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Christ in the Feast of Hanukkah (Lights)

November 2018


22  And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
23  And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.
24  Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
25  Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.
26  But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
John 10:22-26 (KJV)


That is the only Biblical reference to a well-known winter holiday that Jesus celebrated, a holiday many will celebrate next month. You know it by another name, (hint: it’s not Christmas!). No, from December 13 to 21, Jewish (Messianic Jewish/Gentile believers) people will celebrate the Feast of Dedication, commonly known as Hanukkah.


Many are surprised that the only Bible verse mentioning Hanukkah is found in the New Testament. That is simply because the holiday commemorates an event that occurred during the inter-Testamental period, approximately 165 BC. A Syrian King named Antiochus invaded the Jewish nation and demanded that those who celebrate Hanukkah abandon the God of Israel and His ways. His plan: forced “Hellenization.” That meant imposing Greek customs, including idolatry, on the people. It meant forbidding the practice of the Jewish religion, including circumcision.


Ultimately, to ensure that no one could worship the God of Israel, Antiochus defiled the Temple in Jerusalem. He placed idols in the house of the Lord and sacrificed a pig upon the holy altar. He not only defiled God’s Temple, but he took the title “Epiphanes,” which means “God manifested,” and demanded to be worshiped. In response to his blasphemous claim to deity, the Jewish people modified his title, calling him “Epimanes” (crazy).


It was a terribly dark period in Israel’s history, but God raised up a small band of heroes led by a family known as the Maccabees (Maccabee means “hammer”). They waged a successful rebellion against Antiochus and drove the Syrians out of Israel. The Feast of Hanukkah commemorates the victory God gave the Jewish people over Antiochus and his mighty army. We call the holiday Hanukkah (dedication), because the high point of this victory was rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem.


Many legends surround this historic event, but the most famous is the “miracle of the oil.” It is said that when the Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem they immediately set out to rededicate the Temple. But they faced a pressing problem; they needed consecrated oil to rekindle the sacred candelabra. They found only enough for one day—and it would take a full eight days to procure enough oil for Temple use.


The thought of lighting this great candelabra only to see it go out again was heart-wrenching. Yet the zeal to rededicate the Temple was so strong that, despite the dilemma, they decided to light the candelabra. A traditional saying arose from this Hanukkah story: נס גדול היה שם “nes gadol haya sham,” which means, “a great miracle happened there.” The great miracle was that the oil, enough for only one day, continued to burn for eight whole days, enough time to make and sanctify new oil. According to this legend, this is why we celebrate Hanukkah for eight nights and why the Hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah) is lit for eight nights as well.


It’s a good story, but it isn’t mentioned in the earlier accounts of the Maccabbeean revolt, such as 2nd Maccabees. The legend of the oil isn’t mentioned until much later, in the Talmud. Maybe a day’s worth of oil supernaturally burned for eight days and maybe it did not.


Many believe that a more likely reason why we celebrate Hanukkah for eight days is that the Maccabees, upon recapturing Jerusalem, conducted a belated Feast of Tabernacles celebration. Remember, Solomon himself had chosen that very same Feast of Tabernacles to dedicate the Temple when it was newly built. So, the eight-day festival of joy and thanksgiving would have been an especially appropriate way to commemorate the rededication of the Temple.

In any case, it is still appropriate at Hanukkah to say, נס גדול היה שם “nes gadol haya sham, a great miracle happened there.” The miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of God’s preserving power. Israel’s victory over Antiochus and his mighty army showed forth that miraculous power.


God staked His reputation on His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when He vowed to preserve and sustain their descendants forever. No wonder Satan has attempted to annihilate the Jews throughout history! Antiochus was one of Satan’s agents in his diabolical scheme to destroy the Jews and so make God a liar! In fact, the prophet Daniel predicted the wicked deeds of Antiochus (Daniel 8-11) and even depicted him as a type of the anti-Christ, the beast of Revelation 13.

The Jews of Jesus’ day were well aware of the events that had led to the Feast of Dedication when they approached Him in the holy Temple on Hanukkah. It was in the context of that recent history that they said to Jesus, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). If Jesus really was the Messiah they reasoned, He had the power to preserve the Jewish people from the tyranny of the Romans, just as God had preserved them from evil Antiochus. Jesus answered them with a rebuke, “I told you, and you do not believe” (v.25).


Jesus boldly asserted His Messiah-ship. He claimed divine power to preserve and sustain His people, but not in the manner they had hoped for and expected. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28). Jesus’ power to preserve was not a temporal, physical power. It was eternal and spiritual—and it was based on faith in Him as the Holy One of God. The salvation He offered was not from Roman oppression but from the oppression of Satan, sin and even death itself.


The rededication of the Temple was a reminder of God’s power to keep His promises and preserve His people Israel. But One greater than the Temple stood on Solomon’s porch that day. And He made an astounding claim. “I and My Father are one” (v.30). Remember, this is Hanukkah. Fresh in my people’s minds was the fact that they had rightly rejected the false claims of Antiochus. Now here is Jesus, standing in the Temple asserting His own claim to deity. The reaction of my people was predictable. “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him” (v.31). And if He hadn’t been who He claimed to be, they would have been absolutely right to do so.


When my people rejected Antiochus, God kept His promises, miraculously preserving them. But when the Jewish leaders wrongly rejected Jesus’ claims that day, they missed an even greater miracle than Israel’s against-all-odds victory over the overwhelming Syrian army. They missed the miracle of Immanuel, God with us. That miracle gave Jesus the right to claim power to preserve those who come to Him. Only as God come in the flesh is Jesus “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him.”


God does keep His promises, even when we fail to recognize it. He said, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6). Jesus fulfilled these precious promises from God. In Him, God has proven His faithfulness to Israel and to all the world.


This month, those of us who have accepted His claims can celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah as well as the miracle of Christ’s birth. Because God keeps His promises, He will save and sustain Israel and all who have placed faith in Christ Jesus. Because God keeps His promises, He will save and keep all those who call upon His name through faith in Immanuel, our Messiah Jesus. Because God keeps His promises, He has made each blood-bought believer to be His own Temple, where Immanuel, God with us, has taken up residence. And so, because God keeps His promises, please join us in dedicating ourselves anew to live for Him by the power of the Ruach ha Kodesh, the Holy Spirit who burns within us.

Ultimately, Jesus is revealed as the Messianic fulfillment of Hanukkah by being the light of the world.  While he brought physical sight to the blind, He also brings spiritual sight to those who are blinded by sin.  In referring to His servant nature – a shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, He identifies Himself as the Shamash – the central, servant light of the world.


Jesus’ message is integral to these two feasts – Sukkot and Hanukkah.  Both of the festivals celebrated the Lord’s provision and light but also pointed to the future hope of the Messiah.  Jesus is that Messiah.  He is the light of the world.  John uses the theme of light throughout his books, telling us in John 1:4, “In him [Jesus] was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”  In 1 John 1:5-7, John again uses the illustration of light, saying, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”  The invitation of Sukkot and Hanukkah, which draws people to see the glowing light of the Temple is reflected by Jesus’ invitation to come to Him, see, and follow the light, for He is the light of the world. We are to shine His light of salvation to all who have not known Christ so they will leave the darkness of sin and arrive into His glorious light of salvation.


Are you shining His light? Are you sharing with friends, family, and neighbors about why Christ came into the world? Let me encourage you to share how the life, death on the Cross, His burial, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ offers forgiveness of sin, resurrection to a new life of forgiveness and power over sin, and the promise of a future resurrection unto eternal life with Christ can realized through faith! Shine your light by shining Christ’s life through you!

Reverend Jim Lanley

National Chaplain

Staff Writer / The Lords Corner

Staff Writer /  Domine

Alabama








What are the limitations of your love?

October 2018


    What are the limitations of your love? What restraints or qualifications do you place on whether you will love or not love? Whether you will allow someone to love you or not?


     Relationship is certainly at the heart of such introspections. It was certainly the answer to these questions that initially led my father to leave my mother when he discovered that she was pregnant with me.


     To love in this case meant sacrifice. My father was struggling with whether he loved mother enough to give the rest of his life to her, to me, and all that it would entail.


     Several months later he would return and four sons and 50 years of marriage later, they would solidify their love for each other through many adventures, failures, and triumphs. They so loved each other! Such a great love and sacrifice brings us to a greater love and sacrifice. God’s love and sacrifice.


John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

"For God so loved”


     God's Love is Personal. He Loved Me. I was seven years old when I first encountered His love for me. Some would wonder why at seven years old. It was because my father believed in the theory that aliens brought life to this planet. Therefore, no need for God. My mother, having been a devout Catholic, realized that loving my “agnostic” dad would mean the “death” of her once flourishing faith. She would conclude that God’s love for her would wain for loving my father.


     But the embers of her faith would not die out but ignite one day in July of 1970, as a Vacation Bible School bus would come barreling down our poor neighborhood street. After a heated argument between my mother and father, I soon found myself on board that bus and headed to Mrs. Bell’s Sunday School class. She told me of a Father who loved me and planned for me. I was stunned at this love! How could this Heavenly Father love me? My own father did not love me! I was the reason his life was so miserable, so full of work, and unhappiness. Why would a Heavenly Father love me? What would His love for me look like?


“He gave His only Son”


     Mrs. Bell explained that I was a sinner. As she explained God’s Law, His standard for righteousness and relationship, I soon realized that I too, was a sinner separated from God. I was a liar, a thief, a blasphemer, and often did not honor my mother and father! How could a Holy God have fellowship with me? Mrs. Bell explained that this sin results in both a physical and spiritual death. I was guilty, I was hopeless, but for that gracious sacrificial love of God. He gave His Son, Jesus, who would die the death I deserved, pay the price I could not pay, and all that was required was faith to receive this awesome gift.


“that whoever believes in Him will not perish”


     That faithful day. I admitted to God I was a sinner, believed that Jesus died on a cross for my sins, was buried, and on the third day resurrected, and committed to following Jesus as Lord and Savior the rest of my life. Now, I had a new Lord, a new hope, and a new meaning to my life!


“For God so loved the world”


     God’s love is Pervasive. He loves the world. Sure, at face value we all believe that God does love the world, but I was about to experience this pervasive love of God personally as well.


     Later in life, I would have many Godly men who would assist me on my journey of maturing in Christ. They discipled me. Soon, I heard God’s clear call to Ministry and missions while at Last Days Ministries (Keith Green) as I was praying late one night. On that evening, while I prayed, I had a vision of being on the bow of a boat. The boat was going over many ocean swells.


     As I would be at the bottom of one of those swells, I would see reflected in the water the face of an Oriental, African, Hispanic, and Caucasian person. I asked the Lord, “What does this mean?” He replied, “I am sending you to them!” It was then and there that I heard His mission’s call to cross cultural ministry. It was that day that I would learn how my life would become a living, loving sacrifice.


     That calling has placed me in the Marshall Islands, Uganda, Congo, Sudan, South Africa, Myanmar, Mexico, El Salvador, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan, China, Qatar, India, because of His love. I would see just how much God loves these people who comprise the world which He loves. Seeing these precious people come to receive His love, gather together as worshippers, and become ministers was amazing.


     The most incredible and humbling part of all this is that God would use me to show them His love! He so loved the world! And, He loves you too! Forty five years later, through much prayer and conversation, the Lord would become personal to my Father 48 hours before entering his Heavenly Home!


“But will have everlasting life”


     God’s love is permanent. His Love Is Everlasting. It does not end. It does not give up. Through all the trials, failures, and selfishness I have exhibited in my life, God’s love has been steadfast.


     Unlike the teeter totter love of others, His love was a sure foundation. I have a new home called Heaven bought and paid for by Christ’s own precious blood. How important is this understanding of “everlasting life?” God’s everlasting life and love has seen me through the deep sorrow of assisting adults and children who lost all in a terrible earthquake.


     This never-ending hope of Heaven has carried me through the interrogations experienced at the hands of Foreign Government officials. And His enduring care has often comforted me during the PTSD episodes that have racked my memory. This life is fleeting, but Heaven is everlasting. What a blessed hope we have! And I have remained steadfast in the calling He has given me looking forward to my Heavenly rest one day.

 

     So, let us return to the questions that we pondered earlier. What are the limitations of your love? When you reflect upon how much God so loves the World that He sacrificed His one and only Son for you and me, does it cause you to weigh your own love in the balance? Is the scope of your love limited to your immediate “world”? Or, is it global, all-inclusive in nature? My prayer is that you too will come to see and love the world around you as God does. That it would become personal, pervasive, and permanent. That you too would know the love and joy of being a vessel of His love poured out on others!

Reverend Jim Lanley

National Chaplain

Staff Writer / The Lords Corner

Sraff Writer /  Domine

Alabama






Engage in the Battle, You are already in it!

July 2018



Our text today can be found in Ephesians, Chapter 6, a very familiar passage for most of us.  I have no doubt heard the armor of God preached through and taught through countless times. But today we are going to apply this scripture in a little different way and in so doing, I hope that you get fired up in service to our king.  While you turn to Ephesians 6:


One Sunday in a Midwest City, a young child was "acting up" during the morning worship hour. The parents did their best to maintain some sense of order in the pew but were losing the battle. Finally, the father picked the little fellow up and walked sternly up the aisle on his way out. Just before reaching the safety of the foyer, the little one called loudly to the congregation, "Pray for me! Pray for me!"


Ephesians 6: 10 and following:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.



This morning, may our message serve as a battle cry.  If you are reading this today, I want you to understand….


1. You are in a war!


I am not a veteran.  I wanted to enlist around the time of Desert Storm, but I would not have passed the physical.  I, like many of you, remember watching the news and hearing the reports of only some of what was taking place on the battlefield.  At that time, we as a country were in a war with Iraq, but I was not engaged. Some of you that are here today may have served during that time.


I was born during the Vietnam War.  I remember nothing of the news of the day.  I did not participate in the ridicule that our soldiers faced when they returned home during the politically charged time.  Perhaps you served and faced some of that ridicule. Perhaps you were alive to witness it.


I never served in combat aside from the basketball court.  But I want you to know that today, I am a soldier and I am in a war.  I have been in many, many battles. But here is some news I need to break to you.  If you are a believer, you are in a war, too. And if you are here and you have not believed in the name of Jesus Christ, you are already a casualty in this war.


But we are not in a war with a communist dictator or a fascist regime. We are not in a war with the religion of Islam.  You are not at war with your spouse or your boss, although it may seem like it. Your enemy is not your mother-in-law, or the gossipy neighbor.  You, are not at war with yourself, although your selfish desires are weapons used against you in the fight.


Our scripture tells us today that our fight is not against man at all.  Let’s see what our scripture says in

Ephesians 6:


12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.


This use of scripture is not meant to be a political message in any way.  This world is so politically charged that more inflammatory rhetoric is the last thing we need at this moment.  But let me tell you something; you can call out guns, the NRA, bullies, white people, black people, politicians, Russians, television, video games, parents, school teachers and administrators.  You can even blame space aliens and UFOs for the state that we are in today, and in so doing, you will cause Satan and his minions to smile. He wants to sit back and relish the fact that we as Christians are so consumed by things of this earth that we forget that HE is the real enemy.


Let’s look at what 1 Peter says:


1 Peter 5:8-11

8Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.


Satan is prowling, like a lion on the plain, looking for the weakest gazelle or wildebeest to take from the heard.  The lion doesn’t go after the strong one. He doesn’t go after the one leading the pack or in the middle pack. He is looking for that one towards the rear of the pack that won’t put up a fight.  The one that has grown soft – soft enough to sink his teeth into.


The fact is, you are in this battle with me, with the other believers sitting around you, with the other churches in our city, whether you like it or not.  How does that make you feel?


If we win or lose this war based on how you are conducting the war yourself, will we win or will we lose?  Aren’t you glad we not only have each other but we have our commander fighting alongside of us. And he will never lose.


So our first point today is...

*You are in the battle whether you like it or not.


Our second point today is...

*We fight from a place of victory.


We don’t fight from a place of uncertainty.  We don’t go into battle wondering if our side will win or if theirs will.  Jesus already won the fight when he sacrificed himself and rose again.


We sing the song, O Victory in Jesus, my savior, forever.  He sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood. He loved me ere I knew him, and all my love is due him.  He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.


We sing the song “Onward Christian Soldiers” – look up the words to that song some time.


Do we believe what we sing?  Or are they just words?


What does scripture have to say about victory?  Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:54-58


54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[h]

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”[i]

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.


Maybe you are here today and you need a win.   You need a victory. You are battling addiction or pain or a broken relationship or an antogonist who is trying to make your life miserable.  Maybe you are dealing with self doubt or sorrow. Maybe you are dealing with financial worry or a health crisis. Take heart. You do not fight alone.  You do not battle from a place of uncertainty.


In the Greek Orthodox tradition, the day after Easter was devoted to telling jokes. They felt they were imitating the cosmic joke that God pulled on Satan in the Resurrection. Satan thought he had won, and was smug in his victory, smiling to himself, having the last word. So he thought. Then God raised Jesus from the dead, and life and salvation became the last words.


When I think of battle boldness, I think of David and Goliath.  You know the story. The Philistine army was gathered to battle the army of Israel.  The Israeli army was terrified. The Philistine army sent out their best warrior, Goliath.  If just one Israeli would fight him and beat him, they would be victorious. But no one would engage in the battle.  No one would step forward in power and boldness. Until one……a teenager. David stepped forward. Hear his words in 1 Samuel 17:


45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”


Would that we had that kind of boldness, to know that God is the victor and we are on the Lord’s side!  Amen?


What about Shadrach Meshach and Abednego?  Three servants of the most high – warriors for the sake of our God, refusing to bow to the authority and the God defacing order to bow to his idol.  He prepares the furnace and tells them they will die in it if they do not bow to his idol.


13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”


Oh my friend, listen.  This world is screaming at you in anger to worship its idols.  The idol of self, money, time, success, prestige, power. Be bold against it.  For the God whom you serve is able to deliver you from it. Don’t live defeated.  Don’t hang your head low. Be bold, be strong in the power of – not your might, but his might!  He is the victor. He wins the war! He WON the war already.


So today we have seen where we are

1. Engaged in the battle whether we like it or not


2. We fight from a place of Victory, not from uncertainty


3. Prayer is the strategy to wage the battle.

Did you see in our scripture in Ephesians, as Paul talks about the armor, he doesn’t change gears, he dons the armor and then he changes to the battle at hand.  Let’s read it again.


18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.


Pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  Prayer should be the endless barrage against our enemies.


Have you ever seen an endless barrage? It is demoralizing to an enemy.  It is wearisome. It causes you to think about every move because you don’t want to be hit.   I think sometimes we live life as if we are the target of the endless barrage. Ever feel that way?  I mean, what else can happen? I can’t ever get ahead. What now? Have you ever said these things? I know I sure have.  How about making your enemy Satan feel that from you. What if all of us sent an endless barrage at our adversary? What would the effect of that be?


Martin Luther said, “If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith.”


I have to admit to you that there are days in my life when I have forgotten to pray.  I get too busy. I bet you have, too. Can you imagine a prize fighter in a boxing match going a whole round without throwing a punch?  Do they usually last long? The answer is no!


I read this also about Martin Luther, “When Luther's puppy happened to be at the table, he looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes; he (Martin Luther) said, 'Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish or hope.’"


We are to Pray in the Spirit.  Now what does that mean? I am going to read what a website, Got Questions.org, says because I like how it phrases the idea.


Praying in the Spirit is mentioned three times in Scripture. First Corinthians 14:15 says, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” Ephesians 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Jude 20 says, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” So, what exactly does it mean to pray in the Spirit?

The Greek word translated “pray in” can have several different meanings. It can mean “by means of,” “with the help of,” “in the sphere of,” and “in connection to.” Praying in the Spirit does not refer to the words we are saying. Rather, it refers to how we are praying. Praying in the Spirit is praying according to the Spirit’s leading. It is praying for things the Spirit leads us to pray for. Romans 8:26 tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”


What I get from that is, when we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit prays on our behalf.  We can enter into a time when we just honestly don’t know what to pray. But we are just quiet before God and the Spirit within us intercedes for us on our behalf.  It is as if our Commander and Chief, our Most High God, our Victor, our Leader, our Coming King not only gave us the orders and gave us the weaponry, he also put within us the Holy Spirit that even wages the war for us when we grow too weary to fight!  What great love the Father has for us, Amen?


We are to pray in the spirit for all the Lord’s people.  I want to ask something. If the person sitting in the pew of an average Baptist church were constantly praying for all the Lord’s people, would there be any time for there to be strife in the church?  NO!


I have a saying I have said many times to my kids – there are enough things in this world that will hurt you; you don’t need to hurt each other.  That is true for the believer. There isn’t time for us to look at one another and fight or gossip or get our nose out of whack! We should be praying for ALL of the Lord’s people.  Praise God we don’t have time to fight in this church, Amen? We are too busy trying to do the will of God and loving one another. That has been such a blessing that in the 10 years we have been here we have seen a united body.  I wish that every church in this land, in this city even, were like that.


The sling and stones we use to knock a hole in the head of our enemy is prayer.  When your problems tell you how little you are, you tell your problems how big your God is in Jesus’ name.  Amen?


As we close today, I want to ask you, are you engaged in this battle?  You are in it whether you like it or not. What is your position in it?  Are you wounded? Are you a casualty? Are you leading the charge?


I come in contact with broken people every day.  Maybe you are here today and you feel broken. Now is the time to realize the words of Shardrach Meshach and Abednego.  Our God is able to deliver thee. That doesn’t mean the circumstance changes, but it does mean the one who is far greater than your circumstance stands with you to help you through it. Will you surrender to him?

Reverend Richard DeFord

Staff Writer / The Lord's Corner

Staff Writer / Domine







IMPORTANCE OF HOSPITALITY

June 2018


It was unusually hot for April; the temperature had peaked above 100°F, and the sun was oppressive.  Sitting on the side of the road holding a sign that said, “I’m just hungry,” was a young man, probably no more than 25 years old.  It was obvious from his sun-burnt skin that he had been in the sun much of day.


As I looked over at this young man, about the same age as my son, my heart hurt for him.  I pulled over and walked back to him. The expectant, searching look in his eyes when he saw me suggested that he was truly a person in need hoping for help.


He got up from the curb and walked toward me, and although young, the hard lines etched in his face suggested his life had been a difficult one.  The numerous tattoos, a great majority of which were not obtained professionally, and multiple piercings suggested that some of those young years had perhaps been unrestrained ones.


I gave him the cash that I had, and he expressed a very heartfelt “thank you.”  After we talked for a minute or two he told me that his name was Jared, and I asked if I could pray for him.  He excitedly said “Do you believe in God? I do too!” He told me about the life he had just left, the prison he was recently released from, and how he had been used by people who never really cared for him.  “That life – those people – are behind me now,” Jared said. “I’ve dedicated my life to Christ, and I’ve started reading the Bible every day.” We prayed, talked some more, he thanked me again, and we departed each saying “God bless you” to each other.


I never saw Jared again – this happened in a little desert town about 200 miles from home – but I still think about him and pray for him.  It was impressive, and a credit to the transformation occurring in his life, that he realized old friends had led him into a dark life and that he was searching for new friends to support a new life in the light. 


I pray not only for God to give him strength but to lead him to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who will lift him up when he falls, teach him from God’s holy word, and provide a Christ-like example that he can emulate as he matures as a Christian. 


He hadn’t found that when we met; the only people who supported him as a new Christian were those who, like him, found Christ while in prison. Now, he was on the outside separated from them and their support and encouragement.


It may be a cultural flaw, a human flaw, or a combination of both, but we sometimes have trouble accepting others like Jared who don’t fit the “norm.”  That’s true in the world, and it can be true in the Church. Being hospitable to someone from the streets can be difficult and can take some effort, but that is what we are called to do. 


Jesus didn’t tell us to love those that we find appealing and pleasant to be around; he told us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:34-39). There are no adjectives or qualifiers describing “neighbor;” so that includes them all, even those neighbors who are unkempt, tattooed, covered with piercings, hungry, and homeless.



Even when we meet someone who appears well dressed, we may still be reluctant to be hospitable to someone we don’t know. A couple of years ago, my wife and I visited a church while travelling that we had never been to before. 


There were about 4,000 people in attendance that day, but the only person who said anything at all to us was the lady whose customary seat one of us had unknowingly taken. She was polite, but did not extend a welcome that might have been expected. 


We left feeling unwelcome among these brothers and sisters in Christ that we had hoped to meet and be welcomed by. How much more disheartening it must be for someone like Jared, eager and needing to feel the fellowship and acceptance of God’s children, to be ignored or made to feel unwelcome by those he sought to help him in his new life as a Christian.


I read a few weeks ago about a man who visited eighteen different churches on successive Sundays as he searched for a new church home.  He was very scientific about it, and to measure the hospitality of each one, he developed a scoring system. He always arrived a little early and chose a seat near the front of the church. 


After the service, he would make his way up the main aisle to the rear and then move back to the front again against the flow, and then to rear again and then the foyer using a different aisle. He was neatly dressed, smiled, and spoke to those who made eye contact, often asking about worship times or other things a visitor looking for a church home might ask. 


Based on the level of reciprocation, he awarded points from 10 to 2,000. Each smile or greeting that he received earned the church 10 points. An introduction in which names were exchanged was worth 100 points. An invitation or encouragement for a return visit earned 200 points. Having one church member introduce him to a second church member was worth 1,000 points; and if that second church member were the pastor, it was worth 2,000 points.  To his dismay, more than half the churches earned less than 100 points; five of them scored fewer than 20 points.


Using the same methodology and scale, the church my wife and I visited would have earned a mere 10 points if we counted the displaced sister as a “smile or greeting.” Even if only one percent of those in attendance that day – 40 out of 4,000 people – smiled or said hello, the church would have scored 400 points. 


We could probably refine the scale to take the number of people in attendance into account, thereby making a more meaningful comparison between churches; or even having two scales – one for well-dressed approachable visitors and one for unkempt unapproachable visitors – but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect one percent of those in attendance to smile or say hello to a visitor regardless of the visitor’s appearance.


The apostles depended on the hospitality of the communities they visited as they spread the Gospel (Matthew 10:11-15). The hospitality they enjoyed had nothing to do the modern notion of entertaining family and friends; it was the practice of extending kindness to strangers, of treating them as honored guests, not as outsiders. 


Hospitality isn’t just for friends, family, or those with high social status. When Jesus dined in the home of a prominent Pharisee, he said to the host: “When you give a dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Lk.14:12-14).


Paul specifically made a point in Hebrews 13:1-2 of mentioning the importance of being hospitable to those we don’t know: “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” 


I don’t know if Jared was an angel, but he was a disciple of our Lord seeking acceptance by other followers. As Christians devoted to becoming more and more Christ-like, our goal each day should be to love the Lord with all our heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.


The more we put it into practice, the more it will become a way of life; a natural action that occurs without thought. When you meet someone like Jared, or welcome a visitor into a church service, do so with the hospitality Christ spoke of and the hospitality extended to the apostles as they spread the Gospel. 


Even though the message from God’s word may touch the heart and be edifying to those in attendance, even though the singing may be moving and uplifting, the simple lack of hospitality to a visitor or someone like Jared looking for a church home, says “You aren’t welcome here.” Remember that we are all God’s children, and the hospitality you extend may make the difference between their accepting Christ or walking away from Him.

Reverend Jim Hutchinson

Chaplain Corp.

Staff Writer / The Lord's Corner

Staff Writer / Domine






JESUS: BELIEVE ME, FOLLOW ME

May 2018

As Christians, God holds us to fairly high standards, or so we think. We go through life thinking we’ve dotted the i’s and crossed (pun intended) the t’s on God’s plan and all of the sudden through some circumstance, we found out we’ve come up woefully short. 

“How could this be? I’ve gone to church most Sundays and stayed awake, purchased tootsie rolls from the Lions club and gave enough money to the church, but not so much extra tax forms are needed. 

We all want our hearts to live according to God’s laws, but it is too darn hard not mention inconvenient.” How many people have heard stories like this? How many people are living like this?

Unless you’ve given yourself early in life to God and became a monk, we’ve all been blessed by parents who wanted a better life for us, so we haven’t really gone without. 


Consumerism and being materialistic is who we are, not to mention being bombarded by media to keep the economy rolling by purchasing more and more. By our parents trying to do better for us, has drawn us into vicious circle in man’s covetous world. 


What was that? Man’s world? Blinded by greedy lifestyle? Surrounded by immoral examples? Everyone can speak without accountability? Hollow leaders from all walks of life? And a label we do not want to become – an overexcited Christian hypocrite? Life can be pretty crazy. Too bad we don’t have a reset button for life. Remember the fairly high standards at the beginning?


Today’s world is amazingly fast and it is easy to make mistakes, especially with every form of advertisement and temptation in your face. Jesus is always near us and can hear us anytime: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30). 


God will intervene for your benefit and His, you just need to ask. If you’ve never really let the Holy Trinity into your lives, you have never felt the awesome power of Yahweh! If you’re a football fan like I am, I’ve pictured the Holy Trinity with God as my lead blocker, Jesus to the right and the Holy Spirit to the left. Touchdown!


If you’ve touched base with Jesus, or are just getting reacquainted, Jesus will ask you “believe in me”. If you really believe in Christ with all your heart, He will turn your world upside down for the better. Jesus' invitation is not only good for today, it is good everyday and including eternal life!! How is that for a bumper to bumper warranty? 


Only God can make an offer to stand with you for eternity. John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Once you’ve believed in the Holy Trinity with your heart, Jesus will ask you “follow me.


There are many references in the NT for people to “follow” Jesus, but nowhere is this summarized accurately then Luke 9:23 “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Whoa! Now there is a serious request. Talk about serious faith and humility. Does Jesus understand what is he asking? 


Of course He does. Jesus realizes man can lose his focus quickly when earthly desires and self preservation guide our lives. Once you’ve committed to carry the cross every day, you cannot store up your treasures for a later date. From John 3:30 “He must increase and I must decrease


Our focal point must be on the Will of God and less on ourselves. With our every day Christians, this is difficult. As Templars, Ministers, Lay Servants and all church leaders, this is almost impossible. Our focus on Jesus will have a direct reflection on all the ministries we are involved with.


As church leaders, we will face many, many distractions that can make following Christ challenging. Satan is already on our heels trying to distract us; we cannot lose our concentration on Christ. Satan knows our weaknesses and will try and create new weaknesses. 


Social media, porn, greed are just a few temptations. Satan is currently using politics as a chain around our necks. It is dividing our communities and is a serious distraction on clergy. 


Remember Jesus, “Follow me”? Politics is a poison, let it go. Politics are being weaponized and hurting others, let it go. Politics are dividing our congregations and church, let it go. Ask yourself a question; would Jesus poison anyone, purposely hurt anyone or divide His church? Don’t even say yes to any of these questions. If you did, you’re not following Jesus. 


Politics; let it go.


We’ve come a long way to be trusted the Holy Trinity. Baptism, Sunday school, confirmation/catechism, college and maybe seminary. Now we are leading His church, a focal point in our communities and Knights Templars. If Jesus asked you if you truly believe in Him, and follow Him, what would you say?

Reverend Tim Cluney

Chaplain

Staff Writer / The Lords Corner

Staff Writer /  Domine






Our place in life

April 2018


We all want to know our place in life. Some of us have traveled the world in search of what it is that God wants of us.


“Where should I go Lord?”

“What is it that you require of me?”


I have counseled many people over the years with just this sort of question. Many of them have been everyday church folks, some have been ministers and clergy. We must not forget that even our ministers have struggles much the same as we do. We often get starry-eyed when we see people doing remarkable things. We think of all the Biblical characters—prophets, apostles, martyrs, etc., and then we look at our own lives. Why don’t our lives look like their lives? Is there something wrong with me? Am I failing God because my name isn’t great and well known?


    We often miss the answer to these questions because it is deceptively simple:


He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)


Our place in this life is not to have the most titles, or the most notoriety. It is to live a life of purity and righteousness before the Lord. Fathers, be the best fathers that you can be with God’s help. Mothers, be the best mothers that you can be with God’s help. Brothers, sisters, grandparents etc., whatever your lot in life, strive to live justly, being kind—loving God with your whole being.

    

Let us not become discouraged with the life that we have been given. We can please God wherever we may be, and truly know what He has for us to do while we live on this side of heaven.


“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matt 7:12 ESV)


Almighty God, bless us and lead us in the paths of righteousness. Let us remember, that whatever we do in life, as long as we walk in love and purity, loving You above all things, that you accept us, and that we are fulfilling Your plans for us in this world. Amen!

Fr. Daniel Beach

Chaplain

Staff Writer / The Lords Corner

Staff Writer /  Domine






Asking the Right Question

March


For many years, I have counseled people about how they should serve the Lord or what they should do with their lives, marriages, jobs, etc. I know in my own life, it’s a really tough call trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. 


So many times I get frustrated because I can’t quite figure out how to do something or what even to do to begin with. For countless months, I have struggled even reading my Bible – trying to figure out how to be more effective in my study, what to preach on, and how to be a better minister to both my church and my community.


Countless times in my life, I was forced to consider what I was doing and how I was doing it. I wasn’t trying to avoid being genuine in my answers, nor was I trying to be incredibly technical…I just didn’t know how else to answer these questions that confronted me. 


I didn’t – and many times, I still don’t – know how to properly address the issues of life that I now had to face. Honestly, as a pastor, I haven’t the slightest idea how to help people answer their questions either. I couldn’t figure out what I was missing.


I once heard about a professor who stood silently before his advanced math students, looking into the eyes of each one. Being the first day of class, the students were a bit unnerved by this and the direct eye contact went on for about 5 minutes – but nobody dared to speak or leave, mostly out of pure curiosity. After staring at his students, he wrote this equation above:


Once the equation was written, the professor turned around and said, “Well?” For a few very brief moments, nobody spoke…then someone called out a potential solution to the problem. Then another student corrected them, and said, “No, here’s the answer!” Then another student, and then another, and yet another until the whole class was in an uproar over the solution. 


Finally, one student said, “What’s the solution, professor?” The professor looked at the students, and then back to his writing on the board. While looking at the equation he said, “All of you have tried to issue solutions to this problem…but not one of you has told me what the problem actually is.” He then turned to his students, “Until you are willing to ask the right question, you will never arrive at the right conclusions – in this class, or in life.”


In Christianity, so many times we are trying to give all the answers to people searching for them. To some extent, that’s not a problem, as people really do need answers. The problem for many is that we are trying to give answers and solutions to the wrong questions. The question is not, “What am I doing?” or even, “How should I do this?” The real question is, “Why am I doing this?”


Once I can answer the question “why,” I am then able to put the how and the what into their proper places. Until I answer the question of, “Why am I doing this?” what and how are completely irrelevant. How people coach is irrelevant if they don’t know why they are coaching.  The methods pastors use in their church would be completely irrelevant when they don’t understand why they are pastoring the church in the first place. Christians who are unwilling or unable to answer the question of “WHY” they serve are Christians who will never be able to figure out what they should do to serve and even less likely to figure out how they should serve.


Are you struggling in figuring out where to serve? Perhaps you should ask why you would even serve to start with. Are you weary because your service to Christ doesn’t quite seem to be working out the way you’d hoped it would? Perhaps you would be better served in asking why you serve in the way you’ve chosen.


Everyone knows the song, “Amazing Grace.” Everyone has sung it at least once in his or her life, and probably heard it a hundred times at least. Few of those who have sung the song know its history – or the history of the man who wrote it. 


John Newton was a slave trader, a good one at that. He was very well known in the industry as being effective in his sales and heartless in his delivery. He was NOT a Christian, and according to his own words, he had no desire to consider Christ. It was not until he became a slave himself that he realized his need of a Saviour – in both the physical sense and the spiritual sense. By his own admission, however, it was not until “several years later” that he truly became a follower of Christ.


Several years later, after a plethora of events that forever changed his life and mind, he completely left the slave trade, calling it “a business at which my heart now shudders.” (Newton, John. Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade. London, 1788. p. 2). Mr. Newton wrote the words to “Amazing Grace,” not knowing how to write this song of confession or what would become of it if he did; he knew only why he had to write it. 


The how and the why of writing this hymn, by their very nature, fell directly into place once he understood the importance of why he was writing it to start with. He once told the famed William Wilberforce, “I know only these two things: that I am a great sinner, but Christ is a greater Saviour.”


I wonder: Knowing just this little bit of Mr. Newton’s sins, and knowing the extent of your own guilt in the eyes of a holy God, would it change the way you sing “Amazing Grace” if you were to focus on WHY you repeat those famous words? Knowing the truly amazing grace of Christ, and having experienced it for yourself, would asking “Why is God’s grace so amazing?” change the way you think about the song and sing it? I would reckon, if we would be honest, not only would the way we sing that song change, but also the way we live in that amazing grace would change.

Chris Hall

Chaplain Corp.

Staff Writer / The Lord's Corner

Staff Writer / Domine






Conquering the Fear of Death

February


There are two sure things in life. I would say that there is actually one surer thing in life that is far more powerful than death or the IRS but we will discover that in a bit.


Hebrews 2:13-15

13 He also said, “I will put my trust in him,” that is, “I and the children God has given me.”
14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 

15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.


First, I want us to understand that death is something we all experience. It comes in a myriad of ways; natural, accident, illness.

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:27 that every man has an appointment with death and then the judgment.


Every one of us will die and we will stand before almighty God and give an account of what we have done with the lives he provided to us. And when we get to that point, there is only one thing that matters. Did you accept the payment for your sin?


Since every one of us will die, I submit to you that none of us can fully be prepared to live until we have settled the issue of our death. Until we have talked about and prepared for our passing from this life, we are living in a state of denial.


Third century church leader, Tertullian said, “It is a poor thing to fear that which is inevitable.”

Why is it, for so many in our culture, we fear death? For Christians, we are the ones who have the most to gain at our passing. Perhaps it is not death itself that we fear but we fear the way we will die.


Jesus took on the same flesh that we have. He came down to us so that he could bring us up to him. And he sets us free by the death he experienced. We no longer have to live in fear of death. Or as scripture says, “Slaves to the fear of dying.”

Understand that Jesus suffered death as well. But he does not want you to fear death.


Second, we have a blessed hope in death. It is not something to be feared, it is not the end, it is only the beginning!

Death is not extinguishing the light from the Christian; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.


Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – One of my favorite passages in all of scripture.


13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 

14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. 

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. 

17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 

18 So encourage each other with these words.


I love that. As Christians, WE have hope! Not hope as an unsure thing. Hope as in a reason for living!


When my mom died of brain cancer, this hope is how I could sing, “Oh victory, in Jesus, my savior, forever. He sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood. He loved me ere I knew him, and all my love is do him. He plunged me, to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.” 


I cried the whole way through that song. Not because I didn’t believe my mother had victory in Christ but because I mourned the loss of her on this earth.


One of the things I tell Christian who are struggling with death….. “We focus so much on living that we think that death is all there is. But you have NEVER been more alive than you are the moment you see your savior face to face. When you see him, you have literally passed from death into life! Not life into death.


There is a third thing we will look at today. Remember this sign? There are 2 sure things in life – death and taxes. Well there are many more sure things, but the most sure thing that I can possibly tell you about today is this.


God loves you!


You may say, Richard I have been in church for years, I know that God loves me. Do you?

We talk about heaven like it is a glorious reunion with our loved ones and it absolutely is. We will get to see all of those that died in Christ. And from our earthly perspective that sounds wonderful.


But remember I said earlier that we are never more alive than when we see Jesus face to face?

All of the fear you have ever had in your life. All of the struggle. All of the sin, all of the pain. All of the regret. All of the guilt. All of the sadness, all of everything in your life that is undesirable completely melt away in that instance that you see Jesus face to face. That is, if you know Him. No words can express how much he truly loves you.


I heard it said that There is nothing you can to do make God love you more! There is nothing you can do to make God love you less! His love is Unconditional, Impartial, Everlasting, Infinite, Perfect! Amen?


There are so many scriptures and books and illustrations I could site about God’s love, but as I thought about it, this is what came to me.


He loved you enough to have a plan for you before the foundation of the world and He created you. He knows you by name and is “mindful” of you. He knows the number of hairs on your head – before your shower and after. He knows your innermost thoughts and fears, habits and hang-ups and despite it all loves you. 


He loves you enough to leave his home in heaven to walk along this earth in our flesh, to experience the sorrows and to suffer the pain. He loves you enough to suffer an agonizing death. He loves you enough to raise from the dead. He loves you enough to prepare a place in heaven for you so that where he is you can be forever. He loves you enough to forgive your wrongs if you surrender your life to him. He loves you enough and more than enough and more than anyone ever could.


Oh my friend, we conquer the fear of death by knowing and understanding the one who gives us life. He made us and sustains us. He longs to be reunited with us.

Reverend Richard DeFord

National Chaplain

Staff Writer / The Lord's Corner

Staff Writer / Domine