No Greater Love!

No Greater Love!

This Sunday we celebrate what is certainly the most significant event in Christian history – The Resurrection of Jesus Christ!  Jesus’ victory over death was our victory! But Jesus paid a horrific price for that victory.  During the hours leading up to and including His crucifixion, Jesus experienced mind numbing torture, ridicule and abandonment.  And according to His prayers to the Father in the garden, He was agonizingly aware of what was approaching for Him, asking God if there was any other way to accomplish His plan.  Yet, Jesus’ ultimate desire was God’s will to be done no matter what it meant for Him.  And indeed, He fulfilled that plan. He was our substitute. He bore our sins and our sicknesses with every lash and every nail.   There is no greater love than this.  God’s love extends to His followers and His ridiculers alike because God so loved the “world”.  Even the thief on the cross was embraced by the love of Christ. Our prayer for you this Easter is that you realize and experience the boundless, life-changing, unconditional love of Christ!

42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42 (NLT)

3 He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. 4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. Isaiah 53:3-5 (NLT)

13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 (NLT)

43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 (NLT)

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NLT)

Entering His Presence

Entering His Presence

Pastor recently preached a sermon where he spoke about how Moses and the Israelites had to prepare themselves to come into the presence of God. They consecrated themselves for two whole days!  Today, we don’t really give much thought about getting ready for church except maybe what we are going to wear.  Consecration, or setting ourselves apart, has more to do with the heart than the outward man. After consecrating themselves for two days, God showed up in an awesome way.  I wonder how many church-goers even expect God to show up in a service. They look forward to seeing friends and family, but do they look forward to being with God?  Do we come into our services with hearts that are ready and looking forward to an encounter with the Almighty?  Most of us are just thankful we got the family there at all, and if we are on time before the first song begins, well, that’s an added bonus.  This Sunday, especially since we are nearing the celebration of the Christian’s most important day, the Resurrection Day, set aside time to prepare your hearts.  Think of all that you can be thankful for by what Jesus accomplished on the cross for you and let that be at the forefront of your heart. Know that God wants to meet with His people. Enter into His presence with a heart ready to worship the King of Kings!

10 Then the LORD told Moses, “Go down and prepare the people for my arrival. Consecrate them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothing. 11 Be sure they are ready on the third day, for on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai as all the people watch. Exodus 19:10-11 (NLT)

16 On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. 17 Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the LORD had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. Exodus 19:16-18 (NLT)

Is Holiness Lost?

The story of Uzzah in the Bible is one that many people often think unfair.  King David was bringing the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem and it was being carried on a cart pulled by oxen.  One of the oxen stumbled and Uzzah put his hand on the ark to stabilize it and upon doing so was struck dead. Without knowing any of the back story, this would seem severe and unfair. But David should have known that the ark was to be carried on the shoulders of the priests (the Levites), specifically the sons of Kohath (Kohath was one of the sons of Levi).  It should never have been placed on an oxen cart and it definitely shouldn’t have been touched. The ark has spent the previous 20 years in the home of Abinadab, Uzzah’s father.  Could it be that Uzzah had become casual about its presence? Had he gotten so used to it that he no longer held it in the esteem it deserved?  The ark represented God’s presence.  “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.”  If we come near to God, we must always remember He is holy!  There is a loose and casual attitude today among Christians regarding God. The holiness factor of God is being lost in many of our services and churches – God is our buddy, our pal.  An attitude like this pulls God down to human level.  We must be careful to treat the presence of God with the reverence and respect He deserves.  He may be a friend and a daddy to us, but above all He is Holy!

9 And when they came to Chidon’s threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. 10 Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God. 1 Chronicles 13:9-10 (NKJV)

15 And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is set to go, then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them; but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. These are the things in the tabernacle of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry. Numbers 4:15 (NKJV)

3 And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’ ” So Aaron held his peace. Leviticus 10:3 (NKJV)

Greasy Grace

Greasy Grace

Continued …. Some in the church today would have you believe that God’s grace means that He overlooks sin in our lives.  We can live our life any way we want because that’s what His grace is for.  So this week let’s take a look at a couple of Biblical instances that would show us that, although His love for us never ceases, God doesn’t accept sin.   Judgment may not be immediate, but it will come.  First let’s look at Cain.  Both Cain and Abel presented sacrifices to the Lord.  God accepted Abel’s but God did not accept Cain’s.  Why?  There has been much debate and speculation about why.  Some say it was because Cain’s was not a blood sacrifice.  It may very well be as simple as the attitude in which it was presented.  Was it the best they could offer? Whatever the reason, Cain’s was unacceptable to God. But God gave him a way out, which Cain refused.  And his punishment was severe.  Then there is Moses.  God chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt.  God gave the 10 commandments to Moses.  God spoke to Moses in the burning bush.  The Bible says that God knew him face to face and God Himself buried Moses.  Yet, as a punishment for disobeying God just one time, he was forbidden to enter the promised land.  Seems pretty severe for one wrong.  In fact, no one from that generation was allowed to enter the promised land as punishment for their disobedience to God.  If Moses couldn’t get away with just one sin, what makes us think we can?  Don’t fall for the “greasy grace” theory, that God accepts whatever you do. As we said last week, the wages of sin is death – always.  God is looking for a repentant heart – one who is willing to acknowledge sin and turn from it.  Cain wouldn’t do it.  Will you? 

Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Exodus 33:11 (NLT)           

The LORD buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact place. Deuteronomy 34:6 (NLT)         

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” Numbers 20:12 (NLT)

3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The LORD accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift.  This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. Genesis 4:3-5 (NLT)              

You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” Genesis 4:7 (NLT)

10 But the LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11 Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12 No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.” Genesis 4:10-12 (NLT)

Does Love Mean Acceptance?

Does Love Mean Acceptance?

Love and acceptance – Sounds very Biblical, doesn’t it?  In fact, this is a teaching that is rapidly gaining momentum in Christian circles today.  Pulpits are proclaiming it loudly  because who doesn’t want to hear that God accepts them just the way they are, sin and all?  And it also fits nicely into mainstream thinking today, if it feels good, do it.  But is this what Jesus really taught?  Is it true that God accepts whatever you do because He loves you? Is this what unconditional love is?  For certain, God does accept us just as we are when we first come to Him.  God would never turn away anyone who turns to Him with a pure heart no matter what state they are in.  But the question is, does He expect us to stay there?  After all, the Bible says “for whom the Lord loves, He accepts,” right?  No!  The Word says “for whom the Lord loves, He chastens.” As a parent, do you accept everything your children do?  Do you overlook their disobedience, rebellion and outright defiance to your word just because you love them?  A good parent would always corrects their children when they do wrong or are heading down the wrong path.  Does this mean they don’t love their kids?  Certainly not!  In fact, it would show a complete lack of love and concern if a parent overlooked their child’s bad behavior.  God has warned us in His Word where a life of disobedience or sin leads.  The wages (your take-home pay) of sin  is death.  And that is the devil’s ultimate goal for us.  The devil wants you to embrace the teaching that God accepts your sin because he knows  it will ultimately lead to death.  Stay tuned!  More on this next week!

 for whom the Lord doth love He doth chasten, and He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth;  Hebrews 12:6 (YLT)

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

Remember, You Reap What you Sow!

I was recently on a tour with 20 other people. And we had a guide who was absolutely wonderful. He was very knowledgeable about the area we were visiting and, with our jam-packed schedule, he did his best to allow us to get in as many sights as we could every day. Keeping on schedule, of course, required the cooperation of the group, which meant following the rules and time frames set by the guide. Everyone in the group was very cooperative – except for a few. And the surprising thing to me was that the “few”, who always seemed to push the limits, were ministers! They were ordained ministers who seemed to want to take as much time as they wanted and several times ignored the limits set by the guide. This, of course, then took away from the amount of time we had for the next stop on the itinerary. Submission sometimes is a tough pill to swallow, especially for those who are many times the ones in authority. But it is those in authority who ought to be the example setters. The “do as I say, not as I do” example is shameful. Anyone, who is usually in a position of leadership, when they are not acting in that leadership position, should be the first to submit to rules set before them. Jesus was always submitted to the Father. He only did what His Father told Him to do. These ministers would be wise to remember – you reap what you sow! ‘

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, Titus 3:1 (NIV)

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42 (NLT)

But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10 (NLT)

The Holy Land

The Holy Land

I just returned from a trip to Israel, the Holy Land, where Jesus spent his days on this earth.  I was able to visit and experience a few of the areas and places where He spent three years ministering to the people there.  Although much has certainly changed since the Bible days of Jesus’ ministry, getting a sense of the terrain and landscape and locations and distances of the towns and areas mentioned in the Bible has given me a new perspective of what it must have been like, especially considering the main mode of transportation was on foot.  There was plenty of green lushness, but also plenty of dry mountain terrain. Traveling couldn’t have been easy  and Paul and others went outside the land of Israel, again on foot, to spread the Gospel of Jesus to other lands. It’s much different from evangelists today booking a flight and are at their next church in a few hours.  I am thankful for that early church, who experienced Jesus personally, and knew the world needed to know Him too.  I am also  thankful for those through history and today who take up the call, whether it be in a foreign land or in their own neighborhoods.

15 And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.  Mark 16:15 (NLT)

14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.  Matthew 24:14 (NLT)

3 Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.  Psalm 96:3 (NLT)

The Way Up is Down!

The Way Up is Down!

In the Bible, when Jesus was asked by His disciples who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus answered by calling a small child to Himself.  He told them that unless they turn (turn about or turn back again) and become like little children, they would never get to heaven. He went on to say if they become humble as the child, they would be great in heaven. I have worked with children for years teaching Sunday School. The younger they are, the easier they are to teach.  And that is because when they are young, before life has had opportunity to display just how unfair, cruel, and deceptive it can be, they possess pure honesty and a willingness to trust without hesitation.  Children are humble and unpretentious, harboring no ulterior motives to their words or deeds, although that doesn’t take long to learn.  It is this life devoid of pride and self-centeredness that promotes. So if the disciples needed to turn about (toward humbleness), they must have been on the path of pride. If we demote ourselves through humility, God can then promote us. So it would seem the way to promotion is through demotion.

1 About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” 2 Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. 3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:1-3 (NLT)

15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15 (NLT)

Should I Care What You Think?

Should I Care What You Think?

I recently saw a sign that read “To be offended by you I’d first have to care what you think.”   I first chuckled when I read it, but then after giving it more thought, I realized the truth of the statement.  Sometimes, we just put too much importance on people’s opinions.  Oh there is a  core group of people in our lives whose opinions should matter to us. It would often do us well to seek out those opinions to possibly add clarity to any given situation or shed additional insight that we’ve missed. But it’s most often the unsolicited opinion that we can relate to this sign.  If you find yourself offended, consider the source and whether it’s worth your time and aggravation.  Now when it comes to the Word of God, if we find ourselves offended or getting agitated, then perhaps we need to figure out why.  The Word has a tendency to shed light on darkness which can be a source of agitation if that darkness is found in us.  But if all is well in your life according to the standard of the Word, then, as far as the rest of the world goes, you decide whose opinion matters to you.

1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. Psalm 1:1-3 (NKJV)

7 Stay away from fools, for you won’t find knowledge on their lips. Proverbs 14:7 (NLT)

4 Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are. Proverbs 26:4 (NLT)

Take good counsel and accept correction— that’s the way to live wisely and well. Proverbs 19:20 (MSG)

Do You Have Ears To Hear?

Do You Have Ears To Hear?

What is the rock upon which Christ says He will build His church in Matthew 16:18?  Many people believe that Jesus was saying He will build His church upon Peter, a mere man.  But would Jesus really build the church upon a man?  It is important to go to the original text in order to translate accurately.  So, in referring to the original Greek, when Jesus said in verse 18 speaking to Peter “thou art Peter”, the original Greek word for Peter here is petros which means a piece of the rock or a small stone. Then Jesus goes on to say “upon this rock I will build my church”.  The Greek word for rock here is a different one – petra – meaning a mass of rock or a foundation boulder.  This is the same word used when Jesus taught about the rock (petra) upon which the wise man built his house. When Peter answered Jesus’ question of “who do you say I am?”, Peter gave an answer that was not taught to him by mere man, but revealed to Him by God Himself.  It would be upon this example of revelation, or God revealing His Word to His people, that Jesus would build the church. Up until now, revelation wasn’t needed because Jesus was with them.  But Jesus, the Word made flesh, would soon be gone.  And His disciples would need revelation (God’s Word revealed to them) to fulfill their great commission. Peter, John, Paul, Philip, Timothy all went on to receive revelation from God.  And that didn’t stop with the disciples and apostles of the early church. God still speaks today to those who have ears to hear!

13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:13-18 (NKJV)

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25 (NKJV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NKJV)