Persecution

June 10, 2018  Matthew 5:1 – 12   Persecution 

 

  These are 3 very interesting verses. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.   Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.   Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.   Why should you rejoice because yours is the kingdom of heaven?  We saw that phrase before in the beatitudes in verse 3 the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  There are brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted and I have read accounts that they rejoice because God counts them worthy to be persecuted. 

    The feeling here is that you should greatly rejoice.   Throw a party.  Be glad and be happy.  Jump up and down for joy.   Be like the man at the gate of beautiful who was healed through Peter and he was walking and jumping and praising God.  Jesus said great is your reward in heaven.  Get excited about having great rewards in heaven.  You are blessed when they say all kinds of evil against you falsely because of Jesus.  That hurts doesn’t it?   It is no fun to be persecuted.   It is not fun to be hated.  It can hurt when others treat you in a bad way.   It is tough when people speak evil of you.  It cuts and it hurts.  Many Christin’s are silent in their witness because they do not want to take the heat.  A person receives Jesus and they change their life style and soon their friends turn on them.   Their long time so called friends do not want anything else to do with them.   That is not fun but Jesus said rejoice.  If you are persecuted because of Him because of Jesus rejoice.  Are we doing anything for Jesus that would cause us to be persecuted? 

   Do we avoid persecution like the plague?   If you are identified with Jesus you can be persecuted.  It is not popular in a number of places.  It is not popular in a number of countries in the world.  The question we all have to answer here is not, “Do I want to fit in or not?”  The real question is, “Am I going to live to please God or am I going to live to please people?   Am I going to follow Christ or am I going to follow the crowd?”    Jesus said if you are ashamed of me then I will be ashamed of you.  Mark 8 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

     I don’t think we want Jesus to be ashamed of us.  We share and if people are not interested we just let them go.  I talked to a man this week who did not want to talk about God and Jesus.  He was a nice guy.   Sometimes though the Holy Spirit may tell us to pursue our witness.   It seems to me that Jesus shared but did not force himself. 

  Persecution is a reality in our world today.  I have an article form Christianity Today dated January 11, 2017 which states the following.   For the 3rd year in a row the modern persecution of Christians worldwide has hit another record high.  But the primary cause Islamic extremism now has a rival ethnic nationalism.  Thus, Asia increasingly merits concern alongside the Middle East according to World Watch List released today by Open Doors.   Open Doors report that approximately 215 million Christians experience high, very high, or extreme persecution.  The article states the total number of incidents in the top 50 most dangerous countries increased revealing the persecution of Christians worldwide is a rising trend.

    The top 10 nations as of the end of 2016 are North Korea as number 1 and Somali, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea.  Over the last 25 years only 3 countries have topped the list.  North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia.   North Korea has topped the list from 2002 to 2017.

    I think Christian persecution is going to increase.  I believe it is going to increase in this nation.  I have read a number of articles that state Christians in America have been told that their kids will be raped and that they will be killed and that is from Washington DC and California.  Persecution has increased in the 19 th. century.  Mao founded communist China in 1949 and he died in 1976.  The internet says he killed at least 40 million people and possibly over 80 million people.  Some of those deaths were due to his policies.  A lot of people starved because of his leadership.  Many died under Stalin.  The low estimates are 2 million to over 20 million people.  Hitler’s death camps or concentration camps had 15 to 20 million people who were imprisoned or died from 1933 to 1945.  Millions died.  Wikipedia said there were over 180 camps. 

     Another issue is terrorism.  An article on the internet reports that in 2016 there were 25,621 people who died from terrorism down from 32,763 people in 2014.  The lowest number of deaths world wide from Terrorism since 2006 was 2012 with 11,098 people dying.  Even though it has dropped between 2014 and 2016 the number of countries reporting deaths from terrorism has increased to 77 countries.   That is not good news.  In a way I am sorry to bring this message to you today.  I was going to skip this one but we need to know the world we live in.  I felt led to preach on this topic.  We need to be in prayer about worldwide issues.    It would be strange indeed if the bible did not mention persecution.

    Where does persecution come from?    Why are people persecuted?    Often because a person does not fit in.  If you are a religious person and live in a non-religious country that can be a real problem or if you do not fit in with that countries particular religion.   It can be as simple as how you look.    Kiley Garrison wrote On New Year’s Eve, Chel and I went to see the now Super Bowl Champions Indianapolis Colts play the Miami Dolphins.  We parked a little way from the RCA Dome and as we were walking to the stadium, we passed all kinds of people who were tailgating before the game.   They had their Colts tents up, and Colts flags, and everyone was decked out in their Colts apparel.

    They were drinking from Colts cups and they had Colts table cloths.  It was like a sea of blue and white.  And walking just in front of us was a Miami Dolphins fan who was wearing a turquoise and orange Dolphins jacket and hat.   And people laughed at him and made fun of him and cussed at him and told him to go home.   And I think it was mostly in fun, but why would people do that?    Because he stuck out!    He was a Dolphins fan walking through a Colts world and he was on the wrong team.   Often persecution comes just because someone is a little different.  There has been a lot of persecution over divorce years ago and sexual preferences.  Persecution over mixed marriages.  Jesus said love one another.  That does not mean to condone sin either.  Jesus did not condone sin. 

   Maybe some are persecuted because they do not just quite fit.  Think the all the bullying in schools today.  Or you have a different belief or belong to a different group.  You’re a Shi’a Muslin in a Sunni Muslim group.  Or you’re a Catholic in a protestant group or a protestant in a Catholic group.  We are not picking on any particular group today but talking about persecution.   Or maybe a you’re an independent Baptist in a Southern Baptist group.  It goes on and on.  Diversity is always a challenge, because it quite often breeds conflict.   With conflict, we break down into opposing sides, with each side trying to gain a power and influence advantage over the other.   And sometimes, that power is abused.  Raise your hand if you feel at one point in your life you were bullied or persecuted.  

    In this passage Jesus is talking about being persecuted for him.   People do not like the gospel.   Jesus said men love darkness rather than light.  Satan desires to blind people to Jesus and the light.   Jesus was persecuted.  Jesus was persecuted because he spoke truth and stood up for truth.  You would not want a God would not do that.    Remember Jesus made the whips and drove people out of the temple.  Jesus spoke some serious truth and pointed out the errors of the religious leaders.  That did not cause him to be popular with them.

     At one point the people wanted to take him to a cliff and throw him off to kill him.  Jesus said in the world you will have persecution and he said I have overcome the world.    In I and II Peter there is a lot about persecution.  In Acts the Christians were persecuted.  Stephen was stoned.   James opens his letter to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations.  You can read about the dispersement through Acts.  I am reminded that many people came to America to escape religious persecution. 

   How does one face persecution?  Well one way that some people do is to overstate it.  Sometimes people exaggerate on how much they are persecuted.  They make it sound far worse than it really was.  They make a show of it.  But we can look at it in light of this passage.  The ones who are blessed in this action from God our Father, are the ones who proceed without arrogance and without self-righteous pride.    They do so in poverty of spirit, fully aware of their own spiritual bankruptcy.   They do not consider themselves better than others but mourning their own condition.

   They do so in meekness and gentleness, with their strength under God’s control.   They do so hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness.   They do so in mercy, fully mindful of the mercy they have themselves received.  They do so with a pure heart, having submitted their motives and intentions to the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit.   The bible tells us to pray for those that persecute us.  In this passage Jesus said to rejoice and be glad.  Sometimes we are hurt so deeply that we ask God to heal our heart.  We ask God to give us the right attitude.  Our resources to live this life correctly will fail us.   We need God.  We need God’s help. 

    Not all perceived persecution comes because a person is wronged.    Sometimes it may be a simple mis understanding.  Sometimes I suffer things because I am in the wrong.  Peter mentions this in I Peter 2 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.   But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?   But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.   To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.   “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 

     When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.    “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”  What an example Jesus was and is.  God can help Christians to be Christ like.  God can help us to heal when we have been hurt and to pray for others who may think that they are doing the right thing. 

 

 

 

 

The Blood

June 3, 2018   Hebrews 9:11 – 28   The Blood 

 

   Through the majority of the book of Hebrews there is a single dominant theme: the superiority of Christ   In Hebrews 1and 2 Jesus better than the angels.   In Hebrews 3 Jesus better than the Moses.  In John 1 we read that the law came by Moses and grace and truth came by Jesus.   Then in Hebrews 4, 5, 6, and 7 Jesus better than the High Priest and the Levitical priesthood.   In Hebrews 8 Jesus is the high priest of the new covenant.  The new covenant is better than the old covenant and it is founded on better promises.   And in Hebrews 9 we see that Jesus blood is better than the blood of sheep and goats.

   In verse 11 there is a superior heavenly sanctuary.  The Jews had that beautiful temple but they needed to look up. The temple would soon be destroyed.   The old tabernacle and the temple were made by man’s hands.  The new tabernacle was not of this creation.  The new one was better.  Jesus did not enter the new one by the blood of sheep and goats but by his precious blood.  Jesus blood is far superior. 

   We see in Genesis the creation of man.  In Genesis 2 we read Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.   God breathed into the body life.  His breath God’s breath made man alive.  Then in Leviticus 17 God said the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

   Therefore, I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.  The blood is not life.  God breathed and man was alive.  But the blood carries life.  The blood can be in a person who died but their life is gone.  If a person bleeds too much they will die.  Blood carries the gift of life.  No person can live without blood.   You can take blood from a person and freeze it and it is still good.  That blood can be thawed and given to another person.  Blood can be given from an adult to a child and it can be given to people from different races and from the rich to the poor and etc.  Blood is unique and special isn’t it? 

   Blood is the vital fluid that goes through all higher animal’s systems that brings food and oxygen to all cells of the body and blood sustains bodily functions.  The blood fights disease that enters the body and the blood gets rid of waste from the body.  Blood circulates in the body about 2 times a minute.  Every cell in the body is supplied and cleansed by blood.   A little spec of blood about the size of a pinhead has about 5.5 million cells in it.  The body manufactures almost 2 million cells every second.  That is truly amazing!  David said I am fearfully and wonderfully made.    Even though science has researched blood and life there is much that we do not know today and it is locked up in a mystery that only the creator knows.   Blood is the essential ingredient of the physical life.  We get a sense of the mystery and the importance of it in Genesis 9:6 where God says whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. 

   We read from Web MD that blood is a constantly circulating fluid providing the body with nutrition, oxygen, and waste removal. Blood is mostly liquid, with numerous cells and proteins suspended in it, making blood "thicker" than pure water.   The average person has about 5 liters (more than a gallon) of blood.  A liquid called plasma makes up about half of the content of blood. Plasma contains proteins that help blood to clot, transport substances through the blood, and perform other functions. Blood plasma also contains glucose and other dissolved nutrients.  About half of blood volume is composed of blood cells:  Red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues and white blood cells, which fight infections and platelets, smaller cells that help blood to clot.  Blood is precious isn’t it? 

   Leviticus 17:11 tell us that the life of a creature is in the blood and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar.  Why is blood required for atonement?  Well God told Adam and Eve that if they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that they would die.  Adm and Eve ate of the tree.    Adam and Eve realized they were naked and put some fig leaves together to cover their bodies.  Man tried to fix himself but we can’t do it.   We can’t make ourselves good.  We can’t cover ourselves.at least spiritually.  God made garments of skin for them.   In Hebrews 9:22 we read in fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  That is God’s law without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.  Sin is offensive to God who is holy.   God instituted the sacrifice of animals in order that we would understand that it is sin that destroys life. 

   In the old Testament sacrificial blood was to be offered at the altar.   The life given through the blood is taken in the shedding of blood.  When the blood drained out of the animal then life was taken or released from the flesh.  The draining of blood means death in the scripture.  Sacrifice is the surrender of that which is most precious to man and is given with an earnest desire to establish communion or communication with God.     When the blood is shed the life is poured out onto death there is nothing more to give and yet nothing less can God accept.  For God it has to be total sacrifice.  

   The whole validity of the offering in God’s sight was the sincerity of the people who came with their offering.   When the sacrifice was desecrated by the people by making it a mere ceremony as was often the case in Israel then the people would be severely punished by God.   Worship is not a joke.   In Malachi the people would bring their lame and second-best offerings before God and God was angry.  God wants your very best.  He is looking for our true repentance and brokenness

     Offering an animal as a substitute for me a sinner was an act of worship.    My sin was put on the animal, so to speak by substitution and the animal died and the animal died in my place.  This was by faith because through the blood of animals no flesh could be justified.   The blood of an animal does not cleanse man.   The blood of an animal does not remove sin.  Hebrews 9 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. The animal made them ceremonially clean.  The blood and sacrifice mage the person outwardly clean. Hebrews 10 but those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.   It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. The offering was made over and over again.   The animal had to be a male without blemish or any defect and it was brought to the Tent of Meeting and the person was to lay his hands on the head of the burnt offering.    He was to kill or slaughter the young bull before the lord.   That would give a person quite a feeling of the cost of his or her sin.

           Jesus blood is really precious.  It is so much better than the blood of animals.   I Peter 1:18 & 19 for you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from empty way of life handled down to you from your fore fathers but with the precious blood of Christ a lamb without blemish or defect.   It was not through vain and empty things that you and I were redeemed but by the blood of God.  It was not through silver and gold which is vain and empty.  Eph 1:7 in Him we have redemption though His blood the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.   Romans 5:9 we have now been justified by His blood how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him.   God’s wrath has been appeased through the blood of Christ.

      Hebrews 9:22 in fact the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  Colossians 1:20 and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross.   I John 1:7 but if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son purifies us from all sin.  John 6:54 whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day. 

     We are redeemed, justified, forgiven, cleansed and have eternal life through the blood of Jesus Christ.   The path to God is through the blood of Christ.  The path to heaven is through the blood of Jesus Christ.  The word blood is used over 400 times in the KJ bible and if you added altar, sacrifice, priests, and animals that were used in sacrifice you can see that there is a theme through the scriptures on blood.  Blood is mentioned in 41 of the 66 books of the bible.    It starts in Genesis with God making skins for to cover Adam and Eve, Abel’s offering to God and goes to Revelation 19:2 that talks about the blood of God’s servants and 19:13 the rider on the white horse who is Jesus Christ and He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood.   

   .  God showed us in His mercy the way to be acceptable to Him.    It was a token of His grace.    God is holy and totally separate from man and His justice demanded perfection and that all uncleanness be separated from His presence.  Through the shed blood on the altar He made a way for us to come before Him.   In that direction that He gave to Moses He proved and made known His love for His creation.  He sought a way if you will that this integrity would be preserved and God would be restored to fallen mankind.   The blood offered upon the altar demonstrated His justice and holiness and hatred for sin and yet opened the door for man to commune and be acceptable to God and it opened the door for God’s mercy to be shown to us.   It was by substitution and by faith.  And that is how we come to God now.   It is through the blood of Jesus and His blood can make us clean and holy before God.   His blood can do what the blood of animals could not do.

    Would our blood serve as acceptable before God?   Is our blood tainted?  Well David said we were born in sin.  The offering had to be perfect.  What about Mary being Jesus mother?   Did Jesus get blood from her?  It is interesting that I read that the mile sperm and the ovum or female egg does not have any blood in it.   Did Jesus get DNA from Mary?  These are very challenging thoughts for many bible students and Christians I think at least for me.  In Hebrews 10 the bible says that God prepared a body for Jesus.  God formed Jesus body. 

    I think one way to look at that is let’s say that the Holy Spirit was father and mother in Mary.  In Matthew 1 King James reads This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about.  His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  The NIV translation reads This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about.   His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  It does not say she conceived which to me would indicate that it was her ovum which is a mature female reproductive cell.

   It is by Jesus blood that we are saved and redeemed.   Many claim that Satan and demons cannot stand the blood.  Many Christians that are involved in spiritual war claim the blood.  I have read that the demons have spoken and said don’t say that.  I have prayed and claimed the blood of Jesus many times.  We sing there is power in the blood.  When the Children of Israel; were in Egypt they put blood on the door posts and the angel of death passed over them.   The New Testament says Christ is our Passover Lamb. 

       We have a saying today follow the money.  A missionary told the story of a boy who appeared at a mission hospital in Kenya with a gaping wound in his foot.  He had been accidentally injured while cutting grass far out in the jungle.   Part of his heal was cut off.  Without waiting to inform anyone of what had happened he set out across country to find the mission station where he had heard medical help was available.   The journey was long and difficult but at last he arrived.   A little while later his mother appeared and the doctors were surprised that she found them because she had never traveled in that area before.  How did you do it she was asked?  The dear woman over joyed to be with her child replied, “Oh it was easy – I just followed the blood”.   Every step the child took in the sand left a faint spot of blood.   In a much more profound sense that is how we come to Jesus.   The path is sometimes difficult and rough and the road is filled with many trials but we should not fear about getting lost.   All we have to do is follow Jesus footprints.   The pathway to God is marked with the blood. 

 

 

 

Peacemakers

May 27, 2018  Matthew 5: 1 – 12  Peacemakers 

 

      During WWII, three American airmen, who had escaped from a POW camp, made their way to a French village. The French hid them and helped them. While there, one of the escaped prisoners died from sickness and exhaustion. The other two Americans asked the local priest if they could bury their friend in the church cemetery. The priest shook his head and told them, “Only Catholics can be laid to rest in there, but you can bury him in that lot just outside the fence.” They buried him there, but during the night the priest and some of the people took down the fence and moved it to include the new grave. The priest explained, “A Protestant may not be buried in the cemetery, but there is no rule that says that we cannot move the fence to include a Protestant.”  I love that.   Let’s just broaden our fence a little bit by God’s grace.  Let’s extend ourselves, give more, and grow.   Let’s reach out and do something that we are not comfortable doing.  It is past time to extend the fence and go the second mile. 

     Blessed are the peacemakers.  Blessed fulfilled to be envied are the peacemakers.  Well to be a peacemaker you have to be at peace.  My wife and I met with neighbors who are having a number of problems recently.  One of them was wounded when they were young and they can’t see how they relate to their family.  They tend to bring negativity and strife into their family relationships and the grown children do not like to be around them.  That person is not a peacemaker and they do not create an atmosphere of joy, peace, love etc.  One of the spouses is thinking and has been working on moving out to another state.    Of course, there are all kinds of financial and other issues involved.  I suggested to one of them that they get back in the bible and go to church to which they said it would not hurt them to do that.   You cannot exude or give something that you do not have.  Blessed are the peacemakers. 

        Peace is a major theme in the Bible.    The word peace appears about 400 times in the bible and it is a word that is in every singly book of the NT.   The bible has a lot to say about peace.   Psalm 119:165 Great peace have they who love your law and nothing can make them stumble.   Psalm 29:11 The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.  Psalm 34:14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.   Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.   And he will be calledWonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  Isaiah 48:22   "There is no peace," says the Lord, "for the wicked."

     John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.   Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  Jesus said I do not give to you as the world gives.   Jesus peace and the world’s peace are 2 different things.  Jesus offers us peace that is different and better than what a person can find somewhere else.  His peace is better and deeper and brothers and sisters his peace is lasting.  It flows into eternity.   I do not see a lot of peace in the world.  There is trouble in the world.  John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.   In this world you will have trouble.    But take heart! I have overcome the world."  I Cor 14:33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.  Galatians 5:22 The fruit of the HS is peace.    Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

     It seems clear to me that God is the God of peace.   God wants us to live and walk in peace.   God wants us to strive to live in peace.   But it seems to me that all too often I find myself anxious and not living in peace.  Certainly, the world is not a peaceful place.   And it seems to me that these are trying days for Christians and for the church.   Sooner or later something comes along and we (all of us me included) struggle with life and our peace seems to go away.   Philippians 4 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    Scripture is plain - do not be anxious about anything but pray and God’s peace which transcends all understanding will guard not only my heart but my mind.   I want God to use that anxiety in my life to draw me to Him.  My anxiety points me to God and that is good.  God in this passage gives us the keys to peace.  The key is to pray to God with thanksgiving.

         God has blessed us with peace.   We have forgiveness in Christ.   In Jesus we know that we have eternal life.  We have the promises of God.      Peace is something that God gives us.   The fruit of the Spirit the precious HS of the Living God is peace.   As I walk in the HS peace flows out of me.    Jesus told his disciples peace I leave with you my peace I give to you.   I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.   Peace can be cultivated in us.   Jesus tells us to live in peace.   It is our responsibility to cultivate it.   We cannot sit back and say God hit me with it.   He has hit us with it.  Peace is in Jesus.   We have to take and lay hold of it.

    Insulin will not help the diabetic unless he or she takes it.   A map or GPS will not help you where you are going if you do not use it.    He gives us peace and we have to accept and appropriate his peace.   We have to walk in his peace.  The mind that is stayed on God and Jesus experiences perfect peace.     The more we walk in the spirit of God the more peace we will experience in our life.    

     You’ve heard the story of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel who invented dynamite in 1866.    This earned him fame and much of his wealth.   At one point in his life he held more than 350 patents, operated labs in more than 20 countries, and had more than 90 factories manufacturing explosives and ammunition.   Yet today he is most often remembered as the name behind the Nobel Peace Prize.   In 1888 his brother Ludvig died while staying in Cannes, France. The French newspapers mistakenly confused the two brothers and reported that it was the inventor of explosives that died.  What shocked Alfred was not simply the reporting of his death but the opinion people held of him.   One French paper’s headline read: “The Merchant of Death is Dead.”   He set about changing his reputation and change it he did. 

   Why don’t we have peace?   Well one reason is found in this illustration.   One day Lincoln walked down the road with his 2 boys.    They were fussing and having a fit and somebody opened their door and said, it sounds like your boys are upset today, what’s the problem?     He said, the same thing that’s wrong with the rest of the world.  I got 3 walnuts and each boy wants 2!  We are not at peace.  Someone researched and said in the last 3000 + years of history we have had 268 years of peace in the world.  Jesus said my peace is different than the world. 

     How do you get peace?   Sometimes it is hard.  The year was 1938, the date was October 6th the place was London England, the speaker was Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and this was the message "We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analyzing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will.   I cannot believe that such a program would be rejected by the people of this country, even if it does mean the establishment of personal contact with the dictators."

    Yes, we do not like war but the only way for peace in that situation is to sink the Bismarck and take away the panzer divisions.   We are in a war.  Men you are in a war.  How do you walk in peace when you are in a war?   Well in Nehemiah they built the wall with their swords strapped by their side or in their hand.  There is a battle for our thoughts and a battle for souls.   You can’t make peace at all cost not if you stand for truth and for Jesus.  We need to stand for truth and for Jesus.  Solomon wisely said there is a time for war and a time for peace. 

   The world was not at peace when Jesus came.  Jesus made whips to clean out the temple.  In Matthew 10 Jesus said, “do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.   I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  The bible tells us he came to give peace but also brings conflict.     For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’   “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

     Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.     Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.  Are you losing your life for and on Jesus?   If not, you are building your life on sand.  Matthew 11Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.   From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.

    The world was in a mess when Jesus came.  Think of God becoming a baby.  Think of the awfulness of God being spit upon beaten and slain on a cross.  That is beyond our comprehension.  There is something wrong with that.   There is something savage with that.  It speaks of conflict and war.  It also speaks of incredible love.  Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children or sons of God.   Peace is a characteristic of God   God’s nature is peace.  But he is also a being of war.  We need that.  When we pray about things that are wrong we don’t need a god that does not do anything. 

   A peacemaker tries to make peace.  Parents spend a good deal of time trying to do that with siblings.  Counselors try to bring peace in families.  Politian’s and ambassadors often try to make some kind of peace.  The bible also tells us to live in peace with all men.  That is a big.   The bible also tells us to pray for peace.      

    In Isaiah 48 is an interesting verse, “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”   For those that do not walk with God there is no peace.  Do not think that their life is altogether because it is not.  There is no peace for the wicked.  God came to reconcile us so that we could experience peace.   In 2 Corinthians 5 we read Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:   The old has gone, the new is here!     All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 

       We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.   We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.   God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  We see in these verses that God is into reconciliation.  Colossians 1 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  It took the violence of Jesus shed blood to bring people into peace with God.  The real peace of man is found when man is reconciled to God.  I think peacemakers try to bring peace to others in a number of situations but the real peace is found as man is brought into relationship with God.   Pray for the lost. 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Pure in Heart

May 20, 2018  Matthew 5:1 – 12   Pure 

 

     Most Americans don’t consider themselves to be holy, said a survey published by the Barna Group in 2006.   Three out of four Americans (73 percent) believe it is possible for someone to become holy regardless of their past.   Only half of the adult population (50 percent), however, said that they knew someone they considered to be holy.   That is more than twice as many as those who considered themselves to be holy (21 percent).  The views of born-again Christians were not much different from the national averages.   Among believers, three-quarters (76 percent) said it is possible for a person to become holy regardless of his or her past.   Slightly more than half of the group (55 percent) said they knew someone they would describe as holy. And roughly three out of ten Christians (29 percent) said they themselves were holy, which is marginally more than the national norm.    — “The Concept of Holiness Baffles Most Americans,” barna.org (February 20, 2006)

    Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.  What does pure in heart mean?   Well it means as being cleansed, chaste and clean.  I like the verse in John 1 where Jesus is talking with Nathanael and Jesus said to him here is a true Israelite in whom there is nothing false or the King James which says in whom is no guile.  Here is a person who is a straight shooter and you can believe what they tell you and you can believe they will do what they say.    They are not going to say one thing and mean something else.  They will be strait with you.  You do not have to look for hidden meanings or purposes.  This person is not filled with all kinds of lusts and sins of the flesh because those kinds of things distort your vision.  The pure in heart see something Jesus said.   Right?   They see God.  Hebrews tells us without holiness no one no person can see God.  The pure in heart see things that others do not see.  What does it mean to be pure in heart?  In a way it is holiness.

    In Titus 1 we read to the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.   They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  Two people can look at the same thing and yet see it in 2 different ways.  The one person can see it in a correct way and the other person corrupt it.  A Christian can see a person and just pray for them.  A sales person can see the same person and see a sale or hope for a sale.    A person can look at a child and see that child as a creation of God another person can another person can see that child differently.  

    Jesus made a comment about the church in Laodicea.  He said You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.    Jesus told them in today’s words you are blind as a bat.  They thought they could see correctly but Jesus said no you are blind.    I believe the pure in heart want to see God.  How does a person get purity?   Where is purity found?   It is found in God.  A verse in Hebrews make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 

     We have a longing in our heart to see Jesus.  We want to see Jesus in all of his beauty and sweetness.  It is an aroma of life and joy to us.  Our life is full when we connect with him and stay in his presence.  The pure in heart see God in action.   They can see the hand of God moving and they can sense what God is doing.  They live in whole different dimension.  As one person said they see things that others do not see.  They are so close to God and heaven that hear things that others do not hear.   They see things that others do not see.  They walk in that atmosphere. 

    Davon Huss shares two theological students were walking along a street in the Whitechapel district of London, a section where old and used clothing is sold.   "What a fitting illustration all this makes!" said one of the students as he pointed to a suit of clothes hanging on a rack by a window.   A sign on it read: slightly soiled -- greatly reduced in price. 

     "That’s it exactly," he continued.   "We get soiled by gazing at a vulgar picture, reading a course book, or allowing ourselves a little indulgence in dishonest or lustful thoughts; and so, when the time comes for our character to be appraised, we are greatly reduced in value. our purity, our strength is gone.    We are just part and parcel of the general, shopworn stock of the world."    Yes, continual slight deviations from the path of right may greatly reduce our usefulness to God and to our fellowman.   In fact, these little secret sins can weaken our character so that when we face a moral crisis, we cannot stand the test.   As a result, we go down in spiritual defeat because we have been careless about little sins. 

    There is a war in our nation today over morality.  There is a war for the soul of our children.   Daniel Weiss, “Pornography:  Harmless Fun or Public Health Hazard?”  citizenlink.org (May 19, 2005) said nine out of ten kids between ages eight and sixteen have been exposed to pornography online according to the U.S. Justice Department.   Furthermore, 47 percent of school-age children receive pornographic spam on a daily basis, reports software company Symantec.  And representatives from the pornography industry told Congress’s COPA (Child Online Protection Act) Commission that as many as 20 to 30 percent of the visitors to some pornographic websites are children.  That was a few years ago and that was he take on it.  We would hope that in the bible belt things would be better and we would hope that it would be different in Christian families but it seems that the differences are not that great.  We would hope in rural areas a difference compared to cities. 

   The person who wants to be pure in heart is careful about what they look at.  In the Wednesday bible study, we are in Ephesians 2 and last week mentioned how do you deal with lusts.   What does the bible say about it?   The bible says flee youthful lust.  The bible tells us at times to stand firm but with lust the bible says flee it.   So, if you are a recovering alcoholic do not pass by your favorite bar on your way home.  For me be careful around the bakery shop and the day-old donuts spot in the store.  Job in the Old Testament had the right idea when he said I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a young woman.  Discipline what our eyes look at and the thoughts that follow. 

    Military bases are very careful about who they let in.   Parents need to be careful about how or what they let in their house and their family.  And as Christian we need to be careful also.  If the only thing that we take in is the world then we are not the friend of God because the reality is that we love the world.   We have to always be on guard about this.   Jesus was perfect and he was tempted.  There is not a state we can reach in this world where any of us are free from temptation.  We will be tempted but God has given us the tools to defeat temptation.   No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  God provides a way but not at the point where you lose control.   Don’t wait until you are boiling in your passion.   There are points of no return.  The wise person and the pure person says no up front.  They say no in the beginning.    Two young people that ate dating and they keep getting more and more involved physically.   That is an end to that path.  It is a good idea to be very careful to be watchful and vigilant in those situations or the married man or gal that is hanging around the water fountain at work. 

    Everybody is tempted but we are not very honest about it.   Christians need to be careful about shooting the wounded.   An associate dean of students at Trinity International University, Matthew Perrault helps students grow closer to Jesus. He also disciplines students who fall short of the university’s moral guidelines.   Amazingly, Perrault has come up with a system that allows him to accomplish both at the same time.  “No one is expected to come to Trinity perfect,” Perrault says, “but in the past, there has been a misconception that you cannot be open about your struggles or you’ll get into trouble. For example, a student who entered Trinity and tried to quit smoking at the same time might try really hard but fail and be in violation of our community expectations.   This left many students feeling scared, guilty, and alienated from the very community they needed to help them.”    A few years ago, Perrault and the Student Development staff officially included the “Restoration Program” in the student handbook.   If a student has broken community expectations or has a behavioral pattern that is in violation of Scripture, the student can approach any staff or faculty member and ask to enter the program.

   The new policy states that, rather than facing normal disciplinary procedures, the student will work with Student Development to determine the relationships and accountability measures needed to face the problem. The student will then enter into a mentoring relationship for a set period of time.  Perrault has noticed a shift in students’ attitudes about discipline in response to the program.   Increasingly over recent years, instead of trying to hide their struggles, students trust the dean’s office as a safe place.  “What a humbling privilege it is to be entrusted with these fragile lives and these students’ desire to grow in Christ,” he says. “Through this process, they’re committing to us, but we’re also committing to them.”  — “Invested Time,”   Trinity Magazine (Spring 2006).   The church needs to be a safe place. 

   Let’s get past the everything is fine and OK and develop a deeper relationship with another person.  Iron sharpens iron.  Bible study is good because we can connect to each other on a deeper level.    Every person has temptations and every person has struggles and everyone of us needs prayer.  We need fellowship and we need to connect and the enemy Satan knows that he seeks to keep Christians separated. 

   The Pharisees had their eye on the law but Jesus kicks it up a notch in this passage.  The pure in heart will see God.  I get the sense that they were great at studying the law and doing the external things but not seek a pure heart and perhaps not seeking to see God.   We can read the bible for many reasons but we need to seek to see Jesus.   Jesus called the Pharisee’s blind men and blind guides in Matthew 23.   These religious leaders believed they were living righteous lives pleasing to God, but Jesus saw their hearts were full of sin.  Instead of having pure hearts, their hearts were filthy and stained by sin.   They looked good on the outside but not on the inside.   Matthew 23:25-26 25Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!   You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.   Blind Pharisee!   First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. (NIV).  God cares about the heart.   Blessed are the pure in heart. 

    I want to close with John 12 an interesting situation.  The bible says now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival.    They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”   These men had families I am sure and they had jobs and children.  They took time away from things and normal life activities to go to the festival and to worship.   They were Greeks and they probably traveled from Greece.  The bible mentions them because they wanted to see Jesus.  There is a neat verse in Malachi 3 that says those that feared the Lord and talked with each other and a book of remembrance was written for those that feared the Lord and honored his name. 

    I am sure we could say I would like to see more vacation time on the books, and I would like to see more money in the bank.  There are probably many things we would like to see.   The Greeks came to Philip and they said sir we want to see Jesus.  Jesus said blessed or happy or fulfilled is the person who is pure in heart for they shall see God.   We will all see him and everyone will bow down to Him some no doubt out of fear and some with a heart full of joy and love.  May our cry be today we would see Jesus.    

 

Love

May 13, 2018   I Corinthians 13   Love 

 

     This is the 30th time I have preached on Mother’s Day in this church.   That is no small accomplishment and I give God the credit and you who have held me in prayer.    I do not remember ever looking up how Mother’s Day started.   Do any of you know how or who started it?   It has its roots in the American Civil War.   The modern holiday of Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. St Andrew's Methodist Church now holds the International Mother's Day Shrine.   Her campaign to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died.

   Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother's Day Work Clubs to address public health issues.   Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is "the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world".      In 1908, the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother's Day an official holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a "Mother-in-law's Day".     However, owing to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, by 1911 all U.S. states observed the holiday, with some of them officially recognizing Mother's Day as a local holiday (the first being West Virginia, Jarvis' home state, in 1910). 

     In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother's Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.   Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother's Day, she became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday.   By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother's Day cards.   Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother's Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday was on sentiment, not profit.   As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother's Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved.     Jarvis argued that people should appreciate and honor their mothers through handwritten letters expressing their love and gratitude, instead of buying gifts and pre-made cards.    Jarvis protested at a candy makers' convention in Philadelphia in 1923, and at a meeting of American War Mothers in 1925.    By this time, carnations had become associated with Mother's Day, and the selling of carnations by the American War Mothers to raise money angered Jarvis, who was arrested for disturbing the peace

    I wanted to preach on love because a person who loves is a person who sacrifices and mothers sacrifice.  Good mothers put their children first and they become last.  I thought a good Mother’s Day passage would be John 3:16 for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.  God loves and God gives and God calls us to give.    

    I Corinthians 13 has been called the hymn of love.   This is one of the greatest passages that Paul ever wrote.  Some like to think of it as the Beatitudes set to music.   I think Paul’s really the Holy Spirit’s definition of love ion this passage is right on.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.    It does not dishonor others, 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.   Love never fails.  That is a pretty tall order.  I think only god is perfect in love.  John writes that God is love. 

  The purpose of this passage is to edify us and build us up in our Christian life and that is the purpose of scripture.  This passage is a blessing and a breath of fresh air.  This passage is positive and in the midst of reproof and correction that Paul is putting on the Corinthians.  This passage tells it like it is.  The more excellent way that we see in I Corinthians 12:31 is found in this chapter of love.    Self-giving love is the real thing and the best example of that is Jesus.    A person was asked when we get to heaven what do you think is going to be the greatest surprise of all?

    After thinking about it he replied I think we will be surprised by the over whelming depth of God’s love.  There is no end to God’s love.   We cannot fathom God’s love and it is deeper than any person’s love.    The song writer wrote could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade.   To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.  Our love fails but God’s love never fails and it is the more/most excellent way.  

   Another great example of love is mothers.   A mother’s love is great.   Love means sacrifice.   Love gives and gives and gives.    Max Lucado shares Princess Alice, daughter of Queen Victoria, had a little boy who became very sick with black diphtheria.   Doctors quarantined the boy and told the mother to stay away.    She tried, until one day she overheard him whisper to the nurse, “Why doesn’t my mother kiss me anymore?”    Princess Alice ran to her son and smothered him with kisses.  Within a few days, both died.   — Max Lucado, “Down Deep from Heaven,” Today’s Christian (March – April 2004)

Love is a very strong emotion.  Love goes the second mile.  Love cares for the unlovely.       

     Paul says here that if he spoke with the tongues of men and of angels but did not love it only made a noise.    Here in I Corinthians 13 Paul says if anyone speaks without love it is only noise.  I would say there is a lot of noise in the world today.  All that comes from many people is just noise.  From many people what we see and hear is just self-centeredness.   How can we understand Love?   How can we measure it?   One way we can do it is with 5 words which Jesus said as I have loved you.   Jesus is the standard for love.   He is the perfect example of love.  Jesus gave his life.    Paul said that prophecy without love was nothing although prophecy is very important.

    Paul continues with the thought that if he had the gift of all knowledge and knew all mysteries and had faith that could move mountains and gave everything he had even his life it would mean nothing without love.  People put a great deal of emphasis on knowledge.   It is very important in this complicated world we live in.  Knowledge can be an idol.  Solomon had a great deal of knowledge but as he got further and further from God he experienced an emptiness.    Life without love is like a clanging gong or an irritating cymbal.   It can be irritating and clangy.   Maybe like a cymbal that is totally out of tune or step with the other instruments.  It just does not fit.     It is amiss and out of step.   There is just something that is wrong with it.   The cymbal was meant to be a blessing but it is not. 

   An interesting way to consider this passage is to think about God.    What would God be like without love?   God can speak most eloquently.   Think about all the wonderful things that He made just by speaking.  God certainly has all knowledge and can fathom all mysteries.   God has great faith because He spoke things into existence when nothing physical was present.  God spoke and created.  He has great faith.  And Jesus certainly was a person of faith.   A God that had all of that power and wisdom and did not have love would be pretty scary I think.   Such a god would be a tyrant. 

       Paul goes on to say if he had all faith so that he could remove mountains and had not love he would be nothing.   Paul uses the same words that Jesus used on the disciples when the disciples failed to set the demon-possessed boy free.   Jesus told them if they had faith the size of a grain of mustard seed they could remove mountains.  The Lord’s point was if they trusted Him completely that nothing would be impossible in their ministry and Paul’s argument in this passage is that if someone could so trust God but did not have love it would mean nothing.  The person would be empty.   Their life would not be very meaningful.  Great accomplishments and great victories are pretty empty without love.  Great faith and great eloquence without love is nothing. 

        The person might do great things but he or she is very small without love.   Others may think of them as great and they might think that they are great.  God does not see it that way.   Certainly, in this passage though it is not stated that the use of spiritual gifts without love is nothing.  The use and the great abilities of others when they are not done in love means little in God’s eyes.  When those things are done without love it is done to build up a person’s pride and it is ugly.   It is done with less regard for the other person.   It is done with a self in mind.  It may be a blessing to others but it does not build up in right way the person doing it.  The act may bless others but the benefit to the person who is doing it may be selfish.    The Pharisees gave money to be seen.  Jesus said they had their reward.    

     Paul then talks about martyrdom.   He says if I give my body to be burned and have not love it profits me nothing.  It has no lasting value.  Some believe that the apostle is talking about becoming a slave.   Some slaves were branded with a hot iron.   Paul may be making the argument of the extreme of giving of oneself to totally give up their rights.  Paul may be thinking of Nero who burned Christians at the stake.  Nero reigned from AD 54 to AD 68.   It is believed that Paul wrote this letter in AD 54 or AD 55.    One commentator states that there was a rather famous monument in Athens where an Indian had burned himself to death in public.  The inscription read Zarmano-chegas an Indian from Bargosa made himself immortal and lies here.   Perhaps Paul is thinking of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego from the book of Daniel who were thrown into the fiery furnace.   Perhaps the HS inspired Paul to write these words in view of the Christians who may have been burned at the stake then and those in the future.    Some Christians of the early church sought martyrdom as a way of gaining heavenly credit but it all profits nothing if is not done from a heart of love.   

    Northwest Airlines flight 225 crashed just after takeoff from Detroit on August 16, 1987, killing 155 people. Only one person survived: Cecilia, four, of Tempe, Arizona.  When rescuers found Cecilia, they did not believe she had been on the plane. They thought she had been a passenger in one of the cars on the highway onto which the airliner crashed. But when the passenger list was checked, there was Cecilia’s name.   Cecilia survived because, as the plane was falling, Cecilia’s mother, Paula Chican, unbuckled her own seat belt, got down on her knees in front of her daughter, wrapped her arms and body around Cecilia, and would not let her go. Nothing could separate that child from her mother’s love — neither tragedy nor fall nor the flames that followed.  Such is the love of our Savior for us. He left heaven, lowered himself to us, and covered us with the sacrifice of his own body to save us.   — Bryan Chapell,  In the Grip of Grace (Baker, 1992)

     Have you thought about your mother’s love lately?  Have you thought about her sacrifice for you?   It is good to give honor to whom honor is due.   We remember and give thanks today for all that our mothers have done for us.  The bible tells us to give honor to those that deserve honor.   I hope we can wrap our arms around the thought that God loves us.   Can we feel that love?   Can we let that thought saturate our life?  Some people have lost a dear loved one or had some other difficult situation in their life and they turn away from God.   They do not see God as loving any more. 

 

 

 

 

 

Merciful

May 6, 2018  Matthew 5:1 – 12  Merciful

 

   I find it interesting again the words of Jesus to the crowds that Jesus preached or taught this message to.  This passage is called the sermon on the mount.   Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.  I wonder what kind of mercy the people that Jesus spoke to had experienced in their life?  I do not think the Romans were very merciful.   They seemed pretty hard and cruel for the most part.  For punishment they used whips and the cross.   It seems like the religious leaders were not very merciful.   Jesus often chided the religious leaders for their lack of compassion, mercy and love.  Jesus spoke of their pride and Paul also commented on those things about them.   It does not seem to me that their life was very easy and Jesus tells them blessed are the merciful.     People can be very unmerciful. 

   In Romans 1 Paul writes.   Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.   They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.    Paul said they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love and no mercy.   What kind of a person is that?  Jesus spoke to the crowd and his disciples and said to them blessed are the merciful.  If you are merciful you are blessed. 

    Some people see mercy as a sign of weakness.  Some people are against mercy.  I think that in gangs there is a push to show no mercy.  Those that do not give mercy probably desire to have mercy shown to them.  There is not much mercy in wars and in many countries in the world today.  We can think of countries like Iran, North Korea and China.  There is a lot of religious persecution today and not just Christians.  Muslins persecute Muslins.  The crusades can be mentioned also.  There is ethnic cleansing today.   We can talk about others but we need to be merciful.  God delights in mercy and as Christians we should be like our Lord.   I believe we are living in the last days.  Jesus said the love of many would grow cold in the last days.  Paul wrote in II Timothy3 that people would be brutal and not lovers of the good.  There would be a love for evil but not for good.  I remember reading a number of times awhile back about people throwing acid in the face of women.  People can be so mean.  I have not read anything on that lately.  I suspect that Christians have preyed about that but maybe I am not seeing any of it lately.      

  Francis of Assisi was riding a horse down the road that went by a leper hospital situated far from Assisi, for then, as in biblical times, lepers were a rejected lot.   Francis was not yet the saint of history; he was still caught between the lure of wealth and glory and the life of discipleship.    As he rode along, he was absorbed in his thoughts.   Suddenly the horse jerked to the side of the road.   With difficulty Francis pulled him back on course, but as Francis looked up, he recoiled at the sight of a leper in the middle of the road.    He was a grey specter with stained face and shaved head, dressed in gray sackcloth.   He did not speak and showed no sign of moving or of getting out of the way.    He looked at the horseman fixedly, strangely, with an acute and penetrating gaze.    An instant that seemed an eternity passed.

    Slowly Francis dismounted, went to the man, and took his hand.   It was a poor emaciated hand, bloodstained and cold like that of a corpse.   Francis pressed the hand and brought it to his lips.   As he kissed the lacerated flesh of the creature, who was the most abject, the most hated, the most scorned of all human beings, he was flooded with a wave of emotion that shut out everything around him.  That was an early step in Francis’s conversion, which took many months.   But it taught him that following Christ may require doing some things that repulse us.   What Francis didn’t know then was that something greater was prompting him, allowing him to do that which, humanly speaking, he was incapable of doing.  — Arnoldo Fortini,  Francis of Assisi (Crossroad, 1992).  God can give us strength to do that which we would not do on our own.  I think that is great news.   God can flood hearts with compassion. 

    I remember a missionary bandaging a leper in Viet Nam.  I remember it because leprosy is repulsive.  I remember a man that lived next to Uncle Toby in Lansing Michigan who had nose cancer.   He did not deal with it.  He would not go to the doctors and it ate away at his face until he died.  He was not a pleasant sight.  Jesus reached out to the cast outs of society.  Jesus showed mercy.  Jesus has shown mercy to you.   Jesus has given me a lot of mercy.  A forgiving heart is very important for showing mercy.  A good example of mercy is that of Joseph in the Old Testament.  His brothers hated him and sold him as a slave.  Later he becomes the second most powerful man in Egypt.  Joseph later could have revenge on his brothers but chose instead to forgive them and not punish them.  Often, we like to get back at a person when we have been wronged.   I am glad that God is merciful.  Can you imagine an unmerciful God?   We would not last very long.

   Christians can be incredibly merciful and it reveals the nature of God.     Victoria Ruvolo, forty-five, of Lake Ronkonkoma, New York, was driving to her niece’s voice recital when she passed a car driven by Ryan Cushing, nineteen. Cushing was with five other teens and had just used a stolen credit card to go on a spending spree. One of their purchases was a frozen turkey, which Cushing decided to toss into oncoming traffic.  The twenty-pound bird smashed through Ruvolo’s windshield, crushing her face.   Ruvolo survived, though it took ten hours of surgery to repair her face and months of painful rehabilitation.  On October 17, 2005, Ruvolo attended Cushing’s sentencing and asked his judge for leniency. Part of her statement read, “Despite all the fear and the pain, I have learned from this horrific experience that I have much to be thankful for.   Each day when I wake up, I thank God simply because I’m alive.   I sincerely hope you have also learned from this awful experience, Ryan.   There is no room for vengeance in my life, and I do not believe a long, hard prison term would do you, me, or society any good.”   Cushing, who wept and expressed remorse for his action, was sentenced to six months in jail.   He could have gotten a twenty-five-year prison sentence if Ruvolo had not intervened.   — Leah Ingram, “Compassionate Victim,” beliefnet.com (December 2005)

   Jesus said blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.   You can show mercy to others and that does not mean that some people will return mercy to you.   God is merciful to all people but not all people are merciful.   If you are unmerciful you can become bitter and put your self in prison.  A merciful person gives him or herself mercy. They give mercy to others but they experience mercy.   If you do not forgive you do not walk in mercy.   If you give you receive.    If you are merciful others will show mercy to you but don’t expect everybody to reciprocate.   I was taught as a young person to never expect justice but always give it.  Don’t expect mercy from people but always give it.  We can call upon God for mercy.  God can touch people.   God can change people to make us more merciful.  God can change our hearts.  God can change your heart.  I believe that people who have been touched by God are merciful.  Do you believe that?   Are you merciful?  Do you know hard Christians?   Do you know unmerciful Christians?   There seems to be some out there.  I guess things happen to us. 

    Ray Stedman tells the story of one man’s explanation for his lack of forgiveness. He said, “A man once said to me, ‘I know I’m a Christian, but someone once did an awful thing to me – something I just can’t forget or forgive.’ I replied, ‘Are you sure you can’t forgive him?’   He maintained that he had really tried to forgive this man but was unable to do so. As we continued talking, I said, ‘I know, I have found that we often use the word can’t what we really mean is won’t. Isn’t possible that what you are saying is not, “I can’t forgive him,’ but ‘I won’t forgive him?’ If it is really true that you cannot forgive this man, then it indicates that you yourself have never been forgiven and you are only kidding yourself about being a Christian.’ This shook him a bit.   He thought it through and then, with a rather sheepish grin, he said, ‘I guess you’re right.   I guess I won’t.’   It wasn’t long before he came to me and reported with joy that he had finally forgiven the man who had injured him.” [Ray Stedman. Talking With My Father. (Grand Rapids; Discovery House, 1997) p. 73]    If you want joy in your life learn to forgive. 

       Life is difficult and any of us can become hardened.  Care givers can become hardened.  Pastors can become hardened.    Patricia Miller shares the following.  Each day I worked in the emergency room, I became more insensitive to people and their real needs.  Five years of emergency room exposure took its toll.  Then God intervened.   I was registering a young woman who had overdosed on drugs and attempted suicide.   Her mother sat before me, unkempt and bleary eyed.   She had been awakened in the night by the police to come to the hospital.   She could only speak to me in a whisper.  “Hurry up!” I said to myself as she slowly gave me information.   My impatience was raw as I finished the report and jumped to the machine to copy the medical cards.   Then God stopped me, saying, “You didn’t even look at her.”

     I felt his grief for the woman and her daughter then, and I bowed my head, saying, “I’m sorry, Lord. I am so sorry.”  I sat by the distraught woman and covered her hands with mine.   I looked into her eyes with all the love that God could flood through me and said, “I care. Don’t give up.” She wept as she poured out her story.   For years she had dealt with a rebellious daughter who was a single mom.   Finally, after the weeping stopped, she thanked me for listening.   Me — the coldhearted one with no feelings.  My attitude changed that night.   My God, who so loved the world, broke that self-imposed barrier around my heart.   Now he could reach out, not only to me, but to a lost and hurting woman.   — Adapted from Patricia Miller,  “The Emergency Room,” Pentecostal Evangel  (October 15, 2000). 

   God wants us to show mercy.   James 2 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.   Micah 6 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.   And what does the Lord require of you?   To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  The Lord requires that you and I show mercy.  God wants us to love mercy.  Jesus said blessed are the merciful.  In Luke 6 we read where Jesus said but love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.   

   Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.   Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.   “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.   Forgive, and you will be forgiven.   Give, and it will be given to you.   A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”   Be merciful as your father is merciful.  God shows his mercy every day.  Lamentations 3 It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.   They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.   The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.   The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.

     Mercy is more than just feeling sorry for someone.  Mercy is more than just feeling empathy.  That kind of mercy can be cold and heartless.  That does not mean that you have to help every single person or situation that you see.   Sometimes all you can give is concern and prayer.   How can we show mercy today?  Well it takes time.  If you do not have any time for someone else that is an issue.  It also takes thought.   How can I help in this situation?  I would say also it takes prayer.  Lord use my life today?  You know the most good that I can do today.  If you walk in his spirit the Holy Spirit you will walk in mercy.  

 

Desire Righteousness

April 29, 2018  Matthew 5: 1 – 12  Long for Righteousness 

 

   Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness.  Jesus is not talking about physical food in this passage but spiritual food.  It is interesting that the average American house hold spends over 3K a year on eating out.  I do not know if that includes coffee stops or not.  That is a lot of money.  That is about $60.00 a week.   Probably many Christians should evaluate their giving in light of what they spend on eating out.  I believe that is more than most Christians give to God a year which does not seem to be quite right.

   Are people hungry and thirsty today?  You do not have to do much to get hungry and thirsty.  People have a number of desires.   It is more than food and drink.   There is a lot of drive and a lot of push.  People want a lot of things.  There are many agendas in the world today.  There is the push for more money, for food, for more free time and vacations.  Jesus tells us in this passage that the blessed person is hungering and thirsting for the right things.  That is the spiritual life.  Jesus is saying that real life is found as we seek God and walk with God.    

   Jesus said blessed or happy are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.  Jesus does not say blessed are those who pursue being happy.   But he says blessed are those who come to God.  Blessed are those who have a passion for God.   What does blessed mean?   It means supremely blessed, fortunate, well off, blessed, happy or happier.  Implied in the word blessed is that the person has an inner satisfaction that is not dependent on the things outside of their life.  It is not dependent on external situations.   It is deeper than outward circumstances.   In verse10 Jesus said blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  We certainly have to understand here that it is not fun to be persecuted.  But Jesus is talking about future blessings.  We will be blessed.  We will be blessed beyond our imagination. 

     Johann Neethling shares a twist on the rhyme Humpty Dumpty.  He said Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.   Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.  All the world’s horses and all the world’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.  But Humpy’s Creator looked down from above.  And sent His own Son as the gift of His love.  He took all our brokenness as He suffered in pain.  And where He is welcomed, Humpy’s is whole again.  For those that long to be clean to be forgiven and have their shame removed this verse is great.  We can be made whole again.  In Christ we can be put back together. 

    As we hunger for God we will be filled.   As we thirst for Jesus he will fill us.  As we pour out our heart and soul toward heaven we can find righteousness.  When I am focused on me I am self-centered.  Paul wrote in his flesh that is his sinful nature dwells no good thing.  It is pretty hard to try and satisfy the flesh.  It is pretty hard for a person to fill their life with the pleasures of the world and sin.  The flesh never has enough.  It is always one dollar more, or one more beer or one more pill.  There is a sense that we are slaves in this world.  We can be a slave to the world, the flesh or sinful nature and the devil or be a servant to the Lord.  I would rather be a servant to the Lord. 

   It is basically impossible for a person to happy and content and fill their life with sin.  It may seem like fun for a season but that person’s life is not full.  Sin is a terrible task master.  The devil demands a price.  There is a price to pay with sin.   Being self-centered is not the way to be content.   It is like eating a lot of junk food.  Too much sugar may give you the sense of being full but it does not feed the body.  It does not satisfy the body.   A person can be full yet starving for good food.  The body needs vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein and a diet of just sugar will not satisfy.  I suppose that it can give you a sugar high but then you crash.     Our sinful nature is similar.  Sugar can leave you flat and sin leaves you flat.

   Things that are not good do not really fill a person.  Man’s sinful nature can be very demanding.  Jesus said those that sin are a slave to sin.   Jesus said blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness.    We can read the words of Jesus but we must apply them to our life.  Don’t be hearers only but be doers of the word.  How are you going to apply this to your life?  Are you intentional in your walk with the Lord?   Christians should seek to apply God’s word. 

   What kind of hunger and thirst is Jesus talking about?   Well it is not like I think I would like to have pizza for supper or no it is cold I would like a big bowl of hot soup.  No, it is a deeper kind of hunger.   It is more like being famished to be craved or to be hungered.  It is more like a person who has not had anything to eat for a couple of days.  It is a craving a deep hunger.   It is more like the person who ran out of water yesterday in the desert.  He is thirsty.  Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness.  The Psalmist said as the deer pants after the water brook so my soul pants after God. 

   We see that kind of passion for God with various people in the bible.  Jesus was passionate in John 4:34 Jesus said “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work”.  David said in Psalm 27 One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.  David wanted God.

     Paul wrote in Philippians 3 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.   What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.    That is not a shallow relationship.  Some relationships are not very satisfying because there is too much taking and not enough giving.  Paul gave his life.  

    I think a lot of folks approach God with little commitment.   I have talked to people who say well I tried that once.  You know I tried God once.  Didn’t work for me.  You almost want to laugh.   Their idea is God failed them or God does not exist.  They did not put much in it.  Sometimes we do not put much in it.   We want to put a little in and get lots out of it.  I know a person who started a bible study and they said well I knew when I started it that things would get difficult.  We want God to do great things through us which is good but there is a price to be paid.  People like to talk but doing is another thing.   God is interested in our whole heart.  You shall find me God said when you search for me with all your heart. 

   Sometimes we think that God’s main goal for us is to be happy.  That is not what Jesus is saying in the beatitudes.    God is not the genie in the bottle or Santa Claus.  We get the sense from this passage that there is more to life then just being happy.  We can be blessed when life is down and difficult.   We can be blessed when we mourn.   Blessed are the ones that are hungry and thirsty.  Bless are the poor in spirit and blessed are those that mourn.  God is interested in our holiness.  God is interested in a close walk with us.  God is interested in us growing in Christian maturity and being more like Jesus. 

     The person that hungers and thirst after righteousness is going to feed their soul on the good stuff.  They are going to be feeding on the lean chicken, fish, salads and fruits spiritually.  They are going to be in the bible and meditating on the bible.  They are going to be thankful and worship.  They are going to have a solid prayer life.  They will make Christian fellowship a part of their life.   They are going to feed their soul on the good stuff.  They will not be filled with negative critical things.  They will find life in godly things and not in the world.  They will be so heavenly minded that they will be good for the earth.  God will fill their cup.  The Lord is their shepherd and they will be content and satisfied with the Lord.  They will have a different foundation in their life.  They will be blessed and they will be filled in this life and in the next life. 

   Are we learning that the world cannot fill us up?   I think most of us have tried to fill our life from the world.   We have worked hard to be content.   Christians have a spiritual nature.    Sometimes Christians try to cover up their spiritual needs or bury their spiritual hunger with the things of the world.   Are we aware of our spiritual needs?  Many Christians starve their soul.   We can starve our spiritual life. 

  Learning to be content is a discipline of course.   Paul said I have learned to be content with little or much.  There are right places to go to be filled.   Consider John 4 where Jesus is talking with the woman from Samaria.    The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.   How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans).   Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

  “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep.   Where can you get this living water?    Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”   Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”   Do you feel that spiritual life bubbling up in you?   It is great to feel the peace and joy of the spirit of God in my life.

    In John 7 Jesus tells us that he is living water.  On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.   Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”   It is so wonderful to have a deep satisfying relationship with Jesus.  Just to be content and blessed in Jesus presence.  To hear him say that he loves me.  The blessed person is hungering and thirsting after God. 

 

 

 

 

Meek and Inheritance

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

 

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

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

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

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

   Are you a meek person?  How would you define a meek person?  I think that humble, gentle, and lowly are good words that define that.   A meek person is very strong person because they are in control of their emotions.   They do not fly off at the handle.   It is opposite of the critical and negative things that we read and see in the world today.   How do we get that way?   How can a person grow in meekness?   A person cannot feed on trash and negativity all the time and be meek and humble and lowly.   Galatians 5 tells us but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control against such things there is no law.   The King James uses the word meekness instead of gentleness.  Meekness is like a gentle wind that comes in off the ocean or like a gentle breeze that comes off a freshly cut hay field.  It is like a horse that has been broken.  An unbroken wild horse wants nothing to do with a rider.  The broken horse is strong but the animal is under control.  There is strength in meekness.  It is like an ox with a yoke on it.  It is strong and can work.  Meekness is power under control. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

Mourn

April 15, 2018  Matthew 5:1 – 12  Mourn 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor in Spirit

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I think we get a good picture of what Jesus had in mind in Luke 18: 9 – 14.   To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.    The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.   I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’   “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’   “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 

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

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

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

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

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

Resurrection

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

     

 

Money and Possessions

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transfiguration

February 18, 2018  Matthew 17:1 – 13  Transfiguration 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The power of Words

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show Down

February 4, 2018    I Kings 18  Showdown

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jesus in the house

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   In II Corinthians 6 we read, Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?  Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?  Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?   What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?    For we are the temple of the living God    As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”   Therefore “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”    And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”  God is holy and he says do not touch anything that is unclean.  Don’t touch it and do ont have it in your house.  You are the temple of the living God.  Your body does not belong to you.  If God tells you not to eat ice cream that becomes unclean for you. 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Warfare

January 21, 2018      Spiritual Warfare

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Christians have a very powerful tool at our disposal and that is prayer.   God has told us to pray.   I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray continuously.   Ephesians 6:18 and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests, with this in mind be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.   I Timothy 2 I urge then first of all that requests, prayers intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.   This is good and pleases God our savior who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  God would not tell us to pray if our prayers were in vain.  God hears our prayer. Wednesday, I was driving in the snow and slid off the path way and I prayed God get me back on the road and buy the time I finished praying I was back on the road.   I believe an angel gave me a good shove.    I did not see any reason for me to get back on the road.      

   Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God.    Jesus said men should always pray and not faint.   Jesus in several places in the gospels invites us to pray.    Hebrews says to come boldly before God.   The God that we come before is a loving heavenly Father who wants us to trust him.   But we also need to remember that there are hindrances to prayer.  Psalm 66 the Psalmist says if I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.   Sin hinders prayer.  

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

Judgment

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mercy

December 31, 2017    Romans 12:1  Mercy 

 

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

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

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

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

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

   Some people are not into mercy.   Many people do not think about mercy.  Many people do not appeal to God’s mercy.  Some folks do not see their need for mercy.  In Luke 18 we see the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector.   Jeans shares “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.   The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.    I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  The Pharisee did not see his need of mercy.  He is a very religious man.  He is careful in his giving.  He carefully follows all of the rules.  On the outside and what people see of him is that he has it all together.  So, he does not receive mercy from God.  He certainly offers no mercy to the tax collector.  All od his relationships are impacted by his attitude. + There is  a level of pride and superiority in his life.   For him if you slip up there is no compassion.  He does not see his need for mercy and he offers no mercy. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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