May 17, 2020 – Faith – More Than a Feeling. We are given faith by God. Are we using it to face the difficulties of our day?

Faith – More Than A Feeling

As we are aware, the Lord gave his disciples much teaching. It is easy for us to look back at their lives and see flaws in the way they responded to the teaching they received and say they should have done better with the teaching they were given. We are looking at some of that teaching to see if we are responding to the Word as well as we think we are. We examined the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6 about possessions and worry. I think we can all agree that during these difficult days we could be taken over by worry and fear of losses. The teaching of Jesus was centered in the fact of the Father’s generous provision for His people. Jesus said that the worry we might experience was from a position of possessing little faith. Jesus rebuked his disciples a few times from this basis. We will look generally at that idea today and answer the questions. Is my faith something Jesus would call “little faith”? What are the signs of little faith? We will begin with an overview of faith.

The OT idea of faith was typically focused on trust or confidence in God and in His spoken word. Faith in the OT was often connected with obedience to what God had said thus demonstrating confidence or trust in what God had said. God made a covenant with Abraham and much of the OT is the working out of that covenant. Without seeing God in person the people following God believed and obeyed him. Certainly, the human propensity to vanity and failure was in place. Many did not believe in a steady fashion. Many however did follow what God had said. Abraham left his homeland to go to a land in an unknown territory. Noah built an ark. Moses left Egypt. These and many others are historically charted through the OT and summarized in Hebrews 11 as characters who had faith and acted on that faith in obedience to God. The OT teaches that faith is responding to God’s faithfulness by believing in Him and His Word and following what God instructed.

The NT emphasizes faith as an active following of Jesus as Messiah and Savior. The NT idea of faith takes into account the faithfulness of God throughout history culminating with the giving of His Son Jesus to take away the debt of sin in the world. Faith then is very much not a sense, or a feeling but a structure on which to build our lives in relation to Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross. During the earthly ministry of Jesus the idea of faith is responding to the Word with belief and that belief has a direct bearing on the actions of the individual. Faith is active. Jesus insisted that his hearers take him at his word without signs and wonders to authenticate his truth, however in his gracious teaching to them he did many signs to help their unbelief. He did this based on the faith in the word of the OT which he quoted often to substantiate his claims to be the Messiah.

Faith then would be the medium by which God’s power would become more visible in the future. This is the reverse of man’s expectation. Man wanted to see signs and then he would believe. Note this interaction with the disciples from the book of John chapter 20. “27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

Faith in Paul’s writings is faith in Jesus Christ and his work of salvation. Paul noted many of the consequences or benefits of faith in Jesus. Justification before God (Romans 5:1), reconciliation to God (2 Corinthians 5:18), redemption from sin (Ephesians 1:17), being made alive from sin’s death sentence (Ephesians 2:5), adoption into God’s family (Romans 8:5), recreated to be a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), and set free from sin and its power (Galatians 5:1). Faith then is the essential condition or absolute necessity for every aspect of salvation and every aspect of the Christian experience such as knowledge, love, personal growth, understanding, and obedience.

The book of James communicates the connection of faith to works. Works are the active side of faith. James rejects belief alone, “faith without works is dead” (2:20). The book of Hebrews cannot be read without coming away with the importance of an active faith. From this book we see that God wants us to have clarity. Faith delivers clarity. From this clarity we have a ground of certainty from which we can live our lives as believers in Jesus.

Finally, the NT tells us how faith is obtained. A summary of the book of Romans thus far is in Romans 10:17 “So then, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” “Faith comes from hearing the gospel preached, and the reason faith comes from hearing the gospel preached is that Jesus himself, the object of the gospel as well as its subject, speaks through the messenger to call the listening one to faith.”[1]

Faith becomes ours as a gift from God when we hear His Word. This is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts. Hebrews 12:2 tells us Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. God gives us faith when we hear his word. From that gift we can believe and trust and obey. Giving faith is God’s job – using faith is our job.

On several occasions Jesus said that the disciples had little faith. The fact of worry and the fact of fear were indicators to their little faith. Matthew 6:30, Matthew 8:26, Matthew 14:31, Matthew 16:8, and Luke 12:28 are the places where this takes place. In these settings the human need and the human worry took priority over God’s promise of provision. The act of faith – believing in God through Jesus – was not activated by the disciples. They were overcome by fear and worry when they looked at the circumstances and could not see a way out of the trouble. It was what they saw and what they could not see that prompted the worry and fear. The whole concept of faith then becomes clearer in these instances. Jesus did not rebuke the lack of faith.

They had faith but it was not being applied to the situation. The question they asked was how big is this storm or how little do we have to eat or who forgot the bread? The question they needed to ask is how big is the power of God or how gracious is the promise of God to supply or how will Jesus meet our need since we did not bring bread? Narrowed down to the smallest component the faith spoken of here is the same as was discussed in the OT – confidence in the Word of God.

Faith looks at what is not visible and sees it as real and possible because God says so. Doubt looks at what is visible and sees it as real and impossible because doubt does not filter what it sees through the Word of God. The idea of little faith is not quantity so much as it is application. When the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith in Luke 17:5 he responded by telling them they needed to apply their faith. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. 10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

 

That is what the writer of Hebrews says about faith. Hebrews 11:1-3 Hebrews 11:1–3 “1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Faith is the means to see God working in our lives.

We get faith from reading the Word and hearing from Jesus who is called the Word. What we do with faith is subject to our free will. Will you put confidence in God in front of your problems or will you put your problems in front of your faith?

So, if we are hearing these thing as the disciples did how are we doing? Are we applying faith to our life situations? What is most visible in your life worry and fear or faith and trust?

Jesus asked in Luke 18:8 Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? This whole coronavirus thing can be a real help to us. It can show us our weak faith.

[1] James Montgomery Boice, Romans: God and History, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991–), 1264.

 
 
 
May 10, 2020 I Will Go – These three words changed the life of one lady. We can learn from her faith. 

I Will Go

Today is Mother’s Day 2020. It will be celebrated differently due to the times we are living. I urge you to take time today, if your mom is still with you, to honor her and express your love for her. If your mom has passed away, today would be a good day to give another lady some honor and thanks. Perhaps someone has blessed your life. Let her know you are thankful for her.

Today we will consider a lady who answered a question with three words which indicate her surrender to God’s plan for her. I want to urge you to think about this person in light of the fact that God intimately cares for you and will not lead you to destruction. God loves you and will lead you to safety if you will follow Him.

In Genesis 24 we pick up the history of Abraham at his elder years. He had been led of God to leave his family and travel between 500-800 miles away to establish a new nation. God set His covenant with Abraham about 45 years prior to this chapter. God promised to give Abraham a vast family that would be the nation of Israel. God promised to give Abraham a land that would be the land of Israel. God promised to give Abraham His personal presence that would be his protection and provision. God promised to give the world a Savior through the seed of Abraham that would be the sacrifice for sin. God promised Abraham that the relationship of nations with Israel would give them either blessing or curse depending on their stand with Israel.

God had given a son to Abraham, Isaac. Now at 40 years of age it was time for Isaac to marry that the line of descendants might continue. God told Abraham to obtain a wife for Isaac from his homeland among his clan. To do this Abraham instructed his chief steward, Eliezer, to go to the family community (500 miles away) and find a bride from among Abraham’s clan. He further told his servant that the Lord promised to send his angel ahead of him to help him locate the bride. The servant knew, as he went, that he had to be dependent on the Lord.

Genesis 24 tells us what happens. I will summarize the early sections and read the section dealing with our emphasis today.

The servant left with 10 camels and other personnel to travel across the dessert the 500+ miles to the homeland of Abraham. As he arrived in the region (probably a month later), he stopped by a well outside the city of Nahor. He prayed in Genesis 24:11-14 asking God to provide the bride through the signs he requested. “And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time qthat women go out to draw water. 12 And he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: 14 And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.

Before his prayer was finished, a lady came to the well. Her name was Rebekah and she was from Abraham’s clan, but the servant did not know that. She willingly provided Eliezer, Abraham’s steward, water when he requested it. Then she proceeded to volunteer to provide water for the camels. A camel can drink around 20-50 gallons of water in a few minutes time. She worked quite a while drawing water for these animals and the people with Eliezer. During her labor the servant pondered if this was the Lord answering his prayer. When she was done, he gave her expensive gold bracelets and an earring; then he asked who she was and about her family situation. He then asked if he could lodge with the family. She willingly offered their home and supplies for Eliezer and his entourage.

The servant tells his mission in Genesis 24:34-54 “And he said, I am Abraham’s servant. 35And the Lord hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses. 36And Sarah my master’s wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath. 37And my master made me swear, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell: 38But thou shalt go unto my father’s house, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son. 39And I said unto my master, Peradventure the woman will not follow me. 40And he said unto me, The Lord, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father’s house: 41Then shalt thou be clear from this my oath, when thou comest to my kindred; and if they give not thee one, thou shalt be clear from my oath. 42And I came this day unto the well, and said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, if now thou do prosper my way which I go: 43Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink; 44And she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the Lord hath appointed out for my master’s son. 45And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee. 46And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: so I drank, and she made the camels drink also. 47And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter art thou? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands. 48And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master’s brother’s daughter unto his son. 49And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left. 50Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good. 51Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the Lord hath spoken. 52And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth. 53And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things. 54And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master”.  

The brother and mother then suggested a 10-day delay but the servant of Abraham urged them to allow him to depart with Rebekah right away. They called Rebekah to ask her opinion.          Gen. 24:57-59 57 And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth. 58 And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go. 59 And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant, and his men.

The group traveled the 500 miles back to Abraham and met Isaac first in the field. Abraham’s servant reported to Isaac all that had happened and Isaac and Rebekah got married.  She birthed Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s children are the 12 tribes of Israel. Rebekah had a small role in a big plan. It all commenced with three words. I will go.

I will go – changed her life. As far as we know, she never saw her family again. She went with a man she had met the day before to marry a man she had never met and who lived 500 miles away. God led through the life of Eliezer and she accepted the leading of the Lord.

So how do you answer the Lord when he touches your heart to direct your next step? The disciples willingly followed Jesus when he called them in the early part of his ministry. Many answered the call to salvation when the message of the free gift of salvation was proclaimed. What about you have you said yes to the Lord as he offered you his salvation?

As moms you have lots of duties but the number one job you have is to follow the Lord keeping in mind that he leads through others. This means he will use your submission to lead in your family.

Let’s all think about submission this way. Write “I will___________” and let the Lord fill in the blank. Are you ready to listen to many of the things the Lord has already spoken about in the Word?

Let’s not let society alone change our life situations. God has spoken, let’s listen to what He has said.

 

 
May 3, 2020 – Our Father’s Provision – Trust in your heavenly Father to provide for your needs. In these days of rapid change we are tempted to be weighed down with anxiety. Numerous and ominous questions can push our minds to worry. Iin this message we will consider the teaching of Jesus on the important and relevant topic of the Father’s provision for our needs.
 
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Our Father’s Provision

We noted over the past several weeks the teachings of Jesus that the disciples would have heard. We looked at their reactions and noted how we should learn from their errors. Now we will look at some of the teachings of Jesus and see how we are doing with our reactions to the same messages. We will begin with some of the life lessons Jesus put forth in the Sermon on the Mount.

According to Matthew 4:23-25 Jesus had been out teaching enough that now he had fame. “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. 24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. 25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.”

In his first year of ministry Jesus was teaching a relationship with God through the promised Messiah and this spoke to the intent of the Law and the intent of man rather than simply the performance of the Law by man. This radical new angle of teaching was engaging to the people, it spoke to their hearts. They began following Jesus to hear more. Of course, the miracles were quite a draw as well. The Sermon on the Mount was a summary of what Jesus was teaching. The common theme had been “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” God’s Kingdom of righteousness (right living by God’s standards) was now being instituted through Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. Please read Matthew 5-7 several times this week to help you be better prepared for our discussions in the coming weeks.

These principles are for Kingdom servants. Those who follow Jesus and have accepted his free gift of salvation are to live by the standards of this Kingdom and are the recipients of the benefits of this Kingdom, namely that we now have a Father who provides specifically for us who follow Jesus. These standards will be in full force in the future Kingdom after Jesus returns.

The Sermon on the Mount presents a variety of subjects which can be studied separately but these topical groups are related to each other and they are related to the in-depth spiritual life lessons taught early in the sermon. Let’s look at the topic of worry as it relates to the presence of our Father and his promised provision.

Worry is the result of loving possessions. In Matthew 6:19-24 the topic of money is addressed. Jesus is not opposed to us having money. His group of twelve disciples carried money for their expenses. Many of the OT servants of God had great wealth and some were made wealthy by God’s choice. The issue is not having money but in the matter of the heart relationship to money. This discussion of money and the following discussion of worry are tied together in the text and tied to the understanding or trust in the Father’s provision. Let’s break it down into some component parts.

A question helps to start the discussion. What is at the center of our heart focus or our lives? This is not an either-or question. We can have possessions and plenty of them and still have God and his kingdom work at the center of our focus and our lives. The possessions then become a means to furthering His Kingdom. This section reminds us of a couple of things about earthly possessions that when we keep these in mind are motivations to avoid putting possessions at the center of our lives. For each of these realities we are reminded that our Father has provided these possessions for our support not for our worship.

  1. Earthly possessions are subject to loss therefore value is limited. V. 20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” Do not love what you will lose.
  2. Earthly possessions have way of distorting our focus. V. 21 “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Do not be led by what you will lose.
  3. Earthly possessions have a way of distracting our central focus away from God. V. 22-23 “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” Do not let what you will lose own you.
  4. Earthly possessions will demand allegiance if not kept in their proper place. V. 24 “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Do not let possessions become your master.

James Montgomery Boice in his writing about this text said. “Ask yourself this: Can anything be more insulting to God, who has redeemed us from the slavery of sin, put us in Christ, and given us all things richly to enjoy than to take the name of our God upon us, to be called by his name, and then to demonstrate by every other actions and every decision of that we actually serve money?” “Either God owns the possessions and you serve Him or your possessions own you and you serve them.”

Now notice the transition to worry in verse 25. “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?”

  1. The teaching on worry is connected to the teaching on possessions. V. 25

Because of the fragile nature of possessions, I will not need to worry if I am trusting my Father rather than possessions. Life is so much more than possessions.

  1. The teaching on worry is illustrated with easy to see examples of the Father’s faithful provision. V. 26-30

“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”

Because the Father has proved His trustworthiness in nature, we can trust the Father. To trust in the possessions, He provides is a failure to live Kingdom principles. Jesus notes the ungodly have the same fears and worries but have no Father who provides. When we begin to trust the possessions, we forget that our Father is the one who provides and worry about the possessions becomes the logical next step for us. This is a trust issue through and through. Trust and worry do not belong together. Fear and worry are from the same DNA – love of possessions.

  1. The teaching on worry is a Kingdom of Heaven first approach. V. 33-34 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Because the Kingdom is more important than the possessions, we need to continually check our center-of-life focus to be sure it is on the Kingdom and the Father and not on the possessions. God’s promise is for provision. He is faithful to His promise. Let’s focus on the Kingdom work while doing all the things that make up our lives. Remember, this is not an invitation to sit on the couch and wait for God to put food in our mouths. The birds still gather (work) and so must we. Our work puts us in a position to seek the Kingdom and the right living it is focused on rather than the accumulation of fragile possessions.

How much energy, time, and good health are used up in worry when it does not change anything?  Worry always costs and never pays.

Simply put – do not forget that you belong to God and He deeply cares for you. This is not an invitation to throw your mask away or forget hand washing. Even though we have funds and goods, we need to align ourselves under dependence on God not dependence on self and our resources. Our pathway to the provisions we need is through Kingdom purposes and holy living with the motive of honoring God in all we do. Our Father, because He knows our needs, is ready to bless us with provision. We are loved by our Father so our dependence on him should not be reluctant.

 We are not asked to pull ourselves up and put on a plastic smile and pretend all is well. We are asked to put all dependence on the Lord and rest in Him. How do we do this? By obeying His commands to seek out His Kingdom’s purpose for our individual lives. Ask, “God what do you want me to do right now? I will do it.” He is the one we need to listen to.

The Devil is going to lie to you day and night about the Father’s ability to provide. Do not let Satan have your ear and thereby access to your heart. Call him out with an outdoor voice if you need to. Run him out of your house and out of your life.

Read and study Psalm 37 this is king David’s summation of his relation to God as a Father. Here are two timely reminders from David thousands of years ago.

Psalm 37:3 “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”

Psalm 37:25 “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”

Do you have such a Father as I have described. Today He can become your father too. Accept the free gift of salvation and come into the family of God.

 
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April 26 Morning Service – “Leaving Doubt Behind”. Embrace the new normal and serve the Lord. 
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Leaving Doubt Behind

The disciples were in a bit of doubt again. They had seen the whole of Jesus’ ministry. They had heard his teaching and witnessed the miracles. Now he had died and risen again. He had appeared to several of them. On resurrection evening the eleven and their associates were in a room discussing the resurrection of Jesus. Suddenly Jesus appeared in the room in the middle of them. The text is Luke 24 and we are picking up in the middle of the narrative. It started out this way. Two followers of Jesus were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus (7 miles) when they were joined by another person. It was Jesus who joined them, but they were withheld from identifying him until later in the evening. Probably by divine intervention.  The two followers of Jesus who had encountered Him on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus were so passionate about what they had learned from Jesus, that they had traveled after dinner the seven miles back to Jerusalem even though they had said they were home for the night.

Luke 24:28-35 28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. 29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, 34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. 35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.”

The two followers from Emmaus were convinced. They have all doubt removed. They find the eleven disciples and others who say the Lord is risen indeed and has appeared to Peter.  While in the room discussing these events, Jesus suddenly appears in the room with them and a host of doubts seize them all again. Note the text. Luke 24:36-38 36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts (doubts) arise in your hearts?”

The word for thoughts here is the word we get our word dialogue. By its very definition dialogue implies give and take. It means to reason or to think that something may not be true or certain. Now what is it that they think is not certain or true. Just a few minutes before they were affirming that Jesus rose from the dead. Now they were doubting the one in front of them is Jesus in body form. They thought they were seeing a spirit.

It is so important to understand that Jesus had said that when he rose from the dead, he would still be Jesus in the body form. This was to be their new normal. Jesus in body form, but able to suddenly appear and vanish. They were doubting because they only could grasp what had already happened in their experience with Jesus and could not grasp what could happen in the future. Do you see that most of the doubt can be traced to wanting life to be held at status quo or to be as man thinks things ought to be? This is the dialogue the disciples were having. They had some give and take to offer on the truth of Jesus’ words to them. We do the same thing. We expect to interject some give and take with the absolute truth of God’s Word. God has a much bigger mind than we give him credit for. He does not need our “dialogue”, he needs our trust and obedience. The disciples needed to embrace the new normal by trusting the words of Jesus.

Can you relate to getting a new normal in society? Do you think God is at all surprised by our new way of living? He is ready for you to accept new and more efficient ways of living and functioning as a church. To be sure, we do not lose any of our distinctives when we adjust our methods. What we lose (old methods) is more than made up in what we gain (new ministry).

That is the key truth Jesus has taught over and over in the gospels. Lose your life and gain it. Perhaps this truth is clearer now than ever before. I know for me keeping things as they are is comfortable. However, comfortable should not be our only concern. Our mission must be clear as the new normal takes hold. We are expected to be agile enough that we can change whenever needed so that we can keep the mission central. The church is the agency of evangelism, worship, and training. The new normal will test our agility to keep this mission central.

Notice that Jesus gave the disciples the help they needed to grasp the new normal. He dealt with the external elements, his body, and he dealt with the internal elements the understanding of the scriptures. For the external elements he ate food to show he had a real body. For the internal elements he opened the understanding of the minds of the followers.

Note the text. “39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? [NASB While they still acould not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them…]   42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took it, and did eat before them. 44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.”

By going through the process of explaining the OT scriptures and their relation to Himself, Jesus assisted the disciples in understanding the scriptures. However, their understanding was also assisted by the supernatural work of Jesus. This opening of understanding is the final step of the process undertaken here in this text. R. Kent Hughes makes this excellent observation about this moment in the text. “After this, none of the Eleven ever again doubted the reality of the Resurrection. In the following moments Jesus had their attention as perhaps he had never had it before. This was so appropriate because he proceeded to impart the eternal essentials of gospel and mission.[1]”  Notice the text. “ 46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things.”

Does God have your attention as never before. Now is the time to hear him say stay on the mission. You have a new normal in society but stay on the mission.

We experience the same understanding and illumination today as the disciples received that night by the work of the Holy Spirit. John 14:26  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 16:13 “Howbeit whe he the Spirit of truth is come he will guide you into all truth for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.”

We need to understand that the confidence we have in Christ’s resurrection as told to us by these witnesses is directly related to our mission. Listen to Peter’s defense of the scripture’s truth (30 years later), 2 Peter 1:16-21  For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

We are not eyewitnesses, but we have the clear testimony of eyewitnesses. We have the sure Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to make our understanding be clear. We must not let the new normal distort the mission of the church. Rather we must embrace the new normal as an opportunity that God wants us to use to continue to reach the world with the truth of the gospel message.

Listen carefully, we do not need to be eyewitnesses of the resurrection to believe it happened. The Holy Spirit is right now doing what Jesus did as he taught on earth. Jesus said in John 16:7-11. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”

The Holy Spirit is speaking to you right now. Are you a confident follower of Jesus Christ? The Spirit convicts of sin especially the sin of unbelief in God. All sin starts with unbelief in God and God’s perfect standard. The Spirit also convicts of righteousness. He does this by pointing to the infinite gap between God’s perfection and man’s sin. There is no human way to bridge the gap. The text refers to Jesus going to the Father. This is a simple indicator that the bridge between man and God is Jesus. His sacrifice on the cross paid the penalty for the sins of man. And finally, the Spirit convicts man that the ways of Satan have been judged and defeated by Jesus. Won’t you accept what Jesus has done for you? Roman 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

If you have accepted the offer of the free gift of salvation, let the Word and the Holy Spirit speak to you, reminding you of the confidence we have in the resurrection, and reminding us of the mission of the church. We are primarily a witness to the world of the salvation offered by God. When the Apostle Paul wrote an extensive piece on the resurrection he concluded with this challenge. 1 Corinthians 15:58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

Let’s not insert our wish for status quo into the work of the Lord. As we read the scriptures it is very clear that God moved in many different ways and he has many more ways that he will move that are beyond our ability to predict. Let’s join God in the work rather than demanding that he join us in our ways. The new normal does not stop God and it should not stop God’s church.

Please remember to connect with us by clicking the contact tab on our website, gbcloveland.org. We would be grateful to hear from you. Also, there are a host of resources on our website. Click the resources tab to get started.

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Luke: That You May Know the Truth, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 414.

 
 
 
 
 
 
April 19 Morning service – “Burning Hearts” – growing through God’s Word to be an encourager to others.
 
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Burning Hearts

What is happening in your heart right now? We are living in a time that will carry historic value and remembrance. What will be said of the church as it lived through these times? Because the church is composed of the individuals who have put their faith in Christ for salvation, then we as individuals directly affect this perception. As I ask these questions about the corporate church, they must also be asked about us as individuals. Is the church (you and me) melting, hiding, shrinking, distracting or is it expanding, shining, and serving?

The experiences of two disciples just after the resurrection of Jesus show us where we need to turn in days such as these. The text is Luke 24. Two followers of Jesus were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus (7 miles) on the day of the resurrection (likely in late afternoon). They were discussing all the things that had taken place in recent days. Confusion, perplexity, sadness, and unbelief characterize their conversation, emotions, and animations. Suddenly they were joined by the risen Jesus, but their eyes were affected in such as way as they did not know it was Him. This was likely a divine move to prevent their recognition of Jesus.

 Their discussion of the recent events (death, burial and resurrection) was typical. They were amazed yet understood not what it all meant; therefore, they were sad. Luke 24:13-17, “And behold two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass that while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them what manner of communications are these that ye have one with another, as ye walk, and are sad?”

They explained to Jesus as though he were a stranger in town, all the things they had seen over the past several days including their perspective that Jesus should be the one to redeem Israel. They had a different redemption in mind than a spiritual one. It seems all anyone could think of in those days was the oppressive Romans and their rule over Israel. As these two followers talked they were still as perplexed as the disciples were at the tomb earlier that morning. Instead of seeing the third day as the day of resurrection and the day of victory they were wondering what happened to Jesus’ body.

Jesus rebuked their lack of understanding and lack of belief in the prophecy of the Old Testament concerning Jesus as Messiah. He called them fools meaning that they were not recognizing the truth and that they were without understanding. The word for fool in Matthew 5:22 is the word for moron. This was a different word here. Jesus was not calling them morons. He was addressing their lack of perception after hearing so much truth and seeing so many affirmations that Jesus was the Son of God.

He told them they were slow of heart to believe the prophets whose predictions had been fulfilled in Jesus. This meant that the truth was present in their minds and affirmed in their sight but they had not taken the truth to heart and allowed it to own them and they to own it. Truth brings passion for Jesus and they lacked it entirely. It is like the snow falling from the trees as the sun heats the branches and the snow no longer clings to the trees. Only the moisture from the snow that was absorbed into the roots was owned by the trees. The surface snow fell away when the heat was on. The result of moisture to roots is growth. The result of the snow on the branches is temporary beauty. The disciples had the temporary beauty of following Jesus. The real growth would come if they owned the truth in their hearts.

He then explained the scriptures to them. Verse 27 “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself.” Jesus showed them all the connections of the Old Testament prophets and the Messiah Jesus. All the while they did not know this was Jesus talking with them. Their journey ended at Emmaus and they invited Jesus to dine with them even though they still did not know Him. As He ate with them their eyes were opened to His reality. As soon as they knew it was Jesus, He vanished from them. What they said next is significant. Verse 32 “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us along the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”

Here are two individuals who are followers of Jesus. Yet for all the things He taught and for all they witnessed of Jesus, they were in doubt on the day of resurrection. Their doubt led to sadness, discouragement, gloom, and sorrow. The disciples had been through an incredibly difficult time. The hopes of the Kingdom being established during the time Jesus was alive never materialized. Now Jesus had died and risen again, but they did not grasp the fullness of the resurrection. But when the Word of God was introduced into their conversation they felt something in their hearts.

So where are our conversations going? Are we speaking of the things of the current day without faith and with sadness? I know these are difficult days. We are seeing our normal world turned in many surprising directions. I have my times of sadness too. I am learning that what I need is a fresh infusion of scriptural understanding. The Bible is our guide for our current times as it was in the past and it will be in the future. It is relevant just as it is. The burning heart of the disciples is what we need to experience. Does this burning of the heart happen today?

What was this burning heart? We see the idea represented a couple of times in the Old Testament. Psalm 39 describes David holding back from saying what was on his mind. Note the text and the element of musing or thinking that prompted his burning heart. Psalm 39:1-3 “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue; I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned; then spoke I with my tongue.”

Jeremiah had a similar experience with his heart. He was prophesying against Judah as he was commanded to do and was imprisoned and publicly humiliated by being in stocks near the temple. He cried out to God and decided not to continue preaching. Note the result of silence. Jeremiah 20:9 “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”

Having content in our hearts that we want to get out in speech is what causes this burning. David wanted to spew out a sinful tirade against others. His burning heart was the result of holding back that speech. The rest of the Psalm identifies David’s understanding of his sinful condition. “I am frail” verse 4, “man at his best state is altogether vanity” verse 5, “every man walks in a vain show” verse 6. These are admissions of the sin within as David bemoans his current state. Then he grasps the truth in verse 7 “And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.”  What is the content of your heart that you want to spew out? Are you upset at the current situation? Are you tired of staying home? And on and on the questions can go.

In the other example, Jeremiah was giving out the Word of the Lord and paying dearly for it. When he said that he would not speak any longer, the Word continued to burn in his heart, longing to go out in speech. Do you have any of the Word of the Lord in your heart ready to be spoken?

From these two examples we see that a burning heart is simply a person who has something to say based on what has been building up within them. The question is what is building up in you?

Now we go back to the disciples in Emmaus. They heard the scriptures opened up to them by Jesus. He explained the connection of the prophets and the Psalms as they spoke of the Messiah. They sensed understanding of the Word and they were growing in the Lord. As they arrived at their home with the day “far spent” they compelled the guest (Jesus) to stay with them in their home. As they dined, they realized it was Jesus sitting with them. This may have been divine enabling or reversal of the condition in verse 16 “their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” It could be that they recognized the way Jesus broke bread and served them. Either way they recognized Him and just as they realized it was Jesus, He vanished from them.

Notice what happened next. Luke 24:31-35 “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us along the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and those who were with them, 34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. 35 And they told what things were done along the way, and how he was known to them in the breaking of bread.”

It was the understanding of the Word that moved these two to leave their home that evening and travel the same seven miles they had just traveled to go back to Jerusalem and find the disciples. The disciples are coming to ownership of the truth of the resurrection and these two are just as passionate as they relate their experience.

Is this what we see when we are studying the Word and the Spirit speaks to us and shows us the truth we are studying? Do you have a heart that is burning or sad within? Do you have ownership of the truth of the Word of God? Are you passionate to speak God’s truth? We can’t make ourselves have a burning heart, but when we are reading the Word and allowing the Spirit to speak to us, we will have a burning heart. A burning heart will give us a passion to communicate God’s truth. We cannot leave our homes, but we are living in a time of mass communication. All of us need to be in the process of sharing God’s rich truth and encouraging each other as we become owners of the truth. These followers walked seven miles to do this; you and I only need to pick up an electronic device to make the truth known. What is happening in your heart right now? Are you reading the Word and finding the Spirit faithful to show you God’s truth? We will give account for our time spent. Please use it wisely.

 
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Easter Sunday
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Resurrection Sunday
An Easter Message by Pastor Rice

Jesus was in the way.   For more than three years that was the sentiment of the religious leaders in Israel.  They could not continue their absolute rule over Israel’s religion as long as Jesus was around. Finally, after such a rallying display of loyalty by the crowds gathered for Passover, the Pharisees, scribes, and other religious leaders had their solution. He was dead. Yes, that is right he was dead. They had trumped up charges of blasphemy and had called in every favor they could think of to get him a trial. Then using the emotional fervor of the crowds and incensing them to hysteria, the leaders pushed Jesus all the way to crucifixion. Now with the stone in front of the tomb where Jesus was placed and the guards there to watch it, the leaders could begin repairing their power structure.

From human eyes this is what happened. However, from the throne of heaven this was all decreed before the world was created. God was going to use the death of His own Son to pay the penalty for man’s sin so that man could be reconciled to God. The vast separation between man and God had stood for millennia. Sin will never be allowed in God’s heaven. How can sinners get to heaven? Man has to be cleansed from sin and a new life given to him before entering heaven. Man cannot earn such favor with God or do the work of cleansing himself. A gracious gift is all we can hope for. Saving man from sin’s penalty of death is God’s gracious act.  God says it is a gift according to Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

But how can a dead person affect any kind of help to mankind? In the minds of the religious leaders they knew that if Jesus’ body disappeared from the tomb, the whole point of His death would be pointless. They knew about the predictions that Jesus had made about rising from the dead. Listen to the fear in their voices as they arranged to secure the tomb after His crucifixion. Matthew 27:62-65 “Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command, therefore, that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead; so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch; go your way, make it as sure as ye can.”

Everything around the actions of the religious rulers communicated that they had a sense He would indeed rise from the dead. So far whatever Jesus had said and had done made such a lasting impact they just had to stop Him – even after He was dead. But it was to no avail. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day just as He had said.

What a victory, not over the religious rulers but over death, the penalty for sin!   Romans 5:12, 17-19 tells us what this victory means. 12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned. 17 For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one, much more they who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”

Notice again the idea of a free gift that is offered to mankind. That gift is salvation from the penalty of sin. The scriptures tell us that the penalty is death but a gift of full payment has been offered to save us from the penalty of death and to grant us eternal life in heaven with God rather than an eternity of suffering in Hell. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Ok so you are not a religious ruler, what do you make of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus?

As we look further at the resurrection of Jesus an interesting statement is made in John 20:9 about the disciples who were closest to Jesus. For a broader look at the events leading to this comment listen to what John recorded about the resurrection morning. John 20:1-8 “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter, therefore, went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulcher. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed.”

In these verses the interested parties of women followers and disciples are coming to the tomb to add spices and to take care of the body. Luke’s gospel verifies this in 24:1. They were expecting the body of Jesus to be there. Now they all find Him missing. The impact is seen in John 20:8 then verified further in verse 9. Then went in also that other disciple, who came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.” The impact is ownership. The things Jesus had said came to pass. He told them He would rise again. Now seeing the empty tomb and grave clothes, they believed and took personal ownership of the truth of the sayings of Jesus, referred to here as scriptures, and the sayings of the prophets such as Psalm 16:10 “ For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

The ownership of Jesus’s claims was an act of faith. They had not yet seen Jesus walking the earth, but they believed He was risen from the dead. The same way that they believed we are to believe as well. Yes Jesus did meet with these folks after He rose from the dead and hundreds of others. But they believed before He did and took ownership of the claims of the scriptures. How about you do you believe what the scriptures say? We have looked at the free gift God offers to pay for our sin penalty. Without that gift we are condemned to hell. No person or group of persons can reverse that condemned status. Only God can change our status and that is through His gracious gift of His own Son.

Jesus died on the cross to pay our penalty. He rose from the dead to prove God’s power over death. One could say that to defeat death, the penalty for sin, Jesus had to not stay dead. That is exactly what happened. What the Bible tells us about Jesus, sin, man, and the salvation God offers needs to be owned by everyone of us. John 20:31 concludes the resurrection day events with these words.           John 20:31 “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

How do you believe and take ownership of what the scriptures say about Jesus? Romans 10:9-10 tells us in plain language. Romans 10:9-10 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

There you have the words to the prayer you can say to God. We confess that we are sinners and turn away from self and sin and turn to God’s offer of the gift of Jesus. We simply accept as true what the Bible says. Jesus died and rose again to defeat sin and sin’s penalty. Believe and own this truth today. Pray and tell God you are a sinner and that you now accept the free gift of salvation from sin’s penalty. Tell God you are turning to Him and turning away from sin. Tell God you want to be saved from death and Hell as described in the Bible. God will do as He says. He will save you and from this day forward you will be saved from sin’s penalty.

Resurrection Sunday is the perfect day to believe and own the truth of God’s Word.

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Palm Sunday
 
Pastor Rice shares a Palm Sunday message from John 12. Jesus issues a warning in the text that is relevant for all the world to consider.
 

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A Warning From Jesus
Palm Sunday
 
 

This weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday. This is the weekend before the Crucifixion of Jesus. On this occasion Jesus came into Jerusalem and officially offered Himself to the nation of Israel as their Messiah. He did not arrange for all of the fanfare but He did not rebuke it. The recent miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead loaned a degree of notoriety to the entry into Jerusalem. We can pick up the account beginning in the Gospel of John chapter 12 and verse 12.

“On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. 14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, 15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt. 16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him. 17 The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. 18 For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.”

You will note that the event took on a sort of parade aspect very quickly. The two crowds converged. The group that had been following Jesus and the group that had gathered for the feast. In the middle of all of this Jesus expressed that the use of the colt and the crowd’s accolades were the fulfillment of the prophet Zecheriah’s words in Zechariah 9:9. “ Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”

Notice in verse 13 that the crowd calls Jesus the “King of Israel”. That is an impressive title. The waving of palm branches and the laying down of coats in the roadway (described in the other Gospels) was a sign that the people recognized the royalty before them. The palm branches were a symbol of victory and peace. The crowd expected a display of force that would reverse their current situation under Roman Rule. They wanted action as powerful as the raising of Lazarus.

Once again, we see how man lays out the terms they expect to see come to pass while using Jesus as their catalyst to bring about the will of man. How quickly they would change when their plans did not come to pass. This crowd would call for crucifixion in a few days’ time.

The crowd also contained some of the religious leaders of the Jews. The Pharisees were the top leaders of the Jews. They formed an elite group of Jewish Law and tradition adherents who interpreted the Torah different from other clerics and displayed openly their high view of their own understanding. The Pharisees clashed theologically with most other groups in Judaism, however, in their view of Jesus they were united with all Jewish groups who saw Jesus as a threat to their authority over others and they were united in their desire to stop Jesus’ influence.

On this day they conceded that they had been ineffective against Jesus and the obvious popularity He now possessed. They were jealous at many levels and the underlying desire to kill Jesus can even be seen in their admission of defeat. Verse 19 “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.”

 

Once more group is identified and it is on the answer to this group’s request that we will spend our time today. The Greeks or Gentiles that were at the feast were curious of this one they had heard about. This sudden eruption of public acclaim arouses their interest and a small contingent seeks an audience with Jesus. Not sure if Jesus would be approachable, they seek out one of the disciples and ask him to meet with Jesus. He in turn reaches out to another disciple and they come to Jesus together. Verses 20-22 “And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: 21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.”

Jesus responded with a brief parable that is self-evident. He then extends His explanation to a current day application. John 12:23-37 “And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. 27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. 28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. 29 The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. 30 Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. 31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. 32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 33 This he said, signifying what death he should die. 34 The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? 35 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. 36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. 37 But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him.”

The answer to the Greeks is also the answer to the disciples and consequently to all who read the Word. Jesus said His hour had come. That means that the time for His death was upon Him. The addition of the Gentiles in seeking Jesus factors to this as well. He said that the hour is come for the Son of Man to be glorified. This means He is acknowledging the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension as one segment of His life and it is the segment that He is glorified of the Father. What a thought! The glory is the redemption of mankind!

The parable is of the growth through the seed. The seed of wheat falls to the ground and is buried then dies in the ground and brings forth life. No life without death.

This is a segway to the warning. There is no real life until there is real death. Jesus is giving a solemn warning. Those in this world who value their life more than anything will lose that life. Those who value life in Christ will be willing to lose this current life. Following Jesus means that we are willing to lose this life and exchange it for the life He gives. Verse 25 is explained by verse 26, “25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” The idea of hating one’s life is not suicide. It means to place your priorities outside of yourself and accept a new master over your being. That master is Jesus. The same idea is taught in all of the Gospels.

Jesus has his own heart shaken at the reality of the hour. His heart is troubled or agitated. This is the same word He will use with the disciples in a few days in chapter 14. The turmoil is real for Jesus yet he affirms His obedience to the Father and that is the foundational example of our Christian faith. Verse 27 “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. 28 Father, glorify thy name.”

The balance of the text tells us that the judgment of this world’s sin has been placed on Jesus. His death is the payment for that sin. The all-important question is this. Will you take that payment or try to come up with your own payment?

The warning is given in verses 35-36. “Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. 36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.”

The time is limited to make your choice. Do not wait – the time is short.

The message of the Bible is quite simple:

Man is sinful. Sin brings the penalty of death and separation from God.

Romans 3:10 “As it is written there is none righteous no not one.” (sinful)

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (separation)

Romans 5:12 “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned.”

Jesus died to pay the penalty and to reconcile man to God. His death is offered as a gift to man.

Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

To receive the gift we turn away from sin and turn to God. We acknowledge our sin and separation as well as our destiny to hell. We accept Jesus as Lord of our lives and give our lives to Him as He did for us.

Romans 10:9-13 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

 

Will you choose life while you still have the chance?

 

 

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Melting Hearts
 
Pastor Rice shares a biblical perspective to deal with the effects of the cultural atmosphere surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic.
Sunday, March 29, 2020
 
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Melting Hearts
 

When you go into a store or other business these days you experience something of melting hearts. For sure if you look to news outlets you see it.  Folks are in disbelief at where we are and how quickly we have come to this place. I hear comments that tell me hearts are melting. This is not a permanent arrangement, this we know, but it is real today, nonetheless. And I think we are getting weary of it. We know the importance of the health preventions. We are following the orders of those in authority. We are trying to make the best of the situation. However, we are not limited to just waiting it out. We are to shine as those who are kept by the Lord. We can show our world what trust and security looks like. Let’s keep our faith active and keep our witness clear. Our hearts should not be melting because we have a Savior who will keep His promises regardless of the earthly situation we are in.

God cares about our hearts, which is that deep and full seat of emotions that drives our thoughts and actions. We find some understanding on the matter of our hearts as we look to God’s Word.

The book of Joshua shows us how the Israelites took possession of the land and divided it for the various tribes and groups. In chapter 2 the initial inspection of the land of Canaan depicts a ready advantage for Israel because the Canaanites had already lost hope in their hearts when they heard what God had done for Israel. Rahab had harbored the spies in the land, and she tells them what she knows. The dismal news of the pending judgement and invasion had paralyzed the city of Jericho with fear.  

Joshua 2:9-11 And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.

10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.

11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

This melting of the hearts was exactly what God intended as He planned to do the many things He promised for Israel. Notice that the description includes not only the loss of courage to fight for their land  as the result of the heart condition, but we are also told that the Canaanites now have a new and bold understanding of who God is and the realm of His authority.  This is an absolute change from their previous perception but is too late. The very reason that God was giving Canaan to the Israelites was because of the defiance of the inhabitants against God and the unwillingness to repent and turn to follow Him.

 

This is not the first occasion of melting hearts. There was also a time when the hearts of Israel also melted in the wake of dismal news. This occurred some 40 years earlier on the shores of the same land of Canaan.  Moses was still alive, the Israelites were only a few months out of Egypt on their journey to freedom and prosperity after more than 400 years of slavery to Egypt. This was their moment: God’s promise of possession of the land was upon them. All He needed from Israel was belief. They sent spies into the land and they returned with their report. Two of the spies believed God and were ready to take the land (Joshua and Caleb). The other ten spies saw only the obstacles not the opportunity. They reported their dismal perspective and the hearts of Israel melted in disbelief.

Numbers 13:26-33   And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.

26 And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.

27 And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.

28 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.

29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.

30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.

31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.

32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.

33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

45 years later, Caleb, one of the original spies from this period recounts the events this way. Joshua 14:7-8

  Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadeshbarnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart.

Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God.

As a result of their failure to believe the Lord at His Word, Israel wandered for 40 years in the wilderness rather than taking possession of the promised land. The book of Joshua is the record of Israel taking the land after the 40 years of wandering and the dying off of the generation that did not believe. Moses had also passed away and now Joshua (one of the believing spies) was leading the way into the promised possession of Canaan. Joshua sends spies into the land and the melting hearts this time are on the inhabitants of Canaan rather than on Israel. Caleb the other believing spy would also take possession of Canaan.

 

The New Testament is also familiar with melting hearts. Though the word is not used the idea is clearly in mind in John 14. Jesus has told His disciples that the time had come for His betrayal and crucifixion. Their hearts were melting. Jesus spoke to them and to us in John 14.

John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

In my Father’s 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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Jesus further explained and promised His peace to both the disciples and to us in the same conversation.

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

This promise of peace is what will sustain us until the promise of heaven is fulfilled. Now the question: do you believe the promise of heaven and are you kept by the promise of peace?

One final word from the book of Joshua. In chapter 21:44-45 we have a sure word about God’s ability to deliver on His promises.

Joshua 21:44-45

And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand.

45 There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.

We have the peace of Jesus and He will not forsake us. He has overcome the world. Troubled and fearful or melting hearts are not God’s intention for His people. Grasp the truth of Jesus and give Him the things you are troubled with. He will take care of your heart.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 1 Peter 5:7
 

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The Immutable Character of God
 
Message for Sunday, March 22 , 2020 by Adam Wasson
 
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The Immutable Character of God

Thomas Paine was a journalist in the late 1700’s, most notable for a series of pamphlets that were published before and during the revolutionary war, Common Sense, and The Crisis.  In his pamphlet dated December 23, 1776, he stated:

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. 

Thomas Paine was a Deist, believing in God based on reason alone, not believing that God interacts with or even cares about mankind.  He also recognized the bitterness of humanity and purported the fight against it…from the stance of reason.  He may have been confused about the role of God, Elohim, in creation, but he did understand one thing very well.  The times of man change.

We are currently amid change within our own society on many levels.  At the forefront of everyone’s mind is the recent viral pandemic.  Among this change are generational, political, financial, and religious changes.  It seems that mankind is never content; and in turn, this discontent fuels a desire to improve.  The world calls this change “progress”.  Biblically, it is not progress at all.  It is, in fact, the opposite.  It is always a step backward, or away from God.  Very few are willing to take a step toward God for fear of not being accepted, even among Christianity. 

More than 20 years ago, my pastor stated from the pulpit that Christianity was approximately 11 months behind the world in what they felt to be “acceptable”.  I believe it was true at the time.  Today, it is probably an even shorter time period.  The world is changing at an unprecedented rate; and many Christians, who are supposed to represent God and all that He supports, are completely accepting of all the world has to offer. 

Thomas Paine was indeed correct.  The times of man do change.  What he failed to accept and believe is that God is real, and active in His creation.  And this real, active God does not change.  He is immutable. 

As Malachi proclaimed God’s message to a straying Israelite nation, He stated in Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”  More research into this passage reveals that God is urging the people through His prophet to turn from their ways and follow Him.  This is a theme that is found throughout the Bible.  God has remained steadfast and merciful through all time.  His desire for us has always been to seek Him alone.  He wishes nothing more than for His creation to adore Him. 

 

God is immutable because of His character.

God’s character is not unlike our own.  Other people recognize us by the sum of our actions.  Jesus Christ said to the pharisees in Matthew 12:34, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”  Jesus was making a point that what we say proves what we think and believe.  The principle can be taken further without jeopardizing the integrity of the Word of God.  Our actions, speech, fashion, demeanor, and attitude all dictate what we hold to be true.  What was it that brought the signers of the Declaration of Independence to do so?  For by signing that document, they stood to lose everything earthly.  It was their understanding of justice and truthfulness that made them sign.  “…out of the abundance of the heart….”  God’s actions, like our own, stem from His attributes, His character. 

God possesses character traits that no other being can claim.  He is holy, just, and righteous.  He is gracious, merciful, and true.  He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.  He is timeless.  These are a few of the character traits that make God who He is.  It is not our intention to detail out all the aspects of each attribute currently.  It is sufficient to state that all of God’s attributes, when used to describe one being, form an incomprehensible image in our minds.  Fortunately, He has given us His word to help us understand Him in a way that not only makes sense, but also helps us.

The study of God, Theology Proper, is a viable, and important doctrine and fundamental of the faith.  Throughout the Bible, we can find passages and verses that highlight one or two of God’s unique attributes.  It is slightly fragmented, but it can be compiled to form an accurate picture of the God we serve.  It is very important that God is all the things He claims to be.  For example, if we were never told that God is holy, and yet we are told to be holy, we would be left wondering about all the other attributes of God.  For without His holiness, there would exist within Him sin.  How can we trust Him to be just and righteous if He is sinful? All of God’s attributes make Him who He is; without one of them, He ceases to be God.  God, like us, is recognized by the sum of His actions.  It cannot be found anywhere in the Bible where God acted outside of His character, which proves everything He tells us about Himself is true. 

It is God’s character that makes Him immutable, or unchanging.  He has proven Himself to mankind countless times throughout our short history.  It is His character that causes Him to be relentlessly reliable.  God will never deviate.  He will act according to His character every time.

When God formed man from the dust of the earth, it was done “in the image of God.”  Part of the “image” was God’s free will.  It did not include His attributes.  Our attributes do not include justice, grace, mercy, truthfulness, or holiness.  Yes, we do yearn to be characterized by these, but they do not dictate our actions every time. 

 

God is immutable even though we are not.

Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” 

James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

God will remain faithful to His creation to the end.  Despite His creation turning its back on Him repeatedly.  The Bible gives us the pattern very clearly:

In the Garden of Eden, man had everything.  Yet, he was not content; he tried to improve his situation and failed.  God picked him up and gave him a new start with a new system.  (Genesis 1-3) He instructed man to manage themselves.  Man, once again, was not content.  He tried to improve for the next 1500 years and failed again.  God wiped them out with a flood, saving only a few; he essentially gave man a fresh start with another new system.  (Genesis 4-10) Immediate failure was realized at the Tower of Babel as man once again tried to improve his situation.  In Genesis 12, we are introduced to Abram; and it’s through Abram that all nations of the world were to receive salvation.  A promise was given to man by God and man chose to ignore it and go its own way.  Failed again.  God then gave man another fresh start through the nation of Israel after bringing them to a promised land.  He set them up with a law, which outlined all behavior.  He promised to be their God.  Man was discontented once again and failed miserably at living under the theocracy that God had specially designed for them.  God, in His infinite mercy, proved His love yet again.  He sent His only begotten Son to correct the situation.  This single act ushered in the Age of Grace, another new system.  For the next 2000 years man enjoyed this grace. 

Now, in the present state of society, most of humanity has forgotten about this grace and the mercy that has stemmed God’s wrath for so long.  We have become a society that has chosen to ignore God. 

Yet He remains faithful to His promises and what He has claimed to be true.  His actions reflect His character and shine forth as a beacon in the fog.  Our inadequate minds may disallow us from comprehending His holiness, or righteousness.  But His immutability is easily understood.  Knowing that God cannot ever change is a great comfort.  We can latch onto it, knowing that He will always do what is in our best interest. 

Even the rebel Jonah recognized God’s steadiness in Jonah 4:1-2, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.  And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country?  Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish:  for I knew that thou are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.”  God always acts according to His character.

The Bible does an excellent job of illustrating this truth for us through the actions of various individuals.   Adam, whom God made from the dust of the earth.  Abraham, who was called “The Friend of God”.  And many others.

Are we any different than they?  Are we so different from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?  They exercised free will when they chose to disobey God and eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  We exercise free will when we choose to accept the evil in this world as an unstoppable tide.  Are we any different than Abraham, who lied because he thought he needed to protect his wife?  David, who took a second look?  Saul, who wanted to offer a sacrifice that was not sanctioned by God?  Peter, who protected himself by denying ever knowing Jesus?  We are not different than these.  We change our actions based on our circumstances daily.  God, however, does not.  His actions change because we change; but His actions are consistent with His character.

If the Bible is read from beginning to end, it is found that this pattern of man’s rebellion followed by God’s mercy continues right up to the point where God makes all things new. Which is an incredible event in Earth’s future where God will display His love and mercy like he never has!

 

Where does that leave us in the present? 

God’s imperatival directive to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20) has never changed.  Christians everywhere should never halt their efforts because of the whims of a shaky society.  On the contrary, the God we should be pointing people to is the only stable thing that exists. 

The cultures of the world will never stop changing; they will continue the struggle for improvement until the end.  As Christians, our struggle is very different.  We fight against the forces listed in Ephesians 6:12. “principalities”, “powers”, “rulers of darkness”, “spiritual wickedness”.  This is essentially everything the world uses to try to improve itself.  Just as God has vigilantly stayed relevant to man through the ages, we must try to stay relevant to those around us.  God has changed his method of dealing with man based on the changes taking place within mankind.  We also must change our method of procuring disciples based on the cultural changes we see taking place around us. 

When Adam and Eve sinned, God locked them out of the Garden of Eden.  Never again would God use innocence to define His relationship with man.  After the law was given to Moses and Aaron, never again would man be judged by their own definitions of good and evil.  After Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again, never again would man be required to offer sacrifices to cover his sin.  When God changed His method, it was permanent.  He forsook the old way and embraced the new; because He knew that was what we needed.

As we look at how the world is changing radically, we must not be afraid to embrace change within ourselves and all of Christianity.  We will be held accountable to how well we have accomplished God’s Great Commission.  We must not be afraid to let go of those pastimes of the church that have worked so well that are no longer effectual.  We must be open to discussing new ways to be relevant to a new generation of believers that fail to see the value in believing in something they cannot see.  We must come together as believers in Christ and strategize new methods and systems to make people see the value. 

They are searching.  They are ready to listen.

 

“Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.” –Joel 3:13

“The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few” –Matthew 9:37

“…for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” –Revelation 14:15

 

May the God of the universe never see us as a people that watched the world go by without understanding how we can help.  May He see us as a people that impacted the world with our vitality, steadiness, boldness, and strength. 

We know the truth.  May we never sit by and let people search for it.

 

Adam Wasson
 
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