Sunday, September 27, 2009

Is Jesus Showing Through?

Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18
Paul, in this chapter, compares the ministry of the law with the ministry of the Spirit. The Law of Moses brought spiritual death because written only on stone, it did not change the human heart. It only showed where the heart was wrong and thus brought God's condemnation. The Spirit, however, changes the heart and brings true righteousness. He brings it more glorious because it reveals God more fully, and enables us to be like Him.

In Exodus 34:29-35 we read where Moses came down from the mountain after getting the Ten Commandments from the Lord that his face shined so bright that the people were afraid of him.
So he put a veil over his face. This symbolized the inability of the Israelites to perceive the full truth of God's revelation.

Look now at verse 16 of 2 Corinthians 3 (from the Message Bible):
Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are--face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is living personally present, a living Spirit , that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We are free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our face shining with the brightness of His face. And so we are transfigured much like Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him.
One Sunday as they drove home from church, a little girl turned to her mother and said, "Mommy, there's something about the preacher's message this morning that I don't understand."

The mother said, "Oh? What is it?"

The little girl replied, "Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. He said God is so big that He could hold the world in His hand. Is that true?"

The mother replied, "Yes, that's true, honey."

"But Mommy, he also said that God comes to live inside of us when we accept Jesus as our Savior. Is that true, too?"

Again, the mother assured the little girl that what the preacher had said was true.

With a puzzled look on her face the little girl then asked, "If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn't He show through?"

That's the point isn't it? If we're Christians, when people see us, Jesus ought to show through - in our homes, our offices, our community, and in every aspect of our lives.

Listen again to these words by the apostle Paul found in 2 Corinthians 3:18:

"And we, who reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness."
Now I want to call your attention to two ideas mentioned in that verse.
  1. We who are Christians are supposed to reflect Jesus. In other words, when people see us they should be able to see Jesus in us - in what we say and in what we do.
  2. With each passing day we ought to be more and more transformed to be like Him. And again, that is to be evident in what we do and in what we say.
So, let me ask you: How would things be different if Jesus came and took your place? Would anything have been different this morning as you got ready to come to church? What if He took over your job at work? Or what if He took my place in the pulpit?

Whether we realize it or not, that is exactly what He wants - to make Himself known to others through our lives. You see, as Christians, our goal should be to introduce Jesus to others - to make Jesus known. We should want everyone who doesn't know Him now to come to love Him, to discover the hope, the joy, the power He can bring into their lives. It is not so much about what we see in the Mirror but what do other see when they see us.

We are to look like Jesus.

Now, if that is ever going to happen, people must be able to see Jesus. But the eyes of so many people today have been clouded by the master of this age. Their vision has been polluted by the trappings of this world and the moral decay that surrounds us.

So how are they ever going to see Jesus? Well, if they're going to see Jesus, they'll have to see Jesus in us. That's why Paul is challenging us to reflect Jesus in our lives by being transformed into His likeness. We must look like Jesus. But what does it mean to look like Jesus? Well, I'm confident you realize that I'm not talking about growing beards or wearing a certain kind of clothing. Instead, it means to be like Him, to imitate the character and nature and attitudes of Jesus.

In fact, in Ephesians 5:1-2 that is exactly what the apostle Paul urged the early Christians to do:
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Be imitators of Jesus? What a bold challenge to undertake!

By the way, when people look at Jesus what do they see? Well, they see a Jesus who is generous with His time, His love, and His power. They see one who is genuine in His care and compassion, and in His commitment to the will of God, and to others.But let's pause for a moment and consider: What do people see when they look at us? Do they see us being generous in the same ways that Jesus was? Do they see us being genuine about our faith and our commitments? People also looked at Jesus and saw Him to be incredibly receptive. He would welcome anyone who approached Him: the intelligent and the illiterate, the child-like and the childish, the prosperous and the impoverished, the dedicated and the desperate, the seeker and the sick. He had such an open door to His heart that He is called, not a "teacher of sinners," or a "changer of sinners," but a "friend of sinners." What better friend could anyone ever find than Jesus? And what kind of friend do sinners find in us?

Again, do we look like Jesus? Do our lives, our hearts, our nature reflect His glory? Are we imitating Him? We must make Jesus known by looking like Him.

We are to sound like Jesus.

Secondly, if our goal is to introduce people to Jesus, then we must begin to sound like Jesus.

When people heard Jesus speak and teach they were amazed. Look at this passage from the gospel of Luke 4:36-37, just following a scene where Jesus had driven a demon out of a man in the synagogue:

All the people were amazed and said to each other, "What is this teaching? With authority and power He gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!" And the news about Him spread throughout the surrounding area.
People were talking. A modern translation, The Message, phrases it this way: "Jesus was the talk of the town."

Anytime Jesus walked into the synagogue, the market, or into someone's home, people talked. His comments, His teachings, His rebukes, His words of love had people talking. Oh, there were people who didn't like to hear Jesus, but they belonged to the rulers who were desperately trying to maintain their control over the people's lives and loyalty.

And there are people today who don't want others listening to Jesus because when they do, questions are raised, and hearts and lives are changed.

In 1 Peter 2:23 the apostle Peter tells us,
When they hurled insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.
So our task is to help make Jesus known by sounding like Him.

In 1 Corinthians 4:12-13 the apostle Paul says,
When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we answer kindly.
Our vocabulary, our conversations, our prayers, our stories - must all echo His love, compassion and care. Our message must be a testimony of hope and change that encourages those who know us to want to know Jesus, too. But God has planted among such people voices to proclaim messages of spiritual recovery and healing. Who are these voices? We are. And they will only hear His words if we somehow begin to sound like Jesus. If they're ever going to hear the love story of Jesus, they must hear it from us.

We are to act like Jesus.

Last of all, if we're ever going to introduce people to Him, then we must also act like Jesus.

In John 13, we see our Lord wrapping Himself in a towel, washing the feet of His disciples, demonstrating the heart and actions of a servant. Listen to what Jesus says in verses 12-17 as phrased in The Message:
After He had finished washing their feet, He took his robe, put it back on, and went back to His place at the table. Then He said, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as 'Teacher' and 'Master,' and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other's feet. I've laid down a pattern for you. What I've done, you do. I'm only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn't give orders to the employer. If you understand what I'm telling you, act like it - and live a blessed life."
"If you understand what I'm telling you," Jesus says, "then act like it."

This scripture isn't about foot washing but rather about being a servant.

The person who trusts in Jesus will do what He is doing and even greater things, because Jesus goes to the Father for us to make it possible! We're called to act as He did - to give people God's promises, teach them about God's kingdom, serve people's needs, love people with our hearts and hands. We are to bring people into God's presence - to help them find healing and to point them to God's sacrifice on the cross, and to help them find salvation in Him.

I read an interesting story about a young boy living in Paris at the end of the World War II. He had been orphaned by the cruelty committed by the German forces. Now all alone, he was having to scrounge around the ruined city as best as he could to find food, clothes and shelter. But nearly everyone was experiencing desperate times, and he found that people either ignored him or had nothing to give to him.

Years before, he had heard someone talk about God and Jesus. But with the hell on earth that the war had brought into his life had not thought about God. One cold morning, he was wandering down the street, staring into the windows of shops and caf├ęs. He stopped outside the window of a small bakery. The smell of the fresh bread made his stomach ache with pain. He was so absorbed by the smell and sights of the bakery that he didn't realize an American soldier had come up and was watching him. The boy hardly noticed it when the G.I. walked past him into the store. He did, however, notice the large bag the baker was filling for the G.I. with rolls, breads, and pastries. And the boy could hardly breathe when the soldier exited the shop, knelt down and handed him the bag.He looked at the G.I. with astonishment and gratefulness. Finally, he asked the question that was running through his mind: "Mister, are you Jesus?"

To be mistaken for Jesus! !hat an bold idea - to have our actions so remind others of what Jesus is about and what Jesus would do.

Shouldn't that be our goal? Shouldn't others see Christ in our lives?

Now we are not Jesus but shouldn't we be working to be more like Him?

Let me say this in closing. The closer we walk to Jesus the more like Him we will become!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Our Value to God

We have been made by God and that makes us special. We have been created in His image. His desire is that all of us become His sons and daughters and join Him in heaven for eternity. In God’s eyes we all have importance. In God’s eyes we are precious and valuable.

This week in my devotions, God opened Psalm 139 up for me and I want to share with you some thoughts that I received.

God knows all there is about me.
O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
--Psalm 139:1-4, KJV
Now I want to compare this scripture with the Message Bible.
God, investigate my life, get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back ; I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.
--Psalm 139:1-4, The Message
God is eternal, holy, all-loving, all-wise, omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), omni-present (everywhere at the same time). Yet he knows Darrell Allen Ezell.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. --Genesis 1:27
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. --Ephesians 2:10
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. --Luke 12:7
God you search me and you know me. --Psalm 139: 1
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. --Psalm 139:14
I came across these facts not long ago and I am not sure who complied them but it speaks to that fact that the God who created us knows us.

  • In a square inch of skin, you would find: 20 blood vessels; 65 muscles; 78 nerves; 78 sensors for heat, 13 for cold, 160 for pressure;650 sweat glands; 1300 nerve endings; and 19,500,000 cells. The skin serves several purposes including providing a protective shield against bacteria and viruses and the absorbing of bumps and bruising that might otherwise damage your bones and internal organs.… and in that inch of skin, your sweat glands in your body do double duty, helping to eliminate wastes and cool your body.
  • Then, there’s your brain. Your brain does all this and uses less power than a 100-watt bulb. Your brain is serviced by about 45 miles of nerves that send impulses through your body as rapidly as 325 miles per hour.
  • Your nervous system is so sensitive you are able to feel on your fingertips (or face) a pressure that depresses your skin a bare- roughly the weight of a bee’s wing falling on your cheek.
  • Then, there are your ears: A piano has 88 keys, but each of your ears has a keyboard with 1500 keys. They are so finely tuned that you can hear the blood running through your vessels.
  • Your eyes are capable of seeing a small candle flame from 30 miles away on a clear, dark night. And can distinguish among more than 300,000 different color variations.
Yet I don’t think that’s what the Psalmist was talking about when he said “Lord you know me!” Not only does God know about our physical but more important He knows the soul. His point is not that God knows all the mysteries of history and the riddles of the universe. Rather, David’s point is that God knows me. He knows everything about me. He know the inner me! Because God knows the inner me he knows the needs that my soul cries out for, and He responds to us.
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. --Isaiah 55:2-3
God holds us in His hands.

God not only leads us but He makes a hedge about us and He holds us in the palm of His hand.
Thou hast beset (hedged) me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell (grave), behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. --Psalm 139:5-10
He holds us with His righteousness.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. --Isaiah 41:10
His banner over us is love.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. --Song of Solomon 2:4
Think about sitting in the hand of God and being hedged in on all sides and being covered with His love. No wonder the Psalmist said in verse six, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”

God shows us His creating power.
For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. --Psalm 139:13-16
This does have something to say about the value of life before birth. But especially here David is saying, "Even before my mom gave birth to me, you were present, your Spirit was there. You were knitting me together, it wasn’t just some outgrowth of evolution. But you were right there in the womb. I couldn’t get away from you even before I was born."

Have you ever wondered why God created you? Well, I have. But I want you to know that God never wondered why He created you at all.

Rick Warren says in his book The Purpose Driven Life, “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were made by God and for God, until you understand, life will never make sense. It is only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny.”

From before you are born, even after you die God has plans for you. Now that is powerful!

God probes us with His thoughts.
How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. --Psalm 139:17-18
I got to thinking about the thoughts God has about me. I wonder what they are? Perhaps He thinks about how much He loves me and wants what is best for me. How he wants me to live for Him and how He can help me to live for Him.

The thoughts that God has concerning me I believe are precious and great, says the Psalmist.
Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. --Psalm 40:5
We are never out of God’s consciousness. He never forgets us!
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. --Jeremiah 29:11-13

The Psalmist, realizing that God’s thoughts were always toward Him, began to ask God to probe His heart.
Search (probe) 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
Look at verses 19-22. Here the Psalmist is asking God to slay the wicked and to tells the Lord how much He hates them. But then we see in verses 23-24, he turns his thoughts towards himself. As if to say, “It not the wicked that I should be thinking about but my own heart.”

If God’s thoughts are toward me and He knows all that there is to know about me then I want to know what He knows about my heart so I can ask God to led me in the way everlasting.

Now, it is one thing to ask God to search us, but what we do with what He shows us is another.
When God probes us and begins to reveal things to us how do we react? If we respond to God’s leadership as we should, then we can sing the song Haldor Lillenas wrote:

What a blessed peace we know
as we travel here below,
while we are walking
in the beautiful light of God.
Brighter, fairer grows the way,
as we journey day by day,
while we are walking
in the beautiful light of God.

I won’t take time to read all of it but it has a wonderful message for those who respond to God’s probing thoughts that He has toward us.

Avis Christiansen wrote a song I think we can understand if we are living within the truths of this Psalm:

It Is Glory Just to Walk with Him

It is glory just to walk with Him
Whose blood has ransomed me;
It is rapture for my soul each day.
It is joy divine to feel Him near
where’er my path may be.
Bless the Lord, it’s glory all the way!

It is glory just to walk with Him,
It is glory just to walk with Him,
He will guide my steps aright
Through the vale and o’er the height,
It is glory just to walk with Him.

It is glory when the shadows fall
to know that He is near.
O what joy to simply trust and pray!
It is glory to abide in Him
when skies above are clear.
Yes, with Him, it’s glory all the way!

’Twill be glory when I walk with Him
on Heaven’s golden shore,
Never from His side again to stray.
’Twill be glory, wondrous glory
with the Savior evermore,
Everlasting glory all the way!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ways to Love Your Mother

Confirmed Shouter

Ever since President Nixon’s inaugural plea to "speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices" I’ve had misgivings about my big mouth. I’ve always admired parents who discipline their children in hushed whispers.

"Arthur, you are a naughty boy for turning on all the gas jets. Now I want you to drag your little sister out into the fresh air, give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and apologize. Don’t make Mama have to raise her voice."

I’m a shouter. Once on a vacation, when one of the kids turned on the car heater while going through Georgia, my mother told me they felt the vibrations as far north as Port Huron, Michigan.

No one is born a shrew. I used to watch women getting flushed and angry while they chewed out their children and I’d say to myself, "My goodness, that woman is going to have a heart attack. No one should discipline a child in anger." (I was five at the time and being flogged with a yardstick by my mother.)

Having children of my own knock a hole in that theory.

To begin with, there were only 32 hours out of every week when I wasn’t angry, and then I was sleeping.

Also, I discovered children never took a "No" seriously unless the dishes rattled when you said it. And the real clincher came when I discovered I had runners.

"Runners" are kids who, when they commit some sin, take off for the fields, trees, basements, neighbors, attics or sewers. Did you ever try to whisper to someone you couldn’t see? I took to shouting.

We once had a neighbor who was born out of her time.

I lived next to her for four years, and not once did that disgusting old dame raise her voice. Of course, you can imagine what that made me sound like. (The Shore Patrol breaking up a floating crap game.)

Anyway, one day the boys were throwing a ball against her house and she appeared like an apparition at the door, gestured to them and said softly, "Boys, would you all come here for a moment?"

I watched her gesturing, talking and smiling. When she finished, the boys disbanded. I pounced on my son. "What did that mealy-mouthed little frail thing have to say to you boys?" "She said if we broke her windows, she’d break our faces!"

From that day forward I forgave her for her quietness. What she lacked in volume, she made up in content. What class!

--from Forever Erma by Erma Bombeck, March 5, 1969
Well, that’s a story of one mother. But let’s look at another mother.
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, "Woman, behold thy son!" Then saith he to the disciple, "Behold thy mother!"And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. John 19:26-27
Mary witnessed the crucifixion from the foot of the cross. Can you even imagine how she must’ve felt?

Jesus turned to John and said, "Take care of her," and looked at his mother and said, "Let him stand in my place as your son." John lived a very long life, and I believe he took care of Mary until she went to heaven.

Jesus was on the cross, bearing the weight of the sins of the whole world on His shoulders, yet He saw to it to make sure His mother was taken care of after He was gone! As God, Jesus was dealing with eternal matters, but as a man, He was showing all of us today how important it is to take care of and love our mothers!

You cannot be willfully wrong with your mother and be right with God.

If your mother is still alive, regardless of your and her ages, you can love her.

Here are some ways to love your mother.

1. Love her verbally. Some men have the philosophy—I don’t have to say, "I love you. You already know it. I have told you before, if I change my mind I’ll let you know!" Or, "I show love, not just say it…" and that may be true, but a woman needs to hear those words, “I Love You!”
Children and spouses need to hear it…and saying it makes you more of a man, not less!
Dear Abby,

I enlisted shortly after Pearl Harbor. Thirty-six days later, I was on my way to the Philippines. En route, the Philippines fell to the Japanese, and we were routed to Australia. Eleven days after we landed, I met the most beautiful girl in the world.

On our first date, I told her I was going to marry her. I did, 18 months later, while on a 10-day R-and-R leave from New Guinea.

After more than 57 years of marriage and two children, my beloved "Mary" died five days before Christmas. Although we agreed that our ashes were to be scattered over the mountains, I found I could not part with hers.

While Mary was alive, she would frequently say, "You don’t know how much I love you." I’d reply, "Likewise." I never said, "I love you." Now her ashes are on my dresser, where I tell her several times a day how much I love her, but it’s too late. Although I wrote poetry to her, I could not bring myself to say the three words I knew she wanted most to hear.

As my dearest was dying and we thought she was comatose, I told her, "There aren’t enough words to tell you how much I love you." A few hours later, she whispered, "Not enough words" and died.

The reason I’m writing is to urge men to express their feelings while their loved ones are alive. I don’t know why, but many men are reluctant to express the depth of their feelings.
Our spouses need to hear it. Our children…our mothers also!

Some men would say, “I’m just not turned that way”…then turn around! “I’m just not comfortable”…then be uncomfortable!

2. Love her physically. When’s the last time you gave your mother a big hug without her asking for it…or a kiss on the cheek, or a neck rub, or just sat on the couch and held her hand for a change? (I bet those whose mothers are gone would like to trade places with you.)

She’s the first person whoever touched you…she wrapped you up in her womb for months, and you came out and first priority was to hold you. She cuddled you, stroked your head, rubbed your feet, held your little cheeks against her, gave you a finger to grasp…in love she did all these things, including grooming you with a licked thumb!

When you were little, she could say, “Give me sugar,” and you’d pucker up and she’d accept your wet, sloppy kiss and she even said thank you! You gave her bear hugs so tight she didn’t have to hold on to you…you’d just cling to her as she walked around! She changed your diapers, potty trained you, and held the Kleenex for you to blow your nose! She wiped food off of your face years longer than she should have had to! She constantly touched you! And she may have to hand you off to another, and her life may endured some heavy changes, but she deserves your touch and should never have to give that up completely! It would mean more to her than flowers or candy, or eating out.

Go to a nursing home and there’s not a single instance in which some of those precious old ladies won’t try to reach out and touch someone, a total stranger even! You can tell. They are starved for that simple, innocent brand of physical love.

3. Love her patiently. Mothers have an incredible job with no pay. No position in the business world compares to the physical, emotional, and spiritual commitment she has in motherhood.
No Occupation
She rises up at break of day
and through her tasks she races.
She cooks the meals as best she may
and scrubs the children’s faces
While schoolbooks, lunches, homework too,
all need consideration . . .
And yet the census man insists
She has -- “No Occupation.”

When breakfast dishes all are done
She bakes a pudding, maybe.
She cleans the rooms up, one by one,
With one eye watching Baby.
The mending pile she then attacks
by way of variation.
And yet the census man insists
She has — “No Occupation.”

She irons for a little while,
then presses pants for Daddy.
She welcomes with a cheery smile
returning Boy or Girl.
A hearty dinner next she cooks
(no time for relaxation),
And yet the census man insists
She has—“No Occupation.”
Don’t ever make the mistake of asking a lady, "Do you work, or stay at home?" Many ladies today have to work on top of the full time job they already have.

Love her patiently. Because she’s tender to your needs is no reason to take advantage of her, it’s reason to be patient and to love her all the more! It is unfair for you to be more kind, considerate, patient with your friends and your friend’s mothers than your own mother! If some treated their friends like they treat their mom they wouldn’t have friends. Their mom deserves better. She’s not a rug to wipe every negative thought on! She is not “The Old Lady!”

For us adults with living mothers: Love her patiently.

Dr. Dobson read on Focus on the Family radio:
A letter from an 80 year old woman on her birthday:

To all my children:

I suppose my upcoming birthday started my thoughts along these lines...This is a good time to tell you that what I truly want are things I can never get enough of, yet they are free. I want the intangibles.

I would like for you to come and sit with me, and for you to be relaxed. We can talk, or we can be silent. I would just like for us to be together.

I need your patience when I don’t hear what you say the first time. I know how tiresome it is to always be repeating, but sometimes I must ask you to repeat. I need your patience when I think too much about the past, with my slowness and my set ways. I want you to be tolerant with what the years have done to me physically.

Please be understanding about my personal care habits. I spill things. I lose things. I get unduly excited when I try to figure out my bank statements. I can’t remember what time to take my medication, or if I took it already. I take too many naps. Sometimes sleep helps to pass the day.

Well, there you have it: Time, Patience, and Understanding. Those are priceless gifts that I want.

Finally, in his letter, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” I know I can, too! It’s a wonderful feeling to know His eye is on the sparrow and I know He cares for me. I guess being old isn’t so bad after all!

Love, Mom
4. Love her attentively. Mothers listen as you pour out your heart…she has a sympathetic ear, and always has…and even as an adult you’ve gone to her when you want someone who will really listen and understand…and she’ll always be on your side. It’s no wonder we like to talk to mom…she listens…but now she has issues, and now it’s your turn to be her “rock”…and take time to listen…it’s payback time! “But, she’s always complaining”…yes, just like you did! Talks about herself, asks same question over and over…

(Click on the comic strip to enlarge to read.)

Some of you may feel like Calvin’s mother this morning, wondering if anybody’s going to say, "Thank you, Mom, for all the good stuff you do."

Being a mother is a tough job and we recognize and honor that today. She needs a sincere thank you, and not just today, but from a genuinely thankful heart when least expected!

5. Love her generously. There’s nothing too good for her, we could never repay her, but we ought to die trying before she does!

She didn’t spend on herself unless all your needs were met…she could easily do without, and now it’s time for her to have something she wants!
A math teacher asked a question and said, “State your answer as a fraction. If there’s 10 at the table and one apple pie, how much does each one get? “One ninth.” said one student.

“Don’t you know your fractions?” ask the teacher.

“You don’t know my mother! If there’s that many at the table and only one pie, she don’t want any!”
6. Love her honorably.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Exodus 20:12

This is binding as long as your mother lives. If the husband is the head of the home, then the mother is the heart...don’t break her heart.

By the way, it’s the only one of the 10 commandments which includes a built-in promise of blessing!

I like reading this every Mother’s Day.

When God Created Mothers

When the good Lord created mothers, He was into His sixth day of overtime, when an angel appeared and said, "You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one."

The Lord replied, "Have you seen the specs on this order? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic; have 180 moveable parts ... all replaceable; run on black coffee and leftovers; have a lap that disappears when she stands up; a kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointing love affair, and six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook her head slowly and said, "Six pair of hands? No way!"

"It’s not the hands that are causing me problems," said the Lord. "It’s the three pair of eyes that mothers have to have. One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks ’What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows. Another in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t, but what she needs to know, and of course the ones in front that look at a child when he goofs up and say, ’I understand and I love you,’ without so much as uttering a word.

"I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already, I have one who heals herself when she is sick ...can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger ...and get a nine year old to stand under a shower. Not only can she think, she can reason and compromise."

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek of the mother. "There’s a leak," she pronounced, "I told you that you were trying to put too much in this model."

"That’s not a leak," said the Lord, "it’s a tear."

"What is it for?" asked the angel.

The Lord replied, "It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness and pride."

"You’re a genius!" shouted the angel.

With a somber look on his face, the Lord said, "I didn’t put it there."

By Erma Bombeck
How about a hand now for the crowning jewel of God’s creation: our mothers!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Listening God

This morning we’re going to look at a passage of Scripture found in the last book in the Old Testament, the book of Malachi.

At the time of the writing of Malachi, the nation of Israel had strayed far from God. Evil abounded in the land. Unbelief prevailed. The majority of people went their own sinful ways, giving little thought to the will or ways of God. They laughed at the prophets and showed utter contempt for God and His Law.

As a nation we have strayed from God until our president said, “America is not a Christian nation.”

Many in our nation agree with Him. Just because other religions have come to this great land of ours does not mean that we are no longer a Christian nation!

With that in mind, listen as God speaks to Israel through the prophet.
"You have said harsh things against me," says the Lord. Yet you ask, “What have we said against you?” You have said, “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out His requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape." Malachi. 3:13-15
To put it very bluntly, the people were saying that God was inconsequential, insignificant, and irrelevant. In other words, they thought that God was absolutely powerless to do anything about anything, anymore. So, as a nation, they were ignoring Him. He was unimportant to them. What a pitiful environment in which to live!

But, do you remember? Back in the beginning of their nation, as their forefathers were settling into the Promised Land, Joshua, their leader, had challenged them,
“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” Joshua 24:15-18
And the people had responded,
“Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God Himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations…who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because He is our God.”
And that generation of Israelites was faithful to its vow, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord … because He is our God.” They didn’t forget Him, or ignore Him!

There is no question that their forefathers, the founders of the nation of Israel, had a deep and abiding faith and trust in God.

But by the time of Malachi it was painfully obvious that the nation of Israel, as a whole, had turned almost completely away from God.

Listen again to what God was saying to them:
"You have said harsh things against me," says the Lord. … "You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’"
This sounds a lot like Israel in Jeremiah’s day.
“At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turns from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight that it obeys not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them. Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now everyone from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good. And they said. There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will everyone do the imagination of his evil heart.” Jeremiah 18:7-12
Let us read a verse from Psalms 9:17:
“The wicked will be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”
Does this sound familiar? Is our nation going through the same pattern of behavior? I wonder.
When our national leaders do not honor God, what will our nation become?

But there is hope. Let’s go on in our scripture, for in the next few verses of Malachi there are some things that are rather intriguing.
Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name.
"They will be my treasured possession," says the Lord Almighty, "in the day when I act. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
Malachi 3:16-18
What does this scripture say?

First of all, it tells us that in the midst of a faithless nation, God still had a faithful remnant! Even though a great majority of the people had turned their backs upon Him, God still had people who honored and worshiped Him, and sought to do His will.

I would like to tell our president that there are some of us whom we still call ourselves Christian!
There are not many of us, in comparison to the nation as a whole, but Christians have committed themselves to remain faithful to God, no matter what anyone else says or does. And while surrounded by the spiritual darkness of their day, they drew closer and closer together to talk with each other and to support and encourage one another in serving God.

Second, it says that God heard them. Well, of course He did. Doesn’t the Bible teach that He hears our prayers? We can pray, each of us, and know that He has promised to hear and answer our prayers. So, of course, He heard them.

Now this verse didn’t say anything about prayer, but what it did say was that the people talked and God heard.

Even though they were only a small group in the whole nation, God was paying attention to them.

They talked about Him, worshiped Him, and discussed His wonderful ways. And as they did, God was listening to their conversations. He eavesdropped. He tuned into their frequency.

Kings were making laws, but God was listening to His people.

Generals were giving orders, but God was listening to a handful of folks talking about Him. Judges were speaking in court, but God was listening to His remnant.

Politicians were making speeches, but God’s ears were tuned to His faithful followers.
And I believe that God is still doing the same today!

Third, Malachi tells us that the Lord enjoyed what He heard so much that He had it all written down in a book – “A scroll of remembrance…” it is called.
“Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies’ turn back: this I know; for God is for me. In God will I praise his word: in the Lord will I praise his word. In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.” Psalm 56:8-11
Do you get the picture? Here is God, summoning an angel, I suppose, to take notes – to write down what was said and who said it so that it would be remembered forever!

Think of that! God really does see and hear what we’re doing and saying - and not just when we’re in church or praying to Him. There’s a record being kept of it, too.

Fourth, notice what God says in verse 17. "They will be my Jewels (treasured possession).” God had made them a promise in Exodus 19:5.
“Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine”
From Malachi the Hebrew word translated is “treasured possession.”

And it is often translated as “jewels” or “treasure.” So God is saying that these faithful people are His jewels, His very own treasure. He goes on to say that in the day when He acts, He is going to remember them and protect them.

God makes His meaning clear by saying:
“And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” Malachi 3:16-18
In the light of that verse I want to be sure I’m part of God’s jewels – His treasure. Do you?

But, even though we call ourselves Christians, how can we make sure that we’re a part of God’s faithful remnant today?

Maybe we can find out by looking once again at what this scripture tells us about them and what they were doing.

They remained true to God.

First of all, it tells us they “feared the Lord” – they held Him in awe and because of that they remained true to Him. It was a time when it wasn’t easy to stay faithful to God. Corruption was everywhere. Hypocrisy abounded. Evil ruled the day.

And we could very easily say the same thing today. You see. It’s never been easy to follow God’s ways. But God has always had a remnant.

This remnant said, “Even though everybody else curses God, we will praise His name.” They stood for righteousness in a wicked nation. They endured the ridicule of family and friends. And God looked down on this small group of faithful ones and said, "They will be my treasured possession."

God’s Jewels remain faithful in every situation.

They talked about God.
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it.”
Not only was this remnant faithful, but when they got together in their meetings, they didn’t spend time gossiping, criticizing, or talking about the weather or sports or current events. They could have, but the times were too dark. They talked about the Lord. They testified about God’s blessings and presence. They spoke of answers to prayer.
“Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.” Psalm 66:16-19
Have you ever noticed how eager someone in love seems to be to talk about the person or thing he or she loves?

But here it says that God’s special treasure, His Jewels, are those who love to get together to share with each about the things of God.

How much does your Christianity mean to you? Is it real? Has it made a difference in your life?

When people have expressed their love and committed their lives to each other in marriage they want to be together, to share all they are with each other.

And in the same way, those who commit their lives to Christ, who become a part of His bride, the church, want to be together and share all they are with each other, too.

They honored His name.
“Those who feared the Lord.”
Finally, look at the latter part of verse 16. Not only were they in awe of the Lord, and eager to share their faith in Him with each other, they honored Him by their words and their lives. They remembered the mighty acts of God. They believed what the prophets had said and written about Him.

The Psalmist said,
Blessed is the man that does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit at the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:1
In a speech in Dallas, Texas, the beloved Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place, said that many times people would approach her and say, “Corrie, what a great faith you have.” She smiled as she told how she would reply to them. “No, it’s what a great God I have.”

And whether it was in the nation of Israel in Malachi’s day, or in the United States of America today, it is still true. We still serve a great God.

I want to close with a promise from chapter four of Malachi.
“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven. All the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.”
“But unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings. Ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Folded Napkin

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the LORD out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
John 20:1-7
Let me give you the story of His burial and resurrection in a nutshell.

In Bible days, when someone died, it was the duty of a family member to close the eyes and kiss the cheek of the dead. When Christ died, this became the duty of two men: Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus. They went to Pontius Pilate and begged the body of the Lord Jesus. Then they had to take Him down from the cross, which was not an easy chore.

First, they had to rig a ladder, and climb up the side of the cross. Then they had to pull His hands off over the nails. There was no way they could get those spikes out of the wood, not from that angle, not with His hands in between the wood and the nail head. Once the hands were loosed, they allowed the body of Jesus to sag into a sheet, and would then remove His feet from the nail in the same manner.

They took the body of Jesus to a new tomb that Joseph had prepared for himself. They washed His body, and wrapped it in white linen, folding His arms over His chest. They closed His eyes, kissed His cheek, and placed a napkin over His face.They walked away from that tomb, and no doubt, they walked in silence…so all that could be heard were the sounds of their sadness, muffled crying, and sniffing. Surely it must have felt like a huge ball of lead in the pits of their stomachs, as they were thinking, “It’s all over, the end of the dream… and it only lasted for three short years.”

Three days passed like an eternity. I believe with all my heart that the birds refused to sing, and the sun refused to shine.

For three days, all the demons of hell rejoiced. Satan and the forces of darkness thought they had won a great victory.

For three days, the Jewish leaders, as well as the Roman government, congratulated themselves on their brilliant scheme.

But! But!

On the third day something wonderful and miraculous happened, as God the Father said to an angel in heaven, “Go get Him!” When the angel’s feet hit the ground, the stone rolled away, and “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph over His foes.”

In our text, Mary came first to the empty tomb. She saw the stone rolled away and it frightened her. She ran to get Peter and John. They ran together to the tomb as fast as they could. John out ran Peter. When he got there, he looked inside, and saw those grave clothes lying there in disarray. Then Peter arrived and, just as we would expect of him, went right in. He also saw the linen clothes lying there, but there was something unusual in that scene.

Something caught their eye that was very interesting. The Gospel of John tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed at the head of that stony coffin.

I found out something interesting about the folded napkin in my studies the other day I want to share with you.

"In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the Master and Servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it.

The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating. The servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished.

Now if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, 'I’m done.' However, if the master got up from the table, folded his napkin, and laid it aside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because the servant knew that the folded napkin meant, “I’m not finished yet.” The folded napkin meant, 'I’m coming back!'"

Peter and John had walked with Christ for three years. They had watched as He opened blind eyes and deaf ears. They watched as He literally raised people from the dead. Then they watched Him die…and as they watched, all their hopes, all their dreams were shattered!

All they could think was, “It’s over. It’s all over! All hope is gone!”

For three long days they were in the depths of despair. The lights of their souls had gone dim. Peter even said, “I am going fishing. I am going back to what I used to do.”

After three days, they saw an empty tomb. Not only did they see an empty tomb, but also they saw a folded napkin in that empty tomb!

I wonder if when they saw that folded napkin God spoke to them in their being and said, “He’s not finished yet…He’s coming back!” I thank God today for that. I want to declare to you, “He has not finished yet! The tomb is empty. Our Savior is alive and the napkin is still folded!”

1. He has not finished with His plan for the soul of man.

The folded napkin says that He has not finished saving souls. The Bible says that Jesus came into this world for one reason: to save sinners.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:17

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

In God’s eyes, there is no difference…there are no big sinners and little sinners, just sinners.

The napkin is still folded…He is still saving souls! It is not too late to get your heart right with God!

2. The napkin is still folded…He has not finished reclaiming backsliders.

A few days before Christ died, He took His disciples aside and told them what was about to happen. He said, “I am going to be betrayed, arrested, beaten, and crucified.” Then He looked at the disciples and said, “All of you are going to desert me when the heat is on.”

The Apostle Peter rose up in typical style and said, “Not me, Lord. Though all shall be offended, yet will I never be offended.”

In other words, “Lord, I do not know about the rest of these bums, but you can count on me!” Then he said, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.”

Can’t you just see Jesus shaking his head, saying, “Peter, you are going deny me three times by tomorrow morning!”

Then the Roman soldiers came to arrest the Lord Jesus…with swords and shields and spears. Courage welled up in Peter’s heart He took out his sword and even took a swing at them. He lopped off the ear of one of them. Jesus picked up that ear, and supernaturally reattached it to the man’s head. Now if I had seen that miracle, I think I would have wanted to change sides!

They arrested Jesus and subjected Him to sheer torture. In addition, while this was happening, Peter’s courage turned to butter.

A young woman approached and said, “I know you, you were with Him”. And this same man who had just stood up to the entire Roman army, now backed down and said, “I don’t know the man!”

Another came up and said the same, and again he denied Christ. Yet another said, “your accent betrays you, you are a Galilean, you are one of His disciples.” He not only denied Christ that third time, but for emphasis threw in a few cuss words. "I don’t know the man, leave me alone!"

The rooster immediately crowed and Peter remembered the words of Jesus. He looked off into the distance. There stood Christ, and their eyes caught. When he saw the sadness and sorrow in the eyes of Jesus, it broke his heart.

For three days he lived in shame, guilt, and misery, realizing he had denied the Lord.

Look at Mark’s account of the Easter story.

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 sepulcher at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulcher, 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. Mark 16: 1-7

Can’t you see it in your mind’s eye…these ladies running to the disciples to tell them the good news. "He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s risen from the dead!!"

Can’t you see Peter, in the corner of the room, shocked, saying, “What? What did you say? It’s true?”

“Yes, He said to meet Him at Galilee!”

Peter, who had been in the depths of depression for three days, stunned at the reality of the Resurrection, and almost encouraged, was once again plagued in his mind at his pitiful denial of Christ, and was dragged right back down into his pit of despair, and thought.

Peter was thinking, “Surely He doesn’t mean for me to come. I denied Him three times, I cussed and swore…surely, surely He doesn’t mean me!”

And the ladies said, “Oh, Peter, by the way…He mentioned you by name!!! Yes, he mentioned you by name!”

“He did? What did He say?”

He said, “Go tell the disciples…and Peter.”

Why did Jesus want to see Peter…to rebuke him? No, he wanted to restore him! And one of the sweetest scenes you’ll ever see in scripture is Peter and Jesus, coming together, and

Jesus hugging him and saying, “Peter, do you love me?” Not, “Peter, are you going to cuss any more?” No! He said, “Do you love me?”

That’s the real issue. If you’re here today and you know you’re a backslider, let me ask you, “Was there a time when you were right with Him?”

You see, the real question is not, “Are you going live in sin anymore?” The real question today is "Do you love Him?" He loves you!

The napkin is still folded: He’s still saving souls. And He’s still reclaiming backsliders. Jesus will not rub them in, He’ll rub them out!

3. The napkin is still folded because he is still giving the Holy Spirit to them that believe!

One of the last messages that Jesus gave His Disciples was to tarry until they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

I still believe that Jesus still wants to pour out His Holy Spirit on believers today.

I still believe in the Old Testament scripture that tells us that God said that He would pour out His Spirit.

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
Joel 2:28-32

I still believe that Jesus wants to sanctify and live within the believer.

For this is the will of God even your sanctification. I Thessalonians 4:3

The napkin is still folded!!!!

4. When will He be finished with the napkin?

I want to close with this question! “When will Christ be finished and be done with the napkin?”

I need to remind you there’s coming a day when another supper will take place. It is called the marriage supper of the Lamb. I have a feeling that at the marriage supper of the Lamb, that at the end of the meal, Jesus will stand at the head of the table. He’s going to wipe His fingers, His mouth and clean His beard. He’s going take His napkin, and cast it aside. When that happens, it is over!

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. Revelation 19:7-9

The last soul that is going to be saved has been saved.

The last backslider that is going to come home has.

The last person will have been sanctified.

How many of you know what the last word of the Bible is?

There is coming a day when the last amen will be said.

I beg of you, do not wait ‘til it’s too late. Right now, the napkin is still folded!

Remember the prodigal son. When he came home, his father welcomed him home with open arms!

Today, Jesus is calling you home. The napkin is still folded!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jesus is Still in Control

This morning I want to talk about the story of Jesus’ arrest.

We see him fully in control of his destiny. We see him full of majesty and authority even while being arrested as a common criminal.
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”
They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”
Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” John 18:1-11
John does not want us to get the wrong idea about Jesus’ arrest. This arrest was like no other arrest you have ever heard about. In this situation the person being arrested is in charge.

The mob that arrests Jesus think they are in charge but John lets us know in no uncertain terms that Jesus, as the Lamb of God, is voluntarily laying down his life in our behalf.

Do you remember John’s objective in writing this gospel?
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31
Christ was not the victim of an angry mob even though every person in that mob stands morally accountable for his choices, just as we will be held accountable for our choices. Every person in the mob was exercising free will and exercising their wills against the Lord of Glory. God gives people the will to choose. But none of that thwarted the sovereign purpose and plan of God.

Remember how Peter addressed the people of Jerusalem about 50 days later on the day of Pentecost?
"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." Acts 2:22-23
Wicked, accountable hands were at work on the night of our text.

But we will see that “This man,” our Lord and Savior, is being arrested “by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge.”

I want to share with you six demonstrations of Jesus’ lordship in our text that assure us beyond any doubt that he was in control of the situation, that he gave his life for us voluntarily so that we might have life.

1. His decision to go into Gethsemane.

Immediately after his prayer in John 17 Jesus led his disciples across the Kidron valley into the Garden of Gethsemane. This is particularly significant because this was where Judas would expect to find him. Jesus knew that his hour had come. He was positioning himself to be arrested.
Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. John 1:2
Judas knew the place and Jesus knew that Judas knew the place. When Judas was leading the mob to arrest Jesus he probably went first to the upper room. Not finding Jesus there he led them to the Garden.

From the another gospel we know that Jesus prayed in great agony there in the garden. In fact, the emotional and spiritual pressure was so great that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. There he was in a deep spiritual struggle dealing with the ordeal that lay ahead. He had asked Peter, James, and John to pray with him. They tried but failed. They would start to pray but then fall asleep.

Jesus had gone a little space from them and prayed “Father, if You are willing take this cup from me; yet not by will but Yours be done.” Three times when he would come back to them they would be asleep. Luke, the physician, makes an interesting observation about their sleep. He says that they were “sleeping from sorrow”

The emotional strain of everything that was going on had exhausted them and caused them to seek escape through sleep. I have never experienced what they experienced that night. But I have been in some situations where I found myself sleeping for sorrow—just trying to escape from it all by sleeping and hoping everything would be different when I woke up.

Sleep is not the answer. Escape is not the answer. But prayer is the answer.

When Jesus came to them the third time the crowd arrived in the Garden. The lights from the lanterns and torches could be seen in the distance. Perhaps the rumble of their footsteps and the clanging of their swords could be heard as well.

Jesus was not caught off guard, not surprised by Judas’ deception, fully knowledgeable of what was happening and submitting himself fully to the Father’s will.

He was in this place where he knew they could find him. And when the crowd arrives he went out to meet them.

2. His demeanor in the face of this hostile crowd was full of majesty.
He was not a nervous, scared criminal who had finally gotten caught. He was not a helpless victim of a lynch mob. Rather He was still the Lord of Glory and King of Kings even in this most humbling of circumstances. He saw and knew they were coming and he didn’t run away!

The mob expected the usual human reaction of fight or flight. They had prepared for either response. They came with swords in case there is a fight. Pilate sent a detachment of soldiers with the Pharisees and temple police.

The word translated “detachment” in John 18:3 is a military word used for a Roman cohort, which was one tenth of a legion or 600 men.

Pilate did not want a riot on his hands during this feast and you can be sure he sent what he considered to be overwhelming force. This was a huge mob and they were out for blood.
During the Passover feast there was a full moon and lots of light at night. But the crowd had come with lanterns and torches in case Jesus tried to hide himself in the trees and bushes. They approached Jesus with certain assumptions that prove totally false. When they encountered Jesus he was not hiding in some hole the way Saddam Hussein was captured. He boldly went out to meet them.

Had we been there I think we would have recognized something very intimidating about that demon-inspired mob. Satan had entered into Judas and Judas was leading the crowd. There was the normal intimidation of Pilate’s soldiers and the temple police; but beyond that was the spiritual darkness at work.

The mob was energized by demonic activity. What a horrible thing to have to face. But Jesus had already won the spiritual victory in prayer.

Now the manifestation of that victory is a foregone conclusion. Here is one lesson we must not overlook.

Even Jesus, the Son of God, prepared himself through prayer. He did not neglect his source of strength. Therefore, he was ready for the test when it came. Contrary to the crowd's expectations, Jesus walked up to them with composure and calm and asked them the question, “Who is it you want?”

Their reply was very specific, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

They did not recognize him as the Messiah or the Christ but only as a common peasant from the little town of Nazareth.

They were approaching him as they would any other man. But they were about to discover that he was more than a man. He is Lord. And his Lordship was demonstrated powerfully by what happened next.

3. His demonstration of power.
When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. John 18:6
There is no question in my mind as to what happened in that verse. When Jesus spoke the words, “I am he,” the crowd was knocked down by the power of the Spirit. The original language clearly indicates they fell to the ground.

If Jesus had that kind of authority and power—the ability to speak the word and knock them to the ground, he clearly did not have to surrender to them.

John tells us about this so that we will know beyond any doubt that Jesus was in control. No man took his life. He willingly laid it down as a sacrifice in your behalf and in my behalf.

4. His desire for the disciples' release.

Look at His focus during this exchange in verses 4 thru 8. Think about all the questions Jesus might have asked. Think about all the arguments He might have brought in His own defense. He does not defend Himself. But He does defend His disciples.

What was the design of His question to the mob? “Who do you want?” Wasn’t it obvious that they wanted Jesus? But Jesus was getting at something that was in His mind at the time. He was forcing them to focus on Him rather than His disciples. He was leading the conversation to this conclusion in verse 8, “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”

That is a revelation of His heart toward you and me. He is always looking out for us. There in His darkest hour He was making sure his disciples were okay. There was Jesus in the most extreme circumstances. If ever there were a time to justify a little selfishness it would be right there. But He continued to love His own to the end even though they were failing Him in many ways.

We saw earlier that we can trust Him in any situation because he is powerful. He is always in control and therefore in a position to help.

But here we see that we can always trust Him because He is always looking out for our best interest. As the Good Shepherd He even puts our welfare above His own and takes the blow in our behalf.

John adds this comment in verse 9, “This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: ‘I have lost none of those you gave me’.”

Usually when we read that kind of terminology we expect to find the quote somewhere in the Old Testament.

But that is not the case here. Jesus is referring to Jesus’ words in John 17:9 where Jesus prayed, “None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.”

Let's take a second and look at Judas.

Judas stands in cold contrast to Jesus in our text. There he was with the enemy. Not long ago he was in this garden praying with Jesus. Not long ago he sat next to Jesus at the communion table. He had lived so close to the Lord of Life. He had worked miracles in the name of Jesus. He had so seemed to be part of the twelve that no one but Jesus suspected him as a traitor.

Charles Spurgeon said,“Judas proves the futility of knowledge apart from sincerity and that familiarity with the sacred can still produce a traitor.”

Judas never surrendered his heart to Christ though he followed him along with the other eleven.
Here is an amazing thing in our story. Judas and the entire mob that came with him did not alter their intentions even when confronted with the majesty of Christ. They had to be surprised at His noble demeanor.

5. His glory was demonstrated when they are knocked down by the power of God.

Surely when they saw the miracle of Jesus’ healing Malchus’ ear—surely then they would have repented and abandoned their mission. No, they continue headstrong in their iniquity.

If God would just show His power surely people would repent and turn to Him. Some will respond that way, but the demonstration of power does not guarantee repentance. Repentance is a choice made in the heart of an individual.

Don’t say, “I would serve God if He would show Himself real.” He has done that a thousand times over. Accept the facts that are already before you. Turn to Him and serve Him.

John shows us this same thing in the book of Revelation. There God deals directly with sinners but they still refuse to repent.
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. Revelation 16:8-11
Their response to the judgments of God was to gnaw their tongues in agony and curse God. With amazement John adds, “but they refused to repent…”

In our text this headstrong crowd refused to repent. They had no doubt come with intentions to deal with this problem once and for all. They intended to take Jesus and everyone who stood with Him. But Jesus submitted Himself to their arrest only after He gained the freedom of His followers. This is even more remarkable considering Peter’s behavior in the rest of this story.

6. His dramatic of healing to Malchus.

Have you ever tried to help Jesus in the wrong way? Peter was trying to help Jesus, but he was not moving in the spirit but in the flesh. And even though his intentions were right, he was actually doing more harm than good. He was going about a good thing in the wrong way and the result is that some sinner’s ear gets cut off.

Have you ever cut a sinner’s ear off? Have you ever approached him in some way that actually made it harder for him to hear the gospel than before he encountered you?

I have known Christians who mean well but because they got ahead of God they caused damage to another person.

Here He healed the man’s ear and tells Peter to put up his sword. As if to say, "I am still in charge, Peter!"

Why did Peter make such a mistake?
  1. Lack of spiritual preparation. He was sleeping when he should have been praying. Had not Jesus said to him and the others, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” We must put on our spiritual armor before the evil day is upon us. Sometimes we’re like the five foolish virgins who think they can take care of everything last minute. But Peter failed to prepare himself for the challenges he would face.
  2. He relied on carnal weapon to win a spiritual battle. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” Are you trying to solve your problem through carnal means? Maybe a more spiritual approach would yield better results.
  3. Peter was looking at secondary causes rather than seeing the situation as Jesus saw it. Look at the contrast between Peter’s perspective and that of Jesus. Peter saw this mob as the problem so he just attacked it. But Jesus looked beyond secondary causes and linked up with the Father’s will.
“Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” John 18:11
If we’re not careful we will be expending all our energy dealing with secondary causes rather than discovering the Father’s will and cooperating with it. It’s a tiresome thing to deal with secondary causes because the problem seldom gets solved that way.

Have you tried to solve your problems by attacking them the way Peter does here? Are you vigorously hacking away at something and getting unsatisfactory results? If what you are doing is not working, then pray as Jesus prayed until you can see what God is doing and how He wants you to respond.

The healing of Malchus’ ear is actually recorded in Luke 22:51 where we are told that Jesus touched his ear and healed him. This is Jesus’ last miracle before his crucifixion. It is another demonstration of Jesus’ power and authority at the time of his arrest.

John makes some things abundantly clear in this story:

Jesus was not taken against his will. He willingly offered himself as the sacrifice for sin.

He was not a victim of an angry mob. He was totally in control of the whole situation. And if he was in control during those darkest hours—the time when the powers of darkness were most at work, you can know that he is in control of whatever may be happening in your life.

Circumstances may seem like they are out of control. On the surface the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus looked like an unfortunate miscarriage of justice. But in reality the sovereign plan of God was being marvelously fulfilled. In this story we are assured of Jesus’ control over the events and circumstances of our lives. Here we find courage to trust Him even when we don’t understand all that is happening.

How many of you know that Jesus is still in control?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

God Lives Under the Bed

God lives under the bed
I ran across this story and I had to stop and pray for the Lord to help my faith . I am not sure who wrote it but I hope it will help your faith.
Kevin thinks God lives under his bed. One night he was praying out loud in his bedroom, and I stopped to listen, "Are you there, God?" he said. "Where are you? Oh, Under the bed..." I laughed & tiptoed to my room. My brother Kevin’s unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world in which Kevin lives. He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled due to problem in labor. Apart from his size (he’s 6-foot-2) there are few ways in which he’s an adult. He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and always will. He’ll probably always believe God lives under his bed, Santa Claus fills the space under the Christmas tree and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them. I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life? Up before dawn each day, off to the workshop for the disabled, home to walk the dog & eat his favorite macaroni/cheese dinner, and later to bed. The only variation in the routine is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washer like a mother with her newborn child. He does not seem dissatisfied. He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work. He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner. He stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day’s laundry chores. And oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of the passengers. "That one’s goin’ to Chi-car-go!" Kevin shouts as he claps his hands. His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights. And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips. He doesn’t know what it means to be discontent. His life is simple. He will never know the entanglements of wealth of power. He doesn’t care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be. His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he’s working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it. He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax. He’s not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure. He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue. Free from pride, unconcerned with appearances, Kevin’s not afraid to cry when he’s hurt, angry or sorry. He’s always transparent, always sincere. He trusts God. Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God - to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an "educated" person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion. In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith. It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions. It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap, I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances – they all become disabilities…when I do not trust them to God’s care. Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he’s spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God. And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I’ll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed. And Kevin won’t be surprised at all!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Passing the Test

Here is the scene. It is His last evening with His apostles before His crucifixion. And they are all together in the upper room. The evening began with Jesus washing their feet, teaching them humility. Then they began to eat, and while they were eating, Jesus says that one of them will betray Him. In the midst of the resulting questions and turmoil, Judas quietly leaves.
Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.
Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.
Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

John 13:31-38
So when we begin verse 31 of John 13, Judas is gone leaving only Jesus and the other 11 apostles. (It was discovered that he had a sickness that he didn’t want to face up to.) It is almost as if there is a breath of fresh air in that upper room.

The servant of evil has left!

Now Jesus begins to talk about what it means to be His disciple.

I wonder how we would score if there were a test available that could clearly reveal just how faithful and devout a Christian we are - that really measured the level of our spirituality?

You see, on the surface it appears that most of the time we feel that things are going well and we’re doing a pretty good job of being a Christian. In fact, I’m convinced that most people, if asked, "How are you doing?" would answer, "I’m doing fine."

I’m afraid that we tend to be like the fellow in the old story who showed up for a court hearing concerning an accident in which he had been involved. His arm was in a cast, there were bandages all over him, and the exposed parts of his body were clearly bruised, scratched and cut. He was a real mess.

Looking rather surprised, the judge asked about his injuries. He replied, "Judge, I’m in a terrible condition. I have cuts and stitches all over me, and I’m feeling awful."

The judge said, "I don’t understand this. The accident report filed by the Officer says that at the time of the accident you told him you were just fine."

"Well Judge," the man replied, "let me explain. I was driving my pickup and pulling a trailer. In the back of the pickup was my old dog Shep, and my mule was in the trailer. All of a sudden an 18-wheeler sideswiped me, knocking me off the road. My pickup and trailer rolled over and over, and we ended up at the bottom of a big embankment. The next thing I remember, a police officer was picking his way through the wreckage. I saw him stop and examine my mule, then he pulled out his pistol and shot the mule between the eyes. Next, he got to where Shep was lying, and after examining him, he shot old Shep, too. Then he walked over to me and asked, 'How are you?' And I said, 'I’m just fine.'"

Even though we generally say, "I’m doing fine," in reality, when it comes to our spiritual lives, things may not be going very well. We may not be growing spiritually. We may be sick and not even know it.

How many people have ever heard the words from a doctor, “If you would have come to me sooner we could have caught this cancer."

We consider ourselves "just fine" spiritually. But what if we had a test that could really measure the level of our commitment to Christ, and of our discipleship? Well, maybe we do.

It seems that in John 13:31-38 Jesus provides us with the marks of true discipleship, and measuring stick to show us how well we are doing spiritually. And he shares three marks of what it takes to follow Him.

1. When we have a desire to glorify God.
“Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.” John 13:31-32
From the Greek: To glorify : To give honour or to magnify.

Jesus said, "I’m going to be glorified," and it is evident that He was talking about His own crucifixion. But how can any glory come out of that? How can glory come out of the Son of God hanging on an old rugged, bloody cross? How can glory come out of suffering and pain and death?

There is just one way. On the cross Jesus defeated Satan. On the cross He became the sacrifice to redeem us from all the sins that separate us from God. On the cross He built a bridge between man and God so that we could be together again.

It was the revelation of His heart. All his life He had been trying to tell the world how much He loved it. He had shown them by His deeds and His words. But now His love would be demonstrated through His death.

How did Jesus glorify God ? Well again, the answer is found in the cross.
  • On the cross Jesus revealed what God is like.
  • On the cross we see the love and mercy of God, the grace and justice of God.
  • On the cross we see the righteousness, the holiness, and the power of God.
It is all displayed there on the cross. His action spoke loader than His words.

So how can we glorify God in our lives? Whenever we show the world the love and mercy and grace of God in our lives, then God is being glorified through us.

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. Psalms 115:1
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: I Corinthians 1:31-32

Some years ago a men’s retreat was held in Texas. As the men arrived at camp the first man they met was a small, frail-looking man. The first impression of this man was not anything special, because he was an old man and didn’t seem very important. But many times the first impressions are not always accurate.

There were about 30 men who were together all Friday night and Saturday. They talked and prayed together, and shared their testimonies.

If we had been there an amazing thing would have became very apparent as the men shared their stories. As each one told about coming to know and accept Christ as Savior, almost without exception, every one, some place in his story, his testimony, mentioned this small, frail-looking man. Some time along the way this little man had influenced each one of them, and they had come to Christ at least partially because of him. And God was glorified as a result. This man's actions spoke louder than His words.

So how are we doing? Are we busy trying to glorify ourselves, or are we trying to glorify God? That is the first test.

2. When we have unfailing love for one another we glorify God.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34
God’s Word says that the world will know we are Christians by our love, not by our Scripture memorization, or the amount of money we have given. Christ wants His followers to be known for their love by how they minister to one another.
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him.
And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. I John 3:14-24
3. We glorify God when we have an unswerving loyalty to Jesus.
Simon Peter asked Him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later." Peter asked, "Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!" John 13:36-38
How loyal are we? Do we have an unswerving loyalty that will always be there?
Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Matthew 16:21-22
It seems as if Simon Peter was always being tempted by Satan, and Jesus was always praying for Peter to be able to resist the temptations.

Why? What was the matter with Simon Peter?

It was Simon Peter who wanted to walk on water. "Need somebody to walk on water, Lord? I’ll do it."

It was Simon Peter who wanted to build tabernacles on the Mount of Transfiguration.

It was Simon Peter who was always speaking, always charging ahead, always demonstrating his loyalty, at least with words.

But there is a great difference between proclaiming your loyalty and practicing it.

Peter was always proclaiming his loyalty, but not always willing to practice it. "You’re going to die, Lord?" he asks. "Well, if you die, I’ll die with you."

It is easy to say, "I would die for the Lord." But when they are getting out the nails to drive through your hands and feet, it’s a whole different situation.

"Are you really willing to die for Me, Peter? Let me show you how loyal you really are.
Before the morning comes, you will deny Me not once, but 3 different times."

"Going to be loyal to Me?" the Lord asks. "Okay, Peter, watch and pray with Me. I’m going to go a little further into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray."

But Peter went to sleep.

"Going to be loyal to Me, Peter? Then how close will you follow Me?"

Luke tells us that when the soldiers took Jesus out of the Garden of Gethsemane that Peter followed at a distance.

When you follow Jesus at a distance you usually end up in the wrong crowd.

That is exactly what happened to Peter. He ended up in the High Priest’s courtyard with those who started asking him, "You’re one of the Nazarene’s followers, aren’t you?"

"Not me," Peter said.

Three times he was asked. And three times he denied even knowing Jesus. Peter found out that it was a lot easier to proclaim his loyalty than to practice it!

The difference between Peter and Judas was that Peter found a place of repentance and when he did he found out what it really meant to follow Jesus.

A mother wrote, "My 3-year-old was on my heels everywhere I went. And whenever I stopped to do something and then turned back around, I’d trip over him. Time and again I patiently suggested fun activities to keep him occupied. But he simply smiled an innocent smile and said, 'Oh that’s all right, Mommy. I’d rather be in here with you.' Then he continued to bounce happily along behind me. After stepping on his toes for the fifth time, I began to lose patience. When I asked him why he was acting this way, he looked up with sweet green eyes and said, 'Well, Mommy, my teacher told me to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. But I can’t see Him, so I’m walking in yours.'"

This morning, are you walking in the footsteps of Jesus?

The test questions would be:
  • Is your life a life that brings glory to God?
  • Is your life one that is filled with love for God and His family?
  • Is your life one of unswerving loyalty to Jesus?
It doesn’t make any difference how many crosses we wear, how many bumper stickers we have on our car. What really matters is our commitment to follow Jesus. Yet, all too often we have fallen short in this.

But God says, "I really do want you as My disciple. So I’m giving you another chance like I did Peter! Just because you fell short doesn’t mean that I have stopped loving you. That’s the whole idea behind the cross. You can start all over and begin anew.

Maybe you can follow closer this time.
Maybe you can be more humble.
Maybe you can love just a little more.
Maybe you can be more unselfish and really allow My glory to shine through your life.
Are you willing to start again? I’m willing if you are."

That is what Jesus is saying. "I’m willing if you are."

So He invites and He waits.

"Do you want to be My disciple?

These are a few marks for following Jesus.

I want to close with this story:

Teddy Stallard was an unattractive and unmotivated fifth grade boy. His teacher, Mrs. Thompson found him difficult to like due to his expressionless, unfocused stare. She had to admit that down deep inside she took pleasure in marking his papers with red ink and making an F with a special flair.

One day she began to wonder about this boy. As a teacher she had access to his records and as she read she saw that she had demonstrated her Christian life before him.

1st Grade: Teddy shows promise with his work and attitude but has a poor home situation.

2cnd Grade: Teddy could do better. Mother is seriously ill and he receives little help at home.

3rd Grade: Teddy is a good boy but too serious. Slow learner. His mother died this year.

4th Grade: Teddy is very slow but well behaved. Father shows no interest.

She began to show more love to the children and she went out her way to show Teddy that God loved Him.

At Christmas the children in Mrs. Thompson’s class brought her presents in pretty wrappings. When she got to Teddy’s it was crudely wrapped in brown paper and loosely held together with tape. She opened it to find a bracelet with stones missing and a bottle of cheap perfume. Some of the children snickered but trying to be nice she slipped on the bracelet and even some perfume saying, "Doesn’t it smell lovely?"

When school was over Teddy lingered behind and came to her desk, "Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother, and her bracelet looks real pretty on you too. I’m glad you liked my presents."

She went home and ask God to show His love through her!

Next day, her class welcomed a new teacher. Miss Thompson was no longer just a teacher but an agent of God. She committed herself to loving her children and especially Teddy Stallard.
Teddy began to show dramatic improvement and by the end of the year had caught up with most of the other students.

She did not hear from Teddy for a long time until one day she received a note: "Dear Miss Thompson. I wanted you to know that I will be graduating second in my high school class. Love Teddy Stallard."

Four years later: "Dear Miss Thompson: They just told me I would be graduating first in my class. I wanted you to be the first to know. The university has not been easy but I liked it. Love, Teddy Stallard."

Finally: "Dear Miss Thompson: As of today I am Theodore Stallard, MD. How about that? I wanted you to be the first to know. I am getting married next month. I want you to come and sit where my mother would have sat if she were alive. You are my only family. Dad died last year. Love, Teddy Stallard."

She went to the wedding and in Teddy’s eyes she had earned the right to sit in a special place because as an agent of God’s love she had done something for Teddy that he could never forget. She had exercised the power of God’s love.