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#Lent#26

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

I’m in Ohio the first part of this week helping our daughter, Janna, move into her apartment. So I’m “cheating” by using the same devotion here that I am using at my other blog, Living in the Shadow.

If there is one emotion which captures the mood of many, if not most, people these days, it is fear. It has no favorites. Young. Old. Rich. Poor. Mansion-dweller. Homeless. Actor. Homemaker. CEO. Grunt worker. Christ-follower. Non-believer. F.E.A.R. It paralyzes. It haunts. It creeps.

I was reading a devotion recently on Psalms. I’m going to reprint it in its totality for you. I hope it blesses you and show why we have nothing to fear.

Etty Hillesum was a young Jewish woman living in Amsterdam in 1942. During that time, the Nazis were arresting Jews and herding them off to concentration camps. As she awaited the inevitable arrest, and with the fear of the unknown (my note: sound familiar?), she began to read the Bible-and met Jesus. She simply put her hand in God’s hand and found rare courage and confidence.

Etty wrote in her diary: ‘From all sides our destruction creeps up on us and soon the ring will be closed and no one at all will be able to come to our aid. but I don’t feel that I am in anybody’s clutches. I feel safe in God’s arms. And whether I am sitting at my beloved old desk in the Jewish district or in a labor camp under SS guards, I shall feel safe in God’s arms. Once you have begun to walk with God, you need only keep on walking with Him, and all of life becomes one long stroll.’

Etty was a living, courageous picture of the psalmist’s declaration: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you…What can mere mortals do to me?” (Ps.56:3-4). What a challenge for anyone plagued by fear!

As we sense the strength of God’s everlasting arms beneath us (Deut.33:27), we can stroll through life with confidence, holding the hand of our unseen Companion.    Devotion by Vernon Grounds

I wish every person on earth, whether a follower of Jesus or not, could grab a hold of that truth. It is especially viable for the follower of Jesus to have faith not fear. Praise not panic.  My prayer is that including this devotion might soothe your troubled soul (if you are anxious or troubled).  And by all means, pass this along!

Devotion (in blue) from Together With God: Psalms @2016 Our Daily Bread Ministries. 

#Lent#25

Monday, March 30th, 2020

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumblingblock to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  (I Cor.1:18, 22-24)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  (Romans 1:16)

“For I deliver to you as of first importance what I also received: that Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scripture.” (I Cor.15:3-4)

There should be no question what we should be teaching and preaching. Not politics. Not “feel good.” Not spirituality. Not health/wealth. Not NAR garbage (gold dust falling from heaven? Grave sucking? You have go to me kidding me!).  Not hype.  Not Miracle Spring Water (seriously?).  JESUS. THE GOSPEL. THE CROSS.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Gal.6:14)

#Lent#24

Friday, March 27th, 2020

In yesterday’s devotion, I focused on Jesus conquering death, hell and the grave. Let’s focus a bit more on the latter one today. I absolutely loved John Piper’s statement:

The keys of death were hung on the inside of Christ’s tomb. (p.100)

WOW! I love the picture that gives. As I walk into my house, on the wall to my left is a hook. It is where I put my keys as soon as I walk in the door.  That way I know where they are when/if I need them. When I leave in the morning the last thing I get before I walk out the door is my keys. If I need to run to my truck to get something I know where my keys are. My imagination can do a great picture of this. Just before or as the stone was rolled away, I can picture Jesus reaching over the grabbing the key called “Resurrection” and take it off the hook and walk out.

I simply cannot say it better than Piper did.

The resurrection of Jesus is God’s gift and proof that His death was completely successful in blotting out the sins of His people and removing the wrath of God. (p.100)

It was like God’s stamp on the whole deal. It’s like getting loan papers in the mail with a big stamp of PAID on it. PAID. IN. FULL. The Law was satisfied. The debt was paid.  Eternal life promised.

Oh yeah! He rose!  Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Love that key!!

#Lent#23

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

We often talk about the victory Jesus won at the cross. I myself have -at least a 1000 times 🙂 – said that Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave. And I firmly believe that with all that is within me.  So, I thought it would be good to take a look at that statement real briefly:

  1. He conquered death. Death is considered the ultimate enemy. People are afraid to die. Because of Jesus the Christ-follower has nothing to fear.
  2. He conquered hell. The enemy of our soul- Jesus’ mortal enemy- thought he had won. His goal for us is not in killing us; it is in damning us. He lost the Big One so he goes after the smaller fish (me and you). But we have nothing to fear. Hell is reserved for Satan and his minions.
  3. He conquered the grave. That tomb is empty!!! What once was seen as permanent lost its grip when Jesus rose victorious from that grave. Death could not hold Him. The grave could not contain Him. His physical resurrection was proof He is alive. And although mine might not be seen as dramatic, it really is no less so. One day my body, which is decaying in the ground, will rise to meet my spirit and death will be done forever. The grave will cough up all it holds. All the saints will be given new bodies in a place where we will live forever.

All because Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave. That makes the score Jesus 1 (one and won) / Satan a big fat 0. (zero and loser).

For a little fun this morning give this a listen. Underneath the video hit SHOW MORE for the lyrics.

#Lent#22

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is credited with saying,

When Jesus calls a man, He bids him come and die.

Jesus then set the example. His obedience to His Father meant death. Philippians 2 tells us that: “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (2:6-8)

Could we have any better example of Someone who fleshed out Bonhoeffer’s statement and became the ultimate example for us? History tells us that crucifixion was a horrible and horrific way to die. And yet He went. Hebrews 12:2 says, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…”

To follow Jesus means to come and die.  Maybe not on a cross or a pyre or a guillotine. But we still must die. To self. To selfishness. To pride. To ego. To “me first.” He set an example that we should follow in His steps. (I Peter 2:21)

#Lent#21

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

John Piper writes:

At the heart of Christianity is the truth that we are forgiven and accepted by God, not because we have done good works, but to make us able and zealous to do them.  (p.90)

I remember hearing once that Martin Luther, who believed very strongly in justification by faith, tore the book of James out of his Bible (true or not I don’t know) because James wrote, “Faith without works is dead.” (Js.2:26)  He further complicated Luther’s thinking with more words: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (v.18) He also wrote, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (v.24)

What Luther missed is what Piper is saying. We are not saved by our works, but we do good works because we are saved. It is not “I do for” but “I do because.” As my conversion takes hold of my heart, life, and thinking, it comes out in my doing.

Sorry Martin. Good works are involved. Not in the salvation process, but as an outgrowth of our salvation. My good deeds do not save me, but they do show I have been saved by God’s grace.

Quote from The Passion of the Christ by John Piper.

#Lent#20

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

With all the talk about “the virus” I thought we needed a reminder that we are still alive and live on a planet made by God, the Creator of all things good.  I came to the office early this morning (Sunday) and about 7:40 I peeked outside. I saw this sunrise and took these pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d say that is a pretty impressive display of God’s creative work wouldn’t you? 

Our service was live streamed on the church’s Facebook page.  I do not have the ability to post it here but if you would like you can go to the church’s website and click on OVCF Facebook Page. You can ask to join and either Diana or Tami will approve it. You can then watch it. I understand (and may be wrong since I am technologically-challenged illiterate) that you can watch it once you are a member of our page.

And remember there is always a sunrise with Jesus. In fact, it was real popular a number of years ago to say, “Friday’s here, but Sunday’s coming!” Good Friday looked bleak, but Resurrection Day changed it all.

***********************************

Shortly before they left on their spring break vacation one of the ladies in the church (my State Farm Agent) said she saw a shirt and it had my name written all over it. She gave it to me to wear and I told her I would wear it the first Sunday they were back. Today was that day and you obviously know the result of that.  It tells a great story for us and our times.  It is a lesson we must never forget.

Those are my words to all: DON’T. GIVE. UP!!

#Lent#19

Friday, March 20th, 2020

A stone or a cross.

That’s one of the ways I see this time of the year.

By stone I mean the Law.  The Law’s purpose, according to Galatians 3:24, is to be a tutor, a schoolmaster, a guardian to lead us to Jesus. It was in effect until Jesus came and then we moved from there to justification by faith. The Law was a stone around our neck. There was no freedom.  No escape.  All the Law really offered was demands and condemnation.

On the other side of the coin is the cross. Whereas the Law brought demands and condemnation, the cross brought love and freedom. The cross was far superior in every way to the Law. Instead of outside works being associated with righteousness, we are now declared righteous by the blood of Christ.

You could say a stone was used in judgment of someone when thrown; the cross was used to take away that judgment and placed on Someone else. I’ll take the cross.

#Lent#18

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Have you ever noticed how some verses get a bad rap? Hear me out please. By bad rap I don’t mean kicked-to-the-curb-bad.  Instead, I’m referring to the fact that some verses are so close to another that stands out, that one verse is almost glossed over, even forgotten.

For example, Romans 8:29. Ask people to quote verse 28 and they’re on it!  Ask them to quote verse 29 and they most likely will stutter and stammer. Look closely though.  Verse 29 gives good traction and clarity to verse 28. All that happens is designed to conform us to the image of God’s Son.

Another one is in John 3.  Tell me what John 3:16 says.  That one is easy to spout off.  Some will know verse 17 if pressed. Okay, how about verse 15? We scramble for our Bibles to look it up.  Let me save you some time.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” BAM!

Powerful verse!  It finds its root in Numbers 21:5-9 where the Israelite people found life by looking at the serpent lifted up by Moses.  Life is found in the “lifted up” Christ.  That is a definite picture of Jesus being lifted up on a cross. There we find life. And it certainly isn’t a verse we can forget or leave out!!

Look up and live!

#Lent#17

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Winter time brings the “excitement” of riding my bike on an indoor trainer. (Please note sarcasm; no joy in that statement).  Hours upon hours of riding in one place, bored out of my gourd, as they say. The only redeeming quality besides the fact that at least I’m getting some exercise, is I’m also getting to catch up on movies. This past winter I watched the Back to the Future trilogy (again); Titanic; all 5 Transformers movies (I forgot I had Bumblebee); and the director’s cuts of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Watching them all brought back a lot of nostalgia and the reason why they are my favorites.

In the LOTR trilogy, one of Gollum’s favorite expressions was to call the ring, “My Precious.” (Sort of like the meme I saw the other day with him saying that and holding a roll of toilet paper). But I digress. 🙂  The ring was evil and had so taken over his life that he was no longer Smeagol. It had changed him; ruined him. In the Hobbit,  Bilbo had found the ring and Gollum was so controlled by it he knew no peace and went to great lengths to get it back. Thus the trilogy; the need to destroy the ring; and Gollum’s demise after finally taking it from Frodo.

“My precious.” Such was my thought as I read I Peter 1:18-19

Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”  (emphasis mine).

It wasn’t silver or gold that drew Peter’s attention, but the precious blood of Christ. That word “precious” conveys infinite value. Just as the ring was of infinite value to Gollum, so is the blood of Christ to every follower who has been washed in it.