Sunday – February 19, 2017 Genesis 29: 1 to 30 “I Led Two Wives”

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Genesis 29:18-20
Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.

In Genesis 28, we saw God’s beginning with Jacob. At his time of great need, the Lord broke into Jacob’s life, promised to bless him and to fulfill with him all of His covenant promises to Abraham (28:13‑ 15). In 29:1, the Hebrew says that Jacob “lifted up his feet,” an expression which means that he had a new bounce in his steps as he continued his journey. God was with him, his guilt from the past was gone, and his fear of Esau had subsided. Things were looking up.

What Jacob didn’t realize was that he had just entered God’s boot camp. He was in for a difficult 20-year term under God’s unwitting drillmaster, Laban. God would use these trying years to knock a lot of rough edges off Jacob. Ultimately, yes, God would bless him. But part of the process involved breaking Jacob of his selfish ways. The readers of Moses were there. They had followed him out of slavery in Egypt, expecting to move right in to their luxury condos in Canaan, with milk and honey flowing from the tap. Instead, they had endured 40 difficult years in the wilderness and now faced the frightening prospect of fighting the giants who occupied those cities.

God arranges our circumstances to shape us into the image of Jesus Christ. We all tend to see God’s hand in the big crises, but we need to see His hand in the little irritations ‑‑ car trouble, the sick child who forces you to change your plans, interruptions. When we recognize God’s hand in those things and submit to Him, then we can grow through it. But if we grumble, we are “regarding lightly the discipline of the Lord” (Heb. 12:5), and we miss the opportunity for growth.

God promises to bless each person who trusts in Christ. Like Jacob, we say, “Sounds like a great program! Sure, I’ll let You be my God if You’ll bless me!” But we don’t read the fine print that tells us that God’s blessings always come through His discipline. To bless us and use us to bless others, God has to break us from our dependence on the flesh and shape us into the image of His Son, who learned obedience through the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8). So God enrolls us in His boot camp. Christianity isn’t a 100-yard dash; it’s a marathon. A lot of people want instant answers to their problems, and when they don’t get them, they bail out and go looking for some other solution. When you become a Christian, you’re in for life, so don’t faint when you are reproved by the Lord (Heb. 12:5). Settle in for the long haul.

Sunday – October 2, 2016 Genesis 15:1-15 “Fear Factor”

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Genesis 15:18-21
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land. From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:  the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite  and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim 21 and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”

Even though we know we’re loved, it’s nice to hear it over and over again, isn’t it? Life is uncertain and unsettling. We need to be assured time and again that we are loved so that we feel secure in our relationships. The same thing is true spiritually. We know that God loves us and that nothing can separate us from His love. But we need to hear it over and over. When things don’t seem to be going as we had hoped, when our prayers don’t seem to be answered, when trials hit, we need assurance that God is there, that He is for us, that His promises will be fulfilled.

We might think that a giant in faith would not need God’s assurance, because his faith would never waver. But that is just not so. Even Abram, our father in the faith, needed to be assured concerning God’s promises to him. By faith Abram had obeyed God’s call to leave his home in Ur and go forth to the land which God would show him. God promised to give Abram a son and to make of him a great nation through which all families of the earth would be blessed. God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abram and his descendants. But a few years had gone by and Abram still had no son and the Canaanites, not Abram, possessed the land.

Also, Abram had some fears. He had surprised the armies of four eastern kings and rescued his wayward nephew, Lot. And he had given up his right to the spoils of battle, lest he be indebted to the king of Sodom rather than to God. But now he feared retaliation from the eastern kings and he worried about poverty as he lived in the barren land of Canaan. So the Lord told him, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; [I am] your very great reward” (Gen. 15:1).  But Abram was still concerned because he had no son. He expressed that concern to the Lord and the Lord graciously confirmed the promise of a son by taking Abram out into the night, showing him the stars, and promising him that his descendants would be as numerous as those stars (15:4-5). Abram “believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (15:6)

God wants you to have that same assurance of His promises to you. Perhaps you’re in some difficult trial. Look to the sure promises of God’s Word, not to your own shaky performance. Submit to Him as the Sovereign Lord and repent of any unbelief, because God’s assurance is for believers, not skeptics. And know for certain that His prophetic word will be fulfilled exactly as He has revealed it in His Word. Jesus shall reign! Then, no matter what your circumstances, you can say, the future is as bright as the promises of God!

Sunday – February 21, 2016 Rev 16:1-20 “The Super Bowls”

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Revelation 16:12
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east.”

One of the significant developments of the twentieth century was the political and military awakening of Asia. The great nations east of the Euphrates River, slumbering for centuries, are now beginning to stir and have become a major factor in the international economic and political scene. The geographic immensity and the millions of humanity involved make it inevitable that any future development embracing the entire world must take the Asian continent into consideration.

China with its population now exceeding one billion is flexing its muscles not only against the United States of America, but even against its associate in communism Russia. India, now independent of Great Britain, is likewise beginning to feel its strength on the international stage. Japan is a great industrial giant where the comfort and manufacturing techniques of western civilization are now an integral part of Japanese life. And Korea is technologically savvy and an innovator of the future.  Most of this has taken place in the last twenty-five years and developments continue to be rapid. Even if there were no Scripture bearing on Asia in end-time events, it would be only natural to expect them to be part of the world-wide scene.

Many interpretations have arisen concerning the meaning of the phrase “the kings of the east.” From the standpoint of Scripture, the Euphrates River is one of the important rivers of the world. The first reference is found in Genesis 2:10-14 where it is included as one of the four rivers having its source in the Garden of Eden. The Euphrates River is mentioned a total of nineteen times in the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament. In Genesis 15:18 it is cited as the eastern boundary of the land promised to Israel. It is an army, therefore, which crosses the Euphrates River from the east to the west with the purpose of the invasion the Promised Land.

The ultimate explanation is relatively a simple one. By an act of God the Euphrates River is dried up. This makes easy the descent of the tremendous army of two hundred million men upon the land of Israel to participate in the final world conflict. If such an army is to be raised up, it would be natural to conclude that it would come from Asia, the great population center of the world. Although they seem to come in opposition to the new Roman ruler and his power, it is clear that this invasion springs from unbelief and these armies like the others are gathered “to the battle of that great day of God Almighty,” forgetting their individual conflicts to oppose the coming of Jesus Christ in power and glory from heaven.

Sunday – November 29, 2015 Revelation 7:1-17 “Saints on Earth & in Heaven”

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Revelation 7:13-14
“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

The word “tribulation” comes from the Greek word meaning “affliction/distress.” It is used in general about any kind of testing, affliction or distress which people experience throughout life, and especially about the church and her problems in this world (Acts 7:10-11). But Bible students have also used the term, “the Tribulation,” to refer to a specific eschatological time of trouble, a special time of judgment from God that will come upon the entire world, that will be unprecedented in its affliction, and will be culminated by the personal return of Jesus Christ to earth. There are many passages that anticipate this time of trouble under a variety of names (see below), but two very special passages are Matthew 24:4-21 and Revelation chapters 6 to 19.

It should be noted that the word tribulation is used prophetically Lord only in Matthew 24 and Revelation 7 to describe the distress that will occur in this specific future time of trouble preceding the return of the Lord. Each of these passages is dealing with the time of Daniel’s seventieth week, also called the “time of Jacob’s distress” (Jer. 30:7). The word “tribulation” refers to conditions in the last half of this time period and is either described by some qualifying terms like “great” (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 7:14), by a clause describing the unprecedented nature of the distress in the last half of this short period of time.

These days are a time of unprecedented trouble. Everything about it will be unprecedented in terms of destruction and global catastrophe. It is a time of extreme deception and delusion as Paul discusses in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12. This deception is caused by a number of factors but primarily from the removal of the Spirit indwelt church with its restraining influence and the increase of demonic activity. The result of this tribulation will be the martyrdom of believers in Jesus Christ, both Jew and Gentile.

But since this seven-year period is a time of trouble (distress) involving judgments that will be poured out as the Lamb consecutively opens the seven-sealed scroll, Bible students often referred to this entire period as “the Tribulation,” and rightly so. Since the judgments of the seals, the trumpets, and plagues grow in intensity, the last half is by far greater than the first half and for this reason and it is called in Scripture, “the Great Tribulation.”

Sunday – September 20, 2015 Revelation 3:7-13 “Philadelphia: Church of the Open Door”

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Revelation 3:8
‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”

The apostles were instructed to wait until the Spirit came upon them, empowering them to carry out the Great Commission. When the Spirit came upon them at Pentecost (Acts 2), the result was Peter’s powerful sermon which God used to save many. In the Spirit’s power, the apostles performed miracles, which provided yet more opportunities to proclaim the gospel (Acts 3). But as the apostles continued to heal and to preach in the name of Jesus, the Sadducees and other Jewish religious leaders became increasingly concerned, so that they began to persecute the apostles (Acts 4 & 5).

The gospel was advancing in a way that partially fulfilled the Great Commission, but this was far less than what our Lord had commanded. For one thing, the gospel was spread only as far as “all Judea and Samaria.” For another, the apostles had not yet come to terms with the fact that the gospel was the good news of salvation for Jews and Gentiles, without distinction. Up to this point in time, it was assumed that in order to be a Christian, one must either be Jewish, either by birth or by becoming a Jewish proselyte. The failure of the apostles to aggressively fulfill the Great Commission seems to have been fueled, to some degree, by their belief that the gospel should not go to the Gentiles.

There were certain excuses for the apostles’ inaction which could have been used. For example, because they believed the Gentiles should not be evangelized as Gentiles because they were considered unclean. In the Book of Acts, God has already dealt with Peter on this matter and now through Peter, God will open the door to worldwide evangelism. Peter was the one to whom the “keys to the kingdom” were given by our Lord (Matthew 16:19). God opened the door to those who would hear his message. It wasn’t Peter who persuaded Cornelius and friends to believe; God did. Peter was an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer, but the Lord Jesus, who has the Key of David, opened the doors that had previously been shut.

We live at a time when people are obsessed with methods. They wish to know the methods of those who are successful. This is not altogether a bad thing but we should take note that the Ethiopian eunuch, Saul, and Cornelius were not saved because of some slick evangelistic approach. They were saved because God prepared their hearts and drew them to Himself by faith. More important than having the right method is preserving and proclaiming the right message. We are not to modify the message of the gospel to make it more palatable. Our task is to proclaim the gospel that God has given us in His Word. If salvation is “of the Lord” – and it surely is – then let us spend more time in His Word and in prayer, asking God to prepare the hearts of lost people and open the door to their hearts with the message of the gospel we take to them.

Sunday – August 23, 2015 Revelation 2:12-17 “Pergamum: Sin City” Part 1

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Revelation 2:12-14
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”

The Bible displays a sense of proportion concerning Satan which we should seek to gain and then maintain. The Scriptures tell us all we need to know about Satan, and no more. Given Satan’s key role in the plan of God, his great power, and his cunning ways, we might expect to find more about Satan in the Bible than we do. God neither wishes to flatter Satan with too much publicity nor desires that we become preoccupied with him. Satan fell because of his insatiable desire for prominence, desiring the glory which belongs only to God. Satan should receive only the attention he deserves. God’s Word supplies the facts and perspective we need.

I sometimes hear Christians referring to adversity or difficulty, assuming that it has come from Satan. Perhaps it has or perhaps not. But if it has come from Satan, it has ultimately come from God. In the midst of his trials, Job was not aware that Satan was involved. For him, it did not matter. Job knew that God was sovereign, and thus whatever came his way came ultimately from the hand of God. Job’s problem was that he questioned the wisdom of God. Job’s great comfort came when he grasped that God is not only sovereign, but also wise and good.

Satan is out there. Sometimes we will know it. Sometimes we will not. But behind him is the God of the universe who is in complete control, using Satan, angels, kings, and sinful men to accomplish His plan. Satan’s might and power are great but not when compared with the God who uses him to achieve His plan. The Bible has been written to increase our depth perception – our ability to look behind the immediate source of circumstances to see God, the ultimate source.

To this point in time, God has purposed Satan’s existence and opposition to fulfill God’s plan. But for Satan the perfect plan of God includes a future day of doom. God’s perfect rule over creation requires the elimination and removal of Satan, sin, and death from this earth. Only then will God’s cure for the curse be complete. The Bible predicts and describes the defeat of Satan. My friend, whom will you choose? If you do not choose Christ, you are already Satan’s slave, doomed to share in his eternal torment. Those who follow Satan share in his doom. Those who receive God’s grace in Christ share in His reign of righteousness.

Sunday – June 21, 2015 Elder Ken McAuley “The Father’s Great Love Must Be Given Away”

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John 14: 2-3
2: In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3: If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

When we think of our Father God, it is usually in a rather distant, obscure way that is full of wonderment and awe. I think it can be more wonderful than that. In this passage, Jesus talks about His Father’s house in a way in which we can relate, as if He were going home. Isn’t that how we want to picture Heaven? He is going to prepare a place for us in our Father’s home where we can expect to stay eternally. The Father wants the Family to be together where we can fellowship with Him in a loving, peaceful relationship, full of trust and worship.

Worship may sound kind of strange to us, but our fathers are fallible and insecure and learning as they go along, hoping we will learn from them and remember the good and the wise things they try to pass along to us. We are not expected to worship them even though they would seem to desire it from time to time. So, worship should be natural to us when it is our Father God we are looking to.

He is our Creator, Healer, Comforter, Provider, Protector in Whom we can place our complete trust because He knows all, sees all, hears all; nothing can sneak up on Him or surprise Him. He knows the BEST answer, the BEST way and we don’t have to wonder if He made the right decision. I wonder sometimes if we maybe compare Him to our fathers rather than comparing our fathers to Him. Perhaps it’s because we don’t put enough effort into finding out a little more about Him. The Scriptures are full of references to and about Him from which we can gather a lot of information and insights.

He’s not a big comfortable teddy bear that only provides comfort and cuddle. He’s more like a lion. In C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, the question was asked of Mr. Beaver, is he (the lion, Aslan) safe? “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” He’s good and kind and loving, but also just, merciful, forgiving, righteous, holy; there’s nothing wrong with Him. But we tend not to trust him because we compare Him to our own fathers. Let’s make a conscious decision today to make Him our pattern of Fatherhood and encourage our own fathers to be more like Him as we love and obey Him.

Sunday June 7, 2015 “The Man Who Cried for God to Come Down” Isaiah 63

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Isaiah 63:17
“Why, O Lord, do You cause us to stray from Your ways and harden our heart from fearing You? Return for the sake of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage.”

Through God’s Spirit, the prophet Isaiah saw a desperate future time in Israel’s history. Because Isaiah predicted conditions that would take place about 100 years after he wrote (after the Babylonians conquered Judah), liberal critics have said that Isaiah couldn’t have written this. But I believe that God revealed the future to the prophet and led him to pray this prayer as a gracious way of teaching us how to lay hold of Him and His power in times of great spiritual need.

Isaiah pictures God as shut up in heaven, removed from His people who are suffering because of their sin. In an emotional outburst, the prophet calls upon God to rend the heavens and come down in great power, even as He did at Sinai, to restore His people and to make His name known among the nations. His point is that complacency with the existing low spiritual condition among God’s people is the enemy of revival. Remember the lukewarm church at Laodicea? They were content: “We’re rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” But God’s evaluation was that they were “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

I know of two ways to keep from lapsing into lukewarmness and thinking that it is normal. First, steep yourself in the Bible so much that when you hear of the worldliness of the modern church, you are appalled. God’s Word must shape our worldview.Second, read church history and read some of the great men of God from the past. You will learn how God has worked in history, and you will read men who were not tainted by our modern worldview. But the fact that they wrote in a different time and culture will often jar you to see how far we have drifted. That is the start of revival praying – when some of God’s people begin to feel the lack of His working in our day.

Never before has the church had so many methods available to us, but at the same time, so little experience of the power of God. Christians need to know the living God in a deeper way. Also, we need to entreat God to pour out His Spirit through a revived church, so that His power in salvation would turn millions in repentance and faith to Him.

Sunday May 31, 2015 “The Man Who Won a War Without Fighting” 2 Chronicles 20:1-30

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2 Chronicles 20:5-6
“Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord before the new court, and he said, “O Lord, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You.”

The story of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, provides us with helpful instruction on the subject of prayer and trusting God when we face severe trials. Jehoshaphat was basically a good king who sought to follow the Lord and bring God’s people back to Him (19:4-11). He ruled in the southern kingdom at the same time that the wicked Ahab ruled in the north. But although he was a good king, Jehoshaphat had a character flaw: He made wrongful alliances with the godless Ahab. His motive in these alliances may have been good, to reunite the divided kingdom. But he was unwise and wrong.

One morning Jehoshaphat was shaken when his intelligence sources came running in with the horrifying news: the enemy army was about 15 miles south of Jerusalem, on the western shore of the Dead Sea. Jehoshaphat’s life and his entire kingdom were on the brink of extinction. What would you do if you heard some threatening news that affected your future and maybe your life? This godly king did the right thing: He called a national prayer meeting and encouraged the people to trust God in the face of this overwhelming crisis. They did it, and literally won the war by prayer alone, without swinging a single sword.

It’s easy to read this story and miss what a great thing it was for Jehoshaphat to call the nation to prayer over this crisis. It would have been very human to panic. When he heard the news of this army within his borders, we could understand if he yelled, “Call all my top generals. Get the army mobilized immediately. We don’t have a second to waste.” As soon as the troops were mustered, if there was time, he could have stopped for a quick word of prayer. But for Jehoshaphat to turn his attention to seek the Lord and to call the nation to prayer and fasting was not automatic.

God never fails those who trust Him and obey His Word. That is not to say that He delivers everyone who trusts Him from suffering or even death. There are many who have trusted God and lost their heads (Heb. 11:36-40)! But this earthly life isn’t the final chapter. All who suffer loss for Jesus will be richly rewarded in heaven or God is a liar. Just as Israel was enriched literally by the spoils of victory, so we will always be enriched spiritually through our trials if we recognize our great need, pray to our great God, and trust in Him alone, not in the arm of the flesh.

Sunday May 10, 2015 “The Woman Who Gave Away Her Son” –I Samuel 1 & 2

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1 Samuel 1:9-11
“Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. She made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.”

Hannah’s story is one of perseverance though adversity. Hannah was a great woman, the mother of Samuel, one of Israel’s outstanding prophets. Had it not been for her agony and the adversity in her life, the birth of her first child would soon have been forgotten. But her years of agony and her tears of distress make the birth of her son Samuel an incident to be remembered. They form the backdrop for her psalm of praise, which has become a comfort and inspiration to saints down through the ages.

Unlike Peniannah, Hannah had the biblical perspective of the goal of motherhood. The biblical perspective sees children as stewardships, gifts from the Lord to be returned to Him. It’s the perspective of preparing children to become servants of God rather than servants of themselves, the parents, or the world. One of the great lessons of this passage is the value of godly mothers, mothers who are devoted to raising their children to know the Lord and who are willing to give their children to God and His service in accord with God’s will for their children.

Hannah’s psalm could not have been written without the suffering which precedes it. It is God who closes Hannah’s womb. It is God who purposes for her to suffer at the hand of her cruel counterpart, Peninnah. It is God who orchestrates all of the painful and pleasant events in Hannah’s life, so that the resulting psalm could become the masterpiece it is. This is the way God employs the human and the divine in the writing of all the Scriptures. While you and I do not write Scripture today, I believe God orchestrates our background and our lives in a way which uniquely prepares and equips us for the ministry He has for us. Let us refuse to see our past difficulties as hindrances to the present or the future. As we look back upon the painful memories of our past, let us look upon them as the foundation stones for our present and future ministry, and then let us rejoice in our tribulations and trials in light of the way God purposes to use them for our good and for His glory.

As Paul makes so clear in his epistles, God’s power is demonstrated at the point of our weaknesses. That is grace. God’s grace does not seek out our strong points and enhance them, so much as His grace seeks out our weakest points so that it may be absolutely clear to all that it is God who accomplishes great things through us. Those things which cause Hannah the greatest sorrow, the greatest pain, are the very things God uses to produce Hannah’s greatest joys. For those who trust in Him, it will always be this way.