Rescuing Lost Humanity…

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Romans 5:6-11 (KJV)

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

What do you think about when you see a depiction of Christ on the cross?

Most of us are overwhelmed by the physical and emotional suffering that He endured—the scourging, beating, thorns, nails, mocking, and shame. We are horrified at the cruelty of the Romans and the hard hearts of the Jewish rulers.

But during the crucifixion, far more was happening than the eye could see.

God was carrying out His plan to rescue mankind, providing everything we need for salvation:

1.     Redemption.

Jesus paid the full price of the debt we owed for transgression: death. His payment set us free from bondage to sin.

2.     Forgiveness. 

God could now release us from the punishment we deserved.

3.     Propitiation. 

Christ’s payment satisfied
the Father by fulfilling His demand for justice while letting Him forgive us.

4.     Justification.

On the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, the Lord now declares believers not guilty. Although we will still sin in this earthly life, our standing before God is one of righteousness. This is a legal declaration that can never be reversed.

5.     Reconciliation. 

The sin barrier that separated us from the Father was removed by Christ’s death on our behalf. We’re now God’s children—we have open access to Him and fellowship with Him.

The crucifixion was the only way to rescue lost humanity.

If there had been any other way, the cross would have been a grotesque display of divine cruelty.

But because so much was at stake, it can truly be called the greatest act of love by both the Father and the Son.

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The Lonely Journey…

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 John 12:23-27 (KJV)

23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory.
24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.
25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.
26 Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.
27 “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came!

We all know that Jesus walked the road to Calvary, but did you know that believers also journey to the cross?

We’ve all been positionally crucified with Christ, but those who hunger for Him participate in a deeper experience of this reality. Jesus lovingly takes their hand and leads them to the cross.

Even though this is the last place anyone wants to go, it’s the only way to partake of God’s best for our lives.

The trip to the cross is not one you take with family and friends.

It’s a lonely journey with just you and Jesus.

He strips away everyone and everything you’ve depended on so that you’ll learn to rely only on Him. While we’re at the cross, He uncovers layer after layer of self-deception until we begin to see ourselves as He does.

Soon our self-centeredness, inadequacy, and failures are laid bare.

The cross is a place of brokenness, but it’s necessary because there’s no other way we’ll ever bear fruit. If we hang onto our lives and refuse to take this journey, we’ll be like a grain of wheat that is never planted and never grows. But those who willingly die to themselves will produce an abundance of spiritual fruit.

The only way Christ can live His life through us is if we’ve allowed ourselves to be crucified.

God doesn’t want you to be content with just your salvation. There’s so much more He desires to give you and achieve through you. Are you willing to take the road to the cross with Him?

Yes, it’s painful, but the rewards in this life and in eternity far outweigh any suffering you will experience.

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A Heavenly Home…

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 Philippians 3:20-21 (KJV)

20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

As believers, we are guaranteed a place in heaven, and we long for an idea of what that will be like.

While all our questions will not be answered before we arrive, Scripture does give information about the Christian’s future life.

Who will be there?

The most wonderful truth we know is that we will be in the presence of our triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In addition to thousands upon thousands of angels (Rev. 5:11), there will be the Old Testament saints and all believers from this church age. Also, everyone who comes to faith during the great tribulation will have .

How will we be different physically?

We’ll have glorified bodies, and Scripture offers clues about what this will mean. After the resurrection, Jesus had a visible material form, so we know we, too, will have a physical body to dwell in a physical place called heaven. Our form will be imperishable and will bear a heavenly image (1 Cor. 15:42, 49). While the Bible doesn’t describe the glorification process, we know our transformed bodies will be perfectly suited for our new environment.

Will we recognize each other?

Though different, our bodies will be identifiable. Mary, though confused at first, recognized the resurrected Jesus (John 20:14-16). Because we will be like Him, we will be recognized in our resurrected form, and we will recognize others.

Try to picture being in your glorified body with believers from every tribe, language, nation, and people group (Rev. 7:9).

Life in heaven will exceed your greatest hopes and imaginings.

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In Tune With His Promptings…

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Luke 24:36-49 (KJV)

36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
43 And he took it, and did eat before them.
44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48 And ye are witnesses of these things.
49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

Salvation occurs when we trust Jesus as our Savior–He forgives us, transforms us, and sees us as righteous.

In that moment, we are redeemed, and though we continue to struggle with sin, it is a defeated foe.

Then as time goes on, our service, gifts, and love for Him should naturally become greater.

Unfortunately, a lot of Christians sit in church week after week, going through the motions yet lacking passion and failing to grow. How is such a thing possible? Tragically, many believers are unaware of the essential ministry of God’s Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a member of the Trinity and co-equal with God the Father and God the Son. The opening chapter of Scripture tells us that He existed before the formation of the earth and in fact participated in creation (Gen. 1:2, 26). Today, He has the critical role of helping and counseling all believers.

The Holy Spirit is a gift to every child of God.

His presence within us isn’t something we have to earn or acquire. Rather, it is a marvelous privilege–by indwelling our hearts, He can guide and strengthen, steering each believer away from danger and into truth (John 16:7-8). Scripture tells us that Jesus came so we could experience a full life (10:10).

This is possible only when we listen to His Spirit and obey.

Are you experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised? He wasn’t talking about happy circumstances but rather the joy and contentment possible through a relationship with Him.

If you’re lacking in this area, consider your understanding of the Holy Spirit, and pray to be in tune with His promptings.

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His Wisdom and Power…

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Psalms 25:8-15 (KJV)

8 Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
9 The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.
12 What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
13 His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.
14 The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.
15 Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.

Are you living thoughtfully and intentionally—or automatically?

It’s so easy to get up each morning, do our work, enjoy some relaxation or entertainment, and fall into bed each night without giving any thought to God’s involvement in our lives. But to be ignorant of how He has blessed, guided, protected, and warned us is a foolish way to live.

Just consider the benefits of keeping our spiritual eyes and ears open throughout the day.

Those who are aware of the Lord’s presence during their daily activities enjoy the peace of knowing that He is always in control and working to accomplish His good purposes.

Every day’s experiences with Him teach them to know and love Him more.

When we learn to see God’s footprints in our days, we will become aware of the scope of His involvement in our lives. Maybe He strengthened you for a task or opened a door of opportunity.

Perhaps He guided your decisions or helped you respond in a godly way to a difficult person.

If our ears are open to the Lord’s warnings and instructions, we won’t repeat the same mistakes again and again. But those who are deaf to His voice will continue in unhealthy thought patterns, negative emotions, and foolish responses.

Each night before you go to sleep, take some time to reflect on the day’s activities. The Lord is constantly with you, guarding and guiding your way.

He wants you to see Him in everything and understand life from His perspective as you rely on His wisdom and power to face any challenge. 

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Misunderstandings, Difference of Opinions & Deep Convictions…

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Matthew 18:21-35 (KJV)

21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

Conflict is part of life.

It may originate from misunderstandings, a difference of opinion, or deep convictions. But oftentimes, discord stems from envy, pride, or hunger for power.

No one can control another person’s response to conflict; we’re accountable only for how we handle it.

Sadly, many people have unhealthy reactions to disagreement. Some ignore the issue or pretend it doesn’t exist.

Others place blame while defending themselves.

These negative responses often indicate one of three underlying scenarios. First, past hurts can leave a person emotionally insecure and unable to handle criticism. Second, a perfectionist sets such high benchmarks that he can never live up to his own standards—then it’s hard to acknowledge mistakes. Finally, pride makes it hard for some to admit when they’re wrong or to ask forgiveness.

Unless we respond correctly to conflict, we limit our potential to grow, because we aren’t learning what the Lord is teaching.

Also, we can develop an unforgiving spirit, which leads to bitterness and resentment. Eventually, such an attitude can destroy relationships.

There is also a positive way to handle conflict.

Luke 23:34 reveals how our Savior responded when He was wrongly accused, unfairly judged, and killed for something He didn’t do. Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

How do you deal with accusations and criticism?

Forgiveness is the only response that will keep you from becoming a victim of bitterness.

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Mentioned With Little Reverence…

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Revelation 4:9-11 (KJV)

9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

In our culture, God’s name is oftentimes mentioned with little reverence.

In fact, many people actually use it as a curse.

Even among those who love Him, it is far too common to use His name casually, without taking time to ponder who He is. When you say a blessing at mealtimes, for instance, do you realize that you are talking to the almighty Creator God who rules over all things?

Our view of the Lord impacts three areas of life.

First, it affects our prayers.

As we come to know Him better and better, our desires will start to look like His goals for us, and our petitions will align more closely with His purposes. Furthermore, as we recognize His greatness and power, we’ll become more confident that He can accomplish mighty things—and we will venture to “pray big.”

Second, our understanding of His righteousness and goodness influences our behavior.

If God has these attributes, surely it is in our best interest to obey gladly. We will desire righteousness and be quick to repent of sin.

Third, our faith is impacted.

Grasping that Jesus is holy, good, and powerful grows our trust in Him. Knowing our awesome God and remembering His great works will further build our confidence in Him.

Do you personally know our loving and holy heavenly Father?

He invites you into an intimate relationship with Him. But, as with any good friendship, time and intentionality are necessary to understand Him and learn His ways.

The more you do that, the more your prayers, behavior, and faith will be impacted.

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The Only Man Worthy…

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Matthew 8:23-27 (KJV)

23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.
24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.
25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

In today’s reading from Matthew 8, the men who traveled with Jesus on a stormy night asked something that ought to make us sit up and take notice: “What kind of a man is this . . . ?” (v. 27).

We would do well to ponder that same question.

Then we’ll begin to see the big picture of who Jesus is.

The Lord and His disciples were making their way across the Sea of Galilee to the region of the Gadarenes. Then a powerful storm hit—imagine a violent wind causing such turbulence that waves were covering the deck of their wooden boat (v. 24).

Even the experienced seamen on board were certain that their death was imminent.

But Jesus was sleeping.

He was resting quietly during a storm so frightening that the writer chose the Greek word seismos to describe it. (Our phrase “seismic activity,” which is used of earthquakes, comes from the same root.) What kind of man is this who can sleep while the boat heaves and pitches?

The answer is, the One who created the seas and knows how a storm brews and what energy causes a wave to stay in motion. That’s the kind of man—a divine Being cloaked in humanity, who rebuked the winds and sea so that they became perfectly calm.

Scripture indicates that both the air and the water were instantly stilled.

Such is the power of Jesus, the Creator and Lord over the universe.

All the Bible stories about Him add to the big picture that He is the only man worthy of glory, honor, and praise (Dan. 7:13-14; Rev.5:12).

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