Moving to our Long Home – Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

  The older I get, the more closely death creeps in around me. By that I don’t mean that I am sick and approaching death myself. While that is undoubtedly true, death isn’t near enough to me personally to be an immediate concern. Rather, more and more people near me and around me are dying. Lately, for me, most of those who have passed away have been children of God. This is not true for all of us – for you perhaps. But for me, their passing, although sad, has not been bitter. There has been a relief knowing that their suffering is finished. And there is a joy, knowing they are with the Lord, their Saviour. Having been asked to participate in more than one funeral, I have been forced to consider the fact of death, the necessity of death and the inevitability of death. No, I didn’t preach from this scripture at Bro. Ken Johnson’s service last Tuesday. My message came from a much more obscure passage – Jeremiah 23. But, generally speaking, for several weeks my thoughts have been pushed toward this solemn subject. And I believe the Lord would have you to consider it as well. If you are as old as I am, you need to consider death, simply because it may be coming up. But even more, if you are still “in the days of thy youth” you should think about your death. Isn’t this what Ecclesiastes tells us? Solomon uses an interesting phrase in verse 5 to speak about this subject. Eventually “man goeth to his long home.” Death is a move...

The Undulations of Life – Psalm 23

  Jacob, the son of Isaac, was traveling from Beersheba to Padan-Aram to find a good wife. Or perhaps someone else might say – “He was hoping to find himself.” You might also say that he was trying to escape a dysfunctional family with a murderous brother. On that trip he came to a certain place called “Luz” just as the sun began to settle over his left shoulder. So he began to make a spot where he could bed down for the night. He moved some of the stones around; he might have looked for some moss or straw on which to lay. He made himself as comfortable as possible. But Jacob didn’t sleep well that night; he experienced a very strange dream. I think it is safe to say that it had nothing to do with a spicy pepperoni pizza. In this vision he saw a set of stairs, or a ladder, reaching from where he slept up into Heaven. And on this ladder he saw angels of God ascending and descending – apparently with different God-ordained tasks to perform. Then above that ladder stood Jehovah Himself, giving the rascal Jacob some pretty nice promises. “I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of...

Can’t Sin? – I John 3:1-9

  Canton, is the 8th largest Ohio city – about 60 miles south of Cleveland and Lake Erie. For years its population has been falling, but other cities in Ohio have dropped even more. In other words, with some exceptions, the state of Ohio is not prospering right now. I talked about this with Brother Estes, who is from Ohio, and he agreed. But the city of Canton has at least one major claim to fame; it draws a lot of visitors. One of the unusual buildings in the city appears to have a football stuck right through the roof. It looks as if a perfect spiral had been thrown straight down from Heaven by Gabriel himself. Canton, Ohio is the home of the “Pro Football Hall of Fame.” And another Canton claim to fame is the “Canton Baptist Temple.” When I was in Bible School, one of the leading lights of the Baptist Bible Fellowship was Harold Henninger. He had taken the pastorate of the Canton Baptist Tabernacle, and built it into the Canton Baptist Temple. A church with more than 5,000 in Sunday School for ten weeks in a row isn’t a chapel, church or tabernacle; it couldn’t consider itself anything less than a “Temple of God.” You can be sure that to reach the number of 5,000, they used lots of gimmicks and tricks. One of those gimmicks came out in 1966, 3 years after the opening of the “Football Hall of Fame.” Pastor Henninger commissioned 102 original oil paintings of the most important Christians in history. He hung those paintings on the walls of one...

The Man with a Crisp, Clear Faith – Acts 18:4-8

  Crispus was the chief-ruler of the Corinthian synagogue. This indicates that he was an influential person in the Jewish community. He had enough respect to have been placed in the second highest office in their synagogue, just under the officiating rabbi. We might assume that he was honest, upright, intelligent, and reasonably wise. But after the arrival of Paul, those same people who had respected him turned on him. He did a very foolish thing: He believed on the Lord and encouraged his family to do the same. He gave up working to please God and his neighbors and cast himself down before the Lord’s mercy. Despite the fact that Crispus had been an important man to his community, people today wouldn’t know his name, if wasn’t for what we find here in Acts 18 and again in I Corinthians 1. This man has been immortalized based on two things: He believed on Christ, and he was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Think about that for a moment: No matter how wealthy that man had been as a businessman in the commercial city of Corinth … No matter how much influence he had among his peers … No matter how many important children he raised … Whether or not he had built that synagogue with his own hands or with his own money, and his name was carved on the cornerstone … Those things were forgotten by the time that his grandchildren died. Furthermore, I can tell you based upon the Word of the Lord, that God wasn’t moved by...

The Holy Spirit and Regeneration – Titus 3:5-7

  I hope you know the dictionary definition of the word “regeneration.” It is to re-generate; it is to make something alive once again. Once again? Yes, once again. Theologically, regeneration is the operation of God whereby, the human spirit – which once lived in Adam, but died when he sinned against his Creator – is made to live once again. Regeneration is a theological word because it is a Bible term. And because it is a Biblical term, it needs to be taught and preached from time to time. That is not necessarily true of all the words in the world’s theology books, but it is true in this case. However it needs to be pointed out that it is not a common Biblical term; it is used only twice in the Bible. We read a few minutes ago from Matthew 19:23-30 – Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” When the Lord Jesus used the word “regeneration” in verse 28 there was no special definition. “In the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon...

Glory to God; Glory to God in the Highest – Ephesians 3:14-21

  I ran across an appalling statistic the other day – verification of which is impossible. The author said that of the 1,440 minutes which God gives to us every day, the average Christian returns to him no more than four minutes in prayer and praise. I’m sure that all of you are well above that average, but consider…. A full minute with heads bowed before a meal seems like an eternity. And five minutes before heading out the door means that you might get stuck behind a school bus and not make your appointment. As I told you the other day, I have a small, simple savings account at a local credit union. My account pays a little more than a half percent interest per year, which is better than most banks. That is dreadful, especially when we compare it to what interest banks charge on their loans. But before you rant and rail against the banks, consider that 4 minutes is about a quarter of one percent of the time the Lord gives to us every day. The average “Christian” gives the Lord less interest than most banks give to their customers. As we can see in this scripture, the apostle offers up his prayer and praise to God. We can learn a great deal from the prayers of Paul. In this case, we see in these short verses that he didn’t have a single request for himself. That isn’t to say that in other scriptures he doesn’t pray for himself and ask others to pray for him. But at least here, he doesn’t think of his...

Rahab – Change in Citizenship – Joshua 2:1, 8-15

  Joshua chapter 2 is one of the most captivating passages in all the Word of God. It appeals to the imagination, to the heart, and to the faith of the child of God. It appeals to Christians; to Hollywood script writers; to children; to virtually everyone. There is sin here, but then there is also wisdom, faith, and bountiful grace. I could preach this chapter using the New Testament as my text in stead of Joshua. Paul takes a reference from here and transplants it into Hebrews 11. James takes an illustration from this chapter and puts it into his letter to the scattered saints. I hope you’ll forgive me for my love of the biographies of the Old Testament. I know the doctrine of salvation is more systematically taught in the New Testament. But many of the Old Testament saints are clear pictures of New Testament doctrine. Some of them are types and illustrations of Christ or perhaps New Testament believers. But in the case of Rahab there is no illustration or type; she is the real deal. Rahab is a sinner saved by the grace of God. Generally speaking, she is like every other rescued soul. And then again, there are specifics in her story which make her testimony even more individual. Let’s begin with a historical review. Joshua sent two men across the Jordan river to evaluate the strength and defenses of Canaan. Knowing the prior history of Israel, we can assume that these were carefully chosen men. Joshua selected them; it wasn’t left to the leadership of the tribes to pick their favorites or...

Habakkuk’s Harpoon – Habakkuk 1:1-17

Paul and Barnabas had traveled to the city of Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they peacefully entered into the synagogue and sat down. After the proscribed reading of the law and prophets, they were asked whether or not they would like to exhort the congregation. Paul took full advantage of the opportunity, giving to them the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He declared the good news that the Messiah, the Saviour had come. He said that forgiveness of sins can be found in Jesus of Nazareth. Remember, this was a Jewish synagogue. Perhaps those people had heard of Jesus. If they had, then they knew He had been rejected by the Jewish leadership and had been crucified by the Romans. But Paul told them that seventy-two hours after His burial, He arose victorious over death – the penultimate end of sin. “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, That through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, From which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” That quotation from Acts 13:38 and 39 contains the last words before our text. “Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, A work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. . . “ When Paul was led of the Spirit to quote from Habakkuk 1, I think there was a very good...

The Lost Joys of Salvation – Psalm 51:1-12; 32:1-5

It is not a pretty thought, but there is a good likelihood that some day your home is going to be burglarized. It is very likely that one day you will come home and find a window pried open or door latch broken. You may then find things missing – gone – just like some your neighbors. Any casual observer can recognize that you are gone from your homes regularly on Sundays and Wednesdays, creating easy targets. Like Daniel, the enemy might “find occasion against us concerning the law of our God.” It has been a few years, but Brother Gaston has been robbed. If I remember correctly, Brother Kjeldgaard has had things stolen out of the back of his old pickup. I had my tool box stolen out of my garage. And very probably there are others who have been robbed as well. The sad thing is: there is not very much we can do about it, except to hold the things of this world loosely, and trust the Lord to supply the things we really need. And sadder yet, Americans encourage many of their own losses. We may leave a door or widow unlocked, or something of value may be left out to be seen. Thousands of cars are stolen because keys are left in the ignition. In my case I invited some men to do some work for me, and they rewarded me by stealing my tools. The two scriptures we have read this morning were written by a gifted and God-blessed man. He was spiritual, benevolently powerful, wealthy, gracious, and generally speaking, a good servant...

Wounds that Heal – Isaiah 53:1-5

Do you have any scars or wounds that you are carrying around with you today? By the time people get to be my age, most of us have a dozen nice scars and a healing wound or two. One day, earlier this week, as Sahalie was getting ready for bed, she asked me about scars. At nine-years-old, she has a couple of small ones, which will probably disappear over time. But at my age, I have several of them, and some apparently have no intention of disappearing. Undoubtedly, you could probably show us all some nice bodily scars too. But what about the mental kind; wounds that may or may not have healed, but which have left soul-scars. Perhaps you were hurt by a pastor or church years ago, and that left a scar. Was it an abusive parent or a terrifying experience of some sort or a bad friendship? From time to time people come to the house of God wounded and hurting. There isn’t a lot we can do to heal up that scratch from the thorn you got on Friday. But I’d like to introduce you to One who really knows wounds and who has healed thousands of them. He, Himself, has felt the sting of thorns, fists, swords and even nails. And He knows about emotional wounds, like the ones inflicted by friends and loved ones. For example, He knows what it is to be really, really lonely – forsaken by everyone. He has been scorned, laughed at and jeered. He understands the pain of slander and what wounds people’s lies can cause. Of course,...

Joseph, A Portrait of Christ – Genesis 30:22-24

Recently, while in Denver, I was squeezed by a relative into buying a large collection of postage stamps. Very little of it has anything to do with my own collecting interests, but I did it as a favor. Among other things, there is a lot of early United States postal material. I have never studied American philately, but I do have good, detailed stamp identification catalague. Sadly, it is not detailed enough – there are hundreds of varieties among the early stamps. For example, there are dozens of stamps depicting George Washington, all with many variations. There are so many, and they are so intricate, that it takes an expert to tell them apart. But no expertise is necessary to see that the 1856 issue is different from the 1895 and the 1914 issues. The picture of George is very different, and yet they all depict the same man. In some ways, the Bible is something like a stamp catalogue or identification book. But it is unique among all the books on library shelves, because its author is God. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Even though the Bible is made up of 66 books, it is a single unit, with several messages running through it. Throughout its pages we learn about the sinfulness of man – the genesis of sin, its progress, its forms. We learn that the holy God will not ignore man’s sin; He must judge the sinner. But parallel to that revelation of sin, we see God’s gracious provision of forgiveness and reconciliation. Almost from page one, we...

The Flawed Sapphire – Acts 5:1-11

Have you ever had a really, really sore finger or toe? I am talking about the kind of hurt that makes you jump every time you touch it? I am talking about the proverbial “sore thumb.” This history of Ananias and Sapphira stick out of the Book of Acts like a pair of sore thumbs – one on each hand. It is painful to read about them. It is painful to read about their deaths. They died miraculously. Think about all of the miracles of which we read in the New Testament. All, but a very few, warm the heart and uplift the spirit. There are the fantastic deliverances from disease and even death. There are a few cases of miraculous supply. Like food to feed thousands and coins in the mouths of fish. There were deliverances from prison and miraculous changes of character – called “conversions.” Sparsely interspersed between the great miracles, are a handful of equally miraculous negatives. There are things, like Christ’s cursing of the barren fig tree and it’s immediate death. This kind of miracle really bothers people. “What right has God to kill some living thing?” As we learned in our camp devotionals – God has every right. People who are upset by such miraculous, divine interventions, are not bothered in the right kind of way. Perhaps we aren’t surprised when we hear a thunderbolt and see the lightning blast. But we should bothered when we see how close we stand to where lightning struck. God has every right, by the definition of deity – “God” – to take the life of a tree,...

Alternate Attributes – Nahum 1:1-3

Do you remember the first time you read the Book of John, or Romans, or Revelation? I know that this may be asking you to reach back a long way, and so this will be difficult. But if you can remember your first venture into the Book of Daniel or Song of Solomon it might be interesting. Of course, I don’t remember all of them, but one or two books struck me the first time I read them. There was the love of God in some, and then the life of Christ; and there was the nature of salvation. There were different things in different books. I do remember the first time I read the Book of Ezekiel. It wasn’t in an in-depth Bible study, rather it was just a casual reading. I wasn’t impressed with the prophesies against Israel or other nations – I had already had read many. It wasn’t the beautiful prose of Isaiah, and it didn’t have the tears and pathos of Jeremiah. I wasn’t moved by the mysteries of Ezekiel’s Heavenly visions. I was struck with the wrath of God against sin – the severity of God’s judgment. Some of the prophet’s statements seemed really harsh – but that wasn’t surprising in itself. What caught my attention was in the following verse, or two or three verses later. Sitting next to a statement about utter destruction, there was another about God’s grace and mercy. Ezekiel is filled with statements similar to 6:6-8 – “In all your dwellingplaces the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may...

Living Dying Faith – Luke 23:32-43

Judy and I have been married for nearly fifty years with contingency plans to go another fifty. We have known each other since junior high school, so that makes our acquaintance nearly sixty years. Our lives have melded together; we are one in many ways. We think alike and can often read each other’s thoughts. However, it would still take single-spaced typed sheet on legal sized paper to list differences between us. No two lives are the same, no matter how close they may be. In the same way, no two people are brought to Christ in exactly the same way. No two conversions are exactly the same. And yet, everyone who has come to Christ, everyone who been born again, converted, redeemed… Everyone who has come to Christ is a picture of every other person who has been drawn to the Lord. And for this reason we look at the living faith of the dying thief this morning. Here is a man saved by the grace of God, who is just like all of us in a few ways. And I hope that he will be just like many others before the Lord returns. Obviously, there were three men who died at Calvary that day. Besides the Saviour there was a rebel who died in his sins and there was this repentant thief. First let’s consider the person himself. I call him a “thief” because that is what some of the other gospel writers call him. But Luke calls him a “malefactor” – which is a bit more general term. “Malefactor” means “evil-doer,” “criminal,” or “wrongdoer.” Some commentators...

Is Christianity Worth While? – I Peter 3:15-16

For the last year and a half I have been pulling books out of my library and re-reading them. I suppose it started with Verduin’s “The Reformers and their Step-children,” which developed into a series of messages. The other day, I spotted a little paperback, the notations on which indicated that I paid 40¢ back in 1976. It was obviously picked up in Calgary Alberta. Its author is a famous Canadian journalist, named Pierre Berton. I can still remember his face – he was that prominent at the time. I often refer to books I am currently reading. They sometimes are mentioned in messages, but more often they are quoted in our weekly bulletin. Rarely, if ever, do I give you book reports. The one book we need, and the one book the world sadly lacks or ignores, is God’s book, the Bible. The day when my sermon text comes out of a book other than the KJV Bible, you’ll know that either I am trying to make a special point, or I’m out of my mind. If that occurs in three successive messages, then you’ll know I need to be dismissed or locked-up. Today my text is scriptural, but I’ve to used this book to help focus of my attention for both messages. This is not the kind of book I usually read, but a couple of things caught my attention when I saw it in Jaffe’s book store. First was its title, “The Comfortable Pew” – certainly intriguing enough. And it was written by a man unknown to most of you, but who at the time was...