Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Waiting for the Promise

I have a confession to make. I don’t like to wait, but waiting is a part of life. When I was I child, waiting for Christmas seemed like an eternity. As time progressed, I couldn’t wait to become a teen, and then an adult, but I had to wait. Driving to visit my family on the busiest travel day of the year we found ourselves waiting in traffic. Whenever I checkout at the store, I have a tendency to pick the slowest moving line, and so I wait. When I go to Starbucks, all I want is a plain old cup of black coffee, but I have to wait for the woman who wants a Venti, sugar-free, non-fat, vanilla soy, double shot latte, no foam, extra hot, Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with light whip and extra syrup, double cupped. And so I’m learning to wait.

In the Garden of Eden, God made a promise to Adam and Eve after they sinned against Him. He promised to send a Redeemer who would crush Satan, but the world had to wait thousands of years for the promise to come to fruition.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15

Two thousand years later, there lived a man named Abraham. God asked him to leave his country and his kinfolk and go to a foreign land that God would show him. He obeys and God makes a promise to Abraham.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3

All the people on earth would be blessed through the coming Messiah who would descend from Abraham. But it all began with one child of promise. God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, but they waited twenty five years for Isaac to be born. 

The nation of Israel began with Abraham and one of his best known descendants was King David. When the prophet Samuel anointed David to be the next king, David still had to wait. He waited over 15 years before he would take the throne of Israel. And several years later God makes this promise to David.

The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:11-13

That last phrase refers to the promised Messiah but Israel waited another thousand years before He came. Three hundred years after King David, God raised up the prophet Isaiah. This promise came through the prophet.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

The virgin birth is important. We’re all born with a sin nature because of Adam and Eve. In order for God to take on flesh and blood without the sin nature, he bypassed the earthly father. The child in Mary’s womb was miraculously conceived by Holy Spirit. Therefore, Jesus was able to live a sinless life and become the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God.

After the prophecy of Isaiah, Israel still had to wait seven hundred more years for the coming of Messiah. And many didn’t even recognize Him when He came. They didn’t realize that He would first come to suffer and die and at His second coming He would establish His earthly kingdom. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  Many failed to recognize that the promised one is Jesus.

In his gospel record, Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Abraham.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Matthew 1:1

And so after the world waited over four thousand years, the promised Messiah came to earth to save His people from their sins. Jesus the Christ lived a sinless life, was crucified, died and on the third day He rose again victorious over the grave, death and hell.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12 

Those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord are now children of God. Jesus promised to return, and so we wait. For two thousand years we’ve been waiting for His promised return.  

God’s timetable is not the same as ours. One day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day to the Lord. So from His perspective, Jesus has only been gone for a couple of days! Peter encourages our hearts and reminds us why Jesus has not returned yet.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient and merciful toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No Condemnation



We are born “in Adam”, under the dominion of sin and death. As children of Adam, God has found us all guilty of sin. God is just and He had to pass judgment on our sin and the sentence is death. Without an advocate, we are on death row, condemned to die, physically and spiritually.

The good news is we have an advocate who pleads our case before God the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He the lawyer who represents our case before God, and He was willing to serve our death sentence so we can be set free. 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2

"No condemnation" means that God will never condemn you to Hell because you are "in Christ”. Jesus paid the penalty of our sins as our Substitute. We have been acquitted, declared not guilty, made righteous through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4

The law is holy, righteous and good because it came from a holy, righteous and good God, who is perfect and just in everything He does. But the law can’t save us. The law can't transform us. It can’t bring us into a right relationship with God. So God did what the law cannot do. He stepped in to save the day.

Our salvation is completely from God. He is the one who offers us the free gift of eternal life. He is the One who sent His Son into the world. Our salvation is totally dependent on the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. It’s not a cooperative venture.

Our freedom from condemnation only comes through Jesus. He obeyed the Father’s will completely. He showed us what the Father is like. He was the exact representation of God right here on earth. He was tempted in all points just like us, yet He never sinned. He fulfilled the law, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 

Jesus delivered us from the power of sin through His death but daily deliverance from sin is not automatic. It only happens when you allow the Holy Spirit to control your life. God’s righteousness is fulfilled in us when we walk according to the Spirit. Walking in the flesh means allowing your sinful nature to control your life. Walking in the Spirit means living in submission to the Holy Spirit of God.

If you're not a follower of Jesus, you're still in Adam. You are under a death sentence and when you stand before God you will be declared guilty and deserving of eternal punishment. The only hope is to turn your life over to Jesus.

But if you are in Christ you have been delivered from the dominion of darkness and now are part of the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. You have been acquitted, justified, declared not guilty before God because you are trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your salvation. You have been given new life through Christ and your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rejoice in Suffering



We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Peace with God is achieved when Jesus Christ is received. We have been justified by faith we have access into His grace and we rejoice in the hope of eternal life with God. But how should we react to the difficulties of life? We can still have joy even in the midst of our sufferings.

Just because we are justified by faith, that does not excuse us from the trials of life.  Jesus said, “In this world you shall have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Moses wrote, "Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away." Psalm 90:10 

In this life we have afflictions, chronic pain, emotional distress, suffering, heartache, financial trouble, loneliness, debilitating diseases, marriage and family problems, sickness, grief. But for believers in Christ, trials work for us and not against us. God allows trials to make us better, not bitter. Our trials are designed to bring us closer to God and make us more like Jesus.

Paul says we can rejoice in our sufferings. Consider what he endured.

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:24-28

Yet he could rejoice in his sufferings because understood the reason why.

Suffering produces endurance; the ability to stand up under difficulties without caving in. But you have to suffer to develop endurance. Just like a runner who stresses his body to develop endurance. Suffering is just part of the Christian life. God knows how much tribulation we can take, so He carefully measures the suffering we face.

Endurance produces proven character. It is a quality of confidence that comes through an experience. You’ve probably seen sports teams that do great during the regular season but when they get to the playoffs play poorly because they’ve never been in that position before. But a team that has been tested with playoff experience has fewer jitters. They perform well because they have been there before. But without the first step the second step won’t happen. When you focus on God in the midst of your suffering you will develop endurance, and that endurance deepens your character. You will be tried, tested and approved by God.

Then proven character produces hope. It gives you a stronger assurance and confidence that God will give you the power, strength and encouragement to see you through what trial you face.

Suffering drives us to the one place where we can find real hope, real confidence and real certainty, God. We can boast in the hope that comes from God. When people look at you and wonder how you can get through the trials of life, you can boast that my hope comes from the Lord and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

All of us want to develop proven character and have more hope. Those qualities spring out of endurance, which comes through suffering. If it were up to me, I would prefer that God just sprinkle some endurance and character and hope on me while I’m sleeping at night. I could wake up and be a much more spiritual man! But that’s not the way God works.

And hope does not disappoint. The hope that suffering builds in us is a hope that won’t be disappointed. Our hope is centered on God’s promises and they will always be fulfilled. Our hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

The way God works in us produces a domino effect. Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

What are you suffering through? Grief, chronic pain, emotional distress, heartache, financial trouble, loneliness, debilitating diseases, marriage and family problems, sickness? How are you going to deal with it? Remember, our present troubles are small, they only come when necessary and they won’t last for long.

The more you endure, the greater the blessing. So, don’t complain because you have to suffer. Our complaining doesn’t honor God and it thwarts what He is trying to accomplish in your life. Godly character can only be developed through struggle. The trials, the tests, the pain, the suffering, and difficulties only prove to make us stronger.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:2

We can praise God in the midst of the storm because we know that the end result is something good. Our trials work for us and not against us. Our trials are designed to bring us closer to God and make us more like Jesus.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Feed my lambs

When Jesus was arrested the night before His crucifixion, Peter followed behind at a safe distance. Although he boasted that he would never desert the Lord; that night he denied three times that he even knew Jesus. After Jesus had risen from the dead, He and Peter had some face time.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. John 21:15-17

Jesus restored a repentant Peter to fellowship. He also commissioned Him to tend His flock, to feed his lambs and sheep. After Jesus ascended to heaven, a transformed Peter powerfully preached the very first gospel message on the day of Pentecost. He became a strong leader in the first mega-church. 

I find it interesting that God calls his followers sheep. Sheep are ignorant and defenseless and they need the protection and guidance of the shepherd. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." And that’s exactly what He did for us. Now He has gifted pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. The lambs and the sheep need feeding and leading and that is the task of the spiritual shepherd. What an awesome responsibility! 

Our adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. He wants to destroy the shepherd and the flock. Unfortunately, too many pastors have been defeated spiritually, physically or emotionally.

There are times when shepherds feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated. Some grow tired and weary and regrettably give up the fight all too soon. Peter learned what it was like to shepherd the flock and he wrote these verses to encourage all of God’s under-shepherds who would follow in his footsteps.  

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1 Peter 5:1-4



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Resurrection Day

One of the things I love about this time of year is how various colors emerge as nature resurrects from its winter death sentence. This is also the time of year when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. With remarkable accuracy, Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old Testaments prophecies concerning his life, death, burial and resurrection. Here's the account from the Gospel of John...

Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and that He had said these things to her. So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. John 20 11-20

Not only did Jesus appear to his immediate disciples after His resurrection but He also appeared to over 500 of his followers! At the time the apostle Paul wrote about this fact many of the witnesses were still alive who would corroborate his story. Paul himself persecuted Christians until Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, years after His ascension to heaven. Here is how Paul describes the good news about Jesus death, burial and resurrection...

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

I believe these things by faith, but still there are many skeptics today. However many agnostics and atheists like Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell took the initiative to actually study the claims of Christ. The overwhelming evidence lead them to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Even Josephus the 1st century historian attests to evidence of Jesus' resurrection...

" ... About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and as a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared." Josephus' Testimonium Flavianum, from Antiquities of the Jews 18:63-64

The Gospel of John closes with the reason for his writing. His purpose in writing his gospel is that you will be presented with the factual truth about Jesus and hopefully come to believe his claims. We who believe in Him have hope beyond the grave... because He rose from the dead, so shall we!

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What's Good about Good Friday?

I stand amazed at the great lengths God would go to just to save us. You might say, "Why do I need to be saved? What am I being saved from?" It all goes back to the Garden of Eden. The story is found in the Book of Genesis. God created Adam and Eve and gave them simple instructions which ultimately they disobeyed. God had warned them that their disobedience would result in death. They chose to listen to the temptation of Satan rather than the clear command of God. The result was their banishment from the Garden, eventual physical death and separation from God. However God promised that he would provide a way of reconciliation for them. Since we all descended from Adam and Eve, the same curse is upon us, we're born, we die and without God's intervention we would be eternally separated from him in a place of torment...fire and brimstone.

God says we are all born as sinners. Some will readily admit to being sinners but others believe we are basically good. The problem is that we have the wrong standard. We think we're good because we're not as bad as others who may be drunks, murderers or thieves. God is the one who sets the standard and His standard is nothing short of perfection. "...For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood." Romans 3:23-25

I don't understand why God loves mankind but I'm just glad that He does. He loves us so much that He provided a way of escape from eternal punishment. If we accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and allow Him to have control of our lives, we can become righteous in God's eyes. "...When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Romans 3:6-8

I'm currently reading through the Gospels as we approach Resurrection Day. It's good to be reminded of the price that Jesus paid to redeem us from the penalty of our sin. The cross can be minimized to jewelry or clothing adornment but it was the most brutal form of execution ever known to man. But God decided this would be the method by which Jesus would willingly give up His life. "... Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face." "...So they took Jesus away. Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull. There they nailed him to the cross." John 19:1-3,17


That's what makes Good Friday "good". Jesus suffered the ignominious death on the cross but it was "good" for us because He became the substitute on our behalf. God poured out His just and holy wrath on His own Son, whom He had made to be the very embodiment of sin. You just need to believe it and receive Christ by faith. Good Friday can be good for you too when you become a follower of Jesus Christ.  

"For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ." 2 Corinthians 5:21

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Life is Short



On February 3, 2014, my beautiful daughter Jessica went home to be with Jesus. She valiantly fought leukemia for the past 5 years. She left a gaping hole that only God can fill.

We don’t always understand why God allows certain things to occur, but whatever happens we know that we can trust Him. One good thing is she no longer has to suffer. Through Jessica’s death, the Lord gave me the opportunity to share the gospel and he used to occasion to restore some strained relationships. 


Death is an unwelcome intruder. It’s like an alien invader. When God created the first man and woman, they were made to be immortal. Death wasn’t part of the equation. They had been warned not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because that would bring death in the world.


The serpent deceived them into believing that God was holding out on them (same tactic he uses today). They fell into Satan’s snare and the world was cursed with the plague of death.


The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90

It is wise to live in light of the fact, life is short. 


Whenever I perform a funeral, I am reminded again of the brevity of our time here on earth. Death has a way of putting things into perspective. It forces us to think about our own mortality. When you’re young time seems to move so slowly and as we grow older, time seems to fly by. When I was young, 70 or 80 years seemed like an eternity but these days 70 doesn’t seem that far away. And here’s the thing, you don’t even know if you’ll make it to 70. Jessica was only 28 years old.


Seniors die, adults die, teens die, children die, even babies die. You don’t expect to bury your children, but it happens. We never know when that unwelcome intruder will come.  

“There is a time appointed unto man to die, and after death comes judgment.” Hebrews 9:27. 

That’s one appointment that you won’t break and you don’t know when your day will come.



O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Psalm 39:4-5


We need to prepare to meet God so that whenever that appointment with death comes we are ready to meet him. Only you can honestly answer this question, "Are you ready to meet Him?"