Saturday, May 25, 2024

Memorial Day Message The Chance

 Gtcotr/ss052624

This Sunday is a part of our annual Memorial Day weekend in the USA. It began being observed as Decoration Day the year after the Civil War ended as a tribute to the memory of those soldiers who had fallen on the battlefields on both sides during that divided conflict. Through the years our presidents and legislators have signed executive orders and enacted legislation in efforts to never forget those who gave their all to keep America and Americans free.

Since 1971 our nation has set aside the fourth Monday of May as Memorial Day and this year our president has asked that all Americans pay special tribute through prayer and remembrance at 11am local time wherever they may be, to brave service men and women who laid down their lives defending our nation’s decided best interests.

Today, as a Church, we join our nation to remember the fallen and to pray God’s continuing grace on the families who have given and lost so much.

Let’s pray. God bless America and God bless the fallen.

Jesus has something to say about those who willingly lay down their lives so that others might have a chance to live.

John 10 NKJV

10  “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

11  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

15  “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

When someone willingly offers their life as a ransom for others, it makes the sacrifice so much more valuable. Especially when they aren’t even sure you will acknowledge it, accept it, or appreciate the gift.

Jesus chose to suffer and die, not just so you would hear about Him and His sacrifice, but rather He hoped you would take advantage of the chance He died for you to have. A chance to personally know Him and experience His love for you. He died to give you a chance when you didn’t deserve it.

Romans 5

6 ¶  For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

7  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.

8  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

God has given you a chance … a chance to change … a chance to be saved … when you didn’t deserve it. Have you accepted His offer of eternal life?

The devil wants to steal, kill, and destroy your life, your family, your finances, your health, and your future. Jesus has come to give you an abundant life. Jesus died to give you something you could not afford.

How can you take advantage of His offer?

Romans 10

9  If you will confess the Lord Jesus with your mouth and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

10  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

God doesn’t know; your family doesn’t know; your boss doesn’t know; the judge doesn’t know; the devil doesn’t know; your friends don’t know; the salesman doesn’t know; the client doesn’t know; the kids don’t know; and most likely you don’t know until you say it! Consider; Commit; & Confess.

There is something powerful about saying it. Pull the trigger on your chance. Make your commitment to Christ and say it out loud. Say it in the name of Jesus!  What Jesus did won’t matter to you if you don’t take the chance He is giving you. Consider; Commit; Confess & Remember …

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Early Christian Experience


Gtcotr/ws052224

 

I believe most Christians, especially those in the western Gentile Church world, fall short of appreciating their connection to the Jewish faith and practice of the Old Testament. It is simply not taught in many Churches. Jesus was a Jew, and His whole life experience surrounded Him attending and participating in the Jewish Synagogue on a weekly basis.

 

Jesus left us a good example to follow by serving in what today we would call Church as a matter of His personal commitment. The Bible specifically says that it was His custom and practice to attend services at a Synagogue wherever He happened to be on the Sabbath. (Luke 4:16)

 

Overlaying the life of Christ on the life of a Believer in Jesus today would reveal the importance of raising our children to go to Church each Sunday by modeling both a personal conviction and personal commitment to organized, corporate worship, prayer, and the preaching of the Word. This He did with a group of other people who were also committed to Church.

 

When Jesus turned 30, He chose to become a Rabbi and He began teaching a small group of followers which He personally invited to join Him. Many others also gathered to Him wherever He went and loved to listen to His sermons. He always gave the glory to God, prayed for the people, and helped to meet their current needs. 

 

Jesus became so popular with the common people that it made the religious political leaders jealous and so they began looking for ways to stop Him. The Pharisees were the ruling party of the day, and they took the lead in a national attempt to hinder the growth of His group, damage His credibility, and destroy His influence. Nothing they tried against Jesus worked and so they finally decided to hire unscrupulous men to testify in court against Jesus in hopes to obtain a guilty verdict and stop Him once and for all.

 

As you know, Jesus was crucified and buried in a borrowed tomb just before sundown marked the beginning of the Feast of Passover that year. The moon was a full moon, just as it always is on Passover, and just as it is outside this evening. The Jewish Feast of Passover began at sundown on April 22, 2024, making the anniversary of the resurrection of Jesus on the morning of the third day following. The two-day celebration of the Feast of Pentecost this year will be observed by the Jews on June 11th. It will check one more box on God’s prophetic countdown to the return of Christ.

 

Today we sit in a historic time between the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ. During the first 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to more than 500 people and interacted with His disciples, teaching them the things they would need to continue His ministry to a lost and hurting world. He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from on high which would be activated in them by the person of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:49) 

 

Finally Jesus led His 11 Disciples out of the city to the Mount of Olives, which is located in what we now call East Jerusalem. The spot was only a stone’s throw fromthe Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus had prayed “not My will, but Thine.” There Jesus gave what Luke recorded as His last words just prior to His ascension into heaven:

 

Acts 1

7  And Jesus said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.

8  “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

 

From that point on, the Church began to meet and organize themselves so they could make disciples, wait on God, and take care of any business at hand. And, the Church has been meeting and organizing so we cancontinue the work left to us by Jesus ever since.

 

Let’s take a closer look at the experiences of the early Church so we can better understand what our mindset and our mission should be todayRemember, it is not for us to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own hand, but we have received the Holy Spirit and are called to be witnesses for Christ in our hometown, our surrounding communities and states, and even unto the ends of the world.

 

Acts 1 NKJV

9  Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

10  And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,

11  who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

12 ¶  Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.

13  And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.

14  These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

15 ¶  And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said,

16  “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus;

17  “for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.”

18  (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out.

19  And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)

20  “For it is written in the book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, And let no one live in it’; and, ‘Let another take his office.’

21  “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

22  “beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

23  And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

24  And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen

25  “to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.”

26  And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

 

All of this was done in preparation for receiving the Holy Spirit’s power from on high so that they could begin their first mission outreach to the city streets of Jerusalem. 

 

What was promised to the Apostles was an impartation and an activation of the gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit so that they could fulfil their mission to speak on behalf of God, bear up under persecution, cast out devils, and pray for miracles, signs, and wonders to be done by faith in the name of Jesus.

 

Having believed the words of Jesus, 120 followers waited for baptism of fire which He promised would come. While they waited, they:

1. Prayed.
2. Secured a regular dependable place to meet. 
3. Stayed together in a spirit of unity.
4. Organized themselves in an orderly manner.
5. Had a recognized leader.
6. Listened to sermons preached from the Word.
7. Participated in the process.
8. Supported the decisions which were made.
9. Waited on God.

 

Of course, they were waiting on the return of Jesus, and here we are today … still waiting and still carrying out the great commission of Christ.

 

Next week we will continue surveying the early Christian experience by taking a look at Acts, chapter 2, and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I expect this summer to be a summer filled with the manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Church On The Rock. Signs, wonders, and miracles are still activated through faith in the name of Jesus. I look forward to seeing you here

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Faith Supplements Part III: Knowledge

We are continuing our series called Faith Supplements. We are going through the 7 spiritual ingredients listed out in 2 Peter 1 that help form a godly life. Whether it be vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc, supplements are so important. They help maintain and even increase our overall nutrition in areas we might be lacking. Supplements help provide a boost to our overall health.

Similarly, our spiritual health is just as important. Like vitamins, there are spiritual supplements that we can take everyday to help boost our faith, spiritual walk. In part one, we discussed the responsibility we have to maintain our relationship with God.

-    God has given us everything we need in order to build a godly life

-    Godly Life = to be pleased with God and to be pleasing to God

-    God gives us the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him

-    Everything we need to build a godly life is found in His Word

-    They are His great and precious promises given to us

-    By which we have access to the divine nature

-    And help us escape corruption from our evil desires

Virtue

-    Peter says to make every effort = make the necessary adjustments

-    Supplement your faith = add to your faith

-    Virtue = The courage to do the right thing in every situation

-    Culture and society do not determine the “right thing.”

-    The right thing is that which God has commanded in His Word

-    Only God establishes truth

-    Virtue is doing the right thing, according to His Word, even when nobody else is

-    We all need convictions. Without convictions, we can be talked into doing anything.

-    We need godly convictions- they give us the courage to do what is right in all situations

-    Like Daniel, we must have godly convictions so that we too can have the courage to do what is right even when it gets difficult.

That leads us to our spiritual supplement for today, knowledge.

There are times in our life when we can lose some of our mental sharpness. We’ll begin to forget simple tasks along with our thoughts being scattered; lack of focus. It can feel like a brain fog of some sorts. This can be a common occurrence as we age throughout life.

It is good to know that there are supplements for that! Vitamin D, Omega-3, and Magnesium are all great supplements for brain health. In fact, studies show that being deficient in any or all of these areas can lead to loss in our overall mental health. Studies also show that by taking these specific vitamins daily, our mental sharpness and brain focus can be restored and even boosted. Pretty cool!

Similarly, there are times in life when we can lose focus spiritually. At the onset, we don’t always notice right away. However, down the line we can begin to disregard and even forget the things that matter most.

It’s a good thing that we are told in 2 Peter that there is a supplement for this very thing; one that is needed to help strengthen our mind on a spiritual level. That spiritual supplement is knowledge.

2 Peter 1:5 ESV

Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge”

Knowledge = Truth acquired from God’s Word; spiritual wisdom

Peter says that along with virtue, we must add knowledge. Peter was saying that along with having the courage to do what is right, we also must know what is right. We can want to do what is right all day long. However, without the truth, we can have the right intentions but be walking in circles the entire time. Spiritual knowledge/ wisdom gives us the ability to discern between right and wrong.

This was the Jewish Christians who Peter was writing to. No doubt they wanted to do what was right. However, they were listening to the wrong voices. There were false teachers among them. They didn’t realize they were being led astray by them. They were not able to discern what was right and what was wrong.

Peter knew what was happening. He knew what was going on. He knew they were being taken advantage of by these false teachers. Therefore, he encouraged them to add knowledge to their faith. In fact, he mentions the word knowledge 15 times in this letter. This clearly was something that was important. Peter did not want them to be ignorant of the truth, he did not want them to be unaware of God’s will.

We live in a culture today that does not care about Jesus and wants to see Him canceled; not much different from the one these Jewish Christians were living in. Yet, they want to establish what good is, what is right, what is wrong, etc. If we are not adding knowledge, we will be misled and swept away by what we are hearing around us.

We must remember, only God establishes truth. Only God establishes what is right. Therefore, in order for us to do what is right in every situation, we must know what is right; we must know truth.

We need knowledge of the truth. Having knowledge of the truth is no small thing. It is a big deal. In fact, it is everything!

Why?

Because we are in a spiritual battle. Our enemy, the devil, is trying to do everything he can to deceive us from the truth. Knowledge of the truth is the very thing that God is trying to get in the hands of every person and every believer. Why? Because if you know the truth, the truth will set you free (from deception).

The devil knows that if he can keep us from knowing and living out the truth, then we will be ineffective Christians and are no threat to his schemes.

We need truth!

We must know the truth.

Knowledge of the truth allows us to do what is right, according to God, in every circumstance.

Colossians 1:9-10 ESV

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”

Paul’s prayer for the Colossians was the same thing, that they would be filled with knowledge.

However, it wasn’t just any knowledge, but spiritual. That means that opinions don’t matter, cultural here-say doesn’t matter, political platforms don’t matter, when it comes to truth.

There was one purpose for this knowledge…

v10 - “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…”

In other words, so that we may do what is right. We need knowledge of the truth in our life so that we can live rightly before the Lord.

It says that doing so makes us fully pleasing to Him. That is true godliness, that we are pleased with God and that we are pleasing to God. He is enough. His approval is enough. His will is enough.

“…Bearing fruit in every good work…”

That means to be fruitful, to be effective. Our desire is to be effective believers, not according to ourselves but according to God. Knowing the truth allows us to be effective, in every good work.

There is work that is more fruitful than others. Knowing the truth gives us perspective on what truly matters. These are the things that are important to God. What is that? Souls.

“…Increasing in the knowledge of God.”

There are a lot of things we can grow our knowledge in. None are more important than growing in the knowledge of God. While we must grow our knowledge in different areas of our life, like education, finances, career path, etc, We must be careful not to allow them to take the place of increasing in the knowledge of God.

The Holy Spirit longs for us to grow in the knowledge of Him. However, it is not for the purpose of impressing others. Instead, it is for the purpose of impressing God. God is pleased when we grow in our knowledge of Him and then begin to apply it.

Therefore, we must grow in the knowledge of God. How do we do that?

We do so by getting into His Word.

It is more than just reading the Bible in order to check it off our list of to-dos. Instead, it is reading in order to gain something. Reading with the specific intent of God speaking to us that we may know the truth.

You may not know the entirety of the Bible, you may not fully understand every little thing we read. Nevertheless, your knowledge of the Word begins to stack on top of each other. Next thing you know, you begin to know and understand the truth. That comes through a continual reading of the scriptures.

There is a difference between knowing something up top versus knowing something inside. Just because you know something up top doesn’t mean you are living it out. However, you cannot live something out unless you believe it on the inside first.

Let us grow in our knowledge of God’s Word. Not just for information sake, but to live rightly before the Lord.

Takeaways

1.     Knowledge informs us of what is right

2.     Knowledge informs us of what truly matters

3.     Knowledge of the truth is worth investing in

Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Time Has Come

Gtcotr/ss051924 

Passion is not evidence of truth.

 

Everyone is the hero of their own narrative.

 

It seems the more times a story is told, the more it is believed, even by the ones who made it up.

 

Acceptable truth includes the facts which support a chosen storyline. All other evidence is unacceptable.

 

Revisionist history is at best a lie.

 

Being done wrong does not make it right to wrong someone else.

 

This morning I would like to take a walk through what are perhaps the last known words of the Apostle Paul prior to his martyrdom. From a dungeon in Rome, Paul writes to his son Timothy. This is the last letter from this Apostle to the Gentiles. Timothy will be left to continue the work of the Gospel during some of the most trying times the Church had ever known.

 

At best I figure the year was AD65/66, during Paul’s second imprisonment, which was most likely due to the great fire in Rome (AD64) and the beginning of the mass persecution of Christians under Emperor Nero. The Jews had just begun their revolt and within a year after the beheading of Paul (AD67),  the emperor committed suicide (AD68). It was a very troubling time in the known world which was dominated by Rome.

 

Knowing he had but a short time (2 Timothy 4:6-7), Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy to pass the mantle and the ministry on to the next generation. He writes about the importance of preaching the word

 

2 Timothy 4 NKJV

1 ¶  I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

2  Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

4  and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

5  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

 

We cannot allow other things to distract us … we must preach the word and be ready when it is convenient and profitable for us and also when it is not. In verse 2 Paul said to be ready to:

• Convince; Rebuke; Exhort
Convince = Refute and Defend
Rebuke = Correct and Admonish
Exhort = Comfort and Encourage
• With all patience and doctrine.

 

This is a progression of reasoning, before sharp correction, and then supply the acceptance, comfort, and encouragement when change occurs.

 

Paul was acutely aware that Every saint was at one time a sinner, himself, he claimed, to be the chief. Those in Corinth who were former prostitutes and idol worshippers along with those in Ephesus who conjured demons and consulted with the dead, were all poured into one holy Church upon receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. To be saved they needed the truth.

 

“Preach the Word! Paul said. 

 

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

 

A simple, non-scholarly exegesis of verse 3: (I might advise thus …)

• The time will come when the people of this world will not 
• Endure – put up with; uphold
• Sound – healthy; solid; truthful
• Doctrine – the true teachings of the Church as established by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, set forth by the Apostle Paul.

 

Not put up with or stand up for the true teachings of the Church. But – according to their:

 

• Own – Gk: idios  private; self
• Desires – lusts; longing for the forbidden; cravings; insatiable pursuit
• Itching – to lightly scratch, so as to tickle, creating a sensitivity, like a tasty morsel that excites and promises relief, but doesn’t relieve.
• Heap – draw and accumulate additional (teachers in this case)
• Teachers – Those who love to influence others by sharing what they have learned, good or bad … right or wrong … truth or fable – impassioned, even when they are passing on damnable heresies. 

 

Passion is not evidence of truth. 

 

2 Timothy 4:4  and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

 

It happened to Jesus, it happened to Paul, it happened to Peter, and the day will come that it will happen even to you. The world will stop listening when you start sharing the truth. They had rather listen to lies … fablesEspecially cunningly devised fables…

 

2 Peter 1

16  For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

 

What can we do? 

 

Preach the Word. Don’t be intimidated by the word “preach.” It does not mean become a pastor or stand in a pulpit. It simply means to proclaim, to share the truth of God’s word with an impassioned conviction. 

 

1. Defend the Love of Christ and the Word of God.
2. Patiently correct the false narratives and lies of the devil.
3. Accept, comfort, and encourage those who come to Jesus.

 

Or, as Paul so eloquently put it in verse 5:

 

2 Timothy 4:5  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

 

We have our marching orders and … I believe the time has come!

 

Don’t forget the part about being patient when you are sharing the truth. I think the word most often used is “longsuffering.”