Gift’s are for God’s Glory

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I have taken many kinds of strength profiles, and career assessment tools over the years. There are two that stand out. The first is the one I took through the high school. What stood out in this skills assessment that was given to all of the students were the results. It provided job and career ideas related to the category one fit within. I remember this because one of the job suggestions was Mineralogist. I was the only person that got this recommendation. I did not even know how to get into this field or what it would involve. It is certainly not something that any high school person I knew wanted to grow up to be. The second profile test that I remember was in college. The pastor of my church was taking the smaller Wednesday night crowed through a biblically based spiritual gifts assessment and to my surprise “teacher” was on the top of the list. At that time teacher was the last job that made up my passions. I showed the results to the pastor and told him the test was broken. Every person is given skills and gifts. The science behind tests like these can be informative about our personality and what we might be good at and bad at in life. Both of those tests were not wrong in their suggestions even if I was unaware of my own self at that time. We all have gifts and skills the question is to what end will we use these gifts?

In some Church cultures, there is a powerful desire to speak in tongues or speak prophecy. These miraculous type gifts are elevated to a high standing and become a mark of someone who has attained significant favor from God. While these gifts are included in the Biblical narrative and may be true in contemporary society the real question I want to know is to what end are these gifts sought and used? Paul clearly states that the Holy Spirit gives gifts for the good of the Body of Christ so that the Church will be equipped to carry out God’s will.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 ESV

Whatever gifts the Spirit has given whoever God has created an individual to be then in turn Christians must not be proud about that strength and one should not seek visible gifts for status or control. Just a few lines later Paul gets specific to warn the Corinthians about the role of these gifts.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV

Those who are saved and part of the body have a purpose in the Church. The Holy Spirit will gives a desire and skill to accomplish that roll. These gifts work together to accomplish God’s plans. When people attempt to use them in the strength of man or for a selfish purpose then how does God get the glory for what is accomplished? Lecrae in his song Chase That speaks of the worst type of sin and that is the sin of selfish ambition while claiming to do it for God.

[the Devil] lies to us all, told Adam he could ball
“why you following God when you can go get it all?”
I tell you what’s better, or better yet worse.
chasing your own glory while doing the Lord’s work,
so holla if it hurts, but we were made for greater
our greatest satisfaction is making His name famous

The mark of someone serving God is Love. They have a love for God and a love for their fellow man.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV

Love makes the gift useful. Service inside the body with Faith, Hope, and most importantly Love is used by God for His purpose. Do you love God? Are you broken to love others more than yourself? If so then go and obey what God has placed on your heart for His Glory.

* Revised and Edited. Originally published on Human Effort May 2014.

Here I am! Send Me.

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If God is the same today as he was yesterday then he is constant never changing. If God changed something from wrong to right then he would not be God and he would not be perfect. God can’t change and God will not change.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19 ESV

The consistency of God is a blessing because the rules are set. The goal posts are not moving. The anger of sports fans when the officials are inconsistent is real and justified. Much of political discourse boils down to pointing out the person on the other side that did the same immoral behavior without consequence. Everyone wants consistent rules to play by and God is the perfect law giver and sustainer of those rules in life.

There are people who want to bend the rules to benefit themselves. This raw selfishness is the stuff of life and it takes ugly form in injustice. Those in power pull the ladder up after themselves. They pass rules that prevent others from the benefits of wealth they themselves enjoy. Politicians rig the system in favor of certain elites. Dictators take from the innocent to give to those with blood on their hands. In Israel before exile Isaiah warned the leaders that God would not tolerate breaking the rules.

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right! Isaiah 5:21-23 ESV

Justice is a hot topic today. Supporting a business because of their social justice cause is popular and makes one feel good about themselves. Asking people to affirm the life styles of others is a fashionable way to root out bigotry and a wonderful way to make sure everyone knows what side of humanity one lives. The most current craze in this trend are teens and pre-teens who are telling the world they are not male or female, straight or gay, in their gender and sexual orientation (see Miley Cyrus being “pansexual”).

 In his book, the Benedict Option, Rod Dreher quotes from a poster to his blog “There’s nothing like having your twelve-year-old come home from school and start ticking off which of her classmates are bi, the reader said, “I told my daughter it was statistically impossible for there to be that many bisexual students in her class, and that for most girls – and they were all girls – seventh grade was entirely too early to make pronouncements on their sexuality. In return, I got a lot of babble about gender being fluid and nonbinary.” This is what children are being taught is true and they are aware of the shaming of anyone who does not celebrate the new norms.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 ESV

When I was younger the argument was “I was born this way”. Today such limiting options are not sustainable because everyone wants to be included in the celebration of the movement. Now born this way is irrelevant. Gender and sexual preference are “fluid” moving in whatever direction society wants it to move. God however has set boundaries and rules. Isaiah warned the people of his time “Woe to those” who break and bend the set rules of God the creator. Life lived contrary to God’s perfect law is not sustainable.

What is the “Woe” that Isaiah was warning about? What are the ramifications of ignoring God’s perfect plan? In Isaiah’s day, the woe was an incoming army that would destroy society. Israel as a nation was destroyed ending the rules they had set for themselves. It is hard to sustain rebellion against God when life becomes only about survival and death.

24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. 26 He will raise a signal for nations far away, and whistle for them from the ends of the earth; and behold, quickly, speedily they come! Isaiah 5:24-26 ESV

While that fate was pronounced on the nation of Israel in those generations what does such a “Woe” mean to the contemporary reader? First read into this a “Woe” on all the nations vs trying to tie it back to America. While God certainly could have America ruled by some other nation let the reader take a larger view of God’s intentions toward human kind of today. Second how does this Woe stand in relation to the revelation of Jesus Christ? In verse 24 above it states they have “rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One”. If the people and the society reject God and his Holy One, Christ, then what more can be done? Shall the game be continued to be played by these rules? Shall the creation say to the Creator “No more of you”? Christ has come to give life but if the people only want death then maybe his return is imminent.

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:36-39 ESV

No more armies from a faraway land will be needed to restore a lawless society. Christ himself will come like a flood sweeping away the disorder and the sin that has overcome societies. Third and finally in this “Woe” is the commission of those who are saved by Christ.

5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” Isaiah 6:5-8 ESV

Reader know that you can have the guilt and the rebellion atoned for in Christ. God himself will restore people who are currently breaking every rule. Real life and relationship with the Creator is possible, real, and wonderful. God is calling “Whom shall I send” who will live truth over lies, right over wrong, and sweet over bitter? I pray the answer be “Here I am! Send me.”

The Hard Work of Discipline

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Discipline is a word that brings up the concept of short term pain for long term gain. No pain; no gain the adage goes. Discipline also brings up the idea of how to correct unruly behavior in children. To spank or not to spank? Spare the rod spoil the child. While these two views of discipline are similar they are not the same. And in our relationship with Christ both have implications. The Bible speaks of discipline a great deal. In modern translations like NIV or ESV one can find the word from 40 to 50 times. But in an older translation like the King James version it is only used once. The King James translation liked the word “chasten”. Whatever changes have occurred to the English language over time the idea of discipline has not become any less important.

Discipline #1: The engagement of the believer in Christ to organize life in such a way that the relationship and service to God is more effective.

Living a life that puts Christ and His priorities first is not easy. There are varying degrees of success in this endeavor. Some people have lived amazing miraculous lives that are examples to us all. Some have been called saints and some have died unknown and forgotten to all but God. But others seem to barely understand the Christ that saved them. Their lives seem undistinguished from the rest of the world. What separates these two extremes is discipline in Christ. Those who show Christ have lives marked by life of discipline that maximizes praying, reading, loving, serving, and sharing God with the world. They became intentional as some level and through discipline bent their desires to be subject to Christ. The power of this relationship becomes accelerated through the discipline and self-denial of one who is seeking Christ first.

11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 ESV

The author of Hebrews states that in the moment discipline seems painful. The King James translation uses the word “chasten” which means a moderating and restraining effect. This kind of discipline is talking about how adults correct mistakes in their life and how they learn to curb the passions of life. Fasting is not fun. Serving others is a chore. Denying a life of hedonism does not seem all that wonderful to those who are young. But later on, from the other side of chasing Christ is a peace and comfort of a life lived as God intended.

Discipline #2: The act of a perfect Father correcting a child and training a child for the future.

God is no passive Creator that is only now watching his creation evolve. God became a man and died on a cross to reconcile people to Himself. God is actively involved in the life of every single person. For those whom God calls son or daughter he will correct and discipline. God has not left his children without a way or without his love.

19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Revelation 3:19 ESV

The loving correction of a Father may produce tears in the child but this kind of correction sets a child on a path to a life well lived. God’s correction will set one to life eternal. God’s correction will draw one closer and will allow one to respect Him and His plans for life more. It is no accident that listed along with the types of sin that will destroy a man are those that are disobedient to their parents.

29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:29-32 ESV

If honoring parents made it into the 10 Commandments how much more so is the obedience of submitting to a heavenly father’s correction and discipline.

These two forms of discipline are vital. First is the loving correction of God to remove and cutout sinful behavior and second the effort and restraint where we choose to organize our lives around prayer, church, fasting, and serving to know him better. Together these disciplines done through Christ will draw us nearer to the prize of life in eternity.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 ESV

And now for the Payoff

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I watched a military leader of some stripe promoting a new book he had written called Make Your Bed and he had written it as a wisdom book about being successful in life. His wisdom being that making the bed first thing starts the day in the right direction. This act establishes discipline and therefore allows more accomplishment as the day moves on. Very sound wisdom… Maybe my life could be more successful if I become more disciplined? Success and being successful is a huge motivator for most people and that raises some questions for me on what it is we expect from this life.

A large percentage of people might agree with the following statement… “When I grow up and am done with this life I want all my arduous work and effort to payoff.” This is the heart of much advertising especially around sports. The problem is how many people start a work and never see it realized? How many have died before seeing their children grow? How many have been taken advantage of and lost everything they ever saved? How many refugees are forced to move because of war leaving behind everything including family? A wise man once complained of how evil it is that a stranger might enjoy the work of someone else’s toil and savvy.

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: 2 a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. Ecclesiastes 6:1-2 ESV

What are you committed to right now? A sport? A way to become famous? What if you fail? What if all the work does not pay off? Is the work still worth it? If all that you have is taken by a government or lost in war is the life still worth living? These are questions that many people the world over have had to not only ponder but live out.

While coming up short on some major desire or plan for life might be a “grievous evil” what about the person who abandon’s everything to follow God’s call and God’s promise but never sees it fulfilled? In Hebrews, the chapter on faith, the author points out this problem that many of the Old Testament believers experienced first hand.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Hebrews 11:13 ESV

God called them to live an unusual life, many times not a pleasant life, and showed them a future promise that they would not live to experience. Dear Reader would you tolerate such a situation? These men and women not only tolerated such a seeming disappointment they are commended for their faith and trust in God’s bigger picture. Note what it says they came to understand. That they were strangers and exiles on this earth and this life. They understood that this is not their home. Strive, work, make your bed, and be successful. However take stock in why and for what reason one desires success. In the statement “When I grow up and am done with this life I want all my arduous work and effort to payoff.” The real question is what is the payoff at the end of all that work and success?

12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:12 ESV

If the payoff is not God’s grace and the fellowship as a son or daughter through Christ in eternity then that successful life lived will be dedicated to an earth that is not home and will not last.

Jesus Got Married

Psalm 45 is a wedding song that points to a divine King with an eternal kingdom. This king is blessed beyond any other king and hold favor from God like none before or after. This king is going to be married.

6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; 7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; Psalm 45:6-7 ESV

The Bride is of royalty herself and a subject of the king. She will bow to the king and be a part of his kingdom going forward.

9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. 10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, 11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him. Psalm 45:9-11 ESV

This marriage speaks of a unique King and Bride because they will rule eternally. There is only one eternal King and his name is Jesus. The idea that Jesus will be married is a shock to some since it is well known Jesus did not take a wife when he was on earth. God’s plans and future for His perfect kingdom are documented in advance and Psalm 45 is the song He had written in advance of the wedding day. So, the question one might have is what Bride would be worthy of Jesus? What bride will spend eternity ruling with Christ?

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Revelation 21:1-3 ESV

The new Jerusalem prepared as a “bride adorned” for her husband. A holy Kingdom where Christ is married to the people in the city where “the dwelling place of God is with man”.

Paul builds on this truth throughout his letters. He plainly tells the church to be faithful as one who is engaged to be married. Paul also brings forth the promises that a dutiful husband holds in laying down his life for his wife.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2 ESV

If you call Christ Lord, then know he is your eternal King and you will be joined with Him in heaven. Be faithful, purse holiness, and flee from the distractions of this temporary world. The new Jerusalem is where he will rule and it is where the joy of a perfect union will be found.

 Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! Psalm 40:4 ESV

Mistakes were Made Fault is Found

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Why is this world so messed up? There are some truly evil things, people, and circumstances that make any caring person angry. Life is hard and many make bad choices that compound the difficulty of life. If God made everything then one can naturally look toward this Creator and ask the question. “Why!?” Why is life so hard, so short, and miserable for so many? Why can the evils around the world of people murdering other people continue? What God are you doing to fix the mess?

Mostly the answer to these questions is found in an understanding of the nature of the fall and curse brought on by man’s rebellion. Essentially this world is temporary and the imperfect nature of this world is a direct result of men choosing to live selfish lives. The Bible is the story of God’s personal intervention into His creation to draw people to himself. Personally, I have struggled to understand why God would need a “new” testament in His plans to restore the relationship with mankind. Did God make a mistake with the “old” testament?

6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. Hebrews 8:6 ESV

Obviously, the ministry of Christ is superior to the old testament laws and sacrifices. Why it is “enacted on better promises” I will leave for another discussion, however for now the question is was the old way a mistake. Did God make a mistake?

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. Hebrews 8:7 ESV

The author of Hebrews seems to indicate that yes, the Old Testament had a fault so God did make a mistake. His laws, prophets, and priests where not sufficient so he needed a do over. But that idea that the first covenant had a fault is not consistent with a God who is all knowing and perfect. God can’t make mistakes because if he did then he would cease to be God.

The mistake however was not on God’s part. In the same way that the evil of men and the nature of life on this world being cursed is not God’s fault so too is the fact that the Old Testament’s fault is not God’s mistake. The author of Hebrews clarifies where the fault falls…

8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. Hebrews 8:8-9 ESV

The mistake is on “them” the people when they did not continue following the perfect plans that God laid out. God who saved the people from slavery and provided for them a perfect religion and God to worship rejected him. They followed their own ways and chased after gods of stone and hedonism. The fault was the rejection by the people of the perfect religion and relationship with God.

God made no mistake. Through the law, God showed people why their relationship with Him is broken. The Old Testament proves that on our own we cannot and will not meet His perfect standards.

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:19-20 ESV

Jesus being “enacted on better promises” comes to earth. Jesus being God in the flesh completely fulfills the Old Testament covenant on our failed behalf. Jesus, who is God, lives a perfect life. The better promise that Jesus is founded on is his giving us credit for the perfect life he lived by imparting Jesus into our hearts. We will know who God is at our very core.

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12 ESV

My prayer: Father my hope is in you. My prayer is that you would place your law and your ways into the mind and heart of all people, men, women, and children that draw near to you. I pray that you would ready us all to draw near to you. Thank you Father for allowing us to know you, to fellowship with you, and for remembering our sins no more. In the name of Jesus, I pray.

I Hate Patience

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Patience is something that most everyone knows they need, but not many want to suffer through. My children are learning patience when they go out to a restaurant and must wait for the food to arrive. I am learning patience in the effort to pay off debt and focus on the priorities of God (Proverbs 22:7). Patience is such a common word that it might be easy to miss God’s view of patience and what he wants for His children

First, remember that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. That means God Himself will provide what is needed to those who rest in Him. But what does the word mean exactly? Is the virtue and significance of patience all about being forced to wait at a restaurant for an extra 30 minutes more than expected?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22 ESV

Patience here in Galatians brings out the idea of endurance, longsuffering, and perseverance. It is the idea of having the ability to withstand something boring on the easy end of the spectrum to soul crushingly oppressive on the hard end of the spectrum. Paul puts the same word in context in his letter to the Ephesians. Here he talks about having patience to put up with the other people and keep unity in the church.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV

Now, I used the words “put up with” when describing patience toward others, but that is not really the point of Spirit enabled patience. When we rely on ourselves patience is something to “put up with”. However, when we rely on God and live submitted to His Holy Spirit then patience is done with joy and love. Has anyone enjoyed and counted it a joy waiting too long for food to arrive in a restaurant?

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, Colossians 1:11 ESV

Patience is an inner strength that comes from the Holy Spirit to know God’s plans are sovereign. This delay is not a burden or something forced. It is an opportunity to rest in His perfect planning looking with joy to see what opportunities He has set before us. What if in the wait a moment of reflection and relationship with God is in order? What if in the wait a conversation of eternal significance might be held? What if in the wait life is enjoyed?

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:7-11 ESV

Real patience understands the eternal perspective and this is where God honoring faith comes to meet us in things that really matter. Abraham placed his trust in God. He knew that God would provide what He promised.

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:13-20 ESV

As children of God and heirs to the promise of Jesus, we can have perfect trust in God and what He accomplished on the cross. Patience then is a gift of the Spirit that we can practice and exercise in the hardships of this world knowing that our future remains secure in the one we can trust without reservation.

* Revised and Edited: Originally Posted Sept. 2013

Jesus the Forsaken

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Psalm 22 is a powerful song of suffering and encouragement. The author must have suffered beyond what any normal person might experience or the author may have internalized the witness of someone else who suffered greatly. The introduction from verse one jumps off the page to grab ahold of the reader.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? Psalm 22:1 ESV

What is more is that these words are familiar and famous to many modern-day consumers because they were also spoken by Jesus himself while slowly dying on the Cross.

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46 ESV

The weight of these words and those that follow in Psalm 22 are overwhelming. Walter Kaiser in his book Messiah in the Old Testament quotes from Charles Briggs a truth about Psalm 22 being “more vivid in [the] realization of that dreadful scene than the story of the Gospels”. If the reader would take a few moments dwell on Psalm 22 in the quiet of the morning I too think one might come to a similar conclusion.

So how is it that a song attributed to King David written 1,000 years before Jesus died on that Cross could be so vividly descriptive and accurate? Let us read a few more verses into Psalm 22 further adding weight to this question…

16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. Psalm 22:16-18 ESV

35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Matthew 27:35 ESV

One may deny God and claim He is not real but unlike the ramblings of a Nostradamus prophecy Jesus himself is speaking to each of us from this Psalm. Hundreds of years before Roman crucifixions David pens the thoughts and mind of Christ while he is hanging on the cross. Overwhelming is the reality that God who created and controls time itself reveals to David the future salvation of mankind. Where there is a Creation there is a Creator and that Creator laid out before David the beginning, the middle, and the end. How blessed we are to be living within the great mercy of such a Creator.

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 28 For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. Psalms 22:27-28 ESV

How can David conclude this Psalm of suffering and death with such a proclamation of a triumphant king if that king is so horribly forsaken and defeated? How can all the nations be ruled by such a Lord? Because David knows God is in control and in the same way God has rescued David in the past David knows that Jesus will be ultimately triumphant.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. Psalm 16:9-10 ESV

David in writing this proclaims a resurrection, an uncorrupted king, of Jesus without the final awful finality of death. Jesus will be made alive and thus completing his work of taking my sins, our sins, on that cross. This is the good news, the gospel, of Jesus that Christians proclaim today. Jesus has the power to reconcile individuals with God and with their fellow man. Jesus was forsaken so that you do not need to be. So repent of your own ways and follow His call.

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Acts 2:29-32 ESV

Rejecting Jesus

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Jesus, who is God, understands rejection. Jesus was rejected while on earth to the point that people demanded that his life be ended. That is the ultimate rejection. Jesus who promised salvation to restore the relationship of mankind with God is rejected every day even thousands of years later. Imagine pouring love and creativity into something and then have that creation tell you “no”.

19 Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 23 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. Psalm 118:19-24 NIV

Psalm 118 a worshipful song that foretells a rejected Jesus pivots on the idea that Jesus is rejected “the stone the builders rejected” but yet the song continues the refrain “his love endures forever”.

Psalm 118 is a worship song where a worship leader would shout “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;” and a reply from the worshipers would be “His steadfast love endures forever.”

2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 118:2-4 ESV

God has taken this rejected stone and made it the cornerstone of salvation. This stone is the key to restoring the relationship between God and man forever. The Psalmist sings “it is marvelous in our eyes” to see what the Lord has accomplished. Both Jesus and his Disciple Peter quote from this song when speaking to the elite privileged people, the builders, of the day.

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Matthew 21:42-43 NIV

Jesus angers the Pharisees by telling them that he is the rejected stone and that the kingdom of God will be built on him and not on the power and ambition of their leadership. Peter when charged by the local court of disturbing the peace tells them plainly that their authority and power has come to an end.

10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:10-12 NIV

Peter tells the ruling elite that they can’t create a healthcare plan perfect enough to replace the cornerstone they rejected. Trump can’t save, Hillary can’t save, ObamaCare can’t save. Government cannot save for there is only one name under heaven “by which we must be saved” and that name does not start with president or senator. That name is the name of the rejected cornerstone “Jesus”.

Jesus leading up to his acknowledgment as the rejected cornerstone tells a parable about rejection. It is a parable of two brothers and how they treat their father.

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Matthew 21:28-30 ESV

The first Son rejects his father when asked to work in the vineyard. The second son promises to work in the vineyard but never goes. Jesus understands rejection because all men have rejected him either to his face or through lies. The Psalmist sings “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 118:1 ESV) and that is who Jesus is. The Lord’s love endures in spite of all the rejection we have sent his way. The good news is that we have an opportunity to be like the first son who because of Christ being the cornerstone foundation changes his mind to be obedient to his father. What a joyous blessing that day will be for the first son when returning home from the vineyard. He will be reconciled in righteousness to the father. Jesus provides that opportunity to all of us who have rejected him. The only question then is will we respond to that invitation?

 

Jesus Brings a Sword

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Churches should be compassionate and that compassion follows from the example of Jesus who is the head of the church. Jesus came to save the lost and show compassion to those in need. Likewise the Church must be suffering servants of the community. Showing grace through acts of kindness and service to those in need. Most understand this and are rightfully quick to criticize churches that fail in this duty.

On the flip side is Government. Many want Government to replace the church. They want Government to be compassionate and serving the community. The problem however is that Government has a unique authority to bring wrath and Governments have always had the authority to kill and to imprison. Try not paying your taxes and you will by force of the sword be made to pay. Just look to the example of actor Wesley Snipes if there is any doubt. Putting men in charge of compassion through the arm of government will never end well.

The only authority that has the moral right to kill is Government. The death penalty through a court system and also in war are two examples where Governments can take life legally and morally. No Church, citizen, or individual has that right. Jesus while familiar to many as a compassionate Church leader is much less familiar as Jesus the just King wielding the authority of death. Jesus is a King and ruler of a government entity of which we are all subjects. Jesus has the right to wage war and execute a death penalty as His perfect justice sees fit. Jesus welding a sword is a shocking realization to many but this idea is introduced in the Old Testament and then continued by John in his apocalypse vision of the returning Jesus. John writes…

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:11-16 ESV

John’s vision of Jesus may be shocking to the modern reader but not to those at the time John wrote this apocalypse. The Jewish elite were afraid Jesus had come overthrow Rome, and thereby overthrow their power. That is the reason they had him killed. The Disciples hoped that Jesus had come to overthrow Rome and set up each of the Disciples as rulers in this new kingdom. But Jesus told them that his time to rule had not arrived. Upon realizing that Jesus would not make the Disciples powerful rulers in this current life Judas walked away and betrayed Jesus for silver. Jesus had come not as king but as priest to testify to the truth of God and to reconcile men to God. Jesus came to save the lost to provide a window, a window we live in right now, of mercy and grace to submit to the Creator. However that window will close at some unknown date in the near future. At that time Jesus will return and the name will be written on him “King of Kings”. This vision that John has prophesied was also revealed to others. King David writes in song…

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand” Psalms 110:1a ESV

David is the king of all Israel. How odd it would be for him to say the “The Lord says to my Lord” when David is the king and lord of an earthly kingdom. David answered to none other than God so who would this other Lord be that David called Lord? David answers the question just a few verses later.

The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Psalms 110:4 ESV

Melchizedek is a mysterious figure that is revealed in Genesis. Abraham the kingly patriarch of the promised nation of Israel interacted with Melchizedek. Abraham a man like David who answered to no one but God pays tribute to another Lord at the successful conclusion of a battle.

18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. Genesis 14:18-20 ESV

Abraham is the chosen of God to be the father of a priestly nation call Israel. Abraham encounters a man named Melchizedek who is described as “priest of God Most High”. King David tells us that this Lord of Lords sitting at the right hand of God will also be a priest modeled after this mysterious high priest of God. This Lord of Lords will also be High Priest. David is singing about a King who is also a Priest.

Jesus with his sword of Government is coming. We already have witnessed and are living in the opportunity to embrace the Priestly Refuge of this King but when he comes to establish the Kingdom where will we stand?

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalms 2:10-12 ESV

Are you president of the United States? Are you a czar of Russia? CEO of a corporate entity? Master of your home? It does not matter “Kiss the Son” and “rejoice with trembling” all will bow before this Lord and this king. David sings that this Lord is “a priest forever”. His compassion is never ending for those who are saved. He has the authority to both save and kill. Take hold of this promise today while you can and draw near to the perfect Lord of Lords and Intercessory Priest of God.

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:22-25 ESV