O CHILDREN, LISTEN TO THE LORD

 

O children, listen to the Lord,

And heed His loving call.

He beckons you to come to Him

He has a Word for you. (Psalm 78:1ff)

“Confess your sins with honest heart,

The ones you know, and don’t.

Come, hear the blessed Word and know,

Christ Jesus died for you. (1 John:1:9)

“The Savior, Jesus, took your place,

And shed His cleansing blood.

He washed your sins away and said,

‘Fear not, your sins are gone.’ (Isaiah 53:5)

“He rose again from the dark tomb,

But left your sins behind.

I am your Father, reconciled,

My Son has paid your debt. (Matthew 28)

“Through faith in Christ, you are My own,

Your needs are on My heart.

In every trial, fear, and woe,

My ear is turned to you. (Galatians 3:26)

“The fervent prayer of righteous men

I will not turn away.

Cast all your cares upon Me now,

Doubt not My love for you. (James 5:16)

“My love is sure as is My Word

I know what’s best for you.

Did not the Savior die and rise

Just as I said He’d do? (Romans 8:28-30)

“So trust in Me, whate’er betide,

In this day and the next.

In pain and sorrow, even death,

I’ll see you through for aye. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

“Then when your time on earth is past,

And you have kept the faith,

The crown of righteousness laid up

Is yours; the race is o’er. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

“My Son, Christ Jesus, will be there,

And He’ll invite you in,

‘Come, you blessed of My Father,

You’re home at last, come in!’” (Matthew 25:34)

 

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What Time I Am Afraid – Psalm 56:3

There are two ways to destroy a building. It can be imploded internally. Implosion has a spiritual application with reference to Christendom. The apostle Paul alerted believers to what would happen in the church when he wrote, “From among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30).

Another way to destroy a building is external by destroying the foundation. This effort is aimed at the source of the Christian faith. While this attack also has an internal component as churches undermine the Scriptures, the ammunition of the external attacks are the godless philosophies promoted largely by the majority of public universities and colleges that engage in indoctrination more than in education. They promote evolution, as well as secularism. In religious terms secularism is “the state of being free from religious or spiritual qualities.” It is a “tool to justify wrong” as one source put it. We need not describe for concerned and knowledgeable Christians what these tools to justify wrongs have wrought in our society. The apostle also addressed this. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

 The guns of evolution and secularism within the public educational system, as well as political approval of behaviors and lifestyle diametrically opposed, are an attack on Scripture, the divinely inspired, inerrant Word of God. The Word of God reveals the nature of God and speaks in absolutes concerning the will of God as well as His love in Christ. Satan uses every tool in his devious mind and in his toolbox to undermine Scripture, deceive Christ-believers, and bring down the Church by implosion and explosion. That we have our Lord’s promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18) does not diminish the necessity of watchfulness and steadfastness on the part of those who are in Satan’s sights today!

What the purveyors of the “philosophy and empty deceit” of the world do not fathom is that they are to a large extent responsible for the fear that fills so many hearts in times of trouble. As they have rejected God and substituted their will for His, they have jettisoned the only true strength and comfort in tribulation. There is nothing to which to anchor, nor one to whom to turn in times of uncertainty and fear. To those whose only measure of life is what they see and experience now – all of which will end in the grave – there is no refuge in the hour of death. They can deny Christ, but they cannot destroy Him. They can reject Him, but they cannot rid the conscience of fear when the curtain falls on their life. “The fear of the wicked will come upon him…” (Proverbs 10:24). Jesus spoke of “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth…” (Luke 21:16). Whether in their lifetime or at the judgment day, fear of the unknown, and of the judgment will be the lot of those whom Satan has deceived.

But is it true then that a Christian is never afraid? Are children of God never frightened as we traverse this life? Do not events and circumstances in our life and in the world around us such as illness, pandemics (as we are presently experiencing), threatening storms, economic woes, financial difficulties, and countless other things – do they not cause anxiety and worry? Indeed they do!

Does that mean that one is not a Christ-believer, lacks trust in God, is a hypocrite when he expresses faith in the Lord, or has lost faith in Christ? Rid yourself of such thoughts. Do not listen to those who suggest that if you are afraid you are not a believer in the Creator God and Your Redeemer Who has promised you, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Fellow Redeemed, we will not use the weakness of our flesh as an excuse and say, “It is okay to be afraid because I have the corrupt flesh.” We will not use it as an excuse, but the reality is that because we are still in the flesh, we are still subject to the impediments of it. The Lord, though without sin, endured the “hardships of life” in His state of humiliation. He knows to what we mortals are subject. “He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). That is why He invites us to call upon Him in the day of trouble (Psalm 50:15). This is one blessing and release they do not have who deny the Lord, or mock Scripture! Neither did the Lord create us without feeling. We feel pain. It is a natural reaction of the flesh to fear when confronted with the unknown, or when standing in the face of a storm. We frequently hear, and it is true, “The Lord is in charge. He is in control.” But does one’s faith in the Lord mean in the face of danger he is to throw caution to the wind? As the child of God in faith prays to be spared an illness or even death, does that mean he should unnecessarily expose himself to the danger of infection that could kill him? Is it a lack of faith in the Lord God to take refuge in a storm shelter in the face of a tornado? Does a Christian lack trust in the Lord because he locks the door of his home in the evening, insures his home, goes to the doctor, takes his medication. Besides common sense, does not fear of consequences frequently dictate how we react? Does this mean one does not trust God?

Moses’ mother hid him at his birth. Rahab hid the spies on the roof. David hid himself from Saul’s wrath. David fled from Saul, and “was very much afraid of Acish the king of Gath” (1 Samuel 21:12). Luther said of fear, “But although the godly fear more than they hope, yet faith and hope finally gain the victory.” Of the ungodly who brazenly despise danger, he said, “But in the end fear takes hold of them, and they have no hope” (What Luther Says, Vol. I, para., 1520, pg. 508). Death itself strikes fear into godly and ungodly alike. God did not create man to die. In that sense it is unnatural. Hence fear. However, the believer in Christ by the grace of God overcomes fear as his hope and confidence are anchored in the Savior who overcame death and promises eternal life. Said the apostle, “Thanks be to God Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

What then is the difference between the fear of the godless and deniers of the Lord, and the believer in Christ? The difference is that the godless have no one to whom to turn in their fear. Since they believe that man is master of his own fate and is self-sufficient, they must turn to themselves to extricate themselves from their dilemma. They must turn to the causer of their fear to overcome fear. They may even convince themselves that their bravado works, until they stand at death’s door. If they do not catch on to the futility of trusting themselves before then, they will. Too late! On the other hand the child of God knows to Whom to turn. The first half of Psalm 103:14 says, “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear [respect] Him.” “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word). In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh can do to me” (Psalm 56:3-4)? The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me” (Psalm 118:6)?

The Christ-believer does not claim to be bolder, less fearful, or nobler than the ungodly. The reality is that the Christ-believer acknowledges his weakness and inability. “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Paul there echoes David, “The Lord is my strength and my shield…” (Psalm 28:7). The confidence of faith is declared in Hebrews 13 where the holy writer records God’s promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The Christian’s confidence in this promise is found at the cross, in the restoration of life at the empty tomb. As all things came to pass for our redemption as He promised, He has confirmed His faithfulness (despite our unfaithfulness) forever! Therefore, “Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore” (1 Chronicles 16:11).

So where is God when bad things happen to His children who have called on Him? First of all, do not forget—the Lord has protected you day by day. One asks, “From what?” That’s the point. We don’t even know!

Faithful disciples of the Lord, look at life differently than those whose view of life is diminished by their unbelief. Yes, disciples suffer fear, pain, discomfort, loss, and every other sort of tribulation common to man. However, no circumstance, pandemic or lock-down, can undo the Father’s promise: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:14-18).

In all the news and analyses of the present virus scare, nothing is heard that brings comfort to troubled souls. As life goes, it will not be long after the present pandemic fear is past, another cause of fear will arise. For soul comfort we can only turn to our Lord in His Word. In sickness and sorrow, in times of   fear and fright it is from the cross and empty tomb of our Lord Jesus that we draw comfort through the grace of forgiveness of our sins, and the promise of eternal life guaranteed to us through the risen Christ. The contemplation of our present, and our future, draws its assurance from the faithfulness of our Lord who invites us to call upon Him in every trouble. We can do so in the assurance that He hears our prayers and promises again and again in Scripture that He will care for us in time, and afterward receive us to glory. We know and believe therefore “that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Psalm 91 exhorts us in time of affliction and distress to trust in God. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’” Of them the Lord says, “Because he has set his love upon Me, Therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation” (Psalm 91:1-2, 14-16).

“I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13). Consequently the child of God confidently goes to the Heavenly Father saying, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3).

God of my life, to Thee I call;

Afflicted, at Thy feet I fall;

When the great water-floods prevail,

Leave not my trembling heart to fail.

 

Then hear, O Lord, my humble cry

And bend on me Thy pitying eye.

To Thee their prayer Thy people make:

Hear us for our Redeemer’s sake (TLH-534).

Easter, the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection, is at hand. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,  who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3).

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TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?

 

In addition to the general deterioration of absolutes and morality in our nation which weighs heavily on many Christian hearts, we are now confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic which has struck fear into many. Christians are not immune to the fear. So we are being told by sincere and earnest people to pray. In these days in which the majority in the world and our nation has spurned the Lord and many are comfort- able doing what is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6), and as the nation spirals toward Sodom, and COVID-19 spreads, surely children of the Heavenly Father will heed His invitation to lay their concerns before Him in prayer.

In a general sense the sudden national interest in prayer raises questions. To whom do people pray? What do people expect when they pray? Why the interest in prayer now? These questions are not as ridiculous as they sound. Consider:

To whom do people pray? To whom do those pray who do not believe God exists. There was a saying heard in wars past, ” There are no atheists in foxholes.” Fear and fright do not convert hearts. However, there is a natural tendency of the fearful that moves even an atheist to call out to someone or something higher than self. We have all heard it, foxhole or not, “I do not pray a lot. But I sure prayed.” When confronted by trouble, disaster, or death itself they prayed, but to whom?

For people who do not believe in the existence of God, who have their own concept of God, or who create their own gods, prayer may be a feel-good experience. Such prayer is a waste of breath. Israel which turned from the true God to idols was challenged by Elijah to call to Baal to send fire to consume the sacrifice.

“So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, ‘O Baal, hear us!’ But there was no voice, no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made. And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god, either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.’ So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention” (1 Kings 18:26-29).

Elijah prayed to the Lord God of heaven who responded. The people “fell on their face” and said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God” (1 Kings 18:39).

The futility, uselessness, and foolishness of calling on idols is further demonstrated in 1 Samuel 5. The Philistines took the Ark of God from Israel and set it in the house of Dagon, their idol. The next morning they found their god on its face. In a turn about from the relationship of the true God toward His people, the Philistines put their god in place again, only to find the next morning that not only had it fallen on its face, but its head and hands were broken off. Their god was decapitated!

“Who would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing?” (Isaiah 44:10), and say, “Deliver me, for you are my god” (Isaiah 44:17-read the chapter)?

What do people expect when they pray? The question may be put this way–Why should God answer the prayer of those who pray with an attitude of “Why not? It can’t hurt.” The apostle James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8). Or why should the Lord God answer a prayer of anyone whose attitude toward the Lord is, “Yes, I understand, God, but…”

James raises an issue that ought to lead us all to examine our own heart. Such exercise will move a Christian to begin with a confession, “Lord, forgive me for my ‘Yes but… moments and my doubts.” Take me to the cross daily where Your gracious will overcomes mine, and to the empty tomb where doubt is removed.”

Just asking; why should the Lord answer the prayers of those within the church who while claiming to believe the Scripture, twist it, distort it, and adapt it to fit their agenda or accommodate societal whims and immoral behaviors– in other words, of those who accept the premise that it is acceptable for everyone to do what is right in his own eyes despite what Scripture teaches?

Finally, the last question, “Why now? Why do people who otherwise do not pray, pray when they or the nation are in trouble? Why then, why now? Is prayer considered merely an exercise to take one’s mind off a problem? Is prayer a “feel good” exercise? Is prayer considered a magical potion? Church attendance frequently spikes in time of stress, or national disaster. Why then? Is worship or communication with the Lord in prayer important only when one feels a need, or when the nation is suffering an epidemic or a pandemic, or has had a 9/11 experience?

Under quarantine, the “have no time” argument will not wash. It is time well spent (as well as good discipline) to set aside a time for meditation in God’s Word and for prayer. It is God’s will that His children address Him in trustful prayer day and night. Scripture says, “Pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This does not mean, however, that the Christ-believer must walk about constantly in a prayer posture or legalistically adopt an “hour of prayer”.

So what is prayer? In contrast to those who pray to the wind, who pray to lifeless idols of man’s imagination, to gods whom they prop up, who do not know to whom they pray, or why they pray, meaningful prayer is an exercise of the heart of those who through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are reconciled to the Father. It is a privilege given to His children to communicate their every need to Him, whether it is a temporal necessity or a spiritual. The Sermon on the Mount was spoken to Jesus’ disciples. In the sermon on prayer (Matthew 6), He said to them, “In this manner, therefore, pray, ‘Our Father Who art in heaven…’”. Prayer is an act of worship in which the Christ-believer brings petitions before God in the name of Jesus, confident that the Father hears and answers according to His gracious will and promise. The Christian does not dictate to God but believes Jesus Who said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (John 16:23). God’s children are encouraged, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

In praying for things related to our temporal wellbeing, Jesus in Gethsemane gives us

the model: “Not my will but Yours be done.” When asking for blessings related to our spiritual wellbeing, we know the will of God. It is revealed in the Word. It was declared at the cross and empty tomb and in every expressed will of God for our salvation. Therefore we pray simply and confidently as did the sorrowful tax collector in the temple, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13), and Stephen who prayed in the face of death, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).

A child of God does not take God for granted. Prayer includes giving thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). If we look for an outline of prayer we can find it in ACTS — Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. “DEAR Heavenly Father…We CONFESS our sins to You…. THANK YOU for your blessings of body and soul… We SUPPLICATE (ask) You to keep us in Your care…”. However, inasmuch as prayer is an expression of trust in the living God, the God Who is, and the God who hears and answers prayer, the Christian’s whole life is an exercise in prayer. A sigh, a tear, a word of a believing heart is a prayer to Him, “… For the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8: 26).

Blessed are the children of God who in faith know and believe in the Father as good and gracious for the sake of Jesus, whose life He spent to forgive our sins and redeem our lives from destruction. Unlike those who have no god or do not know to whom to pray, how confident we can be in all things, in good days and bad, in sorrow and trouble, in sickness and in health. In the darkest nights, in the most painful circumstances, in time of fear, we know our Lord knows us. He will according to His gracious will deliver us. Even death itself despite the fear it engenders in the flesh is overcome in Christ Who is “The Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). We have an ear that hears, a Father Who cares. Thanks be to God!

When many turned away from the Lord and walked no more with Him, He asked the disciples, “Do you also want to go away?” Their response through Peter was, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:66-67).

In that spirit we pray,

O Lord, in whom our life consists,

Our cares are known to You.

While still on earth we here do dwell,

We trust Your steadfast love.

 

Lord, give this nation we call home

Such who will govern well.

May all their thoughts and words and deeds

Be guided by Your will,

 

Lord, give us faith Your will to do,

Respecting those who serve.

Give to our nation peace and rest,

So long as here we dwell.

 

Lord of the nation and the Church,

Protect Your children true.

Our faithful God, trustworthy Lord.

O, hear our urgent prayer.

 

O Lord, in sorrow, sickness, fear,

In these uncertain times,

Please hold us in your warm embrace,

And calm our troubled hearts.

 

Lord, help us focus evermore

On Christ, our Savior true;

And when our days on earth are done,

O, take us Home to You. Amen

 

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THE LORD FORGIVES ALL YOUR SINS — WHO HEALS ALL YOUR DISEASES

No one should make light of nor diminish the serious of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The virus itself, as well as the cautions to stem it, and protecting oneself from its ravages should be taken seriously. The cautions should be observed, particularly when they are authorized by authorities for the welfare of all. Each of us should react responsibly and, as much as possible, guard against becoming a carrier of the virus to our neighbor. Another thing against which we should guard, though likely without much success, is the politization of it. Finally, we also want to guard against a doomsday mentality that characterizes religious zealots who by twisting Scripture flee to the mountains in anticipation of the end of the world.

History has seen other pandemics (a disease prevalent over the whole world). Martin Luther survived and addressed a plague in 1527. There have been pandemics in the United States (Asian flu,1956-58, Hong Kong flu, 1968, HIV/Aids 2005-2012) in our lifetime. The most recent and most serious however, before most of us, occurred in 1918-1919. “It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States” (CDC Website).

Present panic and fear are not unexpected nor unusual by themselves. But contributing to hysteria and fear enveloping the globe today are social media, the press, and politics, all of which frequently mix fiction and personal agendas with fact.

There are two attitudes at play in addressing both the virus, as well as the real cause and effect. One attitude and likely the majority is evident in those who deny the Lord God, have no respect for Him, and believe that mankind is captain of his own fate. They reject any sin cause, as well as any divine participation or intervention in the matter. Mockingly they ask, “If there is a God, where is He now? Why is He letting this happen?” They are of those at the cross who mocked Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross, “ or, “He trusted in God… let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him” (Matthew 27:40,43).

Obviously they are of the crowd that does not recognize that the practice of sin and evil invites the judgment of God. That godlessness invites judgment is clear from the time before the flood, (Genesis 5), before Babel (Genesis 11), before and during the time of the Judges (Judges 2:18-21), before the Assyrian captivity (2 Kings 17), before the Babylonian captivity (the rejection of the Word of God and the worship of other gods and idols). The New Testament also addresses this (Romans 1, see also 2 Timothy 3). The godless also have no one to whom to turn in fear, fright, affliction, or death. They are alone.

The immediate causes of past and present pandemics and other national or personal difficulties are biological. The underlying cause is sin going back to the fall from holiness in Eden. God whom the world rejects and whom they mock and accuse of harshness said, “ In the day you eat of it you shall die” (Genesis 2:16). If we are honest, we will acknowledge that pandemics, trials, and afflictions that cause discomfort, illness, fear, panic and death are in the first and last analysis “earned.” There were no such things, nor was it the intent of the Creator to permit or send such things into the world before the fall into sin. The immediate causes are addressed by the scientific and medical profession. We thank the Lord for them. The underlying cause falls into the spiritual realm.

This leads to consideration of the second attitude as we seek to understand and address what we are presently experiencing. Christians do not have a direct communication from heaven as did the prophets. The Christian view born of faith comes through the Word of God because in the New Testament the Lord speaks to us through the revealed Word. No, we are not assuming or claiming as do some religious zealots to know when the end of the world is going to come. We do know from Scripture the red flags the Lord has set that should keep us alert, in the Scriptures, praying, and watching for the time which will come “as a thief in the night” (1Thessalonians 5:2), for “the Lord is not slack concerning His promises, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering [patient] toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:10). There you have it. The world still stands because the Lord is not willing that any should perish, that is suffer the judgment of hell. He wants all to be saved. Pray. The Lord hears the prayers of His children. Let us in turn recognize and heed His calls to repentance. They are expressions of His desire to save souls for whom He died.

The Lord’s call to repentance comes in various ways. Inasmuch as the Christ-believer still lives in this sinful world, he stands daily in need of forgiveness as does everyone else. The Lord says, “You have gone away from my ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me and I will return to You” (Malachi 3:7). The prophet Zechariah spoke to God’s people the word of the Lord, “Return to Me…and I will return to you” (Zechariah 1:3). This call will not be understood by the ungodly, mocking world any more than those did who mocked Noah while he was building the ark. But Christians should understand, and thereby through faithful preaching of Law and Gospel fulfill the divine commission (Matthew 28:20). Yes, proclaim now, “For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.  For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (“Lamentations 3:33). Believers in Christ who suffer as much as the ungodly under a scourge feel the pain, know the sorrow, have the same fears. But look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith whose every act toward us is born of love and concern for our eternal well-being.

 “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.  And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

‘My son, do not despise the chastening [correction] of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.’ 

 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?  For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.  Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:3-11)

To the world this is foolishness, but to the redeemed who by faith treasure the blessings of God in time, and who look forward to the better country in heaven it is instructive and comforting, “Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken but He will bind us up…” (Hosea 6:1). Of those who return to the Lord, He says, “…the sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12).

And while we look for the blessed country, we are to be good stewards of the one in which we presently live. We believe that as sin is a reproach to any people, “Righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34). The Lord will bless a nation because He cares about His children who live in it. Friends, repentance begins in our heart, our home, our church. Stand fast in the Word as you have been taught. Confess your faith before the world that perhaps through you others will be led to repentance and faith in Christ for which reason He will spare our nation. Pray for the nation and its leaders that they will govern wisely. Pray for those on the front line who are seeking to stymie the present scourge. Pray for the ill, and that the dying will find peace in the Lord Jesus. Yes, pray for the Church that it remains steadfast in the truth, and that it will faithfully proclaim the whole counsel of God. Pray that with you all people will find their peace and hope in the Gospel.

Give thanks to the Lord Who by His Spirit has called you out of the darkness of unbelief to faith in Him Who says, “ Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine…I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:1). He who died to redeem you from sin and death, and Who rose again and restored to you the life in heaven that the Creator intended for you in Eden will keep you in His care. Until then be careful, be cautious, be caring, and do what you can to encourage and assist one another. Live your life as children of God in worship, and witness to the God of grace Who in His steadfast love will keep you unto eternal life.

Philipp Nicolai, a Lutheran pastor, served in a town that was devastated by a pestilence in 1597. His office looked out over a cemetery in which there were frequently 30 burials a day. During this time he wrote, “There seemed to me nothing more sweet, delightful, and agreeable than the contemplation of the noble, sublime doctrine of Eternal life obtained through the blood of Christ…” In Sunday worship we sang one of his hymns composed during this period. From the hymn, “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star” (TLH 343), we sang:

Oh, joy to know that Thou, my Friend,

Art Lord, Beginning without end,

The First and Last, Eternal!

And Thou at length–O glorious grace!–

Wilt take me to that holy place,

The home of joys supernal.

Amen, Amen!

In time, until eternity when cares are past, “ Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).

 

 

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THE UNGODLY WILL NOT WIN

One take-away from Psalm 1 is “ Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly…” but whose “delight is in the law of the Lord.” A second is, “The ungodly… are like the chaff which the wind drives away.” The Psalm concludes with the clear delineation between those who walk in the way of the Lord, and those who don’t. In these words are comfort for the children of God, as well as a warning. “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” The way of the righteous who walk in penitential faith in the Savior, leads to life. The way of those who walk and delight in the path of sin and unbelief leads to hell. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, a sermon which many quote, but few understand, “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 it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13).

“The Saint Paul City Council voted to recognize March 10, 2020, the ‘National Abortion Provider’s Appreciation Day.’” Rewire.News (March 2018) online defined “Ten Reasons to appreciate Your Abortion Provider.” Below are four of the ten reasons (direct quotes without the twisted, sick, explanation but notice the illogicalness, foolishness and inconsistencies of number 3 and 4. Bold face and underline original).

  • Abortion providers are community leaders
  • Abortion providers know how to have a good time

Rampant wickedness and evil in this misidentified “Christian nation” are not new. Since the fall into sin, abortion, homosexuality, and every other sin of whatever magnitude offends the holiness of God. The incessant attack on Christianity we are witnessing, as well as the promotion of immorality, invite divine judgment as history shows. Before the flood, God said:

  • “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Genesis 6:11-13). And He did.

When pride reared its head at the construction of the tower of Babel, God said:

  • Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”  So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:7-9).

The Lord does not abide homosexual practice:

  • “ Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.  So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground” (Genesis 19: 24-25).

Second Kings 17 tells how Assyria invaded Israel which in its idolatrous worship and evil life refused to hear the Word of the Lord. As an instrument in the hands of God, Assyrian King Shalmaneser brought judgment upon Israel. Assyria carried the northern ten tribes into captivity. They lost their identity. They are lost to history. The way of the ungodly shall perish.

Increasingly, the wicked express hatred for and rancor against Christianity and judge that it is discriminatory, biased, and hatemongering. So be it. God to Whom all must answer says: “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked; whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). The ungodly may have their day; they now enjoy the tents of wickedness. They are deluded. They will not win. The way of the ungodly shall perish.

Daily the Christ-believer must fight against his own flesh. Daily he must contend against the temptations of the flesh to satisfy its lusts. Yes, daily in sorrow over sin he must go to the Lord from and in Whom by grace he finds forgiveness. The promise and seal of forgiveness is sure because the Lord Jesus took our sins on Himself, fulfilled the Father’s will and died on the cross. Our forgiveness and deliverance from the judgment to come – our eternal salvation — is sealed to us through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. By grace we are saved through faith in Christ! This truth accentuates the fact that the ungodly will not win.

We do not diminish the sorrow, pain, frustration, and anger we feel at the evil of the ungodly who may even take our life. Our Lord is not the author, generator, or agent of sin. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13). But God frequently turns the actions of evil men to His purpose, making of them unwitting tools in His hand. How frustrating for them! They will not win, though for a time they relish in ungodly glee. The ungodly will not win. In the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan, the Christ-believer cannot lose!

  • At Jesus birth Herod killed male children under 2 years old. Jesus was taken to Nazareth and returned at the death of Herod. Scripture was fulfilled (Matthew 2:14-23.
  • Judas of his own will and purpose betrayed Jesus. This contributed to the fulfillment of prophecy (Zechariah 11:12-13, Matthew 27:9-10).
  • The unruly, hateful mob delivered Jesus for crucifixion. He must die, they said. This fulfilled Scripture. The Lord used their evil to redeem His promise to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15).
  • Jesus died on the cross. His enemies rejoiced as He died “that the whole nation should not perish” (John 11:50). Scripture was fulfilled that He should die for the sins of the world, even for those who delivered and crucified Him
  • Jesus rose again. Impossible without His death. The ungodly contributed to the fulfillment of Scripture (Matthew 12:40). “Because I live, you shall live also” (John14:19).
  • The early Christian Church was persecuted. “Now those who were scattered at the persecution spread the Word to no one but the Jews only” (Acts 11:19).
  • The Jews rejected the Word, so Paul and Barnabas turned “to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).
  • False teachers arise in the world and the church. “that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1Corinthians 11:19).
  • The Muslims moved across Europe with their false religion and cruelty. Rome and the Pope were distracted from exercising their ban on Martin Luther because they needed the support of Luther’s supporters. The Reformation flourished.

Take they our life, goods, child, and spouse. Let these all be gone; they yet have nothing won. The kingdom remains ours (TLH-262). Heaven is our home. Through the evil days, the Lord will preserve His children to His heavenly Kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18) while the ungodly chaff will be blown away. The ungodly will not win!

We may not and often do not understand the ways of God. We trust Him Who is faithful and just as He tells us, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Regardless of what happens in time God’s Word and history are on the side of Christ-believers! Heaven is our home.

  • “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

On their wide path to judgment, the ungodly cannot and will not win.

Pray for them that they will cease their evil and turn in penitence to the Lord, and that the Lord will stay the hand of judgment upon a nation. Pray that they see the evil of their ways and turn in penitent sorrow and faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. Pray for them that when their life on earth is past, they may by the grace of God in Christ join the white-clad host of Christ-believers who, delivered out of great tribulation, have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14).

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NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET

Listening to a sermon recently, two passages quoted inspired a thought. Both passages were from the Gospel of John.

John 8: 43 — “Why do you not understand my speech? Because you are not able to listen to My Word… (8:47) He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear because you are not of God.”

Those to whom Jesus spoke could not understand what He said because they could (would) not listen to what He was saying. There is a difference between hearing and listening. Listening carries with it the idea of comprehending (Parents have asked their child, “Are you listening to me? Do you hear what I am saying?”). Why could they not comprehend? Jesus identified the reason. “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (44). They rejected the truth which Jesus brought them, because they enjoyed doing what the devil does.

To whom was Jesus speaking? He was speaking to pious religionists among the Jews, including religious leaders, who claimed a relationship with God simply because they were of the flesh of Abraham. Jesus identified true children of Abraham by a different criterion than the religious leaders did. While they were of the bloodline of Abraham, they had not comprehended nor accepted that “they are not all Israel who are of Israel,  nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham… That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. They are the children of God who believed the promise and who were of the faith of Abraham” (Romans 9:6-9). In God’s sight, they are true children of Abraham who hold the faith of Abraham. Had they been true children of Abraham and thus also of God they would have believed the Word as Abraham did. Though Abraham lived before the birth of the incarnate Christ, Jesus said of him, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it [through faith] and was glad” (John 8:56). Abraham’s “children” wanted to kill Jesus. They said He had a demon (v. 52). They “took up stones to throw at Him” (v. 58). Hardly the faith of Abraham!

Jesus confronted them with the truth. “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me(John 10:14, 27).

Sin is a consequence of not listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd. Sin is a manifestation of the corruption of the flesh which occurred when Eve listened to the devil who famously asked her, “Has God indeed said…” (Genesis 3:1)? She bought into the lie of Satan. The Lord had said, “You shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Satan said, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:3). Satan doubled down on his lie, “…you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

What possessed Eve in the perfection of Eden, and in the state of created holiness, to want to know the difference between good and evil in a circumstance and home where there was no evil? Evil was not even on the radar. She fell for the devil’s play on her pride to be like God. Thus Adam and Eve, because they did not listen to their Creator, found out what evil was as distinct from what was good. Every day since, fallen man has indeed seen and experienced the distinction between good and evil, even as in this corrupt world the distinction between good and evil has been blurred beyond recognition. The world living under the satanic lie remains dead in trespasses and sins, under the condemnation of God in time and for eternity.

In this regard two passages come to mind. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17: 6). “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!  Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink, who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away justice from the righteous man” (Isaiah 5:20)! This is the mentality of those who have closed their heart to the Lord, as compared to those who hear the Good Shepherd.

But it is a fair question, “Among sinners are some less sinners than others? Are some sins less offensive to God than others?” The answer is a loud, “No!” Scripture says of all, “There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”(Romans 3:23). It says further, “They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). If anyone says he has no sin, he makes God a liar (1 John 1:10). There is no one better by nature than another. All sin, regardless of persons who commit it or its nature, is an offense to the holy God. The Lord calls all to repent of their sin and believe in Him.

They who will not hear God are self-deceived and are without excuse. Confronted with the reality of God through observation of God’s creation as well as conscience, and by the inspired Word of God, they who are not of God have “exchanged the truth of God for the lie” (Romans 1). In the foolishness of their darkened hearts and minds they have sold their souls to the devil. In their pride they think themselves wiser than God or perceive themselves to be gods unto themselves. “They have changed the glory of the incorruptible God—if they acknowledge Him or not—into an image made like corruptible man” (Romans 1:23). How are they identified?

They reject the inspired and inerrant Word of God.

They condition the Word of God to fit their agenda (homosexuality, corruption of marriage, abortion (murder of the unborn).

They mock God as a figment of imagination.

They reject the evidence of God and deny He is (Atheism)

They say maybe God is, maybe He is not (Agnosticism).

They promote evolution and deny creation.

They countenance and promote sin (all that is contrary to the Lord and truth) and approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:32).

They hate the truth and are slaves to sin.

They love the world and the things of the world (1 John 2:15).

They laugh at the thought of everlasting judgment.

They see no need for and reject Christ as the Savior from sin.

They reject God’s plan of salvation—by grace through faith in Christ.

They do not hear because they are not of God! As they are not of God, they mock and persecute confessors of the true God who demonstrate by their walk and testimony that they have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

On the other hand, they who hear the voice of the Good Shepherd bow to the Word of the Lord Who says “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways” (Proverbs 23:26). The sons or children of God are the redeemed, restored, forgiven who recognize the evil of the world, confess their sin, and find their comfort and strength at the foot of the cross of the Savior. Overcome by the Spirit of God through the Gospel, they hear the Good Shepherd and follow Him. They are in the flesh no less sinners than others, but they are not slaves to sin. They live in the faith that the Lord Jesus Christ has covered their sin, washed it away, paid the penalty. They live in confident faith of eternal life through the atonement made by the Lord Jesus Christ Who came into the world expressly to bear the sins of the world. They make no claim of merit, but believe they are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. The deceptive calls of false teachers, and the enticing call of the world and slaves of sin are recognized as contrary to the voice of the Good Shepherd. Consequently, “They will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of a stranger” (John 10:5). Through faith they are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, for which reason the Father counts them as His own.

Because of the corruption of their own flesh, surrounded by the moral corruption in the environment in which Christ-believers are in the world, as well as by the threats and discomfort visited upon them by those who are not of God, God’s children pray: “ Lead me. O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before my face” (Psalm 5:8). Ultimately, “The Lord brings the counsels of nations to nothing” (Psalm 33:10).

The sheep love God’s Word because they are the words of eternal life (John 6:68). They who are of God are in the world, but not of it. Alive in Christ, they “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 4: 15-16). The Lord shall deliver them from every evil work and preserve them for His heavenly kingdom, as the apostle confidently asserted. (2 Timothy 4:18). Wait therefore on the Lord, you who hear His voice.

Concerning those who will not hear and are not of God and those who hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him, never the twain shall meet!

 

 

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IS THE MOST SOLD BOOK THE MOST READ BOOK?

According to The Economist, over 100 million Bibles are sold or given away in the world every year. Moreover, the Bible is the best-selling book of the year, every year. In the United States, each year 20 million Bible are sold.

Two-thirds of Bible owners, regardless of religious affiliation, say that the Bible holds the meaning of life. Ninety-Two percent of Americans own at least one Bible. More than 66,000 people at any given time are using a Bible app ( Source: BRANDONGAILLE Small Business and Marketing Advice 2017).

But what does it mean that the Bible is the best-selling book? The same internet source said that the most read verse is Isaiah 53:5: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Nevertheless, a Gallup survey found that “less than 50% of Americans can name the first book of the Bible…Only 1 in 3 Bible owners know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.” Many named Billy Graham as the one who preached it. Twelve percent of respondents believed Noah married Joan of Arc. One-quarter do not know what is celebrated on Easter.

For many the attitude toward the Bible is perhaps best summed up by the commonly heard expression, “The Good Book.” Since there are many good books and novels over the ages, it appears that the emphasis is on “’The’ Good Book.” But then what is it that makes the Bible good? On the list of good books over the ages, what makes the Bible “’The’ Book of Books?”

Is one a Shakespeare scholar who has his works on the shelf but seldom, if ever reads them? What purpose does the Bible in the home serve if it is not read or studied? The Bible is not a good luck charm. It is not an object of idolatrous worship as mockers of the Bible suggest. To one who mocked, saying, “religious believers should worship God, not the books about God,” we simply say, “Believers do not worship books about God; we worship the Triune God Who has revealed Himself in the Bible.”

So let us ask ourselves some questions —

Who is the central focus of the Bible? “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He [Jesus] expounded to them in all the Scriptures concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). The Scriptures of Jesus’ time were the Old Testament. Jesus began His ministry at about 30 years (Luke 3:23). The earliest book of the New Testament dates from about 45-48 AD. Christ Jesus is the focal point of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

Who is the Author of the Bible? The Bible, though penned by men, was authored by the Lord God through His Spirit (Verbal inspiration). “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

What is the Bible? The Bible is God’s Word. God’s Word is truth. “…Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). It is not the words which man’s wisdom teaches, “but which the Holy Ghost teaches” (1 Corinthians 2:13). God’s Word “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

What personal use should we make of the Bible? The Bible is not a bookend. Using the Bible is more than leafing through it. It is more than perusing it. “Search the Scriptures…(John 5:39). We are to teach the Bible faithfully to our children. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

Why was the Bible revealed to us? “Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39). “ … It is the power of God to salvation for everyone that believes” (Romans 1:16). “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, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).

What are the chief doctrines (teachings) of the Bible? Law and Gospel.

The Law tells us what we are to do and not to do (Exodus 20). The Law exposes our sin. “ … I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7). The Law condemns us, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).

The Gospel (Good News) Shows us our Savior. The Gospel shows how our Savior took our sins, bore our punishment, took our unrighteousness and gave us His righteousness, reconciled us to the Father, by His resurrection restored life, and through His ascension has prepared a place in heaven for all who believe in Him. The confidence of God’s love, and the understanding and hope in God is a matter of faith. Faith is born of the Gospel by the power of the Spirit Who gave and gives spiritual discernment through which we say, “I believe.” “ For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast…(Ephesians 2: 8-9). The Gospel is the message of life in Christ (Romans 6:23b).

What else does the Gospel do? The Gospel works within the believing heart the will, desire, and power to serve and please God. This is called sanctification. “ This is the will of God your sanctification…for God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:3,7), “ For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

By what is the Gospel known to us? The Gospel is called the Means of Grace. “The Means of grace are the vehicle by which the Spirit converts, saves, and preserves us in the faith. The Means of Grace are the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.

The Word of God inspired, recorded, spoken, and read in the Bible.

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is a visible means through which the Holy Spirit works with water and the Word, thus converting the heart. “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,  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,  whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-5).

The Sacrament of the Altar (Lord’s Supper) through which the Spirit seals to the penitent sinner the forgiveness of sins as we receive the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (Real Presence). “This is My body and My blood…given and shed for you for the remission of sins.” Where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation.

Finally, why will we want to READ the Bible? The Bible tells us of the origin of the world. It manifests to us the true God. We are surrounded in nature and in our conscience by the reality of God, but only through Scripture can we know our Savior from sin and know of the salvation Jesus won for us on the cross. The Word of Scripture is the foundation of saving faith, faith apart from which there is no salvation. To all who believe, the Bible opens the beauty of heaven in God’s eternal presence. Bible Christians will read the Bible because, as Dr, Martin Luther said, “After all, no book, teaching, or word is able to comfort in troubles, fear, misery death, yea, in the midst of devils and in hell, except this book which teaches us God’s Word and in which God Himself speaks with us as a man speaks with His friend” (What Luther Says, Vol. I, p. 63, para. 174). It truly is the Book of Books because it is God’s Book. It is “The Best Book” because it is God’s Book! Read it,

“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

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