“From Nothing to Abundance” by Pastor Andy Braams

Three months ago, we were carrying on in our lives with the usual cares and concerns. Two months ago, much of what we thought was important had changed. Within just a matter of days, it was impossible to find toilet paper, Lysol, sanitizer, bread, cereal, and other staples. But perhaps the biggest concern was the scarcity of masks for the medical personnel. As we move forward, many supplies are still not available. Other items have restrictions on the amount that can be purchased. Some of you have experienced this personally, and it has impacted you in various ways.

Ultimately, the issue is related to a mindset of scarcity – and specifically, its relation to abundance. For years, we were a people living in an economy that was experiencing unprecedented abundance. Now, much of that thinking has been changed. But worldwide, approximately 702 million people (or twice the population of the United States) live on less than $1.90 per day (that’s $694 per YEAR!!!).

That is why I say that scarcity is a mindset. Because I know some of those individuals who make less in a year than I do in a week. I am by no means wealthy in terms of money. But compared to many around the world, I am. But even those of us who have more than most, have a scarcity mindset at times – which is so evident when we consider hoarding. Because although hoarding may seem like someone has an abundance of something, the nature of hoarding actually comes from a mindset of scarcity. And scarcity comes from a mindset of not having enough trust – particularly in God.

I am not suggesting that we should not save for a rainy day. I am not suggesting that we should not make long-term plans with our resources. But I am saying that trusting God means we can share, we must share, of the resources that we have received. We will see this idea plainly in the passage today.

Why should we share? Because, as I have been saying for the last three weeks specifically, we are better together. Again, we are experiencing that in a very real way now that we are gathering together again, but beyond that, we must realize that learning, and living, and worshipping, and doing ministry, and sharing with others is all better when we do it together. We are better together.

And we are better when we include others. We see that time and time again – in the New Testament AND in the Old Testament.

And sometimes we find this truth in little known stories from unexpected sources, and unnamed individuals. Stick with me for the next few minutes and I will share with you such a story and why it matters for us today.

Before continuing, please read 2 Kings 6.24-32; 7.1-2.

At the end of 2 Kings 6, the king of Syria had overtaken Samaria (the northern kingdom of Israel). Verse 25 says that a great famine was taking place and a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver. Ok, we may not have much context for that. But notice that ¼ of a quart of dove dung sold for five shekels of silver. While we do not know what type of coin Judas got, it definitely could have been a shekel. If true, dove dung was worth about 1/6 the amount that Judas got for betraying Jesus! That is a sermon for another day!

But the price would not stay that way for long. Read 2 Kings 7.1-2.

Soon after, Elisha said that the going value for seven quarts of fine flour would be a shekel. And fourteen quarts of barley would be a shekel.

Thus, in a short span of time (Elisha said, “tomorrow”), people went from paying five shekels for ¼ quart of dung to one shekel for seven quarts of flour. In other words, scarcity turned to abundance overnight.

But the captain of the king did not believe it could happen, and so while he did see the prophecy come true, he did not get to experience it.

But why did the scarcity turn to abundance?

The answer lies in God doing what only God can do and four unlikely heroes doing what they knew they should do. And when I say unlikely, I mean unlikely. Because as verse 3 tells us, they were lepers.

The lepers were preparing to die. They would die if they stayed where they were. They would die if they went into the city. No food existed for them. So, they had an idea to go to the enemy to see about getting some help there. But the Syrians had abandoned their camp because God made the Syrian army hear the sound of a mighty army approaching. That is the part that only God can do.

Verse 7 tells us that the Syrians left behind everything including their horses and donkeys. Verse 8 mentions food and drink as well as gold and silver. They left everything and these four men were the recipients – and the only recipients!

What would you do? What if you and three of your close friends found a huge stash of money? Furthermore, what would you do if everyone else wanted nothing to do with you – that is, you were an outcast? You found the loot. No one likes you. What would you do?

Well, they did what most people would do. They started taking it and hid it for themselves (v. 8). But then they realized that wasn’t right. They had every opportunity to hoard. Perhaps, they had every reason to hoard. Remember, the price of dove dung was outrageous. Scarcity was not just a mentality; it was a reality.

But these four men realized a greater possibility. Despite their condition and despite their opportunity, they knew the right thing was to share the abundance with others. (Read 2 Kings 7.9-10.)

But notice the king had a scarcity mindset. (Read 2 Kings 7.12) A servant recommended sending a scout team to determine the facts. When they returned seeing that the Syrians had fled and left even more stuff as they ran away, the people went out and plundered everything. But let me read the rest of the chapter. (Read 2 Kings 7.17-20.)

The man who did not believe the prophecy of Elisha was trampled. He did live to see the abundance, but he did not get to partake – just as Elisha said.

CONCLUSION

What do we take from this story? I think we can find at least four specific principles.

      1. God will do what only God can do. And He will do it when His time is right.
      2. When God is doing His part, we must do ours.
      3. When we partner with God, He will be glorified and the multitudes will be blessed.
      4. Not everyone will experience all that God has for them to experience.

But I think the last two principles relate to the idea of our mindset.

Granted, the people benefited from the actions of four men. That will happen. But if those four men had been selfish, no one would have benefited except themselves. The land was in a famine, but they overcame a mindset of scarcity and shared from the abundance.

But the captain of the king did not believe. He could not believe. And thus, he did not benefit. His was a mindset of scarcity.

Ladies and gentleman, our culture has a mindset of scarcity right now. We are in a bit of a “great famine” in a sense. Sure, COVID-19 has played a part in that, but have we gone overboard. Is hoarding necessary? Is stockpiling every possible supply truly helpful? Again, I am not suggesting that we do not prepare for a rainy day. And right now, we are in a rainy season, if you will. But the clouds will lift someday and then what? I suppose all of the extra supplies can be donated, but still.

But, I want us to focus on the idea that these men knew what they should do – AND THEY DID IT. If you have been watching my daily videos, you will know that I have repeatedly discussed the difference between intentions and intentionality. In this story it is the difference between the men thinking “maybe we should tell others about the bounty we have found” but keeping it for themselves versus actually telling others about the bounty.

Ultimately the difference between intentions and intentionality in this story is the difference between paying way too much for bird dung to being able to provide families with substantive food. The four lepers simply did what they could do because they knew what they should do.

And that leads us to our 4 Ls. But first, let me share our JOURNEY letter for today.

JOURNEY

Our JOURNEY letter for today is EENGAGE.

The Engage part of our Strategy related to evangelism. The word evangelism simply means to tell others the good news. We are to tell the good news, and to do that we need to engage with others. That is what the men in this story did. They found a treasure of food, supplies, and money, and they told others. It was good news indeed. And because they told others, everyone received the blessing.

That is what happens when we share the good news of Jesus. We offer everyone who hears the good news – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the opportunity to receive blessings.

NEXT STEPS:

LEARN.  In order to tell the good news, we must hear it. We must know it. In other words, we must LEARN it. The men in this story actually discovered the good news, but discovery is a part of learning.

LIVE.  After we LEARN what the good news is, we need to LIVE it. We need to apply what we know to our lives. Just like the men in this story, they knew what they should do, and they did it. We need to do the same.

LOVE.  As we LIVE according to the Good News, we begin to LOVE God and love others more. This love enables us to serve others even when it is difficult. Again, the men of this story were lepers. They were not likely shown much love. They likely were ridiculed. But they served others because it was the right thing to do.

LEAD.  Ultimately, our LOVE for others will require us to share our lives with others. In other words, our lives can be an influence on others. That is what leadership is. It is influence. The four men influenced others by their action of sharing. Imagine how much influence they had to LEAD after that!

We need to be people who continue to LEARN, to LIVE what we learn, to LOVE while we LIVE, and to LEAD others to do the same. If we do what we are to do, and let God do what only He can do, then like this story, all of us can experience the blessings of God in ways that we can otherwise not imagine.

We are living in a time when most people have a mindset of scarcity. Maybe the scarcity is related to food or household items, maybe it is related to health, or any number of other matters. But as this story shows, it just takes people willing to do something a little different to turn scarcity into abundance. I believe God acted because these four men were willing to act. And because God acted, and the people acted, the prospects of a nation changed – at least for a while.

So, if your mindset is focused on scarcity, ask God to help you see the abundance in your life. Move your mindset from one of scarcity to one of abundance. When we live with a mindset of abundance (not prosperity, but abundance), we can say with the psalmist – “I shall not want.” And that is only possible by living in the economy of God, by trusting God, and by being willing to do your part as God does His part too.

“Better Together” by Pastor Andy Braams

Just over a week ago, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted that Samaritan’s Purse must leave the city over its biblical views on homosexuality.

“It is time for Samaritan’s Purse to leave NYC. This group, led by the notoriously bigoted, hate-spewing Franklin Graham, came at a time when our city couldn’t in good conscience turn away any offer of help. That time has passed,” Johnson wrote on Twitter last Saturday. “Their continued presence here is an affront to our values of inclusion, and is painful for all New Yorkers who care deeply about the LGBTQ community.” (1)

The councilman used the word inclusion. I have a simple question. How inclusive is his statement?

Now, the reality is that we all have biases. We all have favorites. And we can all be discriminatory. For instance, if nothing else, most people would help their family members before helping a complete stranger.

We might be concerned about most people or even everybody. But, do we act? Most often not, because we tend to think about the world through our own eyes, rather than from a larger perspective.

But, if we all did act in our own way, all needs could be met. Unfortunately, most all of us know the good we can do – the good we should do – but we choose to ignore the impulse because it would be uncomfortable in some way. But we all have a part to play, and our part is really rather minimal if we will just do what is asked of us.

That is the purpose for this brief series – Better Together. And it is the title of today’s message as well. Because we are better together, but we must all do our part to make that happen.

Jesus could have chosen one person, but He chose twelve. Paul included other companions when he travelled. Peter and John wrote to churches to encourage them to share life with one another. Why? Because being together is better and we are better together.

But our question for today is how does this apply to our church in the 21st Century?

OUR MISSION – EEE – Exalt, Equip, Evangelize

Our church’s Mission is to Exalt the Savior, Equip the Saint, and Evangelize the Sinner. Our Strategy to make that happen is based upon the acronym JOURNEY. And then we have our STEPS – Learn, Live, Love, Lead. We will look at the Steps next week, but for now, I want to talk about our Mission and Strategy in the context of serving together.

In Romans 12, Paul transitions from his theological explanation to practical application. We will cover this chapter in detail next year when we get to it during our study of Romans, but for now, take a moment to read verses 4 and 5.

The purpose of Paul’s writing, as we will see in a couple of weeks when we start our in depth study of Romans, is to get Christians with different mindsets on the same page. Specifically, he is writing to Gentile and Jewish believers to stop being at odds with one another and uniting for a common purpose.

That purpose would be similar to ours – to exalt Jesus, to equip each other, and to share the message of Jesus with others. These are all aspects of living out our faith. And each one of us should be involved with each part of that. But we should not seek to only do these things alone – we should desire to do them together. That is, we should serve together.

For most of 2019, we discussed the various ways the metaphor of body of Christ related to a healthy human body. Paul uses the term body of Christ in Romans 12.5 and links the part to the whole (notice the phrase, “and individually members one of another”). That is, we all have a part to play and if we do not do our part, then we can not function as well as a church as we otherwise might.

It is as Mother Teresa once said, “I cannot do what you can do. You cannot do what I can do. Together we can do great things.”

We all have certain gifts and aptitudes and life experiences that make us unique from everyone else. If we were all the same, then God would have no need of creating each of us. But we are unique. And He did create us. Therefore, we must all choose to do something. We need to find our purpose (our “why”) and fulfill our calling for Jesus. (I encourage you to watch my Signposts videos from this last week – May 11-15 – on YouTube if you have not done so.)

So find your purpose – your mission, if you will – and then use what God has given to you in order to help the church, and specifically this church, to fulfill our mission to Exalt the Savior, Equip the Saint, and Evangelize the Sinner.

OUR STRATEGY – JOURNEY

It is one thing to have a mission, it is another to think about how to execute that mission. For us, we use the acronym JOURNEY. The first letter is for Jesus. The last letter is for You. The other letters are the parts of the path (journey) we must take to move from ourselves (You) to Jesus. Each letter represents one component of a church that is focused on God’s Kingdom.

O – Obey (Discipleship)

U – Unite (Fellowship)

R – Revere (Worship)

N – Nurture (Ministry)

E – Engage (Evangelism)

The idea is that we are each on a journey. Some of us may be further along than others, but we are all on a journey of some kind. But we are not meant to travel the journey alone. An old African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Frankly, sometimes I want to go fast. But if I get out too far ahead, then I end up waiting. Sometimes it is good to go fast, but oftentimes, it is more important to go far than it is to go fast. And perhaps, it is good to find a balanced approach between going far and fast. But either way, the goal should be to go together.

For instance, the reason we can go farther together is because we can support one another. Peter’s words relate to this type of support – not just for the benefit of one another, but ultimately that God might be glorified. Read 1 Peter 4.10-11.

Like Paul’s words to the Romans, Peter wants his readers to understand that we all have a place – and that place is alongside others in order to provide strength where it is needed. We all have something God has given us that makes it necessary to work together. I am thinking back to making the mats we took to Kenya. Everyone brought bags. Some cut them with scissors. Some tied bags together. Some did crochet. Some cleaned up. Some brought food. Some donated suitcases. Some gave money that was used to help pay the extra luggage fee. Some prayed. Etc. Sure, only a few of us went to Kenya. But it took many to make possible what happened. And it all started with one simple idea.

That’s what I want our church to consider as we move forward. What ideas do you have? What opportunities do we have to serve – one another, this community, this region, this world? We may be a from a small town, but we serve a big God. And He not only has a purpose for each one of us individually, He has a plan for us collectively as Fairfax Baptist Church. How do I know? Because God knows that we may be good enough to accomplish some things on our own, but He also knows that we can do much more if we work as a team. Why? Because we are better together!

CONCLUSION

Paul and Peter knew God wanted us to serve together. They exhorted us to use the gifts God has given to each of His followers to do so. But those are ancient words? Do they still resonate today? I say, “Yes!”

And I am not alone. Many of you know that I try to glean all I can from John Maxwell, one of the foremost leaders in our world today. Maxwell says it this way, “Nothing is more rewarding than a common mission being achieved by people with complimentary gifts working together in harmony.” (2)

I have experienced that truth time and time again. To make that a reality, each one of us needs to realize that God has made us for a reason. And then we encourage one another to not only find that reason, but to use what He has given us to fulfill our purpose. When we do those two things – and we do them together and do them for the Lord, we will find immense satisfaction. As Maxwell says, nothing is more rewarding. Nothing. Why? Because we will be doing what we are made to do and doing it together.

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is NNURTURE.

Nurture is our word for serving within the church. We are to serve both within and without the church. But as we serve, we need to nurture one another. We must encourage and sometime exhort one another. We need to stand together in order to work together. We may choose to serve by ourselves at times, but we must realize that we are better when we are together. But it all begins with committing to serve. As we do, we will discover who we are, and who we were made to be, both individually and collectively. But to truly become be who we are meant to be (individually and collectively), we must serve. Why? Because God made us to serve (c.f. Gen 1.28; 2.15; Eph 2.10; Col 3.23; etc.)

NEXT STEP(S):

LIVE  To serve is to truly live. We may choose to live for ourselves and think life is ok. But when we give of ourselves to others, we find out what it truly means to live. So, find some way to serve someone this week.

One way would be to join us for the prayer walk tonight as we pray over each home and family within Fairfax.

(1) https://twitter.com/NYCSpeakerCoJo/status/1256349197407866880

(2) John Maxwell, Intentional Living: Choosing a Life That Matters. New York (Center Street, 2015), 195.

“Back to the Basics” by Pastor Andy Braams

For eight weeks we did not meet in our church’s building. Before today, March 15, 2020 was the last time most were in the church’s facility. Besides dropping off mail, watering a plant, and a few odds and ends, I have not been in the church much over the past eight weeks either. It has been weird.

Now today, we are back. But things are different. We only have a few people here at a time. And we have two services. And we don’t have Sunday School. And a lot of confusion persists about how to move forward as individuals…as a church…as a society.

But I once heard a young lady provide the few people around her with a great piece of advice. The advice was basically to start with the basics. It went something like this – “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C. When you sing, you begin with Do-Re-Mi.” (For those who are unaware, the reference is to Julie Andrews’s character in the movie The Sound of Music.)

Well, we are not learning to read or sing today, but we can go back to the basics of our faith as we look to adapt and move forward from this disruption known as COVID-19.

As I have mentioned many times on the videos I have been doing each weekday now for the last seven weeks, the disruption in our lives is paralleled by the disruption in the lives of Jesus’ disciples. (You can find the videos on by searching “Fairfax Baptist Church Missouri” on youtube.com.) The reasons for that disruption may be very different, but the more I think about it, the magnitude of the adjustment for them was every bit as big, and maybe moreso, than it has been, and is, for us.

So, for the next few weeks, I want to talk about what it means to be back together. Because not only is it better for us to be together, it is also true that we are better together.

And that is why God calls us. It is why we are commanded to love. And it is why we are commissioned to serve. All of which are meant to be done together.

But these aren’t my words or my plan. The ideas were God’s as spoken and carried out by Jesus. But do they still apply to us today? I believe so. Let’s find out how Jesus words still apply in a COVID-19 world.

Called to Follow (Matthew 4.19) – “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”

Those ten words have changed the world for so many people. It was true of the disciples. It is still true today. Many people have misperceptions about these words. Let me briefly speak to two of those misunderstandings.

1) Being a Christian Is As Simple As Saying a Prayer and/or Getting Wet in the Water

First, we must understand that becoming and being are two different things. The steps to become a Christian and living as a Christian are quite different. Or are they? Jesus not only demonstrated baptism, He commanded it as well. And praying to God, even informally to repent of our sinfulness is critical. But saying a prayer and getting baptized are not boxes to be checked. They are a part of what it means to follow Jesus. Why? Again, Jesus was baptized so we follow His example and He said to be baptized so we follow His teachings.

But to be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus. It is to make the decision with our head to follow, so He can change our hearts in order for us to live by faith with our hands and feet. That is what Jesus said to those whom He first called.

      • Follow Me – literally and figuratively.
      • I will make you – I will change you…from the inside out.
      • Fishers of men – you will do things differently for different purposes.

So, being a Christian may have some initial steps, but a true follower keeps following in Jesus’ footsteps for the rest of their lives.

2) God Only Calls Extra Spiritual People to Serve Him

Many people look at pastors and missionaries as people especially called and equipped by God. And yes, many pastors and missionaries do have specific training, but realize that God calls everyone to follow, to be changed, and to serve.

Some people are called to specifically fill a call to vocational ministry, but all are called to serve. I was a businessman before He called me. One of my good pastor friends was a marine. Another was a computer specialist. I know a man who is preparing to be a missionary who worked at HyVee before He was called to ministry.

Biblically, Peter and Andrew and James and John were fisherman. Matthew was a tax collector. Paul made tents. In the Old Testament, Moses and David were shepherds. Elisha was a farmer. Daniel was a teenager. And yes, all of them were especially called to do something great. But they were ordinary people by the day’s standards until they heeded God’s call.

But not everyone who follows becomes prominent. Other followers are Priscilla and Aquilla were simply faithful tent-makers who also shared their faith. Onesimus was a not-so-dutiful slave who became deeply connected to Paul and thus learned to serve God. The list goes on.

Here in our church, many of you have served in ways great and small. Just in the last couple of years we have had a farmer, and road-crew supervisor, and a police officer go to Kenya to serve on mission. But others have worked the local food pantry, taught Sunday School, purchased food and drink for the youth group or children’s church. Others have made phone calls or made visits or perhaps even made food for people who were hurting, or ill, or grieving.

My point is that God calls everyone to serve. But that serving begins with a call to follow.

Commanded to Love (Matthew 22.37-40)

Besides a call to follow. We have a command to love. When challenged about which command was greatest, Jesus responded that we are to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind.” He said, “this is the great and first commandment.” Well, that’s not easy. But then, he added, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Ok, now He’s meddling! Later Jesus gave His followers a new commandment to “love one another” (John 13.34).

Over the years, I have continually said that most of the NT commands are in the plural. Jesus words to the lawyer in verse 37 are in answer to a specific question to a specific individual. So, the “you” there is singular. However, if “you” are to love your neighbor and your neighbor is therefore to love you, then we get to a sense of togetherness in the idea of love. Furthermore, the verse in John 13 is obviously plural – love one another. So, our love is to be intentional and reciprocated. We love God because God loves us. We love others because God loved us (1 John 4.19). (John strongly links the love of God and the love of others in 1 John 4.7-21.)

The truth is that we are commanded to love even if the love is not returned. But for those who chose to follow Jesus, that love should be mutual. If we are following Him, we should not need a command – we should seek to love willingly and joyfully. Sure, people show love differently, and some have a much more difficult time expressing love as others might desire, but that doesn’t mean that the love is not there. But if it is not, it needs to be – not because I said so, but because Jesus did. Again, it is a part of our calling. It is what we are to do in response to His words “Follow Me.”

Commissioned to Serve (Matthew 28.18-20)

The final basic is what is commonly referred to as The Great Commission. Jesus commissioned His first followers to make disciples by going, by baptizing, and by teaching. That commission has been passed down for generations to us today. Why should we do it? Because it is one way to show that we love God. It is a way to show our love for others. It is a way to show that we are following Jesus.

Why don’t we do this? Because we get so busy with our own passions, our own desires, our own concerns. We would rather accomplish our mission than complete our Lord’s mission for us. We would rather tell others what to do rather than follow the orders of the one we otherwise refer to as Lord to do what He wants.

We are selfish. We are arrogant. We are sinful. Maybe not always, but mostly. It is who we are as humans unless we completely surrender to Jesus.

And that is why we need each other. That is why we are better together.

CONCLUSION:

See we are called for a purpose. We are commanded to love. And we are commission to serve. But left alone, it becomes more and more difficult to submit to another. It becomes more and more difficult to listen to others. It becomes more and more difficult to surrender. But if we are alone, who is there to pick up us when we fall? Who is there to lend an ear when we have troubles? Who is there to care for us when we need a friend? Who is there to point us in the right direction when we lose our way? Who is there to push us to go farther when we feel we have nothing left to give?

That is part of the reason why the writer of Hebrews tells us to not forsake meeting together (Hebrews 10.25). It is why God created an assembly of people to meet together. It is why Jesus is still building His Church.

Why? Because God knows we are better together. And having been separated from one another for the last eight weeks due to stay-at-home orders, many listening today realize that truth as well.

So, today we have looked at some basics of our faith – that we are called to follow, that we are commanded to love, that we are commission to serve. But the calling, the commandment, and the commission are not meant for one – they are meant for all. That is, we are called together. Because God knows we are better together.

And hopefully after this ordeal, we will know that truth better as well.

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is UUNITE.

We may not be able to unite physically as we would like. We may be separated by six feet. We may be meeting at two distinct times. But we can still be united in heart, united in purpose, and united in love.

NEXT STEP(S):

LOVE:  Make a call to at least one person you do not see here this week to tell them that you are glad that you are looking forward to being together with them again.

“The Significance of the Ascension” by Pastor Andy Braams

Very few people remember the beginnings of WW2. Some may remember the end, but to even be alive at the beginning, which happened when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, you would have to be nearly 81. So, to be able to remember that day would add a few years and limits the number of people considerably. And the war that started over there, would be brought to our shores just over two years later on December 7, 1941.

Many are stating that WW2 is the event that most closely identifies with our current pandemic known as COVID-19. While the circumstances of that war were far different, we can find similarities. First, like the beginning of that war, this virus started over there. Sure, we heard about some people in another nation being affected by a virus, but we have heard similar stories before, and yet we have barely been affected.

But the biggest parallel is the disruption that has come to the lives of people around the world. For Americans, we had two years before WW2 became a national concern. With COVID-19, we had two months, and really, to reach the level it has, we have had about 3 months.

But with WW2, most of the war was fought over there. Sure, people had concerns that led to the use of internment camps. But most of the worry was about those fighting over there. Not this time. This time, the concern is right before us. And it will be for some time.

What faces us is more than concern; it is fear. However, as I said last week, “Fear is real, but it need not rule.”

Last week, I took a break from our current series to discuss a Christian response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That response centered on acknowledging any fear and trusting God as David did in Psalm 56. Then, having acknowledged the fear, we are to love others, and help them through their fears. I believe more can be added, but at a minimum, those two ideas represent how a Christian can respond.

But the question is WHY can a Christian respond that way? Well, that is the message for this week. And to see the answer, we will look to Jesus. But we will look at an aspect of Jesus’ life that is often overlooked.

However, before I do that, I realize that many who may watch this message will not have the full context. So, I want to take a few moments to share about the series I am doing, and how it fits far better than I could have imagined.

The current series is entitled, Constant in a World of Change. The series is based upon the Bible but is designed around the phrases found in the Apostles’ Creed. Each of the phrases found in the creed is a truth found in the Bible. So, the point of the series was to show the constancy of God in the midst of all of the changes around us. And the reality is that our world is changing fast – and it still is, but most all of the attention now is on the changes brought by the novel (or new) coronavirus.

That is the purpose behind the series. Now, let’s move into this phrase:
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,

We can find the truth of this statement in one verse, which will be my focus today.

Ephesians 1.20 says, “that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”

That verse has a lot of He, Him, and His in it, so let me restate the verse by backing up and picking up the context:
“that God (the Father) worked in Christ when God (the Father) raised Him (Jesus) from the dead and seated Him (Jesus) and His (God, the Father) in the heavenly places.”

In other words, the Him(s) are Jesus, and the He and His are God, the Father.

So, why does this verse matter. Why would I choose to preach on this during the midst of the challenges of COVID-19? Stay with me for a few minutes and you will see. Let me give you four quick points.

The Ascension Proves Christ’s Work On Earth Is Finished

It is one thing to say, “It is finished.” (John 19.30)

It is another for that statement to be true.
God raised Jesus from the dead. Was it to do more work? Nope!
God raised Jesus from the earth. Because the work Jesus did on earth was done.

Jesus would not have ascended if the Father did not think Jesus’ job on earth was done.

The Ascension Places Jesus in the Position of Authority

Because Jesus work on earth was done, God had a new assignment for Him.
Read Ephesians 1.20-23. (This passage is similar to what is written in Philippians 2.9-11 and Colossians 1.18-20).

What we can know is that Jesus has supreme authority. He is the supreme authority. We will see more of that next week when we look at Jesus as the Judge.

The Ascension Provides the Spirit His Opportunity to Work

Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit when He left. It is the Spirit who guides us in this day. It is the Spirit who equips us.

Jesus said it is to our advantage that He leave (John 16.7)

As Al Mohler writes about this truth, “Without his ascension the Spirit could not come; and, in some mysterious, spectacular way, the indwelling of the Spirit eclipses the physical presence of Jesus Christ.” (1)

So, what is Jesus doing right now? He is preparing a place for us. Many have focused on the rooms, asking questions like what will they be like? Who cares? The purpose is not where we stay, but with Whom we will stay. (John 14.3)

And that leads us to the fourth point.

The Ascension Presents God’s People a Permanent Home

Mark 16.19 says that Jesus was taken up into heaven. Heaven is a real place. Ephesians 2.4-6 says that we will be seated with Him. Revelation 3.21 says the same thing for those who overcome this world. Again, as I mentioned above, Jesus is preparing a place for us now. And the world, with all of its beauty and creativity was created in six days. Imagine what Jesus is preparing having had nearly 2000 years to do it.

CONCLUSION

As I prepare to close, you may recall that I mentioned that this message fits perfectly within the scope of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Let me explain how.

If Jesus died, but did not rise from the dead, how could we know that His death meant what He said it did.

If Jesus rose from the dead, but had not ascend to heaven, how could we know He did not die again.

In other words, without the ascension, could we really have hope? But if Jesus did die (and He did), and rose from the dead (and He did), and ascended to heaven (and He did), then we can know that no matter what may happen to us on this earth, we can have hope for today, for tomorrow, and for every tomorrow’s tomorrow.

The word corona comes from a Latin word that means wreath or crown. A crown is worn by a ruler, and right now, the coronavirus seems to rule the world today, but Jesus will rule for eternity. Rest assured, God is in control. Jesus is seated which means His job is done, and when the time is right, He will return and prove His worth as the One worthy of all crowns, for as the Bible says, He will be crowned the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

That is a hope worth having. That is the hope we need.

(1) Albert Mohler, The Apostle’s Creed, Nashville: Nelson Books, 2019, 108.

“A Christian Response to COVID-19” by Pastor Andy Braams

You may have heard about this little thing called a coronavirus. Specifically, the current coronavirus is named COVID-19. COVID-19 is not the first coronavirus, and it likely will not be the last. A coronavirus will infect both animals and humans. Currently, seven different types exist, with four of those causing symptoms like the common cold. In fact, many of our colds are related to one of these viruses.

But more recent coronaviruses have caused more problems. In 2002, the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus infected nearly 8100 people in 24 countries, killing nearly 800. No cases of SARS have been reported since 2004. However, the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) became known in 2012 and has since infected around 2500 individuals, with over 1/3 of those people dying. 27 countries have identified the MERS virus.

Other viruses, such as the so-called “bird flu” and “swine flu,” have impacted our world over the past couple of decades. And one of the worst epidemics was the Spanish Flu of 1918. It is estimated that 500 million people worldwide were infected and somewhere between 20 to 50 million people died. This pandemic came on the heals of some 20 million people dying during WW1.

But this new virus, has the attention of the world. It started in China (as did SARS), and has now spread to more than 100 countries. This week COVID-19 went from an epidemic (upon the people) to pandemic (all people). Some have estimated that as many as 45% of Americans will get the virus. In raw numbers terms, that is 150 million – Americans.

And this pandemic is causing fear and disruption in ways our world has never seen. Certainly, our world has seen major catastrophes before. Earthquakes, famines, plagues, wars (including two World Wars), terrorist attacks, etc., have all caused disruptions for days, weeks, and years. But nothing in the history of the world has caused this level of change so quickly. Decisions are changing by the hour as to how people and organizations are responding. And those decisions will continue to be made in the days and weeks (if not months) ahead.

So, what is our response? Not as a part of the people, but as the church? How should we respond?

Our response should be two-fold – a trust in God and a love for others.

Trust in God

Read Psalm 56.

A follower of Christ should focus first on trusting in God. Fear is real, but it should not rule.

Fear is probably the strongest emotion because once it grips us it does not let go. And, of course, fear is not something the Bible condones. In fact, famously, the Bible records the idea of not being afraid or not having fear 365 times – one for each day of the year. But this is Leap Year, so I guess we get to have fear for one day.

Fear may not be right, but it is natural. But we must also keep it in perspective. Some will call fear a sin, and I understand the rationale. Let me first explain a part of the rationale, but then let me show you from Scripture why I do not believe it is a sin.

First, ultimately fear is the result of a lack of trust in someone or something. Second, the Bible says “do not fear” which is very similar language to “do not lie” or “do not steal” or “do not commit adultery.” But lying, stealing, and adultery are choices we make to do. Fear is a natural response. Just like anger. Thus, as Paul says, in your anger, do not sin. Likewise, I think we can say, “in your fear, do not sin.” Yes, the sin would be different, but the principle is the same.

For instance, David had fear, but he knew where to turn in the midst of that fear. In Psalm 56.3, David say, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” This verse was the first verse I taught our children. By the time they were two or three, they had this verse memorized. Mommy and daddy could not always be there for them, but God would be.

What is great about this chapter is that David never confesses a sin or repents for his fear. At least not directly like he does in Psalm 51. In fact, if you look at Psalm 56, David begins with why he is afraid, then makes his declaration of trust, and then shares more details about why he is afraid. He may have stated his intention to trust in God, but that has not freed his mind from the perils around him. He realizes that simply stating he trusts in God does not remove him from danger. BUT – and this is key – He does not let that danger or fear cripple him.

Notice the structure of this Psalm.

Verses 1-2: He asks God to watch over him because of his enemies. That is, David acknowledges his fear and plainly states it to God.

Verses 3-4: David acknowledges God is greater than His fears.

Verses 5-7: Having acknowledged God, and his desire to trust God, David details why he is afraid.

Verses 8-13: David acknowledges why He can trust in God. David acknowledges that he will trust in God.

A Psalm with 13 verses has 5 verses about the reality of fear. But it has 8 verses about the reality of God triumphing over fear.

38% of the verses talk about fear. That is important. David does not share one verse about fear, then acknowledge a desire to trust God and the fear is instantly gone. A holier-than-thou Christian might think that our response should be 1% fear, and 99% trust. And frankly, maybe it should be. But the reality is that David, the mighty warrior, the man who slayed thousands of people, expressed his fear – openly and honestly.

But David had more trust in God than he did fear. Because 38% of this Psalm addressed fear, over 60% addressed the goodness of God. Again, I am sure some Christians in our world today will say David was weak by only mentioning God’s power over fear 60% of the time. I am glad those Christians have it all figured out and never have any fear. Because you know what, I don’t have the level of faith they have. Frankly, I am not overly concerned about the coronavirus personally, but I have my own challenges, including the fact that I serve a church that has many people who are much older than I and are in the higher risk category for contracting and being affected by the virus.

Now, I do not want the virus. And I will take precautions to avoid contracting the virus. But that fear is not my biggest fear. And yet, whatever fear you may have, the example David gives us in Psalm 56, is that we can have very legitimate fears. And even in the midst of fully trusting God, we may honestly and openly express those fears. And when we do so, we may help others to better process their fears as well.

Love of Neighbor

The second response during this time of crisis – and it is a crisis – is that we should love our neighbor.

Several months ago, when I was preaching on the parable of the Good Samaritan, I made following statement: We cannot love the people we label, and we will not label the people we love.

On Friday, I saw a statistic that a much higher percentage of Democrats fear contracting the virus than Republicans. That is one of the most stupid studies and statements I have ever heard. Who cares? People are getting sick and dying and instead of focusing on this being an issue affecting people all over the world regardless of races, religions, and political leanings, and people are making this political. That isn’t love. That is manipulation.

Again, people are afraid. Certainly, some are more fearful than others, but we do not need to beat down on people for their fears. We need to love them through it. Let me give an example.

Suppose a child wakes up from a dream and is frightened. The child bravely gets out of bed to find a parent (or parents). (Don’t discount how much courage it takes for some children to get out of their bed in this situation.) A parent could respond in a few different ways, but let’s go to the edges.

A parent could respond: “You are an idiot. I told you there is nothing to be afraid of. Haven’t I told you that everything’s fine. I just don’t get why you can’t understand this.  Just go back to bed and let me get some sleep.”

Alternatively, a parent might respond: “I am sorry you are afraid. Let’s see what we can do to make you feel better. What if we check to make sure everything is ok and then I will lay down with you until you go back to sleep?”

Again, other possibilities exist. But the first scenario is rather harsh. The second would be considered compassionate. And yet, in the church we often treat others similar to the first example. We are selfish and we show a lack of care. The second example takes time and energy – and love.

And that is what we are to do. Romans 12.15 says to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”  We like rejoicing. It is often more difficult to weep. Frankly, in the examples above, I would like to think I will respond like the second example, but I know I am often guilty of the first. Why? Because I am selfish. Because I sin.

However, Jesus tells me to love my neighbor as I do myself. He tells us to love our neighbor as we do ourselves. Thus, I must properly love myself. We must properly love each other. And when we do, the real benefit is that others can know they are loved too.

That is our opportunity right now in the midst of the fear around us. We do have an opportunity to rejoice when it is appropriate, but to weep as well. We do have the opportunities to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6.2). We have the opportunity to stand together to oppose our enemy and whatever obstacles might come before us.

We can do this because Jesus loved His neighbor as He did Himself. And He asks His followers to do the same.

CONCLUSION

Fear is real. But God is bigger than our fears. And, if we truly love others, we will help them to know that truth as well. This week, fear has been front and center in the lives of millions, if not billions. But realize that fear is based upon a virus with a surface area that is measured to be 1/25,400,000 or .0000049213 inches.

How can something so tiny cause so much fear? But it has, and it will continue to do so. But COVID-19 is not the only fear in our world today. And it is not the only fear within our church right now. Other health issues are front and center. Issues like cancer or other chronic diseases create fear. Or maybe your fears stem from a relationship with a friend, a coworker, or a member of your family.

Maybe it is learning to live after the loss of a loved one.

Maybe your fear is financial.

Maybe the fear is changes in our country, in our town, or in this church.

I know the fears that some of you are experiencing. But I do not know the depth of those fears. I know the fears that I face too.

But I also know that I have a God who desires me to trust Him. A God who desires you (individually) to trust Him. A God who desires us (as a church) to trust Him. He is a God who does not change. So, even though we moved away from the Apostles’ Creed this week (which is itself a change), we are still focusing on our constant – on THE constant – in a world of change. And, in a world of fear.

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is JOURNEY.

We are all on a JOURNEY of faith. And this JOURNEY will requires us to acknowledge and confront our fears. So, let me present a couple of verses for you to reflect upon for a couple of minutes.

The first was written to Timothy, and thus is meant to be internalized individually.  The verse is 2 Timothy 1.7: “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Philippians 4.6-7 was written to a church, and thus is meant of us to consider corporately: “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

NEXT STEP(S):

      • LEARN.  Learn to trust God through your times of fear.
      • LOVE.  Love others to help them do the same.

As followers of Christ, we must also see this disruption as an opportunity. Fear can drive people in many different directions, but one of those directions is to seek purpose and meaning in their lives, to consider death, and therefore to be open to God.

SPECIAL CALL TO PRAYER

From the SBC:

      1. Ask God, in His mercy, to stop this pandemic and save lives—not only in our communities but around the world, particularly in places that are unequipped medically to deal with the virus (Isaiah 59:1-2).
      2. Pray for President Donald Trump and other government leaders—international, federal, state, and local—to have the wisdom to direct us in the best courses of action for prevention and care (Romans 13:1–4).
      3. Scripture says—teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Pray that the Lord will give us wisdom in this moment of fear as the foundations of what we know are shaken, that others would realize how fragile life is and how real eternity is, and they would see their need to turn to God (Psalm 90:12).
      4. Ask God to protect our missionaries and their families around the globe, using this global crisis to advance His Good News to the whole world (Mark 16:15).

“Abandoned?” by Pastor Andy Braams

Last September, Dr. Ulrich Klopfer died. Now, Dr. Klopfer would not be known to most people and would have simply passed from this life without incident except for a shocking discovery. After the doctors death, relatives found 71 boxes in his garage. Those boxes contained 2,246 aborted fetuses. In the trunk of one of his cars, they found another 165 fetuses. All totaled, this man had saved the fetuses of 2,411 babies aborted between the years of 2000-2003. (1)

Frankly, many questions should be asked, but most can never be answered now that Dr. Klopfer is dead. Why did this many keep these aborted babies? Why did he keep them for 16-19 years? But the biggest question is how could all of these lives be simply abandoned?

Thankfully, an arrangement was made to restore the dignity of these humans by providing them a proper burial a couple of weeks ago – even if the burial was premature for most of them had they been allowed to be born, and much delayed given what happened to them.

Most people who hear of this situation are appalled – and rightfully so. But is the appalling nature of this situation the act of abortion, the act of keeping these children in boxes, or the number of babies involved?

The abortion debate is real. And it is intense. And a lot of people who have been impacted by abortion are deeply wounded. This message is not about opening that wound. This message is not about abortion. But it is about abandonment. And those babies were abandoned. But the issue is that you and I abandon people each and every day – perhaps not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense – perhaps even the individuals impacted by abortions. And although we may never know why Dr. Klopfer did what he did, one day you and I will have to give an account of our actions to our Lord.

See, all of humanity should be in a state of abandonment. That may be true of our lives, but it should certainly be true after we die. But God. God made a way through Jesus, who Himself “was not abandoned to Hades” (Acts 2.31), but loosed “the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him (Jesus) to be held by it” (Acts 2.24).

Read Acts 2.23-24. God had a plan. Jesus executed that plan. And because of that execution, we are not abandoned, if only we believe.

This truth about what God has done through Jesus, and what Jesus has done for us, and what the Spirit desires to do within us is why we are studying the Apostles’ Creed. Today, we come to the part of the Creed that says, “He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead.”

However, we should know that God raised Jesus so that He could raise us too. That is, God raised Jesus back to life, so that we could not only live with Him forever, but that we could truly live.

So, if Jesus rose in order for us to live, what are we doing with the life He has given?

Jesus Descended into Hades

Today, portion of the Creed begins with one of the most challenging truths mentioned in the Bible. But we must consider two aspects to this truth. First, we must examine the wording carefully to make sure the Creed matches the Bible. Second, we must be careful not to make our attempts at understanding the passage say more than what the Bible really says. (Many have suggested this phrase should be left out of the Creed, but it is there, and we must deal with it as best we can.)

First, the challenging passage is found in 1 Peter 3. Specifically, verse 19 says, then Jesus “went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison.” Now, we do not need to wonder what He preached. Like His time on earth, He preached of the Kingdom of God. He proclaimed Himself Messiah and the fulfillment of the prophecies. But the real question arises as to where He preached.

Most every reputable translation uses the term or concept of those in prison. And, indeed, that is the term in the Greek. It is the same term used of John being in prison in Mark 6, for instance. But the Creed says hell.

Now, hell is a real place that will be the eternal home for the devil, the demons, and all of those who reject Christ. But it is not the word used in 1 Peter 3, which is the source of this statement in the Apostles’ Creed. So, did Jesus go to hell to do this preaching? No.

He went to Hades. Hell and Hades are two places that are often used synonymously. But they are two different places. Hades is the place of the dead, much like the Jewish concept of Sheol in the OT. The concept of Hades actually has three levels. It has a level of punishment (like hell) for those who are evil. It has a middle place where most people will be (those who are not too good and not too evil). And it has a place of blessing for those who are good and heroic.

We see this idea of Hades in Luke 16, when the rich man was dead and looking up from the place of torment in Hades (v. 23) saw the poor man, a man named Lazarus (with no evidence that it was the Lazarus who was brought back from the dead in John 11) in Abraham’s bosom (the place of blessing in Hades). Lest we think this is just some human thought, realize this story is from the mouth of Jesus!

From the cross, Jesus said to one of the thieves, today you will be with me “in Paradise.” That man went to the place in Hades known as Elysium (or the Elysian Fields), and Jesus would be there to proclaim the message of God to all who would listen.

Again, this is as much as we can say. Did Jesus go to the other levels of Hades? Perhaps, but the Bible does not say so. Jesus did mention Paradise, and that is the “best” level or Hades, so He at least went there. And Jesus died for all sinners which would include any who were in the other levels (the Asphodel Meadows and Tartarus), so He may well have gone to proclaim the truth of God there as well. But we must be careful to go further than that in our interpretation, and thus, understanding of the Bible. Jesus went to Hades because those who were there – that is, all who died prior to Jesus death on our behalf – needed to know that Jesus paid the price for sin. His message was meant to deliver them from an otherworld place like Hades into the presence of God after His own resurrection.

For as Paul says, to depart from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5.8; cf. Phil 1.23).

But for you and me, Jesus has already come. He has already died. And He has already been raised from the dead. And thus, we turn to the message that Peter preached, as recorded by Luke in Acts 2, to see what Jesus resurrection can and should mean to us.

The Third Day He Rose Again

First, let me say that I am not dealing with the aspect of the third day in this post. The Bible does say three days and many possibilities exist, but I do not have time to unpack them all. I will say that I personally believe that it is likely that Jesus died on a Thursday.

So, what is less important in these two phrases is not where He proclaimed the message, nor how many days He was dead, but that He rose again.

First, let me speak to the idea of “again.” I was recently asked why the word again is used. It is a fair question because Jesus was not raised twice. As I researched this, the best explanation is found in a close synonym – anew, or even afresh. Others have made a similar argument. (2) Using this idea, Jesus rose anew. He was renewed, and indeed, He was in His resurrection body.

But let us turn to Acts 2 to see Peter’s words.

Beginning in verse 22, Peter appeals to the crowd to take stock of this man Jesus whom they had seen. It was this Jesus who, according to the plan of God, was crucified. But, death could not hold Him. The grave would not defeat Him. And Peter refers to David’s words nearly 1000 years prior when David proclaimed that God would not “let your Holy One see corruption” (Acts 2.27). The word corruption here means “the pit” (as in decaying in the pit).

It is in this verse, by the way, that we see the use of Sheol and Hades as interchangable. Acts 2.27 begins with, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades…” Peter is quoting from Psalm 16, where in verse 10, David used Sheol. Thus, going back to the previous point, we see that Sheol and Hades were considered as similar in their usage depending upon whether one was speaking in Hebrew (Sheol) or Greek (Hades).

But if Peter had simply quoted David, the people could have believed that David was referring to Himself. So, Peter then revealed that David was more than a king, he was also a prophet.

Read Acts 2.29-31.

David died, but did see decay. He was buried and was still in the tomb. So, God meant someone else. That someone was Jesus. Jesus was buried, but the tomb where He was buried was empty. We have to believe this by faith, but the people who heard Peter’s voice that day could have checked for themselves. In fact, that is what Peter says in verse 32-33. God raised Jesus and Peter, along with the other apostles were simply proclaiming that truth.

What we must understand is that Jesus death was important. It is by the blood of Jesus that we are saved. But it was the resurrection of Jesus that sealed our salvation. Or, rather, I might say, the resurrection confirms our salvation. Paul uses David’s thoughts to say as much in Acts 13.37-38.

In effect, if God did not resurrect Jesus, then we could not consider God to have been satisfied by His death. But because God did raise Jesus from the dead, we can have full confidence that God’s wrath for our sin was satisfied on the cross, if we will only place our faith in that truth.

But before we leave Acts 2, I want to focus on a particular term that Peter used twice. That word is, “abandon.” Again, in Acts 2.27, David said that in the future, the Holy One will not be abandoned. And in Acts 2.31, Peter says that Jesus, the Holy One, was not abandoned to Hades. Hades could not hold Jesus. It was Jesus vs Hades in a death match. And Jesus overcame death.

And because Jesus was not abandoned, we will not be either. Because Jesus overcame death, we can overcome it too. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 (verses 54-55, quoting Isaiah and Hosea), “Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

But here is the challenge. If God did not abandon Jesus, and Jesus did not abandon us, then we can not abandon others.

CONCLUSION

Sometimes we feel lonely. We feel isolated. We may feel abandoned. It happens to many people at various times in their lives. But God has a plan. Just like those 2411 aborted babies who were given dignity through a mass burial, as humans, we all have dignity. The death of Jesus for us reveals that truth. The resurrection of Jesus proves it because God did not abandon Him, so Jesus will not abandon us. We must simply choose to be saved by the only one who can truly save us.

Before we can rise again with Jesus, we must be born again by God. As 1 Peter 1.3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”

Jesus rose again by the power of God. But the power of God can do more than resurrect a body, it can change a life. And a changed life can truly change the world. The truth of the resurrection changed the apostles from being of “little faith” to being world changers. The truth of the resurrection continues to change lives – live that otherwise might be abandoned – and those changed lives can change the world again!

Our JOURNEY letter for today is JOURNEY.

Many of our JOURNEY letters in this series have been the J for Jesus. But today, the focus needs to be on our JOURNEY. Each one of us needs to know that wherever we may be on that journey, God is not done with us yet. If you are doing zealous work for the Lord, He has more for you to do. If you are muddling along in life, God has something for you. If you are feeling hopeless and abandoned, God has something for you. If you are still breathing, God is not done with you…your journey is not complete, so you must consider what you will do for Him during the remainder of your journey.

God made a way for a dead man to have purpose. And that purpose includes you. If He could do that with a man who was dead, how much more can He do for you? How much more can He do through you? But the question is not how much more can He do, the question is what will we allow Him to do?

NEXT STEP(S)LIVE.  Jesus influenced many people while He lived. But it was after He died that He changed the world. Likewise, Jesus bids us to come and die. Once we do, our life is not our own, and so He can do through us what He wants and needs for us to do. It is when we die to ourselves that we truly learn to live. So learn to live for Jesus today by allowing Jesus to live through you.

Who’s Your One? Who’s Your One plus One?

 If we follow through on finding, praying for, and investing in both the one and the one plus one, we can help those individuals to know that God has not abandoned them, that God has a plan for them, and then lead them to help others to find their one plus one as well.

      1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/12/ulrich-klopfer-abortion-fetuses/, (accessed March 6, 2020).
      2. See, for instance, Got Questions. https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-rose-again.html, (accessed March 6, 2020).

“It Is Finished” by Pastor Andy Braams

1 Corinthians 1.17-18; John 19.16-42

Have you watched or listened to the news lately? If you watch it over a two- or three- day period you will see developments happening so quickly it is difficult to keep up. Make those days weeks or months and the pace is alarming. In a recent visit with one of our elder members, he said, and I quote, “I see the way the world is going at an accelerated pace.”

He then mentioned horses – the maximum speed humans traveled for centuries was by horse. And then even when the first cars were made (the Model T), they traveled at the same general speed as a horse. But then, the he mentioned that cars quickly moved to 60 mph, and that we had air travel, then space travel. It all developed so quickly.

But today, the developments are even faster. What about the Coronavirus? Or the locusts in Kenya? Politics are out of control. It is no wonder some people claim that the news is fake – because even news that is real changes so fast it is hard to know what is true anymore. What was true yesterday may not be true tomorrow. (AB – this is not my best PC and FCF, but it will do this week)

But some news doesn’t change, and therefore many get bored with it. The most important news is that of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, that news is old, but it is still fresh. Many consider the news of Jesus as out of date and out of style, and would rather talk about the speculation of what we see on TV today rather than the truth of what happened centuries ago.

But the news of Jesus was not just news that day, it was news that was predicted to happen. Read John 19.28-30. “It is finished” requires knowing what “it” is and what needed to be accomplished for “it” to be done.

As we think about the Apostle’s Creed, we can hold tight to the truth of the creed not because of the words in the creed, but because those words are based upon the truth of the Bible. It is the Bible that is true and thus what is directly taken from the Bible must be true too. And today that truth is that Jesus was crucified, buried, and dead.

But it is more than the thought of some man being crucified, dead, and buried. That happened to many people. In fact, two others were crucified and dead on the same day as Jesus, although we cannot know if they were buried. (Likely, they were not, but we do not know, and it does not really matter for our purposes today.)

However, this story is not just about a man, it is about a man who claimed to be God, a man what was God, and thus, He was able to declare that “It is finished.”

So, what was finished? And why is that important?

Let us take a closer look by reviewing John 19.

Jesus Was Crucified

This really happened. Read John 19.18-20.

John writes it, but details are important. Granted John wrote this account decades after the fact (some suggest as many as 60 years later – which is very likely), but people would have still been alive to refute it. Verse 20 says many Jews saw it. They would have told this story to their children and grandchildren. The story they told was either about a lunatic who thought He was Messiah and got what He deserved, or truly was the Messiah and got what we deserved.

But John is not the only one to record this. That is, this story is not just biblical; it is historical. Pilate is mentioned by name. And both Jewish and Roman historians discuss the intersection between Pilate and Jesus (Josephus the Jew; Tacitus the Roman).

Why was Jesus crucified?

      • Because God is holy. And we are not.
      • Because God had to punish sin and deal with its curse and the curse of the Law. For as the Bible says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3.13, quoting from Deuteronomy 21.25). Jesus was crucified by men who hated him, for men who needed him. (Romans 6.23)

Now, many do not like the fact that Jesus was crucified. Some claim God was a child abuser. But the Bible say the word of the cross is foolish to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1.18). To understand is to receive the grace of God. The reality is that mankind hates Jesus. Men hated Him in Jesus day. They hated Him in Paul’s day (Phil 3.18). And they hate Jesus today. And you and I would be among those who hate Him but for the grace of God – a grace that comes from the sacrifice He made.

So, Jesus was crucified – a process perfected by Romans to make the pain and horror of death as agonizing as possible (as Mike has shared with us before). Jesus received that. We might even say He embraced it – for you and for me. And in the end, Jesus died.

Jesus Was Dead

The crucifixion was the form of death, but it was the death that mattered. Without the death, the wrath of God would not be satisfied. The death of Jesus was necessary because it was upon Jesus that the fullness of God’s wrath was delivered. In Revelation, the wrath of God is revealed as bowl judgments. These bowls are poured out on all who do not believe. These bowls contained sores, water turning to blood, scorching heat, oppressive darkness, water drying up, and a storm and earthquake that is unmatched in human history (Revelation 16).

The intensity of these “bowl” judgments is poured out because of the sin of the world. And yet the true punishment for sin will be much worse and last for eternity in the place called hell.

On the cross, Jesus died so that all who believe (who call on the name of Jesus) will not have to endure the wrath of God on this earth, and will escape the eternal miseries of hell. Jesus death took God’s wrath for us. That is why we call His death the substitutionary atonement. He atoned for our sins by substituting Himself in our place. He did it for you. He did it for me. He did it for everyone. I deserve God’s wrath on me for what I have done, but I do not deserve His wrath for your sins. However, Jesus bore the fullness of God’s wrath for everyone. Imagine the pain, imagine the suffering.

The One who created us, died for us. The one who created was executed at the hands of His creatures. As Peter declared to the audience in Acts 3.15, “…you killed the Author of life…” We may not have been physically present, but we are responsible for the death of Jesus.

But He did die. Read John 19.31-37.

The Romans made certain of it. It was the responsibility of one person to ensure that each criminal was dead. It is said that the penalty for the soldier who did not ensure those being crucified was the soldier would then be crucified. I cannot find evidence of that. However, a centurion, one who led 100 men was in charge and would have been disgraced and strictly punished (at the least) if the individuals were not dead. So, Jesus was dead. We see evidence of this from the centurion’s mouth in Mark 15.39, when the centurion stated, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

Furthermore, when Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate to ask for the body, the body would not have been granted for burial if Jesus was not dead (most people crucified were not buried, they were left to rot or be eaten by animals). Thus, Pilate would have asked if Jesus was truly dead before granting the request.

Jesus Was Buried

Again, we have details in John’s writing (and in other gospel writings) that help us to know Jesus was buried. Frankly, it could have been enough to say, “And then, Jesus was buried.” Many people might accept that statement, but with the details provided, His burial is assured.

Again, most people were not buried after a crucifixion. But Jesus was not most people, so Joseph and Nicodemus made sure He was buried. We may have to accept the burial for what is said in the Bible, but by John naming names, the people of that day could go to Joseph and Nicodemus and ask – “Did you really bury Jesus?” If it was not true, it would have been refuted. Granted John wrote his decades later, but people would still have been alive, and his statement would have been refuted otherwise.

So, Jesus was crucified. He was dead. And He was buried. Those are the facts. It may not be current news, but it is not fake news. It is real. It has happened. The facts have not change. And those facts from the Bible are preserved in the Apostles’ Creed.

It has been three weeks since we recited any of it together, but let’s take time now to recite the Creed up to this point.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.

Next week, we will get into one of the most challenging passages in the Bible. But we will not stay there long, because Jesus did not stay dead or buried – and His resurrection deserves the main attention.

CONCLUSION

In a couple of days, many people in this country will go to the polls to vote on what is known as Super Tuesday. In nine days, it will be our turn here in the state of Missouri. But there is one common factor in each person voting. In fact, one common factor exists between those voting and those receiving votes – the fact that Jesus died for each person’s sin. Jesus died for Bernie Sanders. He died for Pete Buttigieg. He died for Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. He died for Donald Trump. He died for all Democrats. He died for all Republicans. He died for Independents. He died for those who do vote and He died for those who don’t. He died for you and He died for me.

In a year when candidates are pushing their agendas and hoping that we will tell our friends to vote for a certain person, only one name truly deserves to be known – not because of what He might do for us, but because of what He has already done for us. That name is Jesus. And it is our task to know Him and to make Him known.

For all of the campaigns and all of the slogans, the politician’s goal is to make oneself known. But politicians often make promises that are unable to be kept. The promise Jesus made was even more outlandish – that He would come back from the dead. But first, He had to die. Therefore, like Paul, we are to preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1.23). We are to make Christ known – and to do that we cannot separate the work of Christ from the cross.

What was finished? The work of God to fulfill all that had been commanded in the Law. The curse of the Law was broken (Galatians 3.13).

Why was it important? Because none of us could break the curse’s grip. Only Jesus could break the curse. Only Jesus could meet the requirements. And that is why…

JOURNEY

Our JOURNEY letter for today is JJESUS.

Jesus had His own journey that day through the streets of Jerusalem and up to the hill called Golgotha. The journey Jesus made was full of pain and tears. But He made that journey because of the joy that was before Him (Hebrews 12.2) – a joy that was to fulfill the will of the Father…a joy that meant giving us the opportunity to be with Him for eternity.

We cannot overlook the fact that Jesus finished His journey, just as it was planned. The purpose of this passage is not to just to tell us what happened, it is to show that God was in control. The people may have tortured and killed Jesus. But Jesus was always in control. It was Jesus who said, “It is finished,” not the people who were trying to finish Him.

NEXT STEP(S)LOVE.  The death of Jesus came from the love of Jesus. Because of His love, He has made Himself known to you. He commands us to make Him known to others because of our love for them.

Who Your One?

Who’s Your One + One?

“A Sermon for President’s Day” by Rick Sons

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” Isaiah 61:1

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” John 8:34-36

As many of you know, I was a history major in college and even today, the study of the past still seems to occupy my interest. For hours and hours each week, I sit at the laptop and read how history has helped to mold the world today.

My wife will tell you that she has difficulty watching movies with me as I set with the laptop and check everything for accuracy. To this day I can’t watch “Gone with the Wind,” as it is full of incorrect information.

History is full of stories and each story has purpose. So, what’s the single greatest American History story?

This is a hard question to answer because, to each person or historian, stories hold different places in the heart and there are so many stories from which to choose.

Sometimes it is the same story told in different ways.

With the upcoming holiday tomorrow (President’s Day), this may not be the greatest, but it would have to be in the top five.

The day the sixteenth president of our country said, that as of January 1, 1863, no people could be sold in America anymore; no brown children sold in the market; no weeping mothers sold away from their children; no husbands and fathers torn from their wives and children; no more; done; the end.

It was the end of slavery in this country. The end of a way of life for many and the start of a new journey for others.

A tall skinny kid from Kentucky, who grew to become the President of the United States, got shot in the head for it (and I think he knew he would be murdered for it), but did it anyway because he knew it was right.

It was right to let all people be free, no longer to be bound or held captive.

This is a great story, but not a new one.

John 8:34-36 says, “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’”

So, what is a slave?

A slave is not determined by color. In the history of the U.S., blacks were slaves, but only because Africans were selected and imported as slaves, mainly for economic and demographic reasons.

Slavery was created to supply much-needed labor for the colonists, but not because they were deemed inferior. It was only over time that slavery became associated with the dark skin of Africans, which led to the colonists’ feelings of superiority and racism.

A slave had no liberty or say in vital issues. To be a slave meant to work while being subject to every will of the owner.

Slaves were abused physically, emotionally and mentally. They were broken down in almost every way possible.

Some of the basic rights that slaves were denied were: the right to speak their opinion, to right to get married, the right to keep their kids, the right to work for themselves, and the right think the way they wanted or do what they wanted.

A slave was to be seen but not heard; he had no freedom.

A slave was in bondage under the guardians and custodians who were in charge of them.

Slaves had no identity; they could not use their African names, so slave owners gave English names to the slaves. There were only given first names, as they were considered property and not people deserving of surnames.

After Emancipation, former slaves adopted new names. They did so either to take on a surname for the first time, or to replace a name or surname given to them by a former master.

A number of African-Americans changed their names out of the belief that the names they were given at birth were slave names. (Slaves believed that the slave name would keep them a slave in the eyes of the civilized world.) Many slaves took the name of Lincoln after being freed, and some even though they could not read took names from Scripture that they had heard.

They were free, but this freedom came with limits.

For some, they still called themselves slaves (free slaves) as they still felt they were in bondage and the only life they knew was now gone.

So, let’s ask: who else is a slave?

Obviously, all of us who are sinners are slaves.

Some of us are slaves to our own thinking, slaves to pride, slaves to anger, slaves to worry, or slaves to money.

We were not sold into slavery; some of us walked into it by our own power and choosing.

We were slaves to sins in bondage, and slaves to the world but Jesus saved us by grace and through his love we can be free. Jesus redeemed us so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters to be children of God.

To be children of God, there was an urgent need that we must be born again, regenerated, sanctified, and washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

To those that believe in Christ and receive Him, He gives them power to become the children of God. We must open our hearts and allow Jesus to occupy us because in Jesus Christ, we are no longer slaves, but sons – heirs of the kingdom.

In saving us from slavery, He had to die. Jesus knew the outcome and He knew, that to free us, it would cost Him His life.

Being saved and set free is to receive a new identity. In Jesus, we do not lose ourselves, but we become our true selves in Him. In Christ, we are fundamentally new and belong to the Kingdom of heaven.

The language, values, and customs of this world feel foreign to us. Like the slave, we do not want to appear as a slave in the eye of the world. We have been born again for another world; to a greater kind of existence.

That tall skinny guy from Kentucky did the right thing even when he knew he would get a bullet for it.

Thanks to a skinny kid from Kentucky, whom we know as Abraham Lincoln, all people are now free to live and no longer fear being in bondage.

Thanks to Jesus, we are no longer slaves to sin because He defeated the power of sin’s hold in our lives.

We are no longer slaves to our self, our shame, our past, our rejection, our sins, or the sins of others. We are free. Truly free.

Through Jesus, His freedom is limitless; it removes every chain, every burden.

Our freedom was not freely purchased; it cost the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is His death that won our freedom.

Jesus, who was no slave, but the King of the universe, became slave to death to defeat it.

What is the greatest story in history? It is the story of freedom and you can choose which chapter in this part of history you like best.

No longer slaves – that has a nice sound.

All we need to do is walk in the freedom and victory of Christ. The idea of slavery may seem alien in this century, but it was very much a reality in centuries past – not just in our history but throughout the whole world.

Men, women, and even children, who could not fend for themselves, were sold to slavery in order to pay their debts. They did not have any rights of their own, but were shackled to a life of bondage without even a shred of hope.

Today, don’t allow yourself to become a slave to worry, fear, doubt, anxiety or your past. You are free, no matter what your current situation is; remind yourself that you are a rightful child of God.

Remember your identity in Christ and live free.

We are no longer dead in our sin, we are alive in Christ Jesus.

Faithful

On Sunday, Jason Yarnell (NWMSU Lighthouse) spoke on three characters from John 12 (verses 1-11). All three showed their faithfulness in different ways. The three individuals, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, provide a great deal of encouragement to us.

Mary – The Faithful Worshiper

As she did in Luke 10, Mary focuses on Jesus. In Luke 10, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus while Martha worked. In John 12, it is Mary that pours out the expensive ointment on Jesus, anointing Him even as He was preparing to die. She was chastised here as well, but once again, Jesus speaks favorably of her attitude to be with, and to worship, Him.

Martha – The Faithful Servant

In Luke 10, Martha was frustrated that she had to do all of the work, and specifically without her sister’s help. In John 12, the text merely says that Martha served (v.2). Mary was still with Jesus, and as pragmatic as Martha was in Luke 10, we might estimate that she would be frustrated at the use of the ointment too, but her thoughts are not expressed here. Why? Well, she has seen Jesus raise her brother from the dead (John 11). She is serving in thanksgiving. She is serving in love. And, therefore, she does not need to complain.

Lazarus – The Faithful Witness

John 11 records the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. But Lazarus knew the story was not about him. In our day, people who have near-death experiences often seek to market their experience. Not Lazarus, John 11.11 says that he used his new life to point others to Jesus. Lazarus was faithful to witness not only about what happened, but WHO had caused it.

 

These three individuals provide a great example for us today. Like these siblings, we are each to be faithful in our worship, in our service, and in telling others about Jesus.

Although our story may never be known like those recorded in the Bible, let us be found faithful to the One who was faithful, even to death, for us.

“Fingerprints” by Rick Sons

We have been in a series over the past year regarding the body and how it compares to the body of Christ. 

We have spent time comparing each part and we have seen how each part works individually but also as a unit so that the body can live and grow.

Today I want to speak on the one part of the body that I have the most experience with – fingerprints.

In 1901, Scotland Yard established its first Fingerprint Bureau. The following year, fingerprints were presented as evidence for the first time in English courts. In 1903, the New York state prisons adopted the use of fingerprints for prisoner identification, followed later by the FBI. 

Today we have The Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS), which enables law enforcement officials around the world to cross-check a print with millions of fingerprint records of anyone who has ever been fingerprinted around the world.

Take a look at your fingers.

Fingerprints are the tiny ridges, whorls, and valley patterns on the tip of each finger. In Law Enforcement they are referred to as loops, whorls, and arches. 

They form from pressure on a baby’s tiny, developing fingers in the womb. No two people have been found to have the same fingerprints they are totally unique. In fact the possibility of having only one fingerprint that matches someone else is 1 in 64 Billion.

Fingerprints can change over time, due to damage or outside effects from work or your daily activities. These changes add to the uniqueness.

The only exception to this rule is in the case of mirrored twins, not identical twins.  The term “mirror image” is used because the twins, when facing each other, appear as matching reflections. They have the same physical features but some are opposite.  Their fingerprints may be mirror images. We have a set of mirrored twins here in Atchison County that some of you may know. The Paris twins are mirrored and the prints on the left hand of one exactly match the right hand of the other. We found this out when they both came in for prints.

Once the first was printed AFIS would not accept the other.

Like I said, there’s only a 1 in 64 billion chance that your fingerprint will match up exactly with someone else’s. As of 2018, there are only 327 million people living in the US and only 7.53 billion people in the world. It is hard to determine since complete early records have never been kept but some historians agree that since creation (Adam and Eve), or should we say the birth of Cane, there have only been 108 Billion people born on earth.

Fingerprints, everybody has them.

Does God have fingerprints? 

I think that, at least figuratively, we have to say that He does.

Let me give you a few more facts about fingerprints before we get into the message today.

In about 2000 BC, Babylonians put fingerprints in soft clay to protect against forgery of important documents.

In ancient China impressions of fingerprints or (chop) were used as signatures of those who couldn’t write.

Fingerprints first appear on a fetus about four months into a pregnancy. So when someone tells you that these children are not people you can say that they already have a unique identity and they are people.

Each of you has a unique identity, take a look at your thumb, guess what you are all Thumbbody, and God knows you.

Scripture tells us in Psalm 139:13-16: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Even before you were born you had an identity and God knew you.

So now, back to fingerprints, what does a fingerprint do? Well, they positively identify a person.

A “latent” fingerprint, the image left behind by someone’s touch, (barely visible, but can be developed for study) is positive physical evidence that a person has been at a given location, or came in contact with an object.

So now, back to my original question, “Does God have fingerprints?”

To answer that question, let’s look at some of the body parts we over the past year have mentioned in scripture.

God has a face: Rev 6:16 says, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,”

God has a hand: In John 10:29, Jesus teaches, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

God has arms: Deuteronomy 33:27 reveals, “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

God has fingers: In Exodus 31:18, the Bible tells us, “And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.”

Let’s look back at this Scripture, the 10 Commandments were written by the “finger of God.” This not only gives a personal touch, but we could possibly make the argument that, in a way they are an example of the fingerprint of God.

Friends we are the Body of Christ. Ephesians 1:22-23, makes this clear. “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” 

The church is his body; we are the church so this tells us that as a body then we must have fingerprints.

So let me ask, does the Bible speak about fingerprints? I believe we can go to Job 37:7 and give a yes to that question.

Job 37:7 says, He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it.

(He Seals) I want you to remember that!

Now let me give you some definitions of some of the words from this Scripture.

Seals: A mark, seal, stop up, close up, make an end. 

Hand: Among many other things, it is a thumb. 

Know: To discover, to know by seeing. To know by sight.

Work: Action (good or bad), activity.

Now to help me make my point I want you to open your Bible to Revelation 7:1-8 and place the word “fingerprint” each time the word “seal” or “sealed” is used in the following verses.

Revelation 7:1-8 says, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.”

Again, let’s look at verse 3: Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.

Side Note here: I want you to think about nature, the land, sea and trees.

Can anyone tell me straight that they can look at the Earth, the Sea and the Trees and not see God’s fingerprints?

I myself have seen wonderful sites all over the world, oceans and mountains.

Andy, and the rest, can tell you when we were driving through the waste land of Kenya, dry and brown, I will tell you that to me it was a lovely site and I could see God’s fingerprints.

Let’s return to the message.

A “seal” or fingerprint is a mark placed on something to mark it as private, personal, or for security and preservation. 

An example of a mark of security or preservation is found in Exodus 12:1-14, in speaking of the Passover. Verse 13, specifically says,

13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

When we bring Passover up into the New Testament we find Jesus speaking in Luke 22:20 where He & His disciples were at their Passover feast.  He said, “This cup is the New Testament in My Blood which is shed for you.”

Again do you see the fingerprint?

So, what is this seal or fingerprint that I’ve been talking about? 

In my study I believe that it’s a combination of two things.

First: A fingerprint, if you will, is placed on our foreheads in the Blood of Christ at the time of our salvation. Think of it like this. At the exact time of our salvation, the time that we actually surrender our lives to Christ, God dips His thumb into the shed blood of Jesus Christ and places that fingerprint on our forehead (spiritually) as a mark of security. When He looks at us in the future, that mark is what He sees.

We spend our life asking if we will be in the book, when we get to heaven, in this case we must ask will the fingerprint of God be seen?

Second: The Holy Spirit who was sent to earth by Christ at His ascension into Heaven, is to protect us, teach us, and to represent Christ on this earth until His return.

John 14:16 says, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.

As we continue in Scripture, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says, And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal (or as we are now saying Fingerprint) on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Again I say:

Think of this a seal or fingerprint, as God’s mark of ownership. The Holy Spirit, who guarantees that we’re the genuine article, protects us and teaches us.

For those of you who get my email, you know we have been hearing from Ephesians and how we are new.  I want to continue here in Ephesians chapter 1, verse 13, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed (fingerprinted) with the promised Holy Spirit.”

If you remember my last sermon it was on the restoration of an old car. With that idea, think of the paint on a car. 

If the paint is applied without the clear coat, it’ll begin to fade and pick up impurities from its exposure to the weather, or in our case the world. 

The clear coat seals the paint and keeps it pure and free from impurities, maintaining its original luster.

God’s fingerprint is our clear coat.

My friends you leave spiritual fingerprints on everyone you come in contact with.  Ask yourself, whose prints am I leaving, those of Jesus Christ or those of Satan?

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 says, “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.  And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 

We are God’s fingerprint for all to see.

Brothers and sisters, I want you to hear this, as a Christian (a part of the Body of Christ which we have heard about all year), you need to “know” that you have God’s seal (His fingerprint) on your forehead & that this seal is your security, not only from Satan, but from God’s judgment. 

It’s also a mark showing God that you are genuine, the real thing.

In Law Enforcement a fingerprint is excellent evidence that you were at the scene. Only you no one else can leave your fingerprint. 

As a Christian you must always remember that you leave a mark (fingerprint) on the life of everyone you come in contact with, and the mark you should leave is the mark (fingerprint) of Christ.

JOURNEY

The Journey letter for today is J for Jesus, who left his mark on us so that we could leave his mark on others.