Good news in bad times

What is happening with the coronavirus outbreak has affected all of us.   The deaths across the world along with global uncertainty has been felt everywhere,  shutting down entire countries, shows us how completely vulnerable we are, in spite of our technological and medical advances.  We have been made aware of the risk to our health by governments and media alike, the danger for now is unlikely to end any time soon.  But this health concern now before us, serious as it is, may point to something even more grave, and though it is not going to attract headline news, still deserving of our attention.  Last Friday, we spoke about it at a youth meeting just before building closures were announced. Let me take you there now.

 As I said, our youth group met together for the last time, before major school facilities shutdowns took place.   A young lad joined our group for the first time and for the first time, he heard the gospel. It appeared that he may never have heard the gospel explained the way he did that night.  He remained fairly attentive throughout the lesson where he heard a true account of a 19th century tightrope walker named Charles Blondin, who had walked across Niagara Falls on a rope.  Twenty-five thousand people had gathered to watch him perform his daring-to-do feats with no net or safety harness of any kind, seemingly fearless and raging falls below. He did it successfully over and over on many different occasions,  sometimes on stilts, blindfolded, one time with a wheelbarrow full of rocks, the crowds gathered in mass numbers. They broke out into a cheering frenzy each time he made it! One time, the daredevil turned to a man in the crowd and told him to get into the wheelbarrow!   The man refused and neither were any volunteers found that day to accompany the showman in his act of defiance.

This true story is often used to illustrate real faith.  Those on the shore had watched the “Great Blondin” walk across the falls three hundred times on varied occasion to applaud wildly and give their happy nods whenever he asked if they thought he could do it again and again, all the while sporting  different props which he made use of to cross to the far shore, delighting the crowd with his death defying antics, all very risky and without a net beneath him, yet when it came to trusting that he could do it with someone in the barrel that he would push across, none of the spectators would come forward when challenged!    You see, for that moment they had lost their nerve or should I say confidence in Mr. Blondin. They thought that he could do it and did watch him walk the rope to their amazement, but their confidence failed each of them when they were asked if any one of them would join him and take a seat in the wheel barrel which he would push across.   You may have guessed the spiritual application by now.

   First, the illustration does not exactly do justice to our application.  Jesus Christ does not put any at risk when He tells us to trust Him, implicitly.  You only have to read the gospel story with any sense of understanding to see that Christ never failed His mission in any way, that He accomplished everything He ever said He would do.  When He predicted His Resurrection, that was documented and witnessed by hundreds of people and when he healed the sick, they remained healed, not anything He did or said was later found to have failed or false.  So trusting your life to Christ is not a gamble, because Christ is fully able to save and fulfill His promises to us. His Word is sure because He is God in the flesh, and God never fails to achieve His purposes in us and in His creation.   You have every good reason to believe in Christ, who gave His life on the cross that sinners may experience forgiveness and new life. We must exercise personal faith in Christ alone for what He did on the cross to be given newness of life.   Now let us get back to the young lad that you heard about earlier, After our gospel lesson was over, when we had gathered in our van to return the kids home, the young lad asked me about coming back to our group. I smiled. Maybe, next time he can take that needed step of faith!  

He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. …  Ro.4:21

 

A Name Above All Names

A few weeks ago an athlete known to most died along with several others which included his daughter in a helicopter crash.  Many tributes poured in from far all over since he was quite popular. He was eulogized in extraordinary ways, at times to mythical proportions.  His legacy was founded mostly on the basketball court where few could match his prowess between the painted lines. But not all was well. Some hinted at a complicated legacy, a few oblique references to “Colorado” left us with an uneasy feeling that not all was rosy during his glory days.   Decades earlier, Kobe had been criminally charged with rape, and though he denied it at the time, he did pay the nineteen year old woman a sum of a million dollars in a civil settlement. The criminal charges never came to a court of law. He later admitted that though he thought his sexual encounter with the complainant was consensual, in hindsight he did not think that she had consented to it.      

   Winning ways and wealth seems to make bad things go away.   Other high profile athletes have had similar run-ins with the law and sought a resolution in similar ways.    It seems that the media together with a zealous fan base are quite willing to look past immoral dealings, to keep their heroes intact and untarnished.   Good behaviour off the field seems to be of less interest these days. often seen as insignificant, becoming a footnote to an otherwise celebrated life. Just think how much putting a ball through a hoop, or throwing a pass or kicking a ball better than most anyone else has come to mean more than that time-honoured decency off the field we once saw as important.  

   Centuries ago, a man came into the the public’s eye living honestly, doing good,  caring for the sick and lame, often forgiving people`s sins, and restoring broken lives.   Some mocked His claims of deity, and others doubted He could be who He claimed He was. Christ was not deterred.  He continued to minister to all those that came to Him, He lived among the common folk travelling with His disciples, healed lepers, brought hope to the downtrodden, and befriended those who were hated.  The religious rulers accused Him falsely before the courts, where trumped-up charges were laid, since no moral or legal wrong could be found. Christ was condemned and put Him to death.  

  By and large, few wish to emulate Jesus Christ in our day.   During His lifetime, His Name remained unsullied even under great persecution.  His life was spotless. There was ample reason to be convinced, that He was the long awaited Savior that they had waited for.  Yet, they would chose to release a prisoner instead and convict a thoroughly righteous man.  

   Today, our permissive society acts much in the same way.  Distilling evil for good; often dismissing moral rectitudes as little more than blimps on a screen that disappears after a while.   Our fascination with heroes warps our ability to see what we should value as truly essential. Consider the Name that is above every name, whether on earth or heaven, that Jesus Christ alone is worthy of our praise and worship!  In the book of Hebrews, the author makes a point to look at many Old Testament figures and concludes that none of them can compare to Christ. On another front, Paul wrote these words to the Philippians:

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil.2:9-11

   Really, there is only one real champion today and He resides in heaven.  Only He can claim to have lived an upright life whose status remained stellar and untarnished and will one day return for His Believers.   Are you ready for that? Do you value what He has done for us on Calvary? If you do, place personal trust in Him alone and seek forgiveness of your sins.   

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved.  Acts 4:14

May the Lord lead you to trust Him today!

An Early Valentine

By Pastor Bill Morgan – Grace Churches

A minister once stated “The Cross is the pulpit of God’s love.” God’s love for all mankind finds it’s climax – it’s epicentre at the cross of Calvary, where the Son of God sacrificed His sinless life in order to appease the wrath of God by making an atonement for sin. God’s Valentine to us would have a picture of three crosses with our Lord Jesus Christ in the middle of two criminals. Below the picture, on the front of the card would be the inscription: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

On the inside of the card on the left side we would read: “HOW GREAT A LOVE, AND ITS PROVISION”. How great? “Greater love has no man than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). It’s provision? “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we should be saved by His life. For God made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (Romans 5:8, 10). (2 Corinthians 5:21)

God, in His Valentine card to His special creation is informing us that He and His Son devised a plan whereby we could be forgiven of all of our transgressions and acquitted of all our guilt. One of the great themes of the Bible is that of Redemption whereby God gives instruction concerning our true spiritual condition, that of being lost and separated from God due to our sins.

Inside on the right side of the card there would be another statement: “TO BE MY VALENTINE, YOUR RESPONSE MUST BE: REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL!” “. . . .that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame’. For the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Mark 1:15). (Romans 10:9-13)

May our response be to choose life rather than death!

“FOR THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH, BUT THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.”

Absolute Truth – Absolutely!

    Sometimes the insane turns sane if you start thinking how to decide what the real issues of life are really all about.    When Robert Shapiro was asked by Larry King on his nation-wide radio program what really happened that day with O.J. Simpson, Shapiro would not comment on what really happened but that his role to defend O.J. was strictly business related.  In short, finding out the truth about what happened was not important but winning the case for his client was and that sadly enough is a comment on today`s ,moral standards. Rather than uphold the truth of what really occurred that day, he pointed out that the nature of his work was about doing what is best for his client. Truth was not the main issue but getting his client off regardless of O.J.`s evident condition of guilt.   If it is only about “the nature of his business” as an attorney, as Shapiro insists it is, than truth is not the main consideration, afterall. Sadly, that same attitude can be found in too many today.

  To think we can live without absolutes is not sustainable for any society in any age.  Left unchecked, corruption in our society inevitably will implode upon itself. We have already seen that in our country.   Our elective officials in Canada are leading us into bankruptcy both moral and finances, promising balanced budgets and integrity only to recant their promises once they have been elected, blaming elements beyond their control, the usual fare from lying politicians.   Insatiable greed leads hucksters to peddle religion for the sake of filling their pockets and egos. It does not stop there. It can be seen all around us. In business, many fail to produce products they advertise, and go out of business once they have made their profits, nullifying money-back guarantees.  Something as simple as not returning phone calls in order to avoid accountability for products and services are plentiful enough. Some would like to consider truth as relative which has no real reference point other than themselves. They say that truth is what you make of it. That kind of thinking proves contradictory since to affirm that no absolutes exists is to assert an absolute in itself,  and second, it would mean that if truth is relative as the individual says it is, than what is to say that what you decide is true may in effect be false, since it is left with you to decide what is true and what is false. This kind of reasoning would excuse the Hitler’s and criminals of this world to do whatever they wish and justify it in a similar way in countries where Islamists carry out genocide do.    They justify their evil by their own standards of right and wrong and since no universal standard exist than who is to have the final say? That is why to maintain that life can exists without absolutes can only lead to self-destruction.

  The Bible is truth.  We find our reference point in it.  Much like a GPS (global positioning system for vehicles),  we can find our way in life by making the Truth of God our benchmark for living.   In the early going of the Apollo space mission, when the craft rounded the moon and the astronauts saw the  earth, incredulously one astronaut exclaimed, “in the beginning.” The exact words as the start of the book of Genesis.   Too, we need to find our explanation to all that is in life in God, if we are going to find reality and safety. I say safety because eternity is part of our future once this life is over.  God has sent His Son into this life to prepare us and we are not ready for death without faith in Christ; for sacrificing His life on the cross for His people. Christ was sent to purify us of our sins, for which we would suffer eternally in hell if it  were not for the salvation God has granted anyone who trusts in His Son and repents of their sins. In Hebrews 1:1-4 the author speaks in large terms about the full-orbed work of Christ where He is described as both Sustainer of the universe and Redeemer.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

  The author of Hebrews speaks later in chapter two verse one to pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.   

  Will you pay close attention to who Jesus is and what He has done on Calvary.  Will you commit to Him and receive forgiveness of your sins by approaching Him in prayer and confessing your sins to Him now.