Miracles

MIRACLES

 

We couldn’t read the Bible without observing the miracles that have been documented.

At times we fall into a situation where it appears our backs are against a wall and we see

no way out unless a miracle takes place. Is there a difference between a miracle and a

consequence?  As we dig a little deeper, I believe we should be able to gain some clarity.

To start with let’s determine the definition of miracle:  it is an event that would be

impossible by natural law, but is brought to pass by the supernatural power of God. You

may be reading this and have a disease such as cancer, have lost a close loved one, or

facing a financial crisis. It’s understandable that you want an immediate fix, something,

or someone that will take the pain away. Does God care what you are going through?

Yes, He does. He also knows at some point, each of us is going to die but His main

objective is to see you establish a personal relationship with Him first. By doing so, you

will likely develop an internal peace that you have never experienced before no matter

what you are facing. It will also give you a clearer perspective for a greater understanding

 

 

Be careful in accepting a teaching that is, “name it and claim it”. The idea that because

God can do anything, He certainly wants me to be well and all I need is the faith that He

will heal me just as I wish. We can’t place God in a box and use Him only when we want

  1. Let’s begin with a simple event and progress with what we would call something life

changing. For the last few days I’ve been tearing down our old backyard fence and

replacing it with a new one. I took the tools I needed and placed two handfuls of screws

in my tool pouch. At the end of the day I saw I had used all the screws and was one short.

I looked on the ground, but none was there. I looked in my tool apron and found nothing.

I felt led to look again and sure enough right in the corner standing upright was the last

screw I needed; would we consider that a coincidence or a miracle? That situation could

go either way depending upon how you look at life.

 

 

Some people may look at unusual events that come together and conclude it as mostly a

coincidence and perhaps see an occasional miracle. As for myself I see life as a series of

miracles with an occasional coincident. Does it matter? I believe one sees life depending

on which side of the lens you’re looking through. I’m sure I wasted many years looking

from my viewpoint which only brought me more selfishness. I wasn’t aware of all the

miracles that were surrounding me. Once I began looking at life through God’s

perspective, miracles seemed to be a lot more evident

. Psalms 8:3-4, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have

ordained. What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?”

The first and main miracle is in understanding and believing that God would send His Son to

come to earth and die for us. Who am I that He would be willing to sacrifice His life for

me? Once I accepted that as His plan, I began to want to know Him more intimately. That

took place by reading His Word (The Bible) and communicating with Him through

prayer. It was then I discovered how He could reveal His will in my marriage, in my job,

where to live, and how to conduct life on a daily basis through circumstances that He put

in my path. By following this guidance I became more aware of the steps I should take.

I call this a miracle trail conducted by His leading which has brought me to where I am today.

 

 

Has everything in life always been the way I wanted it? Not at all, but I’ve learned in the

process God’s always had my best interest at heart. I’ve actually grown closer to Him in

the most difficult times. Just so you know my life has not been a bed of roses, I lost my

first wife to cancer, had a son that was murdered at age 26 which was 12 years ago as of

this writing. Then my business was embezzled through a trusted manager, and lost most

of my assets through the downfall of the 2008 Real Estate market. My lesson is that life is

fragile and my focus needs to be on future spiritual things if I am going to make any

sense of it. In the midst of those storms, I saw God’s hand at work by His leading and

direction. The inner peace I received can’t be compared to anything else life has to offer.

If you are reading this and going through a difficult circumstance, how should you pray?

The only proper way to pray is; “Thy will be done.” We can only see our circumstances

at the present moment; we can’t look into the future, and have no way of telling how God

may be using our suffering to affect, not only our lives, but others also. Probably the most

difficult prayer Jesus made was to the Father alone, with His disciples not far away in

Gethsemane, knowing He was about to be crucified. Recorded in

Luke 22:41-42, He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it be Your will, take this cup away from Me;

nevertheless not My will, but yours, be done.”

Those five words, (If it be thy will) being left out of His prayer would have changed the course of history and salvation for
us would be none existent. God the Father could have stopped the whole process of His Son

going to the cross and redeeming us from our sins. Jesus knew what He was going to face

and as the God Man; He knew how much pain His body would be going through. Both

He and the Heavenly Father knew that it was necessary for Jesus, who lived a perfect life,

to be the only substitute capable of being the perfect sacrifice for our sin, so He allowed it to happen.

 

 

Jesus, fully aware of the suffering He would face also could see the future benefits of

bearing the pain.

Hebrews 12:1 tells us how we are to live. The following verse 2 shows

us how Jesus looked at the cross.

“Therefore we also, since

we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the

sin, which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before

us.”

(The cloud of witnesses is thought to be those that are listed in Hebrews chapter 11,

they have run the race and have endured. They are cheering for us to follow Jesus

and to become witnesses for Him ourselves. Some think they might be angels).

Whoever they might be, it’s evident we have support and a cheering section that wants us

to continue following Jesus regardless of the pain and consequences we may experience

here on this earth.

Hebrews 12:2  gives us a clearer picture of how Jesus looked at the cross.

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who

for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat

down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Notice the phrase, “Who for the Joy”. Jesus looked beyond the pain and suffering, knowing He would be united with
those who have placed their faith and trust in Him. He is our example to look to beyond our  present circumstances

 

As much as I would like, I don’t have the power to remove any problems you may be

facing. The only thing I can do is help you turn your eyes on Jesus who does.  Still, He

has a plan for each of our lives and neither you nor I know what the future plan might

  1. Even when He was here on earth not everyone was healed. He knew that by always

doing miracles, people would follow Him because what they would gain and not trust Him

for whom He is. Not everyone He healed showed Him thanks. Luke 17:11-19 is the story of

the 10 lepers Jesus healed. He just spoke the word and they became whole again. He told

them to go show themselves to the priests. Only one, a Samaritan, returned and with a loud voice glorified God, fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.   Jesus miraculously opened the Apostle Paul’s eyes revealing   Spiritual truths to him in Acts chapter 9, but did not heal his body.             In

2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul pleaded to the Lord to heal him, “And lest I should be exalted

above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me,…

lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times

that it might depart from me”. And He said to me,” My grace is sufficient for you, for My

strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my

infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

 

There are several things we can learn from those verses in Corinthians. First of all it

doesn’t matter how good we are that determines if God will heal us. Neither does it

determine how much we pray that might change God’s mind. It’s clear in those verses

that God didn’t answer Paul’s prayer in order to keep him humble which made him more

effective for Christ. Think of it this way, if all the Christians were healed that live the

best Christian life they knew how, wouldn’t everyone want to become a Christian

so they could become healed? I’ve know many people who were Christians that died

peacefully, including those in my own family, that were not healed of their diseases.

What their lives showed me and their friends is that Jesus is the one that brought them

peace. They decided to follow Christ, to live for Him, and to face death with the joy of being

in heaven with Him for all eternity. Many who observed their lives gained the desire to

become like them; not wavering, but placing Christ first place in their hearts no

matter what was to take place. The real question is do we have that same kind of inner

peace? That wasn’t always true in my life, but today as I face the future, I

agree with the words and song penned by Robert Claire Loveless,

 

Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before,

Every day with Jesus I love Him more and more,

Jesus saves and keeps me, and He’s the one I’m waiting for,

Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.

 

Little is known about Robert Claire Loveless. He was born in Wheaton, Illinois in 1922

and died in Honolulu, Hawaii in 2009. He was in the Army in World War II.  Although

in a different time period, I was in Real Estate in DuPage County, where Wheaton is

located, from 1970-1982, and was in the Army. Those two events I can relate to, but

deeper than that is the assurance and knowledge that every day with Jesus is sweeter than

the day before. After being discharged from Viet Nam in 1967, the Lord led me to

LaGrange, Illinois. It was there, after seeing how much harm and evil can take place in a

war zone, I was ready and open to God’s will for my life. I went back to church and met

several like-minded young adults all in our early to mid-20s. One day one of them said,

“We have an opportunity to go to Scripture Press in Wheaton and learn more about the

Gospel of John” that was in 1968. It turned out our teacher was Dr. Merrill C. Tenney,

Dean of the Graduate School of Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. Our text book was

the one he wrote in 1948 called “John, the Gospel of Belief”. It is an analytic study of the

text. The book has been printed several times and can be purchased online today. Dr.

Tenney was born April 16, 1904 and died March 18, 1985. I count it a privilege to have

learned from his teaching which propelled me into further study and knowledge of just

how wonderful our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is. It is not my intention to duplicate his

writing; it is a 321 page book and one worth having for anyone wanting to explore truth

in a deeper way. All I will share is the titles he gives to the 7 miracles that are written in

 

 

John 21:25 is the last verse in the Gospel of John, “And there are also many other things,

which Jesus did, which if they should all be written every one, I suppose the world itself

could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”

Yes, there is a lot more we

could learn if we had the information. If Jesus wanted to He could have walked in and

healed everyone in all the hospitals then and now, but His main purpose for His signs and

miracles is found

in John 20:31, “But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus

is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life through His name.”

There are more miracles written in the other Gospels, but in John there are just 7. Their

purpose is to reveal Jesus Christ having complete deity, showing He is God and that no

human could do what is recorded in this book. With that said, I’m going to share the list

of miracles in the Gospel of John and give you the brief comment Dr. Tenney shares

 

 

  1. The Changing of Water into Wine 2:1-11. In this miracle of His ministry, Jesus
revealed Himself as the

Master of Quality

by effecting instantaneously the change

that the vine produces over a period of months.

 

  1. The Healing of the Nobleman’s Son 4:46-54. By healing the boy who was more
than twenty miles distant from Him, Jesus showed Himself the

Master of Distance, or Space.

 

  1. The Healing of the Impotent Man 5:1-9. The longer a disease afflicts a man, the

more difficult it is to cure. Jesus, by curing instantly an affliction of thirty-eight

years’ standing, became the

Master of Time.

 

  1. The Feeding of the Five Thousand 6:1-14. By multiplying the five flat loaves and

two small fishes of one boy’s lunch into enough to feed five thousand men,

besides women and children, Jesus showed Himself to be the

Master of Quantity

.

 

  1. The Walking on the Water 6:16-21. This miracle demonstrated His Mastery over Natural Law.

 

  1. The Healing of the Man Born Blind 9:1-12 (41). The point of this miracle is not

so much the fact that Jesus healed a difficult case as that He did so in answer to

the question as to why this man should have been so afflicted. Thereby Christ

showed that He was the

Master of Misfortune

.

 

  1. The Raising of Lazarus 11:1-46. This miracle indicated that Jesus incontrovertibly was  the Master of Death.

 

“These seven miracles, then, are preeminently signs because they point to those

aspects of Jesus ministry in which He demonstrated His transcendent control over all

the factors of life with which man is unable to cope.  Quality, space, time, quantity,

natural law, misfortune, and death circumscribe humanity’s world.  Daily existence is

a struggle against their limitations. Christ’s superiority over them as revealed by these

events (signs) was proof of His deity and a clue to understanding what the writer

desired to say about Him.

“These signs are written that you may believe.”



IF

IF

 The word IF carries a real punch depending on which side of IF a word is on. IF ONLY refers to the past while IF I CAN refers to the future. One of the biggest downfalls we all face is breaking away from the past. Some people live there by going over and over in their mind thinking IF ONLY. It’s like constantly looking in the rear view mirror believing IF ONLY I had done things differently perhaps my time now and my future would be better.

So, does IF I CAN become the solution for a brighter future? Not exactly, that has its problems too. That, by itself, can cause us just as much pain and discouragement as well. You might be placing all of your efforts on what you can do, which is really a repeat of your past. I’m sure in your past you did your best to make things work out and you’re still trying to figure out what went wrong. So what’s the solution?

My responsibility is to share with you a third perspective which is to bring God into the equation, otherwise I’m just rambling on with words. We might consider it like a dog running around in circles chasing its tail. If you are anything like me or had been for many years, I tried to fix my own problems by myself. When all my efforts failed, then I turned to God. Right or wrong, that seemed like the natural thing to do. The Scripture tells us in

Psalms 100:3, Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.”

He made us so intricate that it would take volumes of reading and writing to begin to see how uniquely we are made. To touch on just the basics we were created with a mind, emotion, and will. Since He’s the one who made us, He should know what it takes for us to function. If so, why is it that we look to Him last, when trying to manage a difficult problem? The truth of the matter I find myself doing the same thing. Could it be pride that keeps us from asking for His help?

If you have children then you know they watch what you do. It’s their nature to want to be just like you. At three years old a child may think he can move a large boulder-size rock. If he sees you doing it, the conversation might go like this, “I can do it, I can do it Daddy.” A wise father would allow him to try and when he couldn’t,come beside him and say, “Let’s do it together.” Once it is moved he might praise him, “See you did it.” Our heavenly Father may allow us to try, but we need to recognize He’s the only one who can really make the difference. We need to look to Him first to solve our problems. Life without Him really is just a routine hum drum of working, making a living, raising a family so in turn when your kids are grown, they will do the same.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my family, my wife, my kids, and now my grand-kids. I want the best for them and their future. So how long into their future should I care for them? Only a few short years they are on this earth, probably 100 years or less? Should I care what will happen to them 200 years from now and for all of eternity? God has created us to live with Him forever. He’s preparing a place for us to live with him for all of time. It’s a gift that we receive and your children can receive IF each of us places our trust in Jesus Christ and makes him our Lord and Savior.

John 14:1-4 gives us those promises. It starts out this way, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Fathers house are many mansions; IF IT were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and IF I GO and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also, and where I go you know, and the way you know.”

It’s worth the time to continue on reading verses 5-29. Jesus is asked many questions as to His and the believer’s future and He answers them in those Scriptures.

When God uses the word IF it has a far deeper meaning than when we use it. The reason is we can go back on our word and many times do, but God cannot. Yes, God can do anything, but it’s against His nature to do some things. In the 50’s the golden age of Gospel Choirs, Rev. James Cleveland expressed it best when he sang the song, “God can do anything, but fail.”  Yes, He cannot fail, lie or sin in anyway, because His very essence is Truth. So when God tells us He will do something, we can count on it coming to pass, not necessarily always in our lifetime. Often times He sets a condition such as IF we follow His leading, He will bless us, but IF we ignore Him in the process, He has the right to withhold that blessing by allowing us to wait, or do something entirely different with us instead. He knows our circumstances, what’s best for us and in His time, shape us towards the direction we need to go.

Let’s begin our topic on a national level and then bring God’s IFs to a more personal.

2 Chronicles 7:14 was a passage from God to Solomon concerning Israel, it goes like this, “IF My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek MY face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

We could spend a lot of time analyzing that verse. Two things that stand out are prayer and humility. Can America learn from history here? Have we come to the place we think we know it all? Have we quit praying? Is God the last person our nation turns to? Do we show humility to others and ourselves? Is it possible if we made a u-turn and looked to God first, He could bless and unite us? I’ll let you decide.

On a personal level, it would be best to start a foundation of words with IF.

John 13:17 will help us set the stage. “IF you know these things, blessed are you IF you do them.” Our first question will be, “What things?” John 8:31,32, “Jesus said to those Jews who believed on Him, IF you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Three thoughts stand out here, abide in MY Word, know the truth, which added together equals freedom. Now let’s break it down a little further.

Abide in My Word is illustrated in

John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” So to abide is to stay in touch with or search the Scriptures looking for and finding truth. The goal should be to seek and to understand what God is saying about Himself. We are to be careful not to just accept everything we hear on the radio, TV, or even what a preacher may be telling us. By abiding and comparing what is written in the Word of God, He will lead and guide us into all truth. John 15:4,”Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

Truth is recognizing the abiding process and knowing you cannot save yourself.

Romans 3;23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Life, both physical and eternal is a gift from God through Jesus Christ. We can’t survive without Him, especially our eternal souls. It’s like the branch can’t live apart from the vine that has the life. To conclude these thoughts, we will use a verse that starts with IF and ends with truth. 1 John 1:6, “IF we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

Once we recognize we need a Savior and through faith, have trusted Him that His death, burial, and resurrection were sufficient to take away our sin and have asked forgiveness of our sin, we become a Christian. That first step is called Justification, (We become justified, to be declared righteous, to be made right with God). That occurs the moment we trust Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. The second step is called Sanctification, which means set apart. It’s when growth in our Christian life takes root. The more we read God’s Word, the more we want to yield to His will, and the more we want to become like Christ. It doesn’t mean we will never sin again. There is no such thing as sinless perfection in this lifetime, we are still sinners, but saved by grace. We will never be perfect like Him, but we will feel the need to step away from sinful practices that hinders our fellowship with Him. The third step is Glorification. That is when we get to heaven we will become sinless and will live our life in a glorified body for all eternity with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The lifelong process of Sanctification, on this earth, will have come to a close.

Sanctification is what a believer is going through in our earthly bodies. The Bible gives us the road map as to how to live in unison with our Savior. We can’t live this life on our own without His strength. This is by no means conclusive, but based on our subject matter will give us some ideal things we need to do as a Christian, and why it’s necessary to rely on Christ’s help to carry it through.

1 John 1:7-10, “IF we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. IF we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. IF we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. IF we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.”

In conclusion I want to leave you with some of God’s promises that you will receive when you have yielded yourself to Him.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b.

“IF anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“And My God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19. 

We hope this might shed some light into how Christianity works from the beginning and throughout all eternity. Come visit us at Gateway Baptist where we will learn more about the nature of God and what he has in store for us.

 



I AM

Here we are approaching Easter on March 27th. It’s hard to believe that almost ¼ of this year has nearly past; most of the time we celebrate Easter in April. History shows us the most frequent date is April 16th. The time and dates are not nearly as important as the event.

 

The title

I AM has been going through my mind a lot lately. I was going to put it off for another time and focus more on Easter until I thought what Jesus experienced just prior to the crucifixion and how He nearly died for speaking those two words. Let’s see why the statement I AM

stirred up so much anger in the ones that heard it that day.

 

Before we zero in on Jesus’s words, we need to see if

I AM appears in other places of the Bible prior to Jesus being on earth and what the significance of those words were then. Some of my friends read the Old Testament, but not the New and some read the New Testament and not the Old. Could it be that each side is missing something? Today we are going to see if I AM

appears in both, if so are they referring to the same person?  By gaining some clarity, perhaps we can get a bigger picture and begin to see the total revelation of the Bible.

 

Since none of us can predict future events, no one living then, or now, can see what might happen ahead of time. Like looking through the lens of an old camera, it is fuzzy at best. New cameras today give us much more detail. It has been said, the Old Testament concealed is the New Testament revealed. By comparing the two we have a better chance of understanding it all.

 

In

Exodus, the second book of the Old Testament, we can enter into a conversation that took place between God and Moses. In chapter 3:13-15, Moses was questioning God what to tell the Israelites about His name.  In verse 14, “God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM”. and He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.” In the New Testament the book of John 18:5-8 when Jesus asked who they were seeking, in order to arrest Him, He said, “I am He”

. They then drew back and fell to the ground. If someone would ask us who we are, although we could say ‘I am he,’ no one would fall to the ground. You might think those three words are not a valid conclusion. Keep in mind we have just gotten our camera out of the box and are adjusting our lenses. Let’s see if we can gain a better focus as we proceed.

 

In

Psalms 78:23-25, “God opened the doors of heaven, and rained down manna on them to eat, and given them the bread of heaven. Men ate angels’ food; He sent them food to the full.” The feeding of the 5,000 was written about in John 6:1-14.  In verse 35,“Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life”.

 

Psalms 95:7, “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.  Today if you hear His voice”.  John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

 

Deuteronomy 32:39a, “Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me”. Isaiah 48:12b, “I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last”. Revelation 22:13, Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last’. So if these verses are correct and Deuteronomy says there is no God besides me, referring to Jehovah in the Old Testament, and Jesus in Revelation 22:13 which says, “I am the First and the Last;” we have to conclude that Jehovah in the OT and Jesus in the NT are both one in the same. Jesus also made this statement in John 10:30, “I and my Father are one”.

 

In

John 4:23-26, Jesus is speaking to a woman at a well, He tells her, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). When He comes, He will tell us all things”. Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He”.

So Jesus told her plainly He is the Messiah.

 

I Timothy 2:5, 6, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all”.

Ransom is a payment to redeem a prisoner, or slave. In Christianity it is redemption from sin and its consequences. We don’t think of ourselves as prisoners, but the truth is we are all prisoners or slaves to sin. We were born in sin and can’t redeem ourselves. So it is necessary for Jesus Christ to take our place by dying on the cross to save us from our sin. By placing our trust in what He has already done, we through faith, will receive eternal life and live with Him for all eternity. This is what the purpose and essence of Easter is all about. The focus is to be totally on Him, to praise Him and thank Him for laying down His life to redeem us and then demonstrating that power through His resurrection.

 

In the second paragraph I mentioned that Jesus used the words

I AM and almost died for saying it, so let’s discover why. The passage is found in the book of John chapter 8, let’s begin in verse 37, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father”. They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”

 

Let’s skip down to verse

54-56 of John chapter 8, “Jesus answered, if I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day and he saw it and was glad.”

 

Verses 57-59, “Then the Jews said to Him, you are not fifty years old and have you seen Abraham?”  Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.  Then they took stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by”.

 

When exposed to the truth, they didn’t want to hear it. First of all they didn’t want to believe Jesus was their Messiah. They certainly couldn’t believe He was God. They discounted the fact that He could have known Abraham because He wasn’t 50 years old yet and Abraham died some years before. We know Jesus knew Abraham because He knows all things. He was since the beginning of time. He was in the flesh for this period of time to demonstrate who He was through many miraculous miracles and soon to be His upcoming death, burial and resurrection.

 

God can only reach down to us; we lack the power and will to reach up to Him. For some reason we believe we must do something ourselves to receive eternal life. Yes, many are zealous to do things they believe will please God, but He knows our hearts and our sin places a barrier that can only be penetrated by His forgiveness of our sins. We can only receive that through our faith and trust in Him. It’s at that point He welcomes us into the family of God and that sin barrier is broken.

 

 

Rather than looking for a Messiah who would set them free from their sin, they were looking for a Messiah that would free them from the oppression of the Roman Empire. He didn’t present Himself as a King or Commander who could carry that out. Unless Jesus Christ is your Savior first, He cannot be your King. Jesus came first to die for the sins of the world which includes you and me. For those who have accepted Him as their Savior, He will return and become their King and they will be with Him for all eternity. I look forward to that day and you can too.

 

Pride and thinking you can somehow contribute to your own salvation are what keeps many people from trusting in Christ. So when He said before Abraham was

I AM, knowing the I AM’

s that they heard from their fathers, they rejected who He was. Had they been open to some truth, I’m sure He would have shared more with them, but their hearts were hardened. Until we are willing to get ourselves out of the way, we won’t be open to His way.

 

There are other

I AM’s I could have brought up from the Bible. Probably the most direct one and yet very controversial is found in John 14:6, “Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me”.

For a long time I had difficulty sharing why He said that; especially to my friends who elected a different belief system. Today it’s not that difficult because I understand why He said what He did.

 

Although Christ died to take away our sin and save us from our self, God the Father is Holy and Just and cannot accept anything less than a perfect sacrifice for our sin. The only one who lived a perfect life is Jesus Christ. He met all the demands of the Father so He is the only one able to forgive and take away our sin. If he died and was buried like any other person, we would still be in our sin. His resurrection from the grave is what gives us the hope of forgiveness. The resurrection not only demonstrates His power, but authority since He was the one that created life in the first place.

 

So we are made righteous through His shed blood on the cross. Even though we deserved to be there instead, He took our place and suffered and died for us. That is the real meaning of Easter. We would love to have you worship with us this coming Easter as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. If you have questions about any of what was written or you want to know how you can have the assurance of going to heaven, come by and we will be glad to help you with that.

 

 



“But God”

BUT GOD

 

BUT GOD demonstrated His own love toward us, in that …… We will get around to this verse and others soon. At first I have to get something off my chest. As I remember in school the teachers told us we should never start a sentence with And or But. I just did and I didn’t self destruct. Not only did I begin a sentence with the word BUT, but a paragraph, and at the very beginning of this article. So was I wrong?

 

According to a statement written in Business Writing, “it is perfectly acceptable to start a sentence with the conjunctions AND and BUT. However, it is slightly informal. If formality is your goal, choose more formal language. An informal example: “But we hope to write an agreement today.” (No comma needed after but).

 

If we were to read the writings of Shakespeare, we would consider that a formal writing. On the other hand if we read a verse in the Bible that starts out (BUT GOD) would we consider His writings informal? That’s as deep as I want to get into the subject of proper English. Instead, what’s on my heart this time is observing how God has chosen to communicate with us.

 

He goes out of His way to explain the basis of life on our level rather than having us struggle to meet Him in a heavenly realm. If we had to meet Him strictly on an intellectual basis, His message would be way over our heads. God has made His intentions clear in

Matthew 18:3, “Assuredly, I say unto you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Our very nature causes us to make life more complicated than it really is. Many times, if you’re like me, you are anxious to put something together quickly. When it doesn’t work, then you go back and read the instructions. The Bible is our life’s instruction book. The best way to understand it is to take it simply like a small child. Although it starts with Genesis and ends in Revelation, an easier place to start is the “Gospel of John” and then the book of “Romans.” Those two books are clearer about our needs and God’s solutions in bridging our gap with Him.

 

When one grasps the basic truths, it is easier to comprehend how the world really functions and where we fit in the overall plan. God’s intentions are to make Himself known through this informal method. It’s what we would consider, “A down to earth approach”. The theme of the book of Romans is the Gospel of God. It was written by the Apostle Paul during 57-58 A.D. There he reveals the unrighteousness of man and contrasts it with the righteousness of God. There are eleven verses in the first four chapters of Romans that begin with the word BUT.

 

Ten of those verses speak about man’s situation. The eleventh verse starting in Romans 3:21- 26 is about the righteousness of God and His connection to man. The first verse that starts out BUT GOD is found in

Romans 5:8. It is a summary of everything in the preceding verses. I will complete the total verse now that I started at the beginning of this article. “BUT GOD demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

He has chosen to accept us regardless where we might be in life.

 

What makes this verse unique is it gives us a clear picture of the true nature of God. This is not a new thought, but it bears repeating. “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less”.

Romans 8:31-39 explains God’s everlasting love. In the middle of that subject is a question in verse 35, “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?”

As we read through all of those verses, we discover that nothing can.

 

Some may be wondering how I could start out in the above paragraph talking about God and ending with Christ. Isn’t Jesus Christ just the Son of God? That’s why I would encourage you to begin reading the Bible with the Gospel of John. The theme is, “Christ in His Deity”. If you prayerfully read all 21 chapters, you will begin to see the connection of God and Christ. Are you looking for truth and freedom?

John 8:31,32 says, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”.

 

John 10:30, “I and My Father are one”. John 10: 17,18, “Therefore, My Father loves Me, but I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have received from My Father”.

These verses tell us who Christ is and His authority. Now let’s get back to the verses that start with BUT GOD and compare the differences between our lives and His.

 

The majority of the time when we use the word BUT, it comes with an excuse or justification on our part. Here are some examples that we can relate to: I was planning to clean out the garage today, BUT I decided to do something more exciting with my friends. I meant to visit someone in the hospital, But I really didn’t know them that well, so I didn’t.

 

We could go on, BUT you have the idea. Our intentions are well meaning, BUT often times we lack the will power to do what we know we should. Aren’t you glad God is not like that? He doesn’t wake up in the morning and think, “It’s too much effort to bless Bob, Mary or Sue, so I’ll just do something else instead. The Scripture tells us He never sleeps and is aware of our every situation. He doesn’t operate on excuses. He not only knows our needs, BUT uses them to draw us closer to Him and carry out His plans.

 

If you have ever studied the life of Joseph, you will see it appears he did everything right, still it seemed he was getting a raw deal. His story begins in Genesis 37:1 at the age of seventeen and ends in the last verse of Genesis 50:26 when he died at one hundred and ten. Most of his life was what we would call a roller-coaster ride with extreme ups and downs.

 

Joseph couldn’t predict God’s next move in his life, still his faith never wavered. Probably the lowest point was when his own brothers wanted to kill him by throwing him into a deep pit without food or water. Years later, when there was a famine in the land, he was reunited with his brothers and their lives were in his hands. At that time he had the power and authority to execute them all, instead he made a statement and asked this question found in

Genesis 50:19 “Fear not, for am I in the place of God?”

 

What followed brings us comfort today and gives us confidence that God has a plan for each of our lives. When we hit those low points, we can still trust Him and know that He will see us through. We can tell by reading

Genesis 50:20, 21, “BUT as for you, you meant evil against me; BUT GOD meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.   And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them”.

 

Some other verses that you might find interesting are:

Psalms 73:26, “My flesh and my heart fail; BUT GOD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”.    Psalms 49:14, 15, “…Their beauty shall be consumed in the grave… BUT GOD will redeem my soul from the power of the grave”.                        “1 Corinthians 2:9, 10, …Eye has not seen, nor ear heard…. The things which God has prepared for those who love Him, BUT GOD has revealed them to us through His Spirit”.

These verses and many others show what God is willing to for us if we by faith trust Him. Considering all that He has done for us, it is my prayer for me, and you as well, that we look at life the way Joshua did in the following verses.

 

Joshua 24;14, 15 “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the river and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. BUT as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.

 

If it is your desire to serve the Lord Jesus Christ who gave up His life on the cross to redeem us from our sin, then you will learn more about Him and His love, mercy and grace at Gateway Baptist Church. Come and visit us, you will be welcome here.



The Race

THE RACE

 We usually don’t think of the Christian life as a race, certainly not as a rat race that we find ourselves in many times. Neither is it the same as a competitive sport, when after you win the game it’s all over. At the same time we shouldn’t be a spectator watching everyone else participate; like enjoying a sport. Perhaps I could have picked a different title, but give me a chance to explain my thoughts.

 

Let’s roll back the time and think of ourselves as kids. How would you respond, if at the age of 10, someone handed you a Bible and said, “Just read this, it has all the answers in life you will ever face, have a good day?” They might have been right, but it wouldn’t motive you into action.

 

Thankfully someone felt led by the Lord to reach kids at their level. The AWANA program was developed and we have incorporated it into our church. It is geared for children ages 2-18. The acronym for AWANA comes from the words “

Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed.” Taken from 2 Timothy 2:15.

It was founded by Lance Latham, the Senior Pastor of North Side Gospel Center in Chicago. He was born in 1894 and passed away in 1985.  In the mid 70’s, he visited our church in LaGrange, Illinois around the age of 80 and gave his testimony.  I had just turned 30 a few months earlier. We had already been using the program, but to listen to this strong man of God 50 years older, share how he came up with this idea to reach children for Christ was awesome. To hear his zeal and passion, and understand his creativity was a blessing. I left that service excited that serving the Lord in whatever way is the main purpose of life.

 

The AWANA program is still active today and reaches more than 2 million children and youth with 330,000 volunteers, 260 field staff, and is involved in 30,000 churches around the world. Their goal is to teach God’s Word through sportsmanship with the games they play. The leaders reach out to the kids by walking along side of them and taking an interest in their lives. Bible verses are taught that help them grow spiritually and assist them in making good future decisions.

 

As children grow up and become young adults, the challenge can become greater.  Balancing time is usually a problem. They do get together for some special events that are offered. Then work enters into the equation. Many are doing what they need to do to help offset the high cost of college.

 

About that same period of time I heard Lance Latham speak, I was privileged to attend a young people’s Bible memory competition between two churches. Questions from the moderator were all taken from the book of Ephesians. Both teams had memorized the entire 6 chapters consisting of 155 verses. When a question was asked, he or she would push a button that set off a buzzer. If the moderator started, but hadn’t finished the question, the participant not only had to finish the question, but quote the Bible reference where the answer was found. It was a very close match, not a slam dunk for either team. Which side won? I would like to leave it like this, “Both sides won because their memory of Scripture will go with them all of their lives.”

 

It would be interesting to see where these once young people are now. Since this was over 40 years ago and if their average age was 15 at the time, that would mean they are somewhere from 52-58. I would think many of them became leaders in their own churches and probably feel secure in life. They probably memorized additional passages such as

Psalms 119:11, “Thy word have I hidden in mine heart that I might not sin against Thee.” and Psalms 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”  

By applying biblical principles such as these, they would have received that inner peace that many are longing for even today. So this kind of competitive race had merit, purpose, and was a win win for all.

 

As an adult, I don’t believe it is God’s way to create a competitive spirit among older ones in the church. Early in life we should have been taught how to get along, think of others, and be a good sport. More importantly as an adult, we need to work in unison and have a prayerful concern for each one in the church. We should be mature enough to realize life is not about us, but about Him. He is the one who has chosen to give each of us different gifts for the encouragement and benefit of the entire body of Christ.  In order to accomplish this and be used in a way that pleases our Lord, we need to be a team player and recognize that only by doing our part can the work of the Lord be carried out and accomplished in the way it needs to be.

 

We are aware that we are pleasing God when we place His interest above ours. Every job is important and is needed from cutting the grass, shoveling the snow, getting the snacks and coffee on Sunday morning, taking turns in the nursery, singing, playing an instrument, leading the singing, teaching Sunday school classes, working in AWANA, overseeing or doing maintenance tasks or preaching to name a few; and yes, giving financial support. Our family appreciates everyone who contributes in a variety of ways that ultimately brings glory to God.

 

So as adults do we need to participate in the race? Should we look back in the past and think, “We have done our part, let the younger ones carry the baton now?  The Apostle Paul didn’t seem to think so; he ran the race all the way to the end. Some of the following verses tell us how he observed life, and why we consider him an outstanding leader and Biblical mentor.

 

2 Timothy 4: 7, 8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” Philippians 2:16, “Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”

 

Jesus Christ Himself, started and completed His race as found in

Hebrews 12: 1, 2, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

 

So if you want to get back into the race and perhaps have gotten away from being involved; who is your competitor?  It really comes down to just yourself.  Remember knocking on a friend’s door when you were younger and were asked, “Who’s there?” You might have replied, “Me, Myself, and I.” Your three inner parts are your “mind, emotion, and will.” It takes all three willing to work before you will take any action. Rather than fear, keep in mind, the Lord will not only lead you, but provide you with the words and attitude He wants you to have when communicating with others.

 

Sometimes, something as simple as giving your postman a thank you card with a little financial gift inside, will open up the door for a new friendship. He or she will then be receptive to a tract or booklet that addresses their relationship with God. If you have the desire to try, God will see to it that you have plenty of opportunities to interact with others. Some may be where you work, others might come from when you are out and about doing daily tasks.

 

Keep your eyes open for ways to show grace and concern for others. Perhaps at the grocery store you’ve seen a mother trying to buckle in an infant while trying to manage her groceries plus trying to keep the small older ones out of the traffic. Anything you can do to help will be gratefully appreciated. Situations like this will occur more frequently and become natural if you ask the Lord to use and direct you. Once it happens you will be glad you spent the extra time showing Christ love. Hopefully, you will be prepared to give out a tract or booklet to them. If not, anticipate your next encounter and make sure you have something in your pocket or car.

 

Considering what Jesus has given us, not only eternal life, but all of the benefits we now receive, we should be thankful He’s giving us an opportunity to give back to Him. The present situation our country is in has caused a lot of confusion for many people. They are rightfully concerned about their life and future. If you know the Savior and are secure with Him, you have the hope you can offer them. By starting your conversation with a smile, I know they will be glad you took an interest in them.

 

Our church has plenty of resources that are designed to be given away. If in question, ask the Pastor or someone who has used the material. We are able to receive some small books for the approximate price of a paper tract; they are free for your taking.  The author of the books has drastically discounted them with the understanding that we will spread the message.

 

You will find a variety of tracts on the back table and the books in an open box at the foot of the table. Before I leave home, I make sure I have my cell phone and adequate give- away material for those I will encounter. It is a habit that is easily formed. Once you experience God’s interaction in a meeting, you’ll walk away excited and look forward to doing it again.

 

If you are reading this and have children between the ages of 2-18, come by and see how the AWANA program works. It could be a real asset and help in the raising of your children. We will make sure they adjust and fit right in. We are here for you!

 



Silence

 

If I am the only one who reads this article, it will be worth the time to write it. I am aware I need to understand others not like myself. Occasionally you will hear a minister say, “This is a difficult message to preach because it convicts me the most.” That is the way I feel talking about SILENCE. We are all made differently because God created us that way. I am what a lot of people would describe as a Type A Personality. I usually have an answer for most anything even if it’s wrong.

 

Some of that comes from living in three different areas of  the United States from Florida to Chicago then to North Carolina with an average of 15-20 years in each state. Now I have settled in Colorado to complete the North, South, East and West scenario. Having been in Real Estate, working with a variety of international families, you might begin to understand why eating Egyptian food or drinking Turkish coffee is not so foreign to me.  So how can someone who is outgoing and has conversations with people easily regardless of where they are from; become an expert on SILENCE?  Quite frankly I can’t. My inner convictions tell me I need to tone it down and try to listen and be open to others no matter how they think.

 

We are starting the Christmas season 2015. I’ve been reading about the SILENCE of our Savior, Jesus Christ; how He handled extremely difficult situations and why He didn’t feel it necessary to defend Himself in spite of the outcome, so let’s begin.

 

In Colorado there are many beautiful mountains. Between them are often many wide open plains. Depending on the time of the year, and right conditions, you might spot a moose closer than you think. That’s the time to become SILENT and move very cautiously. It’s amazing to observe and concentrate on such a magnificent animal. I would not trade those moments for the best car, boat or airplane display.  The moose will stay fixed in one’s mind much longer.

 

Watching sunrises and sunsets is another time for SILENCE, taking the time to enjoy God’s creation. It must have been an awesome experience for the Wise Men to observe the Eastern Star that led them to Bethlehem. I can just picture them stopping and becoming SILENT as they gazed at the star. Perhaps the only sound was the camels kicking the sand with their hooves as they waited.  The song “Silent Night, Holy Night would be quite fitting, but it had not been penned yet. While traveling they anticipated seeing the new born babe, whom they thought would become their King. Rather than seeing Him wear a King’s crown, they saw Him wearing a crown of thorns, at the age of thirty three. Yes, He was born, but born with the purpose to die; not just for those at the time, but for each person who would follow Him including us today.

 

In Genesis 15:6, “Abram believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”  A little later in Genesis 17:5, the Lord changed his name to Abraham, made a covenant with him, and promised through his seed to make him a great nation.   In the New Testament, Galatians 3:5-7 shows us that Abraham, by faith, believed God and he became righteous. Prior to Jesus Christ’s birth, death, burial and resurrection; salvation came by faith for those who were looking forward to that event while we now look back to the same time a little over 2,000 years ago.

 

Christmas is an important period to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  Still without Easter and the resurrection of His life, we would have no hope of a glorious future that is yet to come. 1 Corinthians 15, starting at verse 12 and all through the rest of the chapter to verse 58, is worth taking the time to read. The theme starts with, “The risen Christ, our hope” to “Our final victory each of us has if we, by faith, have trusted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.”

 

From His birth to His ascension back to Heaven, the key is the cross where He suffered and died for our sins and miraculously, three days later was raised from the grave. How did He handle what He knew was about to take place just a few days before? This is the part that convicted me the most. Was He arrogant or humble?  The following verses will give us some insight into His attitude and how He handled His life while here on this earth.

 

Isaiah 53:7, “ He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is SILENT, so He opened not His mouth.” That’s repeated again in Acts 8:32.

 

Matthew 26:62, 63, “And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do you answer nothing? What is it that these men testify against You?” But Jesus kept SILENT.”

 

Mark 15: 4, 5“Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do you answer nothing? See how many things they testify against you!” But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.”

 

Luke 23: 9..  Herod tries Christ, “Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing.”

 

Why do you think Jesus did not try to defend himself, when He would have won an argument or could have demonstrated His power by showing a miracle?  It’s because He knew His purpose was to come to die and take away our sins. Although He knew He would face suffering and ridicule, he didn’t let that keep Him from fulfilling His purpose. He had His mind fixed on His goal.  His life up until this point demonstrated who He was. By this time those around Him had either chosen to believe on Him or reject Him, and SILENCE made a greater statement than His speaking.

 

A short time before, Peter tried to defend Jesus. He took his sword and cut off a high priest ear.  Matthew 26:52-54, “But Jesus said to him, put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He will provide Me with twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?”

 

A well known song titled, “Ten Thousand Angels” was written in 1958 by Ray Overholt, expresses Christ outlook the following way:

 

The chorus goes like this.

“He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set Him free.”

“He could have called ten thousand angels, but He died alone for you and me.”

 

Titus 3:4-7,”But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

 

In this verse one can see we have nothing in which to boast. Salvation comes only from His love and mercy. Our part is merely accepting by faith what He has already done on the cross for us, and asking Him to forgive our sins.

 

Have I learned some lessons about SILENCE as I pen these words? Yes I have. I realize there is nothing in me to boast about, I can only boast about Christ. Pray for me to be more of an encouragement to others. Pray that I will do my best to remain SILENT if the focus becomes more about me rather than Christ who deserves full recognition.

 

If I meet someone new and they forget who I am, they have really lost nothing. If I can share with them that Jesus Christ’s purpose in life was for their benefit, He might open up their eyes and show them their life can have purpose and become fulfilled if they are willing to trust and follow Him. If that becomes the case then our meeting was not in vain.

 

We would love to have you come visit us during this Christmas season as we learn more about the Savior who was born.

 

 



Wisdom

Even though it’s still a year away from the United States Presidential election, many of us fear its outcome. We ask questions like; will we continue having our freedoms like we have had these past several years? What kind of future will our kids have? Are we secure enough to make it on our own? Does anybody care? More importantly, does God care, or is He remaining distant from us?

To give you an honest answer, I’m concerned about many of the same things you probably are. Yes, I listen to the news and some of the opinions the politicians and pundits have, but the real question is, do any of them have a crystal ball? Can they predict the future?  Are their opinions just a hunch? Can they see how things might turn out one, two or three years from now? If all my time was spent listening to the news, I could become a basket case of fear, dwelling on the unknown.

Now I’m not advocating ignoring what is taking place in our political process. We can vote and get more involved, if so inclined, but we need to strike a balance. For me that balance is to compare what’s going on around me to the Word of God. Lately our Pastor has been going though the Bible giving us the various names of God; when those names were given, and for what purpose. Those lessons have given me a peace that God is in control of all things and He will provide us with the right answers when the time comes if we have trusted Him all along.

The Bible does give us some answers into prophesy (Things to come). From studying passages such as Ezekiel 37 and 38, Revelation, and the book of Daniel and comparing it to the world around us, we can get a clearer picture of what needs to happen before Jesus Christ will appear to take His believers home to Heaven and be with Him for all eternity. In addition to what I’ve been learning through our Pastor, I’ve purchased online some valuable resources.  This has given me great comfort to learn much of God’s future plans and how it will affect my life. Even though he passed away 10 years ago, Dr. Adrian Rogers’s messages on the book of Revelation have been a valuable resource and are current for the times we are living.  His ministry is still alive and is under the title, “Love worth Finding.” His message series on Revelation is called, “The Triumph of the Lamb.”

After completing Revelation, my wife and I are now listening to the series called, “Agents of Babylon” on the book of Daniel, by Dr. David Jeremiah. He tells it in story form so we can experience what it was like for Daniel in his daily events. After that, he shares the Bible verses that support the Bible story. The book of Daniel is both historic, as well as prophetic, about things that have yet to be fulfilled. Between these studies, we get a better understanding of what is taking place today in our culture and a glimpse of what future events will be happening. My wife and I enjoy hearing these CD’s during mealtime. We look forward to our time together and these sermons have been an encouraging time for both of us. It gives us that inner peace that God has a plan and is in control of things we can’t often see. If you care to get a copy of those CD lessons which also includes a study book; just go online and type in “Turning Point.” That’s Dr. Jeremiah’s organization. He also has a lot of helpful resources on a variety of topics.

Daniel not only had to be close to God under extreme circumstances, but had to know how to talk with the King or his officers in a foreign hostile environment. If he didn’t and God wasn’t in control of each event, he would have lost his life early on and we wouldn’t have the book of Daniel. He prayed for wisdom each step of the way which he knew was the key. He also had an intimate daily walk with the true God and not their idols. When the Babylonian Empire captured Daniel and the Israelites, he was around 14 years of age. He was used of God during that captivity to demonstrate the power of God. How foolish it was for the ungodly kings to think they could govern their empire without Him and making themselves out to be God. Daniel was in that environment all of his adult life until the Lord called him home in his late eighties or nineties. He knew his purpose and remained faithful to God all the way to the end.

The book of Proverbs is known as the Book of Wisdom. Since we can learn about wisdom from reading about the life of Daniel, is asking God for wisdom  in our day and age still the same? Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” There is a lot to discuss in that verse; my primary thought is that the Bible is just as much alive and relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago. God speaks to us through His Word, and gives us direction to every area of our lives today just like He did in Daniel’s time.

Even though I’m going back in time again, it’s helpful to know that the majority of Solomon’s success is revealed to us in 2 Chronicles 1:11-12, “ Then God said to Solomon: Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you King – wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.”

Later on in chapter 7 of Chronicles Solomon dedicates the Temple to God. In verse 3, the people bowed their faces to the ground and worshiped and praised the lord, saying “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever.” Then a verse many feel that could apply to America if we follow its advice is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  I’m sure God, the creator of everything, would bless us if we unite in prayer and seek  Him for wisdom. It appears we want to do things our own way like it says in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to His own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

In spite of what our government officials do, we can still ask for wisdom and understanding in our own lives. The book of Proverbs is full of verses on wisdom. There are too many to elaborate on each of them. I believe the key to the entire book is found in Proverbs 2: 1-11, so I will close out with those  Scripture passages.  1.“My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, 2. So that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; 3. Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, 4. If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures;  5. Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. 6. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; 8. He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. 9. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path. 10. When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, 11. Discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you.”

We will be praying for those who read this and be praying for our country and the people’s decisions as they seek wisdom when voting time comes.

We would love to have you visit and worship with us. Let’s lift up the Lord in prayer and seek true wisdom that truly comes from Him.



My Son, Please Listen

MY SON, PLEASE LISTEN

 

Fortunately in my early 20’s, as a Christian, I sought out men of God who would share wisdom and understanding for my life. Although my father gave me good counsel as a teen, much of that time was wasted due to my rebellion, going overseas to Vietnam, and afterwards leaving home to move to the Chicago suburbs. I was 31 years of age when the Lord took my dad home in 1974. We had patched up our difference before then and I was thankful for his trying to help me get on the right track. It’s hard to believe, as of this writing, that was nearly 41 years ago. One man I looked up to who filled that void was Rev. Charles Svoboda 1,200 miles away from home.  He was a friendly individual and insisted that people just call him Chuck.

 

The last time I saw Chuck was while visiting my old church in LaGrange, Illinois in 2010. I had been active there from the late 60’s to the early 80’s and some of the old-timers were still members. When I viewed the congregation and saw Chuck sitting by himself, I chose to sit next to him. He gave me a hardy handshake and before the worship service started I leaned over and asked him how old he was now and he proudly said “I’m 90.”  We got together at his home a couple of times afterwards.

 

My purpose in writing this article is to honor the Lord and give public thanks to a friend who saw the need to help me stay focused. Many outside the faith might look at this as a generation gap, but I was seeking truth and Chuck had the wisdom and ability to reach me through Biblical concepts that spoke to my heart and propelled me to draw closer to God. Through his unique style he was actually mentoring me. (A mentor is one who has walked with the Lord a long time and is willing to share their life’s experiences with others, to be a helper or a guide as one seeks to grow in their Christian faith.)  I realize some reading this may not have a Godly father, and their relationship may not be as comfortable as they would like. In spite of that, there is someone out there who is eager to help if you just ask them. One thing is for certain; you can’t go though life alone and expect to get very far.

 

Just to give you a quick overview of Chuck and why I listened to him.  He was in the service during the Second World War under General George Patton in Europe and North Africa, and in Italy under General Mark Clark. He eventually ended up in France and Germany. He received the Good Conduct Ribbon with one Silver Battle Star, one Bronze Battle Star, Bronze Service Arrowhead, six overseas Service Bars and One Service Stripe. He was also an Anzio Beach Survivor.

 

He was a Bible Teacher, Preacher, Evangelist, Author, Prayer Warrior, Assistant to the President of Grand Rapids School of the Bible and Music, Church Planter and Organizer, Church Troubleshooter and Arbitrator to name a few. He founded Bible Related Ministries in 1953 to rescue churches in distress that were facing a multitude of difficulties. One can read more about him on the internet. What I liked best about him was his keen sense of humor and a belief in a Big God with no limitations. He was a busy man and not one you could spend a lot of time with, but when you had a chance, he would give you tips on the Bible that you would never forget. While at his home he gave me many of his handouts and I feel you might enjoy some of what I learned from him. Oh yes, Chuck passed away on June 17th, 2014 at the age of 94. He left a legacy and one that will remain in my mind the rest of my life. So below is one of his writings I was given, so I’m sharing with you just the way he wrote it.

 

My Son, Please Listen!

 

Introduction:

 

Think of the thousands of homes across our land in which parents have sounded the heart rending plea to a hot blooded inexperienced son or daughter.

PLEASE LISTEN TO ME!

 

John Wesley’s mother wrote to him when he was in college and defined sin for him: “Whatever weakens your reasons, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away the relish of spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of your body over your mind; that is sin.” 

 

Yes, Son, listen to me!

 

The book of Proverbs is loaded with counsel, guidelines, and instruction for right living. The words, MY SON appears 23 times in the book of Proverbs and express the following counsel.

 

  1. 1:8       My son, listen to your father and mother.
  2. 1:10     My son, steer clear of those who would lead you into sin.
  3. 1:15     My son, walk the straight path of righteousness.
  4. 2:1       My son, be open to right advice.
  5. 3:1       My son, open your heart to God’s Word.
  6. 3:11     My son, understand the reason for God’s woodshed.
  7. 3:21     My son, be filled with God’s wisdom.
  8. 4:10     My son, listen to the voice of experience.
  9. 4:20     My son, heed what I say.
  10. 5:1       My son, listen to me, I want to help you.
  11. 5:20     My son, don’t be led astray by a beguiling woman.
  12. 6:1       My son, be careful for whom you endorse a note guaranteeing a debt.
  13. 6:3       My son, quickly get out of the trap you have fallen into.
  14. 6:20     My son, remember and carry out your Father and mother’s instructions.
  15. 7:1       My son, hold on to what I have said when I instructed you.
  16. 19:27   My son, cease listening to sweet talkers.
  17. 23:15   My son, walk with God and thus make me happy.
  18. 23:19   My son, discipline yourself choosing the right way.
  19. 23:26   My son, let’s get together, listen to me.
  20. 24:23   My son, enjoy good things, but don’t overdo it- enjoy the best.
  21. 24:21   My son, put all your trust in the unchanging Christ.
  22. 27:11   My son, people are talking.
  23. 31:2     My son, I’ve dedicated you to the Lord.

 

 

Used by permission from the late Rev. Charles Svoboda, to reprint and distribute, founder of Bible Related Ministries, Hinsdale, Illinois.

Although Chuck now is in Heaven, his work and ministry still remains active and continues to bring glory to God and benefits others still living.

 

Revelation 2:29, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  Although my Christian walk began at an early age in other States, I’m still learning and growing and consider it a privilege to be part of Gateway Baptist church where my soul is being fed. We invite you to visit and learn for yourself what God may have in mind for you today and for your future.



Remaining Strong

REMAINING STRONG

 

What I’m about to write has been laid heavy on my heart since I heard of the tragedy that took place a week ago on June 17th 2015. On that date a 21 year old white young man walked into an African American church called Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina and appeared to observe a worship and prayer service that was going on that Wednesday evening. An hour later, I understand, he opened gun fire which left 9 people dead. He then fled by car to Shelby, North Carolina where he was apprehended.

 

It is not my intentions here to elaborate on this case since it has not yet gone to trial. Besides I’m not trained in studying any forensic evidence. My focus is from a Biblical perspective and to make comments on the message I heard from Dr. Norwell Goff Sr. on the following Sunday June 21st, just four day afterwards. Unless he was strong in his faith in the Lord, he could not have preached this message. That’s why I titled this article REMAINING STRONG.

 

Before I elaborate on some Bible passages, let me also tell you why this has weighed heavy on my heart. I lived in Asheville, North Carolina for 35 years and have been to Charleston, South Carolina and have driven many times through Shelby, North Carolina. Apart from that, I faced a tragedy of my own when my only son was stabled 11 times and died in Asheville on April, 24th, 2004 at the age of 26. So I have empathy for the families and church members and understand some of what they are going through.

 

Fortunately I grew up in a Christian home where I was taught to love everyone as Jesus did. My mother, Helen Yerkes and our neighbor Jeanie Chatfield worked together to introduce Child Evangelism Fellowship into the St. Petersburg, Florida area in 1949 and both were faithful to that ministry for 50 years until 1999.  Schools were segregated during those early years. One of those times she was asked to teach the Bible at an African American  grade school and a young boy, age 11, helped her carry her flannel board and equipment to her car at the end of the teaching session. She asked Timothy Adams if he had ever trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. Since he said no, she had the privilege of leading him to Christ. Forty Seven years later at the age of 58, we asked him to be a pallbearer for the funeral after my mother died on Mach 16th, 2005. He was working for the City of St. Petersburg at that time and remained faithful to the Lord all of those years as well as being faithful in giving to the Child Evangelism ministry, since it impacted his life even after her death.

 

My father was a building inspector in St. Petersburg, and witnessed to numerous African American construction workers and led several to Christ. One day he told me a man came to his office to get a building permit. He was courteous and called the man sir. After he left he was questioned by another inspector who asked why he kept calling him sir. Dad’s reply was, “Do you think you’re better than them?”  He never thought of himself as more important than others, and neither do I. So with some of that background, let me share with you what I learned from Dr. Goff’s message and then share some of my thoughts at the end.

 

Dr. Goff certainly set the bar high when instead of making this a hate or racial issue chose to show the Love of God and His strength. Dr. Goff focused on forgiveness. I believe he hit it out of the park when told that us the consensus was to preach about forgiveness and said he and the members had no malice in their hearts. His text was taken from Psalms 46: 1,5,10,11, “God is our strength, a very present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.”

 

First of all not only was the message was great, but the heart attitude of the congregation spoke volumes to me. Their attitude of forgiveness is just like the character of our Lord Jesus Christ whose words are written in Luke 23:34, “Jesus said, Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  At 71 years of age at this writing, I realize my time is nearing its end, so why should I be so concerned about the things of this world when I won’t be here long anyway?  I love the song whose lyrics are,” This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, my treasure is all laid out somewhere beyond the blue, the angels beckon me from heaven’s open door and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

 

Yes, in spite of our hope we have in Christ and our eternal destiny, it’s still painful here on earth. Forgiveness has to be the key. I had to do that when I spoke to the young man that murdered my son. It’s in God’s hands. Romans 12:15-19, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge, I will repay,” says the Lord.” We have to look forward and not in our rearview mirror. If we don’t we will only be stuck in the past and be dwelling on things that no longer can be changed.

 

 

In conclusion, I’m thankful for my African American brothers and sisters that not only are setting the bar high, but are an example for me and those that are watching. Other see from you just what love and forgiveness is all about. I hope for your sakes justice will take place, but if not we know God is in control of all things and He ultimately will be taking care of justice in the end. All America is watching you now and in many other parts of the world. Let’s pray that we will be able to maintain the attitude of Joseph as written in Genesis 50:20,”But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”  Ephesians 6:10-11, “Finally brethren, BE STRONG in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. So may the Lord bless my Christian friends in Charleston, South Carolina as they continue on in hope and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 



Rejoice

REJOICE

 

Usually when I start writing one of these devotionals, I do a fair amount of research on either a topic or name. In this case I did not do so purposely. The word REJOICE has been going over in my mind for the last few weeks, so I felt led to write about it. In fact, without research, I am going to just analyze the word first and let it speak for itself. To begin with, I see the word JOI right in the middle of REJOICE. I believe that would be pronounced JOY.

 

The fact that the word JOI or JOY is the center of the word makes me ask myself, should not JOY be in the center of everything in our lives?  Should it not be in the center of my life? We all would like to have joy in our lives. The question is can we get more? Before I get too far, let me clarify that there is a vast difference between happiness and joy. Happiness depends upon our circumstances. If things are going good for us we are happy, but if they are not, we are sad and unhappy. Joy on the other hand is not bound by our circumstances, but rather a relationship.

 

If you have children, they may let you down.  But whether they do or not, your joy comes from loving them and in spite of their behavior, they bring joy in your life. If Jesus is our Lord and Savior then we can have a consistent joy in our hearts if we rely totally on Him.

 

My next observation was the two letters at the beginning of REJOICE. That is RE. Many words begin with RE, such as restart, reprogram, redo, remodel and so forth. Every one of those words indicate a new beginning; so could it be possible that REJOICE is a new beginning of JOY?  If you are an English teacher and reading this you are probably having fits right now. That’s right if you take away the RE then JOICE is not a word, at least not in this context, it can be someone’s name. We also have no indication so far that JOY can be increased.  On the other hand I don’t believe you will ever look at the word REJOICE and not see the word JOY in it. So maybe I’m accomplishing something even if it doesn’t match up with proper English.

 

The real question is can JOY be increased or decreased someway? You might have heard someone say that they feel far away from God or can’t sense His nearness. The answer to that scenario is guess who moved?  We are the one moving away from Him, He never moves. He is there at all times and has the ability to bring Joy in our lives in spite of our circumstances. So to regain that Joy in our lives or REJOY as we have been discussing in our word REJOICE, we need to draw close to Him or allow Him the closer presence He wants in our lives.

 

Now lets see if my opinion of REJOICE can be validated. For the first time I’m going to see how the dictionary defines it. In Webster’s New World Dictionary, REJOICE is described as to be glad, happy or delighted, be full of joy, make glad and delight. So it appears that this little exercise lines up with what we’ve been observing in the above paragraphs.

 

Although in Webster’s definition we see both happy and joy, God’s Word gives us more clarity and draws more of a distinction between happiness and joyfulness. Since we know what it takes to make us happy, we won’t focus on that word, but rather spend our time on the particles of REJOICE which would include JOY and JOIFULNESS. You’ll see those differences as we look into the following verse.

 

Surprisingly, one can rejoice even under suffering and persecution. A verse that goes beyond our full comprehension is Hebrews 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, WHO FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM ENDURED THE CROSS, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Even though we know what He did, (Jesus died on the cross for our sins). We cannot fully fathom how He considered it JOY to die for us, sinners that think mainly of ourselves.  Only He can see the future, we never can. He knew it was necessary to die for our sins, be raised again from the dead, and someday those that have placed their trust in Him as their personal Lord and Savior will have the privilege to be with Him in Heaven for all eternity. My faith has been increased as I read about the sufferings of those in the Bible, in addition to, knowing more about the many being persecuted for their faith all over the world today.

 

Suffering does not bring happiness, but in spite of it, one can be joyful. So it’s possible that the joy and peace in our hearts can surpass any degree of suffering we may have gone through or yet to face. Reading and discovering what others have experienced through tests and trials challenges my faith. The question for me is am I completely sold out to Jesus Christ regardless of the path He has outlined for me? Pastor Richard Wurmbrand spent years in a Romanian prison cell because he would not deny Christ. His beliefs sent him to prison, his faith set him free. He was the founder of The Voice of the Martyrs. His life story can be found online in a book called, “Tortured for Christ.” I consider it a must read for anyone that wants to stand firm for his or her beliefs and to be drawn closer to Christ. One can also receive their monthly news magazine which tells of current real life stories about individual suffering and oppression and is a good source for prayer. Only God can bring them through this difficult time they are facing.

 

Many are being persecuted for Christ today throughout the world; even infants and young children. This world is changing rapidly and it may not be long before we experience some of this here in America. Many believe that the Lord will return in our lifetime. If it is quicker than you think, will you be ready to meet Him? We are not living in a world where it is business as usual. Although our physical and financial needs are important, our spiritual needs left unattended will have an eternal impact on where our future will be spent.

 

Our goal at Gateway Baptist church is to provide you a greater understanding of God’s Word and help you be prepared for your final destiny. Come visit us and let’s learn together.