Sunday – May 22, 2016 “I Am the Way, Truth and Life”

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John 14:1
Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.”

Which of God’s commandments would you say is the most difficult for you to obey? Perhaps you would say, “The commandment, ‘Do not lie’ is most difficult because when I’m in a tight spot and I can twist the truth just a little, it seems harmless.” Perhaps you might point to the command of Jesus not to lust as one being very difficult to obey in a sensual society. Or what about Paul’s commandment: “Do all things without grumbling?” Maybe you have thought complaining is your spiritual gift. There’s no way you could obey that commandment, right?

Indeed, there are many difficult commandments. I think one of the hardest commandments to obey is: “Do not let your heart be troubled.” There’s so much to be troubled about: potential war and terrorist attack, corruption, crime, and economic pressure. If you weren’t feeling troubled, you probably are now. On top of the various national and international troubles, there are many “what if?” scenarios. What if I get cancer? What if I’m in an accident? What if one of my children dies? What if I lose my job? All this and much more can bring on heart trouble. That’s why some have said that we live in “The Cardiac Age.” Everyone seems to have heart trouble.

In the midst of a discussion of heart trouble and anxiety is Jesus saying: As difficult as your troubles and trials are right now, please know that the church is going to accomplish God’s eternal purposes. If you’re feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, observe the kingdom work of the church. The church is touching lives not only in our country, but throughout the world. When everything that could go wrong seems to be going wrong and your heart is hurting, please know that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church and God’s kingdom will advance. As difficult as your individual heart troubles are, they are momentary (2 Cor 4:16-18). God assures us that as we take our eyes off of our own troubles and focus on Christ’s work in His church, we will be strengthened.

I’m here to tell you that I understand what it is to experience heart trouble. Some days I am not the husband that I want to be and this hurts my heart and grieves me deeply. When I see Gwen growing up so quickly and recognize that I am losing opportunities to influence her, I can’t help but have heart trouble. There are times when the task of pastoring is overwhelming. I feel at times that this church needs someone whose skills are different from my own. Sometimes I am so confused about which way to go that I am almost paralyzed. I share these things with you for a reason. I know some of the heart trouble that you feel. What gets me through is what God is doing in the world in and through His church. May you and I take our heart trouble to the Savior and pray that He helps us take our eyes off our own concerns and put them on His work. Believing leads to seeing.

Sunday – May 15, 2016 “I Am the Resurrection”

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John 11:25-27
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the high point of our Lord’s self-disclosure to men. This is without a doubt the greatest miracle of His ministry. Humanly speaking, there was no hope of recovery, and yet at the point of absolute helplessness and hopelessness, Jesus gave life to the dead. The spiritual parallel is obvious, for all men are ‘dead in their trespasses and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1-3). When we reach the point of utter despair and self-distrust we find that what we can never do anything to merit the eternal life God has provided as a free gift, as Paul explains in the books of Romans and Ephesians. Jesus Christ has come, not to aid men in their struggle toward heaven, but to give life to those who are dead. As He gave life to Lazarus, so He offers spiritual life to all men, on the basis of faith.

As this miracle is the high point of self-revelation by Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, so it is also the high water mark of human resistance and rejection of the person of Christ. In the face of the most irrefutable evidence the Jewish leaders chose to set aside the evidence for the sake of expedience and sentence the Savior to death. The rejection of men was not based upon a lack of evidence, but upon moral decay and willful rejection of the truth. Our Lord was not taken by surprise, for He said in the gospel of Luke, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The timing of this miracle also anticipates the coming death of the Lord Jesus Christ and guaranteed the fact that He would rise from the dead, just as He informed His disciples. If Jesus had power over death and the grave for Lazarus, then surely death could not hold Him in the grave.

In addition to John’s primary reasons for recording this miracle there are lessons for us by way of practical application. The resurrection of Lazarus confronts us with the same decision the people had to make when Jesus walked on earth as a man: What will you do with Jesus? You must either accept Him as the Savior and the Son of God, or you should reject Him as a phony and a fraud. He cannot be anything but one or the other. If we take these gospel accounts seriously at all we must face the same destiny-determining decision as those who witnessed His works while on the earth.

Sunday – May 8, 2016 James 2:14-26 “A Woman Restored”

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Mark 1:35-37
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 

The demands on mothers are awesome. We all should have read Proverbs 31 at some time in our lives and wondered who could ever live up to such an example? Just look at the demands of everyday life – planning family meals, going grocery shopping, working, making meals for finicky children and husbands. Throw on top of that the stamina to deal with medical problems such as ear aches, flu and runny noses and providing counseling services for a child who was just in a fight with the kid next door. And then as circumstances require, provide homework review after taxi service to little league, dance class and the dentist. And somewhere in the middle of this entire schedule moms are expected to remain strong, joyful and true.

As the TV commercial once asked, “what’s a mother to do?”

The family’s needs are a tremendous burden for all moms. But there is another need that mothers have that often gets lost in the business of being mom. Jesus spent time with two women who reveal an important lesson: Martha and Mary. Martha was distracted over her responsibilities in the home while at the same time Mary found time to sit at the feet of the Lord and listen to His words. This caused a conflict between the sisters.

Jesus did not dismiss the value of Martha’s important work but He did recognize that Mary had chosen wisely in coming into His presence. In fact Mary, when she poured out perfume on the feet of Jesus, understood more about who He was than even the disciples knew after they spent three years with Him. Unlike Martha at that time, Mary had developed priorities in her time spent with the Lord that allowed her to absorb the meaning of Christ’s life into hers. The danger of becoming engulfed with the details and duties of life can deny us a seat at the feet of the Savior. The work at hand was important to Martha, and obviously still HAD to get done. But in comparison for Mary, it was not the most important thing.

Listen to the advice of Jesus to His disciples after a time of busy ministry told in Mark 6:30-31: “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” This direction also applies to moms and all those who work in the Body of Christ. Everyone needs quality time alone with the Lord in His Word. Our natural tendency is we get so busy that we meet ourselves coming and going and then omit the much-needed rich nourishment that only the Lord can provide.

Since today is Mother’s Day, my question for you, Mom, is this: Are you so busy coming and going that you do not take time to sit at  the Lord’s feet and listen to His Word and take your burdens to Him? Make time this week to come into His rest.

Sunday – May 1, 2016 “I Am the Good Shepherd”

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John 10:14-17
I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”

One of the most common images in the Bible is that of the shepherd and his sheep. Even if we have not grown up on a farm, we should have little trouble grasping this imagery, because it is so commonly spoken of in the Bible. We should remember that God’s chosen people were shepherds. Abraham was a keeper of sheep (Genesis 13:3). Jacob, too, was a shepherd, and this is how he became wealthy while working for Laban, caring for his flocks (Genesis 30:43). When Jacob and his family went to join Joseph in Egypt, they were shepherds which is part of the reason why the Egyptians avoided intermarrying with the Hebrews (Genesis 46:33-34). If Judah married a Canaanite and allowed his sons to do likewise (Genesis 38), it would not have been long until the tribe of Judah (from which the Messiah would come) would have ceased to exist as a distinct tribe. Since the Egyptians loathed shepherds, they would not have considered intermarrying with the Hebrews.

The imagery of a shepherd and his flock thus provided a picture of the way God cared for His people, and thus this imagery also serves as a model for human leaders. God cares for His people as a shepherd cares for his flock. Human leaders are likewise to rule over men as a shepherd tends his flock. I believe we can safely infer that God prepared Moses to lead the Israelites by first having him serve as a shepherd in the wilderness for 40 years. God likewise prepared David for leadership by his experience as a shepherd in the days of his youth.

The best thing about being a sheep is that we belong to the “Good Shepherd.” Sheep belong to the Shepherd, who owns them. Under His care, they are tenderly looked after, and all of their needs are met. As David put it, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1). He leads us; He protects us, and He goes after us when we wander too far from Him. And best of all, He gave His life for the sheep, so that we might have eternal life.

God is infinitely bigger than any leader the world has ever seen. Who could resist if He chose to rule over men as a cosmic tyrant? And yet He has chosen to lead His own people as a shepherd tends his flock. He loves His church as a groom loves his bride. He leads His church as a shepherd tends his flock. There is no other kind of leadership I would rather be under than that of the Good Shepherd.

Sunday – April 24, 2016 “I Am the Light of the World”

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John 8:12-13
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

There are two types of light in the world. We can perceive one, or both – or neither. When we are born into this world, we perceive physical light, and by it we learn of our Creator’s handiwork in the things we see. However, although that light is good, there is another Light, a Light so important that the Son of God had to come in order to both declare and impart it to men. In our passage, Jesus speaks of the light of His Truth, the light of His Word, the light of eternal Life. Those who perceive the true Light will never walk in spiritual darkness.

We take a candle into a room to dispel the darkness. Likewise, the Light of Jesus Christ has to be taken into the darkness of sin that engulfs the hearts and lives of those who are not following Him. That’s the condition behind having this Light – that we follow Him. If we do not follow Him, we will not have this light, this truth, this eternal life.

Light is necessary for physical life. The earth would certainly change very rapidly if there were no longer any sunlight. A rain forest with a very thick canopy of foliage high above has very little plant life on the ground except for moss, which needs little sunlight. Plants will never move away from the light—they are said to be positively phototropic, drawn to the light. In the same way, spiritual light is necessary for spiritual life, and this can be a good test of our standing in Christ. The believer will always tend toward the Light – toward fellowship, prayer, the Word of God, and so on. The unbeliever always does the opposite because light exposes his evil, and he hates the light. Indeed, no man can come into the true spiritual light of Jesus Christ, unless he is called by God.

Following Jesus is the condition of two promises in John 8:12. First, His followers will never walk in darkness, which is a reference to the assurance of salvation we enjoy. As true followers of the Light, we will never follow the ways of sin, never live in a state of continually sinning (1 John 1:5–7). Rather, we repent of our sin in order to stay close to the Light of the world. The second promise is that we will reflect the Light of Life. Just as He came as the Light of the world, He commands us to be “lights,” too.

The emphasis here is maintaining a credible and obvious witness in the world, a witness that shows us to be faithful, God-honoring, trustworthy, sincere, earnest, and honest in all that we do. Also, we should always be ready to give an account of the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15), for the gospel Light we have is not to be covered, but made obvious for all to see and benefit from, that they, too, may leave the darkness and come into the Light.

 

Sunday – April 10, 2016 John 6 verses 36 to 58 “I Am the Bread of Life”

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John 6:53-56
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.”

Perhaps the Sunday after Friday Night Fellowship is not the time to ask, “What are you eating?” Being in a church with so many good cooks, it is hard to diet and attend so many pot luck dinners. But that’s the question that Jesus wants us to consider: “What are you eating?” – not physically, but spiritually. We hear a lot these days about the importance of a healthy diet. You are what you eat and a lot of Americans eat a lot of junk food, resulting in a lot of serious, but avoidable health problems. Most of us could benefit by being careful about what we eat.

It’s the same spiritually. If you gorge yourself on the latest movies or on the fare that is offered every night on TV, and you seldom feed on the Bible, don’t be surprised if you’re not spiritually healthy. If your spiritual intake consists of a sugary devotional that you grab on the run, like a donut, and an occasional sermon when you aren’t doing something else on Sunday, don’t be surprised if you’re feeling kind of spiritually sluggish. You are what you eat. In John 6, after He fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, Jesus repeatedly offers Himself as the spiritual food that gives eternal life and eternal satisfaction to all who eat.

Some interpret these verses to refer to partaking of communion. The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church base their views of transubstantiation (the view that the communion elements actually become the body and blood of Christ) in part on John 6:53. But there are many reasons John 6 does not refer to communion. First, communion had not yet been instituted. Jesus instituted it on the night He was betrayed. Second, Jesus was speaking here to unbelievers and communion is for believers. Third, the Lord’s Supper does not produce the results that are attributed to eating and drinking Christ. If the words of Jesus here refer to communion, then you gain eternal life by partaking, which contradicts many other Scriptures that show that salvation is through faith in Christ, not through participating in a ritual.

There is a satisfaction factor about eating, isn’t there? That’s why we overeat – because it tastes so good and it’s pleasurable. Good bread nourishes and sustains life, but also it’s enjoyable. To smell bread baking in the oven and then to butter and eat a warm slice is delightful. Even so, feeding on Jesus by faith is enjoyable in this life and it will continue in His eternal presence, where, as David exults (Ps. 16:11), “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Sunday – April 3, 2015 Revelation 22 verses 6 to 21 “Famous Last Words”

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Revelation 22:20-21
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

There are perhaps no more significant and awesome words in Scripture than those of this epilogue. The wonderful book of Revelation ends with the manifold testimony of the voices of the angel, Jesus, the Spirit, the bride, and John. These verses are full of encouragement, declaration, warning, and response to God. They are tremendously significant; may we read them with care and attentiveness. Listen to these words in terms of your entire life. Examine your lifestyle, purposes, goals, priorities, and commitment to God in the light of His faithful Word, and the soon coming Savior.

In contrast to the many human viewpoint foundations or cunningly devised fables upon which men try to build their lives stands the faithful and true Word from God. Man’s viewpoint without the Bible is left to be built on speculation, human reason, and experience, all of which are very unreliable due to man’s condition in sin, his short life span, his deductive thinking, his constant tendency to interpret facts with his presuppositions, his limited experience and the amount of knowledge he can retain and use. All of this makes man’s human viewpoint ideas about as reliable as a lily pad for a foundation, especially in spiritual matters. This is why the Book of Revelation is so important for Christians to study and understand.

Jonathan Edwards, called American’s greatest theologian, had a set of resolutions. One of them is this: “Resolved: Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.” We should always live every moment of every day as if Christ were coming now! That’s the only way to live. Are you ready for Jesus’s return? Do you need to share your faith with someone? Do it now! Do you need to be reconciled to someone? Do it now! Do you need to serve the Lord and His people? Do it now! Do you need to be faithful in your financial stewardship? Do it now!

The last words of the Bible are soaked with grace. John exclaims, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (22:21). God wants to make absolutely sure that “grace” (charis) will have the last word. Grace is God’s unconditional kindness offered to someone who doesn’t deserve it. God’s grace provides faith for the unbelieving reader and faithfulness for the believing reader (cf. 1:4). Grace…don’t live on earth without it. Grace…don’t leave earth without it.

Has God changed you as a result of our study through Revelation? Has He shown you His grace? Do you know Him more? Do you love Him more? I pray that this is so.

Sunday – March 27, 2016 Rev. 21:1 to 22:5 “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This”

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Revelation 21:1-3
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Heaven seems almost inconceivable. As a young child I can remember attempting to comprehend time without end … infinity. Now I realize that heaven is even beyond that which I failed to fathom as a child, for heaven is the end of time; in heaven there is no time at all. The human authors of the Bible who have attempted to describe the beauties of heaven give evidence of their frustration at striving to depict an existence in a dimension beyond the grasp of mere mortals:… but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

I have heard it said, giving a description of heaven in human words is more difficult than an Eskimo going to Hawaii, and then on his return trying to describe a pineapple to his people. Heaven is an important subject for Christians, not only because it is a pleasant topic to investigate, but because it is so vital to our faith. The fear of hell and eternal torment may be a strong incentive for salvation, but it is not the basis for our hope and faith. In the Bible heaven is the ground of our faith and hope.

In John 14, our Lord spoke of returning to His Father, where He would “prepare a place” for us. We naturally tend to think that “going to heaven” means our going far away to that place which our Lord is preparing; but it is more accurate to think of heaven as coming to us, for the New Jerusalem will come to the (new) earth, according to the scriptures. In this sense, heaven is more earthly than we sometimes think.

But the greatest disservice I can do is to leave the impression that the joys of heaven are assured for everyone. In each of the last three chapters of Revelation, the fate of the true believer and the unbeliever is contrasted. Those who have chosen to reject Jesus Christ as God’s only provision of righteousness, of forgiveness for sins, and of entrance into heaven, will not spend eternity with God. I urge you to not put this message down without searching your own heart. Have you come to see yourself as a sinner, deserving of God’s wrath? Have you acknowledged Jesus Christ to be the sinless Son of God, Who died in your place, bore your sins, and offers you His righteousness? You may have the assurance of spending eternity with God if you but receive, by faith, the gift of salvation through His Son.

Sunday – March 20, 2016 Rev. 20:1-15 “Pay Day is Some Day”

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Revelation 20:1-3
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.”

Revelation 20 is one of the greatest and most important chapters of the Bible. It presents in summary the tremendous series of events that encompass the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Many Bible teachers believe that it is in this future period that many Old and New Testament prophecies will find their ultimate fulfillment. However, the view that Revelation 20 is speaking of a literal thousand-year reign of Christ is also one of the most controversial and a bewildering array of diverse interpretations that may be found in regard to this passage.

The term millennium, a Latin word meaning one thousand years, is the term that has come to be used of the thousand-year period spoken of in this passage. The term “millennium” is found six times in verses 2-7. The Premillennial View is the view that Christ will personally return and reign on earth for one thousand years. The prefix “pre” expresses the view that Christ returns first, then literally reigns on earth. It also views Christ as fulfilling all the Old Testament prophecies literally in a kingdom on earth. The premillennial view is the result of a literal interpretation of Revelation 20, a view held by even the very early church fathers of the first and second century.

The Amillennial View is the most popular modern view. The prefix “A” simply means a denial of the Millennium and the literal reign of Christ on earth and seeks to make the Book of Revelation a spiritual allegory. Satan was bound at the first coming of Christ and the present age between the first and second comings of Christ is seen as the fulfillment of the Millennium. Its adherents are divided. Some believe the Millennium is being fulfilled now on earth, and is equivalent to the kingdom of God in you. Others believe it is being fulfilled by the saints in heaven. It may be summed up in the idea that there will be no more Millennium than there is now, and Christ’s second coming is immediately followed by the eternal state.

Paul teaches us that the Old Testament Scripture and God’s dealing with Israel do have spiritual analogies for the Christian life. Scripture is full of such analogies and types, but the significance is based on the literal historicity of the event whether past or future. It is never a means to deny its literal meaning or fulfillment. Scripture abounds in allegories, whether in the form of types, symbols, or parables. These are accepted and legitimate ways to teach and communicate spiritual truth. However, there is a great deal of difference between such use of allegories and allegorical interpretation. In one you have the illustration and application of spiritual truth based on literal interpretation and historical fact. In the other, you have disregard for the literal meaning and historical fact based on the literal method of interpretation and in its place an allegory is set up based on the interpreter’s own fancy.