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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.

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<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.

 

Rom 6:12-23 NKJV ” Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.  (13)  And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  (14)  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.  (15)  What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!  (16)  Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?  (17)  But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  (18)  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.  (19)  I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.  (20)  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  (21)  What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.  (22)  But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.  (23)  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Paul today challenges those who claim the name of Christ, to Holy Living. He says that we must make Holy Choices as we go through our daily living. He says that you don’t want to allow sin to have dominion over your mortal bodies, do not sin just because you are no longer under law but under grace.

Through baptism we have been freed from sin and are now servants of righteousness. Paul also says that following God yields eternal benefits, at the end of our journey is total sanctification and eternal life with God and our fellow believers. Paul ends by telling us that sin pays a wage, that wage is eternal death eternity in the darkness away from the light of God, better known as Hell, but that salvation comes to us as a free gift, through Jesus Christ.

Paul here talks of slavery, slavery to sin which means we obey sin as our master and live sinful lives. We have given our minds and hearts to sin. Yet here is the truth of life, it is that we have been freed from slavery to sin, we no longer live enthralled by sin. Know that Jesus by his death and resurrection has defeated death and has freed us from sin which leads to death, instead we are now free to live Holy lives. Of course we still live in our mortal bodies which are subject to temptation and therefore we cling to the cross and to the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for our sins. In baptism we died to sin in likeness to the death of Christ, and were raised from death to new life.

Living that life is a choice we must make daily. There is a story told of a man who says to God, “Lord, I have not sinned today, I have not done anything that would bring shame to your name, I thank you that this is the case, but now Lord, I pray you will be with me this day, as I leave my bed to begin to live in the world today, help me to remain without sin.”

That is a story, but it illustrates the need for us to realize just who we are and of course that we are mortal, subject to sin because there is much sinfulness around us. So, we need to start our day in conversation with our God, acknowledging His sovereignty over us, and that we are in need of His guidance as we move through our day. Secondly, as Christian people we are to offer ourselves to God as available to be instruments to His will for our lives.

I know that some folks who call themselves Christians also say that they are allowed to do what they want, the scriptures say that they are no longer under the law, but, are under grace. If they sin they can go to God and ask forgiveness for that sin that they enjoyed doing and because of grace they will be forgiven. The problem with that is we are not under the law, but the law is still there to identify that which is sin for us.

What we have here is that we are free from sin, but, by the same token we are to become willing servants of righteousness. In order to embrace that liberty that is ours by faith in Christ, we must also surrender ourselves to the righteousness of God, we cannot neglect the surrender part so that we can continue to sin. If we do then we are in essence saying to God that we appreciate the freedom of liberty, but, we don’t want to be tied to righteousness either, we want to be our own god. That is the consignment of ourselves to an eternity in Hell. An eternity in the outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. In other words, an eternity divorced from God and his righteousness.

One truth that we seem to forget at times, the devil has no ammunition except what we give him. In other words, the temptations that are thrown at us are just that, they have no power over us unless we allow it.

Paul tells the Roman church, “No longer present yourselves.” In other words don’t allow your personality to be tainted by sin, don’t succumb to lust in your flesh and don’t allow your mind to become corrupted by your position or power. We have seen Governors, and Representatives brought low by their inability to perform their duties properly because of what they had become when they began to lust after others. It almost brought down a presidency, and that is a difficult thing to contemplate, but lust is powerful.

In place of giving yourselves to sin, Paul says we are to present ourselves to God. Present ourselves as willing instruments to live holy lives so that those we once were sinners with, will see that we have indeed changed we no longer live life as we once did, we are free from that life. We are now people who have a new way of living and a new way of dealing with life. Lust and anger and pride are no longer a part of our lives, we instead practice a different way humility is our cloak, grace our conversation and love for neighbor our walk. God is our sovereign we no longer walk in the shadow of false gods, nor are we walking with the emotions and distractions of the false gods of the world. We walk instead as citizens of heaven, we walk in the knowledge of Christ Jesus, and the free gift of eternal life through His sacrifice for us at Calvary.

Paul speaks of slavery, in our day and age that word has connotations that we don’t very much want to have to think about, yet, it is true that whatever way we decide to follow, that way is our master. We were enslaved to sin and now we are slaves to righteousness. We were at one time willing followers of sin, and are now willing followers of life. In essence, we have changed masters. One thing is for sure, there is no middle ground. We follow the Sovereign of the Universe. He is our Lord, and our Savior.

Paul then speaks of the advantage that is ours, first though he speaks about sin and what advantage we receive from sin. For many who get deep into sin they reap only shame and guilt, for even those of us who only venture into a little sin, there is still that guilty feeling. That worry that someone will find out and expose our sinfulness. We see it happen on a larger scale of course with politicians, and teachers who are caught in sexual sins, but also those who steal from their employers, just a few years ago it happened in our County, for just a few thousand dollars. Sin does not pay a very good wage. That is what Paul says in verse 23. For the wages of sin are death, that death is eternal, but it is not sleeping it is living in HELL, .

Paul does not let up in this message, he continues to hammer away. Even the thought that many of us have, “I wonder if that is really fun?” “I wonder if I can just buy one lottery ticket?” He assaults these thoughts and behaviors. He worries us and shakes us up You are Christians he says. Sin no longer has control over your lives, sin no longer reigns supreme as it once did. You say you follow Christ, yet you continue in sin. Stop excusing lapses in living holy lives by saying it’s OK we are under grace. You say you are Christians, if you truly are, then you belong to Christ, so act like it!

The wages of sin may be death, but the FREE GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Sovereign, our Lord. Let people see your love of God in all that you do, for then they will say, “wow, you sure have changed.”

 

 

According to Peter, all are called to the Priesthood, the family of God is a Royal Priesthood. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10 NKJV)

The congregation had once been a vital ministry. It had grown to be the largest congregation in that part of the state. But over the years they had shrunk to the point where people were beginning to be concerned about the church’s survival. Finally, their bishop sent a representative to talk with them about their future. Unless they made some real changes in how they viewed the church, their future was bleak.

A team of leaders was selected and a new pastor arrived on the scene. This new leadership team went to a retreat in Baltimore to begin training. The time was intensive with heavy attention paid to the leaders’ spiritual journeys and God’s vision for their lives and the life of the congregation. The event facilitators used art, journaling, videos, small groups — everything that they could to get the participants outside of their shells and to explore God’s call to them.

After a night of planning the leaders were to come back to present their vision for the congregation. Sandra, one of the leaders, had tears in her eyes. “I guess I never really knew that God had so much for me to do,” she said. “I always thought that I was to serve the church. This is the first time I ever really understood that I am the church. God uses people like us to make his kingdom happen. I just never knew….”

It is the place of the people of God to be the church. To be witness to what God has done in our lives. Some are called to the classic priest or pastor role, but the entire church is called to tell others about Jesus Christ and how He has affected our lives. We are not called to save people, we are called to introduce them to the Savior, He will take care of the rest. That is why the scriptures talk about the gifts of the Spirit, it is through these gifts that we are empowered to be the church, to be the witness God has called us to be.

Our witness may just be a listening ear, sometimes, folks just need to know that someone cares enough to listen to their pain. Perhaps it might be in helping someone find services they need, perhaps by visiting someone in the hospital or nursing home, having a word of prayer with that person. Teaching young children about Christ and His love for them is another form of witness. There are truly many ways to bring an awareness of God into the lives of those around us.

The story is told of a young woman who was being prayed for: “A student at a Catholic college was hospitalized after a car wreck. A group of nuns from the college visited her. They said they had been praying for her. A priest had mentioned her at morning mass, and at afternoon chapel, and the sisters said they prayed for her all the time. She said to the nuns, “Thank you very much, but will it count? You see, I’m not Catholic.”

The oldest nun touched her hand and said, “Don’t you worry, dear. We just say the prayers. Then God can do whatever he wants with you.””

We are not called to do more than use the gifts we have received from the Spirit of God to introduce others to God.

We are also called to live to a high moral standard. Jesus died sinless, we too are to die to sin and to live moral lives. It pains me greatly to hear about priests and pastors who have affairs, or who have abused children. I do hope and pray that this will be taken care of responsibly by the Roman Catholic Church, but also with an eye toward redemption. Those who have sinned in this way must never be put into positions where they can again be tempted to abuse children, but God’s Son died for these sins too.

Having said that, let me also say that there is a tremendous amount of temptation out there, we are all tempted to sin, and the real problem is, sin is fun, at least as the world looks at it. Whether it is the trip to Las Vegas, the lottery tickets, or a fling with someone not your spouse. These can all be sins. There is nothing wrong with Las Vegas, there is when you go to gamble, there is nothing wrong with Lottery Tickets, unless you think that they are your way to easy street. We always manage to get ourselves tangled up in scandals of one type of another, but we also seem to manage hiding the stuff we do, or excusing it because it isn’t a big sin. So the church is tangled up with all this pedophilia, and rightly so, but there is not outcry about the sin of theft, of multiple divorces of pastors. There is no scandal about the use of pornography among Christian men either, yet, this is a huge problem in our society.

All aspects of our lives should be morally correct, lust, theft, idolatry, false witness, all of these things must be done away with, they are not acceptable in a  Christian home, nor are they acceptable in the church. We also must be ready to work toward reconciliation with one another, we pray to God, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” I don’t believe we mean it though, we need to work toward reconciliation. The kingdom of God is not a kingdom, nor is it a family, if we are bickering and fighting, backbiting, rumor mongering and gossiping.

E. Carver McGriff tells this story: “A friend of mine, a woman I have known for many years, attended a fine Methodist church through her growing up years and through the early years of her marriage. The preacher was a gifted speaker, and my friend always looked forward to worship on Sunday. One day word leaked out that the preacher had been involved in an affair. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that he was leaving his wife and was moving to another state along with his secretary. My friend has never, so far as I know, attended a church again. She was so totally disillusioned she never recovered. That may not speak well for her, but it shows what a priest, ordained or not, can do to others when he or she betrays the standards of the faith.”

She was not willing to forgive and to move on, and the pastor, through his sinfulness, ended up hurting the kingdom by chasing away one of the family. Sin, even if we want to say it is a “victimless” sin, is never done in a vacuum, there is no such thing as a “victimless” crime or sin. When you begin to follow the way of sin, you hurt yourself and those around you.

We are called not to tear down, but rather to build up the family, the church of God. There are those who have on occasion said to me, “D.  James Kenedy preached on those same verses and did so much better than you.” There was one person who was always trying to get me to watch this or that television preacher, because they had such wonderful styles, or wonderful ideas. I’m sure that is so, but they have their ways and they do what works for them, in their setting, what works for them doesn’t work here where I am. Someone once said, “If you can’t have Robert Schuller as your pastor, try to be happy with old what’s his name.” Probably good advice, even though many in our churches today, church hop to find the Robert Schuller’s that they can be happy with.

The church, believe it or not, has all the detractors it needs. There are plenty of folks out there ready at the drop of a hat to tear at the church, to try to destroy what it is, and the one it stands for. There are plenty of fault finders out there, plenty of critics. We are not called to tear down, we are called to build up. There is much too much tearing down one another, too much unwillingness to look at the good and bring them to the fore so that the church may follow those things that are good. Like the secular world around us, if it is sensational, we want to hear about it, the juicier the better. If a Church is doing something good, we don’t want to hear about that, but we will go out of our way to hear the latest gossip, and spread it on to the next person no matter who it may hurt. That is not building up the church, that is helping to tear it down.

There are also those who think they are good Christians, when they rip into a fellow Christian for not reading the proper translation, or for not looking the way they look when they come to church. I wish we could all be  the same, all look alike, all dress alike. The truth is we are not the same, we don’t have the same levels of income, nor do we read the same version of scripture. My personal favorite is the New King James version. I also enjoy reading the New Living Translation. If I want to check what something says, I don’t go to the King James Authorized Version, I go to the original languages and do a word study. I have found though that my NKJV is quite good in most instances.

Brethren, we need to be careful of what we say to others. Sometimes what we say, gives the impression that Christianity is not a good thing, that it is restrictive and hateful. The truth is, we are not gatekeepers, you see, God already knows who is written in the Lamb’s book of life, it is not your choice who is or is not in the book. If you feel the urge to correct someone in their Bible version, please don’t, as long as it is not the Book of Mormon, the Watchtower, or Islam, they are probably reading the same thing you are, it just sounds different. I would suggest that the old saw, “You catch more bees with honey.” Works much better than caustic remarks will ever work.

The church needs those who will be positive, good-spirited and faithful members. Those who will be there when there is church, who attend Bible Study, Prayer Meeting, Sunday School, and Worship services. The church needs those who are ready and willing to build her up, by their prayers, presence, gifts and service.

Heb 4:12-16 NKJV For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (13) And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (14) Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (15) For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (16) Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
In the Roman military there were many weapons, long sword, pike, spear, and short sword. Of those the most dangerous was the short sword, it was a two-edged sword so that the soldier using it could stab or cut from either side. If his stab was successful, then he could move that sword left and right and tear his opponent apart. The writer of Hebrews had this in mind when this passage was written. I remember very clearly attending a Church service at New Dorp Baptist Church in New Dorp town, Staten Island NY in November 1974. The pastor preached a sermon that deeply touched my soul, as he read the scriptures that night, the Spirit convicted me of my sinfulness. When the invitation was given at the close of the service, I walked down the aisle to the altar. Up until that night I was sure I was a Christian, that night however, I realized that I called myself a Christian, but I had not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and had not been saved. My life changed in 1974, I became that year a convicted soul, knowing my own sinfulness and knowing too that I had been saved by the grace of God, through Jesus Christ.
The gospel cut through all my excuses, all my holy stuff that was just fluff. I had grown up in the church, I was a member of the Moravian Church, had gone through all the training and joined the church when I was 14 years old. Knew all the rituals, served as an acolyte, even served as an usher. Then in 1962 I joined the U. S. Army and in three years learned how to drink, gamble, and other things. I had effectively left the faith, I still called myself a christian, but I was not a follower of Christ any longer. Satan had lured me away with various tricks that convinced me that it was more fun to be a nominal christian than to be a disciple of Christ.
Then that gospel message, cut through all the junk that I had built up over those years, convicted me of my sin and brought me to my knees at that altar. Like the two-edged sword of old, it chopped up my carefully constructed tower of lies and shone God’s light into my very soul. That is what the writer is talking about here, it is indeed a discerner of our true thoughts and deeds. It is alive, and it winnows its way into your very soul. In the word, God discerns who we are and what our true self really has become, and through the word, we are transformed into the image of Christ. Matthew Henry writes: “Those sinful habits that have become as it were natural to the soul, and rooted deeply in it, and become in a manner one with it, are separated and cut off by this sword. It cuts off ignorance from the understanding, rebellion from the will, and enmity from the mind, which, when carnal, is enmity itself against God.”
Verse 13 reminds us that there is nothing, that can be hidden from God. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” One of the truths of this is that the writer than goes on to state that Christ is our great high priest, aware of our own humanity.
It is Christ as the High Priest who dissects our sacrifice, as the High Priest of the Temple would cut open the animal sacrifice right to very spine to ensure that it was clean on the inside as it looked to be on the outside. So too does the Lord look deep into our hearts and minds and by that sword of the word, discerns what is our true state of being in this world. Just as one day we will stand before Him in truth at the judgment seat, to be judged then as to our true state for eternity. Will our name be found in the book of life, or will be sent to the nether regions, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. Are we true disciples or just faking it to get by thinking that God will not notice.
I am reminded of the story Ananias and Sapphira, they held some land and sold it and brought it to the church, Ananias gave the money to Peter and told him that this was the proceeds of the sale of the property, Peter asked simply, “why do you lie to the Holy Spirit?” Ananias died on the spot. Sapphira then comes to see Peter and he asks her the money that Ananias gave me was it the full sale price? She answers yes, Peter tells her that her husband said the same thing and look the men who carried him out to bury him are here now and will carry you out as well. She too died immediately and they buried her next to her husband.This story can be found in Acts 5.
As we read in Verse 15: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. He knows our human frailty.
Let us understand this High Priest, He is God, yet is called the Son of God, because He is the human face of God, the face that we can look upon without losing our life. He is the great High Priest because unlike the human high priest who entered into the Holy of Holies once a year.
Christ has entered into the heavenly realm and sits in the judgment seat on the right hand of the Throne of God. He performed on part of His high priestly duties on earth, by giving Himself as the eternal last sacrifice for all humankind. Once for all, thereby entering into the heavenly realms in His true glory to intercede for His people, send the Spirit to prepare a place for each of those who are his brethren and presenting our offerings before the throne of grace, where the Father receives them and blesses them to His service.
Yet, even though He is God, He is also disposed to us as one who lived among us, he has compassion upon us, intercedes for us before God. He was tempted by Satan, and was found to have no sin, not mark of any kind for the Devil to attach himself to. As a sinless man, He dealt with all the sins that we deal with yet without giving Himself over to them. He was sorely tried before men, and before heaven, yet sinned not, nor did He do violence to those who misused Him. Even to forgiving them for what they did to Him in their ignorance.
That is our High Priest and the writer then goes on to say that we are to hold fast to our confession. That we are to know without any doubt that our Lord and Savior is indeed that High Priest who has reserved for us a place in the Kingdom of God. That our confessing Him as our Lord and Savior is our pass into the presence of His majesty.
Finally, that as we know our High Priest not only as Lord and Savior, but also as Brother and God, that we are able to enter in before the throne of grace, and receive mercy and grace in our time of need. For He loves each of us and wants for us only the best and not the pain and suffering that this world brings, and that He understands only too well. Mercy and Grace are His gifts to us in our time of need.
What is this Mercy and Grace that we talk about? Well there are other possibilities when we get before God, there is the Great White Throne of judgment, where all are judged according to their deeds. There God metes out justice, and that justice Paul explains to us in the letter to the church at Rome. In Romans 6:23 we read this: “For the wages of sin is death,” That is the word of God for those who sin and do not repent before they leave this life. I am always amazed at those who say that God will never condemn anyone to hell. It is true, God doesn’t do that, we do it to ourselves by being unrepentant sinners.
For those of us who have become followers of Christ, we come before the Mercy seat, the seat of Grace. Even though we have sinned in our lives, we have repented of our sins, We receive mercy in that God forgives us our sins, and grace in that God cleanses us of all unrighteousness and makes us whole.
Sinners merit Hell, but Saints do not merit Heaven, it is a freely given gift of God because you have been cleansed of your sin, and are now able to enter into the precincts of heaven cleansed and whole, to live eternally in His presence, sharing in the bounties of Christ. I praise God and Thank God for cleansing my soul and making me whole, and share that grace with anyone I meet who may not know Jesus Christ as Lord.

This past weekend I read of Barney Frank a member of the House of Representatives marrying the man he has been sleeping with for many years. Now this activity is legal in the state of Massachusetts. But I fear for our nation, when our president decides that he will come out in favor of sexual immorality. That’s right, I said it and I believe it. Sexual immorality is a sin, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of sexual immorality, he has sent many notices about this in His word.
Now, I don’t want you to think that this is a worse sin than any other sin. If you steal, murder, or whatever else you might decide is OK for you to do, the penalty is still the same. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death.” Sin begets, gives birth to your eternal death divorced from the presence of God. Sin – some people don’t believe there is any such thing, but for those of us who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we know that God frowns upon our sinfulness, and has made it abundantly clear from the beginning of the world, that sin brings us into a state of enmity with God and leads to death and the lake of fire.
I read about Mr. Frank and his “lover” getting married, which led me to reflect upon the history of the world in which we live. One of the things that caused nations to fall apart, to disintegrate, was sexual immorality. Homosexuality, bestiality and other crimes against God caused these nations to become hardened to any kind of sin whatsoever. Women would have a child and decide to leave it on a hill side to be eaten by wild animals, men would misuse boys, even their own children in sexual ways. When they got to the point of wanting only their own pleasure and nothing else mattered then the governments would begin to fall apart, they would no longer be interested in maintaining an army to protect their land, but only to protect themselves. They became so decadent that they allowed their military might to become stagnant, and finally the visigoths and other peoples who the Romans felt were nothing began to sack Rome. The same thing had happened to the Greeks and to others in history.
So, what is going to come of all this in our own nation? We are already beginning to see what will happen, the military is being cut, by politicians who want the money for “social programs” instead of protecting our borders, or fighting our enemies. This nation once was a place where God was seen and recognized, where immorality of any kind was not acceptable. Now however, we find that even the courts are willing to allow pornographers to ply their trade openly. It used to be that magazines like Penthouse, Playboy and others were hidden behind a counter, now they are out in the open where our children can look at them. We teach our kids that immorality is OK that sin is fun, because we watch filth on our TV’s and listen to it on our radio’s.
One other thing I read about over the weekend was a woman who put beer in her son’s sippy cup. This was a very young child, still using a sippy cup. He excuse, he was grabbing for the beer pitcher, so she gave him some to make him happy. HELLO? The child is no longer in her custody, but what is going on in our society that a mother is that callous?
We are riding on a train to hell and unless we turn this thing around, our nation will be no more. It has already been changed, we no longer support marriage as between a man and a woman, it is now OK in many parts of the country for 2 men or two women to marry each other. What’s next, a man and his horse, or a woman and her dog? Maybe a threesome can also get married? Our nation, once cared about these things but it seems we no longer do, and that says to me that we are on our way to the Fundamental Change that President Obama promised in 2008. It frightens me to think that we are going to throw God out of our nation, for the nation that does not know God is a nation on its way to destruction.
BTW there is hope, it only we will wake up and listen to God’s word. The verse in Romans 6:23 says “The wages of sin is death, but, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Wake up Church, Wake up America. There are two destinations in eternity, one is hell, the other Heaven. Will you decide for hell? Or will you stand up for Christ, for morality and for Heaven? Your choice.

2Chron 7:14 (GW) “However, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray, search for me, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear their prayer from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their country.”

There are many folks in our nation today, who call for rebellion, or for political action, or boycotts of this or that person or TV show. Left and Right say and do hateful things in the name of fairness or equity. Yet this nation contnues down a path that leads to destruction. There are some who are beginning to see what we can only call dissolution, decadence in our society. The scriptures tell us what we need to do. In this verse from 2 Chronicles we see a call to repentence, a call to humble ourselves before God and turn from our evil ways. When we read the prophet Daniel we find prayer and fasting by Daniel begging God to forgive the Hebrew people of their iniquity. Daniel confesses the sins of the people. When we read Ezra, we find the people crying out when they hear the words of scripture, falling prostrate before the glory of God.

Christians, when are we going to do the same. Our nation is involved in child porn, abuse of women and children, degradation in our entertainment venues, and sexual mores that would never be tolerated in a truly Christian society. We claim to be a Christian nation, 75% of people claim to go to church every week, yet, sexual degradation, moral degradation, hatreds, and myriad other sins are rampant in this society.

O God, forgive this nation, forgive this people, for we have strayed far from your ways We pray for your guidance and your direction, your Spirit to move in our lives and hearts. Turn us from our evil O God of the universe, help us to return to the path of righteousness. We are sinners living amongst a people who wallow in sin. Forgive us O God, cleanse our nation that we might once again be a people of holiness and grace. Loving our neighbor and You our God. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

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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.