Through His Love and Faithfulness….

Proverbs 16:6-7 reads like this:

Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.
When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD,
he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.

I love these verses.  They speak to the love of Christ, and really to ALL that we are to do.  He loves us, and because he loved us first, we love him.  And because we love him, we are to love others just as he loves us.  I’m hearing Michael Jackson singing “ABC” in my head as I type this…..  Yet, as simple as this is, we just can’t get it.  I can’t get it.

Love and Faithfulness…..  Through God’s love and faithfulness -even when we were sinners, when we hated God – he sent his Son that we would be redeemed.  that all our sins are paid for.  All of them.  This is the most outrageous claim anyone could ever make!  We hate him, we cry for his blood, whip him, spit on him, nail him to a cross, mock him – and he cries out “Father forgive them!”  Keep in mind, these are the same people Jesus was calling “brood of vipers”.

That’s all well and good, and sure he died for the sins of the world – THEN.  What about now?  How can he atone for sins that hadn’t yet been committed???

The death he died, he died to sin once for all (Romans 6:10)

Yep, it says ALL.  Doesn’t say all up to this point, or all in Jesus’ time.  Or – as difficult as it is for our little minds to comprehend – all sins, even the worst conceivable…..

I’ve heard that more than once, by some close friends and family members.  And honestly, I think that is one of the most difficult things for us to overcome.  How can my horrible sins be washed away?  I’m not worthy of his atonement!

And – I’m not.  You’re not.  Yet – through love and faithfulness, we are redeemed!  We must remember, there is NOTHING we can do to redeem ourselves.  Which to me is a relief, because bottom line is most of us wouldn’t do it if we could.  Not that we want to go to hell – we just don’t care enough to put any effort in.

He does.  He chose us.  He sent his only Son in our place.  And he CAN!  Outrageous!  Amazing!

Fear of the LORD…..  Why should we fear this God who loves us so much?  I mean, it seems so counter to everything I just described, doesn’t it?

I think that is a huge stumbling block for skeptics – why would a loving God impose fear in us?  How does that line up with LOVE????  I even had a brother in Christ argue against this – using the comparison to his dog and him.  If his dog fears him, he won’t come running to his lap, he’d instead cower and hide.

Or worse – attack?

See, but this is not talking about TERROR.  the terror  that incites  a fight or flight mentaility we see here being described would come from two possibilities, as I see it:

  1. The poor dog has good reason to experience terror when his mastor is around – not the case with my friend.  He loves his dog!  He’d never dream of causing harm to his little friend.
  2. The dog doesn’t know him.  He is in fact his dog’s master – if the dog poops on the floor, does he just say it’s ok?  Or worse – if the dog were to try and run into traffic, would not correct his little friend?  Isn’t his dog important enough to him then, to correct?  But these corrections would likely be taken as hostility, if imposed by someone the dog doesn’t know.

You could use parents and children in this comparison as well.  Would you not correct your children, for their sake?  This is exactly what God will do, and exactly why his word says to fear him.  it’s not TERROR, as he’s not a monster, imposing fear in our hearts and causing pain to bring him joy.  But to those who don’t know him, I suppose it could seem that way.  But those who konw and serve the Lord – we are to fear him, and not think for one moment we can elevate ourselves to god-like status – something I must confess I too often do, even if I don’t realize it at the time……

So  if you’ve ever wondered why there are so many conflicting verses in the Bible on fear……..

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7)

But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 17:7)

Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls  into trouble (Proverbs 28:14)

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18)

These are just a small few – but you get the idea.  If you have ever wrestled with what this means, you’re definitely not alone.  But really, what do you fear?  Some will say “nothing”.  And I’ll say they are lying.  We fear something.  So often, it’s not God we fear.  It’s man….  We want to please man, or look good, or at least not be made fun of.  Imagine if Jesus feared man?  No bold speaches, or wonderful teachings.  Probably no miracles, because he would  have been afraid of being one-upped, or mocked, or whether or not he should heal someone on the sabbath????  And definitely no cross.  No dying on our behalf.  No love and faithfulness, because he’d ultimately have been thinking of himself…..  Something I thank him daily that he didn’t do……

See Jesus feared (revered) the Father.  And did only His will.  Not ours, not theirs, not his own.  I think this verse sums it up, and lines up perfectly:

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe (Proverbs 29:25)

Fear of the Lord is not to be terror.  It’s love in return.  And we can only fear (love) him because he first love us….

I’m going to break out the second part of the passage I started with, into another post.  For now, this is some food (or fodder) for thought……

Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.
When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD,
he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.

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The End of Days…..

So I am writing about the end times. These days, it seems that is reserved for religious nutcases, assuming that May 21st is when Jesus comes back, or the rapture will happen, or name your distortion of biblical truth – and then for those who are loving every opportunity to mock said nutcases.

Not that Jesus isn’t coming back mind you – and I have not way of knowing if May 21st is or isn’t thee day.  But he clearly says nobody will know until the Son of Man returns – read Matthew 24:36-44 for starters, to see what Jesus has to say about the end of days:

 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;  and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Why am I bothering to write about this? Am I one of these two camps I write about? Or both? As I ponder why we have such fascination with things such as this, I can think of a few things:

  • We are fascinated easily with the ridiculous:  Vampires, UFOs, Jerry Springer, Donald Trump, on and on.  These claims, along with the mayan claims the world will end in 2012, and so on, fall in line.  I’m not saying this to discount Jesus’ return.  I’ll explain my point in a bit.  Bear with me……
  • We are unsatisfied with our normal lives.  So it’s much more fun to either “believe”, if even just a little, the ridiculous, or to go to great lengths to mock it.  I wonder why we would spend so much time mocking it, if we didn’t at least “wonder” deep down just a little bit if it were true?  When I was a kid, I used to sleep with my blanket over my head, becasue a little part of me was afraid that vampires “might be real”.  When Y2K was the thing, I verbally mocked all those who stored up goods and ammunition, yet I was awake that new year more becasue I wanted to see if anything might happen.  I bet many of you were too, for the same reason, if you’re being honest with yourself…..
  • All this mumbo-jumbo is distracting from some very important truth…..
  • The end times is a biblical truth.  If you don’t believe the Bible is truth, is the word of God – well, we aren’t agreeing on that, and you could probably skip the rest of this post, assuming I’m a religious nut.  But if you claim that Jesus is Lord, if you claim that he told the truth in saying he’s the Son of God, if you claim that you believe in and follow God – then you can’t NOT believe that all that he says is true.  (I suppose you could – but then who are you putting your faith in?  A liar?)
  • None of what I’m saying is to promote fear in anyone’s heart, in hopes they “convert”.  Whether or not you believe in God, that’s up to you.  I can’t change your mind.  But if you don’t believe, what do you have to be afraid of?  It’s all bunk right?  If however you do believe the Bible to be true, and you follow Jesus, and truly know him as your Lord ans Savior, what do you have to be afraid of?  We are assured eternal life with the Father – and oh, by the way that’s not a future thing.  That’s now, praise the Lord!
  • Jesus talks a lot about the end times.  He also warns us to NOT get caught up in fear over it, or waste our lives, and potentially others, worrying about it.  Worrying will not add one hour to your life – whether or not you see the end of days….
  • Jesus also tells us that we won’t know until it happens.  He wants us to be ready now.  He wants our hearts now.  All of us.  So I wonder sometimes if getting caught up in this stuff, whether we believe it or not, if we are missing that one important truth.  If we are missing the point – God wants his children to return to him.
  • Even if we don’t see the end times in our lifetime – we’re still going to come before our Creator.  Take that however you will – with joy and excitement, with fear and trepidation, or for some even apathy……  When it’s May 22nd, and nothing happens, it’ll be just one more thing that will dull the senses for so many, including believers, and make us not care if Jesus is coming back…….  This assertion would be true about more of us than are willing to admit…….
  • Part of me – a part that I’m not the most proud of, I must admit – thinks it would be funny if Jesus were to come back on May 20th.  But then I think about everyone who see’s this and other fantastic claims as bunk, and throw the baby out with the bathwater, and what happens to them?  And then I myself get fearful.  When I should be prayerful.  See how powerful these ridiculous things are, when we should be holding fast to HIS truth, not the world’s claims???

I think the bottom line is this – much like a lot of religious ranting, it can be distracting from what matters.  We often put the cart before the horse, so to speak.  Jesus says “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”.  GET TO KNOW JESUS.  That’s all.  He’s overcome the world, so why worry about the troubles?  Yes, we will have them, yes we have to deal with them.  Yes, all these things will come to pass, and it’ll be hard and it’ll hurt and and knowing Jesus doesn’t make any of that go away.  John 16:33 lays it out for us:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I’ll leave you with this.  The end times are something to take joy in, and have hope for.  We’re talking about EVERYTHING being made new, and for good.  All the problems of the world today?  Won’t be here.  All the hatred, judgement, racism, sexism, oppression, pain, war, cancer, death, heartbreak, sex-traffic, greed, lust, sexual sin, divorce, murder, slander, drama, selfishness, hunger?  Won’t be here.  A new heaven and a new earth!  While I must admit I’m still nervous about meeting Jesus face to face (what will I say?  What will I wear???), I can’t help but be thankful that I some day will…..

From Revelation, the last two chapters….

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.  He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.  It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.  It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls.  The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long.  He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using.  The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.  The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,  the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.  The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.  On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.  The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”

Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.”

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give youthis testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

   Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

A Truthful Witness Saves Lives…..

A truthful witness saves lives,
but a false witness is deceitful. (Proverbs 14:25)

Very powerful words.  Jesus said “The truth will set you free”.  Today, it’s common belief that truth is relative, or “unknowable”.  We claim to want concrete evidence, yet are so willing to believe the most fascinating stories or theories.  What drives us to believe what we believe?  Where are we getting our information?  Who is a reliable source?  Who can we trust???

Jesus prefaced his statement about the truth setting us free, in John 8, as such:

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

So here we see Jesus is claiming to be the source of truth.  And in fact, if you read the Gospel of John in its entirety, or any of the Gospels, you will see that the “teaching” he refers to is that which God the Father has given already in the Old Testament.  He even claims to have testimony from the Father in John 8, when the pharisees question Jesus’ authority.  Essentially, his teachings come directly from God the Father, as does his authority.

Jesus made claims that his teaching was the truth.  All of it.  Which means he’s either God in flesh, as he claimed, or he’s a liar.  And his teaching is not the truth.  Which one do you think he is?

If he’s a liar:

  • He did a great job in setting up the “miracles” he performed, including orchestrating all the afflicted to work with him.  This includes some who had to act out their afflictions for years (the man who was crippled by the well, the woman who was bleeding for years, the boy who was born blind, etc).
  • He also tricked his disciples many times – walking on water, feeding thousands with just a few items, returning after being crucified and killed, ascending into heaven.  But I suppose his disciples could have all been delusional.  If that were the case, I wonder how these delusional, simple fishermen, who were not educated or well-spoken, were able to then share boldly this “truth” they so believed.  And why die for it?  We see they all scattered when Jesus was captured – where then later did they muster up so much courage, to die for this lie?
  • If he is a liar, he was a fool.  Remember, he had the respect of many, even at a young age.  He certainly had the ability to “influence” others.  Why not use that for his gain?  But we see he gained nothing on this earth……..
  • If he’s a liar, Jesus is the epitomy of a false witness

However, if Jesus is telling the truth:

  • He is in fact the Son of God.  He is in fact God in flesh (John 8:58)
  • He came to earth as a human for one reason – to save the world (John 3:16)
  • Everything he says is true – all of it.  Ever word.  Which means if we know his truth, it WILL set us free!

But even if Jesus is telling the truth – do we really know his truth?  Do we know the word of God?  do we study it, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts through it?  Or do we water it down with devotionals and commentaries (including mine)?  Or worse – replace it with worldly sayings that make us feel good?

The Gospel is sometimes harsh.  sometimes painful to swallow.  Sometimes goes against what we consider “normal” today.  But the Gospel is never condemning.  God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes shall never perish but instead have eternal life.  Good news!

Jesus did not come to make us feel better about ourselves.  That is what a false witness would do.  Jesus came to save lives.  That is what a truthful witness does……

Many Samaritans Believed…..

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

I think it’s clear we are encouraged to share what the Lord has done in our hearts and in our lives.  It’s not about proselytizing (whew!  I had to look that one up, to make sure I spelled it correctly!), or changing another.  It’s not about “winning them over to our side”.  it’s about sharing, and bringing to glory to Jesus through what he’s done for us.  that’s all.  Let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  Much like Jesus did while on earth.

And look how excited this Samaritan woman was to tell everyone about this prophet!  That’s all she did!  And they saw for themselves!

Not so scary now, is it?  🙂

Man’s Testimony About Man…

He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man (John 2:25)

I often wonder why God chooses us to proclaim his Gospel, when he could certainly do a better job.  I almost always botch it up, if I even get the courage to share the good news with others.  While it isn’t about me, I still make it about me – winning an argument, “saving face”, or even neglecting to share because I don’t want to look stupid…….

But – how stupid can I look, really?  Or better yet – how much more stupid can I look than I truly am?  🙂

So riddle me this – if I’m so willing and excited to share all this cool stuff about my kids (Dylan’s baseball escapades, Stella’s guitar virtuoso-isms or the fact that she’s a rocker like her dad and mom), or I can brag on my super cool, sweet and beautiful wife all day long (and she is super cool, sweet and beautiful, by the way),  why is it so hard or scary or intimidating to share the love of Christ with others?????

For some reason I still have it stuck in my head that I have to CONVERT others to my way of thinking.  Don’t get me wrong – this is not my intention, for more than one reason.  One, if I’m converting someone to my way of thinking, then I become the object of worship (idolatry).  Two, I don’t tend to value my way of thinking enough to make others want to see things my way – which is flat out wrong, because my way of thinking is not my way but His.  Three, I know how annoying that is, and I myself tend to rebel when others do so to me.  So when I say I have it stuck in my head that I must convert, I know deep down that is not the case.  I say that only to state that it’s a fear that creeps up.

I know down in my heart that I’m not called to save others.  I CAN’T save others.  That’s His job!  I’m just called to share.  And others can take it or leave it, hear it or shut it out.  Seems to easy, and I really don’t know why it’s so intimidating!

Yet it is.  And even though it is intimidating, I often neglect to ask the Holy Spirit to speak.  So I either chicken out, or worse…..  I spout off, making it MY argument to win, not HIS testimony.

And while others do such a better job at this – I know I’m not alone.  And I know nobody is perfect in sharing his good news – we all botch it up from time to time.

So – going back to the verse I quoted, “He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man“.  We see that Jesus does not need our testimony about us.  That doesn’t mean we don’t share our story, and what he’s done for us.  In fact, it then isn’t about us anymore – it’s what HE has done!  Still – he doesn’t need it.  He will have his glory, regardless of whether or not I share.  His word says that “every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord”.  It doesn’t say “if Ted tells these people about it”.

There is enough in the world that points to him and his glory – or we can even look at the world itself for the love! – that he doesn’t need us to share our stories.  And he knows that we will mess it up, more often than not!  So – why does he give us this daunting task then, if he doesn’t need us???

Relationship.  It’s one thing I can think of.  Just as he desires a relationship with us, he has placed in us a desire to have a relationship with others.  And just as no relationship with anyone has been as pure, as honest, as fulfilling as the one I have with Jesus, lately I have found that the godly relationships I have with others have been on a level I myself could never have imagined!

This is not to slight any of my friends or family members who don’t believe.  No, in fact, quite the opposite.  I would argue that a fear of being mocked, or “what someone might think” has prohibited relationships from developing further with some people in my life – because I have felt like I couldn’t be myself.  And really, I’m doing them a discredit, by NOT being myself.  That I apologize for, and that I must change….

Selflessness, vs selfishness.  So, he’s done all this for me.  Why would I not want to boast in him?  I can easily boast of my own deeds – make myself look cool.  Why are we so quick to do this, yet so slow to brag on someone else, much less the Savior himself???  So I’ll say this – silence is selfish.  If I am not willing to share with you this gift – a gift you can freely receive, or freely reject – how much more do I consider myself than you?  And if Jesus considered all of us more than him (which is why he died for us – all of us….), and I’m called to follow him, then why do I continue to put myself before you?  That I apologize for, and that I must change…..

It just blows my mind, that a God so big would not only trust to us, but also empower us to be the bringers of this good news!

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7)