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...

Calvary’s Hell – Romans 3:21-26

The average American is more ignorant of the Bible than he is of modern forensic science. He knows more about Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia than he does about Heaven. And he certainly knows more about Justin Bieber than he does about Jesus Christ. Our schools, our media, our advertizing, and our conversations are filled with facts and figures about sports, politics, current events with a touch of science thrown. But to hear –or over-hear – a serious and intelligent conversation about the Bible is rare. To hear about the Lord and the Word, generally you must buy a specific book or visit a specific church. As a result we live in a society of Biblical illiterates. This was not the way things were two hundred years ago. I don’t know that there was a greater number of Christians in the world then, but the world was generally more religious and filled with more Biblical knowledge. Our scripture for this morning could be used as a test of what I just said. How many of our neighbors can define or explain the righteousness of God, redemption, or remission? Not even the average church-goer can accurately explain propitiation or justification. These are some of the grandest truths available to man, but how many educated Americans understand? Few people even have an accurate picture of God in their minds. Many of our neighbors picture Him as a blind sugar-daddy, kindly granting only our important requests. The bulk of the rest visualize God as an ogre ready devour us at a moment’s notice. “Look at the two dozen who died in tornados last week.....

Once is Enough – Hebrews 10:1-18

I make no apologies for being a creature of habit – and a preacher of repetition. There are things which I do just about every day – for example I almost always eat the same breakfast. And I repeat myself in the course of my sermons, saying the same thing again and again, sometimes in different words, but often in exactly the same words. And then – I also repeat the same theme over and over again in different sermons. I realize that “variety is the spice of life,” but sameness also has its perks. I am in good company when I repeat things. The Bible does the same thing throughout its pages.. For example, try counting, how often “repentance” and God’s coming Kingdom are tied together. Statements like, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” – or words similar to those. Colossians 1:14 speaks of Christ – “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins,” and those words are almost exactly repeated in Ephesians 1:7. And did you know that the “Christian armor” isn’t really Christian, even though it is mentioned in Ephesians 6 and I Thessalonians 5? I say it isn’t Christian armor because their first mention is in Isaiah 59. So I suppose that it ought to be called “the armor of the Saints.” Why are there four gospels instead of just one? There is a great deal of repetition between those gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and sometimes John. But most of man’s attempts to reduce them to one history of Christ fail, because they are all different....

The Call of Abram – Genesis 11:27-32; 12:1-7

The famous Dr. Footinmouth climbs the platform on the last day of the annual church revival. He adjusts the microphone, tells a funny story and then begins to quote the King James Bible. He declares with a practiced tear in his voice – Jesus said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” After a few more scriptures, he tells the sad story of a young man he knew who walked out of an earlier revival meeting only to die in a car crash later that day. He then raises his voice as if he was calling someone on the other side of town – “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” He reminds his audience that it was the Son of God who was speaking there in Isaiah 55. And that same Son of God gave His life on Calvary, shedding His blood to cover the sins of all those who will repent before God and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. After a few more fictitious, real-life illustrations he concludes his message with Revelation 22:17 – “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” What the good doctor has said is basically true – so far as it goes. Jesus Christ has done all that is necessary to...

King of the Resurrection – Revelation 1:10-18

What is the #1 intellectual stumbling block to evangelism today? Of course the first hindrance to evangelism is the average Christian’s lack of interest in evangelism. But what is the first argument heard when someone is trying to speak about Christ? I suppose it depends on the society in which you are working. In the Pantanal marshes of Brazil it would be one problem, but in Montreal it would be another. In some areas, the #1 hindrance to the gospel might be the Book of Mormon. In another it would be the doctrine of the deity of Christ or perhaps atheism. Evolution is certainly a hindrance to evangelism, as is the New Age movement and Christian hypocrisy. Another in our day is the proliferation of false and corrupt Bibles – “Yea, hath God really said?” Among the Jews, in the first years of Christianity, the chief stumbling block was Jesus’ resurrection. The Book of Acts contains twelve public sermons by the apostles with a total of 159 verses. I have read that 92 of those verses (60%) touch on the resurrection in one fashion or another. The gist of those sermons is that Christ’s resurrection is a fact. And walking hand-in-hand with the resurrection of CHRIST is the resurrection of Christ’s DISCIPLES. Peter and John were thrown in jail for preaching Jesus’ resurrection – and our resurrection in Acts 4. “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” Peter and...

Scared to Death – Matthew 14:22-33

It might be fun some day to explore the question: “What is has been the most terrifying event in your life?” There aren’t too many lions around here, but perhaps it was a dog attack or a visiting bear at camp. It might have been the threatening of a rattlesnake, or perhaps a nearby lightning strike. When missionary Mike Meredith was coming to visit us a few years ago, he and his family were driving through the mountains to reach us, a rock crashed onto the hood and into the windshield of their car. Perhaps it was something like that in your life. Consider the Apostle Peter – from what you know, when might he have been the most frightened? Was it when he felt trapped in the courtyard of the high priest after Jesus’ arrest. It might have been on that trip across the Sea of Galilee when a storm struck and threatened to swamp the boat. OR it might have been at one or two points in this scripture. Is it possible that Peter did not know how to swim? Surprisingly, that is very common in sailors. I have preached from these verses many times – all with different purposes. Once the subject was faith, and three times the message dealt with various aspects of the Christian life. One of my messages was preached on the first Sunday of the year. There has been one message about Christ and another on the nature of God the Father. But the other day I was struck the Peter’s simple words in verse 30, and it sent me in a...

That You, Too, May Have Fellowship – I John 1:1-4

Let’s say you have just read a book about the Pantanal – a region along the border of Paraguay and Brazil. The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland – about the size of Colorado. In your reading you have learned about some of the natives who live there – the Ipicas and others. The Ipicas are people so untouched by civilization that it can be said that they are living just like their ancestors did at the time of Christ. They speak in little more than grunts and gestures; they eat what they can catch and kill. They are ignorant of a great many things like electricity, space travel and skyscrapers. They wear no clothes; they are immoral. They are as simple and as wicked as little children can be. And speaking about Christ, they know nothing about the One who created them – absolutely nothing. They are living and dying in their sins without any idea of their utter lostness and their eternal damnation. Imagine that in some mysterious way the Holy Spirit has moved you with grief towards the Ipicas. Your soul cries out for their salvation, and you begin to pray for a missionary to be sent by God to them. Then one day, you realize that you are the missionary whom the Lord has chosen to evangelize them. Let’s say that after some time you have prepared yourself, and your church has sent you to Brazil. You are now living on the banks of the Paraguay River among those Indians of whom you once read. They are far worse than what you read or what...

Approved unto God – II Timothy 2:11-15

The last Sunday morning I was with you, which seems like a month ago, I brought up a word which I was afraid I was misusing – I wondered if I had the wrong definition. I am not sure I remember the word – that is how much water has flowed under my bridge in the last two weeks. But we discussed the word, and later looked it up in the dictionary which I keep up here. And, yes, my understanding was thoroughly incorrect. That evening, Sister Stewart brought the family “1828 Webster’s Dictionary,” which supplied a completely different definition to what the more modern dictionary gave us. I was so impressed with that dictionary, I said that I had to get one for myself. Two days later I was in my father-in-law’s office, and there on the shelf was that dictionary. I asked the family members in the room at the time if I could have it, and it became mine. Part of the value of this particular dictionary is in illustrating the evolution of words. Words have a habit of changing – growing or shrinking. For example, we’ve often mentioned the perfectly good word “gay.” When I was a child, it meant “jovial,” “sportive,” “cheerful.” Now I am almost afraid to use the word in that sense, because it will almost surely be misunderstood. But here is something for you experts – According to my new 1828 dictionary “gay” was originally derived from “gaudy” as in “showy” or “flamboyant.” It moved from “gaudy” into “cheerful” and now into a euphemism for “homosexual.” Has that word’s new definition...

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...