Archive for the ‘Forgiveness & Salvation’ Category

The Two Paths

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If you’re like me, you are repeatedly drawn back to the very center of the Bible: the Psalms.

These ancient, inspired songs supernaturally connect our lives with the very heartbeat of our Heavenly Father. They openly express vast ranges of raw emotion, ask difficult questions and invoke intimate conversations with God. They take us on a journey from the cries of our darkest valleys to shouts of joy on the highest mountaintops. Uniting heart and head, they invite us to sing along by lifting our eyes (and emotions) to an Eternal Throne and the unchanging Truth of our Mighty God.

When we open this Hebrew hymnal to Psalm 1, we find only 6 verses. Although deceptively short, it is succinctly provocative and significant. Beginning with “blessed” and ending with “perish,” we should be quick to exclaim, “I want to be the blessed one; not the one who perishes!”

And just like that, we are shown there are only two ways: the way of the righteous/blessing and the way of the wicked/perishing.

Jesus also spoke of these same two paths when He told us about the broad way and the narrow way (Matthew 7:13-14) or when He talked about building your life on the Rock, not the Sand (Matthew 7:24-27) or as He spoke about the wheat/tares (Matthew 13:24-30) or the sheep/goats (Matthew 25:29-46) – to name a few.

But with these two ways comes the inescapable call to choose – for the path you walk will determine your eternal destiny.

The path of the blessing is initially described by what it is not. Notice the warning of a slow, downward progression: don’t walk in the counsel/advice of the wicked or you might just end up standing around in the path of sinners and ultimately find yourself sitting down in the seat of scoffers (1:1). What is at first seemingly causal ultimately becomes fixed and final.

Instead, we must cling to the Word of the Lord – and not primarily as a discipline or a duty, but as our “delight” (1:2)!

Think about that! Whatever delights you effects your entire being and gives you great pleasure! In that same sense, if you delight in His Word then you rejoice in reading it and hearing His Voice. Plus, it is Life-giving because of your relationship with the Life-Giver (Psalm 16:11).

And this blessed one “meditates” on God’s Word “day and night” (1:2). You might say, “That’s impossible.” But in the Bible, this Hebrew word is not only used in a good way like “meditate,” but also in a negative sense when someone is “plotting” or “devising” a plan. Most of us can probably recall a time when someone wronged us and, over and over, almost involuntarily, we kept thinking about them while we pondered telling them off or figuring out how to get even!

So how is it we can so easily stew over someone but find it hard to mediate on the Word of God?!

Jesus calls it “abiding” (John 15:5), but either way, we should invite the Word into our hearts every day and nurture an ongoing, delight-full conversation with God. His Word is Spirit and Truth and Life. Breathe deeply and often and allow it to flow through your whole being with its Life-giving power.

And look at the result of clinging to the Word and its Author: You will “be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water” (1:3). More accurately, you will be like a tree that was “transplanted” from one location to another. The Hebrew verb is passive.

In other words, God Himself picked up the tree (that’s you) and planted it next to His streams of Living Water!

This tree is not only firmly planted (gracious, divine intervention), but also:

by streams of water (reliable, abundant provision)
yields its fruit in its season (a timely blessing to others, impactful, a heritage)
its leaf does not wither (drought-proof, a comfort and refuge to others)
in whatever you do, you prosper (the favor of God, divine purpose/fulfillment)

Now contrast this blessed, fruitful tree with those who choose the other path – those who scoff at God and pursue their own way – the way of sin – the way of the world. They are like chaff which is quickly blown away (1:4).

In those days, the harvested wheat was manually beaten on a windy hillside (the threshing floor) to separate the grain of wheat from its husk/chaff. Then the two were thrown into the air and the inedible part (the chaff) was blown away while the good part (the grain) fell to the ground. Why?

Because the useless, weightless chaff was quickly scattered by the wind whereas the valuable, heavy grain neatly fell in place and was gathered.

So it will be in the Day of Judgment (1:5). The Lord knows, cares for and watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish like chaff on a windy day (1:6). Please note: there is no third way.

By the blood of the Lamb, you can stand before God forgiven and clothed in His glorious righteousness or go your own way only to be scattered in ruin by the guilt of your sin.

This is a call to choose. Choose wisely.

—————–

Psalm 1

1 How blessed is the man who
Does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright ©1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

the death of death

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No one likes a bully. They seem to be lurking around every corner. Ready to pounce, they intimidate and humiliate. Inflicting constant worry and dread, bullies push us around and try to imprison us in isolation. Many of us have had to endure a bully in our past, but everyone on earth is pursued by this enemy.

From our first breath, an unseen adversary came to visit. One more formidable and oppressive than any we’ve ever encountered. Stalking us night and day, there is no escape from the threats it intends to keep. This ancient foe, unearthed in the Garden, sits atop the food chain with no natural predators.

Death is a cruel enemy.

Wielding a host of lethal weaponry against the weakness of sinful flesh, we fear it and do everything in our power to avoid it. Satan, the unmerciful master of death, seeks to steal, kill and destroy. He was a murderer from the beginning. He delights in death and rejoices over the grave.

Remember when Jesus came to the tomb of His friend Lazarus? As He approached it and saw the weeping of Mary, He was “intensely moved in spirit” – the Greek literally says, “He snorted with anger.” For as Jesus, the Author of Life, walked toward death, it made Him groan out loud with anger.

He hated the lies of Satan.
He hated how sin brings death.
He hated how death separates.
He hated such pain and distress.

Oh, what a Savior!

Jesus was angry, but His anger sprung from a supernatural heart of love and compassion that moved Him to face our enemies on the cross. Jesus confronted sin, Satan and death on our behalf and was victorious. As the perfect sacrifice for sin, the sinless Son of God rose from the dead never to die again! He silenced the boasts of Satan and conquered the grave!

Thank You, Jesus, for the victory we have over sin and death.
Thank You for the power of Your precious blood.
Thank You that we no longer must live in fear.
Thank you that nothing, including death, can ever separate us from Your amazing love.

Oh, what a Savior!

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 ESV

when the rooster crows

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Guilty  
Cold 
Alone 
Accused
Ashamed
“What have you done?”
And the rooster crows 
 
Running 
Denying 
Justifying 
Hiding
Sewing fig leaves 
“Where are you?”
And the rooster crows 
 
The weight, heavy
The voices, condemning 
The burden, unbearable
The fear, enslaving  
The lie, empty
“Who told you?”
And the rooster crows 
 
Truth arises
Blood shed
Debt paid 
Grace flows
Chains broken
Free indeed
“Where are your accusers?”
 
No more shame
No more condemnation 
No more guilt 
No more fear
No more darkness 
No more running 
“Come to Me”
 
 For from His fullness
we have all received,
grace upon grace.
John 1:16 NASB

A Not So Silent Night

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Any woman who has ever been “great with child” can certainly relate to the discomfort Mary would have experienced making the difficult 80-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem so late in her pregnancy. Such a small town bursting to overcapacity from the mandated census made finding peaceful accommodations all the more challenging. Since the trip was exhausting and there was “no room for them in the inn,” Mary and Joseph bedded down in an area where animals were kept. It was good just to get off their feet.

And while they were there – at just the right time – in the fullness of time, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger. Fitting, a common feeding trough became a cradle for the Bread of Life. By all appearances, His was an extraordinarily ordinary birth.

Along with a chorus of animals and the percussion of a crowded village, the cries of a newborn baby harmonized the night’s song. The One who had spoken all things into existence by the power of His Word – the Word made flesh, now as Mary’s little lamb, is reduced to the simplest form of human speech.

Shepherds, keeping watch over their sheep in nearby fields, were the first to receive the Good Shepherd’s birth announcement. Heaven’s joy simply could not be contained and spilled out across the skies. For suddenly, the shepherds were surrounded by the glory of the Lord as multitudes of the heavenly host began praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men” (Luke 2:13-14).

The angels sang at the dawn of creation and now they sing at the dawn of redeeming grace! Oh, the majesty of such praise! For on that not so silent night, the King of Kings lovingly set aside His royal crown, clothed His glory with flesh and made His throne a bed of hay.

Jesus. God with us. His was no ordinary birth. Let heaven and nature sing!

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!”

“For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all nations…” Luke 2:30 NIV

Shiloh

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Nestled on a grassy hillside 25 miles north of Jerusalem, you’ll find some excavated stones with lots of scattered pieces of pottery quietly paving the ground. But 3,500 years ago, Joshua made a home for the tabernacle in Shiloh and it became the center of worship of Jehovah God for the next 369 years.

As we stood on that hilltop, we imagined we were among the twelve tribes who gathered to worship as the glorious Presence of God filled the Holy of Holies. Families would bring a sacrificial meal, and once offered, would break the pot as both the meal and the vessel were considered holy unto the Lord. And so, the fragments on which we walked took on whole new meaning.

Can anything beautiful come from such brokenness?

For it was on these fragments a barren, broken and weeping Hannah walked to the door of the tabernacle to beg the Lord for a child (1 Samuel 1:20). God poured the oil of joy onto her pain, answered her prayer and blessed her with a son named Samuel.

And Shiloh had visited us before we visited Shiloh.

After the birth of her first child, our daughter-in-law experienced a miscarriage and cried out to the Lord for another child. God heard her prayer and in February of this year, Samuel was born to Mollie and Jon.

A year ago, our daughter called in tears with news the fertility specialist said her chances of pregnancy were very slim. Yes, the Lord had already blessed her with three wonderful children, but she longed for a fourth. We agreed to ignore the test results and, in faith, cling to God. Within three months, God answered her prayer and just 2 days ago, Hannah was born to Jenn and Ellis.

It’s humbling to think my wife and I were in Shiloh in April, at the very spot where Hannah prayed. Standing on the brokenness of sacrifice, we were overwhelmed with the beauty and goodness of God. How grateful we are for two daughters (and two husbands) of faith and a faithful God.

Is there brokenness you need to bring to God and ask Him to transform into something beautiful? It’s time to go to Shiloh.

“And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:20 ESV

 

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem

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My wife and I recently had the incredible blessing to travel to Israel for the first time. What a unique country! So resilient and fruitful. Such geographic, political and religious diversity. Modern yet ancient. Historic yet prophetic. Painful reminders of disobedience and glorious testaments to perfect obedience.

The eyes of the world are fixed on this tiny nation. So small yet so significant. The world’s three major religions intersect at its capital city. Surrounded by its enemies, there are many signs of both war and peace; hatred and love. Navigating its complexity is only overshadowed by the undeniable truth that it exists because God wills it to be. It is a modern-day miracle and testimony to the faithfulness of God.

People from every nation come to seek Him there. As in ancient times, they seek the glory and Presence of the Lord – the visible Glory that once dwelt in a tabernacle and then in a temple. With its destruction in 70 A.D., many now default to the Western Wall – the closest remaining point to where the Holy of Holies used to be.

Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.” But the Lord answered, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me” Isaiah 49:14-16 NASB.

But there is no Temple, no high priest, no sacrifice. How could the Lord’s promise to Israel still be true?

Ah, but the Lord did not forget. He sent His one and only Son and inscribed their names (and ours) on the palms of Jesus’ hands – not with ink, but with precious blood. Then He displayed His full Glory – a greater glory than ever before through the power of the resurrection! Rejoice O Jerusalem! Rejoice all the earth! The Lamb has become our great High Priest and has sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God!

Put your finger here, and see My hands…and believe!” – Jesus, John 20:27 NASB

In all things as we are

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For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

We have little problem seeing Jesus as the Son of God, but we rarely think about what He felt as a man. This verse doesn’t ask us to consider if Jesus would have sinned (since He did not), but that He could have sinned – that He was truly tempted.

In the wilderness, we clearly see Jesus tempted by the devil to miraculously satisfy His hunger, to sensationally put God to the test, and to blatantly worship the Enemy – yet without sin. But to better understand “in all things as we are,” we need to widen our gaze.

Was Jesus ever tempted to summon angels to rescue Him or call down fire from heaven to destroy His enemies? Was He tempted when they mocked Him to save Himself while on the cross? Was He ever tempted by the many women He ministered to? According to the Word – yes, but without sin.

Was Jesus ever tempted by His power or popularity or when He was misunderstood, rejected or falsely accused? Was He ever tempted to lash out in anger or seek revenge because of betrayal? Was He tempted to avoid the cross altogether? Yes, but without sin.

If these temptations and many more were not real, then Jesus was merely an actor playing a role and reading from a script. Never! Being fully God, Jesus possessed all divine power, but to resist temptation, He deferred to the Father’s will precisely because He was fully man.

Jesus knows what it is like to wear flesh, to feel its limitations, to experience its desires and its disappointments – yet without sin. He sympathizes with our weaknesses. Don’t allow your temptations or your sins to keep you from Him. Don’t picture God frowning and shaking His head in disgust.

Because of Jesus, there is a fountain filled with a Savior’s cleansing blood, a Spirit within you to help fight the spiritual battles waging war against you and a merciful Father with arms open wide. Remember, the Son of God is also the Son of Man.

Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 NASB

the Lover of your Soul

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For the shepherd in the areas surrounding Jerusalem, the care of his sheep was a full-time commitment. From the safety of the home-front to higher grounds and back again, the seasonal journeys were necessary to find new pastures and fresh waters. While on the road as night fell, the shepherd would construct a make-shift sheep pen out of available brush and he himself would bed down as the literal door to that shelter. This would ensure that his sheep could not wander nor predators attack without first crossing over him.

Periodically, a shepherd would become ill or need to take a few days off and so a rent-a-shepherd – a hired hand had to be called in. While he would go through the same basic routine, there was one huge contingency: if and when a wolf came, the hired-hand fled (John 10:12-13). Why? These weren’t his sheep. Why risk his life over a few days hourly wage?

Not so the Good Shepherd.

He knows His own and lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). As the Door, those that hear His voice and enter through Him, will go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9). They are saved and safe; they are free and flourish in His care. The Good Shepherd is so protective and compassionate about His sheep because He once experienced life from their point of view – our point of view. He has heard our cries and knows how desperately we need Him.

Behold, the Lamb of God is the Good Shepherd!

And on that very last Passover, He became the once-and-for-all sacrifice to take away our sin as His innocent body was broken and His precious blood poured out on a door in the shape of a cross. For the Enemy of our soul came to destroy us, but the Good Shepherd did not flee. Rather, He fought for us and triumphed over sin, hell and death. He willingly gave His life and then rose again so that we could have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

This is our Good Shepherd – the Lover of our souls. He is our Passover – our Exodus – our Door. And the horror of the Cross is only overshadowed by its wonder. For Jesus loves me, this I know.

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21 NASB).

Just another day?

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Since Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, shouldn’t we be astounded that the Eternal Son of God would willingly clothe His divine glory with flesh?

Shouldn’t we be speechless at the One who spoke everything into existence by the power of His Word willingly reduced to unintelligible sounds in the arms of His mother?

Shouldn’t we stand in awe as we consider His long and humbling journey from the right hand of the Father to the womb of a virgin as Creator became creature?

Jesus. Immanuel. God with us. The Promised One. The perfect Lamb of God born to die for our sins. His birthday was the day in the fullness of time when God’s Incarnate Love could no longer be restrained. It was that perfect day when the dawn of redeeming grace pierced our sinful darkness and heaven’s joy could not be contained.

Yes, Jesus came that holy night long ago and that’s good news, but the best news is that He is still coming for you. This Christmas, may Jesus be born anew in our hearts as we fall on our knees in worship – unable to describe the indescribable. But where words fall short, wonder says it all.

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 1 Timothy 3:16 & 2 Corinthians 9:15

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Drifting

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My eyes are open,
But it’s so dark I cannot see.
Weary, empty, thirsty,
I only feel the rolling of the waves.

The current moves me further from
Where I thought I’d be
Where I need to be
Where I should be.

I am drifting
My feet hang over the depths of the abyss
My failures surround me like a vast ocean
I am immersed in a sea of regret.

Yet I am strangely content.
I deserve this.
Unfit for the land of the living
Unworthy of the safety of dry ground.

Broken.
Forgotten.
Preserved by only an old wooden beam,
Unsure how I continue to cling.

“You are not alone.
I am near — here.
That beam is stronger than you know,
And it bears more weight than your own.

Feel the power of My grip
Making sure you never let go.
My love is far deeper than any abyss,
My grace much stronger than any current.

You are Mine and your life is in My hands.
I am your Rock and your Redeemer.
Though you cannot see shore, I can.
Believe.”

If the Lord had not been my help,
My soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
When I thought, “My foot is slipping,”
Your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
Psalm 94:17-18

From Recovery to Revival

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The rains have stopped for now, but many are afraid and living in uncertainty about what is to come.  We have all seen – and some of us have actually become – those heroes risking their own lives to save others.  Dramatic rescues.  Emotional reunions.  People leaving almost everything behind having only gratitude as they stand on dry ground.

So as blue skies appear overhead this morning and we slowly begin to move from rescue to recovery, there will be so much opportunity for the body of Christ to unite and come alongside to help in the coming months.  The recovery process in Houston will be monumental.  Many of us will take people in, care for those in shelters, help with the clean up or pick up a hammer to rebuild.

But we must not forget that our God “sits enthroned – sits as King – over the flood” (Psalm 29:10) and that He is “mightier than the thunders of many waters” (Psalm 93:4).  We must not forget that even in disaster, He has purpose.  The challenge for us now is to fully embrace that purpose.

Can you see God’s mercy even in this catastrophe?  People have been rescued literally from death, yet in His sovereignty, He granted them another day of life.  They could have perished in the flood, but they did not.  That’s mercy!   His mercy.  Can you see it?

And now that they are safe from the floodwaters of Harvey, are they truly safe?  They may have been rescued by a boat, but are they in the ark?  Jesus is our ark.  Our only place of safety.  Our only mighty refuge from the storm.  And the good news is, the Door is still open!

The body of Christ now has a tremendous opportunity to continue to lovingly meet physical needs while seeking to turn fear into faith and despair into hope.  Recovery can lead to revival!  Can you see it?

Oh Lord, by the power of Your Spirit, help us to convert the current momentum of physical rescue and provision into spiritual rescue and revival.  You are still the God of this city.  Unite the body of Christ like never before and use us to bring people to the Door of the Ark.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:1

 

 

 

If you only knew

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If you only knew

How often I doubt
How little I pray
How quickly I despair
How weak I am

If you only knew

How I struggle with sin
How I cling to control
How much I complain
How selfish I am

If you only knew

How much I worry
How often I fail
How much I compare
How ashamed I am

If you only knew

How quickly I quit
How much I hurt
How often I cry
How lonely I am

If you only knew

How much I regret
How often I fear
How much I hide
How heavy I am

If you only knew
If you only knew

How intimately I know you
How deeply I care for you
How fully you can trust Me
How good I am

If you only knew

How My joy can fill you
How My peace can calm you
How My Presence can satisfy you
How near I am

If you only knew

How My plan is to prosper you
How My strength renews you
How My touch can heal you
How merciful I am

If you only knew

How wonderful is My Spirit
How amazing is My Grace
How redeeming is My Forgiveness
How unfathomable is My Love

If you only knew

How great is My faithfulness
How precious are My promises
How powerful is My Word
How I’ve come to set you free

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
for He has anointed Me
to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim
that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed
will be set free.”
Jesus

Luke 4:18 NLT

Chains

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It’s not a sin to live in Sodom and Gomorrah, but Sodom and Gomorrah should not live in us.  No matter the location, size or demographics of your city, the alluring pull of the world is ever-present.  And with social media and the Internet, our city’s limits have expanded to vast dimensions – and so have the rivals for our hearts.

We were created to love, but we are warned “not to love the world nor the things in the world” (1 John 2:15).  When we do, we marry our identity, purpose and affection to something other than Jesus.  It’s as though we handcraft idols to worship and grant control of our lives.  These modernized idols are usually not made of stone, wood or gold, but manifest in possessions, comfort, approval, accomplishment and control.

Regardless of how patiently and subtlety we may have been wooed – regardless of how adamantly we may deny possessing them – God is calling us to turn our back on these idols.  We must destroy them by seeing them for what they are, breaking off the power we’ve granted them and looking to Jesus to set our hearts free.  Jesus warns that we “cannot serve two masters.”  We cannot wholly serve one without “hating” the other (Matthew 6:24).

Oh, you might selectively love God, but when His way and your expectation do not align, you will rebel and cling to your idol.  God says to you, “Find contentment in Me.  I know what is best for you,” but you answer with the voice of your idol, “I must have this – I deserve this – and since You will not give it to me, I will get it for myself.”  A divided heart is always conflicted and never truly free to serve God.  Wake up!  See the chains enslaving you to these idols!

Consider Lot.  He and his family actually lived in Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot was a city elder.  And when God called them to leave before He judged those cities, He warned them to escape and “not look back” or they would also be swept away.  But Lot’s wife did look back and lost her life (Genesis 19:17-26).  Something behind her was more compelling to her heart than what lay ahead.

God has called us out.  He has commanded us to turn from idols to serve the true and living God.  By His gracious Spirit, He has empowered us to escape their lies and be set free in His truth.  Jesus died and rose again to break these chains and bind our wandering hearts to Him.  Why in the world would we look back?!  But if we waver in heeding God’s warning, Jesus has three words to bring us to our senses: “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).

But that should not be our story.  We are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul (Hebrews 10:39). It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).

Spread the Word!

© 2017 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Crossroads

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Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” – Jeremiah 6:16

As we travel the road of life, we pass through many intersections.  The most significant one is located at Broad Way and Narrow Way –  the way of life and the way of death – the way of joy everlasting and the way of eternal separation.  Since these roads lead in opposite directions, an intentional decision must be made – we must choose which way to turn.

You and I flew by this intersection time after time like it wasn’t even there (Proverbs 14:12).  We continued cruising down the many, spacious lanes of the Broad Way not even noticing that narrow, one-lane road. Then Jesus opened our eyes and we saw the street sign for the first time.  Now we see – it’s not a man-made road, but a divine one – one bought and paid for by Jesus Himself and paved with His precious blood.  This is no mere intersection, but a Crossroad.

Having seen His sign and made that turn, we head down a new road – His Road – and that road ultimately leads to heaven in the Presence of our Savior.  Until that day, our journey is filled with both great opportunities and great challenges – divine purpose and earthly temptation – the upward call of heaven and the alluring sound of the Broad Way.

Although we have a heavenly destination in our eternal GPS, we still come to various intersections and we still have choices to make.  Some intersections are clearly marked by Scripture that we must not turn down that road, but others reveal the gracious choices God sovereignly allows us to make while on the journey.  But how and when do we turn?  How do we know which way is best?  What if we make the “wrong” choice and have a head-on collision with failure or hardship?     

Here are few key points to remember from the Owner’s Manual:

  1. Stay on God’s path – sin is a dead-end street; confess it and turn around quickly – 1 John 1:9
  2. Ask for directions – God is listening and ready to answer our prayers for wisdom – James 1:5
  3. Look for signs – God’s will is often marked by visible signs both to guide and to warn – Matt 7:7
  4. Fasten your seatbelt – it’s a cross country trip so expect ups and downs – John 16:33
  5. Keep your eyes on the road – comparing yourself to others leads to envy or pride – Gal 1:10
  6. God knows the way – He is not only with you, but goes before you – Psalm 139:5
  7. Drive friendly – watch for those with car trouble, flat tires or who are out of gas – John 13:34
  8. Fill up with premium – you can’t be both full of yourself and the Holy Spirit – Gal 5:16
  9. Don’t speed – God numbers our days and has plenty for us to do along the way – Psalm 90:12
  10. Enjoy the drive – God makes known to us the path of life and it’s full of joy! – Psalm 16:11

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you”  – Psalm 32:8

Spread the Word!

© 2017 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Stepping on the scale

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The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is, as the song says, the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also fraught with peril.  Having been buried alive by a blizzard of endless food and tasty treats, many of us begin to dig out with a New Year’s resolution to drop a few pounds.  Although we tried our best to ignore the tighter-fitting clothes and the last notch we’d moved to on our belts, our worst fears were confirmed when we finally stepped on the scale.  Sadly, the numbers don’t lie.

After swearing to never do that again, we stepped off the scales promising to do better.  Establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is certainly a worthy pursuit.  After all, carrying around too much extra baggage is not only frustrating, but can also put unnecessary stress on your body.  So, if you’ve taken a 2017 “do better” oath, please don’t overdo it, but stick with it.

However, there’s another weight that cannot be measured by our waistline, seen in a mirror or captured as a number on a scale, but is far more deadly.  It is the weight of sin – a burden we were never designed to bear.  When we do, we ultimately cry out like David, “my guilt overwhelms me — it is a burden too heavy to bear.  I am exhausted and completely crushed” (Psalm 38:4 NLT).  All of us can identify with David’s diagnosis.  And right now, some of us may also be enduring the heavy burden of sin.  We’ve been avoiding the spiritual scales, but we know it’s true.

But I have good news – there is a cure!  Jesus “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4 ESV).  “He was pierced through for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5 NASB).  “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24 NASB).

If you are tired of carrying around this oppressive weight, listen to Jesus calling, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV).  That’s the voice of the sin-bearer – the Lamb of God who takes away all our sins (John 1:29) – past, present and future – those sins that once eternally separated us from Him and those which ensnare us each day.

All we must do is come to Him.  And because of His great love for us, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV).  Then your cry will not be one of weariness or despair, but a testimony of glory and praise, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation!” (Psalm 68:19 NASB).  This is the joyful shout of renewed fellowship with Jesus.

And when our hearts are lighter, we are free to fulfill the law of Christ and “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2 NASB).  You see, when we are weighted down with sins, we lose our Holy Spirit-given capacity to help others – to lighten their load – to share their burdens – to not allow them to be crushed by a hostile world – to put our arms around them and bring them to the healing arms of Jesus.  Jesus stretched out on a cross and laid down His life to show us that loving means bearing.  After all, “love bears all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).  Now go lose some weight.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Jesus
Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

Spread the Word!

© 2017 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Stones of Remembrance

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There are some moments in life you can plan and others just take you by surprise.

While my wife was away on a mission trip with Family Legacy in Zambia earlier this month, two of our grandchildren, Noah and McKenzie, spent Saturday night with Poppa.  Noah, who is 5 years old and very observant, is also fascinated with rocks (among many other things).  He wants to search for them or show me some he’s found just about every time we get together.

After they woke up on Sunday morning, Noah asked, “What’s that rock for?”  I thought, “What rock?” as I turned to see what he was talking about.  And there, sitting on the dresser, was a rock my dad, their great grandfather, had given our family almost 20 years ago.  It was to be a stone of remembrance of a time when God had delivered us from great distress.  Now, I was hearing my grandson ask me about something God had obviously planned long before this day.

As I connected the dots, I was deeply moved in my spirit and practically speechless.  It was truly one of those moments that seemed timeless – one in which God gives us a glimpse of what He sees.

As he held the rock in his hand, I silently read the verses my father had written on it: “When your children ask, ’What do these stones mean?’ then you shall tell them…the Lord has helped us” (Joshua 4:6-7; 1 Samuel 7:12).  So I choked back the tears and said, “Your Papa gave us that rock a long time ago to remind us of how good God is and how He is always there to help us.”  They both smiled, nodded their heads in agreement, and said, “Poppa, let’s go get some donuts!”

However small, God planted a seed a faith that morning into the hearts of a 3 and 5-year-old.  That day, our loving heavenly Father called forth a testimony of praise from one generation to the next by taking an old rock and making it a living stone.

One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts (Psalm 145:4 NASB).

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Scars

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When you cut yourself, you bleed.  But in that same blood, there are antibodies and rebuilding materials already on location.  Sticky blood cells called platelets begin to clump together to form a clot and later a scab – the body’s built-in Band-Aid.  Bleeding is controlled and a fibrous framework of collagen is laid down in the wound.  Then, repair and rebuilding can begin around this miraculous scaffolding.  Once the wound is sealed by a scab, the actual healing occurs from the inside out.  That’s why a scab eventually falls off to reveal a new layer of skin beneath it.  Sometimes if a wound is deep enough or if the site keeps getting disturbed or reinjured, then a scar will form.

We all have scars.  Some are visible and some are not, but they all tell a story. The visible ones – particularly for men – are more like glorious medals of honor about the time when I….  You can look at any scar on your body right now and instantly talk about when whatever happened happened.  It’s the not so visible ones that seem to convey a different story.

Think about the scars you have in your spirit.  Perhaps some deep wounds of the past.  Painful memories that somehow can still seem so fresh.  If the body can quiet our cries, soothe our pain, close ours wounds, and rebuild the broken, why not the spirit?

“Heal me, Jesus!” is the physical cry He hears so often, but the Great Physician also sees the deeper wounds in us – the wounds of sin – both your sin and the sin of others inflicted on you.  Jesus bore your griefs and He carried your sorrows (Isaiah 53:4).  He was wounded so that our wounds might be healed (1 Peter 2:24).  He came to bind up the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit (Isaiah 61:1; Psalm 34:18).

Like the skin, spiritual wounds are healed from the inside out.  Your spiritual scars should not be sorrowful tales of self-woe, but powerful reminders about the time when God….  Not everlasting memorials to our pain, but declarations of His amazing grace.  Not tombstones for our failures, but stones of remembrance of His forgiveness.  Not the dirge of casualties, but the song of conquerors.

Since the Word assures us “by His wounds we are healed” (1 Peter 2:24), we must not allow the Enemy to repeatedly reopen our wounds.  Jesus died to bring complete healing – mind, body, and spirit – so we can get our eyes off ourselves and our bodies and our wounds and onto Him and His Body and His wounds – off our scars and onto His.  Otherwise, we remain spiritually bedridden when we should be on the battlefield.

Should there not be more of us who testify to the wholeness Jesus brought to our lives and less of us who are content just to talk about our wounds?  Jesus raises up victors, not victims.  And since God created your blood to be so inherently powerful, imagine the power of the blood of Jesus!

We need a holy transfusion – the power of His blood at work in our innermost being.  The joy of healing is truly far greater than the pain of the injury.  Bring your wounds to Jesus and let Him restore you from the inside out.

The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3 NASB).

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Jubilee

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From the very beginning, God claimed the number 7 as His own – a number of completion and perfection – His number.  Creation, as detailed in Genesis, is not only the account of how God spoke everything into existence, but also how He created an entity called a “day” and packaged 7 of them into a week.  Interestingly, both of these are measurements of time by which all people on earth continue to shape their lives and mark their existence.

God set apart the 7th day as a holy day called the “Shabbath” (Sabbath) – a day “to cease and rest” and focus on the Lord.  Similarly, every 7 years, God decreed that there would be a Sabbath Year – a “shemitah” or “release” in which the land would be given rest and all outstanding debts would be forgiven (Deuteronomy 15:1-2; Leviticus 25:3-6).  Our very own Liberty Bell bears the words from Leviticus 25:5.  And up until 2005 when it was modified, our modern bankruptcy code was based on this principle and 7-year pattern.

Then God decreed after 7 cycles of 7 Sabbath Years (49 years), the very next year, the 50th year, would be called the “Yovel” or “Jubal” (also known as “The Favorable Year of the Lord”).  On the Day of Atonement, trumpets would blow and usher in the Year of Jubilee – a year when not only the land would be given rest and debts forgiven, but also in which any land or property offered as collateral would be returned to the original owner and all slaves would be set free (Leviticus 25:8-13).  A release.  A rest.  A return.  A restoration.

Keeping this in mind, let’s fast forward to a day, early in His ministry, when Jesus stood up in the temple to read from the Scriptures.  The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him, and He read these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19 NASB).

Then Jesus made a most remarkable declaration: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 NABS).

The Year of Jubilee was celebrated every 50 years, and according to the Jewish calendar, it was not even time for this event.  You can’t just stand up and declare it, but Jesus did.  For the words of Isaiah looked to a time when this good news would not be fixed to the calendar, but to the Messiah (“Me”).  Jesus came as God’s only Son who was anointed to preach the gospel of the Kingdom, to set people free, and to open blind eyes to the Truth.  “This is the Year of Jubilee because I have come.”  “Every year is the Year of Jubilee because I have come – even 2016.”

And if you took a look at what Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2, you would note that He stopped short of reading the last part of verse 2: “…and the day of vengeance of our God.”  Why?  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17 NASB).  Oh, that last part of Isaiah 61:2 is very true and one day Jesus will come again as Judge – as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but today He comes as Savior – your Savior.

Right now, hear His voice speaking these words from Isaiah over you.  Cling to the knowledge that He alone has the power to fulfill them.  Listen to His good news, His words of hope and His promises of rest, release, return, and restoration.  How can He open your eyes?  What is holding you captive?  How are you living in oppression?  From what can He set you free?!

This is the Favorable Year of the Lord.  This is His Year.  And according to Jesus, it’s your Year of Jubilee in Him.  Rest in Him, receive, and rejoice.

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

The Way Out

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At his birth, a king tried to kill him, but he was hidden and protected by God. Though raised in Egypt for a season, he always knew his identity. He appeared as the long-awaited deliverer proclaiming, “Thus says the Lord, let My people go, that they may serve Me” (Exodus 8:1). After the final atoning act of God through the blood of the Passover lamb, he led God’s people out of slavery to freedom to know and serve Him, and then destroyed their enemies in the waters of the Red Sea. He was the instrument for the Law of God, talked face to face to God, reflected the glory of God, and shepherded God’s people to the land of Promise. Are we talking about Moses or Jesus? Yes.

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, Jesus explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24: 27, 44 NASB).

To fully understand Exodus, we must see Jesus. And to fully understand Jesus, we must understand Exodus.

For at His birth, a king tried to kill Him, but He was hidden and protected by God. Though raised in Egypt for a season, He always knew His identity. He appeared as the long-awaited Deliverer proclaiming to the Enemy, “Thus says the Lord, let My people go, that they may serve Me.” As The Passover Lamb, He shed His precious blood as the perfect sacrifice on the cross, He rose from the dead, and He led His people out of slavery to sin, death, and hell to freedom to know and serve God.

For Jesus is our EXODUS, which literally means “the way out.” By His cross and empty tomb, He has parted the waters of judgment to show us the way out, and used those same waters to destroy the Enemy of our souls. He was the complete fulfillment of all the Law, prophecies and promises of God, talked to God face to face, and perfectly reflected the glory of God – a glory, unlike Moses, that will never fade. And as our Good Shepherd, He is leading us to the Land of Promise.

There are so many in our world crying for a way out – for a Deliverer who is already here. His Name is Jesus. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21 NASB).

Merry Christmas! Spread the Word!

© 2015 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Jesus love me! This I know?

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“Jesus loves me! This I know…” – we’ve sung this simple song since childhood, but if we are honest, many of us are yet to truly believe it. Look around. What does experience teach us? Love is fleeting. Love is a feeling. Love must be earned. Love is conditional. Our résumé must be constantly updated. So we struggle to love ourselves, to love and to be loved.

Consider the prodigal son. After demanding his future inheritance be paid out immediately, he traveled abroad, partied like there was no tomorrow, and ended up destitute, desperate, hungry and alone. “But when he came to his senses…” (Luke 15:17 NASB), he remembered home, headed that direction and rehearsed the apology to his father ending with: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” Sounds reasonable.

But the story takes an unexpected turn: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20 NASB). For this to happen, it meant that the father was waiting at the window…and watching. He ran, embraced a filthy kid, interrupted his son’s speech halfway through, and, as the imperfect tense of the Greek word indicates, he “kept on kissing him.” Then the father called for the best robe, the finest ring, and the fattened calf to celebrate: “For this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found” (Luke 15:24 NASB).

Some of us are moved to tears at this scene, but some of us think – perhaps most of us think, “How can that be?! It doesn’t make any sense. That’s just not the way it works in real life. This guy owed his dad an apology. He was unworthy. He needed to re-earn his father’s trust. He deserved to work it off and repay his debt.”

And you know why we say that? Because we are the older brother. When he learned what just happened, he became angry and rebuked his father, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours, but you never gave me…” (Luke 15:29 NASB).

The truth is neither son understood their father’s love. One thought he must earn it, and the other thought he had earned it. One took the father’s goodness and wasted it. The other always had the father’s goodness and wasted it.

If you look up the definition of “prodigal,” it can either mean: 1) spending money or resources freely, recklessly or wastefully or 2) having or giving something on a lavish scale; extravagant.

We see a prodigal son when we are meant to see a Prodigal Father.

We are definition #1 – wasteful and wayward in one way or another, but our Father is #2 – lavish and extravagant in pouring out His love. We are sinful, but we are embraced and covered by the incomparable love of our Father. We may be Gomer, but God is Hosea – pursuing us with a steadfast love in spite of our unworthiness and unfaithfulness. We do not deserve nor could we ever earn His love, but He clothes us in the righteousness of His Son, showers us with His goodness and then celebrates with us.

This Thanksgiving, let’s rejoice and give thanks for God is good! Thank Him for a love so amazing words cannot describe it. Thank Him for a love in which the greatest dimensions of measurement fall woefully short (Ephesians 3:17-19). For His is a love that can only be shown, not spoken – a love that is only accurately measured by Jesus’ outstretched arms on a cross and only truly seen in a Prodigal Father running to embrace his wayward sons.

Yes! Jesus loves me!

In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He LAVISHED on us (Ephesians 1:5-8 NASB).

Spread the Word!

© 2015 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Like night and day

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Without light, there is no color. The spectrum is reduced to hazy shades of gray descending into deep caverns of black. Our vision is limited, clarity compromised, and detail fades into the anonymity of shadow.

While nighttime is endowed with a unique beauty, it’s only found by lifting up your eyes from the obscurity around you to the radiance of the heavenly lights above. On a cloudy, moonless night, the world is plunged into deep darkness hoping the sun also rises. For when light is present, darkness flees.

The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16 NIV).

Just as God spoke light into a darkened world in creation, so He shines the Light of His Presence into the darkness of our souls in re-creation. This is the same Light that burst forth from the tomb as the stone was rolled away – The Light of Life – Resurrection Light. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV). “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves” (Colossians 1:13 NIV).

Think about when you trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior. As God opened the eyes of your heart to truly see the beauty of His Son, did not the Son rise on the darkness of your sin and bathe it in the glorious, cleansing light of forgiveness? Did not the world itself seemingly transform from shades of gray to brilliant color? Jesus, the Light of the World, offers us life in living color!

I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of Life” (John 8:12 NASB).

As rays of the sun pierce the darkness of a passing storm and God paints a rainbow across the canvas of the sky, we see the covenant sign that He is a faithful God who keeps His promises. Not only does He “dwell in unapproachable light,” (1 Timothy 6:16 ESV), but those very same colors of the rainbow emanate from His throne:

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around Him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell face down…” (Ezekiel 1:28 NIV).

Seems like we would never willingly walk away from the beauty of His Light, but sadly, we do. We wander into the gray tones of cloudy vision and sink back into the blackness of sin. But because of our Risen Savior, the darkness cannot overcome the Light of Life (John 1:5), and His loving grace shines like a beacon ever calling us home.

This is the message we have heard from Jesus and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7 NIV).

Spread the Word!

© 2015 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Piece

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You and I care about people, and we are certainly grateful for those who care about us. But all of us care only to a certain extent. No matter how much compassion we possess, we are limited by time, ability and attention. We can’t care deeply about everyone and everything. We can’t always be there. We can’t always fix things. We just can’t bear it all or we’d be crushed under its weight.

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The Real Thing

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God provided a way for our family to go on a mission trip to Africa this week with a ministry called Family Legacy. Their “Camp LIFE” is an amazing camp for orphaned and vulnerable children in Zambia. We will join with over 600 Americans who will come to spend a week this summer leading and sharing the love of Christ with a group of 10 Zambian children. We are expectant about all God is going to do during our time there and would love for you to partner with us in prayer.

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Above all else

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We place great significance on someone’s last words.  We lean in and hang on every syllable.  Given the opportunity, what would yours be?

It’s only been a week since we celebrated the glory of the empty tomb, but stand with me again at the foot of the cross.  In those final agonizing hours as He bore the sins of the world – our sins, Jesus’ seven last words from the cross are worth drawing close to.

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Fear not

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What is your greatest fear?  Now I know we’re afraid of stuff like public speaking, spiders, snakes, needles, and heights.  But on a more destructive note, fear of rejection, shame, loneliness, the unknown, pain, loss of freedom, failure, and death (#1) top most lists.

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The Wonders of God’s Grace

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The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1 NIV).

Every day we are spared from death. While the sun is absolutely essential for life, without certain protective layers surrounding our planet, its radiation would destroy us. Violent storms and eruptions on its surface hurl massive gusts of charged particles at the earth. In silent submission to the voice of God, invisible magnetic fields, called the Van Allen Belts, encircle the earth to absorb and dissipate these potentially deadly cosmic forces.

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The Good Shepherd

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I’ve always been amazed when the Scriptures tell us how Jesus looked at someone and said, “Follow Me.”  Regardless of prior contact or what they’d heard about Him, I believe there was something powerfully attractive in His eyes.  Take the call of Matthew.  One minute Matthew was sitting in his booth collecting taxes for Rome, and the next he “left everything behind” (Luke 5:28) to follow Jesus.

To fully appreciate Matthew’s calling, you have to understand his profession.  The Jews of that day considered tax collectors to be legalized thieves, traitors, the worst of sinners, and moral lepers.  They were excluded from any religious fellowship and were considered to be justifiably condemned by God.  We have no modern-day equivalent that even comes close.  So despised, they were not even lumped in with all the “normal” sinners like prostitutes, drunkards, murderers and thieves.  No, they had a special category all their own as the Bible often records the expression: “tax collectors and sinners” (Matt 9:11; Matt 11:19; Luke 5:30).

But Matthew found favor in the eyes of Jesus and walked away from his old life to pursue a new one.  His first impulse: throw a big party at his house and invite all his friends to meet Jesus!  Matthew, as he remembers that day, writes, …and behold, many tax collectors and sinners came” (Matt 9:10).

When you read the word “behold” in Scripture, you are meant to inhale rapidly and make a gasping sound like something took your breath away.  Try it now to make sure you get it – “and GASP, many tax collectors and sinners came.”  Now, look around the room and picture the crowd at the party – the sinner, the outcast, the hurting, the rejected, the abused, the scorned, the damaged, the needy, the sick.  Keep looking until you find Jesus.  What do you see?  Is Jesus standing in the corner hoping no one comes near Him?  No, Jesus is hanging out and “dining” with them.  He’s having a good time – laughing – listening – building bridges.  Hmmm.

Why am I telling you this story?  Because unlike the Pharisees that came there only to lecture Him (Matt 9:11), Jesus was comfortable being at this party with these people.  More than that, Matthew’s friends felt welcome around Jesus!  I’m not suggesting Jesus shrugged His shoulders at their sins.  Hardly!  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  Rather, I’m saying the only ones who felt uncomfortable in Jesus’ presence were the self-righteous Pharisees.  Ask yourself, “do I make others feel welcome in my presence?  What do others see when they look in my eyes?”

Jesus answered their grumblings with, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt 9:12-13 NASB).  In other words, “Think about what you’re saying.  Would you go to a doctor’s office and complain about all the sick people sitting in his waiting room?”

If we are going to learn what it means to follow Jesus…if we are going learn to look through the eyes of the Savior, we must learn mercy.   Just a few verses later Jesus says, “Seeing the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36 NASB).  Other versions say “harassed and helpless.”  Literally, Jesus saw them as “downcast.”  If sheep lie down in the grass and accidentally roll over on their backs, a shepherd calls them “cast” sheep.  Like a turtle on its back, they become totally helpless, fully exposed to the scorching sun, and even more vulnerable to predators.  They are doomed to die without the intervention of a shepherd.

Do you get it?  When Jesus looked out at people, He saw them for what they truly were: cast sheep lying helplessly on their backs unable to save themselves – and He was moved to act with deep compassion.  Such is the heart of the Good Shepherd.

Jesus is still calling, “Follow Me.”  But He’s training shepherds, not Pharisees.

© 2013 Tim McKenzie – www.OnEveryWord.com 

Mistakes

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We all make mistakes.  It’s easy to backspace or hit delete when typing.  Sometimes, we even have to go old school and break out the correction tape/fluid to white it out.  If only life was that way.  I can think of too many things I’ve said or done that I’d like to erase!

But with each sin we commit over our lifetime, our “mistakes” add up and we become more and more indebted to God.  Such spiritual debt cannot be corrected by earthly means though many try.  Before a Holy God, we “become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6 NIV).

We cannot repay God with good behavior or by good deeds. “The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough” (Psalm 49:8 NIV).  Without divine intervention, we would die in unimaginable debt.  Then what?

I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds…” (Revelation 20:11-12 NASB).

Can you imagine standing before this throne and having the book of your life opened, read aloud, and judgment rendered based on your “deeds”?  It makes me tremble in shame to even consider my book.

But there is hope.  There is a way out here and now.

When you were dead in your transgressions…He [God] made you alive together with Him [Jesus], having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt [literally “a promissory note written in your own handwriting”] consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way having nailed it to the cross” Colossians 2:13-14.

Visualize the ledger of your life consisting of your every thought and deed in the flesh.  As you look down the countless entries of all you owe God yet cannot repay, you suddenly notice that each line is written in your own handwriting.  This book is your unedited, all-inclusive autobiography.

But then you notice that by His grace for all who have trusted Christ as Savior, God has “canceled out” (literally “blotted out or washed away”) every single debt with the precious blood of Jesus!  Not only did Jesus hang on the cross, but so did your “certificate of debt.”

Forgiveness is only a word away from your lips: “Jesus.”  He did what you could never do.  Just tell Him so and believe!  Forgiveness is truly amazing, but there’s even more: although you were once dead in your sins, God “made you alive together with Him!”  Easter!  Resurrection!  New life!  Eternal life!  That’s why we rejoice!  That’s why we exclaim, “He is risen!

Mistakes?  Bring them to the cross of Christ.  Only His blood can “white out” your sins.

Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18 NASB).

© 2013 Tim McKenzie – www.OnEveryWord.com

Editing

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I once heard a wise preacher say to an eager couple standing at the altar, “There are three rings in marriage: the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering.” Considering the amount of laughter that followed, there must be some truth to those words! The greatest joys as well as the greatest hardships we experience often are wrapped up in this one-of-a-kind, God-given relationship called marriage.

So what do you do with these extremes? The Bible talks a lot about forgetting. It also talks a lot about remembering.  So which is it?

Whether or not you’re married, I’ve concluded that these extremes of life are a lot about editing. Some things just aren’t worth remembering. What’s the point in dwelling on things in the past that can never be changed, seek to enslave, or drag you down?

Then again, many things are worth remembering – things that inform, inspire or influence our present actions – from lessons learned to priceless moments. It’s pretty simple to me: choose to remember the good – “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8 NASB). Editing.

A lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge in our thirty-one years together. And like you, maybe we’ve thought about jumping off a time or two as the pendulum swung towards “worse.” But in Christ, “better” days are always ahead and the good news is the stream is still flowing. We rejoice that His healing waters have such tremendous redeeming power to erase regret, blot out sin, refresh the soul, and move us continually downstream toward His purposes.

I frequently tell my wife that she becomes more beautiful with each passing year. Of course, she always says I’m biased or my eyesight is failing. Perhaps. But I think it’s because God has given me a greater appreciation of just how resilient she is, how more deeply in love she is with Jesus, and how much she wants the best for the days that lie ahead.

A well-trained memory is one that knows what to forget. Call it forgiveness. Call it love. Call it sanity. It’s still about editing as God continues to unfold His amazing story in our lives.

“…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14 NASB)

© 2012 Tim McKenzie – www.OnEveryWord.com

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