Archive for March, 2013

30
Mar
13

What makes Good Friday so “Good”?

On or about this time long ago, the only perfect man who ever lived willingly laid down His life for you and me. Although there were many legal aspects to what transpired at Calvary, the greatest thing that should always be remembered is the love which was manifested by God in so giving His Son for people who did not deserve Him, and in fact rejected Him.

As Jesus was dying, He beseeched the Father to forgive those who had crucified Him for they did not know what they had done. On the surface, this is an odd request since it certainly appears the people knew good and well what they had done. Jesus was a heretic, a blasphemer and a liar. There was no alternative in the people’s minds other than to crucify the one who had dared tell them the truth.

But, God does not look on the outward appearance but rather on the heart. The throngs of people chanting for the crucifixion of Jesus were whipped into their frenzy by men whom Jesus Himself said were children of the devil. Jesus was not asking the Father to forgive those men but rather the multitudes who were simply carried along in the moment and the Roman guards who were Gentiles.

Jesus did not look down from the cross with fire in His eyes, promising judgment and wrath upon those who mocked and despised Him. To the contrary, Jesus felt compassion for the ignorant and misguided multitudes and begged the Father to overlook their sin and forgive them. Of all the things that took place on that cross, I believe the request for forgiveness was the greatest.

We were no different than those standing around watching the spectacle of the crucifixion either out of curiosity or anger. Those who were there 2000 years ago were sinners just like you and me. Jesus understood who He was and what He was doing on that cross and in an astounding act of kindness and love; He forgave those who had sought to kill Him.

A huge part of the Christian message is forgiveness. If Jesus could so love that He forgave those who betrayed, mocked, beat and crucified Him; can’t we forgive those who do us wrong? If God could forgive us of all our sins because of what Jesus did; can’t we forgive ourselves for the times we have erred and gone astray?

On this day when so many feel such deep sorrow for what happened to Jesus, I believe we should take this time to honestly reflect upon the depth of love and compassion poured out on the cross not only through Jesus giving His life but in the overwhelming mercy and grace reflected in the message of forgiveness manifested by Jesus and the Father.

Christianity is the only faith that actively practices forgiveness. That, to me, is what makes this Friday so “Good”. It is indeed a good Friday to forgive and give the love of Christ.

28
Mar
13

By His stripes we are healed

Jesus Christ knew the scriptures so He knew what was coming in during the final hours of His life on earth. Jesus not only knew of His impending crucifixion but also His betrayal, mock trials, beatings and humiliation. After Jesus prayed earnestly in the Garden and accepted the will of God, he was immediately apprehended by the Jewish guards and led on the most gruesome journey known to man.

Everything Jesus endured was necessary for our redemption to be complete. As the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus’ sacrifice was far more than just His death; it involved receiving the full measure of retribution for Adam’s sin and the consequences of that sin. The road to our redemption was indeed the most difficult of any in all of history.

It is beyond our mind’s ability to comprehend what Jesus went through on our behalf. Not only did he suffer unbelievable physical torture through beatings, whippings, scourging etc; Jesus also suffered every imaginable form of mental and emotional humiliation known to man. This humiliation went far beyond being mocked and scorned but involved things said and done that emasculated Him and made Him feel less than human.

The body and mind of our Savior were mangled beyond recognition and so maligned that the Son of God was reduced to a bleeding, bruised and broken frame of a man. Jesus had to receive every form of punishment imaginable in order to be our Savior. Jesus had to be treated as the worst criminal in order to redeem us.

The devil knew he could not kill Jesus but he honestly thought he could break him and cause him to quit. All the devious torture Jesus was put through was designed to so wear Him down that He would give up tell the Father “I cannot do this”. With each crack of the whip and with each new form of physical abuse, the devil honestly believed he could break Jesus’ decision to do the Father’s will.

Isaiah 53:5 tells us why Jesus had to go through all of this in order to be our Redeemer and Savior:

“ But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed”

In order to be healed of the curse of Adam’s transgression, Jesus had to receive the full extent of that curse which is why He had to endure the breaking of His body. Just as Jesus’ shed blood was needed for the remission of our sins, so His broken body was necessary for our healing from the consequences of sin.

As we eat the bread of communion, we are remembering all the pain and humiliation Jesus went through on our behalf. Jesus did this so we would not have to. In many respects, the broken body of Jesus represents the healing of our guilt and shame while His shed blood represents the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

Everything Jesus experienced defines agony, pain and humiliation. The perfect Son of God endured this by taking our place. Jesus willingly laid down his life, not only in death but in everything leading up to it. He did all this for us so that through his wounds, bruises, abuse and stripes we can be healed of every internal and external consequence of sin.

28
Mar
13

Proving our love and devotion for God and His Son Jesus Christ

Grace greater than all my sin. Mercy stronger than all my guilt. Love deeper than all my doubts.

When I consider all my Savior did when dying on that tree, I know that He did pay the price and from my sin set me free. But beyond those simple truths we know, there was something bigger that God did show. For through giving His Son for all of us, God proved for all eternity He really is the God of love.

When Jesus cried out “Why has Thou forsaken me”, the Father’s heart broke for He never left His Son’s side. With everything in Him, God wanted to reach down and pull His Son off that cross, bind up His wounds and hold Him tight. But, as deeply as God desired to do this, both He and His Son knew that if He did, it would keep man unredeemed and eternally separated from God.

I pray that we never, as long as we live, diminish or lose sight of the abounding and unfathomable love of God manifested through everything He allowed His Son to go through. I pray that we always remember and grow daily in our appreciation of the amazing and incredible love manifested by our Savior Jesus Christ as He willingly laid down His life for those who hated and doubted Him.

To say “thank you” is far too shallow of an expression from our hearts toward the God who so loved that He gave. To say “love you” is far too flippant of a way to express how we feel about all God has done for us. To say that Jesus is our “bff” is paramount to blowing off everything He did for us.

Deep within our souls should be the cry “Abba Father” as we bow down in humble adoration for His grace, mercy and love toward us. Deep within our hearts should be the yearning to live our lives to the praise of HIS glory so as to PROVE our gratitude and love for our Lord and Savior.

Simply reciting a liturgy does not prove a person even knows God let alone loves Him. Showing up for services or singing hymns does not prove a person is devoted to God. Wearing a cross or passing out tracts does not prove a person is committed to the God who saved them.

The only way we can PROVE we love, adore, are devoted and fully committed to our Lord is through giving our lives to Him and allowing Him to work through our lives to bless others. If we hold fast to our lives as our own, we only prove that although we may know who God is, we do not belong to Him. It is only through reaching the point where our life is not our own, because we know we have been bought with a price, that we are able to PROVE that Jesus did not give His life in vain.

26
Mar
13

Not my will but thine be done

Jesus Christ was not only a “good” man but the one and only “perfect” man who ever lived. If there ever was a man who deserved to never die because of his sin, it was Jesus Christ. He always did His Father’s will yet He willingly humbled Himself to the point of giving His life for us. Even Jesus (because He was a man) had to deal with the emotions which welled up inside of Him the night before He was apprehended.

As Jesus prayed in the garden at Gethsemane, He was facing the same battle many of us face daily. He knew what the will of God was, but He was having a difficult time accepting it for it was not pleasant. Jesus knew what was coming for it was written in the Old Testament. He knew that He would be so abused, beaten, humiliated and scourged that He would not even look like a human being. Jesus knew that pain beyond a man’s ability to bear was His lot. Jesus knew that to survive, He would have to muster every ounce of trust in God and not give in to the temptation to die before His time.

As Jesus wrestled with this, the Bible says that He sweat great drops of blood. Medically this is indeed possible and indicates the absolute utmost of passion and struggle. Jesus knew who He was and what He had to do but the battle raged within Him as He came to the point of allowing Himself to go through what He did in order to be our Savior.

Hebrews 12 tells us that the only way Jesus was able to endure everything that happened to Him was that He fixed His mind on the JOY that was set before Him. Because He knew that God would raise Him from the dead with eternal life, He was able to endure and not give in to the overwhelming desire to die. If Jesus would have died any time before He did, the devil would have won and our redemption would have been incomplete.

Jesus knew that our redemption was at stake and that somehow He must endure everything that was coming. Jesus knew what the Father’s will entailed and He wanted to do it. But, as the Father revealed to Jesus the details of what was coming, even the greatest man who ever lived wavered and had to struggle with the desire to live His life vs the calling of God to endure and die.

In due time, Jesus came to the point where He said; “Not my will but thine be done”. Jesus did indeed suffer every pain known to man so that He could redeem us. Jesus did indeed have to go through torture, humiliation and excruciating agony. Yet, Jesus never complained or cried out “why me?” Because the battle ended when He prayed, He was able to endure and thus able to pay the price for our sins and open the door to our salvation.

Are we willing to lay down our selfish pride and foolish desires at the feet of Jesus? Are we willing to do whatever God’s will entails in our lives or just what lines up with our will? Are we willing to endure whatever comes our way because of the joy that is set before us? Are we willing to emulate our Savior and reach the point we lay down what we want and gladly accept what He wants?

Herein is not only the key to our redemption but the key to our ability to walk in the fullness of whatever God has called us to do and be in this life. Every day in every situation that arises, we must wrestle within ourselves to reach the point where we can honestly say to our Father in heaven; “not my will, but thine be done”.

25
Mar
13

Our redemption, justification, righteousness, reconciliation and sanctification in Christ

Simply put, we believe that Jesus Christ was the expression of the love of God as He became the perfect sacrifice for our sins and our eternal redeemer. We believe that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that we might live through Him.

Justice demanded the transgression of Adam be paid for and the penalty for that sin was death. God, being the righteous yet just judge that He is, allowed Jesus (who was perfect in every way) to be the legal substitute for sin and thus pay the price for it. This definition of REDEMPTION is crucial to our understanding and appreciation of what Jesus Christ did and why it is so awesome.

The only way God could legally overturn His judgment of “guilty” and acquit us of all crimes against Him was for Jesus Christ to willingly lay down His perfect life as the payment and eternal sacrifice for sin. Because Jesus took upon Himself the original transgression of Adam as well as every sin (past, present and future) of all people; God was able to legally render His “guilty” verdict null and void and acquit us of all charges against us. This definition of JUSTIFICATION allows us to stand RIGHTEOUS in God’s presence without any sense of guilt or condemnation.

Our redemption, justification and righteousness released us from the penalty of sin which is death. Although we still sin, we have an advocate with the Father who is Jesus Christ. He pleads our case before the righteous judge and allows us to live with no condemnation or judgment. Simply put, God made Jesus (who knew no sin) to become a sin offering for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ for the rest of our lives.

With sin no longer separating us from God, we were able to be reconciled to God and the relationship of peace with Him restored. This restoration of the relationship and fellowship with God that was disrupted, disturbed and destroyed by Adam’s sin allows us to walk in fellowship with God and be set apart by God unto eternal life with Him. This definition of SANCTIFICATION is what gives us and God great joy and comfort in this life.

Put together, our REDEMPTION, JUSTIFICATION, RIGHTEOUSNESS, RECONCILIATION and SANCTIFICATION allow us to live without fear of God’s wrath. We are able to live and stand in the grace and mercy of God. Because all legal requirements for our redemption were fulfilled in Jesus Christ and God eternally rendered His verdict of “NOT GUILTY” through the resurrection, we have no reason to fear eternal punishment.

Jesus Christ truly is our redeemer for He purchased our freedom through His atoning blood. Through the resurrection, we can boldly proclaim that our redeemer truly lives for us, through us and in us. Will we choose to live for Him?

21
Mar
13

Fifteen years ago I died, yet today I live

Fifteen years ago today I died. I know of no other way to say it than to simply say I died. I did not see any bright light or my Savior standing there with open arms. I saw nothing. I tasted physical death fifteen years ago yet I am still alive. How can this be?

On March 21, 1998 I had consented to have a double heart by-pass operation. I knew the risks with this major surgery and I tried not to think about them. Although the whole thing seemed surreal at the time, I felt the procedure was needed to preserve my ability to live. NO ONE involved believed I would live more than a few years or be back for another operation within five years for I was in pretty bad shape.

Between June of 1997 and March of 1998 I had 10 heart catheterizations with a total of six metal stents put into my right coronary artery. I can think of no nine month period of my life more miserable than that one. Unfortunately, my body kept rejecting the stents and they failed thus throwing me back into the same state of pain, shortness of breath and anxiety each time.

My 83 year old dad had suffered a major stroke in January of 1998 in Wichita Kansas. In spite of all my physical problems, I made numerous trips from Missouri to Kansans helping my mom deal with the myriad issues associated with my dad’s condition, nursing homes etc. The stress at the time was beyond description and more than once I thought I would be the one ending up in a coffin instead of my dad.

When I slumped on my mom’s kitchen floor having suffered yet another heart attack on March 19th, I knew it was time for drastic action. When the cardiologist informed me that all of my stents had collapsed I was giving the choice of more attempts to open them or by-pass surgery. I chose the surgery even though I was in Kansas. I was frustrated and believing I would get all better with the surgery.

All I know about a heart by-pass is that they rip open your chest, pull your heart out and put it in ice while attaching the various arteries and veins to a heart/lung machine. To this day, when I think back to the fact that for a few hours my heart was outside my body in a tub of ice and my circulatory system was working by machines it freaks me out.

When the by-pass was done, my heart was put back into my chest, massaged and warmed up with the expectation it would start beating again. My brother had this operation a few years ago and his heart did NOT start beating. In due time the doctors shocked his heart and massaged it back to life. I do not know what happened with me other than I survived meaning my heart did indeed “come back to life”.

It is indeed a bit strange to remember the day you died and came back to life, but that is how I look at what took place 15 years ago. As I lay there on the operating table under the heaviest anesthesia of my life, my physical heart was not even in my body. I guess my heart had an “out of body experience”.

The months after that surgery were filled with repeated stays in the hospital due to complications and a general downturn in my overall health. Five months later, as I attended my dad’s funeral in August of 1998, I honestly believed I would be joining him shortly due to how horrible I felt and how unable the doctors were at diagnosing and treating me. But that is a story for another day.

I thank God that by His grace and mercy my heart resumed beating and 18 hours after I went under anesthesia I was up walking and most definitely alive. Much to my enemy’s disgust, God brought me through my ordeal and in His due time allowed me to help others again, as I pray I am able to do for you through these blogs.

Thank you for allowing me to share the details of this special day with you. I truly thank God for life and for YOU, the people who give my life such meaning and joy.

20
Mar
13

Our Promised Land awaits us as Christians

We have so much to be thankful for. Besides the tangible blessings of life itself, family and provisions; there are the intangible qualities associated with the finished work of God in Christ. Many times we tend to overlook these blessings because we cannot see, hear, touch or taste them. This becomes very important when looking at one of the most amazing verses in the New Testament found in Ephesians 1:3 where it says:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

Two huge questions arise when thinking about this verse: What are spiritual blessings and where are the heavenly places spoken of. Without a basic understanding of these two important points, there is no way we can even begin to grasp the fullness of what was accomplished through the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament, Moses taught the children of Israel in Deuteronomy about the blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience. Throughout the long sections dealing with this subject, everything was related to situations that could be seen, heard, tasted, smelled or touched. In other words these blessings, and curses also, were tangible and in the realm of the physical.

Moses taught these incredible truths as the people neared the Promised Land. This physical location was where (after numerous physical battles to wipe out the ungodly heathen) God had promised the children of Israel they would dwell in His land as His people. This Promised Land would flow with milk and honey (quite a switch after years of manna and quail) and produce abundant crops etc.

Our Promised Land is the hope we have of living eternally in the heavenly places where our God abides. Our Promised Land is not a physical but rather a spiritual place wherein there is no more death, pain, crying or trouble. According to Ephesians, we are already spiritually seated in these heavenly places and when Christ returns, we will join Him there with our new body and perfectly renewed mind.

Just as our Promised Land is spiritual, so our blessings are spiritual also. Through everything Jesus Christ did for us we have been redeemed and given every spiritual blessing available in Christ. Granted, these blessings are in the heavenly places we look forward to, but we have been given assurances by God that they are ours nonetheless.

Please look at Ephesians 1:13 and 14:

“In Christ ye also trusted after ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, in Whom also after ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

14 which is the pledge of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.”

God has sealed us with His Holy Spirit of promise which is the pledge (guarantee) of our inheritance which we receive when Christ returns. The Holy Spirit within us is our absolutely legally binding guarantee that we have access to the heavenly places and once there, we will be immersed in and enjoy every spiritual blessing God has created forever and ever.

There is so much more to celebrate the next ten days besides Jesus dying for our sins and being raised from the dead. Our celebration is not only in what happened 2,000 years ago or what is happening today but in the hope of what will happen when we cross our River Jordan and set foot in the Heavenly Places where we will be welcomed by God Himself and immediately blessed by Him with every spiritual blessing He has.