Words to Live By

Matthew 8

And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”  And he said to them,“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

By words alone Jesus calmed the storm. By words He commanded demons to come out of people. By words He brought the dead to life. With only His words He brought healing and bestowed blessings.

By His words He called disciples and by His words He commanded us to make disciples of all the nations. People were amazed by the authority with which He spoke His words. With words He taught, He prayed, and He rebuked the temptations Satan threw at Him.

With words alone He shamed those who were about to stone the woman caught in adultery. With kind words, He showed the woman at the well who she was, and she believed in Him.

He spoke words of truth when asked if He was the Christ. But there was no need for words and therefore gave no answer when told of the lies spoken against Him. He let truth speak for itself.

With words He forgave us of our sins. He forgave those who tormented and tortured and crucified Him because, as He said, they did not know what they were doing.

With words of love He assured the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

And as he breathed His last, Jesus had the last word: “It is finished”

God spoke and the entire universe came to be.

In Revelation 19, the Bible tells us of Jesus’ return and how He will defeat all the armies of the world with a sword coming out of his mouth. We’re told in the Ephesian chapter 6 what that sword is; it’s the Word of God.

Just as He calmed the storm, with a mere word Jesus Christ will end the reign of the Antichrist and usher in the millennial kingdom. And ultimately, evil will be defeated forever.

Such is the power of the Word of God!

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The Most Magnificent Church Ever!!!

When Jesus finished preaching the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount, Bible tells us that He walked out of a splendid and glorious church building and out into the countryside.

Well………………………………………….that’s not exactly true, is it? What the Bible really says in the eighth chapter of the gospel of Matthew is that Jesus came down from the mountainside, and large crowds followed Him. You see, the greatest sermon ever preached wasn’t preached in a church building at all. It was preached outdoors on the side of hill.

But Jesus did teach in synagogues at various times in various places. And He  was very passionate about the Temple in Jerusalem. He drove off the merchants and money changers who used the Temple for a marketplace. He taught His very last lessons in the Temple before he was handed over to be crucified. And when Jesus left the Temple for the last time, His disciples were admiring it’s beauty and the quality of its construction. They said to Him:

“Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

But Jesus replied:

“Do you see all these great buildings?”
replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Jesus is never impressed with an empty building. And when I say empty, I mean a building where Jesus is not worshiped, glorified, or welcomed. When he left the Temple that day, some say that because of his rejection by the Jews, the glory of God departed with Him. And the Temple, like so many churches today, became an ’empty’ building.

A church is more than just a building, or it should be anyway. It’s certainly nice to have a roof over our heads when we gather to worship. But we must never admire the magnificence of a building while ignoring the magnificence of God…………because the most magnificent church ever is the one committed to bringing honor and glory to the name of Jesus Christ above all else,  in everything it does. Anything less, and the church does become just another empty building.

The Village That Lived by The Bible

This is an article that was written many years ago by war correspondent Clarence Hall sometime after World War II. I first heard the story of the village of Shimabuku, Okinawa in a sermon titled “The Witness of the Word Unto Itself” preached by the late W.A. Criswell when he was the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas. It is one of the most inspirational stories I’ve ever heard or read.

The Village that Lived by the Bible

It was early in 1945 when, as a war correspondent on Okinawa, I first came upon Shimabuku, the strangest and most inspiring community I ever saw. Huddled beneath its groves of banyan and twisted pine trees, this remote village of some 1000 souls was in the path of the ‘American’ advance and so received a severe shelling. But when an advance patrol swept up to the village compound, the soldiers stopped dead in their tracks.

Barring their way were two little old men; they bowed low and began to speak. The battle-hardened sergeant, wary of tricks, held up his hand, summoned an interpreter. The interpreter shook his head and said, “I don’t get it. Seems we’re being welcomed as ‘fellow Christians.’ One says he’s the mayor of the village, the other’s the schoolmaster. That’s a Bible the older one has in his hand…”

Guided by the two old men – Mojun Nakamura the mayor and Shosei Kina the schoolmaster – we cautiously toured the compound. We’d seen other Okinawan villages, uniformly down-at-the-heels and despairing; by contrast, this one shone like a diamond in a dung heap. Everywhere we were greeted by smiles and dignified bows. Proudly the two old men showed us their spotless homes, their terraced fields, fertile and neat, their storehouses and granaries, their prized sugar mill.

Gravely the old men talked on, and the interpreter said, “They’ve met only one American before, long ago. Because he was a Christian they assume we are, too — though they can’t quite understand why we came in shooting.”

Piecemeal, the incredible story came out. Thirty years before, an American missionary on his way to Japan had paused at Shimabuku. He’d stayed only long enough to make a pair of converts (these same two men), teach them a couple of hymns, leave them a Japanese translation of the Bible and exhort them to live by it. They’d had no contact with any Christian since. Yet during those 30 years; guided by the Bible, they had built a Christian community that truly  honored God. How had it happened?

Picking their way through the Bible, the two converts had found not only an inspiring Person [Jesus Christ] on whom to pattern a life, but sound precepts on which to base their society. They’d adopted the Ten Commandments as Shimabuku’s legal code; the Sermon on the Mount as their guide to social conduct. In Kina’s school the Bible was the chief literature; it was read daily by all students, and major passages were memorized.

In Nakamura’s village government the precepts of the Bible were law. Nurtured on this Book, a whole generation of Shimabukans had drawn from it their ideas of human dignity and of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. The result was plain to see. Shimabuku for years had had no jail, no brothel, no drunkenness, no divorce; there was a high level of health and happiness.

Next day, the tide of battle swept us on. But a few days later, during a lull, I requisitioned a jeep and a Japanese speaking driver and went back to Shimabuku. Over the winding roads outside the village, huge truck convoys and endless lines of American troops moved dustily; behind them lumbered armored tanks, heavy artillery. But inside, Shimabuku was an oasis of serenity.

Once again I strolled through the quiet village streets, soaking up Shimabuku’s calm. There was a sound of singing. We followed it and came to Nakamura’s house, where a curious religious service was under way. Having no knowledge of churchly forms or ritual, the Shimabukans had developed their own. There was much Bible reading by Kina, repeated in singsong fashion by the worshipers. Then came hymn singing. The tunes of the two hymns the missionary had taught –“Fairest Lord Jesus” and “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” — had naturally suffered some changes, but they were recognizable.

Swept up in the spirit of “All Hail the Power,” we joined in. After many prayers, voiced spontaneously by people in the crowd, there was a discussion of community problems. With each question, Kina turned quickly to some Bible passage to find the answer. The book’s imitation-leather cover was cracked and worn, its pages stained and dog-eared from 30 years’ constant use. Kina held it with the reverent care one would use in handling the original Magna Carta.

The service over, we waited as the crowd moved out, and my driver whispered hoarsely,  “So this is what comes out of only a Bible and a couple of old guys who wanted to live like Jesus!”

Then, with a glance at a shell-hole, he murmured, “Maybe we’re using the wrong kind of weapons.”

Time had dimmed the Shimabukans’ memory of the missionary; neither Kina nor Nakamura could recall his name. They did remember his parting statement. As expressed by Nakamura, it was:

“Study this Book well. It will give you strong faith in the creator God. And when your faith in God is strong , everything is strong.”

Vacation Days in Prison

This message was written by my brother in Christ Richard Williams and is being posted here with his permission:

March 24, 2015

Last week ended for me with three days in Huntsville Texas and two of them inside the walls of a couple prison units. It was an amazing experience of God’s grace, His work, and His concern for every perishing life in this world as my time was spent with inmates that had no way of being processed out as freely as me. A Pastor friend of mine recently said “God has no idle moments” and I would add there is no place where God is not and no heart He does not want. There is also no offense that our Holy Father can not forgive since this is the reason He gave His son Who gives life and sets us free.

Having no way of knowing what to expect, I found myself—once again in the middle as we all are in the middle somewhere—sharing the message of God and His gospel whereas other times I was hearing the reality of God, His love, His forgiveness, His life changing work and the power and contentment of a transformed mind, heart, and life. The word contentment may not seem appropriate. But even in the lack of worldly physical freedom where one outfit was all one had to wear and the food to eat was what ever was placed on a tray, with some inmates that were in relation with Jesus Christ through the indwelling of The Holy Spirit, there was a sense of contentment and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

I could spend time writing about the few in my small circle of influence that I believe may have accepted the gift of Christ and came to an understanding of the gospel for the first time, or the many that were claimed by the group as a whole, but I know there are those on this list that don’t have that understanding and are not in agreement with me. I try not to hold anyone’s belief against them for my attempt is to leave that up to God while being held to my responsibility to speak the truth. But my hope is that none will hold my reliance on Jesus against me even though I know that day is coming— if not already here— and my attempt is to be predetermined to ask God to forgive.

I’d like to take this time to share a little of what an inmate shared with me. This man knew he was a sinner. I know I’m a sinner too, but I would venture to say he may have a better understanding. He knows as some of you do too that when held to the holy standards of God’s righteousness, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). None is righteous, no, not one (Rom 3:10). He knows that because of sin he is deserving of death, but he found eternal life through Jesus (Rom 6:23) because he knows Jesus is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6). He heard the knock and let Him in (Rev 3:20). He understood that when he confessed, God was just to purify him from his unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) and he declared Jesus is Lord (Rom 10:9). He knows what it means to repent (Acts 2:38). He knows where Jesus is and what He’s doing (Rom 8:34). And he knows why we will be celebrating soon with hidden eggs and chocolate bunnies, but he probably won’t be celebrating that way. What amazed me was his understanding of the reprobate mind which he said was revealed to him in 2 Timothy. We talked a little about a repentant heart, the importance of repentance and how it appears that the preaching of repentance is not as prevalent in today’s society or church culture as it might have been in the past. This man had life experience and is older than this middle aged man writing you now.

The time spent with him was in a geriatric unit. I had never really given this much thought, but in the cycle of life we deal with different concerns or ailments at different stages in our lives. Like our need for reconciliation to God which is no different for the prisoner as it is for you or me, this concern of different needs at different stages is no different in prison than on the outside. That day I talked with men from age 55 to 86. Yes, there is a man in his last year of a 20 year sentence who is now 86 years old and he told me a story about being part of a Canadian Christian motorcycle club where he put over 74 thousand miles on a 1947 Harley Davidson. We didn’t get into his crime, but I must admit the question in my mind is how this life ended up here? The other thought was that he was approximately my age when he first went in and if not by the grace of God perhaps that could be me and I realize on my own I am more than capable of falling when I think I stand (1 Cor 10:12). He was a joyful man and one of the other inmates said that he is up and about more than most the others and he can out walk most of them. There were a few in wheel chairs and some with walkers, but none were excluded from the humiliation of open public stripping down upon return to the building after being out in the moisture from the rain coming through the covered walkways on the way to the recreation center with us. By recreation center I mean an open concrete slab basketball court with a metal roof over it and old style cable weight machines to the side. I can only imagine how recreational it is in the July/August heat of east Texas.

The reprobate mind that the previous man discussed was very enlightening to me. There may be some reading this that have more understanding of this than I, whereas others may not have a clue as to what the term even means. Keep in mind that I’m not a scholar, nor well educated and have no bonafide credentials. I am a truck driver by trade and am speaking to you as a struggling Christian with concern for the eternal well being, salvation, and walk with God of everyone I know. When sincerely thought about, the consequence of a reprobate mind can be a very sobering and frightening thought, but what it basically boils down to is the rejection of a loving God and thus suffering His wrath because of suppressing the truth that is within the reprobate mind. It refers to the resistance of truth because of a corrupt mind. I can see why it is not a popular topic and I haven’t heard preachers yelling it out from the pulpit because it probably wouldn’t fill a lot of pews or in this day and age of theater type seating.

I can look back on my life and see this reprobate mind once alive and active in me and I pray to God that He continue His good work in me to battle any way of thinking along those lines. I would appreciate your prayers too. Furthermore, I would appreciate input from those of you further along in the faith and walking close to the Lord with deeper understanding and opportunity of higher education to share your God given wisdom on this subject. I’m throwing this out there for those to whom it makes no sense in hopes that you will consider it along with the concept of the wrath of God: Not as some sort of judgment on my part because that is not my intent nor my duty. But from what I understand and believe, there will come a time when that judgment will take place and it will be from the only One that really matters. Imagine an all powerful, loving, but just God displaying His wrath and having to carry out justice for those that reject His Plan of Justice and Salvation for a world He loves because they refused to accept the truth of His Son taking that wrath upon Himself in order to spare those Jesus knows. It brings tears to my eyes when I think of it and I know it can sound bizarre and strange to those that have no understanding of it, but my prayer is that you live up to the understanding you have and that you grow to seek God to a higher understanding, faithfulness, and obedience. My prayer is that first step of seeking, learning and accepting the simple truth of the gospel be taken in all our lives. I pray that those who don’t know the truth about Jesus will come to know, accept, believe, and repent. And I pray that we all walk in obedience with a repentant heart and don’t succumb to the evils of this world, our own pride,or get fooled by our religious activities. In 2 Tim 3:8 it talks about the resistance of truth because of a corrupt mind where as in Titus 1:16 there is talk about those that profess to know God yet it also says they are detestable, disobedient and unfit. I don’t know who those are and you don’t know if it’s true about me. If it sounds like I’m throwing stones, I’m not. I’m trying to eliminate stones that may be thrown. It’s not up to me to know your relationship with God. It’s up to me to nurture and protect my relationship with Him. You don’t know if my relationship is real, but He does and I better know too. My prayer is that you are secure in your Salvation, that you know Jesus, HE knows you, and that you know where you will be if you happen to physically die sometime soon.

While driving away from the prison on the last day of the trip through the piney woods during some heavy rain, I touched the seek button on the radio to find a frequency to listen to. The first thing I heard was that the Indianapolis Colts owner, Jim Irsay, had purchased one of John Lennon’s guitars at auction for a sum of five hundred and thirty thousand dollars. Over a half of million dollars. Hmm… What a sharp contrast from where I had just left and where their focus was. I can only imagine the culture shock of being released after spending years in prison, not just one day by choice. Oddly enough it was March of 1966 when John Lennon first made a comment along the lines of the Beatles being more popular than Jesus Christ which led to the demise of their concert touring, though they remained a studio band. I’m not going anywhere with that, but I found the timing interesting.

I’m still processing what all took place and I have an image in my mind left over when three inmates and I ended prayer as we stood circled together with our arms around one another’s shoulder and our heads bowed. It was of another Richard across from me and when I opened my eyes to look up. He was grinning from ear to ear as he wiped tears from his steel blue eyes while saying “in the name of Jesus.” I wouldn’t trade that moment for the above mentioned guitar.

Some may doubt my God and others of us may spend time debating whether Melchizedek is a Christophany or not, but no one can take that moment from me or convince me that God isn’t real.

This is my seventh year of attempting to be in step with The Lord and although He is ALWAYS faithful, I freely admit that I am not and I ask for prayer that I am more faithful to Him as each day passes.

God bless you all,
Richard Williams
s

Oh Now You Want to Talk!

1 Thessalonians 4

Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

It’s almost certain that at some point, someone will ridicule us for our faith in Jesus Christ. It could come from a co-worker or family member. Sometimes its done half-jokingly. Sometimes it’s downright viscous. Regardless of the source, it’s usually our first impulse to want nothing else to do with that person, especially when the ridicule is mean spirited.

But what happens when life throws one of those persons a curve? What if the person who has ridiculed you for years is suddenly overcome by trial or adversity such as divorce, bad news from the doctor, or the unexpected death of a loved one? They might turn to one of their friends for counsel, and when that doesn’t work (it usually doesn’t), don’t be surprised when  they turn  to you for help. When that happens, what a great opportunity it would be to get some payback for all the times they called you holy roller, Bible thumper, or Jesus freak. It would be the perfect moment to repay them for all the insults and personal attacks, and to say to them, “You’ve mocked my God and made fun of my faith all these years, but now you want to talk!”  What a golden opportunity it would be to laugh in their face and gloat over their misfortune.

DON’T DO IT!

If we gloat over their trouble, we miss an even greater opportunity. We will miss the opportunity to show them what it means to be a true and devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

As difficult as it may be to believe, your daily Christian walk has won the respect of those outside the faith. It may not be apparent by the actions of those who make ridicule or torment us. But when we live our faith, they will seek us out when trouble overtakes them because they see the peace and wisdom of God reflected in our lives, even if they don’t fully realize it. When they turn to us for help, we cannot turn them away. We must view it, not as an opportunity to get back at them, but as an opportunity to share the love of Christ.

Peter shared a wealth of Godly wisdom on this matter. I believe the words Peter wrote in the third chapter of his epistle can be applied to this situation. Peter wrote:

 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Peter also wrote in that same chapter: But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Be ready with an answer when an adversary turns to you for help. We’re to show compassion to those who speak maliciously against us. It’s what Jesus did when He was crucified. And it is that compassion that has saved us from condemnation.

Jesus and Lazarus

John 11:35
Jesus wept.

This is the account of the death of Lazarus recorded in the Gospel of John. John 11 verse 5 is the shortest verse in all the Bible, yet it is a powerful description of the depth of God’s love.  Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. It was because of His love for his friend Lazarus that he wept when He was led to the place where Lazarus was buried. Jesus experienced the same sadness and sorrow in his heart we feel when we lose a loved one. He felt sadness and sorrow even though He had the power to bring Lazarus back from the dead, and even though He knew ahead of time that he was going to do so. Still, Jesus wept. I believe this gives us insight into how deep the love of Jesus Christ really is. Jesus wept even though He knew all along that He was going to bring him back.

Not only does this tell us how deep God’s love is for us, it also tells us something else. It tells us how highly God treasures human life. Even though the death of Lazarus would only be temporary, his life was so important to God that Jesus wept.

The love that God has for our lives extends beyond this world. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12 verses 6 and 7, the word of God tells us how important we are to Him:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Every life matters to God, so much so that He does not want anyone to be lost to the eternal death that awaits those who reject His son. So great is His love, He gave us a way out of death through our savior, Jesus Christ. Through the experience of Lazarus, we are assured that Jesus does indeed have the final say over death. Praise be to God!

Faith in the Face of Disappointment

The Faith of the Canaanite Woman

 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”  Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.  He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”  “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

At first glance, Jesus’ response seems puzzling. Did He not care about this woman’s daughter? Was He really showing contempt for Gentiles? On the surface, it may appear that way, but let’s look a little closer.

According to Matthew Henry’s commentary, it’s most likely that Jesus was testing the woman’s faith, but for other than usual reasons. Jesus already knew what was in her heart, how strong her faith was, how persistent she was prepared to be, and that she was faithful enough to overcome discouragement. So why test her that way? Perhaps, as Matthew Henry speculated, it may have been that there were some lessons His disciples needed to learn.

It’s interesting that the woman answered the way she did. After being ignored initially, she renewed her plea for mercy, which showed the strength of her faith. And after being compared to a dog, she responded in humility. A lesser person might have taken that remark as an insult and stormed off in a huff. But she didn’t. She had a need, and in her heart she knew only Jesus could meet that need. When it came to dealing with the Canaanite woman, Jesus knew what He was doing.

You see, her response tells us something else about her. In plain language, she said to Jesus, “Yes, but even Gentiles will benefit from the blessings that God has bestowed on the Jews.” She showed a level of understanding that the disciples had not yet achieved, though they had been with Jesus for quite some time. And that more than anything was a lesson the disciples would have to eventually learn. As only Jesus could do, he pulled that response out of the Canaanite woman for his disciples to see.

Through her example, we learn the right way to respond when God does not answer our prayers right away. When we understand who God is, as much as that is possible, we know we don’t have to shrug our shoulders, give up, or walk away when a prayer goes unanswered. We do what the Canaanite woman did. We persist in our faith. We pray with more determination and conviction. And we pray in humility, knowing that only God can meet our needs.

A proud person would have protested and walked away. But her understanding of God’s plan for salvation manifested itself in humility and strong, unwavering faith. It was that faith that got Jesus’ attention, and her daughter was healed. That’s a lesson for us. Faith will always get God’s attention.

Just One Man

I’m sure all of us have said to ourselves at one time or another: “I’m just one man. What difference can I make?” I’ve thought that to myself a few times when I’ve faced challenges that seemed nearly impossible to overcome.

But our history is full of reminders of times when one man did make a difference, when one man changed the course of history.

In modern history: Neil Armstrong was one man. The words he spoke as he stepped out onto the surface of the moon are forever immortalized.

Martin Luther King was one man.  He championed the cause of civil rights in a way that earned respect from people of all races.

Going back a few decades, one man gave a one word reply when a German commander demanded the surrender of the troops who were defending the strategically vital town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge: “NUTS!” With that one word, the under equipped, half frozen, half-starved troops found new strength and dug in and fought off what turned out to be Nazi Germany’s last ditch effort to turn the tide of the war in Europe in their favor.

And ladies, none of this is exclusive to men. This was originally written in January of 2013 to the men of my church in Grapevine, Texas on behalf of the men’s ministry department, but this applies to you as well. You’ve probably asked how one woman can make a difference. Well….in modern times again, consider a woman like Rosa Parks who wanted nothing more than to be treated with the respect that any human, man or woman, deserves! Look at what she started!

And then there are the biblical accounts of women who made a difference, women like Deborah who ruled Israel for forty years in a time when women didn’t hold such positions.

There was Ruth who demonstrated the love of God in a way that could still serve as model of Christ-like love today.

There was Ester, whose courage saved her people from annihilation.

There was Rahab the prostitute, who protected the Israelite spies who had been sent to scout out Jericho. She acknowledged the God of Israel as the one true God, and because of what she did for God’s people, God intervened and changed her life forever.

And there was Mary, the mother of our Savior. After being told by the angel Gabriel, “…you have found favor with God!” Mary replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

God uses men and women both to accomplish His plans. There was one time in particular when God’s anger burned against the Israelites so much so that He was prepared to destroy them all. But one man stood between the Israelites and God.

From Exodus 32 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.  Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “O Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?  Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.  Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’”  Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

One man favored by God saved a nation.

And of course, our savior Jesus Christ was one man. This one man bore the sins for all mankind. He changed the course of human history. He changed our perception of who God was.  He was God, and He was man. He has changed millions of lives. He has saved what otherwise would have been lost. He loved us when we rejected Him. He accepts us as we are. He stands before the Father on our behalf as Moses stood before God.

He was just one man. Yet I don’t recall reading anywhere in the Bible where Jesus said, “I’m just one man. How can I make a difference?”

But when you think about it, that’s not a bad question to ask God when we pray. “Lord, I’m just one man (or one woman). How can I make a difference?”

Ask God. He’ll show you how.

 

 

It is Finished!!

From Matthew 27

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”  So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Judas, like so many others who lived during that time, failed to understand the significance of what was about to happen. Seized with remorse, Judas reached a point where he decided to be his own judge, jury, and executioner. He threw the money he was paid into the temple the Bible says, and then he went and hanged himself.

If only he had waited just a few more hours. There was no need for Judas to hang himself because Jesus would soon hang for him. Jesus would soon take the punishment for him, just as He took the punishment for all who put their trust and faith in Him. Judas could have been restored just as Peter was a few days later. He could have been reconciled to God as all of have been because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We’re all going to mess up at some point. It’s not a matter of if. But when we do, and when we admit our mistake and take ownership of it and bring it to God, that’s it. It’s settled. We don’t have to punish ourselves. In fact, there is nothing we could do to ourselves in the way of punishment that would match the sufficiency of Jesus’s death on the cross. As Jesus said with His dying breath, “It is finished.” All we need to do is accept His forgiveness. The punishment has been meted out. The price is paid. Jesus paid it for us.

If only God would……….

All of us at some point in our lives have heard someone begin a sentence with these words;  “If God would just………………..” 

or,

If only God would.………….”

So let’s fill in the blanks and examine some of those statements.

Number 1 on the list: “If God would just reveal himself, then I’d be able to believe He exists.”

In his preface to the Greek New Testament, the Greek scholar Erasmus wrote:

“These holy pages will summon up the living image of his mind.  They will give you Christ Himself, talking, healing, dying, rising, the whole Christ in a word.  They will give Him to you in an intimacy so close that He would be less visible to you if He stood before your very eyes.”

All scripture points to Christ. Jesus Christ was fully man and fully God, and when He walked on the earth, He was a living breathing flesh and blood human being, as real as you and me. So First and foremost, God revealed Himself through his Holy Word and through the person of Jesus Christ.

God revealed Himself through creation. No man was there to witness creation, but we know it happened, otherwise we would not exist.

And God reveals Himself through the human conscience. In Romans chapter 2, verses 14 and 15, the Bible tells us: “Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.” That innate sense of right and wrong did not evolve, it was instilled in you by God.

God revealed Himself through history, by way of judgments against wicked nations. Speaking through His prophets, God warned the nations time and again of their destruction. Their only hope was to repent and turn from their wickedness and turn back to Him. Those that failed to heed the warnings were destroyed. Those that repented were spared.

But still, people demand proof.

From John chapter 6:
So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’

32 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.

The demand for visible proof is nothing new. Jesus encountered it when He was here. We still encounter it today. The demand for proof will continue to the last days. The book of Revelation reveals to us the coming judgments of God, and of a people who will still persist in their unbelief in spite of all the dreadful things that will be taking place on earth. The signs will be staring them in the face and yet they will continue to ignore the signs.

I’ve heard some say,  “If only God would answer all my questions; if God would just appear before me and explain everything clearly in person, then I would be able to believe in him.”

Again, we do have the answers. They’re in His book. The Bible answers the questions that really matter to our faith and our relationship with God.  The Bible did not tell us how to build bridges or tall buildings or cars or airplanes. The Bible is not a geography textbook. It does not disclose the source of the world’s rivers or the locations of all the world’s mountain ranges or continents. God gave us the ability to make those discoveries ourselves in their proper course of time, and we did.  The Bible does tell us how to live and it answers the most important questions that relate to our salvation.

From W.A. Criswell, former pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas:  Now just briefly, first, the Book is God’s revelation to us how we can be saved.  You know, I used to wonder, back there in the beginning when God began to reveal His holy Word and when finally Moses wrote it down in about 1400 BC, why didn’t God reveal in that Word these things that we know today? Things that concern the atom and atomic energy; things that concern biology and all the secrets of the cells and the enzymes and the anatomical system, and why didn’t God reveal to us the secrets of chemistry and astronomy?  A thousand things in the scientific world that we are introduced to today, that God knew all about; He made them.  These things we’re just now beginning to discover, like penicillin, like nylon, like the atom, like a thousand other wonderful things, such as, propelling our airplanes through the sky with jet propulsion, God made all that.  Why didn’t He reveal it to us from the beginning?  Why is it that the Lord rather reveal to us things that concern the soul and our life in fellowship with Him?  Now as I begin to think about that, the reason is very obvious.

The most vital and fundamental and important of all of the knowledge to which we could ever be introduced in this world lies in the things of God, the soul, our relationship to Him, and the rest could come in their time and in their order.  First of all, is the knowledge of the revelation of God.  And that’s what God did in His Book.  He revealed to us first of all the things concerning Himself and our relationship with Him, and how we are to live and to walk in His presence, how we can be redeemed, how we can have fellowship with God and see His face someday and live:  that above all, then the rest followed in its order.

And last, “If God would just make us all good from the start, there would be no evil in the world.”

In the beginning God did make us good. God did not create evil. God does not tempt anyone with evil. But He did create the first man and woman with free will, and we still have free will today. He allows us to choose our own way, but with consequences that He made clearly known. Evil entered His creation through the sin of Adam and Eve, and we inherited a sin nature as a result. We’re the ones who choose to ignore that innate sense of right and wrong, not God. But God did give us a way out. He gave us a way of escaping the eternal consequences of our sins through His son Jesus Christ.

It’s not just cynics and skeptics and non-believers who make statements that begin with “If God would just…………..” Christians make them sometimes as well. Though we cannot understand everything about our salvation, everything we NEED to know is right there in God’s book, the Bible.

And that brings me to this point: When God hears someone say, “If God would just………”, I wonder if His response is, “If you would just………..read the Book.”