Summer’s Story

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A lot of people I know only think of the summer time as hot and muggy; I think they might be missing something…

I’ve always thought of summer as a glorious time, but I must admit that early on that was just because I didn’t have to go to school.

I took a drive the other day, and summer’s story was all around.  You could see it in the backyard BBQ’s where friends and family were gathered together.  You could see it in the small town festivals where communities are gathered.  You can see it in the church VBS  announcements where little kids will hear all about Jesus, and their parents and other adults will experience godly service for others.

You can see summer’s stories driving through farm country and seeing growing green fields as far as the horizon in every direction.  No, don’t say that is a boring sight!  This is where men and God work together to feed the nations and I daresay we’d all notice if it wasn’t going on.  Summer is a time when many have a chance to relax and recharge, to vacation with family and to just slow down a bit.  You can sit outside in the evening and hear the symphony of the land, the late calls of birds and the rustle of leaves in the trees, and you can enjoy the sight of the tiger lilies bright orange all around.

Yes, I’d say summer has a lot to tell if anybody cares to notice.

 

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Narrow Door

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“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”

(Luke 13:24)

Most everyone knows this passage (Luke 13:22-30) in which Jesus uses the metaphor of the narrow door to describe entry into His Kingdom which is not of this world.  Once the owner closes the door, no one else is admitted, no matter how much they thought they were worthy of admittance.

The clear message is that we need to do something to be admitted, and you can see this in verse 30:

“Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

If we live our lives with an attitude of selfishly holding on to our life, our own interests and our own advancement in this world, we might well be first in this life, but where will we fall when we come tor that door?  Will we even be admitted?

Self  is the great enemy of spiritual growth; spiritual growth is the building of our relationship with our Lord.  If we are stuck on self, we will not be able to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, for the two are opposites. When He says that we should “make every effort” that tells us that we have work to do.  Of course that is not to say that salvation comes by works, but rather that we must put effort into our relationships with Christ just as we must put effort into our relationship with our spouses and families.

I wonder, are we willing to be last, so that we might become the first?

 

Is there really hope?

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A few months back I came across a picture on the net that looked like it might have actually been a poster.  On it was a picture of a teapot and the words, “Where there is tea, there is hope.”  I must admit that it made me smile, even though I am more of a coffee drinker…

Can a person really find hope in tea?  Maybe it would be more like comfort.  I have noticed that in English television shows, it appears that all difficulties are solved by a cup of tea!  Personally, I tend to be a bit skeptical of the hopeful qualities of tea even though I can quite comprehend the restorative properties of the comfort of a reliable friend, and if that is tea for someone, fine by me.

A more lasting source of hope seems to be indicated, a hope based not simply on good feelings by based upon reliable Truth, don’t you think?

Our Lord Jesus Christ offers us hope that is based upon reliable Truth.  His is a hope that is based upon the fact that He has given His life for our sins, that we might have eternal life.  His hope is based upon the fact that He has risen from the grave and ascended to the right hand of God, and that as He has risen, so shall we.  His hope is based upon the fact that while the things of this earthly life are fleeting and perishable, our hope in Him is permanent and imperishable.

He, thus brings us a hope that transcends this present situation and lasts for all eternity.  With all due respect to tea, I’ll take the hope that Jesus offers ever time!

Sunday Class Notes: June 16

WARNING: Don’t Ignore your Salvation!

Today’s Text:              Hebrews 2:1-4

Introduction

In chapter one, Jesus is portrayed as standing at the pinnacle of redemptive history, vastly superior to the angels; the creator of everything.  In chapter two, He is seen joining the human race to rescue man.  This is accomplished in two sections, first vv. 1-4 warn us not to neglect our salvation, and then vv. 5-18 tell us how He did it.

This first paragraph of chapter two, like the beginning of chapter one is content rich.  It contrasts two divine systems, the Old Covenant and the New; the contrast looks like this:

Old Covenant New Covenant
A message spoken by angels Announced by Jesus Himself
It was binding It was confirmed by its hearers and by God Himself
It contained just punishment for every infraction It includes no escape for ignoring it or even for just drifting away

2:1       This is the thesis of the first paragraph, and by extension the rest of the chapter.  Notice the use of the imperative “must”.  “What we have heard” is the Gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and the imperative is applied toward the assertion that we need to be paying more careful attention to it.  Simply stated, this is telling all of us that we have no possible alternative to taking our relationship with Jesus Christ very seriously. It is not just a Sunday morning activity on the way to brunch; it is life itself!  The statement here is the first of many exhortations in the book calling our attention to the fact that we absolutely must not allow anything to distract us from our relationship with Christ, for if we should let that happen, we will lose everything we have.

2:2       “For” at the beginning of verse two ties it to the statement just made in verse one: Because we might drift away… The author is going to make a case here, and this verse is the beginning of it.  His case relates the two covenant systems together as noted in the introduction above.  Since the message brought by angels was binding refers to the Old Covenant.  It was binding means that if a person entered into the covenant relationship with God, then he was required to keep its 613 laws or face serious punishment: there was no way to avoid it, for you cannot fool God.

2:3       Our salvation is greater than we can hope to comprehend.  We must not ignore this great salvation!  This is quite interesting because it is what most of us do on a regular basis.  When we are fighting with our wives, we are ignoring our salvation.  When we are going through our days just like everyone else being irritated, selfish and prideful, thinking about how little people appreciate us and all of the rest of that kind of stuff, we are ignoring our salvation.  When we don’t get around to spending time in prayer or in the Word, we are ignoring our salvation…

Wait!  Escape what?  Verse two made reference to the just punishments that the Old Covenant has for breaking any of the laws; what punishment does the New Covenant have…?  The New Covenant is full of grace and forgiveness, this is true; but it also has a punishment: Eternal Damnation. So here’s the proposition that our author seems to be making: “Do you feel lucky Punk; well do ya?”

This Gospel was not announced by mere angels, it was given to us personally by Jesus Himself who is at the very top of the organizational chart.  It was confirmed by those who heard His words personally: the message is true.

2:4       Verse four reinforces the message in verse three by demonstrating the fact that the veracity of the message we have received from Jesus Himself is altogether true and correct; it must be taken seriously.  It has been further confirmed by God Himself by miracles, wonders and signs… For Heaven’s sake take it seriously!

Man Without God

Throughout the history of Man people have tried to outsmart God.  This shouldn’t be a shock to anyone for the history of Man is the history of rebellion against God.tumblr_mi8f26uH6C1r0ezqso1_500

You  hear this all the time when you see governments trying to silence the Gospel, when you hear scientists trying to explain it away or when you hear of courts trying to rule God out of the public square.  We can see this when watch Hollywood productions that marginalize God and His people, when we study the religions of men and how they try to change the inconvenient facts about God, or when they seek to replace the true God with characters devised by men…  Some of these things can seem persuasive at first, and then you think about it… In the end they don’t ring true; they bring about more questions than they could ever answer and as a result their adherents usually seek to silence any questions by one tactic or another.

There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan
    that can succeed against the Lord.

(Proverbs 21:30)

Nobody is going to trick God; nobody is going to fool Him.  Nobody is going to silence God; nobody will silence His message. .. He will never be mocked, and woe to the one who tries!

We can take heart in this, for when we are ridiculed and mocked for our faith in Him, we can stand firm in the knowledge of the truth and the fact that God will always be the Ruler of the Universe, and the day is coming when all men will know it and bow before Him.

Rather than be intimidated or silenced, we must know that those who would mock us are telling us that they need to hear the Good News about Jesus Christ; may we proclaim Him with boldness and sensitivity to the great need of our fellow-man!

Troubled Times

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We are living in troubled times, and as each day goes by we hear more that gives us concern.  What is going on in this world?

What is going on in our country!

My initial reactions to the revelations that have been pouring in recently began with a thought: “I told you so!”  It evolved… “Why aren’t more people outraged? ”

Of course, that isn’t quite the right way to respond, or at least that is how all of this strikes me after a couple of weeks of revelations; possibly only the beginning of the story.  What really strikes me at this point can be summed up in the following:

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

1 John 2:28

This is no time for us to return to the ways of this world!  OK, that isn’t necessarily to say that as good citizens we should just accept what may come, after all we have a voice. However, for us to forget where our hope lies and simply become part of the noise is not the calling of a Christian.  In fact, this may well be a time when the fields become riper than ever for harvest.

Clearly, this is a time when it is more apparent than normal that our hopes do not lie in human institutions, and as a result, God’s Truth shines more brightly than ever… if His people hold firmly to it. May we be a people of prayer at this time.  May we all realize that there are dark forces loose in the world, and that our response must be to take the offensive in prayer.

Some may think that a prayerful response is weakness; let them think so.  We know that the Devil’s greatest fear is the sight of Christians in prayer, for prayer can unleash the unstoppable power of God on this earth.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven

Let us never forget the implication of that statement: “His” will is the only thing that is done in heaven.  We can’t quite say that is the case on earth yet, but what would happen if this was the fervent prayer of hundreds of millions day after day?

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 14:13-14

Your will be done!

Friends

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There are times when you have the chance to step back and take stock, times when it’s perfectly natural to experience wonder at all of the things God is doing in your midst.  In these times, we have a sort of bench mark, a new notch on the door frame where we measure our growth both as people and as a community of believers.  I had such a day this past weekend.

Looking at the photograph, I see a small group of people who gathered at a private home to say good bye to a family that is moving away from our area and to another state.  As I look at these faces, the first thing that strikes me is how many of them have been with us for only a short time.  Even though they have been with us for a short time, nearly all of them are very active in serving in our congregation.  Of those who have been with us for a much longer period, we have each grown in our faith and in our walk with our Lord; none of us is the same person that we were five years ago. In fact, five years ago, nobody would have had this event at all. Five years ago, there were not the close relationships to have had this event come together.

The family that is moving away was active in a small group home Bible study, and that small group put this together.  They, and several members of that small group are also active in our Worship Team, and most of the balance of those in the picture are involved in the Worship Team.  Each person to one degree or another is working in a ministry team (or teams) that is actively involved in winning souls for Christ, making disciples and building our Lord’s Kingdom in our community.  While all of us are certainly works in progress, these good people are leading others to relationship with our Lord and at the same time, forming and building relationships with each other that will last a lifetime, no mater where we might be geographically.

I am also struck at how much any observant person can look at this group and see Jesus at work!