Born to Die?

Since the time of creation billions have been born into this world, lived out their lives and then died. Yet out of these there was only one who was born to die. Over two thousand years ago Jesus Christ was born as a man to make a way for all of those who accept and believe in Him to have life for eternity.

No king, queen or leader of a nation, no prophet, apostle or leader of a religious organization was ever born to die for every human being who lived, is living or is yet to be born. Not a single person in the history of the world ever sacrificially gave their life like He did.

Jesus came to this world so that we could have everlasting life. He took on Himself all of our sins to the cross where he willingly gave His life. He loved us so much that paid a debt that we could never possibly repay, a debt He did not owe.

Whether it is Christmas day or any day of the year let us remember the One who was born to die so that we, if we accept Him, might live forever.

To find out more about accepting Jesus into your heart and life please click here.

 

[Image credit: Jeff Jacobs/pixabay & Derek Boggs/freeimages]

Your True Strength—the Joy of the Lord

A beam of sunlight shining through grey clouds on a body of water between two low mountain ranges[Image Credit: Davide Cantelli/Unsplash]

“Make no attempt to leave, thirst and mull over your spoiled gruel and keep it all for yourself, regardless of how much worse another’s condition is: for this night is full of sinful revelry to our Lord the devil: make every effort to feel sorry for yourself; for the misery and disappointment of the devil is your weakness and hopelessness.” Doesn’t this fictitious passage from an “anti-Bible” sound depressing? Yet it could describe just another day and night in the life of many people today. Why is it that way? It is from to a lack of real joy in their hearts.

We most commonly equate joy only with happiness. We can have happiness along with joy, but happiness is not all that joy is. Happiness is only a temporal and often conditional state of mind or being. It will come and it will go. We humans have often proven ourselves capable of going from happiness to misery in an instant. But real joy holds fast, regardless of our current condition or situation. The fact is that true and lasting joy comes from Jesus Christ alone.

Here’s that verse from the “anti-Bible” again, this time in its proper biblical form: “…Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Here the Israelites, who had been in captivity in Babylon over one hundred and sixty years, were just now returning to Jerusalem. While they were removed from their homeland for such a long period of time, they had been kept from really knowing the law of God (the first five books of the Old Testament—basically the “Bible” of that period). When, at long last, the people were able to hear God’s word read and explained to them again, they were grieved in their hearts and down in spirit as they became aware of their ignorance and disobedience.

As a result, Nehemiah, the governor of the land, made this proclamation to the Israelites, in order to encourage and remind them that it was a time of renewal and restoration of God’s covenant.

He and the priests did not want the people to focus on their failures, but on the One who could bring them out of their hopelessness and helplessness.

The “joy of the Lord” in this verse means reliance on the unfailing nature of God. But when men build their hope up on this sinful world, they will be disappointed every time. Joy is one common thread woven throughout the whole Word of God. It is not based on what we do, or don’t do, or only on our current circumstances. Joy is something that Jesus places within those who have committed their heart and life to Him. Joy is not found in what Jesus does, but in Jesus Himself and His unfailing nature.

When Jesus came to this Earth as a man, He didn’t just bring a smile to someone’s face and then move on. That would only be happiness. Instead, His life became the perfect example of joy. No matter what trial or situation He went through, He put “the joy of the Lord is your strength” into practice. He did not wonder or agonize over how, or if, He was going to make it through. He put His whole trust in His Heavenly Father instead, who always made His joy complete. He knew without any doubt that failure was not part of His Father’s nature.

Open Bible laying flat on hardwood table with hands folded and resting partially near lower portion of book[Image Credit: Pixabay]

How can we have the joy of the Lord? Simply by keeping His commandments and obeying His Word. “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:9-11).

How do we effectively keep His commandments? By not trying to physically accomplish them in our own incomplete capacity. Obedience to God’s Word is not like a collection of merit badges that we must try to earn in order to be in right standing with God. Due to our inherently sinful self, it is impossible for us to fulfill all of God’s law and requirements in our own strength—although untold millions have tried to, always without success. That is why He sent His Son to Earth—to be our source of strength. Jesus is fully qualified and capable of fulfilling all God deems necessary to be in right standing with Him. Instead of trying to do everything to be obedient to God by our own efforts, we should look to Jesus—which is just what God has wanted from us all along. All the way from creation to today, He has wanted man to trust and be dependent on Him alone.

All too often we focus only on misery, doubt and disappointment, which are inspired by the devil. But they only keep us in bondage.

No matter how hard we attempt to overcome the trying circumstances that we are in or will be going through, we will never be totally victorious without Jesus Christ. We can even be the happiest and most joyful-looking people around, but that is not lasting joy. True joy is Jesus Christ. He alone is our strength. Always turn to the One who cannot fail. He will carry us through, regardless of the difficulty of the trial or situation. Then we will know for ourselves that the joy of the Lord will be our strength.

When Prosperity Comes, Head to the Brook

A postcard of the brook Cherith from 1921
[Image credit: Picryl/Library of Congress

Have you, as a child of God, ever noticed that when a prosperous season comes to you, God will often send you away to a place of separation? It won’t necessarily be to an isolated shack in the middle of a desert or a forest; in fact, you may never even leave your own home. Instead, it will most likely be to a place where you are removed from regular contact, perhaps with close friends or relatives, or maybe those you work with. You would very likely have difficulty fulfilling even your daily needs through them anyway. You may try to seek assistance instead from someone else you know, or perhaps through some public service, only to be politely turned down. You will probably reach a point where your main source of sustenance seems to just disappear.

It is at this point that you will likely question God about your current circumstances, with the thought that something has gone seriously wrong here! Feelings of self-pity begin to spring up from sources previously unknown to you. Your thinking begins to be dominated by the mindset that “practically everyone else is doing well, so why can’t I do well too?” What you fail to realize is that this is just the place where God wants you to be! He doesn’t want you feeling sorry for yourself. In your time of desperation, His goal is for you to no longer be centered on self-reliance, but on developing and increasing your God-reliance.

We find Elijah, a prophet of God in the Old Testament, at a time when he was also separated from others and led into a position where he was forced to be dependent on God.

At that particular period, Israel had drifted away from God, and He brought a drought into the land through Elijah as a result. “…Elijah …said unto Ahab [the king], As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1).

Even though the rains did stop and the dew no longer formed, the land did not immediately cease being prosperous. Yet God told Elijah, “Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there” (1 Kings 17:3, 4). Elijah knew that he had to remove himself from the presence of the king and his officials after publicly making the proclamation of no rain. But he could have discreetly stayed somewhere in the region for a while. After all, the land was still producing abundantly and the people still had plenty. Yet he “did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan” (1 Kings 17:5) before the drought began to take its toll.

Notice that God sent him to a brook, not a river. This particular brook was a seasonal stream anyway, and it would not last.

“…it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land” (1 Kings 17:7). God surely could have led Elijah to the Jordan River, or some other large body of water. And even Elijah’s food was brought in by the birds, since there were no herds that could have continually sustained him grazing nearby. Once again, God had Elijah where He wanted him, just like He has you.

God wants His children, in flourishing times or in lean times, to be dependent on Him. Elijah’s assigned brook was feeble, but God could have kept it continually flowing, and He could have even provided additional birds to deliver more food. Elijah could have tried digging a well, or searching for work with a sheepherder or farmer. It would have been a very difficult journey, but the possibility existed for him to go to another region or country that had plenty to eat and drink. But to do so would only have separated him from the will of God.

It was God who placed Elijah into this situation, but it was not permanent, because God did not intend for him to stay there long. When the brook dried up later, Elijah was forced to move on. But even after it dried up and the birds ceased to provide for Elijah, God still made a way through a widow nearby. Not only was Elijah sustained then by her, but the woman and her son were also blessed to overflowing! If God had sent Elijah to a large river instead, he would have very likely taken God for granted, and would not have left the area.

During a season of prosperity, the child of God can stop being dependent on Him so easily.

But He wants us to look to Him, not on what He gives us, or on what the world provides. Even if your rain and dew do not stop, the brook will still cease to flow. The birds will also no longer supply your needs. This is not accidental—God has intended it to be this way. As your Heavenly Father, it is not His desire for you to be independent of Him and self-reliant. Follow Elijah’s example by looking to Him and depending on His faithfulness, and not by looking to others or the world around you for your sustenance.

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him” Lamentations (3:22-25).

Where Were the Carpenters After They Built the Ark?

Drawing of workers constructing oNoah's ark by A. KircherImage Credit: Wellcome Collection

“God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before Me…Make thee an ark…” (Genesis 6:13-14).

For almost 6,000 years, God has allowed man to follow his own path to progress by permitting him to bring his principles and methods of accomplishing his goals to full development. By the time of Noah, what was the final outcome of the first sixteen centuries of “progress”? All Earth’s inhabitants had broken entirely free from any moral restraint and become wholly corrupted. Lack of belief in God and disobedience to Him had ruined the moral nature God had given them so much that no hope remained.

All flesh had reached the point where it couldn’t get any worse. So God had nothing left to work with. All He could do was to totally destroy them, saving only the few who were righteous and still obedient to Him. Only one man and his family qualified when the climax of evil had been reached. All the rest of mankind had become devastated. Now God alone could provide the remedy for the future of the human race.

Today man is exposed to a similar situation of danger. The Lord has declared that He’s soon going to call the whole world to judgment for its sins against Him—yet we do not prepare for it in any way.

In fact, many laugh and sneer at the very idea. Nevertheless, God’s wrath is going to fall. Why did God tell Noah “make thee an ark”? Because His sentence of death has been “passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12) already.

But along with the sentence of death, God made a promise of deliverance. Whenever God makes His darkest threats, He always reveals a way of escape. He sent the flood, but also provided an ark. Lot had to flee from Sodom before God destroyed it, but He provided the little city of Zoar for him to escape to. And God warns us today of the penalty for sinning against Him, at the same time providing the message of Christ—that He is full of mercy, unwilling for any to perish.

Noah had a firm belief in what God said He was going to do, in spite of the unbelief everywhere around him. He was in awe of God and had made up his mind to take advantage of any means God might provide to escape the coming wrath. Nevertheless, God did not make an ark and hand it to Noah. Man had to construct it himself from materials of this Earth.

A photograph of a life-sized replica of Noah's arkImage Credit: Greg Reese

At the same time that other men were chasing after wealth and freely indulging in pleasure and sin, Noah was using his wealth and substance to build the ark. It was a gigantic ship, the largest to that time, about a third of the size of the largest modern aircraft carrier. His holdings must have been sizable to be able to provide enough funds to construct such a monumental project.

Certainly his three sons would have helped build it, but even so, much more manpower would have been needed to complete such an undertaking.

There were men living then who had prospered in just about everything material. Some would have gladly received a contract to work in Noah’s shipyard, all the while having contempt for his reasons for building the ark. But, in spite of their attitude, every time they hit a nail or sawed a board, God provided another chance for them to repent of their man-centered evil ways and come to Him.

God offered all the people a way of safety, of salvation, to see if they would believe Him and accept the only way out. But they were not willing to consider living in an ark for months, because they were not willing to believe that a life-destroying flood was coming. Who would trust the ark to be their salvation if they truly thought they could manage an easier way? The first and hardest step toward helping people to get saved is convincing the careless and the prospering that their way of salvation will not save them. Yet they are not capable of saving themselves.

Noah believed God when He told him a massive flood of destruction was coming for all mankind. He knew he had only two choices: destruction or deliverance. So he took the necessary steps to conduct himself in a way that he would be allowed to escape the coming disaster. We have to obey God’s instructions to us as much as Noah had to obey God’s instructions to him. He had to have an ark built to be saved. But all we have to do today is to get into the Ark God already prepared for us.

Noah’s eyes could not see a flood forming, but his eyes of faith did see, and he believed in the reality of it, more than the reality of all he could touch and see right around him.

This made it possible for him to ignore the endless taunts thrown at him day by day and year by year. The direction his life was going to take was either pure foolishness, or it was more real than anything else at that time. A hundred and twenty years might have passed from God’s warning to Noah until the Flood actually came. Yet Noah held to what he believed God had told him. He did not let his faith waver the whole time. Then he was taken away, just as the very apex of human evil arrived, before God’s judgment had to be poured out.

And what about our faith today? Are we even aware of the coming destruction that looms just ahead? Do we believe God as He forewarns us to come into the Ark of safety? He has provided a similar means of escape for us like He did for Noah. He has provided His only begotten Son as the Ark for all who will believe. They will be able to board the Ark, but it will not remain open for the multitude that refuses to believe. Those people think their own good works will be sufficient to save them, but their works are about as useful as a raft in a flood! Who would be foolish enough to provide himself with just a raft if he knew a monsoon was coming?

A graphical image of Noah's ark floating in water during heavy rains with dark grey sky all around.Image Credit: Jeff Jacobs

It’s possible that many workmen who signed up to work on the shipbuilding project may not have made fun of Noah. But where were they when Noah went up the ramp into the ark? The neighbors of Noah most likely helped him obey what God had told him to do also. They may have helped make the way of salvation possible, yet they never obeyed God themselves. They also stood watching as Noah and his family went into the ark. What happened to them? Every last one of them drowned in the Flood.

Faithfully building the ark in response to God’s command was one way Noah preached righteousness to those around him. Yet none of them took advantage of his invitation to come aboard and escape the inevitable destruction of themselves and all around them. Even the woodcutters, carpenters, and other builders were ultimately destroyed—because they would not come into the very ark they had built! They failed to consider the future while they worked on the present project. So they ended up outside the ark of safety, and when it was too late, they realized that it had been built for them!

Have you climbed aboard the Ark yourself? You may be one of those who helped build it, yet not be on it when judgment comes! Where were the carpenters after they built the ark?