Zechariah depicted on Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

“Major Prophets” like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and some of the “Minor Prophets” anticipated a coming age of peace and forgiveness. Perhaps none of the “Minor Prophets” alluded to the coming Messiah with more detail than the prophet Zechariah who lived 500 years before the coming of Christ.  There are 54 images of the Messiah found in his book. These are echoed in 67 passages of the New Testament. Zechariah chapters 9-14 are quoted more than any of the “Minor Prophets” in the final hours leading to Jesus’ death. Four of these grab our attention.


“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). How remarkable that on Sunday, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, these words were fulfilled.  “They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ” (Matthew 21:1-9).

Triumphal Entry

Notice the royalty of the Messiah. The King comes! He is the one of whom Jacob spoke: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until He comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is His” (Genesis 49:10).  God promised on oath that one of David’s descendants would sit on his throne. He spoke of the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, be assured of this: God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:30-36). He is the new King reigning over God’s spiritual nation. Jesus sits on the throne of David. “His kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32-33). To be a follower of Jesus Christ means to be committed to His absolute authority, to obey His commandents without reservation.

Notice also the accomplishments of the Messiah. He rides not on the steed of military aggression, but on the foal of a donkey — the animal which symbolizes humility and gentleness.  He is “righteous and gentle and riding on…the foal of a donkey.” Again, “He will proclaim peace to the nations” (Zechariah 9:10). But He has accomplished even more!  He lived a righteous life of (Zechariah 9:9). Like a righteous king described by the psalmist Jesus will “deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in His sight” (Psalm 72:12-14). If you are looking for righteousness and peace in your heart Jesus is the One you need. He is the only One who can deliver what He promises. “Till the moon is no more” Jesus will be our assurance that “the righteous will flourish” (Psalm 72:7), and that those whose hearts are troubled will find the “peace of God that transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).


Zechariah was commanded by God to assume the role of a faithful shepherd of God’s flock. Almost immediately he ran into the stiff opposition of religious leaders, worthless shepherds, who were interested only in making money by slaughtering the sheep. Even the people he was trying to guide and protect despised him! In extreme frustration over Israel’s leaders he resigned his assignment and went to those responsible for paying his salary, demanding, “If you think it best give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” They weighed out only 30 pieces of silver” –– the pitiful value of a slave but certainly not of a shepherd (Exodus 21:32)! At God’s direction, Zechariah promptly threw the coins into the house of the Lord to be given to the potter (Zechariah 11:4-14)

Early in the morning Judas grieved with agony because he had betrayed His Lord for 30 pieces of silver.  The Scripture records:  “He was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ …. So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.  The chief priests …. decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day” (Matthew 27:3-8). Little did Judas know that 500 years earlier Zechariah had participated in a very similar tragic story.

Judas coins 2

Can we not see the heart of Judas in this story?  Judas (like the corrupt leaders of Israel) messed up his own life and the life of others. As the leaders of Zechariah’s day failed to appreciate God’s true shepherd, and undervalued his worth, so Judas failed to appreciate Jesus as the Shepherd of God’s flock. He sold the precious Son of God for the price of a slave. How frustrated he became with himself! How remorseful! It was too late to reverse his foolish actions. Judas’ hope for the future was gone forever. Without hope his life would end in despair. The betrayer of the Son of God returned the thirty pieces of silver and doomed his body to suicide.

The Tyndale Commentary summarized the lessons for us: (1) The responsibility for human chaos lies squarely on human shoulders. (2) God has offered men His Shepherd but they have rejected Him, to their own irreparable loss. Sinful attitudes and sinful actions result in shameful decisions that hurt us and others.


The prophet spoke of a future day of grace and forgiveness:  “Tbey will look on Me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (Zechariah 12:10). The word translated “pierced” usually refers to being stabbed with a spear or sword.  Zechariah 13:7 identifies the One pierced as the Lord’s Shepherd, none other than “the man who is close to Me” (NIV), or who “stands next to Me” (ESV). We can hardly read this without thinking of the Lord Jesus.  Is it any wonder that the apostle John wrote: “one of the soldiers pierced Jesus. side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water …. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled:…’They will look on the one they have pierced’ (John 19:34-37).  His mother, friends and disciples mourned over Him as the “firstborn son,” God’s “one and only Son” (John 3:16). The blood of Jesus is “precious” because it is through His blood that we receive forgiveness of all our sins –– no matter how serious, when we sinned, or how often we repeated it. When we are baptized (immersed) into the death of Jesus, God forgives our past sins (Romans 6:3-4; Ephesians 1:7). After baptism, the “blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7-10).  Have you been washed in the blood of the pierced Shepherd?


As long as the Good Shepherd was present the disciples were united and felt secure.  But when the Shepherd was killed, His followers fled, as the prophet foretold: “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (Zechariah 13:17). Jesus predicted Peter’s denial and the scattering of His apostles which followed.  “ ‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them; ‘for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’ ” (Mark 14:27). The day Jesus was crucified His followers scattered in many directions –– some to their homes, some to the homes of other disciples, some to villages away from Jerusalem.

Who else but Jesus Christ could have fulfilled these remarkable 500-year-old prophecies in such minute detail?

The words of Zechariah builds our faith in Christ. His book reminds us of what Jesus went through to bring salvation and peace to our world. It encourages us to see anew that through God’s love and providence He has provided a Savior for us.  As the “Minor Prophet” declared: “A fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity” (Zechariah 13:1).  Jesus is the Fountain. Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?


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Posted in Acts 2:30-36, Exodus 21:32, Genesis 49:11, John 19:34-37, Judas, King, Look On the One Pierced, Luke 1:32-33, Mark 14:27, Matthew 21:1-9, Matthew 27:3-8, Messiah, Psalm 72, Strike the Shepherd, Thirty Pieces of Silver, True Shepherd, Zechariah, Zechariah 11:4-14, Zechariah 12:10, Zechariah 13:1, Zechariah 13:17, Zechariah 9:9 | Tagged | 2 Comments


“The great Day of the Lord is near –– near and coming quickly!”

(Zephaniah 1:14).

Screen shot 2013-03-04 at 3.54.46 PM

Zephaniah lived during the reign of Judah’s king Josiah (640-609 BC) –– over 2600 years ago –– and his words were spoked with urgency and power. He referred to a day of reckoning when the nations would face God’s ultimate judgment. His message reminds us of the promise of the New Testament that the “Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).  The words of the apostle Paul point us to the future, when Jesus Christ will come again.  The Old Testament and the New Testament are tied together by prophecies that the Day of the Lord is near and coming quickly!  What can we learn from the prophet Zephaniah that will help us prepare for the ultimate arrival of the Day of the Lord?


The ancient prophet warned the people that the Day of the Lord would be the outpouring of God’s wrath in judgment. Nations, including Judah (God’s chosen people) would surely suffer punishment because of their sins. Specifically mentioned are the sins of compromise with false religion, violence, deceit, pride, arrogance, apathy and corrupt spiritual leadership. Hear his words: “Listen! That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness…. I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord” (Zephaniah 1:14-17). We need to recognize that God is a righteous God whose justice demands punishment for sin.

The day of God’s wrath is a major theme of the New Testament as well.  It foretells of the coming Day of Judgment “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). People today who ignore these warnings do so to their own peril.


In Zephaniah’s time, even at that late hour the Lord was willing to give sinners another chance to repent, to make things right with God. He did not delight in pouring out His wrath; He loved sinners even while he hated their sins. If Judah and the other nations had turned their hearts back to God, if they had obeyed Him, God would have been willing to show mercy and grace.  The last thing the nations should have done was to take God’s grace for granted, ignored His warnings, and deceived themselves into thinking that God would not do what He said He was going do. Nothing upset the Lord more than spiritual apathy and complacency; thinking that “the Lord will do nothing, either good or bad” (Zephaniah 1:12). God said: “On that day I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent.” Only if nations returned to God would the coming Day of the Lord be averted! There was not much time to do that; the Day of the Lord was “near and coming quickly.” When the Day arrived there would be no more chances to repent and be forgiven. It would be too late.

It is because God loves and cares about Christians that He warns us about the coming Day of Judgment.  The Scripture says: “God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  He “wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus is coming soon, but now we have an opportunity to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness.  Tomorrow may be too late! After death there will be no changing one’s eternal destiny. The fate of the soul is sealed at death (Hebrews 9:27).  The question all of us must answer is this: “Do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Romans 2:4)?


Zephaniah promised that devastation and destruction would be everywhere, but among those who humbly and reverently obeyed the Lord there would be peace and reward. What words of comfort and reassurance:  “Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem!  The Lord has taken away your punishment…. The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:14-17).  This may be the only time in Scripture that God is spoken of as “singing” with joy.  God sings when His people do the right thing! As a mother calms a crying child, He quiets His people with His love.

As the Old Testament Day of the Lord was to be a day of gladness for the true children of God, so in the New Testament, the coming Day of the Lord will be a day of gladness for all who are part of the family of Christ.  On the day Jesus returns, He will “be glorified in His holy people and marveled at among those who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:10). God has not appointed obedient believers to suffer wrath, but “to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). He will  “bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9:28). He is coming back to take us to be with Him that we also may be where He is (John 14:3).  God assured the ancient Israelites that He would bring them home (Zephaniah 3:20).   On the Day of the Lord, Jesus will take us home, where we will be with the Lord  forever! Truly, there is no place like home!

What preparations do you need to make for the Day of the Lord?  There are things you need to do. Let us help you make those preparations, for the Day of the Lord is near and coming quickly!


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“My house remains a ruin” (Haggai 1:9)Screen shot 2013-03-05 at 9.23.08 PM

After the children of Israel returned to their homeland from Babylonian captivity, they faced stiff opposition from their neighbors and decided not to continue re-building the temple of God (read about it in Ezra chapter 4).  It was easier for them to build beautiful houses for their families. Their religious neighbors would not give them a hard time for taking care of their families just as long as they didn’t promote the house of God. It’s not that Israel determined to permanently ignore God’s honor and place, It’s just that re-building the temple was very controversial. A lot of folks were opposed to it. Conventional wisdom said it would be better to not be too public about their faith until things cooled down. God would just have to wait. He would be homeless for now.

In 520 BC it fell to the prophet Haggai to call upon the people to get their priorities straight. Through the prophet God asked: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:4).

In actuality, they were hurting themselves by neglecting their God. They worked from sun up to sun down but had very little to show for all their hard work. God was not blessing them; He would not bless them as long as there was no place for God to dwell. He said: “You have planted much but have harvested little. You eat but never have enough.  You drink but never have your fill.  You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it” (Haggai 1:5-6).


Life can be unfulfilled and frustrating when other things take first place while God is forced to take last place, or to have no dwelling place at all.

Today there are many opportunities to make life easy for ourselves and our families.  As Americans we have the freedom and resources to meet our needs and more than our needs. Materialism rules the day. Greed, ambition, selfishness, finery, convenience, entertainment, eating out and credit cards have become the priority  for many Christians. We are doing pretty well for ourselves, aren’t we? Most of us have comfortable houses. But what about God’s house? Does not the scripture tell us the church is the “temple of God,” that God’s Spirit lives in us (1 Corinthians 3:16)? If the church is the household of God, “the pillar and foundation of the truth,” is there anything in all the world more sacred, more important, more worthy of our affection, more deserving of our personal sacrifice (1 Timothy 3:15)? Is the work of the kingdom on the “front burner” of our concerns? Or, have we been overwhelmed by the materialistic focus and by our actions, paid only lip service to a homeless God?

The Lord said to His people: “Give careful thought to your ways” (Haggai 1:7). “Careful thought” is not the same as a “passing thought”. Passing thoughts lead to momentary regrets of spiritual negligence. What God demands is deliberate, reflective, personal consideration about His place in our lives! He wants us to really think about things. There are changes we need to make. There are adjustments in our priorities we need to make. What God expects is nothing short of putting Him first in our lives.  He said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). He wants the kingdom to be “within” us (Luke 17:21) — individually and collectively. He wants to make His home in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17). He wants to live “with” us and “in” us (John 14:18), to make His “home” with all who love and obey Him (John 14:23). He expects us to make sacrifices (financially and otherwise) to advance the cause of God in our neighborhoods, our nation and throughout the world.  He will not settle for superficial religiosity. He wants us to bring Him the honor He deserves.  Anything less than this will result in hurting ourselves as we invest time. energy and money in purses with holes. God is not content to be a homeless Savior.


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Posted in God, God's House, Haggai, Purses With Holes, Putting God First, Sacrifice, Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Screen shot 2013-02-27 at 12.46.46 PMEvery morning the radio wakes us up to the latest News –– international news, national news, local news. Whether it is ABC, CBS, Fox News or NBC, most of the News is bad.  Innocent people have been shot; earthquakes have claimed many victims; parents have been arrested for abusing their children; the economy of another European nation has collapsed; teenagers have died in an alcohol-related head-on collision; a celebrity has been charged with murdering his spouse; children have died of drug overdoses. On and on it goes with one tragic story after another!  To be honest, I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the affairs on earth; it cannot be good for human beings to wake up to such depressing stories day after day! By the time the News is over I am “down in the dumps.”

It occurred to me that Habakkuk endured a lot of bad news in his day.  Perhaps you have not read of this seventh century BC prophet of God who wrote one of the shorter books in the Old Testament. The book bears his name. Habakkuk struggled with the realization that he lived in a world of crime, physical and mental abuse, addiction, promiscuity, bloodshed, stealing, escalating hostilities on an international scale, deadly diseases and universal injustice. His short book sounds very much like the News on today’s radio or the evening News on television.  Habakkuk just could not reconcile how God could be loving and the whole world filled with evil. He decided he did not like the way God was running things; he went to God to complain.

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but You do not listen? Or cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ but You do not save? Why do You make me look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Habakkuk 1:2-4).

He complained about the miseries of life that weighed so heavily upon him. The eternal and all-powerful God could not possibly be uninformed about what is happening on earth! Surely God could see the heart-aches!  But why would He let it go on and on? Habakkuk wanted to know: “Why do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are You silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves” (Habakkuk 1:13)?

God’s response to Habakkuk’s pitiful cry was to tell him that God was still active in the world, that He was going to do something that even the prophet himself would not believe (Habakkuk 1:5), something so startling and surprising that (as we say today) “you wouldn’t read about it in a book!” God had a plan. He was getting ready to raise up the Babylonian nation to punish wicked men of other nations for their terrible and cruel behavior toward their fellowman. Then, He was going to deal with Babylon for its cruelty and sins, as well. God knew about the bad news on the local level, the national level and the international level, and he was about to make sure that evil people did not get away with evil. In contrast to powerless and impotent gods (idols which though covered with gold and silver have no breath and cannot speak) the Lord God is very concerned about what’s happening, has the power to do something about it and is about to act!

Even though Habakkuk was unable to see all the providencial workings of the Eternal God; even though he could not see solutions to the problems, or how justice would eventually prevail on the earth, he trusted that God was powerful enough and concerned enough to guarantee that right would prevail in the end. His faith in the love of God would bring him through one more day. He would rise above despair because he believed in the God who had the answers.

images-1The ancient prophet could be encouraged about his future. No matter how bad things might get before they got better (the Babylonians were still coming and there were hardships yet to be faced!) he knew he was on the Lord’s side and the Lord’s side is the winning side! The Lord had assured Habakkuk that “the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). No matter what, the Lord was still on His throne, His good will would be accomplished. He wrote: “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20). When a person knows the Lord in his heart, believes in His power, trusts in His care and leans upon His strength he can  have peace in his heart regardless of the tragic circumstances that surround him. Faith will chase away his fears! By faith he can stand upon the promises of God one day at a time.

By the time Habakkuk had finished his book, he had decided he did not need to complain about how God was running things; he would rest in the peace of God’s loving and providencial care:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

May we do the same when we wake up to the bad News tomorrow morning!


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Posted in Contentment, Depression, Despair, Faith, Frustration, God's Providence, Habakkuk, Hope, Patience, Peace, Sadness, The Holy Bible | Tagged | 2 Comments


People usually go to worship because they want to, and by the same token, people usually avoid going to church because they choose not to go. Apparently more people are deciding not to go to Sunday worship services today.  At the same time, churches are encouraging people to come. So, why the disconnect between what churches want to accomplish and what many people are willing to participate in? A number of answers to this question are being offered by well-intentioned church leaders.

There are some who say the basic mission of the church is to attract new members, to “grow.” One preacher recently wrote that we are living in a “left-brained” generation, where people are looking for an emotional experience in religion. According to this idea, people are no longer interested in sermons that carefully exegete and expound upon  the Biblical text. “Everyone is sick of people arguing about who is right,” he says. A case in point: the preacher for a mega church in Houston no longer preaches on sin. The thousands who throng to his church prefer emotional excitement with lots of music and motivational sermons that avoid “guilt trips” about sin. They want to “feel good” about being there.

In another Bible-belt city a preacher gives the following formula for growing a church today:

1. Use video throughout, especially videos with instrumental music in the background. (“Its the least that we can do to be culturally relevant,” he says.)

2. Use a three projectors screen set up.  (“If you really want to create an experience, then add additional screens on the sides.”)

3. Dim the lights in the audience and brighten the stage. (“This creates the experience atmosphere.”)

4. Use testimonials

5. Make preaching biblical, culturally relevant and applicable. (“People are not going to be wowed by our exegesis,” he writes. “They will be wowed by a person who can tell them how to live this biblical truth out in their daily lives at work, in their homes, with their family.”)

6. Use “pre-worship” music and “post-worship” music.

7. Engage the body, mind, and heart in worship. (“Be joyful. Clap. Shout for joy. Have a praise team…and give people permission to really engage their whole being in worship for God.”)

8. Emphasize community, by “sharing stories of God’s work amongst his people and by displaying Twitter feeds with a church’s hashtag.”

When asked “whatever happened to biblical preaching” that identifies the nature of God’s church, convicts of sin and calls sinners to repentance?” the answer many are ready to give is, “People are not interested in doctrinal preaching today.” Preaching doctrine requires listeners to listen, to evaluate, to make judgment calls, to recognize false teaching and to expose the darkness of the world by the light of the gospel.

I, for one, am not ready to abandon the biblical mission of the church of Christ for the sake of “church growth.”  If the Bible is right, the primary work of the church is not to make people “feel good” or have a “religious experience,” or even to “draw a crowd” but to uphold the truths of God’s word.  In spite of what some people believe, God’s church is still the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). What is needed today is not dumbing-down the preaching of great Bible doctrines, but stepping up to the plate to “proclaim the whole will of God” (Acts 20:27). What we need is not less Bible knowledge, but more.  What sinners need is not a “feel good experience” but  conviction of sin, a call to repentance and an urgent plea to obey the gospel of Christ. If the ancient people of God were destroyed “from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6) why is it any different today?

The truth of the matter is that many people are not looking for churches that put their beliefs and convictions on the “back burner,” or remove doctrinal messages from the pulpit and restrict them to the Sunday School hour. They are looking for churches which courageously and clearly define themselves by what they preach, how they worship to God, and what they expect of their members seven days a week.

The Gallup Organization discovered the following 13 top reasons why unchurched people chose a church,:

1. 90% – Pastor/Preaching

2. 88% – Doctrines

3. 49% – Friendliness of Members

4. 42% – Other Issues

5. 41% – Someone at Church Witnessed to Me

6. 38% – Family Member

7. 37% – Sensed God’s Presence/Atmosphere of Church

8. 25%  – Relationship Other than Family Member

9. 25% – Sunday School Class

10. 25% – Children’s/Youth Ministry

11. 12% – Other Groups/Ministries

12. 11% – Worship Style/Music

13. 7% – Location


Research conducted by Thom Ranier.

The Gallup Poll showed that preaching and doctrine are the most significant factors leading to church growth. People are still interested in solid, decisive Bible preaching!

In the long run, what really matters is not how many people are attracted to a church, but whether that church is faithfully proclaming the full-gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are shopping around for a church, look for one that lovingly and courageously teaches what the Bible teaches without addition or subtraction. Look for one which honors the Bible as God’s final message for mankind, and respects a “this is what the Lord says.”   Look for one whose members are loving and humble, who live what they profess. Look for one whose minister is “a good minister of Jesus Christ, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching” you read about in your very own Bible (1 Timothy 4:6). Look for one which challenges you to see sin for what it really is, calls you to change the way you live and points you to loving faith-obedience response to Jesus Christ who gave His life so you could be forgiven of your sins and go to heaven in the end.

The New Milford, Connecticut Church of Christ is a church just like that!

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In the middle of winter most of us look forward to the arrival of Spring and the return of the robins. Harry M. Woods penned the words of his famous song, “When the Red, Red Robin” in 1926. It was an instant hit. It became the signature song for singer and actress Lillian Roth; it was recorded by Doris Day, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby. It is still being sung today. It was the song that inspired the original owner of the Red Robin Restaurant chain.

When the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbin’ along, along

There’ll be no more sobbin’ when he starts throbbin’ his old sweet song

“Wake up, Wake up, you sleepy-head,

Get up, get out of bed

Cheer up, cheer up the sun is red;

Live, love, laugh and be happy.”

The words remind us that the long, dark days of winter are followed by the bright, clear and cheerful days of Spring.

images-3 The Scriptures speak of waking up from a life of spiritual darkness and sleepiness, stupor, fuzzy-headedness and sadness brought on by sin. In Romans 13:11-14 we read:

“The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (New International Version, 1983).

Three types of sin are particularly on the mind of the apostle Paul as he discusses the darkness and sleepiness of sin:

1. Sins of Drinking and Partying  (“Not in orgies and drunkenness”).  Much shame and embarassment often follow over-indulgence in alcohol. Wild parties may be the accepted thing in some circles but for Christians self-control and sobriety are the standards of decency. We need to keep our heads clear at all times so we can make careful decisions about matters of right and wrong. We need to be in control of our faculties to make those decisions. When one is drunk he cannot make good choices, he cannot guard his tongue, he loses control of his inhibitions.  One who has had too much to drink cannot be a godly person. One who joins in the atmosphere of loud music and ungodly conversations that lead to lust and immorality cannot be a godly person. That is why the Bible puts drunknness and orgies among those sins which will prevent one from entering the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:20).

2. Sins of Illicit Sex  (“Not in sexual immorality and debauchery”). The world around us is gender-confused, marriages are wrecked by adultery; couples co-habit in casual sex without commitment of matrimony. Well known university campuses, such as Yale, Harvard, Brown, Duke and Northwestern (among others) celebrate “Sex Week” and offer courses on pornography, promiscuity and sleaze –– all in the name of “academic freedom”.  We need to “wake up! ” to remember that God’s plan for sexual intimacy is between a man and a woman within the bounds of marriage. Outside those bonds, sexual relationships are sinful. Let us recall the warning of 1 Corinthians 5:11––6:20: “Now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater, or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler….Flee from sexual immorality….Do you  not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

3.  Sins of Disrupted Relationships  (“Not in dissension and jealousy”) God’s will is that we live in peace with others. Peace in our families; peace in the church; peace on the job; peace in the neighborhood. Attitudes of anger, a lack of forgiveness, self-centeredness and pride will show up in hostility, bitter words and broken relationships. We are especially vulnerable to sinful behavior when we are angry. That is why the Scripture tells us: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27).  Anger is like a retractable knife: used correctly it can be helpful, but used recklessly it can work all kinds of havoc in a home, a congregation, or society. The best advise is to keep the blade retracted until its purpose is to accomplish something good; then put it back in its sheath as quickly as possible before you or others get hurt by it. The devil is ready to pounce into the heart of anyone who stays mad, who holds grudges and refuses to forgive.

images-4In contrast with these three types of sin which are the “deeds of darkness,” the apostle Paul says: “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14).  He speaks of “putting on” the character of Christ as one puts on clothes before leaving for work or school in the morning. How many of us plan ahead to decide what we are going to wear in the morning? If it’s important to dress properly before leaving the house, it is even more important to dress spiritually as well! One initially puts Christ on when he is baptized (immersed) into Christ and receives the forgiveness of all his past sins (Galatians 3:26-27).  On a daily basis, however,  we need to begin each day by putting on Christ in prayer, reading God’s word and re-commiting our lives to Him. And what are some of those characteristics of Jesus Christ we need to wear in order to properly face the world? Love, Kindness, Humility, Service, Forgiveness, Faith in God, and a Desire to say “no” to sinful temptations and “yes” to Obeying what God has commanded.

Herein lies the keys to happiness and the good life. A life that is even better than the life Henry M. Woods sang about : “Cheer up, cheer up, the sun is red; live, love, laugh and be happy.” For the Christian, cheerfulness is knowing that “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11) images-5

Posted in Anger, Debauchery, Deeds of Darkness, Dissension, Drunkenness, Holiness, Illicit Sex, Immorality, Jealousy, Partying, Romans 13:11-14 | Leave a comment


In the sixth century BC God’s people were led into Babylonian captivity after much devastation had come upon them. The losses they suffered were almost unbearable. Freedom had been replaced with slavery; prosperity with impoverishment; family togetherness had been shattered by the deaths of little children. Looking back on the heart-ache of the people the prophet Jeremiah lamented: “This what the Lord says: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15). We do not need to be reminded that whether one child or twenty children are taken from us there is no greater sorrow to bear.  Ask any funeral director; he will tell us the death of a child is the most difficult funeral to prepare for, the hardest to go through, the saddest to endure. Parents in Jeremiah’s day wept with “great weeping.”  Their children were no more.

Hundreds of years later an evil and jealous king decided to massacre innocent children in Bethlehem. King Herod’s decision to put them to death was the face of evil at its ugliest. There was no way to justify what he did; there was no way to excuse his dastardly deeds. He did not act out of mental illness or insanity. His was a cold-blooded calculated murder. His decision was based on lust for power. How many little ones in Bethlehem and its vicinity died we may never know, but without a doubt parents, grandparents and friends refused to be comforted because all boy children two years of age and under had been murdered by the king’s sword.  Matthew thought about the passage in Jeremiah and deemed it appropriate to apply it to the awful tragedy of his day:  “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18).

Now we grieve over the killing of innocent first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut. Our spirits are in shock that such a tragedy could happen; our hearts are broken; our eyes are red with weeping. The sorrow extends beyond one community and one state –– it is felt all over the nation, indeed all across the globe. One does not need to know someone personally who lost a child to feel the pain of what has happened; we pray for those we have never met. Our nightly rest is disrupted by the horrors described by those in the midst of grief. It will be a long time until we come to terms with this terrible tragedy.

What we need is a word from the Lord. He is the Almighty God whose wisdom understands what we cannot fathom and whose power is able to sustain us. It would help us to read Jeremiah 31:15 in its context and to learn three timeless lessons.

GOD WILL LOVE US.  The ancient Israelites needed to know that in spite of all their troubles and heart-aches, there is a God in heaven who knew what they are going through and loved them deeply. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness” (Jeremiah 31:2). Although we live in a very imperfect world where the power of evil is present at every turn, there is nothing hidden from the eyes of God. Evil men will go from bad to worse, but the sustaining power of God’s love is constant and true. We are not beyond His love. In the words of the poet, Frank Graeff: “Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song? As the burdens press, and the cares distress, and the way grows weary and long?  O yes, He cares; I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief; When the days are weary, the long-nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.”

GOD WILL PROVIDE FOR US.  As the returning captives made their way back to their homeland in Palestine God promised to lead them “beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble” (Jeremiah 31:9). We, too, can draw strength from the daily providence of God who takes care of us.  God does not always see fit to preserve us from tragedy, but He always sees fit to comfort His people as we walk the road less travelled, along paths we have not walked before.

GOD WILL REWARD US. Listen to these encouraging words from God:  “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow….’Your work will be rewarded,’ declares the Lord….’So there is hope for your future’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:13-17). When we must lose our innocent children, God has promised to reward the work we have done, even if we only had a few years with them. Little children pass from this life to the presence of God. He welcomes them into His everlasting kingdom. 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). They are safe there.  No one will harm them by day or by night (there is no night there!). They will forever be spared the struggles with sin and evil we must face here on earth. They will never have to know the heart-aches that hurt us so much. God Himself embraces them and protects them. He will love them for all eternity.

May we seek the life of innocence and purity our little children have shown us, so that when the time comes for us to leave this world, we too will know the never-ending love, peace and holiness of a heavenly reward for our work here on earth. Truly, there is hope for our future.

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