Merry Christmas!

I’m giving myself a couple of days off, so will pick up in the book of John again after Christmas.

You know, we can hardly think of the birth of Jesus without also thinking of His death and resurrection. The whole story is one of great love, sacrifice, suffering, and triumph–not just for Him, but for us as well.

If you are not sure you know you are born again and on your way to heaven, I urge you to read John’s gospel. The whole story is there.

I’m praying that you all manage to put aside all the negativity and anger this year has engendered as you take time out to enjoy this holiday and the reason behind it. Here’s a lovely song to help you get into the spirit of Christmas.

Sunday Morning Coffee: March

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So many things happen in March. Spring begins. Daylight saving time starts. My dad was born in March. Flowers begin to grace the landscape. Grass begins to hold on to the hope of renewal. Sometimes, Easter comes in March.

This year, March is coming in like a lion in my corner of PA. There’s a 5-7″ snowfall predicted to begin in the later afternoon today and stop early Monday morning. Maybe it will be that heavy, maybe not. Forecasts have not hit the mark very well this past couple of weeks.

High winds, winter mix precipitation. The temps are fairly mild, but I hate that winter mix stuff. Sleet, rain, snow, even hail sometimes. Roads are slippery and traffic slows to a crawl except for the occasional speed demon who just has to fly past everyone else, spraying mud, salt, and sand on every car he passes. Most of the time those folks reach the red lights pretty much at the same time as I do ūüôā

For the sports fans, there is March Madness. Basketball takes over for a while, and if you have a favorite team or two you probably already have you schedule of which team plays which, and when.

But let’s go back to Easter. Easter Sunday is determined by being the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. There are good explanations for how this works if you care to google about it. This year, Easter is April 21.

There are some who dislike celebrating Easter because it derives its name from Ishtar, or Ashtoreth, the goddess of fertility. The secular world marks the date with rabbits delivering eggs that chickens laid, and everyone likes to dress up in new spring clothing if the weather isn’t too cold. Chocolate candy abounds, along with marshmallowy little chicks and other symbols of the new life that comes with spring.

I understand the concern about this day being connected with things that have nothing at all to do with the glory of the risen Savior and His victory over sin and death. We call it Resurrection Sunday at our church. And no, we don’t know the exact date of His resurrection any more than we know the exact date of His birth. Yes, we can celebrate these events all day every day of the year.

But I think it is important that, as a community of believers, we take the time to consider what Jesus did; how He suffered, how He never opened His mouth to defend Himself; how He forgave the thief who was crucified with Him when that suffering man confessed that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. And He even prayed that the Father would forgive those who persecuted Him, because they had no clue what was really happening that day.

One of the greatest battles of all time was fought when Jesus was on the cross. Satan was there, gloating in the suffering of the Savior. In the middle of the afternoon, there was an earthquake and there was darkness. Jesus did not die at the hands of the Roman soldiers or the Jewish leaders who hated Him. He chose to die. He gave up the Ghost, breathing His last breath as the God-Man Who had come to provide eternal life to any who would believe on Him.

His victory over sin and death became clear on that Sunday morning when the women went to His tomb, and He was gone! The angels who spoke to the women told them, “He is not here, for He is risen!”

And that is why we honor His resurrection. Not because we celebrate all the other trappings that go with the season, but because we are rejoicing in His victory that gives us the victory, too.

In my church, we will begin the service with “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” Can you imagine the thrill of the disciples and others who loved and followed Him, as they began to realize that Jesus was indeed alive!

His birth, ministry, death and resurrection changed the course of the history of this world. Today, He is still changing the hearts and lives of all who believe in Him. That is cause for celebration.

Horrible Judgment

Isaiah 28:18-19. “And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.”

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Referring back to verse 15, the people of Judah had actually tried to make a covenant that death and hell would not take them, that somehow they would be safe.¬† How foolish we are when we think we can circumvent God’s plan and power. Simply saying, “Well, I don’t believe it,” will not save us from the judgment that is coming.

The overflowing scourge is the judgment of God.  It would be Assyria at that time; later on, Rome would destroy Jerusalem. In fact, the destruction then would be  hard even to hear about.

Historical records tell us that the numbers of people Rome crucified would make a ring around the city until there was no more room for another cross. Bodies of the dead Jews would be piled up outside the walls of Jerusalem in heaps. Multitudes in the city died of famine until the valleys outside were filled with them. Titus, himself groaned and threw up his hands in horror and called God to witness that he was not responsible. No fewer than 600,000 who were thrown outside the gates were counted by the Romans. All together, 1,100,000 Jews died; 97,000 were sold as slaves for trifling prices: 40,000 were freed because no one bought them; and 347,400 more, plus multitudes not counted, perished in many other ways.

When God’s people, after many warnings, refuse to repent of worshiping other gods, the judgment of God will surely come.¬† As I consider the immorality that is rampant in America’s Hollywood, just for one place, I do not see how American can hope to escape God’s judgment until or unless there is a national repentance and revival.

The Second Woe

Isaiah 5: 13-14. “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.”

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These verses are a continuation of the second woe, the abuse of alcohol, which turns men’s hearts away from the worship of Jehovah. Because of their lack of the knowledge of the truth, there would be famine and death. No one would be spared, from the man of high position to the lowliest beggar. ¬†Hell (Sheol, in this passage) is going to open her mouth wide and many will descend into Sheol because of drunkenness.

If you are interested, I did some googling on Sheol, Hades, Hell, Paradise, etc. This website gives a good, clear view of the differences:

https://gotquestions.org/sheol-hades-hell.html

The Case against Salvation by Works

Galatians 3:21. “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.”

If law could bring righteousness and life, then justification would be by the law. But the scriptures of the prophets as well as the law declare all to be sinners (Rom. 11:32), imprisoned under sentence of death until the sentence should be carried out upon those sinners; that the promise of life by faith might be given to those who believe when Christ paid their penalty (vv. 22-23).

The law did NOT replace the promise. It only taught us how to live until the promise was fulfilled in the Person of the spotless Lamb of God, Who would fulfill the law and provide salvation  BY FAITH, not by the works of the law. There is no law that could give life, eternal life, to anyone. If there were, then righteousness would have been by the law, and not by grace.

Paul seems to be saying the same things over and over, doesn’t he? ¬†That’s because he is carefully building an unassailable case against salvation by works. ¬†Every detail had to be covered, every possibility explored.

Though I Should Die With Thee

Matthew 26:33-35. “Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, ¬†yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him,¬†Verily I say unto thee, That this night , before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.¬†Peter said unto Him, Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee. ¬†Likewise also said all the disciples.”

“Oh, no, Lord! ¬†Not I! ¬†I would ¬†never ¬†deny You or stumble in my walk with You! ¬†Even if it means death for me, I will remain faithful! ¬†I swear it! “

Did Peter mean it when he said those words?

Sure he did.  He had no idea that before the early morning came and the rooster crowed, he would have denied three times that he was a follower of Jesus.  The thing that is so amazing to me in this exchange between Peter and Jesus, and then the rest of the disciples, is the kindness that Jesus  showed. He did not excoriate them for what He knew they were going to do. He did not repudiate them or accuse them  He simply told them, in plain words, how they were going to behave.

And they all said, “NO! ¬†No, Lord, no matter what the cost, we will stay true to You!”

And they all failed. One by one, they failed.

The beautiful thing is that He forgave them.  

Why December 25th?

The other day my chiropractor asked me why we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Dec. 25. ¬†I told him that I wasn’t sure, but that like other Christian holidays, there is some kind of tie-in with old pagan celebrations. So this morning I looked it up, and I was right but I didn’t know the details. ¬†Here’s a really good description of how it happened:

http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA68/why-do-we-celebrate-christmas-on-december-25

Regardless of whether or not we’re celebrating the actual date of Jesus’ birth, the important thing is that we honor ¬†Him and remember the incredible sacrifice He made. The Son of God left the unimaginable realms of heaven to be born and to live as a man so that He, perfect, sinless, holy, could die in our place and rise victorious from the grave to provide our way of salvation from our sin.

That is the true meaning of Christmas. ¬†All the other things that happen at this time of year are nothing but tinsel and glitter. If we aren’t careful, we’ll allow the miraculous birth of Jesus to be obscured by the jingle of the cash registers all across the land.

I’m taking a short sabbatical. You won’t hear from me here tomorrow, so I’m wishing you all a very warm and wonderful Christmas. God bless us, every one!

Wherever the Carcase is. . .

Matthew 24:28.¬†“For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.”

Jesus referred in this verse to the carnage that will take place during the battle of Armageddon, when the scavengers will feed on the dead. There has never been a battle like the one that comes at the end of the Tribulation, and there will never be another.  It will be fought in a valley, and there will be horses ridden into this battle.  It is said in Revelation 19 that the blood of this battle will rise to the level of the bridles of the horses. Death, and the stench of death, will permeate the land, the water, and the air.  Here are some other references for you to look up:

Job 39:30; Ezek. 39:17-22; Luke17:34-37;Revelation 19:17-21.

The believers of the Church Age will have already been taken up in the Rapture that precedes the Tribulation. The events in this verse take place not in the air, but on the earth. Some have tried to interpret this prophecy as post-Tribulation Rapture, but the details don’t connect. We need to study all the different places in which this prophecy is made, and it becomes clear that this is not the Church. ¬†Armageddon happens after the Rapture, after the Tribulation, when Christ returns with His armies of saints from all the ages to set up His kingdom on earth.

The next several verses give us more of the signs of His coming. We’ll take them up on Monday.

They Laughed Him to Scorn

Matthew 9:23-26. “And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, He said unto them,¬†Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth.¬†And they laughed Him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, He went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.”

Jesus was the Master of understated drama.

Imagine the scene with me.  A young girl had just died.  It was customary for the bereaved to weep and mourn loudly and publicly. They did not think it necessary, as we do, to put on a bright face for everyone else. Their pain was open. It was also customary to hire professional mourners.

Really?  Professional mourners? Well, why not?  This was a mournful ocassion, and who could blame anyone for hiring people to draw attention to their loss?  As a matter of fact, even the poorest people were expected to have two musicians and one mourning woman!

These professional mourners would play instruments, weep and wail, even tear their clothing and put on sackcloth and ashes, in order to let the neighborhood know there had been a death.  They would perform both inside and outside of the home.

This was the scene into which Jesus quietly walked. Here was  a Man for Whom nothing was impossible.  Watch the way He exerts His authority, in this little paraphrase of my own:

Jesus looked around at those who were making so much noise, and He looked at the grief-stricken parents ¬†holding the body of their beautiful child. His heart must have broken for their grief. ¬†But He had work to do, so He told the mourners,¬†“Go away. This child is not dead. She is merely asleep.”

There was a moment of absolute silence at this astonishing statement, and then the people burst into raucous, disrespectful laughter and began to make jokes at Jesus’ expense. ¬†“Oh, well, then, we’d better be quiet so the poor thing can sleep, get her beauty rest, right? ¬†Shhhhh! ¬†Don’t wake her up!”¬†

But Jesus’ authority was overwhelming to them, and they left. ¬†Perhaps His disciples encouraged them, we don’t know. We do know that when all was restored to order, Jesus went into her room and took the girl by the hand, and she lived! ¬†Again, there must have been utter silence for a moment as everyone present realized that life had been restored to the dead girl. ¬†I think she not only came back to life, but that her illness was gone and there was color in her cheeks and a sparkle in her eyes as she gazed at the face of the One Who had taken her by the hand and drawn her back from death.

Everyone else started talking then, and the fame of Jesus spread throughout the entire region and beyond.

How Great Salvation

It was my wonderful joy and privilege earlier today (Saturday) to lead a new believer to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. ¬†It is always a profound experience to do so, and of course I’ve been thinking about it all day.¬†

As one recounts the simple plan of salvation, one has to be reminded of his own experience of coming to Christ in humility and gratitude. Saying the words, saying the verses (I like to use the Roman Road to Salvation) has to remind us of what Jesus did; of what God provided; that greater love has no man than this, to lay down His life for His friends. 

Here are the verses: 

Romans 3:10

Romans 3:23

Romans 5:12

Romans 5:8

Romans 6:23

Romans 10: 9, 10, and 13

Other verses I like to use:  I John 5:13, and John 10: 27-30. 

If we were capable of being good enough, by following rules, to achieve heaven, then Jesus didn’t have to die.¬†

But He did have to die, as the perfect, unblemished sacrifice to not only cover our sin, but to wash us clean. 

If He had died on the cross and been buried, that would not have been any different than the thousands of others who suffered a similar execution at the hands of the Romans. But He conquered sin and death and rose from the grave, and that’s what makes the difference.¬†

Because He lives, we can live also. 

If you would like to know more, please message me.  I will be more than glad to help you.