Raising Godly Children

Luke 1:80
“So the child grew and became strong in spirit, . . .”

IMG_1473Every parent has the same goal. We desire the best for our children. We want to see them achieve more than we have. We want them to make it through childhood not having been distracted or derailed by vices, but to be prepared to live godly lives and make good life choices. What a blessing for Zacharias and Elizabeth to read that their son, “grew and became strong in spirit”.

This statement reveals the grace of God, but it is also the byproduct of the way they lived their lives. We read in Scripture, and see in life, there are godly children produced in ungodly homes, however it is much more common for godliness in parents to be transferred to their kids. Notice for a moment the way Zach and Liz lived, we read,

“They were both righteous. . .”

Zach chose a godly wife, she a godly husband.
Zach served the Lord.
Together they were committed to the Word of God.
Even before John was born, they were praying for him.
They were real people with real struggles. Not having children and being older, caused Zach to question the promises of God; yet they continued to faithfully follow and serve the Lord.
They stood up to the culture – because Zach was mute, Liz named their son John. The people opposed her, yet she stood on the Word of God.
They worshipped the Lord. The moment his tongue was loosed, instead of blaming God for the difficulties of the last 9 months, Zach worshipped God.
They were filled with the Holy Spirit. Parenting is perhaps life’s greatest challenge, we cannot face it alone, we need a daily outpouring of the Spirit to succeed.

Perhaps the key to it all, they parented with a purpose. In Verse 76, we read they taught John the Word and ways of God. They taught Him God had a plan for his life, and taught him to live up to that plan.
We all want to see our kids and grandkids walking with the Lord. While we trust them to the grace of God, we also must set an example of walking with the Lord. Let’s commit today to put the things of the Lord first in our lives

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Exodus 39- Dress For Success
Exodus 40- Glory Of The Lord

Preach The Gospel

Mark 16:15
“Go into all the world and preach the Gospel . . .”

imagePaul explained to the Corinthian church the simplicity of the Gospel message. He stated that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose again on the third day; all according to the Scriptures. That was the message the first believers declared to their world. They went into their homes, streets, marketplaces, schools and places of business, declaring the Son of God died for our sins and rose from the dead.

Mary carries the honor of being the first to declare this wonderful news. Upon arriving at the empty tomb she was told,

“You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. HE IS RISEN!”

She responded by running to tell the other disciples. Since Jesus had declared He would rise again, it seems they would hear this wonderful news and rejoice together. Jesus is alive! Instead, we read, they did not believe her. What would cause these men to doubt the Word of God, and the testimony of Mary? I think perhaps, it was the difficulty of their circumstances. They were allowing their difficulty to cloud their view of God, instead of allowing the Word of God to shed light on their situation. This is a common occurrence. We have all been guilty of the same struggle. We look to our hardship, and it casts a shadow of doubt upon the promises of God.

Later that night, the church gathered together. There has been, and always will be, comfort in meeting together with friends in times of hardship. It is worth noting what happens when Jesus shows up. He does two remarkable things. First, He rebukes them for their unbelief. While He is our compassionate High Priest who understands our weakness, He also expects us to lay hold of the promises of God, and live by them. Second, He commands them to go tell the world. I am convinced there is a connection here. When we let our circumstances cloud the promises of God, we fail to share those promises. Also, when we share those promises, it shows we truly believe.

These guys heard from Mary that Jesus was alive. They found this to be true, as they went out into the world and declared the Gospel. When filled with fear, they stood before a crowd and shared Christ, He showed up and people were saved. When they met the needy, the blind, lame, and sick, they prayed for them; He showed up, and they were healed. Often we question whether Jesus really is alive from the dead. I think we will find our answer as we go into the entire world and preach the gospel.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Exodus 37- Utensils
Exodus 38- Got Talent

Response Required

Mark 15:20
“And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.”

IMG_1460We have come to the most solemn and most important of all Biblical events. The entire life and ministry of Jesus, as well as the whole of human history, has been leading up to these events. Jesus declared, no one could take His life, but that He would lay it down (John 10:18). That day has finally arrived. Without a fight, Jesus, the creator and sustainer of heaven and earth, was taken by the mob, condemned by the the courts, beaten by the soldiers, and nailed to the cross. There on a cross of wood, amidst the clamor of the mob, He would bear the penalty for the sins of all humanity. Louder than all the jeering of the mockers, the laughing of the soldiers, the accusations of the pharisees and the weeping of the disciples, rang out the cry “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?”

The answer to His question is one so great, it is beyond the human experience to understand. The Son of God, the One who always did the will of the Father and heard the Father declare, “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”, now experienced the greatest horror anyone could ever experience. The penalty of sin, separation from God, was placed upon Christ. When Isaiah wrote, “surely He bore our iniquity”, he was referring to the cross. He was speaking of the weight, the guilt and the penalty of sin being placed on Christ, so we would never have to bear it ourselves. Oh, what amazing grace, that Jesus would bear my sin and yours.

It has always amazed me to observe the reaction of the people around the cross, as Jesus is being crucified. I notice the soldiers at the foot of the cross. Failing to understand the severity of the moment, or the brevity of life, they are playing games for Jesus clothes. How sad that many still treat Jesus in the same way. Instead of seeing Him as Savior, and surrendering to Him as Lord, they look to Him for what they can get out of Him. Their relationship with Jesus is reduced to simply seeing Him as the one who will give them what they want.

I notice the crowd, made up of people from all walks of life. While He is bearing their iniquity, they are asking Him to prove Himself. It is not enough that He lived a sinless life, fulfilled hundreds of prophecies, and transformed the lives of all who received Him; these men wanted further proof. Isn’t it interesting, by ignoring their request to come down from the cross, Jesus is, in fact, proving He is the Savior. What horror would await us had Jesus acquiesced to their request and come down from the cross. Instead of the penalty of sin being placed upon Him, it would still be awaiting us.

I also notice the centurion who stood by watching these events. He had a front row seat as the Son of God breathed His last. Rather than accepting the popular opinions about Jesus, he cried out,

“Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

If we will look to Him, as the centurion did, believing He is the Son of God and Savior of Humanity, then we will see Him transform our lives and find that instead of horror, heaven awaits us.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Exodus 35- Willingness
Exodus 36- Foundations Of Faith

 

Steps To A Fall

Mark 14:29
“Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”

IMG_1457Mingled into the fabric of the betrayal, arrest, conviction and crucifixion of Christ, is the story of Peter’s denial. What happened to him? He went from confidently stating he would never deny Christ, to hiding his faith, denying his Lord, and bitterly weeping. While we never start out to fall, the path we walk will always determine our final destination. Peter’s path inevitably led to Peter’s fall. Let’s take a few minutes to notice the steps leading to his failure, that we might avoid these same pitfalls.

First, notice the pride of Peter, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.” Pride will always cause us to put our guard down and open us up to failure.

Second, notice that while he should have been praying, he was sleeping. How often we neglect to make spiritual investments because other things become more pressing.

Third, we read he attempted to do spiritual battle in the arm of the flesh. Having neglected to watch and pray, Peter was left to pull out a sword for battle. How ineffective the flesh is, to battle in the realm of the Spirit.

Fourth, we read, “Peter followed Him at a distance.” Instead of realizing his failure and running to Jesus, Peter’s fear caused him to keep his distance. Satan is so good at getting us to sin, then convincing us that we are guilty and must stay in our sin, rather than running to Christ.

Fifth, notice where Peter is hanging out. Eleven friends had been following Jesus together for over 3 years, yet in a time when his faith is being tested the most, Peter is hanging out in the enemy’s camp. How different the story would have been if these eleven men had returned to the garden for prayer and fellowship.

Finally, Mark gives us an interesting insight into the story that is particularly relevant. He tells us, before the third denial, there was the sound of a rooster crowing. In the 11th hour of temptation, Jesus is still giving warning signs to keep Peter from his fall and the subsequent misery. Instead of heeding the warning, Peter continues down the road until his sin is complete.

Let’s learn a lesson from Peter’s failure and draw near to Jesus today.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Exodus 33- More
Exodus 34- Cleft Of The Rock

You Snooze You Loose

Mark 13:2
“Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

IMG_1454The stones that formed the Temple were massive. Their sheer size represented permanence. For the disciples, it would be difficult to imagine them ever being destroyed. When Jesus declared that a time was coming when the Temple would be leveled, the minds of the disciples jumped to the future. They asked;

“What will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?”

Mark 13 is an abridged version of the Olivet Discourse recorded also in Matthew 24-25. The subject is the signs that point to the return of Christ. Jesus states;

“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”

People are fascinated with what the Bible teaches about the future. Many Christians have become students of prophecy, many books have been written on the subject, Hollywood has produced movie after movie depicting their interpretations of eschatology. Sometimes, in the midst of all this, we can miss the repeated exhortation of Jesus.

“Take heed… Take heed, watch and pray… Watch… What I say to you I say to all: watch!”

While it is important to be aware of the events that point to the return of Christ, it is more important to be focussing on your relationship with Jesus. Are you ready? If He were to return today, what will He find you doing? Are you living your life for His glory and Kingdom? Are you watching or have you fallen asleep? When He returns, we will not be tested on our knowledge of prophecy but rewarded for our faithfulness.

Perhaps this is a good time to take inventory of your walk with the Lord. Maybe you need to do a little “house cleaning.”

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Exodus 31- Fill Me Up
Exodus 32- Past Due

Love

 Mark 12:30
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these
.”

IMG_1452The world is fascinated with love. Innumerable songs, books, plays and poetry have been written on the subject. Love is the favorite theme of Hollywood movies, gossip rags and television shows. We even have Valentine’s Day, where we celebrate love with flowers, candy and romantic sentiments. I grew up hearing the words “all we need is love” heralded through the airwaves. Love was an important subject in the times of Christ as well. When Jesus was asked what was the most important of all the commandments He responded, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30 The scribes understood exactly what Jesus was saying and agreed with Him fully. They said “to love God and to love others is more than all the offerings and sacrifices.” We have taken the greatest commandment and put it through the word processor of modern times and reduced it to one word: love. Even those who do not follow Jesus (and a few who do not even believe in Him) will quote Him as saying the greatest commandment is love. They will go on to espouse, that if we want to live and die right, all we need to do is be loving toward one another. Since Jesus declares that this is the most important of all commandments, it is vital that we understand that the command not only states love is the greatest responsibility of man, but also declares who we are to love. Just to love our family, or be compassionate toward those less fortunate than us, or to be kind to our fellow man, does not satisfy this commandment. We are only fulfilling the great commandment when we are loving God first, and loving others as an expression of our love for God. Ask yourself this morning, do I love God first? If you do, He should have first place in your life, which means He will have first place in your living. If you love Him, you will spend time with Him, in His Word and in prayer. You will seek to please Him with your actions and express your love to Him in worship. Just to love, or to herald the importance of love, does not satisfy the greatest commandment. Instead, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. ’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Exodus 29- Stained Garment
Exodus 30- Word Art

Turntables

Mark 11:17
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’ But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.”

IMG_1449-0Journeying through the gospels, we have many glimpses into the emotions of Christ. We see His compassion upon the multitudes and the sick, His love toward the rich young ruler, His sadness at the death of Lazarus, His tenderness toward the children, and so much more. As we encounter Him at the Temple, it is His anger that becomes evident to us. We read of Him turning tables over and driving people out of the Temple. Whatever we do not understand about this event, it is clear to all that Jesus is very upset with what is going on in the Temple courts. The key to unlocking the meaning of this event is in the words of Jesus Himself. He said,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’ But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.”

The Temple and it’s ministries, we’re designed by God with the purpose of bringing sinful men into fellowship with God. A person would bring an offering to the priest, the offering was sacrificed, and sin covered. The Temple should have been a place where people loved and longed to go. When Jesus arrived, things had changed. The courts had turned into a market place and worship became a way of making a buck. The money changers charged a high rate to convert the Roman coinage, used on the streets, into the Temple coins, used for offerings. The priests required the people to purchase sheep from them for sacrifice. All this was turning people away from fellowship with God, and restricting worship.

Today the church ought to be a place where sinners are drawn to Jesus, and people are able to fellowship with Christ. Just like priests, we can become guilty of doing things that hinder others from coming to Christ. Perhaps an attitude toward a neighbor or co-workers is keeping them from Christ. Perhaps a prejudice toward a certain group of people is hindering you from inviting them to church. We should seek to do our best to be sign posts that point people to Jesus, rather than road blocks that keep them away.

Is there anyone  to whom you may have been a stumbling block? Anyone who, because of your behaviors, may have reason not to come to church? Take a few minutes to pray for them, that God would make you a positive influence upon them.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Exodus 27- The Altar
Exodus 28- Burden Bearers