Tag Archive | jesus

17 minutes of continual sin

We need a savior. We are evil, evil continually rising from a corrupted heart. Our human nature is depraved, polluted, and thoroughly iniquitous. Don’t believe me? Think that Genesis 6:5 is only historical? You imagine I’m being unnecessarily pessimistic? “I haven’t murdered anyone,” you protest. “I’m not, like, a Nazi war criminal,” your mind challenges. Hrm. Read on.

This piece is pretty well-known. It has been floating around the internet ever since it was published in World Magazine in 2005. Our pastor read it to us on a recent Sunday and then it became known to me. Boy, did it ever. I urge you to read it. Better still, read it out loud. Best of all, read it aloud to your spouse or friend, together, with someone. The relentlessness of it picks up steam, and the commensurate heart conviction rate increases also. Or it should. The article deftly illustrates why “good” folks “like us” need a savior. We. Need. A. Savior.

Postscript at the end.

Seventeen minutes
It’s the thoughts-ordinary, daily thoughts-that count
By Andree Seu Peterson

These are the thoughts of a woman driving home from the Stop ‘N Shop on an ordinary day.

She conjures three comebacks she could’ve hurled at Ellen if she had not been caught off guard.

She spots the baby shower invitation on the dashboard and schemes a way to be out of town that weekend-then thinks better of it because she has a favor to ask the sender at a later date.

She sizes up a woman standing at the bus stop-and judges her.

She stews over a comment her brother made behind her back, and crafts a letter telling him off-and sounding righteous in the process.

She reviews the morning’s argument with her husband, and plans the evening installment.

She imagines how life would have been if she had married X (a well-worn furrow, this).

She magnanimously lets a car merge into traffic, and then is ticked off when she doesn’t get her wave.

She resolves to eat less chocolate starting today-well, tomorrow.

She replays memory tapes going back to the ’60s, trying to change the endings.

Somebody rides up the road shoulder and budges to the head of a traffic jam, and she hates the driver with a perfect hatred.

She passes the house of the contractor who defrauded her and fantasizes blowing it to smithereens.

She passes Audrey working in her garden and waves-but thinks, “If Audrey has chronic fatigue syndrome, I’m a flying Wallenda.”

She glares at a driver who runs a red light in front of her, forgetting that she did the same about a mile ago.

She checks her slightly crooked nose compulsively in the rearview mirror, and reassures herself it isn’t too bad.

An inner voice tells her to turn off the radio and pray, but she decides that’s the voice of legalism.

She brainstorms talking points for her upcoming woman’s Bible study lecture on “Ephesians” and considers how she can improve it-and make it better than Alice’s talk of last week.

She is angry at God because here she is a Christian and broke, while her good-for-nothing heathen of a brother is rolling in dough.

She thinks how much better her life would be if she were beautiful, and fantasizes all the bungee-jumping, maggot pizza-eating “fear factor” stunts she’d be willing to subject herself to to look like Gwyneth Paltrow.

She wonders how her parents will divvy up the inheritance-and how long she has to wait.

She rehearses two good reasons why her sister and not she should take care of the folks when they’re too old. She thinks about her childhood and counts the ways her parents have screwed up her life.

The Johnsons drive by, and she recalls all the meals she made for them 10 years ago when Lydia had toxemia during pregnancy, and bets they don’t even remember. Hmm, did they even send a thank-you card?

The word treachery flashes through her mind (Mr. Beaver’s succinct epithet for Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) but leaves no footprints.

An SUV cuts her off, and she decides to punish it by tailgating.

Her heart smites her for this. So she determines to try harder to live righteously from now on. Who knows, God may reward her in some amazing way: Her husband may give her grounds for divorce, and God will lead her to the arms of Mr. Right.

She tries to pray but doesn’t get past “Our Father.”

There are lots of other people that the woman does not think of while driving home with groceries, people who are not important to her social status, or just not interesting.

She doesn’t think about AIDS-ravaged Africa, she doesn’t think about the death sentence dangling over millions in Sudan, she doesn’t think about missionaries, she doesn’t think about martyrs in Kim Jong-il’s prisons, she doesn’t think about ways she could encourage her children.

She pulls into her driveway. Total driving time: 17 minutes.

And if you were to ask the lady, as she rustles parcels from the car, what she has been thinking about on the drive from town, she would say, “Oh, nothing in particular.” And she would not be lying.

Imagine believing that we don’t need a Savior.

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Jesus brought light and cleansing to our blackened hearts.

Hurricane Irma was approaching Georgia on that Sunday. It was due to hit on Monday. Our church service runs from 3:00-4:30. After church, I stopped at the nearby grocery store to pick up a few last minute items. It was packed. Jammed. And a sheen of tension overlay the store. People were in more of a hurry than usual, pumped up from the weather forecasters’ predictions of downed trees, lost power, and other dire unknown things that were sure to happen. I got into the self-checkout line, which was not any shorter but I was hoping that I might gain a slight time advantage.

I didn’t, and I waited in line without moving, for a long while. As I stood and waited, and my stress levels increased, so did my thoughts. I began having a stream of consciousness, nothing-in-particular thoughts about everyone else in line. I judged their clothes. I judged their slowness of movement. I even judged their purchases. Shocked, I realized that I was the same as the woman in the article, thinking evil thoughts continually. Here, ten minutes after the service ended, still in my church clothes.

Daily repentance is necessary.

Daily repentance is necessary.

Daily repentance is necessary.

Thank you Jesus that You covered us with your blood, cleansed from our sin in Your eyes. Our sin has been erased from our record to be thrown into the vast outer places, as far as the east is from the west. Seeing a sin record before me, I stagger under the weight of carrying it, never mind a lifetime. I would have justly been penalized for it, had you not submitted to the Father’s plan of the cross.

You bore the weight of eternity’s sin of all the people You have chosen since before the foundation of the world, and their/my punishment. Thank You.

How did they ever hear God’s voice without a how-to manual?

old phone
There are so many pamphlets, teachings, sermons, and books out there today “educating” the Christian on “How to Hear God’s Voice.” None of these teachers seem to realize that God doesn’t need our help hearing His voice. None of these teachers seem to realize that much of what they write conflicts with each other. The different “ways”, “tips”, “methods” are piling up. Soon we will have a hundred ways to hear God’s voice. Sadly, all of them will be wrong.

Worst of all, many of these teachers claim that if you do NOT hear God’s voice, either it is because your faith is weak, or you can never enjoy intimacy with God if this “critical” element is missing. They make absolute statements that have no basis in reality, but harm the hapless who believe them. It’s heartbreaking, what these false teachers teach. Here are a few examples:

Andrew Wommack writes:

One of the greatest benefits of our salvation has to be that of hearing God speak to us personally. There can be no intimate relationship with our heavenly Father without it. But, as easy as it is for us to speak to Him, the average Christian has a hard time hearing His voice. This is not the way the Lord intended it to be.

Dallas Willard wrote

God is constantly speaking to people. But too often, they miss out on hearing God’s messages because they seek His guidance only occasionally – usually when they’re going through a crisis or facing a major decision. Then, with a dire need to hear from God, people become confused and frustrated when they don’t clearly hear what they should do. Here are 10 ways how you can hear from God and recognize his voice regularly:

Adam Wittenberg from IHOP Kansas City writes:

Maybe you’re someone who wants to hear God’s voice, but you don’t know how. Perhaps you’ve even tried, and feel like He didn’t answer you. Maybe you want to listen but can’t focus long enough to hear. Or maybe you’re frustrated, because it seems like God is talking to everyone else but you. If you think God doesn’t want to speak to you, be encouraged: Jesus says in John 10:27 that “My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow me.”

That John 10:27 verse the ‘how to hear God’ teachers use often as a (false) basis that God is speaking audibly today- my sheep hear my voice. Well, are you a sheep? If so then I guess Jesus is actually a vine, or He is actually living water.

Lynette Hagin at Kenneth Hagin Ministries wrote:

In these last days it’s more important than ever for us to fine-tune our spiritual ears to hear the Lord’s voice. God is constantly speaking to us. He’s trying to warn us of things to come. So many times we simply shrug it off. We think, “That’s just me.” But it’s not. It’s the Holy Spirit’s voice. To be able to hear God’s voice, we must set aside time to wait in His presence and allow Him to talk to us. It’s when we are quiet before the Lord that we can hear from Him most clearly.

He is trying to warn us? Trying?! Is there anything God cannot do? (Genesis 18:14).

Joyce Meyer has this to say about how to hear from God, delicately disdaining to her readers with this article about hearing from God, It’s Not that Complicated:

Even though I sincerely loved Jesus, I went to church for years without knowing that God talks to people. I observed all the religious rules and holidays…I went to church every Sunday. I was really doing all that I knew to do at that time. But it wasn’t enough to satisfy my longing for God. I could’ve spent every moment in church or in Bible study, but it wouldn’t have quenched the thirst I had for a deeper fellowship with the Lord. I needed to talk to Him about my past and hear Him talk to me about my future. But nobody taught me that God wants to talk directly to me. No one offered a solution for the dissatisfied feelings I endured.

Meyer says this in other places:

–Recently God told me that … Meyer
–Hearing God’s voice throughout the day has become a natural way of life for me …Meyer

I suppose once you start to be known for being a special recipient of God’s words, you have to maintain the pretense.

You’ll notice that Meyer’s is a familiar theme with the false teachers educating people on how to hear from God: unfulfilled longing. Church isn’t enough. The Word isn’t enough. Prayer isn’t enough. Redemption isn’t enough. Sarah Young who wrote Jesus Calling, a book all about her conversations with God, who allegedly spoke audibly to her and she recorded ‘His’ words, said she had a yearning for “more.” If Jesus isn’t your all in all, if you aren’t thrilled with the Word, if you aren’t sated by church worship and fellowship with the saints, then a disembodied voice from the ether isn’t going to fulfill you. The adulation you receive from ignorant followers might fulfill you for a while. The royalties from the books you write about hearing from God might fulfill you for a while. The applause on interview shows might fulfill you for a while, but it is all vapor. Only Jesus can fulfill you, and He is not speaking now.

He spoke. In His word.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2).

I was pondering that verse the other day and thinking about all the ways God had spoken in previous times. Through a burning bush. Through a donkey. Through an angel. Through His prophets. Through a fleece. Through dreams (‘Joseph, flee to Egypt’).

Then I began thinking about ALL the many folks in times past who heard God speak without the help of Andrew Wommack or Joyce Meyer or Lynette Hagin. God had no trouble speaking clearly to those whom He desired, without the aid of lessons and books and how-tos.

Then I began thinking of a silly scenario using the false teachers’ own words. Like this in Joel 1:1-2, as Joel was going around doing his daily tasks, he hears,

The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel: 2Hear this, you elders;

And Joel says to himself, “Shoot! I can’t hear God clearly! I KNEW I should have bought that Joyce Meyer pamphlet at the market when I saw it! Now I’ll never have intimacy with God!”

Or this from Haggai 1:1,

In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah,

“Stop! I haven’t even built my prayer closet yet! I haven’t done what Lynette Hagin said, to set aside time to wait in Your presence and allow You to talk to me!”

Or this from Jeremiah 1:4,

Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

Wait! this doesn’t coincide with Dallas Willard’s point #3, that I should “make your main goal to become a spiritually mature person in a close relationship with God. That’s the only way I’ll clearly and correctly hear what God has to say to me.” Since I haven’t made my goal yet and since I am not a spiritually mature person, and since according to Mr Willard, that is the ONLY way I’ll correctly and clearly hear what God is saying to me, then it must not be God. Phew, I’ll just go to the store and get another Willard book just to be sure I am on the right track.

Isn’t it silly to think that multitudes of people heard God clearly before all these false teachers started writing manuals for hearing from God? Doesn’t it diminish God’s glory to intimate, or even say out flatly as so many of these teachers have, that God can’t get to you unless you do certain things? He hung the moon by His word. He also made the stars, knows them and named all of them. He upholds the universe by the power of His will. He ordains every single event on earth every second of every day for 8 billion people. But He can’t make Himself heard unless you do what Andrew Wommack says?

I hope I’ve shown through this reverse method how silly it is that the God of the Universe needs any help from any of these teachers explaining methods for “How to Hear God.” He’s God. He never needed any help making Himself heard before and He never will.

Stick with the word, it’s glorious and clear. It is currently the method we are told that He uses to make Himself known. It should hopefully excite you and fulfill you. If that isn’t enough and you seek tips and how-tos for “more”, sadly, you’ll get less.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2).

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Further Reading

The Myth of God’s Silence

The First Exile & Faithful Remnant

We often read about the Remnant in scripture. As GotQuestions explains in the opening to their question about remnant,

Question: “What does the Bible mean when it refers to a remnant?”

Answer: A remnant is a left-over amount from a larger portion or piece, whether it is food, material from which a garment is fashioned, or even a group of people. Although remnants could be looked upon as worthless scraps, and many times are, God assigned high value to those of His people whom He had set aside for holy purposes, those He labels as “remnants” in several places in the Bible.

We also read about Exiles. Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden. Cain was exiled from God’s presence. We know the Israelites were often exiled from the land as they were punished for their spiritual adultery against God by worshiping other gods. The People were exiled to Egypt, carried to Babylon and lived as strangers in a strange land. Exile will be the final and unalterable state of anyone who has not repented to Jesus, living bodily in an eternity in hell away from God’s grace and instead a life of exile in torment.

Exiled means to rejected and be apart from, denied entrance to. The same with remnant, a tattered thing that oftentimes, no one wants. A small quantity of something left over.

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:12-14).

In the Old Testament, God’s main threat for sin was a judgment of exile away from the presence of God. Remember, God’s glory inhabited the Temple, the one place where heaven met earth at the Ark of the Covenant. The notion of exile develops further in the New Testament and becomes clearer that judgment is to be eternally exiled from God’s presence…eternal abandonment by God.

As my pastor preached on Sunday,

Because God loves us, as sinful people, He did not want us to experience eternal judgment of the exile that we all deserve. So He sent Jesus. Jesus is the faithful remnant of One. The only truly faithful Israelite in history, who actually kept the Law of Moses. Jesus actually became, when He was crucified outside the city at Golgotha, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the city on the hill, in His one person representing His people. He was abandoned, in exile, alone, crucified apart from the city outside. Abandoned by the people, the religious people, His disciples, His friends, and even by His Father.

The Bible is about Jesus.
His story
His work
His Person
His glory
His desire to gather a people to Himself
His kingdom
His priesthood
His judgment

Sometimes it’s good to cut through the Christian brouhaha, the nasty arguments, the forced intellectualizing of the faith, the confusing evangelism techniques, the added layers,…and remember the simple. It is about Jesus. Everything and all of history points to one person, Jesus Christ, God’s son, God Himself.

If you are reading this as a non-believer, a seeker, a doubter, then pray in repentance to Jesus who is in heaven but is soon to come. He will forgive your sins. If not, then unfortunately when you die you will discover that death is only a gateway to another life, one that you will live as an exile, not even enjoying His common grace as you enjoy now, the beauty of the world, the food you eat, the refreshing rain, the sunlight. There will be no hope.

If you’re reading this as a believer take time today to thank Him for writing your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life, setting you apart for His kingdom before the foundation of the world. Believers, take time today to cut through what you’re doing either secular work or spiritual and thank Him for the hope we have within us, that we are a remnant on earth but not a remnant, that we are aliens in a strange land but not exiled, but are and will be firmly and eternally ensconced into a loving family of every tribe, nation, and tongue. And why? Because of Jesus, it is only and ever about Him.
road

What is a cornerstone?

The beauty of the examples and analogies Jesus uses is that any person can intuitively understand them, even if they are not familiar with them. Even if we’re not farmers, we understand ‘we are the sheep and He is the Shepherd.’ Even if we’re not gardeners, we understand when He says He is the vine and we are the branches.’ Even though we might not be a builder, we understand when it’s written that He is the chief cornerstone.

But it brings more depth and understanding to bear when we delve more deeply into some of these analogies. So let’s look at Cornerstone.

Photo Source

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (Psalm 118:22).

therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16).

let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (Acts 4:10–11).

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19–20).

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious,” (1 Peter 2:4–6).

A cornerstone in the House of Giove and Ganymede

Did you know that the concept of cornerstone was mentioned these several  times in scripture? We can understand that cornerstone is important to a building. But how important? What does a cornerstone do? What is its function? What would happen if the cornerstone was removed?

A stone that can be in the foundation, above ground level or at the summit of the roof (the “capstone”). The cornerstone of a large building gives it a reliable and firm foundation, leading to the cohesion and stability of the whole building. In Scripture, such foundation-stones are taken as symbolic of the basis of faith in Jesus Christ and the church. Jesus Christ is thus represented as both the foundation upon which the church is built, and the capstone which crowns the whole. Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes

Also-

The most significant stone in important buildings is the cornerstone. Usually it is the first stone laid at a formal ceremony. Often it is engraved with the date of the building and perhaps some other ascription, honoring a person or an event. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Jesus is called the gōnia or “cornerstone” of the church. In fact, Jesus used this title for Himself. Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words

I thought this architectural description from Wikipedia was the clearest:

The cornerstone (or foundation stone) concept is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.

Is Jesus your cornerstone? Does He determine the position of your entire life?

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Further Reading

Making Christ Attractive in a Pagan World
JMac July 2 2017 sermon segment on the cornerstone

The Approachableness of Jesus (reprise)

There are so many attributes of Jesus Christ than we can praise and ponder. One of them is His kingliness.

He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16). God has given Jesus all authority in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18), therefore He is above all authorities anywhere that can possibly be imagined. He is High and exalted on His throne and He is KING.

On earth few of us have actually been in the presence of a King or Queen. There are relatively few royals on earth, compared to number of the population of the plebeians like us.

If one is favored enough to visit a royal, there is strict protocol. ABC News reminds us, regarding a visit with Queen Elizabeth II-

There is a long list of protocols that guides one’s behavior in the presence of Her Majesty and even though the president and the first lady are not required to abide by all of them, there are certain formalities they do have to follow.

There is the “no-touch” rule…
Wait until the Queen extends her hand to shake it
No gripping her hand or tightly pumping it
No hugs, no kiss on the cheek, no touching the shoulder

Refer to the Queen as “Your Majesty” initially then “ma’am” subsequently
Bow upon being introduced
Do not turn your back to the Queen
Wear conservative clothing with not much flesh showing

And so much more.

I remember the HBO mini-series John Adams. It was an excellent series, showing the life of our second President from a fiery attorney in his youth through to old age, in other words, most of his political life.

There came the moment when the Americans had won the Revolutionary war. Adams had been given the privilege and responsibility as diplomat to begin relations with The United Kingdom as national co-equals. He was to meet with the King. The moment was fraught with tension for two reasons. He had all of the future of America resting on his shoulders in how he approached the Monarch these next few moments. Would the United Kingdom be an enemy or an ally?

The second reason was protocol. Here was a scrappy lawyer born in 1735 in British America, (Quincy MA), and was American through and through, about to meet the most powerful man in the world, King George III. Americans had not been known to stand on formality and protocol, and Adams had been strongly tutored for this meeting. Bow three times, once upon entering, once when halfway to the ‘Royal Presence’ and a third time as you enter the ‘Royal Presence’. Avert your eyes until standing before the ‘Royal Presence’. Wear suitable clothing, “something more British.” Unsuitable clothing has been the undoing of many an Ambassador, we learn.

See how it went, at the link. It’s an extremely memorable cinematic moment and an incredible piece of acting, as well as a visible punctuation for my point. I can’t embed, HBO has disabled it.

There have always been strict protocols when meeting royalty. In Esther 4:11 we read,

All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.

This scene is described in Esther 5:1. The King is holding his scepter.

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace.

Wikipedia

Thrones were always higher, set upon a dais in order to visibly indicate the lower position of the person approaching the Royal Presence. This is a photo of Napoleon’s throne. Pharaoh is described as sitting on a throne in Exodus 11:5; Exodus 12:29.

Solomon wrote,

Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of great men; 7For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,” Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen.

And yet, another aspect of the uniqueness of Jesus continues. He sits upon His throne, the highest of the high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1) and yet we may approach!

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12).

Must we dress in a certain way? Must we wait to be introduced or summoned? Must we bow in sequential order as we reach certain spots in the throne room? Must we avert our eyes until He speaks? No! No! No! No!

Our Lord Jesus is said to be the Mediator between God and man. Now, observe, that the office of mediator implies at once that he should be approachable. ~Spurgeon
He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings and yet He has told us we may approach Him with petitions large and small! He is tremendous. Every time we pray we approach Him. He is a God who sees (El Roi Genesis 16:14) and a God who hears!

In 1920 Frank Boreham wrote a book titled “A bunch of everlasting; or, Texts that made history“. His book contains biographies of famous Christians who came to the saving grace of salvation as the light of one particular verse broke upon their hearts. John Bunyan met Jesus through this verse in John 6:37,

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

From Boreham’s text we read,

In his pitiful distress, there broke upon the soul of John Bunyan a vision of the infinite approach-ability of Jesus. John Bunyan’s text-verse was a revelation to him of this approach-ability.

‘This scripture did most sweetly visit my soul; and him that Cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Oh ! the comfort that I had from his word, in no wise! As who should say, “By no means, for nothing whatever he hath done. ‘Him that cometh I will in no wise cast out!’ Like the gate that swings open on hearing the magic ‘sesame’; Like the walls that fell at Jericho when the blast of the trumpets arose; the wall round Bunyan’s mountain fell with a crash before that great and golden word. ‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out!’ The barriers had vanished! The way was open!

Christ is approachable. Praise Him! Approach today, with no worries of what you must say or how you must look. He will in no wise cast you out. How sweet is this knowledge.

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Further Reading

Spurgeon sermon- The Approachableness of Jesus

Frank Boreham, A Bunch of Everlastings, online text

Wikipedia entry about John Bunyan

Etiquette: How to Address a King or Queen

Preaching in Jesus’ name

Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the men of Anathoth, who seek your life, and say, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will die by our hand” (Jeremiah 11:21).

and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. (Acts 5:40).

The name of Jesus Christ is extremely powerful. I’m not talking that it’s powerful like a magic charm, or a mantra, or a mystical incantation. His name is powerful because Jesus is the most powerful person in the Universe, because He sustains the world with His will, because He became the unique, one and only sacrifice for sin, died, and rose again defeating death.  He is the I AM. He is the Authority. It’s that simple.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)

You can preach in any other name and the heart of the listener might or might not be emotionally or mentally affected. He might become emotional at a good speech delivery. She might feel temporarily joyful or sad but that burns off because an emotional reaction it doesn’t reach the soul. Only the word of God can affect the soul, and the only name in which we preach the true word is Jesus.

When the words affect the soul, the reaction has staying power, whether it’s to cause the person to retreat further into sin, or to convert under grace.

In the New Testament we know that the party opposing Jesus (Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees) hated the name of Jesus. They hated His teachings, His disciples, His power, His authority, His resurrection. They thought they had authority, but they did not.

Pilate thought he had power and authority. He did not know that his authority was not his own, but was from above.

So Pilate said to Him, “Do You refuse to speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You and authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:10-11)

Jesus’ name has power. Not because it’s a magic mantra. But because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. He is the ultimate authority over men. And men’s souls sense this. We rebel against authority. We fight authority but authority always wins, sang John Cougar Mellencamp in his “The Authority Song”. We been doin’ it since we were young mean and we come out grinnin’.

We think it’s funny to rebel against parents, teachers, employers, police, the law, the government. But who we’re really rebelling against is God and God alone. He is the authority and He gives His authority to parents, teachers, employers, police, the law, the government. However, He retains sole claim to all authority and dispenses it to whom He desires. That is why when we rebel it is against Him and Him alone. (Psalm 51:4).

The authority of the name of Jesus calls for men’s submission to that name, but in our sinful state we protect our rebellion instead of submit to authority. We are rebels, sinning at every turn and hating those who tell us to stop.

Fortunately, Jesus’ name does have power. Without His power, we would never be saved. Jesus lived a perfect and holy life under the Law. He fulfilled every bit of it, and was crucified unjustly. He took on all man’s sins and endured God’s wrath for that sin. He died and was buried.

Three days later He rose again victorious over death!

“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)

Vainly attempting to grasp our rebellion against authority, or foolishly trying to keep whatever scraps of authority we think we have, will always end in one moment, one act: bowing before Jesus and confessing Him as Lord. It’s better to submit to His authority now and be adopted as son and friend, than to have confess to Him as a rebel.

Munkacsy_-_Christ_in_front_of_Pilate
With apologies to artist Mihály Munkácsy, “Christ before Pilate, 1881

Heaven is a busy place

busy

The busyness of Rome’s Piazza del Popolo can’t compare
to the busyness of heaven. EPrata photo

Heaven is busy. I know you know this. But sometimes we let the invisible become abstract, and once abstract, distant. People tell me that they feel that since our faith relies on invisibility, despite their certainty, praying to heaven sometimes feels like whistling in the wind.

I understand the feeling, and I’d like to help along those lines.

Let’s get specific.

When we have a civic issue, we do things. We write letters to the editor. We complain on Facebook. We join protests. We march. We petition. We attend Town Council meetings and speak in the microphone.

“My road isn’t paved and it’s wrecking my car!”
“There’s too many potholes on my road, do something!”
“You can’t fire the Town Manager/increase the budget/Add onto the school!”
“We need a stoplight at John Smith Road!”
“Make John Q. Public Street a 4-way stop!”
“Re-stripe the lines on Main Street!”

We are pretty busy when it comes to civic duties. We make ourselves heard for our civic needs in all the venues that are available to us.

What do we do when we have a spiritual issue? We do things. We write letters to the pastor. We complain on Facebook. We join grumbling protests. We prayer march. We petition. We attend Elder Council meetings and speak up.

What don’t we do? Pray. For whatever reason, we don’t make available to us the first thing we should be doing. Instead, we relegate it to a last resort.

Far from being an inert, harp-playing, cloud lounging, Deistic place, heaven is active and always in motion. It is in operation all the time. Heaven is busy, Heaven is involved.

Heaven has angels coming and going, presenting themselves to God. The High Court is always in session. Jesus is praying. Incense is rising. The angels are hollering holy, holy, holy. Warfare is breaking out. Martyrs are arriving. Jesus is mediating. Requests and Petitions are coming in. Praise and worship is continuing.

So pray! Pray for all your concerns. Pray to praise Jesus. Pray for your sanctification. Pray for your friends’ salvation. Pray for nations abroad, and your kids at home. Pray about everything, especially your concerns.

When you pray, you become intimately involved in the activity of heaven. Your prayer is heard by Jesus and is then absorbed into the great stream of work and operations of the celestial realms. If Jesus heard Hagar’s lone cry in the vast desert, if He saw Elijah’s exhaustion in his escape from Jezebel, if He knows the heart of Nicodemus by night, if He understands all our sorrows, fears, and feelings, He hears your prayer. You don’t have to worry. You don’t need a liver shiver or a sign or confirmation. He hears it.

Scripture references

Job 1:6; Revelation 4:1-11; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:24; Revelation 8:4, Revelation 4:8, Isaiah 6:2-3; Daniel 10:13, Revelation 12:7
Genesis 28:12; Revelation 6:9; 1 Timothy 2:5, Job 9:33; Philippians 4:6, 1 Timothy 2:1; Revelation 19:6-7, Revelation 11:16.