For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord. (2 Chronicles 28:19, NKJV)
The Lord allowed the kingdom of Judah to be oppressed by enemy states during the 8th century B.C. Assyrians, Edomites and Philistines plundered Judah because king Ahaz was “continually unfaithful to the Lord,” and because he “encouraged moral decline in Judah” (2 Chron. 28:16-18). It is undeniable that our country has been encouraging moral decline for a very long time. The “sexual revolution” of the 1960s promoted fornication and adultery, fracturing the home and paving the way for accepting the homosexual lifestyle as normal and natural (which it is not, cf. Rom. 1:24-28). Alcohol and other drugs decimates lives and destroys families (1 Pet. 4:1-5). Pornography has captured and corrupted souls – fueled by passion and internet accessibility on cell phones, tablets and computers. “Sin is a reproach to any people,” and America is no exception (Prov. 14:34). The Old Testament shows that God does not long endure any nation that mocks faith in Him as it rushes headlong into immorality. Now is the time for our nation to heed the warning God gave Israel: “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezek. 18:31-32)
Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God, (Psalm 146:5, NKJV)
Where do you set your hope for your happiness and blessedness? We are tempted to set our hopes on plans for the future – a career, a home, a family. These are good things, but, as James said, we must say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (Jas. 4:15). God is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1). Our hope is not misplaced when our hearts depend upon the Lord God. The spiritual fortune He gives, the blessed help He provides, sustains us in days of gladness and in days of gloom. There is an abiding favor given to all those whose hope is in the Lord God. Be sure your hope is anchored in the Lord and not on the shifting sands of this temporal, fleeting world.
A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident. (Proverbs 14:16, NKJV)
Confidence is an admirable trait when it is governed by God’s truth, by godly fear and by an aversion to evil. But, remove the restraints of humility and caution toward sin, and self-confidence becomes one’s undoing. The rage that characterizes a fool describes acting arrogantly in defiance of truth and wisdom. It is foolish to become comfortable with error and self-confident toward sin. Self-confidence conditions the heart to place more trust in oneself than in God and His truth. Wisdom teaches us to fear sin and its effects in our lives and the lives of others. We must “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). It is utterly foolish to resist God and His will; such self-confidence leads to eternal ruin (2 Thess. 1:8-9).
Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. (Mark 16:14, NKJV)
How much evidence do you need before you will believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God? Jesus rebuked the eleven apostles for their continued unbelief in the face of multiple streams of evidence. There was the teaching Jesus gave them before His death; He told them repeatedly He would die and be raised (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; Lk. 24:6-7). The empty tomb had been reported to them by Mary Magdalene (Mk. 16:9-11). Peter and John had seen the empty tomb (Jno. 20:1-10). Two disciples reported to them of seeing Jesus (Lk. 24:33-35). Still, the eleven did not believe, until Jesus appeared to them, rebuking them for “their unbelief and hardness of heart” (Mk. 16:14). The world has the evidence they, at first, refused. Jesus will not personally appear to each person so they may believe. The evidence has been left for us to come to the necessary conclusion that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Jno. 20:30-31). “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jno. 20:29). Does that blessed number include you?
5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee,” (Luke 24:5–6, NKJV)
The resurrection of Jesus is the keystone of the gospel; without it, Christians have no faith, no forgiveness, and no hope (1 Cor. 15:17-19). Yes, He is risen! At the same time, one must admit the New Testament does not speak of, describe or command an “Easter” celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. No churches in the Bible had Easter services. There is no Easter holiday found there. The religious holiday called Easter developed as men moved away from following the apostles’ teaching, and added their traditions and decrees to the Scriptures. The Council of Nicea (325 AD), called by Emperor Constantine, decreed celebrating the resurrection of Christ (the “Christian Passover”) should be on a Sunday; it was the 7th century before the Catholic Church decreed rules assigning its annual date. Yet, all the while, God’s word continued to say nothing about such a religious holiday. God’s word does, however, say that God does not accept the traditions of men as true worship (Matt. 15:7-9; Col. 2:20-23). Christians honor Christ’s resurrection weekly, by our worship on the Lord’s Day – the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10).
45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45–46, NKJV)
The supreme value of the kingdom of heaven is set before us in this familiar parable. We can see this merchant searching for beautiful pearls that would bring him a handsome profit in the marketplace. But when he found one pearl – only one – that was the most precious and valuable, he knew it was more valuable than anything else he possessed. And so, he sold everything he had and bought it. The lesson is simple, yet profound. The kingdom of heaven is more valuable than anything else you and I could ever acquire. Like the merchant, we must recognize its value, and then we must sacrifice everything else in order to possess it. Jesus explained how we possess the kingdom: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Full surrender. Complete sacrifice. Faithful obedience. See the surpassing value of the kingdom, and honor the King with all your being, every day. The pearl of great price is worth it all.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44, NKJV)
Entering the kingdom of heaven is likened to a man finding a buried treasure, who, with great joy and at great sacrifice, acquired the field and its treasure. The parables of Jesus hide the kingdom from the minds of those who are unwilling to receive His teaching (Matt. 13:11-15). But, like this hidden treasure, the kingdom is found by those whose hearts are made aware of its value and its availability. These will joyfully pay all – make every sacrifice necessary – to obtain the blessings of the kingdom of heaven. The rich young ruler reminds us of one who thought he wanted the kingdom blessings, but he was unwilling to make the sacrifice Jesus demanded (Matt. 19:20-22). The sacrifice one must make to enter the kingdom of heaven is worth it. Treasures in heaven will always be of far greater value than treasures on earth (Matt. 6:19-21). Does your heart see the kingdom of heaven as a great treasure that you must possess, whatever the cost?
5 For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. 6 Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, (2 Corinthians 7:5–6, NKJV)
Paul had traveled from Ephesus to Troas, where he hoped to reunite with Titus, and receive word from him concerning how the Corinthian church had received the epistle of reprimand he had written them from Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8-9). There were opportunities to preach the gospel in Troas, and evidently persecutors were also hot on Paul’s trail (“outside were conflicts”). Plus, he had “no rest in his spirit” when he did not find Titus there (2 Cor. 2:12-13). So, Paul traveled on to Macedonia, where Titus met him with the comforting news that the church had received and obeyed his teaching. Here is our lesson: Opportunities to do good are sure to bring external pressures from those who resist what is good. With doing good comes internal longings for the spiritual welfare of others. Whether in conflicts and fears, God comforts us, just as He comforted Paul upon Titus’ arrival. Knowing that others are being faithful to God renews our strength and assures us in the comfort of our God (2 Cor. 1:3-7).
3 You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. 4 Concerning the works of men, by the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer. 5 Uphold my steps in Your paths, that my footsteps may not slip. (Psalm 17:3–5, NKJV)
David resisted sin when he had the purpose of heart not to sin by his words, and by carefully avoiding the sinful works of men. Our faith ought to compel us to also purpose in our hearts not to speak evil, and, to keep away from the path of sin. David’s purpose of heart not to speak sin also led him to obey God’s word (“the word of Your lips”) in order to keep away from those who would bring destruction into his life. And so, with purpose of heart, being guided by God’s word, David was sure that God would uphold his steps and keep him from slipping into sin. When David sinned, it was precisely because his purpose faltered and his trust in God’s word failed. That is what happens when we sin, too. When God examines your heart, may he see your resolve to speak what is right, and to do His words. If so, you will be walking upon the solid ground of faith.
11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11–12, NKJV)
The parent who loves his or her child will discipline the misbehaving child. Instruction, along with punishment, consistently applied to correct disobedient behavior, works. The Lord God, who made us, knows it does, and He applies His “chastening” (instructive and corrective training) to produce respectful, obedient children. The child-rearing experts who refuse punitive correction do a great disservice to this generation – and the next. It is precisely because the father “delights” in (loves) his child that he corrects his child. “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Prov. 13:24). True, correction is not pleasant when applied, but “afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). Parents, teach and correct your children, using consist love, as the Lord does His children. Let us all heed the wise counsel of Solomon not to reject the Lord’s correction of our sins. It is intended for our benefit now, and our eternal salvation by and by.