Forever Thankful

Good evening everyone. I hope each one of you enjoyed the Thanksgiving Holidays and were able to share them with the people you love. But I would also like to remind all of us that there are many folks that faced the holiday without someone they love and there are many reasons why that was. For some, there has been a recent passing of a loved one. Some are faced with theirs serving on foreign or even domestic soil protecting the freedom for us to celebrate. Some are alone because there has been an argument or a loss of trust that separates them from their loved ones. Some are in hospitals or nursing homes and have no loved ones left to enjoy the holidays with. And I’m sure there are many other reasons that i have not thought of or failed to mention. But the point is this. If we are fortunate enough to not be in any of the above situations we should be full of thanks and holding our loved ones close to our hearts.

There are so many things that we should be thankful for that it is impossible to recall all of them. However, we know that many of them are centered around our relationships with our families and even our friends. And we when stop and think about those we love we should be thankful that God has placed them in our lives.  It would be such a lonely world if we weren’t surrounded by other people. I believe God knew exactly what He was doing when He designed us to experience the feelings of what we know as love and acceptance. And we will talk some more about that later in the post.

We certainly should be thankful for the freedoms we are favored with in this country in which we live. In spite of the problems we have and the seemingly increasing presence of evil, there is no other country in the world that can be compared to the United States of America. So we should be very thankful. We also should be thankful for all the blessings we have even though we may not recognize them as that all of the time. God has provided us with jobs that allow us to provide for the needs and yes, many times the wants, that we have. He has provided many of us with good health and when we are not up to snuff, the doctors and medications that most of the time brings back up to par. And let’s not forget that He has provided us with special gifts and talents to use to be a blessing to others. That is another way He blesses us. And I could go on and on. We are so blessed!

With everything I’ve said so far I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the main thing we should be thankful for. Actually it was where I was headed the whole time and thus the title of the post. God in His infinite wisdom, His endless mercy, His matchless grace and His boundless love has blessed us with the greatest blessing of all. Even though we have inherited the sin nature that Adam brought on all mankind when he disobeyed God, God  provided the means by which we could be reconciled to Him and could again be called His child. By giving of His only begotten Son through His death on that cruel cross, our sin debt was paid and God sees us as if we never sinned. And all because we are covered by the blood of Jesus and His righteousness. Can you think of anything that we should be more thankful for than that? I certainly can’t. As a matter of fact, I am forever thankful.  How about you?

Proper Priorities

I don’t know about you but I am so glad that the mid-term elections have finally come and gone. Or almost. At the time of this writing there is still no final vote count for the senate race in Florida and it’s like deja vu. We could spend the next two or three hours talking about the whys but they really don’t matter at this point. And, in fact, it’s really not as important as many of us think it is. Many of us have let the ugly politics of today become a leading factor in determining our overall attitude and what a number it is doing on our joy and peace of mind.  And what a shame that is! We get so caught up in things that really don’t have an eternal impact on anything or anyone that we lose sight of the most important things. And that is the issue I want us to consider tonight. The issue of proper priorities.

We have previously considered major issues that we are faced with today and have come to the conclusion they are just battles being fought in the bigger war between good and evil. And of course I am referring to those things that God considers good and, on the other side, those things He makes it very clear that are evil. It is very easy for most of us to take a strong position against such things as abortion and homosexuality but it is much more difficult to really consider that we place too much emphasis on some things that really don’t matter in the long run. And I’ll be the first to admit that I am just as guilty as anyone else and sometimes I get my priorities out of whack. So I’ll use myself as an example of what I am talking about.

During the past couple of months with all the campaigning going on and especially the endless barrage of notes on the front door, flyers in the mailbox, radio and television commercials, and candidates surrounding the entrances to the high school football stadiums, I have found my attitude bottoming out to the lowest level it has been in a long time. I found myself getting angry every time I heard the words progressive, socialism, racism, and so many other terms that don’t fit my idea of what is right and acceptable. And I had convinced myself it was righteous anger so it was justifiable. I was becoming more and more bitter with those who would dare stand for those kind of ideas and was ready to unload on them if the opportunity presented itself. All of this was coming to an ugly end with some unintended results. My prayer life began to suffer, my bible study time began to decrease, my relationship with those I love began to wane, and my joy was certainly fast disappearing. And all of this just because my priorities were out-of-order.

So, what happened? Well I guess you could say, like the prodigal son, I came to my senses. Not in some incredible event but in a still, quiet moment as I was reading God’s Word and trying my best to stay focused on what I was reading. It suddenly dawned on me that my priority had become me and not Him. And not my family. And not my friends. And not my church. But me. I felt so dirty and ashamed but realized that it was the Holy Spirit doing what He does best. Convicting, convincing, and correcting. He reminded me of those very powerful words John penned in his first letter, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”, 1st John 1:9. And that is exactly what I did. I’m clean again and I’m putting the right order back to the priorities in my life. There is an old saying that “confession is good for the soul” and I can tell you first hand there is really something to that.

It so happened in my case that my obsession with the battles in the political arena were what took me down the wrong road but there are many other things in life that can do that to someone. As a matter of fact it can be anything that causes us to lose our sense of proper priorities and the results can be very much like the same as mine. It seems many times that it is very small things. But we have a way of making them much bigger than they are but the problem is still the same. The priority becomes ourselves and God, our family, our friends, our church must take a back seat to our desires. It is one of Satan’s best tricks and he knows how and when to use it. So what is yours? What do you put before Him? If we are not as close to the Lord today as we were yesterday we are heading in the wrong direction and where we end up won’t be good. As for me, I am so thankful that He is always near and ready to forgive just like we would forgive one of our own children. That’s why we call Him our Father.

 

New Issues to Consider

Last week we finished the series I had titled The Old Testament Jesus and over a four-week period we covered quite a few Old Testament accounts of HIs appearance. We saw that he appeared as the Angel of the Lord, as a man, as an angel and as the king of peace and a priest of the Most High God in the person of Melchizedek. We looked at numerous scriptures that provided some details of these appearances and I might add that many of these accounts are described by more than one writer. In other words, the proof is in God’s Word.

At this point I would like say that I have presented these accounts from a layman’s perspective and may have embellished some of the appearances as being Jesus when it is possible that it may not have been. However, nothing was presented as an attempt or with any intention of misrepresentation but to clearly show that Jesus has always been active in the lives of men long before His physical birth, His physical death, and His bodily resurrection as we find accounted for in the New Testament scriptures.

The opening words of John’s gospel tells us all we need to know about His existence. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  John 1:1-2  and then And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. So, even before the foundations of the world, Jesus was. And now He is seated at the right hand of the Father. And He will one day return for His own to reign with Him forever more.

With all that said let’s move on to this evening’s post and a new topic. In light of this week’s events I would like to come back to the reality that this world is in a mess and it is obvious that Satan is hard at work. Several months back we did a series centered around the most prominent issues of today’s times and we took a close look at what God’s Word says about them. We considered abortion, homosexuality, and disobedience to civil and government authority and then talked about how we as Christians should react to each one of them. But as we have seen recently, there are other issues that are not necessarily new but are just now beginning to surface on a regular basis. And again, they are most assuredly evidence of the evil that is all around us.

Over the next few weeks we are going to look more closely at some issues that have begun to rapidly divide our nation and even in some cases our families. Some are obvious but some are very subtle in nature and hardly seem worth considering. However, we all know that the sins that seem so small have a way of growing into something large and unmanageable. The magnitude and the pace of change that has very negative consequences is further proof of our evil environment and a foresight of where we are headed. But God is not caught off guard and He has been warning us that these times were coming.

I appreciate each of you that faithfully reads the post each week and I certainly cherish any comments that you make. Again, most of the time I am just putting in writing what is on my mind and trying to apply what God’s Word has to say about each situation. I have enjoyed what research I’ve done and I have learned so much as I have done so. I have also been reminded over and over that God’s Word is complete, infallible, inerrant and consistent in all ways at all times for all time.

Until next week, may God richly bless each of you and your families.  

The Old Testament Jesus

I think we can all agree that we have seen proof positive where Jesus made numerous appearances on earth long before He came to earth as God’s ultimate sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. The past few weeks we have seen how the Old Testament writers recorded His appearances as the king of peace, as a priest of God Most High, as the angel of the Lord, and yes, even appearances in the likeness of a man. Each time was for a specific purpose and the appearances were numerous. It has become obvious that He chose whatever form He felt necessary to complete that purpose on each occasion. This evening we will close the series with a few more examples of His visits but where He was referred to as an angel. At this point however, I think it would behoove us to remember  that no matter what form of appearance He took, He was still God. He was. He Is. And He is to come.

One appearance of Jesus has already been presented and that is when Jacob wrestled with Him. In Genesis 32 we saw that Jacob wrestled with someone who was in the likeness of a man but Hosea records in chapter 12 of his writings that he wrestled with an angel and prevailed.  However in both recordings of the event it is revealed that it was actually the Lord himself.

The book of 2nd Samuel and the book of 1st Chronicles records the event where the Lord chastened David and the people of Israel because of disobedience. David was given three options for the punishment and he left it in the Lord’s hand. God brought a pestilence to the land that resulted in the death of 70,00 men and planned to destroy the city of Jerusalem. However, God then relented and did not destroy the city. Here Jesus was the One to carry out the destruction of the city and He is referred to as the Lord, the angel of the Lord, and as an angel.

In the book of 1st Kings, chapter 19, we find where an angel (Jesus) strengthened Elijah after he fled from Jezebel and was resting under the juniper tree. In Daniel chapter 3 we see one of the best known events of the appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament. The angel (Jesus) protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego after Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the fiery furnace. In this event He is also referred to as Son of God. And of course we find in Daniel 6 where the angel (Jesus) protected Daniel when he was thrown into the lion’s den. In verse 22 the Bible says that God sent His angel and that He shut the lions mouths.

There are many other recorded events in the Old Testament where God, in the person of Jesus, appears on earth and intervenes in the lives of men. As we mentioned earlier, every time He did it was for a specific purpose, at a specific time, involving specific people, and had a specific conclusion to the matter. However, we need to realize that every one of these instances were just one more event in God’s plan to ultimately reconcile man to Himself. Just another step towards the most significant event to ever occur in the history of this world that involved another appearance of Jesus.

The last time Jesus set foot on this earth was different from all of those recorded in the Old Testament. When He came, Jesus did not just appear in the likeness of a man. He was born as any other human although conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit. He was born of a virgin woman and was a real human being. He was God Incarnate! He was all God and at the same time all man. He was a man, He was tempted in all ways as a man, He lived a sinless life as a man, He physically died, and He was buried like any other man. But there is a whole lot more to the story!

Because He lived that sinless life, He was the only One that could be the ultimate sacrifice for sin. While He was on the cross God laid all of mankind’s sin on Him. Not for one, not for some, not for many, but for all men. I’m talking every sin ever committed by every man, woman, boy, or girl who has ever been born since the creation and fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, up to this very moment in time and from this point until the end of time as man knows it. In other words, He became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God. And when He arose on the third day He became the first of many that will be raised from death unto life both physically and spiritually speaking. Sin and death had been conquered! Because of God’s love for us, He shed His grace abroad in our hearts so that we could become His child! What a mighty God we serve!

I’m reminded of a short chorus we used to sing but don’t hear very often now. It went like this: “Thank you Lord for saving my soul. Thank you Lord for making me whole. Thank you Lord for giving to me Thy great salvation so rich and free.” Thank you Lord for reminding me once more of what you did for me!