Joy & Thanksgiving

November 19, 2017  Galatians 5: 13 – 26  Joy

 

   Franklin D. Roosevelt shared his vision for what the world should be like after WW II.  He envisioned 4 basic freedoms to be enjoyed by all people.  He wanted freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.  It seems to me that we are losing some of these freedoms.  They are saying on TV that 1 out of 10 children are hungry in this state.  They are saying that some kids go home on Friday and have nothing to eat until they get back to school on Monday.  Are we free from fear in this world today?  Is there religious freedom?  Galatians is a book about freedom and liberty.  What is the most important freedom that we have?   The bible is talking about spiritual freedom.   In Jesus we certainly have some freedom.  Our God reigns.  In Jesus we have a greater freedom than these freedoms.   We have a freedom from ourselves.  We have a freedom offered to us and given to us in the Holy Spirit a freedom from the tyranny of sin.  We can have peace and freedom in our relationships with God, others and our self.   The Christian has been called to be free. 

    The legalists thought they had the answer to freedom.  The answer for them was in the law and rules and threats.  External laws do not change a man’s nature.  What man needed God provided.  Man needed a changed heart.   We need love flowing from the heart.  In Ezekiel God said I will take the stony heart out of you and give you a heart of flesh.  For Christians that was accomplished in Jesus. 

     Scripture tells us to love your neighbor as yourself.  They were not doing that so Paul wrote if you keep on biting and devouring each other you could destroy yourself.  The meaning here is like a pack of hyenas or a pack of wild dogs moving in on their prey.  It reminds me of how divided the nation was over slavery and how divided we are today.  People hold very deep feelings about issues and families get divided.   There were those who walked in freedom and those that were under the bondage of the law.  Romans tells us do not use your freedom to offend a weaker brother.  The Judaizers said to be right with God you have to obverse these holy days and circumcision and etc.  The other group would say I am free from that.  Paul writes love your neighbor. 

     We were called to freedom but The Holy spirit also tells us do not use that freedom to indulge the flesh.  The Holy Spirit in the Christian is deeply grieved when the Christian sins.  We have a war within us.  The flesh wants to sin and the spirit wants the things of holiness.  When a Christian sins he or she grieves the Holy Spirit.   A Christian who chooses to sin can be miserable.  The Holy Spirit can bring conviction.  Paul tell us the point of freedom is to serve.   Christian liberty sets us free so that we can serve.  So that the Christian can give.    The encouragement here is to live by the spirit.

Train disaster. 

   The Message bible says.   My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness.   For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness.    These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day.   Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

     The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.   It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.        I could go on he writes.

    Debauchery means to seduce to lead away morally to corrupt orgy.  Scripture says the pure all things are pure but to the defiled and the unbelieving is nothing pure that is pure.  In Genesis God said every thought was evil.  For some people today, that is very true.  The flesh is self-centered and not full of love.   The flesh or our worldly nature wants to please itself.   People that live to please the flesh and live wickedly will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

     Thank God that the Christian does not have to live that way.  God offers us a better way to live.   The Holy Spirit helps us not do those things.   We cannot live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit.   We need his help.  We need to submit our flesh to God by faith.   By flesh we do not mean the body.   The body is neutral.   The flesh is the sinful nature that we inherited from Grandpa Adam.  We need the HS to say no to sin.  He gives us power and a way to escape temptation.   God can fill our life and give us power to do good things.   There is power in the Holy spirit. 

     In verses 22 – 25 we see the acts or results of the Spirit of God in a Christians life. The fruit of the spirit of God is good.   The fruit or the results of the HS in our life are good graces.   So, the HS helps us stay away from the negative things and helps us fill our life with positive things.    The results of the Spirit in our life are love joy and peace.     If you walk in the Holy Spirit you will have love in your heart.   That is not the love of the world.   That is agape love.   That is self-sacrificing love.  If you walk in the Holy Spirit you will have joy in your life.   If you walk in the HS you will have peace in your life.   I am not saying you will have everything you want in your life.  

    Christians struggle with the same things that others struggle with.  There are health needs, financial needs and relationship issues.   We need to trust and give those needs over to God and be patient.   We need to trust God with those needs.    I am not saying you will not be grieved about things that happen around you but I am saying you will have love, joy and peace.   These emotions of love joy and peace and actions flow from the spirit of God.    When we are in step with God these things come forth from him into our lives.   Romans says it is spread abroad in our life.  When we are obedient and focused on Him we will experience and possess these things in our life.   What a blessed truth.   That should make us excited.   We have so much to be thankful for.

        In these days we need the joy of the Lord.   We need the joy of the Lord.   Nehemiah 8:10 the joy of the Lord is your strength.   John the Baptist said the friend of the groom is full of joy to hear the groom’s voice referring to Jesus.  He said that joy is mine and now complete.  His joy was complete that everybody was going to Jesus.  His ministry was decreasing but Jesus ministry was growing.  John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.   Jesus wants us to have complete joy.     When we choose to cultivate "Joy" we reap incredible benefits.   Jesus tells us in John 15 that He wants us to be full of joy however, if you fill your life with strife, hatred, jealousy and envy you will reap the byproducts of your actions. 

       Jesus told his disciples that that he would see them again and that they would rejoice and no one will take away their joy.   No matter what is going on around us we have Jesus.  Remember the guy who found a treasure in the field and he sold all that he had to buy the field.  The kingdom of heaven was that treasure and the person sold all he had, laid down his life with joy to get it.   In John 16:24 Jesus talks about complete joy.   Is there joy in our families today?    If not, where did the joy go?     What do we find joy in?    Life is busy and it has a way of draining us.  It seems like we never get caught up with things to do.   We are so busy and we need balance.   Sometimes we look in the wrong place for joy and sometimes we are expecting too much and we are looking for too much.   

     Chris Santasiere a pastor writes about Robert Reed.   “I have everything I need for joy!” Robert Reed said.  His hands are twisted and his feet are useless.   He can’t bathe himself.   He can’t feed himself.    He can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear.    Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together.    His speech drags like a worn-out audiocassette.   Robert has cerebral palsy.  The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk.    But it didn’t keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian University, from which he graduated with a degree in Latin.     Having cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at St. Louis junior college or from venturing overseas on five mission trips.  And Robert’s disease didn’t prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal.   He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and a tutor who would instruct him in the language.   Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed tracts about Christ.   Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa.  

     Chris said that he heard Robert speak recently.    Other men carried him in his wheelchair onto the platform. The men laid a Bible on his lap.  His stiff fingers forced open the pages.   The people in the audience wiped away tears of admiration from their faces.     Robert could have asked for sympathy or pity, but he did just the opposite.    He held his bent hand up in the air and boasted, “I have everything I need for joy.”   His shirts are held together by Velcro, but his life is held together by joy.   When we come to the same conclusion that Robert did that everything we need for joy, we possess in God, our lives too will be held together and defined by joy.    Robert looked beyond his current situation of a diseased body and saw the big picture that God had in store for him.    What’s holding your life together today?  

       How many of you would like to live a "Joyful life?"    I suspect all of us would like some joy in our life.   On your top ten list of important things where would you put joy?     Wouldn’t it be great if every day that we got up to face the world the sun was shining, the birds chirping, and we hadn’t a care in the world?     C. S. Lewis said, “Do not let your happiness or joy depend on something you may lose... keep it set upon the Beloved our Lord who will never pass away.        Joy is not dependent on circumstances.   Do not think that cars, money, position, power or that new thing you want will bring you "Joy".     If you do you will be disappointed.   Many of the rich are miserable.   Life and joy is found when I give myself away.   Joy is found in doing the right thing.  Joy is found in service.  Joy is found when I become Jesus and other people centered.   Joy is found when I am hit with 100 bad things and I turn my eyes upon God who is able to meet a hundred needs.   God can turn a hundred situations around and God is on the throne and I can rejoice and be thankful.   People may be miserable around me and may not be supporting me or helping me or meeting my needs but I have a loving heavenly father who is on my side.  

      The evangelist Billy Sunday noticed this absence of joy in the lives of many people he preached to, and he observed: “If there is no joy in your religion, you’ve got a leak in your faith.”.  The joy of the lord is your strength.   The HS tells us in Philippians 4 rejoice in the Lord always.   I will say it again Rejoice.   In everything give thanks. 

Relationship With Jesus

November 12, 2017  Galatians 5:1 – 12  Relationship with Jesus. 

 

    As with many of Paul’s books he starts with teaching and doctrine and later in the book he turns to practical Christian living and chapter 5 is a turning point.  Next week we get back into more practical teaching.   In verse 1 we see that Jesus has set us free.  We are sons and daughters and we have been set free from the world and sin and the law.  God tells us to stand firm on that foundation.  Do not dabble with the world and sin and for them going back to the law to save them.  We have to guard our heats and our mind.  Christians can choose to sin and be enslaved to sin.  Guard your thoughts and your mind.  In Corinthians we are told to bring down every thought that exalts its self above Jesus.  The Christian has been given the power to do that.

    Paul wrote about the yoke of slavery.   The Jews understood the yoke of slavery.   God set them free from slavery in Egypt.  That was deep in every Jews mind.  They celebrated the Passover where the angel of death went through the land killing the first born but where the blood was on the doorposts death would Passover.   The yoke of Jesus was kind and easy and not harsh and not bondage.   Paul tells them do not be enslaved again in that yoke of bondage.  Stand in the liberty of the Lord.   Stand in the joy of the Lord and stand in his power.  Verse 1 a slave loses his freedom. 

    Before he got out of prison this last February (2016), 69-year-old Albert Woodfox had spent 43 years in an isolation cell.   He had set a record, having spent the longest time in solitary confinement of any prisoner in America.   He had no view of the sky from inside his 6 foot by 9 foot concrete box, no human contact, and taking a walk meant pacing from one end of the cell to the other and back again.

     Two months after he was released (April, 2016) Woodfox found himself on a beach in Galveston, Texas, with a friend. He marveled at all the beachgoers under a cloudless sky. Then he stared out over the Gulf of Mexico as it stretched far out to the horizon.  He said. “It was so strange, walking on the beach and all these people and kids running around.”  After over four decades of solitary confinement, you’d think Woodfox would be glad to be out in the open.   However, two months after the state of Louisiana set him free, he said he sometimes wishes he was back in that cell.   Someone asked him if he missed his life in lockdown, to which Woodfox passionately replied, “Oh yeah! Yeah!”   Then he explained, “Human beings… feel more comfortable in areas they are secure.   In a cell, you have a routine, you pretty much know what is going to happen, when it's going to happen, but in society it's difficult, it's looser.  So, there are moments when, yeah, I wish I was back in the security of a cell.” (Ed Pilkington, “43 years in solitary: There are moments I wish I was back there,” The Guardian, 4-29-16; www.PreachingToday.com). 

    There can be an element of security in bondage and some folks find some sort of satisfaction by being in bondage.  The Galatians were going back into bondage.  The Jews had been offering animal sacrifices for like 1500 or so years and circumcision for longer though at times they did not follow those practices.  Those things were deep in their culture.  People can get into patterns and change can be difficult if not impossible for some. 

     These Christians these Galatians were laboring, laboring, laboring to keep the whole law to be acceptable to God by their works.  That is a tough yoke to carry.  They did that so they could say things like I am good because I do good things. Look at me I am so good.  I kept all the law today.  People that are caught up in that are very self-centered.  Allan Kraft addresses that in his book Good News for Those Trying Harder.  Trying to be good can push us from God because we become very self-centered and either we get proud or we walk in defeat when have a bad day.  It reminds us of the religious man in Luke 18 who said I am glad I am not like that guy over there.  Look at all the good things that I do.  The tax collector who would not even look up to heaven and beat his breast and said God have mercy on me a sinner.  The tax collector went home justified.  The other guy went home not justified by God but was still in his dream world patting himself on the back thinking about how good he was.   Instead of being honest and admitting their sin many people like to be good and bury their shame.  The problem is they are not free. 

    In the story of the prodigal son the older son got very angry.  The younger son wanted his money and went away and lived it up on dear ole dad’s assets.  When the younger son runs out of money and gets hungry he heads back to dad.  The father throws a party for the younger son and the older son is steamed.  He is as mad as he can be.  He is not dancing at the party.   The older son is not even going to go.  The older son says dad I have always been here for you.  Can you hear him?  I have been a slave all these years.   I have always obeyed you.  The older son performed and worked hard.  His motivation was based in duty and not desire.  He did not enjoy his dad’s presence.  The relationship was one of duty.  The older son missed the love of his father.  What did his father say?   Everything I have is yours son.

     I love you son.  The father had given his whole heart to the oldest son and the older son missed it.  Alan Kraft writes it drove out the music of the gospel.  If we are not careful our efforts to be good and pleasing to the father can make it difficult to just enjoy his presence and his love which we receive by faith.  The son said you never killed the fatted calf for me.  I don’t think he ever ask.  Do you think the father would deny him a party?  I do not think he would.  If everything depends on me there is a truck load - a mountain of pride that goes with that attitude.  Apparently, the oldest son did not feel he had freedom to ask dad for some time to party.  It probably was a pretty stiff home situation. 

    I know for me I can stiff at times.  It can be hard to laugh and relax.  Alan Kraft said they were at a wedding reception and there was the opportunity to dance.  A 6-year-old boy seized the moment and got up and danced.  He was not concerned about his self-image.  He did not have to protect himself.  He was not self-conscious.  He was shaking and dancing and spinning around with all his heart.  He was having a good time.  If you don’t relax and laugh once in a while and unwind you will cry all the time.  Personally, I do not want to cry all the time.  I want to unwind in the father’s love. 

    We can get very duty orientated in the same way with God.  We can be the same way with God.    Lord look at all the years that I have served you and you owe me big time.  It is like a vending machine you put in your dollar and you expect something to come out of it.  Husbands and wives do that.  I have served and I have given and what in the world do you give to me.  You see it is all about me, right?  What was the father saying to the oldest son?  All I have is yours.  Don’t play the game that you have worked hard and I owe you.  I give all of me to you.  The son was into working and could not see it.  We can miss it with God also.  Our relationship with God is not a barter situation or a contract.  God, I serve you and you owe me. 

   I think the apostle Paul; understood some of that.  Paul had lived that righteous life of being a Pharisee. Paul could see the fault of that.   Paul could see the error of that kind of thinking.  that is not how it works with God.  It broke Paul’s heart to see them slip onto that kind of a relationship with God.  In fact, Paul really argues that you Galatians are not even walking with Jesus anymore.  In verse 4 Paul tells them you are alienated from Jesus.  Verse 1 a slave loses his freedom. 

   In verses 2 to 6 the debtor loses his wealth.  Paul writes that those who want to be justified by the law are alienated from Jesus and they have fallen from grace.  Well if a person falls from grace they have lost a great deal.   They have lost their wealth.  A person that separates from Jesus has lost a great deal of wealth.  Just imagine a person is in a hurry and they break the speed limit.  The policeman pulls them over.  The driver tells the officer I know that I was speeding.  I know that I broke the law.  But I was in a hurry.  I am a good person.  I help people out.  I go to church.  I am good to my wife and my kids.  The policeman says yes sir I am glad that you are good.  You broke the law and here is your ticket.  Obedience does not make up for disobedience. You can do all the good in the world but you still broke the law and you deserve the ticket.   

     If they have fallen from grace have they lost their salvation?  I would think that they have not lost their salvation but they are not operating in the sphere of grace.  When you operate in the spirit of the law you operate on your own strength and in reality, I would think your own wisdom because you decide how good or worthy you are.   You also make judgments about how unworthy you are.  Many times that is not the same view that God has of us.   As you think about those things you are thinking about yourself.  You are being self-centered.    A person who is in to being justified by the law is into works.  They are working.   They are into their own works and their flesh.  Flesh does not produce love but more often selfishness and personal pride.

       Then in this passage we see that thy were running a good race.  They were running well and then they were headed in the wrong direction.  On occasion you hear of a football player or soccer who gets turned around and they head for the wrong end of the field and if they score they score for the other team.  Paul said that the Jews had a lot of zeal but it was miss directed.  Before Paul met Jesus, he thought that he was doing God’s will.   He was laboring with all his might but he was in the wrong race.  A lot of folks are racing today but where is the end of the path that they are racing on?   There was some bad teaching in the Galatian church and like leaven it soon had the church going down a bad path.   

    We need to work and serve.  God wants Christians that are on fire not lukewarm.  God has called us to work and serve but do it by faith and know that my works do not save me but the precious blood of Jesus saves me.  I cannot claim personal pride.  My glory is all in Jesus.  And that frees me.  I do not have to worry if I am working enough to earn heaven.  Who could work enough to earn heaven?  I do not have to try harder to go to heaven.  I can just enjoy what I am promised.  I can rest in Jesus perfection.  I can rest in Jesus works.     God always has a better way.   God always has the best way.   Verse 7 tells us that the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.   It is walking by faith and extending yourself in love.   I trust the Lord and give myself with the motive of love.  Not the motive of laboring to be better than others or trying to win God’s approval.  It is serving with the goal of being a blessing to someone else.

 

    

Free Sons

November 5, 2017  Galatians 4 Sons Free    

 

   Some people become Christians with the thought that everything is going to be fine for the rest of their life.  They think things are going to be easy.   Life is certainly better when we walk with the Lord but Jesus said there would be trials.  People on the outside of church think that there is nothing to the church and some perhaps think it is a rip off.  Some folks join the church and expect that everyone is going to get along and there will not be any issues.  Those inside of the church see it differently.   We work towards loving each other and doing the right thing but we fail from time to time.   We live in a broken world and we are broken people.   Restored in Jesus yes but we still are not perfect. 

   People go to the hospital to get better.  There are many people that are out of the hospital who also need to be healed.  Many people outside of the hospital are sicker than those on the inside.  Many times, no one knows that they are sick or some perhaps know they are not well but refuse to go and get healed.  So, it is similar with sinners outside of the church. Jesus is the healer.  A person receives him and then they need to get into fellowship with other believers.  We learn to be family and love and accept one another and we learn to minister and serve one another.

  The church is not perfect in all our behavior but we are a changing organism that is growing to be more like Jesus.  We labor with one another.  Church leadership labors and we see that in this passage.  Paul writes my little children of whom I labor again with the pain of child birth until Christ be formed in you.  One person said when children are little they are a handful when they are grown up they are a heartful.  When they are young they step on your toes when they are older they step on your heart.  We labor we work we pray we cry and we shed tears for each other.  We are family.  It is difficult and at times amusing to watch children learn to share and give to each other.  As parents and grandparents, we labor and pray that our children would do the right thing, and walk with the Lord and that they would contribute to society.  

    Many of Paul’s letters were written out of deep concern for his brothers and sisters in Jesus.  False teachers had come into the church and were teaching false things. We have seen the division in this book between the Jews and the Gentiles.  It was hard for the Jews to accept the gentiles.  Unity in the church is very important.  Satan attacks unity.  Satan likes discord.  We must be careful that when we see a brother or sister in Jesus that we do not allow negative thoughts to come in our mind.   That hinders the spirit of God to move in a fellowship.  I remember reading about 2 deacons who reconcile and the church is revived.  There are many stories like that.  The world needs to see the true church of Jesus loving one another.  Jesus said the world would then know you are my disciples.   

    Paul prays for them and the Holy Spirit moves him to write to them to address the issues where they were going astray.   Though Galatians was written almost 2K years ago we are blessed to have this before us today because it still speaks to our lives today maybe not the exact way that it spoke to them but it still speaks.  Many still think that being good makes them better than others.  That doing good things and going to church makes us more acceptable to God than those who don’t do good things and those that don’t go to church.  

    We labor with grace and works.   It is good to work hard.  It is good and right to obey God.  We need to remember that our righteousness is as filthy rags.  That is hard for us to reconcile with that.  For sure without faith we cannot please God.  Righteousness is by faith and works will follow.  If a person really believes God they will live differently than the world.  These false teachers had them believing that if they kept the law that they were better Christians and Paul no.  Paul said that is a false gospel and no gospel at all. 

   We come into God’s family by being born again.  We come into God’s family by regeneration by receiving Jesus Christ into our hearts.  Our condition at that point is being a baby Christian.  I Peter tells us as new born babes desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow.  But our position is a son.  We have all the rights as being a son.  All of heavens resources are available to us as soon as you join the family.  Paul writes that we were slaves to the world before Jesus.  But in the fullness of time Jesus came.   Jesus came at the right time set by the Father.   The fullness of time or the set time.  It was a time of peace.  The Romans controlled the world.

    Latin and Greek languages were known.  There were roads built that connected city to city and cities to Rome.  Rome was on God’s heart.  Paul went to Rome it is believed twice and the second time he was martyred.  The language and the unity that Rome brought God used to spread the gospel.  In the fullness of time Jesus came.  Some say that it was a difficult time for Jesus to come.  The Jews were controlled by Rome.  There were no telephones no TV no mass media.  The gospel was shared by telling a person.  Jesus walked and ministered to people.  The kingdom of God came into the streets.  The message of God’s love came to those who were down and out.    You could say it was the original church without walls.    It was God walking with man.  It was God in the flesh feeling my pain, 

    Jesus came to redeem us that is to set us free.  He set us free by paying the price.  We are no longer slaves but sons.  We have the same nature as our father.  We can call God Abba which is like saying daddy.  Abba is Aramaic word and it relays a very intimate close meaning. A servant or slave could not speak such a word to his master.   He would probably get slapped around a bit if he tried that.   But a son or daughter could say it to their father.  And since we are a son we are an heir.  We are family and our dad is not any ole daddy O but God the father the creator.  We are blessed to be in the family.  The son is rich the servant is poor.  The son inherits the servant does not.  The son has privileges that the servant does not have.    It is better to be a son than a slave or servant.  The son has the ear of the father.  The son carries the name of the Father.   Christian your father has all power and He listens to you.  There is certainly a responsibility to be a son.   There is also an honor to be a son in many families.  It is an honor to be in God’s family. 

   The Galatians had broken Paul’s heart.   They went from grace to law.  They had graduated from law to grace and now they are returning back to school.  They were going from graduation back to the beginning.  They were going from nuclear science back to basic science.  They were going from a PHD back to elementary school.  They were going back to doing ABC’s.  What does Paul say to them how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?   Paul spoke into their life.   Faithful are the wounds of a friend.  Christians are not appreciated many times when we speak the truth.  But the truth is what is needed.  Jesus said he was truth. 

     Paul wrote that they were celebrating certain days, months and years and Paul asks them do you want to be enslaved to all these rules?   Those rules are weak and miserable principles.  In Colossians Paul tells them do not let anyone judge you about observing certain days such as religious festivals and new moons etc.  We do not praise or condemn someone for celebrating certain days.   I would say it is OK, even better than Ok but great, to celebrate Jesus birth and resurrection every single day.  But the Galatians were trusting external things that they did to save them.  Celebrating a certain day does not save your soul.   It is what Jesus did that saves me and not my works.  We are saved by faith through grace and not by works.  They had nothing to boast in except the cross of Jesus.  That is all we have to boast in also.  Any time you diminish faith it is a real problem.  They were trusting their works and not what Jesus did for them.  Wow. 

   I have read a number of comments about Paul’s illness mentioned in verse 14 where Paul comments to them that they would have given him their eyes.  Some think that he had an eye infection or something.  In Galatians 6:11 Paul writes see what large letters I use.   Eye infections were not uncommon in those days.   Was this the thorn in the flesh that Paul mentions in Corinthians?   We do not know.  The real point here is Paul asking them if their relationship has changed.  Had they turned from Paul?   He is the one that established them in the Lord and they seem to be departing from him.  Does anybody have any idea when this letter was written?   Who wrote the first letters of the NT?   Who wrote the last letters of the NT?    This is one of the first letters written in the New Testament perhaps second or third letter after Thessalonians.  The gospels were written later. We do not know the exact year the books were written but have a reasonable idea the time frame they were written in.  

    This chapter closes with Paul using Hagar and Sarah as an allegory.  Paul just uses them to show a deeper meaning.  He uses them as an illustration of or representative of 2 covenants.  Abraham and Sarah did not have children for a long time and so Sarah offers Hagar her maid or savant to Abraham to have a child.   Sarah got tired of waiting on God for the child and so she approached Abraham with the thought of having a child with Hagar. Hagar when she became pregnant with Ishmael despised Sarah.  When you take over and push God’s plan things can unravel rather quickly.   Ishmael is born but he is the son of a slave or servant.  It was legal to do that in those days but not pleasing to God.  So, at 86 Abraham has Ishmael and at age 99 Abraham has Isaac.   Isaac is the child of promise and Ishmael Paul uses as an example of bondage.  When Isaac is weaned Abraham throws a big party and Ishmael the older brother was mocking.  Sarah said send him away.  I do not want that in my house. 

         This chapter closes with the thought that we are not children of the slave woman but of the free.  We are sons of God.  We are free and we are blessed.  We need to remember that we belong to God all that we have and all that we are.  We represent God and we carry his name.  We have been set free from sin.  Our older brother Jesus has set us free. 

Promise & Law

October 29, 2017   Galatians 3:15 – 29   Promise and Law

 

   This passage today is a continuation of what we looked at last week where Paul calls the Galatians foolish and asked who has bewitched you. The Galatians went from the simplicity of the gospel and being saved by grace back to legalism.    Instead of trusting Jesus and what Jesus did for them on the cross they were turning to circumcision and legalism to save them.  I just read in Colossians this week in the message bible where Paul again addresses this works issue. 

    In Colossians 2 Paul writes watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk.  They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything.  They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings.  But that's not the way of Jesus Christ.    Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly.  You don't need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him.  When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too.  His power extends over everything.  

    Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It's not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you're already in - insiders - not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin.   If it's an initiation ritual you're after, you've already been through it by submitting to baptism.   Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ.   When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive - right along with Christ! Think of it!   All sins forgiven.   I would say that we are certainly forgiven by the precious blood of Jesus. 

       I read the following illustration that certainly speaks to the heart of this passage.    Booker T. Washington describes meeting an ex-slave from Virginia in his book Up From Slavery:   "I found that this man had made a contract with his master, two or three years previous to the Emancipation Proclamation, to the effect that the slave was to be permitted to buy himself, by paying so much per year for his body; and while he was paying for himself, he was to be permitted to labor where and for whom he pleased.   "Finding that he could secure better wages in Ohio, he went there. When freedom came, he was still in debt to his master some three hundred dollars. Notwithstanding that the Emancipation Proclamation freed him from any obligation to his master, this black man walked the greater portion of the distance back to where his old master lived in Virginia, and placed the last dollar, with interest, in his hands.

     In talking to me about this, the man told me that he knew that he did not have to pay his debt, but that he had given his word to his master, and his word he had never broken.   He felt that he could not enjoy his freedom till he had fulfilled his promise."  There was a time (not so long ago) when a man’s word and a handshake was as good as a written contract.

    This passage talks about the promise that God gave to Abraham.   God takes his promises seriously.   In Numbers 23 we read that God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promise and not fulfill?   When God promises something, you can count on it.  God expects us to do the same.  In Psalm 15 David asks who can dwell in your sanctuary and who may live in your holy hill?   One of the things that David says is he who keeps his oath even when it hurts.  Christians are better than others in keeping their word but it is not a given.   That is something that Christians need to work on.  Do what you say you’re going to do.  Scripture tell us to let our words be few.  That is good advice. 

.  In Genesis 3 we see the first promise of the Messiah where God said I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.  Jesus was certainly victorious over the Satan. Jesus was going to crush Satan’s head.  Jesus did that on the cross. Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.  We have victory because of the cross.  We struggle and battle today but we must remember that the victory has been won.  Satan is defeated. 

      Paul starts off this passage talking about the promise given to Abraham and the law.   God gave Abraham the promise.     The King James uses promise and promises 9 times in this passage of scripture of 16 verses.    God made a covenant with Abraham.  God made a promise to Abraham. Warren Wiersbe comments that the covenant was ratified when Abraham was asleep in genesis 15.   A contract is when at least 2 parties enter into an agreement.  Usually it is I will do this for you for this amount of money or I will pay you to do this for me.  This was pretty much a promise from God.  It did not depend much on what Abraham would do or not do.  God is saying pretty much this is what I am going to do.  This is how it is going to go.  It did not depend on Abraham working.   Abraham did not earn this.  It came by grace.  I like gifts like that from the father.  God in his grace gave it to Abraham Paul writes.  That is pretty cool.   

      In verse 16 we read the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.  Paul argues that the promise came first and then the law.  The law does not change or remove the promise.  The inheritance and the blessing did not depend on the law.  It depended upon God’s promise.  The law did not annul the promise.  The law came hundreds of years after the promise was given. 

    Then Paul writes what then is the purpose of the law?   Well good question at least for the Judaizes.  The law came after the promise and in their mind perhaps it is better than the promise.   The writer of Hebrews argued that Jesus is better than angels.   Jesus is better than the priests in the old testament because they had to offer sacrifice for sin over and over again.  Jesus offer was good for all time. The priests had to offer sacrifice not only for the sin of the people but for their own sin.  Jesus offering was far superior offering than the blood of animals.   The blood of animals would make a person fit for ceremonial purposes.  The offering was good and covered the requirements for the outward issues.

    Jesus offering and his blood cleanses our conscience.  The blood of animals was an outward cleansing but Jesu blood cleanses inwardly and God always looks on the heart.  Jesus told the woman at the well the time is coming when people will worship in spirit and in truth.   Hebrews tells us that Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. We know that Jesus is better than the law, the offerings, Moses, Angels, the temple and all the old things.  But this was a change for the Jews and it was difficult for them.   Many people find that it is hard to change today.  The change was a hard pill to swallow for the Jews.  Many of them did not transition very well.    We also have our issue with Jesus being better today but not in the way they did.    Our use of time and what we do with our money expresses what is important to us and often what we do says a lot more than what we say. 

    Then the Holy Spirit through Paul argues is the law against God?  Is it against God’s promise?  Why then was the law given?  We see clearly that the law does not impute righteousness.  We can’t be righteous by following the law.  Our righteousness is like filthy rages before a holy God.  We still struggle today by being good because of what we do.  We need to do good things.   But we are made right in God’s eyes through faith in Jesus.  We are not saved by works.   If we are not saved by works one could argue that we cannot lose our salvation.   We could argue that we do not maintain our salvation by working.       How were they accepted in the Old Testament?    It was by faith.  Abraham believed God and God declared him righteous.  They brought the blood of an animal before God and offered it by faith believing that God forgave their sin.  This scripture tells us for if a law had been given that could impart life then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.  In I Corinthians 15 the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law.  And then we shout but thanks be to God He gives us the victory through Jesus Christ.  The good news is not the law but Jesus. 

    The law was not against God’s promise.  The law was a temporary measure.  Verse 19 the law was added because of sin until the seed had come or until Jesus came.  The law was to prepare the way of Jesus.  It was to point us to Jesus.  The law tells us that we are sinful and we need Jesus.  Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.   The law cannot do what the promise can do. The promise was Jesus.  The promise was for the seed not seeds meaning many but seed meaning Jesus.  Jesus brought unity.  There is unity in Jesus.   No longer is there Jew and gentile.  As Christians we have unity with one another.  We are one in Jesus.  The promise brought unity.  When we put Jesus on us like a garment we are set free.  When we walk in the Holy Spirit we are free from the law because the spirit would never lead us to break the law. 

     Paul argues in this book that the law says do, do, do and grace says done, done, done.  The law says work, work, work.  The Christian says Jesus did the work for our salvation.   The law judges but the just judge God Almighty justifies.    The law condemns and God offers forgiveness in Jesus.     The law says labor, labor, labor, and Jesus says come to me and find rest, rest, rest.  The law says I am guilty.  The cross says I am forgiven.    In the cross we find forgiveness, mercy and grace.  The law judges and does not give life.  Jesus dies on the cross to give us life.  He that has the son has life.  I John tells us that if you do not have the son you do not have life.  Therefore, the church needs to pray for the lost. 

  

 

 

Deceived

October 22, 2017  Galatians 3:1 -14   Deceived   

 

    Paul writes you foolish Galatians.   New York: As a female shopper exited a convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. The clerk called 911 immediately and the woman was able to give them a detailed description of the purse snatcher. Within minutes, the police had apprehended the snatcher. They put him in the cruiser and drove back to the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and told to stand there for a positive ID. To which he replied, "Yes Officer, that's her.   That's the lady I stole the purse from."   I suppose that all of us have done foolish things.  While this illustration is funny and we laugh what was going on with the Galatians did was really sad. 

    Paul tells them what they were doing and believing was foolish.  We are reminded in Matthew 5 that Jesus said anyone who says you fool is in danger of hell fire.  The Greek words have different meanings.  Foolish in this passage means spiritually dull.  It means that they were unwise.  They lost their focus.  They lost their sharpness.  They lost their spiritual edge.  MacArthur writes that the meaning in the Greek is that there was mental laziness and carelessness.  It does not mean that they were stupid.  He said it carries the thought that they had a wrong attitude and a lack of faith.  This word foolish has the same meaning as used in I Timothy 6:9 which says those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

    In I Corinthians 1 we see some comments about being foolish.  Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law?   Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?   For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.    Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  

     For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.   Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.   Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.    But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.   God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  At the end of the chapter we read let him who boasts boast in the Lord.  We do not want to be foolish in our walk with God.  The fool has said in his heart that there is no God.  The gospel can be simple and we can miss it.  We can try to complicate it.  We can try to add to it. It seems that is what they did. 

   The gospel is perfect.  If you are too legalistic you take away from the gospel and perhaps in a sense that you trample on Jesus.  These Judaizes these legalists distorted the gospel and they led people astray.  For those that are too liberal you can do the same.  You can lead people down the wrong path.  Jesus is truth.  Jesus is the word of God.  Teachers need to be careful how they divide the word of God.  Sometimes people think they have the truth and the answers and take pride in that.  We can think that we are running on the inside track.   That we speak and know the truth and yet all of us are slanted. We have our own biases and our own slants.   It is best to fear and trust the Lord.  Pride comes before a fall.  It does not mean that you do not teach or preach but we need to trust and keep growing in our understanding of scripture.  James 3 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.    We all stumble in many ways.   Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 

    Peter writes about Paul at the end of II Peter and warns about twisting scripture.  He writes his letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.   Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.  Paul writes to Timothy in the last days people will have itchy ears and seek teachers that will tell them what they want to hear.

    They will turn from the truth and turn aside to myths.  Some folks get the idea that there are many roads to heaven and God loves everybody and everybody gets saved.  That is against what Jesus taught.  In Revelation John wrote cursed is anyone who adds to the words of the prophecy of this book God will add to him the plagues in this book and if anyone takes away from the words of this book God will take away from him his share in the tree of life.   I suspect that is also true of other biblical passages or anything in the bible.  Proverbs 14:12 "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death. It is what God says that is reality not always what man says.    "We are born again by the word of God by Jesus and he is the word.  We do not worship the word we worship Jesus but we do not want to twist the word of God nor do we want to mislead others.  Lord lead me and show me.  Teachers need to be open.  Where I am wrong Lord lead me into the light.  Lead me into the truth.  And those that are being taught need to study the bible and see if what they are being taught is the truth.  God is this what you are saying in this passage. 

    Paul writes who has bewitched you?      Bewitched means to charm, seduce, fascinate in a misleading way.  Sometimes people use flattery or false promises or claims.  When we are passionate about something and really believe something, we can appeal to the emotions of others.  Paul said who led you astray?  What in the world happened to you?  How could you make such a decision?  Bewitched can mean sorcery but that is not the issue here.  It was not a magical spell   They were willing victims.  The flesh is very appealing.   We like to take pride in our selves.  Paul said God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of Jesus.   There is where your glory is Christian.  Not in what you are doing or what you have done but in what Jesus did.  Your glory is in the cross. 

    A home missionary who had outstanding success among industrial employees kept a counterfeit coin in his pocket. When asked about the many religions that compete for attention, he would take out his bogus coin and ask why anyone would go to the trouble to make such an exact replica. The point he would drive home is this: the counterfeiter goes to the trouble to reproduce a copy of the genuine currency because the genuine currency has value. He hopes to deceive people into accepting his imitation for real money. If he can do so often enough, he stands to make considerable financial gain.  The gospel has real value and so the enemy Satan would attack it.  Satan likes to get people to believe in a counterfeit gospel.    The bible is truth so Satan attacks it.  Satan will do what he can to discredit Jesus and the bible.   

    The real evidence of conversion is the Holy Spirit in the Christian.  Paul asks them if they received the Holy Spirit by observing the law. We receive the Holy Spirit by faith not by our doing good things or by keeping the law.  If a person could receive the Holy Spirit by doing good things or by keeping the law would they then lose the Holy Spirit when they sin?  We receive the Holy Spirit by faith and by trusting Jesus to save us.   We are saved by the Holy Spirit and not by working.  We are saved by faith and not by the law so the point is that we should continue by faith. 

    The Judaizes liked the law so Pail; quotes the law.  All who rely on the law are under a curse because cursed is everyone who does not do everything that the law demands.  If you break the law you are guilty.  Then we see that the law does not justify anyone because we live by faith.  Then Paul writes that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law.  The law says be obedient and do it and live and grace says believe and live.   But people like the law.   We like the works.   We like to see what we have done.  We glory in what we do.  I believe that the flesh likes bondage.  We like our sin.  We live on it.  We can feed on it.    As we grow in Jesus we get away from it but the world is hooked on sin.  The law does not forgive, the law does not give life, the law does not give freedom but these Christians embraced the law instead of grace, faith and Jesus. There were foolish and bewitched. 

    The flesh likes to be religious.  People tend to see our self as better than others.  Well I don’t do those things that so and so does.  I am a pretty cool dude and I am cool with the almighty because I am a good guy.  Oops    The legalist walks by sight and not by faith.  He or she evaluates himself with others while we should compare ourselves to Jesus.  Comparing yourself with others is not wise.  You either elevate yourself or put yourself down.  Certainly, there is self-centeredness in that kind of activity and there is pride. 

   The law was a curse.  Jesus became a curse.  Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree. We see in the Old Testament where some men were hung on a tree until night.  Jesus totally obeyed the law and Jesus perfectly obeyed the law.  Then God took the sin of the world and put it on Jesus who completely obeyed the law.   Jesus became a curse and Jesus paid the price. Sin was put on the sinless one. 

    The Judaizes liked to believe that they were saved because they were off spring of Abraham so Paul talks about Abraham.  Paul tells them Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.  Righteousness was given to him imputed in his account credited to his account his life because of his faith.    It was given to him.  Paul then argues that those that believe are children of Abraham.  He also quotes from Genesis that all the nations of the earth will be blessed through Abraham.  That means the gentiles.  God will bless the gentiles.  It has been said that God does not have grandchildren.  My children are not part of God’s family because I am part of God’s family. They become part of God’s family because it is their choice.  They must decide if they want to become a child of God.  They are not born into God’s family.  That means that they have to choose to be in God’s family.   In Ephesians 1 Paul says we were adopted into the family.    The blessings of Abraham come through Jesus.   The blessings of Abraham come by faith. 

    A famous clockmaker took a visitor through his shop and pointed out two ways of regulating the time of instruments. In one method, a master clock sounded a note at set intervals. If the other clocks were wrong, the signal would reveal their error, but it didn’t set them right.  In the other method, a chronometer was connected electrically to several other clocks. Each beat of these time-pieces was controlled by that master clock.  The first way of regulating time is a picture of God’s law.  It strikes the signal, pointing us to the Lord’s perfect standards, but it cannot correct the wrong.  The second method is a picture of God’s grace. That the law could not do, His Spirit can accomplish.  God’s law reveals sin, but it is powerless to save us from sin. It can show us our weakness, but it cannot provide strength.  It can condemn, but it cannot justify. The law commands, but it does not enable.  The law kills, but grace gives life.  Law is outward, grace is inward.  When we are connected to the Holy Spirit we are balanced.  We should not be too conservative and not to liberal.  Isn’t it a beautiful; thing to be balanced and to be on track. 

 

Crucified

October 15, 2017  Galatians 2:11- 21  Crucified 

 

    The beginning of chapter 2 of Galatians is closely related to Acts 15 where the leaders of the church met to discuss the requirements of the gentile believers.  It was decided that they did not need to keep the Jewish rites and circumcision.  Peter spoke how God had led him to go to Cornelius house and to minister to him and that Cornelius received the Holy Spirit just like the Jews had.  Paul shared how God had been moving and blessing the gentiles.  There was the leader ship of the church in Jerusalem led by the apostles and that God was doing great things through Paul and others with the gentiles.  The base for that was located in Antioch.  There was not a gospel for the Jews the circumcised and a gospel for the gentiles the uncircumcised.  There was not a circumcised gospel and an uncircumcised gospel.  There is only one gospel.  There are different groups of people but one message. 

   It seems most likely that some time has elapsed in the last half of this chapter from the first part of chapter 2.  Paul shares a situation with Peter.  Peter is a pretty colorful person.  We remember him walking on the water and then sinking.  Peter at one-point rebukes Jesus when Jesus said he was going to Jerusalem and die.  Peter was the one who testified that Jesus was the Christ the son of God.  Peter said he would not deny Jesus and he did.  Peter seems to be the spokesman for Jesus disciples.  On the Mount of Transfiguration, it was Peter who suggested that they build 3 shelters.  Jesus worked with the disciples to begin to prepare them for receiving the gentiles.  In Matthew 15 Jesus tells them it is not what you eat that defiles you but the stuff that comes from the heart and he heals the Canaanite woman.  Jesus tells them they will take the gospel into all the world and to reach the gospel to every creature. 

     Peter goes to Cornelius house and shares Jesus with him.  It was not lawful for a Jew to go into a gentile’s house.  He t ells the leaders that the Holy Spirit came on them just like the spirit came on the Jews and peter testifies at the Jerusalem counsel in support of the gentiles.  Then we see in verse 11 that Peter was OK with eating the gentiles and being with them until James comes with others then he withdraws from the gentiles.  So, Peter is saying I will not eat with gentiles.  These men must have been of the circumcision party and those seeking to preach another gospel. 

       Others joined with him even Barnabas.  Wow what a change for Peter.  It must grieve the Lord Jesus because he prayed for unity. Jesus touched the unclean.   Jesus ministered to the out casts.  Jesus even ministered some to gentiles.  And Jesus said go and preach the gospel to every creature.  This is a big deal.   This is really a tough situation.    Paul does not sweep this one under the rug.   This was really an important issue.    So, Paul tells him you live like a gentile and then force the gentiles to live like the Jews.  Satan likes to divide people.  Satan desires to separate people and nations.   Jesus said a house divided cannot stand.  A divided house is surely on shaky ground.

    So, Paul; tells him in verse 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So, we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.    Paul said no one is justified by the works of the law.   We are justified by faith.  Justification is an act.   It is an act of God.   It is not a process.  It is not something that you work for.  Jesus did the work on the cross.  If it was based on works one Christian could be more justified than another Christian.  That means you are not more justified than I am. And it means you are not less justified than I am.  As Christians we kind of end up equal at the foot of the cross.  That is not an excuse to sin of course.   We are justified by faith and not by works.

      It is God who justifies Romans 8.   When God justifies someone, he declares that person righteous.  It is more than forgiveness.  When God forgives us, we can sin again.  Justification means you are not guilty again.  It is different than a pardon.  If you are pardoned you have a record.  God removes the record.  When Peter separated from the gentiles he was saying the Jews were different than the gentiles.  Folks when you are saved by faith you are saved by faith. 

     Here is a good illustration of justification.   It seems that there was a man in England who put his Rolls-Royce on a boat and went across to the continent to go on a holiday. While he was driving around Europe, something happened to the motor of his car. He telegraphed the Rolls-Royce people back in England and asked, "I'm having trouble with my car; what do you suggest I do?" Well, the Rolls-Royce people flew a mechanic over! The mechanic repaired the car and flew back to England and left the man to continue his holiday. As you can imagine, the fellow was wondering, "How much is this going to cost me?" So, when he got back to England, he wrote the people a letter and asked how much he owed them. He received a letter from the office that read: "Dear Sir: There is no record anywhere in our files that anything ever went wrong with a Rolls-Royce." That is justification.

     All of our labor and works do not add to that.  Yes, it is good that we work and pray.  Paul said I died to the law so I can live to God.  I am free from the law set free to serve and love and enjoy God.   Paul argues that if you could be justified by the law and by works then Jesus died in vain or for no reason.  God justifies sinners.  To be justified you need to admit that you are a sinner.  Warren Wiersbe wrote that the law says do, do, do, do, do.  Grace says done, done, done, done, done.  Jesus did it and it is done.  That is good news.  That is awesome news. 

   Then Paul writes that he is crucified with Christ.  He is dead but he is alive.  Paul said he was dead to the world but alive to Jesus.  Paul allows Jesus to live in him.  It is like he says I choose Jesus and not the world.  Paul put off the old man to put on the new man.  That new man is spirit.  That new man lives in submission.  The old man sinful.  In Genesis every thought was only evil continually.  We were far from God and Ephesians tells us we were dead in trespasses and sin.   

   We were helpless.   We could not save ourselves.   We had no light no hope and no power to please God in any way.  We were prisoners of sin, of our fleshly desires, of this world, and of the devil.   We were enslaved to our own selfishness.   We could not keep the law in such a way that we could please God.   We could not be good enough because God is perfect.   Children you never totally and always obey and willingly submit to your parents even when they ask you to do things that are good and correct for you.   We have a rebellious nature and that is not cool.   The sentence is harsh.  The evidence is clear.  Man is guilty and God who passes judgment is a consuming fire.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.   It is not good to be his enemy.   The sentence is passed.   God’s law and holiness cannot be broken.   The penalty is death.  The soul that sins it shall die.   The judgment is totally correct and there is no appeal.   There is no way around death.   We must die.  Sally  a student late for test.  Sorry you can’t take it late. 

     But God who is rich in mercy gave sent his son Jesus to die for us.   God poured out his wrath on his son.  Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.    He took the curse.  Jesus paid the penalty.    God’s wrath is not on you anymore.   God’s wrath is not on me anymore.   God poured out his wrath on Jesus on the cross.   Jesus paid for our sin.   He paid the price.   I am set free.    Do we still die?   Well Paul said in this verse I am crucified with Jesus.   I have died with him.  Romans 6 tells us that we have died with Jesus.   When you die you have paid the penalty.  If someone is sentenced to death in court and their life is taken they have paid the price.   If they rise from the dead then they are free because the price has been paid.   Legally God sees the Christian as dying in Christ then raised in Christ.   So, in Jesus we have been convicted and we have died.     The penalty had been paid.  In death I am set free.  Jesus died and spiritually I died also in him.   I am now free.    After death comes resurrection.   Jesus of course paid the price.

   After death comes new life.   After death there is freedom and blessing.   Paul writes I am crucified with Christ but I live and that new life is lived in and through Jesus.   You and I do not have the strength or ability to live that life except by faith.   We can be slaves to sin as Christians.  We can be slaves to service and to works.  I believe we can be in bondage to sin if we allow it in our life.   We can be backslidden.   But we can we walk in submission and allow Jesus to flow through us.   Paul chose that life.  The only life I can give to you is the life that is in Christ.   His word and his spirit can flow through me.   It is not really me but it is Jesus and His word that blesses and ministers to you.   It is all about Him.  His word and his spirit can flow through you.   But it is not really you it is Him.  He gets the glory.  The world will not fill up your life.   Real life is in Jesus.  

       Legally we are dead to sin and we do not have to submit to sin’s rule in our lives.   We are dead to the old way of life!   The nature in me got a death sentence from God.  That nature is ugly selfish and sinful.    It is in our life and unredeemed but the Christian has power over it.    We have the power to choose right.   God makes a way when there seems to be no way.   God makes a way out of the temptation.    What we have talked about is what has happened spiritually.   But the old flesh needs to die.   It has died but we tend to bring it back to life.   We can live in the world.   The spirit within us and the flesh are at war.   The old sin nature is with us.   The old sin nature is not redeemed.  Paul argues shall we sin that grace may abound no way.   NO NO NO

     Christ comes into us and God’s spirit comes in to dwell with us.  He is immortal or everlasting and when he is in us we also have everlasting life – not that we always existed or lived but we will live from now on.    He that has the son has life and those that do not have the son do not have life.   Salvation is wonderful.   Salvation is the best thing going.   There is only one way to heaven and it is Jesus.   Jesus said I am the only way to the Father.    The gospel is life.  The gospel is the death burial and resurrection of Jesus.    Paul said I am not ashamed of the gospel.   It is the best thing going.  Church is the best thing going.   It is not perfect but it is the best thing going.   It is God’s plan to reach the world. 

      Rob Frazier, a contemporary Christian artist wrote a song titled, "He doesn’t want you better, He wants you deader"   Dead people don’t mind the pain.    Dead people don’t get offended so they never complain.    They’re not concerned about personal gain.  Does that sound like me or you?   Christians who have died to the world have a single eye for God’s glory and not their personal glory.    The truth is rising in the church and the word is this; that when Jesus calls a man He calls him to come and die!  He doesn’t want you better, He wants you deader – dead to yourself.   Spiritually the Christian has died but there is a further work to be done.   There is growing in the fullness of Jesus.  There is growing in Christ likeness.    There is the discipline of reading the scripture, prayer fellowship and witnessing.   I have a long way to go in this dying to myself.    My old nature seems pretty alive to me at times.   I struggle to be more Christ like.  Be gracious with me because God is gracious to me.   Maybe the real question for us today is how dead are you?   How dead are you to the world?   How dead are you to sin?   Paul said I am crucified with Christ.  And how alive are you to God?  

    This church is to be dead.   Typically, when we think of dead churches we think that the doors are closed and no one is attending or only a few folks attend.   But we are to be dead to the world and to the old way of life.   We are to be dead to sin and very much alive to God.    And Paul at the end of this verse says the life I live I live by faith in God.   The Christian cannot afford to walk by eye sight.   You cannot walk just by eye sight.   We must walk by faith or else we are just walking like the world walks.   There is a danger in walking just with our eyes not if you want to be spiritual.   We need to discern spiritual things.   We need to be sensitive to the HS to help us through the buried spiritual land mines that are all around us.   We need to say Lord what do you think about that?   Lord what do you want me to do about that?   We need to pray Lord give me wisdom.    

    

Jews & Gentiles

October 8, 2017  Galatians 2  Jews and Gentiles   

 

   The beginning of this chapter this chapter ties in with Acts 15 which is the counsel of Jerusalem.  I think it is important to look at Acts to understand the background in this chapter.      We see in these opening verses that Paul is taking Barnabas and Titus with to Jerusalem.  It has been 14 years since Paul was there.  The church really started in Jerusalem at Pentecost in Acts 2 at which time 3K people received Peter’s message and were baptized.   The apostles keep preaching and in Acts 4 the number of believers came to 5K people.  Many signs and wonders were done among the people and they even brought sick people to put on the sides of the street so that when Peter would pass by his shadow would fall on them.  Chapter 6 tells us that the crowds gathered from surrounding areas bringing sick and demon possessed people and all were healed. 

   Persecution arose and Stephen was stoned to death in chapter 7.  At the beginning of chapter 8 persecution breaks out against the church.  The apostles stay in Jerusalem but the people scatter throughout Judea and Samaria.  Acts 1:8 you will be witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.   In Acts 9 Saul is converted and later becomes known as Paul.  In Acts 10 Peter goes to Cornelius house who is a gentile.  Peter then has to explain himself to the leaders in Jerusalem.  This is where the Jews begin to accept the Gentiles.  In Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas along with others are in worship and the Holy spirit tells them to separate Paul and Barnabas for ministry.  This is the beginning of Paul’s first missionary trip.   Paul had 3 missionary journeys.

       There was a lot of persecution and the church scattered from Jerusalem.  God used that to get the gospel out into other areas.  The apostles stayed in Jerusalem but there was a lot going on outside of Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria.  Paul is called to preach to the gentiles and Peter was called to preach to the Jews. There seems to be 2 centers of the church one in Jerusalem and one in Antioch.  Antioch is mentioned in Acts 17 times.  I get the sense it is the center of Paul’s ministry.   Paul’s first missionary trip starts from Antioch.  It is the church in Antioch that prays for and lays their hand on Paul and Barnabas and sends them off.  Jerusalem is the center for what is happening with the Jews and Antioch is the center for what is happening with the gentiles. 

    .  Some folks believe that the main thing happening in the church was in Antioch and not Jerusalem when Paul was doing ministry.  When Paul starts his missionary journey in Acts 13 Luke’s focus turns from Jerusalem to Paul’s ministry.  You see the change starting in Acts 8 with Philip’s ministry which was outside of Jerusalem and in Acts 9 Paul’s conversion and in chapter 10 the conversion of Cornelius.   Where were the disciples first called Christians?  They were first called Christians in Antioch in Acts 11.  

   In Acts 15 is the counsel of Jerusalem and Paul, Barnabas and Titus go to.  That brings us to Galatians 2.  The point of that meeting was to determine if the gentiles needed to be circumcised and if the gentiles had to observe other Jewish rules and traditions.   Again, this book of Galatians is about freedom that we have in Jesus and the Judaizes would follow Paul around and stir up the Gentile converts by telling them you also have to do all these things to be spiritually saved.

    So, after Paul gets converted he goes to Arabia and then to Damascus.  Three years after Paul’s conversion he goes to Jerusalem for a visit with Peter.  In Galatians 2 and in Acts 15 is Paul’s second trip to Jerusalem.  This trip takes place 17 years after his conversion.  Paul goes to Jerusalem because God told him to go in a revelation.  This is after Paul’s first missionary journey and before his second trip which happens at the end of Acts 15.  This council at Jerusalem is very important.  God told Paul to go.

     Some were teaching that the gentile converts had to be circumcised.  That was sad.  The real meaning of circumcision was to have a changed heart.  God was always interested in the heart.  Jesus said out of the heart comes sin.    Some people went from Jerusalem to Antioch and told the Christians that they had to keep Jewish laws   That got these Christians confused.  So, they had a meeting in Jerusalem.  It was not a church wide meeting but rather the leaders of the church met.  They determined and set the policy.  That meeting set the gentile Christians free.

    Paul testifies at that conference.  Paul tells them the great things that God is doing with the gentiles.  That was important testimony.  Paul in Galatians 2 mentioned that he was concerned that he had labored in vain.  He knew his ministry was from Jesus but if the leaders in Jerusalem agreed with the Judaizes that would be a real setback for the gentiles and Paul’s ministry.   Did Satan use these Judaizers to attach the unity in the church?  Yes   The Judaizers were trouble makers.   Where would we be without that conference today?  Would the book of Galatians even be written or included in the scriptures?   The Jews had a hard time accepting the gentiles.   The church was very diverse.   God had revealed himself to the Jews and had given them his commandments.  They had the inside track for centuries.  This was a big change for the Jews and a hard pill to swallow.  They were number 1 and the only ones and now things are changing.

    People do not always step down and step back graciously.  People like to be on top.   People have problems today accepting one another.  There can be issues with race, color, religion, politics, finances, where you went to school, which side of town you live in and etc.  All of those things become reasons for people to judge you and put you in a box.  Those things can be reasons people to look down on you.   The Jews had their customs and traditions and the gentiles often came from pagan culture.  Both groups were the church but with very different backgrounds.      Peter James and John accepted Paul, Barnabas, and Titus.  They extended to them the right hand of fellowship.  They agreed that Paul was sent to the gentiles and Peter was sent to the Jews. They had the same gospel and the same Holy Spirit but their ministry was to different people.  That did not mean that Paul did not try to reach the Jews.   Peter and John were the inner 3 disciples or apostles of Jesus.  James that is mentioned in Acts 15 some believe that he is the step brother of Jesus. Some believe that the is the apostle of Jesus one of the 12 disciples that walked with Jesus.   It is believed he was the leader of the church in Jerusalem.  Peter testifies at the council that God gave the gentiles the Holy Spirit just like the Jews had received and that there was no difference between the Jews and the gentiles.  These were important men in the church and they carried a lot of weigh and in this case, they set policy regarding gentile converts. 

        In Acts 15 we see what they told them and they sent them with the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings.   We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.    So, we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.    It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

   That agreement brought unity and the letter was delivered to the churches.  The gentiles received that with joy.  We are saved by faith in Jesus and that faith is a gift of God.  That council did not totally solve or permanently solve the problem.  It is obvious because Paul wrote the book of Galatians.  People came into those churches and teaching works and teaching a false gospel which is not a gospel at all.  Thank God that Paul stood by his convictions.  You cannot fight every battle but some must be won.  Some battles are really critical and this was an important one. 

    Paul was strong and he had to be strong.   Paul did not give up.  He persevered and God came through.  If you give up you may not see God’s answer.  Give thanks and worship.   These men were strong.   They walked with God.  We need strong men today that love Jesus above everything else.  They love God’s word.  Men that love to pray.  Men that are not attached to this world.   They hold their life with an open hand.  They do not take short cuts.   They are not taking the easy path.  They see them self strong in God.   They are like David who saw Goliath as the runt because David was in God.  David walked in God’s power and Goliath was just chump change.  Goliath was not even a bump in the road. 

     In a Florida Army training camp there was a grueling obstacle course all the recruits had to daily complete. On the final stretch of the endurance test they had to grab a rope and swing across a broad deep pond.   Under the glaring southern sun, the water looked so inviting to the men that most of them soon developed the habit of making it only half way across and dropping into the refreshing water.   That is, until an enterprising lieutenant made the pond the new home for a large alligator!   From that day on the recruits left the ground on one side and fell sprawling in the dust on the other, and not even one carelessly dropped into the water!  

 

Gospel

October 1, 2017Galatians 1The Gospel  

    Good news, good news, good news.  We all like to hear good news.  There is not much in the world today about good news but it has been good to see people draw together and help each other in the hurricanes, earth quakes and fires out west.  We see some good stories of sacrifice and I appreciate it when I see good news on TV.  There is certainly enough negative stuff around.   I wonder how many of us have spent 1 hour in the bible this week and I do not mean at church and bible study though that is good.   How many have spent 1 hour reading or in study by yourself?   There is not much good news in the world.  Charles Allen wrote God’s physiatry and said that his mental patients that would read Psalm 23 6 times a day and meditate on it showed improved mental thinking in just a couple of weeks.  We need to be in this book.  What are you feeding your soul?   You know the saying garbage in garbage out.  Let’s be filled with Jesus.  When we share our testimonies in church we are sharing good news.  That is encouraging, refreshing and building. 

   Galatians is a book of good news.  Martine Luther loved this book.  He wrote the epistle to the Galatians is my epistle.  To it I am as it were in wedlock.  It has been described as the battle cry of the Protestant Reformation and the Magna Carter of spiritual emancipation.  In this letter that Paul wrote he affirms Christian liberty.   It is a letter and instruction about freedom.  In chapters 3, 4, and 5 Paul uses the word free and freewoman.  Freedom is a word that Americans love.  Freedom is important.  On Wednesday January 20, 1981 a group of American citizens were on a run way in Iran.    Many had been hostages for over a year and they were about to be released from captivity.  The event actually upstaged the inauguration of the new president of the US. 

   When they left the runway, and entered into air space they claimed their freedom.  Chuck Swindoll said can you imagine any one of them wanting to go back into captivity and bondage again?   Typically, people do not want to be in bondage.   I remember when we lifted off the ground from Cam Ron Bay in Viet Nam and when that plane lifted off the run way the cheering and clapping from all over the plane.  The word liberty is used more in this book than any other NT book.  You will also find Paul using the words grace and mercy in this book.   The song writer that wrote hallelujah what a savior got the essence of this when they wrote guilty vile and helpless we spotless lamb of God was he full atonement can it be hallelujah what a savior!    Hallelujah what a gospel we would say. 

   Paul opened this letter saying he was an apostle.  It was not by men nor through man but by Jesus Christ that he became an apostle.     Paul knew who he was.  He knew what his life was about.  He knew why he was on the earth.  Paul knew where he was going.  That is very important, isn’t it?  Sometimes we are not there.   Sometimes we have questions about our life.    Jesus in John 8 told the people my testimony is valid because I know where I came from and I know where I am going.   We can forget where we came from.  Sometimes people become successful and they forget where they came from and forget those that have helped them.  And Christians lose sight of where we are going.   We can lose sight of eternity.  Jesus said I am truth.  Paul knew he was an apostle.  He knew he was a preacher.  Paul knew he was a man of God.  He knew that his life was important.  In the beginning of this letter Paul writes we have forgiveness of sins through Jesus NOT the law. 

    Paul immediately goes to war in this letter.  His opening is different than other letters that he wrote.  Paul is very concerned about these Christians.  Paul immediately talks about his call and his authority and then he writes to them grace and peace to you from God and from Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins.  Jesus gave himself to recue people from this evil world.  That is the gospel.  I Corinthians 15:3 and 4 for what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.  That is the gospel.  It is not man’s response to the cross.  The gospel is what Jesus did.  The gospel is Jesus love and sacrifice.  It is not man’s works.  It is what God has done. 

   The gospel is that Jesus paid the price.  All the glory to God.  It is what God has done.  It is what God did.  It is not what I am doing or have done or what man has done.   Paul was astonished at how quickly they had turned to another gospel.  This is a very strong word.  He was amazed, astounded, and bewildered.  They were leaving this gospel for another gospel.  They turned from God who had called them by grace.  Paul had lived that life of legalism.  He found liberty in Jesus.  It happened quickly.  apparently, they were not deeply grounded.   They did not understand the gospel. They turned their liberty in for rules.  They gave up their freedom for bondage. 

     We see it today when some people leave the church and leave fellowship and soon they are not reading the bible and their prayer life goes and they turn to other things.  The gospel is not the focus anymore.  Jesus is not the focus of their life.  They slip away from the truth.  They step away from the power of God and they drift and we fill our life with something.  These Jews were deserting the one who called them by the grace of Jesus.  They were deserting the gospel.  It was more than they were weakened in their faith and their walk with Jesus.  They were deserting.  We get the flavor of this word desert from the military.  To desert in the military was a serious thing.  At times of war soldiers were shot for that.      When I was in the military it was called AWOL absence without leave.  I do not remember anyone in my company going AWOL 

    Many of these false teachers or Judaizers were Christians.   Many of them accepted the gospel and that Jesus died on the cross for our salvation but they taught that they were improving the gospel.  My friends you and I know that we cannot improve upon what God did for us on the cross.  We cannot improve on the work of Jesus but we can at times get caught up in works.  The flesh likes to work.   We think we are better.   When you work you labor and labor and labor.  We do not rest in what he has done.  We have work to do.   Some brag about all the work that they do.  Most of us get some self-worth from our work.  God has called us to work but we can beat ourself up that we never get everything done.  So, I am not a good person or feel that we are worthless.

    If you add anything to grace you take away from the power of God and add to human effort.  Those that want to be justified by works have fallen from grace.  Grace and works do not work together.  God receives us by grace.  Isaiah writes that our righteousness is as filthy rags.  A lot of people want to get to heaven by their filthy rags.  It is an awful trap.  My works do not save me.  It cheapens what God has done and tries to steal the grace of God.   Salvation is not by works and no one can boast.  It is by grace through faith.  Those that embrace works for salvation turn their back on Jesus.  They depart from faith and grace.    Salvation is a mystery.   The cross is a mystery in many ways.  How can God die for me?  God’s love and grace, we can get a taste of or a sense of it but it is a mystery. 

    This so-called gospel that the Judaizers were teaching was not a gospel at all.  These people taught that you had to keep the old testament law or at least parts of it.  Can anyone maintain a relationship with God by works?  MacArthur writes that law does not moderately pollute grace but reverses and destroys it.  Yes, there is work and yes there is labor but it is us receiving his life.  It is walking in faith.  It is us walking in the joy of the Lord.  It is not us laboring to be accepted.   It is not us trying to be better than others.  We do not labor to earn our salvation.  We do not have to labor to earn God’s love.  We are not laboring wondering if we are good enough.  We just rejoice that God has accepted us and loves us.  We walk in the joy of his salvation.  We walk in the joy of a close loving relationship.  We are set free from working for salvations.   We are set free from trying to get to a higher or better place.  We see that we are in his hand and that we are loved.  We can rest and obey.  

   Paul defended his apostleship.  He saw Jesus.  The gospel the truth Paul proclaimed came from Jesus not men.  His life changed.  How could anyone understand the change in his life.  He was against Christians and then he is for them.  He persecuted Christians and then he preached Jesus.   Christians did not change him because they ran from him.   They were afraid of him.  And the Jews pushed him to destroy Christians.  This was not a gradual change but happened in one day.    His change was a God thing.  No other way to explain it.  Thank God for his power to change people.  Thank God for the power of the gospel.  Thank God there is a better way to live.     

   Paul was not only an apostle but Paul was their spiritual father.  They were leaving their spiritual father to follow these false teachers.  These people did not go out and get their own converts but they were sheep stealers.  They followed after Paul to steal his converts.  They perverted the gospel.   They perverted the truth.  That word is used 3 times in the NT and means to change about or change into an opposite character.  It was unacceptable to Paul.  It was dangerous.  It was wrong.  The false teaching is not acceptable to God.  It was against God’s holiness.  They we retaking the gospel and turning back into the law.  They were stealing from Jesus.  They were stealing from the work that Jesus did on the cross.  What God does is perfect.  What we do is not perfect. Ladies if the recipe calls for a cup of sugar do you measure the cup to the last grain of sugar?  If is a cup of milk do you measure the cup to the las molecule?  Of course not.  What God does is perfect.   The gospel is perfect.  If man tries to add to it or subtract from it, it is wrong.   If you change something that is perfect it becomes imperfect.     

      The gospel is beautiful.  The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul.   Paul writes if anyone preaches another gospel to you let them be accursed.  Paul was very concerned about false teaching.  If an angel from heaven preached a different gospel let them be eternally condemned.  Paul said if even I present a different gospel let me be eternally condemned.  Wow.  This means to be accursed.  This means being devoted to destruction. Remember the OT where Achan took some things.   Everything in Jericho was to be destroyed devoted to destruction and Achan took some stuff and God’s anger was against Israel and they lose in the next battle because of it.  Achan and his family were killed they were stoned to death.  There were 36 innocent men who died in the battle against Ai because of Achan.   We are not to embrace false teaching. 

    Paul loved the truth and he hated the false teaching.  He is like a loving father who protects his children.  He is like a loving person who protects others.  He is like a soldier who fights to keep freedom of those he loves.  It was a war.  Who do you think was the source of that?  Satan like to steal from God.  Satan like to pervert the things of God.  Paul saw himself like a gatekeeper.  Keep the truth in and the wrong out.  Paul did not play politics.  He had seen Jesus.

      His goal was to please God and not man.  Paul said if I was trying to please men I would not a servant of Jesus.  Jesus said you can’t serve 2 masters.   The German philosopher Schopenhauer wrote we forfeit ¾ of ourselves in order to like other people.   Paulse sire was to please God.   I think Paul had a single eye for God’s glory.  He said God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of Jesus.  That is not boasting in personal accomplishments or his works but he was focused in Jesus.  May our goal be to embrace truth.  May our goal be to defend the gospel.  May we remember that God has accepted us and that we are sons and daughter’s kings and queens in God’s family.  May we walk in the joy of our salvation.  May we end our never-ending desire to be approved and remember that we are approved. 

    What an awesome gospel.  There is freedom and forgiveness.  We are saints though at times we do not act like it.  We are redeemed and we are his people.  We do not have to labor to win God’s approval.   We do not have to labor to win man’s approval. 

Elisha

September 24, 2017I Kings 19:9 – 21Elisha’s Call

 

    This chapter takes place right after Elijah mountain top experience on Mount Carmel.  That is where Elijah invites Israel and the 450 prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel to see if Baal is God or if the Lord was God.  So, it is 450 prophets of Baal against Elijah.  It does not seem quite fair, does it?   The prophets of Baal were to choose one of the bulls and prepare it for offering. Elijah has them offer first and to pray first.   Elijah took the other bull and prepared it for an offering.  Neither one was to put fire under it.     The real God was to answer by fire and consume the offering.  Elijah gave them all day to pray.   Then Elijah has 4 large jars of water put on his offering 3 times.  The offering is drenched.  Elijah prays to the Lord God and fire falls from heaven and consumes the offering and all the water.

   Everything is consumed or toast.  The people of course say the Lord is God the Lord is God.  That is good.   What a powerful display of God’s ability.  It is very real.  The prophets of Baal are killed.  Elijah goes and prays and asks God to send rain.  It has not rained for 3 and ½ years.  The rain comes and Elijah tells Ahab to leave quickly because it is going to get muddy.  Elijah out runs Ahab’s chariot back to Jezreel.  Zondervan Dictionary puts that distance at about 20 miles.  Anyone done a 20-mile run lately?   That is about from here to Concord or from here to Salem.  They get to Jezreel and Jezebel threatens to have Elijah killed before the end of the next day.

    Elijah runs.  Elijah sleeps and eats and sleeps and eats.  He asks God to kill him.  He is spent emotionally.  He is burned out.  He is hungry.   He is tired.  He is afraid.  He is alone.  He is having a tough day.   He is having a tough time.  An angel tends to him.  Ever have a tough day or a dopey day?  I had a couple of them this week.  It is good for me to have days like that.   I just was dragging.  I chose to worship and give thanks.  It is hard to be dopey when you are giving thanks.  God has a way to lift us out of those times.  Kind of reminds me of when Paul is in a Philippian prison and he has been beaten and his back is bloody and he sings songs.  And as he is singing an earth quake hits.  So, Elijah is strengthened from this time and he travels for 40 days to Mount Horeb. 

     God tells Elijah to go out on the mountain and the Lord is going to pass by.   There is a great and powerful wind that tore at the mountains and shattered rocks before the Lord but the Lord was not in the wind.   There is an earth quake but the Lord is not in the earth quake.  And after the earth quake there was a fire but the lord was not in the fire.  After that there is a gentle whisper.  It is interesting to think about that in light of the recent fires out west and the hurricanes.  After the devastation, the voice of the Lord.  That is what we need to hear.  You can hear the rocks break in the wind.  You can feel the earth quake.  You can see and smell the fire.  We see that the Lord spoke to him and ask him what are you doing here.  God ask him a question.  What are you doing here or what are you doing with yourself.   That is a question that you might ask yourself.   Are we thinking about eternal things?   Are we praying for lost souls? 

     When things get out of hand we need to hear to the voice of the Lord.  We need to make sure we will listen to him.  We do not need the storm the fire and the wind but his voice.  We need to get to the place where we will obey him.  We will follow what he tells us.   What did the Lord tell him?  Well it was very important what God told him to do.  It may seem small at time to us but God is in the details of life.  Elijah was to go and anoint Hazael as king and Jehu as king and anoint Elisha as a prophet to succeed Elijah.   Elijah anoint your follower.  Then the Lord tells Elijah that God had 7K people who have not kissed and bowed to Baal.   Just a few people. Just a remnant.  At times, we can feel so alone.  There are others around.  We are never totally alone. 

   Elijah goes and finds Elisha plowing just west of the Jordan river.  Elisha’s name means my God is salvation.  That is pretty cool.  My God is salvation.  He is plowing with 12 yoke of oxen.  In other words, there are 12 teams and Elisha is the last one.  It seems that Elijah let the 11 teams pass and then he threw his mantle around Elisha the last man.  It would seem that there is nothing great about Elisha.  He is a farmer.  Looks like he is the last one in line but perhaps he is keeping his eye on the teams in front of him. 

    Elisha is plowing with oxen.  Every day there is plowing.  I have farmed I know.  We cleared the stumps and picked the stones and tilled the soil.  You get up early and you work that soil.  What does he see day by day?    What is the scenery?   He is behind 2 oxen.  He is eating dust day by day. It is easy to lose our passion for life doing the same things every day.  It can be taxing.   I am sure some of those days are just a little dopey.  It is dusty work.   It can be smelly work.  It can be hot and dry.  Life can seem like that some times.  Sometimes we say what did you do today.  Back in those days that was probably not asked.  Well I plowed the fields again today.  That may seem pretty small to some people.   

    Dr. Larry Crabb in his book Fully Alive wrote that his mother died after 7 years of struggle with Alzheimer’s.  She had cooked, cleansed the house, raised kids, and washed clothes her whole life.   She raised her family.  In the 3rd year of the disease she told Larry with teary terrified eyes I am no good to anyone.  Wow it is tough to feel worthless. He said I wonder if she ever felt that she was deeply good to anyone else, that her life brought pleasure to God and to her family.  It is an interesting thought to think about brining pleasure to God and others.  Scriptures point out that Elijah wanted to die and here we see Elisha plowing.  Did he ever wonder about the value of his plowing?   Plowing is important to God.  So is your work.  If you are not where God wants you it is not good.  God calls Elisha to something else.   

     It can seem endless but you do not plow all year long.  There is planting and harvesting.   I liked farming.  We do not know anything about Elisha at this point other than he is farming.  Why would God call him?  There is more to Elisha than farming.   There is more in his life then plowing.   God calls him and he is plowing.  Elisha is working in the heat of the day.   Elisha is faithful and the bible tells us if we are faithful in the little things God will bless us with greater things.    God breaks into his life on a day when he is plowing.  He is just living his life.   God has had his eye on him.  God has a plan for him.   God saw him every day he plowed.  God saw all of his work.  God saw his heart.   There were qualities in this man that God loved.  So God had other work for him to do.  God has work for everyone to do.  God has a plan for every Christian.  If God wants you to do something it is important.  God is concerned about every everything in your life.   God has given you all of your abilities and all of your assets.   

     Elisha is just doing his work and Elijah comes along and throws his mantle over him.    What a blessing.  Amazing that God calls people.  Elisha is plowing just like the day before.  Elisha is plowing just like he did last week.  Elisha is plowing just like last year but today is different.  God breaks into his life.    Would we invite that?  Would you invite God to break into your life?  Oh, some may think well anything is better than plowing.  We may think anything is better than what I am doing.  Following God is challenging at times.  Was Elisha following hard after God as he was plowing?   What does it mean to follow hard after God?   Was Elisha following hard after God?   We do not know.  But there was something special about him.   We do not know if he knew Elijah. 

     I assume that his dad owned this land and these oxen.   If so he stood a lot to gain by staying on the family farm.  The person who owned the land and oxen was rich.  If you have a small parcel of land you do not need 12 teams of oxen to plow it up.  There were servants or a big family.   It takes a lot of food to feed 24 oxen and the 12 men that were leading them.   This was a going farm.  I am reminded about the ax head that fell as they were cutting wood for a bigger building for the prophets or ministers and the young man was concerned because it was borrowed.  An ax head was valuable and it was important to retrieve it. 

     I think what Elisha does at this point is amazing.  He takes the oxen and kills them and takes the plowing equipment to roast them.  That is a statement.  He feeds the people with them.  Two oxen will feed a lot of people.  What does Elisha think about money?   I would say that Elisha is not attached to this world.  Perhaps you could say Elisha does not care about money.  For most people money is an idol; or a god but not for Elisha.  I remember when I was in my 20’s one preacher told how Cortez came and landed over here from Europe and after he landed he took his men up on a hill and had the ships burned.  In other words, no matter how tough it gets you guys can’t just go back on these ships and go back from where you came from.   It is a statement that your life has changed.   He said when God looks in your life all he wants to see is burned anchors.  God all that I have is yours.  I don’t think that Elisha ever looks back. 

    Elisha burns the oxen and I bet someone is less than happy about that.   Elisha burns the plow and someone is not very happy about that either.   Even if Elisha owned them some would not be happy about that.  I think there is a good chance that he did not own them.    If he is a hired hand is not going to be invited back.  One way to look at this is to say that Elisha liquidated all that he had and gave it to the poor.  Elijah throws his mantle over him and Elisha responds.  Elisha does not pray about it that we see.  Elisha did not weigh the pros and the cons of going with Elijah.  Elisha does not take a week off to pray about it not that there is anything wrong about doing that.    Elisha knows that God has spoken and he kills the oxen and burns the tools.  Elisha says good bye to his family and he follows Elijah.

     He follows Elijah.  Not very many people are willing to follow someone else. If you walked with Paul in his day you would find yourself in in prison or dead.   The disciples followed Jesus.  They did not see their families every night.   Joshua attended Moses.  At one point, he is half way up the mountain while Moses is on top of the mountain for 40 days.  God calls Elisha to leave his family and follows Elijah.  He is not married and Elisha does what God has called him to.  His life is changed.  How does his life turn out?  Do you think it was a foolish thing for Elisha to do?  I suppose many people would think that it was a foolish decision for Elisha to make.  God takes care of his own that follow him.  Elisha submits himself to Elijah.  He does not know all that he is going to face.  Yes, he will have trials and he will have to face the unknown.  God does not give all the details and fill in all the blanks.  We walk by faith. 

Worry

September 2, 2017Matt 6:16 –34    Worry

 

   I really want to focus on worry but there is a theme that runs through this chapter.   There is a flow in this chapter.   Jesus talks about what is happening inside of us.  He preaches or teaches about things that at times consume our lives that are not good for us.  Jesus said do not be like the hypocrites.  What is a hypocrisy?  Webster says it is the practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess.  Are we guilty?  I suppose that when we exaggerate a character trait that we have it is a form of hypocrisy.  Jesus talks first about giving and then about prayer and then about fasting.  They wanted to be seen by men and they thought God answered their prayers because they spoke a lot of words.  Jesus said do not keep on babbling like pagans.  God knows your needs.   There are a couple of points here that I see as very important.  Some people labor all the time to impress others.  It is a job and it is a task for them.

     Trying to impress people can be a terrible task master.  Jesus spoke about it because people are prone to do it.   All the time some people worry about how they look.  Do I measure up.  Do I come across as better than others?  Will he or she think more highly of me?  And we can worry about what others think about us. And some may not care at all.   Of course, all of this takes away time we could use more wisely.  It can rob our walk with God.  Jesus said how can you believe when you seek the honor of men and not the honor from God.  Jesus is trying to set us free.  We all want to be seen and heard and appreciated for the work that we do.  There are right ways and wrong ways to meet our needs.  We want a good reputation.   I have labored and struggled over my reputation before. I want to be known as a man of prayer.   I want to be known as this kind of person.  It is good to desire a good reputation but not worry about what others are thinking about us and certainly not try to impress others.     We should not be consumed about how people think about us or see us.  It should not be I have to do this to look good to them but rather what does God want me to do?   I think Jesus is saying do not labor and do stuff all the time so that you think others are impressed with you.  We tend to want to impress people and not God.  Jesus wants people to be free from that slavery.  Jesus said my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

    Many folks when they come to church they become a different person.  Many people want to put on a show.  I have heard that called a dog and pony show a circus a performance.  Some folks are all show and nothing else.  That is how the religious leaders were that Jesus is talking about in this passage.  Jesus offers us a better way to live.  We need to watch what is going on inside of us.  We need to monitor how we are being drained.   What is stealing my emotional resources.  What is draining me if anything?  We might ask what are the right things draining me and am I drained?     The other issue that I want to bring before you are that they lost their reward.  God saw their deeds but did not bless it.  We might ask our self if God’s blessing is not on it what good is it?  They lost their spiritual reward. 

    After Jesus talked about giving, prayer and fasting Jesu talked about money.  People spend a great deal of time considering money.  Money is important but again money is something that we need to keep in a right perspective.   Dr. Carl Menninger once asked a very wealthy patient, what on earth are you going to do with all that money?   The patient replied a bit reluctantly, just worry about it I suppose.  Well Menninger went on do you get much pleasure out of worrying about it?   No replied the patient but I get such terror when I think of giving some of it to somebody else.  A lot of folks could identify with that today.  We did not bring anything in this world and someday the only money that will matter at all is the money that we gave to God.  It will be the money that we spent as God put on our hearts and that means paying your bills also providing for your family etc.

     What a sad life that man lived.     Jesus warned against storing up treasure on earth.  We get short sighted about heaven.  There is no joy in living life with the attitude that everything is for me and is for now.  Many Christians live with the attitude eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die because they invest nothing in eternity.   There is no sacrifice in their giving.    Jesus said the religious leaders were blind and leading the blind.  Jesus said they kept people out of heaven.  They diligently sought to make converts but made them twice the sons of hell that they were.   They were walking into the wind.  They were not flowing with the spirit of God.  It is hard to kick against Jesus.  Jesus calls us to walk in the spirit.  Let the spirit of God flow through us.    Walk in peace and joy.  Walk in the freedom of ‘God not trying to impress others and not laboring over money.  Jesus is telling us there is a better way to live. 

   We do not have to live as these people were living.  How they lived is not how we are supposed to live.  Jesus certainly pointed toward heaven.  Jesus said where your treasure is that is where your heart is.  I was just traveling recently with a couple of young men and one kept saying wow look at that car.  That is really a nice car.   That is a fast car.  That car is pretty cool.  It is easy to tell where peoples heart is and where their thoughts are.  These men were not focused on the spirit but on the things of the world and things they could not have at least now. 

   But how sweet it is to find that person who has sold everything they have to get that field that has the treasure in it or the person who has found that pearl of great value and price and he sells everything that he has to get it.  Of course, that pearl is Jesus Christ and the kingdom of heaven. The man sells it all.   He sells his house he sells his possessions, he sells all the things he has treasured because Jesus means so much to him.  Jesus comes first and the kingdom of heaven now has a new meaning to him.  He knows that which is given to God lasts for all eternity and it does not diminish.   He knows that he does not lose but wins a great deal and he is not a slave to his money.  There is a freedom and joy.     Jesus gives us some more hope and help in this passage when he tells us not to worry.  I read this passage last Sunday morning before church and I knew that was something that we need to hear.  We have had job changes in the church.  We have had some health issues and 3 of us in the hospital lately.  School is starting and we have 2 different moving situations this month.  There is lot going on and I know there is a lot on our minds.  Jesus said do not worry.

    This last month I was just meditating that God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind.  I have been reminding myself that greater is he in me than he in the world.  I have been casting my burden on the Lord.   VBS I have had 8 weeks from peaching but did not feel really ready to come back and preach again.  Lord help me and fill my cup.  I am just sharing with you that I am in the same boat that you are in.  I may have different things on my mind but we share in our need for Jesus.  Lord I lift all this up to you.  Wash me Lord with your love and your peace.  Lord thank you for your love. 

    Jesus shares some wonderful liberating truths in this passage on how to live our life.    Jesus shares with us on how to walk in victory and not walk in worry.   It is a matter of focus.  It is what you look at.   It is a matter of control.   It is the matter of controlling your thoughts.   As we give it to God then we are set free from worry.   Sometimes I have to do that over and over again.  God this is yours.  It drives me to Jesus.  That is a good place to be.   It is good to have these things in our life because it points us to Jesus.   

      This passage is about worry.   Do not worry Jesus says.   Seek first his kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.    Jesus uses the word worry 6 X in this passage and several times Jesus says do not worry.      People tend to worry about their stuff if they have not given it over to God.      Those that do not give their stuff to God tend to worry about it.   If our things are not given to God then we own it and then we tend to worry about it.   The question is can we trust a loving God to take care of us?   Jesus makes it plain that God is a loving God in this passage.

    If you have an excessive amount of worry in your life you are not trusting God and that is sin of course.  We need to monitor our hearts.  It can be a struggle.  Can you trust God to meet your needs?   I think we can and at times Christians can guilty of not trusting God.  Christians sometimes insult God by our lack of faith.   It has been said that the only time God’s patience runs out with us is when we refuse again and again to accept how much he loves us.   It is a faith issue and Jesus challenged the disciples over and over again on their faith.    Jesus got frustrated with their lack of faith and I suspect that is an area that all of us could grow in. 

     A good father desires that their children trust their father to protect and provide for them and many fathers would be insulted and hurt if their child did not trust them.   God blesses us and is delighted when you and I walk in faith.   The trusting Christian says Father I trust you to provide - to bless - to lead - to support - to move - to work in this situation etc.  The song writer wrote O what peace we often forfeit O what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.   We can beat our lives to pieces with the pace of these days that we live in.   We live in an uncertain and changing world.    We can bury ourselves with worry.    Jesus gives us a better way to live in this passage - seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.

     Walking in worry is not very righteous, is it?   It is self-centered.   Jesus tells us in this passage that God is trustworthy.   Your life is better if you trust God.   You will be happier and stronger.   Can you trust God with what is on your plate?    God tests us at times to see if we are walking in faith and keeping our eyes upon Him.   Seek first his kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.  Proverbs tells us to keep our hearts with all diligence.  Do we struggle with pleasing people?  Are we trying to impress people?  Do we work like crazy to impress the boss or do we work as unto the Lord?  What is consuming my thought life?  Is it holy?  Have I been walking in peace this week?  Warren Wiersbe comments that it has been said that the average person crucifies himself between the regrets of yesterday and anxiety about tomorrow. Seek first God’s kingdom and peace will come in your life.   

Faith

June 25, 2017Ephesians 3:14 - 21Faith 

 

     Where does faith come from?   Can flesh cannot produce faith?  You can’t believe by resisting doubt.  How do we get faith?  How can we grow in faith?  Can I create faith in me?   Can I resist doubt and then have more faith and believe?   Jesus makes an interesting comment in John 5:44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?    If my eyes are on men then my eyes are not on God.  Where does faith come from?  Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.   God has given us faith.   God gives faith.  I Corinthians 12:4 – 11 Gifts are given to bless others.  Everything we have is for the common good.  God gives faith to accomplish his will not my will. 

    If we walk in the flesh we will not believe.  I believe when God speaks to me. I believe when I know his will.  John 5:44 if we walk in the flesh we do not walk in the spirit.  A person who walks in the flesh walks in darkness.  Those in darkness are not walking in faith.  Faith comes from God.  Ephesians 2:8 & 9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.  Salvation is a gift and faith is a gift.  Galatians 5:22 & 23 but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.   Against such things there is no law.   I have no faith apart from God.  No spiritual faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.   

       It is important to use our faith.   I think our faith grows as we obey and step out with God.  Think of muscles if you do not use them they wither.  I think that applies to spiritual things also.  Does anyone believe that if they did not use their faith that their faith would grow?   Matthew 25 Jesus shares the story of the talents.  Two people went out and invested and used what God gave them and one person hide his.  Jesus said then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.    So, I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground.

     See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!   So, you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?    Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.   “‘So, take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.   And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 

   Joyce Meyer prayed that God would use her in every city in the world and then she prayed God would use her in every person in the world.   I have read of men who believed God for a million and more souls Jerry Falwell and Dr. Bill Bright.  I think both of those men have passed away now.   Where are we at with our faith?  I need to lift up my eyes and see more and believe for more.  What are you believing God for?  God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think.  He is a great God bring great requests to him.  We can pray use me to bless others.   Use me to heal others.  Flow through my life so others will receive Jesus.  Abraham was strong in faith and gave glory to God.  God uses surrendered servant to do his work. 

   I john 5:4 & 5 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.  We overcome the world by our faith.  Works cannot compensate for a lack of faith?  Do you believe that?  Abraham was justified by faith not by works.  No one is justified by works.  Our righteousness are as filthy rags.  There is one aspect of work that counts with God.  Anyone know what that is?   In John 6 Jesus said this is work of God to believe on him that God sent.  The works of God is to believe.  It is to trust the Lord. 

     God is the one you can run to.   God is the one you can always trust.   God is the one who will never leave you.  He is the great I Am.  Jesus is always the “I AM” in your life.   Whatever the situation, He is the ‘I AM’ in the situation you are facing.   To Martha, who has just seen death, Jesus said “I am the resurrection & the life.”    To those who walk in darkness, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12).   To those who are hungry, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35).    He is not the “I was” nor “I am going to be, or I will be” but the “I AM” in our lives.  Gideon struggled to trust God’s Word.   He wanted signs. The Pharisees and the scribes wanted to see signs.    Actually, there is never enough proof where there is no faith and faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed.

     Have you ever dreamed in a big way with God?  He is the God of the impossible.  He is the God who can do far greater than we can think.  I want to see that.   I want to live that.   I want to experience that.  Do you want big dreams?  What do you allow to get in the way of your dream?   What is stealing away your dream?   God is able to far exceed your dreams. 

Our God is a great God.  Able to do all – above all abundantly above all – Exceeding abundantly.  Abraham as good as dead became the father of many nations.  So, Abraham was 99 years old.  That is a good time to start a family.  It is a good time to have a second son.   God delights in the impossible God is able to do a lot because of power within us - HS power in us.  

    God is able to do more – His ability is incredible, and extravagant.  He can far exceed all of your expectations.   God is faithful, God delights in miracles, God is able, and only God is unlimited.  God didn’t make just a single drop of water He made oceans of water.    God didn’t create just 1 star he made trillions of stars.  God did not just make one galaxy but made billions of galaxies.  · God didn’t just make a single kind of a plant. He made thousands of different plants.  God did not make 1 kind of animal but thousands of them.   It took Adam awhile to name all of them.  God did not make 1 kind of bird or fish but thousands of them.    God didn’t just make a hill – God made the Rocky Mountains.  He made Mount Washington.   God didn’t just make the sun.   God allows us to enjoy the sun rises and the sun sets.   He splashes his beauty in the sky and in all of creation. 

     He exceeds all the expectations.    At times, we wait but while we wait God is at work.   We may not always grasp what He is doing but God is at work.   No matter how things work out on earth heaven is beyond anything we can imagine.  God s not cheap.      Heaven will exceed our thoughts & dreams.  God is always bigger than your problems, worries, and concerns.  His power is available –battery in vehicle – must believe and turn the key.  Without Him can do nothing.  Pursue your God given dream.   Must put away sin.   Must walk with Him.  Must be willing to sacrifice and be willing to step out of comfort zone.   When we are empowered & filled by the HS and God has mastered us He is able to do abundantly through us.    He is able to fill us.   His desire is to fill us and bless us.   He is love.  He blesses us with every good and perfect gift. 

    God has heard your cries and your prayers.  Don't ever think that God cannot hear.    Don’t think that God does not hear your prayers.  Things may be difficult but God is going to answer prayer.   God is going to move.   God is going to bless.  Nothing is impossible with God.  God can make the dry bones live.  God can pour out water on the dry desert.   Dry bones can stand up.  God can raise up an army.  God can bring glory to himself.  God can do great things.   God can break those hard and resistant hearts.  No flesh can stand against God.  Do not give up.   Dream those impossible dreams.  God likes it when his people who believe him for the impossible.   “Do not let your soul be discouraged.   Don't be downcast.   Say to your soul, ‘Have hope in God, for God is a prayer-hearing God.    What are you pursuing with all your heart that is greater than yourself and that is based in God?   Dreamers take risks.  

     In Mark 5 we read.   While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”    Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”    He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James.    When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly.    He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”   But they laughed at him.  After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.   He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” ).   Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.  One of the translators wrote they laughed him to scorn.  Jesus got the last word on that. 

   There are a lot of folks who resist Jesus today.  There is a war against the bible.  Some believe that Jesus has about the same influence as the Easter bunny.   But we do not see any one suing the Easter bunny to get the Easter bunny out of society or school.  Men suppress the truth.  Jesus said men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.  Truth will win.  Darkness will be dispelled.  Jesus is light.  The way to keep truth out is to suppress it.  We cannot walk in faith and suppress truth.  You can be sure that Satan likes to suppress the truth.  The great deception is that I can sin and get away with it.  I can do wrong and disobey God with no consequences. 

    We need to change the way you think.  Think big.  The God in us is a big god.  When the enemy is at the door God is able.  When finances seem, impossible God is able.   When health issues over take us, God is able.  When trouble comes from a child or spouse God is able.  When things seem, dark God is light.  When the load seems, heavy Jesus said his was light.  When we do not know which way to turn God has the answers. 

      In Jeremiah 17 we read This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.   That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.  “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.   They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”    God is an awesome God.  

     Walk in faith. Be strong in faith and you will rise above the world.  Faith is the victory.  Faith overcomes the world.  Satan does not want you to believe.   Satan does not want you to have hope.  God is able to do exceeding above all we ask.  God is into miracles.  God delights in healing.   God delights in blessing his people.  We will not experience abundant life if we do not walk in faith.  We cannot please God without faith.  He is able to do more, exceedingly more, abundantly more.  Meditate on that.  Think about that promise.  Rejoice God can bring good out of whatever you are facing.   

Father's Day -- Prayer

June 18, 2017Luke 11: 1 – 13PrayerFather’s Day 

     I figured we might as well just jump right towards the end of this passage where Jesus said to the people in verse 11 which of you fathers if your son asks for a fish would instead give him a snake or if he asks for an egg would give him a scorpion instead.   If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children how much more your heavenly father.  God delights in blessing you with good things but you have to believe and ask.  Lord teach us to pray. We have a loving heavenly father.  He is a good, good father.  

    In Ezekiel 16 God is talking about his people and God said.   ‘I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you.    I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments.   I adorned you with jewelry:   I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.

     So, you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was honey, olive oil and the finest flour. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen.   And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord.  And then sadly they turned from the Lord. “God said ‘But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute.   You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his. But we see God’s goodness to them and God’s provision for them.

     God blessed them when they walked with him.  God blessed their flocks and their grain.   God granted them peace and his presence. God’s presence was in the tabernacle and in the temple.   God gave them his law.  These verses explain how God treated his wife.  Men do you want to know how to treat your wife?   Look in the bible.  See what God did.  God provided for them.  God washed them and God paid attention to them.  God was involved with their life.  God blessed them.  I would see this as more than just providing financially for them.  In I Peter we see that the real beauty of a woman is what is in side of her.   It is a gentle and quiet spirit.  There is a strength of character for those who trusts God. 

   When Ruth came to Boaz he covered her with his robe or skirt as a sign that he was going to take care of her.  She must have felt safe.  He was quite able to provide for her.  He was able to protect her. He was successful man and hardworking and he was very compassionate to her.  He told his crew to leave some grain for her.  In Ezekiel 16 verse 8 God said Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.  That was very important to God.  You became mine.  I covered you and I love you and I will provide for you.   God covers you.  Can you think of anyone who could do any better?  What an awesome thought.   God covers me.   God said belong to me.  In God’s eyes, you are in a covenant relationship with him. 

   Being a good father and good husband is more than just providing for your family.  It is also protecting them.  Many men are willing to physically protect their family but are they are not prepared to protect them spiritually.  Men if you are not praying and in the bible, you are walking in your own wisdom.   You are walking with your limited eyes sight.  There is a sense that we are blind.  If we do not see the spiritual we are missing way too much.  We wrestle not against flesh and blood.  There is a spiritual side to life.  Let’s face it Satan is coming after this nation and he is going after your family.  Children need protection.  They need protection in school against teachers and children that do not walk in biblical paths and morality.  They do not hold to the same values that we have.  Even though their paths are wrong they want us to be like them. 

    In Matthews prayer, he writes your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Jesus taught us to pray Lord your will be done.  We pray for his will to be done.  What is God’s will for your children today?  Do we know do we hear God speak?  Do we know how God wants to bless us?  Do we know when God wants something done?  Does God speak to you when he wants to bless someone.  He can force his will but instead Jesus said you pray.  Does God want someone to be healed?   Does God want someone to be saved?  Does God want to bless someone with some extra money?  Does God want me to pray that in?   What needs does God want to meet today in your life?  Are you asking and trusting him to do it?   Jesus tells us to pray for our daily bread or our daily needs.  What are the needs of those around you?  How does God want to bless them?  

    God has told us to pray.   I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray continuously.   Ephesians 6:18 and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests, with this in mind be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.   I Timothy 2 I urge then first of all that requests, prayers intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.   This is good and pleases God our savior who wants all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.   Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God.    Jesus said men should always pray and not faint.   Jesus in several places in the gospels invites us to pray.     Hebrews says to come boldly before God.   The God that we come before is a loving heavenly Father who wants us to trust him.

       Jesus invites us away from the world in the passage and tells us to pray. That is amazing.   Jesus invites us to pray.   Jesus was praying.  It was a life style for him.  The disciples come and ask him to teach them.   The request was teach us to pray.  Jesus points us to God and when we follow His advice we live on a higher plane.    Those that believe in prayer pray.  It has been said that:   "To pray without action is hypocrisy.    To act without prayer is pagan.      The power of prayer is not in the one who prays but in the one who hears it." -Max Lucado.   The power of prayer is not in you but in God.    We pray and God answers.   We are finite, helpless, and impotent.   God is infinite, all-powerful and willing to answer prayer.    To pray is to admit that we cannot do it without him.  To pray is to admit we do not have all the answers.  To pray is to humble myself.  To pray is to come into his presence.   

    Jesus builds his kingdom through the prayers of His people and the working of the Holy Spirit though Christians.   Thy kingdom come thy will be done.   God wants you to be effective in prayer.   We will reign and rule with Jesus in heaven and in a sense, we should be reigning and ruling here on earth now in submission to God’s spirit.  Jesus told us to pray, “Your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.   God wants heaven on earth.  Prayer invades and conquers the kingdom of darkness and Satan.   Satan is a thief and God uses prayer to stop him and to establish his will on earth.  To pray is to engage in spiritual warfare.   God wants to pour out his blessing upon us on earth right now.   Every good and perfect gift is from God and God desires to pour out blessings.  

      We have been rescued as Christians from this world system and God has granted us power to change the world.   He has given us power in the HS to work to set the captives free.   He is looking for people to stand in the gap to pray and invade the powers of darkness.    Sometimes we do not pray because we say God knows my needs.   Yet Scripture tells us to pray about everything.   Jesus said to pray give us today our daily bread.   John Wesley said, “God will do nothing on earth except in answer to believing prayer.”     Do you believe that?    Jesus said pray your kingdom come and your will be done.   Jesus told us to pray for our daily bread or you could say our daily needs.        

       Jesus came to give his children abundant life.  Abundant life is found in Jesus.  Jesus knows how to give good things.   Jesus knows how to meet your every need.   Jesus can bring light and joy.  Through prayer we can break through the darkness and forces of hell into light and into blessing.   Curses can be turned into blessings.  We can walk in power and victory.    Pray folks and become a person of prayer.  You can move the hand of God.  Heaven will answer.  God is involved with all of his creation.  And Jesus said to be persistent.  Do not quit.  Do not give up.  Jesus shares this parable with them.        And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him.”  

       In order to understand this parable, we need to understand a few things about first century culture.   First of all, food was not as readily available as it is today.   There was no refrigeration in those days and no fast food places.     Hospitality was held in high regard and was seen almost as a duty.    A visitor was welcomed and cared for, regardless of the hour of his arrival.    In order to avoid the intense midday heat, people often traveled in the evening.    It would make sense then that a traveler arriving near midnight was not uncommon.   It takes time to travel on foot.    Here is the dilemma.    The poor unprepared host has a late arriving guest who is hungry after a long and exhausting journey and it is his duty as host to provide a meal, but he has no bread.    It has been said that not to provide for his guest’s needs would not only bring shame upon himself and his family but to the village as a whole. 

     So, he goes to his friend’s house regardless of the lateness of the hour and to ask for his help.   It takes nerve to do that.   How many people would you feel comfortable with to call them in the middle of the night for help?   There is a tension in this passage isn’t there?   There is the need and then there is the difficulty of meeting the need.   Jesus adds to the tension.    The neighbor will answer from within and say, "Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and help you.  We need to remember that God never sleeps.   God always wants to hear your voice and your prayers.   Jesus is not telling us a story to make us think that God is reluctant to answer our prayers.    But for man it is tough to wake the kids up.  It can take a while to quiet them down.   So, he refuses his neighbor.

    But the guy keeps knocking on the door.  He is persistent and does not quit.  He is a man on a mission.  It is embarrassing to keep knocking but that is what he does.   You have to stay focused.  The man on the inside of the house realizes that he is going to have more trouble if he does not get up quickly and get his neighbor to stop knocking on his door.    Jesus said well he will get out of bed now and give him as much as he needs.   Jesus tells us after this story to ask and keep on asking.  Don’t give up.  Do not quit.  Sometimes you must persist in your prayers.

    Then Jesus says right after this you pray.  I think Jesus is saying what kind of commitment should we come before God with?   How gutsy are you?  Do you really, really, really want God to give you what you want?   Granted our prayers are not for us to fulfill your own lust and desires.    What kind of a commitment do you make to see your prayer answered?   It does not mean that we are bossy to God.    What kind of faith do you bring to the table?   God looks at your heart and He can see your heart and your motive.    As Jesus is speaking this verse he is really using present tense so the meaning of the verse here is ask and keep on asking seek and keep on seeking and knock and keep on knocking.   Jesus is saying stay with it.   We are prone to quit.  Many times, we want to quit.   God says no. 

     I do not believe that Jesus is teaching here that God is reluctant to answer the prayer.   God is not inconvenienced because you ask Him for something.  God ahs covered us and blessed us and we can do that for others.  Men you need to do that for your family not only provide for them financially but spiritually.  Cover your spouse and bless her.    

Truth

June 11, 2017  II Timothy 4:1 – 5  Truth 

 

    I have just read that according to one pole 71 % of Americans do not believe in absolute truth and that 40 % of people who call themselves Christians do not believe in absolute truth.  I think I am appalled and amazed at what I see in our nation today when it comes to truth.  The further we get from truth the riskier ground we are on as a nation.  There are many people today who will believe anything that those they like and trust they will believe them.  If they do not trust you they and like you they will not believe anything you say.  We have seen in Christian circles that folks are saying all roads or many roads lead to heaven.  Jesus said I am the way to heaven.  I believe truth is being assaulted today.  I believe that morals are being assaulted today and Perry Stone a bible teacher who also prophesy said that when America gets to the point where wrong is right and right is wrong we will be judged by God.  I agree with that.  We are on that path as a nation.  We seem to be going further and further from the bible and truth.  I think those of us in this church would say as a nation we are not doing better because of that. 

    A scuba diver told me that he had been in water so deep and dark that it was almost impossible to keep from becoming disoriented. What a terrifying feeling — being underwater, unable to see your hands in front of your face, not knowing which way is up, panic engulfing you. I asked my friend, “So what do you do?”  “Feel the bubbles,” he said.  “Feel the bubbles?” I asked.  “That’s right. When it’s pitch-black and you have no idea which way to go, you reach up with your hand and feel the bubbles. The bubbles always drift to the surface. When you can’t trust your feelings or judgment, you can always trust the bubbles to get you back to the top.”  Sometimes in life we get disoriented and desperate. At other times, we find ourselves drifting aimlessly. God knew we would need advice and instructions about how to live. In the sixty-six books of the Bible, we have a reality library — stories, letters, guidelines, and examples from God that tell us what is true and real.  — Terry Carter, Scott Duvall, and Daniel Hays, Preaching God’s Word (Zondervan, 2005

     I would hope today that as a church we will stand with Jesus and the bible. I would trust that we would do that as individuals and as a church.  Jesus said I am truth.  If you do not embrace truth you do not embrace Jesus.  If you lie you do not embrace Jesus.  Those that teach heresy reject Jesus.  Those that sweep things under the carpet, those that slant the story move away from Jesus and truth.   Everything that we see and hear today we should evaluate against the scriptures.  We need to see what the bible says.  The bible is being attacked today. Some would say you have your truth and I have my truth.  If your truth and my truth does not line up with God’s truth it is not good.   What good are words that are not true?  The world is full of junk.   In a sense man does not make truth.  The laws of science God gave us.  They are his truths.   They are his laws. 

    This is a conversation that Abraham Lincoln once had with one of his detractors:   Lincoln said, "Well, let’s see how many legs has a cow?"  "Four, of course," came the reply disgustedly.  "That’s right," agreed Lincoln. "Now suppose you call the cow’s tail a leg; how many legs would the cow have?"  "Why, five, of course," was the confident reply. "Now, that’s where you’re wrong," said Lincoln. "Calling a cow’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg."  Truth is truth.  There is a lot to say for good common sense. 

     Jesus is not popular today with many people.  There are many things in the bible that perhaps a majority of Americans do not like today.   They do not agree with the bible. They do not agree with the teaching of Jesus and the bible.  Will you stand with Jesus today?   Do you agree with the bible?  There are moral laws that are above what man thinks.  There is a standard that is higher than man. There is a push away from truth.  God is holy and ultimately, he will judge.  We will stand before God.  Jesus said the words that he spoke will judge us.  Jesus said not the smallest letter or the least stroke of the pen will not disappear from the law until everything is accomplished.  This book stands and all other ground is sinking sand. 

        All of us tend to avoid pain. Sometimes, though, avoiding pain can lead to much greater suffering. Consider the story of William “the Refrigerator” Perry.   Perry was a colorful defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears when they won the Super Bowl back in 1985.   His nickname fit him well, because he was big and wide.    Perry was also a friendly man with a wide grin.  Unfortunately for his grin, though he was a mammoth man playing in the tough world of the football trenches, he apparently was afraid of the dentist — so afraid that he didn’t go to the dentist for twenty years.   He didn’t go to the dentist even though his teeth and gums hurt terribly, even though his teeth began falling out.    Eventually he had lost half of his teeth — some he pulled out himself! — and his gums suffered chronic infection.   He was suffering!

     Finally, as he neared age forty-five, Perry went to a dentist, who had to pull out all of his remaining teeth, insert screws in his jaw, and implant new teeth — all of which would have cost him $60,000, except the dentist donated the procedure (apparently for the free publicity).  Now there’s a story every mother will tell her son when she tells him he has to go to the dentist or brush his teeth.   But this is also a story for all who avoid emotional and spiritual pain of any sort, for the body teaches you things about your soul.   There are a lot of things that can cause pain to the soul but actually bring health asking for help, hard work, repentance, looking honestly into our own souls, going to church, dealing with our problems, humbling ourselves, reading the Bible, listening to sermons, facing the truth.    This list goes on. It takes courage to face pain.   But as William Perry said of his new teeth, “It’s unbelievable.   And I love them. . . . I got tired of my mouth hurting all the time.”  Craig Brian Larson, “ ‘The Fridge’ Gets New Teeth,” Preachingtoday.com; source:

     Let’s not continue to hurt because we reject truth.   Let’s not continue to hurt because we do not obey Jesus.  What a terrible thing to neglect your soul.  We often live for the moment and do not consider how what we do today impacts life years later.    Often, we do not think how what we are doing today impacts eternity.  The wise person embraces Jesus and truth.  The spiritual healthy person embraces the bible and applies what it says to his or her life.  They are building their life on the solid rock and the floods are coming.  The storms are coming and we must draw near to Jesus. 
   Truth is very important.  People used to seek out wisdom and truth.  We think we are enlightened today and in some ways, we are but it seems we are getting further from true light.  Jack Nickelson in the movie a few good men yelled out you can’t handle the truth.  That is an interesting comment.  In many cases a lot of people steer away from truth.    People lie or cheat on their taxes.  People in politics lie and mislead.  Sometimes the news does not report the news.  It can be difficult to trust people today.  A study shows that 70 percent of nearly 70,000 U.S. college and high school students admit to cheating. This distressing statistic highlights a 14 percent increase since 1993, and a 44 percent hike since 1963. The Duke University report also indicated that Internet plagiarism has quadrupled in the past six years.  A separate poll of 25,000 high schoolers found that nearly half agreed with the statement “A person has to lie or cheat sometimes in order to succeed.” Culture Clips,” Plugged In (June 2006)   Did you get that?  Seventy per cent of college and 50% of high school students admit to cheating.  That article is over 10 years old.   That speaks of society today. 

    I believe we are living in the last days.   We are seeing a shift in morals in America and in the world.  What does the bible say about things in the last days?   In II Timothy 3 we read but mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.   People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.   They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

     Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth.    They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.   But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.  They reject the truth and they reject the faith.  They may reject truth but they will be judged by truth someday.  God is totally just and righteous.  Many people glorify sin today.  That attitude has been around for a long time.  I believe the people of Sodom and Gomorrah glorified sin.  It is not necessarily what men say is right it is what God says.  God is the judge.  God’s word will judge mankind.  God is the moral standard for the world.  There is truth above man’s thoughts.  There is a standard that is higher than man often desires.  There are laws and truth that transcends man.  Thank you, God.  There is a push for tolerance today.  I would say hell is not tolerant.

       There are many who are corrupt in business practices.  Have you ever worked for a place that you made uncomfortable in how they did business?  Have you ever been asked to cheat in business?  It can be tough to stand up for what the bible says.  Lots righteous soul was vexed with the sin around him. 

      George Galatis, an engineer at Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford, Connecticut, found several unsafe practices at his plant.  Federal guidelines required the Millstone plant to store only one-third of spent fuel rods in holding pools, but Galatis found all of the hot fuel had been dumped into them.  Also, fuel was unloaded just 65 hours after a shutdown, far sooner than the mandated period of 250 hours.  Supervisors winked at the routine violations, knowing they were saving millions through shortcuts.  Fearing the violations could threaten thousands of lives, Galatis told a colleague they should contact the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  The friend warned him, “You do that and you’re dogmeat.”  Galatis urged plant managers to stop the hazardous practices, but they refused. Since many of his supervisors were churchgoers, he was baffled. “This was not splitting hairs,” Galatis says. “These were moral issues.” Galatis warned his supervisors what could happen: eventual shutdown, decommissioning of the plants, and criminal investigations.  But after two years nothing had changed except other workers’ attitudes toward Galatis.  When he sat down in the cafeteria, coworkers left.   When he entered a meeting, the room fell silent.   Rumors spread that he was an alcoholic.   His performance evaluation took a hit.  Galatis searched for God’s guidance, rising every morning at 4:00 a.m. to pray and read Scripture.

      During lunch breaks, he drove to a secluded place to pray and search the Bible. During one of these prayer times Galatis believed God whispered to him, “Will you die for me?”  Though he feared for his safety, Galatis realized there were many ways of dying; his livelihood, his reputation, and his family could also be destroyed.   Previous whistleblowers’ families had broken under intense emotional strain.   Northeast Utilities, owner of the nuclear plants, would likely hire one of the nation’s top law firms to fight him.  Still, he pressed on.   He contacted the NRC, asking the government agency to suspend Millstone’s license.   As the petition became public, pressure at work increased. Coworkers confronted him, calling him a fool and troublemaker.   He was harassed for months.   After four years of battling Millstone, Galatis finally got a severance agreement and left.   The NRC never suspended Millstone’s license, but three reactors were shut down for repairs at a cost of over $1 billion.  A criminal investigation was launched.  Galatis went on to graduate from seminary and is now a pastor.  Adam Bowles, “A Cry in the Nuclear  Wilderness,” Christianity Today  His Christians friends and supervisors abandoned him. 

   Let’s embrace truth.  I am a child of God.   I am forgiven.  I am on my way to heaven.   God is going to bless me.  God loves me.   God wants to do great things through my life.  God has a good plan for me.  I have the mind of Jesus.  I have peace.  I have hope.  I have joy.  I walk in victory.  I walk in his presence.  I am free.   I am blessed.  My life is important.  I have victory.  I will not be condemned.  I have a home in heaven.  Some may say this nothing more than name it and claim it.  Well I think we need to speak the word of God.  God loves me is better than saying no one loves me.

    It is better to say God has a plan for me than saying my life is useless.  Let’s speak it out loud often that God is with me and in my house and in my children and God is going to use us for his glory.  All of my family will know Jesus and go to heaven.  If that is name it and claim it I am guilty.  I will; walk in victory and I will walk in God’s grace.  Jesus said you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  Truth God’s truth will set people free.  Joyce Meyer said about the woman with the issue of blood.  She said if I can just touch the hem of his garment I will be healed.  Is that name it and claim it?  I don’t know but she got healed.  Jesus said your faith has healed you.  Let’s walk in truth.  Let’s walk in faith. 

 

Judging

June 4, 2017 Matthew 7:1 – 6   Judging 

 

  I think we all have incorrectly judged someone.  I know that I have.   Ever get critical what a person has bought with food stamps?   A grocery store cashier wrote to advice columnist Ann Landers to complain that she had seen people buy birthday cakes and bags of shrimp with their food stamps.  People on welfare who treated themselves to such non-necessities were “lazy and wasteful,” the writer said. A few weeks later, Landers’ column was devoted entirely to responses to that letter.  One woman wrote, “I didn’t buy a cake, but I did buy a big bag of shrimp with food stamps.

   So, what? My husband had been working at a plant for fifteen years when it shut down. The shrimp casserole I made was for our wedding anniversary dinner and lasted three days. Perhaps the grocery clerk who criticized that woman would have a different view of life after walking a mile in my shoes.”  Another woman wrote, “I’m the woman who bought the $17 cake and paid for it with food stamps.  I thought the checkout woman in the store would burn a hole through me with her eyes.   What she didn’t know is the cake was for my little girl’s birthday.   It will be her last.  She has bone cancer and will probably be gone within six to eight months.” You never know what other people are dealing with.  — Terrie Williams, The Personal Touch (Warner, 1994)

    Jesus said Do not judge, or you too will be judged.   For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  I don’t know what you think about that but that is pretty scary to me.  I do not want to be judged as harsh as I have judged.  I am glad he is the judge.  Jesus said do not judge.  James 4 tells us there is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.  But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?     The bible does tell us to judge with the mind of Jesus.   The problem is that we judge and are critical and do not base it on scripture. We judge and do not know all the details.    Or we judge so much we do not pray.  Instead of being critical of that person at work or that driver that just cut you off pray for them.  Don’t let a judgmental spirit take your joy away. 

    Word Pictures by Baker of this verse writes judge not.  The habit of sharp, unjust criticism.  It means to separate, distinguish, discriminate.  That is necessary, but prejudice (pre-Judgment) is unfair captious (meaning quick to find fault) criticism.    The Greek word is called krino and in the Strong’s Concordance it means to distinguish, decide, condemn, punish- avenge, conclude, damn, decree, determine, esteem sue at the law, call to question, sentence to and judge.  The same Greek word is used 11 times in John.  The word judge, judges, judgment and etc. is used over 700 times in the bible and I want to cover every verse today.  Ha.  Vines Expository Dictionary wrote primarily denotes to separate, select, choose hence to judge pronounce judgment.  An example vines writes is found in Matthew 7:1 to assume to office of a judge.  Jesus said basically don’t do it.   Do not set yourself up as a judge.   It seems that people like to be critical.   

    I think some people think they are righteous because of their thoughts about others and life.  They feel they are correctly judging the situation.  They believe they have the answer.  They think I know the truth and those other guys are wrong and I am right.  I would say that being judgmental does not make you righteous. Jesus said judge not.  Being critical does not make you right.  Being judgmental does not make a person holy.   Only God is right.  If there is pride involved that does not make us righteous.  We can walk in a mountain of pride.

   If a person walks in a mountain of pride because they think they have the answers they are wrong.  Pride does not bring person close to Jesus.  Hungering and thirsting after righteousness makes me righteous.  Being in Jesus presence makes me Christ like.  When I am connected to God to Jesus to the spirit then I am right.  When I am critical I am not right.   It is not so much the other person who is wrong which they could be wrong but certainly I am wrong.  Can we all see our need to be close to Jesus today.  We need to pray Lord show me my sin.   Convict me of my sin and not gloat in what someone else is doing or not doing.  Paul said at one point I do not even judge myself.  In places Paul wrote the church has to judge.  I get a sense of what Paul is saying here.  Only God correctly sees all things.  Only God can really judge.  Spouses be careful of being critical of each other.  In Galatians 5 we read if you keep on biting and devouring each other watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 

    JoHannah Reardon writes When our children were young, my husband and I decided we wouldn’t watch R-rated movies. We made this decision in good conscience and never regretted it.  I found, however, that it made me feel judgmental toward other parents who watched R-rated movies.  I began to feel they weren’t fully committed to Christ because they watched things I’d decided not to watch.  I realize how ridiculous it is to judge someone’s relationship with God by what movies he or she watches, but my evaluation was so subtle at the time.

    As I made this judgment, I never thought about my own sin or all the things the person I was judging was doing right.   Instead, I focused on this one thing I thought they were doing wrong.  Being a Pharisee is so easy.  It’s great to make rules to guide our own behavior, but when we extend those rules to everyone around us, we’re in danger of becoming like the Pharisees, whom Jesus denounced as hypocrites.  — JoHannah Reardon, in newsletter.  ChristianBibleStudies.comThat is not to say you never address sin in another person.  If we want to be Christ like we will accept correction. That is very hard to accept criticism and I am not very good at that.   I guess I am too insecure or immature.   Iron sharpens iron.  God allows people to grate on us to perfect us.  There are ways to correct people and there are ways not to correct people.  Galatians 6 tells us to do it gently.  Bear their burden. 

    Most of the Pharisees never came to Jesus.  They thought they had all the answers.  Unfortunately, they could not see their need.  They could easily judge others but not themselves.   In Luke 18 Jesus shares this parable.  To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.    The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.   I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’   “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’   “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.   For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Don’t walk in pride. God hates pride Proverbs chapter 6.  In fact, pride is an abomination.  

    I think we are in danger when we start to think thank God, I am not like so and so.  I think we are in danger and in sin when we start thinking about how good we are.  Look at all the stuff I have done.  Look at all the things that I am not doing.  I am a pretty good guy.  We should not be consumed about others evil.   They will stand before God and give an account one day.   A person with a critical spirit typically is thinking and pointing how good and right they are and that they are better and smarter than those guys over there.   That kind of stuff is divisive.  It is a lot more fun to walk in Jesus presence and experience him.    It is better to do that than be critical, judgmental and negative about others.  I think we can spend more time judging than praying.   Pray for that guy that cut you off.  Pray for those that you think are wrong.  Instead of being critical or judgmental pray.  We are called into fellowship with Jesus.  Jesus wants to walk with us.  Jesus wants us to enjoy him and not waste our life on what someone is doing or not doing.

    Scripture says if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged.  Jesus said in this passage if you want to correct someone else make sure your life is not worse than the person you are correcting.  Our job is not to be a junior Holy Spirit.  Jesus why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and neglect the log in your eye.  We become blind to our sin and our issues and anything in some one else’s eye becomes all we can see.  Spouses need to be careful of that.   I remember talking to someone once I do not remember who but they said they thought they were doing most of the work.  They sat down and talked about it with the other person and more light was brought on the situation.  They were wrong in their judgment.  They did not see things correctly.   Sometimes we just see things with our own slant.  In Acts the widows were saying they were not getting treated the same as others.  We can easily see or think we are on the short end of things. 

   This is a pretty interesting illustration.  A woman is beautiful — or not — depending on who she’s with. That’s according to psychologists Sara Gutierres and Douglas Kenrick of Arizona State University, who have studied the phenomenon of beauty for the past twenty years.  We judge both our own and other people’s attractiveness based on the social situation we are in, research shows.  If a woman of average beauty enters a room of extremely beautiful women, she will be perceived as less attractive than she actually is.   If the same woman enters a room of unattractive women, she will be perceived as more attractive than she actually is. The same applies for men.

     The researchers found that this contrast effect influences many women to devalue themselves: “Women who are surrounded by other attractive women — whether in the flesh, in films, or in photographs — rate themselves as less satisfied with their attractiveness and less desirable as a marriage partner.” For the overwhelming majority of women who don’t meet these impossible standards, multimillion-dollar industries are eager to help improve their appearance.  The effects on men are also damaging.  The researchers note that “under a constant barrage of media images of beautiful women, these guys have an expectation of attractiveness that is unusually high — and that makes the people around them, in whom they might really be interested, seem lackluster, even if they are quite good-looking.”  — Michael Levine (with Hara E. Morano), “Why I Hate Beauty,” Psychology Today (July – August 2001

    We judge all the time.   We need to be careful about it.   Some of it is natural.  You can’t drive a car without making some decisions.  Somethings are wrong and we they need to be stated as wrong.  God will judge someday.  Those that rob, murder, and rape will be judged.  If they are Christians their works will be judged.  Those that do not receive Jesus will be punished in hell according to what Jesus said.  God is the judge. 

    Jesus said in John 5 I judge as I hear.  You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one.  But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.   By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.  God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world may be saved John 3.  In John 12 Jesus said   I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.   “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.  In Luke 12 someone ask Jesus to make his brother to divide the inheritance with him and Jesus said to him who appointed me a judge over you?  Then he warned them about greed.  Jesus did not get involved.  Was their injustice.  Probably.  The world is full of injustice.   I tell you there is such pain over inheritances.  I have seen the ugliness of it.  People are greedy.  We all want our share. 

    There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.   For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.  It seems to me that Jesus was very careful about judging.  Shouldn’t we be careful about judging others?   He said I did not come to judge.   Seems like if anyone could judge it would be Jesus.  Some people are around just to judge.  Some people are sharp and critical.  By the way the word critic comes from this Greek word used in Matthew 7 and used in John.  In I Corinthians 2 we read that the spiritual man makes judgments about all things.  And scripture says we have the mind of Jesus.  When Jesus was in the flesh he made judgments as the Father spoke to him.  We can only make good judgments as we are directed by the Spirit of God. 

     Long before Sebastian Junger wrote The Perfect Storm, he decided to hitchhike across the country. He writes of what took place while making his way through the aftermath of a blizzard in Gillette, Wyoming: After two or three hours, I saw a man working his way toward me along the on-ramp from town.  He wore filthy canvas coveralls and carried a black lunchbox, and as he got closer I could see that his hair was matted in a way that occurs only after months on the skids.   I put my hand on the pepper spray in my pocket and turned to face him. “You been out here long?” he asked.   I nodded.

“Where you headed?”  “California.”  “Warm out there.” “Yup.” “You got enough food?”  I thought about this. Clearly, he didn’t have any, and if I admitted that I did, he’d ask for some. That would mean opening my backpack and revealing all my expensive camping gear.  I felt alone and ripe for pillage, and I just didn’t want that.  “I got some cheese,” I said.

“You won’t make it to California with just a little cheese,” he said.  “You’ll starve.”  At first, I didn’t understand.  What was he saying, exactly?   I kept my hand on the pepper spray.  

     “Believe me,” he said, “I know. Listen, I’m living in a car back in town, and every day I walk out to the mine to see if they need me. Today they don’t, so I won’t be needing this lunch of mine.”  I began to sag with understanding.  In his world, whatever you have in your bag is all you’ve got, and he knew “a little cheese” would never get me to California. “I’m fine, really,” I said. “I don’t need your lunch.”  He shook his head and opened his box.  It was a typical church meal — a bologna sandwich, an apple, and a bag of chips — and I kept protesting, but he wouldn’t hear of it.  I finally took his lunch and watched him walk toward town.  I learned a lot of things in college. I learned things in Europe and in Mexico and in my hometown of Belmont, Massachusetts. But I had to stand out there on that frozen piece of interstate to learn generosity from a homeless man.   — Sebastian Junger, “Welcome Stranger,” National Geographic Adventure (June 2006)

 

Come

May 28, 2017   Matthew 11:28 – 30   Come and rest.   

 

    As we read the scripture and meditate on it we focus and find rest in Jesus.   As we take our burdens and trials to the Lord in prayer we find rest in Jesus.   As we fellowship and do bible study together we find ourselves refreshed and growing.   What have you focused on this week?    Correct focus can be challenging sometimes.   Sometimes we think and say and I am doing the best I can.  Often that is not true because we are not focusing and dealing with things that we should be dealing with. 

   John Ortberg shares about boarding an airport shuttle that drove people to and from the airport and rental car area.   That is a thankless job.   People are often tired when they travel and can be grumpy.  The people are always in a hurry to get somewhere else.  John said this man was an absolute delight.  He kept looking for anyone who needed a ride.  He said you could tell by the way the person looked.  He said I never want to miss one.   I can tell by their eyes he said.   Here is another one and he would jump out and grab their luggage before they could lift it.  And then they would be off.  He told them I will get you there as quickly as possible.  The people on the bus started cheering him on.  He created a community.  He was a leader and a friend.  People started telling others that were getting on to watch him.  Christians can create that kind of an environment.  Churches should be like that.  A Christian walking close to Jesus can create that kind of an atmosphere.  This man had a heart to serve.  He wanted to have fun at work. 

    Jesus said in this passage come unto me and I will give you rest.  This is an invitation to all that are weary and burdened.  C.S, Lewis said God whispers to us in our pleasure but shouts to us in our pain.  If you are weary and burdened this invitation from Jesus the King of Kings is for you.  God invites you to come to him.  This is a great invitation.   Turn to Jesus from your fear and He will give you rest.   Come to Jesus from your anger and He will give you rest.   Come to Jesus in your temptation and He will give you rest.   Come to Jesus in your brokenness and He will give you rest.   Come to Jesus with your unanswered questions about family and life and He will give you rest.   Come to Jesus with your physical issues and pain and He will give you rest.  Whatever causes you to be weary and burdened. Jesus said come.   Come to Jesus with your busy life styles.

    But you have to come to him.   You have to take time to come to him.   You have to squeeze out some of the other stuff and come to Jesus.   At work take a moment or two to reflect on him.   Put your favorite verse on your desk and look at it from time to time.   Pause and think about his love for you.   Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is with you he is mighty to save.   He will take great delight in you he will quiet you with his love for he will rejoice over you with singing.  

     We need to come to him in faith.   We need to remember that he is faithful and that God is great and God is good.  The disciples often missed it.   They witnessed Jesus feeding the multitudes with a couple of fish and loaves of bread and then when Jesus talked to them about the leaven of the Pharisees they thought that Jesus was saying that because they forgot to bring bread.   That is pretty interesting but we can be like that also.   Jesus said did you guys forget how the multitudes were being fed?   We can forget God’s blessing and deliverance in our lives.   We can forget his provision also. 

    Hebrews 4 tells us the message they heard was of no value to them because those who heard it did not combine it with faith.   Now we who have believed enter that rest just as God has said.   God in his anger said that they would not enter into his rest.    Hebrews 3:12 See to it brothers that none of you has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.   It was their unbelief that prevented them from going into the Promised Land.   God wanted them to enter into his rest and into the land.   We walk by faith and not by sight.

        To come implies that we trust him and accept him.    The invitation is to the weary and to those who are exhausted and wore down.   That is exactly how the people felt under the yoke of pharisaical legalism.   Most likely Jesus was speaking to some who were seeking God and trying to get to God by doing works and by keeping the written man-made laws of the Jewish leaders.    Those that labor to get to heaven by works are burdened.  As Christians, we can rest in the work that Jesus did for us on the cross.  We do not have to worry if we are good enough to get into heaven.  We have righteousness because we have Jesus in our heart.  We do not labor for our salvation.  That work was done on the cross for us.  Jesu paid the debt.  Jesus paid it all.  Jesus took my sin.      

    Why does the Christian find rest in Jesus?    I think one key is right in this passage.   Jesus said I am meek and lowly in heart.   Jesus is not critical and judgmental if we come by faith and in humility. God is not arrogant.  God is not self centered.   Jesus said I am meek and lowly in heart.   There is not a lot of folks around with that kind of a heart.   Hebrews 4 we can come boldly before the throne of God through Jesus.  Jesus graciously responded to the humble.   He was known as the friend of sinners.   What a friend we have in Jesus.

    Jesus is not saying here that we no longer have to work, does he?  We have to work.  The yoke is a symbol of work.    But work can be good and made lighter if it is shared.    Work can be real tough.  It can be difficult when others do not pull along with us.  It can difficult when you have too much work to do or you have work to do that you do not know how to do it.  Supervisors can be difficult to work with.   Sometimes our burden is not light because we are not where God wants us to be.  We need to hear Jesus voice and get into the flow that God has for our life.  I think it is good to have a job you enjoy.  It is good to see people who fit with their job and like their job.  We should be serving Jesus through our work.  That should make work important and fulfilling.  We work for Jesus and not line someone’s pocket with money.  Do everything unto to the Lord.  The Christian seeks to please Jesus.   

    But sin is also a great cause of burden because sin tears down and our pride tears us down.  To rest in Jesus means that you are not in a far country living in riotous living.  There is bondage in sin.  Sin brings bondage.   If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   If we confess he forgives.   People have trouble forgiving others and ourselves but God forgives and accepts because of his great love   Romans 8 it is not God who condemns but God justifies and makes us right in his eyes.   Why do Christians find rest in Jesus?   The fruit of walking in the Holy Spirit is love, joy and peace.  Jesus promises peace to his followers.  Jesus promises to help us.  Jesus gives us strength and wisdom.  His spirit is good guide in life for us.    

    He said his yoke is easy and his burden is light.    Jesus said it was his yoke.  The yoke was made by him.   It was made by him and it is for you.  His yoke is easy.  Not your yoke but his yoke.  We tend to carry a lot of stuff that is not easy to carry.   I think life’s yoke and burden can be quite heavy if you do not pray and roll it onto Jesus.   At times I strain.  I take the whole load.   If I do not share it I am buried.   We need to see ourselves as equally yoked with Jesus.  Jesus made yokes as a carpenter and someone has commented that they advertised our yokes fit perfectly.   It is perfectly geared toward us but we share it with Jesus.  We need to see him pulling with us.  We can’t perfectly live up to God’s standards.  You can bury yourself with that burden.  The invitation is here and his acceptance is here.  Come to me Jesus said and if you do you will find rest for your soul.  

   We can be busy and have much work to do and be at rest.   We can walk in peace and find rest if he is first in our life.   Come unto me Jesus said.   Come to him.  In John Jesus told the Jews you will not come that you may have life.  Come and rest.   When you are driving on a long trip those rest areas can be a life saver.  After a while you look forward to the next one to pull off and be refreshed and perhaps get something to eat and drink.  Often we only stop for a few minutes but sometimes I need several hours or a day with the Lord.   It takes time to unload from life.  Take a rest with and in Him.   He pleads for us to come and none of us go to him enough.   God wants to give you rest.   The promise in this passage is that Jesus would give us rest.    If we come He gives rest.   That is exciting.    I need to go to Him to get it.   David wrote he leads me beside the still waters and he restores my soul.   

     The invitation is to come and learn and it is to take his yoke upon us.   I think that is an invitation to be his disciple.  That invitation is discipleship.  The disciple of Jesus is to forsake all to follow Jesus and it is to die daily to follow Jesus.    I think the yoke that He invites us to take upon us is the cross.   We die to our struggles.  We die to our wants and desires.       

      In Palestine, the ox yokes were made of wood.   The ox was brought and measurements were taken.    The yoke was then roughed out of wood and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on.   The yoke then was carefully fitted so that it was comfortable on the ox and did not gall the neck of the beast.    The yoke was custom fit.   It would fit the animal to the T.   The yoke implies submission.  For the ox it was submission to the load it had to pull whether working in the field or going around and around grinding grain or pulling some load.   For us the yoke is submission to Jesus and to the Spirit of God.   Instead of keeping our negative, critical, unhappy thoughts we give thanks and worship Him.  In doing so we find life and joy and victory.   It is to our best interests to become a person of thanksgiving.   It is to our joy to become yoked with Jesus and put off our self-centeredness.   We can live on a higher plane. 

    Life is not easy but His yoke makes life easier.  We can rejoice in the most difficult of situations or we can choose to be sad and depressed.   Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in jail in Acts 16.    They could have got angry with God and decided not to walk with Him anymore.   They could have been angry and depressed.  They could have decided to quit life and ministry but they prayed and sang hymns at midnight.    It is more fun to sing and worship I think.    Your loving heavenly father has allowed your load in life and that load fits you perfectly.   Rejoice in that burden and struggle and when you do it you will find the load is easier.  That yoke is meant to stretch us and to cause us to go to Him.   We can be a thankful people. 

      We need to learn of Jesus in every one of our daily challenges.   Jesus invites us to learn about him.  It is more than head knowledge.  Learn about his character.  See his gentleness.  See his sweetness.   We can learn of Jesus in that issue we cannot resolve.   We can learn of Jesus in that financial difficulty we are having.   We can learn of Jesus in the struggle with that spouse or child.      Everything that happens in my life is for a purpose and much of it is not easy.  Learn of Jesus in the good and learn of Jesus in the bad.     Can we see God moving in our difficulties?     Can we hear what God is saying to us in the situations of life?   My sheep hear my voice Jesus said.     The words learn of me are closely related to discipleship because a disciple is a follower and a learner.  Jesus disciples are submissive learners.  God speaks to us all the time.   He speaks to us through the scripture but I believe that He also speaks to us through life.   Everything that comes into my life is for a reason.   I think that everything that comes into my life has a purpose in it.

   Are you yoked with Jesus today or is that yoke getting dust on it?   Can and will you willingly take his yoke today?     Jesus can handle anything in your life and in this world.   Nothing is too hard for God.  Come to me Jesus said.  Learn of me.  Feast on Jesus love for you.  Fill your life with Him.  Let him encourage you and give you strength and wisdom.  Jesus said if you are weary come to him.  You can have a friend that is closer than a brother. 

Marriage

May 21, 2017I Peter 3:1 – 9Marriage 

     I think it is good to dosome messages that focus on the family.  Mother’s, Father’s and Children’s day come in May and June so I usually do a couple of messages in that time frame.  Last week was Mother’s day.  I am reading a book complied by Jim Daly and what he did was have several well-known pastors and Christian people write a chapter on marriage.  The book title is the best advice I ever got on Marriage.  I know we have some unmarried folks in church so I also make it applicable to all of us.  It is not a time for any of us to tune out.   I want to say that marriage has its challenges.  Marriage is not easy today.  The people that have to get married usually are the least prepared to marry.  When you live with someone little things the other person does begins to irritate.

   Ken Blanchard had traveled to India a number of times and ask his guide one day who had given tours to many Americans.  Ken asked him what is the difference between an arranged marriage in India and a typical American marriage.   He said the assumption in an arranged marriage in India is that in time you will fall in love with the person you married.  With American marriages, I get the impression that you fall in love before the marriage and then fall out of love during the marriage.  Ouch   That kind of hurts.  Marriage is hard work.  God wants us to die to our self.    Marriage and family helps us do that.   I do not think it is hard work forever but you have to be careful not to ignore each other.  Do not look at the little things that bug you but remember all the great things that you saw in him or her when you married them.  Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on the positive good things.

   Dr. Greg Smalley wrote the best marriage advice that he got was from the unlikely source of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.  That was a CBS TV show back in the 1990’s that Jane Seymour was in.  She developed a jewelry line with Kay Jewelers called an open-heart collection.  The idea behind it was if your heart is open that love will find its way in.  An open heart is a fundamental key part of a good marriage.  Typically when we get upset with someone we want to close our heart off to that person.   We begin to withdraw ourselves from them.   An open heart communicates that there are no walls between me and another person.  It seems to me that is a key to good relationships.  It is a key to trust.  If I close my heart to you then I do not trust you.  There are people who close their heart to God.  Christians can do that.  We might ask ourselves if our heart is totally open to Jesus.  God said over and over again that his people had a hard heart or you could say a closed heart.  

    What does an open heart reveal?   What does it mean?   Well for one thing you hand another person your very innermost being.  Your innermost being you entrust to someone else to care for it.   There is no hiding and no secrets.  You are comfortable about telling that other person things that are very close to you.   You are not afraid that they will step on your heart or take that information and share it with others.   You trust that they would not use that information against you.  What do people look for in good relationships?   They want to have fun, passion, friendships, intimacy and a deep connection.  There are no lies and no hiding in that relationship.

     When Adam and Eve sinned they hid.   They closed their heart to God.  That which was safe and protected was stolen and removed.  It will be restored again when sin is removed.   Today we struggle with being transparent and open.   We go through life with walls and guard around our heart.   We have been hurt and we learn to close and seal the deep things in our life.   We can bury them so deep that we may not be aware of what is in us.  Christians can build a solid and open relationship with God.  Couples with a good relationship develop a marriage that is the safest place on earth.  Jesus warned us against the hardening of your hearts when Jesus said Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hardened.  A hardened heart is not an open heart.  It is a closed heart. 

   Creating a safe place is very important.   God understands that.  In Proverbs 18:10 we read the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.  As you read the bible you get the sense that theme of safety runs through all of scripture.  God has made a safe place for us in heaven.  We sense that we are safe with God and not safe with the world and the devil.  The demon possessed guy from Gadara would cry and cut himself with stones.  The demons were not good to him.  In Matthew 17 we see the boy that the disciples could not heal that cast himself in the fire and water and Jesus rebuked the demon and the boy was healed from that moment. 

    Safety means a lot to people.  We like the things on new cars today that help us drive safely. There has bene a lot in the news lately about creating safe place for people to go that need help with drugs.  People made bomb shelters back in the 60’s to protect them from nuclear blasts.  How safe is it for a stranger to come into a church?   Is one reason they do not come because they do not feel safe?  A couple looking for a church that has children want a safe place for their kids.  We build our homes to protect us from the elements and we put locks on them to keep robbers out.  Many parents have moved or paid to put their children in what they consider a safer environment for school. 

    Creating safety in a relationship is attitude and it is action.  In I Peter 3 we see some important commands that help to bring an open and loving relationships in life and in marriage.  Scripture speaks of inner beauty and reverence.  It speaks of that to women but applies to men also.  Scripture speaks of a gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth to God.  I suppose that some men may look at this and say well the passage points and is spoken to women.  It does not apply to me.  So, are you going to say that God does not want a quiet and gentle spirit in men?   I am reminded that Jesus said he was meek and lowly in heart.  The bible tells us that kindness makes a man attractive and it makes a woman attractive also.  That is one of the things that attracted me to Sally.    Even though these verses in Peter were spoken to the women they also relate to men.

     To the men the bible says be considerate as you live with your wife and treat her with respect.  That is also applies to all of your relationships.  I believe it applies to men and women.   I suppose women could look at that and say it does not apply to me.  In Ephesians 5 the bible tells the wife to respect her husband.  I think this applies in the business world.  It applies in the market place.  People that have an open heart to one another respect each other.  They trust each other.    Respect is important in relationships.  Consideration is important.   Think about your relationships with others.  There is effort involved.  It takes effort to consider and to think about others. 

    In verse 8 we read finally all of you live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  Live in harmony.   Some would say well he is difficult to live with.   You do not know how she acts.  We all have our stuff.  We learn to be more like Jesus when others try us.  We learn to love by being around other people and sometimes those people can be very difficult to be around.      Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult but with blessing because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  God sends the rain and sun on the just and the unjust.  Be good to those who are bad to you.  Be not overcome with evil but overcome evil with good.  The bible says all of you live in harmony.  That must apply to husbands and wives then.  All of you be sympathetic must apply to husbands and wives.   A husband is a you.   A wife is a you.  All of you be compassionate and humble must apply to husbands and wives.   Do you think I am misapplying the bible when I say that?  

   Well sometimes the last thing in the world I want to do is to bless.   Sometimes the last thing I want to do is to be humble and compassionate.  I am glad God is perfect in his love.  We need to keep our heart open.  Do not close off your heart to others.  If something bad comes your way send something good back especially in your family especially to your spouse.   How can you apply that today in your life to your spouse, your children, society, government to coworkers etc.?   Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.  Peter writes that our prayers can be hindered if we do not apply this to our life.  This is important to the Lord.  Sin hinders answers to prayer.  Broken relationships can hinder answers to prayer. 

  Greg Smalley tells the story about his daughter Maddy when they were getting ready for vacation.   He thought everyone was in the car but Maddy was in the house looking for her favorite beanie baby named Gracie.  Greg did not want her to take Gracie to Disney World in case she lost it and then they would need to get a replacement.   Maddy never went anywhere without Gracie so he finds Maddy in the house and tells her she needs to leave Gracie home.  She protests.  Greg tells her that Gracie her doll can watch the house while they are gone.  His daughter tells him Barry Wonderful can watch the house while they are gone. 

    Erin his wife tells him that that Barry Wonderful was the stuffed Saint Bernard dog that she had.  Then he said you need to leave Gracie home.  They were going back and forth about it and finally he gets stern about it go and put Gracie back.  She starts to cry and asks if Disney world was going to be fun.  He said yes but we have to go so we do not lose their flight.  Maddy slowly handed Gracie to him and said.   I love Gracie so much that I want you to take her to Disney world and I will stay home and watch the house.  Greg suddenly had thoughts about the Home Alone movie that came out.  I think by then he realized that he was in a losing situation.  His parenting skills were probably not the best in that situation.  It is good to know when to retreat and admit defeat. 

     You have to apply the word of God if you want to change.  Knowledge puffs up but love edifies.  A person can be very learned about the bible and yet be a baby Christian.   At a marriage seminar Greg Smalley ask 1000 couples to answer the question I feel love when you….   Here are some of the answers.  When you pray with me and for me.   When you love, and accept me unconditionally.   How many people do you love unconditionally?   When you accept my influence, and are teachable.  When you allow me to inner into your inner world.   When you seek to understand me before being understood.   When you validate my feelings.  When you reassure me of your love.  When you act curious about me and ask a lot of questions.

   When you spend time with me.  When you plan our future together.   When you serve me in ways that are meaningful to me.   When you have fun, and laugh with me.  When you take time to work through conflict.  When you comfort me when I am down.  When you correct me gently and tenderly.  When you compliment me often.  When you meet my sexual needs.   When you forgive when I offend you.  When you tell me how much you appreciate me.  When you lead our family in a spiritual relationship with God.  When you take time to notice what I have done for you.  When you treat me as if God had stamped the words handle with care on me for head.  All of that makes sense.  What does this passage say live in harmony with each other, be compassionate, be humble, be considerate and respect one another.   

Mother's Day

May 14, 2017Luke 7:11 – 17Mother’s Day

    I want to take a moment to thank mothers for all the work that you do.  If you are not a mother but help with children then this is for you also.  We thank you for being a doctor, nurse, healer (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), confidant, taxi driver, manager, chef, accountant, protector, house cleaner (25 an hour is the going rate), purchasing agent, coordinator, mediator, counselor, teacher,  parent, friend, prayer warrior, provider, spiritual guide and counselor, an encourager, a helper, a hard worker, comforter, a leader and so much more.  That is a lot of stuff and we need to be thankful for all your labor and recognize your contribution to society.  So I say God bless you today.  One bright spot in my house when I was young was my mom.  Mothers tend to be more compassionate then fathers.  Compassion is a good trait.   God is compassionate.

    For Christians I believe that being a mother is a calling from God.  It brings the highest joys and perhaps the lowest of times in your life.  Children know how to challenge us to love them and pay attention to them.  Being a mother is hard work and it lasts virtually all of your life.  It begins immediately when they are born and they want to eat every 2 hours.  Soon they go to school and when they drive and go out on their first dates.  Then it is college military or work and marriage and children.  Sometimes the child does not make the best decisions.  We get a picture of how God feels with us.   I think we get a picture or feeling of how much God loves us from being a parent.  We learn to trust God for the child and we grow in our prayer life. 

        I am going to share some stories today and then get into the passage of scripture.  Some of the stories are humorous and some not but they speak of parenting and moms.  James Dobson tells about a time he came home when his son, Ryan, was a small baby. It had been a terrible day for his wife. Ryan had been sick, & had cried all day. Once, as she was changing his diapers, the telephone rang & Shirley reached over to answer it before fastening up his diaper.  Just then Ryan had another attack of diarrhea.  She cleaned up that mess & put him in clean, sweet-smelling clothes. Then she took him into the living room & fed him. As she was burping him he threw up all over himself, & her, & the couch, too.   Dobson writes, “When I came home I could smell the aroma of motherhood everywhere.” Shirley cried out to him, “Was all of this in my contract?”  I know how Shellie puts it when she said I will be glad when I don’t have to wipe any bodies anything. 

     A person remembers very clearly the time he gave his two year old son, Steve, his very first responsibility. He told Steve to watch Susan, his baby sister, while he stepped out of the room.   He had only been gone a few moments when he heard a thump, & then Susan started crying.  He rushed back in to find that Susan had fallen from the couch & was stretched out on the floor. meanwhile, Steve sat there, looking so innocent.   He said "Steve, I told you to watch her." Steve answered, "I did." He watched her fall & he watched her cry.   He did exactly what he was told to do.    

    The true story is told - out of WW 2 & the holocaust that took the lives of millions of people - of Solomon Rosenberg & his family.  Solomon Rosenberg & his wife & their 2 sons & his mother & father were arrested & placed in a Nazi concentration camp. It was a labor camp, & the rules were simple. "As long as you can do your work, you are permitted to live. When you become too weak to do your work, then you are exterminated."  Rosenberg watched his mother & father marched off to their deaths, & he knew that next would be his youngest son, David, because David had always been a frail child.  Every evening Rosenberg came back into the barracks after his hours of labor & searched for the faces of his family. When he found them they would huddle together, embrace one another, & thank God for another day of life.

    One day Rosenberg came back & didn't see those familiar faces. He finally discovered his oldest son, Joshua, in a corner, huddled, weeping, & praying. He said, "Josh, tell me it's not true." Joshua turned & said, "It is true, poppa. Today David was not strong enough to do his work. So they came for him."  "But where is your mother?" asked Mr. Rosenberg. "Oh poppa," he said, "When they came for David, he was afraid & he cried.  Momma said, 'There is nothing to be afraid of, David,' & she took his hand & went with him."  That was a sad story but it speaks of how mothers die to the things they want for their children.  Motherhood is a sacrifice. 

    Moms certainly form their children.  You moms have a huge impact on your children.   Preacher G. Campbell Morgan had four sons and they all became ministers of the gospel.   At a family reunion, a friend asked one of the sons, "Which Morgan is the greatest preacher?" While that son looked at his father, he replied, Mother

     Ian MacLaren, that great preacher of the Word of God, once visited a home and found an old Scotch woman standing in her kitchen, weeping.    She wiped her eyes with the corner of her apron, and when the minister asked her what was the matter, she confessed, “I have done so little. I am so miserable and unhappy.” “Why?” asked MacLaren. “Because I have done so little for Jesus.  When I was just a wee girl, the Lord spoke to my heart, and I did want so much to live for Him.” “Well, haven’t you?” asked the minister. “Yes, I have lived for Him, but I have done so little.   I want to be of some use in His service.”  “What have you done?” “Nothing. I have washed dishes, cooked three meals a day, taken care of the children, mopped the floor, and mended the clothes.  That is all I have done all my life, and I wanted to do something for Jesus.” The preacher, sitting back in the armchair, looked at her and smiled. “Where are your boys?” he inquired.

    She had four sons and had named them after Bible personalities. “Oh, my boys? You know where Mark is. You ordained him yourself before he went to China. Why are you asking? He is there preaching for the Lord.” “Where is Luke?” questioned the minister. “Luke? He went out from your own church.   Didn’t you send him out?   I had a letter from him the other day.”  Then she became happy and excited as she continued. “A revival has broken out on the mission station, and he said they were having a wonderful time in the service of the Lord!”   “Where is Matthew?”   “He is with his brother in China. Isn’t it fine that the two boys can be working together?  I am so happy about that.   Timothy came to me the other night--he is my baby and is only nineteen, but he is a great boy.   He said, ‘Mother, I have been praying and, tonight in my room, the Lord spoke to my heart about going to help my brother in Africa!   But don’t you cry, Mother.   The Lord told me I was to stay here and look after you until you go home to glory.’  “The minister looked at her: “And you say your life has been wasted in mopping floors, darning socks, washing dishes, and doing the trivial tasks.   I’d like to have your mansion when we are called home!   It will be very near the throne. God answered this dear woman’s prayer but she just could not see it.  Often we cannot see how God uses us. 

     She was there for her children.  I suspect that we have a number of issues in this nation because of a lack of parents who are not there for their children.    I graded 3 graduating high school boys last Thursday at Coe Brown high school and one of them grew up with his dad and sister.  His mom was absent and gone and he just did enough to graduate.  There were no extras in his project and I commented to one of the panel members that dad did not push him and mom was not there for him.  I have been doing this for years and one of the students I thought about failing.    Two of them heard some admonition from the panel.  One of the students came in late.  Never had a late student before either.   Mothers have to be diligent in keeping their child on course.   

    I like this passage in Luke that I have never preached on before.  It may seem like a strange passage for Mother’s Day.   There are some neat things in this passage.   We see Jesus traveling to a town called Nain.  There is no indication that Jesus was asked to go to this town or that he knew anything about this funeral.   As he approaches the town gate a dead person is carried out of the town.  It was a child the only son of a widowed mother.   Jesus just shows up.  There are 2 very different crowds here.  In the crowd that followed Jesus there was joy and excitement.  The crowd coming out of town was a funeral procession.  In a sense those 2 crowds represent all of mankind.  One crowd is with Jesus and is going to a heavenly city and the other crowd represents those that are lost. 

  The crowd from the city was a widow mother with her only son who is dead and those that are mourning with her.  That is plenty of cause for sadness.  There is no dialogue between Jesus and anyone there that we know of.   This mother can do nothing for her son. All she can do is weep and pray.   He is dead.  Perhaps it is her only child.  It is her only son.  Here we see two sons meet.  God’s only son and this widow only son.  One is alive and destined to die the other is dead but destined to live Warren Wiersbe writes.  There are 2 sons that meet.  Each one is the only son.   Neither one of them has a brother.   There are 2 suffers who meet.  The man of sorrows meets this suffering mother.   Jesus responds with a heart of compassion.  He tells the mother not to cry and he goes to the coffin and tells the young man to get up. 

    There are times when you can’t do anything for your child.  There are times when Jesus comes that you and I may not even know anything about it.   You may not even know that your child is in danger.  Jesus just shows up and deals with the issue.  This woman could not do anything for her son and there are times we cannot do anything for our child but pray.  We pray and labor and ask God to intervene.  We ask God for a miracle.   This woman got a miracle.  Not everybody gets miracles but this woman does.   Her son was raised from the dead.  The young man sat up and spoke.  All of the people saw it and word of the miracle spread like a wild fire.  Jesus provided just what was needed when it was needed.   The mourning turns into dancing.  Some day we will be ushered into heaven and into unspeakable joy.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relationships

May 7, 2017Luke 15Relationships 

 

   As you look at this whole chapter together it is very interesting.  There is the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.  In each case, there is something that was connected and then disconnected.  In each parable when there was a reuniting it brought great joy.  Each thing was important.  The sheep was important and the coin was important and of course the lost son.  There was a connection to each item.  There was a relationship with each item and so there was great joy when each was back in the presence of the one to whom they were valuable.  I want to share about relationships today.  Relationships are very important. 

     We are reminded that in the beginning God said it is not good for man to dwell alone and so God created Eve for Adam.  God uses people today to build character in our life.  God uses marriage to help us learn how to love others.   God uses marriage today to help us learn to be servants.  God uses marriage and families today to help us not be so self-centered.   Some people may become more self-centered from having a family or marriage but that is not God’s intent.  Husbands and wives both need to learn submission, serving, understanding and compassion.

  There should be a connection of support and love.   Positive relationships are powerful.  Joy and strength are given and received.  The basis of those relationships is communication or fellowship.  We see the word fellowship used twice in the old testament and more in the New Testament.  In I John 1, the word is used 4 times in the KJ translation.  There is the fellowship of the spirit with the Father and with one another.  What is fellowship of or with the spirit?   In the church we use the word fellowship.   What is church fellowship?   I suppose that many people think it is a church gathering.   Many would say church fellowship is a church dinner.  Perhaps some think it is it is talking about the weather with someone at a church gathering.     Real biblical fellowship is the when the Holy spirit flows from one person to another.  That is when real life and power flows from one person to another.  That kind of fellowship or connectedness is what we need. 

    According to John Ortberg an academic journal called the Journal of Happiness publishes studies using tools of research to identify what makes human life flourish.  Researchers look at what distinguishes quite happy people from those who are less happy.  There is one factor that shows up consistently and it is not how much money you have or your security or IQ or career success.  The factor that makes people happy is the presence of deep joy producing life changing personal relationships.  We get an opposite picture of joy when two married people are not getting along or who are divorcing.  Spending meaningful time with people who care about us is critical element for people to flourish.  Meaningful relationships, being connected and fellowship are important for each person.

    Prisoners are punished with solitary confinement.  Just being around people does not provide many with meaningful relationships.  Joyce Meyers said she ministered to many pastors who are lonely.  Children in school may have a number of friends and may not get the support or feel the connection that they need.  Jesus had crowds around him but at times sought the fellowship with the father.  Social researcher Robert Putman writes the single most common finding from a half century of research concerning life satisfaction not only from the U.S. but around the world is that happiness is best predicted by the breadth and depth of one’s connections.  Again, that is not by knowing a lot of people.  People can be very draining.  People can take resources from you just ask a health care professional or a counselor. 

   God made us to be connected.  God said it is not good for man to be alone.  In Hebrews, we read do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.  There is a number of verses in the bible that says one another.  Love one another, stir up one another, consider one another and pray for one another.   Paul writes about the church being members of one another and we are brothers and sisters in Jesus.  Satan will do everything he can to attack that.  Satan will do everything he can to keep people out of church and out of fellowship and disconnected.  We all know people who should be in church but they choose not to be in fellowship.   They choose not to be connected and they hurt themselves and they hurt the church.  It is not wise to listen to the counsel of Satan. 

    When a fellow Christian who likes you comes up to you and says hi and smiles at you life is being transferred.  Two ladies get together to discuss a situation with a child or how to cook something life can be transferred between them.  Two men who care about each other talk about a problem at work and fellowship happens.  Two people pray and life happens.  When genuine caring takes place then souls are nourished. 

    A British scientist Donald Winnicott found that children who play in close proximity with their mother are more creative than children playing at a distance from her.  Winnicott found children are naturally inventive curious and more likely to take risks in what might be called the circle of connectedness.  When they are in that circle the show more energy and if they fall down they are more likely to get back up and they laugh more than children out side of that circle.  It is not because the mother is doing anything for them but she is present.   Love is present and it releases life into that child.  That child is stronger and bolder and more creative.  I suspect at times mom you think you are not making a difference but in reality you are making all the difference in the world.    As the child grows that circle gets bigger.  If that son or daughter is in the service and on the other side of the world that circle can be as strong as ever.  They can feel it. 

   Loving people give life.  For God so loved the world he gave his only son.  God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but that the world would be saved.  Love heals and love gives and love lifts us.  A person who experiences love should become better.   Husbands and wives and parents are you listening?   Husbands love your wife.  Older women teach the younger women to do what?   Teach them to love their husbands.  Loving people are successful.  They may not be rich but they are successful.  There is hope for all of us.  Loving people give.  They give life.  They are a blessing even as God blesses and he is a blessing. 

   John Ortberg writes that emotionally isolated people are more prone to depression, anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, substance abuse, sexual addiction and difficulties with eating and sleeping.  He writes the destructive aspects of isolation are powerful.  Even animals that are isolated experience more extensive arterial sclerosis than animals that are not isolated.   He said he had a friend who had a cat and a dog.  The dog and the cat fought for 10 years.  Then one year the cat died and the dog quit eating.   Day after day the dog would not eat until 6 weeks later the dog died.  There was a connection between that dog and cat.  I certainly do not suggest that you fight but connection is so important.  Most spousal fighting is destructive in my opinion.  Where would you be without family?  How important is your family and church family to you?   

    Do you have a couple of people you can connect with?   Do you have a couple of people you can trust?   Do you have a couple of people you are free to share with and you meet with consistently?   Do you have someone you can share your fears, joys, and temptations with?  Do you have a friend or two that watches out for you and may sneak over and wash your car or give you a present or meet with you in a time of need?   We need to be connected.  

     We need to be connected to the living God. Connect with the things that God wants you connected with.   Jesus said without me you can do nothing.  He is our source of joy. He is the living water.   He is the bread of life.  He sustains and gives joy in tough times.    Paul was in a Philippian jail and was worshipping God at midnight.  That is tough I agree but it has its rewards.  God provides.  There is joy when you are connected to God.  There is joy when you are submitted to God. 

    In Luke 15 we see that tax collectors and sinners were flocking around Jesus and the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were complaining and said this man welcomes sinners and he even eats with them.  That is pretty profound.  That was different and in their eyes terrible.  Jesus said as the owner of a lost sheep rejoices when the lost sheep is found so heaven rejoices when a sinner repents.  Heaven rejoices over repentance.  What a profound thought.  Heaven delights even rejoices when the lost are saved when the lost is found.  Heaven rejoices when man gets right.  Heaven is watching you and me.  Is heaven rejoicing over you today? 

    Then there is the woman with the lost coin.  This must be a very precious coin because she diligently seeks to find the coin.  She lights a lamp and sweeps the house until she finds it and when she finds it she calls her friends and tells them come over to my house and rejoice with me because I found the coin.  She had great joy.  Something that met a lot to her was lost and then she found it.  Jesus said in the same way the angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents.  Heaven is excited and rejoices when one comes to God.  The church should rejoice when a sinner comes to God.  The Christians should rejoice when a person gets right with God. 

    And Jesus shares the familiar story of the prodigal son who asks for his inheritance and he goes into a far land far from his father and his family and he wastes his life.   He lives like those in the world.  He wastes his money and his life.  He lives in riotous and selfish living.   To the father it is like that he is dead.   The son comes home and the father sees him afar off.     The father is watching.   This son is not sneaking up on the father.  The father’s heart is broken.   Things were not right in the circle of love.  The bond has been broken. Yes, he was still his son but outside of the connection.   The son is out of fellowship.  It is really tough on the father when the son is out of fellowship.   It is really tough on the son when they are out of fellowship.  It is tough on the church member when he is out of fellowship with the church.  The world can crush us if we are not doing the right thing.  The spirit is life and we walk in life when we walk in the spirit.  We reap what we sow.  The father does not bend his rules if we sin.  The father stays holy.  The father stays just.   

    I get the sense today that Christians think they can do just about anything and it is OK because God is a compassionate God and a God who is merciful.   He is compassionate and merciful but God hates sin.   God wants to be connected to his children.  Satan is the one who whispers in our ear it is OK to not read the bible to not pray to not minister to others.  It is OK to spend hours watching TV and movies.  It is OK to take the second look at that girl or go to this web site.  It is OK to not support your church or go to church.  I say you are listening to the devil.  Do you think you are going to win?  Good luck with that.  God wants to be connected to you.  God wants to be the leader in your life.  I think a lot of Christians are saying God does not correct and God does not punish his children.  That is not biblical. 

    We read in II Corinthians 6 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.   Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.   Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”    And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”     Think of a large wire with small wires in it. Each wire has a current in it.  For the machine to run properly all wires are needed.  Those little wires represent areas of your life that are not turned over to the Lord.   Lord this is mine and you can’t have it.  Think about the power you cut out of your life as you withhold from God.  I think the church today is trying to get up Mount Washington with a V8 engine and we are running on 2 or 2 & 1/2 cylinders.   God wants to be closely connected to his people.  He does not want any sin or hiding between him and his people. 

 

Temptation

April 23, 2017Luke 22:39 – 46Temptation

   On March 11, this year we talked about Jesus temptation at the beginning of his ministry when he was led or pushed out into the desert for 40 days and nights to fast.  Satan comes and attacks Jesus then and we see that Satan comes and attacks Jesus in this passage.  Jesus was tempted.  I suspect that Jesus was tempted a lot more than we see in the scripture but these 2 times are mentioned.  In Matthew we see that angels came to minister to Jesus after he was tempted.  In this passage, Luke tells us that an angel came to strengthen him.   It is very encouraging to think about angels being involved in our lives.  Jesus gained strength from an angel in the midst of this trial. 

   We should not think that we are above temptation in fact Peter tells us Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  Rejoice in your sufferings and rejoice in your temptations in fact in everything give thanks.  Jesus was perfect and he was tempted.    Jesus said a disciple is not above his master.  Jesus learned and grew from his difficulties and we will also grow the same way. 

   We are tempted and at times we want to do wrong.   Sometimes we desire to give up.  Sometimes we are tempted to take the easy path.   Maybe that is similar to a fish.  A fish has eyes a mouth and a stomach.  The fish likes his stomach filled.  Fishermen throw out that artificial lure and they try to make it wiggle in such a way that the fish cannot refuse.  My neighbor fly fishes and he told me one day that he lopped the fly over a weed and he let it drop down and then lifted it up and dropped it and lift it and that bass went for it.  I told him you drove that bass crazy.  The fish does not reflect on where it is going.  It sees something that it likes and away it goes. 

   Kent Edwards shares from South Hamilton Mass that for the first time in 47 years the tuna were running only 30 miles off Cape Cod.  They were not only running but they were biting.  All you needed to catch one is a good pole and a hook and an bait and a boat.  The rumor was that the Japanese would pay up to 50,000 for a good blue fin.  Many inexperienced fishermen ignored the Coast Guard warnings and headed out to sea.  What they did not realize that the problem was not catching the fish it was reeling the giant tuna in and getting it on board.  The Christi Anne a 19-foot boat capsized while doing battle with a tuna.  That same day a 27-foot boat named Basic Instinct suffered the same fate.  A 28-footer named Official Business was swamped after it hooked a 600 pound tuna.  The fishermen on these boats underestimated the power of these fish.  That is what temptation does to us.   It looks great on the surface.  Only after we get into it do we realize its strength.  And temptation can ruin a person.  To many folks try to do things that they are not trained for and it can be dangerous and not end well. 

    Brothers and sisters you will have something in your life.  Your life will be filled with something.   You will have a love an idol a desire and it will either be with the world or with God.  People are either caught up with the things of the world or God.  It can money, survival, sex, drugs or just doing work and then what I want for pleasure or it can be God.  Is your life filled with the world?  James tells us that if we love the world the love of the father is not in us.

     Do you want your children to love the bible and prayer or the world?  Do you want your children to love people and minister to them?  One or 2 hours a week of church and God will not do it for them.  You have to set the pace.  They need to see you doing it.   You have to live it and teach them to do that and then pray it into their life.  Kids that are filled with school stuff are not filled with church stuff.  Some would say well you are just a preacher and you really do not understand.   OK   Are we disciplined to pray?   Are we disciplined to be in the bible?  Do we like Christian music or the music of the world?   Parents you get one shot at raising your children.  Many parents live a life of regret because they said no to God and they lost their children.   

   John Ortberg in his book God is closer than you think writes about a little girl that show us how temptation works.  He writes a little girl discovered the secret to making mud one day which she called warm chocolate.   After her grandmother cleaned up the mess, she told little Larissa not to make any more chocolate.   The little girl soon resumed to making her chocolate saying sweetly Don’t look at me nana OK?  Nana being a little codependent agreed.  Larissa continued to work the mud but 3 times she said don’t look at me, nana OK? 

   Thus, the soul of the tender little child shows us how necessary it is to us that we be unobserved in our wrong, writes Dallas Willard professor in the school of Philosophy at the university of ‘southern California in Los Angeles and author of numerous resources on spiritual formation.  Any time we choose to do wrong or to withhold doing right we choose hiding as well.  It may be that out of all the prayers that are ever spoken the most common one the quietist one the one we least acknowledge making is simply this: don’t look at me God.  It was the first prayer spoken after the fall.   God came to walk in the garden to with the man and woman and called where are you?  I heard you in the garden and I was afraid Adam answered so I hid.  Don’t look at me God.  Many people are saying don’t look at me God.   Jesus said men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 

   We may think we are smarter than fish, but are we?  A successful politian is doing well in his or her career but they can’t stay away from sexual temptation and it ruins their career and their family.  A very intelligent professor wins every argument with students and other professors.  Everybody knows how smart they are and he tells them that he is smart.  People avoid him and he does not have any close friends.  A leader of a large company is very successful and the company is making lots of money but the people around him feel used and he does not have any idea how people feel about him.   He is in his own little world.  So many people see something they like and they just go after it.   They are not asking if it is good for them.   They don’t ask if they will be pleased with their life when they get old and pass on.  They do not think about all the things they will regret later and they do not think about God.  They give into their temptation. 

   Larissa gave into the temptation and then she was wrong for not obeying her grandmother.  Satan likes to temp us and tell us how our life would be so much better if we gave into the temptation.  Sometimes Christians yield to temptation and then we sin.  Have you given in to temptation lately?    As soon as we sin Satan then turns it around and tells us how terrible we are.  Satan is pretty shrewd.    What kind of a Christian would do that he puts in our mind?   Satan will whisper do not expect God to use your life.   God cannot use a person that does the things that you do.

   Jesus tells his disciples in verse 40 pray that you do not fall into temptation.  Jesus told us several times to pray that we would not fall into temptation.   In the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples Jesus tells them to pray keep us from evil or keep us from the evil one.   We need that ring of protection around us.    As we grow in the Lord we learn that we have no power in our flesh to fight sin and temptation.  We are completely broken.  Paul writes in my flesh dwells no good thing.  The only resources I really have to fight sin is in Jesus.   We are a needy people.   We need water air and food.  We have all kinds of desires and wants.  I believe a key to winning against temptation is to understand that our victory is in Jesus.  Jesus tells his disciples pray that you do not enter into temptation.  Make it a point of prayer.  If we think we stand we can fall.   Pride comes before a fall.  We are dependent upon God.  Jesus as the God man was dependent upon God.  Jesus was praying in the garden.  He went to the father.  I think Jesus went to the father all the time. 

    Marriage is a wonderful blessing.   God said it was not good for man to dwell alone.   Ladies your husband will not totally fill your life.  Children are a blessing form God but they will not totally fill your life.  Husbands and fathers your family will not totally fill your life.  Your job will not totally fill your life.  God is the one that fills our life.  If your life is not totally full rejoice.  As we turn to God we find life.   Sin and the world will not fill your life.   Yielding to temptation will not fill your life.  Lots of money, women and wisdom did not fill Solomon’s life.  Only God can really fill your life.   Only God can really bring meaning to your life.  Yes he blesses us and fills us with things in the world but those things were never meant to be the center of our life.  God is to be the center.   We tend to make those things our god.  That does not work.  We ae made for God.       

        God entrusts us with temptation.   Temptation is common to man.  God knows what you can handle.    Jesus endured a lot and God entrusted him with a lot.  Did God do that to hurt Jesus?   No of course not.   The cross was no doubt the biggest battle that Jesus faced.  I think far beyond the physical pain was the pain of sin that he suffered.   How can God sin or have sin put on him?   God is holy and God hates sin.  In Hebrews 1 God is speaking about Jesus and we read You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.  Jesus is holy and was always holy except on the cross.  It is hard to think about Jesus having sin put on him. It is hard to think about him not being holy.  I bet Jesus fought sin being put on him.    You may feel that God has entrusted you with a lot. 

   Jesus has gone before us.   We do have victory in him.   We do have spiritual armor.   Whatever temptation you face it is common to man and God will use it for His glory if we walk with Him.    I want to encourage you to walk close to the Lord.   It is dangerous not to have the spiritual armor on especially in these days.   It is far more dangerous to not walk with Jesus than to walk with him.   Draw near to Jesus.   He is the only one who will give you a wall of righteousness to protect you.   We need his presence.  We need Jesus to surround us.   Remember that greater is he that is in us then he that is in the world.   Jesus defeated Satan.    

    Temptation is not meant to make us sin.    It is meant to make it possible for us not to sin.   If we stay in prayer and in the bible it will help us not to be tempted so much.  Jesus fought temptation by praying and that is what he told his disciples to do to defeat temptation.  If we dabble with sin we will tempted more.   Challenging times are not meant to make us bad it is meant to make us good.     It is not meant to weaken us – it is meant to make us stronger, more mature and pure.    Temptation is not a penalty – temptation is a privilege of the person undergoing the trial – knowing that they are being strengthened for use by God.     Our reaction to trials and testing, our understanding of their purpose and their necessary place in life, where, when and how they will occur will help us to understand how God uses them in our lives for the glory of His Kingdom.  

    The beatitudes in the sermon on the mount are interesting.  Jesus told the crowds blessed are the poor in spirit.  Blessed are those that mourn.   Blessed are the meek.   Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Blessed are the merciful.  Blessed are the pure in heart.  Blessed are the peacemakers.  Blessed are those that are persecuted.  Some of those thoughts we may not like.  But does that remind you of a Christian that you know?   Does that remind you of yourself?   Jesus is saying there are blessings for those that are broken.  There is a blessedness in not being on the top.  There is a blessedness for every day ole me.   There are God given blessings for the masses of people.   I am a broken person and yet I have life and blessing when I walk in the spirit of the God.  Blessed are you when you are tempted if you turn to Jesus and walk with Him.    

Resurrection

April 16, 2017   Matthew 28: 1 -10Resurrection 

 

   Jesus is dead in chapter 27 and it is time to get his body.  The Roman soldiers knew he was dead.  The Romans came to break the legs of those on the cross so that they could not breathe because the next day was the sabbath.  Jesus was already dead.  The Romans could tell when a person died.   His enemies knew he was dead and that was the end of him they thought.   Just before chapter 28 we see where Joseph a rich man from Arimathea comes to Pilate and asks for the body of Jesus.  Pilate gives him the body of Jesus and Joseph takes Jesus body and wraps him in clean linen cloth and places it in his new tomb that had been cut out of rock.  Normally those crucified were left outside of the city to witness that to break the Roman law was dealt with tough punishment. 

    A person commenting on this proposed that someone said Joseph why did you take the body of that man and put him in your lovely tomb.  It is such a beautiful tomb and it is worth so much money and Joseph answered well it is a short term use.    I don’t need it this week end.  Most likely Joseph did not believe that Jesus would raise from the dead and even the disciples had their doubts about Jesus rising from the dead.   It is believed that often they would put the name of person and what they did on the outside of the tomb.  I could believe the rich would do that. 

  If you were going to write something on the outside of Jesus tomb what would you write?  The Man from heaven; The Mighty God the Healer of mankind; The Messiah. The Healer of all nations The Mighty One. The Living, Breathing Word of God; The Great I Am; The Door, the bread of life.   The Holy One of God; The Deliver Emmanuel, God with us; The First and the Last.  The Fullness of the Godhead; The Fore Runner The Alpha and the Omega.  The Son of Man; The Heir of all things.   The way the truth and the life.  Would you write here lies the great I Am?  The everlasting Father.  The savior of mankind.  Even though Jesus is all of those things and a lot more none of them make any sense on Jesus tomb.  Brothers and sisters Jesus did not stay very long in that tomb.  That tomb cannot hold God.      

    David wrote about 1000 years before this that because you will not abandon me to the grave nor will you let your holy one see decay. Jesus was certainly the only holy one.    Jesus is the only one who has died and not returned to the dust of the ground.  Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection.  Nicodemus also comes with 75 pounds of spices to wrap the body in.  It is obvious that Nicodemus did not believe that Jesus would rise from the grave.  It would seem that no one expected Jesus to rise from the dead. 

    Then we see in the last part of chapter 27 where the Pharisees are concerned that Jesus disciples will steal his body and then claim falsely that Jesus rose from the dead.  They want Jesus to stay in the tomb.  Many people want Jesus and believe that Jesus is in the tomb.   The leaders go to Pilate and Pilate tells them to go and make the grave site as secure as they can.   So if you were going to make the tomb secure what would you do?    I suppose one thing you would think of is to get the best soldiers you can find.   I would want several soldiers and would post something with legal authority on it.  So they put a Roman seal on it and post a guard.   Go and make it as secure as you can.  Good luck with that.  A stone, a seal, and some soldiers are no hindrance for God. 

     In chapter 28 the women go to the tomb Matthew says to look at the tomb.  The women come to the tomb with questions.   Who is going to roll the stone away for us.  What is going to happen?  The disciples and the women are in shock that Jesus was crucified.   The women come with great sadness.  John records that Mary talks to the angels in the tomb and tells them that they have taken her Lord away and she did not know where his body was taken.   The women come to the tomb with fear.  The soldiers are stationed there.  The women come at dawn early in the morning.  God goes before the women.  God’s angel comes.  The guards shake like dead men and the angle rolls the stone away. 

   The women probably did not sleep very well.  Perhaps they thought might as well go and visit the tomb.   Mark tells us that they bring spices to anoint the body of Jesus.  The day before was the sabbath and to carry spices to a tomb on the sabbath would be considered work so they go on Sunday.  They go to see a dead friend.   They go to see a man who did miracles and touched people.  They are going with an expectation to anoint the dead body of Jesus.  Matthew just said they went to look at the tomb.  For most folks this is a normal work day.  It is time to work in the fields or the business and for the ladies to cook, clean, take care of the kids, and do the laundry the never ending wash.  I can assure you that it was anything but normal in the spirit world. Jesus defeats Satan again and Jesus takes the keys to death and hades.   The price has been paid for man’s sin.  We can accept that forgiveness and life. 

   What did that stone represent?  Well for the tomb it was a seal.  Inside of the tomb it was dark.  I suppose it would somewhat keep the smell of the decaying body in the tomb.  It would keep the rain and the wind out.  The fresh air and the sun light would be outside.  It would keep the animals out.  That stone would mean that there was a dead body inside.  It was a wall, a barrier from the living. 

   Sometimes in our lives we have a barrier or a stone that seems immoveable.   Mark writes that the women wondered how they would move the stone.  Matthew tells us that Joseph rolled the stone in front of the grave.  I suspect that Joseph did not carry the body of Jesus but because he was rich that he had servants to carry Jesus body and wrap his body and the servants rolled the stone in front of the tomb.  Many believe that the stone weighed several hundred pounds.

    I suppose we could consider that stone could represent something in our life today.   It could; symbolize any kind of obstruction or barrier to what we want.  It could mean or symbolize bondage, restriction, addictions, and lack of freedom.  It could represent darkness and certainly loneliness.  There are things in our life that only God can deal with and move.  These women knew that they did not have the resources to move that stone but they move ahead anyway.  They want to be a blessing.  They want to anoint Jesus body.  They want to do the right thing.  Who is going to move the stone?   Stones are not a barrier for God.  Nothing in your life is a barrier for God. 

    Certainly, the stone that represents death has been rolled away by Jesus.  That which kept us from God has been removed.  I just read recently where one person said that 2 horses attached to the veil in the temple that separated man from God in the holies of holy could not pull that veil apart.  At the point of Jesus death that veil was ripped in 2 from the top to the bottom. One author said that the Jews recorded all kinds of strange things happening in the temple after Jesus was crucified.   Hebrews tells us that we have access to God the father.  God’s desire to is to be with his people.  God has made a way where there seemed to be no way. 

    I suspect most of us have from one time or another felt like we were in unknown territory.   We have wondered what the answer was for us.  We have struggled and questioned.  Perhaps some of us are facing some dark thing right now. There is a stone or obstacle in front of us a hindrance of some kind.  The bible tells us to cast all our care upon God because God cares for us.  I know God can remove problems and barriers as we walk with him.   I would say look up and rejoice in the Lord. 

  Joyce Hollyday tells the story of a school teacher who was assigned to visit children in a large city hospital who received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child. The teacher took the boy’s name and room number, and was told by the teacher on the other end of the line, "We’re studying nouns and adverbs in this class now. I’d be grateful if you could help him with his homework, so he doesn’t fall behind the others."  It wasn’t until the visiting teacher got outside the boy’s room that she realized that it was located in the hospital’s burn unit.   No one had prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain.    The teacher felt that she couldn’t just turn around and walk out. And so she stammered awkwardly, "I’m the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs." This boy was in so much in pain that he barely responded.

   The young teacher stumbled through his English lesson, ashamed at putting him through such a senseless exercise.  The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked her, "What did you do to that boy?"   Before the teacher could finish her outburst of apologies, the nurse interrupted her.   “You don’t understand.  We’ve been very worried about him.   But ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed.  He’s fighting back; he’s responding to treatment.   It’s as if he has decided to live."    The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw the teacher.  It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears, the boy said: "They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a boy, who was dying, would they?" 

     God can use the difficult things in our life for His glory.  Heaven notices a cup of water given in the name of Jesus.  How is God using your life today?  How can God use your needs for his glory?  What is God saying to you through the difficult things that you face?  Have we ask the Lord tot remove the stone or barrier that is in our way?     

    Around the year 1930, a Communist leader named Nikolai Bukharin journeyed from Moscow to Kiev, Ukraine. His mission was to address a huge assembly with the aim of advancing communism.   His subject for the evening was atheism.   For a solid hour he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity, hurling arguments and ridiculing the Christian faith.    At last he was finished and viewed what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men’s faith. “Are there any questions?” Bukharin demanded.   A solitary man arose and asked permission to speak.   He mounted the platform and moved close to the Communist leader.  The audience was breathlessly silent as the man surveyed them first to the right, then to the left.   At last he shouted the ancient Orthodox greeting, “CHRIST IS RISEN!”    The vast assembly arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of an avalanche, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”  It is awesome when men stand up and speak the truth.