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Archive for April, 2017

Dr. James Dobson in his book, “What wives wish their husbands knew about women,” shares a class theme written by a third grade girl entitled: “What is a grandmother?” It is a classic for sheer wisdom and utter simplicity:

“A grandmother is a lady who has no children of her own. She likes other people’s little girls and boys. A grandfather is a man grandmother. He goes for walks with the boys and they talk about fishing and stuff like that.

“Grandmothers don’t have anything to do except to be there. They’re old so they shouldn’t play hard or run. It is enough if they drive us to the market where the pretend horse is, and have a lot of dimes ready. Or if they take us for walks, they should slow down past things like pretty leaves and caterpillars. They should never say ‘Hurry up.’

“Usually grandmothers are fat, but not too fat to tie your shoes. They wear glasses and funny underwear. They can take their teeth and gums off. They don’t have to be smart, only answer questions like, ‘Why isn’t God married?’ and ‘How come dogs chase cats?’

“Grandmothers don’t talk baby talk like visitors do, because it is hard to understand. When they read to us they don’t skip or mind if it is the same story over again. Everybody should try to have a grandmother, especially if you don’t have television, because they are the only grown-ups who have time.”

Children tend to see others without all the veneer adults build into and around human relationships. The third grade girl’s theme about grandmothers gives us the opportunity to express our appreciation for this very special group of people and the role they play. Any woman who endures the training period of being a mother long enough to have grandchildren has earned the right to be a card carrying grandmother.

Though God has given to grandmothers a special sphere of influence within families, the word “grandmother” is mentioned only once in the Bible. Paul, in writing to Timothy, said, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy’s grandmother was the first member of his family won to Christ. She shared her faith with her daughter, Eunice. Eunice passed it on down the line to her son, Timothy. It is the way God wants Christian families to function.

Perhaps you have (or had) a grandmother like Lois who has (or had) the kind of impact on your family that Lois, Timothy’s grandmother, had on her family. Your grandmother perhaps wears (or wore) glasses and funny underwear and takes (or took) her teeth and gums out at night. But to a significant degree you are the person you are because your grandmother started the ball of positive influence rolling in your family.

A grandmother has been described as a person who comes to your house, spoils your children, and goes home. They have a lot of fun doing it. One grandmother several years ago said to me, “If I had known having grandchildren would be so much fun, I would have had them before I had my children.” God’s plan of growing grandmothers up through the joys, challenges, and hazards of motherhood is a vastly better idea.

Only a woman whom God has trained to become a good mother has the experience and ability to be an effective grandmother. Please join me in thanking God for all dedicated grandmothers!

 

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Ivan the Great was the emperor who welded together the Great Russian Empire back in the 15th century. He was so busy conquering new territory and bringing tribes under subjection that he had no time for social affairs. He had never married, and his advisors urged him to take a wife. He said to them, “Find me an acceptable wife and I will marry her.” They went bride-hunting all over Europe and finally found a beautiful woman named Sophia, the daughter of the king of Greece, whom they thought worthy of recommending.

So, Ivan the Great went to Athens to call on the king of Greece to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. He carried with him five hundred of his crack troops, the best soldiers he had – the elite guard. The king of Greece agreed for his daughter to marry Ivan, but with one stipulation – Ivan the Great must join the Greek Orthodox Church. The emperor agreed, was accepted into the church and was baptized – three times, face forward by immersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Ivan’s five hundred well-trained and dedicated soldiers, seeing the example of their leader, decided they also wanted to join the Greek Orthodox Church. Five hundred priests were secured so that each soldier would have a priest to teach him the catechisms. The time arrived for the soldiers to be baptized, but there was one problem – professional soldiers who kill people were not permitted to become members.

This proved to be a serious problem for both the soldiers and for Ivan, and this is how the problem was solved. Five hundred priests led the five hundred soldier candidates into the water. At the moment when each soldier was to be immersed, he quickly pulled his sword from its scabbard and thrust his fighting arm and sword into the air. Their bodies – with the exception of their fighting arm and sword, of course – were baptized. Their bodies were received into the Greek Orthodox Church, but their fighting arm and sword belonged to the state. It has to be the strangest baptism in history.

Is this not a graphic description of what happens in far too many churches today? Many individuals, who at some time in the past committed themselves to become followers of Jesus Christ, joined the church and were baptized, have dropped by the wayside. They have forgotten the importance of worship. They seldom, if ever, attend church. Those who expect to answer when the roll is called up yonder should make an honest effort to be present for worship each time the roll is called down here – not just on Easter Sunday.

Every Christian church has been given a divinely assigned mission. This mission cannot be carried out successfully by any church if it has too many partially committed members – those who have unbaptized tongues, unbaptized talents, and unbaptized arms. Genuinely dedicated Christians will not say to Christ, “Lord, I will give you my life – well, part of it, anyway. There are certain things I want to reserve for myself.”

Apostle Paul said to the church in Rome, “I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV).

You do realize that the church is a workshop and not a dormitory, don’t you? Boot camp at Paris Island, South Carolina prepares marines for battle. Joining fellow Christians on a regular basis to worship God is one way God prepares you for the work He has for you to do in the community where you live and work.

 

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What gave the early church such power? There is only one answer: Their Lord, whom they had seen die on a Roman cross and be buried, was alive again, and they had seen Him. This gave them the power they needed to walk the earth with grace and fearlessness – even in the presence of death – to preach the Word of God in its purity.

No wonder the apostle Paul concluded his great resurrection chapter with these words, “Therefore, my dear brothers, 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” (I Corinthians 15:58). Christ, whom the Roman authorities had crucified, was not dead! In fact, He was very much alive! And they were alive in Him! Alleluia!

Put yourself in the sandals of the disciples. Suppose you had spent three years traveling with the greatest teacher who ever lived. Suppose you had listened to His words, saw Him perform miracles, watched His every act, and knew Him intimately. This is how you would likely tell the story:

“Jesus tried to prepare us, but how could we be prepared for all that we have had to face? Then He was crucified. We saw Him on the cross. We saw the Roman Centurion drive the nails through His hands and feet and thrust the spear into His side. We saw His limp body taken down from the cross and buried in the sepulcher. We saw the stone rolled into place. With tears streaming down our faces we departed. He is gone forever! We will never see Him again!

“At this point we went into hiding. Under the same circumstances you would have done the same. It seems cowardly now, but don’t forget, the Jewish leaders were out to break up this new religious movement, and it was entirely possible that they would be looking for us next. That is why we hid. In our hiding place we cried and talked, each recalling some special occasion in the life of Him whom John the Baptist had called ‘The Lamb of God.’ The dawn that had seemed so bright had faded into the darkness of night.

“When Easter morning came with its startling news that His tomb was empty, we didn’t know what to think. Finding it hard to believe, we immediately went to see for ourselves. We saw that His grave clothes were neatly folded. Not knowing what this meant, we shook our heads in wonderment. We questioned the gardener and all others in the neighborhood. Finally, we looked at the women, and especially at Mary, and said, ‘It is too bad! Some prankster must have come to take His body away.’

“When the evening came we sat down to our meal. Our hearts were heavy and our minds were clouded by the dark grief that hung over us and filled us with indescribable sorrow. So many dreams had come crashing down between our feet. Then, suddenly, we heard a voice, ‘Peace be unto you,’ and there He was! Jesus was standing in our midst! Had you been there, you would not have slept very well that night. Like us, you would have asked yourself, ‘Did we really see Him? Or was it just a dream?’ No, it was not a dream! He was there! We touched the nail prints in His hand! After that He came again, and again and again – not just to us, but to many others as well.”

Having imagined ourselves there, let us go back to our initial question: “Why did the early church have such power?” And how can churches today have the power of God poured out upon them? An empty grave explains it all! Christ is alive! We serve a risen living Lord! One day He is coming again to earth to claim His bride, the church.

 

 

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Jesus made seven statements while hanging on the cross that are recorded in the New Testament. They are known as “the seven last words from the cross.”

First, He thought of others: those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34), the believing thief (Luke 23:39-43), and His mother (John 19:25-27). The central word of the seven had to do with His relationship with the Father (Matthew 27:45-49). The last three statements focused on Himself: His body (John 19:28-29), His soul (John 19:30), and His spirit (Luke 23:46).

The drink of vinegar the soldiers gave Him did not fully quench His thirst, but it did enable Him to shout this word of triumph in a loud voice, “It is finished!” The Greek word used here is tetelestai. It literally means, “It is finished, it stands finished, and it will always be finished!”

The word tetelestai is unfamiliar to us, of course, but it was used in various ways in everyday life in Jesus’ day. Merchants used it to say, “The debt is paid in full.” A servant would use it when reporting to his or her master, “I have completed the work assigned to me” (see John 17:4). When Jesus shouted tetelestai from the cross it meant, “The debt caused by sin is paid in full.” The Old Testament sacrifices only covered sin; the Lamb of God shed His blood, and that blood has the power to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

When Jesus shouted the word tetelestai in a loud voice, His hours of extreme distress were over. The terrible agony was now behind Him. He would no longer endure the pangs of crucifixion, nor hear the taunts of the bloodthirsty mob. No longer would He experience the pain inflicted by the crown of thorns on His brow, the stripes on His back, or the nails driven through His flesh. He would no longer feel separation from His and our heavenly Father. He had accomplished what He came to do. His heart ceased to beat. Silence prevailed.

In the stifling silence following the death of Jesus, however, other sounds could be heard: the sound of bursting fetters, breaking chains, crumbling prison walls, the rending of veils, the overthrowing of barriers, the opening of gates. The last words of Christ on the cross were not words of defeat, but the cry of victory. He had finished the redemptive mission assigned to Him. “Finished” was the terrible ban of judgment upon the ages, the power of darkness and desolation, the curse of sin upon humanity. The debt was paid in full!

What Christ had finished, however, has scarcely begun for us. He accomplished what we cannot. He closed the unbridgeable gap between a holy God and sinful humankind. His daily visible teaching of His disciples was now behind Him. The work of His invisible presence would continue through them on the day of Pentecost and beyond. Forgiven by Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, every single Christian to this very day is assigned the mission of spreading the good news of God’s love to the entire world.

What is the message that we as Christians are commissioned to share? No longer does any person have to live under the power of sin. Every person who believes is by God’s grace forgiven of his or her sin and given the opportunity to become a worshiping and serving member of the body of Christ known as the church. Christ’s redemptive mission was completed successfully; our mission as Christians is still ongoing.

The barrier standing between a sinful mankind and a holy God has forever been removed. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, bore our sins in His own body. Earlier in His ministry He had said, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save the lost.” The eternal life He came to give to those who believe is now forever guaranteed. It became a certainty the very moment on that fateful day when from the cross He said, “It is finished!”

 

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