Friday, May 25, 2018

The Voice of God


Friday, May 25, 2018
Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings; honor the Lord for his glory and strength.  Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.  Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.  The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea.  The God of glory thunders.  The Lord thunders over the mighty sea.  The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.  The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars; the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.  He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf; he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox.  The voice of the Lord strikes with bolts of lightning.  The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.  The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare.  In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”  The Lord rules over the floodwaters.  The Lord reigns as king forever.  The Lord gives his people strength.  The Lord blesses them with peace.  Psalm 29:1-11NLT)
The Psalmist describes the voice of God as mighty and cataclysmic – something not to be denied or ignored.  His voice echoes above the sea, splits gigantic cedars, shakes the mountains as if they’re dancing in reply, sends lightning flashes, and stirs quakes in the quiet wilderness, making everything shout-out the glory of God.
After all that imagery the poet peels back the fa├žade of storms and natural disaster to reveal the majestic Lord reigning as king forever, the One who gives his people strength and…peace!
Peace?  How does peace enter into all that earth-shaking and shattering?  Where is the peace in all the clammor of today’s constant arguing, partying, and killing?  Peace?
I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to live at peace, and in peace.  Of course this assumes people who are mentally healthy.  Anger, conflict, confrontation, and a general sense of in-your-face attitude are so alien to what my soul craves, it makes me cringe just to think about all that.  I don’t want to be around people who are at war, literally, or merely in their own minds; they spill-out bile and vengeance into their relationships.  There is little sense of peace or well-being there, or even just considering that picture.
I heard it said once that there are two types of people who are on the positive side of peace; there are peace-lovers, and there are peace-makers.  For me that’s too simple. 
Here’s what I mean:  Loving peace and making peace are as night and day different as passive and active.  Loving peace only requires an attitude – a desire to not have a fight going on.  Making peace sometimes (even often) requires the willingness to have a fight in order to end the fight.  Again, that’s too simple.
The complexity that enters this picture is when people who really aren’t in a healthy place enter the equation (people who are not sound of mind).  These are terrorist-seeds looking for a place to root.  Their literature claims peace as the motive for their “holy war” but goes no farther than throwing-off the blame for their warring ways on the higher power.  There is really not a desire for peace; there is only a lust for aggression.
So, how can you tell the difference between a really strong soldier whose target is peace, and a really strong terrorist who only craves the frenzy of war?  There are lots of variables in the answer to that question, such as the peace-making soldier who loses sight of peace being his target.  But my insides tell me the one true test is whether or not one is willing to trust.  Trust is the ability to lay-down the weapons and engage with words.  That is a first step in moving towards peace; without that first step, there is no chance to go anywhere but to the grave.
And isn’t that the crunch?  War and graves go hand in hand; only those who trust, people who are willing to lay down their anger, war and hurt are candidates for peace.  You need a quiet moment to hear the voice of the Lord.
For You Today
True peace lovers are also peace makers; and the other way around too.
Are there any weapons in your arsenal that need laying-down?
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road; have a blessed day. 
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[1] Title Image:  Courtesy Pixabay.com


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Change

Thursday, May 24, 2018
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.  The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.  So God did what the law could not do.  He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have.  And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.  He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.  Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death.  But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.  For the sinful nature is always hostile to God.  It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.  That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.  Romans 8:1-8(NLT)
There’s a remarkable difference between a worm and a butterfly.  While worms are climbers and dirt-dwellers, once they are transformed by the process of metamorphosis, they become creatures of the sky.  Once endlessly chewing-up the creation, eating leaf, dirt and weeds, now they dine on the sweetness produced by flowers.  And, in flitting from flower to flower they also help the creation with cross-pollination; worms change from irritating pests to vital partners in the process of sustaining life.
Paul’s point in his letter to the Roman Church is tied to this picture; if ugly, dust-crawling leaf and limb-destroying worms can undergo a transformation to become an asset to the beauty and life of creation, so can we humans.
The apostle draws the distinction between the weakness of our human nature and the strength of God’s Spirit.  Now this is counter to anything you’ll hear in the pop culture of 2018, but counter-cultural is what being a Christian is all about.  In the mainstream of humanism you’ll hear that humanity is everything; if we follow our “heart” we’ll do well, and always make the benevolent and right decision.  Paul says that’s a lie!  That’s because the human heart is rebellious to God and, at base, is darker than the deepest part of the night.  Making the right decisions for life depends upon the guidance provided by the Spirit, Who changes us from creatures of darkness to living in the light. 
Mosie Lister composed many songs that point us to the light of change from wanting to live in the dark, to being creatures of the light.  The title just about says it all:

I’ve Been Changed

Tho' my sins were a scarlet, they're white as snow
I was bound, but today I am free
I was lost in the darkness, but now am found
I was blind, but now I see.
I've been changed, I've been "newborn"
All my life has been rearranged
What a difference it made
When the Lord came and stayed
in my Heart! O yes, I've been changed [2]
For You Today
Even in our darkness we can see the difference light makes.  And seeing the difference always sets up a choice between the darkness and light. 
So…ground crawling, leaf-chewing creature of the darkness, always taking, always leaving a path of destruction and decay…or spreading the life God intended, soaring with the unmatched beauty of life in the Spirit?
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road; have a blessed day. 

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[1] Title Image:  Courtesy Pixabay.com
[2] Mosie Lister, I’ve Been Changed, 1959, via Name that Hymn

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bones & Breath; It's an Inside Job

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones.  He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor.  They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out.  Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”  “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”  Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!  I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin.  I will put breath into you, and you will come to life.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”  So I spoke this message, just as he told me.  Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley.  The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons.  Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones.  Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.  Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man.  Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  Come, O breath, from the four winds!  Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”  So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies.  They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.  Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel.  They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone.  Our nation is finished.’  Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord.  I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land.  Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said.  Yes, the Lord has spoken!’”  Ezekiel 37: 1-14(NLT)
That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.  Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.  As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side.  They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!  Again he said, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.  If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 
John 20:19-23(NLT)
These two texts, Ezekiel’s vision and the appearance of Jesus to His disciples after the resurrection, are not at all about bones or ghosts…they’re all about the breath of God!  Genesis tells us that when God created humankind they were nothing until God breathed the breath of life into them.  That is a simple fact; our Creator is the author, giver, and sustainer of all life.  If He decides the next breath will not be available to you or me…that’s it…game over! 
When Jesus breathed on his disciples it was an outward demonstration of the beginning of the indwelling experience of God in mankind.  It’s all about the breath, the life of God in us, and God working out his purposes through us. 
The life of God is an inside job!
And that was the whole point for both Israel and the disciples.  Both thought it was all over…the end…turn out the lights and go home.  Israel thought they were toast as a nation.  Yet God revived that nation just in this past century.  The disciples had seen Jesus beaten, nailed to a tree, and then buried.  Talk about game-over!  But now he breathed on them, and the breath of new life was filling their inner being with the power of God to build the Kingdom.
As Yogi Berra always said:  It ain’t over till it’s over!
For You Today
Is your church a just a mere bag of bones compared to what it used to be? 
Do you look at that person in the mirror and wonder where the time and strength have gone? 
Perhaps you’re looking too much on the outside.  Remember…where God is concerned, it’s always an inside job!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road; have a blessed day. 
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[1] Title Image:  Courtesy Pixabay.com (bones) and Pixabay.com (breath)




Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Taking Down the Tower

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words.  As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there.  They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.”  (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.)  Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky.  This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”  But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building.  “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language.  After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!  Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages.  Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”  In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city.  That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages.  In this way he scattered them all over the world.     Genesis 11:1-9(NLT)
I despise having to admit that the easiest way to get me to do anything is to tell me I can’t do it.  But, human nature being what it is, and I, being a card-carrying human person, how could I deny that nature?  I want to be in control of my decisions.
It was no different for the early Babylonians.  They wanted to make a name for themselves, so they began to build their empire, strengthening their hold on that region.  They were digging-in for the long haul.  But twice before God had laid out his plans for humankind to spread-out over the whole earth.[2]  King Nimrod and the Babylonians had different ideas.  They were out to consolidate their holdings in a Nimrod Tower; they forgot Who was in charge.
The Babylonians, under Nimrod’s leadership had forgotten (as we all do at times) that they were the creatures, not the Creator.  If you’re designed to cooperate with God, but your mind is settled on what you want to do, you’ve got a problem!
With words God had brought complex order to the chaos of an unformed universe, creating every species of plants, animals, natural habitats and laws; then God formed his jewel to crown the lot – humans.  Just a few generations later those humans exhibited the temperment of a spoiled three year-old refusing to obey God’s command to spread out and replenish the earth:  but I don’t wanna!
So God did what God does – He took down their Legos™ tower. 
With words God had brought order to chaos in the universe; when humans rejected God’s words, God responded by bringing confusion to their words.  Unable to communicate, the people had no choice, but to scatter and move out.
One way or the other – through cooperation or conscription, God’s created order will correspond with God’s will.  That equation will always balance.  Free will means God has given us a gift to correspond with His design; those (like Nimrod) who attempt to challenge God with impugnity, imposing their will over His, eventually find out their tower is nothing but a house of cards.
For You Today
It’s a good thing to check on your progress regularly.  We need to remember what building projects are going to last, and what projects are wood, hay and stubble, to eventually be consumed in the fire of judgment.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road; have a blessed day. 

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[1] Title Image:  Courtesy Pixabay.com
[2] To Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:28), then to Noah after the flood, (Genesis 9:1)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Reason to Rejoice

Monday, May 21, 2018
O Lord, what a variety of things you have made!  In wisdom you have made them all.  The earth is full of your creatures.  Here is the ocean, vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind, both large and small.  See the ships sailing along, and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea.  They all depend on you to give them food as they need it.  When you supply it, they gather it.  You open your hand to feed them, and they are richly satisfied.  But if you turn away from them, they panic.  When you take away their breath, they die and turn again to dust.  When you give them your breath, life is created, and you renew the face of the earth.  May the glory of the Lord continue forever!  The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!  The earth trembles at his glance; the mountains smoke at his touch.  I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.  I will praise my God to my last breath!  May all my thoughts be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.  Psalm 104:24-34(NLT)
I made the mistake of falling asleep on the couch last weekend.  Well, the nap was not an error…naps solve many problems, and head-off a truckload of marital discord! 
The lack of judgment on my part was to leave the TV remote ungarded.  When I awoke I discovered the glaring reality that “we” were watching Free Willy (ok…she was watching; I had been in suspended animation)!  The film[2] is 25 years old and has never lost its’ smarmy-ness.  But that’s not the reason I despise it.  Every time I see that moment where the killer whale jumps the barrier to freedom, I get this lump in my throat that reminds me I never succeeded fully in that big boys don’t cry thing.
Truth be told, I’m glad I haven’t graduated to that cold, unfeeling, never-moved with emotion “big boy” status; how would you ever rejoice over God’s creation or love?  Psalms are love songs to God, and in this one, the writer proclaims that, to his last breath he will lift praise to the Lord.  Deep down I know it’s true that my soul wants to join the Psalmist and secure my place at the altar, offering the kind of unbridled praise only a cleansed and freed-to-worship heart can offer.
More truth be told, the only thing that ever stops me from that is embarrassment over my own sin, and the hypocrisy of not wanting to look foolish or hypocritical to others by playing the part of worship without having holy hands cleansed by God’s extreme forgiveness.  And when you read this Psalm’s description of the simple rejoicing of the earth’s creatures, who have no embarrassment, but simply live in the provision of God’s hand, playing in the sea like Leviathan, the whale monster…it is a reality that they come a lot closer to worship than I do at times.
For You Today
If your worship was less than a connection with the eternal Almighty yesterday, maybe today you will do what the sea monster does constantly, eat what God provides, and keep remembering you’re part of the creation God loves.
And if, like Willy the killer whale, there is a barrier between you and the freedom to live like you were created, go ahead and jump…you’ve got reason to rejoice!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road; have a blessed day. 

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[1] Title Image:  Courtesy Pixabay.com
[2] Warner Brothers 1993

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Gospel Plumb Line

Then he showed me another vision.  I saw the Lord standing beside a wall that had been built using a plumb line.  He was using a plumb line to see if it was still straight.  And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?”  I answered, “A plumb line.”  And the Lord replied, “I will test my people with this plumb line.  I will no longer ignore all their sins.   Amos 7:7-8(NLT)
But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  Acts 2:21(NLT)
I must face the obvious facts:  This preacher and any type of tool don’t mix well; especially power tools!  But one thing I have discovered is that plumb lines are amazing.  Until several years ago when Dad was cleaning out his toolbox, I had never even held one.  I also never knew that things you built could actually stand straight.  Before I had a plumb line, everything I’d ever put together looked pretty much like the Leaning Tower of Pisa[1]. 
The Lord showed Amos a line, a plumb line He had drawn to show Israel where they had gone wrong.  This nation of God’s people had grown cold and indifferent about serving God.  They were also guilty of oppression of the poor.  They were as cold and indifferent to people as they were to God.  And the Lord wasn’t pleased. 
All of Amos’ prophecy is a warning of God’s judgment warming up; if you want to sleep after turning out the light, don’t read it at bedtime!
One thing about plumb lines – they are always right.  Gravity will always draw the weight directly to the center of the earth’s axis.  You will always have a straight-up-and-down 90o angle. 
God’s plumb line for us is the same.  That plumb line is God’s Word, revealed truth with no error whatsoever. 
This morning I would like to share with you that part of the plumb line we call the Gospel.  In particular it is the preaching of the Gospel which we find (for the first time) in Acts. 
Now, aspects of the Gospel can be seen from the first chapter of Genesis, all the way through Revelation.  But, the New Testament preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ began on the day of Pentecost. 
For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ.  It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.  Romans 1:16(NLT)
According to the apostle Paul, the centrality of the preaching of that Gospel is the cross, and the preaching of the cross has always brought about two responses of opposite nature; we either respond with unbelief or faith.  Depending on a person’s response, it leads to equally opposite results:
The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction!  But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.   1 Corinthians 1:18(NLT)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a plumb line; the cross of that Gospel is a plumb line.  This plumb line requires that you line up on one side or the other of a perfectly divided, straight-up-and-down choice.  There are only two options, no fence upon which to sit:
·      Option #1 is foolishness, which is responding with rejection to the Gospel.  Every week, perhaps in every church in the world there are people who reject the Gospel as a foolish story…religion that has no relevance.  People who do so eventually perish!   
·      Option #2 is responding to the Gospel in faith, which becomes the power of God to be saved from the kind of judgment Amos preached.  And to receive the gift of eternal life and the indwelling of God’s precious Holy Spirit!
What exactly is the Gospel?  There is a lot of confusion these days about what Christians believe. 
So many preachers; so many ideas – so how do you tell which is genuine and which is false?
I read an article in a Lexington newspaper a friend sent me some time ago about a local man who published books about Christianity and reincarnation.[2]  He believes Jesus taught it – that we die, then are reincarnated over and over.  The man, a retired engineer, has a website promoting his views, and even rented a hall in Lexington several years ago to lecture on reincarnation as part of Christian belief, because, in his own words:
It's the kind of atmosphere that we have right now.  There are great differences politically...the whole religious question is the most confusing it has ever been...It's the general picture that young people, more than ever, cannot make sense of religion.[3]
Now, friends, if this man thinks putting …reincarnation and Christianity back under the same roof[4] [as he put it] will clarify Christian doctrine and make the Gospel of Christ more available, well, we have a lot of work to do!
The Bible clearly says that it is appointed once for a man to die[5] – not die and live over and over again.  Buddhism and other forms of eastern mysticism believe in that, but Jesus promised us ONE resurrection, and then to never die again.
There is a lot of hype, style and fizz out there today about mysticism, spirituality and faith.  We need to make certain we are careful to not mistake style for substance!  The real Gospel comes from the real truth, God’s Word. 
Jonathan Edwards was a little man who wore glasses an inch thick, barely peering over the pulpit as he read his sermons in a monotone.  He had little in the way of style…but you could always count on the substance of the Gospel plumb line when he preached two centuries ago. 
Most churches these days would never want Jonathan Edwards as a preaching pastor because he would not hold the attention of young people; he wouldn’t be interesting to anyone in our impatient, entertainment-driven culture.  In the future our 21st century will be known as the Attention-Deficit-Disorder era. 
But Jonathan Edwards’ sermon entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God touched off the Great Awakening in America, where hundreds of thousands came to the altars to be saved by the real Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Presenting the real Gospel, Jonathan Edwards was interrupted often during his sermon by intense sobbing and loud weeping of those convicted of their sin by the Holy Spirit of God; they were convicted of their need to get right with a holy God! 
Today even most Christians sit in today’s churches, stone-faced, unwilling to even admit their hearts are at odds with God; much less make a trip to the altar.  We are as cold today as in the days of Amos’ plumb line. 
We desperately need a dose of the old time Gospel!
What is the Gospel?
There are five basic elements present in the preaching of the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In Acts (chapters 2,3,4 and 10 especially) you can see all five.  For today we will concentrate on that first sermon preached by Peter to the crowd gathered on the day of Pentecost.  In that sermon we will see all five elements of real Gospel preaching. 
If you will please open your Bibles to the second chapter of Acts, we will see these five elements, starting at verse 14.  Our purpose is to see the genuine Gospel, so that when we hear the spurious and false claims of this age we will be equipped to be defenders of the faith.  Element #1 is…

1.     The Promised Time of God Had Come

Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem!  Make no mistake about this.  These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming.  Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that.  No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy.  Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.  In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.  And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and clouds of smoke.  The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.  But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’  
Acts 2:14-21
This beginning to Peter’s sermon is largely a direct quotation from the prophet Joel.  Peter said in unmistakable words (to that crowd) that God’s promise of sending a Savior was no longer in the future tense.  He began with the promise of God.  That’s a good way to begin a sermon!
The first promise that God would send a Savior appears in Genesis after we find Adam and Eve had sinned.  God handed out the punishment of death for sin, but also promised that the offspring of Eve’s “seed” would bring a Messiah, a Savior:
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.  He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Genesis 3:15(NLT
Well, God always keeps his promises, so Peter could announce this as the truth…the promised time had come. 
Element #2…

2.     Summary of Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection

 “People of Israel, listen!  God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know.  But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed.  With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him.  But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.   Acts 2:22-24(NLT)         
The first element says that it was God’s timing; this one says it was God’s plan for Jesus to come, be crucified and resurrected.  If you pay close attention to some of the wording in Peter’s sermon, you see the importance of God’s plan…it is the substitutionary death of Jesus; the just for the unjust. 
Three phrases:
1.      The perfect (sinless) life of Jesus of Nazareth.
2.      Betrayed and crucified unjustly…Each of us is guilty [because we are all sinners before God]…and so each of us possesses wicked hands.  And, therefore we are all guilty of the crucifixion.
3.      Jesus could not be held by the grave.
So far, we have God’s timing, God’s plan – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Element #3 is…

3.     Claim That This Fulfilled Prophecy

King David said this about him:  ‘I see that the Lord is always with me.  I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.  No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises!  My body rests in hope.  For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.  You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’  “Dear brothers, think about this!  You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us.  But he was a prophet, and he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne.  David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection.  He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave.  “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.  Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand.  And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.  For David himself never ascended into heaven, yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.”’  Acts 2:25-35 (NLT)
The David that Peter referred to was King David who lived many hundreds of years before Jesus.  Peter quotes from Psalms 16 which was written by David.  In that Psalm the coming ministry of Jesus is predicted.
Peter makes the point that David prophesied the resurrection of Jesus the crucified.  David had long been dead at that time.  David was looking forward to the cross as the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Gospel preaching shows us the plumb line of God’s promised time, and God’s promised Messiah, Jesus, and God’s fulfillment of his promises.  
And there is a fourth element…

4.     Assertion That Jesus Would Come Again

“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”  Acts 2:36(NLT)
Christ in Aramaic means anointed one.  It is the picture we will see in January, when the next president of the United States is recognized in Washington.  We, the people will choose him.
To be chosen in the sense of Christ means the choice is God’s.  The Jews knew of the promise.  They knew Genesis; they had the prophets.  To them, the chosen, the Christ would come to set up His kingdom, and reign as Lord forever.
Now, unfortunately, the first coming was misunderstood.  Peter announced that clearly when he said, whom you crucified!  There will not be that possibility in the next appearing!  The next time Jesus comes there will be no sweet little manger child with cattle lowing in the background.  There will be no chance to miss the King’s next entrance…it will be with battle cry, with graves shaken open and the whole earth will see it!
Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven.  And everyone will see him—even those who pierced him.  And all the nations of the world will mourn for him.  Yes! Amen!  “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God.  “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”  Revelation 1:7-8(NLT)
Gospel preaching shows us:
·      the plumb line of God’s promised time
·      God’s promised Messiah, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection
·      God’s fulfillment of his promises.  
·      The promise that God’s plan has more to come…and it is coming!
And then, a fifth element…

5.     An Urgent Invitation to Repent and Receive the Holy Spirit

       
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”  Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”  Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”  Acts 2:37-40(NLT)
Up to this point the Gospel message has been largely a story.  Up to this point rejecting or receiving seems to make little “personal” difference. 
Up to this point!
Peter saw that the ones hearing all this were stung in their hearts.  The big fisherman knew it was now time to draw the net.  He gave them an urgent invitation – Repent (turn around from your past)!  Be baptized to show you’re serious about turning from your ways to Jesus.  God will show you how serious He is by giving you the gift of Himself – His Spirit taking up residence inside you, guiding you, loving you, blessing you, giving you a life with eternity, and an eternity with a quality of life you never even imagined!
Now, the rest of the story is church history. 
The first altar call saw three thousand souls converted to Christ.  The Bible tells us that those who had never committed their lives to Christ did so…and the church was born.
This was the birthday of the church of the Lord, Jesus Christ…fifty days after the crucifixion…on Pentecost Sunday!
Points to Ponder
Two questions to roll around in your mind today: 
1.      HAS CHRIST SPOKEN TO OUR HEARTS ABOUT OUR PART IN THIS? 
2.      HAVE WE SURRENDERED THOSE HEARTS TO HIM? 
The answer can always be found in that with which we began…the two responses:  faith or unbelief!
·      If you are one who has never committed your life to Christ, do you believe? 
·      Are you convinced in your heart that you are the sinner Christ came to die for? 
·      Are you willing to offer yourself to Him as one who is ready to turn his back on the former life, and serve him with the rest of the days he grants you to live?
This describes the process of being obedient to the Lord Jesus with your life. 
·      You repent first; it is an act of communication to God, and that you want to be saved. 
·      Then you bury the old person you used to be in baptism, and Christ brings you out of the baptismal to live a brand-new life.
This is his plumb line – it is clearly the straight-up-and-down way He wants us to come to Him. 
Let the church say “Amen”!
Our Prayer
Father, we thank you that this Gospel plumb line is understandable, even to a child.  We are all sinners, separated from you by our natural desire to have self be in control.  We have heard this story and the mere fact that you loved us enough to leave Heaven and become like us…die for us in our place…does what it did to the first hearers of the Gospel…it stings our hearts with overwhelming grief and guilt to know the King of Glory would suffer and die because of our evil.  May we repent like they did.
May there be a new Pentecost this day…with spiritual birthdays in this place.
We pray in Your Son’s Name; help us to cooperate with Your Spirit…Amen!


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[1] Image courtesy Pixabay.com
[2] Eric Frazier, The Dispatch, Man says reincarnation is compatible with Christian faith, Aug 28, 2004
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Hebrews 9:27