Month: May 2016

Set free by Jesus Himself

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John 8

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

 

This is one of the most merciful and grace-filled events of the Bible.  Yes, the men were mean, judgmental, and cruel to use a woman to try to get Jesus to make a wrong decision for which they could destroy Him.  Yes, they should have brought the man also to make the accusations fair.  But the fact that the woman was caught in the act of adultery made her guilty of breaking God’s law!  She was in the wrong and deserved the wrath of God and the full treatment of the Law of God, which was that she should be stoned to death.  The Law had been broken and the transgressor was tossed at Jesus’ feet where He was called to be the voice of God in this court.

Had Jesus said, “Take her out and stone her and get the man on the way.”  He would have been just in His verdict.   Instead, Jesus looked at the men who brought her, whose motives were far from pure, and made a request from them, “The ones of you without sin throw the first stone at this sinful woman.”  Jesus knew that these men, while haters of Him, were faithful to the Law.  He knew that none of them were without sin and that in honesty; none of them could pick up stones to take her life from her.

When we are faced with judgmental situations where the one we are judging is clearly in the wrong, let us be careful about how many stones we throw.  Let’s heed Jesus’ request and show honesty in accusation.

Once the men were gone, Jesus then spoke to the woman who was pulling a bed sheet around her naked body, shamed beyond shame by the treatment she had just publicly received.  Jesus’ first words were, “Woman, where are your accusers?”  As she looks up, maybe for the first time, she sees that they are all gone and responds that they are gone.  In great mercy and compassion Jesus says directly to her, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin (like this) no more.”  Jesus does not hold the woman’s adultery against her and sends her home released from her condemnation.  She gathers the sheet around her and hurries away thankful for having been brought to Jesus.  Her burden was lifted, her shame lessened, Jesus set her free.

What have you done?  How has sin separated you from Jesus?  Do you think His attitude toward you is going to be different than it was toward this woman in need of grace?  Regardless of who in this life accuses you, Jesus wants to show you grace and set you free.

 

God gave us great weather yesterday and our church picnic was a blast!  The food was abundant and delicious.  Patty brought a friend from work with her four children and I had fun making sure the boys got their tummy’s full.  We played volleyball, bocce ball (thanks to Dennis for bringing this game), canoed, (thanks to Dave for bringing his canoe which Max and Rob flipped – oops), we sang, fellowshipped and ate some more. And, for the first time in awhile, we did not get rained on.  I really love our church.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Enjoy your liberty then ask what can you do with it?

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Galatians 5:1

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Brothers and sisters, on this Memorial Day I write to you as one who has been set free.  As a “set free one” I have enjoyed liberty for a long time.  Being born an American in 1959 I grew up in a time of great national pride.  As an American I have enjoyed the liberty bought with the blood of true patriots.  From them I have enjoyed the liberty of worship, the liberty of free speech, the liberty of work, the liberty of travel and the liberty of protection.  I have voted and spoke of my political thoughts without fear of being reprimanded.  I have raised my children to love their country, to serve her when necessary, and to stand for liberty of all people of all races and creeds.

In 1972-1973 I came to enjoy the liberty of Jesus Christ.  His blood set me free from sin’s dominion and from sin’s judgment.  I have lived free from the moral failures around men, I have lived free from the fear of the eternal judgment of God, I have lived free from the requirements of the Deuteronic Law.  I have lived free to love Christ and to seek His will and to enjoy His glory and His grace.

Liberty is a wonderful thing.  As American Christians we have it made, so to speak.  Christians in many countries have liberty in Christ but not liberty to worship.  We have much to thank God for.  We did not choose to be born in America but God, in His sovereignty, put us here.  Why did God put us here and others in oppressive countries?  This Memorial Day, as you remember the blood that was shed for your freedom, ask what God has for you to do in this freedom.

Our picnic begins today at noon at Blackwell Forest Preserve off of Butterfield Road.  When you enter the park drive all the way around the lake.  We are the last pavilion on the east side of the lake.  If you can come please do.  We will have our regular activities of volleyball and Frisbee and we are adding canoeing.  It will be a great time.  If you cannot bring food but want to come, please do.  We always have more than we can eat.  The grill will be hot so bring something to grill and something to share. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Doing what’s important

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John 8

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.

If Jesus were teaching at church early Sunday morning I think we all would be there.  Have you ever been offered tickets to a ball game or a concert or a show?  Was it convenient to use those tickets?  I remember a time when Bobbi and I were given tickets to go to a concert of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  This was a real treat to us for we love live concerts and the CSO is one of the premier orchestras in the world.  But the tickets were for a matinee concert.  How could we rearrange our schedule to get downtown in the middle of the afternoon, park the car, get in and out in a reasonable manner?  No surprise, we made it work. It was wonderful and worth every effort.

When it comes down to it, we do what we want to do.  The people of Jesus day were no different.  They heard that Jesus was teaching in the temple and they flocked to the temple to hear him.  How wonderful it must have been to personally hear Jesus teach!  “No one taught like he taught,” they said.  And when they heard Jesus they all agreed.

How often do we spend time listening to our Savior, the Lord Jesus.  We might engage in the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer but how much time do we spend listening to Him?  Last summer we taught the book, Transforming Prayer, and I have read the Bible differently ever since. I now read looking for ways to revere God.  As I revere Him I respond to that reverence with awe and praise.  I am listening to the Lord Jesus.

We are good talkers, we pray often, but are we good listeners?  Are we waiting on the Lord to hear from Him?  Let’s arrange our schedules to take time to listen to the Lord Jesus.  He is speaking today.

Please be in prayer for Sunday.  I am studying Isaiah 59 but have been reading in Acts.  What does God want you to hear?  Isaiah 59 is a great chapter dealing with the power of God to act and the limiting effects of sin on God’s power.  But in the end, God acts and draws people to himself anyway. 

Keep VBS in your prayers.  Invitation letters have gone out to last years families and signs will go up this week.  Pray for some open spots to be filled with workers and pray for children and adults to hear the gospel and be saved.  The salvation of the lost is our greatest goal for this outreach.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Whom should the Church benefit? Isaiah 58

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This study of Isaiah is changing us, and it should. In this passage we read that God was not interested in religious activity that was for the benefit of those in attendance. God wants us to take our religious work outside the church and care for people in their time of need. As we care, we are to show the light of the Lord Jesus so men will see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. Outreach needs to begin with good works. In this message Pastor Steve looks at Isaiah and Zechariah to show us that God has a different plan than just gathering to practice religion. He looks at Marx’s comment of comparing religion to opium and has some interesting insights into today’s church.

 

Water flowing in and out

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John 7

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

For those of us who have enjoyed the living water of the Lord Jesus we read this and cry, “Yes, Yes, thank you Jesus for coming into my life and bringing your wonderful water of life!”  We who were dry and thirsty from the sin of this world and the cravings of our own flesh have come to enjoy the Savior’s water of life.  I see those around me still trying to find water as they go to church, do their religious duties, and live their lives in emptiness without the Savior. Then I thank God who has reached into my heart with His word and with His grace and has quenched my spiritual thirst giving me His reasons for life and fullness of joy in Him.

Look again at the words of Jesus.  Not only does He say that He will give us of Himself to drink but he continues to say that He gives us His water to flow from us.  A stagnant pond is not a life-filled pond.  Algae begins to cover it, the foliage takes over and before long nothing can live in it.  A healthy pond has water coming in and water going out.  The continual ebb and flow keeps the pond alive and healthy.  So it is in our Christian lives.  When we accept the Water of life but never speak of the Savior, we never know the joy of His flowing water.  When we take in from God but never give out to others to meet their needs for Christ’s sake, we are not healthy in our spirit.

This is a great picture for us to pay attention to.  A healthy Christian man or woman is one who is constantly giving out the life of Christ.  By serving others the Water of Life we are replenished with fresh water.  The ebb and flow of the Spirit keeps us clean and fresh in spirit.  There should be no Christian hoarders for we all should be Christian givers letting the Holy Spirit flow in and out of us at all times.  “As we therefore have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to those of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

Last night we, the men’s Bible study, had a great study on prayer.  Do you really believe that when you pray in faith believing that God will answer your prayer?  If you really believe this you would pray more.  This came out last night and we spent some time looking at the Word and at our own prayer habits.  What we believe about prayer directly affects the amount of our prayers. 

Bobbi will be at church today at 9:00 – 1:00 working on VBS decorations.  Anyone who can come help will be a help.  “Anyone” means anyone who can trace, color or cut.  There is a mountain of work to do so the more who show up the more that can be done. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Mystery

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John 7

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him. 33 Then Jesus said to them, “I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. 34 You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come.”

35 Then the Jews said among themselves, “Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him? Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What is this thing that He said, ‘You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come’?”

 

People love a mystery.  Good mystery writers can keep their readers in suspense until the last chapter and the readers love it.  But when Jesus spoke in a mystery it drove the Pharisees crazy!

 

Up until Jesus, no one spoke in terms of going to God and being sought after but not being found.  This was strange speech to the hearers.  Even the disciples did not understand this until after the resurrection.  But that is the nature of mystery.  Jesus knew that what He was saying would not be understood yet He said it anyway.  He knew that the people would discuss what He said trying to come to understand it yet he said it anyway.  There was no way that the people, on that side of the resurrection, could ever understand this mystery that Christ spoke yet He spoke it anyway.

 

The Bible is filled with such mystery teachings.  I took a class in college called “Daniel and Revelation.”  We were supposed to compare the two books, their teachings on the 70th week of Daniel and write a paper concluding our thoughts.  I don’t think I could the paper any better today.  Some of that is still a mystery.  We can talk about it and we can read about it and we can talk about it some more yet it is still a mystery.

 

There are clear teachings of Scripture and we are thankful for them. And then there are mysteries in the Scriptures and we do the best we can and then leave them up to God.  Remember the words of Moses: Deuteronomy 29:29  “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

The things that are revealed are clear teachings.  Those are the ones we are to keep.  The mysteries will remain secrets that belong to God.  We are not responsible to keep those things.  We will think about them but we will leave them until God reveals them in His time and in His way.  So, study what we can know and live what we learn.  Avoid getting caught up in too much study of the mysteries that God has hidden from our understanding.  In time, as He did with the disciples after the resurrection, God will make the mysteries clear.

Tonight is our last Kids4Truth for school year.  This has been a great year of teaching our children the truths of God.  I am thankful for the women who come every week ready to teach and care for our kids for Truth’s sake.  Thanks to Dawn, Sharon, and MaryEllen for your regular and dedicated work to our kids.  There are several teachers who rotate in each week and a great thanks to all who have stepped in to help. 

We also have our prayer time at 7:00 with Bible study at 7:45.  The youth group meets at 7 for game time and then comes in for prayer, worship and Bible study.  Join us.

Bobbi will be at the church today and tomorrow making the auditorium decorations for VBS.  Any of you who can help would be of great help. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Living submitted to the Father’s will

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John 7

14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?”

16 Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.

 

The people of Jesus’ day could not wrap their minds around who Jesus was.  It was easier for them to deny Him having come from God than to accept Him having come from God.  Even though Jesus did miracles like no one ever had and even though He taught like no one ever had they still would not accept that He came from God.  So here the people’s accusation against Jesus was that He had never had any higher education.  He was not a “lettered’ man.  How then could He know the stuff He knew?

I see here proof of the deity of Jesus Christ.  Their question inadvertently defends the Savior’s deity.  Since there was no way for Jesus to know all that He knew from a human perspective then He must have gotten His knowledge from another source.  Jesus confirms to them that God the Father, the One who sent him, gave him this knowledge for His own glory.

Jesus ever did what the Father sent him to do.  He lived in constant and consistent submission to the Father’s will.  Therefore, Jesus never did his own will and could always give glory to the Father.  We have the same opportunity. We can spend each morning seeking the will of God and spend each day accomplishing the will of the Father.  We can then thank God each evening for leading us in His will.  By the time a life-time has come and gone we too can say that we spent our years doing the will of God and He received glory through our lives.  As the world did not understand Jesus neither will it understand us. Nonetheless, we must seek the will of God and live submitted to it for His purpose and for His glory.

What a great way that Jesus showed us how to live.

Lisa and Roy had their baby yesterday.  Roy called me this morning.  Lisa and baby are well.  I will get you details later.  Rejoice with them.

Prepare yourself for Sunday by reading Isaiah 58.  It is a fascinating chapter and I am looking forward to preaching it.  Pray for God to open our hearts to its message. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS