Scripture Text: Psalm 146:5-7
Question of the Day: On whom do the rich blessings of God come to?
As a believer walks with God, it becomes evident very soon after salvation that they need God’s blessings on their lives. Then a believer learns that God has a vast supply of grace and power and blessings to fill every need and every desire He lays on their hearts. Then He gives each of us a task to perform that will need a maximum outpouring of His grace, power, and blessing to accomplish the task. So now the question: on whom does He pour out those rich blessings?
Today’s text give us part of the answer: “God’s rich blessings are on the person who has learned to rely totally on the God of Jacob for his help, and on the person who has his hope totally in the LORD his God. This can only be because He is the One who made heaven and earth, the oceans of the world and all that is in them, and He is faithful to the truth of His Word forever. He also executes justice for those who are oppressed and beaten up by life, and He provides food to those who are hungry.”
The main problem we have is that God has created us with a lot of man-type ability, and we believe that we can handle anything that comes our way. The second problem we have is that we pin our hopes on what we can see and attain in this life. Let’s look at each of these problems and how God answers each one:
One thing that many American’s have as part of the “American spirit” is the feeling that we are self-reliant. As one little child mispronounced it while learning to tie his shoes said, “I want to do it myselfs!” We would like to think that we can handle life on our own. Obviously this is an outworking of the pride in the heart of every person on earth. Even though God created the world and the environment in which we live; and though He made us in His image; and since He is the only One who is ultimately self-sufficient, yet since sin entered the world, our sinful human nature decided to live without a thought of God, so we mistakenly think that we can do it ourselves.
Further, man’s heart is so rebellious against God because he doesn’t want anyone ruling over him and telling him what to do; but that is the essence of who God is and what He does. He rules over all of His creation and desires all of us to learn to lean fully on Him for every facet of our lives. When we do that we get the focus of our lives off ourselves and onto Him—the eternal God.
That brings us to the second problem: one of keeping the focus of our lives on things temporal instead of on the eternal. God is determined to take each of us through the most difficult things in life to teach us two things: that we can’t do it ourselves—it is far beyond us to take care of ourselves, and then to look to Him for everything that we need. To do that we must lift our eyes up to Him in faith and see the eternal, the “forever purpose” that He created us for. He wants to teach us that this world is not our home, so He gives us trials and tribulations and a body that is decaying and dying so that we will look to Him for eternal life; He puts us in situations where our only hope is in Him, so then we lift our eyes off the temporal and fix our hope fully on the eternal.
One primere example of this is in the life of Abraham. God called him to leave his home town and become a nomad, traveling from place to place. This meant he had to live totally by faith—which was not new to men and women of God, but the ultimate test of faith would come to him after he was 100 years old—which was to take his son and sacrifice him on Mount Moriah. The write of the Hebrews 11:10 says, “For Abraham looked forward to living in a city that had eternal foundations, and whose Founder and Designer is God.” God’s ultimate test of faith for him helped him get his eyes off the temporal—the promised son that walked beside him—and onto that eternal city.
It is on people like this on whom God wants to pour out His richest blessings. They have learned to let loose of the things, the desires, and the ambitions of the rest of the world, and focus instead on the eternal. One of the key ways a believer can do this is to learn to worship God—who is all around us, but we will never “see Him” until we get into heaven and worship Him fully without all the trappings of this life. When we accomplish that, it is then that we have begun to tear our wicked selfish hearts away from the temporal, and onto the eternal. The psalmist went on to tell us about who God is and what He will do for each of His children. When our help and our hope is fully in Him, He then takes care of every detail of our lives. Who would want to live any other way?
Prayer: O God, we are aware of the downward pull of our sinful hearts, yet You have set us free from the sin and death that pulls us downward, and taught us to live by faith by having us look up to You as You supply every need, every God-given desire of our hearts. Thank You so much for the life of faith that we must all live if we are to walk with You every step of the way in this life, and then lift our eyes up to Your eternal throne—the one place where everything in the universe is centered around. We desire to let loose of this life and look up. Amen!
Scripture Text: Daniel 12:10 Title
Question of the Day: How are the righteous and the wicked contrasted throughout Scripture?
From the beginning of time just after the Garden of Eden it has become clear that there are two distinct kinds of people on earth—the righteous and the wicked, the saved and the lost. Note the contrast between Cain and Abel: Cain was self-willed, rebellious, defiant, had to fear of God, and careless in bringing God “whatever worship I want, and He better accept it” attitude, and then was angry with God when He refused his sacrifice; on the other hand Abel found out what was acceptable to God, brought the proper sacrifice by faith, had a deep reverence and respect for God, and showed distinct characteristics of a “righteous man”.
Since that time in history the wicked has always tried to wipe out the righteous. This distinction has become more marked throughout history, and will continue right up to the very end. In today’s text the angelic being speaking made a statement about this contrast. Daniel had just been instructed about a series of events—especially pertaining to world powers and as they came to destroy God’s people and the land of Israel. What would happen from Daniel’s time right down through to the “latter days”, the “day of the LORD”? Here is today’s text: “Many will be purified, made crystal clean, and thoroughly tested; on the other hand the wicked will do very wickedly. None of the wicked will understand what hit them, but those who are wise will understand the events as they unfold.”
In that statement the angelic being was summarizing what would happen from God’s perspective down through time: many would be righteous and purify their lives; while others will be in a contest to see who can act more wickedly. Many people will have a passion to live a clean pure life, and will find the answer in the cross and death of Jesus Christ and become “refined and white”; that is, their souls will be cleansed and they will be ready to enter the presence of God sanctified and ready to be used by their Master in His service forever. However, the wicked people of the world will act more wickedly—and none of the wicked will understand. The wicked actually think that they are “building a bigger and better world” to live in; but what they don’t know is that are setting themselves up for judgment and devastation and destruction.
When anyone or any governmental position—or any position of leadership—does not seek God, what they do will only make things worse—and they are blind and cannot see that. There are those in this country today who believe that America is salvageable; but God has given edict that every nation on earth will be destroyed when He comes in judgment and He is coming soon, and America will be no exception! This world today is on a collision course with the judgment of God, and He will totally destroy all that man has tried to do, and because it is all futile and sin-cursed, it will all be burned up and destroyed. You see, in judgment God does two major things: He wipes out the wicked, and He purifies the righteous. The wicked are so evil and they have so turned away from God and His righteous character, the only thing left for them is to be destroyed.
But the angelic being went on to say that the wise will understand. God gives wisdom, understanding, and insight to those who are righteous. Christians today who are alert and in the Word of God searching for God’s answers to the complex evil plans of this world are well aware that we are right on the doorstep of what the Bible calls “the latter days” and “the day of the LORD”. They are striving to live a pure and clean life in a lost, confused, wicked, and God-hating world, and it is these peoples that the angelic being said would understand. We know clearly where this world is headed, and it breaks our hearts because so many have not yet repented and accepted the gift of God’s Son, eternal life, before He judges them and sends them to eternal death in the Lake of Fire. So the contrast between the righteous and the wicked will be fully realized as God’s wrath is poured out on a sinful and wicked world, and at the same time rescues the righteous and completes redemption in their lives so that they are fit to be with Him forever in heaven.
Prayer: O God, to look forward with glee to what is going to happen to the wicked in this world is to fail to understand Your heart—a heart where You “are not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to eternal life”. We look forward to being all cleaned up and living in Your presence forever, but we turn our heads away in disgust and horror as You give the wicked what we really deserve—eternal death and condemnation. The gift of Your love—though underserved—is the greatest gift any man can ever embrace, and I embrace it; I accept it as mine! May my life be a contrast far different than the wicked world around me. Amen!
David B. Virts has written a book called “Knowing, Seeking Worshiping — a study of the character of God.” It is available by calling 615-945-0611.
Scripture Text: Luke 24:33-38 Title: Frightened to Peace
Question of the Day: What would your reaction be if you stood face to face with Someone who had been resurrected?
Many times we look back with the perspective of having the Bible complete in our hands and wonder why people reacted the way they did. This is the case when this small group of people who had gathered that first resurrection morning was face to face with their Lord—and they didn’t seem to know who He was. Since none of us have seen anyone with a resurrection body, we probably don’t know how we would react either.
Here is today’s text speaking about the two men who had been on the road to Emmaus that first resurrection day: “They immediately got up and returned to Jerusalem and found the eleven gathered together with other disciples and said to them, ‘The Lord has for sure risen from the dead and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they explained to them what had happened as they walked and how He had revealed Himself to them during the meal as He broke bread with them. And as they were relating the day’s events, Jesus Himself appeared and was suddenly standing among them, and He said to them, ‘May God’s peace rest in this place.’ But they were literally terrified and scared stiff, and because He appeared instantly they thought they were seeing a ghost. And then Jesus spoke again, ‘Why are you so terrified? And why are there confusing thoughts in your minds?’”
Their reaction, as ours would have been, was to be frightened, troubled, and their thoughts were whirling around in their heads. Think of it this way: the last time they saw the Lord He had been badly beaten, Isaiah tells us that His face was marred so that He was beyond recognition, and some of them had watched as He was crucified. They were in such shock didn’t know what to think. They were bewildered and confused and perplexed as they tried to ponder this day’s events.
Earlier that first Easter morning a group of women had gone to the tomb, found it empty, and two angels had reported to them that He was not there, He was risen; they and the other women had scattered and passed the word around, and several had gone to the tomb and found it empty; Mary Magdalene had stayed at the tomb, and the Lord had appeared to her, so she came and told everyone; and then later that evening two walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus and Jesus caught up with them and explained to them the Scripture; they urged Him to stay with them—of course they didn’t recognize Him, and as He broke the bread they instantly knew who He was; they excitedly had run back to Jerusalem where the disciples were gathered and the women and other believers, when all of the sudden their beloved Lord stood among them and scared them out of their wits.
We are still puzzled because we have never seen a resurrected person, but we can somewhat identify with their bewilderment and the fact that when He did appear, they were frightened. But then the Master came to them (as He comes to us) and speaks the most important words that we need to hear, “Peace be with you.” And His peace came over them, and the rest is history! They instantly went from being frightened to having great peace.
Prayer: Lord, thanks that You came that first Sunday morning and revealed Yourself to the disciples. Your presence is always welcome to us, so we bow before You. Our hearts at times are trembling, but we accept Your peace. When we stand before Your resurrected body and ours are resurrected too, then we will understand the awesome transformation that has taken place. Until then we worship You for the fact that You came back to life—permanently, and that encourages our hearts. Thanks for Your overwhelming peace!
Scripture Text: John 11:11, 17-21, 31-32 Title: Too Late!
Question of the Day: What can we learn from the Lord’s timing in whatever He does through us?
As we study the life of Jesus we can learn a lot about His precision in timing for each thing that He did. Was he deliberate in what He did when He did it, or was His haphazard and missed getting to a miracle on time? For example: He got to the wedding and waited to turn the water into wine right up to the time when the family would have been greatly embarrassed because they had run out of wine at a time of celebration; when He went to heal the centurion’s servant, He paused to heal the woman who had an “issue of blood” that had been with her for years, and then He moved on; in today’s text He lingered for two days before He went to see His good friend who was deathly ill, and by the time He got there, He found out that Lazarus had been dead for four days. So was He always late and running behind?
Here is today’s text: “After He said those things, they He said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus is sleeping, but I am going to wake him up.’ 17 When Jesus came to Bethany (which was about two miles from Jerusalem), He discovered that Lazarus had been buried four days ago. Many of the Jews had come to Mary and Martha to comfort them with the loss of their brother, but Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming to them, went out to meet Him, but Mary stayed in the house. When Martha got to Jesus she exploded saying to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had just come earlier, by brother wouldn’t have died! But even now I know that whatever you ask of God the Father, He will give to You.’ 31The people who were in the house with Mary comforting her, when they saw her quickly get up and leave, they followed her and said, ‘She is going to the tomb to weep.’ Then when Mary came to the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell down at His feet and said to Him, ‘Lord, if You had only been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!’”
John recorded that many Jews came to comfort them after their brother’s death. Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus had arrived, went out to meet Him; however Mary stayed in the house with the Jews, guests, and mourners. What a contrast we have between Mary and Martha: Martha was a “take charge” type person who stomped out to confront Jesus and ask Him where He had been when they needed Him most. So what was Jesus’ explanation for being so late when His dear friend was deathly sick? Instead of correcting Martha, or instead of explaining to her why He was so late, Jesus began to discussion the resurrection and how and when people would be raised back to life.
One thing we can learn here is this: don’t get in a theological discussion with the Master! Mary reacted quite differently; did she wonder why Jesus took so long getting there? Yes, but Mary was the quiet, reflective type, who loved sitting at Jesus’ feet and adore the Lord. The words Martha and Mary used when they first came to Jesus are identical: “Lord, if You had just come earlier, by brother wouldn’t have died!” ; but it says that Mary waited to be summoned by the Lord and then had a very different reaction when she came to Jesus: she fell down at His feet and worshiped Him and then said her words, while Martha seemed to just march right up to the Lord and demand of Him what took Him so long to get there when they needed Him most. As we walk with the Lord we find out that He is never late. Our timetable is not His, and it is us who must adapt to His timetable.
The point is this: when resurrection power is needed, it is never too late for our Lord. We all mourn the loss of a loved one or a close friend or a young child and wonder whatever reason God must have for His timing in taking them away at a time that we think is “early in life” from our perspective. One thing is for sure: when we get to heaven and see things from God’s perspective, it will all make perfect sense because His resurrection power—when needed—is never too late. In this text Jesus taught us that since He has “the keys of death”, He is never too late!
Prayer: Lord, we get frustrated when things happen and it looks like You are late—again, but then as we look at the rest of Scripture we get the perspective of others who have had to wait so long—like Abraham and Sarah waiting for the promised child for many years—and when the promise finally is fulfilled, it brings great joy and happiness to our soul. Teach us the patience of waiting for Your perfect timing in every phase of our lives—especially when we need Your power and Your help in getting through a frustrating crisis. Amen!
Scripture Text: Daniel 12:5-9
Question of the Day: What do we now know about the Lord’s Coming that Daniel didn’t know?
As a Bible student begins to study the Scriptures in detail, one thing is clear: the plan and program of God is being unveiled to us one step at a time. In the Garden of Eden it was revealed that man was not eternally lost and there would be no way of deliverance; redemption was first brought up and revealed to Adam and Eve. From that time more and more of God’s plan of redemption and for the final destiny of the world was unveiled. There would always be a “remnant”, or the righteous, or born again Christians—as we are known by today. It was also evident from the beginning that God would judge the wicked and ungodly and unbelieving, and it is in these two main pieces of evidence that we now approach the end of this age and look forward to the reign of Jesus Christ our Lord.
In today’s passage Daniel had just received many important prophecies that would be the outline for what all the other prophets would reveal. Here’s how God’s messenger revealed it to Daniel (the messenger is referred to as “a man” in this passage): “Then I, Daniel, looked up and saw two men standing, one on one side of the bank of the river, and the other standing on the other bank of the river. And one of them spoke to the man who was clothed in linen who was in the middle of the waters and asked this question: ‘How long will it be before these wonders come to pass?’ And the man clothed in linen who was in the middle of the river raised his right hand and his left hand up to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever that it will be for 3 ½ years. And when that wicked one shall have destroyed the power of God’s holy people, then all of these things will be finished.’ And I heard what he said, but I didn’t understand it, so I said, ‘O my lord, when will all of these events be completed?’ And he said, ‘Daniel, go your way because the words have been sealed up until the end time.”
Daniel, in his short book so far, had revealed to him through a number of visions and angelic visitors a broad outline with a sprinkling of details about what the future held for the world, for the wicked in the world, and for the remnant, the righteous, the true believers of all ages. How is the world and all of its problems going to end up? How is God going to judge and destroy the wicked? And how is God going to preserve the righteous through this catastrophic and devastating and cataclysmic time when He comes to set this world straight? After all this is done, will there be a time on earth when righteousness and peace truly reign? By this time in the book, Daniel’s head was in a spin as he contemplated what was going to happen with his people, the Jewish people of the world. He wanted more details, so the question was asked of the heavenly messenger, “What will be the outcome of all of these events?”
The angelic messenger’s answer was simply this: “Daniel, go on with your life for now. These words have been both sealed and unintelligible to you right now, but at the time of the end of man’s rule on earth, more will be understood.” Now that the “latter days” are rapidly approaching, what do we see now 2500 years later happening that lets us know how close we are to the “end of all things”? Here are a few things that we now know, and more is being unveiled every day: Much of what is about to happen in our world is still hidden from us: we do know that the end is coming soon; we know that the preparations are underway; we know that there is “noise behind the curtain” just before the final act of God’s program is unveiled; we know that a number of prophecies have already been fulfilled; we know that preparations for the tribulation temple are under way; we know that the church has a great spirit of anticipation for the Lord’s return; we know that Russia and Iran (known in Scripture as Gog and Magog and Persia respectively) now have a military pact fulfilling Ezekiel’s 2500 year old prophecy; we can see the nations of the world turning against Israel as predicted; we know that many Jews are returning to Israel, and that someday “all” of them will be there; and we know that with every prophecy that is fulfilled (and there are a number of them fulfilled already), we have more and more understanding as to what God’s plan and purpose for this world looks like.
We understand far more detail since Israel became a nation in 1948, and kicked off the final approach to the “last days”. But many things were kept from Daniel’s understanding, and many things are yet to be understood by us and by the watching world as God has decided how to unveil His Son to this world. We will all stand in awe, and we will more fully understand more about our great God and His plan for this world as the events unfold. All we can say is with the prophet John at the end of the book of Revelation: “Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” “O God, give me wisdom and understanding as world events of this world unfold before my eyes!”
Prayer: O God, our hearts tingle with excitement when we think that Your coming might be soon because we long to be with You forever; yet at the same time our hearts are heavy for the lost souls of men who have rejected You. As we approach the opening gun of the “latter days”, help us to keep our focus on our earthly task of spreading the gospel around this world in every way by every means and to every person. Reveal to us what we need to know today about what You are doing in this world, and to be content understanding very little, but fully trusting in Your guiding hand on all events of this world—and their final destination. Amen!
David B. Virts has written a book called “Knowing, Seeking Worshiping — a study of the character of God.” It is available by calling 615-945-0611.
Scripture Text: Ezekiel 39:25-27
Question of the Day: Will the wickedness and treachery in our hearts ever be totally gone?
“Treachery”! The word itself causes us to shrink back. Israel was accused of treachery by the Old Testament Prophets when they turned away from God after He had showed them great mercy and blessing for centuries. Even the most devout Christian will confess that there are areas of their lives where sin still bothers them, brings chastisement from God, and hinders the blessing of God flowing in and through them. The more one reads the Scriptures, the more they have unveiled to them things that are offensive to God and that grieve His heart and His Holy Spirit. So when will these “treacherous evils” finally be forever put away from our hearts?
In today’s text we come to the aftermath and the effects of the Battle of Gog and Magog when God deals with His children in a time known as “Jacob’s Trouble”. Gog and Magog’s vast armies had swooped down on a defenseless and quiet land to plunder it, and ended up being totally destroyed and decimated by the hand of God. The world looked on. Israel sat in amazement as the LORD God of the universe came to their rescue. Now what would happen? Here is today’s text: “So here is what the Lord GOD says: ‘Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for My holy name. 26 They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against Me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, 27 when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have vindicated My holiness in the sight of many nations.” (ESV Pronouns referring to God capitalized to clarify meaning)
When the Lord GOD restores their fortunes and demonstrates to Israel that He is the LORD their God by showing mercy on the whole nation of Israel, then from that time on He will be zealous for His Holy name. What is fascinating about these words is that they are to be fulfilled before the Battle of Armageddon. By that time so many of them will be wiped out, the only ones left will be saved and turn back to Him. What is the focus of our time today is this: it is at that time, when His restoration and mercy will be so complete and the treachery that they have practiced against Him and the shame that they have withstood for centuries will be so in their past that “they will be forgotten”! Can you envision how the reproach, the shame, the hiding of God’s face from them, and the death that millions of their forefathers endured will be so far behind them they will forget that it ever happened to them?
Let’s bring that down to us today: as we look at the treachery of our own hearts the wickedness and filth that keeps coming up, can you imagine how God’s plan for all of us for salvation and sanctification is so complete that we finally forget these days in which we now live? You see, when we get to the place where we are in heaven in the presence of God forever, it will be so overwhelmingly glorious and we will have been so thoroughly cleaned up we will forget the pain, the misery, the sin, and the treachery that now plagues our lives. What will ultimately win out is not the wickedness and sin in our hearts, but instead the love and mercy and grace of our Lord. Hallelujah!
Prayer: O God, we know that Your plan is complete and perfect and that through the death of Your Son on the cross for our sins, we can be and will eventually be totally cleaned up (sanctified). Right now You have determined that we stay in this sinful world and learn to live with the promise that You will complete what You started through Your Son, Jesus Christ, and that takes more and more faith. We long to forget, but for now we wait for the treacherous hold that sin can place on our lives to be broken—forever! Amen!
David B. Virts has written a book called “Knowing, Seeking Worshiping — a study of the character of God.” It is available by calling 615-945-0611.
Scripture Text: Ezekiel 39:21-24
Question of the Day: When does God hid His face from His children?
God created man to have intimate fellowship with Him often, and Adam and Eve enjoyed that intimate fellowship—until they sinned and didn’t face up to it. When their son, Cain, sinned against God and killed his brother, he made this statement in Genesis 4:13-14: “My punishment is more than I can bear. Look, if you drive me away from this area and You hide Your face from me, I will be a fugitive and wander back and forth on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” He acknowledged that from the beginning of time, when a person has fellowship with God, and sin enters and destroys that intimacy, then God hides His face from that person and life is nothing but miserable.
Throughout the Scriptures the concept of God’s desire to have intimate fellowship with His children started with God seeking out Adam and Eve in the aftermath of the fall, and continued throughout Israel’s history. King David expressed it this way in Psalm 22:24, “God does not abhorrently turn away when His child he is in distress, and He has not hidden His face from him; He has heard and responded to each of them when they just cry out to Him.” At times man has felt that God has abandoned him—like King David did here in this Psalm, but we are assured over and over that He is seeking worshipers, and that He will never abandon His children. Today Israel has had God hide His face from them. In large part they are godless and don’t know the special relationship that He desires with them—as it were, He has hidden His face from them; but one day that will change: He has promised restoration.
The concept of God hiding His face from His people is chronicled in Israel’s history. As they went further and further away from God, He dealt with them, chastened them, withheld His blessings from them, and as He disciplined them He urged them to come back to Him—fully as their Lord and their God. But when they refused, then judgment came and God decided to scatter them all over the world because of their sin and rebellion. In Isaiah 54:8 He said to Israel: ‘I briefly hid My face from you; but in the end I will show you My everlasting love and kindness. These are words from the LORD, Your Redeemer.”
So what could possibly cause such a break in fellowship and intimacy? Isaiah 59:1-2 explains to us that “…the LORD is not unable or unwilling to save you because He is impotent; nor is He hard of hearing so that He can’t hear your cry; but it is your gross immorality that has caused the separation between you and your God; it is your sins that have caused Him to hid His face from you so that He doesn’t hear and respond.” When God disciplined Israel and scattered them throughout the world, He made it clear that He was only temporarily hiding His face from them. This left the door open for the possibility of some day restoring Israel and regathering them—which has already begun to happen.
God has only begun to regather and restore His chosen people. During the tribulation period Israel will reach their low point in worldwide oppression against them. The Battle of Gog and Magog and the Battle of Armageddon will bring all the armies of Gog and Magog alliance of nations, and then all the rest of the nations of the world will gang up to finally wipe out Israel. It is then that Ezekiel is speaking of when he prophesied that those nations would be wiped out by God; and then the LORD said through him, “My glory will be widely seen throughout the world when I execute judgment and when it is clear to the world that I destroyed them. It is at that time that the Jewish people will know that from that day forward that I am their God. The nations of the world will also realize that it was because of Israel’s gross idolatry that they were scattered throughout the world. They dealt treacherously with Me, so I hid My face from them and allowed their adversaries to rule over them and wiped many of them out. It was because of their vile wickedness and their law-breaking ways that I temporarily hid My face from them.” Their intimacy with God was broken because of their sin; He hid His face from them; but He will yet regather and totally restore them and cause His face to shine on them again.
Prayer: O God, each of us is painfully aware of how our sins separate us from You so that You have to temporarily hide Your face from us. That time is painful for us, but it is part of Your chastening and Your discipline—and, more than that, it is part of Your plan to fully restore us and thoroughly cleanse each of us from all of our sin so that we can forever behold Your glorious face. Amen!
Scripture Text: Ezekiel 39:13,21
Question of the Day: How, when, and where will God’s glory be revealed to this world?
As believers, we know that the glory of God will be the most awesome experience of our eternity in heaven. The day will come when all the believers of all time will finally be united and thoroughly cleansed from all sin, and there will come a day when our Lord will bring us all into the temple of God for our first forever celebration of the majesty and glory of God. A few times in Scripture holy men of old, the prophets, were allowed to see in a vision the glory of God, and each one was forever changed.
Consider the following who encountered God while here on earth: Moses came away with a face that glowed so brightly as he reflected the glory of God that his face had to be covered; when God gave the Law to Israel on Mount Sinai (which is the only time in Scripture recorded where God revealed Himself to a large group—a nation—of people); Manoah and later Zorah, Samson’s parents who were from the tribe of Dan, were so overwhelmed that they had seen “The Angel of the LORD” they were frightened they thought they would die; Isaiah saw God “high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple”; Peter, James, and John went with Jesus up on the Mount of Transfiguration, and when the glory of God came down on that place, they were so overwhelmed by the sight that they ended up on their faces; and the Apostle John was allowed to see in a vision several scenes of the throne of God in heaven, and he too ended up often on his face.
In today’s passage we have chronicled an event yet future to us when God calls a number of nations along with Gog and Magog together for a massive battle on the mountains of Israel. When the battle is over and the carnage is massive, God makes several summary statements in two verses that give the reaction to the whole watching world: “All the nation (of Israel) will be called on to help bury them, and it will be a great remembrance time when I will be glorified, says the Sovereign Lord.” And, “And in the middle of all of this My glory and splendor will be seen among all the heathen of the world. They will all see My 100% accurate judgment that I have carried out and they will see that it is My hand that has wiped them out”. In these verses we have a demonstration of the awesome power of God when He comes in judgment on this world, and the world has never seen anything like that before. This massive amount of troops that swooped down on Israel when they were defenseless and living in peace and quietness were so thoroughly wiped out as they killed each other, infectious disease killed many of them, and then to finish them off, fire and hail from heaven destroyed the remaining troops. When the world sees the judgment of God carried out on those nations, then the whole world will be left in awe—they had just gotten a glimpse of the glory of God.
This is what happens when the glory of God is revealed here on earth. It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does the world is stunned. They have never seen anything like that before in their lifetimes; the stories that recount such encounters seem far-fetched; but when they witness it, they are overwhelmed; the whole world will be in awe because they have just seen the glory of God revealed here on earth.
For the believer, this experience will be duplicated many times throughout eternity. We will be summoned for a “praise celebration” many times throughout eternity. What is interesting to note is that every encounter of those who were give a glimpse of the throne of God in scripture all testify that they saw something remarkably different. First, we won’t see much because we will be on our faces before our great God; but more than that, since our God is infinite in His wisdom and knowledge and the way He presents Himself, we will see a vastly different manifestation of God each time we visit the temple of God and stand before His throne. We will be stunned; we will be overwhelmed; and the first time we are in the Temple of God and stand before His throne, we will be overwhelmed; but it will be only the first of many times. Each person who was in His presence and tried to describe to us what they “saw” is so far beyond our comprehension. Words will never adequately describe what we will experience. Let’s just get used to falling on our faces before God right now and learning to worship Him so that we are ready for that great experience.
Prayer: O God, even the thought of being in Your holy temple and before Your throne stirs our hearts to their depths. We worship You now, but we also realize that our worship will be far more meaningful and fulfilling to us when it actually happens. Teach us to worship You right now with the insight we have, and to approach Your presence often—because You are seeking worshipers. O God, show us Your glory! Amen!
Scripture Text: John 11:5-6, 11-15 Title: Sleeping or Death?
Question of the Day: Where did the term “sleeping” for the death of the believer come from?
As Jesus moved through His ministry years and taught His disciples, He set in stone many of the thoughts that believers have used down through the centuries that have shaped our theology. Today’s text points out one of these thoughts: the use of the word “sleep” for the death of the believer. In this scene Jesus had just gone into seclusion from His public ministry just before His death because of the death threat that He had faced in Judea—and specifically in Jerusalem. It all began when He had given perfect eyesight to a man who had never seen in his life, and Jesus had clearly pointed out that the miracle was done for the glory of God. God had gotten the glory for it, but the Jewish leaders’ hatred for Him had spilled over into a threat to stone Him.
It was at this time in seclusion that an urgent message came to Him, “Lord, the man whom You dearly love is very sick and near death.” After a few other words to His disciples about how to handle oneself when facing a death threat, we come to today’s text: “Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, Mary, and Lazarus. After the urgent message came to Him, He stayed two more days where he was, and finally He said to His disciples, ‘Let’s go back to Judea…’” Then He said this to His disciples, ‘Our friend Lazarus is sleeping, but I am going to wake him up.’ The disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he is just sleeping, then he is OK.’ Jesus was speaking about his death, but they though Jesus meant that he had only fallen asleep and was taking a nap. So Jesus clarified what He meant: ‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there so that your faith would be much stronger; however, I must go to him.’
Not only was Jesus facing a death threat by going back to Judea, He was also facing a dead friend. As Jesus was constantly taught and challenged His disciples, now it was time to turn the focus to his friend Lazarus. “He is just sleeping, but I am going to wake him up.” Now was Lazarus asleep, or was he dead? Jesus indicated that he was asleep, and the disciples assumed that he meant he had just fallen asleep or taken a nap. It is here in this passage that the term “sleep” is used for the death of believers who have died, and has become the term we use to this day. So, when a believer dies, is he asleep, or is he dead?
Being dead implies that is over forever for that person; but being asleep implies that the person is just resting and will again awaken to resume life. So, is a believer asleep or dead? On many tombstones of believers in graveyards the words: “asleep in Jesus” are found. That is fitting! Lazarus wasn’t dead, he was just sleeping. Any believer who has physically departed from this world is sleeping because that indicates that he will yet come to life. Death isn’t final for the believer; O yes, they have ceased to exist here on earth, but real life for them has only just begun.
The disciples were mistaken, so Jesus corrected them, but they weren’t ready for Jesus’ next words: “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there…” How could anyone be glad when a believer is dead? If you knew that someone was sleeping, you wouldn’t be worried about that person because soon the sleep would be over and they would again resume the activities of a normal life. When a fellow believer dies, our hearts are grieved, but we too can be glad because of the great reunion that we will have with them in heaven.
So why was Jesus glad? Because Jesus earnestly wanted to teach the disciples—just before His own death—that He had power over death. Jesus had raised someone back from death—like Jairus’ daughter—just after she had died; but Lazarus had been dead for four days—now that is a miracle worth noting, and John is the only one who recorded it. Jesus had purposely waited for Lazarus to die and for more time to take place so that decay would have taken place in his body, and then a demonstration of His—Jesus’— resurrection power would be more clearly seen. Sleep for a believer is a physical separation from our loved ones here on earth, but when the resurrection power of Jesus Christ touches that person in the resurrection, then they are raised to new life that will never end.
Unbelievers have made a very bad choice: they have chosen to die physically, then brought up before the Great White Throne judgment only to be sentenced to an eternal death in the lake of fire. What a bad choice—to choose to die twice. But a believer faces only a temporal separation from their physical body for a brief time, and then when the new life begins, it will last forever! What a choice to make, and Jesus’ teaching here in this passage sets the stage for the rest of the teaching from the Scripture about the believer’s sleep until the resurrection.
John concluded this section by quoting Jesus’ words: “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there so that your faith would be much stronger; however, I must go to him.’ What else did Jesus do so that people would believe? He did miracles; He cast out demonic spirits; He preached about the kingdom of God; He lived a sinless life; He paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins; He laid down His life and then took it back up again; He met the disciples and showed them a resurrection body; and then He ascended back into heaven. So the words, “..let’s go to see Lazarus to wake him up” were the words of the one Person who has total power over death, and here Jesus’ reassures us that when a believer dies physically, they only experience “sleep” because one day the resurrection power of God will touch that body, and it will never die again. So it not really death, it is only a brief sleep…
Prayer: Lord, we are thrilled to hear from the lips of One who has total power over physical bodies that when physical death and separation comes from our friends and loved ones here on earth, it is only a temporary sleep because You have “the keys of death”, and nothing, not even physical death can separate us from the great love of God that is in You—Jesus Christ our Lord. When I get done with this life, I will need some rest—some sleep… Amen!
Scripture Text: Luke 17: 24-30 Title: Everyone?
Question of the Day: How many people worldwide will be affected by Christ’s return?
In this passage Jesus chronicles what it will be like when He returns to judge the earth and set up His 1000 year reign—just before all the dead of all time are judged. The question comes up: will everyone on earth be affected by His return? What about all of the unsaved and all of the redeemed? Everyone?
Let’s let the text speak for itself: “As the lightning flashes in one part of the sky and lights up the whole sky, it will be like that when the Son of Man returns in His day of glory. For the day when the Son of Man returns will be quite similar to the days of Noah. In the days just before the flood they were eating, drinking, and getting married right up to the day that Noah went into the ark, and then the flood came suddenly and they were all drown. Do you remember the time of Lot? They were also eating and drinking, buying and selling, and planting and building. But the very day that Lot went out of Sodom God poured out fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed all of them.’”
Several facts come out of today’s passage:
1. The fact that the Son of Man will return. This is certain!
2. People will be living a normal everyday life when He returns.
3. All people everywhere will have a word of warning that the day is coming.
4. Yet people will ignore the warnings and not be ready.
5. The fact that it will happen like a flash of lightning.
6. It will include all people on earth. Note the italicized words throughout the text.
One of the things that is evident from Scripture is that before any catastrophic judgment of God there are always warnings given. In Revelation we are told that the two witnesses and the 144,000 fiery Jewish evangelists will warn people that this is it; but many will not believe it and go on living and being defiant toward God up to the judgment day. In the days before the flood Noah had preached to them for 100 + years, and in the days before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, they had the testimony of Lot and the final appearance of two angels. You would think that since people know that His return will be so catastrophic for the unsaved and unbelieving, and so glorious for the redeemed, wouldn’t all men everywhere would repent of their sins and turn to God and be prepared for that eventful day? No: Jesus said that all of them, that is, all of the wicked, will be destroyed!
Prayer: Lord, when You told us to be prepared and ready and watching for Your return, we know that we must first and foremost be born again. When we are born again, then we are ready and even eagerly waiting for that glorious day when You return to earth. We eagerly wait for that day! We are ready! We are looking up at Your face and know that it is near. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Amen!
by David Virts
Scripture Text: Revelation 12:7-13 Title: Satan Thrown Out! [Or better: “Thrown Down”]
Question of the Day: What happens in heaven and on earth when the dragon is thrown out of heaven?
As believer we are well aware of what the devil is doing and trying to do here on earth—and we are much of his target. In the Garden of Eden he came to deceive and to get man to join his rebellion against God, and nothing has changed for 6000+ years! His desire is to deceive us, to get us to divide, to destroy each other, to discourage us, and to get us to turn on God and curse Him to His face. Really? Isn’t that what he tried to do with Job? He will use any means to get us to curse God. He knows that he has a great advantage over us because he has been in the tricking and deceiving business for all these years, and we are young and inexperienced. In fact, if it weren’t for the information that we have received from our forefather and especially those who wrote the Scriptures, we would be duped into following him and joining the masses that rebel against God.
When Satan, known then as Lucifer, rebelled against God, he was immediately banned from the presence of the LORD in His temple. No evil can come into His immediate presence. Yet we have several accounts of his coming before God and bringing accusations against God’s children and trying to disrupt and destroy the nation of Israel. So where and when does all of the devil’s activities in heaven end? Has he ceased to have access to the God and get permission to come after His holy children?
Here is today’s text: “And a war broke out in heaven between Michael, a super angel and his angels, and the dragon and his angels, but they didn’t win this war. The great dragon was thrown out of heaven—that old serpent which is called the Devil, and Satan, the Adversary, who had been the master deceiver—deceiving the whole world. He and his angels were thrown out of heaven, and then I heard a voice saying, ‘Now has final deliverance come, showing awesome strength as the kingdom of God and the power of His Messiah has been demonstrated: The “accuser of believers” has been cast out of heaven—no more access to God’s throne for this one who accuses believers continually day and night to God. How did they overcome this dragon? They did it by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony of God’s power in their lives—and they didn’t think anything of their earthly life—they were willing to lay it down in death whenever necessary. So rejoice, all who are in heaven and all who live there. But woe to those who are on earth and those creatures who live in the sea! Many horrible things are yet coming on those who are left on earth and those creatures who live in the oceans! The devil is coming down to you, and he is violently ticked off because he knows that he has very little time left.’”
One of the great surprises to a believer who has died and is in heaven with our Lord is this: the devil and his minions are there too! What a shock! But at this juncture we find the end to all of this. The two witnesses have just completed their work; the 144,000 are still spreading the gospel to the whole world and many are being saved during the tribulation; the edict has been passed down from the throne that the time has come for a major change to take place and the Son will now begin to wrest the power away from the dragon and the nations of the world and reign; the devil will create as much havoc as he can in his last days on earth; he will be locked up in the abyss for 1000 years; he will be loosed for a “short time” just before he is judged and banished forever in the Lake of Fire. What a big relief it will be when he is thrown out of heaven, judged, and banished forever!
Prayer: O God, we don’t understand all the reasons why You created angels that could rebel against You and try to trick and deceive us to follow in his rebellion. Yet we look forward with great anticipation to the day when his final doom is finished and completed! We trust You to keep Him at bay for our sake! Amen!
Scripture Text: Revelation 12: 1-7
Question of the Day: What can we learn from the “war that broke out in heaven”?
When the Scriptures opened in Genesis, there was the devil, tempting, standing against God’s people trying to deceive and get them to join him in his rebellion. Nothing has changed to this day. God’s plan and purpose has marched forward throughout time, but at every turn the devil has been trying to thwart God’s plan and destroy God’s people and get as many unbelievers has he can on earth to continue to follow him in his rebellion. He (the devil) has specifically targeted God’s people, in the Old Testament, the Jewish people and the prophets, and in the New Testament, any successful believer who is trying to advance the kingdom of God and see men and women accept and believe the gospel. At the point of today’s text in the book of Revelation when God has given the order for the kingdom of God to be wrestled from the power of the “ruler of this world” and from the nations who have defied God and followed the lead of the devil. As soon as that order has come and the believers in heaven have had the first worship service since that announcement–to celebrate that announcement, we next find that a sign appears and war breaks out in heaven.
Here is today’s text: “And another important sign appeared in heaven: I saw a woman who was clothed with the brilliance of the sun, she stood on the moon, and on her head was a crown that had twelve stars. Now the woman was pregnant and was crying out in birthing pains and was in the agony of giving birth. At that time another important sign appeared in heaven: I saw a huge red dragon that had seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads there were seven crowns. With his tail he then drew a third of the stars of heaven (fallen angels) and threw them down to the earth. The dragon was standing in front of the woman who was about to give birth with the intention of devouring the Child as soon as it was born. Then the woman gave birth to a male Child, One who was destined to rule the whole world with an iron rod. Instead, what happened was this: the woman’s Child was caught up to God and to His throne.
At that point the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God in which she will be nourished and protected from extinction for 1260 days. And a war broke out in heaven between Michael, a super angel, and his angels, and the dragon and his angels, but they didn’t win this war.”
What John saw was a sign in heaven that in summary chronicled the history of the earth. The woman was Israel, and her main purpose as a nation was to bring forth the “Male Child, the One who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron,” and now when the time came for that plan and purpose of God to be fully completed. So what happens after the synopsis of the history of the world is given, immediately a war breaks out in heaven. Now we have always thought of heaven as a place of peace and tranquility and where everything is quiet and calm; but here we are informed what has always been taking place since the beginning of time. Satan has always gone before Almighty God and sought permission to attack His people, and he can do nothing unless he gets that permission—see the first two chapters of the book of Job. Now that is a comforting thought! Throughout history we have several times mentioned when the “sons of man” (a phrase used to describe angelic hosts) came and tried to disrupt what God was doing on earth and to destroy or kill servants of the LORD—and he hasn’t changed his plans.
Now has come the time for a war in heaven in which he and his minions are evicted permanently from heaven—and thus no access to Almighty God to “accuse the brethren”! From this point on throughout the rest of the tribulation and for 1000 years afterward, men can exist here on earth and without the disruption that satanic forces bring. Here is the two-fold bottom line: first the devil’s access to heaven has come to an end; and second, if you or I were to die today unexpectedly and be in heaven, our biggest surprise may be that there the devil and his minions are trying to create havoc! That is almost a depressing thought—except for the information given here that the devil will be cast out of heaven—permanently.
Prayer: O God, we thank You that one day You will end satan’s rule here on earth, and one day You will give the order to Michael that he be thrown out of heaven! We wait for that remarkable day, and patiently wait for the way that You will enthrone Your Son as the Ruler of this world and the whole universe—permanently! Amen!
Scripture Text: Luke 17:22-24 Title: Where is Christ?
Question of the Day: What has been the number one desire of Christians since Jesus ascended into heaven?
Jesus knew the great desire of all true believers when He was on earth was just to be with the Master—to follow Him, to watch Him live, to listen to Him teach, to see Him heal, and to see the way He baffled those who came along to badger Him with questions. So, what would it be like here on earth for these 2000 years now when He wasn’t around to be with His chosen special people?
Jesus answers that question in today’s text: “And Jesus again turned to His disciples and said, ‘the time will come when you will desire to relive some of the days when the Son of Man was here, but you will not be able to relive those days. Then people will say to you, “Look, there is the Messiah! Or, “Isn’t that Him over there?” But do not go after them or become their followers. As the lightning flashes in one part of the sky and lights up the whole sky, it will be like that when the Son of Man returns in His day of glory.’”
Jesus knew that the number one desire of all Christians of all time would be to relive some of those days, or dream about what it was like to see such an individual walk the earth again. What would it have been like to follow Him each day; to just see the way He lived; to listen to Him teach again some of the great truths of the Bible; to watch Him heal lepers and blind people—and even bring back to life those who had died; or to watch Him embarrass those who came to badger Him with their questions?
With that in mind, then what would be the number one temptation of His followers, or those who were His “would be” followers? It would have been to go after anyone who claimed to be the “Messiah”! One person counted recently and found that there were over 1500 people worldwide who claimed to be Christ! So Jesus said, “Many false christs will come in My name and deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4-5) But the truth is this: when He returns in all His glory with His holy angels with Him, it will be unmistakably clear that it is He who has returned to be with us; and when He comes in the rapture of the church, the last phrase in I Thessalonians 4:17 captures our immediate attention: it says, “…and so we shall ever be with the Lord.” What a great thought!
Prayer: Lord, You know how our great desire is to see You and to be with You forever—and that is just the promise that You make to us! We are part of Your body, and as such we have a great need to be with You—to be fulfilled; to be all that You designed us to be; and just to enjoy Your presence forever. This we long for, and say with the Apostle John, “Even so, Lord Jesus; come quickly!” Amen!
Scripture Text: Psalm 115:1-8 Title: Helpless Idols Helpless People
Question of the Day: This world is full of idolatry, but what are the people like who worship those idols?
One of the remarkable things about life on planet earth is this: it has been observed that many couples that have been married for 50 or 60 years are said to think and act alike, and in some cases look alike. That is remarkable! Some of them even look alike! Not that they are both old and wrinkled, but they have so enjoyed each other’s presence, talked together, walked together, planned together, worked together, and so on that they actually begin to look alike.
In today’s passage the psalmist describes the contrast between the LORD and the useless idols of this world. Here is today’s passage: “O LORD, it is not unto us, now it is not unto us, but to Your name that we give glory, and why? Because of Your overwhelming and steadfast love and Your faithfulness! Then why do the nations keep on saying, ‘Where is there God?’ Our God is in the heavens and He does whatever He pleases. But the idols of the world are made of silver and gold and they are the handiwork of a man. They do have mouths, but they cannot speak; they have eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but they do not hear; they have noses, but they do not smell; they have hands but they cannot feel; and they don’t make any sounds at all. What is sad is that those who make them end up becoming just like them—and that goes for all who put their trust in them.”
In this psalm we are confronted with the stark contrast between the LORD, the God of the universe, and the gods of this world, and with a startling conclusion:
First here is what we learn about the LORD:
He is a God of steadfast love. We cannot comprehend how God can love the whole world and give His Son so that they can be saved, but that is the truth of the Word of God! His love is steadfast and overwhelming and unfailing and incomprehensible.
He is a God who is always there for us constantly, that is, He is faithful. We live in a world where we can trust nothing else or no one else; yet He reveals Himself to us as the One who is always there for us; He will never leave us or forsake us; and He admonishes us to learn to be faithful, consistent, and always there for each other—especially fellow believers.
Our God is also firmly enthroned in the heavens. This gets our perspective off ourselves and onto the One who is in heaven, who always existed, and has capabilities far beyond our comprehension.
Our God also does whatever He pleases:
First, He is able to do what He pleases.
Second, He cannot be stopped or hindered from doing whatever He pleases.
Third, He has absolute power and can do anything that He wants or needs or plans to do.
And fourth, He has a complete plan for every creature that He makes, and whether they like it or not, they will end up doing whatever He has designed and planned and purposed that they do!
And here is what we learn about the gods of this world: They are made of material things like silver and gold. They are always handmade. They have a mouth, but cannot speak; eyes, but cannot see; ears but they cannot hear; noses but they cannot smell; hands that cannot feel; feet that cannot walk; and a throat but they cannot make a sound!
When the contrast is completed, look carefully at the final conclusion of the psalmist: he said that what is sad is that those who make them end up becoming just like them—and that goes for all who put their trust in them. Here is the stark contrast: man was made in the image of God, and in that image he has creative ability. Throughout the rest of Scripture we are told to love as God has loved us; to be holy as He is holy; to learn to be faithful as He is faithful; to show mercy and forgiveness to others just as He has shown mercy and forgiveness to us; and so on. Now what is startling in this passage is that when the psalmist completed the description of the useless and helpless condition of the gods of the world, then he concludes by saying that those who make these gods and worship them become like them! We are challenged in Scripture as believers to become like God, but those who make and worship useless and helpless idols become like them. Let your imagination run wild on that thought!
Prayer: O God, You made us in Your image and then you tell us in Ephesians 5:1 to imitate You—that is, to become like You. That is the longing in the heart of every believer—to be and become like Jesus Christ our Lord, who is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:2-3 ESV). If we become like You and the world becomes like the gods of this world, no wonder they end up feeling Your wrath forever! O God, help us to become like You! Amen!
WEEKLY DEVOTIONAL by David Virts
Scripture Text: Luke 17: 5-10 Title: What Does God Want?
Question of the Day: What does God expect from us—His servants?
Jesus had a way of tying together two completely disjointed thoughts together in order to make His point, but when He made His point, it was driven home deep into our hearts. This is the case in this story. Listen as Luke tells us how Jesus explained faith to His disciples. Here’s what the text says, “And it is at this point that the apostles turned to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, what can we do to have more faith?’ And the Lord said to them, ‘If you had a very little amount of faith, as much as a very little mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, “Be uprooted and thrown into the ocean,” and it would obey you.
“But which of you, if he had an employee plowing in the field or feeding your cattle, and would casually say to him as he came in from chores, “Go and sit down and eat”? Wouldn’t you really say, “Fix a meal first so I can eat, and prepare the meal and serve me first, and after I have had plenty to eat and drink, then you can serve yourself?” Would you then thank that servant because he did what was expected of him and what he was ordered to do? I don’t think so! In the same way, when you have done all of this things that you are commanded to do, you must then say, “we are unworthy employees: we have only done what was our duty to do.”’”
Here Jesus ties together the fact that our faith needs to be increased, the potential of doing what I do by faith, and the fact that just being His servant and doing what was expected of me is my duty. What do these have to do with one another? We all know our need to have our faith increased, so Jesus pointed out to here that when we do the task that God has given us to do, and carry out His plan for us, that is only our duty, “we are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty to do.”
Does it take faith to complete the task that God has given us to do—when we can’t see how that fits into our lives and into His eternal plan? When we move ahead and do what He has ordered us to do, will He not be there and, if needed, a sycamore tree will be uprooted and cast into the ocean if it is in the way? I believe that the biggest thing that holds back our faith is our inability to see the “big picture”; that is, to see all that God is doing, and the seemingly small insignificant task He has give me to do is really part of a huge plan that encompasses all of this life and right on into eternity as we serve Him. So, as Jesus said here, we must see ourselves as “unworthy servants”, and just dig in and do whatever He asks us to do.
Prayer: Lord, as I look at the seemingly small task that You have given me to do, I get discouraged because it seems so insignificant; yet by faith I move ahead expecting You to move mountains and uproot trees, and in so doing remove all obstacles that would stand in the way of Your plan from being accomplished. Thank You for acting on our behalf! Amen!
by David Virts
Scripture Text: Psalm 115: 9-11 Title: Complete Trust!
Question of the Day: What does it mean to have complete trust in the LORD?
From our first days in the Christian life we are told that we must learn to trust in the LORD with all of our heart and not to lean on our own understanding. It never dawns on the new believer for many years how much of his new life in Christ is built around his faith and trust in the LORD. We learn quickly that it was by faith that we were saved through grace. From there we are staggered at the many things that a believer must accept, not by what he can see, but simply by faith: we can’t see salvation, yet we believe; we can’t see God’s angelic hosts protecting us, yet we know we are being watched and shielded from evil and disaster every day; we can’t see heaven and all its glories and the many loved ones who have died and gone there, yet we firmly believe that one day we will see the Lord in all of His glory and be reunited with family and friends who have died; and we can’t see the help that comes in our time of need, but it is always there—just in the nick of time!
In this psalm the writer has just chronicled how we can give glory to the great God that we serve. His steadfast love hangs on to us every day, and His faithfulness proves to us that He will always be with us constantly throughout the rest of our lives here on earth and for eternity. Then he deals with a contrast between our God, the One who is firmly seated in the heavenlies, and the “gods” of this world—the things that they trust in that are helpless and useless. Then the psalmist puts this challenge to the people of his day: “O Israel, put your trust in the LORD! He alone is the One who helps them and He is a constant shield around them. O descendants of Aaron, trust fully in the LORD! He alone is the One who helps them and is a shield around them. All of you who have a reverential fear of the LORD, trust fully in the LORD! He alone is the One who helps you and is a shield around you.”
As we wrestle with learning to trust the LORD more and more each day of our lives, we can learn how to trust Him more from these verses: The whole nation of Israel was to put their trust in the LORD. This tells us that the whole nation of Israel was to be an example to the rest of the world on how to worship and trust in the LORD, the God of Jacob.
“The house of Aaron” refers to all of those who were the religious leaders, the clergy, of that day. They were to lead the rest of the nation in following the LORD and their primary purpose was to teach everyone everywhere to trust in the LORD.
“All you who fear the LORD” refers to all who were true believers. Today we would say all who have been truly born again must learn to trust in the LORD.
If all the people in any nation were to put their trust fully in the LORD, things in that nation would be remarkably different. If all the clergy in any nation were to put their trust fully in the LORD, things in that nation would be remarkably different. And if all believers, those who take the Word of God seriously and all who truly fear the LORD, were to trust fully in the LORD, the whole world would be a different place to live.
The psalmist then pointed out to each group in his nation two main things for which we must learn to trust in the LORD: We must learn to call out to Him for help. For how many things do we struggle through each day instead of crying out to the LORD? We tend to “lean on our own understanding”, and so we muddle through the day. Every day we need wisdom, direction, seeking Him for what to do and how to handle each situation. The direction of our lives could be focused on “things above and not on things of the earth”. If we learned to trust Him in every detail of our lives, how much smoother would our days be?
As we go through each day, we are aware often that we are under attack: we live in a hostile world; we are destined for a world beyond what we can see; we have unseen forces trying to disrupt and destroy anything we try to do for God; the world wants us to go their way and see things their way and do things the way they think things should be done; and so we need a safe place of protection. The psalmist pointed out to us that the LORD alone is our shield, our protector, our refuge, our fortress, our deliverer, our rock, and the only place where we can have peace and safety. So what is the answer? We must learn to trust in the LORD each day and each step of the way—that is our only recipe for survival in this life!
Prayer: O God, our complete trust is in You and in You alone! Teach us to trust in You in every phase of our lives and in each day that we live. We know that we need Your help every moment and we need Your protection from the hostile forces that we face in this life. We trust in You—completely! Amen!
Weekly Devotional by David Virts
Scripture Text: Various Scripture Passages Title: Baby Messiah
Question of the Day: What must it have been like for Jesus to come as the Messiah Baby?
Title: “IAM” came as Your Messiah
In eternity past Almighty God decided to create mankind on planet earth, and when those men rebelled, it was already decided that IAM would come to rescue them from certain eternal damnation. It was then decided that IAM would come to earth as a Baby Messiah. This is how the plan unfolded.
A certain young virgin would be given the privilege of becoming pregnant without her male counterpart, and this conception would be administered by the Holy Spirit of God. So IAM, the Baby Messiah became a man. We can only imagine Mary and her relative Elizabeth trying to piece together the fact that IAM, the Creator of the Universe was actually in the womb of His creation.
Imagine Mary patting her tummy and thinking, “Here is the Creator of the Universe, the IAM, the Baby Messiah living inside me!” She must have felt every move and the excitement grew as the Baby grew. However the day must come that she would face her espoused husband and try to explain to him the details of what was happening to her and in her. Yet the provision was already made for that event as the angel came and informed Joseph in a dream that “all is OK” and to go ahead and marry Mary and help her bring this Child to birth.
Then came that awful decree from Caesar Augustus that everyone must return to their home town for a special tax and registration, so we packed up—even though Mary was nearly nine months pregnant—and made the journey to Bethlehem since both of their family connections came from Bethlehem. When they arrived in that small insignificant village, they discovered that there was no room for them to stay in the local inn, so they made do in a stable.
What a trip, and on top of that the place was crowded with other guests, and the Baby Messiah came in the middle of the night. The only place to sleep was in a stable, so IAM came and the Baby Jesus, and was born. Boy was that night ever a different night: first IAM came, and then the angelic hosts were heard heralding that announcement to some shepherds on a hillside; the shepherds then came to see the newborn King and when they left they told everyone around and the word spread fast; and what they found out later is that IAM was the only Child born ever who created Himself!
It seems that quite a stir was made when IAM came, and to everyone’s surprise, IAM came as a baby. To the rest of mankind it seemed strange that God could come as a Baby, but then IAM does things that mortal man cannot even imagine doing, but even at birth, IAM made quite a stir and remain to this day stirring the hearts of people as they celebrate IAM’s birth at Christmas.
A Christmas Prayer: Thanks goes up from every true believer of all time that one day the Baby Messiah came to save mankind from their sins and to conquer death and give them the unspeakable gift of eternal life! Amen!
Question of the Day: What happens when I pause to give thanks to those who have blessed my life?
How grateful am I when someone does something significant for me? How is being thankful connected to bringing glory to God? Here is one example: this story takes place on Jesus’ final trek through Samaria and Galilee just before His death. It is recorded that Jesus passed through a number of towns and villages, but in one town there were ten lepers who met Him. Here is what the text says:
“Now as Jesus continued His journey to Jerusalem He passed through the middle of Samaria and Galilee. And when He came to a particular village, ten men who were lepers met Him, and they kept their distance from Him as was required by law. Then they all cried out in unison, ‘Jesus, Master: have mercy on us.’ And when Jesus saw them he said to them, ‘Go and present yourselves to the local priest.’
“And so it happened that as they went, their leprosy disappeared and they were completely healed. And one of them turned back and spoke in a loud voice giving glory to God. When he got to Jesus, he fell down on his face at His feet, and personally gave Him thanks. Now this man was a Samaritan. And Jesus said, ‘Weren’t there ten who were cleansed? Where are the other nine? They are nowhere to be found to give glory to God except this foreigner.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up and go your way; your faith has made you well again.’”
Let’s note several things here:
1. These men were healed when they obeyed Jesus’ words and went to show themselves to the priests, who were the doctors of that day.
2. And one of them, a foreigner, returned to Jesus when he saw that he had been healed, and he spoke with a loud voice thanking Jesus, and in doing so it is recorded that he gave glory to God!
3. He fell at Jesus’ feet and personally gave Him thanks. How often do I personally return to someone to give them thanks for what they have done—especially when they have done something significant for me?
4. In Jesus’ final words to the healed leper, Jesus indicated that the thankful heart that he had was a sign of true inward healing.
It is good to note here how this man’s thanks to Jesus was really giving glory to God. Am I likewise giving glory to God when I return to personally thank someone? Is giving thanks one of the ways that I can give glory to God? Giving thanks is just recognizing that all I have has been a gift from God through others to me. And when we pray and ask God to intervene when we are sick, it is not just our physical body that is healed, we need to be healed mentally, spiritually, and emotionally—and giving thanks and giving glory to God goes a long way toward our healing. This man was healed spiritually exercising faith and obedience, and as a result he gave thanks to God and glorified Him. So returning to give thanks and bringing glory to God made the man a whole person again!
Prayer: Lord, I desire to give You glory by learning to be a grateful person in every area of my life. Instead of pointing out what others around me have not done for me, I choose to be grateful for what they have done and how their acts of kindness has enriched my life—and in that way I give glory to You. Heal me: body, soul, and spirit as I become a grateful person. Amen!
by David Virts
Scripture Text: Revelation 14:1-5 Title: Marked Men!
Question of the Day: What are the distinctives of the 144,000 who stood with the Lamb on Mount Zion?
There are many things that are not understood about the book of Revelation, and won’t be figured out until some or all of the events are unfolded. Many have speculated as to who the 144,000 are, and here are a few of the things we know about them: they represent each of the twelve tribes of Israel; they are each marked on their foreheads with the name of their Father; they sang a new song that only they knew; the song was echoed from the lips of many believers in heaven who were gathered around the Throne of God with the four living creatures and with the 24 elders; it is only after they have finished their earthly task that the proclamation is made that the Great Commission is complete; they have lived a blameless life before God; they are called “the firstfruits for God and for the Lamb”; and they have followed the Lamb wherever He goes. Wow! What a resume!
Here is today’s text: “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.” (ESV)
Here is what John was saying, “I looked, I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion with 144,000 of God’s holy children who had His Father’s name written on their foreheads. At the same time I heard a voice from heaven—like the loud roar of a waterfall and like the sound of a loud clap of thunder. Also I could hear the sound of many harps playing. And they sung a new song before the throne, the four living creatures, and the elderly men who sat on thrones around the throne. And the only ones who could sing that song were the 144,000 redeemed people from off the earth. These were virgin men who hadn’t been defiled with women, and they followed the Lamb wherever He went. These redeemed men were the first wave of redeemed people to come to God with the Lamb. Their speech had no guile in it, and they lived a life of complete integrity before God’s throne.”
One wonders at this time in the history of the church just before the rapture and the tribulation starts if there are 144,000 fiery Jewish evangelists in the world today! Are they alive today and preparing for their task? Are we that close to those endtime events?
What is fascinating is that in the rest of the chapter an angel flies directly overhead John and proclaimed the “eternal gospel to all who dwell on the earth, to every people group, every nation and nationality, every tribe, and every language. Just before judgment begins and many are wiped out, the 144,000 go forth and proclaim the gospel, and it is here that we understand that the Great Commission is finally completed. Today the church is scrambling to complete the task and get churches planted in every place on earth, get the Scriptures into the mother language of every person on earth, and get as many as we can to watch the Jesus Film and accept Christ as their Messiah. Will this task be completed before the 144,000 finish their mission? Can this era of the plan of God be complete without it?
Prayer: O God, we know that when we send forth the gospel into the world we are helping finish Your plan of Salvation and Redemption for mankind. As we approach the time of the rapture and tribulation and judgment, we look in awe at the 144,000 and their part in completing the Great Commission. We can only imagine 144,000 fiery Jewish evangelists turned loose on the task of finishing the job! Amen!
by David Virts
Scripture Text: Revelation 13:13-18 Title: Grasping God’s Plan
Question of the Day: Why would God allow His precious children to go through the tribulation?
Persecution is the lot of true believers ever since the Garden of Eden when Cain got mad at God and killed his brother, Abel. When the world around us finds out that we stand firmly on God’s Eternal Word and that we will not alter our thinking to fit the ways of the world, we are immediately a target for persecution. Think of all the Christians, Old Testament and New Testament believers, who stood for what is right and were persecuted and/or executed for their faith. Jewish people, God’s chosen people through whom the Redeemer would come, have been hunted and hounded for centuries and scarcely have seen a time of peace.
Let’s look at one of the last predictions of martyrdom and persecution of believers mentioned in the Bible in today’s text which tells us about the anti-christ and his false prophet: “He demonstrated all the power of the first beast, and made all on earth worship the first creature—the one whose deadly head wound had been healed. He too did amazing things, making fire come down from heaven to earth so that all men could see this spectacular sight; he also deceived people by other miraculous happenings, and all of these things were done so that the first beast and all people on earth could watch. He told everyone on earth to make an image that looked like the first beast, showing the wound on his head that had been miraculously healed and came back to life. The second creature also had power to give what looked like life to the image of the first beast, and even made the image speak. He also directed that, as many as did not worship the beast would be killed. He also caused all people, from those who live in the ghetto to the palaces, the rich and the poor, those who are free and those in prison, to have a mark in their right hand and on their forehead so that nobody could buy or sell anything unless that person had the mark, or the name of that beast, or the numbers that represent his name.”
The prevailing teaching today tells us that as believers we are ready for the rapture because Christ will take His bride out of the world before He rains down judgment on the nations of the world and prepares the world of Jesus’ reign. I believe that that thought is Biblical, but what I can’t get my arms around is the fact that many that are saved during the tribulation will endure such hardship and martyrdom and intense persecution. Why? Are these believers to set a pristine example to all believers of all time that one can endure intense hardship and persecution and have their faith in tact and demonstrate great endurance? Have many, if not all, of these believer had an opportunity to get saved now during what is called “the age of grace”, yet they had rejected God up to the time when the tribulation started and then bowed their hearts and accepted the gift of eternal life?
Many such questions and our attempts to answer them are finite man trying to get their arms around God’s plan that will never be fully understood until all is over and God’s Holy Spirit can fully teach us the beauty of the tribulation period. This is like just looking back now and finally understanding redemption after Christ came, but those who lived through it struggled putting it all together. In the same way we will all struggle to understand fully God’s plan as we are going through this life and as we come up to the rapture and tribulation and millennium, but once we are through all of it and the judgment of God is complete, much more will be understood. Then God’s Spirit will reveal to us all the details and we will be able to accurately teach about the impact of that time-period on man’s history and God’s great eternal plan. For now we ponder; for now we wait; and for now we anticipate what is about to happen!
Prayer: O God, right now we wait for Your Son’s return to clean up the mess this world is in, and we wait for the time when we will be caught up in the air to meet the Lord. There is so much we don’t understand about what is about to happen because You had it written in such a way that it will never be fully understood until it happens. Right now there needs to be different leaders in key countries and the temple needs to be rebuilt; all the Jews need to be gathered back to their homeland; “the land” needs to be fully divided; and most of all, our task of evangelizing the whole world is not yet complete, and so we wait…on Your next move! Amen!
by David Virts
Scripture Text: Psalm 115:1-8 Title: gods versus God!
Question of the Day: How does the Scriptures contrast Almighty God verses the gods of this world?
We who live in a land where there aren’t any images or idols that people bow down to are quite puzzled as to how man can be foolish enough to worship them. Now we have to immediately admit that a god doesn’t have to be a statue to be worshiped, and that people can worship a variety of things or people or money or a position or anything else, but if it is something that people worship and give devotion to, it is none-the-less an idol.
In this psalm as well as in other various passages of Scripture, idolatry is contrasted with the worship of the One True God. In this psalm the psalmist said in prayer: “O LORD, it is not unto us, I repeat, it is not unto us but to Your name that we give glory, and why? Because of Your overwhelming and steadfast love and Your faithfulness! Then why do the nations keep on saying, ‘Where is there God?’ Our God is in the heavens and He does whatever He pleases. But the idols of the world are made of silver and gold and they are the handiwork of a man. They do have mouths, but they cannot speak; they have eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but they do not hear; they have noses, but they do not smell; they have hands but they cannot feel; and they don’t make any sounds at all. What is sad is that those who make them end up becoming just like them—and that goes for all who put their trust in them.”
In this psalm we are confronted with the stark contrast between the LORD, the God of the universe, and the gods of this world: Here is what we learn about the LORD: He is a God of steadfast love. We cannot comprehend how God can love the whole world and give His Son so that they can be saved, but that is the truth of the Word of God! His love is steadfast and overwhelming and unfailing and incomprehensible.
He is a God who is always there for us constantly, that is, He is faithful. We live in a world where we can trust nothing or no one; yet He reveals Himself to us as the One who is always there for us; He will never leave us or forsake us; and He admonishes us to learn to be faithful, consistent, and always there for each other—especially fellow believers.
Our God is also firmly enthroned in the heavens. This gets our perspective off ourselves and onto the One who is in heaven, who always existed, and has capabilities far beyond our comprehension.
Our God also does whatever He pleases: First, He is able to do what He pleases. Second, He cannot be stopped or hindered from doing whatever He pleases. Third, He has absolute power and can do anything that He wants or needs or plans to do. And fourth, He has a complete plan for every creature that He makes, and whether they like it or not, they will end up doing whatever He has designed and planned and purposed that they do!
And here is what we learn about the gods of this world: They are made of material things like silver and gold. They are always handmade. They have a mouth, but cannot speak; eyes, but cannot see; ears but they cannot hear; noses but they cannot smell; hands that cannot feel; feet that cannot walk; and a throat but they cannot make a sound! And the sad thing is this: those who make them become like them.
What a contrast between the useless helpless gods of this world and the LORD, the God of the universe! The psalmist mentioned to believers that we can give Him glory, and later in the psalm we are told of Israel’s complete trust in the LORD for help and for their protection, and for His blessings, and then the psalm is concluded with this admonition: Praise the LORD! Hallelujah!
Prayer: O God, what a pleasure to worship You and You alone! Truly there is none else like You, and when us believers see all that You do for us and how You bless us and how You have prepared a permanent home for us in eternity, who else could we worship! Amen!
by David Virts
Scripture Text: Luke 16:14-16 Title: Get into Heaven!
Question of the Day: When did this idea get started that “we have to try to get into heaven”?
Many things started in Jesus time because He became the beginning point of much of what this world faces today. But what about Judaism and the other religions of the world; did they teach what a person had to do to “get into heaven”? Listen to what Jesus said in these verses:
“Now those of the religious group called the Pharisees were there listening, and they loved money and its influence on others in a covetous way, and they began to deride Jesus by turning up their noses at Him. So Jesus turned to them and said, ‘You are the ones who try to make yourself look so good before others, but God knows your hearts. That which is highly esteemed and ends up being of great value in man’s sight, is despicable in God’s sight. The Mosaic Law and the words of the prophets were highly valued until John the Baptist came to preach. Since that time the approaching kingdom of God has been proclaimed and everyone wants to make sure that they are prepared for it. You see, it would be easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for one small part of God’s Law to fail.”
Jesus had an interesting way of saying that the age of the Law was now being transitioned into the age of grace and the church when He said, “The Mosaic Law and the words of the prophets were highly valued until John the Baptist came to preach.” It is not that the Law and prophets were now obsolete, it is that now the gospel is being preached, and from here on people’s number one desire is to make sure that they get into God’s kingdom. And from that day until now people are “pressed” with a desire to “get into the kingdom of God.” I wonder if any of the religions of the world before this time ever spoke of “how to get into heaven”; or was it from now on throughout history that men were eager to learn how to get into heaven?
The kingdom of God could not come here on earth until the King Himself was come, and now He is here and it is time to get on with it. Everyone wants to be part of “God’s kingdom”, but the ways to be part of it, and the varied ways people come up with to get into it, have sprung up and many false ideas have arisen? The devil has jumped on the bandwagon and given a lot of people false hope that they are OK or that they are on their way to heaven, but Jesus said when He meets many of them He will say to them, “Depart from Me, I never knew you—you who practice lawlessness.” We must make sure we are “born again” and ready to enter heaven!
Prayer: Lord I praise Your name that You have prepared the way for a born again believer to get into heaven, and that Your Father draws us, and You then make sure that all believers will be with You forever. The passion of our lives is to be in heaven with You—forever. Amen!
Scripture Text: Psalm 114 Title: Tremble!
Question of the Day: What is man’s response when the presence of God is manifested?
There are those who deny the existence of God because they have never “seen” Him; but every believer knows what it means to be visited by the presence of God. It usually happens in the most unexpected times and ways and during a crisis time when are under attack from the evil one. The presence of God is the theme of this psalm, and it is loaded with meaning for the Bible student of today as it was for the Israelites when it was written.
Here are the words of this text: “When the Israelites left Egypt, and the descendants of Jacob left that nation who had a strange language, it was then that Judah became the place of the sanctuary of the LORD, and the land of Israel became the place where He desired to rule the world. Before His mighty nation the Red Sea took one look and fled and the Jordan River turned back and piled high. The mountains skipped like the male sheep butting each other and the hills skipped like a little lamb. So what ails you, O Red Sea that you fled like that? And O Jordan, what ails you that you piled high? O mountains, why did you skip like a ram, and O hills, why did you skip like a little lamb? O earth, tremble at the presence of Elohim, when the God of Jacob shows up and turns the rock into an abundance of water, and the hard flint rock became a spring of water.”
The psalm outlines for us what happens when the presence of the LORD is manifested in any place on earth. Of all places on earth where the LORD shows his mighty power, it is in and around the land of Israel and among the Jewish people on earth—and in our day around places where the people of God gather, and among where His people live. It is a fact that the LORD demonstrates His presence wherever His people are—whether in bondage in Egypt, at the Red Sea, at the Jordan River, or—as recorded in this psalm—in the mountains and hills of the land of Israel.
When it is God’s timing to show His presence on earth, He chooses to do it in and through the events that surround His dealings with His people. For instance, when Israel went out from Egypt, and when the descendants of Jacob left the country where they spoke a strange language. Then the process began whereby eventually among the tribe of Judah He made His earthly sanctuary, and among the nation of Israel He, declared His dominion (which will eventually be over the whole earth). During the time of the Exodus and Israel’s departure from bondage, the Red Sea fled from the presence of the LORD, the God of Jacob. The Jordan River was turned back and the waters “heaped”—even though water doesn’t heap—except at the command of God! The mountains skipped around like rams. When one thinks of rams, they think of them butting heads with a thundering sound. This is referring to the time when the Israelites were at mount Sinai and the earth quaked and shook the surrounding area and it seemed that the mountain moved at the presence of the LORD (see Psalm 18:7; 29:6; Exodus 19:18), and the hills also skipped like a lamb. When little lambs are young, they run and jump and skip around in frolic as they play around—it is fun to watch!
At this point the psalmist directly addresses the Red Sea, the Jordan River, the mountains, and the hills with a question, “What ails you…?” One would wonder what the connection between these events is: Why would each of them respond in totally unnatural ways? Seas don’t flee; rivers don’t turn back; and mountains and hills don’t skip around like a lamb. It is at this point that the psalmist unveils the purpose of His writing this psalm: he had figured out that the connection was that the presence of the Lord, the God of Jacob, was manifested at each of these events.
And then the psalmist concludes with mentioning how God manifested His presence to the children of Israel: it was also when He turned the rock into a pool of water and the flint into a spring of water—enough to supply the needs of 3 million or so people! And in this way the LORD, the God of Jacob manifested His presence. So I ask myself: in what ways has the LORD manifested His presence during my lifetime? Here is a brief list: the night I was saved in Ringgold, NE in a revival at the Free Methodist Church; the day the Lord saved my life when the tree fell up in the LaSal Mountains of southeastern Utah and brushed me and knocked me down; when CF fired me for not running with a female truck driver on an overnight sleeper run, and I lost my job, filed a lawsuit that went nowhere, and lay awake many a sleepless nights grieving over what I had done to our family and wept in the middle of the night.
When I was a student at Prairie Bible College and we sang Handel’s “Worthy is the Lamb” and the “Hallelujah Chorus” with a 50+ piece orchestra and a 250 voice choir, my heart pounded with excitement as the LORD manifested His presence to us in that auditorium. I remember the speaker for the night getting up and saying, “We have already reached the pinnacle of the service, we just as well say the benediction and go home!”
I remember when the information for the book “Knowing, Seeking, Worshiping” first came to me while driving a truck between Murfreesboro and Manchester, TN. My heart pounded with excitement as I rejoiced in the way the various character qualities of God are revealed throughout the various parts of His creation, and that He had specially chosen man to mirror one of His character qualities forever—His steadfast love! I also remember when I joined the Heritage Men’s Choral for the first practice that I attended; my heart was pounding for hours after I left that music building on the campus of Trevecca University, and I lay awake that night until 4:00 in the morning and couldn’t sleep because of the excitement of that moment. In so many ways the LORD has manifested His presence as I study and meditate on His Word, and so I wait for many more times in my brief life when the Lord will manifest His presence again and again!
Prayer: O God, I praise You for manifesting Your presence so many times throughout history. Man looks for a visible representation of an invisible God, yet the brilliant light that surrounds Your presence is no place for man in a sinful body! Come show Your presence to me so many more times throughout my pilgrimage here on earth, and teach me to look for You to show up when needed and when You chose to. It will be wonderful throughout all of eternity to continue to dwell in Your presence, and as the psalmist said in Psalm 91:1, “The person who continually dwells in the sheltered place of the Most High God will find permanent rest in the shadow of the Almighty!” Amen! David B. Virts has written a book called “Knowing, Seeking Worshiping — a study of the character of God.” It is available by calling 615-945-0611.
Scripture Text: James 1 Title: Anger–Major Setback!
Question of the Day: What is it that holds us back from knowing God and His Word—perhaps the main thing that holds man back?
Christians are painfully aware that much of the curse of God for man’s sin rests on our lives, we struggle with many effects of the fall of man, and then we are reminded again and again of the ways in which we are held back from knowing God and seeking Him through His Word. By contrast, as we study the life of Jesus of Nazareth, we are very impressed with His handling of the Scriptures, His knowledge of the condition of man and his sinfulness, His way of touching the lives and bodies of people He met, and the way that He discovered His purpose for being here on earth and perfectly fulfilled that purpose. We struggle with the trials and temptations of life, and through them we find a number of things that hold us back from responding fully to what we read in the Scriptures.
In James 1, he gives us a list of the things that set us back from getting the most out of our trials and emphasizes how we must respond to the Word by becoming “doers of the Word, and not hearers only”. Here he covers our attitude in facing trials (“Count it all joy”), the fact that our faith is being tested to give us steadfastness and endurance, our lack of wisdom in knowing what to ask for, the humility that is needed to take in the Word, the blessing that comes from standing firm under a trial, the ability to know when we are being tempted by sin and how to successfully stand, and the way that we, during our trials, must keep our eyes on the “Father of lights.”
It is then that James pauses and tells us in verses 19-21 what it is that keeps us back from “receiving with meekness the implanted Word—that which transforms our souls.” We must do three things: We must be quick to hear. Israel was rebuked by God for being “dull of hearing”, and in the book of the Law many times they were told to “listen carefully to the voice of God and obey Him.” We must be so sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to what He is trying to teach us through the times when we read, study, memorize, and meditate on Scriptures. They are absolute truth, and His is the great Communicator and Illuminator—but we must be listening.
We must be slow to speak. Our tongues have the potential of getting us into a lot of trouble and causing a lot of damage in the world around us. We must learn to use our tongue to bring healing and restoration and love and hope to the dying world around us. When we learn wisdom and maturity, we learn to talk must less and listen a lot more.
The final thing that holds back our response to the Word is anger. We must learn to be slow to get angry.
It is here that we want to pause. The first child born on earth, Cain, got angry and killed his brother, and since then anger has been one of the most destructive forces in homes, schools, churches, and in society in general. Moses became angry a number of times throughout his life and it ended up costing this great man of God, a prophet of God, his trip into the “Promised Land”. Anger hits all of us: for some it just smolders like the embers of a fire, and then one day it bursts into flames and brings great destruction. So we must ask ourselves, what does it take to make you mad? The people around us in traffic? Some family member or co-worker who sets us off? When we see injustice done to others? When someone in authority tells us what to do? When we get ripped off by aggressive sales people? You make your list and I will make mine!
The sad thing is that uncontrolled anger (wrath) puts an end to spiritual growth until we learn to deal with it. Take inventory of your life? What makes you mad? Does that anger put you in a rage? Then you must deal with it! In the true nature of the Scriptures we are given help and the answer to our anger. Here are some of the answers: (by the way, this author faced a time of anger that was close to wrath, it is scared him and drove him to find The Answer!)
We need to discover what makes us mad. Job’s accuser wanted to find a way to get to him so that he would curse God, and it is the same for us today. Many people down through the centuries have seen how Job learned perseverance and endurance instead of getting mad. Satan was looking for something, anything to get Job to get angry and curse God. The point: we must know what it is that makes us mad and deal with it. Job did! We must!
Psalm 37:8 says, “Stop getting angry, and stay clear away from wrath!” I decided to get angry about ______, and I must decide not to get angry and to steer clear away from uncontrolled anger—wrath! I must, or it will destroy my life!
Ephesians 4:26 tells us “to be angry, but not let that anger turn to sin.” Sin happens when we allow anger to control us; sin happens when we allow anger to stop up our free flowing relationship between us and our God; and sin happens when we allow anger and the resulting anxiety to diminish our faith. Jesus instructed us several time to “be anxious about nothing”, and it is that anxiety that turns to anger and stops up the Holy Spirit’s ability to do the surgery in our hearts that is needed and bring health and growth to us again.
Prayer: Lord, help me to deal with anxiety with much more prayer so that I will not become an angry person and inch toward letting that anger deteriorate to wrath. I bring the concerns and trials of my life to You in constant prayer with a thankful heart as You point out in Philippians 4:6-7. Dear Lord, keep me away from anger so that my heart will be in constant peace as You rule in my heart. Amen!
Scripture Text: Luke 16:10-13 Title: God or Money?
Question of the Day: Why does Jesus tell His disciples that they will be serving either God or money?
Jesus’ clear teachings always ended up with a statement that forces us to evaluate our lives to see where we stand. Here He concludes this section of instructions to His disciples by making the statement, “You cannot serve God and money.” Why is it either/or and not both/and? Does money have such a great pull on us that when we to serve it, or if we spend our lives pursuing it, then we are not able to serve God too?
It is interesting to note here that during Jesus’ public ministry, the only recorded time that He touched money is when He asked them to bring a silver coin to Him and He asked them “whose image and inscription is etched into this coin”, and then he told them to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. Very little is said throughout His public ministry about Him or His disciples handling money. Peter caught a fish and used the gold coin in its mouth to pay their taxes; and it is also recorded that the one in the group who handled the little money that was needed was Judas—who ended up betraying the Lord for a little more money, and he also pilfered out of their stash of money.
So these twelve men had “left all, taken up their cross, and followed Him.” It is during this time of transition from their former occupations (fishing, tax collecting, etc.) and the rest of their lives that they would devote to following Him while He was here on earth, and spreading the gospel after He left which cost them their lives. It was during this time that Jesus spoke directly to them about how money can have such a stranglehold on them. We can easily understand this because our whole society is built on money and the things that money can buy and we even see having a certain pile of money saved as helping us now to be “secure”.
So, is Jesus telling them that money is bad or unnecessary? Not really. What He is speaking to them about is whether they were “serving God or serving money”. He clearly pointed out to them that you can’t spend your time and energy pursing money, making it, and using it to buy the temporal things of this world, and at the same time pretend to be serving God. While God may put it on the heart of a person to make money, invest it wisely, and then use it for His glory, the bottom line is this: does money have a stranglehold on me; or do I use it when needed to take care of the basic necessities of life? I must never “serve money” as I have determined to “serve God”?
Prayer: Lord deal with me thoroughly and clearly when I am tempted to “serve money” instead of giving my all to “serve You”. I desire to be 100% devoted to You and serving You with all my heart, and I know that I must always guard my heart so that nothing comes between You and I as we walk together down life’s road. I desire to leave the pursing of money to others, and to follow You with “all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Amen!