In the stillness of the evening

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The other day we went to a barbecue at the home of some friends and I stepped away to have a look at the lake where I took this picture with my phone.  It was still and surprisingly cool for July. As I stood there, I couldn’t help but think of the words of the Psalmist:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 23:1-4 (KJV)

I guess there are just some times when He seems more near than others; for me these times are early in the morning and in the stillness of the evening.

Yes, He is there.

Of course He’s there the rest of the time too, but it just seems like He’s easier to notice in those still times… maybe it’s just because things are still.  His presence is one of the greatest blessing a person can find in this life, one that I am thankful for.

Isn’t it funny, have you noticed this too?  The things I’m most thankful for are things that don’t cost a cent!

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Have mercy

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Countless generations have come to understand their need for mercy; countless generations have found it. Ours is no different.

Of course there have always been those who think they do not need it, and these are a sad lot.  They reject the one thing they need most of all; their pride defeats them.

I see better things for all of you, for the very fact that you have taken time to look at this post would indicate that you are not so proud as to think that God’s mercy is beneath you.  You, dear reader will see a greater future than those who are blinded by pride, for you will seek God’s favor and find it though our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:1-2

May all of us fall on our knees and pray like this with the hope and expectancy that our God will hear our prayer, and that the work of Jesus Christ on the cross will suffice for our cleansing before God. May we also rise from this prayer filled with hope, joy and love for our neighbors, and may that hope, joy and love suffice for us to share His Good News with them.

Sunday Class Notes: July 28

God’s Rest 

Today‟s Text Hebrews 4:1-13
Introduction:
Picking up where we left off last week, the author continues his discussion of that rest which the
people of Israel largely did not enter because of their disbelief. In this section, our author expands this
thought by explaining that receiving good news is simply not enough; we must combine it with enough
faith to live out what we have received. Not to do so will result in our deaths in the desert.
4:1-2 Verse 1 introduces a new thought to the discourse from the previous chapter by bringing to our
attention that the eternal rest lost to all but two of the Israelites who were saved out of Egypt is still
available to us. This thought will be more fully developed beginning in verse three. The second part of
this verse contains an interesting turn of phrase that continues the warning found in the previous chapter.
The word that the NIV renders “be carful” is phobeo from which our English word “phobia” comes. As
you know a person having a “phobia” is someone who holds something in great fear, and the Greek word
means “to fear”. It is odd that the NIV here translates it as “be careful” for the one and only time. Thus,
we can conclude that the author is telling us that we should fear falling short of the rest! Verse two goes
on the reveal that we as well as the Israelites have received the “gospel”… interesting. The Greek word
translated here is not the usual word for Gospel, but rather it is literally good news; in this case the good
news of God‟s rest. They had the news, in fact it derives from God‟s promise to Abraham that though
him all nations would be blessed, and since the people in the desert were aware of this, they had the
good news… as do we. The difference (hopefully) is that they had received the news but had not
accompanied it with the requisite faith to faithfully follow God.
4:3 We, like the Israelites are in the process of entering into God‟s rest. Also like the Israelites, we
are expected to remain faithful to God until the very end; then rest. You may recall from our study of the
second that our entrance into that rest is completed by the process of death, burial and resurrection, just
like that of Christ. Consequently, we must not fall away.
4:5-7 It really starts to get interesting here. The author continues to discuss the illustration from Psalm
95, going all the way back to Genesis to show where this rest began: God completed all of His work and
then rested… this is the rest we are to enter. Please take notice that when God rested on the seventh
day, He was not doing so because of any law, but rather it was because His work was finished. This is
to say that He had completed His purpose of creating Man in His image… and entering into fellowship
(relationship + purpose) with him. God‟s eternal rest is the culmination of fellowship with Man. Israel fell
short, will we? Verse seven nails this point down. Quoting again from Psalm 95, the author points out
that centuries after the episode in the desert, through David, God made quite clear that the offer of rest
was still open
4:8-11 Verse 8 documents that entering the Land was not the rest! Entering the Land was a mere
shadow of the full reality which came through Jesus Christ; it is clearly not the Land Promise. We then go
on to repeat that there is still a Sabbath rest for the people of God, but it is clearly not the shadow of the
Old Testament Sabbath, but rather it is the reality of the grace of Christ and our hope for eternal life.
4:12-13 Verse 12 should be committed to memory. These verses reinforce the idea that we need
to be fearful of missing out on God‟s rest. You cannot fool God! You may convince me that you are a
great, devoted and selfless Christian… but God knows your heart and sees you in secret: there is no
fooling Him. We must devote ourselves to be His fervent and sincere disciples, willing to give everything
in His service, and serving in a manner pleasing to Him. Unbelief and rebellion is out of the question

The Great Journey

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A Christian’s journey is a great one, filled with excitement, joy, peace and adventures. It is at once perilous and fulfilling and the final destination is assured and yet the sights we will see along the way are not always evident at the beginning.

We begin our journey when we are baptized into Christ, and at the point into which we enter a new life in Him.  Some at this point suffer from a misunderstanding that all is done, but we’ve only pulled out of the station.  The real adventure has just begun as we begin to learn more about life as a Christian, as we begin slowly at first to grow spiritually.  Temptations will come, missteps will be made, but these will help us to grow and we will continue to move down the track.

As we continue, we will come to understand more as the scenery passes by.  We will come to realize that we are part of a great plan to redeem Mankind.  We will come to recognize that our Lord is using us as His instruments in this great plan and as we continue on our journey we will be more and more able to do our parts. The road ahead may take us high into the mountains, or across great parries as we serve Him.  It may cross great rivers or slide beside calm lakes, but in all things we will serve our Lord more and more and ourselves less and less.

We will meet many others along the route, some will be friends, others will be fellow workers in this great purpose; some may be opposed, but with all we will learn to show the love of our King and Savior.  If all goes well, we will develop into people who can lead others to relationship with our Lord.  We will also become people who can lead other Christians into a greater level of maturity in Christ so that they will lead others to Him. Through all of this, we will come more and more to appreciate the wonder of being in fellowship with the God who created the universe.  This world will become less and less attractive, His purpose will become more and more important to us, and finally the day will come when we are ready to reach our journey’s end.

As we pull into the final station, our hearts will be filled with joy, our journey complete.  Yet as with any journey, arrival at our final destination is but a beginning of a new experience, for our final destination is but the beginning of another journey, the journey through eternity at the side of our heavenly Master.

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Being Inspired

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I’ve always been amazed at the story of Abraham Lincoln’s life, it’s the original rags to riches sort of story.  Imagine a kid born in a log cabin in utter and desperate poverty who grows up the become president of the United States with help from no one.  He had no formal education to speak of, yet he became a brilliant lawyer.  His family life was what we would call abusive.  He experienced enough personal tragedy to put most people into therapy and he managed to survive all of this with enough intelligence and inner strength to almost single-handedly hold a nation together in the most difficult circumstances.  The net result of all of this is that a whole race of people were set free from bondage; not bad for a poor kid from nowhere.

Mr. Lincoln was not perfect by any measure.  Like all of us, he had his faults and his weaknesses.  He made his share of mistakes, he had thousands of critics and in some quarters, he remains controversial.  One fact remains that in my view towers above all else: He overcame much and achieved a great deal of good in spite of overwhelming odds.

Mr. Lincoln’s story should inspire us all; maybe it should shame us to a certain extent as well. Few of us have so much to overcome, and yet so many of us are willing to be defeated by circumstances.  Few of us have so little help available, yet most of us can’t see that we might make a difference.  It may be true that few of us are in a position to directly affect the outcome of history, but all of us can affect the lives of those around us.  All of us are called to be a disciple of Christ, and all of us are called to His eternal purpose. It seems to me, that all of us should redouble our efforts to be a follower of Christ and to dedicate ourselves fully to spread His love in our surroundings.

Surely this would be pleasing in God’s sight.

It’s Not What You Think

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A few weeks ago I was walking along on a Saturday morning when I came upon this view. As you can see, I was out in the country, walking along a quiet path when I saw these geese doing their goose thing in the grass.  I was surrounded by trees, fields and peacefulness, far from the hustle and bustle of the city.

It was a rather warm morning and I was glad to be in the relative quiet of the countryside…

The only problem with that scenario is that I was in downtown Washington, DC. In fact, these geese were only yards from the Lincoln Memorial and had just climbed out of the reflecting pool that stretches from the Lincoln Memorial to the World War 2 Memorial, and this scene is right in the middle of thousands of people.  As I took the picture, I could hear traffic roaring nearby, a siren in the distance and all of the racket of the city; apparently the geese took no notice.

So much in our world is like this. So much around us isn’t really quite what it seems to be. Certain institutions might at first appear to be wonderful and nice, and then turn out to be rotten to the core, and let’s be honest, the same can be said of certain people.

I’m not writing this to be cynical or negative, quite the opposite as a matter of fact, but the smart person keeps these things in mind.  Can we always trust others? Sadly, no.  Can we always trust our institutions to be magnanimous and benevolent?  Surely we know better! Can we always trust God?

Yes!

While people may let us down from time-to-time, and while our culture, society and institutions may also let us down periodically, God does not let us down; He keeps His promises always.  So then, since we’ve all known this for years already, why do we so often put our trust where it shouldn’t be?  Why do we so often not put our trust in God?

Well, it’s something to think about, don’t you think?

Busy Times

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If you look around you, you will probably see busy people; there’s a good chance that you are one of them.  All over town we can see people going to and fro, traffic jams and crowded stores.  In larger cities there are buses and trains full of people on their way to work.

In any newspaper there are articles and statistics reporting the latest economic information, trends and action…

In the midst of all of this activity it can be easy to forget what is truly important in life; it’s so very easy to forget that the dollar is not the center of things. However busy we are, however much buying and selling that may go on, however many people might be obsessed with money, however much attention may be paid to “main street,” God is still ruling over the universe.

Sadly, most of us go through our days paying attention to everything else, being influenced by the popular culture and distracted.  but even though we might take our eye off the ball, God is still there.

How much better life is when we remember this; when we remember that God is in control and that He is there for us.  How much better life is when we keep in mind that His truth reigns and that money, while necessary in modern life, is not our hope. Let us all place our hope and faith in God who is eternal and always reliable.  Let us never place our hope in things that pass away!