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.  

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!

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.

Vlog
https://rumble.com/c/c-1070084
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.

For more sermon blogs and other faith-based items, please click here.

To watch sermon videos, visit my Rumble or YouTube channels.

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.

Sermon Video

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 “oinos” 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 for medicinal purposes. Some church covenant agreements among members might rule out even this. Be faithful to your particular covenants.

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.  

In Biblical times, there was another designation for a diluted drink that was still called, “wine.” That was a mixture containing the wine (whether the grape juice or the fermented product that could intoxicate) mixed with five parts of water–on part wine, five parts water. This mixture was still called, “wine.”

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?

Sermon Video

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.