Archive for August, 2012

The Ministry of John the Baptist, Pt. 2

…thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.  And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.  For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.  And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

Luke 1:13a-16

This child that would be “great in the sight of the Lord” would so some incredible things in his lifetime.  A few of those things are foretold in this prophetic passage of scripture.  He was going to be holy and set apart, filled with the Holy Ghost.

He was also going to turn “many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”  That was John’s ministry.  Turning the hearts of the people to the Lord.  Though so many of them had forgotten God, God had not forgotten them.  He was sending a prophet to them to turn their hearts back to Him.

That is a ministry for every single one of us as Christians.  We can turn people to the Lord.  We can point them to Him.  We can bring them to Him.  Whatever we have to do, we do to help turn the hearts of people to the Lord.  In some cases, we need to help people come to the Lord in the first place.  In other cases, we need to help bring people back to Lord – they may know the Lord, but may have wandered away from Him.

Whoever it is, we can share this ministry of John the Baptist in turning the hearts of people to the Lord Jesus Christ.  John did the work he was given; have we?

The Ministry of John the Baptist, Pt. 1

…thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.  And thou shalt have joy and gladness and many shall rejoice at his birth.  For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 

Luke 1:13b-15

When Zacharias and Elisabeth found out that they were going to have a son, they found out some other things, too.  Theirs would be no ordinary son.  He would be the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ.  As one “great in the sight of the Lord,” he would have a powerful and far reaching ministry.  Some of the aspects of that ministry are given to us in these verses.

In verse 15, we see that he is going to be great in the sight of the Lord and that he is going to be holy and set apart for the service of the Lord.  He was to “drink neither wine nor strong drink.”  He was to live his life differently than others.  He was going to be “filled with the Holy Ghost.”

The first thing about John the Baptist that we can learn and emulate is his holiness and separation.  When we belong to Jesus Christ, there is a certain way that we should live.  We should be living on a higher plane, taking the high road, and separating ourselves from the sinful and even from the doubtful and questionable.  There are things that we will do because we are Christ’s and things we will not do because we are Christ’s.

We are to be, like John the Baptist, set apart for the Master’s use.  We are to be filled with the Holy Ghost and separated unto Him.  Could this verse describe us?

I Will Sing of My Redeemer (Hymn)

I Will Sing of My Redeemer
Philip P. Bliss (1876)

I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His wondrous love to me;
On the cruel cross He suffered,
From the curse to set me free.

Refrain
Sing, oh sing, of my Redeemer,
With His blood, He purchased me.
On the cross, He sealed my pardon,
Paid the debt, and made me free.

I will tell the wondrous story,
How my lost estate to save,
In His boundless love and mercy,
He the ransom freely gave.

Refrain

I will praise my dear Redeemer,
His triumphant power I’ll tell,
How the victory He giveth
Over sin, and death, and hell.

Refrain

I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His heav’nly love to me;
He from death to life hath brought me,
Son of God with Him to be.

Refrain

“Singing of our Redeemer” is really what most of our “Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs” come down to.  That is the end of all of our praise: to glorify the Lord for His goodness and mercy to us.  I love the words of the refrain: “With His blood, He purchased me.  On the cross, He sealed my pardon, Paid the debt, and set me free.”

Trusting the Lord

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.  And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.  And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.  And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course…

…thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

Luke 1:5-8, 13a

In this passage, we find an older couple, Zacharias and Elisabeth.  They are good people, serving the Lord, but Elisabeth was barren.  This is something that, according to the scriptures, they had been praying about.  They were good, godly people who had a legitimate prayer that had never been answered.  They were now “well stricken in years.”  To some, that would cause them to lose faith.  But not Zacharias and Elisabeth.

Not only did they not lose faith, but they continued serving the Lord.  They didn’t miss a beat.  And while Zacharias “executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,” the angel came to him.  There is a lesson right there for us: the greatest things in our spiritual lives usually happen when we are just there, doing what we are supposed to be doing.  When Zacharias was there doing what he was supposed to be doing, the angel came and gave him the wonderful news: “…thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”

These people were old.  They had to have assumed that their prayer for a child would go unanswered.  And yet they continued to serve the Lord.  They trusted in the Lord and they trusted in the Lord’s judgment.  And their trust was rewarded.  They would be the parents of John the Baptist.

How deep is our trust?

Knowing With Certainty

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Luke 1:3-4

In these verses, Luke puts forth the reason he is writing the book of Luke.  He addresses it to “most excellent Theophilus,” but it could be addressed to any one of us, for, as a part of the inspired Word of God, it was written to every single one of us.  The reason for the writing is the reason for the writing of the entire Bible: “That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”

We can be told things and we can hear things.  There are things that are passed down from generation to generation.  Some of those things are known as “wives tales” or “urban legends.”  Others are fairy tales and traditions.  Some of those things might be true, but over the years, much embellishment gets added.  Eventually, the true story is usually nearly lost.  But not so with the Word of God.  He had these things written down so that we could “know the certainty of those things…”

We can read the Bible and have the certainty of knowing that what we are reading is true and from God Himself.  Men’s instructions can be good and they can be false and misleading.  But not the Bible.  It has a certainty that traditions do not have.  We can check the instruction of our pastors and teachers against the certainty of the Bible.  We can use the certainty of the Bible to help guide us through the difficult decisions of life.

It is an honor and a privilege to have the certainty of the mind of God in our hands.  We can read it and study it as much as we want.  What a wonderful thing that we can KNOW these things!

What They Didn’t Know

And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band.  And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!  And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.  And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.

Mark 15:16-20

As I was reading about the crucifixion in this passage, I started thinking about these men who mocked Jesus.  They clothed Him in purple (the color or royalty), they gave Him a crown of thorns and mockingly saluted Him by saying “Hail, King of the Jews.”  They mockingly bowed and worshipped Him, all the while spitting upon Him and hitting Him.  It must have been an awful scene.

The thing that struck me was this: these men were mocking Him, but what they did not know was that they were right.  They were right to clothe Him in purple, as He is royalty.  They were right to crown Him (but not with a crown of thorns).  They were right to salute Him as King of the Jews (His is and was King of the Jews).  They were right to bow their knees and worship Him.  The only problem was their hearts were the exact opposite of where they should have been.

I have often thought about people who hate the Lord Jesus and use His holy name as a swear word.  That same tongue that used the name “Jesus Christ” in the wrong way will one day bow and worship Him.  Those men who mocked Him at the crucifixion will one day truly bow their knees and worship Him.  They will truly hail Him as “King.”  The sad part is that those men are all dead and gone.  They won’t get another chance to get right with the Lord they mocked.  Those who mock the Lord today still have an opportunity to come to Him and truly bow their knee now.  Let us pray for them and encourage them to come to Jesus while there is still time.

Are We Sleeping?

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.  Take heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.  For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.  Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.  And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

Mark 13:32-37

Sleeping is a good thing.  But there are certain times that we should not be asleep.  The Bible tells us here that no man knows exactly when the Lord is going to return.  But He has given us some instructions.  In these verses, He tell us to “Watch.”  We are supposed to be paying attention and working.  We need to be watching.

“Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.”  Too often (at least at my house), we think about doing something and we want to do something, but then we just get a little too comfortable and relaxed, and soon we find ourselves asleep.  That not only happens to us physically, but spiritually.  We can spiritually fall asleep.  And, in our modern society, it is becoming increasingly easy to spiritually fall asleep.

But we don’t want to be asleep at the Lord’s return.  We don’t want Him to find us sleeping and not paying attention and working.  So, we should heed the advice that the Lord gives “unto all:”  Watch.  Stay awake, pay attention and be ready for the Lord’s return.  If He returned right now, would he find us sleeping?

The Importance of Forgiving

And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.  But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

Mark 11:25-26

This passage gives us an important lesson in forgiveness.  When we are praying, we are not often thinking of forgiving others.  We are usually concentrating on our own needs and the needs of those we are praying for.  That jerk that wronged us is usually the farthest person from our minds.  But that jerk who wronged us just might be standing between us and the answer to our prayers.

We need to forgive others.  And, looking at the verse, we need to forgive them automatically.  The passage doesn’t say anything about us forgiving people if (and only if) they ask for our forgiveness, kiss our toes and do three weeks of penance.  It simply tells us that if we “have ought against any…”  we are to “forgive.”  Period.  It sounds simple, but living it is a little more difficult.

None of us are naturally forgiving people.  We have been wronged, we don’t want to forgive.  We want revenge.  We want the person who wronged us to pay for it, or at the very least, feel bad about it.  But we are told to forgive.

This is a scary verse: “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”  I think that, many times, our prayers go unanswered because there is bitterness and secret hatred in our hearts.  Our unforgiving spirit can hinder our prayers.  That’s something for us to think about the next time we pray while harbouring unforgiveness in our hearts.

Forgive those that have wronged us; then ask for our own forgiveness – that is the way the Lord would have it done.

The Prayer of Faith

And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.  For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

Mark 11:22-23

Imagine having this kind of faith.  Imagine having the faith to tell a mountain be uproot and be thrown in the sea.  I wouldn’t even have the faith to say that to a mountain, let alone truly believe in my heart.  What an amazing faith!  Well, that faith is available to all of us.

“Have faith in God.”

The object of our faith is God.  Any other object of faith is going to disappoint us.  Faith is man is going to be a failure every time.  Faith in some other “god” is not going to help us.  The one true God is the object of our faith and source of our answered prayer.

There is also another key to answered prayer: “…and shall not doubt in his heart.”  That is a tough one.  How many times have we prayed for something, but with a little doubt in our hearts?  How many times have we just vainly gone through the motions of prayer without really expecting an answer.  We “have faith” that God can answer our prayers, but how often, deep down in our hearts, do we have doubts?  Those doubts are going to hinder our prayer lives and hinder our answers to prayer.

We need to have faith in God and we need to have absolute, unbending, unwavering faith in God.  That is the kind of faith that can move mountains.  That is the kind of faith that is rewarded.  “…he shall have whatsoever he saith.”  Do we have that kind of faith?

I Saw the Light (Hymn)

I Saw the Light
Hank Williams (1948)

I wandered so aimless
My life filled with sin.
I wouldn’t let my
Dear Saviour in.
Then Jesus came like
A stranger in the night
Praise the Lord -,
I saw the light.

Chorus:
I saw the light,
I saw the light,
No more darkness,
No more night -,
Now I’m so happy,
No sorrow in sight.
Praise the Lord,
I saw the light.

Just like a blind man
I wandered along.
Worries and fears
I claimed for my own.
Then like the blind man
That God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord –
I saw the light.

Chorus

I was a fool to
Wander and stray.
Straight is the gate
And narrow the way.
Now I have traded
The wrong for the right;
Praise the Lord,
I saw the light.

Chorus

Hank Williams is not exactly a good Christian role model.  He was known for his life of sin and drunkenness.  But somewhere in that mess of a wasted life, he penned the words to this song.  I don’t know that I would officially call it a “hymn,” but it is a good song.  I will say this – when a person does “see the light” and does know “the wrong from the right,” they are going to be absolutely miserable living in sin.  Maybe that explains the drugs and drinking.  A very sad story to go with a song with a good message.

“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.  But they said, We will not walk therein.”  Jeremiah 6:16