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January 21, 2019 Devotional Blog

53 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence.

54 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?  56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?  57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.

58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:53-58) [KJV]

 

They built a boat.

 

Long ago a group of men built a boat.  They took wood from trees they felled, and scraps from what was left over from other projects or from demolition, and carefully carved and sawed them into planks.  Their weathered hands full of callouses gripped their tools firmly in their hands as they pressed and drew the edge of the bronze saw through the tough and hard wood, such as Oak, or even Cypress, or Cedar from Lebanon.  They had their sons along, teaching them the trade skills necessary for providing for their families, and the trade for which they were building the boat- fishing.

 

Their arms were lean and muscled and flexed as they strained through the tough grains, and shaped and guided the tools through the paths in the wood they had drawn with an edged knife or piece of coal.  These men worked throughout the day, tired but pushing themselves.  A brief break was had for a meager piece of bread, and on a good day perhaps a salted piece of fish.  They had to work, and hard.  They had families to feed.  They had a boat to build.  Mortices and tenons were carved, the planks pushed together, places for the oars to be set, and a mast erected for a sail they sewed together from pieces of fabric. 


Soon, it was ready.  The boat about 27 feet long, almost 8 feet wide, with a flat bottom but a proud bow, was brought even closer now to the water’s edge, with a sense of accomplishment.  Their old nets they repaired.  New sections were weaved.  Brothers patted each other on the back, and they thanked their friends from the other oats who helped out.  It was late, and time to get some sleep.  Tomorrow would be an early start for prayerfully a day with a bountiful catch.  The life of poor fishermen, trying to survive and raise their families.

 

In another place, a carpenter taught his adopted son how to hold a saw, how to see the pattern in the wood, to select the best piece for the job, how to cut, shape, finish out, drive pegs and nails.  A large piece of stock from a trunk had to be split after being felled with an ax.  Its heart was exposed as the worked with wedges and a hammer, and then pull saws, straining and breathing hard from the intense labor of it all.  Over time, the young son grew up, and waxed strong.  The life of a poor carpenter, trying to survive and raise his family.

 

 One day, “Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.  And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.  And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.  And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.  (Matthew 4:18-22) [KJV]

 

These men he called grew up unaware of Jesus when they grew up.  Oh, they knew about the coming of the Messiah who would save the people from their sins.  They had even begun to hear the amazing things being reported about this preacher named Yeshua (Jesus in English).  But they were busy living life working hard, very hard, struggling, dealing with everyday life issues in a fallen world. 


They lived their attempts at hopes and dreams, they had their sorrows as over time like everyone else they lost loved ones, suffered disappointments.  They had their joys, their accomplishments.  They had marriages, some, and children.  They prayed and hoped.  And yet beyond their even most powerful of imaginations, without their knowing it, the Lord they longed for and awaited, this person waling along the shore knew them before they were even born, saw them when they were children learning a skill and a trade, and this day walked the waters edge and called these men to follow him.

 

As the days went on and the wonders began to take place, and the message proclaimed, the signs and wonders, their lives were changed, turned upside down in a way.  Everything stopped.  People thing someone is crazy when such changes take place.  You leave your job, drop everything, walk away and start following some man?  What would the spouse say, the children?  The neighbors? Bill collectors? 

 

And you come to Jesus’ home town, this is how people treat him?  “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?  Where did he get this wisdom and the miraculous power?”  And they took offense at him.  But you see that.  IF you met Jesus, so to speak, in your life later on, there may have been a time he was put off in your life for a time until he knew you were prepared by him.  You were then moved by God in ways others don’t understand, and ended up doing things for him out of a faith some call insane. 

 

Yes, not everyone understands.  But something hits you, something powerful takes place.  I mean, you are minding your own business, and out of the blue, “Come, follow me.”  A call takes place.  The call of the Gospel, to be specific.  For some of us as a tiny baby when the waters of Baptism are sprinkled over our head and the words are spoken, some of us when older and we hear the words about Jesus, and salvation, the promise spoken of the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, the call to believe.

 

Ever since you were different.  You may not have known him at one point in time, yet he knew you as well before you were even born.  The Lord had you in mind for this day, before he even formed you in the womb, just like the day he walked along the shore.   Life is like that.  We are living our lives, doing what we have to for survival, minding our own business.  All of a sudden Jesus comes walking along our shore.  Perhaps you remember the day.  May be it is today?  The Lord is like that.  Full of surprises.

 

In the fullness of time, these men who didn’t know him at one time and then were called to follow him, one day saw him taken away.  That day after the dawn, someone had prepared some large sections of wood from felled trees, it had been split and sawed into sections, one for a large post and another for a cross section.  Some spikes were sitting near by, and a hammer.

 

The man that the fishermen had followed, and come to know and call Lord, the man who loved them as his own children, was taken by some other men and laid out on the wood.  Those men took from the spikes laying near by, pressed the points of the metal against the flesh of Jesus’ hands, then raised the hammer, and they drove the hammer earthbound and aimed at the head of the spikes and drove them into each hand, through them, and into the wood beneath, and then the same to his feet.

 

Most of the men had fled.  Their lives were changed again.  The pain, the grief, the trauma, the shock!  Their world was upside down again.  They were shattered.  Grown men grieved.  So did the women who came to know him. They didn’t understand.  Why?!  But He, Jesus had told them this was going to happen.  He also told them something else, that the third day he would rise from the dead.

 

They ran to the tomb.  The body was gone, just as the women told them from their earlier encounter there and the words of the angel.  Their lives were upside down once more.  They arrived, John first, then Peter ran past him into the tomb.  He saw and believed.

 

Powerful.  The dead just don’t rise.  But this was the Son of God.  As Thomas later would say, my Lord and my God.  This Jesus, and these things written about him, “are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”   (John 20:31)

 

Dear friend,

 

What is your story of Jesus in your life?  Is today the first chapter?  Which ever it is, he has known you all along.  Today, he walks along your shore again.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Janiary 7, 2018 Confession

“13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?  14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.  15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19)(KJV)

 

 

Dear Loved By The Lord,

Who do you say Jesus is?

Is it even a question to ask?  Yes.  But it is being asked not for you to respond to me, rather though that you ask yourself, not another, but your self.  The world of course has all kinds of answers.  Some of them are quite hateful, as many of us know.  But this is a personal question.  Oh, most people who identify themselves as Christian have an idea and opinion about this question.  So it would seem perhaps to someone as being a nonsensical question.

Except I am not referring to quantitative nor qualitative knowledge.  I’m not asking how much you know nor how deeply even as to intellectual criteria.  I am also not referencing some kind of law oriented personal introspection to infer we don’t know him for real if our deeds aren’t reflecting some kind of personal relationship.  It’s something else. 

I’m trying not to be obtuse, but rather make all of us think, including my self.  Jesus’ question is twofold to make the disciples think.  The question was asked two ways.  There was the first portion asking what others think, as in verse 13,  a matter of opinion but in relation of course to the evidence that people had been seeing as to fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the Son of Man, the Messiah- or Christ- Anointed One. 

Thus, Jesus was asking that question at first in relation to the broader picture first of all, and then he asks them again, as to personally.  In essence, Faith.  Jesus said, “who do You say that I am?”  It was to be a personal response of faith.  We all know who he is as revealed in the Word.  But that alone is of no avail for our eternal life and salvation, our comfort and hope in a fallen world awaiting his return if that is the end of our knowledge.  In short, to get to the point, there is the objective information and answer, and then the subjective one.

By subjective, of course I am talking about our faith.  Is he thusly by grace through faith My Savior?  Please, I am not asking us to question our faith.  No.  I am not asking us to examine our deeds like some kind of Calvinist inquisitor to question our faith and in turn salvation.  No.  What I am getting to is what Jesus was getting in to, the answer Revealed by the Father in heaven, as he said to Simon who became named Peter.

It is one thing to be presented information and even intellectually acknowledge that information.  It is another by grace to realize and respond to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”  Its not a polemic or apologetic that Peter proclaims.  No.  Peter is making a personal statement of faith to Jesus himself.  “YOU are the Christ, the Son of God.”

This is about dialogue between you and Jesus, Jesus and You.  He is not questioning your faith either.  He was drawing out the statement of faith from Peter in personal dialogue with him.  And with faith, it is personal dialogue between us and Jesus, you and Jesus, me and Jesus. 

God gives us his personal promise of Objective reality for all the world, that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him won’t perish, but have everlasting life.  This objective reality is for the world.  That is Objective Justification, God was reconciling the world to himself through Jesus Christ.  In turn, personal apprehension of that fact is one of God’s offer being received with the hands of faith that when the offer is given to the me, that is believed.  It is only faith that in this context to Jesus’ question can reply, You are the Christ, the Son of God.  It is the kind of faith which says, you are My Savior.  It is the kind of faith later on when Thomas says, My Lord and My God.

Jesus was drawing out the answer from him as a personal answer, a statement of faith for Peter’s own faith.  Who do You say that I am is an invitation for all of us to believe, and for the believer to have the “aha!” joy of, “Yes, You indeed are the Christ,” as in My personal statement of confession of faith!  That is the confession, the rock that the Church of Christ Jesus is built upon, the Gospel and the Gospel believed.  It’s personal.

 

Happy New YEar, 2019 in the Lord!

“…’Yes, I am coming quickly.’

‘Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.’” (Revelation 22:20)

“Happy New Year!” 

It’s a genuine, sincere and hopeful statement we make to one another.  There is a reason for this.  That reason in each person is a hope for something better to come.  The hope for something better to come is because every person ever born has experienced some level of living in a fallen world and thus suffering.  Just turn on your television and select a news channel.  May be you shouldn’t, one could say.  Well, just open your web browser.  May be you shouldn’t.  Ok, just lay in bed, and if you live in a major city you can hear in the distance the sound of sirens in the distance, watch dogs barking, perhaps a crying baby if your apartment has thin walls, or a couple yelling, fighting and screaming, which is a reminder to us of the destruction sin causes to relationships. 

Perhaps we can find an example of the trials of life, such as may be answer the phone.  If you have ever had difficulty with survival such as job loss in a recession, or illness that prevented you from working for an extended period of time and had not accumulated as yet a quantity of savings to get you through and soon you don’t want to pick up the phone because a bill collector might be hounding you.  You sigh, you don’t know what to say.  You tried your best, but fact is things happen which can be beyond your control.  In fact if the trials of economic downturns for what ever reason are strong enough, it doesn’t matter how careful someone is, for trouble can hit in that regard, too, such as the Great Depression, for instance.  And then there are things like calamities, natural disasters, hurricanes, earth quakes, recently in fact a destructive tsunami took the lives of hundreds in the pacific.  And then there are human caused disasters, pollutants in the environment causing cancers, birth defects, and so forth.  And of course, worse of all, war, and a version of it we are too familiar with today- terror.  And of course, there is death itself.

TOO MUCH!

Nevertheless, even though this is a tiny list of the struggles of life in the world since the fall, it is sufficient a reminder of what we go through, and our mind can quickly make the connection to something we have been through in the past, or are going through right now.  We can see though the hopeful yearning in a person’s heart to the words, “Happy New Year!” 

We want a change.  We want a change in the world, and we want one in our lives right here and right now.  It makes sense.  To love pain and suffering is not natural.  But feeling pain over suffering is natural.  Actually, we should qualify that last statement.  It’s natural since the fall, but not how we were created.  We were created to have life, and life everlasting, life abundant together with God and with one another.  We were created to have life without suffering because the cause of suffering, sin, did not exist when sin came into existence at the fall of mankind. 

In short, that is the reason for the tough things you go through in life.  Sin exists.  But do we really understand that?  Do we really understand the power of sin?  Yes and no.  If one is a believer reading this, then we can say Biblically we understand, and via the work of the Holy Spirit in us enabling us to believe and understand the things God explains/reveals to us.  We even have the ability to understand that sin exists and there is a cost to it if we are a person who is not part of the Christian faith.  Scripture speaks about that, too, that the hearts of people as such convict them. 

But the question of whether we understand sin’s power is a bit deeper.  There is indeed a cause and effect relationship to the existence of sin and suffering.  Its power is so heinous that it brought even death and everlasting condemnation to us and the world.  In that we were created one way, holy, and creation as well was created one way and holy, as in belonging to God and we given dominion over it, we and creation were created in such a way that when sin came into existence, sins nature itself is so disrupting, so defiling, so altering of everything that exists that has been created that the material things we see have all been brought in to a state of decay and death.  Part of that even is the supernatural, our spirit, and with that comes the bondage to sin, death, the devil and everlasting condemnation.

This is why creation moans under the load of pain, and the condition and the curse as such is why humans ever since commit acts of sin.  It is why we see wars, terror, why we see families even torn apart.  It is the why of every suffering.  That is why we hope for a new year.  However, a new year may bring certain things  for us that can carry some relief of the sufferings we go through, however the inevitable succession of years will only bring relief from the pain of sin through one thing….

That on thing is the One who created us, who made the decision to redeem us from bondage to sin, death, the devil and everlasting condemnation after sin came in to the world.  It is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has rescued us from the dominion of darkness, Jesus Christ who has delivered and redeemed us from bondage to sin, death, the devil and everlasting condemnation.  This salvation work which Christ Jesus carried out for us took place at the time of his incarnate life, suffering, shedding of his blood unto death- yea death on the cross for us, and his resurrection for our justification and everlasting life and resurrection with him as well one day.

The power of sin was such with all that it brought with its unbreakable bondage was such that it required a power greater than ours to rescue us and save us.  No one ever was able to do that except God.  And it is in Jesus Christ that we have God in the flesh, who came into the world to take our place and bear our sins and sin’s punishment, and the load of the curse as well, so that whoever believes not perish but have everlasting life!

Through this gift by the power of God who gave his Only Begotten Son for us, by his Holy Love, his Mercy and Grace, we have that gift in effect for us now, as God brings us to new birth as children of God through the Power of the Gospel unto salvation, using the Power of the Holy Spirit to regenerate us.  All of what he has done for us is in effect now.  We have this as a matter of real-time effect as to being reborn, and justified- declared not guilty through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us, and declares us to be righteous as in the righteousness of Jesus’ righteous and sinless life he lived in fulfilling the law of God for us is made our own through God the Father’s salvation work upon us and within us, as well as making us holy, sanctified. 

Right now, while we are still here, we still have the battle of the sinful nature to deal with in this current world condition, until the perfection comes at the return of the Lord and the resurrection.  We also not only battle against that, but also endure the effects of the fallen world and our own sins and the sins of others.  We have though the very real presence and possession of all of what is described as ours in our rebirth through God’s gracious work by his power, because of Jesus Christ, yet we wait for seeing the fulfillment at the reversal of the fall itself upon the return of God the Only Begotten Son incarnate in his glory one day.

It is this the presence of his glory when our Redeemer returns that we await when there will be no more suffering, no more tears, no more sin, and no more evil, and no more death.  And this return is the New Year, the New and Everlasting Earth and Heavens at his return which is the real thing our souls yearn and long for when we say, Happy New Year.  The great anticipation, veiled behind those words, is the great anticipation we hunger and thirst for because we still indeed endure sin and its effects, but we have had a foretaste of God’s goodness.  We have been blessed by his grace through Jesus Christ in knowing the blessing of having the forgiveness of sins, to be rebirthed, to be not orphans but instead children of God, to have the love of God, the promise and assurance of God that we belong to him and that no one can take us from his hands.

And of all of this to come, and what we have right now, what we have now is a deposit through the deposit of the Holy Spirit of our inheritance to come, the everlasting new earth to come, and the wiping away of all of our tears. 

So, I wish you, happy new year!  Yes, I hope and pray that you may indeed have a better year ahead.  But no matter what happens, we have the hope and prayer of the everlasting year brand new to come when we are with the Lord at his return.  And for this, dear friends, I yearn and long for, too.  This is our joy even now, knowing that even in suffering, suffering will end, knowing that even in pain, pain will end, knowing that even amid sin, sin will end, knowing that even in the face of death itself that death will end.  And we have the assurance of God’s promise in this, while we were yet sinners, Christ Jesus died or us.

Blessings and peace to you I bid you right now in Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Pastor Robert S. Davis
 

Christmas Day Plus One Message

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon;  And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; 10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; 11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; 13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; 14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; 15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; 16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.  (Matthew 1:1-17, KJV)

 

What?

Yes, this is a Christmas text, in terms of the origin of the person called Jesus Christ.  In the very next verse it says, “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.”  The next verse after this was the first overt trial of suffering in the New Testament.  Joseph found out Mary was with child.  His dreams are dashed, his heart is crushed.  To his mind, I can only imagine that he must have been filled with hurt.  After all, before receiving Divine intervention news from a holy angel about this child within Mary’s womb and his Divine origin, one cannot blame Joseph at all for thinking the worst.  I totally can’t blame him for not jumping instantly in his mind to Isaiah 7 and “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”  That kind of thinking just doesn’t go on in fallen human beings.  And no matter how wonderful a believer Joseph was, all believers are human beings.  We are fallen.  We are full of misunderstanding, ESPECIALLY in something like this.  You come home from work, go and see your fiancé, and she tells you, I am pregnant.  Problem is, you haven’t been with her in that kind of way.  Hurt.  Crushed.  He decided to cancel the plans of the marriage.  But being a decent person, he wasn’t going to shame her.  He did have feelings for her.  This could have gotten Mary killed.  So Joseph decides to divorce her secretly.  It is of PERCEIVED sin, resultant brokenness, and of a merciful heart of a man trying to decide how to deal with this.

A story within the story takes place here.  And it is only part of the story within the greater story.  But before we expand, what happens?  That angel does come and make a visit.  And to this we can go, ok.  Cool.  Of course, why didn’t I think of that.  The baby is from God!  Then again, NO.  The people in the Bible are people.  This isn’t imaginary.  If a holy angel came to you and appeared to you and spoke to you, the first thing would likely include the possibility of fainting, dying of a heart attack, today if it happened it may include a trip to an emergency room to have our mind checked.  In fact many of the accounts of visitors of heavenly messengers results in great fear.  The power of the presence is that heavy.  In this case, the power of it was somewhat eased in the Lord arranging this in a dream.  But even then it had to be overwhelming.  Yet the Lord herein has Joseph reminded of the verse from Isaiah quoted above about the virgin birth!  Even this we might question our insanity over.  Except this is so real, this dream, this experience so powerful, and the Lord God using his Spirit within Joseph so graciously abundant even enabling him to believe the message that Joseph obeys the Lord and takes Mary into his home.

I said it was only part of the story in the greater story.  Well, there is the first section today that is quoted above from Matthew.  Look at all those name!  Whew!

Well, why are they there?  Well, there is a reason.  Actually a couple reasons.  For one thing, what we see therein is something extremely important about the birth of the Son of God.  We see in this the fulfillment of the promise of the seed, the heir, promised to Abraham, and the promise of the heir to be on the throne for David.  We see the promise of the Savior of the world coming to pass, God keeping his promise, God being true, the miracle of the Word of the Lord accomplishing exactly what God said would happen and did.  We see the use of the Lord God’s plan and his will of even Joseph, the earthly adoptive father through marriage to Mary how through him the baby born to Mary would be the Messiah, the Christ (as Matthew says in the anglicized Greek translation of Messiah), the Anointed One to be the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Savior of the world, Immanuel- which means God with us. 

Yes, the legal basis of this according to the Law of God is demonstrated herein, but there is another story in the story.  Look at the names.  Their story in the story is there in the Holy Scriptures.  Each one is a sinner.  Abraham, as great as he was, nevertheless he was a sinner like all who needed to be saved.  And as it is written, Abram believed the Lord, and it was counted to him as righteousness.  And there is more.  There are the stories within the stories of the tragic nature of sin, children of God even who fell into sin, such as to a prostitute, one herself being one, of incest, a gentile foreigner even, an adulterer, a murderer,  and more, including a people sent into exile in Babylon because of the apostasy of the nation itself, idolatry, and vile iniquity. 

And yet the names are listed.  The line is through them.  Well, remember Joseph’s heart?  Though a sinner, he gropes with an attempt at mercy though his heart is broken.  His is a reflection, though a mirror darkly, of the even more amazing heart of God and his mercy and grace.  For this is the God of such a people.  And he uses that line, in his mercy and grace he sends his Son into the world to save those people, and even more so the world so fallen, so full of iniquity, that we cannot even comprehend the level of sin so deep and vast that the oceans of the sea couldn’t hold them of they were droplets!  But He does send his Son, he does so love that world, you and me, that he gave this gift!  HE is not ashamed to save them.  He is not ashamed to make this line the line of his Son.  And not only is he not ashamed but his Only Begotten Son goes to the point of his own death itself to do so!

There is one other story in the story.  You and I are part of the story in the story.  Look at the names.  The names of the sinners save are listed who led to his birth.  Now, the names include those reborn who have come forth as a result of Christ’s birth, his life, and his death and resurrection. Those names include your name, and mine.  For one day the books will be opened at the resurrection and before the throne.  And they will be read.  And of that, through God’s grace, through Jesus’ redemption of us, through God’s merciful justification of the sinner, our name will be read and God will say, “Not guilty, and thou art Righteous!”

Amen.

In Christ Jesus, 

Pastor Davis

December 17, 2018 Message

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:1-5)

“Hello, it’s me, Joe, again.”

Those were the words.  That’s all that was said.  The phone could be heard hanging up on the machine. 

This was quite significant.   Joe was kind of a rolling stone in the quarry of life.  He was someone I chose to call a friend, over a quarter century, some three decades ago.  He was funny, kind of the proverbial bull in a china shop.  He worked in the warehouse of a lighting company- a place where I was employed when I was working my way through school.  I’d go to classes, and head there and take care of freight that came in, and whatever else.  The mental monotony was as bad as the labor, but Joe made it fun. 

The only problem is, Joe’s humor was covering up fear, loneliness and pain.  This gradually became more and more evident as time went on.  For one day, Joe told me on break that he was about to become homeless.  His girlfriend kicked him out.  With the break ending, I had to get back to work, and Joe would be leaving.  His leaving was to go wander the streets.  I told him to call me.  When I arrived home I discovered that he had.  But back in the day before cellphones, he called from a pay phone.  All I could do was wait for him to all again.

He did.  It was night.  It was dark.  It was 15 below zero outside.  What could I do…..?

I met Joe and we talked.  Joe was ready to die.  Joe only wanted to say good bye, since I was the only person who had ever been kind to him.  As dark and cold as it was outside, Joe had become so inside. 

His life began being lost and tossed about without love at home.  His childhood was one on the streets, unwanted, fending for himself and being a punching bag.  He learned to fight or be beaten, or even worse.  One day, someone taught him to box.  Joe became a golden glove.  Joe had become extremely good at it.  And The Bull, he could be called, wore the scars of countless bouts on his face, and his knuckles.  But as tough as he was, it was too much now.  He thought he found someone for the first time to finally want him, love him, and it was not to be.

I told him, “Joe, God loves you.”  Joe kind of half chuckled, like saying, right, sure, ya….  I said, “Joe, he really does….” 

Sitting in the car in that dark 15 below cold, I looked at him and asked him why he didn’t believe me.  And to this Joe explained,  “When I was a young punk, I did a lot of things I know were wrong.  But there is something else.  Living on the street, there was a man who use to prey on us.”  Then Joe looked me in the eyes, and added, “he was Very, Very bad.  HE did things.”  Then Joe paused, took in a breath, and he looked into the cold darkness outside and said, “One day he came after me.  I killed him.  We fought, and I got him on the ground and he wouldn’t stop.  I killed him with my hands.”

I asked Joe if anyone knew.  He indicated no.  I asked him, basically again, “Joe, what makes you think God doesn’t love you?”  Joe was shocked.  He stammered out, “I told you.  I killed a man.”  And I explained, “Joe, that is why God sent his only begotten Son into the world, into the darkness of our fallen condition, to bear the sins of the entire world, to make them his own upon the cross and take our place in judgement so that whoever believes won’t perish but have everlasting life.”

“Joe, when he hung there from those nails, you know what he said to the men who did that?”  Joe nodded, no.  I said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 

Long story short, I prayed for Joe.  And sitting there, the self-called killer, The Bull sitting next to me started to cry.  He reached down with his scar covered, giant hand,  picked up my hand, kissed it, set it down, and with his tears soaking his grizzled beard he got out of the car, and disappeared into the dark of the night.

Eventually I heard from Joe again. He went forward to take care of matters with the law.  He was  also last seen, RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION!

Long story short, Joe disappeared into the darkness from my vantagepoint that night.  But he actually had been found by the Light which shined in the darkness, Jesus Christ!  God found Joe.  God saved Joe.  Joe’s Savior had prayed 2000 years before, “Father, forgive Joe, for he doesn’t know what he did.” 

On this week before Christmas, may be you are wondering, or know someone who is wondering, “How can God love me?”  May be the person wonders because they are a killer, or may be if possible even worse…  May be none of those things, just a person who is the Victim of a killer-like person.  For there are things that can happen that can make us feel dead inside.  But whatever the reason, the darkness that is going on in a life, the darkness going on in the world which troubles us, what ever the cause, amidst it all please know that God has sent his Son, Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, the Light to shine in your darkness.

He is the one who suffered in the darkness on the hill where he was nailed to the cross to bear our sins.  Jesus Christ is the one who for us all said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.  And he did it for you. 

I know it gets cold outside, and dark, too sometimes.  But beloved of God, God does love you. 

Now, when you get out of the car, and if you disappear into the dark, you can call God and say, Hi, God, it’s me, Joe,” or whatever the name.  He knows you.  He can’t forget you.  He already gave his life for you, and rose for your eternal life one day, too.

Amen.

 

 

December 10, 2018 Word For Our Times

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, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:2-7; KJV)

Looking back, the words quoted above from the Bible’s Isaiah the prophet were written several hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ.  They were written from the perspective of looking Forward in time, while a people were mired in idolatry, and battles and bitter exile looming on the horizon.   Amazingly, they are words of incredible hope- words of salvation, when rightly and contextually understood in the history of God’s salvation work for his people and the world.  Even more amazing are a couple other incredible aspects of this passage and its context.

Looking at when these words are given, there is only one reason.  God.  Yes, God is the reason.  Everything about God is the reason.  It’s all about God.  But amazingly, for God, it’s about us.  Its about God beholding us exactly as we are/were, knowing the condition of the people at the time these words from the Lord were given to Isaiah, while in their iniquity, while still full of their vile wicked behavior, and yet God proclaims this word of promise, the word of hope, the word of salvation that these words point to.  God does this while they are yet still sinful.

God issues these words of hope to a people who at that time, by our standards, are deserving of nothing but wrath, nothing but punishment.  For centuries they have exhausted any excuse to claim mercy, evaporated in the heat of their hellish behavior to warrant any kind of hope.  For centuries they have rejected God, they have rejected God’s ways, they have worshipped other gods which are not gods at all, they have rebelled with zeal, swam in a cesspool of blood guilt so perverse that one does not even want to write it down, lest the reader become too repulsed to continue reading.  Suffice it to say, from human justice, the issuing of a promise of salvation to such a context doesn’t make any sense.  Oh, it’s not a matter of “just giving someone a second chance, or third chance….”  No, this is centuries of behavior too repugnant to describe, and a behavior that has no prospect on the horizon of hope for changing.  Oh, and one more thing.  It’s not just the people in the context of the Isaiah, but the world as well. 

Let us look at another amazing aspect of this passage and God’s promise of this incredible hope, the gift of the son given to us.  Note the words carefully: 

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”*

*(For the scholar among us, behold the Hebrew: כִּי־יֶ֣לֶד יֻלַּד־לָ֗נוּ בֵּ֚ן נִתַּן־לָ֔נוּ, and thus the translation is faithful) 

Though this was foretold to Judah/Israel several centuries before it would come to pass….., it is so certain because it is based upon who God is and His changeless nature, being Holy, Love, and therefrom mercy and grace, and that He does it for his own name’s sake, and not to any merit or worthiness in us, AND He would do it by His power…., It Is So Certain That God Issues this in the grammar indicating that it is an accomplished result already! 

This is astounding!  As someone once said (I cannot remember the parenthetical citation), “Prophecy is history written down before history happens.” 

Beloved,

Have we ever been tempted to doubt the promise of the Gospel from God to us?  Yes.  Well, God has Good News.  It is about His Good News.  The promise of the Son of God, the Son given to us, the Child to be born and who has come into the world for the purpose of Saving us, well, as certain as it was back then in the time of Isaiah before it happened, is now that it has happened and been brought to pass by God is indeed true and fully efficacious for you and for us to believe.  The work of salvation by this Son, Jesus Himself signified its completion for our faith when he went to the cross and knowing that everything He had been sent for had been accomplished, He cried out, “It is finished!”

For to You a Child has been born, To You a Son has been given.  He Is Your, “Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”  He is, Your Savior, for God so loved You that He gave His Only-Begotten Son so that believing in Him you won’t perish, but have everlasting life.


Your week has already been blessed.

You are blessed.

In Christ,

 

Pastor

 

December 3 Devotion

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.  And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;  As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.  Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

 

You ever have a tough job?  You know, one which you dreaded waking up and realizing it was time to go in?  Or you sighed heavily before clocking in?  Or may be on Sunday you told your spouse, or friend, “I don’t want to go in tomorrow,” or “I can’t go in tomorrow…”  Talk about a tough job, take a look at John the Baptist. 

 

If we had his calling, his church, or his office or work place you could say, was the wilderness.  While we, today may be concerned with parking lot hazards, and problematic co-workers or customers, John had potential problems from Lions, leopards, jackals, venomous snakes, and poisonous insects, among other creatures.  And of course there were Roman troops, the Jewish authorities such as Pharisees and Sadducees Chief Priests and teachers of the Law and their spies and police, and also rebels, and bandits.  And there was also the normal perils of the wilderness besides things that can eat you, or people coming to rob you or worse, there was also the issue of climate, from extreme heat, to cold and issues of exposure. 

 

There also wasn’t a pay check.  Nope.  You didn’t have a 401k.  You didn’t have a commute problem though, like traffic.  So, there is one bright side.  However, most people likely thought you were nuts.  He wore clothing made of Camel’s hair, had a leather belt around his waist, and his food was composed of Locusts and wild Honey.  So, his appearance, even for the times in which he lived and worked, was even for normal experience of the day unusual.   But he was not crazy.  Most people wouldn’t even begin to think of doing such a job as his.  But this was no job.  His was a calling foretold by the Most High Lord God.  And John fulfilled his calling, very well.  He was, indeed, sent by God.

 

And his job, as tough as it was often times, even one day ending in his death as a martyr for the Lord at the orders of Herod, his mission was one he fulfilled with every part of his being.  His faith, a marvel if you think about it.  His love for the Lord, untouchable.  His dedication, his sacrifice, well, to the point of death.  And he is so misunderstood.

 

The Baptist was not some machine.  He was not possessed.  He was not mindless and unfeeling.  He was real.  He was fully human.  Like all since the fall normally born, he was a sinner.  And he had thoughts and hope and at least at one time likely dreams.  He had emotions, he had cares, he had worries and concerns.  John felt pain, John experienced pain in his heart.  He knew sorrow.  He knew hope.  He knew fear.  He knew love.  He knew loneliness.  He knew everything you’ve known.  And thus in a way his service to the Lord and all that he did was even more powerfully amazing.  John the Baptist gave up everything! Even life itself!

 

Why? 

 

He knew God.  Yes the Spirit di work in John to prepare him, calling him miraculously, and equip him miraculously by grace.  But part of that was knowing God, through the Word, and knowing the Word become flesh, Jesus Christ himself.  And though John would not live physically long enough to see Jesus Crucified for him, John knew Jesus and the One as such foretold and why he came as Savior of the world, to be the Suffering Servant.  John knew he was the Lord himself, and he was preparing the way for the Lord.

 

But there is another aspect of John that many people do not understand.  He was not preaching to the lost, per say, in terms of society in a pagan land.  He was in the land of Israel, and he was preaching to the so-called people of God to ready them.  In, essence, he was preaching to the Church!  It would be a mistake to picture him in today’s setting heralding in this manner to New York city, or San Francisco.  And not that the modern world doesn’t need to be called to repentance and faith in Christ.  They do.  But this mission rightly understood was to the version of us in his own day, but before the full realization of Jesus Christ’s work, including his passion. 

 

Another problem is the understanding of motive, and why God has sent someone to prepare the way of the Lord and his arrival.  This work was one primarily in the intent of God being grace.  It was for God’s salvific, saving, work.  The intent of God in turning us is to save us, and thus deeds of repentance, to change the direction of our mind to the direction of receiving his promise of salvation.  The Law even is a servant of God’s favored and intentional work of the Good News!  Sometimes, even the beloved of the Lord need to be turned back to the path in faith.  Inn a way, we need his work, his calling out to us, every day.


That is the way of the fallen, sinful nature.  It is the flesh and its desire to always go its own direction, to resist the Holy Spirit.  It is the nature of the flesh to love things that  by nature if given a living metaphor it would be a wilderness overgrown with uninhabitable forbidden-ness, things that bite, devour, sting, that have the power to destroy and kill, the induce famine, thirst, a hostile way of life which does not make alive, and in fact only kills.

 

That is sin.  And, no, I’m not saying that’s what we are like.  It is the potential of the flesh, yes.  But contextually things were that bad at the time of John’s mission because of the generations of vile iniquitous idolatry Israel had fallen to, and in fact embraced with gusto.  But it can stand as warning, so that we do not fall to such ourselves. And there is no need for this if you think about it.  Its just that the lures of temptations at times, sometimes when it feels like we are in a wilderness amid suffering, that we can be tempted to idol promises, lies proclaiming there’s another way, or there’s an easier path, why suffer so much, or, God has turned his back on you because you are a sinner, etc…. 

 

Today though, we have the benefit of the gift of the Spirit poured out at Pentecost on all flesh.  We also have the benefit of the fullness of the Gospel poured out in all of its glorious power to save the lost known now without any shadows or murkiness, instead bright and wonderful, that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him won’t perish, but have everlasting life!  We have the knowledge that it is God who justifies the sinner, by grace through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, whom God presented as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood.  We have the benefit of the fullness of the revelation of God in the Word become flesh, Jesus Christ!  And thanks be to God.

 

So we know what God has done, and that all Scripture testifies concerning him.  And now, know that even John the Baptist did, his mission was to prepare his way.  Today, we await the Lord’s return, for he is coming again.  And we still have a God who will call us back to him in preparation.  The Lord will still use his law, but that he may turn us to show us his Gospel love again for our salvation, all of us.  For there is no difference, in that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but we are also justified freely by his grace, through Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose the third day for our everlasting life and he is coming again.  Hallelujah.

 

The Lord bless and keep you this week. 


In Christ Jesus,

 

Pastor

 

 

 

 

 

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