1 Thessalonians 5:18 – In everything give thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:18
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

-How often do we thank the Lord “for His goodness and His wonderful works”? (Psalm 107) We do good to throw some gratitude God’s way when He rains down a blessing and we consider ourselves thankful.  But think about what this verse is really saying:  “In everything give thanks”.  When’s the last time you thanked the Lord for giving you something you didn’t want to carry or for taking away something you wanted to keep?  Have you thanked the Lord for your sickness, or your bad finances, or your broken dream?  If you really believed the Bible, you would.  If you really believed that God is able to make all things work for our good (Romans 8:28), you would.  Anything less is just ungrateful.

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Mark 7:37 – “He hath done all things well”

Mark 7:37
37 And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
-The Lord is not without His share of critics.  In fact, it’s safe to say God is the most criticized Person in history.  It’s real easy to be critical of something that you don’t know anything about, and very few people really take the time to give God a chance.  The people here in Mark 7 got that chance, though, and notice their reaction.  They had no room to criticize Jesus; rather, they could only say “He hath done all things well“.  Don’t stand at a distance and try to poke holes in the Bible, “taste and see that the LORD is good“.  (Psalm 34:8)

Exodus 22:20 – No god but the Lord

Exodus 22:20
20 He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.

-In the time of the ancient Hebrew, just as now, God set standards for how He expected His people to live.  In the midst of a series of commands and statutes, He gives verse 20– under penalty of death; no one worships any god but the Lord.  Consider the language “utterly destroyed”; it’s best not to think of this verse in terms of the Hebrew issuing someone the death penalty, for no man has the power to “utterly destroy” another.  “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”  (Luke 12:4-5)  Those who choose to follow anything or anyone other than the Lord God of the Bible will be utterly destroyed by the only One who has the power to utterly destroy; God Himself.

Exodus 20:17 – To Covet or Not to Covet

Exodus 20:17
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

-Are you familiar with the 10th Commandment?  Often I see this commandment referred to as “Thou shalt not covet”, but that really does a disservice to the nature of the law.  There was a reason that God went to the trouble of spelling out specific things that we should not be coveting; it implies that there are other things that are acceptable to be coveted.  To covet simply means to “yearn after” and while that can be destructive if we are focused on the wrong object, it can also be very positive.  Paul tells us to “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31), which refers to different areas of service to the Lord.  Coveting after a deeper level of trust in God, coveting after a better prayer life, coveting after a chance to serve the Lord in ministry; these are all things that can lead to a deeper level in your relationship to God.  How can we know when coveting is okay?  Remember Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Matthew 17:19-20 – Little Faith

Matthew 17:19-20
19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

-As you might know or imagine, mustard seeds are very small and the analogy of a mustard seed was often used by the Jews to signify something of little weight or size.  Jesus tells us that even a tiny amount of faith can move mountains.  But notice the accusation wrapped up in these verses of scripture; “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed…”  By saying “if”, isn’t Jesus telling the disciples that they lack faith even the size of a mustard seed?  There are two very good reasons why a little faith is able to go a long way:  1) Little is always much when God is in it and 2) Little has to be enough because if we are honest with ourselves, there are not too many of us walking around with faith the size of watermelons.

Ephesians 5:25-27 – Washed by the Word

Ephesians 5:25-27
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

-Sometimes we get dirty or grimy and for lack of better resources, we just do our best to dust ourselves off.  We have a multitude of gels and wipes that we use to kill germs and bacteria that may accumulate on our skin.  But to really get ourselves clean, there is no substitute for getting under the water and washing.  While it is obvious when our physical bodies get dirty, it can be harder to spot stains and blemishes on or souls and spirits; nevertheless, we get just as dirty on the inside.  The same God who created water and gave it the properties needed to wash our bodies also provided a way to wash the inward self.  There are no short-cut spiritual sanitizers that can clean us on the inside, neither is there any profit in attempting to dust our souls off; the only way to be clean in the eyes of God is to get under the water of God’s Word.  “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

Proverbs 6:27-33 – If you play with fire…

Proverbs 6:27-33
27 Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?
28 Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?

-Imagine holding an open flame to your body.  In only a moment, you would be permanently marked as the heat seared your flesh.  Apply that same idea to the consequences of the choices we face every day.  In only a moment, our actions can leave a permanent mark on our lives.  While it hopefully goes without saying that sin can quickly lead to bad consequences, consider that their is nothing inherently sinful or evil about fire.  So it is with many things in life that end up hurting us; while certain things may not be inherently sinful, traveling unwise paths can still be very risky.  What’s just as dangerous is trusting your own sense of reason when determining which way to go in life.  How then can we know which way to go?  “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

Job 1:7-8 – Be Strong in the Lord

Job 1:7-8
7 And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
8 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

-Why was Satan walking up and down in the earth?  Satan knew, God knew, and thanks to Peter, we know as well; “the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)  What did the Lord do when confronted with Satan here in Job 1?  The Lord directed Satan to one that He knew would be able to withstand Satan’s assault.  Of course the Lord did this so that His name would be honored, but consider another reason.  What kinds of prey will a lion inevitably seek after- the weakest kind.  There could have been any number of “weaker prey” out there who perhaps would have fainted under Satan’s attack; the Lord in His mercy steered this evil lion away from them and instead pointed him toward someone that the Lord knew would stay close to Him and so “be able to withstand in the evil day”. (Ephesians 6:13) Remember that the next time you face a trial; you may be under attack so that someone else could be spared.

Acts 12:1-3 – A Little Further

Acts 12:1-3
1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also.

-After Herod killed James and saw how pleasing it was to the Jews, he went a little further and took Peter also.  This is what makes the world such a dangerous enemy; they will never stop with a little persecution.  Anytime the world takes a stand against the church and receives good feedback from the masses, they feel permitted to press the attack; they will persecute one more Christian, or repeal one more God-honoring law, or glorify one more sin- always a little further.  Fortunately, “greater is he that is in [us], than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) and that great One also goes a little further (Matthew 26:39); He went further to love us, He went further to spare us, and He went further to die for us.  Even now He keeps watch over His own and no matter how far the enemy goes, the Lord can always go a little further.

James 2:24 – Justified By Works?

Romans 5:1
1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

James 2:24
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

-Justified by faith.  Justified by works.  These two ideas seem on some level to be at odds one with another.  How do we reconcile them?  Consider Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  We are the products of the Lord’s work in salvation; redeemed not to sit idle, but to “walk in the good works”.  They that walk not in the works show no evidence that they are in fact “His workmanship.”  Faith is the presence and power of salvation, but works is the proof and the profit of salvation.  “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18)