I HAVE NO IDEA

Jesus went to the cross as the Son of God and the Son of Man.  As I contemplate the agony he suffered I realize I have no idea.  I have an inkling of what it might have been to face the cross as the Son of Man, but I have no ability to understand what it was like for him as the Son of God.  I have often considered what Jesus might have suffered, and I have heard many sermons on this topic, yet, I must conclude; I have no idea.

What I do know about Jesus’ suffering is that billions of people like me have experienced the results of what his suffering meant for mankind.  We have felt the love and peace of God’s forgiveness, and the renewed life that it afforded us.  I may not comprehend what Jesus suffered, but I believe he had full knowledge of what he was going to experience, and with that knowledge he walked bravely to the cross for us.

GOD’S WILL – OUR WILL

(2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

We become a Christian when we surrender our life to God and receive the gift of salvation Jesus achieved for us.  Jesus surrendered his life to pay for our sins.  So, even God has experienced surrender.  When we come to the place of giving our lives to him, he is faithful to receive us as his children, and he gives us his Spirit to seal us for eternity.  Thus begins our intimate relationship with our creator.

I think it’s important to understand that this relationship is offered to all of us.  As the above scripture makes clear, it is his will that we’d all receive salvation and eternal life.  The only thing standing in the way of an intimate relationship with God and eternal life is our will. 

If you haven’t surrendered to God, the Easter Celebration is a great time to surrender your will to him.  You can trust him because he gave his life for you.

(Romans 6:23) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

EVIL FOR GOOD

  Many years ago, I learned an important concept from the scriptures.  I learned that God can use evil for good.  The passage that confirms this is found in what Joseph spoke to his brothers who had sold him into slavery.  Genesis 50:19 & 20, But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

When we think of the cross, that evil place of torture, humility, and death, we see God’s hand at work.  For the finite human mind, God’s ways are amazing, unexpected, unique, and often unfathomable.  Who has understood the mind of the Lord (Isaiah 40:13)?  Yet Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate event in the history of mankind.  God brought great good out of evil intent.

At the foot of the cross every man, woman, and child can find the gift of God – eternal life.  There we find forgiveness, the greatest expression of love, and peace.  This is why we call next Friday Good Friday.  

TOGETHER WE CELEBRATE

Sometimes when I sit down to read my Bible I think, “I’ve read this part a thousand times.”  Then I begin to work through the scripture and find there’s something new in that old familiar story.  I realize again that the Spirit always has a new insight to challenge and guide me.

The other day, I was reading in Matthew chapter 9.  As I went through verses 14 and 15, a new thought came to me.  In The Message the verses read:

A little later John’s followers approached, asking, “Why is it that we and the Pharisees rigorously discipline body and spirit by fasting, but your followers don’t?”  Jesus told them, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine.  You feast.  Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now.  No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire.  This is Kingdom Come!”

What came to me was that when Christians meet we are getting together to celebrate the coming of God’s Kingdom.  We are celebrating our shared citizenship in His Kingdom, and basking in the realization that Jesus is here with us.  Our hearts are filled with joy as we honor the one who made it all possible.

WHAT DOES LIVING IN THE SPIRIT LOOK LIKE?

Our Pastor Eric Nelson recently wrote about living in the Spirit.  In that message he stated:

The Christian life without the Spirit of God is just another religion, just another man-made project. Just another way of clawing our way to the heavenlies, just another attempt at controlling the living God, just another attempt to prove our worth and righteousness is on par with God’s.

In conjunction with these thoughts, I have been reading in Matthew chapters 5-7(The Sermon on the mount).  It dawned on me that in these chapters Jesus is describing what living in the Spirit looks like.  In Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus addresses many moral issues and how we should respond.  He is presenting to us God’s loving, forgiving nature in response to these moral issues.  I love and am challenged by the way verse 48 reads in The Message, “In a word, what I’m saying is, grow up.  You’re kingdom subjects.  Now live like it.  Live out you’re God created identity.  Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

This then is how God wants us to live, but as Pastor Eric declares in his above quote, “without God’s Spirit it’s just another religion…. just another attempt to prove our worth and righteousness is on par with God’s.”  Jesus tells us what living in the Spirit looks like.  In order to live like this we need closeness to God.  I’m reminded that in John 15:5 Jesus affirms, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

To me it’s quite obvious that Christians are being called to put aside the things of this world and draw closer to God so that we might bear much fruit.  It’s time to recognize that we are subjects in God’s eternal Kingdom, and start living like it.

TWO KINGDOMS

I’ve been thinking over the current events here in our country and what my attitude might be in response to these events.  I have been reflecting on the broader picture from a Christian perspective, and these are some of the thoughts I’d like to share.

There are two ruling kingdoms on the earth.  They are the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light.  The kingdom of darkness is ruled by Satan. It is a finite kingdom that will end at God’s discretion.  The kingdom of light is ruled by God.  God’s kingdom is eternal, it will never end.  The people of the earth who have not chosen which of these kingdoms to enter are citizens of the kingdom of darkness.  Many are unaware of this. Those who have received the salvation God offers through the sacrifice of Jesus his son have become members of God’s eternal kingdom.  We should all be very aware of this.

The earth has many countries that have their various forms of government.  These governments are ruled by humans who are often unaware of the kingdoms that rule over them.  Being unaware leads them to being influenced by the kingdom of darkness.  This results in a lust for power and greed.  Unchecked, this lust and greed feeds on itself until all morality is lost.

For those of us who have chosen to enter God’s kingdom of light, we have been commanded as to how we should conduct ourselves.  Jesus commanded us to love one another, and to go into all the world sharing the good news of his salvation. We have not been commanded to kill the non-believers, but to love and pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. 

Christians should live in contrast to the kingdom of darkness.  We are to be light and salt on the earth. Living in opposition to the world is not easy. Doing it on our own is impossible.  We rely on God’s constant help.

Let’s pray for each other that we might all live in contrast to darkness and look to Jesus for help in bring salt and light to the earth.

Scripture references: John 15:17, Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 5:43-45, Matthew 5:13-16

WORKING WITH THE LORD

I once attended a church where the common question was, “what are you doing for the Lord”.  I believe the question was well intentioned, but it always left me perplexed.   I felt directed by the Lord to be ministering there, but had no ready answer for the question.  I’ve recently revisited this question, and I believe I’ve discovered a new perspective.

This is what I’ve come to.  I am not doing for the Lord; I am doing with the Lord.  At first this may seem like a subtle difference, but on further thought I have found it quite profound.  When doing for the Lord, I am focused on pursuing my effort.  In doing with the Lord, I am engaged in a relationship that brings about a good work.  I am reminded of Jesus’ words, “I am the vine; and you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  He is the vine: I am the branch.  It stands to reason then that I am working with Jesus not for him.  This perspective keeps me from working to find favor with the Lord.  I already have his favor. We are working together.

Jesus’ words, as recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, broadened my understanding of working with him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.   

I want the easy light burden that working with Jesus brings.  I want to work with Jesus not for him.  He is my king, and he deserves my every effort for sure, but his words give me a different focus, relationship.  He invites me to come to him and work alongside him.  He affords me the great privilege of working at his side.

PRAYER FOR THE NATION

This prayer, attributed to Paul Harvey and Billy Graham, was first penned by Bob Russell in 1995.  It has been modified somewhat over the years, but its message exposes the dialogue of the day and highlights how far we have gone astray.

“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess that.

We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it Pluralism.

We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.

We have abused power and called it politics.

We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

A DEPRAVED MIND

In my concern for our country, I would like to spark some Biblical insight about what is happening to America.  Last week I shared that countries will be judged for their wickedness.  Today I’d like to give some thoughts on what is wrong with our thinking.  Have you noticed that our leaders seem especially irrational in their thinking?

In Romans chapter one the Apostle Paul explains how rejecting God affected our thinking.  Romans 1:21, For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

If you think there isn’t a God, you fit in well with the liberal thinking of our times.  However, America was founded with the idea that there is a God who is identified in the Bible.  There is certainly still enough evidence to this conjecture to be convincing.  No doubt there are many who would like to destroy this evidence, but let’s get back to our investigation of the problem with our thinking.

Romans 1:28-30, Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents.

In God we find the source of wisdom.  We think we’re intelligent, but without God we falter in our use of knowledge.  Sin gets in the way of our ability to think rationally.  We need God!  He is our only hope!  Unless we repent and turn to God, we are doomed to continue in our futility and irrational sin driven thinking.

THE NATIONS WILL BE JUDGED

Is anyone concerned?  Is anyone fearful?  I’ve been reading in the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.  They speak of Israel’s sin against God, and the pending doom that awaited them.  Jeremiah 9:3 states,

“They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land.  They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me,” declares the Lord.

We are not Israel, but we are a blessed nation.  Did the blessings come from our own hand, or did they come from God?  Can we escape the doom of Israel as we continue to reject God? Are we exempt?  Though it reads on our coins “In God we trust”, we as a nation do not.  We have gone our own way, and we refuse to acknowledge God.  When Israel strayed and turned its back on God, the surrounding nations, the descendants of Ishmael, harassed them.  I find it most interesting that the eyes of Ishmael’s descendants are now turned to the U.S.  We have now become the great evil.  Ishmael is against us.  Is it by accident that this has happened?

If indeed God does not exist, as many now declare, then we have nothing to worry about.  I believe God does exist, and he created us. We as a people belong to him.  I also believe that God has the right to and will judge nations.  Individuals are judged after death, but nations are judged here and now.  If this is true, the people of the U.S. should be concerned; we should be fearful.  I close with this warning from Hebrews 10:30-31,

For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.