Mark 16:1-7

1 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves ‘Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?’ 4 But when they looked up they saw that the stone had been rolled away – for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

6 But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples – and Peter – that He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”‘

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An Analogy

A military analogy of Christian life

A Christian life on earth is like a nation’s military on a campaign in a foreign land attempting to rescue people from evil, oppression, and eternal death.

God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our all-knowing, omnipresent Commander in Chief, loves His troops with an incomprehensible love, and supplies all of the support that could ever be needed in any given situation. God knows that the war is already won and blesses those of us, with the faith to accept this knowledge of ultimate victory, through His provided wisdom by giving us His Word.

He’s provided all of us with our guidelines for service and our orders to be carried out in one book, the Bible.

He’s also made sure that we have unlimited air cover, while we serve throughout the conflict, provided through His angels.

We have different Christian denominations that represent His different branches of service throughout the campaign here on earth.

Within those branches of service are our platoons, or churches. Each church have commanders known as pastors and elders who make sure God’s written guidelines and orders are clearly understood and carried out.

And our squadron is our family, both immediate (mom, dad and kids) and extended (grandmother, grandmother, aunts, uncles, etc…).

Most of the time there is no firefight. But when there is, mom and dad dig a foxhole and together, side by side, they do all they can to fight their way out of the trouble. Even when it’s extremely difficult you don’t give up the fight and leave the other in the foxhole alone. Other than the love of our God, this should be the ultimate assurance that these two, dug in together, will never give up during a battle or throughout the war. They are in it together no matter what until the very end.

Admittedly there are times where one or the other in the foxhole dies (in a physical sense) and is carried stateside to be revived and to reside with God leaving the other to carry on in the foxhole alone. At this point the rest of the squadron must step up and provide support, and the assurance that God is there with them in the trenches.

Divorce however is like one of the two in the foxhole shooting themselves in the arm in order to leave the battle. There is nothing noble or right about this type of action. There is no medal of honor for that type of behavior or wound. And, there is no reinstatement into the campaign without a pardon from God that starts at reconciliation and forgiveness from the one you left stranded in the foxhole to fight alone.

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Ephesians 3:19

Ephesians 3:1919 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may filled up to all the fullness of God.

We’re not loved because we’re valuable, we are valuable because we are loved – that is God’s amazing grace.

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The School of Character

The Christian family – father, mother, raising their gifts from God – this is God’s school of character for us on earth. And like any institution of higher learning it wouldn’t be an education of any worth if it were easy.

The marriage of a Christian man and a Christian woman, where two have become one until God calls us home to Him, is the foundation of the family.

From the Christian man’s perspective in marriage, we have committed to remain faithful and loving to the same woman no matter what – “until death do us part”. Our job is to love and honor our wife in all circumstances – hate or harshness is not allowed, and neither is divorce.

From the Christian woman’s perspective in marriage, she has committed her respect and unconditional love to the same man no matter what – “until death do us part”.

That said, even Christian marriage is not easy. Marriage can bring out the worst in both husbands and wives. They must choose to stay in the School of Character or drop out. I’m sure one of the reasons God gave virtually no provision for divorce (as communicated clearly in the Bible) is because we can’t learn much by quitting a challenging school.

To make it work and provide the basis for raising godly children, the husband and wife has to value and exhibit unconditional love; they must pursue holiness and humility rather than control and personal fulfillment; they need to find grace to repent than condemn; they have to learn sacrifice and patience instead of indulgence and gratification. A Christian marriage is not as much about us as it about our representation of the love Christ has for His church and about our raising our children as God intended – demonstrating unconditional love and commitment, and providing the security of the family as a whole.

A man and woman become more like God when they become one through Christian marriage. In a biblical marriage, the life-long commitment made before God, selfishness is replaced by self-giving love – God is love. The husband and wife also become more like God when they have a baby and become a family. Being parents help them to understand the father-heart and mother-heart of God – the real meaning of love, sacrifice, and submission.

To break this oneness through the rebellion of adultery or divorce hurts the church and the family because it violates our essential nature – the image of the triune God.

“God hates divorce” and so should we. Stay in “school” – train your children in the way they should go; honor your wife; respect your husband; demonstrate you unconditional love for Christ, for your spouse and for your children.

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James 2:14-24

Faith Without Works Is Dead
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”

One big question regarding our faith is are we saved by grace through faith alone or do we also need good works (Ephesians 2:8-98 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”)?

In James 2:14-24 above James doesn’t argue that good works are required for salvation and he doesn’t say that our deeds are more important than our beliefs (and neither would I). He does however insist that there are two kinds of faith—one legitimate and the other illegitimate; “faith … made complete” (verse 22) and “faith without deeds” (verse 20). Both are “belief” in one sense of the word. But legitimate faith goes deeper than “right thinking” to “right living.”

The confusion comes when we read what Paul writes (Ephesians 2:8-9 (above), and Galatians 3:6-12) – that we can’t earn salvation. He uses Abraham as an example of a person who received God’s promise, not through human effort, but through faith (Galatians 3:6-126 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.
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James uses Abraham as an example too, but his focus and emphasis are different than Paul’s. He skips over the futility of human effort that Paul wrote about to discuss the futility of deficient faith—faith that stops at the intellectual level. Even demons have that kind of “faith,” James says (verse 19)! James’s point is that Abraham exercised authentic faith—demonstrated by his actions. Abraham’s deeds didn’t earn him anything, but they proved his faith was genuine: right faith led to right actions. If Abraham didn’t trust God, he could never have offered his son—the fulfillment of God’s promise—on the altar (verses 21–22). Paul uses Abraham to show that people are justified on the basis of real faith; James shows that Abraham’s faith was proven to be real because it worked through his actions (Galatians 5:66 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.“).

So, we don’t need anything but faith—the right kind of faith—to be saved by God. And our behavior will show what our faith is made of, whether or not it is legitimate. If our faith is real; if it’s genuine; if it has meaning beyond making us “feel” good, it will be clearly and obviously communicated to everyone by our actions.

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God’s Word (Psalm 119:1-32)

David makes it clear in this Psalm that the only source for being right with God is through obedience to His “testimonies”, “precepts”, “commands”, “statutes”, etc….. When we’re not obedient we’ve sinned. Like David, we never want to “wander from” God’s “commandments” but we all do – we all sin. And when we do sin God has given us one solution, communicated through His Holy Word (by His grace through Christ’s death), – that is to repent of our sin, and then come to God for forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Repentance is one of the key elements in the forgiveness process.

re·pent
1. to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc. (often followed by of ): He repented after his thoughtless act.
2. to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent. verb (used with object)
3. to remember or regard with self-reproach or contrition: to repent one’s injustice to another.
4. to feel sorry for; regret: to repent an imprudent act.

Our sin is always first and foremost against God. More often than not most people aren’t aware or even effected by our sin (at least not initially, but God’s corrective measures toward us can ultimately effect many around us).

That said, many of our sins have a very direct effect on others. When this is the case, based on God’s direction, our road to forgiveness always starts with genuine repentance for what we’ve done. Then we go to God on our knees and ask for forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Christ. Then we go to those we’ve directly effected by our sin and ask for forgiveness. And last we do our best to enact restoration to the extent it’s possible. If we’re not repentant then we’re not forgiven because we really haven’t even acknowledged our sin. If we are repentant we are forgiven by God and will have a strong desire to make our wrongs right. Everyone will know that we’re “right with God” because it will be obvious by our actions and attitude, as well as our current and future behavior.

Like David, our desire should be to not sin in the first place. However, also like David, we are to refer to the only Source available to us for true forgiveness. There is no partial or easier way to forgiveness. Just making a statement of forgiveness without taking the necessary steps laid out by God is meaningless.

Psalm 119:1-32

1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart!
3 They also do no iniquity;
They walk in His ways.
4 You have commanded us
To keep Your precepts diligently.
5 Oh, that my ways were directed
To keep Your statutes!
6 Then I would not be ashamed,
When I look into all Your commandments.
7 I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
8 I will keep Your statutes;
Oh, do not forsake me utterly!

9 How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
10 With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
11 Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord!
Teach me Your statutes.
13 With my lips I have declared
All the judgments of Your mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
16 I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.

17 Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
19 I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me.
20 My soul breaks with longing
For Your judgments at all times.
21 You rebuke the proud—the cursed,
Who stray from Your commandments.
22 Remove from me reproach and contempt,
For I have kept Your testimonies.
23 Princes also sit and speak against me,
But Your servant meditates on Your statutes.
24 Your testimonies also are my delight
And my counselors.

25 My soul clings to the dust;
Revive me according to Your word.
26 I have declared my ways, and You answered me;
Teach me Your statutes.
27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts;
So shall I meditate on Your wonderful works.
28 My soul melts from heaviness;
Strengthen me according to Your word.
29 Remove from me the way of lying,
And grant me Your law graciously.
30 I have chosen the way of truth;
Your judgments I have laid before me.
31 I cling to Your testimonies;
O Lord, do not put me to shame!
32 I will run the course of Your commandments,
For You shall enlarge my heart.”

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Philippians 2:1-5

1Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,”

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Prayer for Troubled Times

Father, You know that the human heart is rebellious. You’re fully aware that this is a fallen world. I see evidence of it before my eyes every day from every outlet where I receive the news. I witness again and again the ugly realities of stubbornness and resistance and selfishness. I not only watch the flesh battle the flesh, I’m engaged in the battle myself. Father, please give me the ability to survive these difficult times.

I pray, Lord, that my fallen condition will not cause me to compromise my convictions in the delicate days of the future. May I stand on tiptoe, like the ancient Hebrews in Exodus 19, who heard the horn as it blew and saw the smoke and the cloud and the lightning that flashed on Sinai and realized that You are to be taken seriously. Find in me a heart willing to do that. Give me an unselfish generosity—great heartedness—in the process of transitioning me from the way I am to the place I will be.

Lord, I trust You completely. Just as Moses trusted You to get the Hebrews out of Egypt, so I trust You to get me into the promised land, bringing me safely to the other side of death, through bodily resurrection and on to new life in a new creation. Go before me, Lord, stay behind me, and surround me with what I need to overcome the rebellion. Give me a sense of peace and confidence that You are in the lead, never me. And cause me to trust You completely as I walk sensitively and humbly with You my God through the days before me.

I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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John 14:15 / 1 John 2:3 / Job 28:28

John 14:1515 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments“.

1 John 2:33 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”

Job 28:2828 The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”

A person’s claim to be a Christian is meaningless if he or she is not obedient to all of God’s Holy Word. That’s not to say that we have the ability to be perfect, only that we must recognize our sin when we’re not obedient, correct the wrong we’ve committed, and ask God as well as any other offended party for forgiveness.

And the fear of the Lord (reverence to Him) is not some feeling you try to generate within yourself; it’s the result of believing in the true God and living a life of love and obedience to Him.

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John 15:9-17

Love and Joy Perfected

9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another.”

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