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Imagine with me for a few minutes, an enormous funnel—as large as the earth. In that funnel has been poured all the awful human experiences since mankind’s beginning: the murders, the dark hatreds in word and deed, the betrayals of trust, the cheating, the conspiracies, the lies, the corruptions, the thefts; the sexual abominations—rapes, adulteries, prostitutions, bondages, homosexuality, and the sexual abuse and soul-damaging violations of women and children; all the unjust wars, the greed, the prideful nationalistic invasions and lusts for power, the gulags, the suffering of civilians, the miseries of the wounded, the tortures of prisoners and those innocent, the genocides, the slaveries; the diseases and sicknesses, the cancers, the blindness and deafness, the slaughters of innocent children and unborn babies, and human experimentations: billions and billions of agonizing cries, heard and unheard, lifted up to heaven for relief. All of this in one terrifying, horrific avalanche of human feculence, rushing toward the narrowing neck.

At the end of that opening, is one small, seemingly, individual, waiting; waiting for the impact of all the effluent. He has been waiting there for thousands of years. It will impact Him, and He knows full well what is to occur. However, the individual offered for this horrendous task is most unanticipated and almost incomprehensible: God Himself.

God’s answer for the flood of atrocity is not to thrust out His chest, resist it, and cause it to bounce off like a Superman; no, it is to absorb it, including the required punishment it brings. He is unable to even lift His hands in front of Himself for protection. He is weak, helpless, and unable to move, or move away.

When it hits Him, He dies.

He must die.

However, a vital truth resides here which is unknown to the onlookers and very many today. His life was not taken; He gave up His life because He is the God who lives forever. He cannot die. Thus, after the gargantuan onslaught of evil refuse and resulting justice kills Him, He rises. And with that rising comes the exact opposite of misery-filled refuse: beauty, cleanness, joy, life, and light.

But more accompanies that astounding reversal. Cleanness, yes, but holiness, purity—a holiness that in its essence is God’s. No darkness. No hidden sins. No lie. No betrayal of trust. All good. All pure. That holiness is given to believers because of the individual who hung helpless that day—the very holiness of God Himself.

And more. Righteousness. The ability given to stand before God without any intervening or interfering obstacles and sins. All given. All free. Undeserving. Nothing you can do but rejoice in it, in faith, and love Him in it.

And more. A relationship with the Creator of all things. A relationship with the One who thought up and brought into being all that is living and bright and majestic and beautiful, those things not of man’s creation, that you see and cannot see daily.

If you are a believer, you are His son. I write “son” rather than “son or daughter” because, biblically, sonship entails inheritance. So, believers in this redeeming God receive, almost impossible to comprehend, an inheritance that is shared with the first-born Son, Jesus. Yes. Whatever that inheritance is, you, as a believer, share it with Immanuel. All given. All free. Undeserving. Nothing you can do but rejoice in it, in faith, and love Him in it.

Is there work for you to do? Of course. He created you to do good work, those things that He actually prepared beforehand. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).1 We may chew on that for a while, but not too long. He will attend to that prepared work as you seek, follow, and obey Him.

And why wouldn’t you want to do that?

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com

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I heard a Baptist say recently that the average Baptist is baptized 3.3 times during his or her lifetime. I’m not sure about the decimal, but the figure was over three. The man reckoned that the first baptism was as a child out of a desire to do what the family and parents advocated. The second was during the teen years because the person didn’t think the child baptism was valid. The third was in the person’s late twenties when he or she regretted their sinful foolhardiness in the teen and college years.

When does a person truly become a Christian?

It is a trite answer but true: God knows. I hope we have, by now, rejected the common evangelical understanding that a prayer prayed with just the right words after coming forward at an invitation is a one-and-done. Boom. Salvation. You’re good. Is salvation possible after such a prayer? Absolutely. Unfortunately, too often, it is not.

In the light of the truth that only God knows the condition of one’s heart, let’s consider the man Nicodemus. If you are a Christian, you know well the account of Jesus and His encounter with this Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. He wanted to talk to Jesus but was afraid of the repercussions from his fellows. Anyone who has wielded power even in a minor sense would understand the pressure that ensues based upon his or her decisions concerning the Lord. Should we criticize Nicodemus for that? Easy to do from our armchairs. Thus, he came at night, looking for answers. This is a positive thing. After all, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44a).1 Was the Father drawing this man?

Upon arriving, Nicodemus made a statement of belief, it seems: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). However, Jesus knew that miracles do not always lead to belief. So, He gives this baffling response: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3), to which Nicodemus responds with incredulity. Wouldn’t you have? “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4).

So, Jesus offered some more information, which Nicodemus also did not understand and which we wouldn’t have, either: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8). In other words, this is spiritual stuff, Nicodemus. You won’t be able to comprehend it with your natural mind—just like you didn’t understand being born again.

Jesus continued to teach Nicodemus and said in sum, “God loves the world so much that He sent Me, His Son, to bring eternal life, and you are expected to believe that.”

John chapter three ends without a further word.

Was this the last we are to hear of Nicodemus? No. No, because the process of salvation, which may be occurring in this case, is often a strange, slow path.

When we see Nicodemus again it is in a very positive light. Remember, he was a ruler of the Jews and therefore present at the trial of Jesus. He rose to His defense. “Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?’ They replied, ‘Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee’” (John 7:50–52).

Something was going on in this man’s heart. He was risking the derision of his fellow ruling Jews. If he pushed it, expulsion from the synagogue—a social and economic disaster.

However, that is not the last we see of Nicodemus. We see him again performing a worthy deed. “Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews” (John 19:39–40). Seventy-five pounds. That’s a lot of spices It would take planning and labor to gather and transport them. Did he load them on a donkey? We don’t know all of those who were there, but from this account it was only Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who were about this distressing task.

We see three snapshots of Nicodemus in the book of John. The first did not give us a very clear picture of what was going on in his confused heart. Had he sorted things out by the time he stood in Jesus’ defense when He was on His way to His glorious sacrifice? When he brought the spices? Was he a believer? God knows. But remember Jesus’ commendation for the woman who anointed Him for burial: “She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:8–9).

Nevertheless, we do not know the nature of Nicodemus’ final status with God. But we should learn here that we often see snapshots of people whom we encounter who are doubtful, confused, and bewildered by what their eyes have seen, and their ears have heard. Our job? To communicate the truth, as Jesus did, speaking of spiritual realities, but not with the thinking of natural man. The Father will draw them. The Holy Spirit will give witness to the truth.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com

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What should a Christian say if someone asks, “Do you believe gay people are going to hell because they’re gay?”

We should say, “Let’s back up a bit. Do you know why Jesus came?”

Their answer will indicate where you should go next. If they actually say, “To die for our sins,” then you can ask, “Who are these sinners He died for?”

You can then explain to them that everybody—everybody—is a sinner. Jesus told us that if we hate people, it’s like committing murder. He said that if a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart, it’s the same as if he’s committing adultery. Everyone is a sinner—including you and the person asking the question. Everybody has lied. No one has loved God like he should, with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength. We have all failed.

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Here is the link to a story about a woman who had a vision of Jesus and subsequently became a Christian:

http://www.answering-islam.org/Testimonies/leah.html

 

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In the days before Laurie and I left Israel, we spent many hours talking, thinking and praying about our departure. We discussed whether or not we would continue to serve on the mission field in another country. If we didn’t—and the more we hashed it over with each other and with the Lord, this was the way we were leaning—the more it became apparent that we would need to seek employment back in the States. This was going to be challenging. Our resume´s as former missionaries were…interesting.

Laurie and I had prayed earnestly, separately and apart, for direction. However, the answer I received from God wasn’t one I was expecting.

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I had an interesting—more than interesting—stunning—thought when I was praying/worshiping a couple of mornings ago.  I was thanking the Lord for the day when He made Himself known to me, on the front porch of the Travelers’ Hotel, in Chelan, Washington, around thirty-eight years ago.  The Father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit consulted together and were in 100% agreement concerning that moment, that encounter.  This agreeing consultation took place a long time ago—before the worlds were formed.

The same, of course, is true of you.

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The last couple of posts here have been what Christians would call the “Bad News.”

So what’s the “Bad News”?  It’s not just outward actions that are sinful; in our essence we are sinful.  Every.  Body.

And it’s not just the things we typically think of that are sinful.  Not doing something that you know is good, is sinful.  Making something else ultimate besides God is sinful.  Not revering God for giving us the very air we breathe—ignoring Him—is sinful.  We consider ourselves good when we compare ourselves to other.  We’re good until God comes into the room.  Nobody is holy like Him.  Nobody.

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Take a few minutes, if you will, and watch this amazing video.  The link isn’t working, so please copy and paste the address.

http://www.yhttp://iamsecond.com/#/seconds/Brian_Welch/

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I came across this on James Taranto’s “Best of the Web” site a couple of days ago.

I am greatly pleased when an unbeliever encounters evidence that glorifies the Lord Jesus. He changed my life. Perhaps he’ll change Matthew’s as well. Looks like change is already happening…

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“There are many other fundamental differences (in the religions of the world). Hinduism itself contains adherents to virtually every opinion on the nature of God; a Hindu may be monotheistic, henotheistic, polytheistic, or pantheistic, depending upon his village or temple of origin. On the other hand, the three Western religions are strictly monotheistic. Both Buddhism and Hinduism teach reincarnation, a concept completely foreign to Christianity, Judaism (except among some fringe medieval mystics), and Islam. Many Buddhists and some liberal Jews actually deny the existence of God. And since Judaism and Islam bluntly deny Jesus’ divinity claim, either they are right and he is wrong, or vice versa. We cannot have it both ways.

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