This is the title of a film about a young orphaned boy who is desperate to find his family and, at the same time develop his internal gifted-ness. As he begins to express his new found voice, his world view completely changes and he also catches glimpses of a new life that earlier he could only imagine. Touching as this story is, it is still Hollywood. Many movies are inspired by true Biblical scenarios. The born again christian, much like this boy, has also craved a new life. He found it in Jesus. Once we were living in darkness, doubt, fear and confusion. We longed for direction, hungered for truth, desperately searched for the light, and struggled in a stormy sea yearning for a safe harbor. In Jesus we found the salvation we urgently needed. The glory of life with Jesus illuminates our path and leads us to His sovereign throne. Living for Jesus, worshipping Him in spirit and in truth, serving Him as a response to the love He showed us by dying for us on the cross, has become our new life. Paul describes it in his letter to the Christians in Rome as “walking in a newness of life”. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he states, “...new things have come”. Revelation 21:5 says “...I am making all things new.” This new way of life is something so different from the old life that it requires the death of our “old man”, putting him to spiritual death and burying him in the waters of baptism. Our former spirit man had to die so a newly created spirit man could emerge and be “born again”. This brand new man now longs for close, spiritual connection with Yahweh, his new Father. This new man now rejects his own personal controlling false gods including entertainment, power, cravings of the flesh, lust, hate and pride to name a few. This born again, new spirit man begins to receive blessings from the one and only true God in the form of God like joy never before experienced, great peace that comforts even in the face of death, and a certainty of hope in life eternal at the throne of the Almighty God. This new creation, this new man now has a view of the world filtered through the word of God. He is a disciple of Jesus and as such is guaranteed the inheritance that Christ enjoys in heaven. These glorious treasures are beyond any earthly comparison. Talk about a great movie idea.
When is the last time you felt sick to your stomach. No, not from eating too many tacos or too much pizza and ice cream. When have you felt that deep sorrow inside from giving in to temptation? You have been left with feelings of guilt, embarrassment and shame which cause that nausea in the pit of your stomach. “I know it’s wrong , but I do it anyway”. “Oh wretched man that I am.” Why do we , at times, choose to walk in darkness when the Lord has given us every reason and ability to walk in His light? David must have felt this way more than once. He writes in Psalm 38 “There is no health in my bones because of my sin. My iniquities are gone over my head. As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me. My wounds grow foul and fester because of my folly”. (:3-5) This feeling of guilt from sin and the failure to live always in the righteousness of the Lord is painful for the Christian. David explains it as “arrows have sunk deep into me.” We all know when we fail, when we displease God by our disobedience. However, the good news is that we have a gracious and loving Father who knows our every weakness. Repent of your sin, pray for strength and power through His spirit to overcome the flaming missiles of Satan. Hold fast to His truth. He wants your heart to be burdened, numbed, crushed and sickened. It is a that point we praise the God of Grace for not rebuking us in His anger, instead, for holding back His wrath and for not forsaking us! God is always with you to help, He is your salvation! Worship Him, praise Him and tell Him as David did, “Lord, all my desire is before you.” Make the Lord your greatest desire. Come out of the darkness of sin and walk with Him in the light, His glorious light. “If, therefore, the Son shall make you free you shall be free indeed.” !
My children enjoy trying to stump one another by quoting movie lines. The title of this article is most familiar. One wonders if the producers knew just how accurate the idea is with regard to the Christian’s new life in Christ. Jesus told His apostles directly and all of His followers indirectly to “Go….make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”. Our mission from God is to live every day giving praise, worship and service to Christ our King and being ready to make a defense for the hope which is in us. The saints are always willing to share the gospel with any and all inclined to listen. They desire to live according to His word as a testimony to the righteousness of Christ. Our mission begins with being a disciple of Jesus and then making disciples by “teaching (them) to obey all that (Jesus) has commanded…”. As the Lord’s adopted children ,we are mission minded, we support missions and we stay involved with mission work. I appreciate the work done at the Delmarva Christian Service Camp and the focus on missions each year at “Missions Week”. We have hosted many devoted brethren who serve in locations all over the world. It’s a great testimony to the power of God to behold lives changed, churches started and the name of Jesus exalted through the dedication of missionaries. I recently had the privilege to spend a short time with a dear friend and fellow preacher from Saint Petersburg, Russia. Victor Nikitin, a hardened atheist for much of his life was taught the gospel by his then future son-in-law, John Doughty. John and his father took a team to Russia shortly after the “wall” came down. Through preaching and teaching, Victor, along with his wife and daughter, repented, were immersed into Christ and accepted the mission of discipling others. Years later a group of Victor’s young disciples came to the USA and spent time in Delaware. I was unable to visit Victor in Virginia this last trip he made to America. Brother John called me a few weeks ago and said he was bringing his father in law to the airport in DC, and wondered if I would like to talk to him on the phone before he headed back to Russia. I happened to be on my way at that very moment to DC to drop off my daughter at the airport bound for a mission trip to Africa! What timing God!! We all met at Dulles for about an hour, took photos, reminisced, prayed and sent our loved ones on their way. Working this “Mission From God” can be hard at times and demands sacrifice, but wether we GO or wether we SEND it always results in much joy. All Christians are in the mission business. Your children may be your current mission as you teach them the love of God. Your work mates might be your mission as you set the example of Godly behavior. Your friends and neighbors might be your mission through works of service and compassion on those around you. Remember, “as you go” make disciples.
The end of this month marks the day that Americans honor and remember our fellow citizens who gave their lives serving our nation in the fight for freedom. Cemeteries from coast to coast will be decorated, parades will march down Main Street and loved ones will be remembered, talked about and missed. Our own congregation recently held a memorial service for one of our own. Robert N. Clark died in an accident on April 18th, 2018. He will be remembered as our most recent “Door Man”. Bobby now stands in the presence of the Loving, Gracious Father and Righteous Judge of all men. All men will leave behind a memory, a legacy, whether good or bad. Your legacy has the potential to affect those left behind for the glory of God or the glory of this dark world. Here is yet another motivator to make Disciples for the Lord! As He said, “...teaching them to obey all things, and lo I will be with you (always)” What a way to be remembered, as one who discipled others into a life with Jesus! How meaningful life is when you can look back and reflect upon those lives that are being transformed into His likeness, faithful saints of God, in covenant with Him and making disciples themselves! Here is treasure beyond imagination being stored up in Heaven! Joshua was this emphatic about making disciples. Joshua 24:15 “...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” He made certain that his family would see in their father, their husband, their master a man desperately in love with God longing to serve Him and only Him. He would reject all other faiths in gods that are not gods. Joshua’s passion for Yahweh and the Law of God was a powerful witness to the sons of Israel. Together the people with conviction proclaimed, “...we will serve the Lord!” This man’s faithfulness will be forever remembered, honored and talked about because it had a great impact on his progeny. His legacy is intertwined with savior of He world, Jesus of Nazareth.
How will you be remembered ?
Proverbs 28:5 “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand all things.”
I recently heard a comment that sounds all too familiar. “Why would a righteous and loving God allow such suffering upon the innocents of the world?” Some use this as an excuse for justifying their rejection of the Bible or that God exists altogether. The key is Justice. He is always fair and just. His law, which He ordained by His word, authorized by His power and sovereignty, evidenced by His creation, requires that the penalty of breaking His law be paid for. God’s righteous and just punishment. Believers will now quote, “The wages of sin is death”. (Rom6:23) The scoffer, however, accuses God to be a sadistic, bloodthirsty ogre, bent on forcing His subjects into submission through fear of death. This more accurately describes most of the other mainstream religions, it is not Christianity. The seeker, the believer, understands that God is perfectly just and righteous in His judgements. All He ever asks is that we Honor His word through faith. Rejection of His word is to reject the creator. This will incur His wrath. Egypt learned this lesson the hard way. We are all some what familiar with the glories of Egypt. The most powerful, the most wealthy and one of the most idolatrous nations in history chose to reject and dishonor the word of God. It’s leaders became objects of public worship, raised up to “sit in the seat of God”. Buildings, statues, temples and man made objects were venerated and worshipped in place of the one true God. Evil worship practices, slavery, the denigration of human life and the assault on God’ word is the backdrop of the following oracle against this prideful nation. “Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud, and is about to come to Egypt; The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence , And the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.” The prophet Isaiah speaks more of the destruction and debasement of this great nation (Is 19) which illustrates God’s righteous judgement. They will be demoralized, confounded, dejected and filled with mourning. The once fierce people will be delivered into the hand of a mighty king. So was the fate of Egypt. So is the fate of all men who forsake the Lord. The story does not have to end here. God is Love. His unconditional love is verified by His constant willingness to bring all men to salvation. Even Egypt was provided for. Isaiah 19:25 “Blessed is Egypt my people...”. God loves all people and will save anyone from destruction through His gift of the vicarious sacrifice of His one and only Son, Jesus. Keep walking with Him.
In the wake of yet another tragedy where innocent human life has been taken by an individual characterized as mentally deranged, disturbed and self abusive, the safety of our public school children and our peaceful society is now more than ever under assault. How did our country, known for it’s freedom and peace get to a point where children fear being shot in what should be among the safest places? Since 2013, there have been nearly 300 school shootings in America — that’s an average of about one a week. Are we becoming a nation spiraling out of control? How did this evil get such a foothold? What are we to do about it? Sit ins, hashtags and protests will not effectively change anything. Only by a change of attitude in favor of the will of God, as revealed in the Bible, will society be able to make a profound difference in protecting, nurturing and promoting goodness among its citizens. Evil will always exist among us, however, the greater the commitment to the will of God, the less influence evil has over the population. People must first learn self control and be encouraged to practice greater self control as defined by the Bible. David showed great self control and restraint as he stood, spear in his hand, over his adversary king Saul, while he slept. David’s closest confidant urged permission to kill the king. David replied, “…who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be without guilt?”, “The Lord forbid that I should stretch out my hand …”. David had many reasons to take Saul’s life, however, David’s self control originated in his love for God and in his honoring the will of God. He knew that God would exhibit justice toward Saul. David would not interfere. To do so on his own terms would make him just as guilty as Saul. When a man loves the Lord for what He has done, he welcomes the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit as God promised. He longs for the influence of the word of God and grows in his desire to live as Christ, doing that which is good and Holy and righteous. Guns, knives, bombs and even vehicles do not kill people. Out of control people kill people. Our governing authorities must promote and encourage submission to God through His word. We must once again, as a nation, exalt the Name of Jesus and seek to do His will. God inspired self control is manifested as love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness and is only possible through the working of God in us, which is the fruit of being led by His Spirit. Go make disciples.
Recently, my family took a trip to New York City. As we sailed across the Harbor on that bitter cold January morning, I listened to different passengers speaking in various languages. I heard German, Spanish, French and Chinese (I think, maybe it was Japanese). As our ferry passed by the Statue of Liberty the westward windows were crammed with folks trying to get the best view and take a few selfies with Lady Liberty. Watching this commotion I couldn’t help but think of what tens of millions of immigrants must have been thinking as they saw this same sight less than 100 years ago. What was going through my grandmother’s mind as she and her sister, young girls in their early 20’s, gazed out at the New Jersey landscape while approaching Ellis Island? This new land with new opportunities must have generated joy and excitement while mingling with fear and trepidation of the unknown. For most, I would think, the possibilities which lay ahead made these misgivings worth challenging. Many of these poor, homeless exiles were leaving behind poverty and persecution for a shot at prosperity and peace. They longed to escape the miseries of their homeland for a land of refuge. The “Lady in the Harbor” with her torch held high symbolized this welcoming, and I would like to think she still does.
In the spiritual world of darkness there is a divine torch which lights the way for the weary pilgrim. It illuminates the path for the poor and tired. She is a beacon which reveals treasures beyond comprehension for the hopeless and desperate soul. “You are the light of the world.! A city set on a hill can not be hidden!” Matthew records these words of Jesus as He speaks to the masses in His sermon on the mount. His church is the harbor of refuge for the world! The church of Jesus Christ welcomes people from all nations, regardless of race, culture or language. God is the creator of all mankind and has provided a way of salvation “once and for all” through the blood sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus. As His church, we are commanded to “Go, make disciples of all nations…”. Therefore, let us prayerfully commit to be the light bearers that welcome the lonely, comfort the hurting, give hope to those in despair, provide for the needy, and teach the souls shrouded in the darkness of sin. Let us be His church that says with silent lips, “Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..”. Thanks be to God, Christ has set us free.
New York City, September,1882. The Edison Electric Company lights up one square mile of streets, homes and businesses. The electrical age was born! What a spectacle it must have been, for the first time the darkness of the city dispelled by light converted from electrical energy, giving way to the moniker, “the city that never sleeps”. There is something about lights at night that lure us to gaze. Sit around a camp fire, decorate your house with hundreds of tiny luminaries, stare at a nighttime city skyline, light up candles when the power goes out. We sense feelings of awe, joy, warmth, comfort, being home, safe. During the feast of Tabernacles, the priests in Jerusalem would light up 4 gigantic candelabras in the temple square as part of the celebrations. Worshippers sang and danced throughout the night in celebration of the joy found in God as He led his people out of slavery. These great lights were reminiscent of the pillar of fire in the desert and God’s firey glory in the Temple. Near the end of this feast, while these magnificent lights lured in the masses, Jesus helped a woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees wanted her stoned to death. Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger and then said,”He who is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone.” Quietly, convicted by their own consciences, they left her alone. To the woman Jesus said, “…Neither do I condemn you, go sin no more”. Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisees once more, “I am the light of the world, he that follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” Notice how the darkness of sin is dispelled by the presence of true light, the light of God. This was Jesus’ ministry, to come be the light of the world that the peoples of the world could walk in His glorious light. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not comprehend it.” (John1:4-5) With this dramatic background of immense light, Jesus trumps all and claims His light is greater, more effective, more important. Why? Like the peace and forgiveness that the adulteress woman found, His light reveals and then heals the dark shadows of sin, leaving hope and joy to radiate forth. This is our ministry as well. Jesus commands us to participate in His ministry of bearing His light, taking it to the masses, and lighting up the gloomy hearts of those not yet in His Kingdom. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew5:14). Let us devote ourselves this year to turning up the light. Let us commit to greater service in His Kingdom by shinning forth His light upon the souls of men by living out His gospel in faith. When people see your faith, they will be attracted to the light, the powerful healing light of God. God is light. Far more than felling warm, comfy and safe, in His light we are forgiven!
The lights are out in a full blaze of glory. Tiny specs of illumination outline rooftops, garages, windows and doors. Strings of multicolored mini torches wind around trees, bushes, and even the front bumpers of trucks. We have capitalist and inventor Thomas Edison to thank for giving us the first “lights on a string” in 1890. Decorating has come a long way since the traditional candle in the window welcoming travelers into a ‘Christian’ home. But, what is the allure of that glowing light irradiating a darkened room? Why are we so drawn to gaze upon light piercing the darkness like a moth drawn to the flame? The answer may find it’s origin in our inner man. We know very well our lustful, sinful desires, our secrets and how we struggle with the temptation to “live according to the pattern of the world”. We know very well that spiritual darkness is equated with sin and the activity of the adversary. Colossians 1:13 says “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son...”. 1John1:5 says, “...God is LIGHT, in Him there is no darkness at all.” We have been given a choice to either walk in darkness (a.k.a.- lies, greed, disobedience, rejection of Jesus as Lord) or to “walk in the light as He Himself is in the light.” When we choose to live with Jesus as our very life, in the glory of His magnificent light, we have fellowship with Him! We have fellowship with His apostles and we have fellowship with His church, and “His blood cleanses us from all sin.” Jesus is the “light of the world”. It is only through His gift accomplished on the cross that man has been given the opportunity to dwell with Him in perfect light. Which leads us to a possible Biblical reason for stringing up thousands of these micro luminaries. Paul taught in Philippians 2:14 that the saints must “prove (yourselves) to be blameless and innocent children of God, above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, (a.k.a. darkness) among whom you appear as lights in the world.”
Let your light shine as a candle in the darkness, a city on a hill, “before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Clearly, we have been entrusted as His children, to light up this black world in which we live by “holding fast the word of life”. Therefore, do not be afraid of the dark. Light always conquers.
Lately, many men have begun the practice of " Taking a Knee", especially on Sundays. This is a good thing. I wish all men and women would develop the practice of knee taking, and not just on Sunday's, and not only in America. Recent news articles report men in other countries are taking a knee before they begin work. This too is good, given the right context. Taking a knee is nothing new, men have been doing it for thousands of years. Approximately four millennium ago, Egypt was the world's super power and Pharaoh ruled over all men. He promoted the young Hebrew slave, Joseph as second in command. When Joseph passed by the commoners in his chariot, the subjects would instinctively "Bow the knee!". In proper context, this was a symbol of honor, respect, and submission to their vice-regent. Likewise, those who love the Lord spend much time taking a knee in prayer, worship, praise and thanksgiving. Please take time to read Psalm 95:1-8, then continue with this article. -- Notice, in this context, it is the Lord God, Yahweh, the Almighty to whom we kneel as we give Him honor and adoration. Several things compel us to "bow before Him". First, we recognize that He owns us. We are the "people of His pasture". We belong to Him. He provides for us. He is greater than all others and deserves honor and respect. Next, He is creator of all things. He gave us life. He made the heavens and the earth. He holds all things in His hands. There are no other gods to worship. Thirdly, He gives us the free will to choose Him. By His wonderful grace, He promises us heavenly blessings beyond our imagination, "if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts..". That is a choice. Lastly, He is the "Rock of our salvation". There is salvation from the wrath of God which we would suffer as the wages of our sin had we not been "saved through faith. This salvation only comes through one man, Jesus, who is the anointed lamb of God. He is the rock who provides for our forgiveness, when we have faith in Him. He is the reason I bow my knees in worship to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. His name is wonderful and God bestowed on Him the name which is above every name. At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Will you choose to take a knee?