Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Psalms 100:4-5 KJV https://bible.com/bible/1/psa.100.4-5.KJV
In Genesis 22 God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, his firstborn son of his old age. Why? Many people, pastors included, preach that it was a test of Abraham’s faith and it was but there is another reason. The firstborn belongs to God, of animals and men, if the firstborn is not redeemed by another sacrifice then they must die. Now, today the sacrifice could be service to others or service to God. My mother prayed to God that my life would be used by Him when I was a baby. She told me that she dedicated me to God when I was born. When she told me this many years ago, I didn’t want to know what it meant and I didn’t really care because I was angry about the way that my parents were in court fighting over child support.
It took many years for me to realize what she was saying, but since I became a pastor I have learned what the phrase “first fruits” really means. In Abraham’s case, Isaac had not been redeemed by the sacrifice of an animal so when Isaac got old enough, he was around twenty years old at the time, God asked Abraham to sacrifice him on the mountain. I’m sure that didn’t make Abraham very happy. In fact, he likely did not sleep much during the night prior to the trip.
But his faith shows up even before they make it to the mountain. When he and Isaac leave the servants with the donkeys or camels that they were riding, he told them that “I and the boy will go to the mountain yonder and worship and we will come again unto you”. Abraham had the faith to believe that if God allowed him to sacrifice his son of promise, then God would raise him to fulfill the promise that He had made about Isaac and his descendants. Because God had made that promise and He would have to raise Isaac from the dead if that promise was real!
The promise was real but God didn’t have to raise Isaac from the ashes of sacrifice, He provided a substitute for Isaac just as God provided a substitute for our sins in His firstborn Son, Jesus. Many of the Old Testament saints and prophets looked forward to His coming and they saw Him and rejoiced. Have you come to know Jesus as your Savior and Sacrifice for all of your sins? All that we have to do is have enough faith in God and in Jesus as our Savior believing that He gave His life as a ransom for each of you. He redeemed you just as the ram in the thicket redeemed Isaac many years ago.
Give your life and your heart to Jesus because your life needs to be redeemed. If you don’t then your life, your eternity will be in hell with Satan and the rest of the people who rejected Jesus as their Savior. That is the only sin that leads to an eternity outside the presence of God.
In Genesis chapter 18 and verse 14, God asks “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Why do we test Him with our “burdens” when He can take care of them with no effort? It seems that we don’t think God, in this Internet age and in the 21st century, is the same God Who split the Red Sea and brought the people through on dry land. We know from Sunday school and Bible school that God is the same yesterday, today and forever but most of us only know this intellectually. We know it in our head but we may not believe it fully in our heart.
God created the whole universe with a word! Genesis even says it this way, “and He created the stars also”. It sounds like an afterthought doesn’t it? But when you look at the pictures of the universe and everything that is out there…you know that God doesn’t do afterthoughts. He knows the name of every star out there, not just the ones that we can see in the constellations. Every star in every galaxy in the entire universe, trillions in number, God knows them all and it is His power which holds all of them together in their orbits and their courses.
The problem with humanity is that we read this in His Word but we can’t prove it. We can’t see it happening. Like the servant who thought that he and his master were about to be killed and his master prayed for God to open his eyes so he could see that “those who are on our side are greater than those against us”!
Nothing is too hard for God of course. But why do we question whether He will do what His Word says? Do we truly doubt God’s promises or His ability to do what is promised? In today’s world, Satan has caused humanity to doubt God’s existence and His abilities. Even though many don’t even believe that Satan exists either. Of course, that is his plan as well. That of course, brings into question the whole Bible itself and that is also his plan. If he can get us to question God’s existence or the veracity of His Word then belief in Him and His plan of salvation will also be questioned.
There is nothing too hard for God and everything that is happening in our world is allowed by Him because it is part of His plan to bring as many as possible to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Many people outside the United States are coming to know Jesus as their savior while there are many in the United States who are walking away from the church and their belief in God. Because our country has been pushing God out of many areas of education and family life for years. I pray that there will be an awakening and a revival of faith in our country but that is completely in God’s hands now.
I do, sometimes. There are days when I feel broken to the point of being depressed. Then there are days when I feel as if I can’t reach out to God. He feels distant, and it makes the day feel empty and cold. The only redeeming knowledge that I can bring to the day is that God is always near me. But, even in knowing this sometimes I can’t shake the feeling of being alone, even when I know I am not.
Many of us feel this way but we don’t know what to do about it. Brokenness is the feeling of being…well not whole. It doesn’t have to be caused by any specific thing or person, it just happens. It happens to people who aren’t Christians as well but their lives are already in a state of being broken anyway. Because there is Someone missing in their lives. It is the absence of the Holy Spirit and Jesus in your life which causes us to feel broken before we become Christians.
We search and seek all kinds of stimulants and sometimes people to take the place in our life which feels empty. The problem is that nobody on Earth can fill that space and no amount of money or drugs or alcohol or sex can fill it either. The drugs and alcohol may give you a whole feeling for a while, but it eventually wears off and the hole feels bigger somehow. It is a vicious cycle which Satan lures us into before we accept Jesus as our Savior.
After we accept Him it is still Satan who makes us feel worthless or alone and even depressed and that is when we feel broken and without God. We need to remember that He is always with us regardless of the situation we are in or even how far we feel from Him. God never loses sight of you nor does He let you out of His hand. When you have given your heart to Jesus for real, not some emotional experience, you can never be taken away from Him. You may walk away from the church and you may stop reading your Bible for a time but He is still near you and only a prayer away from your side.
God mends us when we are broken and when He does this we are made more whole than we were before. God has never made a mistake and nothing ever catches Him by surprise. Don’t think that just because you may have made a mistake or thought something or even did something wrong, that God won’t take you and make you better than you were.
Even when your idea of being broken seems to be too bad for anyone to fix, God can. He can take a murderer like Moses or a Pharisee like Saul, who hunted down Christians to be put in jail or stoned, and He can make them into men who were changed into His most useful servants. God can make a universe out of nothing, what can He do with you?
Have you ever wondered what faith really is? Faith according to the Bible is defined by this: Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
In Ephesians our faith is part of the equation which brings us to salvation through our Savior: Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
Also, without faith it is impossible to please God in anything that we do: Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
When God calls you or me to Himself through the conviction that we need Him, He gives us the faith which we need to believe in Jesus for our salvation. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the faith which is necessary to bring us to that knowledge. It is a gift of God to us so that we can effectively believe in the promises which He has made to us in Scripture. That is what Biblical faith is.
We have faith in gravity or in our heart to keep beating and to keep us alive, yet we don’t usually acknowledge it. We have faith that the sun will rise in the morning, not gifted to us by God but because it has always come up each morning. That is faith in things which are seen. Faith in things which are not seen but are hoped for with a conviction that we will have them one day is the faith which is spoken of in the Bible.
This kind of faith cannot be proven or shown to anyone who doesn’t believe in God or Jesus or the Bible because it takes faith to believe in those things. If you don’t have it, you can’t get it except by belief in Jesus and His atonement for your sins and you won’t believe that unless God gives you the faith to do so!
I know, it is a spiral which goes from faith to faith to faith but if you have it, you’ve got it and if you don’t then unless you are seeking Him, you won’t get it then either.
Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.” Reading God’s Word and seeking Him in it will bring you into a closer walk with Him so enjoy His Presence in your life by cultivating a friendship with God. He is always present with you so treat Him as a treasured friend and talk to Him, walk with Him, seek His advice and act on His advice that is given to you.
By faith in Him and through Him we can conquer any problem in our lives, so make sure that you seek Him and His Son’s friendship while you can. Life only lasts for a little while, so make sure that you are friends with the Author of Life!
Consider the mustard seed. It is the smallest seed of the garden vegetables and yet it will grow into a small tree if left to grow.
Jesus (Yeshua) said this to his listeners: 30 And he said, “What shall resemble the Kingdom of God and with what shall a parable compare it?” 31″It is like a grain of mustard seed, which when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the herb seeds on the earth.” 32″And when it is sown it comes up and becomes greater than all the small herbs and produces great branches so that the birds will be able to perch in its shade.” Mark 4: 30-32
Small towns and communities and even small churches are not considered failures but to some people they are. Especially in small churches. In truth, it doesn’t matter about the size of the church or the number in the congregation as long as they are attending and worshiping God. Yes, it would be nice if the church would grow in size but sometimes growth doesn’t continue on a monthly or weekly basis. Sometimes it is just a fluke for a little while and then the numbers go back to where they were.
In the world that we live in this is a sad thing because people need to learn more about God and their place in His Kingdom. Today, many people don’t even recognize His Kingdom or the people who attend church services as being any different from the rest of the world. This is a very sad thing indeed considering that we are living at the end of the church age, the age of God’s grace toward mankind.
That doesn’t mean that Jesus is coming back tomorrow, although He could, it does mean that we should be watching for Him and studying His Word prayerfully. Seeking His wisdom from the Bible so that we are prepared for His return and ready to meet Him in the air. God will not abandon His church nor will He abandon His people, the Hebrews of Israel. Even though the world doesn’t recognize Him as sovereign over the universe and all of its processes, that doesn’t mean that He isn’t.
The Earth is His creation along with all of its creatures including us. The universe is also His creation and the entirety of creation is waiting for Him to restore everything to the state that existed before mankind fell in the garden. We should be telling as many people about Jesus as possible, if they will listen, because it is our calling and our duty as Christians and disciples.
God is not slack in His judgment of sin and the world around us is full of sin and its consequences. The people who have not learned to follow Jesus will be judged one day and it will happen during the Tribulation which is coming to the Earth. I plead with you to seek Him while there is yet time to do so safely because during the Tribulation it will be very dangerous to be a follower of Jesus. You will be hunted and killed because of your faith in Him, but take heart even if you are killed, you will live with Him in Heaven.
Have you ever wondered “When will God get around to answering my prayers?” or “When will God give me those things which I have been begging Him for?”
God does hear our requests and if our request is part of His will for our lives, then He will give us what we asked for. But…if we have asked for something which is selfish or outside of His will, then the answer is likely a “No!” There is always a third option though. If we ask for something like money or fame or a big promotion at work, something which has a lot of pride and “me” in it, God will answer our prayer with something like “maybe” or “later”.
You see, we need to get the “we” and the “me” out of the way before God can answer with a resounding- “YES!!”. In other words, we have to get out of God’s way before He can accomplish His purposes in our life. We have to learn that pride is the root of all sin in the world and it is also the sin which is the hardest to overcome and it can’t be done without submission to His Spirit and allowing Him to lead us down the path which He wants us to follow. We have a problem with His authority over our lives. Because we are human.
In many ways, we have always had problems with rules and authority and this proof is in the Bible right from the beginning. God’s timing of our blessings or gifts to us usually doesn’t follow our obedience or the amount of money that we give in tithes. God knows exactly what He should give us and what we can handle far better than we do. Begging for years and then trying to do it our own way doesn’t work. That disaster can be seen where Abram and Sarai tried to help God by using her slave to give him a son. The family feud is still going on in the Middle East.
When we try to help God in a way that He has not told us to do, we are just getting in the way. Will we find out about the consequences of our actions? Yes and sometimes much sooner than we expect to. Learning to wait upon God and His timing is one of the hardest parts of being a Christian. We, meaning most of us, have grown up in a culture which can barely wait for instant coffee or microwave popcorn. So how can we wait on God’s provision or His answer to our prayers if it doesn’t come in the instant that we ask for it? Most of us can’t.
So is it possible for us to learn how to do this? Yes, it is but it is a hard lesson for most people today.
Why do I say this? Because very few people are patient enough to wait for God’s timing. His timing just doesn’t fit our schedule and we have to learn a hard lesson from Him in order to learn this. My advice to people who want to learn this lesson is never ask God for patience!!
If you do…you will learn patience but you will not like the lesson. Because it will take much longer for the learning to happen while He is teaching you. Remember Abram in Genesis? He was almost one hundred when his son, Isaac, was born. He had asked God for a son over twenty years before he got the answer. God also changed his name and Sarai’s name to Abraham and Sarah, so God has plans which He doesn’t always give us the details to.
Be sure of your plans and your pride and make sure of your relationship with your Savior and your Lord. God loves all of us because He sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins even before we were born! He knows the plans and the rewards which He has in store for us as well, so make sure of your steps in following Him daily.
I think that this winter we can all identify with the cold outside whether we would like it or not. It has been cold this winter and it isn’t over yet. So, how does this phrase “cold as ice” have anything to do with following Jesus? Well, if you have a few minutes to read and ponder this I will try to tell you.
The global climate changed, past tense, after the Flood and it was very cold in some places and warmer in others than it had been previously. For the record, I don’t believe in the so-called global warming that you hear about in reference to almost any climatic change these days. Earth has always had its cold spells and warmer spells in the past and will likely keep on doing that for many years to come.
The reference which I am making today to “cold as ice” is the way which many people turn away from the love and peace offered to them through Jesus. It is a gift which you can’t afford and there is no price which you can pay to buy it, it is actually free to each person IF…they will only believe that Jesus did this for them and accept it. But, many people in our world want to find their own pathway to Heaven, one which they can travel when they want to and take a detour off of the path when they feel like it.
Living a Christian life with Jesus as your Savior is not an on again/off again affair. It is not a take it or leave it idea or decision, it is a life choice. Not a lifestyle, but a choice just as most other things in life are which have a true and lasting effect on your everyday life. The problem is that people in our world today are cold toward God’s Word and His Son. They don’t want to believe that He is the Savior that they have been searching for during their lifetime.
Most want their salvation to be a 50/50 partnership where they do so much and God picks up the rest of the tab for their salvation. But, just as in marriage, this is not a partnership where it is split down the middle. God and Jesus paid the WHOLE price for you and for every person ever created and the only thing that you can bring to the table is a heart and soul which knows that it NEEDS Jesus! Whenever you get to that point, the Holy Spirit usually lets you know, you only have to ask for Him to come in and save you from yourself, your sins and the consequences of them.
There are no amount of “good works” that you can perform which will make your salvation more real or lasting because Jesus did everything needed on the cross. We can’t add anything to His work any more than you could add fuel to the Sun and make it hotter. There are enough which has been done to pay each of our sin debts because the blood that Jesus shed paid for each person’s debts from the beginning of the world until the end.
It is the coldness of our hearts which cause us to ignore the gift which is offered for our salvation. It is also our own selfishness which puts us in that shape as well because we want to keep doing things our way and we don’t want to change. Nor do we want Jesus to change our hearts so that we are comfortable with Him being in our lives to make us more like Him.
So, how much of the world is selfish enough to be described as “cold as ice”? If you search for the answer on the Internet it will be somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of the world’s population who really don’t want much to do with Jesus. Many of them will actually say that they attend church weekly or pray to God daily, which is nice but where does their heart belong? Does Jesus know them well enough to have them written in the Book of Life?
Those questions can only be answered by God and they will be answered when they stand in front of Him, but at that point…it will be too late to change your mind or ask Him to come in and fix your sinful heart. Make sure that you know without a doubt where you are in that relationship because when you truly find out it may be too late to change.
For years people have been wondering when the end of the age will be and when will Jesus return? His return to the Earth to rule as King will be after the Tribulation has run its course and that is very likely the end of the age if you are talking about the church age. We have been living in the church age since He went back to the right hand of the Father almost two thousand years ago and people have been looking for His return for most of that time.
God has the plan in the works but there is no timetable that we can look at to know when because Jesus said that it would happen in a moment. He told His disciples that only the Father knows the day and the hour, so we don’t have access to that information. So…are you ready? Remember, the first indication of the Tribulation will be the church being taken into Heaven. All of those who have put their faith in Jesus, whether alive or dead, will be raised to immortality to meet Him in the clouds.
Some of the books and movies which have spoken about this have tried to show those souls as lights going up. The way that Jesus described it would show otherwise. He said that two will be sleeping and one will be taken and the other left. Two would be grinding meal, one will be taken the other left. In a moment, in the twinkle of your eye, like blinking and someone you were just talking to will be gone. Their clothes and shoes and all man-made material will be left in front of you, but they will be with Jesus.
This is not a joke and it isn’t a cop-out in life because when this happens there will be lots of pain and heartache in the world. Many people may be killed because of drivers or pilots who have been taken and their cars or planes don’t have anyone to control them anymore. So many will be trying to figure out what has happened and only those who have been to church or a Bible study and learned about the “end of the age” and Jesus will know. If they are still here they didn’t make the decision to give their heart to Jesus and they will know that also.
This time will be difficult and dangerous for those who know what happened but didn’t follow Jesus because they can’t tell anyone. They will not know who to trust at this point, even if they are friends or family. Those in charge will be offering rewards for Bibles and believers too. This is the real beginning of the Tribulation and it will only get worse for the next seven years from this point.
Please, don’t wait until these things are taking place to search for your Savior. You could find Him and get to know Him at this time but it will be harder and more dangerous. The world around you will not know Him nor will it accept your belief in Him. God loves you and has made a way for you to be saved now and it is through belief in Jesus and His atoning work on the cross! Make sure that you get to know Him soon because it is to your eternal advantage and for your home in Heaven!