Christ First This Christmas

christ-firstDeuteronomy 21:22-23 (KJV)  And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:  [23]  His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

In our day we do not believe in punishment as God believes in punishment. In the Age of Israel God told His people that there were sins worthy of death. People who broke God’s National Laws were “stoned with stones until they were dead”. The citizens of the town were brought from their homes. A person was convicted not on circumstantial evidence, but as God said just a few chapters before:

You must not convict anyone of a crime on the testimony of only one witness. The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15, NLT)

The witnesses were the first ones to throw the stones, then the remainder of the citizens followed suit. Justice was sure. People saw the punishment. Nothing was done in the dark. And after the stoning the dead body was hung on a tree as a deterrent to others. It was a mute sign that said:

As he is, so shall you be, if you break His Laws

Law is necessary for a nation to be stable. People cannot just make up their own laws based on what they feel is all right. A nation based on feeling leads to chaos and anarchy. God gives us Laws and Law Enforcement for our own good. The Apostle Paul testified that:

For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:4, NIV)

God gives Laws to nations to insure that chaos doesn’t rule. Where ever there is stability there is Law. Without Law, people do the most awful things. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). To break God’s Law is to find yourself face to face with death. The person spoken of in our Deuteronomy text is a person hanging on a tree.

The person violated the national Law, the Kingdom rule.
The person deserves to hang on that tree.
The person was dead on that tree, put there for others to see.
But the person was not allowed to hang on that tree all night long.
He was cursed of God.

To fail to bury the body of the convicted that same day (and the Jews considered the setting of the sun a new day) was to bring a curse on the nation. Law and order required that sin be punished. Those worthy of death were to be put to death. Sin was not winked at, but for the stability of the nation God demanded that sin be paid for.

Though sin was to be paid for, cruelty was not allowed. The Pagan world often killed those who were guilty of capital offenses, but then hung the body up to remain until it rotted and fell from the tree. In Medieval Europe people were often hung up in cages left to slowly die.

This is not the way of God. Cruelty is not allowed. Punishment is given where deserved, but grace always accompanied even the execution of even the greatest criminal.

thou shalt in any wise bury him that day;
(for he that is hanged is accursed of God;)
that thy land be not defiled

Even though a criminal, the lowest and cruelest criminal was made in the image of God. There was a limit to what punishment should do.

1 The Tree In Deuteronomy Shows We All Need A Savior. The Law of God demanded that sin be punished. There were many sins you could commit that were not worthy of death, but the intent of the Law was to show man the glory and holiness of God. Certain sins, like sexual sins, murder, kidnapping, were considered sins that are worthy of death. Any sin that devalued the human design or objectified people (again, we are made in God’s image – Genesis 1:27) could be a sin worthy of death. Yet even in death there was dignity.

You were not to rejoice when someone committed and was punished for a sin worthy of death. They were displayed, proven dead, then removed and properly interred. The Law was not cruel.

a Sin Entered The World Because Adam Ate Fruit From The Wrong Tree. The Bible tells us:

. sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12, ESV)

. death came into the world through a man .. (1 Corinthians 15:21, NLT)

When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden it was a Garden filled with Trees. There were trees of every type. In the middle of the Garden – the Bible says:

The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9, ESV)

The “Tree of Life” was not forbidden to man. He could eat of that Tree as often as he and his wife wanted. God wants us to live. He made us to live. God loved walking in the Garden with Adam in the cool of the day having a relationship with man. God is Eternal, and He wanted us to walk with Him eternally. But God wanted us to walk with Him as He is. You see,

God is God and we are not

We are made in His Image and after His Likeness, but we will never ever be God. Therefore it is important to listen to Him, and to understand that His Law is given to us because He loves us. He knows what is best for us. So we love Him and obey Him. That is what we are supposed to do.

But Adam got mixed up.

He could have all of the Tree of Life he wanted, but was NOT to eat the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God said “In the day you eat of it, you shall die”.

God said “in the DAY”punishment is not delayed
God said “YOU eat”not your wife, but YOU Adam

God said “you shall DIE” – eating the right Tree brings life, but the wrong tree death

Adam ate of the wrong Tree and died. His progeny died. The Bible says that with his failure that everyone became sinners, separate from God. Hear the Witness of Scripture:

Isaiah 64:6-7 (KJV)  But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.  [7]  And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 (ESV)  Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

Psalms 130:3-4 (CEV)  If you kept record of our sins, no one could last long.  [4]  But you forgive us, and so we will worship you.

All are sinners. This does not justify sin, dear ones, but is a truth of Scripture. Man sinned because Adam sinned, and we all needed a Savior. God established a Law to restrain sin, but the Law could not fix sin. Sin is in the human heart. Sin is in the heart of the soul. Sin is not overlooked by God, but sin is to be punished.

b Sin Grew Until Anarchy Reigned, But God Saved Noah By Trees. Where sin is unrestrained and lawlessness is tolerated anarchy reigns. By the time of Noah the Bible tells us that:

Genesis 6:5-8 (KJV)  And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  [6]  And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.  [7]  And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.  [8]  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

Unrestrained sin always leads to greater sins.
Lawlessness ruled in the days of Noah.
God made man to dominate the earth, but
He did not make man to be dominated by sin.

When the conscience is hardened, sin comes easier. Though man is a sinner God never meant sin to go unrestrained. Sin must be repented of. People must heed what God has said, and give Him the glory. King David said:

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:97, KJV)

Man departed from God and stopped listening to Him. As a result society collapsed. I think that America came very close to a collapse of our society – and we aren’t out of the woods yet. When lawlessness reigns, and God is ignored, it isn’t long until judgment falls. The world was going to be destroyed …

But Noah found Grace in the eyes of the Lord

Where did Noah find Grace. In God’s EYES. Not in His EARS, not in His MOUTH, but in His EYES. Noah lived loving God, and his life showed it. I want to tell you, dear ones, God WATCHES you.

For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. … (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB)

The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3 KJV)

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. (1 Peter 3:12)

God is watching. When I was a young child I was told, “Santa Claus is watching you”. When I grew up I found out that Santa Claus was a fictitious person based on a real Christian – Nicolaus of Myra in Asia Minor (4th century AD). Nicolaus gave of his substance to help those who were in need, and tried to do his giving in secret “for your Heavenly Father Who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4). Santa Claus isn’t watching us, but God is. He saw Noah, and saw Noah’s love for Him. And God told Noah

Go build Me an Ark

An Ark is a bunch of dead trees cut down into lumber and put together to float. Salvation of humanity would come through these trees. Noah and his family would be saved, whereas the rest of the world would drown. How do I know? Because God tells us so in the Scripture.

Though mankind was saved by Noah’s obedience, humanity was still sinful. When he got off the Ark Noah planted a garden, harvested the grapes, made wine, and got drunk. His sin (see Genesis 9:21ff) brought sin and sorrow into his own family. The wages of sin is always death.

2 The Tree In Deuteronomy Was A Prophecy Of The Coming Christ. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul wrote:

Galatians 3:10-13 (KJV)  For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.  [11]  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  [12]  And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.  [13]  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

As the Apostle explains, the Law proves every person to be a sinner. Though you may not commit sins worthy of death in this life (and I hope you don’t), the testimony of the Scripture is:

no man is justified by the law in the sight of God

The Law never justified anyone. That word “justified” means “to be declared right by the Judge”, and God is the Judge. When any person stands in front of the Holy and Pure God of all we immediately “come short of the glory of God”. We are all marred by sin, and the Law declares this. But God never meant us to be saved by keeping His Law. The Bible says in the Old Testament (and Paul quoted this in verse 11 above):

The just (the Justified) shall live by faith

This is a quotation from Habakkuk 2:4 (KJV)  Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Those who are right in the eyes of God have faith in this same God.

They believe Him.
They receive Him.
They trust Him.
They hear Him.

Which brings us back to the Tree of Deuteronomy. The Tree of Deuteronomy is mentioned in Paul’s explanation of our salvation. He said:

Galatians 3:13 (KJV) Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Man ate the wrong tree, and fell in sin. Sin reigned, so Noah had to kill a bunch of trees to save humanity. Then God established the Law and spoke of the Tree of Cursing where the Lawless hung. But that Tree in Deuteronomy looked forward prophetically to the Day that Jesus would come. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law. How did He do this? Jesus went to that Cross to pay for our sins. He was made a curse for us. He hung on that cursed Tree of Calvary. The Bible says:

Colossians 2:13-14 (KJV)  And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;  [14]  Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Jesus died on the Tree of Calvary for us. The early Christians understood that imagery. When Peter and the Apostles were told they shouldn’t preach about Jesus, Peter quickly replied:

Acts 5:29-30 (KJV)  Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.  [30]  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, WHOM YE SLEW AND HANGED ON A TREE.

The Pharisees and the Romans killed Jesus, hanging Him on a Tree, that Tree of Calvary. While Peter was at Cornelius’ the Centurion’s home he preached:

Acts 10:38-39 (KJV)  How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.  [39]  And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom THEY SLEW AND HANGED ON A TREE:

Calvary is the Tree that Jesus died on. His death was not a mistake, but is your redemption. The Apostle Paul preached in the Synagogue:

Acts 13:28-30 (KJV)  And though they {the Pharisees} found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.  [29]  And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, THEY TOOK HIM DOWN FROM THE TREE, and laid him in a {tomb}.  [30]  But God raised him from the dead:

Jesus Christ went to the Tree for you and for me. He died for us on Calvary, but rose again to rule His Kingdom and His Church. Jesus is alive, and we who have believed in Him are alive from the dead. Blessed be the Name of Jesus! Jesus Christ Who is God’s Son is sinless, and He died for OUR sins. He was cursed in our place.

3 Put Christ First This Christmas. Several years ago I knew a man who was more filled with truth than he was with Grace. The Bible says:

John 1:17 (KJV)  For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Jesus gave us GRACE AND TRUTH. Grace without Truth leads to error and sinful anarchy, but Truth without Grace leads to legalism.

This man was all of truth, but none of Grace. One Christmas he began to mock and berate Christians who had Christmas Trees. He had done some research, I suppose, and found out that ancient Pagans brought trees into their homes during the Winter. Since Pagans did it he felt that to have a Christmas Tree was somehow sinful.

It’s not.

Now let me say I don’t care if you have a Christmas Tree or not, and you can do what you want. But if you have a Christmas Tree, use it to explain Christ to your Children and Grandchildren.

I am told that Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation was walking through a pine forest near his home in Wittenberg, Germany one night. Praying and seeking a sermon from God he looked upward and saw thousands of stars glittering like diamonds through the branches of the trees. Luther later cut an Evergreen and put it in his home. He decorated the tree with candles, and lighting the candles used the tree to describe the Coming of the Savior and what He did for us to his children.

Rather than be a Scrooge. use your tree (if you have one)
to discuss Christ with your children and grandchildren.

Jesus Christ died on a tree. Out of His death came forth Light and Life for us. The glory of Christmas is NOT the presents under the Tree, but the PRESENCE of Christ in your homes. This Christmas don’t be a Scrooge, but use the Blessed Season to share Christ with your children. Tell of the Tree that Christ died on.

He is the Greatest Present of all!

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Better Than A Shadow (Hebrews Series “Better than”)

girl-afraid-shadow-today-tease-150911_5d1a13fac7bc2283c53df9f3d9cbd4b3Morning Communion Message

As we come to our Lord’s Table I wanted to read something to you from Hebrews chapter 10. Hebrews chapter 10 is a summary of all that we have learned in the Book up to this point. Please listen as I read and talk about the text:

Hebrews 10:1 (KJV) For the law having a SHADOW of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

The Law of Moses is a SHADOW of good things TO COME.
A SHADOW is an absence of light.

I saw a little girl the other day in the park walking with her mom. Every other step she would jump forward, straining to catch her shadow. He mother smiled. “Are you trying to catch your shadow honey? You can’t.” But the child kept trying. A shadow cannot be caught. It has no substance. It is real, but cannot be touched. The Law was a shadow of GOOD THINGS to come. As a shadow, the Law could not make those who came to it PERFECT. And you need to be PERFECT to be with God.

Hebrews 10:2-4 (KJV) For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

A SHADOW cannot make perfect. An ANIMAL cannot pay for man’s sins.

The SHADOW of the Law reminded God’s people that they were sinners. You see that word REMEMBRANCE. The Law reminded us. It reminds us still. It is a REMEMBRANCER.

Hebrews 10:5-10 (KJV) Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The SHADOW could not save, so God the Son came to this earth to do God’s Will.
The SHADOW was the glory of God shining behind Christ. The Law was Christ’s SHADOW.

God had no pleasure in the sacrifices of the Law. An animal cannot pay for the sins of a non-animal. We are not animals. We are created in God’s image. Christ came to do the will of God, to remove the SHADOW of the Law for those who would receive the REALITY. Jesus Christ is the REALITY. We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

13_better_than_tetelestai

In Roman times when a person was convicted of a crime their criminal act was written on a parchment and nailed to the prison door. Until that crime was paid for the sign stayed up so that all could see your punishment was just. But when the crime was completely paid for the word “Tetelestai” was written on the document by the judge. The same was true of debts owed. The Greek-English Lexicon by Moulton and Milliagan states:

Receipts are often introduced by the phrase [sic] tetelestai, usually written in an abbreviated manner…” (p. 630). 

The day that Jesus died on the Cross on of the last words He spoke was tetelestai or “it is finished”.

John 19:30 (KJV) … Jesus … said, It is finished:
and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

The Greek tetelestai is in the Perfect Tense meaning the action was completed, and the result of that action is ongoing and with full effect. What Jesus did on Calvary was completely pay for our sins. Back to Hebrews …

Hebrews 10:11-14 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

We are set apart unto God by the Blood of Christ. When we received Christ as Lord and Savior, confessing with the mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we were saved (Romans 10:9-10). We were saved not by our actions, but by His actions.

The Law is a REMEMBRANCE of our sinfulness.
But we come to another REMEMBRANCE today.
We come to the Lord’s Table.

Luke 22:19 (KJV) …. this do in remembrance of me.

When we come to the Lord’s Table we remember that we are flawed creatures who love a flawless God. We remember that Jesus was broken for us. We remember that He suffered and died once for all to bring us to God. We remember that He rose again, and is the Master of His Church and of His people. We remember. Let us all prepare our hearts for this Table.

Will our Deacons and Assistants come forward and help with the preparation of the Lord’s Table?

Evening Message

Hebrews 10:14-20 (KJV) For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

I stood waiting in line the other day (I always pick the worst lines to wait in) trying to keep a good attitude. My turn finally came, and thankfully I was able to pay for what I had. As I got ready to leave I told the lady in line behind me “Have a blessed day”. She replied, “I will, if they ever wait on me!”

This lady was saying was that her happiness or blessedness is based on what another human agency did. Now that is strange! I cannot base my happiness on what another human agency does. We are all flawed creatures, subject to doing foolish things. I really shouldn’t base my happiness on what I MYSELF DO. My Joy should be ever focused on my God, my Savior, my Lord!

1 Our Joy Should Be In God Because God Profoundly Showed His Love For Us At The Cross. The Scripture says:

Hebrews 10:14 (KJV) For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

  • By ONE Offering. God offered Himself for us. The Bible tells us that God offered Himself for us. The Perfect offered Himself for the flawed. No one made the Father do what He did. The Bible says:

John 3:16-17 (KJV)   For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.   [17]   For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

God had every right to condemn the world. In Noah’s Day God condemned the world for its corruption and sinfulness. God did not have to send His Son to pay the penalty of our sin. But He did. God sent His Son to this world so that the world MIGHT be saved. He did not force salvation on any, but offers salvation to whosoever will. This is an OFFERING. None are forced to it, but whosoever will may come unto Him.

  • By ONE Offering. No one forced Jesus to come from Heaven to this earth. Jesus said:

John 6:37-40 (ESV) All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Jesus willingly came down from Heaven on a mission from God. He came to save. No one forced Him to go to the Cross. As Max Lucado once said, and I paraphrase,

He chose the nails.

Jesus Christ chose the nails. He chose the shame. He chose being abandoned. He chose the beating. He chose the humiliation. He chose it. And if you choose to believe and receive Him, then He chooses to make you His Child.

John 10:18 (NLT) No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.

Hebrews 10:14 (KJV) For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

  • He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. We do not perfect ourselves through the Cross, but God perfects us through the Cross. His sacrifice on Calvary pays for our sins. His sacrifices does not JUSTIFY sin. No, sin is wrong, and sin will always be wrong. We who are His are to run from sin, and to acknowledge and agree with God on sin. The Bible says:

Ezekiel 18:20 (KJV) The soul that sinneth, it shall die. ..

Romans 6:23 (KJV) For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sin is to do that which God considers unnatural and ungodly. Sin always leads to death. Sexual sin leads to death, whether homosexual or heterosexual. Lying leads to death. Do you know that the Bible says there will be no liars in Heaven?

Revelation 22:15 (NAS) Outside {of Heaven} are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

God does not justify sin, but He justifies or makes right the sinner. How does He do this? He pays for our sins on the Cross. What does our text say?

Hebrews 10:17-18 (KJV) “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. {18} Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”

God said “I’ll forget your sins and iniquities” like they never happened. Well now, that’s a wonderful thing. How do we reach this state, Lord? What work can I do? What thing can I achieve for you? If I can get in that state where you have, as the Greek text says, me eti, no more remembrance of me as an enemy of Yours, no more a reminder that I was not just as sinner, but I was also a law breaker – just as we all are sinners and law breakers.

The Blood of the Cross paid the penalty for our sins. Where sins are remitted – paid for – there is no more offering for sins. The Child of God born into His Kingdom by faith in Christ stands clean before God.

2 Our Joy Should Be In God Because God Profoundly Shows His Love For Us By Binding To The Believer. In the Old Testament the Law was written on tablets of stone, then later on animal skins and parchment (early paper). The Law was EXTERNAL. But God promises under the New Testament …

Hebrews 10:16 (KJV) … This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

God puts His Laws into our hearts. God cleans us up. He starts a work in us that does not stop until the day we enter yonder Heaven. Like a Parent – or a Potter – God the Holy Spirit enters the framework of our souls and begins to change the Child of God. The Prophet said:

Isaiah 64:8 (KJV) “But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”

I remember when I was a little boy I hated to take a bath! I just spent a long day playing in the fields and in the woods, running and climbing and jumping and climbing trees. I used to climb those pine trees and get that old pine sap all over me, on my hands and feet, on my clothes. Oh, it smelt so good! I can still smell it. I’d come in at the end of the day, tired and happy, and momma would say “You go get in the tub”. She’s run the tub full of hot, soapy water – nearly scalding, and tell me “Get in the tub and get clean”. You know what I’d do? I’d wait till momma went out of the bathroom, and I’d close the door. Then I’d get in the tub and walk around in it, splashing around, making sounds like I was getting clean. Then I’d get out, dry my feet off, splash a little of dad’s cologne on, and head to my bedroom.

And I’d run smack dab into momma!

She’s ask me, “Did you get a bath?”, to which I’d reply “Yes, momma”. She’s thump me on the top of the head and say “No you didn’t – get back in there!” Then she’d take me and wash me from head to toe, scrubbing hard until all that pine tar came off and into the water. How did momma know I wasn’t clean? I made all the sounds, I splashed the water, I used the towel and the rag. She knew because when she looked at me my head was still dirty, my hair gummed together, my upper torso was still marked by dirt. I might have done it my way, but my way didn’t clean me!

So it is with God. Once you receive Christ as Lord and Savior God Himself – the Holy Spirit – comes into your life. And He begins working with you, changing you, writing His Laws into your hearts. The Holy Spirit is the Companion and Comforter of the believer. Jesus told His disciples:

John 14:15-17 (KJV)   If ye love me, keep my commandments.   [16]   And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;   [17]   Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

The Disciples knew of the Spirit, but Jesus promised His followers a greater knowing. He promised that the Holy Spirit would come and indwell His people. He would be our Comforter. The Holy Spirit Who indwells us teaches us of Jesus:

John 15:26 (KJV)   But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

Jesus told His disciples that He had to leave so that the Comforter could come:

John 16:7-13 (KJV)   Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.   [8]   And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:   [9]   Of sin, because they believe not on me;   [10]   Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;   [11]   Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.   [12]   I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.   [13]   Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

Oh what love that God would come to dwell in imperfect vessels such as us. God comes ands makes a gift of Himself. Last Wednesday when I was reading my morning devotional (C.H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening) I came across these words:

The Lord is my Portion, saith my soul” (Lamentations 3:24)

It is not “the Lord is partly my portion” nor “the Lord is in my portion” but He Himself makes up the sum total of my sdoul’s inheritance. Within the circumference of that circle lies all that we possess or desire. The Lord is my portion. Not His grace merely, nor His love, nor His covenant, but Jehovah Himself. He has chosen us for His portion, and we have chosen Him for ours. … all that we can wish for is to be found in our divine portion. “Whom have I in Heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee!”

What a beautiful truth. God indwells the Christ follower, and we live in Him. He lives with us now, and we will live with Him for all eternity.

We have something that no Old Testament believer had. We have BOLDNESS to enter into the Presence of God. We read:

Hebrews 10:19-22 (KJV)  Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,  [20]  By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;  [21]  And having an high priest over the house of God;  [22]  Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

We have boldness to come into God’s Presence. Not because of who WE are, but because of what GOD has done for us. WE can enter into prayer with our Heavenly Father ANYTIME. We do not have to go through an earthly High Priest or earthly religious figure, but every Child of God has access to his or her Father through Jesus Christ our High Priest. Look at verse 22:

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

We draw near to God in full assurance of faith. Not doubting, but trusting. Draw near to God claiming the Cross and the Christ. The Priests of the Old Covenant drew near to God when sprinkled with the Blood of the Sacrifice. We who are Christ’s draw near to God sprinkled with His Blood, our bodies washed with pure water (a picture of baptism).

3 As We Draw Near To God, We Will Draw Near To One Another. I have heard some say “If I have Jesus, I don’t need the Church”. But that is wrong. The Church and Christ go hand in hand. Jesus said:

I will build My Church, and the gates of hell
will not prevail against it

Jesus is the builder of His Church. The Church is not to be ignored. The Church is the Children of God gathered. And as we draw near to God, we will draw near to one another. Read with me:

Hebrews 10:23-24 (KJV)  Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)  [24]  And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 

Every believer is called to hold fast the profession of OUR faith. Faith is not held fast in a vacuum. There is no singular Christianity. Our faith relies on love, love of God for us, our love toward God, and our love toward one another.

Here I have a Cross representing what Jesus did for us. If you on the left side of this auditorium draw near to this Cross representing Christ and you on the right side of the auditorium draw near to this Cross representing Christ and you at the back of this auditorium draw near to this Cross representing Christ then as you come closer to God you would naturally draw closer to one another. Drawing near to God as a focal point draws you near to one another. You come together.

This is what God demands of us.

Coming into the Presence of God together we are not to fight and claw at one another. We are to:

let us consider one another to provoke unto love
and to good works

As we gather together under His banner of love we encourage one another. When one stumbles we lift that one up in love and encourage them to good works. The person who says:

I love God, but I hate or dislike my brother

Cannot be a Christ follower. Don’t believe me? Read the witness of

1 John 4:20 (ESV) If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

You cannot love God and hate your brother. As you come into the Presence of God you are drawn closer to one another. And while in His Presence you realize

It is all of Grace

I have nothing in myself, and neither do you. Our position with God is all of Grace. We should not provoke one another to evil or hatred, but to love. As we all draw near to Jesus, we draw nearer to one another.

Hebrews 10:25 (KJV)   Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

We are called together in the Presence of God to exhort one another, to encourage, to lift up for Christ’s sake, to be members of God’s Kingdom on this present earth. And we are to stay focused on the Gospel. Too many Churches have forsaken the Gospel for something else. Note the warning:

Hebrews 10:26-31 (KJV)  For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,  [27]  But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.  [28]  He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:  [29]  Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?  [30]  For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.  [31]   It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

There are many different interpretations in the commentaries and in the pulpits about what these verses mean. Some believe that these verses talk of believers losing their salvation. No, that is not true. These verses are addressed to those who …

who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted

the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified,
an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace

You tread underfoot the Son of God and do despite to the Spirit of Grace (the Holy Spirit) when you reject what Jesus did for you on the Cross. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. As Jesus told the Rabbi Nicodemus:

John 3:18 (KJV)   He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

To reject Calvary in favor of something else is to reject Grace and to reject Heaven. There is no way unto God the Father but by Christ the Son. So we preach His Gospel. We believe His Gospel. We share Him with others.

What has washed away my sin?
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus!
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.
Oh, precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow,
No other fount I know.
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus!

May God bring His Church together through this Word!

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Some Awakened Today

iur.pngSome awakened today in the midst of tragedy. I heard yesterday that a brother of a dear friend awoke to find his house on fire. I can only imagine the pain of losing years of cherished memories the day before Thanksgiving. But what if he and his wife had not awoken? What if they had slept through the fire? What then?

Others awaken today in suffering. Another dear friend has a wife who is battling cancer. She has hurt so long. I can only imagine the pain of years of cancer, only to wake to enjoy more pain the day of Thanksgiving. But what if the cancer had taken her years ago? What then?

I awaken today remembering a tragedy, my son, bloody and broken, lying on the floor of a house that no longer exists. Perpetually 17 years old I miss him every day. Awkward, he had a gentle soul. But what if I had never known him, never enjoyed his presence for those 17 years? What then?

Life is filled with tragedy. Some tragedy just happens, while other tragedy is of our making. As I thought on the suffering of life it came home to me that suffering and want have brought growth to me much more than pleasure ever has. Few trees survive on a mountain top, and those that do are often weak and spindly. The strongest trees grow in the valley, struggling upward, rising up to God. I watched a movie last night called “A Christmas Angel”. In it I heard this said:

“Everyone suffers. Good people sometimes suffer. There is no reason for the suffering.”

Though this was a pretty good movie the closing sentiment was incorrect. Yes, we all suffer. The gentle suffer storms, the good hurt, the pleasant endure the unpleasant. It is not without reason that we suffer. We suffer because we live in a broken world. We ourselves are broken. But God is there. God loves us. And God promises throughout the Scripture, and especially in Romans 8:28:

All things work together for good to those who love the Lord,
To those who are called according to His purpose.

You may not see the good in your tragedy at this moment, but a good and grace filled God is above the tragedy. He is there. He will hold you, and be with you, if you will but call to Him. Some awoke today to tragedy, past, present, and future. But God is there. Lay the burden of it down, take His nail scarred hand, and let Him lead you through it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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The Ageless Children Of America

1 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV)  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

When my children were young they often misbehaved and were sometimes sources of embarrassment for myself and my wife. When tiny as babies they disrupted Church Services and public places, crying and fussing, often without apparent reason. Like good parents should do, if we could not comfort the noisy child, we got up out of our seat and took them out of the room. This is good manners. If your child will not behave, take him or her out.

If your child will not behave, take the child out of the room.
If your child will not behave, take the child out of the room.
If your child will not behave, take the child out of the room.

Do not sit there and allow the child to disrupt the Church, the Play, or the Restaurant. Quietly remove the child until order is restored, both in the child and in the room.

As my children grew from babyhood to toddler they learned to sit still and maintain a decent posture around other adults. They learned because I and my wife taught them to do so. My children learned something that many in America never have been taught – RESPECT. Respect for others, respect for God, respect for Law and Order. If my children showed disrespect in public they were quietly removed from the public and paddled in private. They learned to behave.

People who were not parented, but raised disrespectfully &
to disrespect others are everywhere today.

People who do not respect cannot be good citizens, but are perpetual unruly children who contribute nothing but noise and confusion to the world. They become “useless people who just get in the way” as Comedian Bill Burr once said. They disrespect others by texting and driving, causing others loss of time and in many cases loss of life. They disrespect others in the marketplaces of America.

I stood in long lines at two different stores yesterday suffering because of perpetual disrespectful children. At one store – a Hobby Lobby – there were three long lines because two of the cashiers were moving as slow as they could possibly move. One cashier sped up seeing the crowd, trying to get the customers through in a timely manner. The other two just yawned, and s-l-o-w-l-y took as long as possible to scan and bag customer items. I gave up on my cashier and moved to the faster aisle. But sadly, I stood behind another child in an adult body. After checking out rather than get out of the way so the line could move this forty-something year old little girl took her time. She slowly returned things to her purse, adjusted her clothing, combed her hair, and finally put her bags in her shopping cart. It took her about a minute to move. I left Hobby Lobby and went to Lowe’s. There I got in a line attended by a cashier who obviously had just discovered a long lost friend. Rather than do her job they had a family reunion while I watched, waiting to be waited on. Disrespect.

Disrespect and the fruit of bad parenting is everywhere. This morning I awoke and, as is my custom, read the news on my internet feed. It seems that Mike Pence – a good and honorable man – went with his family to attend a musical called “Hamilton”. The headlines read,

Pence Booed At Hamilton

When I saw the headlines I thought “How odd that Mr. Pence didn’t like the play”. But I misunderstood the headline. It seems that a bunch of poorly parented children in adult bodies saw a man who – of all the candidates – behaved honorably and with respect throughout the recent Presidential election. These childish adults thought it was right and honorable to disrupt a play so they could disturb and rob a man of his money and his dignity because they didn’t get their way. Mike paid to be at that play and had a right to see it undisturbed. Let me ask you this:

What if Mike were a black man going to a play and the audience booed him
for being a black man in a room full of whites? Would that be all right?

Absolutely not! Every person deserves respect. Every person should be treated with civility. Every person is made in the image of God. Every person, regardless of color, culture,  or even lifestyle, should be treated with basic human decency. We all bleed red!

Poor parenting has ripped the infrastructure of our nation in two. Adults who should be adults are acting as children because they were not disciplined when they were children. Children must be taught both right and wrong. Parents must enforce this teaching with disciplinary measures. You cannot job this out to the schools and the Church. Get up. Love your children. Care for your children. Teach your children respect NOW so that when they become adults they put away childish things.

Sadly, it is too late for  many of these riotous, booing, bedding, tantrum throwing children in adult bodies. Hopefully we will not raise another generation of these miscreants. But that depends on you, momma, and on you daddy. Be parents! For God’s sake and ours, BE PARENTS.

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Broken Vessels — TheWannabeSaint.com

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” Second Book of Corinthians, Chapter 4 Broken Vessels – Yesterday, on my way to work I backed the truck up to turn around in the driveway and heard a loud crash. I checked […]

via Broken Vessels — TheWannabeSaint.com

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Teach Us To Number Our Days

numberPsalms 90:10-12 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. [11] Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. [12] So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Throughout the Book of Psalms you will find Moses, the Man of God mentioned by name in only eight verses. Psalm 90 has the distinction of being the only Psalm actually a Prayer – written by Moses.

Psalms 90:1 A Prayer of Moses the man of God.

Look at that statement. Moses a called “THE man of God”. Moses loved the Lord, and proved his love by how he lived his life. He is “THE man of God” because this is “A Prayer of Moses”. Moses prayed. He spoke to God more than once. He was continually looking to God. As THE Man of God Moses understood that every day of his life was a gift from God.

1 Life Is A Gift From God. Live Your Lives So As To Please God, For He Is The Source Of Life.

Moses, more than any other person of his day, realized that life is a gift from God.

When Moses was born he shouldn’t have been born. His mother and father were Egyptian slaves, and hated by the Egyptians. Just as the Arabs hate Israel today, Moses’ people were hated. Enslaved, beaten, treated harshly, at one point the Pharaoh decreed:

Exodus 1:16 (ESV) When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.

The midwives – believing God is the Author of Life – refused to do this. So Pharaoh decreed to all (Exodus 1:21) “every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile”. Moses should have been drowned in the Nile. But his mother, believing life is a gift from God, refused to drown her son. She cast Moses into the Nile, but not until she made a little Ark and put him in it (Exodus 2:3).

Life is not to be wasted.

When Moses was forty (40) years old (Acts 7:23) when he learned that he was a Hebrew who grew up in the Egyptian palace. At 40 years old Moses killed an Egyptian Taskmaster who was beating some Hebrews. He ran away into the desert of Midia, and when he was eighty years old (80) (see Acts 7:30 & Exodus 7:7) when God called him out of the Burning Bush to go and speak unto Pharaoh.

EIGHTY Years Old!

Now when we think of EIGHTY years old, we think “that’s pretty old”. Moses prayed …

Psalms 90:10-12 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. 

Some people live to be three score years and ten (that’s 70 years old) and others fourscore years. Some don’t even come close to that. In my time as a Pastor I have buried people who were 0 years old (yes, zero) and as old as 102 years old. It is GOD Who gives life. As Job said:

Job 33:4 The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

We live because God gives us life. It is God Who sustains us:

Acts 17:25 {God} Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;

It is God Who sustains us, and gives us one more day on this earth.

Deuteronomy 32:39 ‘See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.

Every day, every moment of life is precious, and we should continually praise God for that which He has given. The doctors and hospitals and “ObamaCare” can sustain life to a certain point. It is God Who gives life.

Moses spoke of life being upwards of eighty years old – then being cut off suddenly so that we “fly away”. Yet Moses was called to serve God when he was 80 years old. Do you know how old Moses was when he died?

Deuteronomy 34:5-7 … So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. And MOSES WAS AN HUNDRED AND TWENTY YEARS OLD WHEN HE DIED: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.

Do you know WHY Moses died at 120 years old, and not 140 or 160 or (as Methuselah was) 969 years old? Because the first Generation of Israel refused to follow God into the Promised Land. Because they refused God made them wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until that generation died∫. Moses wandered with them. Moses could have gone into the Promised Land, but

Moses failed to honor God at Meribah

Rather than do as GOD said Moses cried out at the people,

Hear now, you rebels, must WE bring forth water?

God told Moses, THE Man of God,

Numbers 20:12 “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

By the way, God told both MOSES AND AARON this same thing. Aaron could have helped Moses, but didn’t, so he died outside of the Promised Land. Listen Beloved,

God is the Source of Life.
Honor Him with the life that He has given you.

2 Teach Us To NUMBER, Not SQUANDER, Our Days. Do you realize that in an average lifetime:

You spend an average of 25 years sleeping
You watch television 9.1 years (2 of which are watching commercials)
You spend 2.5 years cooking and 3.6 years eating
You drive a car 4.3 years
You walk a total of 110,000 miles (4 times around the world)
You spend 1.1 years cleaning

God does not waste His life (which is limitless) – so why would we waste our lives? Moses prayed:

Psalms 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

God is so infinitely creative. God does not squander time, but makes time and uses time for His glory. Though science will not acknowledge God and His Creative power it recognizes God in the BIG BANG, and notes that space is ever expanding.

God has a plan, a purpose, and is never aimless. We are all products of His Grace! God is …

Our dwelling place in all generations (verse 1)
Creator “before the mountains were brought forth” (verse 2)
Eternal God “from everlasting to everlasting” (verse 2)
Timeless “a thousand years are like yesterday” (verse 4)

but compared to God, we are …

Destroyed and distressed at a word from God (verse 3)
Like grass, growing in the morning but withering at night (verse 5-6)
Temporal, living on this earth 70 or 80 years

We are weak – God is strong. We squander our lives when we do not live our lives in God for His glory. Israel squandered their lives looking backward. When the going got tough on the way to the Promised Land they looked BACK instead or UP. They complained. They grumbled. They found fault. We squander our lives when we grumble and look backward.

You cannot sail a ship on yesterday’s wind!

Our Jesus said:

Whoever puts his hand to the plow and looks back
is unfit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62)
.

Our strength is found not in squandering our lives, but in living our lives unto the Master.

If Adam had lived his life unto the Lord our race would not be fallen
If Cain had lived his life unto the Lord he would not have been marred for life
If Moses had lived his life for the Lord he would have entered the Promised Land
If David had lived his life for the Lord he would not have lost his baby by Bathsheba
If Iscariot had lived his life for the Lord he would not have died hanging by his own hand

The best life is the life lived with God.

There are people tonight squandering their lives watching reruns of the Simpsons instead of coming together to worship the Lord as His Church.

There will be people this Sunday who – like many other Sundays – refused to take time to worship the Lord Who made them.

They will spend more time planning a vacation at the beach that planning what happens when “they fly away” from this earth.

For there will be a day when we “fly away”, as Moses called it. We will “fly away” to meet the God Who made us. What will we find Him to be?

Psalms 90:11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

When we “fly away” what state will we find God in? Will He be filled with wrath? Will He be angry? Moses prayed for Israel as that nation wandered forty years, praying that God would forgive His people.

3 Teach Us To Number Our Days In The Presence Of God. As Moses concluded his prayer he said:

Psalms 90:13-15 Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. [14] O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. [15] Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.

The first thing Moses asked for was the Presence of God. He said “RETURN, O Lord”.

Psalms 16:11 Thou {O God} wilt shew me the path of life:

in thy presence is fulness of joy;
at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

We need the Presence of God bringing MERCY. We all fail God, but He remembers we are but dust. We cry out for mercy. We cry out for His Presence. Satisfy us EARLY with mercy, that we may REJOICE and be GLAD all our days.

Help us to remember that GOD IS FAITHFUL even when life deals us the harsh blows.. Make us glad even when the bad stuff happens. I do not know why the bad stuff happens to good people, but I do know if we walk with God then His Word says:

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Finally Moses prayed:

Psalm 90:16-17 Let Thy work appear unto thy servants, and Thy glory unto their children. 17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

What we do is not useless. It is God’s work. Let us live for Him, love for Him. Moses prayed that the Israel he led would be a part of God’s greater work. It is what we do for Jesus that lasts.

Illustrate In the old John Wayne movie Angel and the Badman a cantankerous cattleman named Frederick Carson blocks his neighbors from drawing water from a stream that ran through his land. John Wayne – playing the gunman Quirt Evans – goes to the cattleman and demands he allow his neighbors have some of his water. Understanding who Quirt is Mr Carson relents. When Mr Carson meets his neighbors and tells them he is letting the water through he says something very interesting. He said to Quirt:

You know I was scared to death when I made that speech to the people.

I’m glad you made me do it.

It makes me feel good.

You choose how you live your life. Number your days. Live your life for Jesus, not for yourself or for your selfishness. Live for Him!

May God touch your hearts with his Word.

 

 

 

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You Cannot Be In The Will Of God If You Are Not Obeying The Will Of God

love-one-another1That is not a confusing statement. If you are a Christ Follower you want to BE in the Will of God. How can you know you are in the Will of God? You must DO the Will of God.

Someone comes to me angry at another someone, a flawed person coming to a flawed person about another flawed person. “That person hurt me”. My response, “Have you forgiven him?”. The reply: “I can’t forgive him. What he did was so terrible.” And so a grudge begins, and is carried in the heart becoming what the scripture calls “A root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15). There is no doubt that you are hurt. I understand. I have been hurt by flawed people many times, just as I have hurt others in my flawed state. Yet Jesus said taught us to pray:

Matthew 6:9-15 (KJV)   After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.   [10]   Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.   [11]   Give us this day our daily bread.   [12]   And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.   [13]   And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.   [14]   For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:   [15]   But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

You cannot be in the Will of God while carrying a grudge and an unforgiving heart. Anger is to be dealt with in one day. The Apostle Paul said “do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). It is all right to be angry, but it is not all right to let anger control you. I have seen people stomp off  – one person nearly running me over with his vehicle – over anger.

You can get angry, but don’t let anger get you!
Don’t let others get your goat or you’ll be an old goat!

Christ follower, you must forgive. Jesus said if you have issues with a brother or a sister go to them and work it out privately (see Matthew 18:15, 21-22). Forgive that person 70×7 – infinitely. All are flawed, and all fail. Forgive. Do not carry a grudge, or it will carry you. Forgive not so much for the other person’s sake, but for YOUR sake.

I used to like Wanda Sykes the Comedian, but now I cannot watch her. She got on stage the other day and began to attack the audience. She was mad – frankly, consumed by madness. Her candidate didn’t win the Presidential Election so she began to curse “angry white men” who didn’t vote for her candidate. She began to vilify and curse her enemy so much that her audience began to boo her — then she began cursing the audience. Folks, never curse your audience! The more she cursed, the more the booing, until finally she stomped off stage. I doubt she’ll be invited back. One thing I did notice is that Wanda has become what she hates. Anger has turned her into a hater and a racist. That’s what anger does – it turns you into what you hated and feared the most.

Forgive. Love. Discuss. The person you are talking to is just like you. And Beloved, you’re not always right! I talked to someone the other day who began using the “Holy Spirit” card on me. “I have the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit told me it was ok”. No, it’s not. The Holy Spirit will not deny what Christ said. The Holy Spirit will not go against the witness of the Apostles. It reminded me of a story I heard of a person being stopped by a Police Officer for speeding. The Offender said “I’m good friends with the Mayor”. The Police Officer replied, “If that’s the case have the Mayor come to court as a character witness. You were still speeding, and here’s your ticket.”

You are under Grace, Christ Follower, and are supposed to extend Grace to others just as Grace was extended to you by God. And remember what Paul told us:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

What about the people who will NOT work with you? The people you smile to your face, but when you are gone paint you like Satan. Realize in your heart that this person is actually doing the work of Satan. He is being the “Accuser Of The Brethren”. Forgive that person anyway. When near them, seek to do good to them. Jesus said, nay, DECREED:

Matthew 5:44-48 (KJV)   But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;   [45]   That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.   [46]   For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?   [47]   And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?   [48]   Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

The mark of maturity is that you love your ENEMIES. God loved us when we were enemies. We are to love Him, to love others, and even to love the haters. Love does not agree with sin, but neither does love tear down. Do good to those who hate you. Let the haters hate, but let the Redeemed Love. Amen? Amen!

Posted in General, love, Strictly Blog | Leave a comment

A Better Judgment

light_over_cross_2

Hebrews 9:24-28 (KJV) For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: (25) Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; (26) For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (27) And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (28) So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

When our Lord Jesus was on this earth – God in humanity manifest – He did many things. One day John the Baptist sent a delegate to Jesus asking simply “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus answered them,

Matthew 11:4-6 (ESV) Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

Jesus did a lot of healing. He did a lot of preaching. He did a lot of traveling. He did a lot of loving. Jesus went to Church (they called it “Synagogue”) every chance He was able. He kept every feast and went to every eating meeting that He as a Jew was supposed to go to. And Jesus did a lot of offending. He didn’t intentionally try to hurt anyone’s feelings, but Jesus spoke the plain truth in love. Jesus didn’t beat around the bush. He called it the way it was.

But the one thing Jesus did not do is sacrifice an animal. He did not bring an animal to the Temple to be killed. The blood of an animal was never sprinkled on Him as it was on other Jews. Nor did Jesus try and take the place of the Levite Priest. Jesus was born of the Jewish Tribe of Judah, not of Levi. He was not – while on this earth – supposed to be a priest. Christ was a priest not after Levi, but after Melchizedek.

1 Jesus Came To This Earth On An Appointment. Why did God the Son become the Son of Man? Why did the Perfect come down to this earth? That Baby born in a manger in Bethlehem, why was He born of a Virgin? That Child – born as old as His Father and older than His mother – why was He here?

He was here on assignment, on an appointment from Heaven. We read a few weeks ago:

Hebrews 3:1-2 (KJV)  Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;  [2]  Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.

God appointed Jesus to come to this earth. Jesus said:

John 5:43 (KJV)   I am come in my Father’s name ….

Jesus came to this earth because the Father sent Him. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. He came not promoting His own agenda, but came out of love for us. We are broken. We are broken. We think we have it together, but we are broken.

a The Law Cannot Fix What Ails Humanity. We read:

Hebrews 9:24 (KJV) For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true;

In the Old Testament the High Priest of Israel would take an animal that had neither spot nor blemish, sacrifice it, and sprinkle it’s blood on the people. He would then carry the blood of that animal into the inner place, the Holy of Holies. By going through this ritual the High Priest made atonement or a covering for sin. But this was only a temporary covering because the Priest would go this ritual year after year. Why? Because this temporary covering did nothing to correct the problem of the people.

People are sinners.
People are born sinners.
People are born broken.

The Bible declares this over and over.

The WORLD says “People are basically good”.

But GOD says Romans 5:12,19 (ESV) .. sin came into the world through one man,
and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned
… by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners

The WORLD says “Surely there must be exceptions to this.
Some had to be “good”. What about Enoch and Elijah whom God took?

But GOD says Romans 3:23 (ESV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

2 Chronicles 6:36 (ESV) “there is no one who does not sin”

Isaiah 53:6 (ESV) All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way

Romans 3:9-12 (ESV) “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands;
no one seeks for God. All have turned aside;
together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Mark 10:18/Luke 18:19 (ESV) … No one is good except God alone.”

The Bible does tell us that Enoch walked with God and he was not, because God translated him (Hebrews 11:5). The Bible tells us that Elijah was caught up by a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). But we also know that neither of these men went into Heaven proper, but into Paradise to await the coming of the Messiah.

(If you didn’t learn this last week I hope you’ll learn to be in Church every week.
When you miss Church you miss a blessing
.)

Enoch and Elijah went to Abraham’s Bosom or Paradise to await the coming of Christ.
No one entered Heaven proper under the Old Covenant.

Yet God took them with Him. If neither Enoch nor Elijah died, but were taken by God but did not enter Heaven proper, then why did God take them? If man is at heart a sinner (for the Scripture says):

Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Ecclesiastes 9:3 (ESV) … the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

then why did God call Abraham to follow Him?

Why did God seek the a Shepherd David, and make him King over Israel?

Why did God call Israel, an assuredly broken people, and lead them through the Red Sea?

Because though we are all broken, God loves us all. Because God

2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV) The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

God wants us to understand that He loves us and REPENT. Repent does not mean to get better nor to clean yourselves up.

Hebrews 9:25 (KJV) … the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

Neither the works of our hands nor the works of the Law are able to bring eternal life. The High Priest of Israel dressed up in holy clothing, doing holy work, working in the Holy of Holies for a holy God. And yet this priest (though outwardly holy) still had to sacrifice an animal for himself. The innocent animal had to die for him. But the problem is …

Man is not an animal

If Man was an animal (and Darwinism is true) then the sacrifice of the animal would have covered our sins. But the sacrifices of animals were but a shadow of that which was to come, something better, Someone better. This Someone is Christ.

God loves us, but we are all broken. But all lives matter. All are created in the Image of God, what the ancients called Imago Dei.

We were not made to be racist.
We were not made to be hateful.
We were not made to hurt one another, nor to objectify one another.
We are not things, and we are not animals.
We are people, humans.
And we needed a human solution for our sins.

This is why Christ came. He IS THE Solution.

I love my grandchildren, and are so grateful that we had time to go and spend a week with them. Thank you for this, Riverview. They grow up so quickly, and we look forward to that time. One day while we were with our Valdosta family (and yes, we missed our Columbia family) my grandchildren came in our bedroom. They started by jumping on the bed. Grandpa said “Ya’ll need to get off that bed!” They kept jumping. “Please get off of that bed!”, I said a little louder. They jumped a little longer, then looked at me and ran out. They came back about a minute later with toy airplanes, and started throwing them around the room. I said “Throw those planes somewhere else!”.

They turned, faced me, and drew back their arms to throw the planes at me.

I said “If you throw those planes at me I will tear them up.” They stopped, looked at me askew and thought about what I said. They took the planes outside. Not because they are “good boys” but because they weighed the threat of punishment against the joy of the sin. My word controlled them, but did not change them. I love my grandkids but they are sinners in need of the Savior. We can punish and threaten and control behavior, but we all are at heart sinners.

But God loves us in spite of ourselves

b Jesus Christ Came From Heaven To Earth To Fix What Ails Us. The Father sent His Son, the One of Whom He said:

Matthew 3:17 (NKJV) … This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

The Father sent the Son so that we might have life. Jesus said:

John 10:10 (KJV) …. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

You do not have life if you are not in Christ. You have animation. You have a form of godliness, but deny the Power thereof. Without Jesus you worship stuff, you worship paper, you devalue life and value stuff.

There is nothing wrong with having stuff, but it’s wrong when stuff has you.
Jesus offers life in Him. He gave Himself for us.
Jesus died for us!

Hebrews 9:28 (KJV) So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

How does salvation work? Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. The Levitical High Priest made offering after offering, but Christ made one sinless offering. He was willing to die for us. He took our punishment, He paid our penalty. Sin in us and done by us made us unacceptable to God. I know that “sin” is an old fashioned word that we no longer believe in the modern, post Christian America. But there is sin. And there is a God Who made us sinless, but we became sinful through the works of our hands and the intents of our hearts.

1 Corinthians 15:3 (KJV) … Christ died for our sins …

1 Peter 3:18 (KJV) For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

1 Thessalonians 5:10 (KJV) (Christ) died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.

Someone once said “He laid down His everything for our nothing”. He gave Himself for you and for me. But I want you to look at out text once more:

Christ was ONCE offered to bear the sins of MANY

It doesn’t say that Jesus was offered many times, but ONCE. But His offer to God is not for ALL, but for the MANY. Why doesn’t it say He bore the sins of ALL?

2 The Gospel Is A Whosoever Will Offer. God does not force the Gospel on anyone. Christ has paid the penalty for our sin, but we must choose to receive that payment. Our text tells us:

Hebrews 9:26-28 (KJV) but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (27) And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (28) So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many

Jesus came on an appointment to this world because we ALL have an appointment we must keep. What is this appointment?

It is an appointment with DEATH
It is an appointment with JUDGMENT

The Apostle Paul witnessed in the Athens that …

Acts 17:30-31 (ESV) The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

God will judge the world and all that is in it by Jesus Christ, the One He appointed to be the Savior. Every person has a double appointment. It s not an appointment that WE made, but an appointment our MAKER has made.

it is appointed unto men (mankind) ONCE to die, but AFTER THIS THE JUDGMENT:

This is a general appointment, a universal appointment, and a mandatory appointment. The great King Solomon, the richest and wisest man who ever lived, wrote:

Ecclesiastes 3:17 (ESV) … God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.

Judgment is sure, and God is the Sure Judge. Jesus came to this earth with an appointment because WE have an appointment both with death and with judgment. This one time appointment is certain, it is sure, and it is to every person.

Now I want to ask you …. do you know when you are going to die?
Did you receive the engraved invitation?
Did God ask you to RSVP?
No, and neither did I!

God controls the exact moment of physical death for each and every one of us. The Bible says:

Psalm 68:20 (ESV) Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.

It is God Who gives us over to death, so said King David (Psalm 118:18). The Great Evangelist Billy Graham (who is now 97 years old) wrote …

When we will die is not a matter of accident or chance; the Bible makes it clear that our lives are in God’s hands. He knows the time of our death, and He has even appointed it. The Bible says, “Man’s days are determined; you (God) have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed” (Job 14:5).”

God is the Appointer, the Ultimate Controller of death. He lengthens physical life, He shortens physical life. There was a time when people understood this principle of Scripture. You are here, today, alive and listening to this message because God has willed it to be so. Your life is not guaranteed. James, the Step Brother of Christ Jesus, wrote:

James 4:13-15 (ESV) Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

God has given you and I one more day but, as my momma always said, “Tomorrow never comes”. Today is the day to hear God’s Gospel and respond to it. Today is the day to become part of the MANY.

Hebrews 9:27-28 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (28) So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many

3 What Must I Do To Be Saved? Christ did the doing. The answer to your question is …

Acts 16:31 (ESV) … Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.

Believe He died for your sins. Believe that His death was sufficient. Believe what the Scripture says, that Christ appeared in the Presence of God for us. The Beloved Son of God represents all who believe in Him.

Hebrews 9:26 … but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Jesus Christ died once and for all on that Cross of Calvary for all who believe.

If you have received Him as Lord and Savior then you need not fear death.

When you stand before God at your Divine Appointment Jesus will stand with you.

For you belong to Him – forever.

May God bless your hearts with these words.

Posted in Sermons Preached | Leave a comment

God Is Faithful To His Children

Isaiah 49:14-16 (KJV)  But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.  [15]  Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.  [16]  Behold, I have graven thee upon the isaiah_49_14t16_god_is_faithful_to_his_children_engravedgodpalms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

I was watching an old Andy Griffith episode called A Medal for Opie. The annual Sheriff’s Track and Field competition was coming up and all the boys in town – particularly Opie Taylor – wanted to win a medal. Opie was extremely excited, and Barney Fife the deputy didn’t help. Barney told Opie he could guarantee him a win on the day of the competition. And Barney helped Opie – kind of – the only way Barney can ever help. Opie was sure that he was going to win the race. Then the Race Day came. Opie was ready. He was sincere. He was certain. He got on his mark, got set, and GO! They were off. And in under a minute Opie came in dead last.

There was no medal for Opie.

Opie walked off the field, refusing to participate in any other events that day. When Andy got home at the end of the day Opie was sitting, sullen, unspeaking on the sofa. He looked like a little dark cloud! Andy asked Opie why he left, and Opie said – sotto voce – “Because I didn’t win”. Andy told Opie he needed to be a good sport, that he needed to go congratulate his friends. Opie refused. Andy told Opie “Son, I’m ashamed of you!”. Later on Opie came back to his daddy and said “I don’t want you to be ashamed of me”. Then Andy taught Opie what it meant to win – and how to be a graceful loser.

In the 70’s the Child Psychologists began to tell parents that losing is bad for a child’s ego. Everyone’s a winner. As a result parents began to give awards to all the children just for participating. Children were patted on the back and praised even when they ran the ball in the wrong direction. They were elevated even when they missed the ball and hit someone in the head with the bat. Everyone’s a winner! So last week thousands of young people took to the streets demanding that the American System be changed because their side didn’t win.

When no one stepped up and gave them what they wanted they began rioting,
destroying personal property.

This is the result of bad parenting. Not everybody wins. And sometimes you have to go through some dark valleys before you come to a path that leads to a mountaintop. The personal accounts that the Bible gives us of great people shows that there are highs and lows in every life.

  • Moses didn’t start out blessed – he was supposed to be aborted! His mother instead put him in a little ark and floated him down the river to where the Princess of Egypt found him. Moses was 80 years old when God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt. Moses was 120 years old when God buried him, never entering the Promised Land.
  • Joseph spent at least 13 years as a slave and as a prisoner before he stood before Pharaoh and was made Prince of Egypt.
  • David was a Shepherd boy when Samuel anointed him to be King of Israel over the current King Saul. David had to wait 15 years living like the late David Janssen (March 27, 1931 – February 13, 1980) did on that old T.V. show called The Fugitive. When King Saul died David didn’t immediately rule Israel. He became King of Judah while Saul’s son Ishbosheth ruled the rest of the nation.

I could go on and on, but the reality is that – like that old Carole King song:

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,
And most times you choose between the two …

We have all had times when we have felt that God was no where near.

  • Sometimes we brought this on ourselves. We did what our Lord said not to do, and as a result we feel far from Him.
  • Sometimes people bring this on us. A careless word spoken from an arrogant, unfeeling person, can make us feel little and lonely.
  • Then there are times when the circumstances seem to weigh us down. We hurt, we suffer sickness or a loved on is in the valley of the shadow of death. We feel as if God is not there. We cry out as our Jesus did on the Cross:

My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?

Our thoughts betray us. Pain haunts us. Has God abandoned us? Jesus knew that the Father had not abandoned Him, but in the midst of pain we all have cried out. The pain is to much. I cannot bear it. Where is my God?

God is always there. That’s what the Lord tells us today.
When the bad times come, don’t feed the flesh. Don’t destroy, and sulk.
Look up. Hear His Word. Know He is faithful to His Children.
God is in control!

1 God Will Not Abandon His Children. He Cannot! Zion, God’s Old Testament Children, cried out. They had abandoned God and wandered off into the world.

When you wander from God, you wander into a mine field!

Like the Prodigal Son of Jesus’ Parable of Luke 15:11-32, Israel said “Father, give me my share of the estate .. I’m leaving home”. God’s Child left home and, wandering from God, lost his wealth and position. He found himself doing one of the worst jobs that could be done.

The Prodigal Slopped Hogs.

I don’t know if you’ve ever slopped hogs, but it is a miserable job. Granddaddy raised hogs for meat. I hated slopping them. You carried leftover and rotted food in a 5 gallon bucket out to the farthest part of the farm. You don’t want hogs living in smelling distance of the house.

You don’t want to slop hogs unless you are a Sewer Worker like Norton
on the old Jackie Gleason Honeymooner’s Show.

You smell a hog pen long before you see a hog pen. It was a long walk from the house to the hog pen. If you weren’t careful you slopped that garbage over on your feet, and then you stunk like a hog. When you got there you either lifted the mess over the fence and splattered yourself and the hogs while filling the trough – or you went in the gate and risked getting nipped and pushed around by the hogs.

The Child of God who wanders from God suffers like the Prodigal suffered. Finally the Prodigal realizes that he should have stayed with his Father. “The servants eat better than I do. I’m eating out of the trough. I’ll go back to my Father and say, Father I have sinned against Heaven and against You. I am no longer worthy to be called Your son. I’ll be a hired servant if you’ll let me!” Israel was like that. Every Child of God who has wandered away from the Father’s Presence is just like that. We head back to Him, repentant, filled with sorrow. And as we head back we dread the meeting for we think that Father will shame us, mock us, perhaps discipline us.

Then we see Him right where He was.
The Father is still there in prayer.
The Father is right there on the property of His Word, His Bible.
We pick up the Book.
We come back to our Church Family.
And He runs to us, embracing us in love, saying
Bring the best robe and put it on him.
Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Bring the fatted calf and kill it – we’re going to have a barbecue.
My son has come home!

God’s Israel had sinned and turned away from God, but God is there all the time. When we sin and do things our way, turning from God, God does not depart. He is there. He loves us. Yet God calls His Children to follow Him. He said:

Isaiah 59:2 (ESV) … your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

What is the solution? Come home. Turn your heart to Him.
But God will not abandon even the most obstinate Child.
And Israel was an obstinate Child.

God declared …

Isaiah 49:15 (KJV) Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.  

Most women have a maternal instinct. Most would not “forget her sucking child”. Most women would feed and care for the child the more so because that baby is helpless. There are a few mothers – let’s call them monsters – who would leave their children suffering and screaming while they went out to pleasure themselves. There are a few like that. But most mothers would not dare do such a thing. God knows the hearts of man and woman. God said they may forget, yet I will not forget thee. God does not abandon His Children. He loves His Children. We may leave God (and sometimes foolishly do) but God is always there. The Scripture declares:

Hebrews 13:5 (ESV) Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The greatest possession we have is our Heavenly Father. He is there for us if we have called upon the Name of Jesus, receiving Him.

Romans 10:13 (KJV) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

John 1:12 (KJV) But as many as received {Jesus}, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Repent and turn to Him if you, like the Prodigal, have wandered away. He is there, waiting for you.

2 See The Depth Of God’s Love For His Children In This Next Statement. God said:

Isaiah 49:16 (KJV) Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands …

Let’s break this verse up.

a First we start with the word BEHOLD! The word BEHOLD is a word of wonder, of admiration, of excitement. Found in 1275 verses in the Bible BEHOLD was used by God when He presented Eden to Adam and Eve:

Genesis 1:29 (KJV)  And God said, BEHOLD, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

or when God looked with wrath at the mess man had made of the earth, telling Noah:

Genesis 6:13 (KJV)  And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, BEHOLD, I will destroy them with the earth.

or when Pilate presented Christ – beaten and bleeding – before the people:

John 19:5 (KJV)  Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, BEHOLD the man!

BEHOLD, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands. This is a word of amazement in this text. Who did the Lord engrave on the palms of His hands? Was it Angels, perhaps Michael or Gabriel? No. God engraved sinners on the palms of His hands, rebels who deserved no grace.

Romans 5:8 (KJV) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

The religious crowd mocked Jesus for those He lovingly ministered to. Look at Jesus. Isn’t He confused? They say He is a Prophet, but He is fellowshipping not with us, but with sinners, with tax collectors, with questionable women. If He was a Prophet He would know better.

Jesus Christ is MORE than a Prophet. He is the Messiah. He is the Great Physician, the One Who came to heal the broken. Jesus told the Pharisees:

Mark 2:17 (KJV) … They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

God manifested Himself in the flesh for all people, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But the Pharisees confused themselves with their clothing, their schooling, their rituals.

We are all sinners.
We are all broken.
When we come to Christ by faith, God writes us on His hands.

b Now Look At The Pronouns “I” And “You”. Who inscribed the Child of Faith on God’s hands? Was it I? Was it you? Can a mere mortal come close enough to God to make a mark on His hands? Absolutely not. No one can write on God’s hands but God Himself. Salvation is not a work that any person can do, but it is a work that God has done and offers to all who receive Christ as Lord and Savior. The Scripture declares that ..

Romans 10:9-11 (ESV) … if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

When you realize yourself to be a sinner, broken and undone, and call upon Jesus Christ to be your Savior, God writes you on His hands. The powers of darkness cannot overcome this great promise to God’s Child …

I have engraved YOU upon the palms of My hands

Your name is written in the Book of Life. Oh, praise God for that! We are told in …

Revelation 20:15 (ESV) And if anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The ANYONE’s are thrown into the Lake of Fire. Those Whom God does not know, the ones that Christ says “I never knew you”, they are cast into the Lake of Fire because their name is not written in the Book of Life. When you receive Christ you receive everlasting life.

When you come to God personally and receive Him personally and start a personal relationship with Him through Christ then God writes your name into His Book of Life (Revelation 3:5; Philippians 4:3). But God ALSO writes YOU on His hands!

I have engraved YOU

God personally touches us. When God created the worlds and the Heavens God spoke it into being. When God created everything with a Word the scripture says:

Job 38:7 (ESV) … the morning stars SANG TOGETHER …

but God did not sing. Yet with His people the Lord says:

Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

God cherishes His people. God inscribes US on the palms of His hands. Not just our Names, but ALL of us. He “numbers the hairs of our head”. He knows us personally, and loves us so much that He makes us a PERMANENT MARK in His life, on his hands!
What a glorious truth!

God knows you better than you know yourself. He knows your sins and your drawings. And yet, He loves us anyway. The Perfect loves the Imperfect. Forever. Forever.

c Now Look At The Words “Palms Of My Hands”. God does not inscribe us on the “works of His hands”. God has made the works of His hands – this earth and the things around us – to be temporal and temporary. As the Psalmist testified:

Psalm 102:24-27 (ESV) “O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days— you whose years endure throughout all generations!” 25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

We are not engraved on this earth, nor on the things that God has made. We are engraved on the palms of His hands. The things of this world will perish, but God’s hands will never perish.

No one can separate God’s hands from God.
No one can separate God’s hands from God.
No one can separate God’s hands from God.

Word Study No one. You are – if you have received Christ as Lord and Savior – if you have believed in Him – as PERMANENT AS GOD YOUR FATHER IS PERMANENT. You have forever life. You are engraved – חָקַק the Hebrew Chaqaqengraved or cut into the hands of God.

This is a picture of the Christ.
He took the nails FOR YOU.
He bore the pain FOR YOU.
He suffered and lay down His life FOR YOU.

Notice that God says “I have engraved you on the palms of My HANDS”. Not just one hand, but two. You are on His right hand of blessing and on His left hand of justice. If you have received Christ you will never hear “depart from Me, you cursed ones, into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41)”.

God would have to toss both of His hands into the flames to cast off His Child.
That will never be.
Them that are in His hands are forever in his hands, blessed be the Name of the Lord!

3 Knowing This Great Promise And this Great Reality Should Excite You To Serve The Living God! The Apostle Paul told his disciple Timothy:

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV) For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Why should the Children of God go about hung over with despair, gloomy and doomy? We should be an upbeat and glorious people, unafraid of the world around us, ever willing to serve our Lord. We are engraved on the hands of our God. We are bound to Him. Let us go forward, trusting and loving Him as He loves us. Let us stand up for Him, showing His Mark on us as He shows our mark on Him.

And if you do not know Him, today is the day to receive Him. Dr. Henry M. Morris wrote:

(begin quote) “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:12-13). The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, on the very last page of Scripture, says: “whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). So, whosoever will, may come! One can contemplate later, with deep thanksgiving, the mysteries of the divine call, but first he must come, and if he so wills, he may! (end quote)

May God touch your hearts with His Word.

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Jesus Explains Government (And God’s Overrules All)

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Luke 13:1-5 (KJV) There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Luke 13:6-9 (KJV) He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? 8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

Luke 13:18-22 (KJV) Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. 20 And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. 22 And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.

Luke 13:31-35 (KJV) The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. 32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. 33 Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! 35 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

We have just had our 2016 Presidential Election, and there were winners and losers. Some are upset that their candidate did not get into office. But I want to assure each and every Child of God that Our Father is still in control. It doesn’t matter who is in control in the White House, the Congress, or the Supreme Court. God is still in control. His Government – the Kingdom of God – will in the end prevail.

We have political unrest today, but the people had political unrest when our Lord Jesus walked the earth. If you were to put a heading to summarize what is taught in Luke chapter 13, the heading would read “Jesus Explains Government”. That’s what chapter 13 is all about. It’s about government, the dissatisfaction of the people with their government, and the fact that God is above all governing powers. Israel was an occupied nation. They had fallen to Rome.

Israel’s“King” Herod was not of the line of David, but was an Idumean (born in Edom) of the lineage not of Jacob but of Esau. Esau, as you remember, sold his heritage for a pot of lintel stew (Genesis 25:30). No child of Edom should have sat on David’s Throne, but Israel was conquered and Herod was made King by Rome. Though a “cousin” to Israelites, Herod was not an Israelite. The Roman Emperor Tiberius assigned Pontius Pilate to be Governor of Israel.

God’s people were upset. They wanted Jesus to come and overthrow Rome and restore the line of David.

But God is in control.

1 It Is God Who Establishes Governments. Some disciples told Jesus about something terrible that happened. They said:

Luke 13:1 (KJV) There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

If there were a newspaper this event would have made headlines. I can see it now. You’re having coffee one morning and open your copy of the Jerusalem Independent or the Holy Cow Times and read the front page headlines,

Followers of Judas Gaulonites
Murdered At Church By Rome!

The truth is that the followers of Judas Gaulonites believed that there was no government but their god’s government. They refused to submit to Roman authority, refused to pay taxes, and were constantly seeking means by which they could overthrow the current Law of the land. They were not law abiding citizens but insurrectionists, anarchists, zealots who would do whatever they could to destroy the hated government. On one holy day when Israel was making sacrifices agents of Pilate followed these revolutionaries into the Temple and executed them by the sword as enemies of the state. Their blood flowed in the same area where animals were sacrificed in the Temple.

People came running to Jesus. “Jesus, did you hear what Pilate did? He murdered these GALILEANS while making sacrifices in the Temple. Jesus, aren’t YOU a GALILEAN? Didn’t you grow up in Nazareth? Pilate murdered your people in your Temple! What are we going to do about it?” Oh, I can see their faces now! Here is Jesus, a Person Who has healed the sick, caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear. Here is a Man from God. Surely He will join us in our cause and help overthrow the Government.

Then Jesus shocked them. He didn’t come back with a “let’s get them!” or a “God is on your side” speech. Jesus said:

Luke 13:2-5 (ESV) Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

God does not call His people to be anarchists, to arrange themselves in armed uprising against the government. Jesus calls us to repentance. The word repent means to stop trying to do things your way and to come to Christ, doing things and living life HIS Way. God is in control of all things. God either DECREES or ALLOWS all things according to His Eternal Purpose.

God establishes governments. The Bible is clear on this. The Apostle Paul, imprisoned for his faith and headed to almost certain death to Rome, wrote:

Romans 13:1-6 (ESV) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

God establishes governments. The Bible says

Proverbs 21:1 (ESV) The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever he will.

God sets up kings and deposes kings. It is God Who is in control! If you are a Christ Follower you hold duel citizenship. You are a Citizen of the Kingdom of God, but you are also a Citizen of the nation where you reside. You are to speak with boldness the Gospel of Christ, the Glorious Hope of salvation. But you are never to refuse to pay taxes or to support your government in all ways that do not stand against the Kingdom of God.

God is in control. Honor God, and, insofar as your government does not demean God’s Kingdom, honor your government.

When Jesus was about to go to the Cross the Governor Pilate wondered why Jesus wasn’t more deferential to him. Pilate had many times had people before him fell to their knees, begging for their lives. Pilate asked Jesus in John 19:10 (and I paraphrase here),

Why don’t you grovel before me, Jesus?
Don’t You know I have the power to let You go?

Jesus told Pilate

You have NO AUTHORITY over Me at all,
UNLESS it had been GIVEN to YOU from ABOVE!

God is in control. It is God’s Will that Christ go to Cross for us, to die for our sins, to rise again for our salvation. Pilate wasn’t calling the shots here – the Father was. Pilate wasn’t in control – Jesus was! He could have but spoke a word and the Father would have sent twelve thousand angels (John 12:49).

Jesus wasn’t made to go to that Cross. He laid down His life.

The Father gave His Son. He laid down His life.

Unless you repent, you will ALL likewise PERISH! God is control of the powers that be. God is in control of every event. This is why Jesus mentions the Tower of Siloam. Little is known about this, but the Pool of Siloam was where people who were sick came to be healed. Jesus met a blind man at the Pool of Siloam. The Bible tells us that

John 9:6-7 (ESV) {Jesus} spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Siloam was believed to be a sacred place, and a tower on the wall round about the city overlooked Siloam. One day that tower fell, and 18 sick people were killed under it’s rubble. Why? Why did this happen?

I have no idea.
I have no idea why sick people seeking relief would be killed by a falling Tower.
I have no idea, but I do know this.
God is in control.
And unless you repent, you will all likewise perish!

2 It Is God Who Claims Our First Allegiance. Jesus said to the Jews who came to Him “Unless you REPENT you shall ALL likewise perish”. God sustains a government for the protection of His people. Rather than tell these followers how bad Rome was Jesus spoke a parable of the Fig Tree. The Fig Tree, by the way, is a reference to Israel. His listeners – Jews – would have been familiar with the witness of the Prophet Jeremiah who in Jeremiah 24 referred to Israel as a Fig Tree. Jesus told these people who wanted Him to lead an armed revolt against Rome:

Luke 13:6-9 (KJV) He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? 8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

The Fig Tree is a reference to Israel. Israel was in Roman bondage because, though she was to be populated with those who love the Lord, they ceased loving the Lord. Not everyone. There were many who looked for the coming Messiah.

Simeon looked for the “Consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25)
Anna the Prophetess looked for the “Redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38)
Nicodemus sought Jesus by night (John 3)
Eleven common men followed the Lord, fishermen and tax collectors

There were many who followed Christ when He walked the earth, and many who heard His Gospel. But there were many more who were only outwardly religious, showy but ignorant of God. For three years Jesus looked for fruit from the Fig Tree. He came first for the Children of Abraham, the Israelites. But everywhere He looked He saw fruitlessness.

The Owner of the Fig Tree – God Almighty – saw no fruit from Israel. His people were fruitless.

Cut it down! Why cumbereth it the ground?

Beloved, God’s Church is America has become in many places much like ancient Israel. It is Church in Name Only, just as Israel was God’s People in Name Only.

The Way of Christ is to bear fruit.
The Fig Tree – The People of God – Are To Bear Fruit.

I am not talking of earning your salvation. Salvation is not a thing earned, but it is a gift bestowed. But if you are a Child of God then God indwells you. And, like the Fig Tree, you are His, and He expects you to be fruitful. The Christian way of life is not meant to be easy. Salvation is free, but it is neither cheap nor easy. It is hard to be light in the midst of darkness. But have you ever considered,

You cannot see the stars nor the moon while the day is lit by the sun.
You can only see those points of light in the deepest and darkest of nights.

Jesus said in His parable that the owner of the fig tree said “Cut it down”. But the Gardener told the Owner:

Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down

The nation Israel rejected Christ and was fruitless. But God gave Israel a little more time. Many Israelites came to Christ, but many more resisted and fought against the Gospel. At one point after Christ’s resurrection and ascension into Heaven the High Priest and the Rulers of Israel told the Disciples:

Acts 5:28-32 (ESV)…. “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

The Christian way of life is to be the Light of Christ, to shine for Him and to tell others of Him. The Christian Way of life is to love. Not to be terrorists. Not to kill and to steal. Our way is the way of Love, the way that Christ has taught us.

Israel rejected Christ, so God allowed Rome to destroy Israel in 70 AD. The Temple was destroyed, the people scattered. Why? Because the Fig Tree was fruitless. Jesus is not done with Israel. He will one day redeem His Israel, praise His Holy Name.

3 We Are To Keep Our Eyes Of Faith On God’s Kingdom. We are to repent and follow the Lord. His Kingdom cannot be defeated. Jesus said:

Luke 13:18-21 (KJV) Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. 20 And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

The Kingdom is a tiny mustard seed. Jesus said a man cast it into his garden. There was no working of the ground. The Gospel message is just shared. A tiny word. A loving act in Christ’s name. That seed will grow. God makes the seed grow. Not us, but God. As it seed grows, it makes a great tree.

And a bunch of strange birds rest in that Gospel!

You don’t think you’re strange? You are. Who does God call to His Kingdom?

1 Corinthians 1:26-30 (ESV)  For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

You are a strange and peculiar people. But you are, if you have received Christ and Lord and Savior, a loved people, a cherished people, the Light of the World, a loving people, a kingdom of God’s Children. Look unto Him.

Do not be afraid of governments. Fear God, love one another, be good citizens, but stand in the Gospel.

The Bible tells us that several Pharisees came to Jesus saying:

Luke 13:31 (KJV) The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.

and Jesus shivered in His sandals! No, not at all. How did Jesus reply?

Luke 13:32-33 (KJV) … Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. 33 Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.

Jesus knew that He would not be hindered by any government until His mission was fulfilled. Let me tell you, brothers and sisters, as long as we follow our Lord and seek to honor Him we will be all right.

God is in control.

God’s Church is the independent conscience of the Nation. We are to continue to speak His truth in love, trusting that the mustard seed we sow will bear fruit. Stephen Witmer wrote:

Herod, the ruler over Galilee, had already locked John the Baptist in prison and lopped off his head (Matthew 14:3–12). Now he has heard about Jesus and apparently has a desire to kill him, possibly because he believed it was John back from the dead. Herod is powerful and paranoid (Matthew 14:1–2), as well as selfish and erratic in his behavior. This is no idle threat. And yet, this passage records no hint of fear on Jesus’s part. Jesus’s strongest emotions don’t even involve Herod, whom he seems to dismiss and quickly forget. Herod is actively seeking his life, but Jesus isn’t fazed.”

Why? Because God is in control.
So set your eyes on Jesus.
Continue to speak the truth in love.
Be uncompromising about sin.
Be focused and comforted by the Sovereignty of God.

Rest in Him. Rest in His Promise that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, to them who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28-32).

May God touch your hearts with His Word.

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