Archive | July, 2012

If God Is Love

24 Jul

If God is love, then…

God is patient,
God is kind.
He does not envy
He does not boast
He is not proud.
He is not rude,
He is not self-seeking,
He is not easily angered,
He keeps no record of wrongs.
God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
He always protects,
always trusts,
always hopes,
always perseveres.
God never fails.

(taken from 1 Cor. 13)

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Who Is Your God?

12 Jul

I have been attending Harvest Chapel School of Kingdom Living online and was blown away by what our instructor, Ryan Bastress, was speaking about in last night’s class. What follows is my take on his message.

Who is your God? I realized today that my view of God has fallen somewhat short. When I think of my heavenly Father, I think of the word “God.” The word itself is very impersonal, almost hollow. It is a general term which people can use in endless situations without really reaching the reality of who God is. I say I love God. I pray to God. When I need help, I reach out to God. Now those are all true and good things, but the reality is that I want more than a three-letter God. I want to know Him by who He is, not just by a general title. So who is He? We find in the scriptures many names for our Father, and I want to look at a few. (You will notice that I am using Old Testament references of God, but I am applying New Testament truth)

Yahweh – This is God’s personal name and points to who He is. He identified himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM.” Yahweh is our God, our Father, and He is ever-present with us. He loves us and will never go away. Yahweh is the God who Is.

Yahweh-Jireh – “The Lord Will Provide” (Genesis 22.14) Everything we need to survive comes from Yahweh, because He is the one who provides. We can attempt to do life on our own and makes life better by our own power, but unless we accept that our provision always comes from Him we will constantly fall short of who we were created to be.

Yahweh-Nissi – “The Lord Is My Banner” (Exodus 17.15). We are represented by Him. We live life and fight our battles in the name of Yahweh. And when He is our banner, we know we will be victorious.

Yahweh-Shalom – “The Lord Is Peace” (Judges 6.24). When we look into the face of our Creator, we do not see anger and judgment, we see and feel that perfect peace which He purchased for us. Our God is a God of peace, which He supplied to us at his own expense.

Yahweh-Sabbaoth – “The Lord Of Hosts” (1 Sam. 1.3). We are never in the minority because our God is the Lord of Hosts. In the midst of the most daunting enemy force, we can always look out the window like Elisha’s servant (2 Kings 6.17) and see that our LORD is greater and mightier. No army can stand against the Lord of Hosts.

Yahweh-Maccaddeshcem – “The Lord Who Sanctifies You” (Exodus 31.13). We do not sanctify ourselves, but are instead sanctified by our Father. He pulled out of the guilt and condemnation of our former self and has set us apart as chosen vessels who bring glory to Him in everything we say and do.

Yahweh-Roi – “The Lord Is My Shepherd” (Psalm 23.1). As a shepherd cares for his flock, so Yahweh cares for us. He is our Father who stands between us and the lions and bears. But along with protecting us, He also guides us to where we need to be. And if we ever do get lost, we can rest assured that our Shepherd is coming to find us and bring us back home.

Yahweh-Tsidkenu – “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jer. 23.6). We have all missed the mark and at some point and lived outside of perfect righteousness. But rather than pour judgment out on us, Yahweh decided to pour it out on Himself. He offers us perfect righteousness in exchange for our guilt and condemnation. Our righteousness does not come from ourselves, it comes from Him.

Yahweh-Shammah – “The Lord Is There” (Ezekiel 48.35). This name of Yahweh was used in reference to the city of God which had His temple at its center. But our reality today is that we do not have to go anywhere, because WE are his temple. The Lord is always present, always there in us and He will never leave us or forsake us. He would rather live in us than in a billion dollar temple structure made of gold.

Yahweh Rapha – “The Lord Our Healer” (Exodus 15.26). There is nothing the devil or this world can do to us that our Father can not heal. We were made for perfection and He offers healing for our body, soul and spirit. He is the Lord our Healer.

I want to know Yahweh so well that when I am faced with lack, I have perfect faith because I know that He is the “Lord who Provides.” When I feel surrounded by my enemies, I never lose heart because I know that He is the “Lord of Hosts.” If I truly know who Yahweh is, I never have to fear or worry. When trouble comes, I stand firm, having built my life of the reality of who He is.

The Gospel Illustrated

3 Jul

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8.12

I have been pondering the story in John’s gospel of Jesus and the adulterous woman for the last few weeks, and I have come to see it as one of the best illustrations of the gospel in the whole Bible. This post is a follow-up to my earlier post, The Gospel of Eden. I would suggest you read that before reading this post.

The story of Jesus and the adulterous woman is found in the book of John, chapter eight. There are only a few verses recording this event, but there was much going on which might not be immediately apparent to the reader. Before we look at this story in light of the gospel, let us quickly recount what happened.

The scribes and pharisees had been trying for a long time to trap Jesus in his own words and shut him up. This case was no different. The apostle John records that they came to Jesus in the temple “testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him” (John 8.6). They threw a woman down at Jesus’ feet and told him that she had been caught in the very act of adultery. Then as she cowered in shame, they pointed out to Jesus that according to the Mosaic law, if a person was caught in the act of adultery, they and the person they were committing the act with should be put to death (Lev 20.10). We do not know why her partner was not also brought before Him, but that is another whole issue which we will not address here.

Jesus had been preaching a message of hope and salvation up to this point, but now the scribes and pharisees had put Him in a very sticky situation. It would seem that He had no good option. If He forbade them from stoning her, they could call Him a hypocrite since He had been very clear that He had not come to abolish the law (Mat 5.17-18). But if He publicly consented and they stoned her to death, then they could accuse Him to the Romans for breaking the law (John 18.31). Either way, He was appeared to be in big trouble. But what followed was incredible. Jesus received what is a classic example of a “word of wisdom” (1 Cor 12.8) and responded brilliantly by saying, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Upon hearing this, the crowd disbursed, having condemned their own self-righteous hearts. Then Jesus turned to her and said, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She responded, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (Jhn 8.10-11).

From the time of Jesus’ early ministry until this point, the crux of his message was consistently a message of repentance. Repentance means to “change one’s mind.” How we think of and see ourselves is everything in this life. Jesus had earlier said, “…if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” This woman was a perfect example of this. She saw herself as a sinner, a shameful person, and lived her life out of that identity. Her occupation as a prostitute was not the problem, it was a symptom of her problem. She was living out of a wrong identity. Her truth is the same as our truth. Every human being is created in the image of God. He created us because He loves us and we are each unique, precious people to Him. But rather than living in that identity, we believe the lie that we are lacking in this life and then try and find fulfillment in things which will never satisfy. True satisfaction only comes from God, who created us. It is His desire that we live lives of wholeness and freedom in Him. He wants us to be happy and knows that our greatest joy can only be found in Him.

This woman had no concept of her created identity and was living out of the lie. But her only rewards were shame and condemnation. Yet even while the other people around saw her as a condemned sinner, Jesus saw her true beauty and value. So he addressed the heart of the issue.

When the crowd had left, Jesus spoke to her and set her identity correct. His words were, “Neither do I condemn you.” Her identity had heretofore been one of shame and condemnation, but her new identity was “FORGIVEN.” The chains of her former life had been loosed and she was shown her true value for the first time. Then having set her identity straight, he said “Go and sin no more.” There is no greater joy than living with a pure conscience. A life of righteousness is a life of fulfillment and peace. Deep communion with God is not possible for one living the lie, trying to find fulfillment apart from the life we were created to live.

Then Jesus let her go, with her new identity: Forgiven, and her new lifestyle: Righteousness.

As Jesus preached then, He still preaches today through his Word. “Repent and believe in the good news!” (Mark 1.15). Jesus gave his life for us on the cross and buried our shame and condemnation in hell where it belongs. Then he rose from the grave and invites us to take his hand and enter into the life which He designed for us even before the earth was made. We must all repent, change our way of thinking and realize that we were not made for the sin and condemnation the fallen world offers, but for life and joy through Jesus. And then we need to accept the forgiveness Jesus offers us and enter into that perfect life of righteousness which  we were designed to live!

Jesus’ final words at the end of this story were, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jhn 8.12). The formerly-adulterous woman passed from darkness into light, death into life.

That is the gospel illustrated.