Category: Wonderful One

GOD CAME – Let’s Celebrate

GOD CAME – Let’s Celebrate – Ron Graham –
“Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.” Hebrews 10:7.
This time of year brings great joy to folks all over the world and from just about every walk of life. Admittedly we’ve entered a very festive season, but few recognize the real reason behind all the festivities. As strange as it may seem many folks have no clue that Christmas is a birthday celebration. Christian’s especially enjoy this time of the year because we know whose birth we’re celebrating.
2,000 years ago God came. He entered His Creation and became a man, the man Jesus Christ. The Bible declares it; that should be enough evidence for anyone to believe it, and many do. But many disregard what the Bible says about the birth of the Savior of the world. Hey it’s a holiday, that’s good enough.
God went from being spirit to being a flesh and blood man. A perfect God became a perfect man. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. Jesus is our Messiah, our perfect God, and our Great Savior, and Redeemer. He’s the Creator of the entire universe. He came to set us free.
Most have either heard or read the account of Jesus’ birth. Jesus began His earthly life as an infant. He was born in a manger and His birth was heralded by an angel. “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11.
Undoubtedly great joy and celebration erupted in Heaven when the little baby Jesus cried His very first cry proclaiming the beginning of His human life. And here on earth that very night a whole host of angels appeared before those lowly shepherds “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:13, 14. Peace on earth? It won’t be long now.
God came as a propitiation for our sins. Those sins began four thousand years before Christ’s birth and they have continued for 2,000 years after His death, burial, and resurrection. Even though sin abounds today there is salvation, there is forgiveness, and there is hope for all who have sinned. And all have sinned. I guess that means there’s hope for some us, right? No, it means there’s hope for everyone. The angel that appeared to the shepherds that night told them that there would be great joy for all people, all people. We are all invited to accept the free gift that God gave to the world that night. When baby Jesus grew into manhood He became the sin offering for all of mankind, “for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” Hebrews 7:27b
Trying to explain to the lost that God came and that He died on a cross for the sins of the entire world can be an arduous task. Why? Because preaching the cross and Christ crucified is foolishness to most people. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18. They either refuse to believe in a God of the universe, or they believe in God but refuse to believe He could die, let alone die for the sins of man. But He did. “And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, for there is no sin in him.” 1 John 3:5.
Even before Jesus became a full grown man He knew He had an eternal plan to accomplish. That plan was conceived between Father and Son before the foundation of the world and accomplished on an old wooden cross. Jesus’ death was not a tragedy, it was an achievement. Although God the Father and God the Son both knew few would enter through the narrow gate they still went ahead with their plan.
God knew from the beginning that man would fail the test of following His commands to the letter, and was fully aware of what He would need to do to move His children back into a right relationship with Himself. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ time believed they could obtain eternal life because of their strict adherence to the scriptures, but Jesus told them “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39. Sadly, many today have the same mindset as those Pharisees of old.
Preachers have been pounding the tops of pulpits for years trying to get the Gospel message out to a rebellious people so they might grasp the truth. Many have succeeded in their attempts, but many more have not. Rebellion is a difficult thing to counter. Moms and dads know this all too well. Children begin to rebel almost from birth. “No” becomes their favorite word in many cases. Whether or not you’d like to admit it folks, that’s rebellion. That’s what God sees in His children, but that’s what He overlooks once we’ve heard the Gospel and believed.
Each year the unbelieving world seek to change the name of this particular season to “winter festival” or some other non-biblical name, anything to take the emphases off Christ and His birth. All those who wish to eliminate Christmas from the season and change the name and the meaning of the 25th of December to “happy holidays” will soon get their wish. Here comes Santa Claus will be the only reference to this particular day in the not so distant future. After the Rapture of the Church there will be no further resistance to changing the name of the season. But there will be nothing to ho, ho, ho about either.  
Call it what you will, God came to replace death with life. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10. There’s no denying the facts for those of us whose blinders have been removed. Believers could no more deny Christ or the fact that He came than deny the sun shines every day.
But for many lost souls denying Christ is prominent, many times in the forefront of their minds and at this time of year the denial becomes even more extreme. Some of those who deny Christ become abusive and lash out at any reference to God and Jesus during the Christmas season.
But all the denial in the world doesn’t change the facts, God came. The Bible contains many scriptures about the Christ child and His arrival. Go ahead deny the Bible that’s easy, but you must deny truth at the same time. The Bible is true and complete; all of life’s questions can be answered from the Bible. As I’ve stated in previous commentaries the Bible was written as a history lesson in advance. That’s how God authenticates His word.
Reading and studying the Bible brings comfort in the form of truth. The Bible is God speaking to us and His words comfort our soul. This time of year can be especially comforting as we celebrate the birth of our Savior and King, our Messiah, Jesus.
Many people refuse to believe that God came because of what they’ve been taught; a lie that has been handed down from generation to generation is still a lie. People become convinced there is no God and then they choose to remain in their unbelief. Some when they are presented with the truth believe, but many more don’t. However, nothing can stop the forward progress of God’s advancing Kingdom, whether we run into unbelief or rebellion of any kind, God will not be stopped. He’s proved this time and again.
Those who reject the true fact that God came are in for a surprise of enormous proportions. It’s not going to be a pleasant surprise of course, but most certainly enormous. You see, all those who continue in unbelief continue to belong to Satan and they are condemned. God has made it plain that to reject His truth is to stand against Him. All who reject the truth announced throughout the scriptures of the birth, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah of the world are only following their father the devil.
God came, and Jesus is God. This biblical truth is disparaged by various religions as well as the Christian cults. In their case condemnation reigns supreme. But that condemnation can be avoided. How? “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved …” Acts 16:31a. By believing that Jesus is who He says He is, earth’s populace can avoid condemnation. But many just flat out refuse to believe, thus they remain Satan’s property.
Jesus Christ is the Messiah that came, a descendant from the tribe of Judah, to proclaim salvation to the Jews. The Jews, many still in rebellion to this day, rejected their Messiah. The Gentiles, on the other hand, were excited about their Messiah and embraced Him with open arms and the Church was born. Many Jews heard the Apostles preaching and believed and joined the body of Christ. Many more did not. And to this day have not.
The Church is God’s creation and He had it in His mind to send His Son to begin the Church at a specific time. Yet many still don’t get it, so we pray for them, family members and friends. We pray that the scales that cover their eyes would melt away just as they did from our own, and the truth would become crystal clear.
All those who believe God came, will, one day soon, accompany Him to Heaven. All those who don’t believe will remain behind and life will be very different here for them once the Church is removed. Even though God came and died for all men He’s willing to allow men their freedom and their choice. He’s willing to refrain from interfering with man’s decision of where to spend eternity. You see, it really isn’t sin that sends people to Hell. No, it’s the refusal of God’s free gift of salvation. Jesus paid the price for the sins of the world. All we must do is believe in the Gospel of Christ.
Rebellion is rebellion, some get over it but we are all born with it. Some never get past that childish rebellious nature of saying “NO” so they can come to the truth of the Gospel. If you’re reading this commentary and you’re at a point in your life where you are beginning to feel a tugging on your heart that something is amiss in your life, then you might want to heed these words. The Holy Spirit of God is doing the tugging/drawing and if you’ll let Him He’ll help you remove those old stubborn scales covering your eyes and toss away that infantile rebellion you’ve been clinging onto for all these years.
Well, that’s it, that’s the whole shebang, the whole enchilada. It’s really that simple. God came, showed up here on earth as a little baby boy, grew to manhood, still fully God and fully man. If you believe that fact, if you believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the propitiation for our sins you will no longer be under condemnation, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1.
Christmas is so much more than ho, ho, ho. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.
A Gift Idea:
We are given a perfect opportunity to explain the Gospel to folks who at other times of the year may not be in the frame of mind to hear it. Christmas is a time of joy and many feel the need to give and so why not give the gift that keeps on giving. Give them this gift. Give them the message of the Gospel of Christ.
Merry Christmas, and God bless you all,
Ron Graham
All scripture is from the KJV

The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan – This Week’s Feature Article by Jack Kelley –
On one occasion an expert in the Law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law,” Jesus replied, “How do you read it?” He answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind [Deut. 6:5] and love your neighbor as yourself [Lev 19:18].” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied, “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself and so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29).
In reply to this question, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) the obvious point of which is that our neighbor is anyone in need of our assistance. We all learned this point of the story as children. But parables are heavenly stories put into an earthly context where every character is symbolic of someone or something else, and the Parable of the Good Samaritan is no exception. Therefore we should also expect to find a glimpse of Heaven contained therein.   The word parable literally means “to place alongside” so the obvious “earthly” story has to be accompanied by a hidden “heavenly” one.   Put another way, if the obvious story is the children’s version then the hidden one is the adult version of the story.   Let’s find it.
Who Are The Samaritans?
First, a little background. The Samaritans were the offspring of marriages between Jewish farmers the Assyrians left behind when they conquered the Northern Kingdom in 721 BC and the pagans they re-located there. Mixing up the conquered populations was standard procedure for the Assyrians because it reduced the threat of organized rebellion.   The Samaritans were despised by the Jews because of these mixed marriages and because they had incorporated pagan rituals into their worship of God (both were forbidden by Jewish law.) A generation or so before the time of Jesus, a son of the Jewish High Priest had run off and married the daughter of the King of Samaria, built a replica of the Temple on Mt. Gerizim and instituted a rival worship system which caused a huge scandal. In her encounter with Jesus (John 4:4-42) the Samaritan “woman at the well” makes reference to this (vs. 19).
The region called Samaria was named after the capital city of the former Northern Kingdom and is located in what’s known today as the West Bank. Because their laws prohibit marrying outside their own, the Samaritan population has dwindled to a point where only about 700 exist today. They’re not Palestinians, but they’re not regarded as Jews either and keep pretty much to themselves. Some have equated the Jews’ treatment of Samaritans during the time of Jesus with the southern whites’ treatment of blacks in the 19th century in the US, so to have a Samaritan as the hero of this story must have gotten the attention of the Lord’s audience right away. By the way, the ruins of the Samaritan Temple were discovered about 10 years ago and are being excavated for public display.
The old Jericho Road was a steep narrow passage along one wall of a deep canyon. In the 17 miles from Jerusalem to Jericho, it dropped 3200 vertical feet through a rough wilderness area fraught with danger from attacks by wild animals in the best of times. In the Lord’s day there was also the threat of being attacked by robbers lurking in the rocks. The Temple renovation was nearly complete and many workers had been laid off. Having lost their source of income, some turned to stealing to provide for their families. The people were all too familiar with reports of violence there, and had nicknamed this road Adumim, the Pass of Blood. The area where the canyon opens up at the bottom, near Jericho, is traditionally known as the valley of the Shadow of Death, from Psalm 23.
And Now, Back To Our Story
You know how the story goes. A man traveling along the old Jericho Road is beset by robbers who strip him of his clothes, beat him and leave him half dead. First a priest and then a Levite pass by, but simply cross to the other side and ignore him. Then a Samaritan comes along. He comes to where the man is, binds up his wounds applying oil and wine, and places him upon his own donkey. He takes the man to a nearby inn and cares for him. The next day he pays the man’s present and future bill asking the innkeeper to look after him and promising to pay any balance due when he returns. The two silver coins he gave the innkeeper would have paid a man’s hotel bill for up to 2 months in those days.
So, understanding that there’s supposed to be a glimpse of Heaven here and that everyone in the parable is symbolic of someone else let’s look for the hidden meaning.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.”(Luke 10:30)
The man was an ordinary person who represents you and me on the road of life. Who it is that would attack us, strip us of our clothing and leave us for dead? We know that our spiritual covering is often referred to in terms of clothing. “All our righteous works are as filthy rags,” says Isaiah 64:6 whereas the Lord clothes us with “garments of salvation” and “robes of righteousness” (Isa. 61:10). So who would strip us of our covering of righteousness and leave us spiritually dead? Only Satan, the stealer of our soul.
A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:31-32)
The priest and the Levite represent organized religion that in and of itself is powerless to restore spiritual life and leaves us just as dead as when it found us. The Lord had Isaiah say, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” (Isaiah 29:13) Jesus didn’t come to start another religion. He came so that God could be reconciled to His creation, to restore peace between the two. But sadly, in some parts of the Church, the rules of men still carry more weight than the Word of God.
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. (Luke 10:33)
And that leaves the Good Samaritan. Though despised and rejected by His countrymen, He comes to where we are after we’ve been attacked and beaten by our enemy, stripped of all our righteousness and left hopelessly dead in our sins, beyond the ability of all our religious works to restore us to God’s favor.
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. (Luke 10:34)
He binds up our wounds (Isaiah 61:1), pours on oil and wine, and carries us to a place of spiritual comfort where He personally cares for us. Oil was used to aid in healing because of its soothing and relaxing properties. Applying it to the skin brings comfort. It represents the Holy Spirit, our Comforter.   Wine was an antiseptic, a cleansing agent. It symbolizes His blood, shed for the remission of sin. At the moment of salvation we receive the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance and are washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb.   He has taken up our infirmities and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4) and will bring us to a place of comfort.   In Matt. 11:28 He said, “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (Luke 10:35)
Before He left this earth He paid the debt of sin we owe to God (represented by the innkeeper), entrusting us to His care. Silver was the coin of redemption (Exod. 30:12-15) . Please notice that He also accepted responsibility for all of our future sins. We weren’t just redeemed up to the time we became believers, but for all of our lives. (Col. 2:13-14)
So the Good Samaritan could only be the Lord Jesus, our Savior and our Redeemer.
And what did the man do to deserve all of this? Nothing. He neither earned his rescue nor provided any contribution to his restoration.   It was a gift, a manifestation of the grace in the Good Samaritan’s heart.   And so it is with us. For when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory

Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory – By Mike Taylor –
Do you have joy in your life? Do you have a joy unspeakable and full of glory? I look around me and see church members who are depressed about the situation in our world here at home and abroad. We in the church are concerned about our country and the path our leaders have taken us, and know judgment could be just over the horizon. But I’m reminded of the good Boy Scouts and their motto, "Be prepared." Disaster, either natural or man-made, can occur at any moment. A good Boy Scout–or, more importantly, an awake Christian—prepares for the unexpected, the natural disaster, or yes, even a terrorist attack. But should we be anxious, looking over our shoulders for impending disaster and wringing our hands in worrisome fretting over the end of all things? Should we be obsessed with thoughts of the end of the world? I think not.
I have held onto the promises of Psalm 91 since I was a boy. Whenever danger has been about, I have always read and claimed the promises in this inspiring passage written by King David so long ago. And in this psalm asking the protection of Almighty God, there’s a catch, per se: The verse states that we have to stay right up close to God to be assured of His protection against the everyday challenges that come our way. We can’t try to serve our Lord haphazardly. If we are diligently serving Him and being ever watchful, then we’re promised we have nothing to fear. God is in charge and is watching over each person who is diligently trying to serve Him in faith and who is watching for the blessed hope–the soon return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I get excited about the signs of the times that are all around us. As one of the “children of the day” who is “not blinded by being in darkness,” I know that the Rapture could be close–even right at the door. So I fear not, and neither should you. We should be longing for the blessed promises that God made for His children.
I just love the words the Holy Spirit prompted the apostle Paul to record in the eighth chapter of his book to the Romans:
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God And if children, then heirs; and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:16-18).
Yes, we have aches, pains, financial problems and loved ones who die sooner than we expect. Sometimes, the cares of this life weigh us down. But we are given a glorious promise as we read on in this passage:
“For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:19-25).
Notice how Paul lays the foundation by turning our attention to our hope. He reminds us that God purposefully made life subject to futility. Futility is a frustrating quality that wears away at one’s confidence. It can produce a sense of hopelessness that leads to us to think that nothing will work out. Sometimes our pilgrimage seems so long and arduous that we take our eyes from our Savior. Hopelessness builds. However, Paul reminds us that God does everything in love and wisdom, and for our good. He uses the futility we perceive, and allows it to point us to Him as the source of our strength. This builds our faith in spite of our circumstances.
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:26).
We have been called. We have been chosen to be conformed to the image of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord, through the will of the Father. Again, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according His purpose.” Repeat that when troubles come your way and it will increase your faith.
Now let’s contemplate just for a moment the implication of a verse we quoted. “We are heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ” (verse 17). What a glorious promise!!! What He is and what is His will be ours as well. We will be like Him in Spirit and in relationships to family fortunes. Whatever belongs to the Son, we will be given a portion of that inheritance. That is mind-boggling! We will be kings and priests who will rule over portions of this universe and who will do whatever pleases the Father. We will have unlimited access to His throne room and audience with our Him and our Savior Jesus Christ. We will be in the same family, as adopted sons and daughters of the Ruler of the entire universe, We will live forever, even as they live. Now that should get anyone excited!
To end the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul gives us another promise that cannot be broken:
“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:30-39).
Nothing can come between us and our eternal home. Nothing in this life, and nothing in this mixed-up world that we see self destructing can take away that promise. All He asks for is our love, our unwavering faith in Him, our obedience, and our willingness to put Him first, ahead of everything else. He gave us a way….the only way.
Now turn to John 14:
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:1-6).
Even as we speak, Jesus, our Savior and soon-coming King, is preparing a place for us. Where? In His Father’s house. When? Right now. His Father’s house is somewhere out there in the place some call heaven. It’s where the Father and Son are right now. What will that mean, and how will it be accomplished? I have believed in the Rapture all my life and still do. The timing is what gets people all in an uproar. But from Scripture, we know that He is close, very close—even right at the door. When it comes right down to it, brethren, the timing doesn’t matter–even though I believe in a Pretrib Rapture. What matters is just that we get there. And how do we get there? Jesus gives the answer in John 6:28-29: “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”
We get there by believing in faith and following the commands of the one God sent to die for our sins.
1 Peter chapter 1 states:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.v6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 3-9).
That is our destiny; that is our goal. That is why we were born. That is why we struggle with daily living, and that is why, as Christians, we will win—to the glory of the Father.
In these times of uncertainty, we should be in glorious expectation, waiting for the blessed hope, that hope that is in Jesus Christ our Lord. We must be prepared, be good stewards of the talents He has given us, use His Word to reach others, and do the will of the Father by striving to become the image of His Son. We must put on the “whole armor of God,” as Ephesians 6:13-17 admonishes us to do:
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Do you know this Jesus? Are you expecting His soon return? Have you made that the most important part of your life? Have you asked Him to come into your heart and cleanse you from all unrighteousness? He said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6). Do you believe Him? Is the Holy Spirit calling you right now? Pray these simple words with heartfelt conviction” “Lord, I ask you to come into my heart. Cleanse me from my sins. I believe that you lived and died on a cruel cross for my sins. I believe you rose from the dead on the third day after you were buried, and that you live and sit now at the right hand of God the Father. Soon you will come back, and I want to go with you onto glory. In Jesus’ name, I confess my wish to be saved. Amen.”
May God bless you and keep you. Remember, Paul said in Philippians 4:13, “ I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.“ Let us go on with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

The surprising truth about happiness

The surprising truth about happiness – Greg Laurie – and
A common misperception about Christians is that our lives are basically boring. People associate Christianity with the things they no longer are supposed to do if they are true followers of Christ, yet they don’t understand what it is all about.
I have been on both sides of the fence. In the first 17 years of my life, I lived without God. I had pretty much sampled everything this world has to offer. I also watched the course my mother’s life took as she was married and divorced seven times and was an alcoholic. Even before someone told me about Jesus, I knew the answer was not in the things I had observed or participated in. I knew there had to be more, and it sent me on a search in life.
In all honesty, there are some things this world offers that can be fun for a while. They can be momentarily exciting. But you are going to pay. It is sort of like riding a roller coaster that has some of its tracks missing. It is a fun ride until you reach the place where the tracks stop and you have to pay the price.
In the same way, there is a certain element of fun and enjoyment we can have in this world. Even the Bible tells us there is pleasure in sin for a time (see Hebrews 11:25). But the Bible also warns that the wages of sin is death (see Romans 6:23). When it’s all said and done, the world can offer only cheap imitations of happiness.
Yet the Bible tells us the way to find genuine happiness: "Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands" (Psalm 112:1). Usually when you read the word "blessed" in the Bible, you can also translate it "happy." If you want to be quite literal in translating this verse, it would say, "Happy, happy is the man [or woman] who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands." I like that.
So, if you want not merely to live a happy life, but a "happy, happy" life, then live God’s way. Many view this as restrictive, while it is really quite the opposite. But know this – God’s commandments are not like the bars of a cage to keep you in; they are barriers of protection to keep evil out. God gives us parameters and guidelines and absolutes for our own good to keep us out of trouble. If you want to live a happy life, then live a holy life.
The Bible teaches that we should never seek happiness outright, but we should seek to be holy, and happiness will come as a byproduct. By the way, don’t let that word "holy" throw you. Maybe if I spelled it differently, it would make more sense: Live a holy – or a "wholly–committed" – life to Jesus Christ, and you will be happy as a result. That is not to say it is easy to be a follower of Jesus, because it isn’t. Nor is it to say that Christians do not experience difficulty, sickness and even tragedy, because we do. But this happiness that the Bible promises is more than the fleeting, watered-down version we find in our culture today.
The happiness the Bible promises is real, lasting and truly fulfilling.
More often than not, those people who always want to be happy, who are always living for the party, who are always living for the rush, are very unhappy people. There is the short-lived happiness of getting a new experience, of having a little fun. Then comes the realization that it isn’t what they have been looking for.
As philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, "The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness."
Happiness is found in living by the standards God has given. We have to get back to what God says. And more specifically, we have to get back to the Ten Commandments, because these are the absolutes to live by so we can know the difference between right and wrong and between good and evil.
At the end of the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote, "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV). Solomon himself had violated many of God’s commandments. He decided to go out and sample everything the world had to offer. Imagine if you had unlimited resources and could go out and buy anything you wanted. You could have the mansions, the jets, the yachts, the girls, the guys – whatever you wanted, you could have it.
That is what Solomon did. If anyone could ever say, "Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt," it was Solomon. But after all was said and done, he concluded, "Here is what I have learned after sampling everything this world has to offer: It is empty. Fear God and keep His commandments – that is what I have learned."
God has given us his commandments for our own good to show us how to live our lives. He did not give us his commandments to make us perfect. Rather, he gave them to us to show that we are not perfect. Nobody can keep God’s commandments in their own strength. You might describe them as a moral mirror.
When you look into a mirror, it reveals the truth. Sometimes it helps you to realize that you are not looking as good as you thought you were. It is a shocking discovery to find that the pasta you had for lunch is also on your face. You may feel like an idiot, but the mirror did you a favor by showing you a problem that needed to be dealt with. You removed the noodle from your chin, so the mirror helped you. But if you ignore the mirror, then you do so to your own embarrassment.
In the same way, the Ten Commandments are like a moral mirror. They are God’s standards. And when you look at these commandments, you realize that you aren’t as good as you thought you were. They say that you have sinned and have broken God’s commands.
Maybe you have tried to be a good person. Maybe you have gone to church and have tried to live by certain religious standards. You have tried to improve yourself, but it hasn’t worked. You find yourself still doing the same old things. But God loved you so much that he sent his son to die on the cross in your place. Jesus paid the price for all of the commandments that you have ever broken. Then he rose again from the dead. Now he wants to come and live inside you and give you the ability to live the way God wants you to live.
You can start over again with Christ. He will give you the strength to change and to be the person he has called you to be. And as a result, you will find happiness – genuine happiness – in the process.

Why the cross?

Why the cross? – Greg Laurie – and

I came across a list the other day of the worst inventions of all time. Among them were a detachable dog sack, which allows you to drive with your dog on the outside of your car, wigs for cats, an inflatable dart board, an anti-eating face mask, a battery-powered battery charger and an anti-prank fire alarm trap that handcuffs pranksters to the alarm they just pulled. (Of course, it is also a deterrent for anyone who may want to use it in the event of an actual fire.)
While all of these are great candidates for the worst idea of all time, there is one bad idea that rivals them all: It was when God himself was put on trial. Here was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world, God in human form – and men come up with the idea of putting him to death.
But humanity’s worst mistake was, at the same time, God’s master plan. The Bible says that "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him" (Isaiah 53:10 NIV). This means the crucifixion of Jesus was not a mistake. Nor was it an afterthought. It was part of God’s plan from the very beginning. Before there was a solar system, much less a planet called Earth or a garden called Eden or a couple known as Adam and Eve, a decision was made in the councils of eternity that God himself would come to Earth as a man and would go to a cross and die in the place of all sinners. Why? So that humanity could be put into contact with God.
Jesus came to Earth to purchase back what was lost in the Garden of Eden. He came to buy back the title deed to Earth. He came to die on a cross for our sins. The Bible says, "He suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (Hebrews 2:9 NIV). In his own words, he came to give his life as a ransom for many (see Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).
In other words, Jesus was born to die so that we might live. The purpose of the Incarnation was for our atonement. The birth of Jesus was for the death of Jesus. The wise men had it right when they brought him the insightful gift of myrrh, an ancient embalming element. The cross was Jesus’ goal and destination from the very beginning. He spoke of it often. He spoke of it in graphic detail. He warned his disciples it was coming, yet somehow they didn’t grasp the concept until it actually unfolded before their very eyes.
But Jesus knew exactly what was coming. As he prayed facedown in the Garden of Gethsemane, he knew that Judas Iscariot was on his way with the temple guard. He knew that he would appear before Annas, then Caiaphas, then Pilate, then Herod and then back to Pilate again. He knew they would punch him and rip his beard from his face. He knew they would take the cat-o’-nine-tails and tear his back open. He knew they would nail him to a cross. But worst of all, he knew he would have to bear the sin of the entire world. And that is why He prayed, "Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me" (Matthew 27:39 NIV).
The cup he spoke of was the cup of God’s wrath, the cup of God’s judgment that should have been poured out on us. Isaiah called it "the cup of His fury" (Isaiah 51:17 NKJV). Have you ever eaten something that was so disgusting it turned your stomach? Imagine looking into this cup and what it represented. Imagine contemplating the horrors of bearing all that sin.
When Jesus pierced the darkness with his cry from the cross, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" meaning, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" I believe that at that moment, he was bearing the sins of the world – past, present and future. He was dying as a substitute for others. The guilt of our sins was imputed to Him, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on our behalf. In some mysterious way that we can never fully comprehend, God was pouring out the full measure of his wrath against sin, and the recipient of that wrath was God’s own son.
God was punishing Jesus as though he had personally committed every wicked deed by every wicked sinner. And in so doing, he could forgive and treat those redeemed ones as if they had lived Christ’s perfect life of righteousness. This is called justification. It is not just merely the removal of sin; it is the imputing of the righteousness of Christ to those who put their faith in him. That is what happened when Jesus hung on the cross. And Scripture clearly teaches there was a moment when the sin of the world was placed on Jesus: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24 NIV).
We serve a God who knows what we are going through. John Stott said it well in his book, "The Cross of Christ": "Our God is a suffering God." In a prophetic description of what Jesus would experience on the cross, Isaiah wrote:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (53:3–4)
Jesus suffered because he loved and he loves. Therefore, we need to know that we are not alone in our suffering. Are you suffering today? Maybe you feel like you are the only person going through what you are going through. Jesus was called "a man of sorrows." No matter how great your difficulty or need, know that he understands.
Is your body wracked with pain? So was his. Have you ever been misunderstood, misjudged, or misrepresented? So was he. Have you ever had those who are nearest and dearest to you turn away? So has he.
If you are ever tempted to doubt God’s love, then take a long look at the cross, because there you see God’s love on display for you.

Upholding the Universe

Upholding the Universe – Ron Graham –
“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” Hebrews 1:3. The key word in this verse is “upholding”. The Greek word used here is “phero” and it means, in the context of the above verse, that Christ is the preserver of the universe. Webster’s online dictionary explains the meaning of preserve as, again in the above context, “to keep safe from injury, harm, or destruction”. Jesus is the One true God who is currently upholding (preserving us from destruction) His creation with the power of His word.
Secular scientists have their own explanations as to what holds everything together. An atom, for example, has a neutron that is surrounded by electrons, but what holds them in place? I’ve heard it stated by a popular Bible teacher that secular scientists call this attraction to the neutron “cosmic glue”, for lack of a better term. Certainly these secular scientists don’t attribute this “cosmic glue” to God in any way. But the Bible is clear; God upholds all things through the power of His word. He alone keeps everything we know and see, fixed in place, and performing unencumbered, “normal” if you will.
“You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, The heaven of heavens, with all their host, The earth and everything on it, The seas and all that is in them, And You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You.” Nehemiah 9:6. Over and over again we are told God preserves everything; there is nothing that He is not upholding. God controls, He preserves, He performs great and miraculous things, and when we see such greatness happen it is easy to believe that He is in control. God made all things and He will even allow evil, which is currently so prevalent in this world, so that He may ultimately establish His end. God will be glorified.
When times are just beginning to get hard and the trials heavy, we are more inclined to believe that God is in control. If times continue to be hard, then we begin to look for someone to blame for all the misery, and many times that blame gets placed squarely back on God’s shoulders. Rather than blaming God when trials and tribulations happen, we need to believe even more that God is still in control, that He is upholding all things and will continue to do so until He’s ready to let loose. It’s not blame that He seeks in response to all the grace and love He showers down upon us. No, it’s our acknowledgement that we are completely under His upholding and reliant upon Him that He wants.
America is certainly sitting on the precipice of God’s judgment. No one knows just what that judgment will entail or how God will bring it about. Personally, and this is just my opinion, it appears to me that God has already set in motion this nation’s judgment. Hard times are here. The economy is in the tank. Not only in America are we going through a recession, but look around the world. Is there even one nation that isn’t suffering right now?
As Christians, knowing that God’s judgment is coming or that it is upon us, we must never stop glorifying God. Through all the trials, tribulations, and groaning we encounter, God remains upholding all things. Paul tells us, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” Romans 8:22. There should be nothing that surprises us about our current situation. Bible prophecy is clear and unfolding and becoming more and more obvious. Something very different and exciting is going on. There is a feeling of urgency in the air. The end times are here and God’s will is being accomplished.
America is the purveyor of much evil in this world. We the people of the U.S. might well receive the brunt of God’s judgment. There are still plenty of terrorists that hate us and they would love for America to let down her defenses so they can gain a foothold here. Personally, I believe that all they need to do is sit back and watch the U.S. implode from within. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart,” Malachi 2:2.
God will even curse our blessings, now that’s scary. Why? Because every day we live and every breath we take is a blessing. Blessings are so plentiful that to think of them being cursed conjures up a multitude of frightening scenarios. Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people,” Proverbs 14:34
This country is on its way to total destruction. Is it any wonder Bible scholars can’t find America in Bible prophecy? We’re not there because we’ve become of little or no significance. Right before our very eyes our government leaders are leading this nation into economic ruin. It reminds me of the dumb happy frog being slowly boiled alive and he doesn’t even realize it. Only in our case we know it, we see it, and we feel it, and we have every chance to jump out of the pan, but will we? The frog was boiled because he wouldn’t move. He got complacent. Very soon now the Church will be raptured but those who remain in this country will be like the captain of a ship that is sinking, they’ll go down with it.
Remember how the Bible explains the cleansing of Sodom and Gomorrah? Interestingly, many people miss the fact that God’s judgment fell not only on Sodom and Gomorrah but also on the surrounding cities of the plains. “And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath:” Deuteronomy 29:23. Could this be a picture type as we gaze out upon the entire world?
“Even as Sodom and Gomorrah , and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,” Jude 1:7. America needs to take a closer look at God’s judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah. Is it possible that God might judge America in similar fashion? America is guilty of the exact same things as Sodom and Gomorrah, and when it comes to our current world situation aren’t we simply looking at Sodom and Gomorrah in a broader scope? “… both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” 2 Peter 3:10. Could the signs be clearer, speaking of the calamities we see approaching?
God still holds us in His mighty hand, but how much longer before He loosens His grip enough to bring in the total destruction recorded in the Bible? Speaking about my little part of the world (America), God’s grip is waning, that’s for sure. Americans have become quite smug in their outlook on the future. I see this country in the worst economic crises in my lifetime (and that’s 57 years) and yet there is very little mention of the fact that we have blown it in God’s eyes and things are beginning to fall apart. I know there are many who don’t give glory to God for all we have, but at some point in a person’s life you’d think there would be some thought of why we have enjoyed the fruits of this land for a season and why they are now being systematically stripped away. This includes our God given rights that are now for all intents and purposes being subjugated. 
Sadly, in this country and around the globe the eyes of most of its citizens have been closed and their hearts are cold and hard. “There is no God” is the battle cry throughout the world. They would have us believe we evolved from pond scum and we’re held together by cosmic glue. At some point in the not too distant future they who have no use for God and proclaim that cry will realize they are absolutely correct as they languish in Hell for an eternity, because God will comply with their wishes and abandon them and they will remember forever their final cry, “There is no God!”
It’s not too late. There is still time although precious little. Jesus is still in control and upholding all things by the power of His word. If you’re reading this commentary and you’re not born again then there is a reason you’re reading it. The Holy Spirit is convicting you and pleading with you to repent of your sins and place Jesus at the forefront of your life. If you’re ready to commit yourself into Jesus’ hands then just repeat this simple prayer,
“Lord Jesus, I believe you died for me and were buried and rose again on the third day all according to the scriptures. I believe you took my sins past, present and future and nailed them to that cross. I’m sorry for my sins Lord Jesus and I ask you now to come into my life and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Amen!” If you really believe what you just prayed you’re now a born again believer, and you are in Christ, praise God.
Lastly my dear brethren, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10. 
God bless you all,
Ron Graham
All scripture use is from the KJV of the Bible

When God’s will includes ‘shipwrecks’

When God’s will includes ‘shipwrecks’ – Greg Laurie – and
I have never been literally shipwrecked, but I have been through some pretty rough seas.
I’ve had my share of hardships in life. More than many? Perhaps. But not as many as some. I remember thinking not that long ago that maybe the days of big shipwrecks in my life were over. Oh, I know there will always be some difficulties, challenges and trials in the Christian life. But maybe I’d found myself hoping that I might somehow escape any big traumatic events through my remaining years. You know … relative smooth sailing the rest of the way to heaven. But of course, that was not to be with the unexpected death of our oldest son, Christopher, this past July.
The book of Acts records the dramatic details of the apostle Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27. But apparently, that wasn’t his first experience "on the rocks." In his letter to the Christians in Corinth, he relates: "Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea" (2 Corinthians 11:25, NLT).
Travel by sea in those days was primitive and harsh. You took your life into your own hands when you boarded one of these first-century sailing vessels. And Paul tells us, "Trust me. I’ve been through it. I know more than I ever wanted to know about shipwrecks."
Maybe some of the modern conveniences of the 21st century have made traveling a little more safe and convenient (unless your jet ditches in the Hudson River), but in some way shape or form, every one of us will face shipwrecks. That’s the reality of life on this planet: You’re either coming out of a storm or about to go into one. Yes, of course there will be those wonderful stretches of smooth sailing, when the skies are blue and the sun is shining. In God’s grace and kindness, you’re going to have some beautiful moments in your life in between the storms. Not all the winds that blow in life are necessarily devastating.
In one instance of the ship’s log in the book of Acts, the text says, "The south wind blew softly." Thank God for those moments, when the breezes are gentle and the sun is warm on your shoulders. But we all know – or ought to know – that there will be storms just over the horizon. Jesus Himself said so. He said, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33, NIV).
Sometimes people think that when they’re in the will of God, they’ll always have smooth sailing and calm seas. That certainly wasn’t true for the apostle Paul! In the course of his ministry, he seemed to face every kind of adversity imaginable. He had so many enemies jealous of his success that they would actually follow him around and seek to undermine him, hoping to destroy him. He experienced beating after savage beating at the hands of his many adversaries, and spent years of his life in harsh confinement. And on top of it all, he had a personal physical disability that the Lord had declined to heal.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, "We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going" (TLB).
A lot of preachers love to focus on that "prosperity" topic. And sometimes I think they have hijacked a legitimate biblical term. After all, God wants His sons and daughters to prosper. He wants you to experience prosperity. But what does that really mean? That you’ll never get sick? That you’ll never have problems? That you’ll never run out of money?
No, that’s not what the Bible means by "prosperity."
Five years before making his journey to Rome, Paul wrote the believers there and said in Romans 1:10, "Making requests, I am asking you to pray, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come to you." In other words, "Hey, would you guys pray for me? I’m coming your way. And pray that the Lord gives me a prosperous journey by the will of God."
Did God answer his prayer? Yes.
He did make it to Rome, and had an amazing ministry there of preaching, teaching, discipleship and writing. He just hadn’t understood that getting to Rome would mean false accusations, arrest, incarceration and chains. He couldn’t have foreseen that it would involve hurricane-force winds at sea, shipwreck on an island and the bite of a poisonous viper on the way.
The reality is you can live a prosperous life in the will of God and still face fierce personal conflict and adversity. Paul went through shipwreck on his way to Rome, but he had a prosperous journey by the will of God because of what it ultimately accomplished. So that’s a different definition of prosperity than we might normally think of.
Facing storms and shipwrecks in our lives really isn’t a matter of "if"; it is a matter of "when." So it’s time for us to get our sea legs under us. Rather than trying to avoid the storms of life, we need to learn how to get through them – how to survive them and how to learn the lessons that we can only learn in such times and such places.
It has been said, "You can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails." I can’t control all the elements of my world. In fact, I can’t control very many of them at all. I can’t control my environment. I can’t control the circumstances that come my way. I can’t keep people from opposing me or undermining me or seeking to harm me. But I can control my reaction to them. I can adjust my sails. And adapt.
When hardship hits you can get mad and bitter at God, or you can completely surrender and say, "Lord, I’m going to trust You no matter what."
It is our choice what we do with our sails when storms come our way.

Reaction of the Disciples to the Transfiguration

Reaction of the Disciples to the Transfiguration – by Dr. Thomas O. Figart – 
Matthew 17:6-8
17:6-8 “And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were very much afraid, And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, except Jesus only.”
Fear resulted primarily as a result of the manifestation of the glory of the Lord in the cloud, and secondarily, in the response of God to Peter’s suggestion. The glory of God in itself is awesome enough, as Isaiah found it to be in Isaiah 6:3-5, or Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:28. But the disciples also reacted to the rebuke by God that this One, His beloved Son is preeminent! Moses had glory, but Christ is worthy of greater glory; Moses was faithful as a servant in his house, but Christ as Son over His house (cf. Hebrews 3:1-6). As for Elijah, Hebrews 1:1-2 reminds us that God spoke in time past in the sphere of the prophets, a servant-revelation, but He has spoken in these last days in a Son-revelation! It is no wonder then, that God wanted Christ to be preeminent in the Translation.
Our Lord graciously calmed their fears with His touch and His gentle words. Yet, even as they lifted up their eyes, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw Jesus only!
Exhortation to tell no man. Matthew 17:9
17:9 “And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be raised again from the dead.”
Five times in Matthew Jesus prohibited the telling of His experiences or exploits, each with a distinct emphasis. In 8:4 the cleansed leper was told to tell no man, but to go directly to the priests and offer the prescribed gift, so the priests would know that the man was actually healed of leprosy, and thus that Jesus Who healed him was God! Then the man was apparently free to tell everyone. In 9:30 it had to do with the healing of two blind men. There, His reluctance at making their healing known had to do with the possibility that the crowd would take Him by force and make Him king, similarly to John 6:15. In Matthew 12:16 after the healing of the multitudes, Jesus withdrew Himself and charged them that they should not make Him known. In this case it was because the Jews wanted to destroy Him, as 12:14 indicates. The fourth occasion is in 16:20, and by this time the longsuffering of Jesus had come to and end with official Israel and He had already rejected them (cf. 11:20-24), refusing to give any further signs than that of the prophet Jonah (12:38-45; 16 ;1-5). Thus, in 16:20 Jesus was about to give the prophecy of His own future suffering as the Savior, not as the ruling Sovereign. The account in Luke 9:21-22 makes this connection clear as the reason for the command to tell no one.
It is not strange, therefore, that at His Transfiguration He commanded them for the last time to tell no man until after His resurrection. Who among His disciples would believe such a vision after His prediction of His death in 16:21-23? Even if they did, any hope of His becoming a glorified Messiah would be dashed to pieces by His death. But after the resurrection the hope of His glorious return would elate and encourage all who knew of the Old Testament promises of His coming back to earth to establish His Kingdom of glory!
The Explanation Concerning Elijah. Matthew 17:10-13
17:10-13 “And his disciples asked him saying, Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elijah truly shall first come and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elijah is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they desired. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spoke unto them of John the Baptist.”
Having noted all these things, it does at first seem strange that Jesus should affirm in no uncertain terms the future fulfillment of Malachi 4:5-6 by the historical Elijah who will return before the Messiah and “restore all things.” The answer lies in the previous statements of Christ. The “if” clause in 11:14 is a first class conditional clause denoting assumed reality. If they had willed to receive John as Elijah, he would have been, and presumably they would also have received Christ as their Messiah/King. But in that same paragraph (11:15-19) the truth was that the Jews rejected the forerunner of the Messiah. So then, here in Matthew 17:10-13 Jesus gives the result; the Jews did to John whatever they wanted (which was to behead John) and the Son of man will likewise suffer of the Jews (by crucifixion). Having rejected the Person of the King, they automatically refused His rulership over them.
Some commentators question how much John the Baptist knew, since he denied that he was Elijah in John 1:21, yet he affirmed that he was fulfilling Isaiah 40:3 as the forerunner of Christ. It is sufficient to say that there were some things John the Baptist did not comprehend. The beginning verses of Matthew 11 state directly that John was unsure of Christ’s messiahship, since hem the forerunner of Messiah was in prison. He even went so far as to ask: “Do we look for another?” Just how much his messengers were able to comfort him is unknown. Nevertheless, all the statements about John the Baptist actually being Elijah were hypothetical, being contingent upon the nation of Israel’s reception of Jesus as their Messiah.
This takes us back to the old question: “Could Christ give a legitimate offer of the Kingdom, knowing that the Jews would reject it?” The answer is yes, just as Jehovah made a genuine offer to Adam and Eve of eternal bliss in Eden, contingent on their obedience. Did God know they would sin? Of Course God knew, but this did not make the offer insincere, nor did it mean that God’s “Plan A” failed and that He had to go with “Plan B.” The rejection of the Kingdom was simply the means for carrying out the original plan of redemption through the crucifixion of the Lamb of God, just as really as the allowing of the sin of Adam and Eve was part of that plan. We must realize that, “In the fulness of time,” when we get to heaven, all the unknown details of God’s eternal purpose will be made known to us!

Our Earthen Vessel & God’s Holy Spirit

Our Earthen Vessel & God’s Holy Spirit – Joseph Chambers –
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (II Corinthians 4:7). We are just an old clay pot and; yet, we are daily involved with eternal truths and divine matters. It hardly seems fair for such lowliness to be so responsible for such blessedness. The Adam man is born in sin and shaped by darkness; yet, the call of God never leaves him alone. A person in their sins cannot find rest because of that something inside that bids their attention. A spark of God’s breath inside the human spirit is searching for its divine maker.
It does not matter how many years a person has served the Lord. They must never forget the truth of our “earthen vessel.” Apostle Paul – years into his ministry – reminds the Corinthians, “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (I Corinthians 4:7). All we shall ever know or possess this side of the Resurrection must be viewed as the works of grace and held in humble submission. Haughtiness or self-importance will land you on the heap of destruction. You are a vessel in which He seeks to reveal Himself.
It’s amazing how much our eternal God cares about this old pot of clay. It was His creation and it was perfect in the day of its beginning. A devious design by an enemy of God was able to deceive this matchless creation. The result was a cowardly couple hiding in the undergrowth. Four thousand years and many pains later, a Son was born to reclaim the earthen vessel where so much damage had been experienced. Jesus did not come just to redeem the soul; He also came to redeem the body. To the church in the Book of Romans, the Spirit said, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11).
Again, we read, “Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body” (I Corinthians 6:13b). Notice that the Spirit declared these matchless words, “The Lord for the body.” In this same great chapter the Spirit continues to speak, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:19). Such truth is overwhelming to my heart. Our “earthen vessel” is the dwelling place of the very Spirit of Christ and His Father. We are the Temple of God.
 Great sermons and great Bible lessons have very little power until the mouth-piece is touched by this Spirit. Our Lord and Savior Himself declare the helplessness of flesh. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). The Son of God emphatically told the early church to wait for this anointing that would give power to their message. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
This is the great challenge to our present church world. We are the “Temple of The Holy Ghost” and our God is desirous of revealing Himself in us. We can actually live with a conscious presence of the Holy Spirit revealing Christ to ourselves and others. The very word “Temple” in the Scripture means “a place of God’s revelation.” The Tabernacle in the wilderness and the Temple in Jerusalem were glorious places of God’s presence. The New Testament covenant exceeds that glory as the literal exceeds the shadow. “But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of rig hteousness exceed in glory” (II Corinthians 3:7-9).
Humanistic self-esteem has robbed our generation of the great consecration of our helpless flesh to the mighty Christ. The flesh — when Biblically understood — is far superior to flesh that is controlled by the Adam nature. Jesus Christ came to liberate the unconverted and lift them into the family of the redeemed. We are a temple created for God even when sin is still our master. That is the cause of great stress that floods the unredeemed world. “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20).
Only in my old age, have I come to know the exceeding joy of abiding in Christ day and night. My body is not mine to possess in the pleasures’ of this flesh life. Sure, there are wonderful joys of family, great meals together with friends, and the pleasure of a good book. All of this is multiplied when Jesus Christ rules our life in absolute peace and the joy of the Holy Ghost. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).
A Spirit-filled temple is a joy in the church, in the home, and everywhere that temple ventures in their daily duties. Love lives on such a face, the hands are ready servants to all, the lips carry words that encourage and give hope to listeners. The community, where this temple is active, takes note of such beautiful activities and expressions. Soon, this man or woman is known as a prayer warrior that gets results. When this saint transfers to the eternal abode, they are remembered as a light that shone in the night.

Get Out of the Boat

Get Out of the Boat – By Ron Graham –
“And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31.
Peter has been criticized through the years because he at times showed a lack of faith. The above passage from Matthew’s Gospel is one example. Peter asked if he could join Jesus out on the Sea of Galilee . That took faith. Jesus permitted Peter to come to Him. Peter “got out of the boat” and started to walk to Jesus on the water, but then Peter took his eyes off the Lord. The scripture verse actually says “he was afraid” then he immediately began to sink. The Lord reached out and saved Peter. Then Jesus asked “why did you doubt”? The faith Peter did have was enough to at the least get him out of the boat. I wonder how many Christians today ever truly “get out of the boat”.
Faith is something all Christians claim to have, and rightly so. Peter had faith, but as Jesus said “Oh thou of little faith”. Do we have the same amount of faith Peter demonstrated when he exited that boat to stroll with Jesus on the sea? Can we honestly say yes we have faith enough to move mountains? Faith as big as a mustard seed is all we need, according to Jesus, to move mountains. It’s not how much faith we have but where that faith is placed and in whom. That’s the key. Is our faith in Jesus, God Almighty, or is it in a nonexistent god.
Many times we try to achieve the goals of this life by placing our faith in ourselves instead of allowing Jesus to see us through the inevitability of trials. Peter wasn’t the only disciple who had a failure when it comes to faith. The disciples came to Jesus after their failure to cast out a demon from a child and asked why they were not successful? “So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20. Telling the disciples they were in unbelief was a major rebuke. Placing our faith in anything but the Son of God is not faith at all, it’s heresy. 
 “The eye cannot see itself. Did you ever see your own eye? In a mirror you may have done so, but that was only a reflection of it. And you may, in like manner, see the evidence of your faith, but you cannot look at the faith itself. Faith looks away to itself to the object of faith, even to Christ.”
Charles Spurgeon
“…and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit,” 1 Corinthians 12:3b. The Holy Spirit empowers people to proclaim Jesus is the Christ, that He is God our Messiah. The word used in the verse above for Lord in the original Greek is “kyrios” and in Vines Expository Dictionary of the New Testament we’re told that it is representative of the Hebrew word for Jehovah, Adonay, and Elohiym–God. There was no doubt in Paul’s mind, as he wrote to the Corinthians, of who he believed Jesus to be. There should be that same steadfast assurance in all believers’ minds of exactly who Jesus is; sadly that is not the case. Peter, as well as the other disciples, watched Jesus approach their boat as He walked across the Sea of Galilee on the water. They all thought they were looking at a ghost. But Jesus wasn’t a ghost and is not a ghost, He’s God and He is Almighty, and He’s alive and dwelling with every believer on earth.
 When Jesus speaks to us from the pages of our Bibles it is God Almighty who is speaking, and that’s a fact. It all boils down to faith. Do we place our faith in a lesser Jesus than whom He said He is? Do we have faith in God’s word believing He’s being completely truthful with us? Without complete faith and trust in God’s word we will most assuredly come to erroneous interpretations. When that happens, we think we have correct discernment, and then we use other scripture verses to enhance our erroneous beliefs, that my friends will begin to take us down a very slippery slope where we begin to question God’s word. Our faith is lacking when we don’t believe God, and in essence we’re calling God a liar.
Peter demonstrated extraordinary faith stepping out of that boat. We’re told Peter actually walked on water, surely a very short walk. Have you ever tried to walk on water? I have, can you guess what happened? Yes, I got wet. Peter believed in Jesus at that very moment that he walked on water. Ultimately though, Peter had a moment of doubt, and a lack of sufficient faith, and probably he got a little wet before Jesus reached out and grabbed him. There were other times that Peter experienced doubts as he walked with Jesus but eventually he overcame those doubts to the point that he died for Christ. Dying for Jesus Christ would certainly take extraordinary faith.
We’ve all heard, I’m sure, about the young high school girl at Columbine High School who while looking down the barrel of a gun was asked if she was a Christian. When she responded with an affirmative answer those satanic cowards pulled the trigger, killing her, then they laughed about their deed. By faith, we know she’ll spend eternity with Jesus who she stood up for and we know where those murderers are spending their eternity, but the question is, would our faith hold up while facing such a horrible situation? Presumably all she needed was to say no to their question about being a Christian and they would have left her standing there.
 Each day there’s many believers in every part of the world who are experiencing trials and tribulations. Jesus tells us that we will be persecuted for His name sake. Our faith must see us through each trial, by trusting in Jesus’ strength not our own. Just knowing that Jesus is going through each and every trial with us is our comfort.
 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:1. Faith must be understood spiritually, there’s nothing blind about our faith in Jesus Christ. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear, it points to who Jesus was and is, and where He is and even that He’ll return one day very soon.
 We don’t need to be ashamed of our faith in Christ because He is risen and alive and we know that fact to be true. Faith allows the born again believer to see things spiritually, and yet, unbelievers have been rendered spiritually blind simply through their unbelief. Our faith comes to us by hearing, reading, and studying God’s perfect word.
 By faith we look at the glory of God, which is all around us, and we marvel at His handiwork. Faith is our tool for reasoning out what God has for us to learn. For example, when we look to the night’s sky and soak in His majesty, those innumerable stars, and the impossibility of all we observe happening by some chance explosion is evident. God gave man the intelligence to learn but faith allows us to see.
“Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith,” Habakkuk 2:4. Are you too proud to live upright and justly incorporating faith into your everyday life? Adhering to the false premise of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps is a very proud and blasphemes attitude. Nothing is possible without God. By faith in Jesus Christ we shall see Heaven someday. By contrast, unbelief will only produce an eternity of fire and brimstone.
All we need to do is to climb out of the boat once in a while, and as we’ve learned through Peter’s doubt, it only takes faith.
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