Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Church Challenge

Gtcotr/ss032617

John 3  KJV
16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Some Historical Perspectives concerning our Christian faith: (Expound)
·        Jesus was born in the fall around the year 5BC, give or take …
·        He was raised living in the town of Nazareth for over 25 years.
·        Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist when He was 30 years old.
·        He moved to the town of Capernaum and lived by the Sea of Galilee.
·        He preached and taught and healed people in Israel for 3½ years.
·        Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem in the spring about the year AD29.
·        He was buried in a tomb and was raised to life again after 3 days.
·        The Holy Spirit was sent by God at the Feast of Pentecost that year.
·        120 Believers in Christ began witnessing about Jesus in the streets.
·        3000 Jews were saved and the Church in Jerusalem was established.
·        The Church quickly grew to more than 8000 people in the city.
·        The Church began to have some internal growth related struggles.
·        The Romans and the Jews perceived the Church as a threat.
·        Followers of Christ began to be greatly persecuted for their beliefs.
·        Within the first few years a deacon Stephen was stoned and the Apostle James was beheaded and many Church members scattered.
·        A devout Jew, Saul of Tarsus, became a great threat to the future of the Church and was arresting every Jewish Believer he could find.
·        Saul saw a great light and heard the voice of Jesus from heaven and was converted to Christ in about the year AD32, he was 30 years old.
·        Saul name was changed to Paul and he became the Apostle of Christ to the Gentiles.
·        He traveled and established Churches throughout Asia Minor and Europe for 35 years.
·        Paul wrote much of the New Testament and was beheaded by order of the Roman Emperor Nero in about the year AD67 at the age of 65.
·        Peter was also martyred about that same time in Rome as well.
·        During the 1st century AD the Church grew in numbers and strength.
·        The Apostle John was the last of the original 12 Disciples of Christ to die. He lived to near 100 years old and he died in Ephesus.

In every generation throughout history the Church has faced three continuing challenges. Today we face those same challenges which were encountered by the early first century Church fathers in Jerusalem. We must answer them in the same manner as did they. Thankfully we have those written accounts and God’s Word to guide us and give us answers.

The First Challenge:
·        How can we as Believers in Jesus present the Church as a blessing and not as a threat to others?
o   Focus our message on the Good News Gospel … (John 3:17)
o   The Gospel of Jesus Christ is fundamentally a Gospel of love and hope. Our message and faith does not circle the gates of hell expecting God to condemn our enemies and cast them into outer darkness. Rather, the message and hope of the Gospel is that every soul come to the knowledge of the saving grace of God.
§  For this reason we pray for our enemies and those who persecute us.
§  For this reason we live a life of love and forgiveness.
§  For this reason we give our lives to serve those in need.

Matthew 5 KJV
44  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

The Second Challenge:
·        How can we keep the Church strong and unified?

Acts 2 KJV
42 ¶  And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
o   Basic Discipleship is fundamental to a Functional Family
§  There is something powerful about guidelines
·        Even in the Garden of Eden, a world without sin, there were guidelines
§  There is something powerful about fellowship
·        It is not good that man dwell alone …
§  There is something powerful about eating together
·        Whether it is the Bread of Life – Communion – or –
·        The bread of death, as Eve shared with Adam
·        The family table experience cannot be duplicated …
§  There is something powerful about corporate prayer
·        This is the power Jesus longed for and reached for in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Third Challenge:
·        How can we take Gospel around the world?
o   The Great Commission Model

Matthew 28
18  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

John 3  KJV
16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.


Each one of us are headed for a test … every generation faces the same challenges. Thank God we know the challenges we will face and thank God we know the answer! 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Final Farewell

Gtcotr/ws032217

2 Corinthians 13 KJV
11  Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.


1.     Perfect
1) to render, i.e. to fit, sound, complete
1a) to mend (what has been broken or rent), to repair
1a1) to complete
1b) to fit out, equip, put in order, arrange, adjust
1b1) to fit or frame for one’s self, prepare
1c) ethically: to strengthen, perfect, complete, make one what he ought to be

2.     Be of good comfort
        * This is one of the many works of the Holy Spirit
        * The Parakletos – The Comforter (John 14;15;16)
        * The indication is that God wants us to comfort others …
1) to call to one’s side, call for, summon
2) to address, speak to, (call to, call upon), which may be done in the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc.
2a) to admonish, exhort
2b) to beg, entreat, beseech
2b1) to strive to appease by entreaty
2c) to console, to encourage and strengthen by consolation, to comfort
2c1) to receive consolation, be comforted
2d) to encourage, strengthen
2e) exhorting and comforting and encouraging
2f) to instruct, teach

3.     Be of one mind
·        One = (Gk) autos – the same
·        Mind = (Gk) phroneo – thought; opinion; interests; view; judgements
·        An undivided common interest in harmony without division

4.     Live in Peace
1) to make peace
2) to cultivate or keep peace, harmony
3) to be at peace, live in peace

2 Corinthians 13
11  Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.

Finally
1.   Put your life in order,
2.   Befriend, comfort and encourage others who need,
3.   Don’t champion your own opinion or interests to the point of division,
4.   Cultivate a culture of making, restoring and maintaining peace.

And the God of love and peace shall be with you.

2 Corinthians 13 KJV
12  Greet one another with an holy kiss.
13  All the saints salute you.

14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Quiet Truth

Gtcotr/ss031917

Have you ever walked around barefooted and stepped on something that stuck the bottom of your foot? Most of the time you immediately know when that happens! Often either the next step or a careful brush of the hand will dislodge it and you feel instant relief. However, at times it buries a little deeper and can take more attention to remove. Why do we feel the compelling need to remove those foreign objects from our body? Because they hurt and we know from experience that if we leave them there, things won’t get better but rather things get worse.

2 Corinthians 12  KJV
7  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

For centuries Bible scholars have debated Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Some imagined sickness while others conjectured he was small of stature or had a squeaky voice. We simply don’t know what the thorn was but we do know it was a messenger of satan sent by the devil to hinder the witness and work Paul was doing for Jesus. Paul likened this this hindrance to a thorn in his flesh … a foreign object that annoyed him and tried to slow him down. God told Paul that His grace was sufficient and Paul decided to believe God.

Fear is like a foreign object in the life of a Believer – it simply does not belong there and if left to run its course it will fester, get infected, find its way into the bloodstream and spread poison throughout the whole body.

Fear often screams at us and demands that we stop and pay attention just like a thorn sticking in our foot. Fear is like a roaring lion, although it has no teeth, it can make you stop dead in your tracks or take off running and possibly hurt yourself or others. The world has been conditioned to run from the loudest noise but the loudest noise is not always your friend and should seldom determine your direction in life.

Fear can be very deceptive. It can seem so real. Fear wants to control us. Fear screams its demands. Fear masquerades as the truth. However, the truth does not put us into bondage but the truth sets us free.

The truth may remain quietly working without much notice. You see, God’s grace didn’t’ begin when Paul finally decided to seek God. God’s grace had been there all along. Paul was simply unaware. The truth does not have to be loud or demanding to be the truth and the truth is:

1.  God’s grace is sufficient.

Isaiah 54:17  No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.

2.  No weapon formed against me will prosper.

Psalms 138:8  The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.

3.  The Lord will perfect that which concerns me.

Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

4.  I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

The Prophet Elijah heard the truth speaking to him and it sounded like a small, quiet voice. Like Elijah, the Apostle Paul found the truth when He sought answers from God instead of allowing the loudest noise lead.


The quiet truth is waiting for you to listen …

Loud Lies

Gtcotr/ss031917s

1 Kings 19  KJV
9 ¶  And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
10  And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
11  And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:
12  And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

·        God was not found in the violent wind of the great tornado. Loud noises and lies masquerade as God and try to look like Him.
·        God was not found in the destructive strength of the earthquake.
·        God was not found in the turmoil of the raging fire.
·        Elijah found his comfort and direction in the still small voice of God.

The lies of the devil loom loud in the ears of the listener masquerading as the voice and the power of God. However, loud lies cannot drown out the quiet and everlasting Truth. God does not have to be loud to be God!

1 Peter 5
6  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
7  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
8 ¶  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
9  Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
10  But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
11  To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Verse 10: But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.

·        Grace
o   The unearned and undeserved favor and ability of God is all we can depend on … we can depend on and trust in nothing else.
o   His grace is sufficient
o   Paul’s thorn (2 Corinthians 12:9)
·        Suffered a while
o   Greek: Suffered a little – small both in time or in degree
§  Time cannot be compared to eternity
§  Degree cannot be compared to the weight of glory
·        Make you perfect
o   Psalms 138:8 The Lord will perfect that which concerns me …
·        Establish
o   2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you and keep you from evil.
·        Strengthen
o   Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.
·        Settle
o   Matthew 7:24 "Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock.

Verse 11: To Him give glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.


We begin to hear the still small voice of God when we first decide to humble ourselves before Him and seek His face. That’s when our ears open up to the quiet truth of God’s all powerful word. Lies are like a roaring lion screaming for you to run … stop and listen … you can hear the quiet truth.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Family Sunday Nehushtan


Gtcotr/ss031217

Today we are going to read two short stories from the Bible. The first story is an account of something that happened when Moses and the Children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness about 1400 years before Christ. The second story takes place over 700 years later during the reign of a king named Hezekiah who ruled over Judah and had his palace in the city of Jerusalem.

It will be interesting to see where these two stories intersect and how they fit together to teach us some important truths for today. During our family Bible study this morning we are going to discover:
1.  God’s way is the best way even when it is a hard way.
2.  Acknowledging our need is the first step to recovery.
3.  God’s help is a blessing which may take some time.
4.  The blessings of God should never take the place of God.

The first story:

Numbers 21
4 ¶  And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the souls of the people were very discouraged because of the way.
5  And the people spoke against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loathes this light bread.
6  And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
7  Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against you; pray unto the LORD, that He take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
8  And the LORD said unto Moses, Make a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looks upon it, shall live.
9  And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

If the Children of Israel had have used the main road from Egypt to Israel it would have taken them only about 10 days to 2 weeks at most. The well-established trade route would also have afforded known sources of water. Of course, there were some 600,000 men between the ages of 20 and 50 plus the women, children and those who had already retired. The straight-line approach appeared the easiest but it was not the best.

The shorter way would have led them straight through the heart of the land of Edom. Edom was also known in the Bible as Esau the brother of Jacob. God knew these two sides of the family would end up fighting and killing each other or else He would have to decide which one lived and which one died. Esau and Jacob were both the sons of Isaac and God wanted the brothers to live in peace. So, God led the Children of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, to go all the way around the land of Edom. It was harder and longer but it was after all best for everyone concerned.

When the people began to complain about God and the way Moses was leading them God counted it as sin. The serpents were a manifestation of the wages of sin. These attacks did not come upon the innocent but rather upon the guilty. Many people began to get sick and die of the poison. Thankfully some of the people had the good sense to realize what was happening. They confessed their sins and ask for prayer. Moses prayed and God gave the remedy.

However, it took some time to make a mold and pour a cast of a brass serpent. These things don’t just happen automatically. The serpent was a symbol of sin and the very thing with which the people were plagued. Moses placed the brass serpent on a pole and raised it high in the camp so that whenever a person sinned they could, if they so chose, look upon the serpent and be healed and delivered from death. Only those who identified themselves as sinners in need of salvation were delivered. Looking up at the serpent was a public acknowledgement of the need to be saved.

So far, from the first story today, we have seen how:
1.  God’s way is the best way even when it is a hard way.
2.  Acknowledging our need is the first step to recovery.
3.  God’s help is a blessing which may take some time.

Now for the second story … over 700 years later …

2 Kings 18
1 ¶  Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.
2  Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah.
3  And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.
4  He removed the high places, and broke the images, and cut down the groves, and broke in pieces the brass serpent that Moses had made: for in those days the children of Israel burnt incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.
5  He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.
6  For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.
7  And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went…

King Hezekiah was a good king and he did what was right in the sight of the God. Verse 4 says:

4  He removed the high places, and broke the images, and cut down the groves, and broke in pieces the brass serpent that Moses had made: for in those days the children of Israel burnt incense to it: and he called
it Nehushtan.

What does the word Nehushtan mean?

Nehustan = It’s just a piece of brass

That brass serpent had been among the children of Israel for over 700 years and everyone knew the story of how it had healed their forefathers in the wilderness. It had been given to the children of Israel by God in a critical time of need. But it was just a piece of brass. However, the people believed that the brass serpent possessed the power to heal, deliver and answer prayer. They took the blessing of God and misused it.
·        How can God’s blessings be turned to evil? When the blessing of God begins to take the place of God.
·        God is to be worshipped and adored. He is to hold the first and only number one place in our lives.
·        We are to appreciate the blessings of God … not allow the blessings of God to take the place of God.
·        First things first … and God is always and only first!

This brings us to our last point for today:

4.  The blessings of God should never take the place of God.

After all, they’re just blessings! Nothing more than a piece of brass …

Conclusion: When we are in trouble, even trouble we may cause ourselves, we can call on God and He will help us. However, whatever remedy God supplies, it is not meant to dominate or take over our lives or take us farther from Him. We should appreciate every blessing but never allow the blessings of God to take the place of God. I know, sometimes the way seems hard but God knows what is best for everyone concerned. Deliverance may take some time but our first step is to acknowledge our need for His help.

Let’s renew our commitment to put First things First this year:
1.   God
2.   Family
3.   The Church
4.   The World


Everything else is simply Nehustan!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Message


Gtcotr/ws030817
 
John 8  NKJV
1 ¶  But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2  Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.
3  Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,
4  they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.
5  "Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?"
6  This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
7  So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first."
8  And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9  Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10  When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?"
11  She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
 
The Pharisees were a religious order of men who unfortunately typical to every generation. Jesus was not a religious man. Christianity is not about religion but rather about relationship.
 
Jesus didn’t just die for you, He died as you. (Ashley Hammonds – Sunday, September 4, 2016)
 
Religion is based on a set of do’s and don’ts … Christianity is about done! Jesus done it … (error accepted)
 
Religion is an attempt
·        to be good without God.
·        To blame God for your attitude, judgments, critical reviews and strong opinions.
·        Religion blames the imperfections of others for their own problems.
·        Religion tried to make God responsible for the way I feel.
·        Christianity what makes us responsible for how God feels.
 
Christianity is not about a set of laws but rather about personal responsibilities. Christianity is a partnership. Some people mistakenly refer to Church as organized religion. Although religious people may attend Church to cover themselves or try to hide their personal agendas, no one can change the mind of God about the Church or about His Children.
 
God loves His children and Jesus loves His Church. We are all responsible to live the Word of God and use the Bible as an example. There were, are and always will be problems on planet earth. Jesus came to set the record straight by showing us the truth and showing us the Father’s heart.
 
God has given everyone the same thing – opportunity.
·        A person can miss it
·        A person can waste it
·        A person can sleep right trough it
·        A person can recognize it and make the most of it
 
When it comes to the Gospel message we need to always ask ourselves a few questions before we begin to take action in the name of Jesus.
 
1.   Who is the message I am about to send from?
a.   Me, God or others?
2.   What is the message about?
a.   Am I just aggravated or irritated?
b.   Is it a message love and redemption?
c.   What will happen if others believe me?
3.   Who is the message to?
4.   What is the message of the Gospel?