Psalm 26:7--That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sheep with no Shepherd and a Harvest with no Harvesters

Matthew 9:35-38--And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

In the passage above are found two popular literary devices, the simile and the metaphor. The simile is found when the multitudes are described "as sheep having no shepherd." The metaphor is implied when Jesus equates soul winners and lost people to laborers and a harvest. In these simple comparisons are found simple truths, yet they are some of the most important truths we will ever run across in our lives.

First off, we need to see people the way Jesus does. He took notice of others' lives, a personal interest in those around Him. We too need to take interest in the lives of others instead of focusing on ourselves, not because we want to gossip about them or invade their privacy or criticize them, but because we care for them. Jesus paid attention to the needs of those around Him--most importantly their spiritual needs. He truly cared about everyone He met, whether He knew them or not. As Christians, we should view people like this too. We should take a personal interest in those around us because we--and God--love them, and we should try to help them. Most importantly, we should care about their ultimate spiritual need: forgiveness of their sins by God.

This is the most important application of the sheep-without-a-shepherd analogy. This comparison truly displays a pitiful state. Sheep without a shepherd are helpless. They have no defenses, they are weak, and they have no one to guide them or provide for them. They are completely open to attack. It's a perfect illustration for the lost. They are fully open to attack from the devil. They have no guide to take them to Heaven. They are weak and helpless. Even worse, they're walking straight into the wolf's den: Hell. We absolutely must see people the way Jesus did: Precious souls created in the image of God who will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell. We must warn them of the impending danger. They are heading straight for Hell, and unless we introduce them to the Shepherd, they will be utterly lost.

This directly ties into the next point. Jesus goes on to describe the lost as a harvest, ripe and bountiful. Unfortunately, He also points out that laborers are few and far between. We know what happens to plants that become overripe. They rot, and eventually they are either wasted, mulched, or burned. This is what will happen to the lost, only much worse. They will spend their eternity burning in the torments of Hell. They can't save themselves; someone has to harvest them. We are called to be the laborers in the harvest. Unless we tell the lost about Jesus, they will not know how to be saved and will not be able to go to Heaven. We have been given the Gospel, and we have been given it to share with the world.

So, what position are you in? Do you view others the way God does? Are you laboring in the harvest? If not, don't put it off. Start today! Most importantly, are you even capable of being a harvester, or are you the one who needs to be harvested? Are you a shepherdless sheep? If so, know that there is no way you can get to Heaven on your own. Only by trusting Jesus as your Savior can you get there. Click the Salvation tab above for more information.

Thank you for reading. God bless you as you seek to set your heart on things above!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Helping the Poor

Proverbs 14:31--He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

Treatment of the poor is frequently discussed in the Bible, especially in Proverbs (Pr. 14:20; 19:7; 17:5; 30:14). The Bible is also very clear about how God views our treatment of the poor: He absolutely despises it when the poor are oppressed, looked down upon, or left without help. In the verse above, an interesting tool called chiasmus is used to clearly express God's view of the poor. Chiasmus is a type of parallelism where two elements are presented, and then they are presented again in reverse order to emphasize the point. In this particular case, the repetition of the elements includes antithesis as well, presenting the opposite of the first statement.

In the general sense, it goes like this:
Treatment of the poor--->Attitude toward God
Attitude toward God--->Treatment of the poor

Specifically, with the antithesis included, it looks like this:
Oppression of the poor--->Reproach toward God
Honor toward God--->Mercy on the poor

So when the world often looks down on the poor and leaves them as outcasts, why would God care so much about them? I think this is answered by one of the key words in this verse: Maker. This identifies God as our Creator--not just the Creator of the well-to-do or the rich, but of the poor also. God has made the rich and poor alike, and when we look down on the poor, we're saying God did a bad job when He made that person. Also, God is in control of who's rich and who's poor. It's in His power to govern all the money in the world and decide who has what, so when we decide that the poor are not as good as others, we're once again judging God, saying He has foolishly judged and distributed. God does not take that lightly. Not only should we help the poor because God has created us all, but because of who we are as God's creation.

Every person on this planet, poor or rich, is made in God's image. Who we are as humans has nothing to do with how much money we have, but everything to do with the fact that we are made in the image of our loving Creator. When we neglect to help the poor, we reject that God's image is in that person. We see them as something besides human and therefore unworthy of our help. This goes beyond whether or not we help them. What's the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of a poor person? Smelly? Stupid? Lazy? Untrustworthy? Unclean? I hope not. That is definitely not what God intends, and it certainly does not please Him in the slightest. The poor are humans just as much as we are. We should view them as beautiful bearers of God's image. They are loved by God just as much as every other person; therefore they deserve our love and help too.

Lastly, when we help the poor, it shows them God's love and mercy. By helping the poor, I'm not talking about putting everybody on welfare or emptying our bank accounts to give money to every person who asks. There are people who are simply lazy and won't work to earn money. That is also heavily discussed in the Bible and heavily disliked by God. What I mean is helping those who have no other options, those who, by divine will and providence, have been rendered poor. God has put them in that position so we will help them, because when we do, we are representing God's love and mercy. We reenact the way God helped us in our helpless estate.

You see, by nature, humans are spiritually bankrupt. We're all sinners, and therefore have an unpayable debt we owe God. But not only is the debt unpayable, we don't have anything to pay with to begin with. The only way our debt could be settled is for a perfect sacrifice to be offered. That Sacrifice was Jesus. He became poor for our sakes, shed His blood on the cross for our sins, and rose from the grave for our eternal salvation. Only by putting your complete trust and faith in Him can you get to Heaven. If you don't know Him as Lord and Savior, please click the Salvation tab above for more information.

So, how do you treat the poor? Often around the holidays our giving goes up, but what do you do the rest of the year? The poor are God's creation, and they too are bearers of God's image. They shouldn't be oppressed or neglected. They should be loved and helped. When we do that, it is another way to display God's amazing love and mercy to them and the world.

Thank you for reading. God bless you as you seek to grow closer to our Lord and Savior!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Wonder

Christmas Wonder

Who is this who’s laid to rest
inside the inn’s dank stable stalls,
sung unto without request
by hosts from Heaven’s highest halls?
What is this we see on high?
Even stars declare his birth?
What is found where he does lie
that gives to him such noble worth?
When did he accomplish feats
worthy of such adoration,
that kings would see occasion meet
to humble be in celebration?
From whence come these angels bright
and men unto his stable stall,
to tell his birth with glory’s light
and prostrate in his presence fall?
Why this grand and glorious show,
why this joyful song and strain,
especially for one so low,
born with only given name?

This is Christ the Lord of all,
King of glory come to earth,
laid in lowly stable stall,
Deity in human birth.
His birth announced by star and sky
as His creation blessing brings,
for He Who in the manger lies
created all created things.
Alpha Omega in the flesh,
Ancient of Days as baby boy,
eternity and time did mesh
as God His wonders did employ.
His angels came from ‘round His throne,
and their songs they still rehearse.
These men have come from Adam’s own
to be freed from sin’s dark curse.
These messengers have come to tell
of God’s humiliation,
for Jesus is Immanuel—
cause for jubilation!

And how this wonder-work was shod
one cannot rightly fathom,
for between the states of man and God
lies infinite a chasm.
Only God could accomplish such
and gladly leave His throne on high;
only God could love so much
that He for sinful man would die.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In the Beginning...

Genesis 1:1--In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Genesis 1:1 is the first sentence of the Bible. While it is very simple and short, there is a lot of information in this single sentence. This verse is a declarative sentence, which simply means that it states something, instead of giving a command (imperative) or asking a question (interrogative). It also contains a prepositional phrase at the beginning. I want to look at these two facts about this verse and extrapolate some wonderful truths from them. They're there; you just have to think about it.

Genesis 1:1 is a simple statement. It declares that "God created the heaven and the earth." From this we can see many things. God created everything; without God, nothing would exist. God is supremely powerful. For God to have created everything from nothing would take power beyond the limits of our imaginations. God is greater than everything. No matter what awesome things we find in creation, the Creator will always be superior. So what are some implications of this? Well, God is Lord over all. Since He created everything, He is the Ruler over all of it, and nothing will ever change that. God also has the right to do whatever He wants with His creation. Since He created everything, He owns it and is just in doing what He wants with it or allowing things to happen to it. Praise Him that He is always just and righteous! Furthermore, God deserves every person's wholehearted commitment and devotion. He is the One Who gave you life, Who sustains you every day, Who gives you every breath you breathe. He is worthy to be praised, worshiped, and adored by every heart! In addition to this, we are completely dependent on God. If everything came from Him and He is in control of everything, then we are completely dependent on Him for everything we have and do, whether we like it or not. There are probably more things that could be listed, but these are just some that came to mind.

Now let's look at that prepositional phrase, "in the beginning." This phrase denotes God's relation to time when He created everything (it would be hard to give His location since there were no locations yet). This beginning is not the beginning of a story or a book or a movie. This is the literal beginning of space and time, of everything--except God. For God to have existed and committed the act of creation "in the beginning," He would have to have existed before the beginning. This means God is eternal. He is the ageless Ancient of Days. This is a wonderful truth about God, but it is one of the things about Him that our finite human minds simply cannot comprehend.

That God is eternal is a great thing to remember around Christmas, when we think about Jesus being born. Jesus is God, which means He is eternal. His time didn't begin when He was born in Bethlehem; He has always existed in fellowship with the Father and always will. How wonderful our Savior is! He is not just a man, but He is God also, eternal and infinite, yet somehow compressed into the confines of a human body. This is another great mystery that our minds cannot understand. How could God, Whom the heavens of heavens cannot contain, fit into a human body? How could the infinite, eternal One restrain Himself to the limits of time? How could the omnipresent One keep Himself in one place? The only answer is because He is God, and somehow He can do that. Jesus is God, and that's why He, and He alone, can save you from your sins. And to save you from your sins is the reason He came to earth.

Now the question arises: Has he saved you from your sins? Do you have Jesus in your heart and a right relationship with your Creator? There is only one way, and that is through the blood Jesus shed for you on the cross. If you don't know Jesus as Lord and Savior, if your broken relationship with God hasn't been fixed, if you don't know for sure you're going to Heaven when you die, that can all be settled right now. Don't put it off another moment. Click the Salvation tab above for more information.

I hope this Christmas you pause and reflect on how great God is, meditate on the immense humbling He went through in order to come to earth, and praise Him for His greatness and wonderful works. Thank you for reading. God bless you as you wholeheartedly seek to draw closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! All glory be to God!

Saturday, December 8, 2012



Upon a grassy knoll
I stand,
reaching for the
My hand is
cannot reach,
though I stretch with all my might.

They twinkle,
in the
so near and yet so far.
I call as loud as I can,
and their hands
not back to mine.
They only grope in
and my tears
for them,
as I know they soon

Yet I know a
hand not shortened, of One Who
knows their number,
and calls them all by name.
He reaches where
my hand cannot,
and has the power to save.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Praise Personified

Psalm 96:11-13--Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field by joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice Before the Lord: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.

Psalm 98:7-9--Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together Before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.

I chose two passages of Scripture for this week's post because they have very similar elements and represent the same ideas. Plus, I liked both of them and couldn't really decide which one to use over the other. The literary device that stuck out to me in these passages was personification, which is giving human qualities to something that is not human. Personification is an interesting device, and I think it relays some great truths in these Psalms.

Firstly, it reveals that God made all things for Himself. The stars, the rocks, the trees, the wind--all were made to glorify and praise God. That is the purpose for creation. Colossians 1:16 says, "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him". Humans are part of God's creation, and as such, we were created to praise and glorify our Creator! We especially should praise God since we are the pinnacle of His creation, gifted with the intelligence and ability to purposefully craft and voice our praise. The saying of the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:11 rings true: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."

Secondly, it shows that God will be praised, even if we don't do it. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, the multitudes of the disciples shouted and praised Him with all their might. Then some of the Pharisees told Jesus to make them stop, to which He replied, "I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out" (Luke 19:40). This was the first passage that came to mind when I read the Psalms above, and it is amazingly true. Even if humans ceased praising God, He would still be glorified. Creation praises Him just by its existence (Ps. 19:1-2; 97:6; Rom. 1:20). However, even if you choose not to praise God on earth, you will eventually have to worship Him, for "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:10-11).

Thirdly are some reasons to praise God. There are infinite reasons, but a few specific ones are addressed in these Psalms. We should praise God for His righteousness and judgment because in these He is glorified. Because of God's righteousness, He hates sin and must punish it; but even when He is pouring out His wrath upon sin, it glorifies Him because it magnifies His power and holiness. We deserve His wrath anyway. God is perfectly just in His judgment, for, as David said in Psalm 51:4, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest." Judgment isn't always God's wrath against us, though; it includes blessings as well. If God judges something worthy of receiving blessing or honor, He will give it. As Paul told the church of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." God's judgment goes both ways. We should praise Him because He is an eternally righteous God Who always judges perfectly.

Lastly is a reason to rejoice, and it's probably the best one I know of: God is coming! We know that soon Jesus shall return to take His saints home for eternity. It won't be long until "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Forevermore we will be in the presence of the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of everything, our strong Redeemer, the Lover of our souls from before the foundation of the world, He Who died to take away our sins. Words truly cannot begin to describe the joy and glory we shall share! So I will leave you with Paul's admonition: "Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thess. 4:18).

However, there is a grave aspect to all of this if you do not personally know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Firstly, you were created to praise God; but if you don't have Jesus, you can't bear fruit pleasing to God, such as praise (John 15:4-5). Secondly, you will one day be forced to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, as mentioned above (also see Rom. 14:11). If you wait until then, you will bow before Him, but you will also be cast into Hell afterward. Thirdly, God's judgment will not be favorable for you. One day you will stand before God and be judged (Rom. 14:12; Heb. 9:27). If you are not forgiven of your sins by the blood of Jesus, if you have not accepted His righteousness, then God will only see your sin; and as the righteous and holy God He is, He cannot let you into Heaven. Lastly, you have no reason to rejoice at Christ's return. You will be left on earth to be deceived by the Antichrist, suffer God's wrath in the Great Tribulation, and ultimately be cast into Hell (2 Thess. 2:11-12). Won't you accept the sacrifice Jesus made for your sins? Come to Him today and be freed from death for all eternity. Click the Salvation tab above for more information.

Thank you for reading, and may God bless you as you seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Face Like an Angel

Acts 6:15--And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

This verse uses an interesting simile to describe Stephen's face in the midst of his trial. It says that he had "the face of an angel." This is even more surprising considering Stephen's circumstances at the time. He was on trial for spreading the Gospel. Jews in the synagogue had gathered false witnesses against him and accused him of being a blasphemer because he preached that Jesus is the Messiah and the Way to Heaven. But did he react angrily? Did he get upset and mad at his accusers or God? No. Stephen reacted in a very Christ-like way, and this is captured perfectly in the simile describing his countenance.

Even in the midst of false accusation, Stephen did not lash back; he responded calmly and peacefully. He did not sling back insults or accusations against his enemies, but kept his testimony by acting the way Christ did when He was falsely accused. Why? For one, Stephen knew what he stood for was the truth. He had confidence in the Gospel, and was not willing to compromise. Secondly, as already mentioned, Stephen wanted to keep his testimony. If he had blown up in anger it would have brought reproach to the name of Christ and would have actually given his accusers evidence against him, pushing them further from the truth. Thirdly, Stephen was focused on the eternal state of his accusers. He wanted them to be saved, and he knew responding in anger would make it harder for that to happen. Fourthly, he had the example of Christ to look to. Jesus went through the same thing Stephen did, and Stephen followed Jesus' example. Stephen knew that Jesus had suffered for him, and he counted it an honor to suffer for Jesus, Savior of the world and King of kings. Fifthly, Stephen knew God was in control. He knew that no matter what those people said or did, his life was in God's hands, so he had no reason to worry. Everything is in God's plan, and He works all things together for good to those who love Him, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Nothing touches you unless God first lets it through.

Be sure of this: If you take a stand for Christ in this world, people will falsely accuse you in order to try and stop you or ruin your testimony. They will call you hater, bigot, Bible-thumper, Jesus freak, and many other things. They will make things up to try and get you in trouble. How will you respond? Will you act angrily, in the flesh? Or will you let God's grace and Spirit reign in your heart so you can respond in a Christ-like way?

Stephen didn't do this on his own, though. Only by God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit could he respond in such a way. Earlier in the chapter, Stephen is described as "a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost." Stephen had made the choice to follow Jesus, but it was only by God's grace that he could do the things he did. So it is with us. We may make the choice to follow Christ and surrender our lives to Him, but it is only by God's all-sufficient, enabling grace that we can do anything as we put forth effort to serve God. Every moment, we must walk in the Spirit so we don't fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). We are hopeless and helpless on our own. We have to surrender to the Spirit's leading every moment of our lives. Only then can we live in a Christ-like way and keep our testimony under pressure, just as Stephen did.

I thank God for Stephen's example. He truly was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and he was able to keep his testimony and glorify God until the end of his life, when he was brutally stoned to death by his false accusers. Even then, looking unto God, Stephen "cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60). He loved his accusers and attackers, just as Jesus did. I pray God would give me grace to live a Christ-like life and glorify Him no matter what my circumstances, and I pray the same for you. I pray He would enable us, no matter what we face, to look unto Him and the world around us with the face of an angel.

However, if you've never been saved, you can't claim God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. It hasn't been given to you yet. You don't know the peace of God because you're still at variance with Him. There's only one Way to make things right with God, one Way to save your soul from Hell, one Way to have God's gift of grace and the Holy Spirit, and it's the Way Stephen preached: Jesus. Do you know Him as Lord and Savior? Do you have a personal relationship with Him today? Click the Salvation tab above for more details.

God bless as you seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. All glory be to God!