Glimpses of the Cross Day 16; Laying My Trophies Down

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Several years ago, when I first became a literature evangelist, I was attending an awards banquet for the best sales persons in the Southwest. I was awe struck by the nice shiny plaques and trophies the winners were receiving for leading the region in sales, hours worked, and other categories. I was so impressed that I decided right then and there that I was going to be Number One next year so that I could receive such a reward at the next awards banquet.

The next year I went out and worked from early morning until as late at night as I could. After all, if I couldn’t lead the region in sales, I could at least lead in hours worked by just working all the time. Sure enough by the end of the year I had led my region in hours worked and in sales! I could not wait to receive that award I had been fantasizing about all year! Only one problem: Due to finances there was no awards banquet that year. Nothing for me! No recognition! I was angry and upset. I had been slighted. I felt insulted by my leaders.

Soon after that, I was on my way to an appointment to show the Christian books to a family in Grove Oklahoma. As I was driving down an old dirt road, I ran across an old historic church and a very old cemetery next to it. Being the history buff that I am, I decided to take a few minutes and look around. It was interesting! Many of the people had died in the 1800′s. I saw many graves for children and little babies. One family had lost four babies over the course of a few years, and I was amazed at the faith of this family as they had a Scripture promise engraved on each grave marker.

As I was contemplating the suffering this family must have endured, it dawned on me that many of these people had died at ages a lot younger than I was. Soon I was contemplating the fact that I had outlived many of these people and, of course, was the only one alive right now. Soon a voice inside my mind started asking me the questions, “Why have you outlived these people, and why are you alive right now?” As I pondered the suffering and heartache of the families represented in the cemetery and in the world today, it hit me like a bolt of lightning! I am not alive today to win trophies and awards. Those trophies cannot heal broken hearts, they cannot forgive sins and they cannot give people hope for tomorrow. Suddenly I realized how selfish and silly I had been. I decided to minister to save people’s souls and give them hope and not to win awards. I then realized the meaning of the words in an old classic hymn, “When my trophies at last I lay down, I will cling to the old rugged cross.” I realized my trophies were my works, what I had earned. Of course nothing that I had earned, could ever heal a broken heart, forgive a single sin, or save my soul, let alone someone else’s!

Finally, the regional director felt sorry for me and sent me a very nice plaque. Several years after that, I was asked to have a vespers service for a church youth group camp-out. I asked them to have a bonfire going as I gave my talk. I showed the kids my nice shiny plaque and let them admire it as I talked about how hard I had worked for it. Then I told them how that plaque could do nothing to save me or anyone else. I then took the trophy and threw it into the fire. As the trophy melted in the fire and the kids looked at me with shocked expressions, I told them that “My trophies I lay down, and now cling to the old rugged cross.” I don’t need the trophy, I need the cross, for it can accomplish so much more for a hurting, dying world! Now, instead of being motivated by awards and trophies to save souls, I am motivated by the cross of Christ. “The love of Christ constrains me.”

I told you about my trophy. Now what about yours? Are you holding onto a trophy in your life today? Ask yourself if that trophy can heal a broken heart, or forgive sins, or give people hope. I encourage you to lay down your trophy and join me, as we all cling to the old rugged cross. Never again do I want to live to draw people’s attention to my trophies. I am alive today for one reason and one reason only—to draw people’s attention to the Cross of Christ.

Why are you alive today?

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.

Glimpse of the Cross Day 5; The Gospel Versus Legalism

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Legalism: We make sacrifices to obtain God’s love.

 The Gospel:  God provided a sacrifice to obtain our love.    Romans 5:10-12:

“ For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only [so], but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” In pagan religions the sacrifice enables the god to love the humans, while in Christianity the cross enables the humans to love their God.

 Legalism: We keep the commandments in order to get a reward.

 The Gospel: We keep the commandments because we love Jesus.  John  14:15:

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

 Legalism: We want to get sin out of our lives because of the investigative judgment.

 The Gospel: We want to get sin out of our lives because sin crucifies Jesus.  Isaiah  53:4-6:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

 Legalism: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He is coming soon.

 The Gospel: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He loves us. 1 John 4:19:

  “We love him, because he first loved us.”

 Legalism: Good behavior is motivated by a hope of reward or fear of punishment.

 The Gospel: Good behavior is motivated by our love for Jesus regardless of consequences.  2 Corinthians 5:14: 

“For the love of Christ constraineth us.”

Legalism: God’s grace is a response to our faith.

 The Gospel: Our faith is a response to God’s grace. Ephesians 2 :8-9: 

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Legalism:   Me plus Christ.

 The Gospel:  NOT I, BUT CHRIST.   Galatians 2:20: 

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet NOT I, BUT CHRIST  liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

 Legalism: Self- centered. Obedience according to my own standards, in my own power, for my own glory.

 The Gospel: God- centered. Obedience according to God’s standards, in His power for His glory.

 “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:11

Legalism: All about pride and rewards.

 The Gospel: All about love and humility.

Galatians 5:4-6  (The Message)  “I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.”

Escape Legalism and discover the gospel at theTampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, or a gospel loving church near you.

Read how the gospel message in the three angels message destroys the legalism of Babylon.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

Glimpse of the Cross Day 4; Hard to be Lost

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41

Does it sometimes seem hard to get to heaven? I have good news for you! Jesus is planning on you going to heaven with Him. In the verse above, Jesus says hell is prepared for the devil and his angels and that does not include you! While hell is being prepared for the devil and his angels, look what Jesus has prepared for you.

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” Matthew 25:34 

That is good news that Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven and not in hell. He is planning for us to be in heaven with Him. Some Bible verses at first glance make salvation seam hard to obtain. For example Matthew 7:14 says,

“strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”  

Don’t get discouraged! Here is some good news from  Mount of Blessing, pages 139 and140:

“Yet do not therefore conclude that the upward path is the hard and the downward road the easy way. All along the road that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God’s love has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves. … If we take Christ for our guide, He will lead us safely. The veriest sinner need not miss his way.  … With Christ as our guide we shall not fail of reaching the desired haven at last. Christ Himself has trodden the rough way before us and has smoothed the path for our feet.” 

So is it hard to be saved or is it hard to be lost? The God Who wants us saved is much stronger than the devil who wants us lost!

He [God] would sooner send every angel out of heaven to protect His people than leave one soul that trusts in Him to be overcome by Satan. -Great Controversy Page 560

God is expecting to see you in heaven.

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.” John 14:1-3  

Glimpse of the Cross Day 3; Over Zealous Peter Cuts off an Ear

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. John 18:10 NLT

Have you ever been so zealous of defending what you believed to be right, that you hurt someone? Or has someone ever hurt you? Unfortunately Peter is not the only disciple who has misrepresented Jesus through the ages. I think we all have caused needless pain, thinking we were defending the truth, and I think we all have been hurt a time or two by some else who thought they were defending truth. That is why I am so glad we have a healing Jesus! Look what Jesus does.

 But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:51 NLT

I know when I am needlessly hurt by one of Jesus’ disciples that Jesus can heal me and take away the hurt. Meanwhile I pray for Jesus to heal those I have needlessly hurt also by my miss-directed zeal.

Glimpse of the Cross Day 2; Jesus’ Mission Did Not Focus on Petty Grudges

Tampa Night

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.  Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.” Matthew 26:49-50 NLT

Jesus did not call Judas a traitor or back stabber.  He was not fighting   against people but against,

…evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 NLT

Jesus looked beyond Judas and identified the real enemy as Satan, and identified Judas as friend. Now whether or nor Judas was a good friend or not is one thing, but Jesus had to focus on His higher mission and not worry about lesser things, like who His real friends were. His faith was not in His friends. His faith was in His Father. He knew His Father had His back regardless if His friends did or not. Likewise we can be sure God has our back, and focus on our higher mission, without being distracted by petty and even not so petty grudges.