Surprise! You are in Heaven! – I John 5:10-20

  Let’s say that some friends of yours has paid for you to go to a fancy restaurant with your spouse. This is a very nice, highly recommended, place to which you had never been before. Let’s make it an ethnic restaurant where nothing on the menu was familiar to you. In fact, it’s so ethnic you can’t read the menu because it is written in some really obscure language. What is the likelihood of you enjoying your meal, if you just told the waiter, “I have $50.00; bring me the best that my money can buy?” Do you like surprises in restaurant dining? Or how about going to a car dealer and telling the salesman: “I’m going to have to borrow a lot of money anyway, so it doesn’t matter what your cars costs. You pick one for me, and I’ll sign the papers right now. You fill in the blanks and deliver whatever you like to my house tomorrow morning.” Does anyone like surprises when it comes to buying new cars? Would it be a good Sunday if when you got home, you found your house had burnt down? Would you over-joyed if you left the building this morning you found a flat tire on your car, and when you opened your trunk, you discovered that your spare was flat as well? Have you ever gone to the store to buy some large, essential item, and your credit card was denied? When it comes to the important things in life we don’t want surprises. We like to be in control, or at the very least to think...

Is it an Elephant or is it Salvation? – Isaiah 12:1-6

If you’ve never heard the ancient Indian story about the blind men and the elephant, I will correct your lack of education right now. A group of blind men were told that a strange animal, called an “elephant,” had been brought to their town. Not only had they never seen and elephant, but they had never even heard of one. Out of curiosity, they said: “We would like to investigate this creature.” So, they sought it out, and when they found it they put their hands and fingers on it, while the patient elephant permitted their investigation. The first man, putting his hand landed on the trunk, said, “This elephant is nothing new, it is only a thick snake.” One of the others first grabbed its ear, declaring that it seemed like a kind of leaf fan. A third man, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar – like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its belly said the elephant is a wall. Another who felt its tail, describing it as a rope. And the last man felt its tusk, and declared that an elephant is hard and smooth like a spear. Of course they were all correct – or at least they were partially correct. Without intending to do so, over the last month, I’ve lead you to touch God’s salvation in different ways. Several messages have interlocked with our Sunday School lessons giving us a blind theologian’s view of salvation. In our 10:00 class we have been looking at various doctrinal aspects of salvation – grace, justification, atonement,...

Salvation is My God – Luke 2:25-30

As you might surmise, I am still building on a message which started two weeks ago. When Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus into the temple to give Him to Jehovah, Simeon was there to greet them. He had been looking for the “consolation of Israel” – the comfort which would come through the Messiah. This may be a reference to Isaiah 40 which begins, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.” Simeon could see that Jerusalem indeed had received the Lord’s judgment for her sins. But let’s go on and read the next few verses in Isaiah 40. Verse 3 says, “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the GLORY of the LORD shall be REVEALED, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” I have no doubt whatsoever that the consolation Simeon was seeking, he knew, was to be found in Christ. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” At that point, as we have...

The Uncommon Common Salvation – Jude 1-4

Sister Brenda Roberts and I were joking back and forth on Thursday about the need to learn new things. She is apparently right-handed, and it was her right shoulder which had surgery on Monday. So she is having to learn to do simple, every-day things differently – with her secondary arm. She asked me, “Have you ever tried buttering bread left handed?” Picture that for a moment, or think how you’d cut your meat with only one hand, or comb your hair. At some point I said, “Learning new things every day keeps us young.” Children learn things nearly every day, and they are young. Maybe if we adults learned like children it might keep us, and our brains, supple like those of children. I say that in order to say, “I hope you don’t mind learning new things about the Lord Jesus.” I hope you don’t get bored hearing messages about Christ. I trust you know that the Lord is infinite, and we are going to learn new things about Him throughout eternity. But why can’t we begin our “continued education” while still here in the flesh? I pray that I am sufficiently mature, that from time to time, I’ll have fresh insight to share about our Saviour. And in that regard, what about the salvation which our Saviour died to provide? Is there more we can learn about salvation? I think there is. This message may not reflect the blessings that I have been receiving in regard to salvation, but I have been learning things about this subject which I’ve never seen before. Maybe over the next...

When Faith Meets Fulfillment – Luke 2:25-31

Thursday I was thinking about a particular subject, trying to prepare it for this morning’s message. After an hour or so, I got side-tracked onto this scripture, and something slightly different developed. I don’t know what the Holy Spirit has in store for us, but this might be the introduction to next week’s morning message. I won’t demand that you remember what I am going to share with you today. But you might have to hear a summary of this again next week. Joseph and his little family stayed in Bethlehem for about a month and a half, before traveling down to Egypt and subsequently moving to Nazareth in Galilee. During that time, not only was Jesus’ life in danger by staying in Nazareth only six miles from Herod, but twice he was brought into Jerusalem – right under the shadow the king’s palace. A few minutes ago I had Brother Fulton read our text and the context around it. We learned that on the eighth day of Jesus’ life, He was carried into the city to be circumcised. That ceremony was necessary to prove that Jesus was truly human and to illustrate that He was a Jew. Jesus’ parents were godly, and as devoutly obedient to the law, as any couple in Israel, and of course this was necessary for Jesus’ purpose – for the sake of our salvation. After the circumcision, they most likely returned to Bethlehem – out of convenience. Because thirty-three days later, Mary was to present herself to the priests, and Joseph was to present his first born son to God, giving Him to...

Pauline Resolutions – I Corinthians 2:1-8

We have no way of knowing how long Paul was in Athens before moving across the isthmus to Corinth. By the year 51 AD, Athens had lost its greatest luster and had a population of about 20,000 – smaller than Post Falls. This was about a fifth the size of bustling Corinth where the Apostle later had an eighteen month ministry. Let’s say that Paul was in Athens three months. It may have been more, but probably less. He had been left there alone while his traveling companions returned to Macedonia to summon Timothy and Silas. Paul was not only lonely, but he was spiritually challenged unlike anything he had experienced before. He had often preached in heathen communities which were more barbaric than others. But those challenges were quite different from this. Athens was unique – there wasn’t another place in all the world like Athens – the city of Athena. It was not like the secular commercial city of Corinth. This was a center of culture, education, pride – and as a result – arrogance. “All the Athenians… spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” That reminds me of some “Baptists” who are in a constant search for some new doctrine to make them different from everyone else. Athens it was definitely not a Jewish community or even culturally Roman, like Philippi. It may have seemed to Paul as if those three months were 435 days long. Was it perhaps comparable to your 2020? It seems like just the other day, 2019 was coming to a close and...

How to Deal with a New Year – Acts 1:6-8

When I ask someone to read the scriptures during our song service, there is usually a specific thought in that scripture which I plan to emphasize during my message. But, unless the reader has seen the sermon title and made an accurate guess about my intent, he won’t know what that theme is. So one of the brethren gets up to read; it’s a scripture which he has privately read a hundred times. He may see something in that scripture which he thinks is important, and he emphasizes those words. But chances are, if someone else was reading it would be quite different. He may pronounce words one way, giving different inflections and perhaps leaving a different impression about what is read. I have noticed that even if I have publically read a scripture many times, the next time another person gets up to read, it is not with the same emphasis that I consistently gave it. Take Acts 1:7 as an example: How do you think the Lord spoke these words? Was it – “It is not for YOU to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” Or was it – “It is NOT for you to know the times or the seasons….” Or – “It is not for you to know the TIMES or the SEASONS….” There may be a several other ways to read that sentence without changing a single word. I have my idea of which word Christ Jesus emphasized, but your opinion could be different. Verse 8 is almost exclusively considered as a text for the...

How to Celebrate the Birth of Christ – Luke 2:6-20

This has been one of the most unusual “Christmas” seasons in our life times. Many of the traditional social and family activities are being cancelled, curtailed or changed because of the virus hysteria. But life must go on, as they say. So our neighbors and some of our relatives are finding new ways to celebrate – creating new traditions. Fear not. I am not going to tell you how to celebrate “Christmas” in this confusing year, or in any other year for that matter. I am a preacher of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and “Christmas” is not a part of the gospel. As strange as it sounds – the modern celebration of “Christmas” has very little to do with the birth of Christ. For most people Christmas” is about gifts, parties, food and sentimental movies. I don’t know how many times I have heard in the past week that the primary focus of Christmas is on the family. For years experts have been scouring the writings of history, looking for references to “Christmas” or “December 25″ as the birthday of Jesus. According to one source, after a hundred years of research, the first known reference to December 25th was in the year 336. In an old list of Roman bishops these words appear – “25 Dec.: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae.” If that source is true, and it probably is, the first reference to the birth of Christ as taking place on December 25th was made more than 3 centuries after the event. That is 50% longer than the entire history of the United States. For...

The Dying Saint – Nehemiah 13:31

When we started this study last April, I said that Nehemiah could be used as an illustration of a New Testament Christian. Despite not knowing anything of Jesus Christ, this man’s trust was in Jehovah, and his service was for the glory of God. As we have seen over the last 8 months, he was not a typical Jew, worshiping God like some sort of robot. By the grace of God he was a child of the King of kings. From day #1 in human history, Ephesians 2:8 has been true, “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” God’s gift of grace had been given to this man, and I have no doubt that he is with the Saviour today. Early on, I also said that Nehemiah was not a priest, a Levite, or a king, but an uncommonly common man. The Holy Spirit laid a need upon his heart, and he did was he could to meet that need, sacrificing a great deal in the process. Even though he knew nothing about the institution of the church of Christ, much of what Nehemiah did can be taught in the light of New Testament churches – their needs and their responsibilities. He built a wall around the congregation at Jerusalem, helping to identify it as God’s Holy City. And with that wall he protected its members from the unbelievers without, very much like publishing and teaching a church doctrinal statement. Then like a godly church deacon, he urged his fellow church members into a period of revival, highlighting...

Isaiah’s Five Senses – Isaiah 6:1-8

Permit me to use my imagination for a few moments. You can join me if you’d like. I am picturing a young Hebrew man – one of sons of prophets – trained in one of the schools of Elijah. He already has some experience using his gifts of prophecy, preaching and prognosticating. On this occasion, he isn’t preaching, but humbly standing in the courtyard of the temple of Solomon. He is surrounded by the splendor of tapestries, gold, silver and polished brass. There is the smell of slaughtered sacrifices, and there is still some blood which hasn’t been cleaned up as yet. As I see it, the daily ministration further inside the Temple, is coming to an end. One-by-one the priests are finishing their duties, and some are coming out of the Holy Place, returning to the dying sunlight outside. The singers and other musicians are slowly putting away their harps, psaltries and sackbuts. But this young man is not really paying any attention to any of that. He is deep in meditation and prayer. He has just spent a day doing prophet’s work, teaching the Word of God, and now he is feeling its toll. The good king Uzziah has recently died, and this man is concerned about the future of Israel. Jotham is in line to become the next king of Judah, and this is not good news. The nation is becoming more and more worldly and wicked. His sermons are going unheeded, and the people are sinfully running head-long towards catastrophe. Sometimes he wonders if he wouldn’t be more productive plowing the soil and chopping weeds....

The God who turns Curses into Blessings – Nehemiah 13:1-9

In order to get to this morning’s lesson, we have to look at two background items. As you know, Nehemiah is one of the Bible’s historical books; it is not poetry or prophesy. Yet despite being history, like Acts, for example – it is filled with the application of solid theology. These nine verses describe Nehemiah’s anger at finding Tobiah residing in an apartment in the Temple. It “grieved him sore,” and after tossing the man out on his ear, he ordered the cleansing of the rooms he had been using. That probably involved the same purification ceremony we considered Wednesday from chapter 12. But that is not my subject for this morning – it only lays in the background. The old fashioned boxer – before modern mixed martial arts – the boxer’s only weapons were his hands. But vitally important to the power of his punch was the stability of his feet. Before we get to the punch of this paragraph, we have to plant both feet properly on a good, solid foundation. Two things lay in the background of this scripture. Verse 1 – “On (the day of the dedication) they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written (in Deuteronomy 23), that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever; Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing.” This takes us back to the history we...

Three Veils and a Vail – Hebrews 10:14-22a

Let’s begin this morning with a little quiz. If I gave you a piece of paper and asked you to write Mark 15:38, how would you spell the word “veil”? The verse reads, “And the VEIL of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” Would you spell it“veil,” or “vail”? Some might even spell it “vale” or “vaile.” Now, in II Corinthians 3 where Paul was saying that the hearts and minds of Israel were darkened. How would you write verses 15 and 16 – “But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the VAIL is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the VAIL shall be taken away.” How do you spell the word “veil” – the lacy face-covering some women used to wear? Are these words “v E i l” or “v A i l ?” Do you know that in the Bible the word is spelled both ways? In addition to that, and I can’t explain why, but the veil of the temple is spelled one way in the Old Testament and the other way in the New. I am going to confine my subject this morning to the New Testament use of the word “veil.” There are two separate Greek words and two different English spellings. And I will say that the translations are consistent – one Greek word is always spelled “V E I L” and the other Greek word is always “V A I L.” I see four lessons contained in these two words, and I’d like to share them with you. Now...

Defense of the Vested Interest – Acts 19:23-41

One of the blessings of the Book of Acts is that it is practical. In reading Acts we can see the work of the Lord in ways that relate more directly to us than when we study some of the other books of the Bible. For example, we know the abstract principle that God is all powerful, and by faith we believe it. But when we visit Mt. St. Helens, and we view first hand what the little finger of God can do, it brings tangible meaning to the word “omnipotence.” And when we see a wrath-filled sinful wretch of a man instantly changed from persecutor to disciple, we nod our heads and acknowledge God’s sovereign omnipotence over the human heart. These things give us the means – and the reason – to praise the Lord Whom we are studying. The Bible tells us that Hell is hot and that there is an eternal judgment made up of fire and brimstone. These things are academic Biblical doctrine, dismissed by everyone but true believers, but when we see a lava flow incinerate a house, we begin to understand the more abstract and fantastic concepts about Hell. So the Book of Acts puts God before our eyes and, in a sense, lets us touch Him. It also puts up a mirror before our eyes and lets us see ourselves. It takes the abstract declaration from the Baptist preacher that there is a conflict between men and God, and it forces us to realize what that means and who we are in the midst of that conflict. If you will let it,...

Hands, Eyes and Hearts on the Sacrifice – Exodus 29:15-21

The verses we have just read describe a part of the dedication service for Israel’s first priests. In some ways the sacrifice involved in this ceremony was unique. But in other ways it was much like the daily burnt offerings or any of the personal sin offerings. In this case two full-grown male sheep had their throats slit, and as their blood gushed out at someone’s feet, much of it was collected in some sort of bowl. That blood was then sprinkled and applied to Aaron and his sons in their consecration as God’s servants. Those men came away smeared with blood, smelling like blood, and probably tasting a bit of that blood. It was on their clothing, on their faces, and possibly soaking through to their arms and chests. Without that blood they would not have been properly prepared for their priestly service. In fact without blood they would be in Hell today, because as God said later in Leviticus 17:11 – “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an ATONEMENT for the soul.” There will never be an atonement – a covering for sin – without the shedding of blood. NEVER. Not even today. My message this morning flows out of the blessing of a sermon which I heard the other day. A week ago yesterday the Oldfields and Fultons took in a special service at the Landmark Missionary Baptist Church of Spokane. That is the church pastored by Cliff...

A Sure Covenant – Nehemiah 9:36-38

Junior was born into a Baptist home and was taken to a small Baptist church throughout his childhood. He was a smart – precocious – an outgoing little kid, participating in his Sunday School classes, listening to the lessons and sometimes even to the sermons. He memorized scriptures, uttered little prayers, could name the books of the Bible, and knew dozens of Bible stories. But he never responded to the gospel; he was never born again. He was religious but unsaved. By his early teen years he began to loose interest in church, in school, in reading good books, in real life generally. He spent his free time playing video games; he began to run with the wrong crowd and to smoke weed. By the time he reached the age of seventeen, he was into heavier, more expensive drugs, and so he started stealing in order to support his addiction. At first is was taking money from his father’s wallet and his mother’s purse, but then it went to shop-lifting and selling the things which he stole. Eventually he was arrested but released, impressing his friends who looked with pride on that sort of thing. One night when out with his buddies, it was decided to rob an old man who appeared to have money. One of the gang hit the man with a heavy stick, and he toppled onto the concrete hitting his head. The group quickly pulled off his watch, stole his wallet and ran, but they were seen by a passerby and recorded by a nearby security camera. Two days later, they were all arrested, and...