An opportunity for us to track together as a community through the word of God.

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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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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When Did The Gospel Become The Gospel To You?

When Did The Gospel Become The Gospel To You?

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”             (1 Peter 1:8–9, ESV)

   Do you find Peter's words to be true in your life? Do you, despite your circumstances, have the ability to rejoice with joy inexpressible and filled with glory because you are a Christian? If not, maybe you should consider the title of this blog. “When did the Gospel become the Gospel to you?” When is it that the Gospel of Jesus Christ became good news to you?

   We have all received good news in one form or another. Maybe that news came in the form of being chosen for a position in a Fortune 500 Company. Perhaps it came when the doctor told you the tests for cancer came back negative, or that your cancer is in remission.  You may also have been the recipient of a grand prize or an inheritance unlooked for. All of these are a cause for celebration in our life. But I submit to you there is no greater cause for celebration than to be on death row for a crime, of which you are guilty, then suddenly acquitted of that crime. One moment you are being prepared to receive a lethal injection, and the next moment you are told that your debt has been paid. You are free to go, just as if you had never committed the crime. Why?  Because the one you committed the crime against, paid the price for you with His life.

   While this may sound incredible to you, and even a little foolish, it is exactly what happened 2000 years ago on the Cross of Christ. We are told in Isaiah 53:5,

“But 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)

Christians, who experience fullness of joy, are the ones who recognize that passage is speaking of them.

“But Jesus was pierced for my transgressions; Jesus was crushed for my iniquities; the chastisement that brought me peace was upon Jesus, and with the wounds of Jesus, I am healed.”

   Do you recall a time you experienced the mercy of God? Do you remember when you experienced the Gospel of Christ resulting in the forgiveness of sins: the salvation of your soul?  If so, you will be able to love Him, though you haven’t seen Him, to believe in Him and rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.

   Maybe you can recall that moment you experienced the Gospel of Christ, but you have let the cares and worries of this world overshadow your joy. If so, seek to set your mind on Him, “the author and finisher of your faith”, remembering with David in Psalm 16:11:

“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)

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Do You Know God

Do You Know God

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5–8, ESV) 

The chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God.

                                                                                                                           William Lane Craig                                                                                                                                                                      

  Dr. Craig’s words seem to contradict the very heart of our Constitution – that it’s mans right to pursue happiness: to have his own property, his own religion, his own guns and his own ambitions. But when I look at our nation, I see misery. Though we are the wealthiest people on earth, we are also, it seems, the most dissatisfied. How can this be unless it is because men are seeking happiness apart from God instead of in Him? They say God, with His rules, only wants to restrict our ability to enjoy life, forgetting that God's rules are there to protect our lives and draw us to a source of eternal happiness, namely Himself.

   Do you find that you are content to know Him, or does your happiness come from having something other than Him? Do you need God and something attached to Him, or is He enough? When you need something attached to God for your happiness, then you will be miserable people, because the things of this world are temporary. When God is enough, however, you will find true happiness no matter your circumstances. He may give you a beautiful home, a new car, and a beautiful spouse and kids, but when those things are gone will your joy go with them? No, because God, who has given you Himself, will never be taken from you. Therefore Peter says in his first epistle that we have “joy inexpressible and full of glory, the salvation of our souls.”

   The key to finding true happiness begins with humility. We must be willing to lay down our lives for Christ’s sake. Pursuing Him means leaving all our dreams on the altar and making Him our chief pursuit. Andrew Murray, in his book Humility, writes,

“Man's chief care, his highest virtue, and his only happiness, now and throughout eternity, is to present himself as an empty vessel in which God can dwell and manifest His power and goodness.”

                                                                                                                                                    Andrew Murray

 Jesus, being God, emptied Himself and became a man filled with God. He glorifyed God in His death that we might know Him, the only true God and Jesus Christ His Son. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was happy to do this for 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 12:2, ESV) 

   Do you see your sacrifice, the laying down of your life, in terms of “the joy that is set before you” – that is, to know God?

 

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God Knows

God Knows

 

 "God saw the people of Israel - and God knew." Exodus 2:25

   What a statement about God and his loving care for the Israelites! God is not a distant God. He knows! So often we look at this attribute of God with fear because He sees everything we do. But have you ever considered the idea that God sees and cares?  Yes, he cares about our sin! So much so that He sent His Son to die for our sin so we could live with Him for all eternity. The children of Israel were in bondage to the Egyptians, and God demonstrated His care for them by sending Moses to deliver them. We are in bondage to sin and God demonstrated His care for us by sending His Son to deliver us. The Apostle Paul understood this well…

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 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 5:6–8, ESV)

   Having this knowledge should make us the happiest of all people! You can just imagine the relief felt by the children of Israel as they watched the Egyptian army be consumed by the waves of the Red Sea: their enemy, the oppressor of their souls, gone, and nothing but freedom ahead with God at their side. And yet, almost immediately they began to complain, accusing God of bringing them out of Egypt just to kill them.

And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”” (Exodus 16:2–3, ESV)

   Wow! Can you believe their lack of trust especially after witnessing the greatest display of liberation the world had ever seen? We are amazed at how quickly they forgot, but what about us? We are recipients of the greatest act of liberation the world will ever see! For we have been freed from the bonds of sin and death. And yet, we, like the Israelites, somehow forget that God saved us to give us a future and a hope.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10, ESV)

   God looks upon your plight and knows. He knows your needs, your desires, your joys and your sorrows. “He will never leave nor forsake you.” You are His! He didn’t go through such pain just to leave you to the wolves. Therefore, be glad oh Christian, for the God of all creation loves you!

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