Something to Think About…

If today you are unsaved and you have sometimes stumbled over the inconsistency of Christians, let me say that the Word of God takes it for granted that Christians need constant admonishing, but you are invited to come just as you are to Christ, trust Him as your Savior, receive the divine life by faith, and then live as a Christian should and show the rest of us what a real Christian ought to be.

-H. A. Ironside, from In the Heavenlies

Good Friday Reflections

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:17-19

If Good Friday were the end of the story and the Man on the cross merely died, the way I’ve lived my life for the last 17-odd years has been nothing more than a waste.

Without the Resurrection, the sacrifices I’ve made, the pain I’ve endured, the hours spent in prayer and Bible study, the money gifted to the Church and missions – wasted. Useless. Meaningless.

But don’t ask me. Ask Moses, a Ugandan man who’s been run out of his home along with his wife and 6 children because of his decision to follow Yeshua instead of Mohammed.

Or Sukbati whose husband was murdered for his faith and who now must support five children in the midst of her grief. Yet she has said she will not give up on Jesus.

Without the Resurrection, Good Friday is no longer good. It becomes just a day that another man died – one of billions. And Moses and Sukbati and millions like them suffer needlessly – giving up ease in this life for no reason at all.

Worse yet, without the Resurrection, we are all still in our sins. Me, Sukbati, and all believers. Believe it or not, friends, that’s worse than any persecution or pain this life can throw at us.

It means an ancient and creeping death sickens our hearts and decays our spirits, destroying any hope of restoration with our Creator and making mockery of the innate desire for immortality we all hold deep within. That is what sin is, and how rightly we should feel horror at it.

But the good news of Good Friday is that it did not end when Yeshua declared, “It is finished,” and gave up His spirit.

Firstly, His death was an act of purpose – He gave up His spirit; it was not taken from Him. He died on purpose, giving His perfect life in payment of the debt we have all incurred by our rebellious ways.

Then, on the first Easter Sunday, God raised up His one and only Son, so that the final victory over sin and death has been won. Sin brought death into the world; the sinless life of Yeshua Messiah, Christ Jesus my Lord, took on death and defeated it by His return to life.

Now we who are in Christ live a life of self-sacrifice – not because we are good people or for some hope of self-improvement – but because we are grateful for the Man who bought back our souls from death.

The life I live, I do not live for the praise of others but out of sheer thankfulness. If He gave His perfect life for me, I can certainly give my broken mess right back to Him. It may not be much, but it’s all I have. And I give it willingly, grateful even if I am ever called to suffer the rest of my years for His sake, because He already suffered for mine.

The hope of Easter is not a hope for today or for any earthly good at all. It’s a hope for a future far beyond today; a hope that in 100 and 1000 and countless years beyond, those of us who follow Jesus now will be following Him still, rejoicing in His presence, forever freed from sin, death, and despair.

Forever adoring the One who first adored us so much that He gave up the life of His one and only Son that we may join Him in eternal worship.

Hallelujah! He is risen!

Tuesday Prayer: Purchased

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30

O God, what can we say? As we look back on the work Jesus did on the cross – giving up His life of sinless perfection to pay the staggering cost of our transgressions – there are no words of gratitude powerful enough. We are humbled by Your love and favor; we are in awe of Your mercy and grace.

How can we express our thankfulness but to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to You in Christ?  We are Yours, Lord! Thank You for setting us free from bondage to sin and to death and making us alive together with our Lord Jesus! By His death, our ransom is paid and the work of atonement is finished, once for all. But praise be to God, we do not serve Savior who is dead and gone.

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen…”

Luke 24:5-6a

By His resurrection we are brought from death to life and made victors over sin. Hallelujah to our God and King, for our Savior is risen and now makes intercession for us at the right hand of the Father on High! 

O Most High God, we praise You for that first Resurrection Sunday and for the Risen Lord our King. Let us celebrate, not once, but each day all year long. May it be that we celebrate our new life in Christ by living our lives for You every single day.

Keep that momentous event fresh in our minds and hearts, Lord. Remind us daily, hourly, of the wonder of Your saving grace, the terrible price of Jesus’s sacrifice, and the glorious righteousness that He imparts to us because of it. 

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19b-20

May we be ever mindful that our lives are no longer our own. We were bought with a staggering price – the lifeblood of Emmanuel – and have been redeemed as Your own possession. Teach us to live in this way, Lord. Train our hearts in obedience and shape our desires as You choose. May we live for You, love for You, and if necessary, willingly die for You.  

From this day and forevermore, Lord, use us as the instruments for Your purposes here on earth. May we hunger and thirst for Your righteousness, seeking first Your kingdom, and aligning our hearts with Yours. May our perspective be permanently changed as we learn to see the fleeting hours of our days through the lens of eternity. 

With this in view, may we devote our lives to fulfilling the great commission of our Lord Jesus Christ to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all You have commanded us. And O Lord, teach us to obey first so that we can lead by our own actions, amen. 

My Impatience: A Confession

Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

Exodus 5:22-23

When I selected this verse in a state of sleepiness last night, my intention was to revisit an idea I wrote – and somehow lost – a few years ago. Perhaps I will try again on another day.

However…

This morning, the Lord reminded me of the verse when I said something very similar to Him as we walked and talked together.

During my study of Revelation, I’ve found my heart torn in half. Every day I read it, I am filled with excitement and wonder as well as fear – but not fear for myself.

On one hand, I long to see the coming of the great and terrible Day of the Lord. I’m eager to see Him take possession of what is properly His and destroy evil once and for all time. I cannot wait for the end of pain and suffering and horror.

And yet…

I am burdened by fear for loved ones who do not know Him; who reject Him or who know of Him but choose not to walk in His ways. I am not yet ready for the Lord to come again because I want time for these to be able to choose Him. I don’t want their time to run out, and I don’t want to see them destroyed as unbelievers, on that Day or any other.

In short, I want to see them saved, delivered from sin – from the spiritual Egypt, if you will. Most of them I know and love. Some are the loved ones of dear friends. And I have been praying for them: Nathan. Jessie. Steve. Eric. Katie. Robert. Chris. Sherry. Gail. To name just a few.

This morning, I received the tragic news that one of the names from my list is no more. A precious friend’s brother took his own life. I found myself unintentionally echoing Moses’s words: “You have not delivered these people at all.”

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:3

And He reminded me that while He is patient, waiting for all to come to repentance, I am not. I am desperately impatient, and I want to see this thing done. Now. Maybe yesterday.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

Still, in my heart of hearts, I know He will bring it to pass – in His way and in His time. I trust Him. So I continue to pray that He will make the stony hearts into hearts of flesh and pierce them with the Godly grief for sin which brings repentance and leads to salvation without regret.

And I will continue to pray that each of these, and many more, will come to a saving faith in Yeshua Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I also know that no matter how earnestly and desperately I may plead before the Throne of Grace on behalf of these, they each have a choice. God does not force Himself upon any of us. They have to choose for themselves whether or not they will surrender to the Lordship of Yeshua, because what He desires is for us to love Him back. And love is a choice.

So my prayers continue to rise to the Lord.

Oh Lord, let each one of these people choose You. Please turn their hearts to You. Open their eyes. Heal their hurts. Bring them into wisdom and knowledge of You, and let them taste and see that You are good. Protect them from the enemy’s schemes and from harm, and please do not allow another one to leave this earth until they have made their peace with You and been saved by Your glorious grace, amen.

And I continue to trust Him, knowing that He will work all things out for the good of those who love Him. All of them.

And I continue to love Him. No matter what.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2

Tuesday Prayer: The Judge

And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Revelation 14:7

Eternal One, You are the only just Judge. As the Creator, to You alone belongs the privilege of determining right from wrong and good from evil. Because You are the God who is and was and will be, all wisdom, power, and glory also belong to You.

God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.

Psalm 7:11

We worship You because You are Lord. Your decrees are righteous, Your knowledge extends far beyond the collective understanding of mankind, and Your Name is worthy of our praise. Blessed be You, the Almighty King!

When we are reminded of Your capacity as Judge, please call to our minds the many people around us who do not know You. With Easter approaching, may our meditation be on Your Word and Your goodness, but may our eyes be open to the desperate plight of so many people who do not trust in You and share our hope in salvation. 

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

2 Corinthians 1:5

O Lord, give us a heart for the lost! Help us to live lives which glorify You and teach our tongues to speak Your praise freely no matter who our audience is – perhaps especially when our audience is someone who scoffs at You. Let us not be ruled by fear of man but be inspired by the horror of what will happen to each man who does not trust in the sacrifice of Christ to speak the Truth in love. 

Lord, use our mouths as Your megaphone, our bodies as Your messengers, and our lives as reflections of Your grace and glory. Teach us to be open about our own sin and repentance and to pray earnestly for our own eyes as well as the eyes of others to be opened to see our sin. Then, Lord, bring us all into the Godly sorrow which brings repentance and leads to salvation without regret.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

2 Corinthians 7:10

May our candid confessions and honest repentance be an open door for others who have been afraid to come forward with their sin or afraid to approach You. May our joy even in times of affliction become a beacon of hope for those who struggle with despair or addiction.

May our changed lives and God-honoring priorities be evidence for our gratitude toward You so that others may see that You are the reason behind and the impetus for all our good works.

And Lord, use us to shed Your light and spread the Gospel so that many others will be rescued from the wide path leading to destruction and brought into the Kingdom. This year, we pray to see a great harvest of souls who come to salvation in Christ to the praise of Your glory, amen!

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20

The Funny Thing About Hell…

In truth, there is nothing whatsoever funny about hell. Nothing. It’s more serious than a heart attack, more gnawing than cancer, and unlike both of these, it is eternal and spiritual, not temporary and physical. Hell is not funny in the least.

But people do have some funny ideas about hell.

When I was a young atheist, I remember discussions about how much more fun hell sounded than heaven. The thought process went something like this: “If I got to choose, hell is the place I’d go. I mean, if all the fun stuff you’re not supposed to do isn’t found in heaven, then it must be in hell, right?”

Well, to be blunt: No. No it isn’t.

But the good news is that we do get to choose. Either we choose Yeshua who is the Way to heaven or we choose hell by default.

Make no mistake: Satan is not the ruler of hell, nor is he the life of some fiery party. He is in misery already because of his rebellion, and his mission is to take as much of the clay creatures stamped with the image of God – that is, humanity – into eternal misery with him.

…and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever…

…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:10, 15

Whether the image of a lake of fire is literal or symbolic doesn’t matter. It isn’t a nice place to be. Hell is Satan’s torture chamber, and I believe his hatred of humankind is partly because of the redemption offered us and his own bitterness towards God.

Looking around this world – the suffering, the heartache, the pain – I can’t help but think there’s hell enough on earth. Why would anyone choose to continue suffering throughout eternity? Most, I think, simply don’t really believe in the reality of hell or heaven.

Now that I am no longer young nor atheistic, I can look around at many of those who embraced the mentality of hell as the “fun” choice and ran with it to its logical conclusion.

Some of them are heroin or meth addicts. Others have adopted a more legal drug dependence, but they have cabinets full of drugs – and drugs to counteract the side effects of drugs – just the same. Others are addicted to sex and shallow relationships or drink so much they don’t know they’ve had the same conversation 85 times. Still others are dead.

I guess the last sort know by now.

My heart breaks for the dead who didn’t choose the Lamb of God and whose names were not written in His book of life. I literally cry for some of them, and I weep and plead for salvation for those who still live and have not yet chosen the Way.

May my God draw them to Himself and may they choose to surrender to Him now. O Lord, please; let it be!

Hell is a far cry from an eternal party. Honestly, after watching the party scene for a few years and seeing the end results – addictions, broken relationships, broken lives – even if it was a party, I wouldn’t want it.

The sex, drugs, and alcohol party lifestyle is its own hell. Just ask any sweat-drenched addict as he pukes his guts out between fixes. Or anyone who is a prisoner of their own fear. Or anyone who age catches unaware after they’ve squandered life on shallow physical relationships and now face old age and death alone.

No, my friends, you do not want hell. I don’t want hell for you. And if I know you personally and you are not a follower of the Lord, chances are good I pray frequently that you will come to Him of Your own free will.

I so desperately want you to choose life. I so desperately want to keep you from hell. But you know what? As much as I want this for you, God wants it even more. He wants it so much, He paid the price of your sin with His own blood.

Please. Choose life.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose lifeloving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…

Deuteronomy 30:19a, 20a, emphasis mine

Tuesday Prayer: Victory

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:17-18

Mighty Savior, we praise Your holy name for You are good. You are not only Creator of all that is seen and unseen, You are merciful. You’ve shown compassion on us even when we were in rebellion to Your created order and ways.

Though we were Your enemies, You stepped into our midst to live in perfection, to lay down Your life, and to redeem us when there is nothing we could do to extricate ourselves from slavery to sin. Thanks be to God for the victory He has given us in Christ Jesus!

But Lord, we confess that we do not always walk in victory over sin. Sometimes we toy with it as if it is a child’s plaything and not the very gateway to death. Other times, even though You have loosed the chains of sin, we cling to them as if bound and give in to self-loathing rather than fixing our eyes on You and stepping out in the freedom You’ve already given. In many other ways, Lord, we allow ourselves to be entangled by this world instead of caught up in rejoicing and praising You for our salvation.

And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.

Luke 8:14

Forgive us, we pray, and help us to remember that when it comes to sin, we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. Lord, today we cry out passionately and boldly: give your people victory over sin! Whatever has held us back to this point, pry our fingers off it and show us our freedom in Christ. Wherever we have embraced a lie, show us Your Truth and help us to believe it.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

1 John 5:4

Because of what You have done, we are no longer slaves to sin but have become slaves to righteousness. May we truly live this way, walking in the light of Your great love and enjoying daily and hourly victory over whatever sins have harried us throughout our lives.

Whether we’ve struggled under addiction, depression, anxiety, fear, lust, anger, unbelief, or any other thing, show us how to live victoriously over the plague of sin, rejoicing in the Lord who saves us and who is with us always.

Not only for us, Lord, but for our loved ones – please bring victory over sin. For those who are lost and still in captivity, open their eyes to the truth of Christ and set them free as well. May they see us victorious over sin and want to walk in that same victory.

Use us, Lord, to show them Your ways and draw them to our Lord Jesus. We pray to see a mighty work of Your Spirit, shaking the prison and flinging the doors wide so the captives can walk free along with us in genuine, joyful, and breathtaking victory over sin, amen. 

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin…

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:6-7, 11