Why did Jesus Need to Die?

death

Death is such an ugly business. Especially brutality and murder. Outside of the voyeuristic obsession moviegoers seem to have with death most people push the aging and sick off to the sides of society. Personally, to my good fortune and shame, I have never spent time in a hospice for those who are dying. Those that deal with death in these settings daily as a part of their job must have special insight into the moments between life and death. On one hand, I would like to experience and understand on the other I shudder at the emotional weight of such finality. When relatives, loved ones, and even pets die it is a heart wrenching emotion for those left to carry on. Even when the death is expected and drawn out the emotion of the situation can be overwhelming to even the most stoic of persons. I fall into that category. I do not want to deal with death unless necessary and even then, emotions must be held in check. Why would God allow such an unnatural evil to invade our space and our all too short of lives on this earth? The short answer is “grace and mercy” because of sin life is cutoff otherwise we would all be cursed to live forever in our sins not unlike some miserable vampire forever without purpose and without fellowship with our Creator. But why would God need Jesus to die to secure salvation for me? What does God need from Jesus? The author of Hebrews addresses this in an interesting way.  

16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Hebrews 9:16-17 ESV

The author is explaining to the Jews of his day that Jesus is a new covenant replacing the old covenant where priests sacrificed goats, bulls, and sheep to cover the sin of the peoples. No longer will those sacrifices be needed because their fulfillment was completed in the death of Jesus on the cross. But what is interesting is that he uses the contract of a will to describe the process. God could have just given us a room in his house, or given his creation a large sum of credit to fix the problem of sin. However, that credit and that place to stay would not make us whole it would only make us dependent. God wanted creation to be his children, sons and daughters, we were made to be family to the king. God resolved the issue by putting on the flesh of a man, becoming Jesus, and then being killed so that he could give the creation an inheritance of life, fellowship, and restoration of a curse removed. The only way to make us whole was his death so the will and inheritance could take effect.

27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV

God loves his creation and as members of that creation he is calling us to an inheritance that only can be provided through Christ. When we stand at judgment will it be in our own sin or the perfect blood of Jesus?

“the Way”

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Early on in the life of the Church it was not yet called Christian, Protestant, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Pentecostal, or Reformed. It was simply known as “the Way”. Saul, before becoming Paul, wanted to round up the members of the “the Way” and later after conversion Paul caused problems for entire regions as a member of “the Way”.

19 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. Acts 19:23 ESV

I like the name “the Way” for the early church because it is so perfectly descriptive of the purpose and point of life. In the Greek, the word used to describe the local church is properly understood to mean simply a road, journey, or a traveled way. It can be used in metaphor as course of conduct or method of thinking. Those outside and inside the early Church referred to this newly formed group as “the” way, road, and course of conduct. Not “a” way but “the” way. They were making a statement that the path ahead is definitive and final with no other options being true. The reason this is so perfectly descriptive is that Jesus himself spoke of salvation as a journey not a status. Jesus also used the exact same word to describe this choice in journey.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 ESV

We are all journeying in this life on some road or way of thinking. Jesus made special care to note that His way is narrow and difficult. The way of the world however is wide open and easy, but it leads to destruction. Life is hard and people make bad situations worse with bad choices. Sometimes I am amazed at how fast those bad choices spiral out of control.

24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:24 ESV

When our founding parents were moved out of paradise “the way” to life and fellowship with God was cutoff. Our rebellion against our creator keeps us all headed for destruction and broken before a perfect and Holy God. Jesus has come to make a way for creation to return to our natural state of fellowship with our Creator.

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:3-7 ESV

The beauty of this journey and way is that if one would stop running and listen there is a guide who knows the way and is ready to show the way. More He is the way. Through Him is truth and life. What was once blocked and guarded because of rebellion has been opened and made possible by the perfect obedience of Christ.

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.

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

king

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

Love Me

love

What makes a Christian a Christian? Does following Christ restrict life to a burdensome set of rules? Why do followers of Jesus attempt to live lives based on out of date rules of the Bible? Do they do this out of fear of being crushed by a vengeful God? Do they just want to escape hell for heaven?

If one wants to follow God there are two basic motivations for an honest person. The first motivation and the way that most people understand following God is through the Law. The Law is best represented by the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament covenants. It goes like this, and should be familiar to most everyone the world over, if you keep a set of rules then hopefully your good actions will outweigh your bad actions before God. This is religion at the core. Do this or bad stuff will happen. Do this or lightning bolts will fall from the sky. The second motivation for following God that is less understood is the role of faith and what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. This second motivation is real and is God’s actual intention. Christ and what He accomplished, not Religion, is the only motivation that is acceptable to God.

The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 NLT

God called Moses to the mountain where Moses received the laws of God. It was at this time that God’s glory was reflected from the face of Moses even after he had left the presence of God (Exodus 34:29-35). Paul tells us that the new way of faith with a life giving Holy Spirit makes the old way of keeping the law obsolete. This new way of fulfilling the law is accomplished through the work of Jesus and the overpowering love He has poured out on His followers. While the commands of Jesus are founded on the Law of the old way the motivation for obedience cannot be the same as the old way of attempting to follow the rules.

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:9-10 ESV

The natural state of humans is not love, but suspicion, selfishness, and sarcasm (don’t believe me go spend some time on twitter). So where does this love that leads to keep the Ten Commandments come from? That love comes from faith in Jesus by way of the Holy Spirit working in His followers.

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith… For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:5; 10-11 ESV

The motivation of a follower of Christ, a Christian, can be summed up in the depth of this following statement by Jesus to His disciples.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV

I am compelled to follow, listen, and obey Jesus because of love. Fear of hell or condemnation may have been a concern at some point in my life. But I am a Christian because of the overflow of Love that comes from Christ to me. I am overwhelmed by that love. That love comes from the faith I have received from Him. By faith I trust Him and acknowledge His authority as my Creator. Because He loves me I love Him and I pray that my motivation in everything is to obey Him because of love.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 ESV

*Revised and Edited. First published on Human Effort Sept 2013.

 

Jesus Gardener at Heart

garden

The Bible holds a large amount of agriculture imagery and that is because God is a gardener at heart. He is always interacting on the complex Creation that He made and set in motion.

I am terrible at farming. If I had to live off the food grown by me I would have starved a long time ago. Over the years I have found my niche in a few ways and there are some other areas I would like to explore if I had the land and time. When I think of farming the image of rows of high yield low value corn might come to mind but that is not exactly what one would call gardening. God would be in the garden category. In my garden is mix of herbs and other interesting vegetables. My own garden is not large or elaborate but it was pretty to look at this year. I also had a nice harvest of garlic and have enjoyed the process of working with it.

Life is much the same way. We have seasons of growth and bloom and seasons of being dormant and hidden away. Paul highlights this aspect and nature in his letter to the Corinthians.

9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:9 ESV

First we are co laborers with God in this garden and second we are part of the garden itself. I will highlight an example of this but first I would like to establish the centrality of the garden to God’s design. God loves gardens in fact the very first place he created for Adam and Eve was a garden.

5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:5-9 ESV

This garden was pleasant to look at and be in. This garden produced the fruit for people to eat. God created this wonderful place for Men and Women to take care of and enjoy. Most importantly this garden was a place for people fellowship with God. That history sadly is on hold until Christ returns to reestablish a new perfect garden.

7 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. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:7-8 ESV

Jesus is the farmer tending this garden. He is working his field and he will take the fruit of that field and use it for the foundation of a newly created Eden one day in the future when the season is right. If you are called by him and established as part of his garden then know that you will see this perfect garden one day in the future. If however you are rebellious and unbending to his plans and his ways you will be uprooted and tossed in the fire. Forever cast away and not part of the future. God is at work and this time now the season we are in now is the season of grace and mercy. Accept the nurture of Christ and the hand of this gardener to be who he wants and created you to be. He is an amazingly skilled owner who will allow you to grow and flourish as you were intended from the beginning.

While we are part of the garden itself we are also co laborers with Christ. So how does that work? Part of the garden and also working the garden with him?

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:36—37 ESV

We who are part of Christ who are yielding to him to live through us must go out and serve the community and to be compassion to others like Christ has been to us. In this way we are the garden and we work for the gardener. I have another hobby a little more involved than the herb and flower boxes. I also keep honey bees. They are part of the garden and they support the overall productivity of the garden. I keep them for the honey they produce but these workers also pollenate the flowers. Almond growers for example rely on truckloads of bee hives at the right opportunity to pollinate the flowers that will yield fruit later in the season. Without the bees the quantity of fruit produced would be significantly smaller.

God in his wisdom has chosen to use mankind to grow and care for the garden but we are not the gardener. It is humbling  to recognize Christ as the Creator and Gardener and that we have his attention.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ESV

Daily Devotion: Relational

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God is a relational Creator. He made you to be in relationship with Him. He wants to talk with you. He wants to be involved in your life. He loves you because He made you. Because He is a relational God He also made you to be in relationships with other people specifically with people who are also in relationship with Him.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 ESV

Who are your closest friends? Are they in a relationship with God? Do you ever talk about Jesus and His impact in your life with these friends? If not then you are missing out on one aspect of Jesus that is essential for encouragement and maturity in the relationship with your Creator.

Do your friends push you toward God or pull you away? If they pull you away then I encourage you as a friendly voice that wants only for all the children of God and followers of Christ to take make a few adjustments to build that relationship with your Creator.

9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Ecclesiastes 4:4-9 ESV

  1. Pray and ask God to provide to you a friend or circle of friends that would be there to encourage you in Christ. Pray this every day for a month write it down and be intentional. Earnestly seek God out.
  2. If you are not in Church then add Church to the prayer list and start visiting. Ask God where he would have you to connect.
  3. Look around and ask this question of all the people you know. “If I spend time with this person would they push me toward God or pull me away?” If the answer is push toward then consider ways to spend time with this person and get in their orbit. You might also need to do the opposite with someone who is pulling you away. Spend less time and remove yourself from that orbit.

Do You Hear Him Reading Your Story?

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God has plans for this world and He has decided beforehand exactly how he wants the story to end. Jesus, God in the flesh, was planned from the beginning to fix what Adam, Eve, and Satan caused to be cursed. Jesus arrived to provide payment for that curse at the appointed time and Jesus will return just as God has predetermined to end the curse for all eternity. Paul states that for God’s people, those who love God, and those who are part of God’s purpose, that God will work all things together for their good.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29 ESV

The point here is that those who stay in “His purpose” will line up for “all things” good. “All things” are not always physical hear and now things but for sure “all things” are eternal final things. God through Christ is the source. He is the savior. His purpose is sovereign and unyielding. Basically there is nothing Satan or any person past or present can do that will prevent God’s narrative or cause it to be undone.

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:10-11 ESV

Where might each of us fit in the story and in His purpose? God’s election to eternity is an invitation to a relational salvation and to be part of His plans. Relational because it is communion with God the Creator now in advance of eternity.

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:12-14 ESV

God is searching out His sheep and that is why Peter says to confirm if true that each of us might be one of those sheep. Do not get confused however. Jesus is not the sheep that is lost with people searching for him. No, he calls out do you recognize his voice? Do you move toward that familiar relational voice of the Creator? Or do you push away moving deeper into the mountain away from God? “I was lost, but now I have found Jesus” is not the correct perspective. The truth is we are lost and it is Jesus that finds us. Stop running and listen for the author of life, the author of the most perfect story is calling our names.  Will you allow him to drawn near?

Lord, we heard you call us, You heard our answer
And you give us second chances when we throw our hands up
I’m weary and broken, but your arms will be open
Unconditional love has got us locked into your focus
Lecrae

Originally published on Human Effort August 25th 2013. Revised and Updated.

The Hero of Spirit and Life

Human Effort

1 peter 3 18

What are superheroes? Well does it not say it all in the name… Superman! They are super human. Better than humans. They have that “X-factor”. Something that makes them better. In the past these superheroes were part God, part man. Hercules son of Zeus the strongest man to ever live. Now there are people in general culture who believe we will one day evolve these super human abilities. Yes your descendants might one day be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. For me in the here and now I have only evolved the super human skill of digesting cheese (that is no joke click the link). When I watch TV or Movies then I know that every “hero” makes the superhuman look easy. Falling, shooting, hacking computers there is no limit to their pain tolerance, hand eye coordination, or knowledge. Those are heroes that are…

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