The Great Inheritance…A Living Hope

For many the state of our country and if truth be told, the state the world in general, is one that leads some to believe the future seems hopeless. I am not referring to the politics of the day, it is a situation of “the world is ok…I just don’t like the people in it”. God did not create us to be solitary creatures devoid of any contact with  people and things around us. Relationships matter, interaction among all people is important. The attitudes and the discord of the day marginalize our ability to take the gospel to others. For many Christians this can be a time of hopelessness. We need the assurances of others of the faith to strengthen us and we need to share with others, we need to be doing the work of the kingdom. With this in mind I return to 1 Peter this week, Chapter 1: 1-9.

Peter brings hope to us  of the faith in the first two verses of this chapter. These people, the Gentiles had no hope, they lived a very futile life. Now the conceptions of those who lived outside the mercy of God no longer applies to them. They had become believers, they are now a part of the family of God, hope, mercy and salvation are now theirs through the cross and the blood of Jesus Christ. This applies to you and I this very day and all the privileges that once belonged to Israel now belong to us and the Christian Church. There is a point to be made here. During the Diaspora the Jews were scattered to all the countries outside of Palestine. During these times of trouble they were forcibly deported from their native lands, thus they were different from other people and treated as such. Now things are different and the ones who are different are the Christians. We are in a sense exiles in the world, for our home is in eternity, with our God. This world for the most part is hostile to us and our God and faith. The uplifting thing here is we are now a part of the Family of God. Of course there comes with that honor a challenge and serious responsibility. He honors us by choosing us to be a part of His purposes for his creations. We are the exiles of eternity. We are not expected to withdraw from the world but it is our responsibility to remain apart from the sins and temptations of this world.

Christians, when we pray… ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ we are praying to the God who is like Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus Christ that we have come to know our God and in whom we put our trust, faith and confidence. We have been reborn into a new life. The changes in our lives should be so great that the only explanation could be a re-birth, fueled by God and the Holy Spirit. We have asked that the Holy Spirit possess and re-create us. It is one of our responsibilities as children of God to ensure that the word of truth prevails in this world and among all the people. We are the first fruits of a new creation. We have been lifted from this world of sin and defeat. We are now in touch and aware of this promise of eternity and salvation. We have been reborn into a state of living hope. Righteousness is reborn and should we fall, we have in us now the power and grace of God to rise again. We are free to love all people because the power of unforgiving bitterness and self-centered attitudes has been replaced with the sacrificial love of God. We have learned how to have a victorious life in living and serving Jesus Christ. The points of hope for Christians are many. There is the hope that is now a reality, the great inheritance….that word inheritance means something we will possess in the future. To the born again, those in the faith it means something different. Biblical meaning is a secure possession now, for all God’s children, repeat all God’s family. We belong to and serve God and because of this, The Inheritance, will endure forever. As we make our way through this world we are protected by the power of God.

Peter lays before them the fact that their Christianity will bring upon them certain persecution and at times agonizing experiences. Endurance…rejoice! But you can stand anything brought against you. At the end there will be the inheritance, every trial is a test but there will God’s Grace to strengthen our endurance. There is the undeniable truth that at the end Jesus Christ will appear and we will hear that wondrous ‘well done’.

 Don’t give up hope, never surrender to the evil of unbelief, keep the faith.

1 John 3  

1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he[a] is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

As the hymn has it: 

Jesus, these eyes have never seen That radiant form of thine; 

The veil of sense hangs dark between Thy blessed face and mine. 

I see thee not, I hear thee not, Yet art thou oft with me; 

And earth hath ne’er so dear a spot As where I meet with thee. 

Yet, though I have not seen, and still Must rest in faith alone, 

I love thee, dearest Lord, and will, Unseen but not unknown. 

When death these mortal eyes shall seal, And still this throbbing heart, 

The rending veil shall thee reveal All glorious as thou art. 

Thanks for joining us in the Pew

Life is Good

jk

 

Some Good News…Mark 1: 14-15

Mark 1:14–15 

After John had been committed to prison, Jesus came into Galilee, announcing the good news about God, and saying, ‘The time that was appointed has come; and the kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe the good news.’ 

I can think of no better time for a little Good News. There is plenty of bad news to go around…the world and back. In the book of Mark we are reminded that there is some good news to be shared.Two simple verses, if I counted right, 39 words. Dominant in these verses are The Good News, Repentance and the word believe.

Let’s start with the Good News. This being the news that Jesus brings to all of us. What is the content of this message that Jesus brings to all of us? It is the good news of truth. Before Jesus we had no ability to see and to know. Job cries out…‘O that I knew where I might find him,’ (Job 23: 3) The Good News being those falmilar words ‘I can see clearly now’. With the coming of Jesus we can see clearly who God is. We no longer have to guess or wonder, now we know. It’s the good news of hope. The ancient world always looked to see the worst, a doom and gloom attitude, despondent and depressed. The coming of Jesus brought hope to the hopeless and today that hope abounds in the heart of the believers. It is the good news of Peace… Ephesians 6: 15

 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.

As mortals, sin and goodness are always fighting a battle for our souls. The coming of Jesus brings together the waring factions of the mind and body and we find victory as our warring within is conquered by Jesus Christ.

It is the good news of God’s Promise. Ephesians 3: 6

that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Those not of the faith tend to believe God to be a demanding God. Christianity tells of a God who is willing to give more than we could ever ask.

It is good news of immortality… 2 Timothy 1:10

 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 

To the pagan you are born to die and life was the road that got you there. Jesus brought the good news that we are on the way to life, not death. 

It is good news of salvation…Ephesians 1:13

13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit

Salvation is a positive thing in that it is not just liberation from past sin, it gives us the power to conquer sin. We are left with two more words. 

There is the word repent,  a word I feel is often misunderstood. In Greek the word means change of mind. Yes, sin can make us sorry for what we have done but often leaves us more concerned with the consequences and the sorrow  brings. Truth is most people would do it again if they thought they could escape the consequences. As Christians we must understand that to repent means to change our actions, the way we live. We must learn to hate sin. 

There is the word believe. Believe in the Good News!  We can believe that God is the kind of God Jesus has told us about. This is the one time that something is to good to be true…is true! Have faith, believe the Good News, God loves you and will make any sacrifice to bring you back to him.

Life is Good

jk

Song of Moses…Deuteronomy 32: 1-43

We of the community of faith, the Christian community throughout the world have our faith tested each day in the trials and tribulation of any given day. But we do have one blessing that is constant, that being our God and his unfailing love and mercy for us, His children. He is the one living God, our salvation and hope. The Song of Moses speaks to just that.

The debate about one God or many is found throughout the Old Testament. It travels within abstract debate, theories and speculations. These give rise to the question of a single, all powerful divine God that will control the universe. In The Song of Moses, the sovereignty of the Lord God of Israel is majestically put forth. The question of other gods, demons, idols and no gods become irrelevant. Also there is our introduction the theological impact of monotheism… God is one and there is no other who is comparable in power or purpose. There is an interesting paradox here in that this song does not declare a monotheistic faith, as it does often refer to other deities besides the Lord God of Israel. The primary insertion of different deities that Israel was repeatedly tempted to worship were the gods of the former occupants of the land. The point being made in this song is that these other gods are weak and powerless beside the God of Israel and must submit to the will of the Lord. It should be recognized that if other nations or peoples believe in or accept that their gods exist, for them it is so. One point of this song is to emphasize the absolute power of the Lord. Moses sets out to show the power of the Lord in all the history of Israel. Things sometimes went bad for the people because it was necessary they be punished, by the same token when things went good it was God showing his mercy to the people. In verse 32:27 other nations wrongly assumed that their gods were greater, more powerful than the Lord God of Israel. The song sets it straight, there are no gods greater than the Lord God of Israel. A minor theme is that each nation has its own deity, each looking to be more important than someone or something else. Scripture teaches us that only that which is divine has the power to create. None of the other gods have that power, being  limited only to their appearances and the misplaced faith of their followers. 

 We all have over time had a moment in which we pondered why does God let bad things happen? We can’t help but look at our situation today. There is no respect for others as to age, gender, faith, in general no tolerance for that which is different. Why has God let this happen? The song’s answer for the Israelites is that in time this will pass. Many of us this day have a lessening in faith that God is in control. Israel had to accept the fact that the divine will with the uprightness and loyalty of God’s children, along with the belief that Israel’s enemies were God’s enemies also and would be punished in His Time. To wrap this up it is best said that for us to maintain a sense of oneness and wholeness of our history and life experiences and the oneness of God is far better than being distracted by the rivalries between many different gods and their causes. There is only one God…. He and only Him is in control.

What is your song? To whom do you look? 

Life is Good

jk  

The Other Election…Second Peter 1: 3-11

2 Peter 1: 10-11

10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. 11 For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

 Pogo, a popular cartoon charter of days gone by once said, ‘we have found the enemy and they is us’. The very opening of this letter contains a profound truth that if not carefully read will escape our coming to know a  beautiful truth that such a blessing is ours. It is an honor and a privilege, Peter writes and we came to realize that he is speaking of us, who were at one time Gentiles, not the chosen people of God. Now through the glory of Christ, we too have become uniquely chosen of God, elected by, if you please. So in these few words Peter addresses those once despised Gentiles as now having equal rights of citizenship with the Jews and according to Peter even the apostles themselves in God’s kingdom. We have not earned this, it is ours completely through grace. There are so many things, people and circumstances working against a simple but defining attribute of Christianity, love, just a pure simple agape love. It is how Christ loves us. In verses 3 and 4 there is a clear picture of this love of Christ. The love of Christ is a divine power, which cannot be defeated or frustrated by the sins and tragedies of this life. Sometimes we are frustrated, left helpless, unable to do His will and unable to meet the disasters of this life with compassion and love. The love of Christ is always backed by His power. It is always a victorious love. Here is a wonderful thought. Christ tells us what life is and through his generosity gives us all we need for true life and true religion. To us Christ gives a religion and a faith that enables us to be triumphantly involved in it. Christ is the one of great and precious promises, promises that through Him come true. ‘For Whoever’…That means me, it means us. Petter just keeps awaking our minds to truth in these two verses. Sin and corruption were so prevalent then as well as now that this common human trait still seems to over power people. Peter had to deal with the antinomians of his day and in our day they are still among us. These are people that use the grace of God as an excuse for sin. God’s grace is big enough to cover every sin.The grace of Christ will win the day, total forgiveness. They really believed that you could sin as often as you wished, there was enough forgiveness for all. Of course the flaw here is that this is simply not true. What is true is that people who think and talk like this are overcome with the fascination of sin and lust, they just want to sin. But through Christ we have the power to escape the world’s corruption. Now let’s be fair and honest. All of us will never be completely free of sin and the fascination that comes with it. As long as we live in this world sin will always be there; but with the presence of Christ we can and will overcome, He is our defense against such fascination. Christ makes it possible for us to become sharers in the divine nature. 

 Within the Church we find those who speak to going on to perfection. Peter in verses 5 and 6 says we must add virtue to virtue, propelling us toward Christian love. There was a group of people at that time, Stoics, that saw a continuous need for moral progress. They believed that in Christian life there had to be a steady advance toward moral behavior. It is a common trait of those new to the faith to have that exceptional moment of enthusiasm, then falling into a period of doing nothing and in some cases reverting back to being simply unchanged, failing to recognize that a Christian life is one of constant progress. Peter makes it plain that there must be on our part an all out effort to embrace the grace of God, we must be willing to work for what is good, find pleasure in our labour and stand strong in our faith. Everything at this point comes from faith…a faith that does not lead to a new life, that is not faith at all.  It is a hard realization that faith is more that just a commitment to the promises of Christ…it is far away and above all a commitment to His demands.

In these verses we also find a list of virtues. It is an interesting fact that in the ancient world lists were quite common. Books were not so readily available and one way of teaching pupils was to compose simple lists that could be easily memorized. One commentary writes that these verses 5-8 can be referred to as the Ladder of Virtues. It is with these things and the grace and mercy of God that we can make known and strengthen our call. We must confirm this calling, election if you will into the fellowship of His people. Once more those verses…

2 Peter 1: 10-11

10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. 11 For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

The world this day is in great need of Godly people, Godly morals and for those who will continue till journey’s end. Will you accept your election and go on to a faith of continuous service in His name?

Life is Good

jk 

A New Year, Hope and Judgement

Psalm 96

Praise to God Who Comes in Judgment

 

O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.

Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.

 

A new year will always bring the quick look back, the moment of wish I hadn’t or deep regret when we think, wish I had. For all of us there will come the moment when that golden orb comes sliding down bringing us back to the realities of the day among the horns, sparklers and hopes for a better year. For most of us hope does not recognize judgement and yet with the end of anything there is always that moment of judgement. 2020 has been a rough year….universally as well as personally. Joy is just a tear away and hope is only a thought without action. Christians cannot shy away from the horrors of the Cross, nor not be overwhelmed by the suffering of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thus there was God’s Judgement on this world and the sins of his people nailed to that Cross in the person of Jesus Christ. We will never leave behind the scars of 2020 until we learn to praise God for the judgement that brings hope, the tears that bring joy, a renewal of faith and a  the purpose of commitment.The Church has lost much in the past year and those who believe have been sorely tested by the harshness of the covid-19 virus and the evil of humanity that stains our world, our lives and those that are supposed to lead us.  

There is a wealth of theological information concerning the Bible and the New Year, various fixing of the date, customs, culture and anything inquisitive minds would like to know. But I like to keep it simple. After the ball has dropped, the fireworks, horns and other means of crude welcoming given the New Year…. Take a moment and seek the one who has made all things new, look to the wonder and power of God. In his name rests salvation, glory and greatness and be in awe of his Holy presence. There is honor, majesty, strength and beauty in that which he has created. These things have given the psalmist cause to praise Him. Worship the Lord, giving him the glory due Him. Worship him with a diligence that requires holiness and a deep sense of reverence. The psalmist reminds us that we are to witness to all nations the truth of God’s sovereignty, power, judgement and righteousness. All creation will welcome the coming of the Lord and his righteous judgement. It is then that we all we be judged according to his truth. 

The remaining verses of Psalm 96….

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.

For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.

Honor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.

Worship the Lord in holy splendor;
tremble before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

12  let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

13  before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.

I pray the New Year to come will be one of coming closer to Christ and every new day brings a us all closer to the truth.

Life is Good

jk

The Christmas Blog

This has become a Christmas tradition here in the Pew. To everyone a Merry Christmas and of course a Happy New Year. I pray you will step back out of the glow of the many colored lights of the season and in the year to come focus on the true light of life.

John 8:12  

Jesus the Light of the World ] Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.

This will be the Christmas Blog a bit early.

Life is Good

jk

I am constantly searching the internet for little gems of knowledge and wisdom that will enrich and encourage us ordinary folks whose frantic pace in this life causes us to rush by without even taking the time to “smell the coffee” so to speak. Over fifty years ago we were introduced to the world of Charlie Brown. Charles Schultz created a community of lovable misfits each with their own recognizable frailties’ of mind, body and spirit, in which many of us saw a part of ourselves in the characters and took this lovable bunch into our hearts. Unlike some of the modern animated cartoons of this day the brilliance of Charles Shultz shows us our faults in a gentle and endearing way. Charlie Brown also helps us see the real value of community, the need we have for others and the power of a simple love that transcends the norms of this day. Having said all this let me introduce you to a brilliant post of December 14, 2014, by Jason Soroski. I have edited his original post for space requirements and encourage you to go to the posted url to read it as posted. (jasonsoroski.wordpress.com)

Here are some excerpts from that post.

I was in the first grade back when they still performed Christmas pageants in schools (less than 50 years, but still a very long time ago), and our class performed a version of the Charlie Brown Christmas. Since I was kind of a bookworm and already had a blue blanket, I was chosen to play the part of Linus. As Linus, I memorized Luke 2:8-14, and that Scripture has been hidden in my heart ever since. But while working so diligently to learn those lines, there is one important thing I didn’t notice then, and didn’t notice until now. Right in the middle of speaking, Linus drops the blanket.

Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all work to no avail to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he simply refuses to give it up. Until this moment, when he simply drops it. In that climactic scene when Linus shares “what Christmas is all about,” he drops his security blanket, and I am now convinced that this is intentional. Most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words, “fear not”

 Looking at it now, it is pretty clear what Charles Schultz was saying, and it’s so simple it’s brilliant.

The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.

The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.

The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and take Jason Soroski’s advice and “drop the blanket” in the coming new year. Again I encourage you to go to the url posted above and read some more of this gentlemen’s writings and activities.

Beyond The Words…The Journey and The Shepherds…Luke 2: 1-20

James Strange, a New Testament and biblical archeology professor, wrote this:  Writers of the gospels of Matthew and Luke “are so laconic about the [Nativity] event because they assume the reader would know what it was like. [W]e have no idea how difficult it was.”

Sometimes words are just not enough, thus the saying that a “picture is worth a thousand words”….. and since there are no actual pictures from that time we are reduced to just the words. Fortunately we do have written records of that time, and there are biblical archeologists whose studies print a vivid picture in our mind and of course theological based studies of the lives people led in those times. As noted above Matthew and Luke were rather sparse in their words used to describe the difficulties and challenges such a trip would present to Joseph and Mary. I share with you some words from Deacon Frederick Bartels in an article he posted 12 January 2019. While I am paraphrasing his words I wanted you to know the Deacon’s excellent  writing on this subject is my source of information. 

After a demanding trip to Bethlehem and finding room only in a cave that was being used to stable live stock, what would this trip had been like for Mary and the child in her womb. Deacon Bartels asks a question that requires we go beyond the written word. Most of us have a very firm picture in our minds of what Mary was like. An alabaster complexion, clothed in ornate robes whose hands had never seen a day of ordinary household work. But in reality Mary was an ordinary Palestinian Jewish girl, poor and as we have come to learn of extraordinary faith and abilities. Truth is Mary would have been no different from other Jewish woman of her place and time. Her day would be one of tedious chores and duties to be done, having none of the modern every day technology available to aid her. She would start at sunrise or maybe a bit sooner preparing a meal, then there would be water that needed to be brought in, carried by hand in jars or wine skins. The water would be used for drinking, cleaning, bathing and washing clothes. Ground wheat-flour and other food ingredients had to be gathered and of course firewood to cook with and heat to provide warmth in the cold mornings and evenings. All of these things would require, as some estimate, at least ten hours of work. I think we can say she had to be strong and efficient. Joseph was a carpenter and his day began at sunup and would last till there was no light left to work by. I imagine his face would be of a ruddy complexion, with lines reflecting the responsibility of family and providing for them. His hands would be the rough calloused hands of a working man. He would be a strong and resilient man. Further more it very likely that both Mary and Joseph were, as many of the people of that time illiterate to some degree. Because of where they lived it is possible they had limited knowledge of some Greek and Latin. They most likely lived in a small complex, four small one room houses with dirt floors which were connected by a shared courtyard for cooking and other daily needs. Most of these complexes were shared with kin. It would have been a good thing because the women would be able to help each other with water, wood and other needs. It was not an easy world to live in. They were taxed by both the Temple and the Roman government and people of bad intent were all about them.

Moving to the journey they were about to make it could not be said that they did not know the dangers of taking such a trip, not to mention that Mary was heavy with child at this time.  Mary and Joseph were aware of all the dangers of such a trip. They would have to travel about sixty miles and at best given her condition ten miles a day would be all they really could expect. There would be wild animals, bandits and desert robbers to contend with. Weather would also be a factor as temperatures in winter in this area would be a bone chilling 41 degrees at night and rise into the high forties during the day. I don’t know why but I have always read or been told that the desert temperatures at night felt much colder than you would think. They would have had to have warm clothing, build a fire each night to protect themselves from predators and of course to keep warm as they rested. Their provisions would have consisted of bread, herbs, oil and some dried fish. Water was carried in wineskins. Yet all these things did not intimidate Joseph or Mary.

At this point we switch our attention to the Shepherds. Luke 2 verse ….8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 

 Theirs is a unique position. One of  the little known facts…things not included in Luke 2: 8-14. They were only about eight miles from Jerusalem in the fields near Bethlehem, that we are told but the reason while practical, is not that well known. These shepherds  were tending sheep that had been designated for sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem and most likely the property of the Temple. These shepherds were educated in the specific quality of sheep needed for sacrifice and it was their job to protect them from being hurt, damaged or blemished. Shepherds were in general looked down on by most people. Tending sheep was a 24/7 job and required the shepherds attention at all times. Realistically there were many of the daily religious practices that they couldn’t practice because of the demands of their job. They were rarely in the synagogue for worship or instruction and their fellow Jews looked down on them for it. It must be noted that the task of shepherding was an honorable job and often fell to the youngest son in the family. It has always had a place in Jewish history and in that part of the world was part of the history of all the people living in those times. God got some great leaders from the ranks of shepherds. It is here that the angel came on high to announce the birth of a Savior… He who is Christ The Lord. 

The weak, average, illiterate, lowly in status…the shepherd … to him was first given the news of man’s salvation to come. This birth, this one who by God’s intent has come among us…God incarnate, would go among those of similar standing. He would become a tradesman from an uneducated working class family. When time for his ministry came upon him he chose twelve others, fishermen and such, from the northern region of Israel which at that time was considered to be inferior to the rest Israel. He who’s coming was told to these lowly shepherds keeping the sheep…He would become a shepherd of men and they Fishermen of men.

Life is Good

jk

Going Beyond The Words… Luke 1

The introduction in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 1, is an example of the uniqueness of the story Luke is about to recount to us about the birth of Christ. We have heard it told many times in Sunday school as we grew up, saw it presented visually in plays, movies and books. What about before the birth, before the manger and the visit of the Three wise Men? All good stories don’t always have a good beginning. It is interesting to note that Luke steps out from behind the words as we read the insertion of the pronoun “I” at the beginning of verse 3. 

Luke 1 verse 3-With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.

Like many preceding historians Luke has done his homework so to speak, gathering information, talking to people who were there, he himself having walked with the Master. Luke knows he is writing the greatest story ever told, and only his best effort is good enough. We also take note that Luke, not satisfied with anyone else’s story of Christ, wanted to tell his own. Compare it to our faith which was arrived at first hand through our own actions. In his introduction Luke makes known that these writings are the product a most careful and extensive search. Luke’s actions show his is not a secondhand faith or religion, it is his own. It also shows us that to be inspired of God , truly inspired, we must seek, reach out and covet the revealing Spirit of God. During the Advent Season as we prepare for the birth of Christ great detail is given to the four candles and what they represent.Then comes the lighting of the Christ candle and celebration of the birth itself. I want this week to step back and look at the people and the circumstances that brought us to this ‘night of nights’.

We will began with Theophilus who is mentioned in the third verse.

Luke 1:3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Two things of note are in this introduction to this letter in these first few verses. One begs a question the other the reason for the letter. Who is Theophilus? After reading several theories as to who this might be, I found that gotquestions.org had several concurring opinions about this. Here is their answer to the question.

The truth is no one really knows who he was. Got Questions’ answer…

 Theophilus was a wealthy and influential man in the city of Antioch. There are second-century references to a man named Theophilus who was “a great lord” and a leader in the city of Antioch during the time of Luke. Such a man would fit the description, as many scholars believe that Theophilus could have been a wealthy benefactor who supported Paul and Luke on their missionary journeys. That would account for Luke’s wanting to provide an orderly and detailed account of what had happened. https://www.gotquestions.org/Theophilus-Luke-Acts.html

Look at verse four…There is also the possibility that Luke had been spending time with this person and sharing the gospel of Christ with him, even perhaps his family and servants and this letter is to confirm and strengthen those things that were taught. Now we have some idea of why and to whom the letter was written. One of the central figures in the Christmas story was Herod Antipas, (born 21 bc—died ad 39), son of Herod I the Great who became tetrarch of Galilee which meant under Roman rule he was the governor of one of four divisions of a country or province and ruled throughout Jesus of Nazareth’s ministry. Next Luke introduces us to the birth of John the Baptist and a priest named Zechariah. Zechariah is a figure in the New Testament part of the Christian Bible and the Quran, hence venerated in Christianity and Islam. In the Bible, he is the father of John the Baptist, a priest of the sons of Aaron in the Gospel of Luke, and the husband of Elizabeth who is a relative of the Virgin Mary. We also meet Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah who is unable to conceive a child. Zechariah, as every descendant of Aaron became a priest automatically. That being the case for the ordinary everyday duties of priests, there were far too many priests. Because of their large numbers they were divided into twenty-four sections for service. Priests who loved their work looked forward to their week of service, it was the highlight of their lives. The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is the first step in our journey to the birth of Christ.

Before the morning sacrifice and after the evening sacrifice incense was burned on the Altar of Sacrifice. This was done so that there was a sweet smelling envelope so to speak enclosing the sacrifice as it went up to God. Because of the large number of priests lots were drawn for this duty. Many a priest would never have the privilege of burning incense in his entire life. On this day the lot fell on Zechariah and it would be the greatest day of his life. Jewish Rabbis said seven people were excommunicated from God and at the beginning of that list was a Jew that had no wife or who has a wife but no child. There was that tragedy in his life that he and Elizabeth had no child, she was barren. This might be a stretch but it could be possible that on this day, being this close to God, that he prayed about this. Then that wonderful vision came to him at that moment standing there while the incense burned, that a son would be born to him! Even when we can’t speak God speaks for us. The offering is made in the innermost court of the Temple, the Court of the Priests. At the evening service it was the privilege of the Priest to come to the railing between the courts after the incense had been burned and bless the people. They had been waiting a long time for him to come and bless them and when he did appear he could not speak…they knew he had seen a vision. His was a wordless daze of joy and when his weeks duties were done he went home, there to find that Elizabeth knew she was going to have a child. Before we move on it is necessary to make the point that it was in God’s house that the voice of God came to Zechariah as he waited but we can take that a bit farther…God’s voice comes to those who listen for it…are you listening for it?  Staying with Luke’s writing we next are introduced to the angel Gabriel and his visit to Nazareth a town in Galilee. He had been sent by God to speak to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David.  Mary is betrothed to Joseph at the time she is visited by Gabriel. A Betrothal lasts a year and is considered as binding as marriage. This passage brings us face to face with one of the great controversial doctrines of the Christian faith, that of course being the virgin birth. Mary is yet a young girl but the scripture makes it plain she is of great faith…we read in Luke 1:38…“I am the Lord’s servant, May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Mary is chosen of God to give birth to the Son of God and I am sure that her heart was filled joy unspeakable at so great a privilege. Many people who have been chosen by God soon realize that it is both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. In Mary’s case, she would see her son die on the cross. Barclay writes… “God chooses us to use us.” A paradox indeed, Mary is blessed beyond words and yet at this time of great joy she also has a task ahead of her as the mother of the only Son of God… she shall bring into being God’s salvation among the people of this world. 

We cannot leave our time with Mary without her visit to Elizabeth and Mary’s song of praise. In Luke’s Gospel it is contained in verses 39-56. In verses 46-56 we find that song of praise…one of the great hymns of the Church…The Magnificat. It is well worth the read. Luke then introduces us to John, who would come to be known to us as John the Baptist. Soon Elizabeth’s time came and she gave birth to a baby boy. There was a great celebration as was the Jewish custom with family and friends gathered about the house. On the eight day they took him to be circumcised. He was not to be named Zechariah after his father upon the objection of his mother. There was quite a ruckus about this and someone suggested a writing tablet be given to Zechariah because he had not spoken since his vision in the Temple. He writes thw John and immediately his tongue is freed and he speaks praising God. The prophecy of Zechariah is in verses 67-80, Luke 1. 

I hope you will read the verses I listed so that you may have a full picture of Luke’s writing. Thank you for joining us in the Pew. May you and your family be blessed in this Advent season.

Life is Good 

jk

 

Divine Revelation…A Question of Trust

The candles, the wreaths of evergreen shaped in a perfect circle as a symbol of God’s eternity…The Advent Wreath takes its place across the Christian community as we prepare for the coming birth of Jesus Christ. Starting with the last Sunday in November and for the next three Sundays, we celebrate the Advent Season. The time the church prepares for the birth of Christ. We celebrate the four virtues of, hope, love, joy and peace, each represented by the four candles in the wreath. Lighting each one in the preceding Sundays, most denominations adding a fifth candle, the Christ candle, lit on Christmas to symbolize the light Jesus brings to this troubled world. 

There are people in this world that have a natural disaffection toward God but feign a false respect toward Him. Refusing to let Him into their lives and they refuse to trust in Him. In Isaiah 7 we read about Ahaz and his court having little value for divine revelation. God is greatly grieved by our distrust but that does not diminish the divine revelation or limit the scope of God’s promises. Our world today is one of distress and many dangers…but God has given us a sign. Unto you is to be born and all this time later we  continue to celebrate the birth of Christ. In all this chaos we have someone to seek comfort in. We find comfort  and trust in Him, our relationship with him and our expectations of Him and from Him. Christ would grow up like many other children but had within Him the strength to refuse to be caught up in the evils and sin of the world around him. His birth would be by the power of the Holy Ghost, to come among us as a divine revelation an instrument of God’s salvation for all mankind. Just as His coming was a never failing support to the hopes of believers  then and now, we can rejoice that the Word was made flesh and came to dwell among us. 

Romans 15:13-17- “May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Joy, Peace, Love….These are the attributes that fuel hope and it is hope on which we build our tomorrows. I HOPE for you an Advent Season filled with joy, peace and love. Will you trust in the  Divine Revelation and find HOPE in the salvation that is now ours?

Life is Good

jk

 

 

 

 

 For Your Information…Hebrews Chapter Three

This chapter is broken down into three segments of verses that inform us of the dignity of Christ, warns us of the danger of unbelief brought about by sin and the need to stay faithful to Christ…following him with a steadfast zeal.

Christ is the Messenger sent to us by God. This truth resting firmly on our  faith is revealed to us through Christ and He is the hope we have for a better day. Christ is many things. He is the Messiah and is anointed to both the offices of Apostle and High Priest. He is Jesus, our Savior, our healer…the Great Physician. Consider if you will what He is to us now…what He will be to us hereafter and forever. The Jews have always recognized the faithfulness of Moses and held him in the highest of esteem. Moses was a faithful servant but Christ was the eternal Son of God. Here was a point of separation. They were being told that Christ was the Master of this house, of His Church, His people, as well as their Maker. They must follow the ways of Christ, be steadfast and possess perseverance throughout this journey, until the end. All our thoughts of Christ and his salvation will bring us more wisdom, the need to love others and confidence and obedience.

There are days when we can be provoked into something we would not usually do, days that we give in to our temptations. A Christian knows that he is totally dependent on God’s will and guidance in his life. To ignore that is to provoke God. When we harden our hearts we open the door to the sins that abound in our world. We have all seen or have known someone whose sin has destroyed their life and the lives of those around them, this should serve as a warning to all of us. All sin but especially that which is committed by professing Christians not only provokes God but grieves God greatly. God is not given to wrath or does He rush to justice…God is gracious and gives us every opportunity to change and repent. Those who persist and are impenitent to His grace and forgiveness will risk the wrath of God from which there is no rest. If we allow ourselves to distrust God, we may fall away and soon desert Him. We have all heard the saying there is no promise of tomorrow, we must make the best of this day, make it God’s day. There is not one Christian among us that will not or does not need another Christian’s help. There are none among us, no matter how low they may have gone that do not deserve our care for their standing in the faith, their safety and health, all God’s creation is our responsibility. Sin comes at us in many different ways and it takes more than just our eyes to recognize it. Sin can appear fair, but it is vile. Sometimes it seems pleasant but it is destructive, promising much but giving nothing. Our deceitful behavior to hide the sin hardens our hearts and souls. One sin leads to another and with each sin that follows, it become a habit. We must beware of sin.

Christians are sometimes referred to as the Saints and are therefore made partakers of Christ. The things of the Spirit, the nature, graces and the righteousness, the very things that are the life of Christ. We are interested in all things Christ, all He has done or will do. The same spirit and faith we set out with to attain, learn and live the ways of God we should maintain until the end. Staying strong,  having perseverance in the faith is proof of our sincerity. Hearing, studying and learning the word and doing so often is a means of salvation. If we do not do the above we are weak and open the door to temptation and the Divine wrath. Obedient faith makes us partakers of Christ and His complete salvation. We should not put our trust to the things of this world, opting instead to be part of the true believers living to be part of that final day and eternal salvation. Sin is defeated by the power of our faith and in that faith lies the power of the Spirit and the glory of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.

Life is Good

jk