Once For All

17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the Right Hand of GOD, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” – 1 PETER 3:17-22 NASB

Martin Luther made a very interesting observation on this selection of scripture. In his Commentary on Peter & Jude, “A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means.” If Martin Luther has trouble understanding it, I’m not sure anyone can!

Peter continues his thought from verse 17 in the next chapter: “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” – 1 Peter 4:1‭, ‬12 ESV

He understood from experiences in his own life that we need understanding and hope. He makes the point that to suffer for being a Christian is normal. Jesus said “You will be hated because you are known by My Name.” (Matthew 10:22, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17) Be ready to suffer.

What kind of Saviour do we need? John Piper says we need a compassionate Saviour, a fellow sufferer, and we have just that in the person of Jesus Christ. He suffered first: “….. For Christ also died for sins once for all – final, complete, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; …..” (verse 18)

Christ suffered first. Anything we have suffered, everything that we might suffer – pain, abandonment, isolation, loss, grief, condemnation, torture, torment. Now we will suffer. He gets it. He has sympathy, empathy, and compassion. We do suffer consequences, but we will not have to suffer the penal punishment of an eternity in hell, because Christ bore that wrath full measure, MY iniquity, MY substitute – personal and potent – on the cross.

Noah acted on the Word of God, and built a huge boat far away from any water. Can you imagine the ridicule? Yet he did it, because GOD told him to, preparing for an event that was incomprehensible to him and the people he knew. When the rain started, it was a phenomenon that had never before occurred. It, combined with the water rising up and flooding the earth, completely covered and wiped out the old sinful world. Water that saved them from similar destruction only because they were in the ark. Baptism – the water – doesn’t save us, but if Jesus is our ark, the water washes away the sin and cleanses us. We come out of the water through Jesus like Noah came out of the water through the ark. The visual of baptism represents the death, burial, and the Resurrection, the Risen Christ. It could be viewed as the “Pledge of Allegience” of Christians. Christ went from this earth to sit at the Right Hand of GOD. The “Right Hand” signifies the preeminent, ultimate position of authority. EVERYTHING lines up under and is subject to Jesus, including Satan and all of his followers. That could be a scary thought if you aren’t on the right side…… Jesus ascended to heaven, to the Father, 40 days after Easter. That’s the reason He is not on earth with us. Remember what Peter said in 1 Peter 1:8a “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him.”

What do you do when you are discouraged and suffering? We find encouragement throughout the Gospel. When I accept Christ as my Saviour, I AM saved, and I WILL ALWAYS BE saved, from that moment forward. Amen.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38‭-‬39 ESV

Have You Prayed About It?

“Have you prayed about it?”

Whenever we have a question or concern, or we are worried about something, that phrase should be the first thing that pops into our mind.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the LORD will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” – JAMES 5:13‭-‬18 NASB

Billy Graham wrote: “Faith pleases God more than anything else. The Christian life is dependent upon faith. We stand on faith; we live on faith. Faith is loved and honored by God more than any other single thing.

The Bible teaches that faith is the only approach that we have to God. No man has sins forgiven, no man goes to heaven, no man has assurance of peace and happiness, until he has faith in Jesus Christ.

You may be saying, “God, I believe you are a great person, but I do not believe your Word; I do not believe what you say.” In order to please God, you must believe Him. Perhaps your faith is small and weak.

It does not matter how big your faith is, but rather, where your faith is. Is it in Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for your sins?”

I especially appreciate the last 2 sentences, because for years my faith was small… tiny, almost nonexistent. Because my faith was so small, my constant search for peace & happiness did not yield anything. Oh, I could sense them! I knew they were within reach ….. but I couldn’t quite get there. I knew, because of my parents teaching us while we were children, that true peace only comes thru JESUS. Scripture is quite clear on that:

“Without faith it isn’t possible to please GOD. Those who come to God must believe that He exists. And they must believe that He rewards those who look to Him.” – Hebrews 11:6

Without faith, it is difficult to pray, and without prayer, it is difficult – maybe even impossible – to have faith. The thing I most hope to get across is this: No matter what is going on in your life, whether mental or physical, there is HOPE. There can be PEACE. Regardless of what anyone else says or does to us, JESUS is the answer. Claim it – claim HIM. Pray about it. Hold a conversation with God!

See that tiny flicker of faith that is hiding deep in your soul? Fan the flames. Let GOD supply the fuel!

Have you prayed about it?

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!

MY Plans 🙊🙉🙈

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” – JAMES 4:13‭-‬16 NASB

Ah yes. I had great plans for my life. Yep….. I had great plans for my life. From high school to college, where I would graduate with a degree in Art (not education, mind you, just Art.) While at college, my plan was to meet “the” guy who would love me and protect me and support me, for the rest of my life. Problem was, instead of allowing God to lead, I became impatient (who, me??), and began making choices and decisions based on emotion and human want. If you’ve been following me for long, you know that hasn’t worked out too well. The guy I picked, the Prince of my dreams, turned out to be more the Prince of my nightmares. I was determined not to fail, though, so I stuck it out for eight long years of lies, cheating, and physical and emotional abuse.

Did I learn from that experience to lean on God, and rely more on His Will and less on mine? Of course not! I was on a roll! I picked another “Prince” to rescue me…… only it turned out that I was the one needing rescue, again, because I was right back in the same situation. I learned from that one, right? Oh, no, of course not. So I tried again, and again, and again. (My ‘picker’ was obviously broken!) I have to keep doing the same things over and over again, determined to get it right on my own, without outside help from other people or from God. That’s the definition of insanity, by the way.

You know how you hear from men who have been through divorce that their ex’s got “everything,” kids, house, car, child support, alimony? Somehow, I kept getting stuck giving them all those things!

I can blame the men, and I can blame God, for my situation in life, but ultimately it all falls on me and my poor choices. James said it perfectly:

“You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

I’m slow and late to acknowlege it, but it is absolutely true. What the future holds, I have no idea. The only thing I know is that I have to rely on the Lord and do my best to understand His Will for my life. Sounds simple; difficult for some of us to accept and do!! A line from an old tv show pops into my mind, and it probably should be one I repeat to myself more often. From Hogan’s Heros, whenever things spiraled out of control, Sgt. Schultz would say “I know nothing!” Only instead of waiting until after things go wrong, I need to say it first – and then listen to God! He knows everything. Amen!

Listen to Mandisa “I’m Just Unfinished”

Even Demons Believe

Did you know that Martin Luther wanted to delete the book of James from the Bible? It was a surprise to me!

“You believe that God is one* [One early missive reads there is one God]. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected …… ” – JAMES 2:19‭-‬22 NASB

James wrote about faith and works. Is faith complete without works? Can you do the works without the faith? The book of James is focused on these questions, but my laser eye (hahaha!!) focused instead on verse 19: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” How often do we recognize this? When confronted by someone who insists that there isn’t a god, how do we react? Do we react? Or do we respond? I think this verse from James is the perfect response to such a statement! An even better response is the one we live in our daily lives. If demons believe in the One True God, and still go about their business of bringing evil into the world, then isn’t it up to us as believers to bring the opposite into the world?

“And [Jesus] said to him, ” ‘you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” – MATTHEW 22:37‭-‬39 NASB

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 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 12:9‭, ‬17‭-‬19 NASB

If more Christians, Christ-followers, dedicated themselves to live life in opposition of the demons, the way Jesus commands us in Matthew and Paul shows us in Romans, think of the impact! Even the demons believe …… but while they hide in the dark and shudder in fear under the gaze of our God, we are privileged to enjoy the Light of His Son, and it is up to us to reflect that Light back into the darkness covering the world. No Fear!

Listen to Love and the Outcome sing King Of My Heart.

I Just Don’t Get It

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” – JOHN 21:25 NASB

There are other, similar statements in the scriptures, stating that Jesus did innumerable unrecorded miracles. These miracles were witnessed by hundreds of people. Yet we still don’t believe? I just don’t get it. Millions follow Buddha. He never did a miracle, he never claimed to be sent by the Creator of the Universe, and he didn’t arise from the grave after he died. Research “great religions of man”. Belief in Jesus in not a religion. It is a way of life. There is no dictated behavior. I found this from the C.S. Lewis Institute, and it says what I mean to say much better than I am able to.

“When we look carefully at the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, the call to “follow me” takes on much greater clarity and specificity. It is indeed a call to “walk as Jesus walked,” to live a life of radical faith and love. Once we truly grasp this, our first reaction is likely to be one of dismay. If we are at all aware of the depth of indwelling sin and the dysfunctions that plague our lives, we know it is impossible for us to fulfill such a call. Yet this reaction is actually healthy, because it is based in reality. It is indeed impossible for us to live this way. And that is precisely the point.

Jesus knows we cannot follow him without a power beyond ourselves. And that is why he sent the Holy Spirit to empower us.

It is only through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we can obey the teaching of Jesus and follow his example. He assures us of the Father’s love, he makes the things of Christ real to us; he makes the gospel precious to us; he convicts us of sin and assures of forgiveness when we repent; he transforms us from glory to glory, into the likeness of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:16–18). That is why we are taught to earnestly seek to be filled with the Spirit each day (Eph. 5:18) and to be led by him in all our ways (Gal. 5:16–25). When we do, we will find that we can live in newness of life. Not perfectly and not immediately. But day by day, as we walk in faith and obedience, the Spirit will produce in us the character of Jesus: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23).” – Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min. Director of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute

(http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Following_Jesus_Christ_Tarrants_Single-Page_Full_Article)

I’m grateful to have access to study such diverse sources! Study for yourself and determine the truth. I don’t believe that anyone who diligently and honestly searches for the Truth won’t find it. I know where it lies, and it is in the Person of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you will discover the Truth – and accept the Truth – as well! Amen!!

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – JAMES 1:5 NASB

No Ordinary Man

The chief priests and Pharisees were so frightened of Jesus and His testimony, they went to Pilate to complain about Him and His followers. Keep in mind that at this point they know that Jesus is dead and in the grave, yet they are so afraid of this dead man that they want His grave sealed and a guard set on it!

“Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” – MATTHEW 27:64‭-‬66 NASB

They knew this was no ordinary man they were dealing with.

Over the centuries, there have been many imposters. If you Google “men who claim to be Jesus,” a long list of names comes up. Then there are the many who claim that Jesus was ‘just’ a prophet like Moses or Muhammad or Buddha. Who, in all of these men have died and been resurrected in three days, besides Jesus? The list of imposters is hundreds of names long, and the names of men from that list who died and rose from the dead is zero. Not one. They are, or were, all ordinary men. Not so, Jesus.

Luke, a physician, wrote factually about Jesus. He researched what he wrote and reported first-hand accounts.

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” – LUKE 1:1‭-‬4 NASB

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the Holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” – LUKE 1:31‭-‬35 NASB

This Holy Child, this Jesus, is no ordinary man. He is 100% man, and 100% God.

How bereft His followers must have felt this morning, following His unimaginable, incredible death on the cross! This is the first day they have been without Him, without His physical presence, in three years. At this point, they don’t know what to think; they are overcome with the grief of His death. Gather together with them today. Meditate on what it felt like for them. We have the advantage, because we know that He conquers death and will rise up on the third day!

He is no ordinary man. He is worthy of our love, our worship, our devotion!