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Archive for November, 2010

Witness to God’s Love

The ultimate test of a Christian’s love is to follow the Master and give his life for love of him and for his bride, the Church.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 Jn 3:16)

St. Paul endangered his life many times in preaching Jesus, before the Romans beheaded him near the Tiber.

Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? (2 Cor 11:24-29)

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Rom 5:3-5)

All of the Apostles except St. John, who had resisted fear to remain with Jesus in his crucifixion, were martyred. St. Peter was crucified upside-down on the Vatican Hill, where his body was buried and remains. St. James was beheaded by Herod in Jerusalem. St. Nathaniel was killed by having the skin flayed off his body (in Michelangelo’s Last Judgement the glorified Nathaniel holds his skin by his finger). The life and death of each Apostle testifies that he preached and wrote of Jesus’ Gospel not for anything worldly such as glory, riches or pleasure, but simply because of the Gospel’s truth.

St. Justin, a philosopher scourged and beheaded in the second century for his faith in Christ, makes it plain that martyrdom manifests, not the fading glory of human wisdom, but the splendor of the eternal Father:

There was no one who believed so much in Socrates as to die for his teaching, but not only philosophers and scholars believed in Christ, of whom even Socrates had a vague knowledge (for He was and is the Logos who is in every person, and who predicted things to come first through the prophets and then in person when He assumed our human nature and feelings, and taught us these doctrines), but also workmen and men wholly uneducated, who all scorned glory, and fear, and death. Indeed, this is brought about by the power of the ineffable Father, and not through the instrumentality of human reason. (Second Apology, ch. 10)

Another early martyr was Vivia Perpetua. She was a twenty-two-year-old catechumen (person preparing to enter the Church) when she was arrested in 203 A.D. during the persecution of Emperor Severus. Her father was a pagan. She was still nursing an infant son at the time of her arrest. She was liberally educated and married to a man of high rank. In short, she possessed every advantage of Roman society, yet she looked upon her worldly goods as nothing next to eternal life with her Lord, the crown of the martyrs. Her written account of her stay in prison, partially reprinted here, stands as a powerful witness to the trials she underwent.

A few days afterwards, a rumor was spread that we were to be examined. On hearing this, my father hastened again to the prison I saw at once the deep sorrow depicted on his countenance; he looked pale and emaciated with anxiety He came to me and said:

`My daughter, have pity on my gray hairs; have pity on thy father, if I still deserve to be called by that name. If thou still rememberest, that with these hands I have brought thee up to this the flower of thy age; if I have cherished thee more fondly than any of my other children, do not make me a laughing-stock to men. Look upon thy brothers, look upon thy mother and thy aunt; have compassion on thy darling babe, that cannot survive thee. Lay aside that haughtiness and foolish courage, before thou bring us all to ruin. Shouldst thou perish by the hand of the executioner, which of us shall therefore be able to lift up his head?’

Thus spoke my father, and taking my hands, he kissed them; he threw himself at my feet, and shedding a flood of tears, he called me no longer his daughter, but his lady. A great sadness overpowered my soul at this moving scene, which was much increased when I reflected, that my father was the only person in the family who would not rejoice at my Martyrdom! I endeavored to console him, and said: `My father, grieve not; nothing will befall me upon the scaffold, save what is pleasing to God. Remember that we are all in God’s power, not in our own.’ Then my father, without uttering a word, went away, weeping as if his heart would break.

The following day, whilst we were taking our meal, some officers suddenly presented themselves, and summoned us to appear before the judge We repaired to the forum The report of our trial had already been spread throughout the city; a vast concourse of people of every rank filled the tribunal one after another we were ordered to mount an elevated platform, whereon was seated Hilarian, the Procurator of the Province. Every one of my companions, when interrogated, generously confessed the Faith. It was now my turn; I was ready to make, without fear or trepidation, the same firm confession of my Faith, when behold, I see my father standing before me with my infant in his arms. He draws me a little aside, and, in a tone of gentlest supplication, he addresses me:

`O my daughter, have pity on thy innocent babe!’ Hilarian, the judge, seeing the entreating looks of my father, immediately joins in: `Spare the gray hairs of thy father,’ says he, `have’ pity on this little infant. Sacrifice for the prosperity of the Emperors!’

`I will not do it,’ I reply.

`Art thou then a Christian ?’ asks Hilarian.

`Yes, I am a Christian,’ I answer.

The boldness with which I made this confession, seemed to embarrass the magistrate Meanwhile, my father did not cease by words and looks to urge me to comply with the command of the judge. But Hilarian, recovering himself, and seeing that all endeavors of persuading me would end in disappointment, ordered one of the officers to send away my father. This officer, in order to enforce compliance with his command, was so bold as to strike my father with his stick. This blow afflicted me more than all I had hitherto endured. I knew how sensibly the disgracefulness of such an act would affect my aged parent, who had never failed to resent the least insult offered to any member of his family. Wherefore, I grieved much more for my father’s sake than I would have done, had I myself been publicly beaten with rods.

After this, Hilarian pronounced our sentence, whereby we were all condemned to be exposed to the wild beasts. Our condemnation filled us with the greatest joy, and we returned cheerfully to our prison.

(from Acts of the Early Martyrs, vol. 1, by J.A.M. Fastre, 1873)

Martydom crowns the spires of the Church as the most dramatic act of witness for the faith. Yet, it is the constant press of everyday concerns being united to Christ that brick by brick build the spiritual edifice of Christ’s kingdom.

No matter how a Christians dies, he knows that he who endures to the end will be saved (Mt 10:22, 24:13; Mk 13:13), so that with the grace of God he can say with St. Paul I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Tim 4:7)

Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. (Jas 1:12)

The life of the promise defies all attempts of human imagination, and is beyond the power of words to express, but we know that we will behold eternally the glory of the radiant majesty of the face of God. Thus will be consummated our union with our Divine Lover.

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And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues.

Jonah, Jona, Jonas

[Jō’nah,Jō’nă, Jō’nas] – a dove.

The son of Amittai, and the first Hebrew prophet, or missionary, sent to a heathen nation

The Man Who Ran Away
The meaning of the prophet’s name is suggestive. When first chosen, it doubtless meant to Jonah’s mother gentleness and love. This son of Amittai was a citizen of Gath-hepher in Zebulun of Galilee and a subject of the Northern Kingdom. He is thus a proof of the false statement of the Pharisees about no prophet coming out of Galilee (John 7:52:52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”)

Jonah lived in the early part of the reign of Jeroboam II, and in a period when the kingdom was in a divided and abject condition. He is without doubt one of the earliest, if not the first, of the prophets whose writings are preserved to us. He is the first of a new order of prophets, appearing that he might declare God’s love claims the whole world. By friend and foe Jonah has been ridiculed and tortured and treated as a myth or parable. Our Lord, however, believed him to be a historic person; so do we! For proof in this direction compare

Jonah 1:7: – (7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.) with Matthew 12:39-40: – (39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.)

and Luke 11:29-30: – (29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.
30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.)

Jonah 3:5: – (5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.) with Matthew 12:41: – (41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.)

Jonah’s mission was to Nineveh and therefore beyond the bounds of Israel, which is in perfect harmony; for whenever God brought His people into any relation with other peoples, He made Himself known to them as was the case in Egypt through Joseph and Moses; to the Philistines through the capture of the Ark; to the Assyrians by Elisha; to Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzer by Daniel.

Within the Book of Jonah we have the most beautiful story ever told in so small a compass. In 1,328 words we are given a wealth of incident and all the dialogue needed to carry on the grand and varied action. Jonah was an isolationist, believing that salvation was for the Jews, and the Jews only. Through affliction he came to know of God’s embracing love John 3:16: – (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.)

Dealing with Jonah as a servant, Dr. C. I. Scofield gives us these helpful points:

disobedient Jonah 1:1-11: – (1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai:
2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.
5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.
6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”;)

afflictedJonah 1:12-17: – (12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.
14 Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.”
15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.
16 At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
17 Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights);

prayingJonah 2:1-9: – (1From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God.
2 He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.
7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’”);

DeliveredJonah 2:10 – (10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.);

RecommissionedJonah 3:1-3: – (1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.);

Powerful Jonah 3:4-10 – (4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.
7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.
8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.
9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.);

Perplexed, fainting but not forsakenJonah 4:1-11: – (1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.
2 He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
3 Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
4 But the LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.
6 Then the LORD God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant.
7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered.
8When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.
11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”)

Another serviceable outline for the worker can be developed around these thoughts:

Chapter one: A disobedient prophet running from God and punished.

Chapter two: A praying prophet running back to God and delivered.

Chapter three: A faithful prophet running with God and rewarded.

Chapter four: An angry prophet running ahead of God and rebuked.

Here are other aspects to deal with: Jonah was sent to a foreign field (Jonah 1:2: – 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”);

sought to flee from his unwelcome task (Jonah 1:3:3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD);

was overtaken in his flight (Jonah 1:4-17:4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.
5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.
6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.
14 Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.”
15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.
16 At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
17 Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights); found God in the depth of the sea

Ps. 139:10:10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Jonah 2: – 1From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God.
2 He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.  But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.
7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’”
10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land,

became a revivalistJonah 3: – (1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.
4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.
7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.
8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.
9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened);

was disappointed with his own work Jonah 3:5-10: – (5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.
7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.
8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.
9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened).

Jonah 4:1: – (1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.)

reveals bigotry – Jonah 4:1-3: – (1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 
2 He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
3 Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”)

was taught the breadth of divine mercy – Jonah 4:4-11: – (4 But the LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.
6 Then the LORD God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant.
7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered.
8When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.
11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”).

Jona is given as the name of the father of Peter
Matt. 16:17: – (17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.)

John 1:42: – (42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas”(which, when translated, is Peter.)

John 21:15: – (15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter,  “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”)

Ephesians 5:15-20

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they lo ok in the light of Christ. Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light! So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants. -Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.

Kids Bible Study 11-30-2010

Things We Learn from the Epistles
The Epistles

The epistles, written by Paul and others, teach us many things about being a Christian, and how to live every day.
 

NOT ALL THE letters, or epistles, that we find in the New Testament were written by Paul. Two were written by Peter, three by John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, one by James, and one by Jude.    In these epistles we learn about the teachings of the preachers in the early church. We learn how they depended on God to help them teach rightly. And we learn that their letters were intended to be read, not only by those to whom they were written, but by all who hear the word of God even today.

    Many parts of the gospel which are not explained in the stories of Jesus are told clearly in these letters. Here we learn that all people are sinners who have been born into the world since Adam and Even sinned against God. We learn that every one deserves to be punished for his sins, but because God loves sinners he planned a way to save them from punishment. He gave his only Son, Jesus, to be punished in their stead, that every guilty sinner might go free from punishment.

    But we learn also that every sinner will be saved from punishment. Only those who believe that Jesus died for their sins will be saved. Those who refuse to believe in Jesus will die in their sins. For it is by believing in Jesus that his blood washes away the stains which sin has made on the souls of men and women. And those who do not believe can not have the stains of their sins washed away.

    Another thing these epistles, or letter, teach us is how Christians live. We learn in them that Christians are honest, good to the poor, willing to suffer for Jesus’ sake, kind to those who treat them wrongly, always ready to forgive their enemies, and that they love one another, and try to lead others to Christ. We learn that Christians are a happy people; for God gives them joy that sinners know nothing about. This joy comes into their hearts when they believe that Jesus washes away their sins with his blood. Sinners do not believe this, and they can not understand the Christian’s joy. Always they fell guilty before God and afraid to die.

    We learn in these epistles that some day Jesus is coming again. When he comes he will take with him all those who believe in him, and they shall dwell with him forever. In that day all who are lying in their graves asleep in death will waken, for a great trumpet will blow which will be heard in every part of the world. And those who died believing in Jesus will rise to meet him in the clouds of the sky. Those who did not believe in Jesus will cry out in fear when they rise from their graves. They will try to hide from the Lord, but nowhere shall they find a place.

    These epistle tell us that no one shall know when the last day will come, for it will come like a thief comes in the night. Just as Jesus warned his disciples to watch and be ready, so the epistles tell us to look for the coming of the Lord.

    Although many years have passed since these letters were written, we know their words are true. They tell us about things that are happening now. They say that men in the last days will not believe Jesus is coming again, and that they will scoff at those who try to please God. And we find many people in the world today who do not believe in Jesus, and who make fun of the true religion. Such people do not believe that God will destroy this world with fire, just as the people who lived before the great flood did not believe Noah’s words when he warned them about the rain that would come on the earth. But God sent the rain, and God will send the fire, which will destroy this world and everything in it. No wicked person will be able to hide from God, for every hiding-place will be burned up.

    The epistles also tell us much about God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three are not three different Gods, but they are all one God. We can not understand how this is true, yet it is true. If we worship God the Father we must believe in God the Son and also in God the Holy Spirit. It is God the Holy Spirit who causes the sinner to feel that he should quit his wrong-doing and ask Jesus to forgive his sins.

    It is God the Holy Spirit who comes into the Christian’s heart to dwell. And when we pray, whether we call on the name of the Father or on the name of his Son or on the name of the Holy Spirit, we are praying to the same God, and the same God will hear and answer our prayers.

Prayer 11-30-2010

Dear Father, thank you for forgiving my sins. Use me in the lives of others. Fill me with compassion for the Lost. Help me to reach them with your love.

In Jesus’ name
Amen

Bible Study 11-30-2010

Psalm 30:1-12

1 I will exalt you, O LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help
and you healed me.

3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave;
you spared me from going down into the pit.

4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his;
praise his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

6 When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”

7 O LORD, when you favored me,
you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

8 To you, O LORD, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:

9 “What gain is there in my destruction,
in my going down into the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me;
O LORD, be my help.”

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

Two words are repeated seven times in Psalm 30–“you have.” David is praising God for what He had done for him. Are you doing that today? Perhaps you’ve seen the plaque that says, “Prayer changes things,” and that’s true. I’ve also seen a plaque that says, “Praise changes things,” and that also is true. It’s amazing how our whole attitude and whole outlook can be transformed by praising God.

In verse 6 David gives a testimony: “Now in my prosperity I said, ‘I shall never be moved.”‘ When we have prosperity without humility, it leads to adversity. Why? Because we start to be more concerned with things than we are with God. David said in his prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” But then he found out that he could be moved. He found out that his prosperity did not guarantee security. So instead of saying “I shall” or “I shall not,” he began saying “You have.” He submitted his will to God’s will. “You have” defeated the enemy. “For You have lifted me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me” (v. 1). “You have” given me victory. “You have” answered prayer. “You have healed me” (v. 2). “You have brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive” (v. 3).

God did some marvelous things for David. He defeated his enemy, answered his prayer, saved his life and established him (v. 7). And then He gave him joy. “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness” (v. 11). Do you want your life to be transformed today? Move from “I shall” to “You have” and, in humility, praise God for what He has done.

Submitting to God is an exercise in humility. Until you humble yourself before Him and concern yourself with the things of God, you will not become established. For God to work in your life, your will must be aligned with His. Are you submitted to Him? If not, humble yourself before Him and allow Him to transform your life.

When some out-of-the ordinary supply is needed in order for us to accomplish the job given, we can be confident it will be provided. “Shoes of iron” were asked in Moses’ blessing for Asher, an impossibly long-lasting provision from God. The old spiritual says, “l got shoes, you got shoes, all God’s children got shoes,” but not all God’s children have iron ones; only those who need them. Our heavenly Father knows exactly what we will require to fulfill his purposes for us. It is wrong–it is, in fact, a sin–for us to worry about where the “shoes” will come from. “Trust me!” God says to us. “I’ll give you iron ones if only iron ones can do the job.”

I worried this morning about the seeming impossibility of doing everything that needs to be done before Wednesday when we are moving to a new house. Then I remembered that strength according to my day’s need is promised in the same verse (Dt 33:25), and any special need–“iron shoes” or whatever–will also be forthcoming.

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