Therefore, Choose Life!

18 Aug , 2020  

The Shepherd's Fool Tulips in the sunFor this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”   (Deuteronomy 30:11-20 ESV)

God Loves Us and Wants Our Love

This commandment is not too hard for you.

The Shepherd's Fool Wild flowers in the sunGod is Creator. He is, therefore, Sovereign. He gets to call the shots. In the obscurity of eternity past, He conceived of a mortal companion that would be capable of love. Almighty God already had companionship and love in the Trinity. He had all that there was to be had. He was a companionable, loving Trinity of three Persons in One Almighty God. And yet He wanted something other that was not God to Love God.

Why, is a mystery. He had all the love. He had all the fellowship in and of Himself. He did not need anything more. He was, is and always will be complete in Himself and in Himself. Nevertheless, He desired to have another who could love Him.

He could have created another spirit. Perhaps the Cherubim, Seraphim, Archangels and angels were His first Creation. They loved the Almighty, but they had one limitation. They were Created to love and obey. They were not volitional.

Someday I will have to do the research necessary to discover how Lucifer had the volition to not only covet God’s throne, but also to corrupt a vast number of angels to join in Lucifer’s rebellion.

We Are Created to Love God

The Shepherd's Fool Leaves in the sunStill the Almighty wanted some “other” to love Him. He determined it would have to be material. That in turn required God to Create laws for the material to hold together. Electrons swirling around in the infinitude of space needed cohesion to form substantial things. God Created Gravity, Laws of Motion, Magnetic Attraction, Light, Energy (and therefrom Heat). All this was “without form and void”. God moved and created light, and brought the formless to coalesce into liquid and solid. He exploded the light and heat into an extremely vast number of flaming stars as centerpieces of solar systems. And then, God expanded the solid exponentially. He coalesced the solid into a great number of earths to orbit around the stars. All perfectly following God’s “thermal-kinetic” laws

Still all this was insensible. That “other” needed being and sentience. It needed electrons to coalesce into a shape. It needed a place to inhabit. The habitation was delineated by the earths available. These formed the first layer of foundation for the other that God desired. He focused in on a mediocre star; and then on the third planet from that sun. There the Almighty chose to plant a garden of multiform plants – trees, bushes, flowers, lichens and molds. They formed the second layer of foundation. On that basis, the Almighty brought forth sentient creatures – insects, fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals. They formed the tertiary layer of foundation upon which the Almighty could create that other.

God Creates Humans to Love

The Shepherd's Fool Wheat grass in the sunTo this moment in eternity all God’s Creation had been impersonal. He had conceived and he had spoken it all into existence. But with the “other”, the Almighty got His hands dirty. He selected some of the basic elements and based on the excellent design of the mammals, He personally formed a human being. Animals he had spoken into being and into life. Humans, He said not a word, but personally formed the first; and then the Supreme being the Trinity, the Almighty God, in a kiss of love, breathed into man the Spirit of Life.

Man opened his eyes and beheld the most magnificent, infinitely loving Maker and Master. The Almighty filled all of this other’s first living sight.

Man’s heart was stirred and he knew, as the absolute first knowing, that he loved his Creator. God introduced him to the earth, the garden the animals. As man began his work, he felt joy in his obedience to the Almighty’s instructions. This was the second knowing – joy of obedience.

Still as he claimed mastery over all the animals in the naming of them, he saw them in pairs, each kind having a mate. But he had none. God was wonderful, a magnificent companion who loved him completely and who man loved completely. Nevertheless, God was not a mate.

God Creates Woman

The Shepherd's Fool Woman watching the sunsetThe Almighty was not surprised by that lack. For His reasons He created Mankind male only, at first. As the man’s sense of lack of a mate grew, the Almighty anesthetized him. God, the Divine Surgeon, opened Man’s chest cavity and removed a bit of bone and flesh. Again personally, hands-on, created a mate to complement and fulfill man; therefore, she was called Woman. Adam opened his eyes and there stood Eve and God, the two beings he loved in all the world.

Adam and Eve shared the tending of the garden. After a day of labor, they relaxed setting aside the work until the next day. They were never rushed. There were no schedules. The work was satisfying in itself. The rest at the end of each day was just as satisfying. They would first bathe in the River Gihon. Then the Almighty joined them and the three strolled through the evening in loving companionship. Adam and Eve pointed with innocent pride at all they had accomplished. God was pleased with their obedience and industriousness. Life was such a joy – filled with love, accomplishment, peace and God’s Presence.

Adam and Eve Sin

I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.   (Deuteronomy 30:15)

There were two trees in the Garden of special note. The Holy Spirit has not given us any indication that Adam and Eve sampled the delights of the Tree of Life. The thrust of the information was The Fall. Eve and then Adam both disobeyed Almighty God, their loving Father. They chose to sample the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

How could they be that stupid? Well, they weren’t really stupid. They were innocent, naive, inexperienced. They knew nothing of deception, having lived only in the Truth of God. Nevertheless, just as soon as they actuated their disobedience, their righteousness was stripped away along with their innocence. The close, loving fellowship with their gracious Father was severed. They knew the burden of guilt. They sought to hide their sin deceiving God, hiding from Him.

Satan said, “Ye shall not surely die.” It was a half-truth. They would not immediately die physically. But they immediately died spiritually and physical death was immediately in the future; whereas before sinning, death had not even been known. Satan gave them a half-truth that was a whole lie.

After being exiled from the Tree of Life, Adam and Eve drop out of the story, except the Holy Spirit makes record of some of their, likely, many children. The sins most other children committed were not recorded.

The Sons of Adam and Eve

The Shepherd's fool Pink flowers in the sunTheir second son, Able, gives us an indication of his parents’ righteous teaching. He was the “good” son. In obedience to Almighty God, he offered a lamb as a righteous sacrifice, i.e. life for life. It was a lamb of sacrifice to cleanse Abel of sin.

The elder son, was of a different character. He apparently was not listening to Adam’s or God’s instructions. He thought the offering to God was a ceremony. He brought the best he had. But it was not an atonement for his sin. What Cain needed to do was obtain a lamb from Abel.

Abel’s name means “something transitory”. Cain’s name comes from a root meaning “provoke to jealousy”

Cain thought his offering was good enough, so when God honored his baby brother, instead of Cain, he took offense.

Despite their loss of righteousness, God was intimately involved with the humans He Created. Knowing that murderous sin was in Cain’s heart, the Almighty God took a personal interest and spoke directly to him, “If you obey me in the manner of sacrifice, your offering will be accepted. If you persist in disobedience you are open to greater sin. Satan is waiting at your door, but you have the ability to triumph over him.”

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”   (Genesis 4:6-7)

But, tragically, Cain liked the feeling of jealousy and resentment. It gave him a sense of power, so he chose to embrace that, The enemy of our souls lied to Cain and he, like Eve, believed Satan, rather than God. Satan said, “You know, if Abel were dead. You would be the only one, so God would have to approve your offering.” The logic was there, except for one slight detail. God doesn’t have to do anything by man’s logic.

Cain chose to eliminate Abel. He hid the body and covered Abel’s blood with dirt – the “Perfect Crime”, no evidence, no body.

God has a way of asking questions He already knows the answers to, “Cain, where is Abel? I miss him.”

Cain compounded the felony with a lie and an accusation against God. “I don’t know! And besides he’s a grown man, I don’t have to keep track of him.” The implication is that God was exceeding His authority expecting Cain to keep track of his brother.

Cain chose a series of evils, when the good was so easy. By setting aside his pride, Cain could have gone to Abel and asked for, or even purchased a lamb for offering. It would take humility and acknowledging that Cain had to learn from Abel. Instead he preserved his pride at the price of Abel’s life and Cain’s banishment from God’s Presence – and loss of his pride anyway.

Obey by Loving the Lord your God

The Shepherd's Fool boy on swing in the sunNow let’s leapfrog over several millennia to the time of King David and after. David loved Almighty God! He had grown to be intimate with the Almighty as David, in solitude, tended Jesse’s flocks. He chose to obey and follow the Almighty exclusively with all his heart. In battle, David followed the Lord God, and God gave him victories against superior forces time and again, over Goliath, over Saul (David refused to slay Saul despite two separate opportunities), over the Philistines, and all the rest. By example He led the People of God to worship YHWH exclusively. During David’s and Solomon’s reigns Israel honored YHWH, exclusively, so they had peace and prospered.

However, beginning in the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, idolatry cropped up and began to flourish. The people chose to worship nothingnesses, building places of worship on “every high hill”! From the division of the nation into Israel and Judah, Israel completely rejected Almighty God and worshipped nothingnesses, particularly Baal and Ashtoreth.

Judah had a checkered history. Under the evil kings they abandoned God Almighty, but under the righteous kings, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Uzzah, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah (even though several of these “good” kings committed grievous sins) they reformed the nation and eliminated idolatrous worship. Under those latter kings Judah was spared defeat by the bully nations.

Israel and then Judah were clear object lessons for us today. When a person or a nation commits his, her or their hearts to the loving Almighty God, he, she, or they are protected and prospered by the Almighty.

If Your Heart Turns Away

When individuals or nations turn their back on Jeshua, He as the righteous Savior, gives them up to their desires. Paul instructs us in Ch. 1

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.  (Romans 1:22-25)

The Shepherd's Fool Calendula flowers in the sunIn our nation, today we have chosen to feed on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We are living by human logic and understanding.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.  (Proverbs 14:12)

We have begun to bow down at the altar of science. We have worshipped screen stars and rock stars and sport stars, as if they had wisdom, when all they have is fickle human emotion. They declare the latest politically correct craze, regardless of the truth that God reveals, and theydecry the “deniers” as pariahs.

We are sacrificing our pre-born babies on the altar of Moloch, which we have re-branded as “convenience” and “birth control”.

We are being told that we must embrace the abomination of homosexuality and all its spawnings. The laws of the state are enforcing our compliance with fines and suits that bankrupt believers who adhere to their faith in Jeshua.

We are indoctrinating our children in public schools and colleges to turn them into idolaters and away from Jeshua.

We have ignored past history. Very few are even cognizant of Biblical history. Even the history of our nation is unknown. America prospered and was victorious as long as we looked to Jeshua as the Lord of our nation. In the middle of the last century faith in Jeshua began to be eroded and now three generations later believers are just a faithful remnant.

You May Dwell in the Land

America is not ours. All the world, all the cosmos belongs to our Creator God. He gave this land to the faithful Pilgrims and their successors the Founders of this nation. America was founded by men and women who believed in Jeshua as their Lord and Savior. They knew that as long as the People adhered to faith in the Lordship of Jeshua our nation would prosper. As long as we were submissive to the will of God Almighty, we could keep this land, living in peace and prosperity.

The Shepherd's Fool Wildflower Seed Pods in the sunWe introduced the scourge of slavery to pollute the nation and we reaped the whirlwind of God’s judgment. A war to free the slaves cost America the blood and lives of 623,026 of our youth. BUT GOD! … accepted that sacrifice and allowed us to keep this nation.

From the 1850’s to the 1930’s, America has sent hundreds of missionaries to the far corners of the globe to evangelize the not yet reached with the Gospel.

In 1917, we sent our men to rescue Europe from stalemate and likely defeat during WW I

In 1941-45, We fought again, sending our men to Europe to save the nations from the Nazi scourge and at the same time sent our men into the Pacific to destroy the Japanese attempt to take over those nations.

After we had brought our victorious men home, leaving thousands in graves all over the world, we spent Billions of dollars rebuilding the war-torn nations of our enemies and our friends.

But since those godly sacrifices, America has turned away from God. We have been increasingly excluding Jeshua from sector after sector of our society.

Jeshua, the One who will judge nations and peoples with righteousness has, in his mercy, withheld His just condemnation, giving America the space to repent and return to surrender to the Lordship of the Mashiach. If we do not, He will cast down our nation and allow another to have a go at living under His rule.

He gave the Jews a millennium and a half to see if they could live under God’s Law that He gave to Moses. They could not. God sent His Son, Jeshua to give them one last chance. They rejected Almighty God’s only Begotten Son: therefore, Jeshua sent His Disciples to the Gentiles throughout the world. Christianity has spread across the globe by faithful missionaries. Many, if not most, were sent and financed by America.

He has given America 400 years. We began strong, and yet, in the last century we have drawn away from Jeshua.

Living in His Blessings

Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days,  (Deuteronomy 30:20)

The Shepherd's Fool Queen Anne's Lace flowers in the sun.What must we do? We must take Jeshua seriously. He said,

Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.   (Mark 16:15)

You are charged with an evangelical mission.

Jeshua said,

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.   (John 17:20-21)

It is your word of testimony that will:

  • Lead others to Jeshua
  • Give them the foundation to believe in Jeshua
  • Bring them into the family of Almighty God and make us all one in God and one with one another
  • Make the conditions right for the Holy Spirit to send belief in Jeshua to every corner of this globe

We cannot bring in the Kingdom of God by our efforts, but we can proclaim salvation to all who will hear that wonderful news, that Jeshua is the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is to Him we must all surrender and be saved, clothed in righteousness and be given a place for eternity in the Presence of Love inestimable, joy unspeakable and peace unceasing.

Go in the power of the Holy Spirit to change your friends and neighbors, to change our nation and to change the world!

Prayer for Grace and Service

Lord God Almighty, You sent Your Son to transform our lives and to give us Your message to the world

You sent the Holy Spirit to empower and embolden us to seize that message of salvation through Jeshua ha Meshach, and proclaim it from the housetops.

You have adopted us as Your beloved children. You are asking us to follow Your Son and the Holy Spirit into a hostile world and give them your love.

We choose to obey. We choose to comply. We choose to be Your hands of mercy, Your feet to serve and Your mouths to proclaim the love of God for all people.


Benediction for Choosing God

“Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and in the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.   (Romans 16:25-27)

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Speaking Disrespectfully Of Sin

1 Jun , 2020  

Call to Worship:

Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.

Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.

He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.  (Psalms 33:1-5)


Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.   (Genesis 3:1-13)

It was Tuesday when Henry ran into Zeke in Salem, Arkansas.  Henry had been doing business that took him into Little Rock for the weekend, so he missed Sunday worship at the Church in Salem.

“Hullo, Zeke, how was that visitin’ Preechur, standin’ in fer Pastor Michaels?”


“What’d he preach on?”


Frustrated with Zeke’s uninformative one-word answers, Henry asked, “Well, what’d he say about it?

“He’s a’gin it.”

I hope we are all “a’gin it.

Sermon Message:

Sin is a Trap

The Officers Candidate School was at Fort Benning, GA. In the south they have a much greater problem with bugs than we do. During our orientation one of the strong prohibitions was no food in the barracks. They called it “pogey bait”. If we received cookies or cake from home we had to eat in completely before lights out. It was also forbidden to order in any delivery food.

Each of the four platoons in the company was under a “Tactical Officer”, a Lieutenant who was permanently assigned to shepherd each platoon through the course.

In violation of orders, we officer candidates in 1st Platoon decided to have a “Pogey Party”. Now we had to have the pizza and soda delivered in such a way that it was not discovered by the on-duty Tactical Officer. We planned to have the pizza driver pull up by the dumpster in back of the barrack building. Another candidate and I would take out our garbage can to dump it in the dumpster. Meet the driver, pay him and carry the pogey bait concealed in the garbage can back into the barracks, distribute it and pig out. A great plan!

Except the stupid driver did not get the delivery instructions. He pulled up in front of the barracks and honked his horn.

I raced out and told him to go around to the back. We then proceeded with our original plan. We met and paid and loaded the pizza into the can and began hotfooting it back into the barracks. Then we heard “Halt!” We had been discovered!

The other candidate said, “What do we do?” I said, “We didn’t hear anything!” and we kept on. But then, close enough so we could not ignore it, “Halt! Ground that garbage can!” It was 2nd Platoon’s Tactical Officer. He looked me in the eye, and said, “Take off the lid!” There for all to see were stacked boxes of pizza and containers of soda. We were busted! I had been disobedient to a lawful order of a superior officer. In other words, I was guilty of sin.

Then the officer ordered, “Put the lid back, bring the can and follow me.” He marched us into 2nd Platoon’s bay, had us set the can down, stand at attention while he said to his candidates, “Men you get a pogey party, courtesy of your Tactical Officer.” We left much humiliated amid the cheers and jeers of the other Platoon.

Sin Snatches Away Pleasure

Satan is like that. He leads you into sin, promising a great reward for your violation, and then snatches the pleasure of the sin from you.

He offered Eve an expanded understanding of life.

“You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”   (Genesis 3:4,5)

Adam and Eve did get the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but the enemy of our souls failed to make full disclosure. He did not tell them that the disobedience would break, irreparably the intimate relationship with God. And for them the shock of loss of righteousness, and the death of their spiritual connection with their Loving Creator. He did not reveal that the cost would be thousands of years of misery. Eve had no conception that God Himself, the Messiah would have to become a man and die to redeem the consequences of one little bite. Such a little thing to have such great consequences.

What is Sin?

What is sin? It, too, is only a little word, but has world-shaking consequences. Paul defines sin,

“for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23).

Falling short of the glory of God is essentially not being God. Adam and Eve were created in perfection, and knowing nothing else, they lived robed in God’s righteousness and lived in perfect harmony with one another, with animals, with vegetation and with nature.

In considering the temptation offered by Satan, Eve fell short of God’s glory. Adam followed Eve’s lead. He, too, fell short. The result was they were no longer perfect, and they fell out of God’s righteousness and were naked and ashamed.

We have a hard time conceiving perfection. God is eternally perfect. He is righteous in all He thinks, says and does. His words had the power of Creation and His creation was perfect until Man, to whom God had given dominion, broke faith and disobeyed. Because man obeyed Satan instead of God, man’s dominion changed hands, giving Satan dominion over the world. Thus, the broken Creation became the world of natural disasters, pestilence, and entropy. It cannot be fixed. It must be discarded and God must start over.

What Makes a Sin?

If sin is falling short of the glory of God, what makes a sin? Well, certainly, the murder of another man, because it destroys God’s treasure that is life. Theft is sin, because it deprives another of what God has provided for her. Disobedience of parents is a sin, because in flaunting their authority it is thumbing one’s nose at God Who gave them their authority.

Every sin is in some way a sin against God.

A husband answers his wife’s question, “How do you like my new dress?” with a white lie, “Oh, darling it is lovely,” even though the color makes her look pale and sickly. That is just a little lie. But that mistruth is an affront to the Majesty of Almighty God.

God is truth and in Him is not a shadow of untruth. He is righteous, perfectly righteousness. Any one of the people He has created that does the slightest thing that is not perfect, is saying to God, “I know a better way than Yours.” That translates into “Move over, God, I’m taking control!”

God is a jealous God, and will allow no one or nothing to usurp His place. Thus, there is no such thing as a little sin. Every thought, word or deed that is not perfectly righteous, is a heinous sin and punishable by being eternally assigned to Hell to burn forever in the fires of condemnation. Remember, Jesus made it clear,

“but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:22)

Yes, God is punctilious. He’s a knit picker, and nothing escapes His eye.

“Thou that art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and that canst not look on perverseness, …” (Habakkuk 1:13)

In the following thought in the quote from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us both instruction and a warning.

“If therefore thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.  Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art with him in the way; lest haply the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.” (Matthew 5:23-25)

Jesus Saves Us from Sin

Jesus is the God-man, who came to Earth to be our Savior. He died to free us from sin, death and Hell. But He gave us instruction both directly and via the Holy Spirit. Jesus is quoted in the Scriptures, so we must pay attention to His teachings. The Holy Spirit has delivered the Scriptures to us. They are given that we might learn to avoid sin.

“But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

Here we’ll deal with Jesus words. Jesus is admonishing us “to keep short accounts”. In the days before credit cards, the general store in a village had accounts for all the folks in the vicinity, who were mostly farmers. Their income came when they sold their harvest. They had an account at the store and were “carried” until they sold their crops. Then they paid their general store bill in full, hoping they had enough left over so they would not have to add much to their account, until they needed to buy spring seed. They wanted to keep “short accounts”.

Jesus is advising us to keep short accounts of sin. If you come to worship and know there is an unresolved disagreement, a complaint, an offense given or taken, between you and a brother or sister in Christ, Jesus wants you to resolve that difference before you worship. God knows our hearts. He will not respond to our prayers or our praise because the sin in our hearts.

Our Sins Impact Others

They have labeled the younger generation “the Snowflake Generation” because they are so easily offended, they easily meltdown at the slightest thing. Colleges now have to have “safe rooms’ where they can “recuperate” from some offense.

Because we live in a world populated, not by perfect angels, but by sinners, God exhorts us to be reasonable and give one another some latitude. Paul teaches:

Love “Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;   (1 Corinthians 13:5)

Believers are to be tolerant of offense, affront, to “turn the other cheek”. We are to be peace makers (as someone has said) not peace breakers. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. We are to live reconciled with one another.

Perfect Love Casts Out Sin

It is amazing how the words, “I love you” can make relationships easier. Ruth and I have been married for 59 years June 18th. We are very different people. God has had to work very hard to make us one, and sadly we are still not one flesh. But we love one another and we say it many times a day. That smooths over the hard times, because despite our disagreements, I know Ruth loves me. And she knows I love her.

In church, we do not tend to say, “I love you,” to one another, but perhaps we should. We are, after all, brothers and sisters of one another. Besides, saying, “I love you,” won’t break the COVID-19 protocol, which currently frowns on hugs.

Resist Sin with Humility

So, what do we do about sin? Well, first of all, DON’T. If you do sin, make a quick confession and seek forgiveness. If you believe someone has sinned against you, keep short accounts. Speak to that person and to no one else. Seek to get it resolved between you. If you cannot resolve it between you, do not allow your emotions, your wounded pride, frustration break fellowship. Initially agree to disagree. Then seek a disinterested third party to reconcile the disagreement.

When you have sinned against another, the Holy Spirit will let you know it. If you have to justify your words or actions, you can be sure it is your soul trying to cover up your sin. That is the time to get honest before the Lord, asking his forgiveness, first; and then go to the one you have wronged, and seek his or her forgiveness. There is nothing in this that you do not know. It is all old stuff. But it is hard stuff to do. Our soul wants to project the perfect image, despite the reality of our flaws.

All relationships require humility. Coming together, knowing I might do something offensive, or you might, too, will make anything negative that happens have less impact and importance; therefore, it can easily be smoothed over, if both are committed to act quickly. The ideal is that the two, each eagerly, hurrying to make things right between you, meet in the middle with apology and forgiveness.

Sin in Our World

What do we do about sin in the world? We can’t do anything directly. Sin in the world is everywhere we look. The sin problem is too big for us to handle. It is a God-sized problem. Our role and responsibility are to pray that the Holy Spirit will come with His revival fire and purge hearts as He has done periodically throughout human history. At times it has been a drastic purging as in the Noachian Flood and the Babylonian captivity. At other times God’s dealing with sin has taken the blood of war, as in the American Civil War, which cleansed our nation of the sin of slavery.

While we must leave reconciling sin in worldly people to our Almighty God; we have a responsibility to warn them.

What do we know about our neighbors across the road, or on either side or behind the Church? What do we know about those living on this road or nearby in our area? When was the last time any of us visited them? We need to get to know them, their families, their successes, their problems. To pray for them effectively, we need to know what is their relationship with Jesus, or lack thereof. In Ezekiel 33:1-9 God says that we are “the watchman on the wall”, with the duty to warn the people when God is coming with a sword to judge the people. He said that if we did not warn them, their condemnation would be on us!

Dealing with Our Own Sin

Our main focus this morning is dealing with sin in our own lives. That begins with humility:

Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  (Psalms 139:23-24)

Did I say, “Humility”? Yes. One of the spiritual exercises each morning before you get out of bed, is pray, “God guide through this day and make me a worthy servant, giving You glory in all I do.”

And then each night, before you get into bed, pray, “Search me, O God, see it there be any wicked way in me.” That starts and ends each day in humility.

God has made us ministers of reconciliation,

But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation.   (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

Since we are brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot say with Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer is, “Yes, we are!” I quoted Jesus who said reconciliation with a brother is more important than worship, “leave your gift and be reconciled with your brother.”

Paul taught

Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted.   (Galatians 6:1)

Jesus taught

And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.  (Matthew 18:15)

Paul taught, it is better to suffer personal loss than to take a brother to court.

but brother goeth to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?  Nay, already it is altogether a defect in you, that ye have lawsuits one with another. Why not rather take wrong? why not rather be defrauded?  (1 Corinthians 6:6-7)

Jesus said the 2nd Commandment was

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  (Matthew 22:38)

Again, Paul taught,

doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself.  (Philippians 2:3)

We may not be able to eradicate sin in this congregation, but we can work at it by inviting the Holy Spirit to look into our hearts. As we look on diligently and honestly, then we confess the sin that lurks in the dark corners. We can rid ourselves of burdens that without our knowledge suck up emotional energy and, wear us out with their additional weight.

So, my summery is: Sin – I’m ag’in it! In me and in you.

Closing Prayer:

Please pray for me and with me.

Lord God, Holy Spirit, Jesus sent You to be our Comforter and to convince us of our sin. Give us honest, humble hearts to throw them open to Your purging, no matter how painful. Make us see ourselves as You do and as others do, too. Give us the joy of a spring cleaning. Bring us together to reconcile differences and to bind us together with cords of love that cannot be broken.

We acknowledge that we are too often agents of the enemy of our souls. He is Hell bent on dividing us from other believers, and uses us to do it. Give us the spiritual vision to see ourselves as You do, so we can reject our enemy’s temptations to separate us from the love of one another.

Father, John tells us that You are love. So, infuse us with your love that we become impervious to all attempts to separate us from any brother or sister in Christ.

For Your glory we surrender our hearts once more. Amen.


“Unto him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen”   (The Revelation 1:5-6)

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We Are Ministers of Christ

26 Mar , 2020  


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”    (2 Corinthians 5:17 – 6:10)

We Are a New Creation

Saint Paul, by Bartolomeo Montagna, 1482

One of my teachers said that the early translation of the scriptures was done as circuit riders were ministering around the countryside. Every time the horse hit a bump it caused a chapter break. That is why sometimes there are chapter breaks in the midst of the writer’s thought. (…joking…)

Actually, with Paul, all chapter breaks are in the midst of his stream of conscious thought.

This passage in Second Corinthians begins with the affirmation that believers are new creations. It introduces the concept that all believers are ministers. Paul continues, pointing out that Christ works alongside us. He prepares us for the hardships of the work. Paul lists the characteristics of the minister of Christ, and then concludes with the glories of the ministry.

Has God come into your life? Has he disrupted your worldly ideas and plans, and inserted His own as replacements? If so, you are a new creature. You have been born again to a lively hope in the resurrection to eternal life.

You have been separated from the world and its ungodly desires. Unhappily, that does not mean you can’t go back. Like a washed pig that immediately wallows in the mire, all believers can return to fleshly, worldly and satanic pleasures.

One of the many benefits of salvation is that our selves are renewed. In actuality, we are new creatures. All that was before is obsolescent. It is passing away and as a new creation in Christ, the fullness of what that means will become manifest in due time.

Christ Reconciles us to God

Paul throughout his letter points out that B.C., before Christ, we were enemies of God. Because He is Sovereign, our lives of worldliness were in rebellion to His sovereignty. We were at war with God.

For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: and they that are in the flesh cannot please God.  (Romans 8:6-8)

But God was in Christ reconciling the world (and us) to Him. Jesus is our bridge between man and God and between man and man.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life; and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.   (Romans 5:8-11)

Christ is our reconcil-er. The initiative is His, not ours. He took on our sins, cancelling our debt to Almighty God. Jesus reconciled us to the Father.

In so doing, Jesus, promotes us from needing to be reconciled to being reconcil-ers. We are sent forth into the world to testify to the truth that all, women, men and children are at war with God, but “that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses…” What a glorious message and what a privilege is ours.

Paul says the message of reconciliation is “committed” to us. In Greek it is τιθημι (tith-ay-mee) = “to place, make, ordain, purpose”. Thus God has placed the ministry of reconciliation in believers’ hands. He has made us responsible for being the reconciling force in a fragmenting society. We are responsible to bring people to God and to bring them together in unity.

We Are Ambassadors of Christ

When a new President takes office, he appoints a new staff, including Ambassadors to all the nations in diplomatic relationship with America. The role of an ambassador is to speak the policies of the nation and the President. He is a functionary of the nation and the administration. He or she may take the heat in a controversy, but the Ambassador never acts on his or her own.

We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ. We are not given the title to hang on a vanity wall as a bragging right. We are Ambassadors to go about our King’s business. We proclaim the message He gives us. We “rightly divide the Word of God”. We do not exceed our charge by our Lord. We do not go into the world to see the sights, but we go under direction to communicate the message delivered to us by our God.

We speak for God, but God must ratify what we say. His message is an earnest plea to cease their resistance to God’s will and to surrender to His authority.

We are Ambassadors for God seeking peace with the worldly.

Working Together with Christ

But contrary to worldly ambassadors we are not alone. Paul says of himself in his concern for the Corinthians,

“working together with him we entreat also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.”  (2 Corinthians 6:1)

For us that message is a two-edged sword.

We are “Working together” – Christ Jesus shares His work with us. He is in our hearts and at our elbow with guiding words as we minister in His name.

One part of the message is for us. We must not have received the marvelous gifts in vain., i.e. gifts of salvation, of cleansing from sin, of being clothed in Christ’s righteousness and of eternal life in the Presence of our loving Father.

Far too many Christians take salvation for granted and live as if it is a retirement plan. We don’t mess with it until we die. Then we cash in our retirement policy and collect eternal life in blessedness. In the meantime, we live according to the dictates of our own hearts – “God doesn’t mess with me and I try not to sin against Him.” That is receiving the grace of God in vain.

God’s purpose in our salvation is two-fold. The first purpose is to benefit us. The second purpose: we are saved and called to minister to others and to benefit the world.

While Christianity has been around for 2 millennia, and while God is not bound by time, our lives are short. We are bound to time. All we get in this life is “three score and ten and if by manner of strength, four score.” For us and all humans, “time’s a-wasten”! Paul warns us,

“… behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”   (2 Corinthians 6:2)

There was a story that went around when I was at the University of Washington: A visionary student came on campus. He had his life all planed. He was going to become his class leader. Achieve the student body presidency. Clerk for local judge, be elected to Congress, then elected as a senator serve several terms and run for and be elected President of the United States. He was intelligent, good looking, charismatic, had a pleasing voice. Once in the office of the President, he would change the nation and as a result change the world. His life was going exactly as he planned and then he stepped off a curb, and was run over by a beer truck.

Our time is not in our hands. God tells us to redeem the time. We do not know how long we have to tell God’s truths to others. We do not know how long the other person has to hear God’s truths. “Now is the acceptable time!” “Now is the day of salvation!”

We Behave as Believers

Next, Paul instructed the Corinthians, and us, in how to behave as believers, as ambassadors, as ministers of the gospel.

Giving no occasion of stumbling in anything – We must conform our lives to Christ.

And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.   (Romans 12:2)

We must demonstrate to the world, what a Christian life is. Paul lays out the proper results of the believer’s life.

… for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error;   (Ephesians 4:12-14)

To reflect Christ to the world, we must emulate Him, so that when others look at us, they see Christ shining through. Our attempts to conform to Jesus give us a personal advantage. We are built up in the faith, so many of the worldly concerns are sloughed off. We know the reality of our faith and become comfortable in its doctrines, so that we are not dissuaded or confused by others’ erroneous ideas of Christianity. We can stand firm in Christ when assailed for our “old fashioned ideas” or “politically incorrect views of life”.

Let me step aside: it is never too late to learn the basics. It is never too late to grow in understanding God. It is never too late to be reminded of what our lives in Christ should be. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and bring to our remembrance all that Jesus taught us. So now “is the acceptable time” to show yourself…

“approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.”  (2 Timothy 2:15)

Characteristics of Ministers of Christ

The first characteristic Paul calls for, as a minister of Christ, is Patience. It is a Fruit of the Spirit, i.e. it develops naturally from being rooted in Christ.

  • Patience means to work hard for a long time without seeing the results you desire.
  • It means submitting to authority that God has raised up, despite disagreements.
  • It means continuing to work with, or minister to someone you disagree with.

Paul calls for pureness, i.e. moral uprightness, conforming to the standards of life that God has established. Obeying to the best of our abilities, recognizing when we sin. Then when we do, we confess and receive God’s and other people’s forgiveness.

He calls for long suffering, meaning suffering for your faith without changing in your belief. Paul entreats kindness, treating others with brotherly or sisterly affection, being sensitive to their needs and providing what is within your capability. He challenges us to live in the Holy Spirit, who convinces the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. He calls us to love simply, honestly and open-handedly.

Challenges in Ministry

From his own life the Apostle knew that the life Christ calls us to is no easy life. It is not for wimps. There will be severe testings. But for each of these God has glorious compensation.

The world will

  • Dishonor us. But God will say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant! Enter into the Joy of Your Lord!”
  • Report us as doing evil. But Jesus, our Messiah “…my righteous servant [will] justify many; and he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:11)
  • Call us liars. “Ye shall know he truth and the truth shall make you free.”
  • Claim we have no reputation and so we are not worthy to be heard. All the reputation we need is with God. In Him we are secure. God wants His message heard. He will open the opportunities to proclaim His truth.
  • Threaten us with death. But God has “… delivered my soul from deathHast thou nodelivered my feet from falling, That I may walk before God In the light of the living?” (Psalms 56:13)
  • Punish us as evil doers, unjustly. “Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: Oh deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.” (Psalms 43:1)
  • We will experience great sorrow. But God has“… turned for me my mourning into dancing; Thou hast loosed my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Jehovah my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.” (Psalms 30:11-12)
  • We will lose our financial security. But Jesus says, “… but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also” (Matthew 26:20-21)

Holy Spirit Ministers to Us

The Holy Spirit is in this place. He is residing in each of you. His is the Spirit of Truth. He will guide you into all truth. He has gifts, manifestations of the Holy Spirit to give to you. He causes the Fruit of the Spirit to develop in your lives. He is your guide along the path of Jesus. He is your Counselor when you are perplexed and don’t know what to do.

There is not a one of us believers who has to be doubtful, or un-directed or without godly work to do. God has made all the provisions for you to minister in His name. He will not leave you hanging out on your own, but will provide everything you need to serve Him and to minister to other people.

God loves people. He is not willing for any to perish, but to come to the knowledge of Jesus the Christ. He has you as His ambassador to the world. He has given you the message of life to the people in the world. Jesus will accompany you every step of the way.

Therefore, be on the lookout for appointments. Sometimes you will get a question that will be an opportunity you can drive a truck through. Sometimes in the midst of a crisis, you will be able to fill a void with words of hope. Sometimes a long-term relationship will mature into an opportunity to say words in season that will become a turning point.

Never forget you are ministers of reconciliation to the worldly people. You are ambassadors to the alienated. You are God’s people placed where you are for such a time as this!

Prayer for Ministers

Our Lord and our God. You have touched the heart of each one of us. You have removed the stony heart and transplanted a heart of flesh. Give us in addition a desire to serve You each day. Give us a voice of courage to proclaim the bad news to the unbelieving and the good news to believers that are cast down.

You, Father have adopted as your children and made us to be joint heirs with Christ. Give us confidence that we have the resources of Almighty God available to us, as we need them. Give us the boldness to step out into untraveled lands and claim it as Yours. Give us the heart to make friends with the friendless, to help the helpless and to throw a Jesus life Savior to the drowning.

Father, again we give our lives to you to be Yours for eternity.

To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit.



God grant “that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, unto all patience and long-suffering with joy; giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;” (Colossians 1:9-12)

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Praise the Lord!

25 Mar , 2020

“Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord! Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” (Psalm 98)

Praising God in Worship

The Pastor had been encouraging the congregation to let loose and shout their praises to God. After the service Aunt Deborah approached the Pastor with a frown.

“Pastor! Why are you encouraging the people to shout and sing so loudly? Do you think God is deaf?” she said disapprovingly.

“No,” he answered, “and I don’t think he is nervous, either.”

Praise and Not Ashamed

David Wilkerson, the author of The Cross and the Switchblade, had a suburban Pentecostal church. They loved the Lord. David’s father was a retired old time Pentecostal preacher. He was visiting, so David asked his father to preach. During the service his father noticed the subdued nature of the worship, because they did not want to offend the neighbors.

When the elder Wilkerson got up to preach, he stood beside the pulpit and took off his muddy shoes. He plunked them down on the pulpit. There was a gasp from the congregation.

He said, “This is not holy! It is a place for proclaiming God holy word, but this is material and temporal. It will get old and need to be replaced.

“You have fallen into complacency, since you moved into the suburbs. God called you to proclaim your love for Him and to worship Him exuberantly. Now we’re going to have a Jericho March, singing in triumph at the Lord’s victory in each of our hearts.

“You on both sides open all the windows, all the way. We’re going to notify the neighbors we are here and we are proud to declare God’s glory!”

What the Bible Says About Praise

Now let’s look at what the Psalmist and God are telling us.

Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.   (Psalm 98:1)

Psalms 96 also tells is to sing, to create a new song,

“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth!

Sing to the Lord, bless his name; Tell of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalms 96:1-3)

Marvelous works – these are not superior, natural things. They are miraculous, supernatural entrances of יהוה into the affairs of men.

His right hand, and his holy arm, hath wrought salvation – this indicates God has rolled up His sleeve to get us salvation – a real effort of love. It required a two-fold sacrifice;

  • First, God the Son had to sacrifice His position at the right hand of God the Father to be born the God-man, Jesus. Then it required Jesus to grow up into manhood and next, in the prime of life be not only crucified, but also become the sin-bearer for the Elect. Thus, because He bore our sin, Jesus, the Son of God experienced the rejection of His father. He suffered the punishment for our sin – rejection by God and death, once and for all!
  • The other sacrifice required the Father to send His Son into the certain danger of torture and death. But worse, once Jesus was on the cross, and became sin for us, His Righteous Father had to reject Him and turn His back on His Son,

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Contrast the little effort God took to create all the stellar lights.

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;” (Psalm 8:3)

Salvation and Praise

Creation itself was mere finger play.

The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. (Psalm 98:2)

God displayed His acts of salvation publicly for all the world to see, to note and to believe. Paul declared before King Agrippa

“That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”  (Acts 26:23)

“For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.” (Acts 26:26)

“The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10)

“And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.” (Exodus 3:20)

God’s Love and Praise

He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen he salvation of our God.   (Psalm 98:3)

God has openly revealed His love for His Chosen People. He has made no secret of the way to participate in salvation.

“Shew thy marvelous loving-kindness, O thou that saves by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.” (Psalm 17:7)

Praise with Singing

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!   (Psalm 98:4)

“Make a joyful noise” this is a command to express your love for God exuberantly is declared seven times:

  1. Psalm 66:1 “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:”
  2. Psalm 81:1 “Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.”
  3. Psalm 95:1 “O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.”
  4. Psalm 95:2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.”
  5. Psalm 98:4 (here) “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.”
  6. Psalm 98:6 “With trumpets and sound of cornet, Make a joyful noise before the King, Jehovah.
  7. Psalm 100:1 “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.”

Joyful–there are two Hebrew words used in these Psalms. In 66:1; 81:1; 95:1&2; and 100:1 they use רָנַן (raw-nan), which means to “emit a strident sound, shout aloud for joy, be greatly joyful, sing aloud for joy”. Psalms 98:4 & 6 use עׇלַז (aw-laz), which means “jump for joy, exult”.

Three Hebrew words are used for “noise”. Psalms 66:1; 81:1 שׇׁאוֹן (shaw-one) = from a root meaning “to rush”, thus “roar as a rushing sound) tumultuous’. Psalms 95:1 קוֹל (kole) = “call aloud, sing, thundering voice, yell”. Psalms 98:4& 6; 100:1 פׇּצַח (paw-tsakh) = “break out in joyful sound, break forth in joy, make a loud noise”.

Putting these words together multiplies their force. The Psalmists used different word combinations; nevertheless, the meanings of all are the same. When we worship יהוה, if we love Him, we should cast self-consciousness aside and shout for joy at the top of our lungs, we should sing His praises exuberantly.

Since the worship in the Temple involved not only music and singing, but also dancing. We must use our bodies to worship, jumping for joy, whirling in delight and any other appropriate movements that express our joy in worshiping our God.

When we worship with un-self-conscious exuberance, we glorify God and proclaim His majesty. Conversely when we are self-conscious, we are wrapped up in self and what people think of us. We are not freely worshiping God in spirit and in truth. A half-truth is a lie.

Praise with Music

5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!   (Psalm 98:5)

Music out of full hearts blesses God. He takes pleasure in exuberant, and Loud praise.

6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!   (Psalm 98:6)

יהוה is King of kings. We honor Him with boisterous fanfares and with loud cheers and shouted praise. He is not nervous when we boisterously and exuberantly sing at the top of our voices and shout for joy at His Presence.

When Queen Elizabeth goes out in state the people line the streets and cheer wildly, “Long Live the Queen!” A marching band accompanying her plays loudly, “God Save the Queen”, which is the same melody as our National Anthem.

We, in extolling the majesty of Almighty God, El Shaddai, should be as exuberant, or more so.

Praise All Over the Earth

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it!   (Psalm 98:7)

This is not “respectful” and quiet, but resounding, even crashing praise! This is not disrespectful, but honoring the greatness of God! Consider what the sound will be when the voices of all the believers, billions of voices, are joined together in praise of their most loved God. That is what will occur around God’s throne, when we will all be standing in His Presence.

After these things I saw, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in their hands; and they cry with a great voice, saying, Salvation unto our God who sits on the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels were standing round about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.   (The Revelation 7:9-12)

8 Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together.   (Psalm 98:8)

Everything in the world praises their Creator.

Jesus is Coming!

9 before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.   (Psalm 98:9)

When Christ comes again, he will come in glory. His purpose will be to bring everything to the culmination. He will judge impartially and righteously. All people throughout history will stand before Jesus, the perfectly righteous Judge. Each person will get their just deserts.

He will act with equity, but He will not be vindictive. Those who have believed, Jesus will own and acknowledge His blood covering their sins and His righteousness clothing them. He will embrace them and welcome them into His Presence. Those who have not believed, He will see their sin and see their nakedness. He will not acknowledge them, instead He will disown them and cast them out of His Presence.

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”

And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”   (The Revelation 19:1-9)

Praise With No End

Do you think the rejoicing in Heaven with all the Cherubim, Seraphim, Archangels, Angels, the patriarchs and the teeming billions of the redeemed in the Church Triumphant is going to be subdued? “Whew, I’m glad that’s over. Now we can rest in peace -z-z-z-z-z-z…” Of course not! The myriad of voices will be raised in glorious praise at the top of their voices. Hallelujah! Praise God! Praise the Father! Praise the Son! Praise the Holy Spirit! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! If the Earth, Sun, Moon and stars had not been rolled up, the resounding praise would have shaken them out of their orbits.

All this is to say exuberance in worship is a blessing to God. Never be inhibited in demonstrating your love for your Father, Your Savior, your Guide, Counselor and Truth Teacher!

Sing your praise! Shout your Praise! Declare your praise! But do not suppress your praise. You are addressing El Shaddai! You are praising Almighty God, Creator of all that exists, who is worthy of all your praise.

Sing Praise to God

Prayer of Praise

You are magnificent, Almighty Father. We worship you with all our hearts, souls, minds and spirits.

Free us from anything that binds us. Any infirmities of our flesh. Any reticence or inhibitions of soul. Free us to be exuberant in our worship and praise.

Let our voices rouse the neighborhood. Draw them in to see what the commotion is.


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Anxious About Nothing

12 Mar , 2020  

Fill your mind with Scriptures; your mouth with prayers, and your hands with helps for those around you in need. When you do, you crowd out the negative thoughts.

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.   (Philippians 4:1-9)

Life Changes

When I was in seminary, the class that teaches how to preach was called Homiletics. The Professor gave us a Scripture, and we each had to write and deliver a 15-minute sermon. Upon completion the student sat down. The class then critiqued his writing and his delivery. Next the Professor gave his critique. For our first sermon, Dr. Cook gave us Philippians 4:6-7 as the text.

As I opened to Paul’s letter to the Philippians and read the passage, I realized Ruth and I had lived it! Just months before I entered seminary, while our family was on vacation, one evening when Ruth and I were praying, the Holy Spirit told us that we were going to be involved in a ministry together. God gave us no idea what.

The day I went back to work after vacation, the boss called me into his office, “Ted, you are at liberty to seek other employment.” Our company was closing the Seattle office, but no one in the office was to be retained. I loved that job. The rug was pulled out from under me, but much to my surprise, nothing moved.

I went right home to tell Ruth. She was in the kitchen doing the dishes. “What are you doing home?”

I was smiling when I told her I had lost my job, so she didn’t believe me at first. When I convinced her it was true, she dried her hands, we went into the living room, and knelt down to pray. We affirmed our trust in Jesus, and then laid out all our financial needs. Just as verse 6 says,

… but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

And He gave us that peace. It was not an attitude that was normal.

First the shock of painful reality. Then the grief at loss. Then the frantic preparation and search for another job. Tense days and worried sleeping (sort of) nights.

No! We knew that Jesus had something for us. We had peace that surpassed human understanding. I didn’t even look for another job. I was offered the same job with another company – same pay, benefits, company car, but I couldn’t take it. I had to call him back and say that I would not take the job, because Jesus had something else for us.

On my last day of work, I went into our denominational office here in Seattle to ask after a job as a camp counselor or old folks home host couple, any kind of lay person job with the church. Our Conference Minister asked me if I would consider the ministry, going to seminary. I told him no, but he pointed out a seminary that had a ministry to men who had been in business and then decided to pursue the ministry. When he said that the average student was 30 years-old and had a wife and two children, it described me to a T. I took the information and sent for their catalog. When the catalog came it was clear that it was a liberal, unbelieving seminary. That was a downer, but God made it clear that was where we were to go!

God put it all together! That was July 31st. We obtained tenants for our home, stored furniture, packed up and left just 5 weeks later. Just after Labor Day, we were on the road east 3,500 miles to Bangor, Maine.

My sermon in that class was a testimony sermon, emphasizing our trust in God and His provision for us. When it came time for the Professor’s critique, he asked, “Mr. Bradshaw, When you finish Seminary, do you think you will still believe as you do now?”

I was a bit nonplussed at the question, but God gave me the answer, “Well Dr., Cook, if I don’t, I will be wrong!”

Jesus is Faithful

Essentially, what I am saying to you is that God’s word is true. It is something you can found your life and decisions on. You can trust Jesus to be faithful to His Word.

There is a lot more I could tell you, but now let’s dig into this scripture to see what the Holy Spirit has for us.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.   (Philippians 4:4)

“Always” is an operative word. Paul’s standard is to rejoice in good times and in bad times; in sickness and in health; when rich and when poor. Paul and Silas were in a Philippian jail, their backs bruised, torn and bleeding, feet in stocks. He and Silas had to sit up all night, because the floor was too filthy to lay back on. They spent the night singing and praising God.

Rejoicing is a stance of life. Regardless of what occurs in your life, you can rejoice. Consider this: Jesus went through agony in the preparation for crucifixion, with beating, flogging, humiliation, and then crucifixion is an excruciating way to die. Should believers rejoice in Jesus’ horrific death?

Of course!

  • We rejoice that He bore our sins.
  • We rejoice that He won our freedom from condemnation.
  • We rejoice that He paved the way for us to enter into eternal life.

Yes, it is not only appropriate to rejoice, it would be an affront to God if we were to lament.

Paul, who experienced many agonies for Jesus instructed us strongly – he repeated it “Rejoice and again I say “Rejoice!”

What agonies? It was in A.D. 53, Paul and Silas were beaten bloody and thrown into a Philippian prison and spent the night singing praises to Jesus. I suspect many of the Philippian believers, would remember that night, particularly Lydia; and the Jailor, specifically. He and his family accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior that night, because of Paul’s rejoicing in that terrible situation. In A.D. 60, Paul wrote a 2nd letter to the Corinthians citing…

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I more; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my countrymen, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.   (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

This letter to the Philippians was written when Paul was in a Roman prison awaiting adjudication that would most likely (and did 2 years later) result in execution.

Paul had every reason to live in regret, lament, anxiety. All that was nothing to Him. Instead he wrote and underlined, “Rejoice!”

Life for many of us is uncomfortable, to say the least. And yet, those who are triumphant over the afflictions of this life are able to rejoice in the knowledge that Christ has overcome the world and all its sufferings.

Live Without Anxiety

“Do not be anxious about anything” – What! Are you crazy, Paul? Life without anxiety? You’ve got to be kidding, Paul! You must be talking to the dead. They’re the only ones without anxiety. Right?

Wrong! That is absolutely the way for Christian believers to live! Without anxiety! When we live in Christ, we are confident that…

“all things work together for good to those who are called according to His (God’s) purpose.”   (Romans 8:28)

Anxiety is a sign that a person is not depending upon Jesus. Paul is calling, and I am calling for a radical surrender of your life to Jesus.

Job had that attitude,

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:” (Job 13:15)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Babylon had that attitude,

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”  (Daniel 3:17-18)

Jesus had that attitude,

“He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”  (Matthew 26:42)

When we realize that we

“… are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”  (Colossians 3:3)

… then there is nothing anyone or anything can do to harm us. We belong to God and nothing can change that! No more anxiety!

Prayer and Thanksgiving

“but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” – Our appeal is to God. Everything is in His hands. Actually, that is true whether we recognize it or not. God is Sovereign. He is in control. It is foolish to wrest control from Him. When, however, we surrender to that truth, and live according to His will, we will readily bring everything to Him in prayer. We will appeal to our loving Father for all our needs and let Him sort out our desires.

Then in appropriate politeness we thank him for His provision. Thanking in advance is an act of faith. We are saying to our Father that he is faithful to provide for us and we rely upon Him to do so.

“let your requests be made known to God.” – I liken this to tossing everything up to God and knowing that what is according to His plan for me, He will return. The rest I will right-off as unworthy human desires.

Receive God’s Peace

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – This is where the anxiety is eliminated. Jesus’ gift of peace is that unworldly peace that when everyone around you has logical reasons to panic, you can be a spreader of peace. Everyone who sees your equanimity, your calm, your composure, your self-control, and your poise, will be drawn into your sphere of influence and experience your God-given peace, too.

Paul adds a final touch to his teaching on rejoicing anxiety-free. He encourages us to transform our thinking from the difficulties, hardships and evils of this life, instead fill our minds with upbuilding thoughts.

Think About These Things

“Finally,” – 

  • “whatever is true,” – Truth is reality, but not all reality is visible. God is not visible, but He is true. His truths are the way to live an anxiety-free life.
  • “whatever is honorable,” – anything that honors God is worthy to fill your mind.
  • “whatever is just,” One of the characteristics of the image of God in us is our natural sense of justice. We feel satisfied when we see an injustice righted. If we concentrate on what is just in the world, instead of the injustices, we will keep a blessed frame of mind.
  • “whatever is pure,” – Uncorrupted, wholesome, holy thoughts will be healthy because God blesses that which is pure. So, concentration on pure things gives us a pattern of life that maintains God’s blessings.
  • “whatever is lovely,” – We rarely think of godly things, or even God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit as “lovely”. But Jonathan Edwards did. He was the Colonial Pastor and Theologian who was instrumental in sparking the Great Awakening, a revival that swept the Colonies in the 1740s, creating a revival and a phenomenal turning back to Jesus. He described Jesus as “lovely”; His love for us as ravishing; the pursuit of Jesus as beautiful.
  • “whatever is commendable,” – All godly acts are worthy of honor. They build up the receiver, the giver and honor Almighty God, Who prompted them.
  • “if there is any excellence,” – All those things we think, say and do that the Holy Spirit inspires are supernatural; and therefore, above the human level, i.e. excellent.
  • “if there is anything worthy of praise,” – Of course, our LORD is worthy of praise. The godly works of believers are worthy of praise, not only in the doing, but also in the conception.
  • “think about these things.” Those are things to contemplate.

Nature abhors a vacuum. So, if your mind is not busy, it will dwell on the lowest common denominator – gossip, criticism, judgmental-ism and the like. Instead contemplate:

  • The beauty of Christ,
  • The blessings of His sacrifice,
  • The times He has saved you,
  • The glorious future ahead,
  • Ways to bless others – believer and unbelievers,
  • How to tell others about Christ’s love.

Fill your mind with Scriptures; your mouth with prayers, and your hands with helps for those around you in need. When you do, you crowd out the negative thoughts.

God’s Peace

“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Look to Paul for the example to follow in living for Christ:

  • “For me to live is Christ!”  (Philippians 1:21)
  • “Nevertheless, no more do I live, but Christ lives in me.”  (Galatians 2:20)
  • “We have the mind of Christ.”  (1 Corithians 2:16)
  • “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.”  (Romans 8:2)
  • “Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ,”  (Philippians 3:8)

God’s Confidence

“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” – This is a bold statement.

Paul was confident in Christ. He knew Who Jesus was – Son of God, very God, Himself – Almighty! Paul believed not only in Christ, but he believed Christ! Paul believed there was a transfer of authority to all believers, when Jesus said,

“And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:”  (Matthew 28:18-19)

That giving of authority included Paul, and it included us!

God’s Supply

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” – There are two points to make about this verse.

  • God is Omniscient – He knows our needs. He is generous – He will supply everything we need. All we have to do is rely upon Him and take the first step of faith.
  • It is not out of His riches. That would be depleting Christ’s riches. No, it was “according to” His riches. This means that Christ’s riches are the guaranty that we have the resources of Almighty God, our Savior to provide for our needs.

You are Precious to God

My brothers and sisters, you–each one of you–are precious in the sight of your Lord Jesus Christ.

You women are Princesses, each one of you, daughters of God Almighty the Creator of the cosmos. Do you believe that Your Father loves you? Therefore, you not only have His protection throughout life, but you have no reason to be anxious about any need in your life. So, rejoice always, and again I say rejoice!

You men are Princes of The King of Kings and the Lord of lords, the Sovereign of the universe. You have no excuse for anxiety about your future. It is secure in Christ. He knows your needs before you do. He has already made provision for you; therefore, rejoice now and for evermore, and again I say rejoice!

Now repeat with me:

I rejoice in You, my Lord Jesus. I rejoice in Your provision for me! Hallelujah!

Thank You, my Father. I rejoice that You have adopted me as Your child.


I love you My God, Holy Spirit. I rejoice that You have taught me about Jesus.


I rejoice in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.


Prayer for Peace

We are Yours, our God and King. We have given our lives to You. Now, my Lord reveal to us what peace You have for each one in the congregation. Reveal how You are taking the anxiety out of each one’s heart. Reveal the goodness that You are placing in that empty place, filling our minds with the good, the true, the beautiful, the worthy and with joy. Yes, Father give each one of us joy unspeakable and full of glory! To the honor of our Savior, Jesus. Amen

Benediction for Peace

May God

… grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God.”  (Ephesians 3:16-19)

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Loving Jesus

27 Feb , 2020  

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:1-11)

Misunderstanding Love

Steve was Christian and a powerful business owner. One day, while coming back from lunch, a panhandler asked him for a buck. Steve had a nudge from the Lord and so he took the man, Bill, to lunch. While Bill was eating, Steve called the office and cleared his calendar for the rest of the day. After lunch he took Bill to a spa where Bill got a bath and a shave and haircut. Next, he took him to a department store and bought him two suits, and some casual clothes, accessories and shoes. Then he rented an apartment for Bill. For two weeks he had him come into Steve’s company and work with Steve’s personnel to determine his skills and to polish his language. After that, he arranged for several interviews. Bill was hired at a living salary.

Steve went on vacation. A week or so after Steve returned, he saw Bill on the street. He greeted him in passing, but Bill ignored him. Steve stopped, turned back and caught up to him, “Bill, how are you?’ Bill just looked at Steve.

“Bill, Bill, I’m Steve. I’m the one who bought that suit. I’m the one who got you the apartment, and helped you get a job.”

Bill replied, “And what have you done for me recently?”

Sometimes, that is the way Christians treat our wonderful Savior. He has done so very much for them, but they begin to take all His bountiful gifts for granted, and then complain to Him about inconveniences in their lives.

Love From Jesus

Let’s look at Romans 5 to see what our loving Lord has done for us

  • Justified by faith – but that is not our faith, it has been the gift of God’s grace, Jesus faith impressed upon us
  • Peace with God – Jesus gives an unworldly, i.e., Heavenly peace
  • We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand – That faith comes from the unmerited favor of Jesus the Son of God, and that faith becomes resident in our hearts. Faith in God’s future grace enables us to stand in Jesus’ name against all the wiles of the devil. It also Gives us the courage to persevere through the hardest of times in this fallen world.
  • Rejoice in hope of the glory of God – It is with great joy that we anticipate our lives in Christ’s Presence with
    • Unmitigated joy
    • Peace that is eternal
    • Basking in the ever-flowing love of our Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
  • Hope that does not put us to shame – The hope that Jesus instills in our hearts has a sure and certain outcome. We, all believers, after we have served out our lives in the world have a sure and certain glorious future without an end in God’s Kingdom!
  • Christ died for the ungodly, i.e. us. We did and do not merit what Jesus has done for us.
    • Jesus gave up his throne and
    • Demeaned Himself to be squashed into a limited man, and then
    • Allowed men to torture and murder him.
    • Jesus surrendered His life to buy our lives back
  • In fact, we all are born enemies of God, BUT GOD (I love that phrase!), but God, Christ our Savior, reconciled us to God. Our warfare with God was caused by our seeking to carve out our own place. Now because of Jesus, the warfare is over. Because of Him, we have surrendered the tawdry, shaky place we carved out; and have been given a beautiful and secure place with our Father for eternity!
  • While we were still sinners, Christ died for us Our Savior did not wait until we cleaned ourselves up and became respectable. Our Father loved us and so Jesus came to us while we were still covered with the filth of sin.
  • We shall be saved by his life – Jesus allowed the Jews and Romans to murder Him, in so doing Jesus became the innocent victim, the Lamb of God. Because of his death we have life everlasting.
  • We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ – Because of all Jesus has done, we are free to take great joy in our relationship with the Father.

Proof of Jesus’ Love

Here are magnificent proofs of Jesus’ love for us. We have a majestic God Who is our Father, but He is not an absentee Father. No, no! He is a hugging-you-to-his-breast Father. He is a holding-you-in-His-lap Father. He is the Father that gets down on the floor with you and plays your games. The Father’s love is manifested in His Presence in your life.

The Apostle John recorded in the 15th, 16th and 17th Chapters of his Gospel the endearing terms Jesus expressed in describing God’s love for you.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.   (John 15:9-13)

Jesus’ Intimate Love for Us

We have seen the greatness of God’s love in the detail of what Jesus did for us. Now we will look at the intimacy of love Jesus has towards us.

Here are excerpts from John’s three chapters, 15, 16 & 17:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.   (John 15:9)

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  (John 15:14-16)

… for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.   (John 16:27)

Jesus addressed His Father and ours,

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.   (John 17:15-24)

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  (John 15:9)

I shake my head in wonder at the impact of this truth. Jesus, our Lord loves us to the same degree that the Father loves Jesus. That is a love that is beyond all our understanding. We cannot conceive of that magnitude of love. Nevertheless, that is the magnitude of love that Almighty God loves us!

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  (John 15:13)

The height of human love is the surrender of one’s life to save a friend. No greater gift can one give another. When we consider the worth of the life of the Son of God, his surrender of life for You and for me is a stupendously great gift. God prizes us so greatly that He surrendered His Son and Jesus honors us so dearly that He gave up His life for each one of us.

I have called you friends;   (John 15:15)

Jesus in love, elevates us from creatures. He elevates us from servants to friends. He treats us as equals, regardless of our humble state. We are His creations. We are like clay pots that a potter makes on a wheel. And yet the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, has elevated us to be His friends. Why? Because He loves us!

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…   (John 15:16)

We who are needy, if we were able to see the love that is in Jesus, we would frantically reach out for it. Instead, Jesus chose us before we were aware of Him, or His love. He loved us first! Our Lord cherishes us and wants us to be fruitful, knowing that for us a fruitful life is a far more fulfilling life. However, bearing fruit is not possible without the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”   (John 17:15)

We are under assault by Satan. We are God’s magnificent creation and the enemy of our souls wants to ruin us. As soon as we accept Jesus, the Father could have taken us home to keep us safe from the depredations that the enemy brings into our lives. But the love of God has important work for us here. So, we remain under the enemy’s threat, but protected by the Love of the Father.

“And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”   (John 17:19)

Jesus loves us, but our sins separate us from God, preventing us from receiving His love; therefore, Jesus uses His sanctification to cover us. He cleanses us from sin by His blood. He gives us the Spirit of Truth to convince us of sin, so that we would be humble and open to receive the Spirit’s sanctifying work and the Love of God. 

Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word;  (John 17:20)

Behold the love of God for you! He knew 2,000 years ago that He would create you; therefore, He came to earth, chose to be crucified for you. He also called Peter, John, Paul and the others to testify to the Risen Lord in such ways that you in this day could know the One and only Savior. His love for you and me was planned well ahead of time!

“that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one”   (John 17:21)

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one in loving one another. They want their creation, mankind, to not only experience that unity of love with God, but also with one another. Jesus wants us to experience the unity of love that is in the Trinity. God’s love is a fountain that distributes bountifully to all who become lovers of God.

… loved them even as you loved me.  (John 17:23)

Can we stretch our conception around that truth? God, Almighty Father, the infinitely righteous One, not only loves us, who are insignificant, powerless, and unrighteous (His loving us at all is miraculous in itself), but the Father loves us to the enormous extent of His love for His only begotten Son.

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am,   (John 17:24)

Jesus wants us to be with Him for eternity! Guests and family that we love, after a few days, we are ready to have them go home. Christ’s love is endless. He wants us, He eagerly desires us to be with Him in God’s Kingdom for eternity!

We are Invited to Love Jesus

My friends and my brothers and sisters let us love Jesus. Let us open our hearts to embrace His love for us. Let us set aside our inhibitions and tell Jesus how much we love Him. The Scriptures give a summary description of the love we should have for God:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

We are to love Him with all our being – body, soul and spirit. That requires all our conscious moments of attention on God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, expressing our love in thanksgiving and praise of His glory.

Brother Lawrence, a monk of the 17th century, chose to keep God in his consciousness all the time, every day, regardless of what he was doing. He disciplined himself and achieved living in the Presence of God. His book, Practice the Presence of God, is a Christian classic.

Receive Jesus’ Love

Oh, dear sisters and brothers, right here in this fellowship allow Jesus to come into your heart. It is not just a spiritual experience, let Jesus fill you with His love and your whole person will become enthralled with the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Out of gratitude for all He has done, let your love for Jesus flow out of your heart and mouth and express how much you love him.

I will pray and those who are moved to express their love can in the pause that follows tell the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit of their love for Him.

Concluding Prayer

My loving Father, we have deep affection for You. Help us to express what we honestly feel toward You.

Jesus, we love you for your great love in sacrificing Your life that we might live with You for eternity.

Holy Spirit, You have come to dwell in our spirits. You are ripening the fruit of love in our hearts.


Gracious God lead us to spread Your love abroad, blessing all we meet. To the glory of Jesus our Savior and Lord. Amen.

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Messianic Hanukkah Worship

28 Dec , 2019  

Celebration of Lights

Admiring the Christmas trees displayed in his neighbor’s windows, five year-old Nathan asked his father, “Daddy, can we have a Hanukkah Tree?”

His father replied “No, of course not.”

“Why not?” ask Nathan.

“Because, Nathan,” his father replied, “the last time we had dealings with a lighted bush we spent 40 years in the wilderness.”

The Maccabees

Hanukkah began in another wilderness experience. The Maccabees were dodging Seleucid troops, like David when he sought to avoid king Saul. Except those Maccabean guerrillas, living in the wilderness, were keeping out of the clutches of the Seleucids.

Alexander the Great conquered the world from Greece to India and from Egypt to Armenia. He conquered that vast region in just 13 years. As he began consolidating His empire, unexpectedly, he died leaving no heir. The resulting confusion was eventually resolved as his four generals divided the empire into four kingdoms:

  • The kingdom of Seleucus (later the Seleucid Empire), comprised present-day Iran, Iraq, Syria, and parts of Central Asia.
  • The kingdom of Cassander, consisted of Macedonia, most of Greece, and parts of Thrace.
  • The kingdom of Lysimachus, included Lydia, Ionia, Phrygia, and other parts of present-day Turkey.
  • The kingdom of Ptolemy I, included Egypt and neighboring regions.

Wojciech Stattler’s “Machabeusze” (“The Maccabees”), 1844

Initially the Holy Land fell under the control of the Ptolemies, who treated the Jews well. Alexandria in Egypt became a center of Jewish scholarship. The Jews there translated the Torah, Prophets and the Writings onto Greek. Their work is called the Septuagint. The Jews paid tribute to the Ptolemaic government, but were governed locally under the High Priest.

Antiochus III was a Hellenistic king of the Seleucid Empire. He defeated Egypt and seized the Holy Land. His son and successor, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (meaning “God Manifest”) was king from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC. He was the eighth in succession to rule over the Seleucid Empire. Many if not most scholars identify him as the “Little Horn of Daniel”.

“And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with anger against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns; and there was no power in the ram to stand before him; but he cast him down to the ground, and trampled upon him; and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. And the he-goat magnified himself exceedingly: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and instead of it there came up four notable horns toward the four winds of heaven.

“And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the glorious land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground, and trampled upon them. Yea, it magnified itself, even to the prince of the host; and it took away from him the continual burnt-offering, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And the host was given over to it together with the continual burnt-offering through transgression; and it cast down truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered. Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said unto that certain one who spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the continual burnt-offering, and the transgression that maketh desolate, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”  (Daniel 8:7-14)

Bust of Antiochus IV at the Altes Museum in Berlin

Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ kingdom included the Holy Land. He sought to consolidate the kingdom by insisting on the Hellenization of the whole region under his control. That meant a common language, coinage and culture, including religion. All the various local religions were to be suppressed and the Greek gods, including Antiochus IV were to be worshiped. Most people groups were amenable. It was no stretch for idolaters to add one or more idols to their pantheon. Antiochus was willing to accommodate the peoples that wanted to keep their local deities, so long as they worshiped the Greek idols and him first and foremost.

Most people, except the stiff-necked Jews. They insisted that Adonai Elohim was the One true God. They would not compromise!

Antiochus IV Epiphanes, would tolerate no resistance to his edict; therefore, he came down on the Jews with a hobnail boot. The King had allies in Judea among the Hellenized Jews. However, the High Priest was Onias III, a strictly orthodox Jew. He was replaced by Jason, who promised a larger tribute to Antiochus. Under Jason, Greek culture was encouraged. Hebrew orthodoxy was considered passé.

Menelaus, offered a larger bribe to the Seleucids, and bought the High Priest position. He was a Benjaminite with no claim to the Priesthood, let alone the High Priesthood. For orthodox Jews that was too much; they rebelled. Antiochus responded by a Sabbath attack, when the orthodox Jews would not fight. He seized the Temple, slaughtering a great many orthodox Jews.

To wipe out Judaism, Antiochus identified Adonai Elohim with Jupiter and the latter’s statue was placed in the temple and pigs were slaughtered on the altar. Under threat of capital punishment, Jews were forbidden to circumcise their boys, worship on the Sabbath and could not celebrate the Jewish feasts. Scriptures were ordered destroyed. Priests who refused to eat swine flesh were flogged to death. These outrages inspired zeal for the faith.

In a village ca. 15 miles west of Jerusalem Mattathias [muh-tath-I-as] was the priest. Antiochus’ troops entered the village and insisted that Mattathias offer a pagan sacrifice. When he refused, a more compliant priest started to offer the sacrifice. The aged Mattathias slew both the Jewish priest and the leader of the Seleucid contingent. Then, with his five sons, he destroyed the pagan altar. Knowing their fate, they fled to the hills. Living in primitive conditions and constantly changing locations, just as David did, they mostly evaded the Seleucids.

The Seleucids surrounded a rebel band on the Sabbath. The Jews refused to fight and were slaughtered. Mattathias, in response, ruled that fighting in self-defense was permissible on the Sabbath.

Mattathias was old and soon died. His Son Judas, the Maccabee (meaning “The Hammer”) became the heroic leader. His exploits drew an increasing army to his banner. Their guerrilla tactics were able to keep the also increasing Seleucid army at bay.

In a strategic move Judas’ army defeated a combined force of Seleucid troops and Hellenized Jews. Fresh from that victory, they marched on Jerusalem. The Maccabees beat the Seleucids back into their fortress, the Akra. Pinning them there, the Jews began cleansing the Temple. They cast out the statue of Jupiter, ground it to dust, eradicated all the signs of pagan worship, the altar dedicated to Jupiter was destroyed and they erected a new altar.

The Traditional story suggests that because the Temple had been corrupted all the supplies for a pure sacrifice were difficult to obtain. The Menorah needed sacred oil, but there was none available for the seven lamps. It would take days to assemble the ingredients and the blend them into the proper oil to be consecrated. But it was the 25th of Kislev (our December), the anniversary of the defiling of the Temple. It was appropriate to have a rededication that day.

Someone found a small cruse of consecrated oil, not even enough fill all seven lamps. They began filling the pottery lamps. They soon realized that the oil in the cruse was not being diminished as they filled each lamp. When the final lamp was filled, the small cruse was still full. That miracle continued for eight days, until a store of consecrated oil became available.

Celebrating the victory Adonai gave the Maccabees and the Jews, has become a tradition of joy for Jews and others whose choose to recognize our Lord’s faithful intervention to save God’s Chosen People.

Applying the Lessons of Hanukkah

We must be aware that this is not from Scripture. The Books of Maccabees are history, but not inspired. Nevertheless, they show that Adonai’s truths that are revealed in Scripture are not only valid for our lives, but they are active in the world if we but have the eyes to see.

While we have come to focus on the miracle of oil, that is a footnote to the real miracle: The continuous pouring of oil is Adonai’s blessing on His people and their zeal to worship Him.

But had the Almighty not given His people a far greater miracle, there would have been no one to restore the true worship of Adonai.

Let’s look in the pages of Scripture – in the Writings and the Prophets.

Gideon Trusted God

Gideon, ca. 1150 B.C.

The Children of Israel sinned against Adonai, so he took his hand of protection from them. The Midianites persecuted the Children of Israel. Boldly stealing their crops and their cattle. Adonai’s people repented enough to gain Adonai’s attention. He called Gideon,

“And the angel of Jehovah appeared unto him, and said unto him, Jehovah is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.” (Judges 6:12)

Let’s see what kind of valor Gideon had.

  • An angel of the Lord brought fire out of the rock to consume the food he had offered, so Gideon saw the power of Adonai. Gideon was directed to tear down the altar to Baal that the Israelites had built. Did he bravely tear it down in full view? No, he snuck in at night and tore it down, taking a few of his cohorts to help. His valor had the staying power of a snowflake on the palm of your hand.

The Combined army of the Midianites, Amalekites and other city states rose up and gathered to destroy the Children of Israel. The Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon and he sent word and called up an army of Israeli’s to oppose the enemy army. Did Gideon attack?

  • No, he said to Adonai, “If you really want me to save Israel, then here’s this fleece. Overnight make the fleece wet and the ground around dry.” The next morning, he was able to wring water out of the fleece that was laying on dry ground. Did He attack?
  • No, he put out another fleece. “Make the ground wet and fleece dry, and I’ll attack.” The next morning the fleece was dry and the ground wet. Was he confident in leading the Israeli onto battle? Sort of, until Adonai changed the rules.

After Gideon sent word and mustered his army, Adonai said, “Gideon, you have too many men. Israel will say, ‘We won the battle!’” So, Adonai’s winnowing began. First, He dispensed with all who were fearful. Then He dismissed all but 300!

  • Gideon’s valor got shaky again. So, Adonai understandingly had him sneak into the Midianite camp and heard that the enemy soldiers were fearful, too.

So, the 300 men, each armed with a pitcher, a torch, and a horn, moved out at night. In a co-ordinated attack, they broke the pitchers to reveal the torches, sounded their horns and cried, “The sword of the Lord and Gideon!” Awakened out of sleep, the Midianite soldiers were confused; it seemed Gideon’s soldiers were everywhere. The Midianites panicked. They thought the Israeli army was in their midst. They began killing every one that moved around them.

Miraculously, Adonai gave Israel the victory of 300 men over an overwhelming army of two nations and others!

Due to that great victory, Adonai gave Israel peace as long as Gideon lived.

Jehoshaphat Trusted God

Valley of the Tombs of Jehoshaphat, Jerusalem, Holy Land

Jehoshaphat, ca. 853 B.C.

Ammon, Moab and Edom combined forces to gather a huge army to attack and defeat Israel. King Jehoshaphat heard of the threat. He called the people together at the Temple. There the king prayed publicly and appealed to Adonai to save them. Adonai through the prophet Jahaziel, told Jehoshaphat that Israel did not have to fight the battle. They had to march out and see Adonai’s effect upon their enemies.

The next morning early, the king mustered the people. He set up the order of march for them to approach the enemy. In the vanguard, he placed the Levitical musicians, to sing loud praise to Adonai as they marched. Next came the Israeli army, followed by the people.

Jehoshaphat encouraged them all,

Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem: believe in Jehovah your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.  (2 Chronicles 20:20)

They approached the encampment to discover that the three armies had attacked one another and all had been slain. It took the people of God three days to transport all the spoil from the slain soldiers into Jerusalem.

King Hezekiah Trusted God

Hezekiah, ca. 701 B.C.

Sennacharib, king of Assyria was battling Egypt. He did not want an ally of Egypt attacking his back. So he sent Rabshakeh, one of his ministers, to talk Jerusalem into surrendering to Assyria. He had an army of 185,000 at his beck and call. One of his arguments encouraging Israel to surrender was to point out that Assyria had destroyed numerous nations, whose gods were unable to protect them; therefore, the Israeli’s could not depend upon Adonai to protect them from Assyria’s irresistible force.

At this threat King Hezekiah fled to the Temple to pray. He sent messengers to the Prophet Isaiah to pray as well. Adonai spoke to His Prophet and Isaiah related to the king that he need not fear. The Lord would “send a blast” and Sennacharib would return to Nineveh and be murdered. Adonai sent a destroying angel into the Assyrian army camp and slew all of the 185,000 troops. Sennacherib did return home, and there, as he was praying to his nothingness, two of his own sons murdered their father.

Thus, the Maccabees were operating in the godly tradition of a small force under Adonai defeating the much larger anti-God force. What is the phrase that epitomizes this truth in our day? “One with God is a majority”.

Unhappily, the Maccabees did not hold Jerusalem long. The Seleucid army drove them out and recaptured Jerusalem. But because of trouble at home, the Seleucid General Lysias, negotiated a peace, which guaranteed the Jews the right to worship according to the Torah.

Lessons from Trusting God

Lessons we can learn:

  1. There is no power that is able to resist Adonai
  2. People, in their own strength, are no match for worldly power
  3. Our Lord Almighty will defend His own people

Our responsibility is to

  • Be surrendered to Adonai
  • Know Him and His way
  • Pray in confident belief and expectation.
  • Obey His directions
  • Not wander outside his sphere of protection

We must first discover Adonai’s will and seize tightly to it. We must be flexible to change directions as our Lord commands

  • Adonai commanded Gideon to winnow his forces down to 300, then used strategy to defeat the enemy
  • Adonai Commanded Jehoshaphat to march into battle with the musicians leading in praise
  • Adonai commanded Hezekiah to patiently watch while Adonai defeated Assyria

What that means for us is that Adonai’s will must be our will. We must diligently pray to discover His will. That means we must set aside our preconceptions – even our traditions – to be open to what Adonai is teaching us and calling us to do today. Jehoshaphat could have used Gideon’s technic of winnowing the Israeli forces. He probably would have been utterly defeated, because it was not God’s plan.

Hezekiah could have used Jehoshaphat’s plan of musicians leading troops into Battle. But most likely the musicians would have been massacred and the Israeli army defeated. Stay close to Jeshua. Listen for the Good Shepherd’s voice. And be obedient, while remaining open to God’s redirection.

Hanukkah Prayer

Please pray with me

Our blessed Lord, we praise You for Your might acts in the past. We magnify Your Name for Your mighty victory over the world, our flesh and the devil. We are deeply grateful that You have chosen us to be children of God, adopted into His glorious family.

Give us the will and the courage to share our knowledge of Jeshua with others in our circle of contacts. Give us Heavenly appointments where we can share with those whose hearts are open and interested to hear about our magnificent Lord and Savior. Send us into the world equipped be the Holy Spirit.

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Peace with God

15 Dec , 2019  

Finding Peace with God

Sermon, December 15, 2019

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.   (Romans 5:1-11)

Died in Service

One Sunday morning, Pastor McGee noticed 6 year-old Alex was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the church. The plaque had crossed American flags over the words “Honored Dead – Rest in Peace”. It was covered with names. Alex had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside him and said quietly, “Good morning, Alex.”
“Good morning, Pastor,” replied the boy, still focused on the plaque. “Pastor McGhee, what is this?” Alex asked.
“Well, son, it’s a memorial to all the men and women who have died in the service.”
Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque. Little Alex’s voice was barely audible when he finally managed to ask, “Which one, the 9:00 or 10:30 service?

Owning the Peace from God

The Apostle Paul was a purveyor of peace. In 12 of his 13 Epistles, he greeted his recipients in variations of “grace and peace be unto you.”

The foundation of His theology is that all men are enemies of God, but through Christ and the believer’s acceptance of the Savior’s offer, we who were enemies are received as sons and daughters. That means that the war is over. It means that we have peace with God.

The fact that we have peace with Almighty, Omnipotent God is the dominating truth of our lives. Nothing compares with the magnitude of this reality. It is true that from the moment we place our lives in Christ’s hands, we have what Jesus promised:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  (John 14:27)

In possession of the peace of God, nothing in this world can trouble you. You notice I said “can trouble you”. The word “can” carries the intent of authority, the scope of possibility. None of the cares of the world have the authority to trouble us. In Christ, it is impossible for lack of money, the enmity of other people, disease, the vicissitudes of old age, or even threat of death to steal our peace in Christ.

But you also notice that Jesus gave us the responsibility to preserve the peace He gives,

Let not your heart be troubled.   (John 14: 1a)

It is by permission that the troubles of this fallen world plague us, and cause us distress, anxiety and grief. Peace is a gift we must own.

Receiving the Gift of Peace

Imagine that you have a very rich and generous relative. With Christmas coming, she gives you an extraordinary gift. The wrapping is exquisite. The paper is so beautiful that you don’t want to tear it. The bow is so lovely that you don’t want it destroyed by untying it. You place it under the tree to admire. Christmas Day comes, but the present is so beautiful that you leave it under the tree. When you put away the Christmas decorations, the present so admirable you place it on display.

Since you have not opened the wrapping, you have not possessed the gift. Until you make the effort, the gift will never really be yours. That is the way with God’s gift of peace. God has given it to us, but we must own It. We must accept it and make it our own.

Paul’s Great Ladder of Peace

In Romans 8:1&2 Paul states the truth for the believer,

There is therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.”  (Romans 8: 1-2)

This follows from Paul’s great ladder of peace in Romans 5:1-5:

  • 1st rung: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”
    • Peace is a foundational gift God gives as a part of our faith.
  • 2nd rung: “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
    • God, through our faith has given us access to His grace that includes his gift of peace.
  • 3rd rung: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also”
    • We can glory, because He has given us an unworldly peace that surmounts the anxiety that tribulation brings.
  • 4th rung: Knowing that tribulation worketh patience;”
    • Patience comes out of a heart settled in the peace of God.
  • 5th rung: And patience, experience;”
    • Having possessed the peace of Christ, we can hold onto it in confidence.
  • 6th rung: And experience, hope”
    • As His peace covers our soul it gives us hope, confidence that His peace will always be in our hearts.
  • 7th rung: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
    • The Holy Spirit comes to reside in our spirits from the moment we believe. One of His fruit is peace; therefore, so long as He is present in us, we have God’s peace available to us.

Keeping Our Mind on Jesus

Paul was not speaking in a vacuum. He was a Pharisee, a scholar of the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings, what we have called the Old Testament. Isaiah taught Paul,

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3)

This is a conditional promise: perfect peace is the nature of the believer; however, it is necessary to keep that perfect peace by keeping our minds “staid on” Christ. To have our minds focused on the Father, on Jesus, on the Holy Spirit makes all the world recede in importance.

Years ago, in Guidepost magazine, I read the testimony of a woman who was washing dishes, praying and looking at the clouds through the window over the sink. There appeared the smiling face of Jesus superimposed on the clouds. His face was vivid, His smile filled her heart with joy. After several minutes of gazing she turned away. Jesus’ smile was like the bright spot that remains after looking at a bright light. He with His smile was superimposed over everything she saw. It didn’t interfere with her sight, it just kept her in perpetual joy. It was after a few days that the world distracted her so she gradually lost His smile.

Keeping our mind and heart “staid” on Jesus is the proper stance of life for the believer. Our main problem with doing that is that we are material beings in a material world. The tactile, the feel of our bodies and the world around us dominates our senses. We are constantly being bombarded by sense stimuli and ideas that demand our attention, drawing us away from a “staid on Jesus” stance of life.

Keep God in Your Thoughts

I find that I am easily distracted. I will be in the midst of prayer, notice something that I haven’t done, yet. I immediately begin to think about doing it. I have a stack of unfinished work on the corner of my desk. As I am worshiping, I find my attention drifting so my prayer and worship become rote and my focus is on the work. As soon as my inattention to God comes to my attention, I apologize to my Savior and concentrate on Him. It takes constant effort to focus on the Holy Spirit’s purposes. “Staid on Jesus” comes about only by discipline, by repetition, by self-correction, and by the Holy Spirit’s reminding.

Brother Lawrence was a 17th century French monk. He desired to live constantly in the presence of God. His book The Practice of the Presence of God, gives important insight into a life of consecration, being “staid on Jesus”. He was not a contemplative, or a hermit sitting alone and navel-gazing all day. He was a menial in the monastery. He scrubbed floors, washed dishes, tended the garden, did hard manual work twelve hours a day.

Nevertheless, he developed a life in the Presence of God. It took effort, but he loved God and wanted to be with Him. He began by bringing himself into the awareness of God at least once and hour. When that became a habit, he found his heart eager for more.

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, So panteth my soul after thee, O God.  (Psalms 42:1)

He began to keep God in his thoughts for 5 minutes each hour. When that goal was achieved, Brother Lawrence, tried 10 minutes an hour. With the background of that discipline, he was able to expand, again and with discipline, to hold God in the forefront of his attention all his waking hours. This, despite all the worldly and social obligations that come with living in the world.

Live in Peace with God

God will keep any believer in peace, who longs for His Presence in his or her life. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He is the source of peace. But the concerns, difficulties, frustrations and troubles of the world evoke anxiety, which disrupts the peace that God gives.

Paul taught us that we were to have no anxiety.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)

  • Commit everything to God.
    • “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5:7)
    • “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11: 28-30)
  • Pray with thanksgiving. In faith we thank God for relieving the burden that threatens our peace.
    • “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1)

Share God’s Peace

Thus, as we live in peace, staid on Christ, we have peace to give to others that are harried and fretting. When we pass our peace on to others, it pleases God. The joy He gives fills us with thanksgiving. Trusting in future grace settles peace in our hearts.

Once we release all our cares to God, He will bestow his peace. It is not the peace of the world, i.e. the lack of conflict. There may very well be conflict raging around us, but it doesn’t engage us. Why not? Because we have God’s peace at heart.

How was it that Paul and Silas could sing and praise God in prison with their backs beaten bloody, their feet in stocks (Acts 16:25) ? They could sing and praise, because their hearts were staid on Jesus. They were not free from pain and suffering, but their hearts were at peace.

Multiple persecutions swept periodically through the Roman Empire. How is it that early Christians could walk into the Coliseum to face ferocious, hungry animals, face being burned at the stake, face being crucified, but had the perfect peace to sing and praise God? They could, because they had already died in Christ. The deaths that faced them, although horrific and agonizing, were doorways to Christ. They were walking into terrible danger, but they were safe in Christ, and had peace at heart.

Believers Have Peace with God

What’s so special about a believer? Paul makes that clear. We, who have given our hearts to Christ, have become new creatures. We are no longer of this world; we are only in it. What is the new creature we have become?

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  (Romans 8:5)

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  (Romans 8:9)

Let me repeat, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

Paul was hearkening back to the Isaiah:

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is staid on You.”  (Isaiah 26:3)

One thing special about believers is that they have peace with God and therefore have access to the fruit of the Spirit, one of which is peace.

Believers Have a Relationship with God

Another thing that is special about believers is our relationship with God – He is our Father!

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.   (Romans 8:5-9 & 14-18)

Believers are adopted by a loving Father. Our God has called us to everlasting life as his sons and daughters. His promise is that we will have a place with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, one God. That is our secure future.

His peace engendered by that secure future is ours to possess, when we live in Christ. Keeping our minds staid on Jesus, living constantly in His Presence is a matter of choice, and discipline.

We have eternity of peace before us; therefore, the troubles of this life are not worth getting anxious over or upset about. We will be with our gracious Lord and Savior Who will wipe away our tears and who will cause us to forget our grief and sorrow. There we will live in joy, love and peace.

Prayer for Peace

Lord God, Jesus Christ, give us a hunger for Your Presence. Give us a healthy disregard for all that is ungodly in our lives. Teach us so to be in Your presence that we will be the calm in the center of the storm. Grant us the Fruit of peace to grace our lives, so that not only will it give us security in life, but will enable us to share peace with those around us who are troubled by the world and difficulties of life.

Thank You our Father. Hallelujah! We Praise You!


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Spiritual Warfare

30 Oct , 2019  

A Sermon on Resisting Temptation

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!

You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God. I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’

All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb; but you are cast out, away from your grave, like a loathed branch, clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a dead body trampled underfoot.

You will not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have slain your people.” (Isaiah 14-12-20)


And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (The Revelation 12:7-9)

We are in a Spiritual War

We are in a war, but believers in America are only vaguely aware of that fact. They are like the Londoner’s in WWII.

“The first German attack on London actually occurred by accident. On the night of August 24, 1940, Luftwaffe bombers aiming for military targets on the outskirts of London drifted off course and instead dropped their bombs on the center of London destroying several homes and killing civilians.”

“Beginning on September 7, 1940, and for a total of 57 consecutive nights, London was bombed. The decision to wage a massive bombing campaign against London and other English cities would prove to be one of the most fateful of the war.” “During the nightly bombing raids on London, people took shelter in warehouse basements and underground (subway) stations where they slept on makeshift beds amid primitive conditions with no privacy and poor sanitation facilities.”

“Hitler’s intention was to break the morale of the British people so that they would pressure Churchill into negotiating. However, the bombing had the opposite effect, bringing the English people together to face a common enemy. Encouraged by Churchill’s frequent public appearances and radio speeches, the people became determined to hold out indefinitely against the Nazi onslaught. “Business as usual,” could be seen everywhere written in chalk on boarded-up shop windows.” (World War II in Europe: The Blitz, The History Place)

Yes, brothers and sisters we are under attack. It is usually a sneak attack, but never a mistake. It is always intentional. Our enemy’s purpose is to disrupt, to dissuade and to discourage.

The Spiritual War Continues

Hal Lindsey wrote the book Satan Is Alive and Well, and Dwelling on Planet Earth. He pointed out that in modern, scientific America, the educated and sophisticated laugh at belief in a real devil. They couldn’t be more wrong. It has been a very successful ploy of the enemy of our souls to convince us that he is not real, that “the Devil made me do it,’ is a bogus excuse for heinous behavior.

As Christian believers, we believe what the Bible teaches. That evil one has a negative place throughout the Bible. He appears in Genesis 3 as the tempting, lying serpent and in The Revelation as the great dragon, the old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.

Make no mistake! That evil spirit is ever with us – unbelievers and believers alike.

God has Already Won the Battle!

But GOD! I love that phrase! The evil one, the enemy of our souls is a very powerful being. Far more powerful than any one of us, and even more than all of us. We must take his power seriously,

But GOD! Jeshuah ha Mashiach proved the method to defend against his temptations – “It is written!”

But GOD! Our Savior not only gives us defense, but He, our Lord God, has utterly defeated the enemy of our souls when He died for us, the atoning sacrifice for our sin, and then in his Resurrection utterly destroyed the hold of death upon believers! He gave us authority over the enemy and all his demons.

Encountering Temptation

God made Adam’s and Eve’s life simple.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

The enemy did not make Adam angry with Eve. He did not tempt the two of them to lie or cheat one another. He sowed a little doubt,

“Has God said …?” “You will not die if you eat it, the fruit is not poison!”

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field that the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat of any tree in the garden?'”  (Genesis 3:2)

He was right, and Eve in surrendering to his temptation did not die … physically; but she, and later Adam, died spiritually!

There were three temptations:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.  (Genesis 3:6)

John defined them in his first epistle (1 John 2:16)

  • The lust of the flesh – “good for food”
  • The lust of the eyes – “pleasant to the eyes”
  • The pride of life – “to be desired to make one wise”

Temptations the enemy laid on Jesus (Luke 4:3-13)

  • Command this stone to be made bread – lust of the flesh
  • Worship me and I will give you all the world – lust of the eyes
  • Throw yourself off the pinnacle of the temple – pride of life

Scripture says,

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  (Ephesians 6:12)

It is true that our enemies are not people; but they are the forces and the demons that are operating in the flesh and blood that we must confront.

Tempted by the Devil

In our own lives we wrestle against the World, the Flesh and the Devil!

First, we look at the enemy of our souls – the Devil.

“as the great dragon, the old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world”.  (The Revelation 12:9)

Actually, he is the easiest to defeat. He has no power against Jeshua (Jesus), nor against believers, who are living in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jeshua said, He is sending the Holy Spirit to us.

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.  (Luke 24:49)

James taught,

But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.   (James 4:6-8)

Peter warned,

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (1 Peter 5:8)

Authoritative command in the name of Jeshua (Jesus) sends the enemy of our souls packing.

Tempted by the World

Second, we live in the World. The world persistently pressures us to conform to the lowest common denominator. Those worldly ones do not like non-conformists. They like those who are worse than they are, so they can assuage their consciences with, “See, I’m not as bad as she (or he) is!”

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Romans 12:2)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,   (Philippians 2:5)

The world, is not us, so we have that advantage. Further, we have been redeemed. That puts a separation between us and the world. We can always come back to Jeshua, “I belong to You, my Lord. I do not belong to the world.

Tempted by the Flesh

Third, the hardest battle is with our own flesh. It is material, but not spiritual. It has appetites that must be satisfied, but not indulged. It takes both willpower and “WON’T POWER”.

Paul put up a fierce struggle against both what his flesh insisted on doing and what his flesh fiercely resisted doing.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So, I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”   (Romans 7:15-24)

The flesh belongs to us, so, in this life, there can be no actual separation. The flesh must be disciplined into submission to our born-again spirits. When our flesh is undisciplined it leads to all manner of evil.

The Children of Israel submitted to fleshly fears put upon them time after time by the enemy.

  • They feared running out of water
  • They feared running out of food
  • They got sick of God’s miraculously supplied manna and demanded flesh
  • They questioned Moses’ authority
  • The questioned Aaron’s authority
  • Aaron and Miriam questioned Moses’ authority
  • The young men fornicated with wanton Moabite women, who led them into idolatry
  • They feared the Giants in the Land of Promise and refused to go in

If your spirits are surrendered to Jeshua, they are built up and become strong, both to keep our flesh under control, and to stand fast against the influence of the evil one and his demons.

God Loves You and Keeps You from Temptation

Saul the Benjaminite was God’s choice to be the king of Israel. The prophet-priest Samuel anointed him and by lot the People chose him. He began to reign under God’s favor. Tragically, he allowed his flesh to dictate. First when Saul was preparing for battle, he called Samuel to make a propitiating sacrifice to seek God’s favor in the battle. When Samuel was delayed, Saul usurped the priest’s role and sacrificed the lamb.

Later when God pronounced a ban on the Amalekites consigning every man, woman and child and all their animals to be killed off, king Saul disobeyed, He saved alive their king and the choicest animals. These sins opened a passage for the enemy of our souls to insert a demon who plagued Saul.

David’s music soothed Saul, because David played his music, not to entertain the king, but to glorify God. David’s godly influence was enough to keep Saul from wholly surrendering to the demon, until Saul, motivated by the demon sought to kill David.

David, a man after God’s heart, also opened a passage for the enemy by his sin with Bathsheba, which began with adultery, and proceeded through deceit, and conspiracy, to murder.

But GOD! David’s heart was so tender toward God that when he was confronted by Nathan, he immediately acknowledged his sin and sought forgiveness.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.   (Psalms 51:3-4)

His turning to God in repentance blessed God and by grace He covered David’s sin and sealed the passage that sin had opened. That excluded any demonic influence.

Jesus Took the Blame and Punishment

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These two examples, one negative and one positive, speak to us today. Brothers and sisters, Isaiah in the Song of the Suffering Servant declared the tragic truth,

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Yes, Jeshua has borne our transgressions, but the tragic point is that we, each one of us has violated God’s will in our lives. Each one of us has in one way or others, sinned against the righteousness of our Righteous Father, burdened His Son, and offended the Holy Spirit.

Yes, we have the blood of Christ to cleanse us. Nevertheless, Paul that great Old Testament scholar, has this to say to us today,

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  (Romans 6:1-2).

Yes, God forbid that we in our respectability and our Christian maturity countenance sin in our lives, because we know Jesus blood cleanses us. That is a subterfuge of the enemy of our souls. Look in the mirror of Jeshua! See how your life stands up to His reflection. Be not kind to yourselves. Do not be a Saul who decides that some of these are too good to sacrifice.

Let me remind you of another of Paul’s teachings,

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  (Ephesians 4:20-32)

Stand Fast in God’s Liberty

My sisters and my brothers I adjure you (and Myself!) to pray these appeals of David, the man after God’s own heart:

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  (Psalms 139:23-24)

In this way you will keep honest before God and you will close up those passageways of sin to prevent the enemy of your souls from making inroads into your soul.

Stand fast in the liberty where with God has made you free.

Please pray with me

My Lord and my God I appeal to you on behalf of these, your wonderful children. Have mercy on them for any besetting sins that have become so common they seem to be natural. Holy Spirit convince us all of the sins we have harbored because they are so much a part of our nature. Give us the awareness of anything in our lives that makes You uncomfortable, since You have taken up Your abode in our spirits.

Jeshuah ha Meshach, You have made us victors in this life, because You have won the victory over sin, death and Satan, and have turned that victory over to us. Grant us grace to live in that victory and to reflect Your Shekinah to all we contact, sharing the love and joy You have given us through Your dwelling in us.


The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us:

That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.   (1 Kings 8:57-58)



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Be Ready, For You Know Not When

14 Oct , 2019  

Stoning of Saint Stephen by Giovanni Battista Lucini


October 13, 2019

The Story of Stephen

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”

And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” And Stephen said:

Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,”

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”   (Acts 6:8 – 7:2 & 7:51-60)

Hearing the Gospel

Pastor James Corban was called to a small-town church. After the first several Sundays, he noticed that one man, an Elder, who sat in the back would get up and leave about two-thirds of the way through the sermon. Just when, in his sermon, he would get to applying the teaching to their lives, the Elder would walk out.

Pastor James met him on the street one day. “Hello, Mr. Smithers, do you have time for a cup of coffee and a visit to get acquainted?’

“Sure, Preacher.”

The conversed for several minutes, until Pastor James thought it appropriate to ask, “I have noticed that you leave the church every Sunday before I finish my sermon. Do you have to get home to do chores?”

“Naw, Preacher. I jist leave when yah stop preachin’ ‘n’ start meddlin’.”

Controversy at the Start of Christianity

There was a controversy in the early months of the newly constituted Christian Church. The Gentile widows were not receiving a just share out of the contributions. To resolve the concern the Disciples, prompted by Peter, chose seven men to administer the contributions. Their credentials were “honest report, full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom”.

The Holy Spirit was not content to leave these men “serving tables”. Luke details two who were especially active in broader ministries. The Holy Spirit led Phillip to Samaria, where his preaching of Jesus created such a spiritual awakening that Peter and John went up to investigate. They found Phillip’s ministry was genuine, but not complete. He had not introduced the Samaritans to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The two Disciples completed the ministry by laying their hands on the Samaritans and praying for the release of the Holy Spirit. They encouraged the Samaritans to completely surrender to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to have free reign in their hearts.

After Phillip’s successful ministry in Samaria, the Holy Spirit sent him to the Ethiopian Eunuch near Gaza on the Mediterranean coast. There Phillip to delivered the truth of Christ to him more completely. Next, the Holy Spirit sent Phillip to evangelize each town, north along the coast to Caesarea.

Stephen, another of the Deacons, was going about Jerusalem doing the works of God. He was blessing the people with the good news of the Gospel and healing the sick. As people expressed to him their gratitude, I suppose Stephen had said things like, “In the name of Jesus, get up and walk,” or “Don’t thank me. It was Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, who did this for you.”

You never know who is watching and listening. It was several years ago, that I was up in my, large, front yard fir tree stringing Christmas lights. Our neighbor teen stopped at the corner of our property with her friend. Their conversation was within earshot, so I could easily hear all they said. So, from out of the branches, I said, “Be careful what you say. You never know who is listening.” They jumped and searched around but saw no one. I greeted her again. Only then she saw me up in the branches.

In Stephen’s case it was members of the Synagogue of the Libertines that were listening. Stephen was offending no one. He was blessing many. Nevertheless, he was violently set upon by the Synagogue of the Libertines. They were a gathering of Greek-speaking Gentiles, formerly slaves from foreign lands, who had adopted Judaism. Because they were Gentiles, they could not go to a local synagogue, so a synagogue had been established for them alone.

Often proselytes are more zealous for the faith they have just adopted, than those raised in the faith. These fiercely held onto the Law and Jewish practices.

Hearing in Stephen’s preaching something that differed from the doctrine they were learning, they argued sharply with Stephen. The Libertines accosted Stephen and accused him of teaching false doctrine. The proselytes heard Stephen preaching “another Gospel”, testifying that Jesus was the Messiah and more, He was God. The libertines came unglued. They could not best Stephen’s arguments, and that frustrated them! They became infuriated!

Stephen, however, was raised as a Jew and had a thorough grasp of the Scriptures. More importantly, he was empowered by the Holy Spirit. Stephen was able to thwart all their arguments. The Libertines could not win by their understanding of Scripture, so they cheated. They turned to deceit and perjury. Those frustrated proselytes spread false accusations against Stephen of blasphemy.

When they realized he continued to best them out of Scripture, they hauled Stephen before the authorities and testified falsely to convince the Elders that Stephen was a heretic and should be stoned. Suddenly, without any preparation, Stephen was standing before the Council and the High Priest. “Are these charges true?” the High Priest demanded of Stephen.

Jesus taught us,

But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.   (Luke 21:12-15)

As Stephen was thrust into the council chamber, he felt the power of the Holy Spirit come upon him. Luke records what the council members saw,

“And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:15)

The light in his face was the Shekinah of Almighty God. Every word he said was prompted by the Holy Spirit.

“And the high priest said, “Are these things so?”

Stephen did not have to meditate. He did not have to grab a scroll to read the passages of holy writ. The Holy Spirit drew upon the resources that Stephen had stored up over the years of his Bar Mitzvah studies and study since salvation.

When asked to defend himself, Stephen began a thumbnail history of the Jews, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses. He touched the burning bush and the exodus. Then Stephen emphasized that Moses prophesied of a mighty prophet, the Messiah that would arise in the latter days. Then he moved on to David and Solomon’s construction of the Temple.

Finally, he editorialized. Then he “stopped preachin’ and started meddlin’,”

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”  (Acts 7:51-53)

Those were not words of a peeved Stephen. They were the Judgment of the righteous God, the Holy Spirit.

That did it! Those unsaved Jews were convicted, but in rebellion against their own consciences they refused to hear any more. “They stopped their ears”! In mob fury they seized Stephen, dragged him out and stoned him.

Cultural Challenges for Christians

We are entering – have entered – a new social environment. When we grew up, an atheist was a rare thing. Most everyone went to church, but those who didn’t had no resentment toward those who did study the Bible and sought to live by their Christian principles.

Not so much, today. Christians all over our nation are being sued for living out their Christianity. The vociferous unbelievers are attacking Christians for refusing to adopt the mores of the culture. More and more we are living in an environment hostile to Christian morality and Christians.

But it is not only in government confrontations that we are challenged for our faith. Even in otherwise normal conversations, as we allow our faith to show, non-believers will ask for the reason for our stance of faith, which in this culture, appears to be aberrant.

Peter teaches us,

 … but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15)

We are all getting older. Sickness is the lot of the aged. Despite limitations and pain and sickness, we need to keep our faith. We need to be able to cheerfully live out our faith in the presence of unbelieving caretakers. Evidencing the reason for our hope in the face of belying circumstances.

Peter makes several points here

  • Honor Christ – We are children of God. He has demeaned Himself to become an ongoing part of our lives, and we owe him our gratitude and obedience
  • Be Prepared – Know the scriptures, know your Saviour
  • Make a defense – Know what God teaches us in His Word
  • Be certain of why you believe that Jesus is God;
  • That it is faith in Christ alone that gives you the welcome into eternal life of blessedness with God.
  • That your sin would keep you out if not for Blood of Jesus
  • That the Holy Spirit is at work in you “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:2)
  • Anyone who asks – Look for God’s appointments. You will encounter questions that indicate an opportunity wide enough to drive a truck through
  • Reason for your hope – our faith is not only spiritual, but also intellectually sound. Each believer has experiences with Jesus, initially and as we spend time each day with Him.
  • Gentleness – We feel strongly about our faith. When opposed, we are likely to get intense. We can easily become abrasive. We must seek the mildness Jesus had when He was opposed.
  • Respect – never take away another’s dignity. Jesus treated as worthy individuals the vast numbers of those who came to Him. If for no other reason, since every person is God’s creation, we must treat others with respect, never demeaning them or discounting them.

Preparing to Make a Good Report of Faith

How to prepare:

  • Seek God’s Power through being filled by the Holy Spirit
  • Recognize that we live in a society that seeks to force us to deny our faith. We must have that power that only the Holy Spirit, living in us, can exert. In His power we can respond.
  • Build up your relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, by spending “quality time” with God. Pray and praise at some designated time each day. Pray often through the day. Paul encourages us to “pray without ceasing”. Spend more time in praising and in adoration than in petition.
  • Accept the reality that any one of us or each one of us may be required to publicly take a stand for Jesus or to deny our Lord.
  • Prepare by steeping your mind in the Scriptures:
    • Read the Bible daily
    • Study – check cross references. Study parallel passages as He directs. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Expect Him to give you rhemas, which are personal revelations out of the passages you read. Take notes.
    • Inwardly digest – make the passage your own by seeing how it fits into your life
    • Memorize – commit verses and short passages to memory. Rehearse them to others. From the bank of Scripture, you have stored in your mind, the Holy Spirit will draw upon when it is needed.
  • No one is immature in Christ.

“Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lordsaid to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:6-9)

  • Take seriously the call to prepare

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

  • Embark on an intentional plan to improve your delivery. Make it a part of your devotions. Give a block of time to polish your testimony. Memorize Scripture, discuss your delivery with mature believers.
  • Finally, pray for the House of God. Pray for one another, because you are your brother’s and your sister’s keepers. We are members one of another. We are individual parts of the Body of Christ.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, and hath not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth; but how can one be warm alone? And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Pray with me:

God of our fathers, You brought forth this land conceived in liberty that comes from You. Father, You raised up men who believed in Jesus as God, LORD and Savior. They set this nation on a godly track. We are their heirs, so we need Your Spirit to be active in our lives so we can do our part in preserving America as a godly nation. Give us holy boldness to speak the name of Jesus aloud before the world. Give us grace to declare Your warm truths to a nation grown spiritually cold.

We honor You by depending completely upon Your Spirit both in times when we are confronted by a hostile world, and in times of peace in the normal humdrum of life when a question of faith comes out of the blue. Do not allow our love to be suppressed by either retaliatory anger or complacency. Keep us humbly dependent upon our Savior for peace in the midst of chaotic fury, as well as, an active spirit in the doldrums of life.

Most of all, never allow us to grow cold in our adoration of You, our Majestic, Gracious and Loving Father.



May God …

“grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God.”  (Ephesians 3:16-19)

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