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This sermon was preached at Frontier Baptist Church on 31 December 2017:

 So here it is, another year gone or almost anyway. The “Holiday Season” is quickly drawing to a close. The hustle and bustle of preparation has culminated in a few hours of “quality time” spent with friends and family. All the gifts have been opened, the food has been devoured and for some anyway, the house has been returned to order.

There are those who are hoping for a break now that the season is winding down. I mean, think about it, you spend months getting it all together, and it is all over in a matter of a few hours. I wonder, how many of you find yourself at this point in time with just a bit of melancholy? The tinsel and the glitter, the lights, the decorations, the smells of wassail, of cinnamon and spice, are just recent memories; they are now replaced with the mundane living of everyday life. The glory of Christmas is gone, the New Year is coming up, so what now?

This phenomenon we call Christmas is not something that just sprang into being, it is not a new development. Matthew and Luke record the beautiful story of the birth of the Christ. We have the wonderful scenes of shepherds, angels, manger and wise men. We have heard the stories until many of us can recite at least a part of it by heart. And how Mary must have felt when the angel said to her; “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35b NLT)”

What glory! The almighty God of the the universe met humanity in a way that He had never done before! As Paul says to us in Galatians  4:4b-5), “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” So here we are, we sing the songs, we celebrate what God has done, and then we go into the reality of everyday living again. Too bad we can’t keep the holiday spirit all year. But then……
Yet they continued to follow that star  and finally they found the child, for it tells us in gospel of Matthew: “and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.” What a glorious happening, what a glorious start. No wonder they rejoiced. As it tells us in one of our Christmas Carols: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight!” Yet where are the wise men now?

These scenes are all so familiar to us. The Christmas season would not be the same without these stories. But, what happened after all this was done, after the shepherds left, after the Magi left, what happened? Well, Mary and Joseph begin the very tedious and very mundane task of raising a family, diaper changes and all that comes with a baby, and of course, Joseph has to make a living. The shepherds are again chasing their flocks around the hills, they are again doing that which has been their lot for centuries, in the solitude of their lonely existence. The wise men return to their homes, although by a different route than the one they came from.

Yet, things are not the same. I don’t think Mary ever forgot all that had happened, all that she had experienced. I imagine that there are days when the angelic encounters will seem more like a surreal memory, nothing more than a dream. There will always be those tongues wagging in the background, they all know what kind of a girl she is.

Think about the shepherds, imagine the awe, the fear and the glory the shepherds must have experienced as they were joined in the fields, first by one angel then by a heavenly host of angels as it tells us in Luke 2: And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” No wonder they wanted to go right away and see this thing.

Not many have seen the glory of the Lord, yet God chose to reveal this glorious thing to the shepherds and so they got to share in the experience of the birth of the Savior of all mankind. How wonderful, yet where are the shepherds now?

How about the wise men from the East? What His own people could not see, these wise men, these Magi, were able to discern. It took them over a year to arrive on the scene.

She also has the awesome responsibility of raising the son of God, not quite what we can or would consider every day life! Then the  shepherds on the hillside, they too have been changed. I bet there were many nights around the campfire when the story was told and retold. The encounter with the glory of God left them “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.”

Then the Magi, they had discerned the birth of this savior and had come a great distance to see him. They, when they were ready to leave were visited in a dream and told to go another way to their home. They too had been touched by the glory of God. When the glory of God is encountered, we cannot ever be the same as we were. No those lives were never the same again.

How about Mary and Joseph, here they are, they have set up housekeeping in Bethlehem, when God comes and tells them to leave immediately, flee to Egypt. Egypt! That is the land of bondage. The land that represented all that was pagan and sinful. Why would they be called upon to go there? Could not God protect this child, and them right were they are? Where are the angels now? Where was the glory they had experienced just a short while before? WELL – welcome to life, after the glory has faded.

Today is much the same as the days after the first Christmas. Our lives are not that much different than those whose lives we just read about.
At least for us in this country in which we live, but there are others.

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know…” Acts 2:22
In late 1992, “Wally” Magdangal, a Filipino Christian who for years had pastored a clandestine house church in Saudi Arabia, was arrested. His secret house church was unexpectedly penetrated by the “mutawwa”, the Saudi Arabian religious police.
Wally remembers reading in an Open Doors magazine about a small group in China that gathered weekly in the back room of a small store to worship together. It was the era of the infamous Cultural Revolution. Since the believers could easily be overheard by anyone entering the store, they “sang” hymns together without words or music. Someone whispered the name of the song and they would silently move their lips and simply think of the words and music.
He said, “We are an underground Church like the believers behind the Bamboo Curtain, but the difference is that we can praise in full voice because our facilities are sound-proofed. Not even our closest neighbor can hear us.” But they were betrayed and now Wally was en route to prison.
For three-and-a-half hours he was physically and mentally tortured. They slapped, boxed and kicked him in the face. Then using a long stick, they lashed his back and the palms of his hands. Then the soles of his feet. He could not stand without wincing and he describes his bruised body as looking like an eggplant.
Upon returning to his cell, Wally prayed for five hours thanking God for allowing him to participate in the sufferings of Jesus. Here are his own words; “Suddenly there was light. The cell was filled with the Lord’s Shekinah glory. His presence was there. He knelt and started to touch my face. He told me, ‘My son, I have seen all of it. That’s why I’m here. I am assuring you that I will never leave you or forsake you.’”
Wally woke up two hours later feeling like a new man. He was amazed when he saw his body had been restored to perfect wholeness. No bruises, no cuts, no bleeding or blood stains. He adds, “God had completely restored me.” This was a significant source of strength as he later repeatedly witnessed to his interrogators who were dumbfounded by his healing. Once after sharing his faith, Wally noticed the guard’s countenance change. He was smiling. Wally said, “I could feel the Holy Spirit working already.”
Wally (and his fellow-pastor) was spared scheduled execution on Christmas Day. Miraculously, at the last moment, they were released and deported home to the Philippines. Today he shares God’s goodness and blessing around the world never forgetting that Christmas miracle.
(Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS) A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks )
The glory of our Christmas of just a few days ago begins to fade in our memory. Like so many of life’s great moments, there is a sense of let down  when all is said and done. Perhaps it comes from having reached that plateau, that peak we have been working so hard to get to. Yet when we get to it, it seems to be not what we thought it would be, or might not be at all what we thought we were trying to achieve. Sometimes, it is just because, we need a new goal, a new direction to travel, a questioning of where do I go from this point? You might say it is the Egypt experience. It is what we experience after the glory is gone.

We don’t know what happened during the time Joseph and Mary and Jesus were in Egypt, we don’t know the what, when, where, or why of those years but perhaps it is because God did not feel we needed to know. Matthew does tell us that it was so that Prophecy could be fulfilled. The important thing is that it was a part of the plan of God.

So, where do we go from here? What do we do after the glory is gone and life is still to be lived? Maybe we can take our cue from some of the heroes of the Bible or Pastor Magdanal. After the flood, Noah had the responsibility of peopling the whole new world.

After the death of the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, we see God talking to a burned out Elijah, in a still small voice. After the trip to Ninevah, we find Jonah sitting under a tree, waiting for God to destroy the Ninevites. After the sheer awesomeness of Pentecost, we find Peter on his way to another Bible study, or prayer meeting. After the wonders and miracles that were done amongst the people, Stephen is stoned.
After the Damascus Road experience, we find Paul disappearing for a number of years into Arabia. As we think about and reflect upon the passing of this Holiday Season, and on the events of the past year, I would  also suggest that we need to look back at how God has acted in our lives. Many of you have experienced “Mountain top” encounters with God. Some of you have seen God working in lives and hearts, and even in your own life. You have received answers to prayers, and you have realized that God has used you to be Christ for someone else. Yet now you feel like you are in Egypt, that you have been sent to the sidelines while others are able to experience the glory. You cannot see the plans God gave you ever coming to pass. You wonder, what is next, what will happen and you don’t know what God has in store.

Brethren, we cannot always live on the mountain top with God. There are times when we go through the valleys in life. The valleys of depression, of indecision, of lost direction and lost focus. Yet God is with us, even in the deep valley. Even in our despair and our confusion, God is present. As the psalmist writes, “yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for though art with me, thy rod and thy staff they protect me.” God will lead us out of the wilderness, to greater service as His people.

We need to be prepared, life will change, God will give you direction and you will perhaps have a new direction for your life. Others are out there to be touched and brought into a time of renewal, a time of great change as we live and work in our lives in the mundane of every day life. We who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, have been changed, we will never be the same. Eternity awaits while we struggle and work in the here and now, others will see us and wonder what is different, and will perhaps ask, and we will have to answer, some will scoff, others will just shake their heads and walk away, but some will respond, will ask other questions. We need to have the answers, and if we will lift the moment before the throne of grace, we will have the answer we need.



The future is bright? The future is bleak? What do you think the future is, good, bad or indifferent?

Depending on what you believe the question can actually be of no consequence because you believe you are just fine and the future is looking OK from your perspective, of course it could also be bleak, especially if you live in areas affected by the hurricanes, or in Italy and the earthquakes that have hit them. Mexico got a double whammy, 2 earthquakes and a hurricane in a matter of weeks.

I want to posit for you a scenario that might just make you sit up and take notice, or not, since we have wars, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and other natural disasters pretty regularly all across our globe. There is a war coming though that will cause hundreds of thousands to die and it will take place in and around a tiny piece of land in the middle east. Let me begin this by telling you who the main players will be.

Magog, Mesech, Tubal, Put, Cush, Persia, Togarmah, and Gomer. The leader of them all was called Gog of Magog, meaning ruler of the peoples. The groups that are referred to here are around today, of course we know them by different names, and there is the rub. You see if you look at what is happening today in the world, you will see the machinations of nations especially in the Middle East, you will see this actually beginning to become reality.

Gog of Magog, Russia and its leader, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Lybia. Hamas and Hezbollah as well, under the direction of Iran. These nations will band together to attack Israel. Russia is already making treaties with Iran, Syria, and Turkey and helping to push the Kurds out of the way. Iran will take care of Sudan, Yemen and Libya and of course they are already the head of Hamas and Hezbollah.

This entire mess is prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39. It is a precursor for even more violence in the End Times of scripture. For those of you who are saved, and those who are members of Churches and have heard the preacher talk about this you know what I am talking about. I would like to say to all who do not know Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior, now is the time to make the decision to follow Jesus into eternity soon it will be too late for millions of people who will not make it through the end times. Jesus said that He would come again to take those who are His into eternity with him. We don’t know when, but we do know that our waiting is shortened, today is the day for decisions.

The war that is coming will be a terrible one, if you read the prophecy, it talks about 7 months to bury the dead, it talks about the carrion eaters feasting on the flesh of all who die in this conflagration. It also says that Israel will not have to fight this battle, rather God himself shall utterly destroy the entirety of the armies that come against God’s people, and the World will know that God exists and is real, all shall see his power and glory.

Time is growing short, there are wars and rumors of wars, there are earthquakes and volcanoes all over the world, we also see Plague again, as well as myriad other diseases coming into the world. We see too the destruction of people, killing, rape, and atrocity every day. Please do not ignore these signs of the times, if you do not have a Bible, get one and read the truth for yourself. Conflagration is coming and it will be horrific.

Jesus said we are to go into all the world preaching and teaching and making disciples. This is my humble attempt at making it clear to you that time is short, that Jesus will return, that the world will suffer terrible calamity. Jesus also said that he did not want any to perish, but he knew that even his sacrifice at the cross of Calvary, would be rejected by many. It is my hope that you will look at the scripture, read the gospel of Luke or John, find out for yourself who Jesus was and is. For God so loved the world, that he gave himself that all might have a chance of salvation.

In the American Legion every February we are to remember 4 Chaplains in WW 2 for their bravery and sacrifice for their fellow soldiers. They were on a troop ship when a German submarine hit them with a torpedo, these four men, were on deck, and saw men trying to get to life boats. They gave up their seats so that 4 others might be saved. They also gave up their life vests, their gloves and any thing else that might save one more man. As the men in the life boats looked back at the ship as it was sinking, they saw these four Chaplains, arms around each other, singing hymns and praising God as the ship sank into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. They did not check to see if the men they helped were of their own faith, they just did what they could to save others.

John 3:16 NKJV For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Now that particular portion of John needs to be looked at more closely, because we have so abused this verse that it has become a throwaway for our society. I mean, look, it shows up at football games, baseball games and other trivial events. People, in the beginning, would look at it and some would say it out loud or to themselves because they knew it so well. Others either went and looked it up online to find out what John 3:16 actually was, others just ignored it.

Yet this particular portion of scripture which we are looking at today has a meaning that can lead to life or death, it is literally that important. John writes that Jesus said to Nicodemus that, God so loved the world that he gave himself, his Son who was God in human form, that he gave himself so that, whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The world was in such a state that it was steeped in sin and ready for destruction. God had sent Jesus to be the salvation for the world, not by being a warrior, but rather by being obedient even to the point of dying.

We need to understand that without the death of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary, there can be NO SALVATION, for only Jesus Christ was sinless, all of us living then and through all the centuries since, have lived in SIN. Sin has to be the most heinous of crimes, and in reality it is, because it says, I want to be god for myself. It is Idolatry, believing that God doesn’t care, or doesn’t exist at all. Next of course is the simple fact that God says, if you believe then you will be saved, else you will escort yourself into the perdition that we find ourselves heading for in our sinful ways. Belief, the faith that God is real that Jesus is indeed the Savior sent from heaven to lift us all to a better place and life eternal.

As we go through this time called Lent, a time of preparation for the execution of the Lord for our sins, and then the glory of the resurrection Easter Sunday it is God’s desire that we will come to understand just how much He truly loves His creation. He also wants us to seriously look at what it is He is saying to us in this set of verses we read today.

John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus did not come to condemn the world to destruction for its sinfulness, but rather that the people of the world might be saved through His death at Calvary. That is where the love of God really shows through. That is also where the Church, really falls short. The Jewish teachers taught that when Messiah came everyone not of their faith would be destroyed.

Jesus teaches that this is not true, He came that all persons, Jew and Gentile alike would be saved, if they accepted the death that He died for them. The other side of that coin is simply that all who refuse to believe, will perish. Not because God wants them to, not because God condemned them to death, but because they choose death over life. They refuse to believe that God loved so much, He would die for them.

I once knew a man who thought that God didn’t love him, that God had rejected him for his sins. When he was dying with cancer, his wife asked me to come visit and to pray over him. I prayed for him and laid my hands on his head and the next week he was up and moving around. He had a colostomy removed because they could find no cancer. He spent the next year of his life, rejecting the reality of what had happened. He still said that God hated him and was rejecting him.

After a year of this the cancer returned, and he was actually pronounced dead. He came to as they were wheeling him out of his room to the morgue. He told them he could not die yet he needed to speak to his pastor. Saying that there was nothing else they could do for him they sent him home to die. His wife called me to come and see him, and I did. He still insisted that his sin was so bad that God would never let him into heaven. Exasperated with this, I said to him, what is it that you have done that was so heinous that even God would not forgive you? I had asked this question many times, but he would never tell me.

“I got in a bar fight when I was a kid, he pulled a knife, I pulled a gun and shot him dead.”

I said to him, with relief in my voice, “Is that all?” then I said something to the effect: “God will forgive you if you are ready to come before Him and confess that you have sinned and fallen short of His glory.” We prayed together and he accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, and he knew he was saved. His entire countenance changed, his body relaxed and he asked if he could take the Lords Supper. We got grape juice and bread and, with his wife and Yvonne, we celebrated the Lords Supper. Three weeks later he died peacefully in his sleep. God doesn’t condemn you or me or anyone else to hell, we do that ourselves. Refusing to accept God’s Love, refusing to have faith that Jesus really is the Savior.

The Church, that is you and me, has been called to bring people to meet the Savior, yet most Church folks come on Sunday, then return home and promptly forget what happened at church. They turn on the TV to watch the Cowboys, or the Spurs and forget that their neighbor down the street is a person who needs help. We have a terrible time inviting folks to meet Jesus.

Yet it is as much what we do as it is what we say that makes the invitation real. It is our lives as we live them that say, I am a member of the Kingdom of God, Jesus died for me and I live for Him.

God sent Jesus not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved by his death on that cross. Verse 18 says simply: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Faith, in Christ, belief in him brings eternal life in glory.

Rejection of him, unbelief just holds on to the condemnation of sin, that is a part of every persons life. It is when we believe that the condemnation is lifted from us, God forgives us for our sin, and sees the righteousness of Christ upon us.

It is our believing that brings justification to our lives, and starts us on the road to sanctification. Finally verse 19 tells us: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

This is the judgment. Condemnation comes not because we are born sinners, nor because we have lived many years in sinfulness, but rather because we rejected the idea that Jesus Christ is God and Savior. That His death paid the price for our sin, some of course will not even admit to having lived in sinfulness at all and therefore, do not need saving. The scriptures tell us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, yet many of those who call themselves Christian, still live lives in the world. Chasing after riches, power and personal pleasure. They do not know the risen Savior, in many cases they have actually never been told about salvation.

I have to admit, I would never have come to Christ had I not gone to my mother’s church with her, and heard the gospel preached. It was a Baptist Church, we had been members of another denomination, and I had never heard that I had to confess my sin before God, and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It took a few more visits to that Church, but the pastor spoke the truth, and I knew it was the truth, cause he stepped all over my toes with his words.

Yet I also realized that he was speaking words that God had given him to speak, and I had to own up to my own sinfulness, confessing that I was a sinner, asking for forgiveness, and receiving the simple message of the gospel. I was now a child of God.

My wife, will get up in the middle of the night, and will not turn on a light but rather will stumble around, stepping on things, so she won’t wake me up by turning on a light. We have a long haired cat who sheds terribly and therefore tends to throw up hairballs. If you are not careful you will step into one of those things and that makes it really hard to clean up. You have heard the commercial I guess, about people who really love their bank? I really love my flashlight, it helps me to get around when I get up in the middle of the night. Yvonne now has one by her side of our bed as well.

God does not want anyone to perish, He says clearly in this passage again John 3:16 “For God so Loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The word, whoever, means what it says, if a person believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he was born to die for the sins of mankind, your sins and my sins, then if you believe this is the truth, and confess your sin and call on the name of Jesus, you will be saved, and you will enjoy eternity in the presence of God.

Condemnation comes because we refuse to allow the light of Christ into our lives, so that it can shine out onto those around us. If we walk in the light and become the light for others to find their way to Christ then we are taking care of our responsibility. Are you washed in the blood?

If you are then let your light shine so that others may find their way to the fountain of Christ. If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord, note that it does not say, accepted Jesus and his life and death. It says you are to believe in Him as Lord, Savior, and God.

We heard how none of us can ever pay enough to become saved, none of us can ever become righteous on our own, none of us can make it to heaven on our own. Without being washed in the blood shed at Calvary you cannot be saved, and will have condemned yourself to eternity in hell. All of us will live eternal lives, but only those who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord will live in heaven. All others will still live in eternity, but it will be spent in eternal HELL! The decision is yours to make, God is calling upon you today, if you have accepted Jesus as Lord, are you now hearing God asking you to reach out to others? That is the rest of the story. God so loved YOU, can you now love your friends and neighbors enough to tell them the truth of sin and death?

Choices, are always part of life, if you are washed in the blood, you will be saved, if not you will die forever in hell, do you want that for your friends and neighbors?

Choose today what you will do, for yourself, for your friends, neighbors and relatives!

The scriptures tell us the following:

Luk 2:1-7 ESV In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. (2) This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. (3) And all went to be registered, each to his own town. (4) And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, (5) to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. (6) And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. (7) And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

This birth was foretold in the Older Testament by the prophet Micah: Mic 5:2 ESV But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
We celebrate this birth on the 25th of December each year. This date is disputed by many “scholars” but it has a long history so it will stay on this date, not because it makes any difference but because it is “tradition” and that is more important in some ways today than truth. The real truth however is in the prophecy by Micah. If Jesus was not born in Bethlehem, then the Messiah has not yet been born, and we Christians and Messianic Jewish brethren are living a lie. However Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but even so, that birth would have meant nothing if not for the most important action in all of history short of creation itself. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary. He died to pay the price for sin for all mankind, you see God really does love his creation, he set all this in motion and mankind messed it up.

It took a man who lived a completely sinless life, to give his life in order to end the need for men to come to sacrifice animals for temporary forgiveness of their sins. Only a perfect sacrifice could satisfy the penalty for sin, and only our willingness to admit to the truth of our sinfulness, accepting that death in our place and then beginning a new life in Christ. The Apostle Paul gives us a clear message in regard to this.

Rom 10:9-13 ESV because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (10) For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (11) For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (12) For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. (13) For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

So there is the greatest gift that you could receive on this Christmas and that is salvation and eternal life in the presence of God. All you need do is accept the gift, confess your sin, and confess that Jesus is Lord. It does not matter who you are or where you are from, God is no respecter of persons. All are welcome to come and become a part of the Kingdom, a part of the family of God.

So it is my hope that if you do not yet know Jesus Christ, you will at least investigate what the scriptures have to say about him, and further to come to know him as your savior, Lord and brother.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a future bright in Christ.

2Pe 1:1-12 NKJV Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: (2) Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, (3) as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (4) by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (5) But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, (6) to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, (7) to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. (8) For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (9) For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. (10) Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; (11) for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (12) For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.
Peter presents himself as a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, the apostle part is what he has been appointed to, the bondservant is another thing entirely. In Israel at that time, if you were heavily in debt, you could sell yourself to the one you owed the debt and by your labor for a set time pay off the debt.
Sometimes in these situations, if you actually had a better life under the master who you served, when the debt was paid, you could actually voluntarily become a servant for life to that person. The Greek word for this
is doulos signifies that you are in bondage, to the master. Peter therefore identifies himself as having voluntarily become a slave, and then Christ appointed him as an apostle. Next Peter talks about the folks he is writing to having received or obtained the same precious faith as Peter himself. The word used for obtained, is lagchano lang-khan-o and it means “determine by lot”.
Today we might say, he won the lottery, or as we see after the Crucifixion, and Judas killing himself, the replacement is chosen by lot. That is the implication here with this word, that they obtained the faith by luck. Of course it is more complicated than that, they obtained salvation because they believed in the teaching they received and came to have faith that Jesus was truly the savior. He goes on to say that this faith is by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. In other words, God in his righteousness, accepted the faith of these believers just as God accepts the faith of us today, and imparts to all who believe the righteousness of Christ to all of us. This says that in our faith we receive the death and resurrection of Christ as our own death and resurrection and that the debt owed to God for our sin, is fully paid, and God now justifies those who have repented of sin because they believe in Jesus as the savior.
I love the next verse because here Peter prays that grace and peace might be multiplied to those who have believed. He wants them to have the knowledge because of the grace of God through the gracious acts of Christ. Further he wants us to have our hearts guarded by the peace of God, that passes all understanding.
Note that this is not in small doses, not to be a teaspoon at a time, but rather HUGE amounts of His grace overflowing our lives. As we spend time in the word we come to know God and the more we know God the greater is the blessing in our own lives. Basically he is saying, we need to live in the word, not in the world.
Now we come to the meat of the matter, Peter is talking about developing strong Christian character and he starts out by telling us that God has made provision for us to live holy lives. Verse 3 tells us how this is so: “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,” In other words, God’s power is that which saves us and then energizes us to live holy lives from that time forward. The gospel, the word delivered, is that power of God that saves us from the penalty of sin, from the hellfire and defilement. So the power to live a holy life comes from knowledge of God, that knowledge allows the water of life to run through us with the power of God to holiness. John 17:3 tells us “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” As we progress in our lives, gaining more knowledge of God we shall also progress in holy living. The more we gain in knowledge of Him, the more we become like our savior and Lord.
Peter now goes on to talk about the promises of God, all of which move us further into the life of holiness. John Bunyan once said that, “the pathway of life is strewn so thickly with the promises of God that it is impossible to take one step without treading on one of them.” One other point, God makes the promises, he calls to each of us during our lives, but God does not force us to become saved. That would put the lie to FREE WILL, God has given us the right to choose to say no.
I am always amazed when I hear one of these TV preachers tell people that the only reason they don’t have riches, and all that goes with that, is that they don’t have enough faith. One of the truths of the gospel, is that faith has to exist before you can come to the realization of salvation, if you did not believe, you would not have accepted Jesus as Lord of your life. I used to dream that one day I would have a big house and a Caddy and lots of money. Instead God said, I want you to be a pastor, to small churches. Before I retired I had served two and three churches at a time, none of them larger than 40 members, one with only 8 members.
I came to realize what it meant to be truly rich, not with money, but with the presence of God in my life in all the varied situations that I found myself in over the years. Faith is the first step in realizing who we truly are, and why we need a savior. Peter now says we need to add to that faith first virtue. Virtue is usually thought of as good morals, piety and things of that nature, I think that Peter here is using virtue to mean courage, spiritual willingness to stand before a world that is increasingly hostile to the way of Christ. Church history is full of examples of this type of courage, one of the stories told is of Archbishop Cranmer of Canterbury burned at the stake on
21 March 1566 under Roman Catholic Queen Mary. Cranmer had recanted his faith in writing, they brought him to a service at St. Mary’s Church in London. At which time Cranmer, took the liberty to renounce his previous writing saying that he repented before God of having written it. They took him out to the town square and he stood tall taking off his outer garments and going into the stake, he asked that his hands not be bound. When the fire was lit, he stuck out his right hand saying that since it was the hand that wrote the lies, it would be first to be punished he placed his hand into the fire, and held it there as long as he could. The flames claimed his body.
That is a difficult tale, and there is much more to it. That I believe is the virtue that Peter is speaking of. Next Peter speaks of knowledge, the importance of studying God’s word and learning what it says about the way we are to live as children of God. Next is Self-control, or discipline, James 3:6 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” We are to learn to discipline our coarser nature, to live our lives in such a way as to show what it means to be a godly man or woman. In a world that is increasingly immoral, where politics has become a destructive force in our nation, where we work to destroy anyone who stands in our way, those of us who profess Christ, must adhere to a better way. Next Peter speaks of perseverance, we are to work patiently in the face of adversity we are to be the calming influence. I am reminded that the church in China, not the state church, but the House Church movement, is growing by leaps and bounds in the face of persecution, the Church is also growing in the Middle East, ISIS has forced people to take a look at who they are, and many are turning to Christ. Persevering is bearing up and moving forward in the face of all that comes against us.
Next is Godliness, we are to strive to emulate Christ in all that we do and say. Our lives should shine forth the light that is within us, that others will know that we are children of the God of the universe, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Paul tells Timothy in 1st Timothy 4:8 “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”

Jesus said in Johns Gospel 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Peter adds this, Brotherly kindness which will identify us as disciples of Jesus. If we love one another, that will help us to love others as well, for if we are to change hearts and minds, we must do so as people who love. I was always upset when that church group would show up at funerals of our soldiers, with signs that said “God hates fags” and “God killed you for protecting them” I did not see much to like about that type of Christianity.
No matter what else we do, we cannot hate people, we can and should hate sin, but not those who are ensnared by it. How can we hope to change the world if we act in hateful ways, that is how the world acts. We can see that every day, I watched a you tube video the other day, of a man holding a sign trying to show that God wanted repentance for sin, and he named sins in the sign. He just stood on the outside of the campus of a college, he was calm and refused to even raise his voice as a young man began to curse him. As he calmly stood there, the young man became more and more angry, and finally started to attack the man with the sign. Another man stepped in and stopped the attack or things might have gotten much uglier, but, the man with sign, still stood quietly, then noticed that the young man had dropped something on the ground. He stepped down and picked it up and handed it to the young man. That infuriated the young man and he really tried to do bodily injury to the man with the sign, who still did not react.
Living a holy life is what we are called to do, that and to reach out to a fallen world, with the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is shameful that the Church has become somewhat irrelevant in the society in which we live mainly because we have not shown ourselves to be the body of Christ.
We have allowed the government to take on that which was our duty as members of the family of God. We have forgotten that we have the Holy Spirit of God in us, and that we have the power to reach out and touch people with the grace of God. Let us never forget that we have the keys to the kingdom, we have entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our brother, Jesus, He who is also our savior and Lord. We are joint heirs with Him of the universe. As partakers of the Divine Nature we are called upon by our God to introduce Jesus to those we meet.
In a world steeped in sin, it is our place to be the light of the world, to shine forth the love of God for His creation, to show the way to Jesus, that all who believe will have eternal life. The apostle Paul said in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The word for gift is charisma the meaning of the word is “divine gratuity” or free gift. In other words God freely gives to all who believe eternal life in heaven with Christ.
Please understand that by loving the sinner, we are not condoning the sin, we are hoping that by loving the sinner, we can help them to find Christ and have the opportunity to repent and become, as we sinners, have already become, children of the living, Almighty and gracious God. What a wonderful and awesome gift we have to give to those who have not received Christ. Of course we must also realize that we cannot save anyone, only God can do that, and that the invitation does not mean that it will be accepted. That is a part of that Free Will thing, each person has the right to refuse that free gift of God. It hurts my heart when people say no, but when they say yes, and become saved people, there is great rejoicing in heaven.

Isaiah 6:1-12, John 3:1-12

I hope you have read the Charley Brown cartoon strip, you know the one with Snoopy sitting on top of the dog house writing his novel. He always starts out with, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Sometimes, that’s what it feels like in my life, the sun can be shining and all can be going well. Then I get notice that someone has gone into the hospital, or someone has died and my world becomes dark and stormy. Perhaps you too have felt this way? No matter what is going on around you, deep inside, in your soul it is dark and stormy, you may be smiling and laughing but inside all is turmoil and it feels like a dark and stormy night.

Perhaps it was a dark and stormy night of grief and despair for Isaiah, we read that King Uzziah had died, and Isaiah had gone to the temple, he went to the place where God was said to be so he could lift the darkness of his heart and soul and perhaps find comfort and relief. In the midst of his worship of God, Isaiah has a vision, he is given a glimpse of the throne room of God. The ultimate worship experience, to be allowed that much intimate contact with the divine had to be an awesome, and frightening experience. Seraphim, singing out with voices that shake the very building, “Holy, Holy, Holy” singing the holiness of God, Isaiah, looking upon the glory of God. Beloved, what a sight, what a glorious sight. What would your reaction be to this?

Isaiah, realizing his own sinfulness, and the sinfulness of the people among whom he lives, reacts, “Woe is me” says Isaiah. He has seen the glory of God, and fully expects to be struck down, he is about to die because he is a sinner. SURPRISE – SURPRISE: God instead offers Isaiah mercy and grace. His lips are touched by God’s cleansing fire and the seraph tells him that his sinfulness has been cleansed. That hot coal, straight from God’s fire has touched his lips, no longer are they unclean. In this way Isaiah is shown that repentance and forgiveness have a price, that there is pain and sacrifice involved in this cleansing. He has been touched by God’s cleansing fire, his sins have been burned away.

How does worship affect you? Do you experience God in worship? Do you expect to encounter God in worship?

Isaiah was so overwhelmed with what God had done for him, that he asked God to send him out as God’s ambassador, as emissary for God, to proclaim the message of mercy and grace. He wanted others to experience what he had experienced. SURPRISE – SURPRISE: the word God gives him to speak is not sweetness and light. It is not the “God loves you, live as you want,” that many are preaching today, and as many were preaching then in his day. King Uzziah had died, and already the people had begun to return to the altars and the Asherah poles in the high places, they had begun to bring back the worship of idols and other acts of abomination, just as has happened and is happening today. People begin to think they are their own gods, or they worship gods fashioned in their own image so they can have control.

The message then, was that the people of Israel are not to be healed. In verse 11 Isaiah asks how long must he deliver this message. God answers him: “Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant. The houses are without a man.” How can you do that, how can you deliver a message of despair, how do you speak the word that God has for you to speak? Especially when it is a hard word, a word that calls for repentance, and even in that repentance, suffering and destruction.

We have to deal with these things today. When you find out your child has come home from school with a report card that has a bunch of “F’s” on it. How do you deal with that? What can you say to a neighbor who has built a building that has a part of it on your land. That has actually happened in the town of Spofford, a house was built that actually was on city property. The previous mayor had given permission, it was a hard thing, but the city closed the street. What can you say to the neighbor who was beaten last night by her husband. What do you tell your friend who drinks too much, and drives home. What do you say or do, when a friend comes to you and says, my spouse has just been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, will you pray for us? How do you do that? How do you speak a word, knowing that it may not be received?

Truth is, it is much easier to say, “God loves you, God wants you to be happy.” It is not easy to say that judgment is coming, it is not easy to say, “God’s will be done” when you want to shout, no! No more death and destruction. How about the opposite?

How do we speak of God’s goodness and mercy, when children are killing children, when people are walking into schools and churches, and gunning down innocent men and women and children, when churches and synagogues are being destroyed all over the world. When 1.5 million babies are being killed every year in our nation, and when our society also wants to kill those who are old. We may call it assisted suicide, but it is really murder. How can we speak God’s word of love and reconciliation in the midst of hatred and terrorism? How can we stand up and say, no this is wrong, how do we work to stop the killing and destruction of innocent life?

What can we do? First and foremost we must start with a personal relationship with our God. That was Isaiah’s starting point, he came from that personal experience and knowledge of God and of grace. He came to understand his task in the personal presence and power of God.

When Nicodemus came to Jesus as we read today in John’s gospel, Jesus instructed him that he had to be “born again.” Jesus told him, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” We can’t do the spiritual stuff in our own power. When we are born again into that personal relationship with God, we see God for who He is, just as Isaiah did. Unfortunately, we also see ourselves as we are, weak and sinful, just as Isaiah did. George Younce of the Cathedrals, a group that has been disbanded now, and George has gone to be with the saints, sang a song, the song has a line in it that says, “I’m just a sinner, saved by grace.” You and I are just sinners, we have been offered that which Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Peter, Paul, Mary and Martha, Luther, and Wesley and Jose and Harry, Mabel and Jane have all been offered. Mercy and grace, are what God offers us, it is through that mercy and that grace that we are empowered to speak the word that God has for us to speak. We realize that we are totally dependent upon His power and not our own.

Gary L. Carver tells this story: “Come and see Donald’s museum, they said. I will never forget the day I first saw it. The ‘museum’ was in a building out behind a very ordinary looking house in Vevay, Indiana. The museum itself was far from ordinary. It would easily take several days to go through it. We saw incredible antiques — fifty or more coffee mills from six inches to four or five feet high. I saw beautiful old music boxes that had been re-created in the hands of Donald King. I saw the lock taken from the prison door at The Bastille.

I saw an indescribable museum of artifacts and Indian arrowheads. Donald worked with wood. He carved a statue of Christ twelve inches high, for which he had refused $5,000. One could literally see light reflected through the wooden robe! He carved a wooden map of the United states that had been used as a pattern for a commercial board game. He had reconstructed a scale model frontier home to the most minute detail. He was an amazing individual because of the things he had made, but even more amazing was Donald King himself. Donald King was three feet tall. He was born with no legs. On one hand he had a nub of a thumb and a nub of a finger. On the other hand he had a complete thumb and two nubs for fingers. Yet this man had accomplished so much. He had composed over 150 poems, all of which he still kept in his head. Some were over 20 minutes in length. A secretary was in the process of transcription for a publication.

Donald King went to school one day in his life. On the first day of the first grade the other children laughed at him so much he never returned. But his education was boundless. He had lectured widely and could speak with clarity on almost any topic. I once asked Donald, “If an ordinary person had accomplished one half of the things you have, he would be considered a genius. How have you done it?” He paused in reflection and stated, ‘I guess that sometimes God likes to brag.’” (Out from the Ordinary, Gary L Carver, Copyright 1995, CSS Publishing).

It is in the power and grace of God that we accomplish the tasks that God has for us to accomplish. In order to be sent out, we must begin with a personal relationship with God, allowing His strength to be shown in our weakness. Then we must proceed from a cleansed heart. Just as Isaiah was cleansed in the fire from the altar, so too must we be cleansed in the blood of the cross. Our heart must be clean, our motives must be God’s motives so that we may speak His word.

Cleansing begins with confession. Isaiah cried, “I am a man of unclean lips.” There is a story told of the Emperor Frederick the Great. The emperor was on a visit to Potsdam prison. In speaking with the prisoners, he heard one after the other protest their innocence, victims of the system they said.
One prisoner however, sat quietly. The Emperor asked him, “And you, sir, who do you blame for your situation? No One,” he replied, “I am guilty and I deserve my punishment.” Surprised, the Emperor shouted for the warden, “Come and get this man out of here before he corrupts all these innocent people.” (James F. Colianni, The Book of Pulpit Humor (Ventnor, NJ, Voicings Publications 1992) p. 28.)

Cleansing begins with confession and proceeds with the awareness that forgiveness is not without cost. When I went to licensing school in 1990, I met a man there who had been a Russian Orthodox Priest. He had escaped from Soviet Union with almost nothing, he spoke of having been shot by the KGB, having awakened in the morgue and escaping from there. He said that he encountered Christ in a vision in which he saw his apartment burned to the ground, Christ appeared to him and lead him from the flames, and told him to send his family away to safety. He said that he was told that he would come through the refiners fire and be made a new creature if he would be willing to follow the word of the Spirit who would testify of himself. My friend said he woke and the apartment was burning, he was able to lead his family through the smoke and flames to safety the same way he had been led. He sent his wife and child to safety in America, with some United Methodist missionaries.

He began preaching what the Spirit of God gave him to preach. He was shot twice by KGB agents, his bishop told him to stop preaching because he would be killed if he did not do so and finally, the KGB came looking for him and he escaped to the American Embassy. He was helped by the same UM missionaries to leave the country, and so he decided to become a UM Pastor in the Texas Conference.

We draw our breath and speak the word that God has for us to speak, because we have a personal relationship with Him. We come to understand that Christ gave His life to give us Life. Our freedom has been bought with a price. We can therefore proceed through life with a grateful heart, a cleansed heart, a humble heart. As we go about our daily lives, we may faithfully speak of God and His word to us, for we have lived that mercy and grace. The word is our own word, it is our story.

Living our story is living our worship, worship becomes a way of life and the experience of God with us becomes our reality. Paul speaks to us of praying without ceasing, that is what he is speaking of. Knowing God is present all the time, in all the situations of our lives, so that we can be in worship with him in all those situations. That is unceasing prayer, that is our ongoing conversation with our God.

E. Carver McGriff tells of going to a worship service at Evanston, IL. He says that he had other things on his mind and was not very attentive to what was going on around him. It was Communion Sunday and he was even contemplating leaving early, hoping he would not be noticed. He came to understand that that was unlikely and so he was examining the walls and looked up to see some wonderful artwork over the altar area and his eyes came to rest on a carving of the face of Jesus. Suddenly, he felt as if the eyes of Jesus were boring deep inside his soul, for a brief moment those eyes held him transfixed. He blinked and everything returned to normal, however, something had happened in that brief moment and he was deeply moved. Holy Communion has become a special time for him, and he has become convinced that Jesus is present in worship, especially in the Communion service.

What is your experience of worship, what do you expect from worship? Is God present, has Christ made His presence felt to you? Have you been called to speak a word and been reluctant to actually speak? God is present beloved, today, here and in all the situations of your life no matter where that may be. Can you speak of your experience, have you experienced Him? Do you know that you too are called to be a witness to the work of God in your life, that you are called to introduce others to Jesus, so they too may experience life in the Spirit? When you go out of Church today, will you offer them Christ?

The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. (Jer 18:1-4 NKJV)

Jeremiah and the story of the potter with the clay, a story all of us have heard many times a story that is fascinating to me in what it pictures for us. It also reminds me of the Genesis story of God forming man from the clay of the earth. I have a friend who is a pastor but also a potter, he makes beautiful utensils to use in God’s service.
The picture this week is of a potter making a pot, which pot becomes misshapen and the potter beats it back down and starts over. God says to Jeremiah: Jer 18:5-6 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!” Of course, this is again God saying, HEY, what is wrong with you, if you don’t get right then you are going to have to pay the consequences.
I tried making pots, failed at it, but also learned that a potter works with a wheel, the clay sits on a stone and the stone sits on a turntable. As the turntable moves the clay comes into contact with the potters hands. It is in the moving that the potter is able to apply proper pressure to the clay. The pressure of the potters hands is what forms the pot, as the potter envisions it.

In the same way, the turns of life, help God to mold and shape us as we move through the circumstances of living our lives. The pressures of God’s hands against our hearts and minds, help to bring us through tough times and mold us into that person we are meant to be. Of course sometimes we rebel, we push back, or we run away from that which is pushing against us. That is when the pot becomes misshapen and needs to be re-molded and re-shaped so that the pot that we are may again move toward God.
This reading continues on to say: Jer:18:7-10 “The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.”
Notice that in this version of the scripture the word that is used for God is relent, not repent. In the King James Version and some modern versions such as the 21st Century version. Some even say that God, will change his mind. Now that is not what the Hebrew says. It does not speak of repenting, nor of changing minds, the Hebrew says that God will “heave a sigh” either of regret or of gladness, depending on the circumstances involved. I think the word that comes closest to what happens here is that God will relent from the action rather than that he will repent of it. God doesn’t need to repent, which means turning around and moving in a new direction.
Humans, sinners that we are, do need repentance in our lives, for as we repent of our sinfulness God is able to work in us to remold us and shape us anew, into the image that we first held. For we were made in the image of God, and it is through this shaping and molding, as on a potters wheel with a potters hand guiding the clay by the pressure he uses on that clay shapes and molds it into the object he envisioned for it. The potter as he works with the clay may come upon a bit of stone that is embedded in the clay, or perhaps an air pocket, which will spoil the work, the potter does not throw it away, he rather begins anew with that pile of clay.
He removes that which spoils the pot, so that he can begin anew to fashion that pot in the way he sees it in his mind. So too does God work in His people to work in us to remove those things in our lives that make us less than what God has envisioned for us. When God had finished his creative work and he looked at all he had made: “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Gen 1:31 ESV.
Back to man, you and me as well as those who Jeremiah was talking to as God gave him the words. Whatever has happened to repentance? I mean, we like to think that Church is about comfort, about fellowship, good stuff that fills us up on Sunday so we can get through the week ahead. That is not what church is all about, it has to do with worship of God, with coming into the presence of the almighty and seeing ourselves as we really are in relation to Him. I often wonder why God bothers with us, we are after all flawed. We live in a flawed world, and as Isaiah said as he encountered God in the temple, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”
In other words, woe is me a sinner, I have seen God and I will surely die for having seen. When we come into the presence of God in worship, we realize just how awesome He is, we also realize that we come before Him only because of His grace. Perhaps church should be the place where the pressure of the potters hands would be the most felt, for as we come before the majesty of the Almighty we must also realize that His perfection can be seen, because of Jesus Christ who came to live among us. The very person of God in the form of a man, came to live as we do, and to give his sinless life as an atonement for our sins. Yours and mine, as well as all the other sinners of the world.
Abraham Lincoln a great man and a great president, yet he knew about repentance, he called for a national day of prayer and fasting. Lincoln knew that the North had been complicit in the crime of slavery. In the years before the War between the States, we call it the Civil War, but there is nothing civil about war. Congress had admitted states only in pairs, one slave, one free to keep the balance between the states. In 1854 the Supreme Court gave us the Dred Scott decision, declaring a runaway slave as property, denying personhood to all those trapped in slavery. A horrid war, pitting brother against brother, killing thousands. In the middle of the carnage, Lincoln issued the 1863 proclamation, which was submitted to Congress, and it used the following language: “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God.” At Thanksgiving he invited the nation to join in celebrating the “gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
Join me in humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.” Let us today remember that the bounties God has bestowed upon us, are given because of His grace and His mercy, not because we are deserving, or because we have done good things.” Jesus, died, to set men free. Many are still in bondage around the globe, many still suffer, and perhaps it is time that we prostrate ourselves before the Lord our God and implore His mercy. We sing, God bless America, perhaps, if America would turn from our own sinfulness, and began to bless God once again, returning Him to His rightful place in society, we would receive that which we desire, the blessing of God upon our land.

We are also called to stand for right, to stand in the gap, protect the innocent, the widow and orphan, those who are weak and unable to defend themselves. I see what is happening in the Middle East, I see the destruction of places and of people. I see babies murdered, women sold into slavery, men their throats slashed, and I see we do nothing. We do not act to stop the violence against those who cannot act for themselves, instead our nation gives lip service to fighting the enemy. We have become a nation of cowardly people, unable or unwilling to stand for what we know is right and instead we look to others to take care of what is wrong in the world. The truth is, there is no one else to stand for the oppressed, we were a great nation, blessed by God, I believe that if we continue on the path we are on today, that blessing will be removed from our nation. I call upon those who claim to be Christ followers, and yet do not the things of God. Stand up, be counted, follow that which is good and right and holy, act to right the wrongs that are being perpetrated every day, against women, children and old men, the weak of the world. Right the wrongs that are being perpetrated by our own weak and ineffectual government, which refuses to act against the hate in the world, and instead enslaves its own people. Wake up America, we are rapidly becoming a godless people, a people who depend on government instead of our own God-given abilities and rights as a free and sovereign people. Repent of the evil in our own land, and allow God to remake and remold us into the image we once held, the image of God.
He did not just die for you and me, he died for all men and women everywhere and everywhen, we are his people, and he is the potter, working at his wheel to make us over again, to remake us into His image once more, so that we may be as He is. When we come into his presence, it should be with an humble heart, and a repentant spirit, for He is God and that brethren really is the truth of the matter. It is he who has made us, not we ourselves, and he continues to work at us, remolding and reshaping us into that image that caused Him to say “It is very Good.”

<p>Lev 20:1-2 “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who gives any of his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones.”
<p>Today it is acceptable to kill our children, by abortion, we call it choice, we say that the woman has the right to choose whether she wants that baby or not. We do not say that it is a sacrifice to our own selfishness but it might as well be to satisfy Molech. I ask this question, why do we kill the innocent and yet give murderers life? In the time that Leviticus was written, the people of the land that would become Israel, were practicing human sacrifice, they would throw a child into the fire before this god to placate him.</p>
<p>Lev 20:10-13 “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death. The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death. They have committed perversion. Their blood shall be upon them. If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.”</p>
<p>Here we see sexual sins adultery, incest, and homosexuality all call for the death penalty. Today we do not kill people who commit these sexual sins, but up to the 1970’s we still condemned these as perversions. As time went on it became a victim-less crime if you committed adultery. Then divorce became no fault, so instead of adultery, there was not any cause for harm and of course this caused the laws to be changed so you could still divorce but it was a no fault, just incompatibility. In the case of homosexuality, it became an alternative life style, and today the courts have caused this to be an acceptable way of life and ordered that marriage was also allowed.
Sin however, is still sin, sexual sins are not victim-less, there is much pain in this type of activity, marriage between a man and a woman was supposed to be something you entered into for life. It was not something that you entered into with the expectation of sex outside of your marriage. Of course the really terrible part of all this loosening morals, comes to the forefront with the advent of incest. We now have at least one group who wants man boy love to be acceptable, and at least once or twice in any given month there are news stories of men or women having affairs with children. Then of course we all have had to see and hear reports of some priests and pastors having abused young boys and girls.
<p>Lev 20:14-16 “If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you. If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them.”
<p>Polygamy is also not tolerated, yet it too has raised its ugly head in some parts of our nation. Men marrying more than one woman, sometimes even a woman and her daughter. Now that we have begun to allow in our country for different types of marriage, there has been at least one case where a woman wanted to marry her German Shepherd, so far that one has not gained traction, but I wonder, in a society where sexual perversion has become the norm, can it be far off?
<p>Lev 20:21 “If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness. They shall be childless.”
In the Hebrew law there is one instance where a man shall take his brother’s wife to be his wife. If the brother died and there were no sons born to carry on the name of the family, the brother would marry his brother’s wife and hisfirst born son would be named after his brother in order to carry on the name of the family. One of the crimes of Herod was that he married his brother’s wife, Herodias, and his brother was still living.



Lev 20:22-24 “You shall therefore keep all My statutes and all My judgments, and perform them, that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the statutes of the nation which I am casting out before you; for they commit all these things, and therefore I abhor them. But I have said to you, “You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the people’s.”
<p>Lev 20:26 “And you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.” The Israelites were to be a people separated out from the world, they were to show that God had a way for people to live, they were to possess the land of Canaan, (Israel) and destroy the people of that land so that the perversions they had practiced would be eradicated from the earth. They were to follow the dictates of the law, and were to also proselytize those of the lands around them to bring them into the family of God. They were to do this by living holy lives by hating that which God hated and loving one another. They were also to treat others in love not in hate, they were to show that God was the God of all people and would welcome any who would accept His way of living. We see that there were people who actually did come to accept Yahweh as God of all, but as time went on there were many things that were placed in the way of people becoming a part of the Jewish tradition.
<p>When the time was right, the scriptures say, Jesus was born, and 30 years later began to preach and teach. He was God in human form, he healed and taught, and died and rose from the dead. He defeated sin and death, and when it was all done and He returned to his rightful place in heaven, the men and women he had walked with and taught began to reach out to others and invite them to join the Kingdom of Heaven. In just 300 years they changed the way people perceived God, the Church was formed and began to supplant the pagan religions of the world with the truth of The Way of Christ. Along the way things got out of sync and today we have many groups claiming to hold the truth.
<p>However, we can see that for all the claims, the one thing that is sorely missing is this: Mat 5:48 “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” We are far from perfect, we have allowed ourselves to become as the ancient Jews. We have made our own rules and laws, and ignored God’s way of life. We who call ourselves Christians seem to have abandoned the way of Christ, and have decided that we are not in need of the rules that Christ set forth. The greatest of the Commandments is that you shall have no other gods before me, yet we have many gods. We worship at the altar of power, money, possessions, and worst of all, perversion. Many have also thrown out the 2nd greatest commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself.”</p>
<p>Many people these days don’t even know their neighbor’s, much less care anything for them or about them. How many of your neighbor’s go to Church, or even if they go to Church, do they know Jesus Christ as Lord? We have been tasked with completing the work that Jesus started and showed us, he sends us and gives us the abilities we need to touch other hearts and lives with the gospel that he taught his disciples. How many “Christians” are actually living for Christ, how many are living lives of love for others?</p>

1Pe 1:15-16 “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written,

“BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” “ How many of those who call themselves Christian actually, work at being holy? If what we concentrate on and what we work for is possessions, or fame, or fortune, are we working on holiness or are we just like everyone else in this world. We are called apart, not of this world, but of the Kingdom of God. God has set us apart that we might be his people and not of this world. Apeople that are set free from sin and living for Christ. Like Paul we should be people who are running the race to claim the prize, eternal life in the presence of almighty God. Just as the people of Israel were surrounded by pagans, so too are we this day. We can choose today to follow the world and its perversions, taking on the sickness of our society, or follow Christ and take on his persona, his way of living.

<p>As we have been called to be holy as God is holy, means we are to strive for holiness in our own lives. We shall not become perfect for we are not God, but we are to strive for that perfection, as Paul writes, Php_2:5 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” in other words, spend time and effort in becoming like Christ. God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us in our walk with Him, to give us that which we need in the situations of life, to show that we are not carnal, not of this world but rather, children of God.

We are to oppose sin where and when we can, we are to stand up for the downtrodden, the infirm, widows and orphans as it says in the scriptures. One other thing that Christ has said is important for all of us to remember, Mat_10:33 “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” When the Israelites entered the promised land, they were challenged by this: Deu 30:19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;” The same invitation is given by God today: Choose life in Christ, not life in hell.

When I was a younger man, in what I like to think of as a previous life, I remember a man who was a wrestler called “Jake the Snake.” He used to carry a big sack and it had a very large Boa constrictor in it. He would take the snake out when the bout was over, and put it on the body of his opponent, and of course the opponent would run away in fear from the snake. Today we read of a different man, who we might be tempted to call Jake the Snake as well. Jacob was a conniver, a liar, a cheat, he would do anything to win.
He had stolen his brothers birthright, and then the blessing that was rightfully Esau’s. He was an all around terrible person, and he had to run away from home because his brother wanted to kill him, so he went to live with his uncle Laban. He has been gone about 20 years His mother and father were both dead, and he is returning home, knowing that he will have to deal with his brother Esau. Gen 32:22-32 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. (23) He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. (24) Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. (25) Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. (26) And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” (27) So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” (28) And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (29) Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. (30) So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (31) Just as he crossed over Peniel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. (32) Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.
We come into the story as he is sending his family across the river and he is all alone. The next thing we know, Jacob is wrestling with a man, the match goes on, hour after hour. Just before daybreak the man reaches out and touches Jacob on the hip and that is really the end of the match. Jacob is now clinging to the man, and he asks for a blessing from him. For he realizes that he has not been wrestling with a man, but with God himself. Verse 30: “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
I have to say that I have heard many theologians, and many pastors speak on the story. Many of them say that it was a dream, or he wrestled with an angel, but very few are willing to say that it was God. Yet brethren, I will say that I have no doubt that it was God that Jacob wrestled with.
You and I have the advantage here, we can look back to see what we know to be true. The gospel of John gives us the picture: John Chapter 1  1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. Verse 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Verse 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Jesus, the Immanuel, God with Us. Jesus was present at the beginning, He is the human face of God, and has been seen by others as well. Why not Jesus as the “man” who wrestled with Jacob at the river Jabbok?

I think that all of us have, at one time or another, wrestled with God. We wonder why God allows things to happen, if we were in charge we would stop these wars. We would never allow poverty, we well, we are not in charge so we wrestle with God over the things we see around us that we know need to be changed, yet we are powerless in the face of poverty, sickness, war, hatreds, the list goes on and on. We try, but we just don’t have the strength to do much, we don’t have the resources to feed all the hungry, care for the sick. Hey God, we can’t even take care of me.
It might help if we would admit that our way doesn’t work, that we need to work things in God’s way. There is a piece of history that talks about man trying to do it on his own. In 1849 a wagon train was working its way to California it was a group of folks who were looking to get rich in the California gold rush.

They came to Death Valley and were crossing that great expanse of desert, they looked ahead and saw a great expanse of water, they all thought it was a place called Owen’s Lake. The truth was it was a mirage created by the intense heat of the desert, the harder they worked to get to that water, the more frustrated they became.
That is a picture of ourselves, we try to accomplish things in our own way, and in our own strength, and we are just as successful as that wagon train chasing after a mirage. Is there something that you have been trying to do in your own strength? Have you been trying to build something to get to God? It may be that God is already with you, and you are striving to do something when God would like to hold you up and help you to reach your goal. I have heard that this church will grow when God is ready for it to grow.
I’m here to tell you that God is waiting for you to get out of the way and let Him build His church. God is ready, for people to hear the gospel message. We need to believe that God can do what He purposes to do.
All night long Jacob wrestled with the man, trying everything he could to defeat him. God showed Jacob that his way would not work, he disabled Jacob with a single touch to his hip. I look to Paul, to see the sufficiency of God, hear these words from 2 Corinthians 12: 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Jacob clung to God, and asked for his blessing.
He realized that he could do nothing for he had only the strength that God gave him. He knew that he had been found out, and could only confess his true identity, when God asked his name, he told him, and in saying Jacob, he also admitted to who he had been. God changed his name to make him into what he would be. Steven Dow tells the story of a student who was given an assignment to teach his speech class. He was to be graded on creativity, and his ability to drive home his point in a memorable way. The title of his talk was “The Law of the Pendulum.” He carefully explained to the class the principle that governs a swinging pendulum. Namely, a pendulum can never return to a point higher than that from which it was released. He then tied a string to a top, he attached that to a bar at the top of the blackboard. He then moved the top to where he would let it go and he marked the spot on the board.
Letting go of the top, each time it returned he placed a mark where it had returned to, in a few moments it had stopped. The student then asked how many people in the room believed that the law of the pendulum was true. They all raised their hands, even the instructor, who then began to walk to the front of the class. However, there was more, the student had hung 250 lbs of metal from the ceiling, he asked the teacher again if he believed in the law of the pendulum and the teacher again said yes. He then asked the teacher to sit in a chair on top of a table at one side of the room. The student then brought the 250 lbs of metal to a point just short of the teachers nose. Again he asked, do you believe in the law of the pendulum. With great beads of sweat pouring off his brow he said yes. The student let go of the pendulum, it is said that no one in the room could believe how fast that teacher could move, before the pendulum came back to his nose.
How easy it is to say we believe in something until we have to put ourselves in the line of fire. We Christians say we believe that God is sufficient to all our needs, but do we truly believe it? That teacher said he believed in the law of the Pendulum, yet when push came to shove, he dove off that table in fear.
Jacob, showed his belief in God by asking him for a blessing, God said “tell me your name.” You see Jacob had to tell God of his sin and admit that he was a sinner, before God could bless him. We too need to step up and admit that we are sinners, then God can bless us, John’s 1st letter to the churches in chapter 1 verse 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We who claim the name of Christian, are still sinners, we still need to confess our sin before that throne of grace.

When we do so, God extends his blessing upon us, he forgives us of our sins and moves us further along that path toward full sanctification. Our way, brethren does not work, we need to see that, without God to lead and direct us, we are spinning our wheels. God will lead us if we let him, He will bring us to the promised land of the kingdom, in his time and in his way. Pews will be full when we allow God to show us what we are to do, but as long as we think we are the ones who guard the gates of heaven, pews will be empty and people will shy away. Jesus Christ died for all, Jesus will wrestle with you if that is what you want, just as he wrestled with Jacob and with Peter, and Paul and truth be told me too.
Scientists studied a native tribe in South America whose people have been dying prematurely for generations. After thorough investigation, the cause of premature death was determined. The disease was transmitted by an insect that lived in walls of their adobe homes.
This new information gave them several options. They could move to another area where these insects were not known, tear down their homes and rebuild them, use insecticide to rid their homes of the bugs, or, continue as they have and die early. Surprisingly, these people have opted to remain as they are and do nothing about their problem. (McHenry’s Quips, Quotes, and other notes, p. 23).
When we keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results, we end up in the same place. It is only when we wrestle with God, only when we are ready to admit that our way doesn’t work, when we confess that we are in need of God’s grace to cleanse us of our sins, and help us to find new ways to do the gospel then we can move forward.

Amos 7:>7-17
Israel knew that God had established Jerusalem as the place for the temple, but they decided that they would have their own place of worship at Bethel, it was also the Kings residence. Israel had also decided to worship other gods and even defiled their worship place by worshiping in a pagan manner. They built high places for Astarte, Baal and other gods as well. In Amos 7 we find God telling Amos that he will no longer ignore the sins of his people, destruction is coming.
Yvonne and I had bought a house in San Antonio in 1986, she walked into one of the rooms in the house and told the realtor that the room was not plumb. He of course disagreed, then went and got the Foreman and he looked at the room and had to agree with her. They actually took $1,000 off the price of the home, because they found that the rooms in the house were all out of plumb.
(Amo 7:7-17 NKJV) Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said: “Behold, I am setting a plumb line In the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, And the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste. I will rise with the sword against the house of Jeroboam.” Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said: ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, And Israel shall surely be led away captive From their own land.’ ” Then Amaziah said to Amos: “Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, And there prophesy. But never again prophesy at Bethel, For it is the king’s sanctuary, And it is the royal residence.”
Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah: “I was no prophet, Nor was I a son of a prophet, But I was a sheepbreeder And a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, And the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’ Now therefore, hear the word of the LORD: You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, And do not spout against the house of Isaac.'”Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Your wife shall be a harlot in the city; Your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; Your land shall be divided by survey line; You shall die in a defiled land; And Israel shall surely be led away captive From his own land.’ ”
God has said that Jeroboam and his entire family shall be destroyed, blotted out for the transgressions they had made against God. Why is it that God has decided to do this? We must understand that this nation was very rich, that they had begun to sink into the pagan practices around them. Jeroboam II had a son named Zechariah and he was a sensualist, his father had increased the kingdom so that they were living in peace. They had a thriving economy, but those who were getting rich in this economy had begun to enjoy their riches, they were trampling upon the poor of the nation in order to increase their own riches. Their worship had become empty, it was just ritual and had nothing to do with love of God. In Amos 5 we read: “I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amo 5:21-24 NKJV) Chap. 5 we see that the leaders of the land were taking from the poor and enriching themselves.
King David wrote these words in Psa 9:17-19: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God. For the needy shall not always be forgotten; The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever. Arise, O LORD, Do not let man prevail; Let the nations be judged in Your sight.” (Psa 9:17-19 NKJV). Evil was running rampant in the northern kingdom of Samaria (Israel), Zechariah was the last in the line, 2nd Kings tells us what happened to him. Then Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him, and struck and killed him in front of the people; and he reigned in his place. (2Ki 15:10 NKJV)
Is there much difference today in our land? These words of Amos should bring us to the realization that when our worship becomes just ritual, when we begin to run after other gods, that the Lord will not be pleased. God has shown us in His word how we are to live, and who we are in relation to those who do not know our God. Yet in this nation that has been mightily blessed by the Lord, established by Him to be a place for His people to live in harmony with one another. We now are separated by religion, just as the northern kingdom had separated itself from the southern kingdom by setting up religious centers for themselves. The sanctuary at Bethel, held golden calves, worship was to these calves not to Yahweh.
The people were secure in their own abilities, not looking to God for His mercies, but rather thinking they could do as they wished, because they were rich and powerful in their own right. They forgot that it was God who defeated the enemies of Israel, it was God who led them into battle and without God they were doomed to defeat. The history of Israel is full of the apostasy of the people. When they entered the Land that we call Holy, they conquered the land, although not all of it. Joshua warned them that they would not be able to follow God:
But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD!” So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD for yourselves, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses!” “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.” (Jos 24:19-23 NKJV)
We too have made a commitment to God, we call ourselves Christians, we take the name of Christ and then act in the way of the world. James tells us: Jas 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. We who are “saved by grace”, are not perfect, but we are a people set aside to be witnesses to the world for Christ. Like Israel in the time of Amos, we too are out of alignment. The church today in America, seems to act in fear, we approve of things that God does not approve of, thinking it will let us live peacefully. Yet we see that the society around us hates what we profess to stand for. They pass laws that try to force us to kill babies, by paying for so-called health insurance that requires abortifacients be available for everyone.
In the history of the church we find that abortion was available in Rome, but very dangerous to the health of the woman. Many women would carry to term and then take the newborn out and leave it on a hillside to be killed and eaten by wild animals. Christians would go out and rescue any babies they found and raise them as their own. We also find today that many church groups are more than willing to support killing babies. Over 50 million have been killed in this country alone. We kill the innocent, because we don’t want to admit that we made a wrong decision, or that we were caught up in a situation over which we had no control. Usually we put criminals to death, not innocent children.
We are held to God’s standard, I have to ask, what if God held a plumb line to you or I, would we measure up, or would we be found wanting? God’s standard is Holy living, it is expected that we as His people would act in accordance with His will for our lives. What would God find for our church in this day? Are we guilty of false worship, greed, jealousy, lust or quarreling? We are expected to be holy and pure in our own lives, faithful to His word, and witnesses to the grace of God available to all. I grant you that we are still sinners, but we are also able to acknowledge our sin and ask forgiveness from our God. Then try to live our lives without sin as best we can.
King David was an adulterer and murderer, yet God called him a man after God’s own heart. Why? Because David confessed his sin, came before God with a broken and contrite heart and asked for forgiveness. We too need to confess our sins, come before the throne of God and seek mercy, and then move into the rest of our life in accordance with His will for us.
Do we come to church on Sunday morning, looking to please God, looking to praise His holy name for all he has done in our lives? Amos told the people of the Northern Kingdom that God had no use for their religious practices and ceremonies, he refused their offerings, even their songs were painful to God. They worshiped not God but rather themselves, they were comfortable and so came to worship thinking of their own possessions, their land and their money and not of God and his provision for them.
God wanted them to live righteous and just lives. Caring for those who were unable to care for themselves, widows, orphans, the poor. Instead they trampled on the poor, ignoring the needs of their neighbors, refusing to give justice to those who were wronged. Israel, the Northern Kingdom was destitute, they were rich, but they had forgotten that it was God who had blessed them. This nation, which was founded upon Christian principles, has also forgotten their history, we have songs that extol our God but we do not live as He has intended. We are working and playing without thought to our God, we think of ourselves as a people self-sufficient and no longer in need of the grace of God.
God is not pleased with us, I think that he has set his plumb line in our midst and a time of destruction is coming upon us. Our nation is no longer living up to God’s standard, we Americans no longer look to Christ as our standard for living, instead we look to ourselves, we look to the government to satisfy our wants and desires. Our so-called poor live better than many in other nations, not because they have jobs, but because they have welfare, food stamps, and free health care paid by, the taxpayers of the nation. The government is the god for many in our land today.
Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Mat 5:17 NKJV). Do we live as Jesus lived, and as Jesus taught? Do we work to bring others into the Kingdom of God or do we do as our neighbors? Our God is not pleased with our land anymore, we are on the fast track to destruction. We claim to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, but are we truly in line with Him or are we in line with Satan.
If we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and have not fallen prey to the ways of sin, that is a good thing. If we are working for the Kingdom, God will be pleased, not because we are working but because we have become more like Jesus. For those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior, hellfire is waiting. Today is the day that we have, tomorrow may not come for us, so today is the day to make our decision. Do we want Jesus as our Lord and Savior, or do we want to follow the path we are on? It is my prayer that each of us knows and loves Jesus and has a personal relationship with Him. Heaven awaits His people, hell awaits all others.

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Pastor and Wife

John & Yvonne Quigley, John is a retired Pastor in the UMC. This blog is about the journey I am on with Christ.