Matthew 4:1-11 The First Temptation of Christ

Have you ever faced temptation in your life? Each and every one of us has faced life’s temptations at some point in time, and we are always faced with the issue of how we are going to face them. Even Jesus was tempted, as we have heard in today’s Gospel reading. We can be tempted at any stage in life. Do we fight temptation or give in to it? Today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel gives us instructions about how we as Christians are supposed to deal with temptation.

The Gospel reading takes place shortly after Jesus’ baptism-a baptism that included the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus from heaven. Now, the Holy Spirit has led Jesus to a barren place where the devil waited to tempt him. You might wonder why the Holy Spirit did this. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to face temptation so that he would know what it is like to be tempted and so that he could emerge sinless and perfect-and thereby become the perfect, sinless lamb that would be slain for our sins. Our own wilderness experiences are an important aspect of our spiritual walk because they are designed to test us and teach us. We can look temptation in the face because Jesus has entered our desert experience and come out triumphant.

This happened at a spiritually significant time in Jesus’ life, and like Jesus, many of us are tempted at a spiritually significant time in our lives. Temptation is an active force today. If God calls us, we will be tempted. We are often tempted to see evil as the product of social problems such as poverty, racism or ignorance; however, the church teaches that evil exists because the Gospel writers taught that the devil existed and that Jesus had to deal with such an existence. Evil is a personal and sociological issue that lives in both our neighbourhoods and our hearts.

Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy his physical hunger just like we can be tempted by cookies or candy or other snack foods. They satisfy our physical hunger for a short period of time, but in the long run too much “junk” is not good for us. The same is true of our spiritual hunger. We need spiritual nourishment as well as physical nourishment. God will provide us with the spiritual nourishment that we need. As long as we stay close to him, we will overflow with blessings and joy.

God has much to give us to feed our spiritual hunger, but today we are distracted from receiving his word by things such as shopping malls, catalogs, faster computers, TV shopping channels, men’s and women’s’ magazines and much more.  Only God can fulfill our longings. He is the hope we have when we look into the world and see so much evil. He is the hope we have when we look at ourselves and see our evil side.

If Jesus had given in to temptation, he would not have satisfied his spiritual hunger. He would have turned his back on God. He would have started his ministry by following the devil’s lead. Instead, he chose as his first duty the feeding of others on God’s word-a duty that must also be our first duty as Christians. In order to do this, we do not have to preach hellfire and brimstone. We can do this by serving others as Christ and the disciples served others.

Jesus was also tempted by Satan to jump from the roof of the temple. Satan even uses Scripture as a weapon! The three temptations are not incentives to do bad things. They are invitations to be someone else, to live some life other than that of the beloved son of God. While the devil and his disciples quote Scripture and thereby appeal to our lower nature, their strongest appeal is to our sense of right and wrong. They try to persuade us to do not what we know is wrong, but what we think is right. The devil hides his temptations. He will tempt us to do good deeds by using some sort of underhanded method. He offers us shortcuts that sound so good at the time, but work out so poorly for eternity. He will be like “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, so we must stay alert at all times and always pray for guidance. We must not be fooled by the beautiful package that the temptation comes in, because the contents are ugly. Temptations are everywhere-just like the devil and his fallen angels.

Sometimes even our worship is directed to man when it should be directed to God. A good example of this is the extravagant lifestyle some TV evangelists lead-a lifestyle that is financed by the offerings received from their followers. Of particular concern are evangelists who proclaim that Jesus will bring prosperity to our businesses, families, dreams and lives, especially if you send them money! They are the devil in disguise. Jesus will bless these things only if they are in line with his will for our lives and if we worship him in true faith. In contrast, evangelists such as Billy Graham and Franklin Graham live modest lifestyles while they do God’s work in our world.

Finally, Jesus is tempted with all the kingdoms of the world, but God has already promised them to him. In reality, the devil has a stake in all the kingdoms of the world. Many people willingly serve him today. Can we trust Satan to deliver anything, let alone the whole world? The answer is “NO!”. The offer is only the bait for a steel trap. The only thing that Satan can deliver is a one-way trip to hell for those who refuse to follow the narrow path God has laid out for their lives.

Jesus fights fire with fire by quoting Scripture back at the devil. Our greatest weapon in our fight against temptation is the word of God. It is the true armour of God that Paul refers to in Ephesians chapter 6. It will prove to others that God is more important than the world. God occupies the first-place space that we have reserved for him in our lives.

We should never doubt God’s leading us just because we run into temptation. Though God will never tempt us, he will test our faith to see if we will stay on the course that he has set for us to follow. If we are uncertain and need his assurance, all we have to do is ask him to confirm his will to us. He will answer whenever we pray and ask his guidance.

There will be times when we need his strength and guidance when we face temptations. Satan will never give up. He will stop at nothing to tempt us into doubting God’s word and his promises. Just as he did with Eve in the Garden of Eden, he will whisper words of doubt saying the Lord can’t be trusted or what he says is not the whole truth. We know Satan is a liar. When God speaks to us, we can believe whatever he says because he is the sovereign God of the universe.

How should we respond to temptation? Jesus gives us a good answer in his responses to Satan’s temptations. Jesus appealed to the unchanging word of God: “It is written!” If we want to successfully overcome temptation, we must also use God’s word as our offensive weapons against an inferior foe. This means we must take time to read and study his word. We can’t go into battle each day unarmed-and yet many people today do this very thing by ignoring the Bible and the principles it contains. In addition to the word of God, we have other ways to deal with temptation. First, we can face it for what It really is-an attempt to turn us away from God’s will. Second, we can flee from it-specifically, we must stay away from situations that always tempt us or cause us to stumble. We must follow the instructions Paul gave us in Ephesians chapter 6 and put on the armour of God when we do battle with evil. Only then can we follow the lines of the old hymn, “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war…”

Lent provides us with the training we need to fulfill our spiritual mission. Jesus was strengthened by his wilderness experience, and so are we. Jesus left the wilderness, called his disciples and started doing God’s work. We can also leave the wilderness and do God’s work, all the time being confident that we can face temptation by relying on God’s strengths.

Bibliography

  1. Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASV
  2. Exegesis for Matthew 4:1-11. Retrieved from www.sermonwwriter.com
  3. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “All about Angels”. Returned from www.leadingtheway.org.
  4. John E. Werhan, “What We Worship”. Retrieved from www.forthright.net
  5. Billy Graham, “Why Do I Still Have Temptations?” Retrieved from www.arcamax.com
  6. Pastor Ken Klaus, “Don’t Try This At Home”. Retrieved from www.lhm.org.
  7. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 1st Sunday of Lent, Year A”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  8. The Rev. Michael J. Fish, “Victory over Temptation”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
  9. The Rev. Dr. George Mason, “Training Days”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
  10. Abingdon Commentary. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  11. King Duncan, “As the World Turns”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  12. King Duncan, “Beyond Temptation”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  13. Thomas Long, “Facing Up to Temptation”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  14. James McCormick, “Jesus’ Forty Days, and Ours”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  15. King Duncan, “Waiting for the Angels”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  16. James Merritt, “When I Am Tempted”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  17. Dr. J. Howard Olds, “Why Doesn’t God Do Away With Evil?” Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  18. Matthew Henry Concise Commentary. Part of Wordsearch Bible software package
  19. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch Bible software package.

Exodus 24:12-18 Climb the Mountain of God, and You Will Be Changed

Mountain top experiences are some of the happiest experiences in our lives. When we are on the top of the mountain, we can listen to and be refreshed by God. We are pulled out of the ordinary life and changed in faith. Only then can we have a Christian life. Unfortunately, we can’t live on the mountain top forever. We have to face the valleys in our lives, and these valleys are the lowest and most disappointing times in our lives.

Exodus 24:12-18 shows Moses’ special status among the Israelites, including its leadership. As the story progresses he becomes further removed from Israel’s leadership as he draws closer to God’s divine presence. This is emphasized by Moses’ privileged status as a mediator and stressed the importance of the words that will emerge from his encounter with God.

Even before arriving at Mount Sinai, Moses was integral to God’s unfolding plan of redemption. He was a witness to the first Passover, Israel’s flight from Pharaoh’s army and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army. It was on Mount Sinai where Moses must have felt that he experienced God’s greatest intervention-the giving of the Ten Commandments. They were written on stone and they were words to live by. They were words to guide God’s people on their way to the Promised Land. The Ten Commandments prompted the people’s response to the God who saved them, and they can prompt our response to Him. 

God wore down Moses so that when he was summoned to come up to the mountain and camp Moses obeyed and did not complain. A faith that follows without complaining or seeking a way out has less to do with spiritual discipline and more to do with God wearing us down so that like Moses the way out is really the only way in.

This spectacle sets the event apart as a holy occurrence. God’s descent upon the mountain sanctified the mountain’s summit and set it apart as a holy place. The words that proceed from this place will be of a particular, binding significance for God’s people. it represents the importance of God’s Ten Commandments and His instructions regarding the Tabernacle.

The glory of the Lord was first manifested in the form of a covering cloud and then a consuming, purifying fire that represents His holiness. Moses went into that cloud for forty days and forty nights, where he received the plans for the tabernacle and the priesthood. That same glory would soon fill the tabernacle.

Moses had to wait for six days before he met with God. Patience is required in seeking God, and that is opposite to our modern culture of wanting things now. When we seek God, we can’t set the terms of our encounters with God. We have to wait until we are summoned by God.

God asked Moses to climb the mountain not only to collect the tablets of stone on which God wrote the Ten Commandments, but to come up and be there-to exist there. He asked Moses to come up and be fully awake, fully alive and fully present with God in that moment. He asked Moses to live fully awakened to the fact that he is in the very presence of God, the creator and sustainer of all, in the here and now.

God knows that we live our lives at a breathless pace. He knows that we rush from one place to another. God told Moses what He tells us today: “Don’t miss it.” Don’t miss what is going on all around you, just like Peter, James and John did not miss the Transfiguration. Don’t be focused on somewhere else that you miss the very moment that you are in. Like Moses, our tendency would be to climb the mountain, thinking the whole time about what might be on the top, only to reach the top, thinking about what might happen when we get back down. All the time, we miss the mystery of the present moment.

As Christians, we serve a God who is never in a hurry. He is patient and steadfast. If we treat our prayers like a slot machine or a 9-1-1 call, we will be disappointed. God will wait. He waits for us to come to Him or come back to Him.  He does not respond according to the world’s pace. He wants us to follow Him, not the world. Waiting on the Lord brings strength to our character. 

When Moses was on Mount Sinai, he ate nothing and drank nothing. Elijah also fasted for forty days. When Moses & Elijah met Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration-one representing the law, the other representing the prophets-they foreshadowed Jesus’ own experience of fasting for forty days in the Judean wilderness.

When Moses was on the mountain, God spoke to him. Not only did God give Moses the Ten Commandments, He gave Moses instructions about what was to take place next in God’s relationship with His people.

God gave the Israelites His Word so they would know His mind and obey Him. He gave them the design of the tabernacle so He could live with them. He wanted to make Himself accessible and available, but He wanted to live in a sacred place in the temple. He wants to have a relationship with us today, but He wants to live in a sacred place in our hearts and our souls.

God’s glory and God’s nearness are held in tension. The former shakes us, the latter comforts us. Terror is coupled with God’s loving presence. We are encouraged to contemplate God’s sovereignty and greatness in light of His intimate care and nearness.

Moses got to see God’s glory. What does that mean? Some references make it seem that seeing His glory is not far from seeing His face-something that man can’t do and live. Other references are less dramatic. God’s glory is always a wonderful sight, but it appears at different times and for different reasons; therefore, it can have different effects.

Life also has different effects for different people. We don’t know what’s in store for us next. This can be exciting or scary. Nevertheless, we must always seek God’s direction like Moses did. This is a challenge for every Christian. The only way to meet this challenge is to seek God’s will.

When Moses came down from the mountain after his meeting with God, his face shone with the radiance of God’s glory. It was the same glory that Jesus radiated during the Transfiguration. When God’s glory shone in the faces of Moses, Elijah and Jesus, people saw them as they truly were and always have been. When we meet God for the first time, we are changed. Every time we meet God after that, we are changed. When we are changed by God, His glory shines through us.

When Moses stood in God’s presence, there was a very dramatic, outward, unconscious effect. Moses didn’t even know that God’s glory shone on his face. Similarly, through communion with God, our lives and attitudes will be changed in such a way that we will show an outward expression of inward progress. We may not shine like Moses and Jesus did, but the evidence of our time with Him will be no less impressive.

There is something reassuring about God’s promise to live with His people. While a covenant with God is not something to be entered into lightly, God invites and welcomes us into a relationship with Him. The passage from Exodus with its awe-inspiring view of God’s presence and Moses’ willingness to walk into that cloud suggests that a relationship with God will not always be comfortable, but it is exciting.

All of us need to see God’s glory before we see hard times. We need to remember God’s presence and purpose when we face life’s challenges. The Transfiguration links the seasons of Epiphany and Lent. It reminds us that just like God was with Jesus all the time (and especially in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his death), God is with us all of the time.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1354)
  2. Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
  3. Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 2: Exodus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 276-277)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Mike Slay, “The Glory of the Lord.” Retrieved form noreply@ailbe.org
  6. Mike DeVries, “Come and Be.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  7. “Learning to Wait.” Retrieved from info@dailydisciples.org
  8. Charles R. Swindoll, “Doing Time.” Retrieved from www.insightforliving.ca
  9. Br. James Koester, “Conceived for Glory.” Retrieved from www.ssje.org/word
  10. Laurie Neill, “Exodus 24:12-18.” Retrieved from communic@luthersem.edu
  11. Callie Plunket-Brewton, “Commentary on Exodus 24:12-18.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=891
  12. Frank Yamada, “Commentary on Exodus 24:12-18.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=34
  13. Howard Wallace, “Year A: Transfiguration of Jesus.” Retrieved from http://hwallace.unitingchurch.org.au/WebOTcomments/EpiphanyA/TransfigurationA.com
  14. Vikki Burke, “Powerless Prayers.” Retrieved from dbm@dennisburkeministries.org
  15. Paul Schreiber, “His Greatest Role Yet.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org/dailydevotionsprt.asp?date=20200218
  16. Craig Condon, “Mountain Top Changes.” Retrieved from the author’s personal sermon library.

Matthew 17:1-9 Mountain-Top Changes

Have you ever had a moment when your life was changed? Perhaps it was similar to the Transfiguration. That moment changed the lives of Peter, James, John and Jesus, just like moments in our lives can change us. The disciples were changed from fearful, anxious, inactive cowards to brave, confident, active champions of the faith. We are also transformed when Jesus touches us, and we need that touch badly. We are also encouraged to offer this touch to a world that needs it badly.

I don’t know about you, but I would love to have been the proverbial “fly on the wall” at the Transfiguration. Just think of the history that was being made! Three of the most important figures in Christianity-Moses, Elijah and Jesus-together at the same time and in the same location! No wonder Peter wanted to build three shelters! It was a significant meeting at a significant time in a significant location among significant participants.

Moses and Elijah-the great lawgiver and the great prophet-were probably chosen to join Jesus and the disciples at the Transfiguration as representatives of the Old Covenant. Moses was the one through whom the covenant came, and Elijah was its prominent reformer.

So what were Moses, Elijah and Jesus talking about? Matthew doesn’t tell us, but Luke’s version tells us that they were talking about Jesus’ death. Both Moses and Elijah foretold of Christ’s death, which was Christ’s purpose. His sacrificial death and resurrection paid the penalty for our sins and allowed believers to be reunited with God.

Those present at the Transfiguration provide a picture of the coming kingdom of Christ: Moses represents those who died in Christ; Elijah represents those who will be raptured someday (he had been taken to heaven without dying); the three apostles represent redeemed Israel; and Christ is the King. Jesus’s transfiguration was part of the ongoing story of encountering the mystery of God. Jesus and his words had the same authority as those of Moses and Elijah.

Christ did not come to abolish the Law or the prophets. He did not say that the Law and the prophets had no meaning or value. What he did say was that He fulfilled the Law that we could not keep. The Law had to be kept perfectly. If people broke one law, they broke all of them. In addition, people were not perfect, and they aren’t perfect today.

Mountain top experiences are some of the happiest experiences in our lives, and that’s what the disciples experienced at the Transfiguration. When we are on the top of the mountain, we can listen to and be refreshed by God. We are pulled out of the ordinary life and changed in faith. Only then can we have a Christian life. Unfortunately, we can’t live on the mountain top forever. We have to face the valleys in our lives, and these valleys are the lowest and most disappointing times in our lives. It is at those times when we as believers can feel and see Jesus reaching out, taking us by the hand and saying, “Arise, and do not be afraid.”

God interrupted Peter’s brief, awkward speech with His own announcement. Out of the bright cloud-no doubt an appearance of the glory that in the Old Testament signaled the presence of God Almighty-God affirmed Jesus and commanded the disciples to hear him. Although Moses and Elijah stood with him in that moment, all attention was focused on Jesus, God’s only Son. Jesus was superior to both Moses and Elijah. Jesus as God in human form was the greatest in the kingdom. God told the disciples to listen to Jesus so that they could understand his purpose. The disciples recognized in this moment what every believer must acknowledge and what every tongue will someday confess; that Christ alone is Lord, the glory of God the Father.

Some people contradict Jesus, and when they do, they contradict the truth. At the Transfiguration, God made it clear that Jesus speaks the truth with authority, and we should listen to what he has to say. Our love for God is shown in how we listen to God. Our view of Jesus is shown in how we listen to him. Worship is more than Jesus listening to what we have to say about him. It involves listening to what Jesus has to say about us and himself.

The Transfiguration has been seen by some Biblical scholars as a glimpse of the kingdom or a preview of the Kingdom’s power. This glimpse was secured by Christ’s death and resurrection, and was clearly stated when Jesus told the disciples not to say anything about the vision until after His resurrection. The glory of the Transfiguration would then be seen by all of the disciples in the risen Christ.

All of us need to see God’s glory before we see hard times. We need to remember God’s presence and purpose when we face life’s challenges. The Transfiguration links the seasons of Epiphany and Lent. It reminds us that just like God was with Jesus all the time (and especially in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his death), God is with us all of the time.

The Transfiguration proved that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God. The response of the disciples is the same response we have. Just as they fell on their faces, we fall on our faces in worship. When we do, Jesus reaches out, touches us and says, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” The Transfiguration assures us that God has affirmed Jesus and our humanity. Jesus recalls our humanity and affirms our nature with His divinity. The Kingdom of God has entered the world in human form through Jesus, and we are called to witness to that Good News.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1312-1313)
  2. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  3. Augsberger, M.S & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 24: Matthew (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; p. 18)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson publishers; 2006)
  5. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  6. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 1325-1326)
  7. Jill Carattini, “Transformed.” Retrieved from www.sliceofinity.org
  8. “On the Mountain top with Jesus.” Retrieved from www.sermons4kids.com
  9. Exegesis for Matthew 17:1-9. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  10. Brian P. Stoffregen. “Matthew 17:1-9 Transfiguration of Our Lord, Last Sunday after the Epiphany-Year A.” Retrieved from www.crossmarks.com
  11. The Rt. Rev. Robert Johnson, “Transfiguration.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  12. Alan Wright, “From Distraction to Hope.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  13. Larry Patten, “What the Usual Suspects Saw.” Retrieved from www.larrypatten.com
  14. The Rev. Laura Brekke, “Last Epiphany: Don’t Go Chasing Mountain Tops!” Retrieved from comment-reply@wordpress.com
  15. Greg Hollifield, “A Meeting for the Ages.” Published in the Spring 2017 issue of Preaching Magazine (Nashville, TN: Salem Publishing; pp. 57-58)
  16. Dr. Norman Beck, “Lectionary Scripture Notes, Transfiguration Sunday, Cycle A.” Retrieved from www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com
  17. Ben Helmer, “Transformation, Last Sunday after Epiphany (A).” Retrieved from www.episcopaldigitalnetwork.com

1 Kings 11:4-10 One Bad Apple….

1 Kings 11:4-10, we see a good example of the old saying that “absolute power corrupts.” Solomon’s religious earnestness of his younger days was weakened by wealth, luxury, sensualism, and the increasing pagan influence of his foreign wives. Solomon did not completely absolutely In abandon God. He continued to worship God and made his offerings three times a year in the temple.

Solomon was about 60 years old by this time. Among kings in the ancient Near East, taking foreign wives often produced political alliances; for Israel, it led to the worship of other gods-a double disobedience. At first, Solomon’s sin was immorality and sensuality, but eventually it became gross idolatry that divided his heart.

The fact that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines was not unusual. His father, King David, had 14 wives. What made Solomon’s situation bad in God’s eyes was that fact that many of Solomon’s wives came from nations that God specifically told him to avoid. God knew that people from other nations would encourage the Israelites to worship other gods, and Solomon is a good example.

Solomon’s wives convinced him to worship other gods. Similar situations occur when believers marry unbelievers. Sometimes the unbelievers do accept Christ. Most often, believers and unbelievers have different outlooks on life-differences that can lead to divorce. Believers begin compromising their beliefs, which could cause them to backslide in their faith. Obedience keeps our lives on track and leads to blessings from God.

Similar situations happen in the church today. There are several examples of noble pastors who in their later years strayed from earlier patterns of ministry. Some were manipulated by younger pastors who were eager to make a name for themselves. Others made compromises in their teaching so they and their churches would be popular. Others became obsessed with creating an earthly legacy in the form of monuments. Fortunately, there are also examples of faithful servants whose spirit and faith were at their strongest in old age-servants such as Daniel and Moses.

Solomon developed a false sense of pride. He thought he was smarter than God. Solomon forgot that when he became king he asked God for wisdom. Solomon fell to the same temptation Eve did in the Garden of Eden when Satan told her that she would not die if she ate the forbidden fruit. Satan said that Eve would be wiser than God. Solomon thought that his wisdom was all that he needed, but he was wrong.

Solomon’s failure resulted from a gradual loosening of his firm grip on God’s will. He made unhealthy compromises where he abandoned sound and godly ideas and standards. He was left morally and spiritually bankrupt. The same thing happens to us when we turn away from God. We need to stand against pressure to compromise our faith and what we know to be true.

Even God’s blessing and wisdom cannot compensate for a divided heart. Solomon spoke with the God of Israel in person twice and was singled out for special blessing. Yet he left a son who was more foolish than he was, and Solomon died knowing that the great kingdom God had given him from his father would soon be torn asunder.

Solomon made a mess of parenting. What hope do we have? The greatest principle of child-rearing is this-as a man and a woman grow closer and closer in their personal relationship to God they will grow closer to each other. A marriage rooted in the love of God is the best antibiotic for infected kids who possess the curse of the original sin.

God often uses parenting to demonstrate how needy we are, how helpless we are when we try to live by rules rather than by a relationship with God. A marriage where both father and mother are committed to living in relationship with Jesus will become a sanctuary if and when your children reject that same relationship with Jesus.

The Lord punished Solomon by raising up an adversary named Hadad to plague Solomon. God’s purpose is not to punish. He wants the adversary to turn Solomon’s heart back to Him. When we suffer adversity, we should examine ourselves to see if there are sins in our lives. That is not always true, but it is something to which we must be sensitive.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 457)
  2. Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
  3. Dilday, R. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 9: 1,2 Kings (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 19878, pp. 120-125)
  4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New American Standard Version. (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  5. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  6. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 449-450)
  7. Dr. Chuck F. Betters, “The Most Important Child-Rearing Principle.” Retrieved from Christinity.com@crosswalkmail.com

Matthew 5:13-20 Salt and Light

“What are you doing, Dad?” asked Elijah

“Mom and I decided we’d like a window here in this wall, so I’m measuring and marking where I need to cut the hole for it.” Dad carefully drew lines where he planned to cut.

“Why do you want a window there?” asked Elijah as he helped Dad with the tape measure. “You want to see the garage next door while you eat?

“The view may not be so great, but just wait and see what a difference a window makes,” Dad said as he put the tape measure back into his toolbox.

The next day Dad carefully cut a hole in the wall and fit a new window into place.

“Wow!” Elijah said as he came into the room. “I think I like having a window there after all. The view is better than I thought it would be. We can see sky, trees, birds, some of the lawn—and as expected, we also have a really good view of the side of the Wilson’s garage.” He smiled. “But you know the best thing of all about this new window?”

“What’s that?” asked Dad.

“It’s so much brighter in here!” Elijah said. “When it’s sunny outside, I could probably do my homework without turning a light on.”

“Quite different, isn’t it?” Dad stood back and admired the window. “Did you know that we should be like this window?”

“How do we do that?” asked Elijah.

“Well, the window lets light into our house, and we can bring Jesus’ light into the lives of others,” Dad explained.

“I can see the light that comes through the window,” said Elijah, “But you can’t really see the light Jesus gives, can you?”

“In a way, you can,” said Dad. “Like when you became friends with Sam and invited him to come to church with you. Or when you volunteered to walk Mr. Freeman’s dog when he was sick instead of playing with your friends after school.”

“You mean I was shining Jesus’ light when I did those things?” Elijah asked.

Dad nodded. “When you tell people about Jesus and follow His example by helping others, that’s a bright light showing His love.”

In Matthew 5:13-20, Jesus spells out to the disciples and to us what the distinguishing marks of a Christian will be in the world. Jesus’ use of the symbol of salt emphasizes the call and influence of purity Christians bring to society. Just like salt keeps food from spoiling, Christians are preserving elements in society. They make the earth more authentic. Because of how they live and reach out to others, they will be “salt of the earth” and “light of the world.”

When Jesus tells the disciples that they are the salt of the earth, He is also speaking to us. He calls us to be those whose hearts are so devoted to God and others that the world is a more flavourful and colourful place for everyone we meet. If we allow ourselves to be swept along without discerning truth, we become salt that has lost its taste. If we are true followers of Jesus, we have our marching orders. We have work to do. Our faith is the ransom for our chaotic, violent and enslaving times. We must rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit for discernment of truth and for inspiration to action.

Salt has a number of characteristics that illustrate the Christian’s role in the world. It hinders the spread of corruption; it creates thirst; and it enhances flavour. Christians who live out the virtues described in the Beatitudes achieve all three of these purposes. Salt also makes food pleasant and palatable. Christians are to keep the world from entering moral corruption. Their prayers bring down God’s blessings, and by their influence and example they save the world from universal vice and vibe.

A man was flying his single-engine plane toward a small, rural airport. When he arrived at the close of the day, the sun had already dropped behind the mountain. By the time he had maneuvered into position to land, he couldn’t see the landing strip. There was no one on duty at the airport, and there were no lights on the plane.

The pilot circled the runway for another attempt to land, but the darkness had become even more impenetrable. For two hours the pilot flew around, knowing full well that he faced certain death when the fuel tank emptied.

Then, as panic began to seize him, a wonderful thing happened. Someone who lived near the airport heard the drone of a small plane engine and realized there was a problem. That kind person drove to the airport and drove his car back and forth on the runway to indicate the direction of the airstrip. He then drove to the far end of the runway, positioned his car’s headlights, and turned them on high beam to shine down the stretch of the runway.

The pilot landed safely.

All Christians are lights of the world because they, by their instructions and examples, show the world what God requires, what man’s true condition is, and what is the way of duty, peace and happiness—the way that leads to heaven. We are to let it be seen that we are real Christians.

Christians must allow God’s light to be on full display in their lives. Their responsibility is twofold: to guard against anything that can separate them from their only source of light and to let their light shine so that others will see the reality of Christ in them and glorify their heavenly Father. Christians do not call attention to themselves. They point the way to God. They get their light from the Light of the World.

Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament law. He came to make its meaning full and complete. He cut through human interpretations and revealed the broad principles from which He interpreted the meaning of Old Testament law.  He focused on the righteousness of the Law.

In Hebrew, the jot looks like an apostrophe. As the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet it is the easiest letter to omit. The tittle is a seemingly insignificant mark, yet it is critical in Hebrew for distinguishing one letter from another. Every biblical teaching and prophecy-even the smallest and seemingly most insignificant-must be fulfilled. Whoever keeps and teaches God’s Word will be the greatest in the kingdom. Kingdom citizens are to uphold every part of God’s Law both in their lives and their teaching. The world desperately needs salty Christians-people who hold fast to God and His Word and live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

A few years ago, someone wrote to Billy Graham. She and her husband traveled to Europe the previous summer and visited some of the vast cathedrals. They were shocked to see that only a handful of people attended services in these cathedrals. She wondered if Christianity was dying in Europe and if the same thing could happen in North America.

Billy Graham replied, “Christians must share some of the blame for many of the trends we see around us. How often do you pray for your pastor, the teachers in your schools, or those in public office? How often have we failed to reach our young people with the message of the Gospel? How often have we failed to teach them what it means to follow Jesus? Ask Christ to make you a light for the Gospel right where you are. Pray especially for the young people in your community, that they may come to know Christ and follow Him in their daily lives.”

If we as Christians have lost our taste, or our light is dim, we need to ask ourselves why. What or who do we fear? Who or what has silenced us? When we signed on for this task, did we forget that what we might have to say or do could be met with resistance?

We can’t be a light unless we have received it or experienced it. If our world is shrouded in darkness, it’s hard for us to “let our light shine” as Jesus would have us do. Even if the light we have been given to shine seems so small, it goes a long way.

How can you share the light of Jesus with others? You can shine His light in a dark and hurting world by telling others about Him and showing them His love. By sharing what He’s done for you and treating others with kindness and helping them, you can brighten others’ lives and show them that you know Him—and help them want to know Him too.

Over 100 years ago, Edward Kimball, a layman, gathered the nerve to share his Christian faith with Dwight L. Moody, a shoe salesman, who accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour. Dwight Moody became one of the greatest evangelists of his day. The world renowned Moody Bible Institute in Chicago was founded by Dwight Moody.

Dwight Moody went to England and profoundly changed the ministry of F.B. Meyer who, with his renewed evangelistic fervor, influenced J. Wilbur Chapman. In turn, Chapman helped in the ministry of converted baseball player Billy Sunday, who had a profound impact on evangelist Mordecai Ham. When Mordecai Ham held a revival in Charlotte, North Carolina, he led Billy Graham to Christ. The man who started it all was a layman who took seriously Christ’s instructions to be a witness in our world.

When we sin, it hurts our witness. It defiles our conscience. If we are going to have a witness about our life, we need a clean heart. This does not mean that everything we do, say or think will be perfect. We need to keep close accounts with God regarding sin in our personal life.

What “good works” do people see you doing that reflect well on God? How does your faith cause you to behave differently from anyone else? Our words, actions and conversations matter. Our lives affect the lives of those around us. In response to what Christ has done for us, we are to live like Christ as we point others to His love. We will face hardship and ridicule, but the world needs what we have to offer. We need the power of the Holy Spirit. He allows us to share the salt of God’s love in a bland, dying world. Our impact might not always be immediately obvious. It’s the little things that make a difference, such as the patience we show a child or the time we take to listen to a friend who has a problem.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1289)
  2. Diana M. Martin, “Bright Light.” Retrieved from info@keysforkids.org
  3. Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
  4. Augsberger, M.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol.24: Matthew Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; p. 18)
  5. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  6. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  7. Dr. Jeff Schreve, “More Salt!” Retrieved from www.fromhisheart.org
  8. Jessica Bordelau, “Salted.: Retrieved from lh_min@lhm.org
  9. Dr. Steven Davey, “Light Up the Runway.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  10. Dr. Steven Davey, “Revival Starts with You.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  11. “Is Your Life Making a Difference?” Retrieved from Oneplace@crosswalkmail.com
  12. Richard Innes, “Let Your Light Shine.” Retrieved from www.actsweb.org
  13. The Rev. Billy Graham, “Is Christianity Dying in Europe?” Retrieved from www.arcamax.com
  14. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 5th Sunday (A), February 9, 2020.” Retrieved from firstimpressions@lists.opsouth.org
  15. Karoline Lewis, “Just Be It.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=4807
  16. The Rev. Janet Hunt: “You are the Light of the World…” Retrieved from http://dancingwiththeword.com/you-are-the-light-of-the-world
  17. Carol & Dennis Keller, “Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time February 9, 2020.” Retrieved from volume2@lists.opsouth.org
  18. Paul Schreiber, “Indispensable.” Retrieved form lh_min@lhm.org

1 Kings 2:1-4,10-12 Like Father, Like Son

Many of you have been in a situation where you’ve heard the last words of a friend or a loved one who was dying. A dying person’s final words are significant. These words may include final instructions or a final goodbye. Leaders typically give advice to their successors, and the words in 1 Kings 2:1-4,10-12 are no exception. King David’s death marked the end of a momentous 40-year reign in Israel’s history, but the line of David would continue on Israel’s throne, eventually culminating in the birth of the Messiah.

The problems that followed King David’s house following the taking of Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah followed him to his deathbed. David’s son Adonijah was next in line to the throne, but some of David’s generals and supporters were opposed to Adonijah’s succession. They supported Solomon. Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan persuaded David to declare Solomon king.

David’s final words to Solomon were an interesting mix. On the one hand, David charged Solomon to remain faithful to the Lord and the covenant between the Lord and David’s house, and on the other hand David told Solomon to take revenge on those who were not loyal to David. Even on his deathbed, David was a complex combination of faithful servant and ruthless avenger. Solomon proved to be a good example of the old saying, “like father, like son.”

David’s final instructions included punishing his enemies, rewarding the loyalty of someone who helped him years ago, and keeping God’s law. David’s charge consisted of instructions on being God’s man and securing the kingdom. The order is important; securing the kingdom without being a man of God would render the order useless. Christian men should always be men and women of “the Book”-ones who do not just read the Word but live it.

David chose his last words well. He wanted to pass on the most important advice he could. He wanted Solomon to be a godly king. He wanted Solomon to avoid the mistakes he made. Everyone wants a better life for their children than they had. The greatest inheritance we can give to our children is to live a godly life in front of them-something that King David failed to do at times. David’s life is a good example of the fact that it’s never too late to change and make our lives and the lives of those around us better. Unfortunately, many of us stay in negative patterns or behaviour because we think it’s too late for us to change.

David’s instructions to live a godly life are wise and crucial instructions for us to follow today. A father’s influence over his son’s life is invaluable. He shapes the life of this young man as he teaches the young man how to be a godly man. Fathers must pour wisdom into their sons. That wisdom can only be gained by walking with God.

David declared that Solomon’s obedience to the laws of Moses was a necessary condition for the fulfillment of the divine promise. The rest of the Book of 1 Kings states that none of David’s descendants remained faithful to God’s law-not even Solomon. Nevertheless, Solomon’s succession enjoyed God’s approval. Solomon experienced challenged authority, prosperity and renown.

Solomon failed to keep God’s law. He started out well, but as he got older he strayed from God’s law. He had 700 wives and 300 mistresses, but God’s law stated that marriage was to be between one man and one woman. Adultery was prohibited. The latter part of Solomon’s reign is a good example of the old saying that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” His wives caused him to have a divided heart. Solomon allowed the Israelites to worship other gods. God punished Solomon by causing division between his son Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Jeroboam’s reign also depended on his obedience to God, as mentioned in 1 Kings 11:38.

What lies behind and below the words about David’s death and Solomon’s love of God are cruel actions on behalf of both men. These actions can’t be glossed over and forgotten if we are to take the full meaning of their lives into account.

Solomon’s story has two parts-the good and the bad, the noble and the shameful. The good thing about the Bible is that it refuses to distort reality in such an unhelpful way. Solomon is a human being, and like all human beings there are two sides to him. He was blessed with wisdom and cursed with foolishness. He was devoted to God and attracted to idols. He was committed to his intellect and shackled to his appetites. We can’t dismiss Solomon. His story is familiar, because it is too much like our own.

In spite of everything that has happened in Solomon’s life, we know that God continues to work with His people. In spite of our weaknesses and mistakes, the call for loyalty to God and the need for genuine divine wisdom the demand to obey God’s laws and follow His ways never ceases. We see the full nature of God’s grace even as we are aware of our human weaknesses. We understand that faithfulness and loyalty to God are the very key to life itself.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 443)
  2. Dilday, R. & Ogilvie, L.J,: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 9: 1,2, Kings (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 44-46)
  3. MacArthur, J.F. Hr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  4. “Keep the Change.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  5. Rev. David Mainse, “Successor.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  6. “Never Too Late.” Retrieved form Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com

Luke 2:22-40 Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Have you ever heard of the old saying, “Good things come to those who wait”? If so, the story of Simeon, Anna and the baby Jesus in the temple in Luke 2:22-40 is a good example. The coming of Christ involved all manner of waiting on God. A young maiden, a dying man and an old widow all model hearts yielded to God.

The tale of Simeon and Anna is a tale of grace. Anna’s name means “grace”, an early reminder by Luke that his gospel is a story of God’s free gift of self to us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Simeon and Anna are recognized and graced by God. That is why the aged Simeon, over a long period of waiting and from the numerous children brought to the temple, recognized God’s salvation in Christ.

Simeon and Anna waited for years for the coming of the Messiah. In Simeon’s case, the centre of his joy was the privilege of being God’s servant, and in return, God let him see the salvation of the world as it dawned. Simeon saw the baby Jesus as the fulfillment of all the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people throughout the years. In the Old Testament, God promised Moses that a prophet would come who would be unlike any other prophet. God promised David a son who would reign forever. God told Isaiah that a son would be born of a virgin and he would be called Emmanuel-God with us. The prophet Micah predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

Anna was an eighty-four year-old widow who stayed close to the temple and served God through fasting and praying. In return, God blessed her by allowing her to see the Saviour of the world as a tiny, newborn baby. God fulfilled the promise he made to Simeon that he would not die before he saw the Messiah. When God fulfilled that promise, Simeon uttered the words that are part of the funeral liturgy in the Anglican Church-the Song of Simeon, also known as the Nunc Dimittis- “O Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which hath been since the world began”.

Simeon and Anna are symbolic and representative figures. The world has never been without people like them, people with a forward look in whom there burned a great hope, people on tiptoe, the flame of freedom in their souls, the light of knowledge in their eyes, living in hope and expectation that a great day was coming when wrong would be righted, when justice would be done, when God would reveal his arm and bring salvation to mankind. One night over two thousand years ago, the Word became flesh in a baby born in Bethlehem. One day, it will become flesh again when Christ returns to set up his kingdom here on earth.

Simeon also told Mary of the suffering and death Jesus would have to endure for all of his people. Most people thought of the redemption of Jerusalem and God’s people in terms of freedom from Roman rule, but some had a vision of an even greater redemption-a vision of spiritual renewal. God’s salvation is for all of us, but not all of us will accept it, just like some people did not accept Christ and his teachings and salvation. Those who reject Christ are already condemned.

God’s salvation doesn’t mean that we will never suffer troubles, illness, rejection or death. It happened to Jesus. It happened to Mary. It will happen to us, but if we endure hardships with faith, we will have a great future. It takes faith to know a blessing from God. It is the joy of celebrating God’s goodness in the midst of our chaotic, suffering world.

As life passes us by, how do we grow old in such a way to end well and finish awaiting Christ’s message, “Well done, good and faithful servant?” Since many of us will end our earthly pilgrimage alone with our spouse preceding us, how will we finish when we will be alone and old for some of those years? We are never too old, weak or sick to make a difference. Our attitude and behaviour will make a difference. Like Anna, God will guide us to share the story of Jesus with everyone we meet.

We have also been told of the coming Christ. Like Simeon and Anna, we are heirs of a promise. We are prompted by the same Spirit. We long to see the same face. To do so successfully, we must wait forwardly, patiently and vigilantly. When we look at Jesus’ face, we will know that it is time for us to repent and come home to our heavenly Father, just like Simeon knew it was time for him to go to his heavenly home when he saw the face of the baby Jesus.

We have just come through the season of Advent and Christmas, and during those seasons we, like Simeon and Anna, had to wait and prepare for the coming of the Messiah. God works in a time zone where a day is as a thousand years. For those who have walked the long road of faith, who have held the long cord of life in their hands and felt all of its frays and burrs, but also found it very sturdy, for those who have waited on the Lord while holding on for their lives, they have received the reward of joy

When our dreams don’t come true in a day, we, like Simeon and Anna, need to keep in mind that God is still at work. He is still wrapping the package. He is still preparing the gift to fit our needs. We need to pray, not just for the gift, but also for patience to wait for God’s unveiling. As we practice faith, hope, attentiveness, submission and patience, we see the Christ child.

Like Simeon, our eyes have seen God’s salvation. When we receive the bread and wine during Holy Communion, we are holding Christ’s very body and blood, which was nailed to the cross and poured out for our forgiveness. We have seen it with our own eyes and felt it with our own hands and on our tongues. Having been saved, we glorify God and depart in peace to share Christ’s salvation throughout the world.

Bibliography

  1. Stanley, Charles F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASB (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers: 2009)
  2. “Jesus: The Consolation of Israel”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  3. Pastor Bob Coy, “Anna”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  4. Exegesis for Luke 2:22-40. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  5. Pastor John Barnett, “Simeon and Anna: Single-Hearted Devotion”. Retrieved from www.dtbm.org
  6. Phil Ware, “Heartlight Daily Verse”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  7. Max Lucado, “Waiting Forwardly”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  8. Jill Carattini, “Remember Me”. Retrieved from www.rzim.org/Slice
  9. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions: Feast of the Holy Family”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org.
  10. David Timms, “Sacred Waiting”. Retrieved from www.ChristianityToday.com/global/printer.html?/moi/2011/006.december/22.22.html
  11. Jamieson-Fawcett-Brown Bible Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker Bible software package.
  12. Matthew Henry Concise Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker Bible software package.
  13. Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker Bible software package.
  14. ESV Study Bible. Part of Lessonmaker Bible software package.
  15. MacArthur, John: MacArthur Study Bible, NASB (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006;2008)
  16. Larson, Bruce; Ogilvie, Lloyd J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 26: Luke(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1983)
  17. The Rev. Dr. Ozzie E. Smith. Jr. “A Sight for Certain Eyes”. Retrieved from www.day1.org/1125-sight_for_certain_eyes.print
  18. The Rev. Beth Quick, Sermon 12-29-02. Retrieved from www.bethquick.com/sermon12-29-02.htm
  19. The Rev. Dr. William K. Quick, “Seeing and Believing”. Retrieved from www.day1.org/702-seeing_and_believing.print.

Psalm 27:1,5-13 The Source of Comfort That is Always with Us

“Why are Dad’s golf clubs by the door?” Cooper asked one afternoon.

“Mom’s selling them,” answered his sister, Ashlynn.

“Selling them?” Cooper’s voice rose. “But Dad will want them when he comes back!”

“Oh, give it up, Cooper,” said Ashlynn. “Dad’s not coming back.”

“He is too!” said Cooper.

“Well, Mom’s selling his clubs,” said Ashlynn. “She needs the money.”

Cooper rushed to his room and slammed the door. His dad seemed farther away than ever.

The next day Cooper went to his friend Aaron’s house to play. “Guess what?” asked Aaron when he met Cooper at the door. “My dad gave me his old toy train! Come and see it.”

“Cool!” said Cooper.

Aaron’s dad helped the boys put the train together. Cooper enjoyed having him work with them but watching Aaron with his dad made Cooper jealous. Suddenly, he picked up a piece of the track and threw it. Then he banged his fists on the carpet. Aaron’s dad gently put his hand on Cooper’s shoulder. “Would you like to talk about it?” he asked.

“No!” yelled Cooper. Then he changed his mind. “Mom’s selling Dad’s golf clubs,” he said with a sob.

“I’m so sorry,” said Aaron’s dad. “When I was your age, my dad left too. I remember I didn’t want his things sold or given away. I thought he’d come back home.”

“Dad will come home,” said Cooper softly. He wished he could really believe that.

“I hope so,” said Aaron’s dad. “I can relate to the emptiness you feel.” He handed Cooper a tissue. “Do you know the heavenly Father, Cooper?” Do you know Jesus? If you trust Him, you become a child of God. Not having your earthly father with you leaves an empty spot in your life, but when you’re part of God’s family, your heavenly Father is always with you. You can talk to Him anytime, anywhere.” He squeezed Cooper’s shoulder. “Shall we talk to Him right now and tell Him how you feel?”

Cooper wiped his eyes and nodded.

If you could ask God for one thing, what would it be?

In the passage we just heard from Psalm 27, David gives us a good suggestion. He longed to live in the house of God. He didn’t want to step away from God. Similarly, we as Christians should long to live in God’s house, because when we get there we will never want to leave.

Psalm 27 starts with a confession of faith. Biblical faith is relational at its core. Faith enables us to have a relationship with God. When we have a faith-based relationship with God, He will always be there for us. That does not mean that He will keep us out of trouble. He will protect us from the results of trouble. God’s presence and protection will allow us to triumph over our enemies. In return, we should offer praise and thanks to God.

In her bestselling book “The Hiding Place,” Corrie ten Boom tells of the tense times in the Netherlands during the Nazi invasion. One night when there was bombing and shelling happening all around the house where she and her sister lived, Corrie couldn’t sleep. Hearing her sister in the kitchen, she decided to go down and join her.

Long into the night after all the bombing ceased and all was silent, Corrie returned to her bed only to find that her pillow-right where her head laid-had been pierced with a sizeable piece of sharp metal shrapnel from an exploding bomb! Going downstairs to the kitchen saved her life!

She rushed to tell her sister saying, “Betsie, if I hadn’t heard you in the kitchen…” To this her saintly sister interrupted, “Don’t say it, Corrie. There are no ifs in God’s world. The centre of His will is our safety.”

Later, when she was going through terrible trying times in a Nazi prison, Corrie ten Boom was to learn over and over this marvelous truth: “God’s will is our hiding place.”

Some people say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Psalm 27 tells us that, like David, we believe first and our believing leads us to the seeing of what we believe. That is the essence of faith-believing God for something we can’t see.

Psalm 27 overflows with confidence. All of us need confidence, especially as we seek to grow in faith. Religious confidence (also known as faith) is the frame of mind that God wants us to have so He can give us all the things we need for our faith to thrive and grow. How do we get this confidence? The answer is a three-point position-despite the present hardships in our lives, things are not as they seem so you can live boldly with God. Confidence does not depend on our strength or ability to endure. It depends on our faith in God.

David dealt with his fear and trouble by turning to his confidence and salvation-God. When believers encounter trouble and put worshipping God as the centre of their lives, He lifts their heads and hearts. Seeing the greatness of Almighty God changes one’s perspective on trouble.

When David prayed in his time of trouble, he realized how dependent he was on God’s provision. In humble submission, he sought the Lord’s presence, counsel and fellowship, and then resolved to wait for and do whatever God told him to do.

The terminal illness of the western world today is a loss of hope. Many people have given up on the future and are living meaningless lives that are full of despair. There is a sense of doom even though there are pockets of Christianity. We, like David, need a renewal of faith so that we may see God’s goodness in our lives.

Fear is a difficult aspect of human life. There are some things that are frightening, and it’s natural for us to respond to them in fear. It’s one thing for us to feel fear, but it’s another thing for us to live in fear. Sometimes we turn fear into something that occupies our entire lives. It can bring out the worst in us. Psalm 27 addresses the problem of fear and how to find ways of feeling it without letting it dominate our lives. In the words of former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

If we want to know how God meets our needs, all we have to do is look at the Lord’s Prayer. It is a step-by-step description of how He meets our needs when we live in Him. Everything that occurs in a healthy house is described in the Lord’s Prayer-protection, instruction, forgiveness and provision.

We don’t need to be afraid of the darkness of the world when God gives us His light. We can have hope. We can expect to receive God’s help and salvation right now-even as we fight the forces of evil. God will never leave us or forsake us. He is a loving father. People who do not have a good relationship with their earthly fathers may find this difficult to believe and accept. Psalm 27 assures us that all voids in our lives will be filled. The people will not be judged or condemned for their past lives or their parental upbringing. When we have a relationship with God, He will add joy and hope to whatever we’re going through.

God will be with us when we face life’s challenges. Perhaps life or work you knew suddenly ended. Perhaps you lost a spouse because of death, or your marriage ended, or you lost your job and income. You might feel as if you are in mid-air and have no idea where you’re are going to land or if you’re going to crash. It can be very scary, even terrifying.

Sometimes life’s challenges cause us to panic. When that happens, we as Christians need to follow these guidelines:

  1. Back off from the situation and do nothing until you have taken the situation to God in prayer. As the old saying goes, “haste makes waste.”
  2. Get competent advice. Panic produces paralysis, so we need to listen to other people.
  3. Put your options and their consequences down on paper.

If you tear open a cocoon to set a butterfly free, the creature’s wings will be severely underdeveloped. That’s because the act of struggling to leave the cocoon strengthens the butterfly’s wings, preparing them for flight.

We also have times of transition, change and challenges, but our remedy is not unlike that of the butterfly. If we try escaping God’s cocoon before He’s done changing us, we risk undermining and delaying what He’s trying to do. When we’re experiencing time in God’s cocoon, we need to relax. In the stillness we will hear God. While we wait, our character will be formed. If we wait upon God and allow Him to release us from the cocoon, we will be strong and prepared to fly in ways we never could have if we had left God’s cocoon too soon.

What is the source of our confidence? What inner wellspring do we drink from when times are tough or criticism falls on us like a winter blizzard? Is there an empty spot in your life because someone or something is missing? Do you know the heavenly Father? When you trust in Jesus you become a child of God. You can tell Him how you feel, and He will always be with you. When He is with us, we have nothing to fear. He is our saving light. When we face life’s struggles and challenges, we can trust God through Christ, who shines on us with love and brings us from darkness to light and from death to life.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 723-724)
  2. Margaret Primrose, “Cooper’s Problem.” Retrieved from info@keysforkids.org
  3. Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 13: Psalms 1-72 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1986; pp. 220-226)
  4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  5. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2020; pp. 720-721)
  6. Dick Mills, “The Lord Will Take Care of Us.” Retrieved from paul@ncmcanada.com
  7. “Hope Forever.” Retrieved form Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  8. Robert G. McCreight, “Confidence to Spare.” Retrieved from www.SermonSuite.com
  9. Richard Inness, “Between the Trapezes.” Retrieved from www.actsweb.org
  10. Pastor Dick Woodward, “What is Faith?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  11. Dr. Harold Sala, “Panic-Driven Decisions.” Retrieved form info@guidelines.org
  12. Steve Arterburn, “Time in the Cocoon.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crossswalkmail.com
  13. Richard Inness, “The Hiding Place.” Retrieved from www.actsweb.org
  14. The Rev. Alan Brehm, “What Do We Have to Fear?” Retrieved from http://thewakingdreamer.blogspot.com/2014/01/what-do-we-have-to-fear.html
  15. Paul O. Myhre, “Commentary on Psalm 27.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1544

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 United in Faith, United in Christ

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sound familiar?

In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, Paul addresses a problem that still exists today. That problem is the lack of unity in the Christian church. The Corinthian Christians were divided into factions based on who had baptized them instead of being united in the faith and the Gospel. They identified with different leaders because in that culture, a person’s name was more than a label. A person’s character and power were tied up in his name.

Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit. His letter reawakened and strengthened the Corinthians’ faith in Christ. Paul confronted the Corinthians in love as a Christian brother. He spoke in one letter to all the factions and they were able to listen to what he said. He followed the first step that Jesus laid out for resolving conflict in Matthew 18:15-20. Paul addressed the individual factions one on one as a group. If necessary, he would have had to follow the second step of involving two or three outsiders and (if necessary) the third step of dealing with the entire church in Corinth as a group.

Sometimes Christians are divided over issues that are small or insignificant. In order to maintain unity, we must not “sweat the small stuff”. For example, I can p remember a time not so long ago when the churches in the area where I live did not work together. It was also a time when some churchgoers did not want to associate with people who attended other churches. My father told me of one example a few years before he died. One day he went into the local post office to pick up the mail. One lady came in and started talking to him. At one point she asked him which church he went to. When she found out that it was not one of the two churches in the community, she said, “Well! That’s what I was afraid of!” She turned around and walked right out of the post office!

The church in Corinth is a metaphor for many churches today. Many of them have the potential for division. This potential is real and needs to be dealt with. The desire for unity is not new. In John 17:11 and 22, Jesus prayed for the unity of his followers before his crucifixion. The lack of unity in any church can be traced to weak commitment to a doctrine or a commitment to disunity of doctrine. Unity needs to be based on loyalty to Christ instead of loyalty to a particular preacher or a particular doctrine. Loyalty to leaders leads to disputes. Pastors are called to preach the Gospel and bring people to unity in Christ, not to build a faction or a cult around themselves. That’s why Paul did not baptize many people. He was true to a purpose to preach the Gospel’s message-the freedom that faith in Christ offers. The light of God must be shared, not stored. The world is called to Christ and not to any of his servants.

The Christian church needs to be united in preaching the Good News-plain and simple. Its very message is the dynamic of God. For example, Billy Graham kept his sermons simple and to the point. He always pointed people to the cross as the way of salvation.

There are some signs that Christians are becoming united. They are able to agree on what is important and lay aside the non-negotiable parts of the faith. They are becoming united when it comes to issues such as salvation by faith alone and the deity of Christ. They have learned to love those who disagree with them. Love will overcome all divisions, especially when it is combined with prayer. Division makes the church’s mission harder to do.

One sign of our unity is baptism. Baptism is an outward sign of the inward acceptance of Christ. When we accept him, we desire to be like him. We renew our minds so that we can apply what we have learned so we can be more like him. In other words, we need to think alike. Rival groups must learn to come to an agreement. All of this can only happen when we truly submit to Christ. When we take our eyes off of Jesus, the Body of Christ is broken. We need to focus on the lost and the hurting. We must work together or die.

Speaking of working together, it is nice to see all of the local churches working together to bring people together. They come together to organize ecumenical events. All of the churches work together in spite of the different denominations with their different interpretations of Christianity and their different rituals. God wants us to be united, including in our way of thinking. This was the challenge Paul issued to the church in Corinth as well.

It’s no coincidence that I’m delivering this homily at the end of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In his 2014 message about the Week of Prayer, the former Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, remarked that “the peace and unity we share in Christ is God’s gift to us and to the world…. Paul’s rhetorical question (in 1 Corinthians 1:13) calls us to confess the scandal of disunity and it’s marring effect on the witness of the church…”

We have seen congregations deal with serious issues on which there were differing opinions and come through as stronger, more loving fellowship. We have also seen congregations where the fellowship has been torn apart over matters so insignificant that even years later members could not remember which side they were on in the argument. In the first case, the people were able to preserve a unity of spirit in the midst of their differences. This spirit is the spirit that Christ has given the church. In return, the church must take seriously any serious threat to its unity. 

Unity is always held in the midst of diversity. It brings together many ideas, viewpoints and personalities around a common, unifying theme or concern such as relieving poverty. There is room for differences of opinion when we are seeking unity provided that the differences are given over to the achievement of the common goal.

Paul urged the Christians in Corinth to stop their petty feuding and embrace the unity in Christ that brought them together. They benefitted from different teachers and came from different backgrounds and generations and social classes. They had unique histories and lives, but they had one thing in common. They were led to the same place of the wood of the cross and the water of baptism.

We are like the Christians in Corinth.  We benefit from different ministers. We come from different backgrounds, generations and social classes. We have different histories and lives, but we have one thing in common. We are also led to the same place of the wood of the cross and the water of baptism.

There are three ways in which we can express our unity:

  1. Be in agreement about doctrine and proclaim the same Jesus Christ.
  2. There can be no divisions among members.
  3. Be united in mind, understanding, judgment, purpose and will.

In other words, we have to set aside our sinful nature if we want to be united in Christ. We have to go back to the beginning of our Christian mission and purpose before we can move forward. We have to be united in our hearts, kind to one another, gracious to one another and forgiving of one another. We have to work through conflicts and avoid slander and gossip. By being united in Christ, Christianity is much stronger. In the words of the song that was made famous by the group “Brotherhood of Man” in the 1970s:

For united we stand

Divided we fall

And if our backs should ever be against the wall

We’ll be together

 Together you and I

Bibliography

  1. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 10 Bible Software package.
  2. Chafin, K.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series: 1,2 Corinthians (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985)
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2009)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, NASV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2006)
  5. Greg Laurie, “God’s Dynamite”. Retrieved from www.harvest.org
  6. Dr. Jack Graham, “How You Can Help Shake the World for Christ”. Retrieved from www.powerpoint.org
  7. Pastor Rick Warren, “Stop Trying to Win Arguments”. Retrieved from www.purposedriven.com
  8. Dr. Charles Stanley, “Why is Christian Unity So Important?” Retrieved from www.Jesus.org
  9. David McGee, “Changes”. Retrieved from www.crossthebridge.com
  10. Exegesis for 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  11. Hubert Buck, “The Importance of Unity”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  12. King Duncan, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  13. Leonard Sweet, “Carbon Pure and Perfect”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  14. The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, “Don de Dieu”. Retrieved from www.national.anglican.ca
  15. Craig Condon, “Conflict Resolution God’s Way”
  16. Dr. James Emery White, “Missing Our Moment”. Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com

Isaiah 9:1-4 The Light of Christ

Have you ever stumbled around in the dark-either at night or during a power outage? It’s not a very pleasant experience, is it?

Darkness is associated with a number of unpleasant things. When we are in the dark, we tend to move slowly or wander aimlessly. We tend to be scared in the dark, mainly because we can’t see the dangers that would be apparent if it were light. There is something about darkness that makes us scared.

We can also wander around in spiritual darkness. That darkness is caused by our lack of knowledge in or faith in Jesus. When we receive the Light of Christ, we don’t have to be afraid of darkness or evil. Christ will be with us. When we are faithful, we will be rewarded.

The prophet Isaiah wrote the words from Isaiah 9 verses 1-4 during a time of spiritual darkness. Israel was at war with Assyria and was on the verge of being conquered because of their disobedience to God. Throw in a crop failure, no welfare system, an economy that relied solely on agriculture, no technology to preserve food and no system to distribute the food and the result is a very bleak situation.

For Isaiah, the answer to this crisis was God’s ability to intervene at a moment in history and accomplish his purpose for his people. Isaiah emphasized peace and the end of war-a plan that was appealing to a nation that had been eroded by warfare and strife. Isaiah’s vision for the people was to live in a world where God’s light would penetrate the darkness of sin.

Isaiah’s vision happened because of his faithfulness. God showed him the revelation of the future and the Messiah who was to be born. The Messiah would conquer death and would be the great light of hope that would shine on all of humanity. He will make His people more abundant, increase their joy and break the rods of their oppressors.

In the Bible, darkness points to both known ignorance and willful blindness. People are either lacking knowledge about God or they reject him or both. The seasons of Christmas and Epiphany point to the glory of God as revealed in Jesus’ birth in that humble Bethlehem manger. His birth was the dividing line between the age of darkness and the age of light.

Our world is full of darkness and sin. Our leaders sometimes make decisions that don’t make sense to us as Christians. They don’t trust God. We must not allow despair to overwhelm us. We are to live in the light of God’s presence. He is the deliverer, the ultimate agent at work in the world.

Isaiah speaks of the area of Galilee in the northern kingdom of Israel experiencing humiliation at the hands of the Assyrians. However, a time would come when a great light of salvation through the messianic King would dispel the dark gloom of judgment. When Jesus began his ministry in Galilee, the fulfillment of this prophecy was set in motion. Isaiah compares this King’s victory over Israel’s enemies to the day of Midian, when Gideon and his outnumbered Israelite army defeated the Midianites through God’s powerful intervention.

God’s light brings life, clarity and safety. It drives away gloom and brings hope. The deeper the darkness, the brighter the light. If you light a match in a deep cave, it is a torch. Those who live in darkness receive the shining light of Christ. When sin closes in on us, God sends His light into the world. Those who prefer flickers to flame won’t see the light. People who live in the dark yearn for bright light, and God will give it to them.

There will be no gloom or sorrow for those who are suffering or in bondage to sin. Those who suffer will be saved from the yoke of their oppression. Not even the darkest gloom of sin and despair can keep the light of God’s presence from shining, even on those who live in the darkness known as the shadow of death. That’s why we have “deathbed conversions.” That’s why the thief who hung on the cross beside Jesus repented. The light of God’s presence spreads to every corner of the earth. That light conquers death and sin. It provides comfort for those who suffer for their faith at the hands of those who prefer to live in the darkness of sin and evil.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 890-891)
  2. McKenna, D.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 17: Isaiah 1-39 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1993; pp. 135-138)
  3. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  4. Calvin Aardsma, “Light in Our Darkness.” Retrieved from www.thisistoday.net
  5. Exegesis for Isaiah 9:1-4. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  6. Amy Oder, “Commentary on Isaiah 9:1-4.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org