Wednesday, December 1, 2004

He's a Wonderful Lord

Have you ever seen the movie It’s a Wonderful Life? If you haven’t, you need to this Christmas.

A young man, George Bailey, wanted to get out the little town of Bedford Falls and see the world. He didn’t want to be trapped in the little town and follow in his father’s shoes in the savings and loan. He was getting ready to leave the little boring town when his father died and he was called upon to take his father's place. Let's look at the story a little.

The movie begins with several people praying for George Bailey. Then the scene is shifted to the night sky and the angels get together to discuss the plight of George Bailey in response to all of the prayers. The angels decide to send Clarence Oddbody (Angel Second Class) to save him. They show Clarence the story of George’s life and how he saved so many lives and changed the lives of so many others. However, when some money comes up missing on Christmas Eve, George is sure he will go to prison and decides that he’s worth more dead than alive. He goes to the bridge to jump off, but Clarence jumps in first so George will save him—and George does. While they’re drying off, George wishes he had never been born and Clarence grants his wish. Now George gets to see all of the changes because of the absence of his life, and comes to realize how many people he actually influenced.

Clarence says, “Strange isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives and when he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

If George Bailey was the source of so much good in Bedford Falls, imagine the difference if other people had never been born. You could call it the “George Bailey Test”. Does the world seem dark and dreary? Are you close to despair? When life seems nothing more than “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (Shakespeare), ask yourself this question: “What if He had never been born?” Not George Bailey, but Jesus Christ! If Jesus had never been born, what then? No cross, no tomb, no resurrection. If Jesus had never walked this earth, what then? No disciples, no church, no fellowship.

Over the years times have changed in many ways. In history names had a greater significance that they seem to today. All of our family names have come from something that was important.
My family name “Ezel” can be found in the Bible. I Samuel 20:19: In this chapter Jonathan warned David that Saul was seeking to slay him and he told David to “Remain by the stone Ezel.” The word Ezel means the “marker of the way”. (I know that would only be important to us Ezells.)

Did you know that there are 256 names given for the Lord Jesus Christ in the Bible? No wonder Isaiah says His name will be called “Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of peace.” He lived up to all those names and more.

God our Father knew what we needed when He sent Him to the world as a Wonderful Saviour, a Counselor, that we needed a Mighty God, an Everlasting Father, and a Prince of Peace.

What a wonderful Father that send us a wonderfull Lord!

What a Gift!

Let me relate a story I read the other day.

The son of a wealthy man expected to receive a sports car for his graduation. Instead his dad called him into his study and told him that he loved him and handed him a wrapped up present. When the son opened it, he found it to be a box containing a leather bound Bible, with his name inscribed on it. Angrily the young man tossed the box on the father’s desk and stormed out saying: “With all your money, all you can give me is a Bible!”

The son left home and refused to talk to his dad despite the fact that the dad tried hard to contact him.

Years later, the son got a call that his dad had died, leaving him everything. As he was going through his father’s belongings, he found that Bible still in its box.

Curious, he took the Bible out of the box and opened it. The page fell open at a passage his father had marked. And as he lookede at the page, he noticed that his Dad underlined Mark 7:11: “If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father give what is good to those who ask Him.”

As he read it, a car key fell from inside the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer’s name on it for the sports cat that he had wanted years earlier. On the tag beside his graduation date were the words: “Paid in Full. Love, Dad.”

John 1:12 says: “But to as many as received him, he gave them the right to become sons of God, to those who believe in His Name.”

What a wonderful Name! What a Wonderful Saviour!

Thanks to God for this unspeakable Gift!

Monday, November 1, 2004

Thanks to God

In a very few days we will celebrate Thanksgiving again.
“Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.” Psalm 68:19
There are two words I looked up in the Hebrew that bring this scripture to life for me. One is loadeth and the other is benefits. Loadeth means “to impose a heavy burden on” and benefits means “treatment,service or rewards“ If we read these verses in the light of the Hebrew we could read it like this:
“Bless the Lord who daily who gives (loadeth) heavy burdens of rewards (benefits) to us.”
August Ludwig Storm lived most of his life in Stockholm, Sweden. As a young man he was converted to Christ in a Salvation Army meeting. Soon he joined the Salvation Army Corps and in time became one of its leading officers. He wrote a hymn called Thanks to God for the Army’s publication, The War Cry, on Dec 5, 1891. The original Swedish version had four stanzas, with each verse beginning with the word “thanks”, having a total of thirty-two “thanks” in all. Here are the words to this great hymn as we have them today:
Thanks, O God, for boundless mercy
from Thy gracious throne above;
thanks for ev’ry need provided
from the fullness of Thy love!

Thanks for daily toil and labor
and for rest when shadows fall;
thanks for love of friend and neighbor
and Thy goodness unto all!

Thanks for thorns as well as roses,
thanks for weakness and for health;
thanks for clouds as well as sunshine,
thanks for poverty and wealth!

Thanks for pain as well as pleasure-
all Thou sendest day by day;
and Thy Word, our dearest treasure,
shedding light upon our way.

Thanks, O God, for home and fireside,
here we share our daily bread;
thanks for hours of sweet communion,
when by Thee our souls are fed!

Thanks for grace in time of sorrow
and for joy and peace in Thee;
thanks for hope today, tomorrow,
and for all eternity!
This song sums up how I feel about Thanksgiving this year. I am so blessed!

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Influence Upon the World

Some weeks ago I began a series of messages on the responsibility of the Church to the kingdom of God. One of my messages deals with Luke 13:18:
“Then He said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in His garden: and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.’”
I have often wondered why Christ used the mustard seed as an example to us. It has become clear to me as I have grown in the Lord. I had been looking at the size of the seed and not what it could produce. The mustard seed could grow unto a tree! The seed began to grow until it became a tree and the birds began to built a nest in it. Now here we have a seed that becomes a tree and a bird that brings forth its young it in. As I begin to apply this to my place in the kingdom of the Lord, I asked myself the question: Am I growing in the Lord and will I keep growing until I have become an influence upon those I come in contact with?

2 Peter 3:18 says:
“But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
I believe the grace that I received from the Lord and the knowledge of the Lord that comes through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life will become an influence upon those I meet.
I wonder how many birds will nest in a tree during the life of the tree? I have meet a lot of wonderful people in my life time. People who have had great influence upon my life. I hope that because of those people and the grace of God, my life has been an influence for the kingdom of God. Let's be an influence uon those we meet and become a big, big tree where they could find “a place to nest.”

Let me quote this same scripture from the book of Mark in closing:
“To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller that all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” Mark 4:30-32.

Thursday, April 1, 2004

Easter Traditions

Spring is a wonderful time of year. I love to watch the flowers and trees come back to life after a long winter nap. It seems to me that nature itself is telling us about the resurrection of our Lord. I am so thankful that He came and lived and died and rose again for our sins.

I want to share with you some Easter traditions.

At Easter we celebrate the glorious news of Christ’s resurrection from the grave. Over the centuries, many traditions have developed relating to this central event of the Christian calendar.

The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with a festival relating to a Teutonic goddess they called Estre. When Christian missionaries in the second century encountered these northern tribes, they assimilated the pagan festival of Estre, which occurred about the same time of year as the Christian observance of Christ’s resurrection. The name Estre was ultimately changed to its English spelling, Easter.

In the Latin church, eggs were forbidden to be eaten during Lent. Therefore, on Easter day, eggs were served painted bright red, as a symbol of joy.

The tradition of the Easter bunny came to America via German immigrants. The rabbit was an ancient pagan symbol of fertility. (If you have ever raised rabbits you how true this fact is.) It was only after the Civil War that Easter began to be widely celebrated in the U.S.

These are only a few of the traditions of Easter. I am not so interested in traditions but I am interested in the facts of the Easter that we celebrate! I am so glad that when we think about Easter we think about Jesus, the only Son of God, who came to earth to live and die for our sins. I am so glad that He rose the third day and that He is alive today! The reason we know that He is alive is because He lives within our hearts.

If we know this it isn’t just tradition but a fact!

Monday, March 1, 2004

The Cup

A week or two ago I was reading in Matthew 26 about Jesus and the disciples. I became intrigued by the two “cup” references that Jesus used.
Matthew 26:27. “And He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them [the disciples], saying, “Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
In this reference to a cup, the disciples were glad to drink from it even though they didn’t yet understand what it meant. This cup became known as the cup of blessing. Drinking from this cup didn’t cost them any thing. They were glad to sit down to a table and eat and drink with Christ. But what they didn’t really understand, even though Jesus was telling them at the very minute they were eating and drinking, was that it was representing His blood and His body. The disciples had no earthly idea what Jesus was saying. The disciples heard Jesus but they were not listening. They just sang a hymn and then went unto the Mount of Olives. It was here that Jesus needed to talk to His Father. It was here that the disciples needed to sleep (maybe because they ate to much) even though they were commanded to watch and prayer. It was here that Jesus prayed that great priestly prayer:
“O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt... O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from me except I drink it, thy will be done.”
I find two words that describe this prayer: recoil and resolution. The word “recoil” means to want to get away from, as Jesus was saying “Let this cup pass from me.” In Hebrew 4:15 the Word says:
“For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin.”
So I believe that Jesus was being tempted at that very minute to recoil from drinking from the cup of bitterness. What was Jesus seeing in the cup as He prayed that day? I believe He was seeing what price He would be paying for the sin of all mankind from that day forward. He was seeing the pain and suffering that He would go through leading up to His death. I don’t believe the movie The Passion of Christ comes close to showing what Jesus went through. Jesus was seeing death itself in the cup!

The cup was frequently used in ancient times as a method of punishing criminals. A cup of poison was put into their hands and they were made to drink it. We are told that Socrates, that great teacher, was executed this way, by being made by the magistrates of Athens to drink a cup of poisonous hemlock. The difference I see is that Socrates and others that were executed this way were “made” to drink from the poison cup but Jesus Christ our Savior drank from the cup of death “willingly”! I am so glad he did. We have the privilege of drinking from the cup of blessing because Jesus drank from the cup of death.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

This Thing Called Love

Here it is February, the month of love. The florists and the candy makers and the jewelers will make lots of money this month. Many people try to express how much they love another person by doing something special on the 14th of February. I am not sure when we as a nation started this tradition, but I think it’s nice, not the commercial part of it, but rather the expression of love part.

To hear the words “I Love You” with real heart expression means a lot to the person hearing those words. Pallie Sue and I have been in love for forty years. Within a few days now we will have been married thirty-nine of those years. We have learned to express our love to each other lots of ways and lots of times. Our love for each other has grown more precious each and every day. We have learned that it takes more than one day of the year, that it is more than gifts, or words once in as while, but rather that it is a joy to share with each other every day in various ways.

There are lots of words that could describe why our marriage has been blessed by God, but let me share just three of many with you this time. These words also show a close relationship with Christ our Lord. These words are: commitment, communication, and consideration. Since I will be using these words for the message this Sunday, I won’t dump the whole wagon load on you at this time but rather give you a “kiss” version of them.

Pallie Sue and I made a commitment to each other the day we became engaged. Then we continued our commitment the day we were married. Our commitment was the words “ Will you take this person to be wedded to, to live together in holy matrimony? Will you love each other, comfort each other, honor each other, keep each other, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, as long as you both shall live?” We both said, “I do!” We have been true to that commitment all these years.

Also we both made a commitment to Christ when we took Him as our personal Savior. He has never failed us and we do our best to keep our commitment to Him. It’s been a beautiful walk together.

Then the word communication came to mind. In order to have a good marriage a couple must have clear communication with each other. Pallie Sue and I have always tried to have clear communication with each other. If a couple has a clear understanding, and they are on the same page, things work better. It seems kind of strange that sometime we even know what the other is thinking. I guess when you have clear communication that happens sometimes. Do any of you other couples ever know what the other is thinking?

Apply this to your spiritual walk with Christ. How happy we are when we have clear communication with Him. Let’s just say this about our relationship with Christ. If you don’t have clear communication with Him it isn’t His fault.

The last word that applies here is consideration. A relationship works the best when there is consideration towards each other. If I do certain things how will it make my wife feel? If I don’t call when I’m late, what will my thoughtlessness do to my companion? To take into consideration my partner will build a strong relationship.

In my Christian life, to take Christ into consideration will also build a strong relationship with Him. My thoughts and my actions must take Christ into consideration.

The world we live in has lost the real meaning of this thing we call love. At the school where I work, when I have to turn in a child for bad conduct, I often hear the words, “You don’t understand. This child has a bad home life. This child needs lots of love because they don’t get much at home.” So many homes are so dysfunctional that there is very little love in them today.
As I sit here writing, I am so happy that I can’t think of one of this family’s homes where there isn’t lots and lots of love. I can’t think of one child in this family that an outside source has to say, “Give this child lots of love because they don’t get much at home.” I also think that fact is because of Christ. Thank God for good Christian homes this family has for our children to be raise in. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child, but rather a good Christian home.

Let’s continue to show this world what real love is. Paul’s writing in I Corinthians 13 said:
“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.” (The Message)