Melting Hearts
 
Pastor Rice shares a biblical perspective to deal with the effects of the cultural atmosphere surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic.
Sunday, March 29, 2020
 
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Melting Hearts
 

When you go into a store or other business these days you experience something of melting hearts. For sure if you look to news outlets you see it.  Folks are in disbelief at where we are and how quickly we have come to this place. I hear comments that tell me hearts are melting. This is not a permanent arrangement, this we know, but it is real today, nonetheless. And I think we are getting weary of it. We know the importance of the health preventions. We are following the orders of those in authority. We are trying to make the best of the situation. However, we are not limited to just waiting it out. We are to shine as those who are kept by the Lord. We can show our world what trust and security looks like. Let’s keep our faith active and keep our witness clear. Our hearts should not be melting because we have a Savior who will keep His promises regardless of the earthly situation we are in.

God cares about our hearts, which is that deep and full seat of emotions that drives our thoughts and actions. We find some understanding on the matter of our hearts as we look to God’s Word.

The book of Joshua shows us how the Israelites took possession of the land and divided it for the various tribes and groups. In chapter 2 the initial inspection of the land of Canaan depicts a ready advantage for Israel because the Canaanites had already lost hope in their hearts when they heard what God had done for Israel. Rahab had harbored the spies in the land, and she tells them what she knows. The dismal news of the pending judgement and invasion had paralyzed the city of Jericho with fear.  

Joshua 2:9-11 And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.

10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.

11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

This melting of the hearts was exactly what God intended as He planned to do the many things He promised for Israel. Notice that the description includes not only the loss of courage to fight for their land  as the result of the heart condition, but we are also told that the Canaanites now have a new and bold understanding of who God is and the realm of His authority.  This is an absolute change from their previous perception but is too late. The very reason that God was giving Canaan to the Israelites was because of the defiance of the inhabitants against God and the unwillingness to repent and turn to follow Him.

 

This is not the first occasion of melting hearts. There was also a time when the hearts of Israel also melted in the wake of dismal news. This occurred some 40 years earlier on the shores of the same land of Canaan.  Moses was still alive, the Israelites were only a few months out of Egypt on their journey to freedom and prosperity after more than 400 years of slavery to Egypt. This was their moment: God’s promise of possession of the land was upon them. All He needed from Israel was belief. They sent spies into the land and they returned with their report. Two of the spies believed God and were ready to take the land (Joshua and Caleb). The other ten spies saw only the obstacles not the opportunity. They reported their dismal perspective and the hearts of Israel melted in disbelief.

Numbers 13:26-33   And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.

26 And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.

27 And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.

28 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.

29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.

30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.

31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.

32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.

33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

45 years later, Caleb, one of the original spies from this period recounts the events this way. Joshua 14:7-8

  Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadeshbarnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart.

Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God.

As a result of their failure to believe the Lord at His Word, Israel wandered for 40 years in the wilderness rather than taking possession of the promised land. The book of Joshua is the record of Israel taking the land after the 40 years of wandering and the dying off of the generation that did not believe. Moses had also passed away and now Joshua (one of the believing spies) was leading the way into the promised possession of Canaan. Joshua sends spies into the land and the melting hearts this time are on the inhabitants of Canaan rather than on Israel. Caleb the other believing spy would also take possession of Canaan.

 

The New Testament is also familiar with melting hearts. Though the word is not used the idea is clearly in mind in John 14. Jesus has told His disciples that the time had come for His betrayal and crucifixion. Their hearts were melting. Jesus spoke to them and to us in John 14.

John 14:1-3 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.

Jesus further explained and promised His peace to both the disciples and to us in the same conversation.

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

This promise of peace is what will sustain us until the promise of heaven is fulfilled. Now the question: do you believe the promise of heaven and are you kept by the promise of peace?

One final word from the book of Joshua. In chapter 21:44-45 we have a sure word about God’s ability to deliver on His promises.

Joshua 21:44-45

And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand.

45 There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.

We have the peace of Jesus and He will not forsake us. He has overcome the world. Troubled and fearful or melting hearts are not God’s intention for His people. Grasp the truth of Jesus and give Him the things you are troubled with. He will take care of your heart.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 1 Peter 5:7
 

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The Immutable Character of God
 
Message for Sunday, March 22 , 2020 by Adam Wasson
 
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The Immutable Character of God

Thomas Paine was a journalist in the late 1700’s, most notable for a series of pamphlets that were published before and during the revolutionary war, Common Sense, and The Crisis.  In his pamphlet dated December 23, 1776, he stated:

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. 

Thomas Paine was a Deist, believing in God based on reason alone, not believing that God interacts with or even cares about mankind.  He also recognized the bitterness of humanity and purported the fight against it…from the stance of reason.  He may have been confused about the role of God, Elohim, in creation, but he did understand one thing very well.  The times of man change.

We are currently amid change within our own society on many levels.  At the forefront of everyone’s mind is the recent viral pandemic.  Among this change are generational, political, financial, and religious changes.  It seems that mankind is never content; and in turn, this discontent fuels a desire to improve.  The world calls this change “progress”.  Biblically, it is not progress at all.  It is, in fact, the opposite.  It is always a step backward, or away from God.  Very few are willing to take a step toward God for fear of not being accepted, even among Christianity. 

More than 20 years ago, my pastor stated from the pulpit that Christianity was approximately 11 months behind the world in what they felt to be “acceptable”.  I believe it was true at the time.  Today, it is probably an even shorter time period.  The world is changing at an unprecedented rate; and many Christians, who are supposed to represent God and all that He supports, are completely accepting of all the world has to offer. 

Thomas Paine was indeed correct.  The times of man do change.  What he failed to accept and believe is that God is real, and active in His creation.  And this real, active God does not change.  He is immutable. 

As Malachi proclaimed God’s message to a straying Israelite nation, He stated in Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”  More research into this passage reveals that God is urging the people through His prophet to turn from their ways and follow Him.  This is a theme that is found throughout the Bible.  God has remained steadfast and merciful through all time.  His desire for us has always been to seek Him alone.  He wishes nothing more than for His creation to adore Him. 

 

God is immutable because of His character.

God’s character is not unlike our own.  Other people recognize us by the sum of our actions.  Jesus Christ said to the pharisees in Matthew 12:34, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”  Jesus was making a point that what we say proves what we think and believe.  The principle can be taken further without jeopardizing the integrity of the Word of God.  Our actions, speech, fashion, demeanor, and attitude all dictate what we hold to be true.  What was it that brought the signers of the Declaration of Independence to do so?  For by signing that document, they stood to lose everything earthly.  It was their understanding of justice and truthfulness that made them sign.  “…out of the abundance of the heart….”  God’s actions, like our own, stem from His attributes, His character. 

God possesses character traits that no other being can claim.  He is holy, just, and righteous.  He is gracious, merciful, and true.  He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.  He is timeless.  These are a few of the character traits that make God who He is.  It is not our intention to detail out all the aspects of each attribute currently.  It is sufficient to state that all of God’s attributes, when used to describe one being, form an incomprehensible image in our minds.  Fortunately, He has given us His word to help us understand Him in a way that not only makes sense, but also helps us.

The study of God, Theology Proper, is a viable, and important doctrine and fundamental of the faith.  Throughout the Bible, we can find passages and verses that highlight one or two of God’s unique attributes.  It is slightly fragmented, but it can be compiled to form an accurate picture of the God we serve.  It is very important that God is all the things He claims to be.  For example, if we were never told that God is holy, and yet we are told to be holy, we would be left wondering about all the other attributes of God.  For without His holiness, there would exist within Him sin.  How can we trust Him to be just and righteous if He is sinful? All of God’s attributes make Him who He is; without one of them, He ceases to be God.  God, like us, is recognized by the sum of His actions.  It cannot be found anywhere in the Bible where God acted outside of His character, which proves everything He tells us about Himself is true. 

It is God’s character that makes Him immutable, or unchanging.  He has proven Himself to mankind countless times throughout our short history.  It is His character that causes Him to be relentlessly reliable.  God will never deviate.  He will act according to His character every time.

When God formed man from the dust of the earth, it was done “in the image of God.”  Part of the “image” was God’s free will.  It did not include His attributes.  Our attributes do not include justice, grace, mercy, truthfulness, or holiness.  Yes, we do yearn to be characterized by these, but they do not dictate our actions every time. 

 

God is immutable even though we are not.

Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” 

James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

God will remain faithful to His creation to the end.  Despite His creation turning its back on Him repeatedly.  The Bible gives us the pattern very clearly:

In the Garden of Eden, man had everything.  Yet, he was not content; he tried to improve his situation and failed.  God picked him up and gave him a new start with a new system.  (Genesis 1-3) He instructed man to manage themselves.  Man, once again, was not content.  He tried to improve for the next 1500 years and failed again.  God wiped them out with a flood, saving only a few; he essentially gave man a fresh start with another new system.  (Genesis 4-10) Immediate failure was realized at the Tower of Babel as man once again tried to improve his situation.  In Genesis 12, we are introduced to Abram; and it’s through Abram that all nations of the world were to receive salvation.  A promise was given to man by God and man chose to ignore it and go its own way.  Failed again.  God then gave man another fresh start through the nation of Israel after bringing them to a promised land.  He set them up with a law, which outlined all behavior.  He promised to be their God.  Man was discontented once again and failed miserably at living under the theocracy that God had specially designed for them.  God, in His infinite mercy, proved His love yet again.  He sent His only begotten Son to correct the situation.  This single act ushered in the Age of Grace, another new system.  For the next 2000 years man enjoyed this grace. 

Now, in the present state of society, most of humanity has forgotten about this grace and the mercy that has stemmed God’s wrath for so long.  We have become a society that has chosen to ignore God. 

Yet He remains faithful to His promises and what He has claimed to be true.  His actions reflect His character and shine forth as a beacon in the fog.  Our inadequate minds may disallow us from comprehending His holiness, or righteousness.  But His immutability is easily understood.  Knowing that God cannot ever change is a great comfort.  We can latch onto it, knowing that He will always do what is in our best interest. 

Even the rebel Jonah recognized God’s steadiness in Jonah 4:1-2, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.  And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country?  Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish:  for I knew that thou are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.”  God always acts according to His character.

The Bible does an excellent job of illustrating this truth for us through the actions of various individuals.   Adam, whom God made from the dust of the earth.  Abraham, who was called “The Friend of God”.  And many others.

Are we any different than they?  Are we so different from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?  They exercised free will when they chose to disobey God and eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  We exercise free will when we choose to accept the evil in this world as an unstoppable tide.  Are we any different than Abraham, who lied because he thought he needed to protect his wife?  David, who took a second look?  Saul, who wanted to offer a sacrifice that was not sanctioned by God?  Peter, who protected himself by denying ever knowing Jesus?  We are not different than these.  We change our actions based on our circumstances daily.  God, however, does not.  His actions change because we change; but His actions are consistent with His character.

If the Bible is read from beginning to end, it is found that this pattern of man’s rebellion followed by God’s mercy continues right up to the point where God makes all things new. Which is an incredible event in Earth’s future where God will display His love and mercy like he never has!

 

Where does that leave us in the present? 

God’s imperatival directive to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20) has never changed.  Christians everywhere should never halt their efforts because of the whims of a shaky society.  On the contrary, the God we should be pointing people to is the only stable thing that exists. 

The cultures of the world will never stop changing; they will continue the struggle for improvement until the end.  As Christians, our struggle is very different.  We fight against the forces listed in Ephesians 6:12. “principalities”, “powers”, “rulers of darkness”, “spiritual wickedness”.  This is essentially everything the world uses to try to improve itself.  Just as God has vigilantly stayed relevant to man through the ages, we must try to stay relevant to those around us.  God has changed his method of dealing with man based on the changes taking place within mankind.  We also must change our method of procuring disciples based on the cultural changes we see taking place around us. 

When Adam and Eve sinned, God locked them out of the Garden of Eden.  Never again would God use innocence to define His relationship with man.  After the law was given to Moses and Aaron, never again would man be judged by their own definitions of good and evil.  After Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again, never again would man be required to offer sacrifices to cover his sin.  When God changed His method, it was permanent.  He forsook the old way and embraced the new; because He knew that was what we needed.

As we look at how the world is changing radically, we must not be afraid to embrace change within ourselves and all of Christianity.  We will be held accountable to how well we have accomplished God’s Great Commission.  We must not be afraid to let go of those pastimes of the church that have worked so well that are no longer effectual.  We must be open to discussing new ways to be relevant to a new generation of believers that fail to see the value in believing in something they cannot see.  We must come together as believers in Christ and strategize new methods and systems to make people see the value. 

They are searching.  They are ready to listen.

 

“Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.” –Joel 3:13

“The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few” –Matthew 9:37

“…for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” –Revelation 14:15

 

May the God of the universe never see us as a people that watched the world go by without understanding how we can help.  May He see us as a people that impacted the world with our vitality, steadiness, boldness, and strength. 

We know the truth.  May we never sit by and let people search for it.

 

Adam Wasson
 
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