Acts 3:11-26 Repent, Be Saved and Be Healed

Have you ever wondered how the disciples were able to accomplish so much after Jesus returned to heaven? The answer is revealed in the story of Peter and John and the healing of the lame man. We read what happened because of that healing in Acts 3:11-26.

Jesus worked through Peter and the Holy Spirit to heal the lame man. Jesus had two main purposes for healing the lame man:

  1. He loved the lame man and released his healing power because of the compassion and concern in His heart.
  2. He wanted the people to know that the movement he started when he was on earth was continuing through His disciples, in whom He was living through the Holy Spirit.

Peter directed the attention away from himself and toward Jesus. We as Christians are encouraged to follow the same pattern.

Faith was the secret of the lame man’s healing, and it is the secret of unlocking all power in heaven and earth. That’s why Peter could heal the lame man. He had great faith and consequently great power. Peter wanted the people to receive the same gift of faith.

Faith is a response to Christ’s love revealed on the cross and in the Resurrection. Faith comes by hearing the truth. When we have faith, we receive Christ’s healing power through the gift of the Holy Spirit for our needs and those for whom He guides us to pray. Unless a prayer request glorifies Him, His name can’t be used nor the power released.

The Jews knew about miracles and could interpret them. They should have known that the miracle of the lame man’s healing came from God and not from man. Peter’s sermon was a call for the Jews to repent and accept Jesus as the Messiah. He told the Jews that they were responsible for Jesus’ arrest and death and that they needed to repent, even though Jesus was crucified because of the ignorance of the people.  In the very city where his audience had crucified Jesus, Peter used the word “you” four times to confront them with the enormity of their sins. Before these people could repent, they had to see themselves as guilty before God.

Peter could have scolded the Jews for crucifying Jesus, but if he did he would not have reached their hearts. His goal was to encourage the Jews to repent, and that could only be done with tenderness, love and kindness. Love, not scolding, is the key to encouraging people to repent.

The main reason why the Jews crucified Jesus was that they did not know that He was the Messiah. Ignorance must be considered when looking at a crime, but the Jews did have an opportunity to know that Jesus was the Messiah. Peter reminded them that since these events were predicted in the Old Testament, they had hope in God’s mercy, especially since they were living under grace just like we are living under grace today.

In Acts 3:22 and 23, Peter quoted Moses, the hero of the Israelites. Moses said in Deuteronomy 18:15,18 and 19 that God would raise up a prophet. That prophet was Jesus. The New Testament is the glorious revelation of the Old Testament shadows that mysteriously forecast the coming of the Saviour. Peter showed that he preached the same Messiah and God that the prophets proclaimed.

Peter told his audience that he knew that they and their leaders had killed Jesus in ignorance and Jesus appealed to the Father in Luke 23:24 not to hold their sin against them. Their sins could be blotted out if they would only repent and be converted.

It’s one thing to admit our mistakes, and another to actually be willing to turn to God. If we are willing to accept Christ as our Saviour, God’s grace will be enough. He will wipe away our sins. He will restore us and our relationship with Him.

Peter promised three results of repentance:

  1. Forgiveness of sins.
  2. Times of refreshing. People will be refreshed in their Spirits when the Holy Spirit comes to live within them.
  3. Christ will return and establish His kingdom on earth. The earth will be renewed beyond the abundant and productive state it had before Adam and Eve’s fall.

Every sermon in the Book of Acts is built around the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the sermon we heard in the reading from Acts is no exception. If Christ is not resurrected, then His death is meaningless.

Countless people who place their faith in Christ say that their first and most evident emotion is the sense of having a burden lifted from them. The idea of repentance applies to us today. The Scriptures state that if we do not hear God’s Word and repent, we will be destroyed. We have a choice, and we should choose the offer of mercy and embrace the Messiah. If we do, we will receive the same power of the Holy Spirit. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we will also be able to accomplish so much for the Kingdom while we are here on earth.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1491-1492)
  2. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  3. Ogilvie, L.J. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 28: Acts (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 81-86)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Dr. Tony Evans, “Do You Need to Change Your Expectations?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  6. “Repentance.” Retrieved from Oneplace@crosswalkmail.com
  7. Richard Neill Donovan, “Exegesis for Acts 3:12-19.” Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  8. Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.

John 20:19-31 Seeing and Believing

Hello boys and girls!

Has anyone told you something that was so amazing that you could not believe it?

Sometimes people like to tell us things that we can’t believe. For example, some people might have told you that there is no such thing as the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

Have any of you ever heard of a book called “Ripley’s Believe it or Not?” The man who wrote it enjoyed collecting stories that were unbelievable but true. For example, a young girl from California once swung 68 hula hoops on her body at the same time. A man once had a chicken that laid a square egg. The world’s largest hot dog was over 3000 feet long, weighed 885 pounds and took 103 butchers to carry it. As I mentioned a few moments ago, these stories are hard to believe, but they are true.

Even the Bible has stories in it that are true even though they are hard to believe. For example, Thomas the disciple refused to believe the other disciples when they told him that they had seen the Risen Saviour. He was not with the other disciples in the room when they saw Jesus on the first Easter night. He refused to believe them until he could see Jesus in person. One week later all of the disciples (including Thomas) were in the same room when they saw Jesus again. Jesus knew that Thomas needed proof of his resurrection, and that’s why he invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail holes in his hands and the spear hole in his side. Only then did Thomas believe.

Some people are like that today. They refuse to believe that Jesus rose from the dead because they have not seen him with their own eyes. They want concrete proof. On the other hand, all of us know that Jesus rose from the dead because we believe it in faith. We do not need to see it with our own eyes. We have faith in Jesus’ promise that he would rise from the dead.

Let us bow our heads and close our eyes for a moment of prayer. Dear God, thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Give us the faith we need to accept the Resurrection by faith.  We ask this in the Name of Your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, AMEN.

Bibliography

  1. “Believe It or Not!” Retrieved from webservant@sermons4kids.ccsend.com

2. “Identification, Please.” Retrieved from webservant@sermons4kids.ccsend.com

John 20:19-31 O Ye of Little Faith

Picture for a moment the scene in John 20:19-31. All of the disciples (except Thomas) are gathered behind a locked door because of fear of the Jews. After all, their Lord and Saviour had just been crucified, and they were probably thinking to themselves, “Are we going to be crucified next?” Suddenly, Jesus appears as if by magic. Now the disciples are REALLY scared. They are probably thinking to themselves, “Uh oh, we’re in trouble now!!!!! Are we going to get scolded for abandoning Jesus in his hour of need?” Imagine their shock when, instead of scolding them, Jesus says, “Peace be with you” and breathes the Holy Spirit upon them[1]. They were so happy and relieved that they had to tell everyone what happened, and one of the first people they spoke to was Thomas, the absent disciple.

So why was Thomas absent? Some scholars speculate that it might have been because of grief over the death of Jesus. Different people have different ways of dealing with grief. Some choose to share their grief publicly, while others share their grief with just a few close family members and friends. Still others choose to grieve alone and in silence. Some scholars believe that Thomas might have fallen into that third category.

In any event, Thomas refused to believe the news that Christ was alive. We are the same today. In many cases, we can’t believe everything we hear. That’s why agencies such as the police and Phone Busters always warn us about scams. We can’t trust everyone and everything. Trust in political figures is at an all-time low. Trust in the church and its leaders has also been eroded, especially by recent scandals[2].

It’s no wonder, therefore, that when someone tells us something so incredible, we don’t always believe what they say-gossip being a notable exception, particularly gossip about celebrities. In most cases, we demand concrete proof. In some cases, concrete proof or some other supporting evidence is required, such as in a court of law. We need to probe and test what others tell us. We need to judge it according to Jesus’ teaching. Specifically, we need to ask three questions:

  1. Is this loving?
  2. Does that harm anyone?
  3. Am I bringing peace as Jesus did?

Jesus knew that Thomas would need to see the concrete proof of his death and resurrection, just like we need to see it by reading all of the four major Gospels-Gospels that were written by reliable, independent eyewitnesses. That’s why he reappeared at a time and in a place where ALL of the disciples were gathered-INCLUDING THOMAS![3] When Thomas had an opportunity to see the evidence, he did not need it[4]. For him, Jesus was alive, and that’s all that mattered. People have differing needs and find various routes to faith, and seeing Jesus in the flesh was Thomas’s route to faith.

Believing without seeing is the essence of walking by faith and is something that Jesus appreciates, but there is a tension between seeing and believing. The apostle Peter acknowledged this tension when he wrote in 1 Peter 1:8, “Though you have not seen [Christ], you love Him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy”. That should be true for every Christian. We believe in someone we have never seen and expect to spend eternity with him. The world says, “I’ll believe it when I see it”, but Christians say, “I’ll see it when I believe it”.[5] Christianity is the ability to see the light of Christ active in the world and to recognize it for what it is-the action and the goodness of God-even when it is present in ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things.

God can take skeptics and turn them into believers. In fact, some of the greatest preachers in both history and in modern times either started out as skeptics or had doubts at times on their faith journeys. For example, in his autobiography, “Just As I Am”, Billy Graham wrote of an incident that occurred just before his famous 1949 Los Angeles Crusade-the crusade that really launched his ministry. His heart was heavily burdened with his doubts about whether or not he could trust the Bible. He had his own version of Christ’s 40 days in the desert when he went into the San Bernardino Mountains, knelt before a tree stump and opened his Bible. He wrote the following paragraphs:

“The exact wording of my prayer is beyond recall, but it must have echoed my thoughts: ‘O God! There are many things in this book I do not understand. There are many problems with it for which I have no solution. There are many seeming contradictions. There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science. I can’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions that…others are raising.

I was trying to be on the level with God, but something remained unspoken. At last the Holy Spirit freed me to say it. ‘Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be your inspired Word.’”

“When I got up from my knees…that August night, my eyes stung with tears. I sensed the presence and power of God as I had not sensed it in months. Not all my questions were answered, but a major bridge had been crossed. In my heart and mind, I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.[6]

Just like Billy Graham’s faith was sustained by fellowship with God and with other believers, our faith is strengthened when we gather with fellow believers, especially at weekly worship services or in group Bible study. Those who do not go to church for reasons other than health or work schedules-reasons such as not liking the minister or the Order of Service or the music-may find it harder to have faith in Christ. They need to look at what they miss by not attending church, just like we also have to look at what Thomas missed by not being with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them for the first time after his resurrection. [7]

Even I have had my doubts about Christ and my faith in my life. Like many of you, I was born, raised, baptized and confirmed in the church, but when I went to university and for many years afterward, my faith was weakened (and to this day I honestly don’t know why). God did not lose patience with me, but instead used my father’s battle with terminal lung cancer along with the resulting support of the people and minister of my church at the time to bring me back into the fold and lead me to the bigger and better things that he had in mind for me-namely, my lay ministry in my church.

Like Billy Graham on that night in August 1949, we may want to believe, but struggle with hard questions and hard circumstances. Sometimes it is because we have been hurt, just like the faith of many Christians has been shaken by sex abuse scandals. Honest doubters are not close-minded people. They remain open to belief. They remain open to receiving the gift of faith, just like the disciples were open to receiving Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit. Doubt is a powerful weapon that the devil uses to attack our minds when our faith is weakened by daily struggles, distance from God, or by never truly knowing the Saviour[8]. Doubt can lead to faith. Only those who have had their faith shattered by the blows of pain and adversity can get to the other side of Calvary and experience the faith offered by the resurrection. [9]

Faith begins with honesty, and doubt is the foundation of honesty. Faith is the overcoming of doubt, NOT an absence of doubt. The most endearing things in life can’t be proven-they have to be accepted on faith. We must move beyond doubt to faith. There are those who say that because of the bad choices you have made in the past, you have sinned and fallen so far away from God that you can’t get back. Well, God says, “I doubt it!!!!!!!!” Doubt can lead to solutions and a better understanding. It doesn’t matter what the cause of our doubt is. Living beyond a doubt means living as encouragers through prayer concerns for others, preparing meals for those who are sick or mourning the loss of a loved one who has just passed away, or by sending notes and cards. Belief includes some sense of experience.

Sometimes our faith is shaken because our expectations of Christ are not fulfilled. For example, our faith might be shaken when we ask God to heal a loved one who is sick, and the loved one dies. At times like this, we might be tempted to give up on God, but we must keep on believing.  Jesus said in John 20:29, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed”. When we feel that God has let us down, we must remember that he does what he does for us because it fits in with his plan for our lives. In his great wisdom, he is doing something that is even greater than what we asked him to do. We would do well to remember the old adage that “God works in mysterious ways”.

God can take a weakened faith and make it stronger. For example, tradition has it that the disciple Thomas went to India and founded a church there. Today, many Christians in India call themselves by his name. They are known as the St. Thomas Christians.[10] Thomas’ doubt was erased, and he went places[11]. Billy Graham’s doubts were erased on that summer night in 1949, and he went on to become one of the most famous and most successful evangelists of our time. If Thomas, Billy Graham and other men of God can have their doubts about their faith erased and go on to have successful ministries, God can erase our doubts and help us to be successful in our faith journeys.


[1] Rev. Charles Hoffacker, “Other Resurrections”. Retrieved April 5, 2010 from http://www.lectionary.org

[2] Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions 2nd Sunday of Easter-C-April 11, 2010” Received by email on April 3, 2010 from jboll@preacherexchange.org

[3] ESV Study Bible

[4] John Shearman’s Lectionary Resource, Second Sunday of Easter-April 11, 2010 Received by email from http://www.seemslikegod.org

[5] Robert A. Schuller, “Believing without Seeing” Received by email on June 28, 2008 from positiveminute@hourofpower.org

[6] Billy Graham, “Just As I Am”, (1997, Toronto, ON: HarperCollins), p. 139

[7] Donald Strobe, “Believing Thomas” Retrieved on April 4, 2010 from esermons.com

[8] Tracie Miles, “Believing is Seeing” Received by email on June 1, 2009 from Encouragement_for_Today@crosswalkmail.com

[9] Donald Strobe, “Believing Thomas” Retrieved on April 4, 2010 from esermons,com

[10] Selwyn Hughes, “Coming Back from Doubt” Received by email on September 22, 2009 from crosswalkmail.com

[11] Sermon Writer, “The Second Sunday of Easter, Year C, April 11, 2010” Retrieved on April 5, 2010 from lectionary,org

John 20:19-31 Doubt

Picture the scene in John 20:19-31. All the disciples except Thomas are in a room behind locked doors at night. It was common for early Christians to meet at night. In times of persecution they were forbidden to meet during the day, so they had to meet at night. The disciples are scared. They saw their leader brutally killed, and they are afraid that they will also be killed. In more ways than one, the room and the situation are dark.

Suddenly, Jesus appears. He walks through the locked door. The first words Jesus says to the assembled disciples are, “Peace be with you.” They are terrified, first for fear of the Jews and because they thought they were seeing a ghost. But when Jesus shows them His wounds, they know this is their Lord. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come. Just as God created humanity with His breath in Genesis 2:7, He gave the Holy Spirit to His disciples by breathing on them. God is recreating humanity in Christ. The darkness of the room is dispelled by the light of Christ.

Jesus gave the disciples and us a mission, but we and they can’t begin this mission of healing and peace without the power and energy of Jesus’ risen life. Jesus breathed on these men. As God breathed His life into that first man and he became a living soul, Jesus shared the intimacy of His own life with His disciples that they may be a new humanity, recreated and empowered for their mission.

If Christianity seems to us to be having rather less than a remarkable impact on the world, it’s because too many people have the idea that we’re in a waiting game, that we are basically killing time until Jesus comes back and we all get to go to heaven. We’re sitting around like people waiting to catch a flight. That isn’t what Jesus told us to do. He didn’t say, “Now sit tight in those pews and twiddle your holy thumbs. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He said in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, I send you.”

Part of Jesus’ mission, and hence part of the mission of the disciples and us, is to deal with forgiveness. Specifically, we are to declare on what terms, to what people and to what temper of mind God will extend forgiveness. It is not the authority to forgive people. It establishes the terms and conditions on which people can be pardoned, with a promise that God will confirm all that they taught-that is, that all might have assurance of forgiveness if they comply with these terms.

In John’s Gospel, sin is a failure to see the truth-a refusal to accept the risen Christ. Jesus is sending the disciples and us into the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the risen Christ. Some people will accept their testimony and ours, and others will reject it. Their response will determine whether they will find themselves among those whose sins are forgiven or among those whose sins are retained.

One of the sins that can be forgiven is unbelief-specifically, refusing to believe that Christ rose from the dead. Thomas was guilty of this sin. He refused to believe the disciples’ statement that they saw the risen Christ. He wanted concrete proof. Many people today are like Thomas. They refuse to believe because they do not see Jesus. The testimony of fellow believers, like that of the other disciples, should be enough proof that He rose from the dead.

Jesus didn’t scold Thomas for his unbelief. Rather than belittling Thomas for His doubts, Jesus welcomed his reach and touch, which moved Thomas from unbelieving to believing. Thomas saw and believed, and Jesus affirmed his belief. But then He added, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Anyone today can have as much confidence believing without seeing as those who saw and believed. Jesus approved Thomas’ faith, but He more highly approves the faith of those who should believe without having seen the risen Saviour.

To Mary, Thomas and the disciples, sight of the risen Lord was granted. Faith doesn’t rest on sight or smell or touch, but on the word and call of the risen Lord! As the apostle John believed before he saw the risen Lord, so we believe and trust the witness of those who have seen and believed. We have seen His life revealed in the community of those on whom He has breathed and as we have heard Him speak our name and responded in trusting faith. We have been born into His family. The Spirit then confirms that we are the children of God, as blessed as those who have seen and believed.

Closely connected with the sin of unbelief is the sin of doubt. Doubt destroys faith if doubt is not resolved.  At times it serves as an excuse not to do God’s will. It can also be used as a cover to do evil. Doubt can’t remain without harming us. To cease doubting means that we must take action, to believe, to trust in the Lord, to surrender our lives to Him, to follow Him-and to confess Him as Thomas did: “My Lord and my God!”

Will we be more like the disciples during the first week after Easter, who claim to believe in the resurrection, but whose lives give no sign that it has made a difference for them? Or will we be like the kind of people whose words and actions proclaim the faith that has claimed our lives, graced us with peace, and has given us a sense of meaning and purpose?

The cause of Thomas’ defection was his own doubting and denying heart. Those who profess to be Christians and yet deliberately absent themselves from fellowship with their Christian brothers and sisters are the ones who are usually most in need of Christian fellowship. There are certain things that we can only experience when we are part of Christian fellowship. The idea that we don’t have to go to church to be a Christian is a folly. We can only know God’s blessing when we are part of His body here on earth.

Amid the scandal of the crucifixion and the empty tomb, Jesus doesn’t hide. He reveals himself, makes himself known to those who love Him. When we go through the struggles and temptations of life we are sometimes tempted to hide from our trouble. During this time, we find ourselves only wanting to be with the selfish trinity of me, myself and I. We find ourselves no longer wanting to fellowship with friends and family and becoming most distant from those whom we love. It might be beneficial during times of trial to retreat, but we must do what Jesus did. We must make ourselves visible instead of hiding like Thomas did.

One way we can make ourselves visible is to tell our own stories of joy and pain, sunshine and rain. When we share our stories, we create the opportunity to become wounded healers. If we have a story of suffering, we must share it, because there is glory to be found in our story.

What will it take for us to believe? Our eternal destiny rests on our answer. Jesus lives and because He lives we can agree with a no-longer doubting Thomas and say, “My Lord and my God.” If we do, our lives will be eternally changed for the better.

Are we doubting Thomases? Do you doubt God could ever love someone like you? Maybe you’ve been ridiculed and bullied and struggled with your self-worth? Author Philip Yancey once said, “Grace does not depend on what we have done for God, but rather what God has done for us. Ask people what they must do to get to heaven and most reply, ‘Be good.’ Jesus’ stories contradict that answer. All we must do is cry, ‘Help!’”

When we embrace God’s love, it’s easier for us to let go of the need to please people, the need for validation. We choose to please God through obedience because we love Him and He loves us, unconditionally.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1478-1479)
  2. Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  3. Fredrikson, R.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 27: John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 275-280)
  4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  5. Selwyn Hughes, “Missing from the Meeting.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  6. “Stop Doubting.” Retrieved from www.forthright.net
  7. Pastor David J. Risendahl, “Doubting Apostles.” Retrieved from www.StPlC.org
  8. Rev. Ken Klaus, “What Will It Take?” Retrieved from lh_min@lhm.org
  9. The Rev. Billy Honor, “How to Handle a Scandal.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  10. “An Invasion.” Retrieved from dailyreadings@ransomedheart.com
  11. Rev. Gregory Seltz, “How is God Present in My Life?” Retrieved from lh_min@lhm.org
  12. Richard Niell Donovan, “Exegesis for John 20:19-31.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org

13. Carol Round, “Are You a Doubting Thomas?” Retrieved from noreply@assistnews.net

Acts 10:34-43 Christ Died for All of Us

Do you like eggs? There are so many different ways to fix eggs — fried, scrambled, or hard boiled. You can make an omelet or a breakfast burrito. You can eat them by themselves or mix them with chicken or tuna to make sandwiches. Eggs are also used to make delicious treats such as cookies, cakes, and pies.

Have you ever wondered why some eggs are white and some eggs are brown? Well the answer is quite simple. White chickens lay white eggs and reddish brown chickens lay brown eggs. Is there any difference between white eggs and brown eggs? Well, yes, white eggs are white and brown eggs are brown.

“What about the inside?” you may ask. On the inside they look just the same. The color of the shell has nothing to do with an egg’s quality, nutritional value, or flavor. On the inside, all eggs are the same.

You know, that is true of people too. Some people may be light-skinned and have blond hair and blue eyes. Others may be dark-skinned and have brown hair and brown eyes. On the outside, they may look different, but on the inside they are the same.

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples. He was a Jew and he believed that God sent Jesus only to the Jews. God gave Peter a vision that showed him that He created all people and that He loved them all the same. After God showed him that, Peter said, “I now realize that God does not show partiality. He accepts people from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” God also showed Peter that he must” tell the good news that Jesus is the Lord of all and that everyone who believes in him will be forgiven of their sins.”

Sometimes we sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

Jesus loves the little children.

All the children of the world.

Red and yellow, black and white

They are precious in his sight.

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

We sing the song, but do we believe it? Do we show it in the way that we treat other people? I hope so!

In the late 1960s there was a pastor, known by his friends as Chuck, who felt God had called him to teach the Bible in an understandable way. He became the pastor of a small church in California. The hippie culture was in full swing, and kids were losing their minds. Sex, drugs and rock and roll was the mantra of the day. Parents thought an entire generation was lost.

Chuck looked at these hippies and for the most part didn’t want that much to do with them, but his wife Kay, who was one of the unsung heroes of the Jesus Movement, had a real heart for these kids and she prayed for them.

One day their daughter brought home a living, breathing hippie. It turns out that this hippie was a Christian, and he talked about how his friends were coming to faith in Christ. Chuck and Kay wanted to open their church to these hippies, and Chuck shared this with his church’s board of directors.

The elders did not want hippies in their church because their bare feet would stain the new carpet. The next Sunday morning, Chuck was at the front door with a basin of water and a rag, ready to wash the hippies’ feet so they could come to church.

Chuck won that battle. The hippies started coming, and this became part of a modern revival known as the Jesus Movement, the impact of which continues to this day. Chuck was willing to overcome personal prejudice and say, “Yes, Lord.”

The apostle Peter also overcame his personal prejudices. Acts 10:34-43 is a part of one of Peter’s sermons. His main point is that God shows no partiality. Everyone who believes in God is saved. Peter finally realized that God’s love and salvation are open to everyone-both Jews and Gentiles. Anyone who believes in Jesus will receive forgiveness of sins. That brought a deep desire in the hearts and minds of Cornelius and his household. The way the Holy Spirit fell upon them is a good lesson that we can’t administrate Pentecost. We should also not be surprised when it happens. When we spread the Good News, the gift of faith to respond is given, and the Holy Spirit follows. God used Peter to show Cornelius and his family the way to God. Those who really seek God will find Him.

When Christ paid the price for our sins through His death, He established peace between God and man. He removed the barrier between God and man. If Jesus can pray for the forgiveness of those who cursed Him, spat upon Him, beat Him and ultimately crucified Him, how can we think that His forgiveness is not big enough for us? His forgiveness is big enough because of His limitless love, immeasurable grace and unwavering faithfulness.

In light of the reaction of the Jews, the purpose of the Gentiles’ speaking in tongues was that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles. This reinforces Peter’s private vision in Acts 10:9-16 to take the Good News to everyone. In Caesarea, God made it known that anyone who called on the name of the Lord would be saved. It didn’t matter if people were Jews or Gentiles. Because God sent Peter to this unlikely place to share the Gospel, the message of God’s love and grace for everyone has spread throughout the world.

We are not to judge each other. Paul tells us in Romans 2 that “God judges those who do wrong things, and we know that His judging is right.” Racism begins in our hearts with wrong attitudes, a lack of compassion, or a lack of understanding of different cultures. It’s perpetuated by our failure to speak out against it.

Acts 10:37-40 is one of the best summary statements of Christ’s ministry in the entire New Testament. Peter pointed out that he witnessed the events of Jesus’ ministry firsthand. No one was more intimately involved in the events of Jesus’ death than Peter; his own denial of Jesus would be something he would never forget. He finished where every account of Christ’s life should: with His death and resurrection.

We can have confidence that if God has a calling for us, even if it is to go into a territory that is unfamiliar to us, He will go ahead of us. He will prepare our hearts for our missions, and He will prepare others to receive what we are offering them. We will be ambassadors for Jesus. As His representative, we will have the power and authority that Jesus has.

Peter concludes his gospel presentation by providing the answer that Cornelius and every person needs: it is only through faith in Jesus that a person can be right with God. So what does Peter’s declaration that God shows no partiality mean for our modern Christian community? Our churches remain largely segregated according to ethnicity or race. Some of this is cultural, some of it has to do with our comfort levels, and some of it has to do with the makeup of the population of our local areas. But could it also have to do with the fact that many of us in the white Christian community have not made peace with our suppression or oppression of minority communities? Then there is the church’s relationship with the LGBTQ community. The church has largely been hostile to this community, although many denominations such as the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada have overcome this hostility by becoming welcoming, affirming congregations and by performing same sex weddings. The story in Acts 10:34-43 has proved to be an important piece in our journey to fully welcoming our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. The Spirit moves as the Spirit moves!

I have seen this personally in the life of one of my cousins. His father was my father’s brother. His father and mother were very strict, devout members of a United Baptist church in Saint John, New Brunswick. They raised five children in the Baptist church, but two of their sons rebelled. One was a homosexual who died of AIDS approximately 25 years ago, and another son became a criminal. His parents even resorted to sending him to stay with my grandparents from time to time. He later moved to British Columbia and started a construction company. He led a troubled life, including divorce, but Jesus did not give up on him. I can proudly say that at some point during the last several years my cousin repented and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. I know this has happened because he is one of my friends on Facebook, and I have seen posts where he has expressed his love for Jesus.

The setup of Acts 10:34-43 is the encounter between Peter and Cornelius. We are in the position of Cornelius. We have received God’s invitation to seek and pursue, and we are the recipients of good news. How do we live like this and carry that forward? As verse 33 says, “Now all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.” Are we ready for these opportunities when they come our way? Are we ready when that opportunity to witness and testify presents itself?

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1505-1506)
  2. “All the Children of the World.” Retrieved from www.Sermons4Kids.com
  3. Ogilvie, L.J. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 28: Acts (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 183-185)
  4. Jameson, R.; Fausset, A.R., & Brown, D.: A Critical & Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems; 1997; pp. 186-187)
  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. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2020; pp. 1519-1521)
  8. Bob Christopher, “Christ Must Increase.” Retrieved from bob@basicgospel.net
  9. Pastor Greg Laurie,” Without Prejudice.” Retrieved from www.harvest.org
  10. Berni Dymet, “It’s Black and White.” Retrieved from berni@christianityworks.com
  11. Bob Christopher, “Cornelius Was Convinced.” Retrieved from bob@basicgospel.net
  12. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “His Forgiveness is Big Enough.” Retrieved from mydevotional@leadingtheway.org
  13. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “A Move of the Spirit.” Retrieved from mydevotional@leadingtheway.org
  14. Joel Osteen, “Anointed to Heal.” Retrieved from devotional@goto.joelosteen.com

John 20:1-18 The Easter Miracle

The passage from John 20:1-18 is the key point of our faith because it is about the Resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is the basis of our faith. Without it:

  1. The Gospel would be meaningless.
  2. Forgiveness of sins would be hopeless.
  3. Present life would be joyless.
  4. Godly living would be fruitless.
  5. Future life would be worthless.

The resurrection of Jesus is like the quiet dawning of a new day heralding the defeat of the night. Our Saviour meets us personally and intimately at unexpected times and places. When we meet Him, our grief and doubt are overcome. We are flooded with joy and peace as we move from sight to faith.

Early on that first Easter Sunday morning, Mary expected to find death, but instead she found new life. We also expect to find death. We know what it means to expect death but find new life. We know what it feels like to follow on Good Friday only to be confronted with Easter Sunday. We have stood there looking into the empty tomb experiencing the impossible. We don’t go looking for resurrection. It finds us.

Jesus’ resurrection is about God loving us so much that He is willing to go to any length to find us in all the wrong places. Like Mary, we go looking for God in the familiar, in the places where we expect to find God. In Jesus’ resurrection God finds us when we are down and out, when we are at the end of our rope, when we have lost hope. God rolls back the stones that bind and confine us. He stands waiting with a familiar voice that calls us to new life and to “go and tell.”

Jesus opened up a new relationship for us through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. No longer do we have to go through a high priest to seek atonement for our sins. Jesus became the final sacrifice for our sins. He has given us free access to God the Father, to whom we can come in times of need.

There is something about a living testimony that gives us courage. Once we see someone else emerging from life’s dark tunnels we realize that we, too, can overcome. In the eyes of humanity, death was still the black veil that separated them from joy. There was no victory over this enemy. It invaded every human, convincing us that life was only meant to end abruptly and senselessly.

Jesus revealed the true nature of death. It was on the Cross that the showdown occurred. Jesus was tired of seeing humanity fooled by death. He entered the dark tunnel of death to prove that there was an exit. As the world darkened, creation held its breath. Jesus emerged from death’s tunnel, lifted a triumphant fist toward the sky and freed us from the fear of death. Even though demons, darkness and death have been defeated, they continue to fight against everything God has created. We don’t have to worry though. Jesus is alive with a new kind of life that He wants to give to all believers.

Two different ways of seeing are depicted in verses 5-8. Both John and Peter viewed the facts-the tomb was empty, with the burial cloths lying there. But the text implies that John saw at a deeper level; he believed. Today, the tomb still stands empty, and people still can “see” the evidence. But not everyone believes that Jesus has, in fact, overcome death and provided the only way to eternal life.

John saw the empty tomb and folded grave clothes and believed that Jesus was alive. Love brought him to faith. Later, Jesus explained the Scriptures that testified to His resurrection-teachings the disciples didn’t understand during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Many of us came to faith in the same way. We believed in a God whom we knew only in a small part, and we recognized that our faith was incomplete. As we grew older, our faith deepened and our ability to talk about it grew but looking back we understand that there was something wonderful even about our immature faith.

Jesus appeared to Mary to comfort all who have become penitent believers after leading lives of sin. It was meant to show them and us that no matter how far we and they have fallen, we and they are raised to complete peace with God if we and they believe the Gospel.

Why did Jesus tell Mary not to hold on to Him? There are three possible answers:

  1. Having accomplished the sacrifice, He was on His way to present the sacred blood in heaven. Between meeting Mary and another meeting referred to in Matthew 28:9, He had ascended to heaven and returned.
  2. Mary was to become His messenger-the messenger of the Resurrection.
  3. He merely meant, “Do no detain me now; I am not yet ascended. You will see me again; run to my brethren.”

Jesus told Mary, “Do not cling to me,” because He had not yet ascended to the Father. Exactly what He meant is not certain, but He did have an assignment for Mary: “Go to my brethren and tell them the Good News.” Jesus commanded His followers not only to pray but to go out and serve and witness. Christians are the conduits of His love to others. Just as Jesus told Mary not to hold on to Him, He tells us not to hold on to the things we cherish. We must go and tell people about the Good News. Rather than allowing her to cling to Him, Jesus sends her on a mission to tell the others what she has seen and heard. Like Mary, we are sent forth to announce that Jesus’ body is not in the tomb. He is with the Father in resurrected glory.

In His resurrection, Jesus broke the bonds of sin and death and the limitation of space, time and the weaknesses of earthly existence. By the power of God He has brought forth a new creation, a new order. He is now returning to His Father. Mary is to cling to Him when this journey is completed and He is in perfect union with the Father. Through the Holy Spirit, she will then live with Christ and “cling” to Him as her permanent place of abiding.

Part of proclaiming the Good News includes telling people that God is their heavenly Father. He isn’t a tyrant who blesses us when we are good and curses us when we are bad. He is a loving Father who loves us unconditionally.

We do not worship a dead god but a living Lord. We worship a God who has placed all our burdens on Himself. We don’t have to find Him because He never loses us. He promises that if we see Him, we will find Him as He comes to us. We are never lost from His sight. We may not see Him but He is always there, even sometimes from behind.

God does lead us from behind at times and we can feel that we have lost Him. But like Mary, when Jesus calls our name even from behind, we will recognize His voice. We must remember to keep seeking Him and desiring to be with Him even if He seems to be missing. We have not lost Him because He can never lose us.

So how do we get close to God and keep close to Him? First, we do so by prayer. The person who keeps close to God is the one who is always talking to God. Second, we do it by constant study of the Scriptures. God’s word is alive with meaning, and when we read it, something will happen to us. Third, we do it by sharing with others. Nothing is ours if we do not share it. When we share, the things go deeper inside us. We have to share what God is doing, both with our fellow Christians and with non-Christians also. In the four Gospels, half of the references to people running occur in the Resurrection stories. Their urgency was due to excitement. Jesus’ disciples today should retell the story with the same excitement.

All Jesus wants from us is our hearts. He longs for our lives. In return, He will be with us everywhere and all the time. He will be with us in the good times and in the tough times. He doesn’t promise that we will be immune from the problems of this life. He does promise that He will go ahead of us. He meets us along the way of life’s journey. Sometimes the harsh realities of life are so overwhelming that we forget Jesus is alive. He has conquered death, and our future is safe in His hands.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1477-1478)
  2. The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  3. Fredrikson, R.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 27: John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 269-275).
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; p. 1498)
  6. Dr. Steven Davey, “Then Comes the Good Part.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  7. “What Jesus Most Longs For.” Retrieved from dailyreadings@ransomedheart.com
  8. Pastor David J. Risendal, “Christ is Risen.” Retrieved from www.StPLC.org
  9. Richard Niell Donovan, “Exegesis for John 20:1-18.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  10. Pastor David McGee, “Out of the Mire.” Retrieved from www.crossthebridge.com
  11. “Whom Are You Seeking?” Retrieved from info@dailydisciples.org
  12. Pastor Jim Collins, “Father God: Protector and Provider.” Retrieved from www.BeyondPopsitiveThinking.org
  13. “Jesus Lives.” Retrieved from info@dailydisciples.org
  14. Charles R. Swindoll, “Not to Worry…He’s Risen!” Retrieved from www.insightforliving.ca
  15. The Reverend Deon K. Johnson, “Practice Resurrection, Easter (C)-2016.” Retrieved from www.episcopaldigitalnetwork.com
  16. Pastor Greg Laurie, “A New Relationship.” Retrieved from www.harvest.org

Exodus 12:1-14 The Passover Meal and the Lord’s Supper

How many of you have played with a yo-yo? A yo-yo is a simple toy, but it is a lot of fun. Some people can make the yo-yo do amazing tricks, but the main thing a yo-yo does is go up and down, up and down. That is also a good picture of us. We all have our “ups and downs,” don’t we? Sometimes we are happy and sometimes we are sad. We may be hard working one day and lazy the next. We may be honest one day and dishonest the next. Can you think of other ways that we have “ups and downs?” In the Book of Exodus, we heard that Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, also had his “ups and downs” and we heard how God punished Pharaoh for his wicked ways.

You will remember that God spoke to Moses from a burning bush and told him to go to Pharaoh and tell him to set his people free. They had been slaves in Egypt for many years. So Moses and his brother, Aaron, went to see Pharaoh and asked him to set God’s people free, but Pharaoh said, “No, I will not let them go.”

Because Pharaoh refused to obey, God began to send terrible plagues on Egypt. One time he sent frogs all over the land. There were so many frogs that Pharaoh thought he would croak. At other times, God sent gnats, flies, and locusts. That really bugged Pharaoh! Well, Pharaoh had more ups and downs than a yo-yo. When God would send one of the plagues, Pharaoh would tell Moses that if God would make it go away, he would let his people go. But after God made the plague go away, Pharaoh would change his mind and refuse to let the people go. Since Pharaoh was so hard-hearted and refused to let God’s people go, God continued to send plagues upon Egypt — there were ten in all.

The final plague was the worst of all. God told Moses to tell Pharaoh that the last plague would be so terrible that it would change his heart and he would let the people go. Every firstborn son and every firstborn male animal would die. How sad! It is always sad to see what happens to people when they refuse to obey God. Since Pharaoh and the people in Egypt refused to do what God told them to do, they suffered terribly! That may be hard to understand, but remember – God had given them many opportunities to do what he told them to do, but they refused.

God gave Moses instructions on how his own people were to prepare for the last plague. He said that every family was to take a one-year-old lamb, one that was perfect in every way, and prepare a meal. They were to take some of the blood from the lamb and smear it on the sides and tops of the doorway of their houses.

God said, “I will go through the land of Egypt on this night and strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, whether human or animal, and bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. The blood will serve as a sign on the houses where you live. When I see the blood, I will pass over you—no harm will touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.”

After God sent that tenth plague, Pharaoh repented and freed God’s children.

The symbolism of Passover for Christians is rich. The Passover Lamb is a type of Christ. Passover marked the beginning of months for the Hebrews, and the coming of Christ into our lives marks both the changing of our world and the beginning of our lives.

God began the calendar year of Israel with the Exodus. The first month of the Hebrew year, called Abib (or Aviv), literally means “the ear” month because at this time-about April for us-the ears of grain have developed. Passover was to begin Israel’s year. It was a reminder of their coming into being as God’s delivered people.

The Passover was a sacred meal. It was intended to honour God and His relationship with His people. Burning leftover meat represented the sacred nature of this observance, making it clear that it is food for the soul and food for the Body. The bread and wine (or juice) served during the Eucharist is also food for both the body and the soul. Our gathering in worship and God’s saving grace should motivate us and encourage us to perform acts of justice and mercy.

God’s specific instructions about the Passover lamb would ensure that in every way, it was fit for sacred service. A lamb without flaws was to be the perfect sacrifice for the Passover meal, just like Christ was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Nothing but a perfect sacrifice could satisfy God’s requirements, because God Himself is perfectly righteous. No sacrifice was adequate, so God had to provide the Lamb that was without blemish-Jesus Christ. The Feast of the Passover became a festival to celebrate the visiting and redeeming God-the One who comes to dwell among us, not only as Protector but as Sustainer and Giver of Life. The Passover Lamb represented the work that Jesus would finish in His death and resurrection. That’s why he said, “It is finished” just before He died on the cross.

The Israelites were told to be ready to leave their bondage at any time. We as Christians today must also be ready to leave at any time. We don’t know when Christ’s return and the final judgment will take place. The Israelites were also told to eat unleavened bread. In Scripture, leaven represents evil. Our bread of life must be unleavened. We can’t have communion with Christ when there is sin in our lives.

The bitter herbs represented the memory of the Israelites’ bondage, and today we who are saved must not forget the cost of our redemption. Our sin-filled lives must be constantly crucified. Deep down in our hearts, the drinking of His cup and being baptized with His baptism will be our taste of bitter herbs in the feast.

The one who would “pass through the land” was not some angel of death as is commonly assumed. According to the repeated pronoun “I”, it was the Lord Himself, bringing judgment against all the gods of Egypt. Just like the angel of death passed over the blood-stained doorways of the Israelites, Christ’s blood allows eternal death and separation from God to pass over us. We can pass over from physical death to eternal life. Only the blood of Jesus can save us.

God did not protect the Israelites because they were better than the Egyptians, but because they were His people. God gives grace to His followers-whether through the blood of the Passover lamb or the blood of Jesus-not based on merit but on His lovingkindness. Christ’s blood saves us from the penalty of spiritual death just like the blood of the Passover lamb saved the Israelites from the death of their firstborn children and animals.

The passage from Exodus is about freedom from slavery, new beginning and leaving behind. It’s about life and death. It teaches us how to get ready to move fast. Christ’s death and resurrection are also about freedom from slavery, a new relationship and life with God and leaving behind our old sin-filled lives. Christ’s death and resurrection mean freedom for all who believe in Him. The Lord’s Supper is open to all He invited, all the baptized, who remember that Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. The blood of the host at this banquet means that God will pass over the sins of all who partake. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

God cares for us just like he cared for his children in Egypt long ago. In fact, He made a way for us to get out of our messes too. Just like Pharaoh, we have our ups and downs, but Jesus died on the cross for all the wrong things we have done. If we believe in him and ask him to come into our hearts, he makes a way for us to go to Heaven.

For Christianity, the passion narrative is built, at least in part, on the Passover narrative. In Matthew’s Gospel, the disciples gather in the upper room to celebrate the Passover meal, at which time Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper, offering the wine as a sign of the blood of the covenant poured out for the forgiveness of sins. While Passover had nothing to do with the sins of Israel, it does speak of liberation, and the cross is itself understood in that context. In John’s Passion narrative, the connection of Jesus to the Passover Lamb is even more explicit. He is crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover, the day when the Passover lambs are sacrificed in preparation for the feast. Thus, for John, Jesus is the Passover Lamb, through whom liberation takes place. It is his blood placed on the doorposts as a sign to the angel of death. The good news, the gospel, is that God is a liberating God, and in our worship, we are invited to continually retell the story of how God acts to liberate.

 Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 89-90)
  2. Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 21: Exodus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 132-142)
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010)
  5. Ron Moore, “Nothing but the Blood.” Retrieved from www.ronmoore.org
  6. Richard Niell Donovan, “Exegesis for Exodus 12:1-14.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  7. Joni Eareckson Tada, “The Passover Lamb.” Retrieved from www.joniandfriends.org
  8. Mark S. Gignilliant, “Commentary of Exodus 12:1-14.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  9. Anathea Portier-Young, “Commentary of Exodus 12:1-14.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  10. Ralph W. Klein, “Commentary of Exodus 12:1-14.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  11. “The First Passover.” Retrieved from www.Sermons4KIds.com

Psalm 31:9-16 The Suffering Servant

Psalm 31 is an accurate description of Jesus’ agony while on the cross. Just like the psalmist, Jesus cried out to God in despair. In this psalm we have a picture of a seriously ill man whose violation of God’s will led to emotional pain and bodily weakness. Although Jesus was perfect and sinless, He took all of our sins on Himself as He was on the cross. Those sins were represented in His bodily weakness.

Perhaps Jesus prayed Psalm 31 in the days leading to His entry into Jerusalem. Perhaps it gave Him strength and comfort as He prepared for what would happen to Him in the next few days. Perhaps the psalm reminded Him that He could be honest with God about His terror and grief. Perhaps the psalm reminds us that we can also be honest with God in whatever situation we are facing. If we trust God and walk in faith, we can know that He is good and His mercy endures forever.

Jesus’ emotional suffering was cause by rejection-both by His enemies and by God. His body broke under the strain. He bore our shame on the cross, and that makes us ashamed. Can we hear some of Jesus’ sorrow in the psalm? Jesus grieved for our sins. He was rejected as His life was demanded of Him. In this crisis, Jesus threw Himself on His Father’s mercy. He asked to be taken into God’s presence, and that happened when He died.

The hands of men can harass us and oppose us, but as children of God, we are never victims of our circumstances. Throughout trials, God is our refuge and our strength. He provides stability in a broken world.

Sometimes it seems that God is removed from our situation or that He does not care about our own despair. Nothing could be further from the truth. He sees our needs differently and plans special strategies to see us through. This does not mean resolving the situation immediately. Sometimes it means giving us the confidence and power we need to endure it.

For example, well known preacher Chuck Swindoll once told the story of Terry Shafer. A few years ago she was strolling the shops in Moline, Illinois. She knew exactly what she wanted to get her husband, David, for Christmas. A little shop on Fifth attracted her attention, so she popped inside. Her eyes darted toward the corner display. “That’s it!” she smiled as she nodded with pleasure. “How much?” she asked the shopkeeper.

“Only $127.50.”

Her smile faded into disappointment as she realized David’s salary as a policeman couldn’t stand such a jolt. Yet she hated to give up without a try, so she applied a little womanly persistence. “Uh, what about putting this aside for me? Maybe I could pay a little each week, then pick it up a few days before Christmas?”

“No,” the merchant said, “I won’t do that.” Then he smiled. “I’ll gift-wrap it right now. You can take it with you and pay me later,” he said. Terry was elated.

Then came Saturday, October 1. Patrolman David Shafer, working the night shift, got a call in his squad car. A drugstore robbery was in progress. David reacted instantly, arriving on the scene just in time to see the suspect speed away. With siren screaming and lights flashing, he followed in hot pursuit. Three blocks later the getaway vehicle suddenly pulled over and stopped. The driver didn’t move. David carefully approached the suspect with his weapon drawn. In a split second, the door flew open as the thief produced a .45-calibre pistol and fired at David’s abdomen.

At seven o’clock in the morning a patrolman came to the door of the Shafer home. Calmly and with great care, he told Terry what had happened. Stunned, Terry thought how glad she was that she had not waited until Christmas to give her husband his present. How grateful she was that the shopkeeper had been willing to let her pay for it later. Otherwise, Dave would have surely died. Instead, he was now in the hospital—not with a gunshot wound, but with only a bad bruise. You see, David was wearing the gift of life Terry could not wait to give—his brand-new bulletproof vest.

Within the movement of events is the Designer, who plans and arranges the times and the seasons, including the minutest detail of life. You question that? Many do. But I don’t think David and Terry Shafer did. People who survive a calamity don’t have much struggle with sovereignty.

All of us struggle with loneliness from time to time. Many of us have struggled with loneliness during this pandemic, especially senior citizens. They often go days without meaningful human contact, especially if they live in long term care facilities. Their sense of isolation grows and they begin to believe that life doesn’t have any purpose or meaning. It has  been heartening to see the way many people have found ways to reach out to lonely people.

Psalm 31 foreshadows the loneliness of Jesus on the cross. He was scorned and rejected. He was abandoned by the disciples. The religious and civil authorities condemned Him. The soldiers mocked and tortured Him. We must remember that we are there too. Our sin ultimately killed Him, but loneliness and death did not get the final word. God’s steadfast love had the final word. Jesus was raised from the dead. The empty tomb was not a lonely place. It was a scene of triumph.

Psalm 31 is the song of sorrow for everyone who suffers. They are forgotten like the long dead even though they live in plain sight. Christ chose to embody this psalm instead of the phrase, “Be still and know that I am God,” even though eventually every knee will bow down and every tongue will be silenced.

When a season of life is not ideal, we will run our souls ragged as we focus on our longing for the situation to be over. We have to trust that each day has a purpose. We don’t have to know what that purpose is. We can choose to trust God and look forward to our future glory. That is exactly what we need.

We might not know where life is taking us, but we can be sure that God has something prepared for us that we can’t see or imagine. That’s why we have to trust God no matter what situation we find ourselves in. Whenever we suffer, we can take comfort in the knowledge that as Christians God is always there and He will give us comfort and strength to face our situation-just like He was there for Jesus in His suffering and gave Him comfort and strength.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 726)
  2. Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 13: Psalms 1-72 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1986; pp. 247-250)
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New Kings James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 723-724)
  5. Naji Abi-Hashem, “Daily Courage-Nov. 25,2020.” Retrieved from Oneplace@crosswalkmail.com
  6. Charles R. Swindoll, “Timing.” Retrieved from info@insightforliving.ca
  7. Chrystal Evans Hurst, “Hopeful Surrender.” Retrieved from newsletter@lists.christianitytoday.com
  8. Steve Arterburn, “Trust God Each Day.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  9. Talitha Arnold, “Honest to God.” Retrieved from dailydevotional@ucc.org
  10. Jerry Savelle, “Honour God by Trusting Him.” Retrieved from paul@ncmcanada.com
  11. Mark Tranvik, “Psalm 31:9-16.” Retrieved from communic@luthersem.edu

Philippians 2:5-11 Spiritual Unity

In Philippians 2:1-13, Paul talks about unity and servanthood. To live in unity, or to be like-minded, believers must practice three things: harmony, humility and helpfulness. When we value ourselves, we demonstrate Christian humility. We mirror Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. When we take the very nature of a servant, we have the mindset of Jesus. When we serve, it takes our minds off our desire to be served. The danger of being a lover of self is inherent in each of us. As we put aside our desires and become more selfless, we will enrich those around us, show God’s love wherever we are, and develop the mind of Christ. When we welcome those we consider to be below us, our eyes are opened to the stories of those we meet. It’s such a simple way to love-one that changes our lives and the lives of those around us.

How is your sensitivity toward other people? Do you take time to care about the needs of your friends, family and fellow citizens? Sometimes we get so absorbed with our own personal problems we forget that there is a hurting world around us that needs our attention. The strange thing about it is that when we give love and concern to others, we usually forget about our own problems! The more we humble ourselves, the more God will raise us up not to just any old high place, but as a co-heir seated alongside our Saviour. We suffer with Christ-that we may share in Christ’s highest glory.

If God is to succeed and make things happen, it helps if His people work together. We need to work together with God and understand His plan and purpose for our lives. Directed by His Holy Word, we can pray that He will allow us to work together in reaching those who are lost and in need of the Saviour.

Jesus’ servanthood was authentic in substance and reality. He made a deliberate decision to renounce the privileges of His deity, limit Himself to a human body, and relinquish His position in heaven to become a servant on earth, even to the point of death. If the one person in history who ever had the right to assert His rights waived them, then Christians should do the same.

Attitudes are the foundation upon which actions are built, and these young believers needed an attitude of submission and servanthood to produce harmony. To be of one mind means to agree in doctrine and creed. This isn’t a call to unity at the cost of truth. To be in one accord means literally, “united in spirit” or “harmonious.” Spiritual unity does not occur without doctrinal oneness. Unity is a matter of personal responsibility, with each believer taking ownership of his or her own spirit and disposition.

Verses 5 to 11 are very likely a hymn or poem that Paul wrote or borrowed as an illustration. They offer Jesus as the perfect role model for Christian unity. While the story of the cross is recorded in the Gospels and explained in the epistles, only this passage views the Crucifixion through the eyes of the Lord himself. It presents a glimpse of His perspective so that His followers might see the price of unity: His death.

Selfish ambition is a work of the flesh and has always been the source of divisions within the church. Conceit is empty glory. Lowliness of mind, which was formerly viewed as a negative quality, has been transformed into a sign of godliness and love by the influence of the gospel. Christ taught His disciples how to submit to one another out of love instead of fear.

We are called to look out not only for our own interests, but also for the interests of others. When the community of believers cares for one another just as they would care for themselves, disunity fades through mutual service. The phrase “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” is an imperative construction: God’s people make this happen. Unless they take definite action to consider Christ, they will end up fainting in their minds.

Those who believe in Jesus are leaving an impression of Him on others with their attitudes, actions and relationships. Does this impression represent the likeness of Jesus’ heart? Paul had a desire to accurately represent Jesus, so he urged His followers to reflect the humility, self-sacrifice and compassion of Jesus for others. In fact, we are called to imitate, model and project the ability to temper our influences with humility for God’s purposes in others.

Being in the form of God doesn’t refer to Christ’s outer appearance but His genuine inner identity. All that God is, Jesus Christ was, and ever will be. The word used here for being occurs 59 times in the New Testament, and every time it refers to prior existence. Before He became a man, Jesus existed not only eternally but He also existed eternally as God-being simply not like God but the very nature and substance of God. Yet because He cared about the human plight more than His own benefit, He gave up the independent use of His attributes to serve those He loved.

Scholars have debated the meaning of Jesus making Himself of no reputation and coming in the likeness of man. This “emptying” cannot mean that Jesus divested Himself of any of His divine attributes, for “Deity diminished” ceases to be deity. This passage affirms Christ’s offering for all people. Jesus is now and forevermore both fully human and fully divine.

Jesus sacrificed none of His deity, yet He came in perfect humility by taking on flesh and becoming fully human. By this, He voluntarily submitted Himself to the authority of God the Father and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. He also confined Himself to a human body. The word “likeness” suggest similarity but difference. Jesus’ humanity was genuine, but He differed from other humans in that He was sinless and in full possession of another nature-God’s.

Paul looks beyond the day of Christ’s exaltation into heaven (after His ascension) to a future day when every tongue in heaven and on earth will exalt Him as Lord. Though not everyone on earth received the King on His first arrival, one day the One who was brought low will be raised high, and then every knee will bow-believers with joy and unbelievers in sorrow and remorse.

Jesus was sent from heaven for the most humbling of reasons-to exchange His royal robes for the cloak of sin worn by humanity. About one-third of each Gospel’s narrative is devoted to Jesus’ ministry leading up to the Crucifixion, because the very purpose of His coming was His death and resurrection.

Paul does not say “work for your salvation.” God has already worked to make salvation possible. The Christian’s role is to work out what God has worked on by cultivating the characteristics of a godly life. Such faithfulness will allow believers to shine as lights in the world. There is nothing we can do to serve ourselves spiritually; Christ took care of that through His life, death and Resurrection. God has a part in our growth-but so do we. We must make an intentional effort to grow.

Paul uses the word “therefore” to tell his readers that those who call themselves Christians must practice the same discipline that Christ exercised when He obeyed His father. The call to discipleship is costly. When we talk to someone about our faith, we don’t have to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be persuasive, poetic or scholarly. All we must do is tell the wonderful things God has done and His love for everyone. Let His persuasive power work in someone’s heart and mind.

God is at work in the mundane, tiring, ordinary, repetitive duties of life. It might not come with the thunder and lightning of Mount Sinai, but He works in our lives right now just as He worked in the lives of His followers throughout history. God’s plan is often different from our desires, but even when that is the case, He cares deeply about us. He wants to encourage us and strengthen us as we face tough times. He brings us joy through His many blessings in our lives.

What controls us in our Christian lives-our feelings or what we know God asks and expects us to do? Our answers will reveal just who is in the driver’s seat. Sooner or later, everyone will be on their faces before God, even those who have opposed Him. That’s when the people who have already humbled themselves before Him on earth will have no hesitation taking a knee and giving Him praise in heaven. It’ll be like they’ve been there…like they never expected to be anywhere else. We must open the door for God to work in our lives. We must humbly let Him in.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1658-1659)
  2. Dave Brannon, “The Interests of Others.” Retrieved from donotreply@email.rbc.org
  3. Pastor Mark Jeske, “God’s Persuasive Power.” Retrieved from www.TimeofGrace.org
  4. Anne Graham Lotz, “Every Knee Will Bow.” Retrieved from www.angelministries.org
  5. Dr. David Jeremiah, “The Tendency of Inwardness.” Retrieved from turningpoint@davidjeremiah.org
  6. Bill Crowell, “Painting a Portrait.” Retrieved from donotreply@email.rbc.org
  7. Kenny Luck, “Royalty Without a Crown.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  8. Dr. Steven Davey, “Invisibly Involved.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  9. Jim Burns, “Responding with Love.” Retrieved from www.homeword.com
  10. Pastor Rick Warren, “Spiritual Growth Must Be intentional.” Retrieved from connect@newsletter.purposedriven.com
  11. Joni Eareckson Tada, “Therefore…” Retrieved from communic@joniandfriends.org
  12. Joel Osteen, “Reflect Him.” Retrieved from devotional@e.joelosteen.com
  13. Pastor Ken Klaus, “Be Like-Minded.” Retrieved from lh_min@lhm.org
  14. Joe Gibbs, “Take a Knee.” Retrieved from www.GamePlanForLife.com

Isaiah 50:4-9, Philippians 2:5-11 How to Live Like Christ

It is February 15, 1921. In the operating room of the Kane Summit Hospital, Dr. Evan O’Neil Kane is performing an appendectomy, but this is no ordinary appendectomy. First, it marked the first use of local anaesthesia in major surgery. Dr. Kane believed local anaesthetic was much safer than general anaesthetic, and while many colleagues and patients agreed with him, no one was willing to be the first person to have an appendectomy under local anaesthesia. Because he wasn’t able to find a volunteer for the procedure, he operated on himself!

Dr. Kane put his own well-being at risk to gain his patients’ trust and show his care for them. Jesus did the same thing. He humbled himself by taking on human form and subjecting himself to a cruel, human death.

The readings we heard from Isaiah and Philippians talk about how we are to live like Christ, including suffering for our faith. Isaiah talks about the servant who submits to the father’s will. Paul tells us in Philippians to be like Christ. Christ was the suffering servant Isaiah referred to-the servant who submits himself to the father’s will and a cruel, painful death to save us.

Suffering tests our faith and our relationship with God. When we suffer, we often ask ourselves why God is allowing us to suffer. In cases of accident or sickness, we don’t have any choice in the matter. The suffering servant is suffering because he or she is God’s servant. Somehow the suffering servant has heard that his or her suffering is for the cause of right and therefore he or she believes that God will not abandon the one trying to be faithful.

Christ humbled himself and emptied himself of his deity to obey his father’s will. He emptied himself of his glory. He emptied himself of independent authority. He released the voluntary exercise of his divine attributes. He gave up eternal riches. He gave up his intimate relationship with God the Father.

Obeying God’s will for his life also meant that Christ had to submit to the voluntary humiliation of the cruellest form of torture known at that time-crucifixion. Crucifixion was not simply a convenient way to execute criminals. It was the ultimate indignity, a public statement by the Romans that the crucified person was beyond contempt. The unbearable pain was magnified by the degradation and humiliation. No other form of death could match crucifixion as an absolute destruction of the person. It was the ultimate contrast to Christ’s divine majesty and therefore it was the ultimate expression of his obedience to God.

By lowering himself, he was exalted by God. We must also submit ourselves to God’s will. Paul used Christ’s example to teach us how to live the Christian life. Because Christ was an obedient servant, he serves as a good example for us to follow. When we become servants, we give up the right to be in charge of who and what we serve. When we do, we will be free, but we will also be vulnerable.

Christ calls us to service for three main reasons. First, he wants to rid us of our human pride and selfishness so we can focus our lives on him. Second, by serving others in humility we show our love for Christ. Third, God tests and purifies our hearts through service.

Christ is the ultimate example of selfless humility. He submitted himself to God’s will like a servant submits to the will of his or her master. Jesus calls on us to deny ourselves and follow him through sacrificial service to others.  Jesus believed in the Law, taught the Law and lived the Law on the cross. In other words, he didn’t just “talk the talk”. He also “walked the walk”. Just like Jesus submitted himself to God’s will, we are called to submit ourselves to God’s will by worshipping him in true faith and by serving others just like Jesus served others.

The way we act reflects our faith. If we claim to be Christians, people around us will equate our actions with Jesus. In other words we are to act like Jesus would act. We are to follow the Golden Rule. When we lead lives of humble servanthood, when we follow God’s plan and direction, and when we bow down before him we become the disciples that he wants us to be. Only then can we be exalted by God. Only then can we build God’s kingdom here on earth. 

In order to be like Jesus, we have to spend time with Jesus. The more time we spend with him by reading and studying his word and talking with him through regular, earnest prayer, the more we begin to think like him. We also become more like Jesus by studying what has been written by other Christian leaders. For example, when I prepare homilies I always consult commentaries and other articles written by pastors such as Dr. Charles Stanley, John MacArthur, Rick Warren, Billy Graham, Charles H. Spurgeon, Dr. David Jeremiah and others. Finally, we can be like Jesus by studying the Bible with other Christians.

As I mentioned earlier, when we become servants of God, we will be free, but we will also be vulnerable. We can’t please God if we don’t have faith. That involves taking risks. Peter took a risk when Jesus told him to get out of the boat and walk to him on the water. He took a risk and was able to do amazing things. There is an old adage “No risk, no reward”. If we are willing to take risks, God can do amazing things for us, to us and with us.

When we have a sense of Christ’s love, we will be humbled. That doesn’t mean that we are weak. Jesus showed us that humility in fact requires great strength and courage, both of which come from an unshakeable faith in God. When we are determined to follow Christ’s example, Satan becomes more determined to stop us. He will use every trick he knows to divert us from godly pursuits. We must be careful not to let interruptions keep us from our time with God.

Even when we follow Christ, we can become discouraged when life deals us challenges. When this happens, it can be easy for us to forget all the good things God has done for us. The only way to correct this attitude of defeat is to do something else Jesus did regularly-pray.

By humbling himself, Jesus was exalted by God. Those who humble themselves before God will be exalted by God. One day we will also exalt him by bowing down before him, but right now we can exalt him by serving others in humility like he did. We suffer and serve with Christ so that we may share Christ’s glory. Those who face the greatest struggles in life hold on to God with all their heart and have the greatest confidence in sharing Christ’s glory.

Nothing is beneath us since Jesus humbled himself and served others. Christ taught us this valuable lesson, so we would be well-advised to listen to him. We need to have humble hearts. Christ valued humility and service, and this should be our model for daily living.

Those of you who are sports fans have seen how some players celebrate great plays. They dance around in the end zone of a football field or get slapped on the back by their fellow hockey players. Others simply toss the puck or the football back to the referee and return to the bench or the sidelines without any fuss. Some Christians are like that. They hope that the few big plays they make in their walk of faith will earn them a spot on Jesus’ team.

When it comes to serving in the church, people rarely ask for positions where they will go unnoticed. If they want to serve in the church, they usually ask for positions of leadership. Now there is nothing wrong with serving in a leadership capacity if that’s what God calls you to do, but God calls us to have a servant’s heart. He wants us to glorify him and not ourselves. God places us where he wants us to serve, and we must give our all in everything he asks us to do. God wants our obedience and our best effort

Eventually, every knee will bow before Jesus and confess him as their Lord and Saviour, as Paul mentions in Philippians 2:10-11. At that time, people who have already humbled themselves before him as a part of their daily lives will not hesitate to bow down before him and give him praise. It will be like they have always been there, and there will be no penalty for excessive celebration.

Bibliography

  1. ESV Study Bible
  2. Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J., The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.; 1982)
  3. Dr. Charles Stanley, “What is the Meaning of the Cross?” Retrieved from Jesus.org@crosswalkmail.com
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publisher; 2006)
  5. Dr. Charles Stanley, “Christians in the Workplace”. Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  6. Gary Sims, “On Bended Knee”. Retrieved from http://www.MyInJesus.com
  7. T.M. Moore, “Paths to Mature Thinking”. Retrieved from http://www.colsoncenter.org
  8. Bayless Conley, “Making a Priority of Faith”. Retrieved from answersweekly@answersbc.org
  9. Joni Eareckson Tada, “Distraction”. Retrieved from http://www.joniandfriends.org
  10. T.M. Moore, “Nurtured and Refined”. Retrieved from http://www.colsoncenter.org
  11. Joni Eareckson Tada, “Therefore…”. Retrieved from http://www.joniandfriends.org
  12. Anne Graham Lotz, “The Way Up is Down”. Retrieved from http://www.angelministries.org
  13. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 24th Sunday (B)”. Retrieved from http://www.preacherexchange.org
  14. Tim Hall, “Heavenly Connection”. Retrieved from forthright@fastmail.fm
  15. Tracie Miles, “What Has God Done for ME Lately?”. Retrieved from Encouragement_for_Today@crosswalkmail.com
  16. Dr. Charles Stanley, “The Call to Serve”. Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  17. Rebecca Barlow Jordan, “Humility”. Retrieved from Christianity.com@croswalkmail.com
  18. Dr. Charles Stanley, “Fully Submitted”. Retrieved from In_Touch_With_Charles_Stanley@crosswalkmail.com
  19. Joe Gibbs, “Take a Knee”. Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  20. Joni Eareckson Tada, “The Interests of Others”. Retrieved from http://www.joniandfriends.org
  21. James MacDonald, “How did Jesus ‘Empty’ himself?” Retrieved from Jesus.org@crosswalkmail.com
  22. Dr. David Jeremiah, “Becoming Like Christ”. Retrieved from turningpoint@davidjeremiah.org