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It’s a Great Day for a Clean House

Matthew 21:10–17; Mark 11:15–18; Luke 19:45–48

I recall some years ago taking my son with me as I made a house call to someone who had recently visited the church. During the drive, a discussion about God’s forgiveness came up. My son was 11 or 12 years old at the time and trying to understand as best he could how to grasp the concept and describe it. I was trying to explain it the best I could. As we were riding along talking and enjoying the time (or at least I was, and hoped my son was as well J) he gave this illustration in his own words: “It sounds to me like God’s forgiveness is kinda like Him taking a vacuum cleaner to our hearts and cleaning everything out.” To me, my son’s illustration made more sense than how I was trying to explain it, and I remember it to this day. It made me realize then and it reminds me now that I try to make things too complicated at times.

My son’s illustration helps me when I think of what I’m calling Day Two, the Monday after Palm Sunday and prior to Easter or Resurrection Sunday. During Sunday through Wednesday of Passion Week, Jesus spent each night in the town of Bethany, just 2 miles east of Jerusalem on the opposite slope of the Mount of Olives. He probably stayed in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. One of the events that occurred on Monday, as described in the Bible, is Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple the second time. The first cleansing Jesus made is mentioned in John 2:13–17. In Matthew 21:12–13 we read, “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves. And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” The Temple was supposed to be a place of worship, but true worship had been replaced with merchandise and the sale of goods.

Another event that happened that day, shortly before Jesus arrived at the Temple, was His cursing of the fig tree (Matthew 21:18–19; Mark 11:12–14). From a distance, the fig tree looked promising and gave the appearance of producing fruit, but, upon closer examination, in reality it did not have any fruit. The two events were related in the sense that the Temple was for true worship, and true worship produces genuine and substantive fruit. Neither was happening, and Jesus “called them on it.” He cursed the fig tree and it became barren. He cleansed the Temple of the merchants because of their interference with and interruption of the true worship of God.

As we think about having our hearts prepared for Easter, today is a good day to ask God to search our hearts and cleanse us of any unrighteousness – to help us not have just the appearance of serving Him but have hearts that are pure and sincere toward Him. After all, the apostle Paul describes our bodies as the temple of God in I Corinthians 6:19–20. We were bought with a price, and we are to glorify God in our bodies. We can’t glorify God with “dirty” hearts.

A good prayer to pray today comes right from Psalm 139:23–24. Don’t rush into this prayer. Honestly think about it first. When you think about the words and sincerely desire God to answer your prayer, you will be dramatically changed for His glory. Will you join me in sincerely praying this prayer today? Ask God for personal forgiveness and cleansing that you may be prepared to worship Him in sincerity without interference or interruption. And from that worship you will produce genuine and substantive fruit that may abound to your account.

“Dear God, I pray as David prayed in Psalm 139 and ask You to ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’ Thank You for cleansing me and making me a clean vessel to serve You purely today. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

– by Pastor Greg Joyner

From Fear to Faith

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

I was raised in a dysfunctional family with a father who was addicted to alcohol. I lived in fear of him and eventually everything and everyone else. In school, I became a target for bullies. My family attended a Catholic church, but the idea that anyone was more powerful than my dad was lost on me.

By the time I was an adult I had given up on God. I traveled down many roads (and made some bad decisions) to try to find happiness and spent 10 years in counseling in an effort to come to terms with my troubled childhood.

Every road led to more emptiness.

In the summer of 2012, I was an unemployed single mother with no direction when I was invited to attend the Reformers Unanimous program one Friday night at Valley Forge Baptist. It was there that I heard about God in a different way than I had before. As I listened, I heard the words forgiveness, restoration, and salvation. I heard about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I heard that I could be free from addiction and from the guilt and shame of my past.

At first, this seemed too good to be true… but was it? Was this the answer to my lifelong search for contentment? I had nothing left to lose, so I answered the knocking I sensed within me and opened the door of my heart to the Lord. I experienced an instant peace and my soul found rest.

What I had been trying to satisfy was a spiritual void that wasn’t being filled by anything the world offered.

After that first night, when I accepted Christ’s forgiveness and received salvation, my life would never be the same. Within just one year God gave me a new job and then the love of my life, whom I married in October 2013 in a beautiful ceremony. Some people might call this a lifestyle change, but I call it a miracle.

Nineteenth-century British preacher Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”

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Article by Emily Myers

 

Kim Phu Phan Thi: Spreading the Message of Forgiveness

Article Re-posted with permission of The Pottstown Mercury

kimphuc

The worst day of Kim Phuc Phan Thi’s life was captured in a photograph.

“Someone began screaming, ‘Too hot! Too hot!” Kim Phuc, now 50, told the Valley Forge Baptist Temple congregation Sunday during a nighttime service. “That someone was me.”A South Vietnamese warplane mistakenly dropped four napalm canisters on 9-year-old Kim Phuc Phan Thi and other civilians — many of them children ­— as they ran out of the temple in Trang Bang they used for shelter.

The image of her running down the road, clothes burnt off, surrounded by her crying siblings and a cousin, was seared into the world’s consciousness.

Although Nick Ut’s photo shows the moments when her life changed forever, Kim Phuc embraces it.

“(It) touched people’s hearts,” she said of the 1972 photograph that won the Pulitzer Prize. “Some say it helped end the war.”

Kim Phuc is very concerned with people’s hearts. That’s why she tells her story, she said, and why she came to Valley Forge Baptist Temple for the weekend.

“That’s why (I speak),” she told The Mercury. “I can see the (trouble) people have in their hearts … how can I not come here?”

Kim Phuc, wearing a brilliant red and gold dress, spoke before the congregation in the church’s nearly full auditorium.

Audible gasps came when a video taken moments after the napalm attack showed Kim Phuc and her relatives’ skin hanging like loose socks or gloves from their feet and hands. Two of her infant cousins were mortally wounded in the attack and Kim Phuc suffered scars she still bears on her arm and back.

Kim Phuc’s voice was relatively quiet but confident during her talk. Engaging, she constantly smiled and made a few jokes.

Discussing the blazing temperature of napalm, she described how her skin could have burnt off.

“But my skin, my face, still beautiful, right?” she said to laughs, smiling and placing her hands on her cheeks.

Kim Phuc spoke of her wounds, which would require 17 surgeries, the last coming in Germany in 1984. She explained how Ut saved her life by taking her to a nearby hospital. She talked about how her parents went to the hospital and found her three days later, laying in the morgue because no one expected her to survive. She spoke of her father’s friend pulling some strings and sending her to a different hospital, where she remained for 14 months.

Not only that, she also talked about having her dreams of being a doctor derailed by the Vietnamese government who wished to use her as a “war symbol,” of being sent to Cuba, where she found her husband, then only being able to take a honeymoon to Moscow. Finally, she detailed her defection to Canada during an hour-long refueling layover, leaving behind all her possessions and money.

Above all, she talked of forgiveness and letting go of the pain in her heart from all her struggles.

“I did not one day wake up and say, ‘I forgive,’” she said. “(It) wasn’t easy at all.”

At one point, she held up a glass of black coffee, which she likened to her heart following the bombing.

Tipping the cup of coffee, she dripped a little into an empty glass several times.

“(I was) pouring out my hate, a little bit at a time,” she said. “At first, the cup would fill back up.”

But after time, she said, “My cup was empty.”

She credited her faith in God helping her on the road to letting go and forgiving. Ten years after she was burned, she said she was in a library and found a copy of the Bible. She’s been a devout Christian since.

Instead of hate and despair, she said God filled her heart with the good things in life.

In the 1990s, Kim Phuc met with a U.S. veteran who took part in the accidental bombing of Trang Bang. She showed a video Sunday in which the veteran tracked her down and she forgave him for his mistake.

“I found that forgiveness is much more powerful than any weapon of war,” she said.

“It’s amazing to know she survived and she escaped communism and escaped a life that would have been controlled by communism and false religion.” said the Rev. Scott Wendal, pastor of Valley Forge Baptist.

He said his church was “very deeply moved” to listen to Kim Phuc and her devotion to her Christianity.

Several veterans of the Vietnam War were in attendance Sunday night and a few shook her hand following the service.

“Hearing her meant a lot to them,” Wendal said. “To know her sufferings and challenges and to not become bitter, to choose a life of forgiveness, is a very healing experience for them.”

“I went through so much and I knew the value of forgiveness. I want everyone to understand the value of having a clear heart,” Kim Phuc said after the service. “I don’t have anything to give. I have a message of peace.”

Since the mid 1990s, Kim Phuc has run The Kim Foundation International, a non-profit which provides funds to children who are victims of war or terrorism.

With the infamous photo projected onto the church wall, Kim Phuc re-purposed it.

“I came through the fire and I am blessed to be here with you today,” Kim Phuc said. “When you see the photo of the little girl running up the road, try not to see her as crying out in pain … see her as crying out for peace.”

Meeting with members of the congregation after the services, Kim Phuc occasionally lifted the sleeve of her dress to show her scars.

“The napalm can burn my body,” she said after the flow of people slowed down. “But it cannot burn my dreams, it cannot burn my hope, it cannot burn my heart.”

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Article by Frank Otto
Reporter, Pottstown Mercury 
Read the original article here.

Is God Fair?

“IT’S NOT FAIR!” you’ll hear people say. Yes, many things in this world are not fair. People ask, “How can God, who loves the world, send people to Hell?” The problem with that question is the premise upon which it is built. In reality, God has not “sent” one person to Hell! The fact is that the perfect, holy, and righteous God of Heaven has made a way for every person to be able to step into Heaven. First, God warned Adam and Eve (the first man and woman) about eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Second, He offered them every other tree in the beautiful Garden of Eden! Third, God provided forgiveness after Adam and Eve chose to disobey His instructions. The same is true for you and me today. Everyone who is reading this today is a sinner, just as Adam and Eve were sinners. God remains perfect, holy, and righteous. Heaven, where God lives, is perfect, holy, and righteous. It would not be “fair” for any sinner to enter Heaven.

The greatest news of all is that God loved us so much that He sent the only Person that could offer a perfect payment for sin. God the Father sent Jesus Christ, His only Son, to die as payment for our sin. Our sin separated us from God, but Jesus built a bridge from the perfect, holy, and righteous God to us. God is so “fair” that He will receive anyone who comes through Jesus to Him. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). God offers this forgiveness to every person. God is absolutely “fair!” Trust Him and accept His gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ as payment for your sin.

BracelinArticle by Jim Bracelin
Minister to the Deaf
Vice President of Silent Word Ministries
 

Making a House a Home

It was a plain house. The walls were off-white and the furniture was mismatched and worn. Not much insulation, and no indoor plumbing. The outside was no better. It certainly needed repairs and painting. And then there was the landscaping, or should I say lack thereof. Dirt, gravel and a few shrubs made up most of what would be considered landscaping.

But it’s strange. As plain and worn as the house looked, there was something about it—something that was warm and friendly, inviting and comfortable. But why? What would make such a plain, worn, and dilapidated house seem so hopeful, encouraging, and downright delightful?

Well, as I thought about it, it became clear. A house is a house. It’s a foundation, walls, roofing, insulation, finishing, etc., and those things are certainly fundamentally important to any structure. But this house was more than that. This was a home. A home is a place where a structure becomes a dwelling. A home is made up of people and relationships. A home is a place where more than brick and mortar, wiring and plumbing exist. A home is a place where living and loving and learning and growing can happen.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. A beautifully decorated house complete with all the necessities and then some is a wonderful thing. But even with those blessings, a house doesn’t become a home until relationships are allowed to take root, grow, develop, and bloom.

Just as it takes an architect, a plan, and craftsmanship to build a house, the building of a home has its own blueprint. And as I reflect on that plain, worn, seemingly unattractive house and consider what made it a home, the following characteristics stand out:

1) Acceptance – Without conditions, you are accepted at home.

2) Commitment – Without question, there is total security within relationships at home.

3) Forgiveness – This is the oil that keeps the relationship engine running smoothly.

4) Love – Love is a verb. It is action. Love in thought, word, and deed. Love is without conditions at home.

5) Grace – One type of grace is a disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill, having mercy; clemency. But we also need God’s grace to enjoy full, complete, peaceful relationships. God’s saving grace is unmerited favor given as a free gift and offered to all through Jesus Christ. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). We are also reminded in Romans 5:20 that “…But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Oh, do we ever need grace for our relationships to be real and for us to genuinely dwell in more than just a house. Grace abounds in homes.

I’m sure you, like me, have seen a lot of houses but not so many homes. Many have a house, but it takes acceptance, commitment, forgiveness, love, and grace to have a home. This summer is a perfect time to begin construction on your new home.

 

Article by Greg Joyner
Associate Pastor | Valley Forge Baptist