Category Archives: Encouragement

The Lord Encourages the People After Establishing Punishment

Numbers 15 takes place immediately after the Israelites have rebelled against God and refused to take the promised land as He commanded. They were intimidated and did not trust Him. God punished them to 40 years in the desert, and then some went to attack to take the promised land… again rebelling against God’s new instructions for them to go back into the desert.  They lost as God was not with them.

What grace in our Lord to then encourage them by giving instructions reaffirming that He still plans to give them the promised land. Here in Numbers 15, He provides instructions for when that time comes. He had 40 years to give these instructions, but gave them at this time… when surely many were disheartened.

Another key element to reflect on in this scripture is that the Israelites and others who go with them all share the same instructions. Just as today in which Gentiles accepting Christ as Lord are welcomed in to God’s people, so too thousands of years ago. Those who choose to go with God’s people will be accepted in and under the same instructions. They are not any lesser important than the Jews who were chosen first. None are turned away who wholeheartedly seek the Lord.

Third, the Lord clearly distinguishes the guilt of unintentional sin from rebellion. Unintentional sin is still sin and worthy of repentance, but is easily forgiven. Blatant, intentional sin represents rebellion and is called out as blaspheming the Lord. As you can see from Numbers 14, rebelling against God has consequences. We can take heart, however, as Jesus Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for all sin. Should we rebel defiantly, turn back as soon as you can… with no delay. Repent and ask forgiveness. Obey the Lord. You may have consequences, but the Lord is one who forgives. Our sins can be forgiven through the sacrifice, the death and resurrection, of Christ.

Numbers 15:1-31

Laws for Canaan

     1Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land where you are to live, which I am giving you, 3then make an offering by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering or a sacrifice to fulfill a special vow, or as a freewill offering or in your appointed times, to make a soothing aroma to the LORD, from the herd or from the flock. 4‘The one who presents his offering shall present to the LORD a grain offering of one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of oil, 5and you shall prepare wine for the drink offering, one-fourth of a hin, with the burnt offering or for the sacrifice, for each lamb. 6‘Or for a ram you shall prepare as a grain offering two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-third of a hin of oil; 7and for the drink offering you shall offer one-third of a hin of wine as a soothing aroma to the LORD. 8‘When you prepare a bull as a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a special vow, or for peace offerings to the LORD, 9then you shall offer with the bull a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-half a hin of oil; 10and you shall offer as the drink offering one-half a hin of wine as an offering by fire, as a soothing aroma to the LORD.

      11‘Thus it shall be done for each ox, or for each ram, or for each of the male lambs, or of the goats. 12‘According to the number that you prepare, so you shall do for everyone according to their number. 13‘All who are native shall do these things in this manner, in presenting an offering by fire, as a soothing aroma to the LORD.

Law of the Sojourner

     14‘If an alien sojourns with you, or one who may be among you throughout your generations, and he wishes to make an offering by fire, as a soothing aroma to the LORD, just as you do so he shall do. 15As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the LORD. 16‘There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you.’”

      17Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 18“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land where I bring you, 19then it shall be, that when you eat of the food of the land, you shall lift up an offering to the LORD. 20‘Of the first of your dough you shall lift up a cake as an offering; as the offering of the threshing floor, so you shall lift it up. 21‘From the first of your dough you shall give to the LORD an offering throughout your generations.

      22‘But when you unwittingly fail and do not observe all these commandments, which the LORD has spoken to Moses, 23even all that the LORD has commanded you through Moses, from the day when the LORD gave commandment and onward throughout your generations, 24then it shall be, if it is done unintentionally, without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one bull for a burnt offering, as a soothing aroma to the LORD, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one male goat for a sin offering. 25‘Then the priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and they will be forgiven; for it was an error, and they have brought their offering, an offering by fire to the LORD, and their sin offering before the LORD, for their error. 26‘So all the congregation of the sons of Israel will be forgiven, with the alien who sojourns among them, for it happened to all the people through error.

      27‘Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one year old female goat for a sin offering. 28‘The priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven. 29‘You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. 30‘But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31‘Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.’”

—-

Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Enlighten The Eyes of My Heart

I find the opening to Ephesians is very graceful and a worthy read. Paul begins by reminding people that he only functions as an apostle by the will of God. He has no authority or power of his own. How helpful to us who read his letter so long after he wrote it that he also identifies his audience, faithful followers of Christ. He greets them with a reminder and request for grace and peace from the only one who can provide it… our Lord.

He calls to bless God as the source of all of our blessings in Christ. We are reminded that God’s will is sovereign. He knows all that will happen from the beginning. There are no surprises. He knows whom He will call to Him and who will accept the call. We are forgiven through His grace and love.

Paul reminds us that we are to work in His glory according to His plans, rather than our own. As we submit and obey, we may well hope to be sources of praise to His glory.

We are reminded again that as we submit to Christ as Lord we receive the Holy Spirit to dwell in us as counselor and guide. This too is for His glory, rather than our own.

Paul demonstrates the value of praying for one another as he prays for the righteous saints in Ephesus. But let us look too at what He prays for … riches, easy life, accomplishing their own personal goals and plans… of course not. He prays God would give them a spirit of  wisdom and revelation of knowledge of Him. Let us pray for ourselves and one another in the same way!

What’s more is that Paul is thankful before God for the genuine followers of Christ in Ephesus. Let us remember to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world and be thankful to God for them, though in many cases we may not even know who they are.

Ephesians 1

The Blessings of Redemption

     1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

      3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

      15For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

I find Ephesians 1 to be a very uplifting passage. I read it twice and then slowly a third time. It is so easy to just skim through the opening of Paul’s letters on the assumption that “it is just a greeting”. But take care and dwell on each chapter of the Bible. There is much treasure to be found.

As a parting thought… what a godly, unselfish prayer for us to embrace for one another…

16do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

—-

Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Comfort In Trouble From Recalling God’s Mighty Deeds

Sometimes we experience times of difficulty where we feel distant from God. Perhaps it is because of our own sin or perhaps not. Not all suffering is the direct result of our own sin (consider Job). We may feel as if God has withdrawn from us or is angry with us.

Whether we are experiencing accountability for our sins or just going through tough times we can remember an important lesson to encourage and sustain us. God does not change. He is eternal and unchanging. We can look back at the incredible record of His mighty deeds and power, and of course forgiveness and love, and be encouraged.

Psalm 77

Comfort in Trouble from Recalling God’s Mighty Deeds.

For the choir director; according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.

1My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;
My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.

      2In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness;
My soul refused to be comforted.

      3When I remember God, then I am disturbed;
When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint.

Selah.

      4You have held my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

      5I have considered the days of old,
The years of long ago.

      6I will remember my song in the night;
I will meditate with my heart,
And my spirit ponders:

      7Will the Lord reject forever?
And will He never be favorable again?

      8Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
Has His promise come to an end forever?

      9Has God forgotten to be gracious,
Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?

Selah.

      10Then I said, “It is my grief,
That the right hand of the Most High has changed.”

      11I shall remember the deeds of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

      12I will meditate on all Your work
And muse on Your deeds.

      13Your way, O God, is holy;
What god is great like our God?

      14You are the God who works wonders;
You have made known Your strength among the peoples.

      15You have by Your power redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph.

Selah.

      16The waters saw You, O God;
The waters saw You, they were in anguish;
The deeps also trembled.

      17The clouds poured out water;
The skies gave forth a sound;
Your arrows flashed here and there.

      18The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind;
The lightnings lit up the world;
The earth trembled and shook.

      19Your way was in the sea
And Your paths in the mighty waters,
And Your footprints may not be known.

      20You led Your people like a flock
By the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Praise Him even in the tough times and remember who He is and what He has done. Let that encourage and sustain you through the tough times. Approach Him humbly in prayer and repent from your sins.

—-

Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Dive Into Proverbs

I am a believer that everyone would do well to read through Proverbs continually. Don’t read it once and walk away for years or even months. It is rich with very actionable advice and warnings to help us in life. Today we dive into Proverbs 14.

Fools often bring trouble on themselves, while the wise avoid it with a healthy fear and respect for the Lord.

     1The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

      2He who walks in his uprightness fears the LORD,
But he who is devious in his ways despises Him.

      3In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back,
But the lips of the wise will protect them.

It is understandable to look for ways to save time and energy by reducing the work we need to do… but do not let laziness get in the way of your prospering. Some work is required if you are to do well financially.

      4Where no oxen are, the manger is clean,
But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.

Do not lie.

      5A trustworthy witness will not lie,
But a false witness utters lies.

Seek understanding. This means you must be humble enough to admit you don’t already have all the answers. You must be willing to admit mistakes and learn. The scoffer mocks others rather than thoughtfully considering a situation and learning from it and thus finds no wisdom. Similarly, don’t hang out with fools or you will share their folly.

      6A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none,
But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.

      7Leave the presence of a fool,
Or you will not discern words of knowledge.

      8The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way,
But the foolishness of fools is deceit.

      9Fools mock at sin,
But among the upright there is good will.

Seek God’s way rather than your own. He will lead you through righteousness to the path of life and joy.

      10The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.

      11The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
But the tent of the upright will flourish.

      12There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

It is hard to know what someone is really going through or what journey God is leading them on by a quick glance or brief touchpoint. Plug in with those you love and truly engage in a personal way to encourage and support them. Often the Lord leads us to joy at the end of a painful journey.

      13Even in laughter the heart may be in pain,
And the end of joy may be grief.

Those who follow after God find satisfaction, but those who go their own way will find empty and unfulfilling results.

      14The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways,
But a good man will be satisfied with his.

God did not give us such a wonderful creation as a mind of a human just to “turn it off” and believe everything someone tells you. In a world full of evil and selfishness we do well to consider our steps carefully in reference to God’s word. If we choose to act as naïve, the sour results are as much our fault as those who take advantage of us.

      15The naive believes everything,
But the sensible man considers his steps.

      16A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,
But a fool is arrogant and careless.

      17A quick-tempered man acts foolishly,
And a man of evil devices is hated.

      18The naive inherit foolishness,
But the sensible are crowned with knowledge.

God reassures us that ultimately the good will be rewarded and the wicked held accountable. We may not see or recognize how and when, but we can trust that it is so.

      19The evil will bow down before the good,
And the wicked at the gates of the righteous.

Be aware of sinful human nature. Many will pretend to be friends with the rich for their own benefit. Few, and godly, are those who truly show God’s love to the poor.

      20The poor is hated even by his neighbor,
But those who love the rich are many.

      21He who despises his neighbor sins,
But happy is he who is gracious to the poor.

Devise good rather than evil. Do so out of motivation to glorify God and not out of your own self interest.

      22Will they not go astray who devise evil?
But kindness and truth will be to those who devise good.

The lazy ultimately hold them selves accountable via their own poverty, whether or not they recognize it. It is not exclusively “someone else’s fault”. Work is required to prosper.

      23In all labor there is profit,
But mere talk leads only to poverty.

The greatest prize for the wise is godly wisdom itself, rather than financial gain.

      24The crown of the wise is their riches,
But the folly of fools is foolishness.

Again… don’t lie. God does not like it.

      25A truthful witness saves lives,
But he who utters lies is treacherous.

It is actually healthy to have a reverence or even fear of God. Recognizing that displeasing Him is worse than displeasing men can help us stand in confidence to do what is right and avoid Satan’s traps.

      26In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence,
And his children will have refuge.

      27The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
That one may avoid the snares of death.

Rulers and leaders of nations should treat their people well, for it is from their people that they derive their strength and power and prosper themselves. If the people collapse, the government has nothing.

      28In a multitude of people is a king’s glory,
But in the dearth of people is a prince’s ruin.

To be slow to anger is to demonstrate a wise and godly trait and follow our Father’s example. It benefits us richly.

      29He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.

Find peace and contentment in what God provides you. Do not always be chasing something you do not have and do not need.

      30A tranquil heart is life to the body,
But passion is rottenness to the bones.

Again… the godly are gracious to the needy.

      31He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker,
But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.

Again… the wicked will be held to account for their actions and the righteous rewarded.

      32The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing,
But the righteous has a refuge when he dies.

Again… seek godly wisdom. Do not be content to remain a fool, even if deemed wise by the world.

      33Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding,
But in the hearts of fools it is made known.

Righteousness exalts a nation and sin disgraces it. Remember, however, that God defines what is righteous and what is sin. The people themselves do not get a vote or voice in it. If they redefine righteousness they do so at their own peril as a nation and will fool only themselves and like minded fools.

      34Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a disgrace to any people.

Be not ashamed of being a servant, whether to God or to an employer or to your family. Focus on acting wisely and pleasing your “master”.

      35The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely,
But his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.

—-

Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Set The Right Standard By Personal Example

Yeshua sets a high bar when He instructs His followers on proper behavior in how they are to treat one another. We are to engage others using a very challenging and selfless standard He lays out for us in Luke 6. Ultimately we are instructed to treat other by the same standard we want God to apply to ourselves.

Luke 6:27-38

    27“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29“Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30“Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33“If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34“If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 35“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

      37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

The closing line says it all… we are to treat others by the same standard we wish for God to use in His relationship with us. Take time to dwell on that and truly allow yourself the humility to accept where you are not living up to the right standard. I clearly have room to go in this area. There is more grace and mercy I can pour out to others in my relationship with them… more love… more giving. I pray the Holy Spirit helps me and I know He will, because He always does. Praise God He is so compassionate and loving and filled with mercy and grace in His relationship with me. Let me be so to others.

—-

Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

More Than Just An “Introduction” to 2 Corinthians

Take care not even to skip or skim over the sections of Paul’s letters identified as “introduction”. Let us study that as well for insight. There is much we can appreciate and apply in our lives here.

Paul gives glory to God rather than himself for his role as apostle. He identifies his audience which is helpful in understanding context. In this case his audience is to the church… that is believers. You can study other engagements Paul has with non believers to get a grasp on how he communicates differently with nonbelievers compared to believers. In verse two, he again points to the Father and Christ and the powerful grace they provide and the peace that results. In verse 3, the focus is again on God the Father and Jesus Christ, highlighting the mercy and comfort we receive in our afflictions. Clearly Paul is speaking to suffering and tough times affecting the church, and pointing them to look to God for comfort. A poignant reminder that we as believers can expect suffering and difficulty as well… and we too can look to God for comfort. Paul also points to the power of prayer from other believers and credits as tangibly helpful in bringing about God’s help through his tough times in Asia.

That’s a lot of information in an “introduction”!

2 Corinthians 1:1-11

Introduction

     1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:

      2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

      3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

      8For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

Are you facing suffering and burdens that seem to overwhelm you? Do you know others who are? Pray for God to help you and others. Seek and find comfort in the Lord. In Him, we are to place our hope.

—-

Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Whatever You Do, Do It For the Glory of God

Flee from idolatry. Be not drawn in to experiment or dabble with idolatry. False religions and associated activity may well be related to demonic activity. That is best avoided rather than played with. We can not pick both God and demons. God will not have it.

Even as we avoid idolatry directly, we should also be aware of how even indirect association with it may cause believers to stumble and thus we should remain sensitive to how certain activities may affect others. Not everything that is lawful is edifying or good. Paul highlights an example of meat offered to idols. (This conversation thread presupposes that the meat in question is considered food by God. The context is purely in regards to meat offered to idols and not a broader commentary on God’s dietary instructions. ) Paul points out that although we may eat meat offered to idols, we should  choose not to if someone raises the concern to us that it may be offensive to God because of its association with idols.

While these specific examples may seem strange to us, we should apply the message to situations we may encounter today. I can think of a specific example that may be more familiar. I had a friend that was concerned about a movie perhaps being offensive to God. He thought we should not watch it. Even  if I am convinced that I am allowed to watch it, why would I insist on watching it with this friend? If they are convicted about the content of the movie being inappropriate in some regard to our faith and honoring God… I should choose to support him and avoid the movie even if I think it is ok. I do so for my friend’s sake.

1 Corinthians 10:14-22

    14Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. 16Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. 18Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? 19What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?

      23All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. 25Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake; 26FOR THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S, AND ALL IT CONTAINS. 27If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake. 28But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; 29I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? 30If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?

      31Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.

Let us respect and honor the conscience of other believers. Let us support and encourage them with our actions. Do not simply dismiss their concerns as “that may not be good for you, but it is ok for me”. Honor one another, respect, and encourage one another in unity as the body of Christ.

One last parting thought… do not misunderstand Paul when he says he pleases all men in all things. He is not violating God’s law to avoid offending someone. He is not disregarding God’s instructions. Pay close attention to the context throughout this scripture. When Paul indicates he pleases all men he is referring to choosing self sacrifice, avoiding things that he may know are acceptable, for the sake of encouraging and supporting other believers as they try to honor God and avoid offensive things. This is a great approach for many reasons. Perhaps a simple one for closing is to  point out that this encourages people to try to please God even if they don’t fully understand what God calls for. It avoids discouraging less mature believers by constantly telling them they don’t understand and thus leading them to be vulnerable to just giving up and accepting all things, even those that may be offensive to God.

—-

Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Love Edifies and Encourages the Body of Christ

Knowledge by itself, without love, can result in arrogance and disruption amongst the body of Christ. Love edifies the Father. Knowledge shared and demonstrated with love is powerful witness indeed for the life of a follower of Christ.

Paul writes to caution believers about how knowledge without love can lead to disruption in the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 8 reflects on an issue where believers, in particular weaker believers, may be thrown off or confused by witnessing other believers eating food offered to idols. Where a more knowledgeable believer recognizes that food that is acceptable to eat can not be made unclean or unholy by a false god that does not exist. Thus it is fine to eat. However, this could be misunderstood to reflect support for false gods. The lesson is a caution that just because we may know something is ok or not, we should take care and act in love for others who may be confused by our actions… even if our actions are acceptable.

Too often, Christians take this passage out of the specific context of meat offered to idols and start to teach or act as though this gives us permission, or “Christian liberty”, to do whatever we want because it is not “wrong” or can be covered by “grace”. Quite the opposite in this case… Paul is suggesting that even things we know to be acceptable, may be better avoided in order to help our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not a license to deny the law, but rather guidance that even some things which are allowed should be avoided for the sake of others. It further limits us out of our love for others rather than releasing us to act without boundaries.

1 Corinthians 8

Take Care with Your Liberty

      1Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.

      4Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

      7However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. 9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? 11For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. 12And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.

Take time in prayer and reflection. Talk it over with someone close to you that you can trust. (I am doing the same for myself.) Does your growing knowledge of Christ and scripture provide a solid foundation for sharing and demonstrating the gospel with other believers and non believers? or do you come across as arrogant and disruptive, causing others to stumble in confusion?

Take care, however, not to use the confusion of others as an excuse to avoid doing what you understand God to command us to do. If people are confused about what is and is not sin, that does not mean we join them in sin… may it never be! We must demonstrate obedience to the Father in all we understand Him to command us to do. Then we can further guide our actions beyond that with love and understanding of our weaker brothers and sisters in Christ.

—-

Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Even Moses Did Not Always Have All the Answers

As we begin to follow Christ and dedicate our lives to Him we may have a tendency to expect ourselves (or others) to be somehow perfect in submitting to God. Quite frankly, this is not possible. None of us is perfect or can be expected to get everything right. We need help from the Holy Spirit and from other believers.

Even Moses did not always have all the answers or get everything right. Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, had just been executed by God because of their rebellion or carelessness in how they failed to follow God’s instructions regarding sacrifices. Moses became angry at Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s two surviving sons, because they let the goat of the sin offering burn up. The scripture actually records this statement with an exclamation point.

Ultimately, Aaron explains to Moses why this was done and Moses is satisfied. He needed Aaron’s help to get it right. (For more detail regarding this event, consider Elliot’s commentary.)

Leviticus 10

      12Then Moses spoke to Aaron, and to his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the grain offering that is left over from the LORD’S offerings by fire and eat it unleavened beside the altar, for it is most holy. 13“You shall eat it, moreover, in a holy place, because it is your due and your sons’ due out of the LORD’S offerings by fire; for thus I have been commanded. 14“The breast of the wave offering, however, and the thigh of the offering you may eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you; for they have been given as your due and your sons’ due out of the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the sons of Israel. 15“The thigh offered by lifting up and the breast offered by waving they shall bring along with the offerings by fire of the portions of fat, to present as a wave offering before the LORD; so it shall be a thing perpetually due you and your sons with you, just as the LORD has commanded.”

      16But Moses searched carefully for the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it had been burned up! So he was angry with Aaron’s surviving sons Eleazar and Ithamar, saying, 17“Why did you not eat the sin offering at the holy place? For it is most holy, and He gave it to you to bear away the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD. 18“Behold, since its blood had not been brought inside, into the sanctuary, you should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, just as I commanded.” 19But Aaron spoke to Moses, “Behold, this very day they presented their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD. When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the LORD?” 20When Moses heard that, it seemed good in his sight.

Let us take care not to be too hard on others, even leaders, or ourselves in our ability to follow Christ. None of us can achieve perfection, though we should put forth significant effort and do the best we can, always striving to be better and praying for help. If Moses benefited from some help every now and then, I certainly need to cut myself a little slack for when I get things wrong… which is often enough to keep me humble for sure!

—-

Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Be Gracious To Me, O God

The Bible is truly a refreshing guide to those who believe. We all face hard times, yes even those who faithfully obey Jehovah. Many of us never faced the types of hard times that David did, when Saul was trying to kill him for no good reason. David hid and removed himself from the one seeking to harm him. Given the chance to kill Saul in a cave, while Saul was pursuing David to kill him, David relied on Jehovah instead of taking action himself to kill God’s anointed king… Saul (1 Samuel 24). Truly David’s faith was great and his obedience as well. He was truly a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 16:1-13). We can learn from his example and be encouraged as we face hard times.

Psalm 57

Prayer for Rescue from Persecutors.

For the choir director; set to Al-tashheth. A Mikhtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave.

     1Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge
Until destruction passes by.

      2I will cry to God Most High,
To God who accomplishes all things for me.

      3He will send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches him who tramples upon me.

Selah.

God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.

      4My soul is among lions;
I must lie among those who breathe forth fire,
Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows
And their tongue a sharp sword.

      5Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.

      6They have prepared a net for my steps;
My soul is bowed down;
They dug a pit before me;
They themselves have fallen into the midst of it.

Selah.

      7My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!

      8Awake, my glory!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

      9I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.

      10For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens
And Your truth to the clouds.

      11Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.

I am always encouraged in Psalms to see David turn to Jehovah in times of great danger and hardship. Further, I see a pattern in that he begins with a bad situation, relies on and calls on God, then praises and thanks God having faith that God will deliver Him. He ends encouraged despite the difficult situation he face. We can learn a lot from David’s example in applying this to our lives daily.

—-

Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.