How To Finally Be Free From Sin

Many people write to me asking for help to be free from a sin that has plagued them for a long, long time. Although they want to be free from sin, they feel defeated. They’re worn out from the fight. They’re about ready to give up hope of ever changing. If you feel the same way, I hope this message will give you new hope. Not only that, but I pray it will help you to break free from the sins that plague you as well. (Recorded March 29, 2002)

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Hi this is Eric Elder and welcome to The Ranch.

Many people write to me asking for help to be free from a sin that has plagued them for a long, long time. Although they want to be free from sin, they feel defeated. They’re worn out from the fight. They’re about ready to give up hope of ever changing. If you feel the same way, I hope this message will give you new hope. Not only that, but I pray it will help you to break free from the sins that plague you as well.

Would you believe that God wants you to be free from sin even more than you want to be free from it? You see, sin damages our relationship with God. And there’s nothing more important to God than His relationship with You. That’s why He created you. So God has gone to extreme lengths to help us live sin-free lives. And even when we do sin, God has gone to even greater lengths to restore our relationships with Him.

I want to give you three steps to help you restore your relationship with God. You can actually take these steps in a matter of minutes, but many people are reluctant to take them for a variety of reasons.

One of the reasons people are reluctant to take these steps is because sin is fun (at least initially) or else we never would have sinned in the first place. But Jesus didn’t come to take away your fun. He came to take away your sin. And when you’re free from sin, that’s when you’ll begin to experience true happiness, true joy, true peace, and true fun.

If you’ve been holding back from dealing with a sin in your life, I want to encourage you to deal with it today, right now, in our time together. Don’t put it off any longer. God can’t wait to spend every day with you for the rest of your life. He’s already sent you an invitation. Now He’s just waiting for you to respond.

Before we go on, I want you to read a passage from the Bible. I’ve printed the text on your screen below this video so that you can read it on your own, while I play the piano. As you read, pay close attention to what Jesus tells the woman at the end of the story. I believe Jesus wants to speak those same words to you.

Scripture and Music (“You are My All in All” written by Dennis Jernigan)

John 8:1-11

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (NIV)

1) Look at sin the way God looks at it

One of the things I love about that story is that Jesus wouldn’t have told the woman to “go and sin no more” if it weren’t possible. But it IS possible. So Jesus told her to do it.

In another story in John chapter 5, verse 14, Jesus healed a paralyzed man. Then Jesus told the man,

“Stop sinning or something worse will happen to you.”

It IS possible to “stop sinning.” It IS possible to “go and sin no more.” If it weren’t, Jesus wouldn’t have told us to do it. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. That doesn’t mean we may not have issues to work through. That doesn’t mean we won’t have to work hard to break bad patterns of thinking and acting. But it IS possible.

I’m sure the woman caught in adultery had some things to work through, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she left her life of sin THAT VERY DAY. There’s something about staring death in the face, a death that we rightfully deserve and could have prevented, that makes us think twice about doing the same thing again.

I have a friend whose family had a history of heart disease. He went in for a checkup and the doctor told him: “If you don’t change the way you eat and start exercising you will die.” Since that day he’s changed the way he eats and he exercises.

Sometimes I think we don’t take our sin seriously because we haven’t thought deeply about the consequences or our choices. We don’t think they are as serious as God says they are.

So the first step is just to look at sin the way God looks at it. If you don’t know how God looks at your particular sin, I encourage you to look it up in your Bible. Look closely and see what the consequences will be. And if God tells you what the penalty will be for your sin, BELIEVE HIM!

So step one is to look at sin the way God looks at it and realize that you do have a choice. You really can “go and sin no more.” And God will be glad to help you if you’ll let him, which brings us to step two.

2) Look for the way of escape

God has provided us a way of escape from EVERY moment of temptation. EVERY ONE. Listen to what Paul says in the book of First Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 13:

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (NIV)

The King James Version says it this way: when you are tempted, God “will make the way of escape that you may be able to bear it.”

Wow, what love God has for us! God is so interested in keeping our relationship with Him in tact that He will ALWAYS provide a way of escape from EVERY tempting situation. ALWAYS.

I used to love to play a computer game called “Dark Castle.” You may not like computer games, but this one was great! You were trapped in a castle and you had to find your way out. Every room had a new challenge. But every room also had a way to overcome the challenge in it. In one room, you’d find a bag of rocks to throw and protect yourself as you ran through. In another room, you’d find a secret switch that opened a secret door. In another room, you’d find a new way to jump over obstacles in your way.

Even though each room had its own challenge, each room also had its own way of escape. The key to the game was to find the way of escape that had already been provided for you.

I can’t count how many times I died in the process of looking for the way out. But I kept coming back again and again, hour after hour for more. Why? Because I KNEW there was a way out, and I wanted to find it. I KNEW there was a way of escape, and I wanted to discover it. I KNEW that this wouldn’t be one of the best-selling computer games if the programmers forgot to provide a way out of one of the rooms. No one would buy a game if there was a chance you’d get stuck at one level with no chance of going further. The reason I continued to come back is because I KNEW that victory was possible and I wanted it.

Now sin is no game, but God HAS promised us that He will always provide a way out when we’re tempted.

But sometimes we want to give up. Sometimes we think we’re stuck in our sins forever, with no hope of ever getting out. Sometimes we think since we’ve failed before we’ll never win.

The Designer of your life has provided a way out of every temptation. Every challenge you face is accompanied by a way to overcome that challenge.

The Bible says:

“God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out, a way of escape, so that you will be able to stand up under it.”

If you’re asking “Is there really a way out?”, you’re asking the wrong question. You’ll be frustrated and give up the first time you hit a wall. But if you’re asking, “God, what’s the way out? Please show it to me,” then you’re asking the right question.

These are two very different questions. One WONDERS if there’s hope, the other KNOWS there’s hope, it’s just a matter of finding it. I want to assure you THERE IS HOPE. THERE IS a way out. THERE IS a way of escape. And God puts that way of escape at every single point of temptation we face. EVERY SINGLE ONE. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

But unlike the computer game I described earlier, God’s way of escape isn’t hidden at all. It’s usually very clear. The way of escape is usually straight ahead of us. Fix your eyes on Jesus and don’t turn back. Don’t turn to the side. Keep going straight towards Him. The Bible says:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

God wants you to overcome your sin and He will help you do it. Whenever you are tempted, look for the way of escape. But God doesn’t stop there. He loves you so much and cares so much about His relationship with you, He even goes further. Here’s step number three:

3) Look for the way back

Even if we fail to choose the way of escape, God still provides a way for us to come back! It’s called CONFESSION. When we give in to temptation, God says that he will still forgive us of our sins if we’re willing to confess them.

First John chapter 1, verse 9 says:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Confession means “to agree with.” When we confess to God, we’re telling Him that we finally agree with Him. We agree that what we’ve done has hurt us and it’s hurt our relationship with Him.

You might “stew” over your sins. You might feel sorry about your sins. You might agree that your sins have caused damage. But until you confess your sins, agreeing with God that what you’ve done was wrong, you will never get out.

True confession sounds like this: “God, you’re right, I was wrong. What I did was against your will, and it hurt my relationship with you. It hurt my relationship with others.” At this point, you’re confessing your sins. You’re bringing your them to God in a way that you agree with Him about what you’ve done. You wish you had never done it. You wish you could take it back.

But you can’t take it back. You can’t undo the past. When you sin, you have forever violated the purity and holiness that God intended for you, and there’s nothing you can do about it, except for one thing.

Now if that were the end of it, I’d say, “Give up, go home, shut off the computer, and stop playing the game. Give up on life because there’s no reason to go on. If breaking one rule is enough to damn us eternally to hell, and it is, then why carry on?”

But that’s not the end of it. God LOVES US TOO MUCH to not allow us to come back. The thing He cares about most is His relationship with you. So what good would it do to kill the very person He wants a relationship with in the first place? How does God solve this dilemma?

He solved it by sending Jesus Christ into the world to die for our sins, taking the penalty upon himself that we rightly deserved, so that we could be free and come back to Him again.

When you put your faith in Christ, believing that He died for you, confessing your sins and turning away from them, God promises He will forgive you. And instantly your relationship with God will be restored. INSTANTLY!

If you don’t put your faith in Christ, you will have to pay the penalty yourself. Some people think that’s unfair. But it’s not unfair. Christ didn’t come to condemn you. He came to save you. What you’ve done, the sins you’ve committed, are enough to condemn you for eternity. But Christ offers you eternal life instead, if you’ll just turn from your sins and put your trust in Him.

Jesus said:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18, NIV)

If you’ve never put your faith in Christ, I encourage you to do it today, right now, and I’ll prayer with you in a minute to help you come to God and restore your relationship with Him.

But for those of you who have already put your faith in Christ, but continue to fall into sin again and again, I want to give you these words of hope: the same forgiveness and restoration that was available to you when you were first saved is still available to you today. The same process that gave you eternal life will restore your relationship with God right now.

You may already have certainty of your eternal life because you trust in Christ for your salvation. But you can also be free from the sin that is plaguing you. And that freedom comes through confession.

Confess your sins to God right now, and I want to encourage you to do something else: confess your sins to someone else here on this earth. When you bring your sin into the light, it deals a DEATH BLOW to that sin in your life. Satan works in darkness, so as long as you keep your sin in the dark, that sin will have power over you.

I cannot count the number of people who have written to me and said they’ve prayed for years to be free from a certain sin and can’t break it. But when I encourage them to confess their sins to someone else, whether it’s me, or their spouse, or the person they’ve hurt, they experience a whole new level of freedom, if not total freedom, almost immediately. And by confessing to those they’ve hurt, they not only restore their relationship with God, but they restore their relationship with the person they’ve hurt as well. James 5:16 says

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Confession and prayer really will bring the healing you’ve wanted for so long.

Returning to God

ear friend, God loves you, and He doesn’t want anything to stand between you and Him. He wants a terrific relationship with you. But it’s up to you to return to Him. Here are the three steps again:

1) Look at sin the way God looks at it. You really do have a choice. You can choose sin, or you can choose life.

2) Look for the way of escape. God provides a way of escape at EVERY point of temptation.

3) Look for the way back. Confessing your sin and putting your faith in Christ is the only way that I’ve found in the Bible that God promises will bring us back into a right relationship with Him.

I want to give you a chance right now to get right with God, to restore your relationship with Him. You can do it in a matter of minutes. When you do, you’ll unload a bundle of guilt and shame. And you’ll replace it with the incredible lightness of peace that surpasses understanding.

As I play the piano, take a few minutes to pray on your own. Think about what you want to say to God. Then I’ll join you and help lead you in a prayer together.

Remember what Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery: GO AND SIN NO MORE. He wouldn’t have said it if it weren’t possible.

Music (“I’m Forever Grateful,” written by Mark Altrogge)

Prayer

Father, I pray for those who need to find a way of escape right now. If they’re involved in something too deep for them, I pray you would show them the way of escape. Show them the way out, then help them take it. Show them that You are answering their prayers, let them see you clearly, and show them how to walk out of their situation. Father, for those who are considering going down the path of temptation, show them that the way of escape is straight ahead. Help them fix their eyes on You, focus on You.

Father, for those who have fallen into sin and don’t see a way out. Show them that you have provided the way out. Help them to not take it for granted, but to take hold of it so You can help them out of their pit. Father, help them see that confession to You, and confession to others, will bring healing, and will deal a death blow to their sin. Father, I ask that they would pray with me right now, asking you to forgive them of their sins:

Pray in your heart with me:

Father, I’m sorry for the things I’ve done that have hurt my relationship with You. I love you, and want to restore my relationship with You. Father, I agree with You that the mistakes I have made are not just mistakes, but they are sin, they have broken Your law, they have gone against what You want for me, and I’m sorry.

Father, I know I don’t deserve to be forgiven, but I realize that You sent Your Son Jesus into this world specifically so that I could be forgiven if I would just believe in Him. Father, I confess my sins to You now, and I confess my love for Jesus to You now. I do believe in Him. I believe He died for me on the cross so that I could be free from sin, and so I could restore my relationship with You. Father, thank You for forgiving me. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit to will help me do the things I want to do and that You want me to do. Fill me from head to toe until I overflow so that I may live the life Jesus wants me to live, and so Jesus can live through me and reach out to others as well. Father, I thank You for this new life You’re giving me, and I thank You that You love me so much that You went to such lengths to restore my relationship with you. I love You, Lord, and I look forward to spending the rest of my life with You, here on earth, and in heaven forever. I pray this in Jesus’ name, AMEN!!

Conclusion

Remember, Jesus didn’t come to take away your fun, he came to take away your sin. He’s got plenty of fun for you in this life. But fun is only truly fun when you engage in it in His way, in His timing. Don’t miss a day of spending time with God from now on. Read your Bible every day. Talk to God in prayer every day and let Him talk to you. Find some other Christians that you can spend time with to encourage each other in your faith until Jesus returns.

I hope this has been an encouragement to you and I hope you’ll join me here again at The Ranch.

Loving Your Neighbor Over The Internet

Have you ever considered using the Internet to help others? In this broadcast, I’ll give you several examples of how God has been working on the Internet. I specifically want to encourage YOU to think about ways you might help bring the love of Christ to others as well. I hope you’ll join me, not only for this broadcast, but also in loving your neighbor…over the Internet. (Recorded March 15, 2002)

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Hi, this is Eric Elder and welcome to The Ranch.

I talked with a pastor Friday night who shared with me that he didn’t like the idea of an “Internet Ministry.” That wouldn’t have been a problem, except that he told me this five minutes before we were supposed to go on the air on a local radio station for him to interview me on, well, my Internet Ministry! They had another guest scheduled, but when that fell through they called me in to do the show. So neither of us were exactly sure what we were getting into.

But during the hour-long conversation, he was able to share his concerns and I was able to share what God has done through our own ministry. By the end of the program, he was eager to get his own church on the Internet and wanted to order a copy of the class that I’ve just developed for that purpose called “How to Create a Website for Your Ministry.”

I felt that it would be helpful to share with you some of the thoughts I shared with him about how God is using the Internet to help reach out to people all over the world. Ultimately, I’d like to encourage you to consider if God might want to use you to reach out to others as well. Even though we currently have several thousand visitors a month here at The Ranch, it hardly touches the millions of people who are searching for answers to life’s questions. So one of my desires is to help flood the Internet with the Words of God as found in the Bible, and how those words have touched real-life people like me, and like you.

Since you’re watching this on the Internet, I probably don’t need to convince you of God’s ability to use the Internet to help others. But I do want to spark your thinking about ways you might use the Internet to reach others as well. In the examples I’m about to give you, I think you’ll be encouraged to know that God can use you, regardless of what you’ve been through or what you might be going through right now, and you’ll be a blessing to others.

Before we go on, I’d like to give you a minute to pray and ask God to speak to your heart during our time together. I’ve put a verse in the text of this message below that I’d like you to read from Matthew, chapter 5, verses 14 through 16. I hope you’ll consider that verse carefully right now as you pray, then we’ll continue with the message.

Scripture

(Music: “I Just Want to Praise You” written by Arthur Tannous)

Matthew 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Can God really use the Internet?

One of the reasons the pastor who interviewed me was skeptical of doing ministry over the Internet was because it wasn’t a “face-to-face” ministry. Although I love face-to-face ministry, my life has been forever changed from reading the writings of men who lived over 2000 years ago. God has spoken volumes to me through the writings of people like Paul, and John, and Moses, and a host of others whom I’ve never seen and won’t ever see until we meet them in heaven. I believe this is because distance and time are immaterial to God. He says clearly that He will never send out His Word without accomplishing the work He sent it to do.

Isaiah chapter 55, verses 10 and 11 say:

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

God is not limited to speaking through people thousands of years ago either. He still speaks through people today, and He even does it over the Internet. Here are a few examples.

When I first published my testimony on the Internet in December of 1995, I remember clearly the first email that came to me as a result. It was from a man in Athens, Greece. I was astounded. He needed prayer for a situation in his life, but didn’t have a local church at the time. We were able to pray through his situation and we still keep in touch years later. He was the first of many, many people who have written us searching for God’s help in their lives, but didn’t know where to turn next.

Another email came from a man in Egypt who was being threatened with his life. He had become a Christian but the pastor who lead him to the Lord had since been killed. This man was told that he had thirty days to leave the country or he too would be killed. He wrote to me, not asking for money, not asking for a visa to leave the country, but to ask for prayer as he had no one there to pray with him. We prayed and shared many tears via emails over the next thirty days. After that, I never heard from him again. I wish I could tell you what happened to him, but I do know this: he was able to pray with another Christian when he was at the point of his deepest need.

We’ve since had so many people write in to our website that we’ve enlisted 20 volunteers from around the world to help us correspond with and encourage them in their faith.

Just last summer, a man from Latvia watched one of these broadcasts recorded right here in this living room by a friend of mine, Bill Allison. After watching the broadcast, this man said he wept for an hour as he repented of his sins and put his faith in Christ. He went to his local church and was baptized, a church where his brother happened to be the pastor. Although he had a local church nearby and even relatives in the ministry, God used an Internet broadcast from half-way around the world to help him to make his final decision to surrender completely to Christ. He now runs the website for his church, which has been responsible for drawing others into the church and into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

What about you?

Are there things God has put on your heart that you would like to share with others, (or that God is prompting you to share with others even if you haven’t agreed yet to do it yet?) If so, I want to encourage you to use the Internet to reach out to those around you, whether in your own country or half-way around the world.

You can start as simply as sending you testimony to us here at The Ranch and let us share it with our visitors. Or you can send me a note if you’d like to be one of our volunteers to help us answer one or two emails each month. Or maybe you’d be available to talk to people in a chat room about their questions about their faith.

If you’d like to start something on your own, maybe you’d like to start with a simple mailing list to people who share a common interest with you, or struggle, like my friend did who shares a mailing list with others who struggle with panic attacks. He writes 7-10 paragraphs each week, including a scripture and a prayer. He started sending it to a few people and over the years, the list has just continued to grow. He now has several thousand people who receive his weekly emails…some are Christians, some are Hindus, Buddhists and some are Atheists.

But each week they receive a scripture from the Bible, a prayer and a word of encouragement to help them through their situation. And whenever my friend shares a gospel message on the list, several people respond saying they have put their faith in Christ as a result. And this is from a man who is a gifted writer, but would be nervous if he had to share the gospel face-to-face. But when he shares on the Internet, he sees incredible results. He now has a book he’s about to publish from all of his writings over the years. If you want to visit his website, it’s called www.season.org. My encouragement to you is to start small, but be ready to watch God use you in a big way.

Or maybe you want to create your own website for your ministry. You see the potential of the Internet and are willing to let God use you, but you don’t know where to start. If that’s the case, I’ve put together a class to show others step-by-step how to create their own website for their ministry. I taught this three-hour class at a Sunday School convention here in Illinois. It went over so well that I put the full text of the class on CD-ROM to make it available to others who would like make a website step-by-step. You can find out more about the class at www.ericelder.com/training.

These are just a few of the many ways that God might want to use you to reach out to others over the Internet. The nice thing is that you don’t have to start big to have an impact. The main thing is to just start.

I remember an article I read a few years ago about the importance of exercise. I’ve never made exercise a priority in my life, but when I read this article, it freed me to realize that I don’t have to start a big exercise program to see results. Whether it’s taking a walk, or swimming a few laps, or playing a sport from time to time, the important thing is to just start. So I started swimming at the local YMCA and I try to do it twice a week. It’s not a rigorous training schedule, but it was enough to get me started and begin to see some results.

What’s the future of ministry over the Internet?

After doing this type of ministry for many years now, I’m fully convinced of it’s value. But I was surprised last summer to see two leaders of two of the most influential churches in the world coming to similar conclusions about the Internet.

Listen to these words from a conversation between David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the largest church in the world in Seoul, Korea, and Rick Warren, pastor of one of the largest churches in America. David Yonggi Cho said:

“We couldn’t handle the situation without computers. We computerized everything in the church – every facet! We also make use of the Internet. Right now we are offering an Internet church where people participate in services through the Internet. I want to take people to the Internet.

“Korea is very small – not like in America with a lot of space, so we can’t enlarge our church buildings. Besides, every year we have 20,000 new converts in our churches, and we can’t put them all in our church building or even our branch churches. So now we have an Internet church and many of the young generation participate in the services at home. They send in their offerings on the Internet. They can do on-line giving…And they also give us feedback about sermons and services. It is silly to build larger and larger church buildings. It is silly to spend more money on (branch church) buildings! You’ll never have enough.

“I really believe this, and I have already announced to my people and ministers that the next step is to go into total cyberspace ministry because it is a real waste of money to build larger buildings.”

Rick Warren replied to this by saying:

“Well, no matter how much land you have it eventually fills up. We have 120 acres and in the first 20 years my goal was to bring them in to our campus. But now, in the next 20 years, our goal is to Decentralize — to send them out.”

Then Warren added:

“Just think of that money and how you could be using it for missions!”

(You can read the full interview of this interesting interview at: www.pastors.com/pcom/specials/ChoInterview.asp)

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1452, he had a vision for how the technology could be used to spread the gospel. The first book he printed was the Bible. Listen to what he said about this invention…this was over 500 years ago:

“Yes, it is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall soon flow, in inexhaustible streams, the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of men! Through it, God will spread His word. A spring of pure truth shall flow from it; like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men.”

“God suffers in the multitude of souls whom His holy word cannot reach. Religious truth is imprisoned in a small number of manuscript books, which confine instead of spreading the public treasure. Let us break the seal which seals up holy things, and give wings to truth, in order that she may go and win every soul that comes into this world, by her word, no longer written at great expense by a hand easily palsied, but multiplied like the wind by an untiring machine.”

(from Alphonse De Lamartine, Memories of Celebrated Characters, Vol. 2, 2nd ed. (London: Richard Bentley, 1854), 323, 324.)

Gutenberg not only had the vision, but he was RIGHT! The Bible was not only the first book published, but continues to be the most published book in the world, year after year, over 500 years later!

Just like the printing press, the Internet offers a similar leap in technology to “give wings to truth.” I hope you’ll get over any hurdles you feel you may have in your own situation and get started sharing God’s truth on the Internet. You don’t have to start big to make a big difference. You just have to start.

Before we conclude, I want to give you a few minutes to pray and ask God what He might want you to do. As I play the piano and you pray, remember the final words of Jesus before he ascended into heaven.  These are from Mark chapter 16, verses 15 and 16:

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”

Take a few minutes to pray and then I’ll conclude with a prayer together.

Prayer (Music “Go Into All the World” by Eric Elder)

Lord, I pray that you would use this message to spark the hearts of those you’ve called to reach out to others over the Internet. Give them your wisdom where to go next, and how to get to where you want them to go. Lord, if there’s anyone watching or reading this who has never experienced your life-giving, life-saving power, I pray they would put their trust in Jesus Christ today, asking Him right now to forgive them of their sins. Help them, Lord, to turn away from the things that are killing them, so they can experience Your abundant life, both here on earth and in heaven with You forever. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclusion

Well, the pastor who skeptical at the beginning of our interview was convinced by the end of it that God could use him to reach out over the Internet as well. If you want to be a part of what God’s doing, let us know how we can help. Whether you want to send us your testimony for use on The Ranch, be a volunteer to help answer emails, or you want to request our CD-ROM on “How to Create a Website for Your Ministry,” just let me know. You can write to me or visit www.ericelder.com/training for more information about the class.

God IS using the Internet. Will you let him use you?

Thanks for coming and I hope you’ll join me again here at The Ranch.

My Prayer Closet

Do you ever wish you could get away from everything for awhile? Head off to the mountains or a beach or a beautiful resort? There’s actually a place you can go that’s even better than those places – and you can go there as often as you want. That place is in the presence of God. I hope you’ll listen as my wife, Lana, describes how she enters God’s presence by going to her “prayer closet.” We hope it will encourage you to find a place where you can go and spend time with God, too. (Recorded February 15, 2002)

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Hi this is Lana Elder and welcome to The Ranch.

It’s not easy to find a quiet place in our house with five small children. But I’m always encouraged when I think of Susanna Wesley who had 19 children. When she needed time with God she would sit in a chair and throw her apron over her head. Her children knew not to disturb her during her prayer time.

We’re told that she seldom spent less than an hour each day in prayer. Her sons John and Charles Wesley founded the Methodist church and wrote many of the hymns that are sung throughout the world. John, her fifteenth child, said this about his mother:

“I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.”

What an encouragement to any of us who think we are too busy to find time to pray!

I don’t know if it would work for me to put an apron over my head First of all, I don’t have an apron. Even if I did, my youngest would think I was playing a game of peek-a-boo. But I do believe each of us should have a special place where we can go and meet with God.

In our time today I’d like to encourage you to find a place where you can go and spend time with God uninterrupted from the distractions of this world.

Let’s just pause for a word of prayer.

Heavenly Father, I pray that you would use this time and this message to speak to us about different ways we can spend time with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Place to Meet with God

One of the best things about God is that He is always with us…wherever we are. So you can meet with God anywhere – in a closet, in your room, or in a special chair.

Let’s take a look at a few of the places where people in the Bible met regularly with God.

The book of Daniel records in Daniel chapter 6, verse 10:

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

Moses made it a habit of meeting with God, too. In Exodus chapter 33, verse 7, it says:

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.

Both of these Godly men made it a habit to pray daily to God and they both had a special place where they felt most comfortable meeting with God. Daniel’s place was his room. For Moses, it was a tent.

You may have a special place where you sense God’s presence. It may be a beautiful park or a quiet spot along a creek. The beauty of His creation is an easy place to recognize the reality of God and feel His presence. Usually though, we are so desperate for God that we don’t have the time or the money to go to those places. Or maybe the weather keeps you from taking that walk with God that you wish you could take. For me, I need Him everyday! So I need to have a place where I can go and meet with Him daily.

Jesus set an example for us as he often retreated to a solitary place to pray. The first chapter in the Gospel of Mark tells us that just after he called the first disciples and healed many people He got up very early in the morning and went to a solitary place to pray.

Mark chapter 1, verses 35 says:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Matthew chapter 14, verse 23 records another example just after Jesus fed 5,000 people and dismissed the crowd:

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.

Now I know that if the Son of God himself needed to spend time with His Father in a solitary place, I do too.

Not only did Jesus make it a habit to pray in a solitary place, but He also taught us in His Sermon on the Mount of Olives that praying in private is a good habit for us as well. He says in Matthew chapter 6, verse 6:

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Wow! Jesus even tells us to go into our room, close the door and pray to God. For me, I used to just go into my bedroom and sit either on the bed or in the chair at my husband’s desk. But, being easily distracted, I would see that the bed needs to be made. Then I would decide to check my email or I’d notice a toy wedged between the dresser and the wall. Of course, I’d have to retrieve the toy, which would lead to another discovery….large dust balls behind the dresser. I would then be totally off track and would have wasted precious time that I was supposed to be with God in prayer or worship!

The Prayer Closet

That’s when I decided to try praying in my closet.

I remember one time hearing someone talk about going to their prayer closet. When I first heard them talk about it, I wasn’t sure if they were really talking about going into a closet to pray or if they were just saying that as a figure of speech. Most of the time we hear people talking about bringing something out of the closet, like a hidden sin, but not going into a closet. But I was desperate for a quiet place where I could focus on God, so I decided to try it for myself. I’ve found it to be immeasurably helpful in the time I spend with God.

My prayer closet really is just a closet! We homeschool our kids and my husband works at home, so there’s not much extra space in the house. So first, I had to clean out a section of a closet. It would probably be helpful to know that the closet in our bedroom is 6 1/2 feet long by 2 1/2 feet wide. Less than a third of the closet is where my husband puts his clothes. Another third is where we store office supplies for the ministry. I moved my clothes out of the last third of the closet into a hallway closet. This last third is what I have made into my prayer closet. The area where I sit on the floor and pray is little square about 2 1/2 feet by 2 1/2 feet.

It has plain beige walls and we put a few blankets on the ground for comfort. I have also stored a box of tissues in there, along with a paper and a pencil to write down what God is speaking to me. Each day I bring in my Bible and my devotional. When I want to worship, I also bring in a CD Walkman and a worship CD.

My goal is to make the place I meet with God free from distractions and as comfortable as possible so I can focus on Him.

Now, based on my own personal experience, I don’t recommend you store chocolates in your prayer closet. I was hiding a bag of Nestle Carmel Treasures from my kids and I ate six of them while working on this message for you. It could end up being a distraction as well as a health hazard.

The only difficulty of my closet is that it’s hard to get out. Not only is it physically hard to stand up in such a small area. But I also don’t want to leave the presence of my Father. I could spend a long time worshipping and praying and just sitting in His presence.

I was telling Eric the other day that one of my favorite times of the week is on Sunday mornings during worship. I love being totally focused on worshipping Him! At home in my prayer closet, I can do the same thing. I love to listen to worship CD’s. When I’m in my closet and put my favorite CD in my Walkman, I’m there – in His presence – worshipping Him. (Right now, two of my favorite worship CD’s are Kim Hill’s Live CD called For Such a Time as This and Michael W. Smith’s CD called Worship.)

Probably my favorite aspect of being in my closet is the freedom I feel to just be myself. I have the freedom to raise my hands and dance (although it’s a small closet). I can cry when I’m overcome with my own sinfulness or I can cry out of complete gratitude for all He’s done for me, without embarrassment that my nose is running and I look like a mess. (That is why I have a box of tissues nearby.) I’m totally free – I have total freedom to make a fool of myself.

I have also noticed that when I pray silently to God my thoughts can be easily distracted. But when I pray out loud, my thoughts and prayers stay more focused. So in my closet, I can pray out loud and not worry about anyone hearing me. The clothes and walls muffle the sound! My prayer is that someday I’ll be as bold outside my closet as I am inside it during my worship and prayer time.

It has been such a blessing in my prayer and quiet time to have a place to go to. I come out of the closet and I feel great! I feel refreshed and ready to take on the responsibilities of my day. Your prayer closet can be a great place to really feel connected to God, free from distractions and free to be the child of His that you are.

Jesus Makes it Possible

Of course, the reason any of us can come to God in prayer is because Jesus has made a way for us. Because of our sins, we are separated from God. But when Jesus died on the cross, He offered us the chance to be forgiven of our sins by putting our faith in Him. If you’ve never trusted in Christ for your eternal salvation, I pray you would do that right now. All you need to do is admit that you have sinned, believe that Jesus died for your sins and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.

If you’ve already put your faith in Christ, but you’d like a stronger relationship with Him, I’d like to encourage you to find a place where you can go and spend some time with Him. After trying it for a few days, I hope you’ll find yourself running to your prayer closet each day like I do, wanting to spend more time with your Daddy! He loves you. He created you. And He’ll love it as much as you do.

I’d like to close with a word of prayer.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to let others know what a difference it has made in my life to have that special meeting place with you. I pray that everyone who hears this message would also find a place where they can go and meet with You, whether it’s a closet, a tent, a bathroom or a special chair. Help them to meet with you each day.

And I want to pray for those of you who would like to make Jesus the Lord of your life. If that is you, would you just repeat after me.

Lord, I admit that I am a sinner and that you died as the sacrifice for my sins. I believe you are the Lord and want to make you the Lord of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Thanks for coming and I hope you’ll join us again here at the Ranch.

Your Life Is More Than Just A Dash

Even though our tombstone will mark the date of our birth and the date of our death, with a dash in between, that doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. Your life is more than just a dash. You were alive long before you took your first breath. And, if you believe in Christ, you will live long after you take your last.  Join me for a new perspective on just how precious you are to God. (Recorded January 26, 2002)

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Hi this is Eric Elder and Welcome to The Ranch.

You are precious to God.

You aren’t here by accident. You aren’t here just because your Mother and Father wanted you to be here. You’re here because God wanted you to be here. He loves you. He created you. And He has a purpose for your life.

Some of you may think that your life began the day you took your first breath. But it didn’t. It began long before that. Some of you may think that your life will end the day you take your last breath. But it won’t. It will last long after that.

Even though our tombstone will mark the date of our birth and the date of our death, with a dash in between, that doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. Your life is more than just a dash. You were alive long before you took your first breath. And, if you believe in Christ, you will live long after you take your last.

In our time together, I want to give you a new perspective on your life. I hope it will give you a renewed sense of purpose for your life. You may even discover the meaning of life itself.

Before we go on, let’s take a minute to pray.

Prayer

Lord, I pray that You would speak to our hearts during this time together. I pray You would let each of us know how precious we are to You. I pray You would show us that the choices we make in this life really do matter. And Lord, I pray that You help us all to make the most important choice every day: to put our faith You. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

When do you think your life began?

When you took your first breath? When your heart started beating? When your blood started flowing? When your arms and legs began to take shape and you started to look like a person? When you were first conceived in the womb?

I believe that your life began at conception, but not just the moment your Mother and Father conceived you. I believe your life began the moment God conceived you. And that could have happened a long time ago.

Take a look with me at Jeremiah, chapter 1, verses 4 and 5:

“The word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’ ”

I love that passage. For me, it lets me know that we aren’t here by accident, that God gave us a purpose for our lives even before we were born. And even more amazing, that God knew us even before we were formed in the womb.

As I’ve read through the Bible, I’ve found that many of the people mentioned on its pages were conceived in the mind of God before they were ever conceived in their mother’s womb. Before they were born, God had already given them names and purposes for their lives.

Jesus, of course, is one of the most obvious examples. God sent an angel to Mary to tell her she was going to conceive a Son, and that she was to give Him the name Jesus, and he would save the people from their sins. Luke 2:21 says that this is exactly what happened:

“On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.”

But Jesus isn’t unique in that respect.

God spoke to Abraham 25 years before the birth of Isaac, telling Abraham that he would have a son from whom would come many kings and many nations. God told Abraham to name him Isaac a year before he was even born. Genesis 17:19, and 18:10 says:

Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”… “Then the LORD said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.’ ”

And that’s exactly what happened. Sarah did have a son, they named him Isaac, and his descendents include a long list of kings, including King David, King Solomon, and even Jesus, the king of kings. All of which God knew before Isaac was even conceived in his mother’s womb.

God sent an angel to Zechariah and Elizabeth before they conceived John the Baptist. Luke 1:13, 16 and 24 says:

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. … Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.” … “After this, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant…”

How did the angel know about John even before Elizabeth even became pregnant? The angel tells us in verse 19:

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.”

Gabriel knew because he stood in the presence of God, and God knew because He is the one who first conceived of John, gave him his name, and the purpose for his life.

These are just a few of the people who were conceived in the mind of God before they ever took their first breath. David (Psalm 139:13-16), Paul (Galatians 1:15-17), Adam (Genesis 2:4-7), Eve (Genesis 2:18-22), Ishmael (Genesis 16:11-12), Josiah (1 Kings 13:2); God had given all of them a special purpose for their lives before they took their first breath.

I like the way David puts it in Psalm 139, verse 16:

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

I do believe that your life began at conception, but not just at the moment your Mother and Father conceived you. I believe your life began the moment God conceived you. And He has a purpose for your life, too.

I think one of the tragedies of abortion, miscarriage and experiments on human embryos is not just that these things deprive a person of their life, but they also deprive God of the purpose for which He created that life.

God’s given us all something to do, we’re all precious to Him, and what we do with our lives really does make a difference.

Your life is more than just a dash.

Take a look with me at Ephesians 2:10:

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

God has created us for a reason, and he’s already prepared good works for each one of us to do.

The question now is this: will you walk in the calling God has on your life, or will you walk away from it? Will you choose to follow Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, or will you choose to walk away from Him? Will you seek Him until you find Him, or will you give up before you’ve even given Him a chance to show you what your purpose is?

Maybe you think you don’t have a purpose because of the way you were born. Maybe you think the only reason you’re here is because of an “accident.” Maybe you think you’re here because of someone’s lust but not because of their love.

Maybe you think you’re here because someone thought having you would save their marriage, or give them a purpose, or fulfill their dream. And when you didn’t save their marriage or give them a purpose or fulfill their dream, you felt like you were unwanted.

But I love the words of Mother Theresa. When people would tell her that it was better to abort an unwanted child than to bring them into this world, she said:

“There is no such thing as an unwanted child. If you don’t want them, give them to me, I want them.”

And she took in thousands during her lifetime. If Mother Theresa had that kind of love for children regardless of how they came into the world, imagine what kind of love God has for you, regardless of how you came into the world.

King Solomon didn’t come into the world under the best circumstances. His father had an affair with a another man’s wife. After killing the woman’s husband, his father then took the woman as his own. This wasn’t God’s plan, as is clearly recorded in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. But God was able to use that situation to still bring about His purposes. The second child of that relationship was King Solomon, who went on to become one of the wisest and wealthiest kings in the history of the world. Not only that, but Solomon is listed as one of the forefathers of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 1).

When you think about it, none of us had control over how we came into the world. But all of us have control over how we live in the world.

You are not just defined by your parent’s genes. Who you are is not defined by the color of your hair, or the color of your eyes, or the shape of your mouth. Who you are is primarily defined by the choices you make, what you choose to do with the gifts God has given you.

Suppose we were to take a skin cell from someone like Billy Graham, and through the process of cloning, created an exact genetic replica of Billy Graham. This new person would look just like Billy Graham, from the hair on his head to the shape of his toes. If scientists were to create such an embryo, place him into a woman’s womb until he was born, would we have another Billy Graham?

Not at all. Why? Because this new person would have his own choices to make, having grown up in an entirely different environment, with different parents, and different influences. He may choose to turn away from God, instead of following God like Billy did. That one choice alone would make him a drastically different person than the Billy Graham we know.

Or suppose we cloned Adolph Hitler from a strand of his hair, and this new child were to be born today? Would he be another Adolph Hitler? Not necessarily. If this new child chose to follow Christ at a young age, loving the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving his neighbor as himself, he would be a totally different person. Even though he shared the same exact genetic code.

If we cloned Madonna, or Michael Jordan, or Mother Theresa, would we have exact replicas of those people? It all depends on the choices they make, and how they choose to use their gifts.

More than anything else, the choices you make today will define who you will be tomorrow.

And the most important choice is what we’ll do about following Christ.

When does life end?

We talked about when life begins, but when does life end? Does it end when you take your last breath? When your heart stops beating? When you’re no longer recognizable as a person? When does life end?

I believe that if you believe in Christ, your life never will end.

A French priest named Teilhard de Chardin said,

“We are not just human beings having a temporary spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a temporary human experience.”

Jesus was dead on the cross by all measures, except one: God’s. Three days later he appeared again, alive, and still appears to people today, 2,000 years later. Lazarus was dead in the tomb by all measures, except one: God’s. Four days later Christ raised him to life again. Tabitha was dead in her bed by all measures except one: God’s. That afternoon Christ raised her to life.

How can we live forever? Jesus says in John 11:25-26:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

I love Christianity!

Get this: If you don’t feel precious because of the way you were born, there’s good news: you can be born again.

Even none of us have a choice about when we’re born or to whom we’re born physically, God gives each of us a choice as to when we’re born spiritually.

In fact, Jesus told Nicodemus how he could have eternal life. In John chapter 3, Jesus said:

“You must be born again.”

Nicodemus asked:

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”… “How can this be?” (verses 4 and 9)

Jesus answered:

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (verses 14 through 16).

Although none of us had control over our physical birth, we all have control over our spiritual birth.

John 1:12-13 says this about Jesus:

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

When you’re born again, or become a child of God, doesn’t depend on anyone but you.

Of all the choices you’ll face in your life, this one is the most important because it will determine where you will live forever. Jesus said if you want to live with God forever, you must be born again (John 3:3, 7). And the day you take your last breath here on earth won’t be the end of your life. If you believe in Christ, you will live forever, even though your body doesn’t.

When the famous preacher D.L. Moody realized he would soon be gone from this world he said:

“Someday you will read in the papers that Moody is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now…. I was born of the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1855. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit shall live forever.”

Summary

Let me summarize what I’ve been saying with this:

God has a purpose for every life, including yours. You are extremely precious to Him. So precious He was willing to let His Son die in your place. There’s nothing He wouldn’t do for you.

The question is what will you do in response? What choices will you make that will define who you are? And what choice will you make that will determine where you’ll spend eternity?

Before we close, I’d like to give you a few minutes of quiet time to respond right now to what God is speaking to your heart. While I play the piano, I hope you’ll talk to God in prayer. When I’m done playing, I’ll close our time with a final word and a prayer for you.

Music and Closing Prayer

(Music: “As the Deer” written by Martin Nystrom)

Lord, I pray that you would show each one of us just how precious we are to you. I pray that you would help us know that we’re here because you wanted us to be here, and that you have something special for each of us to do. Lord , I pray you would help us all to make the choices you want us to make, to do the things you want us to do, and to turn away from the things that are killing us. Lord, I pray for those who need to put their faith in You for the very first time, that you would help them to make that decision to be born again, even right now.

You might say some words like this:

I love you Lord, and I’m sorry for the sins I’ve committed. I believe that You died in my place so I would not have to die, but have eternal life with You. Please forgive me of my sins, help me to turn away from them, and let me live with You forever. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Final Thoughts

God has a purpose for your life and He’d love to help you fulfill that purpose, your destiny. 2 Chronicles 16:9a says this:

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

My hope and prayer is that you will choose to follow Him today and every day for the rest of your lives. And if you believe in Christ, that will be forever.

Thanks for coming and I hope you’ll join me again here at The Ranch.

A Thoughtful Look At Human Cloning

Human cloning is now here.  What’s a Christian to think about it? And how should we respond?  Join me for look at three ways I believe a Christian can respond to human cloning in a thoughtful, compassionate, and Christ-like manner. (Recorded January 11, 2002)

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Hi this is Eric Elder and Welcome to The Ranch.

Human cloning is now here. What was once the stuff of science fiction has now become a reality. A few months ago, a company in Massachusetts announced that they had successfully cloned the world’s first human embryo.

Although the embryo only lived for a few days, it signaled that the next step towards creating a fully developed person through the process of cloning is much closer than many people thought possible. In fact, it is conceivable that within the next year or two, the first human clone could be born.

While this news may come as a shock to many people, it is the culmination of over 50 years of cloning research, beginning with the cloning of frogs in the 1950’s. The successful cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996 demonstrated for the first time that cloning was possible in mammals, and could eventually be applied to humans as well. That eventuality is now here.

In our time together, I’d like to describe and discuss human cloning so that Christians can understand and respond to it in a thoughtful, compassionate, and Christ-like manner.

Before we go further, I’d like to give you a minute to pray. I’ve included a scripture from Psalm 139 a little further down on this page. While I play the piano, take a minute to read the scripture and ask God to speak to your heart through our time together.

Scripture (Music: Exodus XV written by Frank Gallio)

Psalm 139:13-16

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

What is human cloning?

The word clone basically means to make a copy of something. In the case of humans, a clone is someone who has the same genetic makeup as someone else. The word clone may conjure up images of gray-faced people walking and talking more like robots than humans. But in reality, it’s much more useful and appropriate to think of clones the same way we think of identical twins.

When we think of identical twins, we don’t think of one being the original and the other being a copy. Both are fully human, with their own personalities, interests, and lives, but both happen to share the same genetic makeup. The main difference between identical twins and clones is that while twins are conceived and born at the same time, clones could be conceived and born years apart.

Scientifically, what makes cloning unique is the actual process of conception. Whereas the usual process for creating a human embryo involves uniting a sperm with an egg, cloning can bypass this process.

The reason this is possible is that every cell in our body contains the full genetic code which describes the rest of our body. A skin cell, for example, not only defines the color of your skin, but also contains the genetic information which defines the color of your eyes, the length of your bones, and the shape of your mouth.

Every cell in your body contains this full set of instructions which define your physical body.

Every cell that is, except for two: a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm. These cells are unique in that they contain only half the genetic code required to define a person. During fertilization, when a sperm comes in contact with an egg, the two strands of code intertwine, forming a new life with a full set of body-building instructions: half from the mother and half from the father.

Cloning, at least in the process used a few months ago, began with a women’s egg. Because the nucleus of this egg contained only half of the necessary genetic instructions, scientists removed the nucleus, thereby removing those instructions. They then took the nucleus from another cell, in this case a skin cell from an adult, and they transferred it into the egg. The egg was then given an electric stimulus, which initiated the growth process. The egg, now with a full set of genetic instructions on hand, had the potential to grow into a fully developed human being.

(Note: Although they tried this process with skin cells, none of those cells began the growth process, but when they tried “cumulus” cells, which are found near a woman’s ova, a few of those began to grow.)

This process was similar to the one used to successfully clone Dolly the sheep five years ago and other animals since then. Although the human embryo in this case lived only a short time, it was long enough to demonstrate that this technique could potentially be successfully applied to humans as well.

With the rush to be first in this rapidly expanding field, it is only a matter of time before someone, somewhere will implant a cloned embryo into a woman’s womb. Nine months after that happens, the world may see its first human clone.

How can Christians respond to cloning in a thoughtful, compassionate and Christ-like manner?

Let me share three ways that I think we should respond.

First) Recognize that as amazing as our scientific achievements are, they still pale in comparison to the incredible achievements of our God.

On one hand, cloning is an incredible scientific achievement. Years of research and millions of dollars have gone into understanding the inner workings of cells, genetics, and the reproductive process. For man, this is an amazing accomplishment.

On the other hand, cutting and pasting cells in a lab is a remarkably crude way to create a person, compared to the intimate sexual experience God has designed between a man and a woman. While we can marvel at what scientists can do, we have to marvel much, much more at what God has done.

God says in the Bible in Isaiah 55, verses 8 and 9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

This reminds me of the story of a group of scientists who got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God.

They picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need you. We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just go on and get lost.”

God listened patiently to the man and when the scientist was done talking, God said, “Very well! How about this? Let’s have a man making contest.”

To which the man replied, “OK, great!”

But God added, “Now we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.”

The scientist said, “Sure, no problem,” and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God just looked at him and said, “No, no, no. You go and get your own dirt!”

As Christians, we can marvel and wonder at what man is able to achieve. But we must also keep it in perspective with the matchless gift of sexuality that God has already created.

Second) Recognize that God is very interested in abundant life, but unfortunately, cloning leads to abundant death.

The first words God spoke to the first people on earth were these in Genesis 1:28a:

“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”

If cloning were to advance the cause of life and help husbands and wives be fruitful and multiply when they couldn’t have children any other way, cloning could possibly help people to fulfill this command.

Unfortunately, when scientists have tried to clone animals, only 1 or 2 out of every 100 attempts are successful. 80 out of 100 die before they take their first breath, and those that are born often have to be killed soon after their birth because they are so deformed that it would be wrong to let them live. This means that 98 or 99 of every 100 cloned animals die prematurely. If a company came out with a new drug that killed 98 or 99 out of every 100 patients who used it, the government would quickly tell that company to never sell such a product again.

It took 277 attempts to create Dolly the sheep. That means that 276 sheep died in the process.

Ian Wilmut, one of the scientists who helped create Dolly, said it would be “criminally irresponsible” to try to clone human beings. Mr. Wilmut said that another sheep they cloned appeared to be born perfectly formed, except that it hyperventilated because the arteries leading to its heart were too small. He wondered out loud what the fate of a child would be that had to pant all of its life because of a scientific experiment.

Just a few days ago, he even said that Dolly has prematurely developed arthritis and may therefore have to be put to sleep because of the pain. Even in the rare case that cloned animals are born successfully, they are still not living full lives.

In its current state, cloning is not a technology that leads to abundant life, but to abundant death.

Third) Recognize that God is very interested in people’s healing, but that He calls us to lay down our lives for others, not ask them to lay down their lives for us.

God doesn’t want us to suffer from incurable diseases any more than we do. Jesus spent much of his life healing people. The Bible says in Matthew 4:23 that

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”

Some scientists believe that we will be able to find cures for diseases by using cells from cloned babies. Unfortunately, to get the cells they need, scientists have to kill the cloned babies within just a few days after they have been conceived.

Jesus said in John 15:13,

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Love, as Jesus defined it, is laying down your life to save someone else, not taking someone else’s life to save your own. God has provided us with all kinds of cures to diseases that scientists have discovered to heal people. But God never suggests that we should deliberately kill people in order to find a cure.

President Bush was asked what he thought of the cloning experiments on human embryos. His answer is worth repeating. He said, “…the use of embryos to clone is wrong. We should not as a society grow life to destroy it. …this evidence today that they’re trying to achieve that objective, to grow an embryo in order to extract a stem cell, in order for that embryo to die is bad public policy. Not only that, it’s morally wrong in my opinion.”

As compassionate Christians, our heart’s desire should be to see people healed. But if we have to kill someone else in order to receive our healing, we don’t have the love of Christ in us at all.

Let me summarize these three responses again:

1) As amazing as our scientific achievements are, they still pale in comparison to the incredible achievements of our God.

2) God is very interested in abundant life, but unfortunately, cloning leads to abundant death.

And 3) God is very interested in people’s healing, but He calls us to lay down our lives for others, not ask them to lay down their lives for us.

Some people have asked, “Isn’t it illegal to clone a human being?” While several countries have passed laws banning or restricting human cloning, the process is still legal in 170 countries, including the United States. Although President Bush banned the use of federal funds for new stem cell research, private companies and individuals can still use their own money to experiment on human embryos.

My hope and prayer is that we will pass laws to prohibit cloning altogether. Not because it may be an “unusual” method of creating a new life, but because the technology at this stage inherently leads to the death and destruction of the vast majority of those new lives. I am also disturbed that people will be cloned for the sake of research, many of whom will die in the process, many of whom will be horribly and painfully deformed, and many of whom will never even get to take their first breath.

Will you pray with me right now? As I play the piano, will you pray that God will intervene on behalf of those facing destruction. Then let him speak to your heart. When I’m done playing, I’ll close our time in a prayer together.

Personal Prayer (Music: “Good to Me” by Craig Musseau)

Closing Prayer

Will you join me in prayer?

Dear Lord, we do ask that You would stop the destruction of children.  Lord, we pray that You would do it, and we pray that You would give us the strength and the wisdom and the understanding to know what we can do to help end this process that is killing people unnecessarily.

Lord I pray that throughout the world, Your Words would go forth, and people would hear, and they would know that You want this to stop.  Lord, I pray that this needless destruction of lives would not go one step further.

Lord, I thank You that You are an awesome God.  I thank You for the processes that you have put in place that are so much higher than ours, and so much more incredible than anything we could accomplish.

God, I also pray that You would put in our hearts Your love for people so that we would be able to clearly express Your heart to them, letting them know that You love them very much, that you died for their sins, that they can be forgiven and have a new life with You, both here on earth and in heaven forever.  We pray this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thanks for coming and I hope you’ll join me again here at The Ranch.

If God Were Here

What difference would it make in your life right now if you knew that God were here?  What difference would it make in your situations, in your relationships, in your work, in what you do or don’t do?  The Bible says that God is here and, in fact, he is not far from each one of us.  Join me as I share some of my own encounters with the living God and three things I believe He would tell each of us. (Recorded February 23, 2001)

Watch The Video

Message Notes

Acts 17:27

“God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

Outline

Introduction:  God really is right here with us.  Knowing this fact changes the way we live and think.

An Easter Egg is something creators hide in their creations, such as this on in Star Wars Episode I.  You’ll see an exotic yet strangely familiar species in the senate rotunda if you look closely.  Click the link below to see it:

God is visible throughout His creation as well, so that those who seek Him will find Him.

Acts 17:26-27 says “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

I want to tell you about three times when I sensed Jesus was very close to me.  What He said to me during those times is what I believe He says to each one of us, all the time, if we’ll listen.

1.  “I Love You.”

I remember walking down a busy street in Houston and suddenly wondering what it would be like if Jesus were to walk right beside me.  I remembered passages in the Bible where the disciples were walking to Emmaus and Jesus walked up beside them, but they didn’t recognize Him.  Suddenly I sensed that He was right with me as well.  I didn’t see His body or hear His voice, but I sensed He was right there with me.

I had not yet put my faith in Christ, but I told some friends later about this experience.  I realized that God has been doing things for us long before we ever thought about Him.  The Bible says,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

The first thing God wants to tell each of us is this:  “I love you.”  He’s being trying to tell us this long before we ever gave Him a thought.  He even sent His Son Jesus to tell us and to die in our place, while we were still sinners.  He doesn’t wait for us to clean up our act to tell us, He’s trying to tell us this all the time, and when we realize it’s true, that’s when we’ll clean up our act.

If God were here, the first thing He would want to tell you is:  “I love you.”

2. “I Need You”

Another time I remember sensing the presence of Christ was one of the most profound experiences of my Christian life.  Watch the message to hear the story!

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

The Holy Spirit lives in those who have put their faith in Christ.  If you don’t sense His presence, you can pray and ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit in a way that you will sense Him, know Him, and be a vessel to be used by Him.

The Holy Spirit will not force himself on you, but waits to be invited in.  Jesus said in Luke 11:9-13:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

3. “I Know You”

Another time I remember sensing Jesus right near me was about five years ago.  I had just quit my secular job to go into full-time ministry and God was calling me to do something I couldn’t believe.  I felt He specifically wanted me to go to Israel right then at the beginning of my ministry.

I had never thought about going to Israel and wasn’t sure what to do.  I was alone in the house laying down on the couch with my Bible in hand and just wished God would sit right next to me.  Everything was moving too fast and I just wished I could feel His presence and know that everything was all right.

Then these words came into my mind, just a thought more than anything:  “Open your Bible and look at the third line down.”  Now the Bible’s a powerful book and God can speak through anything in it, but I know that it’s not magical in the sense that we can just open it and think that whatever it says is what God wants to say to us right then.  But I felt clearly directed to do this.

So there I was lying down on the couch, and I opened my Bible.  It turned to Psalm 139 and I read from the top of the page to the third line down.  It said:

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. (Psalm 139: 1-3)

God said to me as I laid there on the couch, “Eric, I know you’re lying down!”  He really was right there with me on the couch.  He’s never far from any one of us.  In fact, the Bible goes on to say that there’s nowhere we can go that He won’t be there with us.

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.  You hem me in– behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:4-10)

If God were here, this is a second thing I believe He would say to each of us, “I know everything about you.”

This is both comforting and convicting, for God will never leave you alone.  If you’re doing what’s right, hallelujah, you’ll feel His comfort.  But if you’re not, you’ll feel His conviction.  I encourage you to live your life knowing that He’s right beside you all the time.  I assure you it will change the way you live and think.

Conclusion:  If God were here He would tell you three things:  “I love you, I need You, and I know you.”

Put your faith in Christ, ask Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit, and live each day knowing that He’s not far from any one of us.

The Secret Of Happiness

It’s been said that “every man dies, but not every man truly lives.”  God wants us to “truly live.”  But how?  The apostle Paul, even after being beaten, robbed, imprisoned, shipwrecked and left for dead, said “…now we really live.”  How?  He knew the secret of happiness and he shared it with us in one of his letters.  I’ll share it with you, too, in this practical message on “The Secret of Happiness.” (Recorded May 19, 2000)

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Message Notes

1Thessalonians 3:7-8

Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.

Outline

Introduction:  God has given us some practical ways to experience a deeper and more intense joy in living.

A lots of things can happen to us that try to steal our joy.  But regardless of what happens “to us” there are three practical things each of us can do to have happiness.

How could the apostle Paul be happy with everything that happened to him?  Yet he was not only happy, but overjoyed with living.  Paul wrote a letter to the people of Thessolonica where he talked about how he was “really living” in spite of persecutions.  A few paragraphs later, give encourages the people to do three things that I believe were also the secret of his own happiness.

Take a few minutes to read Paul’s words, written almost 2,000 years ago.  These are not old, dead words, but they are words of life.

1Thessalonians 4:1-18

Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

1.  Live Holy

I once heard Madeline Murray O’Hair speak.  Among other things this famous atheist told us that day, she said, “If it feels good, do it.”

She felt that it was OK to enjoy whatever brought us pleasure.  I bought into that for awhile, but have discovered, as everyone does at some point, that just because it “feels good” it doesn’t mean it will make us happy.  When we do things that make us feel good, but that aren’t right, they usually begin to tear us apart.  Drugs, sex, and alcohol are a few things that come to mind.

And yet it’s not those things in themselves that tear us apart, but it’s engaging in those things in a way that is not holy, not God’s intended way for us to engage in them, that destroys us.

God is all for pleasure.  He created some of the most incredible experiences in sight, sound and sensation I can imagine.  And when done God’s way, the experience is off the charts.  But done outside of God’s way, lead to death and destruction.

To be happy, we need, first of all, to live holy.  Sin always tears us apart.  It may give a brief high, but will inevitably be followed by a sustained low.

This is one of Paul’s first instructions to the people of Thessolonica:  “avoid sexual immorality,” for “God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”

God has given us many practical ways that we can live holy.  Colossians 3:5-10 lists several.  But most of us are fully aware of what God wants us to do and not do, for God says in Jeremiah 31:33

“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.”

We usually already know what’s right and wrong.  But if you’re in doubt about doing something, a good question to ask yourself is this:  “Can I (we) do this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (based on Colossians 3:17:  “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”)

If you’re looking for happiness, start here:  drop any sin in your life, because it’s sure to pull you down.

2. Love Others

Living holy is the first step, but it’s not the only step.  For there are many people who “live holy” but aren’t happy.  It’s like they’ve been baptized in lemon juice.  There are two more things to do that will round out our happiness.

The second is this: love others.

Paul tells the Thessalonians to love others and do so more and more.

Love involves helping others, serving others, as Jesus when he washed the disciples feet.  After Jesus did this, he said,

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  (John 3:17)

Jesus said we would be blessed when we humble ourselves and serve others, helping them, loving them.  Blessed is another word for Happy.

If we live holy lives, but don’t help others, we’ll simply be hypocrites.  We won’t be happy, nor will the people around us.  Our holy living benefits us, but we also need to allow it to benefit others, by letting God’s spirit work through us.

The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were holy, even giving a tenth of their spices back to God to obey his tithing laws (Matthew 23:23-24).  But they wouldn’t lift a finger to help others.  Hence, they became judgmental, unhappy, and were the one’s who eventually killed Jesus.  (Matthew 23:4 “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”)

We can live holy ourselves and preach against various sins, but if we’re not helping those who struggle with those sins, we’ll simply be holy hypocrites.  God wants us to be holy, and through that holiness, to express His love to others.

3. Look Forward

1) Live holy.  2) Love others.  This is good, but there’s a third leg to this three-legged stool that holds up happiness, and if it’s missing, the stool will fall down.  All three must be in place.

The third thing is this: to look forward.  Look forward to the return of Christ.

There are some social workers who don’t have the promise of heaven in their hearts.  They live holy, the love others.  But without the hope of heaven, they wear out.  This world simply takes a toll on any of us.  Paul himself knew that the key to what he did and the joy he had in doing it was that it was not just about this life, but about the life to come.  In fact, he went so far as to say this:

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)

Our faith is not simply to get us through this life, although it can do that!  The core of our faith rests on the resurrection, and the life to come.  Paul knew this as well as anyone, saying that he should be pitied if this was all his faith was for.  If that was the case, forget faith…it just brought on shipwrecks, beatings and imprisonment.

But Paul’s faith was focused on the next life.

He reminds the Thessalonians that Jesus died and rose again, and will bring us to be with him one day.  Read 1 Corinthians 1-20 for a great picture of why our faith must be centered our coming resurrection.

There is a resurrection from the dead because Christ was raised.  And if you believe that Christ was not raised, then none of us will be raised.  But Christ was raised, and he promised that we will be too, if we simply put our faith in him, for he is “the way, the truth and the life” and he said that “no one comes to the Father except through me.”

Our holy living, our loving others, springs from our looking forward to the return of Christ to take us to be with him.

These three things, when put into practice in our daily lives, will bring us a greater and fuller experience of happiness, and we’ll know what it is to “truly live.”

Conclusion

If you have any sin in your life that is keeping you from the joy God has promised, drop it now.  Confess it, repent of it, and turn back to God.

If you’ve judged others but have not reached out to help them in their distress, humble yourself this week to reach out, lift a finger and more, to be both holy and helpful.

And if you don’t have the assurance in your heart that heaven is real and that we who believe in Christ will one day be taken there with him, put your faith in Christ now.

And as Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

The Gift Of Rest

One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the gift of rest.  But like many gifts He offers us, we sometimes let this one sit in our closet unopened.  In this message, I’ll help you unwrap this great gift so you can begin to enjoy its benefits in your life.  If you’re tired and weary, this is a message for you! (Recorded March 15, 2000)

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Message Notes

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Outline

1.  Rest Really Is a Gift

God wants to give us rest.  Its not an “extra” in life, but a necessity for growth.  God has designed us (people, dogs, cats, horses) to rest daily (sleep) or we could not function.  Bears and trees even rest the entire winter every year, and both grow bigger than people ever will!  Rest is not only a good idea, but God’s idea, for us to have peace and to grow.

Throughout the Bible, God has offered rest as a gift to his people.  Here’s one example:

Joshua 1:13-15

“Remember the command that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: ‘The LORD your God is giving you rest and has granted you this land.’ Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, fully armed, must cross over ahead of your brothers. You are to help your brothers until the LORD gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

This same rest is still available to us today.  In the New Testament the writer of Hebrews tells us the promise of entering God’s rest still stands.

2.  Unwrapping the Gift of Rest

Hebrews 4:1-2

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.

Chapters 3 and 4 unlock one of the keys to rest:  combining what we hear with faith.  Faith in the One who made us, Faith that he will do what he says he will do, Faith that He loves us and is working on our behalf.

The other key noted in this passage and others is that we must combine our faith with obedience.

Hebrews 3:19

So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Jeremiah 6:16a

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls…”

We must be obedient to the words the Lord has given us.  Whether those words have been to stop a certain sin, go a certain direction, do a certain task.  When we take God at his word, and by faith, begin walking in what he says, we will begin to have rest for our souls (even if it may be full of activity).

Faith plus obedience yields rest:

Faith + Obedience => Rest

3.  Practical Ideas for Rest

1) Block out the time for it.  Just as God worked for six days and rested on the seventh, He’s called us to also work for six days and rest on the seventh.

This is not only a good idea, but it is so important, it’s one of the ten commandments!

Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Find something to do on the Sabbath Day that will bring rest to your souls, then do it!  You’ll find it restores and refreshes you.  Jesus said the Sabbath was made for us, so let’s make the most of it.

Mark 2:27 “Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.'”

2) Take your vacation.  God himself called people to take several days or weeks off for various festivals so people could enjoy the fruits of their labor.  This is not only a break, but very productive time to be refreshed for the next season of work.

One example of God calling his people to rest is in Leviticus 23:39-41

“‘So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month.”

3) Take quiet time before the Lord.  Quiet your heart daily by listen to music, reading the Bible, or praying.

I’ve created the CD and devotional “Clear My Mind” for this purpose, which you can listen to on this website or send me a note and I’ll mail you a copy.  The main thing is to take some time alone and allow yourself to be refreshed.  Jesus often got away to a quiet place to pray in between many demands and ministering to thousands.

Luke 6:11-12 records when Jesus was having “one of those days” and went out to pray.

“But they (the Pharisees) were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”

Conclusion

Jesus invitation to come to him for rest is open to all of us.  If you’ve never come to Jesus before, today’s a great day to do it.  You’ll not only get rest, but when you repent of your sins and put your faith in Him, you’ll also get the ultimate rest at the end of this life:  eternal peace with God in heaven.  Without a commitment to Christ, you’re headed for a lifetime of hell here on earth and beyond.  Respond to Jesus’ invitation and come to Him today.

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Stocking Up On Your Faith

When Y2K was just around the corner, no one knew exactly what would happen.  But there’s one thing we can stock up on anytime  that will help us through anything:  FAITH.  This message will give you some practical ways to “stock up on your faith.”  (Recorded December 16, 1999)

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Message Notes

“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8b)

Outline

Faith is like a muscle:  the more you use it, the stronger it gets.  Here are some practical ways to stock up on your faith.

1.  Read the Bible regularly

The Bible is full of stories of ordinary people just like you and me who faced impossible circumstances.  Yet, “by faith” they accomplished extra-ordinary things.  As we continually read the stories of how God worked in other people’s lives, we can have confidence he will work in ours, too.

Here are some suggestions for great stories to read from the Bible:

Exodus 16 – Manna from heaven

I Kings 17 – Elijah fed by ravens

Exodus 1-14 – The flight from Egypt

Jonah 1-4 – Jonah and the whale

Genesis 37-50 – Joseph’s dreams come true

Luke 1-3 – The birth of Jesus

John 1-21 – The life of Jesus

2.  Pray regularly and listen for God’s direction

God has many things he wants to tell you and he has a purpose for your life.  By talking and listening to him in prayer, we can get his input on everything in our lives, from what to do for the day, to what to do for the rest of our lives.   Bring your requests to God, and then listen for his answers, and his direction.

“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”  (Psalm 5:3)

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:8-9)

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

3.  Be doers of the Word and not hearers only.

I recently heard someone talking about how much she liked having a treadmill in her house.  She said she hardly ever used it, but just knowing it was there made her feel better.

We sometimes do the same thing with the Bible and prayer.  We feel better just knowing we have a Bible and knowing that we could pray anytime we needed to.  But if we don’t make a habit of reading and praying, we will be in non better shape than if we didn’t have them at all.  Read your Bible.  Pray and listen.  Then put into practice what you read and hear.  Just like a muscle, your faith will get stronger every time you put it to use.

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22, KJV)

God still sends manna from heaven

“I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.

48 I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:47-51)

Closing Prayer

Lord, help us to build up our faith to face the things coming in the days ahead.  Help us to read your Word regularly, to talk to you regularly, and to act on what we read and hear.  Lord, increase our faith.  Help us where we have unbelief.  And strengthen us to be good servants for you in every way.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

What’s God Up To?

Do you ever feel like life is going nowhere?  And do you sometimes wonder if there’s an overall plan for life on this planet?  I want to assure you that life is going somewhere and that there is an overall plan.  Regardless of what it looks like around you, God is up to something.  In this message, you’ll learn more about his plan for the world and how you can be part of it as it unfolds. (Recorded September 5, 1999)

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Message Notes

Matthew 24:3-14

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Outline

Introduction

I’ve just finished a web site called the Window of Opportunity.  I hope you’ll take a look at the site not because I worked on it (although I very much like the way it turned out).  But I want you to see what God is up to regarding carrying out his plan for the world.  The address is 1040window.org.

Working on it has reminded me that there are many people who still don’t know what God’s plan is for the world.  Even people who know Bible stories may know the facts about the stories, but somehow have missed God’s overall plan for the world.  I know I did until twelve years ago, when someone walked me through the entire Bible, showing me what God has been doing all along, and what he will continue to do until the end of the world.

Today I’d like to take you on that walk through the Bible, pointing out God’s plan throughout history, and then I believe God wants to invite you to join him in that plan.  He will accomplish his purposes, but he is looking for people through whom he can do it.  I’ll tell you about a few of those, but know that they were people just like you, but they became extraordinary people when they joined God in what he was doing.

1.  The Cover-to-Cover Plan

Many people have heard Bible stories like Moses and the plagues in Egypt, or David and Goliath, or Daniel in the Lion’s Den.  There are good things to learn from those stories but often people simplify the message as to how it applies to our lives today.

Here are some common lessons taught from these stories:  Little David faced big Goliath and won.  Moral: you can do anything even if you’re little.  Or Daniel faced the Lions and lived.  Moral: you can face the IRS and live.

But there’s something bigger going on in these stories that you can see if you look at all these stories from God’s perspective.  They describe what God is doing in the world.  The purpose, at the end of all these stories, is the same:  God is trying to tell people that he is alive, and that He is God.  Let’s look at a few of these stories.

In each one, you’ll see that God is trying to make his name known to people all over the earth.

David and Goliath

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel (1 Samuel 17:45-46).

Daniel and the Lion’s Den

Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: “May you prosper greatly!

“I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

“For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 6:25-27).

Moses and The Plagues

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my People go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth (Exodus 9:13-16).

Joshua Crossing The Jordan

He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God” (Joshua 4:21-24).

Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

In every case, God used the situations to spread his name to people around the world.

2.  Jesus Came to Give Us One Last Chance

God so much wanted to save us that he sent Jesus the first time to give us the chance to be free from the coming judgment of the world.  And than he called us who believe in him to take his message to the whole world.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (

Jesus will come back again one day for that judgment, a day called judgment day when the earth will be finally destroyed by fire.  Even scientists confirm that this blazing inferno will occur one day when the Sun goes out.  The sun will become a “supernova” collapsing on itself and exploding into a cloud of fire that will consume the earth.

3.  But When Will This Be?

Jesus told us when it would be.  He had a mission for us to do before it could happen.  He wanted people from every nation to hear about the way of escape before the earth is destroyed.

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus answered: …..

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:3, 14).

Before Jesus comes back again, the gospel must be preached throughout the whole world.  As you’ll see if you visit the 1040window.org website, there are still entire groups of hundreds of thousands of people each who have never heard of the name of Jesus.

Many people want to predict when the end will come, but I promise you it’s more fun to be involved in bringing it about, than just predicting it.  It will come when we go and take the message to every nation in the world.

A researcher at MIT University was asked about his predictions about the future.  He replied:  “We don’t predict the future, we’re inventing it.”  I want to encourage you not to be satisfied to just predict and discuss and analyze when you think Jesus is coming back.  You can actually speed his coming, but going yourself and sharing what Christ has done for you.  Won’t you join God in his plan starting today?!

You’ll find meaning and purpose…you’ll defeat giants, you’ll cross the sea on dry ground, you’ll face the lions and live.  Not to say that many won’t give up their life like Jesus did to achieve the same thing, but the point is, if you’ve found God, there’s nothing greater than to live for him, and to share that with others, regardless of what it costs you.  There’s a purpose that goes way beyond your life here on this earth.  And you can take part of it whenever you’re ready to say “I will.”

True Intimacy

One of the deepest longings of our heart is the longing for true intimacy.  Yet all too often we settle for something less, not because we don’t want the real thing, but because the risk is simply too great.  But true intimacy does exist.  It starts by being honest with God, and it continues in our relationships with others when we are honest with them.  This message will help you take steps toward True Intimacy. (Recorded August 29, 1999)

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True Intimacy

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  (John 17:3).

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ– the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Philippians 3:8-9).

Outline

1.  What is True Intimacy?

Intimacy means “into-me-see” – to let someone else see into you, and when they let you see into them.

John 17:3, Philippians 3:8-9.

2.  Steps Toward Intimacy

– Spend Time with the one you want to be intimate with…whether with God or others.

“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4-5)

– Be Honest with the one you want to be intimate with…whether with God or others.

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. (Proverbs 24:26)

3.  Don’t Settle for Less

You can try to find intimacy in many places that are misplaced, and will not satisfy, and in fact be very destructive.  Don’t go there.  Go to God and to God-ordained relationships for true intimacy.  His ways are always best.

The Value Of Friends

Taking and keeping friends can be difficult, elusive, and quite risky.  But in the end, it’s worth the risk.  There is an inherent value in friendship that satisfies the deep long that God has put in each of our hearts.  If you’re wanting deeper friendships, but don’t know how to start, join me for this message with my special guests from Wales, John and Jennifer Evans. (Recorded August 22, 1999)

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Message Notes

John 15:15

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Eccl 4:9-12

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Outline

1.  The Risk of Friendship

John 13:21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”

2.  The Joy of Friendship

Friends help us along the way

Eccl 4:9-12

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Friends help carry each other’s burdens

Gal 6:2

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Friends can help bring God’s forgiveness and healing

James 5:16

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Friends can bring the love of God

Matt 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.  “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Jesus had genuine friends

John 11:34-36

“Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

3.  It starts with a friendship with God.

John 15:15

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Resurrection Power

We need faith to get through many things in this life.  But ultimately, the true power of our faith hinges on one thing:  our belief in the resurrection from the dead.  It is so critical that Paul said, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied above all men.”  We must believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, for only then can we have hope that he can raise us also. (Recorded August 15, 1999)

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Message Notes

1 Corinthians 15:3-20

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.  Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Outline

Some people think that they have great power when they can hold a gun in their hands, pull the trigger, and take someone’s life.  Let me say that there is a certain amount of power in that.  But how hard is it to take someone’s life?  Anyone can do it.

On the other hand, though, how hard would it be to bring someone back to life.  Imagine if you could do that:  raise someone from the dead?  Now that’s power.  Resurrection Power.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).”  What Satan does is awful, but the real power comes from Christ.

Our faith, if it is to have any kind of power, must start with the belief in the resurrection, that God can breathe life into something that was dead.  In fact, if we don’t have faith in the resurrection, our faith is useless.

1.  Our Faith Hinges on the Resurrection

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.  But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:17-20).

Our belief that God raised Jesus from the dead is not just optional.  It is essential for us to be saved!

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart

that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

2.  Once you believe God raised Jesus from the dead, you can believe he can do anything.

My wife and I both have seen powerful effects in our own lives from believing that Jesus was raised from the dead.  My own belief that Jesus was raised from the dead is what gave me the faith that Jesus could heal me of homosexuality in my life.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives inyou (Romans 8:9-11).

My wife’s belief that Jesus was raised from the dead gave her the faith to believe that the same Spirit could raise our son from the dead, who had been proclaimed medically dead in her womb.

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead can do all kinds of things here on earth.

3. Whoever lives and believes in Christ will never die.

What does this kind of faith buy us in the long run?  When we put our faith in Christ, we will never die.  We gain immortality; something that has been sought after for thousands of years.  But it doesn’t come from a secret fountain, or a special cup, or a miracle cure.  It comes from faith in Christ.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

Closing and Prayer

Additional Powerful Scriptures on the Resurrection

John 11:1-45

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.

“Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.

1 Corinthians 15:35-58

But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Parenting – From Heaven’s Point Of View

Sometimes we have to get our head out of the clouds, but then there are times when we need get them back up there and breathe in a little bit of heaven.  It’s particularly helpful when changing a diaper.  If you need a breath of fresh air right now because of troubles in raising your kids, join me for a look at parenting – from heaven’s point of view. (Recorded August 8, 1999)

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Message Notes

“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-5).

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).”

Outline

As a parent, we have at least two things to look forward to in heaven!  If you have a newborn baby, you’ll be glad to know that the Bible says that in heaven, there will be no more crying!

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Second, God’s planned a special event in heaven, and I think he may have done it just for parents:

“When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour (Revelation 8:1).

Now that’s heaven from a parent’s point of view!

No matter what age your children are, it’s easy to lose heaven’s perspective on parenting.  Our eyes are so often looking down (changing a diaper, disciplining a teenager, dealing with a grown child’s divorce) that it makes it hard to focus on God’s perspective.

I want to give you a breather today…help you come up for air!  To help you get your head in the clouds for a little bit and take a deep breath.  To let God give you his perspective on parenting.

1.  Children are a gift from God: treat them as gifts.

There are some things in the Bible that are obvious…love God, love your neighbor…and yet there are others that aren’t.  For instance, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39).  That’s not an obvious approach to life.  We have to be told to do that because we’d never come up with it on our own.

In the same way, God put this verse in the Bible to tell us something that we often forget:

“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-5).

Children are a gift from God, but sometimes we wonder if maybe they were sent as a curse!  I assure you they haven’t been.  But it’s worth reminding ourselves that they are gifts from God.  Jacob did this when he was asked who were the people with him.  Jacob answered,

“They are the children God has graciously given your servant” (Genesis 33:5b).

We can read this and believe it, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.

We homeschool our kids, and the recent addition of our 1 year old to the mix of teaching the other 3 has thrown a monkey wrench into the schedule.  He requires so much time and attention.

As I was praying about what we could do to relieve some of this “complication,” I ran across a scripture that I had marked in my Bible on September 25th, 1997.  The verse was

John 10:10:  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

At that time, we had just had our 4th miscarriage in a row.  It was a very difficult time.  And we just found out we were expecting again.  I wrote in the margin of my Bible, next to the verse where Jesus said he came to give us life to the full, “Lord, I pray this for our baby.”  Then next to that was another note on September 24th, 1997: “again today Lord.”

That baby that I had been praying for was our little one year old.  The one I was now praying about how to deal with this “complication” in our lives.  So I wrote in the margin: “Thank you Lord 8/4/99 for he was born 5/21/98.”

God brought me back to his perspective…through his word, and through those notes I had written and forgotten about almost 2 years ago.

When I married Lana, I wrote this in my vows.  “Lana, you are a gift from God, and I plan to treat you as a gift.”  It’s the same with our children.  They are gifts from God, and God wants us to treat them as gifts.

2.  Children are spiritual beings: don’t neglect their spiritual life.

A french priest, Teilhard de Chardin, said, “We’re not just human beings having a temporary spiritual experience. But we’re spiritual beings having a temporary human experience.”

Sometimes we get so focused on the “here and now” that we forget there’s a spiritual aspect to our parenting.  God wants us to help our kids come to Jesus, and not to hinder them in this.  Jesus said:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14-15).

Encourage them in their spiritual growth.  Encourage them to read the Bible, go to church, go to Sunday School.  Encourage them to pray at meals, at bedtime, and in times of trouble.

And mostly, let them see you doing all these things.

Growing up, we always prayed before meals.  I’ve told my Dad that his example in this has stuck with me all these years.  I pray before every meal, whether in public or in private, because I just don’t feel right if I don’t.  That was the way we grew up.  The Bible says:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

God has a way of bringing kids back around as they grow older.  Keep focusing on their spiritual lives.  It will be well worth it in the end.

3.  Children belong to God: entrust them to his care.

There’s one more word of comfort I want to give.  After we’ve done the best we can do as parents, and our children aren’t turning out the way we’d hoped, what can we do then?

The same answer applies whether or not the kids are turning out as we had hoped.  It is an answer that is rooted in heaven’s view of parenting:  ultimately, our children belong to God.  We are all children of God.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a).

In the view of eternity, and even our time here on earth, our children are in our care for a very short amount of time.  God needs our human hands, but our children are ultimately his.

God needed Mary and Joseph to raise Jesus.  A baby in the manger wouldn’t have lasted even a day without them!  But Jesus always referred to his Father as the one who was in heaven.  And in the Lord’s prayer, he instructs us to do the same when we say, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9, ASV).

There is a point where we must consciously entrust our children to God’s care.  Where we must say, “Lord, I give you this child.”  That may be early on in their lives, like it was for Hannah:

After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh.

When they had slaughtered the bull, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there. (1 Samuel 1:24-28)

She literally gave him to the Lord, to live with the priests.  And notice in the rest of the passage that those priests weren’t the greatest in the world.  Eli was the one who had told her to get out cause she looked like she was drunk, then later he died when his own kids went astray.

But she wasn’t giving Samuel to Eli, she was giving him to the Lord, and the Lord was the one who cared for Samuel, and raised him up to be a great man of God.

There’s great comfort in this, that we can entrust our children to the Lord, regardless of their circumstances.  It may look terrible all around them, and they may even be straying as well.  But we can continue to pray that God will Father them, guide them, and bring them back to His ways and His plans for their lives.

Our children are gifts from God, spiritual beings, who can be entrusted to his care.

Closing and Prayer

I’d like to pray for you as parents, and then lead you in a prayer for our children.

(If you don’t know that you’re a child of God, or if you don’t feel much like one today, you might want to talk to visit Lover’s Leap below.)

The Love Of God

There’s one set of words you can hear over and over and never get tired of them:  “I love you.”  And this is what God says to us, and wants us to hear from him, every day.  No matter where you are, what you are doing, or what you have done, God loves you.  He desires you to know that love, feel that love, walk in that love, and act on that love.  Let Him tell you again today: “My child, I love you.” (Recorded August 1, 1999)

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Message Notes

Psalm 36:5-7

Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

I John 3:1

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Ephesians 3:17b-19

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge– that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Outline

God Loves You.  He says it over and over through the Bible, and he says it every day you’re alive.  And he’ll say it throughout eternity.  His love is everlasting.  Let me tell you over and over today:  God Loves You.

1.  He loved you when he created you.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (

2.  He loved you while you were sinning.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions– it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).

3.  He loved you when you came back to him.

So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20).

Conclusion and Prayer

He will love you forever.  His love is everlasting.  I pray you’ll be able to know it, sense it, feel it, walk in it, act on it, and lavish in it.

Psalm 36:5-7

Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

I John 3:1

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Ephesians 3:17b-19

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge– that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Blankity Blank, Blank, Blank

Does your tongue ever get you into trouble?  Do other people’s tongues ever cause you trouble?  In this message, we’ll take a look at how to get control over our tongues, and how to counteract the negative words that others have spoken to us.  Find out the difference this can make in your life and the lives of those around you. (Recorded July 25, 1999)

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Message Notes

James 3:9-11

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

Matthew 12:36-37

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Outline

Introduction

For some reason, last week seemed to be a week of cursing. Not by me or my family (thankfully!).  But almost every day I overheard someone cursing at the top of their lungs at someone else.

I was on sitting down in a park when a couple almost tripped over me as they hurried past, cursing at one another with no concern who over heard them.

I was riding bikes with the kids when we stopped to watch a work crew pour concrete when one of the guys made a mistake and another guy tore into him with a stream of obscenities (we decided to keep riding!)

I overheard a man in his garage cursing at his grown son.

Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of such language.  Maybe you’ve done some of your own cursing, even this week.

I want to encourage you that God can help you break the chain of cursing in your life.   And if you’ve been hurt by cursing, God wants you to know you that He has a way to counteract that hurt.

Some of you may wonder how you can possibly break this chain.  It helps to know a little bit about cursing.

1. Cursing starts in the heart.

Cursing doesn’t just happen with your lips.  It starts in your heart.  Matthew 12:33-37 says:

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

Cursing starts when something happens to us that makes us bitter, angry, frustrated.  Then it comes out of our mouths.  But unfortunately, our cursing is very destructive.  God tells us why cursing is so devastating to Him.

2. The Tragedy of Cursing.

If you’ve ever been cursed, you know how it hurts.  The reason it saddens God when we curse is because He has called us to bless others and bless him, but instead we curse others and curse him.

James 3:9-12 tells us this should not be.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

But how do we stop?

3. Cursing stops in the heart.

If cursing starts in the heart, then it stops in the same place.

Paul tells us the secret of how to stop when he instructed the Ephesians to rid themselves of unwholesome talk.

Ephesians 4:29-32

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

The key to stopping is through forgiveness.

Forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity, and everything we do.

I recently heard about a famous athiest who was famous for her cursing.  Yet when I think of famous Christians, like Billy Graham or Mother Theresa, it’s hard to imagine them cursing.  Why?  I think the difference lies in the heart of Christianity:  forgiveness.

When we give our lives to Christ, our old ways are buried, and ought to stay buried.  And we can put on a new life.  Paul says in Colossians:

Colossians 3:8-10

But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

If you want to break the chain of cursing from continuing on to those you love as well, Jesus has the answer.

Luke 6:27-38

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

God has called us to bless others, even those who don’t deserve our blessing, even those who curse us.  When we do this, we will diffuse the hurt and anger in our own hearts, and not allow the roots of bitterness to grow.  As we forgive others, we will be released from our own chains as well.

Closing and Prayer

Let’s pray that God would fill us with his Spirit, and enable us to do what he’s called us to do.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

If you’ve never received the forgiveness of God through Christ, you’ll have a hard time forgiving others.  If you’d like to receive his forgiveness right now, you can do it by asking for his forgiveness, putting your faith in him, and following his ways.

Be My Lord

Many people want a Savior…someone to help them out when times are tough.  But not every wants a “Lord,” because they’re afraid to hand over control of their life to someone else.  But rest assured that there’s Someone we can hand our lives over to Who really does know best…and will do us right every time.  Join me to hear how great it can feel to say to God, “Be My Lord.” (Recorded July 10, 1999)

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Message Notes

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9, NIV).

Outline

Introduction

Whether we realize it or not, someone is in control of our lives.  It might be a boss, or a spouse, or a child, or a friend.  It might be a neighbor, or it might be ourselves.  Someone is calling the shots.  Someone is in control.

A man named John Wimber says it this way:  “I’m a fool for Christ.  Who’s fool are you?”

The purpose of this message is to encourage you to allow Jesus to be the one who has control over every are of our lives.  It’s good to know that there is at least one person we can turn our lives over to and know that we’re in good hands.

I’ll tell you three stories from my own life of how letting Jesus “be my Lord” has made a difference in my life.  They hit on three areas that are common to each of us

Be My Lord – over things I shouldn’t do.

Be My Lord – over things I should do.

Be My Lord – when I’m doing what you’ve called me to do.

After listening to these stories from my life and from the Bible, I hope you’ll be willing to say to Jesus, “Be My Lord.”

1.  Be My Lord – over things I shouldn’t do.

Some of us allow Jesus to be Lord over parts of our lives.  But we hold back certain areas…often things that we know we shouldn’t do, but just don’t want to let go of, even though they are killing us.

The reason we hang on is that we’re not sure we can trust God to provide the same level of fun, or comfort or security that our sin offers to us.  But any of those things are simply false impressions of the real fun, comfort and security that can have from God when we do what’s right.

But I know from experience that it’s worth it to let go of sin and grasp onto what God has in mind for us.

Twelve years ago God pointed out a sin in my life.  My sexual life was not under his lordship.  I was doing what I wanted to do.  But when I asked God about that area of my life, he clearly showed me that what I was doing would lead to my eventual death.  And He wanted to put me on the path to life.

I told him I was willing, and He lifted me up, and put me on the new path.  I’m now thrilled to be married and have four children that I very likely would not have had otherwise.  It’s a great thing to give up sin for the Lord.

Paul calls us to let Jesus be Lord over these areas this way in his letter to the Colossians:

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

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:1-17, NIV).

2.  Be My Lord – over things I should do.

Some of us don’t struggle so much with sin, but do struggle when God calls us to do something that we’re not comfortable doing.  God wants us to let Jesus be Lord over those areas, too.

I was praying one week for a friend of mine.  She was having doubts about her work and wondered if that’s what she was to be doing.  I told her I’d pray for her.

As I did, I sensed that what God really wanted for her was to have a husband so she wouldn’t have to work in that particular job.  I began to pray that God would give her a husband…

And I heard these distinct words in my mind, “Why don’t you marry her?”  Now that wasn’t on my mind at all!  But the question wouldn’t leave me for two weeks straight until I finally had to just tell the Lord, “I’ll pray about it.”

I did, for three months, and by the end of the three months, God had put a love in my heart for her like I’ve never known for anyone before or since.  We were married a year later and it changed the course of my life, her life, and now a new generation of children’s lives.

When Moses encountered God in the burning bush, he put up these arguments as to why he wasn’t the one to do what God called him to do.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (Exodus 4:13)

But Moses did it, and it changed the course of his life, half a million Jews, and history of the world.

3.  Be My Lord – when I’m doing what you’ve called me to do.

Some of us need encouragement when we’re already doing what God has called us to do, but the going gets tough.

Four years ago God called me to leave my job in the business world and go into ministry full-time.  The call was clear, the desire was there, but the road looked tough.

In obedience, and with the trusting knowledge that God would do what was right, I quit and followed the Lord.  It’s been an incredible four years!  And God has been faithful!  But I can’t say they have been easy, or comfortable, or without anxious times of wondering what was next.

But Jesus never promised us those things.  He told us to count the cost up front, then “Come, follow me.”  Many have paid great prices to follow the Lord, even to the point of giving up their own lives.  But the cost is nothing compared to the results.  And God is gracious to encourage us through the tough times.

I believe this may have been going through John the Baptist’s mind when he was put in prison for preaching to Herod to repent of his sin.  John was put in prison, and seemed to begin to have doubts about whether Jesus really was the Lord he earlier had thought he was.

When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.  Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?  If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.  Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’

I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.  For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.

He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 11:2-15)

If even John had questions and needed encouragement, and he was greater than anyone born of women, we can trust that Jesus will encourage us through our struggles, too.

Closing and Prayer

We all have choice to make.  Either we let Jesus be Lord, or we let someone else be Lord.  Either way, someone’s going to have control over our lives.

As for me, I like the way Joshua put it when he faced this choice.  Joshua said:

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15).

God wants us to completely surrender to Him.  And that absolute surrender can be an awesome feeling.  We can abandon our lives to God and experience a great joy in the process.

Madame Jeanne Guyon described abandonment this way over 500 years ago in the book “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ.”

Abandonment is practiced by continually losing your will in the will of God; by plunging your will into the depths of His will, their to be lost forever.

About lordship, Henry Blackaby, in his book, “Experiencing God” says:

Two words in the Christian’s language cannot go together:  No, Lord.  If you say, “No,” He is not Lord.  If He really is your Lord, your answer must always be “Yes.”  In decision making, always begin here.  Do not proceed until you can honestly say, “Whatever you want of me, lord, I will do it.”

Tell Jesus today, “Be My Lord.”

And if you’ve never made that initial decision to make Jesus Lord of your life, read a simple, clear explanation at the Lover’s Leap.  Then make that decision today.  It will make all the difference in your life.  And you’ll never regret it.

Thank you Lord, for being such a good Lord, and for knowing exactly what we need in our lives.  Take over control of every area of our lives so that we can be all we were created to be, and do all you created us to do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Random Acts Of Kindness

People love to hear stories about “random acts of kindness,” those thoughtful little things that people do to help one another.  God calls us to do these and more.  Join me as I encourage you to reach out with some “deliberate acts of kindness” based on God’s desire that we put our faith into action. (Recorded June 27, 1999)

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Message Notes

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:15-26, NIV).

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV).

Outline

Here’s a summary of the key points of this message.

1.  Random Acts of Kindness are Good.

You may have heard of people who do “random acts of kindness.”  Such people have stumbled onto one of the great truths of the Bible…it really is good to do to others as you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12).

Yet Christ calls us to more than just “random acts of kindness.”  He calls us to intentional acts of kindness. Random implies chance, haphazard, aimless, stray, casual, or hit-or-miss.  Intentional implies purposeful, premeditated, conscious, calculated,  or planned.

2.  Intentional Acts of Kindness are Even Better.

Our faith in God is important, but if our faith doesn’t change us, doesn’t cause us to do anything different in our lives, then our faith is not a living faith.  It’s dead.  And God very much wants us to put our faith into action.

Here are two passages from the Bible that describe how our faith and our actions work hand in hand:  James 2:14-26, Ephesians 2:8-10.

James 2:14-26

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that– and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?  As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Ephesians 2:8-10

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

3.  What we do is vital.

Doing good is not optional for those who follow Christ.  In fact, Christ himself said some very strong words to show that our actions are vitally important to proving our faith.

Here are Christ’s words from Mark 10:17-30 and Matthew 25:31-46.

Mark 10:17-30

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good– except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields– and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

Matthew 25:31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Paul and James were men of faith…men who put their faith into action, as evidenced by their words in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and James writings in the book of James.

Galatians 2:9-10

James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

James 1:27

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Closing and Prayer

We’re saved by the grace of God, through our faith in Jesus Christ, believing that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for all the sins we’ve committed.  But we were saved for a reason…to do the good works God has prepared in advance for us to do.

Don’t let you faith be inactive, inert, and dead.  Bring your faith to life by putting it into action.

If you’ve never put your faith in Christ, and want to know more about it, read a simple, clear explanation at the Lover’s Leap.  Then make that decision today.

Thank you Lord, for saving us, and sending Jesus to die for us.  As He was willing to die for us, let us be willing to live for Him.  Help us put our faith into action.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Broken Trust

When people break our trust, what can we do?  When they’ve let us down, or even deliberately betrayed us, how should we react?  In this message, we’ll take a look at some famous and not-so-famous people who have given us an example to follow.  You’ll find that even when people break our trust, we can still trust God. (Recorded June 6, 1999)

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Message Notes

Psalm 20:7

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

John 13:21-28

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”

His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.  One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.   Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”

Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.  As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.

1 Samuel 24:12

May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.

Genesis 50:19-20

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?   You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Outline

We can learn from others who were betrayed.

Jesus, David, Joseph, (and William Tyndale)

1.  Trust God.

John 13:27, 1 Samuel 24:12, Genesis 50:19-20

2.  Continue to do what is right.

John 18:19-24, 1 Sam 26:7-11, Gen 50:21-23

3.  Watch God work all things for His good.

Eph 1:19-23, 1 Chr 29:26-28, Gen 45:5-11

Closing and Prayer

Increase Our Faith

Take a look with me at the words of Jesus when he commended people for their faith.  When you see what happens to each person, I hope you’ll be inspired to call out to God like the disciples did:  “Increase our faith!”  Join me for this guided tour of The Walk of Faith. (Recorded May 30, 1999)

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Message Notes

Outline

Follow along at The Walk of Faith.

Broken Hearts

If you’ve got a broken heart, you may feel like even God has abandoned you.  But I assure you He hasn’t.  The Bible says that “the Lord is close to the broken hearted.”  Let God heal your broken heart as you watch this message.  Includes special musical guests, Chuck and Lynette Giacinto of Final Quest. (Recorded May 23, 1999)

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Message Notes

Psalm 34:18

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

Outline

1. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

Psalm 34:18, Isaiah 61:1-3

2.  He will minister to you at your point of need.

1 Kings 19:3-8, Matthew 4:11, Luke 22:43

3.  He heals you for a purpose.

1 Kings 19:9-16, Ephesian 3:18

The Trouble With Sex

If your sex life isn’t all you want it to be, or if you wonder if you’ll ever have a sex life at all, this message is for you.  God doesn’t want us to be disappointed with sex any more than we want to be disappointed with it.   And he’s thrilled to point us to answers to solve all of our troubles, even our troubles with sex.  Includes special musical guest, Kent Sanders. (Recorded May 16, 1999)

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Message Notes

Colossians 3:5-19

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.   Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.   But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.   Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

Hebrews 13:4

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Ephesians 5:25

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…

Outline

1. The Trouble with Sex

The trouble with sex is that people use it to get what they want, rather than to give what God wants.

2.  God’s Plan

Ephesians 5:25, 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

3.  Our Plan

Hebrews 13:4, Colossians 3:5-19, John 15:13

Closing and Prayer

Two Weeks With God

Care to spend two weeks with God?   There’s nothing like spending time with him to bring peace to your soul.  In this message, you’ll learn more about our new online devotional “Two Weeks With God.”  It’s free, and it’ll  encourage you to spend time each day with the One who cares about you more than anyone in the world. (Recorded April 25, 1999)

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Message Notes

Introduction from the devotional “Two Weeks With God”

I believe the music from Clear My Mind will go a long way in helping you to clear your mind. Music has a tremendous power to heal our hearts, soothe our souls, and clear our minds.

But I believe this music can help you in another way too: it can bring you into the very presence of God. And I’ve found that the best way clear my mind is to spend some time with Him. He promises that whenever we have anxious thoughts, we can bring our requests to Him and He will give us a peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7).

God knows you better than anyone else. He knows the depths of what you’re going through. He knows where you hurt and how to heal those hurts. There’s nothing more soothing or peaceful than to let Him wrap His arms around you and hold you tight.

If that sounds good to you, I’d like to encourage you to go through this devotional.  For the next fourteen days you can focus on Him in a way, perhaps, that you’ve never done before.

By the end of the two weeks, I hope you’ll feel better about yourself, about your situation, and about your relationship with God.

Even more, I hope you’ll finish with a strong desire to come back to God again and again. Because as much as you might look forward to spending time with Him, He is even more eager to spend time with you. That’s why He created you: to fellowship with Him. Always know that He loves you very much.

Enjoy the music – and enjoy your time with God.

Outline

The Lord says: “Come to Me”

Matthew 11:28

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The Practical Value of Coming to God:

1. He KNOWS you better than anyone else.

Ps 139:4

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

Ps 50:10-11

…for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.

Luke 12:6-7

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

2. He will bring FOCUS to your day.

Mark 6:46

After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

Hebrews 12:2

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

3. He will TRANSFORM your life.

Rom 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Go to the devotional:  Two Weeks With God

God Is Very Real

When you realize that God is real, everything takes on a new perspective and a new meaning.  And when we can realize this truth every moment of every day, it can change our outlook, our actions, and our attitudes.  Join me for this message to see what a difference it can make in your life. (Recorded April 11, 1999)

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Message Notes

Acts 17:27

God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Outline

1.  God is very close.

Acts 17:27, Psalm 139:1-13, Jeremiah 23:23-24

2.  God is very real.

Hebrews 11:6, Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 28:20

3.  What you do makes a difference.

1 Peter 1:8, John 20:25-29

The Cross

I once visited the spot in Jerusalem where Jesus died.   As I approached it, I was flooded with emotion and fell to my knees.  In this message, I’d like to share with you in a very personal way what Christ has done for me.  And in the process, I want you to know what Christ has done for you, too. (Recorded March 28, 1999)

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Message Notes

Luke 23:41

We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

1 Pet 3:18

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

John 21:25

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Outline

1. On My Knees

2. Standing Up

3. What He did for me, He did for you also.

The Quest For Rest

Listen as Russell Pond describes “Entering into a Sabbath-Rest.”   Russ has ministered on the Internet for several years to people who suffer from panic attacks.  He brings his unique insights into this week’s topic on finding rest.   For more information on Russ and his “Season of Peace” ministry, visit www.season.org. (Recorded March 21, 1999)

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Message Notes

Genesis 2:1-3

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Hebrews 4:1-2

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.  For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.

Hebrews 4:3-8

Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, `They shall never enter my rest.'” And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world.  For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.”  And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”  It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience.  Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”  For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.

Hebrews 4:9-10

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.

Hebrews 4:11

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no-one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:12-13

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Matthew 22:36

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus replied: “`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

Russell Pond has ministered on the Internet for several years to people who suffer from panic attacks.  He brings his unique insights into this week’s topic on finding rest.  For more information on Russ and his “Season of Peace” ministry, visit www.season.org.

Cheer Up!

This is a message of hope, so if you need some, listen in.  I can assure you the sun is still shining, even if the clouds are blocking your view.  You can be sure that if the sun weren’t there, we’d be flung out of orbit and die instantly.  Don’t despair, God is there, too. (Recorded March 14, 1999)

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Message Notes

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

2 Corinthians 4:18

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

1 Peter 1:7-9

These have come so that your faith– of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire– may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 John 3:2

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Outline

1. “I’ve seen the sun” story.

2. Our faith will become sight.

1 Corinthians 13:12, 1 John 3:2, 1 John 5:13

3. Hold onto your faith — it’s worth far more than gold.

Hebrews 11:1, Hebrews 13:8, 1 Peter 1:7

Closing and Prayer

2 Corinthians 4:18

A quote worth remembering: “It’s the set of the sail and not the gale that determines the way we go.”

Tempted?

If you struggle with temptation, watch this week’s “Live from the Ranch.”   God has promised that when we are tempted, he will provide a way out.  Join me as I share some powerful stories of how God has done this for others, and how he can do it for you. (Recorded March 7, 1999)

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Message Notes

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Hebrews 2:18

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 4:15-16

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Matthew 6:9-13

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'”

Outline

1. Seek God’s way out.

1 Corinthians 10:13

2. Know how temptation works.

Matthew 4:1-11, James 1:13-15, Genesis 3:13, Matthew 6:9-13

3. Draw near to God.

James 4:8-9, Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 4:15-16, Luke 22:46, Matthew 4:1-11

Closing and Prayer

Know that this is why Jesus came…to die for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and come clean before God.

The Joy Of The Lord

True joy eludes many people, even long-time Christians.  But a simple change in perspective can be the key to unlock more joy in your life.  Join me for this message if you want to find out more about the Joy of the Lord. (Recorded February 28, 1999)

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Message Notes

Nehemiah 8:5-12

Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up.

Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

The Levites– Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah– instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there.  They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.”  Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

Outline

1. The key to joy:  Look from God’s perspective

Nehemiah 8:5-12, Zephaniah 3:17

2. A practical step:  Trust in the Lord

Psalm 86:1-4, Psalm 28:7

3.  Christ’s path to joy:  Obey the Father

Hebrews 12:2, John 15:5-13

Closing and Prayer

Steps to Joy:

Come to Jesus:  Ephesians 3:14-21

Be filled with the Spirit:  Galatians 5:22-23

Receive God’s blessings:  Romans 15:13