Of First Importance….

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…..” – 1 CORINTHIANS 15:3‭-‬4 NASB

This is of first importance. Aside from this, does anything else in this world really matter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of GOD; that He was born of a virgin and lived as a human so that He could be hung on the cross, the ultimate and final sacrifice for our/your sins? Do you believe that He came out of the grave on the third day, triumphant over death? If you do, congratulations!!! By believing this, we get to spend the rest of our lives and forever more with our Saviour! Can it be so simple? Hallelujah; yes!

For those who don’t believe ……. Why? What is keeping you from believing? Is it that Jesus can be God and man in one person, Son of the Creator of the Universe and a young, human, woman? Is it the idea of the virgin birth, or is it the idea of a Creator, rather than the “science” of the Big Bang Theory*? (*I challenge you to look up the definition of the word theory. It’s a hypothesis, a speculation; i.e. a guess, “without any assumption of truth.”) I’m not a scientist, nor do I claim to be a great intellect; however, I can (and do) read voraciously. If you need scientific proof of a greater power and a created universe, there is plenty of compeling evidence to be found. I won’t argue between a 24-hour 6 day creation and a “big bang” because we don’t know. I will say this: I believe both!

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – GENESIS 1:1 NASB

Were you there? He created the heavens and the earth out of nothing….. the atoms colliding had to come from somewhere, and, BANG, there it was! But, moving on to Jesus….. If God could create the heavens and the earth from nothing, why couldn’t He have His Son born to a virgin in order to save His people (that would be us, the human race) from our bad decisions? Giving us free will when He created us was His decision, because He wants us to choose to love Him and have a relationship with Him, just as we choose the humans we have relationships with.

Are you just not sure that Jesus really rose from the grave? Do you want to, can you, refute the testimony of hundreds of first-hand accounts, eyewitnesses to His resurrection?

“….. and {after} that He appeared to Cephas [Simon Peter], then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep [died]; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me [Paul] also.” – 1 CORINTHIANS 15:5‭-‬8‭

Still have doubts? I promise you that those doubts come straight from our enemy, the Father of Lies, who wants nothing more than to have you reject the Gospel. The enemy wants us to question the Bible, and especially to question the New Testament and its eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. If he, the enemy, can get you to doubt and to question, he wins. The enemy knows that without Jesus, His sacrifice and resurrection, we have nothing. We know that with Jesus, with His sacrifice, we have everything.

Choose wisely. Remember what is of First Importance.

Image: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, c. 1601–1602. Wikipedia

Ready to Defend the Faith

“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” – 1 PETER 2:17 NASB

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing …..” – MATTHEW 6:1‭-‬3 NASB

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts (v. 13-14 are from Isaiah 8:12-13, with ‘Christ’ substituted for ‘Yahweh’), always being ready to make a defense (apologetics: a rational and reasonable answer or account for the HOPE that is in us, or why we believe what we believe) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” – 1 PETER 3:13‭-‬16 NASB

What is this Living Hope, that we would want to honor all people, or care for those less fortunate, or even be willing to submit to suffering for it? If you go back to 1 Peter 1, especially verses 3-5, we see it clearly stated:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who according to His great Mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” –
1 PETER 1:3‭-‬5 NAS

Apologetics in a nutshell. John Piper said (“Make a Case for Your Hope”, October 19, 1980) about verse 15, “….. literally Peter said, “Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts ready always to make a case . . . for your hope. This suggests that there is a very close connection between reverencing the Lord Christ in your hearts and always being ready to make a case for your hope. ……. How shall you always be ready to make a case for your hope? Answer: Reverence the Lord Christ in your heart, and you will always have a reason to give for why you are hopeful.

Charles Ryrie’s book “Basic Theology” looks like a good resource for really digging onto what you believe, and for understanding how and why you come to your conclusions. I’m convinced that not only does GOD exist (Genesis 1:1), but He is the Creator of everything. He is Triune, equally GOD the Father, GOD the Son, and GOD the Holy Spirit. The Bible is His Word, communicated through humans to put it into written form, and not to be disputed or changed by us. GOD the Son, Jesus, left heaven to live an unimpeachable life as a human; born of a virgin, 100% GOD and 100% human. He was brutally tortured and killed by us, only to conquer death and the grave, rising up out of that tomb in a glorious, resurrected body three days later. His return was witnessed first-hand by hundreds of people, and His transformation and ascent into heaven occured in front of witnesses. God wants to communicate with His creatures (that’s us!), and He does it through His Book, the Bible, and through prayer. In the Book, we can read the 500 prophecies that have already been 100% fulfilled; and the 500 prophecies still to come. He is GOD and He has come for me; He is my Hope – the ONLY Hope of life and eternity. Enthroned in our hearts, He is the Living Hope – the only Hope in a seriously depraved world. I have experienced – and embraced – that Hope and Mercy in my life.

Have you embraced the Living Hope of Jesus Christ? Are you ready to defend your faith?

Is He Worthy?

Is He worthy of our praise? He is!!

“While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” ” – MARK 14:3‭-‬9 NASB

This woman, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, took an outrageously extravagant, ridiculously expensive bottle of perfume, and broke the bottle, and poured the perfume onto Jesus’ head. When I say expensive, I mean expensive like a whole year’s wages. A whole year. How much do you make – gross – in a year? On the low end, in the U.S., it could be $12,000. On the other end of the scale, you could be a CEO making $4.5 million (I made that number up. I can’t really comprehend it). I imagine most (more?) people could relate to $40,000. Whatever the number, that’s about what this bottle was worth. Let’s go low-end, and we’ll say it was a $30,000 bottle of perfume.

A $30,000 bottle of perfume. The bottle, the container, was carved from alabaster, a stone used for decorative carvings and statuary. For this expensive perfume, I can imagine that it was beautifully carved and decorated, made for a wealthy woman’s dressing table. Something beautiful for her to look at. I’m not really a frou-frou type, but I would treat something like that especially carefully and treasure it. It could easily have been a gift from a suitor, and it was definitely something very special to Mary. She said, Jesus is worthy. He was worthy of the sacrifice of this tremendous treasure, and He is worth so much more!

If Mary’s perfume was a sacrifice, a treasure, poured out to cover Jesus’ head, how much more of a treasure is the blood He shed to cover us? Her treasure wasn’t wasted at all. It was an annointing to prepare His body for the ordeal He was about to go through. Mary had been listening when Jesus told His followers that He would be killed for them; that He would be a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Jesus says “What worth? You should say what VALUE. She did what she could, she did a beautiful thing for Me; she anointed My Body for burial. She seized a fleeting opportunity …..” we are to love people, but our Priority is to Love God. Jesus tells His disciples He is going to die but they don’t really listen or understand.

“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” – MATTHEW 16:21

“And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.” – MATTHEW 17:22‭-‬23

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” – MATTHEW 20:18‭-‬19

Mary listened, and she took action. She was extravagant, but she knew that her treasure of perfume was nothing when compared to the Treasure of the Presence of Jesus. Other religions have scales of good v. evil to compare our lives on. Weighing the good in me, the good I’ve done in my life, compared to the bad in me? I lose! We all lose there, if we are honest! Christianity has the Cross, no scales, because we are all found wanting in the end – that’s the beauty of the Gospel!

Is He Worthy?

How do you answer that question?

Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “Is He Worthy” and prepare to worship!

Restored

“The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” – MATTHEW 28:5‭-‬6 NASB

The cross couldn’t hold Him, death couldn’t retain Him, and the grave couldn’t keep Him. The cross and the tomb shall remain empty for the rest of eternity, and then forever more. He is Risen, Restored to His Glory, restored to His Throne! Jesus Christ, the LORD of Heaven and Earth has conquered death and hell, and He has arisen, Victorious and Glorious!

He is Risen, He is Risen indeed!

Leading to the Cross

On the Tuesday before Easter Sunday, “Good” Friday looms and our focus is on the suffering of Jesus and the Cross. He has just entered into Jerusalem in triumph; the people welcoming Him with jubilation and celebration, thinking that He is going to take over the government of Judea and become their new king on earth. Such excitement runs among them! What thoughts must have been running through Jesus’ mind? I hope He was able to soak up the adoration and love, in preparation of the ordeal He knew He was facing. He knew His central purpose was to die as the sacrifice for our sins. He didn’t deserve to die – unlike the rest of humankind, Jesus never once in His life on earth committed any sin. Never once; not one. His death on the cross is, without doubt, the worst injustice ever done or to be done in all of earth’s history. This passage describes Jesus’ life beautifully.

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of GOD, for it is written, “vengeance is mine , I will repay,” says the LORD.” – ROMANS 12:17‭-‬19 NASB

Jesus could have easily retaliated against the soldiers who beat and mocked Him, and He could have punished the Jewish leaders for their unjust treatment of Him. Legions of angels – His Angel Army – were just waiting on a single word from Him to swoop in and rescue Him! Jesus knows His Father, and He trusted in GOD for ultimate justice and revenge. Peter reminds us of our calling as followers of Christ Jesus in this passage he wrote to followers living a far distance from Rome as they were being mocked and harassed for their faith (much as we are today).

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth ; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” – 1 PETER 2:21‭-‬25 NASB

By His woundsall of His suffering was inflicted on the Son of GOD, endured by the only perfect, sinless man for the sin and the sickness of our souls. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of GOD in Him.” – 2 CORINTHIANS 5:21 NASB Jesus is our Guardian, our Overseer; He is watching over us constantly from heaven, and He left us with His Holy Spirit so that we are never alone.

Do I resemble Christ when I am mistreated? Have you accepted what Jesus did for you – and me – on the cross?

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” – 2 CORINTHIANS 5:20‭ NASB

“My fear doesn’t stand a chance when I’m standing in Your Love!” Thank you, Bethel Music, for this fabulous song, and K-LOVE Radio for playing it!!

The GLORY

“The heavens proclaim the GLORY of GOD. The skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.” – Psalms 9:1‭-‬4a NLT

WOW.

Verse 3: “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” The heavens, the skies, the sun and the moon and the stars; the planets …. the clouds all display the Majesty and the Glory of GOD! It isn’t just the heavens, either.

“Sing a new song to the LORD! Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the LORD made the heavens! Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for He is coming! He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with His Truth.” – Psalms 96:1‭, ‬5‭-‬5‭, ‬11‭-‬13 NLT

Throughout scriptures, everything that we (humans) see as inanimate comes alive in praising the Creator. Picture a black night sky positively bursting with stars, or an impossibly blue sky full of dancing clouds! Can you see the fields and valleys literally glowing with new grasses and flowers and leaves, rejoicing in the breezes? The sea, as the whales and dolphins leap and the fish fly threw the air? Smell the scents of the forest, dirt and pine and newness of life. How can you look at new life, animal or human, and not see the Hand of the Creator GOD?

It just happened?? Who in their right mind could believe it?

Wisdom, Understanding, and Folly

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.” – Jeremiah 17:7 ESV

Isn’t it fascinating that the author of Proverbs, reputed to be Solomon, the wisest man on earth, addresses Wisdom and Folly as female:

“Does not Wisdom call? Does not Understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man.” ….. “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His work, the first of His acts of old. [“The LORD brought me forth as the first of His works, before His deeds of old ….. – from the NIV] Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, before He had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. When He established the heavens, I was there; when He drew a circle on the face of the deep, when He made firm the skies above, when He established the fountains of the deep, when He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress His Command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside Him, like a master workman, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing before Him always, rejoicing in His inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” – Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-27, 30-31 ESV

Even the earth is referred to as “she” in ancient history. Don’t misunderstand me. I believe that GOD – GOD the FATHER, GOD the SON, and GOD the HOLY SPIRIT; the Triune, Three-in-One Creator GOD – are masculine. That’s how they are ALWAYS referred to in scripture, but here in Proverbs the writer makes a point of using the feminine forms to describe Wisdom and Understanding and Folly. It is as if they are creations, too; in fact, in verse 22, it clearly states that Wisdom was brought forth as the first of His works, His acts, of old. We also see in verse 1 where the writer refers to Understanding as feminine: “Does not Understanding raise her voice?” I have struggled with the idea that God would create His companions – the angels, the Seraphim and Cherubim and all of the heavenly hosts – only as males, but and only after that create man and woman, and all of the creatures on earth as male and female.

Are all angels, then, created as masculine as portrayed in the masterpieces of old? Clearly, there are masculine angels, but for example, is the Archangel Michael masculine – or perhaps feminine? We won’t have a definitive answer until we get to see JESUS, but in whatever form, they are definitely created by God, and they are His warriors. Satan is obviously male (based on the scriptures where the reference is always “he”) but remember that one third of the heavenly hosts followed him in his rebellion (that’s where Folly comes in). Before we (women) start to get too proud of the fact that Wisdom is feminine, we need to read what the scriptures say about her sister, Folly:

“The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol [also know as Hell].” – Proverbs 9:13‭-‬18 ESV

I don’t really think it’s worth spending a lot of time trying to figure out the masculine and feminine of all of our GOD’s Creation, because it is as He created it. Worry or concern over it won’t change anything. The important question, the critical question, is this: Do you choose each day to follow Christ, and listen to wisdom, or do you prefer to listen to folly? (Be sure to read that last verse, Proverbs 9:18, again!)

Just some thoughts.

Artist: Adam de Colonia, 1660-1685, oil on canvas