Thursday, December 29, 2016

True Bread

John 6:31-35
31 Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

Jesus was teaching more and more about who he was, and giving additional instructions for those who would follow him. His teaching reached back to the ancestors of his hearers, reminding them how God had cared for them in the wilderness, as they journeyed toward the promised land. Their food, known as manna, was from God, not Moses.  Back in the Old Testament, Exodus 16 tells us during their wandering years, after the morning dew had dried, there were flakes on the ground, looking like frost. The children of Israel had trouble recognizing what it was or where it came from. They asked "What is it?" Moses told them it was bread the Lord had provided for them to eat. 

Now Jesus tells his hearers, "It is my Father who gives you the true bread of heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." Needless to say, when Jesus continued and told them, "I am the bread of life," that teaching did not set well with the Jews. After all, Jesus was just Joseph's son, and they knew his mother and father, so how can he say now that he came down from heaven?  That news just did not satisfy the curiosity of the Jews.

But get this....the manna received by the children of Israel didn't satisfy them, either. They remembered the meat and vegetables they had tasted before and the manna became boring to them. Their grumbling and complaining led them to learn a great lesson. Remember their wandering lasted some 40 years, while they were bound for the land of Canaan. Their need was for them to continue the journey and they would realize the real blessings of God's promised land.

Look at this verse from Joshua 5, "11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan."

Have you ever reached a time of boredom with Christianity, or the church? Here is the lesson of Jesus' teaching. When God delivers us from our sin, he also delivers us into real life in Christ; a life that satisfies.  Paul says in Colossians 1, "13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."  We can  celebrate deliverance from the dominion of darkness, but we find Christianity that satisfies when we are brought into the kingdom of Jesus.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

To God Be the Glory

Christians are happily given the task of glorifying God.  But what does this mean?  How do we accomplish it?  How can we know God is pleased with our accomplishments in glorifying him?

The study before us deals with scriptures which will answer these questions, and probably others.  I am suggesting you pay close attention to the scriptures we share, and even turn and read those which we just have the room to list.   Let's get started.

Believers are to glorify God
Isaiah 42:12 -- Let the whole world glorify the LORD; let it sing his praise.

                              See also   Isa 43:5-7; Isa 66:18-19

Glorifying God is the believer’s natural response to him

Psalm 118:28 -- You are my God, and I will praise you;  you are my God, and I will exalt you.

                              See also    Ps 34:3; Ps 69:30

Jesus is our example in glorifying God

John 13:31 -- Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.

                              See also    Jn 14:13; Jn 17:4

We wish to glorify God because of his holiness

Psalm 99:9 -- Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is   holy.      See also  Rev 15:4

We glorify God for his great deeds

 Psalm 86:8-10 -- Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with                yours.    All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring     glory to your name.   For you are great and do marvelous deeds;  you alone are God.

                              See also  2 Cor 4:13-15

We glorify God for his loving mercy

 Psalm 63:3 -- Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

                              See also   Romans 15:8-9

We glorify God for his righteous judgments

 Revelation 14:7 -- “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come.    Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

                              See also  Romans 11:33-36

God bless your studies, and may we all continue to glorify Him.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Just Three Verses

1 "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."  (Psalm 103:8, ESV)

2.  "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love."  (1 John 4:8, ESV)

3.  "So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."  (1 John 4:16, ESV)

Three verses......about God loving you and me.

Evidence of God's love for us abounds, perhaps with the greatest example in another verse which explains, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  When we can fathom that Bible truth, who can doubt God's love?  The world has taught us otherwise.  Where temptation comes, where days of illness visit, where evil seems to be larger than good, comes the natural man doubting God's love.

On the other hand, there are those who experience and believe God's love is an unconditional gift, explaining while God hates sin, he continues to love the sinner.  That may be hard for us to grasp but it's true.  Human nature finds it difficult to believe since we are part of a culture that teaches its children something like, "God doesn't love you when you do bad things."  We just cannot seem to get the idea of God's love for sinners.  Our favorite Bible verse may be John 3:16, "For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but inherit eternal life."  Our problem in this is simple......we haven't learned to love like God loves.   And it does require a learning process. 

We have a tendency to love those that love us, yet we draw the line when refusing to love those that are unlovable. People say or do things that bring hurt to us, causing us to withhold our love for them.  But then we learn that God's love includes things like grace, mercy and forgiveness, and those are the areas where God's love trumps ours. 

Try this if you consider yourself as one loved by God.  Know that you are a sinner, but God still loves you.  If you really believe that, how can you classify other sinners as unforgivable or unloved?  When you can say aloud, "God loves me!" and know every other sinner can make the same proclamation,  then you are closer to understanding His love.  For some, it comes with tears, while others respond with rejoicing. It's something that humbles the strongest among us, when we learn God loves us.

Perhaps that's why God chose to teach us the lesson of his love, by telling us about our responsibility to love each other. Remember what Jesus said when asked about the greatest commandment. And one other verse speaks volumes on this subject....."By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Behold Your King

O Holy Night

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Savior's birth; Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;  Fall on your knees, Oh, hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born! O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand; So led by the light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here came the Wise Men from Orient land. The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger, In all our trials born to be our friend; He knows our need, To our weakness is no stranger; Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love, and His gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name! Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever! His power and glory evermore proclaim!

Another of the carols, this one of French origin, which announces the good news of the gospel.  While this song has been around since the 19th century, its popularity has grown close to that of "most familiar" carols within the last half century.  Let's look at its message.

The night of the Saviors birth is the central theme of the first verse, and we get the sense of the quietness associated with the events of the evening. And then in a world that suffered because of sin and error, HE appeared.  I like that line in the song, "He appeared and the soul felt its worth."  He is our hope and our joy as we fall to our knees in worship and praise of the newborn King of kings. 

In the second verse, we are given the opportunity, led by the light of faith, to stand beside the cradle of Jesus, the King of kings. That lowly baby in the manger of Bethlehem was visited by those from the east, and in him they saw his association with our trials while becoming our friend.  He is the one that knows our need and in his flesh he knows our pains, sorrows and weakness. It is here the song says, "Behold your King."

The application of the gospel is seen in the last verse. The gospel which calls us to love God and love one another.  We are those who are living under the law of love and the gospel of peace. The slave's chains are broken and he is our brother. Because we are part of God's family we can praise his name with all that is in us. "Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever! His power and glory evermore proclaim!"


Friday, December 16, 2016

A Christmas Village

My friend, Jeff, called me last week and asked if I had any old ladders.  I have several ladders, and I have been forbidden by doctors and family from climbing ladders, so I gladly shared one with Jeff and his wife, Lori.  The above picture is the Christmas tree in their home this year.  I think it's pretty good design and a wonderful idea.  Lori always does a great job!

Today I was thinking about the ladder and the picture, and especially about the Christmas Village buildings.  On three small shelves is a whole town......a community of believers in the magic of Christmas, joining together to share all that Christmas means for them. 

I can see some houses, all decorated for the season.  The message of those homes is one of sharing  and agreeing on the beauty of this time of year, and a willingness to be a community celebrating the Son of God.  That always makes for good relationships in their community as they join in the gift of  "peace on earth, good will to men."

The ladder tree also has buildings which house businesses, all busy and active this time of year. There is shopping to be done and people's names to be checked on our lists, as this community readies itself for holiday festivities. 

I also see an outside park with music and dancing and just visiting with friends and neighbors.  There is one building which reminds me of a music hall where the residents of the small town can gather for singing carols.  There is also a church building in this city.  There we can come to pray and give our thanks to God for his gift to all.  The tiny Christ child is remembered in a manger, worshiped by angels and wise men and the barnyard animals, with everyone focused on a bright star.

Perhaps your community has all these buildings and activities.  Regardless of where we live, who we are, and what we have, we gain the most from the season when we come to appreciate the baby in the manger, sent to live and dwell among us and in us, and bring the message of eternal life through his ultimate death on the cross.  Praise be to God for this very special gift.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

O Come

O Come, All Ye Faithful
O come all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.  Come and behold Him, Born the King of angels,  O come let us adore him, Christ, the Lord. 

Sing choirs of angels, Sing in exultation, O sing all ye bright Hosts of heaven above. Glory to God, ll glory in the highest,  O come let us adore him, Christ, the Lord. 

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning, Jesus to Thee be all glory given. Word of the Father Now in flesh appearing,  O come let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord.

This song invites the faithful, those who are triumphant, to come to Bethlehem to behold the Christ child, the King of angels.  There is a verse in the Bible that lets us know there were some who did just that. Matthew 2: 11, "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh."

The concept of "coming" to Jesus is one that started in Bethlehem and continued throughout his earthly life and even extends into eternity.  The fanfare and excitement surrounding his birth is accompanied with the invitation for us to "Come, and adore him."  Jesus himself, early in his earthly ministry, encouraged his chosen helpers to "Come, follow me."  It was during his ministry that he offered the plea, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest."

It is no wonder then, when Christians reach out to their friends and associates in the world, demonstrating their concern and love for the lost, do so with a message for them to "Come, to Jesus." We sing the song in our worship assemblies, "Come to Jesus, He will save you."

Today, we look at a familiar song of the Christmas season, "O Come, All Ye Faithful." In this season we are reminded of the story of the manger, the baby, the wise men, and the angels.  It is a story of the warmth of a family devoted to God; devoted to bringing up Jesus as he grew in "wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men."  Soon his ministry began and through his teachings the theme of love is seen. This is the one described in John 3:16 with the words, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life." His ultimate measure of love came with the torture of the cross where he gave his life, dying for our sins.

Perhaps the greatest of the invitations we have been given, is revealed in this song of the Christmas season, "O Come All Ye Faithful," as the chorus of each verse encourages us to "come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord."  Come to him today.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My eyes have seen....

The preacher  talked to us about a man named Simeon, from the story of everything that was surrounding the birth of Jesus.  Simeon is described as a devout man, one of the good guys.  Scripture tells us the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that in his lifetime he would see the Messiah.

I've tried to imagine how a revelation like that would make someone feel.  The preacher described him as "longing."   He lived in hopeful anticipation of the promised Messiah.  It was also the work of the Holy Spirit that directed Simeon to the temple on the day the earthly parents of Jesus had taken him there.  When that meeting happened, Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God.  The following from Luke 2, is known as Simeon's song.

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

Now Simeon, already described in the Bible as a righteous and devout man of God, having been promised that he would not die before the Messiah came, has now held the baby, beheld the baby, and comes away praising God, with a song because God has kept his promise.

By his very eyes he has seen the salvation of the Lord, a salvation which God prepared for all nations to see, the shining light for revealing salvation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel.

Simeon now knew he could die in peace. His days of longing to see the Messiah were over. He didn't have to face the possibility of dying before this promise of God had been fulfilled. 

All of this causes me to wonder how much we actually long to see the Messiah.  Do we feel the necessity of holding and beholding Jesus before we face death?  There is just such a description of what is accomplished by the life that seeks Jesus, supplied to us in Simeon's song.

For those who have longed for Jesus, and have met Jesus in the good news of the Gospel, there is a release for us at the end of our journey.  We can face death with peace. And yes, this is the same peace we experience when there is "peace on earth, good will toward men."


Monday, December 12, 2016

Heaven Above

From Heaven Above

From heaven above to earth I come to bear good news to every home; Glad tidings of great joy I bring, Whereof I now will say and sing:

"To you this night is born a Child of Mary, chosen mother mild; This little Child of lowly birth shall be the joy of all the earth. 

"Tis Christ, our God, who far on high hath heard your sad and bitter cry; Himself will your salvation be, Himself from sin will make you free."

Welcome to earth, Thou noble guest, Through whom e'en wicked men are blest.! Thou comest to share our misery: What can we render, Lord, to Thee?

Ah, dearest Jesus, Holy Child, Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled, Within my heart that it may be, A quiet chamber kept for thee!

Glory to God in the highest heaven, Who unto men His son hath given, While angels sing with pious mirth, A glad new year to all the earth.

Now that Christmas is drawing so near, do you think God is pleased with the way you have celebrated the season welcoming Jesus? Maybe we should have sang more carols or read and reread Luke 2. Would spending more time in prayer have brought me closer to the Christ-child? Should our church have planned one more service  and gone all out in inviting the community?  

It's true this is the time of year where prayer and Bible reading and worship services seem more abundant. I am afraid we often go through all the motions of performance when God reminds us that performing all the rituals of celebration is a long way from accepting the gift His Son brings. The message of the Christmas season is that Jesus is born. The one who loves you and will save you from your sins, is here. Then God's pleasure is seen when we believe, accept, trust, obey, and love Jesus as heaven's gift of life for the world. 

Martin Luther wrote the words to this song in 1535 and their message, almost 500 years ago, is the message of the good news about Jesus.  We focus our attention each spring on the Easter season with observance of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. None of that could have happened without the Bethlehem happenings. 

We place emphasis on the church, because the church is God's blessing for us in associating with Christians for worship and praise.  It is through the church we try to meet the masses with salvation's story. But the establishment of the church, the organization of the church, and the accomplishments of the church, would never have happened, were it not for the baby in the manger. 

I hope you can see that right now you can begin to share your faith and help others to see the importance of Jesus coming to earth. Our lives are strengthened in Him when we reflect on his birth, his life, his teaching, as well as his death.  Wise is the servant who will claim Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.


Friday, December 9, 2016

The Happy Christmas

The Happy Christmas Comes Once More

The happy Christmas comes once more, The heavenly Guest is at the door,  The blessed words the shepherds thrill, The joyous tidings: Peace, good will. 

O wake, our hearts, in gladness sing, And keep our Christmas with our King. Like the sound of mighty water rolls.

Come, Jesus, glorious heavenly Guest, Keep Thine own Christmas in our breast; Then David's harp strings, hushed so long. Shall swell our jubilee of song.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of happiness.  The gift of God's Son, coming with a mission of love and salvation, was timed perfectly. For the Christian, this time of year is special, in that our world recognizes the celebration God's precious Gift to mankind.

When we look around us in the month of December, we may see preparations being made for celebrating Jesus. However, most of the things we see this month are geared toward a retail spending frenzy.  And while Christmas is a time of celebration, the celebrations are not centered around the birth of our Lord, but rather the celebration of us!

Think about this with me; we celebrate birthdays with family and friends and share gifts and exchange good wishes. Unless we are really famous, after we die, our family probably doesn't celebrate our birthday.  The reason is simple.......we aren't there anymore.  In the celebration of Christmas, this is our chance to become a part of a world-wide celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and He is present .  That is the message of this Christmas and every Christmas. Jesus is alive and present every year.

Jesus is waiting to be the special guest at your parties and gatherings this year.  In like manner, he wants to be the invited guest into your life every day. He longs to be welcomed into every activity, every decision, every event.  He is present for your family, your workplace, your school. He comes to reside in your heart. 

Come, Jesus, glorious heavenly Guest, Keep Thine own Christmas in our breast; Then David's harp strings, hushed so long. Shall swell our jubilee of song.


Note:  One of the resources used in gathering this article is the book, Christ in the Carols, by Christopher and Melodie Lane, available through Tyndale House Publishers.