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!

Monday, May 25, 2015

The final clue

The clouds began to gather in the sky blocking the sun’s light and causing shadows to fall on the crowd that was gathered to watch the afternoon executions. Large hollow areas in the cliff, below the bluff where the crucifixions were being performed, gave the appearance of a large skull. A breeze began to blow as several of the women pulled their shawls tighter into their bodies and turned away from the wind. Mourners wailed as Jesus writhed in pain. Agony gripped Him as He dangled from nine inch Roman spikes that impaled His hands to the roughly peeled wooden cross beam. Several soldiers sat on the ground with their legs folded, casting lots for his garments.

Weary, from the all night proceedings and after being flogged within an inch of His life, Jesus did not have a great deal of strength left to fight for life. He desperately tried to push up on His legs attempting to ease the pain but the throbbing continued radiating down the entire length of His body.  On His head a make shift crown of thorns had been driven through His scalp. Above His head was placed the plaque that Pontius Pilate ordered written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin that read “Jesus Of Nazareth, The King Of The Jews”.
 Jesus looked up towards heaven and cried out “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Many in the crowd and some of the soldiers mocked Him saying “He saved others but He could not save Himself”. Hearing this, Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, cried in a loud voice “It is finished”. Then, bowing His head, He  gave up His spirit.

The last words of Jesus are so important to understand. The Lord had had a tough time trying to get His disciples to understand why He was willingly allowing the Romans to kill Him. They were expecting their prophesied Messiah to be a conquering King, the Lion from the tribe of Judah. Instead they got a lamb being led to the slaughter. Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, before He dies, leaves them all with one last clue; he quotes the beginning of Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

God inspired King David to write this psalm about 970 years before the birth of Christ. The psalm has been troubling to Jewish scholars who can’t seem to merge the two distinct profiles of the Messiah. For thousands of years Jews had been awaiting the day their Messiah would come to crush their opposition and usher in the kingdom of God. However, God’s plan was so much better as His One and Only Son would come twice.  By quoting psalm 22, Jesus was alerting and pointing His followers to the psalm where they might discover His real mission and identity. 

The seventh verse of psalm 22 goes on to describe how people would mock Him. “All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying ‘He trusted the Lord, let Him rescue Him, since He delights in Him’”. After being falsely accused by the Sanhedrin, Jesus is mocked by the soldiers of the governor inside the Praetorium. There He is stripped, clothed in a scarlet robe, given a crown of thorns, a reed is put in His hand, He is spit upon and struck in the head. “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’” Matthew 27:39.

Remembering that psalm 22 was writing by David 970 years before Jesus’ birth and before the art of crucifixion had been invented, now look at verse 16 “For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierce My hands and My feet;” If that is not painting a clear enough picture of the Lord’s crucifixion lets add some highlights; verse 18 “They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Other psalms of interest: psalm 34:20 (not one of His bones would be broken), psalm 41:9 (Christ would be betrayed by a friend), and psalm 69:21 (Christ would be given vinegar and gall).

So this last clue from Jesus, as important as it is, pales in comparison when we read His very last words “It is finished”. At that moment all of the world’s sin was cancelled, paid in full never to be seen again. The bible teaches us that salvation is a gift from God and it’s not something we can work towards. But as with any gift you must reach out and receive it!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Signs in the heavens

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:25-28.

 Jesus is encouraging us to look up for signs in the heavens in hopeful anticipation of His return as our redemption draws near. He wants us not to be weighed down with the anxieties of everyday life but rather to live always on alert for His imminent return. Jesus is giving us some signposts to watch for; the first is going to be signs in the sun, moon and stars.

Psalm 19 states “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.” It’s certainly true that our universe is too wonderful to grasp a hold of. Its dimensions are too enormous and unfathomable for our finite minds to comprehend. Look up into the night sky and behold the universe brimming with galaxies that are filled with a myriad of stars. God’s complex rules and laws define precise order and design to our cosmos. We watch daily as our own star rises and sets on our horizon. Our clocks can be set to it, our lives ordered to it as our earth’s rotation and orbit transverse large expanses of interstellar space. Keep your eyes on the Lord, His glory and continue to watch our skies for the signs that He promised us would appear just before His return.

Jesus also warned us that as we got closer to His imminent return that the earth would begin to suffer tribulation.  He compared this time of pain and suffering to a woman in labor where as the birth event got closer, the frequency and intensity of her birth pains increased. 

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginnings of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:6-14.

Just within the last few weeks two major earthquakes in Nepal have killed thousands and displaced even more families from their homes.  Today Isis continues their un-holy war on Christians in the Middle East. Evidence of genocide continues to mount in northern Iraq. The group continues to persecute Christians who refuse to denounce Christ. The northern territory of Iraq which once recorded 1.8 million Christians  now records numbers in the 300,000. Isis has been looting banks, stealing the country’s wealth, taking over oil fields while they rape young girls even as young as five years old.

So here’s some writing on the wall, If American Christians don’t begin to stand up and be the salt and light of the world that Jesus commanded us to be then it’s only a matter of time until this great wave of evil  begins devouring our own shores.  Don’t let fear and anxieties rule your life anymore but rather put your trust into Jesus Christ. For God so loved His world that He gave His only begotten Son that who so ever would believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life. Eternal life is our blessed hope. 

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse. And He who sat on him was Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns.” There is a day coming when all men will bow their knee and confess with their mouths that Jesus Christ  is Lord either to glory or their destruction. God is our salvation, Jesus is the Logos and His name is Jeshua! Glory to God in the highest!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Lord...is my shepherd.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”David became a shepherd and use to watch his father’s flock on the hills surrounding Bethlehem. He knew what it meant to take responsibility for helpless sheep that were always getting into trouble. David knew without doubt that God was his Shepherd.  Jesus said “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.” The shepherd is the source of the flocks’ contentment; they know his voice and they follow him.

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me besides the still waters.” Shepherds, raising sheep in the dry-arid region surrounding Bethlehem, would have had to work hard to find and prepare fields for their flocks. Brush needed clearing, rocks removed and soil prepared for the sowing of seed. The shepherd knew just the right time to throw out seed; as  spring rains  transformed the hillsides into lush green feeding grounds. A healthy animal was one that did not have to run around in search of food but could lazily graze in one lush pasture with plenty of opportunities to rest.

Good, clean water is essential for all life. The shepherd would have searched out the best places to get water. He would lead his flock past stagnant pools of still water, infested with a multitude of parasites and onto a known source of clean fresh water. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."  Jesus Christ went on to explain to the woman “Whoever drinks of this water (from the well) will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

“He restores my soul; He leads in me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” We are all like sheep and have gone astray. All people are born into sin, original sin, and need to be restored back to health. As we walk through life we ultimately make bad choices that lead to painful consequences. We all have a need for Christ to redeem us by paying this debt. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who genuinely cares for His sheep. He knows what we have been through, what we are going through and desires to lead us, if we will only follow, back into fellowship with God. 

The shepherd knows when it’s time for the flock to move on and he knows the way. He carefully watches out for ever present danger and he will not abandon the flock when the lion or bear comes to attack. Truly the entire earth was blessed as the Savior is born to the world. God promised Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed through his seed and it’s for His name’s sake that we can trace Jesus Christ’s lineage back to King David through Abraham’s son Judah. 

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” As the shepherd moved his flock to new pastures he would eventually have to lead his sheep through some very dark and dangerous valleys as he started climbing to higher elevations. It’s in these valleys that the shepherd would stay even closer to his sheep, always on constant alert for danger. This is true in our own lives; that we are never closer to God then when we travel through dark valleys of pain, grief and suffering. What a comfort it is to see the Good Shepherd’s staff, knowing that He is ready to catch us when we stumble and fall. Likewise the shepherd’s rod, symbol of His authority (the rod of His Word) is always a comfort to the flock.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.” Our Good Shepherd, just before His death made a New Covenant with us in His blood. He promised us eternal life and commanded us to remember His sacrifice every time that we sat down to eat and fellowship. Then He gave us the Holy Spirit (oil) as a seal and promise of His return for us.  

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever”