When God Came Near

When God came to earth.

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

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

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

Joseph

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

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

Matthew 1: 18-25 (MEV)

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

Why?

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

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

Fulfilling Prophesy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 1:8-9 

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

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

What God is Like

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Undercover Boss

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

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

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

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

Jesus came to show us what God is like. 

John 14:8-11

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

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

Communication with the World

Hebrews 1: 1-2


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then it hit him. 

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

Identify with the Struggles of the World

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

Hebrews 4: 14-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lamb of God to Save the World

John 1:26-29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We all have a death sentence on our heads. 

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

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

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

Revelation 20:14-15

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

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

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

Bringing Redemption to the World

That’s why God became man. 

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

Jesus was fully God but also fully man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accept Him today.  

Preparing the Way for the Lord

Prepare the way

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

Sermon video

Josh’s Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Christ made them different. 

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

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

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

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

A Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 3:1-6 (MEV)

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

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

Isaiah 40:1-8 (MEV)

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

Prepare the Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mountain Brought Low

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was my first basketball lesson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filling the Valleys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are Like Flowers that Fade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make the Rough Places Smooth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Way Made Straight

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

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

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

You have to do something to straighten out the crookedness. 

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

We need to recognize that and believe it. 

Sometimes the rocks get in the way.

Josh’s Discoveries

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

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

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

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

There’s amazing unity throughout the Book.  

Josh had to admit that he could see that.  

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

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

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

He found many texts that spoke about the New Testament. 

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

A rock was removed. 

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

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

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

Josh couldn’t deny that.

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

One rock after another was being removed.  

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

Josh McDowell
Josh McDowell

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

Lee Strobel

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

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

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

Lee was very angry and resentful.  

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

Lee and Leslie Strobel
Lee and Leslie Strobel

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

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

Time after time, Lee came to the same conclusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prepare Your Heart

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

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

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

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

Thank God for that!

Bearing the Yoke: Good News and Bad News

Break free from the yoke of sin.

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

Beware of Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volcanic Warnings

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

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

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

Inside a lava tube
Inside a lava tube

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

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

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

There’s one road that is closed.

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

There are some warnings that we need to heed.

History, Parallel, and a Warning from Jeremiah

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

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

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

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

Yoke of Sin

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

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

The first is Jehoiakim who was the king of Judah.

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

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

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

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

Wooden yoke
Wooden yoke

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

Jeremiah 27:6

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

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

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

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

Now let’s look at the picture of redemption.

We All Bear It

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

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

We should be concerned about the yoke of sin.

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

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

The yoke of sin destroys lives and it destroys families. 

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

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

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

Jeremiah 27:8

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

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

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

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

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

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

The remainder of chapter 27 discusses those who would lie.  

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

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

The lies continue in chapter 28. 

Jeremiah 28:1-4

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

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

Jeremiah 28:10-17

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

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

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

The Lies of Satan

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

Satan tells us, “You’re ok.”

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

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

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

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

The lies of Satan lead to destruction.

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

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

The lies of Satan provide a false sense of peace.

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

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

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

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

Satan lies to everyone he can.

But there is the promise of deliverance!

The Promise of Deliverance

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

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

Jeremiah delivered a message to them

Jeremiah 29:4-14

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

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

Then God gave them a promise. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are reasons to be excited about that!

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

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

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

Justification through Jesus
Justification through Jesus

That’s something to be excited about.

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

Going Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whosoever

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

YOU are a whosoever!
YOU are a whosoever!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Time is Now

Have you ever come to Jesus?

Do you know Jesus now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Absolute Necessity

You must be born again.

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

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

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

Some things are absolutely necessary.

George Whitfield

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

George Whitfield
George Whitfield

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

Things were happening all over the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were trying to get there on time.

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

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

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

The Middletown Service

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

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

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

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

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

George Whitfield preaching at Middletown
George Whitfield preaching at Middletown

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

John 3:7 (MEV)

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

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

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

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

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

None of us are exempt from that.

You Must Be Born Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nicodemus was a religious man.

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

It’s Not Automatic

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

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

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

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

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

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

You must be born again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praise God!

I hope you have too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

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

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

Well, I didn’t have to worry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you haven’t, you can right now!

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

John 3:16 (MEV)

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

Sacrifice

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Jesus went to the cross.

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

Kerygma

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Debt Paid

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

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

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

A Special Kind of Belief

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

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

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

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

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

Two Kinds of Death

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

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

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

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

There’s a special type of belief.

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

You’re close.

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

Do You Know the ABCs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe you need to call upon the Lord. Night.

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

For more faith-based posts, click here.

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

God bless you and have a wonderful day.

One of The Most Important Questions Ever

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

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

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

Sermon video

Tug-of-War

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

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

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

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

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

But the community knew what to do.

They called for a day of prayer and fasting.  

October 16, 1746

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

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

They knew what to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen, indeed!

Powerful Storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 8:31-32 (MEV)

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

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

Confidence

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

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

Confidence
Confidence

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

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

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

Let’s look at the first half of that.

If God Is For Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Why?

Why would God be for us?  

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

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

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

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

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

God LOVES You!

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

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

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

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

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

Now to transition to the second half of the verse.

Who Could Be Against Us?

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

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

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

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

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

Who can stand against us?

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

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

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

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

Romans 8:35, 38, 39 (MEV)

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

There is nothing that can withstand God.  

God is All-Powerful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Principalities will not be able to stand against God.  

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

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

I’ve seen it.

Going Home

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

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

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

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

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

That’s amazing!

How can you do that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moses and Pharoah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ark of the Covenant

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant

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

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

The Day the Sun Stood Still

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one can!

None of us can!

Nothing can!

He has the power to take care of us.

God is in Charge no Matter the Circumstances

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

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

Romans 5;8
Romans 5:8

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

The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.  

Are You Ready?

Are you ready?

That’s a question that everyone needs to face.

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

The answer is no one can.

Do you know that God is for you?

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

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

Are you ready?
Are you ready?

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

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

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

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

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

I pray God blesses you.

Refocus

Focus, refocus, rebuild.

Refocus
Sermon 1-2-2022
Everone knows the story of Peter and how he had denied Jesus. He felt this sense of shame for denying Jesus. We know that the rooster crowed and he felt that shame that was there. Then after it had happened, people wanted to make sure that Peter heard about it.
I think the shame he felt is expressed well in the Don Fransico song “He’s Alive”.
The gates and doors were barred
All the windows fastened down
I spent the night in sleeplessness
And rose at every sound
Half in hopeless sorrow
And half in fear the day
Would find the soldiers breaking through
To drag us all away
And just before the sunrise
Heard something at the wall
The gate began to rattle
And a voice began to call
Hurried to the window
Looked down into the street
Expecting swords and torches
And the sound of soldier’s feet
Circumstance and speculation
Couldn’t lift me very high
‘Cause I’d seen them crucify Him
Then I saw Him die
Back inside the house again
The guilt and anguish came
Everything I’d promised Him
Just added to my shame
When at last it came to choices
I denied I knew His name
Even if He was alive
It wouldn’t be the same

Luke 22:60-62
60 Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying.” Immediately, while he was yet speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 62 And Peter went outside and wept bitterly.

As we consider this concept of refocusing, we’ll think about three stages of life when we focus. Next, we’ll discuss refocusing at any stage of life. Finally, we’ll think about rebuilding if necessary.

Focusing in Life Stages

Child Stage

Let’s start out with the first stage of life; the stage of being a child. To some degree, this “child” stage is relative. My aunt is about 91 years old, so to her, I am still my sister’s child. So we’re just talking about rough ages here – generalizations. Of course, you begin with birth. Now, I know that teenagers don’t like to be considered “children”, and definitely not people in their 20s, but for my purposes here, they are grouped into the child stage of life until they become parents.

Lots of changes take place in the child stage of life.
Child Stage is the first stage of life.

In many instances, this is the stage of life where they become Christians. But not always. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity a few years ago to be a chaplain at the VA Medical Center. At that time, most of the population there were World War 2 veterans. They had lived, and were strong men, but they had finally come up against something they weren’t able to handle on their own. It’s unusual for someone their age to come to Christ, but I am thankful that they were open to the Gospel.

But the statistics are that most people who become Christians do so when they are children. That’s why it’s good to have all the noise that children bring in a church service. They’re hearing the Gospel. Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me” (Matthew 19:14) and He said, “Except you become as a little child, you can not enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

In some of the discipleship classes I’ve been a part of, we practice telling our stories to one another. Telling your story to someone who hasn’t heard the Gospel can give them hope. In hearing those stories, there are often two parts. The first part is a story of coming to Christ at a young age, maybe 4 or 6 or, in my case, 11 years old. Then there is a second more significant part of that story, where the teller committed their life to Christ.

Also in the children’s stage, the Bible says that young men (and women) will have visions and old men (and women) will dream dreams. (Acts 2:17) So, young people can see what could be, and that excites me. When they get it in their hearts about what it could be like. Could your town be changed? Could your friends be changed? Could those who have maybe gotten into some addiction be changed? Could I be used to tell others about Christ? That often happens in the child stage

Parent Stage

Then I think about the parent stage. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has to have children. It’s just the general age a person may be when people start having children.

Recently, a lady in our community passed away. While she never had any children of her own, I know she influenced several young people throughout her life. We sent our children to her for piano lessons, and we were glad for them to learn to play the piano. But she was such a wonderful influence, I had often said that I would have paid her just to spend time with them. She was so excited about what was happening in their life.

As parents, you’re in the position of moving into leading. Sometimes this happens, and you don’t really have the manual, and don’t have it all figured out. Suddenly, there are these short people running through the house and you’re responsible for them. What are you supposed to do? You need to take the Word of God and let it help you run your life. You’re leading your family and you’re leading your children when you’re in that parental stage.

Stage two - the parent stage - is the age group where people usually start families.
The second stage of life is often when people start families.

But you’re also serving. The four gospels present Jesus in different ways. The Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as King. Matthew is primarily writing to the Jewish audience. The Gospel of Mark presents Jesus along the same line as some of the Old Testament prophets; as a servant. One of the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah, presented Jesus as a suffering servant. (Isaiah 52-53) So you’re leading your family and you’re leading your children. But if you’re a parent you’re a servant. You’re serving your family.

I had an uncle who was very rough and gruff. He wouldn’t go to church for anything although I do believe he got saved a day or two before he died. If I’m wrong, I’ve been able to cope with that thought through the years, because if I’m wrong it’s terrible. Even though he was rough and gruff, our daughters could wrap him around their little fingers. Because sometimes, we serve children. If you’re a parent, you may know what it’s like to be a suffering servant.

Oftentimes during this stage from the time that you become a parent up until the age when your children get married and have children, there often occurs, midlife reflection. Sometimes it becomes what is called a mid-life crisis.

What happens is you realize that your life is passing. You realize that you had visions and dreams to start with. Now you’re at the middle part of your life, your children are grown up, and you recognize your failures. You recognize that things haven’t turned out how you had hoped. Or, you may have a great deal of success in certain areas.

This is a good time to refocus. Have you been tied up with concerns with your job? Are you concerned with just your family just internally? Are you just being consumed with certain things? Meanwhile, the Lord has just been put off to the side. It’s a really good time for reflection and to realize that you need to refocus.

I have a book that was given to me by my children called “Half-Time” In the book, the author said in the first half of your life, you start making money and start working with your family. But then you come to a point where you have a parallel career. It may not be your main job or business. His point was that you ought to have a parallel career or start a new one. He said you should consider focusing on a ministry. During that mid-life reflection, I would hope that we would refocus on being more and more used by God. Many times the mid-life crisis hits men because of the weight of their responsibilities.

Grandparent Stage

Stage three of life I call the grandparent stage, and it's often when people move into retirement.
Retired/Grandparents

The third stage is that of grandparents. People who are around the ages of 50s or 60s and up. This would also include retirees.

I think if you are retired and you decide in retirement you’re just going to sit around and do nothing, you’re probably not going to be very happy. You might enjoy that for about a month. But, it may turn out that you’ll be so busy you ask yourself how you ever had time to have a job. I pray that’s how it will be for you when you retire.

I think of retirement as a time and opportunity for a new ministry. You might think that when I talk about ministry, I’m referring to being a preacher. But, every Christian can have a ministry and serve God in some way. In some capacity and I think they should find out what that is. It could certainly be part of that parallel career, and maybe you could devote all your time to it.

Well, when you’re doing this as grandparents, you’re helping and inspiring leaders: Now the parents of your grandchildren. Your children grew up and you get the opportunity to be present in the lives of their children. Your grandchildren may be driving your children crazy, and you might tell them “You’re paying for your raising”. Now, your children are thinking, ”Oh, now I understand. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard for my parents, but now I do.”

Remember earlier I talked about the young men having visions and the old ones dreaming dreams. Well, some of those dreams are remembering the successes. We have dreams for the future and may think that we may not be able to carry them out. Some of those dreams will be left for the younger ones to fulfill.
So, that’s focusing in the different life stages.

Refocusing at Any Life Stage

The second point is refocusing at any life stage. There is a story in the Bible about sisters named Mary and Martha. Jesus was going to spend time in their home. It was during His ministry and it was quite an honor. Martha and Mary spent a lot of time getting the house ready.

Martha was working while Mary was listening to Jesus.

When Jesus arrived, there were still things left to be done. Martha continued to work while Mary went and sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teaching. This angered Martha. She went to Jesus, the King of the Jews, and told Him to tell Mary to go and help her! But Jesus told her that what Mary chose to do is better. (Luke 10:38-42)

So with Mary and Martha, you have devotion, and you have action. Both were important. The reason why Mary could do what she did was because of the actions that had been done earlier.

I think about men and women. Specifically about women who have the heart to serve God. They often lead their husbands by their spirit and their love for God because they show devotion. Men do that also, but their expressing and showing devotion is different. Because of that, the ladies become a great challenge to us as men in the area of spirituality. So I’m praying that the Lord will bless you ladies in your devotion time. I know that if you take many actions you may be like Martha, too.

Men may wonder, “What’s this about coming and serving God? I just come to church and sit there.” I would suggest that you really focus on the words of the song as you’re hearing them sung. I would also suggest that you sing along. If you’re not comfortable with your singing voice, just sing quietly. But it’s almost passive, and you desire action.

There is action! Be active for God! Instead of just dropping the kids off at church, go inside and attend church with them. It’s good that you’re bringing the children to church so they can hear the word of God, but there’s something about the young boys seeing Dad there in the pew, worshipping, trying to sing, or with his head bowed. Sometimes, there’s Dad on his knees as an example.
“Looking for a few good men”

Leaders and examples for their families.
Leaders and examples for their families.

You have devotion in action. Do you need to refocus on your devotion and your love for God? Or do you need to refocus and take more action for God? Do you need to get out of your comfort zone? We talk about changing our Nation? It’s going to get changed one person at a time. What influence do you have on others that are around you?

Men and women both take action.

Rebuilding When Necessary

So we talked about focusing in the stages and refocusing at any age. Refocus and have a desire to have a greater devotion to Christ this year. Refocus and have the desire to do more action for Christ this year.

The third thing is rebuilding when necessary. Has it come to a point in your life where you need to rebuild? Sometimes people are dealing with addictions in their life, and it’s got such a hold on them. So they get a resolve. For example, the desire to quit smoking. It’s an addiction. It’s a physical thing and it’s very difficult. But the person begins the process. What happens, though, is that they have one slip-up and then give up. It can be another addiction or habit. It can be a bad habit you need to give up or a good one you need to start. But you have one bad day and quit trying.

There was a man walking down the street one day and there were two boys that looked like they were getting ready to fight. They had their fists up and were staring at each other. He came and stepped between the two because one boy was obviously a lot taller and heavier than the other one. So he was going to stop them before the younger one got clobbered.

Persistence pays off!
Perseverance.

The smaller boy said, “No, no, let me at him!”. It impressed him so much that the man stepped back and joined the rest of the crowd watching the fight.
They went at each other and the smaller boy got his nose bloodied. The man stepped in to stop it again. The bigger boy was smirking and gloating. Once again, though, the smaller boy said, “No. Don’t stop it. Let me back in there!” The bigger boy was taken aback, but the man stepped back again. The boys went at each other again, and this time the small boy came away with a busted lip. The man tried again to break up the fight, and the smaller boy said again, “No, let me back at him!” The bigger boy was getting tired at this point and was amazed that the other boy was still fighting. The fight went on for a while and each time the smaller boy was knocked down, he got back up and continued to fight. His persistence paid off and he won the fight!

II Corinthians 4:8,9
8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9 persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

In other words, down but not out. Rebuild when necessary. You can be down but not out. If you fall off a horse, get back on. The pathway to success often has marks of failure on it. You can often learn more by failure than by success.

Think of Peter’s restoration. They headed for the tomb where they had placed Jesus’ body. On their way there, they worried about how they would remove the stone. But when they arrived, they saw that the stone was moved, and a man clothed in white was there. (Mark 16:5-7) They were frightened but were told that Jesus had risen. The angel gave them instructions to tell His disciples “and Peter”.

Jesus came and met Peter again. After a time of restoration (John 21:15), Jesus and His disciples were together, and Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Peter said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus didn’t mention Peter’s failure. He just made sure Peter knew that He was coming back. Peter ended up being rebuilt in his life and on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached and thousands came to know the Lord.

Suddenly the air was filled
With strange and sweet perfume
Light that came from everywhere
Drove shadows from the room
Jesus stood before me
With His arms held open wide
And I fell down on my knees
And just clung to Him and cried
He raised me to my feet
And as I looked into His eyes
Love was shining out from Him
Like sunlight from the skies
Guilt in my confusion
Disappeared in sweet release
And every fear I’d ever had
Just melted into peace
He’s alive, He’s alive
He’s alive and I’m forgiven
Heaven’s gates are open wide
He’s alive!

Focus, refocus, rebuild.

You can be rebuilt, and you can refocus. If you’ve never accepted Christ, you need to do that, and commit your life to Him. You need to refocus on your devotion and action and get back in the game stronger than ever before.

Walking on Water

Walking on Water
Sermon Video

Fishing

Recently, I went fishing with a couple of my friends.  While on the boat, one of my friends said he was thirsty and would go get himself something to drink.  He stepped out of the boat, and, looking very tall, walked to the shore to get his drink. 

Fishing story
Fishing story

The second friend decided he was also thirsty and going to go to shore to get a drink.  He, too, stepped over the edge of the boat and walked to the shore. 

I decided I would step off of the boat too.  I promptly sunk up to the bottom.  The two friends on shore turned to one another and asked, “Do you think we should have told him where the stones were?”

Half Full or Half Empty?

I was thinking about the pessimist and the optimist.  They were both farmers.  One day it was raining.  The optimist said to the pessimist, “Look at the wonderful rain.”  The pessimist replied, “It may be good for now, but I hope it quits before too long, or it will drown my crops.”

A while later, the sun was shining.  The optimist said, “The sunshine is just fantastic!”  The pessimist said, “I hope my crops don’t burn.”

The optimist decided he was going to do something to get the other man to be positive.  

He was always seeing the negative!
He was always seeing the negative!

A few days later, the pair went duck hunting and the optimist saw his opportunity.  He brought along his special dog.  One of the men shot a duck, and the dog took off, just skipping across the top of the water!  He got the duck in his mouth and skipped back to the men across the top of the water back to the shore.  

The optimist thought, “I’ve got him now!” and he turned to the pessimist and asked, “What did you think about that?”

The pessimist answered, “Your dog can’t swim, can he?”

Solid Faith

A missionary was visiting a tribe in Africa.  He told the chief the story of Jesus walking on the water.  The chief told the missionary that it was impossible and he wouldn’t believe until he could find proof, although he didn’t know how he would be able to find proof.  

The missionary called for his assistant to bring a refrigerating device to the village.  They had the chief pour water into a container and they put it into the device and it froze.  The missionary told the chief that was the same water that he had poured into the device.  He took the ice and put it on the ground and stood on it.  The chief then had to admit that man could walk on water.  

A Brief Recap

Today’s scripture is from John 6.  It comes just after Jesus feeding the 5,000.  The Bible tells us that the disciples hadn’t fully comprehended who Jesus was.  It says that their hearts were hardened.  (Mark 6:52)

Could that be like us sometimes?  Could our hearts be hardened?

Jesus discerned that the people were going to try to make Him into the king that they wanted: a king who would deliver them from the tyranny of the Roman government and just take care of things for the moment. (John 6:15)

But when Jesus appeared before Pilate, He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

He had not come to just take care of that one moment in time.  He came as the Messiah, as the Savior of the world.  He came as the Great Miracle Worker and He was indeed God in the flesh.

He performed many miracles including turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, healing the nobleman’s son, healing the man at the Pool of Bethesda, and feeding the 5,000 with two fish and 5 loaves of bread.  

After feeding the 5,000, Jesus perceived that they were going to try to force Him to be an earthly king.  He instructed the disciples to go down to the boat, and He told the gathered crowd that the day was done and it was time for them to go home. 

Once He gave those instructions, He turned and was quickly gone from their sight.  

He went up into the mountain to pray and the disciples went down the mountain and got into the boat.  (Matthew 14:22-23)

The Sea of Galilee

The Bible tells us that some of the disciples were very experienced with boats.  Peter, James, and John had all worked as fishermen. (Matthew 4:18-21)  They had fished the Sea of Galilee and knew what it was like and what storms were like on that sea.

The Sea of Galilee isn't always this calm.
The Sea of Galilee isn’t always this calm.

That day, a storm did come up.  The disciples were in the boat about 3-4 miles out from shore.  Jesus saw them and walked out on the water to them.  Of course, they were startled when they saw Him and thought they were seeing a ghost. Had they not noticed Him, the Bible says He would have passed right by. (Mark 6:47-48)

How awful would it be if He passed us by?

Sinking

When they realized that it was Jesus, Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, bid me come to You on the water.” and Jesus said, “Come.”  and Peter stepped out onto the water. 

Focused on the storm instead of the Savior, Peter began to sink.
Focused on the storm instead of the Savior, Peter began to sink.

Peter walked on the water, for a little bit.  Then he saw that the storm was raging and got his eyes on the waves and he began to sink.  He cried out to the Lord and the Lord reached down and saved him.  (Matthew 14:28-31)

Now, I don’t know if they both walked back to the boat, if Jesus carried him to the boat, or if He dragged Peter through the water, but they both got back to the boat, and immediately they went to the other side of the sea.

John 6:16-21

16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea. 17 They got into a boat and went across the sea toward Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not come to them. 18 The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat. And they were afraid. 20 But He said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” 21 Then they gladly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going

The Lord performed a miracle.  He can do that if He wants to.  `

Face Life

Jesus had fed the 5,000.  They enjoyed that and were astounded.  Then Jesus sent them down to the boat and went off by Himself.  He was not physically in their presence.  They had to go to the boat and get out on the sea.  They had to face life.  They had to face it without the physical presence of Jesus.

We have to face life without the physical presence of Jesus near us.  His spiritual presence is always with us.  

Remember what He said to Thomas?  “Because you have seen Me you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believed.”  (John 20:29)

That includes you and me.  

We have to go through life without having Jesus’ bodily presence with us like He was in that time; Just like he wasn’t physically present when the disciples were out on the Sea of Galilee.  

We have to face life.  We have to be aware of His spiritual presence and by faith realize that He is with us.  

Sometimes it seems like He’s not around, and we wonder what’s going on.  

The Bible tells us that we are to occupy until Jesus comes. (Luke 19:11-27)  We need to be about life and face it as it comes.

Call on The Lord in the Storm

Storms of life come.  It’s not always sweetness and light.  Sometimes there are difficulties.  

The prophet Jeremiah was thrown into a well by evil men who wished him dead.  There was mud and silt at the bottom and he sank down.  

Another man heard about his situation and asked the king to free Jeremiah.  The king agreed and the man took some of his staff and lifted Jeremiah out of the mud and saved him.

Call on the Lord in your storm.
Call on the Lord in your storm.

During the dark times of life, you can call upon the Lord.  

The disciples called on Him when they were in the midst of that great storm on the Sea of Galilee.  

Call on The Lord When You Are Sinking

Peter’s lack of faith caused him to sink just after he witnessed a spectacular display of God’s power.  

Depression can often come just after a great victory.

When Peter began to sink, he knew to call out to the Lord.

Elijah the prophet had a great victory over the prophets of Baal.  Fire came and consumed the altar that had been soaked with water. (1 Kings 16:18-40)  Many of the false prophets were eliminated.  But after that, Elijah was concerned and the depression set in.  (1 Kings 19:4-8)

Peter was on top of the water but began to sink.

You’ve probably had ups and downs in your life.  Perhaps in some of the low points, you’ve begun to sink a little bit.  

I’ve got good news for you. God still loves you!  You can still call upon Him and He will reach down and pull you up.

Call out to God when you are sinking.
Call out to God when you are sinking.

God is powerful, and He cares about everyone. We do need to face life as it comes and do the best we can.  

But when the storms of life come, call on Him.  If you have begun to sink in your spiritual life, call on Him.  

Trust God and His Timing

God's timing is always perfect.
God’s timing is always perfect.

When Jesus and Peter got back in the boat, Jesus decided that it was immediately time for them to get to the other side, so they arrived there immediately.  

Sometimes, God will make the change just that quickly.  Not always.  Sometimes we have to go on through the storm.  

Trust God and His timing.  Sometimes he does things quickly and immediately.  

We know this: we struggle in this body of sin and death, but one day we will pass from this life and when we do, we will be changed immediately, in the twinkling of an eye!  Mortal will put on immortality and death will be swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)

Face life.
Call on God in the storms of life.
Call on God when you’re beginning to sink.
Trust His timing.

What To Do When You Are All Alone

What to Do When You Are All Alone

A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on the wedding at Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine. 
Then I wrote about Jesus healing the nobleman’s son and how you can be a noble person.

This week I’m covering another miracle of Jesus, and what to do when you feel all alone. It’s found in John 5.

Sermon video

John 5:1-18

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, which in Hebrew is called Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great crowd of invalids, blind, lame, and paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water. After the stirring of the water, whoever stepped in first was healed of whatever disease he had. 5 A certain man was there who had an illness for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been in that condition now a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred. But while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 Immediately the man was healed, took up his bed, and walked. That day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath day. It is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”  11 He answered them, “He who healed me said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” 12 So they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in that place.  14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have become whole. Sin no more lest something worse happens to you.” 15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 So the Jews persecuted Jesus and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day. 17 Jesus answered them, “My Father is working still, and I am working.” 18 So the Jews sought even more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

The Sick Man Healed…and Scolded!

The sick would wait for the waters to stir to get a chance to be healed
The sick would wait for the waters to stir to get a chance to be healed

Verse 2 talks about a pool of water.  Invalids would gather around it waiting for an angel to stir the water.  Some people think the water had medicinal properties, but I don’t think it did.  If that was the case, it would have had healing properties no matter what.   

The man mentioned here had been laying by the water for years. He watched closely and when he saw the waters stir, he tried to get there first. But because he had no one to help him get to the water, someone always beat him to it. 

Then Jesus came and asked if he wanted to be healed.  The man didn’tr realize who Jesus was and explained his situration.  He was still looking at what earthly people were able to do.  

Jesus told him to get up, pick up his bed, and walk.  The man may have doubted.  But he did as Jesus saidf and he had been healed!

This healing took place on the Sabbath.  When the Jewish leaders saw the man carrying his bed and told him it was unlawful for him to carry his bed on that day.  He told them about the man who had told him to do it.  The man had broken the Sabbath.  

Jesus had already moved on, so the leaders spoke to the man.  There he was, all excited about being healed, and he was scolded.

But Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.  He said we are to do good.  What’s better?  Keeping some rules or following Jesus’ lead.

Of course it’s important to set aside a day for rest and worship.  It’s good for your physical, mental, and spiritual health.  In Luke 14:5, Jesus said, “Which of you having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”

After the man was scolded by the Jewish leaders, Jesus found him again. He told the man to go on his way and “sin no more.” 

The Jewish leaders were angry at what Jesus had done.
The Jewish leaders were angry at what Jesus had done.

So the man left and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. This angered them even more because He had healed (done work) on the Sabbath. Not only that, He had also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.  They wanted Him dead. 

Jesus IS the Messiah

As I’ve said before, John 20:31 says, “But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  

Then in 1 John 5:13 he writes, “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

So the Gospel of John shows us who Jesus is.

We’ve seen some near disasters in the story so far, then the resolutions, and then persecutions coming again. 

I think there are four applications we can make in our lives from this.  

When You’re All Alone, Look to Jesus for Help

Think about the three Hebrew children (Daniel 3).  They were ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar to bow down and worship a false god,  which would break the second commandment; no idols. The three,  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused. 

The whole nation complied, with the exception of these three.  The king had ordered that anyone who disobeyed his decree would be thrown into the firey furnace. 

Three went in, but the king saw four.
Three went in, but the king saw four.

After they had been thrown in, the king went and looked inside.  Instead of three inside, there were four. 

The Bible says the fourth was “like the Son of God.” (Daniel 3:25) I believe it was the Son of God. 

When the time came to open the door of the furnace, they came out, their clothes weren’t burned, their eyebrows weren’t singed, and they didn’t even smell like smoke. 

They came out unscathed, and God took care of them.

Then there’s Daniel.

The order was given that no one was allowed to pray. Daniel made the decision that he was going to continue to pray just like he always had. Three times a day, he went into an upper room, left the doors and windows open, and talked to God.

Daniel was thrown into the lion's den alone.
Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den alone.

The punishment for Daniel’s defiance was to spend the night in the lions’ den.

He was thrown in with no man to help him.

The next day, the king called down to Daniel and asked if his God had been able to save him. Daniel looked up and said, “O king, God sent His angel to shut the lions’ mouths so they have not hurt me.” (Daniel 6)

God took care of him.

We have the story of Jonah.

He was swallowed by a great fish or whale. The animal had been prepared to do something unusual.

Jonah was in the belly of that fish alone for three days. There was no man to help him.
But while in there, Jonah prayed. After three days, the fish “spit him out” on dry ground.

Jonah spent 3 days alone in the belly of a big fish.
Jonah spent 3 days alone in the belly of a big fish.


Jonah went on to Nineveh, preached, and there was a great revival.

God took care of him.

When you feel like you’re all alone, look to Jesus for your help.

People have had loved ones pass away for one reason or another. Maybe a father dies while serving his country, leaving behind a wife and kids. Maybe a mother suffers from a terminal illness, and she leaves behind a husband and children. Single parents. It’s difficult to raise children all alone.

But the Bible tells us that God will be a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widows. (Psalm 68:5-6) and God is our comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3)

All over the world, persecuted Christians are facing death seemingly alone. But they aren’t alone. God is with them.

When You Sense God is Prompting You to Do Something Unusual, Act on It

My son and daughter-in-law (Rusty and Brenda) are missionaries in Japan. Something that all missionaries have in common is that it takes money for them to get where they need to go. It takes money for them to be able to survive.

My son and his family are missionaries in Japan.
My son and his family are missionaries in Japan.

Most countries that missionaries go to will not allow them to take other jobs in their country because it will take jobs away from their citizens. They go to the country under a missionary visa and they have to have that support that comes to them.

Rusty was raised in southern Illinois and Brenda was raised in Oklahoma. Neither were familiar with big cities. God spoke to each of them independently about becoming missionaries. After discussing it together, they understood that He wanted them to go to Japan.


So Rusty, from tiny little Thompsonville, Illinois, and his wife, were told that they needed to secure $108,000 a year.

Many people thought that was an excessive amount and it would make Rusty and Brenda rich.

However, Rhonda and I went to visit them in Japan. While there, we went to the grocery store and decided to buy them a watermelon. When you translated the Japanese amount into American dollars, that watermelon was $40!

So, $108,000 a year was not an excessive amount for them to live on in Japan.

Before leaving, they had to go out to various churches and raise money and get sponsors. They’d go out, and when they came home I would ask how it went. They would say it went great, someone had given them $30. Next time it was $50, then $400. But, those were all one-time offerings.

They just kept going, though.

They started coming back with the news that a couple people had committed to giving them $25 a month, then some people committed a little more.

After about 10 months, they had gotten so much support that they were up to 80% of what they needed. That was a miracle to me!

They made the plans and were able to go.
When God calls you to do something that seems hard or even impossible, do it!

He will bless you for it.

Get to Know Jesus

When the Jewish leaders asked the man who had healed him, he didn’t know. Then Jesus found him. (Aren’t you glad that Jesus comes to us?)

It only takes one offer of salvation for us to turn down, and then it’s on us. I believe that every person, at some point in their life, will have some type of encounter with Jesus.

What about those who have never heard?

Study the Bible to get to know Jesus better.
Study the Bible to get to know Jesus better.

Here’s what we know:
If they look up at the stars and realize that there’s a creator, God is going to send them some way to have more light.

What about those that live in countries where they could be killed for converting to Christianity? People have had dreams. In those dreams, Jesus came to them. You may think that it was just a dream, but it was the real Jesus and they accepted Him!

How do I know it was real? Because after they woke up, they tell people that they met Jesus in a dream. They face the loss of their own lives. That’s how I know it’s real. They met Jesus.

I believe that in every person’s life, Jesus, the Savior of the world, will come to them with an offer of salvation. It’s what you choose to do with Jesus that will count when you come to the end of this life.


But it goes beyond that single act of salvation. Get to know God. The man who was healed didn’t know who Jesus was. Jesus came to him, and he got to know Jesus.


How do we get to know Jesus?

One of the ways is through studying the Word of God. You may not have read a book since high school. Reading may be difficult for you.


When we lived in Georgia, we interviewed some parents who wanted to enroll their child in the Christian school we had. Sometime after evening, the pastor asked the father about his salvation experience. The father confessed that he had been intoxicated the night we had visited. But the pastor had shown the man the scriptures and told him how Jesus wanted to save him. That night, he believed.

After that, he became a Bible scholar. He would read a passage of scripture, and see the number at the bottom of the page that represented a corresponding or related verse, so he’d go read that. He told me once that he’d done it for three hours the night before. If he had trouble understanding some words, he would get a dictionary and look them up.


The Word of God is different than any other book. It is a living Word. I believe that if you take it and read just a little bit, search and meditate on it, the Bible says you will have good success.


That’s one of the ways to get to know God.


Another way is to talk to God. You don’t have to use flowery King James language.

Talk to God.
Talk to God.


Richard Wurmbrand was a Romanian Lutheran priest. He lived in a Communist country and was imprisoned because of his faith. He founded the organization called “The Voice of the Martyrs.”


He sat in a prison cell after having undergone an extensive time of torture. The physical suffering had devastated his mind. 
He started trying to pray.

 
“Our Father, Which art in Heaven. Hallowed be Thy ….” Then he could not remember anymore. 

Richard Wurmbrand
Richard Wurmbrand


I thought how disheartened I would have been if that had happened to me. 
But, then he said, “Suddenly it came to me that it was what we call ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ I was so happy I could remember what prayer it was. It was like the glory of the Lord came down and filled the prison. 

A young boy found a young girl’s name on a messaging site. After looking over her profile, the boy thought she sounded interesting and began to send her messages.

She replied and they chatted back and forth for some time. The more they talked, the more they wanted to know about one another. Finally, the boy asked if he could just call her.

They wanted to know each other better.

Tell Others About Him


An old friend, who has since passed away, often told me that in the past, he didn’t give God credit. Then he got saved and got to know God in such a way that he wasn’t ashamed and didn’t’ care what others thought.

Tell others about Jesus and what He's done for you.
Tell others about Jesus and what He’s done for you.


That’s what we all need to do. We need to tell others about Jesus.


There was a football player who would kneel down and pray after getting a touchdown.

Controversies aside, here’s the point. If you know God, if you know Jesus, and you know you’re saved and that your life has been changed, and there’s someone who needs help, they may just need you to tell them where that help is.

They can turn to Jesus.

If you’ve never called upon the Lord, I would say that you need to do that today!

Call upon Him.

Do you feel like you’re all alone? You’re not. Jesus is present. Call upon Him. He can help you in your time of need.

Turn the World Upside Down

Turn the World Upside Down

Our Nation needs a stirring. It needs to be turned upside down!

Sermon video

Acts 17:1-10

17 When they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. According to his custom, Paul went in, and on three Sabbaths he lectured to them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I preach to you, is the Christ.” Some of them were persuaded and joined with Paul and Silas, including a great crowd of devout Greeks and many leading women. But the Jews who did not believe became jealous and, taking some evil men from the marketplace, gathered a crowd, stirred up the city, and attacked the house of Jason, trying to bring them out to the mob. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brothers to the city officials, crying out, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” They troubled the crowd and the city officials when they heard these things. When they had taken a bail payment from Jason and the rest, they released them. 10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 


What was it like for the men who had the report given that they had turned the world upside down? Sometimes you make a statement and don’t think it will have any effect on someone, but it does. It can cause a turnaround in their life.
What were these men like? What had they seen in their lives? What did they see and face?

The apostles turned the world upside down!
The apostles turned the world upside down!

They Saw Jesus’ Miracles, Opposition, and Deliverance


When speaking of the 12 apostles, Jesus called them and they started following Him. They saw Him do many miracles. At least 4 of them saw the water turned into wine. They saw the healing of the nobleman’s son. There are 5 more miracles recorded in the book of John.

These were ordinary men. Some were professional fishermen, but they weren’t like the teachers of the Law who had studied it in depth.

But they say the miracles. They saw blind men receive their sight. They saw lame men walk.

They also saw the growing opposition toward Jesus.

They also saw deliverance. Early in Jesus’ ministry, there was a group that wanted to capture and kill Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus stepped into the midst of the crowd and just disappeared. His enemies couldn’t find Him. The apostles witnessed that.

They saw Jesus overcoming the opposition that was coming to Him.

Then it got worse, and Jesus was captured. He was taken before Pilate with a series of false accusations. Even Pilate could find no fault in Him and said He was innocent. But, He was crucified.

The apostles saw the persecution and the death.

They witnessed Christ's ultimate victory.
They witnessed Christ’s ultimate victory.

But they also saw the greatest victory of all. Three days after His crucifixion, he rose from the dead. Mary told them she had seen the risen Jesus, He was alive. Peter and John ran to the tomb and found it empty.

He is alive!

The apostles were ordinary people like you and me. When the soldiers came and arrested Jesus, they feared for their own lives. All of them forsook Him and fled. But after they saw Jesus alive again after He had been dead, they saw that what He had preached about was true. They saw that because He lives, we, too, can live. They saw that He was the first fruits of the resurrection, and when we go through the valley of the shadow of death, we come out on the other side.

Life After the Ascension

Jesus ascended and went to Heaven. The apostles began to see God working without the physical presence of Jesus. He was there spiritually, and the power of the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost.

Peter preached and 3,000 souls came to the Lord. (That was just counting the men.) Many came to Christ.

They immediately had a space problem. They had nowhere to meet. They considered the temple, but it was the Jews’, and these people were Christians.

They began meeting in people’s homes daily. They broke bread together, they remembered the Lord as they had communion, and would go to the temple for larger gatherings when they could.

These were the people who saw God moving and it turned their world upside down.

Eighteen centuries after the words about these men that turned the world upside down, according to 100 Verses that Shaped America by Robert Morgan, this verse was one of them.

William Tennent

There was a man named William Tennent who came from Scotland to America in 1718, 58 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Like many who came to the New World, he was a man of faith and had a prominent role in the founding of the country. Many of them were well educated. William Tennent graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1695.

The Log College
The Log College

Also, like the others, he saw a need for training new preachers. He built a log cabin. It was a seminary. It became known as The Log College. Men who felt called to preach attended and studied at the college. They studied the Bible, and then they would be equipped to go out and pastor churches.

It was during this time that “The Great Awakening” began in America, and it was all because of the people that came seeking God, not gold, and wanted to evangelize the people who were already here.

George Whitfield

There was another man named George Whitfield who came from England. He was quite an evangelist. He heard about the Log College and offered to come and preach. William Tennent gladly accepted the offer. However, he didn’t know what time George Whitfield was to arrive.

Word spread around the community that he was coming, and a large crowd began to gather at the 20×20 cabin. It turned out to be around 3,000 people!
Since he didn’t know when his special speaker was going to arrive, William Tennent took the opportunity to preach a sermon himself. It’s said that it was very powerful.

These men were instrumental in being used by God for the Great Awakening in the fledgling nation.

A recent Gallup poll said that, in the years since they’ve been keeping records, church attendance has been steadily declining. It’s the lowest that it’s ever been.

We need another Great Awakening in the United States. It will not be by our might or power, but by God’s spirit.

These were people who turned the world upside down.

The 12 apostles saw the beginning of the church and the ministry of the church.

They Saw Their Own Miracles, Opposition, and Deliverance on Occasion

Then they began to experience opposition.

Peter was thrown into prison. Prayers for his release went up. That night, an angel came and released Peter from his chains and he was free. He went to the house where he knew the group was gathered and knocked on the door. A young girl went to answer the knock and recognized Peter’s voice. She was so excited that she didn’t even open it but instead ran to tell the others. They thought she was insane. They said it couldn’t be him, it was probably his ghost. Peter continued to knock, and when they finally opened the door, they were astonished. (Acts 12:6-16)

Some of the apostles were imprisoned.
Some of the apostles were imprisoned.

They saw God’s deliverance.

Paul and Silas faced opposition as well. But they also experienced miracles, time and time again, just like they did when Jesus walked the earth. There are stories about it all throughout the book of Acts.

Paul and Silas were thrown into prison in Philippi. At midnight, they were singing praises to God. The other prisoners heard them. Then, an earthquake came and all the doors of the prison were opened and their chains fell away.

Now, the other prisoners were smart. They figured they could just walk out, but they knew they would be recaptured and it would be worse than before.

The jailer came and found the door open and thought all the prisoners had escaped. He was so afraid of the consequences that he pulled out his sword with the intent of killing himself.

But Paul called out to him and told him that they were all still there, and no one had escaped.

The jailer took them out of their cell and took them to his house. He asked what he had to do to be saved. They told him he had to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and he would be saved, as well as anyone in his household who believed. The jailer and his household believed and were saved. (Acts 16: 16-40)

So the apostles had seen deliverance from opposition too.

Just as it was in the life of Jesus, their ministry went on, and they would be delivered time and time again.

The Bible doesn’t tell their whole life stories, the book of Acts just ends, and their lives went on.

They Experienced Ministry, Death, and Ultimate Victory

Many of them were crucified. According to tradition, the Apostle Peter said he wasn’t worthy to be crucified like Jesus was so he was hung upside down on the cross.

Another one was crucified on a cross that was shaped like an “X” as opposed to the traditional one. On a traditional cross, one wouldn’t last very long. This man was in agony for 3 days before he died.

These were some of the same men who had run away before. They were capable of having human fear just like you and me. But they had seen Jesus die and had seen him risen, and knew that it was real. They knew that if they passed from this life and if they knew Jesus, they would pass on to Glory.

It changed their lives. It changed their boldness. They preached time after time, and many souls came to the Lord.

Boldness is needed now!
Boldness is needed now!

It didn’t end after that first century. It’s gone on and on and on and is still going on today. Millions have believed because their message was passed on.

They turned the world upside down because they had been with Jesus.

What part of your world needs to be turned upside down? Your school? Your job? Your family? Your nation? Let it happen because you know Jesus and you’re not afraid to talk about Him.

Since 1973, over 60 million babies have been killed. We didn’t stand up! The other side made their voices heard and continues to.

We need to be bold and radical for the Lord.

Your Personal Relationship with Christ

If you have never accepted Christ as your savior, I urge you to find a place to get alone with God and ask Him to come into your heart and your life.

The apostle Paul wrote that if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved and whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:9-13)

The most important prayer.
The most important prayer.

You may have prayed many times in the past. You may have prayed for safety on a trip, or for the health of a loved one. But have you ever talked to Jesus and told Him that you believe that He is who the Bible says He is and you’re willing to submit your life to Him? Have you ever called upon Him and asked Him to save you? If you’ve not done that, I urge you to do that.

What’s A Mother to Do?

Today, I’ll be looking at three different passages of scripture.  The main one will be 1 Kings 17.  I’ll also discuss Luke 4 and Matthew 6. I’ll begin with Matthew 6.

Many times, a mother will ask herself, “What’s a mother to do?”

My wife worried, but our daughter was ok.
My wife worried, but our daughter was ok.

When our second child was about 2 years old, my wife was preparing a salad.  She was tearing off the bits of lettuce that were browned and not edible.  She heard a noise, turned around, and discovered our daughter eating the scraps.  We panicked a little, but she was fine.

I heard of a mother who went into her child’s room and found that the child had “decorated” the walls with crayons.  In a flash of insight, the mother grabbed an empty picture frame and framed the child’s artwork, and just left it there.

I want to tell you about a mother who was in dire straits.  She was wondering what she was going to do.  

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore, I say to you, take no thought about your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they do not sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they? 27 Who among you by taking thought can add a cubit[a] to his stature? 28 “Why take thought about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: They neither work, nor do they spin. 29 Yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. 30 Therefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is here and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore, take no thought, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 (For the Gentiles seek after all these things.) For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you. 34 Therefore, take no thought about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take thought about the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the trouble thereof.

History Lesson

First Kings chapter 17 tells us about a woman who was in dire straits.  The economy was very bad.  She lived in ancient Israel.  The time was after David the great king and his son Solomon.  Solomon’s son Rehoboam was the successor.  He went to the counselors and asked what he should do for the people.  They gave him some good advice, telling him that his father had gotten pretty harsh in his old age.  They recommended that Rehoboam help the people and they would love him forever.  

However, he went to some younger people and was told that if he gave too much to the people, they would take advantage of him.

So he followed the counsel of the younger people and announced that things were about to get much more difficult under his reign.  Ten of the 12 tribes decided they would not go along with that and left.

What had been a united kingdom was now split between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom.  The northern kingdom kept the name Israel.  The southern kingdom went by Judah.  

The prophets came and said that if they didn’t repent, they would be taken into captivity.  That did happen later.  The Assyrians came and took the northern tribes into captivity and they pretty much disappeared.  You don’t hear about them much anymore.  If you’ve heard of the “ten lost tribes of Israel”, it’s most likely about those tribes taken by the Assyrians.

What remained was Judah.  Jerusalem was in that country.  That’s where the main Jewish temple was.  Assyria’s power began to wane, so Babylon came in and took Judah captive.  So, in the end, they all wound up in captivity, just as the prophets had said.

Before the captivity, there was a series of kings.  All the kings of the northern kingdoms, beginning with Rehoboam, rebelled against God.  He created idols such as golden calves, for them to worship.  In the Bible, it says that the nation continued to do evil in the sight of God.  

The southern kingdom had a mix of both good and bad kings.  King Ahab was known as the worst king ever. The mother in our story lived during his reign.  There was a drought and famine in the land, so food was very scarce.  

What’s A Mother to Do?

The mother’s problem was that she was alone.  She had a son, but she was a widow.  She was doing her best to make ends meet.

One day she was out gathering twigs for a fire.  She had looked at her food supply and discovered that she had only enough left to make one meal for herself and her child.  

Then a man of God came along.  It seemed to the woman that it was just a chance encounter.  In their culture, they were supposed to care for strangers and travelers.  The man asked for a drink and the woman obliged. As she turned to get it, the man asked for a piece of bread as well.  The woman was devastated.  She told the traveler that she had enough supplies for one bit of bread for her and her son to eat and that they would then most likely starve to death.  

What's a mother to do? She barely had enough for her son and herself.
What’s a mother to do? She barely had enough for her son and herself.

You may think that this man of God took pity on the woman and told her to keep the bread for herself and her child.  He did not.  He told her to go ahead and make the bread and bring it to him when she brought the drink.  

What’s a mother to do?  She’s gotten instruction that seems to make no sense, and goes against her every instinct!

Sometimes, God does that with us.  Sometimes while you’re reading the Bible, you will come across something that doesn’t seem to make sense.  Why?  Because we’re thinking in the ways of the world.  We don’t know what the future holds, but God does.  

The man of God was named Elijah. He gave the woman the instruction and she was supposed to follow it.

What’s a mother to do?

A mother, and everyone else, needs to have her ears attuned to hearing God speak to her.  Keep your mind open when reading the Bible.  If the Scriptures say it’s wrong, it’s wrong.  No discussion is needed.  

God's voice to us
God’s voice to us

It doesn’t matter how you try to rationalize it, if it seems too harsh, or if it doesn’t make sense to you.  If God says it’s wrong, it’s wrong!

Now, I do believe in a certain amount of tolerance.  I won’t kill you for your opinion, and I certainly hope you won’t kill me for mine.

But today, there seems to be a movement that says, “I can have my opinion, but you can’t have your (BIblical based) opinion.”  That’s not tolerance. 

For me, on this Earth, the only one who can get me to change my opinion on Biblical matters is God.

Obedience and Miracles

Back to our mother: Elijah told her to do as she said, to make the bread for herself and her son, but first, bring him some of it. She was in a quandary.  She wrestled with the idea of just leaving the man standing there instead of feeding him as he’d asked.  She made the decision to do as he had asked.

She reached down into the flour barrel, and a few grains fell out of her hand. She thought maybe there was a little more than she had thought.  Then she poured the oil and noticed she had a few more drops than she had realized. But there wasn’t enough to make another cake. She went ahead and made the cake and took it to Elijah.

Feeling hopeful, she reached back into the flour barrel and found that there was enough to make a cake (bread)for herself and her son.  She discovered the same thing with the oil.  That in itself was amazing.

The next day, however, she went back to check the supplies and found that there was enough flour and oil to feed them that day. The next day was the same, and the next, and the next!  God provided for that widow and her son. 

Luke 4:24-27 mentions the widow:
24 He also said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 But I tell you truthfully, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were closed for three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land. 26 Yet to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, a city of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet. But none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

So out of all the people in need during that time, the one widow heard and obeyed, and was given a miracle.  Why was it only her? 

I don’t know.

What I do know is that God is good all the time.  I know that the Apostle Paul had seen countless miracles.  It’s called a miracle because it doesn’t happen all the time.  If it happened all the time, it would just be something we expected. A miracle is when God does something unusual and supernatural.  He did that for the widow.  

What Are We to Do?

Now it comes to what are we to do?

We are to look for God and listen for God all the time in our lives.  We are to watch for the miracles and when they happen, rejoice and testify about them. 

Maybe you’re like Paul, who had an infirmity of the flesh.  Three times he asked God to remove it from him, and probably thought He would, but God did not remove the infirmity.  However, Paul continued to praise and serve the Lord.  

Sometimes God does something miraculous, sometimes He doesn’t.  But he told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  

So what’s a mother to do?  What’s a person to do when in dire straits?  

First of all, you pray and look for God to work.  When you see Him working, allow it to happen. But, you also need to trust God when you don’t understand what’s going on.  

Another Miracle

After the blessing of the flour and oil, the widow came to a point where she didn’t understand what was going on.  After some time, her son became very ill.  It looked like he was near death. 

The widow's son became very ill.
The widow’s son became very ill.

So the widow sent word to Elijah that her son was gravely ill. She asked if he was just going to continually remind her of her sin.  She sarcastically spoke to Elijah.  He ignored her sarcasm and asked that the child be brought to him.  She carried her son to the prophet and he took him to an upper room and began to pray. Three times he asked God to bring the child’s soul back.  After the third request, the child began to breathe again. Not only was he breathing, but he got up and was well.

She had trusted God with the food, and He provided.  God had healed her son. 

What’s a mother to do?

Listen to God to see where He’s going to work.  Read and believe Scripture.  Trust God in the everyday things of life.

The Final Action

There’s one other part of the mother and son’s story.  It’s not written in 1 Kings 17 but I know that it happened.  At some point, they both died.  I believe that the woman trusted God, and at her death, she went to be with Him.  I also like to think that she told her son the story as he grew, and he came to trust God as well.  If he did, he also went to be with God in the end. 

So, the most important thing that ANY person can do is to know that you know that if death comes your way, you’re ready to go and meet the Lord.  It will be a wonderful thing for you.  It will be a time of joy, with no pain or suffering. 

Invite Jesus into your life today.
Invite Jesus into your life today.

What’s a mother to do?  Trust God.  Most of all, make sure you’re ready!  How?

Believe in the promises that are in God’s Word.  I’d be glad to show you some.  You can contact me here and I can share them with you.  I’m not asking if you’ve attended church, or even said a prayer once.  Do you KNOW that you’re ready to meet God?