Facebook and I have a love hate relationship. I am thankful for the ability to keep up with friends and family; however, the constant demand for attention and the heaps of negativity and drama are draining to life. Over the past few years, I have only skimmed my newsfeed and I ignore Messenger even if the constant new message notification icon frustrates my OCD tendencies. There is so much more to life. Nonetheless, I enjoy still keeping up with my family and friends, and I especially love looking at my memories each day. There is nothing like taking a walk down memory lane. For multiple reasons, my memory (both short-term and long-term) is not good. Taking these daily strolls is always an adventure. But this week, I got a surprise.
In my memory feed, I saw some old photos of my children and dogs. I saw events and gatherings. I saw some quotes I shared. Then I saw a blocked post. A blocked post! The reason? It “goes against our community standards.” Community standards? What? This is the word of God. “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation” (NIV). This verse from Isaiah 12:2 was as important to me then as it is to me now. Such a powerful declaration, a memory that came on just the day when I needed to be reminded of it once again. But it doesn’t follow community standards. And what are the community standards? Safety, voice, and equity.
The Word of God will always convict the world. Though His Word is Truth and should be our plumb line in life, where we hold everything up to the True Standard—His standards, the world will always see this as folly. But these community standards speak of our God more than the world will ever know. When we find that there is no true safety from the dangers of this world, we find refuge in Him. We find salvation in Him. When we find that the voices of this world are often sharing lies and agendas and hate and destruction, we can rest in Him and trust Him. He is our strength and our defense. When the lies are spoken about us, He speaks over us His truth, His love, His grace. When the world seems like there is no fairness, no justice, no equality, we find that He so loved EVERYONE, that He sent His only Son to pay the ultimate price so that we ALL have the opportunity to come to Him, to be free, to be redeemed, to be healed, to live out a great inheritance as a child of God, a son or daughter of the God Most High. That despite the doings of the father of lies and our own sin and shortcomings, we can have a loving, eternal relationship with our Father. He is my safety, my voice, my equity.
And so today, even while the world has community standards and wants to block the truth and keep you from receiving all that God has for you, reach out to Him. Draw near to the One who is Hope. Cling to the One who is Peace. Rejoice in the One who is King. One day, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess—JESUS IS LORD!
“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” – Isaiah 12:2 [NIV]
Good Friday 2017
At about 9am, Jesus was nailed to the Cross.
At noon, darkness fell across the whole land.
At 3pm, Jesus died.
During the six hours that our Savior hung on the Cross, He spoke His last words.
- “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34]
Fulfilled Isaiah 53:12“Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
J.C. Ryle “While the blood of the greatest sacrifice started to flow, the greatest of all high priests started to intercede.”
The tense of the word “said” in this passage indicates that the Lord repeated this appeal. Not only did He pray for forgiveness for His enemies, but He even argued on their behalf. Basically saying let me give you a reason why you should forgive them.
Hebrews 7:25– “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
Isaiah 1:18– “”Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
Ephesians 1:7– “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”
- “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” [Luke 23:43]
When we suffer, we are consumed by ourselves and we forget everything else.
Jesus was focused on our forgiveness, our salvation.
He promises salvation to the one thief, who would that very day join Him in Paradise.
The thief only asked to be remembered. Our God provides in abundance. You won’t simply be remembered – you’re coming with Me!
Colossians 1:13-14– “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.”
Romans 10:9– “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
- “Woman, behold, your son!” / “Behold, your mother!” [John 19:26-27]
Fulfilled Luke 2:35“and a sword will pierce even your own soul– to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Mary found out what this truly meant.
John calls himself the disciple Jesus loves
He is the disciple who stays with Mary
He is the disciple who stays at the Cross
He is the disciple who is given responsibility for Mary
- “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” – “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” [Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34]
Fulfilled Isaiah 53:46 “But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.”
Quoted Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”
God could not look upon His Son while He bore all sin, as He is holy. At this one moment, Jesus was without the Father.
Because He was alone on the Cross, you NEVER have to be alone.
- “I am thirsty.” [John 19:28]
Fulfilled Psalm 69:21They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.
Hell is a place of thirst (Luke 16). When Jesus died on the Cross for us, He entered the darkness of hell for us and He thirsted.
This is the only time He is focused on His own physical needs
He’s quenching His thirst by drinking the cup God placed before Him (John 18:11– this is the cup God gave Him to drink)
John 4:34– “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”
By depleting Himself in death, Jesus would become a bountiful stream of living water
Isaiah 55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
John 4:14“But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
- “It is finished!” [John 19:30]
Servant – I have finished the work you gave me. The task assigned was completed the way the master wanted it to be done and when the master wanted it completed.
Artist – It is finished means the picture is complete
Galatians 4:4-5– “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeemthose who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Merchant – Debt is paid in full. The purchases made on layaway were paid. When the last payment is made, this was written on the receipt to note that the debt is fully paid.
Hebrews 10:12– “But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”
Priest – It is perfect– if they examined the sacrificial animal and it was faultless and acceptable for the offering
1 Peter 1:19– “but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
- “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” [Luke 23:46]
The final act of obedience
Prayer that Jewish mothers taught their children to say before bed
Quoted Psalm 31:5 “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.”
The Father’s protection àJesus was no longer in the hands of the sinners. He died confidently because He was in the Father’s hands.
The divine plan was not brought to completion according to the human limits of the human body, but according to the Son’s awareness that His mission had come to an end.
He did what only He could do. It was a loving, self-sacrifice.
John 10:18 “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
The Bible tells us to taste and see the Lord is good. This is one small step toward God, drawing near to Him to see Him with eyes opened. But it isn’t supposed to be a simple taste. Just as we don’t sit down at a full meal and simply taste a bite of food and walk away satisfied, so it is with our life with God.
Too many people take a small bite of the meal the Lord has prepared for them. Too many people are living life okay to have the assurance that they are saved because of their belief in Christ Jesus, yet the Lord has prepared so much more.
Are you missing the fullness of God because your relationship with Him was only about salvation? Are you not seeking the Lord’s face because you did not recognize His great desire to reveal Himself to you in a personal, intimate way? Are you living life on the breadcrumbs, and missing out on the power, the peace, the joy, the love that God has for you today?
Oh, taste and see, taste and see His goodness. Partake. Enjoy His presence. Rejoice in His provision. Thank Him for His great love. Drink deep of His mercy and grace. Consume His Word. Allow Him to have His way in every area of your life – blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” – Psalm 34:8 [ESV]
As I was preparing for a message on embracing God and embracing others, I considered the half hug. You all know the half hug. It is when you sort of hug someone, but do not truly hug the person. It’s a half hug. You have one arm around the person, but the other arm just dangles there. It’s like you almost embrace a person, but yet you don’t complete it. Some would even call this a fake hug.
I continued to be brought back to this half hug as I was preparing the message, and focusing on embracing God. Do we half hug God sometimes? Is that possible? Of course it is possible. Sadly, it is what most Christians do many times. Some compare this to having one foot in heaven and the rest of their body in the world. It’s when you are not all in when it comes to your walk with God. You believe in Jesus. You have been saved. Yet, you don’t have the close relationship that God always wanted since the creation of the earth.
When God created Adam and Eve, He walked with them. He wanted to have that kind of relationship with man. We all know sin damaged this relationship. But we also know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for a restoration of this relationship. The veil was torn. The Spirit was poured out upon believers. We can have that relationship again. The Bible tells us this truth. It’s awesome. Part of this relationship is described with the word abide. If we abide in Him, He abides in us. That sounds confusing but it’s simple. We abide (or remain) in Him, and He abides (remains) with us. How awesome?!? Understand there is no half abiding. The abiding is not to be a pick and choose type thing. You are either abiding or you are not abiding. Today, ask the Spirit to share with you where you currently are at, and if there is anything that is blocking your abiding in Him.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 [NLT]
Paul reminds Timothy to keep a close watch on himself—to watch his life and his teaching closely. In doing this, in staying true, in persevering, Paul says, “you will save both yourself and your hearers” (NIV).
We also need to keep a close watch on our life and our teaching. Our teaching should be something seen as we live our life. This means we should not teach one thing and then live another way. This means what we speak and teach to others, should be evident when we are going through the motions each day, when we are not simply intentionally sharing God’s truth to someone. The way we live our life each day teaches much more to observers than the words we speak.
Paul warns Timothy here to keep a close watch. The big issue is when we always teach and speak one way, but our life shows no evidence of living out the same teaching. Paul reminds us that this is of great importance. This is not only about our salvation, but the salvation of others. Why? If your teaching aligns with your life, people will want to listen and the seed may be planted for God to grow. If your teaching and life are very different, people will label you a hypocrite and close their ears to anything you say. We all fall short. We all have our good moments and our bad moments. There will be times when we do not live up to our teaching. No one is perfect. Even so, remember Paul’s warning. Keep a close watch.
“Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.” – 1 Timothy 4:16 [NLT]
The word grief is not one that brings joy to us. Grief is a word we use when we are mourning a loss. But Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 7, that there are different types of grief —godly grief and worldly grief. In verse 10, it says that “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
Everyone grieves at some point in life. In this chapter, Paul writes about how he caused the people sorrow from a previous letter (see verse 8). He was not sorry for causing the sorrow though because he understood the importance of sorrow. The sorrow resulted in repentance, repentance resulted in salvation. This is godly grief, otherwise known as godly regret. This is when we come to know the truth – when our sin is revealed to us. We have the option to grieve the godly way, with repentance that leads to salvation through faith, or to grieve in the worldly way.
Paul is clear about the worldly grief. The worldly grief is filled with despair and remorse. The worldly grief produces death. This is when you are faced with the truth and you have a sorrow that does not lead to repentance. This is when something you do wrong (sin) backfires and the sorrow you feel is only because you have faced consequences or did not get the result you desired. You are not sorrowful because you went against God. You do not repent. You only are upset, you only feel grief, because you didn’t get away with your sin.
I pray when you are faced with the revelation of sin in your life, that you suffer from godly grief—a grief that produces repentance that results in salvation. This is a grief that brings joy! Joy in the salvation of the Lord!
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” – 2 Corinthians 7:10 [ESV]
One of the ideas I often hear spoken is that we are “all children of God.” This is something that people say when they are trying to say everyone is equal. Yes, everyone is important. Yes, everyone is created by God. But not everyone is a child of God. This is a mistruth that sadly allows people to find comfort that keeps them from seeing true salvation.
The Bible says that the only people who are “children of God” are those who believe in Jesus Christ. If you refuse the Son, you refuse the Father. Bottom line. This is not me talking. This is the Word of God. We can sugar coat it to appease others, but we are only then loving them to hell.
Look around. There are people around you who are children of God, as the Bible defines, and there are those who do not know the Truth. Speak boldly today. Allow the Spirit to loosen your lips. Let people know that if they want to accept the free gift of Jesus Christ, it is available. When they make this step, they will be called a “child of God.” Thank the Lord that we can call out to God, “Abba Father” and He hears us and He recognizes us as His children. Thank you Jesus!
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” – John 1:12 [NASB]
“No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” 1 John 2:23 [ESV]
The woman at the well appeared surprised to be approached by Jesus as she was a Samaritan and Jews did not have relations with Samaritans. As the longest documented conversation Jesus had with anyone continued, Jesus tore down barriers as she focused on division.
For Jesus to approach her was unseen of at this time, not only because she was a Samaritan. He was a rabbi and a rabbi would not speak to a woman in public. He was sinless and she was a sinner. Barriers and more barriers. As the conversation continued, the barriers can be seen again and again. She was focused on physical human limitations. She was focused on her physical needs, on what would make her life easier. When Jesus mentioned her living arrangements, rather than address the sin she switched the subject. She again put up a barrier. She addressed religion when Jesus addresses relationship.
Each of us have a choice to have a relationship with Jesus Christ or to focus on something or someone else. We can put up barriers again and again. Jesus still reaches across the barriers and invites us to do life with Him. Today evaluate your life and look for any barriers you might have that keep you from your walk with Jesus. Are you drowning in sin? Are you following God’s will? These items are barriers to your relationship with Jesus. Are you spending time each day in the Word? Do you pray daily? Do you listen to the Holy Spirit? Are you serving? Are you actively involved with a church? These items are bridges that bring you closer to Him. You can build up barriers or build up bridges. Choose life.
“For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach–if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.” – Colossians 1:19-23 [NASB]