Category Archives: Messages

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Easter is celebrated by Christians around the world each year, in remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The Gospels record that Jesus was crucified on a Friday, then rose from the dead the following Sunday and appeared to His disciples and many others in the next few weeks.

Jesus’ original 12 disciples would go on to give their lives to spread the message of Jesus throughout the known world.  Later Christians, from the first century until our own time, have likewise given their lives to tell the message of Jesus.  Why is Jesus’ resurrection so important?

Jesus, Himself, gave us the reason.  Just after the Last Supper, on His way to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He would be arrested and taken for trial and crucifixion, Jesus had a long conversation with His disciples.  During that conversation, not only did He tell them that He would soon be killed, He also said, “Because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:19, NKJV)  Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that Jesus is who He said He was, and that He can give eternal life, like He said He could.

If Jesus were still dead, His claim to be able to grant eternal life to those who put their faith in Him would be suspect.  But since Jesus is alive, His promises are true.  Paul, the Apostle, put it this way:

“And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! … But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 20, NKJV)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to the Christian faith – proof that our Savior lives, and that He has power to give eternal life to all who believe.  That is something worth celebrating!

Why Celebrate Easter?

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Good Friday is a day that Christians around the world remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Although the crucifixion is central to the Christian faith, the title given to the day seems to be a misnomer.  What is good about a gruesome execution?  Paul, the Apostle, answers that question in the Book of Romans.  He writes:

For God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  (Romans 5:8-9, NKJV)

In this passage, Paul explains the meaning of Christ’s crucifixion.  In doing so, he lists two facts about the crucifixion that are good for us – facts that make the event Good Friday.

First, Paul states that the crucifixion is a demonstration of God’s love.  Not only has God said that he loves us, He has demonstrated it in the death of Christ.  The reason that it is a demonstration of love and not madness is that Christ died “for us.”  Christ died in our place.  He took the punishment we deserved, because He loved us.  He did so, even when we did not deserve it.  For God to love us that much and go to such great lengths to demonstrate it, is good news indeed!

Second, Paul states that the crucifixion delivers us from the guilt and punishment of sin.  Christ’s death makes us “justified” (no longer guilty) in God’s sight, because the punishment has already been paid and the slate is wiped clean.  When we put our faith in Christ, we need not feel guilty anymore.  The term “justified” is past tense.  It has already been done, once and for all.  Also, we will “be saved from wrath through Him” (future tense).  God’s approaching judgment will not effect the believer.  Jesus has already taken the wrath of God that we deserve on Himself, so we don’t have to.  Being forgiven and pardoned is certainly good news!

God’s love and forgiveness that was obtained and demonstrated by Christ on the cross is available to anyone who will ask.  If we are willing to turn from our old ways and follow Christ, we can ask and receive eternal life.

“For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'” (Romans 10:13, NKJV)

 

Good Friday…What’s It Good For?

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A “Good Samaritan”

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Recently, I found myself in a bit of trouble.  After work I stopped at a store to pick up a few items on the way home.  When I left the store, the car would not start.  The battery was dead, because I had left the lights on.  Jumper cables were in the trunk.  But I needed to find someone with a working automobile to help me recharge the battery.

As I scanned the parking lot, a man came out of the store and walked toward a vehicle just a couple of rows away from mine.  He was very similar to me, apparently of the same age, social class and ethnic background.  I approached the man and asked for help with my car.  The man said that he could not help, because he was afraid that doing so would mess up the sensor in his vehicle.  After being turned down, I returned to my car.

As I scanned the parking lot again, another man walked out of the store.  He was different than me, of a different age, social class and ethnic background.  But, unlike the first man, when I asked for help, he gladly pulled his car around and helped me.  I thanked the man, and began to drive home.

As I drove home, I thought to myself that my experience was similar to Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan, recorded in the Gospel of Luke.  (Luke 10:29-37)  In the parable, Jesus told the story of a Jewish traveler who was attacked, robbed and left for dead on the road.  Later, Jewish priest saw the man lying on the side of the road, but did nothing to help.  Later still, another Jewish man also saw the man lying on the road, but did nothing to help.  Even later, a Samaritan saw the man and took care of the man.  One interesting part of the story is that Samaritans and Jews did not get along in that day.  Yet, the hero of the story was a Samaritan, who stopped to help a Jewish man in need.

Jesus told this story in response to a question.  He had been talking to a young theologian about the greatest commandment.  Jesus and the theologian agreed that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind; the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.  Somehow, the theologian felt the need to justify himself by asking, “Who is my neighbor?”  In response, Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Then, Jesus asked the theologian which of the men was a neighbor to the man on the road.  The theologian rightly said the Samaritan was the neighbor.  Jesus told the theologian, “Go and do likewise.”

As I considered the parable and my recent experience, I was reminded of some important truths.  First, we should care about people.  Jesus stated that the Samaritan had compassion on the man on the road.  He cared.  We will do nothing for others if we do not care.  We need to pray for and cultivate compassion for the people around us.

Second, we should not judge people based on outward appearances.  In Jesus’ parable and my recent experience, the people who were least expected to help gave assistance.  The people who were most expected to help did not.  Outward appearances do not determine inward character.  Like the old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Third, our compassion for people should be demonstrated by our actions.  The Samaritan and the man who helped me showed that they cared by doing something.  It means nothing to say you care, if you do not show you care.

Jesus encouraged the theologian to be like the good Samaritan.  I believe He would tell us to do the same thing today.  Each of us should be a “good Samaritan.”

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Celebrate Jesus

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A person’s title tells us about who the person is and what he/she does.  Some titles are attached to names.  In medical and academic circles the title of ‘doctor’ is used to indicate a person’s level of education.  In military circles a person’s rank is indicated by the title of ‘captain,’ ‘sergeant,’ etc.  In government ‘honorable,’ ‘senator,’ ‘president,’ etc. are used to indicate a person’s role in the government.

In modern times a title is sometimes attached to a person’s name.  In ancient times the name, itself, conveyed information about the person. Therefore, names were very important.

Matthew, in his gospel, records the events of Jesus’ birth, which we celebrate at Christmas each year.  Matthew records how Jesus’ mother, Mary was engaged to Joseph.  When she was found to be pregnant, Joseph considered breaking off the engagement, but changed his mind during an encounter with an angel.  That encounter is recorded in Matthew 1:18-24.  The angel explained to Joseph that Mary had not been unfaithful, but was still a virgin, pregnant through a miracle of the Holy Spirit.  The angel also told Joseph to go ahead and marry his bride, and to name the child she would bear Jesus.  Matthew explains that these events occurred to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah.  Isaiah called the child’s name Immanuel.  These two names tell us two important tasks Jesus came to fulfill.

First, Jesus came to save us.  The angel told Joseph to name the child Jesus.  The name means ‘savior.’  The angel went on to explain that the child would save His people from their sins.  The first task Jesus came to fulfill is to save us from our sins.

The remainder of the New Testament explains how Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and how He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven where He intercedes on behalf of believers at God’s right hand, and how He is coming back again one day to rule as King of Kings, and how all who turn from their sins and believe in Jesus are forgiven of their sins and granted everlasting life.

Although it was Jesus’ birthday, He didn’t come to receive gifts.  He came to give gifts.  The first gift is salvation.  Have you received that gift?

The second task Jesus came to fulfill is, Jesus came to be with us.  Matthew explained that the events of Jesus’ birth were a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.  That prophecy gave Jesus another name, ‘Immanuel.’  Matthew translates that name for us.  He tells us the name means “God is with us.” (v. 23)  This name tells us that Jesus is God – an amazing declaration!  The name also tells us that God wants to be with us – also amazing!  God, the creator of the universe, chose to become a man, so that He could be with us.  God wants to be your companion.  Jesus’ second gift to us is His companionship, His friendship.  Those who have received the gift of salvation have the awesome opportunity to commune with God in prayer at any time, to enter the throne room of heaven and address the King of the universe as a friend.  Christian, how often do you spend time with God?  He wants to be with you.  Spend time with Him!

Christmas is a time of celebration.  We give gifts to others to celebrate the gifts God has already given to us.  As you celebrate Christmas, celebrate Jesus!

 

 

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Real Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving Day is a traditional American holiday, observed by most Americans with a feast, featuring a large roasted turkey.  It is a day when many people across the country will gather with family and friends.  Prayers of thanks to God are often made just before the meal begins.

Although Thanksgiving Day is not mentioned in the Bible, the Bible says much about giving thanks to God. Throughout the Bible, believers are encouraged to give thanks to God. One such passage from the Bible is Ephesians 5:18-21.

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Sprit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.

Here, the Apostle Paul instructs the Christians at Ephesus to be filled with the Spirit. He lists three steps to being filled with the Spirit. One of those steps is to give thanks to God. In verse twenty, Paul lists three traits of real, Spirit-filled thanksgiving.

First, Spirit-filled thanksgiving is constant. Paul instructs the Ephesians to give thanks “always.” Thanksgiving is not just something believers should do once per year.  Believers should give thanks to God every day. As we say our daily prayers, we should spend a portion of our prayer time thanking God for what He has done for us. In fact, we should give thanks to God all the time.

Second, Spirit-filled thanksgiving is comprehensive.  In verse twenty, Paul instructs the reader to give thanks to God “for all things.”  It is easy to thank God for the good things in life. It is difficult to thank God for bad things.  In fact, it may seem insane to thank God for bad things. But that is exactly what we are expected to do.  How can a person possibly do such a thing?  We can only give thanks to God for bad things when we realize that God will use the bad things in life, as well as the good, to do something good in our lives.  In Romans 8:28, Paul writes, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  When we know that God will use the bad things to do something good for us, we can thank Him, even for the bad things.  When we do, our focus is turned to God, rather than our circumstances.  And we are filled with the Spirit.

Third, Spirit-filled thanksgiving is concentrated.  Many people say that they are thankful.  But it seems that few say to whom they are thankful.  Paul instructed the Ephesians to give their thanks “to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20) Since God is in control of all things, we should thank Him for all things.  We may only approach Him in the name of Jesus Christ, because it is Jesus, who died on the cross to pay for our sins, rose from the dead and is now in heaven making intercession for all who believe in Him.  When we receive the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, we have a standing invitation to enter the very presence of God in prayer.  Once we have entered His presence in the name of Jesus, we should give Him thanks for all He has done.  Our thanksgiving is not to be a generic feeling of thankfulness projected aimlessly into the atmosphere.  Our thanksgiving is to be directed specifically to God, who has created and rules over all things.

To experience real, Spirit-filled thanksgiving, thank God in Jesus’ for all things at all times. Let Thanksgiving become more than a great holiday once per year.  Let it become a state of mind

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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