“CHURCH LIKE IT USED TO BE”
“The Chastening Of The Lord”
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)
This verse is in the midst of a conversation between God and Jeremiah as the prophet prayed before God concerning the condition of his people. It was going to be a very difficult time for the land of Judah; they had rebelled against God for generations and He is going to chasten them for their disobedience and idolatry. He has continued to love them, send His Word through the prophets, and His people have continued to ignore Him. King Zedekiah has rebelled against God and against the King of Babylon and he will pay the price and bring the chastening hand of God in the anger of his enemy upon his own people. Could God have held back the advancement of the opposing army? He promised from the day they entered into this land of promise that if they would trust Him and obey His Word, He would protect them and preserve them. Someone might ask, could not God have done something about the suffering His people were about to endure? The answer is He had already done something; their suffering was a direct result of their sin. Repentance and faith in God would have defeated their sin and their enemy.
“We Too Make The Choice”
“Thy testimonies are wonderful; therefore doth my soul keep them.” (Psalms 119:129)
The kings of Israel and Judah are listed from King Saul to King Zedekiah; they are characterized by those who did evil before God and those who did right in the sight of God. What made the difference from one king to another? The answer is found in how they gave consideration to the Word of God. King David, King Hezekiah, and King Josiah each have the testimony that they did right in the sight of God. What made the difference? The answer is found in our text; they found wonder in the Word of God. King David had a regular time of communication in God’s presence; he was enlightened and empowered to follow God’s precepts from his time with his Heavenly Father. King Hezekiah and his great- grandson, King Josiah, did not begin with that relationship nor did they have a father that taught them in the ways of God. They heard the Word of God and it changed them to the point of repentance and dedication before God. They bowed in wonder to His Holy Word and they both humbled themselves in obedience to God’s precepts; they made a covenant before the Lord to walk after Him and keep His commandments. (II Chronicles 29-34).
“Can You Recognize The Lord?”
“And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our hearts burn within us, while He talked with us along the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:31-32)
I have read the account of the two who journeyed from Jerusalem to Emmaus following the crucifixion of Jesus many times. It is an exciting account of how Jesus revealed Himself to His followers after the resurrection. He could have met and preached to the multitudes for a greater impact, but He chose to reveal Himself to individuals instead. It is a remarkable assurance that He is not only interested in reaching people, but that He has come to meet each personally and privately as they seek Him. I always leave this passage with a couple of questions, however. Why did these two not recognize Jesus? Mary did not recognize Him following His resurrection, but when He spoke she immediately knew it was the Lord; but these two did not recognize Him or His voice. Why did Jesus not reveal Himself sooner, or did He? In their grief they did not know that He was with them each step, but He knew them; it was only after He sat down as an invited guest at their table of fellowship did they know Him. Only then were they ready to be a witness for Him.
“Are You Ready To Be A Sacrifice”
“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)
Many first century Christians gave their life for their testimony of Jesus Christ. We have read of Stephen and James the son of Zebedee, and of Paul, even Thomas the so called doubter gave his life for his testimony and preaching of Jesus Christ. Do you realize that at this very moment men and women all around the globe are giving their lives as they are faced with a choice to denounce Jesus Christ or be killed? Without hesitation they choose Christ, knowing that their decision means certain death for them and their family. At this writing, there are believers in Iran and North Korea awaiting death for their unmovable testimony concerning Jesus Christ. Other pastors in India have lost their lives for refusing to denounce Jesus Christ as Savior. Countless souls in Africa, Asia, and Europe stand willing to give their lives for the sake of Jesus; many thousands have already done so. In America we have unequaled freedom to serve Christ, attend church, and witness for Him and we struggle to find time to give to the Lord.
“The Security Of The Believer”
“The Lord is thy keeper; the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” Psalms 121:5,8
Throughout the entire Bible we are reminded of the security God has provided for His children. Moses spoke of it, David spoke of it, and Peter, John and Paul each gave testimony and recorded it by direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit as they penned down the Word of God. Jesus not only spoke of it to His disciples, but He demonstrated it at Calvary, sealed it when He sent the Holy Spirit, and settled it when He sat down on the right hand of His Father. Jesus’ prayer of intercession recorded in John 17 specifically asks that those who would believe on Him would be kept by His Father. Jude 24 and 25 reminds: Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. This is one of the greatest and most assuring truths of doctrine in all the Word of God; it reminds us that nothing can separate or take us away from the love of our Heavenly Father by our Lord Jesus Christ and we are kept by His love.
“Come Lord Jesus Come Quickly”
“And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Matthew 24:3
Jesus had not left His disciples and they were already asking what the sign of His return was going to be. It is a point of interest for the child of God; it brings worry, excitement, fear, and concern. Jesus’ Word to His disciples, however, was when you see the signs it is not time to worry, it is time to lift up your head and look for His coming. Everyday some kind of news from the Middle East is in the paper or on the television news. It is truly exciting to see the prophecies we have read about being fulfilled before our eyes. If you have read from the Word of God about the events that are before us you should not be surprised or worried; you should find reason to rejoice because God has privileged this generation to behold the signs of the time before His return. Most junior high and high school students are required by teachers to bring in current events almost every week; what a great and exciting time it is to study current events and compare them to ancient writings God has recorded in His Holy Word. Are you ready to meet Him?
“Are You Ready for Sacrifice”
“Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:19
Put a series of letters behind a person’s name or call them an expert and often that will be the credentials that make others believe they are an expert. The expertise that is recognized by God is not by what we say we know about His Word, but by the value we place on it and how it is observed. A humble or non-educated person with little or no formal education that follows the Word of God faithfully may be held in higher regard than his counterpart that has many degrees from colleges of higher learning, but doubts the validity of God or His Word. Jesus was opposed everywhere He went by those students of higher learning. The Scribes and Pharisees were supposedly the experts of the Law and the Prophets, yet they interpreted God’s Word for their own selfish purposes. According to the words of our Lord Jesus in our text, those who manipulate God’s Word and try to undermine or alter it will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whosoever believes it by faith and lives it will be great!
“Isn’t He Wonderful”
“O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee; my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” Psalms 63:1
Today begins a new week and with it begins a new set of challenges; with it also comes a new set of distractions that will be dragged from last week. Many are so bogged down by the activities in their life that they do not have time to think about the Lord until something is going wrong. What a great comfort it is to know that even when you forget God, He never forgets you. He knows what is happening every moment of everyday in your life and continues to love you with a love that will never fade. God wants you to know, “you are precious in My sight and I have loved thee.” He longs for you to walk with Him every moment of the day; but how is that possible? Begin each day with Him and seek Him early as our text reminds. Your days are so busy that you must begin and include the Lord from the very beginning so you will get through the remainder of the day. Start with a prayer and a reading from God’s Word that you can carry with you all day long; remember it and pray it back to the Savior.
“The Real Deal”
“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another…continuing instant in prayer…given to hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13
Consider these two words in our text; the first is dissimulation which means hypocrisy and the second is hospitality. Paul’s instruction is very clear and precise as he reminds the believer to use the gifts which are found earlier in this chapter to demonstrate God’s love without hypocrisy to people who are in need by showing hospitality. Ms. Judy and I have been very blessed to meet people in our travels around the country who have exhibited this love of God to us. We have seen this in the churches we have served as guest speaker, but also in churches we have visited while on vacation. Godly people who have taken us under their wing and showed friendship, love, and compassion toward these new visitors; they showed genuine hospitality. One of the purposes of our church dinners and after church fellowships is to show genuine hospitality exhibited by God’s people.
“Alive In Christ”
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
In just a few short weeks we are going to see the evidence of this verse presented to us in farmer’s fields all across the land. It is the principle that Jesus spoke about when He said, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. We may not understand how this is possible that something must first die so that it can live, but the harvest is a living testimony to this action. So what does it mean to be crucified with Christ? Does it mean that you become nonexistent? Certainly not! It is giving up the false security that is found in self-serving goals and lifestyles that are found in a life that is void of God’s leading. Paul found his life was more positive and productive when he pursued God’s purposes rather than his own purposes. When he buried himself in Christ he brought forth so much more fruit.
“Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty with which Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1
Booker T. Washington once said: “There are several kinds of freedom. There is a freedom that is apparent and one that is real; a superficial freedom, and one that is substantial; a freedom that is temporary and deceptive, and one that is abiding and permanent; one that ministers to the lower appetites and passions, and another that encourages growth in the sweeter things in life. But there is one kind of freedom that is worth the name, and that is the one embodied in the words spoken centuries ago by the Great Master.” Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Most of us have known freedom our entire life. Many have fought and have given their lives to maintain that freedom. But history teaches us that freedom can be swiftly taken away. One day our earthly freedom may be a memory. But the freedom we have in Christ will never be taken away. Our earthly possessions are but for a vapor of time, but our heavenly inheritance is eternal and will not fade away.