Meek and Inheritance

April 22, 2018  Matthew 5:1 -12  The Meek 

 

   Did Jesus give this sermon to the crowds or to his disciples?  Would it make a difference on how interpret what Jesus tells us?   Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.   His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  At the end of chapter 7 we read when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.  Jesus is teaching his disciples and the crowds.   Certainly, these words from God are for you and me.

   What do you think about the word meek?  I suspect that no one has ever told you that if you want to be successful in life be meek.  Make meekness your goal and then you will do OK.    Typical synonyms for the word meek include – docile, mild, tame, soft, passive and even spineless.  Maybe that is how many people understand meek. 

   A professional football team was preparing for the annual draft. As the coaches talked about possible picks the head coach was asked, “What kind of player are we looking for?  Do we want the guy that gets knocked downs and gets back up, the guy that gets knocked down at gets up and gets knocked down again and stays down, or the guy that gets knocked down and gets up every time?”   The head coach responded, “we don’t want any of those guys; we want the guy that’s knocking everybody else down.”   From school to sports to business today many believe that the strong rule the weak and look out for number one, and the one with the most toys when they die wins.  That is pretty poor philosophy to live by in my mind. 

    That is not the meaning here.   That is not what Jesus had in mind.  Being meek is not those things.  Jesus was meek.  Jesus is God.  God is meek.  We do not think of God in those terms.  In Matthew 11 Jesus said come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.   Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.    For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  The King James translation says meek and lowly in heart.  Jesus is meek, lowly, humble and gentle.  He is also judge.  Jesus is inviting us to be yoked up with him.  Walk in his power.  A meek person is a submitted person.  A meek person is not a trouble maker or unruly.   A meek person is not haughty or proud.  A meek person is not cocky, vain, or pushy.   

   Are you a meek person?  How would you define a meek person?  I think that humble, gentle, and lowly are good words that define that.   A meek person is very strong person because they are in control of their emotions.   They do not fly off at the handle.   It is opposite of the critical and negative things that we read and see in the world today.   How do we get that way?   How can a person grow in meekness?   A person cannot feed on trash and negativity all the time and be meek and humble and lowly.   Galatians 5 tells us 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.   The King James uses the word meekness instead of gentleness.  Meekness is like a gentle wind that comes in off the ocean or like a gentle breeze that comes off a freshly cut hay field.  It is like a horse that has been broken.  An unbroken wild horse wants nothing to do with a rider.  The broken horse is strong but the animal is under control.  There is strength in meekness.  It is like an ox with a yoke on it.  It is strong and can work.  Meekness is power under control. 

   The truly meek person has walked with the Lord.  The wild horse has to be broken.  As human beings we have to be broken also in a sense so that God can use us.  Paul had to be broken.  He was a self-righteous arrogant zealous and legalist Pharisee.  He was into persecuting Christians.  He had to be broken.   God can change people.   The meek person submits their power to God.  The godly Christian submits his or her will to the Lord.  It is a process and sometimes it can be difficult.  The word of God and the spirit of God are the bit and bridle that holds and steers the person.   For the Christian we do not have to fight for our self.  We pray and we trust God.   We do not have to claw and fight.  It does not mean that we are lazy.   We work hard but we trust God to go before us and we wait on the Lord.  We walk in the flow of the Holy Spirit.  The meek person is interested in others.  They have time for others.  Life is not all about them. 

    Story: Two wives were washing clothes at a laundry mat.   Both were mending their husband’s pants.   As they were sowing, the one lady said, "My husband is so discouraged and cold.  Nothing seems to go right for him.   Everyone at work picks on him and he’s not appreciated by anyone.   We cry a lot because our home is so sad, even our kids are brats.   What’s worse, when we go to church the music is dead, and the pastor is an idiot!”   The other lady said, "My husband is so excited. He can’t wait to go to church.   He loves the sermons. We go visit people all the time.   And we laugh in our home.   We can’t wait to see what God is going to do next."   It got very quiet in the laundry mat as the women continued sewing on their husband’s pants.  Seems one was patching the seat of the pants and the other was mending the knees.  It may not always be easy for the Christian but Life flows and God gives answers. 

    I just wonder again how the people in Jesus day responded to Jesus teaching in this passage.  These people were controlled by Rome.  They were down trodden.   I do not think that life was easy for them.  It seems that Jesus is telling them that there it is good to be these things.  This passage does not seem to be the way of the world but I find it refreshing.  I find it encouraging.   I think they found his teaching encouraging also.   We can identify with Jesus teaching.  We can identify with mourning.  We can identify with meek.  We can identify with being poor is spirit.  At least at times we can.   

   Jesus tells us that there are blessings for those that experience these things.  There are blessing for those that are poor in spirit.    There are blessings for those who mourn.   There are blessings for those that are meek.   What does blessed mean?   It means supremely blessed, fortunate, well off, blessed, happy or happier.  Implied in the word blessed is that the person has an inner satisfaction that is deeper than outward circumstances.  It certainly does not mean that everything is perfect and easy.  Life is a struggle.    I want to ask you a couple of questions.   Do Christians struggle more than non-Christians?   Do Christians suffer more than non-Christians?  I think sometimes we struggle more.  Why do people drift from the lord and from church today?  Probably one reason is because it is not always easy.  It is far better to walk with God.  There is a peace and flow to your life.  God blesses those that walk with him.  That blessing is for eternity. 

   Jesus said blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.  When we hear the word inheritance we think of the death.   When a person dies then their belongings are usually passed on to the surviving family.   I heard of a man who was sitting on a curb crying. When he was asked what was wrong, he said, “I just found out that Rockefeller, the richest man in the world has died.” The person then asked, “Why are you crying? You’re not a relative of his, are you?” To which the man replied, “No! That’s why I’m crying!”   Worldly inheritance is really sought after.   I have been around when a person was dying and the family was talking about and fussing over the furniture of the person.

     Families have been torn apart over inheritance.  Christians have a great inheritance but it seems many Christians do not even think about it nor are we going the extra mile to prepare for it.   Christians that walk close to the Lord have an inheritance that far surpasses anything on earth.  We should be excited about that.  Do we think about our inheritance our spiritual inheritance?  Are you excited about it?  Usually when I hear about inheritance it is worldly and not spiritual.   In Luke 12 a person in the crowd spoke up and ask Jesus to tell their brother to share the inheritance with them.  Jesus said be careful about greed.  The greed of this world.  But Jesus was very clear about laying up treasures in heaven.  Jesus encouraged that.  He said make that your goal. 

    There are some great promises for the Christian about inheritance.  I Corinthians 6 tells us the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God.  In spite of what a lot of people think not everybody is going to do well after we leave this world.  Jesus tells us here that the meek will inherit the earth.  It is the meek person who inherits the earth.   Would you want to inherit the earth the way it is right now?   I Peter 1 says Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.   This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.  Revelation 21 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.   Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

    “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.   All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.    He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 

      For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?   When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?   When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’   “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    I want you to understand today that you have a wonderful inheritance in heaven if you love God and if you are laboring and sacrificing for Jesus.  Eye has not seen and ear has not heard the wonderful things that God has prepared for those that love him.  God loves to bless.  God is extravagant.  Heaven will be far greater than we can comprehend.  I hope you are excited about heaven today.   I hope you are excited about Jesus coming again.  The meek will inherit the earth.  Paul said as having nothing and yet possessing everything.   Think about your spiritual inheritance.    Meditate on your heavenly inheritance.  I suggest you put it on your calendar every day this week.  Be thankful for it.  Praise God for your inheritance.  Praise the Lord because he is looking out for you. 

  

Mourn

April 15, 2018  Matthew 5:1 – 12  Mourn 

 

   Last week we looked at being poor in spirit.  Jesus was not talking about being poor in terms of material things.  I think Jesus was saying that the person who knows they need God in their life and trust God can experience the kingdom of heaven.  It reminds me of Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  All of heavens resources are available to the Christian but we need to tap into them.  The poor in spirit realize that they need to tap into those resources and God then gives those resources.

   Then Jesus tells this crowd blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.  These people were poor and Rome ruled in their country.  They had all the challenges of life of raising children and making a living and paying the bills so to speak and this man tells them if you are mourning you are blessed.  So, as I looked at this I wondered what is the meaning of the Greek word that is used in this passage?  What kind of mourning is Jesus talking about?   The word mourn or mourned does have different meanings in the Greek.  The same word pentheo is used 7 times in the New Testament and it means to grieve, to wail to mourn.  Jesus is talking about deep grief when he said this. 

    Jesus uses the word again in Matthew 9 when the John disciples asked Jesus why the Pharisees and John’s disciples fasted but Jesus disciples did not fast.  Jesus said the guests of the bride groom do not mourn when they are with him.   It is way out of character to be mourning or wailing at a wedding especially if you are friends of the groom.   Marriage is a time to rejoice and not be fasting and mourning and sad.   The same word is also used for those that mourned Jesus death in Mark 16.  You can imagine the pain and even shock that Jesus mother was in and the disciples and others that knew Jesus and loved Jesus because he was crucified and he died.  James uses the same word in James chapter 4.    Submit yourselves, then, to God.   Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.    Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.   Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.    Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.   The Holy Spirit is telling us to take our sin seriously. 

   I get the sense from this passage that Jesus is talking about deep mourning.  This is heartfelt mourning.  Jesus said here blessed or happy are those who mourn.  He said they would be comforted.   Jesus did not say what kind of mourning.  Blessed are those that mourn.  Does that include all kinds of mourning?   I do not think so.  What about I killed this person and I am glad I did but I am mourning that I got caught?   That is not most likely what Jesus means in this passage.  Perhaps many in prison who feel that way.  

   Paul gives a good illustration of this in II Corinthians 7 where we read.   Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.   For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.    Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.    See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.   At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.   Godly mourning and godly sorrow are good.  Paul said worldly sorrow brings death. 

    It is interesting what Jesus promises in this verse.  You shall receive comfort.  Jesus said those that mourn will be comforted.    I was thinking about the issue today with the number of people who take their own life.  They I would say have no sense of any comfort or any future hope.  At one point in my life when I was young I felt trapped and you can entertain suicide thoughts.  Jesus said blessed are those that mourn. Really?   What a paradox.  This verse makes a lot of sense to me when I consider the other things in the same passage.  Jesus is talking about a godly person in the beatitudes.  It is the person who wants to walk with God.  Jesus had just said blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  The following verse says blessed are the meek.  It is kind of opposite of the way we think today. 

    One way to consider this verse today is to mention righteous Lot soul that was grieved over the sin that he saw.  Paul’s spirit was deeply troubled in Athens because of all the gods that they worshipped.  Acts 17 Paul was deeply distressed.   Christians are called upon to weep and mourn and pray for the lost and for our nation today. 

     Perhaps some of the deepest grief that we have is that when a loved one passes away or a loved one experiences a terrible event such as an accident or a bad doctor’s report.    In I Thessalonians 4 Paul writes Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.  Christians may grieve and mourn but also there is a joy and hope for those who die that know Jesus.  We are not without hope.  Christians can take comfort in the promises of the bible. 

    How does our society handle grief today?   Is it OK to mourn?  Bill Hybels shares.  When his dog dies, Johnny, five, bursts out crying.   His dog has been his constant companion; it slept at the foot of his bed. Now the dog is gone, and little Johnny is a basket case.    Johnny’s dad stammers a bit and says, “Uh, don’t feel bad, Johnny, we’ll get you a new dog.”     It is lesson one in society’s grief management program: Bury your feelings; replace your losses.   Once you have the new dog, you won’t think about the old one anymore.    Years later, Johnny falls in love with a high school freshman girl.   The world has never looked brighter until she dumps him.    Suddenly a curtain covers the sun. Johnny’s heart is broken with big-time hurt. 

     He is a wreck.    But Mom comes to the rescue, saying, “Don’t feel bad, John, there are other fish in the sea.”    Lesson two: Bury the pain, replace the loss.    Much later, John’s grandfather dies — the one he fished with every summer and felt close to.   A note is slipped to him in math class.    He reads the note and breaks into sobs.   The teacher sends him to the school office.  John’s father picks him up from school.    His mother is weeping in the living room, and John wants to hug her.    But his dad says, “Don’t disturb her, John; she needs to be alone.    She’ll be all right in a little while.    Then the two of you can talk.”    Lesson three: Grieve alone.    Let’s review. Bury your feelings; replace your losses; grieve alone; let time heal; live with regret; never trust again.   That has been society’s approach for years.  — Bill Hybels, “A Better Kind of Grieving,” Preaching Today Audio, no. 108      Jews grieved for Moses 30 days.    Some people can grieve.  

    That is kind of interesting isn’t it?   How do you handle grief?  In what kind of an environment were you raised in?  I remember when my brother died I just went to the garden to work.  I wanted to work.  Perhaps that was just trying to bury it.   I am certainly not here to judge anyone on how to mourn or grieve.  I think all of us are different. 

   A seasoned Christian counselor was asked about it and she said.  “I tell them to feel their feelings,” she said.   “But I also urge people to reduce radically the pace of their lives    I urge them to review their loss, talk about it openly, think about it thoroughly, write about it reflectively, and pray through it.”    She continued, “It’s my experience that people want to run from their pain.   They want to replace pain with another feeling as soon as they can.   To recover from pain, you have to face it.    You must stand in it and process it before it will dissipate.   That’s God’s way.”

   She said I didn’t grieve well when my father died; I replaced pain real fast.   I think I missed only four days of work.    And I just replaced the feeling of loss and disappointment with a frenzied ministry schedule.   In short, I ran from grief.   That was a bad move for me and for people around me.    I wonder how many of us do that.   Is anybody running from pain today?   Are you trading in your pain prematurely for some other feeling?   That’s not God’s way.  — Bill Hybels, “A Better Kind of Grieving,” Preaching Today Audio, no. 108

     It is probably natural for us to run from pain.  It is not good to just continually to bury things in our life.  How do we process pain?  How do we process grief?   What happens when you sweep too much dirt under the rug?   After awhile you trip on it especially as you get older.  It is not good to bury too much stuff in your life.   It will come out.  The Psalms are really good.  We see some real honesty in the Psalmist walk with the Lord.  It is OK to cry out to God.  He knows your heart anyway.   Jesus did not tell us to bury our feelings.   Jesus said blessed are those who mourn.  I trust that makes more sense to us today.  Jesus promised comfort.  I think it is good to mourn before the Lord.  We can mourn and pray and fast for the things around us.    As a community of believers how do we help others process mourning or grieving?  Sometimes we do not do a very good job of that as Christians. 

       Bob Greene shares this which is a good example.     When during an already painful juncture in my life my wife died, I was so numb that I felt dead myself.  In the hours after her death, as our children and I tried to figure out what to do next, how to get from hour to hour, the phone must have been ringing, but I have no recollection of it.   The next morning — one of those mornings when you awaken, blink to start the day, and then, a dispiriting second later, realize anew what has just happened and feel the boulder press you against the earth with such weight that you fear you will never be able to get up — the phone rang, and it was Jack.   I didn’t want to hear any voice — even his voice.   I just wanted to cover myself with darkness.   I knew he would be asking if there was anything he could do.   But I should have known that he’d already done it.   

    “I’m in Chicago,” he said. “I took the first flight this morning.  “I know you probably don’t want to see anyone,” he went on.    “That’s all right.   I’ve checked into a hotel, and I’ll just sit here in case you need me to do anything.   I can do whatever you want, or I can do nothing.”   He meant it.   He knew the best thing he could do was to be present in the same town — to tell me he was there.  And he did just sit there — I assume he watched TV or did some work, but he waited until I gathered the strength to say I needed him.   He helped me with things no man ever wants to need help with; mostly he sat with me and knew I did not require conversation, did not welcome chatter, did not need anything beyond the knowledge he was there.   He brought food for my children, and by sharing my silence, he got me through those days.  — Bob Greene,  And You Know You Should Be Glad (Morrow, 2006) 

    David Goetz shares       Recently I experienced, for the first time, a profound sense of biblical community. For the past seven years, my wife and I have participated in a small group, which included five couples. This past year our group celebrated a couple’s first child.  We also cheered when two other women in the group announced their pregnancies, and then we prayed fervently for safe deliveries and healthy babies.  In October, the woman who was due first became concerned when her due date came and went. She said the baby seemed to be moving less. That was Saturday. On Tuesday there was no heartbeat. On Wednesday morning she gave birth to Ian Patrick Lincoln, whom we never got to know.  The umbilical cord was wrapped twice around his neck.  My wife and I — and several others from our small group — were at the hospital when Ian was born.   We huddled together, sobbing, staring down at our shoes. We attempted to pray. Then we all went to the delivery room to see Ian and his mom.  The week dragged by. After the funeral we collapsed from exhaustion.   In grieving with the parents and the other members of my small group, I learned an old truth: much of our spiritual development happens only through suffering. But in this life suffering is not evenly meted out.   I had gone twelve years without deep mourning.   Now community forced me into relationship with a small circle of people who had become closer than family. I was forced to suffer loss — vicariously but still real.  Community is not just a place for the suffering to find comfort but for the comfortable to find suffering. Together we join Christ in his suffering, and as a result, as 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “We can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”   — Dave Goetz, “Community for the Comfortable,”   ChurchLeadersOnline.com  (November 17, 1999)

Poor in Spirit

April 8, 2018  Matthew 5: 1 -16  Poor in Spirit 

 

       Most of us have experienced what happens to motorists when one of those huge graders goes to work on a highway repair job.   When the machine is operating on a busy road, traffic is halted and the cars lined up in opposite directions are allowed to proceed alternately.    A veteran operator of one of those big machines decided one day to try to relieve the tension that inevitably results from such a traffic backup.     Consequently, on both the front and rear of his grader a sign now appears, declaring, "The Road to Happiness is Almost Always under Construction."   That fits well with this passage.   Beatitudes is a word derived from Latin meaning to be in a state of happiness or bliss.  I suppose that as we look at the words of Jesus here we could think that the path is under construction.  

       Chapter 5 ushers this great sermon of blessing.  In many ways it is a change from the old because this is the first picture of Jesus teaching.    Mount Sinai stands as a giant of the Old Testament.   That is where the law was given to Moses and to God’s people.   The people were afraid of God.  Remember that the Jews would not even speak the name of God.  That law was given with thunders and lightening with warnings of judgment and cursing.  We see in the New Testament Mount Zion with grace, forgiveness and salvation offered.  Jesus came not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.   In this sermon that Jesus gives to us we see that man does not have or possess a self-righteousness that can pass God’s scrutiny and God’s perfect righteousness.  In this passage we see that people can be blessed when they follow God even though life may be difficult. 

     There are 4 major discourses that Jesus taught and Matthew records 3 of them.   There is the Sermon on the Mount and the parables discourse in chapter 13 and the Olivet discourse in chapter 24 and 25 which looks to the end times.  Many comments and slants have been made about the Sermon on the Mount. You could say that it is the pinnacle of Jesus teaching.   One commentator said it is Jesus manifesto which means it is a public declaration of intention.   Some may consider it as the gospel.  Some say it is God’s plan of salvation and in order to get to heaven the rules must be followed because Jesus says in it that your righteousness must exceed the Pharisees.     When Paul talks about the gospel in I Corinthians 15:3 and 4 he does not say it is the Sermon on the Mount but he said that Christ died was buried and that Jesus rose again.

    Does Jesus expect you to live his teachings in this passage?  Certainly goals.    Jesus tells us in this sermon that we are to be salt and light and that our righteousness needs to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.  Jesus goes a little deeper in our relationships.  Jesus talks about inward qualities.   The law was very external.   Jesus talks about looking on a woman lustfully.   Jesus talks about hating your brother.   Jesus said go the second mile and bless your enemies and do good to those that do not like you.    Jesus tells us to give, forgive, too fast and pray and said do not judge others.  The Old Testament law dealt with outward behavior.  Jesus speaks to what is happening inside of us our heart and our thoughts.  Jesus tells us to totally build our lives on him.   Jesus certainly makes it plain that our walk with God is more than just what we do outwardly.   God is interested with what is going on inside of us.   He is interested in the heart and our thoughts.  

    The thoughts that Jesus gave to us in verse 3 to 12 are conditional.  If you do this then this happens.   Jesus tells us that it is possible for us to be happy.   Blessed means happy, fortunate, and blissful.   Do you believe that if a person lives up to what Jesus teaches in this sermon and be happy?   Some would say that it is impossible.   You would have to admit that it seems to be a paradox.   These are called be attitudes be attitudes.  It is how Christians are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be.  Be sure that is your attitude.  Be like this.  Be this attitude.   Be this kind of person.  Have this attitude. 

    The first one is blessed are the poor in spirit.  The amplified bible says blessed, happy to be envied and spiritually prosperous that is with life joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation regardless of their outward condition.   You get a sense of contentment with those that are poor in spirit. 

    A lot of folks consider that they are blessed or happy when everything is going their way.   A lot people today tend to regard happiness in that light. “When everything’s going my way, I will be happy.” But life is like being on a treadmill. We can run all our life but we’ll never reach the point where everything’s going our way all the time. There is no possibility in this life of everything going our way. However, the good thing is you don’t need to have everything going your way to be happy.   For the majority of people, Christian and non-Christian alike, the popular idea of finding happiness is based on having the right circumstances. - Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day; I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way.

     For many people blessed or happiness is when and then thinking."  "When I get a good job, then I’ll be happy." "When I find the right mate, then I’ll be happy." "When I have kids, then I’ll be happy." "When the kids leave home, then I’ll be happy."  When I get some grand-kids then I will be happy.   When the grand-kids go home then I will be happy.  When I make a certain amount of money or close this deal or finish this project then I will be happy.   When I can drive for a young person or for some when I can leave home.    We think outward circumstances bring contentment and happiness.  But Jesus Christ tells us the exact opposite is true.  He insists that happiness doesn’t come from without but from within.  It is found in a right relationship with God.  We need to develop right attitudes.    

     Jesus is certainly not saying here to have an attitude of being poor.  Jesus is not talking about poverty of Spirit.  It is not being destitute of material things and it is not about de valuing yourself.  It is not I cannot serve.   It is not I God has not blessed me at all.   We are rich in Jesus.   It is not saying woe is me and I am a terrible person.  He not saying to run yourself down all the time.   Every person has value because each person is valuable to God.   It is not thinking in lowly terms.  It is not well so and so or myself is never going to amount to much or have much. 

     I remember when we were looking to move this church from Manchester a person commented to me well here is a piece of property you could build on.  Well it was a small piece of property, maybe a quarter of an acer, and really not enough room to build a building and park 10 vehicles.  No place for children to play.  There was no positive growth thinking in that comment.  It is the kind of thinking that says I am going to work really hard at this project but I do not expect to get anything out of it.  Jesus is not talking about that poverty mentality that many people have.  The attitude I am stuck in this rut and I will never get out of it.  The attitude well I am just getting by but barely and tomorrow will be the same. 

   There can be a spirit of poverty.   I am never going to get ahead.  I cannot do that because.  When I was on the farm and young I suggested to my father that we buy a business a bull dozer.  Dad said people do not pay you and that was the end of that.  Some people have such a spirit of poverty that they talk them self out of trying anything.   I can’t go to college.  I could never do that job.  I can’t apply at that place.  As Christians we need to put our eyes and our focus on Jesus.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Now yes, I know that there some things that God has not gifted me in and you have things that God has not gifted you in. 

   But we can do whatever God calls us to do.  God likes to bless.  I believe God likes to bless business because God likes to bless people.  God starts the bible with blessing.   In Genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them be fruitful and increase in number.  In Revelation 22 there will be no longer any curse and Jesus tells us of all the blessings of heaven.   Jesus did not say blessed are the poor spirited.   He is not saying blessed are those who put them self-down.  It is not blessed are those who mourn over what they do not have. 

    Jesus tells his disciples and the crowd blessed are the poor in Spirit.   What do you think the crowds thought of that?   How do we normally look at the word poor?   What does the word poor mean here?   It does not mean to shrink to cower to cringe.   Perhaps it is like the widow who put in 2 copper pennies.  She trusted God.   It is not about how much money you have.   A person can be rich and be poor in spirit.    The poor in spirit see their total dependence upon God.   Jesus commented on the church of Laodicea and said you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.  They saw themselves as rich but spiritually they were not.   Our tendency is to think we are pretty good and cool guys and gals but are we clothed in Jesus presence?

    I think we get a good picture of what Jesus had in mind in Luke 18: 9 – 14.   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.” 

    The poor in spirit are those who are humble.  They are the ones that are looking to God.  They realize their dependence upon God.  They look to God to lead them.   They listen and obey God and the spirit of God flows through them.  After the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector Jesus said let the little children come upon to me for the kingdom of God belongs to them.  We think of a trusting child.  A child who trusts their loving parents.  The Kingdom of heaven belongs to them. 

   Jesus puts this beatitude first because it all starts with humility.   This is beatitude of humility and Jesus said for those that are poor in spirit theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  It is like God’s heart is wide open to those people.  God blesses those people.  How do you know if you attain that state?  One person said we will be weaned from our self.  It is about Jesus and not about us.  It means you are not stuck on yourself anymore. 

    The poor in spirit will be able to see other people strengths and virtues and see others as more important than us.  If you come to the Lord with a broken heart God will meet you.  Isaiah was purified when he cried woe is me.    Verse 11 and 12 Jesus says to rejoice and be glad.   I think Jesus could say rejoice and be glad if you are poor in spirit.   Rejoice and be glad if you are mourning for the right reasons.  It is time to give thanks.   The Lord would say to us rejoice and be glad in Jesus.  

   The poor in spirit person is not weak.  They are strong.  They may not know or understand everything going on around them but they trust the Lord.  They know that God will provide for them everything they need to do what needs to be done.  They trust God who knows everything.  What does this person that is poor in spirit get from the Lord?  Jesus said theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  How would you like to have the kingdom of heaven? 

   I think there is another kind of poor spirit that is not good.  There is a spiritual poverty of spirit.   My mother in law.  Emancipated.   I would say that is a picture of the Christian who does not walk with the Lord.  They are not spending time in God’s word, in worship, and in prayer.    If you are not poor in spirit then according to this verse the kingdom of heaven is not yours.    There is a spiritual poverty.  Too many Christians are starving their soul.   They are not being fed spiritually.  Blessed are those that know Jesus.   Blessed are those who have received Jesus in their heart.   Blessed are those who look to Jesus.  Blessed are those who know they do not have all the answers.  Blessed are those who trust the Lord.   Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.         

Resurrection

April 1, 2018   I Corinthians 15:1 – 8  Jesus Resurrection   

 

    It is tough to have a court case without a star witness.  In the O.J. Simson trial there was not a star witness.  No one came up and said I saw him or her whoever it was do it.  Were you ever a witness to some major event or an accident?   Did you ever have to testify?  It is kind of important to have key witnesses.  It can make aa the difference in the world.  In our court system today we don’t always have a person as a star witness but we rely on forensic evidence.  It can be a gun or finger prints or a variety of things.  Witnesses help us find the truth.  Evidence helps us find the truth. 

    There are many witnesses and evidence regarding who Jesus is.    We see several witnesses in the case of Jesus.  One of the key witnesses of course is God.  When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist the dove descended from heaven.  God told John the man that you see the spirit of God come down from heaven and remain on him is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.  John said I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.  People wanted to know who is this man? 

    In Matthew 17 Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain and Jesus is transfigured before them.  Jesus changes, and becomes glorious.  Jesus shines and turns into a heavenly being.  A cloud surrounds the men and voice comes out of the cloud this is my beloved son.  How did the disciples respond to that?   Well they were terrified by the presence the cloud of God.  Jesus came and touched them.  Jesus touched them physically.  They needed to be revived.  In other words it was real.  The event was not something that you would forget about.    God the Father testified of Jesus and Peter James and John are eye witnesses.   Moses who represented the Law and Elijah represented the prophets appear with Jesus and then they are gone.   It was such a beautiful event that God the Father shows up.   

.  The Law and the Prophets have served their turn and pass away.    He, who is the fulfillment of both, alone remains.   You can just hear Elijah saying, “Lord, you are the fulfillment of all the prophecies.  You can picture Moses saying Jesus you fulfill the all the law.   Moses had the children of Israel prepare the Passover lamb.     In Corinthians we read that Christ is our Passover lamb.  Moses instructed that none of the lamb’s bones were to be broken.   None of Jesus bones were broken.    Micah said 700 years before it happened that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem and Jesus was.    If Jesus was not born in Bethlehem he would not be the Messiah.  All of the prophecy concerning Jesus had to be fulfilled.   Isaiah said the Messiah would be born of a virgin, and Jesus was.  If Jesus was not born of a virgin he could not be the Messiah.      

     The angels announce and testify of Jesus at his birth to Mary, to Joseph and to the shepherds.   The angels are witnesses.   It was prophesied that Jesus would come from the tribe of Judah and he did.   Isaiah said Jesus would be rejected by his own people, and Jesus was.    Isaiah said that Jesus would stand silent before his accusers and he was silent.   Isaiah wrote that He would give his back to those who would beat him and his cheeks to those who would pluck out his beard.    His face was not hidden from those who mocked him and spit on him.  Isaiah said there would be a person that would go before him.  A voice of one crying in the wilderness and John the Baptist came.  

     In Hosea written 740 years before Jesus that God tells Hosea out of Egypt I have called my son.  Joseph took his family and Jesus to Egypt for a season to protect him from Herod.  If Jesus never went to Egypt he could not be the promised Messiah.  All prophecy had to be fulfilled.  Zechariah said Jerusalem rejoice because your king comes before you lowly on a donkey.  Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey.   We celebrate that on Palm Sunday.  Zechariah said Jesus would be sold for 30 pieces of silver and he was. 

   Psalms was written about 1,000 years before Jesus came and the psalmist prophesied about Jesus.  The psalmist said Jesus would come speaking in parables, and Jesus did.   In Psalm 22 David said his hands and his feet would be pierced and they were.  In Psalms we see the cry of Jesus my God my God why have you forsaken me and also prophesied that Jesus would be scorned.  The people at the cross said he saved others but cannot save himself and that was prophesied in Psalms.  Psalms also said that his clothes would be divided and that all would desert him.  Jesus outer garment was one piece therefore the soldiers decided to gamble for it.   It was written also in Psalms that his body would not decay therefore he was raised from the dead in 3 days.  Psalms tells us that a close friend would betray him and turn away from him and Judas did.  Psalms talk about him ascending on high and taking many captives.  In Psalms we read that they put gall in my food and vinegar for my thirst.  This certainly is not an exhaustive list.     

    The bible in Galatians tells us that Jesus came in the fullness of time.  Many times, we wonder why it took so long.   Why didn’t God send Jesus sooner?   Why didn’t Jesus come during Solomon or David’s rule?   Why didn’t Jesus come before Israel was taken captive and removed from their land?  I am sure we do not have all the answers but we clearly see that God laid down a foot print in the Old Testament that makes it clear that this person was God’s son.  God made it clear to any that would seek to know who Jesus was.  God wanted every t crossed and every i with a dot.  God showed over and over again the things that would tell you that Jesus was the Messiah.  It is very clear that God sent Jesus to die for our sins.   It is very clear that Jesus is the Messiah.  You might say it is plain as day for those that seek and really want to know. 

    Jesus was not just a great man.   Jesus was not just a great teacher.  Jesus is God.  God told us through his prophets hundreds of years before Jesus came things and events that people could look for.  The evidence is plain.   The evidence is clear.  The bible is true.  God did not try to hide his son.  God did not limit Jesus power on earth.  Jesus did miracles and walked on water. All of those things testify of who Jesus was and is.  God is true and God keeps his word.  For those that want to know who Jesus is God has clearly spoken.   God has clearly revealed the truth.  There are many more prophesies and pictures in the Old Testament that point to Jesus.  The apostles were martyred.  They gave up their life because they believed and knew that Jesus was the Messiah and that Jesus was God.  They could have saved their life if they recanted and denied Jesus but they didn’t. 

   These men spoke clearly that they were witnesses.  They said that Jesus walked on the water, that Jesus raised the dead, that Jesus stilled the storms, that Jesus healed countless people.  They said that Jesus cast out demons and the demons even said that Jesus was God the son of God.  The demons were also witnesses of Jesus.  Those that want to know who Jesus is can find the truth.  God has clearly spoken.  Paul said if anyone tells you about another gospel, another way to God than what we have told you let him be accursed.  There are a lot of people saying today that there are many ways to get to heaven.  Jesus said no one can get to God or get to heaven apart from him.  Jesus is the only road to heaven.  Jesus is the only way to be forgiven to have your sins removed in God’s sight.  

    Jesus came to take away our sin.   Jesus came to reconcile man to God.   Jesus came to show us and tell us about the Father.  Jesus is the one who has performed miracles.  Jesus himself was raised from the dead.  The disciples saw him after he died on the cross.  Jesus revealed himself after the cross.  Paul tells us in this passage that Jesus appeared to the disciples and to 500 people after he was crucified and put in the grave for 3 days.  Paul was very clear about who Jesus was. There was no guessing that Jesus was the Messiah.  There was no doubt in his mind.  The was no doubt in the disciple’s mind who Jesus was    They said he was God and that there is no other way to heaven but Jesus.  Paul said there is no other name by which man can be saved.  The disciples did not say we wish or we think Jesus is God the Messiah.   They said Jesus is the one that God promised.  They staked their whole life on Jesus.  Jesus is the way to heaven.  Jesus was raised from the dead.  Jesus took the sting of sin. 

    A little boy and his father were driving down a country road on a beautiful spring afternoon. Suddenly out of nowhere a bumblebee flew in the car window.  Since the little boy was deathly allergic to bee stings, be became petrified.  But the father quickly reached out, grabbed the bee, squeezed it in his hand, and then released it.  But as soon as he let it go, the young son became frantic once again as it buzzed by the little boy.   His father saw his pain-stricken face.  Once again, the father reached out his hand, but this time he pointed to his hand.   There still stuck in his skin was the stinger of the bee. “Do you see this?” he said. “You don’t need to be afraid anymore.  I’ve taken the sting for you.”  And this is the message of Easter. We don’t need to be afraid of death anymore.  Christ faced death for us. And by His victory, we are saved from sin.  Christ has taken the sting!  First Corinthians 15:22 asks: “Where, oh death, is your sting?” Christ has taken the stinger for us. He has risen!  Fear is gone.  New life is ours.

     In closing in I Corinthians we read.  I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.   Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.   For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.    For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.   When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  “Where, O death, is your victory?   Where, O death, is your sting?”   The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.   But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 

 

     

 

Money and Possessions

February 25, 2018  Matthew 6:19 – 34   Money and Possessions   

 

     Howard Dayton said in a leadership magazine issue that 1 out of 10 verses in the gospels speak on the subject of money.   Jesus taught on money a lot.   He says the bible offers 500 verses on prayer and less than 500 verses on faith but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.   He also states that 16 of the 38 parables are concerned with how to handle money and possessions.   Another source said 2/3 of the parables deal with that topic.   It is very important and it needs to be preached on.  Money is important and Jesus spoke about it. 

     People tend to love money.   I do not hate money.   Money has its place.   I Timothy tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil.  The bible tells us not to love the world so I would trust we do not love money.  Christians are to love Jesus.   Many Americans are not good at saving.  I think many say they do not make enough. I worked in payroll for years and I remember one man who came into my office in January with a pay check question.  At the end of the previous year he capped on his Medicare deduction and in January it started again.  He wanted to know why his check had dropped.  I explained it to him and he said how does this company expect me to live on this salary.  This happened about 20 years ago and he was making over 80K a year then.  I am sure he could live on less. 

    Many Americans live from check to check without thinking about what are we going to do when things get tighter.  We need to be cautious on how we spend our money.   It is a good idea to have a few bucks in your house folks.  Could you live a week or 2 without use of credit cards or your bank account?   I can warn people and I suppose some do not like that.   It is your friend who tells you your house is on fire.  Proverbs 22:3 says a prudent man sees the danger and takes refuge but the simple keep going and suffer for it.  A prudent or wise man sees something and considers it.   He ponders it and thinks about it.  Then he makes some tough decisions and changes how he is living.    It is not wise to live on the edge.    

     Jesus in this passage tells us to store up treasures in heaven.   Jesus said store up treasure in heaven.   How are you doing with that?  Do you think about that or do you just live for now.?   Jesus tells you that for your good.   God looks out for us and is interested in your best good.   Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.  Do you think it is a good idea for parents to start training their children to lay up treasure in heaven?   Would a wise parent do that?       

    Then Jesus tells us that where your treasure is there is where your heart will be also.   For many Americans their heart is in the bank or in their stuff.     One poll said Americans claimed that the biggest problem in America is financial bondage.   What exactly is financial bondage?   As we look in the Bible, it becomes obvious that excessive debt led to bondage.

     In America people are experiencing mental and physical aspects of financial bondage.   I think it was Crown Financial ministries that put the following list together of symptoms of financial bondage.   Overdue Bills: - Investment Worries: - . A Get-Rich-Quick Attitude: Prosperity foolishness. -  No Gainful Employment: - Deceitfulness: - Greediness: - Covetousness: - Family Needs Unmet: - Unmet Christian Needs: - Over commitment to Work:-  Money Entanglements:  - Financial Unfairness: - Lack of Commitment to God’s Work -  Financial superiority: -.and Financial resentment.   It is too bad that in the richest nation in the world we see ourselves in financial bondage.  Some of us may be in financial bondage.   That is not God’s plan for you.  Some folks are on a strict budget, while others if they have it they spend it.    Burns a hole in your pocket. 

    One Wall Street executive shares that his Wall Street bonus was 3.6 million, and he says I was angry because I felt it was not enough. I was 30 year old, had no children to raise, no debt to pay, no generosity plan in place. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic wants another drink- I was addicted. He goes on to say it was staggering that in few years, he went from being thrilled at his first bonus of 40,000, to disappointed by his second of 1.5 million. If you have a heart to give you will give.  Millions of people would say every one of us is rich.  Millions of people live on less than 3.00 a day.  It has been said if want to give you will give if you don’t making a lot more money will not change you. 

        We’ve all heard the expression “Money Talks.”   What is it saying to you?   Have you ever listened to what it says?   What does money say to you?    The fool said I will tear down my barns and build bigger barns and God said no you will not.   As someone has said, “Money is a wonderful servant, but a lousy master.”   You can be a slave to money.   You can be in bondage to money.   Money can pull your right down into the grave.   Money is a lousy master.   You see, according to Jesus, money is a spiritual issue.  

     I read about an old Jack Benny skit.     An armed robber approaches Benny and demands, “Your money or your life!”    Benny hesitates and says nothing.  Finally, the robber says, “Well, what will it be?”    To which Benny replies, “Don’t rush me, I’m thinking about it!”    Your money is really your life in a way.  When we work we lay down our life to earn a living but Jesus teaches us in this passage that there is more to life than the things of this world. 

      The topic of money is both personal and theological and it certainly has spiritual implications to it so Jesus taught on money.   We can get hung up on money.   There are many responses to money.   Some people take a vow of poverty.         Some have a poverty theology which is a view teaches that we should look down on and not want possessions or money.    Some who hold this position would say that it’s wrong to have excess money and things.  God, I believe calls some to have a vow of poverty.   Some people have a great deal of difficulty of handling money wisely.  

    Some have a prosperity theology.    Some people believe that prosperity is the reward of the righteous.  Prosperity can be the result of hard work, intelligence, risk taking and probably other variables.  For some this is like the health and wealth gospel.   This cause and effect relationship implies that if God is happy with you, He will bless you financially. God allows the unrighteous to be rich also. 

   We see in the book of Haggai where God was not pleased with his people and he stopped their physical blessings.  If He’s not pleased with you, God can stop the financial blessings you get.   Contrary to what some think money does not always bring happiness.  It is not sinful to be rich. There are many rich Christians who handle their money well.   Some Christians have given 90% of their income because God blessed them and allowed them to make money.    Money is not the root of all evil it is the love of money that is the root of all evil I Timothy 6.   There is room in the body of Christ for Christians who can give abundantly. 

       A proper attitude and theology is to view our possessions as a trust given by God that we are responsible to manage.     Everything belongs to God and we are to serve as stewards of all that we have whether we are blessed with a lot or with a little.   That includes money, possessions, our time and talent.  Jesus realizes that most people struggle with managing money—that’s why Jesus devoted much of His teaching to this critical area of life.  He dealt with money matters because money matters.    The first life-skill that Jesus wants us to develop is to stop living just for this world.   

     Don’t just store on earth – store in heaven.  We’re to stop doing something that by nature many have been doing.   Jesus knows that our natural, inborn desire is to accumulate things on earth.    If you try to store your wealth here, the moths can find it, or rust can consume it.  If you try to hide it for yourself, thieves can steal it.    Jesus is saying that earthly wealth is very insecure.  For one thing we will all leave this world.    It either decays over time, or it disappears altogether.  Earthly treasures are fleeting and futile but heavenly treasures are secure.    1 Peter 1:4: “And into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.”    Treasures that we send on ahead are mothproof, rustproof, and burglarproof.    Verse 20: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”   These are wise words of our Lord.  

    It seems to me that there is often a bondage to money.   We can become slaves to it and Jesus said where your money is there will be your heart also.   God wants your heart.   A verse in Proverbs says my son give me your heart.   Where is your heart today?   The borrower is servant to the lender.   Those that love money become slaves to make more money.   If a person’s total life is wrapped up in their possessions and money they are in bondage.   If our love and concern is in the bank only, we are to be pitied. 

       Where is your treasure?”    The issue is not whether we will store up wealth.   That’s a given.  We have all collected stuff.   The only question is where we will do our banking.  Since earthly treasures are unstable and insecure, Jesus challenges us to make long-term investments that are permanent and guaranteed.    Deposits made in the First National Bank of Heaven will not decay or disappear.  They are protected.  They are protected forever.   To put it plainly, Jesus is saying that your heart follows your money.    Money can keep your heart tied to the physical the temporal possessions.     Verse 24 you cannot serve both money and God Jesus said.  

        To be a committed Christ-follower is not merely a matter of the emotions but also of our minds and wills.   To love God requires service and even sacrifice.   This type of allegiance cannot be rendered to two parties.      There is tension that many Christians experience when we try to love both God and the world or money.    Sooner or later our real loyalty is seen.    Only one master will win out.   Money is not just a neutral medium of exchange, but is a “power” with a life of its own which seeks to control, and even consume us.    Shortly after his death, someone asked John D. Rockefeller Junior’s chief financial advisor, “He was one of the richest men in the world, how much did he leave?”  To which the advisor answered, “everything!”   What we give to God is a solid investment.   It is an eternal investment.     Christians belong to Jesus and we are to be bound to Jesus and not to money.   Jesus wants us to experience peace and freedom and his blessing.    When we walk close to Jesus our money and possessions do not own us.  We are set free from that bondage. 

    When asked, “what is an idol?”, John Piper replied, “Well, it is the thing. It is the thing loved or the person loved more than God, wanted more than God, desired more than God, treasured more than God, enjoyed more than God. It could be a girlfriend. It could be good grades. It could be the approval of other people. It could be success in business. It could be sexual stimulation. It could be a hobby or a musical group that you are following or a sport or your immaculate yard. I was looking for some yard stuff the other day and I clicked on a video ad for a yard service and three people came on and all of them made the point that this yard service enabled them to brag that they had the best yard in the neighborhood. I thought: What a motivation? I want to be number one in green grass. So that could be an idol. Or your own looks could be an idol. It could be anything.” – What is Idolatry, John Piper 

     Money is not evil.   Money is not the enemy here.  It is the love of money.  What does Jesus say in this passage here?   No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.  That is interesting isn’t it?   What do you think of when you think of a servant?  Does slavery come to mind?  Do people serve money?   Are rich people servants to money?  Poor people can be servants to money also.  No one has to be a servant to money.  Yes, we work and yes, we make a living. 

    Are some Christians servants to money?   How many people are serving money that you know.  Of course, they believe that money is serving them but there can be a slavery to money.  Money becomes their life.  It can be their passion.  So how much money is enough?   Can people go home at the end of a work day and rest or for some they are still thinking about making money.  It becomes their life.  Jesus teaches us that there is more to life than money.  

Transfiguration

February 18, 2018  Matthew 17:1 – 13  Transfiguration 

 

   We see this story of the transfiguration in the synoptic gospels.  The synoptic gospels, are Matthew, Mark and Luke.  I believe this was recorded for us in the bible for several reasons.   As I read this and think about this I have a desire to experience Jesus in a deeper way.  I have read and heard how different men and women have had experiences with God.  I believe that most of us want a deeper walk with God.   Would you desire to see Jesus in his glorified state?  When John saw Jesus in Revelation 1 he fell at Jesus feet as though dead.  I would like a mountain top experience with God.  I want a changed life.  I want to be more like Jesus.  So, I hope perhaps this is one way that the passage speaks to us today.

    As I looked at that it seems that this event happened in the later part of Jesus ministry.  The gospel writers did not necessarily seek to put everything in sequence.     Mark puts this event after the feeding of the multitudes of 4,000 and 5,000.   Both Mark and Matthew put this event pretty close to Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Luke puts a lot of Jesus teaching between the 2 events.  Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus.  Moses the law giver and Elijah a major prophet.   The law came by Moses but grace and truth from Jesus.  I find it interesting that these 2 men are there. 

    Luke tells us that they were talking with Jesus about his departure which he was about to bring to fulfillment in Jerusalem.  This event happened towards the end of Jesus ministry.  I think in some way Jesus is being ministered to in this event.  Jesus certainly set his face like a flint to go to Jerusalem.  Jesus appearance was changed.  Jesus was transfigured.   He was not transfigured into something that he was not.   The reality is that he was transfigured to what he was before he came to earth.  This is and was the real Jesus.  Yes, Jesus took on him the form of man but that was just for a short period of time.  The real Jesus is glorified God.  He is deity and he is glorious.  He is stunning and his glory is blinding.  I suspect that they did not see Jesus in all of his glory.  Remember that God told Moses no flesh can see me and live.  Moses just saw some of God’s back but not his face. 

    It is interesting that only the 3 inner disciples were allowed to see this. Why not all 12?   We do not know.  This is a great event.  We talk about staging a home to sell it.   This was quite an event.  What God does is so much greater than what man can do.   This was a huge experience for Peter, James and John.    Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain to pray.  How would you like to have a prayer meeting and see the glory of Jesus? 

    Only the inner three disciples were invited and certainly not the crowds.   Jesus was ever alert to God’s timing for the cross and he did not need a bunch of people telling about this event.    It was reserved for the inner circle.   People long to be in the inner circle and to be involved with everything that is happening but the inner circle is reserved for those that God determines to be there.  There is a price to pay to be in the inner circle.  Not everybody can be on the inside.  The other disciples get caught up with trying to cast a demon out of an epileptic boy.   They could not do it.  This starts out as another day in the disciple’s life.  They are with Jesus 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

    In the morning as far as they know this is just another day.   They got tired of ministry.  They entreat Jesus at one point to send the crowds away.   From time to time they would try to shoe people away.   So, it is day after day of walking.   It is day after day of work.   It is day after day of Jesus healing and teaching.   It is day after day of people, people and more people all of them with needs.  And then bang.   God breaks into their life.   Bang, they see the glory of God.   They see the glory of Jesus.  They experience the voice of God.  The day ends for them very differently than it starts.   This impacts them profoundly.  They will never be the same after that.  This event changes their lives. 

    Peter writes about this experience in II Peter that he and two other disciples had when they witnessed the event. He said, “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.   He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”   We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

   Mountains have a role to play in the revelation of God.  There were a number of experiences on mountains in the bible.     Moses on Mount Sinai; Elijah on Mount Carmel; the ‘still small voice’ on Mount Horeb; the Sermon on the Mount; the Mount of Olives; and when Jesus died on Calvary.   Peter writes that Jesus received honor and glory on the mount of Transfiguration.  The Father was encouraging Jesus.  Jesus was getting a pat on the back from God.

    We really do not know everything that happened.  I wonder why Abraham was not there.  Jesus told the Jewish leaders that your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."  Abraham had a glimpse about Jesus Christ.    It would be interesting to know what Moses and Elijah understood at that point.  Did these men encourage Jesus?   What part did they have in this?   Jesus may have been given special strength from God.   Sometimes we need some encouragement.  We can stand that. 

     John wrote about Jesus and I think he had the transfiguration in mind when he wrote twice.  He wrote in I John 1. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.    The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.    We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete.    In total joy he wrote about Jesus.   In chapter 1 of the gospel of John he writes.  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  He writes we have seen his glory.    

  A man was arraigned for murder in Los Angeles about 60 years ago. It was a difficult case with a lot of circumstantial evidence.  The man’s defense lawyer, however, thought of an ingenious ploy.  In his summing up speech, he said:

“Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, you must find my client not guilty of murder - if there is the slightest doubt in your minds that he is not the murderer.”   And now I have one final witness. “The true murderer is about to walk through the door.”  All eyes swung towards the door but no one came in.       The lawyer continued: “You see, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is doubt in your minds, otherwise you would not have looked towards the door.”

    The jury retired to deliberate and came back five hours later with a “Guilty” verdict.  The lawyer was beside himself and before the judge could pass sentence he sprang up and said, “But I proved that you had a doubt about my client’s guilt.   How can you possibly find him guilty?”  An old wrinkled man in the jury stood up and said: “As everyone looked towards the door, I watched your client.   His eyes did not turn towards the door.   He did not look towards the door because he knew no one was coming through; because he himself was the guilty one.”   Peter, James and John knew what they saw.  They testified to it and they gave their life for Jesus.  They were martyred for Jesus.  They knew there is a heaven and there is a Creator God.  They gave their life for that.  They lived the rest of their life testifying of Jesus.

   The transfiguration is also a statement and a picture of what the Christian will be like some day.  We will be like him for we will se Jesus as he is.  What a glorious thought to be like Jesus.  What a glorious thought to be with that kind of glory coming from within us.  There is power, beauty and joy.   We cannot comprehend it.  Christians will be blessed.  The bible tells us that man cannot begin to comprehend the things that God has for those that love him and serve him.  Heaven is far beyond what we can imagine.  

    The disciples saw Jesus as he really was. They saw the glory and the beauty of Jesus.  They saw his majesty.   They got a picture of the glory of heaven.  I think it was a beautiful sight. I suspect the beauty was such that the things of the world seemed pretty dim compared to Jesus for them.   Perhaps they never saw a mountain or a river again with the same enthusiasm that they had before.   Paul was lifted to the 3rd heaven and heard things that man could not speak.   It really touched these men.  God’s desire has been to reveal himself and they saw Jesus like they had never seen him before.  John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”   God’s desire to reveal himself to you and I. 

    Peter said let’s build 3 shelters.  We will build one for you Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah.  While Peter is speaking God kind of upstages Peter.   They find themselves in a bright cloud.  And a voice from the cloud says this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.   Listen to him. 

     God the Father said listen to Him.   Listen to Jesus.    And the relevance of all this for us was summed in three simple words “Listen to him”.   God admonition or words to the disciples were listen to Jesus.  That is the important thing.   Peter you don’t need to be talking you need to listen.   It is so hard for us to listen sometimes.    It is interesting that when God the Father spoke, He simply said “This is my Son, and I am fully pleased with Him listen to him”.   God simply says listen to Jesus.  We dig into His word and listen to Jesus.   Who is Jesus?     God the Father tells us that Jesus is His Son.  

     Jesus is revealed here as God the Son.  And the relevance to us today?   God the Father’s final three words were: “Listen to Jesus” and when God the Father had finished speaking Elijah and Moses were gone. Jesus remained.  Jesus far superior to the law giver Moses and far superior than the prophets.   This speaks to the primacy of Jesus.   It is interesting that God the Father did not say Listen to Jesus and Moses and Elijah.  He just simply said “Listen to Jesus.”   Do not listen to the world.   Do not listen to the flesh.   Do not listen to the devil.  Listen to Jesus.  

     Moses and Elijah leave and God the father leaves and the disciples see Jesus only.  Jesus only and to see Jesus should be the cry of our heart.   The mountain top experience is wonderful but God has work for them to do in the valley.   God wants a demon possessed boy to be set free.   We will be on a perpetual mountain top experience in Heaven but not here on earth.  Every one of us has work to do and what we do here will impact what we have for all eternity there.   Listen to Jesus and seek Jesus.   If you search for him with all your heart he can be found.  

   Is Jesus the cry of your heart today?    In John chapter 12 there were some Greeks who came to Jerusalem to worship at the feast and apparently, they had heard about Jesus and they came to Philip with a request and their request was we want to see Jesus.    We want to see Jesus.   That is the cry of the Christian’s heart.    We have heard and seen some things that Jesus has done.    We have seen answered prayer and we have seen changed lives.     We want to see Jesus who is the way the truth and the life.   We want to see Jesus who is the avenue by which our prayers are answered.   We want to see Jesus who loved us enough to die for us.   We want to see Jesus who is the bread of life.   We want to see Jesus who forgives our sins.   We want to see Jesus who is our glory.   We want to see Jesus who blesses us.   We want to see Jesus who is our strength.   We want to see Jesus who is our healer.    We want to see Jesus who is altogether lovely.   We want to see Jesus who is our peace.   We want to see Jesus who is our redemption.   We want to see Jesus who is our all in all.

The power of Words

February 11, 2018  Matthew 12:33 – 37   Words the Tongue

 

   I want to get right into the heart of what is on my heart this morning when I have your attention.  I have been listening to Perry Stone and he said our spiritual armor is to protect us.  He argues that the armor is for defense and not for offence.   It is our words that win the battle.  Our power is in our words.  The words we speak are or can be powerful. Of course, those words have to be spoken in faith and has to be in the will of God.   When God wants to do something what does he do?  He speaks.  In Genesis 1:3 we read and God said let there be light.  We see through the scripture where God sent his angels.  God spoke to them and told them what to do.  When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness he spoke to the Devil and spoke the word of God.  The last time Jesus said away from me Satan for it is written worship the Lord your God and serve him only and the devil departed.

   In Matthew 8 the disciples woke Jesus up because they were afraid that they were going to drown in the storm.  Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the waves.   Jesus spoke to the storm.  Jesus spoke to the waves. Have you ever spoken to your storm?   Or do we just pray?   Often Jesus spoke to the people that he healed.  Jesus tells Lazarus to come out of the grave and he comes out of the grave.  Jesus curses the fig tree and the fig tree dies.  At one-point Jesus tells Peter to go fishing and catch a fish and, in its mouth, would be a gold coin that Peter could take to pay their temple tax.   There is great power in a person’s words.  There is power to good and power for evil.  You can pray in faith and then say I don’t know if anything is ever going to happen and that just might stop your answer.  Jesus on occasion would ask if the person believed that he could do it or that it would be done.  There is power in your words. 

    Words can be either for building or for tearing down. The words of an anointed Christian have tremendous power to change things.   My niece Heather Johnson just told me this week how she was concerned about Arlene Sally’s mother who was sick with a cold or pneumonia.  She got up and went in the living room in the night and got on her knees and prayed saying Gram has not been sick in her life and she will not get sick now and she claimed healing over the house and everyone in it.  In a day or so Arlene Sally’s mom was back to health.  The cold was healed. 

    I am treading a book titled Authority in Prayer by Dutch Sheets. He asks the question on page 11 who is ruling your world?  By that he meant your personal world.  He said God began to deal with him a few years ago about governing his world.  He shared the story of his prayer tour with Chuck Pierce in 2003 & 2004.  He said he was very tense and about to break out hives.  He was going to another state to speak to a large prayer group of people.  He was in line at the airport and everything was in total confusion.  The computers were not working.  He was running late and the line was not moving.  Things were not good. 

    People started pushing their way to the front.  One lady began pushing others out of her way as she bullied her way to the front of the line.  He thought about being gracious and letting her ahead but he did not want to do that.  Then he thought about smacking her one but when he saw her she looked like someone form the World Wrestling federation.  He also thought a headline saying pastor pummels a lady at the airport who was on his way to a prayer meeting would not be good.    In desperation with little faith he decided to pray.    Lord do something to stop this chaos and get me on my flight.   He said the Holy Spirit told him you know this is all about you, don’t you?   He said I did not do anything do not blame me.  The Holy Spirit said this is Satan trying to hinder your assignment.  Has Satan ever made a mess to stop you from doing what God wants you to do?        

    He remembered I Thessalonians 2:18 where Paul said we wanted to come to Thessalonica more than once but Satan hindered them.   Dutch thought all this confusion and mess is because of me.   No way.  He knew the Holy Spirit was saying it was about him.  So, Dutch said well God do something about it.  The spirt told him you do something about it.  Move in authority that you have in me and command the demon’s hindrances of your assignment to be ineffective.  Declare you have the favor of God and will get to your meeting on time which he does.  He takes authority over the situation and claims God’s favor.   Then he heard go over to the end of the counter which the ticket agents do not even use.  Almost immediately when he got there an agent walked over to him and said kindly Can help you sir.  She checked him in and he immediately was upgraded to first class. 

   Do your really see what is happening here?  The computers are not working correctly, people are getting mad, people are starting to get pushy.  Some people may miss their flights all because of a Christian who is on assignment from God.  The Christian did not do anything wrong.  He did not sin or do anything that would give the Satan a reason to attack him.  Satan wanted to hinder the work of God.   Dutch said he was pretty pumped and told the Lord whatever you are trying to teach me I want to learn it.   Are you open to learn?  Do you want to walk in the Spirits power? 

    Adam kind of controlled things in the Garden of Eden and in Jesus aren’t we restored with that kind of authority?   In Matthew 10 Jesus calls his disciples to him and gives them authority to drive out demons or evil spirits and to heal very disease and sickness.  In Matthew 17 Jesus is less than happy with is disciples because they could not heal the epileptic boy.   We read where the father speaks to Jesus I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”  “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you?   How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”  Jesus calls his disciples an unbelieving and persevere generation.  Ouch.  Then in verse 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.  Jesus again speaking and the power in words.  Your words can be used to build God’s kingdom. 

     We need to understand that we cannot just go around and say anything we want to say.  We need to be spirit led.  In Acts 19 we read Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.”    Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.   One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?”   Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all.    He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.  One-man demon possessed against 9 men and the demon possessed man won.  There is power in words. 

    Joshua stopped the sun from setting with his words.   In Exodus 14 God tells Moses quit crying out.   In other words, quit praying about it.  Tell the children of Israel to move out, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide it.  I think sometimes we pray too much.  There is a time for action.  Joshua was on his face when Israel was defeated by Ai and God told him to get up and deal with sin in the camp.  Last week we mentioned Elijah who said it will not rain on the earth until I say so.  God may call upon you some day to stand in the gap and to take a stand. 

    Christians can alter things.  Christians can speak and change things.  There is power in the Christians words. There is power in the gospel.  Wild raging attacking animals have been stopped with the name of Jesus.   Robbers have been stopped when Christians have spoken in Jesus name.    I know sometimes I say Lord help me, Lord help me, Lord help me.  Sometimes he is probably saying I am always here to help you get going.  God waits for us.   

    The bible has a lot to say about words and about the tongue.    God’s word is far different than man’s words.   Many times, what a person says does not mean a whole lot today.     A hand shake to solidify an agreement today means less than it did 50 years ago.   We have been promised things and others have not delivered.   In Psalm 15 David said who can dwell in your sanctuary?   One point he makes is the person who keeps his oath even when it hurts.   It is a man or woman who keeps their word.      Have you ever thought how you would feel about God if his words were not trustworthy?  His words are truth and the bible is true.  We can count on God.   We can rely on God.  That is good news for those who share the word of God.   God’s word does not return back to him void.  There is power in God’s word.

   Perry stone shares he was in Dallas Texas at a conference.  He is the last one to leave and he sees a group of people witnessing to a man with no shirt on.  This man goes nuts.   He starts throwing them on the car and yelling.   The people get in the car and roll up the windows and lock the car.  Perry said he was sure that the man was demon possessed.  He turns and heads toward Perry.   He is swearing about Christians and said I will kill them all.   The man started taking God’s name in vain.  The Holy Spirit was stirring in Perry’s heart.  Perry’s father was with him and said to him you need God to deliver you.   Bang here he comes.  He is swearing and gets to his dad and starts screaming at him. 

   Then he looks at Perry and said I don’t like you.  Perry said I did not like him either but I did not tell him that.  Then he told Perry I am going to pound you and he doubles up his fist.  Perry said the Holy Spirit said to him are you going to let the devil talk to you like that?  Perry said what do I have to lose.   He said I bind you, you foul unclean spirit.   Then he said I was getting really bold.  I told him come ahead and cross this line.  Come on you think you can take me on do it.  When Samson was anointed with the Lord he killed 1000 men with a jawboned of a donkey.  Perry said you cross that line I will rip you to shreds in the name of Jesus. 

    Perry said the man tried to cross the line.  He would walk up to it and but could not get through it.  He would back up and try again.   He tried and cussed.  For about 5 minutes he did this and then the police came saw he was drunk and hauled him off.  Satan is petrified of Christians who understand the power of God and not afraid to speak and walk in the anointing of Jesus.  I want to close with one more story.   I ask David Alves this week if I could share this and he said yes.  He had allowed people to live with him from time to time and some that were living on the street.  He had one gal that stayed overnight with him and David did not know if they were safe or not to sleep.   David said he prayed Father do not let her out of her room tonight.  Morning came and they got up.  It was getting later in the morning and he wondered why she did not come out of her room.   So, he called to her and ask her why she did not come out.  She said I can’t leave my room.  David said he remembered what he prayed.  So, he told the father it was OK for her to come out.  The lord told the angel to stand down and then she came out.  That is pretty powerful stuff.  Some may think well I don’t know about that.  It is probably not meant for all of us.  Some of us may need that even this week.  Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  Piot on the armor for protection and speak in faith the word of God as He leads you. 

   This story came from early father’s writings about John the disciple that Jesus loved.  John went to Ephesus to challenge the god Artemis. He went on her feast day to the great temple built for her. He went to confront her worshippers.  He said I will convict of being completely godless and without human reasoning.  He said I will stand here and you pray to your god that I will die.  Or I will call on my God and pray that everyone of you will die.  The idolatry provoked him.  When John prayed the altar spit apart and the statue fell down and the roof fell in and killed the head priest.  The people were so fearful that they converted to the Lord.  John pulled the priest out and laid hands on him and prayed in Jesus name that he would be raised up.   That is powerful stuff folks.  You only do stuff like that when you know God is in it.

Show Down

February 4, 2018    I Kings 18  Showdown

 

    Charles Finney said when people in the body of Christ start backsliding it is the pulpits fault.  When the people allow the government to become corrupt it gets off track it is the pulpits fault.  As Christians will we speak the truth?   Will we defend the truth even in a society like we have today?   Will we speak the truth about marriage as the bible states it?  Today we need men and women who will stand up like Elijah did.  We need anointed men and women of God. 

   Elijah comes on the picture in I Kings 17.   He tells King Ahab that it will not rain until Elijah says it is going to rain.  Spiritually things have deteriorated in Israel.   In the next chapter Elijah tells God he is the only one left that is worshipping the true God.  God told Elijah that God had 7K who had bowed their knee to Baal.  Well James tells us that 3 & ½ years have passed by with no rain.   That is a long time for no rain and things are tough.   It is so tough that Ahab the king and Obadiah are out looking for some grass to feed the animals.   And as Obadiah is traveling along Elijah meets him.   Obadiah out of great respect bows himself to the ground.   We see that Jezebel is doing her thing killing off the prophets of God and Obadiah gets 100 of them and gives them food and water.   That came out of his pocket.  He did it behind her back.  Elijah tells him to go to King Ahab and tell him that Elijah is in town.   Obadiah told him that there was not a single kingdom or nation where Ahab has not sought for him and had the nation tell Ahab that Elijah was not there.   God can hide and protect his own.    

    They could not find him for 3 & ½ years.   In a sense Elijah was a fugitive from justice.  When you walk with God sometimes some folks will not take kindly to you.   Obadiah is concerned that Elijah will go away and then the King will want to kill him.   Elijah just takes all the pressure off of him and he said I am going to see the king today.  Obadiah don’t worry I will see the king today.   I will face up to this issue today.  I am going to face my enemy today.   Today is the day. 

    When Ahab shows up and sees Elijah he asks is that you troubler of Israel?   Paul and Jesus were both considered trouble makers.   Elijah is in good company.   Truth is not wanted or appreciated.    Well O Ahab puts the blame of the drought on Elijah.  Sounds like normal politics.   It is funny actually sad how irresponsible people can be.  Elijah did say it will not rain until I say so but Elijah was following the word of God.   Elijah was following the Lord.    Elijah tells it like it is and cuts right to the heart of the issue when he tells the king you have troubled Israel by worshipping the Baals the false gods.  

   Ahab is not much of a man.   In chapter 21 he pouts because Naboth would not sell his vineyard to him and then Jezebel sets it up to get Naboth killed and then the king claims the vineyard.  Jesus talks about Jezebel a prophetess in Revelation 2 in the church of Thyatira where she misled people into immorality and eating meat offered to idols.  Jesus said he would deal with her and those in sin if they did not repent.  The cup of God’s wrath was filling.  If a person repents the cup empties.  If they do not repent and the cup gets fuller and at some point, the cup is full.   God judges.

   It is 62 years since the time of Solomon to the time Ahab becomes king.  Ahab reigns as king for 22 years.    Much had happened and the nation had fallen a lot as our nation is falling from God.   In those 62 years there were 6 kings one of whom lasted 7 days.  In chapter 20 King Ahab musters up his army and he gathered 7,000 men.  In less than 100 years what a change.   A number of the armies in the OT were over 100K men.   Seven thousand men will not cut it in those days.   I know the kingdom was divided after Solomon but Ahab represented 10 of the 12 tribes.   At the time of David when the army was counted David had well over 1 million men in his army.   I think Solomon’s army was similar.   Sin brings a people down.   Idols and false gods bring a nation down and Israel has fallen a long way.    Israel is in a spiritual drought and it brings on all kinds of other issues.   But God has His plan and His man on the scene.

   How could Israel in such a short time fall so far from God?   Well Jeroboam the king of the northern 10 tribes thought if the people went to Jerusalem to worship they might revert to the house of David.  So, he consulted with others and decided to set up am idol in Bethel and in Dan for the people to worship.  The king set up shrines and appointed priests.  The hearts of the people were turned from God to false gods which are really no gods.   The leadership of the nation turned the people’s hearts from God.  They said it is OK to worship these gods.   They quit serving the true God to worshipping false gods.  A little sin is never OK.   In the desert we saw the children of Israel worshipping a god an idol made by Aaron.   Elijah during this time frame believes he is the only one who is following the Lord. 

    It is time for a show down.   It is time to find out who is who.   Is Baal god or is God God?  It is time to get the record straight on who God is.     Elijah tells the king to gather the people together and the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah.   Ahab sends out the messages and they gather at Mount Carmel.  I do not read where the prophets of Asherah came.   Israel started following Baal off and on since Judges in chapter 2.  Judges covers a time frame about 400 years and then it was Samuel, Saul, David and Solomon then 7 kings.    Elijah gets right in the face of the people. If the Lord is God follow him but if Baal is god follow him.    A double minded man is unstable.   God wants you to know that He is God.  

        A lot of people in America say so easily that they are Christian.    Words may or may not mean anything.   Today some people would say who ever your god is it is OK.   But Baal is not going to save these folks.    If Allah is your god that is OK they would say but it is not.   Jesus said I am the only way to the father.  Acts tells us that there is no other name under heaven that we can be saved by.  Not all gods are the same folks.  The Egyptian gods could not save them from losing their oldest son.   The Egyptian gods could not save Pharaohs army in the sea.  When the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant they set the ark before Dagon and rejoiced that their god was stronger.  They get up in the morning and Dagon has fallen on his face.   They set “Dagon back up again and in the next morning Dagon has fallen again and this time his head fell off and his arms broke off.  An armless and headless god is worthless.  Not all gods are the same. Our God reigns.  Many do not like the name of Jesus because there is power in that name.   Demons hate and tremble at Jesus name.     

     Elijah said If Baal is god follow him and if God is God follow him.   Good point - if God is God then follow him.   Elijah goes after the people big time.  He got into their face because they were wavering between two opinions.   No longer could they debate who the true and living God was.     No longer could they claim that all gods were equal.   I think God likes to get people to that point.   God desires that people understand Him.   God desires that I get to the point where I know him and I need to submit to God and follow Him.   The people had nothing to say.  Well they had been following Baal and not God.

    Elijah gave Baal’s prophets the total advantage in this situation.   Elijah against 450 false prophets.  They could build their altar first and have as much time as they needed.   Elijah wanted to make it clear to the people who was God and who was false.   Sometimes it is good to let others choose first and to defer to others.   If Elijah would have gone first then the people might say well that was pretty good but maybe Baal could do better.  Let’s see what kind of show Baal can put on for us.    Unfortunately, people can get pretty stuck on wrong patterns of thinking.   People can hang on to their idols.   Elijah tells them to get your altar in order and put the sacrifice on it but do not light it.  Man needs to do his part and God does His thing.   We want God to show up here folks.  

     So, the 450 prophets of Baal called on Baal from morning to noon.   O Baal hear us.   The shouted and prayed and danced around the altar but nothing happens.   By noon time Elijah starts poking it to them.   Shout louder – surely, he is a god.   Perhaps he is thinking or busy or traveling.   I like the living bible on this one perhaps he is out sitting on the toilet.  You might say Baal is not sitting on the toilet he is in it.    So, the prophets shout louder and they slash themselves with swords and spears and they carry on all day long to the evening sacrifice.   

     Let me ask you a question.   Did the prophets of Baal have faith?   They had strong faith did they not?   Their faith was in the wrong direction and their faith was worthless.   Their faith was worthless!!   Scripture says there was no response no answer and no one paid any attention.   450 prophets carry on all day and get zilch, zero, Nada for their effort.   God was not in it and their efforts were worthless.   It is not of him that wills nor of him that runs but of God who shows mercy.   Not by might nor by power but by my spirit says the Lord.   What a terrible loss these 450 prophets gave their lives to something that is totally destructive and worthless and they die for it.   They have a false zeal and a false faith.   Don’t waste your life folks with stuff that is not true.   Our God, the true God, promises eternal rewards for those that walk with him.  

    So, Elijah gives them all day and then calls the people over to him.   He repairs the altar of the Lord which was in ruins.   The people of God neglected their worship of God.   The altar was in is disrepair.   Men make sure your family altar is not in ruins.   Is your children walking with God the most important thing you leave behind men?   There is a difference between a man who walks with God and those that do not walk with God.    He builds the altar and digs a trench around it arranges the wood and puts the bull on the sacrifices.  He made it easy for the prophets of Baal and hard for himself.    Then he commands the people to fill 4 large jars and pour the water on the sacrifice.   Then he said do it again and then he said do it again.   There is a terrible drought and we do not know where they got the water but Elijah has everything soaked.   The people thought they needed water but what they needed was God.  

     Elijah prays and the fire of God falls.   The prophets of Baal must have been shocked.   Elijah does not put a match to it or a torch.   The fire licks up the sacrifice, the wood, all the water, the rocks and the dirt.   Elijah did not do anything to start the fire that was God’s part.   You can’t do God’s part.   You cannot do God’s part and God refuses to do your part.   Yes, we do our part but God does the rest.   Work like everything depends on you and pray like everything depends on God.   We co-labor with God   Jesus is the vine and if it is not from him then it is not eternal.   Sometimes people get confused on their part and God’s part.  Our part is not to sin and be obedient to Jesus and the Holy Spirit.     

   God’s fire is real and powerful.   God’s fire changes things and it changes people.   If Elijah had lit a match it would not have had the same results.   The people fell on their face and said the Lord is God the Lord is God.   Hello.   I think you and I would respond the same way.   God got their attention.   God did something new and powerful and the people saw it and hearts were changed.   They could not straddle the fence any more.   The Lord is God and not Baal.   That is certainly one point where you do not want to be a prophet of Baal.   OOPs, I am on the wrong side.   It is good to be on the winning side.   Revelation tells us God wins.   The 450 prophets of Baal are killed. 

     Lives are changed when the fire of God falls.  Idols can be strong holds of Satan and strongholds are tough to break.    Satan had worked for years and in minutes when the fire of God falls Satan’s work is destroyed.    How do you get the fire of God to fall?   You weep and pray.  You wet the sacrifice with your tears.     Elijah prayed fervently.   Elijah walked with the Lord.   Elijah was zealous and cared for the nation of Israel.   He wanted them to walk with God and he puts his life on the line for that.   The prophets of Baal are gone and now it is time for rain.    Elijah prays and has his servant look for rain 7 times and then there is a small cloud – it is a little cloud but it sure grows by the power of God.   We must persevere in our prayer life.   God’s power comes on Elijah and he out runs Ahab’s chariot to Jezreel which is about a 17-mile run.  

    The lines are being drawn in the sand.  Are you on God’s side?   God said if my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves pray seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from heaven will forgive their sin and will heal their land.    In Matthew 12 Jesus said whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.   Let’s gather with Jesus and not scatter. Anointing on Elijah.  Tongue       

 

Jesus in the house

January 28, 2018   John 2:12-25   Jesus in the house   

 

   I am going to start the message today with a story from Mark 1 because it sets the tone for the message that is on my heart for today.  Jesus and at least some of his disciples go to Capernaum and on the sabbath day Jesus goes into the temple to teach.   The people are amazed at Jesus teaching.  He was so different from the other teachers and he taught with authority.  Jesus later tells the disciples that he has all authority in heaven and in earth.  It is a good idea to walk in submission and to walk with the one who has all authority in heaven and earth. 

   There was a man with an evil spirit in him.   We would say he was demon possessed.  We do not know if this man normally attended church or not.   Perhaps he had been coming to church for many weeks or years.  It is interesting that the people cannot see that Jesus is God but the demon possessed man knows that Jesus is God.  Demons know things.   They know things that we may not know.   They can see things that we may not see.  God can help us to know and see the things that we need to see.  This is not going to be not going to be a normal church service because the demon possessed man reacts to Jesus presence.  There is power in Jesus presence.  Man can miss that.  Jacob said surely God was in this place and I did not know it.  Paul said for in Him we live and move and have our being. 

   Jesus is teaching and the people are being fed the word of God.  They are impressed perhaps mesmerized by the presence and the teaching of Jesus.  It was new and fresh and exciting.  And during the teaching time perhaps in the middle of the teaching or the message this man probably stands up and speaks.   This man who is controlled by a demon or demons at least at that point and he cries out.  In the gospel of Mark, we read Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”   This man cries out in the middle of church.

    It is interesting that many people came to understand that Jesus is God.  The disciples declared that Jesus was God.  But we see in this passage the man under the influence of a devil or demon said Jesus I know you are God.   The demon also understood what that meant for him.  What the man also asked was correct.  Have you come to destroy us?   You could say yes to that.    I John the reason that the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devils work.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.  There is a new power intown.  There is a new power in church.  There can be a new power in people’s lives and that power is Jesus. 

    A person might think about what they would do if something like that happened to them in a service.  How would you respond if something strange happened in a service?   Well Jesus tells the man or spirit to be quiet.  It seems pretty plain that Jesus was speaking to the demon.  Jesus sad come out of him.  It looks like the demon did not want to come out of the man because he shook violently and then there was a shriek.  The people were amazed and word got around about that service.  When Jesus speaks and moves good things happen.  A man was set free that day.   The people did not understand the bondage the man was under until Jesus set him free.  Jesus set this man free from demons. 

   As we look at this passage in John we see that Jesus was very upset and angry at what was going on.  It is about time for the Passover and Jesus enters Jerusalem and goes into the temple.  In the temple courts he finds men selling sheep cattle and doves and other men are exchanging money.  The purpose of these merchants and money-changers was two-fold.   For one thing, many of the people did not bring animals with them for sacrifice, so they purchased animals there in Jerusalem.  The animals had to be approved by the priests and if the animal traveled with the person the animal could be cut or hurt.  If you bought an animal from them you knew it would pass.   If you brought one it may not pass.   They might find something wrong with it.   Things were stacked in their favor of course.

    Second, all Jewish males and proselytes were required to pay a half-shekel temple tax in the coinage of the temple a worship tax you could say.    Furthermore, foreign monies bearing the image of a pagan deity or ruler were unacceptable; therefore, the money changers would exchange their coinage for a fee.   That was another way to put a little more money in their pocket.  The reality was that they still dealt with that foreign currency.  Their attitude you can’t give it to God but we will take it.     In days gone by, these activities took place outside of the temple, but now the merchants, animals, and exchangers have moved inside the temple courts.    The sacredness of the temple was bartered for profit and convenience.   

      In some ways the cattle and money changers provided a convenience for the Jews.   It certainly provided plenty of business for the temple.  You could say they invented the first drive-through fast service! – fast food religion.   The Jewish leaders must have thought to themselves, “What a great system!”   It made the leader’s temple responsibilities so much easier and more convenient and it made them big money.   We like things quick and easy and smooth today.  We want it that way with our walk with God.   Generally, people want a quick response from God when we pray.  We want God to serve us.   Often, we desire a relationship that does not cost us anything or cost us much.   In reality we make ourself God and God becomes our servant. 

   And as Jesus enters the temple, he becomes angry at what the temple has become.  As Psalms said the zeal for your house consumed me.   Jesus cared about God’s house which is really Jesus house.   Really, God does not dwell in buildings per se but God did dwell in the temple.   In those days if you wanted to experience God or get close to God you went to the temple for that is where God’s presence was.  Sometimes His presence was more noticeable and stronger than then at other times.  When Solomon dedicated the temple, and sacrificed 120,000 sheep the glory of God so filled the temple the priests could not work.  The priests had to leave. 

    Why did Jesus get torque up about the moneychangers and animals?   It was taking place in the court of the gentiles.   In other words, this was where the gentiles worshipped.    They worshipped in a barn yard.   The noise and the smell would not help you to worship.   There had to be issues about it being clean and smell.    There was money being exchanged and there was the greed of the leaders.   It was disgusting and sickening.   The statement made here is that we do not care about you gentiles.    Ouch.   How far from God’s heart they were and how it broke our savior’s heart.  

     Jesus took this desecration personally.    HE WAS OFFENDED.   Jesus drove them out of the temple.  Get out of here you don’t belong here.    This account of Jesus’ aggressive behavior may not set too well with our views of Jesus as a teacher, healer, comforter, and gentle shepherd but it is a statement that Jesus hated sin.    Yet, when we look into His message for us, we see clearly that Jesus is far more confrontational that we often imagine.   His work in our world proves to us that He disrupts things in religious establishments as well as on the personal level of individual.

    .   Jesus does something and gets involved here.  Jesus did not just turn his head and walk on by.  It is a good thing that God gets involved in this ole world.   He gets involved as you pray and as you walk with him.    As a matter of fact, this incident brings to the disciples’ minds a quote from Ps. 69.9: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Jesus is consumed with zeal for his Father’s house and it is displayed by his actions.  Jesus is passionate about people and passionate about worship.  That means that Jesus is zealous of you and He has a great zeal for you.   He cares about you.      Jesus gets involved.   Jesus shows emotion here

    In those days the temple was the dwelling place of God.   Well since Christ came as a sacrifice for sin, he has made it possible for God to live in our hearts.  Now we are invited into God’s presence.  Christians are invited into the throne of God.   That is why 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us that we are the temple, the Holy Spirit dwells in our bodies in our hearts.  We are the dwelling place of God.   Jesus lives in me and I belong to Him.    He is Lord and Jesus wants to be Lord in the Christians life.  We need to be aware of stuff that we hang onto that contaminates His temple – the Christians body.  The Christian has received God’s spirit in his or her life.  Our life then belongs to God.  A lot of the stuff in the world pushes us away from God.   

      God takes sin to heart.  We see that throughout the whole bible.   David writes in Psalm 15 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?   Who may live on your holy mountain?  The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.

     God sent Jesus to die for us.   Jesus died to reconcile all things to God.  Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.  Jesus came so we could be in and not excluded.  But God is holy and God loves righteousness.    Adam and Eve made a real mess.   God likes clean temples – clean people spiritually and Christians are the temple of the HS.   Jesus gets offended today with sin in our life.  Let’s step by step draw near to Jesus this year.  He loves us and wants us to enjoy him.  He wants to enjoy his presence.  He delights in spending time with you.  He desires to fill your soul with good things. David said my cup runs over.  Let’s start this New Year with a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus loves you right where you are.  He will accept you right where you are.

   In II Corinthians 6 we read, Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?  Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?  Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?   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.”  God is holy and he says do not touch anything that is unclean.  Don’t touch it and do ont have it in your house.  You are the temple of the living God.  Your body does not belong to you.  If God tells you not to eat ice cream that becomes unclean for you. 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Warfare

January 21, 2018      Spiritual Warfare

 

    Christians, I want to say that we are in a battle today.  This is a tough battle.  It is the mother of all battles.  This battle is getting more and more difficult.   There is more and more pressure and we are seeing people who are flipping out.   We are seeing people doing stupid things and losing control today.   I expect that we will see a lot more of that.    This battle is invisible.  It is tough to fight a battle that you can’t see with your physical eyes and you can’t win with your physical resources.  It is spiritual warfare or spiritual battle. 

    Where is this battle waged?   We see in Ephesians that our battle is not against flesh and blood.  It is a spiritual battle.   It is not so much against people as it is a battle taking place in high places.   It is not a flesh and blood battle.  It is not so much against people, my kids, my co-worker, my family, and my neighbor.    It is against dark powers of this world.   It is against spiritual forces in heavenly realms.  But let’s not forget that we are blessed in the heavenly realm with every spiritual blessing.   The battle is raging there but we have all the spiritual resources to fight this battle from Jesus.  We have every spiritual blessing in Christ.   It is also waged in our mind.  

   We see that in II Corinthians 10 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.   The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.   On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.   And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.  Paul said we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Jesus.  I believe that Paul is saying that Paul used those tools and that power for the Corinthians.  Prayer can change other people.  Prayer can change a church. 

     Faith is so important in this battle.  It is spiritual and you cannot see it with your physical eyes or deal with it with your physical abilities.   It is spiritual and it is for control of your mind.  The enemy and the world want to control your thoughts.  They want you to be thinking negative thoughts.  They want you to be critical of your job, of your kids, of those you work with, or a product, of companies, of business. It can be a messy drawer or a car that is given g you trouble. Critical and negative thinking leads to depression.   Critical and negative thinking leads to discouragement.   Negative thinking and critical thinking leads to anger.

   Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of things to be angry and critical about.  But too much of those things can tear you down.  Those thoughts can consume your walk with God.  That stuff can rob you of just enjoying the Lord.  Those critical thoughts can rob you of your joy.   Is the joy of the Lord your strength?   Satan come to steal, kill and destroy.  How are you doing in the battle of your mind today?   Can you be honest with another person about what is going on in your mind?   I think we need to ask are we walking in the world?   Are Christians today so filled with the world that we have no time for Jesus?   We can become so filled with the world that we do not have any idea what Jesus is doing.   Are we walking in Jesus?   Some folks know what is happening in the nation and the world around us but know nothing of what is on the Fathers heart in heaven.   Is it Important to hear what God has to say to us today?  Are we listening to the Lord? 

   I was talking with a person about their rebellious child.  And as we were talking they said well that ship ahs sailed.  I said what do you mean by that?   Well they are rebellious.  Yes, a person can see that.  Are you going to accept that?  If it does not glorify God we stand against it.  We have spiritual tools to establish God’s glory and his kingdom on this earth.  Why are we so passive?  Why do we accept stuff that we should never accept?   I remember listening to Bill Chadwick who said you pastors do not have to put up with lots of nonsense that comes along in the church.   

    What are you putting up with God desires to deal with?   We often think that we are waiting on God.   Friends God waits for us.   God waits for us to hear his voice and then go forward in victory.  What are we putting up with in your family that is out of God’s will?  Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning.   Our enemy is cunning and he can deceive and he does deceive many Christians.   I am sure I have been deceived at times.    If we never hear Jesus voice how do we know that we are not deceived?   What are you putting up with where you work that is not from God but from the forces of hell?  Draw a line in the sand and stand up.   Stand up and say enough is enough.  Fight the good fight of faith.    Hey I know at times we want to quit.   I know at times we get discouraged.   I know at times things seem way above or past us.  Let’s not live in that place too long.     God has great things for those that walk-in obedience and faith with him. 

       How do you respond to the battles of life?  Are you the type of person who sticks by their convictions?  Is it easy to rollover and play dead?   Some people do not put much of a fight.   Spiritually the enemy has studied you and he knows how to push your buttons.   Your kids have studied you and they know how to push you.    Many people just run from issues and that is dangerous and not good.   

     In his book, Fuzzy Memories, Jack Handey writes, "There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day.    Since I was smaller, I would give it to him.  "Then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons, but the instructor wanted $5 a lesson.   That was a lot of money.    I found that it was cheaper to pay the bully, so I gave up karate."   Too many Christians believe it’s easier to pay the bully than learn how to defeat him.   It has been said that many Christians, don’t realize they are living on a battlefield and not a playground!

     Most of the armor mentioned here is for the Christian’s protection but the taking the word of God is a weapon of offense and defense.   Jesus used the word of God for protection but it is also used to share the gospel and to set people free.    In the NT we see the authority of Jesus over sickness, over death, over demons, and over nature and Jesus said you will do greater things.  We need to believe that Jesus will give us whatever we need to deal with the things that cross our path.   That does not mean we go around looking for situations.   In Matthew 10 Jesus called his 12 disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

      Jesus told his disciples to heal the sick and raise the dead, cleanse those that have leprosy, drive out demons.   Our tendency sometimes to take all that Jesus commanded the disciples and say that applied to them and not to us.   We tend to think the authority that Jesus gave them is not for us today.      I do not agree with that and I do not think that is very good biblical interpretation.      He gave that authority before the cross.    At the cross Satan was defeated and when he ascended He took captives in His train.      Jesus defeated Satan and made an open show of their defeat

     Jesus did not leave us without authority.   He said because I have authority you go.   Jesus has given his authority.   Jesus has given us power and that power is in the Holy Spirit.   That statement would not mean anything to a person unless His authority was available to them.   We are joint heirs with Jesus.   We have what Jesus has.  The Christian has all spiritual blessings available to the Christian.    He did not leave us without power.    Ephesians tells us that we have the same mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead.    The Apostle Paul cast out demons.   Acts 19:11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick and their illnesses were cured and evil spirits left them. 

     God is not going to send us out with nothing and no help.   God’s character is such that God would bless us and arm us and protect us.   We have many promises in the bible.    Our protection from Satan is God and only God.   We cannot beat Satan with our own strength or wisdom.   That is impossible.    We need to stay close to God and put on the whole armor of God to protect ourselves.  We need to put His armor on daily.   We are in a war.  The whole creation is at war, all people, Christians and non-Christians I believe are in a battle.     In John Jesus said the thief comes not but to steal, kill and destroy.   Church who is the thief?    Satan wants to steal from you.  

   I want to encourage you to walk in the Holy Spirit.   I want to encourage you to walk in the protection and covering of Jesus day by day.  God has given us spiritual armor to wear every day so we can be blessed and walk in his presence.  We can cover our children in His presence and blessing.   We can pray protection on our family.  It does not mean that you will not have situations and trouble.   Job prayed for his family but the enemy hit him hard.  You are better off walking in the Holy Spirit presence and power than going it alone. 

    Christians have a very powerful tool at our disposal and that is prayer.   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 a knowledge of the truth.  God would not tell us to pray if our prayers were in vain.  God hears our prayer. Wednesday, I was driving in the snow and slid off the path way and I prayed God get me back on the road and buy the time I finished praying I was back on the road.   I believe an angel gave me a good shove.    I did not see any reason for me to get back on the road.      

   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.   But we also need to remember that there are hindrances to prayer.  Psalm 66 the Psalmist says if I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.   Sin hinders prayer.  

    We are in a war Christian.  We may not feel that or sense that very much but it is real.  If we walk in the Spirit we will do well in life.  The best thing a person can do with their life is to stay close to Jesus.  In Him we are blessed with spiritual blessings in heaven.  Heaven never runs out of resources.   

Judgment

January 14, 2018   Romans1:18 – 32   God Gave Them Up   

 

      God is holy and God does not like sin and sin is not good for us.  It is not good to rebel against God.   Romans 1:18 the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth of their wickedness.   Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.   The children of Israel knew God and they saw his miracles and they turned away from God.   And they turned to other gods.  They went from one God to many gods.  The tendency is go from the one true God to many gods.  They worshipped man made idols images like man, birds, animals, and reptiles.   Today our idols are money, pleasure, porn, drugs, drinking and etc. 

       George Carlin wrote an article entitled “Paradox of Our Time."   The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.    We spend more, but have less.   We buy more, but enjoy less.    We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.    We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.    We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.    We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.     We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. 

    We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life.   We’ve added years to life not life to years!     We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor.    We’ve done larger things, but not better things.  - We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.    We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.   We write more, but learn less.    We plan more, but accomplish less.    We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait.    We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. 

   I want to tell you today that it is dangerous to walk out on God.  People want to get this and that and do this and that have no time for God.   Many have no time for fellowship and for church.   Satan has stirred many up about something in church and they walk.  They seek to fill their life with other things.  How did that work in the bible?   How did Abraham do with Hagar?   He got a child but from Hagar it was not the child that God wanted for him.   That did not work out too well for him.   It made a mess for Abraham over and over again.  He got what he wanted and then found out he did not really want what he got.  That is the way sin works.   How did Samson do with his Philistine girl Delilah?  She was just the delightful little gal to play with.  Right?   Well his eyes got gouged out and he became a slave to his enemies.  Don’t turn your back on God.  To step out of God’s will is to step into nothing. 

    I hope none of us are resisting the Lord.  America is pushing it with God and pushing God away.  Jeremiah 25:15 and 16 This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.   When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.”  So, I took the cup from the Lord’s hand and made all the nations to whom he sent me drink it:   Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a ruin and an object of horror and scorn, a curse —as they are today.  God did it to his own people.  When God’s cup is full then God pours out his wrath. 

    In Genesis 15 the Lord is talking with Abraham and said.    In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”   Revelation says in righteousness he judges and makes war.  The sin of the Amorites and those living in the promised land was not yet to the point that God was going to destroy them.   There was an appointed time for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.   What tips the scale or over flows the cup of God’s wrath?  When the cup is almost full you do not need another cup poured in.  It becomes the last drop or the last straw.   It is just one more sin or situation and then God deals with it. 

    I think it can be a nation or a person.  In this passage in Romans it was people.   It could be a person.  At the time of Noah, it was the world.    In Corinthians they abused the Lord’s table or communion and some of them died.  What is the tipping point for our nation for America?  Or what is the tipping point for a nation?  Are the things we are seeing from the hand of God?   When we see these natural disasters do we say well things are happening in nature.   Is God trying to say something to the church today? Are these events signs to the church?    Is God trying to say something to you today?  

    In I Chronicles 12:32 is an interesting verse which says men of Issachar who understood the times and knew what Israel should do 200 chiefs with all their relatives under their command.   Do you and I understand the times?   Do you know what is happening in the world?   These men understood the times in which they were living.  Jesus told the Jewish leaders they could understand the weather and read the sky but did not interpret the times.  We need wisdom today. 

    Where is the church in regards to what is happening in the world?   Where are you and I?    Some say the church should not be involved in politics.   Some would say the pulpit is for the biblical sermon only.  If the church does not stand up and say something who is?   If Christians do not stand up and say something is there any hope?    Well Jesus seemed to speak of things of his day.   Jesus said some negative things about the rulers of his day.   Take a look sometime at Matthew 23.   The crowds were there and the disciples were there when Jesus pronounced woe on the Pharisees.  It was a sermon a very stinging sermon. 

   As we look at a new year Christians should remember that Jesus promised to come back.   We need to keep our focus in heaven.  I do not believe that Jesus is coming back this year but we need to keep that before us.  In Matthew 24 Jesus said.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.   For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.   That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  Jesus said keep watch you do not know the day your Lord will come.  In Matthew 24 Jesus gives several signs pointing to his return.  The day and the hour we do not know but Jesus gave us signs that will point to his return.  Then Jesus shares parables on being ready and using what you have for the glory of God.    Can we read those signs and are we ready?  Are you ready should the Lord come this year or call you home this year?  

   In the days of Noah, they did not know.  The people of Sodom did not know either.  Lot went out to get his sons in law who were pledged to marry his daughters to get them to leave.   They thought he was joking.  They did not go.  Perry Stone researched an old book that said the judges permitted beds to put in the street so that men could have a relationship with other men.  Lot offered his daughters to them men that came to his house asking for the angels.

     Lot probably knew that they were so depraved that the men would not want to lie with women. Lots life was threatened by them.  They said we will treat you worse than them.  Lot tries to appease them.   We have judges today that are not judging righteously.  Is there an end to God’s grace and mercy?  What is the final straw or what fills the cup of God’s wrath?   Abraham interceded for Sodom and ask the 3 men if 10 righteous were found in the city would they spare the city.  Apparently, God did not find 10 righteous people in the city. 

    Certainly, it is one thing to live a life of wickedness.   It is one thing to have an abortion.  They will be judged for it.  It is one thing to decide to have a physical relationship with members of the same sex.  They will appear before God someday.  It is another thing to force that upon other people.  It is another thing to give good people death threats.   It is another thing to write good people and tell them we will ravage your children.  Some may say well.

     Jesus said in John 3 Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds may be exposed.  In Romans 1 they not only continue to do those things but also approve of those who practice them.  I think some believe that those who do bad things will confess it.  Christians confess yes but even Christians hide their sin.   Do we really believe they will be honest?   They will seek to hide it.   They will lie.  They will try and look righteous.  Let’s put it this way there are some used car dealers out there that you might want to get a second opinion on if you are buying a car from them.  They are some great used car dealers out there also but some may give you a line of bologna.  

   There are people with an ungodly agenda for this nation.  The further a nation gets from God the more that God will take his hand off that nation.   There are well over 1,000 verses using the word hand in the bible.  Some of those verses are on the hand of God.    Gods hand can be on a person for blessing.   Gods hand can be against a person.  David said your hand was heavy upon me.    God does not bless unrighteousness.  He allows it but we also reap what we sow.  In Romans 1 God gave them up.  God gave them over to depravity.  The King James uses the word reprobate.  It is the only place that I see in the bible where God gave them up to depravity.  God gave them over to a depraved mind.  When God has enough he has had enough.  Sexual sin is serious sin.   I Corinthians 6 Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.

    This message is not about hate.  God loves all people.  As you read about the 7 churches in Revelation Jesus had words of judgment for 5 of the churches.  He said I have this against you.  We need to get closer to Jesus this year.  To the church of Laodicea Jesus said I will spit you out of my mouth.  I am going to throw you up.   Romans 1 Give you up.

    As some of you may remember I usually bring a few words forth that I read from those who prophesy or share things about the future.  One person I heard said that he believes that Russia will invade America.  He did not give a time frame on that.  Perhaps there are more than one way to invade us.  To me it seems unlikely that Russia would send millions of people to America.  Cindy Jacobs commented We prophesied a lot about North Korea, that they are going to have a suddenly, where God is going to deal with Kim Jong-un.  In fact, the word was, "I'm dealing with the evil dictators of the world, and these evil dictators are going to shake.” Maduro's gonna shake.   He's gonna come down, and some of the others.   We’re seeing Iran shaking right now.  We saw what happened with Zimbabwe.  We're going to see it with Kim Jong-un.  There's going to be some turmoil, but Kim Jong-un is going to come down.

    God is hardening his heart like Pharaoh's heart.   He's not going to allow Kim Jong-un to stay in that position. He's not going to allow compromise to come. Something is going to dramatically happen, because his time for being a dictator is over, unless he turns his heart to the Lord.  Kim Jong-un, if you're reading this somehow, turn your heart to the Lord Jesus.   There are people praying for you, and if you will completely change, God is going to help you on a path that will not be destructive. So, you can choose, Kim Jong-un.  You choose who you'll serve.  If you serve God, and if you change your ways, God will protect you.   He will protect North Korea in a unique way and make peace with South Korea.   However, if you continue on your path, it will lead to your destruction, and the sad thing about that is your destruction will lead to the path to hell.  So, I just pray that somehow God will get that message to Kim Jong-un, because God cares about him.   He doesn't want that anyone should perish.  USS Wisconsin  1952

The Bible

January 7, 2018  Colossians 3:12 – 17  The Word 

   Well it is 2018.  Do you think it is going to be an easy year?  I think we are living in some pretty difficult days.   I don’t think this is going to be a walk in the park unless you are walking today.  Burr it is cold.  I suspect that we are going to be challenged and pushed to do things that we are not comfortable with.  Can we embrace and do that which is not easy for us?  Can we walk that narrow road that leads to life, to Jesus, to heaven?   Many people have drifted away from God.  The best thing to do to prevent that is draw closer.  Don’t let Satan cut you off from fellowship with God and God’s people.      

    If I were to ask how many of us would like to prosper in everything you do.   I think most of us would say yes.  Do you believe that the bible tells us how to prosper?  Are we willing to do what the bible says?   Psalm 1 says blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law, day and night.   That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

     I see a couple of things that are critical in this passage.  This successful person focuses on 2 things.  Their delight is in the word of God and number 2 they meditate on it day and night.  In all the other things they do this saturates everything else in their life.  They don’t do the negative sinful stuff they are in the word.   The picture here is that of a person who is stable.  He or she is not blown around by every storm that comes down the pike.  There is fruit.   There is growth.    In Colossians 3 Paul tells us to let the word of Christ dwell in your richly. 

   God said David was a man after his own heart.    Do we desire to be a man or woman after God’s own heart?   I think Elaine desires to be that.   Her New Year resolution is to read Romans chapter 12 every day this year.   That is a great chapter.   What a great goal.  What is your foundation for this year?   What is the foundation of our life?    In Psalm 19 David writes.   The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.   The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.   The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.  They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.  By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

   What did David know or have of God’s word?  Well probably he knew of the first 5 books of the bible, the Pentateuch or the books that Moses wrote.  He may have had access to the book of Joshua, Judges, Job and maybe a couple of others but that is it.  It was not much.  He did not have the books on the Kings of Israel nor Solomon writings nor the major and minor prophets.   David said God’s word was sweeter than honey.  I have read that honey is the only food that does not spoil.  Sweeter than honey.   Sweeter than ice cream and candy.  Sweeter than chocolate.  It is more precious than gold.  It is better than money.  It is more valuable than a big bank account.  That is not to be critical of money.  The bible says the love of money is the issue.  We are to love the word more than money. 

    I have preached on both of those passages before.  There have been messages on teaching, preaching, God speaks and the word and I am concerned that we do not give the bible the priority that we should.  How do you see the bible?   Is it a book of 1500 pages of dos and don’t dos?  Is it a book of rules on how to appease this God up there somewhere?   Is this boring?  Does this book bore you to death?  For some folks they see it as boring.  It is not worth my time they would say.   Moses said man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  Jesus told Satan man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  Does that mean if I am not getting this book into my life I am not living?   The person would be living but not really living.  Not alive to God or not living close to God’s spirit.  

     Are we too busy for God’s word?  Several people have gone to the movies to see the Last Jedi.  Many Christians have spent an evening to see that.  Have se spent an evening with the Lord and in God’s word?   God knows our heart.  He knows your passion for him.  Many Christians saw it a couple of weeks ago.  Have they spent 2 hours in God’s word since then?  I know it is between them and God.   Some folks feel like they go to church and some even go to bible study and that is enough of the bible for them.  Is that OK with the Lord?   Where is your heart when it comes to the word of God? 

     Do we struggle connecting with the word of God and if so why?  For some people our approach is wrong.  The Pharisees studied the word of God.  I have heard that they memorized a lot of the Old Testament.  They knew it and they searched the scriptures.   Jesus even said that to them.  They were the experts.  They were diligent in their study.  In John 5 Jesus said you study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

     In Revelation Jesus told the church at Ephesus that he knew their deeds, their hard work, their perseverance, their endurance, and had kept his name.  But Jesus was not pleased with them because they left their first love.  Are we struggling with the bible because we are not seeking to connect with Jesus?   Do we read the bible to see Jesus?   Do we read the bible and study the bible to understand his love for us?   Are we in the bible to encounter Jesus?   When you think about this new year 2018 do you want to be closer to Jesus?  Are we expecting the bible to fil our lives or are we expecting Jesus to fill our lives?  Are we turning to God or to something else to fill us?  The world the flesh and the devil try to get us away rom Jesus.  If a person focus is on Jesus they will not be looking at their sin and how inadequate they are.  Instead of worrying about tomorrow peace will rule in their life.  I am not trying to be your enemy here but trying to point you to the answer to life which is Jesus. 

    There are books and games where you look for something.   Find all the hats on this page or all the words.  Do you remember that book called where is Waldo?  What would it be like to read the book and not be searching for Waldo?   I have been guilty of doing that.  You know what I mean read the bible but not be looking for Jesus.   People search the scriptures not looking for the main character.   The scriptures point to Jesus. Jesus after he was crucified was on the road to Emmaus with 2 of his disciples pointing out to them how the scriptures talked and pointed out the son of God.  Their hearts burned.  The living word expounded to them the written word.  Their hearts burned.  

    How do we let the Word of God dwell richly in us?   We read and study the word of God.  We listen to messages and spiritual songs.  We chew on it in our mind.  We think about it.   Write down 2 or 3 things from the sermon and review it every day of the week.   Many Christians make a commitment to read the Bible through in 1 year.   We need to be people of the book – His book.   We can listen to preachers and teachers of the word.   I post my messages on our web site.   We can study and meditate on the word and memorize it.   Meditation is not difficult.  We think about how we will spend our spare time.  We think about what we are going to eat.   We think about what we are going buy.   We can think about what we read from the bible.  In Colossians 3 we can sing the words of scripture.  We can sing hymns and spiritual songs.  We can think about God’s love for us and cast out our distorted thoughts of how broken we are and how we have failed and how others have failed. 

    In John 15 Jesus said the disciples were cleaned by the word of God or the spoken word of Jesus cleansed the disciples.   Jesus words and life had a purifying effect on the disciples.   Paul says the word should be at home in our life.   The bible or the 10 commandments may seem narrow to some but so does every runway on the airports of the world.   Yet no passenger wants his pilot to miss the narrow runway and land a few yards off the mark in some field or water way or in some buildings.   The narrow ribbon of payment is really the broad way that leads to a safe comfortable landing.  So, the word of God leads us home. 

   One person wrote that we have 35 million laws on the books to enforce the 10 commandments or should I say the 2 commandments that Jesus gave us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts minds souls and strength and our neighbor as our self.   Everything else hung on that.    To be filled with God’s word means that His standards become our standards.   To be filled with the word of God means that his work becomes our work and His passion becomes my passion.  To be filled with God’s word is to be strong in difficult times.  To be filled with the Lord is to be fruitful.  To be filled with Jesus is to be filled with love and peace.   Isn’t that good and sweet and wonderful?   Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.   It is to our advantage to be in the word of God.  The idea here is that the word would dwell richly.  The meaning could be translated abundantly or extravagantly. What is your idea of abundance or extravagant?  

    Do Christians see the bible as the foundation for their life?   Do we long to read the bible?   Can we see Jesus in the scripture?  Do we look to see and learn from him in His word?  I trust your goal is to have a living, vibrant, prosperous relationship with Jesus this year. 

 

Mercy

December 31, 2017    Romans 12:1  Mercy 

 

     What is mercy?  Well Webster says mercy is refraining from harming offender’s enemies etc. imprisonment rather than death for capitol crime, a disposition to forgive or be kind, the power to forgive, a lucky thing blessing at the mercy of completely in the power of.  Some of those points certainly sound like God.   God is certainly merciful.  Exodus 33:19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.   Jeremiah 3:12 Go, proclaim this message toward the north: “‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever.   Hosea 6:6 for I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.      

   Mercy is very important in relationships isn’t it?   People get hurt.  Maybe someone says something that is not nice and it wounds a person.   Sometimes reputations are destroyed.  People may misread someone or deliberately try to destroy them.  The natural response is to get even.  The natural response is to make them pay.   A natural response is to pull away from them and not communicate.  We live in very divided world today.  How would America be different if somehow if every person in America was given a huge dose of mercy?    Do you think the United States congress would be productive if a tidal wave of mercy flooded everyone involved in the capitol building?  What would that do?   Well I suspect that people would not be at war with each other.  People always accomplish more when they pull together and stop fighting each other.  People do better when they stop being critical of each other and seek to understand each other.  When people stop feeling that they have all of the answers and everyone else is wrong but me and seek to communicate with others much good can come that.  Mercy reaches out to other people.  Mercy reaches out to other people. 

     Mercy has the underlying idea of a bestowal of help by an act of one’s free generosity.   I suppose that is best conveyed by what God has done for us, which is perhaps somewhat illustrated by the following story or concept.   Let’s imagine you have a young son whom you love dearly.    Tragically, one day you discover that your son was horribly murdered.      After a lengthy search the investigators of the crime find the killer.   If you used every means in your power to kill the murderer for his crime, that would be vengeance.     If, however, your content to sit back and let the legal authorities take over and execute on him what is a proper fair trial and accept the sentence that the court passes down that is justice. 

     But if you should plead for the pardon of the murderer, forgive him completely, invite him into your home, and adopt him as your own son, that is grace.   That is sort of what God did for us.  Jesus died in our place.   Jesus took our punishment and our sin.  God wants us in his family.    Because he is rich in mercy God has made us alive in Jesus.  There are very few people who would do that, but that’s what God does every day because God is rich in mercy.   Donald Barnhouse said: Love that goes upward is worship.    Love that goes outward is affection.   Love that stoops is grace and mercy.   God’s love stoops to us.   God stoops to minister to us.   God stooped to die on the cross for us.  We cannot comprehend His love for us and we cannot comprehend his mercy that is given to us.  A great example of mercy is Luke 19:10.   For the son of man came to seek that which was lost.  It was lost when Adam and Eve sinned. 

      Since God is merciful people appeal to God’s mercy.   We see a number of examples of that in scripture.  In Matthew 9 2 blind men ask Jesus to have mercy on them and give them their sight and Jesus heals them.  In Matthew 15 a Canaanite woman appeals to Jesus and ask for mercy because her daughter suffered from demon possession.  Jesus granted her request.  A father comes to Jesus in Matthew 17 and asks Jesus to have mercy on his son who was epileptic and Jesus rebukes the demon and heals the boy.   In Matthew 23 Jesus said Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!   You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin.   But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.   Jesus said do not neglect your tithe but practice justice, mercy and being faithful.  There are other examples of Jesus responding to pleas for mercy in the gospels.  We see that people approached God pleading for mercy in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. 

   Some people are not into mercy.   Many people do not think about mercy.  Many people do not appeal to God’s mercy.  Some folks do not see their need for mercy.  In Luke 18 we see the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector.   Jeans shares “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.’  The Pharisee did not see his need of mercy.  He is a very religious man.  He is careful in his giving.  He carefully follows all of the rules.  On the outside and what people see of him is that he has it all together.  So, he does not receive mercy from God.  He certainly offers no mercy to the tax collector.  All od his relationships are impacted by his attitude. + There is  a level of pride and superiority in his life.   For him if you slip up there is no compassion.  He does not see his need for mercy and he offers no mercy. 

    Sometimes Christians come across as unmerciful.    Sometimes the church is guilty of that.  Where should a safe place be that people can go to?  Shouldn’t Christians be merciful?  God is merciful to all people.  But especially to the Christian God has shown his mercy and forgiveness.  God invites us into his presence.  Christians should be able to admit that we do not have it altogether.  We should be able to admit that we are broken and only on track when we are in the Holy Spirit.  We are broken and we live in a broken world.  Do we see ourselves as deserving God’s mercy or do we see ourselves as continually needing God’s mercy?  We can come across to others that we are OK and God has blessed us and we are there to help them get to our level.  We have all sinned and need God’s mercy. 

    Sin thrives in secret.  James tells us confess your faults to one another.  In an environment where there is mercy and Christian compassion there can be healing.  The strangle hold of sin can be broken when a person has other Christians who will pray for them and love them and help them walk through their brokenness.  The church has been likened to a hospital.  It is or should be a place to get healed.  I think we have quite an open atmosphere in this church.  Maybe some would disagree with that.  It is good to be in a group where men meet or women meet consistently not so much to learn more bible but to be open with one another about the struggles of life that each one of us face. 

       The gospel enables us to feel compassion.  As we see the holiness of God we should be sensitive and compassionate toward others.  Even the apostle Paul said he had not attained.  We see all the wonderful things that God has done for us in Romans and it motivates us or should motivate us to lay down our life.  God who is rich in mercy.  In view of God’s mercy.  In view of all that God has done for us.   When we consider the sacrifice of Jesus for our salvation.  We should be motivated to be merciful. 

    Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.   In the Old Covenant – an act of worship meant you took an animal and sacrificed it on the altar.    Now that Jesus has become our sacrifice for sin – we offer ourselves up not as dead sacrifices on the altar, but living sacrifices.   The problem with living sacrifices, of course, is that we can get up off the altar. Sometimes we feel like we’re “giving it all up for God” but at other times we get scared or selfish and we jump down and say – not today God or we are confronted with something appealing to us and we choose to sin and not to submit to God.  

God desires total commitment from us.   Total commitment means being 100% sold out to the Lord.

     Somebody said, that 99 ½ just won’t do.    Paul talks about in v1 about presenting your bodies a living and holy sacrifice. Paul says I urge you.    I think it is important to see that Paul is urging these people to do this. He says, “I urge you brethren by the mercies of God.   Total commitment is something that you must choose to do.    It is voluntary.   You can either do it or not do it; the choice is up to you.   No one can make you or force you to be totally committed to anything that includes to God or church or your family and work.  It is when we yield our self to God that God begins to change our lives.   God ministers to us through His spirit.   God blesses us with joy and with a full life.   No, it is not easy but it is far better.  The end of the road is eternal and is full of wonderful compensation.   It is not entitlements from the government but from God whose resources are limitless. 

         It is only when we yield our will to God that His power can take over and give us the willpower. Not only does he give us the will power, but he gives us the “Won’t Power”.    God blesses us with a new attitude.    You won’t want to lie or back bite or run others down but God leads his people to be encouragers.    God grants us power to live above the mess that is in the world.   When my brother became a Christian the smoking, drinking and swearing became thing of the past.   It is radical what God can do in your life.   

        The word present means to offer up. We ought to offer ourselves to the Lord. We ought to say I’m yours, Lord; I’m yours Lord, everything I got everything I am.   When we do this, it means that we are dedicated completely and wholly to God.  And the reason we should to this, Paul says, is because of the mercies of God.    That is because of the greatness of God and all that he’s done for us.    God has dealt with us in mercy and love.   God was rich in mercy to save us.  God loves us.    At one point we were headed for a Christ less eternity and God reached down and touched us.   In Christ we are blessed.   In Christ we are forgiven.   In Christ we have love, joy and peace.   Love and joy and peace are the result of a submitted life.   Do you want to be filled with love joy and peace?    That is the fruit of the HS.   That is result of walking with God.    Do you want answers to your needs?    Paul says to the Christians in Corinth that we have the mind of Jesus.   Sometimes we labor and wait but God promises to give us wisdom.

      Sacrifices burned on the altar change – they are burned up – their literal chemical properties are different as the fire oxidizes the meat.     We as living sacrifices should also be changed – no longer conforming (the word means “to fashion something after another”) but transformed and changed.  That is mercy.   That is grace.    The church should look radically different to those outside of it.   The world should see love and mercy and compassion in the church.    Therefore, in view of all of God’s mercies and all of God’s blessings I urge you to present yourself as a living sacrifice to God.   You cannot do that in your own strength.   You cannot do that on your own but over and over again you can submit yourself to God and ask Him to help you live your life.   We may struggle with sin and disobedience but we continue to submit those areas of our lives to God.  

 

 

 

Mercy

December 24, 2017  Luke 1:67 – 80  Zechariah’s Song 

 

      Jess Moody shares.   I taught a Bible class at the home of Barbara Holmyard, the Champion Spark Plug heiress. Princess Alexandra of Greece was invited to come, and she did.   Rose Kennedy came with her.  When I saw that Rose was present, I immediately changed my subject for the day to a little homily on death, making three points: 1. You can fight it.   2. You can take flight from it.  3. You can make a deal with God.  I believe what they are saying is that we can come to peace with God by receiving Jesus into our heart.  After the class, Rose whispered in my ear, “I made that deal a long time ago.  “I was a spoiled young bride of a strong-willed man, a socialite who attended every function possible,” she began. “We were expecting a child and elated at the prospect.  The day came when our child was born.

    She was a beautiful child. “But it wasn’t long until we realized that there was something terribly wrong with her. We took her to the doctor, who confirmed our fears. She was retarded, and nothing could be done.”  “Anger grew within my heart,” Rose said. “How could God do such a thing to this child — to me?   I turned my back on God, my husband, my closest friends — and became a recluse.  “One evening a major event was happening in the city.   I wanted to go, but I was so filled with wrath that I thought I might create a scene.   My husband feared it, too, so we decided to stay home.   

     A lovely woman, who was one of our maids, gently said to me, ‘Please excuse me, Mrs. Kennedy, but I’ve been watching you the last few weeks.   I love you very much, and I hate to see this destroy your life.   Mrs. Kennedy, you’ll never be happy until you make your heart a manger where the Christ-child may be born.’   “I fired her on the spot!  Yet later that night my mind ruminated relentlessly, keeping me awake.   I could not forget that lovely face, the sweetness of the maid, the joy in her spirit, and especially her words.  “I have loved Christ all my life, and tried to be a good Catholic, but now I knelt beside my bed and prayed, ‘Dear God, make my heart a manger where the Christ-child may be born.’  I felt a fresh new divine entry into my life, and there was born in me a love for retarded children.   “Oh, by the way, I rehired the lovely maid.   She was with us until her death.”  — Jess Moody, 1001 Illustrations.    God can change our hearts.  God can help us to love others more deeply. 

    That is an interesting prayer isn’t it?   God make my heart a manager where the Christ child may be born.  God put a new and deeper love in her heart.   There was healing and a new power came into her life.  God in his mercy heard her prayer and answered her petition.   As we live our life we find that our resources and our abilities are not enough for the challenges we face in these days. 

    God is a very merciful God.   Mankind has offended his holiness yet God loves us.   Man has offended God but God has offered us mercy and forgiveness.  That mercy and forgiveness is found in Jesus.   At Christmas time we usually do not think about God’s mercy.  I do not remember hearing a message on mercy at Christmas. We have done a number of different thoughts with the advent wreath such as the word hope, prophecy, shepherds, joy, angels and so on but I do not remember mercy represented by one of the candles.     Mercy is very much an important part of the Christmas story.   Mary mentions mercy in her song in Luke 1:50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation and verse 54 he has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful.

     Zechariah said in verse 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, and 77 & 78 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God.   Do you want a blessing?   Meditate on the tender mercy of God.   What does tender mercy mean?    God is merciful.   God has told us to love mercy in Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you, to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  What does it mean to you to love mercy?  We see in scripture where people prayed to God and appealed to God’s mercy.  Several people appealed to Jesus mercy.   

       Zondervan Bible Dictionary says that present usage identifies mercy with compassion, in a sense of a willingness to forgive an offender or adversary and more generally simply by a disposition to spare or help another.  This disposition although inwardly felt manifests itself outwardly in some kind of action.  Mercy is more than a feeling it is expressed. Mercy calls for action.   James tells us do not say be warmed and filled and send them on their way without anything.  Zondervan goes on it is evident that mercy combines a strong emotional element usually identified as pity, compassion, or love with some practical response to the condition or needs of the object of mercy.  Mercy costs something.   When we think about God sending his son that cost God a great deal.  Zechariah said because of the tender mercy of God.   Our God is a merciful God. 

    What comes to mind when you think about mercy?  Has there been a time in your that sticks out when you were given mercy?   Or a time when you extended mercy to another.  When God gives mercy it is undeserved.  We do not deserve mercy.   Mercy is not earned.  Mercy is not owed.  When mercy is given it is undeserved.   When we think about Christmas we should think about mercy.  Mary talked about mercy.   Zechariah mentions mercy.  John the Baptist preached about mercy and giving.  John the Baptist told the people to share your food and clothes with those who need food and clothing.   That is an act of mercy.    John the Baptist said behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  There is the object of mercy.  He is the merciful one.  Grace and truth came from Jesus.  When you consider the manger in Bethlehem it speaks of mercy.  When you look at the cross it speaks of mercy.  It speaks of mercy because it speaks of forgiveness.  It speaks of mercy because we did not deserve it.  Paul said he was shown mercy and Christians have been shown mercy.  Paul said God is rich in mercy.  God is rich in mercy.   We can come to God.  God delights in mercy.  Many people miss it.  

          It was 7:51 a.m. Friday morning January 12, 2007.  L’Enfant Plaza in Washington D.C. a busy subway station had its usual morning rush of commuters.   A young man wearing a baseball cap T-shirt and faded jeans entered the plaza and quietly removed his violin from its case.  He tossed some seed money into the case to bait the passer byes and lifted the violin to his chin.   The player was Joshua Bell possibly the best violinist of our generation.  His instrument?  The rare Gibson ex Huberman handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari one of the most coveted and expensive violins in existence. It is estimated that Joshua Bell bought that for 3.5 million.   The music?  Bell began with Chaconne from Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor hailed by some as one of the greatest pieces of music ever composed in history.  Very few violin players have mastered playing that piece.  It has been said that it is 14 tortuous minutes long to play it. 

    The response?  You would be surprised.   Of the 1097 commuters who passed Bell that morning only 7 stopped to listen.  That’s right 7.  Just 3 days before Bell had played to a sold-out crowd at Boston’s Symphony Hall where the average seat cost was 100.00.   His earnings that morning in the subway?  A little over $32.00.  Twenty dollars of that was given by one woman who recognized him and she stayed and enjoyed his playing until he left.    What does he normally make?  He is paid around $1,000 a minute.  The Washington Post sponsored Bell’s performance to evaluate the public’s taste, priorities and perception.   There are many things to be said about Bell’s performance.   It speaks to context and settings and perceptions and many things.   There was great music but no crowd.   

     We miss a lot of things in life because we are busy.   All of us are going to miss some things.   It is OK to miss some things.  Some things are critical.   We don’t want to miss the important things.   The things that God offers are much better than what the world can offer.   The heavenly choir will be so much better than Joshua Bell.    It is sad that so many people do not understand the real meaning of Christmas.  They do not put Jesus in their life.   They have no room for Jesus and no room for God.     Heaven will be far superior to anything we have on earth.  The birth of Jesus exudes mercy.  He is the lamb of God.  He is the one who takes away the sin of the world.  He is the one who suffered for my sin and by his stripes or beating I am healed.   I did not deserve Him but God extended mercy to me.  Jesus is the unspeakable gift.  Heaven is the unspeakable gift.   Forgiveness is the unspeakable gift.  God is rich in mercy. 

 

Judging

December 17, 2017  Matthew 5:43 – 48  Judging 

 

   A number of the thoughts that I am sharing in this message came from a message preached by Perry Stone.  This is an interesting passage before us today.  God says to be good to bad people or be good to your enemies.  God sends the sun on good and bad people and God sends rain on good and bad people. 

    I want to talk about tragedies today.   What do you think about the disasters that we are seeing today?   What about the tsunami that hit in the Indian Ocean in 2004 that took 230 to 280K lives?   The waves were up to 100 feet high killing people in 14 countries.  In 2011 Japan had a bad one also.  My neighbor Doug has a brother in Japan and Doug has talked to me about that.  The comment was made well Japan is a godless nation and God was judging them.   Did Satan cause it?    God can certainly use storms to bring people to himself. 

    There are a couple of examples in the scriptures on people responses to situations.  One of those is in John 9 which says as he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.     His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”    “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.   There certainly was a belief in those days that God deals with the evil or wicked and so the thought that sin caused blindness and other diseases.  

   Paul was ship wrecked in Acts 28 and the bible says once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.   Did God cause that storm or did Satan or some other force?   Do storms just happen?  How do we think that storms happen?   Scriptures record that the islanders showed us unusual kindness.  They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.    Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.    When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess justice has not allowed him to live.”    But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.   The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god. 

   There is a classic example of that in the Old Testament with Job.  Job loses everything.  Three of Job’s friends show up.   Things are so bad that for 7 days no one speaks.  Then Job speaks in chapter 3.     In chapter 4 Eliphaz is the first to comment to Job.  Does he offer him encouragement?   Well not exactly.  In verse 7 of chapter 4 we read Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?   Where were the upright ever destroyed?   As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.     At the breath of God, they perish; at the blast of his anger they are no more.  What he said seems to make sense right?  What is he saying?  Job ole buddy you reap what you sow. 

    Job responds to him and then Bildad Shuhite steps up to bat in chapter 8 and said.  “How long will you say such things?  Your words are a blustering wind.   Does God pervert justice?   Does the Almighty pervert what is right?    When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.    But if you will seek God earnestly
and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state.   Well that seems to make sense.   Job responds to Bildad and then Zophar responds in Chapter 11. “Are all these words to go unanswered?    Is this talker to be vindicated?   Will your idle talk reduce others to silence?   Will no one rebuke you when you mock?  Was he accusing Job of mocking God? 

    Think about this for a minute.  Job is the richest man in the east.  He has 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys. He had a large number of servants. He had 10 children.  Job is rich but he is also the most righteous man on earth.  He is the richest man in all of the East.   In 1 day he loses it all.  He loses everything but his wife.  A period of time after he loses it all and we do not know how long that time is his body is smitten with boils.  This man is suffering.    Imagine the news the richest man in the east loses it all.  If you were a Christian or God-fearing person and knew him what would you say to him?   People would surely be talking about it.  The word would get around quickly.  It was not because Job sinned that this happened to him.  God told Satan that Job was righteous.

    Think about this for a minute.   God said there is no one on the earth like Job.  There is none on the whole earth righteous like Job.  Job was more righteous than all of Job’s buddies his thorn in the flesh buddies.  All his friends did was hammer on him.  There are 35 chapters where Job defends himself and his friends condemn him, beat on him and tell him how terrible he is.      But God’s assessment of Job was that he was righteous.  Job was a good ole boy even though Job’s friends could not see it.   In fact, at the end of the book God said he did not like the way that Job’s friends talked about God.  I have read different comments about that but I would certainly say they were wrong about how God saw Job.

    They were saying God you caused that too happened to Job.  Did God cause that to happen to Job.  NO!  Do you see what is happening here?   God, you are beating Job up because he is a sinner.  That was wrong.  It might be right concerning other people.   Many folks do not care if they speak wrongly about God.   In a sense a person might say they were attacking God’s goodness and grace.  The point is we can be wrong also and speak the wrong things about God when we judge the things that happen to other people or even what happens to us.    How many people are mad at God for thinking that God took their child, or spouse or parent?    I have heard people complain.  God, you caused this to happen.  You are the guilty one.  Well not so fast.  I know a person right now who said they would not pray because God did not answer their prayer. 

    Perry Stone shares how one pastor lost his 17-year-old son.  Pastors contacted him and were saying to him how did you let your guard down?  What happened to your prayer shield?  Well there must be some hidden sin or something going on?   What did you do that caused that too happened to you?  If you had a terrible tragedy happen to you how would you feel to be on the receiving end of those kinds of comments?  Christians can be wrong and we can be mean also.  Maybe well meaning but mean.  I have been guilty also.  We need to learn to weep with those who weep.   

    Let’s change it up a little bit.  Let’s make it a little spicy.   Let’s say Donald Trump’s tower falls down and he loses a couple of billion dollars on a bad investment or something.    Or Bill and Hillary Clinton get in a serious accident, lose millions of dollars or some tragedy hits them.  What do you think people would say about that?   What would you say about that?   Would you be happy?   You can just hear people say things like well I guess God caught up with him.  Their sins found them out.  By the way that is a bible verse.   It is about time.  I have been expecting something like that to happen to them.    There must be something going on with them.  Well those rich people let them suffer a little bit.   They forgot what it is like to be poor.    The standard of living has been going down and I am glad they can feel some that also. 

   Let me spin or throw out a hypothetical story.  There is a town in the mid-west.  It was a rather small town and it has a church in it and a tavern in it.  The church has been praying about the tavern for years.  There is drinking going on and some drugs and other things that are not godly.  It is the hang out for the town rabble.   The police know the place rather well and you get the picture.   The tavern does a pretty good business there.  The church people have been less than happy with the place.   In fact, some the members are downright upset about the tavern.  So, it is often a matter of conversation and prayer among the church members.  One day a tornado basically wreaks havoc on the town.

    Let’s suppose the tavern is totally destroyed.  What are the church members going to say?    Well God finally answered my prayers.   I hope and pray they don’t have insurance.    What if the tornado took the church out and the tavern was not touched?  The devil did that.   The devil comes to steal kill and destroy.  Well what if it takes the church and the tavern out.  The devil destroyed the church and God destroyed the tavern.  The only issue is it is the same storm.   Did you ever play clue or the mystery games?  The question is who done it.   I remember reading once where the tornado took out the deacon’s house and the pastor told the deacon.   I told you that you needed to get right with the Lord and the deacon told the pastor.   The tornado took your house out also.  The pastor said the Lord works in strange ways his wonders to perform.  We can have interesting responses to tragedy. 

    A couple of comments here.  non-Christians hear Christians talk about God judging and so on.   They may not even believe in God but they do not want anything to do with a God who would hurt someone.   There is a heaven and hell folks and God does judge but we need to be wise in our communication.  We need also to be honest.  Whether we like it or not, not everyone is going to heaven because God said so.   

     Here is another comment that I want to make.  When a disaster hits a place and homes and businesses are destroyed the people can have a hard time to adjust to it.  Perry Stone commented that a Christian boy that his wife had dated at one point committed suicide after a destructive tornado.  We could wonder how many in Puerto Rico have just gave up on life.  God also cares about the toll these storms take on human life I believe.   God is good all the time even in judgment.  I believe that the devil is never good.   He comes to steal kill and destroy Jesus said. 

    Who sent the storm we read about in Matthew 8?   Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.    Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.    The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”    He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.     The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this?   Even the winds and the waves obey him!”   Jesus rebuked that storm.  When you see the word rebuked in Matthew, Mark, and Luke it is the same root word in the Greek.  So, when Jesus rebuked Peter and rebuked demons it is the same meaning when he rebuked this storm.  If the father sent the storm would Jesus rebuke it?   I don’t think so. Jesus always walked in step with the Father

   . One more point I want to make that is found in Luke 13.   Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.    Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?    I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.     Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?   I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  Do you understand what Jesus is saying here?   Were the people that Pilate killed more evil than others?  Were the 18 people who died when the tower fell on them more evil than the others?   Jesus says what?  He said no everybody needs to repent.  It is like God did not engineer it or cause those particular 18 people to be around when this tower fell so that they would die.   God makes the sun and rain to fall on the good and the bad.  

    Causes   Reap what you sow – God corrects -  God’s wrath – Earth groans – Satan – End times 

 

 

Glory in Jesus

December 10, 2017  Galatians 6  Cross the

   This is a good passage as we approach Christmas.  As Christians we can glory and boast in the cross. We can hold our head up high because we understand what Christmas really means.  At the heart of Christmas is the story of Jesus and our salvation in Jesus which culminates in the Jesus death on the cross and his resurrection from the death.  I have read about a number of men who walked close with the Lord and the cross was very important to them.  They spent time in focusing on the cross and Jesus sacrifice.  The heart of that of course is Jesus love and our forgiveness. 

   Paul understood how important the cross was and it became the center of Paul’s life.  In Romans 1 Paul writes for I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.    For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.   

    In verse 14 we read in the NIV translation may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision mean anything; what counts is the new creation.   The King James tells us that God forbid that I should glory except in the cross.  The NIV and the New King James reads that may I never boast except in the cross.   The Greek word can mean to make boast, glory, joy and rejoice.   It means to vaunt in a good or bad sense and in this verse, it means in a good sense.

   I believe that Paul pictured that cross and Jesus on it.  It was more than a casual look.  You can look at something and not see it.  How many times have we traveled down a road and then one day we say wow I never noticed that before.  We may have looked at it a hundred times but did not register with us.  My wife Sally gets new pictures every year and this year she did not like her pictures.  In fact, she did not even show them to me.  Her pictures got put on the bottom of some papers and I uncovered them.  Her hair is longer right now and I like her hair the way it is now.  I looked at her picture and thought wow she really looks nice.  What a nice smile and I got caught up for a few minutes with her picture and I began to think about her heart.  She has a great heart.  I was just really touched by her.  My thoughts and my spirit went far deeper than just her looks.  I was gazing at her.   I was impacted emotionally.   I was more engaged than just my mind.  I was touched in a good way. 

     As Paul talks about his experience and conversion with Jesus he just presents the facts but later in his writings you get the sense of how his life was impacted by that experience.  In Philippians 3 Paul writes but whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.   What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.  In Colossians 3 Paul writes since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.    Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.     For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.   When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Paul said Christ is your life.   In Galatians 2:20 Paul’s testimony I am crucified with Christ never the less I live yet not I that live but Christ lives in me.  Paul was focused on Jesus. 

     I was thinking of other verses in the bible or illustrations of focusing on Jesus.  I thought of David where David said one thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.  There is a man who is in love.   David wanted to gaze on the beauty of God.   That was a driving force in his life.  He saw God as beautiful.    I remember reading about a wife who said she was never first place in her husband life.  She said before it was drinking and so on and now it is Jesus.  She said I would rather play second fiddle to Jesus than what he was before.  I thought about Isaiah 6 in the year King Uzziah died I saw the Lord high and lifted up and the train of his robe filled the temple.   That would take your breath away folks.  I saw God high and lifted up and his glory and his beauty filled the temple.  Wow 

    But I really like the passage in Acts 1 where Jesus ascends into heaven. The NIV says after he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.    They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.      “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?    This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”   They were looking intently.   Well I would also.  What a sight.  Jesus is lifted back up in the heavens and disappears in a cloud. 

     The KJ version says and when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.   And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?    This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

    This is kind of a side thought but as I was thinking about this John the disciple Jesus loved was really blessed.  John the apostle saw Jesus in the flesh and walked with him.  He saw Jesus miracles and saw him walk on the water.   He saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain in Matthew 17.   He saw Jesus raised from the earth and taken back into heaven.  Later John writes in Revelation 1 that he saw Jesus again but this time in even greater glory.  John said he was in his spirit not in his flesh, but in spirit when he saw Jesus.   He said when he saw Jesus that time he fell at his feet as though he was dead.   There is seeing and there is seeing.   I might ask you do you really want to see Jesus?   I think there are a lot of Christians who stiff arm Jesus.   Don’t get too close Lord. 

     Here is the thing folks.   What you look upon and gaze at has a powerful impact on your life.  We tend to gaze and look at what we find is beautiful to us.  That is a lot of different things for different people.  Some folks it is money.  Where your treasure is Jesus said that is where your heart is.  For some it can be a vehicle.   For some it can be drugs.  This beautiful thing is going to fill my life.  It can be sexual.   We set our heart on it.  We look to it to fill us.  People become dependent upon it.  What we gaze upon exerts some level of control upon us.  Then we trust it.  This thing makes me happy.  I trust it to make me happy.  I trust it to fill my life and God says do not have any other gods before me.  Why does God say that well one reason is that stuff can enslave us and that stuff is not good for us.  We can be enslaved by our past sins.  That can steal our joy. 

    Sometimes as Christians we have a hard time to feel forgiven.  We know that God forgives us.  I suppose sometimes we do not feel forgiven because we have a person or persons around us who do not let us forget.  When a leader sins it can be very difficult.  We can understand and know God’s forgiveness but not really know God’s forgiveness.  We confess it and we are unable to forgive our self.  Some of us feel that we must punish our self for wrongs so we beat our self up.  But Jesus paid the price on the cross for the Christians sin.  Maybe it has something to do with what we are looking at.   Maybe we are not gazing upon Jesus.   If you look at your old sinful nature your going to see sinfulness.  Paul said in my flesh dwells no good thing.  The more I look at trash the more trash I see.  I believe there is a lot of benefit for the Christian to meditate upon the cross.  God forbid Paul said that I should glory except in the cross.  When I look at the cross I can see forgiveness.   When I look at the cross I can see love.  Keep your eyes on Jesus. 

    We were blessed to have David Alves share with us this fall.  I remember when he asked me in the service if I had a life verse.  What are your goals and where are you trying to go?   What do you want to excel at?  What do you want to be known for?  Do you want to be the perfect spouse?   Do you want to be the above average parent?   Do you want to be the perfect or should I say a model Christian?  Some may want to be the perfect pastor.   Those are worthy goals.  When you are striving to be perfect and you fail it can be hard to experience forgiveness.  We may find it difficult to forgive our self. 

     It is good to have goals.  Those goals can draw us to Jesus or not.   Those goals can become more important than Jesus.   When we fail in our goals we can become discouraged and become self-centered.  We live in a broken world.  The reality is that we fail.  Some fight, fight, labor, labor and labor for that dream or that reputation.   We all fail.  All of us are broken.  In the midst of whatever you are striving for keep your eyes on Jesus.  Jesus just wants to be in your life.  Jesus is the way the truth and the life.  He is life and if he is not your dream you will be disappointed.   If your delight is in Jesus and you walk in his spirit you will experience a full life. 

    Paul said God forbid that I should glory in anything but the cross.  He was very successful before he knew Jesus and after.  He was the great church planter.   He healed and preached.  He said it is all rubbish or as one preacher said soiled diapers.  Jesus meant much more to him more than the things of the world.    When we gaze on Jesus there is a great transformation that takes place in your life.  When the Holy Spirit is flowing through you there is love, joy and peace.   Gods glory can shine through you.  Your life is blessed. 

    We need a new love a new affection for Jesus.  Alan Kraft shares some teenagers in the summer like to sleep until noon. What would motivate him to get up early.  The parents could lecture him and point out that it isn’t good to be lazy.  But in the fall when football practice starts he is up and at them.   What motivates people to work?  We have a desire and a responsibility.  Some hate their jobs from what I read over half of American workers do not like their jobs.   Hunger can be a point of motivation.    Paul said the world was dead to him.  His focus and his love was on Jesus.  The angels came to the shepherds and said I bring you good news of great joy for all people.  Great joy came to us and his name is Jesus. 

   Brennan Manning told of Edward Ferrell who traveled to Ireland to celebrate his uncle 80 birthday.  One morning Edward and his uncle got up early to go for a walk by lake Killarney.  As the sun rose his uncle stopped and looked at the sun rise for 20 minutes in silence.   Then the elderly man skipped along the shore line with a big smile on his face.  Edward caught up with him and said uncle Seamus you look very happy would you tell me why?  Yes, lad he said with tears coming down his face.  You see my father is very fond of me.  Ah me father is so very fond of me.  I would say the father is very fond of us and he has made it possible for us to walk in the knowledge of his love. 

     

 

 

 

Sowing and Reaping

December 3, 2017  Galatians 6  Sowing and reaping

   In verse 3 we read if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing he deceives himself.   A person could question why did the Holy Spirit chose to put that in there?  Any comments?  I think God put that in for those that like to think they are the junior holy spirit and go around trying to straighten out everyone else.  We are getting a warning here to be humble and to be careful as we approach another about a sin issue.  In Romans 12 we read 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.   After that is teaching on the spiritual gifts. 

     Think about yourself in light of your faith.   How often does the scripture tell us to think about ourselves?   I think we need to think about that carefully.   What is God saying to us?   What makes sense to me is don’t think about yourself in light of your abilities but your faith in God and what God can do.  What is important is what God can do not what you can do.   God is the one who changes the heart.  I need to go to my erring brother or sister but I trust God to work to resolve the issue.  I go with a dependent, humble, and prayerful attitude.  I trust the Lord to work not only in the other person but in me also.  We are encouraged not to compare our self with others.   

   Then we read for each one shall bear his own load.  We just read carry or bear one another’s burdens and then each person must carry his own burden or load.  Is this a bible contradiction?   What does this mean?  I am not sure that anyone knows exactly what is meant here but I will share a couple of my thoughts.   We can help one another but I cannot take the whole responsibility for anther person.  If a brother needs a meal I can feed them.  But I cannot feed everybody in the world that is hungry.  Each person has some responsibility for himself. 

   Some folks want and expect everything given to them and it does not work that way.  No one here is like that.  If you want to help others be careful.  Do what God tells you to do.    Each of us is responsible before God.  Do not expect some one else to do all the pulling for you.  Sometimes that happens in relationships.  Some folks want to live on hand outs from others taking no responsibility.  I can’t totally carry another person’s responsibility.     There is only so much that you can do to carry another person’s burden or load.  Don’t get codependent.   I think we need to be careful that we do not derive our worth by what we do for others.   I think there is some truth in that for parents also. 

   Then in the next verse we read that anyone who receives instruction in the word or the bible must share all good things with his instructor.  Most people consider this as instruction to pay the minister.  There are other verses also that support that idea.   That those who preach and teach the bible can receive money for their work.  The bible also says do not muzzle the ox that works in the field.  Perhaps there may be a further meaning to this verse when taken in context with bear one another’s burdens and restoring a brother who has sinned or fallen.  It could be an admonition for the erring brother to receive the teaching and help from those seeking to help him. Freely give and freely receive. 

     It could mean some giving and receiving back and forth between both parties both spiritual and material things.  The erring brother is to be giving.  It is not a one-way street.  He is not to receive all the time but he is also to be giving.  It may be just prayer or receiving instruction.  Each person must carry their own burden.  Each person has a responsibility.  It is good to study the bible and to ask why is that there?   I would trust that we love Jesus enough that we would desire to know the bible and to study the bible.  Some of these passages can be challenging to understand. 

    Then we read do not be deceived God is not mocked.  We reap what we sow.  You can reap bad things and you can reap good things.  You can sow things that can destroy you.  What is the most important thing you can do with your life?  Do you want to reap eternal things?   If you seek to please your flesh or fleshly appetites you reap destructive things.  When it is all said and done how do you want to be remembered?   What is legacy you want to leave behind?   When I was young I decided that I could farm and thousands would still die every day from starvation but if I led some to Jesus they would spend eternity in heaven.  The spiritual won in my life. 

     I have also made some bad decisions.  The thing is that every decision we make has consequences.  You can do what you want to do but you cannot determine the consequences of those decisions.  The law of sowing and reaping is very important.  If we sow to the flesh we reap corruption.  If we sow to the spirit we reap life yes even eternal life.  Because of Jesus we can chose life.  Because of Jesus we can chose the things of God.   Joshua’s parting words to Israel were chose you this day who you are going to serve.  You can choose the real and only God or you can choose the false gods and idols.  Some say I will chose to serve me.  Well me becomes the idol.  I chose to serve my flesh then flesh becomes an idol.  Have we asked God what he wants us to do? 

   A lot of young people are making decisions and many of those decisions are bad.  Consider this illustration from 1001 Illustrations.   Doctors and social scientists have long assumed that many teens get into drugs and sex to deal with depression.    However, a study published in the October 2005 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reverses that assumption.   According to health policy researcher Denise Dion Hallfors, a recent study shows teens get depressed after substance abuse and sexual activity, not the other way around.

     The national survey of 13,491 adolescents showed that about 25 percent, called “abstainers,” had never had sex, smoked, drunk alcohol, or taken drugs.    Only 4 percent of those teens experienced depression.   The girls in the 75 percent who had taken drugs and experimented with sex were two to three times more likely to experience depression than abstaining girls.    Boys who engaged in binge drinking were 4.5 times more likely to experience depression than boys in the abstaining group.    Boys smoking marijuana were more than three times more likely to be depressed than those who abstained.    Hallfors warns, “Parents, educators, and health practitioners now have even more reason to be concerned about teen risk behaviors and to take action about alcohol, drugs, and sex.” 

    What does the bible say?   Do not be deceived.  Adam and Eve sinned.   God told them don’t do it.  Eve saw her son Cain kill her other son Able because she made a bad decision.  She chose to listen to a snake instead of God.  Sometimes we chose to listen to the snake or our flesh or sinful desires.  Adam and Eve chose to give in to their desire.   There are consequences to our choices.  God is not mocked.   You cannot out smart God.  Man cannot get the upper hand on God.  The natural man often thinks there is a better way.   There are consequences to me for eating too much ice cream.  There are consequences when I push myself too much.  There are results when I think I can do it and do not trust God to work.  God has been very good to me.   I suppose all of us could have made worse decisions.  We can be thankful.  

      Many times, people do not understand the results of what they are sowing.  That is certainly true with spiritual things.  Many do not believe in God.   Beethoven may have poisoned himself.   That’s what William Walsh, a scientist from Illinois, suggested after studying strands of hair from the body of famous classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Walsh discovered that Beethoven’s body had one hundred times the normal amount of lead.   He concluded that Beethoven’s untimely death at the age of fifty-seven was due to lead poisoning.  Beethoven’s lead poisoning may have been due to the mineral spa he went to for relaxation. The very thing he thought was bringing him relief was slowly poisoning him to death.  Spiritual poison is like that. As people engage in practices and embrace ideas that are spiritually poisonous, they think they’re becoming more spiritual.  But in reality, they’re gradually being poisoned to eternal death. 

     With Jesus we can have forgiveness.  Isaiah 1;18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  Scarlet was dyed twice and it was impossible to un dye it.  God said though your sins are impossible to remove I will change them from red from scarlet to white.  Therefore, if any man be in Christ he is a new creature.  God makes a way when there is no other way.  How can a person change the past?  We can’t only God can. 

    The law of sowing and reaping is found throughout life.  The farmer that plants wheat expects to see wheat growing in his field.  The carpenter that puts up some 2 by 6’s in a wall expects a wall to be up.   The electrician who connects a wire expects to see the results of that.  A person who peels potatoes and puts them in boiling water expects cooked potatoes in time.  Those that have jobs and go to work expect pay check.  Those that go to school and study can expect to learn something or get a degree.  The person who fishes expects to get some fish. 

    The law of sowing and reaping is found throughout the whole bible.   Noah walked with the Lord and found grace in eyes of God.  Sodom and Gomorrah sowed and reaped.  God told the Children of Israel if you walk with me I will bless you.  You will have none of these diseases that he put on Egypt.  II Corinthians 9 tells us that if we sow sparingly we will reap sparingly but those that sow bountifully will reap the same.  The bible promises that we will reap.  In Psalms we see that he that goes forth weeping bearing precious seed will doubtless come again rejoicing.   In I Corinthians 15 therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.  What you give to the Lord of your money and your life is not in vain even though Satan and the world would like us to believe otherwise.

   Then we read do not be weary in well doing.  Don’t give up and do not quit.  The enemy attacks and we get discouraged.   It seems like it takes a long time for those we pray for to change.  Sometimes we labor for years and years with little results especially with our children.  I have heard some stories lately and seen tears from parents.   People are slow to change even when we know we should do something different.  Ministry can be discouraging.  A pastor can preach for weeks and not see or hear any word of encouragement from anyone.  I appreciated Elaine and Tracy last Sunday for their comments regarding the message.  When you clean the house, or do dishes you see the results.  The people that work get a check.  Often, they can see the results of their work.  Spiritually that may not happen. The Christian walks by faith.  Often, we cannot see the fruit of our spiritual labor.   Noah preached for over 100 years without converts.  Sometimes Christians try to help others and our help is not wanted.  We may even be hated. 

   And let us do good to all men especially to those of the household of faith.  We do not exclude those that are outside of church or outside of the faith.  Jesus told his disciples to love one another.  Maybe we get those commands because it can be harder or more difficult to love family members than those who are not.  Those that we are closest to can hurt us the most.  We need balance.  The church cannot be totally self-centered.   Jesus said go into all the world and preach the gospel.  Do these verses tie into the theme of this book?   How do they relate?  

 

 

 

 

One Another

November 26, 2017  Galatians 6   One Another 

 

     The first thing we see in this chapter is some teaching or admonition on how to treat a brother or sister who is caught in a sin.  There is the tendency to be sharp or critical when another sins and to be much more forgiving when I sin or when it is personal sin.  The tendency is to overlook our personal sin and excuse it and to major on the sins of others.  That is personal pride.  Jesus said get the log out of your eye then you can see better to help another. 

    What does it mean to carry each others burdens?   Because there is the tendency for pride in this we are warned on how to approach the brother who has sinned.   The King James says restore that person with meekness because you can also be tempted.  The NIV says restore him gently.  The Living Bible says gently and humbly.  The RSV says in the spirit of gentleness.  Pride comes before a fall.  I think this happens in marriage.  It seems easy to [point out the need in the other person.   Then we stumble.  Who is to do that restoring?   It is the spiritual or godly person.  That can be difficult at times because neither person may be spiritual.  So, the bible tells us that it is not to be done harshly or with pride.   We see a bad example of that when the Pharisees bring the woman caught in adultery to Jesus.  Moses said stone her to death they told Jesus.  The law came by Moses but grace and truth came by Jesus. 

     There was not a whole lot of love in the way they came to Jesus.  They also did it publicly.  Bring the poor embarrassed woman out before the crowd.  Not nice.  Christian love seeks to cover another sins and faults and not harshly expose them. Scripture tells us go to your brother alone first.  Well that is very hard for some people to do   It takes courage and love to go to a brother with an issue.  Many people have left churches because they did not go and talk to the person with whom they had a problem with.  We need to follow scripture.  Often when a person goes they find out that they did not understand the other person.   We can find that we did not see everything.   It can be a time of confession and then being reunited.  That is certainly the goal.

    The goal is not win an argument but to bring restoration and peace.  We go to be peace makers.  We go in love.  We need each other.    If you go and they do not respond to you then get another person to witness.  Some Christians go around and ask people to pray and that can be nothing more than just gossip.  Jesus cares about unity in the church.  We must learn to go and talk to that other person.  Sometimes God asks us to do things that are not easy for us.   Those that leave church and go somewhere else may find that God puts them in the same kind of situation all over again because God wants them to work on that area of their life. 

  In Matthew 18 Jesus speaks to this and said if your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.   If they listen to you, you have won them over.   But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.     If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.  It is difficult but there are cases where people have to be dis fellowshipped.  Sometimes people have to be told you cannot come to this church any more until this is resolved.  We long to help them and pray for them but we must follow scripture.  In I Corinthians 5 Paul tells the church to expel the immoral brother.   Some folks go to their brother or sister with pride.  It is easy for them to go.   Others have a very difficult time to go.

   We read carry one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.   What is the law of Jesus?   The law of Jesus is to love your brother as yourself.    We see that in Galatians 5 which says for the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.     If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.    So, I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.   

  We the church are the body of Christ.  There is a lot of diversity in the body of Jesus especially worldwide.  We have many different beliefs and customs.  It can be challenging to walk in unity.  I remember a missionary sharing in a meeting once when she served communion to a group that was completely naked.   That is how the people lived.  I guess you can believe there were sparks and reaction on that.  The church is not to be like the world.  The church has changed and I have seen Christians change on dress codes and rings on the face and hair that is dyed red blue and green and a bunch of other colors.   The church is facing trans gender issues and same sex relationship issues.  These are real struggles. 

    Because we are the body there is a certain way we should behave.  God tells us how to behave and God has expectations how we treat each other.   Love and building and helping one another should be the rule in line with the scriptures.   There are many disagreements not only on how we live but on biblical doctrine.  All of those things can cause division.    Some resist being involved with one another at times.  Some may feel that they do not have time to be involved with others.    Some do not want to be transparent before others.   We like to be private.   Since Adam and Eve man has been hiding but when we come to the light we can walk finally in peace and freedom.  Sometimes when people confess their sins others will look down on them.

    God is pretty plain in this passage how we minister to one another.   Pride opens the door for the person who walks in it to be tempted.   We can say well I would never do what he or she does.  I am not like her or him.  That is a dangerous path.   We seek to restore one another gently in humility and meekness.   Sometimes we find it easier to be critical than to build.  Sadly, it can easy to cut some one down.    For those that want to be one up on others they are not interested in bearing someone else’s burden.   If a brother or sister is caught in a sin Paul writes restore them.  Help them get back to walking with the Lord.   Help them walk away from the sin.   Be part of the healing process.  Be a Barnabas.  Be an encourager.  It can be hard to do.  How do you deal with a young person who wants to change their sex?  What if they are a family member or church?  

    Spouses that are not getting along find it easy to cut each other up than to build into each other’s life.   Instead of cutting others down we need to build.  Love covers a multitude of sins.   We need to pray for each other.   We hold each other before the throne in prayer.   We go before the Lord in behalf of others.   Verse 2 says carry each other’s burdens.   Be involved with lifting and encouraging.  Pray for others and lift them before the throne.  Life today is a burden and we can help lift others burdens by serving.  For some it may be giving money to help with a need.   It can be a kind word or doing something to help someone else.  In verse 10 Paul writes do good to all people especially to those who belong to the family of believers.   Think about how different the world would be if everyone lived up to that verse.  

     Paul says bear one another’s burdens.   In this book of Galatians, he wrote to help this church break out of the legalism that some of the Jews put on Christians.   As a former strict Pharisee Paul found freedom in Jesus and was set free from the rules that he lived by and was bound by for years.   He talked about freedom in Jesus.  The legalist would add to the burdens of others.  In Matthew 23 Jesus said “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”   That speaks of bondage and control to me.    They were not into bearing others burdens.    I see a tendency for most folks to be harder on others than they are themselves.  

    In the New Testament they ate together and met together every day.    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.   Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.   All the believers were together and had everything in common.    They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.    Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.   And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. 

     Do you feel that you live in community like they did?   I think we can see the value of living in community like that.   Are we connected in this church?    I think we all struggle with being biblical and being connected.    I could believe that Paul planted some churches and never got back to see them.   Jesus touched a lot of people and never saw them again.   We need to be in community.  Jesus had 12 men that he spent a lot of time with.   We need to know each other’s needs and we need to minister to each other as this passage says bear one another’s burdens.   There are a lot of demands on our time today.   I know some families are so busy.  I know this is not the first century.  Our culture is different today whether it is good or bad it is certainly different.    I suspect that this is an area that we all could improve upon.    We certainly need one another today.   We need to worship together.  We need to be involved with the body of believers and the body of Christ.   Hebrews tells us not to forsake getting together.  

    Max Lucado wrote I discovered the importance of healthy counsel in a half Ironman triathlon. After the 1.2-mile swim and the 56-mile bike ride, I didn’t have much energy left for the 13.1-mile run. Neither did the fellow jogging next to me. I asked him how he was doing and soon regretted posing the question. “This stinks. This race is the dumbest decision I’ve ever made.” He had more complaints than a taxpayer at the IRS. My response to him? “Good-bye.”   I knew if I listened too long, I’d start agreeing with him.  I caught up with a sixty-six-year-old grandmother. Her tone was just the opposite. “You’ll finish this,” she said. “It’s hot, but at least it’s not raining. One step at a time . . . don’t forget to hydrate . . . stay in there.” I ran next to her until my heart lifted and my legs were aching. I finally had to slow down. She waved and passed me.  Which of these two describes the counsel you seek? M ax Lucado, Facing Your Giants  

    Let’s consider some verses on one another.   I Peter 4 the end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.  Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble.   Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.   Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.    Hebrews 3 but encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.   Hebrews 10 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.   

       Ephesians 5 submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.   I Peter 5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.   All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.    Jesus said in John 13: 34 & 35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.   By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Ephesians 4 therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.   Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Colossians 3 bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.   Forgive as the Lord forgave you.    Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.   I Thessalonians 5 therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  What does it mean to bear another’s burdens?  

 

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.