Tag Archives: the Gospel

November 10: Ask Me

Matthew 28:11-20; Luke 24:13-53; John 20:19-22:25

I get that some people have trouble believing Jesus was raised from the dead. I mean, His disciples had trouble believing it, and Jesus was standing right in front of them with nail-pierced hands. The truth is, however, Jesus is alive.

There’s an old hymn we used to sing. “He lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along the narrow way. He lives salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!”

I love that old hymn. But as I read this part of Scripture today I realize it’s not just knowing Jesus lives in my heart. I believe He lives because the Bible tells me He lives.

He’s not just a spirit in my heart (although that is pretty awesome in itself). He’s a living person with a real body who actually lives in heaven. He’s as real as you and me.

You ask me how I know that? Because I know Him personally; first through the pages of God’s Word, then through the precious blood of Jesus. He does walk with me, and He speaks to me from Scripture, He is my ever present help in time of need, and the One I want to share my day with.

Ask me about Jesus. I serve a risen Savior.

November 8; Zero Balance

Mark 15:22-41; Matthew 27:33-56; Luke 23:33-49; John 19:17-37

The cross. The place where criminals died a slow and painful death. The place of humiliation and disgrace. The place where Satan and the Jewish leaders thought they could get rid of Jesus.

But it was on the cross where Jesus, though sinless, became sin for me. It’s where Jesus paid my death sentence. It is finished. Paid in full. Zero balance.

I remember when I first started teaching in the early 70’s, making a whopping $3,500 a year, there were months when I was unable to pay all my bills. I dreaded getting mail because there was always an envelope with a notice inside threatening to turn off my power or turn my account over to a collection agency.

I hated answering the phone. Remember, it was way before caller ID so you never knew who you were going to be forced to speak with when you answered. And sometimes there were very unfriendly voices on the line telling me I needed to pay my bills or else.

They weren’t wrong. I owed them money. They had every right to demand payment. I just didn’t have the means to pay them.

I was reminded of that today as I considered what Jesus did for me on the cross. He paid what I could not pay. He satisfied my debt so that I need never fear God or dread His presence.

My sin debt, and believe me it was sizable, was something I had no means of paying. But Jesus took my debt, became my sin, and paid it all. I am debt-free because of the cross.

When God looks at the ledger of my life, He only sees a zero balance! I am so thankful for the cross!

October 28; Perfectly Centered

Mark 11:27-12:17; Matthew 21:23-22:22; Luke 20:1-26

Jesus is the Cornerstone, the One on whom the Church is built. There is so much in just that one statement!

My sister was at a Bible study recently where the pastor, filling in for the regular teacher, shared that he and his teenage son had recently built a retaining wall together. Dad showed son step by step what needed to be done.

They put the first stone down and the dad showed the boy how to read the level. When the bubble in the level was perfectly centered, they were ready to move on to the next stone. After wiggling and tapping the second stone until the level was perfectly centered when resting on both the first and second stones, they were ready for stone #3. The bubble needed to be perfectly centered when on it and the already level second stone before they could lay a fourth stone, and so on and so on and so on.

Eventually the dad put the boy in charge of the level, and the wall went up. With each stone, the dad would ask, “Is it level?” When the boy could assure Dad it was, they went on to the next stone. They worked together for quite some time. But around the third layer, the dad realized something was wrong. He measured and found the wall was already several inches off.

How could that happen? The boy assured his dad the bubble was always in the center for every stone. “Show me,” Dad said.

Have you ever used a level? That bubble changes position when the difference on the surface in imperceptible. Is it in the center if it touches the left line, but doesn’t go over it? Is it in the center if it favors the right line a fraction of an inch? The boy found out that mostly centered is not centered.

Being perfectly centered is an exact spot, not an area. The father and son had to remove all the stones, until they got back to the cornerstone, in order to build their wall.

Are you with me? How many infinitesimal deviations has the Church made away from the Cornerstone over the last 2,000 years? What will it take to get back to the Cornerstone? Is there damage we need to correct?

I can think of so many examples. But one has come to the forefront. And that is what I believe to be more than an infinitesimal shift from our Cornerstone. The Church seems to have decided to make the Gospel a bit more palatable, a bit easier to swallow. You never hear a “hellfire and brimstone” sermon any more. Why? Because that kind of preaching puts people off.

There are churches that refuse to use the word “sin” because it offends. We want people to see Jesus as love, to make worship of Him emotional and entertaining. But is that what you see when you go back to the Cornerstone?

Listen to what Jesus said about the Cornerstone: He who falls on the stone will be broken, but the one on whom it falls will be crushed. (Matthew 21:44, Luke 20:18)

A person, face to face with the awfulness of his sin, should be broken! Repentance isn’t comfortable or pleasant. It’s like throwing yourself onto a boulder. It hurts. It breaks our old self into pieces.

But Jesus warns, waiting until that Stone falls results in a final crushing from which there is no recovery.

Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Church, but He is also the Cornerstone of my life. When I put the level of His Holy Word on my life – is it perfectly centered? Or am I off just a tiny little bit?

I want to be perfectly centered. I want to use God’s Word as my level, and line myself up with the Cornerstone according to Scripture. I’m not looking for a comfortable relationship with Jesus. I want to be broken when I deviate from His Holiness. I want conviction to tap me into position. Because if I allow that level just a bit of leeway, it’s not going to correct itself down the road.

Because almost centered is not perfectly centered.

 

 

October 23; The Truth Will Set You Free

John 7:53-9:34

If you know someone who is unsure whether or not Jesus is really God, point them to these passages in John. Because not only does Jesus repeat the Truth, He demonstrates that Truth in amazing fashion.

Jesus told the Jews that His testimony is true because He stands with the Father who sent Him. He told them He is not from this world, but from above. They asked Him, “Who are you?” and his reply was, “Just what I’ve been claiming to be all along.”

He even told them He not only knew their father Abraham, He existed even before Abraham was born. Then He used the words, “I AM,” which really got the Jews’ attention. That was the name God gave Himself in the Old Testament.

I hope you’ll read these verses in John today. There is so much here!

Jesus told the Jews if they hold to His teaching, they “will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” God’s Truth is not subjective or fluid. God’s Truth is Jesus; the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is Jesus only who is able to set anyone free from the chains of sin. And, friend don’t kid yourself. If you are living with sin, you are a slave to that sin. That’s the truth.

But holding to Jesus’ teaching, believing He is who He says He is, and accepting the forgiveness of your sin, is so freeing! Have you experienced it? It is life-changing.

Sometimes I think we talk ourselves out of sharing our salvation experience because either we think it wasn’t dramatic enough, or we just wouldn’t know what to say. I love what the man born blind said to the Jewish leaders after Jesus gave him his sight. They were pressuring the man for details, looking for something they could pin on Jesus to get rid of him.

“How did he heal you?” they asked.

“He put mud on my eyes. I washed. And now I see.”

“Impossible,” they insist. “Don’t give credit to Jesus. He’s no better than any of us. He’s a sinner like everyone else.”

Then the healed man said something so profound: “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see.”

Period.

Friend, there is only one Truth that can set anyone free. His name is Jesus. You might not be able to explain the “how” He saved you. But if you know He did, that’s all you need to know. Tell it.

People couldn’t help but notice the change in the man who had never seen a day in his life. It was obvious something had happened. He could see!

And people will see a change in you, too, when God takes up residence in your life. It will be as obvious as a seeing blind man. And when they ask you how, it’s ok to say, “I don’t know. One thing I do know, I asked Him to forgive me, and He did.”

“Once I was lost, now I am found. Once I was blind, now I see. Once I was dead, now I am alive. Once I was a slave to sin. Now I am free.”

That Truth, dear one; the Truth that is Jesus Christ, and only that Truth will set you free, too.

 

 

 

October 19; Sounds Like A Plan

Luke 10:21-24, 38-11:13, 27-12:21; Matthew 11:25-30

I read Luke 10:22 and Matthew 11:27 and understand why there are those who believe God is selective about which individuals are chosen for salvation, and which are chosen for hell. But God’s Word is more than a verse.

In the context here, Jesus is talking about wise men and children; the fact that God’s plan is hidden from the learned, and revealed to the simple. God does not reveal Himself through intellect, but through childlike faith.

Matthew Henry, in his Commentary on the Whole Bible in One Volume, (Zondervan Publishing House, 1961; page 1262) asks the question: why was Matthew, a lowly fisherman, chosen to be a disciple when Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader of the Jews was not? Both men believed in Jesus.

Henry says, “this honor (was) put upon those whom the world pours contempt upon,” to magnify the mercy of God. What might make sense to us humans, doesn’t come close to what what makes sense to God. By choosing the disciples He chose, Jesus is demonstrating His great mercy and grace, revealing Himself as merciful and full of grace.

In the very next verse Jesus open Himself up to “all who are weak and burdened.” “Come,” He says to everyone, “and you will find rest for your souls.” I believe He chose those particular twelve to be His disciples to demonstrate His mercy, and to be the ones through whom He would use to get His Church going; and He chose the people of the world to save.

Jesus began this discussion by praying and thanking God for this plan. (verse 21). And I certainly thank Him, too! If God revealed Himself only to the intelligent, scholarly, big shots of the world, I’d be “chosen” for hell.

Henry reminds us that God “resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Grace – God’s grace – is freely given to everyone who humbles themselves before Him.

So I will give thanks to God for choosing this plan of salvation. The highest IQ, the most successful businessman, the most important and famous come to God and are saved exactly the same way as a child, a homeless person, the average Joe – me. We might think God should be a bit more selective, but God selected all.

“Whosoever” believes in Jesus will receive eternal life. That’s His will. That’s His plan. That’s how He chose to redeem us all. And He is faithful to forgive anyone who comes to Him in humility, and repents of sin.

Sounds like an awesome plan to me.

October 18; It’s Pretty Clear

Matthew 17:24-27, 18:10-35, 8:18-22, 11:20-24; Mark 9:38-50, 10:1; Luke 9:49-62, 10:1-20

Can a person believe in God and not believe in Jesus? Is it ok for a person to call God Allah, and his son Mohammed? Can a person be accepted by God on their own terms, without the cross?

Jesus said, as recorded in Luke 10:16, “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (emphasis mine)

So, no. If anyone rejects Jesus as God’s only Son who died on the cross, was buried, and rose again for the world’s sin debt, if anyone rejects Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the only way to the Father, they are not just rejecting a man who lived 2,000 years ago. They are rejecting God.

It’s pretty clear.

October 15; From A Distance

Mark 7:1-8:10; Matthew 25:1-39

I was reminded about the centurion’s dying daughter whom Jesus healed from a distance. In the passages we read today, Jesus is again healing a little girl, this time demon-possessed, from a distance. Both the centurion and this woman were Gentiles – a whole race of people at a distance from God. Yet both put their faith in Jesus, and their prayers for their loved ones were answered – from a distance.

I’m encouraged, and I hope you are, too. I have loved ones who are living at a distance from God. I would imagine you do, too. God is reminding me today that no distance is too great for Him to save. We should never start to believe anyone is too far gone.

Let’s continue to put our faith in Jesus, and pray that our loved ones will accept His amazing grace. That is a prayer Jesus died to answer.

I would ask you to pray for my pastor, his dear wife, and their 30 year old son. They are at his bedside in a Miami, Florida hospital right now as this young man faces a life-threatening condition. He has been living a great distance from God the past few years. But I thank God that His Word has assured me today that no distance is too great for our great God.

We are praying from the distance of several hundred miles, that God will touch this young man’s body and get him through upcoming surgeries. May God give wisdom to all involved, and may He be revealed in every detail.

And we are praying that God will break through Satan’s hold on this young man, and heal his soul, for Jesus’ sake. He may be at a distance, but he is only a prayer away from the God who loves him and gave Himself for him. When you think of it that way, he’s really not all that far away.

Thank you for your prayers. And as I pray this morning, I will be praying for your loved ones, too, who seem to be at too great a distance to come to Jesus at the moment. I’m putting my faith in God, and trusting Him to handle the distance.