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.
As an emissary of God, Moses led the Hebrew people out of bondage in Egypt, and delivered to them the Law of God. As an emissary of the people, he called out to God in intercessory prayer. Consider these examples:
In Genesis 18, he interceded for people guilty of the sin of sexual perversion.
In Genesis 20, he interceded for a man to be healed of infirmity.
In Exodus 32, he interceded for people guilty of the sin of idolatry.
In Numbers 11 and 14, he interceded for the people guilty of the sin of grumbling. Grumbling seems rather innocuous compared to the sins of sexual perversion and idolatry, but to God, it was a sin and the people had to be judged.
In Numbers 12 and 16, he interceded for people guilty of the sin of causing division.
In Numbers 27, as he was preparing for the end of his journey here on earth, Moses interceded for his successor who would lead the next generation, Joshua.
We need a Moses for this generation today; someone to intercede for entire communities engrossed in sexual perversion and idolatry, for people involved whose attitudes and words that cause division, for people dealing with infirmity, and for people of the next generation.
In his book entitled PRAYER, E.M. Bounds wrote “Not only is prayer the medium of supply and support, it is a compassionate agency through which the pitying, longsuffering God has an outflow. Prayer is a medium to restrain God’s wrath, allowing mercy to rejoice against judgment.”
You don’t need a pulpit to make an impact on your community, you just need a prayer closet.
“Joash was seven years old when he became king, and did what the Lord considered right in the sight of the Lord all the days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (2 Kings 11:21 & 12:2)
A seven year old king. Imagine. How in the world does a seven year old grow up to be a man who does what is right in the sight of God and successfully lead a nation? He didn’t just instinctively know how to do what was right in the sight of God; he was taught by the priest.
Consider this: Samuel was approximately 11 years old when he began to recognize the voice of God. Joseph was a teenager when he received dreams and visions from God. David was a teenager when he brought down Goliath. Mary was a teenager when she conceived the Christ Child.
Beloved, secular culture is fighting for the souls of our kids. Parents and grandparents, I implore you to be a Jehoiada and teach your children and grandchildren the stories in the Bible. The church is ready and willing to help. Capable teachers are in place every Sunday, eager to make the Bible come alive to their imagination.
Joash was a reformer who, early in his reign, repaired the Temple, restored true religion to Judah, and fought to destroy Baal worship. I pray for God to raise up a Joash in this generation. I also pray for a Jehoiada who will take seriously his responsibility to mentor the Joash.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
“Men ought always pray and not lose heart.” These words of Jesus (Luke 18:1) are followed with his parable of the persistent widow, which illustrates the importance of our commitment to prayer.
Prayer is a partnership. The Holy Spirit prompts us to pray about specific things or to pray for needs in a specific way that we’d previously not considered. The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom (Acts 6), faith to believe for miracles (Acts 10), fills us with joy (Acts 13) and gives us insight (Acts 21).
Prayer is personal. It is a private appointment with the King of kings, Lord of lords and Creator of the universe. It is an opportunity to share with Him your most private thoughts and for Him to share His thoughts with you.
Prayer is also a privilege. Throughout history, those who have carried out God’s divine will on earth have been people of prayer. In his book entitled Prayer, E.M. Bounds said “The man of prayer is God’s right-hand man. In the realm of spiritual affairs, he creates conditions, begins movements and brings things to pass.”
We have a prayer meeting in our sanctuary every Wednesday morning from 6:00 – 8:00 and Wednesday evening from 7:00 – 8:00. I look forward to praying with you!
Nehemiah 8:1-3 “Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”
The referenced ceremony occurred shortly after walls around the city of Jerusalem had been built and the gates hung in place. The city’s material needs had been met, and now it was time to focus on the spiritual needs of the people. It was the seventh month on our modern calendar, but was celebrated as the Jewish New Year. In essence, the people were starting the year by gathering for the public reading of the Word of God. I like that idea!
As you will note in chapter 8, the people stood as Ezra started reading the Law and remained standing for the 6 hours of the reading and repeated this for a week. Now, if you join me in church this Sunday I promise to not preach for 6 hours and also promise you will be able to sit in a comfortable chair in a climate controlled room.
Let’s start 2019 in the house of God, reading the Word of God, worshipping and praying to Almighty God and fellowshipping with His family. Our service times are 9 am and 10:30, and we have an evening service at 5:00. I hope to see you Sunday.
Imagine if you were one of the shepherds tending your flock of sheep on the hills outside the town of Bethlehem. It had been a typical day of long hours and hard work and you were ready to settle down for a night of well-deserved rest, when suddenly an angel appeared out of nowhere to tell you, “There is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Then, an army of angels appeared proclaiming “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2).
The antithesis of peace and goodwill is war and malice, which pretty much describes the world we live in today. Consider the constant threat of war in the Middle East, the political unrest in Europe, Central America, South America, and in our own country. The need for peace and goodwill is as great today as it has ever been, and was precisely the reason Jesus was born.
Peace comes when we ask God to forgive our sins. The sin is removed, a personal and intimate relationship with Him is established immediately, enabling us to enjoy peace with our own conscience and with our neighbor. This is the message of Christmas.
Let’s sing: “Joy to the world the Lord has come…”
Matthew 3:1-2 “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
You probably heard the report that came out this week of another high-profile Christian artist who hedged when asked if homosexuality is sin. The artist stated she loves her friends who are in the lifestyle and will leave the judgment of their behavior to God. I have a question: Since when are we to allow our love for the sinner to change Biblical standards that declare certain acts to be sin? John the Baptist didn’t hesitate challenging people to submit to the authority of God’s Laws, and he didn’t have trouble drawing a crowd.
It is possible to love the sinner while hating the sin. I have many friends who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ and openly practice sin of every type. These friends know I love them but not the lifestyle they embrace.
Consider the simplicity of John’s message. First, you need to repent, which means to change your mind and transform your goals and attitudes toward life. This involves turning away from past sins and cultivating a reverence for and submission to God. Second, he spoke of “the kingdom of heaven”, which points to the messianic kingdom of peace foretold by the prophets and promised by God (see Daniel 2:44-45; Isaiah 2:2-5, and Micah 4:1-5).
During this Christmas advent you will connect with people who are busy, but their hearts and minds are being drawn to the true meaning of the season. Don’t underestimate the significance of the simple message that the Christ Child came to make it possible for each of us to turn the sin and regrets of our past to Him and embrace the wonderful relationship and life He has designed for us.
Let’s sing: “We fall down and lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus…”
2 Samuel 2:14 “Then Abner said to Joab, ‘Let the young men now arise and compete before us.’ And Joab said, ‘Let them arise.’”
I confess, this story makes me angry. The Jewish nation was divided over a difference of opinion of who should be the king. There were some who insisted the king be a descendant of Saul, while others preferred David. Leaders of the respective camps met and decided to have a couple of dozen young men fight it out to the death. Several young men needlessly lost their lives because the leaders wanted to prove which side was superior. I suspect the families and friends of the young men who died could not have cared less which leader was “right” but they did care that their loved ones were struck down. It would be eight long years of fighting before the Jewish people would set aside their differences and unite under the leadership of one man, David.
Today our nation is divided by divergent philosophies embodied in political rhetoric. Decency and kindness have been replaced by incivility and malice. Unfortunately, I do not believe this will change because the midterm elections are over. In fact, I suspect the vitriol will only increase. That is unfortunate and unnecessary, and I propose Christians do something about it.
I am a big fan of the pledge of allegiance to the American flag and have little or no respect for those who dishonor it. There is one phrase in the pledge I want to cite here: “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It doesn’t say one nation under a particular political ideology; it says, “One nation, under God.”
As Christians, we should present a message of love of county and love of God. Don’t allow your message to be tainted by the political nonsense. Present a message of hope through Jesus Christ and let the evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit give credibility to your message.
The Jewish nation thrived under David’s leadership. The secret was due, in part, to the fact that he helped lead the people back to the basic principles of God’s laws. If it worked for David, it will work of us.
Let’s sing: “God bless America, land that I love…”
I read an interesting question in our adult Sunday school curriculum: “Is there a link between faith and courage?” (To what extent will trust in God’s Word impact my choosing the difficult path over the easy path?) It is a great question.
I think of faith as absolute trust in God, a conscious decision to trust God’s commitment to extend His inexhaustible resources into our circumstances.
Consider the example of Abraham. In Genesis 12 he chose to obey God’s instruction to leave the land and people he was familiar with and move his family to a land he had never seen. Abraham acted because he trusted God. In chapter 13, we read where Abraham and his nephew Lot had prospered greatly in the form of livestock. Both men agreed their prosperity required they go their separate ways.
Extending deference to his nephew, Abraham allowed Lot to choose where he would move. Lot made his decision based on what appealed to his eyes, while Abraham relied on the guidance and provision from the Lord. Lot trusted what he saw while Abraham trusted what He knew. As it turned out, Abraham made the better decision.
True faith in God will inevitably stretch us to a place that requires more than our resources or understanding. Like many of you, I can testify my faith in God has guided and sustained me in the most trying of seasons of my past, and I have full confidence will guide and sustain me in my future. If my faith in God does not lead me to trust Him in the challenges of life, then my faith is not in him but in me. Frankly, I think I am better off trusting Him.
Galatians 3:9 “So those who rely on faith are blessing along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
Let’s sing: “I know that He safely will carry me through no matter what evils betide. Why should I then care though the tempest may blow, if Jesus walks close to my side? Living by faith in Jesus above, trusting, confiding in His great love. From all harm safe in His sheltering arm, I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.” (LIVING BY FAITH, by James Wells & R.E. Winsett)
Mark 5 is filled with stories of unimaginable chaos.
Consider the demon-possessed man in verses 1-20. Look at life from his perspective, and try to get a sense of what it felt like to be tormented by a legion of demons. The inner rage must have been overwhelming for this man, who was cutting himself and crying out day and night (v. 5). Consider the degree of loneliness and resentment you would feel after being abandoned by those closest to you — your family that had determined your life was hopelessly out of control. Who knows how long it had been since this man had a meal or an embrace from anyone who cared!
Consider the man in verses 21-24. He was a leader in the community with a reputation of being deeply religious, yet his daughter lie at the point of death. Imagine the sheer agony of a parent facing the real possibility of burying his child.
Consider the woman in verses 25-28. She had suffered with an infirmity for twelve years and had been told by doctors her condition was incurable. Mark does not mention her husband or family, so we may assume she was trying to deal with all this by herself.
Now consider the role Jesus played in their lives. Notice how He went out of His way to minister to the demoniac. He sailed through the night in a small boat across the Sea of Galilee during such a severe storm that experienced sailors like Peter feared for their lives. Notice when Jesus met the father of the sick girl and the woman with the issue of blood, He did not panic but calmly and confidently took care of their needs.
My friend, we can rest assured the Lord will go to any means to minister to the hurting.
Let’s sing: “You may be down and feel like God has somehow forgotten that you are faced with circumstances you can’t get through. But now it seems that there’s no way out and you’re going under; God’s proven time and time again He’ll take care of you. And He’ll do it again, He’ll do it again. If you’ll just take a look at where you are now and where you have been. Hasn’t He always come through for you? He’s the same now as then. You may not know how, you may not know when, but He’ll do it again.” (HE’LL DO IT AGAIN, by Shirley Caesar)