Many will choose this wedding season to have read at their ceremony the well known 1 Corinthian verses from chapter 13 which conclude “..now faith, hope and love, abide these three, but the greatest of these is love.” I can not help but think of the popular 1960’s song, “What the world needs now is love”. So true. Ours is a world where terrorists operate practically unchecked, inter-continental ballistic missiles are tested against international rules and amid threats of war, top secret information is leaked on a daily basis, wicked dictators subject their own people to abuse and sufferings, drug abuse ruins lives, infants are murdered, falsehoods are reported as fact, not even to mention the suffering caused by natural disasters. Sounds horrific! We can easily agree that the world needs more love! Let us also agree that the world has always been filled with evil, that similar abominations have existed since the beginning of time. There really is nothing new under the sun. Let us also agree that God, the Lord of all has already given us His love, the greatest expression of love one could ever know. God gave us His only begotten Son, Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin. Therefore, what the world needs now, it has already been given. What the world needs now for its citizens to embrace God’s love, submit to His Son, and live life faithfully following the loving Shepherd. Evil might seem to dominate this world, but it is God Almighty, the only God, Yahweh, who is always in absolute, sovereign control. David prayed at the beginning of the temple construction, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. “Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. “Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name.” Brethren, as you read the headlines, do not loose hope, be strengthened in your faith and continue to serve as Paul told the Thessalonians, in your “labor of love”. The world could never receive nor experience greater love than what was expressed on the cross of Christ. It is our desire and our burden that all mankind would hear the gospel and receive Him, so as to be counted among the “brethren beloved by God” and chosen to be “rescued from the wrath to come” Therefore, abide in His greatest.
There are times when this cruel world leaves us feeling abandoned and alone. Afflictions, trials and torments attack our souls leaving us in despair like we have been cast off or forsaken. Supposedly strong emotional connections are now forgotten causing deep pain and suffering in the inner man. We cry out, “Why has this happened to me?, “Why am I suffering so?”. In these dark times we groan with prayers forcing them heavenward hoping the pain and misery would be lifted, that the fear would be calmed, the disease healed, and the troubled soul quieted. We yearn for restful peace to fill our bodies. However, at the Amen the pain and discomfort continues, the sorrow persists in ripping apart our inward parts. Rescue seems futile. To wonder Why? at this juncture is natural. One could easily question God, doubt God even blame God for allowing such distress. “Doesn’t He love me?”. Am I such a worm, a reproach, worthy only of mocking's, despised by men, that you O God have left me? “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Some claim that as Jesus cried out this petition to the Father, God turned His back on His Son because He can not look upon sin. While that may be true to an extent, out of the many things Jesus did while on the cross, consider these two. He constantly had in mind the salvation of souls including the Godly and the un-Godly, even at the point of this wicked death. He prayed for forgiveness (salvation) for the Roman soldiers (un-Godly), itself a remarkable display of perfect love. Secondly, Jesus uses this horrific suffering to teach the Godly how to overcome. This question,”Why have you forsaken me?”, is a quote from David’s writings, Psalm 22. Read all of it. When Jesus refers to this scripture He knows that His disciples (the Godly) understand the nature of David’s feelings. It is true we will all suffer pain, discouragement, even abandonment. However, the Psalm shifts our focus from “personal persecution” to “perfect fellowship”. In vs 9. David writes, “You made me trust in you when I was a young child”, “You have been My God from my mother’s womb.”
O Child of God, be encouraged. God will never leave you nor abandon you. He does not forsake those who love Him and submit to His will. True, you may feel at times to be surrounded by dogs, threatened by evil doers, mocked and disrespected, diseased and agonizing inwardly, but God is near! He is faithful to deliver you even from the power of death. God will never forsake you because He knows you. You have been born again in Him. Trust in Him always, rely on His words, He will always rescue you because your are His delight. God will turn your sorrow into joy! You who fear the Lord, Praise Him! Glorify Him! Tell of His great name! Stand in awe of Him! Gaze up at His face! Seek Him and let your heart live forever!
It has been claimed that we live in the greatest revolution ever witnessed by the human race. Almost everything is in constant change. From medical science to economics, politics even warfare, to education, entertainment and exploration. Advances in technology drive these radical changes. My children have no idea what an eight track is and my idea of a tweet is a little yellow bird. So how does the Lord’s Church adjust progress and how do we keep relevant to the times? We will, or first importance, make certain we stay on the “old paths” neither turning to the right nor the left. Psalm 25:4 “Make me know Thy ways O Lord, Teach me Thy paths, Lead me in Thy truth and Teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation”. The almighty God has a way, a truth, a path that we must travel in obedience to Him as our act of worship and adoration. We must allow Him to lead us along His way through the life example of Jesus. To truly love the Father is to remain in Him and to walk with Him for “all the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth.” (vs10) God’s will must never be tampered with. His eternal and unchanging mandates according to His covenantal promises are the foundation of faith in Christ Jesus. The methods, by which we achieve them, however, are subject to change. In fact, successful evangelistic tactics 150 years ago are most likely ineffective today. Strategies of witnessing must change and remain applicable to the times, without corrupting the truth of God’s will. Preserving man made traditions of the past for the sake of routine or custom can propagate a mediocre and dissatisfied church. People are craving a dynamic spiritual life filled with truth and power supplied by the word of God. The Father seeks true worshippers to worship Him in spirit and in truth. The church has been left with the freedom to do just that, even in a progressive world. The potential power to effect the world is within our reach, under a humble, genuine leadership and a church fed up with complacency, lethargy and despair. People with a zeal for the cause of Jesus will make the church great again and change their world.
The Grand Canyon might well best portray the division our country is currently experiencing, especially embroiled in this election cycle. Red vs Blue, Liberal vs Conservative, North vs South, Rich vs Poor are markers of this great divide. The question may be asked, “Is it even possible for one man or one party to unite us as a country?”. The church of Jesus should be different. Scripture teaches that the saints of God are to promote unity and like mindedness, motivated by love for each other and the Lord. Verses such as the following resonate with the believer. “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 1 Corinthians 1:10. “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18. Divisions in the church result in the Gospel not being proclaimed in truth and in the power of the Spirit, consequently lives are destroyed in sin. Our goal, therefore, is to be “perfectly united in mind and thought”. When the Flag of the United States was lifted up over battlefields in places like the Baltimore Harbor, Mt. Suribachi, and the Forest of Ardennes, troops rallied behind the ideals of a common cause, stood firm against a mighty foe and sacrificed comfort for freedom. They were united in mind and spirit regardless of social position, country of origin or political persuasion. The soldier in the army of the Lord battles against a more formidable opponent. The best posture of defense is to remain ‘united’, locked together arm in arm, impenetrable, while advancing toward victory, with a unified purpose in mind. We must defeat the forces of darkness and the spiritual forces of wickedness together, united and committed. Divided we will fail. Freedom from the chains of unrighteousness is our clarion call to arms, our banner is the cross of Christ and our constitution the Bible. We may have varying opinions about what car we drive, the clothes we wear, the town we live in or the music we listen to, but our hearts are dedicated and loyal to the “word of the cross”, the Bible, the power of God. Our harmonious mind and thought focus on one objective, the making of disciples for the glory of the Lord. March forth to victory!
Life is precious. No matter who you are, where you were born or what you have done. Your life is precious. It matters. All lives matter. God is the creator of life, He breathed into Adam the “breath of life”. All that God creates is good and therefore, life is precious. The life of Jesus is precious to all who have faith in Him and call upon His Holy name. HIs blood is precious. 1 Peter1:19 explains that only by His precious blood sacrifice can a man be redeemed and justified. Precious life has been seen, lately, in the faces of the beautiful newborns recently added to our assembly. Watching those little hands and feet squirm around in their car seats, we push away the blankets and the baby wraps to find buried within an innocent, sweet, perfect face of an infant affirming just how beautiful and valuable life is. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum , when death is near, we are reminded of how we cling to that precious life and grieve when it is lost. Recently, more than a few funerals have taken place close to home. Tears are shed, hearts are heavy and the sense of great loss and loneliness overwhelms. It is in this state of affairs that Jesus speaks with Mary and Martha who are grieving at the funeral of their beloved brother. These words, recorded in John 11:25, are meant to comfort and give hope. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” Wow!! Can it be?? Jesus is promising Life after Death?? Of course He is, that is what the entire Gospel message is focused on! However, this promise of Life Jesus made is conditional. “He that BELIEVES in Me shall live even if he dies”. To believe in Jesus is to believe in everything He taught, everything He did, and everything He wants us to do. Faith in Christ must be evident in the way we live our lives. It is not enough to simply say, “I believe in Jesus”. A broken, repentant heart, a transformed life, and a desire to serve Him in His kingdom will be evident by our actions. We work and serve, sacrifice and praise all from a heart of worship. We bow before the Lord God Almighty and adore Him looking forward to the day we die and our earthly tent is torn down. Why would we do this?? Because, as Jesus promised, “he that believes in Me shall live even if he dies”. The death of our mortal bodies will happen, to every person, eventually. The comfort given by Jesus is to focus our hope and trust in God through His word, believe in Him, and physical death becomes the moment when we enter into the presence of God for eternity. We shall never die!! We shall never be separated from God! ! So, live your life every day hoping for the coming of Christ, longing for the day when your eternal life begins and you will truly be delivered from the burdens of this world. The question is, “Do you believe this?”
The church has been given one “operational purpose” according to the commission statement found in Matthew 28. “Go, make disciples” is the directive Jesus told His apostles and His church to execute. It would be appropriate for us examine our ministries in light of this mandate to ensure our proper involvement with the will of God. Our first action is to invite people to Return to God. If man is made in the image of God then he was born already associated with the divine. Sin separates man from God and the call of Jesus, “come follow me” is an attempt at getting man to return back to God. The prodigal son exemplifies well. He left his father, realized his detachment caused by sin, and willingly returned a changed man to an eagerly waiting dad. Our second effort is to Restore the broken relationship that was once perfect. Prior to our sin we did have a right relationship with the Holy God which explains why children and the feeble minded are innocent. One is reminded of the days when man walked with God in the garden in righteousness. God wants us to want that communion with Him again. Next we become involved in Rebuilding. The year was 520 bc when the Jews, released from Babylon where given the task of rebuilding the temple of God. This most important work was needed for the people of Yaweh to serve and worship Him. It acted as a bridge or agent through which man on earth could reach into the divine heaven. This temple finds it’s fulfillment in the Lord’s Kingdom on earth, the church of Jesus our Messiah. In this spiritual temple we serve and worship God, here, man is connected to the Father. Lastly, when these things are engaged in, great Rejoicing happens. All along the process of making disciples God blesses our efforts as men are drawn toward Jesus. Return, Restore, Rebuild, Rejoice. Zechariah reminds us these basics of our God ordained purpose can only be attained through His power as He works within us. “Not by might nor power, but by my Spirit”.
Obviously, the most effective way to overcome this current evil is to put “more troops on the ground”. To placate, appease and otherwise pacify the enemy with words only emboldens him stirring up an increased hatred for them who love the Lord. “Send in the troops!” Overwhelm the adversary with such a show of real force, power and might that he will cowardly crawl back under the rock whence he came. Genesis 30:11 “And Leah said, “A Troop cometh”, and she called his name Gad. This poor woman, unloved by her husband, hated by her own sister and made to feel worthless gave birth to four sons herself and then her handmaid gave birth twice more on her behalf! Six sons for Jacob! Gad’s name means “How fortunate, a Troop cometh!” (KJV). Leah must have thought that finally, now, she will will have a chance to overcome. This is exactly what the church of our Lord needs to be right now, a Troop! We need to see ourselves as a fighting force giving the Kingdom of God a victory over the enemy here on earth, fighting for the souls of people everywhere, embattled, weary and made sick by the adversary. We need more troops on the ground! Qualified soldiers for the Lord standing in the gap, promoting and protecting the church of Jesus the Christ. These soldiers need to be TRAINED in the word of God, able to search the scriptures and defend the truth. This is profitable. Next, they need to be made RIGHTEOUS by the blood sacrifice of the Lamb. Fighting for and in the name of righteousness can only be done by those made righteous in Jesus, the one who became sin on our behalf, that we might become new. God’s troops are OBLIGED to live by the Holy Spirit sent from God. He leads, convicts and assists in our understanding of God’s word. These troops will OBEY the word of God and His every command, the foremost being to love, not only one another but those who deny Jesus is the Christ and fail to submit to His sovereignty. The goal is to lead them to salvation, the source of true life and peace. Lastly, the troops most effective are PLANTED, rooted like a willow tree next to a stream. Unmovable and able to deflect the flaming missiles hurled by the adversary. The Lord’s church is not merely a gathering of faint-hearted, feeble, faithful neophytes. No. The Lord’s church is the greatest fighting force the world has ever known because even the gates of Hell will not prevail! Look, a TROOP cometh!!!
On a blustery winter day Jesus walked in solitude through the temple courtyard in Jerusalem. His thoughts may have been occupied with the events leading up to this wintery feast He was about to participate in. Nearly two hundred years prior, Antiochus Epiphanes attempted to remove all traces of Judaism by desecrating the Holy Temple of the Lord with heathen idols, outlawing the practice of circumcision (upon the pain of death), and offering up swine on the altar of sacrifice. The Maccabean family had all they could take, and revolution ensued. After six years of war, Israel, victorious, once again secured it’s independence. The Holy Temple of the Lord was purified and cleansed. The Holy utensils were replaced and on the 25th of Chislev (December) the candelabra was lit as part of the dedication ceremony. With only enough oil to last one day, the menorah stayed lit for eight days, thus providing the Jews a miraculous confirmation that their God would once again protect and provide for them. This is the feast at which Jesus walked the cold and windy courtyards of the Temple in solemn meditation. Maybe He was thinking of the victory two hundred years before and the reason for this happy feast. Maybe He was mentally preparing for a victory of another kind and the intimate feast He would inaugurate with His own blood. Regardless, John 10:22 records what happened next. They surrounded Him, they cornered Him, demanding to hear it from His own lips, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” . Are you the Messiah or not? Tell us!!
The world is in great confusion over this question, even today. Many believe or at least recognize that Jesus is an important figure in world history, some acknowledge His holy life style and teaching, others just plain reject the notion that He is real at all. The pharisees of the day truly believed that Messiah was coming but they could not begin to think He would come from Nazareth, or from a common woman and her carpenter husband. Obviously the miracles He performed must have been some kind of trick, the work of the devil, or misunderstandings. Rejectors of Jesus will attempt to invalidate who He is anyway possible. Sleighs, red suits, trees, ornaments, reindeer and the like are included. The one remote connection with the life of Christ we have here, are the lights. Jesus celebrated the feast of the dedication of the Temple which included the lighting of the menorah candles. We are not surprised given the respect and love Jesus had for the Temple. So, when you turn on your ‘lights’ this year, be ready to tell the world “plainly”, Jesus is the Messiah, the light of the world. Happy Hanukah.
Leaves crunch beneath the feet, vibrant colors of red and yellows abound, and the earthy smell of the terrain fills the air. Shadows grow longer as daylight decreases while the cool night air is blistered by a blazing bon fire. Fall in full swing sharply reminds us that winter is at hand. Preparations for the frigid temperatures include splitting firewood, and lots of it. Water pipes blown out, bushes protected and swimming pools buttoned up for the long winter must happen to be sure, but its that sweet smelling red oak that takes center stage now. Failure to properly prepare will result in great discomfort, unhappy people, and financial burdens that otherwise might not have been.
Therefore, great attention must be paid to proper preparation. Israel intimately knew about preparation, for they needed to “prepare” every sixth day, the day before the Sabbath. They also had a national holiday in the first month of every year as God commanded them to prepare for the feast of the passover. It was also on this day of preparation in 33ad that Jesus was crucified. To prepare is to make ready, to anticipate and to be ready for. Much like an army preparing for battle, the farmer preparing the soil, the host preparing for banquet, the world for judgement, and the church for the “parousia”. How we make preparation now for the coming of our Lord is directly related to His gospel. In preparation for the trials of this world, in making ready for the flaming missiles of satan, in the planning and training for the defense of the truth we “shod (our) feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”. Ephesians 6:15.
This is to literally have made our feet ready to stand against the onslaught of persecution and temptations from the principalities of darkness. Having shod our feet with the strong, secure footing of the Gospel message, the Word of God, will enable us to withstand and be victorious over the long, dark, cold, wintery days the prince of this world throws our way. Knowing Jesus as Lord, submitting to His will, fellowshipping with His saints, and serving Him in His Kingdom will warm the heart and make us ready to receive what he promised when He said, “...I go to prepare a place for you” , that mansion in glory land! O brethren, today is the day of preparation, are you ready?
Father, why is there a pile of rocks set up near the river? Father, why do we eat this flat bread with bitter herbs and drink these cups each spring feast? Why do we have this parade every Fourth of July, with fireworks at night?
Memorials are used to teach future generations to appreciate monumental historical events, to be thankful, to show honor, and to never allow the event to have been done in vain. Another intended purpose is to teach truth so following generations would learn from past mistakes or improve on celebrated victories.
Every Lord's day we have the opportunity to remember the the single most significant event the history of mankind has ever known. By partaking of the bread, which is the body of Jesus, and the cup, which is the blood of Jesus, we "proclaim His death until He comes". This is a command that the Lord himself directed us to follow, "THIS do in remembrance of me". Our faith and assurance of eternal life with Him are based on the fact of the resurrection, something that the powers of hell wish to diminish and degrade. This is His memorial. Man has constructed many memorials for the purpose of teaching, honoring and reminding generations to of significant events in our history. Washington, for example, is full of such memorials and we must continuously teach these events so as to never forget. But, the difference between these memorials and that of Jesus' is their make up.
Statues and fountains, buildings, obelisks, and roadways constructed of stone, metal and wood abound. The memorial to Jesus, if you will, is a living memorial, composed of basic life needs, food and drink. When we 'partake', we not only take in and digest, it literally is a communing with or fellowshipping with Christ Jesus.
Just as memorials remind us of past important events that impact our lives, so too the memorial of Jesus. "This is my body given for you", becomes the weekly reminder of God's gift of grace, what He gave to all mankind. This giving of His body is the giving of His life on our behalf, law breakers now under the required penalty of death.
Likewise, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood", becomes a living reminder of the death that institutes the gospel of grace, the new covenant or 'way' to come to know God. Men of all nations can now, by faith in Jesus, be justified by the grace gift of God, apart from any works. God forbid we ever forget to honor this truth or neglect to pass it on to future generations, for the body and blood of Jesus is worth remembering, above all others.