At the Feet of Jesus

Christ in the house of Mary and Martha
By Johannes VermeerfwE2zem7WDcSlA at Google Cultural Institute Public Domain, Link

Jesus “…entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came up to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered…Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).

By this time in His ministry, many had rejected Jesus and no longer welcomed Him, much less entertained Him. Everywhere in the region, people were speaking against Him. Yet, to the true believers in Him, Jesus was still dear, just as they were to Him. At one particular house in Bethany, He’d certainly still be welcome. Martha was expecting Him to visit her and Mary and Lazarus. She knew that receiving Jesus and those in His company would involve much food preparation and serving. Curious crowds from the local village also came and surrounded the house to see Jesus. Imagine the great sense of anticipation when they heard that He was on His way! And how enormous the crowd would be that was about to descend for a meal at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus!

Lazarus welcomed Jesus and the others when they arrived at his house. The sisters were busily preparing to serve them. Both had the same love for Jesus, since each of them had received Him into her heart. Then Martha became troubled, since Mary had left her alone to serve the people. Martha became so busy and anxious trying to serve the Lord and His many followers that she was frantic. Surely she thought, “What is this? My sister sits herself down at the feet of Jesus, while I’m left here alone to cook for and serve all these people!” How this vexed and irritated her.

Her attitude toward Mary made her forget that what she was doing was really for the sake of Jesus, who had come to spend time with them.

She was opening a way for the enemy to come into her heart and inject discord, jealousy, and aggravation into the situation without recognizing it. And this opened a way for him to hinder her walk with Jesus.

Throughout all of this, Mary was complacent—which really troubled her sister. Martha must have fumed, “Why doesn’t Mary respond to me and help serve these guests?” Such thoughts surrounded and troubled her. If she had focused instead on Jesus being there, she would have been less likely to dictate to Him or to complain about Mary. Instead Martha “…came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me” (Luke 10:40).

Jesus responded, “…Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40-42).

He approved of and appreciated the fact that Mary had chosen to sit at His feet and learn from Him. When we try to please Jesus today, our concern more often is about doing things to serve God rather than about being in His presence. We get so busy in activities for Him that we end up in Martha’s frantic condition. Then we worry and feel weighed down in serving the Lord. How easily we forget the one “thing most needful”—simply to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him. We make time to fulfill our desires for ourselves. What about making time for His spiritual presence in our lives? May the Lord keep us from falling into the same trap of over-involvement in service that Martha did, so that we don’t have time to just sit and learn of Him!

Martha had a heart for others. She really did care. Her work for the Lord was acceptable in its proper place. But something was more needful at this occasion which should have been done first.

She expected Jesus to blame Mary for not doing what Martha felt she was supposed to do concerning the meal. Instead, Jesus indirectly blamed Martha for not doing what Mary did, because her sister had chosen the best part of life—learning His Word. In the end, her choice will be justified, along with all who make the same choice and then live by it. Mary chose Christ and sought to honor and please Him, while Martha chose only to provide for His bodily, temporary needs to honor and please Him.

Over two thousand years after this event, Mary is still being praised for her choice, as she also will be in the resurrection. She wept at Jesus’ feet when He came to her house after Lazarus died and He comforted her. She was found at His feet when she later came and anointed Him with oil. He was her Prophet, Priest, and King for whom she humbly and lavishly shared her love.

Mary yielded herself to the absolute guidance of Christ. Jesus declared that she had chosen the best part—the “one thing [that] is needful…” (Luke 10:42). Someday we’ll be separated from all of our loved ones and belongings of this lifetime. But if we have this same love of Christ that Mary had, nothing can separate us from Him. We need to have this same love of His presence in our hearts today while we sit at His feet. Then Christ will not be taken away, because He is the best part.

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Can God Help with Your Cares, Burdens, and Afflictions?

man carrying burden

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).

To cast your burdens upon God means resting upon what He has promised and on what He provides. Cares can heavily weigh your heart down, but the Lord won’t allow you to come to the point of being totally cast down. He will bear the burden of all your sorrows. Therefore, let Him bear the burden of all your cares too. He knows what is best for you and He will provide according to your need. Sin and corruption are also heavy burdens. But He will bear those heavy burdens too, and will bear you up at the same time. Let Him pick you up and carry you in His powerful arms, like a father carries his little one. Your load can safely be placed upon Him. The Spirit of God will lift your spirits and make them stronger, so that you can stand up under whatever trial you may be enduring.

man in looking with distant thoughts

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalm 34).

Affliction refers to a state of distress, pain, or grief. It can also refer to being tried, tormented, or tortured. Afflictions are the cause of continued pain of the mind or body, like sickness, calamity, adversity, losses, or persecution. What a heavy load they can be, especially if they follow the temptations of the devil.

“…He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard” (Psalm 22:24).

No matter what cares, afflictions, or trials oppress you, you can lay them all upon God’s shoulders. What a glorious promise He has given for every tempted and afflicted soul! “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” (2 Corinthians 4:17). You do not know what God is working out in you as you steadily endure affliction.

depressed woman

God will never allow the righteous (those in right standing with God) to be moved, to fall, or to be lost forever. Nor will He allow troubles to upset you to the point that you slack off in finding your comfort in Him, or in doing your duty to Him. He may allow you be shaken for a while, but it will never be to the point of being utterly overwhelmed. If you are righteous, you can be sure that you can continue to trust and depend on Him. And if you continue to trust God and do what is righteous, you will be as safe as if you were already in heaven.

What is the way of relief from all your cares, all your burdens, and all your afflictions? Look to Christ, who has already borne them all on the Cross for you. Lay them all directly upon His shoulders in faith by prayer, then confidently expect a good outcome. How can you do the work of God in this world if you fold up under the burdens that interfere with your efforts? Therefore, hand them all over. Whatever you want God to give you, let Him give it to you in His own time and in His own way. In the meantime, be satisfied. Commit all your ways and works to the Lord; then let Him do what He knows is right.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand (Psalm 37:23-24).

Call upon the Lord in every kind of trial. He will hear you and He will rescue you. He will not be upset with you for coming too often. In fact, the more often you come to Him, the more welcome you will be!

The Ultimate Power Adapter

group of AC adapters

What a horror it must be for a teenager to vacation in a distant location with all kinds of technological gadgetry and a household power supply, but with no AC adapters to power or recharge any of these gadgets! Why are AC power adapters needed anyway? Why can’t we just plug cell phones, music players, etc., right into the wall socket and use or recharge them?

The answer lies in the fact that we are dealing with a power source that is much, much greater than our portable device is capable of handling. It is like trying to fill a cup of water at the bottom of a giant waterfall, or asking some firefighters trying to put out a fire to aim their hose running full blast at us, so we can have a drink of water. We must have something that is a ‘middleman’ between the high power source coming into our home and the relatively fragile electronic gadgets that we use almost every day, in order to make them work without destroying them in the process. The solution is to use an AC adapter (or a converter) that converts the powerful kind of electricity traveling through the wires in our homes into the weaker kind of power that our portable device needs.

If we plugged our cell phone, computer, or music player directly into one of the outlets at home, without using an AC adapter or power converter, devices of this type would be permanently damaged. (Some devices have a converter located inside the unit, so they appear to be getting power directly from the wall outlet when plugged in.) They could even catch on fire or explode. It is possible for the power company to provide the weaker kind of electricity to the wall outlets that is more compatible with our various portable technological devices. But this would then create a problem for other kinds of items, such as refrigerators, electric stoves, toaster ovens, and electric saws. Devices like these need much more power for a longer period of time than our portable electronics would ever require. This is why we need converters or adapters.

black cord and white ac adapter in non-U.S. outlet

This kind of solution also applies to making a way for us to approach the most powerful being in the universe, and have close fellowship with Him. Approaching God simply in our finite, fragile, physical bodies is not possible. That would be something like trying to climb one of the very tall towers to reach the wires coming from a power generating station in order to plug in our cell phone. The electricity those wires are transmitting is so strong (several converters are needed before it can even come into our homes) that just coming near them will kill us. Yet God is more powerful than all power stations combined, for all eternity! He is so powerful that He can simply speak something into existence, or eliminate something, in less than a fraction of a second. How can we possibly come close to Someone so powerful and live? We need Someone to be a mediator, a representative, a liaison, or go-between who is capable of standing before God for us, yet also able to fully represent the frail, mortal human beings that we are. This middleman would have to be without any sin or anything else that God would reject, or God would not let Him into His presence.

God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is that Mediator or ‘Go-between’ that we need. He could be considered our ‘power adapter.’ He was sinless when He walked this Earth as a man, and therefore qualified to fulfill the requirements God laid out for man to be able to come before Him. Through Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross, He bridged the gap of separation between God and us. Jesus became the way for us to approach and have fellowship with the all-powerful God.

cross and sky

If we seek God for forgiveness of our sins, and accept Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross as if it was our own (as our ‘Go-between’ or substitute), then forsake our sinful ways and yield our lives to Him, we ‘plug into’ a new life with God Himself through His Son. Jesus saith…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Trying to reach God and have fellowship with Him in any other way is only attempting to meet God in our own weak and finite strength and wisdom. This means we are trying to take a shortcut, and as a result, actually end up rejecting what His Son did on the cross for us instead. Ultimately it leads to our death, because no sinful man can come before a holy, all-powerful God and live.

God knows we are not capable of coming before Him directly, yet He desires and longs for our mutual fellowship. Therefore, in His love for us—a love greater than we could ever comprehend—He made His Son to be the means by which we can have a relationship with Him like a child has with his parents. Just as a power converter makes it possible for a delicate electronic device to connect with the much more powerful household power supply, we need to connect to Jesus—our “spiritual” ‘power adapter,’ and let Him be the way we connect to God—our Supreme Heavenly power source!

For more information on how to connect to God click here.

No Cutting Corners With God

shortcutting prohibited sign

Next time you pass by a site where the ground is being broken and a foundation is about to be laid for a house or other building, try asking the workers to cut some corners and skip the foundation. Can’t find a building in this early stage? Then try to find one lacking a roof, and ask the builders to skip the roof and just lay the roofing material down without it. Better yet, see if some builders will just put the windows up without bothering with the outside walls. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Will they accept these recommendations? Suppose no plumbing or electric wires were installed, or not even an empty place for them in the future. How about a twenty-story building built with absolutely no windows—just empty holes with plastic stretched across them? None of these means of cutting corners are permitted in an architect’s plan.

Yet there are individuals professing to be true followers of Jesus Christ who do something like this all the time. They feel they can cut some corners in God’s plan for their lives without taking any thought of the consequences. Many think they don’t have to follow every detail or directive of Christ, that only the majority of them really matter. Others find it too painful to obey some of the commands given, so they just skip them for now (or forever). They may also feel that it is just too hard to do everything, but God will accept them regardless. Some have been deceived into believing that not everything Jesus said is to be obeyed, that some areas are just symbolic.

Sadly though, none of this is true. There can be no cutting corners in God’s plan for our lives. Every time we cut a corner in an attempt to get ahead more quickly, or to shorten the trial and tribulation that God is bringing us through, we only push ourselves farther back in our walk with Him instead. If we think we can bypass a portion of our allotted journey, then He will lead us back through it again later, with more difficulty. A structure can’t stand without a solid foundation, and we can’t establish a solid relationship with God unless Jesus Christ and His Word are our foundation.

men climbing over fence
[photo by Government of Moscow shared under a Creative Commons Intl. (CC-BY) license (modified by author)]

Many years ago, an allegorical story was written of a young believer’s journey to Heaven. In one chapter, two men climbed over a wall that went beside the path along the way that the young believer was traveling. When questioned about this, they claimed that they didn’t need to go through all of the troubles and distance that the young believer had to go through. They felt justified in such actions, and merrily hurried on ahead of the young but maturing believer, smug in their accomplishments. No sooner had they gone out of sight when a significant commotion arose from the direction they had just traveled. It wasn’t long before one of them returned in hasty retreat, fleeing home in terror. In passing, he frightfully warned of the horrible danger ahead and that his companion did not make it. But the young believer continued on, wary but not fearful. Why? Because he had not cut corners along the way. He had been continually prepared for such trials to come along the whole pathway that he had been told to take. The others tried to take a shortcut and therefore never received a proper beginning or solid foundation. They were not prepared for the trials ahead and, as a consequence, suffered dreadfully.

When we cut corners or take shortcuts in our walk with Christ, we only set ourselves up for later disappointment or even danger. We make ourselves vulnerable to the enemy by not going through the proper training and instruction first. Imagine the disaster that would unfold if we decided to cut corners and skip the lesson on how to properly use the brakes on our vehicle or bike!

When God gives us instruction, guidance, or correction, it is not optional; He expects our obedience. We can’t pick and choose whatever we feel works best for us and just leave the rest. God has a specific plan for each of us that He knows will work for our good—as long as we follow it. Like a house, God is building us from the ground up. He wants us to yield to His efforts during the time of construction. If He does not cut corners in developing us, why do we think we can cut corners or take shortcuts in our walk with Him? We need to be devoted to His will and obedient to His word, not to what we think is right.

One Special Gift

wrapped gift

Let’s look back two thousand years, when “…it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1). Joseph and Mary, a young couple in the royal line of Israel’s King David, lived within Caesar’s domain in Nazareth, a small town few had ever even heard of. Once the decree was issued, they had to submit to Caesar and enroll in his census for taxation. They were required to return to their ancestral hometown, Bethlehem, to enroll. Mary was probably just 16 or 17 years old at that time.

Transportation conditions would be very harsh, especially since Mary was 9 months pregnant with Israel’s prophesied Deliverer. In spite of her advanced pregnancy, she was still required to make the long and difficult journey to Bethlehem. “…Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child” (Luke 2:4-5).

“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes…” (Luke 2:6-7 emphasis mine). Jewish custom was for a woman to wear a long piece of fabric called a burial cloth when traveling far from home, so she could be wrapped in it for a decent burial in case she did not survive the trip. This would be a long, demanding, difficult journey of 70 to 80 miles with only a mule to help. It would be very hard on Mary.

God, for His own reasons and purposes, had to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. He used Caesar Augustus as His divine instrument when he enrolled the Roman world for taxation purposes. But Caesar was not the one in control of the situation like he thought he was. Seven hundred years before this young couple ever made their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, it had been predicted that “…thou Bethlehem, though thou be little among the thousands in Judea, yet out of thee shall He come forth whose goings forth has been from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). It was declared way back then that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of Israel’s Deliverer.

sleeping baby

Mary gave birth soon after their arrival in Bethlehem. Then she wrapped her newborn son in her burial cloth as His swaddling cloth, being all she had with her. She did not know then that her newborn son being wrapped in a burial cloth at birth foreshadowed His death later on the Cross, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Abraham, that “…God will provide Himself [as] a lamb for a burnt offering…” (Genesis 22:8 emphasis mine). Jesus was born in an animal feeding trough as the Chosen Lamb of God, “which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 emphasis mine). He was “…as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God” (1 Peter 1:19-21 emphasis mine).

That same night, in outlying fields in the vicinity of the manger, temple shepherds were tending their flocks. Suddenly, a heavenly host of angels appeared, announcing the arrival on Earth of God’s divine presence and glory in His newborn, only begotten Son. One of the angels said, “…Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign unto you; you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-13 emphasis mine).

Imagine how those shepherds felt while they were “…keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Mary had just brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped Him in the swaddling cloth, and laid Him in the manger. He was born in a stable used by temple shepherds for newborn temple lambs. The lambs had to be examined for any spot or blemish, to determine if they qualified to be offered for Israel’s atoning temple sacrifices. Here God brought forth Mary’s firstborn son, “the Lamb of God,” gift-wrapped in a swaddling cloth and laid in a manger. Mary provided the wrapping for God’s special gift to us, the fulfillment of His promise to all mankind. God as “Immanuel” was now with us through His only begotten Son, sent from Heaven to visit mankind in order to redeem us from our sin.

God has always longed for fellowship with man, but it was cut off by man because of his sin against God. To have true fellowship with God again, something had to be done about man’s sin. This is the primary reason why God chose Bethlehem as the place for His only begotten Son to be born. This need for a sacrificial lamb had been deeply imbedded in the Jewish mind in their longstanding culture and worship. Here Mary brought forth Israel’s precious Lamb of God and used her burial cloth to wrap Him after she gave birth. This cloth was the token of the chosen sacrificial “…Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 emphasis mine). And how did a lamb remove sin? By his sacrificial death, as our substitute. And how was Jesus to take away the sin of the world? By His sacrificial death, as our substitute.

three magi holding gifts

But where were the Magi, the wise men from the East? They had followed the star of wonder that they saw the first, special night Jesus was born. It led them west toward God’s perfect, eternal, divine Light in Bethlehem. They arrived as latecomers to the occasion of God coming in the flesh there, about 1 to 2 years after Jesus was born. Joseph and Mary had moved from the manger into a house in Bethlehem by then. The Magi therefore did not come to the manger to see Jesus. They went into the house and saw the young boy with His mother, then fell down and worshipped Him. They unwrapped their treasures and presented their gifts unto Him. The first gift was gold, fit for a king, one of the reasons for the Lord Jesus’ human existence. The second gift was frankincense, a fragrant gum resin used in religious rites and embalming, because He came as Israel’s Messiah (Anointed One). And the third gift was myrrh, a bitter aromatic gum resin commonly used for burial (see Matthew 2:11). How interesting that they would present gifts like these to a young child. These three gifts from the Magi were given to honor Jesus, who would one day become Israel’s glorious King, Great High Priest, and Savior.

These three valuable gifts came at just the right time to provide a source of funds for the upcoming long and expensive journey into Egypt when Joseph and Mary had to flee with the boy. They would be total strangers there. No one would meet or help them. And they would end up staying for a considerable length of time. Little did they know then how much they would need these gifts for support during that period. The Magi laid the gifts at the feet of the boy Jesus. And at this very same moment, God (seen as the boy Jesus) was still longing with all His heart for fellowship with man. And He is still hoping to be received into the hearts of all mankind today. That is the gift that He desires most from man.

The world’s largest package shipping company processes almost five billion packages a year, many of which are gifts. They make it possible to give gifts to the whole world. But God gave just one divine birthday gift package to the whole world two thousand years ago in little Bethlehem. He “…so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but He that believeth not is condemned already, because He hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18 emphasis mine). He is the one and only gift anyone really needs in order to be with God forever.

cross in mountains

Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Believe right now that He bore God’s judgment for your sins by His death on the cross, and you will receive the free gift of God into your life. You will be born again by the Spirit of God by putting your faith in Him, and you will become a brand new creation in Jesus Christ. God provided Him for anyone who wants to come to Him. The key is to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, God’s one special gift to all mankind.

For more information on knowing God and His Son Jesus click here.

What God Wants for Christmas

christmas gifts

Near the end of every year, millions around the world take time from their busy schedules to shop for the highest day of gift giving—Christmas day. For the sake of just one single day of celebration, people push themselves until they go beyond their maximum threshold for stress. The results of these frantic efforts to try to make someone else happy or satisfied too often are arguments, disappointment, jealousy, heartaches, and sometimes even severe injuries. How ironic, that all of this is done in celebration of the birth of the One who came to make the way for eternal joy and peace in our lives!

In the midst of all of our efforts to give each other gifts at this time, how often do we simply forget about, or even totally overlook the One who gave us the ultimate gift—Jesus Christ? We have become so engrossed in our giving to each other, that we relegate the remembrance of what God and His Son did for us to just a service or two at a church somewhere, if we do even that. Then, after all the songs and celebrations are over, we scurry back to the stores in the days that follow Christmas to exchange or return gifts we have received, or to buy even more things. We have not even mentioned the multitudes who do almost all their gift-giving on a computer, while never even setting foot inside of a physical store for the whole holiday season!

shopping mall interior at christmas

Now consider the other aspect of Christmas gift-giving: how much do we give God in return for the gift He has given us, and for what He has done for us? God the Father gave the only begotten Son He ever had to suffer and die for us on the cross, so that we could escape the just penalty of death for our sin against God, and the awful thought of spending eternity without Him. What God actually expects from us in return is our praise. “By him [Jesus] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). He eagerly desires to receive our thanksgiving, appreciation, and love.

“I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works” (Psalms 9:1).

Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name” (Psalms 18:49).

“I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalms 34:1).

“In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever” (Psalms 44:8).

“Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee” (Psalms 67:5).

“O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Psalms 25:1).

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25).

person in praise to the sky

There are many places throughout the Bible where praises are made unto God, because He deserves all of our praise. As we deepen and mature in our relationship with Him, our desire to praise and thank Him should increase as well. But when our relationship with Him weakens, then our praise and interests turn away from Him also.

At this Christmas season, and on into the next year, let’s pause from our hectic endeavors to try to please others, and consider instead the One who died to give us a new life and an eternal future in Him. Jesus is the reason for celebrating. Let our giving be to Him first, and then we can give to others to share our joy with them. He is the One who is worthy and who deserves our praise and thanksgiving.

male clasping hands in prayer

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

“O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalms 95:1-3).

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Altogether Forgiven Forever

prayer at cross

“…we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7)

What word in any language could be more pleasing to someone guilty of sin than the word “forgiveness”? Is it truly possible that your sin can be altogether forgiven forever?

Forgiveness is the essential part of redemption (being freed from the consequences of sin). Paul used forgiveness in this verse in Ephesians as if it was everything that redemption is, since it is so prominent and important in redemption. In the Greek, the word translated ‘forgiveness’ here means the remission (release from the guilt or penalty of) of our transgressions (violations of a command or law), not merely passing over sin. It is the explanation of what it means to be redeemed. It includes not only deliverance from the penalty of sin, but also from its power to contaminate and conquer us. It is a proper satisfaction to a God who is just, which makes it possible for us to be reconciled (restored to friendship and harmony) to an offended God. When Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross, that very moment remission of our sins became possible for us. He covered over all our sins—past, present, or future—with His precious blood, when He died in our place.

But redemption is not just forgiveness; it is the cause of forgiveness.

Therefore, forgiveness is the effect of it. It is not only the adequate fruit of redemption, but the primary and principal fruit upon which the other depends. But don’t suppose that this is the total benefit we receive from Christ’s death, or that this is all that redemption consists of. Yet it is the main (and probably the most) important one. Have you believed in what Jesus Christ did for you when He was crucified on the cross to pay for your sins? Then all your sins were forgiven at that very moment you did so, and forevermore—due to the pain and death His suffered there on your behalf, as your substitute. He forgave you everything, and He did it freely, fully, and for all time! O, how His free forgiveness displays the riches of His grace!

But this is not all—there is more! You also obtain the hope of heaven, along with many more benefits, including the influence of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God to guide and support you in every trial. And when your time comes to die, then you will have peace, knowing your sins have been freely forgiven forever, and that nothing stands any longer between you and God.

Fading Footprints

shoreline with footprints

Children like to play the game of following another child by trying to step in each of his footprints behind him. The child who follows will do his best to keep up, but he may let his attention get distracted while the leader keeps walking and gets too far ahead. Before long, the one following will lose sight of the leader and become lost. After making attempts for a while to find the missing track of footprints, he may stumble across a different set, mistakenly thinking that he has rediscovered the missing tracks instead. He will be likely to follow the new prints immediately, without stopping to consider that they may belong to someone else. Only after he has traveled quite some distance will he come to realize that they are not the right ones. By then he will be nowhere near where he began and will have also lost the leader altogether.

Apply this illustration to following in the steps of Christ. When we first give our lives over to Him, everything is so wonderful, and we are willing and eager to follow Him anywhere He wants to lead us. Our intentions start out good, but when following in His footsteps becomes more difficult and challenging later, we tend to lose our zeal. Then we are likely to become distracted and lose sight of where He is heading. Sometimes we rediscover His path and return to following Him again. Other times we become lost by wandering around in places where He did not go, hoping to find Him there. But all too often, we end up following the wrong footprints and are never able to find Him again.

multiple footprints in the sand

Jesus gave us an essential command that would help us keep our focus on Him and keep us following His steps. He told us to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Our “flesh” (physical self) is prone to getting distracted from God and tends to wander and fall for almost any temptation that may come its way. So we can’t depend on our flesh to find the way; we need to keep our focus on Jesus, especially concerning His victory at the cross. If we get distracted, we have stopped watching where He is going, and we often fail to pray. Even if we regularly seek God for forgiveness for the sins we have committed, we are still not necessarily watching and praying. We need to continually look to Jesus and stay prepared for what is coming. Don’t lose sight of His footprints due to the distractions all around us. Immediately after a victorious moment, our adversary, the devil, likes to come to steal our victory away, along with our joy. He’ll try to use a time like this to bring a heavy dose of doubt and unbelief into our lives. We therefore need to continually watch concerning our victorious moments, while being sure to seek God in prayer at the same time.

footprints in sand along surf

Success in keeping up with the footsteps of Christ only comes from maintaining our desire to stay with Him. But, if we lose interest in His Word, or in the desire to communicate with Him in prayer, we make ourselves vulnerable to distractions instead of following Him. As a result, we won’t notice that His footprints are fading, and will either end up detached from Him, or following another set of footprints that are not His—thereby leading us farther away from Him.

How much do we really want to be with Him? So much that we make sure we will follow close enough to Him that His footprints are never out of sight? Are we continuing to watch and pray so that we will not get distracted or be led away to follow the wrong set of prints? Does our focus continue to be on Christ and Him crucified, or has it turned to some distraction we have encountered along the way?

Breadcrumbs or Sawdust?

cut tree with sawdust

“What are you doing?”

“Feeding the ducks.”

“Hey, I thought ducks ate crumbled bread. That looks like sawdust.”

“It is! I figured it’s much cheaper and they don’t really know the difference.”

“But ducks don’t benefit from eating sawdust.”

“I know that, but they’re just a bunch of wild ducks, not pets. Look, some are eating it! I told you they wouldn’t know the difference.”

“Well, they still aren’t getting any nourishment from it.”

“As long as they’re fed and happy, it doesn’t matter what they eat. Besides, this is so much easier to obtain and distribute. It won’t get moldy or stale like real bread, and it lasts practically forever.”

“Except when it burns.”

“OK, but it still works for me. If they’re satisfied, that’s all that counts.”

“But they’re not satisfied. Look at the ones who ate the fresh whole wheat bread I tossed to them earlier. They look full. They’re grooming themselves and have no more interest in eating bread. Your group is still begging for more food. I don’t see any satisfaction yet.”

“That is because yours are just full prematurely. I’m sure they’ll be desperate for more shortly. I’ll just open another bag of sawdust and distribute it here and… Hey! Where are you going?”

“It’s been several hours since I left and you are still feeding those ducks?”

“They’re not just the same ones I fed earlier; a lot of new ones just arrived.”

“Well, it appears that the flock I fed is now on the other side of the lake asleep and contented. These don’t look contented.”

“True, but mine are with me and yours left. What kind of loyalty is that?”

“Um—does that include yours who are now looking kind of sickly?”

“What? Oh, I hadn’t even bothered to notice. They’ll be better later. They probably just ate too much too fast, that’s all.”

“No, I think it’s more of a case of eating too much of the wrong thing.”

“I know—I’ll just mix some breadcrumbs with the sawdust and give it to the rest. Maybe they won’t feel as bad as the others.”

“You know, this whole episode got me thinking while I was away earlier—about how many Christians are being fed like these ducks.”

“Stop right there! Did you just call me a duck?”

“No, I’m saying many are eating like your ducks. Here, give them the rest of my bread and come with me.”

“Wow! They really have to work on your bread, but they gulp mine down like it’s their last meal.”

“Exactly! When we feed on “ground-up wood pulp,” we think we’re getting lots to eat real quickly, yet we never feel satisfied and complete. Sure, we may feel ‘full,’ especially after we drink something and all that pulp swells up inside us. But it will either make us sick or long for more.”

“I’ve noticed the same thing almost every time I eat at a fast-food place. The food usually tastes great and I feel full briefly, but never fully satisfied. I end up eating more later—like ice cream or a milkshake.”

“When we feast on Christ through His Word, the Bible, it’s like that fresh whole wheat that you fed the ducks a few moments ago. They really had to work on it, but it made them full and satisfied.”

duck running towards food

“You’re right! Look at the ones who ate the bread you gave me. They cleaned up all of it and didn’t even touch the sawdust!”

“Jesus said in John 6:51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” When we eat this Living Bread, we become satisfied and won’t grow hungry. Jesus confirmed this in John 6:35 when He said, “…I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” His Bread is not fast-food.”

“That explains why I feel empty inside a few days after my pastor’s message at church. I thought I did something wrong, or didn’t pay enough attention during the service.”

“Now you’re starting to see my point. You’re feeding on sawdust, not breadcrumbs, or bread itself. Sadly, many pastors and church leaders distribute sawdust—possibly because they’re feeding on it themselves as well.”

“But the pastor says things so well and makes many great points. He always makes me feel good after his message. How could he be feeding me sawdust?”

“The fact that you feel good about yourself afterwards is proof enough that you are feeding on sawdust. When we take in God’s Word, we should discover that we are nothing and Christ is everything. We should always see the need to grow and never be content with where we are spiritually. The Apostle Paul never minced words when he spoke or wrote to the churches. He always uplifted Jesus Christ, never himself or others. In First Corinthians 1:23-24 he wrote, “…we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” If what you’re hearing or reading doesn’t point to Jesus Christ, you might as well be feeding on sawdust.”

“That’s pretty strong. I have noticed that my pastor really likes to tell compelling stories, show videos, sing, and so on. In many services, he never reads from or even mentions the Bible. Come to think of it, quite a few people I talked to at church don’t really know much of what the Bible says or means. I’m beginning to sense that I’m receiving sawdust more and more even as I speak.”

“Sadly, so many enjoy sawdust instead of bread, since it’s so easy to eat. They enjoy and feast on the speaker’s words, not God’s Word. Yet they don’t realize that sawdust has no nutrition. The result is that they’re spiritually wasting away. Even though they drink fluids which make them feel full from the swelling wood, they are still dying from spiritual malnutrition.”

“So how can I get free from eating sawdust and increase my intake of bread?”

open bible

“The best way is to start reading the Bible for yourself, not just material about the Bible. Spend more time before God in prayer, and ask Him to reveal His Word to you as you read. The more time you spend with Him and His Word, the more you feed on the True Bread—not sawdust. Ask Him to show you how to get more of His Bread and be able to pass it on to others. If He shows you that the place where you’re meeting feeds you sawdust and not even breadcrumbs from the Bread of Life, then ask Him to lead you to one who proclaims words like these of Paul: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Most importantly, seek God for wisdom and discernment as to what is and what is not sawdust before you partake of any more.”

“That’s just what I’m going to do as soon as I get home. No wonder I feel weak and incomplete spiritually—I’ve been feasting on sawdust all this time! Hey, look at those ducks that ate the real bread you gave me. They’re as contented as the ones you fed earlier! But those other ducks I fed sawdust to look awful! I better get them some real bread, quick!”

“Now you’ve got it. That’s why we need to feast on the True Bread, not sawdust, for our own spiritual well-being.”

Candied Liver and Glazed Brussels Sprouts or Sugarcoating the Truth

cooked calf's liverbrussels sprouts

I told you how much I love bread in a previous entry. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fresh baked white bread, Italian, rye, sourdough, or naan—I’ll eat it! Flavor it, toast it, grill it with butter—I’ll be right there, big plate in hand, ready and waiting! This time I want to mention a couple of foods I don’t love—beef liver and brussels sprouts. Fry the liver, grill it, braise it, or smother it—it will still retain that flavor I’ve never loved. The bitter taste of brussels sprouts strikes a bad chord in me as well. But I don’t absolutely despise either one. Both are very nutritious and I’m certainly not against anyone else eating them. In fact, if you coat or infuse them with a very sweet sauce, I just might enjoy them as much as I do ground beef and green beans. Yes, their nutritional value would be greatly affected, and they’d likely be more detrimental to my health than in their original form. But here’s my theory—if the foods we like the least were covered with enough sweetener, most of us would eat them without hesitating. Coat some chipped wood liberally with a really sweet sauce or maybe rich milk chocolate—how many would readily devour it like candy? Now don’t feel insulted. I just want to point out how inclined we are to desire something just because it’s sugarcoated, whether it’s good or bad for us!

The reality of sin and truth fall into this category of being unpalatable too. Both have been, and still are, a problem to everyone on Earth. We don’t like to be told the truth about sin. We don’t want to be told it’s wrong, or that there will be eternal punishment if we don’t repent of it. But we don’t want to experience the ugly side of sin either.

Sin in its full glory is very enjoyable for the sinner. When we live in sin, life appears good and pleasurable. As long as we stay within our own sin-laden circles and don’t anger or upset others living in their sin, life functions pretty smoothly. The problem is that we slowly become desensitized to the sin that we’re actively involved in and begin to crave more. Our conscience warns us not to partake of any sin, but Satan is prepared for this. He’ll make sin even more appetizing by masking its putridness and the parts we don’t love with something else very appealing. He may redefine or sugarcoat it. Then it no longer seems questionable or repulsive to us. As a result, we embed ourselves even deeper and become thoroughly surrounded with sin. But it does not stop there. We soon tire of this sin too, and begin to desire some even deeper sin than this. Engaging in sin puts us on a slippery slope to destruction. Once we are on it, we can no longer leave it in our own strength and ability.

Meanwhile, sin takes its toll on us. Its byproducts, like disease, uncontrollable rage, or ultimately death, begin to surface. Sin always ultimately breaks down and destroys and is never of any benefit to us. It keeps us in bondage and brings us no real hope. It not only harms us individually, but also affects everything and everyone around us. The whole world is falling apart more each and every day because of sin. Divorces, wars, famines, health epidemics, poverty, greed, destruction of life and property, abuse of innocent children, etc.—all are derived from sin. But Satan will cover up and shift the blame for the problem to something completely the opposite of sin. He’ll sugarcoat the issue, thereby making it more palatable. He baits us with hopes and promises that will either partially or never come true, and keeps us locked in sin.

On the other hand, when we are steeped in sin, we don’t want to hear the truth. We don’t want to be told that sin is wrong and or that punishment will someday follow. We don’t want to know how ugly sin is, and that we have been deceived into believing that it is good. We don’t want to be robbed of the pleasure sin provides—even if it is destroying us.

two sugar donuts

Satan is happy to oblige us, once again. He’ll gladly sugarcoat the truth by disguising the painful or undesired areas that the truth discloses just as much as He sugarcoats sin. He’ll encourage us to pass by a church, or to give our Bible to a thrift shop. He’ll make sure we’re too tired or preoccupied to pray, or to even watch a religious program on TV. Of course, if we feel better by going to a church, then Satan will make sure we go to one with a real ‘sweet’ message. The pastor there won’t want to offend or drive anyone away. He’ll deliver (‘preach’ is too harsh a word) an inspiring message after some modern songs, all of which leave people feeling good about themselves when they leave. But when we are living in sin, the truth hurts. It quickly snaps us out of our sin-induced pleasure, so naturally, it is painful and undesirable. It convicts us and leaves us feeling awful.

How ironic—truth, the very thing that gives us freedom and victory over sin, is what we despise most.

The Bible says “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Why hide what the truth reveals when it is so beneficial to us? And why do those who proclaim the truth make us feel so uncomfortable when it’s presented to us? Can’t we just accept the truth and go about our lives? The answer is that truth is not a concept, ideology, or philosophy. Truth is a person, and His name is Jesus Christ. He declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 emphasis mine). When we hate hearing the truth, we actually hate or reject Christ and what He has done for us on the cross, because He is the Truth. He brings out in us the sin we’d rather not know about or let go of.

Jesus and sin don’t mix. We either live in sin and die eternally lost in perpetual judgment, or we completely yield ourselves to Jesus and live forever with Him with real joy and peace in Heaven. Disguising the truth and what it reveals by sugarcoating it is like a sick person who hates the taste or after-effects of the medicine given to cure him. Many prefer to thoroughly dilute medicine with something more enjoyable, instead of just taking it the way it is. The end result is better tasting—but completely ineffectual. Ultimately they consider the medicine useless and continue to be sick, hoping for a better cure while slowly dying each day.

This is the reason Jesus willingly came to Earth to offer His life as a sacrifice for us by dying on the cross. He knew that we could never be free from the bondage of sin by our own ability. He knew that without divine intervention, sin would destroy everything in time and life would cease to exist. God did not create this universe as one solitary act with everything in it designed to die off and never continue. He wants us to be with Him now and forever. That is the reason He sent His sinless Son to fulfill all of the laws or demands He set forth, since we could not fulfill them on our own because of sin. Now He wants us to come to Him and willingly love and obey Him. When we insist on living our lives without Him, we are living in sin, and are disobedient to Him and His Word, the Bible.

candy coated donuts

The inevitable is only delayed when we constantly refuse to know the truth because we have sugarcoated it or covered it up. The more we live for the pleasures of sin and fall for the ‘sweetness’ we are offered, the deeper we go in sin—until we die for all eternity, separated from the only cure. The Bible says, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). After we die, there is no hope any longer. We don’t get another chance. There will be no more sugarcoating sin or anything else then, because we will have reached the bottom of that slippery slope—the point of no return. Here the real ugliness of sin rears its head and won’t let us go. The pain and repulsiveness of the truth no longer matter either, since it can no longer help us.

There is good news though! Jesus is fully able to pull us up from that slippery slope before we reach the bottom—if we will just cry out to Him and let Him. There is no depth of sin He cannot bring us out of. Throughout history, man has always been the one who left God. But (contrary to what we may have been told) God has never left us. No matter how sinful we may be, God is always ready to forgive our sin and allow us to be His children, if we ask Him to. We need to stop sweetening or covering up what the truth reveals in us and allow it to free us from the bondage of sin instead. We need to seek forgiveness from God for our sinful ways and repent of them. Then we can accept Jesus into our heart. When we feed on what has been heavily sweetened, it will only leave us dissatisfied in the end, longing for even more sweetening. But if we feed on the whole Truth, Jesus Christ and His Word, we will find complete satisfaction.

For more information on how to know God click here.