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If you have stumbled here by accident let me first insist that there really are no accidents in life. If however, you came on your own free will then please by all means open your hearts and your minds to the "New Wine" that God has prepared for you!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

He is risen!



What does the cross, as a symbol, mean to you? In the first century, when Jesus of Nazareth walked through the streets of Jerusalem, it was the method the Romans had refined to execute criminals. It was a slow, cruel, sadistic form of torture that left the victim begging for death. Eventually, death would come to relieve the sinner of their excruciating pain but not until first ripping away every last bit of life the dying could muster.

While the cross is certainly the final crescendo of Jesus Christ’s life is was really just the device used for His execution. Public executions were always performed along the main road into town for all travelers to witness. It was a gruesome reminder of what awaits the person caught in sin and convicted of a capital offense. 

For Jesus of Nazareth, however, while the cross initially looked like a horrible defeat and sad ending to His life, it was what He was born into our world to accomplish. Before giving up His spirit, Jesus asks the Father on our behalf, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. And then the greatest sentence ever uttered from a human mouth, “It is finished.” John 19:30.

But what is finished you might ask? God’s plan for our salvation that was formed before the foundation of the universe was cast. Even as early as the book of Genesis we see God’s promise of a future deliverer as God directs this prophecy towards Satan “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” Genesis 3:15.

Satan certainly managed to strike at the heels of Jesus while He hung dying on the cross. However, three days later, The Lord would return back to life once and for all removing the sting of death. “For God so loved His world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17.

So why did God’s plan for our salvation require the blood of His Son to atone or cover and hide our sin from God? We are told in the book of Hebrews “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”  Hebrews 9:22.

Since the very beginning, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s law. As sons of Adam, we have all inherited that original sin at our birth. Then, as we grow older, we continue to make bad choices, choices that are wrong in God’s perfect sight. The scriptures teach that “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.”  Sin will cost us something; in the case of Adam and Eve it cost the life of the animals God killed in order to cover the man and woman with tunics of skin.

Now, since the day of Jesus’ death, the world has been under another contact or covenant. No longer does God require the blood of endless animal sacrifices  as payment for sin but instead has freely given the blood of His Own Son that does not just cover our sin for one calendar year, but the blood of Jesus Christ takes away our sin forever. John the Baptist would describe Jesus as “ the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”

 When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, He was presenting Himself as the last and final Passover Lamb. However, everyone throwing palm branches and cloaks on the dirt road was expecting their Messiah to be a conquering king who would overthrow the roman occupation. Instead they got a lamb that was led to the slaughter.
  
There are entire chapters predicting what the Messiah would accomplish  the first time He came; Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Zech 9:9, Daniel 9:25,26, Genesis 3:15, Genesis 22 and Leviticus 16.

Jesus Christ was the complete fulfillment of the very first Passover, where when the blood of the lamb was applied to the door posts and lentil of the front door of the house, the angel of death would pass-over and not destroy the first born male of the household.

Won’t you take the blood of Jesus Christ and apply it to the doorposts of your own heart right this very second? The story is not over at His death because His tomb, which was sealed and under guard, was not able to hold Him. Jesus returned from beyond death to prove that we, too, can have eternal life through His resurrection. He is risen!

Dirty feet




They were all resting in the upper room as the last fleeting rays of warm sunshine disappeared behind the pinnacles of the Temple.  John was busy lighting oil lamps hanging on the walls inside the alabaster room. The other eleven apostles were reclining around a u shaped table spread out with baskets of fresh bread, bitter herbs, lamb shank and cups filled with wine. 

The men were filthy, it had been a long trip up from Jericho and the dry dusty roads had covered them in dirt. There was a deafening silence that hovered in the room as John lit the last oil lamp. Something terrible was about to happen, they could feel it, it was as if an invisible hand was grabbing them slowly tightening around their chests.

Earlier that day, Jesus had told His disciples where they were to find the donkey on which he would be led into Jerusalem. He also gave them instructions for the room that was to be prepared for the Passover meal. The Lord sent Peter and John ahead to prepare the meal “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. Then you will say to the master of the house, The Teacher says to you, ‘Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples? Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.”

Cold stone pillars supported the portico roof and hallway that led to an outdoor deck area. Curtains billowed and floated in the steady evening breeze.  An oil lamp hanging from an east wall cast flickering light that both lightly illuminated and silhouetted the figures of the men reclining on pillows strewn around the table. “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” said Jesus softly to his disciples who weren’t totally paying attention but too busy arguing amongst themselves. 

There had been a heavy tension in the air ever since the men had traveled through Capernaum. Jesus had asked them point blank what it was that they were arguing about but they kept silent. He already knew what was in their hearts for they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.

Now it was time to begin the Passover so Jesus took a cup and blessed it while reaching into a basket of unleavened bread. His rough hands, the abused hands of a middle aged carpenter, easily tore pieces off for each man. “This is my body which is given to you: this do in remembrance of Me.” To memorialize the sacrifice He was about to make for the world. Then likewise He took the last cup of the Passover, the cup of joy, and said “This is the blood of a new testament-a new agreement-which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

Jesus had fore told days before of the events of His coming sufferings “Behold we go up to Jerusalem where the Son of Man shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated and they shall scourge him, and put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again.” 

Outside the air was calm and silent as the dynamic pause before the final crescendo of a great concert. Inside it was noisy as the apostles continued their quarrel. An ongoing argument had been re-kindled earlier that day as to who was the greatest; because no house servants were present to bathe their feet nobody volunteered to do the mandatory ceremonial washing. Each man had walked past the clay water pitcher without giving it a second thought. Tired, dirty, angry, thirsty as well as hungry they all tried to cover their feet with their robes to hide their shame.

It was at this very instant that Jesus from Nazareth rose from the table, took a towel, girded himself, poured water into a basin and began to do the menial task that was intended for the lowest of all the house servants; The lord began washing  the apostles feet.

This one simple act would sum up, symbolize what Christ had come to earth to do; to serve us by enduring the cross.  What an upside down kingdom it is when the King-Creator of the universe has to come to the earth He created and wash our feet. Make a decision right now and ask the Master to wash your feet.
“There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins.  And sinners plunged beneath its flood loose all their guilty stains.”

 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Providence



Why have there been so many attempts to completely annihilate the Jews? All through-out history deranged men have risen to power only to focus their wrath on the sons and daughters of Jacob. 

Fifteen hundred and twenty-six years before Jesus was born the pharaoh of Egypt decided that the Jews had become too numerous and calls for all male Hebrew babies to be killed. Baby Moses escapes in an ark of reeds that was placed into the Nile River. Later in the early first century King Herod, half mad and ravenous for power orders all male Hebrew children to be killed. Warned in a dream that king Herod was going to kill their new born son, Joseph and Mary run away with baby Jesus escaping safely into Egypt. 

 In the last century, Adolf Hitler single handedly convinced his minions to exterminate the Jews at any cost. Satanically driven, they devised horrific plans to destroy men women and children by gas, firing squad and torture. Morbid as may be the Nazis figured out ways to make a profit from the corpses even to the point of extracting gold from their teeth.

 So of all the nations of the world, why has this one race suffered so much at our hands but still managed to survive and eventually thrive? Even the very ground that was taken away from them was eventually returned. On May 14th 1948 Israel once again became a nation! This once barren, desolate desert was now being irrigated and beginning to bloom as the fertile land slowly came back to life. 

In the first book of the bible God promised that all nations of the world would be blessed through the Seed of the woman. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:15. This is the first mention that God would be sending a Messiah or Savior to redeem the fallen world. It also hints at the virgin birth since the seed is from the man not the woman.

Later, God promises Abraham that he will be a father of many nations, and kings shall come from him and more importantly the Savior of the world “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3. And again to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, God promises “the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants…and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 28:14.

The providence of God is built on the rock of our salvation which is Jesus Christ! Here’s the theological definition of providence according to the late J. Vernon McGee “Providence is the means by which God directs all things; both animate and inanimate; seen and unseen; good and evil toward a worthy purpose, which means His will must finally prevail.”

And providence is exactly what we see revealed in the story of Esther. Providentially, Esther is chosen to be queen out of hundreds of beautiful candidates. Now, as an evil plot arises to exterminate all the Jews, Esther has a chance to intercede. Haman, one of the king’s advisors, deceitfully devises a plan to kill Mordecai and all other Jewish families’ through-out the kingdom.

Mordecai catches wind of Haman’s plan and secretly gets the information to the Queen. Esther afraid for life hesitates to go into the king’s court unannounced to divulge Haman’s treachery. Mordecai, aware of Esther’s reluctance, sends one last word of encouragement to his cousin the queen.

 “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Esther 4:13,14.

Our free will and God’s providence, how can these two seemly contradictive concepts work in unison? Well that is exactly what sanctification is all about; the process by which Christians surrender their will over to God allowing Him to be their guiding force. You see there are several things God can’t do and one of those things is that God can’t break a promise.

God had a plan to redeem His creation from sin from before the foundations of the world were wrought. His plan was perfect and so God willingly gave His one and only Son to become payment for our sin. The blood of Christ is the most powerful thing in this universe. And though my sins were like scarlet, He has washed them white as snow. Thank you Jesus!