Alliterated Promises Of God – V-a His Plan!

Jeremiah 29:11-14

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Jeremiah 29:11 through 14 was written to the Jews who were taken away from their homeland of Judea in the seventy-year Babylonian captivity! These verses were part of a letter God told Jeremiah to write to them. The letter encompasses 25 verses (Jeremiah 29:4 through 28).

  • In this letter, in verses 8 and 9, the LORD reminds those in exile…
...why they were allowed to be punished by King Nebu-
         chadnezzar’s army that destroyed Jerusalem and much of 
         Judea! ...why so many Judeans were killed! ...why the survivors were taken a thousand miles away 
         to Babylon!
  • God also tells them in verse 10, how long the captivity will last, …seventy years…!
  • In verses 15 through 23, He warns those…
     ✡   ...who are falsely prophesying among them in Babylon 
         to stop their divinations and prognostications!

     ✡   ...remaining in Judea and Jerusalem to quit their many 
         sins and false predictions, or they will experience His 
         further wrath!
  • But in the verses 5 through 7 of the letter, because they would be in Babylon a long time, God encourages His exiled people:
     Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their 
     fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take 
     wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so 
     that they may bear sons and daughters--that you may be in-
     creased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the 
     city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and 
     pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

However, like many Old Testament passages (see for instance II Chronicles 7:14 and Isaiah 40:28-31); what was originally directed to the Hebrew people also have great application to Christians today! This is why, to highlight God’s Plan, I have chosen Jeremiah 29:11 through the first part of 14 for the featured Scripture:

     For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the 
     LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a fu-
     ture and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray 
     to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and 
     find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will 
     be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back 
     from your captivity....

Let’s consider several points of what the LORD is saying here:

  • Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD….
     It says in Hebrews 7:25 that Jesus “...ever lives 
         to make intercession for us.He’s always praying 
         for us, and if He is praying for us, He is always 
         thinking about us! He has me in mind, and He has 
         you in mind........RIGHT NOW!

     ✞   How does He do it? There are millions of Christians 
         in the world. But Jesus is God! And, as He said in 
         Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of 
         all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?No! 
         Nothing is too hard for Jesus Christ to accomplish! 
         (see Jeremiah 22:17). 

     ✡   And what kind of thoughts is He thinking toward us?
  • Jeremiah 29:11 – “…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
     ✡   Yes, God can bring evil on those who reject Him! But 
         He intends to bring peace to those who are truly His!

     ✡   And what are the end results of those thoughts toward 
         His children?...to give you a future and a hope.”

         ➔   What is the future for those who know Jesus 
              as Savior? We could spend a year of Gems 
              exploring what the Bible says about the fu-
              ture and what it holds for believers! But I 
              especially like what Paul wrote in I Cor-
              inthians 2:9 (quoting Isaiah 64:4): “But as 
              it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear 
              heard, nor have entered into the heart of 
              man the things which God has prepared for 
              those who love Him.”

         ➔   We may not be able to fully realize what our 
              future days upon the earth will be like. We 
              may not be able to comprehend eternity with 
              the LORD after we die. But we surely do have 
              a hope for the future!
  • Jeremiah 29:12 – “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
     ✡   This has to do with our days upon the earth. Not 
         only can Jesus pray for all believers at once, He 
         can also listen to all the millions of prayers 
         offered up at the same time! And He listens with 
         complete understanding!This ought to encourage us to spend more time in 
         prayer, talking to Him, but also quietly listening 
         to what He has to say to us! 
  • Jeremiah 29:13, 14 – “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD….
     ✡   There are listed here two requirements on our 
         part to find the LORD: We must seek Him! And, as Jesus said in 
              Matthew 6:33, we must seek Him, His king-
              dom, and His righteousness first, before 
              food, drink, and clothing (see Matthew 
              6:25-32); and especially before mammon 
              (money and the things money can buy – see 
              Matthew 6:19-24; I Timothy 6:9, 10).

         ➔   We must search for Him with all our heart
              ...soul, mind, and strength! (Jesus’ state-
              ment concerning the Great Commandment in 
              Mark 12:30 added).

     ✡   If we fulfill what we must do to sincerely seek 
         Him, God will then do what only He can do:I will 
         be found by you, says the LORD....He wants us 
         to find Him, but not by insincere and half-hearted 
         seeking!
  • Jeremiah 29:14 – “…and I will bring you back from your captivity….” Why did I include this part of verse 14? We are not in captivity like the Jews of old!
     In a very real sense, yes we are! For Jesus said 
         in John 8:34, “Most assuredly, I say to you, who-
         ever commits sin is a slave of sin.”

         ➔   Romans 6:16, 19, 20, 21, 23: 

                Do you not know that to whom you 
                present yourselves slaves to obey, 
                you are that one’s slaves whom you 
                obey...you presented your members 
                as slaves of uncleanness, and of 
                lawlessness leading to more unlaw-
                lessness...you were slaves of sin
                ....For the end of those things is 
                death. For the wages of sin is 
                death....Even Paul cried out to God,O wretched 
              man that I am! Who will deliver me from 
              this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

     ✞   What is the answer to Paul’s plea? 

         ➔   Romans 7:25 – “I thank God — through 
              Jesus Christ our Lord!”

         ➔   Romans 8:1 and 2:				

                There is therefore now no condem-
                nation to those who are in Christ 
                Jesus....For the law for the 
                Spirit of life in Christ Jesus 
                has made me free from the law of 
                sin and death.
      As Jesus said in John 8:36, “Therefore if the 
         Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

Jesus Christ, when we seek Him and find Him,
sets us free from captivity to sin and eternal death!
Thank You, LORD God!

Alliterated Promises Of God – IV His Presence!

Psalm 139:1-16; Hebrews 4:13

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

According to John 1:1 and 14, Jesus is God – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us….” There are a number of Scriptures that prove Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh! For instance:

  • Isaiah 9:6 – “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and His name shall be called Wonderful…Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
  • John 10:30 – Jesus said, “I and My Father are one.
  • Philippians 2:6 (Contemporary English Version) – “Christ was truly God.
  • I John 5:20 – “…Jesus Christ…is the true God and eternal life.

Another point is that all true believers are …sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” (Ephesians 1:13). And the Holy Spirit being in you, Paul explains in Colossians 1:27 that what you have is…Christ in you, the hope of glory.So if you have One of the Trinity, you have Them all! And if you have Them all, the full presence of God is with you always!

Why have I taken the time to give you these Scriptures? Because in Hebrews 13:5 and Matthew 28:20 Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you….I am with you always, even to the end of the age….When Jesus Christ is with you always, through His Holy Spirit in you, God in all His fullness is always present with you! That’s why this series is entitled “The Alliterated Promises Of God” and this Gem,His [God’s] Presence!

Psalm 139:1 through 16 expands on this idea of His presence. David wrote:

     O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting 
     down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You 
     comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with 
     all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, 
     O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and 
     before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too won-
     derful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go 
     from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I 
     ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, 
     behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and 
     dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand 
     shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, 
     “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” even the night shall 
     be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from 
     You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the 
     light are both alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; 
     You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I 
     am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, 
     and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from 
     You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the 
     lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being 
     yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days 
     fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.

Yes, it is a long passage. But consider:

  • God sees me in my mundane actions, like “my sitting down…my rising up…my path…my lying down, and…all my ways.” (Psalm 139:2, 3).
  • He…
...is even very aware of....my thoughts afar off...” 
         (Psalm 139:2). Or,         as it is translated in Bren-
         ton’s English Septuagint, “...Thou understandeth my 
         thoughts long before.” (Psalm 138 in this translation).

     ✡   ...knows...altogether...[every] word on my 
         tongue...” (Psalm 139:4).
  • “You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:5). God’s hands are upon me and His arms underneath me!
     Remember the famous Allstate Insurance logo and 
         slogan?

         ➔   Logo – cupped hands as if ready to hold some-
              thing.

         ➔   Slogan – “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”

     ✡   God has a better slogan! And it is found in Deuteronomy 
         33:27: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath 
         are the everlasting arms....
  • David asks in Psalm 139:7, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” The answer? I can’t! For the LORD is in…
     ✡   “...heaven...” (Psalm 139:8).

     ✡   “...Sheol [the world of the dead]...” (Psalm 139:8 – 
         Lexham English Bible).

     ✡   “...the uttermost parts of the sea...” (Psalm 139:9).

     ✡   “...the darkness...and...the night...[as well as] 
         the light...” (Psalm 139:11, 12).
  • In Psalm 139:13 through 16 we find that…
...God knew me......and ...formed my inward parts...while I was 
              still...in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)    

         ➔   ...even before I was conceived, which is what 
              Psalm 139:15 and 16 is saying.

     ✡   ...this is one of the best Biblical arguments against 
         abortion that we can present!

Hebrews 4:12 and 13 (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible) sum up the first 16 verses of Psalm 139 this way:

     For the Word of God is living, and powerfully working, and 
     sharper than every two-edged sword, and piercing as far as 
     the division of both soul and spirit, of both joints and 
     marrow, and able to judge of the thoughts and intentions of 
     the heart; and there is no creature unrevealed before Him; 
     but all things are naked and laid open to His eyes, with 
     whom is our account. 

Remember:

  • …the Word of God…
     ✞   ...does not just refer to the written Word, the 
         Bible!

     ✞   ...it can also mean the Son of God, Jesus Christ! 
         (see John 1:1, 14 above)...who, according to John 
         2:24 and 25, “...knew all men, and had no need that 
         anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was 
         in man.
  • …the Word of God…discerns everything about you, before you were born, and throughout your life!
     ✞   This should be a comfort to those who are living 
         in obedience to the Lord Jesus!God is always with you!He knows all about you!

But…

     ✞   This should be a terror to the unbeliever! For as 
         it says in...

         ➔   ...Hebrews 9:27 – “...it is appointed for 
              men to die once, but after this the judg-
              ment....”

         ➔   ...Revelation 21:8 – “But...the unbelieving
              ...shall have their part in the lake which 
              burns with fire and brimstone, which is the 
              second death...

Cling to the Jesus Christ
as your Savior and Lord,
so you can have confidence
in God’s presence!

Alliterated Promises Of God – IIIb His Pardon!

Isaiah 1:18

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

As I said at the end of tlhe last Gem, an evangelist (it might have been Ray Comfort) said, “If I had an hour to witness to someone, I would spend the first fifty minutes convincing that one that he is a sinner. It is then easy to lead him to the forgiveness of Christ.” I spent a few hours writing the last Gem, going over the Ten Commandments and analyzing them in light of New Testament Scriptures that show we have broken the ten in one way or another! James adds one more thought in James 2:10 and 11:

     ...whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one 
     point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit 
     adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not 
     commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a trans-
     gressor of the law.

In other words, the law is a unit! If you break one of the Ten Commandments you have, in effect, broken them all! And, as we have learned, the inner interpretation of the commandments (what happens in the mind and heart of a person) makes us as guilty as breaking the outward observance of the law! Hence…

  • …we are all sinners before God! (see Romans 3:10).
  • …we all fall short of His glory! (see Romans 3:23).
  • …as it says in Romans 3:19, “…that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

The solution? We have to do better! But can we? This is how God sees it according to Isaiah 64:6: “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.If our righteousnesses (the very best we can do) are like filthy rags before God (“used menstrual rags” is the meaning in the Hebrew), what does the worst we can do look like to the LORD?

We cannot save ourselves!

If we are convinced by the Word of God that we are all sinners, that we all stand guilty before our Creator, that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves; then we must look beyond ourselves to a solution of the sin-dilemma in which we find ourselves!

That solution is found only in Jesus Christ!

He died to save us from our sins! And Jesus…ever lives to…save them to the uttermost who come to God through Him.” (Hebrews 7:25). He delivers us from…

  • …the penalty of our sins! All sinners…shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8).
  • …the power of our sins!…whoever commits sin is the slave of sin….For sin shall not have dominion over you….” (John 8:34; Romans 6:14).
  • …even the presence of our sins! It is this last statement on which we will concentrate in the rest of this Gem – and it involves God’s Pardon!

I don’t recommend experiencing sins like I did before I became a Christian at age 19, nor do I recommend my early faltering growth as I tried to follow Jesus. But God has used those expreriences to help me understand what are the struggles of others who are caught up in sin. So the Lord has used even my sins and failings over the years as I minister and witness to people. But sin leaves scars, and the areas of our bodies where scars occur can remain tender and even painful for years to come! Some of the painful and tender scars are remembering how I have fallen and failed in the past, and the shame and guilt I can feel when I dwell on my transgressions. Jeremiah, in Lamentations 3:21 wrote, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.These truths from the Bible are what brings hope to me when I recall to my mind Scriptures concerning God’s Pardon:

Jesus paid for my sins!

  • I Peter 1:18 and 19:
       ...knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible 
       things, like silver and gold, from your aimless conduct 
       received by tradition from your fathers, but with the 
       precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, 
       and without spot.

Although silver and gold are hyped as lasting sources for building wealth, in James 5:2 and 3 we read, “Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you…. Nothing compares in value to the everlasting precious blood of Christ, and nothing else will take away our sin!

  • John 19:30 – Just before the Lord gave up His spirit and died on the cross, Jesus shouted, “It is finished!” Three words translate just one Greek word: Τετέλεσται (pronounced Te-tel’-es-tai), meaning “finished.” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary). This word was at times written on a receipt of purchase and was the equivalent of the English phase, “Paid in full.There was no more payment needed to completely cancel the debt of our sins before God!

He washes me clean from my sins!

  • Isaiah 1:18 – “‘Come now, and let us reason together’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
  • Titus 3:5 – “…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.

As the lyrics of that grand 1876 hymn by Robert Lowry state:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

O precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know;
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

In Micah 7:19 there are two precious truths revealed concerning our sins:

  • He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities.” The Hebrew word for subdue is כָּבַש (pronounced kaw-bash’) and meaning, “to tread down…to conquer, subjugate, violate…to bring into bondage…. The LORD has totally defeated our sins by His sacrifice!
  • You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” The Marianna Trench in the Pacific Ocean is 36,037 feet deep! Mount Everest (at 29,035 feet high) if it could be cut off at the base, turned upside down, and plunged into the Marianna Trench, it would still have over 7,000 feet of water (well over a mile) completely covering it!

It is there, in the depths of the sea, where our sins are cast! That great Dutch Christian woman, Corrie ten Boom, liked to say, “That’s where my sins are, and God put a sign up that says, ‘No Fishing!’

The distance God has put between my sins and myself is unending!

  • In Psalm 103:12 the LORD inspired David to write, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” I’m glad David didn’t write, “As far as the north is from the south….” Why?
      ✡   Because north and south meet at the poles! If you 
          go far enough north, you will eventually get to the 
          North Pole! At that point you will start going south! 

      ✡   It is the same with the South Pole! If you go south 
          far enough you will start going north at that pole!
  • However, no matter how far east you go, you will never meet west! Nor will you ever meet east by going west! That’s how far God has removed our transgressions from us! Praise His name!

The great exchange – my sins for His righteousness!

  • II Corinthians 5:21 – “…He [the Father] made Him who knew no sin [the Son – see I Peter 2:22] to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Our sins for His righteousness! What an exchange!
  • Zechariah 3:1 through 4:
       Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the 
       Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to 
       oppose him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, 
       Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this 
       not a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was clothed 
       with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then 
       He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, 
       “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, 
       “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe 
       you with rich robes.”

You would think the high priest, if anyone, would already be counted as being holy before God! But he also was clothed with filthy garments! Remember Isaiah 64:6 quoted above? Even …our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…before the LORD! But in this Zechariah passage, God Himself orders Joshua first stripped of filthy garments, then clothed with rich robes – his filthy sins for God’s own perfect righteousness!

  • Isaiah 61:10 supports this truth:
       I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful 
       in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salva-
       tion, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as 
       a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride 
       adorns herself with her jewels. 
  • Romans 4:24 and 25 – Righteousness …shall be imputed to us [clothed upon us] who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

God chooses to forget the sins of those who accept Christ as Savior!

  • Hebrews 10:16 and 17 (Good News Bible – see also Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12):
       This is the covenant that I will make with them in the days 
       to come, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts 
       and write them on their minds....I will not remember their 
       sins and evil deeds any longer.
  • Paul, at times with regret, recalled his past! In I Corinthians 15:9 he writes, “…I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

It is not easy to forget the sins and failings before, and especially after, we became Christians. And the devil is quick to remind us how, where, and how often we have fallen! But when my mind goes back to those dark times, I remind myself of the truth of Hebrews 10:17:I will not remember their sins and evil deeds any longer.If God chooses to forget my sins, why should I beat myself up with those memories?

I saved the best for last! For what is found in Colossians 2:13 and 14 changed my life!

     And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision 
     of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having for-
     given you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of 
     requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And 
     He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
  • Matthew 27:37 – “And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” The Pulpit Commentary on this verse reads thus:
       This was the titulus. A wooden tablet smeared with gypsum, 
       had on it, written in black letters, the charge on which 
       the prisoner was condemned. This, which had been hung round 
       the criminal's neck or carried before him on the way to ex-
       ecution, was now affixed to the upper portion of the cross 
       over his head....It was written in three languages, so that 
       all of whatever nationality might read it - in Hebrew and 
       in Latin and in Greek. 

Officially, under Roman law, Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Since Caesar was the only one who was recognized as king, Jesus’ claim was treasonous!

In his book, Satan Is Alive And Well On Planet Earth, Hal Lindsey further explains the use of the titulus, which he refers to as “the certificate of debt.

     Whenever a person would be convicted in a Roman court, a 
     “certificate of debt”...would be prepared. The scribe of 
     the court would...write down every crime for which the 
     person had been convicted. This certificate meant that 
     the prisoner owed Caesar a prescribed payment for those 
     crimes. It would then be taken with the prisoner to wher-
     ever he would be imprisoned and nailed to the door of his 
     cell [or affixed to the instrument of his torture and/or 
     death]....

     According to Roman law, when...the sentence was carried 
     out...they would take this certificate and write across 
     it [Τετέλεσται]...meaning...it is finished” [or] “paid 
     in full.

That prisoner, the one who had paid his debt by incarceration, torture, and/or death, could never be charged with that exact crime again – nor could anyone else!

  • The titulus that was nailed to the cross over Jesus’ head was not the only list of charges secured to that instrument of death! There was another list of offenses that is called in Colossians 2:14, “…the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.” On it were written accusations such as…
      ➔   “Chip has had impure thoughts....”

      ➔   “Hope has stolen....”

      ➔   “Stephen has lied....”

      ➔   “Chris has not honored his parents....”

      ➔   “Ricky has committed murder.......and on and on and on – listing all the sins 
             of everyone who ever lived!
  • And Jesus, after paying for all those transgressions, cried out, Τετέλεσται!…It is finished!…Paid in full!

And now, under the law, neither He, nor I, nor you, nor anyone who puts their faith in the Son of God, will ever be able to be charged with those sins again! Praise God…

We are pardoned!
We are forgiven!
We are free!

Alliterated Promises Of God – IIIa His Pardon!

Isaiah 1:18; I John 1:7

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The third P of Alliterated Promises of God is His Pardon!

But before we can appreciate His pardon, we have to realize the extent of our sinful standing before God! Saint Paul writes in Romans 3:10 and 23, “There is none righteous, no not one….for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But how unrighteous are we before our Creator? How much have we sinned? How far short of His glory have we fallen? The Ten Commandments are the basis of all God’s laws.

No, we are not made right with the LORD by obeying the Ten Commandments! That was only accomplished by His grace through faith in what Jesus Christ did to pay for our sins! I must believe that…

  • …He lived the perfect life before the Father I could never have lived!
  • …He suffered and died for me on Calvary’s cross!
  • …He lives forever for me! And…
  • …He receives me into His forever kingdom when I put my faith in Him!

Here are the Ten Commandments:

  • The tenth of the Ten Commandments says:
      You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not 
      covet your neighbor’s wife; nor his manservant, nor his 
      maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything else 
      that is your neighbor’s (Exodus 20:17).
Have you ever been jealous of what your neighbor 
           (or friend, or business associate, or schoolmate, 
           or...) has acquired, or has accomplished? 

Recently I had to check myself because a dear friend received an upgrade in his Army disability status to 100% disabled. He also has a very good job with the government. We share the details of our lives with each other, so it was no surprise when he shared that his and his wife’s income was about $125,000 a year! That’s a great deal more than two times the income my wife and I have! I felt the tinges of jealousy! But I quickly turned to the Lord, asking Him to take away any envy, and gave Him thanks and praise for my friend’s financial blessing.

Especially with the proliferation of the use of social media, we increasingly see the best side (maybe the bragging side) of some people who post. This can lead to inferior feelings and jealousy (covetousness)!

Yes, we are all guilty of coveting at one time (or many times)!

      But in Colossians 3:5 Paul says, “...covetousness
           ...is idolatry.” How so? If you are coveting some-
           thing, you are in effect putting it in first place 
           in your life! That is where God belongs! (see Mat-
           thew 6:33; 22:37, 38). So by breaking the last com-
           mandment, you are also breaking the first:I am 
           the LORD your God....You shall have no other gods 
           before Me.” (Exodus 20:2, 3).
  • The ninth commandment is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16). But have you ever spread a rumor when you didn’t know for sure if it was true or not? Have you ever passed on a juicy bit of gossip?
  • The eighth is, “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15). I have stolen as a child – pencils, candy, change, etc. But as a teen and as an adult, I have stolen. Before I became a dedicated Christian it didn’t bother me much. But still, what I have done stands, and it can’t be undone as if it never happened. I have tried to pay back what I can remember I stole, but that does not erase the act! What does erase it is being forgiven! More on that is to follow.

I did an internet search on “The Bible definition of stealing.” I found this at the following website: https//www.unlockingthebible.org/lifekey/a-thought-provoking-definition-of-stealing/ It does make you think:

    If stealing is about trying to get as much as possible while 
    giving as little as possible, then there is a lot of stealing 
    that goes on in marriages, families, churches, and communities. 
    Every attempt to have much and give little is addressed by the 
    eighth commandment.

    This definition also shows the root problems behind all forms 
    of stealing: Greed – the desire to get as much as possible, 
    and laziness – the desire to contribute as little as possible.
  • The seventh commandment is, “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14). Adultery is defined as “Sexual unfaithfulness of a married person.” (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
       ✞   Jesus, in The Sermon on the Mount said this: “You 
           have heard...it...said..., ‘You shall not commit 
           adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at 
           a woman to lust for her has already committed adul-
           tery in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27, 28).

       ✡   It is also written in the second of the Ten Com-
           mandments in Exodus 20:5, that God visits “...the 
           iniquity of the fathers on the children to the 
           third and fourth generation....

I did not grow up in a Christian home. My father was a philanderer, as was his father. I inherited that addiction, and I have had to seek God’s grace to overcome it! I struggled with pornography in earlier years. Even yet, I have to be careful not the let the images take control that were burned into my younger mind. If the temptation does present itself, I seek the LORD and His power to reject it and keep my mind pure! (see Philippians 4:8). Since I am happily married to my dear wife for 53 years, I do not want to lust after any other woman, and so commit adultery!

  • The sixth commandment is, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13).
          But Jesus also addressed this in Matthew 5:21 and 22 
           (Good News Bible):

           “You have heard that people were told in the past, 
           ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be 
           brought to trial.’  But now I tell you: if you are 
           angry with your brother you will be brought to tri-
           al, if you call your brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ 
           you will be brought before the Council, and if you 
           call your brother a worthless fool you will be in 
           danger of going to the fire of hell.”

    The Apostle John summed it up succinctly in I John 
           3:15: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and 
           you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding 
           in him.

Have you ever been extremely angry with another person? Have you ever hated anyone? According to the Word of God, you are guilty of murder!

  • The fifth commandment is, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12).
       Paul says in Ephesians 6:2, this “...is the first 
           commandment with promise...It is also the only 
           commandment with a stated promise! And the promise 
           is that honoring your parents will result in a long 
           and protected life! 

       The apostle also wrote in...

            ➔   ...Ephesians 6:1 – “Children, obey your par-
                 ents in the Lord, for this is right.”

            ➔   ...Colossians 3:20 – “Children, obey your 
                 parents in all things, for this is well 
                 pleasing to the Lord.

I sure fell down on this commandment! After my father left, we three Norton boys, ages 10 (me), 12, and 14, proceeded to get into quite a bit of trouble, and we gave my mother plenty of grief. We certainly didn’t honor her!

So if you ever have disobeyed your parents, or talked back to them, or criticized them to others, you have broken this commandment!

  • The fourth commandment is the longest of the ten, comprising four verses, Exodus 20:8 through 11:
       Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you 
       shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is 
       the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no 
       work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male 
       servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor 
       your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days 
       the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all 
       that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore 
       the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

       There are Christian denominations that insist 
            on Saturday Sabbath-keeping, such as Seventh-Day 
            Adventists. Generally, those who do so tend to 
            be more legalistic in their practice. However, 
            New Testament evidence shows early believers 
            gathered for worship on Sunday, celebrating the 
            resurrection! As it says in Mark 16:9 (Easy-to-
            Read Version), “Jesus rose from death early on 
            the first day of the week.” (see also Matthew 
            28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1, John 20:1; Acts 20:7; 
            I Corinthians 16:2).

	In Romans 14:5 Paul writes this: “One person 
             esteems one day above another; another esteems 
             every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in 
             his own mind.” The apostle is stating that per-
             sonal preferences, where no clear Scriptural 
             delineation is present, should not divide the 
             church! He goes on to say in verse 6, “He who 
             observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and 
             he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he 
             does not observe it.    In matters of clear Biblical teaching and fund-
             amental doctrine, it is critical what one be-
             lieves – such as... 
	
	      ➔   ...the deity and Lordship of Jesus 
                   Christ! ...His life, death, and resurrection!
  • The third commandment is, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7).
      It is not just using the name or title of the 
             Father or the Son in cursing or cussing, al-
             though that is taking ...the name of the LORD
             ...God in vain...!

         What about the fact that we carry the name of 
             the Son of God if we dare to identify ourselves 
             as Christians? If we are not living as the Lord 
             Jesus would have us live, are we not then carry-
             ing...the name of the LORD...our God in vain
             ...?
  • The second commandment is the second longest, in Exodus 20:4 through 6:
        You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any 
        likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that 
        is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under 
        the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve 
        them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, vis-
        iting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to 
        the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 
        but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me 
        and keep My commandments.

     Most of those who call themselves Christians 
             in the modern world would not admit to the idea 
             of themselves being idolaters. But what is idol-
             atry? Webster’s first definition is, “...the 
             worship of a physical object as a god.” (ibid.). 
             In Romans 1:23, Paul describes idolaters thus: 
             They ...changed the glory of the incorruptible 
             God into an image of made like corruptible man 
             — and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping 
             things.” 

              ➔   Notice, the highest form of idolatry is 
                   worshiping ...an image made like corrup-
                   tible man....”

              ➔   So, putting oneself in the place of God 
                   is idolatry! Did not Jesus pray in the 
                   Garden, “...nevertheless not My will, but 
                   Yours, be done...”? (Luke 22:42). Even if 
                   we don’t say the following words, don’t we 
                   often act like,Not Your will, but MINE 
                   be done...?

        ✡   According to Exodus 20:5, one of the...  ...dangers of idolatry is passing on the 
                   penchant for such sins...to the third 
                   and fourth generations of those...who 
                   practice such sins!...great blessings of obedience is passing 
                   on ...to thousands [of generations] mercy
                   ...to those who love Me and keep My com-
                   mandments.
  • And the first of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3). Whether worshiping a physical idol or serving something invisible, NOTHING is to come before the LORD God! For, according to Mark 12:30, we are called to …love [and obey – see John 14:15] the LORD…our God with all…our heart, with all…our soul, with all…our mind, and with all…our strength.

I have not yet written about God’s Pardon! Nor have I even quoted the featured Scriptures listed above! I have taken a long time to show you from His Word that “There is none righteous, no, not one…for all have sinned and fall short of the the glory of God.” (Romans 3:10, 23). I once heard an evangelist say, “If I had an hour to witness to someone, I would spend the first fifty minutes convincing that one that he is a sinner. It is then easy to lead him to the forgiveness of Christ.

So the second part of The Alliterated Promises of God – III will be in the next Gem.

Alliterated Promises Of God – II His Power!

Hebrews 1:1-3; II Samuel 22:33

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The power of God is amazing!

  • Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” According to Genesis 1:3through 28, it is written in the record of creation, “And God said…eight times…and what He commanded happened each time! All the universe came into being by the power of His spoken word!
  • Psalm 147:4 (English Standard Version) – “He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names.” Science estimates there are in the universe about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1,000 Septillion stars!) Wow! What power!
  • Jeremiah 32:27; 17:
     ✡   God asked Jeremiah, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of 
         all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?”

     ✡   The prophet answered, “Ah, LORD God, Behold, You have 
         made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and 
         outstretched arm, there is nothing too hard for You.

God is omnipotent! …which means, God is all-powerful! Which brings us to our two featured Scriptures:

  • Hebrews 1:1-3:
       God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past 
       to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to 
       us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through 
       whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glo-
       ry and the express image of His person, and upholding all things 
       by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, 
       sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high....

In Genesis 1, it is God who creates all things! But in our Hebrews passage, it focuses that creative power on Jesus Christ!

     ...He made the worlds...” (verse 2) – creation power!

     ...He...[is] upholding all things by the word of His 
         power...” (verse 3) – sustaining power!

     It is no wonder then, that by the power of Jesus, ...He...by Himself purged our sins...! (verse 3).
  • II Samuel 22:33 – David, in his Psalm of Thanksgiving, sang this: “God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect.
David needed that purging power to get rid of his sins! 
         For......he committed adultery with Bathsheba! (See 
              II Samuel 11:1-5).

         ➔   ...he had Bathsheba’s husband Uriah murdered to 
              cover up his affair with Uriah’s wife! (See 
              II Samuel 11:6-17).

     ✡   In Psalm 32:5 David tells us what he did to have his way made 
         perfect:I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have 
         not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the 
         LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (See also 
         Psalm 51).

     ✞   Thank God I John 1:9 is true – “If we confess our sins, He is 
         faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from 
         all unrighteousness.

It is by the mighty power of Jesus, dying and living for us, that our sins are also washed away!

  • Psalm 103:12 – “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
  • Isaiah 1:18 – “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
  • Micah 7:19 – “He will…subdue our iniquities…[and] cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
  • Colossians 2:13, 14 – “…He has…forgiven you all trespasses…[having taken them} out of the way…having nailed [them]…to the cross.

Yes, we have a powerful God! And that power is available to us! As we saw in II Peter 1:2 and 3 in the previous Gem concerning…

     ...Jesus our Lord...His divine power has given to us all things 
     that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him 
     who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us 
     exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you 
     may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corrup-
     tion that is in the world through lust.

Appropriate Him!
Appropriate His power!
For His glory!

Alliterated Promises Of God – I His Promises!

II Peter 1:2-4

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Depending on the internet source, there are between 3,000 and 8,000 of God’s promises to man! Well, this series on Alliterated Promises Of God is not going to run to 8,000 individual Gems – or anywhere near that! But we will look at seven or eight major promises that can greatly affect our lives!

What are alliterated promises? In this case, they all begin with the letter P! So let’s take a quick overview that relates to the whole series. The first P is God’s Promises! We could chose many Scriptures for this first P, but one that seems to cover the whole series is II Peter 1:2 through 4:

     Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God 
     and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us 
     all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the 
     knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which 
     have been given to us exceedingly great and precious prom-
     ises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine 
     nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world 
     through lust.

This is why God has given to us, His children, great and precious promises! He wants to create in us the His own divine nature, so that the lost of the world may see Jesus Christ, “…who is the image of God…” (II Corinthians 4:4). And because the Son of God is being manifested in and through us, sinners may also gain knowledge of Christ and obtain salvation and eternal life!

Let’s look more closely at what II Peter 1:2 through 4 tells us:

  • Grace and Peace be multiplied to you….
        We are given multiplied grace in that we are given 
         that which we don’t deserve!We don’t deserve God’s favor toward us, nor 
              His love, His pardon, His manifold blessings, 
              and His eternal presence both now and forever 
              in heaven! We don’t deserve any of this!What we do deserve as sinners is His wrath, 
              His judgment, His condemnation, and eternal 
              separation from Him in hell!

        We are offered multiplied peace!

	 ➔   In Isaiah 57:20 and 21 we learn what happens 
              when we have no peace because of sin: “But the 
              wicked are like the troubled sea, when it can-
              not rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. 
              There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

	 ➔   But when “...the peace of God, which surpasses 
              all understanding... [guards] your hearts and 
              minds through Christ Jesus...” (Philippians 4:7), 
              such peace means the manifestation of...

	      ❏   “...peace of God...”  (Colossians 3:5).

	      ❏   “...peace with God...” (Romans 5:1).

	      ❏   “...peace within...” (Psalm 127: 7, 8).

	      ❏   “...peace without...” (Proverbs 16:7).
  • How does this multiplied peace become our possession? It is “…through the knowledge of our God and of Jesus our Lord….
        Knowledge changes us......for evil or for good! 

When I was growing up through my pre-teen and teenage years, I did not have a father to guide me. He left the family when I was ten. My mother had children late in life, so at the time of his departure, she was in her mid fifties. Her health was not the best, but she worked full-time (plus over-time) in a factory and had little energy left to parent three boys (I had two brothers, two and four years older than I). So the three Norton boys walked on the wild side!

Consequently, a lot of my knowledge came from wrong sources. I hung around with teens who, like me, were influenced by what we learned from others. But the ‘others’ were older teen boys and even guys who were into their twenties. And they had been influenced to walk on the wrong side of the law! And they influenced us to walk on that same dangerous path! Having been arrested and jailed twice because of vehicular offences, I decided to enlist in the Air Force. Once in, I was ‘forced’ to learn a new way of thinking and living – discipline, obedience, and self-direction – this time with a good heading!

But one kind of knowledge especially affected me early in my military experience! I discovered the Lord Jesus Christ! (Or should I say, He discovered me!) And I began to learn what the Lord wanted the direction of my life to be.

I met my wife, Hope, seven weeks before I was honorably discharged from the Air Force, and we waited another week before we were married – 8 weeks and one day in all! (I would not recommend marriage only eight weeks after meeting – but God worked it out!). Both of us were Christians, although we had a lot of growing in the faith ahead of us. But we continued increasing in “…the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord….” (II Peter 1:2).

Such knowledge has led us through the trials of 53 years of marriage and parenting (now grand parenting, and great-grand parenting!) My wife is still my best friend, my companion, my lover, and my confidant. In my opinion, she is the most beautiful woman in the world!

Through it all, Hope and I have grown as Christians!

  • We learned to trust God through trials where we couldn’t see any way out!
  • We gained more and more “…knowledge of our God and of Jesus our Lord….We did this by dwelling richly in the Word, the Bible (see Colossians 3:16). By reading, studying, even memorizing Scripture, and listening to His…still small voice…” (I Kings 19:12), we have discerned God’s direction, and learned what it takes…to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13).
  • One vector of His good pleasure for me was to become a Baptist pastor.
        Hope had been raised in a home where her dad was the 
         pastor of a Baptist church. She didn’t like thefish-
         bowlexistence of being in the congregation’s eye!

     So when we got married, she told me, “You can be any-
         thing you want to be. Just don’t be a minister!I guess, you don’t tell God what you will or won’t do! 
         It wasn’t too long after, the Lord called me into the 
         ministry! 

     ✞   For fifty years, my dear wife has supported me by being 
         a wonderful pastor's wife!
  • We are still growing! And we will continue to grow to be more and more like Jesus until we see Him face to face! Then, as it says in I John 3:2, “…we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

More in our next Gem of the series, Alliterated Promises Of God.

“God Winks” – II

Proverbs 21:1

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The words in the accompanying picture describe what might be said when a “God Wink” occurs: “Sometimes I just look up, smile and say, ‘I know that was You God! Thanks!’You can’t work out the mechanics of a “God Wink” by logical examination of the facts…..except to maybe say it had to be just a coincidence! But if there is God in heaven as the Bible describes Him, then a “God Wink” is more than a coincidence!

Here is how King Solomon, the writer of Proverbs 21:1, perceived God: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like rivers of water, He turns it wherever He wishes.” It is not only the king whose heart is in the hand of the LORD, but as it says in Hebrews 4:13, “…there is no creature hidden from His sight, for all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. He knows us all through and through!

But our featured Scripture further states that God, by His hand, turns the direction of life’s events as He sees fit, …like rivers of water…! But rivers can be mighty obstacles for man to deal with. And changing their course can be a mammoth project. But God created the world and all the surrounding universe! Changing the course of a river is a small work compared to bringing into existence all creation!

So ordering the details of a “God Wink” is not difficult for the LORD!

One day, about fifteen years ago, I took a walk with my dog. At that time I was walking five miles every day, usually in the cool of the evening, and my route often took me on a circular path that included walking over a mile on a seldom-used railroad track. The track crossed a deep cut in the landscape caused over the eons by a stream flowing towards the Youghiogheny River. The trestle over this cut was about three hundred yards long, and the rock-strewn floor of the cut was ninety feet below. The trestle had no safety fence on its sides, and the ties were spaced about eight inches apart. I had taught my dog to cross the trestle and we had traversed it hundreds of times.

I left our house and walked down Van Meter Road along the River to the sharp turn that connected with Darr Road, then up a steep hill about half a mile to the railroad tracks. As I approached the crossing, I saw an older car parked off to the right side of the road, and the driver’s door was hanging open. But no one was around. “Strange,” I thought. “Who would go off and leave their car with the door open?” To the right of the crossing, the track ran straight for a quarter mile, the direction I was going. I looked down the track and saw in the distance a man walking alone. I picked up my pace and started to catch up to him. I called out, but he didn’t turn around or answer. I got closer and called out to him again. This time he turned around and acknowledged me. I caught up with him and we walked together.

I can’t remember his name though he told me after I introduced myself. He was a tall black fellow who appeared to be in his 40’s. I asked how he was doing and he began talking:

  • He hadn’t answered my call the first time because he was partially deaf.
  • He had lost his wife to a fatal disease that took her life a few months before.
  • Recently he had lost his job.
  • He was about to lose his house.

It was then that God spoke into my spirit: This man is going to the trestle to jump off and kill himself. Talk to him.

  • I asked if he was a Christian, and he said “Yes, but I haven’t been in church for a long time.”
  • Do you know that God still loves you?” He didn’t answer.
  • It says in Romans 8:39 that nothing ‘…shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
  • I understand you are going through hard times, but God has not given up on you. Jesus said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you….I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20).
  • He will get you through all this if you trust Him. I don’t know how, but He will. Of this I am sure.” And I told him of a couple of tragedies that occurred in my own life in which the Lord somehow worked things out.

We continued walking the tracks. We came to the trestle and walked over it. At the far end he said to me, “I guess I had better be getting back.” We shook hands and I told him I would be praying for him. I watched him walk back across the trestle, praying he would not jump off! But he reached the other end and continued walking down the tracks, around a corner and out of sight.

I never saw this man again! But I believe God had me come along at just the right time………to save a man from a terrible suicidal death!

What ‘coincidental’ “God Wink”
does the Lord have in store for you?

“God Winks” – I

Daniel 20:20-23

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

When God Winks is a book published on September 1, 2002, written by SQuire Rushnell (that’s how he often displays his name). The subtitle says, “How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life” I have had many “God Winks” in my life, and sometimes they have powerfully touched other lives also. Let me share a couple with you.

But first, consider this Scripture from Daniel 2:20 through 23:

     Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom 
     and might are His. And He changes the times and seasons; 
     He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to 
     the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. 
     He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in 
     the darkness, and light dwells with Him. I thank You and 
     praise You, O God....

God is in charge of everything!

  • In Psalm 139:1 through 4 it is written:
      O LORD, you have searched me and known me. You know 
      my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my 
      thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my ly-
      ing down, and are acquinted with all my ways. For 
      there is not a word on my tongue, but, behold, You 
      know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and 
      before, and laid Your hand upon me.
  • Jesus said, in Matthew 10:29 and 30, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
  • According to Colossians 1:16 & 17 and Hebrews 1:2 & 3, Jesus created all things and holds all things together! If the Lord is so powerful and knowing, it is no wonder that He controls the situations of life. It is He who orchestratescoincidencesand makes themGod Winks!

The first “God Wink” I will relate occurred just a week and a half ago. I had received a strange text telling me to hasten to claim my $100 bonus from Walmart, being a super- shopper! First red light: I rarely shop at Walmart! The second was that I had never heard of Walmart giving a bonus to shoppers, super or otherwise! The text also told me to hurry and claim my bonus because I had reached the maximum of the $100 limit, and if I didn’t claim it immediately, it would be rescinded. I did not click on the telephone number listed for redemption!

I went to Walmart that evening instead! My trip there was to purchase dog food and treats. My golden retriever Carson is a lovable pain, but being lovable, he gets plenty to eat and a couple of treats a day – plus plenty of attention from me!

I accomplished my shopping, then went to the Customer Service desk to report what I considered was a scam. The lady at the desk called for a supervisor but, being a busy shopping evening, I had to wait half an hour for the supervisor to show up. After a few minutes of standing and waiting, my low back started bothering me. Yes, I have a bad back and have had two lumbar surgeries, a laminectomy and a fusion. So I told the Customer Service rep I was going to sit down on one of the benches provided for shoppers, about thirty feet to the right of the Customer Service entrance. She said she would send the supervisor there to talk with me.

As I approached the bench, I saw an older, elegantly dressed black lady sitting there. I said to her, “I have to sit down, if you don’t mind. My back is really hurting.” She smiled, motioned for me to sit down, and said, “I know what you mean. I had to sit down also since my back was bothering me.” We started talking and, after introducing myself, I found out her name was Susan. She was waiting for, I think, her daughter to finish shopping.

As the conversation continued, I enquired, “May I ask you a question?” She said, “Sure!” So I proceeded, “Are you a Christian?” I am not necessarily a bold person, but I have pushed myself to ask that question as I go about my daily business. Jesus said, “You shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8), and I try to obey, often using that opening. And the more I do it, the easier it becomes! And I have never received an angry response!

Are you a Christian?” Susan didn’t answer immediately, but then she said, “I’m not sure I am. I was raised in a good church family.” So I tried to clarify what is meant by being a Christian. I asked, “Have you received Jesus Christ as your Savior?” Again she paused before telling me, “I don’t think so.” I thought it was time to let her know I have been a Baptist pastor for the last fifty years.

The conversation continued back and forth maintaining her interest. But, for lack of space, I will highlight some of what I gently shared with her:

  • “You know you and I are not spring chickens anymore. I turned 76 earlier this month, and I don’t know when the Lord will call me.
  • Jesus Christ was the only perfect human being who ever walked this earth.
  • Then He took that perfect life and voluntarily laid it down, dying on the cross to pay for our sins – yours and mine.
  • He rose again from the grave three days later, and ever lives to receive anyone who comes to Him in faith believing.
  • It is realizing that I am the sinner, and He is the only Savior.
  • Receiving Him is having an open heart and asking Jesus to be your Savior.

Susan asked a question, “How can someone know if they are a Christian and are saved?” So I shared with her this Scripture from I John 5:11 through 13:

     ...this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, 
     and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he 
     who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These 
     things I have written to you who believe in the name of the 
     Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life....

Then I gave Susan my card. It has my name and phone number on it, with my photo. I told her, “You can blow that photo up, and it will scare crows out of the garden!” She laughed. And about then her daughter showed up and she had to go. I said, “Thank you, Susan, for talking with me. God bless you. One more thing, do you mind if we share a hug!” She laughed and said, “Of course!” I told her I would be praying for her.

Although I tend to be a hugger, I do not usually hug people I have just met, especially people of the opposite sex! But I have also tried to develop a spiritual listening ear to what the Holy Spirit is saying, and I feel He was leading me to ask her that last question.

A couple of points concerning my business card:

  • The front of the card is my photo, my name and title: Rev. Dr. D. W. “Chip” Norton, and my phone number.
  • Below that I give the name of this website, Gems for Living, and the web address, gemsforliving.net.
  • On the back of the card, I have two Scriptures:
     I John 5:11 through 13 (written above):

           ...this is the testimony: that God has given 
           us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 
           He who has the Son has life; he who does not 
           have the Son of God does not have life. These 
           things I have written to you who believe in 
           the name of the Son of God, that you may know 
           that you have eternal life....

     John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave 
         His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him 
         should not perish but have everlasting life.

I find that a personal card given with pertinent Scriptures on it will be retained more often than an impersonal Christian tract. Also, it gave Susan a contact person with a name and phone number should she have questions or comments.

I hope and pray I hear from Susan!

It looks like I will share the second “God Wink” I promised in the next Gem!

Light In The Midst Of Darkness – IV

Lamentations 3:21-26

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The featured Scripture is Lamentations 3:21 through 26:

     This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. [It is of] 
     the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compas-
     sions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your 
     faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, there-
     fore I hope in Him. The LORD is good to those who wait for 
     Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should 
     hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, therefore I hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:24). My portion is what is designated for ME! What is designated for me?

  • For the Christian, the one who has accepted Jesus as Savior, we have the Holy Spirit permanently residing in us! (see I Corinthians 3:16; Galatians 4:6). And the Spirit is so much like the Lord Jesus (but in spirit form) that it can be said of the believer, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27).
  • Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” I want the abundance of the fruit of the Spirit in my life: “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23 – English Standard Version )
  • In John 5:24, the Lord said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears my word, and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
  • In Philippians 4:19, Paul writes, “…my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory, by Christ Jesus.

In summary, II Peter 1:3 through 5 says it best (Lexham English Bible):

     May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge 
     of God and of Jesus our Lord, because His divine power has 
     bestowed on us all things that are necessary for life and 
     godliness, through the knowledge of the One who called us 
     by His own glory and excellence of character, through 
     which things He has bestowed on us His precious and very 
     great promises, so that through these you may become 
     sharers of the divine nature after escaping from the 
     corruption that is in the world because of evil desire...

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” (Lamentations 3:25). I did a search of the word wait, and its derivatives found in the King James Version (waiting, wateth, waited). I found fifty instances that applied to waiting on the Lord! Here are five more from the Old Testament:

  • Psalm 25:4, 5 – “Show me Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.
  • Psalm 27:14 – “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD.
  • Psalm 40:1-4 (Good News Bible):
       I waited patiently for the LORD's help; then He listened 
       to me and heard my cry. He pulled me out of a dangerous 
       pit, out of the deadly quicksand. He set me safely on a 
       rock and made me secure. He taught me to sing a new song, 
       a song of praise to our God. Many who see this will take 
       warning and will put their trust in the LORD. Happy are 
       those who trust the LORD.... 
  • Psalm 130:5 – “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word do I hope.
  • Isaiah 40:31 – “…those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

And what do the Scriptures say about “…the soul who seeks Him…?

  • II Chronicles 7:14:
       If My people, who are called by My name, will humble 
       themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from 
       their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and 
       will forgive their sin and heal their land.
  • Psalm 27:8 – “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, LORD, I will seek.
  • Jeremiah 29:13, 14 – “…you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD….
  • Luke 12:29-31 (English Standard Version):
       ...do not seek what you are to eat and...drink, nor 
       be worried. For all the nations of the world seek 
       after these things, and your Father knows that you 
       need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these 
       things will be added to you.

This Light in the midst of Darkness passage ends with this admonition: “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” Remember, Jeremiah wrote
these six verses…

  • …after being warned by God that he would have a hard time as a prophet!
  • …after experiencing rejection…
     ✡   by his own family (they even wanted to kill him).

     ✡   by the people of Judah.

     ✡   by the leaders of the kingdom...

         ➔   the king and his counselors.

         ➔   the false prophets with whom the king sur-
              rounded himself.

         ➔   who even attempted to kill him.
  • …after witnessing the devastation of the temple, the city of Jerusalem, and the whole country of Judah by the marauding Babylonian army…

…Jeremiah could still say, It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

I want that kind of faith, that kind of hope, that kind of patience,
as I wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD!
Do you?

I will close with one of my favorite verses, one that I think is very appropriate, and that I committed to memory long ago, Proverbs 3:5 and 6:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He shall direct your paths.