Of Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men!

“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’” Luke 2:10-13

I was saddened to read an article in Psychology Today that said, “We are told that Christmas, for Christians, should be the happiest time of year, an opportunity to be joyful and grateful with family, friends and colleagues. Yet, according to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience a high incidence of depression. Hospitals and police forces report high incidences of suicide and attempted suicide.”

Survive the Storms

“And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching." Matthew 7:28a

We have come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount, and it’s no surprise to find out that all the people listening to Jesus were left astonished at His teaching. The word “astonished” means “to be so amazed as to be practically overwhelmed.” Everyone was overwhelmed by Jesus’ insightful words of wisdom, His straightforward teaching of scripture, His fearful warning of the consequences of turning away from God, but most of all, they were overwhelmed by the authority with which He taught. I don’t know about you, but I have been overwhelmed too!

Cities of Refuge

Then the Lord also spoke to Joshua, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Appoint for yourselves cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the slayer who kills any person accidentally or unintentionally may flee there; and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.’” Joshua 20:1-3

Now that all the tribes had received their territories, the Lord spoke to Joshua just as he spoke to Moses, instructing him to have six cities of refuge placed strategically in the land, three on each side of the Jordan River. The six cities of refuge were needed because they didn’t have police in those days to investigate crimes, so if you killed someone accidentally you could flee to one of these cities to be safe from the family of the victim taking revenge. In the ancient world, blood revenge was the norm. The moment a person was killed his nearest relative took responsibility for vengeance. This ancient rite of vendetta was handed down from generation to generation.

The Narrow Way

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” Matthew 7:13

In Psalm 73, we find Asaph grappling with being envious of those who seemed to have a good life on the broad road. He couldn’t reconcile the truth that while he was obeying God and suffering, those who were living in disobedience were succeeding. In various verses in Psalm 73 he admits, “I was envious of the boastful when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Behold, these are the ungodly who are always at ease; they increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning.”

Judge Accordingly

“Remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5

Have you ever tried to help someone get something out of their eye? It’s really difficult. You have to be extremely patient and gentle. The moment you touch their eye it immediately closes or they jerk their head away from you. Although the eye is probably the most sensitive part of someone’s physical body, even more sensitive is their soul. If we truly care for the health of someone’s soul, we need to approach them much like we would if we were helping them with an eye issue - with patience and gentleness.

He's Not Done With You Yet!

“Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the Lord said to him: ‘You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.’” Joshua 13:1

God commissioned Joshua as a young man to conquer the land, but even as Joshua became an old man, God reassured him that He wasn’t done with him yet. Joshua was about a hundred years old when God commissioned him to divide the land. Joshua obeyed the Lord, and for the next ten years he divided the land so the children of Israel could enjoy what God had promised them.

Don't Worry, Be Holy

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25

Did you know that worry is a leading cause of both physical and mental health problems today? Cancer, ulcers, depression and panic disorder are just some of the effects worry has on the human body. In fact, postmortem psychological reports indicate that most suicidal people feel an intense loss of control in their lives.

God or Mammon?

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Matthew 6:22-23a

The “eye” Jesus is referring to here is the mind. He is addressing what we choose to focus on and think about during the day. Because our minds are the control centers of our bodies, however we process the information surrounding us in this world determines how we live our lives. Our bodies will follow behind the choices our minds make.

The Power of Prayer

“For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8b

I love what Oswald Chambers wrote regarding this verse which he described as “the root of all prayer.” He wrote, “Common sense says, ‘Then why ask Him?’ Prayer is not getting things from God, that is a most initial stage; prayer is getting into perfect communion with God; I tell Him what I know He knows in order that I may know it as He does. Jesus says, ‘Pray because you have a Father, not because it quietens you, and give Him time to answer.’ If the life of Jesus is formed in me by regeneration and I am drawing breath in the fear of the Lord, the Son of God will press forward in front of my common sense and change my attitude to things.”

Stop Hypocrisy

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1

At first reading, these words seem to contradict what Jesus said earlier in Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” But when you look closer at Matthew 5:16 you find there is no contradiction because Jesus tells us the motive behind our good words should always be to glorify our Father in heaven.

Our Position in the Kingdom

“And the Lord also delivered… And the Lord delivered… The Lord God of Israel fought for Israel… I will deliver all of them… And the Lord delivered them.” Joshua 10:30, 32, 42; 11:6, 8

We have come to a section of the book of Joshua that summarizes Israel’s conquests of faith in the southern and northern cities of Palestine. As I was reading through this section this morning, the five verses above jumped off the page and into my heart as I was continually reminded, “The Lord delivered all of them.”

Extraordinary Love

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

Unfortunately, we all have enemies. Let’s take a minute and consider who our enemies are today. A family member? A friend? Our spouse? A co-worker? A neighbor? President Trump? Have one in mind? Have two, three, four or twenty in mind? That’s good. Now before thinking of all the reasons why that person is your enemy, pray for them. Stop reading this right now and pray that God would rain down His blessings upon them and would give you a heart of compassion for them.

Leave it to the Lord

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:38-39

How do you respond when you first hear of some sort of evil happening in the world? While some get mad and seek justice, others get really mad and seek revenge. The principle of “an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” is called the principle of retribution and gave judges the formula for dealing with crime. It’s the same idea as “making the punishment fit the crime.” But in Jesus’ day the Rabbis were teaching that people should carry out this punishment themselves rather than going through the legal system. This led many to seek personal revenge. The problem with this is that when really angry people seek revenge, often they don’t just get even, they get more than even.

The God of Miracles

“Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon; And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped…” Joshua 10:12

Are we listening now? In the wake of the massacre in Las Vegas I wonder if we are listening now? Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, terror attacks, wars and rumors of wars have been coming at us furiously and frequently, but have they caused us to listen? We keep searching for solutions to the problems as though there are solutions to the problems. We talk about better gun control or climate control, not understanding that we are not in control. But, God is in control, and when we walk by faith and not by sight we will see the only solution to the problems is for Him to do a miracle. Do you believe in miracles?

Be Trustworthy

“Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” Matthew 5:37

The devotional for Sunday’s message is a very simple one. As Christians, we need to be trustworthy. We need to keep our word. We know this issue is close to our Savior’s heart or else He wouldn’t have included it in His Sermon on the Mount. All of the practical teachings within the Sermon on the Mount are given to us in order to shape us into Christ’s image and set us apart from the ways of the world.  

Christ in Yom Kippur

Good morning NCL Church family,

The 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei runs this year from the evening of September 29 until sunset on September 30 on our Gregorian calendar. Many Jewish people consider this the holiest day of the year. If you would like to know why it is their holiest day and see how Jesus fulfilled it, check out this wonderful two-part article titled, “Christ in Yom Kippur.” You will be blessed!

Jesus' Heart on Divorce

“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you...” Matthew 5:31-32a

This Sunday morning I will boldly go where few good preacher men have gone before. In fact, this morning when I went to read one of my favorite authors, I was shocked to see how little he had to say on the dreaded subject of divorce.

God is God Even When We are Goobers

“Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask the counsel of the Lord.” Joshua 9:14

After the conquest of Ai, Joshua and his leaders knew the kings of Canaan were not going to give up without a fight. So Joshua and the children of Israel prepared for battle. They sharpened their swords and checked their armor, but they didn’t seek the Lord and the Gibeonites took advantage of this.   

Heart of Hearts

“You have heard that it was said to those of old… but I say to you…” Matthew 5:21a, 22a

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus never contradicted what the law said, He only contradicted the interpretation of the law men came up with. This is an extremely important distinction as we move forward because as we learned last week, Jesus didn’t come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. He came to shed proper light on it and reveal the depth of it.

Jesus, the Law and You

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." Matthew 5:17a

In Jesus’ day there was a lot of confusion and consternation about the Law among the Jews. They were asking questions like: “Does Jesus believe in the Law? Has He claimed to destroy it? Is He teaching some new way to God or some new way of pleasing God?”