Monday, April 29, 2019

Standing on the Promises - Intro.

Whenever we face an enemy we don’t believe we can defeat, unless we get in a lucky hit, we’re probably going to lose. It’s called a psychological defeat. We’ve lost before we’ve even begun. If in our minds they’re too big, too strong or too successful, we’ll lose confidence to attack and instead go into protection mode, like a dog cowering under threat of being hit.

Seven Self-Defeating Psychological Habits That Stymie Success
1. Complaining. Having a problem but no solution.
2. Seeking approval from those whose opinions don’t matter.
3. Blaming others for how you feel.
4. Negative self-talk. Telling yourself you can’t before you even try.
5. Dwelling on the past. Letting what happened yesterday mess up today.
6. Resistance to change.
7. Limiting beliefs.

After WWII the Russians developed the Mig fighter jets. When the Korean War started, our technology had gone in a different direction and we couldn’t defeat them. The kill rate of the Mig made success against them measurably unlikely.

We rushed into developing a new breed of jet fighter. Still the Russians were a step ahead of us.  The kill rate in Korea was 10:1 and even at one time 25:1. Then came the Viet Nam War. Even with new generation fighters, we were still behind. Though the kill rate by the Migs was down to just under 3:1, it was still an unacceptable rate. We began to assume that the Migs couldn’t be beaten.

Fortunately, several Mig pilots defected, their planes captured, analyzed and weaknesses discovered. Then our military found a way to teach those weaknesses to its pilots.

Operation Red Flag was created as a two-week advanced aerial combat training exercise to offer realistic air-combat training for pilots. It was real engagement against an aggressor squadron that adopted Soviet tactics using simulated weaponry lasers instead of rockets to score kills. After the staged combat, the pilots would all return to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas and go over what happened on the range to learn what they did right, what they did wrong, to help them succeed against typical wartime scenarios the Soviets might use against them.

The kill rate dropped dramatically and moved highly into our favor. Today, US trained pilots enjoy air superiority. The Migs no longer terrorize the skies.

What terrorizes your skies? Is there an enemy that, up until now, seems unbeatable? Does just the mention of his name kill your confidence of success? Do you cower the minute he gets you in his sights and locks on?

Eph 2:1-2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 

Paul goes on and gives this prince of the power of the air a name: the devil or Satan. We used to walk according to the pattern of his desires. Walk means we lived under his influence. That influence shaped our thoughts and manipulated our actions. That’s what the Migs did. They gave us the impression they were too powerful. That we couldn’t beat them. We were defeated even before the battle started. That’s Satan’s tactic. Bullying us to believe he is unbeatable as he:
  • Seeks opportunities to exploit our weaknesses,
  • He produces snares, to hold us captive to do his will,
  • He prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour,
  • He takes advantage of us, hinders us,
  • He disguises himself as an angel of light,
  • His servants also disguise themselves as servants of good.

Remember Peter? When he tried to tell Jesus he wouldn’t let Him go to the cross, Jesus said: Matt 16:23 "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." 

Peter wasn’t Satan but he was giving Satan’s input to Jesus, to hinder Him by trying to influence Jesus to give in to Satan’s desires rather than God’s. Satan shows up in moments where we are challenged to trust God.

  • The doctor says we have cancer. Satan tells us we’re going to die. We give up.
  • We have chronic pain. Satan tells us we’ll never get better. We lose hope.
  • Our loved one dies. Satan tells us we’ll never be happy again. We withdraw from life.
  • A friend asks us to pray for her healing. Satan says God doesn’t heal. We won’t pray.
  • We watch the news. Satan says that could happen to you. We tremble in fear.

It’s easy to focus on Satan’s victories. Just last Sunday, his network of evil killed 300 people in Sri Lanka and wounded 500 more, most all of these Christians. ISIS has taken credit for this evil. Vice President Pence said Thursday that the reign of terror carried out by the Islamic State should be labeled "genocide" against Christians.

He said though they also persecute members of other non-Christian faiths and even Muslims who do not share their version of Islam, "these practitioners of terror harbor a special hatred for the followers of Christ.” By his network of evil, Satan rains down terror on the world. World-wide 11 people are killed each day because of their faith.

Eph 6:12-13 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

What an encouraging message today! You might as well be telling us the Migs are taking back the skies. You’re describing an enemy that seems unbeatable. Where’s the good news? Paul goes on to say: Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 

God is saying through Paul, the enemy is big, the enemy is powerful, the enemy is everywhere. But don’t assume he will automatically win. He may seem unbeatable, more powerful, more devious, driving a worldwide network of evil, but if you  armor yourself with the essence of who I am and what I say, you will be able to resist him and stand firm. The enemy can be defeated. He is not almighty. I AM!

In the OT, one of the names for God was el shadday. Shadday means: the one who is sufficient. Interesting that the word used actually refers to a mother’s breast from which her baby is completely supplied and nourished. Adding el to it meant: God is the one who completely supplies and nourishes us. He is the sufficient One. We call Him God Almighty – the One with no limits to what He can do.

Paul said to put on or surround yourself with your God Almighty’s provisions and then stand. Stand on what? Some flimsy, cardboard box? The promises of God. In other words, stand on the sufficiency of God as declared in what He has promised.

Such as: James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 

I draw near to God because I know He is my provision for whatever I face. As I draw near to Him, submitting to Him whatever I face, I am refusing the devil’s assault, forcing him to withdraw. It’s a promise. Based on what? 1Jn 4:4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 

We overcome because Jesus has the authority to rebuke Satan’s efforts. 1Jn 3:8 The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 

What am I basing this on? The promises of God. The promises: what God has said is so.

Remember as kids, we’d go out and tell our brothers or sisters they had to stop doing something or come in to the house. They’d usually challenge our authority. “You can’t tell me what to do.” Then when we’d say, “Momma said so.” Suddenly, they had no choice. “Momma said so” was always the final word.

The promises are the say so of God. He said this, so, that’s what must happen.

2Cor 12:9-10 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Paul calls his troubles a thorn of Satan and he admits his weakness in dealing with it. But when he cries out to God Almighty, placing his distress into the hands of his all-sufficient God, he discovers God’s strength is more than adequate to get him through.

In other words, he chose to stand on the promise: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." And from then on, every time Satan wanted to remind him of his hurt, he’d remind Satan of Gods’ promise.

Sometimes we think, when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant, “I’m done.” And He went to Heaven and sat down to just wait for the Second Coming. No. He was finished but wasn’t through. He completed that phase, now He’s into the next.

2Pe 1:3-4 His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust – overpowering desire

How do we operate within this phase of Jesus’ work? By standing on the promises.
Which brings us to the ultimate question: Can we rely on God’s promises? Yes. Why? Because, as in everything else regarding our salvation, they are based on the faithfulness of Jesus. He is the assurance the promises will be fulfilled.

2Cor 1:20 For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen [our God said so] to the glory of God through us.

We are the recipients of the promises of a God who is Almighty, All-sufficient. Who grants us promises simply because we are His Children. We are never without an answer. Never without hope. Never without a reply to Satan’s insults and accusations. Why? Because we are products of the faithfulness of Jesus and belong to a God who loves us. Therefore: Rom 8:37 in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 

Ever look at a child’s favorite toy? To us it’s generally pretty beaten up, ragged and unattractive. But they love it. To us it looks like it needs to be thrown away and replaced with something better. To them, it’s beautiful.

John Ortberg wrote: There is such a love that creates value in what is loved. There is a love that turns rag dolls into priceless treasures. There is a love that fastens itself onto ragged little creatures, for reasons that no one could ever quite figure out, and makes them precious and valued beyond calculation. This is a love beyond reason. This is the love of God. This is the love with which God loves you and me.

Understanding that, Paul wrote: Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

If your enemy is speaking words of doubt into your mind, influencing you to reject the promises of your All-sufficient, Almighty God, just tell him, uh uh. God said so! 

Never go into battle without God’s say so!

  1. It is often easier to trust in a lie rather than the truth because the lie supports what we imagine is true.
  2. When we accept the lie, we can anticipate defeat because we have given in to the enemy’s strategy for us to replace faith with doubt.
  3. If he can get us to doubt God’s faithfulness, he can manipulate us to disregard God’s promises.
  4. When we disregard God’s promises, we’re standing on flimsy, cardboard boxes shooting blanks.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Caught Between Strength and Weakness - Easter

Which is harder to believe: something that’s already happened or in something yet to come? It’s an obvious answer. When something has already happened, we typically have a connection with it. We’ve read about it from a reliable source. We actually experienced it happening. The fact that it happened has made an impact on our lives.

In the early 1920s Communist leader Nikolai Bukharin was sent from Moscow to Kiev to address an anti-God rally. For an hour he abused and ridiculed the Christian faith and denounced the events it was founded on until it seemed as if the whole structure of Christianity was in ruins. At the end of his presentation, a Russian Orthodox priest rose and asked to speak. He faced the people and gave the greeting, "He is risen!" Instantly the audience rose to its feet and shouted, "He is risen indeed!" 

When you know something has happened, you’ll refuse the lie. When you aren’t sure, you’ll believe anything.

When I approach the stories of the Bible, I do so from solid belief that what I read is true. This Book, produced over a period of 1800 years, with more than 40 different writers has one consistent story: God designed a plan before the foundation of the world and has implemented and carried out that plan with such precision that He often told what would happen in advance. A plan that has been and is being fulfilled throughout history with the final parts of the plan being worked out before our very eyes today.

The central message is: God so loved the world that He chose to reconcile the world to Himself through the death of His Son, so that those who believe in Him enough to call out to Him, in faith for salvation, would not perish but have everlasting life.

He also included promises that are to be relied upon by His people to help them live a faithful and godly life. Some of those promises are direct, others based on certain conditions. If you do this, then I’ll do that. Sometimes those promises are unique to specific moments.

Like: when I stumble He will lift me up, when storms come I will not be washed away, when I pass through the valley of the shadow death He will be with me. They are provisions matched to circumstances. There is such variety in God’s promises that either directly or indirectly there is a promise that fits whatever we face.

But promises have one thing in common: they anticipate some measure of faith. Knowing what God said and trusting in what God said are not always one and the same. Saying we believe what God said is true and letting that truth affect our lives are not always one and the same.

Question: When you find your situation matches the conditions of one of those promises, do you ever struggle to rely on what God has said? Or: when it comes time to apply our faith by trusting God specifically for something He has provided for, do we do so confidently, or do we have to fight through doubt?

I find that I struggle most when the circumstances seem bigger than the promise.
  • When my faith checkbook records less than the purchase requires,
  • When the hurt seems larger than the bandage,
  • When my pain outshouts my faith to control my life.

We look at what’s going on around us, overwhelmed by what’s happening and afraid of what might come next. And the hope that once filled our hearts with promise becomes merely a wish upon the shadow of a verse we read in the Bible somewhere once. There’s no faith, no confidence, no assurance that what God said could apply to us.

It’s easy in moments like that to think we are the exception. That God’s promises work for everyone else but us. My circumstances are different. My pain is unique. My suffering is specific to me only. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.

Did Jesus ever have a moment to question a promise from the Father? It was just after He had celebrated Passover with His disciples. He was facing crucifixion the next morning. He knew what was going on. He knew what it all meant. He was going to die.

Jesus had perhaps seen many people die by Roman crucifixion, none for the sins of the world. And, all the people He saw die were still dead. He was to come back alive. No one had done what He was scheduled to do – face death with a direct promise of resurrection within three days. That put Him in a unique position of one. No one had ever had to trust God in this way.

Matt 26:36-41 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me." And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." 

I’ve always read that last statement thinking Jesus was talking about the disciples. That their flesh was competing with their spirits.

I don’t think that’s what He meant. Jesus wasn’t telling them what they were going through, that their flesh was too weak to stay awake and pray, but He was telling them what He was going through. Ever been caught between weakness and strength?

The plan had always contained resurrection. Ps 16:10 For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. 

Acts 2:29-32 Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 

He was guaranteed a resurrection. He had the promise. He knew the prophecy. He was in on the plan. He had inspired the men who had written it all down, therefore His spirit was fully willing to go through with the crucifixion and death. But what about His flesh?

His flesh, His humanity was struggling with the process. He knew what was to come after He died, but also knew what it would take to get to that point. He was struggling with enduring the suffering. He’d read Isaiah. He knew Psalm 22 by heart. He was so familiar with the story He could even feel the nails before they ever touched His skin.

He knew what to anticipate – physically, emotionally and spiritually. And here in the Garden it was overwhelming Him. So: Matt 26:42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done." Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!" 

Jesus was a man on death row. But unlike a dead man walking, heading to execution not knowing what to expect, Jesus knew all the details.

He knew more than anyone else what He would go through. That’s why Gethsemane was the most critical, human moment Jesus ever faced. He knew what was in the cup He was about to drink.
So, He prayed: Let the cup pass. He prayed it three times. And each time resolved the tension with not My will but Yours be done. What does that mean? Hand Me the cup. It’s mine and I’ll drink it. It means He was going through with it in spite of the struggle with the ordeal to come. And that wasn’t fully resolved until the third prayer.

Sometimes we read these stories and sanitize out the human strain of the crisis.

I remember being in a discussion group, once, talking about Abraham sacrificing Isaac. One lady in the group asked if we could feel the tension of a father about to kill his son? Suddenly, a clean, non-emotional event was full of terror and fear and sorrow. He was willing to obey but knew that obedience came at an extremely high cost. Plunging a knife into his son wasn’t as casual as carving up the Thanksgiving turkey. Every ounce of faith was required to do what God had told him.

That’s where Jesus was. Willing to obey but feeling the high cost of that obedience.

Heb 10:36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. 

The writer of Hebrews tells us how He did it: Heb 12:2 who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, He despised the shame 

What joy could there be in a torturous death? How could you ever anticipate joy knowing all you were going to go through? By looking beyond what you face and seeing a faithful God working to accomplish what concerns you.

It made Him steadfast. It kept Him on target. It wasn’t the nails that held Jesus on the cross. It was the joy He found within His purpose, strengthened by the assurance of the Father that He not only would make it through, but He would endure and receive what was promised.

That’s why His prayer was so crucial. It connected the agony of a struggling flesh with the willingness of a surrendered spirit. A spirit that would not allow the flesh to dominate, to steal away His joy, to influence Him to deny who He was. He had to go through with it. There was no one else to whom He could pass the cup. It was Him or no one, the cross or nothing.

Phil 2:9-11 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

Act 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.

What was at stake? You. Had He not endured to die and rise again, we’d never know a life in relationship with the Father was even possible. We’d be dead in our sins. Our faith would be worthless and we would of all people be most miserable.

And to Him that would be unacceptable.

Aren’t you glad you were included in the joy through which Jesus endured the suffering, drank from the cup and came back to life so He could reconcile you to the Father?

  1. Though Jesus’ death was a highly spiritual event, He was not a mere machine going through the motions.
  2. The physical torture was excruciating, the emotional strain overwhelming, the spiritual challenge enormous.
  3. For Him to endure, He focused on the joy of what would be accomplished through Him.
  4. For us to endure our own suffering, we do the same: find joy in the fact that the same God has promised to get us through.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Words from the Cross - Scripture

Where do traditions get started? Cutting the end off the ham.

A tradition is a long-established custom or belief that has been passed down from one generation to another. Traditions are a reason behind why we do some things that has no other foundation than: that’s how we’ve always done it. What we do on holidays is more often than not based on tradition. 

Going to church can be a tradition. Many of our beliefs and even convictions are shaped by tradition.
Where are they supposed to come from? Scripture. But that Scripture is often shaped by current opinion, traditional understanding of that Scripture, or on the explanation by a respected authority. These shaping factors can hold a higher value than what Scripture says.

Josh 1:8  This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 

This law was written down as the Torah. The other books were added later to produce the Jewish Bible. But there was also the Oral Tradition called the Mishnah and the instruction based on that tradition added to the Mishnah became the Talmud. Though it wasn’t written down until around 200 A.D., these Traditions went as far back as Moses.

But though God told Joshua to build his life on the Law, much of Jewish life is based upon the traditions.

In Christianity, we have the same thing. We have the Scripture and then we have opinion or explanation of that Scripture. Typically, those opinions or explanations are based upon traditions. What our parents believed. What our church taught us. Or what we decided along the way. Our beliefs in End Times and Heaven and Hell have much to do with opinion rather than Scripture.

As a result of opinions and explanation, we have denominations. The World Christian Encyclopedia lists up to 33,000 different segments of Christianity around the world. There are 6 major Christian categories, divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions, composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries, these denominational distinctives being expressed in 3.4 million worship centers, churches or congregations. And just because they go by the title Christian, most are not biblically based and you wouldn’t agree with their teaching if you tried to worship with them.
How can there be 33,000 different opinions as to how Christianity is to be lived, the Bible believed, and the church to operate? Tradition.

When people are asked why they believe what they believe, more often than not, they draw upon some traditional explanation rather than point to specific Scripture. It’s always been that way.
The greatest obstacle in the first century of communicating the Gospel was fighting through the traditional beliefs of the people. Instead of seeking for truth, they only wanted to support what they have always believed.

Act 17:10-11 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 

The Bereans were noble-minded. They wanted to know what was so, so if found to be true, they could adjust their lives to it. They were not open-minded to swallow whatever they were told, but they were noble-minded – responsible thinkers.

Then why were the Jewish leaders not more Berean in their approach to Jesus? He didn’t fit their traditional beliefs of what the Messiah would be like. He was to be a mighty warrior who would bring a military assault against whoever opposed Israel, work with the religious establishment to restore the authority it had in past days and make Israel the crown jewel of the world. Jesus just didn’t fit the profile.

In Judaism 101: The word "messiah" doesn’t mean "savior." The notion of an innocent, divine or semi-divine being who will sacrifice himself to save us from the consequences of our own sins is a purely Christian concept that has no basis in Jewish thought. 

Isn’t that interesting, since so much was written about One who would sacrifice Himself for Sin.

Isa 53:5-6 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. 

Even on the day they knew the Messiah would present Himself to the nation, they rejected Jesus because they didn’t want Him to be the One. Why? He didn’t fit their traditional expectations.

Dan 9:25-26 So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing

And: Zech 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 

Guess what happened on the day that the Messiah was to enter Jerusalem:

Luke 19:30-40 Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say, 'The Lord has need of it.'" So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They said, "The Lord has need of it." They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: "BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." But Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!" 

Why was this such a problem?

Ps 118:22-24 The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. This is the LORD'S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.

What kept them from connecting the dots? Expectations based on Tradition.

Luke 24:13-27 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, "What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?" And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, "Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?" And He said to them, "What things?" And they said to Him, "The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see." And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ [messiah – anointed One] to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. 

Why? To challenge them to have the right authority for why and what they believed. Everything Jesus said relating to His death was backed up by Scripture:

Luke 23:46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT." Having said this, He breathed His last. 

Ps 31:5  Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth. 
Matt 27:34 they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink. 

Ps 69:19-21 You know my reproach and my shame and my dishonor; all my adversaries are before You. Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They also gave me gall for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. 

John 19:28-30 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. 

Ps 22:30-31 Posterity will serve Him; It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation. They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has performed it. 

Throughout and after the crucifixion, Jesus was explaining what was going on by sending His followers back to Scripture. Why? Because tradition didn’t tell the truth. It was tainted by expectations, opinion and explanations that these circumstances couldn’t support.

What do people say who don’t want something to be true? I don’t believe that. As though their belief can change truth. I don’t want there to be a Hell so, I don’t believe it. I don’t want any accountability to God, so I don’t believe in Him.

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 

Tradition manipulates Scripture. This is what I want to be true, so I will bend Scripture until it says what I want it to say.

Jesus says: It all speaks of Me. It describes a plan created from before the foundation of the earth was laid all the way until the ultimate end. And I have included you.

Act 2:16-18, 21 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: and it shall be in the last days,' God says, 'that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spiritand it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' 

Rom 10:12-13 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." 

But my tradition teaches that differently. Tradition isn’t what God uses as criteria to fulfill His word. Just do what the Scripture says.

  1. What we believe is very important; it shapes how we live.
  2. Believing the right thing is most important; it shapes us according to how God wants us to live.
  3. Whenever we find in our thoughts or actions that we believe something contrary to Scripture, we must change.
  4. We may be sincere in our beliefs, but we can be sincerely wrong.
  5. When in doubt, go with the Word of God.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Words from the Cross - Personal

John 15:13-15 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friendsI have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you

I have had several great discovery days in understanding things about the Lord. The greatest ones are those through which I see the personal connection between what Scripture says and how that applies to me.

I struggle often, probably like you do, reading or listening to the stories over and over and only hear ancient words. It is altogether different when I read and see my name written on the pages.

I can even visualize Jesus hanging on the cross, dying for the sins of the world, but miss that He is doing so for me. He’s paying my price. He’s carrying my sins. He’s suffering my death. He’s doing that for me. Jesus laid down His life for me.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. That whosoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. Who is the world? Who is the whosoever? Who gains everlasting life by believing? This is a collective message to be applied personally.

Col 1:21-22  And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach

Col 2:13-14  When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 

We have a common experience. Remember what that was like?

Eph 2:1-3  And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 

But God: instead of leaving you there:

Eph 2:4-6  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 

Rom 5:8-10  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 

Reconciled – the relationship
Saved – the benefits – deliverance

Rom 5:11  And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. 

2Cor 5:19-20 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. 

Here is the message:

2Cor 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 

2Cor 5:15  and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 

2Cor 5:17  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 

  1. The Bible is written collectively to apply to everyone.
  2. The Message is to be taken personally to apply to me.
  3. When I discover that truth, my life will be transformed.