Love The Light

I must confess: October is one of my least favorite times of the year. I love fall. I love red, yellow, and orange leaves. I love frost and pumpkin pie and wind. But I really dislike Halloween. I don’t like to drive through my neighborhood and see skeletons hanging everywhere. It hurts my heart to see ten year olds dressed like ghosts and zombies.

I know. I can hear it coming. “What is wrong with Halloween?” “Are you one of those mean neighbors that refuse to give kids candy because it’s evil?”

Well, here it is. Halloween was originally a pagan holiday. There is nothing godly about it. It was a ritual night of live sacrifices and evil spells. Yes, I do give candy to kids at my door. But I take no part in celebrating this day of darkness.

1 John 1:5-6 “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

In context, this verse is talking about not living in the darkness of deception. Don’t be deceived. Don’t let something that is culturally acceptable make you look like the darkness.

I can’t tell you how to believe, or how to behave. But I pray that you would research and decide for yourself how you will live. We don’t celebrate death and evil. We celebrate life and life more abundantly.

Here is a link to some very well put together research done by a Christian on Halloween and what it really is all about. i would urge you to please take a couple minutes to read it. And maybe think a little differently about this ‘Day of the Dead’.

http://theartofpursuit.com/2012/10/01/halloween-whats-the-big-deal-2/

What Does He Want of Me?

Do you ever have friends that share verses with you? I do, and I love it when they do! A friend shared this yesterday and I haven’t been able to get away from it:

Psalm 40:6-8 “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; my ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.’”

Wait. So God doesn’t want sacrifice or offering? He doesn’t require the burnt offerings and sin offerings that the Old Testament is full of? The Law of Moses was full of details of such offerings and sacrifices. It had every detail, how often they were required, how they were to be divided. It was very thorough.

So if God doesn’t desire or require these anymore what does He desire? I believe that God doesn’t want things that are ‘required’, what He really desires is our decision to follow Him. Our obedience out of love and not duty is what He is really looking for.

Psalm 51:16-17 “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart–these, O God, You will not despise.”

What He really wants is a broken and a contrite heart. It doesn’t seem very fun at first, but think of a stallion. A wild stallion isn’t good for anyone until it has been broken. Once he has been broken and submits willingly to the handler’s prompting, he is one of the most useful and beautiful animals. Who wants a horse that pulls at every turn and will buck you off if you give him half of a chance?

He wants us to come to that place of brokenness where we look to Him for where to go and what to do next. A well trained horse will not move until prompted. He wants a people that will do His will, who will move at His prompting and not without.

Going back to Psalm 40, verse eight says, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.” He wants a people that delight in His will. How? by putting His Word in our hearts. When we love His Word and let it live within our hearts, we will know and love His will. We will get used to hearing His voice because it will have the same tone as the Word.

Let’s love His Word and give Him the sacrifice He desires. Let’s delight in His will and learn to hear His voice. And lastly, let’s obey willingly when we feel the gentle nudge of the Spirit.

The Heartbeat of God

Pondering the love of God today…

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

One part at a time: God so loved the world that He gave… Most everyone when they love, they give. It is easy to do. When a young couple falls in love, they will do all sorts of things for each other. Parents will do just about anything for their children in the name of love.

But how many people would give their only son for someone else? How many would willingly offer their son’s life in the place of a stranger, even a criminal? How many would allow their son to give his life if he wanted to?

And yet, the King of the universe gave His only Son to take my place. I didn’t deserve it. God owed me nothing. In fact, by the way I lived; I was one to spit in His face. But in spite of who I was and am, He still loves me.

It redefines love. But God is love, I think He has the best definition. God’s love is and always will be the greatest love. It never changes. The Bible says that God never changes, so His love can never change. The same desire, the same love that led Him to give His Son, still wants to spend eternity with us.

The heart of God beats for people. It beats that we could know Him and be close to Him. He wanted us to have eternal life. We were meant for heaven, not hell. Jesus took our place, we were deserving of death and He died in our stead that we might live forever with Him in paradise. God so loved that He gave. He gave the most precious thing that He had that, if we will believe, we can be with Him.

It’s The Little Things

1 Chronicles 16:8 “Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!”
Just thinking about this verse this  evening. What  am I thankful for? What has the Lord done for me?
It can be so easy to go about our lives and take things for granted. Let’s start with the little things… Electricity. Heat or AC. Slippers. A car. Family. Friends. A bed.
Think if we took two minutes every fast to stop and thank the Lord for His goodness. He hasn’t given us what we deserve.  Some of us He has preserved our lives. He gives us breath every day. He doesn’t withhold any good thing.
Share it with a friend. This verse says to make His deeds known among the people.  Tell someone, “You know, I am so thankful for…” And make that a habit. “Do you know what God has done for me?” It is so fun to do, and it encourages both of you.
What are you thankful for today? I would love to hear from you. But even more so, I would like to challenge you to take a minute every day and turn your heart to the Lord and thank Him for what He had done. It does wonders for the soul.

He Took My Place

I’ve been thinking a lot about Barabbas. He was a criminal, tried and true. He was in prison waiting to be executed for his crime. But he was released.

I find myself putting my name in place of his. I am a sinner, tried and true. Even though I have never been convicted of a crime or even had a speeding ticket, I am still guilty. Guilty of what? Guilty of breaking God’s law. The Ten Commandments are there to show us right from wrong.

Let’s pick one: Thou shalt not lie. I love the Old King James, it makes it sound so much more important. But, we have all lied, even if it was only a little white lie. A lie is a lie.

Thou shalt not steal. Most of us at one time or another, to some degree, have taken something that doesn’t belong to us. Guilty. Thou shalt not murder. OK! I can safely say that I have never killed anyone. But, the Bible says that if you hate someone in your heart than you are a murderer (1 John 3:15). Ouch! Guilty. Three for three.

But just like in the story of Barabbas, Jesus took my place. He took upon Himself the sins that I have committed, the lustful thoughts, the thoughts of hate, the wrong things I have done. The Bible says that He became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I was deserving of death, for the payment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). But Jesus, the only one who had no sins of His own to pay for, took mine and yours upon Himself to pay the price that you and I could not pay.

Why? So that we could spend eternity with Him. Sin keeps us away from God. God is so perfectly holy that it is against His very nature to dwell with darkness. That is why Jesus came.

I cannot read the story of the cross without tears, knowing that it was for me that He was crucified. Now I walk in freedom from sin because of it. I put myself in Barabbas’ shoes and can only imagine how he felt to know that an innocent man was killed in his stead.

Let us remember the cross as we live our lives. Remember what He has done, so that we live a little differently. The best part of the story is not just that He died for us, but that He rose again. Death could not hold the Prince of Life. The Spirit of God raised Him from the dead and He lives to give us freedom over the things that would hold in bondage.

Acquitted

Deep in a dank Roman prison a criminal awaits justice. He has been tried and found guilty. There were multiple witnesses.

“Murderer! Murderer!” He would forever hear the crowd screaming. Thankfully he had not long to live in the torment. The guilt and remorse were tearing at him. He hardened his heart. He would no longer feel emotion.

He had no sense of time, but he knew that the execution had to be in the next twelve hours or so. His hands got clammy. A cold sweat broke out on his forehead and his mouth went dry. A Roman cross was his fate. He had killed a Roman citizen. The Roman’s dealt harshly with murderers.

He heard the guard coming. Not yet! It was too soon. What was happening?

The keys rattle in the door and the guard enters. He has a mean look about him. Or maybe that is just how all Roman guards are.

Roughly jerked to his feet by his own chains, he moans in pain. Where are they taking him? The courtyard, not another beating! He isn’t sure that he could live through another like the last one.

The guard pushes him ahead, down the corridor and up the stone stairway. The blinding sunshine hits his face, leaving the darkness of the prison behind. They come to the courtyard. His pulse starts to race.

Why are there so many people? The courtyard is jammed full. This isn’t just a crowd. This is a mob! And they are angry.

Why? He wonders.

“Crucify him! Crucify him!” Barabbas’ heart pounds even harder. He is already on death row. Why are they again demanding that he be crucified? As his vision clears he sees a man standing before the judgment seat. He has seen this man before.

Jesus, the Nazarene, stands before Pilate, the Roman governor. What has he done? Barabbas begins looking around. He recognizes the Jewish leaders standing with Jesus. He begins to understand. Jewish justice will not crucify this man, but Roman cruelty will. The Jewish leaders are trying to convince the governor that this man is worthy of death.

Pilate stands. The crowd hushes.

“It is my custom that I release one prisoner to you at the feast. Which would you prefer? Barabbas, or Jesus, who is called the Christ? Which of the two do you want me to release to you? ”

Barabbas is stunned. It is between him and this Jesus who will live and who will die a horrendous death this day. He can’t breathe.

“We want Barabbas!” the crowd erupts. Barabbas can’t believe what is happening. Will he be freed? What has this man done that would make the people hate him this much?

“What shall I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

“Crucify him!” the crowd turns unreasonable. The governor has just referred to this Man as their Messiah, making Him their Savior. They become angry and unruly

“What has he done to be deserving of death?” Pilate wants nothing to do with this.

“CRUCIFY HIM!” the mob is getting out of hand.

Pilate signals the guard. “You have been freed. You will not pay for the crime you committed.” The guard removes Barabbas’ chains and shoves him away, glowering down at him.

He puts them on the other Man. His hands and feet never felt so light. He chances a glance at the other Man. Expecting anger and hatred, their eyes meet. They hold. Barabbas looks away. Who is this Man?

He sees no anger. He sees no hate. It was the look of his father when he had been hurt as a child, compassion and kindness.

The soldiers lead Jesus away. The mob follows. Barabbas can’t move. Twenty minutes before he had no hope. He was a murderer on death row. Now he is free, acquitted of his offense.

He follows behind numbly, not knowing where else to go. He witnesses a beating more brutal than he had received. Thirty-nine blows with a cat-of-nine-tales. The Romans are cruel in their torture. Jesus utters not a word. Barabbas thinks of his own beating and the string of profanities that he had used.

The solders mock Him and spit on Him. They take a crown made of twisted thorns the length of a finger and press it onto His head. “Hail! The King of the Jews!”

They strap the cross to Jesus’ back. He can barely stand. They find another man to carry the cross. Jesus comes behind, barely walking. Each time He stumbles results in cruel lashes from a Roman whip.

Barabbas continues to follow as they climb the street to the Place of the Skull. It is a Roman death field. With every step, he is reminded that he should be the one carrying the cross.

He tries to find out Jesus’ crime but no one seems to know. Some say one thing and some another. He begins to piece together what he knows. Jesus is a Jewish carpenter and teacher. He is called a Nazarene. He is hated by the Jewish leaders for the things he taught.

Finally a man tells him that the Jewish leaders want Him dead because of His teachings and what they called blasphemy. This makes sense. The Jewish leaders aren’t known for their straight ways of dealing with people they don’t like.

He comes on the hill a little late. The crosses already stand, three of them. Jesus is in the middle with a criminal on either side. Barabbas knows these men.

“If you are the Son of God, come down off the cross.” The men at the cross continue to scoff at him.

Barabbas hears Jesus say, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

The soldiers put a sign above Jesus’ head that says, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” The priests and elders of the Jews mock Him even further. “He saved others but He cannot save Himself. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let God deliver Him if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God’.”

Barabbas’ stomach turns. He can stand it no longer. He turns to leave the gruesome scene.

As he turns, Jesus cries out, “My God, my God! Why have You forsaken Me?”  The cry holds such anguish that Barabbas turns one last time to look in His eyes. Then he turns and runs. He runs until he can’t run anymore. He collapses on the side of the street. He sobs. He has not cried in many years. But he can’t help it.

He was to have been executed. And now Jesus hangs in his place. Why? It isn’t right. He is deserving of death and has been released. Jesus is no more than an innocent teacher and carpenter. Or is He? The people called Him the Son of God.

Barabbas picks himself off the ground. The sky is getting dark. He isn’t far from his home. He turns down the alley that leads to his door. He opens it and enters, closing the door behind him. Closing the door forever on Barabbas the murderer and standing as Barabbas, the acquitted.

Adapted from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Temporal Vs. The Eternal

Pastor spoke this morning and used this verse in reference and it got me to thinking…

Hebrews 12:27-29 “Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.”

The things that can be shaken will not last. The temporal things that the world loves, they will not last. Education will not last. Clothes will not last. Beauty will not last. The pleasures that this life affords will not last.

What are we building our lives on? Are we merely living for the moment? What takes our time? What gives us pleasure? I like to ask questions.

The things that cannot be shaken, the things that are eternal, those are what we are to build on. Our God is a consuming fire. The closer that you get to Him, the more things that are temporal are burned away.

The Word will not be shaken. To know Him, you must know the Word. To build on the unshakeable things, we must stay close to the Lord. Like that old song:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

It’s true. The fire of God consumes everything in our life that is not of His kingdom. We either draw nearer and let Him burn away those things, or we pull away and hide those areas from His fire.

Draw nearer. Let Him burn those things off until He burns through you. Build on the Rock that is Christ Jesus.