INSIDE THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE CHURCH

In our recent trip to Israel, we spent our first full day in Jerusalem. One of the highlights of the day and trip was spending time in the upper room.   We stood in the room for several minutes and I thought of all that had happened in that room so many years ago.

The days leading to His arrest, Jesus spent time in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. According to Matthew 26, in the hours leading up to his prayer in Gethsemane and arrest, Jesus spent the afternoon and evening privately with his disciples. It was at that time he shared what we refer to as The Lord’s Supper with his disciples, washed their feet and released Judas to carry out his plan of betrayal. It is believed by many these events took place in this upper room.

After Jesus’ resurrection, He met with His disciples several times. John 20 records one of those meetings. The scene was in a home in Jerusalem, and was likely once again the upper room. The purpose of that particular meeting was for Jesus to visit with Thomas and help him deal with his confusion and struggles related to the Lord’s death. Read John 20 again and take note of the gentle way Jesus interacted with Thomas.

A little over a month later, moments before Jesus ascended to heaven He instructed his followers to return to Jerusalem and “wait for the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). Verse 13 states they returned to the upper room where they had been staying. Shortly thereafter, on the Day of Pentecost, 120 followers of Christ gathered in that large room and “all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

As we stood in the upper room, I imagined all he weighty experiences that took place in that room 2,000 years ago. The Supper, washing feet, Thomas being restored from a state of confusion and discouragement, and then the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Oh, if only those walls could talk!

Let us also consider the significant experiences in our personal life journey. During this time of quarantine, you can share communion in your home, either alone or with your family. We are restricted from meeting together, but we are not alone. We can use the phone and internet to connect with others and chat about our own experience with the Lord. We, like those 2,000 years ago, can turn a room in a home into an altar and experience the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s sing: “They were in an upper chamber, they were all in one accord when the Holy Ghost descended as was promised by our Lord…”

The Upper Room is in the southern part of the Old City of Jerusalem on Mount Zion and is perhaps best known as the traditional site of the Last Supper. The current structure of the room dates approximately from the fourteenth century, which accounts for the existing Gothic-era columns.

IF WALLS COULD TALK

Earlier this month, Gina and I flew to Israel. To say our experience was amazing would be an understatement. We would like to share a portion of that experience with you in our morning visit over the next few days.

Day One: City of Jerusalem

Our first morning in Jerusalem, we walked into the old city of Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate. Herod’s Royal Palace was immediately on our right. It is likely the place where Herod Antipas interrogated Jesus on the night of His trial (Luke 23). Stones at the base of the palace date back to the time of Christ. If only those stones could talk!

Directly across the street was Christ Church, founded 170 years ago and is the oldest Protestant Church in all the Middle East. As we entered the church we were struck by the beautiful architecture, the stained glass windows and stone walls. On one of the walls was the Apostle’s Creed engraved in Hebrew. We visited with one of the employees who had been a part of the congregation our cousins Scott and Laura planted a few years ago. He invited Gina and me sing. I sat at the beautiful black grand piano and we sang Amazing Grace and we wondered at all the songs and sermons that had been presented in that church through the years. (Listen to the acoustics in this beautiful sanctuary!)

“We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). The witnesses referenced were the multitude of first-century followers of Christ who had lived and died in faith. At the time of the writing, persecution of Christians was intensifying and many followers of Christ were considering leaving the faith and returning to Judaism. The author encouraged them to remain committed in their faith: “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

As Gina and I sang in Christ Church I envisioned the many followers of Christ who worshipped as part of that congregation for the better part of two centuries. If only those walls could talk!

My friends let me courage you to remain firm in your resolve to serve and worship our Lord. Consider our Lord who ran His race, endured the cross and today is seated at the right hand of God the Father. Consider the many who have gone before us as well as the many who are watching to see how we will respond to the challenges of our day.

Let’s sing: “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus…”

PUSHING THROUGH LIFE’S CHALLENGES

Psalm 13:5 “I have trusted in your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of life’s challenges had quick and easy solutions? In Psalm 13, David referred to a challenge that was neither quick nor easy to resolve. Prolonged problems can produce discouragement and eventually cause a man to want to throw up his hands and quit. We see a glimpse of David’s desperation in verses 3 and 4.

Consider and hear [my prayer] and enlighten our eyes.” To enlighten our eyes is to change our focus or perspective from our problem to our God. In verse 4 he wrote “Lest my enemy say I have prevailed against him.” David didn’t want his enemy to boast of his demise.

In verses 5-6, David wrote “But I have trusted in your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” David made the conscious decision to trust God and sing praises to him. My friends, giving verbal praise to the Lord is part of what is necessary to change our focus from our problems to our God.

Continuing in 16:7-8 we read: “I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” In the heat of the battle David made a conscious choice to bless the Lord and focus on Him rather than the problem. In 16:11 you can see David’s confidence come alive: “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Coming to chapter 18, we read David’s testimony that God helped him walk with confidence in the face of danger. You, too, can walk with confidence when you choose to trust Almighty God and cultivate His presence through verbal expressions of praise and worship.

BE GENTLE WITH THE GUY THAT BOUGHT THE LAST TP!

Philippians 4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter while in prison in Rome. Life must have been overwhelming for in chapter one he wrote of the benefits of dying and going to heaven. So how does one transition from a death wish to talking about rejoicing (to be cheerful and calmly happy), being gentle (patient), prayerful and thankful? Perhaps a key is found in verse 8 when he spoke of disciplining our thoughts by focusing on what is virtuous and praiseworthy. The result: “the peace of God will be with you.”

Without question, we live in troubling times. The threat of the spread of the Coronavirus has created a hysteria in our country. This is a time to calmly and purposely take the necessary precautions to protect the physical health of your family.   As I write this devotion, Gina and I have submitted to a self-imposed two week quarantine at home because of our recent travels to Israel. After consulting with our board of deacons, we made the decision to comply with government recommendations and have suspended all group activities and worship services at the church until such a time government officials give us the “all clear” to resume our regular schedule of activities.

This is a time to take the necessary steps to ensure the spiritual health of your family. Block out a part of each day when you spend time alone in worship, prayer and reading God’s word. Participate in the audio and video teachings we will be making available.

This is also a time to let your light shine. Follow the advice from Paul and rejoice, be gentle with others (even with the guy who bought the last package of TP right in front of you), be thankful and focus on things virtuous and praiseworthy. We have the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. After all, a heart of peace is the result of focusing on the right things.

THE HOLY SPIRIT INFLUENCES ME TO LOVE

John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Loving people is a characteristic of Christians who are serious followers of Christ.  The word love used by Jesus in our text is agape, the strongest expression of love that I know.  It means to love someone practically and sacrificially, regardless of how who they respond to you.  It means to give to someone without expecting any return.  Coincidentally, love is part of the Fruit of the Spirit referenced in Galatians 5, which means loving others gives evidence we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit. 

Consider this: The people who are the most difficult to love are the ones who need it the most.  You don’t need a pulpit to impact your community, you just need to love others.