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1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” 3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. 4 He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. 5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. 8 Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked. 9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. 12 In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. 13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. 14 “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. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.”

Some questions to consider

1) How does one dwell in the secret place of the Most High? See v. 1-2. Gal. 3:26-29; John 1:12-13; 3:14-18; Mark 16:16; Col. 1:19-23.

2) What does God promise to those who trust in Him? See v. 3-8.

3) Do Christians have any reason to be afraid of disease and pestilence, of wars or other dangers?

4) What are the believer’s shield and buckler? Where do we find this? See Psalm 119:160; John 8:31-32; 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:14-17.

5) See. v. 8. What does God call the disease, pestilence and bloodshed which come upon the world? How is this true?

6) How do we make the LORD our dwelling place? See. v. 9; cf. Prov. 3:5-6; Acts 16:31.

7) What does God promise to those who trust in Him? See, v. 10ff.

8) Do Believers, too, suffer from disease and violence and even die? Has evil triumphed when a believer dies? See John 11:25-26; Job 19:25-27; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 14:13.

9) What promise does God make to believers in regard to His holy angels? What does this mean? See v. 11-12.

10) What does God promise in v. 14?

11) Does God hear and answer the prayers of His children who call upon Him? What does He promise? See v. 15; 1 John 5:12-15.

12) What special promise does God give to those who trust in Him? See v. 16. What will God reveal and show to them through His Word and, finally, through the fulfillment of His Gospel promises?

O almighty God, grant that I hide under the shadow of Your wings through faith in the Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Grant to me Your protection in the midst of troubles and preserve me in the true faith unto life everlasting, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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The Lenten season begins today, Ash Wednesday, and continues until Easter. Lent is 40 days long, corresponding to the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, but extends over a period of 46 days because Sundays are not counted as part of the traditional Lenten season.

Since the date for Easter is set based on the lunar calendar — the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox — the season of Lent begins on different calendar dates each year. Though it began on March 6 last year, with Easter on April 21, it is earlier this year — Easter is April 12 and Lent begins today.

The first full moon after the vernal equinox is April 7, making Sunday, April 12, the date of Easter in most Western Churches.

On most years, the date for Easter or Pascha falls later in the Eastern Churches. Easter dates were the same in 2017, but this year the date is April 19 in the East (Eastern Churches use the same formula to determine the date for Easter but use the Julian Calendar, while Western Churches and most of the world use the Gregorian Calendar).

Some churches do not observe the season of Lent at all. It is not specifically commanded or forbidden in the Bible, so churches that do not observe the special season cannot be faulted, and anyone who insists it must be strictly observed goes beyond the teaching of the Bible. Nevertheless, the observance of Lent can be a good thing if it is observed with the purpose and intent of considering Christ’s sufferings and death for the sins of the world (often called His passion) and as a special time of self-examination and repentance.

While many would simply go through the outward forms of repentance — including ashes on the forehead and fasting during the season — the Bible calls for true contrition and sorrow over our own sinfulness and faith in the shed blood of Christ Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Joel 2:13 says, “Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.”

Psalm 34:18 says: “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”

Psalm 51:16-17 says: “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

John, in his first epistle (1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2), writes: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness … If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

God desires that we live in continual repentance — acknowledging our sinfulness and the judgment we justly deserve but then looking in faith to Christ Jesus and His death on the cross for our sins and trusting that in Jesus we are forgiven and accepted of God. Therefore, as we contemplate the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ bitter sufferings and death for the sins of all, it is certainly also a fitting time to examine ourselves and see that it was for our sin that He suffered and died such an agonizing death.

As Isaiah 53:5-6 says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Many, of course, speak of giving things up for Lent, and giving up things that we might focus on Christ and what He has done for us can certainly be a good thing. But, we need to always remember that our giving up something, whether it be through fasting or some other form of self-denial, can never merit God’s favor or blessing. Our observance of Lenten self-sacrifice will not somehow atone for our sins and make us acceptable to God. It is only through faith in the shed blood of Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), that we receive God’s pardon and forgiveness and are acceptable in His sight.

It is God who makes “us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6,7).

It’s really too bad that more people do not observe Lent in a Biblical and Scriptural way — not just giving up some item for 40 days but, rather, repenting of sin and evil and looking to Christ and His cross for pardon, forgiveness and life eternal. In fact, it’s sad that true Lenten contrition and repentance are not observed by more people year-round!

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

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Practicing and applying the Scriptural principles of church fellowship is not an easy thing, especially when they call for a break in fellowship between close friends or members of the same family. While we are to be loving and patient with others and seek to explain to them the truth taught in the Holy Scriptures, God’s Word also calls upon us to sever fellowship when the Word of Truth is rejected.

This is commanded for two basic reasons: 1) To point out to the erring the seriousness of departing from the doctrine revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures; 2) To prevent the spread of error that the true visible church may be preserved in this world and souls not be misled into sin, error and unbelief.

And, when Christians fail to do as God has commanded, they: 1) Give the impression that it is OK and not necessary to hold to all that God has revealed in His Word; 2) Cause the visible church to fall into error and cause souls to be misled into sin, error and unbelief.

A summary of the Biblical teaching regarding the practice of church fellowship

Since Jesus commanded us to disciple the nations by going, baptizing in the name of the Triune God and teaching them to observe all that Jesus taught and commanded (Matthew 28:18-20), and since Jesus warns against false prophets who come to us in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-23), we, as Christians, are to discriminate between churches and teachers which are faithful to Christ and that which is taught in His Word (orthodox churches and teachers) and those which are not faithful to Christ and His Word (false and heterodox churches and teachers) and to practice church fellowship (joining together in those things which one would do with fellow believers, such as worship, prayer, reception of the Lord’s Supper, evangelism, mission work, etc.) only with those who are faithful to Christ and His holy Word.

Jesus said: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). For this reason, the early church “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

That we not be led astray from the truth, the apostle Paul warned: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).

Thus, we see that we are commanded to continue in Jesus’ word and doctrine – the teaching of Holy Scripture – and to avoid and withdraw from those who teach otherwise and do not consent to the words of our Lord Jesus and the teaching of the Word of God.

So serious is the threat of false doctrine and the deception of the devil, God’s Word warns us:

• “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1);

• “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11);

• “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18);

• “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18);

• “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11); and,

• “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us … And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thessalonians 3:6,14).

Christians, like the believers at Berea (Acts 17:11), are to compare what is being taught to them with the clear teaching of the Word of God and reject those churches and teachers who remain unfaithful to the Word. And they must reject and condemn as sin the unionistic practices of our day in which church fellowship is practiced and church union is sought without regard for full adherence to the Scriptural Doctrine.

A church’s faithfulness to Christ and His Word is to be judged not only by its acceptance of and subscription to an orthodox creed or confession but by what is actually taught in its pulpits and writings and by what is practiced in its services and ministry.

As the apostle Paul warned, errors in both doctrine and practice will continue to trouble churches in this world (Acts 20:28-32; 1 Corinthians 11:19). But those churches which are faithful to Christ and His Word will, through Scriptural admonition and discipline, continue to combat and remove such error from among themselves and be faithful to Christ (Matthew 18:15-18; 2 Timothy 3:13-17; 4:1-5; Titus 3:10-11).

Christians remember that every lie and false teaching is of the devil, the father of lies (John 8:44), and the devil’s intent is to mislead God’s elect and weaken or destroy their faith in Christ Jesus. Therefore, Christians cannot and do not view doctrinal errors and teaching which is not in full agreement with the Bible as a trivial thing that can be ignored or overlooked. They use God’s Word to expose it, reprove it and remove it.

And, if a church or teacher rejects the sound teaching of God’s Word on a matter, Christians are commanded to reject and avoid the church or teacher until there are repentance and a return to the truth. Not to do so could even give the devil the opportunity he seeks to lead people away from faith in Christ and destroy their souls.
This is a most serious matter and yet many laugh and scoff and say that it’s only a little thing, a minor point. But, how many of you would drink water from a well which was poisoned even if the amount was small? What might not immediately kill you could do damage over time. So also with false doctrine; it is never harmless and, over time, it will weaken or destroy faith.

“A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9).

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:37-39

What will it be like when Jesus returns? Jesus Himself tells us it will be like it was in the days of Noah. People will be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage — in other words, carrying on with life as usual and enjoying the pleasures of this life — and then the end will come and carry them all away in God’s judgment!

Peter, in his epistles, tells us that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5) and that only “a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water” (1 Pet. 3:20).

As a “preacher of righteousness,” Noah, while he was preparing the ark — possibly for as long as 120 years (cf. Gen. 6:1ff.) — was calling upon the people of his antediluvian world to repent of their sins and believe in the promise of the Gospel — that God would send the Seed of the woman to be a sacrifice for sin and so undo the damnable work of Satan when he deceived Eve and brought about the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15).

And how many believed Noah’s message? How many repented of their sinful ways and believed the promise of God to send a Savior? Only eight souls!

We can only imagine the ridicule and rejection which Noah and his family suffered. He warned of God’s judgment in a worldwide flood in a day when, according to the Scriptural record, God may yet have only watered the earth with a mist (Gen. 2:5-6). He called upon people to repent and look to God’s promise in faith for mercy, but few saw the need to repent and believe the Gospel. Some possibly even pointed out to Noah the small size of his church — only eight souls. Certainly, the rest of the world couldn’t be wrong! And, it is likely that there were many who believed in God; they just didn’t see their need to repent and give up the things of this world to join Noah and his little church of eight souls on the strange-looking ark Noah and his sons had built.

And then the flood came…. Who was saved? Only Noah, his wife, and his three sons and their wives — only those who forsook this world and, in faith, boarded the ark! Who perished? All who failed to repent of their sinful ways and believe the promise of the Gospel!

What will it be like when Jesus returns and this world is judged? It will be like the days of Noah! People will be busy with their lives, eating, drinking, marrying, raising their families, enjoying life in this world, and then the end will come! “Every eye will see Him…” (Rev. 1:7).

And, like Noah, there are preachers of righteousness yet today warning of God’s impending judgment and calling upon all to repent of their sinful ways and believe the promise of the Gospel — that “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5); that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4); that through faith in Him, we receive God’s mercy and are justified and forgiven and given eternal life (Rom. 3:21-28; John 3:14-16).

As in the days of Noah, people reject God’s call to repent and believe the promise of the Gospel. They may believe in God but they don’t see a need to repent and look to Christ in faith. They continue on in the ways of this world. They don’t believe that God would actually condemn them to hell; or they look at the true visible church in this world and say its too small, its quarters are too tight and restrictive.

And then the judgment comes…. “The Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thess. 1:7-10).

And what will be the result? “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Those who repent of their sins and believe, being joined to Christ in His death and resurrection through Baptism, receive everlasting life. Those who refuse to repent and believe the promises of the Gospel will be condemned to the everlasting fires of hell!

Today is so very much just like the days of Noah!

O righteous and holy God, have mercy upon my soul and grant that I live in continual repentance and faith, looking for that day when Christ, my Savior, returns to execute judgment upon this wicked world and to receive into glory all who look to Him in faith for the forgiveness of sins and life eternal. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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