Wednesday, January 30, 2019

You Are Needed

I Corinthians 12:12-27

Last week our reading in the book of I Corinthians discussed spiritual gifts, and we learned that everyone has been given at least one gift to use to help build up the Church.  Today we continue reading from I Corinthians, and we’ll look at what Paul has to say further on the topic. When you look around at other Christians do you ever feel like you just aren’t that important to the Church? Maybe you have no musical talents to serve in that ministry. Perhaps you are a quiet type, and aren’t gifted to teach or speak publicly. You might feel like your church could get along quite fine without you. Then there are those who feel just the opposite.  They feel that their gifts and abilities are spectacular, and the church would fall apart without them.

Let me share a story I read about an orchestra that had gathered to practice for an upcoming concert to be given.  All the instruments were summoned to practice. However the piccolo player decided to stay away, thinking he was just too insignificant to matter.  No one will notice, he thought. As practice got underway, a few minutes later the conductor motioned everyone to stop, and called out, “Where is the piccolo?  Get the piccolo player in here immediately!” You see, the conductor noticed that this instrument was missing. Every instrument is important, not just the violins and trombones. Everyone, including the piccolo and bassoon, is important.

This is the same message that Paul is giving the Corinthians, and to us today. Paul uses the analogy of the human body (vs. 12-24). Each part of the body is important.  Each has a specific job to do. The hand, the ear, and the eye are equally important. So also are the body parts that we don’t see, that we don’t think about very often. How often does one think about their gallbladder or pancreas, or think they are that important? However, just let either organ have a problem, and you sure start thinking they are important!  Each part of the body has a specific function that is necessary to the whole body. Each part is different for a purpose, and they must work together.

Each part of the Body of Christ is as important as the other.  The Church is composed of many types of people from different backgrounds, gifts, and abilities.  However, we are all part of the Body of Christ, and are one in Him. We all have, and should be working for the same goal, which is to spread the Gospel message, and bring praise and glory to God.  We need to use our different gifts together to spread the Gospel message of salvation.

Christians should not look down on those who seem unimportant, nor be jealous of those who have seemingly more important gifts. Would anyone really chop off a part of their body because they didn’t like it? Not likely. So also we should not reject anyone in the church, either (vs. 25).  Use the gifts and talents that you’ve been given, and encourage others to, as well.

How do we act when someone is honored?  Are we jealous or happy for them? How about when someone is weeping?  Are we apathetic or comforting? When one suffers in the Body of Christ we all suffer (vs. 26).  That is why Paul says in Romans 12:15 to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. We all belong to each other, so we should desire and work for each other’s benefit, as if we are doing it for ourselves (Matthew 22:39).  When one part of our physical body is hurt or aching, our whole body notices, and we take whatever steps we can to make that one part feel better.  That is the way it should be among fellow Christians.

The human body needs eyes, heart, and gallbladder and pancreas. The orchestra needs violins, trombones, and piccolos and bassoons. The Church needs the musicians, and Sunday School teachers, along with the one who dusts the window sills, and the one who provides the pastor with a glass of water at the pulpit each Sunday.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Going From Rags To Royalty

Psalm 113

Today’s psalm is a short one, and another of the many praise psalms that proclaim praise and glory to our God and King.  There are two verses in this psalm that I would like to focus on, verses 7 and 8. Let’s take a look at them today.

In verse 7, we read how God raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap.  The picture that comes immediately to my mind is that of the children’s folk tale of Cinderella.  Many of you will remember how Cinderella was made to work as a lowly servant in her household by her stepmother and stepsisters.  She had to dress in rags and would get dusty and dirty with ashes. By the end of the tale, the prince has rescued her from the life of servitude, lifting her from the ash pile and changing her rags into royal dresses.

When God created Adam and Eve, they were the pinnacle of His creation.  They were created as noble beings, made to rule for God in the Garden of Eden. However, after Adam and Eve gave in to Satan’s temptations and fell into sin, that favored position was lost.  In its place was one of servitude to sin, the royal robes replaced with rags, glory replaced by dust and ashes.  God does not want to leave us in that condition. He sent His only begotten Son to pay our sin-debt and rescue us from the power of Satan.  God promises to raise up out of the dust and ashes whoever accepts Jesus as their Savior.

The world frequently looks down on the poor and needy.  If one is not dressed in the latest fashion and designer clothes, drive the latest model car, and have a nice bank account and financial portfolio, we may as well be Cinderella toiling in the coal pile!  We may be scorned by the world, but not by God. He comes to raise and lift us up from that condition.

Verse 8 continues on and tells us where God lifts us to.  At the end of the folk tale Cinderella, the prince seeks her out, lifts her from the ashes, and brings her back to the palace.  God does the same for us. He takes us from the ashes and sets us with princes, with royalty. What is it like to be seated with princes, with royalty? Being with princes is a place of select society.  Not everyone gets such an honor. However those who have called upon Jesus have this position. Princes also have direct and immediate access to the King.  They don’t have to wait like common folk, or stand far off. Through Jesus we have direct access to the God of all creation. Princes have abundant wealth, and they have special honor.  Through our relationship with Jesus, God has promised to meet every one of our needs, and we have the honor of being called His children.

In God’s eyes a person’s value has no relationship to their wealth or position on the social ladder.  Many of God’s chosen saints have come from poverty or humble backgrounds. God often chooses His workers from those society would consider outcasts.  Do we treat certain people as though they have no value? Everyone is valuable and useful in God’s eyes. As Jesus clearly taught, God exalts the humble and humbles the proud (Matthew 20:16).

Are you tired of being in the ash pit of life?  Are you tired of being like Cinderella? You do have a better place just waiting for you. Let’s turn to God, calling upon His Son, Jesus, as our Savior, and allow Him to lift us up from the dust and ashes Satan has keep us in for too long.  For those who already are believers, don’t continue to reside in the ashes. Wouldn’t it have been ridiculous if Cinderella had returned to her rags and servitude in the dust? Let’s allow Jesus to take us and place us with the princes and live a life of victory through Him!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Actively Listening To God

Nehemiah 8:2-10

The Old Testament reading from the Lectionary this week takes us to the Book of Nehemiah.  As a little background to the book, the Israelites had spent approximately the last 70 years in captivity in the country of Babylon due to their sins.  Now with the coming of the Persian Empire, they were allowed to return to their homeland, and many of the people did so, coming back with Ezra. Nehemiah had been the Persian Emperor’s cup-bearer, and when he heard that the city walls of Jerusalem were in ruins, he received permission to travel there and assist in the rebuilding, and teaching the people God’s Word.

As our passage opens, Ezra, who was a priest and scribe or Bible scholar, had called all of the people to come together while he read from the Bible to them (vs. 2-6).  These people knew why their parents and grandparents had gone into captivity, that it was because of their turning to false gods and worshipping them, and also refusing to obey God’s Word.  Now they did not want to make the same mistakes of their ancestors, and were eager to hear and learn the Scriptures.

As we read in verse 3, “the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”  There are times when we hear what’s being said, but aren’t really listening, we watch but don’t really see.  We can be present physically, but our mind is elsewhere. How often does that happen in church when we hear the pastor preaching, but we aren’t paying attention.  Are we attentive when we hear God’s Word being read and explained? How about when we read it at home for personal devotions? Do we just go through the motions, or hurry through to get on with our day, the words being so familiar we don’t even hear them anymore.  We need to listen carefully to each verse, and let the Holy Spirit speak to us, asking how God’s Word applies to our life right now. These people were attentively listening to Ezra and the others read and explain the Bible. Nothing deserves more of our attention than God’s Word if we want to avoid falling into sin and its consequences.

Not only did the people give careful attention to the reading of the Scriptures, they also showed great humility to the Lord God (vs. 6). They “bowed their heads and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” That is a position of humility before God. God is King, we are His subjects.  God is sovereign. We are not.

The people wept when they realized how they had failed to obey God’s Word (vs. 9).  They had failed to obey God, not just individually, but also as a nation. Are we grieved to the point of weeping when we know how we fail God?  When we know how much He has done for us, especially in sending His only begotten Son to die for our sins, it should grieve us to not love, obey, and follow Him.

God punishes sin, but He blesses repentance and obedience.  That is a reason to celebrate (vs. 10). What is God’s joy? It is in forgiving and saving us.  He has joy in showing love to all who believe on His Name. Do we need some extra strength to get through a difficult time?  When we feel weak and helpless, remember that God loves to step in and deliver us. Remembering and meditating on that will bring us joy.  The level of our joy determines the level of our strength. That was the message Nehemiah gave to the people when they needed encouragement following the reading of the Scriptures. When we attentively listen to God’s Word, His joy will be our strength.

Friday, January 25, 2019

A Wedding In Cana

John 2:1-11

Most people enjoy attending weddings.  They are a happy and festive occasion. Jesus was no exception.  In our passage today from the Gospel of John we read that Jesus and a few of His disciples were invited to a wedding.  Let’s look at the passage together and see what we can learn from this account.

Weddings in Biblical days were big affairs.  Though weddings today can often be very expensive, costing many thousands of dollars, they generally last only one day.  In Biblical days weddings lasted several days, often up to a week, with every possible friend and relation invited. To refuse the invitation was insulting.  These weddings were very festive occasions, with a lot of music, dancing, much food and wine. A lot of planning went into preparing weddings, and as we’ll see, to run out of wine was a huge and embarrassing faux pas, breaking the rules of hospitality.

Though not as common a belief today as it once was, there are still some who do not believe Christians should relax, have a good time, and enjoy themselves. That’s not what Jesus thought, as we see here when He attended the wedding of some friends. I don’t believe that He sat at the sidelines with His arms crossed and a sour look on His face, either!  I believe that He was enjoying Himself. One does not need to get drunk or high on drugs, nor tell dirty jokes to have a good time.

At some time during the festivities the family ran out of wine.  The financial responsibility for weddings in this culture lay with the groom and his family. To run out of something like wine was of the utmost of embarrassment. Jesus’s mother, Mary, was probably a good friend of the groom’s family, and she knew about this problem. Instead of going into panic-mode, Mary knew to take the problem to Jesus (vs. 3).

When Mary came and told Jesus about the problem of no wine, she was probably not specifically asking for a miracle.  Mary was probably just asking if Jesus could help, no knowing what He would do. However, she explicitly trusted Him to know and do what was best.  Mary brought her problem to Jesus and left it in His hands. Mary didn’t tell Jesus what to do, rather she submitted the problem to Jesus and allowed Him to deal with it as He saw best. We need to do that with all of our problems.

When we read verse 4, and see Jesus calling His mother, “woman”, we might think Jesus was being rude or disrespectful to her.  He was not being disrespectful, as that would not be His character. It was probably more like our term “Ma’am”. Jesus was also gently letting Mary know that their relationship was now a changed one.  It was no longer a mother-son one, but now that Jesus was starting His ministry, it was as the Messiah, the Son of God.

The water jars in verse 6 were used for ceremonial washing, and held 20 - 30 gallons each.  These water jars were ordinary items. There was nothing special about them. The water in them was ordinary, too.  However, when given to Jesus, He turned that water into wine, and not just ordinary wine, but the best there was (vs. 10).  When we give ourselves to Jesus, to do with us as He desires, He will turn our ordinary into something wonderful for His use.  This miracle showed Jesus power over nature, and how His ministry was about loving and helping people.

Just as Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do (vs. 5), we need to do the same.  Whatever Jesus says for us to do, we need to do that in order for Him to work in our lives. If the servants had ignored Him, thinking what He said was nonsense, they would have missed out on the miracle. Whatever Jesus says for us to do, do it. Don’t miss out on what He wants to do in your life!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Spiritual Gifts

I Corinthians 12:1-11

Have you ever been given an assignment at work, school, or maybe from your parents, and you felt that you just didn’t have all the tools or equipment to do the job satisfactorily?  That is not the case with the job that the Lord Jesus has given us to do, that of building His Church, bringing the lost to Christ, along with training and edifying believers. Jesus equips the Church with spiritual gifts to do the work we need to.  In our passage today from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he lists some of these gifts which we’ll take a quick look at.

The Holy Spirit distributes His gifts in some measure to all believers. They are to be completely under His control, and used for the building of His Church to Christ’s glory.  The early church in Corinth had some questions and issues about spiritual gifts, and Paul wished to set this issue straight with them.  One thing he wished to clear up was any confusion with demonic manifestations that pagan unbelievers sometimes exhibited. A true believer will affirm the lordship of Jesus (vs. 3).  What a person believes and says about Jesus Christ is a test of whether he is speaking from the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not natural talents or abilities. They are supernaturally given by the Holy Spirit as He wills.  They will enable us to spiritually edify each other and honor the Lord.

In addition to this passage, Paul also lists the gifts in Romans 12:6-8, I Corinthians 12:28, and Ephesians 4:11.  There are the speaking or verbal gifts - prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, teaching, exhortation, and tongues. Then there are the serving gifts - leadership, helps, giving, mercy, faith, healing, miracles, and discernment.  Their purpose is to edify the Church and glorify God.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of these gifts.  Wisdom is the ability to understand God’s Word and His will, and to apply that understanding to life. The word of knowledge is the ability to understand and speak God’s truth with insight. It is grasping the meaning of God’s truth (vs. 8).

Another spiritual gift is that of faith.  The faith that Paul is talking about here is different from saving faith or persevering faith.  It is a strong trust in God in the midst of difficult circumstances (vs. 9). Prophecy is another gift (vs. 10). Prophecy is not just speaking of an event in the future. That was only a small portion of the Old Testament prophets messages.  Here it is exclusively meaning speaking forth or proclaiming publicly God’s message and truth with power. The gift of prophecy is proclaiming what has already been revealed in God’s Word.  The Scriptures are complete, and there is no new revelation.

There are a few gifts that good and sincere believers have had honest disagreement over, and those are the gifts of healing, miracles, and tongues (vs. 9-10).  Some have said that these were temporary gifts that ended after the days of the apostles were over, others state that they are still active today. These gifts were definitely used by God in the days of the early church to accredit the Messiah Jesus, and authenticate and validate the Gospel being preached.

One important gift is that of discerning of spirits (vs. 10).  Satan is a great deceiver (John 8:44). He and his demons counterfeit God’s message and works.  The gift of discernment is the ability to recognize lying spirits and identify deceptive and erroneous doctrines (I John 4:1).  Those with this gift are the guardians and watchmen of the Church, protecting it from false doctrine, cults, and demonic lies. To effectively use this important gift requires diligent study of the Word of God.

In conclusion let us realize that the Holy Spirit is the singular source of these gifts (vs. 11).  They are not something to seek out, picking and choosing what one wants, but to be received from the Holy Spirit “as He wills”.  He gives the gifts as He chooses. Whichever gifts the Lord has seen fit to bestow on us, let us use them to His praise and glory.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Does Our Walk Match Our Talk?

Psalm 101

Many schools and businesses have a code of conduct that they want their students or employees to abide by.  They know that a person’s behavior will reflect back upon the school or the company. Families know that bad behavior on the part of a member will tarnish the family name in public, whereas good conduct will raise the family’s esteem in people’s minds.  Today’s psalm was written by King David, probably near the beginning of his reign as king. It records the standards of conduct that he wanted to follow. Let’s take a look at this psalm and see the keys given in God’s Word for leading a godly life.

One of the first things David mentions in his compilation of godly standards of conduct is a desire for himself to behave wisely (vs. 2). So often our mistakes come because we just weren’t thinking, we didn’t take the time to think before we acted. David knew there would be less problems in life if he would only think and act wisely first.

Next he cautions himself to act properly, not only out in public, but also at home (vs. 2).  It is one thing to walk in a godly way when we are out in public, and we know people are watching us.  It’s another to behave righteously and godly at home, where only family sees us. God wants us to do both.   This is sometimes one of the reasons why it is difficult to witness about the Lord Jesus to our unsaved family members. They see how we act at home, and think we are hypocrites. Our behavior at home and in public should be honoring to the Lord.

David then counsels himself not to look upon anything that is wicked or worthless (vs. 3). It is the Lord’s desire that we avoid entertainment that glorifies or romanticizes immorality, whether it’s movies, the internet, books, etc.  All it takes is a quick, seemingly harmless look to start us on the downhill path into some sin, be it adultery, theft, etc. We need to stay away from any situation that could cause us to stumble if we want to avoid evil.  Our entertainment should be uplifting.

Next David cautions himself and us to avoid evil associates (vs. 4-7). He knew that those we keep close company with will definitely contribute to shaping our character.  If they are of low character, they are going to bring us down, as well. Their language, bad habits, and shady behavior will quickly rub off onto us. Instead, we should choose as role models and friends those who are godly and truthful. It is very clear that our friends and associates can have a profound influence on our lives.  In light of that, the people we associate with should be those who are faithful to God and His Word.

David tells us that he doesn’t want anyone around him who has a perverse, corrupt, or evil heart (vs. 4).  He wants no part with those who plot devious or wicked acts. David also shares with us that if someone talks slander against others, as the king he will not tolerate their behavior (vs. 5).  Slander, or defamation of one’s character, is a big part of gossip, which so many like to take part in. God is not happy when we tear each other apart, especially when the lies destroys another’s character.

Another group David doesn’t want around in his company are those who have a proud heart (vs. 5).  The proud feel no need for God, and have little or no regard for their fellow man. David doesn’t wish them around him.  He also doesn’t want liars or the deceitful as part of his associates (vs. 7). By consorting with liars, one can easily be tempted and drawn into their ways. Truth should be a foundation stone in our life.

King David instead chose for his companions those who were faithful to the Lord God, and those who sought to be perfect and blameless in their behavior (vs. 6).  He knew, as we all do, that no one is perfect. We are all sinners. However, he sought out those who were faithful to God, and who desired to follow in His ways.  Just as an archer aims his arrows towards the bullseye, David wanted his companions and himself to be people of integrity, who aim to follow God, who desire to obey His Word.  Like David, we should be motivated to godly standards of conduct, both for ourselves and for those we choose to surround ourselves with.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A New Name

Isaiah 62:1-5

Have you ever wished you could change your name?  Perhaps you have a name from a hurtful past, or maybe a sinful past, that you would like to be rid of.  In our Scripture passage today from the prophet Isaiah, we read how God can take a negative name that has been attached to us and give us a new, beautiful one.

God had chosen the people of Israel to be His special people, and bring His message to the world, and also to be the line from which the Messiah, the Savior of the world would come from.  They weren’t chosen to just be a special pet of God, but instead, they were to be a light with which the Gentiles would see and be drawn to the Lord God (vs. 1-2). Throughout the Old Testament God had spoken of and used the analogy of the people of Israel being married to Him. One of the requirements of a marriage is that both parties are to be faithful to the other. God had espoused Israel to Himself, yet instead of being faithful to Him and worshipping only Him, the people of Israel were constantly running off and worshipping the false gods and pagan idols of the Canaanites and other nations around them. They were unfaithful to God, despite His faithfulness to them.  Their unfaithfulness to Him led to many nations conquering their country, and finally their captivity to the Babylonians.

During this time, the people, especially in the city of Jerusalem, felt that their name was now “Forsaken” and “Desolate”.  They felt like a wife who had been cast off, even though it was through their own fault. When the people turn to Him, when they accept the coming Messiah, God will give them a new name (vs. 2).  The old name of “Forsaken” will be exchanged by Him for the name of “Hephzibah”, which means “My delight is in her”. The old name of “Desolate” will be exchanged for the new name of “Beulah”, which means “married” (vs. 4).

Sometimes when people make a big change in their lives they like to be called by a new name.  We see this in the New Testament with both the Apostles Peter and Paul. Peter was originally named Simon.  When he accepted the Lord Jesus, and His call upon his life, when Simon left his job as a fisherman and became His follower, Jesus gave him a new name, that of Peter.  Paul was originally named Saul, and he was a devout Jew who violently persecuted the early church. On the road to Damascus the Lord Jesus came to Saul in a vision, and he accepted Him as his Lord and Savior.  From that day forward he changed his name to that of Paul.

Occasionally today people who have been heavy into drugs or alcohol, or involved in gangs, when they come to Jesus and turn their back on their past lifestyle, they take a new name, one that is not associated in anyway with their past life.  Sometimes if a person comes from a family with a rather infamous last name, they might choose to take a new, different last name, so as not to be associated with an infamous ancestor or other relative. In either case, it is a break with the past and the person they once were, or a relative they want no part of.

In the book of Revelation we see a reference to God giving believers that overcome sin and Satan a new name (Revelation 2:17).  When we come to Jesus, and accept Him into our lives, we are now a new person. Most people still continue with their given names, but in the Lord’s eyes we are no longer “forsaken” or “desolate”.  To Him we have become “Hephzibah” and “Beulah”. God says that we are also a crown of glory and a royal diadem (vs. 3). When I see photos of the Royals with the sparkling diadems upon their heads, I don’t think of myself as valuable or priceless like that.  However, that is what God calls us here. We are His delight, His married one, like crown jewels to Him.

There is an old-time gospel hymn, written many years ago, that speaks of our getting a new name when we come to Jesus for salvation. The chorus goes: “There’s a new name written down in glory, and it’s mine, oh yes, it’s mine!”  I can sing that song, and mean it. Can you?

Friday, January 18, 2019

John The Baptist

Luke 3:15-20

This week’s Gospel reading from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer picks up in the Gospel of Luke, where we left off just prior to Christmas, and we find ourselves in the presence of John the Baptist.  John has been preaching his message of repentance, of turning one’s life away from sin, and towards God. He has been baptizing people in the River Jordan, and speaking of the one who is to come after him, who will baptize with both fire and the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist quickly became a very popular figure, with many people flocking to hear his message.  John did not hesitate to preach a very powerful message of everyone’s need to repent from their sins. There hadn’t been any prophets for several hundred years, and now John appears. Because of his strong and fearless message, some people wondered whether he might be the coming Messiah (vs. 15). John quickly refutes that, stating that he is definitely not the Messiah, but that he is not even worthy to unstrap the sandals of the one who will come after him (vs. 16).  Unfastening a sandal strap was the lowliest slave’s task, along with washing one’s feet. John the Baptist didn’t even feel worthy to do that for Jesus. Many popular preachers fall victim to pride.  Once the crowds start flocking to hear them preach, once their books start hitting the best sellers list, they think they are someone special. They now feel they deserve to be chauffeured around in limos, the first class seats on jets, etc.  John the Baptist was quite popular. He could have passed the offering plate around so he could get some new, fancy clothes, a nice mansion, etc. That was the last thing on his mind. He remained humble, saying he wasn’t even worthy to be the very lowest of slaves to Jesus.

John the Baptist was not only very humble, he also was fearless in his message to the people.  Unlike many preachers, both then and today, John’s message wasn’t meant to tickle the ears of his audience.  He preached repentance. John also said that the coming Messiah would do the same, separating the chaff from the wheat (vs. 17).  Chaff is the husk of the grain, which is worthless and separated from the kernel of corn or wheat. Those who refuse to repent and follow God are the chaff.  Those who do repent and turn to God are the kernels of grain. Those who refuse to be used by God will be discarded because they have no value in furthering God’s work. Those who do repent and believe are of great value in God’s eyes, and can have a productive life of service for Him.

John was also very fearless when it came to who he called out regarding their sin.  John fearlessly spoke against the sinful lifestyle of the current King Herod. The Herod family was a very powerful, murderous, deceitful family.  John boldly and bravely spoke against King Herod’s actions of taking his brother’s wife (vs. 19-20). Queen Herodias had first married King Philip, who was a blood uncle.  Then later she left him for his brother, Herod Antipas, who was also another blood uncle. To rebuke both Herod Antipas and Herodias for their sins was quite dangerous, but it was what God wanted.

John was not afraid to speak up.  He was not afraid to speak against the king, nor was he afraid to speak out against the hypocritical religious leaders of his day, either.  Too often today, when sin is being committed by people, we are afraid to speak up. It certainly is not the popular thing to do, and many, including preachers, often just prefer to keep their mouths shut.  The few who do speak up are promptly scorned, held in contempt, and ridiculed, especially by the media. However, sometimes it is the right thing to do. In John’s case, it cost him his freedom, as he was arrested and later beheaded by King Herod (Mark 6:17-29).  Herod thought he had the last word then, but he didn’t. On the Day of Judgment Herod will be in trouble, while John the Baptist will be rewarded.

Are you afraid to speak up when there is rampant sin and wrongdoing going on?  I know that sometimes I am. The Church needs more men and women who are like John the Baptist, believers who are humble and not full of themselves, and who fearlessly preach the Word of God, regardless of the consequences.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

God Calls All To Come

Acts 10:34-43

It is no fun to feel left out, to see that the teacher, or even one of your parents, has favorites, but you’re not one of them.  It would be even worse if we felt that God had favorites, and we weren’t one of them, either! The good news is that God does not have favorites, and shows no partiality towards anyone!  We see this clearly in our Scripture passage today.

As our passage opens, the Apostle Peter is sharing a Gospel message of salvation to a Roman centurion named Cornelius, along with his family and friends.   Earlier in the passage the Lord had given Peter a series of visions, instructing him not to think of, or call any group of people “unclean”. When Jesus had ascended up to heaven, He had given the disciples explicit instructions to spread the Gospel to all nations and peoples.  Some time had passed now, and with the exception of a few Samaritans, the Gospel had only been shared with Jewish people. God gave Peter this vision in order to encourage him to spread the message to the Gentiles, as well. God gave another vision to the Roman Cornelius to seek Peter out and hear his message, and this is where our passage begins.

Peter’s opening statement is that he now realizes that God shows no partiality to anyone or any group of people.  He has no favorites. Everyone is welcome to come to Him, if they so choose to. It’s not like school, where only certain favored ones get picked to be on a team.  God wants to include everyone. God has only one flock. The flock has only one Shepherd. It was Jesus’s plan all along that the Gentiles would be brought into His flock (John 10:16).  Those who opposed that were going against God, and were fighting against Him.

It is not enough that people seek after God.  They have to find Him. Cornelius was seeking God, but he needed to hear about salvation through Jesus.  It wasn’t enough for him to just seek God.  How can they find God unless someone tells them of Him?  (Romans 10:14-15). God needed to get Peter to fully obey, and spread the message to the Gentles.  Peter needed to share the message of Jesus with Cornelius. We have that task, too. Some may be called to be a missionary, and go to foreign lands.  All of us, though, are called to share the Gospel with our families, friends, and neighbors.

Peter’s message was not a long, drawn out one, with many deep theological points.  A Gospel witness doesn’t have to be a long and deep theological treatise. One doesn’t need many university degrees to spread the message of Jesus.  We just need to point the way to Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). We need to share with as many as we can the message of Jesus’s death on the cross, paying the price for our sins, and establishing peace between God and man.  Believing in Jesus is the means of salvation, faith in Jesus alone (vs. 43).

God is very clear throughout the Bible, that the Gospel message of salvation is for everyone!  Unfortunately, not everyone responds, and they will be left out. However, we need to make sure that we do not put up any barriers in our churches that make people feel unwelcome.  There should be no barriers of race, nationality, economic, or educational level. All should be welcomed because Jesus welcomes all.  God calls out to everyone to come! Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely!” (Revelation 22:17). You are a “whosoever”. Everyone, no matter what your national background is, falls into that group, and God calls you all to come.

Monday, January 14, 2019

When In The Depths Of Despair

Psalm 88

There are times in some people’s lives when the darkness from various trials seems to enfold them.  For many of them this dark time is only temporary, lasting only a few weeks, perhaps a couple of months, but for some this darkness goes on for years and years without any end or relief to the trial they are going through.  They desperately look for some light at the end of the tunnel, but they cannot make out even a pinprick of light. They cry out to God for some relief, but all they hear is a deafening silence. Today’s psalm records the prayers and cries of someone going through just such a time in their life, a time when there seems to be no light, no relief. Sometimes when we are going through a very difficult time, whether of illness, financial crisis, family difficulties, or whatever else, we don’t feel like listening to the “happily ever after” stories that others may tell us. We feel that they do not understand the depth of crisis or difficulty we are in. In our Scripture passage today we see someone who is in the midst of some terrible crisis, and feels no hope.

Psalm 88 was written by a man named Heman the Ezrahite, who was one of the “Sons of Korah.  The Sons of Korah were descendants of Levi through his son, Kohath, serving as gatekeepers and musicians in the Temple.  We don’t know much else about Heman, nor do we know exactly what terrible trial he was going through to write such a dismal and hopeless psalm.  I believe that the Lord deliberately left that information out so that no matter what type of trial we are going through, we can relate to Heman’s despair.

As we read through the verses of Psalm 88 we quickly see just how much despair Heman was in.  Unlike other psalms where the author was in some type of crisis, this psalm does not give an answer or expression of hope.  Many of David’s psalms speak of him being in some sort of trouble, such as fleeing for his life, but he ends with telling how God comes to his rescue.  We don’t see that here. Heman is in the middle of his desperate crisis, and he sees no light, no hope. Whatever has brought him to this point, it is severe, as he feels like he is one step away from death (vs. 3-5, 10-11).  All of his friends have forsaken him, and he is all alone (vs. 8). Being alone and without friends makes a crisis even worse. Heman’s troubles keep coming and coming upon him like the neverending waves of an ocean (vs. 7), and he has cried so much that his eyes ache and feel wasted away (vs. 9).

Since we do not know the reason behind Heman’s problems, it would be wrong to assume that they came upon him as judgment for some sin.  There are some today who believe that any problem that comes upon a believer is due to sin in their life, and that a problem-free life filled with wealth is a sign of God’s blessings.  That is not the case, and we have no evidence to say that Heman’s problems were due to any sin. Being a believer in Jesus does not guarantee a problem-free life. The Apostle Paul certainly knew that.  He and Barnabas preached that we will have troubles and tribulations in life (Acts 14:22).

Though this psalm certainly looks dismal and discouraging, with no real answer or response from God, I do see a tiny glimmer of hope. Despite the terrible trials Heman was going through, it is hopeful that he knew where to turn to, and that he was praying and crying to God.  Heman had not given up on God, but turned to Him. He may not understand God’s ways, but he does turn to Him, indicating an underlying trust. In verse 1 Heman calls the Lord, the “God of my salvation”, indicating that he does have a saving relationship with Yahweh.

One unfortunate thing for some who go through really severe trials, and dark days that stretch into months and years, is that they turn away from God, shaking their fist at Him in anger.  Heman is hurting, he’s probably angry, too, but he does not turn away from God. Instead, he turns to Him, crying out for God to please help him.  Though the psalm ends without any real answers or indications as to how Heman faired in the end, we do know from Scripture that God has promised He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), even in the middle of the darkest time of our lives.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Jesus Restores The Broken And Damaged

Isaiah 42:1-9

Something breaks and we pick up the pieces, determining whether it can be repaired, or whether we will have to throw it out.  Often something cannot be fixed, and it is now useless. For many people they look at their lives, both currently and in their past, and because of mistakes or circumstances they are in, they feel broken and useless.  They feel no good to anyone, and especially to God. If that is how you feel today, the prophet Isaiah has a message from God for you, about how the Messiah feels about broken people. Let’s take a look!

Our passage today from Isaiah contains one of several “Servant Songs” Isaiah wrote, referring to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus.  The first three verses refer to when Jesus came the first time, and was quoted in the Gospel of Matthew, (Matthew 12:18-21). God delighted in Him, and put His Spirit upon Him. When Jesus came that time He had a quiet, submissive spirit. One of the main characteristics of Jesus, both at that time, and definitely also today, is that He brings comfort and encouragement to the weak and oppressed.  In verse 3 we read how Jesus will not break a bruised reed, nor quench a smoking flax. In ancient times, reeds (tall, grasslike plants found in wetlands) were used for thatching roofs and other construction. They were also sharpened at one end and used as writing instruments.  Damaged or broken reeds could not be used, and were discarded. Strings of flax (a plant that is used for textile fibers from its stalk) were often used as wicks in oil lamps. If the wick caused a lot of smoke, it would start to smell, and it would need to be put out and replaced.

Damaged and useless, needing to be tossed out.  That’s how we may feel about our lives. Maybe we got into sin, or our bodies are sick or crippled, and now we feel we are useless to the Lord.  If we come to the Lord Jesus with our broken lives, and lay them at His feet, Isaiah says here that He will not break us, He will not quench us. Jesus doesn’t take and discard us like pieces of trash. Instead, He loves us, and restores our brokenness. Jesus is gentle and encouraging. When we are broken, bruised, and worn out, He won’t berate us, cast us out or aside, but instead He will pick us up in His love.  He can use us as we yield ourselves to Him.

As we continue on in our passage we see how Jesus was God’s covenant to His people (vs. 6).  Jesus is the Mediator of a better covenant than the one given to Moses (Hebrews 8:6). Jesus was also a light to the Gentiles.  He showed this by ministering, not only to the Jews, but also to several Gentiles during His time before His crucifixion. Jesus ministered to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-29), healed a Roman centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-10), and cast a demon out of a Canaanite woman’s daughter (Matthew 15:21-28), and He commissioned His disciples to bring the Gospel to the ends of the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).  Through Jesus everyone has the opportunity to share in salvation!

Isaiah predicted that the Messiah Jesus would bring sight to the blind and set prisoners free from the prisons they were in (vs. 7).  As we read throughout each of the Gospels, Jesus brought healing to multitudes, especially restoring sight to the blind. He also brought freedom from spiritual captivity.  We can be held captive to various addictions, debt due to bad spending, captive to bad relationships, etc. Through prayer Jesus can set us free. It was prayer that set Peter free from the actual prison in Acts 12:3-11.  Prayer can deliver us, too, from spiritual captivity and spiritual blindness. Prison bars can’t hold fast against the power of God.

As our passage closes, we read a very important statement in verse 8. The Lord Yahweh is the one and only God there is.  God will not share His glory and worship with any other false gods.  Some people may feel that it is okay and acceptable to mix their faith in Jesus with any of the many other false religions in the world.  As Yahweh spoke through Isaiah here, we are not to share God’s worship and glory with any other. Let’s be sure that we give all praise and glory to the Lord God and His Son, Jesus, only.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Special Assignment

Ephesians 3:1-12

Have you ever been given a special assignment to carry out, one that you felt you didn’t deserve to be given, perhaps because you had failed miserably before?  You are determined that you will do a faithful job. In our Scripture passage for today from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he writes of the special assignment and the divine mysteries that God entrusted him to bring to the world.

As our passage begins, Paul reveals that this letter was written to the Ephesians while he was in prison (vs. 1).  Paul had been imprisoned several times throughout his ministry, in Philippi, in Jerusalem, and now in Rome. Each time was because he was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the Empire.  Even though he was imprisoned, Paul never became discouraged or gave up hope. He knew beyond any doubt that God was still in control. As fellow believers, even in our darkest hours, we too, need to remember that God is always in control.

Paul had been given the special assignment by God to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles (vs. 2).  Paul had not chosen this task. God didn’t give Paul a list of jobs He had open, and let him choose whichever one he liked best.  God has a job for each one of us, as well. He knows our talents and unique abilities, as He’s the one who gave them to us, so He won’t make any mistakes.  He knew that Paul was the best one for this task of spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire, and Paul responded with obedience.

In addition to spreading the Gospel, Paul was also commissioned by God to reveal the mystery of how the Gentiles were fellow-heirs with the Jews of God’s love and promises (vs. 3-11). There were many truths that were hidden in the Old Testament that were later revealed in the New Testament.  These are called “mysteries” in the Epistles of Paul. One of these mysteries was that Jews and Gentiles would be brought together in one body in Christ. Paul was faithful to God in carrying out this assignment, even though it often brought him into dangerous circumstances with the Jewish community.

Paul might have wondered why God would entrust him with this vital and essential work of bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles throughout the Empire, as he could never forget how he had tried to destroy the church and silence this very Gospel that he is now preaching.  He called himself the very least of all of the apostles (vs. 8). Paul knew, though, that God had forgiven him. He not only forgave Paul, He had now given him this special job, supplying him with all of the ability and grace He would need to carry out it out.

God’s love and forgiveness is just one of the “unsearchable riches” Paul speaks of here in verse 8.  The Lord God’s riches are beyond calculation. They are immeasurable, beyond our greatest dreams. Jesus is a greater Savior then we can ever imagine, and He is the one who can supply all of our needs (Philippians 4:19).

As Paul closes up our passage in verse 12, he tells his readers, which includes us today, that we, as born-again believers, now have the awesome privilege to be able to approach God and come into His presence.  God is not remote or inaccessible. We can approach Him in and through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:16). We can do so in prayer with freedom, confidence, and without fear because we are His children through our union with Christ.  Remember God’s promises! They will strengthen our faith to believe in Him for all of our needs.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Our Future King

Psalm 72

Most of us want our children to succeed in life and their legacy to be a great one.  The same was true of King Solomon, the author of our psalm. Psalm 72 is commonly attributed to King Solomon, which, along with Psalm 127, the only psalms he was thought to have written.  In the psalm, he speaks of how he wants his son Rehoboam’s reign over the kingdom to be the greatest reign ever. Some have believed that Solomon is instead speaking about his reign, referring to himself as the son of the great King David, rather than of speaking of his son. As we read the psalm, we see that in addition to having been written about either Solomon or his son Rehoboam, the psalm is definitely prophetic and speaking of another King, that of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. Let’s take a look at our passage of Scripture for today.

Our psalm begins with a prayer that the Lord will bless the reign of the king, and that his reign will be characterized by righteousness, peace, and justice to the people of the country (vs. 1 - 4).  These verses could, for the most part, be applicable to the reign of King Solomon. During his reign the kingdom went through a period of peace, which they had not seen during the reign of his father, David, who saw many years of war with neighboring countries. Solomon also was known to be a fair, righteous, and just king, as was seen in the example of his wise judgment with the two women and the baby in I Kings 3:16-28. However, his son, Rehoboam was not like his father. When he came to the throne the people asked him to lighten the taxes and conscripted labor his father had put upon them. Rehoboam refused, even threatening to make their burden heavier. Due to his harsh attitude, the people rebelled in a civil war, and the kingdom split in two (I Kings 12:1-17).

As the psalm continues, Solomon goes into very expressive and poetic language of how the king’s reign will endure for as long as the sun and moon do (vs. 5), be from sea to sea (vs. 8), and that foreign kings will all bow before him (vs. 9-11), and continues on throughout the remainder of the psalm in this fashion. Though the Kingdom of Israel was at its height during Solomon’s reign, it was still relatively small when compared to Egypt and later kingdoms of Assyria, Babylon, and others. Though many kings traded with Solomon, only a few were actually under tribute to him, and none of this would be applicable to Rehoboam.

So who could this psalm really be talking about, if it is not really applicable to either Solomon or his son, Rehoboam, or actually any of the following kings, either?  No king has ever reigned from one end of the earth to the other, and no human king could reign for as long as the sun and moon endure. Obviously this must be referring to the Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God.  When Solomon wrote this, he was dreaming big for either himself or his son, and probably did not even know he was writing prophecy regarding the Messiah. Let’s look at how these verses refer to Jesus.

Jesus, as the second Person of the Trinity, has always existed since before all time, long before the sun and moon were created, and He will exist long after they are gone (vs. 5).  For those who know Jesus as Savior, He can be like a refreshing rain to our parched souls (vs. 6), and He brings us a peace the world cannot know (vs. 7). When Jesus returns, the whole world will be under His dominion, from one sea to the other (vs 8), and all kings and rulers will have to bow before Him, either willingly or not (vs. 9-11).  As our Savior, we can call upon Him for all of our needs, for He has redeemed us (vs. 12-14). Though there are some rulers who have truly cared about the poor in their country, for the most part they are of little concern to them. Not so with the Lord Jesus.

Only a handful of all the rulers who have ever reigned are really remembered by the general population aside from historians.  The Lord Jesus’s Name will endure forever (vs. 17), and not only that, but all mankind is blessed by and through His Name. Solomon closes our psalm today with a doxology, giving praise and glory to the Lord God, as is fitting, blessing His glorious Name.

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Light Shines Forth

Isaiah 60:1-9

The Scripture passages from the Book of Common Prayer Lectionary this week, following the celebration of Epiphany, continue with the theme of the good news of God’s salvation being extended to the Gentiles, and their  turning to the Lord. Today’s Scripture selection is taken from the Prophet Isaiah.

In our passage, the Lord is speaking to Zion, the capital city of Jerusalem, and He is speaking of a time in the future, a future time when the Light of the Lord’s glory will shine forth from Jerusalem (vs. 1 - 3).  That will be when the Lord Jesus is accepted as the Messiah in Jerusalem, and He will reign over His kingdom from there.

I don’t think there is anyone who would argue that the world today is in great darkness.  Wars, terrorism, violence, hatred, distrust, cheating, stealing. The list can go on and on.  There is spiritual darkness everywhere, and no corner of the world is exempt, including Jerusalem.  God promises a change is coming. One day a light will shine forth from Zion, or Jerusalem, and the Lord’s glory will shine forth.  When Jesus first walked the earth, He came to Jerusalem, but as we saw in a message just a couple of days ago, Jesus came to His own people, but they would not receive Him (John 1:11).  Instead, it was at Jerusalem that they took and executed Him. That looks like serious darkness, not light! When Jesus returns, however, He will come to Jerusalem, and they will see Him who they had executed, and will mourn in repentance, and accept Him then (Zechariah 12:10).  At this time the Light of the Lord will shine forth from there, all around the world, and the Gentile nations will see this, and come to the Light of the Lord.

When Jesus came to Jerusalem, and they refused to accept Him, the light was not completely snuffed out.  It went forth throughout the world, and Gentile nations have turned to Him. As our passage in Isaiah continues, we read of several nations, whose names are unfamiliar to most of us, as these are kingdoms which no longer exist.  Throughout history, kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, and their names are either forgotten or relegated to back pages in old history books.

Throughout the whole world, however, there is not a corner where the Gospel message has not been preached, and at some point in history, particularly today, there are believers in Christ from every nation and language.  In Revelation 5:9-10, we read that there are believers from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. They are all gathered around the throne of God to praise Him. I enjoy watching the “parade of nations” at the start of the Olympic Games every four years.  There is something even grander coming when believers from every nation and language will gather to praise the Lord!

The Lord God has no favorites.  The door of salvation is open to everyone, regardless of their nationality, or what language they speak.  It is open to everyone, whether male or female, rich or poor, old or young, well educated or not. We, as believers, have an obligation to keep the light of the Gospel going forth, by telling others about Jesus.  Let’s swell the crowd of people in that coming “parade of nations” that will gather around the throne of God!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

What Will You Choose?

Matthew 2:1-12

The date January 6th is the day that a large part of the Church celebrates Epiphany, when the wise men, or “magi” came to Bethlehem offering gifts and worshipping the young child Jesus. The church’s celebration of this event in Scriptures highlights the fact that the door for salvation and acceptance into God’s family was opened to the Gentiles, as these magi who came and worshipped Jesus were Gentiles.

Who were these magi, or wise men?  The magi were groups of educated men, who particularly studied astronomy and astrology, dreams, and alchemy.  They believed that the layout of the stars and planets in the heavens could predict certain events on earth. They were probably from Persia, and followers of Zoroastrianism.  The magi had a very strong knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as other sacred writings. Though many traditions hold that there were three of them, Matthew does not give a number.  The number three was only used because of the three gifts that were given.

Another important character in this narrative is King Herod.  This was Herod the Great, the first ruler of the Herodian dynasty.  He ruled Judea from 37 - 4 BC. He was an Idumean (Edomite), a descendant of Esau.  Herod was a very ruthless, cunning, and evil man, having ordered the executions of one of his several wives, and several of his sons, among many others.  The murder of the young boys of Bethlehem was just another of his long list of crimes.

As the magi studied the night sky, year in and year out, they noticed a new body in the sky.  Scholars and astronomers have pondered and debated over the years exactly what this was that led these magi to pack their bags and travel to the land of Israel.  Perhaps it was a conjunction of planets or a supernova, or perhaps it was a miraculous supernatural reality, similar to the Shekinah light of God in the Old Testament.  Whatever it was, the magi knew it was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Numbers 24:17, and that it heralded the birth of a great king and/or religious leader.

When the magi arrived in Jerusalem and started to inquire around as to the birth of a new king or leader, the news was quickly reported back to King Herod (vs. 1-3).  He was greatly disturbed by this news. In Herod’s mind this was a threat to his position. When he got disturbed, the rest of the city was on edge, as his murderous rages were well known and feared.  Herod summoned the chief priests and scribes to find out what these magi were talking about (vs. 4-6). The chief priests were the Temple hierarchy, and mostly Sadducees. The scribes were primarily Pharisees.  They knew where the Messiah was to be born, and told Herod and the magi that He was foretold to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) . However, they had no real faith, so they did not accompany the magi to seek the Messiah out and worship Him.

King Herod had a great many fears, one of which was losing his throne.  This gave him a fear of these Scriptures that foretold the coming of the Messiah. Instead of letting that fear draw him to God, he let it pull him away, deeper into darkness and sin.  Herod let his greed, power, and his fear, along with all of the evil behind it, draw him to seek to kill the young Jesus.  He tried to dupe the magi, asking them to report back to him the exact location of this newborn Messiah (vs. 8).

When the magi located the young child Jesus, His parents had moved into a house in Bethlehem (vs. 11).  They offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold for a king. Frankincense for the Divine, as incense is used in worship.  Myrrh is used as an embalming ointment, which showed they knew He would be a sacrifice for sin. Besides the humble shepherds, these Gentiles were the first to worship the Messiah as both God and King.

The magi traveled many hundreds of miles to see the Messiah, and rejoiced with great joy when they found Him.  They came to seek and worship Him, not for what they could get, but for who He is. Everyone of us has a chance to turn to God and abandon their own way.  King Herod had a chance to come and worship Jesus, but refused, instead choosing to try and destroy Him. Which are we going to choose? Will we join the magi, and come and worship Jesus? Or will we choose to join Herod, refusing Jesus, fighting Jesus, and come to a destructive end? The choice is ours. Let’s join with the magi!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Jesus Is The Light

John 1:1-14

When we read a biography of a person, the story usually begins at the start of that person’s life.  The Gospels are biographies of Jesus Christ, and the Gospels of Matthew and Luke do that, telling various accounts of Jesus’s birth and even a few events in His childhood. However, in our Scripture passage today we read an account by the Apostle John that goes back all the way before creation, declaring how Jesus, as the second Person of the Trinity, was there before the beginning, before the universe even existed.  Jesus always was, and always will be. At a specific time in history, Jesus took human form and became a man, while remaining the Lord of glory. Although He took upon Himself full humanity and lived as a man, Jesus never ceased to be the eternal God who always existed.

In verse one we see John referring to Jesus as the “Word”.  This term is an expression that both Jews and Greeks of his day used to refer to God’s wisdom, reason, and intellect.  The Word was an agent in creation (Psalm 33:6), and was the source of God’s message to the people through prophets and His Law.

A main focus in our passage, and throughout John’s Gospel, is that of Jesus being the Light.  We’ve all been in a dark room, or out in the dark at night. There have been countless times I have stubbed toes, while stumbling around in the dark at night. We also stumble around in the spiritual darkness of sin in our life and this world.  Just as we turn on lights in our homes and outside at night to prevent getting hurt, we need to look for the Light of Jesus in our life to avoid falling into sin. We need to seek out His Words in Scripture, and He will lead us to His truth. Walking in the dark can bring fear.  However, if we follow Jesus, we will never walk in darkness. The light of Christ goes before us. His light shines in the darkness, which cannot overcome it. We don’t need to fear. If we are in Jesus’s light, He will give us safety and comfort.

Have you ever noticed that when you open a door to a dark room or closet, the darkness doesn’t come streaming out, making part of the lighted room dark. No, rather the light from the lighted room streams into the dark closet and brings some of that light to illuminate the darkness. In a sense the light is stronger than the dark.  Jesus is the Light of this sin darkened world. Satan, the prince of darkness, tried to defeat Jesus, but he could not overcome the Light of the world (vs. 5). The darkness of evil never has and never will overcome or extinguish God’s light.  When we follow Jesus, the true Light, we avoid walking in the dark and falling into sin.  When we stay in the Light of Jesus, despair cannot overwhelm us. Once we have come into the Light by accepting Jesus as our Savior, our responsibility now is to reflect that light out into the world, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun (vs. 7-8).

John continues on in our passage by telling us that though Jesus, as God, created the world and all of humanity, mankind has neither recognized nor accepted Him (vs. 10).  His own people, the nation Jesus was born into and who were called apart by God, did not receive Him (vs. 11). Though they had the Sacred Scriptures which spoke of Him, and were to be His messengers to prepare the world for the Savior, they still did not accept Jesus, choosing instead to reject their Messiah.  However, the good news that we read here is that whoever does receive Jesus, accepting Him as their personal Savior, will become a child of God (vs. 12). Only those who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior are born again become children of God. God is creator of everyone. Everyone is His creation, and He loves everyone, but not everyone is His child. As stated in verse 12, only those who have received Jesus as their Savior are children of God.

As John closes this passage he tells us how Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, became fully human (vs. 14).  He experienced life as we do - temptations, grief, sadness, happiness. He experienced the same things any other human experiences, except sin.  Jesus is more than just a great teacher or prophet. He is “God with us” - Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23). Jesus is the exact representation of God because He is God (Hebrews 1:1-3).

If you haven’t already, turn to Jesus as your Savior.  Walk into His light, and out of the darkness of this sin-cursed world.  Become a child of God, which would be the best way to start off this new year!