And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat (Mark 6:31, NKJV).
Jesus was in constant demand from the crowds. His apostles had just returned from their limited commission (Mark 6:7-13, 30). Finding a “deserted place” where one can “rest a while” is important to ”recharge our batteries” and return to our work with renewed vigor. God rested after finishing His work of creating the heavens and the earth (Gen. 2:1-3). God commanded Israel to rest from their labors every seventh day (Exod. 20:8-11; 31:12-17). Every seventh year their land was to rest from planting and harvesting (Lev. 25:1-7). Every fiftieth year, Israel’s land was to rest during the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8-11). Rest should have a calming, comforting, and reassuring effect. Rest also reminds us to trust the Lord for our strength instead of ourselves. Israel anticipated the rest God would give them from their enemies in the promised land (Josh. 1:14-15; 23:1). Christians look hopefully for eternal rest (Heb. 4:8-10; Rev. 14:12-13). With these blessings in mind, we will be taking a short time to rest from our daily regimen of writing Sword Tips. We believe this respite will invigorate us to count our blessings and thank the Lord for His provisions and promises in Christ. We plan to resume the daily Sword Tips in early June. I appreciate your interest in these daily offerings.
1 Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:1–2, NKJV).
Prayer is a constant, comforting, and calming spiritual blessing we have in Christ (Phil. 4:6). The Son of David, the Son of God, taught “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). David knew the blessings of prayer. In this beautiful psalm, he praises God as his great protector in times of trial, pain, and uncertainty (Ps. 61:8). Consider David’s trust in the Lord in moments of distress. (1) David had faith God would hear and respond to His prayers (v. 1). Take heart, beloved, God’s ears are open to the prayers of the righteous (1 Pet. 3:12). (2) Difficult circumstances of the moment did not prevent David’s prayerful trust in God (v. 2). Regardless of where we are and what we face, prayer reaches the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). God fills heaven and earth and is not far from any of us (Jer. 23:23-24; Acts 17:27). (3) When we are weak, prayer brings us under the shelter of God’s strength (v. 3). Safe from the fierce storms of doubt and despair, God’s people “trust in the shelter of Your wings” (Ps. 61:4). Put your faith in God; He is faithful (1 Cor. 10:13). As Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1). Along with David, let us plead with the Lord to lead us to the rock of sheltering protection. God, Himself will be “our refuge and strength…A very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). Indeed, “You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy” (Ps. 61:3).
5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV).
Why do you pray? The Lord knows the reasons and motives of our prayers; He is the One who “knows the hearts of all” (Acts 1:24). Jesus knew many people pray so others will view them as religious and pious. They choose conspicuous places to petition heaven’s throne. Their desire (to be seen by men), once achieved, is their only reward. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven understand prayer to be intimate communication with their heavenly Father. It is a time to pour out thanks, adoration, petitions, and pleas to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). There we find the divine assurance of mercy, solace, and peace. Our Father is in private places. He sees, hears, and openly rewards our humble prayers (Phil. 4:6-7). Prayer is not a ritual; it is a retreat to commune with our Father. Keep pure motives when you pray. God sees the purpose of our prayers, so seek His approval when praying to Him. Remember, it is God who answers our prayers, not people. So pray to be seen by your heavenly Father.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)
Anyone. What a comfort beyond measure to know that regardless of the depth of our past sins and the eternal death they cause, God in Christ will forgive us (Rom. 6:23). Unquestionably, redemption from sin’s death is “in Christ” – it is not in the world, in ourselves, or anyone else. It is not found in Church traditions, creeds, confessions, and catechisms (Acts 4:12). God forms a new creation (new creature, NASB) when the sinner enters a relationship with Christ. Fresh and free from sin, washed in the blood of the Lamb (1 Pet. 1:18-19). By entering Christ through water baptism, the sinner’s sin is cut away (“old things have passed away”), and “all things have become new” (Gal. 3:27). This is the operation of God, not any meritorious by the sinner (Col. 2:11-13). Freedom from sin’s guilt, burden, and death is “in Christ.” When you stop waiting, but “arise and be baptized,” your sins will be washed away in Christ. In Christ, you can then truly live with and for Jesus, since Christians “are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). The question is not whether God can or will save you; it is will you believe and obey Jesus to be a new creation in Him?
36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36–37, NKJV)
What a wonderful man this Joses (Joseph) was! He had such a way of comforting, consoling, exhorting, and encouraging fellow Christians that the apostles named him Barnabas (son of encouragement). We want to encourage others, but sometimes we don’t know how to do it. Let’s learn from Barnabas. He encouraged others through generously serving others. He generously gave of his possessions to relieve needy saints. He was generous with his reputation, putting it on the line to vouch for Saul’s conversion when others were afraid (Acts 9:26-28). He was generous with his time and energy to travel to Antioch to teach and strengthen new Christians (Acts 11:21-24). He was generous in giving his life to preaching the gospel in many places with Paul and others (Acts 11:25-26; 13:2; et al.). To encourage others, we must come out of our own little world and serve others with genuine care, concern, and contact. Barnabas did that as an expression of his faith in the Lord. We can be encouragers, too. The Lord calls on us to “exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:13). So, let’s join hands with Barnabas and build up one another in the most holy faith (Jude 20).
1 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know. (John 14:1–4, NKJV)
A spiritual song we sing says, “Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear.” How do we prevent our hearts from being troubled? Today’s familiar passage from the lips of Jesus teaches us how to soothe the anxious soul. 1) By the calming assurance of faith (v. 1). Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). Focusing our attention on the Lord instead of ourselves is essential to avoid heart disturbance. 2) By the comforting promises of Christ (v. 2-3). Jesus promised to prepare a dwelling place for His followers. His death, resurrection, and exaltation at God’s right hand announce the success of His redemptive work, assuring us He will return to receive His saints in glory (1 Thess. 4:16-18; Col. 3:4). Comfort your heart with His promises. 3) By the confident knowledge of truth (v. 4). When Thomas expressed doubt and uncertainty, Jesus replaced it with confidence-building truth. He was going to the Father, and He is “the way, the truth, and the life” by whom we also go to the Father (Jno. 14:6). Firm assurance replaces doubt when we learn the truth that is in Jesus (Eph. 4:20-21). Live by faith, be comforted by the promises of God, and walk in truth to keep your heart from being troubled in troublesome times.
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, NKJV)
The word translated “ignorant” means “not to know.” While knowledge can produce arrogance when one thinks too highly of himself, decided advantages also come with knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1-2). Jesus said knowing the truth (His word) “shall make you free” from sin as you abide in His word (Jno. 8:31-32, 33-36). Today’s passage declares knowing the future of Christians who have died removes our sorrow and gives us hope (v. 13). More specifically, knowing and believing Jesus rose from the dead supports our hope (desire and expectation) that Christians will be raised from the dead and be with Jesus when He returns (1 Thess. 4:15-16). Such blessed assurance replaces the sorrow of death’s loss with bold confidence that invigorates our faith when death separates us from beloved saints. God has a future planned for His people. Whether living or dead, when Jesus returns and raises the dead, the saints of God will “always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). Knowing what will happen to those who have died in the Lord empowers us to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18).
5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5–6, NKJV)
The apostle Paul is summing up an extended passage on how to be united when differences over scruples of conscience toward liberties exist (Rom. 14:1-15:7). Those things that do not inhibit one’s fellowship with God must not be allowed to inhibit the unity of the saints (Rom. 14:1-5, 13). According to today’s verse, to achieve and maintain unity without pressing one’s conscience upon others requires us to have “patience” and “comfort” (exhortation) toward each other. This means those with a weak conscience is not to condemn those of strong conscience (Rom. 14:3). This means those with a strong conscience toward the liberty are to “bear with” the doubts of those with weak consciences in the matter (Rom. 15:1). The strong in conscience will gladly set aside a liberty to avoid influencing a fellow Christian to sin against his or her conscience (Rom. 14:15, 19-21; 1 Cor. 8:9-13; 10:28-29). In this way we follow the example of Jesus as we endeavor to please our neighbor instead of merely satisfying ourselves (Rom. 15:1-3). We honor God “with one mind and one mouth” when we practice this kind of unselfish deference toward one another (v. 6; Rom. 12:10).
And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us. (Luke 16:26, NKJV)
Abraham continued his explanation to the rich man why it would be impossible for Lazarus to relieve him of the tormenting flame in which he found himself. Not only was the man’s torment the just outcome of his greedy life, but also there could be no passing back and forth between the flame and the place of comfort. A great gulf is fixed (set fast) in Hades between Abraham’s bosom and the flame of torments that prevents any such passage. The truth is unmistakable – there are no second chances after death. Whether it is 1) The Catholic concept of purgatory (cleansing to allow for passage into the presence of God), or 2) The Hindu and Buddhist concept of reincarnation and the transmigration of souls, or 3) The Latter-day Saints’ belief that the gospel will be preached and received in the next life – all these doctrines are refuted by what Jesus said in Luke 16:26. Death comes once, then judgment (Heb. 9:27). God will judge what we did in the body in this life on Judgment Day (2 Cor. 5:10). We must not live as if we will have another chance to do God’s will after we die – we will not. Now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never be. Therefore, today is the day God gives you the opportunity to trust and follow Him (Matt. 6:33-34; Jas. 4:13-17).
24 Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.’ (Luke 16:24–25, NKJV)
Death does not end our existence. That is clearly implied here. Furthermore, we learn here that salvation is not universal. The rich man’s plea for mercy is understandable. Even momentary relief from the torturous flame would be better than nothing. But, not even a drop of water would come. How many billions of souls believe eternal bliss awaits all who pass from this life?! Yet, Jesus told of something very different. After death, each man received according to how he had lived on earth. We must take to heart this important, timeless truth, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Gal. 6:7-8). For Lazarus, the pain was past. For the rich man, it had only just begun. How terrible it is to be lost! How comforting it is to be saved! The gospel will save you from your sins and show you how to live to be ready to die (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:17-18; Gal. 2:20; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). The rich man loved his money, and lost everything. Choose to love and follow Jesus. Live by His truth, and death will bring you blessed comfort.