Friday, October 28, 2016

God's Seal

Seals are used by men to convey identity and authority.  There is the Great Seal of the Unites States of America.  If a person sees that on something it means that the authority of the United States is behind it.  A king would affix his seal to a royal document and that made it law.  People create their own seals to put on their letters and that identifies the sender.  Seals have an important function in law and personal interaction.
God, too, has a seal.  His seal is the Holy Spirit.  In Ephesians 1:13-14 Paul wrote, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”  The Holy Spirit is God’s seal upon us that we have been purchased by the blood of Christ and belong to God for eternity.  He is the Seal of Promise. 
The seal of God is not like the seal of men.  On a letter a seal is expected to be broken.  It is regarded as temporary at the least.  On a document a seal can remain affixed long after the document has been changed by a new order or royal act, and while it remains affixed to the document, that document is of no value.  A seal can be meant to be permanent and enforced by royal power, as was Pilate’s seal on Jesus’ tomb.  But the power of God quickly and efficiently broke the seal of Roman power.  The seal of God is not so. 
God is omnipotent.  No one can break His seal.  No human power or government can override Him.  They have tried their best and failed.  God is constant.  His word does not change and His mind does not waver.  He is the God who changest not.  God’s seal is not meant to be broken and it cannot be broken.  This is the Seal of Promise that God has put on the children of faith. 
God has sealed us with His promise, when He put His Spirit on us,
‘Tis a seal cannot be broken, He is our eternal token
Hallelujah, O what glory, purchased sealed eternal story
Gained we not by our own measure, purchased sealed by God’s good pleasure

In all the multitude of God’s promises to His children, this one is perhaps the most dear.  He has sealed us with Himself unto the day of our full redemption when we meet with Him and rest in heaven.  Praise God for the Seal of Promise.

  The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Gracious Words of Comfort and Hope

Today I did the funeral for a young man.  He had been sick and disabled for most of his life.  He left behind a widowed mother who had spent many years taking care of him.  Now the focus of her life was gone.  She was going to have to move as his income had helped meet expenses in the home.  It seemed the whole situation was a tragedy on many levels.  She was overwhelmed with sorrow upon sorrow.  I couldn’t raise her son from the dead and return him to her full of life and strength.  I gave her what I had.  I gave her words of hope about Jesus.
In I Timothy 1:1 says, “Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.”  That is a wonderful name for Jesus, our hope.  That is what He is.  Without Jesus there is no hope.  Paul wrote in First Thessalonians 4:13, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no HOPE.”  Those would be people who don’t have Jesus.  Then Paul talked about the certain return of the Lord and concluded with this admonition, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”  The words about Jesus are words of hope.
I said the death for a child of God is like playing peek-a-boo.  We smile at our baby and then cover our face.  The baby is mystified at the separation.  But then we pull away the cover, say peek-a-boo and smile at him again.  The baby laughs and smiles and is happy.  Then we cover our face again and repeat the process.  Every time the baby sees us come back he smiles with joy again.  For those in heaven the time of being apart from us is without meaning for there is no time there.  For a moment we are gone and then we are there and there is joy in the reunion.  For us who remain the time is longer, but the joy of seeing that smiling face again of the one we love will likewise fill our hearts with joy.  This is the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Death is defeated.  Life is assured.  Joy will come.  Friends and loved ones will be reunited. 

Charles Wesley sums up the whole thought in his hymn “If Death My Friend and Me Divide”.  “(1) If death my friend and me divide, Thou dost not, Lord, my sorrow chide,
or frown my tears to see; restrained from passionate excess, Thou bidst me mourn in calm distress for them that rest in Thee. (2) Pass a few fleeting moments more and death the blessing shall restore which death has snatched away; for me Thou wilt the summons send, and give me back my parted friend in that eternal day.”  Death is not the end.  With those who have hope in Jesus Christ it is just a game of peek-a-boo that will bring joy when Christ’s face we clearly see.  

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Graciously Giving Us the Right Food

In America we have an abundant food supply.  Everywhere we turn there is a fast food restaurant or convenience store selling prepared food items.  Food is cheaper here than anywhere on the whole earth.  Our diets are more varied than most other countries.  We simply take food for granted in most American homes.  This abundance has led to an intake of many non-nutritious foods.  We are an obese nation that has a high incidence of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other food related diseases.  We can and do eat what we want and too seldom eat what we need.
Jesus said in John 6:35, “I Am the bread of life.”  He never said He was the steak or chocolate cake of life, but the “bread of life”.  Even the poor could have bread.  Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  They weren’t instructed to pray for prime rib or twice baked potatoes.  They were to pray for their daily needs.  That was bread. 
Whole grain bread, the kind eaten by the poor in Jesus’ day, was very nutritious.  It contained vitamins and minerals and other dietary benefits to enable the people to do daily hard work and suffer few food related diseases.  Whole grains, like in good daily bread, are at the foundation of the food pyramid.  They are considered to be essentials for a good diet.  Our bodies need to eat well to be well.
Jesus, however, wasn’t giving a food promotion campaign for the whole grains council.  He was revealing a deeper truth.  To survive spiritually we need Him. To live well spiritually we need Him every day.  He is to be the foundation of what we live on.  We need the nourishment that only He can give to get through each day and through life.  We can’t be healthy with just a little Jesus once in a while; we need to feast daily on Him.
Josiah Conder has given us the hymn “Bread of Heaven, On Thee We Feed” to remind us that Christ, the Living Bread, is our essential nutrient for life.  “Bread of Heav’n on Thee we feed, for Thy flesh is meat indeed: ever may our souls be fed with this true and living Bread; day by day with strength supplied, through the life of Him who died.” 

Daily we hear how important it is to eat the right food to have a healthy life.  Jesus is the right food for a healthy Christian life.  Feed on the nourishment that only Christ can give and do it every day.  He is the Living Bread, the Bread of Life.  

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Grace for All, Even "Fred"

I was wrong.  I mean specifically that I was wrong yesterday.  Otherwise that statement is too true too often.  But yesterday I said I remembered only 6 people from my high school graduating class.  Actually it is seven.  I strained my brain and remembered someone I thought I would never forget.  We’ll call him Fred.  Fred was a bully.  Somehow he found me in the hall almost every day and reminded me of what was going to happen to me every night after school.  It helped insure my invisibility after school.
Three years after graduation Fred finally caught up with me.  I was in a mechanic’s shop getting my car worked on.  Fred came in the door and saw me.  He picked up a piece of iron pipe leaning by the door and holding it in his hand like a police baton and pounding it in his other hand he came across the garage toward me.  When he got right to me and I knew I was dead, he put out his hand and said, “Hi, Dave, (nobody calls me ‘Dave’, but I thought I would let it pass) good to see you.” 
I shook his hand.  “Good to see you too, Fred.”  Maybe I lied a little.  “You’re looking good.”  Then, because I am awkward and can’t talk to people very well, I said very bluntly, “You seemed to have changed.” 
“Yes, I have,” he said.  “I am in the Navy and someone told me about Jesus and now I am a Christian.”  Suddenly I stopped thinking he was going to hit me with the iron pipe.  Also, at that exact moment, a commercial came on the radio playing in the shop.  It was for an evangelistic crusade specifically targeting young adults.  Fred had been a faithful witness at just the right time.  I was instantly convinced that I should go to that crusade and I did.  It was there that I was saved two days later. 

Fred was a faithful witness.  The evangelistic team was a faithful witness.  They were both following the pattern of Jesus Christ whose name in Revelation 1:5 is “The Faithful Witness”.  Jesus gave witness to the Father’s love.  The disciples gave witness to salvation in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  Their witness was to bear fruit for God’s glory and for all eternity.  Their witness was to reap the harvest.  Al­ex­ce­nah Thom­as gave us the wonderful hymn, “Bring Them In”.  It is not sung enough anymore.  “Who’ll go and help this Shepherd kind, help Him the wand’ring ones to find? Who’ll bring the lost ones to the fold, where they’ll be sheltered from the cold? Bring them in, bring them in, bring them in from the fields of sin; bring them in, bring them in, bring the wand’ring ones to Jesus.”

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Grace for the Invisible

I was always a very shy child.  I didn’t walk home from school with other children.  I didn’t have friends over to play.  I cannot remember the name of any other children in my elementary or junior high classes.  I have never been to a high school reunion and I can remember the names of only six classmates and four of those went to college with me.  If there had been a category in the yearbook for the person most likely to remain invisible, I might have won the category.  I was shy.  I am shy.  But I am no longer invisible.
One night forty-one years ago, I heard about someone who would be a friend of sinners.  That name struck me on two fronts.  First, this person would be a friend.  Second, this person would be a friend to me who knew only too well my own sins.  In Matthew 11:19 Jesus is called the Friend of Sinners.  I listened carefully to the speaker.  I was moved by the Holy Spirit to understand what was said and to believe.  That night ended with two things.  My sins were forgiven and I had a Friend.
It is rather amazing, really, that that shy young man would go on to be a pastor, an evangelist, a missionary, a teacher and a minister of music.  All of those are public roles.  All of those require someone to lead, not hide.  How is that possible?  It is because I am not alone in any of those roles.  I always have a good friend, my best friend right beside me.  He has never left me nor forsaken me since we met.  I don’t face a crowd and freeze.  I face a crowd and my friend holds my hand and says, “Let’s do this”. 
I am still shy.  I love writing.  It means less personal interaction, but it also lets me work with my friend in what He called me to do that night 41 years ago.  It lets me reach out and communicate His care for His friends and to those who He wants to be His friends.  Jesus doesn’t just pick one friend and ignore the rest.  Jesus can be the best friend of millions at one time and each and every one will be just as special to Him as if they were the only one.  Jesus is the Friend of Sinners. 

Share with me these wonderful words of Wilbur Chapman. “Jesus! What a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole.  Jesus! What a strength in weakness! Let me hide myself in Him.
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing, He, my Strength, my victory wins.  Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.”

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Friday, October 14, 2016

The Grace of Jesus' Love

What is the first song you remember learning as a child.  For many children today it is a TV jingle for a fast food restaurant or some cartoon.  For generations of Americans and also for children around the world, however, it used to be “Jesus Loves Me”.  Today in our country where less than 50% of people regularly attend church and even less attend Sunday school, this is a song few know about a Savior who loves them.  It is a song about His nature and character that few are told of.  But Love is the Name of God that we must never leave out of our conversations with others.  God is LOVE.
The lost mangle this name with confused theologies or lying philosophies.  If God is love, the confused theology states, then anything goes.  God is a doting grandfather who is short sighted or completely and willfully oblivious to any wrong thing done by his beloved children.  Since He is loving He will accept all things without a word of judgment.  This theology confuses God’s love with the evil doctrine of license.  We can live as we please since God is love.  All manner of perversity is now allowed in places called churches because God’s love doesn’t care if people practice that sin or not. 
Lying philosophies also challenge the children of our day about God’s love.  The first point is a philosophical question.  If God is love why do bad things happen?  A loving God would not let wars rage, people suffer from incurable illnesses, or children die.  Therefore, God is not love and if He is not what He says He is then He isn’t at all.  This teaching wants God on man’s terms the same as false theology.  A question to ask these amateur philosophers is, “If God got rid of all evil, would He also have to get rid of you?  At what point would God have to end the practice of sin?” 
In reality God has done more than eliminate evil.  He has forgiven those who practice evil if they will come to His Son as Savior.  Christ has died to save us from the penalty of sin and the guilt of sin’s practice.  Instead of killing all sinners, God offered them all forgiveness.  That is love that even the philosophers can’t get around.  The God who made us sacrificed His only begotten Son so that we vile sinners might have eternal life.  Jesus Christ agreed to this and gave up His life willingly for us.  Jesus loves me.

“Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong.  Jesus loves me, He who died; heaven’s gates to open wide.  He will take away my sin; let His little child come in.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so.”  Anna Warner wrote this hymn and taught it to the cadets at West Point military academy.  Many of those young men were sure that Jesus loved them before they faced the daily threat of death in the Civil War.  

  The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Grace of Peace in Turmoil

In 2001 terrorists attacked the United States in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.  Since that time our country has been at war either in Iraq or Afghanistan or both. 15 years of war.  Since that time Russia has engaged in ongoing conflict with Chechen rebels and Georgia and Ukraine.  French troops have engaged in combat in Africa.  Other ongoing wars have raged across Africa.  The so called Arab Spring brought war, which in some areas continues to this day, to regions of Africa and the Middle East.  The combined death toll from all these conflicts reaches a millions of lives.  What the world cries for is a breath of peace.
The problem is that men are sinners and conflicts will rage as long as there are differences of ideas and agendas. That means that until Christ comes back there will be war.  Is there then no hope of peace?  This is certainly not the first time this question has been answered.  There has been no age in history where there has not been human conflict.  Others in other times and generations have also cried out for peace. 
During the American Civil War Henry Wadsworth Longfellow asked the question, where is peace, and was very discouraged about finding it.  In his great Christmas hymn, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, he said in stanza three, “And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth’, I said.  For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth goodwill to men.” 
But that hopelessness is not the end of his hymn.  He awakened to the realization that God is not dead and wrote a very triumphant 4th verse.  “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep; God is not dead nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth goodwill to men.” 

God is not dead.  His name is Peace – Jehovah Shalom.  He will one day bring peace to all the earth with the reign of His Son.  Until then He gives peace to all who will come to Him through Jesus Christ.  Paul wrote, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The greatest warfare of all is the enmity that sinful man has toward God and the greatest peace of all is the forgiveness of sins that God in return offers to man through His Son.  God is not dead.  Jesus Christ will give us peace with God and then He will give us the peace that passes understanding each day.  Praise God for His great name – Peace.  

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