Next week's VBS theme—Fully Rely On God—points us to some of God's most reassuring promises. It is the promise that God cares about us and always gives us just what we need. If we rely on him, we will be blessed in what ways he knows are best. Every time. And there are several examples of this and promises spoken about it.
- In Exodus 16, the Hebrew people learned that they had to fully rely on God for bread in the wilderness. He gave them manna—bread from heaven—every day that they needed it until they arrived in the promised land.
- At our Sunday morning service, brother Reggie quoted these words from the Psalmist: "I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing." (Psa. 37:25-26)
- When David courageously stood up to the giant warrior who had defied the armies of God, he made it abundantly clear that his faith with in God. He was not relying on himself, but on God, who had the power to overthrow a lion, a bear, and an uncircumcised Philistine by David's hand (1 Sam. 17, esp. vv. 34-37 & 45-47).
- In his Mountain Message, Jesus told us not to be anxious about the things of this life, but rather, we should fully rely on God who always provides his people with all that we need (Matt. 6:25-34).
- Rich Christians are told not to rely on their riches for hope and security, but rather to set our hope on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17).
God gives different things at different times for our different needs. And the common factor in all of them is that we can depend on him. The God who never sleeps nor slumbers, who cannot lie, and whose generosity is infinite... he can be relied upon to give us all that we need at just the time we need it.
See you next week for more reminders of the deep power in these promises!
- Dan Lankford, minister
Last Monday's Courier Journal (Louisville's local paper) included a story (you can click here to find it in the Indianapolis Star) about a woman in her 50's, named Kim, who had been adopted to the U.S. as a toddler from a South Korean orphanage. You really should click the link and read the story, because it's a great one. But here's the short version:
When she was 5, little Kim got separated from her family in a crowded Seoul marketplace. With no birth certificate and no way to reconnect with her parents, the police assumed she was an orphan (there were many of those during that time; it was the Korean War era) and sent her to an orphanage. A family from Ohio adopted her, and she lived in the States her whole life since then. But then, in 2018, she took a trip to South Korea and a DNA test reconnected her with her birth parents—now in their 80's—who had continued to look for her all those years, never giving up hope that they would be reunited.
The story is touching, and for Christians, it has some really wonderful parallels to the hope that we have in an eternal Father God who never stops looking for his lost children.
The story adds a small ripple to Jesus' story about a lost son who was found. That son wandered away deliberately, and yet his father apparently never gave up hope that he would return. But in the story from South Korea, a child found herself separated from her parents by accident—through innocent ignorance, wandering away from them because she knew no better. And I think there must be a parallel in that to God's story as well: that there are those who are away from him and know no better (notice how many times the apostles talk about the "ignorance" of unbelievers). But God does not give up hope for them (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). And that reminds us of two things:
1) That would should be grateful that we serve a good God who doesn't give up, who continues to invite his wayward children to himself, and who is always willing to grant repentance and forgiveness through the power of Jesus Christ. He is a truly good God.
2) That we should continue to teach lost people about Jesus. They need him. They need to be reconciled to their father. Many are like the lady in the story: they know little-to-nothing about the Father they are looking for, but their hearts have a void that longs to be filled with knowing Him. Let's do our part to bring God's lost children back to their Father who has never given up on them, no matter how long they've been lost.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Understanding YHWH God presents a challenge to all imperfect, finite creatures. Our sinful imperfection makes us incapable of understanding the full depths of his holiness, and the limits of time and space in which we live make it impossible for us to fully understand a God who is eternal, all-present, and all-knowing. But this is the Bible's description of YHWH. Other gods may have some similar elements of his nature, but YHWH is alone in his infinite, holy splendor. "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God..." (Deut. 10:17)
Seeing this helps to understand why so many of us—even believers—find ourselves thinking, "I can't believe that God would..." We may struggle with the depths of God's love & grace. We may struggle with the fierceness of his wrath. We may struggle with the length of his patience. We may struggle with the immutability of truth in him. We may struggle with believing in his supernatural powers. People struggle often and and seriously with God's personality, will, power, and word.
In light of this, there are two responses we must continually offer—one toward God himself and one toward our fellow man. First, we must accept God as he describes himself in the word. Doing this may exceed our faculties of pure logic at times, which is why it depends on faith. And understanding that helps us with our response toward mankind: be patient with others who struggle. Stay convicted in the truth about who God is, but be patient in helping non-believers or troubled believers understand him better.
The righteousness that leads to eternity is an outgrowth of God's own perfect nature. Believing in him as he has revealed himself is a foundation to all saving faith.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Yesterday's Bible reading (Num. 13-14) covered one of the most important stories in Israel's history. The story of their 40 years of wilderness wandering is a key to understanding their national identity: they are a people to whom God has promised rest, but instead of receiving his promises, they ignore his word and make a choice that keeps them in the wilderness. It's an important story about them, and it has an important lesson for us as Christians when we knowingly choose sin over God's ways. Think about it this way:
God sets us free from sin and destruction when we pass through the waters (baptism), just like he did for Israel when they passed through the waters (the Red Sea). In that, he promises peace when we live by his will, just as he promised peace to Israel if they would live by his will and just enter the land. But just like they willingly chose to reject his will and remain in the wilderness, when we willingly sin, we choose to remain in the wilderness of sin instead of entering the land of peace that God has promised us.
It's a simple object lesson, and a powerful reminder: when you know God's will, do God's will. His ways will lead us to peace with him. Sin will only leave us wandering, miserable, and empty-handed. So when it takes courage, when it's difficult, and when it's costly... do the right thing. Stay true to the will of God.
"See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God... And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it." (Hebrews 3:12, 3:18-4:1)
- Dan Lankford, minister
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.”
“Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
Do you make him leap like the locust?
His majestic snorting is terrifying.
He paws in the valley and exults in his strength;
he goes out to meet the weapons.
He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
he does not turn back from the sword.
Upon him rattle the quiver,
the flashing spear, and the javelin.
With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground;
he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’
He smells the battle from afar,
the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”
- Job 38:1-3, 39:19-25
Sunday morning, there were mass shootings in two mosques in New Zealand. It was yet another example of violence perpetuated by one who's heart was filled with hatred. Like a handful of similar events in recent years, these events somewhat take us by surprise when they happen in free, western, peaceful nations.
It is difficult (and probably somewhat unnecessary) to find anything new to say about events like this. Each time they happen, we are confronted by the the same kind of violence that has existed since Genesis 4, when Cain killed his innocent brother, Abel. Each time, believers see through the secular world's confused attempts to explain evil without believing in a divine power. Each time, we feel sympathy for the families of those who died, we mourn for any who died while in rebellion against Christ, and we remember that it was not God's original plan for us to die—that happened when we chose to sin against him.
And each time we see an event like this, we are reminded that God has made a place for us where "the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-5)
- Dan Lankford, minister
This week, we're reading the story of the flood that God sent to cleanse the earth. Here are a few stand-out ideas to look for as you read that story:
- The depths of human depravity are astounding. In Romans 1, the apostle Paul described sin's deep consequences, and we can look around at pockets of our world where sin has been allowed to take a firm hold. But we ought to be thankful that we do not live in a world that is so completely engulfed in it as Noah did. There are imperfect, but good people around us, and we ought to thank God for them.
- The salvation of Noah and his family from that depraved world was a masterful plan by the Master of Heaven and Earth. When the scale of destruction was so massive, it is remarkable to think that God took notice of one man and his family and gave them the gift of new life. It reminds us that he really does love us—pitiful as we are—and that he has made salvation available to us again and again throughout time.
- God's power through water is nothing short of awesome. In the flood story, he uses it to destroy evil, to cleanse the earth, to purify humanity, to save the faithful, and to restore life. All at the same time. And that power correlates very strongly to the way that God uses water to simultaneously accomplish several things in our lives at the moment of baptism (cf. 1 Peter 3:18-21). It just reminds us again of God's amazing grace toward those who believe.
As you read the story, keep your eyes firmly fixed on what God is doing. Tremble at his power and wrath, and worship him for his glorious grace.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The following is by one of our members, Matt Robison. He delivered this meditation before we took communion yesterday morning, Feb. 10th. We are sharing it here because it is an excellent reminder of God's goodness to us throughout time and at the communion table.
The promise of land to Israel was always a promise of food, always described as a land flowing with milk and honey. God has always provided food for his people, from the very beginning when, on the third day of creation, the dry land immediately began producing fruit and grain.
In the wilderness, Israel was literally provided with bread from heaven. And the first thing Joshua and the people do, after they pass through the waters of the Jordan, into the promised land, is to celebrate a feast. They celebrated Passover. And then they acted as if the land were already theirs.
"While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year." (Joshua 5:10-12)
This was was a pretty bold move. The feasting would leave the people open to attack. They had not fought any battles, nor had they planted a single garden, nor had they won rest from their enemies. But the land was already a place for feasting. When they formally began the conquest, they had already been acting as if the conquest was over. The land was theirs.
The Lord had provided a table in the midst of their enemies. And just because the Manna stopped, that didn’t mean something fundamental about the source of the food had changed.
Look at Deut. 11:10-12. "For the land that you are entering to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated it, like a garden of vegetables. But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land that the LORD your God cares for. The eyes of the LORD your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year."
Their food still came from the Lord. It was still His blessing upon them. The food was still very much heavenly food, drinking the water from the heavens, as opposed to the irrigated water of the Nile. The milk and honey of the land was food from heaven, just as dependent upon the Lord’s generosity, and just as miraculous as the Manna. Remember, it is God who gives the increase.
This meal we partake of now is just as bold as that first meal in the promised land. The Lord has prepared this table in the midst of our enemies. And just like the Israelites, we have a promised inheritance, though ours is a better one, one that encompasses all things. And just like the Israelites, we feast in the midst of that promised inheritance.
We feast on the true bread from heaven: Jesus. We sit at a table of a greater Joshua, one who has drawn us through the waters of Jordan in baptism. We are His, and He is ours, and so everything is ours, as Paul tells us at the end of 1 Cor. 3 We do not yet see everything put under the feet of Jesus, but we see enough. Because we eat and drink in faith.
And like the Israelites we will rise up from this feast, confident of our victory. Confident of the consummation of our inheritance. Confidant that we will be more than conquerors. Confident that, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow.
So take and eat the bread and drink the cup. And welcome to Jesus Christ.
- Matt Robison
"For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, `Do not be afraid'" (Acts 27:23-24a)
Paul was a prisoner on his way to Rome for trial. The ship he was traveling on had been tossed by a hurricane force wind for several days. God sent comfort to Paul so that he would not despair. As He passes the good news on to the others that they would not die, Paul mentions God - "to whom I belong and whom I serve."
To Whom I Belong
Christians belong to God. We have been purchased by the blood of Christ. "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Some are unwilling to belong to the Lord. They belong to their jobs, their spouse, their children, their hobbies, etc. Most simply belong to themselves. They do what they want, not what GOD wants. Many are controlled by sin. " ...do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts" (Romans 6:12).
And Whom I Serve
Never forget that, because children of God belong to God, we have a duty to do all that He asks us to do. Paul served God because he belonged to Him. "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey? Whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness.” (Rom. 6:16) When we understand that we have given control of our lives to God, we will obey and serve Him in ALL things.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1).
To whom do YOU belong?
- Roger Hillis, evangelist
"If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31b)
The sentence above is made up of two clauses, and each one of them contains an important reminder—one to drive us on to diligent faithful living; the other to assure us that living like that is worth it.
"If God is for us..." means we must be in a proper relationship with him—one in which we are for him and he is for us. If we are against him, why should we demand that he should be for us? When we live as we should, we demonstrate that we are living for him. So as long as we are trying to do that, we can know with certainty that he is for us.
"...who can be against us?" There are obviously some people who will be against us; persecution is an eternal problem for God's people. But the rhetorical question (and the rest of the context at the end of Romans) shows us very clearly that their efforts will not stand. Jesus said that the gates of Hell will not prevail against his church (Mt. 16:18), and Peter said these words: "Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed." (1 Pet. 3:13-14)
So today, give your best effort to live for God as you should, and as you do that, find peace and assurance in his promise that he is for you and no one else can stand against you.
- Dan Lankford, minister