God Resists The Proud

We can all be subject to pride.  We can be proud that we are rich or we can be proud that we are poor.  We can be proud that we are old or proud that we are young.  We can be proud of what we know or proud of what we have accomplished.  We can be proud of our strength or proud of our skill.  We can be proud of our possessions or proud of our family.  If we play a sport or a game and we win, we can be proud that we are better than our opponent.  Pride can come into our hearts when we compare ourselves to others and we see ourselves to be better than they are.  But pride is not good.  1 Corinthians 4:6b-7 “That none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.  For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”  God makes us differ from another.  Everything that you and I have comes from God.  Since we have received everything from God, we should not boast or be proud as if we had not received it from God.

Our pride in comparing ourselves to others results in pride before God.  A proud person doesn’t want to admit that he has shortcomings, faults, or sin.  To admit these things would make him appear smaller or less important and therefore not better than the other person.  So the proud person hides or ignores his faults.  The proud person compares himself to others and concludes that he is more righteous than they are.  It is easy for him to trust in his own righteousness rather than to trust in God and receive His righteousness.  In speaking about the Israelites, the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:3 “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”  A proud person doesn’t need God because he believes he is good of himself.  He believes that his ways and his decisions are right, so he may despise others.

Jesus gave the following in Luke 18:9-14 “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”  God justified the sinful tax collector because he humbled himself before Him.  Even though the Pharisee had done some good things and had not done the bad things that the tax collector had done, he was not justified because he was not humble before God.  James 4:6 “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:  ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”

Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, was proud before God.  Daniel 4:30-32 “The king spoke, saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?’ While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!  And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.’”  The king was driven from men and ate grass like an ox.  Afterwards, his reason returned to him and he was restored as a king.  He then said the following.  Daniel 4:37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.”  If you and I walk in pride, God will also resist us and put us down.  Proverbs 16:5 “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished.”

The prophet Jonah was sent to the great city Nineveh.  He prophesied that in forty days, the city would be overthrown.  Jonah 3:5-6 “So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.  Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.”  Jonah 3:10 “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”  God did not destroy Nineveh because they repented and humbled themselves.  In the same way today, when anyone repents and humbles himself before God, God is merciful.  “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Each one of us can be guilty of pride.  It comes when we compare ourselves to others and forget that everything we have and do we receive from God.  My encouragement is that you humble yourself before God.  James 4:10 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”  I encourage you to be clothed with humility.  1 Peter 5:5-7 “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

I pray that your eyes will be opened to pride in your life.  Humble yourself before God and be clothed with humility.

Life Does Not Consist

The following incident occurred to Jesus during His ministry.  Luke 12:13-15 “Then one from the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’  But He said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’   And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’”  The word covetousness literally means to have a desire to have more – more things, more possessions.   The one from the crowd seemed to have a simple, just request.  Apparently his brother had taken all of the father’s inheritance and was not sharing it.  He was obviously greatly troubled that his brother was not sharing the family possessions. He thought that Jesus, being an honest, just teacher could use His influence to convince the brother to share as he should.  But Jesus did not want to be a judge in such matters.  Jesus reminds us to beware of covetousness.  The tenth commandment given to the Israelites is found in Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”  We don’t have to desire something that belongs to our neighbor for it to be wrong.  The strong desire for more is covetousness.  Then Jesus makes an important statement:  “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Many people think that they will be happy when they finally have the things that they have set their heart upon to possess.  To the rich man, things that he desires might be businesses or mansions or luxury cars.  To a poor man, it would be something much less.  But rich or poor, we can all be guilty of thinking that we will be happy when we have certain possessions.  Think about it – what do you desire to have?  Whatever it is, realize that things will not bring you lasting happiness.  After you obtain your desired possession, soon the newness disappears and the possession no longer makes you happy as it did before.  Then you might set your heart on something else that you think will make you happy.  Even if you have great possessions, they won’t really give you lasting happiness.  Many rich people are miserable.  And when you die, you can take none of your possessions with you.  Life does not consist in the abundance of the things that you possess. 

So what gives purpose and meaning to life and brings lasting happiness?  In addition to desiring possessions, people have gone after many different things in their attempt to find happiness and meaning in their life.  Some put all of their energy into their work to succeed and get promotions.  Some seek after pleasure or spend their time playing games.  Some give their energy to finding and consuming food and drink.  Some seek to gain a position of importance that others will respect them.  Some seek to be the best in some area that others would consider them to be an expert.  Some live through their children, doing what they can to make them succeed.  The list can go on and on.  People have tried many things to find happiness and put meaning into their life.  But life does not consist in any of these things.

King Solomon was very rich and had the power and the time to search for what is meaningful in life.  He wrote the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes that describes his search.  He set his heart to know wisdom but found it to be a grasping for the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:17).  He next tried mirth and pleasure but found them to be vanity (Ecclesiastes 2:1).   He made great works – houses, vineyards, gardens, orchards, and more.  He had great possessions and riches.  Whatever his eyes desired, he did not keep from them.  Yet he found this all to be vanity and grasping for the wind (Ecclesiastes 2:11).  I encourage you to read the book of Ecclesiastes and see all that Solomon tried and found to be vanity.  In the end, he made his conclusion.  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

When one searches for meaning in life, he may make the mistake of thinking that this life is what it is all about.  That is why more possessions seem to be important.  But the real truth is that this life is merely preparation for the life that is to come.  Our faith is that there is life after death.  Jesus gave proof to that by His resurrection from the dead; as He was resurrected, so will we be resurrected.  1 Corinthians 15:20-23 “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”

Jesus showed the way to what is really important in life.  Matthew 16:24-27 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.’” Deny yourself now.  Don’t attempt to save your life for what you can enjoy and gain here.  Instead lose your life for the sake of Christ.  Then when Jesus comes back, He will reward you for your works.

My encouragement to you is to find the real meaning of life.  This life is not what it is all about.  Prepare for the life that is to come.

Towards Sodom

Abram was called by God to leave his country, his family, and his father’s house to go to the land of Canaan.  Abram obeyed God and left with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot.  Before long, Abram became very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.  Lot also became rich with many livestock.  There was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.  Genesis 13:8-13 “So Abram said to Lot, ‘Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren.  Is not the whole land before you?  Please separate from me.  If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.’  And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar.  Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other.  Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.  But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.”

Abram gave Lot the choice of where he would go with his livestock.  Lot thought he made a good financial decision to take his livestock where there was plenty of water and plenty of good pasture for food.  What he didn’t consider was the wickedness and sinfulness of the people of the area.  As the story unfolds, we find that the Lord heard about the sinfulness of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The Lord spoke with Abraham in Genesis 18:20-21 “And the Lord said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.’” Abraham knew that Lot lived in Sodom and he wanted to save Lot.  Genesis 18:23-24 “And Abraham came near and said, ‘Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?  Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?’”  The Lord agreed not to destroy the place if He found fifty righteous there.  Abraham continued to bargain with the Lord by reducing the number of righteous found there until the Lord agreed to not destroy the place if he found ten righteous there.  But there were not even ten righteous found there.  The Lord allowed righteous Lot to escape the city before He destroyed the area with brimstone and fire.  Lot lost all of his possessions and his wife. 

From Lot, we are reminded that there are consequences for our decisions.  You might decide to move to a location where there is no church or where the people are known for their wickedness or where the people condone sinful practices.  Such a decision might have negative spiritual consequences for you and your family.  I’m not suggesting that God will destroy the place with fire and brimstone, but you might be tormented by the wickedness that you see and influenced to accept some of their practices.  1 Corinthians 15:33-34 “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’  Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.”

Some Christians decide to marry non-Christians.  There are negative consequences for such a decision.  As a Christian, you live by the principles laid out in the Bible whereas a non-Christian does not.  This difference will cause conflict and potentially end in divorce.  2 Corinthians 6:14-15 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?”  We have instruction for a widow to only marry in the Lord.  1 Corinthians 7:39 “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”  I think this is also good guidance for those being married for the first time.  I believe that the guidance to not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers applies to marriage but it can also apply to other partnerships, companionships, places of employment. or other things that you may join yourself to.  If you are careless in this area, you may suffer negative consequences for your decisions.

Since wrong decisions that you make can have negative consequences in your life, I encourage you to seek guidance from the Lord.  James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  Let God lead you in the decisions that you make, especially the major decisions in life.

Abraham was different from Lot.  Abraham listened to the direction from God.  He walked in faith and trusted in God.  As a result, God blessed Abraham.  Direction you receive from God may not bring you the most immediate financial success or comfort.  But God cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).  He will work all things for your good if you love Him.  Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

My encouragement to you is to ask for God’s direction in the decisions that you make.  Trust Him that He will lead you in the best way that you should go.  Do not move towards Sodom.

Thorny Ground

The gospels of Mathew, Mark and Luke each give the parable of the sower.  The account given by Luke is found in Luke 8:5-8.   If you are unfamiliar with the parable, please read it.  Jesus explained the parable in Luke 8:11-15 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.  Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.   But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.  Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.   But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” 

Four types of ground or hearts are described in the parable.  The first type of ground is by the wayside; Jesus said that these are those who hear the word and the devil takes the word out of their heart so that they don’t believe.  Since you are a believer, this does not apply to you.  The second type of ground is rocky; Jesus said that these are those who hear and receive the word with joy and believe for a while but fall away in time of temptation or adversity.  May you never give up your faith because of problems, trials or temptation to sin.  The third type of ground is thorny ground; these are those who continue to believe but bring no fruit to maturity.

It is possible that you or I could be those who bring no fruit to maturity.  We continue to believe, continue to count ourselves as Christians, but our lives do not show the fruit that God wants.  God wants each of us to bear much fruit.  John 15:8 “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”  John the Baptist taught the necessity of bearing good fruit or being cut down.  Matthew 3:10 “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  It is important to God that we bear good fruit.

There are various kinds of fruit that we might bear for God.  One type of fruit is to be a light in the world and to be active in sharing the gospel with those who are lost so that they come to believe and obey the gospel.  But not every Christian is going to have a major part in bringing someone to Christ.  The Bible talks about other fruit that we bear.  Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  The result of the Holy Spirit truly living in you and working in you are these nine characteristics or fruit.  Sending aid to those in need is also described as fruit.  Philippians 4:16-17 “For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.  Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.”  I believe this is teaching us that doing good works from our heart is fruit God wants us to bear.  There are multiple types of spiritual fruit.  The point is that we each should bear fruit for God.

Now look at what can hinder us from bringing fruit to maturity.  In the parable, Jesus taught that we can be “choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”  The first hindrance is cares.  It is very easy to become consumed with living a busy, everyday life and forget about God.  Maybe it is problems that you have in your life – health issues or relationships with family members or co-workers.  Maybe it is taking care of your children and participating in their activities.  Or maybe it is being a caregiver to someone.  Maybe it is trying to earn a living for the family.  There are a lot of potential cares in life that can distract you from the spiritual matters that are more important.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

The second hindrance is riches.  We are taught in 1 Timothy 6:9-10 “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”  Jesus also taught in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  Mammon is understood to be riches.  Seeking after riches will hinder you from bearing fruit for God.

The third hindrance is pleasures.  This is the gratification of the natural or sinful desires.  James 4:1-3 “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  Seeking pleasure in life is selfish whereas love seeks the good of others.  We are to deny ourselves.  Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’”  I don’t want to imply that we can have no pleasure in life, because there are many good things in life that we can enjoy and thank and praise God.  But living for selfish pleasures will choke the word of God so that we will bring no spiritual fruit to maturity.

I encourage you to not be choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life so that you bring no spiritual fruit to maturity.  Instead, be the fourth type of ground – the good ground that keeps the word of God and bears much fruit with patience.

The Will of God

Jesus was sent to the earth by God the Father; He came to do the will of the Father.   John 5:30 “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”  He restated His purpose in John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”  When Jesus approached His crucifixion, His will was different from the will of the Father.  He did not want to go through the pain and anguish that was before Him; He did not want to have to bear the sins of the world upon Himself; He did not want to die upon the cross.  So He prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane and asked that this all could be taken away.  Luke 22:41-42 “He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’” Jesus did not want to go through the death upon the cross, but He wanted more to do the will of the Father.  Hebrews 5:7-9 “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”  Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Jesus came to the earth to do the will of the Father; He completely did His will, to include dying on the cross.

Just as Jesus came to do the will of the Father, you and I are also to do the will of the Father.  Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”  If we do the will of the Father, we will enter the kingdom of heaven.  Otherwise, we will be rejected.  I want you to understand what the will of the Lord is for your life.   Ephesians 5:15-17 “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  I believe the following scripture gives a general description of the will of God for you.  1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.  For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.  Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.”  I encourage you to seek to know the full will of God for you.

It should be your desire to cease from sin, from the lusts of men, and live to do the will of God.  1 Peter 4:1-4 “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.  For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles — when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.”  We each have spent enough of our past lifetime doing our own will.  Now we should have the same mind as Christ and desire to do the will of God.

The Bible gives us a description of the kind of life that is according to the will of God.  That is one reason why we should each read and study the Bible – to discover that will of God.  But sometimes God has specific things that He wants a person to do.  For example, Jesus met Saul on the road to Damascus and chose him to be a main spokesman to the gentiles (Acts 9:3-19).  You and I are not likely to see a blinding bright light and hear the voice of Jesus telling us what to do.  But you may be given opportunities and spiritual leadings of things that are the will of God for you to do. Don’t ignore these.  Listen to the Holy Spirit within you and do His will. 

Doing the will of God has benefits, to include eternal life.  1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

I encourage you to seek to know and follow the will of God for your life.  As Jesus did, yield your will to His will, whether that includes the kind of life you live or whether it includes the specific things He wants you to do.  Hebrews 10:36 “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”

Abraham – The Man of Faith

Abraham is one of the most important individuals described in the Bible.  He was a man of great faith and was chosen by God to be the ancestor of Jesus, the Christ.

We first read about God coming to Abraham when he lived in Haran; at that time, his name was Abram.  Genesis 12:1-3 “Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.  I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”  God asked Abram to leave his relatives and travel many days to a land he knew nothing about.  It required faith on Abram’s part to trust in God and do as He asked.  Hebrews 11:8-10 “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” God promised to bless Abram and make him into a great nation.  He also promised that through him, all the families of the earth would be blessed.  I understand this to be a prophesy that all of us would receive salvation through Jesus who was a descendent of Abram.

But Abram grew old and didn’t have any children.  Genesis 15:1-6 “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’ But Abram said, ‘Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’  Then Abram said, ‘Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!’  And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.  Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’  And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”  Abram believed God and His promises, even when he was old and had no children.  What great faith!

God eventually gave Abraham a son, Isaac.  Genesis 22:1-4 “Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’  And he said, ‘Here I am.’  Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.”  I like the fact that Abraham got up early in the morning to obey God; he didn’t delay or question God’s command.  Genesis 22:9-12 “Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.  And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.  But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’  So he said, ‘Here I am.’  And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’” Hebrews 11:17-19 “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”  What great faith!

You and I should learn from the faith of Abraham.  Just as Abraham believed God when He told him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, we also are given truths and promises that we must believe.  From the Bible we learn about God and about His only Son that He gave for the forgiveness of our sins and our salvation.  We read about the miracles that Jesus performed, about His death upon the cross, and about His resurrection from the dead.  We read about the inheritance He has prepared for us.  These and many other truths and promises we must accept in faith and trust that they are true.  Romans 4:5 “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”  God also commanded Abraham to leave his family and his father’s house and move to a far country.  God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his promised son.  In faith Abraham obeyed God.  James 2:21-24 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” Just as Abraham obeyed God in faith, we also are given commandments that we are to obey in faith.

I encourage you to learn from the faith of Abraham.  Believe the truths that you are given in the Bible.  Obey in faith what God has asked you to do.

If The Lord Wills

I suppose that we all make plans to do things.  If we are going to make a long trip, we plan where we are going to stay, the places where we are going to go, the things that we need to take with us, and the resources we will need.  But there is something else we need to consider when we make plans.  James 4:13-17 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’  But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.  Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” 

Your life is a vapor, like steam coming from a hot cup of coffee that quickly vanishes.  Psalms 39:4-5 “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.  Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.”  Things may happen to you that will change everything in your life.  You may lose your health due to disease or an accident and be unable to accomplish your plans.  Or your life may end.  You do not really have control over what will happen in your future.

Planning presumes upon the future.  You are presuming that you know what will happen when you do not.  I believe that is one reason Jesus taught us not to swear.  Matthew 5:33-37 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’  But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne;  nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.  But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”  When you swear that you will do something, you don’t know if you will be able to accomplish what you swear to do.  You do not know what the future holds.  Proverbs 27:1 “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”  Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 “Consider the work of God; for who can make straight what He has made crooked?  In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him.”  I believe that going into debt also presumes upon the future; one thinks he will be able to pay the debt in the future but he does not know the problems or difficulties of the future and he may not be able to repay.

Making great plans about what you will do in the future is a form of boasting.  James said “But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”  Boasting is showing pride and glorifying yourself.  It takes the glory and honor away from God.  Jeremiah 9:23-24 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the Lord.”  Or, as the apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 1:31 “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 4:7 “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”  Our future is given to us by God, therefore we should not boast about what we will do in the future. 

Instead, we should depend upon the Lord and let Him have His way.  James put it this way:  “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’”  The apostle Paul made plans but he allowed for God’s will to change his plans.  When he was in Ephesus, he told the brethren in Acts 18:21b “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.”  He wrote to the Romans in Romans 1:10 “making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.” He wrote the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 4:19a “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills.”  Time and again, the apostle Paul made plans but allowed for the will of God to be different.  And that is the way that you and I should be.  Let God be in control rather than boast about what we will do.

Seek to be led by the Spirit of God.  Romans 8:14  “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”  Isaiah 48:17 “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:  ‘I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go.’”  To me, it is like asking for wisdom from God.  James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  Ask God for wisdom and direction in your life.  Let Him lead.

My encouragement to you is to make plans in your life but allow for the will of God to be different.  Ask for God’s direction and follow His leading.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Have you ever thought about what it would be like for you after you die?  I understand that those of us who are saved have our names written in the Book of Life.  The apostle Paul’s fellow workers had their names written in that Book.  Paul wrote in Philippians 4:3 “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.”  The Book of Life is mentioned several times in the book of the Revelation.  Everyone will be judged on the Judgement Day, but if our names are in the Book of Life, our eternal destiny is already decided.

But what happens after death but before the Judgement Day?  I understand that everyone goes to a place where we wait for the judgement.  I believe that the following story given by Jesus gives us the best description of what happens after we die.  Luke 16:19-31 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.  But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.  So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.  And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.  And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’  Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’  But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'”

The rich man was very wealthy; he wore rich clothes; he feasted on good food every day.  He likely lived in a mansion where he had everything that he desired.  The beggar named Lazarus was exceedingly poor.  He was full of sores, which likely indicates that he had no resources to seek medical help; instead, the dogs came and licked his sores.  His desire was to at least be able to eat the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.  The rich man received good things while Lazarus received evil things.  The rich man apparently had little concern for the poor man.  Maybe he gave Lazarus the crumbs from his table, but he did not give him what he needed.  1 John 3:17 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”   Jesus described the judgement in Matthew 25:41-43 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:  for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;  I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’”  These on His left who did not have love for the needy went to everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

The rich man died and went to Hades.  Hades is the name for the grave or the place of departed spirits.  There appears to be a division in Hades.  The rich man went to a bad part of Hades where there was torment.  Lazarus and Abraham were in a good part of Hades.  It appears that Jesus also went to Hades after He died.  The apostle Peter quoted David in a prophesy about Jesus in Acts 2:27 “For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”  When Jesus was upon the cross, one of the thieves that was also being crucified believed in Jesus.  Luke 23:42-43 “Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’”  From this, I believe that when Jesus died He went to the good part of Hades called Paradise where Abraham and Lazarus were.  Jesus did not stay in Hades but was resurrected and returned to life.

Lazarus was comforted and the rich man was in torment in Hades.  He requested that Abraham send Lazarus that he might dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue; for he was tormented in the flame.  But there was a great gulf fixed between where the rich man was and where Abraham and Lazarus were; no one could pass between the two locations.  The rich men then requested that Abraham send Lazarus back to the land of the living to warn his five brothers so that they would not come to this place of torment.  But Abraham did not send Lazarus.  He said that the brothers already had Moses and the prophets (the Holy Scriptures) and that they needed to listen to them.

I do not want you to go to the place of torment where the rich man was.  I encourage you to read the Holy Scriptures so that you may believe and obey what they teach you to do.

Those for the Lake of Fire

In the Revelation, He who sat on the throne spoke the following in Revelation 21:6-8 “And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.  He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.  But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.’”  It is also written in Revelation 22:14-15 “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.  But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”  There are two destinations and two end results.  For those who overcome and do His commandments, they shall be with God; they shall inherit all things, drink from the fountain of the water of life, have the right to the tree of life, and enter the gates into the city.  The others are outside the holy city or in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.  Let us look at the characteristics of those who have their part in the lake of fire so that you can avoid being anything like them.

The cowardly.  Some translations use the word fearful.  These are those who will not stand up and confess their belief in Jesus because they are afraid of the consequences they might suffer.  In the early church, standing up for Christ might have caused one to be cast out of the synagogue, to forfeit his property, to be rejected by his family, or even to suffer death.  John 12:42-43 “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”  Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”  Don’t be cowardly about your belief.

The unbelieving.  Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  Strengthen your faith.

The abominable.  These are those who do disgusting things.  They are described in Titus 1:15-16 “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.  They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” Ephesians 5:12 “For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.”  Flee from disgusting works.

The murderers.  Murdering another person is universally acknowledged as evil.  But John wrote in 1 John 3:15 “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”  Chose love instead of hatred.

The sexually immoral.  This is any illicit sexual intercourse and can include homosexuality, living together without marriage and adultery.  Jesus said in Luke 16:18 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.”  Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Viewing pornography would seem to be included in sexual immorality.  Flee sexual immorality.

The sorcerers.  This can include those who give spell-giving potions or who make appeals to the powers of demons.  I would include use of psychedelic drugs or visiting “witch doctors” in some cultures.  By extension, it could include seeking knowledge from any power other than God.  I would include fortune telling by using tarot cards, Ouija boards, palm reading, or even horoscopes.  Avoid any of these things that are not from God.

The idolaters.  This would be to worship anything other than God the Father, Yahweh.  Some Christian sects have images that they appear to worship.  But one can also worship themselves or the things of this world.  Covetousness is called idolatry in Colossians 3:5-6 “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.”  Do not love the things of this world, but instead love and worship God.

All liars or whoever loves and practices a lie.  Some seem to excuse a small, white lie.  Deceiving another is to lie.  It is not only to practice lying, but one can be guilty of loving a lie or deception.  Lies are included among the things that God hates.  Proverbs 6:16-19 “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him:  a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”  God is about truth.  Love the truth and avoid all lies.

I encourage you to overcome so that you can be with God eternally.  I also encourage you to totally avoid being anything like those who have their part in the lake of fire: the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars.

The Wisdom From Above

We each should desire to be wise, because a truly wise person will be successful in how he lives his life and how he relates to other people; more importantly, he will be pleasing to God.  James teaches us to ask God for wisdom.  James 1:5  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  God is the source of true wisdom. 

The wisdom of God is different from the wisdom of the world.  1 Corinthians 2:6-7 “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.”  1 Corinthians 2:13 “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”  A wise, godly person demonstrates that he is wise by his good conduct.  James 3:13 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.”

Let us first look at earthly wisdom.  James 3:14-16 “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.  This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.  For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”  Earthly wisdom is about self.  It is characterized by envy and self-seeking or contentions and conflict.  Envy is the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others.  This wisdom is about what pleases you and especially your senses and your pride.  It comes from the devil.  It results in confusion and every evil thing.  This is the way of most people in the world.

The wisdom from God is different.  James 3:17-18 “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.  Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”  Let us look at the characteristics of this wisdom.

First of all, this wisdom is pure.  It is not a mixture of earthly wisdom and godly wisdom.  It is not partly sensual and about self and partly what God desires.  It results from a wholehearted desire to do what pleases God.

It is peaceable.  Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”  Psalms 34:14 “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Since the wisdom from God is not about self, it seeks to avoid division, contentions and conflict and instead it pursues peace.

It is gentle.  Gentleness is tender and amiable; it is considerate and kindly in disposition as opposed to being hard or severe.  Jesus was gentle.  He described himself in Matthew 11:29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  The apostle Paul was gentle with the Thessalonians.  1 Thessalonians 2:7 “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.”  A nursing mother is usually gentle with her child.  God’s wisdom is gentle.

It is willing to yield.  It does not insist on having its way but submits to the desires and needs of others.  1 Peter 5:5 “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”  God’s wisdom is willing to yield.

It is full of mercy.  Since God has been so merciful to us, we should show mercy to others.  Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”  God’s wisdom is full of mercy.

It is full of good fruits.  Jesus taught that we should bear much fruit.  John 15:8 “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”  God’s wisdom is full of good fruits.

It is without partiality.  That means that it is not partial to the rich over the poor, to the old over the young, to the handsome over the plain, to the leader over the follower, or to the family member over those outside the family.  It treats all alike in love.  James 2:8-9 “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

It is without hypocrisy.  A hypocrite is an actor.  He pretends that he is one way to win people’s favor, but in his heart he is not really that way.  Jesus was very critical of the Jewish leaders of His time because they were hypocrites.  But God’s wisdom is not hypocritical.

The differences between the selfish wisdom of the world and the wisdom that comes from above should be obvious to you.  I encourage you to desire the wisdom from above to direct you in how you live for Him.  Here is a portion of the prayer the apostle Paul had for the Colossians.  Colossians 1:9-10 “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”