The First Miracle

The First Miracle

John 2:1-12

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there. 2 Both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Six water pots made of stone were sitting there, used for ceremonial cleansing by the Jews, containing twenty to thirty gallons[a] each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 Then He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water that had been turned into wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who drew the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 and he said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and after men have drunk freely, then the poor wine is served. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of His signs, Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and He revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. 12 After this He, and His mother, and His brothers, and His disciples went down to Capernaum. They remained there a few days.

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The Great I AM

This passage in the Gospel of John is the first of seven miracles that Jesus performed that help us know that we have eternal life.  

It’s also organized around 7 statements, called the “I AM” statements.  When God told Moses to go get the children of Israel from Egypt, Moses asked God, “Who should I say sent me?”  God responded, “Tell them ‘I AM’ has sent you.”  So we know God as being the Great “I AM.”

God told Moses He was "I AM"
God told Moses He was “I AM”

In the Gospel of John, there are seven times when Jesus says, “I am…” and concludes with seven different things. This is the first of the seven miracles that are mentioned there.  

The Event

It was a wedding.  Weddings then weren’t like weddings today.  They were very long, drawn-out events. It all started with a betrothal.  That lasted for a year. During that time, the groom went and prepared the home for his new wife. 

Weddings in Jesus' time were much different than they are today.
Weddings in Jesus’ time were much different than they are today.

Then on the day of the wedding, he would go get the bride.  A group went with him.  There was a procession as the bride was brought to the wedding.

Then there was a feast.  If the family could afford it, they would have a master of the feast.  

I know this one was a big wedding based on the number of water jugs that Jesus had the servants fill.  It was between 120-180 gallons.  

So, the bride and groom had a problem. They were out of wine.  Mary said, “If you have a problem, go to Jesus.”  Good advice.

At the time of this miracle, Jesus’ ministry had not yet come to its fullness.  At first, only the servants knew about the miracle.  The celebration continued and none of these events took away from the couple’s time together. 

Of course, the servants didn’t keep it quiet for long.  Maybe some of the disciples were watching, or maybe Mary was.  I don’t know who was looking on, but many people knew that this miracle had taken place, and word got out.

So as Jesus got ready to come into His ministry, there was already a foreshadowing of the miracles to come.  

The Substance

There has been much debate over the “wine” mentioned here.  Even the Old Testament sometimes mentions wine as an intoxicating beverage. Noah drank some and became drunk. (Genesis 9:21)

But I want to make clear that the wine here is not like we think of wine today. The word wine in the Bible is the word “winos” which means fruit of the vine.  Modern-day wine comes from distilleries. Those did not even exist at the time this wedding took place.  When they distill the wine, it becomes more concentrated and the alcohol content is much higher.  The wine at this event was not like that. 

Fruit of the vine did mean the “wine” they had then, but it can also be grape juice.  Many churches, including mine, use grape juice for the Lord’s Supper.  

It wasn't wine like we think of it today.
It wasn’t wine like we think of it today.

Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach. (1 Timothy 5:23)  This was not so he would become intoxicated, but for medicinal reasons.  A little wine for health reasons is OK.  I know of a lady who was a strong Christian.  Her doctor advised her to drink a small amount of wine daily to help with her blood pressure.  She did do that.  Again, that was fine.

Some churches I’ve attended have their covenant hanging on the wall.  These covenants often include a phrase like, “refrain from the sale and use of alcohol as a beverage.” That’s probably the position of many churches, whether they have that hanging on the wall or not.  

We’re told to be filled with the Spirit and not drunk with wine.  (Ephesians 5:18)  Those who are drunk with wine act differently than they would otherwise.  When we are filled with the Spirit we act differently than we would otherwise.  We ought to be bolder. 

It’s possible that in Biblical days, they had issues with the purity of the water.  Mexico is a good modern-day example.  When you visit there, you’re told not to even brush your teeth with the tap water, but to use bottled water instead.  Many countries have this problem.

In Biblical times, they had a process where they would take an amount of wine, and 5 equal amounts of water and mix it with the wine.  You can see how that would help avoid drunkenness by diluting the wine and the alcohol content. 

It’s possible that any of these drinks were what they had at the wedding.  I just want to be sure you understand that the word “wine” has a much broader meaning than what we think.

Whatever it was, they had wine and then ran out.  Then they filled the water jugs to the brim and Jesus caused it to become the wine, and it was the best.  The master of the feast said it was the best.

The Reason

Why did this miracle take place?  The New Testament is not the only place where miracles appear in the Bible.  

Mary knew who Jesus was.  She knew that he was the Son of God.  She knew that He could take care of this problem.  

There are seven miracles recorded in the Gospel of John.

Why?

To show that Jesus was more than just a man who was considered to be a great teacher.  He was a man who went about doing good.  But He was more than that.

He was the Divine Son of God.  The Bible says that He was God in the flesh.  He was God and He was with God.  That’s beyond our human comprehension, but I believe it as fact. 

Jesus was fully God but also fully human.  He got tired.  He had flesh.  When he was whipped by the Romans, His flesh was torn from His body so that He barely looked human.  He experienced physical suffering. He even knew what it was like to die.  He also rose from the grave.  

Many miracles are recorded in the Bible.
Many miracles are recorded in the Bible.

These miracles show who He was.  

After Jesus ascended into Heaven, there were more miracles.  Peter, John, and Paul all witnessed miracles.

Why were they so prevalent then?  First, it was to show that Jesus was truly God.  Second, it was to show that the disciples, who would write down the words that became the New Testament, were genuine Gospel writers, and that the writing was coming from God.   Once God decided everything He wanted to be recorded was written down, there was no need for the abundance of miracles.

That doesn’t mean that there are no miracles anymore.  The miracles in the Bible are there to show us that He’s a miracle-working God.  

We aren’t Gospel writers and we aren’t God in the flesh, but we are people who can pray. We can pray and God will come and answer prayers.  

At the end of His earthly life, He was put in the grave, but the grave could not hold Him.  That gives us hope. Some of us have faced death.  We’ve been in car wrecks and survived, or had a serious illness.  But there was a peace from God that passes all understanding.  For those of us who are Christians, that’s so encouraging.  If you’re a child of God, Heaven is what awaits you.

There is a story about an old evangelist named John Rice. A man pulled out a pistol, pointed it at the preacher, and said, “I’m going to blow your brains out.”  His reply was, “Son, you can’t scare me with Heaven,” 

Heaven is for real!
Heaven is for real!

Some people say that we talk about Heaven so much that we’re no earthly good.  I say that we talk about Heaven so much that we ARE earthly good.  We talk about Heaven so much that we know we have a miracle-working God, we can pray and sometimes see unusual miracles take place. We know that the grace of God is sufficient for us and that even if we don’t get the answer we want when we want it, Heaven is for real.  We know that when this life is over, we’ll go into eternity and this will just be like a drop in the bucket.  

If you don’t know Jesus, you ought to.  You can call upon Him today.  I can help you find the way.  Contact me here and I’ll be happy to talk to you about your relationship with Christ.

Serving God Under Difficult Leaders

Serving God in DIfficult Times

Have you ever wondered how to serve the Lord when you have someone over you who’s not a committed Christian?

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Maybe it’s a college professor trying to challenge your faith.
It could be in grade school or high school with difficult teachers.
Perhaps you have a difficult boss at your job.
Maybe your company is going to be taken over by another company, and it has a bad reputation.  You may worry about restructuring and new management.  

We don’t know how all these events will turn out.  What we do know is that no matter where we are or what circumstances we find ourselves in, we are to serve God to the best of our ability. 

In Jeremiah chapter 27, Jeremiah had the difficult task of telling the kings that they were going to come under the rule of another nation.  

Jeremiah 27 (MEV)

 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, 3 and send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyre, and to the king of Sidon, by the hand of the messengers who come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. 4 And command them to go to their masters, saying: Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: Thus you shall say to your masters: 5 I have made the earth, the men, and the beasts which are on the ground by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed good to Me. 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. 7 All nations shall serve him and his son and his son’s son until the time of his own land comes; and then many nations and great kings will make him their servant. 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. 9 Therefore do not listen to your prophets, or to your diviners, or to your dreamers, or to your enchanters, or to your sorcerers who speak to you, saying, “You shall not serve the king of Babylon.” 10 For they prophesy a lie to you in order to remove you far from your land. And I will drive you out, and you shall perish. 11 But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those I will let remain still in their own land, says the Lord, and they shall till it and dwell in it. 12 I spoke also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying: Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him and his people, and live. 13 Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the Lord has spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? 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. 15 For I have not sent them, says the Lord, yet they prophesy a lie in My name, so that I might drive you out and that you might perish, you and the prophets that prophesy to you. 16 I also spoke to the priests and to all this people: Thus says the Lord: Do not listen to the words of your prophets that prophesy to you, saying, “The vessels of the house of the Lord will now soon be brought again from Babylon.” For they prophesy a lie to you. 17 Do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon, and live. Why should this city be laid waste? 18 But if they are prophets, and if the word of the Lord is with them, let them now make intercession to the Lord of Hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the Lord and in the house of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem not go to Babylon. 19 For thus says the Lord of Hosts concerning the pillars, and concerning the sea, and concerning the bases, and concerning the rest of the vessels that remain in this city, 20 which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did not take when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem. 21 Indeed, thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that remain in the house of the Lord and in the house of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem: 22 They will be carried to Babylon and they will be there until the day that I visit them, says the Lord. Then I will bring them up and restore them to this place.

Jeremiah was a prophet in the Old Testament.
Jeremiah was a prophet in the Old Testament.

The Prophesy

Jeremiah prophesied judgment on God’s people who had been disobedient.  It had already happened to the northern kingdom.  

He told the kings that the world was going to come under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  He advised them to cooperate and live.  He told them not to listen to the lying prophets, and that even the vessels of the temple that hadn’t been carried away before would be taken away.  They were going to stay until the Lord delivered them.  It turned out to be a period of 70 years, so there were going to be 2 generations who lived most of their lives under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar.  

Timing is Important

Now, before I get into the “meat” of this, let me say that there are times to fight and times to stand.  Not always do you acquiesce to those that are coming against you. You need to know when God is telling you to act.  Fight when it’s time to fight and resist when it’s time to resist.

When the Roman soldiers captured Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, He allowed it to happen.  But another time they came for Him, He walked into the crowd and just disappeared. (Luke 4:30)  All of the apostles were imprisoned for taking a stand for their faith, but there were times when they didn’t allow themselves to be captured.  Acts 9 tells of Paul being lowered over the city gates in a basket to escape capture.  

I’m talking here about when God tells you to give in.

As we look at Jeremiah’s message to the kings, let’s think about three considerations that may be applied to us today.

God’s Judgment

Time and time again, God’s people had been warned that they needed to repent,   They had been turning from the Living God to idols.  They were disobeying God.

Life is sacred.
Life is sacred.

The United States has been warned time and time again.  The U.S. has turned away from God many times.  For example, over 63 million innocent lives have been lost to abortion since 1973.  There are consequences for sin. 

I believe that we are under judgment already.  Empty store shelves are similar to a famine.  The recent outbreaks of disease can be compared to pestilence. There are consequences for sin. Just because we are in the United States of America, it doesn’t mean we’re immune from those things. 

But we also need to realize that the bondage is not always of our own making.  There were people who were faithful to God in Jeremiah’s time; not everybody had turned away from the Lord. There were those who wanted to serve Him.  However, they were still going to be facing the same consequences as everyone else. Not all bondage is of your personal doing, but we all have to suffer the consequences of national sin.  

In years past, we had the national sin of slavery and racism, and we’re still making up for it. 

In Jeremiah’s day, there was no United States.  There was no nation that had the type of freedom that we have.  The nation of Israel wanted a king.  God gave them what they wanted, but had a warning.  He told them that the kings would take their livestock, much of their goods, and a lot of their riches.  Sometimes they had a good king, but sometimes the king was wicked.  

My point is life under Nebuchadnezzar may not have been any worse than under a local rule that was wicked.

They were there because of the judgment for their past sins.  Now God was telling them He was going to add to that.  

Serving God in Difficult Times

You can serve God in captivity.  You can serve God when you’re under foreign rule. 

There’s an example of that in the Bible. Joseph, in the Old Testament, was very loved by his father.(Genesis 37-50)  His father gave him a special coat of many colors.  That caused jealousy among his brothers.  One time when they were out tending the flocks, the brothers conspired to capture Joseph.  They took him and put him in a pit. Then they took his coat, tore it, and put animal blood on it,  They took the coat to their father and made it appear that Joseph was dead.  

When the brothers returned to the pit, rather than kill him, they decided to sell him to a group of Midianites that was passing by.  They then sold Joseph to a high-ranking official in Egypt named Potiphar.

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers.
Joseph was betrayed by his brothers.

Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers, taken from his homeland, and sold into slavery.  He did the best he could in those circumstances.  Over time, he was given positions of responsibility.  The slave became like a chief administrator over Potiphar’s house.  

Then, Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph.  When he refused her advances, she became angry and falsely accused him of assault.  

Faithful Through the Trials

The roller coaster of Joseph’s life continued.  After the accusation, he was thrown into prison.  But he was a cooperative prisoner and became a trustee of sorts.  He organized the other prisoners and together they cleaned up the prison.  

Before long, Joseph became high in authority in the prison.  

Then, a couple of Pharoah’s officials were put into prison.  While there, they had some dreams and Joseph told them what the dreams meant. He said one would be released and the other executed.  It happened just the way Joseph said it would.

The one who had been released forgot all about Joseph…until the Pharaoh had a dream that nobody could explain.  When he heard about the dream, he remembered Joseph and said he was in touch with God and could interpret dreams.  

Pharaoh sent for Joseph and God revealed to him what the dream was and its meaning.  Joseph told the king that famine was coming and that he should build storehouses during the plentiful years so there would be food when the famine came.

The king was so impressed that he put Joseph in charge of storing up the grain for the coming famine.  The man who was once a prisoner was now in a place of high authority in Egypt. 

Even in captivity, you can serve the Lord.  

Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego

Think of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Daniel 3:16-28)  The king had erected a statue of a false god and ordered everyone to bow whenever they heard the music.  The king commanded that anyone who would not worship be thrown into the fiery furnace.  

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not do it.  Their refusal was reported to the king.  The king had a dilemma because during their captivity, the three had found favor with him.  He didn’t want to execute them.  

The king confronted them and asked again if they would bow.  They all said no.  The king asked if their God was able to deliver them.  They said they knew He was able, but even if He chose not to, they still wouldn’t worship the false god.  

So, the three were thrown into the furnace.  When someone looked inside, they did not see three people…but four!  The Son of God was in that furnace with them.  They were delivered.  

Even when faced with execution, they were faithful to God.
Even when faced with execution, they were faithful to God.

During Daniel’s captivity, the king decreed that no one was allowed to pray for a period of time.  Daniel defied the order and prayed three times a day, as he always had.  He was thrown into a den of hungry lions.  The lions’ mouths were shut and Daniel was delivered.  (Daniel 6)

Naaman

In 2 Kings 5, we find the story of Naaman. He was a great warrior, but he had leprosy.  A slave girl who was serving his wife talked about the prophet Elisha in her homeland.  Naaman trekked to Jerusalem for healing.  Elisha didn’t even come out to greet him.  He sent word that Naaman should go wash in the Jordan River 7 times.  He was healed.

You can serve the Lord in captivity.  You can serve the Lord when things aren’t going well. You can serve the Lord if your government becomes corrupt.  

We still have a responsibility to serve God to the best of our ability.  We still have a responsibility to do that which is right and to be honest.  

Our treasures are not on earth.
Our treasures are not on earth.

Do things for God, and your treasures will be laid up in heaven.  We need to make sure that our friends and family have the promise of heaven, regardless of what the future holds.  Remember, we’re just passing through.

What to Do When Life Gets Hard

What To Do When Life Gets Hard

The year was 1635.  John Elliott had just finished a long day riding his horse in the rain.  Just as he had the past few days, he removed his boots and socks. He wrung the water out of his socks only to put them back on again.  He was concerned about his health after the trip. But he had a mission.

John Elliott
John Elliott

John Elliott was born in England in 1604. Like many others, he had attended Cambridge University.  

He came to America and after a couple of years, was sent to Boston, Massachusetts, which, at the time, was a rural and wooded town.  He became the pastor of Roxbury Church. 

Why America?

Why did people come to America?  It certainly wasn’t for an easy life.  Many had to learn how to farm, something they had never done before. Indians taught them how to farm.  

Some new settlers came seeking gold.  We’re told that’s why the Spaniards came. But the ones that came from England were escaping religious persecution.  They wanted to worship God in the way they felt they should according to their hearts.

Many that came over were already pastors.  John Elliott was one of them. 

A New Mission Field

He had a heart for the Native Americans.  He wanted to share the Gospel with them.  There was a problem, though: they didn’t speak the same language.  So John decided to learn their language.  He discovered what a difficult task it was going to be when he learned that a two-syllable phrase in English translated to a 12-syllable phrase in the Wampanoag (the local Indian’s) language.  He began learning the language, but also had an interpreter who knew enough English so they could converse back and forth.  

The apostle to the Native Americans
The apostle to the Native Americans

There were a few stumbling blocks in the process of sharing the Gospel because the two had to sometimes clarify what the other was trying to say.  But they eventually got the message out.  

They began telling them that all people had sinned and come short of the glory of God. That Jesus Christ had come to this Earth as the Son of God, He lived a sinless life and died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin.  Then He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 

John went on to tell them that Jesus was coming again and it will be as a Judge.  But the ones who accept Him as Savior will escape the judgment.

That is the message he presented to his neighbors.  They were open and many of them wanted to receive Jesus as Savior.

In fact, there were so many that they decided to start their own village.  They called them Gospel Towns.  

In Europe, he was known as the man who printed the first complete Bible in the United States.  It was a Bible written in the language of the American Indians he was ministering to.  

He had preached to so many Native Americans (Algonquins) who then began preaching to their tribes themselves that he wound up with 24 villages.  They weren’t small, either.  The villages had populations of 2,50 – 4,000.  

Endure Hardness

John Elliott was traveling to these various towns when the relentless rain hit and he had to wring his socks out each night.  He may have gotten some shelter in a tent for a time, but again and again, went back out into the weather.  He wondered if he’d develop pneumonia or something worse and wind up dying from it.  While having these thoughts, he was reminded of the verse 2 Timothy 2:3 which says, “ Endure hard times as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

It had been raining for days.
It had been raining for days.

What do you do when hard times come?  There’s your answer.  Endure hardness.

That’s what many of the people who came to America decided to do in those early days.  

There’s a book by Robert J. Morgan called “100 Verses That Made America: Defining Moments That Shaped Our Faith.”  I’ve gotten several stories from it, including the one here.  I would recommend you take a look.  

John Elliott said that when things got hard, Jesus stepped in and brought to his mind the verse in 2 Timothy: “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

Why Endure Hardness?

Why should we endure hardness?  Because hardness is going to come.  The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust alike.  (Matthew 5:45)  Sometimes it doesn’t rain enough, sometimes it rains too much.  It’s just a fact of life.  Some things are hard. It’s not all easy.  

I think of newly married couples.  The hard times are bound to come.  It’s so important that you endure the hard times and stick it out.  It’s not always you causing trouble with one another, sometimes it’s just the difficulties of life.  

Disappointment comes.  It could be illness, the sudden death of a loved one, financial hardship, or something else.  If you make it through the hardness together, when you come out on the other side, somehow, you’re stronger.

Of course, you wouldn’t ask for those difficult times to come to make you stronger, but you can be thankful that you have become stronger.  

We’re to endure hardness. It will come.

Preparation for battle
Preparation for battle

When a soldier goes into the service, they start off in basic training.  They have a drill sergeant who is usually pretty tough.  One person said, while he didn’t remember his drill sergeant’s name, he did remember that he was always there. At first, he didn’t like that he was always there, but then he grew to appreciate that the officer was always around when he was needed.

The training is preparing you for the hardness of battle. 

The soldiers are sometimes given a backpack to carry.  It may weigh as much as 50 pounds.  Then they’re told to go on a run or hike.  They’re being prepared physically, pushed beyond their limits.  

I once took a class called “physical fitness” at a local community college.  When we started, they brought us all in and had us do different physical tests.   We did pushups, situps, and chin-ups.  They didn’t tell us why we were doing them, so we all did our very best.  

In the next class, they told us that they were going to take our best and cut it in half.  We were all happy with that.  Then they said we were going to do each exercise three times.  We weren’t quite as thrilled then. But we went on, and at the end of the semester, we did the same tests again and found that we had gained in all the areas we had been working on.

We were pushed to our physical limits and grew as a result.

Endure Hardness as a Good Soldier

Endure hardness as a good soldier.

Soldiers are required to make their beds daily.  An officer once said that it’s to establish a routine and develop good habits.  It’s part of being disciplined.

What is a follower of Christ called?  A disciple, which comes from the word discipline.  In Luke 14:26, Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”

The part about hating family members is by comparison.  Your love and devotion to Jesus should be so much more than that for your family that it isn’t even close!

Discipline

To be a disciple of Jesus.

A Good Soldier

Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

The verse says to be a good soldier, not one that goes in and destroys the countryside.  A good soldier doesn’t go in and pillage and plunder.  

We're called to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
We’re called to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

A while back, I heard that many people in Afghanistan were coming to Christ. Why?  Because of the good soldiers that were sharing the Gospel. 

Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

We have Jesus as our great Commander.  He’s the greatest leader ever.  Our Earthly leaders will do the best they can but they can only do so much. They have to deal with their limitations.  But when you have Jesus Christ as a leader, He is the Lord of the universe.  He knows everything.  He will make the best decisions.  So as a good soldier, you follow Him.

Even if you don’t understand what your leader is doing, a good soldier completes the mission and sees in the end how it all works out.  That’s how God works with us sometimes.

Joni Eareckson Tada

You may have heard of a lady named Joni Eareckson Tada.  In 1967, she misjudged the depth of a river and dove in headfirst.  She suffered a fracture between her fourth and fifth vertebrae which left her paralyzed from the shoulders down.  She has very limited use of her hands and is able to lift a little bit, but that’s all.  

Joni Eareckson Tada
Joni Eareckson Tada

But she’s painted beautiful pictures by holding a paintbrush in her mouth.  She’s given speeches all over and has been an inspiration to many.  She has endured hardship and come through it. 

Sometimes God allows us to endure hardness so we can help someone else.  

Unbroken

The prisoner could not be broken!
The prisoner could not be broken!

A group of soldiers had been captured and were prisoners of war. One of the camp guards did everything he could to break their spirit.  It was hard to break the spirit of one of the soldiers, though. He had such determination.  At one point, this solder was about at his physical breaking point.  The leader of the camp ordered him to lift a log.  Even on his best day, the soldier couldn’t have lifted it, and now he was ready to drop.  But somehow, he managed to hoist the log over his head.  The camp leader who was trying to break this man wound up the one who was broken and defeated.  

We’re to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

One day, Jesus is coming back.  One day, there will be a war.  All the forces of good and evil will come to battle. Jesus’ forces, including those of us who are Christians, will fight with Him.  It’s called the battle of Armageddon.  (Revelation 16:16)

How will it end?  God, The One who spoke the world into existence will win the battle!

Whose side will you be on?

Armor of God

The Bible tells us to put on the whole armor of God. (Ephesians 6:11-17)  You begin with the helmet of salvation.  If you don’t have the helmet of salvation, the rest of the armor is useless.  But the verses also talk about the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, and feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.

Ephesians 6:11-17
Ephesians 6:11-17

I want to encourage you, as John Elliott was encouraged, to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

If you have never put on the helmet of salvation, or even if you’re not sure.  You need to be sure!  Feel free to contact me here and I can help you and answer any questions you may have. 

Payday, Someday

Payday is coming

Proverbs 26:27 “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone, it will return upon him.” (MEV)

I picture someone digging a deep pit or moving a huge boulder when I read this verse.  Perhaps a stone-like those used to seal graves.  It took many men or an amazing feat of engineering to get them moved into place. 

Sermon video

That’s why the women who were going to Jesus’ tomb wondered who would move the stone for them.  Of course, we know that their concern wasn’t necessary.  The angels had already moved the stone.

The verse above shows the negative side of how things happen sometimes.  There’s a positive side found in the New Testament.

The Golden Rule

Going back to my youth, a positive side was presented to me by none other than Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  At the end of their program, they would sing, “Happy trails to you, until we meet again.”  They were Christians.  Dale Evans went around the country talking about the Bible.  My wife and I actually heard her speak in Kansas City, Missouri.  

Roy Rogers & Dale Evans
Roy Rogers & Dale Evans

One of the things they would say before singing their signature song was, “Remember, boys and girls, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  You probably know this as “The Golden Rule.”  It’s actually Biblical.  The verse can be found in Matthew 7:12. 

Jesus said that there were two commandments.  The first one was the greatest, which is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second one is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  (Matthew 22:37-39)

Pressed Down, Shaken Together, and Running Over

That’s the positive side of the verse in Proverbs.  The Bible says that what you sow, you reap.  (Galatians 6:7)  If you sow good things, you will reap good things.  If you give, it will be given to you with good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. (Luke 6:38)

Running over
Running over

We had a friend who told of how he had moved to a new community and they arranged for a trash pickup.  The first week, something went wrong, and the trash wasn’t picked up. 

My friend checked and figured they could get by another week until the pickup came.  He looked around to make sure no one was watching, and he climbed on top of the trash pile and began to jump on it to compact it and make some more room.  

However, the following week, the trash service forgot again.  He climbed up on the pile and began to jump to compact it even more.  It was then that the verse, “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” came into his mind.

Haman

On the negative side, if you try to dig a pit to bring harm to someone else, you will fall into your own pit.  If you have a boulder set to ambush someone, be careful because it may roll down on you.  

The story of Haman, beginning in Esther 3, tells how Haman was jealous of Esther’s cousin, Mordecai.  Haman had a gallows built with the intention of seeing Mordecai hanged on it.  

Through a series of events, it was discovered that the wicked one was actually Haman.  The king was so enraged that he ordered Haman to be hanged on the gallows he himself had built!

Be careful what you do.  It can come back to you.  Good can come back good, but evil can come back evil.

Payday, Someday

Dr. R.G. Lee (1886-1978) was the pastor of Bellview Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.  Dr. Lee was a very well-known Southern Baptist preacher and preached all over the country.

Dr. R.G. Lee
Dr. R.G. Lee

He had a sermon that was very well known.  It was often requested that he preach it.  I read that he had preached this sermon over 1,000 in his lifetime.  It was called “Payday, Someday.”  (I borrowed the title.)

I’m going to share some ideas from that sermon with you, but I’m going to put my own take on it.  

I’m going to tell you about 2 modern characters, 4 Biblical characters, and the day to come.  

Nick

There was a man named Nick who lived in the 1960s.  As he was growing up, he wasn’t doing well.  In fact, his parents had a difficult time raising him.  It was so hard, in fact, that they sent him from Puerto Rico, where he was born, to New York City to stay with relatives.  

While living in NYC, he began to run with crowds that were similar to the ones he ran with when he lived in Puerto Rico.  He discovered the street gangs in New York. Before long, he had become a member of one of them.

It wasn't long before Nick joined a gang.
It wasn’t long before Nick joined a gang.

The gang was involved in all sorts of illegal activities, including drugs.  The gangs would fight one another. They made homemade guns.  They killed members of rival gangs.  Nick had killed people and narrowly escaped death himself.  

At the same time, there was a ministry in New York that wanted to try to help the gang members and drug addicts, and other youth in crisis.  They decided to rent out a building and have a church service. They used school buses to go around and pick up the various gang members. They didn’t realize that they were putting together two gangs that fought against each other.  At least two rival gangs were at that church service that night.

The kids were making a mockery of the service.  During a solo, some of them began to dance in the aisles…not in the Biblical way!  But they heard the Gospel.  

 Nick was one of the people in attendance that night.  He had heard the Gospel and had a decision to make.

Tom

Next, we have Tom.  Tom wasn’t involved in drugs or gangs.  He just lived a regular life.  But Tom needed Jesus just as much as Nick did. How do I know?  Because everybody needs Jesus that much!  Seven years old or seventy years old…everyone needs Jesus.

Tom had been invited to church and he occasionally went.  He had heard the Gospel.  He even understood the Gospel.  He was like the man that Paul spoke to in Acts who told Paul to go away and he’d call for him later. (Acts 24:25)

"Tom" could be anyone.
“Tom” could be anyone.

Tom didn’t want to change his life or his friends at that time.  He said he’d do it later.  

Those are the two modern-day people.  Now I want to talk about the four from the Bible.

Naboth

The first is Naboth. His story is found in 1 Kings 21:1-16.  Naboth owned a vineyard.  He was a good man.  He had been schooled in the law of the Hebrews.  The law said that they could not sell land with the idea of it being a permanent sale.  The land would come back to them after a period of time.

Naboth was committed to upholding that.  

Ahab and Jezebel

At that time, Ahab was the king of Israel.  He was the son of Omri, one of the most wicked kings that Israel had ever had.  Ahab was actually worse than his father.  

Ahab’s summer palace was located right next to Naboth’s vineyard.  The king asked to buy the vineyard, but Naboth refused, as a permanent sale of the land went against scripture.  Ahab was very upset and returned to the palace. 

Ahab’s wife was a woman named Jezebel. She was not of Jewish descent.  She was a foreigner and worshiped Baal.  She was very dedicated to her religion and would do anything she could to take out the competition.

Upon his return to the palace, Ahab went to his bed and pouted and refused to eat.  His wife went to him to find out what was wrong.  He told her about his conversation with Naboth and his refusal to sell the vineyard.  

Ahab wanted Naboth's land.
Ahab wanted Naboth’s land.

Jezabel said, “Aren’t you the king of Israel?  Get up and eat something.  I’ll get that vineyard for you.  I just need to borrow your ring.”

So Jezabel, pretending to be Ahab, wrote a letter to the elders and nobles in Naboth’s city.  She instructed them to proclaim a fast on a certain day.  On that day, they were to bring Naboth to the seat of judgment for a trial.  The charge was blasphemy, which was punishable by death.    

The day arrived and the elders and nobles did as they were instructed.  Naboth was put on trial.  Jezabel had hired two “sons of Belial” to bear false witness against Naboth.  (Belial is another word for the devil.)

Before he even had a chance to defend himself, he was taken out of the city and stoned to death.  

Elijah

The fourth BIblical character is Elijah.  He was a spokesman for God and had said that it wouldn’t rain until Elijah said it would. (1Kings 17:1)  So, Ahab already hated him.  Because of that, Elijah had gone into hiding, which further enraged Ahab.  When Elijah, alone, went up against 450 prophets of Baal and won, that angered Jezebel.  (1 Kings 18:16-40)

Elijah heard what had happened to Naboth and he met with Ahab.  He told Ahab that the dogs would lick up his blood in the place where he killed Naboth.  He also said that dogs would consume his wife, Jezebel.  

Ahab returned to his palace. He and Jezebel would sometimes eat food that came from Naboth’s lands.  After a time, when nothing happened to them, Jezebel began to mock what Elijah had said.  She believed nothing would happen to them.  

Payday Always Comes

With God, there’s always a payday.  It’s just not always on Friday.

Ahab and Jezebel lived on happily for 3 years. 

Then the king of Judah came to visit Ahab and the two decided to go to war in an effort to claim some land. Ahab planned to go into battle in disguise; wearing the disguise over his royal armor.  

The captain of the opposing army instructed his men to only go after Ahab, no one else.  Because Ahab was in disguise, no one could find him.  Finally, a soldier shot an arrow randomly into the air. It went into an opening in Ahab’s armor and wounded him.  They made their way back in the direction of the palace. Ahab’s blood was pouring from the chariot, and, just as prophesied, dogs licked it up in the very place where Naboth died.

It happened exactly as Elijah had prophesied
It happened exactly as Elijah had prophesied

Jezebel, however, still lived.  She lived through many kings. Then, King Jehu came into power.  He came to the wall of the palace where she was and asked if any within were on his side.  There were some, and he ordered that Jezabel be thrown from the wall. He trampled her with his horse.  

When they later went to bury her, all that remained was her skull, feet, and palms of her hands.  The dogs had eaten the rest.

There’s always a payday.

Chief of the Kangaroo Court

Dr. Lee said that he would sometimes receive hate mail.  One of the letter-writers would sign the letters “The Chief of the Kangaroo Court.”  

One day while sitting at home, a nurse from a Memphis hospital called Dr. Lee and said that a man was requesting his presence.  He refused to give his name to the hospital, but said to tell Dr. Lee that he was the “Cheif of the Kangaroo Court.”

When he arrived at the hospital, Dr. Lee encountered a young man with the wildest, weirdest eyes he’d ever seen.  The man may have been large at one point, but his boy was ravaged by disease. 

He said to the man, “Hello.” 

“Howdy do?” he answered. 

“Is there something I can do for you?” Dr. Lee asked as kindly as he could. 

“No. Nothing! Not a thing. Nothin’ ‘tall! — unless you throw my body to the buzzards when I am dead — if the buzzards will have it!” he said.

Then his voice lost some of the snarl — and he spoke again. “I sent for you, sir because I want you to tell these young fellows here something for me. I sent for you because I know you go up and down the land and talk to many young people. And I want you to tell ’em, and tell ’em every chance you get, that the Devil pays only in counterfeit money.” 

R.G. Lee would have loved to lead that young man to the Lord, but it wasn’t to be.  He sat by the bedside and two hours later, the young man died.

There’s a payday coming someday.

Eternal Consequences

Back to Tom.  He had said, “Someday, I will come to to the Lord.  I will get saved someday when I’m older.” Before that “someday” came, Tom had a stroke.  Pastors came to visit, but Tom was unresponsive, unconscious.  Payday had come for Tom.

David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz
David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz

Nick, better known as Nicky Cruz, heard David Wilkerson preach and gave his life to the Lord the night of that service, as did another gang leader.  Several members of the gang followed in their footsteps and became Christians,

Payday is coming someday!

If we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, at the end of our life when that payday comes, it won’t be a bad one, it will be a wonderful one. All wrongs will be made right. Maybe not in our timeline, but it will happen. 

What will your payday be?
What will your payday be?

What is the way out for us as humans?  It’s simply the fact that God loved us so much that He sent His Son to this world to be crucified. Jesus had the weight of all the sins of all the world, past, present, and future, put upon Him.  The answer for your payday is what you have done with Jesus.  Have you accepted Him as your Lord and Savior?  Or, like Tom, are you putting it off until a more convenient time?

Payday is coming.  I hope you’re ready. If you’re not, I invite you to come to Jesus.

How to Know That You Are Making Good Decisions

How to Know That You Are Making Good Decisions

Jay Austin was, on the surface, a successful used car salesman. Unfortunately, his sales techniques were less than honorable.  He made promises he couldn’t keep, cheated people, and said whatever was necessary to make the sale.  

Sermon video

Jay’s Problem

Two of his employees had learned well how to use those same dishonest techniques.  

Jay needed money!
Jay needed money!

As I said, it looked like he was doing well on the surface.  He was moving a lot of cars and bringing in a lot of money.  But he was buried in debt.  

One day, the bank called him and requested a meeting.  Jay was told that he had 30 days to pay off his loan or the bank was going to foreclose on the business.

Not only were there problems with the business, but there were struggles going on within his family as well.  He was too proud to admit it was his fault.  He wanted to blame others for his problems, 

But his wife and son both knew that they could not trust his word when he said he was going to do something.  They knew about his dishonesty.  He pridefully tried to cover it up.  Occasionally, he would attend church with them, but not often.  Other times, he mocked the idea of going to church.  

But the bottom was dropping out.  It looked like he was going to lose his business.  But his wife had been praying for him. 

On the Right Path

A televised sermon changed his life.
A televised sermon changed his life.

One day, he saw a church service on TV.  He decided that his way of doing things wasn’t working, so he confessed to the Lord.  He admitted his dishonesty, and his lack of support for his family, and told God that he wanted to change.  

He thought he was done, that God would be merciful and he could move forward from that point. 

But something happened inside of Jay because he really had changed.  He realized that he couldn’t continue with his dishonest business practices.  Would the Lord rescue him?

Psalm 37:1-5

(KJV) Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. 3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. 4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. 5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Scriptures for the blog.
Scriptures for the blog.

Proverbs 3:5-6


(KJV) 5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Lean Not on Your Own Understanding

So Jay started off by following the steps in the passage in Proverbs.  He told God that he didn’t know how, but he was going to quit cheating people and instruct his employees to stop as well. 

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  The Bible says that the greatest commandment is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”(Matthew 22:37)  With everything within you.

You can come to Christ just as you are, but if you really meet Him, you don’t leave the same as when you arrived.  Something starts working in your life.  

The Bible says that there’s a change and we start to bear fruit.  It also says that some do better than others.  Some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, some a hundredfold.  

Sometimes the change is obvious and immediate.  People see the change and want to know what’s happened.  Other times, depending on past challenges, the fruit takes longer to ripen.  

Lean not on your own understanding.  

Trust God

Jay was trusting God with all his heart.  But he didn’t know how to glorify God in bringing in money. His former practices of lying and scheming weren’t going to work anymore.  

His employees were doubtful.  They knew that there wouldn’t be as much money coming in as before. They also realized that they’d be losing money on their commissions.  That was a big concern for them.  They didn’t want to go along with this new plan, but Jay pushed for them to be honest.  

If it happened that they were not honest, Jay would go to the customer himself and make it right. He continued his new practice of being honest.  In some cases, he realized he had to go back and return money to some former customers. 

Even though he had 30 days to come up with the money for the bank, he continued in his new course of honesty.  He had made a commitment to God and intended to honor it.  He decided to not lean on his own understanding.

That’s something we all need to do.  Our understanding is shaped not by the Bible, but by the world.  That’s why it’s so important to study the Scriptures.  It ought to become a part of our lives.  We need to get away from our own understanding and into God’s understanding.  

Study the Scriptures to learn the mind of Christ.
Study the Scriptures to learn the mind of Christ.

When you become a parent, you have this tiny human who has been given to you, and it dawns on you that this is an enormous responsibility.  Where’s the instruction manual?  What you do is fall back on what you know, what you have seen, or how your parents raised you.  That can be good.  Your parents may have been instructed in the ways of the Lord and had the mind to follow Him.  

But maybe you had parents who didn’t follow God’s leading and just muddled through and didn’t make good decisions.  

Then there are parents who the world may say that they have no business being parents. Then your resolve will be not to be like your parents.  The problem there is that you keep focusing on them and whatever you focus on affects you.  So lean not on your own understanding but lean on the promises of God.

Good News/Bad News

A local news outlet decided to do an undercover investigation of used car dealers.  They sent a reporter in to pose as a potential employee.  The employees who weren’t happy with Jay’s new system got fed up and left and began working for a competitor.  

The news outlet went and interviewed the two and they told stories of how Jay used to run his business and how dishonest he used to be.  

So the report came out.  It wasn’t good.  Jay told God, “Lord, I’m trusting you.  I’m changing my life.  I don’t understand how this is going to work.”

How to Know That You Are Making Good Decisions

Years ago, in the first decade of our marriage, we were living in Georgia.  We had several decisions to make.  Our desire was to always be in God’s will.  

A flyer came to our house about a conference that was going to be in Atlanta.  One of the bullet points was “how to know you’re in the will of God.”  While I was looking at the new material, that one point really stood out to me.

That one session was the main reason I went.  It was a week-long conference.  Day after day, they didn’t cover that one topic.  Finally, Thursday night was the day for the “Will of God” session.  He spoke for 30 minutes or so on most of the advertised topics, but when he came to this one, he was running short on time, and he only spoke on it for a few minutes, probably only two or three; however, it was long enough and I got the answer I was seeking.  It was the verse, “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6)

Make Christ Known

The speaker said to make Christ known in every area of your life.  Acknowledge that He is the Miracle Worker, the One who cares for you and loves you. If in all your ways, you are trusting Him, He will direct your paths.  

That may not seem like a very “deep” answer, but it’s served me well for 40 years. When you continue to do this, you begin to develop a sense of when God is speaking to you.  You’ll feel a little tug on your heart, mind, or spirit.  It may not be thunder and lightning, but there’s that little tug you feel and know that it’s Him speaking to you. 

If you acknowledge Him in all areas of your life, you can trust that He will direct your paths.  

Does that mean that you’ll always make perfect decisions?  Probably not.  But the Bible covers that as well.  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) 

Results of Change

So, the report had been released.  In it, Jay’s former employees talked about how unfair and dishonest he had been in the past.  It didn’t look good.

Then, people started speaking out.  They talked about how Jay had come to them, admitted his dishonesty, and made things right.  They told of how he’d given money back and apologized to them.  

Jay's commitment to God was successful.
Jay’s commitment to God was successful.

Psalm 37:4 says that if we trust in God, He will give us the desires of our hearts.  Sometimes, though, we don’t get what we want.  One clue may be in James 4:3 where it says, “you have not because you ask not.”

Another reason we don’t always get what we want is that what we want may not be good for us.  We ask amiss, and God, in His wisdom, says no, because He knows what’s best for us.

Good Things

I believe that God delights in giving us good things.  

When we lived in Georga, I was the principal of a Christian school and we had weekly staff meetings.  They were different from any I’ve been in before or since.  We’d start off by spending up to 15 minutes strategizing what we could do to make things better.  We then went around the table and each prayed.  I remember one particular woman who was a prayer warrior.  She and another lady decided her son needed a good wife.  They began to pray and that son now has a wife and children.  

Another time, I recall her praying that God would meet the needs of my family.  The school wasn’t able to pay much, so she prayed that our needs would be met. She prayed that God would give us something that would simply bring us joy.  Her prayers were answered time and time again. 

Prayer warrior
Prayer warrior

Her husband was a dairy farmer, and they were audited by the IRS.  While most people would have been nervous, they were completely at peace.  They got their tax professional, went to the audit, and wound up getting money back!

Around that time, Rhonda was expecting our second child (Ralanna).  We had decent health insurance, but it didn’t pay everything.  We were going to have to pay some of the medical expenses out of our own pocket.  Those people got that money back from the IRS and paid those bills for us. We say that Ralanna is their baby as well as ours. 🙂

God will give you miraculous things.  Lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him.  Trust in Him.  Delight in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart.

I mentioned that sometimes we ask God for the wrong things.  Once you get closer to Him and get to know Him better, the things you ask for begin to change and you start asking for proper things.  

Delivered!

I recently heard a man testify that God was blessing him in his business.  But, he was a functional addict.  Like Jay, it looked like the man was doing well on the surface.  But he was an alcoholic and was addicted to cocaine and ultimately to crack cocaine. 

He really wanted to serve God.  One night he prayed for deliverance from his addiction and that the desire for the drug would be taken away.

When he woke up the next morning, the desire was gone!  Many years later, it has not returned. 

Delight yourself in the Lord and He’ll give you the desires of your heart.  If your desires are wrong, He’ll tell you as long as you acknowledge Him in all ways.

Back to Jay.  The negative news report had come out, but then so many people came and spoke about all the good things he had done.  Because of the positive reviews, more and more people started going to his business to buy their cars.  By the end of the month, enough money had come in that Jay was able to pay the bank the money he owed them. 

Jay’s Story

A little disclaimer: The story of Jay is based on a movie written by the Kendrick brothers.  You may recognize their names from movies like Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, War Room, and several others.  The story of Jay Austin can be found in their first movie, Flywheel.  (You can Google some interesting trivia about the movie.)

Flywheel Movie
Flywheel Movie

Flywheel is actually my favorite of all the movies they’ve made.

In Closing

How do you know that you’re making good decisions?  Are you acknowledging Him in all your ways?  If you are, you can trust that you’re making good decisions. You can also trust that if you aren’t, God will let you know.

Triumph to Tragedy to Glory!


In my last post, I talked about Triumph to tragedy to what? “Victory” is what all of us who know the Lord want to say.
Today I’m talking about triumph to tragedy to glory.

Sermon video

Luke 24:1-12


24 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 But when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were greatly perplexed concerning this, suddenly two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 As they were afraid and bowed their faces to the ground, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen! Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered His words.
9 And they returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. 11 But their words seemed like fables to them, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb. Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves. He departed, wondering in himself what had happened.

John

John was a passenger in the car. They had been up quite a while, and it was dark. He began to doze off, then he’d raise up. Then he’d doze off again, and then sit up again. Then, all at once, he heard a gasp from the driver, and then it became sort of a shriek. John woke up and saw that they were quickly approaching a tree. He saw the windshield shatter before his eyes. After that…something happened.

You never know...
You never know…

Previous Blog Post

Today I want to talk about the triumph first, the tragedy, and then the glory. In my last blog, I talked about the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. That was a wonderful thing. The crowd cried, “Hosanna! Glory to God in the highest!”

Accused and Tried


But He knew the rest of the week was going to be different, and it was. It became a tragedy.

Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was taken before the High Priest where a fake trial was held. He was found guilty of blasphemy. They did not have the legal authority to put Him to death, which was their ultimate goal. So, they took Him before Pilate, who was a representative of the Roman government.

Pilate completed his investigation and said he found no fault in Jesus’ actions. He washed his hands and said he was “innocent of this man’s blood.”
The crowd cried out and said, “His blood be upon us and upon our children!”
Pilate said, “Yes! His blood WILL be on you, and on your children.” Then he caved to the pressure, turned, and gave the order to crucify Jesus.

Scourged and Crucified

So, they took Jesus and hung Him on a cross between two thieves. It was an innocent man hanging between two definite criminals.


It wasn’t just a man, however. People had seen Him perform miracles. Although they understood that He was fully man, fully human, He was also the divine Son of God.

Jesus was whipped before being crucified.
Jesus was whipped before being crucified.


Before being nailed to the cross, he had been whipped with a cat-o-nine-tails. His flesh was torn from his body and hung in ribbons. One scripture says that it couldn’t be recognized as human flesh. It was the most horrific physical suffering we could imagine. It was so graphic that one movie that was made about the crucifixion had to receive an “R” rating due to the violence. Even though that depiction was awful, the reality was even worse.

More Than Physical Suffering


As bad as the physical suffering was, He also suffered spiritually. He who knew no sin became sin for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21). The wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23), and that’s what Jesus did…He died. Because He was the Son of God, His death was different from any other death.

There is more than one kind of death

We’re all aware of physical death. That’s what we see at funerals. But there’s also spiritual death. It’s much deeper. It’s when we’re separated from God. But you don’t have to be separated from God because Jesus died the death that we deserve. We don’t have to be separated from God. He offers it as a free gift to mankind. I pray that if you’ve never accepted that gift you would do it before this day is over.

A Different Kind of Death

A lot of people die, but their death doesn’t count to me. Of all the funerals I’ve attended, those people’s death didn’t count to me. But because Jesus was the Son of God, His death was sufficient to pay the penalty for all of our sins. He didn’t have to pay the penalty for His sins because He had none. The only way He could “have” sin was for it to be taken from us and, in a way I don’t understand, be placed on Him. So, He became sin and suffered the ultimate penalty of death.

Confused Spiritually?


If you’re in a spiritual state of confusion and you wonder where you are, the thing you need to do most is to not leave that up to doubt and come to Christ. It’s the same answer whether you don’t know Him or you do.

Regardless of your previous church experience, do you know that you know if you were like John in that car wreck, you would go to Glory? If you don’t, there’s no need for you to be in that state. Before this day is over, you can get in contact with me via this blog and I will pray with you. Your prayer is how you will receive the gift. You can go to sleep tonight knowing for sure!

Glory!


So, it’s tragedy to triumph to what can be glory. In the case of Jesus, it was, indeed, glory. The scripture above tells the story.

The women were going to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body with oils and spices. They were concerned because they knew there was a large stone blocking the entrance and wondered who would roll the stone away. It is believed that it weighed between one and a half and two tons.

The stone had already been rolled away!
The stone had already been rolled away!


It turned out that they didn’t need to worry. When they arrived at the tomb of Jesus, two angels were there and had rolled the stone away.

The Bible tells us that there were Roman guards as well as temple guards watching the tomb. History says it may have been as many as 16 in total. Four at a time would stand at the mouth of the tomb while the others would patrol the rest of the area around it.

They took turns guarding the entrance so no one would fall asleep. If one did happen to fall asleep, the sentence was usually death.

The Rest of the Story


In order to get the whole story, it’s necessary to read all 4 of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). But the Bible tells us that a great earthquake came and the guards were “like dead men” – they were asleep. They didn’t even see the stone rolled away.


After Jesus rose from the dead, those who wanted Him crucified went to the Roman guards and instructed them to tell people that the disciples had come and stolen the body. The guards feared that they would be put to death, but the Jewish leaders assured them that they had great influence and would pay off the leaders to save the Roman soldiers from execution.


That’s the story that was circulated. But, that’s not what happened. Jesus did die, and He was in that tomb, but He rose again, victorious over death.

Jesus is victorious over death.
Jesus is victorious over death.


When the women went and told the disciples, Peter and John ran to the tomb. John arrived first, and when Peter arrived, he looked inside, and then he went in. He found the grave clothes lying in a pile. But the napkin that had covered His face was folded by itself. (John20:7) Jesus had been dead, but now He was alive! It was unimaginable!

Miracles


They’d seen all kinds of things that defied the mind of man. There was the time when 5,000 men, plus women and children, needed to be fed. A collection was taken up, and they got 2 loaves of bread and 5 fish. Jesus was able to feed that entire crowd with that, plus leftovers!


Another time, the disciples were out in a boat. There was a storm on the water. They looked off in the distance and saw Jesus walking on the water. It defies the mind of man. How could He do these things? He was God in the flesh!


But the greatest miracle of all had just taken place. Jesus died, willingly laying down His life. They did not take it from Him. It was His choice. Then, He rose Himself from the dead with the power of the Father.

Proof


To make sure that we “got” it, He appeared to the disciples. The first time He did that, Thomas wasn’t with them. The others tried to tell him that they’d seen the risen Savior, but he refused to believe until he could put his hand in Jesus’ side where the spear had pierced Him and feel the prints of the nails in His hands and feet (John 20:24).


The next time Jesus appeared, Thomas was with them. Jesus turned to Thomas, who fell at His feet and cried, “My Lord and my God.”


He arose victorious!


So, you have the triumph of the crucifixion and the glory of the resurrection.
Think about John. The windshield shattered in front of him. He heard a loud crash. He was about to go through the windshield, but all at once, there was no pain, just comfort. There was bright light all around. Angels? Maybe. I know this: it was good. His body was mangled and would have to be buried.
Triumph to tragedy to glory.

Your Gift

Jesus offers you a free gift.
Jesus offers you a free gift.


That is how it would be if you’ve accepted the Lord’s free gift of salvation. Isn’t it a wonderful and marvelous thing?

We can’t do enough to be good enough. We can’t do enough to make up for all the wrongs that we’ve done in the past. We can’t do enough to erase all the resentments we’ve had in the past. We can’t take care of it ourselves. But Jesus did. He paid it all.


For those who accept His free gift, it doesn’t matter if they die in a car wreck or if sickness ravages their health, they will go on to Glory.

Paradise


Jesus was crucified between two thieves. We know that after He died, He went to what He described as paradise.

Jesus was hung between 2 common criminals.
Jesus was hung between 2 common criminals.

The thief who was crucified next to Him said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” The other thief reviled Jesus but the first one said, “He (Jesus) is innocent. You and I are guilty.” Jesus turned to the first one and said, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)


So, Jesus rose again. He arose in a body that could be recognized. When He appeared to His disciples, they knew who He was.

More Proof

He asked them for some fish, and they gave it to Him and He ate it (Luke 24:41-43). That showed that it was a physical body, not just a spirit. It wasn’t a mass hallucination, it wasn’t a hologram, it was a physical body. The disciples saw it.

Two people were walking on the road to Emmaus and Jesus appeared to them and walked with them for a while. It took them some time, but they finally figured out who He was and recognized Him.

They recalled how He spoke about the Old Testament prophecies and how they pointed to Jesus coming, dying, and rising again. They asked, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while He talked to us…” (Luke 24:13-35)

Because He disappeared from their sight. Yes, it was a physical body but it did some amazing things. He walked through walls, appeared inside, and appeared inside.

Our Hope


He is the first fruit of the resurrection. That’s why you and I can know that when we face death, we’ll rise again, just like Jesus did. We’ll have a new body.


John entered into Glory. What can it be for us?

We will have a resurrected body someday. It will be like the body that was described of Jesus. It will be amazing.

Healing Still Happens


Just think about all the pain and suffering that you see people going through. Sometimes, God will take someone who has a terrible illness and He will heal them.

When Jesus was on Earth, they saw it all the time. Now, it happens in answer to prayer. Healing on Earth doesn’t happen for everyone, and some people get hung up on that.

God still heals
God still heals


But I know that sometimes, God does things that amaze the medical community. I know people have had imaging done, and on those images there are tumors. Then they go back to the doctor and more imaging is done and the medical staff says they can’t explain it, but the tumors are gone! That does happen sometimes. God does that.

What Does Your Future Hold?


But, the simple fact of the matter is, unless Jesus comes back, we’re all going to die at some point. After this will be the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). If you’ve accepted that free gift of salvation, you just sail right on through. If not, you don’t have that promise.


So will it be triumph to tragedy to glory or will it be triumph to tragedy to worse tragedy? Those are the only two options we have.

New Bodies


The Bible says that when Jesus comes back, the dead in Christ will rise first, and those of us who are Christians and are still alive will be caught up with Him in the air and will forever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17)


Those bodies are going to be fully realized, resurrected bodies just like Jesus has. What happens between now and then? I don’t have all the answers, but we know some things from scripture.

A Conscious Experience


One thing is: The thief who was on the cross next to Jesus was later with Jesus in a conscious experience.

We know that Jesus talked about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Jesus said that they died, and the rich man, being in torment in conscious existence, lifted up his eyes and saw that Lazarus was being comforted. (Luke 16:19-31)

We Will Be With Jesus


Between now and when the Lord comes back and the bodies are brought out of the grave, something happens, but I don’t know what.


What I do know for sure is that God is good and Jesus is good. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8) Whatever “state” that is, it will be wonderful!

Then when the Lord comes back and we rise with Him and “pick up” our resurrected bodies, we’ll be free from pain and disease. The more time that passes, the more I understand that and am thankful for it. There will be no more pain, crying, sorrow, or death. (Revelation 21:4)


I’ve talked about the triumphal entry, the tragedy of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, but the glory of His resurrection!

Do You Know That You Know?


The story of John is based on actual events. There have been people who were in car wrecks and lost their lives. But because they had accepted Christ’s gift of salvation, they entered into Glory. For the ones who hadn’t done that, it’s more tragic.


Earlier, I asked the question, “Do you know that you know?”. It’s not about being self-righteous and thinking “I’m going to Heaven because I’m so good.” No one is good enough without Jesus. If you want the Biblical description of our own “goodness”, it says our good deeds are as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) It is the same for all of us.


So, if you can’t get to Heaven based on your own goodness, how do you get there? It’s based on the goodness of God.

As I’ve said before, the wages of sin are death. Every one of us has sinned. We became sinners by choice. We rebelled against a holy God and wanted to go our own way. We all deserve death. That’s why Jesus died.

His Death is Sufficient


He died, and it is sufficient for all of us. That’s why it is the gift of salvation. We didn’t earn it and we don’t deserve it. But we do have to accept it.

$100

Would you accept it?
Would you accept it?


Imagine if I had a $100 bill for each person reading this. Imagine if I offered one to you. Maybe someone reading this works for a bank and wants to verify the authenticity of the bills.

After examination, our banker friend confirms that they are genuine $100 bills. Now, all you have to do is come and get it. It’s all been proven to be real. Are you going to accept it?


A little boy with no inhibitions may run and get the first one. There may be some who will scoff at the offer, and insist that the bills are counterfeit, stay where they are, and miss out on the gift.

Good News


Here is a free gift. It’s called the Gospel. The word “gospel” means good news. It’s unbelievable for some. They may say, “God wouldn’t accept me.” The unbelievable news is that your sin has already been paid for. Salvation is there. Will you come and get it?


How do you do that? By faith. The Bible says the word of faith is near you, even in your heart. If you believe that Jesus died and rose again. (Romans 10:8,9) That’s exactly what I’m talking about here.

Faith


That’s what Easter is all about: That Jesus died and rose on the third day. If you believe that these things are fact, you are very close to salvation. The word of faith is near you. That’s the doctrine.

Child-like faith
Child-like faith

The other thing you need to do is, with child-like faith, come to Jesus and say, “It’s almost beyond belief that I could be saved. It’s almost beyond belief that You would love me that much. It’s almost beyond belief, God, that You would give Your Son for me. But it’s true, and I believe it.” You’re SO close!


The Bible says that all who received Him, to them gave He the power to become the children of God. (John 1:12) To get the $100, you have to receive it!
Many will come and receive it, but some will say, “There’s some catch to it. I don’t believe it.”

Facts


That’s the reality of it. That’s a fact of history. There was a man named Jesus who performed miracles. There is eyewitness testimony of them!

There are eyewitnesses who saw Him alive after he was crucified.

The disciples all saw the resurrected Jesus.

There were 500 people at one time that saw Him after the resurrection.

These are all facts of history.


It changed the disciples’ lives. In fact, they all gave their lives for Christ, because they believed they would live again.

You Can Have the Glory!


You just have to believe it by faith. Come and confess your sins and call upon the Lord. The Bible says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) That’s how you walk up and get the $100.


If you’ve never been saved or if you’re not sure about your salvation, the answer is the same. If you have some doubt and aren’t sure if you ever really accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, or if you know you never have, the answer is the same.

Invite Christ into your heart and life
Invite Christ into your heart and life

It’s all about Jesus & His death. It is because of what He’s done that we can be sure! Not for any other reason.


If you’ve come to a point in your life where you’ve wandered away from God, just go back to Him. Follow the Lord and He will come into your heart and life. It will be tragedy to glory!