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In fact God has created us in such a way so that our very existence hinges upon these two concepts. The Bible bears this out. The heart of God and His Word is centered on relationships and love. The fundamental Law of God is hinged on these two concepts. Jesus expresses this clearly in Matthew 22 as he is questioned by the lawyer asking Him to share what He understood as the greatest commandment. In answering this question Jesus reveals to us that the Divine plan and purpose of God for our lives rests in the fundamental elements of relationships and love. The lawyer asked for the greatest commandment and Jesus gave him the reason for our existence.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God with everything you are, but He didnít stop there. He went on to express that the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. While these two statements are profound enough, Jesus, with His next statement revealed the key to our whole existence. Hear what He said, "on these two commandments hang ALL of the Law and the Prophets." The phrase Law and Prophets is a euphemism for the entirety of Godís Word in their time. We understand that to be the Old Testament. In essence Jesus was saying that the very heart of all of Godís teaching rest upon these two commandments.
In order to see the significance of this even more we must think just a moment about the underlying source of these commandments which is the Ten Commandments. In these two statements Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments. When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses we know from His Word that He wrote them on two stone tablets. On one tablet are four laws that deal with out relationship with God. On the other tablet are six laws that deal with our relationship with each other. At the heart of each of these relationships is one key world -- Love. Therefore, the very essence of Godís purpose for our existence is to enter into a personal relationship of true authentic love with Him and to share that Godly love as we develop meaningful relationships with each other. So, my friends what we are discussing today is at the very heart of our reason for existing. Today we are talking about aspect of love in relationships.
WHY DID JESUS NEED TO BE BAPTIZED?
So why would Jesus need to be baptized by John?
Well... Jesus' baptism by John was the beginning of Jesus' ministry
Mark 1:1 starts out: "The BEGINNING of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" and then Mark starts telling us about Jesus' baptism by John.
In Luke 3:23 we're told of Jesus' baptism by John and then we read: "Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he BEGAN HIS MINISTRY..."
Obviously, for some reason, Jesus' ministry began with His baptism.
Now, at this point in Jewish history, water baptism served one of 3 purposes.
1st, there was the Baptism Of Repentance.
This was what John the Baptist's was preaching.
But of course Jesus didn't need to repent because He hadn't sinned.
The 2nd kind of baptism was for people who desired to convert to Judaism.
It was a Baptism Of Conversion.
If you were a Gentile who wanted to convert to Judaism, they baptized you in water.
ILLUS: Jamieson, Fausset and Brown explained that: "The Jews were accustomed to say of a heathen proselyte, on his public admission into the Jewish faith BY BAPTISM, that he was a new-born child."
So, baptism was used when someone wanted to convert to Judaism. But Jesus had no need to convert to Judaism. He already was one. He'd been born a Jew.
So baptism in those days could be for repentance or conversion... and Jesus did not need to be baptized for those reasons. So, for what OTHER reason would a person be baptized in water back then???
Well, the only other people who experienced baptism - in the Jewish faith in that day were priests. The Law dictated that especially the High Priest was to "washed with water." And the Temple had pools set aside for just that purpose.
In Leviticus 8:6 we're told that - by the instruction of God -- "Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water."
Then, later, during that ceremony Moses "poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him to consecrate him." Leviticus 8:12
This act INITIATED Aaron's ministry as High Priest. When Aaron and his sons were washed with water and anointed with oil, they BEGAN their priesthood and were empowered to make sacrifices and to handle holy things as God's representatives.
At that point (their baptism) God put His mark of approval on the ministry of Aaron and his sons.
The Bible tells us that Jesus' ministry began with His baptism by John.
After His baptism, the Father anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit as it descended on Him in form of a dove. And the Father put His mark of approval on Jesus by loudly declaring:
"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17
This was the beginning of Jesus' ministry as our High Priest.
Did you realize Jesus was our High Priest?
Indeed He is!
Hebrews 4:14: "...we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God..."
From the day of His baptism by John at the Jordan until His death on the Cross, Jesus (as our High Priest) prepared the ultimate sacrifice for our sins... His own body.
A SPECIAL OCCASION
If you are waiting for a special house guest or a special occasion to use something you cherish in your house, consider the following following article by Ann Wells that appeared several years ago in the Los Angeles Times:
My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister's bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. "This," he said, "is not a slip. This is lingerie."
He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached.
"Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least eight or nine years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, guess this is the occasion."
He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician.
His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me. "Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you're alive is a special occasion."
I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death.
I thought about them on the plane returning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister's family lives. I thought about all the things that she hadn't seen or heard or done. I thought about the things that she had done without realizing that they were special.
I'm still thinking about his words, and they've changed my life. I'm reading more and dusting less. I'm sitting on the deck and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I'm spending more time with my family and friends and less time in committee meetings.
Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experience to savor, not endure. I'm trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them. I'm not "saving" anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event--such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the first camellia blossom. I wear my good blazer to the market if I feel like it. I'm not saving my good perfume for special parties; clerks in hardware stores and tellers in banks have noses that function as well as my party-going friends.
"Someday" and "one of these days" are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now. I'm not sure what my sister would have done had she known that she wouldn't be here for the tomorrow we all take for granted. I think she would have called family members and a few close friends. She might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles. I like to think she would have gone out for a Chinese dinner, her favorite food. I'm guessing--I'll never know.
It's those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew that my hours were limited, angry because I put off seeing good friends whom I was going to get in touch with--someday. Angry because I hadn't written certain letters that I intended to write--one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn't tell my husband and daughter often enough how much I truly love them.
I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that the day is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is ...a gift from God.
Life is a precious gift from God, and he wants us to get the most out of it. Jesus came to give us life "to the full and abundantly" (John 10:10). In other words, he came so that we would live our lives abundantly-full of purpose, meaning, and joy.
What are you waiting for? If it's a special occasion or a "someday,"--- keep in mind that it may never come.
Story: At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity.
Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone quickly said, ďWell, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.Ē
Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.
Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, ďwhatís all this rumpus about?Ē
Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, ďWeíre debating whatís unique about Christianity.Ē
ďOh, thatís easy,Ē answered Lewis. ďItís grace.Ē
The room fell silent.
Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims Godís love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.
After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. Itís not a free ride.
Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions.
Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requ...
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On Sept 16, 1620 2 ships set sail from Plymouth Englnad, The Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell encountered much difficulty as they began their journey springing many leaks in the ship. So when the 2 ships went to Port in Plymouth England, the Speedwell decided to go no further and 42 passengers from the Speedwell joined the 60 passengers and 30 crew members aboard the Mayflower..
Of the 102 passengers on board the Mayflower the majority were devout Christians. They were coming to America to shake lose from the bonds of the church of England so they could worship God as they believed scriptures taught.
And with great excitement and expectations that set sail for a new land... It wasnít long before the trip became difficult for several reasons, as noted by William Bradford an historian on the Mayflower, who would later became Governor of the colony for 33 years.. Many of the passengers became sea sick as huge waves would crash over the deck of the ship... The nights were cold, damp and dark... Remember there was no indoor plumbing or electricity. And to make matters worse one of the crew, a very large man would constantly curse and abuse those who were sick... saying he was going to throw them overboard and steal all of their possessions... Bradford records, "BUT IT PLEASED GOD BEFORE THEY CAME HALF SEAS OVER, TO SMITE THE YOUNG MAN WITH A GRIEVOUS DISEASE OF WHICH HE DIED IN A DESPERATE MANNER.. AND SO HE HIMSELF WAS THE FIRST THROWN OVERBOARD. THUS HIS CURSES LIGHT OWN HIS WON HEAD, AND IT WAS AN ASTONISHMENT TO ALL HIS FELLOWS FOR THEY NOTED IT TO BE THE JUST HAND OF GOD UPON HIM.."
But their problems were far from over yet, they encountered many fierce storms which shook the ship with tremendous force. So fierce that many times they could not even keep the sail out and the force of the wind -- eventually cracked and bowed the main beams when they had just went over the half way point across the Atlantic. And although the passengers and crew wanted to turn back, Christopher Jones, the ships Master, assured all the vessel was "strong and firm under water." He ordered the beam to be secured. It was hoisted into place by a great iron screw that, fortunately, the Pilgrims brought out of Holland. AND Upon raising the beam, they "committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed." These 100 people; cold, wet -- on wooden ship in the middle of the ocean -- put their hope, trust and lives into the hands of God. The battered ship finally came within sight of Cape Cod on November 19, 1620. Two had died at sea and two had given birth. The Pilgrims scanned the shoreline just to the west of them and described it as, "a goodly land wooded to the brink of the sea," William Bradford writes, "AFTER LONG BEATINGS AT SEA THEY FELL WITH THAT LAND WHICH IS CALLED CAPE COD; AND THEY WERE NOT A LITTLE JOYFUL..."
Before going ashore they decided to write a document know as the Mayflower Compact.
At the heart of the compact lay an undisputed conviction that God must be at the center of all law and order and the law without a moral base is really no law at all.
The day the Pilgrims signed the May Flower Compact, according to William Bradford, "they came to anchor in the Bay, which was a good harbor...and they blessed the God of Heaven, who brought them over the fast and furious ocean... and a sea of trouble. And they read the following from the Geneva Bible (the Bible the Pilgrims used) "LET THEM, THEREFORE PRAISE THE LORD, BECAUSE HE IS GOOD AND HIS MERCIES ENDURE FOREVER."
This coming thursday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day... Many will be busy cooking turkeys, making stuffing, baking pumpkin pies.... and watching football games. And that is fun stuff -- it is important to get together with loved ones... But that is not what thanksgiving is really about -- itís not about food and fun... it is about giving thanks to the Lord God Almighty.
We usually picture the first thanksgiving in America, as the time when the Pilgrims and the Indians got together for a great feast (though I really donít know how they could of eaten pumpkin pie without cool whip). But I tend to look at that time when on the sea battered Mayflower anchored in the bay at Cape Cod, a group of weary and worn men and women were on their knees praising their God in heaven for bringing them safely through the treacherous sea to this new land, as the real first thanksgiving.
TALE OF TWO KINGS
Two of the greatest love stories ever told. The one, at Camelot; the other, at Calvary. Two of the noblest kings ever to live. The one, King Arthur; the other, King of the Jews. The one is adorned with a jeweled crown; the other, with a crown of thorns.
The comparisons and contrasts between Camelot and Calvary are many, but one scene from Camelot illustrates a great theological dilemma that only the cross could resolve.
Prior to His appointment with destiny on the brow of that fateful hill, Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Lk. 22:42).
Understand, on an emotional level, that this is the pleading of a son to his father. If your child came to you in such agony, wouldnít you do everything within your power to grant the request?
But this Father, this time, didnít respond as expected. And thatís the theological rub. He denied the request of His Son, His only Son, His beloved Son. In Gethsemane, that Son was asking:
"Is there no other way?"
The Son is betrayed, arrested, deserted, denied, beaten, tried, mocked, and finally crucified. Tacitly, the Father answers:
"No, there is no other way."
But why? Why was there no other way?
We find the answer to that question in a scene from Camelot, where the adulterous relationship between Queen Guenevere and Arthurís most trusted knight, Sir Lancelot, has divided the Round Table. When the scheming Mordred catches them in a clandestine encounter, Lancelot escapes. Guenevere is not so fortunate. She faces a trial. The jury finds her guilty and sentences her to the flame.
As the day of execution nears, people come from miles around with one question in their minds: Would the king let her die?
Mordred gleefully captures the complexity of Arthurís predicament:
Arthur! What a magnificent dilemma!
Let her die, your life is over;
Let her live, your lifeís a fraud.
Which will it be, Arthur?
Do you kill the queen or kill the law?
Tragically but resolutely, Arthur decides: "Treason has been committed! The jury has ruled! Let justice be done!"
High from the castle window stands Arthur, as Guenevere enters the courtyard. She walks to her unlit stake, where the executioner stands with waiting torch. Arthur turns away, emotion brimming in his eyes.
A herald mounts the tower where Arthur has withdrawn: "The queen is at the stake, Your Majesty. Shall I signal the torch?"
But the king cannot answer.
Arthurís love for Jenny spills from his broken heart: "I canít! I canít! I canít let her die!"
Seeing Arthur crumble, Mordred relishes the moment: "Well, youíre human after all, arenít you, Arthur? Human and helpless."
Tragically, Arthur realizes the truth of Mordredís remark. Being only human, he is indeed helpless. But where this story ends, the greatest story ever told just begins.
Another Execution Scene.
Another time. Another place. Another king.
The setting: A world lies estranged from the God who loves it. Like Genevere, an unfaithful humanity stands guilty and in bondage, awaiting judgmentís torch.
Could God turn His head from the righteous demands of the law and simply excuse the worldís sin? If not, then could He turn His head from the world He loved? Would the king burn Guenevere?
Like the wicked Mordred, Satan must have looked on in delight:
God! What a magnificent dilemma!
Let them die, Your life is over;
Let them live, Your lifeís a fraud;
Which will it be, God?
Do You kill Your world or do You kill the law?
Without even waiting for His Guenevere to look up in repentance, the King stepped down from His throne, took off His crown, laid aside His royal robes, and descended His castleís polished steps into humanityís pockmarked streets. Paulís words in Philippians are thought by some scholars to be the lyrics of an ancient hymn, singing about the King of kings.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Phil. 2:6-8
That scene in the movie was an epiphany of understanding. Suddenly, it all made sense. We know now why He had to die, why there was no other way.
When love and justice collide, only the cross offers a happy ending.
Source: Abridged excerpt from Ken Gireís book Windows of the Soul. Copyright © 1996 by Ken Gire, Jr. Zondervan Publishing Houses.
Wade Hughes, Sr
NO TITLES AND NO DEEDS?
There was a terrible earthquake in California many years ago. Thousands of homes were destroyed and the state was in chaos.
Many people were claiming the homes they lived in as their own.
The courthouse and all the titles and deeds were destroyed completely.
The gas lines ran under the court house, and the flames were so consuming, not one record was found.
This couple had lived in this house 15 years and they went to the judge to declare the home theirs. Another individual came forward and claimed the home was theirs.
The judge did not know what to do, the people had lived there 15 years and brought people forward to back their claim.
The other people brought little stubs where the people had paid rent to them.
The judge asked to see the peoples signatures?
The judge asked, Is this your signature on these rent stubs?
The people said, YES!
The judge declared the other people the owners of the home, even though they did not live there.
May I suggest to you, that is sort of what paying tithes really is...
10% is a legal document that you believe Jesus is Savior and Lord, and that
God is the Creator. Your giving could be used in a court of law that you know who God really is.
Tithing acknowledges God as the true owner.
LOVE LOVES TO GIVE!
Bill Hybels tells about an interesting experience after a baptism service in their church. He writes: ďI bumped into a woman in the stairwell who was crying. I thought this was a little odd, since the service was so joyful. I asked her if she was all right. She said, ĎNo, Iím struggling.í She said, ĎMy mom was baptized today. I prayed for her every day for almost 20 years. The reason Iím crying is because I came this close to giving up on her. At the 5-year mark I said, ďWho needs this? God isnít listening.Ē At the 10-year mark I said, ďWhy am I wasting my breath?Ē At the 15-year mark I said, ďThis is absurd.Ē At the 19-year mark I said, ďIím just a fool.Ē But I just kept trying, kept praying. Even with weak faith I kept praying. Then she gave here life to Christ, and she was baptized today. I will never doubt the power of prayer again.Ē
Sometimes when we pray and pray we feel like we are experiencing the law of diminished returns ó so we stop praying. We correspon...
ďGodís Algebra!Ē Romans 8:9-17 Key verse(s) 16:ďThe Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are Godís children.Ē
One of the unchangeable and mysterious laws of mathematics is that whenever you multiply a positive number by a negative number you will always get a negative number. I remember my 7th grade teacher, Mr. Kramer, drilling that into our heads. There was no way of adequately explaining why a negative times a positive will always equal a negative. And, for a math underachiever such as myself, it simply was a matter of memorizing the theorem and forgetting the understanding part of it. From a purely logical perspective, it always seemed to me that whichever number was the larger ought to be the determining factor in any equation. It just made sense. The big guy was going to defeat the little guy in a wrestling match. The larger hawk would always overpower the smaller sparrow. If you mixed a little bit of gravel with a lot of sand you would still have more sand than gravel. I always had a hard time understanding the concept of something small overpowering something very large.
This seemed logical to me for the most part. Even daily life as it played itself out around me testified to the fact that the equation embraced faulty logic. For example, when you were having a good day and things were going along pretty well and you stumbled into calamity for some reason, if the amount of good you had happened to collect did not exceed the magnitude of the calamity, the bad would always put the hammerlock on the good sending you down to the mat every time. It was a question of balance. If your alarm didnít go off in the morning and you were late for class, that could be overcome in general if you simply negated it by hitting a home run at recess and added a couple of good test scores to the mix throughout the course of the day. That seemed pretty logical to 13-year-old kid who was simply trying to make the best of life at the moment and was determined to finish each day with more good on his plate than bad.
Sometimes being a Christian and having to deal with the bad and negative things in our lives also has this same underpinning of illogical calculation. Life can real deal out some pretty heavy blows sometimes. Even worse, when we are already down for the count, there are even those days when bad piles on bad. If we use the logic of the 13-year-old boy just trying to make it through the day, days like this become unbearable. There simply isnít enough good within our grasp to deal with all the bad. Thatís when despair steps in to put its heavy boot on the back of our neck to keep us down for good.
Thank God for they mystery of His Holy Spirit. When He is inserted into the equation of life, what Mr. Kramer taught me in 7th grade mathematics starts to become even more illogical, however in a reverse sort of way. Whereas algebra dictates that a negative times a positive always equals a negative, Godís textbook, the Bible, dictates that a negative times a positive always equals a positive. When life becomes overpowering it doesnít matter how much of it is negative. When we put the Holy Spirit of God into the equation the outcome is always the same; we get the help we need to cope and to restore our faith. This is a mystery that flies in the face of earthly logic but it is trustworthy. Sorrow and Affliction x the Holy Spirit = Patience. But Godís algebra doesnít stop there. Patience x Experience = Faith. It doesnít seem logical at the outset, but no matter how big sorrow and affliction are, they never come out the winner in this equation.
Frederick Baker II
"Godís Grace Shown To Us"
The Enemy of the world, Satan, was on the side of lifeís road with a very large cage. The man coming towards him noticed that it was crammed full of people of every kind, young, old, from every race and nation."
Where did you get these people?" the man asked. "Oh, from all over the world," Satan replied. "I lure them with drinking, drugs, lust, lies, anger, hate, love of money, and all manner of things. I pretend Iím their friend, out to give them a good time, then when Iíve hooked them, into the cage they go. "And what are you going to do with them now?" asked the man.
Satan grinned. "Iím going to prod them, provoke them, get them to hate and destroy each other; Iíll stir up racial hatred, defiance of law and order; Iíll make people bored, lonely, dissatisfied, confused and restless. Itís easy. People will always listen to what I offer them and (whatís better) blame God for the outcome!" "And then what?" the man asked." Those who do not destroy themselves, I will destroy. None will escape me."
The man stepped forward. "Can I buy these people from you?" he asked.
Satan snarled, "Yes, but it will cost you your life."
So Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid for your release, your freedom from Satanís trap, with His own life, on the cross at Calvary. The door is open, and anyone, whom Satan has deceived and caged, can be set free.