Certain things are sure, two of which are death and taxes; both of which we try to avoid as much as possible! Eventually though, we must succumb to both. Heb 9:27 reads “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” KJV. The Bible teaches that after the death of the body, the soul must stand before God and give an account. “ For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Cor 5:10 KJV. While the Tax Man may claim what’s left, God lays claim to that which remains.
Interesting then, are the ideas that some folks have about coming to faith in Christ. The one says, “ I am unworthy because I am too great a sinner.” Another thinks, “I have no need of a Savior, because I am no worse than most others; I am not so bad that God would not allow me into Heaven.” Still another believes in the idea that if their good deeds outweigh the bad, surely there is some place for them.
There is no need for this confusion, for Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” KJV. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people and that preparation is made possible only through faith in Christ’s work on the cross of Calvary. It is by what He has done, not by what we may do (See Ephesians 2:8-9).
So, for those who think they are too bad, not so bad, or just good enough, Jesus says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” KJV. This puts us all in the same proverbial boat, a boat that is quickly taking on water! The Good News is that Jesus also said, “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37 KJV. There is no need to “clean up your act” or to “stop sinning” before you can come to Christ by faith. Because He loves you, you may come to Him just as you are…but know also, that He loves you far too much to leave you as He finds you. He will continue His work in you, making you a ‘new creation’ (2Cor 5:17) and He “which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” KJV
Perhaps one of the most used songs in Christian history was written by bedridden Charlotte Elliot. She was led to faith in Christ by a family friend who said to her, “Come to Christ just as you are…” Years later, she asked God to make her useful even though she was an invalid. From the text of John 6:37, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” she was inspired to pen the words to Just As I Am. Come to Him just as you are, and He will not leave you the same!
Ps 91:1 “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” KJV
Often in the Scriptures we are told that the Believer has a refuge, a place of safety to which we may run and find security. As the children of Israel traversed the Wilderness they were covered by a Pillar of Cloud by day and a Pillar of Fire by night (Exo. 13:21-22). This was a visible manifestation of God’s presence which assured them of His divine provision, protection and guidance. Not only so, but this Cloud gave them light by night and shade during the day. When the cloud moved, Israel followed and when it remained in one place, they rested.
The implication is that should one decide to go their own way and leave that protective covering, the consequences of that decision would fall upon those who made such a decision.
How often do we determine to go our own way because we have grown weary in waiting on the Lord to “move”? Rather than resting in His shadow, we grow restless and strike out on our own, leaning to our own understanding (Pro. 3:5).
In Matthew 23:37, Jesus, weeping, lamented over Jerusalem saying,”… how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” KJV That which Jesus would do, i.e., provide protection as a mother hen protects her chicks under her wings, the inhabitants of Jerusalem “would not” in that they rejected Him as their Messiah. It moved Him to tears to know that due to their own choice, they would suffer greatly.
Likewise, we have a choice. We can choose to remain under His care and keeping, or we can venture out from beneath His shadow and go our own way. We are free to choose, to make our own decisions, but we are not free to choose the consequences that result from those decisions, better then, for us to stay under the shadow of the Almighty.
William Cushing wrote the words to the well known hymn, UNDER HIS WINGS, in 1896, while suffering from a creeping paralysis that also prevented him from speaking. Though forced from the ministry, he began to write hymns, many of which were printed by singer/publisher, Ira D. Sankey, who wrote the music to this beloved song. Under His wings is the place to be!
The Bible tells us in Heb 2:8-9 “ Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” KJV
These verses speak of the future hope of the Believer, how that one day, all things will be under the subjection of Christ, but that day is not yet.
When we look around us and we wonder why such mind boggling decisions are being made by some of our government leaders and why there is such opposition to logical solutions to societal problems, we may conclude that we are living in a world gone crazy. I think the answer to this dilemma is found in Romans 1: 28 where God gives those who have rejected Him over to “reprobate minds”. Whereas there was a dim recollection of God, it has been willfully repressed resulting in God’s like minded reaction. As they did not approve of God and His righteousness, God gave them up unto a mind disapproved. They rejected God and God rejected their mental attitude and gave them over, leaving them "to do those things which are not fitting".
This passage describes a mind with no stabilizing point on which inward harmony may be built. Such a mind can produce only that which is improper or those things which are not fitting. The list in verses 29-31 shows that such a mind is at odds with itself and with its fellow men. Anarchy and chaos come from a mind that removes God from its knowledge.
The question that begs to be asked is then, “Is there any hope in this world?” I would answer both “yes” and “no”, in that “Yes, there is hope,” but “no, not in this world”. The Hope of the Believer comes from the Heritage of Our Past based on what Christ has done. Through His sacrifice He has saved us from the wrath that is to come. Our Hope in the Present comes from what He is now doing as our Intercessor and our Hope for the Future comes from what He will yet do.
The (con)text from Hebrews 2 tells of that part of God’ Plan for having Christ to come to this earth as a man ‘for the suffering of death’, was that He may also one day return and have “all things in subjection under His feet”. Though that day is ‘not yet’, we still have hope (confident assurance based on the Word of God), that it will come. Delay does not mean denial of the promise. Our hope for the future comes from what God has promised He will do.
Because of Who He is, what He has done and what He will do, the question in verse 3 becomes especially relevant, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him?”
While it may often seem that we are bereft of common sense and understanding, we are not without hope. Though Christ’s return is “not yet”…we can expect it to be soon…so be ready! Don’t live as those who have not hope! Jesus is coming to earth again!
Lelia (Mrs. C.H.) Morris (1862-1929) was born in Pennsville, Morgan County, Ohio. She and her husband Charles H. Morris were active in the Methodist Episcopal Church and at the camp meetings in Sebring and Mt. Vernon. She wrote hymns as she did her housework. Although she became blind at age 52 she continued to write hymns on a 28-foot long blackboard that her family had built for her. One of her most well known hymns having to do with the Lord’s Coming is WHAT IF IT WERE TODAY? Indeed, what if?
Four times in the Book of Judges we find the telling phrase. “In those days there was no king in Israel…” Three times it is followed by some behavior descriptive of one who reacts to situations according to one’s own prerogative, rather than to the law of the land. The final time the phrase is found seems to indicate a summary of the events recorded in the Book of the Judges of Israel. It reads, “ In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Judg 21:25 KJV
The repetition of this characteristic phrase is probably intended to impress upon us the idea that these disorders arose from the lack of a sufficient authority to suppress them. Without a king to regulate the laws of the land, anarchy prevailed. Though we may be hesitant to adhere to the idea of judicial regulations restricting personal freedoms, we must realize that for people to live together in a civil manner, certain rules must be implemented to govern behavior. Societies regulations begin with social mores(mor-ays). Mores are often dictated by a society's values, ethics, and sometimes religious influences. Mores refer to social norms that are widely observed and are considered to have greater moral significance than others. The mores of a society usually precede written legislation. In a nation, such as ours, we live by certain laws designed to protect certain rights and privileges.
Israel was governed by God’s Law which was given on Mt. Sinai. This Law outlines religious, social and national guidelines as set forth by God to govern His people. It was Israel’s national constitution as it were. Our text indicates a time when the people fell into an attitude of self-governing and shows the consequences thereof.
For a civilization to function, it needs a foundation, a rule of law that provides an anchor for it to act reasonably, justly and fairly. When every man’s opinion becomes his own determination of right and wrong, we fall into a place of subjective morality. This goes against the grain of our independent natures, which is why God established His Word as foundational.
“Don’t judge me!” has become the watchword of our society that wants to live according to what one determines is right or wrong in their own eyes. Without a standard to guide us, people tend towards anarchy. Prov 29:18 tells us “ Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint;
But happy is he who keeps the law.” NKJV The word “revelation” here is often translated as “vision” referring to a revelation from God, meaning that where the Word of God is lacking or ignored, the reaction of the people is to live without proper restraint in behavior, resulting in negative consequences.
In other words, without the Word of God to guide us, to direct our behavior towards one another and towards God Himself, we run wild and live according to what we think is right in our own eyes.
Today we see the Bible under attack by those who would remove its influence in our society by banning it from our schools, removing the 10 Commandments from public view, etc. Did it ever occur to you that if there were not something profoundly important and significant about God’s Word, those who oppose it would not do so as adamantly as they do? There must be something to it for people to want to get rid of it!
Without a moral foundation for behavior, society loses its moorings and direction. Without a compass to guide us, we drift hopelessly into the sea of despair. When everyone does what is right in his own eyes, rejecting the guidelines which define acceptable behavior, selfish political agendas become the norm and anarchy prevails. We are a nation that is fast losing our way morally. The solution is not political, it is spiritual. The spiritual foundations of our nation are eroding and being replaced with subjective morality that appears right only in the eyes of the individual. Read Luke 6:47-49.
THE BIBLE STANDS, written in 1917 by Haldor Lillenas who was born in Norway and immigrated to the United States as a child. This song serves to remind us that we have a foundation that is immoveable.
CASTING OR KEEPING?
Letting go can be hard to do, yet often necessary. How often do you hold on to things, emotions, attitudes, hurts and anxieties, etc. when you would be better suited to just let them go, but you don’t know just how to do so? I mean, what do you DO with such things? Where do they go when you let go? Where do you ‘put’ them?
1 Peter 5:7 tells us what to do with our cares. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” The word translated “casting” means ‘to throw upon’ and is used in Luke 19:35 to describe the way people spread their clothes on the donkey colt at Jesus’ Triumphant Entry.
The word ‘care’ means distractions or anxieties. There are plenty of things that cause us to be distracted and anxious, so what do we do? We cast them upon the capable shoulders of the Savior, because when it seems that no one else cares, He does! The second use of the word ‘care’ in this verse means ‘to be of interest, to matter’. In other words, the things that are causing you distraction are of interest to Him, they matter to Him because you matter to Him.
To be rid of these distractions, the anxieties that threaten to disrupt your life, we must give them over to Christ.
What hinders you from casting your cares upon Him? Perhaps it is pride, verse 6 of the same chapter tells us to humble ourselves before God, then cast our cares on Him. Pride prevents our coming to God for help with our cares. We may have an “I don’t need God”, or “I don’t want to bother God with this” or “God can’t/won’t help me” or even an “I’ll deal with this myself” attitude. Pride will cause us to try and bear burdens that we don’t need to shoulder. Help is available, so cast your cares on Him because He really does care about you!
Are you casting your cares on Him or keeping them to yourself?
The well-known hymn, Does Jesus Care? Was written by Rev. Frank Graeff, a Methodist minister who, during a time of deep personal testing, found comfort from 1 Peter 5:7. Falling to his knees before God, he poured out his heart to the One who cared. The peace of God flooded his soul and he rose from his knees shouting, “I know He cares! I know my Savior cares!” Soon afterward, he penned the words to this great song. J. Lincoln Hall wrote the music. Sing it today!
Security seems to be one of our watchwords these days. We want to feel safe in our homes, in our jobs, in our finances and our futures. Most want secure borders to aid in the protection of our general safety.
We do what we can to provide security. We put locks on our doors, passwords on our bank accounts and computer programs and we build fences around our homes and pastures in order to keep some things in and other things out, as the case or need may be.
The lesson from the parable of the Farmer in Luke 12 reminds us that though one may feel secure in his possessions on earth, the foolish person is one who fails to prepare for eternity. True security does not come from what we possess, for riches have a way of flying away as we are told in Prov 23:5 “…for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” KJV
From a compassionate heart Jesus wept over the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! “ Matt 23:37 KJV. Security and salvation were offered, but rejected. He used the picture of a hen gathering her brood about her for their protection, but such security was rejected.
That picture reminds me of a time from my childhood when a sudden thunderstorm caught a hen with her chicks unprotected in the barnyard. After the storm had passed, we found the hen drenched, but from under her protective wings came several chicks which had been kept safe and dry by her protective wings.
Several times in the Scriptures this picture is given to show the protective care that is in Christ. We are said to be “under His wings”. Our text in Ps 91 tells us that this protection is available, provided and assured. Are you “safely abiding under His wings”?
Born at Hingham, Massachusetts on December 31, 1823, William O. Cushing, grew up to write many hymns. Appearing in Sacred Songs and Solos, published by Ira D. Sankey, “Under His Wings” became well-loved by multitudes.
Though some things get better over time, like a well broken in pair of boots, most of us like new things from time to time. Manufacturers and salesmen attest to this, for they are at all times cranking out new products for sale.
At the beginning of a new year, we think "out with the old, in with the new". There are times when we are ready for a change, especially if the old holds memories better left forgotten. God has a way of making 'all things new', not just concerning the promises for the future as in our text, but in our lives on a daily basis.
I am acquainted with two sisters whose early lives were spent in an orphanage under less than ideal circumstances. It was crowded, understaffed and generally depressing overall. They lived with the hope that someday they would be adopted, but at the same time feared they would be separated. Thankfully, eventually they were both adopted by an American family. When the process was completed, these girls had new names, new clothes, a new home and a new family...all things were made new and the former things were passed away.
The Bible teaches that mankind is born spiritually separated from God in a state of sin, into a world that is fallen and therefore corrupt. In this condition, mankind has no hope for reconciliation with God, except in the love of God which He has shown to all through the salvation provided by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When one places his/her faith in Christ such a one is said to be "born again" and becomes a child of God. We now have a new Father, a new Family, and a new Future.
The relationship does not end there, for not only does the Bible teach of the New Birth, it also teaches of an Adoption. In Rom 8:15-16 we read, " For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:" KJV Here the Apostle Paul refers to the legal practice of adoption under Roman Law whereby an adopted person received all rights and privileges as one born into a family, but with one great advantage...once adopted, the adopted one could never be renounced, rejected or disowned. The child of God is secure in his relationship in the family of God both by the new birth and by adoption.
Those little girls mentioned earlier, are today married women with husbands and children of their own. They enjoy newness of life, not because of any merit of their own, but because great love was shown towards them. Likewise, God has shown His great love towards us, not because of who we are, but because of Whose we may become when we receive by faith His offer to become members of His family.
Charles Austin Miles, resigned his position as a pharmacist and began to write and publish hymns. In 1907, he wrote A NEW NAME WRITTEN DOWN IN GLORY. Take a moment to sing it...and remember, you can have all things made new for you through faith in Jesus Christ.
Most everyone is familiar with the classic A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens. It is a favorite of the Christmas Season. The story features the character Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly and miserable old man who is visited by three spirits that show him his life viewed from Christmases Past, Present and Future. The goal is to teach him important lessons about life and love.
Think with me along these same lines as I muse about the story of the average Christian’s life. If you look back to the beginning of your Christian walk, you probably remember the excitement you had about your new faith and the desire you had to grow and know more about the Bible. You may have had a desire to be at church every time the doors were open and devoured the Bible, hungry for more. Furthermore, there were other Believers with whom you enjoyed being around. They taught you Truth and influenced your life. Maybe you identified with the Apostle Paul who wrote in Romans 1:14, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.” KJV. Maybe you felt indebted to all those who had a part in your early Christian upbringing. Perhaps there was a grandparent, Sunday School teacher or Pastor who touched your life with the Truth of the Gospel, whose memory you cherish. Are there “ghosts” of Christians Past whose memories you cherish because of their influence on your life? Who are those who invested their time and love in you? Take a moment and remember them and if they are still living, why not thank them?
Are there those in your life at Present whose love and encouragement continues to be an influence for God and for good? These may be some that are so consistent that you almost take them for granted. Those who daily uphold you in prayer or in a myriad of other ways are always “there” for you. You know, those who would be sorely missed should they no longer be in your life. The Bible teaches us that we are members of Christ’s body by faith in Christ. That body is exampled in the local church. There are people in your local church that are Christians Present who are quietly making a difference…maybe you are one who is influencing someone else.
The Christians Future are those who are brought to faith because of your testimony of faith. One of the saddest accounts written in the Scriptures is Judges 2:10 “ And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” KJV This speaks of the failure of the former generation to pass along their faith to their children, resulting in a lack of faith in God. This is done so easily due to neglect. Those who had experienced God during the settling of the Land were so busy afterwards with making livings for their families that they failed to teach them to live for God. Someone has well said that Yesterday is a cancelled check, Tomorrow is a promissory note, but Today is ready cash, that’s why it is called the Present. Ghosts of Christians Future, those who never were will haunt those who failed to share their faith. While we do not know what the future holds, one thing for sure is that Today is the opportunity to invest in Tomorrow.
C. Harold Lowden wrote some music in 1915 entitled “The Sunshine Song” for children. When many suggested that the music should be given words, Mr. Lowden asked T.O. Chisholm to write words for it. In 1917, Mr. Chisholm penned the words to what has become the much loved hymn, LIVING FOR JESUS.
Our text implies that these visitors were men from the East (likely Persia ( Babylon) who were engaged in astronomy (the study of the stars and planets in their celestial motions), through which they sought to understand the order of the universe. This led to astrology (divination based upon the supposed influence of stars on human events) ….It was not unusual for man to look outside his own realm for answers to both scientific and spiritual questions. God has declared Himself in His creation, as Psalm 19 so clearly indicates. So, these Wise Men, who sought wisdom from God’s creation and their accumulated knowledge, understood that there was something significant in the star that appeared; significant enough that they set out on a journey to find answers.
Starting from the East, where they lived, they journeyed westward in the direction of the star. Believing that such signs indicated the birth of kings, or some other notable person, as they were led to Judea, they assumed a Jewish king would be born in the capital city, Jerusalem. When they sought further information, they learned from the Scriptures of the prophecy of Messiah’s birth in the town of Bethlehem. Upon receiving this information, they continued following the star and found Jesus, not in a manger, but in a house ( vs 11). (When we compare Scripture with Scripture, we find that it had been about two years since they began their journey. The shepherds found the babe in a manger, the wise men found a young child in a house). When they found Him, they worshipped Him.
Wisdom is seen in their seeking until they found Him, and once they found Him, they worshipped Him. Such should be the desired end of every one’s personal seeking. Though it may begin with a curiosity, such curiosity often leads to truth and then to understanding. When the truth breaks upon our hearts as to Who He is, worship is the most natural response. “I have found him whom my soul desireth…” exclaimed the Shulamite woman in the Song of Solomon 3:4.
In 1857, John Henry Hopkins had no special insight when he wrote WE THREE KINGS. He merely wanted to write a carol about the visit of the wise men. He just assumed that since there were three gifts mentioned in the Scripture, three wise men were indicated. Not knowing how many wise men were in attendance that day does not negate the facts of their visit, nor does it mitigate their worship. Don’t let what you do not know keep you from acting upon what you do know!
Wise men and women still seek Him…and those who truly seek Him, find Him ( Jer 29:13-14).
The announcement of the Advent of Christ came suddenly to the shepherds that night. While it came suddenly, it should not to be understood as unexpectedly, for the prophets had long foretold this event; that these shepherds were mindful of those prophecies at the moment, we cannot be sure, but they paid attention to this announcement!
The angel announced the birth of the Savior. Good news for all people indeed, for all were in need of a Savior. Why? Because mankind was in bondage to sin and its consequences. Mankind needed to be reconciled to a holy God, and though the sacrificial system atoned temporarily for sins, they did not remove the guilt (Hebrew 10:1-5). Now, there was born a Savior, the Christ of God!
As a sign of this great event, the angel said that they would find the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The response of the shepherds was immediate, “…let us go now…and see…”(vs 15). How different would be the reaction of Herod’s priests in Matthew 2, who when asked where the Christ should be born, cared not to trouble themselves to travel the few miles to see for themselves!
Upon their arrival, the message was confirmed by the sight of the babe found just as the angel had said. This was news too good to keep to themselves, so the shepherds made it known abroad. What had been told them, was confirmed as said to them and what they had seen and heard, they told to others…and celebrated the news as it is stated in verse 20…”the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” No fake news here!
There is a reason to celebrate the birth of the Savior – it signified God’s intervention into a sinful world in order to make a difference. This is Good News and deserves to be shared everywhere!
The author of “Go Tell It On the Mountain” is unknown, but it has its origins as an African-American melody, first published in 1907. May we be as excited about this news so as to be bold enough to “go and tell”.