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Today’s Sermon

Today the pastor was a gust speaker, who worked as representative of Shepherd’s College. As a result of his job, his sermon did seem to be a bit of a advertisement for Shepherd’s College (a college helping those with intellectual disabilities). That aside however, the actual passage he chose to preach on was 2nd Samuel 9:1-8.

Given that we had communion on this particular Sunday, and that they were trying to fit in a promotional video for Shepherd’s College (as well as a few stories about the people who had been changed by it), the sermon only had one point: We should love others, regardless of any disabilities they may have, just like David cared for Mephibosheth in spite of the fact that he was crippled.– To phrase it differently: In the same way that God showed His love for human kind by giving His son for us, in spite of our sinful nature (which must have looked to God much the way that a mental or physical disability in a fellow human looks to us), we should show love to others regardless of how they appear to us at the moment.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2013 in Todays Sermon

 

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At The Gate of Hell

Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 12 through 14, which say:

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:12-14)

One interesting thing to note about this passage, is that God isn’t criticizing them when He says that they dwell where Satan’s throne is. To the contrary, it’s only after He mentions it that He says what it is He has against them. What the church in Pergamum was doing, was setting up a camp right next to Hell, if you will. Most Christians today aren’t even willing to go near the “bad side” of town, much less live in a city that hated Christians; they deserved some form of recognition. However, living so near to sin lead to some of them to return to it.

There is always danger when we are near to sin. Paul put it rather well in his epistle to the Galatians, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (see: Galatians 6:1) Though we might not fall for the teaching of Balaam, we may be tempted by other things. Everyone has something that, if they were not clinging to Christ, they would turn to–some type of modern-day idol. Which is why it is so important that we do evangelize and help others who have fallen to sin, but we do so while keeping our-self pure from the sin which they are caught in. And, as only Christ is pure in this World full of impurity, that means making sure that our focus is on Him. Of course, our focus should always be on Him, but even more so when we’re trying to help a fallen brother or sister.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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More Than Conquerors

Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 8 through 11, which say:

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’ (Revelation 2:8-11)

God knew that the Church at Smyrna was in a time of tribulation and poverty. He knew that legalists (i.e., those who call themselves Jews because they, for the most part, try to obey the legal requirements of the law, yet don’t believe in salvation through Jesus’ death and Resurrection) were slandering them, and He knew that they were going to have to endure even more suffering in the future. Some even believe the ‘ten days of tribulation’ refer not to ten actual days in which the Church would be persecuted, but rather to ten Roman emperors under which Christianity would suffer.

In spite of knowing all this, though, God tells them not to fear. He even goes further than that, saying that not only are they not poor, they’re rich. And they were, too, just not physically. The reality is, you could be the poorest person in the World, and still be rich. You could not only be poor, but be suffering persecution for your faith, and be looking forward to nothing more than a life time still to come of suffering, and still have nothing to fear. These poor people were living in a very difficult time for Christianity, in a place that particularly disliked Christians. Yet, they could rest just as easy as many Christians today living in the United States, because they had Christ.

Jesus makes all the difference. You are never poor if you have Jesus, because your spirit will always be rich. You could be living as the Church in Smyrna was: with no foreseeable Earthly hope on the horizon, and yet you could still be happy and bold, because Jesus makes us look past the mortal on to the immortal. Everything on this Earth will pass at some point, but Heaven and God are eternal.

The last section of the passage makes this point nicely when it says, “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.'” The ‘second death’ (which is complete separation from God in Hell) won’t touch Christians, because as Paul puts it, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (see: Romans 8:37). What cause have conquerors to fear? What cause have the rich to believe themselves to be poor? We simply have to look to Christ whenever we’re feeling like poverty is closing in, or when we’re being tempted by Satan. Whenever we look to Christ, we see that, in everything, He makes us more than conquerors.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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A Revelation of Christ

In order to avoid too much repetition, given that the Psalms do tend to somewhat repeat themselves (leading to me repeating myself in some of my posts), I’ve decided to move for a bit to the book of Revelation. We will return to where we left off in the Psalms once we’ve finished Revelation. With that said, the passage we’ll start off looking at is in Revelation 1, verses 1 through 2:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (Revelation 1:1-2)

The interesting thing about John’s choice (which is reality is God’s choice) to start off the book in this way, is that it somewhat sets the scene for the rest of the book. “The revelation of Jesus Christ,” tells us that this is a revelation of Jesus Christ. I hate to restate the obvious, but it’s important to know that the book is intended to be read as a revelation of Christ. Not as a book about revelations about life, or for that matter of any other subject; though we can certainly learn lessons from it that we can and should apply in our own lives. So then, essentially, we can know that everything we read is meant to reveal some characteristic of Christ to us.

 
 

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Sacrifices

Today God has given me something in Psalm 76, verses 6 through 12, which says:

At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned. But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Selah. Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt. Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared, who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth. (Psalms 76:6-12)

God is a just God. He can’t look on sin, and not “utter judgment” upon it; it’s simply not in His nature to turn a blind eye. Back then, they believed that by bringing God gifts (i.e. gifts of food and livestock, also known as sacrifices) they somehow merited favor with Him. Of course, we know today that no sacrifice that they could offer would earn them any kind of forgiveness before God. Hebrews 10 makes that clear:

8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”He sets aside the first to establish the second. (Hebrews 10:8-9)

The sacrifices that they once offered where only a foreshadow of something that was to come. They were never meant to save anyone, and thus had no power to atone for sins. However, when God saw an innocent creature being killed in order to, in the minds of the people in question, atone for the sins of the people, He would look forward to a different sacrifice which could (and did) atone for sins. The author of Hebrews states it best just a couple of verses farther from the last section we quoted:

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices,which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14)

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, our sins have been entirely and completely atoned for. We no longer have to give gifts to God (though we should want now to offer our time and energy to Him), because He gave the greatest gift to us. We no longer have to live in fear that God will punish us, because there is no more punishment left for us (though God will still discipline His children when need-be; it would be cruel of Him not to)!

 
 

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Times of Trial

Today God has given me something in Psalm 44, verses 20 through 26, which say,

If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!

Sometimes in the life of a believer, shockingly enough, bad things do happen. In those times, it can be easy to think that perhaps God has abandoned us, or that perhaps He doesn’t realize quite the extent of the pain we’re in. Of course, He does know exactly the extent of our suffering; He suffered far worse on the cross than anything we’ll endure in this life. Even so, in the moment we tend not to think like that… Normally in times of trials our thoughts tend to become considerably more self-centered. So then, what can help us in times of trials? Can we even be helped?

Yes, of course we can be helped! There is never no hope, that’s a doctrine of the World (and by, “The World,” I’m referring to anyone who is not a believer in Christ), not of God. God always gives us some means of comfort, though frequently that means coming out of our little self-centered bubble. Jesus is both entirely capable and entirely willing to help us, but we can’t simultaneously be constantly bemoaning all the tragedy that has befallen us (which is often more exaggerated in our minds than is really the case), and also accept God’s help. We can’t serve two masters; we either give in to the temptation of the flesh and withdraw into our-self, or we realize that even in the worst of circumstances, God is there with us. Thus the term, “times of trial,” we are being tried by God to see if we’ll hold firm.

 
 

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It’s Only History

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled. (Matthew 26:55-56)

“But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” What an interesting, and clearly wrong, statement that Jesus makes here. After all, everyone knows that all Prophets spoke only to those in their own time period, and only spoke about those in their own time period, and the only value to us which they hold, is in Historical reference.

Except, according to Jesus, not to mention Paul, that isn’t true. The prophets prophesied of Jesus’ betrayal [Psalm 41:9], and of His death and Resurrection [Psalm 22], and everything that they said is still useful for us today [2 Timothy 3:16]. We can just as much from the Old Testament as we can from the new, though the New Testament sometimes states things somewhat more clearly.

The  entire Bible; God’s word, was written for a purpose, and that purpose is never simply to give us some historical facts.–All Scripture is meant to build us, and grow us up to be more like Christ. In the verses quoted above, we see Jesus telling us that through His betrayal, prophecies were fulfilled about Him. But, we aren’t to simply look at Jesus’ betrayal as the only area in which we see Jesus in the Old Testament. A perfect example of this, is Psalm 22, specifically verses fourteen through fifteen:

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint. 
My heart has turned to wax; 
    it has melted within me.
15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd, 
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; 
    you lay me in the dust of death. (Psalm 22:14-15)

We can see numerous comparisons between these verses (which, by the way, were never actually true of David–These things never happened to him). e.g. A cross puts all your bones out of their joint, which is one of the things which David talks about here.

The point being this: all Scripture is useful, so let’s treat it that way, rather than discarding it on the basis that (in the Old Testament), “It’s only history.” Or that (in the New Testament), “Jesus was only speaking to these particular people, and not to us.”

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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