He Is Risen

Bible Verse:
Luke 24:6a - He is not here, but He has risen. (NASB)

Text:
Over the period of a few weeks in Sunday School, the lessons have been about the rewards of salvation, abundant life, and eternal life, given to us when we believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ into our hearts. I'm nine years old. It's Easter Sunday. Given our final instructions, a small group of us enters the church service. The little Methodist Chapel is packed. We sing a number of rousing hymns and choruses: "He is Risen", "He Lives", and so on, and the sermon follows. Finally, the invitation comes: "Those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and want Him to come into your hearts, may come forward to receive Him." Nervously, but very sure I want this, I walk to the front, and as I am prayed for, I feel a physical lurch in my body, a lump in my throat, and huge happiness in my heart. Right there, my young life changes. I am safe. I am not alone. Jesus is inside me all the time. By God's perfect grace, those changes, which occurred that Easter Sunday, still pervade my whole being to this present day.

Easter 2011: Christians all over the earth celebrate the miracle resurrection of our Lord. He is risen! He is alive! Everything about our Lord is gloriously unique: His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, His eternity. Jesus in our lives makes us unique human beings also. Through our Jesus’ resurrection life, everlasting life -- and all that He gives -- is ours.

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)

May we remember all He has appropriated for us, as we celebrate with honour and humility in this Easter season. Jesus' resurrection power working in and through us is the evidence in our lives that we are indeed children of God. Through Jesus' resurrection, we have the divine guarantee of His justification and reconciliation to God. Jesus' resurrection is like our seal, our surety, not only that we are reconciled to God, but also that we are made righteous, and we can live resurrection-power-filled lives.



Ending Prayer:


Prayer: O Lord, high praises we offer to You in grateful prayer, celebratory song, worship, and in holy communion. Thank You from our hearts for all You have sacrificially wrought for us and in us. Heavenly Father, may we ever be happily testifying to all humanity of Your perfect salvation plan. In Jesus' saving name, we pray. Amen and Amen.!

Rosemary, Westbury Victoria, Australia

GOD CANNOT PLEASE SINNERS

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

 Luke vii. 31--35. "And the Lord said, Whereunto, then, shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the market-place, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread, nor drinking wine; and ye say he hath a devil! The Son of Man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children."

 

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WHAT MEN HIGHLY ESTEEM, GOD ABHORS

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God." --Luke 16:15.

 

Christ had just spoken the parable of the unjust steward, in which He presented the case of one who unjustly used the property of others entrusted to him, for the purpose of laying them under obligation to provide for himself after expulsion from his trust. Our Lord represents this conduct of the steward as being wise in the sense of forethoughtful and provident for self--a wisdom of the world, void of all morality. He uses the case to illustrate and recommend the using of wealth in such a way as to make friends for ourselves who at our death shall welcome us into "everlasting habitations." Then going deeper, even to the bottom principle that should control us in all our use of wealth, He lays it down that no man can serve both God and Mammon. Rich and covetous men who were serving Mammon need not suppose they could serve God too at the same time. The service of the one is not to be reconciled with the service of the other.

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Pride that Blinds

Bible Verse:
He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:27 NIV)

Text:
I was born into a typical Christian home and I went to church, read the Bible, but did not give God my all. Why? Well let us find out. Let’s back up. A couple months before now, I had joined a worship team serving in my church in Wyckoff, New Jersey. I also co-led small groups for our youth group Bible studies. I thought I was so spiritual and that I knew so much about the Bible that I did not need it that much anymore. So I neglected it, leaving it on a shelf for the dust to gather on.

During a sermon, our pastor called on me and asked where the verse above came from, and I didn’t even know! I thought I was so well versed in the Bible. I did not even stop to ask, “What does God think of my prideful behavior?” If I actually tried to love the Lord our God, with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, I would actually see that my pride was wedging me further and further away from God.

I was still not ready to give up my filthy pride. After the sermon I went up to my pastor and said, “I’m sorry, I just forgot, I know the Bible verses better than anyone in our church, and I can’t believe I forgot this verse.” In reality, I was lying; I barely knew any verses in the Bible.

My pride blinded me, I was not able to neither see God’s love nor love God because of my pride.

Ending Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I thank you for exposing my pride to everyone and humbling me. Help me to give you back the love I did not give when I was blinded by pride and please forgive me. In Jesus Name, Amen

By Justin Yen  ( USA )

ON PRAYER FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or, if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"--Luke 11:11-13.

 

These verses form the concluding part of a very remarkable discourse of our Lord to his disciples on prayer. It was introduced by their request that he would teach them how to pray. In answer to this request, he gave them what we are wont to call the Lord's Prayer, followed by a forcible illustration of the value of importunity, which he still further applied and enforced by renewing the general promise--"Ask and it shall be given you." Then, to confirm their faith still more, he expands the idea that God is their Father, and should be approached in prayer as if he were an infinitely kind and loving parent. This constitutes the leading idea in the strong appeal made in our text. "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or, if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or, if he shall ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"

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What it Means to be Saved

Q. What does it mean to be saved?

A. Sweat poured off His body as sharp, relentless pain flooded His mind. He could not “will” himself to think of anything but the overwhelming pain. He twisted and turned trying to find a position that would ease the intolerable pain but His movements only created new sharp stabs of pain . There was no escape. His eyes were only half open, His lips white and drawn, and His body trembled continuously as it was brutalized by pain. It was everything He could do to just make it through the next few seconds. Why did Jesus have to suffer so? Have you ever taken a spanking for someone else who was guilty, or perhaps, were reprimanded at work for someone else’s mistake. If you have, you will begin to understand the sacrifice that Christ made. Of course, this does not help us to understand the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice for us. You and I are the guilty ones. We have turned our backs to God and lived in opposition to Him. We have not lived in the way that God has designed us to live. Christ suffered for our mistakes and our outright opposition to God. There was this Prussian general who had come into the command of a large group of undisciplined troops. They had to be ready to fight in short order. Some of the sentries were caught one night sleeping. At the trial the next day the general donned his judge’s robe and after hearing all the evidence found them guilty. Their sentence was the standard for this offense, sitting all night on a frozen lake without clothes. Since the temperature outside was below zero, it was a death sentence. Their punishment caught the attention of all the troops. Fear spread through their ranks and discipline increased dramatically. The general knew that the men needed more than discipline to win the battles ahead. He also knew they needed to learn to sacrifice for the common good, for each other. So he took off his robe and his clothes and joined his men on the ice that night. The troops went into battle without their general but his example, wisdom and sacrifice had started a fire in their hearts that the enemy couldn’t put out. Christ also sacrificed himself for us. His sacrifice showed once and for all His unbelievable love for us. It showed the heights and depths that He was willing to go for us. He did not suffer for just a few individuals, He suffered and gave His life for everyone who will yield their life to Him. He opened the way to eternal life for a race that was condemned to death.

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Choosing the Good Part

But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42 (NASB)

There are times in our lives when events seem to spiral out of our ability to keep up. I experienced a time like that when we moved into our new home. We had built it ourselves and moved my husband’s elderly parents in with us. His father was an invalid and his mother was a semi-invalid. Our daughter’s wedding was scheduled a month later. I had the total care of his parents during the day, and since my daughter was far away in college, the entire responsibility of the wedding details. I found I had no time to steal away for the Bible reading and prayer that had been the mainstay of my life. As the wedding drew near I found myself doing laundry with tears in my eyes and a deep burden on my heart. “Lord, here I am in such a critical place in my life and I have no time to spend with you in all this responsibility and activity. I feel so pulled and so lacking your peace.” I heard that still small voice that I so dearly loved saying simply, “Carol, I am bigger than your quiet time.” Suddenly I saw what had been happening to me. I had allowed myself to focus on the temporary loss of my “set apart” times with Him. A false sense of guilt had obscured the fact that I could commune with Him as I went about my day. I had a wealth of Scripture in my heart; nothing could keep me from enjoying His presence but a legalistic focus on the form. He knew at my first opportunity I would be back at His feet sitting and soaking in His presence.

That whole scenario was out of my control. Unfortunately I have scheduled myself into similar spots since then. During those times I’ve heard His gentle rebuke from Luke 10:41-42, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." At heart I am a Mary, but residing in the same house is a Martha who has to be reminded to let go of the unnecessary and choose the good part.

I invite you to do a heart check. Who is in control in your life? Is it Mary or Martha? If your circumstances are truly out of your control, the last thing I want to do is put guilt on you. But please be honest… have you taken on more than you should and is it crowding out the good part? Ask the Lord to show you what to let go. He will. He misses you.

Lord, thank you that we can abide in you as we go about fulfilling our responsibilities. Father, help us not to allow busy-ness to crowd out that special quiet time when it is just the two of us. Amen.

If Jesus Had Been Born in an Inn

"She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:7b (NIV)

If Jesus had been born in an inn there would have been no manger, that universal symbol of divine acceptance. The shepherds would not have been there either. Both would be too smelly and earthen for an innkeeper's approval.

If Jesus had been born in a noisy, crowded inn there would be no soul-lifting songs about the beautiful, hushed night He was born into, such as Silent Night, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, and O Holy Night.

Would the announcing angel have appeared in an inn where cynical, weary travelers grumbled against their oppressive Roman rulers? The still, midnight backdrop revealed the glory of heaven best as the angels praised God before the humble, believing shepherds.

What would Christmas plays look like today if there had been no stable and no barnyard animals? The trials that Mary and Joseph endured produced what we cherish in the Christmas story.

Are there hardships in your life that you wish would disappear? God will use your affliction to build a stage for you to declare his glory and power to those alive today and to those who are to come, just as he did in Mary's and Joseph's lives.

Lord we cannot see your glorious plan for arduous life experiences. Please bring us patience while you turn our suffering into worthy testimony. Amen.

Love WHO?

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27, 28 (TNIV)

Many of us don’t have enemies. We are sheltered from hate crimes. Yet we are quick to complain or protest at the slightest hint of mistreatment. Loving and praying for those who don’t treat us right is difficult. We can’t even imagine loving enemies.

But Jesus did. Jesus knew that hatred in response to hatred multiplies hatred; but love in response to hatred can overcome hatred as the hater sees the possibilities of love. The highest expression of love for enemies is forgiveness. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, like Jesus, prayed for his killers as he died: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).

Perhaps while the young man at Virginia Tech was shooting, some of his 32 victims were praying for and forgiving him. Certainly some victims’ family members forgave and showed love to him and his family afterward. Thousands, maybe millions, have been moved by Corrie Ten Boom’s story of forgiving the guard at the Nazi concentration camp. In 2006, Immaculee Ilibagiza published her story, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust. God’s love kept her praying and believing as she faced killers repeatedly and enabled her to forgive her family’s killer. 

Lord Jesus, we praise You for Your life and death in perfect love. Thank You for those You empower to forgive and live on in love. Amen.

(Additional Reading: Luke 6:27-36)

Breakfast with a Movie Star

Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. Luke 14:12-14 (KJV)

I didn’t set out to have breakfast with a movie star. It just happened.

Last summer my wife and I went to Denver to attend the International Christian Retail Show. The ICRS is the largest trade show for publishers of religious books. Bookstore owners from around the world attend these annual events. An editor at a major publishing house in Nashville and I had co-written a book on writing and publishing. We were at the meeting to introduce our new book with an autograph session at the publisher’s booth. It went well and we signed all 200 copies we had and gave them away in less than an hour.

Representatives from this company gave me another book that had just been released. Its title is “A Fall Together,” and the author is Jennifer O’Neill. I recognized her name. She is an actress who had starred in the movie, “Summer of ’42,” and co-starred in “Rio Lobo” with John Wayne. She was in Denver to autograph her book also, and had told the publisher she had to return home immediately after the signing session.

The next morning we attended a breakfast given by the publisher. As we were getting ready to sit for the meal, a lady asked if she could join us. It was Jennifer O’Neill. She had changed her plans and decided to attend the breakfast but no one else knew it. She just came in unannounced and found a seat.

She sat to my right and we had an interesting conversation. Jennifer went through all the chaos of being a Hollywood star. Then something unusual happened. She found Christ and her life changed radically. I asked her how her faith affected her career. She said, “It nearly killed it.” She explained that at that time, more than a decade ago, faith was not something people talked about in Hollywood. Producers and directors thought she had lost her mind by becoming “religious.” Acting jobs began to dry up and she found herself on the outside looking in.

O’Neill now lives in Nashville where she has a local television talk show and writes and speaks around the country. Life is different from her Hollywood days but in her case, different is better. She says she is far more satisfied and at peace now.

I met another actress at that same breakfast. Her name is Tracy and she is on a soap opera—“The Bold and Beautiful,” I think. She, too, talked about her faith and her family. She seemed to be a perfectly normal pleasant young lady who loves God, talks about her family, and happens to have an unusual job.

In reflecting on that meeting, I remember what the apostle Paul told the church in Rome: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7). That is a great phrase—“accept one another.” I realized long ago that all people are the same. We all have the same needs and same problems. Some are glamorous movie and television stars. Others are like another lady who also sat at our table in Denver. She works in the warehouse for the publisher giving the meal. But there we all were—a warehouse worker, a pastor and teacher from a small Florida town, and a movie star.

That experience helps me understand the great power of the gospel to bring people together because the cause that unites us is greater than the problems that divide us. I don’t know if I’ll ever see any of my breakfast companions again, at least not in this life. But I do know that someday we’ll all gather around a great banquet table in God’s presence and feast. Would you join us there, too? You can by giving your life to Christ and letting him change your destiny. We’ll save you a place.

Father, for the grace that invites us to your table we are eternally grateful. Let us live lives of handing out invitations. Through Christ, Amen.

Lonely Places

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16 (NIV)

The word “lonely” strikes me as odd. The Beatles sang mournfully of “all the lonely people”— a vulnerable state of being to avoid. But Jesus chose a lonely place. Not a place where he could be alone. I understand alone; I like a certain amount of solitude. But “alone” is not the word God used.

Christ was fully human and fully divine. He could relate to us on a human level, but who in the world could relate to him on his God-level? His divinity imparted upon him a loneliness no one on earth could approach or alleviate. Jesus well understood that he had a place in his heart where only He and his Father could go.

We all have a spirit, the part “created in His image,” the part that seeks to know God. When we accept Christ as our Savior, His Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. Romans 8:16 states, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”  The Holy Spirit and ours unite—the divine with the human. Suddenly, miraculously, we have a lonely place.  

I am so grateful for my lonely place. Sometimes I get so busy that I forget about it. But it tugs at me and I go. I give my Savior and Lord my sins, hurts, and fallibilities. I allow His healing presence to forgive, soothe and invigorate. He then fills me with His peace, His love, and His power. It is a place where only I can go, but I am never alone in my lonely place.

Dear Lord, thank you for never leaving us alone. May we find comfort in your presence and rely on your strength. Amen.

Hungry Stomach, Full Soul

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, …was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days….  Luke 4:1-2 (NIV)

It was the day before my colonoscopy. Doctor’s orders were no solid food. Liquids only. It was noon and I was hungry. Whether it was that I was hungry or that I had been denied the right, the temptation to eat was overwhelming. I didn’t know if I could do it.

I may not have been able to feed my body that day, but I could feed my soul…so I read about Jesus’ temptation. Luke 4:1-2 states that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and after being led into the desert and tempted by Satan, He didn’t eat for forty days — He was able to resist. I can’t begin to imagine the hunger and temptation He was feeling after forty days. But something in the text caught my eye. His stomach may have been empty, but his soul was full of the Holy Spirit. And so when the devil tempted Him, He could resist.

I prayed for God to fill me with His Spirit…to give me the strength to resist temptation. The day went by and I didn’t eat a bite.

Lord, fill me with your Spirit. Give me strength to resist temptation. In Jesus’ name, amen.