THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION

Matthew 16:13–16 :”Now when* Jesus came to the region of Caesarea ⌊Philippi⌋, he began asking* his disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, ⌊Some⌋ say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

As we read through these verses we notice that there are two questions that Jesus asks the disciples. First, who do the people say I am? And second, who do you say that I am? Both are serious questions, but ONLY one truly matters!

It can be helpful to “guage” the crowd or take a survey to find out what the most popular opinion is at any given time, but that’s just it: times change and so do our opinions. The “survey says,” (that’s a popular line from the old Family Feud show) that Jesus was everything other than who He was!

“There was a wide range of opinions on who Jesus was. Some of them were very clearly ill-informed. Which one of these answers is obviously false? Why? Jesus clearly could not have been John the Baptist since their lives overlapped and they were born just a few months apart and had actually seen each other face to face on at least one occasion. But all of the opinions had one thing in common. Everyone believed Jesus was somebody special and not just an ordinary man.”

That may seem to be an encouraging answer, “He’s special, certainly not ordinary,” but it really isn’t. Many people believe Jesus was a great man, good teacher, and wonderful example, but such beliefs will not find them enjoying peace with God and life everlasting!

The answer to Jesus’second question is the one that counts. “Who do YOU say That I am?  This question is personal and direct. Opinion polls do not matter. Surveys have no place here.  Who do you say Jesus is dear friend?

Matthew 16:16–18 :”16 And Simon Peter answered and* said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” 17 And Jesus answered and* said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this* to you, but my Father who is in heaven. “

Simon got it right! Do you notice how different his answer is compared to the majority opinion? Simon understood Jesus to be the Messiah: the rescuer; the redeemer! BUT, Simon could never of came to that truth claim without the help of God the Father.

Neither can we. Neither can YOU! Friends, you will be truly blessed when God reveals who Christ is to you. When you finally come to that place where you know absolutely who Jesus is (as Peter did), and receive Him by faith, your life, your destiny will be forever changed!

You will become a “new creation in Christ Jesus.” His just condemnation will be removed from you. And you will become an heir of the grace of God in Christ!

And, you will truly understand just how “special” He really is! Please, look unto Him and llive.GOSPEL

TODAY is the day of your salvation

As I was sitting in my school bus waiting to begin my route, I was scrolling through my news feed and came across this article that I want to share with you.

There is nothing new or unusual about this article (link to it below). Sadly, such a thing has become more normal to us as this world and it’s technology allow us immediate information on what is happening around our world.

https://share.newsbreak.com/15q55bin

Below is just a sample of the article that I hope might open our eyes once again to the sad reality that our Bible teaches. “ And inasmuch as it is [a]appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). And this reality happens to the very young as well.

“15-year-old dies at high school track and field practice, Indiana district says (A 15-year-old) freshman died at his high school’s evening track and field practice, according to an Indiana school district.”

“The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township and Lawrence North High School are extremely saddened by the (sudden) and unexpected death of a 15-year old freshman student … at Track & Field practice,” a district spokesperson said. “Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends, teachers, and classmates.”

Notice that this was a teenager not an elderly person who lived a full life. No one knows when his/her life will be required of them. No one knows how it will happen. I am sure that this young boy, so full of life, never in his wildest dreams thought that that day would be his last.

His last to participate in track and field. His last to hug his parents and tell them he loved them. His last day to joke around with his peers. His last day to look to Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins.

Admittedly, I don’t know this young man or his family. I don’t know if he was part of a loving functioning family or not. I don’t know if he professed faith in Christ. What I do know however, is that EVERYBODY NEEDS THAT FORGIVENESS!

Our youth is a time when we think we are invincible; a time when getting old and dying are the last things on our minds. In some ways this is normal, even right. But take notice to the counsel we receive from scripture.

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Our children desperately need us to teach them about Jesus and His Word. They need godly examples to follow in a culture that is one of perversion and death. A culture that’s primary purpose seems to be to entertain us right into hell!

It’s challenging enough for us older folk. Imagine what it must be like for our children.

Today it’s a new day. You feel great, even blessed, but you are not guaranteed to make it through. Neither are our children! Have you been instructing them in the things of God, their creator? Have you shared the gospel with them?

Today just might be the last chance you have.

THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE

Mark 4:21-34

BRIEF INTRO

The disciples are still included with others following Jesus (v. 10). But these parables appear only to be explained to the disciples (v. 34). Why does Mark place them here? Most likely because they reinforce His message of the kingdom. One parable or teaching builds upon another and then another until His listeners have the whole instruction He aims to give them. 

The first reveals how the kingdom’s message goes forth (sowing) and how people (soils) will receive it. These next few that we will discuss today explain the necessity for a proper response to them. 

21 And He was saying to them, “A lamp is not brought to be put under a [a]basket, or under a bed, is it? Is it not brought to be put on the lamp stand? 22 For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, [b]let him hear.”

FOCUS ONE: Let the light shine

These following parables are still a part of Jesus’ teaching to His disciples and “His followers” (v. 10). But later (v. 34), we find that He only explains them to “his own disciples.” it seems logical that this would be the meaning of verse 23: “If any has ears to hear, let him hear.”

“1In this parable Jesus pointed out the self-evident fact that a lamp, a lighted wick in a shallow clay bowl full of oil, was not meant to be lit and then hidden under a measuring bowl (as was done at bedtime) or a bed (lit. Dining couch). Rather, it was to be placed on its stand where it would give light.”

Then adding another self-evident fact to His teaching, Jesus explains how nothing is hidden that will not be revealed. During the night, whatever is hidden or concealed is meant to be brought out into the open (light) for use during the day. A lamp’s purpose was not to be hidden but to light up the space where it is located. How does that add value to our thinking on how a lamp can be used? 

2 Parables are meant to convey spiritual truth. So what is the truth that He was teaching? “The purpose of a lamp is to be put on a lamp stand and not under a bowl or bed, so the present hiddeness of Jesus will not always be —-hidden things are meant to be brought out into the open (v.22)-and God intends that one day Jesus will be manifested in all His glory. But who Jesus really is, is now hidden.”

His teaching was not intended to be kept secret or for a small circle of followers. After Jesus ascends, it would be the disciple’s responsibility to proclaim these truths to others, continuing the work of Jesus so that others would hear and understand His message so that they might be saved!

It is therefore vital for us to be careful hearers of His word.

24 And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. [a]By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. 25 For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

FOCUS TWO: Open your ears

Just like the previous teaching began with “and He was saying to them,” so too does this one and the next (v. 26). I am not sure much could be said about that observation other than that statement seems to group them in a trilogy of teaching on the kingdom. 

The “carefulness” in which we listen is now highlighted. This listening involves a level of spiritual perception that, when heeded, will bring a greater understanding of more truth. The more a person listens to and appropriates it, the more truth about Himself will be revealed. 

This warning is as much for us today as it was for them. So LISTEN to what is being said here. 3″ The more one appropriates the truth now, the more one will receive in the future. Whoever does not lay hold of the word now, even the little spiritual perception he has will be taken from him.”

It appears that the “standard of measure we use,” is about the way we value and utilize the truth that has been given!

26 And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up daily, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. 28 The soil produces crops by itself; first the stalk, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29 Now when the crop permits, he immediately [a]puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

FOCUS THREE: The mystery of kingdom growth

Let me briefly summarize what we just read in our text. We have a man acting in faith, casting seed into the soil. His purpose for planting seeds rests in the hope that the seeds will grow and produce a bountiful crop. He doesn’t know how, but eventually, it happens; ultimately, he has a harvest. 

The farmer cannot explain how it happens. Seeds are planted and are dependent on something outside of the farmer who planted it. Winds and rain beat against the soil. Sunshine and clouds pass over the crops, and yet, even though he sleeps, it springs up and grows and eventually produces a crop. What joy he experiences because harvest time has come!

After he sows the seed, he does nothing toward its growth. His focus is now on other things, and slowly, over time, it gradually grows! “First the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.” 

This parable is about how the kingdom grows! It explains how spiritual growth is accomplished in the seed planted in the “good ground” or soil (v. 20). It grows gradually. God carries on His work after the gospel seed is planted in an individual’s heart. Sometimes it seems more slowly than others, BUT ultimately, only until He decides to reap the harvest of that soul and saves that person!

I like how Matthew Henry sums it up: “From the fruit of the gospel taking place and working in the soul, Christ gathers in a harvest. When those that receive the gospel aright have finished their course, the harvest comes, when they shall be gathered as wheat into God’s barn” (Matthew 13:30).

30 And He was saying, “How shall we [a]picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is the smallest of all the seeds that are upon the soil, 32 yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants, and forms large branches, with the result that the birds of the sky can nest under its shade.”

33 And with many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to [b]understand it; 34 and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.

FOCUS FOUR: Kingdom growth

This last parable answers the question: “How shall we “picture” the kingdom of God?” In this parable, Jesus again uses something so natural and normal to the listener’s everyday life to explain how God’s kingdom emerges. 

1. Like a mustard seed

The mustard seed may not be the smallest seed known to humanity, but it was the smallest of all the seeds in the fields that day. But, once it had grown, it would become the largest of all garden plants (12-15 feet in height)! The contrast in this particular parable is between the seemingly insignificant beginning of this seed being planted and what it eventually becomes to the seemingly insignificant beginning of the gospel seed planted in humanity’s hearts (soil) and what it ultimately becomes!

The birds of the air nesting in its branches may simply be indicating the surprising size of the results, the incorporation of the Gentiles into God’s kingdom, OR it represents the sphere of salvation, which would grow so large that it would provide shelter, protection, and benefit to the people. These are a few possibilities I gleaned from various commentaries. 

Jesus spoke with many other parables not recorded here. It makes me wonder how many He told that we do not have a record of. Like His signs and wonders that John spoke about, I wonder if “the world itself would not be able to contain them” if they were all written down (John 21:25)!

He explained the parables only to His disciples (privately) we read in verse 34. Don’t just read that statement in passing. It’s important. I believe it marks a shift in Jesus’ teaching method and purpose. This statement stems from a situation that recently happened to Him after He healed the man with the withered hand on the sabbath (v. 1-6). Because of that rejection and the state of the hardened hearts that blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, Jesus would no longer speak openly and clearly to all around Him. 

“3This method of teaching left unbelievers with riddles, and kept them from being forced to believe the or disbelieve Him-they could make no decision to follow Him since they did not understand what He taught.”

MY summation of all the kingdom parables:

Whether it’s Jesus, His disciples, or those that come after them spreading the seeds of the gospel, a large amount of the time it will NOT be heeded as it falls on the hardened, conscience seared hearts of rebellious sinners, who are more interested in this life than the one to come.

But God assures us that there is good soil, hearts He has prepared for His gospel, and they will receive it rightly and be saved. They will slowly but surely produce fruit that is evidence of that fact. 

Our responsibility as Christians is to proclaim the gospel, and spread the seeds so others can hear and believe (Romans 10). We are not prejudiced on where we spread the seeds, but we are to give to all freely. The results are up to God, not us. We can do nothing to affect true salvation growth in the hearer; only God can. So we can sleep easy at night knowing that we were faithful in sowing, and so we trust Him to be faithful in reaping.

His kingdom WILL grow, perhaps not as quickly as we would like to see, but it grows. The result will be fantastic to behold!

1 The NT Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 120

2 The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol 8, pg. 652

2. MacArthur Study Bible notes, pg. 1466

JESUS HEALS ON THE SABBATH

Mark 3: 1-6

BRIEF INTRO: In this chapter, we witness a continuation of Christ’s healing power and authority. Christ’s popularity is on the rise, while His ability to have “alone time” is greatly hindered due to the multitude’s continuous presence. This chapter begins with the Pharisees “watching” Him to see if He would heal on the Sabbath so they could accuse Him. It ends with His brethren and family members believing that He is out of His mind, and so they attempt to remove Him from the people to a “safe space!”

Sandwiched in the middle of all that, Mark tells us about Jesus appointing the twelve to apostleship and their purpose OR function.

He entered a synagogue again; and a man was there whose hand was withered. And they were watching Him [a]closely to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He *said to the man with the withered hand, “[b]Get up and come forward!” And He *said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He *said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began [c]conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might put Him to death.

FOCUS ONE: Pharisees are watching

The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day. They sat on “Moses seat,” which means that they had the highest authority to instruct people in the law. But they “*had gone beyond the any legitimate authority and were adding human tradition to the Word of God” (Matthew 15:3-9) and constantly opposed Him, for that Jesus condemned them.

The Pharisees are often exposed for this very thing elsewhere in scripture (Mark 10:2-12; Luke 18:9-14; Matthew 19:3-12; John 7:43-49; John 8). These examples must suffice for now, but these few samples prove that they always tested, challenged, and opposed the Lord.

On this particular day, we read that they are watching. They stood aloof of the people in the synagogue, just observing all that was transpiring. They were not innocent bystanders by any means. Instead, they were purposely, thoughtfully, and maliciously waiting for Jesus to do something that they could accuse of before the authorities. In this case, they waited to see if “He would heal on the sabbath” (3:2).

 He *said to the man with the withered hand, “[b]Get up and come forward!” And He *said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He *said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

FOCUS TWO: Jesus challenges the Pharisees

The tension grows! Jesus sees the man with the withered hand in the synagogue. The man’s deformity was likely a “*form of paralysis or deformity from an accident, a disease, or congenital defect.” He tells the man to “rise and come forward.” Jesus sees the man; He knows the Pharisees are watching and why, and He calls this disabled man forward anyway! Obviously, Jesus has a higher purpose for what He is about to do. A good and righteous purpose, unlike the Pharisees.

The man appears to obey Jesus’ command to come forward. I can picture this man in front of Jesus, perhaps a bit nervous, as Jesus asks the Pharisees this question. “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or evil, to save life or to kill?” this rhetorical question “1destroys their argument by forcing a logical conclusion: Would your interpretation of the law ever demand you to destroy life or do evil? No answer.” Matthew records Jesus using a sheep analogy to help them understand and form a correct conclusion (Matthew 12:11-12).

This question elevates the issue from a legal to a moral problem. “* Jesus was forcing the Pharisees to examine their tradition regarding the Sabbath to see if it  was consistent with God’s Old Testament law.” The clear understanding would be that any failure to do good or save a life was wrong and would not be in obedience to God’s original intention for the sabbath observance. 

The Pharisee’s silence showed their refusal to answer the question, and in not doing so, the implication was that their views of the OT law were false!

Jesus becomes angry, grieved at their hardness of heart. Does that statement trouble you (3:5)? The Greek word for “anger” is (Orge). 2It means to desire eagerly or earnestly; Wrath, anger as a state of mind. It is used in the anarthrous, which means that there is NO definite article in the original, and it is a noun, not a verb in this usage.

Jesus certainly had displeasure at their hardness of heart and unwillingness to repent. BUT His reaction was consistent with His divine nature, not outside it. His anger is ALWAYS consistent with His holiness! Christ’s righteous indignation, expressed at times throughout our bibles, is always in total alignment with His divine character and nature. Unlike our anger.

But don’t miss the “other side of the coin” here. The Pharisees hardened hearts grieved the Lord. It weighed on Him, causing sorrow within Himself at such willful stubbornness. I have grieved myself when I think of how my willful sinfulness, stubbornness at times, or callousness affects my Father, Redeemer, and sustainer. BUT I am thankful that His mercy is new each day (Lamentations 3:22-24).

FOCUS THREE: Jesus heals the man

Jesus took a moment and looked around at these men, allowing them to respond to His question. They don’t, so He tells the man to “stretch out your hand.” He does, and it is healed! 

In some instances, Jesus touches those He heals; in others, He speaks, and they are healed. That is what we read here. This man experienced complete and perfect restoration of his withered hand by the words of Jesus! Everybody in the synagogue witnessed it. They all knew the situation of this man. They knew what his arm was like before that day and what it is like now. 

We are not told how they responded. We can only imagine. BUT we are told how the Pharisees responded (v.6). They immediately leave the synagogue and begin plotting to “destroy” Jesus. With their minds already made up, they join forces with the “Herodians” (v. 6). This group is said to be much smaller than the Pharisees and “tended toward political opportunism.” To them, Jesus would have been a threat to their status quo of the Roman rule, which was a big plus for them.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This ancient proverb is what we see being put into practice by these two groups. “The Herodians opposed the Pharisees on nearly every issue, but were willing to join forces with them because they both wanted desperately to destroy Jesus.” All the gospels record their intent (Matthew 12:9-13; Luke 6:6-10; John 11:53).

After the Pharisees left the synagogue, Jesus moved on to the sea with His disciples. Despite the frequent confrontations with the Pharisees, Jesus’ popularity grew so much that we read in verses seven and eight that “multitudes” came from all parts of Palestine to see and hear Him for themselves!

*Macarthur Study Bible pg. 1463

1 Liberty Bible Commentary pg. 1972

2 The complete Word Study NT, pg. 941

A REVERSAL OF FORTUNES

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I recently read through Spurgeon’s Catechism and was meditating on question sixteen: “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?” The answer is not good. “The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery?”

The fall (Genesis 3) eluded to is that time in which Adam and Eve, our first parents, disobeyed God’s ONE command; the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Adam, being our representative, sinned, we fell with him: “By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). 

Because of that choice to violate God’s command, all of mankind lives in a state of guilt, lacking any righteousness, and sadly, the corruption of our whole nature. That is why Solomon, hundreds of years later, cried out, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Futile or meaningless).” Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and in his writing, we recognize that he clearly perceives the evil all around him, as well as the results of it on mankind and creation.

Does this mean that we should live our few breaths in this life in despair? Absolutely not! Isaiah the prophet writes of a time when there will be a new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65:17-19). A time when sin and its corruptions will be remembered no more! In John’s gospel, he wrote about mankind’s one pathway to escape the bondage of sin, its misery, and the wrath that follows, and that pathway that person is God’s only begotten Son, Jesus (John 3:16)!

God revealed His plan of salvation to us by way of the Prophets and Apostles. He told us that Jesus had to die on a cruel cross as our substitute (representative). Shed His blood as an atonement for sin, once for all (Hebrews 10:10), and rise from the grave victorious over sin, death, and hell. He said that we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, trust in His redemptive work only, and that such a faith is accompanied by repentance (Acts 20:21).

Our current state may be one of sin and misery, but that is only the first part of the story. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep”. . . “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ, all shall be made alive”. . . “But each in his order: Christ the firstfruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22,-23).

The curse will be removed! Christ HAS broken our bondage to sin, and we will be with our savior throughout all eternity, not as enemies, but as His beloved children

GOD’ S VIEW OF CHRISTMAS

Extended reading: Revelation 12

Devotional reading: Verses 10-12

When you think of the Christmas season and what it means, do you think of it in the terms written out for us in Revelation 12? Probably not. We are so accustomed to thinking about a cute baby in a manger, wise men with gifts, and angels singing out in the fields with shepherds that we most likely miss God’s view of the Christmas story.

“The birth of Christ and Satan’s opposition to the event are graphically depicted in this scene. Jesus, the messiah, was born into this world to implement God’s plan for the world’s restoration. Satan had planted the destructive effects of sin into God’s good creation by tempting Adam and Eve to sin. So as Jesus was born to reverse the effects of that sin, Satan did all he could to destroy the infant savior” (remember what Herod did? Matthew 2:16-18).

“Thankfully, Satan was unsuccessful, and the future Ruler of the world was able to complete His earthly mission. As much as Satan desires to thwart God’s overall plan, he cannot stop God’s plan of salvation for us if we surrender our lives to Him by trusting Christ to pay for our sins.”

Some parts are adapted from “The every mans Bible.”

JEHOVAH RAPHA (pt 2)

BRIEF INTRO: 

My last post concluded with this statement: “The moral and spiritual sickness of mankind is an open, running sore. The heart of man is desperately sick, says Jeremiah 17:9. Herein is the hearts fundamental disease–the sin which alienates it from God–the sin which manifests itself in open and secret evil of every kind. How desperately mankind is in need of a healer, a physician!”

FOCUS ONE:  JEHOVAH THE HEALER IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

This brings me to my next point that The Lord is the great Healer of men. He alone has the remedy that can heal the spirits of men. He IS the remedy for the healing of man. And the Gospel is concerned primarily with the spiritual sickness and healing of mankind. Behind all the evils out there and all physical sickness– is sin. The importance of Marah in Israel’s experience is attested by the fact that God gave Himself this new name here—Jehovah-who-heals. 

This incident is intended chiefly as a lesson and warning against that sin and disobedience at the root of all sorrow, suffering, and sickness in the world. The tree cast into the waters is obviously a figure (type) of the tree on which hung Jesus in the New Testament. Friends, Jesus is the (only) remedy for the cure of mankind’s ills–and He alone can sweeten the bitterness of your human experience through that forgiveness of sin and sanctifying of life which is accomplished.

Certainly, God could and did heal physical maladies in the Old Testament whenever it pleased Him. Moses cried out to Jehovah on behalf of Miriam, smitten with leprosy: “Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee” (Numbers 12:13). There are many others!!

Many references to sickness and wounds in the OT are simply figurative expressions of moral and spiritual ills. It is instead in this sense that God is known as Jehovah-Rapha–Jehovah who heals. This is what Jeremiah means when he says: “For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith Jehovah” (Jeremiah 30:17) and again: “Return, ye backsliding children and I will heal your backslidings” (Jeremiah 3:22).

 Isaiah speaks of the day when “Jehovah bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound” (Isaiah 30:26). He predicts the coming of One upon whom the Spirit of Jehovah God will rest in order, among other things, to bind up the brokenhearted ( Isaiah 61:1). The will, and the power, and the longing are present in Jehovah to heal. The only obstacle in the way of this spiritual healing is man himself. The remedy is there–near at hand–as near as the tree at Marah’s waters. “The word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart,” says Moses (Deuteronomy 30:14),

 There is salvation for every sin, healing for every evil. The remedy only awaits its acknowledgment or application. This, man, has often been unwilling to do.

“Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered” (Jeremiah 8:21, 22)?

The remedy was there–in Jehovah Himself–but they went on and on refusing it “till there was no remedy” (or healing) (2Chronicles 36:16). And centuries later, the word of the Lord Jesus to His people was, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40). 

FOCUS TWO: JESUS THE HEALER IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

The God who heals in the Old Testament is the God who heals in the New.

The ministry of the Lord Jesus began with healing. In the synagogue at Nazareth, having returned in the power of the Spirit from His great temptation, He opened His public ministry by quoting Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).

“teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23). These miracles of healing constantly amazed the people, and He cited them as proofs of His identity and mission.

 But as with God of the Old, so with Jesus of the New Testament, physical healing was only incidental to His chief object, which was the healing of the souls of men. His opening words in the synagogue at Nazareth declared His mission to be to preach the Gospel, to preach deliverance, to set at liberty Cf 8:31,32,3 –

His miracles of healing were proof of His identity and mission–His credentials. Yet many of the sicknesses He healed were truly striking symptoms of that dark, dreaded disease which has- its- roots in the soul of men and not in the body – the disease of sin.

The Lord Jesus consummated (perfected or completed in every way) by becoming that tree that made the bitter pools of human existence, waters of life and healing and sweetness. The teaching of Marah is wonderfully fulfilled in Him. They were taught the corruption and the bitterness of the purely natural waters, which are only an aggravation of the soul’s sickness and need.

Only the tree of God’s provision and choice could purify and sweeten and satisfy. To the woman at the well the Lord Jesus said: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall he in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13, 14).

Friends, The Lord Jesus is both the tree and the waters. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.” He is the well of salvation (Isaiah 12:3), the water of life, sweet, saving, and satisfying. In Jesus, the tree of life and the river of life in Eden’s garden are free and accessible to Adam’s sons once more.

 This is the picture presented to us in the closing scene of the Book of Revelation:

“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1, 2).

What Jehovah was to Israel at Marah, so the Lord Jesus is to all who will receive and obey Him, the Great Physician

NEW BOOK REVIEW

WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM FOR KIDS

I recently began going through Spurgeon’s Catechism with my son when my wife, who does most of our homeschooling, told me about this book. There are two books (Workbook One, which covers the first ten questions, and Workbook Two, which covers questions 11-20).

What more significant conversations can we have with our children than those regarding their creator, the entrance of evil into the world, and the suffering and misery that comes from it? The Bible does not shy away from such conversations, and neither should we. It reveals the world as it truly is, and despite the seemingly endless “vanity” of it all, there is hope, and His name is JESUS! These workbooks are easy to read and VERY helpful for parents who struggle with having more in-depth conversations with their children regarding more profound subject matter.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism interestingly introduces the story of redemption. In the first book, questions 1-10, Caroline Weerstra and Thomas Trouwborst, expand the topic of each question posed in the catechism by bringing in two or three “lessons” about the question asked. The workbook helps us expand and penetrate the thinking of our children so they can think through each question logically and biblically. They also help us as parents explain and develop the truth in scripture by using other scriptures that help give us a complete picture of God’s character, nature, and purpose in history.

Each question is asked, and an answer is given, just like in the Shorter catechism itself. Then the authors provide three lessons that go along with the question posed. The lessons are short but helpful, often with a brief review. Your child can write their answers directly in the book – they provide “fill in the blanks” for that purpose. Or, they can write their answers in a notebook, but you can also walk through it together verbally if that suits your style of teaching better!

I enjoyed how they bring in other scriptures to shed greater light on the particular question being answered and sometimes have comparisons, such as what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1 compared with what Isaiah wrote In Isaiah 65.

There is also a “Let’s think” section that get’s your child reflecting on your discussion on a more personal level; LOVE THAT!

I appreciate their motivation for this project: “We believe that our rich Reformed heritage should be carried on to the next generation. However, memorization is NOT enough. Children learn best when they UNDERSTAND. . . This workbook series introduces children to the Westminster Shorter catechism and promotes memorization, while also providing clearand concise explanations of vocabulary and theological concepts.

Workbook one covers (Who is God?) the first ten questions of the Shorter Catechism. “It begins with a basic discussion of the purpose of man and the nature of God and moves on to introduce a biblical view of creation.”The second workbook “teaches primarily about the fall of mankind,” and God’s provision of a redeemer. The marvelous message (good news) of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!

I included a picture of these books. I imagine you can find them many places, but just in case, their website is www.commonlifepress.com

FINALLY, BRETHREN

PHILIPPIANS 4:8-10

BRIEF INTRO: Now that Paul has addressed the issue of disunity within this local church and especially the two women at its heart, He signals that he is coming to an end of his writing. Yes, he appeared to signal this before (3:1), but with approximately (according to one commentator) 40% of his letter yet to come, it seems logical to deduce that he does not mean to signal “finality,” but rather is using the term in the sense of “furthermore,” or “adding to that.” In our text, he is using the exact Greek phrase to signal the true final words of his epistle to them.

In our previous study, we observed the apostle exhorting this church (Rejoice, be anxious for nothing, and make known, are all in the imperative – commands) to practice specific positive biblical virtues. Today, in our study, he continues with this appeal by directing them to the things their minds should be dwelling on. Paul desires that these Christians “keep on thinking and doing what is morally and spiritually excellent.” This involves meditating on such higher and nobler things and then putting them into practice. And, as we will observe again, they are encouraged to follow his example.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is [a]lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

FOCUS ONE: In these verses, we find six adjectives that are to lead Christians into a higher, more reflective sense of thinking, introduced by the word whatever. Some view these things as “old-fashioned ideas,” while others view them as a “Charter for Christian Thought.” Either way, Paul is reminding them AND us “that careful, logical, and noble thinking produces noble living; high thinking produces high living; and holy thinking produces holy living,” as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). Such things were exemplified in Jesus Christ (2:5-11) and are produced within us by the working of the Holy Spirit, who indwells each believer.

So, let’s put them in order, and I will give a brief definition of each that I hope will help us grasp the greater sense of each and help us engage the obvious battle for the mind that such thinking elicits (Hebrews 5:16-26).

We are to dwell on:

  1. Whatever is true
  2. Whatever is honorable
  3. Whatever is right
  4. Whatever is pure
  5. Whatever is lovely or lovable
  6. Whatever is good repute or attractive

We should notice that Paul changes the sentence structure to conditional clauses at the end of the verse (if there), so those things are not included in this list but will be discussed later.

Truth is reality, in it is a sense of validity, reliability and is the opposite of what is not. It exemplifies God’s character and should characterize the Christian as well. Honorable is dignified, worthy of reverence, and seems to combine a sense of gravity with dignity. Paul used this word in his pastoral epistles, referring to the qualifications of a church leader.

Right refers to what is upright, conforming to God’s standards, and worthy of His approval.

Pure emphasizes moral purity, that which, in KJV language, is “unsullied.”

Lovely is used in the sense of what is pleasing, agreeable, or amiable. Not to be confused with what is pleasing to the flesh, but the Spirit!

Good repute directs us to what is praiseworthy and rings true to the highest standards—God’s standards, not ours or our cultures.

Some people become discouraged when they read things as we have in this epistle. “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ” (2:5).” “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12). And, “let your mind dwell on these things” (4:8). But we shouldn’t because, in all these exhortations to Christ-like-ness, God is actively working within us to conform us into the image of His Son (1:6; 2:13; 4:7,9)!

FOCUS TWO: Paul has changed his sentence structure at the end of verse eight to conditional clauses (if there), “A rhetorical device that forces the reader to exercise his own discernment and choose what is excellent and praiseworthy.” It appears that the apostle would have these believers, and us secondarily, focus our minds on these things because when we do, we will be living in obedience to Gods Word, we will be walking in unity, and we will “appear as lights in the world” (2:15)!

Dear reader, these are things that should occupy our minds. These are things that occupy our Lord’s mind. How can we grow in holiness, serve one another, be effective witnesses for Christ, or have intimate, powerful prayer lives if we allow our minds to be engrossed with things that are opposed to the things the inspired Word of God teaches us? 

We often struggle with applying the knowledge we acquire, so our loving Heavenly Father provides us godly examples to imitate (3:17; 4:9). No, we are not to imitate men who walk in the flesh, but we are graciously encouraged to emulate those whose lives are imitations of Christ! Such people exhibit the application of such truths in their daily walk, which, in turn, helps us visualize what conformity to God’s word looks like when it is fleshed out.

As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

FOCUS THREE: Paul had become their teacher shortly after his arrival in Philippi (Acts 16). What they had learned, what they had observed in his life, took place in the short period he was with them (Acts 16:40), and he wanted them to continue practicing these things. 

He uses four verbs that are formed into two pairs (Exegetical Commentary). The first pair, “learned” and “received,” describes the Philippian’s instruction by Paul. He is the person who taught them Christian doctrine and Christian living. The next pair, “heard” and “saw,” depicts their personal observation of the apostle – both his speech and his conduct.

In my meditation on these things, it became clear to me just how much we need both. As Christians, we can’t lead balanced lives if we only have one avenue of personal growth absent of the other. Preaching and teaching are essential, but if it is lacking any application to my daily life, to my walk of faith, it will serve to wound me more than aid me. Let me explain my thinking: I can fill my head with all kinds of bible facts, doctrine, and theology, but if that “knowledge” sits in my head, if I don’t know what it is supposed to look like in applying it in my life, or I’m not encouraged by observing it in others, what use is it to me? 

Real-life illustration: Many years ago, I was a member of a small local church in my hometown. I was a member there for many years and also preached and taught there often. I often overheard a few gentlemen express their disgust at the topic the pastor would be preaching or teaching on that Sunday. Many times I would hear one or the other say: “Why doesn’t he teach on Romans 7 and 8 or Hebrews 5,” I already know all about 1 Corinthians 13.”

Do you see the problem? What good was the “knowledge” about Christian love to them? I observed their rudeness, pride, and self-focus all too often while I was there. They didn’t need more knowledge; they needed to apply what they knew in their own lives and relationships with others.

Paul lived what he preached. His life spoke more eloquently than his lips, I read somewhere. Life examples like that are models that we can follow, confidently trusting that “the God of peace will be with you!”

HEAVEN

There will be no unemployment
In that land beyond the sky;
There will be no wage reduction
In that sweet, bye and bye.

There will be no breadlines forming
On that morning bright and fair;
When the saints of earth are gathered
To a better home up there.

There will be no big depressions
For there’ll be no greed for gain;
Every soul will have a blessing
Every heart be freed from pain.

There will be no strikes or lockouts
Earthquakes, warfare, sin, or shame;
For we’ll gather with our Savior
Singing glory to His name!

Author unknown