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Saturday, April 22, 2017

God Promises to Give You More of the Holy Spirit if You Ask


God Promises to Give You More of the Holy Spirit if You Ask



When Jesus was teaching His followers about prayer He gave this wonderful teaching: “Which of you parents, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if your daughter asks you for an egg, will you give her a scorpion?  If you, who are imperfect still know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will you Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to you if you ask Him!”  (Luke 11:11-12)   

Everywhere in Scripture we read that our Father in heaven wants to give His children more of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to be powerful in every way and to have His peace and joy and love. He promises that if we believe His Word, that we will see that “all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) And Jesus promises us that He came so that we would “have life, and that we would have it more abundantly.”  (John 10:10b) We have such a great inheritance in Christ. The spiritual gifts God has waiting for us are amazing.  These gifts are listed here below.


Scripture tells us that the many gifts God has for us all come from the one Holy Spirit that we are given when we believe in Christ.  The Bible says: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit, … Now to each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one person the gift of wisdom is given and to another the gift of knowledge by means of that same Spirit.  To another believer faith is given by that Spirit and to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit.  Another believer receives the gifts of miraculous powers and to another prophecy is given.  Another believer receives the distinguishing between spirits, and to another, speaking in different tongues.  Another believer receives the gift of interpretation of tongues.  And all these are the work of the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines. “(1 Corinthians 12:4a;7-11)


Jesus promised that those who believe in Him have “streams of living water flowing out of them”. Here are His words: “Whoever believes in Me (Jesus) as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within that believer.” (John 7:37b) This promised stream flowing in us is the Holy Spirit. Do you truly want a stream of living water flowing out of your life blessing others?  Are you asking our heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit each day?  



The Lord does not want us to “come short” in any gift. (1 Corinthians 1:7) We are encouraged to “stir up the gift of God which is in you.”  (2 Timothy 1:6) God’s command is for us to “be filled with the Spirit.”  (Ephesians 5:18) We should not be satisfied if we are a luke-warm Christian and only have a half- filled cup.  We need to have an overflowing cup all the time. And live in the fullness of overflowing!  Never live below that overflowing tide.


The Holy Spirit has the power to equip you for every emergency. Scripture says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13) Stand on these promises and believe them and they will be yours. Our heavenly Father has given us so many resources to get us through this life and to make us able to do amazing things for Him. But we have an all important part to play. Our part is to believe – to have faith.  Scripture says: “the just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:17) And Scripture also says: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) This thing called faith is the key that unlocks the door and the soil that the plants and trees grow in.  You’ve got to have it.


 If you are like me you may have faith in God through Christ but sometimes we doubt. And in the measure that we doubt, we go down.  We must learn to yield to His leading and not doubt but believe.  And when we doubt we can ask God to help us.  I often pray “I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) I believe our heavenly Father will answer that prayer when His children ask.


 Doubting Thomas said he would not believe in the risen Jesus unless he put his fingers in his wounds on His hands and feet and placed his hand in the wound on his side where he was stabbed.  Jesus came to Thomas and asked him to touch his wounds and place his hand in his side. And then Jesus said: these words to Thomas: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen Me and yet have believed.”  (John 20:29) Those blessed ones who Jesus was talking about are us – you and me. We are the ones who have believed in Christ without seeing Him in the flesh. And Jesus says we are blessed because of our faith.  


If there is unbelief in our hearts we must search our hearts to see why it is there. If we don’t want to doubt and we want more faith, the Scripture says: “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God.”  (Romans 10:17) In other words, the Bible, God’s Word is spiritual food to our growing faith.  We grow in our faith when we nourish ourselves in His Word.  So, get into a good Bible study and watch your precious faith in God grow!  Never stand still..  Go from faith to a larger faith to even a larger faith. Never stay in one place but be moving each day closer to the Promised Land. 



We forget that we are a spiritual people “a royal priesthood,” a holy people (1 Peter 2:9) We are not to play the games the natural world plays – lusting after money, power and sex. We are to obey God’s laws and follow Him.  There are things we should never do and places we should never go. And good things we should be doing. Obedience to God is one of the things we must try to do if we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  (John 14:15-31)


If you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior then Scripture says that you do not have this Holy Spirit living in your life. Scripture says: “By this you can know the Spirit of God, every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God…” (1 John 4:1-6)


 Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no person comes to the Father but by Me.”  (John 14:6) All through Scripture it is clear that there is only one Way and one Door to God the Father and that way and door is Jesus the Son and Savior. If a religion does not believe that Jesus Christ is Son of God and Savior then that religion is not worshipping the God of the Bible and it does not move in the Holy Spirit.     


As followers of Christ we have been promised so much!  Are we neglecting the gifts the Holy Spirit has come to bring us?  Are we asking the heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit? God desires that we be continually hungry to receive more and more of His Spirit.  He promises to give us more of the Spirit if we will ask Him. Are we asking God for more of His Spirit each day?  He promises to fill us if we ask.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6)  It doesn’t get any better than that! 



 
God Promises to Give You More of the Holy Spirit if You Ask



When Jesus was teaching His followers about prayer He gave this wonderful teaching: “Which of you parents, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if your daughter asks you for an egg, will you give her a scorpion?  If you, who are imperfect still know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will you Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to you if you ask Him!”  (Luke 11:11-12)   

Everywhere in Scripture we read that our Father in heaven wants to give His children more of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to be powerful in every way and to have His peace and joy and love. He promises that if we believe His Word, that we will see that “all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) And Jesus promises us that He came so that we would “have life, and that we would have it more abundantly.”  (John 10:10b) We have such a great inheritance in Christ. The spiritual gifts God has waiting for us are amazing.  These gifts are listed here below.


Scripture tells us that the many gifts God has for us all come from the one Holy Spirit that we are given when we believe in Christ.  The Bible says: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit, … Now to each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one person the gift of wisdom is given and to another the gift of knowledge by means of that same Spirit.  To another believer faith is given by that Spirit and to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit.  Another believer receives the gifts of miraculous powers and to another prophecy is given.  Another believer receives the distinguishing between spirits, and to another, speaking in different tongues.  Another believer receives the gift of interpretation of tongues.  And all these are the work of the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines. “(1 Corinthians 12:4a;7-11)


Jesus promised that those who believe in Him have “streams of living water flowing out of them”. Here are His words: “Whoever believes in Me (Jesus) as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within that believer.” (John 7:37b) This promised stream flowing in us is the Holy Spirit. Do you truly want a stream of living water flowing out of your life blessing others?  Are you asking our heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit each day?  



The Lord does not want us to “come short” in any gift. (1 Corinthians 1:7) We are encouraged to “stir up the gift of God which is in you.”  (2 Timothy 1:6) God’s command is for us to “be filled with the Spirit.”  (Ephesians 5:18) We should not be satisfied if we are a luke-warm Christian and only have a half- filled cup.  We need to have an overflowing cup all the time. And live in the fullness of overflowing!  Never live below that overflowing tide.


The Holy Spirit has the power to equip you for every emergency. Scripture says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13) Stand on these promises and believe them and they will be yours. Our heavenly Father has given us so many resources to get us through this life and to make us able to do amazing things for Him. But we have an all important part to play. Our part is to believe – to have faith.  Scripture says: “the just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:17) And Scripture also says: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) This thing called faith is the key that unlocks the door and the soil that the plants and trees grow in.  You’ve got to have it.


 If you are like me you may have faith in God through Christ but sometimes we doubt. And in the measure that we doubt, we go down.  We must learn to yield to His leading and not doubt but believe.  And when we doubt we can ask God to help us.  I often pray “I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) I believe our heavenly Father will answer that prayer when His children ask.


 Doubting Thomas said he would not believe in the risen Jesus unless he put his fingers in his wounds on His hands and feet and placed his hand in the wound on his side where he was stabbed.  Jesus came to Thomas and asked him to touch his wounds and place his hand in his side. And then Jesus said: these words to Thomas: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen Me and yet have believed.”  (John 20:29) Those blessed ones who Jesus was talking about are us – you and me. We are the ones who have believed in Christ without seeing Him in the flesh. And Jesus says we are blessed because of our faith.  


If there is unbelief in our hearts we must search our hearts to see why it is there. If we don’t want to doubt and we want more faith, the Scripture says: “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God.”  (Romans 10:17) In other words, the Bible, God’s Word is spiritual food to our growing faith.  We grow in our faith when we nourish ourselves in His Word.  So, get into a good Bible study and watch your precious faith in God grow!  Never stand still..  Go from faith to a larger faith to even a larger faith. Never stay in one place but be moving each day closer to the Promised Land. 



We forget that we are a spiritual people “a royal priesthood,” a holy people (1 Peter 2:9) We are not to play the games the natural world plays – lusting after money, power and sex. We are to obey God’s laws and follow Him.  There are things we should never do and places we should never go. And good things we should be doing. Obedience to God is one of the things we must try to do if we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  (John 14:15-31)


If you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior then Scripture says that you do not have this Holy Spirit living in your life. Scripture says: “By this you can know the Spirit of God, every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God…” (1 John 4:1-6)


 Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no person comes to the Father but by Me.”  (John 14:6) All through Scripture it is clear that there is only one Way and one Door to God the Father and that way and door is Jesus the Son and Savior. If a religion does not believe that Jesus Christ is Son of God and Savior then that religion is not worshipping the God of the Bible and it does not move in the Holy Spirit.     


As followers of Christ we have been promised so much!  Are we neglecting the gifts the Holy Spirit has come to bring us?  Are we asking the heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit? God desires that we be continually hungry to receive more and more of His Spirit.  He promises to give us more of the Spirit if we will ask Him. Are we asking God for more of His Spirit each day?  He promises to fill us if we ask.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6)  It doesn’t get any better than that! 





Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jesus Rises from the Dead


Jesus Rises from the Dead
Matthew 27:57-28:20


The moment Jesus died, a violent earthquake shook the whole area.  The sky had been dark for three hours while Jesus was on the cross and it grew even darker when He died. It seemed that even nature was mourning and reacting to His death.  The soldiers guarding Jesus’ body were terrified as rocks split in half and tumbled down around them.  “Surely, this was the Son of God,” one of the Roman soldiers cried out.  (Matthew 27:54b) The crowds who had been around taunting Jesus all day were leaving and some were running in fear of the earthquake.  Only a few women stayed near the body crying.


As the soldiers were taking Jesus’ body down from the cross a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea showed up and gave the soldiers a letter from Pilate stating that he could have Jesus’ body.  Joseph was a religious leader and a secret follower of Jesus and he wanted to give Jesus a proper burial.  He had cut a tomb out of the rock near Golgotha and he wanted to bury Jesus in his new tomb.


Nicodemus was also a religious leader and a secret follower of Jesus and he wanted to help out too.  He came along and helped Joseph wrap Jesus’ body in clean linen cloths and carry it to the tomb.  It was common in those days to bury the dead in caves or to dig small spaces in the side of a hill or rock and use these carved out spaces as tombs.  A large stone was then rolled into the mouth of the tomb to close it up.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary walked over to the tomb and watched and cried as Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus. 


The next day the religious leaders met with Pilate again.  They remembered that Jesus had said that He would rise again after being in the grave for three days and this worried them.  They asked Pilate for soldiers to guard the tomb to make sure that Jesus didn’t rise!  Pilate agreed and told them to make the tomb as secure as possible.


So the priests and elders sealed the stone in front of the tomb (like locking a door) and put soldiers with spears and swords all around the tomb to guard it night and day.  They weren’t taking any chances!  (Matthew 27:62-66)


While Jesus’ enemies remembered that He said He would rise from death, His own disciples forgot.  Jesus had told his disciples several times that He would meet them in Galilee. He told them that He would rise after three days in the grave. But His disciples must not have taken Him seriously! Do we take His promises seriously?


Very early on a Sunday morning, three days later, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to Jesus’ tomb. And just as they arrived there was a violent earthquake and an angel of the Lord appeared and rolled back the stone from the door of the tomb.  Scripture describes the angel this way:  “His face was like lightning, and his clothing was white as snow.”  (Matthew 28:3) The guards around the tomb shook in fear and “became like dead men.”  (Matthew 28:4)


The angel sat on the stone and spoke to the women and said: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here: for He has risen as He said He would.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”  (Matthew 28:5-6)


The women walked into the empty tomb and saw that Jesus’ grave clothes were folded there but He was gone.  Scripture does not say that Jesus left the tomb when the angel rolled the stone away from the door.  A large stone would not keep the Son of God from getting out!  It was rolled away so that Jesus’ followers might see the evidence of an empty tomb. 


The angel continued: “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and that He is going before you to Galilee.  You will see Him there.  Behold, I have told you.”  (Matthew 28:7) Mary Magdalene and the other Mary ran out of the empty tomb with fear and great joy.  And as they were running to tell the disciples, Jesus met them.  The women fell down and worshipped Him and held Him by His feet and Jesus said: “Rejoice!  Do not be afraid.  Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee and I will be there to meet them.”  (Matthew 28:9-10) Then the women ran on to tell the disciples.


When the guards recovered from the shock of the angel’s appearance at the tomb and of Jesus not being there, they ran to the religious leaders and told them all that had happened.  A guard could lose his life for allowing the person he was guarding to get away, so these guards were worried that they would be killed because they did not stop Jesus from rising and leaving the tomb.  They nervously told the religious leaders about the angel and how Jesus was no longer in the tomb!


Scripture says that the religious leaders paid the guards a large sum of money to keep them quiet.  They were ordered not to tell anyone that Jesus had risen but to tell people that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body even though the tomb had been heavily guarded.  The soldiers agreed to keep quiet about Jesus’ resurrection and they took the money.


When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary told the disciples that they had seen Jesus the disciples were over joyed and they traveled to Galilee to meet Jesus there.  And when they finally met up with Jesus they fell down and worshipped Him. 


Before Jesus went back to heaven forty days later, He appeared not only to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and the disciples, but He appeared to several other women.  (Matthew 28:8-10) and to his followers on the Emmaus road (Mark 16:19,20, Luke 24:13-15) And He appeared to many in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20, John 21:1-24) He met with James and the apostles, (1 Corinthians 15:7) and to five hundred people. (1 Corinthians 16:6) And after Jesus went back to heaven He appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-6) He spent many days with His disciples, including Thomas. (Mark 16:14) And Jesus was with them just before He went back to heaven.  (Mark 16:19,20)  Hundreds of people saw Jesus before He went back to heaven.


Just before Jesus ascended into heaven He gave the disciples the Great Commission.  This is what He said: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  God therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.  And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-29) After Jesus gave these marching orders to his disciples – to all of his disciples in every age – Jesus went back to heaven.


The crucified Servant is now the exalted Lord and has received all authority.  While His ministry had been to Israel during His lifetime, now His ministry has a global perspective.  He now calls his disciples (that’s us) to world evangelism – to make disciples of all nations.  We have a big job to do, but He promises to be with us every step of the way.  We serve a risen Savior!  Hallelujah!


 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My God, My God! Why Have You Forsaken Me?


My God, My God!  Why Have You Forsaken Me?


Scripture has recorded three more statements that Jesus made from the cross that we have not already covered! These statements are (1) “My God, My God!  Why Have You Forsaken Me?”, And (2) “Behold your mother.  Behold your son.” (spoken to Mary His mother and to John His disciple.) And the third statement (3) as He gasped His last breath: “It is finished! Into Your Hands I commit My Spirit.” We will cover these three statements of Jesus from the cross here in this blog. 



We can only imagine the dreadful torture Jesus was experiencing when He cried out to God asking why He had been forsaken! The people who led the charge to crucify Jesus were the religious leaders of the day; the Scribes and the Pharisees. They were the ones who were always praying loudly to God in front of everyone so that all could see how very pious they were. And they were also the ones who were insisting that Jesus had committed crimes worthy of this terrible death. And the crimes they accused Jesus of were the so-called crimes of healing the sick on the Sabbath and of claiming to be God’s Messiah. 

These religious leaders who thought they knew all the correct answers were standing around the cross, spewing hate at Jesus and mocking Him as He hung on the cross, carrying the sin of the world and dying in horrific pain. Scripture says that around noon darkness fell over the whole land and small earthquakes shook the ground. Many people ran off afraid that this might be a sign from God.  It seemed that even nature was convulsing and mourning the murder of the Creator and Savior.   

Twisting in pain and gasping for breath, Jesus must have felt the evil deeds of all the generations weighing down upon His shoulders. The spiritual pain combined with the physical pain must have been unimaginable. It was then in the darkness that He cried out:” My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:29-36a) These were not Jesus’ final words.  The feelings of abandonment and God-forsakenness and even death would not be the end of Jesus’ story.  And neither will our sufferings and death be God’s final word for us!

Jesus came to deliver His people. He chose to identify with our sufferings and He understands and has compassion on us when we go through dark and painful places Jesus models for us the ways of love.  We are meant to follow Him and be willing to love even when it costs us a great deal. .

Jesus’ mother Mary was standing there at the cross weeping.  She wanted to be with her Son.. All of the disciples had run away in fear except John.  Jesus looked down from the cross and saw His mother and John, His disciple. The Scriptures read: ”Jesus said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!”  Then He said to the disciple (John), “Behold your mother!’”  And from that hour the disciple(John) took her (Mary) to his own home. (John 19: 25-27) Jesus was concerned for His mother.  He wanted to ensure that His mother would be taken care of after He was gone so He asked John to be a “son” to His mother.   

One of the Ten Commandments is: “Honor your father and your mother,…” (Exodus 20:12) Even as Jesus was dying on the cross He was thinking about His mother instead of Himself..  And He commands us to follow His example and honor and care about our mothers and fathers. Jesus was asking John to take care of His mother. And He was asking His mother to go with John and consider him as a son.  The idea that Christians are family and that we are to care for one another is commanded in Scripture.  Jesus said: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  (Mark3:35) Jesus calls us to see those in need as our mother or father or son or daughter and reach out to them if we are able.

Just before Jesus died He said these last words: “It is finished” and “Into Your Hands I commit My Spirit.”  (Luke 19:30a and Luke 23:43-47)  These words of Jesus can be our words too.  We can make these words our own and pray, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  With this prayer, we never need to be afraid.  We can commit our spirit into our Heavenly Fathers’ Hands.

 When Jesus cried out “It is finished” it was not a cry of defeat, but a shout of victory!  Jesus’ redemptive work for us was completed.  Finished!  Something amazing and wonderful and unbelievable was finished when Jesus died on the cross.

At the moment that Jesus gasped His last breath and died, the curtain in the Temple in Jerusalem tore in half.  This thick curtain or veil separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.  And the tearing of the Temple curtain is one more picture of what Jesus was accomplishing on the cross.  From this time on there no longer would be a need for a curtain or a veil to separate humans from God.

  This veil or curtain was to keep everyone out.  If sinful persons entered the Holy Place where God’s holy presence was abiding the humans would immediately die.  We sinful humans cannot come before a pure and holy God in our sins. But now through Jesus, humans can come directly to God’s Mercy Seat to ask for mercy and to receive God’s grace and salvation. Jesus’ blood has washed away our sins and His righteousness is our covering.     

Jesus’ death on the cross was a sign of God’s ultimate triumph over death.  His death reversed the events that occurred at the fall when Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God in the Garden of Eden!  Jesus is the Second-Adam.  According to Scripture the first Adam (Adam and Eve) put us under the curse of sin.  And now after the death of Christ, the Second-Adam (Jesus) takes us out from under the curse of sin. What Jesus did on the cross is life giving and life changing. The whole world changed when Christ died! It is a mystery we cannot fully comprehend. 

Scripture says that the death and resurrection of Jesus “Is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) We are changed when we believe in Christ as our Savior.


These are the final words of Jesus from the cross.  These are words to live by.  But even though these words are His final words before His death, there would be words after that.  The season of Lent ends at an empty tomb!  The horrific death of Jesus Christ would not be the end of Jesus’ story.  And neither will suffering and death be the end of your story! 


This blog has taken many of its thoughts and ideas and lines from Adam Hamilton’s book, “Final Words from the Cross”.  

    


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I Thirst Final Words from the Cross


“I Thirst”

John 19:28-29

We are now in the Lenten season, the forty-day period before Easter, where the Church has traditionally remembered Christ in His sufferings and death on the cross for our sins.  During this season of Lent we are spending time remembering the seven last statements of Jesus as He hung on the cross.  Jesus cried out, “I thirst” shortly before He died. This was one of His seven statements from the cross. 

Was this just a cry for a drink from our dying Savior, or was there a deeper meaning in these simple words from the cross?  Let’s read the passage: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst”.  Now a vessel full of sour wine vinegar was sitting there: and they filled a sponge with sour wine vinegar, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.” (John 19:28-29) 

It says in this passage that Jesus spoke the words “I thirst” in order “that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”  What does that mean? What Scripture that Jesus was fulfilling by crying out that He was thirsty?  Most scholars think it is Psalm 69:21b which reads: “For my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

 When Jesus cried out that He was thirsty and was offered wine vinegar, He was fulfilling the prophecy in Psalm 69.  The other gospels, Matthew and Mark says that “they” took a sponge, placed it on a stick and dipped it in wine vinegar and gave it to Him to drink. Jesus’ thirst on the cross had been written about centuries ago.  It was part of God’s plan that was set in place long before

Jesus is fully God and He is also fully human.  Before His death, He thirsted as we thirst, and then He died as we die.  Jesus’ words “I thirst” are one more example of Jesus’ humanity. 

On many occasions, Jesus used the idea of drinking a cup filled with a drink as a picture for the suffering He would endure.  On one occasion when Peter drew his sword to keep the soldiers away from Jesus as He was being arrested, Jesus told Peter: “Put your sword away.  Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given Me?” (John 18:11) Jesus was willing to drink the cup of suffering and death and sin down to the dregs.


One other time in Jesus’ ministry, the Scriptures say that He said that He was thirsty.  You may remember the story when Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Samaria and they came to the town of Sychar.  Jesus sat down at Jacob’s well while his disciples went into town.  While the disciples were gone a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw out water and Jesus asked her for a drink.  When she gave Him a drink He said to her, “If you knew who you were talking to, you would ask of Me and I would give you living water and you would never thirst again.”  (John 4:10)


The Samaritan woman talked with Jesus and He told her everything that had happened in her life.  She was amazed and realized that Jesus must be a prophet or perhaps the Messiah since He knew everything. She believed in Him and He gladly gave her the spiritual living water that He had promised. This Samaritan woman was so excited about who Jesus was and what He had done for her that she ran back to her town of Sychar and brought everyone in the town out to see Jesus, the one who could give them this living water.  Jesus’ message to the people back then and to us now is: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me, and let the one who believes in Me drink.”  (John7:37) 

Since Jesus is our Living Water, what did it mean when the One who offers living water, was himself thirsty, when He was on the cross?  Water is essential for life.  But the Living Water, Jesus Christ, the Source of Life, is dying on the cross.  God in the flesh has come to earth to offer living water to humans, and humans have chosen to try to destroy the Spring.   

A passage of Scripture in Jeremiah 2:13 reads: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the Fountain of Living Water, and have dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.” This passage describes people who have rejected Jesus, the Fountain of Living Water and they are looking for water in all the wrong places.

Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. For they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6) What are you thirsting for most in your life?  What do you hope will satisfy you?  Jesus calls us to thirst after Him. When He gives us His living water He gives us spiritual life.  We receive the Holy Spirit to guide us and help and comfort us. When we open our lives to Him, it is all we will ever need.  We will never thirst again!


This blog has taken many of the ideas here from Adam Hamilton’s book: “Final Words from the Cross”

       
























  


Friday, March 31, 2017

Today You will be with Me in Paradise


“Today You will be with Me in Paradise”

Luke 23:42

We are now in the Lenten season, the forty -day period before Easter, where the Church has traditionally remembered Christ in His sufferings and death on the cross for our sins.  During this Lenten time, we will spend some time remembering the seven last statements of Jesus as He hung on the cross.

 Christs’ first statement from the cross was a prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Even as He was dying He was thinking and praying for mercy for His enemies. Jesus was praying for the soldiers who were crucifying Him and He was praying for the crowds around Him who were mocking Him as He hung there dying.  And perhaps Jesus, our Savior was also praying for all of humanity, for you and me, because Scripture says: “the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10)


On the cross Jesus was doing what He had done throughout His life on earth. He was caring for the people who society did not valued. As He went about preaching and healing people, He seemed to be drawn to the least, the last and the lost. Scripture tells us that Jesus was humble, meek and lowly!

Jesus was born in a stable with a feeding trough for a baby bed.  During His life-time Jesus broke all the social rules and associated with sinners. In Jesus ‘day religious people felt like they were too good to associate with non-religious people. But Jesus also broke the religious  rules and ate with sinners. Eating with someone in the Middle East in biblical times meant that you were friends with that person.  Jewish people back then were careful not to eat with Gentiles or sinners.  So Jesus was severely criticized by the religious community for spending time with these nobodies

As Jesus lived, He also died.  Jesus died on the cross between two criminals, one on either side of His cross.The Bible calls these two men who died with Jesus by the Greek words “kakourgoi” which means “those who do evil works” and “lestai” which means the kind of thief who would” use violence to take what he wanted.”  Even in His death Jesus was with the marginal people in society. Reaching lost people was all important to Jesus. In his dying on the cross,He saved the human race from sin.

Reaching those who are lost was the driving mission of Jesus, and it is meant to be the driving mission of His followers.  Do we follow Jesus and reach out to those who are lost and love them in Jesus’ name?  . 

The two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus were two men who gave two different responses to Jesus.  Both thieves died along-side Jesus that terrible day. And both knew that Jesus had healed many people in their country, Israel.  And both knew thieves that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah and the Savior.

One of the thieves’ hearts was hardened against Jesus. As this thief was dying next to Jesus, he joined in with the crowd in mocking Him.  This man hurled insults at Jesus and asked Him: “Are you not the Messiah?  If so, save yourself and us!”  (Luke 23:39)

But the other thief dying with Jesus had a different response to Jesus and he opened his heart to Him The second thief answered the first one this way: “Do you not fear God, since you and I are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our bad deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41) After the second thief said this to the other one, he turned to Jesus and asked Jesus to remember him.  Here are his words: “Jesus, remember me when You come into your kingdom.”  (Luke 23:42)


Jesus was touched by the second thief’s plea to remember him and Jesus answered him with these words: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  (Luke 23:43) We can learn several truths from this statement of Jesus made while He was on the cross.  It would seem by this statement that when we die, we are immediately raised to life and enter heaven, because Jesus promised the thief that “today” he would be with Jesus in Paradise. Jesus didn’t promise the thief that “someday” he would be with Him, but surprised us by using the word “today.”


We humans have lived in our little world that is totally run by time. That’s all we have ever known. But Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, transcends time.  And when we die, perhaps we will step outside of time and into eternity! I don’t know!  Eternity is a mystery that is impossible for us humans to comprehend. All we do know is that this thief was with Jesus on the other side of death the very day that he died! We know it because Jesus said it!  “TODAY, you will be with Me in Paradise.”


And the second truth Jesus’ words to the thief teach us is that Jesus shows great mercy to the thief who asks Him for help. If Jesus shows mercy to the thief who asks to be remembered, I believe that He will also show mercy to us if we ask! This thief who was reaching out to Jesus had the faith the size of a mustard seed, and that was enough for Jesus to promise him Paradise!  So if we long to be with Jesus and put our trust in Him, that will be enough!  Scripture says:  “For by grace we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any human should boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)        


In this world, there are some who reject Jesus, like the first thief, and these ones harden their hearts and are never able to see Him as their Savior and Lord.  And then there are others who are like the second thief, they open their hearts and can see Jesus and believe that He can save them.  They call out to Him: “Remember me.”  And Jesus always hears and answers us when we call to Him. There were two thieves. And two responses. And there will always be two responses we can choose to make to Jesus.  We can either accept Jesus or reject Him.  We are either for Him or against Him. (Matthew 12:30, Luke 11:23) The most important decision we can ever make is the decision we make about what we do with Jesus!  Which will it be for you?  

      

 Many of the teachings in this blog were taken from Adam Hamilton's book, "Final Words from the Cross"
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Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Seven Last Words of Christ - "Father forgive Them"



The Seven Last Words of Christ

“Father Forgive Them…”


This is the time of year that Christians around the world are observing Lent, a forty-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  Lent begins on “Ash Wednesday” and ends at Easter.   Many churches observe. a special worship service on Ash Wednesday. During an Ash Wednesday service, Christians kneel at the altar and ashes are pushed into our foreheads to remind us that we came from dust (birth) and to dust we shall return(death). Then we leave this service humbled and go out to forty days of walking with Christ (in our hearts) to His death and to the cross, especially remembered on good Friday.  But then Easter, or Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, arrives and puts an end to all the death and sorrow and sadness of Lent.

Lent, the forty-day period before Easter, is a time for reflection and prayer and repenting of our sins.  Lent is a time of remembering Christ’s death on the cross and the costliness of grace.  And Lent is a time of following Jesus in His sufferings. And it is a time when many Christians fast or give up something for Lent to express our sorrow because our sins caused our Savior to have to die.

During this Lenten time we will spend some time remembering the seven last words or statements of Jesus as He hung on the cross dying. The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, record some of these seven statements Jesus made from the cross. The first words from the cross, uttered by Jesus just after He was nailed to the cross was this prayer: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

 The first words spoken by Jesus from the cross were a prayer.  Jesus was praying for the soldiers who had tortured Him and beaten him and mocked Him and placed the crown of thorns on His head and crucified Him and who now were gambling for His clothes! “Father, forgive them.”  He was also praying for the crowd who were making fun of Him as He hung there in terrible pain on the cross dying before them.  “Father, forgive them.”  And He was praying for the religious leaders who, from their own jealousy had conspired with the Romans to murder Him.  They were standing there in their long robes mocking Him as He bled and died.  “Father, forgive them.” Can you imagine such mercy and such love?  To know that Jesus was praying for them and forgiving them during the time that they were murdering Him is a mind- bending thought.

Adam Hamilton in his book “Seven Last Words” writes that there was someone else included in Jesus’ prayer besides those people around the cross at that terrible moment.  Adam Hamilton writes: “But there is someone else included in Jesus’ prayer, someone for whom Jesus was pleading from the cross for God’s mercy to be extended: We are among the “them”. who  Jesus was praying for” 


Adam Hamilton continues writing: “The entire human race was there at the Crucifixion.  The death of Jesus was an event that transcended time. Jesus was offering Himself to God his Father as an offering of atonement.  In that moment on the cross, He was both the High Priest pleading for atonement for the human race and He was also the offering itself.”


Do you remember that old gospel song that asks the question, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”  The answer to that song’s question is “yes”.  You were there when they crucified our Lord and so were all of us, and all of humanity!


Our need for forgiveness and God’s willingness to give it are major themes in the Bible.  The church has a traditional list of the seven deadly sins which are: lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, anger, envy and pride.  When we go with these impulses we step away from God’s path.  These sins dehumanize us and hurt others and separate us from God.


 Our sin is not a trifling thing.  The Son of God was crucified for it.  Forgiveness because of the cross is Gods’ gift to all of us. We don’t do anything to earn our way to heaven. (Ephesians 2:8-9) (John 3:16) God has already done everything necessary to save us and forgive us. God’s forgiveness and salvation is ours when we accept this gift. Adam Hamilton writes: “The gift of salvation has already been given to you.  Your job is to receive it, to trust it, and to walk in the joy of your forgiveness and salvation.”   


This prayer of Jesus on the cross, I believe, is meant to become our prayer! “Father, forgive them, for they no not what they do.”   God, our heavenly Father has forgiven us of all of our sins and we are to be children of our heavenly Father and follow in His footsteps and forgive others of their sins. Jesus spent much time teaching us about the importance of forgiving others.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He taught, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)


And when the disciples asked Jesus how many times they should forgive a person who wronged them?  Was seven times enough before they stopped forgiving?  Jesus answered: “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22) Jesus was saying that we should always keep on forgiving.  The alternative is to be consumed by resentment, anger and hate. And that is no way to live! 


When Jesus was asked to teach us how to pray, He gave us “the Lord’s Prayer”. Again, in the Lords’ Prayer we find Him teaching us to follow His example and forgive the people who harm us.  Jesus prays these words in the “Lords’ Prayer”: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,” (Matthew 6:12)

Is Jesus saying that if we do not forgive others then God will not forgive us?  I believe that God has already forgiven us.  But have we accepted His gift of forgiveness?  And salvation comes with forgiveness. To accept Gods’ gift of salvation and forgiveness we need to believe it is there to accept. When the holy Scriptures say that God forgives our sin and offers us the gift of salvation, we need to believe it and take it.  If we don’t believe the Gospel “good news” and if we walk away and leave our gift behind, it won’t do us any good.  Scripture say that our part is to simply believe. That’s it.  

Perhaps if our hearts will not be open enough to forgive the sins of another person, then our hearts may not be open enough to believe that God forgives us our sins. I don’t know this to be true but there is a connection between the way we forgive others and the way we accept Gods’ forgiveness for ourselves, since it is mentioned many times in Scripture. It is another one of those mysteries that we take on faith.  Scripture says,” The just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38) Faith or belief in God is all we need. Another mystery!

On the cross Jesus’ final words demonstrate God’s willingness to forgive our sins.  And we are called to follow in His footsteps and forgive those who sin against us.  Let’s take a minute and think about people who we have not forgiven.  Would you be willing to pray the prayer for those ones you are still cannot forgive? The prayer that Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him? 

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. 

This blog took many of its’ material from Adam Hamilton’s book, “Final Words.”



 









Saturday, March 18, 2017

Methodism, the Non-Judgmental Church


Methodism, the Non-Judgmental Church


Many good Christians today do not go to church any longer because they have been judged by other good Christians at church. Like shell- shocked soldiers these Christians eventually retreat from the slings and arrows of battle and wonder what went wrong.  Or they stumble into a Methodist church and find other shell shocked Christians all worshipping together in a safe place.  I am one such shell- shocked Christian. After too many years of being judged and ostracized by my intellectual evangelical community, my husband and I moved away and walked into a Methodist church. And the rest was history.

The Methodist folk took us in and included us in their lives.  Invited us into their homes and treated us with respect. We couldn’t resist. We were part of a Christian fellowship again and it felt good. Small groups are one of the hallmarks of Methodism. And we soon felt at home in our small cozy Sunday School group. Many of our Sunday School class members had been divorced in the past. And many of these folks had been asked to leave their home  churches when their marriages broke up.. But the Methodist Church was always there in the background waiting to take in anyone left out in the cold and love them in the Name of Christ.

How did the Methodist Church become like this?  Why are Methodists so non-judgmental when many of its’ members don’t agree on important issues? It all started with John Wesley, the father of the Methodist Church.  John Wesley and his generation inherited 200 years of religious warfare and bloodshed.  In his home, he also experienced religious debates. Wesley had seen up close the damage that fighting among fellow Christians had done to the body of Christ. He wanted to change all that..  He believed that love could cover a multitude of sin and he emphasized the importance of loving one another to his new converts.

Wesley looked for the common ground and tried to build bridges with people who thought differently than he did. Instead of forming a church that leaned to the far left and fought for far left truths or a church that leaned to the far right, and fought for far right truths, Wesley’s Methodist church is a church of the extreme center! And Methodists have had to give up a lot to remain in the extreme center.  The Methodist denomination has been criticized by Christians from other denominations for occupying this middle position.    

  Wesley wrote these words: “Although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection?  Though we can’t think alike, may we not love alike?  May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion.  Without all doubt, we may.  Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”   These attitudes of John Wesley have been a hallmark of Methodism ever since.        


The Methodist Church was born in England out of two hundred years of religious struggle between the Catholics and the Protestants.  Wars were fought and for a while England went back and forth from being Catholic to being Protestant.  And then back again to being Catholic with much bloodshed in between. Christians killed other Christians because of their different beliefs as to the right way to follow Christ. The Methodist Church was profoundly shaped by these warring religious forces. Martin Luther preached that Christians should love and understand one another instead of judging and fighting.      

Finally, England became mostly Protestant but the question then was, How Protestant?  So they fought about that. As time passed England kept on changing and modernizing and moving out of the Dark Ages into the Renaissance period which brought with it the Enlightenment! John Wesley was deeply influenced by these new humanistic ideas.

People in England who believed in the Enlightment principles would keep their membership in the church and formally hold that they were Christians. But their loyalty to Christianity would be in name only.  These folks really believed that education, class status and intelligence could save a person and that Bible teachings and Christian religious beliefs were old fashioned.  John Wesley and his Methodist movement had this new problem to consider. But often the Methodist answer was to take in the sinner and just add more love.

John Wesley was shaped by the new Enlightenment ideas but he believed that people should give their hearts to Christ as Savior and Lord to be saved. So the union of human reason with the desire for a personal faith in Christ would become one of the main characteristics of Methodism.  Wesley believed that the Methodist Church should emphasize the preaching of the Bible.  John Wesley’s deepest desire was to bring people to faith in Christ. And he rode on horseback all over England preaching in the open fields everywhere and calling people to believe in Jesus as their Savior and Lord. There was spiritual revival in England and all of England was changed because of John Wesley and the Methodist movement.

But the tensions between believing in human experience and also believing all the teachings of the Bible can occasionally be difficult to pull off.  Methodists then and now want to bring the sinner into their fellowship, but if the sinner does not renounce his/her sin and if he/she ignores the commandments in Scripture, then other church members can be harmed. Some Methodist churches have watered down their faith so as not to offend others.  So you can see the tension between wanting to be a loving body of Christ and still wanting to keep the Christian faith!      


The Methodist Church takes her doctrines and beliefs from four sources: The Bible, tradition, human wisdom and human experience.  (a four- legged stool) You may remember that the Catholics takes their beliefs from two sources: Scripture and tradition. Martin Luther and the Lutheran Church protested this belief in allowing tradition to be equal with the holy Scriptures and Lutherans claimed that they would only take their beliefs from the Bible.  “Sola Scriptura” or only Scripture would guide their decisions. Lutherans in Luther’s day took a high view of Scripture.  


     

    

Methodists were and are known for their singing. John Wesley’s brother Charles Wesley wrote over a thousand hymns and many of them are still popular hymns today.  And Methodists are also known for helping the poor and for social reform.  Methodists today put a priority on helping the poor and working to make a better and more just society. Most of the members in a typical Methodist church serve the poor, feed the homeless, visit the prisons, visit the sick, and some support attorneys who will represent the poor in court, operate homes for single mothers and children, etc. 

 Methodist churches typically send their youth groups out each year on mission trips to poor neighborhoods to work and rebuild and pass out food and supplies. Methodist youth come back tired from a week of hard work and happy to have been able to help where they were needed.  Whereas Evangelical churches, typically send their youths out each year to nice camps in the woods usually with church services and good Bible studies along with sports and games.   These young people come back more enthusiastic about their Christian faith.  They also have had a week of fun and pampering. The Methodists retreats emphasize giving to the poor and the Baptist retreats emphasize a personal relationship with Christ and learning more of Gods’ Word.


As a former Baptist, I miss Baptist Bible studies. I miss testimony time around the campfire and being challenged for Christ.  Baptists believe that the Bible is Gods’ living Word and they know that they can count on its’ promises.  Many Methodists aren’t quite so sure. Methodists sometimes have a low view of Scripture, I believe that if we can’t trust the holy Scriptures, our faith has nothing solid to stand on and we are on a slippery slope. Many Methodists don’t seem to know what they believe!         


But God is teaching us many other lessons now that we have joined a caring Methodist Church. It has been good. We are learning to love others who are different from us and not be as judgmental as we had been before. We are learning to reach out to the homeless and the poor and not to neglect these commands of Christ. The Methodist Church has many strengths and we are being blessed..
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Some of the ideas in this blog were taken from Adam hamilton’s book, “Christianity’s Family Tree”.