We Must Turn to God

We must turn to God: The Bible is a continuous story on the relationship between man and God. When man pulls away and makes his own decisions, the relationship is broken.

When the relationship is broken man no longer benefits from all of the blessings, protections and gifts of God. In Chapter 58 of his prophesy, Isaiah brings this into focus. He issues an explanation and a promise for each of us.

Many don’t believe in God

The United States, like so many nations, has enjoyed the benefits from this relationship, yet even with a free and open society, freedom to worship, freedom to express opinions, the USA is hardly a Christian nation, a Jewish nation, or a nation that worships God in any significant fashion.

There are churches in every community, yet only a small percentage of people believe what is written in the Bible. Even those who claim Biblical beliefs, will argue against the statements of the Biblical writers.

Some Christian people will deny the Biblical account of creation. I have known so many people who go to church or synagogue and don’t believe in God at all. So much of the world is secular and sadly, man is worshiping man, forsaking the Word of God in favor of believing any alternative narrative that comes along.

Isaiah wrote about the effects of non-belief more than 2500 years ago.

Isaiah wrote about the same breakdown of trust and faith more than two centuries ago and so little has changed. Of course, when something bad happens, like the attack of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the downing of a passenger flight headed for the U.S. Capitol on September 11, 2001, people pull together and ask God to help.

For a brief moment there is a turning back to God, perhaps even expressions of repentance for bad behavior. But sadly, it seems to be only temporary. People get comfortable again and immediately go back to their own way. The Bible is the story of that constant back and forth. People turn to God, turn away, turn back to God, etc.

There are consequences for turning away from God

There are consequences to this constant double mindedness. God loves unconditionally, but he also will punish sin. He allows man to make choices, good or bad. He is a Holy and righteous God, whose Word is absolute. If He were to allow sin to flourish without consequence, he would go against His own nature and character. That will not happen.

Through Isaiah, God gives an admonishment, but at the same time, a promise of love and fulfillment. He desires the relationship, He seeks out man, He makes the first move. Then He patiently waits for man to respond. God gives man the right to made his own decisions, not because He doesn’t care, but to give man the opportunity to see the error of his ways.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Isaiah 58: 9-12

We don’t always understand God

It’s hard for us to understand why God doesn’t just fix everything. But if that were the case, what reason would there be to have a personal relationship with Him? Why would we seek Him? How would we fully understand His love and grace? There would be no room for personal growth, or spiritual growth. We would live our our lives in emotional adolescence.

In God there is hope, in Him there is fulfillment, in Him there is salvation.

God IS Love!

God is love

God is love. This is a very true statement because the entire basis of Christianity is God’s love for man and His willingness to forgive by grace, all the sins of the world. It is why Christ died on the cross.

Yet, love is not necessarily understood in terms of it’s importance or impact on the everyday lives of people. We throw the phrase around like it’s a punchline. “Oh, God is love,” we say it because it sounds good. But God’s love goes so much beyond that.

Consider the writings of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians. We love as a key component to our relationship with God and each other. It is explained in Chapter 13.

Paul defines what love is

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.

When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Do we really practice or understand love?

The wisdom of Paul’s assertions been taught, debated, argued and misunderstood for centuries. We say these things, and it all sounds nice, but at a practical, every day level, are they practiced? Platitudes? Meaningless phrases?

Driven by love, God’s grace, even more than His ability to create a universe just by speaking, is the ultimate power that changes the human heart. It transforms us into the likeness of Christ and that rebuilds all that has been destroyed.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Jesus shares God’s love

These are the words shared by Jesus with the pharisee Nicodemus. Jesus was showing “Israel’s teacher” that he had missed the point of the Old Testament writings by focusing on the law and not on the love behind the law.

Without the love of God and the acceptance of His grace and salvation through faith, we are spiritually dead. Love brings life. Those who accept the Gospel, God’s good news, are brought to life and eternal love of the Father.

Think of the power of God’s love. It completely overcomes the evil of the world, and in time, we will all this this unfold. Jesus said, “love your neighbor as yourself.” True enough. It is the answer to all of man’s problems.

Divorce a difficult choice

Divorce a difficult choice: Divorce is a deeply personal and often contentious topic. This is especially true when examined through the lens of religious teachings.

For many of us, the Bible serves as the ultimate guide on matters of morality and conduct. This includes the delicate issue of divorce. Understanding what the Bible says about divorce requires a nuanced exploration of various passages and interpretations.

Divorce a difficult choice

At its core, the Bible presents a complex view of divorce. It reflects the cultural and historical context in which its teachings were written. While divorce is addressed in both the Old and New Testaments, the perspectives offered differ in emphasis and application.

In the Old Testament, divorce is mentioned in several passages, most notably in Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house,

2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man,

3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies,

4 then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Israelites grappled with divorce

Moses outlines a scenario in which a man divorces his wife. It allows her to remarry if she marries another man and is subsequently divorced or widowed.

This provision suggests a recognition of divorce within ancient Israelite society. But also reflects the patriarchal structure of the time, where women had limited agency and protection.

Jesus gives us more insight

In the New Testament, Jesus provides further insight into the topic of divorce. He offers a more stringent perspective in certain instances. In Matthew 19:3-9, Jesus responds to a question from the Pharisees about the legality of divorce,

reaffirming the sacredness of marriage by quoting from Genesis:

“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

He goes on to explain that divorce, except in cases of marital unfaithfulness, constitutes adultery if either party remarries. This teaching underscores the permanence and sanctity of the marital bond, emphasizing fidelity and commitment.

Jesus reaffirms the permanence of marriage

Similarly, in Mark 10:2-12, Jesus addresses divorce, reiterating the principle of marital permanence established in Genesis. He emphasizes that divorce and remarriage constitute adultery, except in cases of marital unfaithfulness.

This passage reinforces the high value placed on marriage within Christian theology. Urging followers to prioritize reconciliation and forgiveness over dissolution of the marital union.

Divorce should be approached with empathy

Ultimately, the Bible’s teachings on divorce call for a balance of reverence for the sanctity of marriage. Calling for compassion for individuals facing relational challenges. Christians are encouraged to approach it with empathy and support for those affected. While also upholding the ideal of lifelong commitment within marriage.

In grappling with the question of what the Bible says about divorce, believers are called to prayerful discernment. They must seek wisdom and guidance from scripture, tradition, and community. Christians can navigate the complexities of divorce with grace and humility. Seeking to embody the transformative power of God’s love in the midst of brokenness and restoration.

What is the fear of God?

An angry person warns, “We’ll put the fear of God in them!” I can only assume they’re talking about the wrath of God, but little do they understand what the fear of God really means. Most people think of it as a warning to be good or you’ll get yours. As a follower of the Lord Jesus, my concept of “fear” might be different.

People have their own ways of understanding “the fear of God.” Most folks think of hellfire and brimstone; the lashing out of an angry and vengeful God. Truthfully, that is an uneducated and narrow view.

I mean no offense, but those who see God as being this furious reactionary fail to see the whole story. They certainly miss the point of God’s love entirely. They don’t understand what is actually happening and why God’s plan is Holy, righteous and just.

We must start with the 10 Commandments

To understand “fear of God” we start with the 10 Commandments. Are the commandments given to govern us and give warning that any disobedience will result in some sort of calamity? Or, are the commandments given to us to guide us on how to live a better and more fulfilling life?

If we embrace the 10 Commandments, we are showing true piety. Fear of the Lord is then a sign of love and hope. It is not cowering under the bed hoping not to be struck by lightning.

Fear of God allows us to respect and revere God and Jesus because they love us and want what is best for us. It is a sign of reverence and submission to our creator.

Fear of the Lord can also mean we have respect for God’s word and we try to avoid being careless in our following of Christ. Fear of the Lord allows us to go to God to confess sins and restore relationship.

Fear can be good for us

“Fear” is not necessarily a negative, an unpleasant emotional fear of imminent danger. A healthy fear is a sign of respect. I follow the Lord, not because I am afraid of Him, but because I love Him.

Jesus showed us a way to live, to love one another and be contented. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

and wisdom:

16 How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! 17 The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives. 18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:16-18

We are living in the time of grace

We are living in an age of grace. God is holding back His wrath to draw as many to Him as possible. But His grace has His own self-imposed limits.

God will not always be willing to allow us to self-destruct and a great tribulation is coming. God’s wrath will be poured out on a fallen world. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that He will make all things new and the new creation will be eternal, free of negative fear, free of death and disease.

Fear of the Lord is about love and hope.

Living Water

Living Water: The prophet Jeremiah talks of the people turning away from God. Not accepting the living water He provides. Living Water is part of God’s eternal promise to us. The Israelites had a long history of forsaking God, only to come back to Him.

We see that living water is a direct, personal relationship with God that has offered. Man cannot provide his own living water, hence the reference to a broken cistern.

My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water , and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jer 2:13)

God is our only hope!

God is our only hope of salvation and a guarantee of heaven. He led the people out of bondage in Egypt. Then He fed them in the desert. He gave them His law and all the while was with them in close proximity.

But even as the people entered into the promised land and the earthly kingdom was established, man had his own ideas and turned away. It seems astonishing to the reader of the Biblical accounts that people could actually deny God. But it is true, both back then and today. We think we have a better way, but that better way just gets in the way.

O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water . (Jer 17:13)

Paul also mentions it

In the New Testament, it is the Apostle John who mentions living water, twice in his Gospel and once in Revelation.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water .”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water ? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:10-14)

God offers the better way.

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (John 7:37-39)

Revelation is the final reference

The final reference is in Revelation, as John offers a beautiful word picture of the Lamb of God. Watching over the believers of all ages, like a shepherd guarding his flock. The verse reminds us of the 23rd Psalm, a shepherd leading his flock beside the still waters.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev 7:17)

Living water flows and never ends. It is pure and refreshing and does not stagnate, nor will it ever be contaminated. It is life from God, an everlasting promise.

Finding Christ

Finding Christ: When people accept the Christian message and put their trust and faith in Jesus, it can be a very emotional experience. It often feels as if, suddenly, a great weight has been lifted from their shoulders.

But for others, there is no amazing moment, no giant release of emotion. Either experience is perfectly valid, because, most importantly, that moment brings three indisputable facts into a person’s life. They can look into a mirror and tell themselves what God has guaranteed. There are three truths that hopefully come into focus.

1. I AM ACCEPTED

Joining the body of believers is like being adopted. Your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and you take your place in the family, with full rights and privileges, a joint heir to the Kingdom of God with the Lord Jesus Christ.

I know that’s a hard concept to grasp, but think of it this way—your entry into heaven is the very reason Christ offered Himself on the cross. He died to wash away our sins and, in doing so, made us acceptable to God the Father. Jesus is, as He put it, “the way, the truth and the life.”

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

Finding Christ: A bond that cannot be broken

No longer estranged from God, we are close, with an eternal bond that cannot be broken. Christ accepts us as brothers and sisters. We are included. He invites us to join Him in bringing the good news. Jesus relates to us and does not judge.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, (Ephesians 1:3-8)

There is no more conflict with God, as we are brought into his family.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

Finding Christ: A full member of God’s family

As a full member of the family, the new believer is involved is something far greater than him/herself. The plan all along was for believers to take on the work of Christ and share it with the world.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (I Corinthians 12:27)

It was no accident. It was a pre-planned action that God had in mind for everyone who turns to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

2. I AM SECURE

Names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life have a guarantee, a rock-solid covenant with God. They are made new and have experienced a spiritual rebirth. It’s not smoke and mirrors, there are no special effects, and it’s not emotional. It’s logic. God has offered His Son for us and those who accept the gift are saved. That’s the plan. There is no “Plan B.”

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. (1 John 5:18)

Finding Christ: What is God’s plan for our life?

Part of that security we talk about is God’s plan for our lives.

And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:30-31)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

3. I AM SIGNIFICANT

This final promise is difficult to understand sometimes. Your real value is through God. It is that which He gives you. You are important to Him, because, in addition to all the aforementioned reasons, you are a parent of His family.

He is your Father. Your social standing, your income, your profession are of no value to God, but you are. So you ask, “Who am I?” The answer for believers is simple, “I am a child of God.” And no, we are not all God’s children. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.

And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

Think of it this way– God’s only son died on the cross to pay your penalty. If nothing else, that makes you significant. God paid dearly for you.

What Does “Born Again” Mean?

What does born again mean?: You’ve probably heard the term “born again Christian.” This reference is important, but it’s often abused, to the point of having no meaning.

It’s only two words and only appears in the Bible twice. Often evangelical Christians use it like a breastplate of righteousness. Sadly, some use this as a kind of covering. Suggesting that claiming to be a “born again” Christian will deceive someone into believing a lie. Neither group seems to understand what it actually means.

First time “born again” referenced

The first time we read about “born again” is in the Gospel of John. Jesus is talking to the pharisee Nicodemus and who He was. A learned man, highly respected and a man of great social stature, Nicodemus struggled to understand Jesus

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again .”

How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven — the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

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.” (John 3:1-21)

Peter is the second and final reference

We see “born again” one more time in a letter from Peter.

For you have been born again , not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:23-24)

Being “born again” refers to a spiritual awakening. Without the relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, people are spiritually dead. They might be good people and well thought of, but there is something missing.

So many people rely on their own strength and determination. They try to be good citizens and they appear to be upright citizens. They don’t break the law. They give to charities. Parents love their children. They may even be a pastor of a church.

So what’s missing? They lack a spiritual connection to God, made possible only by a personal relationship with Jesus.

Being born again is a spiritual birth

Born again is a spiritual birth. A point in time when a person sees the truth and accepts the grace of God. A person exchanges his/her sins for God’s forgiveness through Jesus. They agree with God that they need a savior.

Being born again means simply that a person confesses that they are a sinner and have turned away from God. They know they can’t save themselves. Also, they know that Jesus died for the their sins. They just pray to ask Jesus to come into their hearts and be their Lord.

It isn’t about man being acceptable to God. It’s about what God did to make man acceptable to Him.

Water Into Wine

Water Into Wine: Many people have heard the story, Jesus was at a wedding in Cana and the hosts ran out of wine. Jesus took six stone jugs and had the servants fill them with water. He then turned the water into wine.

That’s basically what happened. Let’s take a closer look. This was a most remarkable sequence of events for so many reasons and its implications for today are every bit as significant as they were at the time.

Running out of wine was a disaster

First we’ll examine the social implications. Running out of wine would have been a disaster for the host family, for the banquet master and the failure could have resulted in ruin for all involved. To avoid the calamity, they could have watered down the wine or they could have just gone with a much cheaper wine. They could have invited fewer guests, or they could have just chosen grape juice.

Jesus turned water into wine

John tells of this miraculous story:

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (John 2:1-11)

Wedding feast is a symbol of our relationship with Jesus

The wedding feast at Cana has meaning well beyond the actual accounts of the day. The church, believers from all ages, are the bride of Christ. It is the ultimate in a tight, infused and eternal relationship that cannot be broken or even tarnished.

Because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross; because of His death and resurrection; people who have accepted Him as Lord and Savior, enter into that relationship, perfect and spotless as a virgin on her wedding day.

Christ is the righteousness of a believer. It’s not a marriage in the human sense, because in eternity all that will have passed. It is perfect fellowship. It is the spirit of man meeting the spirit of God.

Jesus will have another banquet

There will be another banquet, but this time it will be for the Lord Jesus and His bride. On His final night, before His arrest and crucifixion:

He passed the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:23)

He added, “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29)

We will lift our glass in celebration

These passages are a direct reference to the day when all of the saints (believers) past, present and future, will lift their glasses in celebration.

Wine, in Jewish culture, is a symbol of joy and the good life. The wine at the wedding at Cana, was a symbol of what was to come. The wine at the banquet is a symbol of what always will be. We will drink it with Him in His kingdom, as His bride. And it will be the choice wine!

Jesus the Messiah

Jesus the Messiah: So many Christians separate the Old Testament from the New Testament, as if they are separate stories. The Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, is essential in understanding the Gospel message because it lays down the foundation of the faith and in amazing detail.

Centuries before the coming of the Messiah Jesus, the prophet Isaiah gives us the essence of what is to come.

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6,7)

Jesus the Messiah shows us God’s plan

Like a courtroom lawyer presenting a case, one step at-a-time, God’s unfolding plan of salvation worked its way through human events. Man was shown the blessing of having a right relationship with God, yet out of pride, turned away in favor of a false narrative.

Man was then showed the consequences of not walking with God. Through the Israelites, we see the back and forth between man and God. We see how men manipulate the power of government, ignoring the will of God in exchange for personal convenience.

Israel went from prosperity to captivity. The law was given to them and an ordered society was created. However, faith and trust in God’s provision was exchanged for religion. God’s 10 commandments were turned into 613 individual laws regulating every aspect of life.

The nation of Israel was divided by political struggle. Yet God was faithful and forgiving.

When Israel draws close to God all was well

When Israel drew close to God, things went well. Godly leaders, men and women, governed with a sober reverence for God’s word.

But man, being man, wasn’t satisfied. They wanted more. Israel wanted their own king. They turned away from God. Centuries went by. Up and down the pattern continued, going from that close relationship to one at arm’s length at best.

Through ritualistic sacrifice, God gave them the opportunity to atone. But it was an endless cycle. God had to take His own action.

Isaiah tell us about Jesus

Isaiah, 700 years before the coming of the Messiah Jesus, prophesied of what was to come. The Christ would pay the full measure for sin and be glorified, not just as King of Israel, but as King of the universe.

There are countless prophesies in the Hebrew bible about Jesus, not just about His coming, but even more about His coming a second time.

Jesus the Messiah in the New Testament completes God’s plan

The New Testament only covers three decades or so of Jewish history. Call it the final chapter of God’s plan. But again, to fully understand the Christian message, one must look to the Hebrew bible for context.

Jesus is the foretold Messiah in the Old Testament and He fulfills God’s wonderful and prefect plan for the salvation of all of us.

The Real Gift of Christmas!

by Reverend Nancy Carmichael Stoner with Reverend Craig Carmichael Stoner

The Real Gift of Christmas! The floor had quickly become like a paper quilt made of different kinds and colors of wrapping paper sewn together with ribbons and bows! There were boxes near each person, either empty, unpacked or repacked.

The kids are over the top with excitement and the adults were watching all of the activity while memories of Christmas’s past danced in their heads. The older adults watched as young couples dreamed of Christmas’ to come.

I am 76 years young, and as I write this I wonder where the time has gone. I remember the annual ritual of sitting at the base of the Christmas tree counting the number of presents each of us had and looking at the bright big Christmas light bulbs reflected in the heavy lead tinsel.

There were many bright ornaments and with one sister and two brothers there were also many homemade ornaments too. I eagerly anticipated this morning every year.

Jesus became more important to me

However, when I reached about 12 years old, I recall that Christmas and Jesus became more important to me. My sister and I went to Christmas Eve service to hear the traditional Christmas story retold. Most teen years we either helped lead worship or had parts in the Christmas play.

Later, when we walked home 11:00 pm under star studded skies, we wondered out loud just how bright the Star of Wonder was.

Many years later, while on a trip to Bethlehem, I walked alone under those star-studded skies. I was near the same shepherd’s fields where the angels appeared, still wondering just how bright the Star of Wonder must have been. I have no accurate answer, but it had to be Glorious, breath-taking, awe inspiring … you get the idea.

The walk was short, but the Spirit of the Lord was so present it became Christmas in October!

Christmas is to celebrate the Saviors birth

You see, celebrating the Saviors birth is so much more than presents, family, football etc. Join me now in unwrapping the best gift ever in the entire universe.

This is the beginning of the “Great Exchange.” The present, who’s final unwrapping comes at Easter when we remember Jesus rising from the tomb victorious over sin and death.

This present makes you strong through the years, makes you wiser, humbler and forgives all your blunders, bad habits, outright disobedience and growing you up to the stature of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the smallest figure in the Nativity

Jesus is represented by the smallest figure in the Nativity set. If you can, pick up the baby Jesus, so small and helpless. What was God thinking? Perhaps God was laughing?

What better way to win hearts than to come as a newborn baby who is easy to love and adore. However, sooner or later we must let Jesus grow up, just as all babies do. How can we do that? The best answer is to read and study the Bible. Please note it is read and study.

We study the Bible to find God’s grace

The study of the Bible will uncover the depths of God’s grace, mercy and love and the richness of Faith! Open this gift the best gift ever this Christmas Day.

In Philippians 2:5-11 we read:

In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus.

Christ himself was like God in everything.
    He was equal with God.
    But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be held on to.
He gave up his place with God and made himself nothing.
    He was born as a man
    and became like a servant.
And when he was living as a man,
    he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God.
    He obeyed even when that caused his death—death on a cross.
So God raised Christ to the highest place.
    God made the name of Christ greater than every other name.
10 God wants every knee to bow to Jesus—
    everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.
11 Everyone will say, “Jesus Christ is Lord”
    and bring glory to God the Father.

Wishing you a thoughtful, Jesus filled Christmas and a Blessed New Year!