HOLY

A.W. Tozer said “Our image of God shapes what we value, what we pursue, what we don’t pursue.” That should initiate some soulful searching. What, exactly, is my image of God?

Who is God?

He is His Holiness (Tozier “The Knowledge of the Holy”). His main attribute, according to the scriptures, is that He is Holy. Holy Holy Holy; My Holy Name. In Ezekial 39:7, the LORD says My Holy Name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel; and I will not let My Holy Name be profaned anymore. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.”

“And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His Glory.” Isaiah 6:3 NASB

Over and over, He refers to Himself as Holy, the Holy One, My Holy Name. The writers of scripture acknowledge that He is Holy and He is Glory: Psalms 99:5,9, 103:1, 111:9; Isaiah 40:5, 57:15; Revelations 15:4 “For You Alone are HOLY…”

“Then He [the LORD] said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is Holy ground.” ” Exodus 3:5 NASB

To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.” Isaiah 40:25 NASB

“I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am GOD and not man, the Holy One in your midst, And I will not come in wrath.” Hosea 11:9 NASB

The centrality of His Holiness is shown by His Son as He teaches us the way to pray in Matthew 6:9 –

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed – HOLY- be Your Name’, or as some translations say “may Your Name be kept Holy.

Holy is His Name, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. He is beyond words. We should be awestruck, in awe. when we see him for the 1st time. The biggest problem for humanity is the realization that God is Holy and we are not, but thankfully, Jesus took our unholiness and covers it with His blood, making us holy through His righteousness. Because of Him, we will stand blameless before the Lord!

“Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.”
Jude 1:24‭-‬25 NLT

HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the LORD!

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Grow In Grace

The group Kutlass sings King of My Heart:
Let the King of my heart Be the mountain where I run, The Fountain I drink from, Oh, He is my song!

Let the King of my heart Be the shadow where I hide, The ransom for my life, Oh, He is my song!

We grow in Grace when JESUS is the King of our hearts. He helps us grow in our spirit when we submit to His leading. What does that look like? Start by believing the Gospel with your whole heart. We need to connect with the church – other believers – in order to grow. We can’t do it on our own. Another big part of growing Grace is to serve others.

“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” – Romans 12:4‭-‬5 NASB

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,” – Hebrews 3:13‭-‬14 NASB (also v.12)

We won’t know, we CAN’T know, God intimately until we are connected to a body of believers, encouraging and being encouraged every day, in person, with meaningful contact between us. Intentional community is critical to our spiritual help and to our growth in Grace. Our intentional community also serves to shield us from the world’s influence. To learn and know the Gospel, we NEED other Christians for the safety we find in their presence, and to give us the time we need. Unlike in the world, there should be no pressure within the body of believers.

If we aren’t growing, progressing in the fruits of the Spirit, there’s a problem. We are constantly being deceived and tricked (stunted in our growth, selfish and self-centered) by the enemy that community/church is not necessary. Wrong. There is NO NEUTRAL in the Christian life! We are either growing or shrinking and being pulled away. I like how C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, puts it:

“But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.”

“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen .” – 2 Peter 3:17‭-‬18 NASB

How do we grow in Grace? By grasping how unworthy we are – Amazing Grace. If you identify as the wretch, if s*(manure) happens – and it will, and if you see yourself as unworthy of God’s Grace, you are probably growing in grace. We grow through an increased knowledge of God’s Word – the WHOLE story, not just bits and pieces, connecting the stories into a unified whole. We need Expository teaching – how to relate the Bible to today, and how to study the Bible; teaching that is about Jesus, and not focused on the preacher/teacher. It’s all about HIM, not us. Glory belongs to Him. Be Passionate about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Growth and maturity is about Him. He is most glorified when we seek the Fame and Glory of Jesus Christ. Faith in Him. His Glory.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” – Romans 6:1‭-‬2 NASB

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!!