All Lives Matter

Day by day we see more senseless violence as American society is feeling a divide that doesn’t belong there. The lines between sides are getting more and more blurry as two police officers (not white) were senselessly gunned down as they sat in their car. Who is the fight between?  Is it black vs. white?  Is it police vs. civilian?  Or is it just another ploy of the devil to tear the world apart one hateful act by another?  I’ll go with the latter. 

All over social media we see people falling on one side or the other with posts claiming the cause they hold to. Protests are being organized as people try desperately to make their point known. But recently I saw a stand we should all agree with, no matter what we may think of the tragedies we’ve seen unfold – “All Lives Matter”.  This statement says it all and is directly from the heart of God. If we could all get behind this cause and allow the lines being etched between us to be erased, we could take the game back, right out of the devils hands.  We could take away the power he gets from the hatred we fuel. 

All Lives Matter.  That is the reason Jesus came to earth to begin with. All lives matter, whether we are young or old; black or white; cop or civilian; citizen or alien; sinner or saint.  All lives matter enough for Jesus to shed his blood on the cross for each one of us – offering redemption to anyone that surrenders their life to him 

All lives matter because each and every life was created by God with a plan and a purpose. And the ultimate fulfillment of that life is eternity with him, available to all that acknowledge Jesus as the only way. 

All lives matter to God. And he’s waiting for us to turn to him and allow him to be the Lord of our life. If we do that, then suddenly it’s an army of God’s children against the only enemy we should have – the devil – with God on our side.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! (‭Psalms‬ ‭139‬:‭13-18‬ NLT)

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Christmas Lights – A Fitting Analogy

Do you find it interesting that, for the most part, Christmas is the only holiday that people hang displays of lights around their home? For some, it is a major event. Thousands of lights that likely remained hung yet unlit throughout the year suddenly come to life in a beautiful display. Many of these serve as a beacon, drawing visitors from all over to come and admire their brightness. Often entire city streets will be lit in a colorful glow. It’s quite amazing to drive around in the dark of night and see all of the lights. 

As I recently admired the light show on my way home from work, it dawned on me how Christmas lights are actually a fitting analogy for our celebration of the birth of Jesus. The Bible has a lot to say about how Jesus is the light of the world. 

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭9‬:‭2‬ NLT)

He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭49‬:‭6‬ NLT)

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (‭Luke‬ ‭1‬:‭78-79‬ NLT)

I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (‭Luke‬ ‭2‬:‭30-32‬ NLT)

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (‭John‬ ‭1‬:‭1-5‬ NLT)

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. ” (‭John‬ ‭3‬:‭16-21‬ NLT)

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (‭John‬ ‭8‬:‭12‬ NLT)

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4‬:‭6‬ NLT)

So next time you find yourself admiring a lovely light display, let it remind you of the greatest light of all. The light of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. 

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Christ in Christmas – God’s Salvation Gift

The things that are happening in the world around us are incredibly sad. Murders at the hands of terrorists almost daily. Pandemics sickening many. Freedoms once taken for granted at risk in the name of social improvement. And yet rather than falling on our knees and crying out to our Creator, we are pushing him away. Rather than searching his Word for answers we are cherry-picking its messages to fit our own agendas. Rather than seeing Christ in Christmas – the only possible way to be saved from the coming tribulation – we assure ourselves that just being nice should do the trick. 

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only way to escape the coming judgement on this earth and subsequent judgement by the Creator of all is to cling to the righteousness of Christ alone. I know that the best of my best can never measure up to the holiness of God. I know that when he sent his Son, Jesus, to earth to live with us and then die for us it was the lifeline to a lost world that he loves and wants to redeem. I know that no other way I’ve heard lines up with who God is. And I know that to turn my back on the gift of grace extended on the cross is foolishness. 

But what about those of you who don’t see it that way. What about those of you who believe that, if there is a God, he would be much more inclusive. You’re sure that all he expects is that we do our best, as if somehow anything we can do is worthy of eternity in the presence of his holiness. You’ve convinced yourself, with the help of deceitful teachers, that God didn’t really mean the things he said in his word – or that “if he had known” how things would be he wouldn’t have said this or that, as if the creator of the universe isn’t all-knowing.  You cling to the notion that some vague “belief in a god” should cut it and somehow make you better than “them” – whoever “they” might be. 

If you’re right, then Jesus suffered and died for no reason. If you’re right, then it will be interesting to see what the grading curve is to avoid hell. Or worse, maybe there is no hell and unrepentant murderers will be sharing a table with you in heaven. If that’s the case, it won’t look any better than this earth. Or maybe there’s no God, no heaven or hell, and the earth will just continue on and on until we all destroy it and each other. Then what was the point of our existence to begin with. Frankly, I like what I’m hoping in much better. 

Now I have a question for you – what if you’re wrong?  What if one day you wake up and Jesus has returned just like you heard he would?  Will you hand him a list of all your good deeds?  I assure you, he will have a list of your mistakes, as well. What will you say when he shows you the holes in his hands suffered on the cross to pay for your sins?  Will you tell him those wounds were meant for the weak who needed religion as a crutch?  How strong will you really feel in his presence knowing you denied him? Will you suddenly say now that you’re face-to-face with him that you believe – when everything he’s done all along to show you he was real wasn’t enough?  

If you’re right – and Jesus isn’t anything more than a good man in history, or maybe even a myth, then I guess you have nothing to lose.  

But if you’re wrong, and Jesus is the way, the truth and the life – as he said he was…If he is coming back to redeem those of us who put our faith in him and judge the rest of you once and for all…If the only way to know that you are saved from an eternity in hell is by putting your faith in the blood of Jesus to make you righteous.  If you’re wrong – you have everything to lose. 

Consult together, argue your case. Get together and decide what to say. Who made these things known so long ago? What idol ever told you they would happen? Was it not I, the LORD? For there is no other God but me, a righteous God and Savior. There is none but me. Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other. I have sworn by my own name; I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to me. ” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭45‬:‭21-23‬ NLT)

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭6‬ NLT)

“Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.” (‭Revelation‬ ‭16‬:‭15‬ NLT)

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (‭Revelation‬ ‭21‬:‭3-4‬ NLT)

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God Does Things His Way

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭55‬:‭8-9‬ NLT)

Imagine living in Israel 2000+ years ago. For generations, God’s holy people had vacillated between devotion to God and wandering in sin. Between repentance and rejection. Many prophets had come to their ancestors, some with warnings of God’s judgement and others with assurances of God’s protection. Many of these prophecies had already been fulfilled, and God had proven to be 100% accurate. But from generation to generation, the prophecy they anxiously awaited to be fulfilled was the promise of a Savior. The mighty descendant of David’s line that would finally reign forever. 

I think over the years they began to draw their own picture of what this mighty Savior would look like. They may have even began to weave their own descriptions in as they told their children of this promise of God that they were waiting on. Did they imagine a mighty warrior breaking onto the scene physically strong, armed and ready for battle?  Did they suppose he would be an educated orator, schooled by the greatest Jewish leaders, taking his place at the head of assemblies announcing his rule to the Roman authorities?  Did they assume that upon his arrival Rome would immediately relinquish power or that there would be a war to determine a new earthly king? 

No doubt they did what we so often do even today by painting a picture of how God will accomplish something based on our human understanding of things. Putting God in a box he never intended to fit in. Forgetting how big he is and how he can do things far beyond our human understanding. 

That could be why so many missed it when Jesus finally arrived as a tiny baby boy despite the fact that this is precisely how God said he would come. 

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). (‭Isaiah‬ ‭7‬:‭14‬ NLT)

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭9‬:‭6‬ NLT)

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf. (‭Micah‬ ‭5‬:‭2‬ NLT)

This Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the fulfillment of the long awaited promise of a Savior, let’s remember that God will always accomplish what he says he will. Let’s not forget that he will do it his way. Let’s be sure we know his Word so we don’t start painting our own pictures of how things are going to go. Lets be very careful not to try to change the story to something that “sounds better” to our feeble human ears. Whether we like it or not, it will play out just as he proclaimed it would. 

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. (‭2 Timothy‬ ‭4‬:‭1-4‬ NLT)

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Believer – in what?

Followers of Christ are often referred to as “believers”. But what exactly are we believers in?  That Jesus was a real person? Sure. That he was good? Yes, of course.  That he walked the earth teaching wonderful truths?  That, too. But a lot of people believe those things. This is no big step of faith.  There are a lot of great teachers and faithful saints in history, but we don’t claim that believing in them provides our salvation. 

So what do “believers” believe that sets us apart?  We believe that Jesus was fully God and fully human. We believe that he was born of a Virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit. We believe that he never sinned, yet he suffered and died to pay for our sins. We believe that he rose again and now sits at the right hand of the Father. We believe that one day he will return to judge each of us.  And most importantly, we believe that the only way we will be judged to be righteous is by acknowledging that his death alone can pay the price for our sins.

To believe anything else about who Jesus is doesn’t make sense when lined up against who he said he was.  Time and time again Jesus’ own words made it clear that he wasn’t just a moral teacher or a prophet. His whole message proclaimed salvation through him alone. And he looked right at the doubters and told them: “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”  At this, they picked up stones to stone him… (‭John‬ ‭8‬:58 & ‭59‬ NIV)

When Jesus said this, the Jewish leaders knew exactly what he was claiming which is why they wanted to stone him. They knew that this was precisely how God referred to himself when he spoke to Moses.  — God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘ I am has sent me to you.’ ” (‭Exodus‬ ‭3‬:‭14‬ NIV) — They knew that Jesus was saying that he was God in flesh.  Is this a claim that would be made by a great moral teacher? No way.

One of Jesus’ close friends recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, and she made that very proclamation to Jesus. — Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” (‭John‬ ‭11‬:‭25-27‬ NLT) — If Jesus were just a great moral teacher or even a prophet, would he not have corrected Martha?  Would any “man of God” not immediately recognize this as blasphemous and quickly remind their friend to worship God alone? Of course they would – but Jesus did not because her proclamation was true. 

A great writer, an Atheist turned Christian, C. S. Lewis once wrote, 

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” 
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Every one of us sins. The entire Bible is a story of man falling short on our own and each one of us has our own personal story of missing the mark. Sometimes just barely, and sometimes by a long shot. But God had a redemption plan from the moment we needed one.  And his plan unfolded when he came to the very world he created. (John 1:10). His plan unfolded in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus by whose blood alone can anyone be found righteous. 

For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are…We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, (‭Romans‬ ‭3‬:‭20, 22-25‬ NLT)

If you are depending on something else to make you righteous before God – I hope you are totally sure that it has the power to do so. The cost for going with the wrong plan is far too great. 

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