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? 

Run the Race - Super Bowl

February 12, 2017    I Corinthians 9:19 – 27   Run the Race        

 

   I thought I would spend a few minutes on the super bowl.   Nobody will mind, will you?  Well the super bowl game was just played last week.  There are many teams that played and worked for the chance to play in the football game of football games.  To play in the super bowl means that you have made it to the top at least most people believe that.   How do you win a super bowl?   What does it take to win a super bowl?    What does it take to be a winning person?   What does it take to be a winning Christian?    Vince Lombardi, former coach of the Green Bay Packers, and the winning coach stated in a speech called "What it takes to be number 1":"Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing.   You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing. 

     Perhaps some that did not make it to the super bowl should have.   Some may have had a bad day when they played and did not make it or some teams may have had several on their injured list.   Many aspire to play in the super bowl but only 2 teams make it each year and only one of those ends up winning. 

   In the game of life if you would call it that we all get to play.  Some play for them self and some play with the devil.  And there are those who go with the Lord.   As we walk in faith and submission our lives end up at the marriage feast of the Lamb.   That is the real winning event for all of life.  That is far beyond any super bowl.   Are you ready for Jesus to come?   Is our spirit fixed on heaven?  

    This year’s super bowl game was pretty exciting.   Many thought the game was over in the beginning of the 3rd quarter and turned to other things.  They gave up on it conceding that Atlanta Falcons was surely going to be the winner.   I suppose there are Christians who have given up and maybe at times we are tempted to quit.   I would encourage you to read the last book of the bible.   Revelation tells us that we win.  I like that.  I like that a lot.  We may get knocked down and wounded but the Lord is faithful to pick us up.   When we walk in the spirit of God we do not lose.   No spirit filled Christian is a loser.   We are on the winning team.  At times, it may not seem that way but God has exciting plays even in the 4th quarter.   And if it runs into overtime that works also.  Joshua ask for the sun stop setting because they had more work to do.   God can make a way when there seems to be no way. 

   There is a lot of money involved with the super bowl.   It is estimated that 4.7 billion was gambled on the super bowl in 2017 most of it illegally.  A super bowl 30 second ad cost 5 million or almost 167K a second.    That is pretty amazing.  A number of NFL quarterback’s make over 20 million a year.    I am reminded that God calls us to true riches and that moth and rush does not corrupt the riches of heaven.  True riches last and true riches really count.   It is not tear down my barns and I will build bigger barns but where is my soul going.   It is not bragging about tomorrow for we do not know what tomorrow may bring.   We trust the Lord day by day. 

   These men train and train and train to win that game.  They go out and fight over a little piece of pig skin.  They have a tremendous amount of zeal.     What does it take to be a winner in sports today?   What does it take to be a super bowl champion?   It takes a lot of training and discipline to get to the super bowl.   I am amazed at the precision of the quarter backs and the receivers.  It amazes me how professional they are.  Yes, once in a while there is a really bad pass.   It takes training and discipline to be a first-class spirit filled Christian.  It takes discipline to be holy as it takes discipline to get to be a team that gets to play in the super bowl.  The football players are strong and trained. 

     It takes a lot of things to make a super bowl team.  For one thing, they need to work together as a team.  There has to be discipline.  The team that wins has made some sacrifices.   It cost something to win.  There is talent, ability and focus.       There are 2 opposing teams in the super bowl.  They basically have the same goals and that is to score more points than the other team.  They have the same goals but are opposed to each other.  God and Satan are opposed to each other also.

      I am also reminded how divided our nation is right now.  There is a lot of criticism, negativity mud throwing that just causes more division, and more anger.     Christians can do that also.  Satan seeks to get Christians in churches to become divided on some issue and take sides.  In the church of Corinth some were saying I am of Pail and some would say I am of Apollos.   Sadly, sometimes we have been guilty of looking more at what divides us as Christians than all the things that we agree upon.   Team work is very important for Christians.  The church needs to work as a team.  Jesus prayed for unity when he prayed in the garden of gethsemane  

    In the super bowl the coach draws up some plans.   He studies the other team and figures out what kind of plays would produce the desired results.   The team gathers around the coach and supports the plan and maybe refines the plays.   The whole team has the same goal and that is to win so they train and work and discipline their lives.   They study the other team.  They get to know their opponent.  Why would anyone want to win if it cost so much sacrifice?   Well I think it is for the honor of it.  For some it is bragging rights.  There can be the feeling that they have done something that others have not done and of course the money.    

    The Christian has a coach.   The Holy Spirit is our coach and our guide.  The Holy spirit has a perfect plan for our life.   He knows exactly what will work for your life.  He knows what will produce results and lasting fruit.  This coach never makes a mistake.   The Holy Spirit knows you inside and out.  Our coach knows our enemy also.  Our coach knows all the plays and the plains of the opposing team.  It is good to stay close to Him.  I think the Lord at times would teach us from the things of life around us.  There are so many spiritual applications that we can make from life.  We need to think about the things that happen in life in light of the scriptures.  

     In this passage, we see that Paul disciplined himself.   He trained his body.  Paul worked hard at connecting with others.  In verse 19 Paul says I make myself a slave to win them.   Verse 20 to the Jews I became like a Jew to win them.   He was a Jew, wasn’t he?   To those under the law I became like one under the law to win them.   Verse 21 to those not having the law I became like one not having the law to win them.   Verse 22 to the weak I became weak to win them.   I became all things to all men to win them.   And he said I do it for the gospel.   I do it because I love God and I love others.   And he said I am blessed for doing it.   What is on the Father’s heart today?   He wants to win them.  He is not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance.   Are we trying to win them?   Is the church in America trying to win them? 

    Let’s pull together to win them, Jews, Muslins, those that are addicted to vices and to those who are perhaps outside of our comfort zone.  Why would we do that?   Because Jesus loves them.  It is important that we love and minister to those that God brings into our life.   It seems like some Christians can embrace those outside of the church more than their brothers and sisters in Jesus.  That can be an issue.  Jesus said by this all men shall know you are my disciples if you have love one for another.  A divided church is not a good testimony of Jesus church.  In John 15 Jesus told his disciples this is my command that you love one another as I have loved you.  Jesus told his disciples I command you to love one another. 

     This passage can be used in many wrong ways.   Paul is not saying I water down the gospel to make it appealing to all men.  We get into those kinds of things today I think.   Some churches put on the show and there are worship style wars.    Some offer star bucks coffee.  I noticed one church that was using a helicopter to drop Easter eggs. In order to qualify for that you had to attend church for a while.   It may help get some to attend church who have not attended for a while.    Paul makes it very plain that his goal was to always please God and not men.  He did not break any law of Jesus to please any person.  He opens this passage saying he is free from all men.   And he ends saying I am the servant of all. 

    Paul certainly did not support the Jews who went to the churches that he established and who told the Christians hey this Jesus stuff is OK but to be really saved you have to be circumcised.  Becoming all things to all men does not mean that we preach a health and wealth gospel that seems to be so popular with many today.   Jesus did not live that life style nor did Paul.    We hold to the gospel truth.   We continue to preach Jesus and the scripture.   Church is about Jesus it is not about you.   This passage is not met to make us ingrown.   It is about Paul changing himself to identify with the lost or you could say it is about us trying to identify with lost people.   I believe it is about us seeking to change because we love people and we love God and we want the lost to love God also.       

.   Paul humbled himself and made himself a servant to reach the lost.   Paul did not seek to satisfy his whims and desires instead he put others before himself.  Paul did that so others could find Jesus.   The gospel of Jesus and salvation is so precious.   It is the greatest thing going.     I think we need to ask the question what can I do to reach the lost?     Are we reaching out to others?   And then we need to ask ourselves are we willing to make the changes necessary to reach them?   It is more than just being a friend to others.  It is sharing Jesus with them and truth with them.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. 

    Paul writes run in such a way to get a prize.  He said we run to get a crown that lasts forever.  He did not run aimlessly.   Paul did not beat the air.  He was going after the real stuff.  He wanted his life to count.  Paul beat his body and made his body his slave.   He controlled himself.  He said no to the flesh.  Paul trained and disciplined himself.  I am certainly not saying he never relaxed.  How much do we surrender to the desires of the flesh?  Joel writes rend your heart and not your garments.   Paul believed that the gospel was worth his effort.   He counted all of his previous accomplishments as nothing compared to Jesus.  Paul was sold out to Jesus.  It was his whole life.  The greatest prize was Jesus.  Paul saw the gospel was worth suffering for.  These are strange words for us today.   A disciple is a follower of Jesus.  Jesus said if any man will come after me let him deny himself and follow Jesus.  That means saying yes to Jesus and saying no to the flesh. 

   We need to remember God in all of this.   A verse in Proverbs I think in the Living Bible says man proposes but God disposes.  God is sovereign and He is in control.  We can’t win fighting against God.  Some things we cannot control.  We can do our part.   We must do our part.  We can’t sit back and do nothing and think we will get great results.   We need to labor in step with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  God is the one who moves mountains. 

    
 

    
 

The Word

February 5, 2017  Psalm 19    The Word  

 

  Psalm 1Psalm 19If you had the choice between 10 pounds of gold and a bible today which would you chose?  We need to love the bible.   We need to read it and make it our companion.    Christians who do not read the bible are hurting them self.  We need to fed our soul.  We feed our body. 

  This psalm opens with the heavens declare the glory of God.     A good illustration of the Trinity comes from world-renowned scientist Dr. Henry Morris.   I remember the names of Dr. Morris and Dr. Gish when I was at San Diego university.  They were at the creation science institute in San Diego.     He notes that the entire universe is Trinitarian by design.  The universe consists of three things: matter, space, and time. Take away any one of those three and the universe would cease to exist.   But each one of those is itself a trinity.    Matter = mass + energy + motion and space = length + height + breadth and time = past + present + future.    Thus, the whole universe witnesses to the character of the God.   The heavens declare the glory of God.  This Psalm is a majestic psalm of David. 

   Creation witnesses and points all people to God.   Its beauty declares God’s glory.  God said creation shows his glory.   Do you see his glory in creation?   Did you recognize the work of his hands when you drove to church today?   We see it but did it register that God made all this?   Creation speaks of God’s power.  Its beauty and order speaks of God’s character.  It speaks so loudly that all men might hear and see it.   We see the same thought in Romans 1 the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  I believe that the sincere person who seeks for God will find God.  In Jeremiah, we read You shall seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.  God wants to be found.  God has revealed himself to us through his word and creation. 

    We certainly live in a day when the word of the God is not looked up to by most people.  Many people are far more interested in their horoscope than the bible but the bible has survived every attack against it.   It has survived scorn and hatred and burning.   The gates of hell will not prevail against it.   It has survived and proved itself over and over again to those who did not believe in it but were willing to study and search out its truth.   Those kinds of folks get converted.   Those that will diligently seek and study will find that the bible is true and eternal.   You do not need to defend the bible but we do need to share it.   Someone once asked the great preacher Charles Spurgeon if he was prepared to defend the Word of God.      He replied, “Defend it! I would as soon try to defend a lion.     God’s word doesn’t need defending.    Just preach it.    Let it out of its cage and it will defend itself.    God’s word does not return void.    Let the word go and cut it lose.  The bible and scripture point to Jesus.  The real power of the scripture is that it points us to Jesus. 

      The wonder of its message is Jesus.   It gives Jesus Christ the preeminent place   *In Genesis – He is the Seed Of The Woman      *In Exodus – He is the Passover Lamb     *In Leviticus – He is our High Priest     *In Numbers – He is the Star Of Jacob    *In Deuteronomy – He is the Rock     *In Joshua – He is the Captain Of The Lord’s Host    *In Judges – He is the Sword Of Gideon    *In Ruth – He is the Kinsman Redeemer    *In Samuel – He is the Seed Of David    *In Kings – He is the Lord God of Israel    *In Chronicles – He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords    *In Ezra – He is the Lord Of Heaven And Earth    *In Nehemiah – He is the Restorer   *In Esther – He is the God Of Providence   *In Job – He is the days man    *In Psalms – He is the King Of Glory    *In Proverbs – He is the Wisdom Of God    *In Ecclesiastes – He is the Creator   *In Song Of Solomon – He is Altogether Lovely  *In Isaiah – He is the Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince Of Peace    *In Jeremiah – He is the Lord Our Righteousness    *In Lamentations – He is the Weeping Prophet    *In Ezekiel – He is the Wheel In The Wheel    *In Daniel – He is the Fourth Man in the Fire    *In Hosea – He is the Lord God of Hosts    *In Joel – He is the Hope of His People   *In Amos – He is the God of Hosts    *In Obadiah – He is the Destroyer Of The Proud   *In Jonah – He is the God Of The Second Chance    *In Micah – He is the God Of Jacob    *In Nahum – He is the Avenging God    *In Habakkuk – He is the Everlasting Glorious God
In Zephaniah – He is the King Of Israel    *In Haggai – He is the Desire Of All Nations    *In Zechariah – He is the one Pierced In The House Of His Friends    *In Malachi– He is the Lord Of Remembrance

     *In Matthew – He is the King Of The Jews    *In Mark – He is the Servant    *In Luke – He is the Son Of Man    *In John – He is the Eternal God    *In Acts – He is the Ascended Lord    *In Romans – He is the Lord Our Righteousness
In Corinthians – He is Our Sufficiency    *In Galatians – He is Our Liberator    *In Ephesians – He is the Head Of The Church    *In Philippians – He is Our Strength    *In Colossians – He is the Fullness Of The Godhead    *In Thessalonians – He is the coming Christ    *In Timothy – He is the Mediator Between God And Man    *In Titus – He is the Great God And Savior    *In Hebrews – He is the Captain Of Our Salvation    *In James – He is the Great Physician    *In Peter – He is the Unblemished Lamb    *In John – He is the Advocate    *In Jude – He is the Lord That Comes With 10,000 Saints
In Revelation – He is the Alpha And Omega, the Lion Of Judah, the Bright And Morning Star,  the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and King Of Kings And Lord Of Lords.    The bible has a theme running through it and the theme is Jesus and salvation.   He is wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father.    

        The Bible is the most unique book ever written because it claims to have God as its author.    It may have been written over a period of 1600 years, on three continents, and by over 40 different men.   Most of us probably do not know that there are at least 7 different authors who wrote Psalms.   David wrote at least 75 of the 150 Psalms.    Some of the Psalms we are not sure of the human author.    There are a few books in the bible that we do not know the human author.    Yet it had only one author – GOD. 

    The Bible contains 66 books – 39 in the OT and 27 in the NT.   The 39 books of the O.T. are written primarily in Hebrew, with a little Aramaic, and the 27 books of the N.T.  were written in Greek.    Yet these diverse authors each in their own way present a unified portrait of God’s plans, past events and future events and God’s purposes in our world.   The 27 books that make up the New Testament were written over a time frame of about 50 years from about AD 40’s to AD 90’s.    The NT tells us about Jesus Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection, the beginning of the Christian church, and instruction about how to live as a follower of Jesus Christ.   The NT ends with a Revelation a book about prophecy and the end times.   The bible contains 1,189 chapters and 31,173 verses.   The Bible is an entire library of different kinds of literature such as history, poetry, humor, prophecy, romance, letters, biographies, songs, counsel, advice, laws, doctrine, and stories.  There is no other book like it in the whole world. 

     2 Peter 1:20-21 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation, for the prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.    2 Tim 3:16-17 & 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  What is every good work?   Well it could be giving a word of advice or counsel or maybe sharing the gospel to someone who is unsaved.    It could be praying or using a spiritual gift such as healing to minister to someone.    1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectually works in you that believe.

    The bible is always relevant.  If you wanted to pass the bar exam and become a lawyer you would not study law from 1900.  That is out dated and no longer relevant.  The bible is always relevant.  The bible speaks to us today.    It is inspired, that means it is “God-breathed”.   The bible declares that it is the word of God.   I read that one source said the expression “the Lord said” or “the Lord spoke occurs over 2000 times in the OT alone.  John 1:1 in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.   He was with God in the beginning.   In Peter, we read being born again not of corruptible things like silver and gold but by the precious word of God.  John tells us that the word became flesh.  Jesus is the word of God.  Every word Jesus spoke and speaks is the word of God. 

       Samuel Chadwick said, "I have guided my life by the Bible for more than sixty years, and I tell you there is no book like it.   It is a miracle of literature, a perennial spring of wisdom, a wonder of surprises, a revelation of mystery, an infallible guide of conduct, and an unspeakable source of comfort.   Pay no attention to people who discredit it, for I tell you that they speak without knowledge.    It is the infallible Word of God itself.    Study it according to its own direction. Live by its principles.   Believe its message   Follow its precepts.   No man is uneducated who knows the Bible, and no one is wise who is ignorant of its teachings."   Wisdom comes from God.      

     In Revelation scripture says blessed is the man that reads the words written therein.   We need to hear it preached and taught.  We as a church hold to this book and honor it.  We do not worship the bible but we are to obey and live by the bible.    In Deuteronomy 6 it is written these commandments that I give to you today are to be upon your hearts, impress them upon your children.   Talk about them when you sit home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.     One would think that God is telling us to make his word a focal point of our life.  We can learn about science and math and many things which is good. God wants you to know this book.   This world will burn up some day but 2 things remain the souls of men and the word of God.    Christians that want their life to count spend time in God’s word.  It is eternal.  Jesus said HIS words will not pass away. 

      Think of the promises in the bible.   In the bible, we have the promise of salvation and heaven.   We have the promise of forgiveness.  We have the promise of reward in heaven.  We have the promise of God’s protection and his presence.   We have the promise of God’s blessing.   We have the promise of God’s love grace and mercy.   There is the promise of Jesus coming again.  There is the promise of reward and judgment.    The Psalmist tells us in this passage that God’s words can be trusted.   God is faithful.    The word of God gives us joy.   We all can stand some more joy.   There is joy in God’s word.  The bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength.   We can be strong in the joy of the Lord. 

     The word of God is sure and totally righteous.  The word of God warns us.   And those that keep the word of God are rewarded.   There is great reward in keeping the words of this book.    Look at what the Psalmist says in this passage.   The law of the Lord is perfect.   What is totally perfect in the world today?    God’s word.   The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy.   You can trust the word of God.   The precepts of the Lord are right.   The word is absolute truth.   Psychology Class in College.    The commands of the Lord are radiant.   The ordinances of the Lord are sure.   God’s word is sure.   I like sure things. 

   The psalmist says in this passage that the word of God is sweeter than honey and the honey comb.   David said God’s words were sweeter than honey.  Probably all David had of God’s word was the Pentateuch - the first 5 books of the bible also known as the law.  It also had history in it.   It did not have the gospels in it and the story of Jesus and the early church.  David loved the law of God.   It was sweet to him.  It was life to him.    It is sweeter than ice cream or chocolate.     The bible is life for the Christian who is following God.      The bible should be a priority for us.   We should be reading the bible, singing the scripture, studying the bible and meditating on it day and night.    In the book is blessing and in the bible, is life and truth.  Jesus said you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.    The bible puts our feet on the solid rock.   It can stabilize your path and fill your life with good things.   The words of this book give joy and peace.  

       This is a paraphrase of Psalm 19 by Lynnea Tanner.  “The law of the Lord is without flaw, putting our soul back to wholeness.  The things the Lord reveals are unwavering, consistent in their nature, giving great understanding to the unlearned.   The basic principles God has laid out are right making the heart glad.   The things God has told us to do don’t have mixed motives behind them, helping us to see clearly.   Respect for the Lord is clean and will last forever.   The judgments of the Lord are accurate and can be counted on. They are wholesome in entirety.   These are treasures that should be sought after more than wealth and give more pleasure than chocolate or chocolate covered raisins.   Also by them God’s followers are warned; there is great reward in keeping them.   Who is able to see his own mistakes?    God can certainly see our mistakes and our sins.   David in this passage is praying keep me from sin.   Do not let sin rule over me.   Sin is powerful and David did not want to be controlled by sin.  

   We need to be in the bible today.  Satan will fill us with things that keep us from the bible.   Have you ever sat down to read the bible and find that your mind goes to many things that you should do?   Satan will chip away at you seeking to get you away from the bible.  Are you committed to read this book?  If you read 3 chapters a day you can read through the New Testament 4 times in one year.   That is a worthy goal.   I hope this precious book is sweet to you.

    Do you want joy in your life today?  You can get it out of the bible. Jeremiah said your words were found and I did eat and your word was joy and rejoicing of my heart.    Do you need peace in your life?   The bible points people to the path of peace.  Do you need strength in your life today?  People find strength from the bible.  David wrote I hide your word in my heart that I would not sin against God.   The bible shows the path way for you to learn to be content.  The bible explains what true love is.  The bible helps us experience love and shows us how to give love.  The bible builds our faith.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.  If you want to be strong in faith get into the bible.  This book can become more precious to you that than gold and sweeter than honey or any food. 

   The bible points us to Jesus.  We need him moment by moment.  Jesus said man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  The Christian who is not in the bible is emancipated. 

 

 

Passion for Jesus

January 29, 2017  Revelation 3:14 – 22    Passion 

 

    This is a personal letter from Jesus to his church.  It is to our benefit to listen and to hear.  Jesus finishes this letter to Laodicea with he who has ears to hear let him hear what the spirit is says to the churches.  It is really sad that Jesus does not praise anything in this church. That is pretty frightening I think.   There are some churches like that today.  .  I believe Jesus would have some good things to say about us.  There is a word for the Church of Jesus today and that is Jesus is very interested in each Christian’s passion for him.  That is a good word for us to hear today. 

    Jesus said to the church of Laodicea I know your deeds.  He knows how we live our life.  Everything will be judged someday.  Jesus said every idle word will be judged.  I Corinthians 3 tell us that that there is no other foundation than Jesus and as the song writer wrote all other ground is sinking sand.   We can build on the foundation of Jesus with things that last in eternity or not.   If a person builds on the right foundation that lasts they will receive a reward.  Some do not build on it and their works will be burned up.  They will have no rewards in eternity.  We can have the blessing of building God’s kingdom here and now.

   Jesus told the church at Ephesus I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.   You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.    Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.    To Smyrna Jesus said I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!    I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.   Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.   I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days.   Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

    It is pretty scary what Jesus said to the church at Sardis.   I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.   Wake up!   Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.   But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.  That may apply to some churches today.    In each of the 7 churches in Revelation chapter 2 and 3 Jesus said I know this about you.   Jesus knows the good you do and the bad you do and we can’t hide anything from him and God knows what is going to happen.   Jesus blesses the good and Jesus is against the bad. 

   Jesus said to the church of Laodicea I wish you were hot or cold.  I believe that His greatest desire is that each Christian would be hot.  Jesus wants Christians to be passionate in their relationship with Him.  He desires a burning passion and love.  Jesus was zealous.  In John 2 we read His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me which is a quote from Psalms regarding Jesus.  Zeal for your house will consume me.  In Titus 2 we read who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. The King James says a people who are zealous of good works. 

   The Laodicea church was not hot.  They were luke warm.  They were a church at ease.   They were not concerned about the lost.  They were not zealous to feed and clothe those in need.  They were not zealous to pray, read the scriptures, and worship.  Life was more about them and their comfort.  They did not go the second mile and they were not a light on the hill top.  Their lack of concern and self centeredness made Jesus sick to his stomach and Jesus wanted to throw them up or spit them out of his mouth.  Did you ever eat something disgusting and just spit it right out.  I do not like beer and when I was in the Army my buddies took a Coke or Pepsi bottle and begged me to drink it and I took big drink of it and I spit that all over the place.  It was a natural violent reaction. 

   Perhaps this church was useless to Jesus.  The church is not light if it embraces wrong.  We love people we are commanded to do.  They justified the life style they had.  They made excuses for their condition.  Jesus calls them out on it.  Jesus said to them you say I am rich, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.  That is pretty brazen I think.  Hey God take a look at me.  I am really doing well down here.  I have the answers.  Jesus said not so fast folks.  It is like Jesus said let me tell you how I see your condition. 

   Laodicea was a wealthy town.  It was wealthy from wool and they made cloth.  They were also sought out for their eye salve or ointment.  The city was known as a banking center and they exchanged money.  The town minted its own coins.  It was destroyed in AD 60 with an earthquake and it was rebuilt by the wealth of its citizens.  I read they did not ask for government help.  The town was a Roman military outpost and a trade center.  It was located 100 feet above a river. 

    We see that the town or city was rich and it looks like the church took on the attitude and culture of the town they lived in.  The church is to change the culture around it and not become like those around them.  Some Christians may think that if the money is coming in that they are close to God and everything spiritually is OK.  That may not be true.     The church bragged we are rich and have acquired wealth and need nothing.  Ouch.   We always need Jesus.  Jesus said to them but you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. The church at Laodicea was to be light and salt.  They were to be different than those around them.  We do not see ourselves properly apart from the Lord.  David prayed search me O God and know me.  See if there be any wicked way in me.  We would do well to ask God to search us out once in awhile.  Sometimes we think we are doing well and we are not doing well.  Pride comes before a fall.  They are known for their cloth and Jesus tells them they are naked.  They are known for their eye salve and Jesus tells them they are blind.  Jesus just speaks to their pride.  Jesus can speak deeply into our life.  Sometimes it can hurt.  We need those times.  He judges and corrects so we are not condemned with the world. 

    Jesus counseled them to get real gold from him. They were to get gold from Jesus was refined in fire.  It was pure gold and real gold.  The gold that Jesus gives will make them truly rich.  We need to get our eyes off the temporal stuff and see the eternal.  The eternal is real.  The eternal is permanent.  They could use their physical wealth for the poor. The reality was that they were not rich at all.  It all belongs to God.  Our life belongs to God. 

  Jesus told them to get white clothes from him.   Zondervan Dictionary said they got rich from black sheep.  I suspect the cloth they made was black.  Jesus tells them get white clothes from me.  Spiritually we are only covered in his righteousness and his blood.  There is such a beautiful picture in Revelation 19 the armies of heaven were following Him ridding on white horses and dressed in fine linen white and clean.    I love that purity.   I love that picture and righteousness.  That righteousness is a gift.   It cost God and Jesus a great deal.  And they needed to get salve from Jesus so they could really see.  They thought they could see.   They thought we help people to see.  We make a salve that helps people see.   They thought they were rich.  They thought they were clothed.   They thought they were doing well and needed nothing.  They were wrong.   Jesus told them they were wrong.  I suppose it was a shock to many of them. 

    Then Jesus said repent.   Change your ways.  Don’t keep doing what you are doing. You’re going the wrong way.   Your behavior is wrong and your attitude is wrong.  They were looking for a good report card.  They thought things were good and Jesus gives them a failing grade.  I would say that Jesus totally failed them.    Jesus tells them I am knocking.  I want to come in.   That is like saying I am not even in your life.  I am outside but I want to come in.  I am out in the cold and out in the rain.  Let me in.   I want to help you and talk with you.  Let me in.  Jesus is saying if you can hear me listen up.  It is for your good. 

   Jesus said to them I would that you were hot or cold. How do we stay hot?   How do we continue with passion?   Jesus wants us to be passionate.    Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. It is not automatic.  It is something we focus on.  We can get distracted from our passion.  We can get distracted from Jesus.  I got a couple of the following thoughts form Rick Warren.  We can over work. Too much work can stifle or kill your passion.  Psalm 127 unless the Lord builds the house, the builder’s labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.   In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.    Some need to rest.  Some may not be working enough. The church at Laodicea was content.  Too much work and not enough work can impact a per5sons passion.  We need balance and that comes from the Holy Spirit.  . 

   Another area is that of spiritual gifts.  God has blessed each Christian with at least one gift.  Using your spiritual gift can build passion in our life.  Conversely not using your spiritual gift can diminish your passion.  God has given us certain bents and passions.   We need to sue those abilities and gifts.   The Holy Spirit blesses us as we use our spiritual gift.  It is a blessing to see God work through your life to minister to someone else.   Using your spiritual gift blesses others and Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive.   Certainly sin can impact your passion.  The church in Laodicea said we do not need anything.  I would say that is pride and that does not help your passion for Jesus.  Unconfessed sin and guilt and anger are robbers of spiritual health and passion.  We need the spirit of God moment and day by day.  How can a person be enthusiastic and be fearful or angry at the same time?  

   We need to spend time with God to be passionate about God and the things of God.  We need to spend time with others that have a passionate relationship with God.   Two are better than one.  Sometimes we have a bad day or we fall and it is good to have support.   I took the van to a garage for a vehicle inspection Friday morning.   Brian the owner I heard was going to church so about 2 minutes in our conversation I asked him how is Jesus today.  That kind of stuns people I have found and he responded rather quickly Jesus is great.  We had a wonderful conversation that set the tone of my whole day.  It ignited my passion.  We talked for 20 minutes.  One of the things that he shared was that they were going to open a new business in the building they own and as they were preparing the 1st floor for the business the renters upstairs were yelling at each other and swearing.  Brian and his wife prayed for them and they ended up going to their church and the yelling stopped.  

    Every day there are negative things that will come our way.   The enemy, the world seems to be on a downhill spiral and some of that falls in our lap.   How do you handle those issues determines your spiritual passion. We need to renew our mind.   We need to be aware of what is draining us emotionally.  Some folks lose their passion for God and that is the worst thing that can happen.  Jesus told the church I wish you hot or cold.    

   

  

 

 

Love God

January 22, 2017   Matthew 22: 34 – 40   Love

 

   I am going to dive right into this passage this morning.  Jesus tells us commands us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart with all of our soul and with all of our mind.   What would the churches in America be like if we did that?   How would your relationship change with those you are trying to help if they lived like that?   How would your marriage be if both you lived that way?   How would your marriage be if your spouse lived that way?   Would life be easier and would there be less tension?   Are you teaching your children to do that?   Some of you might say that is impossible and I say it is a command of the Lord.  If you say you can’t do that and if you say it is impossible you have already quit and given up.  Can’t never did nothing I used to hear.  I understand you can’t force others but you can influence people.  You can pray and you can teach and you can model that life style.   

   Some may say that is a lot of work for me to teach that to my kids.  I would say when they get it and live like that over 90% of your work is done.  Think of all the other stuff you don’t have to teach them.  You not only have to teach it but you have to live it.  Your children need to see you model it.  Your children need to see you reading the bible and praying.  They need to see you asking what would Jesus do in this situation.   You need to be praying for them to love Jesus and God.  Not doing this is perhaps the biggest failure that we make as parents. Parents you can’t fake that life style.       

   I think it is important as we consider this passage today to realize and state again that God is love.  God loves you.   God loves you more than anyone loves you.   God loves you more than you love yourself.   In the book Ragamuffin Gospel the author writes Israel don’t ever be so foolish as to measure my love for you in terms of your love for me!  Don’t ever compare your thin pallid wavering and moody love with my love, for I am God.  Human love will always be a faint shadow of God’s love.  We try to bring God down to our level so we can relate to him but God is so much greater.  

    God’s love is deep!    And, God’s love has nothing to do with you!   It is not because of your wisdom or ability or your strength that God loves you.   God does not love you because of your money or your ability to make money.   Others love us because of our abilities or looks or our character or perhaps even our money.   Maybe it is because you are fun to be around or that you meet a need that they have.   Some because you are family and they seek to get along with family.  

     But, not God!   God loves you simply because He wants to love you … He chose to love you … He decided to love you.     God loves you because “God is love” (1 John 4:16).     Listen to what God told Israel in Deuteronomy 7:7-8 – “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”   It is totally amazing why God would love any of us.    Have you heard God whisper in your ear I love you lately?   I love you I am for you and I am with you.   I know your struggles and your pain.  Love is important to God.  God is love. 

   In I Corinthians 13 we see how important love is in God’s eyes.   Paul writes if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love; I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.   If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.   If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.     Those are pretty amazing sacrifices and gifts but it means nothing unless it comes from a heart of love.  Is love the aim of your life today? 

   Jesus tells us in this passage to love the Lord our God with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our mind.     Jesus said love God with everything.   Love God with everything we are and have.  That is a commandment.   All of God’s commandments are for our good.  That is to be the focal point of the Christian’s life.   That is where our mind should go.  That is what should captivate us.  Love for God should be our waking thought and the last thought before we go to sleep.  A person who loves God brings blessing and joy to others.   There is life and light around them.  There is a pleasant atmosphere around them.  There is love and goodness in them.   The person that loves God walks in the power and the spirit of God.  There is a spirit of peace around them. 

   I think Jesus is a good example of offering blessing and love to others.  I like this first verse in the passage we read today.  The people were astonished at his teaching.  Jesus taught with authority.  Jesus spoke truth.  It means a lot that Jesus spoke truth.  Truth is hard to find today.  Truth can be spoken in such a way that it wounds but Jesus spoke truth from a compassionate heart.  The truth that Jesus gave us came from a heart of love.  There is healing in the words of Jesus.  The crowds loved the teaching of Jesus and loved his healing.  I also believe the atmosphere around Jesus attracted the crowds to him.   Jesus was and is the friend of sinners.  Jesus walked with a heart of love and yes Jesus stood up to the wrong.  Some did not want to be around Jesus but Jesus was not critical and negative.  I think Jesus had joy and at times lots of joy in spite of all the stuff around him. 

   Jesus commands us to love God with everything in us.  Loving God is to be the focus of your life.  You will be so heavenly minded that you will be a huge blessing on the earth.     I find blessing and joy when I focus on God.  I do not find much peace in this world.  I am blessed when I am walking with Jesus.  Often when I get up in the morning and just pray Lord I need you today.  My life is in you Lord.  It is not in the world.  Sometimes I try to fill my cup in the world but it never works out.  News does not fill me.  Food fills my stomach but not my soul.  The world makes a lot of folks sour, critical and negative.  I reminded of people who have said I am not watching the news for awhile. 

    Is God’s love the focus of your life?    Is His love the drive of your life?   We should be pushing to draw closer to God every day.  That requires time with him.  If you want a good relationship with a person it will take time.   Jesus said if anyone will come after me let them deny them self.   There is always room for improvement.  We love God because God loved us first.  Jesus died on the cross for our sin.  God is a good God.   God hears prayer.  God stoops to help us.  God is compassionate and slow to anger.  God is our creator.  God is good and God is great.  The best thing for every person that is alive is to love God.  That is highest good to love God.   That is the best way to live your life. 

      The Pharisees try to trap Jesus and they send an expert in the law to Jesus to trap Jesus.  They posed this question to Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the law?   I do not think they were trying to learn anything new.   I think they thought they were smarter than Jesus and were hoping to trap him.  It is an interesting question that they ask Jesus.  What is the most important or greatest commandment?  

   Do people ask for your advice?    If a young person perhaps about to graduate from high school came to you to ask for your advice what would you tell them?  We would probably encourage them to continue to get education or learn a trade.  We would encourage them to find out the kinds of things that they like to do and pursue a career.  Sometimes we find out who we are by finding out what we are not.   If an older person looking to retire came and asked for advice some would encourage them to be debt free.  Make sure you have enough on hand so that you can enjoy your retirement.  It is really best to have more than social security.   There could be encouragement for them to stay active and in good shape. 

    There are several ways to look at this question what is the greatest commandment.  I would say in a sense that Jesus is telling us this is the most important thing in life.   This is the highest good.  This is the best thing you can do with your life.  Love God with everything you have.  Loving God should be the number 1 priority of your whole life.  Everything else falls behind it.   Everything else is second importance.   This is your priority.   This message fits right in with what I have been sharing in January this year.  The first message focus was on new things from God for this year. We can have a new start and new mercy every day.   We look for God’s blessing and moving in this New Year.   Then I shared about the Nazirite vow.  The Nazirite was separated to God.  Last week I shared on Peter and focus.  It was about stepping out in faith in God and keeping our focus on Jesus in the storms of life.  These are refreshing and convicting messages for me.  Lord keep me focused on the right stuff. 

    What do you think is the measure of a man or a person?    I suppose that the average person would think it is the amount of money a person has or toys that a person owns.  For some it may be their bank account or how smart or strong they are.   God’s ways are not mans ways.   Man tends to look outwardly but God looks on the heart.    I think a key measure of a person is what is in their heart.  Does God love flow through them?   Is there an aroma of Jesus around them?    It is very important to God because Jesus tells us to love God with all we have.     Some folks claim to love God but do not love others.  John said if anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar.   For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.   And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.  That can be a challenge. 

    It at times is tough to love a brother or sister is who is not walking with the Lord.   It is at times tough to love a spouse.   We can hate the sin but we need to love the person.   What is love?  God defined love or showed us real love or agape love by sending his son Jesus to die for our sin.  God blessed us when we were God’s enemies.  God allows us I think to experience tough love.  My love is not deep enough.  His love is limitless.   Human love has limits.  The more you love someone the harder it can be to love them when they are at their worst.  Love starts in my home.   It starts with those who are closest to us.   God’s heart hurts when we chose to do wrong.  God loves us deeply and hurts when we sin.  Sometimes it is hard to love people.  Sometimes it is hard to trust people. 

   Christians can be confused about loving God.  What does it mean to love God?   We may think it is bringing our prayers before God.  That can be very self centered.  God please answer my prayers.  These are the things that I would like.  Those that love God do pray.  Prayer is important.  Christians may think their love is shown by their service.   Well I work very hard for God and my labor for God shows that I love him a great deal.  Unfortunately we can love the work of the Lord and forget to love the Lord of the ministry.  Christians that love God do serve.  Giving or tithing is not a real sign.  People that love God give but people can give from a sense of duty or habit.  People can give with the thought of getting.  At least some of the Pharisees gave money to be seen.  Jesus said they had their reward. 

     The bible clearly defines love for us in I Corinthians 13.   Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.    It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.    Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.     It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.   John 3:16 for God so loved the world he gave.   Jesus loved the church and he gave his life.     Love serves, love gives, and love is not self seeking.   Love looks for the good and does not always dwell on the negative.  That is very challenging.  

      Love is a decision.   More than emotion love is a decision.    We have to make a decision to love.   It is a motivation that we should live by and that directs our actions and reactions.    The Holy Spirit can help us to live in love.  The fruit of the Spirit is love.     There are feelings associated with love, but love is a decision.  Love is a commitment.   Love is not automatic, just like spiritual growth is not automatic.   It would be nice if we could put our lives on cruise control and continually pour out love but there are days when it just does not work like that. 

    When was the last time you came to God with no prayer requests and did not come to him fussing about something but just came to God to love on Him?   Have you told God this week that you love him?   Have you worshipped with joy this week?   Have you just sat in his presence?    How often have we turned the TV off just to be still and check in with God?  God I just want to love on you today and worship you today.  I want to be in your presence.  I just want to enjoy your friendship.    I want to bless your heart.   I want to express my love for you.   Have you told Him lately that you love him?   Jesus said love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  Do we welcome a commandment like that?   Some would perhaps think that is an unreasonable request.  It is a great challenge and a great blessing. 

 

   .   

Focus Peter

January 15, 2017    Matthew 14: 22 – 36   Focus 

 

   It has been said that the main thing in life is to keep the main thing the main thing.  I suppose sometimes we do not know what the main thing is.  There seems to be many main things every day.  We go from one thing to the next as someone lamented so much to do and so little time to do it in. 

    I think this is a very well known passage for us today as I have mentioned it in perhaps a number of sermons but the last time I preached a whole message on this passage was in November 2002.  It is time for us to consider this passage again.  Jesus in this passage sends his disciples out in a boat.  Jesus dismisses the crowd.  It seems that Jesus dismisses the crowd because they want to make Jesus King.  It may be late in the day so he sends them away.  Jesus goes to spend time in prayer with the Father.   As I thought about this passage in light of focus I thought about Jesus.   Jesus was always focused.  I think that all of us believe that Jesus always stayed focused.  That is a pretty amazing feat.  Jesus life was certainly busy.  There was a lot going on around him and we could believe that Jesus life was not simple. 

.   It is quite a feat today to set a meeting to preach to thousands of people. There is food and communication.   I do not think it was easy in those days either.  Some of these events in Jesus life just happened.  We see Jesus feeding thousands of people and he had the disciples sit them down in groups of 50 and Jesus had the disciples feed them.  In Matthew 14 just above where we read today Jesus fed 5,000 men and women and children.  The disciples were to have the people sit down.  I wonder if the disciples recruited help to carry the food to 5,000 people.   Think about feeding 5,000 people even if all the food is cooked. 

     It may seem that things were simple for Jesus but maybe not as simple as we think.  Jesus stayed focused.    Because Jesus was focused I would say that life was simple at least in a way.  Can a person be busy yet lead a simple focused  life?   Is a simple life possible today?   There was one thing that Jesus did that kept him focused.   What do you think that was?   We see in this passage that Jesus spent some time in prayer.  In John 5 Jesus said my Father is always working and I am working.  Later in that passage in John 5 Jesus said the son meaning himself can do nothing by himself but Jesus always did what he saw the father doing.  Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

   Jesus always followed the Father and always obeyed the father.  I think Jesus stayed focused because he was always seeing what God was doing.   Jesus was always checking in.  Jesus did not go brain dead for periods of time.  Father what do you want?  Father what are you doing?  Father what do you want me to do?   Father I can’t do this by myself.  I need you Father to help me walk.  I need you Father to be with me as I eat.  There was a complete dependence between Jesus the son while he was on earth and the Father in heaven.  I like one of the contemporary songs which say Jesus always did what he saw the father do.  That part of the contemporary song comes right out of John 5.  It is scriptural and biblical. 

   There is a story involving Yogi Berra, the well-known catcher for the New York Yankees, and Hank Aaron, who at that time was the chief power hitter for the Milwaukee Braves.   The teams were playing in the World Series, and as usual Yogi was keeping up his ceaseless chatter, intended to pep up his teammates on the one hand, and distract the Milwaukee batters on the other.   As Aaron came to the plate, Yogi tried to distract him by saying, "Henry, you’re holding the bat wrong.   You’re supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark." Aaron didn’t say anything but, when the next pitch came, he hit it into the left-field bleachers.  After rounding the bases and tagging up at home plate, Aaron looked at Yogi Berra and said, "I didn’t come up here to read."  

   There are many people today who are not focused.  They are just living their life day by day.  Many just wait to see what another day is going to bring their way.  They do not have a plan.  Many like it that way.  Many just waiting for the next weekend to come and watch their favorite football team or the next episode of whatever show it is.  People tend to not like change and many of them are comfortable with their life as it is.  People that are focused do not have a lot of time to spend with them. Life has a way sometimes of narrowing focus.  Good parents are focused on their children. 

    Scripture tells us that Jesus did not commit himself to them because he knew what was in the heart of man.  Jesus was focused on the father.  Sometimes Jesus was healing people.   Sometimes he was teaching, eating, and traveling.   Jesus went to at least one wedding but in the middle of all of that he was connected to the father.  Jesus remained focused.  This one thing that Jesus did even though the many books could not contain all that Jesus did. 

    Jesus in the night goes out to his disciples.  The gospel of Mark and John also talk about Jesus going to his disciples.  The disciples are in a storm.  It is storming in the sea.  .Jesus sent them into that storm.  Storms can be for correction but they also can be for our growth.  Jesus leaves his time of prayer alone out in the hills to go to the disciples.  Jesus probably prayed for them as he traveled to them.  We are reminded that Jesus is still praying for us today.  Jesus is seated at the right hand of the father in heaven but his work is not done yet.  Jesus is praying for you.  You have not escaped his sight.  You are on Jesus heart and Jesus is bringing you before the father.  As the Lord came to the disciples in their storm Jesus will come to you in your storm.  We must be sure and careful to focus on him or we may miss him.   The storm is easier when you know who is in the storm with you.  

    Jesus walks out on the water.   The disciples saw Jesus coming to them and they thought he was a ghost.  They were terrified.  Why did Jesus walk on the water?   The storm scared the disciples at times.  The thing that they feared was the avenue that Jesus used to come to them.   Jesus showed them his power.  Jesus spoke to their faith. Nothing is too hard for God.  Well we are reminded that God’s presence will be terrifying for many at the judgment day.   Jesus calms them right away.  Why did they think he was a ghost?   Why did they not recognize Jesus?   They were not looking for Jesus.  Jesus was not their focus.  Their focus was often like our focus when we are in a storm.  They saw the storm and they made a false conclusion.   It must be a ghost.  Fear can drive faith far from a person.  They forgot to look for Jesus in the storm.  It is easy to do.  The purpose of the storm was to help them grow.  It is not meant to sink us.   I remember I used to say to some and your submarine has screen doors on it.

   Peter’s focus   Call? Transfigured? Rebuked Jesus? Garden? Denial?  Fished?   Peter said Lord if it is really you let me come out on the water also and Jesus said come.  I am amazed at how often Jesus let people make choices. Hey Peter if you really want to do this go for it.  Jesus allowed Peter his request.  Jesus let the demons go into the pigs.  When you read in the gospels look for those situations where Jesus granted the request of the person.  It happened over and over again when Jesus answered the request for healing. 

     A lot of folks have been critical of Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus and started to sink.  But let’s be reminded that Peter was the only one who wanted to get out of the boat.  If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat.  When you step out of the boat for Jesus you most likely are stepping into a storm.   It is when you step out of the boat that you learn of God’s power.  God can sustain me in this storm. 

    Most people chose to stay in the boat.   There are issues with staying in the boat.   That boat can become your safe place.   Your boat whatever it is can become comfortable.   That boat can become a prison.  You can be enslaved in that boat.  You can live in the past in that boat.   Well we have always done it this way.  We can become entombed in the past.  People can live on yesterday’s memories.  God does not want the Christian imprisoned in the boat.   We are to be free.  We are to grow and move ahead with God’s presence.  

     The bible is clear that Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water.  He did not quite make it to Jesus and then begins to sink.  You have to love his prayer.  Lord save me.  That prayer is expressed from the heart and it is a fervent prayer.  God hears the fervent prayer of a righteous person.   What a beautiful thing that happens.  Jesus reaches out his hand to Peter and grabs him.  When you pray like Peter prayed in this passage picture Jesus reaching out his hand to answer your prayer.  Peter saw the wind and was afraid.  Peter’s focus shifts to the wind.  Peter’s focus shifts from Jesus to the wind.   He focuses on the storm and he begins to sink.  We tend to look at the trial, the trouble, everything in the world that is against us and we begin to sink and by God’s grace we come to our senses and pray fervently Lord save me.  Then we soar on wings like the eagles.

    Chuck Swindoll shares from Dropping Your Guard.  It was Flight 401 bound for Miami from New York City with a load of holiday passengers. As the huge aircraft approached the Miami Airport for its landing, a light that indicates proper deployment of the landing gear failed to come on. The plane flew in a large, looping circle over the swamps of the Everglades while the cockpit crew checked out the light failure.   Their question was this, had the landing gear actually not deployed or was it just the light bulb that was defective?

    To begin with, the flight engineer fiddled with the bulb. He tried to remove it, but it wouldn’t budge. Another member of the crew tried to help out … and then another. By and by, if you can believe it, all eyes were on the little light bulb that refused to be dislodged from its socket.   No one noticed that the plane was losing altitude.   Finally, it dropped right into a swamp.  Many were killed in that plane crash.   While an experienced crew of high-priced and seasoned pilots messed around with a seventy-five-cent light bulb, an entire airplane and many of its passengers were lost.  The crew momentarily forgot the most basic of all rules of the air-"Don’t forget to fly the airplane!"

     Focus is so important.  Jesus is our life.  The only real life and blessing that we can give to one another is Jesus.  Parents point your children to Jesus.  How can they live in this world without Jesus?   Jesus was always focused on the Father.   Life for him was simple.   I did not say easy but it was simple.  Jesus did a lot of things but his eyes were on the Father.  . 



Nazarite Vow

January 8, 2017   Numbers 6Nazirite Vow 

 

     Ronnie Miller a pastor shares this story.  He stopped for breakfast one morning as he often did when he traveled.   As he was eating he saw a guy come in who looked familiar with long stringy hair. When he sat down a few tables over from Ron he realized it was a guy he grew up with in high school.   He was reading the paper and eating so as Ron was leaving he went over and spoke to him.  They talked for a few minutes about their past, families and health.   Ron noticed when he came in he was a little unstable so Ron ask him how his health was holding up because they were about the same age.

   He said he had COPD, he had a bad stroke a few years ago and stayed in a nursing home in Elkin for over a year because he couldn’t walk and do for himself.   He said his wife was partially responsible for putting him there because she couldn’t lift him and care for him.   He agreed to be placed in a home because the doctors didn’t think he would ever walk again.  He began to tell me that while he was in that nursing home his wife of many years talked him into signing over his home and land into her name only. So he agreed because he thought his home for the rest of his life was that nursing facility.   Shortly after signing over the house and land to his wife she let a man move in with her.   He found out and he was devastated to say the least.   He said betrayed was a word he understood now like never before.

    The story doesn’t end there. His friend said a Chaplin visited him shortly after he found out about his wife, probably sent by one of the care takers he said.   He started explaining to Ron with a kind of smile on his face that the Chaplin began to tell him to turn it all over to God and He could fix the things in his life that was causing him depression and not caring about his appearance and hygiene.   You see, he wouldn’t let them cut his hair and being 65 years old and bed stricken for a year he wasn’t the prettiest sight to behold.    His friend said he looked at that Chaplin and ask him “have you ever heard of the Nazirite vow? The Chaplin said “yes I believe so…are you talking about the story of Samson?” My friend said “yes….exactly and I ask God if He would allow me to walk again, I would never cut my hair or drink alcohol and I would live for Him.   His friend said that it stunned the Chaplin so he prayed for him and left.   Within a few short weeks he was able to walk again, bought another home, and now lives alone with God being his only caretaker.   That is a very interesting story about making a commitment to God.  

     In Numbers 6 we see the rules for being a Nazirite.   A Nazirite comes from the Hebrew word that means to set apart or to dedicate.  Nazirite or Nazirites is used 12 times in the King James Bible all in the Old Testament and it is used 6 times in this chapter.  There were 4 things that the Nazirite had to do.  The first thing he or she had to do was abstain from wine.  We see that in verses 3 and 4.  They must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.  They could not eat ripe fresh gapes nor the skins of grapes nor the seeds from grapes.  

     The next thing we see is that he or she cannot get a haircut. We see that in verse 5. ‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head.   Their hair must grow and not be cut.  Usually people say there are 3 things they must do.   We also see in verse 5 they must be holy.  They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long.  They must be holy.   It is a period of separation.  They are to be separated unto the Lord.   They are not to touch a dead body.  We read in verses 6 – 8 throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body.    Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head.     Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the Lord. 

    The Nazirite was different from other people.  The symbol of their dedication was their hair.  Also they did not drink wine.  They were different.  They were separate.  They are to be holy.  Why would anyone want to be a Nazirite?   Why would you want to be different?  Why would you forgo the comforts and joys of the world?   Well I think if you want to walk close to God you will deny yourself.  A di8sciple of Jesus is disciplined.  That means you do certain things that others don’t do and it also means you give up; things that others don’t.  Joyce Meyers says that a lot of birds flock together but the eagle kind of soars by himself.   Would a person cheerfully give themselves to the Lord like that?   God loves a cheerful giver.  God blesses a cheerful giver.  

    Generally speaking this was a voluntary commitment.   A man or woman would give them self to the Lord for a period of time.  Sometimes the parents would dedicate a child but generally it was the choice of the person.  They would say I chose to dedicate myself to God.  I suppose that people wanted to become a Nazirite for different reasons.  Those blessed by the Lord would desire to become a Nazirite.    But we can believe that they wanted to draw closer to the Lord.   I believe they did it cheerfully.  I believe they wanted to separate from the world.   They chose not to cut their hair.   They chose not to touch a dead person and defile themselves.     They chose to be holy.  They chose to be dedicated to God.   They chose not to drink any wine.   It was a willing choice.  I believe they did it to please the lord.  Some do give to get.   I am reminded of the story I read about a girl overseas who brought a rather large offering to the Lord.   The missionaries ask her how she got that kind of money and she told them I wanted to bring an offering to the Lord that really means something.  She sold herself into slavery.  That speaks of a heart of love and that is so precious to God.   Do we freely give to the Lord?   Do we give with joy? 

    John Lavender tells about a stewardship incident in which a pastor had made an appeal in church for a great and worthy cause. He writes, “A certain woman, a member of the church, came to him and handed him a check for $50, asking at the same time if her gift was satisfactory. The pastor immediately replied, "If it represents you."  There was a moment of soul-searching thought and she asked to have the check returned to her. She left with it and a day or two later she returned handing the pastor a check for $5,000 and again asked the same question, "Is my gift satisfactory?" The pastor gave the same answer as before, "If it represents you." As before, a truth seemed to be driving deeply. After a few moments of hesitation she took back the check and left.  Later in the week she came again with a check. That time it was for $50,000. As she placed it in the pastor’s hand, she said, "After earnest, prayerful thought, I have come to the conclusion that this gift does represent me and I am happy to give it." Her happiness, her joy, her satisfaction came only after hearing God and making it “her work” as well.  Sometimes we do not get joy form the Lord because we do not give anything.   We have to be connected to the source of our joy and that is Jesus.   Jesus talked about the disciples having full joy.   Are we full of joy today?  

    There are many people who do not want to give anything.  They think every penny is mine and it is for my personal purposes.  I will spend it on myself.   There is no desire to give anything.  There is no sacrifice to God and no commitment to God.  The Nazirite said I want to go without wine.   The Nazirite said I want to give.    The rabbis said that wine brought joy to the people.  Why would the Lord have them give up wine?  Was wine right or wrong?   Drinking some wine is not sin.    Their joy was to be in God and not in the things of the world and that is what the Nazirite embraced.    Was Jesus a Nazirite?   Did Jesus touch dead bodies?   Did Jesus drink wine?   If Jesus drank wine it is not sin.   We know that Jesus was from Nazareth but that did not make him a Nazirite in the sense that we see in Numbers 6.   People said he was a Nazarene.   Some of the Jews despised Nazareth.  Nathaniel asked if anything good come from there. 

    If they became defiled they had to wait a week and shave their hair and then offer sacrifices.  The hair was the sign of dedication so it had to be cut and they lost time from that.   The person could rededicate them self to the Lord.   God’s mercies are new every day and every day is like a new day.  We ask for forgiveness and move ahead.   The righteous person falls and the Lord lifts them back up.  God offers mercy grace and forgiveness.  God does not write us off. 

    When the period of time of separation was over there was a formal service for the separation.  Now this is the law of the Nazirite when the period of their dedication is over. They are to be brought to the entrance to the tent of meeting.   There they are to present their offerings to the Lord: a year-old male lamb without defect for a burnt offering, a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering, a ram without defect for a fellowship offering, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and a basket of bread made with the finest flour and without yeast—thick loaves with olive oil mixed in, and thin loaves brushed with olive oil.    “‘The priest is to present all these before the Lord and make the sin offering and the burnt offering.    He is to present the basket of unleavened bread and is to sacrifice the ram as a fellowship offering to the Lord, together with its grain offering and drink offering. 

    “‘Then at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that symbolizes their dedication. They are to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering.   “‘After the Nazirite has shaved off the hair that symbolizes their dedication, the priest is to place in their hands a boiled shoulder of the ram, and one thick loaf and one thin loaf from the basket, both made without yeast.    The priest shall then wave these before the Lord as a wave offering; they are holy and belong to the priest, together with the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. After that, the Nazirite may drink wine.

    Perhaps that seems a little strange for us.  This was a formal announcement of the end of his commitment.  The sin offering was to atone for any sin committed during the time of consecration.  The burn offering symbolizes complete surrender.  The fellowship offering points to the harmony between the person and the Lord. 

     I want to close with this illustration.   A number of yrs. ago a news headline told of 300 whales that had accidentally beached themselves and died. They were pursuing a school of sardines when they found themselves marooned in a bay at low tide. The small fish had lured these awesome sea giants to their death. The reporter concluded the article by saying: "The whales came to their violent demise by chasing small ends, by prostituting vast powers for insignificant goals". How many lives would that describe?  

 

A New Year

January 1, 2017   Isaiah 43:14 – 21   Something New 

 

    I think God is into new things.   Isaiah 42: See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you."   Isaiah 65:17 behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered nor will they come to mind.  Lamentations 3 because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.   They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.    Zephaniah 3 5 The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame.    1 Corinthians 11:25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying This cup is a new covenant in my blood do this whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.   We have a new covenant in Jesus blood.  What was the old covenant?   How was it established? 

    Revelation 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.    I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.   And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.   They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.    He will wipe every tear from their eyes.   There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."     He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."  Before you know it we will be in heaven.  Are you ready? 

     People are into new things also.   We like new things.   If we can’t afford that new appliance or car we pray that God will get us through with what we have.   But more than that people often would like something new.   We want to experience something different.  Sometimes when we ask someone how things are going and they same old stuff.   People also often want to put away the past sins, failures.  Sometimes it may be the desire to move past a painful experience, a financial situation, or a difficult health issue that we have struggled with.    Sometimes we have to bite the bullet and put things behind us.  We can choose not to think about the past. 

    I think God would say today for some people do not dwell on the past things.   Don’t be consumed with the past.   Do not be burdened with the past.    I would say do not bring unforgiveness into 2017.   Do you have any unforgiveness?  If you have any unforgiveness you should deal with it.   It is like a big barnacle or heavy weight around your neck and it chokes you.   We may not be aware of it but it pulls us down.  Make sure you do not have the spirit – any spirit of unforgiveness.   Are you free from your past?   Are things good between you and your spouse?   Is the past under the blood washed and clean?  As you move ahead you do not want the past pulling you back and pulling you down.   

   Ask God to forgive your past sins and failures.  In Christ you are not a slave to your past.   We have freedom in Jesus.   We have been redeemed so that we can worship God and live in newness of life.   Romans 6 tell us that sin shall not have dominion over you.   We can be victorious over sin.   Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.   We cannot change the past and we cannot live on yesterday’s faith.   Some need to forgive others and put aside old hurts.  God does not want us to feed on trash.   If your mind and your hands are full of the past how then can we navigate the future?    Ask God to heal those old hurts and wounds and be at peace with the past and with others.  Some people feel sorry for themselves and that is not the way to go forward. 

      It has been said "Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every year find you a better person"    I think that it is very important for some of us to put the past behind us.  There was a couple who were sitting with a marriage counselor for their first session and the good doctor asked them to identify what seemed to be the root of their problems. The wife responded, "It all started when we thought it would be cute to think up each other’s New Year’s resolutions" (Houston Post, 12/31/91).     This couple focused on the past and on the negative.  Because of Jesus dying on the cross and paying for our sins God offers you and I forgiveness.   He offers us a second chance or 3rd chance etc.   If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   Let’s turn the page on 2016 and look forward to 2017.   

      Today is a new day and today starts a new year. Paul said I forget those things from the past and Paul pressed into the future.   Paul says I am looking ahead to what God has for me.  I am looking to see who I can minister to.  I am focused Paul is saying.  I am not feelings sorry for myself.  I am not making excuses for myself.  Paul is saying I am looking ahead and not back.    If God is doing new things we do not want to gage the future from what we have experienced in the past.   Do not think about this church in light of what we have seen in the past.   God has some new things for us.    II Corinthians 5:17 tells us therefore if anyone is in Christ the old has passed away behold all things are new.   Can we see everything as new?   Can we change our attitude so that we see each day as a new day?   God has something me for me today.     

    As we approach this New Year there will opportunities for us.   God has open doors for you and I and we do not want to miss what God has for us.   Some of us may be very forward thinking.   Maybe God has put something in your heart.    I was talking with someone lately about Fred Smith.  This is a story about his Yale professor who missed it.  Fred wrote a paper about overnight delivery of packages and the professor wrote on Fred’s paper, "The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ’C,’ the idea must be feasible." --A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)     I wonder how that professor feels today about that grade if he is still alive.  I wonder if Fred ever contacted him after he started Fed Ex?  

   Here is another illustration.  Monty Roberts was the son of an itinerant horse trainer who worked hard training horses at many farms, stables, and ranches.  His high school career was continually interrupted because of this work schedule.  As a senior he was asked to write a paper about what he wanted to be and do when he grew up.  Monty wrote a lengthy paper describing his goal of someday owning a magnificent horse ranch.  He drew a diagram of the 200 acre dream ranch, detailing the location of buildings, stables, track, and 4,000 square foot house.   

    A few days later Monty received the paper back from his teacher with a large red F.  Upon being asked the reason for the F the teacher responded, this is an unrealistic dream for a boy like you.   You have no resources or money.  You have to buy the land breeding stock, and pay stud fees among other things.  There is no way you could ever do it.  The teacher then added if you will rewrite this paper with a more realistic goal, I’ll reconsider your grade. 

    Monty thought about it long and hard for a week.  Finally he turned in the same paper making no changes at all and informed his dream stealing teacher you keep the F and I’ll keep my dream.  Years later his dream became a reality.   He now lives on a 200 acre ranch and etc. and his high school paper is framed over the fire place.  That is from Dutch Sheets book titled Dream page 42.    We do not think too highly of that teacher but maybe that was the best thing she could do for Monty.  I think he dug in and said I am going to realize my dream.  I am going for it and nothing is going to stop me.  I like that kind of commitment.  God likes that kind of commitment when it is for Him.  Are you committed to God? 

    What are you going to aim for in this New Year?   Do you have a God given dream?   Do you want a God given dream?   We need to seek that open door that God has for us and go in and possess the land so to speak.   We can with God’s help take some precious souls from Satan’s camp and point them to Jesus.   I hope God puts something tough on your plate this year.  We need a good challenge.  

Jesus Birth

December 25, 2016Luke 2:1 – 7  Jesus Birth  

     Philip Yancey writes in his book The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan, 1995).   In London, looking toward the auditorium’s royal box where the queen and her family sat, I caught glimpses of the way rulers stride through the world: with bodyguards, a trumpet fanfare, and a flourish of bright clothes and flashing jewelry.  Queen Elizabeth II had recently visited the United States, and reporters delighted in spelling out the logistics involved: her four thousand pounds of luggage included two outfits for every occasion, a mourning outfit in case someone died, forty pints of plasma, and white kid-leather toilet seat covers. She brought along her own hairdresser, two valets, and a host of other attendants. A brief visit of royalty to a foreign country can easily cost $20 million. By contrast, God’s visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants present and nowhere to lay the newborn King but a feed trough. Indeed, the event that divided history, and even our calendars, into two parts may have had more animal than human witnesses. A mule could have stepped on him. Anyone interested in a 20 million dollar trip? 

    I often wonder how angry God is with the crazy stuff that man is up to on earth.  I went out on the internet to check out expensive gifts for billionaires.   You can buy an 11 story floating island for 156 million dollars or rent a yacht for 2 million dollars for 1 week.   How about a pair of sun glasses for $383,000 made with gold but did not say anything about diamonds on them.   Two years from now you can fly into space with virgin galactic space flight for $200,000 but hurry because 450 of the 500 seats have been sold out already.  People will spend a great deal of money to have something unique or to own a one of a kind item.  I suppose it gives the person a sense of pride.  At the Matilda hospital in Hong Kong for a special hospital birthing room with a view you need spend $20,000 just for a deposit.    You have to book it at least 7 months in advance because they are sold out until then.  I wonder how they deal with early or late births or long deliveries.   For that price they will want to get full use of the room.     

    In Isaiah 55 we read seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.  Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.   Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.   “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.   “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” 

   In what ways do you see Jesus and God as humble? 

   Jesus birth even by human standards was poor.  Perhaps we could say very poor.  There were not even basic accommodations there.  Ladies I am sure that you would like and expect a warm and comfortable room to have your baby in.   Couples would like to have water available and extra clean sheets.  It is nice to have attendants and staff available to check the baby out and care for the baby.   Meals brought to the room are nice.     

   God chose a different situation for his son even for the standards of those days.  God did not choose Rome for the birth of his son.   He did not choose a castle.   God chose a small town out of the way town which was off the beaten path.   Bethlehem was a not a great city.  We could easily believe those born in a city would at least be in a home or a room and most likely would have a mid wife there to attend.  In a sense Mary and Joseph were an imposition for those in Bethlehem.  As Christians we do not see Jesus as an imposition today. 

    There was nothing special about them to the town’s people but to God they were very important.  The innkeeper said well you can sleep out with the animals in the barn.   God made his announcement of Jesus birth in a humble lowly way certainly not the way that the rich would announce the birth of their child.    Yes the shepherds were told and later the magi would arrive to worship but Jesus birth was pretty well hidden from the rich and the elite.  Herod would later find out about it through the magi. 

     There was a great need for a place to stay for them.   Mary is great with baby.  They have probably traveled for 4 days or more over 70 miles on a donkey.  It was not a fun trip.   Today it is probably the most joyous and festive time of the year.  In the Philippines they start Christmas celebration as early as September by singing Christmas carols.  For children it is a time for presents.  For some it is a good meal and foot ball and beer. 

  But it was a different story then.  For Mary and Joseph it was a time of uncertainty.  It was their first child but Joseph was not the father.   There were lots of folks traveling perhaps 200,000 or more because to register and for taxes so it is no wonder the inn would be filled.   One person said it was every 14 years people had to travel back to the place of their roots.   Perhaps most of us would not have to travel very far but for me it would mean traveling to Michigan.  We know that people traveled in those days.  We see Paul’s missionary journeys.  The Christians were dispersed because of persecution.  There were Christians in Rome when Paul arrived.   

    In the fall of 1775, the manager of Baltimore's largest hotel refused lodging to a man dressed as a farmer. The manager thought that if he allowed him to stay there it would give a bad image to the inn. So the man left and found a room in another place. Shortly thereafter, the manager discovered that the man he had refused lodging was none other than Thomas Jefferson, then Vice President of the United States. So immediately he sent a note to Jefferson and invited him to return as his guest.  Jefferson instructed his messenger to relay this message: ''Tell him tell the innkeeper that I have already engaged a room. I value his good intentions highly, but if he has no place for a dirty American farmer, he has none for the Vice President of the United States.''   If today you have no room for the one who was born in a manger, the one who the Bible tells us never even had a place to lay his head. The one who was despised and rejected then you have no room for the Savior of this world. I want to ask you to make room today….right now. Will you do that? 

  One Solitary Life Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village.   He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.   He never wrote a book.   He never held an office.   He never owned a home. He never set foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born.  He had no credentials but Himself.   While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies.  He went through the mockery of a trial.  He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves.

     His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying -- and that was His coat. When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.  Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of progress.   I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as that One Solitary Life.  By James A. Francis