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Sweetheart Banquet

Join us for an evening of christian fellowship on February 18, 2017 as we celebrate our annual “Sweetheart Banquet”.  Scripture say, “now abideth faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”

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From the Pastor’s Pen

Matthew 7:15-29

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.           NKJV

My wife and I have been going through Content to Be Good, Called to be Godly by Janet Denison as part of our daily devotionals. In the book, Mrs. Denison, who is a Pastor’s wife, makes some very astute observations about the passage which I felt led to share with my readers.

           This warning from Jesus is critical. Every church has both sheep and wolves sitting in the pews. The wolves dress and sound just like the sheep, but they wear a disguise of faithfulness . . . How do you identify the wolves? More importantly, how do you keep yourself from becoming one? The answer to both questions is by prayerfully becoming a fruit inspector.
           When I speak, I love to use this illustration. I set two apples on the podium. One of the apples is real and the other is artificial. No one in the audience can distinguish the difference until I ask someone to come up and inspect the fruit. Close up, the differences are unmistakable. Wolves dressed like sheep look almost identical to real sheep. The only way we can detect the difference is by looking closely.
         Then I hold up both apples and describe them. The artificial fruit is perfect in appearance. There are no bruises or breaks in the skin. Often the artificial apple appears to be in better shape than the real one. My artificial apple doesn’t have a stem. It was never attached to a tree and so it never needed one. A real apple is created because it was attached to a tree that produces an apple. Artificial fruit can sit in a bowl and look good for years. With a little dusting, this plastic fruit will maintain its fresh and “tasty” appearance. Real fruit doesn’t need maintenance for the best appearance—it requires sustenance.
           An artificial witness can often look better than a genuine witness. The artificial witness seems flawless and is “stem free.” It makes sense because a false witness is manufactured, not grown. A real witness cannot be manufactured; God Himself must create him. What strengthens and sustains your witness: you or God?
           But the real difference between my two apples is the weight. One apple is much lighter than the other because it is hollow. The same is true with a person’s faith. Just like people who reach for artificial fruit when they are hungry and walk away disappointed and unsatisfied, many people lead Christian lives that are hollow, unable to benefit anyone. Only real fruit can feed people when they are hungry. Seeds can be found only in the center of a real apple. Real apples produce other apples; real Christians produce other Christians. Does your witness result in the fruit of other people coming to know Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives?
           What does it mean to be a fruit inspector? It means you look closely at a person’s life to identify whether that person is a sheep, or a wolf disguised as a sheep. You won’t be able to tell unless you have the chance to inspect his or her life. Most wolves carefully limit their exposure to spiritual situations. When surrounded by real sheep, their disguise is easier to notice. Wolves might have the appearance of faith, but they are unable to produce the fruit of a godly witness. In truth, they often feed on the sheep. Significantly, wolves produce other wolves, not sheep.           Janet Denison

These are sobering thoughts based on Jesus’ warning concerning wolves in sheep’s clothing and the lack of spiritual fruit in their lives. Let this be a warning to us to carefully examine the fruit of our lives. Are we real sheep? Or wolves in sheep’s clothing?

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Hebrews 7:22-28

By so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.          NKJV

In Hebrews 7:1-21, the scripture declares that Jesus is an eternal high priest after the order of Melchizedek rather than a temporal high priest after the order of Aaron. As a result, verse 22 declares that Jesus has become the surety (or guarantee) of a better covenant than that of the Old Testament high priests. In our text, the Lord proceeds to give us three reasons that Jesus’ high priesthood is superior to that of the Old Testament high priests.

First, Jesus high priesthood is superior to that of the Old Testament high priests because He lives forever (vs.23-25). Because the Old Testament priests died, they had to be continually replaced (v.23). Conversely, because Jesus was raised from the dead in an immortal, incorruptible body, His high priesthood is eternal (v.24). Since Jesus lives forever, He is able to save those of us who trust in Him forever because lives forever to make intercession for us (v.25). Despite the accusations of Satan who acts as a prosecuting attorney (Rev. 12:10), Jesus stands before God the Father, the great judge of all in the court of heaven, to testify as our defense attorney that He has already paid the penalty for our sins (I Jn. 2:1).

Second, Jesus’ high priesthood is superior to that of the Old Testament high priests because He is sinless (v.26-28). Unlike the Old Testament high priests, Jesus did not have to offer up a sacrifice for His own sins (v.27). The animal sacrifices offered up by the Old Testament high priests were not acceptable to pay for the peoples’ sins (Heb. 10:4). Sin, which is the breaking of God’s laws (I Jn. 3:4), requires a sinless human being to be sacrificed and pay for the sins of sinful human beings. Even the Old Testament high priests couldn’t sacrifice themselves for the peoples’ sins because they too were sinners. No human being could be an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of mankind because all human beings are sinners (Rom. 3:23). But God Himself provided the solution in becoming a human being in the person of Jesus Christ, and then living a sinless life here on earth. As a perfect, sinless man, He became the perfect, acceptable sacrifice for our sins (v.26).

Third, Jesus high priesthood is superior to that of the Old Testament high priests because He paid for all of our sins forever with His one sacrifice (v.27). Jesus’ last words from the cross were “It is finished.” (Jn. 19:30). By His substitutionary death, He had accomplished everything that needed to be accomplished for the redemption of His people. Nothing more needed to be done. Contrast that with the sacrifices of the Old Testament high priests which had to be continually offered over and over again for sins (Heb. 10:1,3). When you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, every sin you have ever committed, or will ever commit, is paid for forever (Heb. 10:11-14). To use an Old Testament metaphor, the sacrifices of the Old Testament high priests were but a cracked cistern that frequently ran dry and had to be constantly refilled, but the sacrifice of Jesus is an unceasing fountain that flows continuously for the cleansing of sin (Zech. 13:1).

What about you dear reader? Have you been to the unceasing fountain of Jesus’ blood opened to cleanse all your sins forever? Have you repented of your sins and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Hebrews 7:1-3

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.          NKJV

Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20) is one of the most mysterious and controversial figures in all of scripture. There are two major views regarding Melchizedek. The first is that Melchizedek was simply a man who was a contemporary of Abraham, who had no record of his genealogy, and who was both a king and a priest, and thus is a type (or picture) of Christ. The second view is that Melchizedek was the pre-incarnate Christ, who appeared to Abraham to bestow His own special blessing on the patriarch who would become the father of the Hebrew nation. Christ sometimes appeared in the Old Testament in visible form, known in theological circles as a Christophany. Some examples of Christophanies from scripture include Christ appearing to Moses in the form of a burning bush (Ex. 3:4-18, compare with Jn. 8:58); Christ appearing as a man with whom Jacob wrestled, who preserved Jacob’s life, blessed him with a new name (Israel), and whom Jacob identified as God Himself (Gen. 32:24-30); Christ appearing to Joshua as the Captain of the Lord’s Army (Jos. 5:13-15); Christ walking in the fiery furnace in human form with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan. 3:23-25); etc. Looking at our text, there seems to three strong lines of evidence that Melchizedek is a Christophany.

First, Melchizedek has the authority of Christ. In verse two, we learn that “Melchizedek” (actually a title rather than a personal name) means “King of Righteousness.” This Old Testament title applies only to Christ (Isa. 32:1, Jer. 23:5-6). Melchizedek is also referred to in verse two as the “King of Salem,” which literally means “King of Peace.” Again, this title is similar to the Old Testament title for Christ, “Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6). At Christ’s millennial reign, He will certainly reign over the nations of the earth as the “King of Peace” (Zech. 9:10).

Second, Melchizedek, like Christ, is greater than Abraham. In the eyes of the Jews, Abraham was the greatest man who ever lived. When the Jews heard the claims of Jesus, they asked, “Are you greater than our father, Abraham? Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answer to them was, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” (Jn. 8:58). Likewise, the scripture states that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham (Heb. 7:4-7). The superiority of Melchizedek to Abraham is also seen in the fact that Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek before the implementation of the Levitical priesthood (v.2). Biblically, titles are paid not to men, but to the Lord (Mal. 3:8, Gen. 28:22, Lev. 27:30). Why was Abraham, the Patriarch of Israel, paying tithes to Melchizedek? It is because Melchizedek was Christ Himself in human form.

Third, Melchizedek is eternal like Christ (v.3). There are four declarations in Hebrews, chapter seven, regarding the eternality of Melchizedek. Verse three declares that Melchizedek had no parents. Those who hold that He is merely a type of Christ say that this verse just means that there is no record of His genealogy. However, applying the “golden rule of interpretation” which requires that any passage be taken “literally” as “plainly stated” unless there is good contextual reason to do so otherwise, then this passage goes far beyond just saying that there is no record of Melchizedek’s genealogy. Verse three explicitly states that Melchizedek had no beginning or end. Not only does this rule out Him being a man, it also rules out Him being a angel (Psa. 148:2, 5). Melchizek is declared to be like the Son of God (compare with Dan. 3:25, Rev. 1:12-13, 18), an eternal priest (Heb. 7:15-16), who is still alive (Heb. 7:8).

Who is Melchizedek? The Biblical evidence points to Him as the pre-incarnate Christ. This same priest who blessed Abraham as the father of the Hebrew nation is the great, eternal High Priest who is able to bless us with salvation because He lives forever to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25). Have you repented of your sins and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and eternal High Priest?

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Psalm 40:13-17

Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me! Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion Who seek to destroy my life; Let them be driven backward and brought to dishonor Who wish me evil. Let them be confounded because of their shame, Who say to me, “Aha, aha!” Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let such as love Your salvation say continually, “The LORD be magnified!” But I am poor and needy; Yet the LORD thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God.           NKJV

This final portion of Psalm 40 is a prayer of David during a time of persecution by his enemies (vs. 14-15). In this prayer we learn three lessons from David’s godly response in his persecution.

First, we need to pray in times of persecution. Of course we need to pray all the time (I Thess. 5:17), but especially in trials because God is the one who is able to deliver us from any trial—including persecution (v. 13). In verses 14-15, David prays for deliverance from his enemies. Notice that he does not pray for the destruction of his enemies. There are times in the Psalms when David does pray for the destruction of God’s enemies (as opposed to his own personal enemies), particularly when they are bringing dishonor upon the name of the Lord, or threatening God’s people. But David is not praying for the destruction of his personal enemies and neither should we. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. We especially need to pray for the salvation of our enemies. How glorious for one whom was once an enemy to become a brother or sister in Christ.

Notice the three things in verses 14-15 that David does pray for regarding his persecutors. First he prays for his persecutors to be brought to shame and dishonor. A person will never be saved until they first become ashamed of their sins. Second, David prays for his persecutors to be confused (lit. perplexed or amazed). How would persecutors normally expect their victims to respond to their abuse? With anger? With hatred? With cursing? How amazed will our persecutors be when if we respond with blessing, and kindness, and prayer for their salvation and spiritual welfare? Third, David prays for his persecutors to fail in their wicked schemes against him, whether it is to ruin his reputation, harm his loved ones, or take his life. Whatever his persecutors’ evil designs against him may be, he prays that they will fail.

Second, even in the midst of persecution by our enemies, we should rejoice in the Lord and glorify Him (Psa. 34:1, I Thess. 5:18). We can do so in the knowledge that, even in persecution, we are exactly where the Lord intends us to be; and that He has us in those circumstances for our best spiritual interest (Rom. 8:28). Instead of viewing trials, even persecution, as a curse, we should view it as an opportunity from God to bring glory and honor to His name (I Cor. 10:31), and even if we are unable to see anything else good in our persecution, we can certainly rejoice in the fact that we are saved (v. 16). If we were not saved, we would not truly seek God in our lives. We might cry out to Him, wanting our trials alleviated, as the wicked often do in severe circumstances. But the wicked are not truly seeking the Lord because they care anything about Him, and therefore God will not hear their prayers (Mic. 3:4). Conversely, God always hears the prayers of the righteous (v. 17).

Third, even in the midst of persecution, the righteous are confident that God is aware of their trials and will respond to their prayers for help (v. 17; Psa. 15:29, 34:15). The first prayer that God ever truly hears is the prayer for salvation (Jn. 9:31, Rom. 10:13), and even the prayers of believers will go unanswered when they are out of God’s will (Psa. 66:18, I Jn. 5:14).

How do you respond when persecution comes into your life? Do you pray for the salvation of your persecutors? Do you desire God’s will in those trials, even above your own will? Do you give God thanks for the salvation of your soul and the opportunity to glorify Him?

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final Thoughts on John 8:12

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”   NKJV

What a fitting verse for the Christmas season when Christians celebrate the birth of the Son of God into the world as the Light of the World. As we consider all that this declaration that Christ is “the Light of the World” entails, let us focus on four truths regarding the Light of the World.

First, the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world in the darkness of that first Christmas evening to be the light of the world.

I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”           Isaiah 49:6 NKJV

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.                        John 1:4-5, 9-14 NKJV

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”            John 3:16-21 NKJV

Second, Jesus has called us out of darkness into His light.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”    John 8:12 NKJV

While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”           John 12:36 NKJV

To open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’          Acts 26:18 NKJV

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.          II Corinthians 4:6 NKJV

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”     Ephesians 5:8, 14 NKJV

You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.           I Thessalonians 5:5 NKJV

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;     I Peter 2:9 NKJV

If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.          I John 1:7 NKJV

Third, as His ambassadors on earth, Jesus has called us to shine his light into the darkness of the world around us.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.              Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV

That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,           Philippians 2:15 NKJV

Fourth, when Jesus comes again, He will light up the world.

“The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory.           Isaiah 60:19 NKJV

But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).                    Revelation 21:22-25 NKJV

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.                Revelation 22:3-5 NKJV

Is the birth of Jesus more than just a historical event to you? Is it a reality in your heart? Have you repented of your sins, and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the World, as your personal Savior?

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Song of Solomon 1:1-2

The song of songs, which is Solomon’s. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
For your love is better than wine.           NKJV

It is clear from the very first verse of the book, that Solomon is the author of the author of Song of Solomon. Song of Solomon is titled “Song of Songs” in the Hebrew text and in the Greek Septuagint. Early Latin translations titled it “Canticles” (Latin for Song of Songs). English translations began titling the book “Song of Solomon,” thus giving the fuller sense on 1:1. The phrase “song of songs” means “the superlative (best or most excellent) song.” Song of Solomon was written early in Solomon’s reign which began in 971 B.C., but before he took Pharaoh’s daughter as his second wife (I Kings 3:1).

The main theme of Song of Solomon is the love that should exist between a husband and wife (Song. 1:2, 13-16; 2:16; 3:11; 4:9-11; 5:1, 16; 6:3; 7:10). Two people dominate this true-life, dramatic, love song. Solomon, whose kingship is mentioned 5 times (Song. 1:4, 12; 3:9, 11; 7:5), appears as the beloved husband. The Shulamite maiden (Song. 6:13) is the beloved wife. In 1826, Heinrich Ewald, a liberal scholar, proposed a triangle in which the Shulamite falls in love with a shepherd who is not Solomon, but a young man from the maiden’s home town. In Ewald’s interpretation, the Shulamite actually resists the overtures of Solomon to be his wife, longing to be with the young shepherd from her home instead, and eventually she and her shepherd are reunited and marry. Ewald based his interpretation on the argument that Solomon was a polygamist and therefore could not have written a book on the purity of wedded bliss. However, this interpretation is not only dishonoring and without historical foundation, it assumes that Solomon could not have truly loved only one woman early in his reign as king. It is important to note that Solomon entered into his later marriages for political reasons, not for love.

The Shulamite is never mentioned by name in the book, but according to Jewish tradition, she is Abishag, the Shunammite maiden, who cared for King David on his death bed (I Kings 1:3-4, 15; 2:17-25). There are a number of parallels between the Shulamite and Abishag. Both were from Shunem (the consonants, lamed and nun, are frequently interchangeable in Semitic languages and some Hebrew manuscripts (as well as the Septuagint) read Shunammite instead of Shulamite). Examples of this interexchange of lamed and nun can also be seen in Hebrew words such as Azal and Azan (both meaning “to go away from”) and Ya`al and Ya`an (both meaning “to have purpose”). The same type of letter exchanges can be found in most languages, including English (examples: cipher and cipher, offence and offense, gray and grey, sceptic and skeptic, adviser and advisor, barbecue and barbeque, and enquire and inquire). Both the Shulamite and Abishag were outsiders brought into the court. Both of them were contemporaries of Solomon. Both of them knew him personally. Both of them were in an emotionally charged situation involving marriage. Both were virgins. Both were beautiful. Both were brought in to serve kings. Both of them vanish from the pages of scripture before Solomon marries Pharaoh’s daughter. Since the love between Solomon and the Shulamite is a picture of the love between Christ, the shepherd/king, and His bride, the church (Eph. 5:25-33), it is worth noting that Abishag actually served the shepherd/king, David.

It is curious that the Shulamite vanishes from the pages of scripture before Solomon marries Pharaoh’s daughter. Roberta Kells Dorr, a former Middle Eastern scholar and author, in her book, Solomon’s Song, makes the compelling case that, as happened so often in those days, the Shulamite died in childbirth and suggests that it may have been at that time that Solomon wrote his great love song. In Song of Solomon 8:5, the references to death” and “the grave” may have forshadowed the Shulamite’s early death.

Some have objected to the inclusion of Song of Solomon in the canon of scripture, claiming that God is never mentioned in the book, but a closer examination of the book will demonstrate that this claim is in fact, not true. The name of God is actually found in Song. 8:6 in the phrase “most vehement flame.” This entire phrase is one word, “shalhebeth” in Hebrew and literally means “flame of Yah.” “Yah” is the shortened name of “Yahweh” or the “LORD,” the Hebrew name for God, so the phrase “most vehement flame” literally means “flame of the LORD.”