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The Three “Unwise” Men!

“Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  (John 20:28)

As professional drivers, in our travels all over the country, we have learned that quite literally, “you never know what is around the next bend.”  Naturally, my co-driver/wife and I want things to go smoothly at all times.  This is understandable considering the fact we are operating a forty ton rig and when things don’t go smoothly, life can become problematic very quickly.   We have also learned that we never know who we are “going to run into.”  I don’t mean that literally – while driving – rather, I am referring to those, “Divine appointments,” that our Heavenly Father has in our “lane,” so to speak – in the paths that we travel.  Recently we came to the intersection of such an occasion when things weren’t going so well, (i.e., we had a breakdown). This led to a meeting with one of those, “Divine appointments.”

We were under a load and stopped for the night at a rest area on the interstate highway just north of Austin, Texas.  While checking the equipment and the load, I discovered a problem that would need professional attention and repair.  We were down for the night until help arrived from over a hundred miles away the next morning.  Of course we wanted to get going and finish up the job at hand.  But God had other plans.  As I was walking from our truck to the building, I noticed three men walking toward me.  My spirit went into a state of heightened alertness as I became aware that like the “Magi,” those wise men who came to see the child, Jesus, during His birth, these men were on a spiritual mission.  During the Christmas holiday season, the “wise men” are usually portrayed as three in number, although no one really knows exactly.  They too were on a spiritual mission – “…To worship him,” (Matthew 2:2).  They would also present the one who was born, “King of the Jews,” with gifts which, undoubtedly, would have been important and valuable to Joseph and Mary when they later went to Egypt.  Theirs was a godly mission, being led of God himself, to follow the star, to seek and to find – “The Truth.”  They sought the God of the universe and when they found Him, “they were overjoyed,” (Matthew 2:10).  They were obedient to God’s call on their lives.  Overflowing with joy is what happens when people who love and respect God find the truth.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  When they saw the child with his mother, Mary, “they bowed down and worshiped him,” (Matt. 2:11).  They were truly “wise men.”  Like all who would follow after their example in seeking God and His truth, they “bowed” in humility and submission.  And they worshiped him.

As the three men approached I began to try to ascertain to what religious group they belonged.  I didn’t think they were evangelical Christians.  They didn’t fit the description of Mormon missionaries since there were three of them and they were wearing colored shirts with stripes and ties.  I correctly assumed they belonged to the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization.  My first thought was to avoid them but our trajectory was not right for such a decision.  We were on course for a headlong spiritual collision.  As I contemplated stepping out of their way and going around them, I felt the Lord was leading me to confront them and warn them of the dangerous, destructive and eternal consequences of teaching false doctrine in the name of God.

THE ENCOUNTER

Each man had a satchel over his shoulder that contained religious tracts and what their organization considers to be the true version of the Bible.  As we met each other we began a conversation.  Of the three, one was older than the other two, one was middle aged and the third was a younger man.  The elder said little during our conversation.  The middle aged man did most of the talking.  He started to pull out of his satchel their “bible.”  I politely told him to put it away since I already knew what it said.  I told the men that I have read the Bible from cover to cover many times.  By my actions and words I wanted to make it clear to them that I was in control of the conversation and our meeting – not them.

THE WARNING

At the beginning of our discussion, (that lasted for several hours), and then again at the end, I told them that God, in the Bible, issues severe warnings against preaching or teaching false doctrine, (teachings).   As professional drivers, we understand the consequences of, “going down the wrong road.”  When teaching incorrect doctrine concerning the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, those consequences can last forever.   I told them I was aware they were out roaming the highways and bi-ways thinking they were “serving” God and doing Him a favor.  I opened our conversation by telling them and to which they agreed, that their faith teaches Jesus Christ is not God nor is equal to God.  So I encouraged them to read, even in their own version of the bible, the story of “doubting” Thomas.  After the resurrection of Jesus, the Lord appeared to the disciples who were gathered together in a room with the doors locked out of fear.  He said to them, “Peace be with you!”  There is peace with God and a  quietness of the soul, like still water on a calm day when one believes in Jesus.  All fear is gone!  When I think of the “Wise Men,” in my mind I picture men who were strong, powerful, confident, yet peaceful and gentle.  After showing them the scars in his hands and side, like the Magi, they were “overjoyed.”  However, one of the disciples, Thomas, was not with the others during the appearance.

  “Now Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”  A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them.  Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with  you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.”  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  (John 20: 24-28).

I asked them if they agreed this story was true.  They agreed.  Their own version of the Bible is essentially worded the same as what I just quoted from the New International Version.  I then told them that if Jesus were to appear during our discussion, right then and there at the rest area, that I could do as Thomas did and bow down and worship him.  I asked them if they could do the same and follow the example of Thomas to which they emphatically replied, no!  They said they could not and would not do so.

There are many other occasions in the Bible where it is written that people who became believers in Jesus, “worshiped him.”  In the gospel of John, Chapter nine, is written an account of a man, born blind, who was healed.  This short passage of scripture is rich with spiritual truth.  Jesus was questioned by his disciples about sin.  They wanted to know why the man was born blind.  Why would God allow such a thing?  During the encounter Jesus healed the man in a manner that seems very odd to us – He spit on the ground.  This is not just ordinary spit, this is God spit!  With it, God, here on earth, made some mud and put it on the man’s eyes.  If he had been able to see, like most of us, he might have said – yuk!  Don’t do that.  That’s gross!  Most of us try to figure God out.  We try to make sense of things that to us don’t make sense.  It’s very simple really, God made mud with His spit, put it on the man’s eyes then told him to do something – “wash in the Pool of Siloam.”  The man did what God told him to do – he, “went and washed and came home seeing.”  The man didn’t argue about doing such a simple thing, he just did what he was told to do.  His need was great.  Although most people are not born physically blind, we are all born spiritually blind.  The man in this story was healed of physical blindness but was also healed of spiritual blindness by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ;

“Jesus heard that they, (the authorities),  had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  “Who is he sir?” the man asked.  “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”  Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”  Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.”  (John 9:35-38)

This account of the healing of the man born blind created quite a stir among the people.  Like the times in which we live, there was division.  There were questions about who the man was and of who was Jesus.    Some believed, others doubted even though the healing actually occurred.  The authorities at the time not only did not believe, even though they could not deny the truth of what happened, but took a position of opposition to Jesus, to the works and miracles of God and to the blessings of what God does in the lives of people.  They refused to humble themselves and acknowledge the truth that was before them.

Another account is told in Luke, chapter 24 of believers in the Lord who worshiped Him;

“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.  Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”  (Luke 24:50-53).

To worship the Lord leads to “great joy” and praise of God.  Unlike the “three” Magi wise men, the three men I encountered were not wise.  Like the religious leaders mentioned previously,  they would not bow down in humility before the Lord or seek the truth.   They foolishly thought they knew the truth.  But most importantly, in the stubbornness and rebellion of their hearts, refuse to worship him.

Although most people are not members of the “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” many people struggle with just who is Jesus.  In the gospel of John, people in a crowd who were following Jesus, wanted to know what God expected of them.  This is a good question that many people ask.  Jesus answer was simple.  The conversation went like this;  “Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”  Jesus answered, “The work of God is this; to believe in the one he has sent.”  (John 6″28-29).

Imagine!

God’s Magnificent Imagination!

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”   Ephesians 3:20

Imagination is an amazing, wonderful thing.  I am not an artist, but am married to one.  My wife notices things in photos or everyday life that I might miss – certain lighting or shadows, colors, designs.  I am fascinated by people who have imaginative genius and can create paintings, photos, sculptures, drawings, movies, music and more from what they “see” or “hear” in their minds.  Walt Disney is one such example.  My own artistic ability lies in music.  I play keyboard and guitar and love to create as I play.

I stand in awe of the One who gave mankind talent, gifts and ability to imagine and create – God.  We are made in His image.  Our Heavenly Father has the greatest imagination.  He thought about how He would make the earth and everything in it, the heavens, plant and animal life and the birds of the air.  By His creative power He chose not to make everything the same.  It is known that no two people have the same pattern to the print of their fingers.  There are a variety of plants and many different kinds of animals, birds, insects.  Through space travel and the use of powerful telescopes, mankind now has the ability to see deeply into space.  The colors and designs of what we now can see are beautiful beyond description.  The handiwork of our Creator’s imagination is all around us, everywhere and found especially in ourselves – the culmination of God’s creative power.  God saved the best for last – the creation of you and me.

This beautiful verse of scripture gives me hope.  Imagine!  When the weight of the world seems to be too heavy for us to bear on our own, God, in Christ, gives us strength to face problems, that appear to be like obstacles too great for us to ever overcome.  God is our Father.  Ask Him for the desires of your heart.  It is alright to ask.  He is listening.  The word “immeasurably” means just that – There are no limitations to what our Heavenly Father, Our Great God, can do!  So ask!  Ask that He bless your marriage – then watch what He will do.  Ask that He use you for His purposes on the earth, then experience a deep joy like you’ve never known before.  Ask that He bless your children, your friends, your church, your country.  Notice that God does far more than we can even imagine or ask, according to “His power.”  Imagine, if we can, that kind of power!  I can’t.  But I like to think about it.  When I do, I find myself standing in awe of my God and his amazing creative power and of His imagination.  Then I realize nothing is impossible.  I feel like I will almost explode with joy when I read in His word and think that God’s amazing, awesome power, the power that is able to “do immeasurably more than all we ask,” – “IS AT WORK WITHIN US!”  When we believe in God and have faith in Him and His son Jesus Christ, He gives us power.  Power to move mountains, (obstacles), in our lives.  Power to walk on water, when we think we are going to drown in our sorrows and problems.  Power to live.  And when our days are completed here, in this world, and we enter into the next one, the eternal kingdom of God where we will live with Him forever – imagine, the unimaginable!

 

 

QUESTIONS GOD ASKS (Part III)

Elijah then journeyed deep into the wilderness, far away from any danger or threat to the place where God had met with Moses, Mt. Horeb, the “mountain of God.”  Perhaps Elijah, like Moses,  wanted a “meeting with God.”  He needed to hear from God.  He needed a touch from God.  Have you ever felt that way?  There are times in our lives when we feel like something is wrong, but are not even sure exactly what it is.  We may have a sense of heaviness.  The Bible says to, “Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”  I have found this to be helpful during those periods of my life.  But we have to do something, to take action, to – “Put on the garment of praise.”  When I start feeling a sense of “heaviness,” I begin to praise and thank God for his goodness, grace and mercy toward me – for saving me and giving me the gift of eternal life.  I thank him for the many blessings He has given to me.  I thank and praise Him for the things he has not given to me.

I Kings 19:9 – “Then the Lord spoke to him ans asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?”  This is a very tender moment after one of the most powerful spiritual battles ever fought on earth.  In this question is a great deal of meaning.  Notice that:

  • God asked it gently, not sarcastically, but as a loving father full of compassion for His child, for his faithful servant.  Even the strongest, most powerful of God’s servants have moments of weakness and fear.
  • Elijah was spent!
    • He was emotionally spent.  His life was threatened.  Have you ever had anyone threaten to kill you?  I have – at least four times – outside of the Rescue Mission twice, on a street corner while sharing the gospel with prostitutes and during an armed robbery in the early morning hours while delivering milk to a home on Sunnyview Lane in Billings.
    • Elijah was spiritually spent.  He had watched his friends and relatives die under the evil influence and wickedness of Jezebel.  Like the Apostle Paul, concerning himself and his ministry, wrote much later, he “had fought the good fight and run the race.”  He had been found faithful.  He had not, “boxed the air.”
    • Elijah was physically spent.  He had not eaten right.  And yet God had supernaturally sustained him by ravens and angels.  He was exhausted.  His life was not one of comfort and ease.  His was a rugged life of hard service to God.  Like Paul who was snake bitten, beaten, shipwrecked, ostracized, criticized for being weak and foolish, and all for the sake of the gospel, the good news of salvations through Jesus Christ.

Consider again the question – “What are you doing here…?”

  • Here was a place of retreat, just after God and His servant had won a great victory!
    • “Here” was a place of fear!
    • “Here” was a place of doubt!
    • “Here” was a place of intense discouragement!
    • “Here” was apparently not “where” he was supposed to be!

Where are you?  Are you, “here?”

If you are, then do as Elijah did.  God told him to:

Verse 11 – “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, …”  The “mountain” for you and me can be our “prayer closet.”  Or anywhere we can be alone with our God.

God then sends three magnificent, powerful natural wonders:

  1.  A “great and powerful wind” that tore the mountains and shattered the rocks.
  2. An earthquake
  3. A fire

But God was not in these things.

We always seem to look for God in the magnificent things, the showy things.  But God chose to reveal himself to the discouraged prophet through a “gentle whisper.”  When Elijah heard it he pulled his cloak over his face.  Perhaps he was embarrassed by his behavior.  Perhaps he did not want to face God.  Maybe he understood he had run away.

Verse 13 – God repeats the question.  Like Jesus repeated his question to Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?”  Then gave him a task, something very important to do.  This repetition of the question was annoying or disturbing to Peter as I’m sure it is to us as well when the Lord tries to get our attention.  It may also have been disturbing to Elijah when God repeated the question.  Like Peter and Elijah, from what are you “running?”  Have you, “pulled the cloak over your face,” (figuratively speaking)?  In our day, we often refer to that sort of behavior as, “sticking your head in the sand,” (like an ostrich).  When things go wrong, are you embarrassed before God because of your behavior?  When things go not as planned, when dreams turn to nightmares, our first reaction is to run.  Jesus told Peter not to run away from Him and His service, but instead, to run into greater service than ever before.

Are you “here?”  Are you running from God’s warfare – to win the lost, to heal the sick, to bind up the wounded – to minister the love of Christ in this lost and dying world?

Notice from the account in scripture, that God is active.  He understood and had compassion on the humanity of the prophet.  He is our creator.  He did not condemn Elijah for the what he was experiencing.  Instead, God knew it was time for a change.  He will now provide, (ordain), a replacement for Elijah.  He will also now restore Elijah’s strength once again.  Elijah, the servant of God was tired and worn out.  God knew it was time for the prophet to, “pass the mantle,” – to let someone else take over and do the work of God.

Perhaps you are tired and feel worn out, but you haven’t really even entered the battle.

We must not run from the battle, the spiritual battles we face.  We must run into them, armed with the spiritual weapons at our disposal, the truth of scripture, (God’s Word), the breastplate of righteousness, our feet shod with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God, (Ephesians, chapter six).  And all this, of course, backed by “prayer, supplication and perseverance.”

“Here” is a spiritual place!  So where are you?  Are you where God wants you to be?  Are you afraid of God and His demands on your life?  Will you give your life to Him today?  Will you allow God to use you to be a part of his battle on the earth?  Will you love God and serve him?

 

QUESTIONS GOD ASKS (Part II)

Now let’s look at another question God asked, (of His prophet Elijah)

I kings Chapter 19

Previously we looked at one of the most powerful events in human history – the challenge on Mount Carmel of Elijah, the prophet of God against 850 false prophets.  In chapter eighteen we witnessed the Godly power of a powerful man of God.  We saw Elijah, unafraid and outnumbered.  We witnessed the man of God standing alone in the face of overwhelming apostasy and wickedness.  Jezebel had killed off almost all of the rest of Isaiah’s counterparts.  Out of hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions, only 7,000 remained as true believers.  Remember that Elijah stood majestically before the people and asked, “How long will you waver between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, (which He is), follow Him; but if Baal, (or anything else), is God, (which is not), then follow him.”  Seems like a simple enough choice doesn’t it?  But the people, “said nothing.”

In this chapter we witness a tremendous satanic attack against the prophet.  We witness a phenomena that often seems to happen to God’s servants after such a time of victory and power – weakness and fear!  Satan’s tactics have not changed over the millennia.  He often attempts to do this to you and me also, after we are saved by believing in Jesus, the Son of God and accepting Him as our savior and become “born again.”  In the book of Ephesians, we are told that, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  More and more I am learning the powerful truth of this verse.  Now whenever I am faced with entering into a verbal, (or even physical) altercation with someone, this verse comes to mind and I realize the “battle belongs to the Lord.”  Keep this in mind when you are faced with a disagreement with anyone.  In your heart, call on the Lord to help you.

Verse 2 – Jezebel was puffed-up.  She was full of hot air.  The Bible says, “Do not fear him who has the power to kill the body only but rather fear Him who has power to destroy the spirit.”

Verse 3 – the prophet was “afraid,” and ran away from trouble instead of running into it, (unlike chapter 18).  Notice that he ran into the wilderness – to a place of solitude, to a place where he could “get away from it all,” to think, to reflect on everything that had happened and that was continuing to happen.  Jesus himself often went to such a place to commune with the Father.  Sometimes it was a garden.  Sometimes the desert or the wilderness.  A place where He was free of destraction from time and demands of ministry.

Usually when we are afraid, we run from God or the task he has assigned for us to do.  Many are running from God today because they do not understand Him or are afraid of Him.

Elijah was so fearful for his life and discouraged that he wanted to die, (vs. 4).  He was tired, (vs.5).  He lay down under a tree.  Imagine falling asleep on the ground under a tree.  I can relate.  Many years ago I spoke to a friend of mine by phone who lived in Arizona, over a thousand miles from me.  My friend was not a Christian and was becoming involved with false religious and satanic teachings.  I asked if it would be alright if I came to see him.  I wanted to spend time with him in person and tell him about the gospel of Jesus Christ, face-to-face.  He agreed.  At the time, I was working and had very little money.  When I hung up the phone I did not know how I would make the trip.  My wife and baby son were away on a trip with her parents.  I prayed and told the Lord that if He wanted me to go see my friend, He would need to make a way for me to go.  The next day I was fired from my job for a ridiculous reason.  When I began to doubt that God was answering my prayer and “working things out,” I was stung by a hornet.  I decided to go.  I drove my car to a parking lot of a hotel next to the interstate highway and hitch-hiked to Arizona.  It was an adventure I will never forget.  By the time I reached Idaho Falls, I was sick from the sting.  I found a clinic and got some medication but since I had nothing to eat, I had become very sick.  By the time I reached Salt Lake City, it was late at night.  Two hunters picked me up and gave me a ride into downtown SLC.  I asked to be dropped off at the Rescue Mission with the hope I would be able to get some rest in a secure place.  One of the hunters was kind and polite to me, the other was threatening and mean-spirited.  They dropped me off shortly after midnight.  Upon learning the mission was full,  I now found myself alone and somewhat fearful in downtown SLC.  I had no money and no place to stay.  I was very ill from the sting, the medication and having eaten nothing.  I walked to the police station in the hope they would be able to assist.  They had nothing to offer.  It was now well after midnight.  I was at the point of exhaustion and prayed to God for help and protection.  All around  were prostitutes and drug dealers.  I noticed a very large pine tree in a city park that had thick branches that hung all the way down to the ground, decided to make my way to the tree, lay down underneath it and try to hide myself under its branches.  I hoped I would still be alive by sunrise.  Just as I was ready to crawl under the tree, I looked down the street and barely noticed, since it was a long way away, several men standing outside a building.  I sensed something different about them and felt drawn to them.  I did not realize it at the time, but God was leading me to them.  As I approached, it was as if they were a lamp on a very dark and threatening night.  The store was actually a non-denominational street ministry.  These brothers in Christ took me in, gave me a comfortable room for the night and a great breakfast after I awoke from a very restful and peaceful sleep.  “Our God is a refuge and help in times of trouble.”  He is a “fortress and a strong tower.”

Verse 5 – Rest and nourishment were needed for healing, for restoration.  There is more to the story of Elijah, the prophet that I will discuss in part III of this series.

For me, the rest of my journey went well.  After a great time of fellowship with the believers at the street ministry, I made my way to Arizona where I met with my friend who accepted Christ.  I then secured several rides all the way back to Montana and after arriving home, was offered a much better and higher paying job than the one I had previously.  Our God is an awesome God!  There is no greater joy known to man than that of loving and serving Him.

QUESTIONS GOD ASKS! (Part I)

Genesis 3:9 – “But the Lord God said to the man, “Where are you?”  “To the woman He said, “What is this you have done?”

Genesis 4:9, (To Cain), – “Where is your brother Abel?  Why is your face downcast, (vs. 6), “What have you done, (vs. 10)?”

These  are only a few questions God has asked mankind through the centuries.  There is another found in I Kings 19.  I would like to think for a moment though, if God is omniscient, which means that He knows everything, then why does He ask such questions of mankind, and what do these questions mean to us?  Do you think God does not know the answers to these questions?  How ludicrous to think that an all-knowing God does not know ahead of time, before He asks these questions, the answers to them.  God always asked these questions in order to help the one to whom He asked the question to know the answer – to know where he was spiritually!

It is very interesting to study the answers of those to whom the questions were asked.  All too often, as human beings, we tend to want to blame someone else or simply not take responsibility for our actions.  Adam said, “The woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  In other words – “it’s her fault!”  Eve said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”  In other words, as Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it!”  “It’s his fault!”  Cain said, “I don’t know!”  An outright lie.  What made him think he could get away with lying to God?  Far better it would have been for Cain to acknowledge the truth and ask God’s forgiveness and mercy than for him to try to deny what he had done and what he was as a human being.  We often act in the same manner.  When God brings something to our attention in our lives that needs correction or changing, we simply try to blame the problem on someone else or candycoat it over and deny the problem exists at all!  Notice that God did not deny the truth of the answers that Adam and Eve gave to Him.  What they said was true, but neither did it take away from their personal responsibility for their actions.  We often do this today and say, “I am the way I am because of the way I was raised.  Therefore I can’t change because…, (of a host of reasons).”  As I think of Adam, Eve, Cain, and many others in the Bible; As I think of my own reactions to God in the past when He has asked hard questions of me and when I contemplate the reactions of humans to the claims of God on their lives and  think of our answers back to him like those I have just talked about, I am amazed that He puts-up with us at all.  We are always trying His patience.  The Bible says, “Who are you, o man, to talk back to God?”  In Isaiah, chapter seven, the Lord says through the prophet, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all, (vs. 9b).”  And in verse thirteen, “Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David!  Is it not enough to try the patience of me?  Will you try the patience of my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign;  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel.”  This verse was fulfilled by only one person, Jesus Christ!  Take note of the language of Isaiah, chapter eight – “Strong hand – power – warning me not to follow the way of this people.”  Why?  Because it was like a lost car on an interstate highway going the wrong way.  They were on a path which would ultimately lead to destruction.  To those who respect and love God, He is a “sanctuary,” (a place of refuge).  For those who reject Him and do not believe in or care about Him, He is, “a stone, a trap and a snare, (vs. 14).”

What about you?  Is God a sanctuary, (a place of refuge), for you?  Are you “trying His patience,” talking back to Him, making excuses like our first parents or just plain lying to Him like Cain?  Do you believe in the sign He has given to mankind – the gift of salvation through His own son, Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin?  Never before in all of history has such a thing been done!  No other prophet, so-called, or religious leader, of this, can be said.  Jesus alone, is the way of reconciliation with God!

WE MUST STAND FIRM IN OUR FAITH, OR AS THE PROPHET SAID, “WE WILL NOT STAND AT ALL!”

 

 

A NEW START

How many new years resolutions have you broken this past year?  It often seems we make them just to break them.  Think of new things just for a moment.  A new baby in all of his helplessness and innocence in total reliance on his father and mother for all of life’s needs.  Like that baby, you and I whether we recognize it or not, are completely dependent on God.  Years ago a friend of mine was visiting with a very independent farmer. The farmer told my friend, “for years we’ve survived drought, grasshoppers, fire and flood and we’ve done it all without God and will continue to do so.”  Most of us might not be quite that blatant,   yet may be of the same opinion but in a much more sublime way.  Rather than choose to allow God to have lordship over our lives, we simply but quietly ignore Him and continue to live with our old bad habits and attitudes.

When you think of new things, a new car may come to mind.  All of us would probably like to have a new car to drive.  There is nothing quite like the smell and tightness of a new automobile.  Or what about new clothes?  Perhaps you received a new shirt or coat for Christmas.  New clothes look and feel great.  The colors are bright, not faded and there are no holes in them.

Now that we are thinking of new things, just think of having a new start!  Have you ever said, “I wish I could just start over-” to go back, (pick an age), and get a fresh start on life.  In a way – you can.  You may not be able to turn the clock back physically speaking, (even though we spend a lot of time and money trying to do so), but spiritually you can have a fresh start, a new life in Christ.  The Bible states; “…just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life,” (Romans 6:4).  In Revelation 21:5, Jesus said, “behold, I make all things new.”

It is necessary before beginning a new life to review the past – where you have been and in what condition you have been.  In Psalm 107 verse 43, the Psalmist writes, “whoever is wise, let him heed, (take note, pay attention to), these things and consider the love of the Lord.”  Verse four says, “some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle.”  Do you feel like the ancient Israelites did, like you are wandering around spiritually, finding no rest or peace in your life?  “They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away,” (verse 5).  Are you hungry for a change?  Thirsty for the new life that only Christ can give?  Henry David Thoreau said, “the vast majority of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  Like so many today, do you feel like your life is “ebbing away?”  Why not change all that right now?  Little by little the harsh winds of life were wearing away at their lives.  Sound familiar?  They were ready for a change and they knew the only one who could give them the change they so desperately needed and wanted was God.

In verse six, “they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and He delivered them from their distress.”  God is faithful.  When we cry out to Him, He answers.  Often God waits until we realize our complete dependency upon Him.  Have you come to that understanding?

“Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, (verse 10), for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High,” (verse 11 and the reason for verse 10).  Life without Christ is like the bondage of being in iron chains.  Again, in verses 13 and 14 the psalmist says the people cried out to the Lord and He delivered them and brought them out of their deepest gloom and darkness and broke the chains.  All of this Biblical language speaks of spiritual conditions.  “They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end,” (verse 27).  Are you at wits’ end?  Good!  Then you are ready for change – a new life!  Do like those of whom the Psalmist wrote; “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress.  He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed,” (verse 29).  Call on the Lord!  Turn away from your old self and the sin that has you in bondage and get a new heart and a new spirit,” as the prophet Ezekiel said.  II Corinthians 3:6 says, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.”  Get a new, fresh start on life.   Cry out to the Lord!  Then be sure to do as the Psalmist says, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men,” (verse 31).

The Christmas Gift

“Thanks be to God for His Indescribable Gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15

At this special time of year our thoughts turn to giving.  For many social service organizations such as the Salvation Army, local rescue missions and many others that render aid to the poor and those in need, this time of year is important because they receive much of their annual income during the days and weeks leading up to Christmas.  Retail stores receive the lion’s share of their income for the entire year during this time.  We purchase items to give as gifts to those we love – friends, relatives, children and even strangers we don’t know out of love and concern for our fellow-man.  The giver gives gifts he or she thinks the givee will want or need.  Many decry the commercialization of the holiday season.  Nevertheless, givers want to give.  There is a spirit of joy during this time as we give gifts to one another.  Because we are made in the image of our Creator, it may be that it is during this season of giving that we are most like our Creator who literally “wrote the book,” on giving, (the Bible).  However, our Creator and God gave the greatest gift of all to mankind – the precious gift of himself by sending his only Son, Jesus Christ, gift wrapping him not in pretty, colorful paper and bows, but instead, in swaddling clothes, in the form of a man, just like ourselves.  Instead of putting him under a Christmas tree however, He placed Him in a manger.

As I write this, I realize I am trying to “describe” for you what the Bible calls, “indescribable.”  I will do my best with the scripture verses to follow:

Romans 5:15 & Following – “But the gift is not like the trespass, For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, (Adam), how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin, (Adam’s); The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, (Adam), death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive, (those who believe in Christ), God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”

Notice from the verses above how often “the gift” is mentioned.  By sending the greatest gift of all to the world, ( His Son, Jesus Christ), God gave to us the most valuable and precious of all – gifts of grace, forgiveness and righteousness, salvation and life – both abundant life in the here and now and eternal life forever.  These, the most expensive gifts, came at great cost to the creator of the universe, sending His very own son to give up his life for us.  The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, in chapter three, verse 8, that he was given grace to preach to the Gentiles (you and me), the “unsearchable riches of Christ.”  And that, “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”    Paul also wrote in the same letter, the same chapter and just a few verses later (vs. 20), “now to him who is able to do immeasureably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us….”  These matters are deep – deeper than the ocean – deeper than our thoughts can comprehend .  These gifts of God are unsearchable – greater and deeper than our wildest imaginations can comprehend!  We have an awesome, amazing, wonderful God!

In the first chapter of the letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes to the believers there that he “keeps asking” that God would give them (and us), “the spirit of wisdom and revelation,” so that we may “know him better.”  He also prayed that the, “eyes of our hearts” would be enlightened” so that we would “know the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”  I know people who have received great wealth because of an inheritance.  Imagine the inheritance the Creator of the universe has in reserve for his children, those who believe in and have faith in Him and love Him.  God’s word says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him..,” (I Corinthians 2:9).

A gift must be received with humility and gratitude.  The receiver must understand it is being offered from a heart of love.  Again and again in the letter to the Ephesians and in many other places in God’s word to us, (the Bible), the word “love” is written.  Many think of the word as a thing of weakness.  It is not!  It is a word of beauty and strength.  It is the most important value to God, (I Cor. 13:13).  It is the source of His Gift – His Son Jesus Christ.  Have you gladly and with gratitude received from our Great God, this most valuable and precious gift of all?  And by accepting the gift of His Son, He also gives the deep and unsearchable gifts of power, faith, spiritual riches, strength, hope, access to God, abundant life and life forever with Him in paradise.  If the answer is no – why not accept His precious gift right now?  Pick up the telephone of your heart right now and call the Lord.  He will answer the call.  With Him there is no voicemail.  Ask Jesus, God’s Son, to come into your heart and live there – to forgive you and change you to become like Him.  Then you will be “born again,” (John 3:3) and will have received the greatest Christmas gift of all – no matter what time of year it is!