Sunday, March 30, 2008

Renewing Time

For thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, "Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns." Jeremiah 4:3
These past few days I have been getting my little raised beds ready for plants and seeds. Now, my beds are not very big but I want you to know that I have worked very hard getting things done because it’s spring time and it will soon be time to put those little plants and seed in.

After I had completed one of them I asked myself some questions.
  1. Why am I doing this? Well, the answer was very clear: because I want a harvest.
  2. Is there an easy way to do this? The answer is yes. I could leave all the trash in the beds, along with the weeds and just plant among them, but I know that if I did that I would not see much fruit.
  3. Do I really want to do this? I had a choice to make. I chose to get my beds ready because I wanted those nice red tomatoes and whatever else I plant.
This morning I want to look at getting our hearts ready for spring renewing and planting in the soul.

Let's look at the things I did to get my beds ready for planting:

1. I had to really look at the beds to see what they needed. Now, I want you to know that I pass those beds every day and knew that there were things in them that didn’t belong. Every day I knew that they needed work but I didn’t want to fool with them yet. I would think to myself, "I need to get that done before long." Pallie and I had even talked about the beds from time to time. But knowing and doing something about what is needed are two different things.

We all know that from time to time our hearts need renewing but what are we doing about it? I knew that without renewing the ground by digging it up that I would not have much fruit.

The Hebrew word for renew means "to quicken or to recover from. To revive or to be restored to."
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Psalms 51:10 -11
Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands. Psalms 138:6-8
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isaiah 57:15
They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. Hosea 14:7

2. Another part of the process of renewing is cleaning out the beds. So I began by raking out the dead things that had gotten into the beds. Pine needles and pine cones abounded in them because the pine tree had contributed them. Between last year's stacks and Mr. Pine Tree's deposit I had quite a pile of trash.

I realized that there were things growing in my beds that I had not planted there. These weeds were very nice and some even had little flowers on them but they were still weeds.

Brother Easley liked to stop along the road and get wildflowers and bring them home and plant them in his flower beds. Now our flower beds are full of flowering weeds. One day he and Pallie were out on the interstate and he saw some and told her to stop because he saw some that he didn’t have. So she pulled over and he got out and began to pull up these weeds for his bed. He looked up and there came a highway patrolman. The patrolman was very nice and asked if they were having trouble. When Bro. Easley said no, that he was just getting some flowers, the patrolmen said "Did you know it's against the law to do this?"

Brother Easley said, "No! I didn’t."

"Well," said the nice patrolman, "I’m going this way. Have a nice day." As if to say, "I didn’t see you." And he drove away leaving Brother Easley and Pallie breaking the law. And Brother Easley got his weeds!

Now I guess for the flower beds that is okay, but I didn’t need these nice looking weeds in my beds. So they had to go, because I knew that they wouldn’t stay small.

In the parable of the sower Jesus gives a description of what happens when we leave the weeds in our hearts .
And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. Luke 8:7
As I was working digging out the weeds I heard something behind me squeak. I looked and there was the sweetest little baby rabbit you ever saw. In just a minute I found its brother. Now what was I going to do? I am sure they had been born in my flower beds and I didn’t want to hurt them. But what was I going to do with them? I could leave them there and not dig up that part of the bed, but me being the intelligent guy that I am, knew that rabbits like new plants to eat. I knew that if I left them there I would be wasting my time trying to plant my garden. They had to go! So I found a nice flower bed close by to put them in so the mother could find them.

The moral to this story is little things can do lots of damage.
Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes. Solomon 2:15
Little things in the heart can do lots of damage if left alone. We need prepare for renewing by asking God to search our hearts.
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24
Now the question is: What do I do with things that God will show me when He searches me and reveals things that I don’t need in my heart?

Well, the answer is: Put them out of our hearts. Whether they be bitterness, hurt feelings, or any other thing that will choke my growing ability.

3. Digging up the beds was the next step. I had taken care of the thorns but now the real work would began. I asked myself, "Why can’t I just plant my seeds and plants without digging up the beds?" After all I had gotten rid of anything that would hurt the plants didn’t I?
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12
Fallow ground is hard ground that hasn’t been used for a while. Before we can sow the seeds of righteousness we have to break the ground. Ground that has not been plowed makes it hard to plant in and it does not let the rain in very deep. So I took the shovel and began to dig and as I dug there were clumps of soil that needed to be broken up. This would mellow the ground so that my plants and seed would be easier to plant. I was also digging up more nutrients and mineral that the plants needed to produce. By doing this the rain could penetrate deeper and give its contribution to the plants.

4. Planting was the next step. I had prepared (renewed) my ground (heart) and now I was ready for seeds and plants. What do I want to grow? What does my heart need?
Sow to yourselves in righteousness. Hosea 10:12
The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward. Proverbs 11:18
But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. II Corinthians 9:6
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Galatians 6:7-8
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
How about that kind of seeds?!?

Now that we have our garden plow and planted we can just forget it until the harvest, right? Wrong!
  • We have to be on guard the whole time of growing and harvesting.
  • We may have to run the little rabbits out.
  • We may have to water it. Psalm 126:5 "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy."
  • We will need to cultivate it.
What’s this whole message about? Well, in two weeks it will be "renewing time" here at the church.

It will be time to plow.

  • We need to break up our heart.
    • The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18
  • We need to break up our spirit
    • The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Psalm 51:17
  • We need to break up our excuses
    • And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, "Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest." And Jesus said unto him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." And he said unto another, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father." Jesus said unto him, "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." And another also said, "Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house." And Jesus said unto him, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Luke 9:57-62
It will be time to plant.
  • You always reap what you sow.
    • Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Galatians 6:7-8
  • You always reap more than you sow.
    • For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: Hosea 8:7
  • It is time to plant.
    • Say not ye, "There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?" behold, I say unto you, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." John 4:35-36
Let's make plans now to have a good harvest!

When we have plowed and planted we can receive blessing of the harvest. Then we can share with our family and friends what the Lord has done for us.

Let's share some of this with them:, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance... Galatians 5:22-23
How bad do you want a garden?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Unbelief of Easter

Scripture: Mark 16:1-14
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.
And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
Three times in our scripture we find the words, "They did not believe."

The events of Easter cannot be reduced to a creed or philosophy. We are not asked to believe the doctrine of the resurrection. We are asked to meet this person raised from the dead.

In faith, we move from belief in a doctrine to a knowledge of a person. Ultimate truth is a person. We met him. He is alive!

Until we have had a living experience with the risen Lord then we will be like the disciples!

Jesus said of them, "He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart."

There are some things on my heart that I want to share with you about the unbelief of Easter.

One cannot believe until he has had a one-on-one meeting with Jesus.

It was not until He met with the followers that they could began to have faith in a Savior who had died right before their eyes.

I can give you a description of Jesus. I can tell you what He has done in my life. I can tell you what He has done for others. I can tell you what the Holy Word says about Jesus. I can read to you the words from the Bible that Jesus said. But until you have met Him one-on-one you cannot know the risen Lord. Until you realize that the tomb is empty you cannot have faith to accept the risen Lord.

Let's look at another part of the Easter story. Go with me to Luke 24:13-31.
And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;
And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
We have in this scripture two sad travelers who had left the group of disciples on purpose to relieve the tension of anxiety and sorrow by walking and to get a quite time to bring their thoughts into some order. They were like someone who had come through an earthquake; they were stunned and physically done in. Their minds and conversation were filled with "things which had come to pass."

Jesus is never far away from us and He knows our every need. "So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them."

Alexander Maclaren said: "Honest occupation of mind with the truth concerning Him, and a real desire to know it, are not left alone."

What attracts Jesus to us?

In this case He saw their doubting hearts. He saw that their faith was sorely wounded .

Jesus will reveal to us the truth about Himself. Luke 24:25-28:
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
The more we open our hearts to Him, the more truth of Him will we receive!

Paul says in Ephesians 1:12-13:
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Again in verses 17-19:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Luke 24:29-32:
But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
Look at some very important statements in this passage!
  1. They wanted Him to stay with them! (We need to invite Him to stay.)
  2. He stayed with them! (He will never leave us nor forsake us.)
  3. He ate with them! (He will always feed us with His Word.)
  4. He opened their eyes. (He revealed Himself.)
  5. He left them.
John 14:3:
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Paul sums it up for us in Philippians 3:7-11:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
Jesus Christ will certainly leave us if we do not detain Him.

Luke 24: 28-29:
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
He made as if He would leave them and He would have but they "constrained " Him. The Greek word for " constrained" is "to take by force".

Alexander Maclaren said: "He certainly will leave unless His retreating skirts be grasped at by outstretched hands of faith and desire, and the prayer be heard."

"Abide with us for it is toward evening." If there ever was a day when that request and prayer needs to be put forth it is certainly today! I feel that it is toward evening and it getting darker in the world. Time is running out!

Christ will not come into a heart where He isn’t invited! He will go on to someone else that desires Him!

He is infinitely wishful today, as He was on that Easter evening, to draw near to every heart. But He cannot come to us unless we desire Him and He cannot give to us more than we wish.

Matthew 13:58:
And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Because we have met Jesus and accepted Him as the living Savior, He gives us a wonderful promise!

Luke 24:49:
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
The last message that Jesus gave to the church was, "I send the promise of the Father."

Jeremiah 31:
"Behold, the days come," saith the Lord, "that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them," saith the Lord: "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days," saith the Lord, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people , And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord:' for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them," saith the Lord: "for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Joel 2:28-29:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.
Jesus told the disciples to wait for the fulfillment of these promises. It was to be a further work of God's grace in their hearts. Only one great reality was able to break through the persistent doubt and fear of the disciples to convince them of the Resurrection fact. That was the great reality of the risen Christ himself. Jesus had told them that he was going away!

John 14: 1-3:
“Let not your heart e troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not sop, I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you. And If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you are also.”
Now, look at verse 15:
“And if you love Me, keep My commandments.”
How could they do that without Him?

Now, look at verses 16-17:
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever- The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
It is only in the power of the Spirit that the new covenant can be lived out in us. It is only in the promised endowment that we can in fact take up the cross and follow Him. It is only through the Spirit, that the gospel of repentance and forgiveness can be proclaimed with effectual force.

“The disciple's task is the extension of the Servant’s task, for in its fulfillment there is the presence and the power of the Servant’s Spirit.” (Beacon Expositions.)

What is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

He establishes our relationship.

The Bible clearly declares that man without Christ is separated from God. Our sins create a wall that separates us from the One by whom and for whom we were made.

Salvation is that experience in which we are brought back into a relationship with God. Our sins are removed. The barriers are broken down. The obstacles are swept away. We are reconciled to God. The death of Christ makes this reconciliation possible.

But how do we appropriate this new life? How do we enter into this new relationship? That is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convinces us of our need of Christ and draws us to him. He establishes our relationship with Christ.

He enriches our life.

When the Holy Spirit establishes us in a new relationship with God, he is not through with us. He has only begun. The Holy Spirit dwells in the life of the believer to help us experience the abundant life.

How does the Holy Spirit enrich our lives?

First, by giving us gifts. I Corinthians 12:7:
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
As we develop these gifts and dedicate them to the Lord, our lives will be enriched.

Second, by producing certain fruit within us. Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
When we allow the Holy Spirit to fill, control, and dominate our life, we will enjoy this fruit.

Third, by developing us toward Christlikeness. Ephesians 1:13-14:
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
The Holy Spirit helps our new nature win the victory over the old nature which still resides within us.

He enlightens our minds.

A specific aspect of this enrichment is what the Holy Spirit does to our mind. Jesus told His disciples that there were many things they could not yet understand (v. 12). The Holy Spirit, however, would reveal those things to them and guide them into all truth.

The promise, then, is that we will never be without our divine teacher. Every believer has a Master teacher dwelling within, the Spirit of truth.

He encourages our hearts.

The word "paraclete" which Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit is translated “Comforter” in the King James Version. The Greek word (parakletos) actually means “one called alongside to help.”

Life gets tough sometimes. Someone has suggested that everyone either is a problem, has a problem, or lives with one.

Depression and discouragement are familiar companions to us all. The promise of Jesus is that whenever discouragement and depression set in, the Holy Spirit is not just with us but within us to console us, to fill us with courage, to cheer us on, and to keep us going.

He empowers our spirits.

Jesus commanded his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come. Attached to that command was a promise. Acts 1:8:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
This promise was fulfilled at Pentecost. Luke described the scene in Acts 4:31:
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Trace your personal history and you will discover the same truth. Those moments of real power in our life came when we waited upon, yielded to, and were controlled by God’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowers us with supernatural strength, enabling us to put into practice the things that Jesus taught.
Even If It's Dark

He was a strong man facing an enemy beyond his strength. His young wife had become gravely ill, then suddenly passed away, leaving the big man alone with a wide-eyed, flaxen-haired girl, not quite five years old. The service in the village chapel was simple, and heavy with grief. After the burial at the small cemetery, the man’s neighbors gathered around him.

"Please, bring your little girl and stay with us for several days," someone said. "You shouldn’t go back home just yet."

Brokenhearted though he was, the man answered, "Thank you, friends, for the kind offer, but we need to go back home--where she was. My baby and I must face this."

So, they returned, the big man and his little girl, to what now seemed an empty, lifeless house. The man brought his daughter’s little bed into his room so they could face the first dark night together. As the minutes slipped by that night, the young girl was having a dreadful time trying to sleep... and so was her father. What could pierce a man’s heart deeper than a child sobbing for a mother who would never come back? Long into the night, the little one continued to weep. The big man reached down into her bed, and tried to comfort her as best he could. After a while, the little girl managed to stop crying--but only out of sorrow for her father.

Thinking his daughter was asleep, the father looked up and said brokenly, "I trust You, Father, but... it’s dark midnight"

Hearing her dad’s prayer, the little girl began to cry again.

"I thought you were asleep, baby," he said.

"Papa, I did try. I was sorry for you. I did try, but--I couldn’t go to sleep. Papa, did you ever know it could be so dark? Why, Papa, I can’t even see you, it’s so dark." Then, through her tears, the little girl whispered, "But you love me, even if it’s dark--don’t you, Papa? You love me even if I don’t see you, don’t you, Papa?"

For an answer, the big man reached across with his massive hands, lifted his little girl out of her bed, brought her over onto his chest and held her, until at last she fell asleep. When she was finally, quiet, he began to pray. He took his little daughter’s cry to him, and passed it up to God. "Father, it’s dark as midnight. I can’t see You at all, but You love me, even when it’s dark and I can’t see, don’t You?"

From the blackest of hours, the Lord touched him with new strength, enabling him to carry on. He knew that God went on loving him, even in the dark.
- Ron Mehl
This Easter, the risen Christ is with us always if we if we put our faith in Him!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Greatest Prayer Jesus Ever Prayed

Luke 23:32-34
And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

Two weeks I talked about Jesus in the garden and how he prayed about things to come and He prayed about the "cup" that he would drink from for you and I.

This week let's look at the last prayer Jesus prayed while He lived on this earth. Jesus only had one subject in this prayer and that was forgiveness of sin!

What ever happened to sin? Does anyone sin anymore?

We don’t call sin "sin" any more but rather we use words that sound better. They call it "an alternative lifestyle." They don’t want to say "homosexual life." They call it "pro-choice" because it sounds better than "murder." What used to be called "living in sin" (unwed) is now called "a committed relationship."

People have always wanted a God who will place His stamp of approval upon their life-style, never requiring any change for the better. And they have come up with all kinds of euphemisms to make it sound all right. We have come a long way from what the founders of our nation taught.

Jamestown, Virginia, was the first permanent settlement in the new world, and some of their religious practices were rather interesting. For instance, they had 2-hour church services every day, and for 5 hours on Sunday. Everybody had to attend. Missing church was considered a sin and was dealt with severely. The penalty for missing a service was the loss of food rations for a whole day. A second absence resulted in a public whipping. And the penalty for missing 3 times was to be placed in the stocks daily for 6 months! Historians tell us that research has not revealed anyone in Jamestown Colony ever missing church 3 times.

During the colonial days, in almost every colony, an adulterer could be publicly disgraced and branded on the forehead or on the cheek. Things are certainly different today, aren’t they?

Now, none of us would like to return to the Puritan punishments, but hasn’t the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction? We’ve emphasized love, grace, and forgiveness, but say little about sin, wrath, and punishment. And the result is that many today view God as a doting old grandfather who would never hold man accountable for sin.

In fact, our attitude seems to be, "God will forgive me; that’s His job!"

With that in mind, go with me for a few moments to the morning Jesus was crucified:
Luke 23:32-34.
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified Him, along with the criminals - one on His right, the other on His left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.
When Jesus came into our world He saw things that the world was unable to see. He thought thoughts that the world had never thought. He did deeds that the rest of the world could not do. And the world could not stand that. It tried to pull Him down to its own level. But Jesus refused to be a part of the darkness of this world.

There the story loses its analogy, because Jesus did not run away from our darkness. Instead, He conquered it. And the place where that victory took place is a hill called Calvary, Golgotha, the "place of the skull," on an old rugged cross.

The gospel writers say that Jesus spoke 7 times while hanging on the cross. His first words were those that we read just a few moments ago, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."

Now we have heard and read those words many, many times. They are precious to us. But I think that a lot of people misunderstand what He did. And it is important that we don’t misunderstand.

I. Jesus was praying.

Remember the prayer two weeks ago? "Thy will be done." Now, this week, we hear Jesus praying different words, "Father, forgive."

Here, we see the Son of God on the cross. As He hung there his mind was not on Himself but on others.

Think about this: Jesus was nailed to a cross with heavy, square wrought-iron nails through His wrists and through His feet. He hung there for several hours. When His body slumped, excruciating, fiery pain would shoot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain - the nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he placed the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he felt the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of the feet. As the arms fatigued, cramps swept through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air could be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fought to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide built up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided. Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint rendering cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue was torn form his lacerated back as he moved up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony began: It was now almost over - the loss of tissue fluids had reached a critical level - the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues - the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. He then felt the chill of death creeping through his tissues... Finally He was able to allow his body to die.

But before He died He prayed this great prayer that we are studying this morning." Father, forgive them"

So what was Jesus doing?

Well, the answer is obvious, "Jesus was praying."

But, wait a minute, men don’t pray on crosses. We pray in gardens. We pray in church buildings and synagogues. We pray where we can get away from the noise and confusion of the world and think clear thoughts. We don’t pray on crosses. You curse on crosses. You scream on crosses. You cry on crosses. You experience pain on crosses. You certainly don’t pray to forgive others on crosses.

The Romans worshiped revenge as one of their gods. They were constantly waging war on countries that had done them wrong, seeking revenge. The Jews felt much the same way. Part of their law was "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, blood for blood."

You don’t hang on a cross and pray for others. You especially don’t pray for their forgiveness.
And yet, that is exactly what Jesus did as He hung suspended between heaven and earth, dying on the cross.

Have you ever wondered, "What kind of mind designed the cross?"

I look at some of the things we call "entertainment," the horror movies that are produced today, and I wonder, "Who in the world thinks these up?"

Who thought up the cross? Who thought about a person having nails driven into his hands and feet, watching him die a slow death that drags out over hours and sometimes days? What kind of twisted mind thought up something like that?

Jesus hung there, experiencing the result of man’s twisted thinking. He began to pray. Now I want you to notice something. Luke uses an unexpected verb tense when he wrote, "Jesus said, `Father, forgive them.’" The verb tense of the word "said" expresses "continuous, repeated action." It was not just once that Jesus prayed this prayer, but many times. Again and again He prayed, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."

I wonder how many times He prayed it?

Did He pray it when they beat Him with the cat-o-nine-tails? Did He pray it when they thrust a crown of thorns upon His head, put a purple robe around His shoulders, and mocked Him by saying, "Hail, King of the Jews"? Do you suppose He prayed that prayer as He was carrying His cross up the hill? Did He pray it as they were driving nails into His hands & feet? Did He pray it as He was hanging there, His life’s blood dripping to the ground? Do you suppose He prayed that prayer when He looked into the angry faces shouting, "If you really are the Son of God, come down from the cross"? How many times did Jesus pray that prayer?

Luke says that it was not just once, but again and again He prayed, "Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing."

II. What Was He Praying For?

So Jesus was praying, but I wonder if we understand what He was praying for? I’m convinced that there have been some false conclusions about that.

Some have said that Jesus was praying for a "blanket pardon for all the people who participated in His crucifixion. He was just going to forgive everybody who had anything to do with it." I don’t believe that, because God never forces His forgiveness on anybody. He is not going to walk up to a cursing, mocking priest shouting "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" and say, "I’m going to forgive you whether you want to be forgiven or not."

Jesus paid the price, and God offers forgiveness. It is free to any who want it. But He never forces it on anyone.

I don’t believe that Jesus was excusing ignorance when He says, "...they don’t know what they are doing." There are some people who think that we ought to keep quiet about Jesus because if we tell people about Him, then they are accountable to God for what they know. So they’re better off if they don’t know anything. Then God will just excuse their ignorance. But that is not what Jesus was praying at all.

In Acts 3:17-19 we hear the words of Simon Peter as he preaches shortly after the Day of Pentecost. "Now brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what He had foretold through all the prophets, saying that His Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that you sins may be wiped out..."

Peter was saying, "You acted in ignorance. No question about that. And when you acted in ignorance you fulfilled what God had foretold through the prophets. Christ had to suffer for the sins of all the people." But He didn’t go on to say, "Jesus prayed for God to forgive you, so you are all forgiven." Instead, Peter said, "Now repent and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out."

So what was Jesus praying for? When He prayed, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing," what was He really praying for?

To answer that we need to understand the word "forgive." There are different words used in the New Testament for "forgive." One word means "to forget, to wipe out completely." God wipes away our sins and forgets them, never to remember them again. But that is not the word that is used here. The word that is used here is found also in Matthew 19:14. There it is used when children are brought to Jesus, and the apostles try to keep the children from coming to Him.
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them."
The word that is translated "let" in "Let the little children come..." is the same word translated "forgive" when Jesus said "Forgive them" on the cross.

So what was Jesus saying? He was not saying, "Forgive the little children." He was saying, "Let them come. Don’t stop them. Don’t hinder them from coming. Don’t stand in their way. Don’t interfere."

That is exactly what Jesus was saying on the cross when He prayed for them. He was saying to God, "Don’t rush to inflict your wrath upon these people. Hold it back. Don’t interfere."

How would a righteous God feel when a wicked world crucified His Son? How would you feel? He would be angry, and His wrath would fall upon them. But Jesus prayed, "Father, hold back your wrath."

Even now the prayer of is still being honored. God is still holding back His wrath.

"Hold back the wrath," Jesus prayed. "Give Roman soldiers who drive nails into the hands a chance to repent. Give angry crowds a chance to get right with God. Give all of the sinning and evil people a chance to be redeemed. I’m paying the price, Father. Hold back your wrath. Give them the chance to be forgiven, cleansed, and made new."

You and I are here today because the prayer that Jesus prayed 2,000 years ago is still being honored by God in heaven. That’s why the sun shines on the good and the bad. That’s why the rain falls on the just and the unjust. That’s why sometimes evil people seem to prosper while good people don’t. But one day the nail-pierced hands of Christ will be taken away and God’s wrath will be unleashed. And what happens to us then depends on what we have done with Jesus.

For 2,000 years His disciples have been going into the world telling people that God paid the price on Calvary’s tree for their sins. For 2,000 years they have been inviting people to come and be forgiven of their sins.

Maybe we’ll have a few more years to preach the message. Maybe we won’t.

Right now, though, that prayer is still being honored. Right now forgiveness is still offered. God will never force it on you. But He offers it, makes it available, and paid the price for it. It is ours for the taking.

In the garden He prayed "Not my will but your will be done."

On the cross the will of God was being done.

On the cross Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them."

This, too, was the will of God.

John 3:16. (The Message.)
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.
Max Lucado told this fictional story of an angel trying to find another way for salvation:

He looked around the hill and foresaw a scene. Three figures hung on three crosses. Arms spread. Heads fallen forward. They moaned with the wind. Men clad in religion stood off to one side…Arrogant, cocky. Women clad in sorrow huddled at the foot of the hill…Faces tear streaked. All heaven stood to fight. All nature rose to rescue. All eternity poise to protect. But the Creator gave no command. "It must be done…" He said, and withdrew. The angel spoke.. "It would be less painful…" The Creator interrupted softly. "But it wouldn’t be love."

"Father, forgive (hold back your wrath), for they know not what they do!"

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Lessons from the Garden

We are in the last days. I know you have heard that before, but never has the world been in such a state that it is today. I hear the politicians talking about change. Well, I think that there is going to be a big change but not the kind that they think. Jesus is coming back to get His church very soon. We need to be ready when He comes. There are some lessons that I want us to see this morning that will help us do that.
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.
Matthew 26:36-46
Lessons from Jesus.

1. We need to get alone with God.

Up to this point in the gospels Christ had been surrounded by hundreds of people. So many different characters, so much activity, so many healings, so many miracles... tax collectors, publicans, prostitutes, divorcees, soldiers, priests, Pharisees, fisherman. The gospels paint a picture of a Jesus who interacts, cares and loves the world, yet spending time on his own.

Here in this story, we begin to see the characters surrounding Jesus melt away into the background. In verse 36 the disciples are told to stand aside. Three are left: Peter, James and John. Then he shares with them these astonishing words "My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death." Even then he leaves a distance between them. Asking them to "stay and keep watch with me." And then he prays alone. This is the first picture I want us to hold on to: the Christ who goes on alone.

We see in the later verses how even the disciples fall asleep. The hour is late – this follows the Last Supper, and the disciples are tired, and here in the depths of the night Jesus is alone – pouring out his heart to the Father. Why is he alone – in virtually all his other ministry he has invited his disciples alongside to get involved to share the work. Yet here he is alone. Why is this so important?

Only he can take up the Cross and die for the world, only the Son of God can be hung on the cross for the sins of the world. No other can walk this path, no other can go this way. Only him. Some have said that Christ was in sorrow because he would die. Yet how foolish. There were many times he had been in danger for his life, and yet showed no fear; surrounded by Pharisees who wanted to stone him and yet we read of no frightened man.

Isn’t it remarkable that people can ask the question "Where is God?" Here in Gethsemane we have a Christ who stood alone for us that He might be with us always.

The reason Jesus was alone was that He could talk to His Father! Even though He was alone He was in communication with His Father. The lesson for us here is that we need times of solitude with our Father. There are times when God wants us to share our burdens with Him and there are times when He wants to share His love, compassion and wisdom about our lives with us.

Jimmy Stewart shared the story about the filming of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.
"It’s hard to explain. I, for one, had things happen to me during the filming that never happened in any other picture I’ve made. In one scene, for example, George Bailey is faced with unjust criminal charges and, not knowing where to turn, ends up in a little roadside restaurant. He is unaware that most of the people in town are arduously praying for him. In this scene, at the lowest point in George Bailey’s life, Frank Capra was shooting a long shot of me slumped in despair. In agony I raise my eyes and, following the script, plead, ‘God . . . God . . . dear Father in heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope, Show me the way, God. . . .’ As I said those words, I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn, and my eyes filled with tears. I broke down sobbing. This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realization that our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears." (Guideposts, December 2005)

Life is like a merry-go-round, and the older we get the faster it goes and sometimes we need to say, "Stop this thing and let me off!"

Find time to get alone with God!

2. The prayer of Christ: "Thy will be done."

Look at the two prayers in between verse 39 and verse 42. By looking at the contrast between these two prayers, you can see how Christ moves from "if it is possible" to the realization "if it is not possible."

This phrase, "Your will be done," should sound familiar as it comes straight from Matthew 5 where Jesus taught the disciples how to pray. So here we have Christ living out the Lord’s Prayer as he faces death.

How different than our prayers. "Lord, Thy will be done," can become "Lord, I don’t want to do this and here are 10 good reasons..."

Here at the very heart of Easter – at the place where the battle was fought – will the Son submit to the will of the Father – we see in this prayer, "Thy will be done."

Do you remember the Lord’s prayer? "Your kingdom come, your will be done..." In a very real way God’s kingdom could not have come unless Jesus was willing to do the will of the Father.

We should not expect God’s kingdom to come, to transform our lives, our neighbors lives, we shouldn’t expect to see healings, and answered prayer unless we are willing to seek the Lord’s will. I fear that far too often we expect God’s kingdom to come and great things to happen to us in our church and our lives without submitting to the will of God. Yet often we run our lives as if God doesn’t exist.

One of the integral steps of preparing for Easter is to pray "Thy will be done." The way of Jesus was the way of obedience to the Father’s will, the way of the cross.

The lesson from the sleepy disciples.

The last picture I want us to consider is that of the sleeping disciples and the words of Christ, "Lead us not into temptation."

Now sleep is a word that is very sweet to my ears – and in some ways I have much sympathy with the disciples – the hour was late, they had shared a meal together so would likely have full stomachs, and Jesus called them to watch and pray. Jesus told his disciples in verse 41, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." In the gospel of Matthew this the last request that Christ made to his disciples before he was taken, and the trial and the journey to the cross commenced.

(I wonder if Jesus put this sleep upon them to teach them that they need help, that they can’t do the job that they have to do without help? Just a thought.)

I believe the last request of Jesus had both a near range and a long range meaning for the disciples. In his moment of need he wanted them to stand with him, to pray with him. But he was to tread a path that only he could tread. By sleeping they revealed their own sinfulness and it stands as a picture of the uniqueness of Christ to stand in our place. It was here in Gethsemane, without the Holy Spirit, when asked to keep watch, that they failed. But I also believe there was a longer term meaning. Jesus knew that they would face beatings, persecution, that their faith would be tested after he had gone (Matthew 24: 9-13).

The one thing that the disciples failed in before the Spirit came, was to do the will of God to stay awake and pray! Without the help of the Holy Spirit who was to come, they failed! The Bible says that they all ran away, and Peter denied Him.

Look what happened after the Holy spirit came upon them!
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:42
In Acts 12 Peter was in prison and "the church was earnestly praying to God for him" all night.

Christ knew what was needed. If anyone dare says that Christianity is a man made religion I would challenge them to look at the disciples before and after the resurrection.

Here in Gethsemane – we see a Christ pleading with them to stay with him, to pray with him, that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, and yet they fail him.

We live in an age where these words of Christ are more relevant than ever. Temptation is around every corner. Temptation to be unfaithful to one’s partner, temptation to put one’s job above all else, temptation to strive after the bigger and better, temptation to hide Christ from those who need him. Yet the words of Christ come back to speak to us "Watch and pray."

Every day we should let these words of Christ ring out: watch how you live, watch what you do, watch who you are copying, watch your lives and commit them in prayer to Me. "Watch and pray." Will we listen to these last words of Jesus to us? Yes, the body is weak, but how good it is that the Spirit is stronger. Christ died to rescue us from the penalty and consequence of sin and temptation, and urges us to watch and pray so that we will not fall.

The lesson of things to come.
The hour is at hand. Matthew 26:45

"But all this was done, that the scripture of the prophets might be full filled. Matthew 26:56

The world was about to be changed forever . They were on the brink of a world that would change the hearts of mankind! Jesus was taking the final steps towards full salvation, as the scripture had foretold. The followers of Jesus had been told over and over that Jesus would set up His kingdom but somehow, even though they were His own followers, they had not caught on.
Prophecy was being fulfilled before their very eyes. They were a part of it!

Now we are on the other end of prophecy and we, too, are seeing thinga come to pass that the scripture has told us about and we are not catching on to the fact that Jesus is coming back soon.
We go to church, we pay our tithe, we do good for others and we have a testimony that we are followers of Jesus. But are we ready for the end time? Are we asleep when we should be praying? I really believe that Jesus is about ready to call His children home! That hour is at hand!

Let's look at just a few things that transpired in our scripture lesson and how they can be applied today.

The plot of Satan to destroy the plan of salvation.
"He is at hand." Matthew 26:56
Yes, it was Judas. He was the one who we blame, but who was in Judas? Satan!

This was the beginning of the end!

The plan of Salvation is being undermined today by Satan.

Someone sent me this article about the New Age movement. Now, the New Age movement has been around a long time but it seems to be getting greater attention today than ever before.

Jesus Christ being reinvented, redefined, and blasphemed and, this false New-Age Christ teaching is about to make huge inroads into the world, with the help of the queen of television talk shows, Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah Winfrey, beginning January 1, 2008, on her daily radio program will offer a year-long course on the New Age Christ, in a lesson a day and will completely cover the 365 lessons from the Course in Miracles “Workbook.”

Listeners will be encouraged to buy A Course in Miracles for the year-long course, and an audio version, recited by Richard (John Boy Walton) Thomas will be available on compact disc.

Those who finish the Course will have a wholly redefined spiritual mindset — a New Age worldview that include the beliefs that there is no sin, no evil, no devil. A Course in Miracles teaches its students to rethink everything they believe about God and life, and, bluntly states: “This is a course in mind training” and is dedicated to “thought reversal.”

The Course in Miracles — in reality — is the truth of the Bible turned upside down.

Oprah told her television audience that Williamson’s book, A Course in Miracles, was one of her favorite books, and that she had already bought a thousand copies and would be handing them out to everyone in her studio audience. Oprah’s endorsement skyrocketed Williamson’s book to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

A Course in Miracles is allegedly a “new revelation” from “Jesus” to help humanity work through these troubled times. This “Jesus” — who bears no doctrinal resemblance to the Bible’s Jesus Christ — began delivering channeled teachings in 1965 to a Columbia University Professor of Medical Psychology, Helen Schucman.

One day Schucman heard an “inner voice” stating, “This is a course in miracles. Please take notes.” For seven years she diligently took spiritual dictation from this voice that described himself as “Jesus.”

Here are some quotes from the “Jesus” voice of A Course in Miracles:

“There is no sin . . . “

A “slain Christ has no meaning.”

“The journey to the cross should be the last ‘useless journey’..”

“Do not make the pathetic error of ‘clinging to the old rugged cross.’”

“The Name of Jesus Christ as such is but a symbol… It is a symbol that is safely used as a replacement for the many names of all the gods to which you pray..”

“The recognition of God is the recognition of yourself.”

“The Atonement is the final lesson he [man] need learn, for it teaches him that, never having sinned, he has no need of salvation.”

Popular author Wayne Dyer told his PBS television audience that the “brilliant writing” of A Course in Miracles would produce more peace in the world.

There is a movement on to destroy God's plan for our salvation. But I have good news! They will not be able to!

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."
2 Timothy 3 :1-5
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh... Luke 21:28
Fear came upon the disciples (the church).
Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. Matthew 26:56

But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. Matthew 26:58

And they asked him, saying, "Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?" And he said," Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, 'I am Christ; and the time draweth near:' go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by." Then said he unto them, "Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Luke 21:7-28

The Power of Christ.

After suffering and dying, Christ came forth from the tomb and He lives! Because of these facts of His power, we can have eternal life with Him. He has the power of eternal life!
"Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also." John 14:19

It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: II Timothy 2:11
I serve a risen Saviour;
He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living,
whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy,
I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him
He’s always near.

He lives, He lives,
Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives,
salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives
He lives within my heart.
--A.H. Ackley

Well, this is like reading a book, but I want you to know that I have read the book and I know how it will all end for the children of God.

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:12-14

May the Lord add His blessing to this message.

Amen and Amen!