An Audience with the King

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In 1992, Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating, met the Queen of England. But things went terribly wrong for him when he violated royal etiquette and touched Queen Elizabeth. The British Press had a field day, roasting the Prime Minister for his gaffe, and conferring on him the title: “The Lizard of Oz.”

Several years afterward, Pat and I had the privilege of stopping over in London on the way to Nairobi, Kenya, to teach in a Bible School. One day we went to see Buckingham Palace, one of the residences of Queen Elizabeth. We peered through the wrought-iron fence surrounding it and watched the pageantry of the changing of the Palace Guard. But the queen must not have known we were in town, because she did not invite us for tea.

Looking back, it is a good thing the queen was busy with other things that day, because we had no idea of the protocol for meeting royalty. If we had met her, we probably would have made “The Lizard of Oz” look good.

The official protocol for approaching royalty includes things like: 1) Not initiating a handshake or touching the queen; 2) Bowing your head or doing a curtsy when introduced; 3) Only addressing her as “Her Imperial Majesty, the Queen,” not Liz or Lizzy; 4) Not laughing or making jokes in her presence; 5) Always making eye contact with her when she speaks; And, 6) Never slouching or crossing your arms in her presence.

I doubt that any of us will ever have an audience with royalty—But that is fine, because, through Jesus, we can have an audience with the King of all kings. God is the King over every earthly leader or royal throne.

One of the greatest earthly kings, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (605-562 BC), said, “I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Daniel 4:34, 35). He concluded: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (verse 37).

So, how would you approach such a great king? One answer is found in Hebrews 10:19, 20: “We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh.” The primary protocol—the etiquette for an audience with the King—is the blood of Jesus!

What do we need to enter the presence of the King?

FIRST: We need CONFIDENCE“We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). This “holy place” speaks of the very presence of God. It pictures the Holy of Holies that was behind the veil that separated it from the Holy Place in the Tabernacle and Temple. This was where God dwelt and met Aaron and later High Priests on the Day of Atonement. Access to this Holy Place was restricted to the High Priest on one day per year.

In the presence of a great King, you would think confidence would be scarce. But standing on the blood of Jesus, you realize you are there by His worth, through His sacrifice, by His grace—So you can have boldness because of His merit, not your own.

SECOND: We need ACCESS“By a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh” (verse 20). The believer’s access to God is available by a “new and living way.” We now come to God, not through the old way of dead sacrifices, but through the new way of a living Savior. Jesus initiated for believers a new way to God. That new way was through “the veil, that is, His flesh.”

Mark recorded: “Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed His last. And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom” (Mark 15:37, 38). When he gave his flesh as a sacrifice, the veil in the Temple, that symbolically barred access to God, was torn completely in two, allowing entrance to the Holy of Holies—God’s presence.

THIRD: We need A MEDIATOR“And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near” (verses 21, 22a). We can come into God’s presence because we have a mediator to intercede for us. John wrote, “If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2).

When we approach the King, we need someone who can mediate for us in His presence. That is what Jesus does, “For there is one God, and one Mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

I hope you will seek an audience with the King of kings, and not wait until you are summoned to His presence. Jesus paid the penalty for all your sins and provides access so you can come boldly into the presence of the King, as He also intercedes for your failures. “He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). He—the very King of the universe—invites you to come to Him through faith in His Son.

 

 

 

 

Core Values of the Family

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God has a sense of humor. Over a 20-year span He gave Pat and me five children. I am not sure God laughed about it, but we sure laughed a lot and cried a little, in the midst of it. A friend of mine said insanity is inherited—you get it from your kids—and he wasn’t far off. There are times, dealing with teens in the midst of adolescence and raging hormones, you think you may lose it. However, you can learn a lot from your children, and I wouldn’t trade one lesson learned for all the tea in China, however many metric tons that may be.

Solomon wrote, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward, like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 127:3-5). Some have larger quivers than others—but regardless of the size of your family—children are a “gift,” a “reward” and are like “arrows” to be dispatched toward targets. And, if God gives you children, you are truly “blessed.”

A few years ago I was scheduled to speak at a Leadership Conference on “The Family,” and was struggling to put something together that would be coherent, truthful and challenging for couples in ministry. So, as part of my preparation, I decided to send my grown kids a 14-question survey about their home life growing up: what worked—what didn’t—what they needed that they didn’t get—and what they had that should have been eliminated. Now, these children God gave us are Daren (48), Julie (47), Mark (43), Timothy (41), and Deborah Sue (29).

To complicate matters further, my kids spent all their growing up years in a pastor’s home. Everybody has heard horror stories about PK’s (Preacher’s Kids), so I thought I would document it, and see what I could learn. What I learned was amazing, enlightening and humbling. The responses to my survey brought tears and laughter, joy and pain—But it was real.

Though each child filled out the survey on their own, there were some amazing similarities centering on things that were important and worked well for them and in them, as they matured. After analyzing the survey results in my unprofessional way, I was left with 8 Core Values—Family Priorities. Here are the ones that most influenced my children for good. I hope they will be helpful to you who are blessed with children of your own.

Family Meals—Gathering the family around the table scored high. During these daily times, enjoying food and talking about the day, laughing about events, talking about challenges and even admitting blunders was a powerful, wonderfully blessed thing. There is something powerful about breaking bread together. We always tried to make the family table a safe zone, where we could all share anything, without facing scolding or correcting.

Family Day—Designating one day per week as Family Day where we would spend time playing games, going to parks, riding bikes, enjoying picnics, or just hanging out playing basketball or Frisbee was valuable. Memory makers do not have to cost a lot of money. When my grown kids get together and reminisce earlier days that begin: “Hey, remember when we….” it is nearly always something that didn’t cost much money but made a memory for a lifetime.

Trips Together—for family reunions, vacations, or just getting out of town. Traveling together in a car for a day or two may frazzle your nerves, but your children will learn things about you and each other that they did not know—good and bad, that can help them mature.

Daily Talks—even when they don’t want to talk, and say “nothing” when you ask them if anything is wrong. Don’t let a day go by without spending a little time talking to your child, asking about their day, and inquiring about their activities. This is especially important when they come home from school. Kids carry so much inside, that you, as a parent, need to bring out and discuss—but it takes time and commitment.

Be their Number One Fan—by enthusiastically supporting their activities. If your children play in the band, sing in the choir, play baseball, football, soccer, basketball, tennis, golf, runs track, are on the debate team, or builds robots, BE THERE in the stands rooting them on! They are looking for you.

Daily Devotional—whether at breakfast or some special time, pray, read Scripture, or some daily devotional story, as a family. In this way you demonstrate the value of spending time in the Word and of praying together, especially during times of crisis or family emergency.

Personal Accountability—for each family member’s actions is imortant. Teach them to work, stick with it and not quit or give up, as they do chores, jobs or make other commitments. This includes non-negotiable family activities, like attending Sunday School, Worship, Youth and other church activities. These family things we do together.

Apologize—Parents make mistakes too, and should own it when they are wrong. Children see our mistakes before anyone else. When you apologize for mistakes and failures, your influence will rise, not fall, in their eyes. Once I embarrassed Daren by wrongly calling him out in church. As soon as we dismissed I took him into my office and apologized. He shocked me no end when he said, “That’s OK Dad, we all make mistakes!”

As you work through your responsibility to God as parents, I pray you adopt priorities and core values that will honor God, bless you, your children, and their children, for years to come.

 

 

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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My wife Pat’s seventh generation grandfather, Valentine Hollingsworth, came to America from Hollingworth, England, by way of Belfast, Ireland, in 1682. He was a Quaker, and was accompanied by another famous Quaker named William Penn, the founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, which later became the state of Pennsylvania. Valentine and his family were early settlers to the Wilmington, Delaware, area.

Since it is almost February 14th, the interesting thing to me is his name—Valentine.

The celebration of Valentine’s Day as we know it, began during the 14th century. The day is very much about cards—about 144 million are exchanged in the United States annually, and an estimated 1 billion are given worldwide. In fact, Valentine’s Day only ranks behind Christmas as the largest card-giving holiday.

So, what is the deal with all the candy and card-writing on Valentine’s Day?

As with many holidays, Valentine’s Day has a dark beginning. The man who became known as Saint Valentine was a godly minister in Rome during the third century. According to “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs,” written by John Foxe in 1583, Valentinus lived during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II, a ruler known for his brutal persecution of Christians.

The godly Valentinus refused to deny Jesus, though he was threatened, imprisoned, and eventually killed by the emperor. Not only did Valentinus courageously stand for Christ, he fed, sheltered and comforted persecuted Christians during those dark days leading up to his imprisonment. He boldly refused to worship the pagan Roman gods. While imprisoned, Valentinus witnessed about Christ and led many others to believe in Him as Savior. He even shared the gospel of Christ with Emperor Claudius, who was so enraged that he had Valentinus beaten and beheaded.

Our Valentine’s Day practice was patterned after the action of Valentinus on the day of his execution, February 14, AD 270. That day, he sent a letter to a young lady, his jailor’s daughter, who had visited him during his imprisonment. In the note he declared his love for her, wished her well, and signed the letter: “from your Valentine,” as his farewell.

His great expression of love began to be repeated by other Christian martyrs who were about to die, setting the pattern of communicating undying devotion in the face of certain death. The ritual of sending a love letter or note on Valentine’s Day became a tradition, though few today understand the historical setting. Valentine’s Day began, not only as an expression of love for another, but of deep, sacrificial devotion to Christ.

Until recently most believers only learned of Christian martyrs from history books. However, the renewed hatred of Christ and Christians in other parts of the world has brought martyrdom back into the spotlight in the 21st century. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world today. CSGC states that 900,000 Christians have been martyred in the last decade. That means 25 Christians a day pay the ultimate price for their faith in Christ.

So, though Valentine’s Day is famous for romantic tokens of love among people, it was originally remembered for the way a martyr could love Christ so deeply, he would willingly die, rather than deny Him. This day also became a day to consider persecuted Christians who were imprisoned, tortured or who willingly gave their own life-blood. God’s People are to remember, love and care for those persecuted for their faith: “Let love of the brethren continue….Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:1-3).

God demonstrated the greatest expression of love for mankind when He “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus reminds us, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He offered His life on the cross to pay the penalty for all our sins.

The unlimited love God has for lost and helpless humanity is summed up in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

We need to understand that this great redeeming love originates with God, not with us. It is not our love that brings His salvation to us, but His love for us! John wrote, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). “Propitiation” means the sacrifice or payment for our sins. God loves us unconditionally and Jesus paid the price.

When God’s love is received by faith, it has a reciprocal effect on us—“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). Love by God to us and by us to Him results in our love for others. John wrote, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

I hope Valentine’s Day will take on a new meaning for you this year, and that you will experience the redeeming love of Christ, in addition to the love of others. Let the words “Happy Valentine’s Day” communicate affection and the desire for closer relationship—in light of the greatest, most compassionate love this world has seen—God’s love for us through Jesus Christ!

Heaven On Earth

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What comes to mind when you hear the term “Heaven on Earth?” Do you think about some ideal vacation spot? Does a beautiful tropical beach scene, with palm trees swaying and surf pounding the shore fill your mind?

It may surprise you to know that this term, “Heaven on Earth,” is used in the Bible to describe the results of a beautiful and fulfilling family life. Yes, God wants your family to be like a foretaste of heaven.

I know that many people carry emotional scars, and even physical marks, from painful childhoods. Some lug the emotional baggage of an abused upbringing far into their adult years. And, a few live their whole lives hampered and hurting because of mistreatment during their formative younger lives. Nothing is sadder than this kind of hurt.

The good news is—it doesn’t have to be that way. God’s plans for the family are wholesome, fulfilling, nurturing and altogether lovely. He wants family units to thrive, multiply, grow, and bless the whole world with love and joy. And it is true—the whole community is blessed when parents are godly, children are loved, and people obey God’s laws.

This is no pipe dream, or pie-in-the-sky fantasy. However, a “Heaven on Earth” family requires an investment, and carries cost parents must be willing to pay.

As Israel was poised on the border of the Promise Land, called by Moses, “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 11:9), he gave commands God expected them to obey. Many of these commands were about parents teaching their children about God, as they led them into the new land. As they obeyed they would enjoy “the days of heaven upon the earth” (verse 21).

So, how could a family experience these idyllic days?

First, Moses wrote: “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul” (Deuteronomy 11:18). As is true in every sphere—change and success had to begin at the top. Parents were to spend time in God’s Word, and let His words penetrate their hearts and invade every area of their lives. They were to listen, accept, absorb and obey God’s commands first. The truth of Scripture has transforming power. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Second, as parents learned more about God and what He expected, they were then to: “Teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 11:19). As mentioned in Deuteronomy chapter 6, teaching opportunities always abound for the alert parent. Every aspect of life, even the most mundane – when sitting, walking, lying down or rising up – could become a classroom for communicating God’s truth.

This world would be a better place if more parents spent time reading and studying God’s Word, then taught their children God’s truth and how it applies to everyday life. It is the solemn duty of parents to instruct their children about God and their duty to Him.

Third, “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (verse 20). God desired the children of Israel to let the Word of God be visible and constantly in view. Moses did not mean Bible verses were to be scribbled on the walls of their homes, but he did intend for God’s commands to be always before them, and for His Word to constantly direct them.

Even today, as you enter the home of a Jewish family, you can often see a little brass or metal box attached high up on the right side of the door jam. The little box is called a mezuzah, which is Hebrew for “doorpost.” Within the box is a tiny scroll with the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:18-22, hand-written in small Hebrew letters. It is their way of literally obeying God’s command to write His Word on the doorposts of their homes.

When our children were young, we had a plaque in one of their rooms that read: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). We wanted to instill in our children’s minds, the truth that God always saw what they did, even if their parents did not. Pat and I wanted our children to understand that God’s mighty presence—His all-seeing eyes—were continually beholding and weighing their actions. We did not want to saddle them with guilt but to remind them of accountability. We know this is a good practice because the psalmist wrote, “I have placed your ordinances before me” (Psalm 119:30). God’s values are to be constantly regarded, as they guide our way and rule our work.

Fourth, when parents spend time learning God’s Word, teach it to their children, and keep His commands continually in view, the result will be: “So that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:21).

It is amazing that God’s promise of victory, peace and joy in the new land Israel entered, would depend first and last, not on military power, but on religious commitment! As Israel obeyed God’s commands, and walked in fellowship with Him, they would inherit the land of promise. The same principle applies to believers today. Commitment to know and obey the Scriptures, and to teach them to our children, keeps our families safe and results in a taste of heaven on earth in our homes.

 

 

 

 

Family Matters

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The ABC-TV sitcom “Family Matters” aired from 1989 until 1998. It was an entertaining comedy about the Winslow family in Chicago, Illinois, who had a nerdy neighbor, Steve Urkel, played by Jaleel White. “Family Matters” was a good television series, but this devotional is not about that program.

The term “family matters” can be interpreted two ways. It may mean a situation or state of affairs, something, like: “Our finances are a family matter.” Or it may mean something of real value or consequence, like: “Among things that really count, family matters most.” This is the sense of meaning I want to address.

Family matters. It is obvious that the family unit is the foundation upon which communities, cities, states and nations, is built. The family, as designed by God, is to execute His plan for monogamous relationships and for increasing the human population with good people. God said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Based on the solid foundation of marital commitments to each other, God designed the family structure to be led by a man and a woman—functioning as husband and wife—father and mother. These two similar but uniquely different individuals, together, became a complementary team responsible to bring up children who would be born to them. A mother and father, who train, educate and discipline their offspring, best accomplish the nurturing of children, who then grow into conscientious adults.

God planned for children to be brought up by parents. Young ones need the input, example, training, teaching, nurture and discipline that only parents can best provide. Proverbs 29:15 reads, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” The KJV renders it, “a child left to himself,” whereas the NIV translates it, “an undisciplined child.” All renderings mean the same thing—if a child is left to himself, or if he always gets his own way without discipline—he probably will not turn out well. That is why babies are dependent on their parents—to be loved, cared for, taught, disciplined and corrected by them—for their own good.

Even God practices corrective discipline with His spiritual children because it results in improved behavior. Hebrews 12:10 reminds us that God “disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” The discipline of God on His spiritual children, like the correction of parents on theirs’, is not enjoyable to receive, but is beneficial in results. Verse 11 goes on to say: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

The foundation of human society is marriage and the family. It is the support underpinning every aspect of our humanity. Family matters more than most people realize. Family matters because it is the cornerstone—the linchpin—the pivot-point of our very civilization.

One of the most famous passages of Scripture in the Old Testament is called the “Shema,” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). These verses compose the groundwork of Jewish family life, and are as important to families today, as when Moses wrote them 3500 years ago. Here God lays out principles to live by and commands to obey, so that life can be long and enjoyable.

The Shema begins by commanding fathers to know God’s Word, if they would share its truth. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart” (Deut. 6:5-6). Parents must Love the Lord with all their heart, soul and might, then keep His Word in their hearts.

Next, parents were to communicate spiritual truth to their children in the context of daily life. “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (verse 7).

Obedience to God and communicating His Word should never be confined to Sundays. Instead, parents who love their children and want God’s best for them should insert principles of biblical instruction into the activities of everyday, normal life. Did you notice when and where teaching was to happen? It should occur: “when you sit in your house….when you walk by the way…when you lie down…and when you rise up.”

Teach your children about the Lord when you sit at your table to eat. Offer thanks to God, showing dependence upon Him. Talk about the Lord when you walk by the way, or when you are driving your car. Share truth about God when your children go to bed, and when they get up in the morning. All these are prime teaching opportunities for the observant, loving parent!

Professor Howard Hendricks used to quote this formula for child-rearing success: CP=MI (Close Proximity=Maximum Impact). If parents want to have the greatest effect for Christ on their children, they must be close to them—spiritually, emotionally and physically. The greater distance between—the more barriers allowed—the less impact parents will have on their children.

Since family matters more than almost anything on the planet: Spend some time getting to know your Lord—make time to spend with your children—be alert for opportunities to teach—be ready to share spiritual truth—then watch God work in their lives. Yes—Family Matters!

 

No Greater Love

“Earn it! Earn it!” were the dying words of Captain John H. Miller, to Private Ryan, in the 1998 film, “Saving Private Ryan.”

That war movie was based on the true story of a heroic rescue by a platoon of Army Rangers, sent behind German lines, during World War II. Four sons of Michael and Augusta Niland, of Tonawanda, New York, had all enlisted to fight for their country. One had just been shot down over Burma, and two others had died, with 4,000 other allies, in the invasion of D Day. Frederick “Fritz,” the lone surviving brother, was deep in enemy territory, somewhere behind the lines in Germany.

When the U. S. War Department learned of the death of three of the Niland’s four sons, they decided that losing all four sons was far too high a price for one family to payso they decided to extract him, no matter what the cost. A platoon of Rangers was dispatched with this singular mission.

As the platoon of hardened soldiers traversed battlefields in search of Fritz, one by one, they were taken out by enemy fire. In the movie, when they finally found him, he was involved in holding a bridge from German control. Before they could leave with him, several casualties were taken; one being Captain Miller.

As the Captain lay dying, he challenged the Private to, “Earn it! Earn it!” He meant—Considering the price people paid to save you—Make your life count!  

Think about this: For one person to give his life for another is the greatest sacrifice that could ever be made, and is the ultimate act of courage and selflessness. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

By the same token, the one who is saved by such a great sacrifice should “earn it,” or make his life count. Both facts are involved in God’s sacrifice, Christ’s love, the believer’s salvation, and his subsequent life. Believers should receive it—and make it count.

This theme of unlimited love and selfless sacrifice—the theme of so many love stories, novels and movies—becomes reality and visible on the pages of God’s Word. One passage of such passion and beauty is Romans 5:6-11.

FIRST—We see our Hopeless Condition: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (v. 6). Sin in our nature and by our practice, renders people helpless to live rightly before God. What makes it worse is that we cannot help but sin. It is in our very nature. This fact does not make us blameless—it renders us helpless.

SECOND—We see God’s Loving Demonstration: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (verse 8). God did not see all of humanity in its lost, sinful, condition, and ignore it. Because “God is love” (1 John 4:8), He moved to provide a Savior who could at one time satisfy His perfect demands—and also make a way for God to forgive mankind’s sin. God’s love became visible, demonstrable, when He provided His Son to be the Sacrifice. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  

THIRD—We see Four Effects of Christ’s Sacrifice:

            1) Sinners can be Justified by His Blood—“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood” (verse 9). Because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, sinful people can be forgiven of their sins and can be made just in God’s sight. The only way God can forgive sin, pardon sinners and justify them—is if someone—some perfectly sinless one—pays the penalty. When Jesus lived a perfect life and willingly died on the cross, it was so we could be “justified by His blood.” His blood paid the cost of our sin.

            2) Sinners can be Saved from God’s Wrath—“We shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (verse 9). Because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, sinful people can be forever delivered from facing God’s wrath for their sin. God’s wrath on sin will be poured out. It has not disappeared. It has not dissolved. But it has been taken and born for every believer, in the person of Jesus. The grave truth about God’s wrath is: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). By trusting Christ’s sacrifice—God’s wrath was poured on Jesus—instead of on believers.

            3) Sinners can be Reconciled to God—“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (verse 10). Because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, sinful people can be brought into fellowship with their heavenly Father. Imagine what it will be like in Heaven, reconciled to God! Peter wrote, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Sinner—through Jesus—you will be brought to God!

            4) Sinners can Rejoice through Christ—“And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (verse 11). All of this work of Christ’s sacrifice bringing justification, salvation, and reconciliation results in rejoicing in God’s salvation! We “exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

SO…Make your life count! Don’t waste it. As Captain Miller told Private Ryan with his dying breath, “Earn it” – make your life count because of the price Jesus paid to save it.

Free at Last!

America celebrates a national birthday on Monday. The honored man would have just turned 91, if not for an assassin’s bullet. The holiday is in his honor, and though millions across America will enjoy a free day, many will not realize the amazingly powerful affect this man made on our nation. 

Martin Luther King, Jr., Baptist minister and social rights activist during the turbulent 1950’s and 60’s, was born January 15, 1929, and was assassinated April 4, 1968. He was a prominent leader of the American civil rights movement. As head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he led peaceful protests around the United States, including the famous March on Washington DC, in 1963, where 250,000 people attended. Dr. King was a strong leader of nonviolent protests to bring pressure for needed changes to long-standing racial abuses. He was a leader in the civil rights movement, an organized effort by African-Americans to end racial discrimination and gain equal rights under the law. It began in the late 1940’s and culminated in the 1960’s. 

 On August 28, 1963, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made a 16-minute speech, that changed the course of history. His speech became the motivation for the subsequent adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Also, later in 1964 Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his dynamic leadership of the Civil Rights movement and steadfast commitment to achieving racial justice through nonviolent actions.

 It is difficult today for young people to realize the degrading and demeaning effect of racism that was widespread in those days. But you can hear the pain coming through Dr. King’s words: “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Dr. King continued—“Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” 

Recently, Dr. Charlie Dates, pastor of the Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois, and teacher at the Moody Bible Institute, preached: “We would have never had slavery in America if the Church of the Lord Jesus had stood up.” If God’s people would have stood on the truth of Scripture, and would have lived out true brotherly love, slavery could not have thrived in America. 

 Why is this so? Racial discrimination is morally and ethically wrong, and adamantly unchristian. What does God think of prejudice, having “respect of persons” and showing “partiality?”

First, in the context of the fact of sin and everyone’s need of salvation, Romans 2:11 reads, “there is no partiality with God.” Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Without exception—all are sinners; and all need the Savior.

Second, regarding human social order, Ephesians 6:9 reminds us that “there is no partiality with him” (God). During the first century up to 40% of the population were considered slaves. So, though slavery existed, God was impartial, unprejudiced toward all people. Paul urged both slaves and masters to seek first and foremost to please God from the heart.

 Third, God is impartial and unprejudiced in His dealings with people. In 1 Peter 1:17-19, we are reminded that answered prayer, judgment, and redemption are all in the hands of God. He is the One who “impartially judges according to each one’s work,” so you should “conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” (verse 17). Regardless of race, nationality or culture, all believers are redeemed, “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (verse 19). Jesus only is the one way of salvation for all people (John 14:6).

Fourth, not only is God not prejudice, He expects His children and His churches to be impartial in their treatment of all people. James commanded, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism” (2:1). He commands Christians to fulfill the “royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (verse 8)—whomever that neighbor may be.

Fifth, God considers prejudice to be sin. James wrote: “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (2:9). To treat people with prejudice because of their social standing, wealth, position, nationality, culture or race is to sin against them and against God.

We pray Dr. King’s dream comes true:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal….’ This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’”