Robed, Ringed, and Resoled
By Pastor Dave

When the humbled and repentant prodigal returned to his father, “the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.'” (Luke 15:22) With an understanding of his unworthiness before his father, the son returned garbed in tattered clothing and feet bruised and bare. Upon hearing his son’s confession of sin, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,” the father immediately called upon his servants to cover his son with the finest robe. A ring, a symbol of his father
s authority and resources, was put upon the fingers which once clawed through pig slop searching for a single morsel of food. Feet that were naked, bruised, and soiled on his journey as a penniless pauper were now washed and fitted with new sandals. What forgiveness! What tenderness! What glorious provision!

The Lord Jesus' account of the prodigal provides insight into the grace and mercy extended to us from our Heavenly Father. We came to the Father confessing we have sinned against Heaven, and sought forgiveness through faith in Jesus' name. We came clothed in tattered and filthy clothes of our own righteousness, and confessed our unworthiness. We came beaten, bruised, and barren of any item of eternal value. We brought nothing.

He offers us everything. Our sins are blotted out, and we are covered with a robe of righteousness. We are “ringed” with the seal of ownership and are placed under the authority of our Father.  Hands once quick to practice evil are set apart and sealed by the Spirit of the Father unto good works. Once barefoot and bound in Satan’s slave market, our Father resoles our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. 

Father, I thank you that by my confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I have been robed, ringed, and resoled. I longingly await your return that I, like the prodigal son, may sit at the glorious celebration prepared for all who you have clothed with the pure white garments of salvation. 

Portrait of Our King
By Pastor Dave

Over the decades many talented artists, using the medium of oil paints, have portrayed our Lord Jesus. I am grateful to those who have allowed heart to move brush upon canvas capturing their minds image of God’s suffering Servant and Great Shepherd. Yet many present a weak Jesus with apologetic stance and ineffectual face. My Jesus, Lion of the tribe of Judah is presented in all His glory and power in Revelation 1:13-16. Here the Holy Ghost takes the pen dipped in ancient ink, and through the Apostle John gives us a magnificent glimpse of The Holy One. Eyes of fire piercing even the darkest recesses of man’s soul. Feet like brass as He stands as Righteous Judge administering justice upon the Anti-Christ and all who follow him. Clothed in brilliant white and splendid gold for He is King of Perfection. His voice goes forth with the resonating roar of our Niagara Falls. He who created the sun outshines its brightness. The armies of men fall before The Eternal Logos as The Sword of His Spirit goes forth. In this marvelous revelation the Holy Ghost does what no painter, no sculpture could ever have dreamt of doing. He reveals to us our Lord in uncloaked glory. The Word paints Jesus, with Holy Spirit Oil. Lord, may we worship you for all You truly are; Holy, Mighty, Eternal, Lamb of God, Beloved of the Father, our King of Kings. We longingly await your return, come quickly for your Bride!

Light of the World
by Michelle Homchuck

As I reflect upon the numerous symbols of the Christmas season, my thoughts continue to gravitate back to one word, light. On that first Christmas night, it was a bright star shining in the dark sky over a cold stable that led worshipers to the Christ child. The night sky was brilliantly lit up as angles announced the arrival of the baby King to a group of shepherds. Our Christmas trees glitter brightly with lights, tinsel and a star shines brightly atop the highest bough. Even stories of Santa Claus include Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer guiding the way with his bright red shiny nose. At the heart of the Christmas story lies the True Light of the World in a lowly manger.

Two thousand years ago the first Christmas took place amidst a people lost in spiritual darkness. Two millennia later, humanity in is a similar state. Beneath the laughter, presents, shopping, Christmas trees, decorations and assorted parties and family gatherings hangs darkness over the souls of many.

The Light left heaven to enter a manger had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah seven hundred years earlier. Isaiah told of a time when those walking in darkness would see a great light. He spoke of a child, the Son of God, God Himself in human flesh, who would come to the earth as a helpless babe to save lost sinners from the darkness of sin. Isaiah 9:6b says, “And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The gospel of John chapter 1 records that Jesus, the True Light, came to shine in the darkness to give light to every man. But when He came, He was not known by those He came to save. Even though He had created them and came to give His life to save them, they did not know or receive Him. “Why not?” we may ask.

In John 3, as Jesus speaks to a man who comes to Him seeking answers to eternal life, Jesus says, “ . . . light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19). Later in John 8, Jesus addresses those who were religious but did not believe He was the Son of God by saying, “I am the light of the world, He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

What of you dear soul? Are you walking in darkness? Have you truly experienced the Light of the Christmas Child? Do you know the True and glorious Light of Jesus Christ that came to give His sinless life for yours and for mine?

As the words to a worship song so aptly put it, “Light of the world, You came down into darkness, opened my eyes let me see . . . ”. This Christmas, won’t you let the Light of Christ shine upon your heart. Will you turn from the darkness and experience the Light of Life? God gave us the greatest gift of all time, the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life. (Ephesians 2: 8 – 9)

Two thousand years after He entered the world and gave His life upon a cross for our sins, His light and invitation still remain for all to see and receive. “ . . . if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10: 9 – 10)

By faith through grace we have the light of Christ shinning in us. May you and I shine brilliantly as did that Christmas star that brought wise men to Jesus. Remember you are the light of the world (Matt. 5: 14 – 16). So let your light shine so that all may see and be drawn to The Light of the World. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

Build A God?
by Pastor Dave

As the father of four small children I know well the importance of stuffed animals in a young child’s life. A number of years ago brilliant marketing minds developed the “Build A Bear” store. If you are unfamiliar with this magical store where stuffed animal are created right before your wide-eyed child, let me briefly share with you the wonder and excitement that is the “Build A Bear” experience. You enter with your child and, oh yes, your wallet. Your little treasure will be awestruck as their sparkling eyes behold walls covered with a menagerie of stuffed animal forms just waiting to be chosen. The child will usually choose a body for their new friend that reflects his or her personality. I have three girls and my youngest loves to be clothed in pink and play princess. She chose a Hello Kitty body, with a tropical tan no less. After the basic shape has been chosen your child or grandchild will travel from station to station dressing his or her animal, purchasing various accessories, and items, which provide the animal with the ability to talk, and yes, even obtain the semblance of a beating heart. Once completed your child will beam with pride at her newly created stuffed whatever and proudly carry it home in the box provide for her companion to live in. Once home your little one can take her friend out when she wants to talk to it, give it a special name, hug it, squeeze it to make it say something which pleases her, and then return it to it’s resting place until she is ready to spend time with it again.

The prophet Isaiah was sent by God to warn Judah and the inhabitance of Jerusalem to turn from their idolatry. Judah had followed the footsteps of her sister the Northern Kingdom upon the pathway of pagan idol worship. In Isaiah 44:6 the prophet declared, “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of Heavens Armies: I am the First and I am the Last; Beside Me there is no God.” In the verses to follow (44:9-20) Isaiah points out the vanity and foolishness of making idols out of metal, stone and wood. Verse 13 gives us a vivid picture of a craftsman using tools of his trade to fashion an image, “and makes it like the figure of a man, according to the beauty of man, that it may remain in the house.” The man cuts down a tree, burns part of it to warm himself, part for a cooking fire, and part of the wood “he makes a god and worships it: He makes it a carved image, and falls down to it.” (44:14-17). The prophet then points out that those who worship man made gods have no understanding. “They do not know nor understand; …….And no one considers in his heart, nor is there understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire, Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?”

“How ridicules, how foolish”, the reader may say. Yet has not our nation been turned into one large “Build A God” franchise? Our currency testifies in indelible ink “In God We Trust”, and our Pledge states we are “One Nation Under God”. But dare I pose the question, "Have we become a nation which encourages each citizen to fashion a god according to the figure of man with the attributes and accessories that will make each individual the most comfortable?" Just as the excited child builds a stuffed animal, so humanity selects the form, fashion, and likeness of their own personal “Build A God”. A man made god who can be stored in a box, made to speak loving and comfortable words may appeal to the world. But the great tragic truth remains that men become like the god they worship. A blind, deaf, impotent god will not see the trials that will come upon you in life. It will not answer when you cry out in the dark night of the soul. It will bring no comfort, no counsel when you ask it life’s soul searching questions, “Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?”

The Bible says, “Beside Me there is no God.” Dear reader, if you have fashioned for yourself any other god I encourage you to turn from it today. Turn to the God who loves you so much that He sent His own Son to die on a cross for your sins. Run to the one true God who will hear your hearts cry, and comfort you by His Spirit as you travel valleys filled with dark shadows of this life. Rest in the God who is the Eternal Rock, the protective fortress to all those who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The choice is yours. Build a god of your own to worship, or worship God, the Master Builder.

Redeeming the Time
By Elder K. Allen Bowden

Life can be so busy. We often live in a perpetual state of “on the go”; got to get the kids to their things, so I can get to my thing, so I can be back in time for my spouse’s thing. Frequently we will complain about the busyness and the jam packed schedules. We get stressed. There’s no time “for us.” Then we decide to join a gym, or sign up for a weekly massage, or choose to dedicate one entire night of the week to just vegging in front of the television. In our infinite genius we just cram one more thing into our calendars. Colossians 4:5 tell us to “walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” Another translation reads “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.” Redeeming the time? Making the most of the opportunity? What’s this all about? The book of Colossians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul the Church in Colossi. In his letter Paul instructs the believers on how they should conduct themselves. Paul reminds them of the importance of putting Jesus Christ first in all things. He encourages them to live in peace and act in love toward one another. Paul puts great emphasis on spending time together in prayer. Under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, Paul instructed the Colossians in how they should spend their time. Not once did Paul mention anything about running around like chickens with their heads cut off. He never mentions anything about making time “for themselves.”

Philippians 2:3-4 says “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your won personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Do nothing from selfishness? But isn’t life all about me? Don’t I deserve a little “me time?” If anyone was deserving of time for himself, it was Jesus. He is the Son of God, God the Son. He is the Savior of the world for all who put their faith and hope in Him and His death and resurrection. He is the Messiah, The Anointed One of Israel. He is perfect. Yet, when we look at the life of Jesus Christ recorded in the Gospels, we see that He spent His life in the service of others.

In the Scriptures it is common to find Jesus and the disciples traveling from town to town, region to region. Along the way they would encounter people in need. Jesus, lead by the Spirit would single out one individual, and with compassion and power heal their needs. At times the disciples would try to keep the children from bothering Jesus, He rebuked them, then gathered the children and blessed them. While on the cross, in pain unimaginable, Jesus ministered to one of the thief’s nailed to the cross beside Him. He spent time in prayer for those who nailed His feet and hands to the wooden cross. He made time to make sure His mother would be cared for after His death. Jesus Christ, our perfect example in every area of life redeemed the time. He made the most of every opportunity.

The average movie takes up about two hours of our lives. The average baseball game takes closer to three. The average person spends hours and hours each week surfing the Internet. Then there are the appointments, church, and chores. Oh, and let’s not forget the newly appointed gym schedule and weekly massage. What in the world are we doing with our time? When was the last time we as believers stopped whatever we were doing throughout the busyness of the weeks and days, and addressed the needs of anther human being? When did I, as a follower of Jesus, stop to show His love to someone in need? When was the last time I prayed for someone that was an “outsider”, - someone outside my circle?

Are we trying to cram our Christianity into our and calendars as if it was another task on a to do list? “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders making the most of every opportunity.”Each of us is given twenty-four hours each day, no more no less. What will you do with yours?
What will I do with mine? Life can be so busy. And life is so very, very short.

Sword or Symbol?
by Pastor Dave

"If You are the Son of God,” Satan said as he tempted Jesus. In response, Jesus did not have a long theological debate with Satan. He used Scripture, the Word of God—the Bible, to defeat him and overcome the enemy’s temptations. The master of deception twisted the scriptures, but Jesus, knew the weapon of His warfare. Each time the serpent struck, his attack was cut down with the sharp sword of the Word of God. I encourage you to look for yourself at Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the Bible (Matthew 4).

Has the most powerful weapon we have against Satan’s lies become a dust-covered museum artifact to be displayed but seldom used in America’s churches? Many churches contain a large Bible open, elevated upon a stand, at the front of the sanctuary—certainly a fitting and appropriate placement for the living Word of God. Yet has the weapon of our warfare become more symbol than sword? Collecting dust rather than flashing brightly and piercing the darkness of men’s hearts, does the Word of God rest idly? Does it lie among other religious artifacts whose symbolism is lost upon those who weekly view them? Consider the lamp stand, the symbol of the burning light of the Holy Spirit, that offers the Church power and illumination and the cross—to be remembered and daily taken up by Christ’s disciples.

Have the pastors of the body of Christ turned to other weapons they esteem more effective for the needs of our modern culture? Have those entrusted to equip the Lord’s warriors succumb to Satan’s lie that the Bible is not relevant to the needs of the 21st century?

Across the USA, believers gather to be equipped to live as faithful soldiers before the Lord of Heaven’s Army. What are we as pastors, church leaders, youth group leaders, and Sunday-school teachers offering these hungry, energetic young warrior: man’s wisdom or the all-sufficient Word? Have we purchased programs of man’s invention designed to entertain the saints rather than prepare Disciples of Christ for the battlefield? Sober and vigilant soldiers need a call to arms, not comfort and coffee hours.

If these soldiers in the Lord’s army are equipped with the opinions of men and sent out upon the spiritual battlefield, should we be surprised when they return bloodied and beaten, discouraged and despondent? As they return in defeat do we then offer them a hot cup of Christian coco and a heartwarming tale? If so, as time passes these energetic warriors will be cajoled into a relaxed stupor. Growing accustom to the warm stale air of a religions tomb, the blazing fire of the Holy Spirit within them will slowly diminish to a glowing ember awaiting a fresh wind of the Word to ignite the passion anew.

Those of us called to shepherd the flock of God would do well to heed the words of the prophet of God in Jeremiah 10:21:

For the shepherds have become dull-hearted, and have not sought the LORD; therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.

Satan fears the Word of God. He has experienced defeat at the edge of God’s two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). How pleased he must be as he prowls throughout the earth and observes the powerful weapon of our warfare gathering dust on our bed stands, book shelves, coffee tables, and church libraries!

As his plans and schemes are illuminated by the brilliant flashing sword of God’s Word in the hands of his Holy Warriors, let us drive the enemy out of our homes, our schools, our courts of law, and our churches.