Luke 2…and Thanksgiving

Luke was what we would call a people person and a gatherer of information and was one of Paul’s companions. Luke was always a writer of fact, meticulous in detail and accurate to a fault. For this reason These verses we look closely at today are special.

Luke 2:25-35

The Jews had always regarded themselves as the chosen people and nation of God, so destined to attain greatness in this world but to their credit they knew this destiny could never be by human means. There were other means that would bring this about and there was one among the many who quietly waited with prayers patiently waiting with humble expectations, they waited for the day God would confront his people.

There was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, who all knew to be a good and pious man. Generations of God’s people had waited for the Messiah, the Savior to bring consolation or comfort to the nation of Israel. The people had faith he would come and deliver them once again just as he had done in the past…Out of Egypt and slavery. Simeon too knew he would come because he had received the promise from the Holy Spirit and on that day he was led to the Temple. One of the things that I have learned from studying over the years is that Jewish tradition will prevail in most all situations and at this point of the story it does not disappoint. Joseph and Mary, in faithfulness to the Law, traveled to Jerusalem while Jesus was still an infant to present Him to God in the temple and at this time the promise to Simeon was granted. Simeon knew the baby Jesus instantly and as he picked him up in his arms…these words rushed from his mouth… 

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

you may now dismiss your servant in peace.

For my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:29–32).

 

Luke 2:49-52

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[f] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. NRSV

In these verses we see how Jewish Tradition once again becomes a determining factor in our story. Tradition required that every adult male Jew within fifteen miles of Jerusalem must attend the Passover. It was in fact a goal of every Jew in the world to attend the Passover at least once in their lifetime. There was the Tradition also that every male Jew when they became twelve years of age become a son of the law and take obligations of the law upon themselves. This trip, the holy city and the Temple and the sacred ritual had a huge impact on Jesus. At the close of the festival as people set out for home Jesus stayed behind, his parents were not aware of this, not to be attributed to carelessness on their part. It was the customs of those traveling to do so in groups as a protection against the hazards of the road both natural and otherwise. The women would always leave a bit earlier than the men because they traveled at a slower pace. The men traveling at a faster pace would catch up with the women and children about the time the evening encampment was reached. Jesus was now 12 years old and by Jewish tradition a man. In this time of excitement both Mary and Joseph believed he was with the other group. They missed him soon after the groups came together that evening. When they were sure he was not with either group, they then set out for Jerusalem to find him. At Passover it was the custom of the Sanhedrin to come to the middle court of the Temple and publicly in the presence of all who would listen, discuss religious and theological questions. This is where they found him listening and asking questions as was the Jewish way of learning from your elders. This was an important time in the life of Jesus, this was the day when he discovered who he was. Jesus left then to go back home with Mary and Joseph and he was obedient to them.

In this chapter we read of the Angels giving thanks, the Shepherds going to see this child and giving thanks. Elisabeth welcoming Mary and both praising and giving thanks for the goodness of God. Simeon, to whom the Spirit had made a promise that he would not die until he had seen the Christ… giving thanks. I hope that you have given Thanks…this holiday and continue to do so. Our God is a great God.

Life is Good

jk

Luke… Shepherds, Angels and Joseph

There are a few unique things in this book which has as it main idea that all humans are sinners and in need of salvation. Throughout his gospel as you read you see what God can do in human life, this having made a deep impression on Luke. We also note that among the four synoptic Gospels it is the only one to give an account of the Ascension and add to that it is here, only here, among the notable parables you will find The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. Very little is known of Jesus’ childhood but in Luke chapter 2: 41-51 we find a short entry that occurred when he was about 12 years of age. In Luke chapter 2: 8-20 there are a few things, speculation if you wish but very much reasonable as we go beyond the word. “Do not be afraid…” to the shepherds gathered in this field that was a hard thing not to do. Angels in the sky and a heavenly host, praising God and announcing the birth of one referred to as the Savior; a Savior to all! William Barclay wrote a beautiful observation to this event… “IT is a wonderful thing that the story should tell us, that the first announcement of God came to some shepherds.” 

 These shepherds had to travel 90 miles to the city of Joseph’s ancestors: south along the flatlands of the Jordan River, then west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and on into Bethlehem. It would be a grueling journey. It is worth a second look at these shepherds and adding a little more information about them. Going beyond the words we find that shepherds of that day were despised by many of the orthodox people of the day. Because of the nature of their job they were unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law; they could not observe all the meticulous hand washings and rules and regulations. It was to these simple men, on that cold dark field that God’s message came to first but if we go a little further there is something else to consider. In most likelihood these were special shepherds, tending a special flock. Every morning and evening an unblemished lamb was offered as a sacrifice to God. The Temple authorities had their own supply chain, simple but effective…they had their own private flocks; and we know they were pastured near Bethlehem. What these shepherds found was not a place one would have thought to find a king. Over the years the place of the birth has been described in many ways. The most common would be a barn which provided shelter and was divided into stalls and contained a manger which was no more than a container for food being fed to the animals. In reality it was very crude and simple, a trough if you will. Here they placed the child wrapped in various cloths…again from DBS…

It is a lovely thought that the shepherds who looked after the Temple lambs were the first to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

We are all familiar with the Nativity of Jesus scene which usually includes the Holy Family, the angels, the Magi, the ox and the donkey, and an assortment of shepherds, villagers, servants and others.

In chapter 2:41-52 there is an interesting story Which in a way is an early revelation and if we read the words carefully, we could say It is an early revelation of the divinity of Jesus. Mary and Joseph had gone to the Festival of The Passover as was their habit every year. When the festival was over and they started home they were unaware that the Jesus had remained there in Jerusalem. They believed that he was in the group of travelers and after a day’s travel they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. Not finding him there they returned to Jerusalem and after three days they found him in the Temple among the teachers and asking questions. Mary, unhappy with what he had done and the anxiety it had caused for her and Joseph questioned his actions.

Then in his reply is an astonishing revelation. From Luke 2:49-51

49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[m] 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart…NRNRSV

Next week we will return to these verses and continue our journey behind the words written there. We remain in chapter 2 of Luke looking closer at verses 25-35 and verses 49-51.

Life is Good

jk

Magnificat…Mary’s Song of Praise…and The Three R’s

You might also know these scriptures Luke 1:46-55 as being referred to as Mary’s Song, or even Canticle of Mary. A canticle by definition would be  a hymn or chant, typically with a biblical text, forming a regular part of a church service. Luke is the only one to call our attention to Mary’s song. Elizabeth, who at this moment is with child wonders aloud ‘how it could be that Mary, the mother of my Lord comes to me’. (1 Luke 1:43). Even though the Angel of God had spoken to Mary, she was still overwhelmed by Elizabeth’s welcome and the Spirit leads her to this extraordinary song of praise…for which we can thank Luke for sharing with us. It can be heard in Catholic services as well as Lutheran and Anglican. Her song has been copied into the Book of Common Prayer and for most Protestant churches, is sung during the Advent season. The Magnificat is steeped in the Old Testament; and is closely related to Hannah’s song of praise in 1 Samuel 2 :1-10.

A closer look at these verses reveals some things we may have overlooked or truly not understood. Consider these three points of thought. From verse 51…“He scatters the proud in the plans of their hearts.” One of the things that dies first in the life of a Christian is pride. We see ourselves as being usually above others and things but when we set our lives beside that of Christ, the last remnants of pride will leave us. As we continue on we see that this comparison of our life to Christ’s life enables us to see our life as it is…warts and all. This view humbles us and the moral revolution has begun. In verse 52 we read that God has cast down the mighty and lifted up the lowly. A social revolution is beginning because with this Christianity we see the failings of labels and prestige. It is no secret that at times we turn from people, considering them as useless, not so with God. We have only to remember what Christ did for us…we can no longer regard anyone to be beneath us… ‘Call no man worthless for whom Christ died.’ Lastly in verse 53 there is shown to us an Economic Revolution. We have become an acquisitive society, the more we have the more we want. Christian’s should never be comfortable as long as there are those who have less. We who have much…owe much. 

 “There is loveliness in the Magnificat but in that loveliness there is dynamite. Christianity brings about a revolution in individuals and revolution in the world.” (William Barclay DBS)

PS.

We are so fortunate in this digital age to have a world of information available to us. I want to acknowledge two sources of today’s blog. William Barclay’s Daily Bible Studies and a wonderful article by Ashley Hooker, that link is below.

https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/what-is-marys-song.html

How wonderful is God’s word…same yesterday and today…Even after all this time it is the standard by which we as Christians should live. The word of God provides for this world a stability that is desperately needed. I am just a layman that has found comfort and peace in the word and every time I come to the keyboard to write this blog I am grateful for this unique way to share the word…I remain a simple man blessed by my God and grateful for those who have shared their faith over the years. Come back next week and join us here in the Pew. 

Life is Good

jk

Divine Inspiration…Luke

Luke is first mentioned in Acts 16:10Acts 16:11, with Paul at Troas and was with him in his voyage, and in his imprisonment at Rome. Luke’s Gospel was an answer to the many incorrect writings and narratives being circulated in that day. It is obvious that he set out to give a genuine account of the life, miracles and things our Lord spoke of from the people who heard him and saw the miracles, the people that were there. Luke tends to write about the things that are to be believed. Much of  what he writes about is from those who were from the beginning eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, and who were perfected in their understanding of them through Divine inspiration.

It is important we understand that the father and mother of John the Baptist were normal everyday people who most likely had sinned and were justified and saved just the same way as others and were well thought of for their religious behavior and integrity. They had no children, and it was very unlikely that Elisabeth should have any in her old age. Zacharias was burning  incense in the Temple and praying, many others were in prayer outside. These were difficult times for Elizabeth because motherhood held a special place in Jewish traditions. A Jewish woman often felt she has not fulfilled her duty if she had not had children. Zacharias, Elizabeth and their friends had prayed over the years but it had not happened. I like to think that there is a prayer file with my name on it in heaven. Luke writes that our prayers might not be answered or not in the way we wanted but prayers of faith filed in heaven are not forgotten. Luke also writes of prayers that those offered are successful only because of the intercession of Christ, our mediator in heaven. Our prayer must be one of earnest faith and be in the spirit. The scripture makes plain that time is not a factor as prayers can be answered that were lifted up in our youth or even in our way out of this world. It is here that we learn that Zacharias will have a son. This good news also says that he will bring many souls to God and be responsible preparing them to receive the gospel of Christ. He shall do so with courage, zeal and holiness and his mind shall be dead to earthly interests and pleasures. It doesn’t stop there…those who have been disobedient will receive the wisdom of days past and come to value the new wisdom of the Just One who will be coming among them. While burning incense in the Temple an Angel of the Lord spoke to him. Zacharias heard all the angel said but reacted with disbelief. God then struck him dumb because he had reacted with unbelief of God’s word. He was now unable to speak thus preventing his sharing those distrustful, unbelieving words. God had dealt fairly with Zacharias.

In verses 26-38 we are privileged to read of Mary’s encounter with the Angel of God. The angel speaks… ‘Hail, thou that art the especially chosen and favored of the Most High, to attain the honor Jewish mothers have so long desired.’ The sudden appearance and the greeting left Mary somewhat troubled. Mary’s reply to the angel was given without asking for a sign to confirm her faith. We must follow Mary’s example here…in all things there is nothing impossible for God. It is only fitting and all that need be said…Behold the willing servant of the Lord; let it be unto me according to thy word.

This next section of verses has many elements that blend with those who are conscious of the Holy Spirit and shows us the importance of Christian fellowship. Elisabeth is aware that Mary is near and welcomes her as the soon to be mother of the Redeemer. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit she declared to Mary that she and her expected child were blessed and should be happy to know that they were most blessed and  peculiarly honored of and dear to the Most High God. Because of Elizabeth’s greeting, Mary is astounded and overcome with joy. Words of praise and thanks pour froth from Mary’s mouth and space will not allow me to include Mary’s song of praise but it is contained in these verses…Luke chapter 1:46-56. As we continued in this first chapter of Luke in these next verses 57-66 we have the account of the birth of John the Baptist. There was great joy at the birth of John among all his family and it was made known that he would be called Johanan or gracious  because he will Shepard in the gospel of Christ. It was at this time when the question of his name was asked that just as God had said, Zacharias regained his voice and spoke. Because of his unbelief God had closed his mouth and now because of his belief God has opened his mouth. God’s gift of speech, the ability to express ourselves is best put to use when praising our God. Zacharias, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke these words of prophecy which can be read in Luke 1:67-80. 

I encourage you to read both Mary’s Song in chapter 1 of Luke vv. 46-56 and the prophecy of  Zacharias also found in Luke 1:67-80. Next week we take a closer look at Mary’s song, also referred to as The Magnificat, meaning “my soul magnifies the Lord” in Latin. 

Life is Good

jk

Luke…The Lovely Book

This week we start a journey through what has been called “The Loveliest Book”. I have always been thankful for the wealth of study aids available in our highly digital world but that fact has always added to the great amount of thanks I feel toward the early writers and theologians and men of the faith who over the years have provided us with these wonderful works of Biblical inspired writings. The very first thing I want to do is to acknowledge two of my primary sources of reference for this blog. 

 William Barclay’s Daily Bible Study… 

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary  

It is my intention to make this blog the first in a series about the Book of Luke. This is a book of lovely thoughts and the delightful fact that it was accepted as written by Luke without question. That’s important to me because most of the New Testament books face some questions about the authorship. We start with the amazing fact that Luke was a Gentile, he is as a matter of fact the only New Testament writer who was not a Jew. That he was a doctor by profession, (Colossians 4: 14)  helps to explain his extraordinary sympathy for all people. Much of his time was spent seeing people at their worst, seeing people just as they are and loving them all. The Book of Luke was written to a man named Theophilus who it appears has shown an interest in Jesus and his ministry. (Like 1:1-4)

The Biblical symbol for Luke is the calf…an animal of sacrifice. In Luke’s eye he saw Jesus as a sacrifice for the whole world. Jesus was a barrier breaker. No longer would there be Jew, Gentile, sinner or saint Jesus was the Savior for the whole world.  Luke was a careful writer, his Greek was good and overall his work is the result of careful research. A little more about Luke and his writing, he was a trusted traveling partner of Paul and was in a position of having met all the great figures of the Church. His background speaks to his being well informed and while Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea, Luke was with him for two years. It would not be that difficult to believe that Luke had many questions for Paul and also an opportunity for study and research. An example of the care he took in his desire to be accurate was the fact that he had no fewer than six dates with which to assign the date of the emergence of John The Baptist. He writes with great care choosing to be as accurate as possible. 

Some Hard Facts

Theophilus, was as Luke, a Gentile and it is agreed that there would be nothing about the gospel that a Gentile could not understand. Luke does not make the connection as strongly as others that Jesus was the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. There are a couple of other interesting points…rarely does he quote the Old Testament and he was known to insert Greek as a substitute for the Jewish equivalent, this so that the Greeks would understand. He also never used the Jewish term Rabbi, preferring a Greek word meaning Master. Matthew traced the lineage of Jesus back to Abraham, founder of the Jewish race but Luke traced instead to Adam…the founder of the human race. His style of writing because of these and other points made his book the easiest of all the gospels to read. Luke wrote for all people, everyday folks like us. You could say that Luke’s gospel is one of prayer. Luke shows us how at all the great moments in the life of Jesus he prayed. To Luke the door to prayer was always open to take us closer to God, the Father. As standing would go, women in Palestine were at the bottom of the pole so to speak. In their prayers in the morning Jewish men would thank God for not having made them a Gentile, Slave or Woman. In the gospel of Luke women are given a very special place. The story of the birth of Jesus is told from Mary’s perspective. It is very plain that Luke has given special status to women…we read of Elizabeth, Anna, the widow at Nain and the woman that washed and anointed Jesus’ feet in the home of Simon the Pharisee. Luke gives us a vivid picture in words of Martha, Mary and Mary Magdalene. Luke’s gospel is most certainly one of praise. Luke’s praising of God occurs often, in fact more than in any of the rest of the New Testament.

The most outstanding thing about the Book of Luke is that it presents us with a universal gospel. The barriers are down. Luke presents us with a Jesus Christ that belongs to and is for all the people, no one is excluded. 

F. W. Faber wrote the lines: 

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, Like the wideness of the sea; 

There’s a kindness in his justice, Which is more than liberty. 

For the love of God is broader
Than the measures of man’s mind; 

And the heart of the Eternal Is most wonderfully kind. 

Luke’s gospel is a demonstration that this is true.

I hope you will join me next week as we look at the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel.

Life is Good

jk

Perseverance….Stay The Course Hebrews Chapter 12

How can you overcome or persevere through the uncertainty of these days? There are many stories of God’s people from the flood to this day who have stayed the course throughout the Old and New Testaments. The example of Jesus, our Lord and Savior and the power of God’s grace can be found in Hebrews, chapter twelve.  

In verses 1-11 the example of Christ is set forth, and the presence of God in all the sufferings believers endured, let’s start there. Their perseverance and obedience of faith in Jesus Christ challenges the Jews that believe with only two very real choices through which they will either win the crown of glory or find themselves in everlasting misery. That same race is very much a part of our world today. Sin is the most prevalent factor to how poorly or well we run the race, with no exception for whom it impedes…we are all susceptible to our own personal sin. If our own personal sin is not put away it will hinder our ability to run the Christian race. It weakens our will and gives power to every discouragement that can come against us. It is human nature to tire easily and fall short of our goal of winning this race we are in, even if it is only figuratively speaking, it is a test of our spiritual and faith endurance. Life and its every day trials can leave us faint and take from us the urgency of this race we are running. We must focus on Jesus and the agony of the cross, all he did for us and allow it to strengthen our resolve. We must think of him in our everyday life and activities and understand how small they are in comparison to that of Christ; or even others among us. We should remember as it has been written…he will never place more on us than we can bear. I am one that believes there’s such a thing as Divine chastisements, brought on my our earthly sins. Never make light light of these afflictions as they may well be the hand and rod of God…They are his rebukes for our sins. We may look around and wonder why others seem to sin and there seems to be no accountability for them. Take heart because God always corrects the sins of his children, he is our Heavenly Father and all correction is for our profit. Our God is not a God of condemnation, he is a God of restoration.We must learn to consider the afflictions brought on us by the malice of men and or our own sin, as corrections sent by our wise and gracious Father, for our spiritual good.

What next? Attitude perhaps…It is an understood fact that the burden of sin and its weight upon our mortal souls can cause us to falter, stumble and be with little spirit for the days ahead also leaving us in discouragement. The writer of Hebrews gives us some sound advice to keep us in the race and on course. Faith, patience and diligence allows us to follow our calling and run the race with assurance of God’s abundant grace. We must be at peace with all people in our pursuit of holiness. When we fail to seek this peace and comfort of God’s grace, sin can creep in and sins of the past can find renewal in our weakness and then comes the falling away from the commitment we have made. There are many that desire the blessing but are unwilling to do what is necessary to obtain them. We must never lose the truth that God never severs anyone from the blessing but he will not join such blessing to those whose goal in this life is to satisfy their own lusts.

Mount Sinai / Mount Zion

Sinai, associated in Jewish thought with Moses from whom God gave the Ten Commandments…concerning outward and earthly things. The Holy Law as given from Mount Sinai was to be feared and revered with no exceptions. Without a Savior even the most holy must despair, if judged by the holy law given from Sinai. The gospel church is called Mount Zion; there believers have clearer views of heaven, and find comfort for their souls. Scripture tells us that all children of God are heirs and have the privileges of the first born. There is a natural barrier that is present for all who still have a lingering eye for the lusts of this present world, whose pride and questionable behavior toward others would surely find themselves uncomfortable among these people. There is a word here for those whose life is beset with sin, it is the Covenant between God and the people, the Mediator being Jesus Christ. This covenant is intended to bring all people together and to God. It is sealed with the blood of the cross, shed for our sins and is freely given to those who repent. The blood of Christ speaks on behalf of sinners, asking not for vengeance but for mercy. This scripture encourages us not to refuse his gracious call and offered salvation.

God speaks to us from heaven, with infinite tenderness and love with the assurance of salvation. How can we turn from God who so longs for our reconciliation, that we may receive his everlasting love and blessings? There is grace in God’s judgement of his children and you may be assured that there will be righteous judgment of those who ignore his Law. In closing let it be made clear that our God is the same God under the gospel as under the law. The inheritance is assured to those who believe and with grace and perseverance run the race. Let us seek for grace, that we may serve God with reverence and godly fear.

Life is Good

jk

 

Temptation A Closer Look… Luke 4:1-15

My Pastor recently completed a sermon series on temptation in the context of living in today’s world. After some study I found that these verses in Luke Four are helpful in understanding what one commentator described as “ the most sacred of stories, for it can have come from no other source than Jesus’ own lips.” (William Barclay, DBS) From a secular view we acknowledge that a great leader must select the method by which he / she will lead. We know from the opening verses that Jesus has chosen the way of suffering, rejecting the way of power and glory. We know that temptation did not come through earthy failings and the tempter was none other than the Devil himself. One of the odd facts here is that the temptations described are only a test for a person who would have the powers and ability to be tempted by them. An ordinary person would know they could not and there would be no need to even be tempted by that which they had no ability to do. Jesus had the power to do such and chose not to.

It’s almost like a play being played out on the largest stage available…God’s creation of earth… The scene being set in the wilderness, on the central plateau, the backbone of southern Palestine. Between it and the Dead Sea stretched a terrible wilderness, thirty-five by fifteen miles consisting of hills of dust heaps and limestone which appeared to be blistered  and peeling Everywhere the rocks were bare and jagged, terrible heat and then  large cliffs that were 1200 feet high which dropped straight down to the Red Sea. Here among this terrible devastation Jesus was tempted. This was a terrible place that Jesus deliberately went to and for forty days wrestled with how he would go about his father’s work. It would be a long hard task and would not end till the cross. The first temptation was to turn stones into bread

Throughout the rough ground lie little bits of limestone that looked just like loaves of bread. 

Deuteronomy 8:3

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

The devil put Jesus high up on a mountain from which all the world could be seen. The devil told Jesus that through evil he had the minds of the people… strike a deal with me now and compromise a little and they will follow you…all this could be yours.” Jesus as always, even in his ministry to come answered with scripture. 

Deuteronomy 

6:13 Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name

10:20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 

Jesus would not worship the devil for he knew there could be no compromise when fighting evil. People are constantly being won over by compromising with the standards of the world. The temptation to compromise has led many to sin.

Now the third and final temptation from the fourth chapter of Luke …The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;

11 

they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. ”

12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ 

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Now let’s revisit these temptations. The devil knew the powers of Jesus and he suggested that he use those to provide material things as a bribe to get people to follow him.There is in our society today the attitude of “what’s in it for me”. The sad fact is that many of us have allowed the accumulation of stuff  to influence many of our life decisions, marginalizing our relationship with God.

  Secondly the art the compromise, or bargaining with the devil…Compromising by lowering our standards to be in line with the worlds and societies acceptance of the many cultural changes that challenge our ability to live a Godly life.

The devil is a persistent adversary…thus the third temptation put before Jesus. The devil took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple from where there was a drop of some 450 feet. We know of times even among his disciples in the early ministry a need for some sort of sign, something sensational…in a layman’s term , a real confirmation for them and the people; a sensational moment. Jesus refused once again turning to scripture. How often do we see or may even have experienced what we thought to be a need for more. How often have we turned to programs, real attention getters to bring people into the church? Jesus knew that sensationalism would never last. Latter in his ministry he would reveal who he was by telling the woman at the well that he had the “living water” drink of it and you will never thirst again. Jesus knew that God was all they would ever need and through his Son Jesus Christ they would have just that.

Our service to Christ might lead to the cross but then the crown.

Life is Good

jk

 

Stay Out of The Basket… 1 Peter

A rather odd instruction resulting from a bible study group I am in. As we studied the introduction to this book, we came to a point that required a simple answer. We were well into the introduction when the question was posed… “at this point in our study what would be a simple description of the state of things for these people and this time?” The one I liked best was an old cliche of back in the day… “the worlds going to hell in a handbasket.”  Thus the blog this week is to encourage you to “stay out of the basket.” For a long period of time as the early church came into its own Christians and those who professed their faith in Christ were not on the radar of the Roman Empire…they were classified as being religiones licitae, one of the permitted religions. As was the custom at that time Roman toleration was very wide, and that any religion which did not affect public morality and civil order was certain to be permitted. In the early days of Christianity Judaism was considered a religio licita, at that time the Romans did not know the difference between Judaism and Christianity. Christianity was under no threat because of the lack of knowledge that was available to Rome. The Romans just assumed it was a cult within Judaism. Nero changed all that with some help from some Jews. At first Nero blamed the fires in Rome on the Christians…then discovering that Judaism and Christianity were different, via some influential Jews, he then pursued a different way. This Christian cult was then declared a new and separate religion. The result was that Christianity became at once a prohibited religion, and immediately every Christian by definition automatically became an outlaw. Bible scholars agree that 1 Peter was written to people who were living in troubled times and facing the prospect of worse times to come. They are encouraged to stay steady in their endurance and to remain pure in their character. One thing we can note that the second coming of Christ is in the very front of their concerns and it was believed to be soon. In the first few verses there are a few things right off that will keep the Christian out of the basket. The scriptures listed are from 1 Peter unless noted otherwise:

 Those who keep the faith will be saved from the coming judgment (1:7). 

Christians are to hope for the grace which will come at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1:13). 

The day of visitation is expected (2:12). 

The end of all things is at hand (4:7). Those who suffer with Christ will also rejoice with Christ when his glory is revealed (4:13). 

I find that sometimes you can be overwhelmed by scripture and on this particular blog subject that would be an understatement. The first point to be made here is…“the worlds going to hell in a handbasket” needs no great number of words to justify this as being true…a bit crude…but true from the Christian point of view.

The second being the Day of Judgement… 

The thing we sometimes miss in my opinion is that this Day of Judgement will be all-inclusive, the earth its people and all within it will be accountable.

Again, you could fill a lot of pages with the sins of man but it is just simpler to ask…have you lived a Godly life, Christ led, filled with the Holy Spirit and faithful submission to His will?

Third point, That Basket that is headed to hell. How do you stay out of it?  2 Timothy 4: 1-5

 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

To close this blog I refer you back to last week…

 Colossians 3:11-17

11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

It matters not at what point this world is…Prepare yourself…Stay Out of The Basket 

Life is Good

jk 

A Spiritual Vertigo…Finding a Spiritual Balance Colossians 3.

I recently experienced this rather odd affliction and it made a lasting impression on me. Everything spinning out of control, loss of direction…nothing to hold onto, your balance is gone and you are unable to stand on your own and your sense of direction is gone. On reflection it occurred to me that there are times in our lives that we experience a spiritual vertigo. Balance in our daily lives would be our ability to react to different circumstances and deal with the many differences in life in a Godly manner. No matter who you are there are things that affect your ability to keep things balanced. There are so many issues today, to name just a few…issues between men and women, cultures, social positions, education, religious beliefs, work…How do you balance all of these factors and some not listed or thought of and maintain a balanced life? It is really hard to answer that question. Consider this…Finding a spiritual balance will not only provide an answer to this question but will allow you to lead a full and balanced life as well. 

 Ok, how do we describe Spiritual Balance? One concern might be perceptions of other christians as to the balance in our lives concerning God, Jesus Christ and biblical teachings. Most all of us would agree that the Sabbath, the holy days, tithing and God’s Kingdom, all these are basic things we can believe in but each individuals conception of them will differ. Most of these differences will be based on personal beliefs and past experiences.

Puzzling and in some respect sad but even how a person perceives God is often based more on past religious experiences, bypassing actual biblical revelations. Many of us see God as an untouchable being and remote, disinterested and uninvolved in the life of his people…nothing could be farther from the truth. So the first point of a spiritually balanced life would be a strong relationship with God. Biblically speaking references to balance, the word as we know it are few and subtle at best. In Hebrew the word translated refers to a pair of scales or balances. In New Testament Greek the word means to join together…yoke. Simply speaking in a symbolic way, a spiritual way, it is used as an emblem of justice and fair dealing. 

Proverbs 16:11 A just balance and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are his work.

Second Point….He must always be the standard by which we measure everything. Only God and his character are a true balance. I am going to move on to Point Three…which just happens to be Colossians Chapter 3.  as a way to gain that balance we need to live an abundant life. Real balance in our lives starts with our relationship with God and Christ. Turning away from our old ways that we might not be dragged back into our sinful ways…regaining and maintaining the proper balance in life, through God and Jesus Christ.We become a new person, replacing the old with the new…The new being the righteous character of  Jesus Christ, fully applied to our new person. In verses 11-17 Paul writes about this new person, he writes of tender mercies the benchmarks of his renewed soul. Kindness, humbleness, meekness, long suffering and extending forgiveness to others. 

Colossians 3:11-17

11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This is Christian Balance, when the realization comes to us that God is the final, just and faithful judge of all things. Through God and Christ we will be led to the joy of a balanced life making proper and Godly decisions. Remember – John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. There is a power in the word that brings balance in our lives.

Life is Good

jk

The Coming of Christ, Apostasy, Anti-Christ and The Believer’s Security…   2 Thessalonians 1-17 

This is an interesting chapter and as usual the truth lies within the Scripture. There was a misconception that the time of Christ’s coming was at hand. The people are warned of a falling away from the faith and told of the revealing of the Anti-Christ, followed by the notice of his destruction and that of those that follow him. Second Thessalonians is only three chapters, 47 verses and 1022 words. Small book with a big message. I will break it down as we go beyond the words and find the comfort of the covenant and the security in the steadfastness of faith powered by our prayers.

Christians can make mistakes , a good Christian will set them straight and be careful to suppress them, making our words and actions compatible with God’s word and the teachings of the Apostles. Our adversary is one of cunning, looking to do mischief, even sometimes by perverting the very words of Scripture to gain an advantage. Paul writes to correct a problem of time concerning the coming again of Christ. He gives some solid advice…People may make mistakes about the time but the coming itself is certain. The cross, resurrection and the coming again of Christ, has been the hope and faith of all Christians in all ages of the Church, hope and faith were cornerstones of the Old Testament saints. It is promised that all believers will be gathered together, and be happy and blessed in his presence forever. It is noted here that all must believe of the certainty of the second coming and it is a danger in mistaking the time and the truth of the thing itself. False doctrines have always muddied the water creating waves of uncertainty. Paul writes of some things to look for first. There will most likely be a falling away from the faith, giving the Anti-Christ the opportunity to do his thing. Sin is wicked and encourages sin and wickedness in others. Sin is certain destruction and is the instrument he uses to destroy many others, both body and soul. God was in the temple and he is here this day in the Christian church but so too is Satan. He has many names but his soul intent is to disrupt, discredit and usurp God’s authority. 

Corruption of doctrine and worship comes slowly and  usurping of power is sometimes even slower, usually a gradual process. The next characteristics of this time was the, superstition, idolatry, bigotry, persecution…all these promoted by a pretended zeal for God and his word. These things were in progress even while the Apostles lived, people pretending to love Christ but were truly opposed to hm. We do find in this chapter the fall and ruin of the anti-christian state declared. It will fall because in due time the word of God and the Spirit of God will prevail against this evil and it will fade away in the brightness of Christ’ coming. There were many things being done, presented to the people as signs, wonders, visions and miracles but they were pretended, they were false. Those who engaged in these things did not love the truth and  embraced that which was not true. God leaves them to their own devices and sin follows them and with it comes the judgements and eternal punishments in the hereafter. Before I move on I want to make sure that there is none of the  misunderstanding  as Paul found in his day, that prompted this letter. Below taken in its complete text from “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary” 

These prophecies have, in a great measure, come to pass, and confirm the truth of the Scriptures. This passage exactly agrees with the system of popery, as it prevails in the Romish church, and under the Romish popes. But though the son of perdition has been revealed, though he has opposed and exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; and has spoken and acted as if he were a god upon earth, and has proclaimed his insolent pride, and supported his delusions, by lying miracles and all kinds of frauds; still the Lord has not yet fully destroyed him with the brightness of his coming; that and other prophecies remain to be fulfilled before the end shall come.

 Apostasy (/əˈpɒstəsi/; Greek: ἀποστασία apostasía, “a defection or revolt”) is the formal disaffiliation from, abandonment of, or renunciation of a religion by a person. It can also be defined within the broader context of embracing an opinion that is contrary to one’s previous religious beliefs.[1] One who undertakes apostasy is known as an apostate. (Wikipedia)

Paul makes note of the fact that while many are falling away from the faith, great joy and comfort can be found in the fact that there is still a remnant through the grace of God, who still persevere and we rejoice with those who count themselves to be among that number. The Scripture that follows leaves no gray area of thought as to its meaning or intent. The saints are preserved because God has loved them forever, from the beginning of the world. Faith and holiness are joined together and the same may be said of holiness and happiness. The gospel, the word of God calls to us and strengthens us through the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. When the sinner is confronted with the truth and relies on Christ, he is able to love and obey him, the Holy Spirit fills the heart and God’s mercy is abundant in their life. Consider this….We have no other source of certain proof of anything more than the Apostles left us with…contained within the Holy Scriptures. We must stand fast in the doctrines taught by the apostles, and reject all additions, and the pressure of culture change and the agendas of societal change for the sake of special agendas.

This chapter ends on the importance of prayer. Prayers directed toward God the Father, to our lord Jesus Christ. The love of God found in his son Jesus Christ will sustain our faith and like a well in the desert of our trials strengthen our thirst for his presence in our lives…The saints have good reason for hope through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We will persevere in the reading of the word, understanding the word, the works and ways of God will prevent us from wavering in the faith and remove the doubt from our minds and we will no longer be strangers to the joys of faith in our walk with the Lord.

Life is Good

jk