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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Jesus Tells Us Why We Don't Need to Worry

Jesus Tells Us Why We Don’t Need to Worry
We are continuing our study of Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” found in Matthew 5,6 and 7 of our Bibles.  Today we come to the part of Jesus’ sermon where He tells us why we don’t need to worry.  And then He calls on us to stop worrying and start trusting our heavenly Father. (Matthew 6:25-34) He keeps calling us again and again to live our lives constantly trusting our heavenly Father.
Jesus commands us: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink: nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? “(Matthew 6:25) Jesus isn’t telling us not to work to pay for our food or to fulfill our duties by working to providing for ourselves and our families.  But the word He uses is “worry” or having an anxious, frightened, tormented concern about being able to have adequate food and clothing. He calls us to a gracious carelessness = to work and do our best but then to leave the rest to God who will take care of us.
Jesus continues: “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ Or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek.  For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  (Matthew 6:31-33)
Jesus continues: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns: yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26) And He continues telling us not to worry about what we will wear – our clothing. He continues: “So why do you worry about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow:  they neither toil nor spin: and yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”  (Matthew 6:28-29) 
Jesus is telling us to look at the little details of God’s creation and how He has carefully provided for even the smallest creatures.  God has given even the baby birds just out of the nest a built-in knowledge of how to find worms in the ground and seeds in the grass for their food.  As I am writing this, two birds are building a nest on our back porch. And I am amazed to see how they know just how to build their nests and care for their young. Who taught them? 
Jesus continues his sermon by mentioning the lilies of the field.    When we take time to carefully look at a lily or a rose or any flower, we find that from a tiny bud each flower opens up and glorifies God with its unique beauty. All of that colorful radiance and delicate detail in each blossom and when autumn comes the lilies and most other beautiful flowers fade and die.  Jesus says that if God can artistically decorate and clothe the lily or any flower with no other purpose than to cheer us with it’s beauty, and then only for a short time– a season - how much more will He clothe you and me while we are here on earth.  And after we die, He will clothe us with His righteousness and beauty for all eternity.
Jesus mentions that the lilies of the field will be thrown into the oven when the summer season is over. Gods’ good and perfect creation has been cursed by death, because of the curse of sin.  (Romans 6:23) (Genesis 3) But the Day is coming when Christ will come again to judge and destroy all sin.  And nature – the flowers and trees - will again be more glorious and there will be no death or sickness or sorrow.
Jesus continues His Sermon on the Mount by reminding us to ask our heavenly Father for what we need.  And He promises that God, our heavenly Father will give us what we ask for if it is good.  Jesus says: “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. “(Matthew 7:7) He reminds us that earthly parents usually try to give their children food and good things when they ask for them and that God, our heavenly Parent will much more give His children good things when they ask.  He says: “If you then being sinful, still know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to you when you ask Him.” (Matthew 7:11) 
These amazing promises are made to God’s children.  Those who humbly believe and want to try to do God’s will.   Not to those who rebel against God and refuse to believe in Him.  Jesus continues his sermon by calling us to obey the “Golden Rule”.  He says: “Therefore, whatever you want others to do to you, do also to them.  For this is the Law and the Prophets.”  (Matthew 7:12) 
Jesus, in His famous Sermon, again warns us that there are two ways to live life – God’s Way and Satan’s way.  He says: “Enter by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  But narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  (Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus gives us many promises and throughout His sermon constantly reminds us to trust our heavenly Father. But these glorious promises are for those sinners who most of the time, want to obey God and who allow Him to forgive them and help them.  For those who enter the narrow way.  


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Jesus Calls us to Live our Lives Trusting our Heavenly Father

Jesus Calls us to Live our Lives Trusting our Heavenly Father
One day while Jesus was walking through Galilee preaching and healing all the peoples’ diseases and sicknesses, He saw that the crowds following Him were very large. So, He went up on a mountain side and sat down and began preaching to all the people.  We are blessed to be able to hear the sermon today that Jesus preached to those crowds so long ago. His sermon was faithfully written down by His followers and is in our Bibles today.  (The Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5,6 and 7)
Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” has so many good things for us to receive and so much truth for us to grapple with, that today we will only be able to cover part of His sermon. – the part where Jesus is telling His followers how not to live and what not to do.  But then He is inviting them to a new Way of living and believing. A new life in the Spirit.
We will cover Jesus’ instructions about how we should live. Jesus doesn’t just care about how we live, but He also cares about how we feel while we are living! Jesus even gets into our heads and wants our thoughts!  He starts off by discussing our giving to the needy. He warns believers not to brag to others about how much they are giving, and not to give so that they can be honored!  Not to try to impress folks or show off with how rich or generous they are! 
Jesus tells the crowd: “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  So that your giving may be in secret.  Then your heavenly Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you openly.”  (Matthew 6:3-4) 
Jesus also warns His disciples not to show off when they pray or when they fast by trying to impress others with how hungry they are when they fast or how eloquent they are when they pray.  He isn’t criticizing fasting or public prayer, but He condemns pretentious prayer or fasting that is done to attract attention.  He doesn’t want His followers to proudly play the world’s game of competing against one another.  He calls us to be ourselves when we come to God. And to come with a humble spirit.
 Jesus says:” But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who in unseen.  Then your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6) It seems that Jesus is asking that our prayers and our fasting and our gifts giving be just between us and our heavenly Father and not to be done to impress others.
 Then Jesus teaches us how to pray by giving us “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) He gives us an example of how to pray.  Here is the “Lord’s Prayer” that He taught us:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name.  Your kingdom come; your will be done.  On earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Yours in the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.  (Matthew 6:9-13)
Jesus’ prayer starts with: (1) “Our Father”.  When we pray, all our needs are met by our generous loving heavenly Father. (2) Next, we praise our heavenly Father. “Hallowed be your Name” We enter into His presence through praise.  (3) After that we pray His will: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” We pray His will for our lives, our loved ones lives, our church, our nation, etc. (4) Then we ask for God’s generosity. “Give us this day our daily bread” Jesus asked us to pray daily, asking the Father to supply our daily needs. Let’s not worry about tomorrow but trust God to answer our needs for today.  Scripture says that His mercies are new every morning.  (Lamentations 3:23)
Jesus’ model prayer continues:(5) After praying for our daily needs we pray for God’s forgiveness. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” We need God’s forgiveness for this day, and we need to forgive others today too. Daily set your will to walk in love and forgiveness. (6) Then we pray for God’s power over Satan today. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” Pray a hedge of protection around yourself and others.  (7)  And last, we praise God for who He is. “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”   
Of course, we don’t have to pray these very words. Prayer is personal and we are encouraged to pour our hearts out to our heavenly Father in our own words.  But Jesus’ prayer is a helpful  example of how to pray. 
In His sermon Jesus is calling us away from selfishly living our lives by the world’s standards.  Living for ourselves and not for God. Proudly fighting to get the best seat at the movie. And working harder to earn enough money to buy a more expensive car to impress our friends.  We rush around anxious about whether we have enough money to buy all the things that the world says we must have. And we stay awake nights worrying that our children won’t make high enough grades to get into the top colleges and get the best jobs.  We have nightmares about all the bad things that might happen to us.  And we are stressed, angry and anxious most of the time along with being exhausted from working overtime to pay for everything we think we must have to impress people.  Jesus invites us to a better simpler Way of living.
Jesus invites us to relax and trust our heavenly Father for everything.  To lighten up and humbly live our lives for God and not for ourselves.  To believe that our heavenly Father really does love and care for us like the Bible says He does. To enjoy the comfort of remembering that God is with us all the time and will help us.  God our Father promises that He will answer our prayers if they are in His will.  He loves to give his children good things. He promises to forgive us of our sins through Jesus Christ. (John 3:16) and He promises us peace if we believe in Him.  Scripture says that we are given the Holy Spirit – the Comforter - to live within us to help us live this new life that Christ offers.  This new life of trusting and obeying God.
Jesus presents two way of living in his Sermon on the Mount.  (Matthew 6:19-25) We can live our lives for ourselves, without obeying and believing in God as our forgiving Father.  Or we can live our lives trusting and obeying God. In His sermon, Jesus is asking us to choose to trust God.  Jesus says: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.”  (Matthew 6:24) 

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Jesus Tells a Story of Inviting Guests to a Grand Celebration

Jesus tells a Story of Inviting Guests to a Grand Celebration
Matthew 21:1-14
Jesus was a storyteller.  He told many stories, or parables, as He went about His ministry of   teaching the people about God and healing the sick.  His stories were part of His teaching and they always had a meaning and a purpose. In each of His stories, Jesus is trying to teach us a spiritual Truth. And He is trying to show us the Way so that we might have Life.     
In our story today, Jesus is teaching that the whole world is invited to a grand heavenly party, a wedding party, celebrating salvation!  The Father or the King sends His messengers out with His invitation. Many people will refuse the invitation and mock the messengers who bring it.  And others may even kill the messengers who bring the invitation.  Some people will joyfully accept the invitation and let it change them.  But others will refuse the invitation but then try to break into the grand party illegally.
Jesus begins his story about the festive wedding feast.  The king’s son will be marrying his bride.  A lavish royal feast is being prepared with only the best foods and finest wines and the king is sending out messengers to invite only his close friends and relatives to the royal dinner party and joyous celebration. Come, taste and see that the Lord is good. 
Scripture reads: “The king sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but those who were invited were not willing to come.  Again. The king sent out more servants saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, see I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready.  Come to the wedding party.’  But they made light of it and went their way, one to his own farm, and another to his business.  And the rest who were invited seized the king’s servants, treated them spitefully and killed them.” (Matthew 22:3-6)  
The king and his son are deeply hurt. They had prepared so much for their relatives and their loved ones. How could this be? They are heartbroken. Many of their own would not receive them.  So much had been prepared for these chosen ones, but the ones they loved so dearly didn’t have time. The king is angry that some of his messengers have been killed when they were delivering his invitation.  He sends out his army to find those who have done this and let justice be served.     
What is Jesus trying to tell us in this story?  Bible scholars believe that the Son who was to be married at this wedding feast is Christ and the bride are the believers. The bride – those who accept the invitation for Salvation.  Those who allow Christ to take away their sins and cover them with His robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10, Psalm 132:9, Job 29:14, 2 Corinthians 5:21)  
The marriage holds a promise or a covenant between Christ and his believers. And the royal dinner party, with heaven’s music, joyful dancing, rich food and fine wines, all there to celebrate the love between Christ and His beloved believers.  And also, there is rejoicing in all of the blessings that go along with this new marriage covenant.
Some of the blessings of this marriage covenant are pardon of sins, the favor of God, peace and joy, the gifts and fruit of the Spirit, the promises of the gospel, the comforts of the Holy Spirit, and the joy of eternal life – all these are part of the preparations for this grand wedding feast and celebration. A feast that was made for love.  For laughter and rejoicing. For fellowship.  And it was made for fulness. The design of the good news of Christ is to fill every hungry soul with good things. No one is left wanting anything.  What a celebration it will be! 
All the preparations are ready.  Pardon is ready, peace is ready, comfort is ready.  The promises are ready, and heaven at last is ready to receive us!  But those who were invited are not ready.  They will not come!  Not because they cannot, but because they will not!  Are all those good things to go to waste with no one to enjoy them? What is the king to do? 
Jesus continues His story this way: “The king said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  So then go into the highways and byways and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ “The doors are flung open and all are invited! 
 “So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both good and bad and the wedding hall was filled with guests. “(Matthew 22:8-10) The whole world is invited to the grand heavenly celebration. The good and the bad. The rich and the poor.  The criminals and the perverts.  No one is left out. Whoever will, may come. All who want to accept His invitation!  Christ will have His kingdom in this world!   
Jesus finishes His story.  “The wedding hall is now completely filled with excited guests!  And the king comes in to see all his guests.  But the king sees a man there who does not have on a wedding garment.  The king asks the man, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment? And the man without the wedding garment has no answer.”  (Matthew 22:11-12)
The man without the wedding garment is not able to stay at the grand wedding party!  He is not allowed to remain in heaven wearing his own dirty clothes. He cannot stay in heaven on his own in his sins.  He isn’t good enough without Jesus. Without the wedding garment, he cannot have eternal life.
 Unless he accepts Jesus’ invitation to clean him up, to wash away his sins. Unless he allows Jesus to cover him with the wedding garment -Jesus’ robe of righteousness, - he cannot enjoy the royal celebration.  Sadly, he must leave. Jesus finishes His story by saying, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No person comes to the Father but by Me.”    (John 14:6) I believe one of the lessons Jesus is trying to teach us in this story is that we cannot enter heaven with our own good works.  We must have Jesus covering us with His righteousness.    



Monday, February 24, 2020

A Tale of Two Thieves

A Tale of Two Thieves
On a terrible day in history, Jesus was put to death along-side two thieves.   Scripture tells the story: “Two other men, both criminals, were led out with Jesus to be executed.  When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on His right side and the other on His left. And Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:32-34) Can you imagine, during His worst hour, Jesus was caring and praying for the very people who were putting Him to death?
Scripture continues: “The people stood watching, and the religious rulers sneered at Him.  They said, ‘He saved others, let Him save Himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’  The soldiers also came up and mocked and taunted Jesus.” (Luke 23:35) Scripture continues: “One of the thieves who hung there next to Jesus hurled insults at Him, ‘Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us.” (Luke 23:39) This proud thief rejected Jesus.
But with the humble thief on other side of Jesus, it was a different story.  The other thief trusted Jesus. He rebuked the first thief with these words: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  We indeed justly, for we are being punished for our deeds: but this man (Jesus) has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41) Then this dying thief asked Jesus to remember him.  He said: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)   
And Jesus answered the trusting thief saying: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Jesus saves those who trust Him!  It’s just that simple. All the thief asked was: “Jesus, remember me.” The future of the saved person is a promise of Paradise in the presence of Jesus.
The “Tale of Two Thieves” is a warning.  It is both a scene of comforts and a scene of concern.  It is a season of belief and a season of rejection.  Christ has conquered death. Scripture says that he died for all of humanity.  And all of humanity is at the cross. What each of us does with Christ is the most important decision we will ever make.  The Bible says that we have only two choices, to reject Him like the first thief did; or to trust Him like the other thief did.   Jesus said that we are either for Him or against Him.  (Matthew 12:20 and Revelation 3:15-16) When Jesus was asked what our part is in our salvation, He answered that our is to believe in Him.  (John 6:29)
On the one side of Jesus we have the proud thief who rejected Him.  Those who stood around the cross mocked and sneered at Jesus. The pathway to rejection is to mock Christ, to disregard Him, to feel that we are too smart for Him.  To believe that we don’t need Him.  It’s easy to follow the crowd, or follow some of the false religious leaders, like the first thief did.  To follow in the pathways of perdition.
On the other side of Jesus, we have the humble thief who trusted Christ.  The humble thief knew he was a sinner, who deserved punishment. He was sorry for his sins. (Luke 23:40) He recognized the Truth. – Jesus is the Truth.  (Luke 32:41) And he wanted that Truth. He asked Jesus to remember him. He walked in the path of salvation.  
And on the cross in the middle, there was Jesus, paying the price for our Redemption! Jesus saves those who trust Him. Christ has conquered death for us.  That is the “gospel” or the “good-news” - God offers us a Gift – the gift of eternal life.  Scripture says: “For by grace are you saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is a GIFT of God, not of works lest any person should boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Yes, the Bible tells us that our salvation is a gift from God.  The Bible also tells us that: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16) Love gives.  God loved us so much that He gave us the very best gift - eternal life through His Son Jesus.  He paid a terrible price.  But He loves us that much.  And we love Him because He first loved us.  And yes, love gives.  So, if we really love Him, what are we giving back to Him?  Are we giving Him our lives? 





Monday, February 17, 2020

Preparing the World for God's Kingdom on Earth

Preparing the World for God’s Kingdom on Earth
Revelation 6-7
The Bible tells us that at the end of the age, Christ will come again in all His power and glory to judge the world.  And Christ also comes to set up God’s kingdom on earth and to reign over it. God’s kingdom on earth will look very different from the sinful world that we live in now.   
The steps necessary for preparing the world for God’s kingdom on earth will involve a period or time of terrible judgments like mankind have never seen before.  Scripture says: “The day of the Lord is great and very awesome: who can endure it? “(Job 2:11) The last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation tells about these end time judgments. 
The book of Revelation was written by John, the apostle, and in the book of Revelation John describes the vision he was given of what would happen at the end of the age.  John in his vision saw a door open in heaven and a voice inviting him to come up.  John says: “At once I was in the Spirit and there before me was a throne in heaven., and Someone was sitting on it” (Revelation 5:2)   John tries to describe the glory and majesty of the One on the throne and he describes the twenty-four elders and the four  living creatures and the thousands and thousands of angels all worshipping and praising God around the throne.
The One on the throne held a scroll that was sealed with seven seals. The scroll must be opened for sin to be judged and removed from the earth.  But no one there came forward to open it, since no one was able. There was a search in heaven for someone who would be worthy and able to open the seven seals of the scroll. But no one was found.  Great sadness came over John as he sat there waiting and waiting and he began to weep.
One of the elders told John not to weep because: “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5) Then John looked up and saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slaughtered, standing in the center of the throne.  The Lamb came and took the scroll of Him who sat on the throne. Then all of heaven broke out in songs of praise and worship to the Lamb who was the only One worthy and able to open the scroll.  And every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea also joined in praise and worship to the Lamb for overcoming the earth’s curse of sin.  (Revelation 5:13-14)
When Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God begins to open each of the seven seals, the future Tribulation is presented.  (Revelation 6:1-14) Bible scholars believe this Tribulation period lasts about seven and a half years. The first seal is broken and a white horse with a rider comes on the earth to conquer.  This rider offers a false peace to the earth.  The second seal is broken and a red horse with a rider comes on the earth to bring wars on the earth.  The third seal is broken and a black horse with a rider comes on the earth rationing food and bringing famine to the earth.  And then a pale horse with a rider comes on the earth bringing death to a quarter of the population of the earth.
The Lamb who was slaughtered continues opening the seals.  When he opens the fifth seal, we see martyrdom. The souls of those people who were killed or martyred because they turned to God and His Word during this terrible Tribulation period are under the altar.  These martyred people are calling out to God asking how long this terrible time will last.  God gives them white robes and tells them to rest and wait a little longer for the end.
And when Jesus, the Lamb opens the sixth seal, the terrible judgments of God is displayed on earth.  There will be a great earthquake.  The sun turns black and the moon turns blood red.  The stars in the sky fall to the earth and the sky rolls up like a scroll.  And every mountain and island is removed from its place. Nothing in our earth as we know it is still the same.
The world’s inhabitants will recognize the source of their great distress.  Instead of calling out to God, they hide in caves and call out to the earth to hide them from God.  They want to live life their own way. They refuse to come to God and ask for help and repent.  During all of this destruction the people on earth will ask, “Who can stand?”  And the answer is given.
Two groups of people will be saved during this Tribulation period. (Revelation 7) God gives four angels the task of placing a seal on the foreheads of 144,000 Jewish servants of God.  The seal will protect them from harm or death. There are 12,000 Jewish people sealed and protected from each of the 12 tribes.  And these Jews become evangelists for their God, and they witness to the people during the Tribulation. The second group who will be saved during God’s divine judgment are a multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and languages.  (Revelation 7:9-10)  
The Church (Christians) are not mentioned in Scripture during this Tribulation period.  Many Bible scholars believe that the Church is taken out before this Tribulation period begins.  During past times when God judged the world’s sin, it seemed that the few who still worshipped God were spared.  Noah and his family and their spouses were kept safe in the ark when God judged the world with a flood.  And Lot and his wife and daughters were spared destruction by an angel leading them out before God judged Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone. So, some believe that the Church will be taken out of the world before this Tribulation begins.
We read of these terrible judgments and we may become frightened.  But all of Scripture tells us that God loves us and that if we come to Him that He will take us in.  Psalm 9:7-10 says: “But the Lord sits enthroned forever; He has established His throne for justice, and He judges the world with righteousness: He judges the peoples with uprightness.  The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  And those who know Your Name put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.”  


Monday, February 10, 2020

Why Don't We Have as many Miracles Today as the Early Church Had

Why Don’t We Have as Many Miracles Today as the Early Church Had?
It has been a question I have asked for a long time now.  Why can’t modern- day Christians, through Christ’s power, raise the dead and heal as many of the sick as Peter and Paul did for those first believers in Jesus?  Over the years I have gone to healing meetings and sometimes a person seemed to be healed from an uncurable diseases. I have read every book I could find about Christian healing and miracles and asked any Christian leader I could corner this question.  Why aren’t we experiencing the miracles and healings that the early church did?
 Some pastors answered that most likely we sophisticated and educated Christians today don’t have the simple childlike faith that those early Christians had.  So, most of us don’t have enough faith today because we are too educated? I wasn’t sure that was the answer. And weren’t those early Christians intelligent and have questions too?  In any generation a child of God must have the childlike faith that God will hear her or his prayer and answer it according to His will.     
Others Christian leaders answered my question this way: that God gave miracles and healings to the early Church perhaps because they didn’t have what we have today.  We have the Word of God, the Bible, and we can each have our own copy to read and study.  The early Church often didn’t have that and many of them couldn’t read anyway. God’s Word is powerful, and we receive salvation because we believe what Scripture says about Christ – that He conquered death for us.
Also, Christianity has been around for more than two thousand years now and we today have the benefit of seeing that the Christian Church has made a huge difference wherever it has gone.  The Christian church was the first to establish hospitals, orphanages, charities, and missions around the world.  None of the other world religions did that.  And no other religion other than the Christian religion believes that God loves us so much that His Son, Jesus, died to take away our sins and conquered death for us.  No other world religion teaches that we are to forgive one another because God offers forgiveness to us.
Christianity is the only religion in the world that does not teach that a person must work to earn their own salvation. The burden is all on the individual to make it or not.  To please a holy God or to miss the mark.  Only Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ is the only One who can make us victorious over sin and give us the gift of eternal life. Only He can take away our sins and give us His robe of righteousness. Only He can pay the price. So, Christianity is completely different from all of the other man-made religions on this earth.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  There is no other.  (John 14:6)
All the other religions are legalistic – some have laws that a person must pray so many times a day and go on so many religious pilgrimages, etc. or measure up on a scale – in order to please God.  Christianity is the only world religion where the God of the Bible, the God we serve, loves us and gives us His Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us, making us free in Christ.
 Christians down through the ages have put their trust in Christ, and we Christians today have the advantage of reading that long history of Christianity and following along that pilgrim way in the Christian tradition. The early Christians didn’t have that advantage.  
 The early Christians were just starting – just beginning – to learn to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord.  No one had gone before them. The Old Testament points the way to Christ, the Messiah. But the Jewish leaders were expecting their promised Messiah to be different than Jesus was.  They overlooked His many miracles and healings and tried to cover up His resurrection.   
So, these first Christian were the very first to believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Many of them were leaving Judaism and were being persecuted because they were leaving.  Many Bible scholars believe that God gave the miracles and healings, signs and wonders to the first Christian apostles and leaders to validate their new message of salvation through Christ. 
Perhaps, since they were the first believers to follow in the Christian path, they might have been given more helps and more healings and miracles from God, to point them along that new Way. Our Scripture says that “Jesus is the Way.” (John 14:6)   And for more than two thousand years now the Christians that went before us walked on this narrow Way.  And our faith is strengthened by their example as we can follow in their footsteps.
 Many Bible scholars believe in dispensationalism.  Dispensationalism is the belief that God has dealt with the Church in different ways down through the ages.  As parents takes care of their child differently when he is a baby than when he is a young child.  And differently when their child is in grammar school than when she is a teen-ager. Some believe that our heavenly Father also deals differently with His children when their spiritual or physical needs are different.  
I believe this idea of God, parenting His children differently, comes out in the parable in the Bible of the rich man and Lazarus.  In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:27-31) the selfish rich man who has died and is in hell is begging Abraham to allow him to go back to earth and warn his five brothers to change their ways because there is a hell.  His brothers are living selfishly like he did when he was alive and turning their backs on the poor.  If only the rich man could go back from hell and warn his brothers, so that they could repent and turn to God and obey God’s laws of love and not go to hell like he did.   
But Abraham answered the rich man: “Your brothers have Moses and the Prophets, let them listen to them.”  And the rich man in hell argued: “No, Father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”  But Abraham answered: “If your brothers do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16: 29-31)  
This parable shows that the brother was not allowed to go back from the dead  and warn his five living brothers because they already had God’s Word (Moses and the Prophets) These five brothers were religious men who knew already that God had commanded them to help the poor.
 God had already spoken to their hearts through His Word and it seems they had already hardened their hearts against obeying.  So, a miracle wouldn’t do any good in changing them. Does this parable in Scripture  point to the possibility that God might not give as many miracles to He children who already have “Moses and the Prophets” - or His Word, the Bible? 
Over the years we have heard stories of visions and healings from missionaries who are living in countries where it is illegal to have a Christian church.  And countries where a person can be killed for having a Bible or for becoming a Christian.  Over and over again these stories of healings and miracles come from a non-Christian praying for God’s guidance.  Or from brave Christians who are being persecuted so severely for following Christ that they need guidance as to how to witness and where to turn.  And often when a person who is living in one of these anti-Christian countries prays and asks for guidance, God gives him or her a vision directing them to a Christian church or to a Christian person for their answers.  
God’s Word tells us to ask and we shall receive.  And to seek and we shall find.  If we believe in Him, He promises to answer our prayers, if they are His Will.   Our many answers to prayer really are miracles. They just aren’t as dramatic as some of the miracles we read about in Scripture.  God works in different ways in different situations.   

When we pray for God’s love to be in our hearts, He gives us that love.  And love has power.  Love crosses boundaries and overcomes fear.  Being able to pray and ask for anything in His Will is powerful.  Allowing Jesus to work through us is powerful.  And God’s Word is powerful. God has distributed the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the modern- day Christian Church.  He has empowered each Christian with a gift or gifts to do something. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and 27-30) The work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians in our churches validates the Christian message that Christ came to save sinners.  That light shines brightly.  What more do we need?