CONNECTING

27 Feb

perichoresis

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it or ever noticed but regardless of whatever I preach on, there is one thing I am always sure to include in every message…. the good news of Jesus Christ.  The good news that..
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. – John 3:16-17

I believe this is the main point of scripture and everything flows out of this central truth – – -God loves you, He sent His Son for you, He died for you, because He didn’t want to condemn you!! He wanted to save you!!

Yet, the sad fact is many people don’t live like that matters.  We don’t understand that Jesus did not just die so that we could escape Hell but also so that we might experience abundant life here on earth. I am not talking about a life without heartache but I am taking about a life with this amazing peace that nobody understands . I am talking about a constant Friend.

It breaks my heart that people don’t seem to understand all that Jesus has to offer. That for so many, church attendance is a sideline. Following Jesus is on a cursory level and nothing more.

We introduced a theme this year.. “Following Jesus: It’s Not  A Game!”

Our goal is to move people out of just occasionally talking about Jesus to being sold out to Him and consumed by Him.

So last week, in keeping with that idea, I began a series where I wanted to introduce the vision statement  of First Baptist Church of Lillian, Texas.

“Worship, Grow, Connect, Serve, Tell”

I introduced what worship was all about last week. That it is more than just a song. That it is in fact a verb and it is reflected everyday in how we serve Him… especially in willing to take care of the less fortunate.

So today, I want to talk about connecting with other believers.

I believe that the last part of Acts addresses adequately the law of connection. In fact, I believe this is the best scripture to describe what the early church looked like when it came to community. Luke wrote the book of Acts, and we’re going to look at the last 6 verses of Acts 2. Luke tells us ~

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.

44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47

Church is not a social club. Sometimes we develop great friendships at social clubs, I’m not against them. But, the fact is, we live in a broken world. A world which is filled with sin, hurt, pain, injury, illness and ultimately, death. We often don’t find the comfort and community we desire by going to a meeting, instead, we find what we need when we are surrounded by people who are like minded. We have to be intentional about cultivating these relationships and friendships.

You see, when we talk about making friends with people, forming a community at church . . . I’m going to say something which may shock you . . . for the most part, community and friendships do not occur in this room. There are just too many of us in here and there is not enough time to sit and talk and really get to know one another . . . and form those friendships. This room was designed for worship, not necessarily community. Yet, we worship together as a community. Tt doesn’t mean you can’t find friendship in worship, it’s just more difficult.

I want you to be able to nurture deep friendships with a handful of other Christ followers who push you closer to God, who know the good and the bad about you, and whose love is not contingent upon either, people you can call at 2:00 a.m. if you’re in a crisis. This should be one of the joys of being part of a church.

I really believe, deep, enriching, and real friendships are part of God’s plan for His world.

Acts 2 talks about how devoted the early church members were to one another. Listen to some of the phrases Luke uses to describe the early church ~

42 devoted themselves . . . fellowship . . . breaking of bread . . . prayers.

43 Awe came upon every soul . . . wonders and signs.

44 All were together . . . had all things in common.

45 Selling their possessions . . . to any who had need.

46 Daily attending together . . . breaking bread in their homes . . . glad and generous hearts.

47 praising God . . . having favor with all people. The Lord added to their number daily those being saved. – Acts 2:42-47

That should rock your world!

To listen and to feel what the early church was like.

Now, I get that it’s almost impossible to be at church everyday (I am).  Back then, they lived a different lifestyle.. But do you get a sense of their community? That’s the point I don’t want you to miss. It’s too important.

Here’s the fact, we are all in this together! It’s pretty assumed, but I think we forget that. Understand God has existed forever in a perfect relationship. The Father has a perfect relationship with the Son and the Holy Spirit, as does each with the other. It’s something called PERICHORESIS! It’s not a biblical word.

It’s a Greek word, and Perichoresis is the fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit being perfectly embraced in love and harmony and expressing an intimacy that no one can humanly comprehend.

It would be like a Venn Diagram showing the interconnectedness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father flows into the Son and Spirit, and the Son flows into the Father and Spirit and the Spirit flows into the Father and Son. There is an amazing intimacy in the trinity.

I believe that’s supposed to be the way we live our lives. It’s not supposed to be an enmeshed, unhealthy relationship where we’re into each other’s business and can’t get away from someone poking their nose into someone else’s stuff. We’re not about having no boundaries and not being autonomous and unique.

We are to live in a perichoretical relationship. It’s a constant flowing into one another. It’s a deep love that we have for one another. It’s a desire to be together as a family in Christ.

Imagine if we had this type of love for one another?
Imagine if the world saw this type of true and real Christ – centered love? If they saw who we’re supposed to be and what it looks and feels like?

The world would never be the same again.

Think about what would happen if the church really became the church God intended it to become? Too often we think we’re in this alone. We think it’s about me and my wants, my likes and my dislikes. Church is not all about you! It’s about Christ! It’s about how we can give ourselves to Christ and experience His power, His grace, His mercy, His peace, His strength and courage! But to do that by ourselves does not get us very far. We need one another.

On your own, you’re weak, when you add one other person, you gain strength, and add 2 or more people, and you’ve gained more strength in so many areas than you ever realized. We can’t do it on our own, which is why community is so vital to our existence and the future of the church.

Think about the Lord’s Prayer – – – how does the prayer start? We start with “OUR FATHER.” It’s not my father, it’s our Father, because we are in this together. We are to be a community of believers who come together because of one reason – – – Jesus, the Christ. This affirms our need for relationships, it affirms that we call this the family of God. We are in this together.

When we proclaim Jesus, besides salvation, what else happens? We are adopted into the family, we become one of God’s children, and we become brothers and sisters in Christ. So, if you think you’re an only child, you’ve got that wrong, because you’re part of a huge, huge family! The family of God!

I believe part of the problem is the fact that we’ve become really, really bad at making and cultivating friendships. We talk about being a self-made person, we look up to the lone rangers of the world, those who take life by storm, doing it their way and on their own.

American culture celebrates individualism and personal achievement . . . but have you ever considered that we follow a Messiah who celebrates community? When Jesus invited the disciples to “come, follow me,” the Greek translation is plural. It was the Biblical equivalent of Jesus saying “y’all” because He was calling them into community.

Jesus lived in a society that was built around the idea of community. Families lived with multiple generations under the same roof. They had family gardens and they still have them today. They are terraced plots stacked side by side on a hillside where the neighborhoods worked together to maintain the retaining walls and care for the produce. If one garden failed, they all failed. Life was built around relying on community.

And as the church was in its infancy stages, they got it more right than they ever would have imagined. They ensured the power of community by ensuring “all who believed were together and had all things in common.” People lived off of community!

Think about how often people just get together in the middle of the day to sit and talk . . . to have a cup of coffee. One pastor told the story about the time he was with a missionary from Brazil. He asked him if he wanted a cup of coffee.

The missionary responded, “Really? We have time? I’m honored. That would be great.”

The Pastor was thinking – – – – I don’t know why he’s so thrilled. Because I was about to pull into a drive through coffee stand. After doing that, the missionary said, “Ugh, you Americans. I feel so sorry for you. I thought you were asking me to be my friend. I thought we were going to sit together and share life.”

We don’t do that well do we? We don’t take time out and just sit and get to know one another. How else can we form friendships, form community . . . maybe even get over our animosity towards someone or sense of distance. If we don’t stop, we will be the most alienated and lonely people around.

So . . . who are the people in your community of faith? Like the people of Israel who lived in community and helped one another, who helps fix your retaining walls and ensures your faith is growing? Who can you call when there’s that need? Who can you call at 2 a.m. needing help?

We are not going to change overnight. Some people like to be alone, they are more comfortable that way. Yet, we all need people. If you are newer to the church, if you are saying, you know, I’d like to have a few more friends, I’d like to have someone care about me, to check on me . . . then I’d tell you get involved. Come to Sunday School. Ask me about classes.

Come to Bible Study! Ask about volunteering in some ministry. God has promised that He will be with you wherever you go . . . but you know what, sometimes it’s nice to look at another person, sometimes it’s nice to get a hug, sometimes it’s nice to go someplace where everyone knows your name!

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The Israel Report

19 Feb

I have said it before and I’ll continue to say it because so many times, this awesome body of believers in the saving power of Jesus Christ has proven it.

This is not a small church. This is a God-sized church.

There is absolutely no reason I should have been able to go to Israel. There is also no reason I should have been able to go for the third time in fifteen years.

What is even more remarkable is that the first two were free but this time, it was asked that we pay a large portion of it out of pocket.

This church recognized the biblical significance of Israel. They recognized the importance of partnership with Shlomy and Miriam Abramav and they stepped up to the plate in an amazing way. The majority of this trip was paid for by my church family. You gave nickels, dimes, dollars because you believed that this was important and you supported the idea of your Pastor going. You guys are truly awesome.

To tell you everything about this trip Israel would take a couple of hours. And certainly, if you would like to have my wife and myself over for dinner, I would be honored to come tell you everything there is to tell!

But for my purposes today, I will simply share with you three things.The land. Shlomy and Miriam. The Bridge of Hope.

First of all, let’s talk about what I saw in the land of Israel.

There is an eight hour time difference between Texas and Israel (incidentally, when anyone there asked us where we were from, we did not say “The United States”, we said “Texas”). So when it was 2 p.m. there, it was 6 a.m. here. Needless to say, when we stepped of that plane, we were already exhausted. It was 10 a.m. there so when I texted my wife to say we had landed, it was 2 a.m.. Praise God my wife keeps her phone in the other room!

The first place we went was Caesarea Maritima.

caesarea

According to the book of Acts, Caesarea was first introduced to Christianity by Philip (the one who baptized the Ethiopian) who later had a house there in which he gave hospitality to the Apostle Paul. It  was there that Peter came and baptized Cornelius and we learned that the Gospel was not just available to the Jews but to anyone who would receive.

I love that story… I love it because it has special meaning for me.  I know that though I am not an Israelite, though I am not a Jew, I have been adopted by God into His family. That adoption took place when I recognized what He did on the Cross. I understood that I could not save myself. I understood that He paid the penalty for my sin. Like Cornelius, I was a Gentile who received the Gospel and my name is now written in the Lambs Book of Life (Heaven’s roll sheet).

What about you? Do you realize that Jesus died for you as well? Do you understand that you cannot get to Heaven on your own accord?  You have a chance to be adopted into the family of God but only by agreeing to follow after Jesus and surrending your life to Him.   There is no other way.

From there we went to Mount Carmel, which is one of my favorite stories in Scripture. I remember visiting there seven years ago and saying excitedly to my Mom… “Do you realize where we are?”

carmel

That’s the centerpiece of one of my favorite stories of Biblical history. That’s where Elijah called down fire from Heaven.

Do you remember that story? It’s in 2 Kings 18:17-40.

Elijah was one of the greatest of all the OT prophets. During the dark and difficult days of King Ahab and Jezebel he was a voice in the wilderness and light in the darkness that existed.

He was willing to stand in the gap for God when it was needed most.

And the big showdown on Mt. Carmel is the climax of his life.

There was a severe famine in the land after 3 years of no rain.

King Ahab wanted to blame Elijah for causing the problem.

The bold prophet goes nose to nose with this wicked king and tells him the truth about himself and what is happening in the land.

Ahab challenges him to PROVE IT and the showdown is ON.

Elijah is going to publicly embarrass and expose Ahab’s false gods.

It’s the GREAT CONFRONTATION.

The Living God of Heaven v. The false idols of men of earth

Who is in the majority? There are 450 prophets of Baal and another 400 of Asherah all eating at the Kings table. As then you have Elijah’s own countrymen who followed these false gods.

Then you have one prophet plus God. Who would you wager would win this confrontation?

This is essentially the same battle that we face today as Christians. The names may have changed but nothing else has. Faithful Christians who are standing on the Word of God against the unbelievers of this age, with all their idols, and unfaithful brethren, who have departed and deserted the truth.

Paul once warned Timothy that in “the latter times, so shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (I Tim.4:1-2)

We must stand firm and strong against the forces of evil just as Elijah did on Mt. Carmel – and not compromise.

Elijah challenged the people to make up their minds. ” How long will you hesitate between two opinions?”

The Hebrew word PASACH means to limp. The people were limping from God to Baal and Baal to God. It was time to make a decision, and stop sitting on the fence.

Who is on the Lord’s Side? We must make the same decision, and the sooner the better.

The Prophets of Baal had failed to contact their god. Despite all their ranting and raving, scratching and screaming – NOTHING

Now it’s Elijah’s turn to show the POWER of God. He builds an altar, presents sacrifice, pours on water and PRAYS.

The result is AMAZING – fire from Heaven, everything consumed, Zap – God’s response is immediate, instantaneous and spectacular.

The Response from the People is one of Awe and Respect for the God of Heaven.

THEY HAD SEEN GOD!!!

Needless to say, it was once again a thrilling experience. I was jet lagged, tired, a little cranky, and thrilled to be there.

I would then spend a few days with Shlomy and Miriam which I will get to later.

But after I got back from that time with them, it was back to touring that amazing land.

One of the first places we got to visit was the Western Wall… better known as the Wailing Wall.

wailingwall

If you’ll recall, the Temple was the centerpiece of Jewish life during a great portion of Israelite history. Conceived by David, built by Solomon, it had housed the presence of God.

Twice it was destroyed and even now, we know that Christ will come to that Temple again at the Second Coming. One problem: it’s not there now. Now, there is a muslim mosque standing just to the left of where it used to be. The western wall of that mosque was actually the western wall of the Temple.  And the Muslims, bless their hearts, allow the Jewish people to pray at that wall. As you stand there, you can see prayer requests placed into the crack of the wall.

That same day, we saw the ancient Pool of Siloam (John 9:1-11), went through the original quarters of King David, and walked through a portion of Hezekiah’s tunnel.

The next day, it was a visit to the Garden Tomb, the place traditionally believed to be where Christ’s body was to have rested before He rose again.  In the distance was Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified.

garden-tomb

Now, nobody knows for sure that this was the place.  But standing there and being reminded of that event and how it changed the course of history.  The truth is it changed my life as well as many of yours. For some of you, you have yet to experience the power behind that empty tomb. But please, if you hear nothing else, hear this:  You and I are sinners according to Romans 3:23. We are separated from God, according to Romans 6:23, because of that sin. But that second part of that verse lets us know that Jesus came to provide us the precious gift of eternal life.  And Romans 5:8 explains why.. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.”  And we can receive that salvation by turning our lives over to Him, recognizing that He is Lord and that He died on the Cross for our Sins (Romans 10:9) Why? Because He is the only way to an abundant and eternal life (John 14:6).

I got further reminder of what my Savior did for me as I stood in the Garden of Gethsemane where the part of him that was fully man prayed for another way out, to not have suffered the pain of the Cross. Nevertheless, He went just the same.

gethsemane

I stood on the Mount of Olives where Christ is said to first land when the Second Coming occurs and got a beautiful view of the Temple Mount.

temple-mount

And then I saw where the Pool of Bethesda used to be. John 5 tells this story about a man who laid there for 38 years supposedly waiting for someone to help him get to the water in that pool because he believed that water had healing powers.  Jesus goes up and asks him “Do you want to be healed?”

bethesda

Why would Jesus ask that question? For the same reason that many get asked that same question today. Because many people do not want to be healed from their afflictions. They do not want to be healed from their sin of lust. They want to keep looking at pornography. They do not want to be healed from their sin of hatred. They want to keep nursing a grudge. They do not want to be healed. Oh, they’ll talk a good game. But when it comes down to it , they would rather not let go.

But to the ones who do want to be healed, Jesus says the same thing to them that he said to that man. “Get up, take your mat, and walk.”  IN other words, healing from those types of afflictions is there for you.  Now, don’t misunderstand. There are many physical afflictions where God may choose not to heal for one reason or another. But when it comes to the types of habits I have mentioned, God wants to deliver you.  So get up and walk in Him!

I teared up as I visited a school for victims of terror in Shiloh

shiloh-school

(which is also the site where the tabernacle set for 369 years and where the prophet Samuel was brought to Eli to be raised up in the ministry).

tabernacle

I enjoyed hearing David Rubin, a former mayor of Shiloh who you will also have a chance to hear in Cleburne at the end of next month.

david-rubin

My group went to Qumran where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered.  Probably no other discovery has helped authenticate the stories of Scripture and given us greater insight into those times than these scrolls.  To get to be there where they were discovered and even see one of the caves where they were found was indeed awesome.

dead-sea-scrolls

On the last day, we were exhausted and we still had a banquet to attend that night.  But our tour guide, Kirah, wanted to make one last stop. And she took us to a place called Perat.  This turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises of the trip. There is a monastery built there in the side of the mountain because it is believed that it was in a cave near there where Elijah was fed by ravens as he hid from Queen Jezebel during his time of depression.

perat

Now, I have to tell you that this trip was incredible! It was not my first trip to Israel. As a matter of fact, it was my third.  And yes, I did get to see some sites I had not seen before. But this trip was more amazing not because of the sites but because of Shlomy and Miriam Abramov.

abramov

Let me first say that Shlomy and Miriam, whom many of you have met before, treated me awesomely well. In the four days that they hosted me, they treated me like a king. Taking me to Masada and even for a soak in a sulfur bath at the Dead Sea spa.

dead-sea-spa

I had my own apartment with a kitchen and a living room. They insisted on paying for everything.  They were incredibly gracious hosts.

I knew about their ministry, “Awake Israel”, before I came to Israel this time. But to sit and visit with them gave me a clearer insight into what God has called these amazing people to do.

They are committed to bringing the Good News of Salvation to the Jewish People, mainly in Israel.

For many Jews, their Jewish identity is more cultural than it is religious. But this doesn’t mean that their Jewishness is unimportant to them. Most Jews also think that the opposite of Jewish is Christian and so for them to consider Jesus is problematic because it means considering losing their Jewish identity. Therefore in witnessing to Jewish people about Jesus it is important to stress that they do not need to give up their identity as Jews in order to embrace Jesus as Messiah.

But the biggest problem is this: one can be jailed or ostracized for sharing their Christian faith in Israel. In fact, if you share Christ with anyone under the age of 18, it is most certainly a jailable offense.  And lets not forget all of the fighting that goes on there and the huge population of Arabs that also hate the Jewish and Christian people. Shlomy and Miriam basically put their whole livelihood on the line every day by seeking to share Jesus there.

Now unlike you and I , they can’t just go to a mall or street corner and start preaching. Rather, they have fellowships at their house, community get togethers.

Shlomy has had an interesting life… having once been a bodyguard for men like Ariel Sharon and Sylvester Stallone… and he has written several books about his experiences that also tell of his conversion to Jesus. He was actually led to Christ by Miriam when they were still getting to know each other. Every place I would go, Shlomy would engage people in conversation. Then, as he would leave, he would give a copy of his book (which contains a clear outline of how to come to a relationship with Jesus) and ask them to read it during their spare time. In America, we may criticize that and say he should be more bold. In Israel, that IS bold.

I was already fond of Shlomy and Miriam but previous visits with them when they had come to the States. But after my time with them, I can truly say I love them and am honored to be partnering with such godly people in a “Bridge To Hope”

This brings me to my final point. What is a “Bridge to Hope”.

One of the greatest, yet often untapped resources for Johnson County churches is the Christian Heritage Foundation.

The Foundation was started in 1982 by Walter and Mary Ann Mize. Walter was a successful Christian businessman who felt a burden in his heart to do more for Jesus. The foundation was created with the idea of helping churches in their mission for Jesus. They offer to help churches in Johnson County in three areas… evangelism, outreach, and benevolence.  This church has been able to do much because of the foundation and their willingness to partially fund many of the things we have been able to do including Vacation Bible School, Thanksgiving in the Homesteads and Christmas and Easter outreaches.

Shortly before he died, Walter got a burden for Israel. He wanted to do more for the people of that country.  God fulfilled that vision when a few years ago, my friend Kevin Bentley was hired to head up a new organization called “Johnson County For Israel” and their main purpose was to begin building Bridges to Hope.

The idea behind this is to pair churches in our area with Christian churches or ministries in Israel. It is not necessarily a monetary partnership but one of encouragement.  It is to seek to help them out in whatever way possible, especially through prayer, in their evangelistic efforts.

Why is this necessary? Why should Christians in America support Israel?

First, let me say that there are many who do not. There are many who subscribe to something called “replacement theology”. In fact, there are churches in Johnson County that subscribe to it. It is the idea that when the Jews rejected Christ (John 1:12) , that they were replaced with those who came to salvation.  Therefore, they say that anytime the Bible refers to blessing  Israel, it is really talking about Christians in general.   This is a huge error.

Let me be clear that a Jew cannot enter Heaven simply for being a Jew than I can enter Heaven for being a Texan. It is only through salvation in Christ that we get to Heaven. So the Jews do not have an automatic pass.

But the reason we support Israel goes all the way back to a pact that God made with Abraham.

Genesis 12: 1-3

Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

The second half of the verse is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, the promised Messiah and Savior of the world. The first half of the verse clearly means that God will bless those who bless the people of Israel and curse those who curse them.

We need to bless Israel by continually encouraging those in government leadership to support them. As a nation, we must never turn our back on Israel. But honestly, one of the best ways to support Israel is for us to point them in the direction of Jesus. And the best way for us to do that is to support Israeli Christian ministries in their efforts.

it should always be remembered by Evangelicals that we are to follow the admonition and command of the Apostle Peter, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who ask you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

 

Loving Like Jesus

24 Jan

love

In the first 3 verses of chapter 13, Paul said that love is more important than spiritual gifts, or knowledge, or faith, or generosity. For even if we had all that, but did not have love, they would be as empty & useless as beating a gong outside a pagan temple.

Going on to verse 4, Paul tells us that love is patient. In other words, love has a long fuse.Love is slow to boil. It counts down before it blasts off. Then he tells us that “love is kind.” And that is what I want us to consider this morning.

If you were describing our world, would you describe it as a kind world? As we look at the things going on in our world we would probably answer “No.”

I heard a story about a woman who was standing at a bus stop. She had just cashed her tax refund check, so she was carrying more money than usual and was a little bit nervous about that.

She glanced around and noticed a shabbily dressed man standing nearby. And as she watched, she saw a man walk up to him, hand him some money, and whisper something in his ear.

She was so touched by that act of kindness that she decided to do the same. In a burst of generosity, she reached into her purse, took out $10, handed it to the man, and whispered to him, “Never despair, never despair.”

The next day when she came to the bus stop, there he was again. But this time he walked up to her and handed her $110. Dumbfounded, she asked, “What’s this?” He said, “You won, lady. “Never Despair” paid 10 to 1.”

Now I can’t promise that every act of kindness will pay 10 to 1. At times kindness may even cost you something, and require sacrifices on your part.

So with that in mind, let’s look at a couple of the clearest examples of kindness in the Bible. They are found in Luke 8:40-56. In this passage we see Jesus showing kindness to two people who are entirely different.

One is a man and the other is a woman. One is an outcast, poor and unknown. The other is rich and influential and the ruler of a synagogue. And yet, Jesus treats both of them with great kindness.

By the time of this story, Jesus had gained a great deal of fame and was at the pinnacle of his popularity. People respected Him as a healer and a teacher, and crowds were swarming around Him wherever He went.

But despite the pressures of popularity, despite the crowds constantly pushing in around Him, despite all the demands on His time, Jesus, in His kindness, stopped everything He was doing to help them and to meet their needs.

Cal Thomas wrote, “Love talked about is easily ignored. But love demonstrated is irresistible.” Jesus not only talked about love and kindness, but He modeled it for us, too.

So let’s look and see the ways Jesus showed kindness to them, because I think those are the ways that we need to learn to show kindness today.

First of all, Jesus expressed kindness by listening to people, by paying attention to their needs.

Listen to Luke 8:40-42.

“Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed Him, for they were all expecting Him. Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came & fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with Him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about 12, was dying. As Jesus was on His way, the crowds almost crushed Him.”

Now we’re not told where Jesus was going. Probably He was on His way to some open place where He could teach and preach to the crowds surging around Him.

But as soon as Jairus came and told Him about his daughter, the very next words we read are

“As Jesus was on his way…”

Evidently, Jesus immediately changed directions and started following Jairus because this little girl’s situation was much more pressing than whatever else He had scheduled.

By the way, how well do you handle interruptions? Some people work best when they can concentrate on one thing and see it through to completion. They do not normally do two or three things well at the same time.

So if they are concentrating, and someone interrupts them, they consider that an intrusion. They do not normally handle interruptions well. Maybe you don’t either.

But as you get older you learn that sometimes interruptions are sent by God, opportunities to minister that you would miss if you ignored them.

If you just go on with your project and don’t allow yourself to be interrupted if you aren’t flexible enough to change directions and go in another way you will miss great opportunities that God may place before you.

Jesus paid attention to Jairus and changed His plans and direction. But Jairus was not the only interruption, and Jesus was flexible and kind enough to pause and meet another need as they were on their way to Jairus’ house.

Listen to verses 43-46,

“And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind Him and touched the edge of His cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

“‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.'”

There were crowds of people surrounding them, and everyone was in a hurry. Yet Jesus was able to differentiate between the touch of the crowd and the personal touch of the woman who needed His help.

Our world is becoming more and more impersonal, isn’t it? Go to a gasoline service station and you don’t even have to talk to anybody anymore. Just put your card in the slot, pump the gas, and you can drive away without ever looking at another human being. And its the same way at the bank, isn’t it?

How about the airlines? In any major city, call and you’ll hear a computerized voice,

“If you want information regarding departing flights, press 1. For arriving flights, press 2.” You press 1, & it says, “If you know your flight number, press 1.”

You press 1 again, and it says,

“Enter your flight number.”

You punch that in, and the computerized voice then tells you the correct gate number. You never have to talk to another living, breathing, human being. It’s become a very impersonal world.

Can you imagine what would happen if they did this to “911”? You dial 911 & hear,

“If your emergency is a murder, press 1. If it is a burglary, press 2. If the burglar is still in the house, press 3. If he has a gun, press 4 real quick.”

I don’t know what we are coming to, do you? It has become a very impersonal world. But Jesus took time to stop in the midst of a crowd to give a woman His personal attention as though she was the only one there.

Second, Jesus expressed kindness by being considerate of others.

Verses 47-48 tell us,

“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at His feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched Him and how she had been instantly healed.

“Then He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.'”

We need to realize that because of her disease she was considered unclean and therefore was an outcast. They treated her like they treated someone with leprosy. So because of that, she had not been living with her family for 12 years.

Her self esteem must have been as low as it could possibly be. So Jesus surprises her, first of all, by stopping & listening to her story of woe. I think we have a very condensed version of the story that she told. I mean, this is probably the first time in a long time that she really had anyone’s attention.

So I imagine that she poured out her heart to Him… and  Jesus listened. And by listening, by looking at her, by paying attention to her,  he was displaying real kindness.

Are you a good listener? Most of us probably aren’t. We pass each other & say “How are you?” And we expect an automatic, “I’m fine.” But have you ever been caught off guard and someone really told you just how they felt?

A friend of mine recalls that he once said, “How are you?” to a lady, and she replied, “You don’t want to know.” He says, “She was right. I really didn’t have time to listen to her just then. I was hurrying on to do something else.”

I think it is true, most of us really don’t take the time to listen, do we?

Erma Bombeck told about a time when she was so tired of listening. She had listened to her son tell in minute detail about a movie he had just seen, punctuated by at least 1,000 “you knows” and “okays.”

Then she had received several telephone calls filled with what she felt was mindless chatter that never seemed to end. So it was with genuine relief that she was able to tell the last caller that she just had to rush off to the airport.

She got into a taxicab, and as the taxicab driver took her to the airport, he told her all about his son who had won a scholarship to college, and how he was making straight A’s. Erma had to sit there and listen to it all.

She said, “But once I got to the airport and realized that I was 30 minutes early, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, ‘I have 30 whole minutes when I don’t have to listen to anybody. I can just sit here and read my book & not be bothered at all.”

“But no sooner had I opened my book, when an elderly female said to me, ‘I bet it’s cold in Chicago.’ ‘I suppose,’ I replied without looking up from her book.

“I haven’t been in Chicago for 3 years,” the woman said. “My son lives there.” ‘That’s nice’, I said . Then the woman continued on, ‘My husband’s body is on this plane. We were married for 53 years. I don’t drive, you see, & the funeral director was so nice. He drove me to the airport today.'”

Erma recalls, “Her voice droned on. Here was a woman who didn’t want money or advice or counsel. All she wanted was someone to listen. And in desperation she had turned to a total stranger with her story.”

Erma Bombeck said, “She continued to talk to me until they announced that we were boarding the plane. We walked onto the plane and I saw her sit down in another section. And as I hung up my coat I heard her say to the person next to her, ‘I bet it’s cold in Chicago.'”

There are so many of us who just need somebody, sometime, to listen, just to focus on us and listen to what we have to say. And Jesus did so that day!

Finally, Jesus expressed kindness through an understanding spirit. Notice what it says in verses 49-56.

“While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ he said. ‘Don’t bother the teacher any more.’

“Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.’ When he arrived at the house of Jairus, He did not let anyone go in with Him except Peter, John & James, and the child’s father & mother.

“Meanwhile, all the people were wailing & mourning for her. ‘Stop wailing,’ Jesus said. ‘She is not dead but asleep.’ They laughed at Him, knowing that she was dead.

“But He took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but He ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.”

Now let’s concentrate on those last few verses. The miracle is exceptional, & we praise God for it. But notice what Jesus told them after the miracle was over. He said to them, “Don’t tell anyone what has happened.”

You know, some of the most disturbing words in the English language are 4 words that we like to speak, but hate to hear. They are the words, “I told you so.” It’s fun to speak them, and we relish it when we’re the ones saying, “I told you so!” But it’s very difficult to listen to them, isn’t it?

Now remember, those people outside the house had mocked Jesus. They had laughed at Him before He went in to raise the girl back to life again.

If I were Jesus, I know what I would have done. I would have raised the girl back to life, and then I would have taken her by the hand and we would have walked up and down in front of all those mockers. And I would have said, “I told you so, I told you so.” That would have been a lot of fun.

But Jesus didn’t do that. He was concerned about how they felt, too. He didn’t try to get even with them. He didn’t try to get back at them. He didn’t try to glorify Himself.

Instead, in kindness, He tells the parents, “Don’t tell anyone what has happened here.” Sometimes it is not so much what you say as how you say it.

One preacher said, “I have never had to apologize for my position, but I have oftentimes had to apologize for my disposition.” Have you ever had to apologize for your disposition?

I love the story about the 6’10” cowboy who walked up to the counter at McDonalds, slammed down his big fist, & said to the girl behind the counter, “I want half a Big Mac.” She said, “What?” He said, “I want half a Big Mac and I want it now.”

Not being sure what to do, she said, “Excuse me for a minute.” And she headed over to her manager without realizing that the man was following her.

She got to the manager and said, “There’s a big klutz over there who is dumber than lead & he has ordered half a Big Mac.”

And just about that moment she realized that he was standing right behind her. Quickly she added, “And this gentleman wants the other half.”

Sometimes you may be put on a spot, and what you say is important. But how you say it can be even more important.

The fact that Jesus didn’t want to embarrass those who had been mocking Him, or get even with them speaks volumes, and teaches us how we are to respond to each other, too.

Some construction workers were building a high rise across the street from a hospital. As they were working on the 3rd floor they noticed a little girl standing in the 3rd floor window of the hospital watching them work.

One day they looked across & saw the little girl hold up a poster that said, “My name is Lisa. What are your names?”

So the next day the construction workers came back with some poster board & magic markers, & they all wrote down their names. “My name is Bob. My name is Bill. My name is Harry. How old are you?”

The next day the little girl held up a sign that said, “I am 7 years old. How old are you?” Well, this went on for several days.

But one day they noticed that Lisa wasn’t at her usual place in the window. So at break time one of the workers called the hospital & asked for a third floor nurse. He asked if she could tell him anything at all about Lisa.

The nurse said that Lisa had taken a turn for the worse and was now in Intensive Care. So the workers pooled their money and bought some flowers & a card and wrote a note on it, and sent it to Lisa in Intensive Care.

Several days passed, and then another sign appeared at the window, “Lisa passed away. Thank you for caring!”

Love is kind. We need to learn to be kind to one another even as God has been kind through Jesus Christ, and offered Him as a sacrifice for all our sins.

Watch Out For Wolves!

17 Jan

false

Matthew 7:15-25..

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.

I have shared it before that probably the biggest crisis facing the church today is biblical ignorance.  I can’t count how many times that I have heard someone plunge into a lifestyle or how many times I’ve heard a preacher say something that was clearly out of sync with the Word of God and people buy into it.  I have even heard old adages quoted as though they were scripture.

“Like the Bible says, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

But probably one of the greatest dangers is the false teaching that goes on..  I saw a guy on late night television the other night promoting “miracle spring water”. In the commercial, people were talking about having taken this water and being healed of physical ailments and even receiving huge checks in the mail.

What is even more tragic is when I read of people who died because a false preacher had convinced them to stop taking medication or refuse treatment and just wait on God to heal them. The problem is this: God also equips doctors.  And moves through them.

Years ago, there was a con artist preacher named Hobart Freeman. His church had established a beautiful auditorium inside a refurbished barn. It was packed – even on Sunday nights – as people left their communities and traveled 30 to 100 miles to attend and hear this dynamic speaker preach his version of  the Bible.

Jack and Mary regularly attended the Barn on Sunday Nights.
In time, the “Glory Barn” and it’s “Faith Assemblies” began to infer, if not outright teach, that if you had enough faith, you wouldn’t need to go to a Doctor to be healed (in fact if you went, it was a sign you didn’t have enough faith). Jack, who was diabetic, believed Freeman and his teachings and, after several incidents where he blacked out because he hadn’t taken his medicine, died of a lack of insulin.

Jesus said “Watch out for false prophets, for they come to you in Sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

People die physically and spiritually at the hands of false prophets because wolves devour their prey.

What are these wolves hungry for?
Not your food or you money. These wolves are hungry for you. Paul warned in Acts 20:
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to DRAW AWAY DISCIPLES AFTER THEM” (Acts 20:28-31).
Wolves desire YOU… because you are their power base. You give them importance. You become their flock.

Jude condemns these wolves in very direct terms: “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord…. these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals— these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm— shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted— twice dead.” (Jude 4, 10 , 12-13)

The way Jude describes them, you’d think these teachers were some kind of 3 headed monsters that could be easily seen and identified. But, they’re not. Satan, we’re told, appears like an angel of light. Satan and his followers don’t hand out calling cards saying: “I’m an enemy of God.” They disguise themselves to gain your confidence. Because it’s easier to deceive you if they look like you.

At one time, the cover on the Jehovah Witness Bible was green. But lately, it’s been changed it to black. Why? Jehovah Witnesses want to look like you. When they come to your door, they’ll quote from Scrpture. Why? Because they want to sound like you.

Some of these false religions spend millions each year on magazine, radio and TV ads to convince you they are just like you. In fact they grow offended to be accused of NOT being Christians.

If they tend to disguise themselves, how are we supposed to recognize these evil people?
Jesus tells us, we can recognize them “by their fruits.”

DO THEY TEACH ANOTHER GOD?
In the Old Testament, God’s people were told in Deuteronomy 13:1-4
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.
It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.

In others words, even a person who can tell the future and do miraculous things is a liar if they try to get you to follow a different god.

DO THEY TEACH ANOTHER JESUS?
In I John 2:22-23, the apostle wrote: “I do no write to you because you do not write to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is an antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son. No on who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”

DO THEY TEACH ANOTHER GOSPEL
Galatians 1:8 says: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”

One of the biggest falsehoods out there today is the health and wealth or “prosperity” Gospel.  They will sound good. They will quote the same scriptures you hear me quote. But then they’ll throw in the tiniest of allusions that success and physical health is an absolute sign of a right walk with Jesus. They never preach on Job or talk about Paul being stoned or imprisoned just for preaching the Gospel.

They’re playing you folks. And you get mad at those of us who are sounding the alarm against them. I am simply pleading. Be wary.

DO THEY TEACH ANOTHER BOOK
Proverbs 30:5-6 says: “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”

Anytime you see a “supplement” to scripture or some preacher has received a “new word” that contradicts Scripture, run fast and run far.

How can you protect yourselves against such wolves?
Know your Bible. Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us that we need to listen to our Preachers, teachers, and so on. We need to be so deeply ingrained in the fellowship and teachings of Scripture in our church, that we grow up strong and vigilant against such evil.

In ancient China, gem merchants often took on apprentices to study the craft of selecting, cutting and selling rare stones. One young man came to a master craftsman requesting to become an apprentice. The craftsman agreed and asked him to come back the next day. The following day, the apprentice arrived and was given a ruby and told to sit in the corner and hold it. Throughout the day that was all he did. He did the same thing the next day.. and the next… and the next. After a couple of weeks, the apprentice complained and asked why he was being treated this way. The craftsman wordlessly placed a stone in the young man’s hand at which the apprentice said “That’s not a ruby.” He had learned to know the authentic from the fake by constant exposure to the real thing.

I can’t say it enough and I won’t quit saying it. You cannot grow in Christ without a regular time in the Word. You need to be learning Scripture. There are those out there trying to steal your soul.. at the very least, mislead you to keep from sharing Him with others.  Plug in!  Not for the sake of a church but for the sake of Christianity in America today.

 

WHICH ROAD ARE YOU ON?

5 Jan

road

 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7.13-14).

According to a recent survey, 70% of adult American Christians believe there are no moral or ethical absolutes that apply to everyone. In other words most Christian adults have been poisoned by the drug of moral relativism. Most Christians have joined the non-Christian culture and believe we set our own standards. In essence this survey reveals that 70% of Adult American Christians have decided that God is not capable or worthy of establishing guidelines for living.

In a similar survey only 20 % of Adult American Christians said that living a life according to God’s will is the single most important thing in their lives. So, the flip side is that 80% of Adult American Christians are telling God to take a number. I’m not really surprised by these facts. These facts are lived out before our eyes everyday. As a matter of fact they are more than likely lived out to some degree by the man or woman we see in the mirror every morning.

The people of what scripture first referred to as “the Way” have strayed off course. The people of the Book have relegated it to a spot on the coffee table or mantle and it is rarely opened. Those who call themselves Christians no longer seem to understand the nature of the call. We have lost sight of the fact that it a narrow path we are supposed to be travelling. We are quickly becoming that which we despise most in the New Testament World – Pharisees. We are becoming the blind leaders of the blind.

It is high time that we return to the nature of the Narrow Way. It is high time we learn again the cost of Christianity. Let us look at the principles of the Narrow Way.

First, it is a narrow way.

We are quickly becoming a society of acceptance. We have accepted the old adage that “all roads lead to Rome”. Yet, we have transformed it to read, “all roads lead to Heaven.” No longer is it acceptable to suggest that there is only one truth, especially if that truth comes from the Bible. However, if we call ourselves Christians then we are suggesting that we espouse the beliefs of Jesus Christ, and if we espouse the beliefs of Jesus then we must accept the truth of God’s Word. It is a sad day when those who claim to be followers of “The Way” run contrary to that “Way”. Close minded though it may be, the Bible is the final authority for life and faith. Taking the chance of being criticized by the masses, I must inform you today that there are many paths in this world, but only one “way” leads to God and eternal life.

The Bible says, “Enter in at the straight gate … Because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life (Matthew 7.13-14)”. The way to Christ and eternal life is a narrow one. Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep (John 10.7).” Suggesting that if one wants to enter into the fold of Christianity one must come through the door way of Jesus Christ. This fact becomes clear when He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me (John 14.6 ).” In other words, all roads do not lead to the Kingdom of God, rather only one road leads to God and that is the road that passes through the person of Jesus Christ.

If you want to be a Christian you must come through Jesus Christ. If you want to have an eternal home in heaven you must come through Jesus Christ. He is the “way”. The “way” is straight and narrow. So, enter in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in: Because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it,

Today you have been shown the “way”. Will you take it?  But be aware.

It is also a confined way.

Do not be confused by the term “confined”. I do not mean that the way of Christ is confined in a legalistic sense. I believe very much that we have freedom in the person of Jesus Christ. In fact we are freed from the Law. We are not free in the sense that we are free to live contrary to the principles of the Law, because Jesus said that He did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill the Law. In fact, God said, “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts (Hebrews 8.10).” No, we are not free from the practice of the principles of God’s Law, but in Christ Jesus we are free from the legal condemnation of the Law as it relates to our sin. Thank God that “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8.1 ).” “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (Galatians 3.10 ).” Therefore, as Christians we are free from the curse of the Law.

Not only are we free from the curse of the Law, but we are also free from the bondage of sin. In order to understand our freedom we must first understand our bondage. Each of us apart from Christ is in the same situation, for “the scripture has concluded all are under sin (Galatians 3.22).” We are all lost in our sin and under the bondage of sin. God’s Word makes this very clear through the writings of the Apostle Paul who says, “we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seek after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; … For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3.9-12; 23).” Clearly all of humanity apart from the saving grace of God is lost in and under the weighty bondage of sin. The one who sins is “the servant of sin (John 8.34 ).”Yet, there is hope for the one who would come to Jesus Christ for salvation.

Just as through Adam we have all inherited the nature of, come under the bondage of, and are in danger of the judgment of sin, through Jesus we can find freedom from that same nature, bondage, and judgment. As we have learned Jesus says that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” This is important because for those who find the truth a wonderful transformation takes place both internally and eternally. When you find the truth the “truth will make you free (John 8.32).” The question is what does He set your free from. He sets us free from sin. How? He sets us free through our salvation experience. Those who have accepted Christ as savior have identified themselves with Christ through the ordinance of baptism.

All who “were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death (Romans 6.3).” When we observe the ordinance of baptism “we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6.4).” Baptism is the picture of the wonderful transformation to freedom that takes place in the Christian’s life. When we accept Christ as Savior and Lord we are “born again (John 3.3).” To be born again is to be recreated from the inside out. This new creation is expressed through ordinance of baptism which is a symbolic expression of our joining ourselves with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. It is through the experience of salvation that the power of sin over us is broken, because “our old man is crucified with him [that is Jesus], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin (Romans 6.6-7).” This marvelous transformation takes place because God the Father “made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5.21).” This sinless, perfect, Son of God became every evil, disgusting, and vile thing that we have ever or will ever do and in exchange He offers to us the opportunity to become His righteousness. What a wonderful exchange for us. You are free if you are in Christ, because when the Son sets you free you are free indeed (John 8.36). However, always remember “when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (Romans 6.20 & 22 ).”

When we enter into the narrow way we are free from sin and free to live and move with in the boundary of moral law.

Paul expresses this concept well in his letter to the Romans: “Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness. What fruit had you then in those things whereof you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6.18-23).” Let those who call themselves people of the way live like people of the way. Let us put off worldliness and flesh out righteousness. Let us live according to the calling to which we have been called by God. May we truly be those who reflect the light of Christ in this world of darkness.

It is a Careful Way

By careful I mean planned out or thought out. In other words God’s plan of redemption was not a reaction to the fall of man. God was not caught off guard when Adam sinned. In fact God knew Adam was going to sin and created him anyway in spite of his sin. There was no crisis meeting of the Godhead after the fall to determine what must be done to rectify the situation. God before the world began had carefully planned the redemption of man before He ever spoke the world in to existence.
To understand this concept we must understand that our salvation has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God. I understand that we must “choose … whom [we] will serve (Joshua 21.15 KJV),” however, our choosing and our responsibility as it relates to salvation is limited to our accepting or rejecting the finished work of God. It is “by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2.8-9).” That gift is the gift of His Son. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish should have everlasting life (John 3.16 ).” This gift was “given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Timothy 1.9 ).” God’s gift of redemption was more than a plan it was a promise. It was and is a promise that God “promised before the world began (Titus 1.2 ).” In fact this plan was more than a promise it was an eternal fact in the mind of God. In the mind of God “the Lamb [was] slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13.8 ).” The Godhead had carefully planned out the plan of redemption before the foundation of the world was laid.

Not only did God lay out the plan of salvation in eternity past, He also accomplished it here on earth. God planned every aspect of the life of Jesus in heaven and on earth.God the Father made straight the way for the Son to accomplish the will of God on earth as it was already accomplished in heaven and the Son was faithful to follow that path to the cross. God’s plan of redemption was not plan “B”. The sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sin has always been God’s plan “A”. God’s plan of salvation has been carefully laid out from the foundation of the world and He has made that plan available to anyone who will confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10.9).

It is a Committed Way

This “way” is a committed way. This is not a short term contract. This is not a loose agreement. This commitment requires you to give to the Lord 100% of who you are. Let us hear from the Lord Himself as He addresses this issue: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple (Luke 14.26-27).”

There are two lessons to learn from this passage. First, we must understand that Jesus is not advocating that we literally hate anyone. To do that would go against the very character and commandment of God, because “God is love (1 John 4.8 )” and He has commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22.40 ).” So, what is God trying to teach us from this passage? He is trying to help us understand that if we come to Christ He must be first place in our life. That is He must come before every other relationship we have in this world. That’s what it means to commit your life to Christ. The problem with Christianity today is that we have too many “confessors” but not enough committers.

Secondly, we must understand that a commitment to Christ comes with a cross. Just as Christ was called to sacrifice for the church we are called to sacrifice for Christ. Christians, like Christ, have a mission. Our mission is to “make disciples” of all nations. Christianity in not fire insurance it is faith in motion. If we are going to call ourselves Christians we must flesh out our Christianity by being completely committed to Christ. You can only be completely committed to Christ if you will not be “conformed to this world: but be … transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12.2 ).”

It is a costly Way

Christianity is not only a committed way it is also a costly way. Commitment is costly. It cost Christ His life and it demands ours. Jesus said to His disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Matthew 16.24 ).” Taking up the cross of commitment to Christ will be costly because it will run contrary to the world system. Jesus said, “And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved (Matthew 10.22).”

Our commitment to Christ may cost us in this world, but Jesus said, “Blessed are you, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake (Luke 6.22 ).” Contrary to the popular “name it and claim it” or “Health and Wealth” messages of today sometimes our commitment to Christ may cost us worldly comforts and companionship. Just look at Job. However, no matter what it may cost in this world the cost can not compare to the eternal reward awaiting those who walk faithfully with their Lord.

It is an Uncompromising Way

God has called us to stand firm in our faith. In fact compromise makes God sick. As the country song goes, “we must stand for something or we will fall for anything.” There is no room for lukewarm Christianity.

It is a Christ Centered Way

Jesus said in John 14.6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life no one comes to the Father, but by me” Therefore, if we want to get to God we must go through Jesus the Son. If we want to be all that God intends for us to be we must, “determined not to know any thing … save Jesus Christ, and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2.2).”

It’s gut check time. Are you claiming to be on the narrow way and find yourself on the broad way? Are you trying to serve two masters? You can not be in love with God and the World. You must choose today whom you will serve. Are you going to be for Him or against Him? Are you one of the 70% of American Adult Christians who have denied the authority of God and His Word by denying His standard of moral ethics? Are you among the 80% of Adult Christians in America who tell God you’ll get to Him when you can? If you fit in to either of those categories you need to examine yourself to be sure you are a Christian. Do you walk the Narrow Road?

IT’S NOT A GAME!

6 Dec

walk-and-talk

At the end of every year, there is a time for reflection. A time for looking back on the past and looking forward to the future.

I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone that this year has not been the best for a lot of people.   To date there have been about 85 celebrities that have passed away in 2016. Most tragic was probably Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds dying one year apart.

We probably had the weirdest presidential election EVER.  And really and truly, that’s a drama that we are all anxiously waiting to see what happens next. The truth is it’s probably not over by a longshot.

On a personal level, many of us lost loved ones. In some cases, we’re still dealing with that loss.  The pain is still there.

On a personal level, it has definitely been a year in the Hope household.  We have endured loss of another kind and everyday, that saga continues to unfold. I wish I could tell you it has gotten better but that would be a lie.  However, lessons have been learned. There are some things we look back on in years past and yes, wish we had done differently. Even more so, there is pain over some of the actions of others and the hatefulness that has occurred.  We have learned that some friendships we thought we had were in fact not really friendships at all and more than ever before, we know what it’s like to be the victim of slander.

But there has been some positive that has come out of it. We have felt the support of a loving church family.  And God has confirmed in us that just as Jesus loved unconditionally, we will do the same. The door will always remain opened to restored relationships.

But what about the church? What was 2016 like for the church?

Let me start off by saying, I LOVE THIS CHURCH. I have loved it for 15 years! It is our home and Danna and I have come to love you as family.

I look back on so much this church has involved in the last year.

Several, several years ago, I got one of those emails that Pastors often get where someone chooses to tell you how sorry you are and how much of a failure the church you pastored really was. Now, I really don’t think that person feels that way anymore but one statement that was made in that email that I will never forget.

“If you were a successful church, more people would be attending.”

That statement stung. But I have looked back over the last month and I would have to say I disagree.

I think the true mark of a successful church is not how many people attend but how many lives you touch for Christ.

Because of God using the ministry of FBC Lillian, countless souls in Lillian, Alvarado, the DFW Metroplex, Los Angeles, Mexico, South Texas, and Africa have come to know Jesus as their personal Savior.

Because of God using the ministry of FBC Lillian, many families are fed each month from homes in our community to the homeless in downtown Fort Worth.

Because of God using the ministry of FBC Lillian, many prisoners have come to know true freedom in Christ.

God gets all the glory but I love the fact that He can use this church.

But I also think a true mark of a successful church is when other communities want to invest in your ministry as well because they SEE God working.

Every year we get more homes than our church can really handle wanting help at Christmas time. Our philosophy has been for a long time that we would not turn anyone away and every year, we look and see what God is going to do.

Well, this year, other communities jumped up along with the church and said “Let God use us!”

Whether it was Camp Gladiator, Cahill Methodist Church, World Financial Group, the American Legion, Lilian Volunteer Fire Department, friends in the area, or church members, 24 children in eight families were taken care of for the holidays. We even had a former Dallas Cowboy jump in the action.

One family had their rent paid and another their electric bill paid. And that has happened so many times throughout the year.

And today, a lady calls. She had made it a requirement for their family get together that every family member bring food for the local church’s food bank. Wow!

I’ve said it before. We are not a small church. We are a God-sized church.

And it’s a privilege to be your Pastor.

 

But I would be remiss to just blow sunshine at you today.  Yes, I meant everything I just said. This church is truly amazing.

But can I share with you some frustrations?

I would say that it’s not so important that they frustrate me but that they frustrate the cause of Christ.

Here is the thing: I fear that we have rested on our successes for too long and failing to recognize that we have not ARRIVED spiritually. There is much more for us to do, much more growth that needs to occur, much more that needs to happen.

Titus 2: 1-15

 But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Every now and then, we have a conversation and someone says something that sticks in our mind for one reason or another.   For example, I remember talking with my good friend, Paul O’dell, when he was music minister at our church.  Someone had told him that they would love to come to choir practice but they just didn’t have time. Paul’s response:

“You make time for what’s important to you!”

Another such conversation came about when I was working for a drug and alcohol treatment center. A patient was talking to a nurse and myself in the hallway. He was commenting on how he someday hoped to be someone who was a little more self-confident.  The nurse, my friend Kim Cantu, responded “The only way to become that type of person is to just start being the person you claim you want to be”

 

That’s what I’m here to tell you.

Quit talking about what you want to be. Be that person.

We have a lot of roller coaster Christianity.  We have people in our world who claim to be all about Jesus. And then when hard times hit, we choose to respond as a person of the flesh. We choose to respond more like what the world and our feelings tell us than how the Bible tells us. We say that “Someday I’m going to be more consistent in my walk with Jesus”…

I’m sick to death of it. I’m just going to be honest. I don’t claim to be the most perfect Christian. I certainly have my flaws. But I am tired of someone proclaiming the name of Jesus until it’s inconvenient to do so. I have seen people who claim to be sold out for Christ suddenly sell out to the world. I’ll be honest. I have seen it a lot in marriages. I can think of three marriages in 2016 alone where people who seemed to be all about Jesus made selfish decisions and turned their backs on their spouse and their Savior.

My Dad used to say we needed to “fish or cut bait”.  Be who we claim to be or quit claiming it.

It’s time to quit talking about it. We need the become the Christian that God wants us to be.

This morning I want to talk about three things today that will help you and I be the Christian that God wants you and I to be

First of all, be sound in our beliefs.

Our doctrine must be that of God’s word – not the doctrine of the world. No matter how challenging or even how difficult it seems, we out to follow the Word of the Lord before we follow our own desires. I have seen people make decisions on what they were feeling at the moment rather than stop and consider Jesus.

Philemon 6… That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you Christ Jesus.

Listen to that again: Everything good in us comes from Christ Jesus!

Consider Colossians 3:16

 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

The word is our foundation. We must know God’s word.

And no matter how good it sounds… if it doesn’t ring true in scripture, then it’s just not true.

I have been criticized by others for standing against certain preachers who promote a prosperity Gospel.  You have told me that I need to be careful, that it’s not right to criticize other preachers, some have even gone as far as to say that maybe I am jealous of some of their successes.

But I am called to be the shepherd of the flock. And one of the responsibilities that I hold is to guard against those who would hurt it.

Consider Matthew 7:15

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s. clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

For as long as I am here, I will challenge you to abide by the Word of God and not by popular opinion. I will preach the Word of God and not culture. You can find preachers who will do otherwise even in this county. But you will not find that here.

Secondly, we are to be fully committed to our Lord and Saviour.

Christianity is not a part time occupation. It is a full time, keep your guard up job. You are not working for your local boss at work, you are serving your Heavenly Father who is actually at work for you!

2 Corinthians 5:17-18…If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given himself to us the ministry of reconciliation.

Once you’ve given your life to Christ – there’s change! Not a lack of commitment! Not a lack of wandering who is in charge of my life.

These folks who have a sticker that says “God is my co-pilot” I don’t want to ride next to them on the highway. They’re not on the same level as God. They need to re-think things – “God is my pilot, my leader and my guide.”

God requires our service to Him. People who say they can get enough from a TV preacher and not come to church – well, bless their hearts.

1 Thessalonians 5:11…Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

That shoots their theory. In order to grow – we need each other!

But we need to just not be sitting by each other. We need to be serving together. You are not here to warm a seat.  I am sick and tired of being told we don’t have the personnel to do some things because we do!  But what we don’t have in willingness to serve, we make up for in excuses.

I’m too old.

I’m too young.

Let some of the younger folks do it.

I have more important things going on right now (because there are things more important than the Kingdom of God.

God has much he wants to do with this church in 2017. But we are going to need people serving.

And we are going to need people giving.

I don’t look at financial records.  Being a rich church is not my concern. But here is the thing: I know how much my family and I give each month and when I see the same financial report on the bulletin that you all see, and I know how much of that amount belongs to us.. well, it tells me that not everyone is giving.

“Well, Pastor, if being a rich church is not your concern.. then why are you talking about giving.”

Because when I have a large part of the church not even willing to give ten percent of their income, then I know we have a church not willing to really be sold out to Jesus Christ.

How do I know that? Because we are not willing to follow one of the basic commands of Scripture.

Trust me on this:if you be obedient to God, He will reward you.

Thirdly, walk the Walk and talk the Talk! Really, that kind of summarizes the whole thing.

Titus 2:8 tells us that young men are to  be sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

This is speech taht people have a hard time condemning because it is carefully thought out, obedient to scripture. It is iron sharpens iron. It builds others up.

AND OUR ACTIONS MATCH OUR WORDS!

What about the walk?  Well, check out verse 12… instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.

This is a walk that is above reproach. It is a walk that denies sin and worldly things

You see, we have a hope.  We have a security.  We have great news of great joy which brings great deliverance to us all.  But only if we believe.

Check out verse 13… looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of [h]our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus

Our hope is in the appearance of Christ

He gave himself for you and I so that we could be freed from the bondage of sin.

He gave himself so that you and I might have the opportunity to become a peculiar people.

He gave himself so that you and I, if we take on the challenge, to go out and share this life changing news with all.

So let’s quit talking about the people we ought to be and become that person! Let’s live a life worthy of His sacrifice!

Three Questions of Christmas

28 Nov

christmas

“Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5).

You never know how a baby will turn out.

It is no secret that raising children can be a heartbreaking experience.  No matter how they turn out, they break your heart at some point or another. I don’t say this vindictively or out of anger but with the growing process comes a spreading of the wings, some trying out and testing of new boundaries. And even though the ending is usually good, there is always that time of inevitable heartbreak. I know of which I speak.

Still, when you first hold that baby, you wonder how they’ll turn out. You wonder what they will become, what type of relationship you’ll have with them when they are teenagers, what kind of man or woman they will marry.

Parents and grandparents have been wondering about babies since time began. It must have been that way when Jesus was born. Luke 2:19 tells us that after the shepherds visited Mary and no doubt shared what the angels had said to them, she “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” There was certainly a lot to think about:

“He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:33).
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord”
(Luke 2:11).
“A sword will pierce your own soul too”
(Luke 2:35).

The last verse of Mark Lowry’s beautiful Mary, Did You Know? poses the question this way:

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.

You never know how a baby will turn out, do you?
This one turned out to be the Savior of the world.

But not everyone knows that or understands it or believes it. As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, let’s remind ourselves once again who Jesus really is. Revelation 1:5 offers a threefold picture of our Lord. This verse is part of John’s introduction to his book where he introduces himself and wishes his readers grace and peace.  Here is his description of Jesus Christ:  “Who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” 

These three phrases help us understand the true identity of the baby born in Bethlehem. Each one answers a question we would like to ask about Jesus Christ.

Question number 1: Can I trust Him?

The first question is the most basic of all. The men and women of this generation have heard the name of Jesus many times. What they want to know is very simple-“Can I trust him?” In a world of skepticism, this is where we must begin. We discover the answer in John’s first title. He calls Jesus “the faithful witness.” A witness tells what he has seen or heard. A faithful witness is one whose testimony is reliable every time.

John means that Jesus Christ can be relied upon to tell the truth. When he speaks, he speaks only the truth. His words are absolutely true and authoritative. 1 Timothy 6:13 speaks of “Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate, made the good confession.” What did he say when he stood before Pilate? “I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37). Jesus Christ is the supreme truth-teller, and those who want to find the truth must listen to him.

Writing several hundred years ago, one writer said that the title “faithful witness” means four things:

1. What God said, Christ made known.
2. He taught without regard to the words of men.
3. He was faithful even in death.
4. He will reveal the truth in the end.

I love this statement by John Watson:

“No one has yet discovered the word Jesus ought to have said, none suggested the better word he might have said. No action of his has shocked our moral sense. None has fallen short of the ideal. He is full of surprises, but they are all the surprises of perfection.”

Every person has to deal with this fundamental issue about Jesus–Can I trust him? Some people will answer yes, others will say no. Until this issue is settled, there is no point in talking about anything else.

Many years ago Bob Harrington, the Chaplain of Bourbon Street, and Madeline Murray O’Hair, the famous atheist, had a debate on the Donohue TV program. At one point someone in the audience asked Mrs. O’Hair what she was going to do when Jesus returned. What would she say then? With great confidence she declared, “It won’t happen, so I don’t have to worry about that.” To which Bob Harrington replied, “The Bible contains 318 verses that speak of the return of Jesus Christ. She’s just said he isn’t going to return. Over here you’ve got 318 verses in the book of God and over there you’ve got one verse from the book of O’Hair. Now, who you gonna believe?”

That’s the key question.

Who are you going to believe?

Let’s suppose you don’t want to take my word for it. Read the record for yourself. Take 30 days to read the Gospel account. Read the story for yourself and come to your own conclusions. I will tell you what I believe will happen. If you read with an open mind and an open heart, you will come to the inevitable conclusion that what Jesus said is true, that he is the truth, and that his word can be eternally trusted.

I am not saying anything to try to prove it to you. I simply challenge you to read it for yourself. Make up your own mind. When you do, you will find that he is entirely trustworthy.

Can I trust him? Yes I can, for he is the faithful witness.

Question #2: Does He have the power to help me?

That naturally leads to another question. “If I trust him, does he have the power to help me?” The answer is found in John’s second title for Jesus Christ. He calls him “the firstborn from the dead.” This refers to his resurrection from the dead. When he rose from the dead, he was the “firstborn from the dead.” What exactly does that mean? It means he is the first person who ever rose from the dead never to die again. During his ministry Jesus raised several people from the dead, including Lazarus who had been dead four days (John 11). Each occasion was a remarkable miracle but they had this in common. All of the people Jesus raised would eventually die again.

But not Jesus himself.

When he came forth from the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, he rose once and for all. When he left the grave, he left for good. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead in the sense that he is the first in a long line of people who will be raised from the dead never to die again.

I find great comfort in this. Over the years I have presided at many funerals. I know what it’s like to stand at the graveside and try to say something hopeful. It’s not easy to pray when someone you love has been taken from you.  No wonder the Bible calls death “the last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

In those moments I find strength in one thing and one thing only. Jesus has conquered the grave and done what no mortal man has ever done. He has come back from the dead never to die again. What happens to those who believe in him? Thank God, we are not left to wonder or to speculate. God himself has spoken on that subject. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 (NASB) says, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”

“If we believe.” It is as simple and as difficult as that. You will never convince yourself of the resurrection by camping out in a cemetery. If you go to a cemetery and wait for a resurrection, you’ll have to wait a long time. After all, the last one happened over 2,000 years ago. But we have the word of God which overrides anything we can see with our eyes. Our faith in the resurrection of the dead does not rest in what our eyes can see. Our faith rests in that act of God whereby he raised Jesus from the dead. If God can do that, he can do anything.

Does Jesus have the power to help you?  Yes he does, for he is the firstborn from the dead.

Question #3: “Suppose I do trust him, and suppose he does have the power to help me, will Jesus take care of my future?”

The answer comes in John’s final title for Jesus Christ. It is breathtaking in its scope. He calls Jesus “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” The word for “ruler” means he is the ultimate authority over all the kings of the earth. They are great, but he is greater. They are mighty, but he is mightier. Millions answer to them, but they answer to him. He is not merely one of the kings. He rules over them all.

When John Piper preached on this phrase, he put the matter this way:

If George Bush says to Jesus, “How can you be the ruler over me? I have my office by the election of the people of the United States, a sovereign nation, and by virtue of a constitutional inauguration and installation,” Jesus will answer, “I have my office as ruler over you by God’s election and by virtue of my resurrection from the dead, my indestructible life, and my installation at God’s right hand.”

But that sermon was preached in 1989. The George Bush of that quote would be George H. W. Bush. Since then we’ve had Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now we’ve got Barack Obama as our president. Soon, it will be Donald Trump. The quote is still true no matter who occupies the White House. It’s as true for George Washington as it is for George Bush (father or son). It’s as true for Abraham Lincoln as it is for John Kennedy or Barack Obama. Or yes, even Donald Trump.

Who are the rulers of the earth John is talking about? They are political leaders in their various spheres–mayors and councilmen, chairmen and governors, congressmen and senators, presidents and prime ministers, and potentates of every variety. There are small-time kings who rule tiny realms and mighty kings who rule vast empires.

Their names are Obama, Putin, Netanyahu, and a million others just like them.

Jesus is ruler over them all. It’s true this world is in a mess. That’s why it’s hard to believe this is true. All the evidence seems to move in the opposite direction. The pornographers go free, the baby-killers are untouched, the politicians break the laws they write, the drug dealers make their millions, and the nations arm themselves for total destruction. When you look around, you could make a good case that Satan is the ruler of the kings of the earth.

But it only seems that way. Satan has no power except that granted to him by God. In due time and at the proper moment, Jesus will step back on the stage of world history. Think of it. The hands that were nailed to the cross will someday rule the world. Though we do not see it today, it is certain and sure of fulfillment. That’s what the book of Revelation is all about. Read it for yourself and see how the story ends.

In the meantime, right now and at this very moment, he is the ruler of the kings of the earth.

By him they reign.
By him they are restrained.
By him they are replaced.
By him they will be judged.

Will Jesus take care of my future? Yes he will, for he is the ruler of the kings of the earth. You’re in good hands when you are in his hands for those hands rule the universe.

But that wasn’t evident on that first night in Bethlehem. A casual onlooker would not have suspected the earthshaking events that were taking place in a forgotten stable in a tiny village in a remote corner of the Roman Empire. The prospects for the young child didn’t seem very promising.

You can never tell how a baby will turn out.
But this one would surprise us all.
And we are still surprised by him 2000 years later.

What is the application? Grip fast to Jesus Christ. There is no security anywhere else. Today as yesterday and tomorrow as today, he is the answer to the deepest questions of life.

Can I trust him?  Yes I can, for he is the faithful witness.
Does he have the power to help me?  Yes he does, for he is the firstborn from the dead.
Will he take care of my future?  Yes he will, for he is the ruler of the kings of the earth.

We all need him and we need him more than we know. This truth is worth repeating: You’re in good hands when you are in his hands, for those hands rule the universe.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King.

Place your life in his strong hands and you will never be disappointed.