It’s easy to get so caught up in life that we sometimes forget how truly blessed we are. For far too many, this upcoming holiday becomes about nothing more than the three F’s; family, food, and football. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying those, that’s not what this time is about.
There are so many things we have to be thankful for, and these are universal to all of His children:
The Holy Spirit
John 14:26-27- “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Ephesians 1:7- “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace”
Psalm 107:15- “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”
Psalm 107:1- “O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.”
Deuteronomy 32:4- “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”
1 Corinthians 1:4- “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ”
1 John 3:1- “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God”
Exodus 15:11- “Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?”
Lamentations 3:22-23- “It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
Philippians 4:7- “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
2 Corinthians 1:3- “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort”
1 Thessalonians 5:9- “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”
No matter what’s happening right now in our country, or our world for that matter, God is still on the throne, He’s still blessing His bride, and Jesus is still coming again. The Word of God gives us so much to be thankful for and it would do us all good to focus on that, not just this time of year, but always.
Philippians 4:8- “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
No one enjoys being sick. My family and I have come face to face with sickness and disease in various ways over the last month. Not only has most of my household recently had the coronavirus over the last few weeks, but my wife lost her grandfather after a long battle with cancer. Furthermore, while out of town with her family we got the call that someone in our church passed away suddenly.
In my time as pastor, and well before, I have seen how sickness and disease can eat a person alive. Disease has no prejudice- it will attack the old and young alike. It will come for those at the very pinnacle of health and those with compromised bodies unable to fight against it. It can come in and sweep someone off their feet where they were once strong and healthy one minute and the next their family is putting together funeral arrangements.
The great thing is we have an amazing God who is not only able to comfort and strengthen throughout the worst our bodies can go through. Furthermore, He can take away any disease He chooses to take away. It all depends on His will- It was His will that those we have recently lost passed away. We don’t have to know why it happens, but we can rest knowing He certainly does.
The incredible thing about all this is that it is all a result of sin. The bible is clear that death entered the world due to sin, and that because of that first sin by our first parents (Adam and Eve) we are all sinners today. Again, we don’t have to sit around and wonder why it happens to our loved ones. We all die because we all sin.
The great comfort we have is that our God is a great physician. Now, interestingly, when the bible refers to Jesus as a physician- it’s not in reference to our physical maladies but our spiritual state.
After the scribes and pharisees see Jesus eating with those they considered undesirable- they confront Him. Jesus responds, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17) Make no mistake- Jesus can heal any disease He so chooses. However, Jesus is mainly the physician of our soul. He takes those that are dead because of sin and gives them new life.
Romans 8:9-10- “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
No one enjoys being sick- come to the only one who can offer you true healing; one that is not temporary and gives you a life unimaginable by human thought.
In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that bothers him greatly. He, being the most powerful man in the world, doesn’t like that there is this dream he doesn’t understand. So, he brings in, “the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans” (Daniel 2:2); anyone who he thinks might give him an answer to the meaning of this dream.
There was one small problem though- he couldn’t remember the dream. However, King Nebuchadnezzar thinks any wise man worth his salt wouldn’t need to be told the dream. They were, obviously, unable to give him what he wanted so he, in his rage, commands all the wise men in the kingdom be killed.
However, as they rounded up the wise men, this included, “Daniel and his fellows to be slain” (Daniel 2:13). Daniel, with great wisdom, simply asks what was happening and when told goes to the king to ask for time. The King grants him time, he and those with him seek the answer from God, and God gives him the dream and the meaning.
Daniel, knowing how great a thing God had just performed, cries out, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.” (Daniel 2:20-22)
Daniel knew and understood a great truth, God knows all things because God is sovereign over all things. It was nothing for God to grant this knowledge to Daniel for He is omniscient. Daniel could stand before Nebuchadnezzar without worry for God is omnipotent. He removes kings and sets up kings. This fact would be the underlying theme of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream as God showed him, through Daniel, the next several centuries of human history through the lens of the great world kingdoms to come. Kingdoms that God would set up and take down.
Our nation comes, again, to another crucial election. It is very easy to feel great consternation when it comes to who will be the next president. No longer are there general areas of agreement- both sides are diametrically opposed at just about every level. When we think of religious freedom and our ability to openly worship without government infringement it becomes even more imperative that the right person gets into office.
However, what we must remember, is the person that gets into office will be precisely who God wants to be in office:
Romans 13:1- “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”
Psalm 75:6-7- “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”
Proverbs 21:1- “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”
We can lay out a list of everything we think must happen in this coming election. This person must be elected so this can happen or stop happening. However, in the end, God will put the person there that He desires- therefore, what happens is happening because God wills it to happen.
As the political landscape just gets crazier and crazier, we need to remember it’s the hand of God that moves the kings as He sees fit. Ultimately, God will give us the person we need or the person we deserve; either way- He is still on the throne, He still works in His people, and He is still coming again- “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever”.
Missions is an important topic. No bible believing Christian would deny its importance. Jesus made the mission clear- go and make disciples. This is true for every child of God; we are to go and tell others the gospel. This isn’t just for preachers or other full-time minsters.
God has given you a mission field. Maybe it’s your home or extended family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbor, that waiter you always have at your favorite restaurant, your doctor, your mechanic, or anyone else God puts in your path. Again, this is true for all of us.
For some, however, God has taken that mission field and placed it in some other city, state, or even country. Many men and women have taken up that call and gone to places perhaps they never thought they’d go and did things for the cause of Christ they never thought they’d do.
Wherever your mission field, here’s the truth- you can’t do it alone. This is where I think the story of Jericho comes in. You probably know the story- the Israelites first test when entering the promised land was Jericho, and what a test it was. The city was highly fortified with walls that were essentially impregnable.
God then gives them their test- walk; walk around the city- don’t attack. So, they did. They walked for six days, then on the seventh they walked around the city seven times and the walls fell. Through their obedience God made a way, however, now it was time to fight.
“So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.” (Joshua 6:20)
Now, the amazing thing is the nation as a whole came and took this city, yet later we read (Joshua 18:21) that the privilege of owning Jericho went to the tribe of Benjamin. When it came to this battle, Benjamin benefited more than the rest of Israel- but they couldn’t have done it without them.
When it comes to missions- we can’t do it alone. Not only does it take the power of God, but it takes the prayers of God’s people, and in many cases, it takes the sacrificial financial giving of God’s people.
Ultimately, it may not be you or I leading a person to Christ- that privilege may go to someone else- but it takes all of us for the gospel to be properly propagated. Furthermore, the plan is ultimately God’s, and while He may break down the walls to get us in the proper place- sometimes it’s up to us to take up arms and fight.
What we must understand is that when it comes to missions- it doesn’t really matter who gets Jericho (1 Corinthians 3:5-8). What matters is did we join in the battle, did we do our part, and did we do what it takes to take the city?
2 Peter 3:10-14
In this great chapter Peter is expounding upon the truth of the second coming of Christ. Yes, there will be scoffers, but God always keeps His promises. We don’t need to think about if He’s coming, we need to think about what His coming means.
Peter asks this question, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness”. The fact is, since Jesus is coming back, it should cause to act a certain way.
He then gives us that way in which we should live, “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”
We are told to be found in peace. This could refer to the peace found in salvation, namely, peace from God. However, he is already speaking to Christians, so this doesn’t seem to to be the case. This, then, is likely a reference to peace of God. The peace that keeps our “hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
We are told to be without spot and blameless. I put these together because Peter gives these together in contrast to what he had previously written about the ungodly false teachers in chapter two. “Spots they are and blemishes” (2 Peter 2:13). Without spot refers to the way we live; in other words, living in right standing with God and by the Word of God. Blameless refers to how we are perceived by others, having a godly reputation- as opposed to those who are ungodly.
Peter also says that we should do these things diligently. We must work at this; it won’t happen on its own. The flesh will strive towards the things of the world and the Spirit will pull us toward Christ (Romans 7). If we are not diligent about feeding, and not grieving (Ephesians 4:30), the Spirit, our flesh will eventually win us over and sin will take place. When we are living in sin, we stop resting in the peace of God, we cease to be spotless, and we are potentially no longer blameless before the world.
So, the question is, what are you looking for? If we’re simply looking to get by in the shadows without the world knowing who we are- we won’t care about diligence. However, if you genuinely believe that Christ is going to return, and you are looking for that day- it should spur us to be diligent about the way we live our lives.
In our society submission is not a popular belief to hold. It is ridiculed as ancient and not holding to our contemporary standards. In the age of political correctness, we are labeled as hate mongers when we teach and preach submission, but what does submission really mean and should it be practiced today.
Biblically speaking, submission is willingly placing yourself under the will or authority of another person. It’s clear that in our society today this word carries with it a certain stigma of inequality or inferiority. This is mostly due to the rise of feminist ideology in our western culture. It is viewed as weakness or failing to live up to our potential.
Many are opposed to the idea of submission because it goes hand in hand with humility. We are a prideful people so anything requiring humility will naturally go against the natural (selfish) desires of the heart.
However, it is absolutely unbiblical to view submission in this way. Biblical submission is making less of ourselves to do what is best for the Kingdom of God. It has absolutely nothing to do with inequality or inferiority. This is most clearly seen in the life of Jesus:
Jesus said in John 6:38, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”
Nobody, with a right view of Jesus, would accuse Him of being inferior to God the Father. Nobody, with a right view of Jesus, would accuse Him of being unequal with God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-7- “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men”
This text not only shows us that the willful submission of Christ to God the Father, in no way, made Him lesser in any sense of the word. Furthermore, it specifically tells us to have the same mindset of Christ.
The fact is, we all have someone we are to submit to:
To each other- Ephesians 5:21
To our spouse- Ephesians 5:22-31
To our parents- Ephesians 6:1-3
To our employers- Ephesians 6:5-8
To our government- Romans 13:1-7
To God- James 4:7
Submission is good, right, and biblical. It is not a sentence of a lesser life- it is following in the footsteps of Jesus to walk in His example.
Faith alone is an important way to describe the act of salvation. Ephesians 2 makes it abundantly clear that faith is what’s required. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
There’s a system of belief referred to “easy believism”- essentially the gospel, and salvation, are totally free of any works of mankind. When it comes to salvation, I fully affirm that truth; not only is it given freely as a gift, but I can’t work for it.
However, they take their system a little further to say that, even post conversion, to expect a Christian to act a certain way as proof of salvation is a works-based salvation. So, the question then becomes- are their certain things that we must do after salvation? Or, maybe to put it another way, does salvation produce anything in our lives?
There is overwhelming textual evidence that salvation comes to a person where they are, but it doesn’t leave them there:
Ephesians 2:10- “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
2 Peter 1:5-9- “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins."
Titus 2:14- “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
James 2:17-18- “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”
I could give more but this should suffice. Needless to say, it is absolutely biblical to expect Christians to live a certain way after their conversion. The Gospel is incredibly easy to believe- God couldn’t have made it easier. However, to suggest that it is able to be lived easily, or at least that it is acceptable to do so, is simply not found in the Word of God.
May we heed the instructions of 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” Faith alone accomplishes salvation- salvation accomplishes faith and works.
Perhaps you or someone you know has had the thought “why do bad things happen to good people”. This is a common reason given as to why people refuse to believe in the God of the bible. They think, “how could a God that is called loving allow this to happen to a good person”.
The problem is they have taken the God of the bible and made Him a god of their own making. There are fundamental problems with a question like this that, intentional or not, lead people away from a right understanding of God and us.
First, it is a misnomer to call anyone good. To have the understanding that you are genuinely a good person is to profoundly misunderstand and discredit your sin. No one is truly good as everyone is a sinner.
Romans 3:10- “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one”
Romans 3:23- “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”
In Matthew 19, Jesus makes this point as clear as can be when He tells the rich young ruler who called Him good master, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God”. If God alone is good (and He is) and He alone sets the standard for goodness (and He does) we fall a far cry short of being good.
Next to the perfection of God’s holiness our sin is a nasty blot that marks us as guilty. Our righteousness, the best we can actually produce, is nothing more than “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, no one is truly good.
Furthermore, to think of God as only a God of love and not also a God of justice is to believe in some false view of God. Since God is the creator He decides the standard by which to judge the world. His standard is His perfect holiness and, as we’ve seen, we vastly fall short.
Therefore, He is perfectly righteous and just to judge however Je sees fit. As it says in Romans 2:2, “we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth”. God is a God of justice and He will do so perfectly.
So, the question shouldn’t be why do bad things happen to good people, it should be how does anything good ever happen to sinful and wicked people. The fact that any of us have anything we consider good is nothing more than the grace of God. The fact that any of us have breath in our lungs is nothing more than the mercy of God.
The truth is there has only been one time in the history of mankind where something bad happened to someone good. And it is only because of this event we can be justified before God. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21- “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”.
So, let’s make sure we’re not throwing false accusations against a God who loved you enough to do for you what you could never do for yourself.
God created everyone to be an image bearer of His glory. No matter our differences, that is our created purpose. Black, white, national, or foreigner all of us have this inherently in us. Isaiah 43:6-7- “bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.”
The problem is our sin. The fall of man places within us a sin nature that has passed to every person. This nature makes us naturally sinful; instead of bearing the image of God for His glory we distort that image to try and gain our own glory.
The bible is clear- there are sinful divisions that we place on ourselves. Yes, there are cultural differences, there are differences in the way we live based on our governing, but there are no real racial differences. We are all one race; descended from Adam.
Paul, while preaching in Athens, tells a group of Gentiles, “God that made the world and all things therein… giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:24-26).
Any division we make that goes beyond, “one blood” is something that goes beyond God’s creation. Obviously, we are not all collectively the same- but to claim that there is any inherit difference in us based on the color of our skin is simply unbiblical.
So, because of the fall, where there was once perfection there is now brokenness; and that which is broken needs something to make it whole again. That something was Christ and the work He did on the cross.
Colossians 3:11- “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”
Galatians 3:26-28- “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The work that Christ did is a unifying work. Not only does it unify my life with Christ’s, but it unifies me with you. Jew or Greek, male or female, all are made one in Christ through His atoning sacrifice.
However, it must be noticed that this oneness is not for all- it is for those in Christ; it is for those who have been made new by the blood of Christ. Paul makes this point clear in Ephesians 2:11-14:
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us”
This is important for us to remember. We can’t expect those who have not been renewed by the cross to act, think, and live like those who have. It shouldn’t surprise us to see the division we’re seeing in a country that has routinely rejected Christ and His sacrifice.
Our country doesn’t need more politicians or legislation- it needs Christ, and it needs the people of Christ to preach the gospel of Christ. He alone can truly change a life- He alone can truly bring unity.
The favorite title Jesus used for Himself was “Son of Man”. You will find this phrase almost ninety times in the gospels. I’m sure there are several reasons why Jesus chose to use this phrase over others, however, there are two that we can be sure of.
First, this title was a direct nod to the prophecy of Daniel, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)
This is obviously important as this is Jesus connecting Himself to a prophecy concerning the Messiah. This may seem obscure to us sitting here in the 21st century- but the Jews of Jesus’ day would be very familiar with the prophecy. Jesus never attempted to hide who He was- and His Jewish audience would easily understand the correlation.
To negate that Jesus was the Messiah is to reject His own claims to be so. He may have not shouted from the rooftops that He was the Messiah, but He certainly made claims for those who had eyes to see and ears to hear.
However, it’s the second aspect of this phrase that intrigues me. The phrase Son of Man obviously carries with it the picture of humanity. It was no mistake that He chose to use this phrase far more than Son of God (used less than half the number of times in the gospels); He was choosing to identify Himself with those He came to save.
Jesus was and is utterly unique- no God imagined in the minds of men would care enough for humanity to live among them- much less to become one of them (John 1:14- “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”). However, Jesus willingly emptied Himself of the glory He had in eternity past to live, become, and identify as one of us. as it says in Philippians 2:5-7, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men”.
Jesus’ humanity was not only necessary with regards to our salvation (if He wasn’t human, He couldn’t die) but it was also an incredible gift to us for His current ministry. Jesus is described as our high priest, which the book of Hebrews speaks a great deal about. In one of those passages it says, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.” (Hebrews 4:14)
A high priest was a representative of the people, therefore, the more the high priest knows the people the better job he can do. Jesus didn’t come to just be a good high priest but a perfect high priest. One of my favorite passages is the next two verses in Hebrews, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Jesus’ humanity makes Him a perfect high priest because He can sympathize with our problems. He knows, personally and experientially, what it means to be human. With all the emotions, thoughts, and feelings that you and I have- all without sin.
Because He was the Son of Man, He can be our perfect high priest. A high priest that we are told to come to for grace and mercy. But notice, we are not to just come, but we are to boldly come. We have no need to worry or wonder if this high priest can encourage and comfort because He’s been the Son of Man- He knows your pain.