Make America Great Again?


"And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You come here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."" (John 6:25-27, NKJV)

In essence what Jesus is saying is, "you will follow anybody that feeds you." This was the predicament of the Germans after WWI and what made them susceptible to the lies of Hitler who promised to restore their glory and make them wealthy. They proved Satan right when he said of man…

"So Satan answered the Lord and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life." (Job 2:4, NKJV)

Erwin Lutzer comments on this mentality with these words.

"Survival is a powerful drive within us all, and most of us are willing to compromise our values in order to live. And if the government can guarantee our financial future, we support that government even if we intuitively suspect we are being led down a dangerous path."

At the end of 2008 this country reached a crisis that many of our top officials, including President Bush, felt would launch us into another great depression. There answer was to bail out the institutions that were "to big to fail". Bush was quoted as saying, this won't happen on my watch and as a result he paved the way for government to gain more control of its people. Many understood this could mean more government control, but in electing for comfort over having to tighten their belts, they compromised their values. Benjamin Franklin said of this mentality…

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."Benjamin Franklin

That is exactly what happened to Germany under Hitler. You may ask where was the church in Germany when Hitler was coming to power? They were minding their own business, hoping Hitler would just leave them alone. And as long as the church didn't mess with Hitler's policies, he left them alone.

However, there were a few who spoke out, but they were soon arrested and put into concentration camps, or executed. Ditric Bonhaufer was one of those pastors who challenged Hitler and died as a result of his resistance. And he would challenge Christians with these words.

"we will never be a victorious church until we see suffering as a divine gift."

Christians were afraid of what might happen to them if they stood up for what was right. And Lutzer concludes that

"The majority of the people, including the Christians in the Third Reich, no longer believed that Christianity was worth suffering for, much less dying for. They were willing to substitute Mein Kampf for the bible in exchange for jobs and the greater glory of Germany. Yet those who saved their lives lost them, and those who lost their lives saved them."

The church in Germany had lost sight of the kingdom of heaven and put their trust in temporal things. They had forgotten the words of Peter in his first epistle

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:6-7, ESV)

Christians above all people should understand that the path to greatness is through humility. As true believers we acknowledged our sin before a holy God and repented. We turned from the pride driven pursuit of self to pursue the God who not only made us but also saved us, when what we deserved was judgment. My concern however is that Christians see the greatness of our nation in its financial and military status rather than in its fear of a Holy God. Oh we may cry foul when immorality is clearly on display, supported and enforced by our leaders. But could that simply be a smokescreen for a greater passion inside of us – comfort and security? That is what heaven offers the believer. And Peter speaks of it as a future hope. Which means right now, as believers, if indeed we represent Gods kingdom, we will have trials and tribulations. Consider Bonheoffer's words again.

"we will never be a victorious church until we see suffering as a divine gift."

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TAKE THE JESUS PLUNGE

TAKE THE JESUS PLUNGE

REPENT! What are the images conjured in your mind when you see that word? Do you see the “flames of hell” swirling up around your feet? Perhaps you see the half crazed bearded man on a corner with a sign that reads, “THE END IS COMING”. Or it could be that anger is stirred in your heart because somebody would dare to judge your life and choices. “What business is it of theirs anyway?” “ This is my body and my life, therefore I will do with it what I want.”

Whatever your reaction to that word, let me give you a new picture to consider. Some of you are old enough to remember the “Nestea Plunge” – a commercial where someone is drinking ice tea on an excruciatingly hot day while plunging into a swimming pool? The word that comes to mind is “refreshing”! When I hear the word “repent” I see Refreshing.

            From Gods perspective the word repent is an invitation to come into His presence and experience times of refreshing.

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,” (Acts 3:19–20, ESV)

The word repent simply means turn around. The idea is to have a change of heart or mind that turns you in the opposite direction you are going. Sin is an archer’s term that means to miss the mark. It means to be off target. Paul tells us in Romans that every human being misses the mark of Gods righteousness. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) The consequence of this short fall is separation from God and eternal judgment.

Therefore the un-repentant person is going away from comfort and peace into misery and chaos. Oh they may experience happiness and fulfillment, but only for a moment.

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” (Hebrews 11:24–25, ESV)

            The pleasures of sin are described as fleeting. Eventually a life separated from God ceases to satisfy. Soon we begin to sing along with Mick Jaeger those iconic words, “I can’t get no satisfaction”. Our lives become riddled with ruin as spouse’s leave, children rebel, bosses fire and our government breaks promises. Your world is falling apart and you cry out, “What hope is there”?

            There is hope in the word repentance, for it is an invitation from God to return to Him for times of refreshing and joy and peace and hope. The scriptures tell us “God doesn’t take pleasure in the destruction of the wicked”. God would tell you that He sent His Son to die for your sin so that you could be restored in relationship to Him. There is no sin He can't forgive. Isn't that refreshing!

            The invitation is for any who would believe and put their trust in the Cross of Christ: for Jesus took our sin upon Himself and died with it. He paid the price, taking the penalty for our sin. “By His stripes we are healed.” Will you put your trust in Jesus – the Son of God? If so you will experience times of refreshing and joy and peace and hope that is eternal. Consider these words from John the Baptist in John 3:36…

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36, ESV)

God loved us enough to do what was impossible for us to accomplish. He provided for our salvation through His Son. Will you give the Lord Jesus the reward of His suffering – your very soul? Will you take the Jesus plunge?

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THE ROOT OF THE MATTER

THE ROOT OF THE MATTER

THE ROOT OF THE MATTER

 

“For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.” (Romans 11:16–18, NKJV)

 

 Is God impressed with you? Before you answer that question let me give you some synonyms for impressed: awestruck, rapt, captivated, mesmerized and spellbound. So, is God impressed with you? Obviously not! For God to be impressed with you, you would have to be Him. Therefore why do you work so hard to impress Him when you can't?

   A better question for us to ask is, do we please Him? The writer of Hebrews tells us in 11:6,

 

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NKJV)

 

We please God by believing in Him. And He rewards us when we chase after Him. The idea here is trust. Have you placed your confidence in Gods work for your salvation?  Paul tells us "we are saved by grace through faith" in Gods work not our own. God worked for our salvation by sending His Son to die for our sin. If you want to live by the law, then the law will judge you. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT! However if you want to live by grace than you will believe and accept Gods provision for your sin - the death of His son.

   In chapter 11 of Romans Paul is confronting our tendency to be impressed with ourselves. God rejected the Jews because they trusted in their works, not because the gentiles were so much more impressive. And he proceeds to warn them if they want to base their salvation on works, then grace no longer exists for them, only their ability to impress God by living a perfect life - FAIL!!!!! 

 

"But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you."  (Romans 11:18)

 

   How do you view people from other churches, political convictions, life styles and cultural backgrounds? Do you see them in light of the grace God has shown you or have you written them off? (Read Ephesians 2:1-10)

   It's all about the root, not the branches. Be impressed with Jesus and others will be impressed with Jesus in you.

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Romans 8 I Am A Child Of God

Romans 8    I Am A Child Of God

 

   “THERE IS NOW NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS…”

   Have you embraced the full impact of these words into your life? Consider what they mean in the life of the person who has been beaten down by an overbearing father, an abusive spouse, a teacher that has given up on a tough student, the pastor or priest that uses guilt as a means of purification in the lives of those who fall short of Gods righteousness and, not least of all, the self condemnation we heap on ourselves when we simply don’t measure up.

   That is what law and works that depend fully on the flesh does to us. We, along with others, tend to set ourselves up for failure. But God! Oh what a glorious phrase! But God! God provided a righteousness that is not our own. Look closely at verses 2-4

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:2–4, NKJV)

   Faith allows for us to believe God accepts us on the basis of His Sons performance, not our own. God said at the point of Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, with Him I am well pleased.” Therefore when we put our trust in Jesus, the Son of God, God is pleased with us. We are accepted on the basis of what God gave us, not on what we do.

   Have you put your trust in the righteousness of God, forsaking your own? One will bring condemnation while the other acceptance and peace.

   Continue reading through this amazing chapter and find out who you are in Christ Jesus. Ask yourself these questions as you read.

   Does Gods Spirit bare witness with me that I am His son or daughter? In other words, is there a connection between God and me that goes beyond the God to His creation relationship? Do I see Him, and experience Him, as a loving Father? Or do I fear Him in the way an unruly child fears his earthly father?

   Does acceptance by God overwhelm the rejection I feel from other people so that my confidence lies in Him alone?

   Do I have a sense of Gods help in my life when I face various trials? Is my hope placed in eternity and not in this temporary world?

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Freedom At Last!

Freedom At Last!

Romans 7

   Have you been keeping the theme of this great book in mind as you read and study through Romans?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”” (Romans 1:16–17, NKJV)

The idea of God working salvation in us through His power, to His purpose, releases us from that performance-oriented religion that works only defeat and discouragement in our lives. In chapter 7 of our study we see Paul’s frustration to do what is right according to the Law when his natural tendency is to do what is wrong. Does that sound familiar?

  The laws purpose is to reveal sin not deliver you from it; and in that respect it is good. But if you choose to live by it in order to feel good about yourself or to somehow impress God, you will only share in Paul’s frustration. Your life will become a rollercoaster of emotions in which you will have some success, but mostly defeat.

   For many Christianity has become more about following rules than experiencing His grace. I spoke with a man about his experience growing up in a Christian church. He told me that his idea of Christianity was about what he did right and what he did wrong. “There was no liberty” he said, “only burden”. For fifty years of his life he believed God was angry and disappointed with him, until he understood the hope of the Gospel.

   Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church, was even more overwhelmed with the idea that God was angry and disappointed with him because of his failures. He would beat himself and even grew bitter with God when nothing he did seemed to deliver him from the guilt and condemnation he felt. But then he read and understood those simple two verses in Romans that told him the Gospel was the power of God for salvation and all he had to do to please God is put his faith in the work of Jesus Christ, who died to save him. He was a man, like Paul, who cried out, “O wretched man that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death? Praise be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” After this revelation in his life, Martin became one of the great Christian leaders the church has ever known. He, like Paul, began to challenge the religious system of his day that controlled people through guilt, rather than leading them to the Gospel of grace. The result was great revival in which people walked in newness of life. No longer were they bound to their sin and to law, but they were now free in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to live for God and for righteousness. Paul describes his ministry to the church at Corinth in this manner.

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:5–6, NKJV)

   Paul’s ministry became one that brought life and liberty, as did the ministries of Martin Luther, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitfield and many other great men and women of faith. For they had given up trying to work for Gods favor and instead surrendered themselves to the one in whom Gods favor rested, Jesus Christ our Lord and our savior, “who never sinned, but became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 cor 5:21)

   Would you say your Christian faith is marked by shame and guilt? If so, ask yourself why? Do you, like Paul, struggle with failure concerning what is right? How did Paul become free from this burden?

   How has your life changed since you embraced the Gospel – Gods work for your salvation?

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A Higher Calling

A Higher Calling

A Higher Calling

Romans 6

I want to open our study in Romans 6 with a passage from Hebrews 12:1.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)

   In our previous study we learned that the word sin in the Greek is an archers term that simply means to miss the mark. Gods standard of righteousness is His own righteousness and there is only one who meets that standard – Jesus, the Son of God. But the gift of God is eternal life to those who put their trust in Jesus. God attributes the righteousness of His Son to those who believe in Him because Jesus “became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:21) Thus the Gospel is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

   But what does the Gospel mean for our struggle with sins? By sins I mean: anger, lying, lust, greed, gossip and so on. Does becoming a Christian mean we no longer struggle with sin or, for that matter, can sin and not worry about it? That is the issue Paul is dealing with in Romans 6.

   At the closing of chapter 5 Paul makes the statement, “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” Paul was showing us the supremacy of grace over sin. There is no sin Gods grace cannot deal with. Unfortunately some were using Gods grace as a license to sin. Salvation isn’t God excusing sin through His Sons’ death, but judging sin. The judgment of that sin was violent and bloody. Therefore how can we continue in something for which Jesus had to die in order that we might no longer be bound to it? What would you think of the person whose life was saved at the cost of someone else’s only to see him or her go back to the thing that put his or her life in danger in the first place? You would say, “what a waste of a good life for a bad.” “Where is the gratitude?”

  The purpose of Romans 6 is to remind us that we no longer are bound to walk in sin, but we now have the power to walk in newness of life – a life free from the bondage of anger, drugs, lust, greed, lying and whatever sin that easily trips us up in our pursuit of the Kingdom Of God. Not only is the Gospel the power of God for salvation, but also the power of God to overcome the things that sow destruction in our lives and distract us from God. We no longer live to sin, but we now live to God.

   So when the writer of Hebrews tells us in Chapter 12 to strip off the sin that trips us up, he is reminding us that we were saved for better things.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2, ESV)

What sin, or sins, trip you up?

How have they hindered your pursuit of God?

How do they rob your joy?

Do you believe God has the power to free you?

Are you not delivered because you love your sin?

Would any who are reading this share with us how God has freed you from some besetting sin in your life and the joy and purpose that has resulted from that deliverance? You don’t have to be specific, just share the result of placing your trust in God in order that others who are reading this study might be encouraged.

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The Second Adam

The Second Adam

   So are you tired of reading about sin yet? Paul seems really hung up on this subject doesn’t he? However, Paul understands that good news means nothing unless contrasted with the bad news. We are sinners and Jesus came to save sinners. That is good news!!!

   Sin is an archers term that simply means to miss the mark. Therefore Paul told us in chapter 3 that all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. God’s glory and perfection is the mark we must hit in order to be accepted by Him into His kingdom. In the latter part of Chapter 5, Paul reveals the culprit – Adam. God created Adam to have fellowship with Him, but when Adam disobeyed God, he fell out of fellowship with God. And every human being that came from Adams loins was born into that separation. Sin became our nature and we couldn’t do anything about it. Thanks Adam!!! But God had a solution – The second Adam.

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19, NKJV)

   In the Gospel of John, Jesus said He does nothing of His own will, but only what the Father has told Him to do. Jesus came into this world and lived a perfectly obedient, submitted life to His Father. Paul tells us the extent of that obedience in Philippians 2: 5-8

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6–8, NLT)

   Jesus lived the life Adam fell short of. He lived the life we were powerless to live. And He lived that life for us so that we could walk with God in the “Garden”, as Adam once did. Don’t forget the reason we are not ashamed of the Gospel. “It is the power of God for Salvation to all who believe”. THAT IS GOOD NEWS! God did through His Son what we could not do so we could be with Him for all eternity. Oh how God loves us!

   If you had been Adam, do you think you would have done much better? Read the account of his fall in Genesis 3 and ask yourself what it was that made him stumble. What was it that moved Adam toward disobedience? Then ask yourself, what is it that moves me to disobey God?

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Do You Believe God?

Do You Believe God?

   Chapter 4 of Romans is one of the critical parts of this book. Reading it may not seem that way, but when you begin to understand the pressure of Jewish culture and tradition upon early Christianity, you come to understand why Paul spent so much time on the subject of circumcision.

   God gave Abraham circumcision as a sign of separation to show the rest of the world that Abraham and his descendants were specially chosen by God to demonstrate his glory and reveal His plan to redeem His creation. Unfortunately the Jewish nation forgot the purpose for their calling – to bless all the nations of the earth. Rather, they would take what was given as a sign of separation unto God and make it a work or action that gave them salvation and right standing with God; much like communion, infant baptism and even believers baptism in some churches has become. None of these actions save us. Only faith in Christ and His finished work on the cross saves us.

   Therefore Paul goes right to the first mention of circumcision in the bible. In that section God tells Abraham in Genesis 17:11,

“and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.”

 The important thing is the covenant. What was the covenant? Gods promise to be His God and the God of all his descendants through Sarah who was not able to have children and who was 90 years old. Abraham was 99. Therefore Paul says that Abraham’s obedience was a sign of his faith. By being circumcised, and having his whole household circumcised, Abraham demonstrated faith in Gods promise and ability to do what he said He would do – give Abraham and Sarah a child they otherwise could not have, and to give them all the land of Canaan.

   Abraham put his trust in God because only God could accomplish what He said He would do, and it was accounted to him as righteousness.

“He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”” (Romans 4:20-22)

   But in being circumcised, he also demonstrated he believed God was willing to do what He said He would do. For many of us, we have no problem believing God can do anything He wants to do. Nothing is to hard or to easy, God simply can do anything. Our problem lies in the fact that we don’t believe He will do what He said He would do. Salvation is the free gift of God, purchased by the blood of His Son for any who believe. No work we accomplish requires God to move on our part, unless it is to believe Him when He tells us He sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sin. And yes, God is willing!

   The willingness of God to save us is illustrated beautifully in the life of the leper who asked Jesus to heal him. You will find the story in Luke 5:12-16. The leper had no question to Jesus’ ability to heal him, but he did have question as to his willingness, therefore he said, “If you are willing”. Jesus was willing and He did heal the man.

   Whether you like it or not, we are that leper. And we are completely powerless to do anything about it. We will die lepers unless someone who is powerful enough is willing to save us. God is and did. Put your faith in Him now.

   How do you struggle with believing God is willing to do what He said He would do?

   Also, what traditions or works do you have a hard time letting go of; thinking that through certain activities or actions (church, communion, baptism, style of clothing, hair length and so on) you must somehow win Gods good graces?

   How do, or how have religious people put pressure on you to perform for Gods good pleasure? How has that affected your relationship with God, and, for that matter, with other Christians?

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"I" Am The Problem

"I" Am The Problem

   What is sin? While that question may seem obvious to some, for most it has become a question convoluted with the philosophical ideals of men who define truth to fit their own personal reality. So while looking at pornography is wrong to some for others it is ok, because in their reality what pleases them is good. Forget the fact that many lives are ruined both inside and outside the industry. The momentary pleasure comes at great cost, both to the user and to those providing the service.

   However, philosophies of men aren’t the only blame for the confusion that surrounds defining sin. The church, with its lists of do’s and don’ts, is just as guilty. For their list of rules becomes a way to put their own righteousness on display apart from God. People who, “Follow the rules”, tend to judge others who don’t, heaping condemnation, guilt and shame upon them, keeping them from God rather than bring them to Him. This is one of the main reasons Jesus dealt so harshly with the religious leaders.(They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.) I wonder how shocked the church would be if Jesus were to come and start turning over our “money tables”? But I digress.

   According to Paul in Romans 3:9, sin isn’t something we do, but something we are under.

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.” (Romans 3:9, NKJV)

In other words we are in submission to sin, under its power; whether we accept the law of God or not, all have sinned and are under the power of sin. That is the point Paul is trying to bring across in chapter 3 of Romans, and why he proclaims the Gospel to be the power of God for salvation in chapter 1:16-17.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”” (Romans 1:16–17, NKJV)

   If I were to give sin a simple definition I would say it is self. This past weekend a speaker asked us what the opposite of Love is. The obvious answer was hate, but he told us we were wrong. The opposite of love is self. Others have pointed out that the middle letter in sin is “I”. We all, both religious and non-religious (Jew and Greek) need to come to the place of saying, ““I” am the problem and “I” don’t have the power to do anything about it. God help me!”

   The good news is He does help the one who cries out to Him. For Paul goes on to say,

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” (Romans 3:21–22, NLT)

   Love is on display as Jesus hangs on the cross, forsaking self for others. Are you hanging your faith on the work of God – the great I AM and the cross of Christ, or some man made philosophy or religion whose only power is to keep you under sin? Eternity is at stake. 

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BE RECONCILED TO GOD

BE RECONCILED TO GOD

Is there any family portrayed in scripture that doesn’t have issues? Cain killed Able. Ishmael taunted Isaac. Jacob deceived Esau and had to run for his life. Jacobs’s sons killed a whole village of men. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery because of their jealousy. David took another mans wife. His son raped his daughter. And because David didn’t do anything about it, her brother, Absalom, killed the brother that raped her. Latter Absalom would usurp the kingdom from David and ultimately die for his rebellion. Even Jesus didn’t live in a perfect family. During His ministry his family thought He was crazy and we are told that even his own brothers and sisters didn’t believe in Him. We would all love for our families to be the peaceful, uplifting, kind hearted people we see in Hallmark movies, but the reality is, many of our families resemble those that we see in the bible. Why is this the case?

At issue here is the fact that all families are made up of sinners: people who live for themselves and not for God. Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised that every family that has ever existed, and will exist, deals with issues on one level or another. What we need to ask is how can we overcome those issues? Jesus Christ!

In Romans 7 Paul is talking about his struggles with sin. Though he desires to do right, the reality is he often caters to his sinful passions. He wants to live for God, but he always succumbs to himself. At one point he cries out in desperation, “Who will rescue me from the body of sin and death?” To which he replies, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

The truth is every family is dysfunctional because every human being is dysfunctional. But Jesus has set us free from succumbing to the sin that breed’s dysfunction. Read what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5 paying particular attention to verses 14-21. These verses describe what the person who puts their trust in Jesus becomes.

  1. The true Christian is someone who is now controlled by the love of God and not by his sinful, self-centered passions.

“Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, NLT)

2. The true Christian now lives to please God.

He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” (2 Corinthians 5:15, NLT)

3. The true Christian is no longer who he was

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT)

4. The true Christian is reconciled to God and tells others they can be reconciled to God and to each other.

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18–20, NASB95)

The word reconciliation implies that there has been a rift in a relationship. The rift is between God and us. He created us for Himself, yet we live to please ourselves. The result is a rift between one another at different levels. Marriages break up, children fight and families are destroyed, because at the heart of each rift is a self-centered person who can only live for themselves.

            The good news is we don’t have to live at war with one another. Submit your life to God and be reconciled to Him so that He can begin to reconcile you to your family. Once you have died to yourself, you can more clearly see the needs of others and live for Christ by loving them as He did with that agape, unconditional love that moves people into a place of hope and of peace.

            Will you be reconciled to Him today?

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Go Make Disciples

Go Make Disciples

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” (Matthew 28:19–20, NKJV)

After Jesus rose from the dead, and before He ascended into heaven, he told His disciples to go into the world and make disciples of all nations, teaching those disciples all that Jesus had taught them. In other words, replicate in others the work I have done in you. Because of their faithfulness, and the faithfulness of Christian disciples throughout the centuries, many of us today have heard, and responded, to the message of the Gospel. Paul was one of those who faithfully followed the Lords command and reproduced in others, like Timothy and Epaphroditus, the heart to continue the work of the Christ.

In Philippians 2:19-30 Paul highlights the lives of these two disciples. Paul says of Timothy,

But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly.” (Philippians 2:19–24, NKJV)

Paul declares Timothy to be like-minded with him in his genuine care for people. One of the greatest aspects of Christ’s character that drew people to Him was that He was genuine and sincere. When He wept for Lazarus the people around him responded by saying, “See how He loved him”. And when the leper said to him, “If you are willing you can heal me”, Jesus responded with I am willing and touched the man and healed him. A true disciple of Christ no longer lives for them selves, but for the one who died for them.

and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15, NKJV)

Cleary it was evident in Paul’s life that he was not living for himself and that character was reproduced in Timothy.

            Epaphroditus came from the Philippian church that Paul planted in the midst of persecution. He came to Paul to bring the offering the people gathered for Him to care for his needs. On his way he became sick and almost lost his life. Paul says of him.

Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.” (Philippians 2:25–30, NKJV)

Paul calls him a fellow brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier who came close to loosing his life for the sake of the work of Christ. Jesus gave His life so we could be freed from the bondage of sin. We all know that Paul was willing to lay down his life for the sake of the Gospel and was ultimately beheaded. Now we look at Epaphroditus and see he was willing to lay down his life as well. The mark of a true disciple of Christ is seen in their willingness to no longer live for them selves, but to live for Him who laid down His life for them.

            We need to follow Christ’s example, just as Paul and the other Apostles and countless faithful servants of Jesus over the last 2000 years have done. Let people see the sincerity of your faith and love. Share with them the hope of the Gospel and reproduce in them servants of Christ who are willing to lay down their lives for His sake.

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HAVE YOU ASKED HIM?

HAVE YOU ASKED HIM?

 

 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:7–11, NKJV)

            It is clear from this passage that God is not a distant God. He is directly involved in the lives of His children looking to provide for their every need, and even some desires. However, lest we misunderstand the words of Jesus to mean all people and all things, we need to look carefully at what He says in this passage.

            First of all Jesus refers to Him as our Father who is in heaven. Not every human being on this earth is a child of God. Oh, we are all His creation, but only a select few can actually claim to be Gods son or daughter.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” (John 1:12, 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.” (John 3:16, NKJV)

Who is it we are supposed to believe in? Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God. Not until we accept Jesus as the one who atoned for our sin and purchased our life with His death on the cross can we be considered children of God. And if we are not children of God, we have no right to ask Him for anything. If the kid next door comes over to ask me for the keys to my car so he can take his girl friend to the prom, I’m going to tell him to “get out of here, go ask your own dad.” However, if my own son asks me for the car so he can take a date to the prom, I might question him, or give him a hard time, but because he is my son I will give him the keys. “How much more,” according to the words of Jesus, “will our Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

            Which brings me to the second point I wish to make. How are we going to receive anything from our Father who is in heaven unless we ask? Oh, God sometimes lavishes gifts on us to our complete surprise, but I believe He is truly blessed when we ask so that we know He is listening and we can testify to the goodness of God in our lives. I wonder how much we don’t have because we don’t have the courage to ask Him. If it is bread you lack, ask Him. If it is finances you lack, ask Him. If it is healing you need, ask Him. How will you know what He intends to do for you unless you go out on a limb and simply ask. God doesn’t expect you to jump through hoops, He is simply asking you to believe.

            But before you think you can have anything you want, understand that God is the perfect Father in every sense of the word. If we are asking with selfish motives, He won’t give us what we want. If He sees something better for us by not answering our prayer than He won’t give us what we want; because His ultimate goal is to be glorified through our lives. And that occurs when we become more like Jesus. After all He saved us so we would no longer live self centered, self-consumed lives, but so that we would live for the Glory of His Son.

and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 1 Corinthians 5:15

            Will you ask Him today for the need you have. Remember, His love for and willingness to provide for you is not based on how good you are, but on how good He is.

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COME BOLDLY

COME BOLDLY

COME BOLDLY

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14–16, NKJV)

I know the passage here in Hebrews 4 speaks to the ability of the believer to come with confidence into Gods presence. However, that doesn’t mean we come into His presence with a chip on our shoulders. Our ability, our right, to come into His presence was obtained through His grace. Therefore when we come, we must come in humility.

I recently learned that ancient Jewish Rabbis believed that there were two thrones in the heavens: one of Judgment and one of Mercy. God certainly judges sin and meets out the punishment it deserves, but He also demonstrated mercy by not giving people what they deserved in punishment for sin. The Jewish Rabbis could not reconcile the two. Therefore they thought that there must be two thrones in Heaven: one for mercy and one for judgment. What they didn’t understand is how God would reconcile the two through the gift of His Son.

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV)

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5, NKJV)

Therefore, there is one throne in heaven and it is described to us here as a throne of Grace – Gods undeserved favor. And we can now, because of Gods grace, come boldly into His presence and seek mercy and help.

            The boldness with which we come speaks to confidence. David Guzik, in his commentary on this puts it this way.

“Boldly does not mean proudly, arrogantly or with presumption. Boldly means we may come constantly. Boldly means we may come without reservation. Boldly means we can come freely and without fancy words, boldly means we can come with confidence. Boldly means we should come with persistence.”

We may come whenever and wherever we want. We may come without guilt. We may come being ourselves. We may come assured of His acceptance of us. And we may, and should, come with persistent expectation. But we must do this with humility and reverence and thankfulness. After all it is only because of His grace that we may come. Will you enter in, by His invitation, to the throne room of Grace today? God is waiting patiently to meet with you.

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LOVING GOD MATTERS

LOVING GOD MATTERS

““Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34–39, ESV)

Do you love God? If so, is the love you have displayed for God caused others to accuse you of being a hater? Why is it that Love for God, the first and greatest commandment, is not a part of this debate concerning same sex marriage? Why do people automatically assume that the Christian (who loves God and wants to obey and glorify Him), hates homosexuals just because he doesn’t want to endorse something that does not please God?

In the passage above, Jesus makes it clear that following Him would not bring peace in our families or with our friends, but that our love for Him would make enemies of those that are closest to us. Why is this? Paul tells us it is because people are “lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:4) We, as a culture, have come to a place of loving love, not the God of love. We love companionship and feeling good. As long as I am pleased, we say, I am happy. Therefore, what God says doesn’t really matter. Or, if it does, we change His Word to fit our convictions and our lifestyles, or we simply appeal to His grace by saying, “He will forgive me,” at the expense of His righteous and just nature.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1–4, ESV)

            What God says does matter. It was God who told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree in the garden, “For on that day you will surely die.” God warned them, but Satan convinced them that what God says doesn’t matter, and they ate and died spiritually that day. Eventually they would experience the loss of a child at the hand of their eldest son and they would grow old and return to the soil from which they came. However, this was not God’s intent for them. God created a garden for them to dwell in where He walked in their midst. He had given them paradise, but they wanted to find a paradise separate from God’s rules. And this only brought great pain and grief.

            The true Christian will seek always to love God first. Trusting His Word and obeying all that He requires of us displays love for God. Two things He requires of the true Christian are to love their neighbor as themselves and to love their enemies, but always in light of the first and greatest commandment.

AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.'

The Greek word used for love here is “agape”, meaning unconditional love. As true Christians we should love all people the way God has loved us, and God loved us enough to tell us what was keeping us from Him.  

Therefore, when the true Christian doesn’t accept what God calls sin in your life, know that they do so because they love you and want you to experience the same love that God has shown them – the fullness of which is experienced only through repentance. Repentance means to turn away from the path you have chosen apart from God and turn to Him as the only source of joy and peace. Admit to Him you are a sinner, walking in disobedience to Him, and then commit to follow Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

When a true Christian is bold enough to stand with God, know that they do so in order that you would come to know God as they do. The reason the true Christian will not tolerate sin in your life is because they love you. Tolerance is not love rather it is indifference. It has been said…

 

“The opposite of love is hate and the worst form of hate is indifference.”

Will you find your life today by losing it? Humility is the way to salvation. We must die to our love of pleasure; to our self-centered life and seek to please God. Will you love God above all else? By so doing, you will have “joy inexpressible and full of glory, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8)

 

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” C.S. Lewis

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God Loves The Homosexual

God Loves The Homosexual

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7–8, ESV)

   God loves me! Who doesn’t want to hear, and, for that matter, know that God loves them? But what does that love look like? According to Paul’s words, here in Romans 5, Gods love is demonstrated by sending His Son to die for unrighteous people – people who have sinned and fallen short of Gods standard of righteousness, that righteous standard being Jesus.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

   The, we, in this passage includes all of mankind. Paul tells us in Romans 3 that there is nobody, apart from Christ, that is truly righteous. Therefore, God demonstrated His love for us by sending His perfectly righteous Son to take our place and die with our sin. Why did He do this? Because He loves us! And He wanted us to experience Him in his fullness for all eternity. Something that wasn’t possible in our sinful condition; a condition we are powerless to change.

   So, how do we experience this love? By admitting we are sinners and having a heart to turn from that sin to His righteousness. And if for some reason you have a hard time knowing what that sin is, know that God loves you enough to tell you.

   One day, during His time here in this world, a very wealthy leader of the people approached Jesus and asked Him, “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?”(Mark 10:17-31)  You know the story, Jesus told him to follow the commandments of God: don’t kill, don’t have an affair, don’t steal and don’t lie. The young man responded by saying he had been obedient to all of those commands, but asked, “What do I still lack?” He understood that something was missing. Jesus proceeded to tell him to sell all he owned and follow Him. The part of this story that blows my mind, however, is not so much what Jesus said in response to the young man as the heart in which He said it.

“And Jesus looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing’”… (Mark 10:21a)

   Jesus loved him enough to tell him what was keeping him from heaven. And judging by the response of the young man after Jesus told him what he lacked, the young man never repented. He never turned from his personal god (money), to the God who loved him. You see Jesus wasn’t afraid to lose the young man by telling him the truth, because the young man was already lost and needed to know how to be saved. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

   Which brings me to the reason I write this blog. I have been hearing a lot in the news and on social media that gay marriage is an issue of love and therefore should be legalized. People have even gone so far as to say, God is love and therefore if two people love each other, God approves. But I wonder if that fits with the narrative of Gods love we have painted thus far? Look at it this way: If a gay couple were to come up to Jesus and ask Him “What must we do to be saved”, how would Jesus respond? He would tell them the truth because He loves them. “Give up your relationship and follow me.” I’m not concerned with your temporary happiness; I am concerned with your eternal happiness. (I will follow up this blog with what the bible says concerning Homosexuality and gay marriage. But for now I wanted people to know my heart in this issue).

   I realize that many will read this blog and label me a hater, and that will grieve my heart. I fought for weeks how I might write this so as not to be seen as a bigot or a hater. It would be much easier to remain quiet and say nothing. But it grieved me more to see Gods love misrepresented in a manner that would condemn people to an eternity apart from Him. Jesus wasn’t willing that the rich young ruler should perish. He loved him, and then told him why he didn’t have eternal life. Neither is Jesus willing that the Homosexual should parish. We are His voice! We are the ones who must be willing to tell people why they don’t have eternal life, no matter what walk of life they come from. Saying nothing on this matter when we hold the truth in our hands would be the ultimate form of hatred.

   However, lest we as Christians become bogged down in always pointing out what is wrong, don’t forget that we are messengers of hope. We proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Gospel is a term that means Good News. And this is the Gospel: God loved sinners so much that He was willing to send His Son into the world to die in our place, so that the world might be saved through Him.

  

““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV)

   Remember Christian; we aren’t messengers of hate, but messengers of hope. What people do with that message, how they respond to it, is not our concern. We just need to give them the opportunity to respond.  

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Who Is Your God?

Who Is Your God?

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18–19, ESV)

   Cyclops, the fictional character depicted by the ancient playwright, Europedes, gives no illusion to where his devotion lies.

“My flocks which I sacrifice to no one but myself, and not to the gods, and to this my belly, the greatest of the gods: for to eat and drink each day, and to give one’s self no trouble, this is the god of wise men.”

   These words are a perfect portrait of humanity. Whether poor or rich, slave or free, mankind seeks fulfillment through his belly. I don’t care what walk of life we come from, we tend to look to things and fleshly pleasures to bring us fulfillment. Unfortunately, looking for fulfillment in this way is like putting change in a pocket with holes; it just never fills us up. Worse yet, rather than gain we experience loss.

   Paul’s words to the Philippians trouble me. Because the men he is talking about are those who tasted of the mercy and grace of God. Yet they forsook the God who gives us eternal reward for a god, in their bellies, which can never satisfy.

   Jesus had to deal with this attitude in the hearts of men when He confronted them with the truth of why they wanted to make Him king over them. He said:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”” (John 6:26–27, ESV)

   Many in the Church have looked to Christ as a means for temporary satisfaction with things that perish, rather than the source of eternal life: a relationship with the living God for all eternity. He is nothing more than a genie in a bottle: a source for their worldly appetites and pleasures. Oh what an offence to the God who gave His Son so we would be free from such empty passion!

   To the men who wanted to make Him king, Jesus was nothing more than a man who could give them what they wanted. They didn’t see Him as the Son of God who came to breathe life everlasting into their parched souls. They had no vision for eternal things, or, for that matter, desire for eternal things. They, like Esau, would sell their birthright (their eternal existence with God), for a bowl of soup. Therefore, Paul says of such men that their end is destruction.   

   My friends, like Paul, I encourage you to focus on Jesus the author and finisher of your faith. Press forward to the upward call of Christ. Be reminded of Lot’s wife who looked back on Sodom and Gomorrah, revealing her true desire, and whose end was destruction. What is it that matters most to you? Have you left this world to follow God with a whole heart, “counting all things loss for the sake of knowing Christ?” If so, you have lost nothing that would not have perished in the end anyway.

“He is no fool who has given up that which he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot loose.”

                                                                                 Jim Elliot

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Who Killed Jesus

Who Killed Jesus

“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10–11, ESV)

Who Killed Jesus?

Was it the Roman soldiers at the command of Pilot? There is no doubt that Pilot gave the command to crucify Him. And certainly we have the account in scripture that it was Roman guards who nailed his hands and feet to the cross. On that count Pilot is Guilty. However, it is also true that he was persistent in his efforts to free Jesus, knowing Him to be innocent.

“A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.”” (Luke 23:22, ESV)

But the Jewish leaders were insistent that Jesus should die.

“When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”” (John 19:6, ESV)

So, Who killed Jesus?

Was it the Jewish leaders? Consider the scene in the garden the night of His arrest. It was the Jewish leaders who paid Judas to betray Him. It was the Jewish leaders who sent guards to arrest Jesus. It was the Jewish leaders who first brought Him to trial on trumped up charges, falsely accusing Him. It was the Jewish leaders who sent Him to Pilot to be tried. And, as we see in the passage above, it was the Jewish Chief priest and officers that cried out “Crucify Him!” John tells us in His gospel that Jesus came to His own and His own did not receive Him. So I suppose we can conclude that Pilot was simply the hand the Jewish leaders used to Kill Jesus.

Therefore, who killed Jesus?

The account in the Gospels tells us the Jews handed Jesus over to Pilate to be crucified. But is it really that simple? Consider one more possibility with me. When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, before He was arrested, He prayed a simple prayer.

“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”” (Matthew 26:39, ESV)

 What cup is Jesus talking about? We often assume that Jesus was praying concerning what men would do to Him. But in scripture the cup is a reference to Gods wrath. Type into your Internet browser the words “cup of Gods wrath” and take note of all the references in scripture to His ensuing judgment upon men. For the sake of space and time, I will share one.

“Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.” (Jeremiah 25:15, ESV)

Why would God allow Jesus to drink from this cup?

 After all Jesus pleaded with God to remove it – if at all possible. We know He went to the cross and suffered horribly at the hands of men, crying out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!” So I guess it wasn’t possible for this cup to pass from Him. And, more importantly, it wasn’t the will of God, His Father, to deliver Him. As a matter of fact, we are told in Isaiah 53:10 that it was the will of God to crush Him. Why?

““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV)

God, knowing He must judge sin, provided a way for sinners to be saved from His wrath by sending His Son to die in their place. Isaiah tells us that,

“He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5, ESV)

So, I ask you again, who killed Jesus?

Ultimately His Father was responsible. From the very beginning it was Gods plan to save us from our sin by sending His Son to die in our place. That is why Jesus tells us that there is no other way to heaven but through Him. Have you put your trust in Him?

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12, ESV)

If you have not put your trust in Him, consider John the Baptists words in John 3:36

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36, ESV)

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Revive Us Lord!!!

Revive Us Lord!!!

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, ESV)

   Is God everything to you? Can you say with all confidence that if you lost everything, or had nothing to begin with, but God, that He would be enough? The Welsh revival of 1904 began when a pastor asked the youth of his church, “who is God to you?” The young people had many theological answers, but the pastor didn’t simply ask who He is? Rather, he asked who is God to you? At that point a young girl, who had been saved for just a few weeks, said, “He is everything to me. I love Him with all my heart.” That simple confession of her love for God convicted the hearts of those young people and they began to pray and weep and repent all night. Slowly the Word began to get out and the land of Whales was changed as the Holy Spirit revealed the lack of love in their hearts for God and for His Son Jesus.

   The problem in the hearts of those young people was that God was simply a part of their lives. God was nothing more than a convenience or a genie in a bottle at their disposal for whatever needs they may have had. When this young girl confessed God to be her everything, she was simply saying, “God is all I need.” And the faith of the other, more seasoned, “Christians”, was exposed as shallow and self-centered. But when their hearts were moved to a place of complete love for and satisfaction in God, revival broke out in the church and awakening among the lost.

   Have you stopped to ask yourself why our nation is getting darker when most of its people call themselves Christians? Shouldn’t we see the opposite taking place in a “culture of Christianity”? Perhaps one reason is because God is simply a part of their lives. He is, in the minds of most, someone who serves them, catering to their wants and desires. I spoke recently with a man who is “believing God” for the restoration of his marriage. But when he found out that she is never coming back to him, he discarded God as worthless and unloving because what he wanted wasn’t going to happen. My heart was broken for him! Somewhere along the way he had been told that God was there to give him whatever he wanted, to give him “his best life now."  “Just believe”, he was told. But when God didn’t meet his expectations, he no longer had use for Him. His faith was a selfish faith. Which is really no faith at all. Oh that he could see that God is all he needs, then revival would take root in his heart and he would begin to love his ex-wife, among others, with the love of God, bringing the gospel to her so that she might be restored to God and perhaps restored to him.

   Would you love to see a great awakening in our nation? Consider the fact, then, that judgment begins with the house of God.

“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:16–17, ESV)

Did you hear what Peter said, “if judgment begins with us, what will be the outcome of those who don’t obey the Gospel?” Could he be telling us that once revival begins in the church, awakening will come to those who are lost in their sin? Read the whole book of 1 Peter carefully. The Christian is suffering for their faith, but in the midst of their suffering, they are glorifying Christ to the point that unbelievers glorify God in the end.

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” (1 Peter 3:1–2, ESV)

He also reminds them in chapter one that the reason we have joy inexpressible and full of glory is not because things are going good for us in this world, but because Things will be good for us in His kingdom. (Read 1 Peter 1:3-7)

   We need to acknowledge that we have made Christianity about us and not about God. We see God as part of what makes our lives full, not as all that makes our lives full. David tells us in Psalm 16:11, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more.”  Why? Because it is God who makes known to us the path of life.

   So, who is God to you?

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No Greater Love

No Greater Love

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, ESV)

I read one of those stories in the Bible this week that I wish had never been recorded. You know the kind I am speaking of - one of those stories where you feel like you have to explain God's actions, or lack thereof. You will rarely, if ever, find this story the topic of a Sunday sermon. It is the kind of story that most pastors hope their congregation never reads so they don’t have to come up with an explanation or have their own confusion on the matter exposed. The story I am speaking of is found in Judges chapter 11. God has raised a man up by the name of Jephthah to Judge Israel and defeat Israel’s enemies. Before Jephthah goes out to fight he makes this vow to God.

“And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”” (Judges 11:30–31, ESV)

God gave Jephthah the victory and when Jephthah came home the first thing that came out the door of his house was his daughter, his only child. Yes, I said his daughter! I can hear the questions coming from you as you read, “Did God hold him to his vow?” “Did Jephthah go through with it?” The answer to those questions is yes and yes. But why, you might say? I don’t fully know. However, as I was reading this story and contemplating those very questions, I feel God gave me some insight as to why he included this in His word.

   One of the main reasons is to illustrate the foolishness of Jephthah’s vow. There was no reason to make such a boast. God had already called him to deliver Israel. His statement was rooted in pride and he paid a dear price for his foolishness. Notice the difference in his words as opposed to others God called to deliver Israel. When confronted by the Philistines in 1 Chronicles 14 David asked God,

“Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the LORD said to him, “Go up, and I will give them into your hand.”” (1 Chronicles 14:10, ESV)

When Gideon was called of God to deliver Israel from their oppressors he asked God twice to confirm to him this is what God wanted him to do.

“Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.” (Judges 6:36–38, ESV)

David asked God if this is what He wanted and Gideon asked God to confirm what He had already told him. They made no vow. Whereas Jephthah told God if he gave them into his hands, he would offer the first thing that came out the door. Jephthah’s vow was a boast to the Lord. “God I will bless you if you do this for me.” The truth is God deserves our praise whether he delivers us or not. And what reward can we give God but our faith?

The second reason I feel God included this story is to show us the faith of Jephthah. The truth is, he went against this massive army, trusting that God would be with him, and he was victorious. And when it came to following through with his vow he didn’t waver. Jephthah didn’t use God's name lightly. He knew that to invoke the name of the Lord and not mean what he said was to use the Lord's name in vain. The word vain means empty – a promise with no substance or action to back it up. The fact that Jephthah followed through with what he said he would do showed he believed in God, and, “without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6)

   Finally, Jephthah’s daughter gives us what I believe to be the greatest lesson from this story. She was a willing sacrifice. She didn’t respond to her father with hatred or astonishment, but simply said,

 “My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the LORD has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.”” (Judges 11:36, ESV)

Jesus tells us in John 15, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” She gave her life for her father. Her concern was for him. She becomes to us a picture of the sacrifice Christ made for us. We are foolish people – rebellious, boastful and full of pride. Yet Jesus laid down His life for us so that we might live. What amazing love and faith demonstrated by this young girl. I am sure her reward in heaven is great.

   I realize this may not answer all the questions about God that these verses conjure. Why didn’t’ God stay the hand of Jephthah as He did with Abraham when Abraham offered Isaac? I don’t know! However, the reality is I don’t have to explain Gods actions. Nor does He have to explain himself to me. All I have to know about Him is He is Good and worthy of my praise. If we are honest, we will be just as amazed, if not more so, by the fact that He placed His own Son on the altar for a people that didn’t love Him. Jesus willingly and obediently went to the cross for our sakes. Does that invoke love in your heart for Him? If so, you will offer your own life on the altar for the sake of His glory, for the sake of the one who calls you friend.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”           (Romans 12:1, ESV)

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God Is Into Selfies

God Is Into Selfies

““Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female…” (Deuteronomy 4:15–16, ESV)

   That men and women are patently full of themselves is evident in this world of social media in which “selfies” reign. We are consumed with our own image. I don’t need to elaborate much on this because we all know that the moment we are tagged in a photo on Facebook, we will stop what we are doing to see what that photo is. Sometimes we are shocked by what we see, sometimes impressed, but we are never indifferent to that photo. Why? Because our image: who we were, who we are and who we will become, is the most important thing to us. We are concerned that any image taken of us would be a true representation of who or of what we would like people to think that we are.

   Therefore, if we, imperfect as we are, are concerned with how people perceive us, how much more is God, perfect as He is, concerned that we see Him as He truly is? For that very reason God is into “selfies”? He has conveyed to us who He is. He does not want us to make images of Him; rather He has revealed to us, in Scripture, a clear understanding of His nature and His character so that we don’t misrepresent Him in any way. To do so would not only be offensive to Him, but potentially catastrophic for us.

   Consider with me the time Moses asked God for a “selfie “. He had just been used of God to deliver the nation of Israel out of captivity in Egypt. The demonstration of God's power was like nothing men had seen since the time He rained fire down on Sodom and Gomorrah. And yet, Moses was not content with simply seeing God move in power, but he wanted to see Gods face. Frankly God was pleased with Moses’ request, but told him, “You can’t see me and live.” “However, I will tuck you into the cleft of this rock and cause all my glory to pass by you.” Listen carefully to what God said to Moses in that moment.

“The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”” (Exodus 34:5–7, ESV)

Do you see what happened here? God didn’t simply hold a camera out, smile, click and send. Rather, He told Moses, by His words, who He is, forever fixing upon the mind of Moses the image of His forgiving, merciful and just nature.

   How would this impact Moses and the people of Israel? Fast-forward with me to a time when God told Moses He was going to destroy the people because of their wickedness and unbelief, and start over with Moses. Listen carefully to what he says to God as he intercedes for the Israelites.

“Now if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, ‘It is because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them that he has killed them in the wilderness.’ And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, ‘The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.”” (Numbers 14:15–19, ESV)

Wow! A whole nation was saved and spared from God's judgment because Moses didn’t rely on his own understanding of God, but on what God revealed and indelibly planted upon his soul.

   The picture God wants us to have of Him is the picture He has taken and so carefully preserved in the Bible. When we post our own image of God, it tends to be who we want Him to be, rather than who He really is. If you look closely enough at that image you have made of Him, I dare say you will see your own image. But when you allow God, no matter the cost to yourself, to show you who He is, He, along with His nature and character, will be an image planted firmly in you. Therefore, when others look at you, they will see Him.

   By not accepting God's offer, Moses showed the people who God is – “A God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, who will by no means clear the guilty…” Does the world see Christ in you?

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17–18, ESV)

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