Where does all our true Advent Hope Rest? Answer: God is “UN” Equaled! Isaiah 40:25-26

Isaiah 40:25-26Authorized (King James) Version

25 To whom then will ye liken me,
or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high,
and behold who hath created these things,
that bringeth out their host by number:
he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might,
for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

‘Un’ is a prefix meaning “not,” freely used as an English formative, giving negative or opposite force in adjectives and their derivative adverbs and nouns (unfair; unavailable, unappreciated, unfelt; unseen; unreliable; unrest; unlucky, unloved; unemployment) – and the list could go on for as long as we need it to.

So, I got to thinking and praying over some of the “UN” things we ought to be saying, and singing and shouting about God our Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 40:25Easy-to-Read Version

25 The Holy One says, “Can you compare me to anyone?
    No one is equal to me.”

The first chapter of Isaiah starts out with a declaration of the people’s rebellion against God, consequences for such, a call to repentance, finishing it off with prophetic statements of restoration.

Isaiah Chapter 39 ends with Isaiah revealing to King Hezekiah that the nation would be taken captive by the Babylonians.

But Isaiah chapter 40 begins with God commissioning Isaiah to proclaim that when the consequences for their rebellion is over there will be comfort for the people of Jerusalem.

Within this 40th chapter we will see declared and proclaimed the ways in which God unequivocally communicates his preeminence to his long suffering people.

UNEQUALED IN DOMINANCE.

Isaiah 40:6-8Authorized (King James) Version

The voice said, Cry.
And he said, What shall I cry?
All flesh is grass,
and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
the grass withereth, the flower fadeth:
because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it:
surely the people is grass.
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:
but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

God wanted his people to know that no matter how powerful some people are, no matter how long they stay in power, they are like withering grass.

No matter how rich someone is, no matter how glorious they seem, that too, will come to an end like a flower of the field.

Why? Because it’s the Lord alone who determines when their end will come.

No amount of power, no amount of money, no amount of prestige, no amount of authority is ever going to be able to overcome the power, glory of the Lord.

The Jewish nation would be taken over by the Babylonians.

King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful man who gained control over a vast region for many years.

During their long captivity I can see the Jews wondering if anything could stop this Babylonian king.

But they were shown God’s dominance in two ways:

When Nebuchadnezzar became proud, declaring how great he thought he was, God removed him from his throne; showing this king who was really the King!

Then second when God fulfilled his promise to his people by delivering them and reestablishing them as a nation.

This is critically important for us to understand because when the powers that be-whether it’s the government or our boss or a bully-seem unstoppable they are, when the dominant power of God is factored in, not in charge of anything.

The only thing that is unstoppable is God.

The only thing that is unceasing is God.

Kingdoms crumble and empires erode but the reign of God never ends.

That’s important for us to understand because no matter what happens in our world, no matter what decisions are made, no matter what laws get put in place, nothing is ever completely set in stone; God is the one who has the final say.

So when we are oppressed we can have a dominant and dominating hope that deliverance from such oppression is definitely possible; change will happen.

When trials, tribulations and tragedy strikes and we wonder how we will ever be able to pick up the pieces; when we get devastating news and we want to give up; when the circumstances in life seem hopeless; when things look bleak.

When it seems as if there is no way out-no light at the end of the tunnel we need to remember who is in control and who has the final word.

Circumstances may be outside of our control but they are not ever out of his. God has dominance.

UNEQUALED IN CARE.

Isaiah 40:10-11New Living Translation

10 Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
    He will rule with a powerful arm.
    See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
    He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

It’s interesting that we find the words ‘power’ and ‘gentle’ in the same passage.

What a dominant, dominating picture of God.

We need this picture to dominate our hearts and our thoughts because we should only get so easily overwhelmed by God’s great and awesome power.

We could forget so easily that the God who created the universe cares about me deeply, intimately and personally.

We need to see both sides of God for the purpose of revering him but loving him at the same time.

We need to understand that God wants to hold us near in love and gentleness but that doesn’t mean he’s just an ol’ softy.

We shouldn’t take God’s gentleness for weakness.

God is tender but he’s also tough.

That awareness of His dominant and dominating power over our hearts and our souls will serve to keep us close to him while at the same time keep us in check.

Later in Isaiah, in talking about the restoration of his people, God said this in 49:10,

“They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.”

Beloved; See how he cares for us. He feeds us, he protects us, he has compassion for us, he guides us, and he leads us beside springs of waters and he satisfies us.

This is our shepherd.

This is God as our father-loving, caring, protective and patient.

And he is unequaled in such things.

Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:22-23,

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

He is unequaled in his ability to continually and faithfully provide all these things for us.

His love dominates over chaos, is greater than the darkness, his faithfulness and devotion to us is far greater and his compassion towards us will never fail.

How has God cared for you?

How has he been gentle with you?

How has he directed you?

Can you see the waters of the forest streams flowing steadily, watering the trees whose roots grow deeper in the ground to reach that life giving, nourishing waters, securing the trees to the shorelines, through the dry desert wilderness.

UNEQUALED IN WISDOM.

Isaiah 40:12-14New Living Translation

The Lord Has No Equal

12 Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
    Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?
Who else knows the weight of the earth
    or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?
13 Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord?[a]
    Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?
14 Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice?
    Does he need instruction about what is good?
Did someone teach him what is right
    or show him the path of justice?

Here we read a series of rhetorical questions that puts God’s preeminence in perspective for us.

I can read and hear God saying,

“Who else has the ability I do?

Go and find someone who can hold the waters of any ocean in the palm of their hand. Go and find someone who can make a mountain. Find someone who can create stars and planets. Find someone who has a better plan for creating the universe or the world or the human body. Who else has done what I have done?

The problem is some people think they have.

We discover new formulas and invent new “smart” technologies; we develop vaccines and cure diseases and somehow that makes us the superior ones.

And therein lies the dangers-

We don’t need God, we can do it ourselves.

God? what god; I’m god.

Oh, how sorry a people we have become when we get to the place where we think we are as dominant, as caring, as smart, as wise or as qualified as God.

But this doesn’t just happen on a grand scale.

We can be guilty of this type of thinking on a lower scale.

How?

Whenever we don’t listen to God.

Whenever we don’t trust him.

Whenever we go our own way we are putting ourselves in place of God.

Whenever we go against what God has commanded we are saying we know the better, wiser, smarter, dominant, dominating way; we put ourselves into that place where we all believe we are the only ones who know what we really need.

Whenever the Holy Spirit reveals what we need to do but we ignore it we are telling God that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Whenever we don’t agree with how God is handling things we somehow conclude that he doesn’t have the first clue or know about what he’s doing.

“That’s not how I would’ve done it.”

That’s pride.

However, if we are humble, we will conclude that no matter how much we gain over the course of our lives, we won’t have, we can never have anywhere near the dominant understanding, knowledge or wisdom or smarts which God has.

As the psalmist declared in Psalm 147:5,

“Great is the Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”

Who’s the one who is unlimited in their understanding-us?

Who’s the one who sees everything everywhere-us?

Who’s the one who sees tomorrow-us?

We understand so little;

Our perspective is so ridiculously limited.

God is unequaled in wisdom.

UNEQUALED IN WHAT HE CAN, AND IN TRUTH, DOES DO FOR US.

Isaiah 40:25-31New Living Translation

25 “To whom will you compare me?
    Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.

26 Look up into the heavens.
    Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
    calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
    not a single one is missing.
27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

Not only is there no equal or comparison to God in what he can do that also goes for what he can do for us!

Since he will never grow tired or weary, he is a never-ending source of strength for us when we become weak and weary.

That goes for all kinds of weaknesses; not just physical.

Yes, he will give us energy and vitality to physically be able to do great things but the main way he gives us strength and stamina is spiritually.

Take some quality time today to think about it and pray over it-when was the last time you dreamed you had climbed on top of an eagle and went for a ride?

When was the last time you had this “V8 moment “, went for a long run, felt as strong, if not the stronger, at the end of the run as you did in the beginning?

Obviously these are metaphors for what he will enable us to do spiritually.

We will be able to do amazing things when God’s power is at work within us.

Nothing else comes anywhere close to what God can do for us.

Some people are good and mightily gifted at motivating us and encouraging us and making us feel good but no matter how “gifted” someone is at doing these things it always pales in comparison to God’s level of ability to do these things.

And in the past how we may have turned to things like drugs, alcohol, food or money or gambling or something else to give us a temporary, fleeting ‘high’ but nothing manmade can ever come close to duplicating a true Holy Spirit high.

If your hope is in the Lord then he will be the one who will renew your strength when you are physically, spiritually, psychologically or emotionally depleted.

Without God’s dominant, dominating power you will always be weak and weary. Without God you will always stumble and fall. Do you want to soar like an eagle?

Then put all your hope in the unequaled, unending abilities and power of God.

In a children’s book titled, “Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is?” Robert Wells takes us on a journey from observing a size we can grasp to one we can’t.

The largest animal on earth is the blue whale.

Just the flippers on its tail are bigger than most animals on earth.

But a blue whale isn’t anywhere near as big as a mountain.

If you put one hundred blue whales in a huge jar you could put millions of whale jars inside a hollowed-out Mount Everest.

But Mount Everest isn’t anywhere near as big as the earth.

If you stacked one hundred Mount Everest’s on top of one another it would just be a whisker on the face of the earth.

And the earth is not anywhere near as big as the sun.

You could fit one million earths inside of the sun.

But the sun, which is a medium-sized star, is not nearly as big as a red supergiant star called Antares.

But Antares isn’t anywhere near as big as the Milky Way galaxy.

Billions of stars, including super giants like Antares, as well as countless comets and asteroids, make up the Milky Way galaxy.

But the Milky Way galaxy is not anywhere near as big as the universe.

There are countless billions of other galaxies in the universe.

And yet, filled with ‘billions’ of galaxies, the universe is almost totally empty.

Distances from one galaxy to another are undeniably beyond our imagination.

And now, ponder and pray over and through this: the Creator of this universe is God, who with a word spoke it all into being, who is present, who is dominant, everywhere in this universe, beyond, who upholds it all with his mighty power.

Great is our God and greatly to be praised.

Our God is unequaled in power, size, wisdom, ability and greatness.

And he unconditionally cares about you and undeniably wants to do great and wondrous things in you and through you.

How unfathomable is that?

It is unparalleled, having no parallel or equal; exceptional.

It is undeniably, undoubtedly, unequivocally, unquestionably, unequaled!

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son an God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Almighty and Ever Living Son of God, You are the great “I AM.” You are faithful to Your promises and will defeat the chaos of my doubtful, doubt-filled soul though so very numerous and powerful. I will not be discouraged because I walk in your divine presence. I will live in Your strength and courage, for You are my God. I have faith in You and Your word because I know that Your word never fails. I thank You for the many promises You have spoken over my life, and I place my trust in You. Amen.

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Grace Greater than our Sin: We say God is trying to Hide Himself from us. Brutal Reality is we are trying too hard to hide our deceitful selves from God. Psalm 32

Psalm 32 English Standard Version

Blessed Are the Forgiven

A Maskil[a] of David.

32 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up[b] as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Therefore let everyone who is godly
    offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
    they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
    which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
    or it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
    but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
    and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Notice the first two verses of Psalm 32 tell us about a threefold liberation—our transgressions forgiven, our sins covered, and our sin is not counted against us.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow, bless my soul and pass the joy!

But then we run headlong into this qualifier: “… in whose spirit is no deceit.”

In deceit we deliberately misrepresent ourselves; we retreat to our secret places, we deliberately and with much malice, give a false impression of our goodness.

Does God then count our sins against us?

I am still forgiven, but there is little less magnitude of max joy to pass around!

Deceit is about our deliberately, intentionally initiating a “secret conspiracy” to cover ourselves up, starting with covering up our failures even unto ourselves.

Without much effort at all we will immediately, if not sooner deny our sin, we will white wash it, reason it away, we will rationalize it out of existence, make excuses for it, compare ourselves to others whom we judge to be worse sinners.

From all of our best, worst efforts, to wall ourselves away from the bitter reality of exactly what is in front of us, with our deceit we no longer sense God’s grace.

Psalm 32:3-4 English Standard Version

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up[a] as by the heat of summer. Selah

David himself confesses the dangerous effects of the magnitude of his deceit .

And his own personal awareness of God doing a “romp and stomp” on his soul.

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away …. through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped.”

Talk about “Where’s the joy?”!

It was more like David was killing his own Joy with every secret effort he made.

But then David came to his senses:

Psalm 32:5 English Standard Version

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

David acknowledged the magnitude of his deceit to God, no longer tried to cover it up, no longer tried to keep it locked up behind a thousand doors, locked up by a thousand and one different misshapen keys, deep in unwritten secret places.

With deceit finally confessed, sin is covered by God’s forgiving, healing grace.

When we deceive ourselves, we try to hide our sin.

When we deceive ourselves, we try to reason with our sin.

When we deceive ourselves, we try to rationalize it away.

Reasoning with sin is quite literally and scripturally impossible.

Rationalizing it away is quite literally and scripturally impossible.

When has anyone ever long kept a secret hidden away from God?

Isaiah 1:18-20 English Standard Version

18 “Come now, let us reason[a] together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
    you shall be eaten by the sword;
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 2:1-4 English Standard Version

The Mountain of the Lord

2 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

It shall come to pass in the latter days
    that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,

    and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,[a]
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war anymore.

The reality is that mankind will be judged by God and God alone

The reality of it all is the “nation of sin” will be judged by God alone.

The reality of it all is the relationship between man and sin will be judged.

The reality is God judges both the “nations of man” and “nations of sin” either trying to “live” in close harmony with each other or “at each other’s throats.”

The reality is God alone judges the maximum strength, durability of the walls these two “nations” have constructed to hide their efforts from “prying eyes.”

1 Chronicles 28:9 English Standard Version

David’s Charge to Solomon

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.

But there are only two true hiding places.

The Mountain of God – where we will all gather to learn only of His ways.

The Cross of Jesus Christ where Christ settled the matter – once for all time.

John 19:28-30 English Standard Version

The Death of Jesus

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Our choices are crystal clear – believe God is deliberately trying to hide Himself from us, therefore we try hiding our sin from God, to live in harmony with sin, all the while moaning and groaning, crying and whining from our inequalities,

Or… Just brutally surrender ourselves to the .01% possibility of irrepressible joy.

Psalm 32:6-7 English Standard Version

Therefore let everyone who is godly
    offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
    they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

“You are my hiding place,” the psalmist says to God.

Being covered by Grace is so much easier that covering over our deceit.

Being covered by Grace is so much better than covering over our deceit.

Being covered by Grace is so much healthier than covering up our deceit.

Being covered by Grace is so much the wiser choice than destroying our Joy.

Will we this day … Receive this Grace for the very first time?

Will we this day … Receive a fresh anointing of this Grace today?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the name above every other name. Your name is like a fortified tower in which I can find safety and security. When I am troubled, I can find refuge and peace in your name. When I feel weak, I can find refuge and strength in your name. When I feel overwhelmed, I can find refuge and rest in your name. When I feel surrounded by pressures on every side, I can find safety, stability in your name. Your name is revealed! Your name is beautiful, Lord, help me to rely on you. Through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Who of us does not long to hear these exact words from our God right now: “You are My Child, in whom I love; with whom I am well Pleased?” Mark 1:9-11

Mark 1:9-11 New Living Translation

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him[a] like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

We might think that the world-changing and history-making beginning of Jesus’ ministry would begin with a major announcement.

We might even reasonably expect that this history making event would come out as a big deal—like when a nation’s president or prime minister is elected.

But the heavenly declaration that opens Jesus’ ministry is rather low key.

It is also rather private, personal and extraordinarily intimate—Jesus had not announced himself yet gathered any disciples or followers to witness this event.

It was a deeply personal event exclusively meant for exchange between a father and his son – a father and son moment – with meanings deeper than we know.

What’s more, the heavenly power does not swoop in like a great eagle with exposed talons, swooping in while it is shrieking at the very top of its lungs.

You do not get the idea it was meant to be observed by human eyes and ears.

Instead it is described as gently arriving like a dove.

The Spirit of God, who had hovered over the waters of creation (Genesis 1:2), similarly graces the person of Jesus, giving us an unmistakable sign that a new creation is getting under way and this new effort will also be good, very good.

Mark’s gospel has an emphasis on showing the reading audience who Jesus is.

He is the Servant of All and He is about to immediately begin His ministry and His mission of making a difference, if not THE difference in the affairs of man.

The first eight verses of Mark focused on the immediate anticipation of Jesus’ arrival.

Remember that the gospel opens calling for people to literally drop every last priority they have, immediately begin to prepare the way for the king’s arrival.

The blessings of the Heavenly King … Humbly Clothed in His Divine Majesty …

Let all the Earth Rejoice … Let all the Earth Rejoice …

Everything, if not everybody in your life is immediately about to be changed.

Every circumstance is about to become immediately subjected to redemption.

Your life is about to be strengthened – thy self-esteem about to be maxed out.

Get hyper-excited because thy salvation is about to become genuine reality.

Immediately answer for yourselves this question: HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD?

Get your hearts and souls ready by confessing your sins because the mightier, indeed very the mightiest One is coming who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

One question that we have when we come to the baptism of Jesus is why was he even needed to baptized?

The answer is in verse 9: we see the humble king of all created things quietly arriving, slowly processing into humanity, for his royal coronation ceremony.

Open your versions of God’s word to Mark 1:9-11 to see this coronation scene.

Here in the Gospel of Mark we are given the heavenly insight that Jesus is the unique and truly loved Son with whom His Father God is beyond well pleased.

Today’s highlighted verses tell us about God’s great love for His Son Jesus and how, as He came up, out from the water He has expressed His love for His Son.

We see God’s wonderful expression of deep affection and deep pride in Jesus.

It must have been a beautiful, inspiring moment and blessing to each of them.

The great thing about this event is this: Jesus has immediately provided each of us with the blessed assurance of both God’s great favor and abundant delight.

Christ’s death on the Cross not only paid the price for our sins, it also opened up the way to the loving-kindness and great goodness of God. Just as the Father was proud of His Son, God can now cherish and embrace us in the same way.

Are not these the words we all need to hear from the ones we love the most?

Look at what was being said by Father God: “I completely claim you as my child! I completely, utterly love you! I am fully, utterly completely max pleased with you!”

The Father shared these incredible affirmations with his Son.

And by extension, our Father God shares these incredible affirmations with us.

In the subsequent verses, the man Jesus will face the temptations of Satan in the wilderness armed with the understanding his Heavenly Father lovingly and proudly claims him as his child – those words infusing Jesus with God’s might.

You know, when we were baptized,

I cannot help but believe my God immediately quietly expressing the very same fatherly sentiments about you and me – with the exact same degree of His love!

In this moment, what does that thought immediately do for your self-esteem?

No matter what you or I think of or about ourselves, here is a wonderful hint:

OPEN WIDEST THOSE EYES OF YOURS, GIVE GOD YOUR “GOD” SMILE NOW …

God has entered the affairs of all mankind, come into the world with the loving intention of bringing about a new creation that includes you. What in your life needs to be re-created by the transformation and blessings of Savior Jesus Christ?

Jesus himself declares in Chapter One verse 15: “The time has come. . . . The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and (hardcore) believe the good news!”

No matter who you are or what you’ve done; no matter how you’re feeling or what you’re going through right in this exact moment, please know this: You are a beloved child of God, lifted up by His grace, and cherished by Him forever.

Just a Quiet, Timely Reminder of Exactly Whose Beloved Child You Are?

He was the Son of God.

He was the Son of Man.

He came down from heaven.
He was born in a stable.

Kings came to his cradle.
His first home was a cave.

He was born to be a king.
He was a child of Mary.

He was the greatest among rulers.
He was the least among servants.

He was loved and honored.
He was despised and rejected.

He was gentle and loving.
He made many enemies.

He counseled perfection.
He was a friend of sinners.

He was a joyful companion.
He was a man of sorrows.

He said, “Rejoice.”
He said, “Repent.”

“Love God with all your heart.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Don’t be anxious.”
“Count the cost.”

“Deny yourself.”
“Ask and receive.”

In him was life.
He died on a cross.

He was a historic person.
He lives today.

He was Jesus of Nazareth.
He is Christ the Lord.

He was with God in the beginning of all created things because He is God!

And there is exactly NOTHING the darkness of sin and death can do about it!

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

ABBA, My Loving and adoring Father, I know I do not merit your love and grace. Yet, dear Heavenly Father of mine, I am completely and utterly overwhelmed with them and beyond thankful for the abundance of them. As your beloved child, please know that I love and adore you… even in those times when I make wrong choices and also when I succumb to temptation’s power. Father, do not ever let the evil one strip my love for you from me or let him cloud my eyes to your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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The Ministry and Mission of Jesus Begins: Two Kinds of Wildernesses. Numbers 14:26-35 and Mark 1:11-15

Numbers 14:26-35Amplified Bible

26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall I put up with this evil congregation who murmur [in discontent] against Me? I have heard the complaints of the Israelites, which they are making against Me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just what you have spoken in My hearing I will most certainly do to you; 29 your dead bodies will fall in this wilderness, even all who were numbered of you, your entire number from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against Me. 30 Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, not one of you shall enter the land in which I swore [an oath] to settle you. 31 But your children whom you said would become plunder, I will bring in, and they will know the land which you have despised and rejected. 32 But as for you, your dead bodies will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your sons shall be wanderers and shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness (spiritual infidelity), until your corpses are consumed in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of days in which you spied out the land [of Canaan], forty days, for each day, you shall bear and suffer a year for your sins and guilt, for forty years, and you shall know My displeasure [the revoking of My promise and My estrangement because of your sin]. 35 I, the Lord, have spoken. I will most certainly do this to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed [by war, disease, and plagues], and here they shall die.’”

Mark 1:11-15Amplified Bible

11 and a [a]voice came out of heaven saying: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased and delighted!”

12 Immediately the [Holy] Spirit forced Him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted [to do evil] by Satan; and He was with the wild animals, and the angels ministered continually to Him.

Jesus Preaches in Galilee

14 Now after John [the Baptist] was arrested and [b]taken into custody, Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the good news of [the kingdom of] God, 15 and saying, “The [appointed period of] time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins, live your life in a way that proves repentance; seek God’s purpose for your life] and believe [with a deep, abiding trust] in the good news [regarding salvation].”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

The wilderness is a place that captures the imagination and stirs the soul.

Native Americans, for example, will journey into the wilderness on a vision quest; thrill seekers will flock to the mountains and remote places in search of adventure; those who are overworked will retreat there for peace and solitude; and Christians will even go camping in the wilderness for the purpose of fasting and praying, confidence building exercises, for adventures, looking unto God.

The wilderness just innately seems to continuously beckon unto people.

Jack London authored a book entitled The Call of the Wild, and Country Music songwriter John Denver once asked, “Does the call of the wild ever sing through the midst of your dreams?”

In the Hebrew {old} Testament, King David declared,

“Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness” (Psalms 55:6-7).

There’s an intrinsic romanticism concerning the wilderness.

In the physical sense, it represents peace and finding oneself.

In the spiritual, however, it can represent confusion and becoming lost to oneself, and realizing a deafening silence from God.

Whenever the Lord allows His children to enter a spiritual wilderness, there’s nothing very romantic about it! The wilderness is a place one hopes to flee!

I once read a story about a distinguished painter who was conducting a class for aspiring artists.

He was speaking to them on the subject of artistic composition.

He emphasized that it was wrong, for example, to portray a wooded area, a forest or a wilderness, without painting into it a path out of the trees.

When a true artist draws or paints any kind of picture, such as a landscape, he always gives the picture an “out.”

Otherwise the tangle of trees and the ceaseless, endless, trackless spaces will depress and dismay the onlooker.(1)

(1) Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, in Logos CD-ROM, version 2.1E (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996).

The same thing can happen in your spiritual life whenever you feel as though you’re in a wilderness.

If life ever appears as a tangled mass of branches under a dark leafy canopy or a vast expanse of dark forest with no obvious way out, then you can become down and discouraged, and even seriously distant in your relationship with the Lord.

Somewhere along your spiritual journey you might enter a season in life where you will feel as though you are deep in a vast wilderness with no way out.

In this message, I am going to compare and contrast two possible reasons why you might enter a wilderness period, and prayerfully show you and me how to make it through to the other side; as we try to compare and contrast following Jesus and both the “sin-driven wilderness” and “Spirit-driven wilderness.”

A Sin-Driven Wilderness (Numbers 14:26-35)

Sometimes when we have a wilderness experience in our life, it’s the result of sin.

This is called a “sin-driven wilderness” – one where you are driven into the wilderness because of “your own” sin. This is what happened to the Israelites.

The Bible says in Numbers 14:26-35:

And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me.”

“Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in’.”

“‘But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection’.”

“‘I the Lord have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die’” (Numbers 14:26-35).

The Lord said, “The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness” (Numbers 14:29).

The sin mentioned in these verses which resulted in the Israelites being driven into the wilderness was “complaining against God.”

Complaining was just one manifestation of hearts an souls and spirits that were full of sin and lacking in even a minimum measure of faith in God’s deliverance.

Since (I believe anyway) we have studied this passage before, this is a bit of a review; however, a review is necessary to get to the heart of the message.

In Numbers thirteen, we read where the Lord sent twelve spies from the tribes of Israel on a reconnaissance mission into Canaan to check out its bounty.

When they had returned, they reported how it was a land flowing with milk and honey just as the Lord had promised to them; however, they also brought back a seriously negative report of how the land was occupied with giants whom they could not overcome. This is when they began to become fearful and complain.

In Numbers fourteen, we read where they refused to go forth and possess the Promised Land as God had commanded, and they attempted to select leaders and return to Egypt. The only ones who were faithful were Joshua and Caleb, who both repeatedly tried to encourage the people that the land could be taken.

The Israelites refused to possess Canaan and the people were sentenced to wander in the wilderness forty years, until all who were twenty-years-old and above had perished.

The Lord told Israel, “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you” (Deuteronomy 8:2a).

This particular sin-driven wilderness served as a test for the people of Israel.

Whenever you enter a sin-driven wilderness, you need to realize that it’s your sin that has driven you there – your sin – and not the Lord.

It is not a God-driven wilderness, but a sin-driven wilderness.

Whenever we enter a wilderness period because of our own sins, what happens is you and I are allowed to suffer from the wrong choices of our sin, and too be tested by the consequences of sin – just how long do we allow ourselves to hurt?

The Bible says that sin leads to death (Romans 6:23).

It was sin that resulted in the first man and woman being evicted from the Garden of Eden.

In a sense, the sin-driven wilderness is a form of punishment, because God allows it to happen when He could actually intervene; but ultimately it is a person’s own fault for winding up there through their own disobedience to God.

Whenever you find yourself in a sin-driven wilderness it’s because the Lord is allowing you to be purged of sin and purified. The Lord allowed Israel to enter the wilderness in order for the generation that sinned to perish and die out, so that Israel would be purged and cleansed of her negative and rebellious attitude.

The Lord will allow you to enter the wilderness in order to be chastened and cleansed of sin, so that you will emerge on the other side as a different person, and hopefully a better and more faithful follower.

Hebrews says, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (12:11).

A wilderness experience will either make or break you.

You will either grow closer to the Lord or become distant from Him.

You might feel like Evan Baxter on “Evan Almighty,” when he said,

“[Lord], I know whatever You do, You do because You love me, right? Do me a favor: Love me less.”

When you should inevitably ever enter the wilderness experience because of sin, be sure to permit the experience to refine you into pure gold tried in the fire.

Job 1:20-21Amplified Bible

20 Then Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head [in mourning for the children], and he fell to the ground and worshiped [God]. 21 He said,

“Naked (without possessions) I came [into this world] from my mother’s womb,
And naked I will return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

A Spirit-Driven Wilderness (Mark 1:12-13)

Sometimes when you have a wilderness experience it’s the result of sin; however, there can be other times when you enter the wilderness even though you’ve been faithful to the Lord.

This is likely a “Spirit-driven wilderness” – one into which the Holy Spirit leads you.

Even Jesus underwent a Spirit-driven wilderness.

The Bible says in Mark 1:12-13:

Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him (Mark 1:12-13).

We read how “the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12).

Over in the book of Matthew, we read, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (4:1; cf. Lk 4:1-2).

It was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness.

The apostle John had a similar experience on the island of Patmos,

for he said of the Lord,

“So He carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness” (Revelation 17:3).

These are not isolated examples in the Bible.

In Nehemiah, we read concerning Israel’s exodus from Egypt,

“You did not forsake them in the wilderness . . . [but] gave Your good Spirit to instruct them” (9:19-20); and in

Isaiah we read, “[God] led them through the deep, as a horse in the wilderness, that they might not stumble. As a beast goes down into the valley, and the Spirit of the Lord causes him to rest” (63:13-14).

It was the Holy Spirit that drove Israel from Egypt into the desert, and then onward toward the Promised Land.

The Israelites actually endured both a Spirit-driven and sin-driven wilderness during the exodus:

Spirit-driven Wilderness – First, the Holy Spirit drove the people into the desert (a wilderness-like place) as they made their exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land.

This was supposed to be a short-lived experience, for it was only an eleven-day journey to Canaan.

Sin-driven Wilderness – Later, however, when the Israelites sinned by refusing God’s command to go forth to possess Canaan, they were sentenced to wander in the actual barren and remote wilderness for forty long and very hard years.

It’s one thing to enter a wilderness as the result, or consequence, of sin.

This can sometimes seem more understandable when it happens.

You can arrive at a time and season in your life, examine your life and say,

“Oh, it all makes sense now! I can remember the time when God asked me to do this or that, and I was disobedient and did my own thing. Now I know I’m being humbled mightily and I accept I need to be chastened for my sin by my Savior!”

The concept of a sin-driven wilderness seems easier to grasp than the Spirit-driven wilderness.

Some of the most confusing and defeating times in life can be the ones in which you have been fully, completely faithful to do what God asked of you, and then you either trip and do a “face plant” or land flat onto your back in a wilderness.

When you enter a wilderness period, and you know deep in your heart that you’ve remained faithful to God, then it’s likely that you have entered into a Spirit-driven wilderness.

The Israelites had remained faithful to the Lord while they were in Egypt, and they had all their basic needs met.

Daily provision meant that God’s favor rested on them.

Once in the desert, however, their stability was shaken and they questioned and cried why they had ever left Egypt and the provision they once had (Nm 11:4-6).

All at once they suddenly wondered where “all of” God’s inevitable favor had gone. When the Spirit drove them out into the desert it didn’t make any sense!

The Israelites probably wondered what they had done wrong.

They very likely felt that God had been unkind to them by forcing them into the desert to leave all the provision of Egypt.

A collective thought process similar to one like this: “If only I/We had kept their focus on the primary reason why I/We, was/were being led out!”

When the Holy Spirit pushed them into the desert it was because the Lord had a much better place in store for them down the road!

When you find yourself in a wilderness period even though you’ve been faithful to the Lord, it’s easy to feel like you’ve done something wrong and it’s easy to complain; but if you know deep in your heart you’ve been obedient to the Lord, then you must be in the wilderness because the Holy Spirit has put you there.

If the Holy Spirit has led you there, into a time and a season for “hitting the reset button on my life” then you can rest assured that it’s for a good reason.

Why was Jesus led into the wilderness?

The answer is “to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).

This temptation was a test for the “Son of Man” in order to try Jesus’ spiritual stamina to remain faithful to the Lord in the midst of the temptation to sin.

This test also proved to Satan that he couldn’t touch Jesus.

The wilderness served to demonstrate to us Jesus’ faithfulness, and it resulted in an encounter with the Father’s presence as “the angels ministered to Him” (Mark 1:13; Matthew 4:11).

When you an I enter a Spirit-driven wilderness, the every same thing will likely happen to us.

You will grow spiritually and grow closer to the Lord.

What seems like an unfair thing, to enter the wilderness when you’ve remained faithful, can actually have an indescribably abundant and beneficial end result.

What seems like a bad thing might just be a display of God’s love, for the Lord says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Revelation 3:19).

Biblical Commentator John MacArthur says,

God’s plan and purpose [is] to use Satan’s temptations as a means of testing and strengthening our faith in Him and of our growing stronger in righteousness. God allows testing in our lives in order that our spiritual “muscles” may be exercised and strengthened. Whether the testing is by God’s initiative or is sent by Satan, God will always use it to produce good in us when we meet the test in His power.

 John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1985), pp. 87-88.

You might even be driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit in order to receive some much-needed rest.

Jeremiah said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness, Israel, when I went to give him rest’” (Jeremiah 31:2).

Jesus advised His disciples, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).

Sometimes your faithfulness to the Lord can result in some harsh persecution and stress in your life as you take a stand for Jesus Christ.

For example, in today’s context, consider any pastor who has taken a stand against sin in his congregation, and has become physically and emotionally drained. He has taken great abuse for the Lord and has remained faithful.

Then one day, out of the blue, he finds himself blind-sided as he is asked to resign from his church.

He then loses his ministry, his purpose and his livelihood, and then enters a wilderness.

He/she could then become incredibly frustrated, angry against their fellow Christians, as it doesn’t appear to make any sense; but actually it does!

The Lord could be “forcing” them to take a much-needed break, as He refreshes them and works to slowly restore their passion and love for Him and His people.

If anything similar to this has happened in your own life, then take heart!

God sees your faithfulness, and you’re in the wilderness for the very reason that the Lord God is doing some cleansing and hardcore refining, a new work in your life!

God is growing you, God is handling you, God is maturing you and God is preparing, refining you, for something else and for a closer walk with Him!

Keep your focus on the Lord while you’re in the wilderness and do not lose hope!

Oswald Chambers said, “If God gives you a time spiritually, as He gave His Son . . . of temptation in the wilderness, with no word from Himself at all, endure it; and the power to endure is there because you see God.”

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, in Logos CD-ROM, version 2.1E (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1989).

Time of Reflection

Do you feel as though you’re in a wilderness right now?

If so, then ask yourself, “Am I in the wilderness because I’ve been disobedient to the Lord, and have sinned against Him?”

If you can genuinely and with your whole heart and soul answer “yes” to this question, then you need to confess your sin and ask God for His forgiveness.

The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

If you should examine your life and you can’t identity any known sin, then ask yourself, “Am I in the wilderness even though I’ve been faithful to the Lord?”

If you can answer “yes” to this question then try not to become discouraged.

Psalm 37:27-29Amplified Bible

27 
Depart from evil and do good;
And you will dwell [securely in the land] forever.
28 
For the Lord delights in justice
And does not abandon His saints (faithful ones);
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will [in time] be cut off.
29 
The righteous will inherit the land
And live in it forever.

The Lord has not forsaken you.

The Lord God is upholding you while He is resetting you, while He refines you.

In fact, you’re likely in the wilderness because Father, Son and Holy Spirit led you there in order for you to achieve that more intimate encounter with God.

How will you an I respond to the wilderness?

Will you and I gripe and complain, or will you and I gracefully endure until the Lord molds and refines us, into the man or woman of God that He has planned?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

My God in Heaven, everything has crumbled around me. Everything has collapsed deep beneath me. Everything has burned above me. My God in whom I strive to trust more, Yet You remain! I call out to You to save me. Lord, You have never failed those who hope in Your name. In Jesus, You have demonstrated Your great love for me. Regardless of this illusion of hopelessness, grant me the grace and strength to be hopeful for I know of the coming days of glory. In the hope of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

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Through the Obedience of One, Many are Made Righteous. Romans 5:18-19

Romans 5:18-19Amplified Bible

18 So then as through one trespass [Adam’s sin] there resulted condemnation for all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to [a]all men. 19 For just as through one man’s disobedience [his failure to hear, his carelessness] the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of the one Man the many will be made righteous and acceptable to God and brought into right standing with Him.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

In Romans chapter 5 Paul reveals some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is that everyone is a sinner.

And according to Paul we all have Adam to thank for that.

Adam and his Wife Eve committed the first recorded sin in the bible which was – eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Something God told them not to do.

They could eat of any other tree in the garden, including the Tree of Life, but not the Tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Why? Because God knew it would bring about a death.

Adam and Eve had a choice, to choose life or to choose death.

God wanted them to choose life so he told them not to eat of this other tree.

But for whatever reasons or rationale, they both ate of the fruit from the tree God told them not to.

And they died.

They didn’t die physically right away, though death was now definitely going to be part of humanities life cycle.

But they died in the sense that they died to their Creator God that day.

You see their eating of that “forbidden fruit” was an act of disobedience, it was an act of opposition, an act of pride, an act of rebellion, an act of the will to do exactly what they wanted instead of what God had commanded them to do.

The result was that they were cast out of God’s dwelling place the Garden of Eden. Their sin resulted an awareness of evil, in being separated from God.

The Word of God for His Children also tells us that ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the garden humanity has been infected with sin.

Ever since then sin has become a part of life and a way of life for some.

Sin that began with Adam and Eve is seen in their two wonderful boys Cain and Abel when Cain kills his brother.

Sin becomes rampant in the world so God has Noah build an Ark before he floods the world.

And then there is the Tower of Babel where the builders are motivated to build a grand tower to make their names great, greater and greatest above God, which is another way of saying feeding their voracious appetite for feasting on pride.

Whether we like it or not, the bible teaches that we have a sinful nature.

That means ever since birth we gravitate to sinning, we lean towards sinning, we are inclined to sin.

That doesn’t mean we are not capable of doing some good, but our tendency is to over zealously live and love ourselves first – far more than God first loved us.

 Now if that’s not enough bad news there is more.

The wages of sin according to the bible is death according to Romans 6.23.

Physical death which we are all aware of.

A spiritual death which is a break in communion with God.

And for those who do not deal with the sin in their lives according to scripture there is an eternal death in a state of Christ-less eternity the church refers to as hell. So as you can probably deduce, humanity was, is in a deep heap of trouble.

Are you ready for some good news?

Hear the text again.

“For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man many will be made righteous…But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Paul tells us that what Jesus did through his unconditional obedience to God is far greater than anything Adam did through his unconditional disobedience.

When Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he not only caused sin to enter the universe, but he made us sinners. Through Adam, we inherited a sin nature which causes us to sin all the live long day and night.

Because of this, trying to live a good life or by the Ten Commandments with no God or Savior or a constant reminder of our sin in our life, inevitably will fail.

We were born with a nature contrary to God’s law.

This contrary nature pushes against those standards.

Therefore, we cannot break free from sin’s grasp on our own.

We can never be good enough because our nature sets us up to fail.

Because we were born into sin, we experience everything Adam offers us:

Death (vs. 15, 17),

judgement (vs. 16),

condemnation (vs. 18),

being sinners (vs. 19),

the increase of sin and death (v. 20),

and sin reigning and polluting everything (v. 21).

But Paul’s key point at the end of Romans 5 is that the gift of Jesus has no comparison with the result of one man’s sin because it overshadows and outshines it in every way imaginable!

In point of fact, the Apostle Paul is courageous enough to dare point out that judgement and condemnation followed Adam’s one sin but the gift Jesus offers followed many sins.

If we sin because of our sin nature, try to imagine exactly how many sins we are talking about.

Every person’s disobedience from the time of Adam, until now.

That’s a lot of trespasses.

This is where Jesus’ gifts shine, because He offers them amid all of this brokenness.

Remember, Jesus offers us these gifts:

Grace (vs. 15),

Justification (vs. 16),

Righteousness (vs. 17),

Justification and life (vs. 18),

Righteousness (vs. 19),

Increasing grace (v. 20),

Eternal life (v. 21).

All of this followed many, many sins.

That’s indescribably, undeniably, unconditionally, absolutely incredible!

If under sin judgement, we are aware of our condemnation, the opposite must also be true.

Through Jesus we should know we are forgiven, righteous and holy, the good news continues, in Christ, we have received this reconciliation (Romans 5:11).

And that means what Christ has done in his obedience to God is greater than anything you have done through your disobedience.

Take a deep breath, take several prayerful and worshipful moments to stop and thank Creator God – He offers the permanent solution to sin and death in Jesus.

God’s grace is so abundant we should celebrate it every single chance we get!

Paul wrote, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more.”

Hear this,

The bad news is that we are hopeless “all the live long day” sinners at heart.

The good news is that God still loves us NEVERTHELESS.

The bad news is that we were powerless to do anything about our sin, the good news is that NEVERTHELESS God acted on our behalf.

Bad news is that we are “all the live long day” ungodly sinners, NEVERTHELESS God justifies us through the life, death of Savior Jesus the Christ upon the cross!

The New and Better Adam

As by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19

Adam, the first man, was made in the image of God.

The Lord gave Adam a role unique in all creation, yet he failed to fulfill it and was sent out of Eden.

God then made a new start with the Israelites; they were called to be His people.

They displayed His character as and when they obeyed His law.

Like Adam, though, the Israelites failed in their role and were sent into exile.

Gloriously, when we come to the New Testament, we discover where Adam and Israel failed, Jesus succeeded. Jesus is what the people of God were meant to be:

the new and better Adam, the true Israel. He is descended from Adam, and He identifies with Adam’s race. He identifies with us completely, yet unlike Adam, Jesus was tempted and did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).

What we have in our Lord and Savior Jesus is the only human being who ever absolutely 100% obeyed God, the only one with whom God is always pleased.

He kept every letter of the law.

Therefore, Jesus is the one person, the only persona to have lived who doesn’t and never did deserve to be violently, lethally banished from God’s presence.

But He was banished.

On the cross, He with maximum obedience, willingly, unconditionally, faced the punishment all sinners deserve—sinners who are bound up in Adam’s sin.

All of humanity finds its heritage in Adam, both by nature and by descent.

We are born in sin and united with Adam in our rebellion against God.

There is no exception.

The only answer to humanity’s predicament?

Is for men and women to be introduced to the only person who kept the law perfectly and who did not deserve to be banished from God, but who then was obedient to the point of death on the cross so sinners may, by grace through faith, receive all that He deserves instead of bearing all that Adam deserved.

Romans 10:1-4 Amplified

The Word of Faith Brings Salvation

10 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for Israel is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a certain enthusiasm for God, but not in accordance with [correct and vital] knowledge [about Him and His purposes]. For not knowing about God’s righteousness [which is based on faith], and seeking to establish their own [righteousness based on works], they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law [it leads to Him and its purpose is fulfilled in Him], for [granting] righteousness to everyone who believes [in Him as Savior].

Romans 1o:5-8 Amplified

For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law [with all its intricate demands] shall live by it. But the righteousness based on faith [which produces a right relationship with Him] says the following: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into Heaven?’ that is, to bring Christ down; or, ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ that is, to bring Christ up from the dead [as if we had to be saved by our own efforts, doing the impossible].” But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word [the message, the basis] of faith which we preach—

 Romans 10:9-13 Amplified

because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges  and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in  and confirming [his] salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations].” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile; for the same Lord is Lord over all [of us], and [He is] abounding in riches (blessings) for all who call on Him [in faith and prayer]. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord [in prayer] will be saved.”

This truth of Salvation through Christ ALONE is the exact heart of everything.

Acts 4:8-12 Amplified

Then Peter, filled with [the power of] the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people [members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Court], if we are being put on trial today [to interrogate us] for a good deed done to [benefit] a disabled man, as to how this man has been restored to health, 10 let it be known and clearly understood by all of you, and by all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you [demanded be] crucified [by the Romans and], whom God raised from the dead—in this name [that is, by the authority and power of Jesus] this man stands here before you in good health. 11 This Jesus is the stone which was despised and rejected by you, the builders, but which became the [a]chief Cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among people by which we must be saved [for God has provided the world no alternative for salvation].”

For believers, all that was formerly true of us found its root in one act of Adam, while all that is true of us now is the result of the absolute obedience of Christ.

In the name of God the Father, and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

O’ My Creator and Creating God,

Source of Perfect Love which will never let me go ….

This is love.
Not that you spoke words of comfort,
walked with the unclean and unloved,
shared wisdom, bread and wine,
brought healing into lives
and challenged the status quo.

This is love.
That you spoke the word of God,
walked a painful road to the Cross,
shared living water, bread of life,
brought Salvation to the world
and, in this love, died for the sake of all.

This is love.
It is a lifeless, yet soon obedient seed in Your hand
obediently being sown into the very hardest ground,
which will very soon obediently open and germinate,
which will very soon obediently blossom and flower,
and will very soon obediently spreads its sweet perfume.

Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen!

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Pondering, Praying, this Invitation: “Come Now, Let us Reason Together saith the Lord.” Isaiah 1:18-20

Isaiah 1:18-20Amplified Bible

“Let Us Reason”

18 
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord.
[a]Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be like wool.
19 
“If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the best of the land;
20 
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

I want to begin by looking at this three thousand year old open invitation.

“Now come and let us reason together saith the Lord.”

You know it seems to me as the more we read the Bible and study God’s Word that we find the Lord is constantly calling and inviting mankind to come to him.

And of all the wonderful things God is, He is genuinely Reasonable, He is Just.

A God who offers who does not “stay mad for very long” offers His rebellious children a voice of reason, and a call to the sinner and the backslider to return.

Romans 12:1 God’s personal invitation says, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service.”

In Jeremiah 3:22 the Lord God’s personal invitation says, “Return ye backsliding children and I will heal your backsliding.”

In Jeremiah 29:10-14 the Lord’s promise to His rebellious children about to be taken into a 70 year exile in Babylon reads like a giant sized God type bear hug:

10 “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years [of exile] have been completed for Babylon, I will visit (inspect) you and keep My good promise to you, to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. 13 Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and I will [free you and] gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’”

In Malachi 3:7 the Lord said, “Return unto me and I will return unto you.”

Our text today from Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now and let us reason together.”

As I read this, I just realized that this is not a call to trial or a call to judgement.

It’s an open invitation to forgiveness an mercy, to open up our hearts and listen to what the Lord might just speak to us, that we might hear His voice of reason.

I think of the prodigal son. You know, the Bible says he came to himself from the midst the moment of watching pigs, joyously eating their food in a pig sty, and I believe that suddenly the voice of reason could speak and reach out to him.

Luke 15:14-17 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to do without and be in need. 15 So he went and forced himself on one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to [a]feed pigs. 16 He would have gladly eaten the [carob] pods that the pigs were eating [but they could not satisfy his hunger], and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he [finally] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough food, while I am dying here of hunger!”

The voice of reason, an inner voice, spoke some very important facts to him:

He had spent his entire inheritance, he had no job and had no source of income.

There is a great famine in the land and the food is running out.

I am slowly starving and I don’t have very many people to rely on for help.

The only job I can get is “feeding someone else’s pigs.”

The only food my stomach desires are the Carob pods found in a filthy pig sty.

He’d gladly get filthy, fight the pigs, steal those filthy Carob pods from the pigs.

With each thought he had, he got progressively closer to his “maximum worst” image of “exactly how much worsen that worse can this whole situation get?”

The greater the degree and measure of “worsen than worse” got, the greater the sound of the voice, the greater the impact of the “voice of reason” became.

Now his thoughts were turning away from the worst of the worst possible ….

And becoming “There is bread enough to spare in my father’s house.”

He didn’t know and probably did not even care over much if his father would accept him as a son again or not, but he knew he would not let himself starve.

Luke 15:18-19 “18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] treat me like one of your hired men.”

The Voice of Reason redirected, humbled his thoughts – “I am GOING HOME!”

The voice of reason sent him back and brought him back to his father’s house.

His father’s love restored his sonship.

Luke 15:20-24 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe [for the guest of honor] and put it on him; and give him a [a]ring for his hand, and sandals for his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let us [invite everyone and] feast and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was [as good as] dead and is alive again; he was lost and has been found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

I believe the voice of reason spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus.

Jesus “impeded, interceded, questioned and reasoned” with Saul.

And didn’t He do so in a decisively, directly, definitively humbling manner?

Acts 9:1-9 Now [a]Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord [and relentless in his search for believers], went to the [b]high priest, and he asked for letters [of authority] from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any men or women there belonging to [c]the Way [believers, followers of Jesus the Messiah], men and women alike, he could arrest them and bring them bound [with chains] to Jerusalem. As he traveled he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him [displaying the glory and majesty of Christ]; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice [from heaven] saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting and oppressing Me?” And Saul said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him [were terrified and] stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, but though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was unable to see for three days, and he neither ate nor drank.

He asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting and oppressing me?”

When God has a plan for your life, and you decide you have a better plan, things are going to be very hard.

When we get into our maximum mode of maximum impact sinful rebellion ….

You can count on getting God’s attention – and then God is going to get Yours!

The Voice of Reason – gong to start seriously banging against your conscience.

Ask brother Jonah – Him and his smartphone are in the belly of a “great fish.”

And I hope and pray there is some seriously outstanding reception down there!

I’d be willing to “bet the farm” Jonah had a whale of a conversation with God!

The truth of the matter – from the first verse of Genesis through the very last verse of Book of Revelation – God’s invitation is 100% consistently available,

but, ….

and isn’t there always a but (sometimes spelled “butt”) to be kicked around:

The road away from God is always going to be an extraordinarily rough road.

God reasoned with Abraham over Sodom and Gomorrah.

God repeatedly reasoned with Moses on the back side of the desert and Moses could not find a question nor an excuse that God did not have an answer for.

Now it is 2022! God is calling a meeting. What should we say at this meeting?

Should we plead our innocence?

Surely not, for we all have sinned, fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Should we list our excuses?

No. This meeting is not to discuss guilt or innocence.

That part is already been more than adequately and sufficiently stated by God.

Our sins are as scarlet.

We can’t hide our sin from God. (Genesis 3:7-13 NKJV)

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves [a]coverings.

And they heard the [b]sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the [c]cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

1And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

How many voices do you hear here?

The Serpents, Eve’s and Adam’s ….

The Voice of the master deceiver ….

The Voices of those who were so easily deceived ….

The Voice of God ….

Whose voice, whose voices are we most apt to listen to or want to hear?

Answers depends on where your heart and soul and whole life are in the exact moment the voices are “clearly and unmistakably heard” and considered too.

From the text of today’s devotional passage from Isaiah 1:18-20

It sticks out like a blood red orange on a newly fallen patch of fresh snow.

God is calling a meeting with him, not to establish guilt, but to arrange pardon.

God is not asking for compensation or for retribution for your past.

Jesus took care of that at Calvary.

God is asking us, not demanding from us, for our obedience and repentance.

See how reasonable he is?

As with all invitations there is an appointed time.

Verse 18 says the time for this meeting is NOW.

Now God has already stated his will in this.

He said what he would do.

He is willing to blot out all our transgressions and make us white and clean.

The price has already been paid.

But, verse 19 & 20 tells us he is going to leave the choice up to us.

Only believe?

The devils believe.

You can believe in salvation and never be saved.

You must act on what you believe.

Verse 19 says, If ye be willing and obedient.

Some are willing to be saved, but not obedient to the instruction.

To be saved or renewed today, we will not only have to be willing to hear and prayerfully consider the words of God’s invitation, but also willingly obedient.

You and I are not hearing a call in our collective hearts that is for someone else.

God didn’t dial the wrong number.

God does not dial wrong numbers.

Even in the Year of our Lord, Savior 2022

The Lord says,

Come now, let us reason together. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. If we are not willing – the sword will also be another choice.

Most people are willing to be blessed, but not willing to live for Jesus.

We can know peace, love, joy, and comfort, if not the sword of the world will devour or overcome us.

That is not a threat, it is just the way things are.

It is just the unmistakable reality, harsh truth of how God has ordered things.

Listen to the Voice of Reason today.

Listen to the Voice of God …

Listen to the Words of the Logos – Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior …

Listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit as we are reminded of God’s Voice.

There will always and forever be bread enough to spare in the Father’s house.

COME LET US EAT AND LET US REASON TOGETHER, SAITH THE LORD.

And ponder the question:

“What is the Voice of Reason and Truth telling me in this exact moment …?”

In the name of God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

God of all truth and wisdom, sometimes I not sure if I’m actually hearing your voice, or if it’s just my own thoughts or even another spirit. Sharpen my spiritual hearing, Lord, so I can recognize your words when you are speaking to me. Help me know it’s really you, with no doubt or second-guessing. When I’m asking for your guidance in important decisions, give me your peace that surpasses understanding with your answer. Help me to always remember that your words to me will never go against your written word in the Bible. Give me a clear mind and push out all my confusion. Let me always exalt, always magnify my Savior Jesus! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Scratching my Head, I’m Reading the Bible, Pondering the Hard Questions: Is Christianity “Reasonable?” 1 Corinthians 1:17-31

1 Corinthians 1:17-31Amplified Bible

17 For Christ did not send me [as an apostle] to baptize, but [commissioned and empowered me] to preach the good news [of salvation]—not with clever and eloquent speech [as an orator], so that the cross of Christ would not be [a]made ineffective [deprived of its saving power].

The Wisdom of God

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness [absurd and illogical] to those who are perishing and spiritually dead [because they reject it], but to us who are being saved [by God’s grace] it is [the manifestation of] the power of God. 19 For it is written and forever remains written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise [the philosophy of the philosophers],
And the cleverness of the clever [who do not know Me] I will nullify.”

20 Where is the wise man (philosopher)? Where is the scribe (scholar)? Where is the debater (logician, orator) of this age? Has God not exposed the foolishness of this world’s wisdom? 21 For since the world through all its [earthly] wisdom failed to recognize God, God in His wisdom was well-pleased through the [b] foolishness of the message preached [regarding salvation] to save those who believe [in Christ and welcome Him as Savior]. 22 For Jews demand signs (attesting miracles), and Greeks pursue [worldly] wisdom and philosophy, 23  but we preach Christ crucified, [a message which is] to Jews a stumbling block [that provokes their opposition], and to Gentiles foolishness [just utter nonsense], 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles), Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 [This is] because the foolishness of God [is not foolishness at all and] is wiser than men [far beyond human comprehension], and the weakness of God is stronger than men [far beyond the limits of human effort].

26 Just look at your own calling, believers; not many [of you were considered] wise according to human standards, not many powerful or influential, not many of high and noble birth. 27 But God has selected [for His purpose] the foolish things of the world to shame the wise [revealing their ignorance], and God has selected [for His purpose] the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong [revealing their frailty]. 28 God has selected [for His purpose] the insignificant (base) things of the world, and the things that are despised and treated with contempt, [even] the things that are nothing, so that He might reduce to nothing the things that are, 29 so that no one may [be able to] boast in the presence of God. 30 But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God [revealing His plan of salvation], and righteousness [making us acceptable to God], and sanctification [making us holy and setting us apart for God], and redemption [providing our ransom from the penalty for sin], 31 so then, as it is written [in Scripture], “He who boasts and glories, let him boast and glory in the Lord.”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Is the Christian faith a reasonable religion?

Some believers throughout church history have agreed with many nonbelievers in proclaiming that Christianity is not a reasonable religion.

Nevertheless, a powerful theological-philosophical consensus within the history of the faith has argued that the historic Christian religion involves knowledge and is indeed, remarkably compatible with logic and with reason.

This historic agreement has often been expressed in the common statement: “faith seeking understanding.”

Its most articulate and persuasive spokespersons through the centuries have been such distinguished Christian thinkers as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

The question of whether Christianity is reasonable all depends on what answer you are looking for. What answers does the world seek for itself and what is it about the answer the Cross gives which is better than what many folks want?

I once read about a dishonest manager who was desperately wanting to hire someone for his accounting department who thought like he did. He ended up with 3 applicants for the job and he proceeded to interview them the next day.

The first applicant came in and sat nervously at the desk and he and the manager engaged in some small talk.

But eventually, the manager asked the applicant this question:

“What does two plus two equal?”

The man was just a bit puzzled, scratched his head, got out his smartphone calculator, but eventually answered, “Well, that’s simple: the answer is four.”

The manager stood up from his chair, walked around his desk, thanked the man profusely for his time and then unceremoniously ushered him out of the office.

The next applicant came in and again the manager engaged him in a pleasant conversation.

But eventually he got around to asking this man the same question.

And the 2nd man responded,

“Well, there are several possibilities: two and two make four, but so does three and one — or two point five and one point five — they also make four. There are a probably number of ways to arrive at that approximate same answer.”

The manager thought that was a pretty good reply, got up from behind his desk, shook his hand, told him he might get back to him in the next several of days.

Finally, the 3rd applicant came in and again the manager some time talking about several subjects, but eventually the man was asked the same question as the others: “What does 2 plus 2 equal. The man seemed startled by the question.

He looked at the manager, cautiously looked around the room, got up out of his chair, went over and closed the door… then he came back and reached inside his shirt pocket, turned off his phone, leaned across the desk, said in a low voice,

“Tell me, what would you like the answer to be?”

He got the job and a hefty bonus in that very instant.

Easy questions for easy times and hard questions for hard times.

The hardest of questions for the very hardest of times,

The most impossible of questions for the most “Impossible” times ….

With those statements now lodged somewhere in your thought processes ….

Waxing philosophically I ask the question today –

“Is Christianity Reasonable?”

Is it logical?

Can you “hang your hat” on what our faith says?

And the answer to that question is this:

It all depends.

What ANSWER are you looking for?

“What would you like the answer to be?”

You see, if Christianity offers the answer you’re looking for… then it IS reasonable.

But Paul tells us in our biblical text today there are people out there who don’t like Christianity because it doesn’t offer the kind of answer they want to hear.

Paul wrote: “… we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” 1 Corinthians 1:23

The cross is a stumbling block to many.

It’s foolishness to a lot of folks.

In fact, there’s something about the message of the cross that make people uneasy, annoyed, upset… sometimes even downright nasty.

• There was the Roman historian Tacitus who called Christianity a “pernicious superstition”.

• Sigmund Freud believed that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, was a psychotic illness.

• And former Attorney General under Bill Clinton – Janet Reno – declared:

“A cultist is one who has a strong belief in the Bible and the Second Coming of Christ; who frequently attends Bible studies; who have a high level of financial giving to a notable Christian cause; who home schools their children; who has accumulated survival foods and has a strong belief in the Second Amendment; who distrusts big government. Any of these may qualify a person as a cultist….”

Morning, folks.

Welcome to your cult! (Smile)

Tacitus, Freud and Janet Reno are just a few of those who are offended by the message of the cross.

It makes them angry to think anyone would embrace what we believe.

And yet for those of us who understand what the cross means we KNOW that the cross of Jesus Christ is the answer because it is the very POWER OF GOD to those who are saved.

As Paul wrote:

“the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”1 Corinthians 1:18

The cross IS the right answer… IF it is the answer you are genuinely looking for.

But most of the world that is NOT the answer they are genuinely looking for.

Many people only want an answer that will give them control of their lives.

They want to be “in charge!”

The Bible offends them because it declares that our lives are to be controlled by God.

The cross declares that God bought you with a price – you are not your own. If you accept the answer of the cross you cede authority in your life over to Christ.

That answer doesn’t sit well with a lot of folks.

Many even reject belief in God because they don’t want someone else in control.

Or, if they do believe in God, they do not want a God Who demands change in their lives, they want a God who will automatically change FOR them… they want to say how their lives should be run, how big a box they can put God in.

That was one of the concerns for the Jews of Jesus’ day.

Paul wrote that the Jews of his day rejected the cross because “Jews demand miraculous signs.” 1 Corinthians 1:22

They demanded signs?

But didn’t Jesus do miraculous things during His ministry on earth?

Well, yes He did.

He healed the sick. Raised the dead. And fed 1000s with just 5 loaves and 2 fish.

And because He did the multitudes followed Him. Wherever He went people would crowd the hills and seashores where He would speak. Sometimes for hours on end.

Thousands followed Jesus.

(PAUSE)

That is… until He was crucified.

That is… until he was condemned as the ultimate criminal.

Who puts their whole faith, whole belief system behind a condemned criminal?

As long as Jesus was doing what THEY wanted Him to do… they’d follow Him.

Not really having any concept or vision of the genuine life giving power of God.

They they believed, he was a good man doing many great and miraculous things no one before him had ever done – and they each hungered for more and more.

But once He was arrested, condemned and crucified… they walked, ran, away.

The cross was not the answer they were looking for and some became afraid of.

A lot of people who’ve rejected Christ in their lives have done it for that reason.

God did not answer their prayer in the way and in the time they wanted, or they needed, something happened in their lives hurt them badly, they felt betrayed because God didn’t protect them from that pain. And they walked, ran, away.

As long as God did what they wanted done, they were willing to follow.

As long as someone was actually being, finally, giving and revealing genuine compassion – over a long span of time – fantastic! outstanding! Miraculous!

But then, suddenly it happened – something so completely, utterly unexpected, something so completely contrary to what they understood and seen about God.

The Miracle Worker ….

The only one who had loved them, had unconditional compassion on then, who had told them the Father in Heaven was absolutely on their side – was betrayed!

In the end, at the cross – no one came to help him or to release him or have true, genuine compassion and mercy upon him – including Father God – saved Him.

God did not “show up” to save this miraculous healer, compassionate friend.

Jesus had promised God would always be there to protect them from suffering.

But this was different.

He did not protect Jesus from great suffering and enormous hardship.

Therefore, He didn’t protect them from suffering and hardship either.

That wasn’t what they signed up for.

That wasn’t the God they wanted nor needed nor required.

Scriptures promised many things, that is what they were taught their whole lives, that is what their parents and grand parents raised them to all believe.

It was perfectly reasonable to them to steadfastly believe all of God’s promises.

It was reasonable to want a God who would protect and shield them from all of the very worst difficulties of life – at least that is what was written in Psalm 121.

But the cross defies that notion.

The cross speaks of death, and suffering, and pain, and loss.

It speaks of a world that is often without compassion, without mercy, severely unfair and unreasonably unjust and dangerous and lethal unto the maximum.

It speaks of a world where even God’s people are often required to endure the utmost levels of suffering and tragedy… hardship and pain – wishy washy God.

The cross declares that life is not so sacred as the scriptures repeatedly teach and won’t always turn out the way YOU want it to… or need it or require it to.

But that life will ultimately turn out the way a “wishy washy” GOD wants it to.

So, who among us would choose to trust an apparently untrustworthy God who was not even true to His very own words 100% of the time as the scripture says?

A tough question to ask and a tougher question to try and answer in such a way as to rebuild an apparently irreparably broken promise and convince others too.

To repair, rebuild, restore steadfast and immovable faith and trust and hope in God in a severely shortened, rapidly changing, unaccommodating span of time.

The Ultimate Answer: Jesus said to his disciples in an isolated Upper Room:

“… In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b

The cross declares that this world WILL be hard. (You WILL have trouble).

BUT there’s something better on the other side. (I have overcome the world).

If you are looking for GOD’S answer… then that’s perfectly reasonable.

The cross of Christ tells us the absolute truth about life.

There WILL always be ultimate suffering. There will also be ultimate pain.

But if you are faithfully willing to wait on Him, Jesus will carry you through.

As Psalm 23 says: “Yea, though I walk through …” what was that?

(The valley of the shadow of death.)

The cross tells you the absolute truth about living in and through this reality.

And that’s because it is the ultimate answer the world needs to understand.

So, 1st – the world looks for an ultimate answer allowing them to be in control.

2ndly – the world looks for a reasonable answer that allows them to be either ultimately foolish or ultimately wise.

Paul wrote that “… Greeks look for wisdom” 1 Corinthians 1:22

They wanted to be able to understand the world on THEIR terms/ according to their wisdom.

The Greeks were into wisdom… their wisdom.

They were a culture known for their philosophers and sages.

But their philosophers were looking for wisdom based on their perceptions and their views of life.

When it came to God, if they couldn’t explain Him or understand Him on their terms they weren’t going to be happy. God had to fit in the box they had built for Him.

A college student once told a Christian professor: “For me to believe in God, I have to have a God which I can reasonably be expected to fully understand.”

The professor smiled and replied, “God refuses to be that small!”

God refuses to be small enough for us to fully understand Him on our terms.

In fact, we couldn’t understand Him in that way if we wanted to.

In Isaiah 55:8-9 God declared:

“… my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

God doesn’t fit in anyone’s neat little jewelry box.

He’s not easily understood.

He’s different than we are.

He THINKS differently than we do… and He ACTS differently than we do.

And that’s why it is so important to read and study the Bible.

It tells us all we need to know about WHO God is and WHAT He’s like.

It tells us of a God we wouldn’t have guessed existed.

One of the major characteristics of God is found in the Cross.

Isaiah 59:15b-17 describes it this way:

“…The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.”

There was no one else to intercede on our behalf, so God clothed Himself with righteousness and came down to intervene on our behalf.

But the Greeks couldn’t understand that.

They couldn’t understand one single God who’d sacrifice Himself for them.

Back when I was in High School I loved to read the stories of the Greek (and later Roman gods).

They were intriguing stories of the multitude of deities the Greeks worshipped.

It was called the “Pantheon”.

But none of their gods were like the God of Scripture.

There was Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite – and numerous other gods and demi-gods.

But there stories described them as being egotistical, selfish, bickering, petty, vindictive, adulterous and heartless, occasionally also being compassionate.

And those were their good and bad and absolutely indifferent traits.

What’s baffling to me is that the Greeks actually worshipped these gods.

They made sacrifices to these petty, mean-spirited gods.

And you just KNOW they made these gods up out of whole-cloth.

These are all made up stories.

But why would the Greeks portray their gods as being so selfish and evil beings?

Well, perhaps because these were the kinds of lifestyles Greeks identified with.

These were the kinds of behaviors they could easily simplify and understand.

Because perhaps this was how the average Greek viewed life in the big city itself.

It’s how they lived their lives.

The Greeks could not understand a God who would sacrifice Himself for them, because they wouldn’t be willing to do that for others.

The Cross declared a God they could not understand in their own wisdom.

I’ve had several people in my life describe me as an “optimist”. An “idealist” who really doesn’t understand “reality”. And I can see where they get that.

Most people know when I’ve entered a building even before they see me… I’m whistling, or humming or singing a song. They are right! I am truly an optimist.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not a realist.

And do you know why?

Because I have a God who is real.

Not a god that I’ve cooked up in my imagination.

Not a god that is the result of my own personal wisdom.

My God is real.

My God stepped down out of heaven and took my place on the cross.

My God loved me so much that He gave His only begotten son that (since) I believe in Him I will not perish, but have everlasting life.

And if I have a God who is willing to do that… what else would He do for me?

My God isn’t based on “my wisdom” and my perception of life.

My God is based on reality.

And so is my attitude.

My God is absolutely ALIVE!

And will forever and ever remain so – even beyond the ends of eternity itself.

Yes, I’m an optimist.

But since I have a God who is real, and who really cares for me, that makes me a realist too.

So, 1st – the world looks for an answer that will give them control of their lives.

2ndly – the world looks for an answer that that allows them to be wise on their own terms

And 3rd – the world is looking for an answer that will give them strength… on their terms

1 Corinthians 1:25 says

“… the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

Many in this world want to be strong.

If they tell you a story about themselves they come across as the heroes of that story.

That’s what my father always did.

He’d tell me a multitude of stories about himself… each and every one had him be the hero.

It wasn’t until later that I heard someone else tell me a story about how dad’s best friend had beaten him badly in a short race up and down their street.

Dad didn’t tell that side of the story.

His stories had him being the hero.

And (for the most part) so does everyone elses’.

Folks don’t like to come across as being weak.

They don’t like being shown as having failed.

They don’t like hearing that they have messed up.

They know they have messed up – they just don’t like hearing it.

And so they tend to reject the message of the cross because it describes them as having sinned.

Singer Billy Joel, for example, was very offended by the message of the cross.

“.. I viewed the whole business as a lot of very enthralling hocus pocus. There’s a guy… nailed to a cross and dripping blood, and everyone’s blaming themselves for that man’s torment, but I said to myself, ‘Forget it. I had no hand in that evil. I have no original sin. There’s no blood of any sacred martyr on my hands. I pass on all of this.”

I guess perhaps Mr. Joel didn’t like the idea his personal sin put Jesus on the cross.

That would mean he was guilty of sin.

That he was weak. That he had failed

Perhaps, He didn’t, like a great number of people, simply want to hear that.

But the message the cross isn’t so much that Billy Joel killed Jesus by his sins.

The message of the cross is that Billy Joel deserved to die on the cross for HIS OWN sins… and Jesus simply offered to take his place.

Jesus came to die for those who had failed. For the weak and broken and the losers of life. And that’s why the message of the cross is so powerful for people like that.

Jesus didn’t come for the “healthy”, He came for the sick.

One person I personally know has observed to me that:

“Anybody with an active imagination could come up with a religion whereby those who allegedly “deserved” to get into heaven might just manage do so.”

“And anybody who takes a good hit from crack cocaine or LSD could do it also.”

However, the Word of God for the Children of God reveals that at the cross God promised those who DID NOT deserve heaven could receive it. (Romans 5:8-11)

All the other religions in the world are designed to assure the “righteous”, the “deserving,” by their own strength, goodness can ‘buy’ their way into a heaven.

But the Cross declares that not only does NO ONE deserve heaven… the only way you CAN get into paradise is by accepting the sacrifice of Christ.

You have to confess with your whole heart that you are weak and undeserving and absolutely need God’s help. (Romans 10:9-13)

The world views that as an insult to their reliance on strength.

The want power not weakness.

But the cross is all about power.

Not one ounce of ours, but every last possible, maximum measure of God’s.

1 Corinthians 1:18 says “the message of the cross… to us who are being saved.. is the power of God.”

The cross supplies all the power the world does not want to accept.

It supplies an answer the world can’t provide nor willingly, readily accept.

And we have got to understand that.

The Cross IS our answer to this world, because it is only through the Cross that lives can be changed.

That’s the power of God unto salvation.

And that is the answer the world needs to hear.

1 Kings 18:20-40Amplified Bible

God or Baal on Mount Carmel

20 So Ahab sent word to all the Israelites and assembled the [pagan] prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long will you [a]hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people [of Israel] did not answer him [so much as] a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone remain a prophet of the Lord, while Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Now let them give us two oxen, and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire  under it. I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the god who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one bull for yourselves and prepare it first, since there are many of you; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” 26 So they took the bull that was given to them and prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, hear and answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they had made. 27 At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied, or he is out [at the moment], or he is on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened!” 28 So they cried out with a loud voice [to get Baal’s attention] and cut themselves with swords and lances in accordance with their custom, until the blood flowed out on them. 29 As midday passed, they played the part of prophets and raved dramatically until the time for offering the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people approached him. And he repaired and rebuilt the [old] altar of the Lord that had been torn down [by Jezebel]. 31 Then Elijah took twelve stones in accordance with the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” 32 So with the stones Elijah built an altar in the name of the Lord. He made a trench around the altar large enough to hold b]two measures of seed. 33 Then he laid out the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. 34 And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and the wood.” And he said, “Do it the second time.” And they did it the second time. And he said, “Do it the third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 The water flowed around the altar, and he also filled the trench with water.

Elijah’s Prayer

36 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet approached [the altar] and said, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob), let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their hearts back [to You].” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood, and even the stones and the dust; it also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell face downward; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” 40 Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” They seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and [as God’s law required] killed them there.

Choosing between faith in the ‘gods’ of this world or the God of all Creation –

Was it reasonable for the priests of baal to keep ranting and raving, maiming themselves repeatedly over a long period of time waiting for their fire to come?

While completely contrary to all worldly expectations Elijah did everything reasonably possible to sabotage his own efforts – but God defied his reason?

Reasonable versus Unreasonable is only defined by God’s true righteousness.

What are the expected results of man’s efforts to control and contain ‘holy’ fire except to say they are severely flawed and only reasonably be expected to fail.

No lives are changed – but mutilated by ‘song and dance,’ pleading and praying to ‘gods and idols’ which do not and cannot ever exist and our adherence to sin.

The reasonableness of Christ and Christianity is in the forgiveness of all sins and the obviously changed lives it inevitably produces for all to witness too.

That’s the ANSWER of the Cross and the POWER of the cross .

Man’s attempts to seek to control their lives, man’s attempts to live by their own wisdom, man’s attempts to live on their own strength – they all utterly fail… because those are really never going to produce life changing answers.

Many of us reading these words are Christians.

Many more who might get around to reading these words are not and are in the categories of being hardcore pessimists, skeptics and agnostics and atheists.

We who have already accepted the answer of the cross in our lives know the changes which God has alone wrought in our lives through all circumstances.

But perhaps you know someone who doesn’t accept that.

Someone who is existing – living by answers that have convinced them to reject the cross outright and hardcore.

Maybe now is the most reasonable time to ask ourselves –

How good is it with God right now?

For those who are in that place of seeking, asking for something much more,

Maybe now is the most reasonable time – reasonably learned to ask these folks:

“How’s that “rejection” thing working out for you right now?”

“Do you sleep well at night? Or do you struggle with sleeplessness because of things you’ve done or said? Do you feel good about yourself? Do you believe that if you died tonight, you’d be able to stand up confidently, directly before God?”

As Christians we need to realize that the Cross IS the answer the world needs.

But do all these words of mine mean that if you are reading this and do not at this moment choose to believe in God, are expected to automatically believe?

The answer to that is an unequivocal NO!

It is not reasonable for me me to expect my words will instantly change how you feel about life and whether or not your life will get better with God in it.

My mere words, my alleged wisdom here, possess no such grandiose power.

What happens to your life after reading these words plus reading and digesting the Word of God for the Children of God – is solely, absolutely in God’s power!

I can only change myself through God’s Word and God’s Grace and Power ….

However, when God’s time comes, we get ‘warmed,’ we need to say with Paul:

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2

The wisdom if His Words, the wisdom waiting for us in the shadow of the cross gives everyone who dares to come, all the answers to all those struggles of life.

But first you and I have to willingly lay our lives down at the foot of the cross.

Perhaps now is the most reasonable time to ask this most reasonable question:

“How reasonable or unreasonable is it with our souls exactly right now?”

In the name of God, the Father and God God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord of wisdom, I sometimes finding understanding the Bible to be difficult. I know you want me to apply your word to my life. I thank you for giving me your word so I can grow in my relationship with you. Help me grasp what you want me to know as I read your revealed word. Open my eyes to see the wisdom and power of the cross, the wonderful truths waiting in the shadow of the cross, in your instructions there. Be my One teacher, so I can live and obey your word. Thank you for your wise advice. Amen.

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Who Embraces a God Like our God of Forgiveness and Mercy? Micah 7:18-20

Micah 7:18-20Amplified Bible

18 
Who is a God like You, who forgives wickedness
And passes over the rebellious acts of the remnant of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He [constantly] delights in mercy and lovingkindness.
19 
He shall again have compassion on us;
He will subdue and tread underfoot our wickedness [destroying sin’s power].
Yes, You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea.
20 
You shall give truth to Jacob
And lovingkindness and mercy to Abraham,
As You have sworn to our forefathers
From the days of old.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Sometimes words are just not enough. God’s creation – it leaves you speechless.

Your spouse’s strength of character – it bears no comparison.

Your child’s imagination, laughter, growth, maturity – it tests your vocabu­lary.

Sometimes words can’t ever say enough.

The prophet Micah understood that concept as well.

His prophecy alternates between visions of doom and hope.

In chapter 7 he starts with a very bleak picture: “What misery is mine! … The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains” (vv. 1, 2).

The prophet sees both Israel and Judah in need of ref­ormation.

Both kingdoms were living in affluence, which produced self­ish materialism.

Morals floundered, and corruption abounded.

Exile was awaiting.

Yet Micah does not despair but can end his prophecy with such great hope.

He sees that God will graciously forgive his people and restore her fortunes, and this puts Micah over the moon – All he can really say is, “Who is a God like you?”

What a beautiful question!

This exclamation is a play on the meaning of Micah’s own name: “Who is like Yahweh?”

Micah’s question is one that other nations – Egyptians, Babylon­ians, Assyrians –also asked as a way of praising their gods.

Yet Micah by no means implies that there are other gods.

The one and only God is 100% incomparable because of his forgiving character!

“Who is a God like you, who par­dons sin?”

Another way of reading this is, “Who is a God like you, who carries away sin?”

We come across that phrase in Leviticus 16, concerning the Day of Atonement.

Aaron the high priest was to lay his hands on the head of the live goat, confess all the iniquities of Is­rael over it, thereby transfer those iniquities to the goat.

Leviticus 16:22 says, “The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place.” 

Through the high priest the Lord transferred the burden of Israel’s guilt to another, and that substitute carried away all Israel’s sin and guilt.

And that’s what Micah is getting at.

God “pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance.”

In mercy Yahweh pre­served for himself a remnant, and he forgives that remnant!

This applies to us today as the church of Christ.

When you consider forgiving the people who have hurt you, you must always consider how much Jesus has forgiven you!

You don’t deserve His love and can never earn it.

He forgave you because He is a merciful, gracious God.

Because you have already been forgiven of ALL your sins and set free, you must forgive others by becoming so transparent that His mercy and grace will radiate through every aspect of your life.

You are never to be a giver of condemnation but always a giver of mercy.

Mercy is distinctly different from forgiveness because God is merciful to us even when you don’t sin, just as you can be merciful to those who have never done anything against you.

God’s mercy doesn’t just forgive your failures and faults but reaches deep into all your weakness and need.

His attitude toward you is merciful.

We are his possession by grace.

We don’t deserve forgiveness and salvation.

But it has been promised to God’s family, God’s inheritance, in Christ!

And it is given only to those who, like Micah, are deeply sorrowful over their sins, and cry out for forgiveness.

Micah’s song of praise continues: “You do not stay angry forever.” 

The remnant would experience the judg­ment and punishment of the Lord.

But marvel upon marvel, the Lord does not hold onto his anger.

So, the people of God could look away from their time of judgment and toward the Lord.

They could rejoice that this was just tempor­ary. “You do not stay angry forever, but you delight to show mercy.”

This is all very remarkable.

Micah is saying that the Lord acts this way

– God carries away our sins,

– God forgives our rebellion, shows his mercy

be­cause that’s just who he is.

It kind of leaves us scratching our heads and asking, “Why is he that way?”

The only answer we get is, “It is my delight to do it this way!” 

Our God, by his very nature, is so very ready to forgive sinners.

That leaves us dumbstruck at the forgiving character of our God.

We see God’s forgiving charac­ter especially in his Son.

The words Micah uses in verse 18 are also used for the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Verses 10-12,

Yet it was the Lord’s will (pleasure!) to crush him and cause him to suffer … Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, be­cause he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgres­sors. For he bore (carried away) the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

The LORD God does not wink at sin.

He offered the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ.

He came to take our sin outside the city, to the cross of Golgotha.

He shared in our sins.

That is just who Christ is.

It moves us to bow our heads, bend our spirits to say, “Who is a God like you?”

Do you see his incredible mercy for sinners?

Mercy is also related to grace.

Grace is what saves you – mercy is what sustains you.

Mercy eliminates the pain; grace cures the disease.

Mercy offers relief from punishment; grace offers pardon from the crime.

Mercy is a word you will hear used in the legal system.

After the conviction has been made, the jury has unanimously declared the persons guilt, the sentence is about to be handed down, MERCY is begged for.

The Hebrew word for mercy is “chesed”

which means to get inside someone’s skin,

to look at where they view life and feel what they are experiencing; to move in and act on behalf of the one whose hurting.

That is exactly what Jesus did when He chose to leave the indescribable comfort and glory of Heaven to become one of us.

Mercy has also been defined as the giving of compassionate treatment, having the disposition to be kind and forgiving when kindness and forgiveness are not your first thoughts, would not define or characterize any of your first actions.

As God gives you a fresh start each new day, so should you reach beyond the pain and give to those who have hurt you a fresh start through your forgiveness.

Mercy is forgiveness soaked in the life blood of Jesus, soaked in the love of God.

Every day, when you forgive, the anger, bitterness, resentment and pain that you feel from the wrong suffered at the hands of another is weakened.

It’s only through the giving of mercy that our emotional wounds will be healed.

If you do not show mercy and forgive the unforgivable you may never find total and complete healing for your spirit, mind and body.

Right in this exact moment, do you see your God is ever ready to give mercy?

Right in this exact moment, do you see that your God is ever ready to forgive?

Only when you fully see all these can you genuinely embrace a holy fear of our awesome God, only then can you wor­ship him truly, in utter speechlessness.

This is the God whom we adore.

Cherish and embrace his mercy for repentant sinners!

Cherish and embrace his forgiveness for repentant sinners!

Cherish God as God cherishes you!

Embrace God as God embraces you!

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Loving Heavenly Father, Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy forgiveness and mercy which you have shown. You have loved me with immeasurable love. You are love. I pray that I will be strengthened in my inner being – in my soul – with the love that is wider than I can understand, deeper than I am able to imagine, and greater than I could ever know. As You encourage and embolden my life, may I more fully know the mystery of the Gospel as revealed through my life. In the love of Christ, I pray. Amen.

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Embracing Forgiveness. Choosing only to Embrace the Grace, the Embrace of ABBA, our Father God. Matthew 6:14-15

Matthew 6:14-15Amplified Bible

14 For if you forgive [a]others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others [nurturing your hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with your relationship with God], then your Father will not forgive your trespasses.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

I believe most people have arrived at the conclusion that it is utterly impossible as human beings to avoid somehow and, in some way, offending others by our words, or lack of words and being offended by others, when we are still alive.

And, while we do not have the ability to control how others feel or act when they somehow feel offended by us, we do very much have free will over our own lives to decide how we will react or will not react when allegedly offended by others.

Our making the choice – Forgiving others wholeheartedly is the definite secret of a happy and prolonged relationship in all facets of life: in our family, in our work, at school, in Church, community, neighborhoods, mission and ministry.

It is definitely not easy to forgive others, but it’s what Jesus commands us to do.

Even if the other person is not really sorry, even if we are not very sorry about our actions, we still have to forgive sincerely in order to fulfil the will of God.

Matthew 6:14-15Easy-to-Read Version

14 Yes, if you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, then your Father in heaven will also forgive your wrongs. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, then your Father in heaven will not forgive the wrongs you do.

Jesus’ teaching here at the end of the Lord’s Prayer might be confusing.

It almost sounds as if we have to earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others.

So, we definitely need heavy dose of a different kind of thought process here.

Ephesians 4:30-32Amplified Bible

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [but seek to please Him], by whom you were sealed and marked [branded as God’s own] for the day of redemption [the final deliverance from the consequences of sin]. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [perpetual animosity, resentment, strife, fault-finding] and slander be put away from you, along with every kind of malice [all spitefulness, verbal abuse, malevolence]. 32 Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave [a]you.

I envision about any kitchen sponge that has not been used for a long time.

When you put it under the tap, at first the water runs right over the sponge.

But if you set that old sponge in a bucket of ­water for a few minutes, it will gradually and inevitably transform, will soften and becomes usable again.

Our own hearts and our souls and our spirits can be, can become like that too.

When we hold onto new resentments and old bitterness’s, nursing our anger, hugging old grudges close to our chests, hearts can become as hard as a rock, and God’s grace for us will be like water running over a rock – it won’t soak in.

At this point – someone needs to get on our case – come into our throne rooms and disrupt our lives, disrupt our dysfunctional patterns of behaving, thinking.

We are not hiding anything from God – but we are trying to – and this will most definitely get big time God’s attention – God will send someone – guaranteed!

That moment of confrontation will inevitably occur – someone will arrive and will get up inside our personal space – then we will have to make some serious choices – push that other person back out the door they entered or “get God!”

Reckon ourselves with our actions – then reckon, reason things out with God:

Psalm 51:1-12English Standard Version

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51 Have mercy on me,[a] O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right[b] spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

But when we are “pried” open by our remembrance of God’s forgiveness of us, we are “exposed” to forgiving others, we become soft like a moistened sponge.

God, our Father’s boundless and bottomless grace soaks in and saturates the entirety of our hearts, and we become abundantly available to share his grace.

Just as a wet sponge moistens other things when it touches them, we can share grace, the blood of Christ helping to wipe others’ dirt away as we forgive others.

Dying to our accumulated resentment, anger, and bitterness softens our hearts to receive God’s all-encompassing amazing grace, to share it freely with others.

Psalm 103:11-13English Standard Version

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so, the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

Why should any of this matter – of what relevance – of what significance to me?

The question of genuine forgiveness is one of eternal importance and relevance.

And why is it, you may ask, so crucial that Christians forgive?

For starters, Jesus’ statement in today’s text is quite a compelling reason, for “if you do not forgive others…neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Suffice it to say then, we had better make sure we are forgiving “our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Here’s the bottom line: forgiveness is such a central element to Christianity that it is an indicator of salvation!

Not that we are saved by any works of our own, such as forgiving others, but that when we are reconciled to God through the lifeblood of our Savior Jesus Christ, our new life will be eternally marked by grace giving and forgiveness.

Remember, our unrighteousness was exchanged for Jesus’ righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), our wrong for His 100% right, our injustice for His justice.

God meets our enfeebled efforts at rebellion and pride with His matchless grace in and through the person and work of our only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Those to whom grace is extended should also extend grace, and those to whom forgiveness is extended should also extend forgiveness.

Forgive as you have been forgiven.

Not because it’s easy, but because it’s at the very exact core of who you are in Christ.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Dear Lord, search my heart. Reveal to me any remaining burs of hurt where I have attempted to forgive apart from You. I pray You would cover these hurts in Your healing grace, and through Your strength, empower me to forgive others as wholly and completely and utterly as You first forgave me. In Savior Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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