~Hebrews 7:19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope [did]; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

Without the precious sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ upon that cross to accept payment for my sin, I would not be able to draw nigh to God. It is because of Christ’s shed blood that we are able to be free from the penalty of death (Romans 6:23) and look forward to eternal life in Heaven with Jesus!

The more we separate ourselves from our sinfulness, the closer we get to the Lord also!  We can never be totally perfect but we can be a work in progress.  However, because of Jesus’ work on the cross, we are free from the burden of sin. After all, it is because of Christ being perfect, not us!  There are so many verses regarding His perfection and us resting in that perfection!  It is only because of that perfection that we are able to draw nigh to God!

~James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded.

~Deuteronomy 32:4 [He is] the Rock, his work [is] perfect: for all his ways [are] judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right [is] he.

~2 Samuel 22:31 [As for] God, his way [is] perfect; the word of the LORD [is] tried: he [is] a buckler to all them that trust in him.

~Psalm 18:30 [As for] God, his way [is] perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he [is] a buckler to all those that trust in him.

~Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

~Luke 6:40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.

~John 17:23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

~1 Corinthians 2:6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

~1 Corinthians 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

~2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.

~Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

~Colossians 1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

~Hebrews 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

~Hebrews 7:19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope [did]; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

~Hebrews 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

~Hebrews 12:23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

As you can see, there is nothing that we can do to earn Heaven.  We are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and, therefore, cannot and will not enter Heaven except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  The Law shows us our sin and, therefore, how imperfect we truly are. It is the Law that brings death. But it is Jesus’ blood on the mercy seat which covers that Law. We cannot be perfect through anything we do (Ephesians 2:8-10). It is Jesus Christ’s perfect and sinless life that the Father sees, not ours. Praise the Lord! 🙂

What a beautiful picture of Fall foliage in Northern Maine! Having grown up there, I remember the most vivid colors and how magnificent was the Lord’s handiwork! However, I don’t recall seeing leaves such as these. Did you notice the beautiful green centers of the leaves? It made me think that no matter how much turbulence there is around us, as long as we are attached to the Tree, we will have His likeness within us. The Holy Spirit resides inside us and glorifies Christ through our words and our actions. I praise the Lord for my salvation, don’t you? I cannot even begin to tell you how much He has changed my life!

Before I was saved, I had heard the instrumental version of the hymn that we are covering today. I had never “heard” the words, however. This hymn was played during the first church service I attended after salvation. When I heard the words for the first time, I broke down into tears! The lady sitting next to me turned to me thinking that I wanted salvation and walked me to the front of the church! God knew I needed to make public profession so this was timely. But the words penned by John Newton spoke to my heart. Although I did not have the same testimony as Newton, I was a sinner on my way to hell just as he. I shudder to think what would have happened if my dear friend had not submitted to God’s will to travel 1,000 miles to witness to me at the time that she did. Little did she know that had she not obeyed the Lord, I would have been dead a few short days later! Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Thank You, Lord!

John Newton’s words reveal a very personal relationship with his Lord and Saviour. The softest of born-again hearts can utter the words of this song today and become teary eyed with gratefulness! John Newton was born on July 24th, 1725, and died on December 21, 1807. He wrote Amazing Grace at the age of 54 years old. He lived to be the ripe old age of 82!

John’s mother passed away when he was just seven years old. Can you imagine losing your dear mother at such a tender age? He was left alone to be raised by his father, a sailor. His father took John and set sail when he was but 11. John grew into a godless man and, as a result of such years, became a slave in Africa. God used these experiences to draw Newton to Him. His grace shown upon John at the age of 23 when his ship was taking on water and death seemed imminent. He spent the next six years growing in the Lord. After six years of commanding a slave ship, Newton spent the next nine years studying Hebrew and Greek, learning from Wesley, Whitefield, and other Nonconformists. He was ordained and became curate at Olney in 1764, where he became a friend to William Cowper and with him produced the Olney Hymns.

I look upon his testimony and how he looked back on his years as a slave ship commander and penned the most beautiful hymn known today. Amazing Grace is the most played hymn known to man. Why is this so, one might ask? Put yourself in Newton’s shoes as a young man on a sinking ship. He had read a piece by Thom­as à Kemp­is and it had sown a seed in his heart. Had it not been for these circumstances, these beautiful words would not have been written!

Amazing Grace
John Newton (1779)

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

(Mr. Newton did not write this last verse)
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

The first verse of this song summarizes salvation! Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Eph 2:8 ) That saved a wretch like me! Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: (Rev 3:17) I once was lost, but now am found; For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. (Mat 18:11)

Was blind, but now I see. And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. (Joh 9:39) John Newton began this hymn with the best news he could possibly write about!

The remaining verses spoke of how God revealed Himself to him and how he has been the Lord’s ever since, and forever more. Newton’s gratefulness to God cuts to the core, doesn’t it? I remember rejoicing and my heart leaping for joy when I heard this man’s beautiful song. I remember being able to relate to John Newton and being able to sing these words with truth and joy!

To have the veil removed my eyes where I could see the sinner I truly was and what great salvation was provided to me was more than I could bare! When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour, I felt as though a hundred pounds had been lifted from my shoulders! The lady who led me to the Lord gave me a Bible and when I opened God’s Word for the first time and read the Book of John, I melted! I could not believe that I actually understood His Word! I could read and understand whereas before salvation, the words were as dry as dust! Praise the Lord that He found me, His lost sheep!

I did not know John Newton’s testimony at the time I first heard this song but I remember praising God that He had placed such a beautiful song in my path that day so that I could sing along with the author the words that so beautifully depicted the joy in my heart!

Just the title of this song alone, brings tears to my eyes. When I think of the grace of Jesus, I see in my mind’s eye, mountains majesty and waters flowing freely! When I first heard this song as a born-again Christian, I was moved to tears. I had the joined the choir in the church I belonged to and we were given this song to practice. I could not sing it because the words had overwhelmed me. I wonder if that is how Haldor Lillenas felt as he penned them?

Brother Lillenas was born in Norway on November 19, 1885, and died August 18, 1959, in Colorado. He was saved at the age of 21 and almost immediately he felt the calling of God to become a preacher. He studied music in college and he and his wife, Bertha Mae Wilson, wrote approximately 4,000 hymns together. In 1918, he wrote the song Wonderful Grace of Jesus on an organ he bought from his neighbor for $5.00. As I was looking through a list of titles of the hymns he and his wife wrote, I noticed that many were hymns on the grace of God and about His Word, the Bible! His words were so clearly written and they revealed that this man loved the Lord and that God’s Word was precious to him.

Wonderful Grace of Jesus is probably the most popular of his hymns. This hymn has the entire plan of salvation laid out for the unbeliever. To the unsaved, it reveals the precious grace that God bestowed upon mankind. To the believer, it causes the heart to rejoice because our salvation is sure and secure.

Wonderful Grace of Jesus

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden,
Setting my spirit free;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
Refrain

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Wonderful grace, all sufficient for me, for even me.
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame,
O magnify the precious Name of Jesus.
Praise His Name!

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching to all the lost,
By it I have been pardoned,
Saved to the uttermost,
Chains have been torn asunder,
Giving me liberty;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Refrain

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching the most defiled,
By its transforming power,
Making him God’s dear child,
Purchasing peace and heaven,
For all eternity;
And the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Refrain

I would have loved to know what circumstances in Haldor’s life prompted him to pen these precious words! The best way we can honor this man is to glean from the message he tried to give us. What have we learned?

It is the grace of Jesus that reaches down to the vilest of sinners and it is not our own works or efforts that reach up to God. Eph. 2:8-9, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (8 ) Not of works, lest any man should boast. (9) Our salvation is a precious gift from God, Himself! For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (Joh 3:16)

Christ paid a great price for us – with His own life – His own blood was shed on that cross so that we would no longer have to live in sin and serve the devil. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Co 6:20) and Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. (1 Co 7:23)

We are no longer slaves to sin, my friend. A slave cannot free himself – he cannot pay a price to the slave owner to free himself. However, our Master did purchase us – He bought us with a great price! No more are we bound unto slavery! No more are we slaves to the devil. Christ has paid the price! We do not need to be servants to sin any longer.

Throughout the Old Testament, Christ’s precious grace was shown. I especially love these verses in Ezra! It is like reading a prophecy of that upcoming grace! Ezra 9:6-9 And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. (6) Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day. (7) And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. (8 ) For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem. (9) Isn’t this beautiful? In our sin, we were delivered to the enemy. The unbeliever is the servant of sin and the devil! As God showed Ezra that He had given them a nail in His holy place, God gave mankind Christ nailed to a cross where His blood was placed on the Holy of Holies.

The payment for sin was the blood of a Perfect Lamb placed on the altar or sacrifice. Our Lamb, Jesus Christ, shed His own perfect and sinless blood and it was placed on the altar in the Holy of Holies. The Father sees only the blood of His Son when He looks for payment at our judgment! Our payment was paid in full. We were purchased with a great price!

God reached down to the most defiled – the sinner! It only takes one sin to be a sinner. We are all sinners. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Rom 3:23) There is no big sin or little sin. No matter what “religion” will teach you, the little ones will condemn you as much as the big ones. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (Jam 2:10) To the unsaved, even if he should tell a lie, he is guilty of breaking all of the commandments.

God extended mercy and showed His love for us by sending His Son to die for us while we were deep in our sin. There’s nothing we can do to be good enough. Thank God, He placed this verse in His Word so we could see that! But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8 ) Praise the Lord that I did not have to wait until I was sinless before getting saved. If that were the fact, I would have died in my sins and gone straight to hell.

With this grace, we are free from the burden of sin and our spirit is made free. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Rom 8:2) I could not possibly live by the law – if I could, I could be saved on my own merit. But Eph. 2:8-9 are quick to point out that our own works cannot save us. The best of what we have appears like filthy, dirty rags to God! All of what we have appears like filthy, dirty rag to the Father! But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isa 64:6)

Christ’s grace transforms us and makes us a new creature! If you claim salvation by His grace and yet you still do the exact same things you did prior to your “salvation,” and you do not have remorse for doing these same things, then you have not experienced Christ’s life changing grace. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Co 5:17) The Law cannot save us – we must be born again according to John 3:3. The Law, however, teaches us that we are sinners! For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. (Gal 6:15) It is this new creature of the heart that Christ is looking for. We can do all we can to “earn” our way, but it will be for nothing! Unless the heart is truly saved, our efforts will be in vain. Only Christ’s grace can revive our spirit from death to life everlasting. I am no longer under the bondage of sin and can say no to sin. The devil cannot force me to sin. It is my own lust that causes me to sin. Tit. 2:11-12, For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (11) Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (12)

Praise the Lord for men like Haldor Lillenas along the way who penned words that encouraged our spirits throughout the years! I love singing this song and hearing it in four part harmony! Music is such a wonderful part of the church service and it does wonders at preparing the heart to hear God’s message from the man of God. What beautiful words to hear this morning! The wonderful and matchless grace of Jesus! Amen!

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Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we turn our thoughts to the abundance of blessings we enjoy here in America. We still have freedom of religion, freedom to move from state to state without policing, freedom of speech (most of the time), etc. We have the freedom to own as many Bibles as we want and to share with others what Christ has done for us.

But what do we do with God’s Word? Do we apply Paul’s exhortation to let God’s Word dwell within us richly in all wisdom? The word “richly” here is defined as “abundantly.” How abundant is God’s Word in your life? You can read the Bible from cover to cover but does God’s Word dwell in you abundantly? Does it produce wisdom? If we were to truly glean from this verse, there would be no arguments amongst Christians because God’s Word would be the same in each heart. Instead, man imposes his own thoughts and opinions into his Bible reading and forms his own words, thoughts and opinions – not those of God.
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~2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

How many times can you say that you have asked God to take away a certain trial you are going through? I know I have asked quite a few times. Most recently for me was when my beloved was diagnosed with cancer. The road has been a long one. God, in His infinite wisdom, chose not to remove this trial but instead, carried us through it!!!

In the span of time, our cancer trial was but for a moment. However, it seemed as though time stood still as we were going through it. I do not know how people who do not know the Lord can make it through a trial such as this. It is truly by His grace that we have gone this far!

~2 Corinthians 4:16-17 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

I realize that these verses refer to Paul’s afflictions for the cause of the Gospel. However, it applies in our day to day trials as well. Our spirit is renewed and refreshed daily as we seek God’s face in the Word, through friends, through the message at Church, etc. As well, we are encouraged because we know that our trial is for a moment (in time) and will bring joy in the end when we reach our Heavenly home!

Be encouraged, dear soul! You are not alone in your pain and suffering. Turn to the One who can help. He may not take your trial away, but He will help you go through it! As you go through your trial, help someone else! Use the experience that the Lord has allowed in your life and be a blessing to someone else!

~Job 23:10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Catholics truly wrestle with these two verses. When I have asked catholic readers what they think of the following verses, I have received some interesting feedback.

~Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (8 ) Not of works, lest any man should boast. (9)

The feedback has come in different forms. Most have been catholic doctrine entrenched in mystery. The responses have been so complicated, they are difficult to understand. Furthermore, the catholic relies on history that is only provided through the catholic church. He dares not go outside of his comfort zone to question whether these things be so as we are commanded to do in Acts 17:11

~Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Other types of feedback have been responses which have skirted the issue. Instead, the response was an attack back on another topic altogether. Can one catholic respond to the question at hand without diverting to theological comments by their own “church fathers”?

Can one catholic respond to the question at hand without resorting to catholic doctrine? I have yet to see a catholic open his Bible along with me and discuss Bible verses without anyone else’s thoughts but their own. Instead, they would rather use the words of their teachers. Jim Jones’ group did the same thing and they all died, by the way. God gave us a brain to use so that we could discern sheep in wolves clothing. How can a catholic discern this if he does not study for himself?

Just what is grace, according to Ephesians 2:8? Noah Webster defines grace as:

The free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him.

Taking this definition and incorporating it into the verse, we find that Ephesians 2:8 says for by the free unmerited love and favor of God are we saved THROUGH faith.

What is faith? Noah defines faith as:

The assent of the mind or understanding to the truth of what God has revealed. Simple belief of the scriptures, of the being and perfections of God, and of the existence, character and doctrines of Christ, founded on the testimony of the sacred writers, is called historical or speculative faith;

Taking this definition and incorporating it into the verse, we find that Ephesians 2:8 says that by the free unmerited love and favor of God are we saved through the simple belief of the Scriptures. Paul goes on to say in verse 8 that it is the gift of God. There is nothing one must do to earn a gift. One does not have to do anything to receive a “just because” gift. All we do is take that gift into our possession. The gift is freely given and we do not.

Furthermore, Paul expounds on the gift in verse 9 by saying that this gift cannot be purchased by our works, otherwise we could boast about it. When you work hard at your job and put in a lot of overtime hours, you can truly state that you have earned your wages that week. You can boast about all those hours you put in to get the job done. However, this is not the case in verse 9 of Ephesians. Paul states that this gift cannot be worked for and to top it off, one cannot boast of achieving this gift.

So let’s look at the two verses in light of these definitions:

For by the free unmerited love and favor God are we saved through the simple belief of the scriptures. This is the gift freely given to us by God and there is nothing that we can do to earn it otherwise we could boast about our own abilities.

So, dear catholic, your magisterium, sacred tradition and church fathers have misled you. They wrestle with these verses and conveniently state that papal infallibility allows the catholic church to revise the Scriptures to accommodate their beliefs.You cannot have it both ways.  You cannot say that keeping the sacraments will provide an on-going process of salvation.  IF this were true, Christ’s shed blood and work on the cross was not enough.  You are saying that it was not sufficient to forgive sins!  This directly contradicts Ephesians 2:8-9 and, therefore, you DO wrestle with these verses.  You wrestle with them because you rely on your church teachers to define these verses in light of hundreds of years of tradition.  God’s Word does not lie – God promises that the Holy Spirit will teach you what the Word says – but you will not open your Bible and make sure that what you are taught as a catholic is in line with God’s Word!  Shame on you!

Woe to the catholic who will not study for himself to learn what God has said. God would be cruel to leave letters to His children which could only be interpreted by a few. That is preferential treatment and God is not that way.  Salvation is for all His children so why would He limit it to only a few who can interpret the Scriptures? Use that brain that God has given you and search the Scriptures out for yourself!

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This is the story of a young man that failed the Lord miserably, and was later given a second chance.

In Acts chapter 12, the apostle James was captured and beheaded by king Herod, and Peter was also imprisoned, facing a similar fate within a matter of days. But the Lord had other plans. He sent an angel to release Peter from prison, and Peter went to the house where the early church was having a prayer meeting on his behalf:

Acts 12:12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.

As most reading this no doubt know that the apostle Paul (first called Saul) is a very prominent figure in the New Testament. Much of the book of Acts is taken up with him and those who were involved in his three missionary journeys. He was in Jerusalem with Barnabas. When they left there to head back to Antioch, Barnabas’ nephew went with them:

Acts 12:25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.

From Antioch, Barnabas and Saul were sent on their first missionary journey to Asia Minor:

Acts 13:2-3 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

It is interesting to note that the Word of God refers to their ministry as work. God didn’t call them in order for them to take it easy and relax – He had some work He planned for them to do.

Acts 13:5 And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.

They took young John Mark with them to be their minister. The word used in this passage indicated that Mark was their assistant – possibly brought along to carry supplies, help with the menial tasks, etc.

But before too long we read this sad account:

Acts 13:13 Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.

This verse in itself doesn’t explain what happened, other than to let us know Mark no longer went with them, that he turned back to Jerusalem. But in Acts 15, we read:

Acts 15:38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.

The word for departed here is a stronger word used than in chapter 13, and means “to remove, i.e. (actively) instigate to revolt; usually (reflexively) to desist, desert, etc.” Mark deserted them in the ministry! He abandoned the work! Perhaps he found it too hard, perhaps he got a glimpse of some of the hardships that they might have to endure in the ministry, perhaps it was just too much work after all – something which he may not have had in mind when the idea of travelling and preaching to far off locations originally presented themself to him. Either way, he abandoned ship, and left Paul and Barnabas, and headed home where the way was much easier for him.

The first missionary journey started approximately in AD 46 or 47 – now three or four years later, Paul and Barnabas travelled back to Jerusalem to give their accounts of the wonderful works God had done through them in the years they were gone. After that, they headed back to Antioch to preach and teach the Word of the Lord. Then Paul started to think again about the churches he had planted and the new believers that he had come to know:

Acts 15:36-40 And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

Barnabas wanted to take his nephew along with them – and Paul flatly refused. Perhaps this verse came to Paul’s mind:

Proverbs 25:19 Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.

Perhaps Paul’s refusals went like this: “John Mark is simply not reliable; we can’t take him along; he will just fail us again! No, he is NOT going with us! We do not need to have someone tag along who is just not committed to the ministry. If he deserted us once, he will do it again. I will not take that risk!” The disagreement over this young man was so strong, that they went their own separate ways, and Paul travelled on his second missionary journey with Silas instead.

That is the last we hear of both Barnabas and John Mark in the book of Acts – and perhaps Mark would have faded completely off the scene if it wasn’t for the grace of God – the God of second chances!

In Peter’s first epistle, we hear about this man again:

1 Peter 5:13 The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.

John Mark was now with Peter in Babylon – and Peter wanted to let them know that his spiritual son greeted them as well.

In approximately 62 AD, we hear Paul making mention of Mark in several of his prison epistles:

Philemon 1:23-24 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.

Hm, Mark was now a fellowlabourer with Paul, working together with Paul – involved in the work once again…

Colossians 4:10-11 Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;) And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.

Paul was now telling them to look out for Mark if he came their way, to receive him and take care of him. Some things had changed – both in Mark’s committment to the ministry, and in Paul’s impression of him. Now, Paul was saying Mark was a comfort to him – someone who came alongside and gave him strength!

But what touches me most are Paul’s final words about John Mark. In what was probably his last letter written before he faced his own martyrdom at Roman hands, his thoughts went out to this man whom he now considered a friend and partner in the work:

2 Timothy 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.

Mark had learned the lesson he had failed before. Now, he knew what it meant to be a servant, ministering to the needs of others, ministering faithfully – being used by the Lord!

Timothy, bring Mark with you. Oh, he has been such a help and a blessing to the ministry – I can really use him here!

Praise the Lord for His forgiveness – for His grace – for His second chances!

One final note I want to end on, which ties this devotional together directly with Behold: A Fivefold Picture, and the reason why I wanted to include it as my last devotional in this series:

John Mark – the man who failed the ministry, failed his fellowlabourers, failed in the work and turned back in defeat – learned at last what it meant to be a servant…

Mark 10:42-45 But Jesus called them
to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

…And was used by God to write the Gospel that truly presented the Lord Jesus Christ from the perspective of a Servant.

John Mark – who by the grace of God (which is what John means: “Gift or grace of God”- see 1 Corinthians 15:10) – became a faithful servant and was used by the Lord to teach us about what servanthood really means, from the perspective of the Greatest Servant of all time:

Behold My Servant!

Preached August 26th/07
Written August 30th/07
Jerry Bouey

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Niagara Falls is a wondrous work to behold for certain! There is nothing that speaks of God’s power and might than to rest our eyes on a waterfall of this nature! It causes me to meditate on God’s mercy and grace on my own life. His power and might are most certainly seen when I look upon this wretched sinner who has been saved from eternal punishment! There is nothing I have done or could ever do that would allow me even a glimpse of heaven. However, Christ loves me so much, He took my punishment! That is mercy and grace at its best – a more perfect gift could not be given a person!

What is this perfect gift? It is the blood of a perfect lamb! I searched my e-Sword to see how many verses had the words “blood, lamb” and was delighted to see that only five verses had that combination! Five symbolizes grace! Oh yes, glory!

And he shall kill the lamb of the trespass offering, and the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot: (Lev 14:25) The blood of this lamb was for the sinner’s trespasses! Praise God that the perfect blood of Christ cleanses us from our trespasses!

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. (Isa 66:2) He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. (Isa 66:3) Only he that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembles at the Word of God will have the sacrifice that God looks for in a person. The one who sacrifices with a heart described in verse 3 are not sacrifices which God will receive. Their sacrifices are tainted and unacceptable – notice the comparison to a swine’s blood? The pig is an unclean animal and would not be an acceptable sacrifice to God.

But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Pe 1:19) It is the precious blood of Christ – He is the Lamb without a spot!

And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev 7:14) Our robes can only be washed in the blood of the Lamb! It is this blood that the Father sees!

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Rev 12:11) Again, only by the blood of the Lamb can we overcome eternal punishment and death.

Praise be to God that even the references to the blood of the Lamb come out to five verses depicting His perfect grace! There is none other!

Blessed Be The Fountain
Eden R. Latta

Blessed be the fountain of blood,
To a world of sinners revealed;
Blessed be the dear Son of God;
Only by His stripes we are healed.
Tho’ I’ve wandered far from His fold,
Bringing to my heart pain and woe,
Wash me in the blood of the Lamb,
And I shall be whiter than snow.

Refrain

Whiter than the snow,
Whiter than the snow,
Wash me in the blood of the Lamb,
And I shall be whiter than snow.

Thorny was the crown that He wore,
And the cross His body o’ercame;
Grievous were the sorrows He bore,
But He suffered thus not in vain.
May I to that fountain be led,
Made to cleanse my sins here below;
Wash me in the blood that He shed,
And I shall be whiter than snow.

Refrain

Father, I have wandered from Thee,
Often has my heart gone astray;
Crimson do my sins seem to me—
Water cannot wash them away.
Jesus, to the fountain of Thine,
Leaning on Thy promise, I go;
Cleanse me by Thy washing divine,
And I shall be whiter than snow.

Refrain