choice.  We purpose ourselves for his service (Romans 12:11 says that we should be passionate in spirit, serving the Lord).  We do everything in life as if we are performing it whole heartedly for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).  In short we live “all out” for Him.  We hold nothing back from Him.  We are fully dedicated to His purposes.  We have to be wholehearted in our devotion to Him.  We are not ashamed of Him. 

Do you know that God knows that we are not perfect?  Do you know that he knows that sometimes, even on the way to church some of us have terrible arguments in the car?  Then we put on a smile and walk in the church like we just love everybody.  Then as soon as we walk out and start the car, our argument picks right back up from where it was.  Do you know that is wrong?  Sure we do.

We need to pray, and seek the Lord.  You know that as we humble ourselves and understand that we are not perfect, and hey no one else is either, and we realize again that Jesus still loves us.  He forgave us.  You know we can forgive others too.  We can love God by loving those around us.

We can even be so radical in our love for Him… that “We Love Our Neighbors, as we Love Ourselves!” (Mark 12:31) Do you know the best thing you can do for someone else is to let them see you LOVE God with all you have to love Him with?

In Matthew 25:34-40  we read “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat:  I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink:  I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me:  I was sick, and ye visited me:  I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have don’t it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

If someone asked that question, if the asked about you… today… if they asked “tell me about so-in-so”; and they were pointing the finger at you… Could who they were asking say, “They really love God”?  Does your life show your love for God?  Does your language show that your love God?  Do your neighbors even know that you know who Jesus is?  If not, maybe you need to make a commitment today. 

Get things right with God today.  Come to the alter of his mercy and tell him.  Lord I have not been living like I love you.  I have not been doing the things that I should, or speaking up for you.  Lord people have no idea that you’re my God or my savior by the way I act, speak, or how I treat other people, not even other believers.  I want to make that right with you today.

Or maybe you’re here and you have never even considered the sacrifice that Jesus made for you; how he poured out his blood to make restitution for your wrong doings.  Maybe you need to come and tell him you believe in Him.  You believe that he sacrificed himself for you, so that you could learn how to truly live in love.

Be Not Weary in Doing Well

“But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.” (II Thessalonians 3.13)

Life can get overwhelming sometimes.  We can often overstretch ourselves in trying to be there for everyone in every situation.  Our finances get overtaxed, and our patience gets a little run down.  We sometimes mean to do well, but we just keep hitting barriers.  It seems that the good things we try to do for one another are just taken for granted or even misunderstood.  Sometimes the things we need to do out of love, are just painful.

Paul tells us, relax, and just keep going.  Don’t let yourself get run down or frustrated.  Paul tells us in this chapter of Thessalonians that some of us just turn into busybodies. Work for the Lord should be done to the Lord, and not to men’s eyes.  Don’t be busy trying to please men and seeming to be busy with the work of the Lord, when in actuality you are just busy trying to be a people pleaser.  Remember you are NOT God.  You don’t have the authority to sit in judgement over others.

The best way to help someone is to pray for them.  Lift up their needs before the One who CAN make a difference in their lives, and their lifestyle.  We should always do everything in love, not out of a burdened grudge.  Remember to take time in the Lord for yourself.  Jesus said that the Sabbath was made form man, not man for the Sabbath.

At one time Jesus sent his disciples out to spread the Word and when they returned he asked them, how did it go?  They then replied with all they had said and done.  When they had completed, Jesus told them no go away to a private place and rest.  You see it is necessary for us to take time to rest.  Just as you need sleep at the end of the day you also need to recharge your spirit.  Jesus would often get away and pray in private.

I was reading through my studies and found a card my wife had wrote me.  The card was very nice and encouraging. It did not ask for anything, it just expressed her desire to be with me. Sometimes just a simple encouragement is all we really need to give someone.  The card she wrote me said this;

“All I want is to love you for the rest of my life… to wake up every morning with you by my side, knowing that no matter what happens, I’ll be able to come home to your loving arms.  All I want is to share everything with you… to talk to you about our ideas, our dreams, the little everyday things that make us laugh, and the not-so-little things that we can’t help worrying about.  All I want is to give you my love… as a place you can always come to for acceptance or the simple comfort that silence brings when things left unspoken can still be understood.  All I want is to grow old with you… to watch our live unfold, our dreams, one by one, come true.  All I want is to love you forever. – Love Me”

Every morning my wife and I get up, we start the day with a cup of coffee and some quiet time with one another before we start our daily routines.  I cannot tell you how valuable this time is to me, and how it helps my day.  Then when she gets off to work, I spend time in prayer and in reading my daily bible readings.  I start every morning the same way, no matter what day of the week, if I am working or a day off.  I spend time with my wife and my Jesus, before anything else.  If I did not, I don’t think I could get through the day.

My wife and I talk, text and pray for one another throughout the day.  My Savior and I talk and sing together throughout the day.  These are the things that keep my battery charged.  I look forward to spending time with them every moment of the day. I enjoy having time alone with the Word and to feel the presence of the Spirit of the Lord.  Knowing that Jesus is coming back to take us home is the hope that we should all have, and express.

1st hand knowledge our Lord is why we should not be weary in doing well.  We should always work with the end game in mind.  Just as I look forward to the end of the day when I can have some quiet time with my wife and to the next morning when I can sit with her over coffee.  Just as I know the Lord is right there with us as we pray for our loved ones and our friends, just as we know that the Lord is coming to bring us home.  Just as we know that the Lord is returning soon, we should be motivated to please him, not man.

To many Christians are caught up in trying to be everything the world thinks that they should be.  Instead, be what is pleasing to your Father in Heaven.  Be a child of the Father.  Live with this focus in mind and you will do well.  Do well because it pleases your Heavenly Father, and also take time with Him and let Him know you love Him too.

Exposition: Joshua 24

Exposition: Joshua 24

1And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.

 Joshua gathered all the people of the Lord together so that they could present themselves to the Lord and he could speak to them, so that everyone could hear first-hand what he had to tell them.  What he was going to say would be extremely important for their survival and he did not want it misunderstood.  We all know how things can get misinterpreted through the grape vine.

2And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor: and they served other gods. 3And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac. 4And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.

 At the time that God called Abraham, the whole world was in apostasy from God. This is after God broke the language of the people and scattered them all about the face of the earth.  But there was one man who the Lord heard.  Abraham wanted to know the one true God, to God searched his heart and found him to be genuine.  He called Abraham out of a land of idolatry to be separated unto Himself, so He could teach Abraham and eventually call a nation out of him that the messiah would come through.  Much like when we are saved the Lord calls us out of the bondage of sin and to be sanctified to Him, so that we may learn of His grace and mercy.

 5I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out. 6And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea. 7And when they cried unto the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.

 Joshua reminds the Israelis how God has always cared for them, even when they were in Egypt and how he used the bondage to make them grow strong and then delivered them in due time. Even when Israel disobeyed God, he did not abandon them, He instead provided their daily needs, reassured them, and guided them back to a place where they were willing to hear Him again, and obey.  They learned from their mistakes through Gods loving kindness and chastisement.

8And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you. 9Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: 10But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.

 God reminds the children of Israel that he continued to care for them and delivered them from all of their enemies, and out of every circumstance.

 11And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand. 12And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow. 13And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and olive yards which ye planted not do ye eat. 14Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.

 Of major importance is that now that they occupied then land, they did not rid the land of all of its previous occupants as the Lord had demanded. This meant that they were surrounded and even had in their midst people who followed false gods.  Joshua instructed them that they needed to settle in their hearts to serve only the One True God of their ancestors, who had delivered them through all the events that he previously mentioned.  They were not to forget what God had done for them, and neither should we.  We cannot forget what Jesus has done for us, the bondages of sin and addictions that He delivered us from.

 15And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

 Joshua again let them know, that they were free to choose whether they were going to continue to serve the Lord God, or if they wanted they could choose to serve another god. God is not going to force Himself on us, we all have a choice.  Joshua does show the importance of making a choice and staying with it.  He leads by example and declares that He and his family will serve the Lord.  We as parents and community leaders and employers and peers to others should lead by example.  Showing boldly that we choose to serve the Lord, not out of fear, but out of remembrance of what He has done for us.

 16And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods;

 The people following Joshua’s example choose wisely to serve the One True God.

 17For the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed: 18And the Lord drove out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the Lord; for he is our God.

 The children of Israel gave God recognition for the wondrous things He had done for them, how He had always had his hand in their lives. Many times we do not give God the recognition of the praise for what He has done for us.  Giving praise and recognition to God not only honors God, but it strengthens our faith, it reassures us of His presence in our lives, it reminds us that He is in charge and that He is not slacking of His promises to us.

 19And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.

 We often forget that God is not only a God of love and mercy, but that He is a just God and a God of judgment.

 21And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord. 22And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. 23Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel. 24And the people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey. 25So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.

 These events and the choices of the people of Israel were recorded as a reminder and a testimony against them and to all the other nations

27And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God. 28So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance. 29And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old. 30And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath–serah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash. 31And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel.

 This shows the importance of the godly influence Joshua’s leadership had on the nation. Strong godly leadership is a blessing to a nation.  We as Christians should be involved in our local, state, and federal governments at all levels.  Separation of church and state is not a biblical principle.  The governments of man are constructed by the will of God and are meant as a means to help us in our daily lives to have the freedom to serve God as God sees fit.

32And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.

This serves as a reminder of Josephs faith in God, and that he understood that God would continue to have His hand on his descendants and that God would honor His covenant.

 33And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.

Come and Hear

Psalm 66:16-17

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul.  I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. (ESV)

The psalmist said we should share, with the saints, all that the Lord has done for our soul, and how He has answered our heartfelt prayers. We should share what God has done in our hearts, in our way of life, in how we see life, and how we live life.  He is not talking about our material possessions.  We cannot take material things with us into the next world.  No, he means what has God done for you inside? Not as a measure of godliness on our own part, but rather to show the faithfulness of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”  Sharing what the Lord has done for us has great positive reinforcements in our spiritual walk. Sharing what the Lord has done, brings remembrance of what we have been through.  We have been delivered from death, and bondage.  Do you remember what life was like before you came to life in Jesus?  Do you remember the uncertainty in life?  Were you inhibited by fear, depression, or feelings of quilt and fear? What sins beset you?  How were you tied up with the superficial?  How selfish were you?

Now the security of the sure foundation in Jesus Christ brings peace and joy that no matter what happens in life, God (Jesus) is in control.  Knowing that the Lord chose from the foundation of the world to provide a way for you to be with Him.  Knowing that you don’t need to be good enough to earn you way to please Him.  Your salvation was bought by the blood of the Lamb of God.  These are the things we should share.  No one really cares if you got a new car.  No what did God really DO for you?  How did Jesus change YOUR life?

The changes brought in our life encourages fellow believers.  Looking at the changes God has made in my life are important to me keeping my motivation to take up my cross. You know sometimes it feels like I haven’t made progress.  Sometimes I feel defeated when I see others who don’t believe in Christ doing so well.  However, listening to others who have already been where I am, or have been, and seeing where God has blessed them for being faithful and serving Him in their daily life and I receive encouragement.  Hearing where they once were and now seeing their spiritual maturity in the Lord reinforces my desire to seek the Lord daily.  Hearing how God has been faithful to another believer, reminds me that He is still in charge of my life also.

I have been through periods of rejection, and humiliation because I stood up for Jesus.  I have been abandoned by friends, I have been rejected by loved ones.  During those times, the Lord sent me another saint, someone who had been through the feelings of isolation.  They encouraged me and lifted me in prayer.  They gave me living examples of the Lords provisions I their life.  Why do you think that Paul says we are not to forsake the gathering of one another?

To extol is to praise something or someone very much.  Another way to understand this is to say that He (God) was greatly praised by me. Allot of times when someone gives a good reference to someone about someone who helped them they say, “I just couldn’t say enough good things about him.”  This is the same meaning.  As sharing the great things the Lord has done for us, we should vividly express our gratitude.  Genuine heartfelt gratitude is hard to hide.  The simple honesty in a gracious awareness of the sacrifice and love that God has shown towards your is what God wants from you.  He wants you to love and appreciate Him, as He loves and appreciates you.

Expressing that to someone else, another believer, should be as easy as bragging about your mom or your dad.  I remember when I was in grade school all the kids would boast about how their dads could beat up all the other dads.  Boy we were proud of our dads.  They made us feel secure.  We know nothing could hurt us along as dad was nearby.  Well now you have a Father that can literally move mountains, part the seas, command the stars, and appoint kings over nations!  Amen!  Get out there and tell somebody what God has done for YOU!

Psalm 1:1 Guard Your Company

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, not standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful (Psalms 1:1)

The key words in this text for today’s message are:

  • blessed
  • ungodly
  • sinners
  • scornful

In order to move ahead with this message, we have to make sure we all have the same understanding of these words.  What the intent of the writer is and how the ancient Hebrews would have most likely interpreted the meaning of these and then put them into context.  I will attempt to do this for us.

*References are from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. 

Blessed

The Hebrew root for the word used in blessed is ashar, meaning to go straight, go on, or advance.  Many scholars translate the intent of this word to mean “level”, or “sturdy”.  We could go on to say that this is a good foundation, in order to move ahead.  That you’re on the “right path”, if you follow what is about to be said.  Interestingly enough, this is the same term that Jesus starts his 1st sermon of his public ministry.  In the sermon we have come to know as “The Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus begins with the “Be-attitudes”.  He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)  This shows the understanding that God has for us.  Jesus’ first sermon and the 1st Psalm start off with an encouragement to us.  Be happy, you’re on the right path!  Be of good cheer, you are right with God.

Ungodly

The Hebrew root for the word use for ungodly is rasha: wicked, criminal.  A criminal or someone who is wicked, is someone who made a choice to be in err.  The Latin term would be “Malum in Se”, this means that something is just wrong in itself.  No one needs to tell you that murder, rape, burglary, robbery are wrong.  Those that commit these crimes are wicked.

Sinners

The Hebrew root for the word used for sinners is chata: to miss, go wrong, sin.  This is to fall short.  Like a basketball player that just cannot make a basket.  There is a standard and it is not being reached.  The term we are probably most familiar with would be “lost”.

Scornful

The Hebrew root for the word used for scornful is luts: have in derision, make a mock, mocker.  These are those who make fun of the righteous.  Who question the authority of scripture.  Those who elevate their own craftiness, who think they are smarter then God.  Those who believe in their own wisdom.  Those who are arrogant.  The saying goes, “He is too smart for his own good”.  The 1st Cor. 3:19 says, “For the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God.”

So from the Hebrew perspective it would read more like:

Steady or Level is the man that;

                Does not walk in the counsel of those who depart from the path;

                Does not stand in the way of those who miss the mark;

                Does not sit in the seat of those who imitate (mock) the truth.

 We can even say, “At peace with God are those who:

                Do not follow those that have strayed from the true path;

                Do not hang out with those who miss the mark;

                Do not believe there is no God.

 

A sinful man is one who misses the mark, stumbles and fails.  A sinful person makes mistakes.  An evil man is one who is bent on hurting someone and who has a life style of injuring others.  No Christian should ever want to just hurt anyone.  Sin is progressive. “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse…” (2nd Timothy 3:13)

Every evil person was once just a sinner. Sin causes separation from God and hardens the heart. If you hang out with people who have no morals, or have gray areas, or do not have a definite truth, then you will eventually adopt this way of thinking.  Somehow we think that we can hang around evil people, people who take the Lord’s name in vain, who lie, steal, and cheat on their spouses, and think that we will not be corrupted.  Have you not read? “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” (Galatians 5:9 NIV)  We are warned of this fact over and over in the scriptures.

(Proverbs 4:14-16) “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.  Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.  For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall.”

Eventually this evil will get inside of you, and you will start thinking about the evil desires and it will grow in your heart.  That is why Jesus let us know that if a man even looks on a woman in lust, he has created adultery already.  This is just one example of how impurity corrupts the heart and mind of a man.  Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) It starts with a suggestion, grows into a thought, then a desire.  This desire may manifest itself in words first, then before you know it, you have committed the act.  James 1:15 says, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

When someone is living a certain lifestyle contrary to what others perceive as right, they will at first hide this lifestyle.  They will lie and deceive the ones they love, to protect this lifestyle.  Then they will seek out others who live this same lifestyle, this gives them a sense of acceptance.

Even though they still know it is wrong inside.  Then they move on to trying to convert others to their lifestyle.  This is a progressive hardening of the heart.  Once the heart has grown callas then they turn and attack the ones that tried to keep them from going down the forbidden path.  They turn vicious and try to destroy the ones who care about them and who try to show them the way that they should have come.

They will try to say there is no God, because if there is no God then there is not absolute truth.  Without truth there is no moral compass.  Without a moral compass there is no judgement.  Without judgement there is no penalty.

In reality God does exists, man knows it, and has turned their back on Him.  Psalms 14:1 “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”  We have all missed the mark, we have as a whole and individually been corrupted.  “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 KJV)  You will die and be judged.  Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for every, including a time to die. (Ecclesiastes 3:2) After this we will all be judged.  “and as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement:” (Hebrews 9:27 KJV)

What is the judgement?  What is the criteria? Why are you condemned? You have turned your back on Jesus and rejected Him, even allowed yourself to be fooled by the mockers, and you have no excuse.  You are personally responsible to Jesus.  “And this is the judgement, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil.”(John 3:19 KJV)  The consequence of the judgement is that you will be cast out of the presence of God.  Much like those who violate the laws of society, they are thrown into prison and the fellow prisoners do what they will.

“For without are dogs, and sorcerers the sexually immoral, the murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Revelation 22:15)

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men,” (1 Corinthians 6:9 NIV)

If you are on a trip and decide that you no longer want to go to the destination, how do you prevent arriving there?  Your make a decision, and get off the course you’re going and correct your course.  If you hang out with evil men you will become evil.  Paul writes to us, “But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler.  Do not even eat with such people.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Hiding from your sin will do you no good, “Whosoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)  Jesus is the only way to be forgiven of your sin and have death Passover you.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood-to be received by faith.  He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” (Romans 3:25 NIV)  Turn away from your sins, confess to Jesus your sins, and receive him as the atonement for your sins.  Serve him as Lord of your life.  You have a life debt to Him.

If you are a Christian and not doing what you should, forsake your life and confess, take up your cross and follow Him.  The time for salvation is today.

This is the way to blessings.  Being in fellowship with Jesus, who is God.  The blessings of God are peace, joy, love, forgiveness, and fellowship with the One who created everything that is seen and unseen.  He is a marvelous God who sacrificed all to make a way for you to experience His love.  Hold fast to that which you have been told.  Guard your mind and your heart from the ones who seek to destroy your fellowship with Jesus.