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AMAZING AND SOBERING

Some of the most amazing and sobering words in the Bible are found in the minor Old Testament prophet Habakkuk 2:20, “But the LORD is in His Holy Temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him” (ESV). Context is king when it comes to studying the Bible and especially important when one grabs only one verse and expands upon it.

What led up to the words of the prophet about God being in His Holy Temple and that all the earth should keep silent? Do those words offer any wisdom for us today to listen to and heed?

The setting for this very important book in the Old Testament is just before the mighty Babylon overran the nation of Israel or the southern part of the nation called Judah. Habakkuk is seeing the approaching Babylonians and is questioning God as to how He can let an evil nation overrun the one nation that He called His own.

In the prophet’s first complaint, he calls out to God and wonders why He is not answering. It seemed that only evil would prevail and God was not doing anything, or so he thought. God responded to the prayer of Habakkuk by telling him that He was sending a great and terrifying nation who cannot be stopped to exile the nation Judah.

God’s response did not satisfy the prophet as to why all this was happening. So he complained again, but this time telling God of His own character and that it seemed contrary to His own character that He would allow this to happen. But at the end of his second complaint he said, “I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint” (Habakkuk 2:1, ESV).

God then answered with words that put the prophet at ease, or possibly unease, with “wait for it” or what I promised many years before will take place. It will take time and My promises will be evident in time. Humility and faith are the two keys in being one who trusts in what God has promised in the past and that it will come to fruition.

The verses adjacent to the amazing and sobering words at the beginning of this article consist of warnings to the nation that will overrun God’s promised nation. These are warnings of dire consequences for those who desire to take the place of God and rule the world for themselves with evil intentions and apart from God. The warnings are clear: this plundering nation might have the upper hand, but only for a short time because “The LORD is in His Holy Temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him.”

We are told through these inspired words that God is in control, He is sovereign, over all things that take place to Israel and over all the earth. The Psalmist in 115:3 writes the same truth in different terms, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases” (ESV).

Jerry Bridges clearly tells us what this means. “God does whatever He pleases. This is the essence of God’s sovereignty: His absolute independence to do as He pleases and His absolute control over the actions of all His creatures. No creature, person, or empire can either thwart His will or act outside the bounds of it” (31 Days Toward Trusting God, Jerry Bridges, NavPress, 2013, p. 31).

All of what has happened, is and will happen, are in God’s plan and under His perfect, peaceful control. Everything that God has promised His children ultimately will come to fruition. We must not fear but humbly trust Him to make all things work out well.

It is easy in this season to become worked up about the future of our nation and the church at large. But God is STILL in His Holy Temple and to make all things right we must keep silence before Him. It begins with the Church of God humbly presenting herself before Him and walking by faith of what He has promised the nation of Israel and the Church.

Allow God to work these amazing and sobering words into your own spirit and then live out what He says to your heart. He will never speak that which is contrary to who He is or His Scripture. Take heart in these days, turn to God and He promises to turn to you.

THE LAW CAN’T HELP YOU!

What good is the law if it cannot help a person? The law referenced here, are the 10 Commandments and in keeping them, one might enter heaven. It might help if we insert a text of Scripture here to clarify any possible confusion.

Paul the apostle wrote in Galatians 2:16, “…a person is not justified by work of the law…” He writes about the same thing to the church at Rome “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20, ESV).

The law is unable to help us, the Ten Commandments are there to let us know when we sin. Sin is defined as missing the mark, as an archer would have their arrow fall short of their target. It can also be defined as rebellion toward God, which began in Genesis chapter three when Adam and Eve went against God and chose their demise.

Jesus, in talking with the rich young man who asked Him, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16, ESV) The rest of the conversation goes like this: “And He said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to Him, ‘All these I have kept. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:17-22).

As you read this exchange between the rich young man and the Lord Jesus, it is apparent that the young man is “doing” things to keep the law that each Jewish man would keep. On the outside, by keeping the Jewish Law he was doing what he was taught and how he thought best to get to heaven.

Jesus’ response of selling all his goods and giving it to those in real need, did him in. The young man showed his true colors by showing that what he was counting on for eternal life was “doing” things to please God. It was as if he was attempting to do more good things than bad things to be accepted by God.

The bottom line is that you cannot earn eternal life by what you “do” but it is what you believe. John 3:16 shows us very clearly that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that, whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” But Jesus gets more specific in John 6:29 about what the work of God is, “Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (Emphasis mine)

Jesus says nothing about the law getting you in good with His Father and heaven but it is an issue of the heart. It is all about “belief” or “faith.”

Paul the apostle has one of the strongest statements to this issue of “doing” verses “being” and how one receives eternal life. In Romans 1:16-17 the apostle writes some of the most famous and important of the New Testament; “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Emphasis mine)

To enter the kingdom of heaven or eternal life is not a result of works but of faith in what Jesus Christ did on the cross. And how that is done is clearly outlined in Romans 10:9-10: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

So those who “keep” the law or try to be good by good works apart from Christ cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. The law can’t help you in this case but only by trusting Christ or by faith in Him.

It comes down to one way to get to God and that is through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. The shortest way from point A to point B is a straight line; Jesus is the straight line. Are you tired of trying to keep the law or “doing things” to earn God’s favor?

Let us make it easy, you cannot do enough to earn God’s favor but you can receive His favor through believing in His Son. Take the straight path through Jesus to enter heaven. Don’t delay do it today!

God’s Righteousness Article Series (Part Three)

The prophet Jeremiah makes it crystal clear; “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.  And this is the name by which He will be called: The LORD is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-6, ESV).

And these words from the New Testament: “And because you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31, ESV).

And then again from the passage we have been delving into in parts 1 & 2: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written ‘The righteous shall live by faith”’ (Romans 1:17, ESV).

Paul writes this just prior to our main verse about the dynamic gospel of Christ; “For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16, ESV).

Donald Grey Barnhouse gives a great summary of the gospel in the first volume of his multi-volume set on Romans – “The gospel is the story of man’s complete ruin in sin and God’s perfect remedy in Christ” (Volume 1, p. 189).

Apart from Christ, or before you became a follower of Jesus you were not righteous and your acts of righteousness were considered as polluted or filthy garments.  In other words there was nothing you could do to gain acceptance before a Holy and perfect God no matter how hard you tried or how many so-called good works you performed.

In last week’s newsletter, God’s righteousness was defined as His righteousness alone; there is none of ours to be found.  God’s bottom line is that His righteousness is found in none other than Jesus Christ Himself coming to earth to reconcile us to His Father.

The gospel shows God’s righteousness very clearly, as Barnhouse wrote: “When the Savior was manifested, the righteousness of God was manifested with Him.  When the historical facts of His death, burial, and resurrection were set forth, the good news concerning the theological meaning of those historical facts revealed the righteousness in hating sin.  It was shown that God was righteous in loving sinners.  It was shown that God could pardon a sinner without condoning his sin.  It was shown that He could draw a sinful, human being to His own bosom without abandoning His holiness.  It is the gospel that reveals the righteousness of God.” (Volume 1, pp. 183-184).

This righteousness of God is possessed by God alone, but He grants us access to it through His eternal covenant with Abraham or Israel, and perfects that path with the coming of Jesus.  God promised Abraham that his “seed” singular, which points to Jesus throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, would bless all the nations of the earth.  This must have been mind-blowing to Abraham.  Years later God would promise David, the King of Israel, that he would have someone of his lineage sitting on his throne forever, and based upon the history of Scripture it all points to Jesus.

The gospel reveals that all this comes to fruition through the birth and life of Jesus Christ, completing all the work the Father had sent Him to accomplish.  The gospel is the good news of Jesus bringing the love of God for the salvation of all who would believe in Him.  And the righteousness of God is manifested also in Jesus Christs’ appearance on earth as a man, as shared by the earlier quote by Barnhouse.

Now we get a little deeper into the theology.  Historical Protestant teaching is that God’s righteousness in “imputed” to us.  “Impute” (in the study of Scripture) means “To attribute (righteousness, guilt, etc.) vicariously; ascribe as derived from another” (American College Dictionary, 1968, p. 610, 4).

In other words we had no righteousness of our own, so God had to give us His righteousness so that we could be found blameless in His sight.  I think this becomes a little clearer when we look at verse 18 and what it says about the natural man; that he is ungodly and unrighteous.

So God’s promise to Abraham and His covenant people Israel is fulfilled in the person of Christ.  Not only is Israel promised this, but people from all nations that God had chosen in eternity past.  We cannot fully examine all that in this limited space, but it is deep and extremely rich theology that God willingly reveals to us throughout Scripture.  All we need do is spend time in study and prayer on the Word to expand our understanding; to see as God wishes us to see – through righteous eyes.

Have you received God’s righteousness through believing in Jesus as your Savior?  Receive Him today, for today is the day of salvation.

God’s Righteousness (Continued)

Two weeks ago we looked at God’s righteousness through the lens of Romans 1:16-17.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (ESV).

These verses are rich with history, and have literally changed the world.  The gospel of Jesus Christ altered the world initially, then again, in the 12th – 15th Centuries – most significantly in 1517 (the beginning of the Reformation) when the written Word of God was applied to the heart of a man through the Holy Spirit.

This is not a new message at all.  The New Testament is not a contingency plan for God because the Israelites did not listen to Him in the Old Testament.  Two verses stand out as to this truth.  The first is Jeremiah 23:6 where we find these words; “The LORD is our righteousness.”  The second is Habakkuk 2:4 where we find these words; “The righteous shall live by his faith.”

Or we could squeeze in the famous words of the prophet Zechariah; “Not by might, nor by power, but My Spirit says the LORD.”  These verses make clear that salvation is accomplished when God comes to man and not by man working his way to God.

Look back for a moment to the first few words of verse 17.  “For in it,” what is the “it” this verse refers to?  The gospel!  In the gospel is the “righteousness of God” revealed.  It is His righteousness, as it His power and as it is His gospel.  The bottom line is that the whole of the Christian life is bound up in God – as John Piper has written and preached, “God is the gospel.”

Now peer more deeply into the term that so often blows the human mind to bits – God’s righteousness.  Donald Grey Barnhouse reminds us when he writes: “The gospel is the good news from God about the spiritual significance of the historical facts centering in the work of the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…He was buried…He rose again…according to the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).”  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans vol. 1, p. 180).

Man, from religions other than Christianity, attempts to work his way to a god by works of his own righteousness.  However, this is fruitless and eternally short-sighted.  Unfortunately many professed Christians yet think in a similar way; if I can just do enough good, then God will accept me by my righteousness.

This is not what the Bible teaches.  Read these words from Titus 3:5; “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

We are taught from Ephesians 2:8-9; “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Answer these questions: how were you saved according to these verses?  What was it a result of?  So can we boast at all that we were saved by other than God through Jesus Christ?

Romans 4:5 teaches, “And to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”  Jesus something very similar in John 6:29; “Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

Jesus said this because the people were asking how to work to get to God and His response is that God does the work because a few verses later Jesus tells those listening and us, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).

So the pattern here is that it is solely God’s righteousness that makes us right with Him, not some earned worthiness within ourselves.  Here in these first few words of Romans 1:17 we see that we have no righteousness that would make us right in the least bit before God, it is all Him!

If our righteousness were a part of the equation, then this verse would read very differently.  It would read that in the gospel, our righteousness and God’s righteousness combine together to make us acceptable to God.  But it doesn’t.

Romans 1:17 gives us peace of mind that we don’t have to wonder constantly if we’re doing enough on our part to gain God’s grace, mercy or righteousness.  It is all on Him.  Look at these words from 1 Thessalonians 3:13; “So that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”

Now on our side is this one over-arching statement we find a little later in Romans 3:23; “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  According to this statement how many humans have sinned?  Remember it is not righteousness on our part but solely on God’s part.  And if we were to rely upon our works for our entrance into heaven how many good works are we supposed to do and how do we know when we’ve done enough?

So this righteousness of God is very good news for you and me and for humankind.  The gospel means that God gives us His righteousness so we can measure up to eternity.

RADICAL CHRISTIANITY

RADICAL CHRISTIANITY

The primary season is about to officially kick off here in the United States, inaugurated by the Republican Party debate this month.  Remember, it is still more than a year until the actual Presidential election.  One of the topics is sure to be radical Islam, a term that has been tossed around and denied by different sections of the populace.

As one listens to talking heads throw around the term “radical” like parade candy, one can be forgiven for suspecting they do so in order to make the message of mainstream Islam appear more tolerable.

When one talks about being “radical,” negative images come to mind and the issue denigrates into assertions that every religion has its “radicals.”

And they would be right, except for the negative characterization.  For one to find what is radical in Christianity, a good place to begin is in the gospel of Matthew, Ch. 5.  Here we find what is called the beatitudes; really they can be called the characteristics of Jesus.  If one is to follow the example of the most perfect person of their respective religion then you have to look to the best example.

For Islam one would look to the person and nature of Muhammad, just as you would look to Jesus and His nature to fathom the ideal within Christianity.

Jesus spoke to His disciples and the crowds in the Sermon on the Mount; “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, ESV).  This is likely not what the crowd was expecting to hear, immediately after seeing the mighty miracles done by Jesus.  They may have been expecting a crash course on how He healed all the people and how they too could draw huge crowds around them.

But no, Jesus taught them to completely depend on God for all things in their life.  Wait, what?  Totally deny yourself, is that what radical following of Jesus is?  In short, yes.  “When you lose, you win; that’s the way it is with Him,” (Thanks Rez Band for those lyrics!).

Jesus said it of Himself in John 5:19; “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He see the Father doing.  For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”  And later on in the same chapter Jesus says this; “I can do nothing on My own.  As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30, ESV).

Jesus was completely focused on the Father’s will for Himself.  If one would read the Christian Scriptures of the New Testament, they will find that Jesus never did any wrong/sin, and as a worthy and pure sacrifice, would die in our place so that the person who believed in Him would have eternal life.

So radical Christianity is not taking vengeance upon those who you consider your enemy, but following Jesus and focusing upon His perfect life.  And when someone slaps you on the right cheek then turn to him the other also (That’s also from Jesus).

In coming to faith in Jesus and believing in His name, we have the peace of God and peace with God.  Vengeance is not for us to take because we are flawed human beings. We are to trust God because He is faithful and perfect in all He does.

How should a Christian look upon Islam?  Just as Jesus did:

I
Sincerely
Love
All
Muslims.

Fetal Dignity Protection Act

Facebook-20150805-091200Sometimes in life, the way forward is murky; choices are muddled, lacking sharp edges, or stark lines to help us determine what is road and what is ditch…thankfully, our response to the recent revelations regarding Planned Parenthood and their wanton selling of the scraps of a child that result from an abortion is not like that at all.  This one is easy.

The Global Faith Institute exists to serve God, strengthen our faith and stand for right over wrong.  The depraved indifference toward unborn children exhibited in those videos is breathtaking.  As human beings, we cannot sit idly by as our political system turns a blind eye to atrocity.  Furthermore, as a Christian institute dedicated to justice and service, GFI cannot remain silent in the face of such brazen evil.  Given who we are and what we now know, the question echoes throughout our state…”What can we do?”

The recently released “behind the scenes” videos of Planned Parenthood officials and staff have caused tremendous consternation among those of us who value the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.  A horror, once witnessed, cannot be unseen or easily ignored.

The shock has reverberated throughout our national conscience, stirring millions to question the legitimacy of a legal structure that permits these unconscionable acts, and a political culture that turns a blind eye.

To many, it appears clear from both context and the actual statements seen on the videos that laws regarding the proper disposition of fetal remains are being disregarded on an unthinkable scale.

Worse, it seems that, despite the carefully parsed denials of the Planned Parenthood leadership (and their numerous media allies) the organization has been profiting handsomely from the sale of the post-abortion “products of gestation” we used to have the courage to describe as a baby.

Abortion is not the issue here.  As abhorrent a practice as I personally believe it to be, one does not need to be an opponent of abortion to feel a visceral repulsion to the actions and mindset revealed in these videos.

Since the first video came to light, I have personally struggled with a response.  I have spoken to friends, colleagues and family about my concerns and found those people to be as perplexed as I regarding appropriate action, now that depravity stares us in the face.

With the release of each video we found ourselves drawn more deeply down the rabbit hole, glimpsing a world where the harvesting of fetal organs and tissue for profit is not only acceptable, but calculated for maximum revenue.

After sleepless nights of research and agonized thoughts, I humbly offer a way forward; a path out of the weeds and into the fields, where our efforts today may yield a harvest of decency for decades to come.

As of this moment, I urge every citizen to call on Governor Pete Ricketts to immediately convene a Special Session of the Unicameral to consider the “Fetal Dignity Protection Act,” (FDPA) (see below).

The existing laws against the sale of fetal organs and tissue are Federal, and the investigation and enforcement functions rely on the prosecutorial discretion of the Obama Justice Department.

I believe many – if not most – Nebraskans would prefer to have that discretion held more closely – in the hands of our own State Attorney General and County attorneys.  The FDPA would accomplish this by mirroring the federal prohibitions, absent the necessity of “interstate commerce.”

This legislation doesn’t infringe upon or in any way inhibit a woman’s access to an abortion, as it isn’t applicable until the abortion has already been performed.  The FDPA simply requires that an abortion provider account for the disposition of each set of fetal remains, and refrain from selling the dismembered and dissected scraps of an unborn human child.

Honestly, even the corpses of our enemies in war are treated with greater respect and dignity than that granted fetal remains following an abortion.

This legislation has distinguished authorship; a great son of Nebraska, Mr. Patrick J. Borchers, an internationally recognized expert in law and arbitration, who has also served as dean of the Creighton University School of Law.

His legal rationale is sound, and the substance of the bill is easily understood and appropriately focused into a few short paragraphs.

Whether the behavior revealed in these videos is prosecutable federally or not, is immaterial.  With enactment of FDPA, we can ensure that, in Nebraska, such activities will indeed be prohibited, and material violations will be punishable under state law.

I would ask three things of you today –

Immediately share this post on your wall and with your friends.  Copy and paste the entire thing into an email to everyone in your contact list.  Talk about it… often.

Next, contact your State Senator today, by phone and email, and ask them to express to the Governor their support for a Special Session to address this issue.

Finally, call AND email the Governor’s office, also today.  Insist he convene a Special Session to preserve the dignity of the innocent, and to hold accountable those who would attempt to profit from their tiny lifeless bodies.

These three steps are the answer to the original question…this is “what we can do” immediately, and to great effect.  Don’t let another day pass without standing up for basic human decency.

For links to contact your State Senator and the Governor’s office,; to gather more information and a downloadable copy of the proposed legislation, or to volunteer your support, go to fetaldignity.org.


Fetal Dignity Protection Act

Be it enacted by the people of the state of Nebraska,

Section 1:  This law may be referred to and cited as the “Fetal Dignity Protection Act.”

Section 2:  It shall be unlawful for any person acting within the State to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration.  As used in this Act, “valuable consideration” includes, but is not limited to, reimbursement of expenses incurred in connection with the acquisition, receipt or transfer of the fetal tissue. As used in this Act, “human fetal tissue” means tissue or cells obtained from a dead human embryo or fetus after a spontaneous or induced abortion, or after a stillbirth.

Section 3: Any person who performs abortions within the State must file annual reports as to the treatment of each aborted human fetus.  If a corporation or other entity employs, or engages as independent contractors, one or more persons who conduct abortions, the corporation or entity shall file a report on behalf of all persons conducting abortions while in its employ or with whom it contracts.  However, the person conducting the abortions shall have an affirmative duty to ensure that the report filed on the person’s behalf is true and accurate. The report shall exclude the name and all identifying information as to the woman from whom the fetus was aborted.  The Director of the Department of Health and Human Services shall create a form for reporting the treatment of each fetus and the report shall be filed with the Department of Health and Human Services and available for public inspection.  The Director may make such rules and regulations as are necessary and proper to carrying out the purposes of this Act.

Section 4:  Willful and material failure to comply with this Act shall be a Class IV felony.  The Attorney General may seek in the District Court of the County in which abortions are performed an injunction preventing the further conduction of abortions by any person violating this Act.  The District Court shall grant such injunction if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person conducting the abortions has willfully and materially violated this Act.  If the person conducting abortions did so while in the employ of, or under contract with, a corporation or entity that corporation or entity shall also be named as a party. The injunction shall prevent the further conduction of abortions by that corporation or other entity.

ACT LIKE MEN

Paul told the church at Corinth “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).  This is a clarion call to take a Biblical stand against that which is against God and His Word.

However, we don’t stand against wrong with angst, but with love.  Paul finished: “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14).  This isn’t an admonition for the people of God to become jelly fish, capitulating to whatever siren call rules the day, but rather that they stand upon the Word of God and they plead with those around them to come to the knowledge of the truth, which is found only in the Bible.

In an excellent article calling Christians to spread the gospel, missionary C. T. Studd wrote; HEROISM is the lost chord; the missing note of present-day Christianity! 

With the recent rulings from a court of man’s construction, Christians here in the West are now feeling the opposition of the world that many Christians overseas have felt for decades.

Because of the grace of God and the protections of the Constitution, Christians here in the U. S. have never had to face religious persecution directly; certainly not at the levels commonplace in other parts of the world.

We must approach that which contradicts God’s character and law, with the directive of Paul to the church at Corinth.

To stand upon the Word of God and defend your position, you must first know what the Bible teaches.  You must read for yourself.  Don’t rely solely on the teaching and interpretation of others; discover the Word, and let it speak to you directly through study and prayer.

My grandson takes things apart to see how they work because he is curious.  He isn’t satisfied with the surface view; he needs to understand the inner workings.  Man was made with curiosity at our core.  What better instruction manual than the Bible to understand the inner workings of life?

How do we fix our society today?  By winning one heart at a time.  People are lost and broken and need to be found and fixed.  God is the only one that can find lost people and fix their brokenness.  However, God has charged us to seek out our fellow men for eternal salvation through Christ. We are the ones to “do” the Great Commission so that men and women all over the world may hear and respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.

This commission does not come without conflict.  It truly is a life and death struggle, but in that spiritual battle, God is calling for heroes of the faith to fight for the eternal lives of those around us.  Who will answer the call?  Will you answer the call?

May we not shirk our duty to spread the gospel message to the uttermost parts of the earth.  Pray to the Lord to send laborers into His harvest; but also be prepared to be the one who God chooses to labor in His harvest field.  It is an honor and privilege.  “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Reeling and Healing

What man meant for evil God meant for good.  As we look back on our week here in the United States and see what happened in Charleston, SC we saw evil personified.  But what has come out of that should fill us with hope.  Followers of Jesus did not respond with hate, but with love for one another and even the perpetrator of the horrendous crime of murdering unsuspecting victims.

There has been, is and will be grieving for the loss that this whole nation feels and especially the body of Christ.  The write of Psalm 116:15 reminds the follower of Jesus that “Precious in the sight of the LORD in the death of His saints.”  However, it is natural to grieve over one who was close to us; even Jesus did it in John 11:35 when He wept at the death of his dear friend Lazarus.

Often times when evil rears its ugly head those who are Jesus followers retreat into a shell and allow the evil to run amok.  But this does not have to be; what we must do is come together and bring strength to that link which seems to be weak after a confrontation with evil.  We retaliate but not with weapons made by men but weapons made by God.  Vengeance is never ours to bring down upon our “enemies” but vengeance upon evil is only and always Gods.

Paul that apostle tells the church at Rome in his letter to them: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19, ESV).

We began to get a glimpse of this in Charleston when the family members of the slain and members of the church body forgave the gunman and even invited him back to the same Bible study of which he took the lives of the slain.  Paul goes on in verses 20-21; “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if his thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Don not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

This young man was and is definitely hungry for God and thirsty for God, but he went about finding that very wrong.  But God used this horrendous incident to show who He is and what He is truly like.  God so loved the world even though it was not looking for Him and all evidence points to us hating God with a passion; that is when God the Father sent God the Son to die on our behalf so that we might receive eternal life if we receive it by faith.

Though we saw evil first hand my we see even more clearly the hand of our loving Savior as He overcomes hate with love and evil with good.  As we move forward let us as followers of Jesus, whether black or white, or Latino or Asian may we set aside our color differences and see with great clarity what makes us of one great race – Jesus Christ and our reception of Him as our Savior and Lord.  Let the church rise up and follow our Head into a great time of witnessing His love for a lost world.  Lost people matter to God and He wants them found.

Grieve yes, but only temporarily, but love always!  Follow the example of Jesus and love when it does not make sense.  This shows God’s love for people of the world in which He came to save.

SCARLET MADE WHITE AS SNOW

The prophet Isaiah wrote to the nation Israel 59:1-2; “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”  There is something grand here, and something devastating.

God is able to save to the utmost and He is calling to those who do not yet know Him, but they are not listening.  The issue is not with God it is with man.  Our sins have placed a wall between the perfect and sinless God, while we cherish our sins (Psalm 66:18) and wonder why God does not hear us.  The God who created man in His own image, watches as the pinnacle of His creation seems to prefer rejecting God over the life that He promises.

Earlier in the prophet Isaiah’s book he writes: “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; thought they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).  God knows that we all have sin, but His desire is for us to be in an intimate relationship with our Maker.

However, the Bible teaches that no one living wants a relationship with his/her Maker.  “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.  Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.  The venom of asps is under their lips.  Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.  Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.  There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18).  This does not seem like very good news.  But you must understand the bad news before you can recognize the good news.

Paul the apostle writes, 3:21; “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins.  It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).

Now that is good news!  All man’s sin are atoned for through Jesus Christ, but the key is at the end of verse 26; “of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  This is the only way that our sins can be made white as snow… turned from scarlet to white.

Faith in the finished work of Jesus can destroy the wall we erected through our sin.  This can be summed up in one verse from the New Testament: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Note, God initiated the salvation of humans by sending Jesus into the world so that we might have life through Him.  But it takes believing in Jesus to make the transition from scarlet to white, or from darkness to light.  God loves you too much to let you go on your own to eternal separation from Him so He gives you lifeline through His Son, God in the flesh.

Is your sin keeping you from the God who created you in His image?   A soul that sins shall die and spend eternity away from the presence of God, but why should this happen when God has provided a way of salvation, a way to have all your sins forgiven and to have a personal and intimate relationship with Him?

Don’t cherish your sin and run from God but instead run to Him through believing in Jesus who took on flesh and came to seek and save the lost.  Come to Him now by responding to His call on your life so that your sins, though they be as scarlet, will become white as snow.

GOD and MAN

JESUS THE GOD-MAN

Last week we began to consider the concept of Jesus being both God and man simultaneously.  We, as humans, have a difficult time with this because only God can is capable of such a form of existence.  He isn’t bound by the strictures of time and place that order our mortal lives.

He is God, and His ways are far higher than ours and so are His thoughts.

The Bible tells us “Concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:3-4).

First, we see that Jesus was born of David according to the flesh.  God’s Son, has a mortal lineage.  Another translation of the original language puts it this way: “who being born of the seed of David according to the flesh.”

So Jesus, the Son of God was born just as we were.  No gimmicks, simply God becoming man the way a man becomes a man.

Job speaks of this in Job 19:25; “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth.”  Job knew that only God could redeem him as he is confronted by God, and that one day God would physically walk upon the earth.  He didn’t know when, but he was certain of it.  This is what we’re taught in Hebrews 11.

Donald Grey Barnhouse reminds us; “He was and is the God-man; in Him is absolute humanity and absolute deity.”

Galatians 3:16 states: “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring.  It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.”

Paul is referencing Genesis 12:7 and God’s promise to Abraham that he would have a son.  God was not looking simply at Isaac, but all the way down to Jesus!  He would be fully human.

The prophet Isaiah also foretells of the Savior’s coming into the world in 7:14; “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign.  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”  This is repeated in Matthew 1:23 at the birth of the God-man.

Another story of Jesus being fully human mentioned by Barnhouse in his commentary is Matthew 17:24-27 and the paying of taxes.  Peter is approached by tax-collectors and asked if Jesus pays taxes.  Peter being Peter, answered in the affirmative.

Jesus already knows this when Peter returns to where they’re staying and asks Jesus about who is to pay taxes and who is not. Jesus tells Peter to go catch a fish and to get the tax money from it.

Barnhouse shares it this way: “Go down to My Sea of Galilee, which I created.  I have had one of My creatures lose a coin in the water, and My law of gravity carried it down where I had one of My fish take it into his mouth.  You go fishing and I will have that fish come to your hook.  You take the fish and take the coin out of its mouth, and it will be a coin of sufficient value to pay your taxes and Mine.” (p. 43)

What aspect of human existence is more mundane than paying taxes?  Jesus paid taxes and yet we know He was much more than human.

Jesus also had a human lineage.  In the gospel of Matthew we have one account of Jesus’ human lineage and in the gospel of Luke we have another.  Jesus was from the tribe of Judah as were his human parents Joseph and Mary.  This fulfilled the promises of God to Judah.

Through Solomon came Joseph, and through Nathan came Mary.  Solomon and Nathan were brothers, but we know that Solomon become king in David’s place.  Both were of the royal blood but only one can become king and it was handed to Solomon’s lineage.  Since Mary came through the lineage of Nathan and Joseph through the lineage of Solomon it all works out.  Joseph adopts Jesus as his own son thus making Jesus the oldest and the One who would take precedence.

Why go through all these gyrations?  Why bother to ensure that Jesus was both man and God at once?  So we, God’s children, would know that our God understands us as one of us, not only as our Lord.

Hebrews 4:15-16 says “for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Magnificent!