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JOHN:THE BIG PICTURE GOSPEL

 

Introduction

 

       The Gospel of John is a fascinating and inspiringaccount of Jesus life and ministry. It is very different from Matthew, Mark andLuke in how it is organized. Still, there are powerful verses that haveimpacted our lives and faith. The Golden Verse of the Bible, John 3:16, is afavorite. John 14:6 is memorized by many, “I am the way, the truth, and thelife. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And many more.

 

      John’sGospel does not say, “I, John, wrote this.” Rather he refers to himself onnumerous occasions as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” We will discuss this ingreater detail but there is little significant disagreement with the idea that Johnwas the author of this Gospel. It is generally believed that he wrote this latein life around 85 AD after the other Gospels were written.

 

     The otherthree Gospels are called, “synoptic,” which literally means seen together. Theyinclude many of the same stories, often in the same sequence, and similarwording. John wrote about seven sign miracles and seven discourses (teachingmessages). His purpose is reflected in John 20:30, 31. “Jesus did many othermiraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded inthis book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

 

     John wasone of three disciples who were considered the inner circle along with Peterand James, his brother. They were fishermen along with their dad, Zebedee, whenJesus called them to come and follow him. They left the boat and their fatherand followed Jesus. Jesus called them, Boanerges, an Aramaic word which meant Sonsof Thunder. They were aggressive at first wanting to sit on the right and leftside of Jesus in his kingdom and then wanting to call down fire on a villagethat did not receive them. About ten years after the resurrection, James waskilled by Herod by the sword. But John lived a long life. Jesus words aboutlove and the Holy Spirit changed his personality to the Apostle of Love.

 

      It wasJohn who saw and wrote about the Big Picture. That is, Jesus was the Logos, theWord of God, present at Creation, and the divine only begotten Son of God. Jesusgives life (zoe) and Light (phos). “God so loved the world that He gave his Oneand only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternallife.” Jesus is the “I am”…bread of life, light of the world, gate for thesheep, good shepherd, resurrection and the life, way, truth and life, truevine, and vine. Jesus has given a new commandment that we love one another. Hesent the Holy Spirit after He ascended. These are all things we do not hearfrom the other Gospels but are central to our faith and theology from John.

 

      Fromstart to finish, John brings forth evidence and testimony that Jesus is theChrist. Along the way, some believe and some reject. But none are left with thealternative that Jesus was a good itinerant rabbi. The first chapter containswhat students call the Prologue. Verses 1-18 talk about Jesus, the Word, from thebeginning and then how the Word became flesh and lived among us. The Word isJesus.

 

THEBEGINNING

 

      John 1:1 reads, “In the beginning was theWord, and the Word was with god, and the Word was God. He was with God in thebeginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made thathas been made.”Even though he had spent almost every day with Jesus for 3 ½years with Jesus, there were profound insights revealed to him in the followingyears. He realized that Jesus was divine and present at Creation.

 

      The two key words are “the beginning” and“the Word.” The beginning refers to Genesis 1. “In the beginning God createdthe heavens and the earth.” This is where human history starts…with God’screation. The Word is the Greek is Logos.This word is used many times in the NT to refer to speaking, reckoning, andhere with a specific article “The Word.” This had meaning in the OT and in theGreek culture of the day. The OT reference is first in Gen 1 where God spokethe world into creation.v.9 “And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky begathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so.” The Greeksused this word to explain the reason and purpose of the universe.

 

      Hebrews 1:1,2 reminds us, “In the pastGod spoke to our forefather through the prophets at many times and in variousways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son….” Literally, Hehas spoken to us by Son.” Jesus has been called The Living Word. Jesus in anintense discussion with the Jewish leadership in John 8:58 said, “I tell youthe truth, before Abraham was born, I am.” This made them mad and they wantedto stone him but were unable. Jesus was more than a Jewish itinerant rabbi, hewas the Son of God and divine and there in creation. We call thispre-existence. Paul reaffirmed this in Phil 2:6 explaining, “being in verynature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…”

 

      John1:3, “Through him all things weremade; without him nothing was made that has been made.” “In him was life andthat life was the light of men.” Will discuss in a bit. DonCarson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School of Chicago translates the phraseof John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Message.” God desires to communicate.There is great power in His communication. Jesus was God’s Message in action.

 

      God wants to talk to you and me today. Heis not silent. He is speaking. His Love Message is Christ. He also sent theHoly Spirit after Christ ascended. We are not alone or lonely. He is talking tous.

 

 

 

THETESTIFIER-John Baptist

 

      John 1:6 tells us, “there came a man who was sentfrom God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning thatlight, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light;he came only as a witness to the light…” This is speaking of John the Baptistwho was the official witness who was part of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.There were some who thought John Baptist was the Prophet or the One who was tocome but John vigorously denied it. “I am not the Christ.”

 

      Later in this first chapter, John Baptisttestified, “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This isthe one I meant when I said ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me becausehe was before me.’” John was one who gave official testimony about Jesus. He isthe One. He is God’s Lamb. Listen to Him!

 

      We who have believed are also witnessesof Jesus. Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receivedpower and then he said, “you will be my witnesses.”Weare designated testifiers. We have experienced Jesus’ life and light.

 

 

 

THETRUE LIGHT

 

      John 1:4 reminds us, “in him was life, and that lifewas the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness hasnot understood it.” Also verse 8, “He himself was not the light; he only cameas a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man wascoming into the world.”

 

      John speaks of life and light. Zoe is theGreek word for life. John spoke of it extensively(36 x). It is eternal life. Itis life into the ages. It is the life of God that begins when one believes inJesus (5:24 crossed over from death to life). It is the life abundantly, to thefull (perisson). It is the life that brings freedom (whom the Son sets free isfree indeed).

 

      “That life was the light of men,” [light](Gr phos) Jesus is the light and He enlightens everyone who believes in him.This is the beginning of a stark contrast between light and darkness. There aremany who want to portray many shades of gray. Jesus spoke of light anddarkness.

 

      Verse 9 speaks of “the true light.”Compare 1 John 2:8, “the true light is already shining.” Many claim to be thelight or enlightened. New age teachers are projecting light. But Jesus is TheTrue Light! He is the One and Only. (KJV Only Begotten Son), 14:6 “no one comesto the Father except through me.”

 

      Some are following lesser lights to theirdestruction. They are false lights and really only darkness. False teaching isdarkness. V5 “The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has notunderstood it.” Compare 12:35, “You are going to have the light just a littlewhile longer. Walk while you have the light….” When Jesus walked this earth,the brightness of God’s Light in Jesus was The True Light! But not allrecognized it. Some did not get it.

 

CONCLUSION

 

 

 

      In fact, God’s chosen people rejected thetrue light. V.11 “He came to that which was his own, but his own did notreceive him.” John 3:19 records Jesus analysis, “This is the verdict: Light hascome into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deedswere evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into thelight for fear that his deeds will b exposed. But whoever lives by the truthcomes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done hasbeen done through God.”

 

      This was a fulfillment of Isaiah’sprophecy. 53:3 “he was despised and rejected of men…..”

V12 “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave theright to become children of God.” Believe occurs 98 times in John. V14“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,the glory of the One and Only (monogenous), who came from the Father, full ofgrace and truth.”

 

Sarx-abody. Gal 4:4 born of a woman. Made his dwelling (tabernacled).We saw theglory! Do you see that Jesus is the True Light? Do you believe on him as theOne and Only? Have you left the dark deeds into his light? Have you receivedlife to the full? You can by faith today.

 

 

 

 

PART TWO: THE WORD BECAME FLESH; WE BEHELD HIS GLORY,FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH.

 

Introduction

 

       The Big Picture Gospel is amazing and inspiring. John wrote of 7 sign miracles and 7 discourses to show that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God.

 

      Last week, we began this series from chapter one where he wrote, “in the beginning was the Word.” This teaches us that Jesus was there with God in the beginning at creation. All things were made by him.

 

      God sent a man, John the Baptizer, to testify and prepare the way for someone who would follow and baptize with the Holy Spirit. Jesus came into a world of darkness as the True Light, the One and Only Son of God, who wants to light every man.

 

      Many did not recognize the light. Even though Jesus came to the Jewish people, many rejected him. In fact, whenever Jesus performed a sign miracle, there were those who believed and those who did not.

 

      From John we learn things that were not explained in the other Gospels; God loved the world so much that He sent his One and Only Son. Jesus revealed himself in 7 “I am….” statements: -the bread of life, the light of the world, the gate, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way, truth, and the life, and the true vine.

 

      A strong message that the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” wished to convey was that Jesus was not just an itinerant rabbi, but the Son of God, the Christ!

 

      Today, we want to continue in the Prologue, 1:1-18, looking more closely at the rejection of his own people, the word becoming flesh, he made his dwelling among us, we saw the glory, and he was full of grace and truth. God wants His church today to be full of grace and truth. This is a balance. There is hope and forgiveness but it starts with honesty.

 

 

 

HE CAME TO HIS OWN; THEY REJECTED HIM

 

      God’s chosen people rejected the true light. Look at verse 11, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” This was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, (53:3) “he was despised and rejected of men…..” John 3:19 records Jesus’ analysis, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

 

      Leon Morris, Australian Bible scholar, translates it like this, “he came home.” It is the same expression as is used in 19:27, “this disciple took her into his own home.” “When the Word came into this world, He did not come as an alien. He came home (Morris.p96).” Jesus did not come to another nation, but to God’s own people. Consider Dt. 7:6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession”

 

      Compare the following references from John that suggest rejection: 4:44 “no honor in his own country,” 5:16 “the Jews persecuted him,” 7:1 “purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews were waiting to take his life.” 7:25 “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill?”v.30 “they tried to seize him…sent temple guards to arrest him,” v.44 “some wanted to seize him,” 8:59 “they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” 10:31 “Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him…” 11:50 “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish,” 12:10 “So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well for on account of him, many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.”

 

      It continued …12:37-41   the unbelief of the Jews was predicted by Isaiah 6:10-“he has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts,” 18:3 “So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials for the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons,” 19:6 “as soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify’” 19:15 “’we have no king but Caesar’, the chief priests answered.”

 

YET to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God….” SOME WILL RECEIVE!

 

      Think of Paul’s words 1 Cor.1:26, “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame to wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” We must not stop sharing Jesus just because some reject him because others will receive!

 

 

 

THE WORD BECAME FLESH

 

      “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Paul said in Gal 4:4, ‘born of a woman….” Some who had not seen Jesus physically thought he was God, an apparition, or a spirit. 1 John 1:1 tells us “we heard,” “we’ve seen with our eyes,” “our hands have handled.” John and the eleven were eyewitnesses of Jesus.

 

      “He made his dwelling among us.” This had overtones to Jewish ears of the tabernacle when the glory filled the tent. In fact, John says, “we have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Exodus 40:34 describes the tabernacle scene. ”Then my butt covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of meeting because my butt had settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”

 

      God’s glory was revealed also when King Solomon dedicated the Temple. 1 Kings 8:10 records the event, “When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, my butt filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of my butt, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.” Ezekiel also experienced the glory of the Lord.

 

      John said, ”we saw the glory. We experienced it.” The other Gospel writers wrote specifically that Jesus took Peter, John, and James up on a high mountain and there before their eyes he was transfigured. Mark said, “his clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” They saw two men, Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. Then a butt enveloped them and a voice came from my butt, (Luke 9:36) “This is my Son, whom I have chosen, listen to him.”

 

      They also saw the glory through his public ministry…even to the crucifixion and the resurrection. They had the front row seats. It was glorious and scary! To follow Jesus today will bring adventure into your life. There may come scary times as you trust Him to face the uncertainty of what is next. But also will come the glory of God when you say, “wow, God you did it!”

 

 

 

THE MEANING OF GRACE AND TRUTH

 

      The Word became flesh in Jesus. He was full of grace and truth. Consider verses 14, 16 & 17. The fact that Jesus became a man is an incredible act of God’s graciousness. Grace is the favor of God that was not deserved by the people of the world who were inclined not to believe. God loved them and Jesus loved people. He was often moved with compassion. He reached out to sinners, tax collectors, and lepers…those who were especially undesirable to society.

 

      Verse16 reveals, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” Then verse 17 continues, “For the law was given by Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” This grace is connected with receiving of v. 12. It is further connected to 3:16, God’s great love for the people of the world.

 

      John Baptist characterized Moses as the giver of the Law and Jesus as the bringer of grace and truth. God has always been a merciful God but when Jesus came, mercy and grace surged! He was headed for the cross where He would be the Lamb and pay the price for sin once for all! Also, the disciple whom Jesus loved revealed the profound love of God in Christ (3:16).

 

      But this grace is connected to truth. Truth is very important to John. He used this word 25 times in this gospel. It is the opposite of falsehood but even more. Truth is linked with God and is completely reliable. He knows all, sees all, and understands all. We must come to him in honesty and confession.

 

      In John’s way of thinking, Jesus is God’s truth and demonstrated it. He came, he lived, he died, and he rose so that you and I can live. That’s the truth! Believe what you want, but that‘s the truth. A.A. Corell explains truth this way, “There can be only one meaning of a???e?a [Greek-alethia] in the Fourth Gospel: it is the truth about the death and resurrection of Jesus, to which witness is borne in 16:7 and 17:19. This is in accordance with the whole theology of the Fourth Gospel, the central point of which is the ‘lifting up’ of Jesus.”

 

      Truth must be embraced, (8:31),”know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Satan, the devil, is the opposite and has no truth in him. Consider 8:44, ”You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me.”

 

       Jesus himself says he is the truth. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (14:6.).” In his intercessory prayer, Jesus spoke of the truth. “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Then before Pilate, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. [Pilate] ‘What is truth…’”

 

      Today, we know the truth. God calls us to believe it with our whole life. Embrace Jesus. Confess your sin to him. Receive his grace. Then listen to him and follow him!

 

CONCLUSION

 

           God demonstrated his profound love for the people for the world by sending his Son in flesh. But this was not an arbitrary act. Rather His Son was going to live and die to pay the penalty of sin. Some of the dear people whom he chose as his own would reject Jesus in rebellion, but some would receive. By believing, they would have eternal life in His name.     

 

        Randy Alcorn told the story of how their church was protested for the first time in twenty five years by two different groups. They were attempting to embrace both grace and truth. Their story is told at http://www.sermoncentral.com/Articles/article_PrintFriendly.asp?ArticleID=1596.

 

Today we need to apply the message of Jesus to our lives. The Christian Church and all followers of Jesus need to love sinners and hate sin.

 

 

 

 

                                                           THE LORD OF HOPE

 

      Over the past two weeks, horrific eventshave taken place among us that once again shock and surprise us. We have seenbad things happen over the last couple of decades near April 20th…Hitler’s birthday in 1889. The Columbine massacre erupted in 1999 and the Deepwaterexplosion in the Gulf of Mexico took place in 2010. This year, on April 15, theBoston Marathon bombings shocked us as well as the explosion in West TX on April17. These events have captured our hearts and we have all felt pain again.

 

       It is important that we remember that evenin the most horrific and troubling events, God is still the Lord of Hope.Earlier this year, on January 13, I preached a message from Romans 15 entitledHope by the Holy Spirit. Each year I seek God, pray, and ask for a message toset the pace for the year. This year the message was hope. God is the God ofHope and works in all situations by His Holy Spirit. Even though there are sadevents taking place in our world and the likelihood of more is high, God workseven in sad times.

 

      One of the saddest times in Jewishhistory was recorded in Jeremiah and Lamentations. Jeremiah 52 records the Fallof Jerusalem. It was a sad and devastating event in Israel’s history. They fellso far from the high days of King David and the Majesty of King Solomon. Inv13, it is recorded that the commander Nebuzaraddan “set fire to the temple ofthe Lord, the royal palace and all the house of Jerusalem. Every importantbuilding he burned down.” They broke down the city walls, broke up the bronzepillars, and took away all the valuable furnishings of the temple. Theyransacked the place. Jeremiah witnessed the fulfillment of the prophecies Godhad given him about this place. Israel had not listened to him and so they hadbeen disciplined by God through the Babylonians.

 

       Jeremiah wrote 5 poems of sorrow. It isreminiscent of David’s poem, “How the Mighty Have Fallen,” when King Saul waskilled in battle. The title, “Lamentations,” in Hebrew literally means “How…[blank]?”“How could this have happened?” Can you believe it?” The pain was beyondaccurate descriptive words. Chapters 1,2, 4, & 5 have 22 parts patterned afterthe 22 consonants in the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter 3 has 66 parts which is 3times the 22 letters. Chapter 3 is the highlight. That is where I want to focusyour attention.

 

       Inthe approximate middle of these poems is the message of Lamentations 3:21 &22, “Yet this I call to mind and there I have hope: Because of the Lord’s greatlove we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new everymorning; great is your faithfulness.”

 

 BAD THINGSDO HAPPEN

 

      The first twenty verses detail how badlythe writer feels about the horrible events that have taken place. It is hard tosummarize them especially when such descriptive language is used. Jeremiah sawthese events as clearly directed by God because he was given prophecies ofwarning to Israel that they would happen if Israel did not turn from sin andwickedness.

 

   I am the man who has seen affliction by therod of his wrath.

 

   He has driven me away and mad me walk indarkness rather than light;    

 

indeed, he has turned hishand against me

 

againand again, all day long.

 

He has made my skin and my flesh grow old

 

and has broken my bones.

 

He has besieged me andsurrounded me

 

withbitterness and hardship.

 

He has made me dwell indarkness

 

likethose long dead.

 

7 Hehas walled me in so I cannot escape;

 

he has weighed me down with chains.

 

Even when I call out orcry for help,

 

heshuts out my prayer.

 

He has barred my way withblocks of stone;

 

hehas made my paths crooked.

 

10 Like a bear lying in wait,

 

likea lion in hiding,

 

11 hedragged me from the path and mangled me

 

and left me without help.

 

12 He drew his bow

 

andmade me the target for his arrows.

 

13 He pierced my heart

 

with arrows from his quiver.

 

14 I became the laughingstockof all my people;

 

theymock me in song all day long.

 

15 He has filled me withbitter herbs

 

andsated me with gall.

 

16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;

 

he has trampled me in the dust.

 

17 I have been deprived ofpeace;

 

Ihave forgotten what prosperity is.

 

18 So I say, "Mysplendor is gone

 

andall that I had hoped from the Lord."

 

19 I remember my afflictionand my wandering,

 

thebitterness and the gall.

 

20 I well remember them,

 

andmy soul is downcast within me.

 

 

 

      There are some powerfulphrases that particularly grab our attention. Verse 4, my skin and flesh growold…broken bones. Look at v. 7- weighed me down with chains. V.11- like a bearor lion, “he dragged me from the path and mangled me…” Also v. 16- he hasbroken my teeth with gravel….” As a result, v. 20- “my soul is downcast.”

 

      Bad things happen topeople. Even followers of Jesus Christ experience bad things. Even peoplefilled with the Holy Spirit experience bad things. Romans 8 indicates thatfollowers of Jesus will experience “trouble, hardship, persecution, famine,nakedness, danger or sword.” But it will not separate us from God’s love inChrist.

 

      This does not negateGod’s blessings of provision, protection, and presence. He will take care ofus. He will send his angels to watch over us. He will never leave us. But badthings will happen from time to time. Some are caused by sin. Others are not.

 

      Bad things can causegreat sorrow! Remember, God is the God of comfort. 2 Corinthians 1 reminds usthat He can comfort us in our troubles like no one else. Jesus understands ourpain. He suffered the worst of all suffering.

 

 

GOD STILLLOVES US

 

       There is trouble that we bring onourselves. Sin and rebellion has horrible consequences. This particular catastrophewas predicted by God’s prophets and warnings given. It came in specificresponse to sin, apostasy, and wickedness. Hebrews 12:6 tells us that “the Lorddisciplines those he loves.”

 

      Even in this disciplinary action, Hislove is prominent. God loves us and disciplines us for “our good, that we mayshare in his holiness (10).” Furthermore, it will produce “a harvest ofrighteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

 

      Not all trouble is discipline. Jobsuffered as part of God’s Sovereign plan. Job lost his wealth, his family, andhis health and argued extensively with his friends that he was righteous anddid not deserve this.

 

      God’s answer was Sovereignty. Here arehis words. Job 38:3, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and youshall answer me. ‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?’”Also40:7, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.“Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do youhave an arm like God’s and can your voice thunder like his?”God is God and Hedoes not always tell us why he does certain things or why certain thingshappen?

 

      Paul adds in Romans 9:20 , “But who areyou O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it,‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make outof the same lump of clay some pottery used for noble purposes and some forcommon use?”

 

       Sometimes there are other reasons. Jesushealed a man born blind (John 9). As they passed the blind man, “his disciplesasked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was bornblind?’”Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned….but thishappened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” God can beglorified in the healing of sick people.

 

      However this acceptance does not meandepression, resignation, and a bleak future. On the contrary, with God there ishope. God still loves us. Paul said in Romans 8 that we are more thanconquerors. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nordemons, nether the present nor the future, nor any powers, nether height nordepth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the loveof God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Even in the middle of trouble andsorrow, he loves us!

 

 HE CAN BRING BEAUTY FROM ASHES

 

      Trouble and sorrow is not the end. Infact it can be the beginning of new mercies. Lamentations 3:21,22 reads, “Yetthis I call to mind and therefore I have hope; Because of the Lord’s great lovewe are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new everymorning; great is your faithfulness.” This may not be in the book of theAmerican dream, but it is in God’s book. Furthermore the next verses add,

 

“I say to myself, ’The Lord is myportion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hopeis in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for thesalvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is stillyoung. Let him sit alone in silence for the Lord has laid it on him. Let himbury his face in the dust- there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek tothe one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrac3. For men arenot cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will showcompassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

 

      Our first challenge is to make theLord our portion. Abide in Jesus. Cling to the Lord. Spend time in prayerand silence. Listen for his voice. Sometimes we are complaining and whining soloud and long that we cannot hear anything.

 

      Our expectations of bigger, better,faster, richer, and happier are not necessarily God’s plan of growth and maturityfor us. Nor can we give in to self pity, depression, or blaming others. God isthe God of hope!

 

      He specializes in bringing beauty out ofashes. Isaiah prophesies in 61, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me….to proclaimthe year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God. To comfortall who mourn, and to provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them acrown of beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and agarment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

 

      Thispast week, Focus on the Family had a guest, Sheri Rose Sheppard, whoexperienced a traumatic childhood and marriage. She shared her testimony of howGod helped her overcome it. Her problems included an eating disorder. Beforeher high school prom, the leader of the football team asked her if she wascoming because they needed a beached whale. She then determined to be skinny.Her mother never wanted her. One time she received a letter from her mothersaying she wished she never had been born. Her long testimony includes how Godhelped her forgive her mother and receive God’s forgiveness, overcome marriagecrisis, and see her son raised to a healthy, godly life and marriage. With Godthere is hope. Google her name for more details.

 

CONCLUSION

 

 

 

      With God there is hope. In all things, Imust cling to God for he promises “we know that in all things God works for thegood of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Godis the God of hope and works in all situations. His ways are higher than ourways. He can bring good out of bad. He can bring beauty out of ashes. We musttrust in him and cooperate with him. God has spoke hope into the hearts ofleaders like Billy Graham and he has hope for you and I. Let’s embrace it andgo with it!

 

 

 

 

Facing Today's Challenges

     James 1 challenges followers of Jesus to persevere through life's challenges with joy, faith, and wisdom. It is typical for followers of Jesus to face trials of many kinds. God is working on our behalf to grow and mature us. As we deal with these issues, we are admonished to ask God for wisdom.

     Later in James' letter, he emphasizes the impact of persistent prayer and group prayer. It is possible for the strongest believer to feel overwhelmed at times. But God is our strength. Jesus told his disciples, "abide in me." Stay connected to me like branches are connected to the main vine and receive nutrition from the sap. The Jesus also said it was very important that His words abide in us. We are continually dependent on Him for life and vitality.

    We also need each other. Hebrews 10:23-25 reminds us that we are to encourage each other. To successfully gain strength for today's challenges, we need to fellowship with other believers. We are fellow pilgrims on life's journey to glorify God and be with Him forever. We are not alone. We are part of God's Forever Family and a chapter meets in your neighborhood.

    

 

 

 We Have So Much To Be Thankful For

     The Bible admonishes us to give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will in Christ concerning you. As we near this Thanksgiving Holiday, we must remember that God has given us life. We have breath and so we need to praise the Lord. We have the message of Jesus Christ and He offers salvation to all who believe and receive HIm. We have His presence with us at all times. Even in the uncertain world we live in, God's promises are certain and He is realiable and faithful. Let's give thanks.

  God My Rock

     Psalm 28:1 reads, "To you I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me." Psalm 27:1 reads, "The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom whall I be afraid?"  These powerful words remind us that God is our Rock and strength. He is unchanging. He is stronger than our needs and challenges.

     We are to call out to Him with our desires, needs, and requests. He hears, he loves and he answers.

God Leads Us Along

     The old hymn says, "God leads his dear children along. Some thro' the waters, some thro' the flood, some thro' the fire but all thro' the blood; some thro' great sorrow, but God gives a song; in the night season and all the day long."

     Psalm 23:1 says, "The Lord is my Shepherd." God wants to lead us along like a shepherd. He leads in paths of his own choosing. Some are easy and some are hard. But God is faithful. He will work together all things for our good. We are to listen and follow and trust.

Press Toward the Goal

       Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13 & 14, "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.."  God has called each of us to follow Christ and be faithful and shine as lights in a dark world. But there are obstacles and troubles that can get us discouraged. God wants us to press on toward the goal. Even in summer, in rain and floods, or in economic difficulty, God is faithful and we must also press on.

New Beginnings

     The recent ministry by the Milwaukee Teen Challenge Women's Choir and our water baptisms on the Sunday before that reminds me of the heart of God to bring back the prodigal and give new life to the dead heart. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "If anyone is in Christ; he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

     One of the first parts of a new beginning is to realize our own sinfulness and need of a Savior...Jesus Christ. This can be a long journey. We try to fix ourselves but fail. Jesus, the sinless one, died for us who sin. By believing, we have life in his name. We place our trust in Him and what he did on Golgotha's cross for us. It is not by our own works.

     God desires to change us by His Spirit. He desires to make us new. Romans 6:4 says, "...just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the "Father, we too may live a new life." We must surrender to Him and receive His Spirit. There is no sin He cannot forgive. He can pick up the peices and give you a new start.








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