The Amazing Covenant Keeper

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When I saw the title of this week’s lesson, “An Everlasting Covenant” I automatically thought of how faithful God has been to His covenant even when His people were not keeping their end of the bargain. For example, in Exodus 32 God’s people worship a golden calf. Then God acts as if He is going to destroy them when Moses intercedes: 

Why let the Egyptians say, ‘Their God rescued them with the evil intention of slaughtering them in the mountains and wiping them from the face of the earth’? Turn away from your fierce anger. Change your mind about this terrible disaster you have threatened against your people!  Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You bound yourself with an oath to them, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven. And I will give them all of this land that I have promised to your descendants, and they will possess it forever.’”  So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people. Exodus 32:12-14 NLT 

Now whether or not God actually intended to destroy His people or if He was merely testing Moses, when Moses reminded God of His covenant promise to Abraham, God did not destroy them and He took the remnant into the promised land just as He had well, promised! We could have reasoned, well Abraham is dead; He will never know. We could have reasoned that the children of Israel did not deserve God’s promises, but none of that kept God from keeping His covenant with His people. God is the Amazing Covenant Keeper. 

Later we see something that to me is even more amazing. In Joshua 9 and Joshua 10, the Gibeonites used deceit to trick Israel into letting them in on the covenant God had made with them. Even though Israel was not supposed to make a covenant with anyone living as close as the Gibeonites, they did because they were tricked into it. Later when the Gibeonites were under attack, they called upon Israel to save them, 

The men of Gibeon quickly sent messengers to Joshua at his camp in Gilgal. “Don’t abandon your servants now!” they pleaded. “Come at once! Save us! Help us! For all the Amorite kings who live in the hill country have joined forces to attack us.” Joshua 10:6 NLT

Now Joshua very well could have told Gibeon, “You tricked us! We are not going to help you. What you did was dirty, and we don’t have to help you.” But instead, Joshua rushes to their aid. After all, a promise is a promise. 

So Joshua and his entire army, including his best warriors, left Gilgal and set out for Gibeon. Joshua 10:7 NLT

Now God could have told Joshua, “I am not helping you and Gibeon! You never should have let them in on our covenant. I am under no obligation whatsoever to help you or Gibeon since you both went about making this covenant all wrong!” But God is not like that. Instead God encourages Joshua to fight against Gibeon’s attackers.

Do not be afraid of them,” the Lord said to Joshua, “for I have given you victory over them. Not a single one of them will be able to stand up to you.” Joshua 10:8 NLT

It doesn’t stop there. God does something tremendously amazing to save these ornery rascals. He makes the sun stand still for them so they can defeat their enemies. 

On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies. Is this event not recorded in The Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and it did not set as on a normal day. There has never been a day like this one before or since, when the Lord answered such a prayer. Surely the Lord fought for Israel that day! Joshua 10:12-14 NLT

Did you catch what just happened? God, could have told Joshua the covenant was not legal since Joshua never should have made the covenant with a neighbor in the first place. God could have said Gibeon cheated in order to get in on the covenant and therefore it should not be honored. But instead of saying any of that God makes the sun stand still in order to fulfill His promise which neither Joshua nor Gibeon deserved! Talk about an Amazing Covenant Keeper! 

Friends I personally have read in the Bible about the conditions to receive God’s blessings, and I have to admit I have not met those conditions, and yet God’s blessings keep pouring in. What I have personally experienced is a God Who is more wonderful and merciful than He even claims to be. I have experienced a God who will make the sun stand still for me when I don’t deserve the time of day. He is an Amazing Covenant Keeper! It is because He is so merciful, forgiving and faithful that I choose to obey Him. David also experienced the amazing mercy of our Amazing Covenant Keeper when he said,

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8 NLT 

The Day God’s Love Made the Universe Stand Still

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

There is a saying, “kids who are loved at home come to school to learn. Kids who are not loved at home come to school to be loved.” Is it any different in Sabbath School? Is it also true that God’s children (ages 0-125) who know they are loved come to Sabbath school to learn, and those who don’t yet know they are loved, come to Sabbath School to be loved?

I can still remember sitting at my desk in my 4th-grade classroom at Tulsa Adventist Academy, listening to my teachers, Miss Fisher and Mrs. Krueger, lecturing us about something. I don’t really remember exactly what it was about, but we must have been struggling with our grades, because all I remember is, both teachers told us, “If you only learn one thing this year learn this. We love you!”  Now we were loved at home. We were loved at church and school, but as educated as my teachers were, they knew the most important thing is not money or a degree. It’s love. Without that nothing else matters, and when you know you are loved, nothing can stop you!

For the love of Christ controls and compels us, because we have concluded this, that One died for all, therefore all died (2 Corinthians 5:14 Amplified Bible)

So while humanity tries harder, and reads self-help books and tries 12-step recovery programs, Paul says it is by looking at the cross and knowing we are loved that we get all our power to succeed. I remember John the Baptist telling everyone to “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. John 1:29. He didn’t tell them to try harder next time. He told them to look at the Lamb. Let His love soak into you.

As legalistic humans we are always wanting to promise to try harder next time. But the answer is not promising to try harder. The answer is letting yourself be loved.

In Jeremiah God mentions how Israel had not kept the promises they had made, so He was going to make a better promise. His promise would be better because He is the the One making the promise instead of them. He is the perfect Promise-maker while we are lousy promise-makers!

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33 NLT)

So God promises to do for us what we could never even promise to do for ourselves, much less even try harder to make happen. God is the One promising, and He is the One who is accountable to make it so. Please notice something very important though. Its in Jeremiah 31:3 NLT, several verses before He promises to write His law on our hearts.

I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.

Just like my teachers realized all the book knowledge in the world doesn’t mean a thing without love, God feels the same way. Knowing all the laws and having them memorized in your mind and knowing them all by heart doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t know how much God loves you!

Friends, there is no reason for you to promise God you are going to try harder and do better next time. He has already promised you! We don’t need to promise God what He has already promised us! What? I don’t have any work to do myself? Well yes, and I will let Jesus tell you Himself, exactly what your work is.

 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29 NLT

Our work is to believe God’s promise that He loves us with an everlasting love, and He will place the principles of His love (also known as His law) in our hearts!

This is why John never told us to try harder! Just look at the Lamb and let His love soak into your heart till your heart is saturated with His love, which is also His law. You don’t need to promise God anything. Your work is to believe the promises God has made to you!

In 2017, I don’t need too many self-help books. I don’t need to try harder. I just need to look at the Lamb in 2017 and fall in love with Jesus! His love will change me in ways I could never change myself. After all, all the self help books and promises of better performance don’t mean a thing without love!

So just how good is God at keeping His promises to love and save us? For brevity, let me share one example. You can read about it in Joshua 9-10.

The Gibeonites used deceit to trick Israel into letting them in on the covenant God had made with them. Even though Israel was not supposed to make a covenant with anyone living as close as the Gibeonites, they did. Later when the Gibeonites were under attack, they called upon Israel to save them, and even though the Gibeonites had used deceit to secure this covenant, God was so relentless in keeping His promise of love, that He caused the sun to stand still until the Gibeonites were all rescued! God fought for Israel as Israel fought for the mischievous Gibeonites. Let that soak in. The Gibeonites were in no way worthy of any of God’s blessings, but God was still so loving and faithful to His promise that He made the sun stand still until they were all rescued! Talk about a love that moves heaven and earth! And this powerful love was given to the most undeserving people! So, scientifically speaking, the greatest power in the universe is not gravity or the suctioning power of the black hole. God’s love overruled all those powers and made the solar system stand still. Imagine what this love can do in your heart! 

God’s powerful promises and love are also for you and me. In Hebrews 13:5 God promises to never leave us or forsake us, but the Amplified Bible is the only English version that even begins to grasp what God is actually promising.

for He has said, “I will never under any circumstances desert you nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless, nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you- assuredly not!” Hebrews 13:5 Amp version.

If we know we are loved we can come to Sabbath School to learn, and we can learn while we are loved, but we can’t learn without love.

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 NLT

—and the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT 

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Glimpse of the Cross Day 4; Hard to be Lost

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41

Does it sometimes seem hard to get to heaven? I have good news for you! Jesus is planning on you going to heaven with Him. In the verse above, Jesus says hell is prepared for the devil and his angels and that does not include you! While hell is being prepared for the devil and his angels, look what Jesus has prepared for you.

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” Matthew 25:34 

That is good news that Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven and not in hell. He is planning for us to be in heaven with Him. Some Bible verses at first glance make salvation seam hard to obtain. For example Matthew 7:14 says,

“strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”  

Don’t get discouraged! Here is some good news from  Mount of Blessing, pages 139 and140:

“Yet do not therefore conclude that the upward path is the hard and the downward road the easy way. All along the road that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God’s love has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves. … If we take Christ for our guide, He will lead us safely. The veriest sinner need not miss his way.  … With Christ as our guide we shall not fail of reaching the desired haven at last. Christ Himself has trodden the rough way before us and has smoothed the path for our feet.” 

So is it hard to be saved or is it hard to be lost? The God Who wants us saved is much stronger than the devil who wants us lost!

He [God] would sooner send every angel out of heaven to protect His people than leave one soul that trusts in Him to be overcome by Satan. -Great Controversy Page 560

God is expecting to see you in heaven.

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.” John 14:1-3  

Galatians; An Overview

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

To read the book of Galatians click here.  To read this week’s SS lesson click here.

For the Sabbath School lesson phone app. click here.

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7

In Paul’s day people were already perverting the gospel. How do you pervert the gospel? Put self in it.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

Notice the pure gospel that Paul preaches has no self in it. He preaches a “Not I but Christ” gospel. So many people pervert the gospel by adding self. I have heard parents tell their kids, “Do the best you can do, and then when you have done your best Jesus will help you with the rest.” That is a me plus Christ gospel. The gospel is not me plus Christ, it is not I but Christ. Zero me. 100% Christ.

While at an Oklahoma Adventist Camp meeting, ,many moons ago, I heard a minister tell a story. Sorry I don’t remember his name, but I will never forget the story. It went like this. A man was on his way to a breakfast diner. There was one parking space left open by the front door. The man started for the space when he saw a man coming the other way who wanted the same space. The first man’s first reaction was to give it the gas and take the closest spot before the other man got there. But he had yielded himself to Christ that morning, so he let off the gas, let the other guy take the spot while he drove farther down and parked. When he got inside, the second man thanked him for letting him have the closer spot. The first man said, “That was not me.” The second man said well then who was it? The first man said, “It was Jesus. I would have taken the closer parking space!” So you see, whenever we do something right, we can be sure of one thing, it was not me. It was Jesus. Not I but Christ.

We also pervert the gospel when we add self effort, which is legalism by the way, and we also add legalism when we replace God’s law with manmade laws. We also pervert the gospel when we add lies. For example, John 3:16 says the unbeliever will perish, but many tell the lie that they will be tormented for all eternity instead. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death, not eternal torment in hell.

We also pervert the gospel when we alter our preaching or worship services to please the ego of man. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Gal 2:16

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3

These verses make it clear we are not saved by the works of the flesh but by the faith of Jesus. Notice it is not even our own faith that saves us. It is the faith of Jesus!

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Galatians 5:6

Faith does not do away with good works, faith works. It works by love. The legalistic motivation of hoping for a reward or avoiding punishment are gone. We work, but not to get to heaven or stay out of hell. We work because we love Jesus because He first loved us!

 [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  Galatians 5:16-17

The spirit gives us victory over the flesh. The flesh is legalism. Some have the idea that legalism is where you keep God’s law. The law is a part of the gospel too. The difference is how it is achieved. With legalism we keep the law by our own power for our own glory. With the gospel we keep the law by God’s power for His glory.

Galatians 4 made this clear. For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he [who was] of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman [was] by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.  Galatians 4:22-24

God promised Abraham a son. All Abraham had to do was believe and the son would be born. Some people have told me Abraham still had to do something  as this was not a virgin birth. Think about it. Sara’s womb was dead, so it might as well have been a virgin birth. All God needed was Abraham to trust His promise. This is God’s covenant, where we trust His promises. Abraham though set out to make his own covenant based on his own effort and too Hagar to wife. Abraham had to be circumcised so he could cast away the confidence he had in his own flesh. He trusted his own flesh to do that which God promised to do for and through him. ‘

Notice, the end result is still a child being born. The difference is Abraham’s way had self in it. When Abraham learned to trust God’s promise there was fruit and the fruit was real. So today, when we cast away the confidence in our own flesh, we will have fruit. Some think that when we get rid of legalism that we get rid of standards. The gospel does not get rid of standards. It helps us reach those standards, by trusting God instead of the works of the flesh.

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.  Galatians 5:24-26

Again, with the gospel we put away the effort and pride of the flesh and we reap the fruit of the work of the Spirit for the glory of God.

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Galatians 6:14