God’s Ways Don’t Always Make Sense

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July 3 2022

This week we read 1 Samuel 1-10. This takes place during the end of the time of judges. We are going to focus on the story of Hannah. I hope this will encourage you.

Elkanah was a Levite, a priest, and had 2 wives; Peninnah (means pearl or rich hair) and Hannah (means grace or favor). Peninnah had many children but according to 1 Samuel 1:2 “Hannah had none.” 1 Samuel 2:5 states, “she who was barren.” 1 Samuel 1:5 says, “the Lord had closed her womb.” Hannah was unable to conceive and this was a result of the LORD.

In those days having children was highly valued. If a woman was unable to have children, she felt shame, or that she had done something wrong or sinned in some way. Hannah felt all of these things. To make matters worse, the other wife of Elkanah had many children and she kept provoking and irritating Hannah because she was barren.

Hannah became sad, and depressed. 1 Samuel 1:7-8 says , “This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted?

Hannah continued to pray year after year for a son. She even said that she would dedicate him to the Lord and not a hair would be cut from his head. 1 Samuel 1:20 says, “So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[b] saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”

1 Samuel 1:24-27 says, After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull,[e] an ephah[f] of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.”

1 Samuel 3:19-20 says, “19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.”

Samuel was a great prophet during that time and he was the person who took the Israelites from having judges to having a king. He anointed Saul and eventually David to become the kings of the Israelites.

After reading about Hannah, I can’t help but think about the times that I have been barren. First, from having difficulty conceiving, and then barren in other ways.

The word “barren” in the Merriam Webster dictionary means, “not reproducing…” offspring, fruit, or vegetation. It also means unproductive results, devoid or lacking.

When my husband and I wanted to have children, I had a miscarriage. It was then difficult to get pregnant. I did not understand and felt abandoned by God.

There were many other times in life when I was barren in other ways, spiritually or physically. I would ask God “why?” and did not always get an answer.  

Think about Hannah and her son Samuel. God had a great plan and purpose for Samuel’s life. He had to be born at just the right time in order to be a great prophet and the one who would anoint the first two kings for the Israelites. Jesus was in the same lineage as king David, so Samuels role at this perfect time was very important.

When Hannah’s womb was closed by God, she did not know the reason’s why, but God did. Her first-born son had to be born at just the right time so that God’s will would be done.

When we are barren (in whatever way), it may be for a specific reason as well. We need to remember that God has a perfect plan for our lives and perfect timing for events. Our barrenness can be turned into blessing.

Are you barren in any way?

I pray that if you are barren, feeling downhearted and sad, that you will pray fervently like Hannah, and trust God with the outcome. He hears your prayers, and has a great plan for your life.

Have a blessed Fourth of July. Next we will read 1 Samuel 11-20.

Resource: Margaret Minnicks

More than a love story.

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This week we read the book of Ruth. When you first read the book, it seems to be a love story between Boaz and Ruth. It is so much more.

  • The book of Ruth is the only book of the Bible titled after a female who is a gentile and is written by Samuel. It takes place during the time of judges when there was moral and spiritual decline.
  • Ruth was a Moabite. The Moabites were descendants of Lot (whose daughters, thinking their dad was the only male left on the planet, slept with him and then had children; Moab and Ammon [Moabites and Ammonites) (Genesis 19:31-35).
  • There was a lot of strife between the Moabites and the Jews when Ruth was written. The King of Moab invaded and dominated the Israelites for 18 years (Judges 3:14).
  • Ruth was a Moabite woman without children whose Jewish husband died. She loved her mother-in-law Naomi, and decided to stay at her side. They were both widows, and had no money. They moved back to Bethlehem during the barley harvest.
  • Neither worked, and they were poor, so Ruth went to the fields to glean the wheat (farmers would leave the corners of the field open for the poor to collect wheat for free) (Lev 19:9).
  • Boaz, who was from Elimelek’s family, owned and was at the field.
  • Boaz encouraged Ruth to only get wheat from his field and he said he would provide protection.
  • Ruth continued to glean wheat from his field and he showed her favor.
  • After some time, Naomi had Ruth dress up and put on perfume, and lay at the feet of Boaz (this was custom) and asked him to “spread your garment over me.” This meant she wanted him to become the kinsman (guardian) redeemer. According to Leviticus 25:25, “If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold.”
  • A kinsman redeemer was a male relative that would rescue another in some way because they were in need or danger and could not rescue themselves.
  • Boaz was this person. He married Ruth. He was wealthy, and what was his was hers and Naomi’s. Ruth and Boaz conceived a boy and named him Obed (Obadiah) which means servant of the Lord. Naomi was happy because her name would live on through Obed, and Ruth was happy being with Boaz and having a son.
  • The prayer of Boaz was answered. (Ruth 2:11-12).  “Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.
  • At the end of the book of Ruth, there is a genealogy. We find that Obed was the father of Jesse, who what the father of King David.
  • In Matthew 1:5, we find that Boaz and Ruth are listed in the genealogy of Jesus, as well.

How is book about more than a love story? It is actually a foreshadowing of Christ.

  • We are like Ruth in the following ways.
    • She is poor, in need of redemption, and can’t do it herself. We are poor in spirit and need redemption and can’t do it ourselves. Romans 3:23-25 “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.
    • The death of Ruth’s spouse caused her to lose her inheritance. Sin ruined our right to our inheritance and causes separation from God. Ephesians 2:1-3 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”
  • Jesus is like Boaz in the following ways.
    • He showed favor toward Ruth. Jesus favors us. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
    • He was able to redeem Ruth because he was in the same family. Jesus became like us and was able to redeem us. Ephesians 2:12 “For this reason he had to be made like them,[a] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”
    • He redeemed her for the price of the land and through his marriage to her. Jesus redeemed us through His blood on the cross. 1 Peter 2:24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
    • He redeemed her willingly. Jesus redeemed us willingly. Matthew 20:28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
    • He restored her inheritance. Jesus restores our inheritance with Him for eternity. 1 Peter 3-5 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Ruth was redeemed by becoming the bride of Boaz. We can be redeemed by becoming the bride of Christ. Have you accepted His invitation to become His bride?

If not, all you have to do is Romans 10:9 “declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Please let me know if you need any prayer or have any questions about the readings.

Next week we will start reading 1 Samuel Chapters 1-10. Have a blessed week!

References: Clarence L. Hayes Jr. & Mark Robinson

Break the Cycle

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June 12, 2022

This week we read Judges 1-10. This book follows the death of Joshua, who was an incredible leader who loved and followed the Lord faithfully. In this book we find the generations after Joshua living a terrible cycle of rebellion, consequence, and deliverance. The Israelites would rebel by forgetting the Lord, or worshiping other gods, which caused God’s anger. They would receive a consequence. Then they would cry out to the Lord, and he would send someone (a judge) to deliver them and they would live in peace. After time, the Israelites would repeat the cycle.

The book of Judges took place over 330 years. During that time there were 12 judges (11 men and 1 woman). The cycle happened 12 times in those 330 years.

Judges in that day were not like the judges we have today who sit in a court, listen to a trial, judge a person, and decide a verdict. The judges back then lead God’s people out of trouble through faith in the Lord.

Today, we struggle with a similar problem. The difference is that we don’t have to keep going in a cycle. We have the final and ultimate deliverer, someone who can break the cycle. No more judges are needed.

  1. We rebel against God by doing things our own way. Romans 3:23 says, “we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
  2. We suffer the consequences of our sin. Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
  3. After suffering, the Israelites cried out. Do we cry out to the Lord, or do we keep living our life the way we want? When we cry out like in 1 John 1:19, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  4. The Lord provides The Deliverer. 1 John 4:14 says, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” You can be saved as Romans 10:9 states, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
  5. We have peace that passes understanding. Phillipians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The book of Judges shows the continued love, patience, and forgiveness that God gives his people. He does that for us today through His Son Jesus.

Do you need to break the endless cycle of sin? Cry out to Jesus!

Next week we will finish the book of Judges and read chapters 11-21. Have a blessed week.

It is your choice

As for me and my house,

We shall serve the LORD

Joshua 24:15

June 5, 2022

Today we are discussing the rest of the book of Joshua from Chapters 21-24. The land has been given to each tribe, and at the end of the chapter, Joshua gives a speech prior to his death.

Joshua 24:1-15 says, “Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.

Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his family went down to Egypt.

“‘Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the Egyptians by what I did there, and I brought you out. When I brought your people out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen[a] as far as the Red Sea.[b] But they cried to the Lord for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the wilderness for a long time.

“‘I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I gave them into your hands. I destroyed them from before you, and you took possession of their land. When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. 10 But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand.

11 “‘Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands. 12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you—also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. 13 So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’

14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

The Lord is giving all of the people a choice as to who they want to serve. He has done this from the time of Adam and Eve when they chose to eat from the tree that was forbidden in the garden. God does not want us following him blindly. He wants us to love him out of choice. He did it in the Old Testament and He gives us the choice in the New Testament after Christ came into the world.

John 3:16-18 says, “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

It says, “whoever believes in him…” which means we have a choice to believe in Jesus or not.

For me and my house, we shall serve the LORD.

Who will you serve?

Next week we will read Judges 1-10. Have a blessed week!

You are never too old

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May 28, 2022

This week we read Joshua 11 to 20. In it we read how Joshua continued to conquer kings. Joshua 12 lists all 31 kings that he conquered. Starting in chapter 14 we read about each tribe getting a certain amount of land. The first person allotted the land was Caleb. Forty years prior to this, Caleb and Joshua were 2 of the 12 spies who were to visit the land of Canaan and report back to Moses. When they came back 10 of the spies were afraid because the people were large. Joshua and Caleb were not. Numbers 14:6-9 says, “Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

The people were afraid, however, and they did not go into the land. Because of their lack of trust in God, they wandered the desert for 40 years. Numbers 32:11-12 says, “ 11 Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— 12 not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.’ 13 The Lord’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.”

Thus, forty years later, Joshua lead the Isrealites into the promise land, and Caleb was the first to receive land. Joshua 14:9 says, “So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.”

Joshua 14:10-12 says about Caleb, “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

I love Joshua and Caleb’s heart. They were both elder. This did not stop them. They knew God had a purpose for their life and they were motivated to pursue it, no matter the age.

God has a purpose for our lives as well, no matter the age. I am reminded of an older gentleman from my old church. It was well advanced in years and his wife had passed. He made a large impact on many people in our church and we wanted to honor him, so we had a party at the assisted living facility he lived. He was not physically strong at the time. He had Parkinsons Disease and was wheelchair bound and had a difficult time sitting straight up due to arthritis. This did not cause him to feel sorry for himself. A large group of us went to visit and we brought food, and wanted to love on him. He told us that he was sorry and could not eat with us today because he was fasting and praying for a grandchild that was going through a hard time. He did not care that he was not physically strong. He was still spiritually strong and using what he had to give to the Lord and his family.

We are never too old to serve the Lord. God has many plans for our lives, until the very last breath. Those plans do not stop because we age.

What do you plan to do with the days you have left?  

What about when you retire? Will you still serve the Lord with all that you have?

What are ways you can serve right now?

Next week we will finish Joshua and read chapters 21-24.

Happy Memorial Day today, and thank you to all the people who have made our freedom possible.

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From Prostitute to Princess

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5/22/2022

Today we have started the book of Joshua. Let’s first talk about his name. When Joshua was growing up, his name was Hoshea which meant salvation. Moses later changed his name to Joshua which meant “the Lord saves.” His Jewish name is same for Jesus in the Greek.

Here is a quick review. Remember in Deuteronomy that the tribes of Israel are waiting to cross the Jordan to get to the promised land. Joshua had been Moses’ aid, but Moses has died and Joshua is leading the Israelites as God commanded.

In Joshua 1-10 we see the Israelites cross the Jordon miraculously similar to the parting of the Red Sea. I will let you look this up to see the similarities and differences. Also, in this book we see a lot of fighting. There were times of winning and times of losing.  

Once they Israelites cross the Jordan, Joshua sends 2 spies into the land of Jericho. The discussion for this week is based on Joshua 2:1-24.

Here is the text:

Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”

But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea[a] for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.[b] 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

12 “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”

14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”

15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”

17 Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”

21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”

So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

22 When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. 23 Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”

We are going to talk about Rahab. As you see from the text, she was a Gentile prostitute. In some of the commentaries, the spies stopped by her house thinking they would not be noticed. Other commentaries say that God sent the spies to Rahab’s house because God was pursuing Rahab, and He had a special plan for her. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” I think it was for both of these reasons.

The King of Jericho heard there were spies at her house and he sent word to Rahab to tell him where the spies were going. Rahab lied about the spies. She risked her life and hid them, and told the king she did not know where the spies were going.

In Joshua 2:9-11 we find out the truth about Rahab. She said, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea[a] for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.[b] 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

Even while she was sinning (a prostitute), she was saved. Why? Because she had faith. She had more faith than the Israelites who crossed through the Red Sea and saw all of God’s miracles. She said, “the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” She had heard about God and believed in His power and promises. She believed that the Israelites would get the land they were promised by God. Her faith changed her life.

She told the spies to go hide out in the hills for 3 days, and when the search party comes back, you can go home. She wanted assurance they would save her and her family. They agreed to this and made a covenant with Rahab that they would spare their lives. She was to tie a scarlet-colored cord in the window so all the Israelites would know to protect the home.

Why is the scarlet rope so important? It represented a blood covenant. Remember the first Passover. God had made a covenant with the Israelites that he would Passover their homes if they had the blood of a sacrificial lamb over their door. In all the other homes, the first born died. God saved the first-born boys in the homes with the blood over the door. This scarlet-colored cord is a similar representation.

Afterward, completely through God’s power, the Israelites conquered Jericho. Joshua 6:25 says, “But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho and she lives among the Israelites to this day.”

Rahab became someone great. She was mentioned in Hebrews in the section of people with great faith. Hebrews 11:1-2 says “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11:31 says, “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

James 2:25 says, “In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” Thus, Rahab had a faith, that she acted upon and she was, therefore, considered righteous.

Rahab was also the Great Great Grandmother of King David and in the lineage of Jesus. We see this in the genealogy Mathew writes about in Chapter one. This is what is amazing to me. Rahab was a prostitute and the Lord redeemed her. She married Salmon, and had a son Boaz, who married Ruth. Through them came King David, and through this lineage, came King Jesus.

Rahab was rewarded for her faith. She was allowed to live, she was in the family of Jesus, she was in the great Hall of Faith in Hebrews, and she was considered righteous in James.

What about you?

Is there something in your past that is holding you back because you do not feel worthy? God is a God who forgives. He used Rahab, and He can use you.

Is God seeking after you? I pray that you will open your eyes and your heart to His truth.

Next week we will read Joshua 11-20. Have a blessed week.

Are you prepared?

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May 15, 2022

This week we read Matthew 21-28 and we see Judas betray Jesus and he is handed over to authorities. He dies on the cross for our sins and rises after three days. Prior to this, Jesus talks with his disciples in Chapter 24 about the 2nd coming of Christ. He gives them signs of the second coming but says in Matthew 24:36, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Matthew chapter 25 discusses how we are to prepare for Jesus’ second coming. This is going to be the focus of discussion this week.

In Matthew 25:1-13 Jesus says that we all must be prepared for his coming. He gives a parable about 10 bridesmaids. To understand the text better it is important to understand the culture of marriage back then. Parents arranged the marriage between a boy and girl. Once this was done, there was a year period known as the “betrothal.”  This usually lasted about a year. Once all agreements were made between both families, the betrothal period was over and the wedding could occur. This usually happened over a period of 5-7 days. The night before the wedding feast the bridegroom would get the bride with all the groomsmen and have a parade all through the city, celebrating their union. The next day was the wedding feast, and there was more celebration, and following this, along with gifts, blessings from the priests, and the friends, the marriage was then consummated.

The parable is about 10 bridesmaids waiting to join a wedding party, and expecting the groom to get his bride any day. Five were wise and five were fools, in that the 5 fools did not have oil to light their lamps. They looked like they were ready, because they had the lampstand and wick. But there was no oil to light the lamp. Then Jesus said to the 5 foolish bridesmaids, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you” (Matthew 25:12).

This is much like us today. Jesus says that we do not know exactly when He will return. But, we should be ready. How can we be ready? We can have oil in our lamps like the wise bridesmaids and not think we will have time in the future like the foolish bridesmaids.

In the Bible, oil represents the Holy Spirit. The 5 wise bridesmaids had the oil already with them. They were ready and accepted into the wedding. It is important that we have our oil ready today as well, and that is the Holy Spirit living in us. This is the most important aspect of being prepared for the 2nd coming of Christ. How do we get the Holy Spirit? In Acts 2:38, Peter says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 25:14-30 talks about using our talents (money, time, abilities) for God’s kingdom. A man went on a journey and entrusted his servants with his wealth. He gave one servant 5 talents (about $1.5 million dollars), another 2 talents ($600,000), and another 1 talent ($300,000). Each was given according to his ability. The 2 servants with the 5 and 2 talents put the money to work and doubled the value. The servant with one talent buried the talent. For the 2 servants who made money, the master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things: I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” Matthew 25:21 &23). The servant who buried the talent said, “So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” The master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvesnt where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. An throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

In the parable, the talent is talking about money specifically. It can also mean abilities and spiritual gifts. God gives each person abilities. Once someone becomes a Christian, they also receive a spiritual gift. Romans 12:3-8 says, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

In this parable, Jesus is saying that we should use our money, time, abilities and spiritual gifts for kingdom purposes. It will be different for each person according to his abilities, but should be used and not buried.

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus talks about parable of separating the sheep from the goats. At first glance this looks like salvation is earned through works. The Bible is clear that salvation is based on faith in Christ and not by works. However, after becoming a Christian, we should become more like Jesus. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We are called to serve just as Jesus did. In this parable the all the nations come before Jesus, and he will separate the people on from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on the right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Jesus will separate those who are kind and do acts of service for other people in his name. These acts of service may be small or large. It could be giving a homeless person food, or helping dig a well in another country so people have fresh water. Notice that the righteous did these acts of service humbly. They did not even realize they were doing these acts for the Lord.

Thus, to summarize this chapter, we need to be prepared for Jesus’ return, use our talents, and help the least of these.

Questions:

  1. Are you prepared for the return of Jesus?
  2. Is the Holy Spirit living in you?
  3. Are you using your time and talents for the Lord?
  4. Are you helping others?

I felt convicted this week about the use of my talents and the need to help others more. I pray God will give me wisdom to know any next steps I am to take. If you had any conviction this week, I pray God will lead you in a new direction as well.

Next week we will be back in the Old Testament reading Joshua 1-10.

The Most Important Question

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The Most Important Question

May 8, 2022

This week we read Matthew 10-20. We see he continued with his healings and teaching to the crowds and the disciples. We are going to discuss Matthew 16:13-17.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others says Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied,

Let’s look at each verse and discuss.

First, they were in a region of Caesarea Philippi. He was teaching his disciples alone. There were no large crowds around.

He then asked them who others “say the Son of Man is?” He did not ask them this question because he did not know. He asked the question to get them thinking. He then called himself the “Son of Man.” Other places in the Bible he is called the Son of God. Why does he call himself this?

John Piper says, “He was a son of man, that is, a human being. And he is the Son of God, in that he has always existed as the Eternally Begotten One who comes forth from the Father forever. He always has, and he always will. He is the Second Person of the Trinity with all of the divine nature fully in him.

He is born of a virgin. He had a human father but he didn’t have sex with this virgin until Jesus was conceived. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary. Thus he is human—fully human. The Bible wants to emphasize that he is fully human.

So that’s the common understanding: he is both divine and he is human—two natures, one person.”

Jesus may also may referring to what Daniel 7 says. Daniel 7:13-14 says,  In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

The disciples then answered that people thought he was:

  1. John the Baptist: why would they think this? In Matthew 14:2, Herod said, “and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” So anyone who heard Herod talking about this, may have felt the same way.
  2. Elijah: People felt he might be Elijah because he did many miracles like Elijah and because of what was written in Malachi 4:6-7, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
  3. Jeremiah: Jesus wept and Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet.

Then Jesus asked the disciples their thoughts about who he was. Peter answered right away, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus called himself “Son of Man” and Peter said he was the Messiah (which means anointed one), and Son of God.

The disciples spent every day with Jesus. They watched him “walk the walk’ and “talk the talk.” They knew his character. They saw him perform miracles. They saw his Truth. Because of this intimacy with Jesus, they truly knew who he was. Others had not spent that kind of time with him, so, while they thought favorably about him (prophet, John the Baptist), they did not know him that well.

The same is true for us today. The more time we spend with Jesus, (through reading scripture, prayer, and worship), the more we know Him. We see his Deity.

Peter’s answer is also the answer of the Christian faith. We believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Who is Jesus to you? The answer to this question has eternal consequence.

I challenge you to get to know Him better.

Next week we will finish the book of Matthew and read 21-28. Have a blessed week.

Blessed continued

May 1, 2022

This week we will finish the last four Beatitudes that Jesus taught.

Matthew 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Before we discuss mercy, let’s look at a few definitions of words in the Bible that can be confusing. Justice means getting what you deserve. This means that a person who commits a crime gets punished for that crime. Mercy means not getting what you deserve. This person commits a crime, but the judge is merciful, and the person is set free. Grace means receiving something that is not deserved.

Thus, mercy is not getting what we deserve, or not giving someone what they deserve because of something they did. Another word for mercy is forgiveness. Mercy is what God loves. Micah 6:8 states, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God.”

The people who are forgiving toward others will also be forgiven. This is exactly what God did for us through the saving blood of Jesus Christ. Matthew 6:14-15 states, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” This is similar to Psalm 24:3-6, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,  who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.[a]

They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.”

The word pure in Greek is Katharos and is where we get the word catharsis. This means to cleanse. The heart in the time of Christ meant the mind. Thus, a pure heart was a clean mind.

Commentators and scholars talk about two meanings of a pure heart. The first is a heart that is made pure by cleaning from dirt, filth, or contamination. This is like the refinement of metals in a fire until they are pure. The second is being unmixed. Not having double allegiances. Thus, pure in heart means to be clean and single minded on His Kingdom.

Matthew is not just saying “the pure,” but the “pure in heart.” God cares about what is on the inside. In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus is giving woes to the people who look good on the outside, but have terrible hearts. He says, “ Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

How does a person get a pure heart? It is through faith in Christ. Hebrews 10:22 says, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

The last part of this beatitude is: “…for they will see God.” This could mean that the person would see God on earth through reading the Bible, worshipping Him, or through prayer. It could also mean we will see God in eternity since we have faith in Christ.

Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  The peacemakers are people who make peace with God through Christ, and with other people. Colossians 1:20 says, “ For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” God made a way for us to have peace and that is through the blood shed on the cross by Jesus.

We are also to make peace with others. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

In the NIV Exhaustive Concordance, peacemaker means, “one who restores peace and reconciliation between persons and even nations.”

Romans 16:17-18 shows the opposite of the peacemaker, “17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

“…are called sons of God.” It is important to remember that peacemakers do not become children of God through peacemaking. The only way to become a child of God is through belief and faith in Jesus Christ. John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

We are called children of God when we are peacemakers, because we are manifesting what God and Christ are like. They made peace with us, and we do the same with others.

Matthew 5:10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
.” This is not just plain persecution, but persecution because of faith in Christ. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

The word “persecute” in Greek means to chase away or pursue with hostile intention. Thus it means that people are blessed when they are pursued with hostility because of Jesus. These people do not walk away from the persecution or deny Christ because of the persecution. They face it.  James 1:2-3 says, “ Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

“…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of heaven is mentioned thirty-two times in Matthew. It is the reigning place of Jesus on earth and in heaven, and is the place that those who are persecuted (verse 10) and poor in spirit (verse 3) will have.

As I said last week, these last four statements deal with our relationship with others. We are to be merciful to others, pure in heart, peacemakers, and people who will be persecuted for our faith in Christ. Following these beatitudes is not easy. But we are not alone. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us to be our “helper.”  

How is your relationship with others? Do you manifest the characteristics of those who are blessed?

Next week we will read Matthew 10-20. Have a blessed week.