Christmas Day 90

Ninety days until December 25 – Christmas Day.  You probably do not want to be reminded of that.  Just did.

What do I want for Christmas today?

I want to tell someone today “Merry Christmas” to see the expression on their face, and maybe start a conversation about the real meaning of Christmas; and I want you to join me in doing that.

Tell someone “Merry Christmas”, then maybe you and I can tell them the real meaning of Christmas; that it is about the birth of our Savior; even today.

Early Reappearance

I am making an early reappearance to blogging here on “Broken Pieces”.  It has been about six months since I posted anything here, and I really believe it is time to come back to it.  I had intended on staying out through the month of December, but it is time to return.

My prayer is that the things which I post will first of all glorify my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God the Son.  Secondly that those reading these posts will be drawn nearer the Lord as a Christian; and if you are without God in your life come to realize that God loves you so much that He sent His only begotten Son that if you will believe in Him you will not perish, but have everlasting life.

For the glory of Christ our Lord

~T.A.

Day 48 – From Love to Love and Salvation – excuse me day 49

If there is one thing that the Bible declares to the follower of Christ and to any who will read it it is that God loves the world.  However, we also will find within the pages much of the fact that God is holy and righteous and will not overlook our sin.

My reading today, this morning, took me through the Song of Solomon or Song of Songs, and chapters 1 – 6 of the prophet Isaiah.  Now there is contrast.  From a love story to prophetic warnings; however, after some thought on the matter I see these chapters of Isaiah as the love of God toward His wife (Judah), warning and wooing her back to Himself; and that He will do whatever it takes to bring her back to Himself.

To be perfectly honest with you I enjoy reading the Song of Solomon, but I do not see a whole lot to say about the matter except that we can see in this love story; God’s love for His people, and when she is right with Him, her love for Him.

Here is how the young Shulamite woman feels for her groom –

“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.”  Song of Solomon 2:4 (KJV)

She has been taken to what she call “the banqueting house” and all she senses is his love for her.  If you will notice in reading the Song, all the words she has for her groom is love and admiration.  She adores him; and that should be what the Bride of Christ feels for Him as well.  After all He purchased us with His own blood; redeeming us from our sin and condemnation.  Should we not be loving, admiring, and adoring Him; even worshipping Him always.

One can learn much from reading the Song about how a man should love, and adore their girlfriends; and their wives.  There are several times it mentions too, about waiting for “love”; most likely referring to the sexual relationship.  Waiting for the time when there is a lifelong commitment to one another through marriage (8:4).  Marriage is about our commitment to Christ (Ephesians 5:25-32).

The prophet Isaiah was a man who loved the LORD.  He was a prophet from the nobility of his day.  The time was one of wealth and prosperity, but the people had forsaken the LORD of hosts.  They had turned to idols from the living God.  The prophet says to them –

“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me.  The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider.’  Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.” Isaiah 1:3-4 (KJV)

The prophet found it difficult to see owners of oxen and donkeys able to use them for plowing, hauling things and such without any problem; the donkey and the ox being obedient to their masters commands, and guidance taps; yet the people of God did not know God in obedience; the One who had delivered them from Egypt; provided them with many judges who delivered them from tormentors and persecutors.

Yet, here too is a love story.  One of a wonderful salvation.  The prophet’s name means, “The LORD is salvation”.  The salvation of Israel is a direct result of the love of God for them.  Their salvation does not mean they are a perfect people; just a delivered people.  The same is true for the Christian of today.

It is the love of God; and the fact that He is holy and righteous; that will not allow His children to be a success at sinning.

“But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.” Isaiah 5:16

The Lord loves you today.  Christian do not continue in your sin.  Repent and obey Him.  If you are still in your sin that love has been shown to the world by the death of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, on the cross, His burial, and His bodily resurrection.  The goal for the child of God is to sin no more; and one day that will be accomplished through the return of Jesus Christ in His glory.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Body of Jesus – Mark 15:37-47

“And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. 38 And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. 39 And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. 40 There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; 41 (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.
42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. 47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.”  Mark 15:37-47 (KJV)

Jesus had finished the gruelling, cruel, task of bearing the sins of the world.  Jesus spoke seven times from the cross one of which was, “It is finished”, which is recorded by John in chapter 19 verse 30.

Mark records something that is not recorded in the other Gospels, and that is the remark of the centurion in verse 39, “Truly this man was the Son of God”.  Matthew, Mark and Luke mention the “Veil of the temple was rent” with Luke’s version leaving off that it was torn from top to bottom.

The “Veil” separated the “Holy place” from the “Holy of Holies”.  The “veil” allowed only limited access, and that was only once per year on the day of Atonement by the high priest, and with the blood of a spotless sacrifice.  The significance of the torn veil is that now the way has been made for all people to come into the presence of Holy God.  Remember Jesus’ words, “I am the way…”.  He parted the veil and “The Way” has been made.  We can all now, “…Come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16).  The special significance of the veil being torn from “top to bottom” is that it was done by God, not by man, showing that the only way to God is not by the works of flesh and law, but only by God’s grace.

The centurion was so amazed by the strength, power and authority of the voice of Jesus at His last words from the cross it made a lasting impression on him.  Being a “centurion” he would have been in charge of 100 men, and according to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 27 verse 54,

“Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those     things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.   Matt 27:54 (KJV)”.

John MacArthur writes of this in the Study Bible,

those with him. These were probably     men under his charge.  Mark 15:39 says the centurion was the one who uttered  the     words of confession, but he evidently spoke for his men as well.  Their ‘fear’ speaks of an     awareness of their sin, and the word ‘truly’ suggests a certainty and conviction that     bespeaks genuine faith.  These men represent an answer to Jesus’ prayer in Luke 23:34.”

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do”.  (Luke 23:34).

It is not improbable nor unlikely that this man and those with him are with Jesus in heaven.

At His death there were also several women who were there.  Some of them are named here – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the less, and of Joses, and Salome, and others.  My how the work of women has improved since the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  The New Testament tells us nothing of any wicked women or wicked deeds compared to that of the Old Testament.  Here we see the women had less fear for themselves than the men did, and they were closer to Jesus in His death than many of the disciples were.

At His death there was a man we do not know much about.  He was one who “Waited for the kingdom of God…” and went and asked Pilate for the body of Jesus.  He must have been a silent follower before or became one at His death.  Anyway he has the bold courage to appear before Pilate and asks for the body.  Joseph of Arimathaea is the man.  After Pilate had affirmed that Jesus was dead he gave Joseph the body.  Joseph, then, took the body of Jesus and prepared it with the proper perfumes, wrapped His body in “Fine linen”, and “…Laid Him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulcher”.  Matthew writes, “And laid it in his own new tomb,…” (Matthew 27:60).

The final verse of our text tells us that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.  They would not leave until they knew where Jesus would be buried.  Jesus had no personal means of paying for a burial.  He knew that would be taken care of by His Father.

So!  Who was really on trial here? Who should have been crucified? Yet, He hung, He bled, He was accursed and died in our stead. It seems to me that what we see here in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus is the wicked, vile, sinful nature of mankind.  That was what sent Jesus to the trial and to the crucifixion.  It was His love that kept Him stedfast, and faithful to the finish.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Whatever Happened To Shame?

Shame is a word that has almost fallen by the way. Who uses the word “shame” anymore? You don’t hear it much. “You ought to be ashamed” a mother would say to a child who had just kicked a sibling, or a neighbor, or a friend. “Shame on you” some Dad would say to his son when he argued and disobeyed his mother, and then would get a whipping.

Shame? What does it mean? Well, now that you’ve asked let me answer. Shame, according to the Merriam/Webster Dictionary means, “a painful sense of having done something wrong, improper, or immodest 2. DISGRACE, DISHONOR, shameful”.

It seems that in the culture of the day that it is “wrong” to cause someone to feel ashamed. According to some called “experts”, “You ought to be ashamed to make someone aware of their shame.” In the day when you ought to be ashamed of shame, God’s Word still uses the word, and speaks the truth of how people should be ashamed of their actions.

Jeremiah the prophet writes,

“Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 6:15 (KJV)

Of course the prophet is writing of how the people have rebelled against the LORD, turned their backs on Him, rejected His Word and His prophets, and because of this are going to experience cutting off from their land. Were they ashamed? It appears not according to the prophet.

It would seem that as a society gets more affluent, fat, lazy and complacent; they also get the knowledge of Eve when she ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden; and think God is only known in knowing self. However, even Adam and Eve were ashamed when they heard the LORD walking in the garden. That appears to be disappearing from the culture of our day (2009).

Several who profess to have once known God through His Son Jesus Christ, turning their backs on God, His Word, His truth, and His prophets and people have no shame of turning from God.

O, people of God, Christian; when we sin against our God and Savior, let us be ashamed of our sin, confess it and forsake it. Let us be sure to maintain a proper fellowship with our LORD and God. Be ashamed when sin is in your life. Rejoice when it has been cleansed, forgiven and forgotten by our Father through His Son Jesus Christ.

There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), and it seems that shame is our condemnation when we are not walking in Him. Walking in Him is that blessed fellowship we have with Him in obedience which comes from our love for Him.

-Tim A. Blankenship

In The Love Of God

“…Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Jude 21 (NKJV).

We are continuing with the theme of personal and individual Christian responsibility. It is our personal responsibility, led by the Spirit of God, God’s Word, and through praying in the Spirit to build up our faith (v. 20). It is also the personal responsibility of every Christian to keep themselves “in the love of God”.

That “keep yourselves in the love of God” is accomplished much like “building your faith”, and that is through the power of God in us; given us at our new birth. That power is the presence of the Spirit of God. Paul wrote to the Romans, and one of the things he was inspired by the Spirit of God to write was, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” (Romans 8:9b). The “Spirit of Christ” is the same Holy Spirit who lives in all believers/followers of Christ Jesus. That Spirit is the same Holy Spirit who lived and abided in Jesus as He lived and ministered walking on earth.

The love of God cannot be taken from us. We have this promise of God from another of the apostle Pauls writings, “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.” (1 Corinthians 8:38-39, NKJV). The love of God is immeasurable. It is wonderful. It is powerful. The love of God is really beyond the common man’s grasp; anyone’s grasp. It can only be received as a gift, a gift from the giver of love.

“Keeping ourselves in the love of God” is done through persevering in the faith. Ministering to others in love, expecting nothing in return. To be always faithful in obedience and faithful in living out the salvation which has been so freely given to us.

We are to always be “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” by the expectant heart for the return of Jesus Christ. That will be the fulfillment of His mercy. That should be the expectation of the heart of every believer. Looking for the return of Christ Jesus. Jude was looking for that day. That will be the day of mercy, unlike any other day we have seen. It was so good and wonderful and gracious of the Lord to give us assurance of salvation, grace and mercy on that day we knelt before Him acknowledging Him as Lord, and receiving Him as our Savior, by His death on the cross, His burial, and His resurrection; and put within the heart of every follower of Jesus Christ is the desire to see Him face to face.

Remain in the place of obedience. The MacArthur Study Bible note for this verse notes, “It means to remain in the place of obedience where God’s love is poured out on His children, as opposed to being disobedient and incurring His chastening (cf. 1 Cor. 11:27-31; Heb. 12:5-11). Keeping ourselves in the “love of God” is done through an obedient love for God. It is not a task or a burden. It is really a joy for the true child of God to live in and keep the love of God. It is also a joy to live for and expect that day when Jesus comes and takes us to be forever with Him.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Going Beyond

We hear much about love. Love for your wife, or your husband. Love for your child or children. Love for a friend. What is meant by the word “L.O.V.E.”? Real love goes beyond the ordinary. That kind of love is more than feeling; it is a decision. It is not driven by being loved by an individual; it is driven by the love of God, and it is displayed by a decisive act of mercy, grace and goodness; even toward one who has wronged you. Maybe I could or should say, “…especially toward one who has wronged you”.

Well no one can do that you might say. God and His Word teaches us to do just that thing. Hear the Word of the Lord:

“Since you have purified yours souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart…” 1 Peter 1:22 (NKJV).

This verse is directed toward loving the brethren, ie., our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a “Going Beyond” type of love. We are to love when we are not loved by others. We are to love when it may not be convenient to do so. This is not just a speaking of words but an act of love.

This is the kind of love that responds to a command – the command to love. It is the kind of love which will take you to a neighbors yard to mow it when they need help, even though this neighbor has caused you many heartaches, and much grief. All Christians have this “Going Beyond” love.

It comes from a purified soul. You receive a purified soul by “obeying the truth through the Spirit” of God. This “Going Beyond” love is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross, and His bodily resurrection. This kind of love meets others at their point of need. This is the love of Jesus Christ.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Healing For Backsliding

In the previous writing we find a promise of God given to the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel, and that promise is that they would both return to the land as one. Even in their backsliden condition they were to hear these words, and the prophet was to continue to proclaim their need of repentance, cleansing and healing for their backsliden condition.

How or why does one need healing from a backsliden condition. First of all backsliden as the prophet Jeremiah wants us to understand is referring to the people of God. Backsliden is a departure from a place or person you are supposed to be near; which in our case the person is God whom they have left. To backslide is almost always a slow deliberate departure. Slow because it begins with something that seems so small to begin with. “I am staying home from worship services this morning because I am so tired. I was up half the night enjoying family and friends”. Then, come Wednesday night and Bible Study time, “I am not going to Bible Study and prayer meeting this evening because it has been a long week already, and I can’t be getting home too late.” Or, how about this, “Just one peek at that site online won’t hurt. Afterall, I do need to be knowledgable about what’s going on.” Just one little step in the wrong direction leads to a slippery slope which slides you further and further away from God, His Word, and the gentle whispers of His Spirit.

“But I said: ‘How can I put you among the children and give you a pleasant land, a beautiful heritage of the hosts of nations?’ And I said: ‘You shall call Me, ‘My Father,’ and not turn away from Me.’ Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband so have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,’ says the LORD. A voice was heard on the desolate heights, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel. For they have perverted their way; they have forgotten the LORD their God. ‘Return, you backsliding children, and I will hearl your backslidings.’ ‘Indeed we do come to You, for You are the LORD our God. Truly, in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains; Truly, in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. For shame has devoured the labor of our fathers from our youth– Their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. We lie down in our shame, and our reproach covers us. For we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.” Jeremiah 3:19-25 (NKJV).

God sent forth His Son Jesus Christ to redeem the house of Israel. If you doubt that hear what Jesus has said, “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 10:6; “But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 15:24; and it was foretold by the prophet Isaiah, “He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was striken.” Isaiah 53:8. Even the high priest at the trial said, “…You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” John 11:49-50, and the verse following says, “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together inone the children of God who were scattered abroad.” (vv.51-52).

It is because of their backsliding that God has scattered them across this world; has hidden them in the world; and called the Gentile nations to believe in the work of the Son of God on the cross.

Did God not see them those many years ago, even before Jesus became man, and give them these exceeding, precious promises? Of course He did. Our God is sovereign, and in control of every situation. He did not cause Israel or Judah to backslide, but in their backsliden condition the will of God was done, is being done, and will continue to be done. Every sinful act of a human being is known by the LORD of hosts, and not one of them will be held agains anyone who calls on the name of Jesus Christ for salvation. Yet every sin which finds no repentance in the heart of the child of God, will be used to work in the sinning heart, mind and soul, to irritate, sting, and and stick until that sinning heart finds rest in Christ Jesus.

When I pray for a lost person to be saved here is what I pray: Father, in Your mercy, love and grace touch the heart of this individual (Using their name here). Open their eyes to see their lost condition; that they are condemned by their sin, and for them there is no hope apart from the cross of Jesus Christ. Make them miserable in their sin, until they look upon Jesus Christ who gave His life’s blood so that we might be saved, that He was buried carrying all sin away with its guilt, and that He arose from the grave and is everliving interceeding for us all. Save him/her (name) O, LORD, for Your own honor, power and glory. Amen.

Jeremiah admits the sins of the people for the nation in verses 22b through 25. How can God bring them back to the land which has been left desolate and barren? When they can come to the place they will call God “My Father”, and will not turn away from Him. Marriage is meant to be a illustration of God’s intimate relationship with His people, and of Jesus Christ and His relationship with the Church. God uses the idea of marriage to speak of spiritual adultery, of which Israel
and Judah were guilty. The whole book of the prophet Hosea is concerning the relationship between that prophet and his wife. Gomer, if not previous to their marriage, then after marriage, became a temple prostitute. God used this to make a very good, and strong point to the nation. In the prophet’s love for his wife, and continually pursuing her; we see God’s wonderful, marvelous love for Israel, and ultimately for the Church.

There are not many men in this current time who would pursue a wife who has deliberately chosen to lie around with other men, profaning and making a mockery out of her marriage, and of her vows to God and her husband. But this was the love which God has shown those who are His. Just as Hosea paid to redeem his wife from the fringes of the debauchery of prostitution, so the LORD our God has paid for our redemption from sin. O, how the heart of Jeremiah must have grieved for the people. Can we see and feel the heart of the prophet as he proclaims the message of Healing for the people’s backsliden condition?. They will not listen to the Word of God.

The tragedy of our day is very similar to those of Jeremiah’s. While some of the so called experts are telling us to tone down our Biblical expository sermons, if not completely stop preaching altogther; no one is wanting to hear the Word of God. We are being told by those experts tune the message to the ears of the hearers. God’s Word still proclaims, “Preach the word. Be instant in season and out of season” 2 Timothy 4:2. Jeremiah didn’t have the ear of the people, as far as it leading them to repentance, but he did wind up in the dungeon. Does the preacher today preach what the people want to hear, or does he preach the very Word of God, what God wants us all to hear. If I ever walk into a church to worship the Lord and all I receive from that “Preacher” is a 10 – 15 minute sermonette, and never mentions the cross of Jesus, never mentions the burial and resurrection of Jesus, or His coming again; that is one church I will never enter again. If I were ever to become a part of a church which adopted such a mentality, and if after much prayer and work could not convince leadership to go back to God’s method, then I would leave it as quickly as I could. People need to repent, quit living in sin, and come out unto the Word and way of God our Savior.

-by Tim A. Blankenship

Married To A Backslider

There has been many a father and mother who pleaded and pleaded with their children to return home, after they have ran away from home. Some children, after reaching the mid to late teen years, begin feeling they can run their lives without someone “telling me what to do”, and so they run away. It is sometimes by the deceptive words of a “friend” or an older individual persuades them to do so. These are heart breaking for every loving parent.

Questions like; “Where did I go wrong?”, “What could we have done different?”, “Why is this happening now?”, and feelings of being a failure with your family hit hard. Since I have never experienced the sorrow of a runaway child, I really don’t know all the questions asked, or the pain that it causes. I have known a family or two where the runaway scenario has happened.

You could call their leaving home, “Backsliding”. That is what has happened in the life of the divided nations of Israel and Judah. Israel left home and began worshipping golden calves in Dan and Bethel, set up by their first king Jereboam. The MIRRIAM/WEBSTER DICTIONARY defines “Backslide” as “To lapse morally or in religious practice”. That, in my opinion, is a gross understatement.

Before we go on let’s hear the Word of the LORD from the prophet Jeremiah:

“Return, O backsliding children,’ says the LORD; ‘for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jeremiah 3:14-15 (NKJV).

What does God mean by “Backsliding”? It is the act of apostasy, turning away from God, His Word, and sliding on a slippery slope to one’s lowest point. God is not pleased when His people turn their backs on Him and then, offer Him sacrifices which do not come from a heart of devotion and praise. Sacrifices offered with a backsliden heart are a stench in heaven and the nostrils of God.

Why people say that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament is beyond me. The means of salvation is by grace through faith. The Old Testament people were saved looking forward to the cross of Christ; shown in all the blood sacrifices offered with a clean motive, and the people from the cross forward are saved by looking back to the cross of Christ by faith.

This word from God through his prophet Jeremiah is given to His backsliden people. It is not to the heathen, unredeemed, but to the people of Israel and Judah. This says to us that God’s people can go astray. We can get out of the will of God, but that God will spare no grace to pursue us, pleading with us to get us back into our personal walk with Him; in completer agreement with Him; at peace with Him. The backsliden child of God is not at peace with God. The backslider is not even at peace with himself/herself. They want their own way, and they are going to have their way. Even if that way leads to the “pigpen”. Remember the Prodigal son of Luke 15:11-32. The father’s love seen for a rebellious son who had wanted to do things his way returns to the loving father, after realizing his own desparate plight. The writer of Proverbs says of the backslider, “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied from above.” Proverbs 14:14 (NKJV).

It doesn’t matter what the child of God has done you have a loving Father who is pleading for you to return to His fellowship and enjoy the peace, comfort, love and joy that is found only in the presence and power of God.

For too long the nations had had shepherds who were “devouring their sheep”, and not teaching them the truth, or leading them in the true ways of God. They were self seeking. Read Jeremiah 23:1-2ff. The responsibility of the shepherd of people is an awesome responsibility. Those who preach, teach, and minister the word of God, are especially on notice to take great care in what they say, teach and preach. It seems quite clear that the priest, and other shepherds of Israel had gravely failed to lead in the way of God and His righteousness, grace and justification.

God now says to Israel and Judah, “I will give you shepherds according to My heart…” These will not be after the heart of man, but the heart of God. The true shepherd of God needs to know the heart of God. We learn that through His Word, prayer, and service for His glory.

The Christian of our day (2008) is living in times of great opportunity. Let us be devoted, committed, and crucified with Christ; being so will not allow us to backslide away from where God desires us to be, and that is with Him. Let us walk in His Spirit, His Word, and do things using His methods. Whether some want to admit it or not there are some methods that are being used to “Reach people for Christ” which are not after God’s heart. You know them. They give more glory to the program, the actors, the performers, the stunts, the numbers of people who are drawn to these events, and even to the numbers of “decisions”, than they do to the Lord for whom they are presumably there.

O, backsliding children God pleads for your return, “Return, O backsliding children…”

-by Tim A. Blankenship

Returning Repentance

With the revelation of the pretensious treachery of Judah God again extends mercy to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Though they had departed from God and since the departure from the Southern Kingdom, had never really had much worship and care for God they were not pretentious in their behavior. You will not find one righteous king among the people of Israel. Jereboam, the first king of Israel, it is said of Him, “Jereboam did not turn from his evil way…” (1 Kings 13:33). And, that is of all the kings of Israel.

One clear thing that we can see from this invitation from God through the prophet Jeremiah is that God hates pretention, hypocrisy, and He extends mercy to all.

“Then the LORD said to me, ‘Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the LORD; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the LORD; ‘I will not remain angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the LORD your God, and have scattered your charms to alien deities under every green tree, and have not obeyed My voice,’ says the LORD.” Jeremiah 3:11-13 (NKJV).

It is amazing to me the number of people who have told me, and some I have heard of from others who do not believe that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same. Right here is clear evidence of it. God is merciful, gracious, and loving in the New Testament. He has always longed for His backsliding people to return to Him.

The Northern Kingdom got off in a backsliding agenda. their first king, Jereboam set up two idols for them to worship, and keep the people from returning to Jerusalem. He set up a golden calf in Dan, and at Bethel. None of the following kings had a heart for God and hated His prophets. They sacrificed their children in the fire. Worshipped many false gods, and were perverse in their behavior. Now God pleads with them to repent.

My, how God’s heart grieves for His people. He calls for repentance. Though it is not immediately seen God will accomplish His Word, and His people will return to Him. Hosea, the prophet had a wife who turned from him to pagan, idolatrous, prostitution, and worship of pleasure rather than the God of glory. Hosea pursues his wife, and this is the picture of God pursuing His nation of people to bring them back to Himself.

This was accomplished. The people who came back from the captivity of Babylon were a mixed people. People of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms returned together, and they have been one nation since that time. They were one nation in the time of Jesus. They will be one nation through all time.

When God calls for His people to repent He is calling for us to turn from going the wrong direction, ie., away from Him, and turn around and go with Him. No matter what we have done; no matter how evil and vile; no matter our guilt, or our associations; God’s call to return is still powerful and valid. If you have gotten out of His will; if you are still in your sins; if your life is in a real mess; and if your worship has grown cold; then His call to return to Him is for you. He asks only that you acknowledge your iniquity – that you had turned from Him to sin. He is merciful, will hear your cry, and will receive you back to a walk with Him.

We have all sinned. We all fall short of His glory, and yet He calls us to Himself. Repentance is Returning to God. Returning to God is Repentance.

-by Tim A. Blankenship

God’s Love is Pleading

Even though Israel has been greatly polluted by sin, the LORD continues to plead with them. He urges them to return to Him at the end of verse one of chapter three.

There is much we as Christians can learn from God’s love for Israel. He never ceases loving His people. He has not, to this day, given up on Israel. They will one day believe in their Messiah who is Jesus.

Hear the Word of God through Jeremiah the prophet:

“Lift up your eyes to the desolate heights and see: where have you not lain with men? By the road you have sat for them like an Arabian in the wilderness; and you hav polluted the land with your harlotries and your wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and there has been no latter rain. You have had a harlot’s forehead; you refuse to be ashamed. Will you not from this time ccry to Me, ‘My Father, You are the guide of my youth? Will He remain angry forever? Will He keep it to the end?’ Behold, you have spoken and done evil things, as you were able.” Jeremiah 3:2-5 (NKJV).

The prophet is still addressing the spiritual adultery of the people of Israel, and spiritual adultery most generally leads to physical adultery against those we love. When a Christian man who is a pastor falls in love with his position, power, and the attention which he gets rather than the God whom he is supposed to be serving; he has fallen into spiritual adultery, and is in the position of committing adultery against his wife. This is just a word of warning preachers.

The person in the pew can get into spiritual adultery by caring for his position in the “secular” workforce more than he does for his service to the Lord. When you get into spiritual adultery you are setting yourself and your family up for devastation.

Spiritual adultery pollutes our land, ie., our inheritance with God. The land is God’s inheritance for Israel, and they had polluted it with their departure from faith in Him, and of giving themselves over to other gods, which in fact, were no gods at all. Israel was like the harlot who waited by the roadside. It is written in the Liberty Bible Commentary,

In the ways hast thou sat. Like the prostitutes who enticed passers-by along the roads, so had Israel enticed other gods (cf. Gen 38:14; Prov 7:12). Idolatrous altars had actually been erected at road intersections and the gates of the cities (II Kgs 23:8; Ezk 16:25). Also like the Arabian, the Bedoin who lies in wait for travelers in order to plunder them, so Israel sought after idolatry and thus desecrated the land.” p. 1434.

PLEASE NOTE: “In the ways hast thou sat” is in the text printed above and in the NKJV as “By the road you have sat.

By God’s admission and the prophet’s there is no shame in the people for their adultery. When God’s people get out of His will we get into a horrible state; if we are not quick to do our accounting. Why would people, especially God’s people be surprised at the discipline or chastisement of the LORD? It is because we can get cold and callous when we do not walk with Him. We can begin thinking that He is the one who is angry, and He will keep on being angry with us; when in fact it is we who are in the wrong, angry with God, and will keep on to the end, except for the grace of the Almighty LORD.

Even with the cold, collous hearts God is still pleading for the return of His people. That should warm our hearts. His love is always pleading, always calling us to return.

The Wonderful Love of God

There are far too many times I have heard of people, even Christians, saying; “The God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament”, or they say; “People of the Old Testament were saved differently than the people of the New Testament time.” My usual response to that is; “That just isn’t so”.

In reading in the book of Genesis we find that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD”. He did not earn his salvation it was by grace (Genesis 6:8). We find again in Genesis, “And he [Abram, ie., Abraham] believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). That same phrase is used to assure us that Abraham was not saved by works but by grace in Romans 4:1-4.

In looking in the book of Jeremiah the prophet proclaims the love or our God and Savior:

“They say, ‘if a man divorces his wife, and she goes from him and becomes another man’s, may he return to her again?’ Would not tht land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; ‘Yet return to Me,’ says the LORD.” Jeremiah 3:1 (NKJV).

The prophet likens the people of Israel and Judah to a wife who has committed many adulteries, and abominations against her Husband who is God. According to law, Deuteronomy 24:1-04, it was an unclean act for a man to have his previously divorced, remarried, divorced and to take her back to himself. It was considered a defilement of the promised land. God, though, seeing the uncleanness of His people calls them to repent and return to Him. Despite the fact of their many acts of treachery, adultery and spiritual adultery, their murder of small children and elderly people; God says, “I still love you. Return to Me.’

That is the grace of God displayed in the Old Testament. Saved and restored by God’s amazing and wonderful love and grace.

Faith On Display

Genesis 7:1-24 continuing…

” And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.” Genesis 7:7-9 (KJV).

By faith Noah built the ark. It was also by faith he entered the ark. The ark must have seemed a dark and imposing object to the mind of flesh. However, to the mind of faith it was the place of light and the only means of salvation. The only means of natural light would have been in the lone window through which the one created in the image of God could communicate with his Creator.

It was upon God’s invitation alone that Noah had faith to enter. The ark was built by God’s heavenly design, and man entered it only upon God’s invitation.

Imagine if Noah would have spent 100 years building the ark, then, upon God’s call to enter balking, shirked, then pulled away and not entered. He would not do that, because the faith that caused Him to build (his work) also led him to enter into it.

We, people of faith in Christ Jesus, build an ark of safety by living out our faith for all to see. Without saying a word we testify to our faith in Jesus by faithfully attending worship in our local church. Your lost neighbor watches you as you go there every Sunday. They also see you as you faithfully discipline your children to behave rightly. That unredeemed work associate watches as you work and labor faithfully or unfaithfully. What do they see? You are building an ark for their redemption. Be faithful to God, His call, and His word and work.

God is the One who brings all these things to pass in us. We are the one’s who must work them out for others to see.

Give With Caution

Matthew 6:1-34 continuing…

Chapter six of the Sermon On The Mount deals with our true worship toward God. It involves our character. All practices of worship are to be focused upon the Heavenly Father and God of all creation.

Anything, short of God, which we seek for fulfillment, peace, joy, and/or justification, is idolatry and covetousness.

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” Matthew 6:1-4 (KJV).

This may come across as sounding somewhat out of the norm, but we ought to GIVE WITH CAUTION. On one occasion as Jesus teaching in the temple and his disciples with him we are told,

“And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” Mark 12:42-44 (KJV).

Now, the reason Jesus tells us to “Take heed” to our giving and charitable deeds is because the Pharisees, and the wealthy made special note of your “Much giving”, thus being awarded the praise of man. God finds no pleasure in our boastful acts.

It is far better to give and no one know the amount of giving or even that you give, and glorify God, because He will know and He will be the one to bless you; than it is to give with pride, openly that all may see how much you give, and receive all the accolades of men, and miss the blessing of God. For the religious hypocrite giving is a means of gaining favor with God and their fellow man. In fact God frowns on the motive of self-exaltation (Acts 5:1-11). The praise and rewards of man hinders the blessing of God.

Give without calling attention to your act –

“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:26-27

When we give with the sole purpose of giving back to God, recognizing His blessings to us, without calling attention to ourselves we grow spiritually; God is glorified, and others are helped by the generosity which came from our hearts. I would much rather have a blessing from the Lord, as to have a temporal recognition from God. Usually those who lavish recognition because of their giving, or works are doing what they are doing with the wrong heart and motive

A Response of Courage

Matthew 5:21-48 continued…

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” Matthew 5:38-47 (KJV).

Could you get from these verses this thought? “Absence of giving equals no love”. The correct and always right attitude for the follower of Jesus Christ is the attitude which Jesus had. We are quick to strike back. We are slow to love when we are struck. In our society this would seem like the attitude of naivety, or cowardice. It is actually the response of courage.

The Old Testament Law does tell us, “An eye for an eye…” (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21), and Jesus is not denying these laws but showing a better way of respecting one another. “I am no one’s doormat”. Have you ever heard anyone say that. Would you be a “Doormat” if it meant that person coming to faith in Jesus? Does that put another spin on it? Another view? It should. I am not trying to say I can do that, but that ought to be the heart of the Christian. Be willing to lose an eye without retaliation. Go the second mile without payment. Give to any who asks of us. Love those who may despise us.

What reward is there in loving someone who loves me? It is much more rewarding for ourselves and the other person who may despise us when we show them an unconditional love – the love that Jesus has shown us.

This SERMON ON THE MOUNT is really tough. Again, anyone who tells me that they are living by the SERMON ON THE MOUNT better have a very impressive testimony for Christ, and living by these words of Jesus very faithfully, or I will be sure to call him/her a liar; or they are at the least very deceived. Let’s endeavor by our faith in Jesus and the power of His Spirit within live by His words. We have already failed. Let’s trust Him and His grace.