Sunday May 13, 2018 – Mother’s Day

Sunday – May 13, 2018 – Read the Word on Worship

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Deuteronomy 6:1-2

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.”

Deuteronomy 6 has been called the Magna Carta of the home, a constitution which would guarantee the happiness and well-being of the family in the purpose of God. But while it is an important passage for the home, this passage must not be used outside of its overall context and purpose or it loses its real impact for the home. One of the chief purposes of this section of Scripture is a call to ministry and testimony as the people of God through obedience to God.

This is not simply a call to obedience for the sake of obedience or happiness, nor is it just a passage with mere principles for the home. It is a call to obedience for God’s glory, as an evidence of love for God and for a ministry to the world through the perpetuation of faith in the Lord from generation to generation to generation. Personal blessing is promised to those who respond to the challenge of God, but primarily as a by-product of relationship with the Lord, not as an end in itself.

As soon as you mention obedience, many Christians think “legalism.” Obedience can become legalistic when people do it outwardly to look good before others. But their hearts are far from devotion to God. Some Jews, for example, obeyed Verses 8 and 9 quite literally. They wore these verses in little boxes strapped to their hands and foreheads, and they put them in a little box by their doors and on their gateposts. But they missed the sense of the passage, which is that the Word of God is to permeate every area of life. Not just the outward behavior, but the sacred space within.

There are Pharisees in the church today, who lay down rules that are not in the Bible in an attempt to get their kids to look like good Christians to the rest of the church. But they themselves are judgmental of those who don’t meet their manmade standards; they gossip and they’re proud. That’s not biblical obedience. Biblical obedience goes down to the heart level, where God’s Word judges our sinful thoughts, motives, and attitudes. The obedience of faith means that out of love for the God who showed me mercy at the cross, I seek to be conformed to Christ in the inner man. As God’s people today, this is our call and responsibility. Remember, these Old Testament principles, warnings, and exhortations are given for us today as examples to us and for our instruction and “that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Sunday May 6, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:27-35 “Love, According to Jesus”

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Luke 6:35-36
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

“Tough Love,” is a popular topic in self-help circles, but I think you will soon recognize that I mean something very different from what this expression generally has been used to describe, even in Christian circles — especially in Christian circles. In our relationships with others, we often try to “under love” the other person, as opposed to outdoing the other in love. The reason is that love has obligations and so the one who loves most also owes most. Thus, to be free from the debts of love one must love less, making the other person more in debt to you than you are to them. A kind of “unbalance of payments” rationalization.

We often act out of unrealistic expectations. Many of our acts of love done toward others are very selfishly motivated. We love others in hopes of being loved in return. We give in hopes of receiving. We do good so that good will be done to us. We serve on the basis of expected reciprocity. Whether or not we continue to serve and love others is conditioned on how others respond and if they return equal value. Our Lord’s words are intended to show such thinking as utterly mistaken. We must serve others, expecting nothing in return but assured we will receive our reward from God. And the beauty of God’s grace is that He rewards us far beyond that which we deserve. He rewards in accordance with His grace and His riches.

Love, as defined here by Jesus, is vastly different from a meaning often propagated in the name of Christianity today. “Tough love,” as it is called, is love that is tough on others, love that looks out for one’s own interests. Biblical “tough love” is that that is tough on us, the lover, and merciful to others, even our enemies. You will not find our text in most books that deal with “tough love” because our Lord’s words condemn what is popularly taught.

God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts, nor are His ways our ways. So, we should expect that much of what our Lord has to say will be challenging to accept. Our initial reaction to His Truth may well be difficult to embrace. Only after much thought and prayer can we see the hard things are exactly what our Lord meant, and what our fallen nature wants to reject. The corollary to this is the false teaching that makes things easy on us. What “sounds good” can be easily accepted without critical thought. Let us beware of teaching that “sounds good.” The renewing of our minds requires our thinking to conform with God’s Word. Hard to hear and accept or not, let us try to more fully grasp what our Lord has taught us in this passage.

Sunday April 15, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:1-11 “Taking the Fun Out of Sunday”

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Luke 6:3-5
Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”  Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Lord Jesus and His disciples were passing through some grain fields on the Sabbath, followed by a delegation of Pharisees. The Pharisees knew the popularity Jesus was growing steadily. They also were becoming alarmed at the realization that Jesus was not in their camp, indeed, was often attacking them. They were afraid to leave Jesus to Himself, unwatched, unchallenged. Furthermore, they were eager to catch Jesus in some transgression of their rules, so that they could point their fingers at Him and accuse Him of being wrong.

Much to their delight, some of the disciples began to strip heads of grain from the field, rub them in their hands to separate the grain from the sheaf, and pop it into their mouths. This, to the Pharisee, was harvesting and threshing grain, something which one could do on any other day, but not on the Sabbath. The challenge was made, both to Jesus (Matthew and Mark) and to the disciples (Luke), “How the Sabbath be so blatantly broken by doing this?” Our Lord’s response, as outlined by Luke, is based upon a very simple premise: WHO YOU ARE DETERMINES WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE FREE TO BREAK THE SABBATH.

Jesus’ argument was amazingly simple: “David broke the law, and if he could have done so, I all the more.” Technically speaking, David did break the letter of the law when he ate bread that only the priests were allowed to partake. David also gave this bread to his men, and was condemned for doing so. David’s actions could be justified by several lines of argument. David was hungry, as were his men. He might have died without this bread. The answer which Jesus is seeking is something different, however. Jesus wants His critics to admit that they don’t condemn David’s actions because David was so revered by the Pharisees, even though it was a violation of the law. Who you are determines what you can get away with. The central issue, then, was not whether or not Jesus broke the Sabbath, but who Jesus was.

If Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath by coming with a greater rest, then the commandment to keep the Sabbath can be set aside. Why work to rest under the law when Christ gives rest from the law? Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath in the sense that He is greater than the Sabbath, and thus able to set it aside. To be Lord of the Sabbath is to be Lord over the Sabbath. When Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath, He claimed to be greater than the Sabbath, in authority over the Sabbath, and thus far more qualified than David to break the law pertaining to the Sabbath.

Sunday April 1, 2018 – Resurrection Sunday Service

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1 Timothy 1:15-16
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.”

The significance of Easter is often overlooked or distorted by churches in America. All too often, Easter Sunday is more of a “coming out” ritual, a part of the celebration of the commencement of Spring, than it is an observance and celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. Ladies can show off their new hats and outfits. Once-a-year church attenders can show up to shock the preacher, and to give him his annual “shot” at them as they attend. I am convinced, however, that many of the non-Christians who attend Easter Sunday services accept the resurrection of Christ as a fact. They simply have not come to recognize and act upon the resurrection’s personal significance.

There are many religious unbelievers who have taken the resurrection of Christ to be true academically, but have not taken this matter personally. Allow me to give you two biblical examples of those who took the resurrection of Christ personally. In the second chapter of the Book of Acts, we find the church being baptized by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Peter took this occasion to explain that this manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power was a partial fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. This prophecy spoke of the coming “day of the Lord” when God would judge the sins of His people. Peter boldly proclaimed that while they had been responsible for the death of Christ, God had purposed to save them by His death, and had also overruled their actions by raising His Son from the grave. The bottom line of Peter’s message was this: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). Taking this personally, many in that crowd confessed their sins and professed faith in Christ as their Savior.

Saul, later known as Paul, also had a personal encounter with the resurrected Christ, as recorded several times in the Book of Acts. When Saul was intercepted by Christ on his way to Damascus, he acknowledged Christ as Lord, and he came to see the ugliness of his own sins, even though they were religious and outwardly commendable in the sight of men. It was when Saul saw his own sinfulness and Christ’s majesty and power that he was converted.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most significant events in history. I pray that you, like those in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts, Chapter 2) and like Saul (Acts, Chapter 9), will come to recognize the seriousness of your sinful condition, the holiness and awesome majesty of God, and will come to trust in Him as your Savior and Lord. I urge you to trust in Him, in His death, burial, and resurrection, not only in an intellectual and academic way, but in a very personal way, as God’s only provision for your salvation.

Sunday March 18, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Catching Fish or Men?” Luke 5:1-11

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Luke 5:9-11
 “For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.”

In our passage we see the Lord Jesus helping some fishermen get their lives aimed in the right direction. Scholars are divided over whether this incident is identical with Jesus’ call of these fishermen as recorded in Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20. James and John, and perhaps some others, such as Peter’s brother, Andrew (although unnamed), were present, but the focus in our text is on Jesus and Peter. These men had all met Jesus and had begun to follow Him, but they were not yet completely committed to His mission. Picture the scene: The multitudes were pressing around Jesus, listening to the word of God. And where were Peter, James and John? They were involved with their business, cleaning their nets after a frustrating night of fishing with no catch. Jesus’ job was to get their eyes off of fish and onto Himself and lost people.

There is nothing wrong with success in business, per se. God wants us to be diligent and to do well in our work. It is not more spiritual to be mediocre in our jobs and it is not inherently more worldly to become successful. Also, when I say that we must shift our focus from success in business to success in catching people for Christ, I am not implying that everyone must leave so-called “secular” employment and work full-time in ministry. Some are called to do that, as Peter was, but certainly not all. It is not more spiritual to be in full-time ministry than it is to be a faithful servant of the Lord in some other kind of work. It is just a matter of gifts and calling.

But, having said all that, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you must adopt His purpose for your life, and His primary purpose for His children never involves becoming a success in our jobs. His word to all of us is, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth,” but rather, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:19, 33). Whatever you do to make a living, your main goal should be to glorify God and your main focus should be to be a witness for Jesus Christ through your behavior, attitudes, and words. This requires a shift in focus where you begin to view people as Jesus did and to view yourself as His representative in your sphere of influence. The people you come in contact with are your mission field.

My question for you is, “Are you living for Christ’s purpose for your life?” As I said, this does not mean that you must be gifted in evangelism or that you must go into full-time ministry. Only some are called to do that. But it does mean that because you have met Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, your life is not your own. You no longer are living for selfish purposes. You live to glorify Jesus Christ and to use the gifts He has given you to help in the great cause of catching people for Him.

Sunday March 11, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Jesus Lord Over All” Luke 4:31-44

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Luke 4:38-39
Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So He bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.”

There is much confusion today because some teach that the promise by Jesus to the disciples, that they would do greater works than He did (John 14:12), means that we should routinely be seeing miracles of healing and even resurrections from the dead. If that’s what Jesus meant, then Paul was in sin when he told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach ailments (1 Tim. 5:23). He should have told him to claim his healing by faith. Paul must have lacked faith when he told Timothy that he left Trophimus sick at Miletus (2 Tim. 4:20). Why didn’t he heal him? Yes, miracles still happen today. But to claim that we should be experiencing the same frequency of miracles that Jesus did is to misunderstand the purpose of miracles in the Bible.

There were several reasons for the miracles of Jesus. First, they authenticate His person and teaching, proving Him to be the Messiah sent by the Father. Second, the miracles show us who Jesus is. He feeds the 5,000 and claims to be the bread of life. He claims to be the light of the world and opens the eyes of a man born blind. Finally, the miracles show us how we should respond to Jesus Christ. We must come to Him in our utter helplessness and cast ourselves totally on His mercy and power. The miracles also warn us how not to come to Jesus, since many sought after Him not so that they could follow Him as Lord, but just to use Him for their own selfish purposes. An evil and adulterous generation seeks after miracles.

Let me give some brief guidelines about seeking God’s miraculous healing today. First, check your motive. God’s glory, not your comfort, should be foremost (Phil. 1:20). Second, submit to the Lord, who knows better than you do what is best in any situation. Paul thought it would be best to get rid of the thorn in his flesh. God knew otherwise (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Third, don’t limit God by unbelief (Mark 6:5, 6). God is able to do the impossible – if it’s His will. So, pray for miraculous healing, believing that God is able, but recognize that it may not be His will. Fourth, look for the spiritual lessons God is trying to teach you in the trial. There may be a sin you need to confess or you need to learn to trust God in a greater way (2 Cor. 1:8, 9). You may need to rearrange your priorities (Matt. 6:33). God uses affliction to conform us to the image of His Son, and so instant, miraculous healing is often not His will.

If we see our true condition before God, we’re all like those people in Capernaum — wounded, sick, and needy. We need to do as they did and come to Jesus. When you do that, He deals with you personally, touching your ugly sores and imparting His cleansing and healing to your soul. Then you have a choice: Like the people of Capernaum, you can walk away and never truly believe in and follow the Lord Jesus. Or, like Peter’s mother-in-law, you can rise up and immediately begin serving Him out of gratitude. That is the only reasonable and proper response if you’ve felt the Sovereign Lord’s healing touch in your heart.

Sunday February 25, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “The Temptation of Jesus Pt 2” Luke 4:9-13

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Luke 4:13
“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”

You and I will undoubtedly never be tempted by Satan as our Lord was. We will probably never rate a personal appearance of Satan or his personal attention to us. Rarely does temptation come our way that is as apparent as a solicitation to do evil. Rather, temptation comes to us as a “golden opportunity,” or the “chance of a lifetime.” Temptation comes in many forms, some even appear religious. In order to know how to deal with temptation, we must be very careful to define it in order to be able to identify temptation.

Not knowing what you are looking for is dangerous when it comes to temptation. My first thought was to view temptation as a solicitation to do what we know to be evil. Adam and Eve were tempted to do something which God had clearly indicated was evil. The foolish young man in Proverbs (Chapter 7), who was seduced by “madam folly” was also enticed to do evil. But when you stop to think about it, Satan hardly needs to work at this kind of temptation because man is in rebellion against God through the lusts of the flesh and the fear of death. In Chapter 7 of Romans Paul tells us that when the law prohibits sin, our rebellious nature wants to do exactly what the law has forbidden. When the law commands certain things to be done, our flesh naturally desires to disobey.

That is why the most dangerous form of temptation is to entice us to do what is ultimately devastating and destructive, under the disguise of doing of what appears to be right. Satan sought to tempt our Lord to do what was represented as good – satisfy His physical need of food, fulfill His need for security and control, and to test God to prove His goodness towards Jesus. Satan’s messengers not only appear as the wretched instruments of evil that they are, but also as “angels of light” (2 Cor. 11:14-15), promoting evil in the name of good.

Hundreds of times a day we are bombarded with solicitations to buy something. The methods used are almost identical with Satan’s techniques of temptation. We have become numb to the existence of “tempting” mechanisms and approaches. In fact, we have become conditioned to expect to be tempted and sometimes feel let down if the temptation is not great enough. We are groomed to purchase the product whose manufacturers do the best job of tempting us to buy it. Just like the rat in the maze, we have been so anesthetized to temptation we do not even recognize it for what it is. We must always view the “offer” in terms of the offerer. Only good and perfect things come from God, the “Father of lights” (James 1:17). Only evil things come from Satan, the prince of darkness (Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:13).

Sunday February 18, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “The Last Temptation of Christ” Luke 4:9-12

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Luke 4:9-12
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.  For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”

Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Have you ever watched a small child learn to trust its father? When Gwen was younger we would sometimes visit a swimming pool. With a little persuasion, I would entice her to jump into my arms in the pool. After a few experiences, no coaxing was needed. In fact, sometimes she would leap when I was not looking, bobbing to the surface with the greatest of delight. It is not difficult to imagine that the Son of God could have felt the same way about jumping from the pinnacle of the temple.

Sonship really was the issue of the third temptation. Israel had failed to grasp what sonship entailed, and rebelled when they became aware of its price. Our Lord understood fully what sonship was all about, and thus each of His responses to Satan came from the one place in the Old Testament which most emphatically taught the meaning and implications of sonship.

We must remember that as Christians we are also “sons of God,” who are to reign with Christ. And as “sons of God,” we are subject to testing and discipline (Heb. 12), although maybe not in the exact ways as our Lord. We are also susceptible to the same temptations to which Adam and Eve and Israel (and all mankind) have failed. Thus, the test of our Lord’s sonship is very relevant to “sons of God.” The father-son relationship is one with a clearly defined chain of command. The father is in authority over the son. The child is to trust and obey the father.

For a “son of God” to put God the Father to the test is to reverse the authority structure which God has established. It is to forget that it God tests us; we are not here to test God. We need proving, not God. We are here to serve God; God is not our servant, standing by ever ready to do our bidding. Was this not the essence of God’s rebuke of Job? All too often, Christians are representing God as the servant of man, who is so eager to have followers that He is ready to do our bidding. Wrong! Sonship means that we are the ones to obey, to serve, and, if it pleases the Father, to suffer according the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is God who tests us; we do not test Him.

Sunday February 11, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “The Second Temptation of Jesus” Luke 4:5-8

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Luke 4:5-7
The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, “I will give You all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if You worship me, it will all be Yours.”

Forty days have passed, during which Satan has tried nearly every kind of temptation. The final three temptations are Satan’s “best shot” at our Lord. The first temptation sought to induce our Lord to use His divine power to convert stone to bread. Satan is now about to employ the second temptation. What is it that he is trying to avoid, or to accomplish in this temptation? Satan undoubtedly knew that Jesus was the Messiah who had come to destroy him and to establish an everlasting righteous kingdom. Satan’s motivation is not very difficult to determine: Stop our Lord at all costs! And if Jesus could not be defeated by Satan, perhaps an agreement could be negotiated, whereby an alliance could be established, and the “kingdom of Satan” could be shared.

What “weakness” was Satan hoping to find in our Lord to which this particular offer might appeal? Satan was projecting his own fallenness, his own weaknesses, on our Lord. He expects that the same things that appeal to him will appeal to the Son of God. One of Satan’s primary ambitions is to “be in control.” We too have a desire to control which is so strong that we are willing to pay a high price to attain such control. While our Lord was willing to set aside His right to reign, so that He might pay the price for our sins, we are often willing to pay a high price to gain control or to keep control.

The issue of control, of having control and being in control, is very prominent in the Scriptures. The scribes and Pharisees were jealous of our Lord as they recognized they were losing control (Matt. 7:29). It was due to the fear of losing control that they constantly challenged Jesus about His authority. The disciples, too, were overly concerned with being in control. They argued one with the other as to who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34). They were concerned with who would sit on the right and left hand of our Lord in heaven (Matt. 20:20-21). They wanted to use God’s power to destroy their enemies (Luke 9:51-56). They wanted to prohibit others from doing wonders in the name of Jesus (Mark 9:38). Jesus had to teach them that the greatest in the kingdom were those who were servants of all — as He was (Mark 10:42-45).

Throughout the New Testament we can see how the desire to exercise control can be used by Satan to promote sin. The Corinthians seemed to have a fixation on being in control, being in the group that had control, or having a leader in control. Husbands are tempted to abuse their role as leaders by dominating their wives in the name of biblical leadership. Elders can be tempted to lord over the flock. Individuals can seek to maintain control by demanding their rights. Women can resist the order established by God in the home and in the church by seeking to gain control, to lead where they should not.

Let us be aware of Satan’s presence in attacks regarding who is in control.

Sunday – December 10, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “The Worship of the Women” Luke 1:39-56

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Luke 1:46-49
And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond slave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.”

There are those who have distorted the truth of God’s word about Mary, and rather than regarding her blessed above all women, have honored her as above mankind, worshipping her and praying to her as though she were on the level of deity, or even above Messiah. This is clearly seen to be in blatant disregard for the teaching of our text. Nevertheless, others have reacted to this error by failing to see this woman as a model disciple.

Mary is not a model for disciples in being the mother of Messiah. It is true that Elizabeth blessed Mary as the mother of her Lord (1:42), and that future generations will bless her as such also (1:48). While this is true, this must be kept in its proper perspective. Our Lord was careful to show that being obedient to God’s will and His word was more important than being humanly related to Him: “And it came about while He said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it” (Luke 11:27-28).

Mary’s hymn is brimming with information about the attributes of God. But it is not cold, academic information. Mary is extolling God as she considers what He has done in choosing her to be the mother of the Savior. She calls Him “God my Savior” (1:47), which implies that Mary knew she was a sinner; none but sinners need a Savior. Implicit in the term “Savior” is the fact that we are lost and alienated from God because of our sin. As those who are lost, we don’t just need a little boost from God to set things right. We don’t just need a few tips on how to get our lives in order, how to polish our self-esteem, how to succeed in our families or businesses. Savior is a radical term that implies that we are helplessly, hopelessly lost unless God in His mighty power intervenes to rescue us.

Mary’s “Magnificat” focuses on much more than just her own blessing in the bearing of the Messiah. Indeed, she does not focus on the child, per se, but on the results of the coming of the Messiah. We know now this includes both His first and His second comings. Mary has a great breadth of understanding. She looks back, to the covenants which God has made with Abraham and with His people in the Old Testament. She looks forward to the ultimate righteousness which will be established when the Messiah reigns on the throne of David. Mary has a good sense of history and a broad grasp of God’s purposes and promises.