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Glimpes of the Cross Day 19; Why Jesus Lives

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. Hebrews 7:25 NLT

Charles Spurgeon was born to preach. Mother Teresa was born to care for the poor. Abraham Lincoln was born to break the bonds of slavery. Everyone was born for a reason. The verse above tells me Jesus was born with a purpose too. His eternal existence before birth also was not without purpose. It also tells us what His purpose for living and existing is. He does not live so He can be a tyrant and force people to worship Him. He does not live so He can hear angels sing His praises. He does not live so that He can sit on a throne in a golden castle in the sky. You can look as far back into eternity as eternity goes, and you can look as far into the future as eternity goes, and you will find that Jesus’ purpose for living is to be your eternal provider and Savior! “He lives forever to intercede with God on your behalf.” Not so much that He is trying to reconcile God to you as much as He works to reconcile you to God. God never ran from Adam. It was Adam who ran from God. Jesus never told the demoniacs He could not tolerate their presence. It was the demoniacs who could not tolerate His presence.

“It is no arbitrary decree on the part of God that excludes the wicked from heaven; they are shut out by their own unfitness for its companionship. The glory of God would be to them a consuming fire. They would welcome destruction, that they might be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them.” – Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Pages 17-18.

Jesus’ passion is winning you back to God. Again, that is why He lives.

 ”So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT

In the moment of temptation we can go to our High Priest, and find the grace to overcome the temptation.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

However if for whatever reason we do not ask for the grace to overcome, Jesus has made a fool proof way to sustain us still. We can come to the throne and ask for mercy and forgiveness.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9 NLT

“How careful is the Lord Jesus to give no occasion for a soul to despair. How He fences about the soul from Satan’s fierce attacks. If through manifold temptations we are surprised or deceived into sin, He does not turn from us and leave us to perish. No, no, that is not our Saviour…. He was tempted in all points like as we are; and having been tempted, He knows how to succor those who are tempted. Our crucified Lord is pleading for us in the presence of the Father at the throne of grace. His atoning sacrifice we may plead for our pardon, our justification, and our sanctification. The Lamb slain is our only hope. Our faith looks up to Him, grasps Him as the One who can save to the uttermost, and the fragrance of the all-sufficient offering is accepted of the Father.

If you make failures and are betrayed into sin, do not feel then you cannot pray … but seek the Lord more earnestly.

The blood of Jesus is pleading with power and efficacy for those who are backslidden, for those who are rebellious, for those who sin against great light and love. Satan stands at our right hand to accuse us, and our Advocate stands at God’s right hand to plead for us. He has never lost a case that has been committed to Him.” –Ellen White, Our High Calling, Page 49

“We may plead for our pardon, justification, and our sanctification.” Before I fall, I can go to Jesus, and find grace so I don’t have to fall. His grace sanctifies me and frees me from the power of sin.

“ For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.  And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.  He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” Titus 2:11-14 NLT

Even though grace leaves me with no excuse to sin, Jesus still offers mercy and forgiveness!

“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalms 51:17

The question is not how long will God be willing to forgive me, but rather, will I ever ask for forgiveness? I can go to a home to give a Bible study, and knock on the door. As long as I can hear somebody inside making their way to the door, I will wait as long as it takes. However, if I realize I could wait forever and they will never open the door, then and only then do I walk away. It is the same with Jesus. Probation closes when the sanctuary is forced out of business, because it no longer has “customers” asking for mercy. Jesus has reconciled those who are willing, and sadly walks away from the heart’s door of those who will never accept His reconciling grace. The fact that they would never accept God’s grace is seen by the fact that no one repents during the last plagues and of course nobody repents at the end of the thousand years. The problem is not that they can’t but that they won’t. God did not send them to the point of no return. They reached that point by themselves.

When Jesus forgave the repentant thief, while hanging naked on the cross, he was sending out a message to men and to Satan. “You can take away my clothes and dignity. You can take away my crown and replace it with thorns. You can even take away my life, but you will never take away my power to forgive sin!” Imagine that! Jesus-King of the Universe let go of all of His divine rights, except for the right to forgive sin! Jesus would rather die than give up His right to be your sustain-er and Savior. Why? Because the only reason why He lives is so He can save you! His death was all about you. His life is all about you. He is in love with you!

 

Glimpeses of the Cross Day 14; A Tree Makes A Bitter Life Sweet Again

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they [were] bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree, [which] when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,  And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I [am] the LORD that healeth thee.  Exodus 15:23-26

Why did God have Moses put a tree in the bitter water? How did a tree make the water sweet? In 1 peter 2:24, Peter refers to the cross as a tree. In a world of hate and bitterness, Jesus died on that tree to save us from a bitter world. Sin has caused suffering and bitterness but Jesus was lifted up on the cross to make our lives sweet again. I and many others believe this is why Moses used a tree to make bitter water sweet again.

If life has made you bitter, I would like to invite you to experience the grace that can make your life sweet again, by visiting the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. If you are not in the Tampa Bay area, you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world here.

Glimpses of the Cross Day 13; The Messiah Prophesied in Scripture

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Several years ago, I was showing a set of Christian books to a lady. There were several hardbound books in the set, which also included beautiful art work. The lady loved the books, and asked how much they were. I told her, “Four-twenty-nine.” She was delighted, and exclaimed, “Is that all!” I said, “Yes.” I  went on to explain the payment plans, of cash, credit card, or down payment of 15% and then 12 monthly payments. She looked confused, and then disappointed when she realized, that by four-twenty-nine I meant $429.00 and not $4.29.

The lady was like most all of us. We hear what we expect to hear. We read the Old Testament Prophecies that depict Jesus’ sacrifice, like Isaiah 53, and wonder why the Jews did not understand that the Messiah was coming to die for our sin and not set up an earthly kingdom.

The Jews were looking for a Savior from Roman tyranny because they read  prophecies, such as Isaiah 52:13, “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” And also Isaiah 9:7, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” They thought Jesus would come and set up an earthly kingdom. Would we have thought differently?

There was nothing wrong with the prophecies. The prophets were right on. The Jews, the disciples, the lady I was trying to sell  books to were all just like us. We hear what we expect to hear.Even the disciples misunderstood and heard only what they expected to hear. Jesus told them in Matthew 16 amongst other places, that He would be crucified, but Peter and the others simply refused to hear of it. The weekend of the crucifixion they were devastated. It was a great disappointment.

Some scoff at them for not knowing better, but are we any better than they are? Do we not make similar mistakes?

Jeremiah 23:6 promises to save the kingdom of Judah.

“In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

This led the people to dream of a kingdom prosperous and above all others. However the text also promised righteousness for the people.  It seems the people were not so interested in the righteousness as they were in the prosperity. That is just like us today. InMatthew 6:33 Jesus says,

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Many today are seeking the kingdom and all those other things that will be added to us, but how many of us are seeking His righteousness? How many of us today are taking up our cross daily and following Him? How many of us just want the prosperity? Even if we are seeking a heavenly kingdom above an earthly kingdom, we may still be materialistic, unless we are really seeking His righteousness.

Could we today be like the children of Abraham, dreaming only of prosperity, and forgetting that God once asked father Abraham to sacrifice his son and future prosperity?

When Paul was reasoning with the Jews, showing them that Jesus was the Messiah, he had his work cut out for him. Below is a study on the Messiah, showing the prophecies predicted in the Old Testament, and their fulfillment in the New Testament. Paul probably used some of these Scriptures when he taught the Jews about the Messiah.

At the crucifixion the disciples were devastated and hurting. Jesus  looked past the mistakes of His disciples and saw the pain. On the road to Emmaus, he took pains to demonstrate to them from the Scriptures that His life had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. He probably used some of these Scriptures as well.

Event Prophecy Fulfilled
The place of His birth Micah 5:2 Luke 2:4-7
His virgin birth Isaiah 7:14 Luke 1:26-31
The slaughter of the children Jeremiah 31:15 Matthew 2:16-18
His flight into Egypt Hosea 11:1 Matthew 2:14,15
The time of His baptism Daniel 9:24,25 Luke 3:1,21,22
His rejection by the people Isaiah 53:3 John 1:11
His entrance into Jerusalem Zech 9:9 Luke 19:29-38
His betrayal by a friend Psalm 41:9 Luke 22:4748
The price of His betrayal Zech 11:12 Matthew 26:15
Spat upon and beaten Isaiah 50:6 Matthew 26:67
Crucified between two thieves Isaiah 53:12 Mark 15:27,28
The wounds in His body Zech 12:10 John 19:3420:27
Given vinegar and gall to drink Psalm 69:21 Matthew 27:34
Gambling for His clothes Psalm 22:17,18 Matt 27:35,36
None of His bones were to be broken Psalm 34:20 John 19:32,33
To be buried with the rich Isaiah 53:9 Matt 27:57-60
His resurrection Psalm 16:10 Luke 24:1-7

Seeing how Jesus met all the Old Testament predictions affirms our faith that He is indeed the Messiah. It also affirms our faith in the Bible.

Greater yet, it affirms our faith that He will come the second time, just as the Bible promised He would come the first time. There are actually twice as many Bible promises about His second coming than there are about His first coming.

Glimpses of The Cross 9; The Power to Forgive

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Lord I believe in you! Please remember me when you set up your kingdom. Jesus turned His head towards Him and said, “I promise you today, When I return with the glory of my Father, I will take you home with me to paradise.” Luke 23:42-43 CWB

As the son of God, Jesus had the right to wear a crown of gold, but He let man take it away and give him a crown of thorns instead. Jesus had the right to wear a royal robe, but Jesus let man take that too as He hung naked on the cross. Jesus had the right to live, but He let men take away His life. On the cross Jesus gave up all of his rights except one which was the right to forgive sin. When a lifelong sinner, turned to Jesus on the cross, Jesus would not give up the right to forgive sinners. On the cross the only power that Jesus exercised was the power to forgive sin. The only thing He asked was, “Father forgive them.”

That prayer of Christ for His enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time. Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God. To all, forgiveness is freely offered. “Whosoever will” may have peace with God, and inherit eternal life. -Desire of Ages, P. 745

Raising the Standard

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My 9th grade algebra teacher graded our tests on the curve. This meant that the highest grade would be counted as 100%. So if the highest grade was 80, our 70 would be considered 70/80 instead of 70/100, thus raising our percentage and grade considerably. There was only one problem. The same girl got 100% right on every test, so we never got a break! The standard always stayed right where it belonged at 100, instead of 70 or 80. The mornings after our tests, we would be anxious to get out results, and to see what kind of a break we got with the curve, and every morning following our tests, we would be disappointed to find that there was no break. Someone kept the standard right where it belonged. That someone was not a popular person with the rest of the class. Why? Because they kept the standard where it belonged, and left the rest of us with no excuse for getting the poorer grades that we got. She was plenty popular the rest of the school year when she acted just like us, but when it came time for tests, her study habits made the rest of us look bad, and it was just easier to ridicule her for her study methods, than it was to actually study ourselves. Likewise, as long as our church blends in the world we will never be ridiculed or persecuted either. Satan has no reason to persecute a church that looks just like the world. As long as this girl was acting like us it was fine, but we found her study habits to be annoying.

I imagine Judas found the woman washing Jesus’ feet with the expensive perfume to be quite annoying. Not that the perfume did not smell good, but Judas clearly had no intentions of giving all he had for Jesus. On the contrary, instead of giving he tried to take whatever he could. But how do you justify your selfishness in the face of someone else’s giving spirit? Easy, you make them look like a fanatic. “What a waste” Judas said, “The money she wasted on perfume could have been better spent on the poor.” I guess Judas considered himself to be poor, since he wanted the money himself. So he makes the woman out to be fanatical. Do we do this today? Someone gives more of their time and effort for Jesus than we are willing to give, and so to make us look balanced, we portray them as extreme. The woman was no fanatic. She was in love with Jesus! But when people are doing more out of love than we care to do, we label them “legalistic,” “extreme,” or “fanatical” when in fact they are just simply in love with Jesus. Judas was not irked by her behavior when she was sinning all over the place. That did not make Judas look bad. But when she gave all she had to Jesus out of love, that exposed Judas’ selfishness and Judas became offended by her converted behavior.

In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus gives us the beatitudes which are also stepping stones to a complete conversion. Once the conversion is complete Jesus says,

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:10 NLT

Once God’s people become filled with righteousness and pure in heart, by God’s grace they will keep the standard right where it belongs, not because they are legalistic or fanatical, but because they are in love with Jesus. Now here is the key. Jesus blesses those who are persecuted for doing right. Sometimes we bring persecution on ourselves by doing what is wrong. We deserve that, and there is no reward for that. I once heard a man who kept getting harassed by creditors, saying he was being persecuted for being a Christian. No he wasn’t! He was persecuted for not paying his bills!

When God’s grace converts  us our standards will rise above the world’s standards, and just like the kids in my algebra class, and Judas, they will not like that. They will persecute us, but Jesus says to rejoice! For ours is the kingdom of heaven.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Does Gideon’s Fleece System Still Work?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In my personal devotions this morning, I read,

Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” Judges 6:36-37 NLT

I was reminded of the many times I have been asked if it’s a good idea to set a “fleece” before the Lord? People want a sign as to which way to go, which house to buy, which job to take or so forth. They want to know if it is okay to ask God for a sign. Of course there is nothing wrong with praying for wisdom on all decisions. But that’s just it. Sometimes, instead of giving us direct signs, telling us exactly what to do, God gives us wisdom to make our own choices. Sometimes God really doesn’t care which job we take or house we live in. He can bless us either way. They aren’t really moral decisions, and He can guide us either way.

The purpose of Gideon’s fleece was not so much about a decision of which way to go. God had already told Him what to do. God had told Gideon to lead out in God’s army.  Now, Gideon is examining his motives. Did God really call me to lead out, or was it my own selfish ambition talking to me? Am I just doing my own thing claiming its God telling me to do it? So, Gideon set a fleece before God to confirm that it was God calling him and not just his own selfish ambition. Maybe the key to what decisions we make, is to examine our motives behind the choices we make.  Am I doing this for God’s glory or selfish ambition? God can guide us no matter where we live or work so long as our motive is to glorify Him wherever we are. Gideon was testing his own motives.  There is nothing wrong with that!

Several years ago, I was experiencing some persecution where I was working. My motives were being misrepresented, which led me to examine them myself. I pleaded with God to open a door and let me go somewhere else. No doors were opening. About this time I signed a new lease for my apartment. while new residents to the apartment complex were offered a months free rent, I was told several times there would be no free rent for me. That was only for new residents. I told them I was signing a new lease though. Still they said again and again, no free rent!

The first month of my new lease I was walking to the rental office to pay my rent. As I walked I prayed, “Lord if you want me to stay at this current job, where I am experiencing persecution for standing up for you, then have them tell me my rent is free this month when I get to the rental office.”  After all, maybe I was just standing up for myself and not God? Was I just trying to protect my own position instead of glorifying God? I walked on to the rental office knowing it was a done deal, as I had already been told over and over, there was no free rent for me. I actually forgot my prayer when I came into the office. That is until the lady in the office went to enter my check on the computer, and then handed it back to me and said, “Your rent is free this month.”

God provided an amazing miracle for me! But the miraculous sign was not so much about where to work as it was about making sure I was staying at my job for the right reason, and not just out of self interest. Not long after that the person responsible for my persecution left.

Gideon was not just using a fleece like it was some crystal ball in making random decisions. He used the fleece to make sure his motivation was pure. There is nothing wrong with questioning and examining our motivation, when leading out as Gideon did.

You can read more about the prayer life of God’s disciples today at http://www.ssnet.org/lessons/14a/less03m.html

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 17 (Born of the Spirit)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20 NKJV

While Jesus was born with a human nature, many point out that Jesus had an advantage over us, in living a victorious life, because, while being human, He was also born of the Spirit. This is true. After all, Jesus did not come to demonstrate what an unconverted man may do. He came to demonstrate what a Spirit filled man can do. While Jesus had an advantage in being Spirit filled, He also offered that same advantage to Nicodemus and all of us.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8 NKJV

According to John 3 we all may have the same advantage Jesus had. We all are invited to be born of God.

to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19 NKJV

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,  having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…. 1 Peter 1:22-23 NKJV

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9 NKJV 

Therefore Jesus was “in all points tempted like as we are.” Hebrews 4:15. He endured every trial to which we are subject. And He exercised in His own behalf no power that is not freely offered to us. As man, He met temptation, and overcame in the strength given Him from God. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 24.