Archive for December, 2010

A Piercing Blow

December 30, 2010

One of the toughest things to face is when someone says, “I knew you did it.”  For example, “When Sherry is cleaning out the pantry and finds an empty box that used to house bags of microwave popcorn.  For some reason she automatically says, ‘Keith you forgot to throw away the empty box.’ In such moments I want to defend myself by responding, ‘Am I the only one who every does this?'”  Of course I am not, but in this instance I am the guilty one and it is a piercing blow.

In a much more significant discussion, we come to the moment when Jesus is hanging on the cross.  Question, “Who’s fault is it, that Jesus is on the cross?”  This is a valid question as we come to John 19. “So they took Jesus. and he went out, bearing his own cross,” 19:16-17.  “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit,” 19:30. Now our Lord and Savior has finished the work of the cross.

But still yet we ask, “Who caused the death of Jesus.?”  The answer is both humbling and it is also piercing.  The first part of the answer is simply this, “Jesus went to the cross willingly because this was His plan for the redemption of man.”  John 10:18, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to take it up again.  This charge I have received from my Father.” The second part is the piercing part, “And again another scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced,” John 19:37. Certainly we know the soldiers looked on the Son of God.  Certainly we know the religious leaders and the common people looked on the Son of God.

However someday, so will I look on the one I pierced with my sin.  It was my sin that drove the nails in his hands.  It was my sin that caused My Lord to drink the cup of God’s wrath on the cross.  This is a piercing blow.  I did it.

In this moment, I cannot do anything less than praise Him who paid my debt.  I cannot do anything less than present my life to the one who paid my debt.  I cannot do anything less than live with the present reality that someday I will see Him who paid my debt. In that moment I will fall before my Lord and cry out, “I am so sorry for piercing you and I am so thankful you were willing to do what I could not do.”

I encourage each of you to praise Him and present your life to Him today.

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The Toughest Mile

December 29, 2010

I listened with great interest as our Children’s Pastor’s wife shared their family’s experience with returning home last week on snow-covered roads.  Jennifer spoke of following her husband and watching with great care as he manoeuvred through traffic.  She said, “My hands were gripping my steering wheel so tight.  Finally when we got through it I was able to release the tight grip I had on the wheel.”

Certainly each of us have those moments when circumstances cause us to take a tight grip on where we are not knowing what lies ahead.  As I approached John 18 I wrote across the top of the chapter, “A tough mile.”  For Jesus is was a tough mile because the cross loomed ahead.  But along with Jesus was His disciples and oh what a tough mile it was for them.

Consider the mile Peter traveled on this night.  It began with His willingness to die in the fight for Jesus, “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear,” 18:10. In this moment Jesus reminds Peter that the cross was God’s plan.

As the narrative continues we find Peter taking the next step on this journey as he moves from willingness to die to a reluctance to stand up.  He denies even knowing the Lord, “I am not,” 18:17. Ultimately this disciples moves from denial to total defeat as He denies the Lord three times.

Brothers and sisters it is a tough mile when we come to the place where we have denied by our actions or the lack thereof that we are followers of Christ.  In these moments we must do two things:  First we must cry out for mercy. In these moments we realize we are on slippery roads and we have slid off the road as we have failed to take up our cross and follow Christ. Secondly we must come back to the cross. You must remind yourself of who died for you and what His death accomplished in your life.  Jesus died for us so that we could be redeemed before God.  In Christ we have been brought back to a proper relationship with Christ.

The news gets even better as we realize on the cross Jesus paid our ransom debt to God.  The word ransom is such a wonderful picture of our stand before God.  To ransom means you no longer have a record with God.  For example, “when God looks at your life, He no longer sees the record that used to be there. It has been ransomed.  It is as if it never occurred.”

Here is how the Psalmist described this, “As far away as the east is from the west, so far has he removed of sins from us,” Psalm 103:12. Praise God, Jesus walked the toughest mile to the cross so that when you and I are walking the toughest mile we can be forgiven.  Rejoice in His name today.

Ready To Go Home

December 28, 2010

In John 17 Jesus shares with His disciples,”The hour has come.” In these moments just before the agony of the cross I am astounded at the clarity in the life of our Savior.  I am also amazed at the selflessness of our Savior.

Here in this text, Jesus faces the cross with complete clarity in that He was determined to finish the work He came to do.  Praise be to His name for securing redemption for us.

As Jesus faced the cross we see such selflessness as He was “Ready to go home,” “And now Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed,” 17:5. For the last 33 plus years Jesus had walked among His creation, modeling the Christ-life and delivering the living message of the Gospel.  Certainly He was ready to go home, but still the cross remained.

At this moment I think of Paul’s words to the church at Philippi, “I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better, but to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account,” Phil 1:23-24. Paul knew there were many who would never hear the gospel if he was called home to glory.

Jesus knew the world would remain in darkness unless He went to the cross.  So, praise God, He stayed and He went to the cross for you and me.  Question, “Are you ready to go home?”  Do find yourself tired and ready to leave all the suffering in this world?  If so, consider Jesus prayer in John 17.  By the way He is praying for you.

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.  As you send me into the world so I have sent the into the world,” John 17:15-16.

Brother and sister God has placed you in this world to be a light for Him.  Yes it can be tough but God is praying for you that you will be set apart and that you would shine before the world.

There will be the joyous day when the Lord calls you home.  But until then, but faithful to God’s call upon your life because there are many who are counting on you!!!

Just What You Needed To Hear

December 27, 2010

The writer of Proverbs wrote, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weigh’s him down, but a good word makes him glad,”12:25.  Each and every day of our lives we are desperate for words that lift our spirits and lighten our load.

This morning I was keenly aware of this as I walked through John 15 and 16.  The disciples were now hearing the words of Jesus more clearly than they ever had.  They still yet did not grasp it all, but one thing was for sure.  The ministry of Christ was now coming to a head and what the disciples were hearing was very hard.

Jesus begins John 16 with these words, “I have said all of these things to you to keep you from falling away.” Brothers and sisters there are many hard moments in life that threaten us and cause us to threaten to run and hide.  However it has been my experience, that our God always had just what we need to hear in such moments.  It was so with the disciples at this moment, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” 16:33. Our Lord and Savior was pointing His disciples to Himself because only in Him can we have peace.

These are just the words we need to hear.  Often we are like the flag that flies in the wind.  We fly in which ever way the wind directes us.  How often do you have joy only when others affirm you?  How often is your joy dependent on success at work or the love of someone?

I have discovered that people, possessions, and positions at best are filled with tough moments.  Only in Christ can we have peace. I encourage each of you to become riveted to what Christ says in His world.  I promise you it is just what you need to hear.

Also as an extra, I want to challenge you to join me in 2011 as I focus my attention on speaking the right things to those who hear.  I want to impart grace instead of sorrow into people’s lives.  The only way this can happen is if I am filled with the Spirit and empty of myself.

Join me in taking inventory of your speech. Join me  in submitting to God’s sanctification of my mind and moth.  Finally join with me in sowing the good news of the gospel with the world.

No One Had Any Needs

December 24, 2010

Imagine the following scene, You have just gathered the family to celebrate Christmas.  Everyone is gathered in the room with presents around the tree.  Suddenly Jesus shows up in the flesh.  Immediately you recognize the Son Of God.  You can see the nail prints in His hands.  The radiance of His glory is overwhelming.  You welcome Him into your Christmas celebration. You humbly invite Him to speak.  Jesus begins with these words, “Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in me,” John 14:1.

In this moment, you begin to wonder, “What am I troubled about?”  Before you can really process this, Jesus continues, “Tonight I am going to give each of you a gift.  This gift will meet every need you have.”  Suddenly, in your American built mind,  you ask the question, “What kind of gift could it be that meets every need I have?”

As you process this, Jesus once again speaks, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid,” John 14:27. In this moment your heat and mind are illuminated by God.  Now you get it.  The gift that meets every need is the Gospel.  The gospel gives us peace.  We have peace with God and we have peace in God’s created world because our God will provide for our every need.

Imagine if we really appropriated the gospel as God intends it.  We would live lives that were passionately seeking to praise God for His blessings.  We would be living lives that were passionately seeking to do His will moment by moment. If only God’s people could see this.

If only the people in Ezekiel’s day could have seen and embraced this.  The prophet of God predicted a day when they would see this, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,” 11:19. Ezekiel certainly would not live to see this day.  However when Jesus came to the earth, the world did see this happen.

The church in the first century lived in such a way that reflected this one heart.  They understood that God had met their every need and it was their responsibility to share their blessings with those around them.  This was evidenced by the writer of the book of Acts, “There was not a needy person among them, for as many who were owners of land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need,” 4:34. All one can say at this moment is, “Wow.”  Truly no one had any needs.

Certainly we cannot say this today in the church or in our community.  My conviction is that we need to cease blaming politicians and the economy.  I am the guilty one. God help me to so surrender everything to Christ that I will take from His gifts to me and give to those who have need.  All for His glory alone.

A Virtual Tour Of The Homeland

December 23, 2010

A Mother is Fort Wayne In. fed her 3-year-old son olive oil and vinegar until he stopped breathing and died.  She then wrapped his body in a blanket and hide it for more than a year.  When arrested yesterday she said, “I was frustrated with his temper tantrums.”

My heart was broken when I read this story on Foxnews.com. Question, ‘What is happening in the land we call home?”  There was a day when such stories were very unusual but no longer.  It seems that wickedness abounds on every corner of our nation.  The question on my mind is this, “How do we as followers of Christ, pierce the darkness around us?”

This was heavy on my heart as I read Ezekiel 6-10, Psalm 95, and John 13. Let’s begin with Ezekiel.  God has spoken to Ezekiel concerning Israel’s sin and His judgment that is coming because of sin. Chapter seven has the following somber words, “The end has come upon the four corners of the land,” 7:2. God continues to relate the extent of this judgment, “He who is in the field dies by the sword, and him who is in the city famine and pestilence devour,” 7:15. I wonder how Ezekiel felt at this moment?  In the very next chapter we find the answer as God takes Ezekiel on a virtual tour of his homeland, in particular the city of Jerusalem and its temple. I encourage you to read Ezekiel 8 and look for similarities in our homeland. In chapter 9 Ezekiel gets a virtual look at God carrying out His judgment.

Here was Ezekiel’s response, “I fell upon my face, and cried…”9:8.  As I read his plea with God I asked myself, “Why am I not broken for the place I call home?”  The fact is, for most of us believers, we do not have an informed knowledge of the depravity around us nor do we really focus on the destruction that awaits those who are depraved.

I found myself crying out to God for two things: 1) Please place me where I can see the depravity around me.  2) Please place in my heart and head a brokenness and a plan to get the gospel to these people.

No sooner had I lifted up this request to God when He came back with His answer from John 13, “Now all will know that you are Christians by your love,” 13:34. Wow, a depraved world will see the gospel in action as I love God and I love the people who are in this world.

My prayer for each who read this today is that we would love Him with our entire being and we would love those around us with our entire being.  Well, it’s time to cease writing and start viewing and loving the people around me.  I also think it’s time for you to cease reading and take a tour with Jesus today.

Who Are Those People?

December 22, 2010

Do you ever wonder, “Who are those people we pass on the highways each and every day?”  Do you ever wonder, “Who are those people who live in the homes and apartments we pass each and every day?”  As I was driving back from a wedding yesterday, these though’s were on my mind.

To be transparent, these thoughts occupy my mind from time to time.  But sadly they do not occupy my mind as much as they should.  This morning I want to ask you, “How much do you know about the people whom you live among each and every day?”

This is certainly a question I would have for the prophet of God, Ezekiel.  This morning we consider the first five chapters of the book that bears his name. In chapter one, Almighty God reveals Himself to Ezekiel and issues a call for Ezekiel to become a prophet among his own people.  His people were the nation of Israel and His people were living in exile.  The message Ezekiel was asked to deliver was one of; “lamenting, mourning, and woe,” 2:10. But how would he deliver this message?  Would he deliver it in anger, or would he deliver it with a broken heart?  Even worse would he not even deliver the message?

Chapter three of the book of Ezekiel helps us to see how God prepared Ezekiel to deliver the message.  God takes Ezekiel and places him in the midst of these people, “I sat where they were dwelling, and I sat there overwhelmed among them for seven days,” 3:15. When I read this I realized this prophet knew the people he was called to minister too.

I found myself under deep conviction as I thought about the people around me.  How much do I really know about them?  How can I get to know them?  How can I get the gospel to them?

These are wonderful questions, but unless I step out and discover the answers I will fail those around me.  Ezekiel is given a strong warning if he fails to answer these questions, “He will die in his sins, but his blood I will require at your hands,” 3:18. Maybe you take offense at what God said?  Maybe you are saying; “It’s not my fault they died in their sin.  I go to church, we open the doors, we pay our preacher, we are good people.  They should know that they need to follow Christ.”

Question, “Have you been among these people lately?”  There is nothing in their lives that says, “Follow Christ.” Jesus came to this earth so that men might see the light and embrace the light.  Here is how he describes this in John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” I am so thankful Jesus saw our need and met our need.

So, who are those people?  They are people living in darkness, headed to an eternity in hell apart from God, and they do not know it. At the same time, they do not know that you and I know it.  Oh to God that I would become burdened all the time to let them know what I know about the light of Jesus!!!

What About The Children?

December 21, 2010

As most of you know, Sherry and I have been blessed with three wonderful unique children.  Each of them are unique in their likes and sometimes in their dislikes.  Each year, Sherry and I approach the Christmas season with a question, “What about the children?”  Each year we think of them first when it comes to gift giving.  We go through the struggle of finding the gifts that reflect their unique desires.  However the greatest struggle seems to be in making sure that we are giving them each the same amount of gifts.  We have almost found it to be impossible. But over the years we have come to a settled resolve that we are not looking at the amount of their gifts in earthly measurements, but we are looking at the gifts in the amount of their personal blessing in each child’s life.

Maybe you ask, “how does this apply to the word of God?”  This morning, my devotional readings were the book of Lamentations and the 11 chapter of John.  The prophet of God, Jeremiah writes the book of Lamentations literally lamenting the brokenness of his nation because of their sin.  I have read the book many times, but never have I been as broken as I was this morning.  I had never seen what God showed me today.

What did God show me?  In every chapter there is a reference to the hurt of the children.  For example, “Lift up your hands toward Him for the life of your young children who faint from hunger at the head of every street,” 2:19. In each chapter we see Jeremiah’s lamenting for the children in Israel who were facing judgement because of their leaders refusal to repent.

Look at our nation today and the blood being spilled on every street-corner.  Look closely at the blood and you could be shocked in seeing that often the blood is from a teenager.  Look closely at many jails and morgues today as you will see far too many teenagers.  Look at the home in America and you will see the brokenness.

I ask you this morning, “What about the children?”  What gifts are we agonizing over for these children?  Jeremiah wrote, “My eyes fail with tears, my heart is troubled because of the destruction of my people. Because the children and the infants faint in the streets,” 2:11. When was the last time you were so moved by God that you not only said, “What about the children, but you did something for the children of the world?”

This is a great season to give gifts into the lives of the children around you.  Now do not be deceived, the gifts I am speaking about are not the gifts one can buy at Wal-Mart.  The gifts I am speaking about are the gifts of love, time, and truth.

Jesus illustrated this for us in John 11 when He came to the tomb of his departed friend Lazarus.  The bible said, He loved him, “Jesus wept.”  The bible said He gave His time, “He went there after four days.”  The bible said he gave forth truth,” I am the resurrection and the life.”  Jesus friend came forth from the dead because of Jesus love, time, and truth.

The children of this world need to see God’s love in action as we give time to minister to them where they are.  As we spend time we must be compelled to give them the gospel so that they can have life in Jesus name.  This is the gift that keeps giving!!!

 

The Darkest Day Ever?

December 20, 2010

Scientists are predicting that tomorrow, December 21, will be the darkest day in 426 years because of a full lunar eclipse. Now, certainly there are people who are far better equipped than I am to explain what all of this means.  But one thing I know, “Tomorrow’s eclipse will not be the darkest day ever.”

Maybe you are wondering, “Why this line of thinking on a Monday morning?”  Here is my answer, “the last two chapters of Jeremiah speak about some of the darkest days in the life of the nation of Israel.”  Chapter 52 is the appendix of this prophetic book and it describes God’s wrath upon sin.”

Certainly the darkest day in anyone’s life is the day when God’s wrath is poured out against sin.  Here is how Jeremiah describes it, “For because of the anger of the Lord things came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from His presence,” 52:3. Time after time we have read God’s warning to Israel to repent, but time after time she refused to repent.

I wrote in the margin of my bible, “Things finally came to a head.”  Back in chapter 50, Jeremiah describes God’s judgment on Babylon, “Repay her according to her deeds; do to her according to al that she has done. For she has proudly defied the Lord, the Holy One of Israel,” 50:29. This would be a dark day for Babylon, but it would not be the darkest day ever.

The darkest day is the day when the wrath of God is poured out against sin.  But wait, I have good news.  Our Lord and Savior took on Himself the wrath of God so that I might not experience the darkest day ever.  Here is how Luke describes the cross, “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two,” 22:44-45. In this moment the sin of the world was placed on Jesus.  It was the darkest day ever.  But in this moment Jesus was securing for us, “eternal redemption!!!”

I praise God, that by grace I will never face this day.  But at the same time I weep because a lost and dying world will experience the eternal wrath of God because of their sinful rebellion against God.  I wonder, “How many people know that their sins can be forgiven?” I wonder, ” how many people know of the mercy of God?”

Back to Jeremiah.  In chapter 52 the king of Jerusalem is taken captive.  His eyes are put out and he is carried off to Babylon.  However after a period of time the King of Babylon extends grace to him and allows him to dine daily at his table with every provision meet.  What a picture of grace.

Someday we will be able to dine at God’s table by grace.  This is good news that everyone needs so desperately to hear.  I challenge each of you to spread the good news that Jesus took our darkest day so that we might have heaven for eternity.  Rejoice today in His eternal light!!!

“Watch Out, You Are Going To Hurt Yourself.”

December 17, 2010

Yesterday was a day in Kentucky when it would be very easy to get hurt.  There was about an inch of ice on the roads, sidewalks, and parking lots around our city.  Last night we had an open-gym night at church and one of the men who came, fell on his way in and cut his hand on the ice.

I wondered as I helped him get it cleaned up and bandaged, “Was he watching out as he came across the ice-covered parking lot?”  You know what I mean?  Often young adults think they have the world by the tale and nothing can happen to them.  Oh how often a prideful person needs to hear and heed, “Watch out, you are going to hurt yourself.”

It was the same way with the nation of Israel in Jeremiah’s day.  Israel had been going her own way and now it was payday, chapters 44-50.  As I worked my way through these chapters where Jeremiah pronounces judgment on nation after nation, I wondered, “How could they not know they were hurting themselves.  Jeremiah make this clear, “And now thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God Of Israel; why do you commit this great evil against yourselves,” 44:7. Even though Israel heard this truth, they would not accept it.

A few verses later they are bold in proclaiming that they will offer sacrifices to other Gods because they were better off serving them. But Jeremiah quickly reminds them of why they were now experiencing hurt, “The Lord could no longer bear your evil deeds and the abominations that you committed,” 44:22. God simply removed His hand of favor and they faltered.

Question, “Have you hurt yourself as of yet?”  Just because you haven’t does not mean that you are doing the right thing.  There were a lot of guys who came across the ice last night and if not for mercy all would have fallen including me.  Make sure the things you do are in line with His word, for His glory.

I was reminded of this as I read Psalm 91: 14, “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because He knows my name.”

Don’t be like a guy who told me years ago to not put my hand on a belt near a roller at work.  A few minutes later a crowd was gathered around him.  He had done exactly what he told me not to do.  There he stood with a towel wrapped around his hand and two fingers almost cut off.  I can still hear him saying to himself, “Pete you are not to smart.”  Brothers and sisters the smart ones are those who walk in love and obedience before the Lord.