No Hope/Hope Eph. 2:12

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
Eph. 2:11-12

This passage speaks of who we once were. Some still are.

Who were we? We were outsiders.

Outside the promises of God which gave hope to Israel, outside the covenants whereby God gave Himself to mankind, we were outside of all that gives life and peace.

We had NO HOPE!

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Eph. 2:13

We were without hope, because we were outsiders – and there was nothing we could do about it. However, today we have hope by the blood of Christ. Why?

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of the commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

What did Christ do? He became our peace, just as in was promised in Is. 53:6 – Christ, the epitomy of perfection and purity, took on himself all the sins this wicked world has ever, or ever will, commit. Taking them onto Himself, of twain, or two, God made one new man. He took Christ perfection, and put it on me, and my sin and wickedness, and dirtied the spotless Lamb of God with it. In His flesh, He took my sin, and in so doing, broke down the wall between God and me, which wall was my sin.

Now it is no longer about being of Israel, no longer about being under the law, but rather all about the grace that God has shown to us in Christ. He has made a new creature, one who can once again enter into the Holy place, due to the pure blood of Christ shed on my account.

No hope? At one time, but today, there is no possibility of a wrong end, for all my eternity hinges upon Christ’s righteousness, not my own good deeds which couldn’t buy me a seat at McDonalds, much less entrance to heaven!

My eternity is certain, and so regardless of the degree of pleasure experienced on earth, I can be happy, for I HAVE HOPE!!!

Not a hope as in hoping to meet the fictitious Easter bunny tonight, but rather hope as in the certainty of a future event, hope in God’s promise, and that a God who has never, nor is capable of lying! [why do some teach God can do anything? God cannot, will not, has not ever lied!]

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God Saves Sinners – Lk. 5:31-32

And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
– Luke 5:27-32 KJV

Reading this morning, this passage somewhat caught my attention. First, it is about a man named Levi, which is the Hebrew name of which mine, Matthew, an English version of the Greek variant, Mathias. Secondly, was the content.

Levi was a tax collector, but at a time where Israel was not self-ruling. He was a representative of the Roman government, which nation had conquered Israel. Tax collectors were normally people of the nation they served in, and though paid by the government, collected beyond what they were required to collect in taxes, so as to line their own pockets. As such, they were despised by their people as traitors, and also for their selfishness. Like myself, Levi was a sinner.

What surprised the people of Jesus’ day was that He, as a teacher, visited Levi, and fellowshiped with him over a meal. They wanted to know, as at other times in relation to other sinners, why He would spend time with sinners. Levi was a sinner, of that they had no doubt, and Jesus answer did not try to refute that fact, but rather He answered their question by explaining His purpose for being on earth.

“They that are whole need not a physician: but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”

Levi understood he was sick – he inherited the terminal disease of sin from his father, and likewise would pass it on to his children, for he was sinful, as was his father Adam. Jesus came to bring healing, to give Him a new life through a new birth in the spirit [see Jn. 3].

The pharisees were also sick with that same disease. Though they tried to keep the law in a form, making tithes of even their spices, they were still guilty – as we can even see their sin of pride and lack of charity in this passage. Jesus explained in another place how that it is by loving God and others, in a true, sincere, and Biblical manner, that the law is fulfilled, yet they were keeping the law after a form, while completely missing God in it.

So now we find here, two types of sinners. The first is aware of his guilt, while the second is proudly ignorant, and accusing the other. Jesus did not, at this point, go about to estabilsh the guilt of both, but rather explained His purpose. He came to heal the sick with sin, to call sinners to repentance.

Friend, if you desire healing, you must first acknowledge your disease, and all who descend from Adam are infected, as evidenced by our 100% death rate, for death comes by sin (See Romans). The pharisees here ignored their problem, and so were never healed, never saved, and destined for hell, predestined if you will, by their choice, and God’s foreknowledge of it, but to Levi, salvation came through repentance.

Today, which will you be? The willfully ignorant of your own wickedness before God, or the repentant who receives grace? There are only 2 types of sinners. The third type of person… is the one who has received mercy and grace through Jesus who brings healing. Of such am I. All in this category where of the second kind of sinner, though perhaps at one time the first, they recognized their sin, repented, and have been made as pure as Christ, through His great mercy.

Oh why would you continue on the road to eternal death, to the second death, to the lake of fire? Turn to Christ, and He will make you clean. You will never be pure and clean so long as you stubbornly refuse to acknowledge your sin, but when you turn and repent, He has promised to make you clean!

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Those that fear God – Ps. 119:79

Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies.
Ps. 119:79

Who do you want to have come visit you? Who would you like to have be your friends? Reading tonight, I came across this verse, which has somewhat stood out to me for awhile. As the author of this Psalm, I want people that fear God to turn to me, to stop off in their way of life to see me, to be my friends, along with people that “have known” God’s testimonies. They are people who have seen God work in their lives, who know that God is real.

Speaking with a friend tonight, it again came clear how foreign we are to the world sometimes! I told this friend that God is as real as she and I are, even though we can’t at the moment see Him. However, as the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the first step in training children is not to cram their heads with knowledge, but rather teach them that God is watching.

Is God real to you? What has He done in your life, or in the lives of others? Let’s go tell others! He sends rain on the evil and the good – one thing God has done for me is to save me! Though not a miracle by the world’s definition… it takes something supernatural to save us from our sins, for nothing and no-one natural is able to do so!

Let’s keep good company, company with whom we can praise and bless our God, and then get out of our little comfort group, and tell others.

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All the eggs in one basket

About 3 weeks ago, we had an incident at our house wherein a basket full of eggs from our chickens was on our basement stairs, making it’s way from outside, up to the kitchen. In the mean time, someone tripped over the basket, resulting in the loss of several eggs.

Have you ever heard the saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”? Had we heeded this advice… more eggs would likely have been saved, by diversifying the risk. In most cases, this advice makes sense. It is a risk-management tactic, in fact, the premier such tact, used in financial investing, and used in a great many other aspects of our lives.

Throughout history, people have attempted to apply the same advice to their relationship with God. As such, we see them creating a diverse portfolio of gods – a god for the rain, one for war, another for food, etc. However, in doing such, they are ‘creating’ gods, and thus these gods have less power than their makers! These gods are unable to hear, speak, see, think, or act, for they are no gods at all. In the end, this diverse portfolio turns out to be a far greater risk, than had they perused one. For there is only One God, the God of the Bible, Who is manifest in three distinct, yet simultaneously unified persons. Yes, scripture always refers to God using male pronouns, and we can’t just change it and call it a new Bible, for to do so would be to compromise truth. These are the Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit.

The Lord our God is one Lord, Deut 6:4. For us to spread out our worship and faith among multiple ‘gods’, is to trust in what is no god at all. Jesus professed to be “the way, the truth, and the life”, and as such, we cannot add others to Him. To try and diversify our worship, is to give up worship of the True God, and therefore have no God at all. To make a weak analogy to the financial realm, it would be like choosing to buy a plurality of bad stocks in the ’80s, rather than lots of Apple and Microsoft stock.

The above is a weak analogy due to the value of the comparison – those that are no gods, are of no value, but the true God is He which is able to save our souls from hell, and it is far greater a thing to gain our own souls, than it would be to gain all the world with its wealth!

Let us consider how we are choosing to invest. Is God our greatest investment? He gave His life for us, yet many won’t take the time to consider and make a careful choice on their eternal destination.

Many choose to trust in money, in power, in influence, or else in gods of their own imaginations, but… as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. I don’t need to diversify my faith, I don’t need to put my eggs in more than one basket, because Jesus never fails. Diversification is only necessary to spread out risk of failure, but in God, there is no risk, and outside of Christ, only complete failure. To diversify from the Lord would be to destroy the whole investment, in this case my life, whereas to invest in only Him, is to guarantee sure success. God always keeps His promises, and as the one Who created all the laws of nature, of which science is merely a tool for discovery, He is the only one who can be 100% sure of keeping His – for circumstances can often prohibit us.

I’ll put all my eggs in one basket in this case, because Jesus never fails.

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Jesus Loves Me

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…

Yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me, yes,

I remember times of hearing this song, but considering myself too old for it, and so not joining in. Perhaps so is the story with you. I thought it was a kids song… and I was a grownup. I was too big for this song.

How about you? Does Jesus love ever get old? Do we ever get to old to hear about it? Does this simple song ever become wrong?

Though simple, this song is profound, for it tells a truth plainly. Who is it Jesus loves? Why, He loves the world. Who is it that Jesus saves? Whoever believes on Him.

Well, that may be all good and right for you, my well churched friends, grown up in a perfect church, full of perfect people, but though raised in church, I am not a perfect person, and have yet to meet one of your perfect people.

I went to church, but I was a sinner. It took me until 5 years of age to figure out that I was so messed up, I was on my way to hell, if God wouldn’t save me! After I was saved… I found out I still lived in a flesh body… and so continued to struggle. After about 1.5 decades of this struggle, I learned that ‘the Bible tells me so’. It tells me the truth. I was confused, partly due to reformed doctrine out of balance with other doctrine, I came to understand Romans 8 – it says that I am dead to sin, and so have the power to live uprightly… here on earth! I learned that there is a way of escape which God provides, and so sin is now my error, it is my mistake, as a believer.

Yet, Jesus still loves me.

Why does Jesus love me? The Bible tells me so. He loves me, because He made me. As a young boy, I carved presents for my mother. Some of them are rather ugly, and most or all of them rather rough – they wouldn’t sell at a carving show. She still keeps them. Why? Because she is my mother. I’m not a perfect son. My brothers would be quick to tell you that I am not a perfect brother, but I am their brother. So guess what? They love me. I may be a rough and ugly carving, made so by my choices, by the filth of this world I live in, but God made me, and because of it, Jesus still loves me. I am made in God’s image, and so God loves me. One of the ways He shows His love towards me… is by sanding down those rough parts, by chipping away at my hard heart, by forming my homeliness into His beauty – beyond which there is no compare. This may be a painful process, yet through the molding, chipping, and sanding, I learn to trust my Maker, to stop asking the Sculptor why He is doing so, but rather to trust that He does all things well!

What do you think now of this simple song? It is profound. Profound, not because of it’s eloquence, but rather it’s simplicity. It tells a truth so plainly that a 5 year old can understand it, yet contains truth so deep that few college professors can begin to grasp it. It is a truth which the simple believe by faith, yet many knowledgeable struggle to stoop from their pride and enter into its riches.

Having been greatly blessed by the Lord to be courting a godly lady over the past several months, my eyes have been opened more to see how great my God is, yet in doing so, I find myself to be… a worm and no man. God does great things, and I find myself to be so small. He must increase, and I must decrease. We often make ourselves out to be great people. In today’s society, sayings such as ‘believe in yourself’, or ‘follow your inner star’ are common place advice, yet such is the language of a fool. We are all humans, we are all nothing. God is everything.

Jesus loves me…

Why? Not because I’m anything, because I’m someone, because I do great things, use great words, or perform great work. Jesus loves me… because He chose to.

What this means to me, is that no matter what I do, as a believer, I am secure in Christ. The Bible tells me so. 

Have you ever seen people showing off? Perhaps as a little child, you did so. When adults came, you showed off your skills in crawling, or walking. A little later, you showed off your skills with a cartwheel, or something like that. Today, as an adult, you impress people with your skills, money, credentials, or physical strength. Why do we do this? Probably largely to gain other people’s approval.

What must we to to gain God’s love? He offers it freely, He is holding out His hand to us – will you reach out and take it? 

Christian, He desires you to show your love to Him by obedience – by fidelity to Jesus, Who died for us, and in so doing, purchased us to Himself for eternity. Is He important to you? Jesus loves me, this I know. 

Jesus loves me… do I love Him:

I love Jesus, and He knows,
by the way I trust Him so,
I have put my faith in Him,
Ne’er to wander evermore.

We don’t have to wander in the world… He doesn’t want us to wander in the world. Let us run to Christ, trust Him Who holds tomorrow, to find that Jesus is sweeter as the days go by, to come in humility to see that I am weak… but He is strong. The above verse is my own rendering of thought, and it is true for me. I do love Jesus… and it ought to be, and I trust is, shown in how I live. Christ must always be first, He must increase, but I must decrease. Why?

Jesus loves me. 

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Hoary – in the way of Righteousness

The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.
Prov. 16:31

For some years, I’ve considered what it means to have the hoary head, but in the way of righteousness. In the context of some conversations over the past week, as well as Pastor Russell’s message last night on running our race – and being in the race – this verse hit home this morning.

The hoary head is the old head, but few get old without a great many regrets. Due to very short time, I’ll not now elaborate, however, God desires us to serve Him all our lives, and the person who attains age, but while serving the Lord without regrets, has a crown of glory. To attain age, but while serving self would logically then be a crown of shame to us.

Let us run make sure we are in the race, and then run our race with patience, in the right direction, for the right reasons, without weights. And, run to win. Let us be that hoary head – in the way of righteousness, wearing age as a sign of glory for a life well lived, rather than a crown of shame for many years serving self.

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Christ’s Church – Beautiful – Ps. 45

Harken, O Daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.
Ps. 45:10-11

Throughout scripture, God’s people, first as Israel, but later as the church, are referred to as being betrothed to the Lord. We see a portion of that here in this passage. No one on earth ought to worship their spouse, yet here this daughter is called to do so. As believers, we are the Lord’s, endowed to Him by His blood.

As the Lord’s, He desires to take pleasure in us, of which a part, as stated here, is holiness. While reading this passage this morning, it struck me how we are well represented here. As believers, we were raised differently; brought up in the world, we are not citizens. Our father’s house, as in the place of our origin, is this world, but we are forsaking it for a better home – that of the Lord. We are already married to Him, but are waiting here on earth for the day when He will return and take us up with Him in the clouds, where we shall ever be with Him.

Until this time, however, we live on earth. While here, let us please the Lord, by not setting our affections and desires on the world, and things in it, but rather on Christ. We are a people set apart for our Lord, Christ, and as such have no more business chasing after the pleasures of this world than a married lady would other men – for to take pleasure in the things of this world, which are contrary to God, is to do exactly the same thing.

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When Friends Turn – Ps. 41:9

Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. But thou, O Lord, be merciful unto me, and raise me up…
Ps. 41:9-10a

Friendship can be one [or perhaps is] of the sweetest joys of earth, but there are times when, as with David, friends may turn. In David’s case, he mentions that it was a good friend who turned against him – and often those who are our best friends know the most, and can therefore be the most hurtful, should they turn.

It is perhaps partly for this reason that Prov. 22:24 warns us not to be friends with the chronically angry. We should be wise in choosing friends, but at the same time, be as Jesus, ready to befriend any sinner. Though He was – and is – a friend to sinners, we see certain throughout scripture who are labeled as ‘friends of God,’ or ‘a man greatly beloved’. These are people who have made friendship with God important enough that enmity with the world is of no consequence to them.

Should we desire to avoid David’s plight, we would be wise to search out friends who have a greater fidelity to God, than to any on earth, friends who have a history of consistently ploughing ahead for the Lord, regardless of opposition, or of times of ease. David fell into sin when he ‘took time off,’ but as Christians, we never have ‘time off’ from serving the Lord here on earth – rest comes in heaven. There will be times to rest on earth, but never to let down our guard, or take off our armor.

Should friends fail us, and they will, should they forsake us, and that will happen also, we must remember our friend ‘who sticketh closer than a brother’, our Lord Jesus Christ. As believers, our primary relational investment should be with the Lord, and with His people. When David’s friends forsook him, he turned more to God, trusting in Him. When we have friends, we should encourage them to turn to the Lord and trust in Him also, for there is no friend so true as our Lord!

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The Lord thinketh upon me – Ps. 40:17

But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.
Ps. 40:17

Reading this passage this morning, I was struck by the fact that David, the king of Israel, writes here acknowledging his own weakness. We are all weak creatures, poor and needy, dependent upon the Lord for everything, every day.

However, what was really interesting to me, was that David points out that in spite of this fact, that we are so week, and essentially, so nothing, the Lord thinketh upon me. Is that not truly amazing? We are nothing, yet God remembers us. He pays attention to the sparrows, and so no matter how little we are, He never forgets us. No matter how powerless we are, He is still there. In contrast to this, we find in Ps. 138:6, the same Lord knoweth the proud afar off.

When we recognize and admit our own weakness, then the Lord is near, but when we think we are something on our own, He gives us some rope to try it on our own – and we will end up, as the saying goes, hanging ourselves.

According to this passage, God does not forget me, but I am on His mind! How amazing, for as the ruler of all, He has much to think of, yet in all that, He thinks of us. Now there is a question for us. In Ps. 10:4, we find that God is not in all the wicked’s thoughts – for it seems that in his pride, he can think of nothing but himself! The question for us then, is do we think of God always? He thinks of us, let us not forget Him, and let us not think of ourselves more highly than we ought!

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With My Understanding

And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
– Mark 12:33
What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
– 1 Corinthians 14:15
Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
– 1 Corinthians 14:19
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
– Colossians 1:9

Consider the above passages. Reading this morning in 1 Cor. 12-14, I’m reminded of the importance of serving God… with our understanding. Though Prov. 3:5-6 warns against us leaning on our own understanding in preference to trusting in God, we are to serve God with understanding. Consider what Jesus told the Samaritan woman at  the well in Jn. 4:

Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
– John 4:22

The Jews had the scriptures, and so knew who and what they worshiped. The samaritans had a mixed up scripture, and though they thought they new better, they did not have the truth. I’ve been told that Christians walk by faith – and in so saying, they insinuate that faith is blind. Far be it – Faith is my ability to see! The world cannot see and understand the truths of scripture, for faith is the evidence of things not seen – and the substance – or physical matter if you will – of things hoped for.

We are not to wander around blind. Sadly, this is all together too common among Christian circles today. We have the truth – yea, we hold it in our hands, as my pastor preached this past Sunday from Romans 1:18, but we do so in unrighteousness, for we do not study it to obey and follow. Obedience requires understanding of the command. When I was a child, my parents taught is a little saying “I will learn to ask the questions which will help me understand.” That puts the responsibility on us to know what we are to do. So God does in scripture. He gives us the truth, here in this book. When we fail to read and obey it – it is not His fault, but rather ours.

In the context of 1 Cor, Paul was speaking of those who wanted people to think they were something in the church – and so spake with tongues which no one could understand. He pointed out that it is far better to 1. have Charity, and 2. to speak things which are edifying to others through their understanding.

Let us study to show ourselves approved to God, ready to uphold the doctrines of Christ. When singing, we ought to do it with understanding, when listening, we ought to pay attention and discern whether or not the teaching agrees with scripture. God does not call us to a blind faith, but rather, calls us to love and obey Him… with our understanding.

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