Tag Archives: Jesus

A Gleam in Our Father’s Eye

“So he called his disciples to himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;  for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.’” – Mark 12:43-44

No one else noticed her, but Jesus commended this poor widow for her faith and generosity in giving all that she had – (what those around her considered of no value) – to God.

Gleam

Can you picture the face of her Father in heaven? The gleam in his eye as she honored him? Trusted him?

Giving is not about the money; it’s an act of faith. This widow exhibited great faith in God and in His providence. She let go of all that she had.

The proof of our faith is in letting go, too.

How can we bring a gleam to our Father’s eyes?

We can begin by understanding that our lives are realigned and redefined by one relationship – with Jesus Christ. If we have Jesus, we have everything.

If we believe that, nothing will be more valuable to us than God.

Do we rely on God or on our possessions?

Like the poor widow, do we give gifts to God that actually cost us? Or is our faith journey one without cost? If so, where is our faith?

We can ask God how he wants us to sacrifice for him – and then do it.

Missionary Jim Elliot had it right when he said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Advertisements

Jesus, the Prince of Peace

Merry Christmas to you all.

May God’s peace be upon you in Jesus Christ, who is the Prince of Peace.

PrinceofPeace

See Charles Stanley – “Jesus – the Prince of Peace” – at https://www.intouch.org/Content/27938/LP111218.pdf.

See also “True Meaning of Christmas” at http://wp.me/p4scHf-6w.

True Meaning of Christmas

Is Christmas all about Santa Claus and Jingle Bell rocking your way to a Christmas tree laden with lights and blessed with presents? Does Christmas represent the evils of capitalism and a planet endangered by imminent environmental catastrophes? Does your holiday fair consist of elves or Christmas ghosts reigniting your love life?

If so, then you may be missing the real meaning of Christmas.

Christmas01

But, of course, America’s cultural degradation of Christmas has been going on for decades and is accelerating at an even greater pace.

A growing number of people criticize the commercialization of Christmas even as increasing number of groups emerge who claim offense at Christmas trees, “Merry Christmas,” and Santa Clause in the public square. What’s next – outlaw snowballs?

Even faithful Christians – who, of all people should know better – may miss the deeper spiritual reality of Christmas.

The Christmas Story

The Christmas story is familiar fair to any who have attended a Christmas play or seen a nativity scene. The historical narrative is found in four chapters of the Gospels (Matthew 1-2, and Luke 1-2).

Virtually every Christmas song – whether traditional, sacred, or secular – is filled with joy, signifying the universal recognition that something joyful is being celebrated.

Joy to the World!

People from all walks of life were impacted by the birth of – and presence of – Jesus.

We read that John the Baptist, while still in the womb of his mother, leapt for joy in the presence of a still unborn Jesus. Mary, Jesus’ mother, sang a song of praise. Wise men came from the east and angels and shepherds sang. A high priest and an elderly prophetess prophesied. A righteous man saw his dream fulfilled.

From babies to the elderly, lowly shepherds, wise men, a high priest, a righteous man, a prophetess – all were impacted by the Babe.

The gift of Christmas was the baby Jesus. A gift to all mankind. Irrespective of race, gender, class. A gift to us all.

Joy to the World!

Immanuel, God with Us

However, the central point of these gospel accounts is not the audience to the birth of Jesus. It is Jesus! The overarching theme is not that people from all walks of life were impacted by Jesus’ presence, but that they all worshiped Jesus and God.

In each and every instance, those who sought Jesus or met Jesus worshiped Jesus.

Did you ever notice that most of the traditional (non-secular) Christmas songs give glory, laud, and honor to the One born to be King?

Why worship Jesus? Matthew 1:23 records the prophecy: “’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’”

Yes, Jesus was God, and these gospel accounts focus on Jesus, “God with us.”

The Gospel of John sheds some light on the Incarnation of Jesus. In the opening verses, we discover that in the beginning – before creation itself – the Word was God and the Word was with God. In other words, it speaks of the Trinity existing before the creation of anything. Then the Word – which spoke all things into existence – became a human being.

Verse 14 puts it this way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The glory appeared in the form of a little Babe called Jesus.

The beautiful song, “Mary, Did You Know?” well expresses the significance of the birth and life of Jesus Christ.

Opposition From Enemies of God

Then, as now, the forces of darkness are ever at work trying to thwart God’s plan.

Satan and his evil minions opposed Jesus from the beginning. But God provided for Him and is people.

The story of King Herod and the massacre of countless children is familiar to those who know the biblical record. The family of Jesus fled to Egypt and were protected by God until their return to Israel.

Even today, the forces of darkness seek to prevent the name of Jesus from being spoken and, especially at this time of year, His story from being told.

Why? There is power in the name of Jesus and there is glory to God in His story.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

Jesus came “clothes in flesh” that we might become clothed in His righteousness and live forevermore with Him in Paradise (John 17:22-23).

Joy to the World!

Jimmy Carter’s “Principles of Allah”

Jimmy Carter, a third-generation Southern Baptist who has renounced his membership in that denomination, recently spoke at the annual convention for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) calling upon all Americans to “use the principles of Allah to bring peace and justice to all.”

Allah

I guess I missed that part in the Bible where Jesus said we are to look to other gods for counsel. (Judeo-Christian principles and culture have served America well for over two centuries, thank you.)

Numerous blogs have provided examples of “principles of Allah” which are decidedly non-Christian, anti-American, and anti-civilization.

Carter has denounced Israel for a decade and he seeks acceptance of HAMAS as a legitimate organization. Carter condemns Christianity for waging a war on women, yet has little criticism of Islam.

Perhaps Jimmy should put on a sweater and watch the news.

1891400_918645284816884_2840731058046146916_o

HAMAS is a terrorist organization in league with ISIS, which is a terrorist nation seeking to rule the world by force and annihilate all opposition. They worship Allah and look to the Koran for guidance.

Peace and justice will forever elude the world as long as Western leaders remain spellbound by their own faulty visions of the world.

Perhaps Jimmy also forgot those Sunday school lessons he gave as a Southern Baptist having to do with Jesus – not Allah – being the Prince of Peace.

 

Osteen’s Narcissistic Gospel

Victoria Osteen, wife of pastor Joel Osteen, made a remarkable statement the other day which must not be ignored. She claimed:

“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God – I mean, that’s one way to look at it –we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”

Osteen

It is imperative that we fully understand the heresy contained in her words. Ask yourself these questions:

When we worship, are we worshiping God or ourselves?

Are we worshipers or are we users?

Selfless or Selfish?

Christian author Tim Chaffey made some salient observations, quoting from some well-known scriptures. Jesus commands His followers to deny themselves and live lives of self-sacrifice (Luke 9:23-25; Luke 10:27-28). Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39).

Chaffery contrasts Olsteen’s gospel of self-love with Jesus’ gospel of other-love and he states the obvious: “These two ideas cannot be more diametrically opposed.” (Chaffery’s observations are worthy of a complete read.)

True Worship

Jesus tells us that we are to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). But what does true worship entail? The apostle John described in vision the penultimate worship service, one which continually takes place in heaven (see Revelation 4).

In that fantastic worship service we see the object of worship is Jesus Christ. The four living creatures constantly say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

The 24 elders cast their own crowns before Jesus and glorify Him, saying, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

We see throughout Scripture that the object of our worship is the one true God. Not ourselves. If our motives for worship are self-focused – to be happy, to get something from God – then we worship amiss.

The great prophet Isaiah had a similar heavenly vision and his response to that vision is well worth emulating (see Isaiah chapter 6).

A Living Sacrifice

The apostle Paul certainly disagreed with the narcissistic gospel proclaimed by the Olsteens. Paul exhorted the people of God, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.”

We worship God whenever we genuinely offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God, pursuing His will instead of our own. Offering ourselves up to Himdenying ourselves daily – is “holy and pleasing to God” and it is the worship to which we have been called.

Jesus promised His disciples a life of hardship and suffering which He would use for His own glory. But Jesus also promised us that He would give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30), His un-surpassing peace (Phil. 4:6-7), and His inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8), and His unfailing love (1 Cor. 13).

True worshipers will worship Him in spirit and in truth. In doing so, they will glorify God. God is faithful and will, in the right time and the best ways, fill us to overflowing with Himself that we may fully experience the fruit of His Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

True worship begins and end with God (not ourselves).

Attacking the Faith: Did Jesus Say that He is God?

Bart Ehrman is the latest biblical scholar to attack the divinity of Jesus and the33 authenticity of Christianity. Just in time for Easter, Ehrman promoted his new book, How Jesus Became God: the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. In that interview, he claimed, “Jesus himself didn’t call himself God and didn’t consider himself God, and that none of his disciples had any inkling at all that he was God.”

Jesus is God

What is the truth?

Did Jesus claim to be God?

Did Jesus consider Himself God?

The Jesus Myth?

Was Jesus’ divinity a myth invented by the church to gain followers or was Jesus, as billions of people believe, God in the flesh?

Ehrman clearly believes a myth was perpetrated by the early church and he stacks the evidence in his favor by entirely discounting the Gospel of John, which provides a super-abundance of evidence contradicting his claims.

But the New Testament confirms Jesus’ deity throughout its pages. God is not silent about the true identity of His Son and He provides ample proof in Scripture. Since Ehrman and others dismiss the Johannine record and New Testament epistles, I will restrict myself to the synoptic gospels to prove what Ehrman denies.

Many Recognize Jesus as Son of God

It is striking the degree to which the biblical evidence proves the deity of Jesus. God the Father called Jesus His beloved Son twice.[1] Both angels[2] and demons[3] called Jesus the Son of God.

Peter proclaimed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[4] The Gospel of Mark begins, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”[5] The Roman centurion at the cross declared, “Truly, this was the Son of God!’[6]

Heaven and earth uniformly proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Many Worship Jesus as Son of God

In addition to the testimony of God, angels, and men, we have Jesus’ behavior. He performed countless miracles to reveal His identity. Moreover, He was worshipped – and He allowed the worshippers to do so. He never rebuked anyone for worshipping Him.

Jesus was worshipped by the wise men,[7] His disciples,[8] and the women at the empty tomb.[9]

Jesus Did Claim to be the Son of God

Clearly, Jesus was viewed by many as the Son of God and Jesus obviously considered Himself divine. Jesus also proclaimed His divinity in words and actions for all to see and hear. At His trial, prior to His crucifixion, Jesus affirmed that He is the Son of God.[10]

The people[11] and the religious leaders knew exactly who Jesus claimed to be. At the cross, the chief priests mocked Him, saying, “for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”[12]

Jesus was mocked while He was on the cross, dying for humanity that those who believe in Him might have eternal life.[13] Ironically, this Easter season Jesus and His followers are again being mocked by those who choose not to believe, by those who twist the Scriptures in order to deny what it really says and to deny the One who alone is worthy of worship.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”[14]

Endnotes:

[1]       Matthew 3:17; 17:5.

[2]       Luke 1:35.

[3]       Matthew 8:29; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:41.

[4]       Matthew 16:15-17.

[5]       Mark 1:1.

[6]       Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39.

[7]       Matthew 2:1-2,11.

[8]       Matthew 14:33.

[9]       Matthew 28:9.

[10]     Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14:60-62; Luke 22:67-70.

[11]     The adoration of Jesus during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday fulfilled messianic prophecies. Matthew 21:1-14; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44.

[12]     Matthew 27:43.

[13]     John 3:16.

[14]     Luke 23:34.

Resurrection: Life & Liberty, Power & Purpose

He is Risen!

The Passion of the Christ drew record audiences when it was released in 2004 and, even today, a spiritual hunger persists in our increasingly secularized culture.

Resurrection

Easter is upon us and the message of the cross and the open tomb are destined to be commercialized and corrupted. Yet, God’s Word will prevail and His will be accomplished. The cross and the risen Christ prove His power and His love, just as they demonstrate God’s commitment to those who will be with Him in Paradise.

Life & Liberty

The words of John 3:16 speak of salvation and eternal life: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” – yes, Jesus, the Son of God, was given (sacrificed) because of God’s love. Continuing, “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

That is the essence of the gospel and Easter is the proof.

For believers, God gives eternal life. Jesus’ resurrection vanquished death and, when we are spiritually born again, we are given eternal life. We are joined with Christ in newness of life and God’s Holy Spirit inhabits us.

Death no longer has dominion over us. Life is triumphant! Along with life, God gives us liberty. We are freed from sin, which also no longer has dominion over us. While we will sin, we are no longer slaves to sin. God’s Spirit within nurtures us and heals us.

In our darkest hours – whether external circumstances or internal battles – God provides hope and healing. Our hearts and souls are resurrected in Christ.

Nicol Sponberg’s song, Resurrection, is hauntingly poignant and peculiarly powerful. It speaks of our translation from darkness to life, the renewal (or resurrection) of our lives. The chorus reads:

 Here I am at the end, I’m in need of resurrection.

Only You can take this empty shell and raise it from the dead.

What I’ve lost to the world, what seems far beyond redemption,

You can take the pieces in Your hand, and make me whole again, again.

This modern-day psalmist expresses confidence in the Lord of life and the only One who can resurrect her life, who can make her (and us) whole and complete.

Power & Purpose

Along with life and liberty, God provides power and purpose. Jesus conquered death that we might live and He has given us liberty in that life – liberty to grow and mature and become more like Him. We are to emulate Jesus, who empowers us to do so. In my sermon, “Living the Resurrected Life,” I addressed our dependence upon the One who alone can work His will in our lives and empower us to bear His fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. With that power, as we grow to maturity in Christ, He calls us to proclaim the gospel, known as the “Great Commission.”

The power of the Easter message is unstoppable, as is the One who accomplished it. “It is finished!”

We no longer need fear death or the dangers we face in this life. We are freed from ourselves and given a new life. In the dark valleys of our lives, Jesus again resurrects us, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. He empowers us to seek and do His will, which includes spiritual growth and evangelism.

Life. Liberty. Power. Purpose. …

Paradise

Easter points us to Jesus, to what He accomplished in the past, to what He accomplishes every day, and to our future with Him in Paradise. (Jesus called it Paradise for a reason.) As we eagerly await our entrance into His presence, let us remember the words of the apostle Paul, who wrote: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18).”

One of my favorite songs, Selah’s All My Tears, is irresistibly exuberant and triumphant. It rejoices in knowing Jesus annihilated death and that at the end of this life we will be with Him for eternity. With confident faith, it beautifully anticipates our future home, where there will be no more tears and sorrows. Here is a sampling of lyrics:

When I die don’t cry for me
In my father’s arms I’ll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
Will all be healed and I’ll be whole

It don’t matter where you bury me
I’ll be home and I’ll be free
It don’t matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

 So weep not for me my friend
When my time below does end
For my life belongs to Him
Who will raise the dead again

 

Happy Easter!