Saturday, December 24, 2016

Reason for the Season: Why Angels? Why Shepherds?

"Fear not, I have Good News." 

Luke 2:1-2

I know the phrase “The Reason for the Season” is pretty overdone. But "The Point of Jesus’ Coming" didn’t sound as catchy. And there are not too many words that rhyme with point! It’s kinda like the word Phoenix, hard to rhyme! There’s point, joint and anoint and that’s it! So, "Reason for the Season." (No, I never considered using "The Point the Anointed One came to this Joint")
     Now I’m not talking about the Season of Santa Claus, or the season of shopping, or even the season of holidays and food and family and Football! Even though ALL of those are better than the "Season of Politics" we just came thru! The Season I am talking about is remembering the Coming of the Son of God to earth!
    Why is that a Big Thing? Why do we celebrate the Birth of this man 2000 years later? There have been other great men and women, we don’t tend to celebrate their births, do we? Abraham Lincoln: We celebrate the Gettysburg address or the Emancipation Proclamation, but not his birth. Certainly, not his death! Madame Curie: Great Scientist! Nobody celebrates her birth! OK, we do celebrate Washington’s birthday with a holiday but it’s not like he gets fireworks and songs! All he gets is President’s Day Sales!
     Bible Study is kind of like being a detective. It’s asking the right kind of questions. There are many things we could ask about the message the angels had that day. But I want to start with two simple questions: 
Why was it announced by Angels?
And why was it announced to Shepherds?
I understand God sending a messenger to Mary! She was going to have a baby and she was a young virgin! And Joseph! He was engaged to her and this was a shock! But Shepherds?
     Luke 2:8 And in the same region there 
     were shepherds out in the field, keeping 
     watch over their flock by night. 

In the same region, near where Jesus was born, near Bethlehem, were shepherds. It doesn’t say how many, how old, or how Godly they are, just ‘shepherds.’
Now, if God had a PR man he might have suggested a different group. “Let’s announce it to the Governor.” Or to Congress! They couldn’t put it on TV, but how about sending an angel to Ceasar? Nope. God told shepherds.
You may remember that shepherds were near the bottom of society in those days. They couldn’t even testify in a trial because a) they weren’t trusted and b) they weren’t considered smart enough! 
But how did God want us to picture Him? David said, The Lord-is-my-Shepherd! Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
   What if somebody was running for president and announced, “I am the Good Used Car salesman!” People would laugh. I know I pick on used car dealers, but I have known a couple good Christian men who sold used cars. Great guys! Honest guys! But that’s not the reputation they have! Same with Shepherds!
But that’s who God chose to make his first public announcement to. God is not worried about PR. God loves the world. Especially the ones no one else cares about. God was targeting a certain group with his Angelic advertising! Who did He target? Listen to these verses: First a prophecy about Jesus:     
     Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD
     is upon me, because the LORD has 
     anointed me to bring good news to 
     the poor; he has sent me to bind up 
     the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty 
     to the captives, and the opening of the 
     prison to those who are bound;
Luke 1:52 (Mary said) 
     He has brought down the mighty 
     from their thrones and exalted 
     those of humble estate; 53 he has 
     filled the hungry with good things, 
     and the rich he has sent away empty.
1Co 1:26 
     For consider your calling, brothers: 
     not many of you were wise according 
     to worldly standards, not many 
     powerful, not many of noble birth. 
     27 But God chose what is foolish 
     in the world to shame the wise; 
     God chose what is weak …to shame 
     the strong; 28 God chose what is 
     low and despised in the world… 
     29 so that no human being might 
     boast in the presence of God.
WHY Shepherds? Not because they were great and special. Because God values people over position.
Because God doesn’t value people the way the world does.
God took Moses from being a Prince and made him a shepherd before he used him to deliver Israel from bondage! In God’s estimation, shepherds have a noble duty. That’s why Jesus called Himself a good shepherd. Think about it!
They were out in their fields with the sheep. Not at home, under a roof, in a comfy bed.
“Watching over” means they put themselves between the sheep and dangerous predators.
They lived with the sheep, led them to water and green pastures, they didn’t just give them orders to follow!
Likewise, Jesus left the comfort and glory of heaven, to come down to be with us, here on earth.
Jesus was lifted up on a cross to put himself between us and dangerous predator who would take us to Hell with himself.
Jesus comes to walk with us, and live in us, not just give us rules to follow! He became sin that we might become the Holiness of God! God elevated the shepherds! Jesus became the Shepherd!
    And notice, he didn’t say, "now go to Bethlehem and find the baby!" No, these shepherds did that on their own. I think these  shepherds took the promises of a Messiah, seriously. There were many in Israel who did!

But then, why the Angels?
God uses his angels as messengers. When he drove Adam and eve from Eden he put a messenger at the gate to remind them they were no longer welcome! Angels appeared to Abraham and Jacob and Joshua. In Deut 33 we learn that when God brought the law it was with 10,000 of His angels. In fact, in the Jewish mind, it was angels who delivered the law of God. Well the law was the Old Testament, or covenant. God is about to put in place a New Covenant. Angels are still His messengers!
But notice something here in Luke 2:9 an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
The angel didn’t come alone. He didn’t come incognito. The Bible says angels can appear without us noticing them. That’s not the case here! He came with the Glory of the Lord.
Listen, until that last year before the birth of Jesus, The Glory of the Lord hadn’t been seen on earth for almost a thousand years! Joseph and Mary may have glimpsed it. The shepherds saw it in a big way! But the last time was the dedication of Solomon’s temple, when God’s glory came down! There may have been an occasion a couple hundred years later when Elijah’s sacrifice was burned up by fire that came down from Heaven. But it had been a long, long time!
The glory of God was with Adam and Eve in the garden before they sinned. Moses saw it in the burning bush. The Israelites saw it in the pillar of fire that led them out of bondage. They saw it come down on the tabernacle in the wilderness.
But the Glory of the Lord had just become a legend. Here, however, the shepherds saw it when the angel appeared!  God was doing something brand new!
Later, Jesus took 3 disciples up a hill and was transfigured before them. The Glory of the Lord burst out of the Man Christ Jesus. Hebrews explains why. Jesus was the "outshining of the Glory of God.” Paul wrote that Jesus is the Image of the invisible God. Before Jesus, God appeared as light and fire, not primarily with a human body. He is the invisible God. But God is doing something new! He is sending His Only Begotten, His One and Only, the 2nd person of the Eternal trinity in Heaven; Jesus the Christ, the God/man. And on that day was born a baby in Bethlehem, with the fullness of the glorious Glory of God bottled up inside of Him.
God came down! Oh what a Thought!
God Himself, in Human flesh was wrought.
Born of a virgin, this God most high!
In an unknown stable,
Our Holy God came nigh! 
Our God came down.
Our God came down. Our God came down!
When you are giving presents this Christmas, remember the greatest gift of all! Given for you! When you open a Christmas Card, think of the gift inside those swaddling clothes!
If you don’t know Jesus – He paid for your sins 2000 years ago – Today is the day to trust Him!

Reason for the Season Part II

Who is this Baby and What is a Savior?
 Luke 2:1-11
What does the World think of Jesus? More specifically what does the world, that lives in the USA, think of Jesus?
Just last year a study was done by the Barna group showing that over 90% of Americans believe Jesus was a real person.[i]

That’s nice. But, with each generation it’s a little bit less. The youngest generation tested, the Millennials, about 35 and under, only 87% think he was real. Who knows how low that will go in the next generation, those who are just children right now.
But even though that’s a pretty high number, less than 60% (56) believe Jesus is God or divine. Guess where the millennials stand. Less than 50%! Now if Jesus isn’t God, our faith is as pointless as if he didn’t exist at all!
But even though slightly over 50% of all America thinks he is god, LESS than 50% think he was sinless! In other words, most people think Jesus sinned like everyone else! There is one lie from the devil that has really taken hold in our culture! If Jesus sinned, he could not be our sacrifice or our savior.

But in spite of that low number – When asked if they had made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that affected their lives – are you ready? – 62% said yes! Some of these people don’t even think Jesus is God, or know he was sinless! It’s hard to believe 62% of the USA is truly saved.
There are people all over the USA today, sitting in churches this morning, who think they have made a commitment to Jesus Christ, but He never made a commitment to them!
   But one final point. Among those who say they have made a commitment to Jesus Christ - people who say they’re Christians - how many believe they will go to heaven because they confessed their sins to Christ, believed in and accepted Him as their savior? 63%. Basically 2 out of three. Not 2/3 Americans, but 2/3 of those who say they believe in Jesus.
Over 30% of people who claim they believe in Christ, who say they made a
commitment to Him – don’t understand HOW to be saved!
20% say its because they tried to keep the 10 commandments or because they were basically good, OR because God loves everybody and won’t let anyone go to Hell!
IN one sense this is Good news, It means there are lots of folks who need to hear the gospel! But its also bad news. After 300 years of gospel preaching in America only 60% call themselves Christian and 2/3rds of those don’t even know how to be saved!
     I bring you good news of great joy
     that will be for all the people. For
     unto you is born this day in the
     city of David a Savior
WHAT IS A SAVIOR? Have any of you noticed a drop off in the use of the word “saved?” I have. I even feel funny using it just because I’m not sure people know what it means. But it’s a good word. We could replace it with rescued or delivered. But delivered makes many think about babies, boxes, and mail. Rescued is good because it implies a sense of danger or trouble or even death! But I think we need to keep the word “Saved” alive! Or else nobody will know why Jesus is a Savior!
A lifeguard rescues people from drowning. He SAVES them. People still know the meaning of saved in that context. It happened to me once. When I was about 12 I was swimming the rapids in my hometown of New Braunfels, Texas. I felt the tug of a whirlpool and just before I went under I yelled "help." Now these are pretty weak whirlpools in the Comal river and with one kick I was back above the water. Just in time to me hit smack in the face by an inner tube. Which stung, but I was glad to have it to grab on to. That lifeguard (I think his name was Max) was my savior that day. (Well, kinda, I wasn't really going to drown but he didn't know that.)
   Jesus came, as a Savior because God had already planned to save people. People who really needed saving! If you are saved today let me tell you something amazing. Before Jesus ever came, God knew, from before the foundation of the world, that Jesus would save you. Your eternal life would be guaranteed when His only begotten Son took your place on the cross! Jesus came as a Savior!
BUT SAVED FROM WHAT? That’s a good question.
Some think we need to be saved from our unfulfillment or our terrible life situation.[ii]
A)  Sometimes when we talk about our salvation we talk about how our life wasn’t complete. Maybe our marriage wasn’t too great till Jesus came along. Or we didn’t have the career we hoped for. Our kids didn’t turn out how we liked or we didn’t have the kinda of life we hoped for. We look at vacation brochures for skiing the alps but all we get is 3 nights in Oklahoma City! Now that might make most people turn to Jesus!
But we can give off the idea that Jesus came to deliver you from a bad marriage, or give us a better career. Or at least help you like the crummy career you got! Sometimes the idea we give people is Jesus came to help out our lot in life. With Jesus I drive a Lincoln, ski in Colorado, get promotions at work and my kid goes to Harvard!
B)    Sometimes we give people the impression that Jesus came to deliver us from bad habits or addictions. We treat Jesus as if he’s the “Higher Power” that some people in AA use as a "hook in heaven" to help them pull themselves up. Maybe its drugs or alcohol or even sexual sin. Maybe you had a bad temper, were a serial glutton or a serial murderer until Jesus came.
    Now these things I mentioned are certainly within the power of the gospel. Knowing Jesus can give you a new outlook on life. It can make you the kind of loving caring person who might get that promotion at work, or have a better marriage or raise better kids.
   The gospel – the good news of Jesus - can give you power over drugs and alcohol. It can deliver you from a wicked temper or the power of lust. But is that ALL Jesus came for?

     Further, what about those people who do feel fulfilled? They have a nice house and car, vacations galore. Their kids are doing great. They aren’t addicted to drugs or alcohol. Do they not need Jesus? There are millions of people in the world who get up every day, work in the fields, live in a hut, and marry their kids off to the neighboring village, who are content to do just that. They can’t imagine anything else! Don’t They Need the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
C)    Luk 2:10 And the angel said to them, 

     "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good 
     news of great joy that will be for all the 
     people. 11 For unto you is born this day 
     in the city of David a Savior. 
Saved from what? In the Matthew story of Jesus’ birth-
an angel – maybe the same angel here – appears to Joseph and says, 

     1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall 
     call his name Jesus, for he will save 
    his people from their sins. From Their Sins!
That’s what we are saved from. May not be as exciting as getting off drugs, or being fulfilled in their careers or helping them have perfect kids. It’s not a fulfilling as finding your purpose in life!   But salvation from sin is what God provides! 

For one thing, its universal. Everyone has a sin problem. 
Not everybody "needs" purpose or a better life!
  Why would God save us from our sins? Because that is the only way we can be right with Him! When you realize it’s not just about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is GREAT! But God will deliver you from the Penalty of sin, the hell created for the devil. He delivers you from the power of sin, which includes deliverance from addiction, and every sin that damages our relationship with Him! He also delivers from the Presence of sin. Jesus saves you from your sin that you might dwell in the House of the Lord forever!
The church needs to get back to telling the world what Jesus really came to do! Not to be your best friend, but to be your savior. Not to manage your career but to remove you from your sins. Not to help you stand head and shoulders above other men but to fall to your knees at the feet of Jesus!
You know the angels didn’t even tell the shepherds the baby’s name. They said you’ll find him in a manger, a feed trough. But they found him and his name was savior, not just his title. Because Jesus means the Salvation of Jehovah. The Savior sent by God.
That’s the Good News! God sent his Son to save us from the thing we try to deny we need saving from. We don’t like to admit we are sinners. But we are and God has a remedy!
A Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.
This is what makes us truly understand the love of God. Not so much the things that Jesus does for us to help have happy lives. But the fact that He saved us from our sins.

[ii] Borrowed partially from John MacArthur.

Reason for the season Part III

He is Christ the Lord, A foundational truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

This is part 3 of my creatively titled series, "The Reason for the Season." 

We’ve been looking closely at this passage announcing the birth of Jesus. We talked about Why Angels and Why Shepherds? Many don’t realise, the law was given to Moses by God but it was delivered with ten-thousands of angels. Deut. 33 tells us that as well as the books of Acts and Galatians. Well, here, one angel delivers the news but he is joined very possibly by ten-thousands of angels! But too my knowledge, this is the only time, after the birth of Christ, that angels announce Jesus. You see, that’s up to humans now. God has made it His Plan A, that people will tell other people about Jesus. Or as Paul put it, “How shall they hear without a preacher?”
And Why shepherds? The lowest group in society, they were dirty, smelly, caretakers of the dumbest of animals. But God designed his Gospel for the poor and the outcasts. In fact there is a very real sense in which the gospel brings all people very low before it lifts them up.
Then we looked at the first great statement the angel made, 
     Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city
      of David a Savior.
A Savior! Jesus did not come to take away all your troubles. Hate to break it to you. He even told us, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Jesus came to save us from our sins! He took our sins upon Him that we might be made holy before God. He didn’t come to make us prosperous or popular or pretty. He came to save us from our sins! He told the shepherds what he already told Joseph in 
     Mat 1:21, She will bear a son, and you shall call 
     his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 

But then the angel enlarges the description. The rest of v11 says, 
     a Savior, who is Christ the Lord

Savior, Christ and Lord. Terms we throw around in church but what do they mean? We looked at Savior so let’s look at Christ!
This is the Greek word for Messiah. It means the anointed one.
Well generally speaking there were three classes of people who were anointed. Know who they were? Prophets, Priests and Kings.[1] Which one was Jesus? 
As a prophet, Jesus spoke the Word of God, in Fact He was the Word of God in the Flesh! He communicated the will of God to us. As well as His love and all of His attributes! Just as words communicate ideas, Jesus communicated God to us - He is God.
Jesus the Priest was our go-between with God! He became a man, dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, took our sins and paid for them with His blood. And the Bible suggests that the very blood of Christ was sprinkled in the Holy of Holies in the heavens. The blood that washed away our sins!

Jesus our King – Our King – rules and reigns over the universe AND over our hearts and lives. Remember when the wise men came looking for a King who was born? They came to Herod,who was a governor, so Herod asked his scholars about this. They told him what Malachi had prophesied, the messiah, who would reign, would be born in Bethlehem. These wise men had a better idea of who Jesus was meant to be than many in Israel! He is a King!
Jesus is the anointed one, the Christ, the Word of God, the High Priest and the King of Kings!
And the Lord of Lords! That’s the other thing the angels said.

What is a Lord? Simply it is one with authority, a master or boss. It is used of masters of slaves as well as emperors. But here’s the thing, the disciple began to call Him Lord early on. They owned Him as their master and teacher and ruler. And that’s the bottom line isn’t it? Jesus is King of Kings but there will be those who rebel against the King to the death! They won't bow the knee until they are banished from His presence.That doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t King! But will He be your King? Will He be your Lord?

I want to show you something interesting. Who did the Angel says this Good news was for?

      “For I bring YOU good news of great joy...
      “For unto YOU is born this day…”  
There is a great personal, individual announcement going on here. YOU! For YOU is born a Savior! This is the narrowest part of the announcement! It comes for you! Each Shepherd was told the Savior came for them!
But the angel adds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” This makes the announcement much widerr, but, not as big as you might think. When God speaks about “The People” He invariably is talking about His people, Israel! But that is still a lot more than just you!
Think about it, where did Jesus spend his whole life? In Israel. Except for an early childhood in Egypt and the occasional sidetrip to a neighboring country. Jesus came for Israel! And did they receive Him? Or did they say “Crucify Him”?

But GOD makes this even larger. Is it good news for me and you? Its good news for Israel! Its good news for a few shepherds. But, I’m just a tiny fraction of being Jewish, so I’m probably 99% gentile! What about me and you?
Later in this same chapter (V28), the Bible says a man named Simeon was “in the Spirit” and when he saw the baby Jesus, v28 says,
     “he took him up in his arms and blessed God 
      and said, 29 "Lord, now you are letting your 
      servant depart in peace, according to your word; 
      30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that 
      you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 
      32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for 
      glory to your people Israel." 

Jesus is a Light for the Gentiles!
When I was a boy we sang the hymn Jesus Included MeAs a child I didn’t get it. As a teenager I didn’t get it.
Then one day He became a light to this gentile. And I got it. He is My Savior, He is my Messiah, and He is My Lord!
He’s the boss of me! I don’t always act like it I know!
But He is. 
And I’m more than willing for Him to be my Lord, Supremely Because He Is My Savior!
Is He yours?

[1] Smith’s Bible Dictionary

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Final Words, Writer of Hebrews Asks for Trust and Prayer

Keep Calm, Trust and Pray
The Final words of admonition by the writer of Hebrews. Importance of trusting leadership & praying for them!
 Heb 13:17-23 

Heb 13:17  Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 
18  Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19  I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. 

1862, during the Civil War, the Union army took Fredericksburg, Va. And advanced on the confederate army assembled behind a large stone wall south of town. The union army attacked and shortly 8000 soldiers lay shot and scattered in front of that stone wall, most of them Union soldiers. Night fell and soldiers in both camps heard the cries and moans of those dying on the battlefield. They were wounded, cold and parched, it was one of the horrible scenes of war. Next day sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland asked Brig. General Kershaw for permission to scale the wall and help what soldiers he could. He was told no, it was too dangerous. But he continued insisting and got permission. He asked if he could wave a white handkerchief as he went and the General said no. Kirkland said, “All right, sir, I'll take my chances.” And over the wall he went.
Immediately shots rang out, the other side thought a charge was forming but then stopped when it was just one man. Kirkland took many canteens with him, covered a man with his own coat. Both sides watched as he went from wounded soldier to another. He stopped at every wounded soldier. Did I mention these were mostly northern boys? Did I mention Kirkland was a confederate sergeant? He was promoted to Lieutenant at the battle of Gettysburg and I have a feeling, he was the kind of leader men would trust. The kind of leader men would follow.
     V17: Obey your Leaders and submit to them.
   But what does it mean for Christians? In this context, leaders are spiritual leaders. Back in V7 he says we should imitate these leaders. Now he says obey and submit. But the word obey has other meanings. It’s not just the word barked out by an angry parent or drill sergeants. It carries the idea of trust and agreement, even to befriend. So obey implies follow them because you trust them. The next word, submit, means surrender, as in ‘go their way’, give in to them.
     Some people think this is a pastor’s favorite verse: “Obey your leaders!” because we want to boss people around. But actually it reminds us to be trustworthy. To be people who others are willing to follow.
     But he quickly tells you why to trust your pastor. They “keep watch for your souls because they must keep account!” Let me repeat that last bit: “Must keep account!” Interesting idea. The pastor is to serve the church. Jesus came to serve. Pastors are to imitate Him. But while the pastor serves the church it doesn’t mean he works for the church. He keeps account with God. Now, the pastor may serve at the church’s pleasure. It could be the church who tells him when its time to go. But he works for God. He serves and gives his account to God.
     There are people who know a lot more about leadership than I do. I just keep it simple. I just want to lead, by following hard after Jesus. I want to follow Jesus in such a way, someone just might say, “He’s following Jesus, I can follow him. I trust him.” I cannot think of any higher tribute man can give me. In fact, if you wrote that on my tomb it’d be great – “He followed Christ.”
     But this isn’t about me, it’s about the church trusting their leaders. If your leader proves himself untrustworthy find one who is. Now I don’t mean they have to be perfect, they can’t. But they ought to earn and keep trust.
     Because they keep account. I used to think that meant someday I’d stand before God and be held accountable for what I taught and preached and how I led others. And that may be true. But I’ve learned something else. When I come before God in prayer, I may pray for your Dr. visit and your Aunt Bobby’s surgery, but I have to give account for you in prayer. Now I don’t have to tell God how you’re doing, He knows better than I how you’re doing! But I am either rejoicing over your progress or I carry the burden of your lack of following Christ!  When I come to the Lord, on your behalf, with a burden for your eternal soul, that doesn’t speak well of your walk with Christ.
     So after telling them to trust and obey, he invites them to pray for Him. He follows Trust and Obey with Pray and Pray!
     V 19: Pray for us! This is a very logical thing to say after “Trust us and obey us!” Pray for us! Why? There are lots of reasons but here he says that He will act honorably! To deal honestly with people, to Behave Well! I so wish more pastors were concerned with that! Pastors should be about acting well! I see so many pastors with an “I’m right and I don’t care what you think” attitude. That’s not honorable! I may be right about a lot of things but guess what! I’ve been wrong a time or two. All pastors, all teachers and all leaders are wrong now and then.
     He has a clear conscience about the letter he has written and his position on the Excellence of Jesus Christ, but he says pray for me to act honorably AND to be able to see you all soon.
     How do you pray for your pastor and teacher and leaders? Do you pray for them? I did a quick look at the times Paul asked for prayers in his letters. He did that a lot! I figure if Paul needed prayers I definitely do! Here are a few things he asked prayer for: He wanted to be a blessing to people, he wanted boldness to preach the gospel, he hoped for open doors for the word of God and that the Word of God spread freely, He asked for safety and and for restoration; to be with the people of God once again.
     Pray for your leaders! Pray earnestly. Pray with your heart and soul for me, and Larry and Matt and your Sunday School teacher and any other leader you come across. Wives pray for your husbands. Men pray for the people who teach you what it means to follow Jesus.

Heb 13:20  Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 
Heb 13:21  equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 
Heb 13:22  I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 
Heb 13:23  You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 
Heb 13:24  Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 
Heb 13:25  Grace be with all of you. 

     Then the Writer prays for them: (read 20-21) V20 is a beautiful benediction. He packs so much in just a few words. There is a God of Peace who wants us to be at Peace with Him. There is the Lord’s Resurrection that gives us this peace with God. There He is as shepherd, or savior and our Lord and leader, and it is all because of His sacrifice for us! His blood establishes an Eternal Covenant! Not a temporary stay of execution!
     And he says all that to introduce V21 (read) God has to equip us so that we can please Him.

            You know what this means?
It means you were not equipped to please Him until He graced you with His presence. And He is working in you – all the time – to continue to please Him! And it’s all through Jesus Christ that you are equipped and enabled to bring Glory to God the Father! That is the ultimate goal! Not our obedience, not our pleasing Him, Both of those are good! But the Goal is God’s Glory. Men should see our good works and do what? Glorify our Father in Heaven!
     So, he says, give heed to this brief letter! (V22) It may seem long to you but concerning the subject matter, this is short! It’s like the author knew how many books would be written on the subjects he wrote about in this book!
     And He calls them brothers. Even though he is a leader, he is also just a brother. He is not their father, he is their brother. In equal standing before God, the same grace and mercy was needed to save his rotten soul as well.
     He gives them a bit of good news. Timothy has been released. He has just asked for their prayers and then he tells them, look! God has answered your prayers for Timothy! He’s released and I’ll try to bring him to see you! SOMETIMES we need to be reminded that prayer really does matter! It’s easy to think God is going to do what God is going to do no matter what I say. But God says the effectual fervent prayers of the righteous man avails much with God!
     And Finally; (read 24-25) Grace be with you all. It is Grace that makes ALLLLL the difference! Without grace we are lost and dead. But when grace is with us we have life eternal!
When it comes to your salvation, your growth, your eternity in heaven – Its ALL GRACE!
    Do you have grace?

The Gospel in Hebrews - Keep Calm we have an Altar

Keep Calm We have an Altar!

Every time we read, meditate, or preach the Word of God we deal with the Holy. Holiness is not just another attribute of God; it is His very “Godness”. He is merciful, right? His Mercy is a Holy Mercy. He is wise, His wisdom is Holy Wisdom. He Judges. Even His judgment is Holy. But it’s hard to appreciate His Holiness until His Holiness has broken out on you.
Why do I mean by that? Imagine how Isaiah felt in when he saw the Lord. Isa 6:3 One called to another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at His voice; the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: "Woe is me! For I am undone; I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"
The Holiness of God broke out before him. Later he prophesied: Isa 66:1 Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool; what is the house you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and all these things came to be, says the LORD. But to this one I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
Hosea prophesied a time when all God’s people would be affected by His Holiness: Hos 11:10 They will walk after the LORD, He will roar like a lion; He will roar And His sons will come trembling …
Jesus Christ’s holiness broke out on people, too. Like the woman who touched the hem of his robe. Luke 8:47 When the woman saw she had not escaped notice, she came trembling, falling down before Him, declaring in the presence of all why she had touched Him…
How about when Jesus calmed the sea? Mar 4:41 they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this…
Or the women at the tomb on the 1st day of the week? Mark 16:8 They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing… for they were afraid.
     Hebrews is Inspired by Holy Spirit. The writer wants God’s Holiness to break out on them! He elevates Jesus like they never heard before. He taught and warned, encouraged and maybe even threatened them to look to Jesus. In Chapter 13 he wraps it up. These are His final words. And, it’s my prayer that through this study the Holiness of God will break forth onto you. May your worship be greater. May your love be stronger in light of His word and may your faith be rooted in the Living Lord, Jesus Christ.  

Heb 13:10  We have an altar of which they have no right to eat, those who serve the tabernacle. 
Heb 13:11  For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the Holy of Holies by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. 
Heb 13:12  Therefore Jesus also, so that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 
Heb 13:13  Therefore let us go forth to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 
Heb 13:14  For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. 
Heb 13:15  By Him, then, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, confessing His name. 
Heb 13:16  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 

Let him who has ears to hear, hear and understand.

     The Jews put a high value on the altar on the temple grounds where sacrifices were killed. The blood of the covenant was shed there. It was sanctified originally by Aaron himself. The animals killed there were tangible evidence they were following God’s law and buying another year’s worth of mercy. Now in light of what we know about Jesus, that is pretty sad. But in these final words the author of Hebrews reminds them they do have a New Altar and they have New sacrifices!
I.       We Have an Altar: Now an altar is where animals are sacrificed to God. The Greek word actually means "place of sacrifice." What is our altar? The cross is one example of that. Jesus died there. That’s why we have a cross hanging here in our worship center. It reminds us where Christ was offered up and how He gave His life for us. And I’m glad that it is made of rough wood. The highly decorated, gold plated, pearl inlaid crosses are a bit incongruous. They can be quite beautiful. But Jesus died there! He bled there in torture. He groaned there in agony. Now that cross in the baptistery is not where Jesus died, but it reminds us that we have an altar! There was a sacrifice!
     We have an Altar! And those priests who serve at the temple’s altar don’t have access to this altar! Not that they couldn’t have if they turned to Christ. But they are not trusting in God’s Lamb! They are trusting in animal sacrifices. And the blood they carry into the Holy of Holies is just that, the blood of a dead animal. That animal has not experienced the wrath of God. So God’s wrath is still aimed at sinners! Let me repeat that. Under the Old Covenant, God’s Holy Anger is still aimed at people of sin!
     We have an Altar! But, it’s a different altar! We have an altar where blood was shed - not at the hand of the priests, but at the hand of God! God’s wrath, poured out on Christ for all who believe! We have an Altar!
     When the priests would kill the sacrificial animal they’d take it outside the camp to burn it. They committed to the animal the sins of the people. In its unclean state they would burn it outside the camp. V12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. This is a radical departure from tradition. Jesus wasn’t slain inside the camp, inside the temple grounds. He wasn’t carried outside Jerusalem, He walked, He volunteered! And, part of the way, He carried His Own Altar! We Have an Altar!
     Why did it happen this way? Well, He died to make US holy! To Sanctify, to change us! He doesn’t make us gods, He gives us Christ’s righteousness. He gives us the indwelling Holy Spirit. He makes us His Children, part of the family of God!
Bohdi tree
     But also there is the fact that he is rejecting the Temple sacrifices. He wouldn’t be offered there. He is ending the Priesthood. He didn’t need a Levite Priest. He gave Himself! He is ending this religion of good works, of earning temporary grace! And He ushers in a Relationship of eternal Grace, of never ending Peace with God  We Have an Altar!
      So what do we do with this altar?

II.                II. V13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp. Up until this time they went physically to the temple.
             Today, Jews travel to Jerusalem to pray at the western wall. Muslims go to Mecca on the Hajj and perform their rituals. There are estimates of 100 million people a year going on religious pilgrimages. Hindus to the Ganges river, Catholics go to Lourdes or Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, or the Vatican. Buddhists go see the Tree where Buddha meditated. Bahai’s go to north Israel. Pagans go to Stonehenge, and Christians go to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee.
But here He says, Lets Go To Him! We have someone who has done everything for us. Sure I’d like to go to Jerusalem, but it’s because I have already come to Christ, not so I might meet him!
Let’s go to Him Outside the Camp! We too must leave behind religion. Offering sacrifices in order for God to be pleased with us! Don’t tell me you never tried that. “Oh God forgive me. I’ll do this and this for you.” I’ll stop cussing. I’ll stop gossiping. I’l do this and I’ll do that. Come To Jesus! We have An Altar where the Son of God was slain for us!
III.   And We have Our Sacrifices to make! We are to bear the reproach He endured! Oh wait! We have to bear something? 
What is reproach? Reproach is disapproval, being scorned, held in contempt! Jewish scholars saw the death of Christ as a reproach! Hung on a tree? That’s unacceptable! Claimed to be God’s Son? Unacceptable! Expelled from Jerusalem to die? Unacceptable! And you want to follow this man? You are unacceptable!
   Often in this world Christians are just Unacceptable! Just make sure it’s for being like Christ you are rejected. No good in being rejected just for being a jerk! But coming to Christ is entering into His Reproach. It is being willing to be scorned for Christ!
Another Sacrifice we offer is the sacrifice of Praise. (V15) These are not sacrifices that earn God’s favor. They reflect God’s grace back to Him! They are not the fruit of the womb or the fruit of the field but the fruit of our redeemed lips! It's like the words we sing in Blessed be the Name of the Lord, "Every blessing You pour outI'll turn back to praise." (Matt Redman)
   And then there are the sacrifices of good works and generosity! Once again, reflecting the Good Work of Christ, the Generosity of God who has lavished upon us the riches of His grace!

Coming Out to Jesus is not traveling across the globe to see Bethlehem. It is the heart'Reaching out to Christ. Responding to His love for you. Rejoicing in His presenceReveling In His Amazing Grace!
 Have you Come out to Him? Are you still Coming out to Him?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Why Does the Bible Teach that Human Life is Sacred?

Why Does the Bible Teach that Human Life is Sacred?
Sanctity of Life 2016
Why Does the Bible teach us that all Life is Sacred?
All Human Life is stamped with the Image of God.
Christians are called to exercise vigilance for life.
Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
This verse is crystal clear about one thing. We were all dead in sins. Not physically dead, spiritually dead. Right? “How many of you have heard the old expression: “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”? Heard that? That’s not really a good saying. It needs to be shorter. “The Bible says it –That settles it!” Whether you believe it or not. Eph 2 says: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.
OK? What did that look like? We followed the course of this world and the “Prince of the power of the air.” Who is that? That’s the Devil, Satan. Jesus called him, The “ruler” of this world (Jn12&14). He doesn’t rule the entire universe, that’s God’s job. But we all followed the Devil.
So what else does this look like when we are dead in sins. Stay there in Eph. But listen to 1 Cor 6:9 "… neither sexually immoral, idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
Listen, you may not admit it for yourself, but before I came to Christ, these were my kind of people. Yes, I was raised in a home that was pretty far from this, but I chose to associate with immoral idolaters who were greedy drunks and scoundrels – which is what a ‘reviler’ is. I think I hit the motherlode pretty good. AND I participated!!!
Now it doesn’t take long for a sinner to decide some of these sins are nothing. Sexual Immorality? Pssh! Forget that man. Love the one your with! All’s fair in love and war. But we all maintain SOME kind of moral standard. Maybe yours is lying or stealing. You’re like, “OK, that’s just wrong.” But not everybody agrees with you. Liars and thieves don’t think they’re so bad!
What I am pointing out is that while salvation is inside of us and spiritual, there’s something to be said about our behavior that defines our citizenship. Are we Following after the Prince of the World or are we Citizens of the Kingdom of God?
But now back in Eph. V4; This is the Hinge of the Door of Grace! BUT. GOD. Who is rich in mercy… Everything changed because of God! Maybe I came to my senses, but it was GOD who brought me there. Maybe I began looking for something better, but it was GOD who drew me there! Back over in the 1 Cor passage we read 1Co 6:11 "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…" You didn’t wash yourself – God did. You didn’t sanctify yourself – God did. This whole idea just broke down my understanding of being a Christian, of being "good enough" for God. The idea I am talking about is the GOSPEL, the good news about Jesus.
You know what? I STINK at being good! I’m just not good at it. Oh I can be good enough! When I am around you I can do the things YOU think I ought to do. When I’m around someone else I’ll figure out what they think is good. You might think you are good. But really, if I could look at all your thoughts and all your actions… really? Would you let me put all your secret thoughts and actions up on a video screen at the front of the church? Are you that much better than me?” Listen, I live my life 24/7/365 before the Face of God! And I AM NOT GOOD! … But - Jesus - is.
And Jesus said, trust in me, come to me, surrender to me, and I’ll - be – your - righteousness! All of a sudden I am confronted NOT with what I THINK is immoral. But I’m confronted with what GOD says is immoral & sinful. As if the Spirit within me says, This isn’t Your choice! This is just what Sin is!! Deal with it.
I know many of you think that this subject is important for others but it doesn’t relate to you. Could it relate to you? Could your child, or grandchild, or friend of a friend of a grandchild possibly be influenced by you? Could you help people who are helping others who have hard choices to make? Could you pray for someone? Could you help someone have a biblical understanding of the value of Human life? I think this could surely affect your life. So listen up!
First, Gen 1:26 "God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." GOD created humans with His Image! Something about God was on Adam and Eve that aren’t on lions and sheep or dogs and cats.
Ill) A lion never lays awake at night thinking, Man, I feel bad about eating the baby antelope, And doing it right in front of that camera crew from the wildlife channel. NEVER! But you and I? Regrets galore. WHY? We have a Moral State! Anybody who ever says, "I have lived my life with no regrets" is an idiot! NO REGRETS? Were you perfect? I don’t think so. I may have more regrets than you, but all of us should. We should regret sinning against God. Regret not raising our children better. Regret not loving more and regret being so stinking selfish!
But your puppy never does that! Not because he’s perfect, he just isn’t made with a moral state!
Why did God give mankind Dominion over animals? We have a capacity they don’t have. We use the term “Humane” for treating animals right? Not because all humans are good, but we know HOW God’s creation “Ought” to be treated. We don’t say, “Treat animals more animalistic.” No we say treat them Humanely! WHY? Cause animalistic means be brutal to each other. Yes, humans CAN be cruel, but we have a Moral State!
Second, SO GOD made Adam and Eve that way. What about the rest of us? Psalm 58:3, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth..." This verse shows us that Man’s moral state is from the womb. He’s already wicked. "Wicked" is a Moral state. Rom 5:12 "…sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men…". We inherit this Image of God in the form of a Moral State (among other things), and also inherit a Sinful nature! Job 14:4, says, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one." Did your dad sin? Be honest, even If your dad is sitting next to you. Moms, anybody's mom sin? This isn’t rocket science. If dad’s a sinner and mom’s a sinner, guess what, you are Sinners. You might have inherited your good looks from Mom, but you also got a sin nature.                                                  
Third, So When does this Moral State Begin? See, If every soul is a sinner(see Eph 2:1 at top), when does the soul start? That will be when your Image of God starts. Right? Logical? Psalm 51:5, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." See that word “conceive.” The answer to the question - according to God’s Word - about when the soul comes into being: Ready?
At conception! Our Moral State is in force at Conception! Why? That’s when we become Human! That’s when we’re stamped with 2 things: 1) The Image of God which includes our Moral State, and 2) The Sin we inherited as our sinful condition.
This has PROFOUND consequences if you believe what the Bible says here.
Do you know why God commanded us to Not Commit Murder! Why he said, Thou Shalt Not Kill. It doesn’t mean you can’t step on an ant, or slaughter a cow. It means, the unlawful pre-meditated killing of a human by another. WHY did God say that?
Long, long, ago, before the 10 commandments included "Thou shalt not kill.", God told Noah, Gen 9:6 "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed...
-for God made man in his own image.
Yes God allowed for capital punishment or war; and God doesn’t hold people responsible for accidents. BUT you’d Better Not take a human life at will, for your own satisfaction. Because that Human is in GOD’s image!
Because of these Truths I have just shared I can say this: Abortion is murder. (These Women need help not pat answers)
Euthanasia is Murder. (You can make it people comfortable, you can honor their "Do not resuscitate" requests, but not kill.) Slavery is evil. (I'm glad the church fought it 150 years ago!) Human trafficking is Sinful. (100s of thousands and many under 17 years old)            
You might ask “what can I do about it?”
First, stand on the Word of God, this society needs that desperately! Don’t be ashamed to say "I am Pro-Life because God is pro-life!" This doesn't mean sound rude or belligerent. You can be gracious and loving and say it.
Second, help those who are helping people. There are people facing an abortion decision who can get help from Pregnancy Crisis centers. There are people who help rescue Children from Human trafficking.
There are people who need to know, that while you will do everything you can to help alleviate suffering you will not rush their death by killing them.
And lastly, Stop helping people who Do these ungodly things! Don’t put them in office, don’t send them money, and don’t applaud their evil efforts!
I had a good friend years ago who had several abortions. You know what she found out? Jesus forgives! He forgives and loves and restores. She learned that "such were some of you."

NEVER EVER EVER EVER Forget, That God, who is rich in mercy, For His Great love, wherewith He loved us – Even when we were dead in trespasses and sins- has made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and by Grace You can be forgiven and saved!