“Good Friday & Beauty out Ashes”

Beauty out of ashes

Luke 23 Dr. Luke records for us the witnesses at the cross. Only by the Spirit of God could one chapter hold so much that it grabs our attention and cause us to fall upon our knees in humble adoration for the Messiah who gave all that we might worship Him alone.

Today, just as then, God desires that we draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience..” [Heb 10:22] 

There were two criminals crucified with Jesus. One recognized and submitted to the Son of God as he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In that one brief interchange, Dr. Luke transcends earth to heaven so that beauty may come from the ashes of sin, and we learn of the plan of salvation. First, one must revere God; secondly, one must recognize that they are a sinner who needs repentance. Like him, we are justly condemned for our sin. Therefore, we must seek His face and His forgiveness so we can hear his response: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” 

Note the promise: it happens today, not in the future. We will be with Him! We will be in paradise with Him. 

Guilt –>Repentance –>Forgiveness

Seek Repentance early

Matt 26 and Mark 14 If you are a believer of the Word of God, you have come face to face with guilt, whether it is presumed or actual. Jesus had a sure-fire way of getting reactions to his statements, and these chapters prove that point. He stated that “I tell you the truth; one of you eating with me will betray me.” Immediately the guilt signals arise in the minds of the disciples. One by one, they asked, Surely not I?” When we hear the words of Jesus, we too often ask, could it be me? It makes us squirm because we know Jesus knows all things. 

When Judas also asks that same question, Jesus responds: “You have said it yourself.” If that were you, how would you have responded? Judas’ response was to continue on the road to betray Jesus, and only after the dastardly deed did he repent. Too little, too late. But was it true repentance? Listen to his words: “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” [Matt 27:4] He said that before the religious leaders who cared little for his words. There is no scripture saying he ever repented before the Lord or the Father.

What about us? Why is repentance so very difficult? Why do we not admit our sin and seek forgiveness? One writer noted ten reasons, and the top three included: it confronts us with our sin, we are scared God won’t forgive, and we want law, not grace. If that is you, today do not delay; seek God’s forgiveness as 1John 1:9 says. God is waiting to hear your prayer. 

False or True Repentance

Are you ready to meet Jesus

Nahum 1-3 In 1935 there was a huge dust storm in the US. It crossed the midwest and carried more dirt than was dug from the Panama Canal all the way to the ocean on the east. It was called Black Sunday. Nahum describes a similar scene; “[God] marches out in the whirlwind and the raging storm; dark storm clouds billow like dust under his feet.” [Nah 1:3] One hundred years earlier, when Jonah spoke all of Nineveh, both man and beast, put on sackcloth and ashes in repentance; but, now, they had returned to their cruel ways. Although God’s mercies are new every morning, if repentance is not real, He will bring judgment.

God is slow to anger not willing any should perish, but all come to repentance, [2Pet 3:9] yet He is also zealous and will avenge.  Whereas the former king repented and Nineveh was spared, the new king was indolent and unrepentant. God allowed the winds of the Babylonians to come in and destroy Assyria for this unrepentance. The point is that God is looking for true repentance. Is our repentance real or fake?

Assyria was destroyed, and their idols burned yet scoffers say: “where is the promise of his coming? It is as it always has been.” [2Pet 3:4]  Amazingly, in 1845, an archaeologist stumbled upon Nineveh’s site and found an extensive library proving Nahum’s words were true and accurate.

Beloved, God is merciful, but He will be patient just so long. If Jesus were to return today, would you be ready?

“God’s Mercy!”

God's mercy

2Chron 33 There is nothing like hooks in your nose, bronze chains, and extradition to a foreign land; a prison cell, cold gruel, day-old bread, and water to awaken your senses, and that is what happened to King Manasseh. He then “realized that the Lord is the true God” and repented. It was because of the mercy of God that he was released and returned to his kingdom. God’s mercy is overflowing!

God has placed this event to remind us that it begins with how you pay attention to the Lord and His Word. A word of caution here: his sin, just like ours, does impact family and children. His unrepentant son Amon is proof of that.

The Chronicler records these words: the annals record all his sins and unfaithful acts, and identify the sites where he built high places and erected Asherah poles and idols “before he humbled himself.” [2Chron 33:19] Mark that last phrase: he humbled himself, and that is what God is seeking.

You can listen and repent now, or you can do it later, but beware because God doesn’t guarantee there will be a tomorrow. Unfortunately, Amon learned that lesson the hard way; his life ended in an assassination.

Celebrating and Communion

are we ready to celebrate

2Chron 30 As we have seen in our own country, it takes a lot of preparation to prepare for a party, especially when a new leader and a new regime are installed. It was no different when Hezekiah took the throne upon his father’s passing. As part of his new regime, Hezekiah invited the entire nation from N and S to celebrate the Passover, but his invitation was rejected. In fact, the people mocked and ridiculed the messengers he sent.  

 Back in Judah, the people united, and they removed the false altars and threw them in the Kidron valley.  Hezekiah prayed for those who were “unclean,” and the Lord forgave them because although unclean ceremonially, they were determined to follow God.  

 The Israelites in Jerusalem observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy. They chose to be joyful even though others chose not to come. The Levites and priests were praising the Lord every day with all their might.

 Some applications from this passage for today.  Before we celebrate Communion, do we stop and ask if there are any idols we need to discard? Do we stop and “examine [ourselves] first,” [1Cor 11:28] Are we ready to observe and willing to consecrate ourselves to the Lord?  Do we pray for those who are determined to follow God?

Jesus Paid It All…

Jesus paid it all

Lev 5 “It is all about holiness before a holy God.”

One phrase is repeated in this chapter about sin: “even if he did not realize it…” This is not talking about intentional rebellion, but those sins that we unintentionally commit and then realize. When sin brings guilt we have a choice: we can ignore it OR confess it to God seeking His forgiveness and cleansing.

These Leviticus chapters were written to the Israelites to demonstrate the love and mercy of God upon these unintentional sins and how men were able to seek God’s forgiveness. Then people had to do it over and over and over. Jesus paid it all on the cross once and for all. Both then and now all must seek God’s mercy gift. God wanted us to realize that sin is not just against a fellow citizen, but God Himself. God is right to condemn our sin because He is holy, and He calls us to be holy. Without the sacrifice we stand guilty before God in need of atonement.

Today we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to speak to our heart. We must confess our sin; seek God’s forgiveness; trust that He is faithful and righteous and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1John 1:9 paraphrase]

Do you need this today? Do not delay but listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Sin & Righteousness

Judah vs Joseph

Genesis 38-40 We have seen the shame of Jacob’s sons. They are jealous, envious, and hateful to their younger brother Joseph. They scheme and finalize a sale of him to the Midianites. Ever willing to go the extra mile to cover his guilt, Judah leaves home, so he doesn’t have to see his father in his continual mourning state. You can run away, but at some point, you can be sure “your sin will find you out.” [Num. 32:23] Judah “went down” to his BFF’s home. Whenever we see that phrase, we can know Satan is at work behind the scenes. What better participant than Judah, who despised his inheritance much like Esau. As Satan seeks to undermine God’s plan by escalating the price, God will have the last word in His providential care of His own. Tamar is God’s tool to reveal to Judah that another is more righteous than he. That must have been a blow to his ego! Years later, we will see how God will use that truth to break his spirit, so stay tuned for the rest of the story. 

In between this ego-driven story of unrighteousness, we are given the picture of God’s righteous servant Joseph. Although imprisoned falsely, he states what every believer should say when Satan tempts. “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” [Gen 39:9]

What is God teaching us through these two men? [Job 23:10] But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. and “Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked” [Prov 13:6]

“God’s Storms and Men’s Hearts”

God uses storms

Acts 28 John Jacob Astor believed that the Titanic was unsinkable, yet he and his wealth are at the bottom of the ocean because of his stubborn pride and lack of foresight—the Titanic only carried enough lifeboats for half of the passengers—Astor was not saved. We hear the words of Paul “men, you should have listened to me.” [Acts 27:21]

On the Adriatic Sea God sent another storm tossing the ship Paul was on. Just like the Titanic, the ship’s captain did not heed the words of Paul to stay on the island of Crete. Yet, God can overrule men’s decisions so that they may come face to face with the God of the storms. In this case, He chose to preserve Roman soldiers, centurions, rowers, the captain and prisoners so they might hear Paul teach and preach the resurrection of Christ.  Did they respond because of the storm? Only in eternity will we know. Yet this is true:  “Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.” [Rom 10:17]

God does the same for us today; He uses ordinary people like you and me to carry out His divine appointed plans. We never know when we may experience a storm so men may hear the story of the resurrected Christ.

What storm are you facing?

Will you let God use you to share the resurrected Christ to others?

False or True Repentance

Is your repentance true or false

Nahum 1-3  Nahum, the Elkoshite, prophesied to the wicked Assyrians about their short-lived repentance. One hundred years earlier, when Jonah spoke the entire city, both man and beast put on sackcloth and ashes in repentance. But, now, they had returned to their cruel ways. Some today may make a faith profession, but later it is as if they had never heard. Just like the Ninevites, they had short memories. The “message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.[Heb 4:2]  Although Jeremiah wrote that God’s mercies are new every morning, He will call all accounts due sooner or later.

‘Listen Assyria; God is slow to anger not willing any should perish, but all come to repentance, yet He is also zealous and will avenge His people.  Whereas your king of old repented and you were spared, your new king is indolent and degenerate. You are ripe for enemy nations.’

Just because you think it won’t happen doesn’t mean it won’t. Assyria was destroyed, and their idols burned. Scoffers say to us: “where is the promise of his coming? It is as it always has been.” [2Pet 3:4]  Amazingly, in 1845, an archaeologist stumbled upon Nineveh’s site and found an extensive library proving Nahum’s words were true and accurate.

Beloved, God is merciful, but He will be patient just so long. If Jesus were to return today, would you be ready?

“Street Theater News”

Ezekiel's street theater

Ezekiel 4-6 In Babylon, the captives had no newspapers or town criers, only miles and miles of desert sand. As the days passed, they wanted answers, but their priests were of no help. They knew God had called Ezekiel to be a prophet, so they came to ask him: Why are we here? What is happening in Jerusalem? When will we go home? Instead of a steady sermonette, God had Ezekiel pantomime the Jerusalem news for 430 days! The message was clear: Where are your idols now? Did they save you? 

God is patient, and He had not forgotten them, but they were in sin. Just like a parent, God disciplines those He loves. Before all of this, He had sent them prophets to warn them: do not trust in these idols, they will fail you—but the words fell on deaf ears. Now in the plains outside Babylon, they could see that the idols were gone, rusted, or decayed. Ezekiel’s drama told this one truth:

God loved you yesterday as He does today and will tomorrow, but He also will judge sin. He will use whatever means He considers best so that people might repent. 

The question remains: Have you heard God’s message over and over, but you refuse to repent? Do you believe God loves you even as He waits for you to repent?