The Message, Not the Messenger

The Message Not the Messenger: Acts 26:16-18

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We often feel we are inadequate or lack enough training or knowledge to share the gospel.  Some of us think we don’t have the ability to be a great orator. We get tongue tied, or speak to softly, or stutter. Some of us are held back from the shame of our past. We wonder how could we ever confront someone on what is right or wrong with the things we have done in our past?  Maybe its that we are not the right color, or the right age, or that we are just a new Christian. Insecurities creep in from every direction.  Our insecurities help is to make millions of excuses why “someone else” should tell people about Jesus and not us.

We compare ourselves to Billy Graham, or some other big named evangelist and tell ourselves that I could never be that useful to God.  We may even compare ourselves to the Apostles and say man, I wish I could be like Luke and write amazing things about Jesus and the church.  We may tell ourselves, I could never be like Paul and plant churches everywhere I go.  To often we look at our own limitations and not what God can do; if we were to just be obedient.

Peter was just an average guy  when he was called by Jesus.  He was a fisherman who made a living by the sweat of his brow and the sores on his hands. Peter denied Christ when he needed him most.  Peter was a man of shame. He had to overcome this in love of Jesus Christ. Paul murdered Christians and suffered beatings, sicknesses, and ridicule.  Paul had to be encouraged in his ministry by other believers, and even had to have a personal physician.  Paul had to overcome all of this in the love of Jesus Christ.  Both men, and even Luke had their failings from the past to look beyond.  They had to keep looking forward to the day of redemption, and to be faithful to the commandment from Jesus that they had received.  The commandment to go and tell.  We however continue to look at our failures and let them assure us that we are unworthy to carry such a message.

The truth is, we are unworthy to carry such a message.  However; we are also uniquely qualified to carry the message of hope.  We to must overcome our past by the love of Jesus Christ. You see we did not earn the privilege to speak on his name.  We received a task that is a privilege to perform for him.  We know our dreadful past with all of the horrific things we have done against God and others.  But we are not the only ones who know.  Those who God sends us to, they know it also.  Our friends and family, wives, siblings, children, parents, they all know who we used to be.  More importantly, we know who we used to be. But we have something to share with them.

What we share with them is hope.  We share with them Jesus and a new life that is free from the past.  We show them by our lives that they do not have to be the same way they are.  There is a way to live without shame, addiction and rejection.  None of us started out the way we ended up.  We all wanted to be something better than what we became.  We show them how Jesus can make us free to live life in a better way than we ever dreamed.  We can have redemption, hope, joy, and love!  We can be loved!  We can love others too! The gospel of Jesus Christ is that and so much more.  But, we hide this important message from them because of our insecurities.  We forget that it is not us, but the Spirit of the Living God who resides in us that gives us the ability to bear witness of the things he has done for us, for them.

We don’t see that before Billy Graham was a world renowned evangelist and clergy to the Office of the President of the United States, he was just another guy.  He gave his life to Christ at the age of 16.  He was a farmer’s son.  His first ministry was to lead prayer meetings in a trailer park.  He applied to be an Army Chaplain and was denied do to a lack of formal experience.  He then became a Pastor of a small Baptist church.  He began to host a weekly radio program.  Billy Graham looked for opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Eventually he became the first full time organizer of Youth for Christ.  This is what God used to open doors all across the world for many generations.  Billy Graham was of humble beginnings, without experience, and largely unlearned, and often felt inadequate to speak the gospel of Jesus Christ. But he was obedient.  It is God who made Billy Graham, Paul, Peter, Luke, and all the other historic men and women of God who they are today.

In Acts 26 we get a look at Paul, or Saul at this time.  It is strange, but; when we consider who would have been the first martyrs of the church we would assume that it would be one of the twelve apostles.  You know the guys who were right there, and saw it all go down.  I could see Peter volunteering himself to go first.  After all, he did tell Jesus that he would go with him unto death!  However; this is not the case.  Instead, the first martyr recorded was a young man.  This youth was named Stephen.  Stephen was one of the deacons of the church.  He tended to the widows, orphans, and other needs of the church and it’s members.  Like other early followers, he was not restricted to just administrative tasks, but was active in spreading the gospel himself.  This is something that we should all learn.  Even though he was a deacon, he understood that his work for the gospel of Jesus did not end there.  He didn’t say, “I’m a deacon, not a preacher”.  In fact, if you study the book of acts you will see that all of the first deacons were also preachers, and evangelists.

Scripture doesn’t tell us what seminary or special training that Stephen went though, or how powerful of a speaker he was.  It does not tell us that Stephen was anything exceptional.  With the exception of this, “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” (Acts 6:8)  Stephen was full of faith!  That is it.  Because Stephen was full of faith, God did great wonders and miracles through Stephen.  So this humble young man who believed enough to share his faith soon got into trouble with the local religious groups.

Stephen was brought up on charges of blasphemy for proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  Stephen was stoned to death for his testimony of Jesus.  Now a man named Saul, was one of those present and took pleasure at the stoning of Stephen.  This Saul, would become known as Paul, the same one who would latter change the world with the doctrine of salvation by grace, hated believers in Jesus Christ.  Saul even went further and received authorization to persecute Christians throughout the Providences of Asia.  This meant he had permission to go from town to town and arrest, beat, and stone to death anyone who he witnessed or was witnessed to him, as a Christian.

Paul himself testifies of his own evil deeds that he did.  He tells King Agrippa that he threw many “followers of the way” (Christians) into prison and saw to it that they were executed. Paul himself would testify against them in courts. He said that he often punished them in the synagogues.  He would back them into a corner with his knowledge of scripture and his intellect and force them to commit blasphemy in front of the Pharisees so that they would be stoned to death. When the persecuted fled Jerusalem, then Paul proceeded to hunt them down throughout Asia.  Now, I ask you.  What have you done that is shameful?  What has disqualified you from sharing the gospel?  How many innocent lives have you taken?  How many followers of Jesus Christ have you condemned to death?

OK, so this Saul was on a hunting trip to catch more followers of the Way. Then while Paul is riding along and anticipating his trophies to be won, suddenly, he runs right smack dab into Jesus.  Jesus blinds Saul with his glory and then confronts him on his sin.  Saul, like you and I, repented.  Saul saw the error of his ways, his foolish pride and arrogance, his sins against God himself.  His errors in the past swept before his heart and his mind’s eye.  Saul was immediately sorrowful and his shame was displayed before him.  He suddenly understood how shameful he was.  He was not the righteous soldier of God he had imagined in his vanity.  Instead he was a murderer of the ones that truly loved God.  Saul had worked his whole life and studied hard to be pleasing to God, and yet he had not seen the light.  He was lost, more than any other man. He also knew that his actions, above of all other men’s, could not be forgiven.  The pride that had blinded him, was now gone.  Saul was broken.

Then something happened.  Jesus forgave Paul.  He forgave him of everything, with nothing left out to hold over his life.  Just like Jesus forgave you and I.  But that would not be the only thing that Jesus did for Saul.  Jesus sent Saul on mission. Acts 26:16-18 tells of about this, “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

Paul was to rise to his feet, but to never think to highly of himself again.  Paul’s humility would be the strength that God would use to spread his gospel of grace by faith.  Jesus told Paul, “rise and stand upon thy feet.”  Jesus told him to stand up, I have a job for you.  Jesus confronted Paul of his sin.  Once Paul confessed and repented, Jesus stood him up and gave him purpose.  The Lord gave Paul a new life and a new purpose, in and for Jesus Christ.  Now that Paul had been delivered, he was not to return to his old life.  Paul would no long serve his own purposes.  Paul, now that he was redeemed was now a servant of the Lord who had redeemed him.

Paul’s new purpose was to go where the Lord directed and “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

How did Paul start out this mission?  He was humble.  He was blind.  He was dependent upon those around him.  He was led about by the hand. He had to wait on the Lord.  When Paul first started preaching, no one listened to him.  His past immediately came up, and people did not trust him.  They didn’t believe in his conversion.  Then when they did start listening they tried to kill him.  Does this sound familiar?  When you first believed in Christ, were you not treated in such a way?  Did friends and family disbelieve the sincerity of your conversion?  Did they say things like, “Awe you just on a Jesus kick!” Afterward, they would then grow tired of you talking about Jesus and even begin to be confrontational, or avoiding you.  See these same things you go through, even the great Apostle Paul went through.  All of these feelings of inadequacy.  Things that encourage you to just crawl in a hole and not mention the name of the one who redeemed you.  They are real things the enemy uses to silence us.

See we are all the same.  We are all just servants, none of us is better or more important than the other. We all need to be obedient and follow the calling of Christ.  This mission that Jesus gave Saul, it the same one he gave the other disciples.  It is the same one he gives us as new disciples.  This is part of our inheritance.  We have the great privilege to speak life to people in the name of the Lord Jesus
Christ.  Let us then do like Saul, who became known as Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Let us get up and put our old lives behind us.  Live the life and purpose that Jesus has now given to us.  Go on mission to tell others about what God has done for you.  How he has delivered YOU from death and shame into love and life in Jesus Christ.  Have we forgotten that the Lord told the Pharisees, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”   We are who the Lord chose to reveal himself to; those who are sick, and feeble, those who are in need.  He did not come to call the religious, but those who are lost and need redemption.  He did not call the perfect, but those who are broken and distraught.  Those who need him are the ones he came to deliver.

We who have believed have now been made anew.  Like a new garment that is clean and nicely pressed we have a new life.  The Spirit of God has come to indwell this new wineskin, not the old. Jesus had laid his hands upon us and healed us from our infirmities.  Jesus removed the shackles of death and the bondage of sin (addictions) that once crippled us.  He has raised us up to be glorified in him, to him, and for him.  We like Saul have been redeemed, bought, for his purposes.  It is by faith that we have been made whole.  Faith that God exists. Faith that Jesus if the Son of God.  Faith that Jesus dies and was buried for our sin.  Faith that we will be resurrected just as he resurrected.  Faith that he will return to establish his kingdom here on earth and destroy his enemies. Faith that we are delivered to eternal life through Jesus Christ.

This is our hope in this life.  We have this newness of life in Christ.  Death died with the old man we used to be.  Now we have a new life in Jesus Christ.  This new life is free from sin, shame, and death.  We have nothing to fear in this life and can then love as Christ has love us.  There is nothing that anyone can hold against this new creature in Christ that we have become.  Paul told Timothy, “let no man despise they youth”. Let no man despise you’re youth, in age or spiritual maturity, for many elders in the church have gone to sleep spiritually.

So again let us, open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among we which are sanctified by faith that is in us concerning Jesus Christ.

Luke 8:22-25 He’s Just Asleep in the Boat.

Luke 8:22-25 He’s Just Asleep in the Boat.

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Did you ever wonder what it means to meditate on the Word day and night?  It means that we should constantly be studying the scriptures and contemplating what God is trying to tell us.  We should discuss them with the Lord, with our own hearts, and with one another.  We should be in a manner of constant encouragement and refinement of our thoughts and attitudes concerning life, our families, communities, and God himself.  During this time of uncertainty we can take a look at an event in scripture that is recorded in Luke chapter 8 and see how we can chew up this passage, digest it, and make it part of our life.

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Jesus Calms a Storm

22  Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. 23  But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. 24  And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25  And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him. (Luke 8:22-25)

The term certain day shows us that this was an actual event that took place.  The event has a particular time, place, and people involved.  For the writer and those involved, it is a matter of history and fact.  They lived this event.  The things that unfold in this short story are real and binding on the hearts of the witnesses, this is their account as relayed to Luke.  The events are further corroborated by Matthew in his gospel account in Matthew 8:23-27.  So here we have two witnesses of this account in writing.  This is very important.  You see in Deuteronomy 17:6 it tells us, “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.” (Deuteronomy 17:6) You see here that all it takes to sentence a man to death according to Hebrew law is for two witnesses to bring a credible witness against the accused.  If this is what is required to condemn a man to death then it is enough to validate this event.

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So we see that the disciples and Jesus were on passage on a boat and when Jesus went to sleep, a violent storm came.  The wind was howling, the boat was taking on water, these men felt that their lives were in danger from forces they could not control.  Take note, these were not inexperienced Saturday afternoon boaters.  Most of these men were fishermen.  These men were of strong hand and backs, they had been in a storm or two in their years of fishing.  If you have ever met a sailor, they often pride themselves on the storms they have endured on the seas.  However; this was not the same kind of storm that these men had endured before.  This storm frightened them to the point of fearing death.  It was pretty easy for them to see that the boat would likely be crushed in the waves, the wind and water was overtaking the boat.  They had no control over their circumstances.  All of their lives were passing before their eyes.  Wives lips that would never be kissed again, children that would never be played with again.  The sunrises they would miss.  Songs that they would never sing again.  As they looked over their possessions, their homes, their clothes, money, land, and more they began realize how little value those things actually had.  They could see that they had focused their whole lives on things that really didn’t matter.  Their children, their spouses, their families, and their God are the things that mattered.  Now they could see that each of them alone would have to face God and each give an account for their lives and sins.  “Oh my, did I confess all my sins during the atonement?”  “Did God actually forgive me?”  “If only I had a Rabbi here now!”…. “Wait… I do!”  Then they turn their eyes toward Jesus.

Jesus is sleeping.  In all of this storming wind, spraying of water, beating of the waves, screaming of the men, Jesus is steadfast asleep.  He is in a place of safety and comfort.  Peacefully like a baby he is there sleeping, probably laying in a puddle of water, soaked from head to toe, but asleep none the less.  Lenny LeBlanc released a song a few decades ago that I use to love listening to.  The name of the song was Asleep in the Boat.  It talks about a promise God made, and that he is always there, just as Jesus was here with his disciples.  Just like when we are in the storm, He is here for us.  I often wonder what Jesus was dreaming about.  I wonder if this scripture from Isaiah 49:15-16 is what he was thinking of, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me”. 

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Jesus could have been dreaming of his home that he left behind, or how much he missed being with the Father.  He could have been dreaming that the swaying of the boat in the waves was him being rocked in the arms of his loving Father.  We could spend all day just contemplating this little portion of the scripture.  Something to contemplate.  Jesus might not have been asleep at all.  He may have been there just listening and observing with his eyes closed.  Waiting for just one of them to say, you know if Jesus is not worried, then neither am I.  He could have been waiting for them to just ask for him to help.  He could have been waiting to see if they had learned anything in how to pray.  After all they did already ask him how to pray, and he gave a line-by-line example of how one should pray.  He had already taught them on many things concerning faith and waiting on the Lord. He could have been testing his disciples to see how they were developing.  I wonder sometimes if I could pass such a test.  Looking death right in the face, would I have enough faith to just lay down and sleep, trusting in the Lord for whatever his will was. There is allot to contemplate concerning God, and ourselves in this passage. One thing for sure, the disciples did not care that he was sleeping peacefully.  They woke him up.

The fear and anxiety the disciples were experiencing was relayed in their choice of words; “Master, we perish”.  They were saying that they just knew they were all dead men, including Jesus.  There plea to Jesus is not one of faith that he can deliver them.  It is a last ditch effort that maybe the preacher can pray for us and God might hear him and just maybe he will save us.  They had no idea that this is the real-to-life, Son of God that they have just awoken and revealed their total lack of faith to.  Now something to once again stop and meditate on.  How often do we do this? How often do we look at the circumstance and look at God and assume he was asleep.  Do we actually believe that he has our best interests in mind?  What if his will is different than ours?  Do we have faith to accept that will, knowing that even though we cannot understand it, that he is doing what is best for us and keeping us in his plan?  That my fellow believer is steadfast faith.  This is nothing that Jesus didn’t do for us.  He led by example.

In the Garden the night before his execution when Jesus prayed the scripture uses phrases like, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death”…”he went forward an little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: never the less not what I will, but what thou wilt”.  See Jesus did exactly what we are expected to do.  Pray for our need, but submit to the will of the Father.  Know that what he is asking us to do is needful and necessary.  If Jesus would not have suffered for us, then we would not know the Father.  If you do not have times of suffering, someone else who may have come to know Jesus by the example of your faith, might die in their sins.  We have to trust in his will, that is faith.  Standing in that hope and knowledge of the love of God towards you is exercising that faith.  So then the disciples awoke Jesus in some vague hope that he just might be close enough to God to do something.

Well it turns out that Jesus has some authority that the disciples were not aware of.  Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. When the disciples had finally exhausted themselves and all of their resources and were still hopeless in their situation, they called on Jesus.  Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and the waters and the wind and the waters ceased… and there was a calm.  This says “a” calm.  It was dead silence.  No one had ever seen the winds and raging seas obey a man.  The closes things to this was the parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River.  I imagine that Peter and the rest of them were thinking the same thing.  Holy MOSES Batman!  One thing is for sure, there fear of the things of nature turned into the fear of God.  Things that no man could control were controlled by the words spoken by Jesus.  “In the beginning was the Word”… “Then God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”… “I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, and I said, Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop”… my there is a lot to meditate on in this little section of scripture.  You see they did not know that the very God who created the oceans, and established their boundaries was in the boat with them.  Even when he rebuked the waves, they still did not fully understand.  That is the way we are.  We believe that the Lord has saved us and that he still delivers us out of our troubles, yet we still doubt him and need constant reassurances from him.  We often fail to trust him, even though we know that he is right there in the boat with us.  We confess that he has all authority, then we act like we are hopeless and being tossed about the seas, instead of being rocked to sleep in his loving arms.

Jesus asked them, “Where is your faith?”  That translated into “Where is your faith?”  We Jesus in all fairness we don’t know of when you promised to deliver us from a storm!  Really?  Let us go to Psalms.  “He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (Psalm 107:29-31)  Oh, you mean that?  Just because it is so specific and says exactly what happened in this event, somehow that applies.  Yes, you see to meditate on the scriptures is to learn of the Lord, and ALL of his ways.  We are to write his words upon our hearts, on our foreheads, on our street corners, and on our door posts. We are to tell them to our children, sing of them in our gatherings, teach them in our schools, and most of all encourage one another in their meanings.  God loves us so much he wrote a whole 66 volume set of books for us to learn about him, his provisions, and his love for us.  Meditate on that.

1 Thessalonians 5 Encourage Ye One Another

1 Thessalonians 5 Encourage Ye One Another

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Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”  We can learn something from this simple advice given by the Apostle to the Gentiles.  The wherefore concerns what he has just spoke about. What has he just spoke about?

Well in the previous chapters he talked about how we should be living out our daily lives as believers in Christ Jesus.  In chapter one he commended the faithful witness of the Christians in Thessalonica. He called them examples of righteousness to Macedonia and Achaia.  He praised them for their fervent spreading of the gospel throughout the region.  He recognized the changes in their lives, turning from idols to believing on the Lord’s deliverance of them from the wrath to come.  In the second chapter; Paul reinforces the witness that thy have learned by example from him and his party and how they love the hearts of the Thessalonians and desire to be with them again.  Paul expresses his love for them and their love of him and Christ in him.  He encourages them and say that they share the same hope, “For what is out hope, our joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (v.19)

In the fourth chapter Paul tells them as you have learned from us how to walk in faith, continue in this so that you will increase the pleasure you give to God in your love and obedience.  He reminds them that walking in the spirit is walking in sanctification.  Those who are called of God are not called to uncleanness, but to holiness.  We who love God cannot continue in the sins that we used to walk in.  We should have a different attitude.  We should actually despise our old lifestyle, wanting nothing to do with it.  Instead we should seek to become more knowledgeable about the Lord, his Kingdom, and his will. Then he answers some questions about the rapture and the resurrection.  This is important to the advice his gives us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

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We do not have to fear the times that we live in.  All of these things are given to us as a sign.  A sign that the Lord’s return is imminent. Just as persecutions were on the rise in ancient Rome against followers of the Way so are the prevalent today.  Today we have another 100 year event.  It seems the past few years we have had a 100 year event, of some sort, every year.  This 100 year event for 2020 is the pandemic; COVID-19.  This event has attacked every part of society in every part of the globe and will undoubtedly change the way many things are done in the future.  The way we interact with one another will be different.  The way that foreign government interact and support one another.  Even the sovereignty of nations will be changed.  Individual freedoms will be forever effected.  Powers of local, state, and federal governments will be increased.  Universality of mankind will grow in acceptance, doing away with many boundaries we previously had.

This virus is already affecting all of those things and more.   We are losing family members.  Some are questioning God.  Some are flat out angry with God, and have chosen to reject him.  Others have renewed their faith.  Some who have stopped praying and seeking God decades ago are now seeking him out.  This same dynamic plays out in the family circle.  Many families are being drawn together.  Forgiving one another for offences long forgotten.  Parent spending time with their children.  Children once starved for attention from their parents are now being filled up with love.  However; with these things we see unfolding.  The changes in the governments, religious acceptance, the move toward universal-ism and far more set the stage for the events which must unfold.  With these things, and the very upfront reality of death.  Paul tells the Thessalonians, and us to comfort ourselves and one another.

We know the times and the seasons in which we live.  This have been told to us before.  Jesus himself told us of the signs that would show as his return grew closer.  He told us those things so that we could take comfort in them.  When we see these things happen, we know that he already told us and that it is part of his plan.  These things have to take place in order to save as many as possible and to spare them from the wrath to come.

For us, the follower of the Way, we have supreme knowledge and comfort.  We know, that everyone has an appointment with death.  As far as death is concerned, we know that we are just passing through this world.  We are not to cling to things of this world.  We know that the things of this world are temporal.  That means that everything of this physical world fades away, it is temporary.  Things rust, mold, decay, turn to dust, and even dust disappears eventually.  Scripture says that the life of a man is like a vapor.  It is here one moment and then gone.  For us who believe in Christ, we have a more complete knowledge in knowing these things.  We know that there is life after death.

We know that we do not fade away or become a part of the cosmos and loose who we were.  Instead, we have a new life.  We know or true life is spiritual, not the flesh.  We know that God has made a way in Jesus Christ for us to live this eternal life in his presence without fear, without death.  We know that our sorrow will be taken away, and that God himself will wipe away our tears. We can believe this because Jesus Christ not only died for our sins, but he conquered death and arose from the dead.  He is alive, and because he is alive, we who believe have been grafted into his life eternal.

This guidance, given by the Spirit through, Paul says that we should take comfort in what he has just said, and as we take comfort, we are to encourage one another.  What he just said is that Christ is eternal.  Christ is returning.  We know this because of the signs all around us. We then walk in the light of Christ. So we can take comfort in these things that are unfolding around us. This comforting is a two-fold process.

 

We take comfort in the Lord and then this gives us the ability to comfort others. What is our comfort?  We know that we dwell in him.  We are his children.  1 John 4 says that we who know God know that God loves us; for God is love.  He manifested this love in Jesus Christ; that we might live through him.  We are able to love one another because the love of God is in us. We also know that his Spirit is in us because without the Spirit, no man can confess Christ.  With this comfort in our hearts we know that God loves us and that he is faithful.  We can then encourage one another in these odd days of fear, sickness, and death.

We can comfort one another by doing what we are called to do.  Remember Paul complemented the Thessalonians in walking upright before man and the Lord. This example of godliness they lived encouraging him and the whole region about Thessaloniki.  People were being saved and believers were being encouraged by the life that they lived.  Lives of holiness and dedication to Jesus Christ.

We see that walking in the Spirit through living a sanctified life encourages others around us. We can give hope to others in the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We can teach one another of the faithfulness of God in his Word and in the testimony of our own lives in him.  We can also pray for one another.  Pray without whole hearts.  Pray aloud.  Pray boldly.   Pray in faith and in hope.  The Lord says that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much (it means a whole lot- have great influence).  Guess what, you who have believe on the name of Jesus, you have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus.

Psalm 34 – He Delivers from All Fear

Psalm 34 – He Delivers from All Fear

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This Psalm is such an amazing song of relief and hope.  It is credited as a psalm of David.  Many believe that it is written when David and his men were delivered from Achish the king of Gath in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.  In this situation that David found himself in; David was on the run from King Saul.  He ran to the Gath.  Why he would do this?  I am not sure.  Gath is where Goliath was from.  If you recall when David was still a boy, he killed Goliath from Gath when King Saul confronted the intruding Philistine armies.  In this story in 1st Samuel, David had went to the Philistines for a place to hide.  When David understood that they Philistines knew who he was he fear they would kill him and his men, so he acted like he was insane.  The king wanted nothing to do with him and kicked him out.

Thus David saw this as protection from the Lord, and from this we get this Psalm.  But really this Psalm comes from a culmination of a life that has been delivered over and over by the Lord God.  God had made David victorious over a lion, a bear, and over the giant Goliath when David was just a youth.  Then the Lord brought David into the palace of the king.  The Lord protected David through many battles and gave him great fame and glory.  When King Saul became jealous of David the Lord protected David from the entrapment of the king.  He protected him, and fed him while he evaded Saul.  Then here God protected David from his own foolishness and delivered him from his enemies.

David opens this Psalm like so many others.  He starts by declaring that he has chosen to praise the Lord, and that he will continue in such a manner.  David says that he will continue to boast on the Lord.  David is not being quiet.  He is proud of God who had delivered him from death.  David knows by the past events that God is truly with him.  He can have confidence that when he proclaims the name of the Lord, he will not be ashamed for doing it.  The Lord is his protector.  David calls for others who believe on the Lord to magnify the name of the Lord. This is a calling for others to expand upon the name of the Lord wherever they are, and in whatever situation they find themselves in.  David calls others who believe on the Lord to give a loud witness, and glorify God.

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Then David testifies on the faithfulness of God towards those that love him.  He says, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (v.4)  What a great thing it is to remember the things the Lord has done for us and to give thanks.  So much better is it for us to give open praise to the Lord for his deliverances.  David said that he “sought the Lord and he heard me”.  That would indicate that the Lord was already listening for David’s cry for help.  What an awesome God we love.  He loves us so much the when we are in trouble, he is standing by for us to call out to him.  He waits to hear us seeking him.  The prophet Isaiah said, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6).

What a great reassurance.  The Lord tells us in his scripture to seek him while he may be found.  He has a sense of urgency.  The Lord is expectant of you calling to him in your time of need.  Isn’t that awesome?  David then tells us that those who call on the name of the Lord; they were lightened and were not ashamed.  They were relieved and blessed by the presence of the Lord and were not let down. (v.5) The poor cry and the Lord hears them and saves them out of their troubles.  (v.6)  David even goes further and tell us that the angel of the Lord makes his camp around, and delivers those who fear the Lord; and he fulfills their needs. (v.7)

Who are those who fear the Lord?  Those who listen to instruction (v.11); those who keep their tongue from evil; those who seek peace, and to do good.  It is these whose the Lords ears are open to, to hear their cry.  (v.16) We are blessed who love the Lord and who seek to do what is right in his eyes.  “Evil shall slay the wicked and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate” (V.20)  The redemption of the soul of the righteous is a promise made by God and fulfilled in the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Since he is God, nothing can separate us from his love.  Not failure, death, or even an illness like the Corona Virus.  We too can sing out to the Lord without being ashamed.  We have no need of fear.  The Lord God who has delivered us in the past will deliver us again.  We are not alone.  He is waiting for you to cry to him.  He is waiting for you to seek him.  He is waiting to hear you declare your faith in him, that he is faithful, that he is love, that he loves you also.  Make your boast in the Lord and call on others to be so proud, not of themselves, but in the Lord who delivers them.  Give praise to the Most High!  Give praise to the God who heals!  Give praise to the God who encamps his angle about you, to keep watch over you, and to deliver you!  Give praise to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Way of Christ Ministries
Fishers of Men

Genesis 15:1 Fear Not

Genesis 15:1 Fear Not

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After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram:  I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

After these things is referring to the previous chapter where a great war had happened between many powerful kings.  In the process Abram’s cousin Lot was taken captive.  This spurred Abram to get involved.  He rallied an army and went an defeated the evil king and set the captives free.  When the King of Sodom and the other kings came to pay tribute to Abram, Abram gave glory to God, and took no rewards from the kings for himself, because it was God who delivered the enemy to Abram.

God now reaffirms Abram.  I know, why should Abram have to worry after such a great victory and the adulation of the surrounding kingdoms?  Well this undoubtedly would make the surrounding kings a bit cautious of Abram and to possibility that if Abram so decided he might take their kingdoms.  After all by this time God promised to Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3) I don’t know about you, but if God told me those things, I would probably tell others about it.  That is some pretty exciting news.

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No matter is the other kings knew why Abram had journeyed so far away from home, it was easy to see that he was a great leader of men and soldiers.  He had a clear head for tactics, he was unafraid, and people from all over the region would now look to him for safety.  You can see how a king would want him for an ally or would see him as a possible enemy to their own heads.

So God reassures Abram.  “I am thy shield”.  God lets Abram know that he is his protector.  It is more than just that.  The shield for a warrior is the brunt of the battle.  It is close at hand.  The shield absorbs impact, protects from missiles and other unforeseen dangers.  Often a shield was worn on the back and allowed for protection from an attack from the rear, and allowed the warrior to concentrate on what was in front of him.

I think this is very important.  God is not telling Abram that there will not be trials, or unforeseen dangers ahead.  God is not telling Abram that he is going to do for Abram what Abram is called to do.  Instead God is telling him to “Fear not”, because he is there with him in the battle, and he will protect him in his fight.  Abram is expected to stand, fight, and have faith in the LORD.

God further encourages Abram when he says that he (the LORD) is Abram’s “exceeding great reward”. Abram can have faith in God to fulfill his promise.  Abram can have confidence in God to stand by him, and see him through all of his afflictions.  Even more important is the expectation of God towards Abram.  Abram is encouraged that he will see the faithfulness of God in his life, and will be greatly rewarded for walking in faith.  Walking in faith is something that Abram had done from the first time the LORD called him.  If we take a study of Abram’s life, we will see that every success Abram had in his life is when he walked in faith.  God was true to this promise to Abram.  It is funny, because when most of us study the life of Abram, and the Promises of Abraham, this promise is often overlooked.  This one little promise is the picture of faith in action and the expectant results.

Fear not, is what God told Abram.  Fear not, I am your protector when harm is upon you.  I am your protector when you see the danger, and when you do not see the danger.   I am a rewarded of those who love me.  Great is that reward for those who have faith in me to keep the promises I have made.  I tell you of one thing.  If you look at the New Testament and study the history of the saints, that some took ill.  Paul had to be nursed back to health, after getting so ill he almost perished.  Other saints in the New Testament and in missionary positions throughout history have fallen ill, and some have died after being exposed to diseases as they ministered for Christ.

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It distresses my heart to hear those who say, “I thought you had faith…”, as if faith is what is used to keep you well.  The faith we have is not to keep ourselves well.  If is not even to heal others.  Miracles and healing was not why Jesus came here and died, and rose again.  It is not the reason we are left here after we have believed on Christ.  Jesus came to save that which was lost and to disciple others to know God, and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That is why we are here.  You want to be like Christ?  Then live for Christ, as Christ lived for his Father in Heaven.  Seek those who are lost, share the Gospel of Christ, and disciple others to do the same.  Fear not, the LORD is with you.  The LORD is your shield.  The LORD is your exceeding and great reward.  We are not immune to the tragedies of this world, but we are harbingers of the hope in the next.  Walk in the faith that the LORD has risen, and HE said that HE will raise us up!  We do not fear death, because our lives here are already forfeit for the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

Jeremiah 33 Call Unto Me

Jeremiah 33 Call Unto Me
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In the 33rd chapter of Jeremiah the Lord gives reassurance to the prophet and reaffirms the Davidic covenant.  In this he says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (v.3)  and later the Lord states, “Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.” (v.6).  This is such an awesome chapter of hope and reconciliation, and of the healing of the land and the people.  We can see the care that God has for his people.  He loves and cares, he is a shield and protector to his people.  He loves so much that he not only delivers, but he reals and restores.
This is the hope that we have.  That Jesus Christ came and died for us to pay the debt of death that we owe.  He was buried and took the keys to hell and death.  He then rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father.  Now he makes intercession for us as our advocate.  We who believe in him are no longer tied to this earth, or this body.  We have a great hope inside that gives us joy.  This hope is in the resurrection of life.  Even as Jesus was raised from the dead and received a glorified by, so shall we.
We are no longer trapped here in this existence. We, followers of Christ Jesus, have been given a new life.  This new life is one of the spirit.  We have been set free from the bonds of the flesh. We know that the few things we posses here in this world are worthless and will eventually rot, and decay. The things we look forward to are everlasting.  We now are pilgrims on our way to the promises of God, to be reconciled with him in Jesus Christ.  We will soon be glorified, although we do not yet fully understand what that entails, we will understand when we finally see him face to face.  This is the gift of God.  We have received unmerited favor from God as demonstrated in the grace he bestowed upon us in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Death has no hold on us, no bind is there to keep us in the grave.
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:6-11)
Look to Jesus, as the Lord says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee”.  Hope is right here waiting for you to call out!  Life is right here waiting for you to seek Him!  Love is right here waiting for you to open your heart!  Peace is right here waiting for you to rest within.  There is no fear in Love.  You do not need to fear the Lord.  He has demonstrated his love towards us.

Abortion and the Failure of the Church

Abortion and the Failure of the Church

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I read a telling tale of a young girl who grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian school, and attended church on a regular basis and yet when she had to face the most fearful time in her life, everyone failed her.  Yes she made a huge mistake, at the age of 16 she was pregnant, and then again at 17.  However; that would not be the worst of what she would have to deal with.  She was in great fear.  We really cannot blame her.  Grown adults, even those who have good finances, and secure lifestyles who have planned for a pregnancy get fearful.  Question swell up inside.  What will my friends think?  How will the father react?  How will I care for the child?  At her young age these questions are magnified by the prospect of addressing her parents, and friends.  What will happen with her schooling, college, and church life?  What about all of the stares, and whispers?  How could she ever care for a baby?  So many unknowns.  Advice is far from accessible because of the fear of shame and rejection.

With all of the Christian influences and church people around her she felt that they failed her.  “At the time, my church, my pastor, my school, and community never told me there were resources out there to help me—with adoption, abstinence, finances, or help caring for a child.” (Anonimous) The only ones who would be available to give her advice was Planned Parenthood.  What was the advice she received?  You can probably guess it.  She was advised that she did not have to keep the “embryo”.  No one asked if she wanted to talk about alternatives to abortion.  No other focus was given except to proceed with the abortion.

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She paid $300.00 for the abortion.  She described the event as horrible, and painful.  She and other ladies that were awaiting the procedure shared how sad they were at the need for the procedure and regretted their decisions.  She learned quick to harden her heart and to lie to herself and her family and everyone else she knew.  She became depressed and withdrawn, driven by more guilt and shame.  She abuse alcohol and herself.  Eventually the Lord led her to a group called Embrace.  Embrace helps people with abortion and abortion alternatives.  She became active in their prayer groups and ministry.  Eventually she began sharing her story. Telling the truth is the only way to rid the shame.  Her message? “Abortion is NOT freedom! Abortion is making “peace” with death and that is an absolute lie and brings so much destruction to a person’s live that goes beyond the mother.”

Her Christian community around her had failed her.  They failed her in educating her on the importance of abstinence and the holiness of the temple of God, her body.  The environment that she grew up in was more concerned with condemning her sin then helping her to recover from her sin.  In fact they did not help her to recover at all.  So how can we change that so that others do not have to go through this shameful behavior from the church?  We are to educate, listen, remind, and assist; oh then repeat seven times seven.

It starts from the top down.  Pastors, Deacons, Teachers, and other elders of the church need to educate at all levels on the sanctity of marriage, abstinence, and how important each life is to God. (Psalm 139:1-24; Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 127:3; Galatians 1:15; Psalm 22:9-10; Isaiah 48:1)  However; we cannot stop there, we need a culture of love and truth in the church.  Peter tells us, “And above all things have fervent charity (love) among yourselves:  for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)  To many times when a brother or sister falls into sin, we are quick to condemn and not forgive.  We should condemn the sin, however; we do not need to continue with the same failed anti-abortion rantings that drive the repentant away. We are commanded to forgive one another.  Specifically, we are called to confess, repent, and forgive; in that order.  (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13) So then this is the first part in combating fear and shame and allows the truth to be shared.  Confidence given to the brother or sister who sins, that if they confess, they will be forgiven and will receive love and acceptance.

We must also educate our staff and members on a routine basis on alternatives to abortion, should the pregnancy be unavoidable.  Having a list of alternative pregnancy and women’s health clinics that support the woman’s choice to both live and the child to live.  Planned Parenthood spent allot of money making themselves the only voice on women’s health available.  This is not the truth, there are plenty of other alternatives to Planned Parenthood.  There are plenty of alternatives to abortion.  They may include adoption, guardianship of another family member, and single mother housing assistance or missions.  The church can use volunteers that can serve as a daycare for needy mothers so that the mother can continue in school, collage, and work.  Volunteers from the church can be incorporated into a babysitter program.  The church can even host an abortion survivors group.  Time, equipment, furniture, clothes, food, can all be donated by members of the church.  Professional skills can be donated that may include carpentry, mechanical, legal, financial, and even medical can be donated to the church for use in these programs.  Heck someone can even help clean the home, do laundry, mentor child raising, and cut the grass.

If your church does not have this kind of thing going on, then start it.  The Lord can use you to start this group.  In the church I attend a young lady felt a burden for the community after a school shooting, and started a community wide service that the members of the community , churches, and civil authorities could meet under to build up the community and get people in contact with the resources they need.  All it took one person saying, “here I am” to the Lord.

Get informed of local ministries that assist in pro-life assistance to expecting mothers and fathers.  We must always, as much as possible include the other silent victims, the fathers.  There are a many number of men who have these same feelings of guilt and shame, feelings of failure and inadequacy because of abortion.  Sadly, many men who would have rather taken the child into their own homes are not consulted by the mother prior to the abortion.  The biggest thing we can do that is included in all of these suggestions is to talk about it.  We need to bring the truth to the front.  People sin, if we didn’t we wouldn’t have needed a savior.

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Now that we do have a savior, Jesus Christ, who has already paid the price for our sin, and has forgiven us, we should forgive one another of sin.  We need to bring the truth the front.  Abortion is murder of an innocent life.  Murder is a sin, and a violation of the law of the land.  There should be no reason to accept the selfish taking of another life.  Murder of an innocent can never be justified by man. There are alternatives to abortion, even if the mother does not want the child.  The people affected by the sins of sexual immorality and abortion are people that we love.  We need to unashamedly reach out to and assist these victims (mother, father, and child) to find alternatives that will not destroy their lives and will encourage them to return to the Lord Jesus Christ who loves them and desires their love.  We cannot abandon our loved ones, nor allow them to abandon their loved ones out of fear and mis-education.

 

Bibliography

Anonimous. abort73.com. 31 Jan 2020. Loxafamosity Ministries Inc . Internet. 10 Mar 2020. <https://www.abort73.com/testimony/2674/&gt;.