It tells us in I Thessalonians 5:23 that only God is able to sanctify or make holy since He alone is holy. And so it is by this sanctification process we are accepted into the family of God receiving the Spirit of Sonship or adoption. (Romans 8:17) Thus as newly adopted brothers and sisters into the family we become co-heirs with Jesus. And because we are now family, Jesus is not the least bit hesitant to call us His brothers and sisters.
Some plant, some water…but God makes those spiritual seeds planted in someone’s heart grow. (I Corinthians 3:6) And so every time we share the Good News of the Gospel, we’re sowing righteousness…and God rewards it. ( Psalm 24:5) And as we extent grace and mercy towards others, our Heavenly Father’s boundless grace and mercy is showered down on us. But this verse also warns us of becoming lazy and too comfortable in our Christianity…of losing that fire, that first love…like a field that was once productive but now lies fallow and inactive. Now is the time to examine yourself and ask…”Do I need to break up my unplowed ground?”
Or as we read in Galatians 6:7-8, “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature will reap destruction.” If we choose to make our way through life without God, we are just making a difficult life here on earth even harder. Now, the decision is entirely ours…but remember this, we all have to live with the consequences of our decisions…and the misery is brought about by no one else but ourselves. Or as Job observed, “Hardship doesn’t spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:6-7) Thanks to Adam and Eve, we come into this world equipped with the sin nature… but it’s our choice what we do about it.
Were the disciples taking on the role of bodyguards for Jesus here, trying to keep the curious crowds and paparazzi away…or were they overreacting and taking matters into their own hands? The meaning for the Greek word “rebuked” in this verse is anything but compassionate and/or caring towards the parents who just wanted their little ones blessed. It was biting remarks expressing disapproval in a harsh tone of voice. It’s not a surprise then how Jesus reacted to them in an indignant and angry way when He said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14) The disciples thought they knew more than Jesus…they reacted rather than acted in a loving way … and in doing so, allowed the situation to rule them and their emotions.
The translation for manna literally means “What is it?” and it had totally unique qualities… it could be ground, milled, baked, or boiled. And by providing it to the Israelites as they wandered in the desert, God’s desire was that they would trust Him to take care of all their needs…but Psalms 78 gives us an account of just how prideful, rebellious, and whiney the people were. Again and again they put God to the test, complaining while there was still food in their mouths…demanding more and more, rather than being grateful for what they had. In grumbling about real bread for their physical bodies they had completely lost sight and turned from God’s truth and divine revelation for their spiritual bodies.
Across time God has changed people’s names. We see in the Old Testament Him renaming Abram to Abraham, Sarai becoming Sarah, and Jacob’s name changing to Israel. So why, when Jesus first laid eyes on Simon, did He call him by a new name? The answer is in Matthew 16:18, when at the end of His Ministry, Jesus said to Simon, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Over the course of those three years following Jesus, Simon had changed from a fickle loudmouth and impulsive at times fool…(even to the point of denying he even knew Jesus)… to being radically transformed at the Resurrection. For it was through this tremendous spiritual growth Simon became his namesake – Cephas or Peter which means Rock. It was then, that this Rock of a man took charge of the frightened and faltering group of Believers and started to fearlessly preach the Gospel Message.
It was her own father, the Pharaoh, who had ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all male babies when they were born, and it also says Pharaoh’s daughter recognized immediately that the baby was a Hebrew…so what (or more importantly Who) made her take pity on this infant in a papyrus basket hidden among the bulrushes? God had big plans for baby Moses…plans to deliver the Israelites from bondage and set them free…and no decree from Pharaoh, and certainly no adverse decision of Pharaoh’s daughter could deter God’s plan. So instead, this tiny Hebrew baby was raised in the Pharaoh’s palace, right under his nose. Which helps us realize that God can use any thing, person, or place to achieve His ultimate plan and purpose.
This is the first Mother’s Day without my Mom… and I know there are many of you facing the same challenge today. The COVID Pandemic has been very cruel to the whole world the past 15 months. We’ve lost many loved ones…and due to strict quarantine rules, many of you were unable to even be there for you loved one’s final hours. My heart aches for you and the emptiness you feel from not being there. But you do have something to fill that void…it’s all the pleasant memories you have of that person. So take all those sweet, delightful, and good memories of your loved one and cling to them…for you may have not been able to hold their hand at the end, but you can hold on to those memories now.
The world can’t comprehend the meaning of the Scriptures above, let alone how a intelligent person could put their faith in something they can’t see or touch. But Believers around the world would beg to differ. Yes, we are a peculiar people… our blind devotion may seem curious, our confidence based only on the invisible is rather strange…but the biggest oddity is the joy we derive from it all…the world finds this really weird. But it’s that unspeakable joy of knowing we’ve been saved from our sins that presses us on in righteousness, which leads to holiness, the result being eternal life. (Romans 6:22) And as the resurrected Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) The world will always scoff and mock what they don’t understand…but that only means we need to be salt and light in that darkness.
Paul wrote this letter to the Persecuted Church in Thessalonica, offering comfort and exhorting them to continue to serve the Lord in spite of the hardships. He urged them to be “Imitators of the Lord in spite of their severe suffering.” (I Thessalonians 1:6) Living in the United States I have no idea what it would be like to be part of a Persecuted Church. My Church has never been harassed, oppressed, or banned from meeting. We have never had to put our utter trust in God because our corrupt government is denying Corona Virus vaccines to only the wealthy and powerful…leaving the vast majority of us vulnerable. God help the Persecuted Church…may they never surrender to the circumstances or succumb under the trials…may their zeal and ardor in the faith be not only an encouragement but an example to us all…and may they take comfort in the Lord’s mercy and grace as they continue to endure.