Deadly Resistence – Acts 7:51-53

This text comes at the end of a New Testament preaching service. But it was not a typical service – it was not a church service. We don’t know for sure, but it was unlikely that Stephen had ever preached like this before. He was not one of the Apostles; he was not a pastor or a full-time preacher in the Jerusalem church. It could have been that he had a secular job; owning his own business or working for someone else. He WAS a deacon in the church – a servant of the Lord in another way than regularly preaching. But that didn’t force him into silence when it came to his Saviour. There was no caste system, where everyone was confined to their own particular field of service. Every member should have been, and most of them were – martyrs for Christ – witnesses. Then too, when Stephen spoke that day the service was very different because his face bore a semblance to that of an angel. At least he looked like what people perceived angels to be. That probably meant that his face some how radiated the glory of Holy of Holies. Perhaps he had some of the same characteristics as the face of Moses as he came down Sinai after a long period of fellowship with the Lord. This was not typical preaching service because the auditorium and his auditors were unusual. The place was the council chamber of the Sanhedrin. Where we sit in rows of pews, one behind another, and another, and another, those hearers sat in a circle or semi-circle, surrounding the...

Get Ready; Get Set; Go – Luke 12:22-40

I suppose it is true at many big companies, but it was certainly true where I used to work. In the filing cabinet right inside my office door was a copy of the company SOP. It was a big four-inch binder containing our “Standard Operations Procedures.” It was ridiculously complex, describing what the employees were supposed to do in a thousand different situations. I was expected to know what company SOP expected of me, the office manager. I hesitate to make such a crude comparison, but there are some similarities between the Bible and that book. This is our “Standard Operations Procedure” – this is our rule for faith and practice. Despite being written so many years ago, the Bible is still practical and up-to-date. The explanation of course is that its Author is not some lawyer or real estate developer. Rather, “all scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is therefore profitable (and practical) for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness.” “The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by Holy Ghost.” Just as it was required of me to read the J.P. Realty “SOP,” you and I, as Christians, should read, re-read, and re-re-read our “Rule for Faith and Practice.” Our scripture this morning could not possibly be more contemporary. Oh, someone might say that the language is a little out-dated – but I would quarrel with that. And even if we grant the necessity for a dictionary, because our level of education is so low – the theme, problems...

When Salvation came to Dinner – Luke 19:1-10

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, knowing full well that this was His last trip to Israel’s capitol city. There have been thousands of people in similar situations – knowing they were on their last journey. People like Sidney Carlton in Dickens’ “Tail of two cities” heading toward the guillotine. That man deliberately chose to make that journey. Others have been soldiers, knowing full well that their lives would be lost in that day’s battle. But they willingly laid down their lives, in the hope that those following them would win the day. Some have been philosophers who permitted their lives to be taken in order to draw the attention and admiration of others towards their ideas. But Jesus was not a soldier, philosophical martyr or a fictitious character. The Son of God participated in the plan to be crucified in a few days, there in Jerusalem. Christ Jesus made that one-way trip in order to offer Himself up as a sacrifice to God for the sins of many. He specifically told His disciples this, trying to prepare them for the completion of God’s ordained plan. But for the most part, those disciples avoided facing the reality of what Jesus had been telling them. At this point, in Luke 19, Jesus was just leaving the river city of Jericho. He had already been approached by the rich young ruler, asking what he had to do to inherit eternal life. But that man didn’t want to pay the price for salvation – salvation is free. And Christ had healed blind man “Bartimaeus,” giving him, not only physical sight, but...

The Offering of a Sweet-Smelling Savour – Ephesians 5:1-2

This is a powerful sentence in a number of different ways. It takes us back to Calvary and the cross upon which the Saviour died. But the cross is not Paul’s purpose. It is primarily used as an illustration. But what is Paul’s purpose? What was the Holy Spirit trying to tell us? Is it rebuke? “Walk in love, because I see far too much pride in your lives.” Is it exhortation? “Be ye followers of Christ rather than followers of John Gill, J.R. Graves or K. David Oldfield.” It isn’t instruction – even though “Christ died as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God.” We, as Christians, are supposed to know and understand this already. If this is merely a flight of eloquence, it is the eloquence of the greatest love story every told. Paul’s mind was filled with thoughts of the Lord Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sins. You know how sometimes in the morning you awake up humming one of your favorite hymns? Paul often seemed to waken with thoughts of Christ’s love for the world’s chiefest of sinners. When he exhorts us to service, he uses Jesus’ death as the catalyst. When he encourages “Surrender to the Lord,” he says, “I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God.” When says, “Give,” it comes after he has reminded us that Christ first gave all that He had. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Out of several potential messages, I’d like to consider a few thoughts of worship and praise. Let’s begin where Paul began – with...

The Stone of the Resurrection – Matthew 27:62-28:2

I am going to take a unorthodox approach to several orthodox points of doctrine. My theme will be the stone, which covered Joseph’s tomb when Jesus’s body lay inside. Other than the seal which was placed on it, I have never spent any time giving it much consideration. But that stone is mentioned in all four gospels in one way or another. The tomb was like a cave; but man-made, in which bodies from Joseph’s family were to be interred. The Gospel of Mark tells us that the tomb was cut out of stone – it was excavated out of solid rock. Matthew and Mark tell us that a stone was used to shut the mouth of the tomb. It may have been on some sort of track so that it could be rolled out of the way for when another body was ready to be placed inside. But at this time, the tomb had never been used. My guess is that the stone was somewhat the shape of a large disk. But don’t picture a six foot doorway, and seven foot stone; it did not have to be nearly that big. As we see here in Matthew, Pilate gave permission to the Jews to seal the tomb shut. This is the only gospel to tell us about the seal. It wasn’t designed to keep the spiders and mice out; it was designed to reveal if anyone broke in – or out. Mark tells us that the women were concerned about how they would move the stone aside so they could go in to anoint the body. But all...

The Full Circle of Sacrifice – John 13:1-17

There are tens of thousands of people in this country who believe in the foolish notion of reincarnation. Of course, we don’t begin give any credence to idea. But what if was such a thing? Just imagine your chagrin, if you died tonight and awoke tomorrow trapped in the body of a slug. What if you were transformed into a slug hiding under the leaf of a plant in your former back yard? What if your mind were the same, your memories were intact, and your dreams were unchanged. But you were trapped in the ugly, loathsome, slimy, disgusting body of a shell-less snail? Listen to me now – the difference between you and the snail is not any greater than the difference between the glorified Son of God, and Jesus the carpenter’s son. The title of our message this morning is: “The Full Circle of Sacrifice.” From that title you might be thinking of something a little more narrow than I am today. We are a week away from Easter. This is the only week of the year when many religious people think about the crucifixion of Christ. And you, as Bible-believers, know that God demands a blood sacrifice for your sin and sins. Hebrews 10:22 – “Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” 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.” I...

When Isaiah Met Jehovah – Isaiah 6:1-8

If the Make-a-Wish Foundation announced they would arrange for you to spend lunch with anyone on earth, who would you choose? For millions of people, it would be some sports figure, pop singer, TV or movie star. For a few others it might be a politician, a writer, a special scientist, maybe even a man of God. And what if in some miraculous way, it might be someone from any point in human history? You might have an immediate answer, or then again, perhaps you’d have to think about it. I would hope that as a Christian, Christ Jesus might be your first answer. But then again, if you could meet only one person, perhaps you’d not choose the Lord Jesus, because it is already guaranteed that you will meet Him soon. Everyone will someday meet Christ – whether they are Buddhists or Baptists, theists or atheists. Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” And before whom will we stand? Who will be our Judge? “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” – ie. the Lord Jesus Christ. When Paul said, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” he was thinking of Christians, but in fact, non-Christians at some point will have to stand before Him as well. In prophecy John saw “the dead, (all the dead,) small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened:...

Buying the Truth – Proverbs 23:23

During my year at university, one of my required courses was basic economics. It was a subject about which I had no interest whatsoever, and not applying myself, I didn’t learn much. According to Proverbs 23:23, my attitude was probably sinful, because even though I was buying that information through my college tuition, it was wasted money. I certainly didn’t get enough out of the class to sell it later. But a few principles and details did sink in – through some kind of educational osmosis. For example, I learned that there are different ways to measure a country’s economy. And depending on the commentator’s objective, he many use those different measures subjectively. Some talk about the United States trade deficit as an indication of our economic condition. Others point to the relative strength of the United States dollar compared to other currencies. Some talk about the New York and American stock exchanges. How many T-bills have been sold? How are the “big ticket” items selling – houses and new cars. With my non-accountant and un-economic mind, it appears to me that all of these measures use buying and selling as their criteria – buying stocks and bonds; buying foreign currency; buying foreign products and selling American goods. Solomon gives us something which might be used as another measure of national or personal well-being. “Buy the TRUTH and sell it not.” Don’t let the spiritual trade-deficit destroy your personal economics. Don’t be giving away your hard earned resources for heathen, foreign philosophies and ideas. We have the truth right here, and there is instruction available to use. With understanding...

Believing the Unbelievable – II Timothy 4:1-4

While driving through West Texas, a New Yorker tourist stopped for gasoline at a run-down old station. From a corner of the building there hung a rope, with a sign above it, reading: “Weather rope.” The visitor asked the proprietor how a rope could help forecast the weather. “Well,” replied the old man, “If the rope swings back and forth, we know its windy. If it’s wet we know that its rainy. If it’s frozen stiff we know that its cold. And if its gone, then we know that there is a tornado.” That may be the West Texas method of weather forecasting, but there appear to be better ways. And the best way to learn about the current conditions of spiritual things, it is good to keep a copy of the Bible close at hand. There has never failed a single promise or prophecy of the Word of God – not one! And what it declares about our particular moment is just as accurate as fulfilled prophecy. In fact, it can tell us about things which we cannot see with the naked eye or naked intellect. It reveals what God sees in our hearts and souls. Some of those Biblical statements are rather general, but some are almost painfully explicit. Different prophecies and revelations are like different kinds of paintings: One artist paints a wonderful watercolor, and we know exactly what he is depicting. But the style reflects the subject in general, sometimes blurry way. Then another artist reproduces the same scene, using oils or pen and ink. It’s almost as if he painted or drew every pine-needle...

The Providence of God – Romans 2:4

After Paul’s capture and arrest in Jerusalem, he was called to stand before Felix the Roman governor of Judea. The Jews had hired a lawyer, named Tertullus, to lay their charges before the court. In his opening remarks – clearly designed to flatter Felix and bring him to their side he said, “Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.” Tertullus uttered a word which has been on my mind for two weeks – he spoke of Felix’s “providence.” This is a word used by preachers and theologians to express God’s care and direction of His people, but rarely do we hear the word outside of church. Actually, there are only two scriptures which use the term, and they have nothing to do with God. Tertullus applies it somewhat facetiously to the Roman governor. And in the other verse, where it is translated differently, it is speaking of the Christian. “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Tertullus used the word “facetiously” because “providence” is more appropriate to Jehovah than to Felix. It refers to making provisions for future needs and problems and then providing for those events. Etymologically the word originates in “foreseeing.” “Providence” refers to seeing a future need and then taking steps to meet those needs. And who is better equipped to provide providentially than the omniscient, omnipotent God? As I meditated on providence, thinking about how...

A Priori – Revelation 1:12-20

Almost everyone who picks up the Bible to read, does so with an “a priori.” “A priori” is a Latin term that comes up from time to time in debates, university lecture halls and other places where someone is trying to impress other people with his superior knowledge. Of course, I’m not referring to myself, because I only desire to expand your vocabulary. “A priori” comes from two Latin words which mean: “from” and “former.” An “a priori” argument is one which comes out of an earlier thought or position. HOWEVER, that earlier idea may or may not be true; it may not be anything more than a theory. So many “a prioris” are not a firm foundation upon which to build the following point. As I say, almost everyone who talks about Jesus Christ, does so with a few predetermined ideas. Some think that He was a good, moral, religious teacher, like Confucius or Moses. Some believe that He is merely a fictional, imaginary literary character. Some say that Christ is dead, while others believe that He is alive. Some intellectually believe that He is divine; and others earnestly worship Him, because He is God. And some love Him with all their hearts, longing to see Him and to hear His voice. There are probably a couple dozen different “a prioris” with which people approach Christ and listen to this morning’s message. But if any of those “a prioris” are wrong, then how can we move that person to the truth? The only worthwhile tool that we have is the Word of God, empowered by its Author, the...

Harvest Heaps in the Day of Grief – Isaiah 17:10-11

This message came out of notes which I took listening to my pastor thirty-five or forty years ago. The title to Brother Johnson’s message was : “Harvest Heaps in the Day of Grief.” To understand this passage, it is important to know a bit about the history of Israel. In the days of Isaiah, Israel was divided into two governments – Israel proper and Judah. Whether talking about one, the other or both, as long as Israel loved and served God she prospered. “Trust in Lord and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. “For (Israel) shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” But Israel was like the absent-minded professor, she was constantly forgetting the Lord and His promises. I have read that shortly after Albert Einstein moved to Princeton, the phone rang in his office. When Einstein’s secretary answered, the voice at the other end asked, “May I speak with the Dean?” The secretary replied that Dean Einstein was not in. The voice then asked, “Well then will please tell me the address of his home.” The secretary said she could not do this, because Dr. Einstein wished to have his privacy respected. Then the voice dropped to a whisper: “Please don’t tell anybody, but...

Wrestling – Ephesians 6:10-13

Some time ago, I was given an article written by the English preacher Peter Masters entitled, “The Holy War.” It was a thought-provoking, well-written application of Ephesians 6:12 to the world of today. This morning’s message comes out of my considerations of that article. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” It may have been ten or fifteen years, but long ago, I read several of the books of Frank Peretti. Peretti was born in Lethbridge, where I tried to pastor for a while. Then he moved to the State of Washington. Some of his stories sound like they come from our back yard, which makes them that much more real. In one I pictured Davenport or Reardon; in another it was somewhere on the Palouse. Those books were all about spirits, demons and anti-christs – the spirit world. Peretti has an Assembly of God background – he is a Pentecostal, so some of his theology is skewed. His understanding of salvation is faulty, so his evangelism is poor and misleading. But what about his presentation of demonism? Some of it sounds like hyperbole, but if we understand Ephesians 6:12, perhaps he was nearer the truth than most of the rest of Christian preachers. Satan exists – there is such a thing as the Devil. That there is a being whose sole purpose is evil, ungodly and anti-god, there should be no doubt. He is clearly exposed in the pages of God’s Word. There is a “wanted poster” contained...

A Foretaste of Jesus’ Coming – John 11

I have taught and preached from John 11 several times. Most of those messages have focused on the subject of either salvation by grace – or our resurrection. This morning I’m going to try to take it just a step beyond that. I want to allegorize the details and bring you a lesson on the soon-coming – the second-coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s begin with an introduction – LAZARUS. “Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)” I have no conclusive proof, but I think that Lazarus was a saint of God. I am going to make that assumption for the sake of our thoughts this morning, but it’s probably true anyway. I know there isn’t a clear declaration of his faith in Christ Jesus, but, for whatever it is worth, I feel that he was a Christian. And if he was a Christian, then he still is 2,000 years later. When the Lord gives a man eternal life, by definition, that man will live eternally under God’s blessings. When this chapter says that Lord Jesus “loved Lazarus” (v.3), it is obviously speaking of special love. It is more than the beautiful sentiments of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life...

The Publican and the Pharisee – Luke 18:9-14

It has been five years since I preached from this text of scripture. This is a different message, but the scripture is the same. Before that, according to my records, it had been fourteen years. I think that we can say that I have not over used these verses. Unlike my last message, I don’t plan to follow an outline of my own devising. What I hope to do today is use the verses to create the outline. And then, with the Lord’s help, I’ll try to let the words in each of those verses deliver the message. The more a preacher adds to the Word of God, the weaker the revelation becomes. Sometimes the soup demands more water, but at some point extra water dilutes the nutrition. Every preacher needs to return to Ezra every now and then to remind himself of the Biblical pattern. “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” It is my prayer that we will all understand what Jesus Christ is telling us here. This is a parable about two different kinds of people, and one of them describes you. Which of these two you are will determine your eternal state. Verse 10 – “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.” To understand this aright, we must realize that there more similarities than differences between these men. For example, both these men are Jews, descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They are “Israelites; to whom pertaineth the...