Blessings And Woes

Psalm 51

                                                              Have mercy on me, O God, 

according to Your unfailing love;

according to Your great compassion

blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity

and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is always before me.

Against You, You only, have I sinned,

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that You are proved right when You speak

and justified when You judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth,

sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Surely You desire truth in the inner parts;

You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones You have crushed rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from Your presence

or take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will turn back to You.

Save me from bloodguilt, O God,

the God who saves me,

and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness. 

O Lord, open my lips, 

and my mouth will declare Your praise.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart,

O God, You will not despise.

In Your good pleasure make Zion prosper;

build up the walls of Jerusalem.

Then there will be righteous sacrifices, 

whole burnt offerings to delight You;

then bulls will be offered on Your altar.




The Lord Of The Sabbath

Luke 6:1-11

Luke's portrayal of Jesus is rich with insights into the very character of God and the envisioned kingdom life of the believer.  Luke's account gives us life, guiding us to entrust our very being to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Luke did his careful investigation during the time period of those who had an eyewitness account of Jesus' life and ministry.  Think about it.  Luke was not that different from us here today.  He believed by faith, listened and studied the account of others, and was inspired directly by the Holy Spirit. Yes, he had the advantage of speaking to eyewitnesses.  We have the advantage of the inspired written Word.  We can take our time with patience and repetition and, even the use of silence, so we can clearly hear the quiet whisper, as the message comes to us directly from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

The Word is alive because our Lord is alive.  Luke's writings enable us to place ourselves in the setting of the characters, and with the help of the Holy Spirit bring to light relevance to our modern-day lives.  Our faith is alive because our Lord is alive.  We can learn our Lord Jesus through our present-day experience in relationship with Him, and also through His book, the Bible.  What better way to get to know the Lord than to read all about who He was as a man , a teacher, a counsellor, a servant.  God in human form as our role model.  I really don't think it gets any better than that.

 "One sabbath, Jesus was going through the grain field, and Him disciples decided to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat the kernels." vs 1

Although Jesus had a home town, Jesus and His disciples were essentially homeless in their ministry.  Therefore, it's not surprising that the disciples were in search of food on the Sabbath.  But was it against the law to go into a grain field and pick someone else's pearls of grain?  The law said you could go into your neighbor's field, but you must not harvest their grain.  Yet some some of the pharisees asked why they were doing something unlawful on the Sabbath.  The pharisees must have thought they had a "gotcha" moment, because the disciples were doing work on the Sabbath.  To them it was tantamount to reaping, threshing, and grinding the grain. The truth is the disciples did not break any of the laws.   We might better understand why they  were judging the actions seen here as such a serious offense.  Go back to Exodus 31:14 where it says,

"You must keep the Sabbath day, for it is a holy day for you.  Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death" 

The consequences of desecrating the Sabbath were dire.  In verses 3-4:

Jesus answered them, Have you never read what David did when He and his companions were hungry?  He entered the house of God, and taking consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat.  And he also gave some to his companions."

But the pharisees only knew the part of this scripture that said that David and his companions ate the consecrated bread.  Let's take another example from Matthew 12:11-12:

"If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?  How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!   Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

There is an principal here.  Doing good always has value.  Can you imagine what it would be like if no doctors could heal patients, no police could protect the community?  What about God Himself?  Genesis 2:2 tells us that God rested on the seventh day.  I sure hope that God does not rest from doing good on the Sabbath.    Jesus gave us a little more insight with Mark 3:27-28:

"Then He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

The Jewish tradition had multiplied the requirements and restrictions for keeping the Sabbath to such a level that the burden had become intolerable.  Jesus cut across these traditions and emphasized the God-given purpose of the Sabbath - a day for rest, a day for spiritual restoration.  Jesus is Lord of all, even the Sabbath.  Jesus has the authority to overrule human regulation, particularly when it comes from a flawed interpretation of the spirit of the law.  Jesus is there to help us interpret the law.

In verse 6 Jesus was teaching in a synagogue:

"On another Sabbath He went into a synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled.  The pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched Him closely to see if He would heal on the Sabbath."

Jesus was teaching, and there a need for healing once again.  The pharisees were present, looking to see if Jesus was going to violate the law of the Sabbath.  In their view, healing the sick on the Sabbath was work.  What did Jesus do?  Verses 8-11 say:

"But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Get up and stand in front of everyone."  So he got up and stood there.  Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?"  He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand."  He did so, and his hand was completely restored."

Jesus saw the need for healing, and He healed the man.  Jesus answered His own question through His actions.  They really didn't get Jesus' point.  Verse 11 tells us:

"But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus."

It's one thing to consider that they didn't recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah they were looking for.  It's quite another to witness the miracle Jesus had just performed and interpret it as unlawful.  The point the Lord was making was that not doing something can be the evil choice.  Not doing, not healing, not allowing hungry people to legally gather a few pearls of grain to eat is the equivalent of evil.  The pharisees had gone a long distance from understanding what was at the heart of the guidelines of the Sabbath, a day for rest, spiritual renewal.  

Is that why we come here to Church?  Spiritual renewal?  That's at the heart of the Sabbath.  We worship our Lord because we love Him.  Matthew 22:37 tells us:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind."

Then the Holy Spirit fills us, and we know that we can love our neighbors as ourselves.   The Sabbath is a day set aside to show our love for God, and for one another.

The pharisees couldn't hear what Jesus was saying.  I would suggest to you that they were so busy looking for rulebreaking, that they were not listening to what was at the heart of the question Jesus was asking.  The loving answer was that it is ok to do good,  even on the Sabbath.

The good news for us here today is that we have no need to narrow our focus on a detailed and legalistic rule book to know what the right thing to do is.  How can we know?  We are so truly blessed to have the Holy Spirit as our guide.  Walk by the Spirit, and keep in step with the Spirit.  God's very nature is demonstrated over and over again by Jesus' love.  It was love that was at the heart of the law, not a dictatorial God who was looking to make humanity miserable.  Walking by the Spirit is the way, the only way.  For me there is no other way.

Today I encourage you to spend time in prayer, read the Word, and go out there to touch the life of another by doing good.  Love one another and listen, really listen, for the quiet whisper that comes from the Holy Spirit.






Our Future And God's Faithfulness

Psalm 34                                                                                                                                                  Proverbs 3:5-6

Everyone has experienced fear at one time or another.  If you ever lost track of your child in a store, you know what fear is. We live in a world filled with fears and phobias, and many of them are real.  A survey was taken and people were asked "what do you fear?"  They responded that they fear the future.

Why are we afraid of the future?  There are a couple reasons.  First, the future is unknown.  We really don't know what will happen in the future.  Second, we can't control what we don't know, but we try anyway.  We try to control it by worrying.  Come on, why pray when you can worry all the time.  Social media says to us all the time, "be afraid, be afraid."  

But God has a different message for us.  Don't be afraid.

"I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He  delivered me from all my fears." Psa34:4

The Bible says that God knows everything that is going to happen.  How can that be?  It can be because God is not confined to time.  We are.  God can see everything in all of history all at once...God is in the past, God is in the present, and God is in the future.....all at once!  Our future is not unknown to God.  He is never surprised by anything. 

When you are in a relationship with God, I mean when you have the Holy Spirit's presence in you, and you realize that God is love, then you don't have fear for the future.  He loves you.  He cares for you.  You don't have to be afraid of what happens.  God always has a plan for your future.

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you,  plans to give you hope and a future." Jer 29:11

You are no accident.  By the will of God you are alive.  He made plans for you long before you came into existence.  God works in our lives all the time.  God knows what will happen in your life, and God never leaves you.  God  has to ambush you sometimes to get your attention.  Look back on your life, and realize, God has been with you every step of the way.  God says, in the Bible, that He will never forsake you, or leave you alone.  What a friend we have in God!  God will never let you go through anything alone, regardless of what happens to you.  He won't leave you....even if you fail at something in your life.  He will always be faithful to you because He can't disown Himself (we were made in His image, and we are His children).  

No matter what, that's the kind of God we serve. 


Fellowship Of The Believers

Acts 2:42-47

In that primitive church, you found disciples who were advancing with a balanced diet.  What can you come to church expecting to find?  What constitutes a balanced experience at church every week?  The first thing in that balanced diet is authoritative teaching.  in verse 42,

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread." 

Go to a church where you can learn more about Jesus.  You must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Every Sunday, church should also offer enjoyable company.  The apostles devoted themselves to fellowship - togetherness in harmony.  Church isn't supposed to be a place where you walk in, do your thing, and walk out.  It is meant to be a fellowship experience.  Do you take an active interest in those around you?  The disciples devoted themselves to fellowship.  That is part of the balanced diet of Christianity.  Authoritative teaching and making church an enjoyable place for fellowship.

What abut the Lord's Supper - Communion. grateful remembering of what our Lord did at Calvary.  They have a very simple name for it -- breaking of bread.  The original Eucharist was an entire meal given in honor of Jesus.  We continue to stress that it is about remembering Jesus, because the basic bottom line of what he said at the Last Supper is "When you do this, do it in remembrance of me." 

Cal to mind Calvary.  Call to mind sacrificial death.  Call to mind love for you.  Call to mind that God cares about you.  Call to mind that Jesus died for you.  

There is one more thing that you should expect at church.  Earnest prayer from the heart,   Earnest prayer is a part of the Christian balanced diet.  

To quote Tina Turner, "What's love got to do with it?"  Love makes these four things happen:

Authoritative teaching, enjoyable company, grateful remembrance, and earnest prayer   

Love makes a church a gathering for glorifying God.  The key verse is:

"You should love the Lord your God with all you heart and mind and soul and strength, and you should love your neighbor as yourself."

Awe - "Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles." (vs. 43)  Love does that.  Love prepares us for divine activity.  Whenever God is at work in a church, it has one particular bring hearts closer to God.

Love makes church a gathering for giving to needs.  You need to attend a church where there is a believer's disposition.  Are you disposed toward giving?   You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.  It is about friendly commitment, a believer's disposition.  The disciples sold their property and possessions to give to the needy - a benefit distribution.  Only love can do that.

Love makes church a gathering for growing character.  There is a joy in being able to help people.  Believers visit each other, meet for a meal at a diner, take journeys together, and have a buoyant dedication in their Christianity.  That is where character-growing often takes place, because even when there is trouble, we share heartaches and cares too with buoyant dedication.  

Church needs to be a place where people are growing in their character.  That is when God adds new people.

Have you discovered a life for praising God?  The key is to be thankful for the small stuff.  It will change your life.  Looking for things to be grateful for will make you a God-praiser.  People around you will be blessed by your attitude.  This is a result of the Holy Spirit living inside your heart.  


The Holy Spirit

Acts 2:1-18

In this chapter, Jesus had risen and had appeared to the apostles over a period of 40 days.  Before He ascended He made an incredible promise.

"Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Ch1:4-5

There were 500 there who saw Jesus.  At least 500 took Him seriously and stayed in Jerusalem to wait.  There was danger involved because they hid away in an upper room somewhere, and they listened and prayed.  They were concerned as well because they weren't too sure how all this was going to turn out.  Seemingly out of nowhere came a sound like a violent wind and they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire rest upon each of them.  Why wind and fire?

Jesus illustrated the coming of the Holy Spirit by blowing on the apostles.  

Wind - Jesus' spirit in the apostles.                                                                                                    Fire  - Jesus consumes what should not be within us.

The promise of the Father written in Old Testament books like Jeremiah and Ezekiel we happening to them.  The Spirit was beginning to live inside the apostles.  They spoke in tongues.  People from all over the world were hearing them in their own languages.  How can that be?  At that moment, God was revealing His love for the whole world.  God wanted to send His love message in the entire world.  There is no place or people on the earth that God does not love.  This is a powerful example of how the Holy  Spirit can work in us.  God will do whatever He needs to do to reach your heart.    The Holy Spirit works in a similar way today.

Have you personally experienced Christ within you?  Has He changed you?  It is important for each and every one of us to understand that it is an experience that is available heart knowledge, not intellectual knowledge, that comes from that indwelling that happened for the apostles so long ago.  It can happen for each and every one of us every day.

The most important thing about the Holy Spirit coming into your life is the inward work.  It is the internal change that makes all the difference.  We are talking about that absolute sold-outness where you give all of you to God and experience His power inside yourself to make a change from that old thought pattern.  

Does the Holy Spirit manifest Himself in visible, tangible ways in the modern world?  Yes.  Some people I know who were baptised felt an overwhelming sense of warmth that went beyond the ordinary experience of warmth.  They experienced the overwhelming  presence of the Holy Spirit.  The Lord wants to have a personal relationship with each of us in an intimate, very personal way.

You have to actively seek the Holy Spirit to be filled with God's Spirit.  Don't be discouraged if it hasn't happened yet.  God tells us that He will be found by those who diligently seek Him.  If your heart isn't into it, God won't answer.  You have to diligently seek Him, and He will fill you with His Spirit.