Month: November, 2015

“With Thanksgiving”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Well, I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving celebration and that you were able to remember how truly blessed you are. It’s so easy to remember that bad things isn’t it? The good things we often take for granted or even forget but those bad things we hold on to sometimes like they’re some sort of masochistic blanket or something. It’s this way in life both worldly and spiritually. So often we look past the blessings and hold on to the trials.

Well today I want to take time to thank God for the good things. True, we don’t live in some sort of utopia where all is well and nothing challenges us, but we also have so much in life to be thankful for.

At one time, mankind lived in a perfect setting. Before the fall of man, Adam and Eve had life extremely well. There was no sickness and disease, no rebellions or uprisings, no cars that broke down, or kids who wouldn’t listen, or long-winded preachers telling you haw sinful you are.

It was just paradise and they walked with God just as all believers will one day. That’s one of the blessings we have to look forward to and very fitting item to thank God for. The blessed promise of the kind of paradise that only Adam and Eve were able to experience, if only for a short while.

Ever since sin entered the world, all of mankind has searched for that perfect combination of things that would make their life flawless. Some try to accumulate enough wealth to do it only to find out that the rich are really no better off than the poor as far as happiness goes. Some look for paradise, or at least the feeling of it, in drugs or alcohol but soon they find out that, instead of paradise they have become slaves. Some look for their utopia through sex but find that sex without love is empty.

In truth man, in His earthly life, has never and will never attain that perfect state of life we all search for. We have little glimpses of it now and then through our family, our church and our relationships, but the perfect combination will always elude us until that day that God brings us to Himself. In fact, it seems the harder we try, the further we get from perfection.   Yet we still have the promise and for that we are thankful. We have been assured one day that that elusive perfection we look for will be ours through faith in Jesus Christ.

John Quincy Adams held more important offices than anyone else in the history of the U.S.

He served as president, senator, congressman, minister to major European powers, and participated in various capacities in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and events leading to the Civil War. Yet, at age 70, with much of that behind him, he wrote, “My whole life has been a succession of disappointments. I can scarcely recollect a single instance of success in anything that I ever undertook.” He had wealth, power, fame and stature yet he had nothing that he could call perfect. He had all the worldly things a person could hope to have yet he lacked happiness in any of them.

So, yes, we have to give thanks to God for the paradise He has promised to all His children, but what about the time we are forced to wait until that day comes? What about the in-between time? How are we to face the storms that will inevitably come to our lives as we live in this imperfect world and what we will have to be thankful for?

This reminds me of the story in Matthew 14 when the disciples went on ahead of Jesus over the sea. During their trip, a fierce storm came upon them, so fierce in fact that they, some of them even sailors and people who made their living upon the sea, were afraid.

Earlier Jesus told them to go on ahead and that he would join them later. Little did they know that He would meet them in the middle, walking upon the water. Can you imagine the shock? In their peril, Jesus came as Savior, illustrating for us His promise of protection when we come upon our own storms in life. Check that off as another thing to be thankful for by the way.

In Deuteronomy 31:6, God gives us that promise saying, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

I’m sure we all have our own stories of God’s grace and protection when we really needed Him. We all have had experience when God brought calm to a stormy situation.

In our Gospel lesson, Jesus reminds His followers telling them, “..Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put in it. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

He’s telling us to trust in Him during the storms. To come to Him when anxiety overwhelms us, when we feel betrayed, abandoned, lost or lonely. Jesus Christ wants us to depend on Him when the walls seem to be closing in on us. We can be thankful for a loving God who always looks over us, gives us guidance, and showers us with good things that money cannot buy like Hope, joy, peace and love.

He continues, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Yet we do fret don’t we. Even knowing the promise of the Savior we make anxiety a part of us. We try and solve the problem on our own. We stay awake at night wondering how we might survive. We can’t eat, we pop antacids and lament the great tragedy we are having to live in but we forget to place our hope and trust in Christ.

Those who do eventually come to the understanding that life is greater than our current setbacks. Jesus has grander plans for us. We will survive and all the while God will look over us. We need only to come to Him in prayer. Prayer is a beautiful thing. That’s your next check. Thank God for the blessings of answered prayer.

Just like you, I have found myself drowning in a sea of troubles in my life and, just like you, despite sinking fast I continued to try and win the battle alone. I even went down a couple of times not really sure I would ever come up for air. But all along, Christ was offering me His hand of salvation and every time I have accepted His invitation He has lifted me up. For that I thank Him.

Thank God He walks above the storm and that none of our problems, our trials or our failings are too much for Him.

In our cry of repentance He gives us His promise of forgiveness and for that we praise Him and give Him thanks. He wants all of us to know that if we trust in Him, even when times are much less than perfect, he will walk upon the waters if He has to so that we might be saved. In fact, he’ll even sacrifice His own Son on our behalf so that the devil’s storms will be silenced.

I want to remind you again, that Satan is out to kill, steal, destroy, deceive, and break you down. He will try to convince you that your situation has no hope of getting better or that your present trials will never end but God has given you His assurance that a better day will come. Have faith in the promise.

Jesus reminds us that worry does us little good, He says, “Which of you, by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” God is bigger than your problems. What an amazing blessing to have Him on our side, especially during times of trial.

When you think about it, we really do have much to be thankful for. So far we have heard of God’s promised gift of everlasting life, the blessings we have in prayer and forgiveness, the assurance that we never have to face our trials alone, and the gifts of hope, joy, peace and love. Most of which we do not deserve, but which is yet given to us in faith.

When we feel like we have almost lost the battle, Jesus asks us to consider the lilies of the field and how beautiful they are. They neither toil nor spin he says yet God covers them in glory greater than that of Solomon. He goes on to remind us saying, “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown in the oven, will He not much more clothe you?

He asks only for our faith. In times of challenge, He wants to be the one you turn to. That’s not too much to ask for, especially when we keep in mind the blessings to follow.

God knows our every need and he wants us to enjoy all good things. Will we face trial? Yes. We live in a sinful world full of trial and tribulation. Will we continue to mess up? There is a yes for that too. We are imperfect people. What matters though, is how the Father sees us and in that we have great news because when the father sees us, He sees the cross. When He puts us to trial, He sees the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. Even though we might be clothed in filth because of the sins we have committed, He sees us through the prism of His Son Jesus Christ clothed in the white robes of Christ’s righteousness. We are but to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and then all these things will be added to us.

Pretty amazing, right? Our blessings abound even when we take them for granted or only remember the trials. In Psalm 37:23-26 we read, “

“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand. I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing.”

Our God has great plans for us but we have to trust in Him enough to follow Him. Yes, there will still be challenges along the way but, with God’s blessings and guidance we will overcome them.

We have much to be thankful for:

Thank God that we are the apple of His eye!

That God that His eyes are always watching over His children!

Thank God that, even as we sleep, he is ever vigilant against the devil and his trappings!

Thank God for the hope, the joy, the peace He showers upon us and

thank Him for a love that never fails.

Give Him praise in all things and may we always remember all we have to be thankful for. Amen

 

 

 

Bible Study Questions – Matthew 6: 25-34

Bible Study Questions – Matthew 6: 25-34

Why is this a good scripture to consider when thinking of one’s thankfulness toward God?

 

How could Jesus’ words here be used to justify idleness? Is that His intention? Acts 20:34–35; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6–13

 

What were the things that the people Jesus was speaking to were most prone to worry about? Why does Jesus concentrate on these things?

 

The definition of the word “anxious “(or worry) in this passage is a combination of two smaller words. It means, “to divide the mind.” How does worry divide the mind? Philippians 4:6–7, 12–13, 19, Proverbs 30:7–8, 1 Timothy 6:9–10

 

I passage starts with “Therefore.” This means He was drawing a conclusion to what He had spoken earlier. What was he talking about and how does it apply to this conclusion? Verses 19-24

 

In verse 21 Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The word treasure here means, “a place where good and precious things are stored.” Discuss this verse. What does the heart have to do with worry?

 

Why do you think Jesus says in verse 30, “Oh you of little faith?” How is faith related to worry?

 

In verses 25-32, Jesus builds a case for not worrying. Why does He use examples like these?

 

How does Jesus conclude this section on worry in verse 33? How does this compare to how he started it in verses 19-21?

 

Is Jesus promising an easy life in this passage? What is He promising?

 

Does “don’t worry” mean “don’t plan?” What does God expect of us then?

 

Does “don’t worry” mean “don’t be concerned?” Why or why not?

 

What is the difference between concern and worry?

 

If God provides, why are there so many people in need around the world? How do we explain starvation and extreme poverty, especially to Christians? Psalm 37:25, 104:27–28, Verse 34

 

How does one seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness?

 

How has anxiety and worry affected you in your life? How about those around you? Phil. 4:4–7.

“Foundational Truth”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

THE MEN’S THESAURUS (men don’t always say what they mean) – excerpts:
When a man says: “IT’S A GUY THING”
He means: “There is no rational thought pattern connected with this, and you have no chance at all of making it logical”
When a man says “CAN I HELP WITH DINNER”
He means: “Why isn’t it already on the table?”
When a man says “UH HUH, SURE HONEY,” or “YES, DEAR”
He means: Absolutely nothing – It’s a conditioned response.
When a man says ’’IT WOULD TAKE TOO LONG TO EXPLAIN”
He means: “I have no idea how it works”
When a man says “TAKE A BREAK, HONEY. YOU ARE WORKING TOO HARD’’
He means: “I can’t hear the game over the vacuum cleaner”
When a man says ’THAT’S INTERESTING DEAR.’
He means: “Are you still talking?”
When a man says “YOU KNOW HOW BAD MY MEMORY IS.”
He means: ” I can remember the theme song to ’Gilligan’s Island’, the address of the first girl I ever kissed & the vehicle identification numbers of every car I ever owned – but I forgot your birthday”
When a man says ’OH, DON’T FUSS, I JUST CUT MYSELF. IT’S NO BIG DEAL”
He means: “I have actually severed a limb, but I will bleed to death before I admit I’m hurt”
When a man says ’I CAN’T FIND IT.’’
He means: “It didn’t fall into my outstretched hand, so I’m completely clueless”
When a man says “I HEARD YOU.”
He means: “I haven’t the foggiest clue what you just said and I am hoping desperately that I can fake it well enough so that you’ll not spend the next 3 days yelling at me.”
When a man says “YOU KNOW I COULD NEVER LOVE ANYONE ELSE”
He means: “I am used to the way you yell at me and realize it could be worse.”
When a man says “YOU LOOK TERRIFIC!”
He means: “Oh please don’t try on one more outfit, I’m starving.”
When a man says “I’M NOT LOST. I KNOW EXACTLY WHERE WE ARE.”
He means: “No one will ever see us alive again.”
This is man’s truth and no one knows it more than our wives. Right ladies? So, seriously, what is truth? As our “Men’s Thesaurus” points out – truth is sometimes what we want it to be.

Truth is a fickle thing. It comes in many colors and with those colors are many shades. Today, it seems, truth is conditional. One person’s truth is fantasy to other’s. What one person depends on for truth another avoids. Day by day truth is becoming relative and with our new PC culture, there really is no truth. Bad has become good and good has become bad. Where have we been warned of that?  Isaiah 5:20-21: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

It’s easy for us to look at our world and shake our pious heads. I hear it every day from certain people how political correctness is killing us but I also see some of those same people stand up for a woman’s right to murder her unborn child or approve of same sax marriage, in effect speaking against the church and what it calls truth. We hear politically correct morals so often that what we see as PC one day becomes truth the next. Woe to those who call evil good and good evil. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes.

We are creating a society whose morality is based on anyone’s point of view and as a result it is creating confusion and division. We are no longer able to condemn what is wrong and stick up for what is right without repercussions. Obvious wrongs are finding new life as relative rights because no one dares condemn another person’s actions.

As Christians, we count on God’s Holy Word for our truth but even that is being attacked. It’s as if the serpent has made his return saying, “Did God really say this is wrong?” the Bible has always maintained that it’s Word is true, 100%. We don’t have the liberty to take out those parts which trouble us or discount something because it goes against our own moral values. Within its pages are found the standards for life on earth.

God promotes absolute truth. In fact, those who bend its rules or discredit its requirements can’t truly worship God because God requires full obedience to His word and full faith in His guidance. From Hebrews 10: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

And Jesus Himself declares in John 4:23: “….A time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the father seeks.” 

So, if truth is so important to God, what has to be the foundation of that truth? In a recent study, more people than ever in history now believe that “all religions” lead to God. They believe that each religion promotes different ways to get to the same God and that God reveals Himself in different ways to different kinds of people. They all hold their own truths and there is really no one truth in religion.

This is called pluralism and, as Joel Smith of Wellspring has observed, “If pluralism is true, God is either a liar or a schizophrenic. The differences in religions are too deep to conclude that all religions lead to the same God. I suspect that people who support such a view have never really examined where the different faith groups diverge. A god who would devise such a system is either;

A liar – Telling one group ‘This is the way,’ and another group ‘That is the way.’ Or he is schizophrenic. He has multiple personality disorder. One day he’s Shiva, the destroyer. Another day He’s Brahma, an impersonal force in the universe. What god you get, depends on which day you bump into him.”

 

This is a symptom of our new toleration for all things whether right or wrong. The new theme for society is acceptance. If Bruce Jenner wants to call himself a girl then everyone else must ignore the obvious and call him a girl too. If a new mother wants to end her pregnancy, she should be able to because it’s her body (ignoring, of course, any rights the growing body inside her might have).

On the surface, toleration sounds kind of good. Being open-minded is one of our greatest virtues (until it comes back to bite us). A certain amount of both is actually good so why wouldn’t a whole ship full be even better, Right?

Unfortunately, this kind of “open-mindedness” isn’t really open minded at all. Where we open our minds towards things that used to be wrong, we, in turn, close our minds to those things that used to be good. We’ve become tolerant of evil and intolerant of good.

This kind of theology is called moral relativism and now it’s gotten so out of hand it’s used to judge God Himself. What is true has become relative to what we believe and what we choose to ignore. As appealing as this may seem, it’s a lazy man’s theology and fails to hold up to close examination.

So, we ask the question again, What is the foundation of truth?

Well, as Christians who hold to God’s Holy Word to find truth we look to  John 1:17,

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” That may explain why Jesus said on different occasions, “I speak the truth.” In fact, it is recorded in Scripture that He said it 76 times and I’m sure He said it much, much more than that.

 

And people knew He was speaking truth. Matthew 7:28-29 tells us that:

“…When Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” 

And Jesus Himself says, “I am the way, THE TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.”

Our truth is Found in Jesus Christ. Peter said of Jesus in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

If we hold, as Christians, that Scripture is true then we know that Jesus Christ is truth. That’s the simplest answer, yet, too often, we try to make it much more difficult and hard to understand. We try to add more to the occasion by requiring more. Truth becomes what God does plus what I can do when, in reality, truth lies in Christ alone.

The truth is that we have the one true God who sent His only Son into a real world living a real life and dying an all too real death.

The truth is that we are real sinners in need of a real savior to offer complete and true forgiveness, in order to carry on with our own real lives in faith so that one day we might inherit a real heaven and not find ourselves in a real hell. No other religion makes these claims. No other religion worships a living God who loves His adopted children, requiring nothing but truth in love and faithfulness in return. All other faiths contradict this truth.

 

So only one religion can hold the truth. If there is one true God, He wants us to know the one truth. And because we know this truth we also know the only way to heaven. All this truth is found in the Word he has provided us and in the Son who He sent to save us.

 

Yet Satan will continue to try and confuse us by having the world develop new truths and new morals. He will try to convince us that right is wrong and that wrong is right. We see it all around us. He comes to deceive and He’s very good at what he does. So be on guard, armored in truth and protected by grace.

 

Jesus says in Verse 37 of our Gospel lesson, “Yes, I am a king! I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth, Everyone who lives in the truth listens to Me.”

And mere hours after that statement, He did what any great king would do for His people. He proved His word by living it. More specifically, He proved the truth of His Word by dying for it. Mere hours after this profound statement, our Savior, yours and mine, allowed Himself to die the most horrible death imaginable so that His kingdom could be established and so His people could be free from the lies and deceptions of the devil and brought under His protection for all of eternity.

The truth is, because you have put your faith in the King of kings, you have all been given eternal life. In fact, your eternal life has already begun because of the promise of the Savior. His death and resurrection brought truth to the forefront. Jesus Christ became our truth and our Redeemer. He became our one true way to salvation. May we hold to that truth for all of eternity, unafraid of the repercussions we might face because of our beliefs. May God give us the courage to defend the truth by calling what is wrong, wrong and what is right, right. And may we all look to the cross for the ultimate truth of God’s affection for us as we cling to His Word, living our lives in the name of His Son. Everyone is looking for the truth. May we find it at its source in Jesus Christ. Amen

 

John 18:33-37 Bible Study

John 18:33-37 Bible Study

What strikes you about the reading?  Is there a particular word or phrase that stands out or makes you feel challenged?

What do you not understand?

What do you learn about God’s view of power by this text?

Since God could have prevented Jesus’ death, what does it mean that he didn’t?

What does it mean to follow a king who wins by dying, not by killing?

When Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews, why did Christ ask, “Is

that your own idea or did others talk to you about me?”.

 

Why was Pilate concerned about Jesus being a king?

 

How Is Christ’s kingdom both hidden and revealed?

 

What are the differences between earthly kingdoms and the one that Jesus came to establish? John 1:14, 3:17, 16:28; 17:11,16

 

Why couldn’t Christ’s kingdom be of this world? Verse 36.

 

What is Christ saying to Pilot in verse 37?

 

Why did Jesus answer questions from Pontius Pilate but not Herod after he was arrested? Luke 23:8-9; Isaiah 53:7

 

What is the truth that Jesus is talking about?

 

How does one bear witness to the truth? John 8:32, 14:6

 

What is the difference in Christ’s demeanor here and in Matthew 26: 36-46

 

What are some of the true things of which Jesus spoke? John 3:11-13, 31-34, 8:28, 38, 12:49-50, 14:10-11, 17:7-8

“Ready or Not”

Grace, mercy and peace….

Please pray with me..

Two nights ago, the whole world was put on notice that evil is alive and well in the world. Terrorists who had been led astray from the truth by a false prophet over a thousand years ago killed and injured hundreds of innocent citizens in the name of their god and then blew themselves up as martyrs hoping to realize false riches in heaven for their acts.

Their false god is a god of vengeance and hate. A god who will do anything to and kill anyone that fails to kneel to him. A god that uses innocent people in a game of fear and dread to proclaim His name. This is no god that we have ever worshipped. This god could not and does not exist away from the corrupted minds of those who blindly follow him. We get from 3 John 1, John’s words advising us saying, “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our Gospel lesson for this morning has to do with the signs of the end times. It is my firm belief that because of the shameless attacks that happened two nights ago in Paris that our world will never be the same again. Good and evil have begun their death match and, unfortunately, we’re about to witness the very worst of humanity in the coming months.

We are apt to look at these atrocities and wonder if these are signs of the coming end of the ages. It’s only natural to have these thoughts and, actually quite logical. We know that good and evil will have a stand-off. We know that Israel will be attacked as the prophet Zechariah prophesized in chapter 21 of his book. We see many of the signs happening and we look to the skies, some with hope and others with dread, looking for Jesus to make His promised return at any time. For the people of the world it will mean judgment, for the people in the world but not of it, it will mean hope and salvation. In our Gospel lesson, Jesus tells his disciples what to look for. When He spoke these words, Jerusalem was faced with a crisis, so will the whole world be faced with its own crisis when Jesus returns.

Make no mistake, the end will most certainly come, Christ has promised to return and, though it is inevitable, it is not predictable. Though we see signs that would make us to think that Jesus’ return might be imminent, we don’t know if His promised return will be today or a thousand years from today. We can expect many will claim here and there that these latest signs make it clear, but no one can be certain because only our heavenly Father knows when that fateful day will be.

And because we don’t know, Jesus says we must remain vigilant as we wait, expecting each day could be the day we all, as believers, long for. And he has given us things to watch for so that we might prepare ourselves and others for the inevitable moment in history when our time here is finished.

We look on television and we see evidence that the world is following the path laid out in Christ’s own words but “Signs” have been present in every age and every generation has wondered if they will be the last.

In this section of Scripture, Jesus is telling us not to focus on what’s coming but to worry more about the here and now and the in-between time. They were and we are to live our lives prepared every day to welcome Christ back. Both the end of the world and the end of our time could come at any moment so we are called to live each day in hope as if it were our last.

Each day we are to be prepared to see, as it says in Luke 21: 27, “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” And what an awesome day that will be. That will be a day when no man will be able to deny the existence of the Savior or the very presence of God but, until that day arrives, His presence and hope must remain in us as believers, shown in our very countenance, heard in our word’s and felt in our hearts. When persecution comes to us, and it will, it should be that presence of God and the hope that it gives that will rule our hearts, even if we are to die in His name for those convictions.

In verse 11 of our Gospel lesson it tells us plainly that we will all face trials in that time, but that we should not be anxious beforehand because the Spirit will guide us through the troubling times. Jesus empowers all believers to take this “resurrection” stance at all times, but here, he is especially commanding it as a sign of distinction from the worldly crowd who lay cowering and fearful with no hope to comfort them.

Jesus assures us that signs will be there to forewarn us and that we should look to them with anticipation. But He also says that it is vital that we interpret them correctly. To unbelievers this moment will be a terrible experience and for believers it will be awesome. It will be awesome because of the final salvation that will be accomplished through Christ in that time.

Even with that promise of hope, however, we must not be fooled into thinking that this or that is a sure sign of His return. Our calling is to remain steadfast in the faith that will ultimately save us in the present time so that we might live eternally with Christ in heaven when that glorious day finally arrives. When Christ’s return is imminent, His presence within us will let us know. In the meantime, we wait with eager anticipation of the day to come, working to bring more and more souls with us when that day finally arrives.

Jesus message here is clear. He wants all people to eagerly await His coming and, during the upcoming season of Advent, we prepare for a time when the promise of Christ’s return is visibly evident. So, do we prepare focused on a day that might never happen in our lifetime, or are we to prepare for His coming living each day in repentance and hope, willing to share this good news with all who will listen?

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we have Advent, a season of hope and a season of repentance. Even in the chaos of the world and the tumult of our time there is a sure hope for us and all people. In the brokenness of life and the struggle in living, there is the assurance of a day when all things will come together for good. There is hope in the promise of a coming Savior. Just as the little Babe in Bethlehem brought a new covenant of hope to the world, so will the coming Christ bring hope to a broken world.

We have seen evidence of the transformation of the world because of the birth of a little babe in a lowly manger. We are confident because of what became of that babe as He grew into adulthood, sacrificing Himself so that we could have certainty in the hope of everlasting life. We find that hope because we have the assurance as believers that He will come again to finish His final act of redemption. We have that hope because it was promised to us from a loving God who was willing to sacrifice His own Son on our behalf.

In late 18th century Poland, the Kaiser’s forces were burning all the Jewish villages. One village had been burned so completely that nothing was left standing. As the sun came up the next morning an old Jewish gentleman pounded a few boards together, made a sellers stall and opened up for business. A young man walked past, stared in unbelief and asked, “what are you selling among these ruins. The man smiled and said, “I am selling hope. You can sell water on a dry desert, so the place to sell hope is on the ash heap of destruction.”

We look at the world and see evidence that, it too, is an ash heap of destruction. We look at evil such as that witnessed in Paris and hope seems lost in many ways and for many people and all people want hope no matter their condition. The sick look for courage, the broken hearted look for relief, the lost look for faith and the hopeless look for meaning. We all hope for something.

Today is a day for hope and, as believers, we find it from the one true source, Christ Himself, and we look forward to the day when He will come again. The hope of Jesus’ coming whether as a babe born in a lowly manger or as a Son of Man coming in the clouds with power and glory, changes our very lives and the lives of all people who put their faith and trust in Him.

Because of this hope we are changed into people who bring a measure of love, kindness and hope to a world desperately seeking for answers. All over the world there are signs that when the terrorists attacked Paris, it was an attack on all of us. From Australia to England to the United States, this brazen and cowardly attack has galvanized the world against evil much as 911 did. Unfortunately, that unity was short lived after we were attacked. Let us all pray that this new found unity will last and that Christ will come out the victor for it.

The upcoming season of Advent reminds us again of the great love God has for us through His Son despite our short-comings. That love changes us, and gives us the hope that we desire even when we face times lost in the destruction heap of the world.

Today and every day, Jesus is saying, “ready or not, here I come.” I am coming as a babe in a manger and I am coming in power and glory in a cloud for all to see.

I came to bring salvation to all believers and I will come again to finish the redemption of the world. I am coming now to bring hope to all those who are feeling the brokenness of the world and I come to bring confidence for those who stood with their head held high in faith and promise.

The events in Paris make us gasp. For some reason it is still shocking to many of us that evil can play such a role. We look at all the destruction, all the lives lost, all the atrocities done in the name of an evil god and we wonder just how much time we have left.

The one true God of love would have you to place your confidence in Him, especially now as we witness such things. In the coming days, there will be more evil and death for us to witness and it might seem that the devil has won. But take heart, because we serve a God that has and will overcome evil with good. We are to live in that promise that God has overcome the world and we are to take that same message to all those who find themselves lost with no hope but the hope they place in themselves.

May God bring us peace in these very troubled times. May He defeat evil with good and lead more and more people to the truth. May His name be proclaimed bringing hope to the masses and may His coming not take us by surprise because of the anticipation He has placed in our hearts.

It’s up to you to prepare yourself, because that day might arrive at any time. Jesus says, “ready or not, here I come.” Will you be ready? Amen

Bible Study – Mark 13:1-25

Bible Study – Mark 13:1-25

If you knew you were going to die say, in the next 24 hours, how important would your problems be? Is this how God would choose us to live our life at all times?

 

Would you talk to those close to you the same way, if you knew that you only had one day left to live?

 

Is this how God would choose us to live our life at all times?

 

This is one of the most debated sections of Scripture. Why doing you suppose that is?

 

Jesus doesn’t seem to answer the disciples’ question directly, at least not at first. What is he concerned about? verses 5-8. Why?

How would Jesus’ warnings and encouragements in verses 5-13 have helped the disciples in the early years of the church?

What relevance do the warnings and encouragements in verses 5-13 have for us today?

How are these things being seen in our own time?

In what practical ways can we be alert for Jesus’ return?

Some probably thought Jesus was speaking against the House of God. How could speaking against the temple be seen as blasphemy? Ezra 6:3-16; Matthew 23:16; Acts 16:3

What was the answer to, “Tell us, when will these things be” in verse 4? Luke 21:8-23

How are people being “led astray” today?

What are some current examples of false prophets coming in Jesus’ name today?

How have things like the internet quickened the pace towards the end times?

What might be some examples of the “councils,” we might be delivered to?

Jesus urges us not to be afraid of what to say in times of trial. Where in Scripture have we seen this in action? Acts 4:1-22

Knowing how Christians have stood for Jesus during the centuries, and how our brothers and sisters are being persecuted all over the world, what kind of a stand should we be willing to make for Jesus? Would you?

In what ways must we endure to the end? How will this be shown in us?

“The Widow’s Might”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

” Two wealthy Christians, a lawyer and a merchant, joined a party that was going around the world. Their pastor asked them to take pictures of anything which they thought was unusual. In Korea, as they were traveling, they saw in a field a boy pulling a crude plow, while an old man held in his hands the handles. The lawyer was amused, and took a picture. Commenting to the guide, he said, “That is an unusual sight. I suppose they are very poor.” “Yes,” came the answer. “They are poor, that is the family of Chi Noui. When the church was being built in this area they were excited to give something to help it along, but they had no money so they sold their only ox and gave the money to the church. This spring they are taking turns pulling the plow themselves.”
The lawyer said thoughtfully, “That must have been a real sacrifice ”
The guide said, “They did not call it that.” They thought it was fortunate they had an ox to sell.” The lawyer was real quiet after that event. When they reached home, the lawyer took the picture to the pastor. As he sat down in the pastor’s study he said forcefully, “I want to double my pledge to the church. And please give me some plow work to do.

I have never known what sacrifice for the church meant. A converted Korean taught me. I am ashamed to say I have never yet given anything to my church that cost me anything.”

Sacrifice….It’s not a word we like to hear too much. Easy… now there’s a word we like. Convenient and easy, just give me something that doesn’t really cost me anything and I’m in like flint. But don’t ask too much of me because I’m a very busy person. I’ve got bills to pay, and places to go. I promise, if there’s anything left of my time or treasures, you’ll get first consideration God. I promise. From our Gospel lesson, “And He (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And the poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

So, why do you suppose Christ’s attention was drawn to the offering box. Was He anxious to count the money? Was he making sure there would be enough to pay the bills?

Was He making sure nobody got away with not giving enough? No, he didn’t care about the money. He was not looking at amount’s, He was looking at their hearts.

The meaning of this story is actually quite clear. Jesus was looking at the sacrifice. Who would trust in God enough to take the biggest risk. Who would give willingly, trusting that their offering would do more to help others then it would do for the themselves. He was looking to see if people were giving their first fruits or their leftovers.

The widows offering was greater than the others, because it was all she had, yet she trusted in her heart that the Lord would provide just as He said He would. This was her next meal, yet she sacrificed it for the benefit of others. That’s a true giving heart, a true trusting heart.

Now, am I saying that the best Christians give the highest percentages of their income and time, absolutely not. It’s not seen in amount or percentages, its shown in the attitude of the giver. You may give all you have but if you’re doing it for Your own benefit your no better than the Pharisee in Luke 18;

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” At the time of Christ, offerings were collected as you entered the temple into an ear horn shaped metal opening that dropped the coins into the box. The greatest collection of coins would have the greatest amount of noise. Pride came just in the sound of how great an offering one was giving. Yet Jesus was not listening for the greatest sound, he was looking at the most faithful heart.

The widow’s offering was different than the rest because of how she gave it. It was different because she wasn’t giving from her discretionary income, she was giving from her heart. She gave even though she couldn’t afford to. She gave because she wanted to. She wasn’t compelled by ego or guilt or fear or even reward, she gave because she was in love with her Lord. She gave because of the commitment she made to her God. She gave because it was a way to respond to the joy she had for all the blessings God had given her in her life, however meek they were. She gave as a sacrifice with no fanfare or praise yet it was the sound of those two small coins that rang the loudest. It was the sound of these two mites, the equivalent to two cents, that showed her true “might.”

Sacrificial living is always tied to trust. The gambling addict sacrifices all their money because they trust that their big payoff is around the corner. The alcoholic sacrifices their health because they trust the positive effects of drinking outweigh the bad. The drug addict sacrifices family because they trust the drug to give them all they need.

But sacrificing for the one true God is not supposed to be about how it benefits us. This sacrifice is all about the love and trust in your heart that what God says, is true. In our first lesson in Kings, trust in God is seen dramatically. In this story, Elijah asks the widow to take her last food during a time of extreme famine and drought that had lasted for three years, and make him a meal, even though it would mean that she and her child would have to do without. These last three years had caused them to be near death and they had resigned themselves to the fact that their next meal would be their last. But what does she do when the prophet asks for her final flour? She gives it to him. She does so because she trusted him when he told her that, “The jar of meal shall not be spent, the bottle of oil shall not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.”

Elijah promises her that God would provide and she believed it even during a time of extreme need. And as always, God was true to His word. She benefitted because she put her trust in the right place.

She was empowered because she was brave enough to show her faith in a time of great trial. She saved her family because she cared enough to think of others before herself.

How many of us can say we would do the same? In my time here at Redeemer, I have been witness to some incredible examples of faith as it pertains to giving. I have seen people give even when they were in need. I have seen examples of genuine charity when someone is in trial and I have been humbled each time I was blessed to witness it.

But I have also seen examples where we should have done more. I’ve seen cries unanswered and needs ignored. We are all very thoughtless people at times. But in the message of the widow’s mite, we can learn together some very valuable lessons.

How do you relate to the widow in these stories? How much of your time, treasures and talents are you willing to sacrifice for the increase in God’s ministry? Are you a first fruiter or do you give after you have been given first? Have you ever experienced the satisfaction of sacrificial giving when it’s more a joy then a duty? How much do you trust God to live up to His Word that He will always provide?

In her sacrifice the widow found joy and she received from her sacrifice blessings greater than she even could have attained on her own. How do I know, because God has promised as much.

First we here God’s command:

Deuteronomy 16:17 – “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.”

Then we hear the promises:

Proverbs 3:9Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”

2 Corinthians 9:6-9 – “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

Matthew 7:11 – “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Malachi 3:10 – “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.

And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

And finally:

Romans 8:32 – He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Not only does He provide for us out of His extreme goodness and mercy, but He also gives us each other so that we might build each other up and provide for each other in times of need. The widows should inspire us to do more just as they inspired Elijah and the disciples.

Jesus knew that the money she gave was all she had in the world and He held her up as an example of true faith. He was impressed, not on the amount she gave but in how she gave it. Technically, this women didn’t even have to tithe because she was poor and in need herself, yet she did what was right in God’s eyes. She gave because she believed. Even though she was all alone, her generosity showed that she understood that God was always with her.

And from her giving I believe she was given the power of God. Even though she gave the least, she gave the most and for that she would be blessed with all the promises of God.

Others might have been powerful because of wealth or position, but she found her power in the strength of her faith. Because of that, she had the full might of God to guide her.

I wish we could have been given the rest of the story of her life, but in the attitude she showed, we might guess that her faith held her through both good times and bad. We can only speculate. We don’t even know her name. However we can know that God was good to His promise.

Jesus told us in Matthew 6, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” We have now heard an example of what it means to seek first the kingdom. The widow gave all she had and because of this she was due to inherit greater riches than all the riches on earth.

The poor widow gave the supreme sacrifice of the day and because of that she was blessed. In its way it foreshadows the ultimate sacrifice of God’s only Son Jesus Christ and because of this sacrifice, we also have received the greatest of blessings through God’s forgiveness and grace. May God bless you also as you make the decision to trust in Him. Amen

 

 

 

Bible Study Questions – Mark 12:38-44

Bible Study Questions – Mark 12:38-44

What is the connection between these two stories?

What is the real sin of the scribes? Are they not entitled to these things? Verses 38-40, Matthew 8:20; 19:28-30, 20:13-16; Luke 13:30

What does Jesus mean when He says that the scribes like to devour the widow’s houses?

What advantages did the scribes expect with their long prayers and why did Jesus chastise them for them?

How does last week’s Gospel lesson (Verses 27-31) help to frame this week’s Gospel lesson?

How did Jesus’ view of giving differ from that of most religious leaders then and now?

How do these stories speak to priorities? Psalms 10:3; Proverbs 30:8-10; Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:10; 1 John 2:15

What can we learn from this widow and also the widow in 1 Kings 17: 8-16 about discipleship? Trust? Poverty? Giving? Boldness?

What does it say of the widow that she gave even when she wasn’t required to? What does it teach us?

In what ways is sacrificial giving better than giving out of an abundance?

How does the modern church encourage or discourage sacrificial giving?

Which argument do you side with, Jesus as commending the widow or Jesus as lamenting the widow? Why?

How do you think the example of the poor widow helped the disciples in their ministry after Jesus ascended into heaven?

Why is how you give more important than what you give?

How do we at Redeemer show trust in Christ?

What can we do so that others might see that trust?

“The Greatest of These is Love”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Today I want to talk about relationships both with one another and with God and, if you’re anything like me, they often seem much more complicated than they should be.

I remember back in sixth grade when I had my first crush. It was with the girl that would eventually become the maid-of-honor at our wedding. Her name was Melody and she was very beautiful, even in the sixth grade. She was smart and sometimes funny and she seemed so nice.

Well, the day eventually came when I would draw up enough courage to tell her I liked her. I had planned for weeks. I knew what door of the school she went out to walk home so I waited on the steps near that door. Yes, I was stalking her.

But this private moment was broken when Melody walked down the stairs with Solvig. Solvig was another girl in class who I paid little attention to. She was shy and somewhat withdrawn and I was brash and loud even then. But I had decided this moment of bravery couldn’t wait so I blurted out something like, “I just want you to know I really like you.” And as you could have guessed, both the girls got the message and now I was in a quandary.

This is also the time I found out that Solvig had a liking for me. So here I am with both of them and I have to tell them which one I was talking to. And now comes the time that will be forever etched in my mind. I picked Melody and both girls went home crying. All that planning gone to waste. How would I ever be able to face either of them again. Somehow I survived grade school.

I know I’m not alone. Relationships all over have been scarred by too much thinking, too much planning, too many expectations and not enough patience. We rush into things we’re not prepared for and we make mountains out of mole hills. Before you know it, too much damage has been done because we couldn’t leave well enough alone.

As I have found out over the many years since then, even Christian relationships can be very complicated. In our Christian walk we have many of the same dilemmas. We over think and we under do. We make our Christian walk so complicated that we end up doing little and loving little.

But living a Christian life doesn’t have to be complicated. I’m not saying it’s easy but it’s often much easier then we make it. We muddy it up with a myriad of do’s and don’ts. In ancient Israel they had this problem. By Jesus time they had taken their original 10 commandments and turned them into 613 regulations made up of 248 do’s and 365 don’ts.

Even today, we tend to muddy things up and make complicated something that God made to be much more simple. Today there are numerous rules and every church seems to have their own set. “We never should do that on a Sunday,” “I’m sorry but this is for members only,” Before you do this you have to do that.” Numerous books are out there telling you how to live the perfect Christian life but it seems no two books agree on just what a perfect Christian life is.

But living a God pleasing life doesn’t have to be complex. Our Gospel lesson shows us just how uncomplicated it really is. Here we find that there are really only two steps in a successful Christian relationship and they both have to do with love. Maybe that’s why they call love a many splendid thing. (Here’s a nod to all you Andy Williams fans out there).

First, we are told to love God, the first and most important step. In verses 28-30 it says:

“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

To love God is to hear and obey God. It is not optional in the Christian life. This must be accomplished before anything else can be accomplished. But what does it mean to love God?

The word here for love is the Greek word Agape. It is a love that is a selfless love of one person and it is spiritual in nature. In this case our agape love is to be given to the one true God. Agape love is a love of intelligence and purpose. It is a deep love that involves sacrifice and hard decisions that always thinks of the other first in all things.

 

This is a hard love for us because we are a selfish lot. Our love, too often, is first towards ourselves. We consider our needs and our wants and if there is any love left in us, we might share it with God, but only after we have been satisfied first. I’ll read Scripture if I have enough time, I’ll witness my faith to someone only if I’m not put into an uncomfortable situation, I’ll come to church if I feel I need it.” This is not the love that God wants from us. He wants a love that includes every part of our heart, strength, understanding and soul. An all-encompassing love that He deserves from us. The kind of love He loves us with.

Natasha Crain writes a blog on Christian parenting and I like how she describes agape love, she says, “To Agape something has nothing to do with warm fuzzies, or even intense feelings.

It’s about what you’re committed to. It’s about what comes first in your life. It’s about a choice. This isn’t splitting literary hairs. It makes a monumental difference in how we understand our calling to love God. The Bible makes it very clear that we can agape love things other than God and that in doing so we are working against His desires for us.”

Let me give some examples of this in Scripture:

John 3:19, “…the light has come into the world, and men agaped darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

John 12:43, “They agaped the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

Luke 11:43, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you agape the best seats at the synogogues and greetings in the marketplaces.”

Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and agape the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other, You cannot serve God and wealth.”

1 John 2:15, “Do not agape the world or the things of the world.”

We are to agape only God and we are to do it will all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Anything else falls short of God’s wish for you because He knows that only this kind of love can save us. He designed you to love this way because He is a God of relationship and He wants the best quality of relationship He can have with us. He sent His Holy Spirit to keep us in this kind of love. This is the kind of love that brings us closer to God.

The second step is also vital if we are to walk the Christian walk and we find it in verse 31, “And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Loving others is not optional in the Christian life. In fact, it is commanded of us, but obeying the second has everything to do with obeying the first. If you truly love your God it will be shown in how you love your neighbor. Loving others involves loving every believer, even those who have hurt you, not just those you gravitate towards. 1 John 3:14 teaches us that, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. He who does not love His brother abides in death.”

1 John 4:6-7, “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

To love your neighbor is a choice. And again, it’s not an easy one for us. Loving others takes will, it is unselfish and always seeks the best for others but much too often, we find it easier to hate our neighbor. We struggle with hurt, we don’t want to seem to churchy, we get annoyed because someone isn’t following the rules, we ignore because it’s easier than reaching out in love. Again we go to Scripture for direction, 1 Corinthians 13:5 “… Love “does not keep a record of wrongs.”

Matthew 5:23-24, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,

leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 18:5, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”

1 John 3:17, If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

Loving others means that you find value in them, caring enough to share Christ with them. It is a testimony to your faith when you love others because if you love the Lord, truly love the Lord, you will honor His love back to you by loving others, especially the lost who so desperately need to hear the Gospel message. Without any concern for others, we are not being Christ-like.

Charles Peace was a notorious career criminal in England in the 1800s. He committed numerous burglaries and was ultimately convicted and sentenced to hang for murdering a man. On the morning of his execution a clergyman led him out of the cell and began reading the Scriptures to him.

He tapped the clergyman on the shoulder and asked him: ‘Do you believe what you’re reading?, and he said ‘Oh, yes, yes, I believe it’. He said: “Sir, I do not share your faith. But if I did – if I believed what you say you believed – then although England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would crawl the length and breadth of it on hand and knee and think the pain worthwhile, just to save a single soul from this eternal hell of which you speak.” –

So what length are you to go to be in an agape relationship with God. Are you willing to follow the steps? Are you willing to put God first in all things by living your life as a ministry to him? Are you willing to love your neighbor even when he doesn’t appreciate your efforts? Are you willing to sacrifice the agape love you have for other things if it means your salvation counted on it?

God is not looking for lukewarm Christians who only love Him when they are in need. He’s not looking for part-time Christians only dedicated to him if they can find the time. He wants you to surrender all you are to Him. He wants you to give up the fight you have been waging over control of your life. He wants you to love Him completely so that you may become His hands and feet in the world.

It’s really not that complicated. Just two steps. It’s not easy and it will take a lifetime to master, but the end result is more than worth any effort. There are many ways you can live in the world but the greatest of these is love. Amen

Bible Study Questions – Mark 12:28-37

Bible Study Questions – Mark 12:28-37

What new insight do we receive from reading of this account in Matthew 22:34-40?

This incident occurs in the portion of the Gospel of Mark where we find the Lord Jesus in opposition to the religious leaders of Israel. What examples of religious opposition do we see today?

How has this changed our world? How has it benefitted Satan?

Why couldn’t they see Jesus for who He was?

Why is the first commandment the greatest and how does it serve all the other commandments?

How does legalism cause us to miss the very heart and soul of the Gospel message?

“Which” (in verse 28) is not the normal Greek word for “which” or “what” (tis). It’s the Greek (poios), a qualitative interrogative pronoun meaning, “of what sort, kind, or quality.” It was not merely a question of identity, i.e., which one, but of quality and nature. It meant, which was the most important and why. Did Jesus answer this questions properly? Why or why not?

How can someone love their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength?

Why did Jesus begin His answer with Deuteronomy 6:4 instead of 6:5? (The Shema)

Though Jesus is only asked for one commandment, in good rabbinic fashion he responds by adding a second to his reply. What relationship does this second commandment bear to the first?

What is the difference between the scribe’s statement and Jesus’?

Where is this man in relation to Jesus? How’s his theology?

 

What is Jesus implying in verse 35?

 

How can Christ be both David’s Lord and his descendant? Verses 35-37

Why did the throng hear him gladly (verse 37)?

 

How can Jesus be both at the right hand of God and in the elements of the Lord’s Supper at the same time?

What steps can you take to make the love of God and love of neighbor a higher priority in your life?