Wednesday, December 28, 2011

                                          A HOPE RENEWED IN THE                                     FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD

      A new year is upon us.  How we look at this year will determine our attitude as the days, weeks, and months begin to fade away.  As children of God we should be looking forward to the new year because of the privilege we have been given in living a life filled with hope.
     The hope we share is realized through the promised blessings of God.  In Luke 4:18,19 we have recorded for us the words Jesus read aloud to those gathered in the synagogue.  Luke records in the 17th verse the words being read by Jesus are from the prophet Isaiah (61:1,2).  Jesus wanted the crowd to understand that God was working in their lives and prophecy was being fulfilled in their midst (vs. 21). 
     Two things must be noted.  First, Jesus was making it clear there was no longer a reason to be in despair.  The anointed one of God was here.  This anointing is not to kingship but to the pronouncement of the Messiah and His appearance.  The one who was going to save them from their sins, and had the power to heal their infirmities, was now no longer a dream.  He was there.
     The second thing to notice was the skepticism among the hearers.  While they wondered about the gracious words Jesus spoke, they also recognized Him as the son of Joseph (vs. 22).  This is what prompts Jesus to tell them, "no prophet is welcome in his home town." (vs. 24).  Jesus would have to prove Himself to people.
     As the truth about Jesus began to be affirmed through His works, many still refused to acknowledge Him as the Messiah, and failed to receive the blessings of the Lord.  It was meant to be a favorable year, God's favor being poured out upon them.  Yet we today are much the same.
     Through this past year, we have mourned together and celebrated together.  We know of some who are in a prison, in the bondage of sin or other snares that prevent them from truly praising God.  Others have a blindness that keeps them from seeing the solutions the Father has provided to them as they struggle through life's dark valley.  Still others are downtrodden because of hurts inflicted upon them,  circumstances that have dampened their spirits, or maybe extinguished their hope altogether.  Yet, still others have enjoyed the freedom from bondage and have escaped their personal captivity and now rejoice in the Lord.
     Where do you fit in?  Regardless of where you are simply realize the words that Jesus spoke in the synagogue are the same words He is speaking to you.  Don't allow Satan to keep you bound, or blind, or downtrodden.  It is time to realize the hope that is in us and the blessings around us.  The good news is the words of Isaiah's prophecy have been fulfilled.  This year is not to be like those of the past.   Let us truly see the favorable year of the Lord, and His blessings.  Let us live this year with the renewed hope that will not disappoint (Ro. 5:5).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

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                                            FAVORITE SCRIPTURES
     Since our earliest memories of childhood there is a favorite Scripture we hold dear.  For many people it is John 3:16.  Some cherish Romans 8:1,2 or maybe Romans 8:28.  Others fondly look upon 1 Corinthians 13 because of the application of Paul's description of love.  During this time of year, many will look to the gospels of Matthew and Luke and cite those as their favorite passages, for here we read of the birth of Jesus. What is your favorite Scripture?  No matter what you choose there is a reason for it.
     It is interesting however, that many or most people never look upon Acts 2:38 as their favorite Scripture or even Acts 22:16.  Other passages that relate directly to salvation hardly ever come to the mind of people when asked what their favorite Scripture might be.  Deep down we know that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, or is God breathed, yet we still have a tendency to think in human terms and credit the written words to Paul, or Peter, or John, or any other biblical writer.
     It is a good thing to have a favorite Scripture, or even more than one for that matter.  Scripture is meant to provide comfort as well as instruction, and the favorite Scriptures we hold dear supply that comfort.  But while memorizing a favorite passage of Scripture, let us not forget the importance of applying that Scripture to our lives.  And while there are other passages we may not like as much as our favorite, remember they too, are still God's word, and were written for our instruction.
     I am reminded of a man whose name is recorded in Old Testament Scripture by the name of Ezra.  This character of the Bible is not mentioned much in the course of conversation when biblical subjects are being addressed.  How often do you talk about him or even mention his name?  Yet there is a passage of Scripture that speaks volumes about this man and his relation to God.  It is found in Ezra 7:10.
     Ezra had gone from Babylon to Jerusalem, a journey that took five months (7:9).  His purpose for going there was to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.  Take note of this verse.  Ezra was not content to merely study the word of God. He wanted to learn it in order practice it and then be able to teach it.  And not just a favorite verse, or two, or three. But the whole Law.  Ezra had come to understand the preciousness of this Law, for it came from God, and was life to him.  Ezra had to study this Law, he had set his heart on this matter.
     Do we hold the Scriptures in as high a regard as Ezra?  Do we memorize the verses that speak of Jesus' death, or His resurrection?  Do we long to live the teachings of God and desire to teach them to others?  Here again is a valuable lesson to be learned from the pages of Old Testament Scripture.  While it is good to have a favorite Scripture, let us not neglect the rest.  Let us love God's word as much as we claim to love God.  To truly love Him is to keep His teachings or commandments (Jn. 15:12-14; 1 Jn. 4:2,3).  Rodger