Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Advent Proclamation

When we got home from the store what do you think Princess did?  Did she drag herself into the house and slouch into a chair and sigh?  Did she run to her room to play with her toys?  Did she skip into the house and exclaim, “We got the bird!”  After she spent an hour staring at the bird and poking her finger in the cage and discovering that the bird did absolutely nothing, she went and played, but that wasn’t first. First everyone knew we had a bird.
How long had the angels been waiting to proclaim, “Christ is born?”  When they got their chance they did it up well.  The shepherds got that message loud and clear and went to see the newborn babe.  After they had seen Him they went on their way glorifying God and praising Him.  They didn’t do it in a huddle where no one else knew what was going on.  They made it “widely known”.  The Advent proclamation needed to be made. 
Several months later when Jesus was taken to the temple for His presentation to the Lord, Mary and Joseph met Simeon.  He was a righteous man who had long looked for the coming Messiah and he wasn’t shy about announcing it.  Then they met Anna, an elderly widow, who, when she saw the babe, spoke of Him to all who looked for the redemption of God’s people.  Then there were the wise men that came looking for the King of the Jews and proclaimed His birth even in the king’s palace. 
Unlike the bird, which never ever really did much beside sit and make a mess, Christ did all that He had been sent to do.  When He had finished His work He told His followers to go and proclaim the Good News of His salvation and the full hope that gave to all people.  That proclamation of Christ’s salvation, hope and peace is still needed by all today.  We need to be eager proclaimers of that hope.  “Christ has come!  Hallelujah!” 
Let us sing and obey the great Negro Spiritual, “Go, Tell it on the Mountain”.
Go, tell it on the mountain,
    Over the hills and everywhere
    Go, tell it on the mountain,
    That Jesus Christ is born.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Advent Joy

Yesterday we considered the Advent promise given.  When it was given to Abraham he contrived to “help” God out.  That certainly made a mess of things.  Isaac and Jacob had their own problems with living out the hope of the coming Seed.  In practical terms the promise remained just that, a promise, and not much joy, except in the birth of their own sons, was evidenced regarding it.  But that was all about to change.
That first Christmas night when the angel spoke to the shepherds his message was Joy!  “Fear not,” he said, “for I bring you good tidings of great joy.”  The message resounds in Isaac Watts’ great hymn, “Joy to the World”.  The promise was fulfilled.  When I got my little girl the parakeet the promise was fulfilled.  She was much more joyous at getting the bird than getting the promise.
The promise of God was not a single event, however.  The promise of God in Christ is new every day.  In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah makes this exclamation, “Because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”  The Advent of the Messiah is a promise fulfilled, but in Him all the promises of God are fulfilled.  Paul put it like this, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God.”  Therefore we relive the joy of that first Advent day every day of our lives.  We do so because in Him all the mercies and promises of God are renewed to us day by day.  To paraphrase Isaac Watts, “Joy to the world because our Lord is still here.” 
One of the most common commands in the New Testament is to rejoice.  The “good tidings of great joy” have not disappeared.  Christ is alive and well and dwells with His people.  Christians too easily forget the joy of Christmas with the rush of the new year.  But God says, “Don’t forget.  My joy is for you every day.” We need to retain the joy of that first Christmas message and let our lives so shine for Jesus that all may see our joy in Him.
J. Edward Ruark wrote the hymn, “You May Have the Joy Bells”.  This lively hymn reminds us to find God and His joy in our lives every day. 

“You will meet with trials as you journey home; grace sufficient He will give to overcome; though unseen by mortal eye, He is with you ever nigh, and He’ll keep the joy-bells ringing in your heart. (Refrain) Joy-bells ringing in your heart, joy-bells ringing in your heart; take the Savior here below with you ev’rywhere you go; He will keep the joy-bells ringing in your heart.”

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent Promise

Years ago I was at the store with my four year old daughter.  At that time we were in the final stages of going overseas as missionaries.  In the store we went by the pet section and she asked me, “Daddy, can I have a bird?”  Well, I hated to say no to my sweet little girl so I said this instead.  “You know, Princess, that we are moving far away and we can’t take that pretty bird with us.”  She looked downcast for less than a second.  “But what if we didn’t move, Daddy?”  I replied, “Well, then, Princess, you can have a bird.”  That was a promise from a father to his child.
With just two months to go before departure my beloved wife suddenly became very ill.  She was sicker than she had ever been and there was no apparent cause.  As we had no insurance we did not rush to the doctor but we finally had to.  We were going to have another baby – surprise!  Several of the shots required for the country where we were going were potentially fatal to the baby, and so our plans abruptly changed.  (By the way, that baby is now a pastor.) 
Now there was a little matter of a promise of a father to his child.  She was only four and she might have forgotten, but I hadn’t.  Sometimes promises take a while to be fulfilled. Two thousand years before Christ’s birth God had made a promise to Abraham. During those two thousand years many had forgotten about the promise or assumed that God meant something allegorical instead of literal.  But God had not forgotten His promise.  Jesus was born, Paul said, in the fullness of time.  There was neither a delay nor a rush for the promise to be fulfilled.  God had it under control and Jesus was born when and where He should have been according to all the promises made to all the prophets during all of those thousands of years.  (By the way, she got the parakeet.)
During Advent we remember that the promises of God are sure. 
Great promise from the Sovereign God, to Abraham He gave
The “Blessed Seed” from out your loins, I’ll send for all to save
To Isaac and to Jacob, too, the certain word was shared
And prophets down through centuries reminded all God cared
But hearts grew cold and worldly ways had near erased the dream

But God His promises did keep and Abram’s Seed was seen 

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

And here we are!  This is my favorite of all holidays.  Thanksgiving!  It is full of great memories.  It was the one holiday when all the aunts and uncles were together at Grandma’s house.  There were no cousins on that side of the family.  That meant that the only two people to contend for the turkey legs were by brother and me.  I actually never got the leg because my wise Grandma knew that I wasn’t going to get even half of it eaten.  That was alright, though, as Grandma knew best.
Today my wife and I are the Grandma and Grandpa.  Most of our children, spouses, and grandchildren are able to be with us for this special day.  So is Great Uncle Larry and perhaps a few other invited friends will show up as well.  He and I no longer want the leg.  All the grandchildren are too young to take one on.  Anyway, we cooked the turkey yesterday and deboned it for serving today.  Not quite the way Grandma did it, but it works well with 30 people coming to the table.  There will be chaos and noise and I won’t hear a thing from the other end of the table.  When the last dish is done and the kids have gone to their in-laws houses for a second Thanksgiving feast my beloved bride and I will reflect on all the blessings of the day.
And that is really what we all need to do more of.  God is so good to each and every one of us.  That doesn’t mean there haven’t been tragedies or hard times this past year.  It doesn’t mean that everything we have hoped for has come about just the way we wanted.  It does mean that God is so good to each of us.  The sun has always come up, and if it hadn’t we would be in the land that needs no sun to light the sky.  God in grace has held our hand in sickness and difficulty.  He has walked beside us in the beauty of answered prayers and the anticipation of how He will answer more.  He has forgiven our sins and kept us sheltered under the shadow of His wing.  He has and will continue to be God and continue to be good.  That is what we need to remember beyond just today.
Just in case we think all must be good by human standards for us to be thankful, let us conclude today with the great hymn by Martin Rinkart which was written during the 30 Years War when over half the population of Germany died by war or plague or famine.  That is the setting from which comes the great Thanksgiving hymn “Now Thank We All Our God”.
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Happy Learner

If you ever read my profile you know that I was not a happy student.  To say that I hated school would be an insufficient way of expressing it.  Sunday was my unhappiest day of the week because the next day was Monday.  My kindergarten teacher got things started off on a bad foot and the others along the way made that footpath into a super highway.  One teacher intervened and changed everything.  He taught me to love learning and I could still hate school as much as I wanted.  He taught me that a true student wasn’t one who mastered the monotony of sitting in a desk five days a week doing repetitious work.  A student was one who wanted to know things and was open to learning them. 
Those are the kind of students that God wants.  Anybody can eventually become habituated to sitting in a pew one hour per week and let the Word go over their head.  A student comes to the pew willingly seeking to learn the Word and take it into life.  Learning is for life, not for tests.   Ps. 94:12 says, “Blessed (happy) is the man whom You instruct, O LORD, and teach out of Your law.”  The happiest students are those who want to be instructed by God.  Every day they can find new happiness in this pursuit.
To be instructed by God is not a passive experience.  We must be eagerly involved.  That eagerness will make us attentive to the great things that God wants us to know, to learn and to practice.  God is not monotonous.  He won’t bore us.  He loves to teach.  His subject matter is never irrelevant.  Jesus was called the Teacher.  The Holy Spirit’s name is Teacher.  God gave gifts to the church and teaching is one of them.  God knows a lot about teaching.  We need to actively involve ourselves in learning from Him.  The psalmist said, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.”  He said simply, “Help me learn.”  If we will come to the Triune God eager to learn, we won’t be disappointed.  We will, in fact, be happy.

Benjamin Ramsey wrote the hymn “Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord”.  We should make it a mainstay of our meditation that will lead us to happy learning.  “Teach me Thy way, O Lord, teach me Thy way! Thy guiding grace afford, teach me Thy way! Help me to walk aright, more by faith, less by sight; lead me with heav’nly light, teach me Thy way!  Long as my life shall last, teach me Thy way! Where’er my lot be cast, teach me Thy way!
Until the race is run, until the journey’s done, until the crown is won, teach me Thy way!”

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Happy Ear, Happy Heart

For her science project a middle school girl made a machine that would keep dogs happy when their owners were away.  The dog would step on a pedal and a voice recording of their owners would be heard.  I know that my dog likes to hear the sound of my voice when I am away.  The same thing is true for babies.  Nothing soothes them as much as the sound of their mother’s voice.  The psalmist said that this happiness can also belong to God’s child.  Psalm 89:15 says, “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound.”  Verse 16 adds, “In Your Name they rejoice all day long.” 
The master’s voice, or in the case of the psalmist, the Master’s Name, brings blessing or happiness to those who know it best and rely upon it for their daily needs.  John Newton wrote the hymn “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds”.  The first verse reads, “How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear!  It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds and drives away his fear.”  Isn’t that exactly what the sound of the mother’s voice does for the distressed baby?  There is assurance and security and certainty in that voice.  That is what we hear in the voice of God, the voice our spirit hears whenever His name is uttered. 
Sadly there are those who have an entirely different reaction to that Name.  They fear instead of being calmed.  That Name to them is the name of certain judgment.  That name to them is of the authority that would crush their unrepented evil ways and calls them to a life of righteousness.  John 3:19-20 speaks of these people as those who loved the darkness rather than the light and that they even hate the light.  It is sad because Jesus is calling them to the light and to life through Him.  But rejecting the hope that He brings leaves them only with the fear of His judgment. 

The psalmist had said that the joyful sound was for those who rejoice in the great name of God.  The dog rejoices in the presence of its owner.  The baby rejoices in the presence of its mother.  The sheep know their shepherd’s voice and follow.  The believer knows the care and love of His heavenly Father and finds it a blessed sound.  Meditating on the Apostles’ Creed or the Doxology or the Gloria Patri with their repeated use of the Name of God should bring sweet comfort and peace to the believer and happiness to their heart.  

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Happy in Church

A lot of people get really excited about the prophetic passages in the book of Revelation and a lot of people argue and break fellowship over those same passages.  There is a beautiful verse in Revelation chapter one that should unite the church and give us cause to both repent and rejoice.  That is verse 13 which says, “And in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.”  The churches are the lampstands (vs. 20) and Christ is in the midst of them.  That we would argue and fight in His presence is sad, but that He is in the midst of the church should cause us to rejoice.  Whenever we get together with other believers, He is there fellowshipping with us.  He is in the pew beside us.  He is holding the hand of the annoying person in the pew across from us.  He is in the pulpit with His arm around the pastor.  He is in the hands of those who distribute the sacraments.  Being in church with Him should make us very happy.
The psalmist thought so.  In Psalm 84:4 we find that little word blessed, meaning happy, saying, “Blessed are those who dwell in your house.”  Wow!  Happy is the man who spends his life in your house.  That’s what it says.  In Psalm 122:1 David said, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.”  Psalm 84:10 says, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in tents of wickedness.”  The corporate worship of God’s people should fill us with an anticipation of happiness each week.  To think of putting it off for a golf game or some other activity is to diminish the very essence of who we meet there each week.  We should derive our greatest happiness in being a simple doorkeeper in the house of the Lord. 
The Presbyterian Psalter of 1912 rendered Psalm 122 like this: 
With joy I heard my friends exclaim, ‘Come, let us in God’s temple meet; within thy gates, O Zion blest, shall ever stand our willing feet.’
They come to learn the will of God, to pay their vows, His grace to own; for there is judgment’s royal seat, Messiah’s sure and lasting throne.
For sake of friends and kindred dear, my heart’s desire is Zion’s peace; and for the house of God, the Lord, my loving care shall never cease.

Oh, that we too would find such rapture in the attendance of church each week.  God promises us happiness there.  Set a goal this year to attend worship each week.  

  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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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Happy Land

Authors, from visionary dreamers to theologians to psychiatrists, have written books of their vision of Utopia.  In these imaginary lands everyone is happy, usually as a result of following the wise leadership of a beneficently minded leader who knows best.  Those who step out of line, however, need a little extra guidance or re-education.  God has a different remedy for a happy land.  It is found in Psalm 33:12. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, and the people He has chosen for His own inheritance.”  Of course, this was an ideal unrealized since the people of Israel were always hankering for someone other than God to be the god of their land.  But it is an ideal that can be realized by His people today.
In the New Testament God does not have a “land” as such.  He will in the future reclaim Israel for His sovereign territory for a thousand years, but right now He has no land.  What He does have is people.  His people, called by and through the Name of His Son Jesus, are His “territory”.  In their hearts and lives He has a worldwide territory.  He has enough “land” and people to make known to all the world that He can make a difference in the contentment level, the joy level, the peace level, or what we might call “the happiness quotient” level of humanity.  For those who are His territory, who will die to self and live to Him – making Him Lord, they will prove to all that “Happiness is the Lord.” 
Too often, however, we find that the Christian community is no different than the lost community.  Instead of trusting they live in worry.  Instead of praising they live in complaining.  Instead of acknowledging His authority they set out to run their own lives and give Jesus a lift along with them if He wants the ride.  The result is that they have as many idols as ancient Israel had and have no more happiness than they had as a result. 
But Jesus daily calls out to us to change that pattern. He calls out to us to repent and live this day for Him and in living it find all that He promised is true. Each of us needs to make that commitment of Paul, as expressed in Galatians 2:20, to die daily and then live in the joyful expectancy of Christ and His kingdom in us.
Great Christ the King to Thee we bring our willing hearts today
To be the land with Your command where You alone hold sway
Reveal through us Your graciousness and let our full hearts sing

That happiness is real in us when You are Christ the King.  

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Friday, November 11, 2016

More and More Happiness

One of the saddest persons in literature is Ebenezer Scrooge.  His idea of a good day was to say “Bah, humbug” to everyone he met.  When asked for a pittance for the poor, he was far more ready to give the fundraiser a piece of his mind than a piece of his coin.  It is hard to ever find a happy miser.
God has a different way to happiness.  In Psalm 41:1 David said, “Happy is the man who considers the poor.”  In 41:2 he added, “He shall be blessed (happy) upon the earth.”  Ebenezer Scrooge learned this lesson through a mysterious dream.  God gives us this lesson in a straight forward promise.
As I have said before, we live in a tough neighborhood.  There are people being evicted on a weekly basis.  One day we looked out the window and across the street was a family that we “casually” knew who had everything on the front sidewalk of their apartment.  We are not rich and I knew we couldn’t pay their rent, but my wife and I went over and asked them if there was anything we could do.  It was with some hesitation because we knew we couldn’t do much.  “Yes,” they said. “You can take our children and take care of them for us.”  My wife and I looked at each other and out of my mouth came the strangest response.  “OK.”
An hour later they delivered their eleven year old twins to our house with only the clothes on their backs.  Then they moved out of town.  I did insist that the mother give us a letter authorizing us to take necessary medical action and enroll them in school in the fall.  Suddenly we had two very semi-legal foster children.  I remember taking them to buy school clothes and I had the girl with me.  A lady stopped us in the aisle and asked if I were her foster dad. (The children were of a different race.)  The girl watched me closely.  “No,” I said.  “I am her grandpa.”  I made a real friend then and there.  We were both happy.
That is what God promised.  “Happy is the man who considers the poor.”  Spice up your life with a little happiness.  Care for those who can’t care for themselves.  Remember, “God loves a cheerful giver”.  He will add cheerfulness back to the giver.
There’s happiness round the corner for everyone who shares

God in heav’n will never forget the gifts of those who care.  

  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, November 10, 2016

More Happiness

There is an old saying, “Seeing is believing”.  Missouri is known as the “Show Me State”.   A line from a famous movie says, “Show me the money.”  Can all that visualization really make us happy?  Is that what it takes to be sure of something?  God would disagree.  Paul wrote, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”  (II Cor. 5:7)
In Psalm 2:12 we find that little word “blessed” again, the one that means happy.  “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”  Trust and “show me” are two different things.  Trust is a handshake and a promise.  Show me is a cashier’s check.  Show me implies doubt.  Trust me is the essence of faith.  Our walk with Christ is to be one of faith.  The Father called us by faith to believe in the Son.  Trust is faith in action.
The phrase “Blessed is the man who trusts in Thee” is oft repeated in the psalms with variations.  In Ps. 2 it applies to believing in the Son as God’s Messiah.  It compares those who believe with those who rejected Christ.  The believers are happy; the rejecters are crushed.  Therefore, it says, believe.  In Ps. 34:8 the phrase is repeated, but this time it is used with a different emphasis.  This time the trust is not for salvation but in circumstances that challenge and confront our lives.  In Ps. 40:4 the phrase is used again.  Again it is used with a different emphasis.  This time the psalmist is waiting on the Lord.  Will he abandon the wait and choose a “show me” mentality?  He says “Blessed is the man who trusts”.  Whether it is for salvation or for our daily walk, or for dire circumstances or for those times where we just find ourselves waiting on the Lord’s will, “Blessed is the man who trusts in Thee” is the repeated phase. 
Edgar Stites wrote “Trusting Jesus”.  It is an old hymn that will refresh us every day as we look to Jesus in simple trust for all He has promised to us.
 “Simply trusting every day, trusting through a stormy way; even when my faith is small, trusting Jesus, that is all.”
“Singing if my way is clear, praying if the path be drear; if in danger for Him call;
trusting Jesus, that is all.”

Refrain:  “Trusting as the moments fly, trusting as the days go by; trusting Him whate’er befall, trusting Jesus, that is all.”

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Road to Happiness

I’ve never met a person who didn’t want to be happy.  I’ve met many who aren’t, but none who didn’t want to be.  Oh, they think many things will make them happy and they don’t think they can be happy without them.  That’s too bad, since few of us will have all the things we want.  When Solomon had all he wanted in Ecclesiastes chapter 2, he said that it failed to fulfill him.  So, is there a way to be happy?  Yes!
Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”  That little word “blessed” at the start of this verse comes from a Hebrew word meaning “happy”.  Perhaps the idea is even broader, that there is a fullness of life and a deep satisfaction in living it.  We are not talking happy as in “it’s Saturday and I don’t have to go to work.”  That is what we really want.  God tells us how to get it.  It begins with His word, that perfect, inerrant word that He has given for our instruction and happiness.
But there is a second step to happiness.  We don’t just have to read it and walk away.  We have to read it and then do it.  That is what He means by not walking, or standing or sitting, progressively getting more stuck in the rut with the wicked.  He gives us light in His word and He wants us to walk in it.  Happiness then is a choice; we can take it or leave it.  God offers us the opportunity to take it.  He invites us to take it.  He did not create us to be bogged down with sorrow all our life.  He put man in the Garden of Eden.  Man chose to disobey and leave.  God in Christ invites him to come back. 
Come back to peace with God.  Come back to joy in the Lord.  Come back to looking forward to getting up each day and finding true happiness, blessing with Him.  Eliza Hewitt wrote a song to spring our lives into a pattern of happiness.  She invites us to walk in the light of Christ and His word.
    “Trying to walk in the steps of the Savior, trying to follow our Savior and king;
shaping our lives by His blessed example, happy, how happy, the songs that we bring.”
“Pressing more closely to Him who is leading, when we are tempted to turn from the way; trusting the arm that is strong to defend us, happy, how happy, our praises each day.”

“How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior, stepping in the light, stepping in the light, how beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior, led in paths of light.”

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Name Above All Names

Of all the names we have ascribed to Jesus, the greatest is the name we call Him most commonly.  His name is Jesus.  God gave Him this great name before His birth.  He said to Joseph, “And she (Mary) will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”  (Matt. 1:21)  All the other names we have looked at are ones He used to describe Himself or that others used to describe Him.  Jesus is His name given by God.  That makes it a pretty special name.
In Hebrew it is Yeshua or Joshua.  The name literally means “Jehovah is salvation” or “The Lord’s salvation”.  That is why God said to Joseph, “For He shall save His people from their sins”.  He is the salvation of God.  Peter proclaimed this great truth to the Jewish council in Acts 4:12, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”  In all of the world, in every land and culture and religious system, there is only one name that will save.  That name is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. 
His name is Savior.  Peter pointed out that “we must be saved”.  This is not an option.  We need it.  We are lost and perishing.  We will pass from death unto death without the name of Jesus.  That name does not just mean Jesus the man.  It does not just mean Jesus the servant.  It does not just mean Jesus the teacher.  It does not just mean Jesus the coming King.  That name means salvation and when we come to Jesus for salvation He will not turn us away.  What we need Him for is to save us from the earned punishment for our sins.  He has satisfied the justice God demands for payment for our sins by His own death and resurrection. 

This is a name worth sharing.  It is a name that has the power to transform people into the very children of God with all the rights thereof.  It is the only name that will give them eternal hope.  Let’s spread the joyful sound of that Name!  Priscilla Owens captured the joy of this name in her song “Jesus Saves!” “We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves; onward! ’Tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!     Give the winds a mighty voice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Let the nations now rejoice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Shout salvation full and free; highest hills and deepest caves; this our song of victory: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”

  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, November 2, 2016

What Was Jesus' Last Name

Many people have last names that convey something about their ancestor’s professions.  Miller might convey that somewhere along the line, when surnames were added to first names, the ancestor was in the milling business.  He was John the miller who became John Miller.  When Jesus grew up, what was His last name?  He was probably called Yeshua ben Yusef by the people of Nazareth.  Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua with (ben), meaning son of, Joseph. Nobody on the streets of Nazareth called Him Jesus Christ.  Christ is not His last name. 
Christ is His title.  It is a title that declares who He is.  Christ is the Greek form of the Hebrew word for “anointed one”.  The Jewish people had been looking forward to an anointed one for many centuries.  They had had their types of anointed ones in their culture.  The kings were anointed.  The priests were anointed.  Even some prophets were anointed.  These were people who had been specially called by God to lead His people.  Their anointing certified their authority to their position.  Some were anointed by oil and some were anointed by oil and blood, but to serve they had to be anointed. 
Jesus was anointed with power by God and with the Holy Spirit.  Mary’s womb was anointed by the Holy Spirit in His conception.  He was anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism.  Jesus was God’s Anointed One.  He was the Messiah, the promised anointed one, of the Old Testament.  He came to be the prophet, priest and king for Israel.  He came to be their redeemer.  Unlike their priests, however, who would offer something else as a sacrifice, He would offer Himself.  Unlike a king, however, He was first a servant.  All of these things were prophesied about Him in the Old Testament, but few were looking for a servant sacrifice and most were looking for a king and deliverer. 
He has delivered us from death in this present age and He can reign as King in the lives of His people in this present age.  Someday He will return and be the King of kings on earth.  His title of Christ, however, is present for us to know who He is and what He is doing.  It is a title deserving all praise and adoration, all worship and respect.  It is His eternal title. 
Christ hidden in a servant’s skin, Christ sacrificed our souls to win
Christ raised anoints us with His Name, Christ comes again o’er all to reign. 

Let all saints proclaim, “For me to live is Christ; to die is gain.”  

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