The Father Knows

Do you ever have doubts about your prayers to the point you don’t know what to say?

Jesus made an amazing point for us when He taught about how we are to pray, and this is what He said, “‘…For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him’” (Matthew 6:8). He also taught: “‘Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things’” (Matthew 6:31-32).

God knows what we need, but we still must ask—that is, pray about it:

“‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened… If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!’” (Matthew 7:7-8, 11).

Although the Father knows what we need before we ask, we also must believe that He will answer us when we pray. We must learn to rely upon the Father and that requires faith, as Hebrews 11, verse 6, reveals: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Do you want to have great faith? Believe God! Jesus stated, “‘Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them’” (Mark 11:24).

The most vital key for us when we pray is that we always seek God’s Will:

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15).

Don’t be wishy-washy when you pray! Come before God with confidence, and present your requests in the way that Jesus did. When Jesus struggled with the fact that He was about to die to pay the price for mankind’s sins, He went so far as to ask the Father to release Him from what He knew He was about to suffer: “And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will’” (Mark 14:36).

We can grow in faith by learning what the Will of the Father is: we can find that in His Word; we can learn the Will of the Father through the Church of God and the Ministry; and, we can come to deeply understand the Will of the Father by receiving His Holy Spirit.

No matter what we face in this life, we can pray about it—completely trusting that the Father knows exactly what we need!

The Power That We Choose

After Mr. Norbert Link’s last sermon on “God the Father Is the Highest, Part 2”, I have been thinking about the power that is God’s and how that power is a part of us who are true Christians.

We are alive at this moment because this is what He has foreordained. Everything in the world has led up to the moments that we are living. We would not be here if God hadn’t made sure that we would be (compare Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 49:15; Psalm 71:6; Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15). God would not have spent so much time and effort in making sure of this fact just to have us fail our calling.

How we choose to live each day becomes a byproduct of our lives. We live each day, day by day, moment by moment. Who we set out to become is dictated by the things that we do or do not do (1 Peter 1:13-25).

If we choose to do so, we live with the Spirit of God! It emanates from the Father and Jesus Christ and is given to us to dwell within us and help us. And yet, what do we do with it? Does it stagnate within us? Does it live dynamically through us? How is it put to use in our lives?

We are the responsible party to make sure that we are making spiritual progress. Yes God is full of power and willing to share – but it is useless unless we are the willing participants, actively seeking Him. Growth happens when we are engaging the Spirit of God.

Hebrews 6:1 explains that as we continue on our path, and we are able to use more of God’s Spirit within our lives, in all the little details, it will hopefully lead to us sinning less and less: “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection (maturity), not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” This is something that takes spiritual maturity – growth.  Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 14:20: “Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.”

The Father is the highest. He is perfect in all His ways, His thoughts, His actions – in everything! He does not and cannot sin because He has willed not to. It is from this mindset and this power that we draw upon His power and strength.

Hebrews 4:16 powerfully tells us to approach God’s throne with conviction, and makes clear that we can never ask God for TOO MUCH. It doesn’t tell us there is a limit with what we can approach God. It is not like we get a 10-ticket punch card per day, and then, that is it. NO, it says: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” When we are in need, when we are in doubt, when we are facing a problem or series of problems, our ONLY way forward is to approach God and to pray—to pray without doubt (James 1:6-8), without reservation, and with sincere conviction (Luke 22:44), and to pray without ceasing.

To be close to God is on the one hand very easy to do. It takes consistent prayer, Bible study, meditation and forethought. It also takes planning and preparation. It takes a willingness and a want to stay in contact with Him.

On the other hand, we are facing the physical person – the person who should have died at baptism; we face the pressures of this world; and we face Satan and his demons. This is not an easy war! There are many, many battles to be fought and won. There are fights that we cannot and will not win, unless we are intimately involved in our relationship with God.

We must give over ourselves to God’s Spirit; that great power with which Christ holds the universe together and sustains all things. The same power that Christ used when He was here on this earth, and by which He did many miracles. This power is emanating and being spilled out from us towards others. We were called for a reason. We have God’s Spirit for a reason. Galatians 5:16-26 tells us we have a choice to walk according to the flesh – and all that it desires – or we learn to walk in the Spirit. To the degree that we learn how to walk in the Spirit, so will our power, influence and obedience grow. We will become more and more powerful as we become more and more obedient to God

Paul tells us that while it is our potential to become God beings, this process is actually in progress right now. We are to be using the power from God to become more and more spiritual. Not that we are Spirit yet, for that is our potential at Christ’s return; but rather, that we have the power now, dwelling within us. Romans 8:9-11 states:  “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who [better, “which”] dwells in you.”

This entire chapter of Romans 8 really speaks to the power of God’s Spirit which we must allow to dwell in us. As we have heard in Mr. Link’s above-mentioned sermon, when we have the Spirit dwelling in us, we essentially have the Father and Christ dwelling in us. Christ tells us one of the most powerful things in John 14:23: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.’” God the Father and Christ are living in us. That Truth is incredible to think about. If we really meditate on this, we will do everything in our power to overcome the part of us that fails.

This is all incredible information! What we choose to do with it is up to each of us. We cannot neglect this great power to which we have access. Now is our opportunity!

Just Because…

The FIFA Football World Cup is nearing its final stages in Qatar. This four-yearly event features the world’s best 32 football teams who fight it out over about a 4 week period to become World Champions.

Since the voting took place in 2010 to have the venue in Qatar, there has been much controversy over the venue for many reasons (including the allegation of FIFA’s corruption and bribery) and since the start of the competition on November 20th, more controversy has arisen because of the refusal of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) to allow teams to wear the ‘OneLove’ rainbow armband in a show of solidarity for the LGBT+ community and as protest against many human rights violations in that country.

England, Germany and seven other teams had planned to wear the armband as an equality gesture but players faced being booked and even banned under strict FIFA dress rules, as uniquely applied by FIFA to the World Cup in Qatar. In addition, because homosexuality is still illegal in Qatar and many violations of human rights, torture and killing have been taking place in that country, the armband would have highlighted this – not good publicity for the host nation.  On Friday 25th November and subsequently, many fans of the Welsh team were, however, allowed to wear rainbow coloured hats.

On the other hand, the World Cup in other countries and many other sporting events in many ways have turned out to be a circus of protestation.  The equality movement started out, some time ago, by being about racial discrimination, then morphed into general discrimination and then LGBT+ was added on.   Just like the frog in boiling water, they get to their desired destination bit by bit and which was allowed by society with little dissent and then, when they had achieved their goals through freedom of speech, they now want to close that right, and freedom of speech on this matter becomes unacceptable.   All because they think that what they promote is absolutely correct. Very clever but transparent for anyone with eyes to see.  It has been a thoroughly successful brainwashing exercise.

It seems therefore, on the face of it, that this support of homosexual and other deviant sexual behaviour is approved by all, but is that true?   The only voices you seem to hear are the loud and strident ones who are in favour of behaviour of which the great Creator God disapproves.   But what of others?   From what I see and hear, there are many who very much disagree with this obsession but if they argue to the contrary, they are immediately vilified by all and sundry and, in many cases “cancelled”.   And they will automatically be called homophobic.

Can you imagine what the odds are of ALL the professional footballers (soccer players) in the English leagues ALL approving of this lifestyle but none of them daring to come out and disagree with this current fashionable lifestyle?   It surely cannot be so as so many of them, particularly from abroad, cross themselves and other revealing characteristics when they enter the field of play, which reveals that they are Roman Catholics and Catholicism doesn’t approve of homosexuality (At least, that is the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church, while many members may have a different point of view. Therefore, if they go along with the current thinking, they are denying what their church teaches which makes it hypocrisy (But what else is new?).

Can you imagine what the odds are of all the television and radio commentators and presenters ALL disapproving of this lifestyle but none of them daring to come out and disagree with this current fashionable lifestyle?   If they did they would, almost inevitably, lose their jobs.

Can you imagine what the odds are of ALL the nation of the UK, ALL approving of this lifestyle?  Of course, that is not so, but the expectation is that everyone must approve it because they believe their cause is 100% correct.

We can see from the following example of what happens if you say that homosexuality is condemned by the Bible as happened in 2019 when it was reported at that time that “An Australian rugby player is losing his $4 million contract for social media comments about homosexuality. A three-person panel determined Friday that Rugby Australia will sack fullback Israel Folau for social media posts listing homosexuals among those condemned to Hell.  Folau considers himself a devout Christian. One of his recent Instagram posts warns that ‘drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters’ will go to Hell unless they ‘REPENT’” (He was slightly misquoting 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Interestingly, Wikipedia reports that “In May 2019, a Code of Conduct hearing was undertaken, during which the CEO of Rugby Australia, Raelene Castle, suggested she would have terminated Folau’s contract if he had ‘photocopied Bible passages’ and posted them to his social media.”  And so, it would appear that putting Scriptures on social media is not acceptable.   How far have some separated themselves from God!

Israel Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia and signed for the Catalans Dragons team in the UK in 2020.  He caused controversy again, in the first game of the season against, St Helens, being the only player of both teams refusing to take the knee, which is being used in that context to symbolize solidarity against police brutality and racism.  That proves the point as to what would happen if soccer players did the same.

It works this way – you either go along with it or you are in trouble.

Just because professional sportsmen think it is acceptable doesn’t of itself make it right.

Just because all of the presenters in the media think it is acceptable doesn’t of itself make it right.

Just because the “noise” in society seems to be in favour of this and think it is acceptable doesn’t of itself make it right.

The problem is that they don’t understand and don’t want to understand what God determines.

But God tells His ministers to “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1), and we must do that, but with wisdom.

However, God does tell the people of God how to behave with such matters.   We are all made in the image of God and are important to Him.

We are to love our fellow man as the second great commandment, summarizing the last six of the Ten Commandments, enjoins us to love our neighbour as ourself (compare Matthew 22:39), but we are to hate sin committed by others (and ourselves).   God hates sin as we read in Psalm 5:4: “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You” and we are to become like God.  That is to love the sinner but hate the sin! Unfortunately, society, in general, doesn’t understand that, or want to understand it, preferring to go along with the status quo being the easy option.

We will not be able, at this time of man’s rule, to change deeply held, but incorrect convictions of others, but in the Kingdom of God, man will be taught the ways of God and perverted lifestyles will simply not be part of that education or allowed as an alternative lifestyle.

He Raises Up Kings

In recent weeks and months, several prominent changes in global leadership have taken place. In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu returned to his position of power as Prime Minister of Israel, despite his indictment in a national scandal. After an exceptionally short 50-day stint as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Liz Truss resigned, giving way for Rishi Sunak to take her place. In the United States, mid-term elections shifted the balance of partisan power in Congress and several gubernatorial seats among the states. The recent changes in political power appear as a game of chess, in which different pieces take their positions according to the strategy of the players.

Understanding biblical prophecy, we know that God is working out His Will to carry out His plan. He is the one moving the chess pieces on the chessboard of geopolitical power. Even though this is Satan’s world who gives his power to whomever he wants, he can do nothing against God’s Will, and sometimes, God intervenes directly to carry out His plan. Daniel acknowledged God’s preeminence as he reflected upon the rulership of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding” (Daniel 2:21). It might seem surprising for Daniel to acknowledge God’s divine role in placing Nebuchadnezzar in power, considering that he had taken the nation of Judah captive. Yet, God had a purpose in using Nebuchadnezzar to execute His Will. Why should we think that anything would be different today?

God is the One who may bring leaders to power for a purpose that He designs according to His Will. In Daniel’s time, God used Nebuchadnezzar to bring Judah into captivity as a punishment because of their disobedience. To the human mind, it might seem cruel to raise up a devious king for the purpose of punishment, but God executes His plan perfectly to bring about the results that He designs.

As He used Nebuchadnezzar to punish Judah in the time of Daniel, God will likewise use Assyria again in the future for the purpose of punishment. “‘Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.’” (Isaiah 10:5-6). The modern nation of Assyria, which we understand to be the nations of Germany and Austria today, will rise to power according to the Will of God as a rod of punishment against the descendants of the Israelite nations because they have strayed from Him and embraced sin. Sadly, even the extreme circumstances that the Bible prophesies will not be sufficient to wake many people up from the state of sinful stupor they are in.

Knowing that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (compare Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8), we can be confident that He continues to bring about changes in leadership according to His Will today. The recent changes in leadership around the world have taken place according to His Will. This does not mean that God necessarily caused those changes directly, but He allowed them to occur for His reasons. And His purpose is completely different from those who participate in elections to bring about their own human will. “‘They set up kings, but not by Me; They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them. From their silver and gold They made idols for themselves—That they might be cut off’” (Hosea 8:4).

It displeases God to see mankind forsake Him and make feeble attempts to improve the world through leaders they elect. The effect is the election of individuals who may even carry out the Will of God—but in ways that they do not expect. According to biblical prophecy, the elected leaders in the world today will only bring further decay, resulting in terrible circumstances throughout the world.

Some will try to make the argument that it is the duty of Christians to vote in governmental elections so that virtuous leaders can take positions of power. Yet, it is clear that even the most so-called virtuous politicians fall far short of living and promoting a godly life. Many times, those who come to power are not virtuous at all, but God may use them to carry out His desire and plan under certain circumstances. It will take the return of Jesus Christ to establish God’s government to make any meaningful correction. For this reason, we do NOT vote in governmental elections, nor do we participate in worldly politics. To do so is futile because Satan is the god of this world, and governments function according to the policies of man, not God.

Even though the current circumstances in the world seem hopeless, we look forward to the leadership of Jesus Christ! His government will bring about a complete transformation over the face of the Earth, putting an end to war and establishing peace forever (compare Isaiah 9:6-7). At that time God will continue to raise up kings. Those leaders will be the ones who have overcome the world of sin by tenaciously clinging to the ways of godly righteousness. In Revelation 1:5, John honors Jesus Christ saying, “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” If we are able to endure in our love for this Way of Life, those kings whom God will raise up will include you and me.

The Parable of the Talents

We all have talents.  How we use the talents we have is the next step.  For God’s people, there are specific talents God has given us so we can use them in a way that will bring us to the most important goal that has been set aside for us. We individually are responsible for ourselves, for we individually will give account for everything that we have done and based on how we have lived our lives, we will then receive our reward. Jesus Christ speaks about the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30, starting off by saying in verse 14, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.”

In the next verse, talents were given to each according to their own abilities.  Everyone is different and goes through different trials, some more than others. The example of Job comes to mind who lost everything and yet his self-righteousness was tested, just like that which happened to Lucifer, before he became Satan the Devil.  The only difference here was that Job finally recognized his problem and asked for forgiveness, unlike Satan.  Self-righteousness and pride got the better of Lucifer.

Another example of someone who most likely went through so much more than we have endured was the Apostle Paul, and he proved himself worthy through the talents that he had been given, putting them to beneficial use as we can correlate this with the profitable servants in the following two verses in Matthew 25:16-17.   However, in verse 18, the one who received a talent and hid it in the ground did not put it to good use.

After a while, in verse 19, “the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them” based on what they did individually, which refers to the Day of Judgement where all will give account for what they have said and done (compare Matthew 12:36).

In the following verses (20-23), those who received certain talents and used them wisely had overcome according to their abilities.   The lord states, however, “you have been faithful over a few things,” but not everything, for they were not perfect, but they didn’t give up and they stuck with the Truth and put their talents to use, based on their abilities.  God will not test us beyond our control.  And yet the lord still made them ruler “over many things.”

This was not the same fate of the one who tried to justify his reasoning by hiding his talent in the ground (verses 24-25).  The lord described this person as wicked in verse 26 because this servant didn’t stand up and therefore gave in, compromised, and was not bold enough to stand for the Truth which would eventually lead him to unrighteousness and sin. This servant knew all these things; he knew God’s Way of Life with its trials, and he knew that God would punish disobedience, as he himself described in verse 24, KNOWING what was right and wrong.

In verse 27, God was specific in His instructions, in His Law, how we are to obey, what we are to do, because it has been given to those who have been called to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but to all those who haven’t been called, it has not been given (compare Matthew 13:11).  This servant KNEW this, or else why would he have been afraid?

His talent will be taken from him as explained in verse 28 and given to another servant.  Continuing in verse 29, “for to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”  Remember our crown of life, for we are to hold fast to what we have so it won’t be taken away and given to someone else (compare Revelation 3:11).  People come and go, as we have all witnessed throughout the years. When someone leaves God’s Church, that someone will be replaced by someone else whom God calls.

Everything that we see around us is physical and only temporary anyway.  The chance for Eternal Life will also be taken away if we are negligent in using our God-given talents in an irresponsible way.  The Parable of the Talents is a valuable lesson for us all and we can be forever thankful for the gift of knowledge that God has given us, but we still need to do our part so we can be counted worthy to enter His Kingdom and not end up like the unprofitable servant.

What Is Precious to God?

People often have things that they consider to be precious to them. It may be memories of a particular event. It could be an object, for example, a photograph, that reminds them of a particularly enjoyable occasion. It could be a particular friendship that has been longstanding and close. Whatever it is, it is important to them and they consider it precious.

In the natural world, there are minerals that are considered precious—metals like gold, silver and the platinum group of metals. There are also precious gemstones.

A good definition of precious is found in the Cambridge dictionary. It defines precious as: “Of great value because of being rare, expensive, or important.” This definition certainly applies to the above-mentioned listings. A person may find things, events or friendships precious because they are rare or important and the things may possibly be expensive.

Considering metals and gemstones, they are precious because of their importance in industry or commerce on account of their physical features. Some of them are very durable. Gold and silver and some gemstones have been considered precious for thousands of years. They can also be expensive because of their rarity.

It’s obvious that we consider things that are precious to us to be important for various reasons. When we read through the Bible, there are a number of things that are stated as being precious to man—things like precious stones or jewels, precious ointment, precious gold and silver—but there are a number of things that are precious or important to God. They are of much greater importance than physical things that are only temporary. These have a common goal that God considers a highly important part of His plan.

What does God reveal that is really precious to Him? It is not physical objects but more spiritual considerations. Looking at the Hebrew words in this regard, the meaning of precious is basically heavy in value (valuable) or rare. The Greek words for precious have the meaning of costly, valuable, honored, esteemed, beloved.

The first occurrence of precious other than a physical object is in 1 Samuel 3:1 where we find that at that time God’s Word was rare (or precious, as in the Authorised Version and some other versions): “Now the boy Samuel ministered to the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare (precious, Authorised Version) in those days; there was no widespread revelation.”  We certainly know that God’s Word is valuable and, in those days, it was also very rare.

In Psalm 49:8-9, we find just how precious redemption is. The previous verses reveal that no amount of money can redeem souls: “For the redemption of their souls is costly (precious, Authorised Version), And it shall cease forever—That he should continue to live eternally, And not see the Pit.” Here, redemption is so important that it leads to eternal life. No amount of money could buy it, as will be seen later.

Further on in the Psalms, we find that God considers the blood, or death, of His saints to be precious. This is revealed in Psalm 72:14: “He will redeem their life from oppression and violence; And precious shall be their blood in His sight.” And in Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints.” This is because when a saint dies, God will resurrect him or her to eternal life as a part of His Family forever. Their future is assured.

Psalm 139:17 informs us of something that should be precious to us, not just to David. It shows that we should think as God thinks: “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!” Regarding God’s thoughts, we read in other passages that God desires all men to be saved, and He thinks good toward His people and not evil.

Proverbs 20:15 reveals that “the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel,” more than “gold and a multitude of rubies.” True knowledge gives us understanding of our future and what we will be.

In Isaiah 28:16 is a prophecy of the coming Messiah, revealing that He is precious: “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.”

In Isaiah 43:3-4, God reveals that He considers His people of Israel to be precious: “For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you; Therefore  I will give men for you, And people for your life.”

In the New Testament, further things are mentioned as being precious to God. In 1 Peter 1:7, the genuineness of our faith is much more precious than gold that perishes. In 1 Peter 1:19, the blood of Jesus Christ is also considered precious.

In 1 Peter 2:4-7, Isaiah 28:16 is expanded upon. The Messiah is again called the chief cornerstone and precious upon whom we are built up as a holy priesthood.

2 Peter 1:1 shows that God’s people have obtained the precious faith by the righteousness of Jesus Christ—not by anything we have earned by our own efforts. And the last mention of what God considers precious is in 2 Peter 1:4, telling us that we have received “exceedingly great and precious promises” that we can partake of the divine nature; basically, that we become God and have His nature.

So, what can we conclude from these passages? Even though God made precious physical things for man, which things are temporary, He considers those things much more precious which are leading to our eternal life. His Word, our redemption, the resurrection after our death, what God thinks about us and His intentions for us, the Messiah of course, genuine faith, the costly blood of Jesus Christ which alone makes our redemption possible, and the precious faith which can only come through the righteousness of Jesus Christ—all these result in the promise of us being born as a part of the Family of God.

All these precious things have the aim of increasing the number of Spirit beings in His Family which is His overall purpose. This is why Peter used his strongest expression “exceedingly great and precious promises.” Nothing in this physical world can compare with that.

Winter Doldrums

Sometime in the fall, bears start increasing their food intake and really add on the bulk as they get ready to hibernate through the winter. In the spring, they come out of hibernation a little lighter than when they went in and begin to put on weight again. Adding on those extra pounds sustains them physically through the cold winter.

We have just recently come back to our homes from the Feast of Tabernacles where we have been spiritually fed for eight days when some of us only see each other once a year at that time. This spiritual food, added to the weekly spiritual food, should sustain us till the next Holy Day in the spring, since it is the longest period of lapsed time till the next Holy Day. That is from the Last Great Day till Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

We may have a tendency of getting into winter doldrums; especially in the northern hemisphere where the days get shorter, the temperature drops below zero, and that at times for months. We get snow falls which curtail our outside physical activities, and we may have a tendency to let down a bit in our spiritual responsibilities.

Mr. Norbert Link indicated in a recent sermon that we are unique. We really are, namely because of our resistance against compromise and boldly getting the gospel and warning message out to this dying world. We are not trying to add to the membership by watering down the Word of God.

Individually, we cannot let down in our relationship with God, nor get discouraged if our Church organizations in countries such as the USA, Canada, the UK or Australia do not grow in leaps and bounds. Christ is the Head of the Church, and He will add to the Church when He sees fit. We, on the other hand, must continue to support the Work even if our responsibility is reduced to financial support and prayer for the Work.

The glue that keeps us together is God’s Spirit in us which we have to maintain by using the tools God has given us; namely, prayer, Bible study, meditation and occasional fasting.

The time is short which is really a relative term in that it could be very short for us, individually, if God determines we have accomplished what He wants from us and we die, as some faithful servants have in the past.

The one sure thing is our eternal reward if we remain true to the end, so let us not allow the winter doldrums to get us down, but let us look to the future, regardless of when God decides to end this world’s madness. Christ has no pleasure in us when we put our hand to the plow and look back, desiring to hold on or regain to what we are to give up. Our hopes, desires and rewards are not in the past which we left behind, but our potential is to enter into God’s glory as His sons and daughters. So, let us focus on that.

Number Your Days

In Psalm 90, we find “a prayer of Moses the man of God.” He discusses the very foundational truth that man’s physical life is only temporary… and VERY short. Verse 10 states: “The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” We understand, of course, that these numbers are only average estimates in this day and age; many people might die before they turn seventy, and others may even get as old as one hundred years, and counting. But Moses makes the point that death IS inevitable, and he continues in verse 12: “So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

David echoed this sentiment in Psalm 39:4: “LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am.”

This admonition is not only meant for older people. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,” continuing in verses 13 and 14: ”… Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether it is good or whether it is evil.”

This physical life is not an end in itself… it is a training ground to qualify for a better life to come. But while “in the flesh,” we must have the right focus, as so aptly expressed by James:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit,’ whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanished away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).

We must acknowledge God in all our ways, striving to become more and more like Him—becoming perfect as He is perfect (cp. Matthew 5:48). Jesus enjoyed this physical life in a right and godly way, but He never lost sight of His real purpose—why He came and what He had to do. While God wants us to “prosper in all things” (3 John) and that we have “life” “more abundantly” (John 10:10), having “all sufficiency in all things” (2 Corinthians 9:8), His ultimate goal for us is much more permanent and eternal.

He wants us to become born-again immortal members in His very Family, and in working for that goal, we must be willing to give up everything, counting it as rubbish (Philippians 3:8), in order to attain the resurrection from the dead to eternal life (verses 10-11). In that, we follow and are looking unto Christ who was rich, but, in comparison, became poor for our sakes (2 Corinthians 8:9). He was willing “for the joy that was set before Him” to endure the cross and to despise the shame (cp. Hebrews 12:2).

His focus was always on God the Father, only saying and doing the things which were pleasing in God’s sight. He knew how short His physical life would be, and He could not afford to become side-tracked. We, too, must avoid becoming entangled with the affairs of this life which could easily cloud our minds as to what is really important for us. Rather, we need to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), and when we do, we will number our days to gain a heart of wisdom, knowing they will end soon, but only in this physical realm.

Nevertheless

The end of this age is upon us, and we are experiencing ever-increasing troubles just as the Word of God has warned. Beyond the cataclysmic things happening around us in the world, we all seem to be going through many extraordinary personal challenges.

At times, we might even wonder where God is and if He is watching over us. Will He respond when we pray about the bad things we suffer? Does He really and personally hear the myriads of other requests His people bring before Him?

We are told by the Apostle Peter, Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12). The Apostle James adds: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience [endurance or perseverance]” (James 1:2-3).

Peter adds:

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

It isn’t too difficult to find many other Scriptures which explain exactly why God allows us to go through trials. The point is this, God may not remove the ordeal immediately, but, if we keep trusting Him, He will bring us through the trial.

Consider what Jesus asked the Father when He prayed, “‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will’” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus knew that He was facing death, and He asked the Father three different times to be delivered from what He was about to suffer. God didn’t answer those three requests from Jesus by removing the trial, but He sent an angel to give Him strength.

And so, Jesus persevered to complete this great trial, but it was difficult right up until the last moment, for Jesus said, “‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Matthew 27:46). Of course, the Father did not forsake His Son, but the trial Jesus faced was death and He, alone, had to endure and complete it. He passed that trial and now lives because God resurrected Him (1 Corinthians 6:14; Galatians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:21).

Just like Jesus, none of us wants to suffer great trials, but we know that we will be tested in order to perfect us. In tough times, we have this assurance:

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

With that promise, we can also pray to God, saying: “‘Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’”

Lighting Our Path

When I was doing field studies for my undergraduate degree in NY many years ago, I became fascinated with a lighthouse at the far end of Long Island. The Montauk lighthouse is the last bit of stonework between NY and Portugal. It was commissioned by George Washington in 1792 and was completed in 1796. It is among the oldest such beacons in the United States. However, there are quite a few lighthouses around the world that date back many generations.

The oldest is said to be the Hercules lighthouse in Galicia, Spain, and records date it to the 2nd century AD. Several others built in the 1500’s still survive. On our family trips to the Central California Coast, I became enamored with the Port San Luis Lighthouse that was built in 1890. The complex lens that has guided so many ships is fascinating. By design, theFresnel lens generated alternate red and white flashes of light every 30 seconds and was visible 17 nautical miles (31 km) out to sea. This lens, often referred to as “the invention that saved a million ships,” was retired in 1969 and replaced by a simple electric light.

The point is not to study lighthouses but to draw the parallel to the light of our lives that is God the Father and His Son. How easy it is in this world to lose one’s way. This is what Satan wants for us, for if we lose the path, we lose safe passage around sin. We need God’s light to guide us, and especially when we are lost and vulnerable.

Let’s consider a Scripture in Psalm 119, and in verse 105: “…Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” God’s Word is our lighthouse in this foggy, murky world that is fraught with shoals and shallows. None of us wishes to lose the gift of life that God has given to each of us, but losing one’s opportunity for eternal life is far worse. Sadly, that is exactly what can happen if we miss His light and allow the darkness to guide us. Satan does not wish us to rely on God to avoid the trap of temptation.

Consider the words of Isaiah in chapter 60, and verses 19 and 20: “The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the LORD will be to your everlasting light, And your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.”

 It isn’t just the light of the beacon that guides the ships into a channel and towards the port; the beacon also provides the warning that signals captains to consult the charts and look for danger. The beacon may also be linked with a navigational signal that offers an extra measure of security. So too, God’s Word is not only the navigational star to guide us, but it also provides us with the warnings that sin is around us, and we can succumb to it if we are not on our guard.

In God’s Kingdom after the Millennium, there will be no need for the sun and the moon—nor for the lamp. In Revelation 22, and in verse 5, we read: “There shall be no night there: they need no lamp, nor the light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” This Scripture points us back to Isaiah, both in chapter 60 as referenced above, and chapter 9 where he foreshadowed the coming light that was and is Jesus Christ. Jesus told us that He was the light of our lives in John 8, and in verse 12, where we read: “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’”

The point is that we need Jesus and the Father to navigate our course of action in this world. Without God’s mercy, we might wander aimlessly and become ensnared in the many traps that Satan sets for people in general, and the brethren in particular. We can only overcome this world by and through Jesus Christ.

 In Micah 7, and in verse 8, we read“…the LORD will be a light to me.” The Israelites paid a price for losing their way to sinfulness, but God was merciful with them as He is with us. When we repent and obey, when we are sorrowful and seek Him, He will be there to guide our way. When we turn our thoughts, actions, and obedience to God, He does not abandon us. He will guide our path and strengthen us, but we must ask in faith and in obedience. And as we read in Numbers 6, and in verse 25, the outcome is like nothing we can imagine: “The LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.”

 When we have faith and obey God’s commands, we can walk in His light, rather than stumble into evil. God’s expectation of us is simple: follow and obey! In Proverbs 6, and in verses 20 through 23, we see this clearly: “My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you, when you awake, they will speak to you. For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life…”

We know that God has given those of us whom He has called the path to follow and the beacon to light our way.

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