Jesus: Master of the Sea

I sit here on the balcony of my hotel and look at a beautiful lake. To my untrained eye it appears peaceful, tranquil, even serene. It fills my mind with awe and reverence for the mysteries of God.

Yet, that is not the entire picture is it? There are times when wind and rain will make it terrifying to even the most skilled man and woman. The thought of being in a ship that could capsize in the midst of a storm makes my stomach turn. What would I do if I found myself in waves and swells that kept me from being able to see land? Would I struggle to swim? Just stay afloat? Or simply give up?

The sea is often portrayed as a negative in scripture.

James 1:6 describes a person who doubts like the “surf of the sea – driven and tossed by the wind.” I love that picture. Our life is like water – and our faith keeps it peaceful – but the winds of this world will create turbulence in our life if we don’t have faith.

Jude 1:13 depicts men who cause strife and division among believers like “wild waves of the sea” that cast up shame like foam. What a vivid word picture! Even after the wave recedes back into the sea, the foam remains on the shoreline for everyone else to deal with.

Paul talks about the “dangers of the sea” in 2 Corinthians 11:26. Historically, we can understand the perils of the sea if we simply read Luke’s account in Acts 27 of Paul’s journey. Even the disciples of Jesus were terrified when a storm came upon them while they were in a boat on the sea – Mark 4:35-38.

In the Bible, the “sea” regularly depicts a chaotic scene. It contains beasts and creatures; it changes with winds and storms; and it presents challenges and obstacles. Yet, Hebrews 11:29 says the Israelites passed through the sea! In 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, Paul says, “… our fathers … all passed through the sea and all were baptized … in the sea.” So, not only can the sea be scary, it is also something that God can use to test our faith and prove our devotion and commitment.

But, this is what I want to focus on as I look out at this beautiful and calm lake: God is more powerful than the sea! Jesus walked on the sea. The disciples witnessed the Christ calm the sea with his voice. Our Lord can use the craziest things (like a whale) to save us from the sea!

And here is the best part: in front of the throne of God – there is a sea of glass (Revelation 4:6). It is completely calm. It is completely still. All chaos and struggle is gone when God is on the throne in our lives.

And, as if that wasn’t good enough, read Revelation 21:1, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … and there is no longer any sea.” Did you catch that? How can there be no sea? Because if Jesus can calm the storms of our life now – in Heaven our seas of worry and struggle won’t even exist.

Jesus was Both Sides of the Same Coin: Crown & Cross

Jesus was both sides of the same coin: Crown and Cross – Son of God and Son of Man – Conquering King and Sacrificial Lamb.
I have no idea how Jesus did it. He was able to fulfill two drastically different views of what the Messiah had to be: Liberating Warrior and Suffering Savior.
 
Here is a small comparison of just two descriptions: one from Psalms 2 and the other from Isaiah 42. When you finish reading, ask yourself: “Is MY Jesus both of those? Or only one?” If you only see one, then you may not have a full understanding of Jesus.
 
He will speak to them in His anger (Psalm 2)
 
He will not cry out … [He will not] raise His voice (Isaiah 42)
 
And terrify them in His fury (Psalm 2)
 
[He will not] make His voice heard in the street (Isaiah 42)
 
You shall break them with a rod of iron (Psalm 2)
 
A bruised reed He will not break … A dimly burning wick He will not extinguish (Isaiah 42)
 
You shall shatter them like earthenware (Psalm 2)
 
He will faithfully bring forth justice … I will appoint You as a covenant to the people (Isaiah 42)
 
Worship the LORD with reverence (Psalm 2)
 
[I will appoint You as a] light to the nations (Isaiah 42)
 
Rejoice with trembling. (Psalm 2)
 
[I will appoint You] to open blind eyes (Isaiah 42)
 
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way (Psalm 2)
 
[I will appoint You] to bring out prisoners from the dungeon (Isaiah 42)
 
His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Psalm 2)
 
[I will appoint You to bring out] those who dwell in darkness from the prison (Isaiah 42)
 
If we were to study Jesus every hour of every day for our entire lives we would never come to a complete understanding. I thank God that we really don’t need to know much to follow Jesus – but a good place to start would be faith and obedience and love. The key word being – start!

The Man Crucified Next to Jesus

Jesus wasn’t crucified between two guys who were petty thieves.
 
What???
 
It’s true. They were insurrectionists. Death by a cross was a punishment reserved for political rebels – not common criminals. Their crime was probably similar to being first century Robin Hoods who, along with their ring leader Barabbas, plotted, plundered and murdered in the name of rebellion against Rome.
 
But, that’s not the point of this post. One of the men who was tortured to death next to Jesus will be someone I want to speak to in Heaven.
 
He started off the day bloodied and battered like any other man being crucified. A toughened zealot who was extremely familiar with all of the Messianic texts, and who had been ready to die for Israel ever since becoming a rebel. He was expecting the pain and might have thought of himself as a martyr – at the start.
 
Imagine his surprise! He may have been one of the people putting palm branches down in front of Jesus while He rode a donkey into Jerusalem. Jesus was certainly famous. And most of His followers expected THIS trip to Jerusalem to be the one where Jesus would go to the temple, declare war on Rome, and then inspire hundreds of thousands of men to revolt.
 
So Jesus comes into Jerusalem on a donkey. People are yelling. People are praising. People are ready to anoint Jesus as their new king! He goes right to the temple. People are expecting the speech. Jesus looks around at the crowds. The men and women “shush” each other to be quiet each expecting the words that would start a revolution. And, after looking around at the temple, Jesus … just … leaves. He just walks off to Bethany because it’s too late in the day. What?
 
Okay. Maybe tomorrow will be the day. It IS late!
 
So, the next day Jesus returns to the temple. Oh boy! Maybe the man crucified next to Him was there as Jesus turned over the money-tables and made a scene.  Maybe he was there when the crowds gathered around to hear Jesus make a speech about how bad Rome was. Maybe he was there when Jesus began to make the speech that would change everything … only to hear Jesus make a speech about how bad the Jewish religious leaders were. This wasn’t working out the way the crowds had planned. At least Jesus did some healing – that was certainly appreciated. He wasn’t acting very warrior like, but that was okay because it sure was a good show watching Jesus make the pompous Jewish leaders look like fools. And the parables He spoke were so full of meat. The crowds loved Him … for now.
 
Within days, the atmosphere had changed in Jerusalem. Jesus was no longer the man who would lead a revolution. Jesus was the man chief priests had convinced the crowds should die.
 
And so, here we are: Jesus – nailed to a cross – between two zealots.
 
Early on, the man I want to meet still has all of his strength and attitude. He is hurling insults, “Hey Jesus! I thought you were committed to God! If you were, why isn’t He delivering you? Haha! If God delights in you, let Him rescue you! Ha! Why don’t you rescue yourself if you’re God – and rescue us too?! Haha!”
 
After a few hours it is noon – and darkness covers the land. Can you see the man’s face? Can you see him look at Jesus in confusion? Can you hear the questions going through his mind, “What is going on here? Why is it dark? Who is this man?”
 
Throughout the crucifixion Jesus has been fairly quiet until the moment that helps define exactly what is happening. Jesus opens His dry mouth, and praises God with the first line of a song every Jew would know. Jesus sings the first verse of the 22nd Psalm, “My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?”
 
Maybe it was at that moment everything “clicked” for the man hanging next to Jesus. The man KNEW that psalm – every Jew knew that psalm. It was the psalm that described a scene exactly like this:
 
“Reproach of men – despised by people – they crown me (in Hebrew the word for “encircle” literally means “crown”) – they pierce my hands and feet – they cast lots for my clothing – in the midst of the assembly I will praise You!”
 
And then the man hanging next to Jesus remembers these words from the song Jesus started to sing: “All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, “Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”
 
I wonder if it is at this point the man hanging next to Jesus has a PowerPoint like slideshow that runs through his head – remembering all of the prophecies concerning the Messiah. I can just imagine how his gut would drop when he remembered these words from Isaiah 53:
 
“He was despised and forsaken of men … and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted … All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth … Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the LORD was pleased To crush Him … He would render Himself as a guilt offering … the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Because He poured out Himself to death.”
 
I can just imagine the wheels turning in the man’s head: “The Messiah is a sheep to be sacrificed for sins? No! I can’t believe it! He was supposed to be a warrior! Wait … the Lord would give Himself as a guilt offering?! Could this be God in the flesh?”
 
I can almost hear him gasp when he remembers the end of Isaiah 53: “And [He] was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many.”
 
There is a lot of speculation about the fate of the man hanging next to Jesus in the crucifixion. Maybe you read this story a thousand times and never paid attention to what the man said to Jesus. I like to think that maybe he said these words after he realized that the last phrase of Isaiah 53 is this: “and [He] interceded for the transgressors.”
 
Was that what he was thinking when he asked Jesus the question that most people forget? The question the man hanging next to Jesus asks gives more insight than almost any question Jesus was asked. Here’s why:
 
There is a zero percent chance of surviving crucifixion. Once nailed to a cross, you ARE going to die. There are zero exceptions. You will be dead. And yet he asks a favor of Jesus: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
 
What? Do you realize what that question means? It means the man realized Jesus was going to die, and would still become king after death. He knew, even before the Apostles did, that Jesus wasn’t going to stay dead, and that Jesus would be a King after He rose from the grave.
 
He could very well be the first person to realize exactly who and what Jesus was: Sacrificial Lamb, Messianic King, and God in the flesh.
 
Can you hear his sobs as the tears run down his face when Jesus tells him: “Today you will be with me in Paradise?”
 
Can you hear him gulp as he watches the Sacrificial Lamb that would take away his own sins cry out, “It is finished!” before He died?
 
Can you hear him anxiously praying for his own death because he knows where he is spending eternity?
 
Can you hear him cry out in pain and gratitude as his legs are broken?
 
Can you hear his last breath before he sees Jesus again in Paradise?
 
Yes. I want to meet THAT man.
 
Don’t you?

Jesus Knows ME

Have you ever noticed that each of the passages to the seven churches of Revelation (chapters 2 and 3) includes the following phrase: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the spirit says to the churches.”

I find that fascinating. To me, that indicates that while these two chapters are addressed specifically to those seven churches, the lessons we can discern from these chapters are also applicable to us today.

One of the first things I notice is that all seven churches are told by Jesus, “I know … [something about them].”

Jesus is intimately familiar with everything about our churches: what we do, what we think, how we feel – yes. But it’s more than that.

Jesus also knows how hard we work, whether we are persevering, what afflicts is, our financial strengths and weaknesses, our spiritual strengths and weaknesses, the persecutions we are going through, and who is persecuting us, the physical geography and history of where we are, how much we’ve matured or not matured, our reputation and whether it is legitimate, he even knows what we are capable of achieving, and what we falsely think we have accomplished or need.

In short, Jesus knows our churches – everything about them. Even if he is angry with a church that is doing everything wrong – Jesus knows them – from every angle.

And, when you come to the realization that the church is really just the followers of Jesus … that’s a very sobering thought. Jesus knows ME!

Beauty and the Beast

Walt Disney Pictures says that the story of beauty and the beast is the “greatest love story ever told.” I think that’s right. 

Over the last week and a half I have had the honor of witnessing some of the beautiful things, beautiful places and beautiful people God created. In contrast, I’ve also been saddened to observe the ugliness that has left its mark on this world in the form of people, places and things that are not aligned with God’s will. 

The Beauty of God Displayed in Farming

Leaving Amarillo, TX my wife and I drove through a small farming town. I was amazed to see the marvelous inventions and huge pieces of equipment that are used to grow and harvest everything from cotton to wheat. It was spectacular! God’s beauty was displayed in His willingness to provide for the needs of you and me. 

The Beast Displayed in Farming

That same day, we had lunch in Pueblo, CO with some friends of mine that I had not seen in more than 20 years. Matt is a police officer and Danette is his wonderful wife. While our conversation was fantastic, I was struck by the atrocities that were taking place because of the growth of another farming industry: marijuana. 

As soon as it was legalized in that state a huge wave of young adults moved in from all over the country. They did not know that most of the jobs were already taken. Homelessness, burglary, robbery, prostitution, and vagrancy have increased dramatically. 

A law that most people endorsed because they saw it as no big deal to allow people to grow six plants in their backyard has turned into a nightmare. Many cities are in danger of having brownouts because of all of the electricity needed to grow the plants. Crime is up. Car crashes are up. Heroin use has skyrocketed as people migrate from pot to something more substantial. 

The beauty of individual freedom has revealed the ugliness of the number of people who crave the use of a substance to provide a temporary escape from their troubles. It has placed a spotlight on how many of our friends and neighbors have an emptiness that they are attempting to fill with THC. How I wish they were seeking to fill that ugly void with the sweet and filling beauty of God. 

The Scenic Beauty of God

Traveling over 4000 miles took us through the panhandle farms in Texas, to the breathtaking Rocky Mountains of Colorado, across Utah’s striking plateau region, into the Mojave Desert of Nevada, alongside the Grand Canyon in Arizona, passed the mesas of New Mexico, and back to the lush green coastal plains of Texas. The variance in brush strokes, palette, texture and temperature made gasps of awe and wonder commonplace. Seeing the majesty of God’s creation firsthand made me appreciate the grandiose power and overwhelming beauty of my Lord. 

The Beast’s Grand Parody and Facade

Las Vegas glitters like diamonds. The bright lights, flashing signs, colorful billboards and huge architectural achievements are a sight to behold. Yet it is interesting to note that one of its biggest attractions is the graveyard of casino signs that have been tossed aside. Buildings are routinely demolished and replaced with something newer, better, shinier, and attractive. 

Mankind’s endeavor to make monuments to himself ultimately will fall into disrepair. They will eventually become outdated, gaudy, old fashioned, useless and abandoned. Even more sad is the realization of what these parodies of beauty hold inside. They are full of pleasures that only last for a short time, and are gone. The beast’s attempt to create grand things of admiration only cover the kinds of entertainment that satisfies a craving for a few minutes, hours or days – and then it vanishes – leaving people broke, broken, scarred, scared, alone and barely alive. My hope is that people will realize the physical and emotional pleasures of a season will never fill the spiritual and soulful cravings they truly desire. 

The Beauty of God in Man

Throughout the journey we saw people whose actions and words reflected their service to God: the cashier at McDonalds who said “God bless you” after giving me directions, my friend Matt who prayed for us before buying our lunch, and Deeanne – our Dennys waitress in Winslow – who worked so hard to serve us and be an example to her son. 

But, I think the Central Christian Church in Henderson had the biggest impact on me in terms of scale. It is a very large congregation who intentionally reaches out to those who are struggling in life. And, it’s doing a great job of spreading the gospel of Jesus. 

I witnessed two ladies follow the command of our Lord to be baptized – apparently that is so commonplace they have two baptistries (one inside for use between their four services and one outside). The halls were full of people who are trying their best to serve God where they were in life right now: homeless, strippers, prostitutes, drug addicts, alcoholics, gambling addicts, those recently out of jail or prison, unemployed, mentally challenged, and physically disabled all sitting next to – and being treated equal to – everyone else. Money, status, looks — none of them mattered because they all knew that the grace of God was the only thing that could save any of them. 

At one point I became overwhelmed by the outpouring of love the congregation had for each other and for God. Yes, I’ll admit it – I shed a tear or two during the services. The beauty of God’s plan of salvation does that to me sometimes: Jesus came to save us from our sins and transform us into His image — not select the best from among us as being “worthy” of His mercy.

I think “Central” gets that concept more than most. They don’t just invite those who are hurting – they intentionally seek them out. Pursuing the lost to bring them the Word of peace and love is not a concept simply spoken about and lauded, it is actively done in service to God. Central Christian Church is a beautiful group of people. 

The Beast is Never Satisfied

“Sin City”

“What happens in Vegas – stays in Vegas.”

“Just the right amount of wrong.”

My wife and I spent almost two days in Las Vegas, NV. We attended a spectacular circus, ate at some wonderful restaurants, worshipped with a fantastic church, and saw lots of shiny lights and fancy buildings. Many of the people we encountered were very nice. We also saw just a glimpse of the other side of the city.

Checking into our room we were asked if we would like a discount to some of the most popular shows in town: adults only comics, burlesque, male strippers, all-nude-reviews, even a comedy revolving completely around male genitalia. I won’t go into detail regarding the flyers that were regularly posted or handed out.

In short, Las Vegas feeds off of the weaknesses of humanity. It is a place that revels in the depravity of sin and promotes the concept that immorality is acceptable to society if it is restricted to specific places. Sadly, many good people have been tricked into believing it. 

Satan is very good at what he does. He entices people to engage in ungodly activities in a quest to satisfy the vacuum they feel inside. For some, it’s gambling and greed. For others, it’s sex and lust. Still others try to counter the vacuum with illicit drugs, excess booze, or gluttony. Regardless of the choice of indulgence, the beast is adept at disguising sin in such a manner that some people give it no thought. It’s the norm. It’s to be expected.  That is scary. Sadly, we have large communities who have fallen victim to the lie that feeding the vacuum with pleasure is an adequate substitute for what is really missing. 

The Problem According to a Wise Man

King Solomon was a wise man. That blessing allowed him to take creation and separate himself from it to look at it from different angles. Agriculture, Human Relations, Materialism, Science, and Religion to name a few — Solomon studied them all and gave us the results of his experiments in the book of Ecclesiastes. When it came down to comparing  God and Satan, or God and man, or the beauty and the beast, here are his conclusions:

“I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with” Ecc 1:13.

“I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after the wind” Ecc 1:14. 

Really Solomon? It’s that simple? You’ve studied everything that mankind can do and concluded it is meaningless? Yes. The Message says, “I’ve seen it all and it’s nothing but smoke—smoke, and spitting into the wind.”

But, what about making our mark on this world and impacting others? Can’t we do anything that would make God notice us and our good deeds more than our bad deeds? Can’t I be good enough, or did God simply make each of us a sinner from the day we were born? I might be stepping on some toes here, but Solomon answers those questions too:

“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” ‭‭Ecc ‭7:20‬. 

“Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices” ‭‭Ecc ‭7:29‬. 

So, what does that mean? Since we are all slaves of the beast (either Satan or our sinful lusts) shouldn’t we just enjoy ourselves while we can? Fortunately, Solomon’s experiment yielded more than just the observations that we are all sinners and that our efforts to impress God are worthless. He ends his masters thesis with some advice. It’s something we should take to heart:

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” Ecc 12:13.

The Solution from Jesus

Solomon spelled out the problem: we are sinners and just about everything we do to impress others is nothing more than folly and foolishness. The advice: fear God and do what He says. 

Unless you know scripture, that’s going to be pretty hard to do. What did God command me to do? Where do I get started? Do I have to read the whole Bible first so I can know what God wants? Is one rule more important than another? Is there a summary I can read now so I can begin right away? You aren’t the first person to ask those kinds of questions. 

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

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.” Matthew‬ ‭22:36-40‬‬‬

Just in case you were wondering, those two commandments cannot be perfected. Nobody can follow them properly all the time. We all struggle. We all sin. We all need guidance and help on the road God has planned for us. But, God’s road is something that can’t be seen or adhered to unless we have someone ahead of us clearing the path and telling us how to walk. 

I’m happy to announce that we do have a trailblazer. He’s already walked the path to the very end and come back for us. He already defeated any and every beast that’s in the way. He is ready and willing to guide you in truth and life.  He wants to lead you. 

His name is Jesus. He is the only one who is able to help you pursue the Beauty and avoid the beast. And, in order to begin your journey you only need to do what He says. What does He say? That’s easy. If there is one thing Jesus says repeatedly, it is this: FOLLOW ME!!! 

(Matt 4:19, Matt 8:22, Matt 9:9, Matt 10:38, Matt 16:24, Matt 19:21, Mark 1:17, Mark 2:14, Mark 8:34, Mark 10:22, Luke 5:27, Luke 9:23, Luke 9:59, Luke 14:27, Luke 18:22, John 1:43, John 10:27, John 12:26, John 21:19)

Celebrating Freedom

377869 48: Portrait of John Adams, second President of the United States who served from 1797 to 1801. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)
377869 48: Portrait of John Adams, second President of the United States who served from 1797 to 1801. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

In early July of 1776, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, informing her that independence had been declared from Britain. His prediction was spot on.

“… the whole people in every colony of the 13 have now adopted it as their own act. This will cement the union … [the day] will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated – as the day of deliverance – by solemn acts of devotion to God almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means. And that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction …”

Of course, we know that the day we declared ourselves independent from Britain was … July … the … second. Wait! July 2, 1776 was the day we declared independence? Yep — July 2nd. Isn’t that interesting? As Americans, our biggest patriotic celebration is not on the day that we declared independence. Instead, we actually celebrate July 4th – the day the founding fathers approved the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.

We do something similar with religious days too don’t we? Ask a typical American what the most important religious day is and you probably get either Easter or Christmas. But if we look to scripture, the event the early followers of Jesus stressed commemorating the most was not the birth of Jesus or his resurrection. No, they put special emphasis on Jesus death. So much so, that a yearly celebration wasn’t enough. Instead, they partook of communion every first day of the week – on Sunday. I’m so happy that the congregation where I worship follows this New Testament example.

Today is Sunday — July 3, 2016. Tomorrow, the United States will celebrate the freedom we have in this country. Today, we celebrate the freedom we have from sin because Jesus paid the price with his own life. So, think about that as you partake of the Lord’s Supper — concentrate on, and appreciate, the sacrifice Jesus made for you.

Jesus Loves The Little Children Of The World

19556078-Many-kids-from-different-ethnicities-holding-their-hands-around-the-world-Stock-Vector

Jesus loves me. This I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.

I really like children’s songs. Truth is explained in words so simple and basic that you cannot help but take notice – even now as adults. And sometimes we just need to be reminded of the simplicity of the gospel in the words of songs we were taught before we could even read.

Like this song: Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black and white – they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Did you ever think about how profound that sentiment was in the first century? Picture this: the church has just been established, and what is the very first thing that happens? Do they distribute flyers? Or build a building? Or plan a meeting? Or start a mission? Or create an outreach? No. None of those things.

We find out exactly what the very first thing this newly established church did in the book of Acts. In Acts 2:8-12 the witnesses in the crowd say this: “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

Seriously? Everyone heard the gospel concerning Jesus in their home language? How did that happen? I think that is pretty easy to answer – it was a miracle brought about via the Holy Spirit. Maybe the better question is “why” it happened. Why would the very first thing that happens in this newly created church be for everyone to hear the good news about Jesus in their native tongue? Why would the Spirit of God be so sweeping in the format of the message? Why is it in every language? Why is it not just in the language of the Jews — Hebrew?

I think it is one of the first messages we have from God under this new covenant: everyone is welcome. Peter even quotes the prophet Joel in Acts 2:21 when he says, ‘AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’

In Acts 10:34 we come to understand that this even extends to the Gentiles! “Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.”

So, what does that have to do with me today? Why does it matter that the gospel wasn’t just for the descendants of Abraham? And — I thought we were talking about children’s songs – right?

Well, there are two other verses of the “Jesus Loves the Little Children” song. I think they will tie it all together for us.

Second verse: Jesus died for all the children. All the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black and white – they are precious in His sight. Jesus died for all the children of the world.

Third verse: Jesus rose for all the children. All the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black and white – they are precious in His sight. Jesus rose for all the children of the world.

That is significant my friends. From the very beginning of God’s New Covenant with His people, He made it clear that He no longer had favorites. Not anymore. Now, everyone can be a follower of Jesus. Why? Because Jesus loves ALL the children of the world.

James’ Prayer

We are studying the book of James on Sunday mornings. I love chapter five, and James’ thoughts about prayer.

JAMES’ PRAYER

James 5:13-16

By – Bob Baulch

If some one has trouble
We will kneel down and pray
For those of us happy
Let us sing songs of praise

Is there one sick today
Call on those from the church
To give prayers and help
In the name of the Lord

The prayer offered in faith
Makes the sick person well
The Lord will raise them up
And in their heart will dwell

All sins are forgiven
Therefore confess today
Nothing’s like the power
Of righteous saints who pray