Tag Archives: Jesus

A New Identity

Genesis 31-34

Why did the angel ask Jacob his name before blessing him? He was an angel so I imagine he knew who he’d been wrestling with all night. I believe there is a lesson in the question.

Fast forward a few thousand years. Jesus is in the middle of His short ministry as a human on Earth. He healed thousands. He forgave sins.

Take Bartimaeus for example. He was obviously blind, yet Jesus asked him to state his request. To the paralytic at the pool Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well?” When a woman touched the hem of his garment, Jesus demanded she identify herself.

Do you see the pattern? Very often in Scripture, we see Jesus requiring people to state their need. Say the words. We see the necessity of confession. It’s not so God is informed of our need. It’s so we know exactly what we need, admit it, and go to the only one who can meet it.

Here in Genesis we see Jacob wrestling with God. Who hasn’t, right? We know what is right, but we want to have our own way instead. A battle ensues. It’s a tug-of-war until we do what? Admit our sin and allow God to change our wants to His.

In my experience – and in Jacob’s – God won’t bless until I confess. When the angel asked Jacob his name, he had to reply: “I’m the deceiver, the holder of the heel, the supplanter.” That’s what his name meant. And we know Jacob had lived up to his name.

Jacob had to admit who he had been before God could give him a new name: Israel. According to the Abarim Publications, Israel means “He retains God,” or “God is upright.” Jacob’s new name reflected God. His new identity honored God.

Jacob received a new beginning, as do all of us who confess our sins and allow God to forgive us and give us new life. Jacob had lived for himself and had committed sins to fulfill his own desires. God was giving him a chance to turn that all around, to live for God and make choices that fulfilled God’s desires for him. That’s awesome!

May that be true in all of us. Some people think they are Christians because they go to church and live good lives. That’s not true. Being a Christian involves a change of heart, saying the words, admitting guilt. And receiving God’s amazing grace.

If God has laid a finger on any sin, if you (or I) are wrestling with that sin, hear God ask “What is your name? What do you want me to do for you?” Then confess. Repent. Be forgiven, and receive a new beginning!

Heaven

John’s Revelation

Think about it: God will wipe away our tears. No more night. No more heartache and sin. No more cares and worries, sickness or death. And we we look upon the One who loves us with a love we cannot fathom right now.

I don’t know if there will be a thousand calendar years before we enjoy our eternal home. It doesn’t really matter if John’s revelation has a material interpretation or whether it is meant to be interpreted spiritually. This book, to me, is about hope.

It’s about redemption. It’s about Jesus and the fact that one day I will be in His Presence! I’ll look into those eyes, study that face, see those nail prints in His hands and know at last I am home.

I have no doubt about that. I know it is a fact because I have died, and God raised me to new life in Him. How? I admitted my sins and repented of them from a humble heart in need of a Savior. I’ve accepted the redeeming work of Jesus, His death and resurrection, and I know I can stand before the Holy God without fear because Jesus paid my death penalty and placed His holiness on me. It wasn’t my doing. It’s all Jesus.

Tomorrow marks a New Year, a new beginning for many. I pray that you will welcome in 2023 with Jesus, your Savior, at your side and in your heart. I pray that you will grow a relationship with Him by reading His Word every day, praying every day, resisting Satan every day.

Who knows if the ball will drop on 2024? It may, or may not. Reading God’s Word reminds me when Jesus returns (and He will) it will be too late to change your mind, too late to repent of sin and accept the Savior. Too late.

There is a heaven for God’s followers. And there is a hell for anyone who hasn’t accepted God’s saving grace.

Choose Jesus. And have a blessed 2023 as His precious child.

It’s Not Their Fault

1 John 1-2

I hope you’ll read John’s introduction to this letter. You can feel his love for Jesus, and his desire for you to love Him, too. John saw Jesus, the Creator God, with his own eyes, touched the flesh and blood body of Jesus, and knew for certain that Jesus is the Word of life!

Then John says this:

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. (1:5)

At all.

We can look at what is happening in our world and recognize the darkness. John told us that people love darkness rather than light. Why? Because their deeds are evil. (John 3:19)

Today, they don’t even hide their sin in the darkness. It’s out in the open, in our government, on our phones, and forced on innocent children. It is out of control. The world is corrupt. Satan is on a roll.

Is it because Satan is getting stronger against God? Or is it something else? I think John has the answer there in 1 John 1:5. There is no darkness in God, only light.

You understand darkness NEVER wins over light, don’t you? Where there is light, there cannot be darkness. Not in your living room, not in your hearts, and not in the world. But there’s a problem.

So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness, we are not practicing the truth. (verse 6)

Jesus told us that we are the light of the world,

A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glory your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

And there you have it.

The world isn’t getting worse because sin is winning. It’s getting worse because Christians aren’t shining the Light, not exposing sin, not showing sinners the way into the Light through the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

John goes on to say all of us need to admit our sin, repent of it and accept God’s forgiveness and cleansing.

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. (2:6)

So the fault of our world’s sinful condition does not lie on the shoulders of sinful people. It lies squarely on believers who have stopped shining the Light of Truth. It falls on Christians who want to blend in with the world and wonder why the world doesn’t recognize the light in us.

Darkness isn’t winning. Christians have just stopped living in the Light.

Next time you lament over the increasing darkness in the world remember:

Darkness CANNOT exist where Light is.

The question is: what are you doing with the Light you’ve received?

For The Sake of Christ

Hebrews 11:24-28

The other day in Good News Club, one of the children asked if Old Testament people went to heaven since they lived before Jesus went to the cross. I said, “Yes. They had to believe in Jesus just like we do, only they called Him the Messiah. they didn’t know His name. But if they put their in faith in God to keep His promise, they went to heaven.”

Then today I read Hebrews 11 and, maybe I’ve seen it before, but Scripture actually says Moses not only believed in Christ, he gave up the treasures of being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter to suffer for the sake of Christ. And that was thousands of years before Jesus was born!

Jesus! The baby whose birth the whole world is celebrating this weekend.

Jesus! The real flesh and blood Son of God who went to the cross to redeem us all.

Jesus! Our Savior who lives in heaven preparing a place for all of us who believe.

Jesus didn’t become the Savior. He was always the Savior. And there is no other name anywhere that will bring us to the Father. People have been putting their faith in Jesus since the beginning of time.

Have you?

The Wealth of Godliness

1 Timothy 6

True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. (verse 6)

Can you have godliness without contentment? I doubt it. But you can go through the motions of godly living and be miserable.

Paul speaks of people who make a show of godliness, believing it is a way to become wealthy. He says their minds are corrupt and they have turned their backs on the truth. (6:5) That’s serious.

I believe first of all, Scripture tells us a truly godly person will have the mind of Christ, who didn’t cling to the riches of heaven, but instead chose to become a human being, to live and die for sinful man. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus’ example of godly living was love, compassion, purity, hating sin, and doing everything to reveal the glory of God. (John 1:14)

A truly godly person wears, not his own righteousness, but the righteousness of Jesus through the cleansing blood of the Savior. (Ephesians 4:23-5:2)

A truly godly person learns to be content in every situation: wealth or poverty, health or illness, life or death. (Philippians 4:11-18)

After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. (1 Timothy 6:7)

Paul gives a warning to those who pretend to be godly in order to get some windfall, some check in the mail, or win the lottery:

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (6:9-10)

So, if not money, what is this great wealth Paul insists comes from true godliness?

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control.

You can’t buy those things even with a Trump or Musk bank account.

The great wealth from true godly living is the very Presence of God in this life and in eternity. It’s hope. It’s forgiveness. It’s Jesus!

“Well, that doesn’t pay the bills now, does it?” you might argue.

Why do you think God should pay your bills? Scripture has a lot to say about working and having a good work ethic. But that’s not what Paul is talking about here in his letter to Timothy. Paul is talking about people who want more than simply having their needs met.

Paul is talking about priorities. Why do you follow Jesus?

Paul is talking about what is truly important, eternally important. And Scripture tells us nothing is more important than your relationship with your Savior.

Are you in it for the money? There’s a health and wealth gospel that says you can have it, and have it abundantly if you go through the motions of godly living. But Paul is here to tell you that’s going to plunge you into ruin and destruction.

My prayer is that you will choose Jesus for who He is, not for your bank account. Choose Jesus for the riches of Himself, today and forever. There is absolutely nothing that compares to the wealth of godliness.

The Beginning

Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19

The people watching the crucifixion thought Jesus was stuck up there, unable to save Himself. What they refused to see was God choosing to stay on the cross so He could save them.

The proof that Jesus is God, the perfect, spotless Lamb sacrificed to redeem sinners, is in the fact that He didn’t come down off that cross. He died in order to pay our death sentence, and that of the very people who hung Him there.

When you read the crucifixion account in all the four Gospels, the beatings, the mocking, His mother and John, the soldiers, His words, the thieves, the darkness, the curtain, the prophecies fulfilled that day, you are reading about the King not defeated – victorious!

His enemies thought this was the end of HIm. But it was just the beginning!

What It Cost

Matthew 26; Mark 14

Do those of you who have lost loved ones to cancer or some other slow progressing and painful disease like to recall those moments when the pain was its worst? Do you enjoy remembering those nights when the pain was so intense that no amount of morphine seemed to help, when the slightest touch or movement caused a whimper? Do you like remembering those sleepless nights when there was just no comfortable position to lie? And do you remember that feeling of helplessness, the realization your loved one had to go it alone and there was nothing you could do to change that?

You knew they didn’t deserve what was happening. And watching them suffer hurt you, too.

That’s kind of how I feel reading about what happened to my dear Jesus on the night He was arrested. It hurts me to read about his beatings, knowing it was much worse than the words convey.

He didn’t deserve all that. Yet He stood there and took it, for love of me. I will never know this side of heaven what really happened that night, what it cost Jesus to go to the cross.

And, sadly, sometimes I don’t give it a thought. That careless word I said, that unkind thought, the lie, or the laziness, all cost Jesus a night of horror and pain, beginning with the sham of a trial, and the relentless beatings he endured, to the agonizing hours hanging on the cross. I can’t feel good about that.

But I am so grateful. I am overwhelmed by His love. It’s hard to remember what He went through. But I’m glad God inspired the account to be included in His Word. I don’t want to forget. I want my life to honor what He did that night on the way to the cross where He died for love of me.

Jesus’ Prayer For Us

John 17:20-24

Jesus prayed for us. Not in general terms, He prayed specifically for the following:

  1. That we will be one in the Lord
  2. That our oneness would speak to the world that they might believe in Jesus
  3. That our unity would perfectly show God’s love to the world
  4. That we will be with Him where He is
  5. That we would reveal the glory of God.

You know what He didn’t pray for? Hefty bank accounts, healthy bodies, happiness, easy living, speaking in tongues, miracles, popularity…

He prayed that you and I will be united with Him to continue His ministry of saving lost souls, introducing sinners to their Savior.

Earlier He had told the disciples that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one – NO ONE – can go to the Father except through Jesus. Then Jesus prayed that you and will pass that Truth on.

One of the last things Jesus did in His human body was to pray for you and me. Are you as blown away by that as I am? Let’s be the answer to His prayer by uniting with Him and each other, the Church, and demonstrating to the world what being united with Christ looks like. And let’s not grow tired of speaking the Truth in love, so that lost souls can be found, sinners can be saved.

To the glory of God!

The Second Greatest Commandment (it might not mean what you think)

Matthew 22-23; Mark 12

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied: Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.

However, the modern church has seemed to skip over that and rushed to what Jesus called the second greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Our churches are so full of love, they’ve neglected to understand God’s love. We’ve come to believe love is the same as acceptance, tolerance, respect. But is that godly love?

I challenge you to read Matthew 23:13-36 and point out one loving thing Jesus said to the teachers. Is it that he repeatedly called them hypocrites? Or that they are sending people to hell? That they are blind guides, or that they are ignoring the most important aspects of the Law? He called them white-washed tombs. Is that your definition of love?

Well, that’s God’s definition of love. As harsh as Jesus’ words to the pharisees, it’s all about love. Love enough to point out sin – not tolerate it. Love enough to point out their misguided religious beliefs – not accept them. Love enough to call them what they were without worrying about disrespecting them.

Jesus got in their faces. Why? Because He loved them.

If the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, then we must also adopt God’s definition of love. His love sent Him to the cross. I’m worried my love might hurt someone’s feelings. That’s not God’s kind of love.

If I love God sincerely with all my heart, soul, and mind, I can’t help but shout out a warning to people who are rushing to hell, people for whom Jesus died to save.

YOU ARE A SINNER. YOUR BELIEFS ARE WRONG. YOU NEED JESUS. BELIEVING YOU HAVE YOUR OWN TRUTH IS BELIEVING A LIE. YOU CAN’T CHOOSE YOUR GENDER. YOU AREN’T GOOD AND CAPABLE AND WORTHY. YOU ARE A WORM FOR WHOM JESUS DIED TO SAVE. AND UNLESS YOU COME TO GOD ON HIS TERMS, YOU WILL GO TO HELL.

Does that offend you? Hurt your feeling? Make you angry? I love you enough to tell you I don’t care. I care more that you hear the warning and turn to God. I care more that you offer yourself to God and receive what He longs to give you.

If I simply love my neighbor with a love I manufacture, I could easily tolerate, accept, and respect your sin and wrong ideology. But because I love God with all that I am, I can’t do that. Because of that love I am begging you to know Him according to Scripture and through the blood of His Son. There is simply no other way.

I’m praying for you today.

I Guess That Depends

Luke 17:20-18:8

As our world continues its rapid downward spiral into sin and insanity, we Christians look toward the sky, expecting, hoping to hear that trumpet and see our Savior descend once again, this time to take us home. We see the signs and believe it could happen any minute.

But it could be another 10,000 years. Only God knows when life on earth will cease to exist. So what do we do in the mean time?

Jesus used the examples of Noah and Lot to remind us that the people in those days were living life; parties and weddings, eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building until they weren’t. They were doing their thing until God came and judged their sin, found them guilty, and demanded the death penalty they deserved.

But there was a difference. The people in Noah’s day heard the Truth and rejected it. They died in the flood. The Ninevites heard the Truth and accepted it, repented, and were spared.

Jesus tells us that, much like those examples, “it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”

It won’t be just sinners living life as usual. Christians will be doing the same. So what does ‘life as usual’ look like for you? Parties and weddings, eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building?

Of course. All of that is part of living this life. But shouldn’t we all be the Noahs and Jonahs of our time, too? As we go through our day, meeting our responsibilities, enjoying our blessings, shouldn’t we also be the ones shouting out the warning? THE END IS NEAR!

Very few people alive today will still around 100 years from now, a fraction of a millisecond in eternity. The end for all of us is near whether Jesus returns today or tarries another millennium.

Jesus clearly states that when we die we will face the Judge who will bring perfect justice to everyone. Our fate is sealed the moment we take our last breath, depending on our acceptance or rejection of Jesus in this life.

Christian, do you believe that? Then what are you doing in these last days to warn the people around you?

When the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?

I guess that depends on how many people hear and accept the warning from me and you.