Sunday – February 5, 2017 Genesis 27:1-46 “Working Like the Devil, Serving the Lord”

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Genesis 27:15-17
Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob.

Frank Sinatra’s well-known song, “I Did It My Way,” is the anthem of many who think that is the life well lived. The words of the song state plainly that his glory was all about how he “did it my way.” A life lived “my way” is true of every person who does not submit his life to Jesus Christ. Most people just aren’t as open as Sinatra in stating the controlling force of their lives.

In Genesis 27, four people sing Sinatra’s song. Isaac does things his way by trying to bestow the family blessing on Esau, in opposition to God’s revealed will. Esau tries to take back what he had already sold to his brother Jacob. When he is foiled, he plans to kill his brother. Rebekah deceives her aging husband into giving the blessing to her favorite son, Jacob. And Jacob lies to his father and outsmarts his brother. Rebekah and Jacob could argue that they were only trying to bring about the will of God, since God had told Rebekah that her older son would serve the younger. But I’m not persuaded by those who attribute high motives to Rebekah and Jacob. I think that what you have here are four self-centered people seeking their own advantage. They all did it their way, not God’s way. In the end they all came up empty and paid a high price for their selfishness.

Every person must have as a theme song in life either “I Did It My Way” or “I Did It God’s Way.” You would think that the lines would be clearly drawn: Every person outside of Christ would sing, “I Did It My Way” while every Christian would sing, “I Did It God’s Way.” But I find that many who profess to believe in Christ are really just living for themselves, often using God as the means to self-fulfillment. But the genuine Christian life is a matter of God confronting our self-centeredness and enthroning Christ as Lord in our hearts. While the process takes a lifetime, I question whether the person who is not involved in the process of dying to self is truly a child of God.

Many Christians are telling hurting people, “Assert yourself. Stand up for your rights. Don’t be codependent. You’ve got a right to some happiness in life, so go for it.” But God’s Word is clear: If you seek your own way, you won’t get what you want and you’ll pay a high price in family conflict. If you’ll die to your way and seek God’s way, He will give you the desires of your heart. You’ve got to decide which will be your theme song: “I did it my way,” or, “I did it God’s way?”

Sunday – December 25, 2016 Christmas Day – Celebrate the Savior’s Birth Service

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Luke 2:13-14
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Christmas is so much more than a Bible story. It is more than a history lesson. It is more than songs, lights, parties, and pretty presents under a tree. Christmas is more than just a yearly holiday celebration. Christmas represents not only the birth of the King of Kings but the incarnation of the God man. Leaving the eternal and taking on the form of a man, Jesus stepped out of Eternity and into time. He took on a temporal life so that He could invite us to have an eternal one.

Who, but the King who defines Himself as love, would be willing to be born in a stable so that the Shepherds who received a heavenly invitation to come and celebrate His birth would feel right at home when they arrived? The message of the angels was that God had sent Peace on Earth, The Prince of Peace. God blessed mankind with good will. Through Christ God’s good will was done on earth as it is in Heaven.

We must remind each other and teach our children these basic truths in such a way that when we are opening those pretty packages under our tree, we will remember that on that first Christmas God wrapped His Son in human flesh as a gift of salvation to all mankind. The truth of God’s unbelievable love should be so much a part of our Advent lessons that as we buy presents for those we love, we understand that Christmas is about loving our enemies too. That first Christmas was God giving the most important gift to a world at war with Him and His ways. But even when we were at war with God, He sent His Son to pay the price of our peace (Romans 5:10). As we sing the Christmas Carols of peace on earth, our songs remind the world Christmas is when God announced Peace on Earth by sending us the Prince of Peace to bring peace between man and God. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

It is one thing to read the story of Christmas. It is another thing to understand how to live it. I pray that God will help each person here this morning share the Christ of Christmas in such a way that He will be well remembered throughout the season. He is worth remembering; truly Jesus is the reason for the season!

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 – 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.

 

Sunday – March 13, 2016 Rev. 19:1-21 “Getting a Handle on Hallelujah”

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Revelation 19:11-15
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.”

The last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, is in many respects the capstone on the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. This truth is introduced in the first chapter with the pronouncement in Revelation 1:7 “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen”. Most of the book of Revelation consists in exhortations and predictions in view of the Lord’s return and unfolds in more detail than any other portion of Scripture about the great tribulation which will precede the second advent.

The great tribulation is climaxed by the vision which John records in our text of Revelation 19. In this, Christ is pictured as coming from heaven on a white horse accompanied by the armies of heaven to claim His right as King of kings and Lord of lords to judge the wicked earth. The resulting description provides the graphic detail of the destruction of the armies which had been previously gathered in a final gigantic world war. All of these armies oppose Christ at His second coming. Not only the armies, but the world ruler and the false prophet are destroyed, and ultimately resulting in the beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire.

This glorious event is the prelude to the establishment of the millennial kingdom of Christ. The early verses of chapter 20 of Revelation indicate that Satan will be bound and cast into the bottomless pit to remain inactive for the entire thousand years of Christ’s reign on earth. The vision which John sees is given specific interpretation, namely, that Satan is so bound that he will not deceive the nations. He will remain bound for a thousand years and after this will be loosed. This interpretation makes impossible the spiritualization of this passage as many have done in an attempt to eliminate the millennial reign of Christ. In the verses which follow, the millennial kingdom is established.

Psalm 146:10 reminds us, “The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” Wicked people may think that God does not reign, but the Lord scoffs at them (Ps. 2:1-4). This God who reigns is our God and we are His people. Therefore, our praise should begin here on earth, as long as we have life and breath, and will continue forever and ever.

Sun. Feb. 14, 2016 Rev 15:1-8 “You Can See the End of the World From Here”

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Revelation 15:1
“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.”

Chapter 15 prepares us for the execution of the judgments described in Chapter 16. They are first described as the seven last plagues and then as seven bowls full of the wrath of God (Vs. 7; 16:1). These seven plagues will chronologically bring to an end the ordered events of the Tribulation judgments in a dramatic crescendo. The plagues described here are extremely severe and occur in rapid succession, which adds greatly to their severity. The plagues are culminated by the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the final phase of Armageddon. The purpose of Chapter 15 is a vindication of God’s holiness through judgment. These judgments stem from the holiness of God and the perfection of His plan. Under the three figures of God’s final judgment – the cup of wine (14:10), the harvesting of the earth (14:14-16), and the vintage (14:17-20), Chapter 14 has anticipated what is now more thoroughly developed under the symbolism of the seven bowls.

Chronologically speaking, remember that we are first given a graphic description of six seals (6:1-17), but the seventh (8:1) is never described. We are only told that when it is broken, there is silence in heaven (8:1). The implication is that the seven trumpets come out of the seventh seal and actually express the content of the seventh seal (8:1-9:21; 11:15-19). This seventh trumpet takes us up to the return of Christ and includes within its judgments the events of the seven last plagues or bowls of Chapters 15 and 16, which occur rapidly at the end. The final great event is the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory (19:11-21).

Remember, the seven plagues and seven bowls used in this chapter refer to the same judgments as they come out of the seventh trumpet. The use of different terms is designed to display the different aspects and character of these last judgments. They are plague-like calamities, and each is poured out suddenly, all at once as the contents of a bowl when it is turned over.

Revelation is an ongoing reminder that God’s glory is always manifested during the time of His judgment. The end is in sight. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The Light is the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 12:35-36, Jesus spoke these words to a crowd: “‘For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.’ These things Jesus spoke and He went away and hid Himself from them.”

Sunday – February 7, 2015 Rev. 14:6-20 “The Grim Reaper & Grapes of Wrath”

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Revelation 14:18-19
Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God.”

I heard of a pastor who was talking with a colleague about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The colleague said, “Well, if that’s the way God really is, then I’m not going to believe in Him!” That is strange logic. Not believing in God doesn’t make Him go away. Yet I’ve often heard people dismiss God’s judgment by saying, “I believe in a God of love. He would never judge anyone, except maybe the worst of the worst of sinners.”

Or, some will say, “I don’t believe in the Old Testament God of judgment. I believe in Jesus, who never condemned anyone.” Really? Jesus spoke more often and more graphically about hell than anyone else in the Bible. He used the story of Sodom’s destruction to warn about the final judgment when He returns (Luke 17:29-32). The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals a God who will bring judgment on sinners, but who shows mercy to those who repent of their sins and trust in Him.

What John is told to write is a beatitude in the preceding verses, a pronouncement of blessing or divine happiness upon those individuals who comply with certain truths or principles of Scripture, but always on the basis of grace. In Scripture a beatitude is always seen as a reversal of man’s viewpoint by setting forth God’s viewpoint, values, priorities and ideas. To the unbeliever, obeying the beast and worshipping him is more blessed than death; even slavery is better than death. For many death is feared, viewed as an unknown, or the end. But to believers, God’s viewpoint and the promises of His Word teach the direct opposite. To accept the beast is to forfeit trusting in Jesus Christ and so to forfeit eternal life. But death is never the end, it is only the beginning. This life is a place of preparation because our choices and works follow us into eternity.

Jesus didn’t come and die on the cross just to give us warm, fuzzy feelings about God’s love. He offered Himself to pay the penalty for sin that we deserved to rescue us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10). God’s past judgments – the angels who sinned, the world under the flood, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – are there to warn us that God will surely judge all that have sinned against Him. The preservation of Noah and the spiritual redemption of the thief on the cross at Jesus’ crucifixion give us the hope that if we trust in Christ and turn from our sins, God will mercifully spare us from the judgment to come. Believe in Jesus Christ and you will not perish, but have eternal life.

Sunday–January 3, 2016 Rev 11:1-19 “The Rise and Fall of the Two Witnesses”

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Revelation 11:15-18
 “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.”

True worship results in action befitting the attitudes of the heart. So here, the 24 elders (the representatives of the church age saints who have already received their crowns and cast them before God) now recognize that it is time, or soon will be, for the reward of Old Testament and Tribulation saints. The coming of the kingdom will be connected with the giving of rewards to the faithful servants of God (Matt. 24:42-25:30). In recognition of God’s faithfulness to His people and the sovereign actions of God, they rise from their thrones (wherein they reign with Christ) and fall on their faces in deep respect and adoration of God. While they reign with Him they recognize that this is all because of who and what God is and what He has accomplished through the Lord Jesus.

In these verses thanksgiving is given for five things. Two are ascriptions of praise to God regarding His person and three are assignments to which God has committed Himself. First, continual thanks (present tense) for God’s person. Second, thanks are given because at this point in history God will be exercising His complete sovereignty. Then, thanks are given because now God truly, through the exercise of His great power, begins to reign. Fourth, thanks for the display of God’s wrath. And finally, thanks are given for the judgment and reward of Old Testament saints — including Tribulation saints.

The picture in 11:15-19 is panoramic of the rest of the tribulation. In these five verses the victory over God’s enemies and the establishment of His kingdom are announced. The record of this judgment appears in Chapter 16. The millennial reign of Christ will last for only 1,000 years, but the reign of Christ will continue on throughout all eternity in the new heavens and the new earth. So here we have the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies that look forward to the eternal rule of God when God’s purposes will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In baseball, the home team bats in the bottom half of the inning. This allows the visiting team to bat first. It also gives the home team, the opportunity to either win or lose the game in the bottom of the ninth. Today, it is the top of the inning and people are at bat. However, there will be a day when that will cease and God will walk to the plate in the bottom of the ninth. Man’s day will come to an end and God’s day will begin. One day God’s forecasting clock will strike suddenly and surely. Only God knows the timing. I need to ask you today: Are you ready?

Sunday – November 22, 2015 Revelation 6:9-17 “Martyrdom & Doomsday”

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Revelation 6:9-10
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

My heart has been heavy as I read and hear news reports of IS (Islamic State) and their attacks in Paris. IS released a video, in which they announced a threat, “Our message to the entire world is that we are the soldiers of the Caliphate state and we are coming.” So much of what we are seeing unfold in the Middle East characterizes what has happened to Christians throughout history in that region as well as other restricted nations. Throughout church history, there are numerous examples of radical religious groups and political tyrants that have persecuted God’s people to the point of death.

During the fifth century, Christians in a city in present-day Iraq called Kirkuk came under severe persecution. (Kirkuk was a part of the Persian Empire at that time.) Influenced by Zoroastrian priests, the emperor, Yazdegerd II, didn’t think Christians were capable of being loyal subjects of his empire, so he ordered they be eliminated – murdered – in A.D. 448. History estimates 153,000 leaders, clergy and laypeople were rounded up, taken to a mount outside of Kirkuk and slaughtered. The chief prosecutor, Tamasgerd, was so moved by the Christians’ resolve that he, too, placed his faith in Christ and followed them in death.

As we read and hear reports of the brutality happening in Paris, pray for members of IS. Pray they come face to face with Jesus Christ and give their lives to Him. Pray they will be overcome with the courage and endurance of the believers they persecute and choose to place their faith in Christ – like the chief prosecutor Tamasgerd during the massacre of Christians in Kirkuk in the 5th century. Pray for those workers on the front lines who risk their lives to witness in hostile circumstances. Finally, reach out to Muslims in our community and show them the love of Christ with the intent of winning them for Him. So many have come to the U.S. in pursuit of a better life and more will be coming. They, too, need to hear about Jesus Christ.

We are studying the Book of Revelation and we know who will ultimately win the battle – the Lord Jesus Christ. Until that day, when Jesus makes His final return to take His rightful place, you must stand with our persecuted family by choosing to fellowship with them through your prayers and actions. One day we will be in the cross hairs of persecution and will need the prayers and support of the Body of Christ as we stand for Jesus Christ.

Sunday – November 15, 2015 Revelation 6:1-8 “The Horse Riders”

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Revelation 6:1-2
Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”

If you’ve talked with people about the gospel, you’ve heard the question, “Is God fair to judge those who have never heard about Jesus Christ?” Will they go to hell because they did not believe in Jesus when they never heard of Him? Another variation of the question is, “Won’t those who have done the best that they could do get into heaven?”

Paul settles the matter of God’s judgment in Romans 2:11, “For there is no partiality with God.” God will judge everyone with perfect justice. Paul is anticipating a Jewish objection, “But surely God will treat us more favorably than the pagan Gentiles. We know God’s ways as revealed in His Law, but they don’t!” Or, perhaps a Gentile would object, “It’s not fair for God to judge me for disobeying a standard that I knew nothing about! I’ve done the best that I could with what I knew. God won’t judge me, will He?”

Jesus made the astounding claim in John 5:22-23, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.” There couldn’t be a clearer claim to deity than that! For Christ to sit in judgment of all men, He must have infinite knowledge, which only God can have. Also, this means that if you have a picture in your mind of Jesus as being all-loving and never judgmental, then you do not have the biblical picture of Jesus. He described Himself as the judge of all. In Revelation 19:11-15, He returns on a white horse to judge and wage war. His eyes are a flame of fire. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood. From His mouth comes a sharp sword to strike down the nations. “He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (19:15). So if that isn’t your image of Jesus, you need to change your thinking!

If we do not preach the coming judgment and wrath of God, we do not preach the gospel at all. We would be like a surgeon who didn’t want to tell his patient that he is ill. He hopes to heal him without his knowing that he was sick. So he flatters him that he is well and the man refuses the cure. Such a doctor would be a murderer. And so are we, if we do not warn people about God’s impartial, certain judgment of our every secret, and then point them to the good news that Christ offers forgiveness to repentant sinners as their only hope.