Friday, August 20, 2021

Ruth 2                                                                                             210815

Our God always has a plan. Unlike us, Our Father does not wake up in the morning thinking, “I wonder what is going to happen today.” In fact he does not wake up because he does not sleep. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  (Psalm 121:3-4)

The story of Ruth teaches us that God knows where we are and what we are doing every moment of our lives. God did not look around one day and say, “Where did Elimelech get off to now?” God did not discover that, to his surprise, Elimelech had died and was buried in Moab, or that he had left Naomi with two sons and two daughters-in-law.

From the beginning of the universe our God has a perfect plan. We can listen to (Isaiah 45:4-6) “I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.”

Our God not only has a plan He has a process and a purpose. Ruth was chosen by God to be the only Gentile woman in the genealogy of Jesus, his son and our Saviour. If he can put Ruth in place so she can end up in the grain fields of Boaz and become the great-grandmother of David the King -- our God will meet all our needs.

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the first chapter of Ruth. Let’s review that first chapter. I believe it is a biographic account looking back during the early days of King David’s reign.

The writer, who is unknown to us (God is ultimately the author), wants us to understand the location and point in time when the story was set. The characters in the beginning of the story are limited to Elimelech, Naomi (his wife) and their two sons.

There is a famine in the region of Bethlehem and Elimelech took his small family and traveled about 10 days away where the food situation was better. Today, that distance would not be a problem because your family car would reduce the time traveled to about 2 or 3 hours.

The period of time was extremely hard. The record of Judges tells us, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). Political chaos was the social atmosphere and may have contributed to the willingness to immigrate. The nation of Moab was made up of the descendants of incest between Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his oldest daughter. That was after the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The Moabites were enemies of the Israelites and tried to destroy them while they were travelling through the wilderness. During the time of the judges Moab were one of the nations who ruled over Israel. The situation must have been very bad for Elimelech to take his family to Moab. It must have been hard to allow their two sons to marry Moabite women. After the family settled in Moab Elimelech died. The two sons had married and also died leaving Naomi with two young widows. The three widows had little to look forward to. If they had been Israelites the Law of Moses would have required the nearest male relative to take the widow as a wife and protect her and raise up children in the name of the deceased. (Deuteronomy 25:5). Since the young widows were Moabites they were not required to follow the Law of Moses.

Naomi was in no mood to trust God in her situation. Ruth and Orpah had a very loving relationship with Naomi. At the same time, she urged them to return to their family because staying in Moab seemed to be the only way they would find new husbands. Orpah choose to go back to her family but Ruth would not. Instead Ruth gave an eloquent oration of loyalty to Naomi. “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17). Generosity and loyalty are themes shown throughout this wonderful little story.

When the two women got to Bethlehem the women of the town were amazed. They were the talk of the town! In reply to the question, “Is this Naomi?” She answered, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” (Ruth 1:21).

“Naomi” means “Pleasant” and “Mara” means “Bitter”. In Ruth’s confession of faith was a rejection of the Moabite god, Chemosh! Ruth surrendered her life to Naomi and the true God, “Yahweh”.

She was in so much pain that she could not imagine Ruth as an asset. We will see about that.

The writer gives us a hint of what to expect with the last sentence in chapter one, “And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.”

There were two things Naomi and Ruth had to have: food and family. I believe they had gleaned for food in the fields of Moab. I am sure it was hard work. Even dangerous work. When we look at the words of Boaz he refers to Ruth needing protection. So they knew how to “get by” but there was certainly no future in that.

Chapter two begins with, “Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. (Ruth 2:1) Ruth and Naomi may have discussed the closest relatives but we are not told that. This information may have been added by the person who wrote the account. Naomi’s comment, “I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty,” certainly indicates she had no assets. That should have included Ruth. In reality Ruth was her only asset. But Naomi did not give Ruth any consideration. So Ruth takes it upon herself. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”

It just so happens that she was looking for a man in whose sight she would find favor. Coincidence would have it, or, many would say, “As luck would have it.” I don’t believe in chance or luck. I believe in providence!

God had provided for gleaning in the Law of Moses. One of the laws of compassion allowed for the poor to glean after the harvesters. “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Deuteronomy 24:19.

This is a practice still recognized in many countries where crops are harvested by hand.

So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. (Ruth 2:3) Apparently, Ruth was not looking for Boaz’s field she was just looking for food for her and her beloved Naomi. She happened to come to a field belonging to Boaz. It just happened! I don’t think so. Neither do I think Ruth planned to arrive in Boaz’s field. I believe God guided her there.

At the same time, “And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.”

Not, it just happened that Boaz arrived while Ruth was gleaning in his field. Again I believe God’s unseen hand guided her.

Bill Gaither told it this way: “There is an unseen hand to me. That leads through ways I cannot see. While going through this world of woe this hand still leads me as I go.”

Note the greetings “The Lord be with you” and “The Lord bless you.”

What a great place to work! Owner and crew looking to God for direction. After the greetings Boaz and his foreman got to the important management issues. Instead, Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” (Ruth 2:5-7). Not, “Who is the young woman?” but “Whose young woman is this?” The difference is subtle. Boaz did not want to know who she was he wanted to know who she belonged to. 

Boaz checked with his crew and gave them instructions then he approached her. “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9 Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:8-10).

Boaz instructed his crew, male and female, to keep Ruth from harm and to make sure she had all she needed. She knew that this was not common practice. She was bold enough to ask, “Why”.

Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.” (Ruth 2:11-13). Ruth’s loyalty paid off in real dividends. She could see that she was being treated like one of his servants and not like a poor foreigner.

Boaz went a step further. And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.” (Ruth 2:14-16)

At the end of the day Boaz and his crew ate together. He invited Ruth to join in the meal. He even served her with his own hands. At the end of the day Ruth beat out the grain she had gathered. It came to about an ephah of barley. That would be about eleven 2 liter bottles full.

Naomi was excited about Ruth’s harvest. Obviously, someone had blessed her. Naomi said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” 21 And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ” 22 And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” 23 So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

Barley harvest usually began about mid-April and wheat harvest extended to mid-June—a period of intense labor for about two months. This generally coincided with the seven weeks between Passover and Pentecost.

For seven weeks, or so, Ruth was working in the fields of Boaz alongside his young women. During that time her reputation was growing. Later Boaz would call her a worthy woman. That same phrase is used to describe the excellent wife of Proverbs 31. No doubt he was taken by her and did not know exactly what to do about it. This may have been one explanation of why he was not married already. Of course he was not married because God was holding him in reserve to become the great-grandfather of David the King.

Boaz pictures Jesus who, “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17), Jesus redeemed those who (1) were slaves to sin What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:15–18), (2) had lost all earthly privilege in the Fall, and (3) had been alienated by sin from God All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18–21).

Boaz stands in the direct line of Christ. This turn of events marks the point where Naomi’s human emptiness (Ruth 1:21) begins to be refilled by the Lord. Her night of earthly doubt has been broken by the dawning of new hope.

Have you recognized your need for a redeemer? One who can buy you back from the fields of this age and allow you to work alongside those who are servants of the King of the Universe? See how a citizen of a foreign nation can become a member of the people of God? Have you trusted Jesus as your Lord?

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


 210718 In Him  

I have often thought of John, the only surviving apostle of Jesus Christ, on the Isle of Patmos. The traditional understanding of his situation is that he was exiled by the Romans because of his work in the province of Asia. Which is located on the western shore of what is today Turkey. All of the historical accounts from the early years agree to that. John was responsible for supervising the churches and he had hundreds, perhaps thousands of followers who would protect him in the case of his arrest. So, I don’t believe he was arrested. Exiled is kind of house arrest. But a man in his 80s or even 90s would not have been posted to hard labor. We do need to remember that when a Christian is in prison, or exiled, it is allowed by God. I don’t believe God allows us to suffer without a purpose. So I believe God parked John on Patmos to catch up on his writing. There is no indication in the Bible as to when John wrote the three little letters that are designated as: first John, second John, and third John. There is not even a direct link between John’s Gospel and the book of Revelation. We do know that John was definitely on the island of Patmos when he saw the visions that became the book of Revelation. If you travel today to the island of Patmos you will be shown a cave where, it is believed, John wrote Revelation. I believe the gospel of John happened about the same time.

If John were not in exile he would have been traveling from church to church keeping them focused on what is most important. In Revelation John was identified as one, “who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” (Revelation 1:2). He must’ve had many thoughts about the need for another gospel. But he didn’t have time to write it down. Now, he is in exile. He can’t travel from church to church training their pastors. So he can write! I believe he had access to the Old Testament writings and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. He may have also had the writings of Peter, James and Luke’s history that we call The Acts, or the Acts of the Apostles. Let’s use our imagination. John is isolated from his work as an Apostle. He might have even thought, “Why can’t I do what I am called to do.”  As I said I can see him in my mind’s eye sitting at his table, remembering and writing. You see, God has sent him there for this very purpose. I believe he wrote the Gospel first. He did not use verse and chapter numbers. Those tools were added centuries later.

Without the numbers he began to write, John 1:1-5, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

These verses, along with 1 John 1:1, and Revelation 19:13 are the only instances where the Bible refers to God the Son as “the Word” or “the Word of God,” so this usage is not common. But it does indicate that among the members of the Trinity it is especially God the Son who in his person, as well as in his words, has the role of communicating the character of God to us and of expressing the will of God for us.

So John, sitting at his table, does not begin with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as Mark did. He did not begin with Jesus’ genealogy as Matthew did. Nor did he explain how he gathered the information contained in his gospel as Luke did. Instead, he began with “In the beginning” as Moses did when he began the Torah (Genesis) with, “In the beginning, God.”

John understood his purpose in writing. He put that purpose into words near the end of his gospel, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31).

John’s life had been invested in introducing people to the living Lord Jesus and assisting those who believed in their spiritual growth. He was given the opportunity of presenting the gospel of life in the name of Jesus because he was an eyewitness. John confirms his status as a witness in the beginning of the little letter called First John. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

When I began prepare for the sermon, I intended to talk to you about what we have in Christ Jesus. John got in the way. I do admire John. The disciple whom Jesus loved. What an honor! Similar to being called a friend of God. Abraham and Moses are in that fellowship. (2 Chronicles 20:7 and Exodus 33:11). To be especially loved by Jesus would be one of the most humbling experiences I believe a person could have.

Now, let’s move back to my original plan and begin with, Ephesians 1:3-14, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

This passage is one long flowing sentence! In the original Greek is a single sentence.

Now let’s walk through the passage and see what it has to offer us as far as being in Christ counts.

In verse three we find we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Paul is definitely talking about more than the “stuff” we accumulate around us. Taking verse three out by itself could leave us confused. God definitely does not want us to be confused about spiritual blessings. After all, a little later in the Ephesian letter Paul tells us God not only saves us but he has raised us up with Jesus and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus! This is past tense meaning that it has already happened in the mind of God. Praise God! We do not serve a God who has to wait see what we will do. He knows the end from the beginning and always has. Ephesians 2 verse six tells us that we have been raised up with him and are seated with him in the heavenlies. We do not have to wait around and wonder whether or not we will “make it”! God’s promise is that he has already met our spiritual needs.

We need to remember constantly that our spiritual reality is believers in Christ have received everything we need in him.

In verse four we are chosen before the foundation of the world. Peter tells us that we are living stones and “you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5) This is wonderful and should cause us to rejoice! As living stones we are bonded to the building which is the body of Christ. We can’t be taken out of it because it would then fall apart. Every believer in Jesus Christ has been chosen to be holy and blameless before him.

Verse seven tells us in him we have redemption through his death on the cross. As for deliverance from bondage to sin, Paul says, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus … For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:11, 14). We have been delivered from bondage to the guilt of sin and from bondage to its ruling power in our lives. In him we are rescued from bondage to sin. God determine our destiny before time began because he loves us and wants to pour his blessings on us as his children. In verse 10 we see that all things are united in him.

In verse 11 in him we have an inheritance. And it is secure. It cannot be taken away from us. It is the best investment we have ever made. We go back to Peter who tells us that we have an inheritance that is imperishable and undefiled and unfading. Not only do we have this inheritance but it is kept for us in heaven and secured by God’s power. If that doesn’t make you rejoice you have no joy in you. We must remember that in him we have hope and that hope is in Christ.

As I look at the last promise here I’m reminded of sealed railroad cars. There was a railroad spur near our home and I often played in that area. I saw on each freight car had a piece of metal sealed with lead, or some soft metal. When the freight car was dropped off the seal told the buyer that his shipment had made it to its destination. There are now no railroad lines in the area but I observed that many of the semi-trucks have a very similar seal on the handle and it serves the same purpose.

In verse 13 when we heard the word of truth, the gospel and believed in him we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Nothing can be more secure than our inheritance that is kept in heaven for us.

I hope every one of you have recognized your need of salvation and have responded to the Spirit’s call by confessing that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

 

 

 

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: StanPdard Bible Society.

210704 Choosing

God is sovereign! He has complete authority over our choices. However, we seem to be left with many everyday choices. Don’t worry, our God knows how we will choose. There is a process of the Holy Spirit working with our spirit to keep us from being overwhelmed. The Holy Spirit teaches us what to pray for, works in us to calm our fears and helps us to overcome all discouragements. With the Spirit of God advocating for us the enemy will never completely defeat us. At the same time we will never mature spiritually, or emotionally, if we do not carry forward the consequences of our decisions. Remember, Romans 8:26-28, Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

From the day man was placed on earth he was faced with choices. He had to choose names for all the animals. He was privileged to name his wife, Eve. (I was tempted to call her his partner in crime.) Soon after the couple were on the earth together they had to choose to obey God, or not. As their descendants we are confronted with choices. No matter how badly we perform God remains faithful. For those that love God all things work together for good.

The word of God assures us that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it,”

(1 Corinthians 10:13) Every day we make hundreds of choices. We choose to get up in the morning, or not. We choose to begin our day in a variety of ways. We may choose to eat breakfast, or not. We may choose to read the Bible and pray, or not. Within each one of these choices there are many other choices we might make. Many of those choices have spiritual consequences for good or for evil. Peter told us that there were many choices. And they all lead to consequences. After Israel occupied the land the choices became worse and worse. After several years their choices led to the worst possible conditions. Read the book of Judges and see how bad it became. In order to escape the consequences they began to demand a king and then they made a bad choice. The consequences of that bad choice were bad as well.

How are you making out with your choices? Praise God!? Or woe is me?

There are decisions we must make they are mostly pertaining to our everyday lives that have an effect on our relationships. God does care what we decide, but, in order to learn and grow we must make decisions and those decisions are used by God to mature us. Peter encouraged his people to strengthen their ability to choose right. We need to remember that making good decisions is a positive character trait that is usually learned by making bad decisions.

Let’s consider Peter’s plan found in 2 Peter 1:3-11, His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The list of choices and decisions go on and on. God teaches us to grow in grace and the knowledge our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The glory goes to Him. While he works in us to will and to work his good pleasure. He teaches us to choose right. Even though many of our choices were wrong in the beginning. Adam and Eve made some bad choices.

Rebellion against God is a choice. A very bad choice. Let’s look at the account of their choice. Genesis 3:1-7, Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Eve did not think what was happening. Satan offered an opportunity to be like God. Wait! They were created in the image of God. Eve correctly pointed out that they could eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. Oh but not the one in the middle. Then she added “neither shall you touch it”!  Now, it is not a good thing to add to, or take away from God’s word. 

We might make every effort to cover our bad choices but Praise God! There is a way out. Rebellion is a choice and when we make a bad choice then repentance is a choice. Colossians 3:5-10, Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

We are not to assume we can ignore our sin in hope of God fixing us. Holy Spirit will certainly do the work in our spiritual life but we have a responsibility to be obedient.

Jesus and John the Baptist began their ministry with a simple sermon, “Repent, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:4 & 9) Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and obey Jesus. There is a false repentance that is sorry to be caught. We must be certain we want to lay aside our sin.

Don’t sit around waiting on God to fix you. Take action! You can’t save yourself but it is never wrong to “”Put to death therefore what is earthly in you”. We have responsibility to actively seek growth and holy lives. We need to remember Jesus was beaten and crucified to pay the price of our sin. We need to apply ourselves to growth in grace.

Spiritual growth is a choice. 1 Peter 2:1-3, So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Obeying God in difficult circumstances is a choice. You remember the account of the three young Jews who were taken to Babylon. The king had an image of gold 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. He proclaimed that everyone was required to worship that image when they heard the band play. When those 3 Hebrews were not obeying the worship command he ordered them thrown in a furnace heated to the point the soldiers were killed when they threw them in the fire. This is the account of their choice. Daniel 3:16-18, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

When the king came to watch the fire consume these men he said he saw 4 men in the fire. I can’t promise you God will always honor obedience in that way but I can tell you God will honor those who honor him’

Godly living is a choice. Romans 6:1-4, What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

 

Loving others is a choice. John 13:34-35, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

­

I hope that sometime in the past you have recognized the need to surrender your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That is the most important choice you will ever make! The fact that God knows what choice we will make does not take away from us the responsibility to make a choice. In fact, not making a choice is a choice and one we are personally responsible for. To not choose Christ, to not repent, to not grow spiritually, to not obeying  God, to not living in a godly manner, to not dealing with our anger issues or to not love others are all choices that are made every day to our harm. My prayer for you is that you will make good choices and grow up in the Lord. Do you need to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you need to obey him in baptism? Do you need to share a testimony of God’s goodness in your life? Now is the time. Today is the day. Do it!

 

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Monday, June 21, 2021

210620 Fathers Day

Let’s look at David’s words. David the sweet singer of Israel rejoiced in his God. The Psalms give us many examples of his view of God. God is seen as a just ruler who knows his people. He sits in heaven and laughs at his enemies. He calls us to be his children. David understood that God was his shield and the one who answered his cries. God holds godly people and hears them. God loves steadily and blesses the righteous – and that list is only partial for the first 5 Psalms! In Psalm 68 David extols the Lord as the father of the fatherless and protector of widows.

Psalm 68:4-6 Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the Lord; exult before him! 5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. 6 God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

David had seen God as a Father of the fatherless and protector of the widows. We are to sing praises to him. We are to praise him that he cares for those who have no fatherly example. We are to rejoice that he cares for the lonely. Most of all earthly fathers are to pattern their lives on him.

He was our “first” Father according to, Luke 3:38, In the genealogy of Jesus found in Luke’s gospel there is a physical connection to all people ever born. Physically God is the Father of everyone born of Adam. As we look at these accounts we can understand how some people would claim that God is the father. Let’s look at what we can learn.

Matthew begins his gospel with a genealogy that begins with Abraham and ends with Jesus who was born the son of Mary. That would settle the issue of the fatherhood of God for the Jew’s.

Luke on the other hand begins his genealogy with Jesus about 30 years of age following a different path through Nathan, the son of David. From David, Luke takes us through Perez to Judah. Then he takes us through Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. That would seem to be enough. But Luke does not stop there. He links Abraham to the generations beyond Noah to Seth the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:23-38). Luke’s account reaches beyond Abraham. He reaches to Adam settling the issue of

God as the Father to all who believe. Jesus was confronted by the Jews and with a few words he took away the value of their blood line. In John 8:54-56 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.

He is the model Father! His love is dependable.

Psalm 139, Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. 3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever; the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever; the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever; 10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, for his steadfast love endures forever; 11 and brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever; 12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever; 13 to him who divided the Red Sea in two, for his steadfast love endures forever; 14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for his steadfast love endures forever; 15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, for his steadfast love endures forever; 16 to him who led his people through the wilderness, for his steadfast love endures forever; 17 to him who struck down great kings, for his steadfast love endures forever; 18 and killed mighty kings, for his steadfast love endures forever; 19 Sihon, king of the Amorites, for his steadfast love endures forever; 20 and Og, king of Bashan, for his steadfast love endures forever; 21 and gave their land as a heritage, for his steadfast love endures forever; 22 a heritage to Israel his servant, for his steadfast love endures forever. 23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever; 24 and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever; 25 he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever. 26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

His steadfast love will meet every need. We should praise him in every situation we find ourselves in. He is our wonderworking God. He has knowledge of all needs. He rules over everything we know. He took his people through Canaan to Egypt and 400 years later brought them out to end the rule of the ungodly. He gave them the cities and villages of those who refuse to recognize them. None of that we because of who they were. God blessed his people because of who he is. He is faithful always has been and always will be. Give thanks to God the father of all who will put their trust in Him. We depend on him His faithfulness does not depend on us (2 Timothy 2:11-13) The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

 

He cares and acts if we will Humble ourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7). We can humble ourselves under God’s faithful hand because we can trust him completely. We know that his care for us is complete. When we are anxious we need to recall the words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount. (Matthew 6:25-34) “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Anxiety is like acid consuming its container. There is no known benefit to being anxious

 

Earthly fathers are to be like him

Be a loving example Ephesians 5:25-3, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Be faithful to family and to God. In Ephesians 5:1-2 we find: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Take action to serve and protect (1 Peter 3:7) Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

 

Father’s Day can be hard on those who have experienced an absent or abusive father. But, when we see that God is a perfect Father. Even though we have sinned he came to earth in Jesus to make those who receive and believe his children. As his children we have a perfect Father in heaven we can call on in our time of need. We can sing praises to his name. Rejoice in the Lord!

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

210613 Knowing God

 How important is it, within a reasonable doubt, to know God? The answer – very important! Christians are commanded to know what they believe and why they believe it. They are commanded to give answers to those who ask, 1 Peter 3:15, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

We are designed to live in such a way that we demolish arguments against the Christian faith. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.  Since God is reasonable, Isaiah 1:18, He wants us to use reason. Christians don’t get points for being stupid. In fact, using reason is part of the greatest commandment which, according to Jesus, is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” Matthew 22:37.

Note that Jesus said “all your mind” not “all your emotions”. I am not opposed to emotions I often enjoy my feelings but most of the time I would rather put them aside. The older I get the more I experience intense emotions. I want you to imagine a train that hauls freight as well as people. Emotions should be the freight wagons and our mind must contain the faith, the power source.   Our entire being is designed to reflect God. We are not doing a good, effective job. There are many cracks in the path designed by the devil to cause us to stumble.

The Apostle Paul certainly believed that it was important to know that  truth really exists and must be acted on. Paul believed in gospel truth so much that he was willing to give up everything he had previously based his life on in order to know Jesus.

We find evidence of this driving force in, Philippians 3:8-11 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

When Saul/Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus the Holy Spirit began a process in him. A process of knowing Christ. This work in him was determined by God. The place and the purpose was foreknown by God. Paul saw himself as the “chief sinner” for the rest of his life because he had persecuted the church resulting in some being imprisoned and others were even put to death.

He had thought he knew God and God’s will. He believed he was carrying out God’s will God’s way. The men who were with him on the road that day heard the sound and saw the light. I have wondered if any of those men became believers. We know that Paul immediately began to preach Christ in Damascus but we have no record of his words or the results. We know there were some who listened to him. When the ruler of Damascus tried to arrest him his followers let him down the city wall in a basket and got him to Arabia. He didn’t stay away instead he returned to Damascus and ministered there for the larger part of 3 years. He must have learned how to be a stealth preacher.

Every person born into the human race has an inner sense of God. When Paul was on his own in Athens he spoke to the leading men and women of the day Luke recorded the event in, Acts 17:22-23, So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

There is in everyone a God-shaped blank that can only be filled by the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to remember that we are witnesses to everyone who knows us or comes in contact with us. In 1994, Jackie DeShaonnon wrote, What the world needs now.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some, but for everyone.

Faced with the massive evidence surrounding the existence of God some choose to deny Him. Psalm 14:1-7,        says, The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. 2The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. 4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord? There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. 6 You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge. 7Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

This must be an important Psalm since it is repeated as Psalm 53.

I am not educated in Hebrew but a dear friend of mine once told me that this Psalm should begin “The fool says in his heart, No God for me”. That makes sense to me. Someone who rejects the massive amount of evidence is clearly rejecting the very existence of God.

Such a fool has God’s evidence rubbed in their face. Sinful people misinterpret God’s revelation of himself that is seen by all people.

David the king must have spent many nights under the stars, tending his sheep, as he recognized the strength of the natural evidence.

Psalm 19:1-3, The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.

Paul began the letter to the Romans 1:18-20 pointing out the common guilt we all share. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

The world we live in is filled with people who suppress the truth. Who reject the knowledge of God. And since the natural order is rejected by them the scriptures need to be made available in every possible manner.

Therefore, we need Scripture if we are to interpret natural revelation rightly. Hundreds of false religions in the world are evidence of the way sinful people, without guidance from Scripture, will always misunderstand and distort the revelation about God found in nature. But the Bible alone tells us how to understand the testimony about God from nature. Therefore we depend on God’s active communication to us in Scripture for our true knowledge of God. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

Satan has deceived the unbelievers. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, Romans 1:18-19 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

Consequently, Romans 1: 24, 26, 28 tells us that the result of their choice to reject God is clear! Three times in those three verses the words ring out: “God gave them up!” Father God please do not give me up to what I would be without you.

None of us who are born sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are free from guilt. All have sinned (Romans 3:23) and the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)! All are condemned. God demonstrates His love in the fact that He gave his only Son to die in our place. (Romans 5:8). 

So that “if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

 

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

210606 We Suffer Wrh A Purpose

 We Suffer With a Purpose                                                             210606

Last week we looked at suffering as part of God’s call. We saw God’s promise to Paul that he would suffer and Paul passed that on to Timothy. Suffering does not happen to us because God is mean. Suffering was part of the plan from the very beginning. 

Issac Watts A Christian Pastor during the early years of the 1700’s wrote. A Hymn, Am I a Soldier of the Cross? In it he asks the question we all must answer: (#430)

Am I a soldier of the cross? /A follower of the Lamb?

And shall I fear to own His cause, /Or blush to speak His Name?

 

Must I be carried to the skies /On flowery beds of ease,

While others fought to win the prize /And sailed through bloody seas?

 

Are there no foes for me to face? /Must I not stem the flood?

Is this vile world a friend to grace, /To help me on to God?

 

Sure, I must fight if I would reign; /Increase my courage, Lord!

I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, /Supported by Thy Word.

 

What is God’s plan for the believer’s suffering? Let’s look at the Word God gave to Paul

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

We can see that Paul praised the true God who revealed Himself in His Son. Who is of the same essence with the Father. He is the anointed one the Christ. He is the Ruler and Redeemer. Although the Son had this lofty position, He was willing to become a servant and submit Himself in taking on human flesh. This great benediction comprehends the entire gospel. God is the Father of mercies. Paul may have borrowed from Jewish liturgical language and a synagogue prayer that called for God to treat the sinful individual with kindness, love, and tenderness. David the king wrote in Psalm 103:13-14, As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. 

He is the God of all comfort. This is an Old Testament description of God who is the ultimate source of every true act of comfort. The Greek word for “comfort” is related to the familiar word paraclete, “one who comes alongside to help.” It is another name for the Holy Spirit. “Comfort” often connotes softness and ease, but that is not its meaning here. Paul was saying that God came to him in the midst of his sufferings and troubles to strengthen him and give him courage and boldness.

I don’t want us to forget Paul’s suffering. You can find Paul’s account in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28. There he tells of being beaten many times He was stoned, left for dead, and recovered. His back must have been solid scar tissue.

Many Christians have suffered for the gospel’s sake. Before Adoniram Judson finished his education he committed his life to foreign missions. He fell in love with Ann Hasaltine and wrote her father to ask permission to marry her.

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life …to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”

A month later they set sail for India and Burma. On the long trip they studied the bible and came to the conclusion they had been wrong about baptism. They were baptized by William Carey when they arrived in India.

They had been sent out be the “American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions”. Since they were no longer Congregationalists they had to end their relationship with that mission board. Since there was not a Baptist Board of Foreign Missions a young man that had travelled with them, Luther Rice, returned to America to remedy that situation.

During the move from India to Burma their first child died. Ann suffered from one miscarriage and gave birth to two children later on. Unfortunately, both the children died while they were still babies. They suffered tremendously. Ann died of an illness in 1826.

In 1834, he married Sarah Hall Boardman, widow of fellow missionary George Boardman. The couple went on to have eight children, of whom five survived to adulthood. Sarah died in 1845.

During the only trip Judson took to America. Much to everyone’s surprise, Emily Chubbuck became his third wife in 1846. She gave birth to two children, of whom one died shortly after birth.

In 1850, Adoniram Judson developed a serious lung infection and was advised by doctors to go on a sea voyage. He died onboard ship in the Bay of Bengal on April 12, 1850 and was buried at sea. At the time of his death, he had spent 37 years in missionary service in Burma.

Near the end he wrote a poem: “In spite of sorrow, loss, and pain, our course be onward still; we sow on Burma's barren plain, we reap on Zion's hill.” ~ Adoniram Judson.

There are now more than 2 million Baptists in Burma/Mayanmar. The result of suffering by many missionaries over the 200 years ministry.

Let’s get back to Paul’s letter to Corinth.

In spite of his suffering Paul pointed Timothy to God our Father. He based his life on our God is the Father of mercies.

God’s mercy means God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress. Paul, and those with him, could encourage those who suffer because of his own experience. Recorded in chapter 7. For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.

Depression is a condition carried by all of us at one time or another. Paul had his share a therefore in need of comfort.

The God of all comfort does not point to “flowery beds of ease” instead, the word translated “comfort” comes from the same root as the word John  used to describe the Holy Spirit. One who walks along side of you when you are in need of an advocate, a helper or an intercessor.

The term “affliction” refers to crushing pressure, because in Paul’s life and ministry there was always something attempting to weaken him, restrict or confine his ministry, or even take his life. But no matter what confronted him, Paul knew God would sustain and strengthen him.

In his first letter 10:12-13 he has written. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

When he found himself struggling with depression and temptation he only had to remind himself of his own words of a couple years before.

Many times I have had people ask me, “Why does God allow this?” Usually I have to answer, “I don’t know. But I do know God is aware of your situation and has a perfect plan for it.” Sometimes I have an idea pointing to God’s plan but I could be wrong. Therefore it is better to encourage the sufferer to seek God’s face and accept whatever comes from his hand.

Paul assures the Corinthians God comforts us so that we can use the same comfort to encourage and strengthen another. I hope these words coming from me are able to help not hurt. Paul sees his suffering as personally beneficial, driving him to trust God alone, but also as directly benefiting those he ministered to: “God … comforts us … so that we can comfort.…” To experience God’s comfort in the midst of one’s affliction is to become indebted and equipped to communicate the divine comfort and sympathy to others who are in any kind of affliction or distress. God comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (1:4-6)

This verse (5) supplies the reason suffering equips the Christian to mediate God’s comfort. Whenever Christ’s sufferings were multiplied in Paul’s life, God’s comfort was also multiplied through the ministry of Christ. The greater the suffering, the greater the comfort and the greater the ability to share with others the divine sympathy.

We need to see whatever we go through as having gone through the Holy Spirit’s filter. We may often be confused and even fearful but you can be sure that God is neither. God never sleeps and is never surprised by events in our lives.

Paul was referring to the body of Christ’s partnership of suffering, which mutually builds godly patience and endurance.  All believers need to realize this process, avoid any sense of self-pity when suffering for Him, and share in one anothers’ lives the encouragement of divine comfort they receive from their experiences the consolation that is needed. This refers to the Corinthians’ ongoing perseverance to final, completed salvation when they will be glorified. Paul’s willingness, by God’s grace and the Spirit’s power, to suffer and be comforted and then comfort and strengthen the Corinthians helped them to face their troubles head on.

Paul’s assurance to them can be claimed by us and carry us through whatever we face in life. Remember, our God knows the end from the beginning. He is never taken by surprise. When we rest in him we can know, for sure, that we suffer with a purpose.

I confess I have struggled with questions regarding the events we have gone through for the past few years. I willingly put those questions and concerns in the hands of our God and rest in the Holy Spirit’s comfort. Will you join me as we rest in him?

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

We Suffer With a Purpose                                                             210606

Last week we looked at suffering as part of God’s call. We saw God’s promise to Paul that he would suffer and Paul passed that on to Timothy. Suffering does not happen to us because God is mean. Suffering was part of the plan from the very beginning. 

Issac Watts A Christian Pastor during the early years of the 1700’s wrote. A Hymn, Am I a Soldier of the Cross? In it he asks the question we all must answer: (#430)

Am I a soldier of the cross? /A follower of the Lamb?

And shall I fear to own His cause, /Or blush to speak His Name?

 

Must I be carried to the skies /On flowery beds of ease,

While others fought to win the prize /And sailed through bloody seas?

 

Are there no foes for me to face? /Must I not stem the flood?

Is this vile world a friend to grace, /To help me on to God?

 

Sure, I must fight if I would reign; /Increase my courage, Lord!

I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, /Supported by Thy Word.

 

What is God’s plan for the believer’s suffering? Let’s look at the Word God gave to Paul

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

We can see that Paul praised the true God who revealed Himself in His Son. Who is of the same essence with the Father. He is the anointed one the Christ. He is the Ruler and Redeemer. Although the Son had this lofty position, He was willing to become a servant and submit Himself in taking on human flesh. This great benediction comprehends the entire gospel. God is the Father of mercies. Paul may have borrowed from Jewish liturgical language and a synagogue prayer that called for God to treat the sinful individual with kindness, love, and tenderness. David the king wrote in Psalm 103:13-14, As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. 

He is the God of all comfort. This is an Old Testament description of God who is the ultimate source of every true act of comfort. The Greek word for “comfort” is related to the familiar word paraclete, “one who comes alongside to help.” It is another name for the Holy Spirit. “Comfort” often connotes softness and ease, but that is not its meaning here. Paul was saying that God came to him in the midst of his sufferings and troubles to strengthen him and give him courage and boldness.

I don’t want us to forget Paul’s suffering. You can find Paul’s account in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28. There he tells of being beaten many times He was stoned, left for dead, and recovered. His back must have been solid scar tissue.

Many Christians have suffered for the gospel’s sake. Before Adoniram Judson finished his education he committed his life to foreign missions. He fell in love with Ann Hasaltine and wrote her father to ask permission to marry her.

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life …to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”

A month later they set sail for India and Burma. On the long trip they studied the bible and came to the conclusion they had been wrong about baptism. They were baptized by William Carey when they arrived in India.

They had been sent out be the “American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions”. Since they were no longer Congregationalists they had to end their relationship with that mission board. Since there was not a Baptist Board of Foreign Missions a young man that had travelled with them, Luther Rice, returned to America to remedy that situation.

During the move from India to Burma their first child died. Ann suffered from one miscarriage and gave birth to two children later on. Unfortunately, both the children died while they were still babies. They suffered tremendously. Ann died of an illness in 1826.

In 1834, he married Sarah Hall Boardman, widow of fellow missionary George Boardman. The couple went on to have eight children, of whom five survived to adulthood. Sarah died in 1845.

During the only trip Judson took to America. Much to everyone’s surprise, Emily Chubbuck became his third wife in 1846. She gave birth to two children, of whom one died shortly after birth.

In 1850, Adoniram Judson developed a serious lung infection and was advised by doctors to go on a sea voyage. He died onboard ship in the Bay of Bengal on April 12, 1850 and was buried at sea. At the time of his death, he had spent 37 years in missionary service in Burma.

Near the end he wrote a poem: “In spite of sorrow, loss, and pain, our course be onward still; we sow on Burma's barren plain, we reap on Zion's hill.” ~ Adoniram Judson.

There are now more than 2 million Baptists in Burma/Mayanmar. The result of suffering by many missionaries over the 200 years ministry.

Let’s get back to Paul’s letter to Corinth.

In spite of his suffering Paul pointed Timothy to God our Father. He based his life on our God is the Father of mercies.

God’s mercy means God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress. Paul, and those with him, could encourage those who suffer because of his own experience. Recorded in chapter 7. For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.

Depression is a condition carried by all of us at one time or another. Paul had his share a therefore in need of comfort.

The God of all comfort does not point to “flowery beds of ease” instead, the word translated “comfort” comes from the same root as the word John  used to describe the Holy Spirit. One who walks along side of you when you are in need of an advocate, a helper or an intercessor.

The term “affliction” refers to crushing pressure, because in Paul’s life and ministry there was always something attempting to weaken him, restrict or confine his ministry, or even take his life. But no matter what confronted him, Paul knew God would sustain and strengthen him.

In his first letter 10:12-13 he has written. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

When he found himself struggling with depression and temptation he only had to remind himself of his own words of a couple years before.

Many times I have had people ask me, “Why does God allow this?” Usually I have to answer, “I don’t know. But I do know God is aware of your situation and has a perfect plan for it.” Sometimes I have an idea pointing to God’s plan but I could be wrong. Therefore it is better to encourage the sufferer to seek God’s face and accept whatever comes from his hand.

Paul assures the Corinthians God comforts us so that we can use the same comfort to encourage and strengthen another. I hope these words coming from me are able to help not hurt. Paul sees his suffering as personally beneficial, driving him to trust God alone, but also as directly benefiting those he ministered to: “God … comforts us … so that we can comfort.…” To experience God’s comfort in the midst of one’s affliction is to become indebted and equipped to communicate the divine comfort and sympathy to others who are in any kind of affliction or distress. God comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (1:4-6)

This verse (5) supplies the reason suffering equips the Christian to mediate God’s comfort. Whenever Christ’s sufferings were multiplied in Paul’s life, God’s comfort was also multiplied through the ministry of Christ. The greater the suffering, the greater the comfort and the greater the ability to share with others the divine sympathy.

We need to see whatever we go through as having gone through the Holy Spirit’s filter. We may often be confused and even fearful but you can be sure that God is neither. God never sleeps and is never surprised by events in our lives.

Paul was referring to the body of Christ’s partnership of suffering, which mutually builds godly patience and endurance.  All believers need to realize this process, avoid any sense of self-pity when suffering for Him, and share in one anothers’ lives the encouragement of divine comfort they receive from their experiences the consolation that is needed. This refers to the Corinthians’ ongoing perseverance to final, completed salvation when they will be glorified. Paul’s willingness, by God’s grace and the Spirit’s power, to suffer and be comforted and then comfort and strengthen the Corinthians helped them to face their troubles head on.

Paul’s assurance to them can be claimed by us and carry us through whatever we face in life. Remember, our God knows the end from the beginning. He is never taken by surprise. When we rest in him we can know, for sure, that we suffer with a purpose.

I confess I have struggled with questions regarding the events we have gone through for the past few years. I willingly put those questions and concerns in the hands of our God and rest in the Holy Spirit’s comfort. Will you join me as we rest in him?

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.