• WHAT MEANEST THOU, O SLEEPER?

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    “So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.”
    Jonah 1:6

    Jonah did not want to take God’s Word to Nineveh and to the Assyrians. Even though they were a cruel and corrupt people, God wanted to reach them with His call for repentance. Jonah was the instrument He wanted to use. Rather than obey God’s command and call, he decided to take a boat to Tarshish, running from the will of God. The world, the flesh, and the devil are always trying to get us to leave God’s will.

    Jonah’s experience reminds us that direct disobedience is a serious offense with certain consequences. A storm interrupted Jonah’s peaceful voyage. Sailing should always be rough for a prodigal. The tempest was so severe that the mariners were fearful and began to cry out to their false gods. As they were frantically lightening the ship and vainly calling out to their gods, it was discovered that Jonah was asleep in the lower parts of the boat. The shipmaster awakened the disobedient prophet, urging Jonah to “call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.”

    It is interesting that the person most responsible for this terrible storm was the least concerned about his responsibility. It seems that this is still sometimes the case. Those who are running from God may appear to be less anxious about the difficulties they are causing, rather than those who are affected by their actions. How many storms have come to families, churches, marriages, and other relationships as a result of Jonahs? A true Christian and servant of God cannot abandon God’s will without serious consequences.

    When the storms come, the one who is most rebellious often seems the least interested. “What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise.” The backslider needs to be awakened from his sleep. Our spiritual enemy wants us to slumber while some vessel carelessly takes us away from God’s will. We cannot afford to sleep on a voyage going in the opposite direction from where we should be moving.

    Perhaps you see yourself drifting from the place God would have you to be or to serve. WHAT MEANEST THOU, O SLEEPER? The storm you have brought brings danger to those around you. And while you are sleeping, people are dying without the message you are to deliver.

  • OPEN DOORS

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    “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”
    Colossians 4:3, 4

    Paul is writing this epistle to the church at Colosse, from his place in prison, “I am also in bonds.” In our text, he encourages the Christians there to be faithful in their praying, and he specifically requests prayer for himself. This is perhaps one of the most underrated and neglected privileges and responsibilities that we have been given: the act of prayer. Paul knew the value of prayer. He had seen God answer his prayers, and he was sincerely dependent on the prayers of God’s people.

    When we hear prayer requests, how seriously do we take them? We all have heard missionaries speak of how much they are counting on the prayers of faithful intercessors. These are not just meaningless cliches. God hears and answers prayer. This is one of the great lessons of life. God, who can do anything He chooses, has made certain things that are His will, subject to our faith-filled prayers. One has to wonder how much of God’s will is being postponed or hindered because we have neglected our prayer closets.

    We see in these verses that Paul was specific in his request. He asked that prayer might be offered, “that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ,” and that “I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” He knew there were doors of opportunity that only God could open, and Paul knew he needed God’s help that he might always speak the words that needed to be preached. Considering the request for an open door, we might infer that he wanted God to open the door for him to be released from prison. There were many people outside the prison that the missionary wanted to reach. We can also be certain that even in the prison, Paul wanted God to open doors of opportunity for ministry. We need to be faithful ministers of Christ wherever we are.

    May we daily look for and pray for doors of opportunity to be opened for ourselves, as well as for those we know who are committed to the Gospel ministry. We can also relate to Paul’s other request that he would speak what needed to be said. When God opens the doors, we need to be ready to give out the Gospel. If Paul needed prayer for his words and his opportunities, we certainly need the same.

  • STAY OUT OF EGYPT

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    “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!”
    Isaiah 31:1

    When God established Abram in the Land of Promise, Abram had a tendency to go to Egypt during times of famine. Jacob and the nation of Israel spent hundreds of years in Egypt before God delivered them under the leadership of Moses. Even after being freed from that Egyptian bondage, the complaining Israelites often looked back favorably to Egypt with a longing to return. Egypt represents for us the world system that we have been saved out of and delivered from.

    In our text, the prophet Isaiah is used to warn the nation of Israel about the dangers of going to Egypt for help. Going to Egypt is trusting in the world. God is to be our Source, not the world. He is our source of wisdom, not the wisdom of the world. It is a mistake to trust in the world. In our generation, parents trust the education and training of their children to the world. The world does not have the answers we need. The “god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:4), which is Satan, governs the world. Why should we trust in a system that has the devil as its god? The “wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (I Corinthians 3:19). Why should we make decisions based on the counsel of the world? God wants His people to STAY OUT OF EGYPT.

    We have to be in the world as far as our employment, lodging, etc., is concerned. We have been commanded to take the Gospel into the world. However, we are not to go into the world for our counsel, for our fellowship, or for our joy and purpose of living. We are not to trust in the world, but rather, we are to trust in the Lord. Isaiah cautioned these people because “they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!” They were leaning on the world rather than believing in God. They were trusting in the arm of the flesh instead of relying on the strength of their Savior. It sometimes seems easier to look to the world rather than seek the Lord. Many of our friends and associates, even those who claim to know the Lord, often rely on the world. But the world does not have the solutions we need. When we depend on the world, God is being robbed of His due glory when we bypass Him for Egypt.

  • AVENGE NOT YOURSELVES

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    “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
    Romans 12:19

    This verse is part of an extremely helpful portion of Scripture, which includes instruction for the treatment of others. What are we to do when we are mistreated? Does God have anything to say about such things? The Bible is such a practical Book, and here, it gives advice concerning this very matter. The first bit of counsel is to “avenge not yourselves.” The word “avenge” means “to retaliate, vindicate or punish.” There will be times when people will treat us unfairly. Even professing Christians will sometimes act as cruelly as those who do not claim to know the Lord. Remember this – our Lord was lied about, misrepresented, and treated wickedly. What if someone is vindictive toward you or slanders you? What if we are lied about? We should not attempt to get back at others. One of the worst things we could do is to seek revenge.

    Our text goes on to tell us to “give place unto wrath.” Rather than seeking to show wrath, we are to “give place unto wrath.” Instead of trying to punish or retaliate against those who have been malicious, we are to leave it in God’s hands. Paul goes on to quote from the Old Testament, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Vengeance belongs to the Lord. It is never our place to try to even the score with others. Rather, we are to forgive those who wrong us and leave it to God to justly deal with them. Instead of seeking to avenge evil with evil, we are to overcome evil with good. For one thing, we are not qualified to deal with those who have acted disorderly. There are too many unseen factors. We may at times misjudge someone’s actions or reactions, only to find out later that we were not just in our assessment. Only God knows all the reasons why people act as they do, or what information they were acting on. He alone knows what retribution or judgment is appropriate.

    We can be confident, whatever the situation, that God will do what is proper and right for the situation. Every deed will be properly rewarded at the proper time. We do not have to concern ourselves if someone “got away with it.” Our responsibility is to leave it in God’s hands and harbor no malice or bitterness. By faith, we are to trust the Lord to appropriately deal with these matters.

  • WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN DONE MORE

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    “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?”
    Isaiah 5:4

    The first part of Isaiah 5 is an allegory about a vineyard, which describes God’s displeasure with Judah and Israel. He planted the vineyard and protected the vineyard, yet it did not produce the fruit He desired and anticipated. It produced “wild grapes.” Rather than sweet or tasteful grapes, they put forth sour or poison grapes. As a result, God removed His protection and allowed His people to be devastated as He chastened them.

    In our text, the Lord asks the question concerning His vineyard, Israel and Judah: “What could have been done more?” Was there more that God could have done to avoid the disappointment they produced? Was their failure a result of God’s lack of provision or planning? We know, of course, that God did everything that could have been done for them to assure that they would produce the right fruit. The fact that they did not produce good grapes was the result of their negligence and disobedience, not some fault on the part of God. What is it that God wants from us? Is it not that we might produce the kind of fruit that pleases Him?

    Using our text as a guide, we can be sure that God is interested in the kind of fruit that we are generating. God is seen as a fruit inspector. When He looks at us, does He see that we are producing good grapes or wild grapes? What kind of fruit are we to be producing? God is looking for the fruit of the Spirit which is detailed in Galatians 5:22-23: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meek-ness, temperance.” This is the fruit of godliness and spirituality. Christian character and conduct is to be seen in our lives. Ungodliness or carnality is like wild grapes.

    In John 15:5, Jesus said that His disciples were to bring forth “much fruit.” As branches in the Vine, we are to bring others to the Savior. The fruit of the vine and the branches should be more grapes. Let us now consider the Lord’s question. “What could have been done more?” As with Israel, God has done all that is necessary for us to be fruitful. He has saved us by His grace, given His Spirit to indwell us, and given us the Word of God to teach us. We are to abide in Him and let His Spirit control us that He might produce through us the kind of fruit that He expects.

  • A BROTHER, MINISTER, AND FELLOWLABOURER

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    “And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:”
    I Thessalonians 3:2

    Paul uses three words in our text in reference to Timothy. They are “brother,” “minister,” and “fellowlabourer.” These words speak of different aspects of Timothy’s life, relationships, and purpose. They also describe our personal relationship to God, each other, and His work. In addition to the fact that they apply to our associations and activities, they suggest a progression in our spiritual growth and responsibilities.

    Paul first calls Timothy a “brother.” This speaks of his, and our, primary and unchanging relationship. Through our new birth, we are now members of God’s family; therefore, we are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. We are first and foremost, family. The other words Paul uses to speak of activity and attitude, but more important than these aspects of our lives, we are part of the family of God.

    Next, he uses the word “minister.” This word has to do with both our activity and our attitude. The minister is an errand runner, a waiter, an attendant, or a servant. The word implies a position of servitude. Paul recognized Timothy as a servant. He was a “brother” and also a “minister.” We should all be servants of Jesus and servants of others. This would include helping and serving where we are able to, but also an attitude of humility. Some who could be effective servants see themselves as being above menial tasks of service. They lack the humility of our Savior who was willing to wash the feet of the disciples.

    Then we see that Paul saw Timothy as a “fellowlabourer.” He was a co-worker with the apostle. Timothy was involved in the great work of reaching, teaching, and training others. He had proven himself to be faithful and was a partner in the labor of the ministry. He was willing and capable of taking on vital leadership responsibility in the work of missions and the establishment of churches. We can easily see that these three titles refer to different roles of the Christian. They are also progressive and dependent on each other. Before a person can be a servant, he must first be a brother. Before he is qualified to be a laborer, he should have a servant’s heart and an attitude of humility. As children of God, we should become servants and diligent workers.

  • ENEMIES OF PEACE

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    “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
    Philippians 4:6, 7

    One of the beautiful things that God promises His children is peace. Sin robs us of peace with God, peace with ourselves, and very often, peace with others. But God is the restorer of that which sin has stolen. We can know peace because we know the Prince of Peace. Peace is part of our spiritual inheritance. However, even Christians can have their peace interrupted. We all have known days of confusion or turmoil, when peace was a stranger to our hearts.

    Our text speaks of the great blessing of peace, but it also speaks of the things that can hinder us from enjoying or experiencing it. One of the first things mentioned in our Scripture that affects our peace is worry. The Bible says, “Be careful for nothing.” To be careful, or full of care, is another way of describing being anxious or worrisome. Worry, or anxiety, is an enemy of peace. One cannot be filled with fretting and worry and at the same time experience God’s peace. Peace accompanies faith and trust, not worry.

    Another enemy of peace is prayerlessness. We are told in our verses to pray about everything, letting our “requests be made known unto God.” When we do not pray about things, taking our concerns to God, we are forfeiting the peace that God promises. By contrast, when we make it a habit to cast our cares on Him, trusting Him with the needs and situations of our daily lives, we will know the peace that He promises. We see still another enemy of peace in our lesson. It is the lack of thanksgiving. Our prayers are to be filled with thanksgiving, and the results will be “the peace of God.” If we do not thank God for the things that He allows in our lives, especially the difficult things, there will be the tendency to become resentful or bitter.

    We may not always know why God permits certain things to come into our lives, but we can be assured that God is good. He has a purpose. Therefore, we can thank Him, by faith, for the circumstances of life. If we can learn to pray about everything, thanking Him for His will and resisting the temptations to worry, we can know God’s peace.

  • BEFORE WHOM I STAND

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    “And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day.”
    I Kings 18:15

    Elijah is a name among the prophets that is especially equated with boldness. He stood before Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, and pronounced divine judgment on the nation of Israel. He alone faced hundreds of false prophets on Mt. Carmel. Where did such boldness come from? What was the source of his unusual confidence? Perhaps those questions are answered, at least in part, in the words “before whom I stand” found in our text.

    Before Elijah stood before others, he stood before God. While he stood before the enemies of God, he knew he was standing in the presence of God. He knew whose messenger he was. He belonged to God and would answer to God alone for his ministry. He was not standing in his own name, authority, or might. He represented the Lord God Almighty and stood as His servant.

    What a difference it would make if more of those who claim to be called by Him could minister with the assurance that they stood before God! Men would not be so timid in declaring His truth if they knew they would stand before and answer to God. Preachers of our day would not be as interested in shaping their messages to appeal to men if they stood before God. We need men of God who have a message from God. We need men who have been with God in prayer and know that He has given His Word to be proclaimed with power. There is no question that time alone with God will be rewarded with His divine touch and a noticeable boldness.

    We too are called to share His message with a world that is often uninterested in His Truth. Before we stand before them, we need to first stand before Him. As Christian servants in many different capacities, both men and women, we need God’s blessing on our lives. We need the confidence that is emboldened by standing before Him. Time before God prepares us for time before men. It may be that this is one of the missing elements in our ministries. Our world is desperately in need of men of conviction who are not for sale. We need men who are not as tuned in to the popular techniques of the generation as they are tuned into the heart of God. God give us men who fear God more than failure and long for His approval rather than the applause of mortals. God, give us messengers who stand in Your presence.

  • GOD’S WORD IS NOT TO BE ALTERED

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    “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”
    Deuteronomy 4:1, 2

    Israel was to be governed by the laws of God. His statutes and judgments were not subject to their vote or approval. They were to “hearken” or “listen intently, paying close attention to” what His Word taught. These holy commandments and principles were to be learned and then obeyed. The success of God’s people was dependent on their obedience to His Word. It has never been possible for the people of God to prosper and be blessed when they are leading disobedient lives. However, as long as they would let God’s Word guide them and faithfully follow His commands, no enemy could prevail against them. Therefore, God strictly forbids the altering of His Word.

    Our text clearly states, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it.” There have always been temptations to tamper with the Word. When the serpent came into the Garden of Eden, he was casting doubt on the Word of God. The devil hates the Bible. He despises the authority of the Scripture and fears the power of the Bible. Israel was to resist every tendency to alter the truth of God. This restriction regarding the Word of God has never been rescinded God’s Word is never to be changed.

    The Bible is not the words of men, it is the Word of God. It will never be outdated. It will never need to be revised. The modern translations of the past century are direct violations of this clear command of Scripture. It is the height of arrogance for Bible publishers to assume they have the authority to add to or diminish from the Words of God. When the Bible is added to or subtracted from, God’s Holy Word is profaned. God’s Word is to be revered, it is to be feared, and it is to be obeyed. We live in a day when those who should be proclaiming the truth are diluting the truth and claiming that the Bible as it is, is no longer relevant. The Holy Scriptures shall always be the unchanging standard of truth.

  • BUILDING UP YOURSELVES

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    “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
    Jude 20-21

    The Book of Jude is primarily devoted to the subject of false prophets and apostasy. Near the end of this very brief yet dynamic book, instructions are given to Christians for letting our lights shine in a darkening world. One thing that is called for is that God’s people would be “building up yourselves on your most holy faith.” The phrase “building up yourselves” clearly indicates personal responsibility for our spiritual condition. We must take the initiative to keep ourselves built up. Obviously, the Holy Spirit wants to work in our lives.

    God gives us pastors and teachers to admonish us. But God will hold each of us responsible for our spiritual growth and maturity. Where am I spiritually? Am I growing in grace? Is there continued progress in my Christian journey? Am I increasingly more useful in God’s work? Am I more Christ-like in my responses and attitudes? These are the things that should concern each of us.

    Along with commanding us to be “building up” ourselves, Jude details several basic, yet essential things that will contribute to our spiritual stability. He mentions “praying in the Holy Ghost.” There will be a definite correlation between our prayer lives and our spiritual strength. Our prayer times should be spiritual, as we are led and influenced by the Spirit of God. We don’t know what to pray for without the Spirit’s involvement.

    Jude also tells us to “keep yourselves in the love of God.” We are to keep ourselves loving God. When our passionate love for God begins to wane, it should be a strong signal that something is missing in our spiritual lives. When we do not love Him as we should, our service and worship will be affected. If we do not love Him as we ought, it is usually because we have taken our eyes off of Him and are focusing on other things. As long as we are gazing by faith on the Savior and contemplating His unconditional love for us, we will be enamored with love for Him.

    We also notice that Jude encourages us to be “looking” for Jesus to come. The thought of seeing Jesus, falling before Him, and worshiping Him in Heaven motivates us. An earnest expectation for His return will keep building us upon our “most holy faith.”

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