From the Pastor’s Desk:
When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder
“Nothing unclean will ever enter it, (The New Jerusalem, The Holy City) nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s Book od Life.”
As a young child I could always expect the teacher to mispronounce my name on the first day of school as he/she read the attendance list. It gives me great comfort to know that on that glorious future day as my name is read from the Lamb’s Book of Life in heaven that it will not be mispronounced. But it gives me even greater joy that my name is there non the less.
The moment one professes his or her faith in Christ as Lord and Savior their name is written in that heavenly book. Names which will never be blotted out or erased, as Revelation 3:5 promises, “In the same way, the one who conquers will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of Life but will acknowledge his name before my Father and before His angels.” Names written not because of works or deeds, but written because of the Grace and the work of Christ upon our behalf upon the Cross and in the empty tomb. Because of this the believer need not doubt his/her eternal destiny. The believer can know for sure he/she is going to heaven.
It is my prayer that all who are reading this letter know for sure their name is written in that Book of Life. If not then ask Jesus into your life as Lord and Savior and you can know for sure that heaven will be your future eternal home. And by all means tell others about this Savior and this Book of Life so that their names too will be found in that Book. And know this for sure, your name will not be mispronounced, Jesus knows your name.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:25, 26
Throughout the years I have heard from time to time the question, “Why is it so important to attend Church?” It seems to me from reading the above passage others were asking this same question back in the days the book of Hebrews was written. This being so I’d like for us to reflect upon the reasons the above passage gives for regular Church attendance.
First of all, Church attendance can provide the believer with the encouragement needed to keep on going in the Faith. We read, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”, and, “encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”. In many ways the Christian race has been compared to a marathon, a marathon that at times can be exhausting to run. Yet with a friend to run with and the encouraging words of the spectator, one can be energized to keep on running the race. In the same way as we gather together in worship we can receive that same encouragement to keep on going. Worship, Fellowship, the story of God’s Holy Word in many ways is like that refreshing bottle of water handed to the runner of the marathon.
Secondly, going to Church can strengthen our Christian Witness. Please note the phrase, “and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The Day the writer has in mind here is the Day of Christ’s return. As that day nears it is so important to share the good news of the Gospel in both word and deed. In attending Church our Christian Witness is strengthened through the story of God’s Word and the wise advice and insight of fellow believers. The Church offers us a great place to grow in our Faith and a place to invite others to attend.
The truth of the matter is, God gave us the Church because He knows how much we need it and the Fellowship it provides. We are not Lone Rangers, we are people who need the support of fellow believers. This being so, let us thank God for this blessed gift.
The Christian Dual Citizenship
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In just a few days we will be celebrating Independence Day. Independence Day is of course the day we celebrate the liberty and independence we enjoy as Americans. In short the day we celebrate our citizenship. This is good and right to do so. Now as Christians we have a dual citizenship, our citizenship here on earth and, as Paul tells us, our citizenship in heaven. As Christians we enjoy liberty and freedom from sin’s clutches and the knowledge that we belong to God as His people. This being so we should do all we can to tell others of this good, gracious, and all loving God. Our praises for Him should be as bright and loud as the very fireworks that will light up the sky on this coming Independence Day. So with this being so let us as Christians praise God for the Blessings of living in the country that we do as well as praising Him for our heavenly citizenship.
Independence Day Blessings,
The Weak Who Are Strong
“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me… When I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9, 10b
We have just been looking at Jesus’ twelve disciples over these last few weeks. As we have it has become apparent that these men who turned the world upside down (or better yet, right side up), were not perfect men. Like all of us they had weaknesses as well as strengths. Yet God used them in a mighty way. The same can be said concerning the Apostle Paul who penned the above passage. Paul had been converted from a persecutor of the early Church to the early Church’s greatest champion. If God could do that with Paul and the rest of Jesus’ early disciples there’s no telling what He can do through us or anyone who gives their lives and hearts fully to Him.
The point being, God loves to work His mighty power and Will through His servants. All He requires is a willing heart and desire to serve Him. Just think what good could be accomplished if more of God’s servants would be open to being used by God for His glory.
This being so it is my prayer that each of us would prayerfully inquire what God wants from us and then faithfully set out to do it. In doing so our lives and the lives of others we come in contact with will never be the same again.
Jesus Throughout the Scriptures
“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.”
John 5:39, 40
In the above passage we find Jesus addressing the Jewish leaders of His day who did not receive Jesus nor His teachings. The irony of it all was that these leaders who spent all their time studying the Scriptures failed to see that they spoke of Jesus. As one peruses the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, he/she will be able to find Jesus on each and every page. The person of Jesus is just as real in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament. This should not surprise us since Jesus is the very source of Salvation throughout all the Scriptures. This being so I’d like for us to see what it means to find Jesus throughout the whole of Scripture.
First of all it speaks to Jesus’ Divinity. The truth of the matter is Jesus is eternal. There was never a time that He was not. This truth points to the fact that Jesus is God. Jesus was quite clear on this fact. In John 10:30 Jesus declared, “I and The Father are One,” and again in John 14:9 Jesus told Phillip His disciple, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen The Father.” As God The Father is all powerful, all knowing, and ever present, so too is Jesus. This being so we can trust Him with our very lives. It is my hope that we would all trust Him in all things.
Secondly, if Jesus can be found throughout both the Old and New Testaments, we would do well to study all the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments. The saying is so true, the Old explains the New Testament and the New Testament explains the Old. Over the years I have heard Christians say that, “They are New Testament people and thus don’t need to study the Old Testament.” The problem with that type of thinking is that one doesn’t have a full understanding of Jesus or His Ministry. We would do well to study both Testaments diligently.
Lastly since Jesus can be found in both Testaments we are reminded that He is the only way unto Salvation. (or as Jesus says in John 14:6, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”) Jesus and His upcoming Sacrifice for our Salvation is foreshadowed in the lambs that were sacrificed time and again throughout the Old Testament. This being so those very same sacrifices received their power to pardon Sin from the death of Christ in the New Testament. Salvation in both the Old and New Testaments is found only in Christ. It is my prayer again that each person reading this have placed their faith in Jesus alone for their Salvation.
This month of May I will be teaching a Sunday evening series entitled, “Jesus in Genesis”. I hope to see you all there.
A Vision on the Road
“Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, Why are you persecuting me? And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And He said, “I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting.”
In the above passage we find Saul (Paul) on his way to Damascus in pursuit of Christians whom he was persecuting. It was then he was confronted by a vision of the risen Jesus, a vision which would lead to Saul’s conversion.
In much the same way Christ comes to us today (although not in such a dramatic way) to lead us to Salvation and ultimately eternal life. He comes to us through the preached Word, He comes to us through the testimony of a Believer. Whatever way He chooses to approach us it is always He who takes the initiative. He doesn’t wait for us to clean up our act before offering us Salvation, He approaches us, “While we are yet Sinners” (Ro. 5:8). The question is are we listening to His still small voice? And with that are we willing to be used by Him to tell others about Him?
With the celebration of Easter we are reminded that our risen Christ is still very much alive and very interested in us. This being so how can we be quiet? As Saul’s (Paul’s) life was changed so we have come to experience new life in Christ. Let us take some time to give Him praise and thanksgiving and let us seek all the more to tell others about Him.
Two of the Many Lessons of Holy Week
“The next day, when the large crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet Him. They kept shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel.”
“Pilate asked them again, ‘Then what do you want me to do with the one you call the King of the Jews?’, Again they shouted crucify Him!”
Mark 15:12, 13
As one looks at these above passages one can see two valuable lessons, two of the many lessons of Holy week. The First lesson is that of our need for a Savior. The fact that both proclamations should come from the lips of the people within just a weeks time demonstrates that Sin is never far away, or as God told Cain in Genesis 4:7. “Sin crouches at the door.” There are times that we say, think and even do the right things, just as when the crowds welcomed Jesus as a King with the words, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” But there are other times we fall prey to Sin as when this same group of people cried out for Jesus to be crucified in just a weeks time. It is this simple fact that shows us our need for a Savior. A Savior who saves us from the Penalty of Sin, a Savior who stands ready to Forgive us our Sins, a Savior who makes eternal life a reality for the believer. This is the Savior Jesus is and it is my hope and prayer that all who are reading these words do in fact know Him as Savior and Lord. It is also my prayer that each of us would be quick to tell others about this same Jesus.
The second lesson our above passage has for us is that of the need to put our faith ultimately in Christ alone. The mere fact that the citizen’s of Jerusalem opinion of Jesus should change so dramatically in just a weeks time demonstrates the fickleness of the human being. The truth of the matter is there will be times that others will let us down and times we ourselves will let us down. But Jesus will never let us down. Jesus will never abandon us nor forsake us. We can believe every promise and every word He has for us in His Holy Word. As we are told in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” And again according to His Word in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” So look to Him, He is the Savior who will never let us down.
The Benefits of Godly Love
“If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
First Corinthians 13:1-3
Love is the deal breaker or deal maker. The ingredient of love in all the Christian does empowers those actions for good, while the lack of love subtracts from those actions. The benefits of Godly love (a selfless authentic pure type of love with no strings attached) are numerous. Godly love reminds the loving Christian of the love God has for him/her. The type of love Paul had in mind when he wrote in Romans 5:8, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The very same love we see upon the Cross in the broken form of our Savior who laid down His life for us. When we as believers are reminded of that love how can we not desire to love others all the more and how can we not be moved to give Him all the praise and glory.
Godly love encourages the believer to trust God all the more and to take the steps of Faith He has called him/her to take. If God truly loves us He will not abandon us nor will He call us to a task or a mission and not supply us with what we need to get it done.
Godly love empowers our Christian Witness. Our love for God will be seen in our obedience. As Jesus tells us in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” And He commands us to love others. And as we love others as Christ has commanded us to do, others will see that love and be attracted to this Savior we call Jesus.
This Lenten Season and beyond let us remember this love God has for us, and let us love others as He first loved us. In doing so our God will be glorified.
The Hip Bone’s Connected to the Leg Bone
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all it’s many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, Slave or Free—and we are all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”
First Corinthians 12:12-14
As believers we all make up the Body of Christ. Believers unified by the Holy Spirit and unified for the glorious work of the Gospel. Along with this, believers who make up the family of God with God as our Heavenly Father and fellow believers as our brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters who are to be there for one another, caring for one another and loving one another.
When this truth is understood the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of the Christian Community is met and our Christian Witness is all the stronger for it.
This being so, as we enter a new year, let us do so with a resolution to spend time with one another throughout the week praying for one another and enjoying the sweet Christian Fellowship we were all called into as believers.
Let us look upon the Church as a family, as a community, that needs our input. In doing so we will all be blest and our God will be pleased, as we use our spiritual gifts and abilities to minister to one another.
New Year Blessings,
God’s Unexpected Surprises
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the City of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David……While they were there, the time came for her to give birth.”
Luke 2:1-4, 6
Did Mary and Joseph know that she would give birth to Jesus in Bethlehem? Did they know the time for His birth would coincide with their trip to Bethlehem to be registered for the tax? They obviously knew the time was getting close, yet I think in the back of their minds they thought that the birth would hold off until they were back in Nazareth surrounded by friends and family. But as we all know that was not God’s plan. He had decreed as far back as Micah 5:2 that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph probably had it all planned out how it was all going to work out but God surprised them, and His way was perfect. What better town for the Messiah to be born in then Bethlehem, the home town of King David. God’s way was the best way and Mary and Joseph were brought along for the ride.
The same is true today. We often have expectations of how things are going to go, how things are going to work out, yet God often has our plans for us. Plans that are ultimately better for us than our own plans. A truth that rings loud and clear in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Thus however God answers our prayers, what ever plans He has for us and our future (even plans that run counter to our plans) is for our own good. Therefore we can trust Him. He loves us and He is all wise so we can know His plans for us are better than our own plans for ourselves.
It is this truth that can fill the believer with great expectations. What’s God going to do today? What new adventure does He have for me? It is this same expectation in a good and loving God that can empower us to face life’s trials and adversities. Knowing that God is going to work it all out for our own good and for His glory.
So let us give Him full control over our lives and full control over our future. Remember His plans are best.
An Autumn Reflection on Worship
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people dwell together in unity.”
As I write this letter we are well into Autumn with its full range of colors, brisk cool days and chilly nights. One of the days that stand out this time of year is “Thanksgiving”. Thanksgiving is of course the day set apart to give thanks unto God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us as we gather around dinner tables with family and friends. Now we all know that the concept of giving thanks can be found in the Bible.
There are many things we can thank God for. Blessings such as, salvation, eternal life, prayer, and this wonderful thing called the Church (or Christian Fellowship). The Psalmist in the above passage points this truth out when he writes,
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people dwell together in unity.” The unity he is talking about is the unity that can be found when God’s people gather together in worship united by the precious blood of Jesus, the Holy Spirit who makes us one, and the call of our heavenly Father.
Christian Fellowship that occurs when we gather together is such a wonderful gift from our heavenly Father who knows our need for encouragement, support and guidance from His Holy Word, all of which can be found within Christian Fellowship. Now one of the greatest things that can be experienced in worship is the opportunity to gather together to give God thanks. When we give our God thanks we are reminded of all the past deliverances from trials and difficulties. It is this remembrance that can give us the strength to overcome our present and future adversities, all of which adds hope to our daily lives (what the Scriptures call the Believer’s Hope). So let us remember all the Blessings that God has granted us and the gift of Christian Fellowship.
The Power of the Tongue
“Though the tongue is small part of the body, it boasts great things…”
The strongest part of the body is not the bicep but rather the human tongue. As James states above, “Though the tongue is small it boasts great things” (or is capable of significant acts). With the words we speak we can either tear down another or build another up. With the words we speak we can glorify our God or dishonor Him. With the words we choose to speak we can either guide another who seeking for truth or push them away from the truth. What we say and how we say it can indeed have an incredible impact upon another and upon our Christian Witness.
This being so it is very important to guard our mouths, asking ourselves is what I’m going to say going to be helpful or is it going to hurt or damage another? We can do so by asking our Heavenly Father to give us the words to speak and to ask ourselves the question, “Are the words I’m going to speak and how I’m going to say them conveying the love and gentleness of our Lord Jesus?”
We can also guard our mouths against speaking wrongly by following a habit of regular Scripture reading and prayer. If we feed our minds and hearts on good things good things will come out. Or as Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.”
So let’s use our tongues for good. Let us use our tongues to the glory of God and by seeking to build others up by words we speak. By doing so we please our Heavenly Father.
Shining the Light
“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Just a few days ago we experienced a solar eclipse. A solar eclipse happens when the moon in its rotation lines up directly between the earth and the sun. Now this isn’t the only time we see the moon and the sun effecting one another. Each time we look into the night sky and behold a bright full moon, the light we see comes from the moon reflecting the light of the sun. In the same way the Christian is to reflect the light of Jesus in his/her everyday life. It is in reflecting the light of Jesus that we present a picture of Jesus before a watching world, hopefully a picture which would encourage others to trust in the Jesus whom they see modeled in our lives. In keeping with this truth I am reminded of the old saying, “There are five gospels for the world to see, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the life of the Christian. For many the first gospel they will see is that of the life of the Christian.” If we preach the love and forgiveness of Jesus, do others see that love and forgiveness modeled in our everyday life? And likewise if we preach that Jesus is the Savior the world needs, do they see us following Him and Trusting Him as Savior?
When this is understood one can see that reflecting Christ in our everyday life will only strengthen our Christian Witness and make our corner of the world a better place.
This being so let’s not let the things of this world get in the way of the light of Jesus we are to shine (like a solar eclipse) but rather let’s seek to shine the light of Christ each and every day like the full moon we see in the night sky.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
Jesus often spoke in parables to explain heavenly truths. This truth is demonstrated in the above two short parables, “the parable of the Hidden Treasure and the parable of the Pearl of Great Price.”
In both parables we find the theme of sacrificing for items of great value. (In this case the item of great value is the kingdom of heaven.) When reading these parables it is abundantly clear from Jesus’ point of view that there is nothing more valuable than the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom to which every believer is a member of, the kingdom governed by King Jesus.
In both these parables we find two individuals who were willing to pay all they possessed to purchase items of great value. (In the first, a newly discovered treasure in a field, in the second, a pearl of great value.) In both cases these individuals put both of these items ahead of everything else. When we put all of this together, when we read Jesus’ words, “The kingdom of heaven is like”, we hear Him asking us, “What place does the Kingdom of heaven, the Gospel, Salvation, have in yours and my life?” Does Jesus and the great news of the Gospel come first in our lives? Please note that nothing was too great a price to pay for their newly discovered prizes and in the same way from the believer’s point of view there is no too great a price to pay for the Gospel.
The things of this world are not really worth comparing to the eternal glories that awaits us as believers. So we should think nothing of putting those eternal items of the Gospel, Salvation, Heaven, ahead of everything else. As a matter of fact we would be spiritually foolish not to. As Jim Eliot the famed martyred missionary put it, “He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” Every once in a while it is good to take a priority check. If Jesus and His Kingdom are not first on that priority check list then maybe it is time to revamp that list.
Jesus gave all of Himself up for us, should we not give all of ourselves to Him and for the cause of the Gospel? In keeping with the theme of these two parables, it is clear that the one who puts Jesus first is the truly rich person.
Free to Serve
“ You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather serve one another humbly in love.‘”
History tells us that on March 23, 1775 at the second Virginia Convention Patrick Henry spoke the famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death”. This sentiment sparked the American Revolution. Now the liberty or freedom he spoke of was freedom from Great Britain, the same freedom we find throughout the Declaration of Independence, the document we celebrate on Independence Day. As Christians we also celebrate another type of freedom, freedom from sin and the wages of sin which is death. This is the freedom Paul speaks of in the above words, “You, my brothers and sisters were called to be free”, the same sentiment heard in Jesus’ words, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Now the question is what should the Christian do with his/her freedom? The apostle Paul answers that question as well in the above passage where he says, “Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather serve one another humbly in love”. Did you get that? As Christians set free by Christ we are to serve one another. In other words we are to look for opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ by serving others as Christ demonstrates for us in the gospels.
Now serving others can mean any number of things. It could mean giving a helping hand to another in need or lending a listening ear to another who just needs to talk. It could also mean the sharing of the good news of the gospel or giving a cup of cold water to the thirsty or speaking an encouraging word to the discouraged. Ultimately it simply means putting the needs of others ahead of our own wants and desires.
This Independence Day as we celebrate the wonderful freedoms we enjoy as a nation, let us who have also been set free by Christ from sin and its deadly wage seek to serve others and to love others as Christ first loved us. In doing so we Honor Him who put us ahead of Himself when He went to the Cross to purchase our eternal freedom.
“ ‘But what about you?’, He asked, ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in Heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’ ”
It’s hard to believe that First Baptist Church of Connellsville has been ministering here in Southwestern Pennsylvania for 221 years. But what is that compared to the 2000 years the Christian Church has been proclaiming Christ in this world. In the above passage we find Jesus establishing His Church with the words, “I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock”, (Peter’s proclamation that Jesus was the, “Christ, the son of the Living God”) “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” The words of this proclamation holds the key to the secret of the Christian Church’s longevity, that being it’s proclaiming Christ as Lord. That is the main job of any faithful church, a proclamation that is to be heard in its preaching and teaching and seen lived out in its Member’s daily lives.
The First Baptist Church has been doing this since its establishment in 1796 and it is my prayer we would continue on proclaiming Christ as Lord. In doing so we carry out the long held mission of the Christian Church and in so doing we make it that much more difficult for Satan and all the other forces of evil to bring the Church down.
Is it not comforting and amazing that out Church is one with all the Christian Churches since Christ’s words spoken in our above passage more than 2000 years ago? What a wonderful heritage to be a part of. This being so let me encourage you to continue on proclaiming Christ, to continue on in the Fellowship of Believers and to continue on living for Christ. You will be blest for having done so and Christ, the son of the Living God, will be glorified.
In a few weeks (June 26th) our Church will be celebrating its 221st birthday. What a wonderful time to recommit our lives to the truths this church is built upon. What a wonderful time to recommit our lives to the truths spoken by the one who is indeed the Foundation Stone of the Christian Church.
“He led them out of Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness”
These words were spoken by Stephen in regards to Moses but could just have easily been written about God. God working through Moses performed many miraculous signs on behalf of the Israelites during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Miracles such as the fiery pillar which led the way, manna from heaven which physically sustained them along the way, and water from a rock which refreshed them in that same wilderness. Each of these miracles from God made it possible for the Children of Israel to overcome many a wilderness hardship and eventually make it to the Promise land.
In the same way all of us who are Heaven bound must also walk through the wilderness of this fallen world on our way to Heaven, our eternal home, our Promise land. The truth of the matter is this world is not our home, we as believers, whose citizenship rests in Heaven are merely passing through.
Just as God met the needs of the Israelites through their wilderness wanderings, He will also meet our needs as we travel through this land. We are not alone, God is with us and will bring us through this life, the wilderness of this fallen world.
This being so we would do well to do all we can to pass on the comfort and encouragement we receive from God on our way to our eternal home to fellow travelers, fellow pilgrims. The good news for the believer is that Heaven awaits and that in this present life we have the assurance of God’s abiding presence. So do not fear the hardships to be found in the wilderness of this present life our God is more than able to handle these hardships and promises to bring us, His blood brought redeemed into that Promise land. Remember, He who is one to redeem us is more than one to keep us in His protective hand even in the wilderness of this present life.
So take heart, be bold and be courageous. Let us carry out His will in all we do on our way to our Promise land. And let us bring as many wilderness travelers along with us as we can by telling them of the promise of the Gospel and the very Hope of Heaven.
Faith is a Fact
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”
I Corinthians 15:3-6
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the foundation stone of the Christian Faith and the basis of the Christian Hope is backed up by historical fact. This can be clearly seen by our text where Paul cites the many witnesses of Jesus’ post Resurrection appearances. Here in this passage the apostle Paul is telling us that belief in Christ’s Resurrection is not left up to mere blind faith but backed up by facts. This truth makes the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as tenable as any other ancient historical event.
Since the Resurrection of Jesus Christ can be logically believed in it would follow that all of the promises of Christ made to us in His Holy Word can be logically believed in as well. Jesus’ presence among His followers, the promises of Salvation, Eternal Life, and Heaven all can be held onto by the Christian as real and sure. This being so, as believers in Christ Jesus, we can take great hope in all the promises of God and in the historical reliability of the Christian Faith and the very Word of God. The Resurrection of Christ is God’s exclamation point upon all that has been testified to us down through the years concerning the Christian Faith. May this truth empower us to live for the Risen Christ and to proclaim this Risen Christ to all we know.
The Message of the Cross
“The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
I Corinthians 1:18
It is a common practice during the season of Lent to reflect upon the Cross of Jesus. This being so I’d like for us here in this article to take a look at the Cross and see what powerful lessons it has for us today.
The first lesson the Cross has to teach us is the serious nature of sin. You see it was sin that cost the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus. In Romans 6:23 the apostle Paul tells us, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In order for us to be saved from the deadly wage of sin was for Christ to take our place upon the Cross and pay that debt that our sin deserved. When one makes light of sin one makes light of the work of Christ upon the Cross. Yes salvation is a free gift for us but it cost Jesus dearly. This being so let us never make light of sin but see it as an affront to our holy God. Let us do our best to resist temptation which can lead to sin by calling on God for the strength to resist it. And when we do give in from time to time to temptation let us be quick to confess it. As John tells us in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
The second lesson the Cross has to teach us is that of the love our Lord has for us. In Romans 5:8 Paul proclaims, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The point being Jesus did not have to go to the Cross on our behalf. It was for love’s sake that Christ died for us on that cruel Cross. Our Lord loved us enough to die for us on that Cross and He still loves us today. Never doubt His great love for you my reader for He loves you with an everlasting love, and unconditional love.
The third lesson of the Cross is that our God will always have the final say and for the Christian that say will be good. The day Christ died upon the Cross it looked like all the forces of evil had won. But Christ would have the last say when He would rise again on the third day making eternal life a sure hope for all believers. As the saying goes. “Without the Cross there would be no empty tomb. Without Good Friday there would have been no Easter Sunday.” The point being, God was in control and used the cruel Cross to bring about Salvation and to lay the groundwork for His resurrection. God will always have the final say.
The Greatest Act of Love
“ A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. ”
We are all familiar with Jesus’ words found in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this; to lay one’s life for one’s friends.” The very type of love Jesus demonstrated for us upon the Cross where he lay down His life for us. There is another type of love connected to this love and that is telling others about Jesus. Jesus tells us in the above passage, “As I have loved you, you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Along with Jesus dying upon the Cross to save us from our sins Jesus also tells us throughout the Gospels the way of salvation. Love prompted Jesus to both proclaim the way of salvation and also prompted Him to go to the Cross.
If we are to love others as Christ has loved us we must tell others about the way of salvation found in Christ alone. There is an old saying that “The opposite of love is not hate but rather indifference.” I believe this to be very true. When one keeps the way of salvation to himself/herself and not tell others about Jesus that is the ultimate act of indifference.
We must therefore seek to share with everyone we know, Jesus and His Gospel of Salvation. We cannot keep it to ourselves. Love compels us to tell others about Jesus and February, the month of Valentine’s Day, affords us the opportunity to do so. At Valentine’s time people are often found talking about love. What better time to tell others about the sacrificial love of Jesus and the way of salvation. A message that is better than any message found on those heart shaped candies. So let us look for opportunities to tell others about Jesus. In so doing we love others as Christ loved us.
Taking The Land; Pursuing Your Purpose
“Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’ But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ ”
Numbers 13:30, 31
Moses sent twelve spies to check out the Promise Land to see if they could take the land. Ten out of the twelve spies said they could not take the land while two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, said they could take the land. The ten who gave the negative report were focused on the challenges to be overcome, while Caleb and Joshua focused on the promise of God that the land would be theirs. As we know the majority report held the day which led to the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The lesson is plain, focus on the obstacles which can overwhelm and which lead to stagnation or focus on the promise of God which will lead to accomplishing the will of God for ones life.
As we enter 2017 challenges will abound, but at the same time the promises of God will abound all the greater. The choice for each of us is what will we focus on more. The point being God has a purpose and plan for each one of us, are we going to pursue those plans, those God given dreams and aspirations as a church and as individuals? God who grants those dreams and aspirations is the almighty God who will give us what we need to overcome life’s obstacles and accomplish His will for our lives. We just need to ask Him what His plan for us is and then pursue that plan. It might take work, faith and determination but God will grant us those dreams and aspirations.
2017 is filled with such great potential. Let us pursue the purpose God has created us to pursue and the land will be ours.
New Year’s Blessings,
The Best Gift of All
“Freely you have received; freely give”
Christmas is ultimately about the greatest gift ever given, the gift of the Christ child. In that gift the believer finds salvation and eternal life. There is no greater gift than that. Yet it is a gift that is not to be kept to oneself. It is a gift that is to be shared. This truth is testified to in the above verse, “Freely you have received; freely give.” Like any gift, it is given freely, not to be purchased but to simply be received. It is my prayer that each one reading these words have already received the gift of the Christ child and the Salvation that He bestows. It is also my prayer that all of us who have received the gift of the savior will seek to pass them on to others. It is a gift that keeps on giving, a gift that grants meaning and purpose to ones life.
This Christmas time as we think about that perfect gift to give may I suggest the gift of the Christ child. This Christmas let us take a moment to pray for those who need Jesus in their lives, those in need of His love and Salvation. Let us not keep the gift of Jesus for ourselves. “Freely we have received now let us freely give.” Let’s look for daily opportunities to share Jesus with another. Let us seek to proclaim the gospel and to do good to others in His name. In doing so we will be blessed, others will come to Salvation and God will be glorified.
May God richly bless you this Christmas Eve and beyond.
Choosing To Give Thanks
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my savior.”
Habakkuk 3:17, 18
In 1620, 102 Pilgrims came to this new land where they would be free to worship their God in the manner that they please. Yet soon they lost fifty-six of their number to starvation, disease and the cold New England winter. But even with all of this going on they chose to gather with their new Indian friends and hold the first Thanksgiving feast in the Fall of 1621.
Rather than let their outward circumstances dictate their actions, they chose to give thanks in the midst of their circumstances just as Habakkuk chose to rejoice and give his God praise even when everything around him seemed to be falling apart. There is power in choosing to praise God in the midst of difficulties.
First of all, praising God in the midst of trials gets our focus on God rather than on the problem. Secondly, choosing to praise God in the midst of difficulties reminds us of past deliverances from difficulties God made possible. And thirdly, choosing to praise God in times of adversities also reminds us that this same God can be counted upon in future difficult times.
So when the difficulties and trials of life come upon us let us choose to praise God just as the Pilgrims and Habakkuk did.
Ambassadors For Christ
“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.”
II Corinthians 5:20
As an ambassador is to represent and speak on the behalf of his/her government, country and king or president, so the Christian is called upon to represent and speak on behalf of Jesus Christ the king. This means we as believers are to be His hands reaching out to the hurting, His feet going to where those hurting are, His ears listening to the hurting needs and His mouth speaking forth His love, comfort and encouragement to those in need.
Ours is a message of reconciliation for reconciliation is at the very heart of the Gospel we are to proclaim. Yet the truth of the matter is we will not be effective in proclaiming that Gospel, the good news of Christianity, the message of reconciliation, unless we show others the same love, patience and forgiveness that Christ showed and continues to show us. This means each moment and each situation we find ourselves in is another opportunity to represent Christ and speak forth His message of reconciliation. Christ stands ready to forgive our sins and reconcile us to a loving Holy God.
The question for us is do others see Jesus manifested in our lives? That is the first step in being effective ambassadors for Christ within this world in which we live.
So let us be the best ambassadors we can be for Christ. Let us love and forgive and proclaim the Gospel. Others will be blest for it and we will be reminded of the love and forgiveness Christ has shown us and we will want to tell others all the more about the King we serve.
May our God and King bless you,
Picked For God’s Team
“Peter , an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by His blood.”
I Peter 1:1, 2
Do you remember teams being picked for different games during the school recesses of your youth? Waiting to hear your name and then going forth to join your team.
As Christians Peter tells us that God has chosen you and me to join His family, His people, His team. Peter does so when he writes, “To God’s elect” in v.1 and, “Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”, in v.2. As Christians we belong to God, adopted into His family, numbered among His people, for His glory and honor. In being members of God’s team, or family, or people, we are to be different from this world in which we live. In other words we are to have different priorities, values and allegiances than this world. And being a people belonging to God, we are to seek to serve God in all we do and seek to be a blessing to those we come into contact with.
You could say, that being chosen by God, we have been chosen for greatness, for there is nothing greater in life than serving God and serving others in His name. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 20:26-28, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many”.
This being so, let us look for daily opportunities to serve, help, assist, others in the name of Jesus. Let us ask of God to open our eyes to the needs of others in His name, and then let us ask of God to grant us courage and desire to meet those opportunities for service unto Him and unto others. We will be blest for having done so and our daily lives will take on extra meaning and purpose.
Heavens Great Wedding Banquet
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for His Son. He sent servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.”
Matthew 22:2, 3
Later this month our Church will be holding it’s Annual Church Picnic. This picnic is always a wonderful time of eating, games and fellowship.
It is interesting to note that Jesus compared Heaven to a festive wedding banquet in the parable recorded for us in the above text. This makes perfect sense for a couple of reasons. Number one, one day the Bride of Christ (the Church) will be reunited with her groom (the Lord Jesus) in Heaven. And two, to enter into that Heavenly wedding banquet one must respond to the invitation offered to us in Jesus Christ.
What a blessing it is to know that one day the Christian will be reunited with believing loved ones who have gone on before them. In a land where there will be, “no more death or morning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4), standing in the presence of Jesus.
It is this sure hope which can fill us believers with hope even in the darkest of times. It is this sure hope which has empowered Christians down through the ages to stand strong even when faced with the shadow of death. As the psalmist states, “Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil.” (Psalm 23:4).
This is why I love fellowship events in the church. They are a reminder of what we have waiting for us in Heaven. Let the Hope and Promise of Heaven be a source of encouragement today and beyond.
Prayer and Independence Day
“If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves in pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
II Chronicles 7:14
Well July 4th, Independence Day, is upon us. It is a day in which we celebrate our country’s birthday and the freedom we enjoy as citizens of this country. It is a day of parades, picnics, and of course fireworks. It is a day when patriotic feelings rise to the top. I believe the most patriotic action that any Christian can perform is that of praying for one’s country. As Christians there are any number of things we can pray for. Let me mention a few.
First of all we can pray for Christian Revival to sweep through our land. Did you know that historically spiritual revival has led to a decrease in crime and violence? It has also led to the building of hospitals, schools, and the creation of new laws for the citizen’s benefit.
Secondly, we can pray for our elected leaders. To pray for wisdom on their behalf that they would govern our land according to God’s will and of course we can pray for their protection.
Thirdly we can pray for our policemen, firefighters, and of course our military men and women. Each and every day these brave people put their lives on the line for us. This being so, we need to pray for their safety.
These are just a few suggestions of what we can pray for as Christian citizens of this country. This Independence Day let us offer our heavenly Father thanks for our country and the freedoms we enjoy. On top of this let us also keep in mind some of the prayer suggestions mentioned in this letter.
Happy Independence Day,
Father Knows Best
“Yet to all who received Him, He gave the power to become Sons of God, to those who believed in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
John 1:12, 13
“Beloved, now are we children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
I John 3:2
When we look at these verses together two important truths emerge, first, as believers we have been adopted into God’s family as His children and secondly, God is the believers Heavenly Father. God is the most perfect father anyone could possibly have.
First of all God knows what is best for His children. Back in the 1950’s there was a show entitled, “Father Knows Best”, which starred Robert Young. In that show we saw a very wise father who dearly loved his children and knew what was best for them. Though occasionally there was an episode here or there where Robert Young’s character messed up a bit. The wonderful news, as believers, we have the perfect Father who truly knows what is best for us. What a comforting truth to keep in mind while presenting our requests to Him in prayer. No matter how He should choose to answer our prayers whether it be yes, no, or wait, we can know it is always what’s best for us. Along with this when we go to His Holy Word we can know that the advice found there is always right as well for us.
Secondly, God always stands ready to supply us with what we need. He is an almighty God and as such nothing can get in the way of Him providing what we truly need. This being so, we can trust Him with our physical needs as much as with our spiritual needs, a fact born out in the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus prays, “Give us this day our daily bread”. (Matthew 6:11) A glorious truth also seen in the example of George Mueller, a Christian evangelist and director of an orphanage. Many times there was no food for the orphanage and he would pray and God would miraculously supply the food they needed. As a good Father seeks to provide for the daily needs of his children, so God does so perfectly.
Thirdly, God perfectly keeps and ultimately protects His children. In Jesus we find the promise of eternal life. In His work upon the Cross and His resurrection, the child of God is saved and protected from spiritual and physical death. Yes we might die physically, but it is not a long lasting death, but rather an open door unto eternal life. God protects His children and even laid down His life for His children.
This Father’s Day as we thank our earthly Fathers for all that they do, let’s also take some time to thank our Heavenly Father. He will be glorified by it and we will be reminded of all that He’s done on our behalf.
Happy Father’s Day
“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than Jewels… Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.”
Proverbs 31:10, 28
Proverbs 31 has long been a favorite Mother’s Day sermon choice. Proverbs 31 points to the important role the mother plays in the home and in society at large. Proverbs 31 also points out the importance of praising our mothers and wives for all that they do. This is certainly seen in the above passage while we read that her children are to praise her and that her husband also praises her.
By and large this is the reason for the mass amounts of Mother’s Day cards that are given to mothers and wives each Mother’s Day. Now as we read the above passage we need to keep in mind that it was written long before the institution of Mother’s Day as a holiday. Telling me that praise and encouragement for our mothers should be everyday.
Each day we need to support our mothers with prayers, encouraging words and a helping hand. A mothers job is not an easy job at all. The mother and wife are called upon to wear many hats in their role as mother and wife.
So this being so let me encourage you to take some time each day to thank your mothers and wives. Let us always be looking for opportunities to encourage them with our words and to look for opportunities to help around the home. I am sure our mothers would welcome it.
So thank you mothers for all that you do, we honor you and praise God for you.
Happy Mother’s Day,
A Springtime Lesson
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
In the above passage we are told that God often reveals Himself and His ways to mortal man through the world of nature. Since this is so, I believe the season of Spring has much divine truth to teach us.
First of all Spring reminds us of the new life to be found in Jesus. In Spring when all the flowers and vegetation comes to life we have pictured before us the new life we posses in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. The apostle Paul speaks of this when he writes in II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come!” In being born again, the Christian begins a new life where forgiveness of sin is a reality and fellowship with Christ is a blessed fact to be lived out and experienced each day. A life with meaning and purpose and inner joy which the world cannot ultimately take away from us.
Secondly, Spring reminds us the eternal life the believer also possesses in Jesus Christ. As the days become longer and longer we have pictured before us time eternal to be enjoyed in heaven. There is indeed coming a day when we shall stand in eternity in a place where there, “Shall be no more death or sorrow.” A blessed truth foreshadowed by the empty tomb. A wonderful hope that has granted comfort to believers down through the ages. A blessed hope that is to be found in Jesus Christ alone.
Thirdly, Spring reminds us that we have a Gospel to proclaim to the whole world. As the Springtime skies come to life with the sweet music and chatter of the birds of the skies, may we who believe upon Christ also sing forth the praises of Him who has made new life and eternal life a reality. Let us seek to tell others about Jesus and all that He has done for us. That is indeed the most beautiful sound anyone can make in a world that so desperately needs to hear of Jesus.
These are just a few of the lessons the world of nature has to teach us at Springtime. So keep your eyes and ears open to the lessons that God has for you and me.
Power In The Blood
“And He withdrew from them about a stones throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; Yet not my will, but thine be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.”
I am sure many of you know the words of the familiar hymn, “There Is Power In The Blood.” “There is power, power, wonder working power in the blood of the lamb, There is power, power, wonder working power in the precious blood of the lamb.” This of course is referring to the shed blood of our Lord Jesus. Indeed there is much power to be found in His precious blood. In the blood of Jesus there is power to forgive, power to bring about salvation, and power to bring about the believers adoption into the family of God. Another type of power to be found in the blood of Jesus is the power to become more like Jesus, and with this transformation, the power to overcome selfishness with selflessness.
On the night before our Lord went to the Cross He prayed unto His Heavenly Father for the strength to do His will rather than His own will and all the while sweated drops of blood. In this prayer Jesus willingly submitted His will to His Father’s will, He put you and me ahead of Himself. Something He did the next day when He went to the Cross on your behalf and mine.
My friends, as believers we are to be imitators of Christ and this includes putting others ahead of ourselves, just as Jesus did for us. Now if we try to do this in our own strength we will fail. This is because selfishness is part of our fallen human nature. If we want to live selfless lives we need to ask Jesus for the power to do so. A power found in Christ alone, and in His blood shed that night in the garden and on the Cross the next day. In doing so He will empower us to put the needs of others over our wants, to seek to do His will, to look at our neighbors through His eyes, to become more and more like Him.
This month, as our attention is drawn to the Cross and to the empty tomb, may it also be drawn to the needs of others. Yes, there is power in the precious blood of the lamb.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Due to an early Lenten season this year, Lent and Valentine’s Day fall in the same month. This is most fitting since the event the Lenten season is preparing us for, our Lord’s sacrificial death, was motivated by His love for us. Jesus laid down His life for us, “While we were yet sinners”. (Ro. 5:8) In other words, he demonstrated His love for us while we were still enemies against Him and his ways. He did not wait till we sought to get things right. He died for us while we were still at odds with Him. The mere fact that anyone is saved is due to His great love for us, and to that all I can say is, “Amen”.
Now the amazing thing is He expects us to love our enemies as well. We are not to love just our neighbors but our enemies as well. In doing so, we demonstrate before a watching world the same type of love our Savior had for us. When we do that, we demonstrate what true love is all about, what authentic love truly is. It’s one thing to love those we like it’s quite another to love our enemies, those who might even persecute us. As Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 5:46, 47, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even Pagans do that?” When we choose to love our enemies we glorify God, bless the ones we love, and free ourselves from bitterness that comes from holding grudges.
Now what is the first step to be taken in loving ones enemies? It’s found in praying for them. Note Jesus’ words in the above text, “Pray for those who persecute you.” When one truly prays for ones enemy they will begin to look at them through the eyes of our Savior. And we will truly want what’s best for them. As one commentator says, “Loving our enemies doesn’t mean we have to like them, but it does mean we must forgive them and desire what is best for them.” Praying for them is the first step in bringing this attitude about.
This Valentine’s Day and this Lenten season choose to pray for any who might have wronged you, seek to forgive them, seek the way of true love.
Pray, Pray, Pray
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry out business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”
Many want to know what lies in the future, but seeing the future often is shrouded in mystery. Yet, we often make plans for the future. Now there is nothing wrong in making plans for the future, in fact it demonstrates wisdom, and forethought. But wouldn’t it be wise to consult God when making these future plans? He after all has a will for each of us to follow and God alone knows the future. The best we can do on our own in regards to knowing the future is to rely on educated guesses which is not a solid enough foundation to build our future plans upon. This is the plain meaning of the above passage and it is my hope we would take it to heart.
2016 has just started, let’s consult our God in prayer in regards to our plans for this upcoming year as a Church and as individuals. If we do so, I believe this year will be a good one.
Happy New Year Blessings,
A Christmas Gift for the Ages
“Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
A big part of Christmas is that of giving and receiving gifts. This truth is plain to see in both television and radio commercials hyping their products as a wonderful present to give to one another on Christmas morning, but they are not the best gift to give to one another. The best gift of all times was given to us by God, the giver of all good gifts on that first Christmas morning in the baby Jesus.
In Jesus, God come in human flesh we find God’s gift of salvation presented to all humanity down through the ages. An eternal gift worthy of the eternal gift giver which is not subject to change and thus can always be counted upon. In Jesus we find, Immanuel, God with us, and thus can know as believers we have the promise of God’s eternal abiding presence. Along with this in the gift of this Jesus we have the ultimate light of the world who can show us the way to go and live in this dark world.
It is my prayer that all who are reading this Christmas Newsletter have already received this gift of Jesus. If not, I would encourage all to receive this gift of Jesus for it is there for the receiving. It is also my prayer that each one of us who have already received this gift would be quick to pass it on to others so they might receive it as well.
This is my Christmas prayer.
The Lessons of Thanksgiving
“To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”
I Peter 1:1, 2 (NKJU)
The beauty of Thanksgiving time (besides the wonderful food) is the valuable lessons it has to teach us about our Christian faith. First of all, the Thanksgiving holiday reminds us that as believers we are all pilgrims passing through this land on our way to our Heavenly home. The pilgrims who came to this land from England to establish a Christian Colony and gain religious freedom reminds us that we are pilgrims as well. This world is not our final home and thus we should not be surprised that the values of our faith should differ from this world in which we live. No wonder Peter refers to his readers as Pilgrims in the above passage. But this should not discourage us but rather encourage us to keep shining the light of Christ wherever we find ourselves.
Secondly, Thanksgiving reminds us that one day we will find our way to our Heavenly home and eat of the heavenly banquet feast that awaits us there. As we gather around our Thanksgiving dinner table let us see it as a wonderful foreshadow of the Heaven that awaits us as believers.
Thirdly, Thanksgiving reminds us that we are to invite others in the pilgrimage through this land onto Heaven. As the Pilgrims invited the Indians to that first Thanksgiving dinner, let us invite all we know into Jesus presence and enjoy the gift of salvation found only in Him.
Lastly, the Thanksgiving holiday reminds us to always give thanks unto God for who He is and for all that He has done for us. When we do so we will find the encouragement to keep on in the Christian faith and at the same time strengthen our Christian Witness before a watching world.
So enjoy this Thanksgiving time of year and observe all the lessons the Thanksgiving holiday has to teach us about our Christian Faith.
Prayer and Revival
“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
2nd Chronicles 7:14
In many ways our nation has lost her way and the only thing that can save our land is a God sent revival. When one looks at the history of revivals one can see that the prayers of God’s people have always had a part to play in bringing about revivals. This truth is seen in the above Bible verse. This being so, I’d like to suggest several items to pray for when praying for revival.
First of all we need to pray for the moving of the Holy Spirit in this land. Ultimately it is God, through His Holy Spirit, that brings about revival. It is the holy Spirit who saves us or convicts us of our sins and it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates or makes alive ones soul. Along with this it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the words to speak when sharing the Gospel or Jesus with another. The truth of the matter is if God does not send revival through His Holy Spirit it will not happen. So if we want for God to send revival and we want loved ones saved we need to pray for God to move across our land and to speak to the hearts of our loved ones.
Secondly, when praying for revival we also need to pray that we would be given the words to speak to another when we share Jesus with them, The Bible promises us that God will give us the words to speak, all we need to do is to be willing to speak them. God’s grand design for expanding His Kingdom is for His followers to tell others about Him. Yet at times we don’t, due to fear. The point is we need not fear, God is with us and wants to use us in bringing others to a saving knowledge of Him. Let us seek out opportunities to tell others about Jesus and what He has done for us.
Thirdly, when praying for revival we need to pray for God to send out others into this world to share the Gospel. Jesus told us to do this when he said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37, 38) The point is there are parts of this world that you and I cannot go to, so we need to pray for God to send forth missionaries and for God to keep them safe. If we do that we can play a part in the world missions.
These are just a few suggestions to pray for when praying for revival. May we keep these suggestions in our minds and prayers.
The Christian and the Sabbath
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it Holy.”
In the Ten Commandments as well as throughout the Bible we are commanded to keep the Sabbath day by using it as time to rest and a time to focus upon God and the things of God. In other words, we all need to take some time during the week to renew ourselves spiritually.
In a few days our country will be observing. “Labor Day”, a day to honor the American worker and the importance of work. It is fitting to do so for good honest work should be honored, certainly the scriptures hold work in high favor. But at the same time, it is imperative to take some time during the week (if it can’t be Sunday) to spend some time with God in prayer, study and worship, and with our families. When we do so, we can reap some wonderful benefits such as, a closer walk with God, a deeper relationship with those we love, a renewed perspective on life and a revived spiritual walk with our Lord.
Yes it is true that we live in a busy world filled with meetings, projects and scheduled events, but we must not allow these things to get in the way of alone time with God and family.
So schedule some alone time with God and other believers and family. You will be blest for having done so.
Let Our Lives Be Our Sermons
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
God in His wisdom has placed His Church upon this earth, and each believer who makes up His Church, to be His witness before a watching world. This truth is so important that it is the last thing He told His disciples in the above passage before ascending into Heaven.
When one thinks of sharing ones faith, he or she usually thinks of giving a verbal witness or testimony. This is indeed true, but another part of witnessing is how one lives. Many times life, ones actions, is a sermon lived out before a watching world.
This truth can be seen in an old story. A few hundred years ago an Abbot in a certain monastery told his monks that the next day they would go into town and preach the Gospel. The next day the excited monks followed their Abbot into town. He led them silently throughout all the streets of the town and then returned to the monastery. The confused monks said to the Abbot, “We thought we were going to preach the Gospel in town.” To which the Abbot answered, “But we did.” This same truth is echoed in the old saying, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words.” You see, how one lives and conducts him/herself can back up what one says, and how one lives can open doors for opportunities for verbally sharing one’s faith. Thus witnessing includes both the spoken word and one’s very life.
At times, it will be hard to live in such a way that Christ is honored by one’s life. No one is perfect, we all knowingly or unknowingly make mistakes. We all battle with Sin. But if we seek to study God’s word, obey it and prayerfully live it out, God will empower us to be His witnesses before a watching world.
The Power of Commitment
“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.”
1 Corinthians 15:58
Benjamin Franklin was heard to say on the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Obviously Benjamin Franklin and the other signers of the Declaration knew of the danger of their act. They would be considered traitors by the king of England and that they would face the very real possibility of being hung if the Thirteen Colonies would fail in their bid for freedom. Yet they still signed that precious document. They were committed to the cause of liberty and freedom.
The question for us as believers is, “Are we committed to the cause of Christ? Does Jesus come first in our lives? Are we willing to die to self in order to live for Christ?” It’s not always easy to be fully committed to Jesus and at times we might slip and stumble. This is why the Apostle Paul in the above passage exhorts his readers to “stand firm in the faith, to let nothing move them, to always give themselves fully to the work of the Lord.” The point being, Jesus gave himself up for us when he died upon the Cross, how can we not give ourselves fully to him? It is a wise act to put Jesus first in ones life. He is the giver of meaning and purpose and forgiveness and eternal life. Jim Elliot the great missionary who gave his life while trying to share the Gospel to the Auca Indians, knew this and wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
It is my prayer at this Independence Day when we celebrate liberty and freedom and remember the commitment of our Founding Father’s to those virtues, that we as believers in Christ would seek to be equally, if not more committed to the cause of Christ and the Gospel each and every day by putting Jesus first in our daily lives. And in those times that we might slip and stumble that we would return to him who stands ready to forgive and ready to strengthen us in our faith.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (This is the first Commandment with a promise.), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
I have heard that some modern day studies have shown that how one’s earthly father relates to them will effect how they will view the Heavenly Father. For example, if one’s earthly father treats them with love and compassion they will tend to view the Heavenly Father as loving and compassionate. But on the other hand, if one’s earthly father is cold and unloving, they will tend to view the Heavenly Father as cold and unloving as well.
If this is true then we fathers and grandfathers who want our children and grandchildren to become Christians must do all we can to model the same love and compassion towards them that our Heavenly Father has shown towards us. This is why the Apostle Paul, after encouraging his readers to honor their fathers and mothers, goes on to instruct fathers to “Not provoke their children to anger, but to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (v.4)
Now what has our Heavenly Father done for us? He provides for our needs, laid down His life for us upon the Cross, instructs us by His Holy Word, and guides us by His Holy Spirit. We need to do the same for our children and grandchildren in any way we can on a daily basis. If we model these traits before our children, then they will have a positive view of the Heavenly Father and will be more likely to make the choice to believe upon Christ when they are able to do so.
Just as a mother’s job is important and at times difficult, so too is the father’s. For this reason we need to keep fathers and grandfathers everywhere in our prayers and to seek to encourage them by honoring them.
May we do so this Father’s Day and beyond. And with this may we all give praise unto our Heavenly Father for all that He has done for us.
A Mother’s Day Reflection
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land of the Lord your God is giving you.”
The above Commandment is the only one of the Ten Commandments that has a promise attached to it, demonstrating how important this commandment is. Here in this commandment we are told to honor out fathers and mothers. Since we are about to celebrate motherhood this month I’d like to focus on what it means to honor ones mother.
The definition of the word honor is, “to regard or to treat another with respect.” in regards to mothers, we are to look after them and their well-being. Much like Jesus did upon the Cross when He entrusted His Mother Mary into the keeping of the apostle John with the words, “Woman, behold, your son!, Son behold your Mother.” (John 19:26, 27) It is said that a mother’s job can be demanding and I believe this is most assuredly correct. A mother has to wear many hats. At times a mother is called on to be a counselor, at other times she is to fill the role of a nurse. At still other times she plays a referee (especially between siblings) and at times a teacher, a cook, a maid, a taxi driver and lastly a cheerleader and friend. There is no more important job than being a mom yet how often we take her for granted. This being so, we need to take time to thank our mothers in both word and deed. We need to follow the example of the children and father of Proverbs 31:28 which reads, “Her children rise up and call her (their mother) blessed; her husband also and he praises her.”
May we do so this Mother’s Day and beyond and thus give them the honor they deserve.
Happy Mother’s Day Blessings,
The Coming Dawn
“Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb and behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it…But the angel answered and said to the women. “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.” ”
Matthew 28:1, 2, 5, 6
When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary arose on the first day of the week it was still dark. It did not start becoming lighter till they were on their way to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. In a way, the physical darkness of the early morning mirrored the emotional darkness of their hearts. Their Lord and Savior was dead. They had seen Him die on that Friday afternoon on the Cross. The grief, the questions, the confusion and the sadness of spirit was great upon them and upon all who had loved and followed Jesus. Yet as they made their way to the tomb, the early morning sun started to rise, and just about the time they arrived at the empty tomb and heard the angel’s proclamation that Christ had risen, the morning light was everywhere. A sunlight that now mirrored their joyful hearts at the sound of their Savior’s resurrection. Jesus was alive and with that glorious truth, hope and joy were reborn in the women who came to that tomb.
My friends there might be some of you going through a dark time know this, the glorious truth of Easter tells us that Jesus is alive, that God had the final say and that He will never leave you nor forsake you. And as the risen Savior walks beside you, you need not fear darkness of trials and adversities. It might look dark on the outside, but you can walk in the light of His abiding presence. As a believer in the risen Savior you can know the hope and inner peace of Jesus in all circumstances.
This being so, look to the risen Jesus, the Living Savior and abide in Him, for in Him can the true light of His love be found.
Happy Easter Blessings,
“This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: say to the daughter of Zion, see, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Matthew 21:4, 5
When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey that first Palm Sunday, He came as a King fulfilling the prophecy of Zachariah 9:9. Each and every time we hear the phrase, “Lord and Savior”, said in regards to Jesus, we affirm the fact that Jesus is both a savior and a king. You cannot have one without the other, to have Jesus as a savior is to have Him as Lord or King as well. As our King He deserves our obedience, allegiance and honor. Unlike many of the kings and leaders of nations in this world, Jesus is a perfect King who truly loves His subjects and wants what’s best for them. This truth was made evident when Jesus died upon the cross so that we might have forgiveness and eternal life.
This being so, how can we not want to serve Him and give Him our obedience in all we say and do? When this is understood, all of life is to be sacred for the believer. For the believer, ones workplace, classroom and recreational event is opportunity to please our Lord and Savior.
This Palm Sunday, may we affirm our love for our Lord and Savior Jesus and may we seek to serve our King to the best of our abilities.
The Gift of Love
“Greater Love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”
In a few weeks Valentine’s Day will be upon us and even more important the Lenten Season starts. Lent is a time of preparation for the events of Holy week. That is the death of Christ upon the Cross and His bodily resurrection. In a way it is most appropriate that Lent and Valentine’s Day happen in the same month. In the act of Jesus dying upon the Cross we find a picture of God’s love for us. Jesus willingly sacrificed His own life for us so that we might find forgiveness and life in Him. Sometimes when the storms of life hit we might feel that God is distant, that He does not love us. Let me encourage you with the truth that God is near and that He does love you and cares for you. You are special to Him and that He wants what’s best for you. And once you understand this glorious truth the storms of life won’t be as hard to weather.
Along with this let us seek to pass this same love onto others. The same one who spoke the words of John 15:13 also tells us, “This is my command; Love each other.” (John 15:17) Love is a great gift that is meant to be shared. When it is shared others lives are blest and God is glorified.
This month, the month of Valentine’s Day and the beginning of Lent, let us own the love that Christ has for us and let us be quick to pass it on.
What’s Your Jericho?
“When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.”
The city of Jericho stood on the border of the Promise land. If the Israelites were going to take the Promise land for themselves Jericho with several other towns and cities were going to have to be defeated. The problem was Jericho was formidable to say the least. Jericho was surrounded on every side by a great wall. In order to take down Jericho they were going to have to have divine assistance.
Now we all know the story don’t we? God gave the Israelites a seemingly strange battle strategy. They would have to march around Jericho once a day for six days and on the seventh day march around Jericho seven times with trumpets blowing. Upon marching around the city, the people would give a great shout and then the walls would come down. The people followed God’s instructions and the Lord brought the walls down and the Israelites took the city. The first step to claiming the Promise land.
As we enter 2015 what is your Jericho? Your barrier to claiming the promises God has given you? Everyone has dreams and aspirations the Lord has placed within their heads and hearts. Yet many have allowed an obstacle here and an obstacle there to keep them from realizing their dreams and aspirations. For some it could be fear, for others it could be the lies of the evil one filling their minds with discouragement. Whatever it is, know this, if God has given you the dream it is achievable. Ask Him for the strength, perseverance and faith to take the steps of faith needed to claim that promise. Your name is written upon it and the battle is ultimately the Lord’s. Who knows what promises and great things 2015 holds for us?
May we entrust the upcoming year in God’s keeping and may we seek to take the steps of faith needed to take down those obstacles which stand in our way. God loves to take down the walls of fear and discouragement, lets allow Him to do just that and let us be obedient to His calling.
New Year Blessings,
At Christmas we give presents to one another to honor the greatest gift ever given, the gift of the Christ Child. Some give a toy here while others give a coat or scarf there. But the question is what gift do we give Jesus? As one writer noted, “It’s His birthday after all.”
As I reflect upon this question it seems to me the best gift we can give Jesus is the gift of ourselves, our love, even our very obedience. Jesus once said, “If you love me, keep my Commandments.” (John 14:15) Obedience more than any other act demonstrates that one has given his/her life unto Jesus. So the question is, is Christ seated on the throne of yours and mine heart?
Another gift we can give Jesus is that of serving others in Christ’s name. For in serving others we are in essence serving Christ Himself. As Jesus states in Matthew 25:40, “Whatever you did for one of the least of those brothers of mine, you did for me.” Now that is an amazing thing indeed. Just think of it, in serving another, in helping another, in caring for another, it is the same as doing that for Jesus. A fitting gift for the one who gave so much for us don’t you think?
This Christmas as we give gifts to one another, let us be sure to give the gift of ourselves unto Jesus and the gift of serving others in His name.
The Greatest Feast of All
“When one of those at the table with Him heard this, he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God’”
In a few weeks, many across this nation will be gathered around the Thanksgiving table enjoying wonderful food surrounded by friends and family. All the while giving thanks to God for all the blessings He has bestowed.
In the Bible there is another feast mentioned, a Messianic feast which will be held in Heaven when we gather there with our Lord and Savior. This is the feast referred to here in our text, the greatest feast which will be eaten in the Kingdom of God. And just as a King would invite his subjects to a royal dinner, so King Jesus invites us all to His great feast in Heaven. There is no way one can take part in that feast unless he/she is invited by Jesus and unless they possess an RSVP.
Just imagine what that feast is going to be like. Heavenly food, conversing with believing friends, family and heroes of the faith, all the while listening to the great heavenly choir and all the while gazing upon Jesus, the one who made eternal life possible.
My friends, Jesus has invited you and me to participate in that Heavenly banquet. Let us answer yes by receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. Let us also make sure that we tell others about this feast as well so that they can join us.
This Thanksgiving let us give thanks unto God for the greatest feast that awaits us in Heaven.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38, 39
Well here we are in the Fall of 2014. It’s hard to believe that Winter will be upon us next. I remember when my family and I lived up in Maine thinking at this time of year that soon the grass will be covered up by snow. (Winter comes a lot earlier up there.) But the thought that got me through those dire thoughts was that even in the midst of the snow season, the grass was still there under the snow. And that in the Spring it would reappear for all to see.
The same is true in regards to the trials and adversities of life. No matter how serious the trial, Jesus is still there with us. He might seem distant and His promises might seem but a dim memory, but He is still right here. The Apostle Paul said as much when he tells us that nothing (not trial or adversity or difficulty), “can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39
My friends I would encourage you to remember this blessed truth. Read His Word, Pray, and keep in close connection with believers, for in so doing you will be more likely to remember that Jesus is near. And further, I would like to encourage you to tell others about this glorious promise as well, in so doing, you will become Messengers of Hope within a generation that so deeply needs it.
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing (handling) the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15
Wow, Summer is over and school has begun. Where has the time gone? Have you done your back-to-school supply shopping? You know, notebooks, pens, pencils, paper, erasers etc. It’s back-to-school and learning about math, English, science and history and so on. That’s what makes the above passage so relevant. In this verse Paul is telling us to make sure not to neglect the study of the greatest book of all time—the Bible.
In the busyness that comes with Fall we need to make time for the Bible. Not just reading it, but as the scriptures say, “Meditating upon it”. The term meditate can be translated as studying. To grow spiritually doesn’t just happen, it takes work, it takes study, but it is so worth it.
The Apostle Paul tells us that the study of God’s word pleases God. He greatly approves of it because it guides those who read it into truth. As the Psalmist writes in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path.” In a world filled with deception and half truths it is refreshing to know there is a Book that is always relevant, up-to-date and error free.
So study hard at school, give your best at your workplace, but don’t neglect the study of the greatest Book ever written, the Bible.
Followers of the Way
“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the Synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”
Acts 9:1, 2
Before Christians were called Christians they went by the name, “Followers of the Way” as noted in the above passage. The reason for this was that they believed in Jesus who referred to himself in John 14:6 as, “The Way, the truth, and the Life.” In this newsletter article I’d like for us to see what it means to be a follower of the Way as a Christian.
First of all to be a follower of the Way we need to look to Jesus to show us the way to live. We are to look to the scriptures and at the life of Jesus for direction in this life. Not the philosophies and beliefs found in the modern world which changes constantly, but rather the changeless word of God which stands forever and to Jesus who is, “The same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Jesus is our example, and the one we are to imitate each and every day. As we were told in First Peter 2:21, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.” So look to Him and heed His word.
Secondly, to be a follower of the Way we need to point others to Jesus as well. In other words, we as believers are to point the way for others to follow. As Christians we are to tell others about Jesus and at the same time, live in such a way that others will come to see Jesus reflected in us as believers. How one lives will either attract others to Jesus or repel others from any idea of following Jesus themselves.
Thirdly, to be a Follower of the Way, a follower of Jesus, means to be willing to go it alone when others might walk away from you or make fun of you for your faith and convictions. It will not always be easy to follow Jesus, but it is always best to follow Jesus. As believers we are to glorify and please Jesus in all we say and do, and we can be sure Jesus will reward us for our faithfulness to Him and His Word if not in this life, then in the life to come.
My friends, let us seek to follow Jesus who is the Way the truth and the Life.
The Christians Dual Citizenship
“But our citizenship is in Heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
On Independence Day we have the joyous privilege of celebrating our country’s birthday. It is a day we get to celebrate America and all it stands for. As citizens of this fair land we have much to thank God for and much to be proud of. Let us remember this important and happy truth.
But let us also remember that as Christians we are also citizens of another kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven. Paul declares this truth in the above passage where he writes, “Our citizenship is in Heaven.” This special citizenship is to take precedence over our earthly citizenship but at the same time can make us better citizens of this country.
As citizens of Heaven we are called to be God’s ambassadors to this world in which we now live. We are to speak forth His message He has for this world and we are to be His representatives in all we do and say. If we fulfill this roll as His ambassadors we will bring hope to those we come into contact with and at the same time make our corner of the world a better place. (It is no coincidence that wherever and whenever revival has taken place, the surrounding community has benefited from that revival.)
This being so, let us ask God how we can best serve Him each and every day and let us be quick to share Jesus with others we know within our work places, homes, schools and local community in which we live.
Have a great Independence Day,
An Overlooked Miracle
“With many other words he (Paul) warned them: and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”
Acts 2:40, 41
When most think about the day of Pentecost in Acts two they most likely think of the Holy Spirit descending upon the disciples as tongues of fire empowering them to proclaim the Gospel in different languages. They probably also think of the three thousand who came to faith that very same day as well. What many probably don’t reflect upon as much is that God used Peter to preach that sermon that brought that large number to faith in Jesus Christ. On that day of Pentecost, Peter emerged as one of the dominant leaders of the early Church. And I believe it is this fact that is just as miraculous as the fact that the disciples proclaimed the Gospel in languages they did not know. You see just a few weeks earlier this same Peter had denied knowing Christ three times on the night Jesus was betrayed and along with that had fled the Masters side after promising that he would never betray his Jesus. Yet on that day of Pentecost here in our text we find Peter preaching a sermon that led three thousand to faith in Jesus Christ. What a miraculous transformation, made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit who had just descended upon him.
What this miraculous turn of events teaches me is that God can use anyone for His glory. Indeed it can be said that this fact teaches us that God loves to use the weak and imperfect to fulfill His will. Many times when asked to serve God in any number of ways we tend to say, “Oh, I can’t do that”, or, “God couldn’t possibly want to use me to do this thing or that thing, I’m too imperfect, too flawed”. Well the good news is He does want to use you and me, imperfections and all for His glory and He has given us the Holy Spirit to assist us in this calling. This being so, I’d like to encourage all of us to ask God how we can serve Him and then be open to His call. It is an amazing thing to think that our almighty God would want to use us in bringing about His will, Amazing but true.
So let’s be ready to serve Him in any way we can and let’s be ready to witness the great things He can do through us.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
As I write this article its raining outside and the sky is grey. You could say its pretty gloomy out there. Most people aren’t crazy about rain. Rain often times gets in the way of outside events and can block out the warm sun and the bright blue sky above. This being so, we should not be surprised of the little song we would sing as children during rainy days, “Rain, Rain, go away, come again another day.” Yet we all know that rain is important and is necessary if plants and vegetables are to grow. This truth is declared in the familiar words. “April showers brings May flowers.” So we live with the tension that rain can be a nuisance yet it is so important to life.
These same things can be said in regards to trials and adversities. We don’t enjoy them at all. Yet we are told that they can build up and actually strengthen our faith. This is why James could write, “Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (v-2a) You see trials do three things for the believer we would do well to keep in mind. They can show us where out faith stands, they can drive us closer to our Heavenly Father and they can actually grant us wisdom in ministering to others going through the same adversities we have been through ourselves.
Therefore we need not fear trials and adversities when they come upon us. But rather give them to God asking Him to teach us through them and make us stronger for them. In so doing we will find ourselves, “more than conquerors through Him who loves us.” (Romans 8:37) So the rains, the trials, will come, but the Sun, God’s blessing, will be the ultimate result for the child of God.
May the Lord richly bless you,
God’s Goodness Under Our Very Noses
“…Thinking He was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward Him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means teacher).”
John 20:15, 16
It seems in the above passage that Mary Magdalene in her grief, shock and lack of expectancy did not recognize Jesus’ presence with her. (She assumed Him to be the gardener..) Mary was not alone in this. In Luke 24 the two disciples on the road to Emmaus also failed to recognize that it was the resurrected Christ who walked with them. In the same way, there are times we fail to recognize Jesus in our midst and fail to see God’s goodness in the difficult times of life. We know in our theological minds that Jesus is always with us, after all He has told us so in Matthew 28:30, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” and yet we feel distant from Him and fail to see Him at work in the midst of our trials and adversities.
In order to recognize the risen Christ who walks with us each and every day and recognize His goodness in the hard times, we need to train ourselves to, in Paul’s words, “To walk by faith and not by sight.” (Second Corinthians 5:7) Now the question is how can one do this? Let me attempt to do this by suggesting two ways.
First of all we need to call out to Jesus, our Rabboni, our teacher, to open our eyes to His presence by His Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus opened the physical eyes of the blind He is more than able to open up our eyes of faith to His presence as well. So prayer is a key element in training ourselves to walk by faith and not by sight.
Secondly, we need to spend time with Him in His word and in Christian Fellowship. Just as the two disciples recognized Jesus after He opened up the word of God to them and broke bread as He gave thanks, we will come to recognize His presence through the Bible and through Worship and Church Fellowship. It is in His word that He, the word of God makes Himself known to us and it is in Worship we experience the truth of His words, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
And thirdly, we need to take every opportunity to tell others about this risen Christ. Just as Jesus went on to tell Mary to go and tell others that she saw the risen Christ in John 20:17 and just as the two disciples ran back to the other disciples and told them that they had seen Jesus, we need to tell others about Jesus as well. The more we do this, the more real it will be to us and the more we will enjoy His presence.
Easter time is the time we rejoice that Christ has risen, it is also a time that we can be refreshed in training ourselves to walk by faith and not by sight. God’s presence and God’s goodness is all around us. Let’s keep those eyes of faith open.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Jesus willingly laid down His life for us upon the Cross. In the greatest act of love of all time, sinless Jesus took our sins upon Himself, so that we might have forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Jesus put us ahead of Himself proving the truth of First Corinthians 13:5, “Love is not self seeking.”
Lent is a time for the believer to reflect upon Jesus’ great sacrifice on our behalf. It is also a fitting time for the believer to reflect upon his/her commitment to Jesus. The question for us is, “Are we seeking to put Jesus ahead of ourselves?” Are we willing to die to self? (The taking up of our cross.), and to live for Him and for the Gospel He has entrusted into our keeping? For those who do, Jesus goes on to say, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35) Now the question is, how can we know if we are seeking to put Christ first? A couple of questions may clarify this inquiry. First, are we seeking to live out the truth of God’s word on a daily basis? Secondly, are we seeking to please Christ in all we do? If the answer is yes then we have our answer. But don’t be discouraged if the answer is no. The truth of the matter is, we all can stand to grow in those two areas. Praise God for His mercy and grace and patience.
This Lenten season and beyond, let us look for opportunities to put Christ first in our lives. This is the way to a fulfilled life of purpose and meaning. This is the way to live if we want a strengthened Christian witness before a watching world.
May God richly bless you and keep you,
The Perfect Picture of Love
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
First John 4:8
In a few weeks Valentine’s Day will be upon us. It will be a day of flowers, box chocolates, and dining out with loved ones. As we know, the type of love celebrated on Valentine’s Day is usually romantic love, and that’s good. But there is a deeper love that goes beyond a purely sentimental love. It is a love referred to in the Greek language as agape love. This is the type of love demonstrated by God Himself towards us. In fact John tells us that God is the epitome of this type of love when he writes, “God is love.” It is a love that can be described as unconditional, sacrificial, patient and kind. The very kind of love modeled by Jesus upon the Cross, framed by the words of John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” It was upon that Cross that Jesus put us ahead of Himself and at the same time demonstrated what true love is all about. What a comfort it is to know that we have a Savior who loved us enough to go to the Cross and pay our debt, prompted by a pure unconditional love. Paul touched upon this love when he wrote in Romans 5:8, “but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” It was as if before a watching world hungering for true love God put up a billboard saying, “This is what true love is and this is the love I have for you.”
This is the same love we as believers are called to have for others. In First Corinthians 13:5 we are told that love is not “self seeking”. What a refreshing type of love in a world that lives by the motto, “Look out for number one.” May we always seek to put others and their needs ahead of our wants. In so doing we model the very love of Christ before a watching world. When this happens our Christian Witness will be strengthened and God will be glorified.
This Valentine’s Day may we seek to model what true love is all about. Let’s put others ahead of ourselves and let us pass on the saving message of the Gospel. That’s a Valentine’s Day card worth receiving.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
It is the custom of many to start out the new year with a resolution to either turn over a new leaf or to kick some bad habit or to chart a new course in life.
The Bible tells us that as believers we are a, “new creation in Christ”, and that being so our aim should be to honor Him in all we do and to take any life’s project in the name of Jesus. This being so, it would be wise to seek God’s guidance as we enter a new year. Asking Him what His Will for us is and then asking Him for the courage and strength to follow that Will for our lives.
What call has He placed upon your heart? What goal has He given you to accomplish for His glory? Know this, if He has called you to do something for Him, He will empower you to do so.
2014 could be a great breakthrough year for you and for the church. Let us be open to Him and to His leading.
Happy New Years Blessings,
Is there room in the Inn?
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and She gave birth to her first born, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
During the Holiday Seasons many travel great distances to visit loved ones. The same was true for Jesus. Jesus traveled from the majestic glories of Heaven all the way to the town of Bethlehem to be born in a stable. He had to be born in a stable because as we read in v8, “There was no room for them in the inn.” With all the people who flocked to Bethlehem to be registered for the census decreed by Augustus Caesar, there was no room available to Joseph’s family. Thus Jesus, the King of Kings, and “God come in Human Flesh” was born in a humble stable.
Two thousand years have come and gone since that blessed night and Jesus still comes to the inn of our hearts seeking entrance. As we read in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” What will Jesus find when He comes to the inn of our hearts? An open door for Him to enter or a closed door with the words no vacancy flashing in the window? The choice is ours, the doorknob is on our side of the door, let us be quick to open it to the Savior.
I fear many don’t have an open door for Jesus for fear of what He may command of us. Well all He asks is to be our Lord and Savior. Our King to give us direction in this life and our Savior to save us from our sins. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me. So let’s keep the door to the inn of our hearts open for Him. And in inviting Him in let’s spend time with Him enjoying His fellowship and let’s be quick to share His presence with others.
May the Joy of the Christmas season be yours throughout the year.
“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him – and he was a Samaritan.”
Ten lepers cried out to Jesus for healing. In response, Jesus sent them on their way to see the priests to verify the healing He was about to grant them, and on their way they were healed. The amazing thing about this account is that only one returned to thank Jesus for his healing. It was this fact that caused an amazed Jesus to ask, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (vv. 17,18) And in response to this act of thanksgiving Jesus goes on to say, “Rise and go: your faith has made you well.” (v19)
In several weeks, Thanksgiving will be upon us and like this Samaritan, we as believers have something to thank God for, and that is cleansing from our sins. This Samaritan along with the other nine were cleansed of their leprosy just as the believer has been cleansed of his and her sins by the work of Jesus upon the cross. And as the one lone Samaritan was said to be made well by his faith, so we as believers have been made spiritually well by our faith in Jesus.
This Thanksgiving as we give thanks for the food upon our table, a roof over our heads, for friends and family, let us also give thanks for our Salvation in Jesus Christ alone. That is the greatest blessing and praiseworthy thing one can possibly possess. It is that Salvation that opens the door to forgiveness, peace, joy and eternal life. As we give thanks for this gift from God lets be sure to tell others about it as well. Along with this, let us make it a priority to thank God for the blessing of Salvation not just on Thanksgiving day but every day of the year. As Paul exhorts us in First Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” In doing so we will feel better, God will be glorified and others will be blest as well.
Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving,
The Savior Who Is there
“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like the son of man” dressed in a robe reaching down to His feet and with a golden sash around His chest.”
These words symbolize an extremely important lesson, that being, Jesus can be found among His people. In Rev. 1:20 Jesus goes on to say, “The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the Seven Churches, and the Seven lampstands are the Seven Churches.” Here Jesus is referring to the Seven Churches mentioned in Rev. 2 and 3, but its principle is true for all churches everywhere. Jesus walks among us for He walks in the midst of His church. This is true each time God’s people gather together to worship, as Matthew 18:20 reads, “For wherever two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” And this glorious truth is also true in regards to the individual believer, as Jesus says in Matthew 28:20, “And lo I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” What a promise for you and me. Just think what it means to have a savior who walks among us.
First of all it tells us we are not alone. Secondly it tells us that we have a Savior who understands and sees all that we go through and thirdly we have an almighty Savior who protects us.
All this being so, we need not fear, for the one who says “fear not” stands in our presence. When one fully understands this, one is free to take the steps of faith He has called us to take and speak the words He has given us to speak. Words that bring healing, words that bring forgiveness, words that bring Salvation, words that can transform lives for the better. What words has He given you to speak? What steps of faith has He called you to take? Know this, the one who walks among the Seven lampstands, the one who walks among His Churches and people will not abandon you, but strengthen you as you seek to serve Him.
Let us look for the daily opportunities He has given us to speak up for Him and the Gospel, and let us always be ready to take those steps of faith He calls us to take. There is no need to fear. Paul reminds us of this when he states, “If Christ is for us, who can be against us?” The world is watching, let us live for Him and speak for Him. In so doing, we can shine forth the light the one who walks among us has given us to shine.
Monday Morning Reflection
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Many awaken on Monday morning not with the words, “Good morning Lord” but rather, “Good Lord it’s morning.” This is due to the fact that many have jobs they do not like. Yet they must go to that job in order to make a livelihood. If your job has lost its initial appeal I’d like to suggest several ways you might be able to regain that initial enthusiasm you had for that job.
First of all look upon it as a work for the Lord. In other words as Paul says in the above passage, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord not for men…. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” The Christian needs to remember that any job he/she has is to be considered a holy vocation. In other words there is to be no separation between the secular and the sacred, for the Christian, all of life is sacred. When this is remembered, whatever job one has takes on added purpose and meaning.
Secondly, look upon your job and workplace as your mission field. In Matthew 9:37,38 Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” There is a mission field out there, beyond the walls of our churches and homes, which is our very workplaces and God desires to send out you and me to that place to be His missionaries. As His missionaries we are called to witness for Him with our words and deeds. Fellow workers are watching you. When this is remembered every day workplaces can be transformed into sanctuaries where Christ is glorified.
Thirdly, spend time praying for your bosses and fellow workers. When one truly prays for another, that other person becomes a person of interest to the one praying. One of the reasons jobs might become stale and boring is that the worker might isolate him or herself from his fellow workers. In praying for that fellow worker neighborly interest and concern is restored. Take time to pray for others so that they can be blest and so that your Christian witness can be strengthened. In doing so our workplaces will become more interesting and enjoyable.
The Problem of Suffering
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised.”
These above words were spoken by a man who had suffered much loss pain. In the verses leading up to these words Job suffered the loss of his ten children and all of his worldly wealth over the span of a few hours. Along with this, in the immediate verses after these words, Job would go on to lose his health and the emotional support of his grieving wife. Yet Job responds to these tragic events by praising God in the above passage. Why would a man who had suffered so much for no fault of his own respond with praise? It is because Job knew there had to be some purpose behind it all.
The topic of suffering and pain has long been a subject of speculation among philosophers and all who have experienced trials and adversities. While not making light of pain and suffering, I’d like to suggest several Biblical reasons as to why God might allow His people to go through seasons of adversities.
First of all the Bible tells us that suffering can help one to grow in his/her faith. This reason can be found in First Peter 5:10 which reads, “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” As an athlete builds up his/her body by undergoing grueling exercise and conditioning, so too will a Christian grow stronger spiritually by undergoing times of adversities and trials. This is because it is during those times that a believer is forced to depend upon God all the more rather than on self. So if you find yourself going through times of adversities reach out to God all the more. Cry out to Him and He will grant you the grace and strength to make it through.
The second reason God might allow His people to go through times of suffering is because those times can help us to minister to others going through their own trials and adversities. This is seen in Second Corinthians 1:3,4 where Paul writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” When one goes through difficulties and trials they will be more effective in helping others in their own difficulties because they can understand what the other is going through. So remember that going through difficulties and trials can empower us to minister to others more effectively.
Thirdly, the sufferings and difficulties that we might go through from time to time can actually glorify God. This truth is seen in Jesus’ words to His disciples concerning the news that Lazarus was growing ill in John 11:4, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s son may be glorified through it.” The suffering of Lazarus led to glorifying God because we know, Jesus would ultimately raise Lazarus from the dead, thus demonstrating Christ’s power over death. When others see believers still holding on to their faith even in the midst of suffering, others will be more interested in hearing about our faith. Suffering can actually lead to a stronger Christian Witness. A truth which reinforces Romans 8:28 which reads, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are Called according to His Purpose.”
Suffering and pain hurts but we don’t have to be victims. Remember, as believers, God can be found in the midst of it.
May God bless you and keep you,
Prayer, The Ultimate Firework
“The prayer of a Righteous man is powerful and effective.”
In a few nights the skies over our fair land will be alive with fireworks as we celebrate our country’s birthday. Loud booms and flashing lights will be the order of the night. In a way prayer is like a firework in that it loudly calls out to God the believers problems and daily needs all the while providing great light to those in need of hope.
James tells us that the prayer of a righteous man is “powerful and effective”. These words were actually written in the context of praying for the sick, but its truth can be applied to all sorts of prayer requests. It seems to me that it would be most fitting to pray for our country as we celebrate its birthday this month.
As we pray this month, lets take some time to pray for America. Let us be in prayer for our leaders. Let us pray that God would grant them wisdom and guidance as they govern our beloved land. With this, let us also be in prayer for our service men and women in the military along with our police and firemen who serve our country each and every day, keeping us safe. And most importantly, let us cry out for spiritual revival to sweep through our land. This is the most important item to pray for. When God sends revival upon the land its inhabitants lives are changed for the better and the fruit of that change of heart benefits each and every citizen. In a way, you could say that prayer is the highest act of patriotism we can take part in.
So go ahead and enjoy the celebration of America and all it stands for but don’t forget to keep it in your prayers. Remember, your prayers, as believers, are powerful and effective and can do much good.
God Bless You and God Bless America,
“What, Me Worry”
“So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?”, or, “What shall we drink?”, or, “What shall we wear?” For the Pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Worry and fear are common adversaries that many of us battle with. Just because one is a Christian does not mean that all fear and worry will vanish from that persons life. But our passage has some helpful hints in how to deal with worry and fear. Lets see what those hints are.
First of all, remember to keep in mind who God is. Jesus tells us that our Heavenly Father, (Who is all powerful and all knowing and ever present.) knows what we need and will grant us with what we need. There is no adversary that the world can put forth that is any match for God. Therefore we need not fear the trials and adversities of this world because our God loves us and will not abandon us. The most insidious thing about fear is its ability to cause us to lose perspective. The reality is God is in there with us at all times, even when the cold winds of trials and adversities blow upon us. God has made an investment in the believer by dying for him/her. He’s not going to forsake that believer.
Secondly, keep focus upon Jesus and upon His promises. Jesus goes on to say in v. 33, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When Jesus says seek first God’s Kingdom, He’s telling us to keep our eyes and mind upon Him. Rather than focus on the problem we need to focus upon God the solution. It’s when we take our eyes off of Him that we fall prey to the trials. It is then our fears and worries grow. Remember Peter on the sea of Galilee walking out to Jesus? As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus he was fine. But when he took his eyes off of Jesus he became afraid and began to sink. So when the worries come, keep your eyes on Jesus by staying in His word and by keeping in touch with Him by prayer.
Thirdly, don’t get ahead of yourself. Stay in the present. Much fear and worry stem from the obsession of what could happen in the future. Note Jesus’ words in v. 34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” The truth of the matter is we need to avoid falling into speculation of what could or might happen in the future. We need to remember, God is with us now and will be with us tomorrow. He knows what lies ahead so we need to trust our future into His hands. Again remembering that just as He has been with us in the past, He will be with us in the future as well. His goodness and faithfulness can be trusted now and for always. As the writer of Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever..” Keep focus on the eternal one who walks with us each and every day.
Fears and worries will come, so remember Jesus’ words in the above passage and know that fear and worry do not have to have the final say.