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June 15, 2020
No False Witness
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” (Exodus 20:16)

There are several important and very specific words used in this commandment. An expanded translation could well be “Do not purposely intend to injure or plan to deceive others by repeating a damaging report about one with whom you have established a relationship.”

The very idea of a lie originated with the great enemy, Satan (John 8:44; 1 John 2:21), no doubt rendering the lying tongue an abomination to God (Proverbs 6:17-19; 12:22).

The willing false witness will not escape punishment (Proverbs 19:5, 9). Indeed, such a person may die prematurely (Acts 5:4-10).

Untruth is not overlooked by God. In fact, those who are “liars” by practice will likely wind up in hell (Revelation 21:8, 27; 22:15).

While the focus of this commandment prohibits a “formal” false witness against someone—which would result in damage to their person, property, or reputation—the biblical applications are many and varied. Our holy God hates a false witness.

So-called “half truths” are not godly, either. Flattery and hypocrisy are wrong (Psalm 12:1-3; Proverbs 29:5), as are malicious joking and jesting (Proverbs 26:18-19; Ephesians 5:4). Even deceptive refusals are considered ungodly behavior (Proverbs 3:27-29; 1 John 3:17-18). And, of course, slander, gossip, and “tale bearing” are wrong (Psalm 101:5).

Those who name the name of Jesus Christ are, simply, to speak the truth (Ephesians 4:25), render sound judgment (1 Corinthians 6:1-5), and not to enter into a plot to do evil (Zechariah 7:9-10; Romans 12:9, 17, 21). Our “yes” and our “no” are to be precise and accurate (James 5:12). HMM III

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  June 16, 2020
No Coveting
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” (Exodus 20:17)

This is the broadest prohibition of the Ten Commandments, spilling over to numerous portions of the Scripture. This commandment gives us three different views of “covet.” The initial commandment (Exodus 20:17) uses the Hebrew word chamad, which means “to delight in.” The repeated commandment (Deuteronomy 5:21) uses the word ‘avah, which translates “to wish for.” And the applied commandment (Jeremiah 6:13) uses the word batsa’, which is “to be greedy.”

There are two classic examples from which we can learn. In spite of the awesome evidence of the Rea Sea crossing, water from the rock, and the manna from heaven, Israel was not satisfied with the Lord’s provision (Numbers 11:7-15). They “fell a lusting” (‘avah) for the old delicacies of Egypt (Numbers 11:4-6). The Lord gave Israel its request for “meat” (Numbers 11:16-31), then sent a plague of judgment on the ungrateful nation (Numbers 11:32-35).

There is also the tragic example of Achan (Joshua 7). Achan had been warned twice (Deuteronomy 7:25; Joshua 6:18-19) not to crave the riches of Jericho. But he gave into “a delightful desire” (chamad, Joshua 7:21). Achan’s sin brought judgment upon the whole nation (Joshua 7:5-15) until he was executed (Joshua 7:25-26).

God does not tolerate covetousness. The Bible is clear: Those who covet are never satisfied (Psalm 78:23-37) and have leanness sent to their souls (Psalm 106:13-15). May our Lord protect us from giving in to the “lust of the flesh” (1 John 2:16). HMM III

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  June 17, 2020
Pleasing God
“Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)

Paul’s great ambition was to please his Lord and Savior. In our text, the Greek for “accepted” often also is translated “well pleasing,” and this is the real meaning of the word. Since this also is the great desire of every sincere Christian, let us look at a few of those passages where the Lord tells us specifically how we can please Him.

Consider, for example: “But to do good and to communicate [i.e., to ‘share what you have with others’] forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16; see also Philippians 4:18).

There is a special admonition to children: “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). For adults: “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please [same root word] him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

The same word appears in Romans 12:1-2, translated twice as “acceptable.” Paul urges us to present our bodies as living sacrifices, “holy, acceptable unto God,” being “not conformed to this world” but transformed by a renewed mind, thereby to prove “that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

The common thread in these and other such passages is that in order to be pleasing to the Lord, we must be good stewards of all our possessions and all our days, serving Him totally. “For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable [i.e., ‘well pleasing’] to God” (Romans 14:18). This is our reasonable service, and it will be abundantly repaid if we hear Him say in that day: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). HMM

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  June 18, 2020
Created
“Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” (Isaiah 43:7)

There are three main verbs used to describe God’s work of creation in Genesis. These are “create” (Hebrew bara), “make” (asah), and “form” (yatsar). The three words are similar in meaning but each with a slightly different emphasis. None of them, of course, can mean anything at all like “evolve” or “change” on their own accord.

All three are used in Genesis with reference to humans. “And God said, Let us make man in our image.…So God created man in his own image.…And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7).

Although the subject of creation is commonly associated with Genesis, it is mentioned even more frequently by the great prophet Isaiah. The words bara and yatsar are used twice as often in Isaiah as in any other Old Testament book and are applied uniquely to works of God. All three verbs are used together in Isaiah 45:18 in order to adequately describe God’s purposeful work in preparing Earth for humans: “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.”

God created, formed, made, and established the earth that it might be the home of men and women. But what was God’s purpose for the people who would inhabit it? Our text answers this most fundamental of questions, and once again all three key verbs are used: “I have created him…I have formed him,…I have made him…for my glory.”

This biblical perspective alone provides the greatest of all possible incentives to live a godly and useful life. The reason we were created is to glorify God! HMM

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  June 19, 2020
Useless Prayers
“He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” (Proverbs 28:9)

There are some prayers that God hates, strange as that may seem. In fact, our very prayers can even “become sin” (Psalm 109:7). When one who has deliberately “turned away his ear” from the Word of God (preferring his own way to God’s revealed will as found in His Word) attempts to ask God for blessing or direction, his prayer becomes presumption. God hates such prayers, and those who pray them should not be surprised when He does not give them their request. “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).

No Christian is sinless, of course. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8). The obvious remedy is to ask the Lord, through His Word, to “see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:24), and then to confess and forsake any sin so revealed and known. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Then, having been cleansed from our unrighteousness, we are again made righteous, not only through Christ’s imputed righteousness, but also in righteous, daily living. Then the gracious promises of answered prayer can again become wholly effective, for “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).

How vital it is to know and obey the Word of God, and how dangerous it is to turn our ears away from it. God will not be mocked for long! “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Peter 3:12). HMM

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June 20, 2020
Defending the Gospel
“But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:17)

Many Christians decry the use of apologetics or evidences in Christian witnessing, feeling it somehow dishonors the Lord or the Scriptures to try to defend them. But as our text indicates, Paul did not agree with this. The gospel does need defending, and he was set for its defense against the attacks of its adversaries. He also told his disciples that “in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace” (Philippians 1:7).

The Greek word translated “defense” is apologia, from which we derive our English word “apologetics.” It is a legal term, meaning the case made by a defense attorney on behalf of a defendant under attack by a prosecutor. Thus, Paul is saying: “I am set to give an apologetic for the gospel—a logical, systematic [scientific, if necessary] defense of the gospel against all the attacks of its adversaries.”

Since we are “partakers” with him in this defense, we also need to “be ready always to give an answer [same word, apologia] to every man that asketh [us] a reason of the hope that is in [us]” (1 Peter 3:15). Any Christian who shares his faith with the unsaved has encountered many who cannot believe the simple plan of salvation until his questions are answered. We must be familiar with the “many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3) of the deity of Christ and His power to save, both as omnipotent Creator and sin-bearing Savior. We must “search the scriptures daily” and also study the “witness” He has given in the creation (Acts 17:11; 14:17) if we are to do this effectively, bringing forth fruit that will “remain” (John 15:16) instead of fruit that has withered away “because it had no root” (Mark 4:6). The gospel is under vicious attack today, so may God help us to be among its victorious defenders. HMM

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June 21, 2020
Love of the Father for the Son
“The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” (John 3:35)

The gospel of John, in a special sense, emphasizes the love in the divine Trinity of the heavenly Father for the Son. The words “love” and “Father” and “Son” occur more in this book than in any other book of the Bible, and there are at least eight references to this love in John’s gospel.

The first is in our text above, revealing that the Father has entrusted the care of the whole creation to the Son whom He loves. He has also shown Him everything in creation: “For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth” (John 5:20).

The Father also loved the Son because of His willingness to die for lost sinners. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again” (John 10:17).

Then in the upper room, as Christ prayed to His Father, it was revealed that this divine love had existed in eternity and therefore must be both the root and the measure of all forms of true love ever since. “Father…thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). Parental love, marital love, filial love, love of country—all types of genuine love—are derived ultimately from this eternal love of the Father for the Son.

And it is this love that can also be in us, if we will have it. “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you….If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:9-10).

It was thus He prayed (and still prays) for us: “That the world may know that thou…hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.…And…that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:23, 26). HMM

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June 22, 2020
Higher Ground
“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Over the years, Christians have used many hymns to enhance the study of Scripture. Consider one such hymn, “Higher Ground,” as an impetus to our own study. Its refrain encapsulates the desire of many Christians.

Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.


Many Christians live on a “plateau,” enjoying the Christian life around them, but inwardly they yearn for something more, something deeper and more lasting. They long to make a difference in the lives of their friends, lost or unlost. They want to live in victory over sin. They want more fruitfulness from their witness. They desire a deeper walk with God and to live by faith, living in a way that pleases God.

No longer satisfied with the accustomed “plateau,” they pray for God to grant them a “tableland” or “higher ground.” But this high ground is not one from which simply to minister. It is to know God in His entirety. We desire the same as Paul: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).

This may be the most lasting message we can take from this song. We want to know God more fully and serve as more effective Christians. We are encouraged to plant our feet on higher ground and be eternally more abundant as Christians. JDM

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  June 23, 2020
Upward Way
“And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19)

The hymn “Higher Ground” acknowledges the difficulties of the Christian life. But we press on, ever striving for the goal. A Christian must be habitually “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Philippians 3:13). And so it is in the hymn.

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.


All faithful warriors must remember that they are fighting for the King. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4). Many successful soldiers in the Lord’s army may be gaining new victories each day, although in the bigger picture these may go unrecognized by others and sometimes even by the individual soldier. But these efforts and soldiers will be commended by the One for whom we are fighting.

Our endeavors must always be bathed in prayer as we seek to gain His favor. Our supplication must be “Lord, grant me victory over any sin which besets me. Provide me favor today as I press on in your service. Give me opportunity to teach your Word to those in need. Give me fruit which lasts for eternity.” An earnest plea that touches God’s heart has great power, and we can look forward to seeing it work mightily. As the hymn teaches, we can expect Him to plant our feet on higher ground. JDM

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  June 24, 2020
Sin and the Christian God
“But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11-12)

A Christian has no desire for his past life of sin. As we see in our text, we should “flee these things” and “lay hold on eternal life,” putting off whatever is old and instead putting on what is new. The second verse of our study hymn “Higher Ground” expresses this as well.

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.


One of the most precious promises of Christianity can be found in 2 Corinthians 5:17, where we see that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” We are told that we can put our old habits of sin behind us and live a new life in victory over sin and death. No longer can sin reign over us—we can live in victory. Even doubts and fears can be dismissed from our presence. Our God has promised throughout His Scriptures: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

There is no need to be anywhere else. My prayer and my aim are to walk where He leads and be where He wants me to be. Only while there can we be assured of higher ground with Him. JDM

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June 25, 2020
Satan's Wiles
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (Ephesians 6:16)

Our goals as victorious warriors or even survivors in the battle at hand include neutralizing the enemy’s tactics as well as defeating him. The Christian wants to live above the fray, being successful in his efforts to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked,” as we saw in our text. The third verse of the hymn “Higher Ground” expresses this desire well.

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.


The passage surrounding our text captures the warrior’s spirit well. The fighter is to don with care his entire armor (Ephesians 6:13) and protect his “loins girt about with truth” and wearing the “breastplate of righteousness.” He must be protected from head to toe, “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (v. 14-15) and standing with the helmet of salvation on his head. The text gives further instructions, perhaps more important than all the others, for it instructs “above all, taking the shield of faith.” Our faith, our belief in God, and the knowledge of the Word of God provide the necessary and winning power for the battle. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

The final item mentioned in this important passage is the striving together of the saints for the common goal, praying together and beseeching God for His blessings. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18) makes victory more certain in both the short run and the long. What bliss to catch the joyful sound of faithful saints on higher ground. JDM

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June 26, 2020
Till Heaven I've Found
“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3)

As Christians we desire to be with our Lord and see His glory forever. The writer of Hebrews expressed our passion for Him in the text for today. He goes on to tell how “they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16). Our ultimate goal is to reach glory and see our Savior face to face. The final verse of “Higher Ground” agrees.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.


We must have our expectation fixated on Him and our eternal home. We must pray for His return to take us there and pray that we can influence many others to join us too. Now we face persecution, trials, and troubles, but these are so temporary. Indeed, we are promised that we “shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Only when we reach that “utmost height” and finally perceive that “glory bright” will we fully understand Him, while our thankfulness continues for eons.

Studying this grand Christian hymn reminds us of the wondrous Christian opportunities before us and the majesty of heaven’s higher ground that awaits us. We have the privilege of living above the sin so prevalent around us and confronting even our enemy with victory. And our ultimate goal is our Savior in heaven. Dear friend, we have a great journey ahead and great joy at the end. JDM

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June 27, 2020
The Two Ways
“For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Psalm 1:6)

This verse outlines the inescapable truth that there are only two roads and two destinations to which they lead in eternity. The word “way” (Hebrew derek) means “road.” There is only one way leading to heaven—the way of the righteous; and one way leading to hell—the way of the ungodly.

This is a very common word in Scripture, but it is significant that its first occurrence is in Genesis 3:24, referring to “the way of the tree of life.” Once expelled from the garden of Eden because of their rebellion, Adam and Eve no longer could travel that “way” of life and began to die.

The equivalent Greek word in the New Testament is hodos, also meaning “road,” and it too occurs quite frequently. Its literal meaning—that of an actual roadway—lends itself very easily to the figure of a style of life whose practice leads inevitably to a certain destiny. Since there are only two basic ways of looking at life—the God-centered viewpoint and the man-centered viewpoint—there are only two ways of life, the way of the godly and the way of the ungodly. The one leads to life, the other to death. There is no other way.

The Lord Jesus taught: “Enter ye in at the strait [i.e., ‘narrow’] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). But what is the way of the righteous that leads to life? “I am the way,” said the Lord Jesus: “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21). HMM

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June 28, 2020
The Christian's Cleansing
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

This familiar promise is often quoted as a sort of pat formula for dealing with sin in a believer’s life. Simply identify and acknowledge the sin, and all is forgiven.

This is gloriously true, so far as it goes, but the last part of the verse is also vitally important. The Lord wants His people to be cleansed from all unrighteousness. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light,…the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

In these and other verses, the verb translated “cleanse” is the Greek katharizo, from which we get such English words as “cathartic.” It is a strong word, sometimes translated as “purify” and even “purge.” The sin not only is to be confessed, it must be purged!

The Lord Jesus Christ “by himself purged our sins” (Hebrews 1:3) so that God can be perfectly “faithful and just to forgive us our sins” on the basis of His cleansing blood and sanctifying Word. But this is far more than an academic formula, for this cleansing, purifying, and purging must become a real experience in one’s life, and the Lord will do whatever is necessary to make it so. He “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify [same word as ‘cleanse’] unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).

We must learn to “walk in the light” and to be “zealous of good works,” as He “purgeth us from all unrighteousness” when we “confess our sins.” It is necessary that we be constrained to become more “like him,” for “when he shall appear,…we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). Thus, His forgiveness of our sins is inevitably accompanied by a purging of our lives. HMM

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June 29, 2020
Signs of the Times
“When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:2-3)

This sharp rebuke by the Lord Jesus was well deserved, for His critics were challenging Him to prove His right to be heard by performing a miracle. But they had already been confronted with a tremendous body of evidence, both in their Scriptures and in the very life and teachings of Jesus (as well as in the miracles already wrought by Him) that He was their Messiah. They paid great attention to weather forecasting and other mundane matters while ignoring or rejecting the evidence that God Himself, in Christ, was in their midst.

Today we are more occupied with daily weather even than they were, with all sorts of forecasting devices in operation. There is also a growing army of doomsday forecasters, loudly concerned about overpopulation, pollution, and a host of other foreboding secular “signs of the times.”

Yet they ignore the overwhelming evidences, both in science and Scripture, that our great Creator/Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is still in control and is coming again soon to fulfill His great purposes in creation and redemption. A mere listing of the many real signs of God’s times would take many pages. One such sign, of course, is this very proliferation of science and technology. At “the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4). Another is the great following achieved by these false teachers, as multitudes “turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4). “Hypocrites,” Jesus said, are concerned with secular trends, but spiritual discerners can recognize the true signs. HMM
 
 

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June 30, 2020
Profit and Loss
“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

In these materialistic days, many people have become abnormally occupied with investments and returns, capital gains and losses, balance sheets and cash flows. This is nothing new, of course. The prevalence of covetousness is so universal, in one form or another, that God had to place a prohibition on it in the Ten Commandments.

The Lord Jesus made a heart-searching comparison one day when He posed a surprising question relative to divine bookkeeping. Not even the riches of all the world could purchase one human soul, yet people often seem willing to sacrifice their souls in pursuit of riches. Is such an exchange really a sound investment? Merely to ask the question is to answer it.

Earning wealth is good if it is acquired honorably and by the will of God, but coveting wealth and hoarding wealth are foolish sins. Here is another of many divine profit-and-loss statements: “There is [he] that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is [he] that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches” (Proverbs 13:7). The true measure of profit and loss is the balance sheet kept in heaven. One must first glean an account there, however, and this means coming to God empty-handed, on the basis of Christ’s free gift of His own riches. “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). He died for us, that we might live through Him.

Then, once our heavenly account is established, here is real investment counseling: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.…For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). HMM

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July 1, 2020
Light for Every Man
“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9)

The Bible clearly teaches that faith in the person and saving work of Jesus Christ is essential for salvation. Jesus Himself said: “I am the way...no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

This means that there is no salvation whatsoever in Islam or Buddhism, and certainly not in evolutionary humanism—or anything other than faith in Christ!

But what about the millions over the ages who have lived and died without ever hearing about Christ? Paul answers: “But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18). That is, they have heard! Our text reminds us that Jesus Christ is the true Light that has been sent to every man in the world. Paul was referring to the familiar 19th Psalm, which reminds us that God’s glory is declared by the heavens themselves.

Paul also stressed that even God’s “eternal power and Godhead” are “clearly seen” “from the creation of the world,” so that those who don’t see are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Thus, as Peter said, “in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:35). Although Christ has provided at least some light for “every man,” the tragedy is that “men loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). But for those like Cornelius (to whom Peter was sent with the gospel—Acts 10) who act on whatever light they have (in nature or conscience or any possible remnants of primeval truth in their native religion), God will send more light, for “he that doeth truth cometh to the light” (John 3:21). HMM

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July 2, 2020
Songs in the Night
“Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the day time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:7-8)

There are times in the life of a believer when he seems about to sink under great avalanches of trouble and sorrow. But then “I call to remembrance my song in the night” (Psalm 77:6), and God answers once again. In the book of Psalms, the theme of conflict and suffering is prominent, but always there is also the note of hope and ultimate triumph.

The very first psalm, for example, notes the conflict of the righteous with the ungodly but promises that “the way of the ungodly shall perish” (v. 6). The second psalm foretells the final rebellion of the heathen against God and His anointed but assures us that God will “vex them in his sore displeasure” (vv. 2, 5). In Psalm 3, the believer says: “Many are they that rise up against me.” But then he remembers that “salvation belongeth unto the LORD” (vv. 1, 8). He cries in Psalm 4: “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer” (v. 1).

In Psalm 5, immediately after the first imprecation in the psalms (“cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions”) occurs the first specific mention of singing in the book of Psalms: “Let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout [literally ‘sing’] for joy, because thou defendest them” (vv. 10-11).

The Lord Jesus and His disciples sang a psalm even as they went out into the night of His betrayal and condemnation (Mark 14:26). This is His gracious promise: “Ye shall have a song, as in the night.…And the LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard” (Isaiah 30:29-30). HMM

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July 3, 2020
The Powers of God
“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

In these days of rampant humanism, blatant materialism, and effete religionism, the very concept of an all-powerful God who created, controls, and judges all things seems anachronistic, but God is still there and is still the Almighty.

Three Greek words are translated “power” in Scripture— exousia (“authority”), dunamis (“ability”), and kratos (“strength”). Each is attributed in unlimited extent to God the Creator as incarnate in Christ the Redeemer. “All power [‘authority’] is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18). “For thine is the kingdom, and the power [‘ability’], and the glory, for ever” (Matthew 6:13). “That ye may know… the exceeding greatness of his power [‘ability’] to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power [‘strength’], which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power [‘authority’], and might, and dominion” (Ephesians 1:18-21).

He is the “Almighty God” of Abraham (Genesis 17:1), “the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 40:28). “Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

God can do whatever He pleases, except anything contrary to His nature. He “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), for He is “the truth” (John 14:6). His inspired Word is inerrant—“the scripture of truth” (Daniel 10:21). We can be certain that He did not “create” the world by evolution, for that would be contradicted both by His infallible Word and by His omnipotence. Being all-powerful, God would surely not create by such a cruel, inefficient process as evolution. HMM

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July 4, 2020
The Law of Liberty
“So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.” (James 2:12)

On Independence Day, Americans should give thanks to the Author of liberty that we have been privileged to live in this “sweet land of liberty,” where we can worship God freely in accord with His Word. Liberty is not license, however, and the essence of the American system is liberty under law. Fundamentally, that law is “the law of nature and of nature’s God”—the natural laws of God’s world and the revealed laws of God’s Word. Within that framework we do have liberty—but not liberty to defy either the physical law of gravity or the spiritual “law of liberty.” The latter is formulated in Scripture and has been applied over the centuries, in the English common law and later in our system of constitutional law, both of which are based on Scripture.

Some today, seeking license rather than liberty, might recoil at the very idea of “the law of liberty,” calling it an oxymoron, or contradiction in terms. But Jesus said that only “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4), and “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15), not freedom!

No one can be saved by the law, but those who are saved— by grace through faith in Christ—will love God’s law, for it is “holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12). We should say with the psalmist: “So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts” (Psalm 119:44-45).

There is, indeed, a law of liberty, and whoever will walk in real liberty will find it only in God’s law of life, through His revealed Word. For “whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:25). HMM

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July 5, 2020
Meditation
“Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.” (Psalm 119:27)

The remarkable 119th Psalm, with its 22 eight-verse stanzas, is the unique “song of the word,” containing 176 testimonies or prayers concerning God’s Word—one for each verse. Eight times the word “meditate” or “meditation” is used, indicating the importance of this practice in relation to the Scriptures. In our text, this word is translated “talk,” but its basic thrust is to exhort us to meditate on the wonderful works of God, once we understand the way of His precepts.

The other seven references to meditation in this psalm are as follows: “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways” (v. 15). “Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes” (v. 23). “My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes” (v. 48). “Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts” (v. 78). “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (v. 97). “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation” (v. 99). “Mine eyes prevent [i.e., anticipate] the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word” (v. 148).

There is, of course, a counterfeit form of meditation (e.g., so-called transcendental meditation and other forms of mysticism), not to mention useless daydreaming. These forms of meditation involve clearing one’s mind of all subjects and allowing the mind to wander. In contrast, true meditation involves pondering with awe and thankfulness God’s wonderful Word, His ways, and His works—in connection with prayer and the study of the Holy Scriptures. As an exercise of the mind as well as of the spirit, it is of great blessing and most pleasing to God. HMM

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July 6, 2020
O My Soul
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” (Psalm 42:5)

This expression (“O my soul”) is not used here by the psalmist as a trite exclamation but as a plea of heart-searching introspection, concerned over the dark depression that was about to settle over him because of the oppressions of his enemies (Psalm 43:2). The question in our text is asked three times by him in these two short psalms (Psalm 42:5,11; 43:5), and each time he answers himself: “Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him.”

Yet, God continued to withhold His answer. His enemies were taunting him about it (Psalm 42:3, 10), and the psalmist, in spite of himself, found himself crying out “Why?” no less than 10 times. Nevertheless, his faith in God never failed, and it thus becomes a great testimony to us today for he asked his “why?” questions in submission to God’s will. When we are tempted to “go...mourning because of the oppression of the enemy” (42:9; 43:2) and still God seems to have “forgotten,” then is the very time we must continue to affirm: “I shall yet praise him!” He is “the God of my life,” and “in the night his song shall be with me” (42:8).

It may not be God’s will to set us free from the “noise of thy waterspouts” (42:7) or “the deceitful and unjust man” (43:1), but His light and truth will still lead, and we can yet praise Him, despite the circumstances.

In our text, the psalmist praises God for “the help of his countenance.” In the verses that echo this verse (42:11; 43:5), his testimony is slightly—yet significantly—changed. “I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance.”

Therefore, even in a dark night of “O my soul,” we can see Him by faith, with countenances full of joy. HMM

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July 7, 2020
The Truth
“And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:4)

This is the last of 11 occurrences of “the truth” in Paul’s two letters to Timothy. He was not writing about the importance of being truthful in general but about a specific body of factual information concerning Jesus Christ and its vital importance. Thus, “the truth” was a very important theme in both of Paul’s letters to this young pastor—and, by implication, to all God-called pastors.

Paul first speaks of “the knowledge of the truth” required for salvation (1 Timothy 2:4), then of his own teaching as “the truth in Christ” (1 Timothy 2:7), then of “the church of the living God” as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), and of Christians as those who “believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:3). He stresses the importance of studying the Bible as “the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), and also that true repentance requires “the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25).

Paul also warns of false and covetous teachers who are “destitute of the truth” (1 Timothy 6:5) and who therefore “concerning the truth have erred” (2 Timothy 2:18). There will even be false prophets who “resist the truth” and are “reprobate concerning the faith” (2 Timothy 3:8).

As a result of the teachings of these false teachers, there will be many so-called seekers of truth who are “ever learning” yet who seem “never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). The reason they never find the truth is because they “turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4).

The fact is that Jesus said: “I am…the truth” and also that “thy word is truth” (John 14:6; 17:17). For any who would say with Pilate “What is truth?” (John 18:38), there is the definitive answer! HMM

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July 8, 2020
The Light of the Word
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

As the sun provides physical light for the world, so Jesus Christ is spiritually “the light of the world” (John 8:12). However, we clearly can see His light only through the light holder, the lamp, as it were, of His written Word. The Word, therefore, is a lamp and, since it contains and reveals the light, is also a light in its own right. Without the Holy Scriptures, this world would lie in the deepest darkness, but “the entrance of thy words giveth light” (Psalm 119:130).

The Lord Jesus Christ is the living Word, and “without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:3-5). Although He “was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9), when He Himself came into the world, those who were made by Him refused to receive Him. “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

Just so, although the written Word has come into the world, the world does not receive it, either. The lamp and the light of the written Word have been in the world (in complete and final form) for 1,900 years, but people still reject and ridicule it, and the world still lies in darkness. Nevertheless, for those who receive it, there is wonderful light. “Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light” (John 12:35-36).

God’s Word always brings light. His first spoken Word was “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), and wherever He speaks, God sees the light, and it is good! HMM

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