Friday, June 29, 2012

The Richest of Fare

Looking Up-1
"Come, all you who are thirty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. " Isaiah 55:1-3
What costs us nothing cost Him everything. We who have nothing are invited to come to the One who has everything. The One who is King over all creation humbled Himself and became nothing so that we could become everything in Him. Jesus Christ; Who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross! Therefore, God exulted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:6-11
My self-saturated mind can't grasp God's infinite Grace. The Grace that screams, "it is finished!" And yet if it was anything less, it would be about me and not Him. God eternal, the same God who spoke creation into being, humbled Himself, came and dwelled among men, not as a king but as a servant. Not just a servant but the final atoning sacrifice for our sin. A man who knew no sin became sin for us and not just a man but God. Come, you who have no money, come buy and eat. Isaiah 55:1 What must I do to do the works God requires? Surely, I must do something. "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." John 6:29

Come buy wine and milk without cost. Isaiah 55:1
We try and earn our way to freedom. The struggle within ourselves is to make it all about what we've done and yet Jesus tells us that it's work to believe in and trust in what He's already done on our behalf. Our wrestling is to die to self, to die to that within us that struggles for independence from God. To die to the flesh that screams, "it's about me and what I'm doing." As if what we do justifies us before an infinitely holy God.
I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves of bread and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. John 6:26-27 . The greek word work for is ergazomai; it means in the sense to labor for, to earn one's food. The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Spiros Zodiates. We can't earn our salvation. We can't do enough to be justified before God apart from Christ. Our good deeds are worthless apart from Him. It's His Spirit within us that justifies us before God, we receive His Spirit when we trust in what He has done. Human nature never changes, just as in Jesus' day, so it is in our day, we want to work the works of God, independent of Christ. We want to have the benefits of Christ without the cost of belief and trust. We want the credit and the accolades and yet when we receive them, it's never enough to satisfy the deep longing and need within us that only Christ can satisfy. Why do you spend money on what is not bread and labor on what does not satisfy? Isaiah 55:2
Give us this bread that gives life to the world. Jesus declares, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. John 6:35.
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good and your soul will delight on the richest fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. Isaiah 55:2
Lord, forgive me for my unbelief and help me to believe. Help me to take hold of every provision in Christ and strengthen my faith. Strengthen what remains so that I can bring You glory. Forgive me for thinking my salvation is about me and not about you. Forgive me for making it about what I do instead of what has already been done on my behalf. Give me freedom in Christ and save me from my wretched independence. I take hold of your provision, Christ and place my trust in Him. I cling to Him in my need and rest in His provision which has already been made on my behalf. I eagerly await His coming and the culmination of events when I will see Him face to face. Thank you Lord that I do not lack any Spiritual gift as I eagerly wait for my Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep me strong to the end, so that I will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called me into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. 1Corinthians 1:7,8
Post written 2010

Monday, June 18, 2012

Abundantly Pardons

Christ Church Jerusalem-1
Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will ABUNDANTLY PARDON. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways", declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" Isaiah 55:6-9
For as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:11-14
The verses above are often misquoted and in their misquotation the real meaning and passionate call to salvation is often missed. We use these verses to explain away the things we don't understand about life and God when in reality these verses are about the limitless love of God and His offer of salvation to the depraved soul. I know it's not popular to use the word depraved to describe the condition of the human soul without God but I can honestly say that during my college years there were moments I would have referred to myself this way. I believed the lie that there was no way the Lord could forgive me and while embracing this lie I covered up my sin and shame by living my life the way I saw fit with no regard to God. Depression has a way of bringing you to your knees and I am thankful that the Lord brought me to the end of myself.
Oftentimes, when we sin we turn away from God. For a long time, I did my best to silence Him because to admit there is a God I must also admit that I was not god. I didn't know what the Bible said but I did know that within myself I wasn't following some higher moral code. I sought answers everywhere but not from the One who was calling me unto Himself. The Bible tells us that He knew every one of our days before ONE of them came to be. Our story was written before the foundations of the world. Psalm 139:16 He knew every sin, every moment and yet He still chose us for Himself and for His purposes. His ability to redeem the totally depraved soul and His power to change our innermost being is all about Him and not about us and our ability to muster up anything from within ourselves. I have no ability within myself to muster up enough belief, faith or love apart from His precious Son living within me and doing the work for me and through me. For He knows how I was formed, he remembers that I am dust. Psalm 103:14 (More on this verse in a later post).
We see from the verses above that salvation is for everyone who comes to Jesus. God desires to ABUNDANTLY pardon our sins. He calls us, to seek Him, to call upon Him, and to forsake our sinful ways and thoughts and to accept His Son, Jesus as the final sacrifice and atonement for our sins. For it is by His grace that we have been saved not by our works. It is by His death that we receive life. Our minds can't comprehend nor can our human intellect understand a holy infinite God who loves us and desires to pardon everyone who comes to Him, believing that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Hebrews 11:6. According to the verses above, there is no room for penance or working for our salvation for only God pardons sin and He does so through faith in His son, Jesus. God doesn't pardon sin reluctantly but abundantly.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, who is now at work in in those who are disobedient. ALL OF US also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of the sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us ALIVE with Christ even when were dead in transgressions. Ephesians 2:1-4
I am a girl who is redeemed from the futility of life apart from God and made alive in Christ. I was once far off but have been brought near to God through the blood of Christ, for Christ preached peace to those who were far away and to those who were near. The punishment that brought me peace was upon him and by his wounds I am healed. Ephesians 2:13,17, Isaiah 53:5
Re-post written December of 2009

Friday, June 8, 2012

All Your Strength: Part 2

This post is a continuation of the previous post, Love the Lord your God With All Your Strength. Please take a moment to read the previous post before continuing on in this post.
As I mentioned in the previous post, the expert of the Law asked Jesus what He could do to inherit eternal life and Jesus' responded with a question, "What is written in the Law?" He did this to bring the expert of the law to the end of himself. For apart from Jesus' perfect life, final death and believing on Him for salvation no man stands justified before a Holy God. Even our believing on Him is a gift from God, Ephesians 2:8 tells us, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27

Then you will say on that day, "I will give thanks to You, O LORD; for although you were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and you comfort me. "Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation."Therefore, you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation. And in that day you will say "Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; and proclaim that His name is exulted."Praise the LORD in song,  for He has done excellent things; let this be known throughout the entire earth." Isaiah 12:1-5
Notice the word, proclaim. We are to proclaim the Gospel, not just live it out. We are to tell others of His wonderful deeds. The word Gospel means, Good News, it was a proclamation of victory. The Gospel is fundamentally about Jesus; not about us. We are to proclaim the "good news" to ourselves everyday because everyday we need to remember His performance for sinners, His finished work on the cross as the final atoning sacrifice for our sin, and His love for sinners. Sin is knowing the good we ought to do and not doing it. James 4:17. If I'm being honest, this is me most days. There has not been one day that has gone by in my life that I can honestly say, I've succeeded in loving the LORD with all my heart, mind and strength and soul and my neighbor as myself. Read further down in the verses of Luke and you will see Jesus' response to "who is my neighbor?"
With as important as it is to preach the gospel to ourselves everyday, it is also just as important to proclaim this "good news" to those God puts in our path. When we fully grasp the implications of our sin, we all have blood on our hands and we all must be raised from the dead. Matthew 5:22, Ephesians 2:1, the gospel will propel us into action. Jesus, as we focus on His rescuing us from eternal death and separation, changes us from within as we are being transformed into His image from glory to glory. This dear one is sanctification. Sanctification is not getting better and better and better and therefore needing Jesus less and less. It is not becoming a better version of ourselves. Sanctification is growing in our awareness of how much we need Jesus and growing deeper and deeper into His finished work within us as He further reveals the hugeness of our rescue. We are in the process of being transformed into His image, which by the way, is a suffering servant obedient unto death.
What is the root of all sin? The root of all sin is unbelief. Failing to believe everything I need I already in Christ. When we are tempted to believe salvation by faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone is too easy, we must remember that it wasn't easy for Him. The same God that spoke creation into being, formed and made you in your mother's womb. This Jesus, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but humbled Himself, came down and dwelled among men. The Creator became the created. The one, who's very name is the Word of God, gave up everything to fulfill the Law and die in our place. He walked through the depths of despair relationally, spiritually and physically, as He was tempted in every way and yet was without sin. On the cross, darkness descended upon the land for three hours as every sin every committed was laid upon Him. At His command, "It is finished," and as He gave up His spirit, an earthquake struck the land and tore the veil in two. This veil separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.
This dear friend is the only confidence we have to enter into the presence of God. It is only through His flesh which was torn in two that we have access to the Father. He is the only one worthy of our praise and affections. And to quote Tullian, "Jesus + Nothing = Everything." He set the standard of righteousness and then fulfilled His standard with His perfect life and holy blood. He walked through the pieces on our behalf because He knew we couldn't. He is the Holy undefiled, Lamb of God, who became sin for sinners.
His hands bear the marks of His sacrifice. It is His marks which convince the weary sinner of His love. His love is perfect, His sacrifice finished, His intercession continuously, as He now sits at the right hand of God the Father, praying continuously for us.
Do you know Him? This Jesus of Nazareth, who came to set the captives free.
Law and terror do but harden
All the while they work alone
But a sense of blood-brought pardon
will dissolve the heart of stone
- Joseph Hart 1712-1768

Further verse references: John 3:14, Galatians 4:4, Ephesians 2:8, Isaiah 12:1-5, Romans 3:10,11,19, Matthew 5:17, Colossians 1:17, John 20:27, James 4:17

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Love the Lord Your God With All Your Strength

Running Down Masada-1
And a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "What is written in the Law?  How does it read to you?" And he answered "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live." But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Luke 10:25-29 
Back in March, I had the amazing privilege to speak to the women of our church. The topic I was given to speak on was, Love the LORD your God with all your strength. I knew this was an opportunity to preach the gospel. This post is a summery of the talk I gave to the women of my church. Lord, bring to remembrance the words you want written. I pray that you will open eyes that are blind and ears that can not hear. I pray that you will surround those reading this post with your unfathomable love and presence. To you be the glory, honor and praise forever.
Love the Lord your God with all your strength, Luke 10:27; If I'm being honest this verse used to haunt me for I used to think that this love for God, as implied in the verse above if read out of context, was something I had to muster up in my own strength. I knew that apart from Jesus in me, there was no good thing. Everything within me is tainted and stained. I remember crying out to God, "I can't love you the way you call me to love you but I want more than anything to love you this way. I can't but you did." The Law crushed me to bring me to the only One who could resurrect me. We can only love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19
"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Notice, the lawyer or expert of the law was trying to trick Jesus. He wanted Jesus to tell him what to do; Jesus asks the expert, "How do you read the law?" to which the expert, who by the way, wanted to justify himself states, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus did this to bring the expert of the Law to the end of himself and to show him that he couldn't. "Teacher, tell me what I can do to inherit eternal life." I believe this is still the question we are asking today. There is something within us that cries out to be justified before God. Even those who say they don't believe in God are seeking to be justified by something. Our flesh, the thing within each of us that is contrary to the Spirit, wants to maintain control of our justification. We want to make our justification about what we do so we can take the credit for our success or failure and control our own destiny. But there is nothing we can do to inherit eternal life apart from Jesus' finished work on the cross and believing on Him for salvation. The purpose of the Law was to silence those under the Law.
The Law is our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24  
There is no one righteous not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. Romans 3:10,11
Christ is the end of the Law so that there might be righteousness for everyone who believes. Romans 10:4
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in Him. 1John 4:16
Elyse Fitzpatrick in her book, Because He Loves Me, asks this very important question, "In your pursuit of Godliness, have you left Jesus behind?" 
For those of you who don't know me or my story, I was pulled from the pit of despair at the age of 23. I was the recipient of God's amazing grace. I knew the pit from which He pulled me. Now, at the age of 35, I found myself doubting God's goodness, His mercies, His performance for me. My heart had become hard and proud. This pride within me threatened to overtake me. I was so focused on me and what I was doing or not doing to be concerned about those around me. The focus of my christian life was about me, the christian, and not the Christ. 
You see like Peter, after stepping out of the boat in faith, I started to sink because I took my eyes off of Jesus and put my faith and focus on my accomplishments and abilities to perform for Jesus. And like the Galatians, after beginning with the Spirit I was now trying to attain perfection by human effort. Galatians 3:3. I used to spend hours focusing on myself and my need to change. I would compare what I was doing for Him to what others were doing and if I was doing more I would feel prideful but if I was doing less I would feel despondant. My need to justify myself to others and to myself was an indication that I didn't trust in the finished work of Christ. It was my unbelief and idolatry that kept me from experiencing His peace and power. God in his grace and mercy was showing me that although it was pretty easy for me to change my behavior, apart from Him, it was impossible for me to change my heart. He was beginning to cleanse me of my idol of me. The realization that I can't love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my mind, all my strength, unless He enables me to love Him was what brought me to the end of myself.  
In Christ, everything we need, we already have. You see, when my focus was on me and what I was doing or in many cases, not doing; instead of on Christ and what He has done for me, I was making my salvation about what I do instead of what has already been done. This isn't the Gospel, it's idolatry. It's self-centered, not Christ-centered. It's what Satan uses to put our attention on us and our ability, instead of on Christ's supremacy, glory and sufficiency. When our focus is on ourselves, we are severed from the power of "it is finished." The Law is glorious because it reveals to us the glory of God. To be justified by it, it has to be perfectly obeyed. There has only been One who has perfectly obeyed the Law. Christ came down to do for us what we couldn't do and it is His performance for us that justifies us before a Holy and perfect God. He perfectly obeyed for you.You see, the Law tells us what to do but it doesn't give us the power to do it. It daily redirects us to Christ because it is now written on our hearts and has been placed on our minds. Hebrews 7:10
Next week, I will post another entry to bring this talk I gave in March to conclusion. It is too long to post as one entry. I have summarized the above entry so it might seem a little jumbled. When I wrote it, I wrote it as a talk and not a written entry so excuse the grammatical errors. I'm not a writer. The Lord has sense of humor as He oftentimes asks us to serve Him in our weakness. The fact that the Lord  has blessed me with a blog is an indication that He delights to use us in our weakness so that He alone get's the glory. He's gifted me to teach and speak but the Lord has given me this avenue for the time being so thank you for reading these entries despite the many errors found in my posts.
Picture above: See those four specks running down Masada? That is me, my husband, and our friends the Everswick's