Are you sick with sin? Jesus offers healing

“And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32

It’s easy for us to sit back and think of all the people we know who are spiritually sick and in need of a physician to heal their soul, but what about us? Are we sick?

We might like to think we are fine, but the truth speaks otherwise. A close examination of ourselves in the mirror of God’s law shows our spiritual sickness inside and out.

I must admit that I am sin sick. By nature (as I am by birth), the thoughts and desires of my heart are only evil continually (cf. Gen. 6:5 and 8:21). Even as a Christian, my old sinful nature keeps me from doing those things God’s Spirit, who dwells within me, causes me to desire. And I often do those things God’s Spirit would have me avoid.

Though I may desire to love God with all my heart and soul and serve Him by obeying His commandments, I come short. I fail. Instead of perfect love for God and neighbor, I find myself lacking in my desire to serve God and thinking of my wants and desires before considering God’s will and the needs of others.

Sometimes, my sin-sick heart causes thoughts and actions I deplore to spill over into my life. St. Paul described this when he wrote (Rom. 7:22-24): “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Jeremiah was only speaking God’s truth when he said of our human hearts (Jer. 17:9): “The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

So, do I need a physician to heal my very heart and soul? Absolutely! My heart and soul are sick with sin and infected by evil.

As a spiritually-sick sinner, Jesus calls me to repentance – to acknowledge and turn from my sinful ways to Him for mercy and forgiveness. He lived a perfect and sinless life in my stead and then suffered the just punishment for my sin and the sin of the whole world when He was crucified and died upon the cross. Apart from Him, I stand condemned. In Him, I am pardoned and forgiven!

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Why? Because our “advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2).

As the physician of our souls, Jesus calls us to repentance, forgives our sins and promises us eternal life. As a pledge and guarantee of our redemption, He gives us His Holy Spirit, who regenerates us and gives us new hearts with new thoughts and desires.

And though we still suffer the ravages of sin here in this world, He assures us that when we die and are raised up to new life with Him in His kingdom, our sin-sick bodies will be changed into glorious and heavenly bodies like His. Sin will be gone. Its ravages and results – including death – will be no more. We will dwell with our Lord in righteousness and purity forever (cf. Psalm 17:15)!

Thus, “our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

“We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13).

Remember Jesus’ words: “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

To deny our sinfulness and hide it when it infects every aspect of our lives will only keep us from the help we need and result in eternal death. To acknowledge our utter sinfulness and look to Jesus for pardon and healing will bring us life and healing – and when we are raised up on the last day, we will be whole!

O gracious and merciful Savior, I am a poor and miserable sinner. Sin affects every area of my life and works death in me. Have mercy upon me. Forgive my sins for the sake of Your blood, shed upon the cross. And heal me through the regenerating work of Your Spirit and make me whole when I awake like You in Your everlasting kingdom. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Words of Encouragement for July 23, 2014

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.” Psalm 51:10-12

By nature, all of our hearts are full of “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). Instead of loving the LORD and desiring to do His holy will, our thoughts, by nature, are “only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

As Christians, who trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for salvation, the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and gives us love for God and holy thoughts and desires. As the Bible says, we are “washed … sanctified … and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Our “body is the temple of the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 6 19).

Yet in this world, we are still sinners. Like David, we need to acknowledge our sins, turn to the LORD for His grace and forgiveness, and pray that God would create “a clean heart” and “renew a right spirit” within us.

When we consider how we continue to come short and fail to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit through the Word, we deserve to be cast away from the presence of the LORD and have His Holy Spirit taken from us. How we grieve God’s Spirit when we go our own way and sin rather than give heed to the admonition and warning of God’s Word (cf. Eph. 4:30)! With David, we all have reason to pray, “Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”

When we turn aside from following the Holy Spirit – when we turn into sin and evil – the joy which comes from being an heir of salvation and walking with the Lord is overshadowed by guilt and despair. We feel God’s wrath upon us. We know that we have failed again and are deserving of His everlasting punishment (cf. Ps. 32:3-4; 51:3-5).

But, like David, we look to the LORD God for mercy, acknowledging our sins and failures to the LORD and turning to Him for pardon and forgiveness for the sake of the Son, Jesus Christ, and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead.

We pray with David in Psalm 51:1-9: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

And, we also pray with David: “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.”

Only God’s Spirit can restore in us that joy of knowing that in Jesus we have forgiveness and eternal salvation! Only the Holy Spirit can uphold us and keep us in the true and saving faith!

Let us then pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.” Amen.

 

Church YouTube Channel

The church now has its own YouTube channel where worship service videos and other materials may be watched. The web address is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVfTHbq6uVGyPgyG7Pz4Rkw.

 

The Case for Christ

Lee Strobel, a journalist, examines “The Case for Christ” and turns from atheism to the Christian Faith. The video is useful because it answers the misconceptions and objections of many in regard to Christ, who He is and what He did for our salvation. It may be watched at: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FJ9FMMNU.

 

The Case for Faith

Lee Strobel, a journalist, examines “The Case for Faith.” How can Christianity claim Jesus is the only way? and, If there is a good and loving God, how can there be so much evil in this world? Though the video may fall short in explaining the fall of man and its affect on man’s free will and our inability, of ourselves, to know and come to Christ, the video and his book provide good and useful answers for our own doubts and for the objections of others. It’s certainly worth watching and considering: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FJ0J2FNU.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 69:1-18; Daniel 5:1-31; Mark 3:22-35. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the Book of Genesis, in chapter 10.

 

Verse to Remember

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.” Psalm 51:10-12

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Tim, Mel, Bill – for our extended families – for Janet’s sister, for Jessica, Naomi, and Tristan – and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Prayer Request Cards are located in the back of the church and may be filled out and given to the pastor or an usher to include people or requests in the Sunday prayers.

A special fund to assist those in need has been started by the church council. Members may designate special offerings for this fund if they wish. The pastor and council members are authorized to distribute money from this fund when needed.

A Pot-Luck Dinner is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 3, following the worship service. All are invited to join us for this time together.

Church Council will meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 6, at the church.

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

Weighed in the Balances and Found Wanting

“If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” Psalm 130:3-4

Our days in this world are numbered, and we have come short of what God requires of us as His creatures. Hence, the words of Psalm 130:3: “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”

The answer, of course, is that none of us would stand. We have been weighed in the scales of God’s righteous judgment and are found wanting. Our lives are filled with sin in our thoughts, desires, words and actions.

If the LORD were to mark our every iniquity in His books and keep record of our every failure, who could stand in His judgment? Who is innocent of all sin? Who can stand before God and proclaim his own righteousness under the law?

Yet, that is what many plan to do – to seek acceptance with God on the basis of their own life and works. But God demands more – He demands perfect obedience in thought, word and deed.

Even Christians cannot stand. Our hearts are divided. We may have the desire to love the LORD with all our heart, mind and soul, but we don’t. We may desire to obey all God’s commandments, but we fail. Knowing that God demands that we be holy as He is holy (cf. Lev. 19:2; Matt. 5:48), we can easily be discouraged and even become angry with God for demanding of us what we are not able to do. God’s law condemns us all.

God’s Word, however, also gives us comfort when it says in verse 4: “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

The LORD God forgives sins! As the psalm promises, God sent His own Son to die for our sins and provide for us “plenteous redemption” (v. 7). Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died not only for the sins of Israel; He made atonement for the sins of the whole world and rose again (cf. Matt. 1:21; 1 John 2:1-2). We therefore hope in the LORD and trust in His mercy.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). Our God “hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:6-7).

Have we come short? Are we found wanting in God’s judgment? Yes, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). But we also are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

Dear LORD God, we give You thanks that You have redeemed us in the Son and forgive all our sins for Jesus’ sake. In His name we pray. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

The Most High Rules in the Kingdom of Men

“Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works [are] truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.” Daniel 4:37 (Read Daniel 4)

In Proverbs 16:18, we read: “Pride [goeth] before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Again, with King Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom of Babylon, we find an excellent example of this truth.

As we see from the account in Daniel, chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream portrayed the greatness of his kingdom. His kingdom was a world kingdom in that he ruled over many nations and peoples, and the influence of his kingdom extended to the ends of the earth. Though there have been other world kingdoms since, none have exceeded Babylon’s greatness.

But, there was a problem. Nebuchadnezzar, like people everywhere – especially those who accomplish great things – was proud and credited himself for building the kingdom of Babylon. He failed to see that it is the LORD God who establishes kingdoms and lifts up rulers, even from the lowest of men.

Though, ultimately, Babylon fell because of its pride and self confidence, God, in mercy, taught Nebuchadnezzar who it is that established his kingdom and gave him his might. God brought Nebuchadnezzar down and humbled him that Nebuchadnezzar might come to his senses and know “that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Dan. 4:17).

What is the point for us today? First of all, we need to realize that America’s greatness is not of our own doing. Our nation’s military might and its influence around the world is not because of our will or spirit. America is what it is today because the most High raised us up and gave us many godly and moral rulers to guide our founding and our growth.

But the same God who raised us up can bring us down. If we do not acknowledge the true God of the Bible – the Creator of heaven and earth and all things and Ruler over all – we will be abased and humbled that we might come to our senses and honor the God who created us and all things and sent His Son into the world to redeem us.

Will God preserve our nation, as He did Babylon, until our people and rulers come to their senses? While some might suggest that our rulers in Washington have already fallen below the intelligence level of senseless beasts – and sometimes this seems to be so – we don’t know if God will preserve America until we come to our senses, or even if our people will come to their senses before it is too late. But we ought, as did Nebuchadnezzar, humble ourselves under His mighty hand and look to Him for mercy for the sake of the Son, Christ Jesus!

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). May He have mercy upon us, our nation and rulers, that we might come to our senses and acknowledge Him as our Creator and trust in God the Son as our Redeemer!

Have mercy upon us, O God, and bring us to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Words of Encouragement for July 16, 2014

Have we forgotten our Maker?

“O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand….” Psalm 95:1-7a

In Hosea 8:14, we read that “Israel hath forgotten his Maker.” They were still a religious people, but they had forgotten who the LORD God was and how to worship and serve Him.

These words are not only true of Old Testament Israel at the time of Hosea the prophet; they are true of us today. As a nation and people, we have forgotten our Maker and we neglect to give Him the glory and praise due unto His name.

We need to remember that “the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3).

In spite of man’s attempts to escape this fact, the truth still remains that the LORD (Jehovah) God of the Bible (the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost) has created us and all things by His almighty word (Gen. 1-2; Neh. 9:6). It is He who formed us in our mothers’ wombs and gave us life (Ps. 139:13-16), and He it is who sustains our lives (cf. Ps. 145:15-16).

And, not only is He the Creator and Sustainer of all things, He gave His only begotten Son and redeemed us through the innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus that we might have forgiveness for all our sins and again be alive to Him and worship His name (cf. Ps. 130:7-8; Jn. 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10; Rom. 5:8-11).

Isn’t it about time we remember our Creator; look to Him to forgive our sins for the sake of the holy life and bitter sufferings and death of the Son, Christ Jesus, and then worship and serve Him with our lives?

If we do not humbly kneel before Him now, we shall be humbled and kneel before Him on the Last Day when He executes His judgment upon all people (cf. Phil. 2:5-11; Ps. 2).

O Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, for the sake of Christ Jesus, our Savior, forgive us for our many sins against You, and grant that we might kneel before You and worship You both now and for evermore in heaven! Amen.

 

Do you harden your hearts against the LORD?

“To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, [and] as [in] the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with [this] generation, and said, It [is] a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest..”  Psalm 95:7b-11

Will you enter God’s eternal rest, or are you hardening your heart against Him? God’s Word comes to you. You have it in your Bible, and it is still preached by faithful ministers; but will you hear it and believe it?

The Children of Israel heard God’s words through Moses and even directly from God Himself on Mt. Sinai. They saw God’s mighty works in Egypt, at the Red Sea and in the wilderness. But did they believe? Did they trust in the LORD God to lead and guide them, provide for them in their journeys and bring them safely into the Promised Land? The answer is, No! Again and again, they grumbled and complained. Again and again they disobeyed the commandments of the LORD. And, when it was time to go up and take possession of the land the LORD was giving them, they doubted God’s Word to them and wanted to return to Egypt. Therefore, because of their unbelief, they did not enter into the promised rest.

Now, the Word of the LORD comes to you. It calls you to repent of your sinful ways and rebellion against the LORD and receive forgiveness and life through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God’s own dear Son. Will you hear God’s Word? Will you acknowledge your utter sinfulness and rebelliousness before the LORD? Will you come to God and trust in Him to receive you and forgive you of all your sins because Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God in human flesh, fulfilled the righteous demands of God’s law for you and then bore your punishment upon the cross and rose again?

If you refuse to repent and turn to the Lord Jesus for mercy, you go astray in your heart. You do not know the way of the LORD, and you will not enter into His eternal rest! But if you humble yourself before the LORD, hear His Word and believe, you will receive of His mercy and be blessed with the eternal joys of heaven for Jesus’ sake!

LORD God, have mercy upon us and grant that we not harden our hearts against You and the truth of Your Word. By Your Holy Spirit, grant us true repentance and faith In Jesus Christ our Savior. In His name we pray. Amen.

 

Are you suffering?

“I know, O LORD, that thy judgments [are] right, and [that] thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.” Psalm 119:75-76

Are you suffering? Are you facing hardships and difficulties in your life? Do you know pain and heartache all too well?

As Christians, we learn from God’s Word that His judgments are always right — God makes no mistakes in His dealings with us. When He afflicts us and chastens us, He is being faithful to us, as a loving Father.

You need not feel that God has forgotten about you, or that you are suffering wrongfully. God has a purpose and a plan, and He is working for your good (cf. Rom. 8:28; Heb. 12:3-11). Peter writes: “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls [to him] in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Pet. 4:19).

In our suffering, we can also find comfort! That comfort lies in the “merciful kindness” of our God. Even in our suffering, God has not dealt with us as we deserve. As the Scripture says, “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as the heaven is high above the earth, [so] great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12; cf. Lam. 3:21-23).

Instead of punishing us for our sins, God laid them upon His own Son, Jesus Christ, and punished Him in our stead. Our sins were punished upon Jesus’ cross, and Jesus’ resurrection on the third day proves that God no longer holds our sins against us (cf. Rom. 4:25). So, dear Christian, take comfort! God is being merciful and kind to you even in your suffering!

O faithful and merciful Father, comfort us in our affliction with the knowledge that You are doing what is good and right for us; and grant us the assurance promised us in Your Word that we have forgiveness and life through faith in Thy Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. In His name we pray. Amen.

 

Why I won’t be in heaven

Again and again I hear preachers telling mourning loved ones that this person or that is, without a doubt, in heaven because of how much he loved Jesus, how many people’s lives she touched, how strong a faith he had or how much good she accomplished in her lifetime.

I can’t help but wonder, “Was it enough?” After all, God’s Word commands us to love the LORD God with all our heart, soul and mind; to love others as much as we love ourselves; to be holy and perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. It says our best works, in and of themselves, are like filthy and unclean rags in God’s eyes.

So, I just want to make a few things clear before I die. I might even suggest these words be read on that occasion so there is no doubt:

  • I won’t be in heaven because of how much I loved Jesus; I will be in heaven because of how much Jesus loved me!
  • I won’t be in heaven because of any good things I’ve done; I will be in heaven because of all the good and perfect things Jesus did for me!
  • I won’t be in heaven because of all I’ve sacrificed for Jesus; I will be in heaven because of all Jesus sacrificed for me when He gave His life on the cross and paid the just penalty for my sin.
  • I won’t be in heaven because I died a good death for Jesus; I will be in heaven because Jesus died a good death for me, conquered sin and death and rose again to be my ever-living Savior!
  • I won’t even be in heaven because of my strong and enduring faith; I will be in heaven because Jesus gave me His Spirit at my baptism, and the Holy Spirit endured me and patiently and again and again throughout my life revealed to me my utter sinfulness but assured me of forgiveness and acceptance for Jesus sake!

So, you see, I won’t be in heaven because of me – I’ve failed and come short; but I will be in heaven because of Jesus – He did it all!

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” (Rom. 3:23-24).

To quote from the hymn (emphasis mine), “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness,” written by Ludwig von Zinzendorf and translated by John Wesley, nearly 300 years ago, “When from the dust of death I rise to claim my mansion in the skies, e’en then, this shall be all my plea: Jesus hath lived and died for me.“

 

Church YouTube Channel

The church now has its own YouTube channel where worship service videos and other materials may be watched. The web address is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVfTHbq6uVGyPgyG7Pz4Rkw.

 

The Case for Christ

Lee Strobel, a journalist, examines “The Case for Christ” and turns from atheism to the Christian Faith. The video is useful because it answers the misconceptions and objections of many in regard to Christ, who He is and what He did for our salvation. It may be watched at: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FJ9FMMNU.

 

The Case for Faith

Lee Strobel, a journalist, examines “The Case for Faith.” How can Christianity claim Jesus is the only way? and, If there is a good and loving God, how can there be so much evil in this world? Though the video may fall short in explaining the fall of man and its affect on man’s free will and our inability, of ourselves, to know and come to Christ, the video and his book provide good and useful answers for our own doubts and for the objections of others. It’s certainly worth watching and considering: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FJ0J2FNU.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 68:20-35; Daniel 4:1-37; Mark 3:1-21. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the Book of Genesis, in chapter 9.

 

Verse to Remember

“Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory [due unto] his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.” Psalm 96:7-9

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Tim, Mel, Bill – for our extended families – for Janet’s sister, for Jessica, Naomi, and Tristan – and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Prayer Request cards are located in the back of the church and may be filled out and given to the pastor or an usher to include people or requests in the Sunday prayers.

A special fund to assist those in need has been started by the church council. Members may designate special offerings for this fund if they wish. The pastor and council members are authorized to distribute money from this fund when needed.

 

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

‘Be thou faithful unto death….’

“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10b

Though we are saved entirely of God’s grace and mercy toward us for Christ’s sake (cf. Eph. 2:8ff.), we are commanded to remain faithful to Christ – even unto death – and He promises us a crown of life.

Though there are many examples of believers who held tightly to Christ, even in the face of death, one of the most beautiful professions of such faith is that of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (better known to us as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego).

When commanded, at the sound of music, to fall down and worship the golden image made by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, or be cast into a burning, fiery furnace, they answered in this way (Daniel 3:17-18): “If it be [so], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver [us] out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”

They knew they were to worship the LORD God and serve Him alone (cf. Ex. 20:3-5; Deut. 6:13ff.; 13:4), and they were confident that the LORD God could and would deliver them from the fiery death Nebuchadnezzar decreed for them, but even if God let them burn to death in the flames, they were not willing to compromise their faith in the true God and worship the false gods of Babylon.

When we read the rest of the historical account in Daniel 3, we see that God intervened and delivered them from the fiery flames even though the furnace was so hot the men who had to throw them into the flames died. And then, King Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the power of the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.

But what about us? Jesus commands us to be faithful unto death and not compromise His doctrine or our faith in Him, even unto death (cf. Mark 8:34-38). Do we hold fast to Christ and His doctrine in the face of criticism and ridicule, if it means losing our job, our property or even our life? Are we willing to stand up to church leaders or government officials and obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29)? God is able and may deliver us, but what if suffering or even a martyr’s death is in God’s plan for you or for me? (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12; John 16:1-3.)

Did Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego earn a place in heaven for their faithfulness? Not at all! Heaven is for them God’s gift of grace in Messiah Jesus – because He suffered and died for their sins and rose again in victory over sin, death and the devil. But had they denied Christ and compromised their faith, they stood to lose everything.

Can we earn heaven by faithfulness? Not at all! Heaven is God’s gracious gift to us in Christ Jesus, too! But if we deny Christ and abandon His Word, we too stand to lose all because “neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Dear Lord Jesus, keep us faithful to You unto death, for You are our eternal hope and salvation. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Why I won’t be in heaven

Again and again I hear preachers telling mourning loved ones that this person or that is, without a doubt, in heaven because of how much he loved Jesus, how many people’s lives she touched, how strong a faith he had or how much good she accomplished in her lifetime.

I can’t help but wonder, “Was it enough?” After all, God’s Word commands us to love the LORD God with all our heart, soul and mind; to love others as much as we love ourselves; to be holy and perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. It says our best works, in and of themselves, are like filthy and unclean rags in God’s eyes.

So, I just want to make a few things clear before I die. I might even suggest these words be read on that occasion so there is no doubt:

  • I won’t be in heaven because of how much I loved Jesus; I will be in heaven because of how much Jesus loved me!
  • I won’t be in heaven because of any good things I’ve done; I will be in heaven because of all the good and perfect things Jesus did for me!
  • I won’t be in heaven because of all I’ve sacrificed for Jesus; I will be in heaven because of all Jesus sacrificed for me when He gave His life on the cross and paid the just penalty for my sin.
  • I won’t be in heaven because I died a good death for Jesus; I will be in heaven because Jesus died a good death for me, conquered sin and death and rose again to be my ever-living Savior!
  • I won’t even be in heaven because of my strong and enduring faith; I will be in heaven because Jesus gave me His Spirit at my baptism, and the Holy Spirit endured me and patiently and again and again throughout my life revealed to me my utter sinfulness but assured me of forgiveness and acceptance for Jesus sake!

So, you see, I won’t be in heaven because of me – I’ve failed and come short; but I will be in heaven because of Jesus – He did it all!

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” (Rom. 3:23-24).

To quote from the hymn (emphasis mine), “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness,” written by Ludwig von Zinzendorf and translated by John Wesley, nearly 300 years ago, “When from the dust of death I rise to claim my mansion in the skies, e’en then, this shall be all my plea: Jesus hath lived and died for me.

Words of Encouragement for July 9, 2014

In the world ye shall have tribulation….

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Life in this world is full of trouble and heartache. In addition to the sickness, pain and death which all face, there is the persecution and suffering which those who follow Christ Jesus can expect in this world from those who continue in impenitence and rebellion against the LORD God who created and redeemed them.

Before His betrayal, arrest and crucifixion, Jesus attempted to prepare His disciples for what lay ahead. They were about to witness His passion and death on the cross and all would look hopeless to them because of their unbelief and hardness of heart. Though they would see Him again, alive from the dead, He would no longer be present with them in the same manner as He had been over the months and years before (Cf. John 16:19-20). And they too would suffer much from the enemies of Christ as they proclaimed His Word and doctrine in the world (Cf. John 16:1-5).

Jesus did not want His disciples’ faith to be shaken and destroyed by what was to come. He wanted them to continue to trust in Him and have peace in Him. Jesus warned His followers ahead of time so that when all these things came to pass, they would hold fast to Him with the confidence that in Him they had forgiveness and in Him they had life everlasting in the mansions of His Father’s house (Cf. John 14:1ff.).

These words of comfort are for you and me too as we face tribulation and suffering in this world. We will face hardships and trouble. As Paul wrote, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). We should expect no less as we follow Christ and bear witness to the truth of His Word.

But though we must endure tribulation in this world, we can have peace in Christ Jesus. He has redeemed us from sin and death by His own innocent sufferings and death in our stead and He has risen again in victory. In Him we too have the victory. In Him we have pardon and peace – forgiveness for all our sins. In Him we have the assurance that we too shall be raised up unto life everlasting.

In the world we shall have tribulation. Being a Christian and follower of Jesus will not bring a life or ease and worldly peace, but we have peace in Jesus. We can be of good cheer whatever comes our way because Jesus, our Savior, has overcome the world. In Him we have the final victory. In Him we have the everlasting joys of heaven!

Remember, Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Dearest Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of life You won for me by Your innocent sufferings and death in my stead. Graciously keep me in Your peace. Let me hold fast to You and Your Word and trust in You for pardon and life everlasting. Amen.

 

Questions Which Challenge Faith

 

If there is a good and loving God, how could He allow so much evil in the world?

That is a question often asked by Christian and non-Christian alike, especially at times when loved ones die or terrible evils and tragedies occur.

Is there an answer? While the wisdom and workings of God are often hidden from our eyes, He has revealed to us in the Scriptures what we need to know.

First of all, God did not create evil and suffering and death. God gave life, both physical and spiritual, when He created man in His image and breathed into man the breath of life (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7); and, at the close of the sixth day, when God looked upon all that He had created and made, “it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).

Evil, suffering and death entered into God’s creation when Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, doubted God’s words, failed to trust Him and disobeyed His command (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-24). And this evil was evidenced in their hiding from God, the murder of Abel, the wickedness and unbelief at the time of the Genesis Flood and in the evil and suffering which has continued down through the centuries – including the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, God’s own dear Son in human flesh.

 

How could a good and all-knowing God create a world in which He knew man would turn away and bring about such evil and suffering?

The answer lies in His wisdom and love and grace. Yes, He knew man would sin and He knew His creation would be ravaged by sin and evil, but He created man with a free will and with a knowledge of God and His ways. He created man with the eternal and gracious purpose to redeem us and give to us the everlasting joys of heaven in perfect fellowship with Him.

The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:4-7 that “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

 

If God is good and all-powerful, why would He not immediately put an end to the evil and suffering in this world?

To answer that question, we need to remember what putting an end to all evil would mean. It would not only mean the immediate judgment and eternal damnation of men like Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin, it would mean the immediate judgment and damnation of each and every one of us, for, as the Bible says in Romans 3:10-12, “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Yes, God could immediately remove all evil from this world, but that would mean the eternal ruin of us all!

God will put an end to evil in this world. He has promised to do so. But the Bible also tells us “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

So, God tolerates the evil in this world to give to us and all mankind opportunity to hear the truth of His Word, repent of our rebellious and sinful ways and place our faith in Christ Jesus. This evil world goes on because God does not desire us to perish forever in the fires of hell. He longs for us to turn to Jesus for pardon and forgiveness and for life eternal in a new and perfect world He will create. But, in God’s time, this world will be judged and the evil and wickedness will be removed (2 Pet. 3:10ff.).

 

And, finally, why would a good and gracious God allow His own people to suffer?

Though we may not fully see and understand God’s workings in this life, we are assured by Scripture “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose” (Rom. 3:28).

We may not understand why God allows trouble and suffering to come. We may be grasping for an explanation when sickness comes, a loved one dies or a tragedy occurs. Yet, as believers, we know and believe that God is our loving heavenly Father and has our eternal good and the good of all God’s elect children in mind. We commit the keeping of our souls “to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Pet. 4:19).

Remember, we so often see things only from the perspective of here and now in this life. God looks upon the things of here and now in this life with the perspective of what’s best for our eternal future.

And, yes, in this life we will suffer – Jesus, the sinless and holy Son of God, suffered more than all – but “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). We know and believe that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).

 

The Case for Christ

Lee Strobel, a journalist, examines “The Case for Christ” and turns from atheism to the Christian Faith. This video may be watched at: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FJ9FMMNU.

 

The Case for Faith

Lee Strobel, a journalist, examines “The Case for Faith.” How can Christianity claim Jesus is the only way? and, If there is a good and loving God, how can there be so much evil in this world? Though the video may fall short in explaining the fall of man and its affect on man’s free will and our inability, of ourselves, to know and come to Christ, the video and his book provide good and useful answers for our own doubts and for the objections of others. It’s certainly worth watching and considering.

LEE STROBEL: The Case for Faith (Special Upload) Full Documentary from nlytetv on GodTube.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 68; Daniel 3:1-30; Mark 2:13-28. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the Book of Genesis, in chapter 9.

 

Verse to Remember

“The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” Mark 2:27-28

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Tim, Mel, Bill – for our extended families – for Janet’s sister, for Jessica, Naomi, and Tristan – and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Prayer Request Cards are located in the back of the church and may be filled out and given to the pastor or an usher to include people or requests in the Sunday prayers.

Our next evening congregational Bible study will be at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 16.

A special fund to assist those in need has been started by the church council. Members may designate special offerings for this fund if they wish. The pastor and council members are authorized to distribute money from this fund when needed.

 

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

In which kingdom is your citizenship?

“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, [but] it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream [is] certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.” Daniel 2:44-45

In which kingdom is your citizenship? Our first thought might be to our own nation – to the United States of America – but will this nation stand? Even though many confuse it with God’s eternal kingdom, this nation, too, will come to an end and be replaced – possibly by other earthly kingdoms but, ultimately by an everlasting kingdom not made by man.

We may not think of it, but the Babylonian Kingdom was the head and crown of world kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar ruled the inhabited world of his day and his kingdom was viewed by many as one which would endure. But it was short lived and fell in a single night to the Medes and the Persians.

The Medo-Persian Empire, the largest empire the world had yet seen, fell too, to the Greeks when Alexander the Great conquered it. But the Greek Empire was divided after Alexander’s death and was later replaced by the Roman Empire – though not as glorious, the most powerful kingdom to rise in the world. But, after time, Rome also was divided and fell, though partially resurrected under the Roman Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. To some extent, it continues to this day as a group of nations and rulers.

All this was revealed to Daniel when God made known to him the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and its meaning.

Will the United States of America continue forever? The answer is no. If this world goes on a little longer, history will likely repeat itself and another nation or kingdom will arise to supplant it, as has happened to kingdom after kingdom which refused to submit to the LORD God. Of course, when Jesus returns, it will be subject to judgment for its evil deeds just like every other nation and people.

But one kingdom will remain. It is that kingdom made without hands which will supplant all the kingdoms of this world. It is the kingdom being established by Christ Jesus and is made up of all who repent of their evil ways and look to Him and His cross for forgiveness and life eternal.

By His sufferings and death, Jesus has paid the debt of our sins and opened citizenship to all people; and as our risen King, He sends out His Word and His Spirit to translate His elect from the kingdom and rule of darkness to His own everlasting kingdom in which we have forgiveness and life through His shed blood (Col. 1:12-13). Those who trust in Him have citizenship in His eternal, heavenly kingdom. Those who continue in rebellion and impenitence, will be cast out and condemned to the eternal fires of hell.

Dear Lord Jesus, grant us a place in Your everlasting kingdom, for the sake of Your shed blood. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]