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  • Blessings from the Psalms

    The word “Blessed” is used by many people. People certainly want to be “Blessed.” If you ask how a person is doing, they will often respond by saying, “I’m blessed.” The book of Psalms uses the term “Bless” quite a bit. When one reads the book of Psalms, they will certainly be blessed. Let’s consider some passages from the Psalms. “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the Law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2 It is a blessing to follow the law of God! The counsel of the wicked and the path of sinners may seem enticing, but it will never end well. The psalmist reminds us in Psalm 119:67 that when we go astray, affliction comes. Those who travel the path of the wicked and sinners will not stand. When we meditate on God’s law day and night, we will be blessed. When we delight in understanding His ways, our lives will be much better. This doesn’t mean that we will never have problems. However, we will be able to eliminate the pain that sin brings with it. King David reminded us in Psalm 32 about the pain of sin. He said: “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.”  Do you want to be blessed? Then delight in God’s law. David spoke about the pain of sin in Psalm 32. But he also talked about the blessing of being forgiven! “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity. And in whose spirit there is no deceit.” We are blessed when we confess our sins to God and repent! Many may not view this as a blessing. However, being forgiven by God and knowing we have a right relationship with Him is the greatest gift we could ever have! Is there sin we need to confess to God? We will be blessed when we do! What other blessings might we find in the book of Psalms? Consider the following passages. Psalm 2:12: “Do Homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” Psalm 33:10-12: “The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.” Psalm 34:8: “O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Because we are so blessed by God, let us Bless Him! Let us give thanks to Him, praise Him, and honor Him! “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.”  Psalm 103:1-2

  • Do You Know My Jesus?

    Do you know who Jesus is? I mean, do you really know who he is? What was he all about? What kind of life did he live? Who was this man that we are trying to model our lives after? I think it’s safe to say that Jesus is very often misrepresented in today’s world. Ask someone who is not a Christian today what Jesus was like, or what people who follow him (Christians) are supposed to be like, and see what they say. I read a quote from a man who is not a Christian, and he made this statement: “I hate Christians because they are not loving of others. They show an intolerance for other belief systems and they condemn actions that they claim to be immoral. This intolerance is not the way you should be living if you claim to follow a loving savior, Jesus.” I would have to ask this man, and others who make similar statements, to consider this thought: What if Jesus really was who you say he is? What if he was loving and accepting of all beliefs, tolerant of all people and lifestyles, and hesitant to condemn anyone for their actions? That sounds like a pretty nice guy. But people who have this view of Jesus forget one very important detail about his life. He was killed...because people hated him... Clearly, people weren’t too fond of Jesus, seeing as how they numbered him among the criminals. Yet Jesus being proclaimed as a criminal, and killed because of it, ended up being the sacrifice that we needed for our salvation. If Jesus had been that incredibly tolerant guy that many people claim he is, then people would have loved him. If Jesus hadn't called out the sin around him, he likely wouldn't have upset people and we wouldn’t have a hope for salvation through his death. This claim, that Jesus tolerates all sin and lifestyles, doesn’t just exist outside of Christianity. Even people who claim to be Christians have become tolerant of many different lifestyles and allow sinful things to exist in their own, as well as others', lives all because they fail to recognize just who Jesus was. Was Jesus a loving and tolerant person? Absolutely he was, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus ever tolerated sin. In fact, Jesus, many times, called people out when the situation demanded it, even if that meant offending the people around him. In Matthew 23, Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees, calls these men “white-washed tombs…full of dead men’s bones.” These were men who had an appearance in front of others, as being really spiritual God-fearing people, but Jesus calls them out and says ‘Not even close!’ In John chapter 4, Jesus calls out a woman, whom he had just met, for living a life with many husbands & divorces because, though she might not have wanted to hear it, he knew more than anything she needed it. In Matthew chapter 12, Jesus calls a crowd of people a “brood of vipers.” This doesn’t really sound like a man who is trying to be tolerant of the lives around him. In fact, this sounds like a man who never lowered the standard but told people that he, as their judge, held them to a higher one. Nothing about Jesus’ life ever changed to adapt to the world around him. He called for the world to adapt to him and held strong even if they wouldn’t. Our savior Jesus Christ was definitely a loving and caring person. That much is evident by the fact that he was willing to die for us. But let’s not forget just what it was that caused him to end up on that cross; it was the truth that he stood for and the enemies he made while defending that truth. He brought this truth to us, knowing full well the effect it would have and the consequences it would bring. He says to his disciples, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) We too are to recognize the effect that our message will have on people and the consequences that it may bring. Jesus says, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this, the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19) People may not like that we refuse to be tolerant of their sinful lives. In fact, people may hate us because we proclaim a higher standard enforced by Jesus. But none of that should cause us to stray from the truth of Jesus Christ. We need to be loving and caring for all people, but we cannot tolerate sin just because the world accepts it. We must hold fast in truth despite its consequences. “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)

  • "Fear Not"

    What makes you afraid? People fear all kinds of things from snakes to tight spaces to needles. Some fears are completely irrational, others are based in some sort of traumatic experience. Matthew 10 talks a lot about fear and tells us exactly what we as Christians should and should not be afraid of. Verses 16-23 are Jesus’ warning to the apostles that they would be hated and persecuted for His sake. In fact, He tells them honestly and directly that he is sending them into dangerous, difficult situations. Families will be divided, Christians will be put on trial and martyred due to their faith, and the apostles will quite literally have to run for their lives. All of this, though, sets up Jesus’ main point in the next section. If you skip to verses 26-33, we read what we should really be afraid of. After outlining the horrors that would come to the first century church at the hands of their persecutors, Jesus says, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” What the apostles had to realize is that there are horrific things that would happen in their lives, but no matter how much pain or persecution they endured, God would be just in the end, for better or for worse, for everyone, for all of time. If they lived faithfully to Him and kept His commandments, then they would be eternally “acknowledged” before the Father as The Redeemed, and they would be in a place where they would forget all the sorrows of this world and experience the indescribable joy of their Maker’s presence for all eternity. But, if they did not fear the living God and keep His commandments while on this earth, they would be eternally separated from the Father of the Man they had followed and worked with for 3 years. Their body and soul would be destroyed beyond anything an abusive, tyrannical emperor like Nero could even dream of. That should terrify us, just like it did them. Jesus’ goal in these verses, though, is not just to literally put the fear of God into His apostles. He also uses this time to encourage them. Verses 29-31 tell us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Jesus uses the thoughts of the coming persecution as motivation for His apostles to keep their eyes on the Heavenly Father. No matter how bad the persecution got, no matter how many of their brethren were stoned, no matter how many Christians were forced to compete to the death in the Coliseum, God knew everything about them and cared for them deeply. We serve an omniscient God. He knows everything, including who are His, who are proud to be His, and who is slacking off in His kingdom. It is scary to know that whether we like it or not, and no matter how well we “fake it” with our brethren, we cannot hide from God. Jonah tried it. Adam and Eve tried it. It has never worked, so why would we be any different? In the context of a comparison between God’s mercy and His wrath, the Hebrew writer tells us in Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” God’s mercy, grace, love, and faithfulness are all strong, but His wrath and His judgment are too. When the end comes, God Himself is coming back to earth with a vengeance unlike anything we have seen before. His eternal purpose will be fulfilled and those who have been faithful to Him, His word, and His plan, will reap the benefits of their work. As the song says: “This world’s a wilderness of woe, this world is not my home. We will work till Jesus comes.” But, on the other hand, Satan’s head will finally be crushed, darkness will be defeated, along with the rest of those who are not on God’s side. It is absolutely horrifying to think about the amount of destruction, judgment, and separation that will occur on that day.  But is also incomprehensible to imagine the amount of love and joy that awaits those who are sons and daughters of the King. The lesson in all of this is really to understand who we are dealing with. God has so many complex qualities that we can never fully understand, but the more we learn about Him and the closer our relationship with Him is, the better we will be able to understand and fear Him properly. We are to keep growing, keep praising Him, and keep communicating with Him through scripture and prayer. The more we teach ourselves about who God is, the more ready we will be to humble ourselves at His feet on the day of judgment. We are to stay humble, stay in the Word, and stay fearful. After all, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1:7)

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