Gospel

October 1, 2017Galatians 1The Gospel  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elisha

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worry

September 2, 2017Matt 6:16 –34    Worry

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faith

June 25, 2017Ephesians 3:14 - 21Faith 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Father's Day -- Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truth

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Judging

June 4, 2017 Matthew 7:1 – 6   Judging 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Come

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marriage

May 21, 2017I Peter 3:1 – 9Marriage 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother's Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relationships

May 7, 2017Luke 15Relationships 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Temptation

April 23, 2017Luke 22:39 – 46Temptation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resurrection

April 16, 2017   Matthew 28: 1 -10Resurrection 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Palm Sunday

April 9, 2017Zechariah 9Palm Sunday 

 

    I have only preached 1 message from this book and that was on chapter 4 verse 6 not by might nor by power but by my spirit says the Lord.     Zechariah is not the most familiar book in the bible to me.  It is a powerful book and I want to spend some time about the author and on the material in this book.  John MacArthur writes this book is the most Messianic, apocalyptic, and eschatological in the Old Testament.  Primarily it is prophecy about Jesus Christ focusing on his coming glory as a means to comfort Israel.  He writes while the book is filled with visions, prophecies, signs, celestial visitors, and the voice of God it is also practical.   Zechariah speaks of divine care, repentance, salvation and holy living.  It is a very powerful book.  Zechariah opens with a call to repent, then some visions and messages in chapters 1 through chapter 7.  Chapter 8 is prophetic regarding Jerusalem.  Then chapters 9 through 14 are 2 oracles, or burdens or prophecies most of which are not yet fulfilled that really center on Jesus first and second advents. 

   Warren Wiersbe in his bible commentary wrote that the last 6 chapter of Zechariah represent the greatest concentrations of Messianic truth found anywhere in the scripture but the truth is always related to God’s purposes for his people Israel.  Zechariah reveals Jesus as the humble King, the loving shepherd, the mighty warrior, the gracious savior and the righteous ruler who will reign on earth as king and priest.   

   Here are some verses regarding Jesus that we see in Zechariah.  In chapter 3:9 and 13:1 Jesus atoning death for the removal of sin.  Jesus is the builder of house of God in 6:12.  We see Jesus universal reign as king and priest in 6:13 & 9:10.  We see Jesus triumphal entry in 9:9 also in Matthew 21 and John 12.  Jesus was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver.   In 11:12 & 13 he talks about his wages of 30 pieces of silver that gets thrown into the temple and we see Judas betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver which is also quoted in Matthew 27.  Judas throws the 30 pieces of silver in the temple.  We see Jesus deity in 12:8.   Jesus hands were pierced in 12:10 and 13:6 which is also quoted in John 19.  Jesus is the smitten shepherd in 13:7 which is also in Matthew 26 and Mark 14.

    Zechariah prophesied these verses about 500 years before Jesus comes on the scene.   Is there any reason to believe the rest of his prophecies that have not taken place yet will not be fulfilled?  You can be sure that God’s word is true.  Anyone here think they can prophesy several things that are going to happen over 500 years from now?   Ha.  Notice that their prophecies were very specific.  Thirty pieces of silver, pierced hands, riding on a donkey, and going into Jerusalem.    

   Zechariah was a priest born in Babylon and he returns to Jerusalem and is involved with rebuilding the temple.  His name means the Lord remembers.  God never forgot his people any of his people.   He was a priest and certainly a prophetHe lived when Haggai, and Ezra lived.   Nehemiah came in 445 BC.   This book was written in 520 BC.   Perhaps some of the later chapters were written after that.  The first 8 chapters of this book are a call to repent and to encourage God’s people in the rebuilding of the temple.

     It took a long time to rebuild the temple.  About 50,000 Jews return from Babylon when Darius in 538 BC released them.   The rebuilding of the temple was completed in 516 BC.  That is 22 years to rebuild the temple.   God gave this godless king the desire for the Jews to be released and to return to Jerusalem to their home land.  That is totally amazing in my mind and the King sent back I think 5.400 gold and silver utensils.  They were told to rebuild the temple and they started working on the temple.  Soon opposition came and they stopped building.  And because they stopped building the temple God cursed them and did not bless them read Haggai 1.  The temple is completed in 516 BC.  The king sent them and charged them with rebuilding the temple.   There was resistance and indifference with the people and so the work stopped for 16 years.   There was opposition but they just gave up.  They ignored what God told them to do.  That is not a good idea.  There is always resistance to God’s work. 

   Zechariah and Haggai worked together to get the temple rebuilt.  Ezra and Nehemiah came later after the temple was rebuilt and dedicated.  The books of the Old Testament are not put in order by dates.   Both Zechariah and Haggai prophesied to the people to get the temple rebuilt.  Haggai preaching was very pointed to the people.  We see that God was cursing his people because they quit building the temple.  We get a good flavor of that in Haggai 1. 

   Haggai 1 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’”  Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai:  “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”  Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.   You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”  This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.  Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. 

   “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.  Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.   I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”   God was pretty clear how he felt about their commitment.  God wanted the temple to be rebuilt done and God got strong with his people.  The people got motivated again and the work was completed in 4 years.  So it took them 22 years to rebuild the temple. 

    Some of chapter 9 in Zechariah is about Alexander the Great.  He defeated the Persians in 333BC.  Daniel predicted his success and compared him to a winged leopard in Daniel 6 and a fighting he goat in Daniel 8.  Alexander the Great sweeps through north of Israel and then down the coast.  In verses3 & 4 of chapter 9we see Tyre mentioned.  It is also mentioned in Isaiah 28.  Tyre was thought be impossible to conquer.  It was a city on an island with walls up to 150 feet high.  The Assyrian Shalmaneser besieged it for 5 years and failed to conquer it.  Nebuchadnezzar tried for 13 years and failed.  In 334 to 332 God used Alexander the Great to destroy the city in 7 months.  Zechariah prophesied that in verse 3 and 4 Tyre has built herself a stronghold; she has heaped up silver like dust, But the Lord will take away her possessions and destroy her power on the sea, and she will be consumed by fire.  In verse 5 the Philistines are destroyed.  Alexander is the one who destroys them.    

   Josephus wrote that Alexander the Great came to Jerusalem and was unhappy because the Jews were paying tribute to the Persians that Alexander had defeated but the Jews were not giving him the tribute.  The night before his army arrived at Jerusalem the high priest had a dream which God told him to adorn the city and the people were to dress in white garments.  The priests put on their holy robes and the gates were opened and the priests led the people out to Alexander.  He was so impressed that he welcomed them in peace.  The high priest told Alexander of Daniels prophecies regrading him and Alexander offered sacrifices to God in the temple.  Verse 8 in the NKJ version says I will camp around my house because of the army, because of him who passes by and him who returns.  No more shall an oppressor pass through them for now I have seen with my eyes.  Alexander the Great went and came back.  God had Zechariah prophesy that God would protect his people 200 years before it happened.  Amazing 

    Some folks might say well what is the big deal.   What is the point.  Well one point is that God fulfilled the prophecy.  It is interesting that the prophecy of Tyre, Sidon and the Philistines are in the same chapter or same place as the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.   Alexander the Great won every battle he waged for 15 years.  He rides in a great horse or steed.  Generals and victors liked to ride in on a horse.   Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey.  But there is a lot more here.  Alexander named some 70 cities after himself.   Greek roads were built. He conquered from Greece to Egypt. 

   The Greek language became the common language of that day.  Later when the Romans took over the Romans found a lot of the empire already in place.  We know that the New Testament was written in Greek.  When the Christians were persecuted in Jerusalem they spread throughout that whole area.  They traveled those roads and traveled to those cities with the gospel.  When Paul goes to Rome later Christians are already there ahead of Paul.  We know that Jesus came in the fullness of time and Alexander the Great was part of the preparation for that 300 years before the birth of Jesus.  As has been said God is in charge of history. 

   When Alexander took a city there was fear.  The people were defeated.  The people of the land lost control.   They could no longer govern themselves.  What Alexander said was law. Alexander would ride in on a horse and with great power.   Thebes revolted against him and he killed or sold into slavery 30,000 of its inhabitants.  All of the conquered leaders would be involved when Alexander came into a city that he had taken.  When Jesus comes into Jerusalem lowly peasants are welcoming him.  As he comes in Jesus weeps for the city.  Jesus comes in lowly riding on a donkey.  Jesus is humble.  What an amazing contrast between Jesus and a victorious general.  But when Jesus comes again he will come with all authority and all power.   We see that in verses 14 The sovereign will sound the trumpet and verse 15 and the Lord Almighty will shield them.  Warren Wiersbe believes the whole time since Jesus is between verse 9 and verse 10 which is not yet fulfilled.  He believes the same thing between Isaiah 9:6 and 9:7 for unto us a child is born etc. and verse7 of the increase of is government and peace there will be no end. 

   Zechariah writes rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion.  Sometimes life is difficult and it is hard to rejoice.  Rejoice greatly what a wonderful admonition.  Rejoice because of Jesus.     Behold your king is coming to you.  Jesus your king is coming to you.  The people may not have recognized him as their king.  In John 19 the Jews wanted Pilate to change the sign on the cross from Jesus the king of the Jews to he claimed to be king of the Jews.  Well Pilate said what I have written is written.  Pilate would not change it.  It is interesting that we do not see that sign on any crosses.  Pilate, had it attached to the cross and written in 3 languages Hebrew, Greek and Latin. 

    The riding of Jesus into Jerusalem was recorded by all four gospel writers.  It is the only public demonstration that we see of Jesus and it was done to fulfill scripture.  Zechariah writes rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion.   Shout O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold your king is coming to you.    Jesus is still king of his people today.  And I would say he is king of those who do not consider him king.  He is just and having salvation lowly and riding on a donkey.  How can this great King and God come in such a lowly fashion.  In Luke some of the Pharisees told him to rebuke his disciples as they were crying out Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord and Jesus told them the rocks will cry out.  Such a powerful scene.  Jesus the king of kings and the Lord of Lords came to his own people in Jerusalem on a donkey.  This lowly or humble conqueror is just and he comes with salvation. 

    Revelation depicts Jesus coming again on a great white horse.  It will be like the time he met with Joshua and Joshua ask him are you for us or for our adversaries?  Jesus said no but as the commander of the Lord’s army I have now come.  I did not come to take sides I came to take over.  When He comes on a great white horse it will be to take over. 

Hell

April 2, 2017    Matthew 10:26 – 39   Hell  

 

     I think every few years pastors should preach on heaven and hell.  Hell may not be very popular topic but we need to be reminded of how important our calling from God is.  We need to love lost folks and be reaching them for Jesus.   It is important for each of us to fulfill the calling that God has for you.   There is a creator God   We are not beings that evolved from some form of liquid and over millions of years evolved into monkeys and then became man.   There is a creator God who happens to be the God who moved men to write the bible.  Our lives your life has more meaning than just living on this world because there is life after death and we have a creator.    To the Christian that changes everything.  There is a heaven and there is a place called hell.  Jesus spoke of it and it is not a nice place.  Life has meaning and your life has meaning.   The thought of hell should motivate and move the Christian.   It certainly motivated God.    It should remind us that people are precious and decisions we make have a profound impact not only on earth but in life after.”   The thought of heaven should motivate us.   Is heaven mentioned more in the bible or hell? 

     Perhaps you’ve heard the story about the message one man left on his tombstone.    It said, “Consider, young man, as you walk by, as you are now, so once was I.    As I am now, you soon shall be, so prepare, young man to follow me.”  That sounded pretty profound, but one fellow took a knife and scratched a response on the tombstone that read, “To follow you is not my intent; until I know which way you went!”  There are only two directions you can go after death heaven and hell.   God wants every person to know him and to go to heaven.   God is not willing that any should perish.  God loves every person and He doesn’t want anyone to go to hell.     Jesus wept over Jerusalem.   C.S. Lewis put it this way: Sin is man saying to God throughout his life, “Go away and leave me alone.” Hell is simply God saying to man, “You may have your wish…”    Hell is real. Seems like the world talks more about hell than the church.  Why?   

     In the King James version, we see the word hell is used 53 times in the bible.  Is Hell mentioned more in the Old or New Testament?   It is mentioned 31 times in the O.T.   Which book of the bible is hell mentioned the most?  The book in the bible that uses the word the most is Matthew.   Jesus in Matthew teaches on hell 8 times.   Jesus spoke of its reality.    It was real to Jesus.  Jesus knew there was a place called hell.  It is mentioned more in the Old Testament than the New Testament. In the Old Testament it Hell is mentioned the most in Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah.      

   Well what did Jesus have to say about hell in Matthew?   Chapter 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.  Chapter 5:29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  Chapter 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  

   One way to think about that is that God destroys them forever and they never come back to life.  They are destroyed forever and they are gone forever and they are not tormented forever.  Some believe that God removes the memory of them forever.  We will not be in heaven thinking I wish my son or my husband would have walked with Jesus and could experience the wonder and beauty and joy of heaven.  That would be tough.  I am not saying that all Christians believe that.  Here are some more verses in Matthew about hell or hades. 

    Chapter 11:23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens?   No, you will go down to Hades.   For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.  .Matthew 16:23And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.     Matthew 18:9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.  Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.    Matthew 23:33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?   Hell is real and we have to tell people in a loving gracious way.  You can ask someone what do you think about heaven?   Do you think there is a hell?  Most folks are willing to share their opinions. 

    Here are some other verses referring to hell.     Jesus was very plain about hell and there are several times where the place of punishment is mentioned but the word hell is not used.    In Matthew 13:40 on he says as the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire so it will be at the end of the age.   The son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.   They will throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.   Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father.   He who has ears to hear let him hear.     Hell is a literal place of pain and torment.    The bible says it is a lake of fire Revelation 20:15.  A devouring fire Isaiah 33:14   A bottomless pit Revelation 20:1     A furnace of fire Matthew 13:41, 42   A place of torment Luke 16:23    A place where there can be no second chance Matthew 12:32.   These verses give us an idea of what the lake of fire or hell will be like.     

    Hell is one of the doctrines of the bible that requires further study to understand it and indeed there are different views and different beliefs among Christians.  I would hope that this church and Christians in general could get along together even if we have different ideas and beliefs ab0ot hell.  A quote from Zondervan Bible Dictionary states Sheol the Hebrew word most frequently used for the place where the dead were believed to dwell.  The KJV translates Sheol as the grave 31 times and as hell 31 times and as the pit 3 times.  It was considered as a place in the OT as darkness and whose inhabitants cannot praise God.   Sheol, Hades, death, Gehenna and hell have been lumped together.   The OT place of the dead was not a place of torment.   When people tell others to go to hell that is really the place where the dead are.   That is where the saved and the unsaved are - sleeping.   I think the unsaved may be sleeping also.  Bakers Dictionary of Theology ties hell or Hades as a place of opposition to the church.  Jesus said the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church.  

      In Revelation chapter 20 verse 14 death and Hades which also means hell are cast into the Lake of Fire.   I believe that the Lake of Fire is where the torment takes place and that will happen after the Lord returns and everyone is judged.   McArthur says that death and Hades (the grave and the temporary place of punishment for everyone whose name was not found in the book of life) were thrown into the lake of fire.   The lake of fire McArthur calls the final hell.   Many Christians believe that those that die today without Jesus are in hell.  I do not believe that.  I could be wrong.    In Matthew 25 where Jesus talks about the sheep and the goats Jesus said when the son of man comes in his glory everybody or all nations will be gathered before him The sheep are on his right hand and the others on his left.  Those on the right will be invited into the kingdom.  To me that means they are not already there.  And the others will go away to eternal punishment.     MacArthur believes that the saved immediately go to heaven when they die but I believe that they sleep.   

    Gehenna is another word used which Baker says see the word Hell.   Zondervan Bible Dictionary says Gehenna literally is the Valley of Hinnon south of the Jerusalem which was a dump which burned.    But it represents the final place of punishment for the ungodly.    The valley of Hinnon was where children were sacrificed to the god of Molech and later where garbage and the wicked were burned with fire.     Some bible versions translate it as Hell.  The Lake of Fire is the place of punishment of the ungodly and what people mean when they talk about hell.    It is a place of torment and punishment.  It is not a place to party as some people talk about it.  Is hell an example of tough love?  God is love.  God is a loving God.     

    Hell was never intended for human habitation. Jesus said in Matthew 25:41, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”   Hell was designed for Satan and his demons, not people. But because of our sinfulness, we are all born with a reservation for hell.    People think and ask if God is a God of love how come there is a place called hell.   A judge that let everyone free would be a terrible judge.  We do not question a judge that sends a serial killer to prison or to the gas chamber.   I suppose even law breakers would be angry if they were wronged and came before a judge and the judge said well I am sorry for what they did to you but it is ok with me and I am going to let them go free and they would cry foul. 

     God is also a judge.   God is also holy.  God is also just.  I think many people paint a bad picture of God.  Some would think or say God does not love or there would not be a place called hell.  Have you ever thought about how hard this is for God?   God likes to bless.  Jesus died so that people could be in God presence.  God does not delight in the death of the wicked or the saints.   God wants to be with his people.  Even in Chapter 22 of Revelation we read the bride and the spirit say come.  God invites us from Genesis to Revelation.  

   Sin has to be paid for and Jesus paid that price.   If we refuse that then we must pay for our sin and wrong.   When we repent of our sins and come to Jesus, He forgives us and cancels our reservation in hell, and makes a new reservation for us in heaven.   God loves you so much that Jesus died so you wouldn’t spend eternity in hell.  God paid the price.   God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved.  God wants a harvest of lost souls.   God and Jesus suffered greatly when Jesus was on the earth and on the cross.   God wants a harvest of souls.   God has earned them and only God.      

    A number of Christians think they know about hell.  The bible speaks of it and we get ideas about hell.  Billy Graham makes an interesting comment.  Billy Graham said in an interview.   “The only thing I would say for sure is that hell means separation from God.   That is going to be hell.  When it comes to a literal fire I don’t preach it because I am not sure about it.  When scripture uses fire concerning hell that is possibly an illustration of how terrible it will be – not fire but something worse a thirst for God that cannot be quenched.   Some have perhaps gone overboard on the fire part of it.  J. Edwards preached sinners in the hands of an angry God.    Can you picture being separated from this awesome wonderful God forever?   We will be so blessed in heaven and who in their right mind would want to miss out on that?    Hell will be terrible.  We can be sure of that much.

    Do you think you would be more motivated to share Jesus if you spent 10 minutes in heaven or 10 minutes in hell?  Which would be your choice?   Is that something you would ever desire?   Would you ask God for a taste of heaven?  Would you ask God for a taste of hell?  Do you really believe your friends that do not know Jesus are going to hell?  If you do not tell them about Jesus do you really love them?   I am glad God is the judge.  He knows everything perfectly.   It will be more tolerable for some than others. 

Heaven

March 26, 2017Matthew 19:16 – 30Heaven     

 

   Heaven is real.  Heaven is mentioned 51 of the 66 books of the bible.   It is mentioned; 37 times in Deuteronomy, 38 times in Psalms, 73 times in Matthew and as some of you might be guessing it is mentioned a lot in Revelation 56 times.    I counted 73 times in Matthew which means that Jesus spoke of it a lot.  Since Jesus spoke of it a lot it behooves us to think about it and for preachers to talk about it also.     I hope you are looking forward to heaven.   Jesus said to keep looking for and expecting him to come.  I hope your greatest desire is to see Jesus in heaven.   I hope you are encouraged in your life day by day when at times we ask ourselves why and is it worth it.    Your labor is not in vain in Jesus.

    I find that thoughts of heaven are comforting.  Before you can imagine it we will be with him and what a blessing that will be.   We cannot even imagine how great it will be.   The mind of man cannot conceive of the wonder of heaven.   God is lavish and not cheap and it will be greater than anything down here.  In I Corinthians 2 we read no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.    In John 14 Jesus said there are many rooms in my father’s house.   I am going there to prepare a place for you and I will come back so you can be with me.  God has prepared things for us in heaven and Jesus is preparing a place for us.   Both God the Father and God the Son are preparing things for you and I.   I suspect that is going to be pretty neat.    They are not building with boards and nails so it will be ready when we get there.  

    Heaven is pictured a lot of different ways by people.   Some see heaven as a place where we sit on clouds and play our harp.  For many people that would not be even desirable.   For those that really do not understand God and know the bible heaven may seem boring to them.   Some do not like heaven because sin is the reason for living.   People love and want their idols.    Those are the things that fill their life.   But Christians have a different perspective on heaven.    God has told us we will rule with Jesus.   There will be no more struggles and fighting there.  If we suffer with Him we will reign with him.    Some that have wasted their life with sin and bad choices will finally have peace.

    Christians that have been persecuted will have peace.   All of us have labored against sin and sin will be gone.  There will be no desires for evil.   We will be released because temptation will be gone.   There will be abundance I believe of food and drink but also an abundance of beauty.   There will be an abundance of joy, glory, love and peace.    It will be a beautiful place and pleasant.   There will be no more curse and no more night.   There will be no more death, no more crying, no more mourning because the old order of things has passed away.      For those that have labored their whole lives just to put bread on the table heaven will be filled with abundance.   The sorrows that we bear will be gone.  The pain we have in our bodies will be gone.   No longer will we be paying heat bills to keep warm and we will not struggle with being too hot.    Heaven  will be filled with good things and the bad things will be gone.   Everything will always be just right.   Everything will be perfect.   Perfection will be restored.   Folks will not irritate one another anymore and Satan will be gone.  

    Heaven will not be boring.   You will not need a cell phone to keep you up to date.  You will not need face book nor net flix or movies and computer games to help you relax.  Life will be different.    We will not need a jet airplane or an automobile.  The auto companies are making some pretty neat cars these days but travel in heaven will be way beyond that.   You won’t have to worry about being late for work because of the snow storm or the doctor’s appointment.   What kind of a being or God would create something like that?  Can you imagine trying to build the perfect place for someone you loved?   Does anyone really deserve heaven?   Do we deserve to spend eternity with God in such a wonderful place? 

    Man, in general avoids God and cures God and does not want God unless maybe there is a need.   We ignore and curse God and God offers us forgiveness.  Many men hate God and God loves us.   Jesus said you did not chose me but I chose you.  Jesus came to his own and his own did not receive him.  I am not pointing to the Jews but to us, to people.  What a loving compassionate God.  God is a good, good father that is who he is.   Remember when Moses ask to see God and God told him well that is not going to happen.  I will let you see my back side.  If you see me face to face your dead.  Moses had fasted and prayed for 40 days and night.   Then Moses goes down from the mountain.

   Then Moses goes back up the mountain for 40 more days of prayer and fasting.   In Exodus 33 God told Moses I will let all of my goodness pass in front of you.   Moses I am going to hide you in a rock and cover you with my hand and then I will let you see my back.  What was the result of Moses seeing God’s goodness and his back?  In chapter 34 Aaron and the Children of Israel were afraid to go to Moses because of the glory of God shined through the face of Moses.  God’s goodness made the face of Moses shine.  God’s goodness is His glory.   His glory is in his goodness.   It was bright enough so that the church leaders were afraid of him.  Moses face shined for days maybe weeks or months but it did fade away.  God is good.  God is so good it light up Moses face.  God is good to bless us with heaven someday.  It seems like just about everyone thinks they are going there someday but that is not true.  Jesus clearly states that is not true.    

    It sure seems this old world needs a change. Have you ever wanted something new?   God is going to make everything new someday.   What would it be like to be made new?    What do you want changed?    For some of us older folks do you wish you had the body that you had when you were 19 or 20?    Ever wish you had a new car?    Ever want a new home?    Some of us wish for a new world and not a new world order.     

     God says I am going to make everything new.  God’s goodness and his glory is going to change things up.   In Genesis 1:1 God created the heavens and the earth.   In Revelation 21:1 there is a new heaven and anew earth.   In Genesis1:16 God created the sun and in Revelation 21 there is no need for the sun.  In Genesis 1:5 the night is established and in Genesis 22:5 we learn that there will be no night in heaven.   In Genesis 1:10 the seas were created and in Revelation 21:1 there is no longer a sea.   In Genesis 3:14 – 17 after Adam and Eve sinned a curse was pronounced and in Revelation 22:3 there will no longer be any curse.   In Genesis 3:19 death enters into God’s creation and in Revelation 21:4 there is no more death.   In Genesis 3:24 man is driven from paradise and in 22:14 paradise is restored and the Spirit and the bride say come.   Those who have washed their robes are invited in.   Sorrow and pain are introduced in Genesis 3:17 and in Revelation 21:4 there will be no more death, mourning, crying and pain.  God will make all things new.  

    There will be some wacked bodies there but resurrected.  Kristi will have a new body.  All Christians shall be clothed with immortality in the twinkling of an eye.   Jesus resurrected body showed the scars from his nail wounds but it won’t matter.  Those scars will not be negative anymore.  The missing arms and legs will not matter and may be restored.  The eyes that can’t physically see will see and those without legs will get around as easily as those with legs I believe. Those deformities that were caused by our testimony for Jesus will be points of honor.   It will be sweet beyond belief.    Flesh and blood does not inherit the heaven.  This mortality will put immortality.  

    God said behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).    We will be healed of all sin and pain.   All our brokenness will be healed.   Our relationship with God will no longer be marred by sin.   Heaven will no longer be veiled.   There will be free communication with our Lord.   We will have the intimate relationship with “God that we have wanted for so long.   We are the bride of Christ and this marriage will be pure and clean and free.  There won’t be any spot or wrinkle in our relationship with Jesus.   We will not be running from God nor hiding from God any more or anyone else.   Man has been running from God since Adam sinned.      Our longing to be in his presence and experience him will be fulfilled.   Our longing and desire to see Jesus face to face will be realized.   We will experience him in ways we never have before because we will be like him and we will see him as he is.  God said I am making all things new.   I would like a new me.  Would you like a new you? 

    I like this passage in Matthew because eternal life and heaven are mentioned several times in this chapter.  It is mentioned in Jesus comments about marriage, children, the rich young ruler and the disciples.  The rich young ruler asks Jesus about getting to heaven.  God is the place to go for wisdom.     We see in this passage a rich young man who wants to get to heaven.  I guess he figures that Jesus is the authority on it.  A lot of people do not believe that Jesus is the authority on heaven today.  It looks like he figures that heaven is a good place and that he needs to do something good to get to heaven.  Something good needs to happen so we can go to heaven that is for sure.   Jesus tells him there is only one who is good.   God is good and certainly Jesus was good.  Did this young man recognize that Jesus was good?   Did he know who he was talking to? 

    Jesus tells him if you want to enter life obey the commandments.   In other words obey God.  Do what the bible tells us to do.  In chapter 22 Jesus said the greatest commandments were to love God with all our heart mind and strength and love our neighbor as our self.  Jesus in this passage mentions the commandments on how we relate to each other.  The young man said gee I get an A for the day.  I have done all of that.  I guess he feels that is not enough so he asks Jesus what else.  There must be something more he thinks.   Jesus speaks really deep right into his heart.  If you want to go further, if you want to be perfect sell everything you have and give it away and come and follow Jesus.   Following Jesus is the path way to heaven. 

   The young man was hanging on to stuff just like we tend to do.  Does he have an idol in his life?  Is money his idol?   He could not give his money and riches up.  Was wealth his real life?   It is for a lot of people.  Well I got all this stuff and I am hanging onto it.  I may need it someday.  Proverbs 11 states one man gives freely yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.  A generous man will prosper, he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.  God is no man’s debtor.  Jesus response to him walking away was it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Then Jesus said it is impossible for man to enter heaven.  It is only possible with God.  Jesus paid an impossible price for your salvation. 

   Peter at the end of this chapter speaks up and said to Jesus.   We left all to follow you.  I suspect all the disciples were at one time or another wondering what is in this for me.  It is not easy to minister to people all the time.  It was a big change for the disciples to be with Jesus all the time.  Life was full and busy.   There was lots of people and lots of travel.  I suspect they felt like endless travel.   We think in terms of what are we getting for our self.  What’s in it for me? 

    Jesus told them you will get 100 times as much as you give up.  How would you like to get 100% interest on your money?   And you will get eternal life.  Not only will you get 100 times as much as you give but you will inherit eternal life.  God is a good God.  There are amazing promises in the bible.  Soon we will be in heaven.  There is good news in the bible.  There is also some bad news in the bible.  There is a hell and that is bad news for many people.  Life is important.   Your life is important.  Before you know it we will be with Jesus. 

     When D. L. Moody, the great evangelist, was dying, his last words were, "Earth is receding, heaven is approaching; this is my crowning day."   Is your crowning day coming or does this seem a like an unknown to you?  For many Christians every day that passes brings us closer to our crowning day. 

Temptation

March 12, 2017Matthew 4Temptation   

 

      Life seems to be very difficult today.  It seems like many of us have a lot of issues in our life.   There is a lot of stress.   It seems like there is a lot on our plates.   I know that God is humbling his people.   There is a lot of pressure.   I am reminded today as I consider scriptures that Jesus did not have an easy life.   We see that he is baptized and then he is sent into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  Jesus came to give his life.   Jesus put others before himself.  He served and gave.  He ministered and scripture is plain that it cost him.   Jesus felt the power go out of his life.  He got tired and hungry.  Satan threw everything he could at Jesus.    Adam and Eve had it so good and they sin.   Jesus had a lot against him and he did not sin.  This passage is very encouraging because Jesus was victorious.   We are victorious in Jesus.   

    Jesus grew in wisdom and became strong and God’s hand was upon him.  Though Jesus was the son of God he learned obedience by the things which he suffered.   Jesus matured and grew in character and trials.  The Son of God – God learns obedience from suffering.   That is amazing.   We grow and mature through trials. I suppose some would consider that discouraging.     God uses people who have been through the fire.  God uses people who He has purified.  Isaiah 48:10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.  God tests us and tries us.   We grow in trials.  In first Peter we read do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial that we face.   If you are struggling it is not a strange thing.   I think Christians and non-Christians are struggling.  The world seems to be at war. 

    It is pretty stupid in my opinion for preachers or Christians to say everything is OK when things are not OK.  Yes we are positive and we have joy but we also need to speak the truth.  It seems to me like there is a huge push against truth today.  Jesus said he was truth.  We need to invite the truth and the truth is things are tough.  Things are better the closer we get to God I believe.   Things are right when we get close to God and obey God. 

    Jesus did not run from the tough stuff.  Jesus told it like it was.  Jesus spoke of heaven but Jesus also spoke of hell.  If you want to be a true friend to others tell them about hell.  If their house was burning you would wake them up if you knew they were asleep.  If you want God to answer your prayers and desire that God uses you in great ways you must draw near to him.   There are many things that your friends might do but God may say it is sin for you.  Jesus could have turned those stones into bread but it was wrong for him so Jesus did not do it.  Jesus would not follow Satan’s advice.  Jesus would not do what Satan wanted him to do.  Praise you Jesus. 

    Do you find scripture encouraging?   Do you find the word of God living, refreshing and challenging?  I suppose some might say if this is what the Christian life is about let me out.   I do not want any part of that.  It is very encouraging that Jesus overcame temptation.   How does the Christian overcome temptation?   We use the word of God.  Jesus quoted from the Old Testament to defeat the devil.  Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy which was Moses sermon to the Children of Israel.  Jesus defeated the devil by using scripture.  It is very encouraging that there is power in the word of God.   Jesus soundly defeats Satan using the word of God.  The word of God is powerful. 

     Jesus spoke truth to Satan.   Satan spoke to Jesus to tempt him.   Satan can speak to you.  Satan can speak words to people in a church.   Satan can stir things up.   God has given you tools to defeat Satan.  James tells us to resist the devil and submit to God and the devil will flee.  I Corinthians tells us that no temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful who will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  God will provide a way out so you can stand.  Better to defeat temptation to do wrong than to submit to it. 

    We may not like the temptation or the struggle but Paul said I want to partake to experience the sufferings of Jesus     I am sure this time in the desert developed character in Jesus life.   It is like God sent him out into the desert for a face off with Satan.   There are no short cuts to Christian maturity and strong faith.  .    The gospel of Mark makes it quite forceful.   The King James says the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.  The Living Bible says urged and the Revised Standard bible says the Spirit immediately drove him.   The spirit of the living God can move people that you and I cannot move at all.    Are you praying for someone that is hard as a rock.    God can break rocks into pieces.  Jonah found that out.   In Jeremiah 23 God says is not my word like a fire and like a hammer that breaks the rocks in pieces.  Paul writes we have mighty weapons of warfare. 

      God’s spirit can push us.  Jonah agreed with God that he should go to Nineveh after spending some time in deep water.   We are not greater than Jesus and the path way to God is filled with denial.   As we think about this we need to reflect that God does not tempt us with evil James tells us.  God does not tempt us but God does test us.   These times are not fun.  This was not a fun time for Jesus.   Jesus was sinless so why did He have to suffer?   It does not seem fair does it?  Probably Jesus temptation was for our good.  Jesus suffered being tempted and he understands temptation.   He has been there and done that.  You will probably struggle with things so that you can minister to others so if you want to be used by God welcome your trials.    As soon as Jesus started ministering it was all out war.  He was in the battle.  Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights and then he was hungry and then the Satan comes to tempt, to test, and to harass him.     

      This event takes place immediately after Jesus is baptized.    The father says this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.  God blesses and then Satan hits or attacks.    Jesus always obeyed the Father and he never sinned.   I suppose we could read between the lines and say if Jesus was tempted so we will be also.    We desire to please the Father.  We want to do the right thing and that will be tested.    The HS descends on Jesus at his baptism and then bang Jesus is led into the wilderness to be tested and tempted.   Similar things can happen to us.   Deuteronomy 8 tells us that the Children of Israel were tested in the desert and they did not fare so well did they.   They had the victory of getting out of Egypt and then Pharaohs army is destroyed in the sea and then testing.     Following a great victory is a trial.   I find that when I have a spiritual high that is when the enemy comes.   Paul was given revelations and blessings and then a thorn to humble him.   Elijah has a huge victory on Mount Carmel and then he runs.    Our commitment will be tested.      God fills us and blesses us and then the enemy comes.   We go from the mount of transfiguration to the valley below where the people are hurting and where Satan is destroying lives.   We go from Sunday morning to Monday morning.  We must remember that Satan’s desire is to destroy those that love God   Satan attacked Jesus and he attacks the church. 

     Jesus gets baptized and then he gets tested.   It seems strange in a way.  Why is this passage in the scripture?   II Timothy 3 tells us well all scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.     Training in righteousness speaks to our life.   So I guess we could ask how does this passage train us or help us?   I think this passage for one thing should encourage us.   It is nice to know that someone has gone before you.  When we are tempted and we can know that Jesus went before us and took everything that the devil could throw at him and Jesus did not sin or fall.  Hebrews 12 tells us let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross despising the shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.   Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  

     Hebrews 4 tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way like we are yet without sin.   Temptation is not sin.  Some believe that means that he experienced all of the depth of temptation not that Jesus was tempted to do every sin.  I do not think that Jesus was tempted to get drunk or to kill someone.  Satan appeals to Jesus in 3 ways in this passage.   Satan hit Jesus as hard as he could and Jesus stood true.  When Satan left him in verse 11 the angels came and ministered to him.  It is a good possibility that if you have experienced angels ministering to you that you have been in the battle.    The test was deep and very real.   The test was personal and it was right where Jesus was at.

   James tells us we are tempted by our flesh.  We can be tempted by the devil.  Jesus was hungry.   When we get hungry we are tempted to eat or we want to eat.  That is natural.  When the flesh and the devil team up it can be a tough battle.  .   Jesus told the enemy that man shall not live by bread alone.  In John 4 Jesus said I have meat to eat that you do not know about.  His meat was obedience to God and to minister to others.   Jesus did not fool around with Satan.   Jesus did not consider Satan’s offers.   Jesus spoke the truth to Satan.   Sin never satisfies on the long term.  Sin cheapens and degrades us.  Sin brings people into slavery.   We cannot play with the temptation.  

      Jesus could have ministered to his own need.  Jesus could have used his power to meet his own need but he refused.   Jesus defeated the devil with the word of God.     Temptation can be resisted by using spiritual tools.   Temptation can be resisted by using the word of God and in all 3 cases Jesus used the word of God against the devil.   Satan may have said to Jesus if God loved you he would provide bread for you.   You are hungry in fact you are starving.   Bread is good for you.   You are hungry and you can be full the devil says.   Use your power to meet your needs.   Can you hear him say what is wrong with eating?   You have to eat to live.  I suspect Jesus told him I am supposed to be hungry right now.   God loves me and he will provide what I need in his time.   I am going to wait for the Father.   Lust says right now and love says to wait.  

     Sometimes we may not even be aware that Satan is attacking us.   Jesus was hungry so Satan hit Jesus with food.  But turning stones into bread was wrong and Jesus said no way.  Jesus was not going to do a miracle in this situation to meet his personal; need.    God made provision for Jesus for angels came to minister to Him.   In our greatest trials God is there meeting needs and helping.   He will never leave or forsake us.   He wraps his arms around us in tenderness and love.  The angel of the Lord encamps around those that trust him and delivers them.  

      We should not think that we are above temptation.   Jesus was perfect and he was tempted.    We are tempted and at times we want to do wrong.   Sometimes we desire to give up.  Sometimes we are tempted to take the easy path and not do the hard thing.  Sometimes Christians yield to temptation and then we sin.  Have you given in to temptation lately?   In the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples Jesus tells them to pray keep us from evil or keep us from the evil one.   We need that ring of protection around us.    Jesus did not take any short cuts.   Jesus understands temptation.   He has been there and done that. 

  Jesus is out with the wild animals.  Jesus is out there for 40 days.   That is difficult.   The natural body at that point would be very open for temptation and desiring food.    I suspect the body is hungry to the point that a person would do almost anything to get food.   There must have been the feeling of being desperate for food.  When you and I get hungry we just go the ice box or the cookie jar.   Jesus started his ministry with a 40 day fast.  There is a good example. 

    Jesus was alone and it is not good for us to be alone.  Satan can hit us when we are alone.   Satan likes to separate Christians and he likes to divide and conquer.   Unity in Christian fellowship and unity in the family is very precious.    Christian fellowship and corporate worship are important.  Jesus later calls a dozen men to himself.   He sends them out to minister.   Jesus does not do everything alone.   Jesus had the father in the wilderness but he was alone other than that.  

    God entrusts us with temptation.   God knows what you can handle.    Jesus endured a lot and God entrusted him with a lot.  Did God do that to hurt Jesus?   No of course not.   But it was a season of testing and a season of being strengthened for the battles ahead.   It is tough to be in the desert.    You may feel that God has entrusted you with a lot.   Temptation is not fun and hunger is not fun.  A disciple of Jesus Christ is disciplined.   He or she is self-controlled.  

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

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

   The enemy whispers in our ear it is OK to eat more than we should.   Or to eat that second scoop of ice cream.   It is OK to sleep in – you need your sleep you know and you can just pray for your quiet time.   He whispers it is OK to miss bible study.   Satan will whisper it is ok to skip church.   You are tired today and you need to sleep in.  Satan will say you don’t need to read the bible today.     A disciple is disciplined.    Jesus always sought to please the father.   Jesus did not avoid suffering.   What a great example he is for us today.   Adam in the best of conditions in the Garden chose to sin and Jesus in the worst conditions chose not to sin.   I do not think Jesus ever used his divine powers to meet his own needs.     He did not step out of the Father’s will. 
   And if our Lord learned dependence and compassion through a wilderness experience, so will we.   Jesus was not here for his own comfort.   He sacrificed and poured out his life unto death.   Jesus did all of this because he loved you and if love God and others we will do the same.   

    For years, workers and visitors flocked to the sight of silvery dust flakes that floated to the floor in a mill where steel strips rolled over pads in a tall cooling tower. In his book The Heat: Steelworkers’ Lives and Legends, steelworker Joe Gutierrez tells how beautifully “the snow danced in August.”  Then people discovered the dust was asbestos. “Everybody breathed it,” wrote Gutierrez. He now suffers from the slow, choking grip of asbestosis, as do many plant workers.  “Who am I? I’m everybody. Can’t walk too far now. I get tired real fast, and it hurts when I breathe sometimes. And to think we used to fight over that job,” he says.  How many things in our culture resemble the silver flakes in that steel mill? They’re enchanting but deadly.   Lee Eclov, “Deceptive Appeal,”  Temptation can be enchanting but deadly. 

 

 

 

 

Clean Heart

March 5, 2017   Psalm 51Clean Heart 

 

    This is the first Sunday of Lent and I wanted to bring a message along with the season we are in.  What is Lent?   Lent comes from a English word that means spring.  In the 7th century it was considered a time of 40 days in honor of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness.  It was a time of going without things and of giving and a time of devotion.   Lent is the time to humble ourselves and to draw near to the Lord.  Typically Christians give up something during the time of lent.   Some would argue that lent is not in the bible.   The word is not mentioned in my 5-volume dictionary.

    Some would say giving up something for lent is not biblical.  Those that would say lent is not the point would say the point is that God wants our heart.  Folks give up ice cream for 40 days or movies for 40 days or some other thing that they like.  What God wants is your total heart.   We tend to make a big deal out of giving up something for a few days.  Would you willingly give up ice cream for the rest of your life if God ask you to?   Would you give up TV for the rest of your life if God ask you to?   Could you do that joyfully for the Lord?    You see it is not 40 days of me giving up something.  God wants me to give him my heart.  It is a pride issue.  It is a heart issue.   Is my heart clean?   Do I want Jesus to reign in my life or am I the one in the driver’s seat?      You see Jesus does not want to be the copilot.  Jesus wants to be the pilot.  He wants to be the CEO chief executive officer.  Who is running your life you or Jesus?  

   This is a really neat Psalm.     David hid his sin for about a year.   In other words God was not ruling in his heart.  Things did not go well with him while he was in sin.   If you are hiding sin in your heart God is not reigning in your heart.   If you want to be clean of sin you have to confess the sin.  If you sin against someone else, you have to go and own up to it to them and make it good.   We reap what we sow folks.  You cannot out maneuver God and you can’t hide from God.  A lot of folks have tried.    Sorry for those who want short cuts.   There aren’t any short cuts with God.  God does not bend his holiness.   He does not grade on the curve.   

   God was not pleased with David’s actions and David said my sin is always before me.  David tried to bury it but he could not.   Sin has to be dealt with.  You have to bring it out in the light.  If you really want to deal with it bring it out in the light.  The sin did not go away.    Well we cannot hide it from God.   We can’t hide anything from God.  David wanted to be clean from his sin in this psalm.   He is pleading with God.  It reminds me of Matthew 8 where we read when Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.    A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”    Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.   This man wanted to be clean.  He wanted to be clean from his leprosy.   A lot of folks want to be clean on the outside.   Who wants to be clean on the inside?   David wanted to be clean in his heart.      Most people miss that.    

     In Psalm 51:2 David prays wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  In verse 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Verse 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  David wanted a deep cleaning.  In Matthew 23 Jesus told the religious leaders you clean the outside of the cup.   They looked pretty good on the outside but not so good inside. 

       It is believed that Psalm 32 is also a Psalm of David that he wrote as a result of his sin with Bathsheba.  Psalm 32 David writes blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.   When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.    For day and night your hand was heavy upon me, my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer Selah which means pause and think about that.   There is a cost when we seek to hide our sins.

     I suspect that David did not totally lift his head during that time and perhaps found it difficult to look at others eye to eye especially his troops.   Do you think he had trouble looking at his general Joab or Nathan the prophet?   I expect that all of us at one time or another had someone that we had trouble looking in the face or they had trouble looking directly at us.   It is good to have clean relationships.   I Corinthians 10:32 Do not cause anyone to stumble or in the KJ Give none offense whether the Jews, Greeks or the church of God.   Do not offend others.  

     Warren Wiersbe has a pretty neat outline of Psalm 51.    He titles the first 7 verses as cleanse me.  Get the dirt out of my body.   Get the cancer out of me.   David had transgressed God’s law by yielding to his fleshly desires.  David prays have mercy on me, blot out my transgressions and wash away my iniquity.   Cleanse me and wash me he prays in verse 7.    Hyssop was a shrub with stems on it and the priests would dip it into blood and sprinkle it on people for cleansing.  David wanted to be washed so that he would be clean before God and others.   David’s Sin

     Then David wanted to be restored.   David whole life was impacted by this sin.  David talked about his inner parts and in most part.   David is getting deep in his life and it reminds of Hebrews 4 where the word of God is sharper than a 2 edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow.   This sin was deep in David’s life.  Sin had impacted him deeply.   David talks about his bones and his heart and his spirit all needed renewal.   David wanted joy and did not want God to take his Holy Spirit from him.   David said let the bones you have crushed rejoice.   Sin is very costly.   His bones were crushed.   He wanted God to give him a willing spirit.   Sin had virtually made David a basket case.   He was sick of his condition.   God brought him to the place where David was broken.   David saw how ugly his sin was.   David was no longer justifying his actions but was seeing his sin as God saw it.   It was a godly sorrow that brought repentance.   David broke out of his despair and depression.  It may have taken David a year to figure it out but he made it with God’s help.   For some folks it is a life time before they repent.  Many people never repent.   Many people never admit the truth.   It is a process for us because of our pride.  

    I read of a fairly serious car accident and one of the men in the accident refused medical help.  There is nothing wrong with me,” the man says.  “But sir, you’ve just been in a terrible car accident.   You’re bleeding and have some deep bruises.   There may be internal damage!”    “There’s nothing wrong with me he says!”   “At least have a doctor check you out, sir.    We have an ambulance right here – it wouldn’t take very long..”   “I told you, there’s nothing wrong with me!”   “But sir.”    Then the man walks away from the car accident.    His wife picks him up and drives him home.   Later he dies from internal bleeding.   What is going on inside of us is very important folks.  

   “There’s nothing wrong with me” can be a dangerous thing to say.   There are a lot of folks who are saying there is nothing wrong with me.   Inside I am OK.   That may be the worst thing they can say.   A Christian is someone who stands before God and says I am only right when I am right with you.   I am righteous only in Jesus.   I think sometimes we are guilty as Christians by saying Lord forgive me and we walk on our merry way.   I think we take sin too lightly. 

    I read this a couple of weeks ago, in II Chronicles 29.   Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years.  His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah.   He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done.     In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them.    He brought in the priests and the Levites, assembled them in the square on the east side and said: “Listen to me, Levites! Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary.  It is interesting that in the first month of the first year Hezekiah gets the house of the Lord in order.  It is right away.  This may have been many things to deal with but this was addressed right away in the first month. 

    Hezekiah continues our parents were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the Lord our God and forsook him. They turned their faces away from the Lord’s dwelling place and turned their backs on him.    They also shut the doors of the portico and put out the lamps. They did not burn incense or present any burnt offerings at the sanctuary to the God of Israel.    Therefore, the anger of the Lord has fallen on Judah and Jerusalem; he has made them an object of dread and horror and scorn, as you can see with your own eyes.    This is why our fathers have fallen by the sword and why our sons and daughters and our wives are in captivity.    Now I intend to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us.    My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense.”

   Then the Levites arose the son of and the sons of and the son of and the sons of.   There were several of them.  These men gather their brothers.   In verse 15 we read When they had assembled their fellow Levites and consecrated themselves, they went in to purify the temple of the Lord, as the king had ordered, following the word of the Lord..   I get the feeling that there are quite a few Levites here.   There are a number of them and they dedicate themselves and consecrate themselves.  They cleanse themselves and separate themselves for the work of the Lord.   They purify the temple as the King commanded or ordered and followed the word of the Lord.  The king commanded it but deeper than that the Lord commanded it. 

   The attitude here is we are doing this because God wants it done.  In verse 16 the priests were also involved with the work.  It took them 8 days to get to the vestibule of the Lord and another 8 days to finish.  It took these men 16 days or half a month to cleanse and remove the trash and to get the utensils that had been taken out and to dedicate and cleanse and purify the temple.  The Priests and the Levites spent 16 days doing this.  Get the trash out and sanctify it and prepare things for sacrifice.   The song writer wrote we bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.  The house needs to be clean.  We like clean dishes.   We want food that is clean.   We like a clean bed and house.  Do we want to be clean? 

    I think we at times say well the book says if we confess he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   Well Lord if I sinned or anything cleanse me.   For some there is no brokenness, not really admitting their sin, and the only sorrow is that they got caught.    I don’t think God had this kind of confession in mind.   Confession and cleansing may not mean much to a lot of Christians.  We think a quick prayer is all we need.   I think we may cheapen the price Jesus paid for our salvation and cleansing.  Some people may not even mean it.   If it does not mean anything to the person confessing sin they may not get out much out of their confession.   If you are not sorry and do not connect with God I question how real any of it is and there is a good chance they are not cleansed. 

         In Psalm 51:2 David prays wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  In verse 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Verse 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  David wanted a deep cleaning.  It is like a deep cleaning of the carpet.   You want more than just the surface stuff.   It is more like we are going to vacuum it slowly and then shampoo it.   David wanted a right heart and pure motives.  He wanted a deep cleaning.   We would not want rats in our food or worms in our food.  We should treat sin in our life with the same kind of disgust.  We should hate sin in our life. God hates all sin.    David said create in me a clean heart.   Give me pure motives.      

 

Work

February 26, 2017   Philippians 2:12 -16Work 

 

          Andrew Chan shares the following illustration.   There was a certain old recluse who lived deep in the mountains of Colorado.     When he died, distant relatives came from the city to collect his valuables.    Upon arriving, all they saw was an old shack with an outhouse beside it.     Inside the shack, next to the rock fireplace was an old cooking pot and his mining equipment.      A cracked table with a three-legged chair stood guard by a tiny window, and a kerosene lamp served as the centerpiece for the table.     In a dark corner of the little room was a dilapidated cot with a threadbare bedroll on it.   They picked up some of the old relics and started to leave.    As they were driving away, an old friend of the recluse, on his mule, flagged them down.    “Do you mind if I help myself to what’s left in my friend’s cabin?” he asked. “Go right ahead,” they replied.     After all, they thought, what inside that shack could be worth anything?    The old friend entered the shack and walked directly over the table.    He reached under it and lifted one of the floor boards.    He then proceeded to take out all the gold his friend had discovered over the past 53 years – enough to have built a palace.   The recluse died with only his friend knowing his true worth.    As the friend looked out of the little window and watched the cloud of dust behind the relative’s car disappear, he said, “They should have got to know him better.

    What is the greatest treasure in your life?  Is it your job, your home, your family, or maybe a bank account?   I suspect most of us would say it is God.  But we can go day by day and not draw near to him.  We have this great and mighty God in our life.  He is roaring lion.  God is a being of war.  God is mighty and all powerful.  He is also love.  I am reminded of John where Jesus said without me you can do nothing.  At times I think I can handle whatever the task is in front of me.  Sometimes we think we can run our life and that is so not true.    Sometimes we miss the true treasures in our life.  We see the problems in life and do not see how God is using them in our life.  God often tries to speak to us through those difficulties.  With the Lord’s help we can have joy and peace in the midst of difficult times.    

   Paul tells us to work out our salvation in this passage.  The Holy Spirit is in us.  He is our comforter and helper.   Jesus said his yoke was easy and his burden was light.  The Holy spirit is our guide.  We are children of the most high God.  We are royalty though we often forget it.  Our Father has created everything and owns it all.  He is the one who is ever present with us.  God has put a great asset in our lives with the Holy spirit.  We are blessed.  In Ephesians 1 Paul writes that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.  Do not feel sorry for your self today.  Do not spend your time wallowing in a self-pity party.  Shake off the world and let your eyes and spirit rest on your savior who loves you and died for you.  Look on this one that is altogether lovely.  Yes, the world is a mess and it is not getting better. 

   God inspired Paul to write work out your salvation.  Work at it.   What does it mean to work?  Some work is very hard.  It requires our attention.  Have you ever sat in a meeting and fell to sleep.   That can be a bad career move.  I have done it.  When we think of work we might also think of labor.  Labor to bring out this salvation that God has put in you.  That means we apply our self.  There is discipline and thought that goes into that.  God has put good things in the Christian and we are told to live it and bring that out. 

     Work out your salvation.   Well how do we do that.  For one thing we must obey God’s holy Spirit in us.  As we grow in God he will ask us to do things that we may not lie.   God may ask us to give money or step out of our comfort zone.  God can speak into your life and ask you to forgive someone and to let the anger and bitterness out of your life.  The Spirit may deal with some of your relationships your spouse or child or a coworker that you are having trouble with.  His commandments are for our good.  Work our your salvation.  Do not lay around.  If we love Jesus we will keep his commandments.  The Christian that loves Jesus invites him to speak not his or her life. 

     How do you work out your salvation?  Well obedience and submission to the Holy Spirt as we just mentioned is important.  How does the bible tell us to live?   We should fill our life with God in this physical world.  We need to see the spiritual and the unseen.   We see in the scripture that we should pray without ceasing.  The Christian that loves Jesus is in communication with Him.   That happens through prayer through worship and through being in God’s word.  .   All of the goodness of God is in the Christian.  All of heavens assists are in us.  Paul tells us in this passage to work out our salvation.  Allow the holy spirit to work through us.  Allow that life out of us and you will turn the world right side up. 

     We are not saved by works but we are to work.  Faith without works is dead.  We want a living faith.  Christians want a living relationship.  We want a vital living growing communion with the Almighty.  That is what excites and fills us.  Paul or the HS is telling us to work out that which is in us.   God is in us.   We are the temple of God.   Love, joy and peace are inside of the Christian but it does not always work itself out.    We have an old sin nature.   Paul tells us to work out what God has put in us.   We have things to do.  We have a responsibility. 

    God tells us work out that life that I have put in you.   Be that servant.   Be that person of prayer.   Be that person of the bible.  How do you work out your salvation, God says in fear and trembling?   That does not mean that you dread God.  It is not a coward type of fear either nor a fear that stops you or a fear that paralyzes you.  Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.   When you are afraid you are very involved with whatever is happening.  I think there is certainly an element of knowing that we can sin and a fear that we will depart from God.  Should we tremble and be afraid because we can leave God?   The song writer said prone to wonder Lord I feel it prone to leave the God I love.  When is the last time you trembled?   What did that mean to you?   God is saying pay attention to your salvation.   Spend some time on it.  If we did that we would stay away from a lot of things that are not good for us. 

      How do we work out our salvation we ask Lord what do you want me to do?   Sometimes we get something in our head that is noble and good and we ask God to bless it.   We need to hear from Him.   Lord what is your will for me?     Christians can be guilty of thinking that they would like to do this or that and then we ask God to bless it.   Lord I would like to lead a bible study.   That is a good and worthy goal but is that God’s will for you.   We often make plans and say Lord you bless my plans.   Does God have any responsibility to bless my plans probably not.  We certainly do not need to be afraid to miss God’s plans for us.  He is willing to lead and guide us.  Fear should not stop us from stepping out and doing something for God.  

    There is more great news in this passage.   In Philippians 2 right after Paul writes work out your salvation Paul or the HS tells us that God is working in us to will and act according to his good purpose.    The HS does work in us.   Wow that is great.   I don’t have to do this all by myself.  I am not alone in my walk with God.   He is in me and with me.  I have a helper.   I have a friend.  I have a teacher.  I have someone to comfort me.   The Holy Spirit helps us pray and prays through us to the Father.  The Holy Spirit will teach and guide us.   Jesus said he will help us remember.   The spirit works in us to accomplish his will and purpose for our life.  We need to remember that his ways are not the same as man’s ways.  The interesting point is that the Christian cannot walk the godly walk without the Holy Spirit.  We do not have the power nor the resources to do that.  God works in you.   Allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life. 

    You cannot force yourself to live the Christian life.   At times we have to let go and let God.   There are times when the sweet HS will lead you to just rest and worship.  There are times when we just enjoy his presence.  There are times just to relax even if we are doing something.      

God is at work in your life and in this world.  We can say as the song writer wrote “God will make a way when there seems to be no way.    He works in ways we cannot see.    He will make a way for me.   He will be my guide, walking close beside my side.   With love and strength for each new day He will make a way for me.”   God is doing some amazing things today.   We can listen to him and hear his voice speak to us.   God desires to communicate with you.   God can open doors and God can shut doors for you.   If God opens and shuts them then no man or anything else can interfere with God’s plans.  We can rest in God.   We can trust God to lead us.   He is working in your life.   Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them and teach them.   The Holy Spirit would comfort them.   God is at work in our life.   That is good news.  God is looking out for your best interests.  

     God changes lives.   God is at work in this world.  God is at work in his church.   God can change a person around in minutes.   Saul who became Paul was changed in minutes from hating Jesus and hating Jesus followers to being a lover of Jesus followers and being a follower of Jesus himself.   That is really neat.   What is God’s plan for your life?   Well one thing is for sure God is making Christians more like Jesus.   We are predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus.   That is not an easy process so we can expect some challenges along the way.   God wants you to be like Jesus.   God is more interested in what you are and then what you do.   Man looks on the outward part but God looks on the heart.   God sees your heart today and you know something - God is not finished with you yet.    We can rest tin that.   We can be joyful about that.   God is at work in the Christians life to will and to do of his good pleasure.   Do you want to bring pleasure to God today?   Then trust God and be thankful.  Have you submitted those things that you labor over and are trying to change in others to God?     Have you submitted to God and trusting God for the things you want changed in your life?   Have you asked God what he wants in those issues?  

   Then Paul writes do everything without complaining arguing so that you may become blameless and pure.  God is telling us to watch the tongue.  There is so much negativity today.  James tells us that the tongue is like a fire.  We curse and bless and we should not do that.  What we say impacts our witness.  The children of God are to be without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.  It was crooked and depraved in those days also.  The child of God should stand out.  There should be purity and light joy and love that flows from the Christians life.  The world should able to see Jesus in you as you work our your salvation. 

 

 

 

Asleep

February 19, 2017   I Thessalonians 4: 13 -18Sleep 

   

   I want to share today what we believe at least Bill and I and what Advent Christians believe.  We have been accused of excluding others but we accept others with different understandings.  Bill and I probably have different points of view on some things of scriptures.  Perhaps Bill is better versed on some of this than I am.   Many people do not believe what we believe and unfortunately and sadly it has been a source of division in the body of Jesus. I do not see this as a hill that I need to die on.  In other words, I want to teach on it but not run every one out of my life that has different beliefs.  Be patient I will cover the verse to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord and I will cover the thief on the cross when Jesus told him today you will be with me in paradise. 

    Now that I have said that I also want to say I hope we do not tune out.   Are you teachable?  It seems that God had a hard time to teach his people through the centuries.   Many folks believe they are right.  Many believe they are right about everything.  Many believe they have the answers.  That is not all bad but some folks are not very open and teachable or only teachable in some things.  We have heard the comments he or she has a closed mind.   This teaching may be brand new for some of us and for others we may be closed to it.  I would just ask for your honest attention to what I share today.  I think that is important.  Search the scriptures and study.  Acts 17:11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.  They were noble because they studied and searched.  They dug into the bible.  So, don’t just take my word for it but study for yourself.

    Do we care about what many people say about the bible or do we care what the bible says?   Yes, many people see and believe different things about the scriptures and what I believe today is different than what I believed years ago.  We continue to grow in our understanding of scripture and the Lord.  Drew Dyck wrote that no one really knows God.  Yes, we know him but do not really know him.  John the disciple that Jesus loved new Jesus in a deeper way after his revelation of Jesus in Revelation 1.  No flesh can see God and live.  Moses kind of saw his back side and that was such that his face glowed with glory for days. 

    Paul wrote this passage to encourage the Thessalonians.  This was written to comfort them.  We have a hope.  We believe in God and life after death on this world.  Paul said do not be ignorant and do not grieve like others grieve over the death of a loved one.  As Christians, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  There is a reward for our labor for Jesus.  There is blessing ahead beyond our imagination.   There is glory and wonder and God’s presence. 

   We believe what this passage says and other passages.  We believe that we sleep.  Now some folks that do not like that say that is just a euphemism.  In other words, instead of saying dead God says we are asleep.  We believe that we sleep.   We believe that our next waking thought is to be with Jesus.  So in essence Jesus disciples who have passed away about 2,000 years ago, for them it will be like 1 second and they will be with Jesus.  They are asleep. 

    Many like to say that the body sleeps.  The bible says the body without the spirit is dead.  The body is dead and it decomposes.  The body is not alive.  James 2 tells us the body without the spirit is dead so faith without works is dead.  The body is dead and therefore it decomposes.  Paul is very clear here that we sleep.  He or the Holy Spirit through Paul says it 3 times.  Do we find that in other places in the scripture?  Yes, we do. 

   In Daniel chapter 12 we read “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.  At that time the NIV says in the last days or the days that we live in I believe.  Verse 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.  Where are these people?  They are in the dust of the earth asleep the bible says.  It seems to me from these verses that the righteous and unrighteous awake together.  That leads me to believe that they are not in heaven and they are not in hell right now.  They are asleep in the dust of the earth until resurrection.

    In john 11 we see Jesus raising up Lazarus from the dead.  In John 11:11 and following After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”   12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”   Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.  14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, Jesus knew Lazarus was dead but saw him and said he was asleep.  In Matthew 9 we read when Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 

     After the crowd, had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.  The people knew she was dead and Jesus knew she was dead but Jesus also saw her as asleep.  The body was dead but she was asleep.  Her spirit or soul or if you prefer the breath of life had departed.  God made Adam out of the dust of the earth but he did not have life until God breathed on him.  Do you remember the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37?   We read So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.   I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.   Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”   So, I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.   All the skin and flesh was there but what was needed was the breath.  There is no life without the breath.  When the breath entered them then they moved. 

   In II Corinthians 5 is a passage of scripture that is used to say we go to heaven as soon as we die.   We read therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.   For we live by faith, not by sight.   We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.   So, we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.   For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.  I would say this verse does not say that we are immediately in heaven.  It says we are with the Lord.

    David argued that if he went to hell that God was there.  David said I cannot flee from you.  God is everywhere present.  I believe that God is every place where there is life.  His word and power hold all thing together.  Paul in Athens on Mars Hill said we live and move and have our being in his presence.  In Romans 10 Paul said you do not have to go into heaven to bring Christ down or go to hell to bring Christ up from the dead but the word is near you.  II Corinthians 5:8 does not say you are immediately in heaven but you are with the Lord.  In Hebrews 13:5 Jesus promises I will never leave you or forsake you.  He is with us.  He is with the Christian.  Romans 8 nothing can separate us from his love.  Nothing in all of creation can separate us from God’s love. 

    Many would say well in Luke 23 Jesus told the thief that today you will be with me in paradise so that proves that we immediately go to heaven.    We read in Luke 23 starting with verse 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”   But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?   We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”   Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ”   Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  Man, put the comma in.  I tell you, today you will.  That comma is not in the original Greek.  In John 20:17 Jesus tells Mary Do not hold onto me for I have not yet returned to the Father.  When did Jesu ascend?   It was 40 days later.   Jesus was telling the thief today I am telling you or right now I am telling you, you will be with me.  It is interesting that the thief said remember me when you come in your kingdom. 

   Some would argue well Enoch was taken.  In Genesis 5:24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more.  And Elijah was taken by a whirl wind into heaven.  It would seem that he went to heaven where God is.  The atmosphere was also called heaven.   Paul talked aobut being lifted to the third heaven in II Corinthians.    I do not believe that Elijah was lifted into heaven where God is because of what Jesus said in John.  In John 3:12 & 13 we read    I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?   No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. These are the very words of Jesus. Jesus Sid no one has gone into heaven.   The words are in red and Jesus said clearly no one has ever gone into heaven.  Since Jesu said it I believe that Enoch and Elijah did not go into heaven.   

   There is another passage that is a parable that Jesus told about Lazarus and the rich man and the rich man was in hell and in torment.  I have a 4-page sermon on that and we will not go there today.  In I Corinthians 15:6 Paul writes some have fallen asleep.  In I Corinthians 15: 17 & 18 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.   And in verse 20 but Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  And 3 times in I Thessalonians 4 Paul tells us that we sleep.  .  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. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.   According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  The Old Testament talks about sleep and Jesus talked about sleep in death and Paul writes it at least 6 times that we sleep after we die.  To me it does not matter.  If we sleep our next waking thought will be with Jesus.  It is really the same thought.  Jesus said heh a dot come back so his disciples could be with him.  So, for them when they wake up if seem like 1 second ago they died. 

    In verse 15 it is very clear that those who are alive will not precede those that are asleep.  In verse 17 the dead in Christ will rise first.  The living will not go before those that have died.  I know that many believe that is referring to the body.    That ties in with what Jesus said to his disciples in John 14:2 & 3.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you.   And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  I will come back Jesus told them, and take you to be with me.  Jesus has to come back to take the disciples to be with him.  Jesus has not come back yet though I have had people say to defend their beliefs that Jesus may be coming all the time to get people.  That is quite a stretch in my mind.     Paul tells us to encourage one another with the truth presented here.  Those that have Jesus have life. He that has the son has life.  Only God has immortality.  Questions? Comments?