In-ness

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We said that when it comes to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in a Christian’s life: In > On. For instance, in our learning we don’t have to go to a tutor or attend classes only at set times, but we have The Tutor IN us. Or when need wisdom for decisions we don’t have to seek out the right advisors and try to coordinate their schedule with ours, but we have The Counselor IN us. 

As we saw with Samson, many times in the Old Testament we read of the Holy Spirit coming ON someone. But throughout that First Testament we also see people longing for the Spirit to be IN them. David, especially, recognized the value of the “in-ness” of the Holy Spirit in both his prayer of repentance (Psalm 51, especially vv. 10-11) and again in his beautiful prayer in Psalm 25. 

Let me point out the in-ness that permeates this 25th Psalm and then show you its fulfillment when the Holy Spirit comes to baptize believers in the New Testament. 

(1) “IN You I trust” (v. 2). Not in human abilities or personal pedigree or earthly riches, but IN the in-ness of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “He who believes IN Me—who cleaves to and trusts IN and relies on Me—as the Scripture has said, ‘From his INNERmost being shall flow continuously springs and rivers of living water.’ But He was speaking here of the Spirit, Whom those who believed (trusted, had faith) IN Him were afterward to receive…” (John 7:38-39 AMP). 

(2) “my hope is IN You” (vv. 3, 5, 21). A natural fruit of trusting IN the Holy Spirit’s empowerment is the hope that only that relationship brings. Paul talks abut this twice in his letter to the Romans. First, even in the midst of trials, Paul says we have this hope: “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out INto our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). And then Paul prays for his friends to experience this same in-ness of hope: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust IN Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). 

(3) “guide me IN Your truth … guide me IN what is right” (v. 5, 9). Jesus identified the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth Who guides us INto truth (John 14:17, 16:13). This is how Jesus lived (Matthew 4:1) and it’s how we can live too: “But I say, walk and live habitually IN the Holy Spirit—responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit—then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh…” (Galatians 5:16 AMP). 

(4) “He instructs sinners IN His ways” (v. 8, 12). The Hebrew word David uses for “teach” in vv. 4, 5, 9 is “lamad.” It means being taught in a way that equips us to teach others. Jesus “gave instructions through the Spirit” to His disciples, and then He commanded them to teach others the same way (Acts 1:2; Matthew 28:20). The Spirit of Truth that inspired the Word of God can illuminate it to our hearts as He instructs us (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). 

(5) “the Lord confides IN those who fear Him” (v. 14). The KJV says, “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him.” Isaiah said, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21). And Jesus said that every word He spoke was directed by the Holy Spirit IN Him (John 12:49). 

(6) “I take refuge IN You (v. 20). We can take refuge IN the One whom we trust and hope, the One who leads us INto truth and instructs us, the One who confides IN us. This in-ness helps us thwart the enemy’s attacks against us. As John wrote, “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives IN you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (1 John 4:4 NLT). 

Don’t stop at salvation, but allow the Holy Spirit to baptize you and fill you. Don’t be satisfied with merely experiencing God’s presence ON you, but let His Spirit come IN you. 

This in-ness keeps us trustful of God, victorious over the devil, hopeful of our future, righteous in a wicked world, informed of God’s ways, peaceful in trials, and fully protected from the enemy of our souls. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called We Are: Pentecostal, you can check out all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Don’t Be An Unloving Pastor

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In my personal devotional time, I have been reading and thinking my way through the book of Amos. 

This minor prophet especially resonates with me because we have a similar background. Amos was a farmer and a businessman when God called him to be a preacher (Amos 1:1, 7:14-15). My story is quite similar, as I was a businessman when God called me to follow Him along a path that eventually culminated in me becoming a pastor. 

Amos’ calling was a heavy one: He had to speak to God’s people who had strayed away from God and were on the brink of God’s righteous judgment. It wasn’t a time for Amos to play games, water down the message, or shrink back from making God’s message perfectly clear. To be certain, it wasn’t a popular message. In fact, one of the priests of Bethel brought a message from King Jeroboam that basically said, “Stop preaching this way or I will have you killed!” (Amos 7:10-13). 

But the most unloving thing any pastor or preacher could ever do is hold back from telling people the truthful consequences of repeated, unrepented sin. 

The Holy Spirit confronted me with the words recorded in Amos 3. After I had pondered these words for myself, I felt I needed to share them with my fellow pastors. I pray that you will prayerfully consider these words. 

My friend, I’m praying for you that God will give you loving boldness to speak His truth to whomever He sends you. I pray that the Holy Spirit will anoint His words as you deliver them so that Jesus will be exalted. 

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Epiphany

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After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that Day of Pentecost immediately following Christ’s ascension, Christians were speaking in languages that they had not learned. As they did so, they were “declaring the wonders of God” in all the languages of the world. Some people mocked, saying they were merely babbling drunks, but everyone in Jerusalem was “amazed and perplexed” at this remarkable event, which prompted Peter to preach a powerful sermon (Acts 2:8-21). 

Peter began his sermon by quoting words “spoken by the prophet Joel” (Joel 2:28-32). It’s unlikely that Peter had a copy of Joel with him, so this quotation was delivered from memory and Peter’s sermon was given spontaneously as the Holy Spirit empowered him. In looking at the passages in both Joel and Acts, I see three notable differences.

  1. Joel begins by saying, “And afterward I will pour out My Spirit,” but Peter begins with the words, “In the last days…I will pour out My Spirit.” I’ll address this point further in just a moment. 
  2. Peter inserts “and they will prophesy” at the end of verse 18, a phrase that Joel didn’t say at the end of Joel 2:29. I think this is the Holy Spirit emphasizing that what the crowd heard was indeed prophecy, not mindless babbling. 
  3. Joel concludes with “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” but Peter says, “before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” The word Joel uses for “dreadful,” meaning an awesome day worthy of reverence, was a day of sorrow for those about to be judged guilty, and a day of supreme rejoicing for those about to be judged innocent in God’s sight. The word Peter uses for “glorious” is the only time this Greek word is used in the New Testament. The word is epiphanes: where we get our English word “epiphany”—a light has dawned and the truth is finally realized! 

Let’s go back to the difference between “afterward” in Joel and “in the last days” in Acts. In a sense, the “afterward” for Peter was what everyone was experiencing right then—after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised (John 16:7; Acts 1:4-5). 

Let’s also consider the “afterward” in Joel’s day. What came before was a disaster of locusts consuming the land, which prompted Joel to call for the solemn response of prayer and fasting. This heartfelt response from godly people trigged God’s outpouring of His Spirit—the afterward—that led to a blessing “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Joel 2:1-3, 10-13). 

Both Joel and Peter conclude that it is God’s desire that “everyone…be saved”! The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to help people have an epiphany of both their sin and the salvation that Jesus purchased on His Cross.

The word “disaster” comes from the Latin word disastros. The root word astros pertains to the heavenly lights (star, sun, moon), and the prefix “dis-” is a pejorative (something that has a belittling effect). So disaster really means no guiding lights, or hopeless darkness. 

Jesus was prophesied to step into this hopeless darkness and bring light and hope—“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). Zechariah prophesied that Jesus was the fulfillment of this: “Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).  

Jesus is THE Epiphany, THE Ultimate Light, but He also tells us, “You are the light of the world (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14).  

In a world of hopeless darkness, Christians are to be Christ’s Light-bearers. 

We cannot do this on our own. 

The Holy Spirit’s empowerment ignites and then alines our light-bearing to a disaster-prone world. 

When Joel saw disaster coming, he called for a fast. This fast led to the outpouring of God’s empowerment on godly people, so they could take the Light to those lost in deep darkness. I think the same response is needed from Christians today. 

When it appears this world is plunging deeper into darkness—when we hear of disasters (remember that disastros means people are without Light)—we need to pray and fast so that the Holy Spirit can be reignited in us, so that we can then be realigned to best shine the light of Jesus brightly. 

Our lives can and should be the epiphany of Christ’s love for the world to see! Let’s all pray: “Holy Spirit, make us Your epiphany to a dark world!” 

If you’d like to check out the other messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, please click here. 

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Saved From The Consequences Of Folly

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I am so grateful for the blessings of a godly mother and a godly wife! I can relate to Abraham Lincoln who said, “All I am, or can be, I owe to my angel mother. … I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” 

Mothers—both the natural, physical, and adoptive mothers—can save the rest of us from a world of hurt. We see this in a story in the Bible of a mother that saved innumerable people from the consequences of folly. This is an amazing story in 1 Samuel 25, so please take some time to read it for yourself.  

King Saul and David have finally separated from each other, with Saul returning home to Gibeah and David returning to his stronghold at En Gedi. Eventually, David moved west from En Gedi to the Desert of Moan, where the town of Carmel was nearby. 

A prominent citizen of Carmel was a man named Nabal. He is described as “very wealthy,” owning 1000 goats and 3000 sheep. But he apparently gained his wealth through less-than-honorable means because he is described as “surly and mean in his dealings.” We find out later in the story that he’s also hard-hearted and hard-headed, not listening to any counsel others may offer him. 

That fits him because his name means “fool.” I find it hard to believe that his parents named him this from birth. If they did, it reminds me of the opening words of C.S. Lewis’ book The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader: “There was a boy named Clarence Eustace Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” Instead, I think Nabal’s dealings were so mean, surely, and foolish that the name stuck. Perhaps he even wore that name as a badge of honor. 

It came sheep-shearing time—which is really payday for shepherds—so David sends some of his servants to Nabal to ask for whatever he might find to give as a gift to “your servants and your son David.” David’s men had been a constant source of protection for Nabal’s herdsmen, so a gift of gratitude does seem appropriate. 

Nabal doesn’t just say, “No,” but he insults David. As his foolish nature controlled him, he not only insulted David, but he insulted God too by implying that David wasn’t anointed by God, but was merely ruthlessly climbing a ladder of success. Probably Nabal thought this way because that’s how he himself gained his fortune. 

Nabal’s response lit David’s fuse! In fact, David’s response to his men was just four words long: “Put on your swords!” 

Fortunately, one of Nabal’s servants informed his wife Abigail of this. 

In the same verse where Nabal is described as mean and surely, Abigail is described as “intelligent and beautiful.” Whereas Nabal’s name means fool, Abigail’s name means “my father’s joy.” She must have been born at just the right time for her father and she continues to be a just-in-time woman! 

This servant brought Abigail word of Nabal’s foolish response, telling her that David’s men were indeed “a wall around us” while they were in the desert. And then he says, “Think carefully about what you should do because disaster is hanging over us!” 

Abigail acts quickly, wisely, and humbly. 

The first thing she does is send hundreds of pounds of food to David and his men. She sends the gift that Nabal probably should have sent. Then Abigail herself follows the gifts on her own donkey. When she encounters David and his armed men coming down the mountain pass, she humbly falls at his feet asking David to reconsider. 

Abigail doesn’t tell David he shouldn’t be angry, but she points him to something bigger and more long-lasting than his immediate thought of revenge. She reminds him that he is God’s anointed leader, and she asks, “When you become king, do you want this bloodshed on your conscience?” 

Abigail’s words have an immediate effect on David, who calls off the attack, praises Abigail, and praises God for sending Abigail to him. Abigail rescued Nabal’s family and workers from imminent destruction, and she saves David from the consequences of his rash response. 

The next morning, when she relates this story to Nabal, he has either a stroke or a heart attack, and then dies ten days later. Justice is served, but it’s served by God and not by David.

Later on, David takes the now-widowed Abigail as his wife. 

Abigail’s name scarcely appears anywhere else in the Bible, but there is one notable appearance: 

Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream the son of David’s wife Eglah. (2 Samuel 3:2-5) 

Amnon, first in line for the throne, raped his half-sister Tamar and was then killed by Absalom, who was Tamar’s brother. Absalom, third in line for the throne, not only avenged his sister’s disgrace but led a coup against David, where he was killed in battle. 

That leaves Kileab as the obvious heir to King David’s throne, yet this is the only place he is mentioned in the Bible. I think Abigail’s wise influence saved Kileab from the drama of aspiring to be king, a painful future, and perhaps a premature death. 

From this amazing story, I would like to offer three takeaways for Moms:

  1. Use your inner beauty to persuade foolhardy men—1 Peter 3:2-3 
  2. Use your Holy Spirit-given wisdom to dissuade foolishness—Matthew 10:19 
  3. Use your prayer life to bring a legacy of peace—Psalm 116:16  

(Please read all of the above verses by clicking here.)

Godly mothers, please be encouraged today at how much influence you exert over others in your life. Your inner beauty, God-given wisdom, humility, and prayers are making more of an impact than you may ever know. I believe in heaven the full story will be shared, and you will be praised for being a wise and faithful servant. 

May God continue to bless, empower, and use our Moms to save us from the consequences of our foolishness! 

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Stop Self-Promoting

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My book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter opens with a chapter ‘The Wrong Ladder.’ This chapter is a reminder that we don’t have to figure out which ladder to climb in order to be successful. The last chapter of my book is entitled ‘Applause,’ which begins with the words, “Self-promotion is an anti-God attitude.” 

Throughout the Bible we never see people polishing up their résumés. There is no angling among godly leaders for who should get the prominent position. When some of the disciples of Jesus momentarily engaged in this kind of thinking, Jesus quickly corrected them. 

Often we see God taking obscure people and vaulting them to a position of prominence. Sometimes they will remain in that position until the day they die, and sometimes God will remove them after a rather short period of time. 

God prepares people, God promotes people, and God removes people as He sees best.

This is never more true than in the story of Daniel. “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (Daniel 6:28). In fact, for most of Daniel’s life, he is in a prominent leadership position. Daniel prospered, but he did so because God promoted him. Daniel never sought a position, and even if he was removed from a position, he didn’t try to retain it nor regain it.

Daniel knew God was in control, and he trusted His timing.

I’ve been sharing a series of leadership lessons from the life of Daniel with my Patreon supporters. Check out this brief clip from a lesson I entitled “No Self-Promotion.” 

If you are a Christian leader, I challenge you to stop polishing up your résumé. Whether you have a résumé that looks great or not, God will still place you where He needs you, when He needs you to be there. Remember: “Self-promotion is an anti-God attitude.” 

I would also ask you to consider becoming one of my Patreon supporters. For just $5 per month, you will have access to my exclusive content, and you will be helping to support the free side of this ministry.

Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.

The Gift Preached To The World

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Ever since Resurrection Day, we can continually celebrate the greatest Gift ever—the death and resurrection of Jesus! 

After making His bodily resurrection abundantly clear, Jesus ascended back to heaven. And now we await His second advent. But here’s an important question: If Jesus ascended back into heaven, where is our Gift now? Quite simply: If you have invited Jesus into your heart, YOU are the gift! 

Remember on Good Friday I talked about what Jesus perfectly completed when He said, “It is finished!” It was an inside job. He came to change us at our core—we have been brought into at-onement with God and we stand in His presence just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned. 

But there is one more step, an ongoing process called sanctification or as I like to say it, “saint-ification.” 

Even as we are in this process, Jesus commissioned all of His disciples to Go…preach (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20). That means “as you are going” or “wherever you go” tell everyone the good news of the greatest Gift ever. 

Jesus also told us that the Holy Spirit would empower us to be effective at this preaching (Acts 1:4-5, 8). Notice that in Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “You will BE My witnesses,” not you will do witnessing. The Holy Spirit empowers us to BE God’s gift to the world, and to use Christ’s authority properly. 

The apostle Paul echos this. He tells us how everyone can receive the Gift of Jesus. Paul then notes that people hear about this Gift because those who have received the Gift are preaching to them (Romans 10:8-15). 

We are all preachers or proclaimers of the Greatest Gift. Don’t confuse preaching with being a pastor. Preaching is a lifestyle for all Christians, whereas pastoring is an office that only some Christians are called to. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach always; if necessary, use words.” 

Here are three things that I think preach unmistakably. 

(1) Loving, practical service to those in need (John 13:34-35; Matthew 25:34-40)

Jesus said it pretty simply: If someone is hungry, give them something to eat. This practical love is an unmistakable sermon. 

(2) Loving, practical service to those you dislike—or who dislike you (Luke 6:27-36) 

Anyone can do loving things for people they like, but when you bless people who are mean to you, another unmistakable sermon is being preached. 

(3) Jesus-exalting fruitfulness (Galatians 5:19-25) 

Paul contrasts the fruit of those who haven’t invited Jesus into their hearts with those who have. Our fruits of kindness in an unkind world, or self-control in a hedonistic world also preach an unmistakable sermon. 

(check out all of the above Bible verses by clicking here)

If the Gift of Jesus is in you, then your life IS the sermon. Preach it well! 

You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s Gift to the world in everything you say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find all of them listed here. 

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New Inside

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In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character (Phil) is stuck in a small town where February 2 keeps repeating. Phil tries desperately to get out of this town and out of this day, but nothing he seems to do gets him out of the endless loop. He becomes smarter and richer each day, but at the end of the day, everything resets to the beginning. 

It’s frustrating! 

God’s people of the Old Testament had their own “Groundhog Day”—the Day of Atonement that came every single year. This was the day their sins were confessed, forgiven, and atoned for, and had a very specific set of sacrifices and rituals. Much like Phil in the movie, they began to go through these motions almost entirely without thinking. 

Year after year, millennia after millennia “the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, [couldn’t] make perfect those who draw near to worship” (see Hebrews 10:1-4). 

Even those who were God-fearing and tried their best to live perfectly righteous lives could find in the law provision for those who “sin unintentionally” (Leviticus 4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:15, 18, 22, 24, 27-29). It was just another reminder that the loop of sin-confession-repentance-forgiveness-atonement was never ending. 

And as if all the requirements of the Torah weren’t enough, Jesus came on the scene and seemed to raise the bar, telling us even though our outward actions might look righteous, our inward thoughts and attitudes made us just as sinful (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28). And then Jesus even dropped this on us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)! 

Perfect?! As perfect as God?! This could easily make people throw their hands up in resignation, “I give up! Why even try?” 

Through Ezekiel, God prophesied an internal change. This wasn’t something I must do, but something GOD will do—

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27) 

The solution to our endless loop of sin-confession-repentance-forgiveness-atonement must become internal. It’s no use trying to correct the fruit if the root is still evil! That requires an inside job. 

On Good Friday, the last words Jesus spoke before His death were, “It is finished” (John 19:30). 

What was finished? Our struggle to get ourselves out of this endless loop. The writer of Hebrews had this to say about Jesus: 

But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. … For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:12, 14) 

Remember Jesus told us we had to be perfect like God? The root word for “perfect” in that verse is telos. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” He said one word in Greek: tetelestai. This also comes from the root word telos. Jesus perfectly finished all that was necessary for us to become perfect in God’s sight. 

Christians often use the the phrase “I invited Jesus into my heart” as an expression of their faith in what Jesus did for them on the Cross. That word “IN” is a good reminder. 

Jesus comes IN and the fear of punishment—the fear of being eternally stuck in the endless loop—has to go out. “There is no fear IN love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect IN love” (1 John 4:18). 

The word “perfect” in that verse is also from the same root word telos. 

Not only does Jesus come IN to our hearts to make them new, but He also takes us IN to His perfection. “Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith—giving the first incentive for our belief—and is also its Finisher—bringing it to maturity and perfection…” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP). 

Jesus shared a last supper with His disciples. His last supper was the first Communion. At this time Jesus told them He was establishing a “new covenant.” How do we square this with His previous statement that He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it? 

Jesus said this new covenant was IN His blood. His blood doesn’t abolish the law, but it perfects the law. His perfect blood makes out hearts new and takes us out of the external loop and IN to His prefect righteousness. 

Jesus accomplished all that was needed to make us perfect inside, and then to perfectly take us into God’s presence. As the hymn The Old Rugged Cross reminds us, “In that old rugged Cross, stained with blood so divine, a wondrous beauty I see. For ’twas on that old Cross Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me!” 

May we always cherish the perfection that was purchased for us on that Cross. 

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The Gift Unmistakably Seen

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We saw last week that John 3:16 tells us of God’s greatest Gift—Jesus! 

This Gift was not an after-thought. God didn’t say, “I’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked so I guess I have to send My Son.” NO! The Gift was foretold right from the very moment Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:15, 21). In fact, we can even say it was planned before the beginning of Time, as John describes Jesus as “the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made” (Revelation 13:8). 

John also writes for us one of the most beautiful and succinct statements of God: God IS Love (1 John 4:8). 

Paul wrote an inspired definition of love. Check out what happens when we put “God” in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

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

This description of God means that He wasn’t forced to send Jesus as the ransom for our sins, but rather that His love foreknew the perfect moment to send this Gift for us. 

Neither did Jesus feel trapped by this plan His Father made. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but Jesus came to make Calvary happen (John 17:24; Hebrews 12:2; John 10:17-18). 

Jesus made His Gift unmistakable:

  • He predicted the unmistakable events leading up to Calvary—Matthew 20:17-19, 26:2; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33; John 13:19 
  • He predicted the unmistakable way He would die—John 3:14, 12:32-33 
  • And His Father unmistakably confirmed all of this—John 12:27-28

(check out all of the above verses by clicking here) 

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus gave His followers an unmistakable example of love to follow. He said that His love radiating out of His followers would show the world an unmistakable picture of His love (see John 13:3-5, 12-17, 34-35). 

I may say, “Thank you so much” when I open someone’s gift, but my true gratitude is seen in what I do with their gift after that. Do I put it on a shelf and forget about it? Or do I cherish it, use it, and tell others all about the one who gave the gift to me? This is just as true with how I treat the Love Gift that I was given in Jesus. 

Q: How unmistakable is my gratitude for the Gift of Jesus? 

A: It is unmistakably seen in how I love others. 

Here’s the test: Can I put my name in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8—

Craig is patient, Craig is kind. Craig does not envy, Craig does not boast, Craig is not proud. Craig does not dishonor others, Craig is not self-seeking, Craig is not easily angered, Craig keeps no record of wrongs. Craig does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Craig always protects, Craig always trusts, Craig always hopes, Craig always perseveres. Craig’s love never fails.

The Holy Spirit wants all Christians to be able to truthfully insert their names in that statement. He wants to help us make necessary changes that will allow the amazing Gift of Jesus to be unmistakably seen by everyone. 

God’s plan is unmistakable. The death of Jesus is unmistakable proof of God’s love. Now, let’s make sure that our love is also empowered by the love of God shining unmistakably out of everything we say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Don’t Let Your ‘Well Begun’ Be Only ‘Half Done’

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Don’t Let Your ‘Well Begun’ Be Only ‘Half Done’

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! (Philippians 3:20—4:1). 

     The start is not everything, but it is a great deal. It has been said by the old proverb that ‘well begun is half done,’ and it is certainly so in the things of God. … See to it that you lay a good foundation. It is better to have no repentance than a repentance that needs to be repented of! It is better to have no faith than a false faith! It is better to make no profession of religion than to make an untruthful one! … We should learn early on the difference between grace and merit, between the purpose of God and the will of man, between trust in God and confidence in the flesh. If we do not start aright, the further we go, the further we will be from our desired end and the more thoroughly in the wrong we will find ourselves.

From The Watchword For Today: “Stand Fast”

Some people love wearing the label “Christian” but they never surrender to the lordship of Jesus. This is scary because Jesus says that these are the people to whom He will have to say, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). 

In the biblical passage Spurgeon used as his text, we read some important words. First of all, we need to live as citizens of Heaven, not as citizens of Earth. That means we need to always follow God’s laws, not the passing fads of culture. 

Second, the apostle Paul calls Jesus both Savior and Lord. We don’t get to choose one and ignore the other. We cannot say, “Thank You, Jesus, for saving me, but I’ll take it from here.” 

Finally, we need to not only stand firm, but as Paul also says in another letter, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). No assumptions. No coasting. No merely going through the motions of Christianity, but keeping a humble heart that responds to the correcting word from the Holy Spirit. 

Let’s make sure that our walk with Jesus is never described as only “half done.” But instead, let’s begin well, walk well, and rejoice to hear our Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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Crucifixion Events

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The death of Jesus may be the most attested execution in all of history. It’s certainly the most meaningful execution, as the death of Jesus brought a fulfillment to prophecy that was made in the immediate aftermath of humanity’s first sin. 

I have frequently written about the historicity of the Bible. The crucifixion of Jesus is not a “once upon a time” or “in the make-believe land of Israel” story, but an actual event, which involved actual people, at an actual moment in history. Even the way the four Gospel writers record the crucifixion of Jesus attests to the historicity of this event.

Check out this chart of the events that show how Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record this historical moment. 

When did this moment in history occur? Consider this scholarly insight from The Archeological Study Bible

“In what year was Jesus born, and when was He crucified? These are long-standing historical questions. The seemingly obvious answer to the first—that He was born in A.D. 1 (there is no year 0)—is incorrect, however, since the calculations on which our modern calendar is based were faulty. …

“The chronology of Jesus’ life, though clear in outline, cannot be fixed with absolute precision. Matthew and Luke both inform us that Jesus was born before the death of Herod (4 B.C.), though it would appear that His birth occurred toward the final years of Herod’s reign, suggesting an approximate date of 6-4 B.C. The next chronological marker comes from Luke 3:1, where we learn that John the Baptist’s ministry began during the fifteenth year of the reign of the emperor Tiberius. Since A.D. 14 is the generally accepted date for Tiberius’ accession to the throne, John’s ministry would have commenced between August A.D. 28 and December of 29. Jesus began His own ministry shortly after John had embarked on his, at some point in A.D. 28 or 29, making Jesus about 32 or 33 years old at the time. This fits well with Luke’s statement that Jesus was ‘about 30 years old’ (Luke 3:23).

“The duration of Jesus’ public ministry was approximately three years. While the exact chronology of this period is difficult to ascertain, the final phase of His ministry allows for closer scrutiny. It is clear that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, who governed Judea from A.D. 26-36. …

“Taking Friday, Nisan 14, as the day of the crucifixion, astronomical data informs us that the only years from A.D. 29-36 that could have seen Nisan 14 on a Friday are A.D. 30, 33 and 36. A.D. 36 is easily dismissed as too late, while A.D. 30 seems too early (although some who begin Jesus’ ministry in A.D. 28 and shorten His public ministry find it acceptable). This leaves A.D. 33 as the most likely date for the year of Jesus’ death and resurrection.” 

As you celebrate the victory over sin and death that Jesus won by His sacrificial death on the Cross, rejoice also that this is an actual historical event that bought your freedom from your sin. It is indeed miraculous, but it is also historic. Let’s never lose sight of either of those facets. 

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