When God Came Near

When God came to earth.

Max Lucado wrote a book called “God Came Near.”  I haven’t read it but the title always intrigued me, so I will borrow it for today’s post.  I’m thinking about the time that God became man to save the world.

A group called 4Him sings the song “A Strange Way to Save the World.” 

I’m sure he must have been surprised
At where this road had taken him
‘Cause never in a million lives
Would he have dreamed of Bethlehem
And standing at the manger
He saw with his own eyes
The message from the angel come alive
And Joseph said
Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade
Why Him, with all the rulers in the world
Why here, inside this stable filled with hay
Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl
Now I’m not one to second guess
What angels have to say
But this is such a strange way to save the world
To think of how it could have been
If Jesus had come as He deserved
There would have been no Bethlehem
No lowly shepherds at His birth
But Joseph knew the reason
Love had to reach so far
And as he held the Savior in his arms
He must have thought
Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade
Why Him, with all the rulers in the world
Why here, inside this stable filled with hay
Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl
Now I’m not one to second guess
What angels have to say
But this is such a strange way to save the world

Joseph

In Matthew chapter one, we read that Joseph had learned of Mary’s pregnancy.  They were not yet married but were engaged. In those days, that was as good as a marriage contract.  He knew that he was not the child’s father. Because he was a just man, he planned to “put her away” (divorce) her privately.  Then an angel appeared to him.

Gabriel the angel came to Joseph in a dream.
Gabriel the angel came to Joseph in a dream.

Matthew 1: 18-25 (MEV)

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way: After His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man and not willing to make her a public example, had in mind to divorce her privately. 20 But while he thought on these things, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for He who is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this occurred to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet, saying, 23 “A virgin shall be with child, and will bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is interpreted, “God with us.” 24 Then Joseph, being awakened from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and remained with his wife, 25 and did not know her until she had given birth to her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Why?

God became man.  Why?
I want to look at some reasons why He did.

The first was to fulfill prophesy.
The second was to show what God is like.
The third was to communicate with us.
The fourth was to identify with us in our struggles. 
Finally, to be the Lamb of God.

Fulfilling Prophesy

The passage above mentions one of those prophesies. Isaiah 7:14
14 Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel

That is exactly what took place.  That’s what Christmas is all about. The baby in the manger, born of a virgin, is that prophecy being fulfilled.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just as Micah had prophesied.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just as Micah had prophesied.

Micah prophesied that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2)

There are about 300 other prophecies that proclaimed that God was going to become man.  They were all fulfilled with the birth of Jesus Christ. 

King David was told that his descendants would be on the throne forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-16, Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5-6)

You may wonder who is on the throne today. You can research the genealogy of David down to the time of Jesus. (Matthew 1:2-16, Luke 3:23-38)

Jesus is the king.  We don’t need anybody beyond that.  He’s still the king and will be forever, sitting at the right hand of God. 

Hebrews 1:8-9 

8 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, lasts forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness, therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

It was prophesied that King David’s descendants would be on the throne forever.  Jesus, through both Mary and Joseph, is the fulfillment of that prophecy.

What God is Like

Jesus was born to show the world what God is like.
Jesus was born to show the world what God is like.

Bing Crosby played a character named Hank Martin in a movie made in 1949 called “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” which was based on a book written by Mark Twain. 

The main character was somehow transported back in time to the medieval times of King Arthur. He was in trouble because he was dressed in clothing from another century and he thought he needed to do something spectacular to avoid being arrested.

Because people of that time believed in magic and sorcery, the character took his magnifying glass and concentrated the sun’s rays on a piece of paper and burst into flames.  The king believed it was magic. 

They looked at him differently then, and he was in the king’s good graces for a time. 

Later, Hank challenged the king, saying he didn’t know his subjects as well as he thought.  The pair began traveling around the country in disguise. 

The people didn't realize the king was among them.
The people didn’t realize the king was among them.

On their travels, they overheard complaints about the king.  Arthur wasn’t used to that and almost stuck the speaker before Hank reminded him that he wasn’t “the king” right then.

Farther along, they heard some positive comments about the king, and that pleased Arthur. 

 The king was in their midst, but they didn’t know it. 

Jesus came to the earth and the King was present but many people didn’t realize it until after the resurrection. 

Undercover Boss

You may have seen the show “Undercover Boss.”  The owner of the company will go undercover and work as a regular employee and see how the actual employees perform.  Sometimes they complain about the owner, but other times they are very diligent and hard-working. 

Then near the end of the episode, the employees will hear that the owner is coming for a visit. They’re all sitting in a room and in walks the owner.

Some employees are nervous when they realize the things they said and to whom they were said. Others are just happy to see their coworker again and learn that he or she is the boss.  

Sometimes the troublemakers get fired, other times, the boss gives them another chance or more training 

Jesus came to show us what God is like. 

John 14:8-11

8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that is sufficient for us.”9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you such a long time, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father. So how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority. But the Father who lives in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me. Or else believe Me on account of the works themselves.

If you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the Father. 

Communication with the World

Hebrews 1: 1-2


God, who at various times and in diverse ways spoke long ago to the fathers through the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the world.

In the Old Testament, God spoke through the prophets. In the days of the New Testament, God spoke to them, and us, through Jesus Christ His Son.  

Paul Harvey once told the story of a man whose wife and children asked if he was attending church with them since it was Christmas. 

The man declined. He usually just left it at a simple no, but he elaborated on his refusal this time.  

“All this stuff about God becoming man, I just don’t quite get that.”

His family left to go to church and the man was sitting in his living room looking out the window.  As he gazed outside, it began to snow.  He saw some birds on the ground that appeared to be shivering from the cold.  

They didn't understand he was trying to help.
They didn’t understand he was trying to help.

He went out to his shed, turned on the heater, and left the door open so the birds could go inside and be warmed. 

He waited for the birds to go in, but they didn’t.  He attempted to approach them but when he got close, they flitted away. 

There was food on the ground so they didn’t go far, but they eluded him. 

He tried to get near them again, but they flew away again. 

He began talking to them, “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m just trying to help you.” He realized they didn’t understand what he was saying.  How can I communicate with them? If only I were a bird.”

Then it hit him. 

That’s why God came to this earth: So He could communicate with us. 

Identify with the Struggles of the World

Another reason, I believe, that He came, is to identify with our struggles. 

Hebrews 4: 14-16

14 Since then we have a great High Priest who has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who was in every sense tempted like we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

He came to this earth to be able to identify with our struggles. 

You may feel that God is so distant and doesn’t know what it’s like for you.  But Jesus knows.  He came and showed us that He knew what it’s like.  

The story of the woman at the well shows His humanness. John 4:6 says He was “exhausted.”  He knows what it’s like to be tired. He knew what it was like to be thirsty. (John 4:7-8, John 19:28)  

Jesus knows the struggles the people of the world face.
Jesus knows the struggles the people of the world face.

He knows what it’s like to be rejected. He knows what it’s like to have physical pain. He knew what it was like to have to restrain His power.  He could have called thousands of angels to deliver him in the Garden of Gethsemane, but He chose not to. 

Lamb of God to Save the World

John 1:26-29

26 John (the Baptist) answered them, “I baptize with water, but One stands among you, whom you do not know. 27 This is He who comes after me, who is preferred before me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus came to the earth to be the Lamb of God; a sacrifice for our sins. 

Jesus became the sacrificial lamb for the world.
Jesus became the sacrificial lamb for the world.

The Bible tells us that we have all sinned. (Romans 3:23)  We’re all in the same boat. Some of us have what the world would consider “bigger” sins, but they’re all the same in God’s eyes. We have all sinned and come far short of God’s glory. 

The Bible also tells us that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) That’s the bad news. 

Each time you attend a funeral, you’re dealing with physical death The soul has separated from the body. Life has moved out and left behind is the shell. 

There’s another kind of death called spiritual death.  That’s when the soul is separated from God. 

All have sinned and come short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death. 

We all have a death sentence on our heads. 

But Jesus came, as John the Baptist pointed out, to be the Lamb of God.  

His listeners knew the significance of the lamb because year after year there had been sacrifices of an unblemished lamb to atone for their sins. 

God sent His Son to the earth to be the ultimate sacrifice: the Lamb of God. 

Revelation 20:14-15

14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

While everyone faces physical death, you don’t have to experience the second death. 

Jesus came to be the Lamb of God and shed His blood as a sacrifice for our sins.  He made it possible for everyone to be saved!  That’s why He came. 

Bringing Redemption to the World

That’s why God became man. 

Why would Jesus leave Heaven, where they would do His bidding, and come to this earth to be rejected (Isaiah 53;3) and crucified?

Jesus was fully God but also fully man.

Many men have died, but none could take our place.

The divine son of God became human and physically died. But because of His deity, His death covers the sins of the world. 

Jesus' death on the cross covered the sin of the world.
Jesus’ death on the cross covered the sin of the world.

That’s why you and I can be saved.  He made it possible. 

If you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

We strongly, fully believe that Jesus died, rose again, the tomb was empty, and He was seen alive more than once after He was dead. It’s not a fairy tale. 

Because He lives, we have the hope that we will live forever.

If you believe in your heart, you are very close. Romans 10:9 also says you need to confess with your mouth that He is Lord.  

Have you done that?  Do you know that you know that Jesus is your Lord?

If you don’t, today is the day.  The Bible says today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Accept Him today.  

Preparing the Way for the Lord

Prepare the way

John the Baptist said to prepare the way for the Lord. That directive has meaning in our own lives today.

Sermon video

Josh’s Questions

Josh was an older teenager and he was having a problem.  He was trying to figure something out about life. He had three questions. 

The first was: Who am I?
The second was: Why am I here?
The final question was: Where am I going?

He began trying to find the answers to those questions and decided he would do it in church.  He began attending and was very faithful in the church.  Later, he said, “I guess I was going to the wrong church.  I went there every time the doors were open and I was 150% committed to the church, but I wasn’t getting my questions answered.”

He continued, “I actually felt worse in church than I did outside of church.  I started trying to find the answers somewhere else.  I decided I would find my answers through education.”

He graduated high school and went to university.  Again, he was looking for the answers to those three questions. He discovered that most of the students at the university were worse off than he was.  He then looked to the professors.  He found no help there, either.  

After a couple of years, he noticed a small group of people who seemed different.  They were more confident and seemed to have more hope.  Eventually one of them invited Josh to a meeting.  The meeting turned out to be a Bible study.  There were eight students and two professors in attendance.  

Josh wasn't interested in a Bible study.
Josh wasn’t interested in a Bible study.

Josh began noticing something different in their lives and it had an effect on him.  

However, due to his previous experience with the church, he had become hardened in the areas of prayer and Bible study. He was resistant to the idea.

Finally, he told them that he noticed something different about them, and he wanted to know what made the difference.

Although he probably didn’t want to hear the answer, they told him anyway.

Jesus Christ made them different. 

The first time he heard Jesus mentioned in the Bible study, he scoffed at it and pushed the notion away.  He felt he had already tried to find the answer to life through religion and was unsuccessful.  

He was forced to admit, though that something was going on in the lives of the people in the group.  

Again he heard, “Jesus Christ is the answer.”  

Not the institution of the church, but the person of Jesus.

A Challenge

One of the young ladies in the group challenged Josh.  She said, “Why don’t you investigate and see if all of this is true?  Was there really a historical person named Jesus?  Find out if there were people who testified to unusual things being done.  Find out if this man named Jesus really was crucified.  Then there’s the claim of the resurrection, that He rose from the grave.  Investigate that for yourself.”

Josh thought all those answers would be in the Bible, of course, so he started by checking that.
He was very serious about the whole thing.  He decided to try religion again.  He planned to use the tools for investigating and verifying statements that he had learned. 

Josh decided to do some research.
Josh decided to do some research.

He took time off from his classes He went to some well-known libraries in Europe to investigate the claims in the Bible. 

His heart had been hardened and needed to be prepared to get him to the point where he would even consider doing this. 

Luke 3:1-6 (MEV)

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Caesar Tiberius, Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip was tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Traconitis, and Lysanias was the tetrarch of Abilene. 2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He came into the region surrounding the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight 5 Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”

John the Baptist was quoting from the book of Isaiah, so let’s look at that passage.

Isaiah 40:1-8 (MEV)

1 Comfort, O comfort, My people, says your God. 2 Speak kindly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been pardoned, that she has received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him who cries out, “Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness, make straight in the desert a highway for our God 4 Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low, and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rough places a plain; 5 then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.” 6 The voice said, “Cry out.” And he said, “What shall I cry out?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is as the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades because the Spirit of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God shall stand forever.

Prepare the Way

In the past, dignitaries would visit other cities or countries.  If they were wealthy enough, the dignitaries would send people ahead of them to see the conditions of the roads.  Would the journey be easy?  How wide was the road?  What type of vehicles would the road accommodate?  The visitor may have been in a wagon or chariot or may have been carried on a litter. 

The servants would go in advance to prepare the way for the dignitary.
The servants would go in advance to prepare the way for the dignitary.

They wanted the road to be smooth and the way to be good. 

The Smoky Mountains in Tennessee have steep grades and sharp turns.  The interstate that cuts through them has made those places smooth enough that you can safely take a curve at 70 miles per hour.

Some places along that route don’t go over the top of the mountain but around the side.  There are guardrails along the edge of the road and signs warning you to watch for falling rocks.  The construction crews have made the way easier.

John the Baptist was preparing the way for the Lord to come.  Many years before, Isaiah had prophesied the events.

Four things were to take place to prepare the way for the Lord.

Mountain Brought Low

The first of those events was the mountain shall be brought low.  

To prepare the way, the mountain must be brought low.
To prepare the way, the mountain must be brought low.

This did not mean that the ground and roads into Bethleham were going to be literally smoothed.  I believe the passage means within our hearts.  Our hearts are high, lifted up, and prideful.  

In order to prepare the way for the Lord, the mountain of pride needs to be brought low and humility needs to be present. You have to be humble enough to be able to consider the Lord.  You have to be careful about pride.  

When I was in the 4th grade, the high school basketball coach came and got us 4th-grade boys and brought us to the gym.  He gave us an orange spherical object and, to my surprise, the other boys knew what to do with it.  I actually did know it was a basketball, but that was all I knew about the game.  The other boys could dribble and I could not.  I didn’t know the rules so I was feeling very self-conscious.  

I was standing there with my hands in my pockets when the coach asked if I would like to learn how to play basketball.  I said I would.  

He responded, “The first thing you need to do is take your hands out of your pockets.”

That was my first basketball lesson.

Because I attended a small school I always made the team, but I was never one of the first 5. I wasn’t much of a star.  

I needed to be brought low.
I needed to be brought low.

There was one time when my 4-H club was going to play a game against another 4-H club.  Not everyone in the club was on the basketball team so there was a mixture of varying skill levels.  The other club didn’t have enough people so they took some of our club members who did play basketball and put them on their team.  It ended up: I was the star of the team that night!

I was so excited about that.  A friend was planning on spending the night at my house that night.  All the way home and for probably an hour after we got home, I talked about how excited I was and how great I had done.  

He finally got tired of hearing it and he said, “Yeah, Randy, you were great.  Just great.”  That brought me back to Earth.

Sometimes we get lifted up with pride and it can stand in our way so we need to be brought low.

Filling the Valleys

On the opposite side of that are the valleys.  You might not feel like you’re worth anything.  You might be on the opposite end of the spectrum and feel like God could never love you or care for you.  You feel like no one at all cares for you.  

You feel like even your parents don’t care about you.  You’re just picked on and bullied.  You don’t have any friends.

That can happen sometimes and it can weigh on a person and cause them to be discouraged and feel low  

By discovering your value to Christ, your valley can be filled
By discovering your value to Christ, your valley can be filled

In order to receive Christ, you need to understand that you need to be lifted up and you are not worthless.  How much value do you have?

You are of inestimable worth to God.  He sent His Son to redeem you.  He thought you were of such worth that He sent His Son from Heaven’s glory to this Earth where He was rejected and despised.  

The religious leaders who were lifted up with pride arrested Jesus.

God loves you so much that He allowed that to happen. Jesus loves you so much that He allowed that to happen. 
Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested.
He allowed his beard to be pulled out.
He allowed people to spit on him.

He did that because He loves you and me.  That’s how much He loves us.

You need to get to the point where you can understand that.  When you do, then you’re preparing the way for the Lord to come into your life. 

We are Like Flowers that Fade

If a young man wants to impress his young lady, he will sometimes bring her flowers.  Usually, she really likes them.  She’ll put them on the table.  She likes to look at them.  She likes to smell them.  But after about a week the flowers become wilted and she will toss them in the trash.  

Life fades like a flower.
Life fades like a flower.

The passage says our lives are like that.  It’s here for a while and then it fades away.  Like a flower that’s good for a while but it wilts and fades away. 

You can go to a cemetery and look at a tombstone.  You’ll see the date of birth, the date of death, and the little dash in between those two dates.  That’s what your life is.

Life is like a vapor.  It’s here for a little while, then it vanishes away. (James 4:14)  Imagine steam coming out of a tea kettle.  You can see it for a bit but then it vanishes.  

We need to realize that we are mortal and will not live forever and have time to prepare the way for the Lord within our lives.  A lot of people act like they’re going to live forever and push away all thoughts of eternity.  

To prepare the way for the Lord, we need to realize that we’re going to spend eternity somewhere.  

We’re like the flower that’s here for a while and fades. 

Make the Rough Places Smooth

Some places had rocks on the roads.  To prepare for the arriving dignitary, the people would clear the rocks out of the way.  

Sometimes the roads would be rocky and require clearing.
Sometimes the roads would be rocky and require clearing.

Depending on their circumstances, the dignitaries may build up the road some, shorten it, or find a different path altogether.  They may find the landowner and ask for permission to pass through their property.  

Usually, though, they would go on the established path.  Their laborers would go ahead of them and clear the rocks to make the path smoother. 

Years ago, I worked for Accelerated Christian Education.  I was at their headquarters for about 3 years. 

About halfway through my time there, the company decided to provide a retreat for any employee who wanted to attend.  My family went. We did many different things during the retreat.  

The company (ACE) owned property near Durango, Colorado, so that’s where we went for the retreat.  

Because we were being paid while on the retreat, we had to be productive while we were there.  

There was a dirt road on the property that had a lot of rocks.  Many of them were good-sized.  There were probably about 100 people working on this road.  We went in front, and a wagon went behind us, and our job was to pick up rocks.  

It was rough going for the wagon at first, but finally, we got enough picked up that it was able to go down the road pretty easily. 

Take the rocks and move them out of the way.
The high places are made lower –  pride is brought lower to humility.
The low places are made higher – worthlessness is brought up to the esteem that God has for us.

The Way Made Straight

The crooked thinking of the world needs to be straightened out. Sometimes we have to do some investigating as Josh did.  There is some crooked thinking going on in our world today.  

Crooked roads need to be straightened to prepare the way for the Lord.
Crooked roads need to be straightened to prepare the way for the Lord.

Things that years ago would have been considered crazy are supposed to be accepted as normal today, and the world says that you’re supposed to say it’s normal whether you think it is or not.  

You have to do something to straighten out the crookedness. 

We need to come to a point where when God says something, it is so and if He says it’s not so, it’s not. 

We need to recognize that and believe it. 

Sometimes the rocks get in the way.

Josh’s Discoveries

Josh had thoughts, obstacles, or “rocks”, that were in his way.  He was asked to investigate for himself and when he did, one by one, the rocks were removed.  

First, he checked out the Bible.  He found out that there were 40 different human authors (God is the author of it all {2 Timothy 3:16-17}) over 1400 years and it had an amazing unity to it.  Today, you probably couldn’t find 40 different authors to agree on anything.  In the Bible, there’s a unity of the message.  There’s a scarlet thread of redemption from Genesis to Revelation.  

Over and over again, the fact of the sinfulness of mankind and the need for redemption are portrayed.  

Then comes the fact that Jesus Christ died and paid the penalty for our sins.  

There’s amazing unity throughout the Book.  

Josh had to admit that he could see that.  

Then he looked at history and historical authors.  For example, did Julius Ceasar really exist?  

Josh's research showed that Julius Ceasar did exist.
Josh’s research showed that Julius Ceasar did exist.

He found out how many ancient documents talked about Ceasar’s existence.  

He found many texts that spoke about the New Testament. 

He discovered that there was far more evidence for the truth of the Bible than there was for other books.  

A rock was removed. 

He found out that Jesus really was a historical person who lived. He learned that there were those who saw Him after He was reported dead, alive.  He discovered that there were Roman soldiers who knew about death and said that Jesus definitely was dead. He also found out that the account of the spear being stuck into Jesus’ side and blood and water coming out was the truth,  He learned that Jesus did truly die.  He could not deny that. 

Josh learned that the 12 disciples saw Jesus after He had been dead and their lives were changed.  Before they had been filled with fear but they became bold after seeing the resurrected Jesus.  

The time came when the authorities wanted them arrested, and a couple of times they were.  While imprisoned, they sang!  They couldn’t be stopped.  Their lives were changed.  

Josh couldn’t deny that.

Then he saw that throughout history, there were people who were willing to give their lives for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He could not deny that. 

One rock after another was being removed.  

Josh’s last name is McDowell.  Maybe you’ve heard of him or perhaps read some of his books.  One such book is called “Evidence that Demands a Verdict.”  It’s a collection of evidence so it’s hard to read straight through.  However, it is a wonderful reference book.  It’s a listing of all the things he discovered and put together.  He’s also written a sequel called “More Evidence that Demands a Verdict.”  If you’re looking for a good reference book, I would recommend these two.  

Josh McDowell
Josh McDowell

The books contain the evidence that moved the rocks out of the path for Josh McDowell. 

Lee Strobel

There is another man, named Lee, who lived in Chicago.  He was a journalist.  Like many people, he and his wife were enjoying life without any church attendance or background.  They had similar ideas and lifestyles.  However, their lives weren’t completely full.  Lee’s wife, Leslie, had an emptiness inside, similar to what Josh had in his life. 

So, she began to study the Bible with some friends. Next, she began attending church.  As a result, her life began to change.  She didn’t think she should do some of the things they had been doing before. Lee grew more and more frustrated. 

He began to suspect that she was seeing another man.  He discovered another Man of sorts, but it was difficult to fight against Him because Lee couldn’t see Him. Not to mention, He was a perfect man. 

Lee was very angry and resentful.  

This went on for a couple of years, and then Lee thought, “I’m an investigative reporter.  I’m going to take my skills and use the same techniques and I’m going to refute this ‘Christian stuff’ for my wife.”

Lee and Leslie Strobel
Lee and Leslie Strobel

His usual process was to interview experts in whatever field he was investigating. He approached this project the same way.  

After each interview, his thought was the same: “I can’t argue against that one.  What he said was right.”

Time after time, Lee came to the same conclusion.

The reporter’s name is Lee Strobel and he wrote the books “The Case for Christ,” “The Case for Faith,” and “The Case for Creation” plus many more. 

Lee had all that resentment that was standing in the way.  One by one, through those interviews, the rocks were removed so the path to the Lord could be clear. 

Josh McDowell said after he came to the point where he had all the evidence, he was faced with evidence that demands a verdict.  He was going to have to make a decision.  

Josh and Lee both came to Christ.
Josh and Lee both came to Christ.

Intellectually, he already knew it was all true but he still would not submit to Christ because of his pride.  He would have to admit he had been wrong since he was in high school and those early years in college.  

But he finally did, and then his heart was ripe for Christ to come in.  

Lee Strobel knew these things were true and his heart was ripe for Christ to come in.

Prepare Your Heart

If you have something in your life that should not be there, I pray that the Lord would remove that obstacle for you.  I pray that if there is some type of pride in your life that you would be brought low so you can consider other things.  I pray that if you feel worthless, you will be lifted up and understand that God loves you.  I pray that if you have a crooked road that something will come and help you see that it’s not right and you’ll be straightened out.  As you understand more and more that the Word of God is the truth, it will help straighten out your thinking. Whatever rocks might be in the way, I pray that they would be removed. 

Prepare the way for the Lord to enter your heart.
Prepare the way for the Lord to enter your heart.

John the Baptist cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord.  Let the high be brought low, the low be brought up, the crooked places made straight, and the rough places made smooth.”

If you’ve never come to Christ, and today you’re at the place where your heart is ready, you can make a decision for Christ today.  The way has been prepared and there’s nothing standing in your way. You can come to Him. 

Thank God for that!

Bearing the Yoke: Good News and Bad News

Break free from the yoke of sin.

The bad news is that the yoke of sin enslaves us all and Satan whispers lies to us. But there’s good news! God offers deliverance.

Beware of Bears

A park ranger was instructing a group that was preparing to go for a hike.  He said, “You need to be careful out there because there are sometimes grizzly bears on the trails.”  He had some items to help them stay safe. 

He first gave them some bells.  He said, “Wear these at all times. They’ll make noise when you move and the bears will know that you’re coming and hopefully, the bears will avoid you if they hear you.”

The second item he gave the hikers was a whistle.  He said, “Keep this around your neck.  If the bells don’t scare the bears, you can blow the whistle. That might keep them away.  At least it could alert someone who may be able to help you.”

Finally, the ranger handed them a can of pepper spray.  He said, “If all else fails and a grizzly is coming for you, try spraying them in the eyes with this pepper spray.”

Concerned, one of the hikers asked, “How will we know if we’re in an area with grizzly bears?”

Watch out for grizzly bears!
Watch out for grizzly bears!

The ranger responded, “It’s simple.  Just look for bear droppings.”

“How can we tell the bear droppings from other animal droppings?” they asked.

“Well,” the ranger replied, “the bear droppings will have bells and whistles in them and smell like pepper spray.”

It’s important to heed the warnings that come your way.

Volcanic Warnings

Recently, the news has reported that a volcano in Hawaii is erupting.  It’s a famous volcano called the Mauna Loa, part of the Kilauea crater.

In 1985 my wife and I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Hawaii.  We were living in the Dallas, Texas area and I was writing the science curriculum for Accelerated Christian Education.  

The curriculum was talking about volcanoes and it described a lava tube.  

Inside a lava tube
Inside a lava tube

A lava tube is a tunnel of sorts that is formed by flowing lava from a volcanic vent that moves beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. If lava in the tube empties, it will leave a cave. 

I was writing about that kind of thing so when we got to Hawaii, we went to the park that has that crater where the volcano is.  We got to walk through one of those lava tubes. 

The current eruption is shooting lava as high as 168 feet.  The thing that amazes me is the national park is still open for visitors!

There’s one road that is closed.

I think that would be a good warning to heed and not get on that road.

There are some warnings that we need to heed.

History, Parallel, and a Warning from Jeremiah

Jeremiah has some warnings that he put forth to God’s people.  I’m not going to put all three chapters in here, but I will give you the summary and enough information that you’ll be able to see what’s going on. 

You’ll see the historical happenings that Jeremiah was describing and then I want to look at the parallels between that and the entire story of redemption that’s in the Bible from the beginning to the end.  The Bible is a book of redemption.  

It’s a book that tells of the need for deliverance and it tells you how to be delivered, which is through Jesus Christ. 

As I go through this, you’ll see the yoke of sin, the lies of Satan, and the deliverance of God.  

Yoke of Sin

Jeremiah 27:1-8 contains the historical content of this.

Before I continue, I want to give you a little tip that helped me.  In these chapters, there are three names mentioned and I got a little confused.  

The first is Jehoiakim who was the king of Judah.

The second is his son, Jeconiah, who was also a king of Judah.  However, he was taken into captivity.  

While he was in captivity in Jerusalem, Zedekiah was king.

Jeremiah 27:1-2 (all scripture is from the MEV)

1 In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 Thus says the Lord to me: Make bonds and yokes and put them on your neck, 

Wooden yoke
Wooden yoke

Yokes were wooden devices that were put on oxen and hooked to carts, plows, or whatever you wanted them to pull.  If you had a yoke on your neck, it would be something that was difficult. God told Jeremiah to put one on his neck as an object lesson and then send some to the kings of the surrounding countries.

Jeremiah 27:6

6 Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant. And also I have given to him the beasts of the field to serve him.

God refers to Nebuchadnezzar as His servant  Sometimes God will use people who are not very close to Him for His purposes.

Nebuchadnezzar had moments when he worshiped God and instructed others to do so.  Other times, he became prideful and turned away from God. 

Jeremiah told the kings that they were going to be under the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar and they needed to accept it because they were going to be in captivity. 

Now let’s look at the picture of redemption.

We All Bear It

We have the yoke of sin that is put upon us.  Since the Bible says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), everyone has to deal with this yoke of sin.

Each one of us bears the yoke of sin.
Each one of us bears the yoke of sin.

We should be concerned about the yoke of sin.

It was what caused Adam and Eve to be cast out of the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3)

It was the thing that caused the first murder to take place. (Genesis 4:8)

The yoke of sin destroys lives and it destroys families. 

The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

We all know about physical death.  We’re reminded of it often  The body dies.  Physical death came in because of sin. 

Beyond physical death, however, is spiritual death which causes us to be separated from God.  

Jeremiah 27:8

 8 It shall come to pass that I will punish the nation and kingdom which will not serve Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, says the Lord. I will punish that nation with the sword, and with famine, and with pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand. 

God was telling them that Nebuchadnezzar was the world leader.  He had warned His people to “straighten up” or go into captivity.

Judah’s brother to the north, Israel, had already been taken into captivity by Assyria. 

Babylon was gaining power and was going to take over Assyria.  But Babylon was then going to go into Judah and capture the rest of them.  

One of the many lies that were put forth during this time is found in Jeremiah 27:14.

14 Therefore do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, “You will not serve the king of Babylon,” because they prophesy a lie to you. 

The remainder of chapter 27 discusses those who would lie.  

Of course, the people would like to be delivered.  Of course, they wanted to rise up and be victorious over their enemies.

But Jeremiah told them that wouldn’t be the case.  God was going to use those events to punish them.  They had been warned.

The lies continue in chapter 28. 

Jeremiah 28:1-4

1 In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year and in the fifth month, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet, who was from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the Lord in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying, 2 “Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3 Within two full years I will bring back into this place all the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. 4 And I will bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah who went into Babylon, says the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”5 Then the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and in the presence of all the people that stood in the house of the Lord, 6 even the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen. May the Lord do so; may the Lord perform your words which you have prophesied, to bring back the vessels of the house of the Lord and all that was carried away captive, from Babylon into this place. 

Jeremiah knew what God had told him, but he hoped that Hananiah was correct. 

Jeremiah 28:10-17

10 Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it. 11 Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the Lord: Even so I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within the space of two full years.” Then the prophet Jeremiah went his way.  12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, after Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying: 13 Go and tell Hananiah, saying, Thus says the Lord: You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made instead of them yokes of iron. 14 For thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him. And I have given him the beasts of the field also. 15 Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen now, Hananiah. The Lord has not sent you, and you make this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the Lord: I am about to cast you from off the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have taught rebellion against the Lord.” 17 So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.

Hananiah was a false prophet.
Hananiah was a false prophet.

You see the lies of the false prophet, and the consequences of those lies, in this passage.

The Lies of Satan

Satan is a liar.  His lies come to us who have sinned.  We have the yoke of sin in our lives.

Satan tells us, “You’re ok.”

But we’re not ok.  We are all hellbound without God. 

Satan’s lies tell us there is no hell, and that there are no consequences of sin.  These lies are very subtle.

Some of those lies seem right to us as human beings. There are people who are openly and brazenly disobeying the commands of God but human nature says, “Oh, it’s ok.  They’re ok.”  That’s one of the lies of Satan.

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

The lies of Satan lead to destruction.

Satan's lies sound good.
Satan’s lies sound good.

But the lies of Satan can sound really good because sometimes he appears as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14)

The lies of Satan provide a false sense of peace.

The yoke of sin is the fault of all mankind because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  Everyone needs to be saved. Everyone needs their sin forgiven.

The lie of Satan is, “You don’t need that. It’s all a bunch of hogwash.”

The truth is that one day we’re going to stand before God and it will matter what we have done with Jesus Christ.  Whether or not we have believed in Him, whether or not we have accepted Him, and whether or not we have trusted in Him.  That’s what’s going to make all the difference when we stand before God and are judged. (Romans 14:10-12, Revelation 20:15)

There’s a yoke of sin that we all carry.  

Satan lies to everyone he can.

But there is the promise of deliverance!

The Promise of Deliverance

Hananiah had promised deliverance but he was dead and it had been 2 years and nothing happened.

While they were in captivity, they weren’t severely treated.  They were allowed to work and have areas where they could build houses for themselves. Considering they were in captivity, they were treated fairly well. 

Jeremiah delivered a message to them

Jeremiah 29:4-14

4 Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, to all who have been carried away captive whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and dwell in them; and plant gardens and eat their fruit. 6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters; so that you may increase there and not diminish. 7 Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. 8 For thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. 9 For they prophesy falsely to you in My name. I have not sent them, says the Lord. 10 For thus says the Lord: When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. 11 For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you shall call upon Me, and you shall come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You shall seek Me and find Me, when you shall search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will turn away your captivity and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back into the place from where I caused you to be carried away captive.

God provided deliverance. They were to be under the yoke of captivity for 70 years, although the lies of the prophet said it wouldn’t be that long.  

Then God gave them a promise. 

At the end of the 70 years, they would be released and able to go home.

There are reasons to be excited about the deliverance that God provides. 

The Bible speaks of the yoke of sin and of the lies of Satan that tell us that salvation is unnecessary.

But it speaks of real deliverance for those who have had the yoke of sin weighing down on their hearts and minds.  There is deliverance for those who have been the enemy of God and realize that they were wrong and turn their life around.

There is freedom through Christ!
There is freedom through Christ!

This deliverance comes and grabs ahold of someone like the Apostle Paul who had the yoke of sin on his life and was an enemy of the people of God. Then on the road to Damascus, he met the living Christ, got knocked off of his horse, and realized he had been wrong. He acknowledged who Jesus is and gave his life in wholehearted service to the Lord.  (Acts 9:1-19)

There are reasons to be excited about that!

One reason is that you are forgiven of your sins.  Corrie Ten Boom said, “God buries our sins in the depths of the sea and then puts up a sign that reads, “No fishing.”

He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)

As Christians, we have been justified.  There’s a little play on words that says justified means “just as if I’d never sinned.”

Justification through Jesus
Justification through Jesus

That’s something to be excited about.

When God comes into your life, although you are born with the yoke of sin, you become just as if you’d never sinned.

Going Home

There is the promise of Heaven. They had been in captivity but they got to go home 

One of these days, you (if you’ve accepted Jesus) and I will get to go home.

When you visit people in the hospital, they will sometimes talk about going home. You might wonder what they mean. Sometimes they’re talking about going to their physical earthly home, but sometimes they’re talking about Heaven. 

I’m so glad that one day, instead of returning to the building made of wood and rock, I’ll go to a beautiful eternal home. 

These three chapters contain the whole picture of redemption: the yoke of sin, the lies of Satan, and the deliverance of God.

Don’t listen to the lies of Satan.  Believe the truth of God.  Believe in Jesus.  Come to Him. Trust in Him.  The Bible says that if you seek after Him with your whole heart, you will find Him.  (Jeremiah 29:13)

Whosoever

Some know that they have sinned and are on their way to a place that’s not Heaven.  They would like to change that but Satan whispers lies to them.  He says, “You can’t be saved.  What you’ve done is too bad. You are too far gone.”

YOU are a whosoever!
YOU are a whosoever!

But the truth of God is God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

When I was in 6th grade, I overheard 2 boys talking.  They were certain that if they died in a car wreck they would go to Heaven. At the time I thought there was no way they could know that.  I thought about that knowing all week.  Then I read John 3:16, which I probably had memorized.  I realized it was a truth of God that whosoever believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life. 

I knelt down and said, “God, Jesus, I do believe in You. I do believe you died on the cross.  I don’t know everything about all of this but as much as I know how I give You my life right now.”

The Truth of God comes and brings salvation to your soul.

Had I walked up on those boys’ conversation the next week, I wouldn’t have turned and walked away.  I would have walked up and joined them and said, “Yeah, Me too!”

I couldn’t have said it the week before because I was listening to the lies of Satan  Then I came to Jesus. 

Seek Him with your whole heart and you will find Him. Knock and it will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7-8)

Of course, they weren’t looking forward to going into captivity.  It was peaceful where they were living and they liked it there. Jeremiah warned them that it would not be good.  

Then they realized that they were suffering the consequences of their sin. 

He told them it wouldn’t be as bad as it could be.  They would be allowed to build some houses and live life normally, But they would long for home 

After 70 years they were going to get to go home. 

We have sinned and we have listened to the lies of Satan. We’ve been confronted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ: that He died to pay the penalty for our sins.  But if we claim the gift of salvation, we will receive eternal life.

The Time is Now

Have you ever come to Jesus?

Do you know Jesus now?

If you do you have reason to rejoice. Thank God for His promises, but you probably have some friends who need to know about those promises. Maybe it’s up to you to be the one to talk to them. 

In closing, I want to tell you to live life as it comes.  It may be good or it may be bad, but through it all continue to trust God. Trust Him through it all and He will bless you for doing that. 

Ask God remove the yoke of sin from your life.
Let God remove the yoke of sin from your life.

If you don’t know for sure, if you have any doubts, about your salvation, I encourage you to get alone with Jesus and ask Him into your heart.  The Bible says whosoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)

Thank you for reading. For more faith-based posts, click here. You can also watch sermons and other videos on YouTube or Rumble.

God bless you. I pray you have a wonderful day.

An Absolute Necessity

You must be born again.

You know, there are some things that are optional, but being born again is absolutely necessary!

There are some things that are absolutely necessary, and there are some things that are optional.

One of those absolute necessities is why we have missions. It’s why Rusty and Brenda have gone across the sea. This absolute necessity is why you have a church.

Some things are absolutely necessary.

George Whitfield

In the early days of our country, actually, before the Declaration of Independence was signed there was a farmer named Nathan Cole. In 1740 he heard that a famous preacher, George Whitfield, was coming to the area and he wanted to go hear him.

George Whitfield
George Whitfield

George Whitfield. was originally from England, but he came to America and spent seven to 10 years here. It’s said that during that time, probably 80% of the population heard him preach. This was the time that we call the Great Awakening in the United States.

Things were happening all over the world.

In England, it was called the Wesleyan Revival and in Germany, it was called patriotism.

It was a time when God was working and why America became great. Somebody who visited America said the reason why America is great is that America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, then she will cease to be great.

I’m afraid we might be in a little trouble.

Well, Mason Cole had always wanted to hear George Whitfield preach. He was out picking up some tools to work with, and a rider came by and yelled out that George Whitfield was going to be preaching at Middletown.

Middletown was 12 miles away from Nathan’s farm so he ran to his house, and told his wife to get ready. because they were going to go hear George Whitfield.

Then he ran to the barn, saddled his horse, rode up to the house, hoisted his wife up on the horse, got back on himself, and off they went. Mason had that horse galloping just as fast as it could go.

They were trying to get there on time.

As they went he would notice his horse getting tired but instead of stopping completely to let the horse rest, he would get off and run alongside. Once the horse seemed to have gotten its second wind, Mason would jump back in the saddle and continue to ride.

Off in the distance Mason and his wife saw a yellowish cloud and thought it was very unusual. Then they heard what sounded like thunder.

As they continued on their journey the sound got louder. They realized what the sound was when they saw other people on horses and in wagons riding in the same direction they were going and joined up with them.

The Middletown Service

There were 1000s trying to get there to hear George Whitfield preach. It was amazing.

George Whitfield was not a very tall fellow. He was a very slim fellow but he had a very powerful voice. He was able to preach to 1000s of people without the aid of a microphone (they didn’t exist yet) or any other amplification.

When Nathan Cole and his wife got to where the preaching was to take place, they saw that there were already many people gathered around.

In the distance, they could see a river and a boat was docking. People got off the boat. Then two or three more boats came and hundreds of people were getting off.

There ended up being 1000s of people there that day and they all heard George Whitfield preach.

George Whitfield preaching at Middletown
George Whitfield preaching at Middletown

Quite often, John Whitfield would preach on one particular verse. It is a verse where Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus.

John 3:7 (MEV)

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.

The last part of that verse, “You must be born again.” is what George Whitfield preached time and time again.

One lady who heard him quite often asked, “Why do you preach on that verse so much?”

He replied, “Because, madam, you must be born again. It is absolutely necessary to be born again.”

The Bible tells us that we have all sinned and that we have all come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

None of us are exempt from that.

You Must Be Born Again

In this verse, Jesus was talking to a man named Nicodemus, who was a religious man. He was a man who had a reputation as being a good, religious man of the religion of their day: Judaism. In fact, he was on the council that they had. Nicodemus was a religious man.

Jesus told Nicodemus, "You must be born again."
Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.”

Jesus spoke to him and said, “Nicodemus unless you’re born again, you will not even see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

Maybe you go to church all the time. Maybe you have better attendance than I do. . I don’t know. But I know this. You must be born again.

If you’re trusting in your church attendance to get you into Heaven, well, that’s not going to do it. That’s not going to be your ticket.

I had an aunt who started getting pins for attendance in Sunday school when she was about four or five years old. The way it was if you had perfect attendance for one year, you’d get a little bar-type pin. If you went two years, you got another one that could be hooked to the one above

Perfect attendance for Sunday school won't get you into Heaven.
Perfect attendance for Sunday school won’t get you into Heaven.

My aunt got so many that she finally got to the point where she had to put it on a cloth and put it around her wrist and it became a bracelet. After a while, she had so many, she had to put it on a longer piece of cloth and put it around her waist and it became a belt. Then that became a belt with the side of it dangling down.

I preached at her funeral just a little while back and we had them all laid out on the edge of the casket.

Now I’m firmly convinced that my aunt June went to heaven, but it wasn’t because she had 85 years of perfect attendance in Sunday school.

Nicodemus was a religious man.

You might be a religious person. But I want to ask you: Have you been born again?

It’s Not Automatic

If you have you’re safe and that’s wonderful, but if you haven’t, it’s absolutely necessary.

Now, it’s not automatic that we’re okay.

Some people say we’re ok because we are Americans. We are safe. We are fine.

Well, I’m glad to be an American but that’s not enough. In fact, that might be a hindrance in some cases.

The Jewish people said, “We are children of Abraham.”
John the Baptist told them, “Don’t think because you are children of Abraham, you will be safe. God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9, Luke 3:8)

Going to Heaven is not automatic.
It’s not automatic, because you live in the United States.
It’s not automatic because your parents went to church all the time.
It’s not automatic because you had a “drug” problem when you were young because they “drug” you to church all the time.

You must be born again.

When I was young, I heard my parents having a discussion one time. They were deciding where they were going to go to church.

I didn't want to go to the church with the angry pastor.
I didn’t want to go to the church with the angry pastor.

One church was the one that my mom went to when she was young. I visited there a few times, and the pastor seemed like he was mad about something. I figured out it was me he was mad about.

We had also visited a little Freewill Baptist church down the road and the pastor there always seemed like he was glad about something.

I didn’t weigh in on their conversation, but I hoped they choose the happy church, and they did, so I started going to Mount Zion Freewill Baptist Church.

I’m glad to be part of the association of Freewill Baptists, but I’m not going to have because of that.

There came a time in my life when I realized that I was lost, that I was a sinner, and that I needed a Savior. I knelt down by an old gray chair and called upon the Lord and invited Jesus to come into my life.

I don’t remember everything I said, but I remember part of it. I said, “Jesus, as much as I know how I give you my life right now.” and I was born again.

Praise God!

I hope you have too.

I made the right decision.  Have you?
I made the right decision. Have you?

Some of you may be thinking about it. Maybe you’ve been thinking it over. This would be a good time. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

In the 1970s Rhonda and I moved to Fort Worth, Texas, and I attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

It’s wonderful if you have the opportunity to go, but doesn’t make you any more spiritual or less spiritual. It gives you three years to spend studying the Bible and a chance to study techniques of ministry. It was the largest seminary in the world at that time, and I think still is.

The school had a chapel that could seat probably between 250-350 people.

We were not required to go to chapel but I went every chance I got. They once announced that a famous theologian was going to come and preach in two weeks.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

I knew him by name. He was the editor of a wonderful Christian magazine and was associated with Billy Graham Association.

I was glad he was coming but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to understand him. I figured that he’d probably use some big theological words. (Like the word theological: the study of God)

Well, I didn’t have to worry.

He came in and got up in the pulpit, and said, “Please turn to John chapter three.”

He was preaching to a crowd of about 300 people that were preparing for Christian ministry or pastors and their wives. Some of them were ladies that were in music ministry.

It was about 300 people who would have been like Nicodemus.

I thought he would just talk to them about what Jesus said to Nicodemus and he said, “You must be born again.”

It was a great sermon. The time came for the invitation. I thought he would widen it out so that some of us could respond. But he didn’t.

He said, “If you have not been born again, I invite you to come to this altar and receive Christ as your Savior.”

There were 300 people there who were preparing for ministry. I was so glad I had been born again.

To my surprise, the song started and a young man and his wife stood up and came forward to the invitation, given to a bunch of preachers and religious leaders, to be born again.

Then somebody else stood up and then several single men stood up. Then there were more couples. I would say that probably about 20 people who were preparing to pastor churches came forward to get saved.

I’m not asking you if you go to church all the time. I’m just asking, “Have you been born again?”

If you haven’t, you can right now!

There’s a basis for you to be born again.

John 3:16 (MEV)

16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Sacrifice

In the Old Testament, they had sacrifices they did time and time again. They were blood sacrifices. We wonder about that.

The New Testament tells us that the bulls and goats could not take away sin.

A blood sacrifice was necessary to atone for sins.
A blood sacrifice was necessary to atone for sins.

The significance of that was far greater than just bringing lambs and goats and birds and things like that. It was the shedding of blood it was showing that there was a sacrifice. They knew that they had sinned and that there needed to be a sacrifice for sin. If they were to bring one from their flock, they were to bring one without blemish, the very best one they had.

If there was going to be a sacrifice that would take care of the penalty of the sins for the whole world, it would have to be a perfect one.

Who was the only perfect One who ever lived? God’s Son Jesus.

So Jesus went to the cross.

us was the final blood sacrifice.  Nothing else is needed.
Jesus was the final blood sacrifice. Nothing else is needed.

Kerygma

Now there was the preaching of the early church. I’m going to spring a big word on you: kerygma. It simply means the preaching of the early church. Do you know what it was? The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus did make His way to the cross, He did indeed die on that cross, and He was placed in a tomb. Three days later, they came to try to find Him, and they found the tomb was empty, and He was gone! (Luke 23 & 24)

Then he started showing up to people who knew him, and they couldn’t believe it! There was Jesus. He was alive again after being dead. (John 20)

One time he showed up in front of a crowd of 500 who knew who he was before. (1 Corinthians 15:6)

You can not deny the fact that He died and rose again.

That was the preaching of the early church. That is the kerygma.

The Debt Paid

The crucifixion was one of the most horrible physical deaths there could ever be, but something far worse than that going on when Jesus was on that cross: The sins of the world were being placed on His shoulders.

He who knew no sin actually, for a little while, became sin to pay the penalty of sin for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

There is a debt. Jesus paid the debt that He did not owe because there was a debt I could not pay and He paid it for me and He paid it for you. Because of that, you can be born again.

A Special Kind of Belief

The Bible tells us that you must believe but there must be a special type of belief. The demons believe in God, they know Jesus is the Son of God. When Jesus was healing two demon-possessed men, the demons asked Him, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29)

They know their time is short. They know who Jesus is.

The book of Romans says all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

That word all means every man. woman, and child, every human, has sinned.

The Bible also says the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

Two Kinds of Death

We’re familiar with physical death. That’s where the soul is separated from the body, but there is also spiritual death. And that is where the soul is separated from God.

The Bible says there are 2 kinds of death.
The Bible says there are 2 kinds of death.

Spiritual death will be when that soul is separated from God for eternity and sent to a place known as hell.

The book of Revelation says, “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”  (Revelation 20:14)

There’s a special type of belief.

You can believe the facts that Jesus died and rose again. You can believe the Easter story and Christmas story.

You’re close.

Romans 10:8-9 saysBut what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.”[d] This is the word of faith that we preach: that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, 

Do You Know the ABCs?

You may have heard someone talk about the ABCs of salvation. You acknowledge that you are a sinner You believe that Jesus died on the cross. Believe that He was the son of God. Believe that he Has the power over death. Believe that He offers salvation as an absolutely free gift. Believe that no matter how far back in sin you had gone, that gift is there. Then you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.

You must be born again!
You must be born again!

If you do that, I will tell you, your life is going to change. It might be slow for some and quicker for others, but there will be a change when you come to Him.

Then the Bible says, Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13) It doesn’t say “might be,” it says, “will be.”

I want to give you the same invitation here that the theologian at the chapel did: Be born again today!

You need to know that you know. If you don’t know that you know, then you’re in dangerous territory because maybe you’re not born again because you don’t know.

Maybe you need to call upon the Lord. Night.

I preached a more in-depth sermon on this topic a few weeks ago. You can see the Rumble video here.

For more faith-based posts, click here.

If you want to talk more about Jesus and salvation, find my contact information here.

God bless you and have a wonderful day.

One of The Most Important Questions Ever

If God is for us, who can be against us?

If God is for us, who can be against us?

In the past, I’ve posted information from the book 100 Bible Verses that Made America by Robert J. Morgan.  I’ve been going in historical order, so I’ve not gotten to the Declaration of Independence yet. The event here took place about 30 years before the signing of that important document. 

Sermon video

Tug-of-War

In the 1740s, there was a tug-of-war of sorts going on between England and France.  At the time, England had a great navy.  The whole world thought of it as being one of the best  France was trying to gain superiority.  

The Colonies, which later became the United States, had come from England at first.  During the war, referred to as “King George’s War,” the colonies were sort of the rope in the tug-of-war going on between England and France.

People in Boston were concerned, to say the least, because they had gotten word that the French navy was coming to Boston.  The navy planned to burn down the city.  Bostonians were in a panic.

The governor had no way to protect the city at that time.  It wasn’t the large city we know today.  There were only about 15,000 citizens in the 1740s.

The governor knew that they didn’t have the defense, the weaponry, or the military members that were needed to protect the city.  He didn’t know what to do.

But the community knew what to do.

They called for a day of prayer and fasting.  

October 16, 1746

It was October 16, 1746, and people flocked to the churches.  

Today if we don’t know what to do, how many people would?  How far have we come since those days?

They knew what to do.

There was a famous church called the Old South Meeting House, and hundreds of people went there on that day, knowing that the French navy was coming from Nova Scotia to attack their city.

The Old South Meeting House in Boston
The Old South Meeting House in Boston

Reverend Thomas Prince was a good friend of Thomas Whitfield  Whitfield played a large part in the Great Awakening in the 1730s.

On the day of fasting and prayer, Thomas Prince climbed onto the pulpit in the Meeting House and began to pray.  

He prayed, “Deliver us from the enemy! Send Thy tempest, Lord, upon the waters to the eastward! Raise Thy right hand. Scatter the ships of our tormentors and drive them hence. Sink their proud frigates beneath the power of Thy winds.”

The only pleasant part of that day so far had been the weather.  The sun was shining and the wind was calm.  

Suddenly, inside the church, they heard a sound outside.  Clouds had gathered and the wind began to howl. The windows shook and the huge bell in the steeple rang twice.

More boldly, Prince continued to pray, “We hear Thy voice, 0 Lord!  We hear it! Thy breath is upon the waters to the eastward, even upon the deep. Thy bell tolls for the death of our enemies!” 

He bowed his head; when he looked up, tears streamed down his face. He concluded his prayer by saying, “Thine be the glory, Lord. Amen and amen!”

Amen, indeed!

Powerful Storm

The wind came where the church was, but out to the east, the sky also became dark and the wind grew more fierce and violent. A hurricane formed.

The report said that the admiral of the French fleet either took his own life or had a stroke.  Either way, he died that day during that storm. 

The people of Boston were crowded into the churches that day, praying that God would deliver them, and God did.

There were French ships carrying soldiers.  Up to 8,000 of them died in the hurricane that day.  

After that, the governor declared a day of thanksgiving, so the city came together to give thanks for their deliverance.  

After that, a particular verse was quoted over and over. 

Romans 8:31-32 (MEV)

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

If God is for us, who can be against us?

Confidence

Sometimes I wish that my nervous system could become a “confidence system.” That would be good, just once.

A man put on his tool belt and was out and about.  

Confidence
Confidence

He saw one of his friends and said, “You know, my wife isn’t very confident in my ability to work with the electrical things at our house.”

The friend replied, “Well, she’s in for a shock.”

Have confidence!  If God is for us, who can be against us?

Let’s look at the first half of that.

If God Is For Us

The second part of that verse is conditional on the first part: That God IS for us.

Some people wonder if God is for them.  There are reasons for that.  One is because they feel guilty.  We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) So indeed there is that is upon mankind.  Adam sinned and that nature was passed down through the generations, but we can’t exactly blame Adam.  Everyone becomes a sinner by choice at some point in their lives.  We’re all accountable for that. 

Everyone is guilty, and unless that guilt is taken care of, you’ll continue to feel that way. 

Some people are overly inflated in themselves and have no regard whatsoever, but others are just weighed down with guilt. 

Guilt and shame can make you feel like God is not for you.
Guilt and shame can make you feel like God is not for you.

If that’s not taken care of, you may feel like God isn’t for you. 

Others believe that no one would love or care for them.  

Some are outright opposing God.  When they are in opposition to God, they are His enemies.  There is no promise here for them.  God is not for His enemies  He would like them to be saved and their lives to be changed, but if they’re going to continue in opposition against Him, they are the ones who are going to lose. 

Then some know who God is, that He is the God of love, but Satan’s lies come to their ears.  Satan’s lies are, “God does not care for you.  God does not love you.”

If you listen to those lies, you’ll be beaten down all the time. 

But Why?

Why would God be for us?  

He created us.  He created the world.  He created the universe. He created all things, but He created us.  He has a special love for us.  

A boy built a boat but lost it.  Later, he saw it in a store.  He went to the store owner and told him that it was his boat.  The man asked for proof of ownership.  The boy told him that there was a special mark on the bottom.  The clerk turned the boat over and saw the mark was there.  The store owner told the boy that he’d had to pay for the boat and offered to sell it back to him for what he’d paid. The boy didn’t have the money, so he was sad.

He made you, and He paid for you!
He made you, and He paid for you!

He went home and asked his parents for the money and they gave it to him.  Happily, the boy returned to the store to get his beloved boat.  He gave the owner the money and walked out with his boat. He looked at the boat in his hands and said, “There.  I’ve made you, and now I’ve bought you.”

That’s what Jesus did for you.  He made you and He bought you.  He paid the price for your sins.  He loves you, and because He loves you, you have good reason to believe that He is for you.  

God LOVES You!

One of the attributes of God is that He is love. (1 John 4:8)

God loves you so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that if you believe in Him, you will not perish but have everlasting life.  (John 3:16)

God also created us with the capacity to love Him back. It’s not like a computer or video game program.  It’s not mechanical.  

We are created in the image of God with the capacity to love and to hate.  He wants us to freely love Him.  

Those are just a couple of the many reasons to believe that God could be for you.

Now to transition to the second half of the verse.

Who Could Be Against Us?

A man said, “I went to the confidence store because I didn’t have any.  They sold it to me for $2,500…I think they tricked me.”

A group of engineering teachers was on a plane. A man got on the plane and informed them that the plane had been built by their own students. 

Several of the teachers got up and ran off the plane, but one man remained.  When questioned, he said, “Well, if it’s built by my students, this thing won’t even get off the ground.”

If God is for us, who can be against us?

If God is for us, who can stand against us?
If God is for us, who can stand against us?

Who can stand against us?

This is a rhetorical question.  A rhetorical question is one that doesn’t require an answer.  For example:  Do animals live in a zoo? (Yes, they do.)

The question is: If God is for us, who can stand against us?
The answer: Nothing and no one!

If God is for you, nothing can be against you.

No human, no being in the universe, no thing, can be against you if God is for you.

Romans 8:35, 38, 39 (MEV)

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come, 39 neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is nothing that can withstand God.  

God is All-Powerful

A man was talking with a group of Christians and said, “God, if You’re real, I dare You to strike me with lightning right now!”

It was something he’d said several times before so he thought nothing of saying it that time.  

Suddenly, thunder boomed and a bolt of lightning shot from the sky.  

God is all-powerful.
God is all-powerful.

The man checked himself over, and he was just fine.  He began to scoff at God but noticed that the men around him weren’t looking at him but behind him.

The man turned to see what they were looking at and discovered his 12-year-old son lying on the ground.

While I do not know if God would actually do something like that, I do know that there is nothing that can withstand God.

Right now, there are wars going on, and there are rumors of wars.  Those are terrible things. There has been talk of the possibility of World War 3. But God sits in His Heaven and men on Earth make their plans, and He just laughs at those plans. (Psalm 37:12)

We may lose a battle from time to time, but we know how the war is going to end!  I’ve read the back of the book and we win. 

Principalities will not be able to stand against God.  

No one, or thing, ultimately, will stand against you.

As a Christian, you may face persecution here on Earth.  There might be illness.  You may have some battles.  But ultimately, those things do not win.  They do not!

I’ve seen it.

Going Home

In my business, I’m around death quite a bit.  I’m around people shortly before they pass from this life. 

There are people who have an experience that you wouldn’t believe.  They know that time is short and they talk very matter-of-factly about it. 

They say things like, “My time is coming, I know it.” 

Some have said, “I’ll soon be with my Lord.”

People have said, “I’m looking forward to it.”

That’s amazing!

How can you do that?

Death seems to be the thing that is most to be feared, but it is not for those who are Christians. 

If God is for us, who can be against us?

When I say I’ve been around death quite a bit, it has been deaths of the saints, usually.  That’s who I’m around the most. I assure you, there’s victory.  Death will be swallowed up in victory. “O death where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54 & 55)

Death is the ultimate victory when you know Christ.
Death is the ultimate victory when you know Christ.

There is victory over death and the grave in Christ if you know Him. 

There are examples from the past where God was with His people.  

Moses and Pharoah

God called Moses to go get His people out of Egypt.  Moses and his brother went before Pharoah and asked for the Israelites to be released.  It took 10 plagues, ending with the death of the firstborn child, for Pharoah to let them go.  

Even after all that, as Moses was leading the Nation of Israel out of Egypt, Pharoah changed his mind and gathered his army, and chased them to the Red Sea.

But remember: If God is for us, who can be against us?

Some of the Israelites didn’t believe that God would deliver them, but God was speaking to Moses.  

That night, God provided protection for them in the night and the Egyptian soldiers didn’t attack while they rested.

The next day, they were at the edge of the Red Sea. God instructed Moses to hold his rod (like a walking stick) out over the water, and he did.

A mighty wind came and parted the waters of the sea and the freed slaves walked across to the other side on dry ground, with walls of water on either side of them.

God was for the Children of Israel.
God was for the Children of Israel.

Pharoah and his army weren’t ready to give up, so they pursued their former captives onto the bed of the Red Sea.  God was taking care of His children, though, and the waters closed up over Pharoah’s army and they all perished.  (Exodus 3-14 contains the account of the call of Moses, the plagues, and the ultimate victory over Pharoah.)

If God is for us, who can be against us?

The Ark of the Covenant

The Jewish people in the Old Testament had a special piece of furniture called the Ark of the Covenant.  It was a chest that was inlaid with gold all around, it was a holy item that was not to be touched.  If anyone who wasn’t authorized by God to touch it did so, they would die.  It happened.  (Exodus 25:10-22, 2 Samuel 6:7)

Contained inside the Ark of the Covenant were the actual tablets the 10 Commandments were on, a pot of manna, and Aaron’s (Moses’ brother) rod that had budded. (Hebrews 9:3-4) 

The story of Aaron’s rod is, at one time there were people who were opposing Moses and Aaron.  God commanded that they be brought together.  

When they were all gathered, they all laid down their rods, but only Aaron’s rod sprouted buds.  (Numbers 16 & 17)

It was there to remind them of the goodness of God.

There came a day when the Philistines came and captured the Ark of the Covenant.  They took it back with them and put it in one of their heathen temples.  They left it inside and walked away smirking and laughing about “those people and their God.”

The Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant

When they returned to the temple, the statue of their pagan god, Dagon, had toppled over. The Philistines set the statue up again and left the temple. They returned to their temple again and saw more things had been destroyed.  They quickly made the decision to get rid of the Ark of the Covenant. (1 Samuel 4 & 5)

If God is for us, who can be against us?

The Day the Sun Stood Still

There came a point where the Israelites were in a battle.  They feared that darkness would come before they could be victorious.  They prayed and for an entire day and night, God caused the sun to stand still.  (Joshua 10)

Skeptics may say that it’s impossible; that it would throw the universe into chaos, or at least the Earth.  

But the same God who spoke the sun into existence when He said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, the One who said the word and the Earth formed, (Genesis 1:1-25) was the One who caused the sun to stand still.  Any natural consequences that may have arisen from that event were under His control.  He commands it all.

There is an account in the Bible of God causing the dial on a sundial to go 10 degrees backward. (Isaiah 38:8)

God, in the form of Jesus, was able to walk on water.  He even took a frail human being and allowed him to walk on the water with Him. (Matthew 14:22-31, Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21)

If God is for us, who can be against us?

No one can!

None of us can!

Nothing can!

He has the power to take care of us.

God is in Charge no Matter the Circumstances

I don’t know what the future holds, but I hope you will be able to face it with confidence.  In all of the cases I’ve mentioned, their circumstances got better.  

It’s good when God comes and changes the circumstances, but He is able to take you through anything even when the circumstances don’t change.  He can give peace that passes understanding. (Philippians 4:7)

Romans 5;8
Romans 5:8

He can give you the ability to go through a terrible situation and make it through to the other side.  

The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.  

Are You Ready?

Are you ready?

That’s a question that everyone needs to face.

The title of this post is “One of the Most Important Questions Ever.”  The question is If God is for us who can be against us?

The answer is no one can.

Do you know that God is for you?

If He’s for you, then the rhetorical answer to the question is, “Nothing can stand against you.”

But I did say that there are ways He may not be for you.  

Are you ready?
Are you ready?

One way is to refuse to repent of your sins.  If you refuse to acknowledge who Christ is, God will not be for you, If you heard that God gave His only Son for you, and you scoff at that, He will not be for you.  

Have you come to Christ?
Have you repented of your sins?

Have you called upon Him and asked Him to become your Savior?

If you have, and you truly meant that in your heart, then God is for you and nothing can be against you. 

If you would like to know more, click here to be taken to other Faith-Based posts.

I pray God blesses you.

Overcoming Fear

Overcoming Fear

Everyone has fears about some things.  

Sermon video

When I have to get up and use the restroom in the middle of the night, I try not to turn on the light so I don’t wake my wife. One time, though, just a few feet from the bedroom to the bathroom door, I couldn’t figure out where I was.  I knew I was in my house but that was about it.

Well, we have a picture of our four children hanging on a wall in our bedroom, and I almost knocked it down but I finally figured out where I was.

It was a little disconcerting feeling.   

Personal Fears

When our oldest grandson, Avery, was little, Rusty was having a conversation with him.  Avery was going to go from my mom’s house to our house.  There’s a little path through a wooded area and the circle drive. 

Rusty thought this would be a good teaching moment for Avery so he told him that no matter where he was, he didn’t have to be afraid because God is always with him.

They were going to walk through the dark from one house to the other.  They walked across and got there safely.  When they arrived, Avery looked up and asked, “Were you scared Uncle Rusty?”

Everyone has fears about different things. 

Monk

Some of you may have seen the television show “Monk” about a man named Adrian Monk who was a detective.  His wife got killed and he had a real problem dealing with that. He had what is called OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder.  It became magnified after he dealt with the trauma of losing his wife. 

Adrian Monk
Adrian Monk

The program goes like this: He can see things that other people can’t see and he comes up with the answer.  Sometimes he’ll point someone out and say, “He’s the person who committed the crime.” 

They’ll ask, “How do you know?”
Monk responds, “I don’t know, but he’s the one.”

By the time the program ends, it turns out he was right. 

But, he has a lot of fears. Number 6 on his list was death. Number 5 was milk. 

Laugh Lines

Everyone fears something.

Do you know what the fear of giants is called?
Fe, Fi, Phobia…

Did you hear about the rock who faced his fears?  
He did it and became a little…bolder.  

Then there was the man who had a fear of monsters under his bed.  Even though he was an adult and knew it was irrational, the fear still plagued him.  So he went to a psychoanalyst. He spent months, and then years, in therapy. Still, the phobia persisted.  He finally told the therapist that he thought he should take a break from counseling.  The doctor said it would be ok.

A couple of weeks later, the psychoanalyst saw the patient in the grocery store and asked how he was doing.

The man said, “I’m doing great! I’ve slept better than I have in ages.”
The analyst then asked, “How did that happen?  What have you done differently?  To what do you attribute your success?”

The man responded, “After I stopped seeing you, someone suggested I go see a behavioral specialist.  He told me I should do something.  He took care of my problem in one session!”

Amazed, the psychoanalyst asked, “What did he say?  What did he have you do?”
The former patient answered, “He told me to go home and saw the legs off of my bed.”

Proverbs 28:1&13 (MEV)

1 The wicked flee when no man pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.
13 He who covers his sins will not prosper,  but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

The Wicked’s Fears

Today’s scripture says first of all that the wicked flee when no one pursues. 

Sometimes you carry these fears around and might be wondering if you’re being paranoid or if someone is coming after you.  They flee when no one pursues. 

Everyone has something they fear.
Everyone has something they fear.

This time of year, you hear about a big red “elf” that goes around making a list and checking it twice to find out who’s naughty or nice.

There could be a feeling of guilt, knowing that you wouldn’t make the nice list. 

Also, there’s a fear of the unknown; not knowing what’s coming up or what’s happening next. Sometimes the wicked are involved in the fear of the unknown. 

There’s the fear of punishment. They have seen the result of consequences of sin and they know that they’re involved in sin. They know they’re not doing what’s right. 

So they have a fear of those consequences coming to them.  

In verse 13 we read that whoever covers the sins will not prosper. 

The way of the wicked is to go around trying to rationalize sin and trying to blame someone else for their behavior. 

Sometimes they play the victim card, saying it’s not their fault.

Seeking to destroy.
Seeking to destroy.

We know that Satan goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)   He will come into your life and cause terrible circumstances to come.  He will put lies in front of you and you’ll begin to believe the lies after a while. If that happens often enough, it can cause you to want to flee when no one is pursuing.

The verse says the wicked flee when no one pursues.  

If you’re saved, you are in the category of the righteous. Even so, you have to overcome fears that come into your life. 

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal

There’s the example of Elijah in the Old Testament who had a contest that he proposed between himself and the prophets of Baal. They went to the top of Mt. Caramel, built two altars, and laid sacrifices on top of the altars. 

When that was done, Elijah told the prophets of Baal to go first.  They spent hours trying to bring fire to the sacrifices. 

Once they were done, it was Elijah’s turn.  He gave instruction for water to be brought and the sacrifice and the wood were drenched with it.  They poured water all around the bottom of the altar. Then he just prayed a simple prayer asking God to light the sacrifice, and fire came down from Heaven.  

Elijah may have been afraid, but he carried on.
Elijah may have been afraid, but he carried on.

Not long after that, the people saw that God was real and Baal was false.  They actually executed the false prophets. (1 Kings 18:20-40)

Elijah had a great victory.  Then he got word that they were seeking to kill him and his fear overcame him and he ran away.

God asked him why he had run.  He told God, “I’m the only one that’s left.(who hasn’t begun to worship Baal)”  

(Have you ever felt like you’re the only one left?)

God told Elijah that there were 7,000 who hadn’t begun to worship the false god. He just didn’t know about them. (1 Kings 19)

After that, he became a great prophet of God again – he overcame his fears.

The Disciples’ Fears

The 12 disciples had walked and talked with Jesus. They spent a lot of time with Him.  He started trying to tell them that something different, that they hadn’t experienced before, was going to happen. 

Each one of them experienced his own fear.
Each one of them experienced his own fear.

They had been with Him, He had preached, and the crowds had loved the preaching. They had seen people healed. Jesus had even sent them out in groups of two and people had listened to their message. The disciples had seen people delivered from demons. They had seen all those miracles.

But it wasn’t always going to be that way.

The great popularity that Jesus had at the beginning of the week was going to vanish. 

Before the week was over, they came and captured Jesus.  

The disciples were afraid.  

The Bible tells us when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane Peter pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of one of them.  

Jesus reached down and put the man’s ear back on.

Peter didn’t know what to do after that.  He was ready to fight to the death to defend Jesus. 

Jesus told Peter that before the rooster crowed, Peter would deny Him three times. 

They arrived at the place where they were doing all the false accusations and the false trials.  The same crowds that had loved Jesus at the beginning of the week turned on Him and raised the cry, “Crucify Him!”

Jesus on trial.
Jesus on trial.

Jesus was by the fire and Peter was close enough that Jesus could look at him. Just as Jesus had said, Peter denied Him.  The third time, he swore that he did not know the Man. 

After the third denial, Peter looked up, and the eyes of the Savior fell right on him and his heart melted. (Luke 22:31-60)

The Bible says that all of the disciples forsook Him and fled.  (Mark 14:50)

Peter was close enough to the goings-on that Jesus was able to look at him. 

Persecution

In the early days of Christianity, the new converts were arrested and sentenced to be burned at the stake. 

One such man was waiting for execution in his prison cell.  There was a candle burning.  He was talking to God, telling Him how he knew He was real, but he didn’t know how he was going to get through the execution.  Curious he reached out and held his hand above the candle flame. He quickly had to pull away because the pain was too great.

Early Christians faced many fears.
Early Christians faced many fears.

Those were some of the fears that came to the early followers of Christ. 

Verse 3 also says that the righteous are bold as a lion. 

Why is that?

Miracles

It’s because of miracles that we’ve seen.

Some have seen x-rays that have actually shown “something”, only to go back to the doctor and that “something” is gone.

Only two possibilities exist.  Either it was a faulty machine or something miraculous happened.  I believe it was a miracle. 

Seeing miracles increases your confidence, as a Christian, as you go through life.

I mentioned the problem of guilt that caused the wicked to flee when no one pursues, but guilt can plague Christians, too. 

But Believers need to be reminded that verse 13 also says that whoever confesses their sins and forsakes them shall have mercy. 

The guilt is taken care of and it is removed. 

Peace that Passes Understanding

You will probably have one time, or more than one when you can’t understand how you’ll get through something. You think about how terrible it’s going to be.

But when you get dropped into the middle of that problem, you’re all at once at peace. You can’t explain why.  The circumstances aren’t any better. Any normal person would want to flee. Yet you have an unexplainable peace that passes all understanding. 

Philippians 4:7
Philippians 4:7

That increases the boldness of the righteous. 

Then there’s the resurrection.

He’s Alive!

Peter and the disciples saw Jesus crucified.  They were all feeling terrible for how they had forsaken Him. Yet, the women went to the tomb to anoint His body for burial and the tomb was empty and angels were there.

Peter and John ran to the tomb and found it to be empty. John got there first but Peter ran inside. It was empty. (Matthew 27 & 28:1-8, John 20:1-18)

That would be one thing but shortly after that, they were all in a room together (except for Thomas) and Jesus appeared in their midst.

He asked for food and they gave it to Him. He proved to them that he was not an apparition or a ghost.  (John 20:19-20)

Another time, Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time. (1 Corinthians 15:6)  Usually two or three eyewitness accounts are enough in court.  These were hundreds who saw a resurrected Christ!

They knew that there was the power of life after death. 

What do You Fear?

If you’re afraid of death, as bad things come, your fear can increase.

But if you know for sure that you’re going to come through the valley of the shadow of death and come out on the other side, then death doesn’t hold as much fear for you. 

Elijah was afraid but God spoke to him so he returned and was a great prophet again. 

Peter felt so awful for denying Jesus, but when He arose and gave instructions to tell others, He purposely said to make sure Peter knew.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter, who had been so fearful before, was greatly changed and he preached, and thousands of people came to know the Lord. Part of the reason for that was the awareness of the truth of the resurrection. The other reason was the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that came upon their lives in a wonderful way on the day of Pentecost. That power continued to help them day after day,

The power of the Holy Spirit continues to help Believers after all these years. 

All of that can increase your boldness.

Stephen and Saul/Paul

Then there was a man who thought he was doing right and thought he was doing God’s bidding. There was this upstart group that was talking about this Man they claimed was the Messiah.  He believed there was no resurrection, that His followers had just hidden the body.  

Then he was in the presence of Stephen when he was telling the story from the beginning up until the present day. It was even said that they were responsible for killing the King of Glory. 

The stoning of Stephen
The stoning of Stephen

The crowd grew enraged and wanted to stone Stephen.  Saul offered to hold their cloaks while they did so. 

Saul got letters from the religious leaders that allowed him to go into homes and arrest people who were part of this new movement they called “The Way.”

He was completely opposed to it. 

He was on the road to Damascus with the letters with the intent of arresting some people.  Then a bright light shone from Heaven and knocked him off of his horse.  Those around him said they heard thunder.  Saul heard the voice of Jesus.  The others saw the light but couldn’t comprehend what was said. 

It was the living Christ that came to him and it changed his life. After that encounter, he became known as Paul. 

He wrote much of the New Testament. 

The Missionaries

In the last century, there was a tribe in Africa that had a compound in their territory where missionaries lived. The missionaries would go out and preach to the different tribes.  

Some of the tribes were vehemently opposed to what they were doing, so they had plans to go to the compound one night and break in and slaughter the people who were there. 

But nothing happened that night.  The Christians slept peacefully that night.  

One of the tribal chiefs came to the Lord.  He later gave this testimony: “We were going to come and burn the place down.”  

When asked why they didn’t do it, he said, “You had the guards all around.  Some of them were 7 feet tall. I don’t know how they were divided up so well, but they were!”

A host of angels protected the missionaries!
A host of angels protected the missionaries!

Angels protected those missionaries in that compound that night. 

Then you have those who know that this life is not all there is. As we get older, we learn that there are some things that are far worse than death and some things that can cause even more fear.

You Can’t Scare Me With Heaven!

I was talking to a friend once and said, “Well, at least we know where they’re going.”

My friend replied, “Yes, but it’s the getting there that’s rough.”

My mother knew where she was going, and she was so excited and looking forward to it.  But getting there, for about 3 days, was awful hard to watch.

John R. Rice was an evangelist.  One time, while preaching, he started preaching about particular sins. There were some people in the crowd that day who were making money from those sins.  The crime syndicate got hold of him and took him out of town and pulled a gun on him.  He told them, “You can’t scare me with Heaven.”

The gangsters didn’t know what to do with that so they put the gun away and let him go.

A fellow church member and I went to Mexico on a mission trip.  While there, we met a man named Carlos; a pastor.

In the time since we met him, he had different groups that were meeting in the homes in Mexico. In one of those home meetings, one of the ladies had invited another lady to come. Unknown to her, the lady she invited was the wife of a member of the drug cartel.  Her husband wasn’t very happy about her involvement with Carlos’ church. 

Carlos preached Jesus, in spite of the threat.
Carlos preached Jesus, in spite of the threat.

He decided to put a stop to it.  He kept watching, and one day, he and 3-4 other cartel members caught Carlos alone, threw him in a car, and drove him outside of the city.
After they stopped, they got him out of the car and started to harass him and said, “We hear you preach Jesus. Now, preach Jesus”

Carlos looked around, and they raised up their machine guns.  He then began to preach Jesus.

How could he do that?  He knew that this life is not all there is. He knew that there is life after this.

Because Jesus rose, Christians have the assurance that if we were to die that we would be able to live. 

So Carlos preached Jesus.  The cartel members didn’t know what to do with him.  They could have killed him right then, but instead, put him back in the car and took him back into the city. 

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.   

Boldness in the Face of Fear

The man who had put his hand over the candle and couldn’t stand the heat was not the only one who had been sentenced to death.  The next day, the time came for his execution so they tied him to the post and lit the fire, and God protected him.  His body burned up, but he was able to stand it.

Boldness in the face of fear.
Boldness in the face of fear.

There have been testimonies of others who were able to sing while being burned.  Imagine that. 

How to Overcome Fear

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.  

You may not feel very bold but you can be like the rock who became a little bolder. 

You can do that by trusting Jesus.

Trust Jesus and overcome fear.
Trust Jesus and overcome fear.

Why should you trust Jesus?

If you do not know Him, if you have never called on Him, if you don’t have a relationship with the living Christ, then you don’t have a Biblical promise for boldness. 

But if you do know Christ and the Holy Spirit is dwelling within you, then you have that within you that can make you as bold as a lion. 

You might be like the man with his hand over the candle right before it happens, but God watches over and protects His children.

If you trust in Christ and the Word of God, He will make you bold!

The Dash

The Dash

Have you ever been discouraged?  That’s a crazy question, isn’t it?  Everyone has been discouraged at times.  Sometimes you’re only discouraged for a short time, and that’s good, and it’s normal. You go through life and have your ups and downs.  You’ll be discouraged for a while but you’ll have a lot of good times.

Sermon video

Discouragement

But sometimes, the discouragement can go on for a longer period of time.  Sometimes, there can even be a medical diagnosis of depression. If it is a medical diagnosis, you may be given something to help relieve the depression.

Sometimes discouragement comes and it’s not a result of a chemical imbalance or other medical condition.  It may be that Satan wants to come in and oppress and discourage you. In that case, there are spiritual battles going on.

Everyone feels discouraged sometimes.
Everyone feels discouraged sometimes.

Sometimes it’s a mental battle where you need to talk yourself into doing better and give yourself a little pep talk. 

While Rhonda and I were in Japan, I jokingly read out a statement from a book I was reading.  It was a quote from Joel Osteen.  It was something like, “Every day we have opportunities for little things to cause us anxiety and stress.  But when we dwell on these negative emotions, we allow something outside of ourselves to rob us of our joy.  We can choose to not let little things upset us”  (This is a paraphrase of the quote)

I read that for myself but I hope it helped some other family members as well.

Sometimes you can give yourself a pep talk and it will pull you out of your negative emotions and it will help you to be encouraged again. 

There are other times when it seems like it’s just one thing after another and things are just piling up on you.  

You need to think about the fact that God can help you in times of discouragement. 

Psalm 39 (MEV)

1 I said, “I will take heed of my ways so that I do not sin with my tongue; I will keep my mouth muzzled while the wicked are before me.” 2 I was speechless in silence;  I was silent to no avail, but my anguish was stirred up.3 My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned, then I spoke with my tongue: 4 “Lord, make me to know my end,  and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how transient I am. 5 Indeed, You have made my days as a handbreadth, and my age is as nothing before You  indeed every man at his best is as a breath.” Selah 6 Surely every man walks in a mere shadow;  surely he goes as a breath; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them.7 Now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in You. 8 Deliver me from all my transgressions; do not make me the reproach of the foolish.9 II was speechless, I did not open my mouth, because You did it.10 Remove Your blow from me; I am consumed by the hostility of Your hand. 11 When with rebukes You correct a man for iniquity.  You consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely every man is vapor. Selah. 12 Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not be silent at my tears for I am a stranger with You, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.13 Turn Your gaze of displeasure from me, that I may smile, before I go away and am no more.

A Problem, A Time Frame, and An Answer

The above passage has the word “Selah” in there twice.  It means “so be it.”  I’ve also heard that it’s a musical notation and it shouldn’t be read aloud. 

Discouragement can be for a short time or a long time.  Isn’t it so good that when you come out on the other side, life is good and the sun is shining again?  

Today’s post is about a problem, a time frame, and an answer.

A Problem

The problem is that of vanity or hopelessness.  In verse 5, it says that man at his best condition is vanity. There’s a whole book in the Bible, Ecclesiastes, that talks about Solomon and what he discovered in life.

Solomon had asked God for great wisdom and God gave it to him.  But then he started experimenting and trying to figure things out on his own.  He started using some of man’s wisdom and when it came to the end of the book, Solomon said it was all vanity and emptiness.

People try all kinds of things to fill the void within themselves.
People try all kinds of things to fill the void within themselves.

The conclusion of the whole thing was that you are to fear God and keep His commandments.

Solomon learned through wonderful blessings from God, wonderful wisdom from God, and then from experience. 

Some people say that experience is the best teacher.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s the most effective and gets a hold of you the most.  But depending on how you use those experiences, it may not be the best teacher sometimes. 

Man at his best has the problem of vanity or emptiness or hopelessness.  

Verse 6 says that people are restless in vain.  

When I was in high school or college, there was a movie put out by the Billy Graham association called “The Restless Ones.”  It chronicled the idea that young people were restless because their souls were empty.  They were experiencing emptiness and meaninglessness in life. Many of them tried to cope with that by turning to alcohol. 

These days, many people are taking illegal drugs for the same reasons: to remove feelings of hopelessness and restlessness.  

Sometimes people will try to heap up great riches trying to fill the emptiness in their souls.

You Can’t Take it With You

There was a man who made a bargain with God.  He said, “God when I leave this life, I would like to take one suitcase with me.” (Of course, this isn’t how it works, but it’s for illustration purposes.)

God said, “Yes, you may bring the suitcase.”

What would his dash have been?
What would his dash have been?

The time came that the man died, and he stood at the gates of Heaven with his suitcase.  He was told he couldn’t come in with it.

“It’s ok,” the man replied, “I got it approved.”

After checking, it was discovered that God had approved the suitcase and the man was allowed into Heaven with it.

The angel who had let the man in asked, “What is it that is so precious to you, so special, that you had to bring it to Heaven with you?”

The man put his suitcase on the ground and proudly opened it.  When the light hit the contents, piles of gold lit up from inside.  The man had acquired all these earthly riches, and God had allowed him to bring them to Heaven. 

The angel who had let the man in looked at the suitcase, and then all around him and asked, “You brought pavement?”  (Revelation 21:21)

People try to gather material riches to fill the void inside themselves. 

Filling the Void

Everyone has an emptiness inside that they try to fill. Some try to fill it with alcohol, some try to fill it with drugs, and some people try to fill it by pouring themselves into their job. Some people try to fill that void with relationships, good or improper ones. 

Only God can fill that emptiness that is in your soul. 

The Gangster and The Preacher

There was a man named Nicky Cruz who was born in Puerto Rico. His parents worshiped evil beings, so Nicky didn’t know anything about God, or Jesus. 

Nicky Cruz
Nicky Cruz

Nicky was trying to fill the emptiness in his life. He tried filling it through violence and gaining power. It got so bad that his family couldn’t handle him so they sent him to live with relatives in New York. 

Nicky didn’t do much better in New York.  In his quest to fill the void, he got involved with a street gang called the Mau Maus.  Like all street gangs, they were involved in violence.  Sometimes they would have a “rumble” (like a war) with opposing gangs. They would use metal trash can lids as shields and come armed with baseball bats and knives.  There would often be deaths during the rumbles. 

Nicky was seeking power.  Drugs were rampant. 

In 1958, a few states away, in Pennsylvania, was a preacher named David Wilkerson.  One day, he saw a newspaper article talking about 4 young men who had been charged with murder.  At that moment, God spoke to his heart and told David to go speak to those 4 boys. They needed to know about the love of Jesus. 

So, David Wilkerson traveled to New York in an attempt to see the young men.

David Wilkerson
David Wilkerson 1958

When he arrived where they were being held, they would not let him in.  But a reporter saw him and asked his name.  He told them it was David and they asked him to hold up his Bible.  He did, and flashbulbs went off all over. 

He never did get to see those 4 boys, but his picture was in the newspapers in New York. 

While in New York, David Wilkerson heard about the street gangs, and he wanted to see if he could do something with them. 

He heard about the Mau Maus and asked if he could meet their leader. The leader was Nicky Cruz. 

On one occasion, Nicky commented on David’s shoes, saying that they were nice and probably pretty expensive.  David removed them and gave them to Nicky and walked away. 

Another time, David met up with Nicky and the young man pulled out a switchblade knife in an attempt to intimidate and frighten the preacher.  

David said, “Nicky, you can cut me into a thousand pieces, but every piece would cry out, ‘I love you and God loves you.’”

The Cross and The Switchblade
The Cross and The Switchblade

Nicky didn’t know how to handle that, and he put the knife away. But what David had said stayed on his mind. 

David found a local pastor and together, they decided to have a church service and invite many of the local gang members.

They rented a building and rented school busses and the busses went to the different neighborhoods and picked up members of the gangs.

Regular church people were sponsoring the event. They were skeptical if any of the gang members would attend. But to their surprise, the busses began to arrive and members of the different gangs began to get off the busses. Members of the street gangs came in and sat down in the service. 

That was amazing as it was and you may have thought God was really going to do something.  But the scene quickly dissolved into chaos. 

One attendee of the service stood up and lifted his shirt and claimed that a member of a rival gang had stabbed him. The tension began to build.

Then a young lady got up to sing a special. In the movie “The Cross and the Switchblade” (a movie based on the book of the same name by David Wilkerson) a young man stood up on his seat during her song and began to dance.

Then David Wilkerson went to the front.  He didn’t know what to do and didn’t know how to handle the situation. He realized it could be a dangerous situation for the church people in attendance and could lead to an all-out fight. 

He had no words, so he just walked to the pulpit and bowed his head. Amazingly, the room grew silent.

Nicky Cruz was in that service. 

There’s an emptiness, a longing, in your life. 

That’s the problem.

Then there’s the time frame. 

The Time Frame

On your tombstone will be the date of birth, and the date of death. Between those two dates is a little punctuation mark; a dash.

Someone has said that’s what life is like: you’re born and you die and in between is the dash. 

Scripture says that, as well.

When you think about a grain of sand and compare it with all the sand on the beach, one grain of sand is pretty small.  A single grain of sand compared with all the sand in all the oceans is very small.  

Your dash is no more than a grain of sand in the scope of eternity.
Your dash is no more than a grain of sand in the scope of eternity.

People focus so much on their lives here on Earth, but compared to eternity, it’s like a grain of sand or the little dash between the date of your birth and death. 

Some of you have been around for quite a while, but still, compared to eternity, it’s like a grain of sand. 

Verse 4 talks about the “measure of days.”  You can measure your days.

In verse 5 it talked about days being a handbreadth, which is not very wide. (usually 2 ½ – 4 inches)  This is referring to that dash that’s on the tombstone.

In the book of James, it says that life is like a vapor.  It appears for a moment and vanishes away. (James  4:14)

You can look up at the sky and see clouds.  When you get into an airplane and fly toward the clouds but you don’t bump into them, it’s like fog.  You go through it and then it disappears.

You can see steam coming out of a tea kettle when it boils. It’s a vapor that appears for a little while and then it vanishes away. 

That’s what your life is like.

It may seem that I’m adding to the emptiness and discouragement by talking about this, but it’s a reality.

If God is telling you to do something, you need to do it now and don’t put it off.  

That’s one reason why the Bible says today is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

You don’t know what the day may bring forth. 

Three feed away from eternity.
Three feed away from eternity.

I often say we come within 3 feet of death when we go to church because we pass vehicles going in the opposite direction. (When we were in Tokyo, I think it was more like 12 inches!)

Life is short.  If you have any inclination of coming to Christ, you need to do it now. Don’t put it off. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

That’s the time frame. 

But there is an answer!

The Answer

Verse 7 says your hope is in God. 

Verse 8 says you can pray for deliverance. 

Verse 13 says you can ask God to spare us.  

God can fill the emptiness within you and give you purpose in your life.

Nicky and David

I left the story of Nicky Cruz with him being in the service with the other gang members. David had just prayed and it got quiet. 

After the prayer, one more event was scheduled before the preaching was to begin: an offering. 

The local pastor was really counting on that offering because his church had gone into debt preparing for this special service. 

Instead of asking the ushers or members of the churches who were in attendance, the Lord impressed upon David to have some of the gang members take up the offering.  He called on Nicky, among others. 

They agreed and were given buckets (think KFC) to collect the money. The gang members started to take up the offering.

When they got to the people who were obviously regular church-goers, they held out the buckets.  If nothing was put in, the gang members would just stand there holding the bucket.

Other times, the amount put in wasn’t satisfactory to the gang members so they would just shake the bucket.

I guess they got a pretty good offering. 

After they were done collecting, they were to bring it back to Pastor Wilkerson. When they got down to the front, he asked Nicky to bring the offering up on the stage to him. 

Nicky had a choice to make.
Nicky had a choice to make.

The other gang members got excited.  See, there was a set of stairs to the side of the stage, a curtain, and behind the curtain was a door that led outside. Nicky could just walk out that door with all the money. The other gang members were sure that’s what he was going to do.

The thought crossed Nicky’s mind as well.  Then it occurred to him that David Wilkerson trusted him. At that point, Nicky made a decision.

He turned away from the door, walked out from behind the curtain, approached Pastor Wilkerson, and said, “Here’s your money, preacher.”

The service continued.  The quiet continued.  David preached about the unsearchable riches of Christ and about how life can be empty and meaningless.  

Then he preached about how Christ can come into your life and give you meaning and purpose. 

Then the time came for the altar call. After just a few moments of hesitation, two or three of the hardened gang members came to the front to accept Christ.  Nicky Cruz was the first one there!

They realized that without Christ, there’s no hope. He came in and filled the emptiness in their souls. They had a new purpose in their lives. 

About 15 years ago, Nicky Cruz came to Carbondale, Illinois (a college town not far from my home), and a group from the church I was attending went and heard him preach.

Having read the story, it was interesting to hear some of it from his perspective. He talked about how “Wilkerson” came and talked to him. 

David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz in 2011.
David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz in 2011.

Life at its best, YOU, at your best, are vanity. But God loves you. God loves you so much that He gave His only begotten Son to die on the cross to pay your penalty for sin. (John 3:16)  By accepting Jesus as your Savior, He will come into your life and make it new. He can change your life.  He changed Nicky Cruz’s. 

Make the Most of Your Dash

Maybe you haven’t gotten involved in a street gang, and maybe you haven’t lived a life of violence.  But most of the time, when you get in the quiet recesses of your soul, you realize that there is a place there that is just the size of God, and nothing or nobody else can fill it. 

You need to accept Christ. Let Him come into your life and fill your soul. 

If you’ve never come to Christ, I invite you to come to Him today. 

Out of the Darkness

I’m talking today about coming out of the darkness. The passage of scripture I’m using today is talking about one of the six miracles that John use to prove that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

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The man asked to be tied to the helm.

Before I get into the Scripture, I want to tell you about a man who was strapped to the wheel of the ship. The wheel guided the ship and he was at the helm. He was strapped there because a great storm had come up. It had just blown a man overboard.

He asked to be taken to the helm and tied to the wheel, where he hoped he would be able to at least try to keep the ship from capsizing.

As we look at this passage of Scripture together, you will see that this is about a man who was born blind and was healed by Jesus.

I’m talking about coming out of the darkness. All the man in this story had ever known was darkness. So John chapter nine tells the story of this man who was born blind.

I’m going to talk about the doubt. Then the investigation, the fearful confirmation, the troubling testimony, and a great follow-up event to this man being healed.

Today's Scripture
Today’s Scripture

John 9 (MEV)

 As Jesus passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But it happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. I must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When He had said this, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva. He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So he went away and washed, and returned seeing. The neighbors and those who had previously seen that he was blind said, “Is this not he who sat and begged?” Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” But he said, “I am he.” 10 So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “A Man called Jesus made clay, anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went away and washed, and I received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.” 13 They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath day.”Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” So there was division among them. 17 Then they said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?”He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of the one who had received his sight. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son, whom you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered them, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees, we do not know, or who opened his eyes, we do not know. He is of age. Ask him. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this, because they feared the Jews. For the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed that He was the Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age. Ask him.” 24 So again they called the man who was blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this Man is a sinner.” 25 He said, “I do not know if He is a sinner. I know one thing: I was blind, but now I see.” 26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” 28 Then they insulted him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses. As for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” 30 The man answered, “Well, here is an amazing thing! You do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. But if anyone is a worshipper of God and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the world began, it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were completely born in sin. Are you teaching us?” And they threw him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when He found him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is He who speaks with you.” 38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped Him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no sin. But now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

The Event

First of all, let’s look at the event, found in verses 1-12,

There are two things related to the fact of Jesus being the Son of God.

One of the last things He says is “I am the light of the world.” But the other world talks about doing the work to stay. If you have someone that you want to introduce to Jesus Christ, don’t put it off until it’s too late

Jesus spat on the ground and made clay with saliva. He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.”

Jesus healed a man who had spent his life in physical darkness
Jesus healed a man who had spent his life in physical darkness.

Now in earlier miracles, He just spoke the Word and the person was healed. In this case, He made clay with dirt and saliva, put it on the man’s eyes, and told him to go wash in the pool.

Maybe He just wanted to see if the man would be obedient. I really don’t know why He didn’t just speak the word in this case, but He didn’t. He told him to go to the pool.

So the man went and washed and returned.

There was the miracle.

The neighbors and those who had previously seen that he was blind discovered that he could now see. They said, “This is not he who said.” While some others said, “This is he.” and still others said, “He is like him, but it is not him.”

Finally, the man spoke up and said, “I am he.”
They asked, “How were your eyes open?”
He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay, anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went away and washed and I received my sight.”
Then he said to him, “Where is He?”

You’ll see that we’re going to move into an investigation.

The Investigation

Sometimes investigations are for the real purpose of trying to find the truth. Sometimes they’re fishing around to see if something can be found to bring an accusation of wrongdoing. An investigation into the healing of this blind man was about to begin.

In verses 13-18, we see the Pharisees begin to investigate Jesus.

The man who had been healed was taken to the Pharisees.

You see, it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Therefore, the Pharisees also asked how he received his sight.
He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I was blind and now I see.”
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God. because He does not keep the Sabbath day.”

The Pharisees felt compelled to investigate.
The Pharisees felt compelled to investigate.

They didn’t realize that they were talking to the man who created the Sabbath day. Jesus said He created the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)

Jesus gave us some instructions about the Sabbath day. He said you are to do good on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:12) It was good to heal a man who had been blind from birth…it was good to do that.

But the Pharisees came and were being very legalistic about the Sabbath day, They were actually just using that as an excuse to accuse Jesus, so they said this Man was not from God, because He did not keep the Sabbath.

As I said, Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.

Jesus asked them, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” See, they were looking at Jesus as being just a man.

A division arose among them and then they asked the (formerly) blind man again, “What do you say about Him since He opened your eyes?
He said, “He is a prophet.”

Well, the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and received his sight so they needed to confirm that this indeed was a man who was blind from birth and they were going to get the confirmation even though it was a fearful confirmation.

Fearful Confirmation

This part of the event is found in verses 19-23.

The Pharisees spoke with the man’s parents to confirm that it was indeed their son.
They asked them, “Is this your son, whom you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”
The parents answered, ” We know this is our son. But how he now sees, we do not know. Who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age. Ask him. He will speak for himself.”

The man's parents were nervous.
The man’s parents were nervous.

His parents answered this way because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had said that if anyone would say that Jesus was the Christ, that person would be put out of the synagogue.

There was confirmation from the parents, who knew better than anyone else, that this indeed was their son. They also knew that he was blind from birth. They knew that he was not a con man going around begging, but they knew about him being blind. Now he could see.

What a wonderful miracle they had experienced! But because of the Pharisees, they feared that if they said too much about who Jesus was, they would be put out of the synagogue.

We need to be bold in our witness for Jesus and in standing up for Him.

So we’ve had the events, the investigation, the fearful confirmation here.

Troubling Testimony

Now we’ve come to a troubling testimony in verses 24-34.

You saw that his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.”

So they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man Jesus is a sinner.”
He said, “I do not know if he is a sinner. I just know one thing. I was blind, but now I see.”

There can be a lot of things that people can bring up and try to trip you up about your faith in Jesus Christ, but there is one thing you know: Jesus Christ came to you and restored you.

Maybe you were spiritually blind and in darkness, but you came out of your blindness. You came out of your darkness into His marvelous light.

The Pharisees continued to question the man. They asked again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?
He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again?” (I don’t know if he knew that he was playing with them a little bit here but it’s kind of like he was) “Do you also want to become his disciples?”
Well, that infuriated them, so then they turned on him, insulted him, and said, “You are his disciple. We are Moses’s. We know that God has spoken to Moses. As for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.

The Pharisees had some questions for the healed man.
The Pharisees had some questions for the healed man.

Some of them knew that he was from Nazareth. Some of his disciples had said “Can any good thing come from Nazareth?” (John 1:44-46)

The man answered, “Well, here is an amazing thing. You do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners but if anyone is a worshipper of God, and does His will, He hears him.”

This man turned their words back on. He said, “You’re saying that this man is a sinner, but we know that from your teaching that God does not listen to sinners. But He listened to this Man’s prayer because my eyes are now open. He hears Him. Since the world began it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of someone blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

They answered him, “You were completely born in sin. Are you teaching us?” and they threw him out.

That troubling testimony was the man who said “I know one thing I couldn’t see and now I can.”

Salvation and Spiritual Healing

Next, I’ll discuss a true conversion, which is found in verses 35-41

You see, the man received his sight, which is good. That was a glorious day for him – he was no longer in physical darkness. But he needed something else: He needed his sins to be forgiven. He needed to be brought out of that spiritual darkness that we are all in until we receive Jesus.

He needed deliverance from spiritual darkness.
He needed deliverance from spiritual darkness.

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out. When He found him, He asked, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”
He responded, “Who is the Lord that I believe in Him?”
Jesus said, “You have seen Him.” (So it had to be recent because he hadn’t able to see, physically, for very long.) “You have seen Him and it is He who speaks with you.”

You may see a TV documentary about Christianity and some so-called expert religious will make the statement that Jesus never claimed to be God, or that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God, or never claimed to be the Messiah.

You can just bring them right to the ninth chapter of John, and tell them that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Remember, if they don’t know what they’re talking about in that regard, then you don’t need to pay attention to the other stuff they’re saying, like trying to downplay the miracles of Jesus or His divinity.

Jesus made the claim here though, that “I. It is He who speaks with you.”
In other words, He’s saying, “I am the Son of God.”

God or Man?

God or just a man?
God or just a man?

Either He made a false claim or a true claim. If He made a true claim, and it was really true, then that’s fine. But if He made a false claim, there are some problems here with people who want to say, “Well, Jesus was not God, but He was a good teacher or a good moral man.”

Let me tell you some problems with that. If Jesus said, “I am the Son of God.” and it was a false statement, you have two possibilities. Either He knew He was making a false statement, or He didn’t know He was making a false statement.

If he claimed to be God and was not, He didn’t know He was not.

Then there is a problem with saying that He was a great teacher. If He didn’t even know who He is. then He didn’t know that.

The other one is that if He truly thought he was God but He was not, people would say that He was crazy.

If He made a false statement, He would have known that it was false, so He would be a liar. A liar would not be a great teacher or a great example of morality.

You can’t have it both ways, saying that Jesus is a good teacher or a good man, but He was not God.

CS Lewis put forth this argument: He said He was either Lord, liar or lunatic. It had to be one of those since He claimed to be God.

If it was true that He was God, He was the Lord.

If He claimed to be God, and it was false, but He didn’t know it was false, then He was a lunatic.

If He claimed to be God, and He knew that His claim was false, then He was a liar.

He was indeed the Lord God.

Out of Darkness

So the man who had been healed had the opportunity to hear. He had come out of physical darkness into the light, and now he had the opportunity to step out of spiritual darkness and to the light of salvation-the light of Jesus Christ.

The man said, “Lord, I believe.” and worshipped Jesus.

Freedom from spiritual darkness.
Jesus offers freedom from spiritual darkness.

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, that those who do not see may see.”

So those who are walking in spiritual darkness, when they hear the words of God from the Bible, or hear the teachings of Jesus, have the opportunity to see and to have those spiritual highs.

But He also said that those who see may become blind. There are none so blind as those who will not see. The prophet Jeremiah made a statement similar to that. (Jeremiah 5:21) .

But here were the Pharisees. They were choosing to be blind. They were going to become blind because they would not see the truth.

Jesus knew, though, that they were claiming that they could see. He told them that if they were doing this in ignorance, then that would be one thing.

Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words and said, “Are we also blind?” and of course they were, because they were not accepting Jesus.

But He used their words when they claimed that they had great spiritual insight. He said, “If you were blind, you would have no sin.” ( In other words, it would not be a conscious sin. on your part) “But you say you see, therefore, your sin remains.”

So you’ve seen the event, the investigation, the fearful confirmation, the troubling testimony, and the true conversion of the man who was born blind.

Let’s go back to the sailor who was strapped to the wheel that was trying to steer the ship. He was born in the 1700s. Both his mother and father were present in the home, although his father had to be gone quite often because his father was a seafaring man.

Now his mother was a Puritan. She was a Christian. She had songs that were children’s songs. She talked to her son. He was young, and she also had him memorize some Bible verses, but the father had to be gone for a month, two months, and, on one occasion, three years. The young boy did not see his father often but his parents were married, not separated. When the father wasn’t traveling for work, they were both present in the home.

Once, when the father was away during one of his voyages, the boy’s mother got tuberculosis, and the mother who loved this boy so much died.

After that, the boy started getting resentful. Then his father got remarried. So then he has a stepmother. History doesn’t tell us if the stepmother was evil or kind.

She just was not the one that he loved, the one that had raised him.

Then he was sent off to boarding schools, so his resentment continued to grow. He became rebellious and caused problems wherever he was.

By the time he was 11 years old, his father decided to pull him out of boarding school and take him to sea with him.

So this 11-year-old boy started on the sea voyage as well. He spent time around men who were not a good influence and their language was terrible. He picked that up quickly and could cuss with the best of them.

Through all of that, he started drifting away from his mother’s earlier teachings. In addition, he was resentful that his mother had been taken away from him.

Well, this went on for years, until the father retired. THe son had learned the art of sailing, and he was conscripted to be a sailor in the Royal Navy. He didn’t like it. He disliked it so much that he wanted to desert but when he tried, he couldn’t get away with it.

He spent a lot of time at sea.
He spent a lot

Then he got the thought to ask for a transfer to another ship. Now there was a problem with this other ship: It was involved in what we today would call human trafficking. They were going to other countries, buying people, and bringing them back and selling them. We call that slavery. So, he was put on a slave ship.

Well when he got on the slave ship, again, he was rebellious against the captain. He started writing and found that he could write poetry. Well, he wrote derogatory poems about the captain. The problem was that some of the crew picked those up too, and started reciting them.

The captain wasn’t happy with that, so took him and gave him to a slave trader He was put in with the rest of the people that he had trafficked to his country. While he wasn’t a slave himself, he stayed in the situation for two years, until his father heard what was going on and sent a friend to try to rescue him.

I don’t know if the friend was able to negotiate his release, or how he got him released, but he was indeed released.

He then became the captain of a couple of those slave ships but was a crew member at another time. and that’s where we were when I started this post.

He had time to think during the storm
He had time to think during the storm.

He was a crew member, the storm was going the sails had been ripped to shreds, and they were having to manually pump the water out of the ship. They were all exhausted. He saw people swept overboard, and so we asked to be tied to the wheel that would steer the ship.

They complied with his request. The storm went on terribly, and he was there for eleven hours. During that time, he got to contemplate his life. He thought about what his mother had taught him. Some of those scripture verses that he had memorized as a child may have come back to him. Even though he was one of the most profane crew members, in recent weeks, he had read some Christian literature.

He realized that they were not going to survive the storm unless it were for God’s mercy. Somebody cried out for mercy to the Lord. Later on, he pointed to this as his time of conversion.

Some of the cargo in the ship shifted and blocked the hole so the water could not come in with such force, and the pumps began to work better.

Finally, the storm subsided and they were saved.

His spiritual growth was not instantaneous, though. Even though he called upon the Lord, he was still involved in human trafficking.

He was the captain of a couple of more ships that were involved in this, but he became more and more convicted about this not being the proper way to treat other human beings. In fact, even though he was taking people to be delivered, he instructed his crew members to treat them more kindly than he had ever instructed anyone before.

Then he had a stroke and could not return to the sea.

The man’s name was John. John married his childhood sweetheart whose name was Mary, but ent by the nickname Polly.

The two became more and more convinced that the slave trade was wrong. He was no longer captaining those ships, and didn’t know what he could do about it.

He had started studying Latin and Hebrew and Greek. He then felt that maybe he should be a minister, but since he didn’t have a college education, he couldn’t be appointed to one through the official channels.

But remember, his mother was outside of the official channels anyway. She was not part of the Church of England.

John Newton
John Newton

John talked to someone who appointed him to be in charge of a local congregation. In other words, he became a preacher. He met some of the great preachers of that day. John Wesley, George Whitfield, and some of the other great preachers of that day.

Then he met a man who was a high official and the government named William Wilberforce. John Newton told William, “You know, I was not involved in the proper thing. In fact, what I did was terrible. It is legal here in England, but it ought to be outlawed.”

Year after year, Mr. Wilberforce tried to get laws passed that would make slavery illegal. Finally, before John died at 82 years of age, England outlawed slavery.

Let’s back up a little bit though, to 1772. While John Newton was going about this, he met a song leader. He realized that those poems that he could write earlier, he could write for the Lord now, and started writing poems that became songs.

He became friends with a man named William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”) You may know him. He is the one who wrote the song “There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood”

He and Mr. Newton started writing poems that became songs, and they had a songbook compiled that had hundreds of their works in it..

I was blind but now I see.
I was blind but now I see.

In 1772, in preparation for their midweek prayer service, John Newton wrote a poem:
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost,
But now I’m found
Was blind but now I see.”

John Newton had personally come out of that spiritual darkness into the glorious life of Jesus Christ.

If you are walking in darkness and have never come to Jesus, you can escape the darkness today. You just need to call upon Him. The Bible tells us that if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved. (Romans 10:9) The Scriptures further solidify it by saying that if you call upon the name of the Lord, you shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)

I urge you to find a place to get alone with God and call upon the Lord and ask Him to save you and to bring you out of that spiritual darkness and to His glorious light.

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Walking on Water

Walking on Water
Sermon Video

Fishing

Recently, I went fishing with a couple of my friends.  While on the boat, one of my friends said he was thirsty and would go get himself something to drink.  He stepped out of the boat, and, looking very tall, walked to the shore to get his drink. 

Fishing story
Fishing story

The second friend decided he was also thirsty and going to go to shore to get a drink.  He, too, stepped over the edge of the boat and walked to the shore. 

I decided I would step off of the boat too.  I promptly sunk up to the bottom.  The two friends on shore turned to one another and asked, “Do you think we should have told him where the stones were?”

Half Full or Half Empty?

I was thinking about the pessimist and the optimist.  They were both farmers.  One day it was raining.  The optimist said to the pessimist, “Look at the wonderful rain.”  The pessimist replied, “It may be good for now, but I hope it quits before too long, or it will drown my crops.”

A while later, the sun was shining.  The optimist said, “The sunshine is just fantastic!”  The pessimist said, “I hope my crops don’t burn.”

The optimist decided he was going to do something to get the other man to be positive.  

He was always seeing the negative!
He was always seeing the negative!

A few days later, the pair went duck hunting and the optimist saw his opportunity.  He brought along his special dog.  One of the men shot a duck, and the dog took off, just skipping across the top of the water!  He got the duck in his mouth and skipped back to the men across the top of the water back to the shore.  

The optimist thought, “I’ve got him now!” and he turned to the pessimist and asked, “What did you think about that?”

The pessimist answered, “Your dog can’t swim, can he?”

Solid Faith

A missionary was visiting a tribe in Africa.  He told the chief the story of Jesus walking on the water.  The chief told the missionary that it was impossible and he wouldn’t believe until he could find proof, although he didn’t know how he would be able to find proof.  

The missionary called for his assistant to bring a refrigerating device to the village.  They had the chief pour water into a container and they put it into the device and it froze.  The missionary told the chief that was the same water that he had poured into the device.  He took the ice and put it on the ground and stood on it.  The chief then had to admit that man could walk on water.  

A Brief Recap

Today’s scripture is from John 6.  It comes just after Jesus feeding the 5,000.  The Bible tells us that the disciples hadn’t fully comprehended who Jesus was.  It says that their hearts were hardened.  (Mark 6:52)

Could that be like us sometimes?  Could our hearts be hardened?

Jesus discerned that the people were going to try to make Him into the king that they wanted: a king who would deliver them from the tyranny of the Roman government and just take care of things for the moment. (John 6:15)

But when Jesus appeared before Pilate, He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

He had not come to just take care of that one moment in time.  He came as the Messiah, as the Savior of the world.  He came as the Great Miracle Worker and He was indeed God in the flesh.

He performed many miracles including turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, healing the nobleman’s son, healing the man at the Pool of Bethesda, and feeding the 5,000 with two fish and 5 loaves of bread.  

After feeding the 5,000, Jesus perceived that they were going to try to force Him to be an earthly king.  He instructed the disciples to go down to the boat, and He told the gathered crowd that the day was done and it was time for them to go home. 

Once He gave those instructions, He turned and was quickly gone from their sight.  

He went up into the mountain to pray and the disciples went down the mountain and got into the boat.  (Matthew 14:22-23)

The Sea of Galilee

The Bible tells us that some of the disciples were very experienced with boats.  Peter, James, and John had all worked as fishermen. (Matthew 4:18-21)  They had fished the Sea of Galilee and knew what it was like and what storms were like on that sea.

The Sea of Galilee isn't always this calm.
The Sea of Galilee isn’t always this calm.

That day, a storm did come up.  The disciples were in the boat about 3-4 miles out from shore.  Jesus saw them and walked out on the water to them.  Of course, they were startled when they saw Him and thought they were seeing a ghost. Had they not noticed Him, the Bible says He would have passed right by. (Mark 6:47-48)

How awful would it be if He passed us by?

Sinking

When they realized that it was Jesus, Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, bid me come to You on the water.” and Jesus said, “Come.”  and Peter stepped out onto the water. 

Focused on the storm instead of the Savior, Peter began to sink.
Focused on the storm instead of the Savior, Peter began to sink.

Peter walked on the water, for a little bit.  Then he saw that the storm was raging and got his eyes on the waves and he began to sink.  He cried out to the Lord and the Lord reached down and saved him.  (Matthew 14:28-31)

Now, I don’t know if they both walked back to the boat, if Jesus carried him to the boat, or if He dragged Peter through the water, but they both got back to the boat, and immediately they went to the other side of the sea.

John 6:16-21

16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea. 17 They got into a boat and went across the sea toward Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not come to them. 18 The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat. And they were afraid. 20 But He said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” 21 Then they gladly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going

The Lord performed a miracle.  He can do that if He wants to.  `

Face Life

Jesus had fed the 5,000.  They enjoyed that and were astounded.  Then Jesus sent them down to the boat and went off by Himself.  He was not physically in their presence.  They had to go to the boat and get out on the sea.  They had to face life.  They had to face it without the physical presence of Jesus.

We have to face life without the physical presence of Jesus near us.  His spiritual presence is always with us.  

Remember what He said to Thomas?  “Because you have seen Me you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believed.”  (John 20:29)

That includes you and me.  

We have to go through life without having Jesus’ bodily presence with us like He was in that time; Just like he wasn’t physically present when the disciples were out on the Sea of Galilee.  

We have to face life.  We have to be aware of His spiritual presence and by faith realize that He is with us.  

Sometimes it seems like He’s not around, and we wonder what’s going on.  

The Bible tells us that we are to occupy until Jesus comes. (Luke 19:11-27)  We need to be about life and face it as it comes.

Call on The Lord in the Storm

Storms of life come.  It’s not always sweetness and light.  Sometimes there are difficulties.  

The prophet Jeremiah was thrown into a well by evil men who wished him dead.  There was mud and silt at the bottom and he sank down.  

Another man heard about his situation and asked the king to free Jeremiah.  The king agreed and the man took some of his staff and lifted Jeremiah out of the mud and saved him.

Call on the Lord in your storm.
Call on the Lord in your storm.

During the dark times of life, you can call upon the Lord.  

The disciples called on Him when they were in the midst of that great storm on the Sea of Galilee.  

Call on The Lord When You Are Sinking

Peter’s lack of faith caused him to sink just after he witnessed a spectacular display of God’s power.  

Depression can often come just after a great victory.

When Peter began to sink, he knew to call out to the Lord.

Elijah the prophet had a great victory over the prophets of Baal.  Fire came and consumed the altar that had been soaked with water. (1 Kings 16:18-40)  Many of the false prophets were eliminated.  But after that, Elijah was concerned and the depression set in.  (1 Kings 19:4-8)

Peter was on top of the water but began to sink.

You’ve probably had ups and downs in your life.  Perhaps in some of the low points, you’ve begun to sink a little bit.  

I’ve got good news for you. God still loves you!  You can still call upon Him and He will reach down and pull you up.

Call out to God when you are sinking.
Call out to God when you are sinking.

God is powerful, and He cares about everyone. We do need to face life as it comes and do the best we can.  

But when the storms of life come, call on Him.  If you have begun to sink in your spiritual life, call on Him.  

Trust God and His Timing

God's timing is always perfect.
God’s timing is always perfect.

When Jesus and Peter got back in the boat, Jesus decided that it was immediately time for them to get to the other side, so they arrived there immediately.  

Sometimes, God will make the change just that quickly.  Not always.  Sometimes we have to go on through the storm.  

Trust God and His timing.  Sometimes he does things quickly and immediately.  

We know this: we struggle in this body of sin and death, but one day we will pass from this life and when we do, we will be changed immediately, in the twinkling of an eye!  Mortal will put on immortality and death will be swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)

Face life.
Call on God in the storms of life.
Call on God when you’re beginning to sink.
Trust His timing.

What To Do When You Are All Alone

What to Do When You Are All Alone

A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on the wedding at Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine. 
Then I wrote about Jesus healing the nobleman’s son and how you can be a noble person.

This week I’m covering another miracle of Jesus, and what to do when you feel all alone. It’s found in John 5.

Sermon video

John 5:1-18

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, which in Hebrew is called Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great crowd of invalids, blind, lame, and paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water. After the stirring of the water, whoever stepped in first was healed of whatever disease he had. 5 A certain man was there who had an illness for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been in that condition now a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred. But while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 Immediately the man was healed, took up his bed, and walked. That day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath day. It is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”  11 He answered them, “He who healed me said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” 12 So they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in that place.  14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have become whole. Sin no more lest something worse happens to you.” 15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 So the Jews persecuted Jesus and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day. 17 Jesus answered them, “My Father is working still, and I am working.” 18 So the Jews sought even more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

The Sick Man Healed…and Scolded!

The sick would wait for the waters to stir to get a chance to be healed
The sick would wait for the waters to stir to get a chance to be healed

Verse 2 talks about a pool of water.  Invalids would gather around it waiting for an angel to stir the water.  Some people think the water had medicinal properties, but I don’t think it did.  If that was the case, it would have had healing properties no matter what.   

The man mentioned here had been laying by the water for years. He watched closely and when he saw the waters stir, he tried to get there first. But because he had no one to help him get to the water, someone always beat him to it. 

Then Jesus came and asked if he wanted to be healed.  The man didn’tr realize who Jesus was and explained his situration.  He was still looking at what earthly people were able to do.  

Jesus told him to get up, pick up his bed, and walk.  The man may have doubted.  But he did as Jesus saidf and he had been healed!

This healing took place on the Sabbath.  When the Jewish leaders saw the man carrying his bed and told him it was unlawful for him to carry his bed on that day.  He told them about the man who had told him to do it.  The man had broken the Sabbath.  

Jesus had already moved on, so the leaders spoke to the man.  There he was, all excited about being healed, and he was scolded.

But Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.  He said we are to do good.  What’s better?  Keeping some rules or following Jesus’ lead.

Of course it’s important to set aside a day for rest and worship.  It’s good for your physical, mental, and spiritual health.  In Luke 14:5, Jesus said, “Which of you having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”

After the man was scolded by the Jewish leaders, Jesus found him again. He told the man to go on his way and “sin no more.” 

The Jewish leaders were angry at what Jesus had done.
The Jewish leaders were angry at what Jesus had done.

So the man left and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. This angered them even more because He had healed (done work) on the Sabbath. Not only that, He had also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.  They wanted Him dead. 

Jesus IS the Messiah

As I’ve said before, John 20:31 says, “But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  

Then in 1 John 5:13 he writes, “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

So the Gospel of John shows us who Jesus is.

We’ve seen some near disasters in the story so far, then the resolutions, and then persecutions coming again. 

I think there are four applications we can make in our lives from this.  

When You’re All Alone, Look to Jesus for Help

Think about the three Hebrew children (Daniel 3).  They were ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar to bow down and worship a false god,  which would break the second commandment; no idols. The three,  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused. 

The whole nation complied, with the exception of these three.  The king had ordered that anyone who disobeyed his decree would be thrown into the firey furnace. 

Three went in, but the king saw four.
Three went in, but the king saw four.

After they had been thrown in, the king went and looked inside.  Instead of three inside, there were four. 

The Bible says the fourth was “like the Son of God.” (Daniel 3:25) I believe it was the Son of God. 

When the time came to open the door of the furnace, they came out, their clothes weren’t burned, their eyebrows weren’t singed, and they didn’t even smell like smoke. 

They came out unscathed, and God took care of them.

Then there’s Daniel.

The order was given that no one was allowed to pray. Daniel made the decision that he was going to continue to pray just like he always had. Three times a day, he went into an upper room, left the doors and windows open, and talked to God.

Daniel was thrown into the lion's den alone.
Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den alone.

The punishment for Daniel’s defiance was to spend the night in the lions’ den.

He was thrown in with no man to help him.

The next day, the king called down to Daniel and asked if his God had been able to save him. Daniel looked up and said, “O king, God sent His angel to shut the lions’ mouths so they have not hurt me.” (Daniel 6)

God took care of him.

We have the story of Jonah.

He was swallowed by a great fish or whale. The animal had been prepared to do something unusual.

Jonah was in the belly of that fish alone for three days. There was no man to help him.
But while in there, Jonah prayed. After three days, the fish “spit him out” on dry ground.

Jonah spent 3 days alone in the belly of a big fish.
Jonah spent 3 days alone in the belly of a big fish.


Jonah went on to Nineveh, preached, and there was a great revival.

God took care of him.

When you feel like you’re all alone, look to Jesus for your help.

People have had loved ones pass away for one reason or another. Maybe a father dies while serving his country, leaving behind a wife and kids. Maybe a mother suffers from a terminal illness, and she leaves behind a husband and children. Single parents. It’s difficult to raise children all alone.

But the Bible tells us that God will be a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widows. (Psalm 68:5-6) and God is our comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3)

All over the world, persecuted Christians are facing death seemingly alone. But they aren’t alone. God is with them.

When You Sense God is Prompting You to Do Something Unusual, Act on It

My son and daughter-in-law (Rusty and Brenda) are missionaries in Japan. Something that all missionaries have in common is that it takes money for them to get where they need to go. It takes money for them to be able to survive.

My son and his family are missionaries in Japan.
My son and his family are missionaries in Japan.

Most countries that missionaries go to will not allow them to take other jobs in their country because it will take jobs away from their citizens. They go to the country under a missionary visa and they have to have that support that comes to them.

Rusty was raised in southern Illinois and Brenda was raised in Oklahoma. Neither were familiar with big cities. God spoke to each of them independently about becoming missionaries. After discussing it together, they understood that He wanted them to go to Japan.


So Rusty, from tiny little Thompsonville, Illinois, and his wife, were told that they needed to secure $108,000 a year.

Many people thought that was an excessive amount and it would make Rusty and Brenda rich.

However, Rhonda and I went to visit them in Japan. While there, we went to the grocery store and decided to buy them a watermelon. When you translated the Japanese amount into American dollars, that watermelon was $40!

So, $108,000 a year was not an excessive amount for them to live on in Japan.

Before leaving, they had to go out to various churches and raise money and get sponsors. They’d go out, and when they came home I would ask how it went. They would say it went great, someone had given them $30. Next time it was $50, then $400. But, those were all one-time offerings.

They just kept going, though.

They started coming back with the news that a couple people had committed to giving them $25 a month, then some people committed a little more.

After about 10 months, they had gotten so much support that they were up to 80% of what they needed. That was a miracle to me!

They made the plans and were able to go.
When God calls you to do something that seems hard or even impossible, do it!

He will bless you for it.

Get to Know Jesus

When the Jewish leaders asked the man who had healed him, he didn’t know. Then Jesus found him. (Aren’t you glad that Jesus comes to us?)

It only takes one offer of salvation for us to turn down, and then it’s on us. I believe that every person, at some point in their life, will have some type of encounter with Jesus.

What about those who have never heard?

Study the Bible to get to know Jesus better.
Study the Bible to get to know Jesus better.

Here’s what we know:
If they look up at the stars and realize that there’s a creator, God is going to send them some way to have more light.

What about those that live in countries where they could be killed for converting to Christianity? People have had dreams. In those dreams, Jesus came to them. You may think that it was just a dream, but it was the real Jesus and they accepted Him!

How do I know it was real? Because after they woke up, they tell people that they met Jesus in a dream. They face the loss of their own lives. That’s how I know it’s real. They met Jesus.

I believe that in every person’s life, Jesus, the Savior of the world, will come to them with an offer of salvation. It’s what you choose to do with Jesus that will count when you come to the end of this life.


But it goes beyond that single act of salvation. Get to know God. The man who was healed didn’t know who Jesus was. Jesus came to him, and he got to know Jesus.


How do we get to know Jesus?

One of the ways is through studying the Word of God. You may not have read a book since high school. Reading may be difficult for you.


When we lived in Georgia, we interviewed some parents who wanted to enroll their child in the Christian school we had. Sometime after evening, the pastor asked the father about his salvation experience. The father confessed that he had been intoxicated the night we had visited. But the pastor had shown the man the scriptures and told him how Jesus wanted to save him. That night, he believed.

After that, he became a Bible scholar. He would read a passage of scripture, and see the number at the bottom of the page that represented a corresponding or related verse, so he’d go read that. He told me once that he’d done it for three hours the night before. If he had trouble understanding some words, he would get a dictionary and look them up.


The Word of God is different than any other book. It is a living Word. I believe that if you take it and read just a little bit, search and meditate on it, the Bible says you will have good success.


That’s one of the ways to get to know God.


Another way is to talk to God. You don’t have to use flowery King James language.

Talk to God.
Talk to God.


Richard Wurmbrand was a Romanian Lutheran priest. He lived in a Communist country and was imprisoned because of his faith. He founded the organization called “The Voice of the Martyrs.”


He sat in a prison cell after having undergone an extensive time of torture. The physical suffering had devastated his mind. 
He started trying to pray.

 
“Our Father, Which art in Heaven. Hallowed be Thy ….” Then he could not remember anymore. 

Richard Wurmbrand
Richard Wurmbrand


I thought how disheartened I would have been if that had happened to me. 
But, then he said, “Suddenly it came to me that it was what we call ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ I was so happy I could remember what prayer it was. It was like the glory of the Lord came down and filled the prison. 

A young boy found a young girl’s name on a messaging site. After looking over her profile, the boy thought she sounded interesting and began to send her messages.

She replied and they chatted back and forth for some time. The more they talked, the more they wanted to know about one another. Finally, the boy asked if he could just call her.

They wanted to know each other better.

Tell Others About Him


An old friend, who has since passed away, often told me that in the past, he didn’t give God credit. Then he got saved and got to know God in such a way that he wasn’t ashamed and didn’t’ care what others thought.

Tell others about Jesus and what He's done for you.
Tell others about Jesus and what He’s done for you.


That’s what we all need to do. We need to tell others about Jesus.


There was a football player who would kneel down and pray after getting a touchdown.

Controversies aside, here’s the point. If you know God, if you know Jesus, and you know you’re saved and that your life has been changed, and there’s someone who needs help, they may just need you to tell them where that help is.

They can turn to Jesus.

If you’ve never called upon the Lord, I would say that you need to do that today!

Call upon Him.

Do you feel like you’re all alone? You’re not. Jesus is present. Call upon Him. He can help you in your time of need.