Saturday, March 30, 2013

Coram Deo

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” – Galatians 3:13-14
There are many ways to kill a man, and as horrible as crucifixion on a cross is, it is not the most horrible way.  Many murderers have invented ways that are sinister, and far worse.  But the cross was the predestined method of death for Jesus Christ.  It served a purpose for Him to give up His life on a wooden cross.

The Romans reserved death on the cross for criminals and slaves, neither of which was Jesus.  But in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 we read that the worst of sins were to be atoned to God through death on the cross.  It says, If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.”
Was Jesus worthy of punishment that was reserved for “a sin deserving of death”?  No.  He was not made guilty by our sins.  Let no one say that Jesus was ever found guilty, not even when paying our sin debt, for He was the perfect Lamb of God.  But He was made the sacrifice for all sins, trading His righteousness willingly for our freedom.  In taking on the greatest punishment for sin, He cleansed us from the smallest to the greatest degree of sin.  The cross was what WE deserved.  It was OUR punishment, being criminal in our breaking of God’s laws, and a slave to sin through our own weakness.

But the cross afforded us much more than payment of our sin debt.  It cancelled the curse of sin.  The curse was not only death, but alienation from God.  It separated us from Him.  When the curse was pronounced on the human race in Genesis 3:24 God drove man out of the Garden of Eden.  He no longer would walk with man in the cool of the day.  In Matthew 25:41 Jesus speaks of the separation of those who are sinful, those that will stand on His left hand in the Day of Judgment, saying “Depart from me, you cursed”.  Without faith in Jesus, we are still cursed and separated from God.
In the Old Testament, atonement for sin wasn’t through faith, but made through sacrifices.  For sin, the sacrifice of a bull was made.  Our sins would be transferred to the bull, and the bull’s life would be taken.  But after the bull was sacrificed, the law said that “the whole bull he shall carry outside the camp”.  Sin causes separation from God, who dwelled in the Holy of Holies.  The bull would be taken away from God’s presence, far outside the camp.

Likewise those who were lepers were called “unclean”.  In Leviticus 13:46 it says that “All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. The unclean flesh would not come to the presence of God. He would dwell alone.  The leper was a “type” given in the Old Testament of a sinner, depicting our sin infected flesh.
Hebrews 13:11-12 says “For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” The cross was outside the city, and raised high on the hill of Golgotha.

In Numbers 21, the Israelites sinned against God, complaining about being taken out of Egypt, and God sent serpents to bite them.  The bite would kill them because of their sin.  But when they confessed their sins, God told Moses to craft a brazen serpent, and put it high on a pole.  When the Israelites were bitten, paying the price for their own sin, they would look to the brazen serpent, raised high on a wooden pole (think Cross), and live. When bitten, the last thing these people would want to do is look at a snake and be reminded of the bite!  In that same way, when we sin, the last thing we want to do is look to Jesus, who is Holy.  But those who would look to the serpent, in faith, would live.   
Colossians 2:13-14 reminds us of the cancelation of our sin debt in looking to Christ in faith, saying, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Our sins, all of them, were placed upon Jesus as He hung on the cross.

While living among us, Jesus lived in ‘Coram Deo’.  ‘Coram Deo’ is Latin, and means “in the presence of God.” But when Jesus went to the cross, there was a time when He felt forsaken by God.  He felt the absence of God for the first time.  In that ninth hour on the cross, “in the fullness of time”, Jesus cried out to God saying “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).  For payment of our sins, He was exiled from God.  For the first time Jesus experienced life outside of Coram Deo.    
1 Peter 2:23-24 says that He “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously [God]; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. We were the sheep outside the herd, lost and away from the Shepherd. 

By one man’s sin, we were all found guilty.  We were placed under judgment and condemnation.  But by one man’s righteousness, we were justified and made right with God. Romans 8:19 says “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
The cross was more than just the payment of our sins.  Through faith, it restores us to fellowship with God, giving us the gift of His Holy Spirit when we look to Christ, and live.  Faith in Jesus cancels the curse of sin.  We accept His payment, personally, for our sin debt through confession of our sins.  Then we receive Coram Deo, “the presence of God”.  God lives within us through His Holy Spirit, and are never exiled from God again.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5

Thank you, God, for you left nothing undone in restoring us to righteousness.  Thank you for your presence in our lives, for not forsaking us.  Thank you, Jesus, for being our willing sacrifice.  Thank you for your eternal love and eternal life.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Fullness of Time


From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” – Matthew 16:21

Sometimes when we read God’s word we fail to notice what He is truly saying.  We read the same passages time and time again, and eventually the words are glanced over rather than understood by our heart and mind. 
But then there are times when God will open our hearts and eyes to something He wants us to see.  These are the times I long for in reading His word, times of revelation, of blessings in understanding a new thing about Him.  I’m going to share one of those revelations with you today, and I hope that it will bless your heart as it did mine, and cause His Spirit to bubble over inside you!

It seems to begin right after Jesus is baptized by John.  Immediately after He was baptized, Jesus was taken into the wilderness.  He fasted for 40 days, and was tempted by Satan for 40 days.  But reciting God's word back to Satan in response to those temptations, Jesus overcame him.  Luke 4:13 then says "Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until AN OPPORTUNE TIME."  Satan waited, patiently, for "an opportune time", that he was aware would come.

During that time John the Baptist was arrested and put into prison.  Jesus knew then what was to come next.  He came to Galilee, preaching the gospel, and in Mark 1: 15 we read that He said “THE TIME IS FULFILLED, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” The time had been fulfilled.  Now was the time for His ministry to begin.

Even the demons knew about it!  When Jesus came to shore with his disciples in Gergesenes  the demons, called Legion, cried out to Jesus in Matthew 8:29 and said “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us BEFORE THE TIME?”  They were keenly aware of a time to come.

Jesus decided He must share it with His disciples.  In Matthew 16:21, it says that “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” He openly predicted His death, not once, not twice, but three times, while waiting for the fullness of time.  It was on His calendar, in His appointment book.

He did not keep it a secret, yet few understood.  In John 4, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, to see the temple, and have Passover.  It was necessary for Him to stop in Samaria. There He shared it with the Samaritan woman at the well, one who was despised because of her heritage.  She asked where they should worship God, and Jesus answered “Woman, believe Me, THE HOUR IS COMING when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But THE HOUR IS COMING, AND NOW IS, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” He said “the hour is coming, and now is” noting that it had come nearer as time in His ministry had passed.

He goes on to Jerusalem.  In John 5, He heals the man at the pool of Bethesda, telling him “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”, only to be ridiculed by the devote Jews who said it was not lawful for this man, now healed by the miraculous voice of Jesus, to carry his own bed because it was the Sabbath day. 

Jesus begins to try once again to teach these, the chosen ones, saying “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, THE HOUR IS COMING, AND NOW IS, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.”  Yes, He told them as well, “the hour is coming, and now is”. 

He continued on teaching, saying “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; FOR THE HOUR IS COMING  in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”

The Jews hated Jesus. They felt threatened because He was the righteousness they could not attain through the law.  They failed to see the obvious: the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies of the scripture they so loved and worshipped.  Two chapters later in John 7 the disciples were going into Judea for the Feast of the Tabernacle.  They begged Jesus to come along because there would be many people there, and He needed, they thought, to make Himself famous among them.  But Jesus tells them in John 7:6-8, “MY TIME HAS NOT YET COME, but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for MY TIME HAS NOT YET FULLY COME.” Jesus still waited, patiently, as Satan waited patiently.  His time had not yet fully come, yet they already hated Him.

Try to keep Jesus from worship! It cannot be done.  He secretly went to the feast anyway (John 7:10).  But the Jews saw him and began to ask, “Where is He?”  Boldly, in the middle of the feast, Jesus enters the temple and begins to teach.  The religious Jews are baffled at how He knows the scriptures, but has not studied them.  Some of them began to say “Is this not He whom they seek to kill? But look! He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ? However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from.”

Then Jesus claims His father to the Jews, crying out in the temple, “You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.”  He was God sent, appointed for a time that God had set.

At that time, they begin to seek to find a way to take Him captive, to arrest Him, “but no one laid a hand on Him, because HIS HOUR HAD NOT YET COME.”(John 7:30) Jesus could not just be arrested and put in prison.  That was not His purpose.

Then they brought a woman to Him to test Him.  They’d found her committing adultery, “in the very act” they said.  They told Jesus that according to their custom she was to be stoned to death, and asked Him what should be done.  But Jesus did not come to destroy us, but to save us.  He spoke with authority to them, saying, “he that has not sinned, let him cast the first stone.”  And yet, being the only one without sin, He did not stone her.  How did he punish her?  He did not.  Instead, Jesus forgave her sins, and said “Go and sin no more.” The Jews were not pleased!  How dare this man who claimed to be the son of God forgive sins!  As they became even more angered at him, John 8: 20 says “and no one laid hands on Him, for HIS HOUR had not yet come.”

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany.  There the Jews were already enraged at Him as well. They sought to kill not only Jesus, but Lazarus who he had raised from the dead.  But while they chose to try to destroy the Messiah, the Greeks came to see Him, to know Him.  When they asked to see him, inquiring of Andrew and Philip if they could see Him, Jesus knew what the Greeks would do.  He knew they would accept Him, and His fame would spread.  He answered them “THE HOUR HAS COME that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”  This was not the hour, but it was closer, yes, very close.  Jesus knew the purpose of His earthly life was to be the grain of wheat that dies, and produces much grain.

In John 12:27-30, Jesus speaks of the pain in His heart, and says, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘FATHER, SAVE ME FROM THIS HOUR’?  BUT FOR THIS PURPOSE I CAME TO THIS HOUR. Father, glorify Your name.” Jesus consciously chose not to be glorified so that God could be glorified in Him.    And then God spoke!  He spoke in an auditable voice as when Jesus was baptized.  Neither time did God speak for Jesus sake, but for our sake, for those who were listening.  Speaking of His name, He said “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”

When the Passover time was at hand, in Matthew 26:18-19 Jesus tells the disciples to go into the city, and to say to a certain man, “MY TIME IS AT HAND; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” This ‘certain man’ knew of the time.  He prepared a room for them to share the last supper.  And “WHEN THE HOUR HAD COME, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”(Luke 22:14-15)
Yet He spoke to them about an hour that was still to come, as he said in John 16:32-33, Indeed THE HOUR IS COMING, YES, HAS NOW COME, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone.”, just as the grain of wheat dies alone.  But intending to encourage them for that time to come, he continued saying “and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”HE KNEW HIS HOUR HAD COME, and He would depart from this world, and having loved the disciples who were of the world, He would love them to the end.(John 13:1)

So after the supper was over, He knew that Satan had already found His “opportune time” and had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him” (John 13:2) He spoke to the disciples about many things yet to come, washed their feet, and preparing them to be without Him.  And then he told them that one of them would betray Him, In John 13:26 He said, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it. And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.””  No time was to be wasted, the time was at hand. 
Jesus now needed to pray.  His soul was full of sorrow, even to the point of wanting to die (Mark 14:34).  They went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, and he prayed that if it were possible for THE HOUR to pass from Him, but nevertheless, for God’s will to be done.

Matthew 26 tells of the three times Jesus returned to the disciples to find them peacefully sleeping as He prayed in misery.  They were still oblivious to the hour at hand.  He comes to them the third time in verses 45-46 and says, “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. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” The hour was near, but this was not the hour.  The hour would come later, on the cross.
In fact, several hours passed.  Jesus was beaten, spit on, mocked, and bruised.  He was beaten so violently that he did not resemble himself. They put a crown of thorns on His head, and made Him carry His own cross, which was too heavy for Him to bear. He was placed on the cross, nails through His hands and feet, and then raised the cross, hanging Jesus on it.  From the sixth hour till the ninth hour, there was darkness over all the earth.  And in the ninth hour, then HIS HOUR came. 

Matthew 27:46 says that “He cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Jesus had taken all our sins upon Himself, and our sins separated Him from God for the first time in His life. And then it happened.  He cried out with a loud voice, and gave up His own Spirit.  He died.
Heaven responded to His death.  Matthew 27:51-53 says Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. We no longer needed to make sacrifices for the old covenant was broken, and the new covenant was born, all that the appointed time.

That ninth hour, when He died, He redeemed us, and those in the grave. 
In that ninth hour, when He gave up His Holy Spirit, He gave it to live freely in us.

In that ninth hour, He gave us the new birth, the rebirth out of the generational curse of sin, through His death.
Galatians 4:1-7 says “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.  Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But WHEN THE FULLNESS OF TIME HAD COME, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

It happened in the fullness of time, the time appointed since before the foundation of the world, by God.  The Greek word for “fullness of time” is ‘kairos’, meaning “a measured time (His Hour); a fixed and definite time (planned); season; an ‘opportune’ or seasonable time; THE RIGHT TIME; a limited period.”  His time was our time.
Ephesians 1:4-14 says that “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having PREDESTINED US to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself”. It says that it was “in the dispensation OF THE FULLNESS OF TIME” that we obtained our inheritance.

When we tell the story of Easter, we often say that it was about Jesus.  But it wasn’t.  It was about us.  It was about a predestined time, and a predestined people. 
It was about those that He loved more than He loved His own life, and Him showing us that He would love us until the end of time.  Our new birth only came by way of His death.  Just as His mother Mary, in the “fullness of time” had birthed Jesus, also in the “fullness of time”, He gave us the re-birth, life in Him.

Tears pour down my face when I think about it.  We are loved with a love that existed before the earth was formed, and changed the course of time.  Because of that unfathomable love, God planned for our future thousands of years before we were born.  Knowing our curse of sin would come, He planned Jesus to break the curse before the earth was formed.  His love for us withstood the tests of time, and is with us eternally. 
Jesus lived for that hour, that fullness of time, when He could die to redeem us.  Love has come, and love has won. 

I love you Jesus.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Better Covenant

I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” – Hebrews 8:10-12

The grace and goodness of God can be seen in so many ways during the Easter season.  One way we can see His love for us is His willingness to do away with the old covenant because of our weaknesses, and give us the new covenant of grace through Jesus Christ.  The new covenant is accessible to all, through His mercy.    But to fully understand the beauty of the new covenant, we have to understand the old covenant.
There were five offerings given in the Old Testament in Leviticus 1-5.  Each had a purpose in the relationship of God and His people, and most were bloody.  Blood has a specific purpose in worshipping God, and justification by God.  It is a resource that we cannot make.  It is only made by God, who gives life to every creature, and life is, spiritually and physically, in the blood. 

The first offering was the burnt offering, which was offered on the Altar of Burnt Offerings.  This offering was given as voluntary worship to show devotion to God, or as atonement for unintentional sin.  The worshipper would offer either a bull or a ram.  If he offered a ram, he would kill it at the door of the tabernacle, but if he offered a ram he would kill it at the north side of the altar.  The priest and his sons would take the offering, sprinkle its blood at the base of the altar, and then butcher the animal.  When placing the animal’s parts on the altar, there was a specific order in which they were to be laid, and the entrails and legs had to be first washed with water. If the worshipper was poor, and could not afford a bull or ram, he offered turtledoves or pigeons.  These also had a specific way and place in which they were to be killed, and a specific way in which they were to be placed on the altar.  Once the altar was complete, the priest would burn the sacrifice, which was “a sweet aroma to the Lord.
The second offering was the grain offering, also offered on the Altar of Burnt Offerings.  This was also a voluntary act of worship and devotion to God.  This offering was made of fine flour, olive oil, and sometimes frankincense.  The offering had many laws regarding how it was to be made, and differed if it were made by the priest, baked in an oven, baked in a pan, or made with the first harvest of grain.  God was very specific in how He wanted to receive this form of worship.  But in all cases, as the grain offering was made, it was “a sweet aroma to the Lord.”

The third offering was the peace offering.  It was also a form of worship and thanksgiving, but included a meal.  The offering was a lamb, goat, or animal of a herd, perfect and without blemish.  It would be killed and butchered a specific way and laid on the altar.  The blood was sprinkled on the base of the altar.  The fat of the animal belonged to God, and would be consumed by fire.  Other portions of the animal were burnt as food for the priests.  What was left was given to the worshipper, and had to be eaten the same day or the next day.  God, priest, and man shared a meal, and were filled by this offering, and when it was burned, was also “a sweet aroma to the Lord. 
The forth offering was the sin offering.  This was offered by a person, and was different for their position in their service to God.  For the High Priest, the offering was a young bull, and the blood was sprinkled before the veil of the sanctuary, as well as on the horns of the Altar of Incense, where it was offered.  For a leader, the offering was a male goat, and the blood was sprinkled on the horns of the Altar of Burnt Offerings, and its base.  The common man would offer a female goat or lamb, which would have its blood put on the horns and base of the Altar of Burnt Offering.  If the worshipper were poor, the offering was a dove or pigeon, and the blood would be put on the Altar of Burnt Offering.  But if the worshipper were very poor, the offering was 1/10 an ephah of fine flour, which is the equivalent of two quarts. 

The sin offering was not voluntary.  It was not optional.  This was a mandatory offering God required of anyone who sinned unintentionally, and included the confession of their sin in giving the offering, and His forgiveness of that sin.  Sin was not then, and is not now, a sweet aroma to the Lord.  Yet, He forgives.
The fifth offering was the trespass offering, which was also a mandatory offering for sin, but for specific sins.  It was offered if the person heard an oath, and didn’t tell it, or if they touched something unclean, or swears or lies.  It was also an offering for sins in which the worshipper did not know they had committed, yet was found guilty in God’s eyes regardless.  If the person sinned against any holy thing, such as defiling something in the temple, then this offering included a 20% penalty or fine calculated by the priest in regard to the holy object.  Depending on what was done, and the person’s ability to provide an offering, the worshipper either offered a ram, or two turtledoves and two pigeons, or the 1/10 of an ephah of flour as in the sin offering.  These sins were specifically given greater weight than unintentional sins as a whole, showing that God does see sins in different degrees of wrong.  And no, the offering was not a sweet aroma to the Lord.  Sin never is sweet to God.

In each offering there were rules that had to be kept by the worshipper and the priest.  The rules were specific to the who, when, where, what, why, and how of the offering.  These were God’s laws, and had to be followed for the offering to be accepted.  And the offerings had to be repeated because our sins never went away.  They were only atoned, singularly covered. 
God found us lacking in the ability to follow His instructions.  We could not keep up with the pace of our own sin, and offer the sacrifices required to maintain our righteousness and fellowship with God.  But our lack of ability to be holy didn’t take God by surprise.  For that reason, our loving God had already planned, before the foundation of the earth (Revelation 13:8), a second covenant, a better covenant. 

Hebrews 8:7-12 says, For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.  Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
His new covenant is perfect.  He puts His laws in our minds.  He writes His laws on our hearts.  He becomes our God.  We all can know Him, and know Him intimately, from the heart and not from sacrifices and offerings.  But best of all, He gives us mercy.  He gives us an undying amount of forgiveness wrapped in the heart of a loving Father.  And through that mercy, He forgets our sins.  He doesn’t just overlook them.  He doesn’t just forgive them.  He remembers them no more!

Father God, thank you for your new covenant through Christ.  Thank you that you have made having an intimate relationship with you easy on us, knowing our weaknesses.  Thank you that when we were not enough in ourselves, you gave us Jesus Christ, who is perfect and complete.  Thank you that through Jesus, we can be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to you (Romans 12:1).  Thank you for Jesus, our offering and sacrifice for a sweet smelling aroma to you (Ephesians 5:2).  We gladly claim Him, and thank you that His blood has washed us clean. 


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

If You Can’t Say Something Good…

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue Keeps his soul from troubles.” – Proverbs 21:23

My Grandmother had many little sayings that taught moral lessons.  She would say things like “two wrongs don’t make a right”, or “neither a borrower nor a lender be”, or “two heads are better than one”.  One that has stuck with me is “if you can’t say something good, don’t say nothing at all.” (Excuse the double negative, but that is how she said it!)

Most often this cliché was used to explain how you shouldn’t run someone down, pointing out their faults, and criticizing their actions.  But God has given me a different revelation about this simple statement.  When you allow your mouth to spread bad words you weaken your relationship with God, and give Satan an opening in which to destroy you.

In Ephesians 6:12 we read that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”. This verse refers to “principalities” and “spiritual hosts of wickedness”. This is a reference to our enemy, Satan and his minions. They are there just as He is - walking to and fro upon the earth, seeking whom they can destroy (Job 2:2, 1 Peter 5:8).

Yet Satan is at a great disadvantage to that of the Holy Spirit in controlling our lives. As the Holy Spirit lives inside us, He knows the thoughts we have, hears our heart’s groaning and desires, and speaks directly to our hearts. Satan must wait for us to open our mouths, and tell him the things within our hearts and minds. Once we do, he listens to hear our issues of stress, the problems we have with each other, and our personal weaknesses.  His guerrilla warfare attack can then be planned, aiming at your weakness.  He will strike you where it hurts most.

“For He who would love life and see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.” - 1 Peter 3:10

Letting our words roam free gives the spirits of evil a means of attack.  But we can counter this attack with the exact opposite.  PRAISE! Praise is a powerful tool that will bring God closer.  II Chronicles 5:13-14 tells us of the Israelites bringing God into the temple, where His glory filled the temple like a thick cloud to where the priest could no longer do their jobs.  Praise God and fill your temple with His glory.  Psalms 22:3 tells us that he is “enthroned” in the praises of His people.  Even as Jesus taught us to pray He said “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9). The word “hallowed” is defined as “regarded as holy, venerated, sacred”.  

“To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; For God is my defense, My God of mercy.” - Psalm 59:17

Where there is light, there can be no darkness.  The two cannot co-exist.  In John 8:12 Jesus says “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Satan and his demons are defined as the “rulers of darkness of this age” (Ephesians 6:12).  We must understand that the enemy can be sent out by bringing the light of the world, Jesus, near. Praise is the instrument in which to do just that!

Your words can cause you to sin! Lies and exaggerations are the fruits of a spirit of deceit, which is attributed to Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44).  Gossip, which is wrong even if the story is true, can break relationships, and tear down the character of both the rumored, and the tale bearer.  Matthew 15:11 says “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”  Don’t allow yourself to be defiled!  Put a leash on your mouth!  Proverbs 21:23 says “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” Guard your words and speak only those things that edify and lift up God and those around you.  In so doing you will avoid many problems, and bring greater joy into your life.

Remember, if you can’t say something good, then don’t say nothing at all!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Season of Purpose Or A Life of Purpose?


“Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.” – Mark 11:12-14

Most of us are living examples of our disbelief in God’s sovereignty over our lives. We say we believe that our days are numbered, and that God only knows the day in which we will die and meet Him face to face. Yet we don’t spend our time preparing for that day.
When Vacation Bible School is near, you’ll find many devoted Christians studying God’s word in preparation. When a Revival or a special Bible Study is coming, the same is true. We find seasons in which we feel obligated to bear fruit, but during the off seasons, we don’t feel obligated to do much of anything.  Yet every day He watches over us, and each and day we wake could be the day last day we hit the alarm clock, the last day we crawl out of an earthly bed.  This very day could be the day the angels are released from Heaven to escort us into the presence of our Lord.  We all understand this, but do we believe it with our hearts, or just with our minds?
It was the time of Passover.  Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem had occurred earlier that day.  He had rode a borrowed colt into the city, as the people shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”  He had seen the temple, and overthrown the tables of the money changers.  Knowing His time was near, he went out of the city, and out of Bethany with his disciples.
As they walked, Jesus saw a fig tree at a distance.  Hoping to find something on it, he walked to it, but found only leaves.  Seeing there was nothing on it to eat, he cursed the tree and it withered.  But if you read Mark’s account of the incident in Mark 11:13, you’ll find that “it was not the season for figs.” Passover came in March or April, early spring. During this time fig trees would produce a number of buds, and then actual fruit later on. What Jesus was looking for was the edible buds that the tree would have had if it were going to bear fruit later on. He would have been happy at this time of year to have found even the hope of fruit to come.  When Jesus found no edible buds on the tree, he cursed it. His judgment was not simply that the tree would never bear fruit again. The tree itself withered and died.

It seems like a rash action for Jesus to take to cause the tree to wither and die.  But the tree’s one purpose was to bear fruit.  Jesus, having the knowledge of God, knew this tree’s history.  He knew if it was a good tree, bearing fruit every season, or a weak tree that would not bear enough or often enough.  The tree was not serving its purpose.

When reading this passage, I had to stop and ask myself, what if Jesus was to request figs of me today.  Am I living a life of seasonal service, or am I giving Him a life of purpose?  Would I have anything to offer Him today?  Would I be able to show him even the buds of fruit to come? Or would he look at me in disgust and condemnation?

To spend day after day living our lives as if they were our own, and ignoring the work of God shows a lack of thankfulness for His sacrifice.  With so many desperately needing to know our Lord, there is no reason why we cannot show Him fruit, or at least the hope of fruit to come, each and every day.  We can live a life of purpose, serving Him daily, instead of when His work is in season.  Not a day should go by that we cannot lay some offering of thankfulness at his feet.  Otherwise, what purpose do we serve? We’re as useless to Him as the fig tree that didn’t bear buds or fruit when He was hungry.

Monday, March 25, 2013

We Need To Go To Samaria

We Need To Go To Samaria


He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.  But He needed to go through Samaria.” – John 4:3-4

Get out any map of the area in which Jesus ministered and you’ll soon see one thing perfectly clear about the disciples.  They were not lazy!  They walked everywhere they went, and many times that meant walking 50 miles or more to get from town to town.  But they followed Jesus, and if Jesus decided they should go to a rural town, they went.  If He decided they should go to the sea coast, they went.  If He decided they should go to Jerusalem, knowing He would be murdered there, they still went.  They didn’t send Jesus as a missionary for His ministry; they were followers, spiritually and physically. 

John 4 tells of one of those long trips on a dusty road.  They had left Jerusalem and were headed for Galilee.  The trip would have been about 68 miles in walking distance.  Along the way Jesus felt the need to turn into Samaria, which was off the road, between Jerusalem and Galilee.  Don’t miss this: “But He needed to go through Samaria”, as John 4:4 puts it.  He didn’t need to water his Camels – He had none.  He didn’t need to rent a jeep – they had none.  But the Holy Spirit drew Jesus off His preplanned course to Samaria. 

The disciples most likely weren’t too happy with this pit stop along the way to Galilee.  Samaritans were looked down upon by the Jews because they were a mixed race.  They were Jewish, but mixed with other nations.  I find it strange that discrimination against mixed races has remained for over 2,000 years and spread to our own nation, which is nothing more than a melting pot of all races.  To those that feel you can’t love a mixed child or person, or any person of another race, please show me your pedigree! 

As Jesus and his disciples come into Samaria, He stops at the well of Jacob.  He was tired from his walking, and sat there.  A young Samaritan woman came to the well and He asked her “Give Me a drink.”  She was shocked!  Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans!  They didn’t even acknowledge them!  When they went to the local Wal-Mart they never looked them in the eye.  They shuffled by them as quickly as they could!  They stayed with their ‘own kind’.  After all, Samaritans were less worthy of their attention, they felt in their self-pride.

She said to Jesus “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” Jesus never answered her question regarding the racial discrimination she had grown so accustomed to.  It wasn’t worthy of His time.  He was more concerned about her soul than her skin color.  He changed the subject, and talked to her about ‘living water’ (John 7:38), the salvation that comes from believing in Him.

This young woman’s need for salvation wasn’t the only reason Jesus needed to go to Samaria. Nor was it just because of the many others who believed in Jesus when she gave her testimony that “He told me all that I ever did.”  He went there for us, to show us that His love is for ALL people.  God could have placed another Jew there by the well, but that wouldn’t have served His purpose.  Red, yellow, black, and white – we are all precious in His sight.  Jesus NEEDED to go to Samaria to show us that His love is for all, as ours should be.  If you’re going to “love one another even as I have loved you” (John 15:12), you need to tear down the racial fences around your heart.

Racial borders are a strange thing.  They separate us into difference churches who believe the same thing less than a mile apart.  They limit our ministry and church outreach programs.  They prevent us from making friends with our own neighbors.  In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul spoke to the Corinthian church and pleaded that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Following denominational divisions, racial divisions are the second sinful way we have divided the body of Christ. 

We all need to take a trip to Samaria.

Sunday, March 24, 2013




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; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. 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.” – Psalms 1:1-3

There are many ways in which you can study your Bible.  Some prefer to read one book at a time, some prefer to research a topic and go through all verses that discuss that topic.  Some choose to study using a Christian book or devotional, while others prefer a commentary written by a master theologian.  Some use the ‘5W’ method, asking Who, What, When, Where, and Why about each scripture.  All these ways will cause you to gain knowledge of God’s word, but there is one method of study that is not only fruitful in attaining knowledge, but in changing the heart and mind.  That method is meditation.
Ok, now don’t shut me down here!  I’m not talking about yoga meditation, transcendental meditation, or some eastern religion or occult worship.  The point of Biblical meditation is not to get in touch with yourself, but to get out of touch with yourself and your life for a while, and in touch with God.  Meditation is in the Bible and we’re encouraged to use it.  Meditation is giving your mind over to something, in this case, God’s word.  God wants your fellowship, quality time with you.  How can you give Him quality time without meditating, truly thinking about what He has to say? 

Psalms 1:1-3 says that if we meditate on His word we are blessed, and that in whatever we do, we will prosper.  Proverbs 4:20-22 tells us that it will bring health even to our flesh, as it says, My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.” To “give attention to my words” is to meditate, to focus on them.  It’s a well-known medical fact that thinking positive thoughts reduces stress.  Any doctor will tell you that stress is a great factor in many health problems.  Yes, God’s word is healing, when you allow your heart and mind to feed on it.
We are told to in Romans 12:2 to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, but reading a verse of God’s word with the speed and attention we read a road sign is not going to cut it.  We can try to transform our minds by removing all our evil thoughts and thinking only on the things that are good.  But that can be pretty hard to do if you expect the world to give you those things to think on.  When did you last hear anything pure, good, true, and lovely on TV or radio or even friends?  You may end up with nothing to think about at all!   I have to laugh at this thought, remembering Job 11:12, which says For an empty-headed man will be wise, when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man”.  It’s just not going to happen!  You have to put good stuff in to get good stuff out!    

Philippians 4:8 tells us “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”  What do you think Paul was describing when he said to meditate on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy?  Does anything fit the bill other than the Word of God? 
In 1 Timothy 4:13 Paul revisits this subject and tells young Timothy Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.” He tells Timothy to give his attention over to reading God’s word, to exhortation (speaking it, giving encouragement and advice), to doctrine.  He tells him to give himself ENTIRELY to them, and his progress will be seen.

Meditation is more than just reading God’s word.  It’s reading it to find a deeper revelation. To meditate you have to give over your mind, emotions, and body to the thought.  For me, I like to study early in the morning.  Most days that’s at 4:30a.m.  At that hour the house is quiet, my daughter is still sleeping, and my sweet husband is upstairs having his own time with God.  The day hasn’t opened its cans of worms yet, and my mind is clear. For you, it may be the end of the day, before bedtime, that’s quietest for you, or even midday.  Finding that quiet time to give over your thoughts, uninterrupted by intruding thoughts and other people, is important.  And meditation does take time.  Don’t set aside a half hour or hour to do it.  Give God unlimited time.  He’ll let you know when He’s done.  And please don’t tell Him, the one who gives you every minute of the day, that you don’t have time for Him.  Find the time.
When you have found that quiet time to offer Him, read a passage from His word.  Then read it again, slowly.  Feel the emotions of the writer.  Ask yourself how this passage fits with the rest of the Bible and what God has spoken through His Holy Spirit to your heart lately.  His word is living, and will relate to you personally.  Are the words used by the author strong words, or are they soft?  Is he using a lot of verbs, or more adjectives to describe the subject?  Is he expressing a command, a blessing, a way in which we are to react to life, an event, or what?  Does the verse remind you of another verse? Go there, and read that verse too.  Dissect it. Digest it.  Move from having His Word in your head to having it in your heart, to feeling it.   

Meditation allows God’s word to affect your heart. This is what the Psalmist in Psalms 119:9-11 meant as he prays to God and says that he will take heed according to God’s word, and has sought him with his whole heart.  He says “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”  Your heart controls your actions – not your mind.  Changing, transforming your mind, has to first start with a heart change.
Meditation comes with great rewards.  God will reveal the deep truths of His word, and who He is, His very character and divine nature, as you allow Him quality time with your mind and your heart.  This is intimacy with God, getting closer to God.  This is His Holy Spirit instructing and teaching your spirit – Spirit to spirit.  1 Corinthians 2:10-12 says, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

If we study the Bible, but don’t give His Spirit opportunity to instruct our spirit, we are the man that looks into the mirror, sees his face, but then walks away and forgets who he really is.  God’s instruction through meditation will change how you see yourself, and how you love Him.  It will change your heart, and then transform your mind.