Poetry Saturday—How Few Receive With Cordial Faith

How few receive with cordial faith
the tidings which we bring?
How few have seen the arm revealed
of heav’n’s eternal King?

The Saviour comes! no outward pomp
bespeaks His presence nigh;
No earthly beauty shines in Him
to draw the carnal eye.

Fair as a beauteous tender flow’r
amidst the desert grows,
So slighted by a rebel race
the heav’nly Saviour rose.

Rejected and despised of men,
behold a Man of woe!
Grief was His close companion still
through all His life below.

Yet all the griefs He felt were ours,
ours were the woes He bore:
Pangs, not His own, His spotless soul
with bitter anguish tore.

We held Him as condemned by Heav’n,
an outcast from His God,
While for our sins He groaned, He bled,
beneath His Father’s rod.

His sacred blood hath washed our souls
from sin’s polluted stain;
His stripes have healed us, and His death
revived our souls again.

We all, like sheep, had gone astray
in ruin’s fatal road:
On Him were our transgressions laid;
He bore the mighty load.

Wronged and oppressed how meekly He
in patient silence stood!
Mute, as the peaceful harmless lamb,
when brought to shed its blood.

Who can His generation tell?
from prison see Him led!
With impious show of law condemned,
and numbered with the dead.

’Midst sinners low in dust He lay;
the rich a grave supplied:
Unspotted was His blameless life;
unstained by sin He died.

Yet God shall raise His head on high,
though thus He brought Him low;
His sacred off’ring, when complete,
shall terminate His woe.

For, saith the Lord, My pleasure then
shall prosper in His hand;
His shall a num’rous offspring be,
and still His honours stand. 

His soul, rejoicing, shall behold
the purchase of His pain;
And all the guilty whom He saved
shall bless Messiah’s reign.

He with the great shall share the spoil,
and baffle all His foes;
Though ranked with sinners, here He fell,
a conqueror He rose.

He died to bear the guilt of men,
that sin might be forgiv’n:
He lives to bless them and defend,
and plead their cause in heav’n. —William Robertson

[Reblog] What’s So Good About Good Friday?

I posted this 10 years ago on Good Friday.

Good Friday? Good for whom?

For you and me? Yes.

Good for Jesus, no. It was Bad Friday for Him, wasn’t it?

Or was it?

The writer of Hebrews says, “For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the Cross, scorning its shame.

What joy?

It was for the joy of what was nailed to the Cross.

So what exactly was nailed to the Cross?

Isaiah records an unusual statement from God—

Comfort, comfort My people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

That seems unfair! We receive double(!) for our sins! Here’s a 2-minute video where I explain what this means culturally—

Only when invoices were paid-in-full did they get doubled-up.

The Bible tells us that we’ve all sinned, and that the invoice or penalty for our sin is death. We have the IOUs of sin nailed to the door of our heart where God says “You owe Me your life!” But we cannot pay this debt by ourselves.

But Jesus can. And Jesus did! Check this out—

He personally carried our sins in His body on the Cross…. (1 Peter 2:24 NLT)

Having canceled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us. This He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to His Cross. (Colossians 2:14 AMP)

That’s what is good about Good Friday. Jesus knew that taking our sins on His body, and then allowing His body to be nailed to the Cross, would double-up and nail-down our sin once and for all!

When Jesus said, “It is finished!” He was really saying, “It is paid-in-full!”

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Why Did Jesus Suffer?

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.

Why Did Jesus Suffer?

     Think much of all your Lord suffered, but do not overlook the reason for it. If you cannot always understand how this or that grief worked toward the great end of the whole passion, yet believe that it has its share in the grand why. Make a life-study of that bitter but blessed question, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ …

     Why, then, did God forsake His Son? I cannot conceive any other answer than this: He stood in our place. There was no reason in Christ why the Father should forsake Him—He was perfect and His life was without spot. God never acts without reason, and since there were no reasons in the character and person of the Lord Jesus why His Father should forsake Him, we must look elsewhere. … 

     He bore the sinner’s sin and He had to be treated, therefore, as though He were a sinner, the sinner He could never be! With His own full consent He suffered as though He had committed the transgressions that were laid on Him. Our sin and His taking it upon Himself are the answer to the question, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ …

     So long as the smile of God rests on the man, the law is not afflicting him. The approving look of the great judge cannot fall upon a man who is viewed as standing in the place of the guilty. Christ suffered not only from sin, but for sin. If God will cheer and sustain Him, He is not suffering for sin. The judge is not inflicting suffering for sin if He is manifestly encouraging the smitten one. There could have been no vicarious suffering on the part of Christ for human guilt if He had continued, consciously, to enjoy the full sunshine of the Father’s presence. It was essential to being a victim in our place that He should cry, ‘My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?’ … 

     Beloved, see how marvelously, in the person of Christ, the Lord our God has vindicated His law!

From My God, My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?

The great apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about his singular focus—When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2) 

“Think much of all your Lord suffered, but do not overlook the reason for it,” Spurgeon said. 

That earth-quaking, darkness-inducing, temple-rattling, soul-piercing cry of Jesus—My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?—could only have been uttered by someone perfect. I know plenty of reasons why God could have forsaken me, but Jesus knew only a single reason. 

Jesus did not suffer because of something He had done wrong, but because of all I had done wrong.

That Cross was stained with His blood for my sin. 

Because He was forsaken, I am now accepted in the Beloved Jesus (Ephesians 1:6-7). Think much on this: Jesus was crucified for you and me SO THAT we wouldn’t have to bear the penalty of our sin. Justice was satisfied. Now, by faith in His sacrifice on the Cross, we can come to God not only with our sins forgiven, but we can be accepted by Him as His children. 

My friend, think much on this. Resolve to know the unspeakable value of Christ crucified for you. And then rejoice greatly that you are accepted in the Beloved. If you would like to know more, please contact me.

Year-End Review (2019 edition)

Ten years ago God called me to pastor at Calvary Assembly of God, and we have so thoroughly enjoyed our time in Cedar Springs! One of the really cool things I get to do is teach an amazing group of people every Sunday. Here’s a recap of the series and messages from 2019.

Boldly Praying—As a general rule, God would like us to pray much more boldly than we typically do. Jesus told us that we could pray mountain-moving prayers, but C.S. Lewis rightly observed, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.” 

Christ’s Passionate Journey—In action movies, the crucial moment usually is filmed in slow motion. The Gospels do the same as Jesus approaches the Cross. For example, Mark doesn’t mention anything about the birth of Jesus and only gives us one verse to tell about satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. But he uses nearly 40% of his writing to describe the last week of Christ’s life. 

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1000 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! 

Is That In The Bible?—Sometimes things that sound “biblical” aren’t actually in the Bible at all, and sometimes they are there but are misquoted. 

Selah—When you see this word in the Bible it can mean either a pause from the noise to reflect on something, a preparation for an exciting accent, or a reflective time of consideration. We are working our way through the Selahs in the Psalms.

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets—The five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of these prophets writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power!  

Fading Gratitude—Looking back at the history of God’s people in the Bible, there is a distinct up-and-down cycle. I believe their slipping away from God can be directly linked to their forgetfulness. If there is a peril in our forgetfulness, there is also a power in our thankfulness!

The Carols Of Christmas—How many “old familiar carols” have you heard Christmas after Christmas until the words have almost lost their meaning? If we’re not careful, any song repeated too often can lose the richness of its original intent. 

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2020, and we’ll be launching some brand new ones as well. In either case, if you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, I would love to have you join us! 

Book Reviews From 2019

Supernatural Interference

The foundational claim of Christianity is Jesus died AND rose to life again. The Apostle Paul says that if the resurrection didn’t happen, anyone who claims to be a Christian is in a world of hurt (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 14, 17-20).  

“But resurrected from the dead?! Really? I believe in facts. I believe in the laws of science.” Me too! But I also believe that the supernatural is not the opposite of belief in the natural. Just like Paul said, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). 

Noted astronomer Allan Rex Sandage said, “It is my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It was only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”

And C.S. Lewis added, “How can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? … Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary. Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known.”  

Let me give you a simple example. Suppose I divide $5 evenly between two of my buddies. The laws of mathematics dictate that both of them will have $2.50. But what if one of my friends, through some sleight of hand, steals some of my other friend’s money? The fact that one of them now has more than half doesn’t change that mathematical law that $5 divided evenly is two sets of $2.50. 

The mathematician as a mathematician doesn’t know how likely one friend is to steal some of the other friend’s money. For that answer, he has to ask someone else. The changing of the outcome does not negate the laws. In fact, the more certain we are of the laws of mathematics the more clearly we know that something outside of them “interfered.” 

Concerning Jesus, there are three undeniable facts—

  1. Jesus died (John 19:28-34, 38-42; Mark 15:44-45; Matthew 27:62-66) 
  2. Death is irreversible
  3. Jesus is alive (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

It appears the laws of biology have been interfered with, that a supernatural miracle has occurred. The supernatural fact that Jesus was resurrected does not change the biological fact that death is irreversible. We just didn’t expect the outside influence. Just like we didn’t expect one friend to steal money from another friend.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that you can trust God’s word. All of it! Jesus told us that He would die by crucifixion and that He would be resurrected three days later (John 10:18; Matthew 20:19). 

If that word came true, we can also trust this word: We can have our sins forgiven and receive God’s gift of eternal life—just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4). 

The law of sin says: All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. The unbreakable law of sin is that the penalty for unforgiven sin is eternal death. That law cannot be broken, unless there is a Supernatural interference—a miracle!

Jesus interfered. He took our sins upon Himself. He supernaturally switched places with us and let the death penalty fall on Himself. And if we believe in that, we can have our sins forgiven and receive what we didn’t expect—eternal life with God! 

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have Him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG & NLT)

Sovereign Love

Jesus is on His passionate journey toward the Cross. Every step on this journey is a step of love. 

After Jesus finished His last supper with His disciples, they all went to one of their favorite places to pray—the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a place they all knew well. Including Judas, who had been looking for an opportunity to turn Jesus over to the religious authorities when He was out of the public eye. 

Jesus knew this time was coming (Matthew 10:33-34; John 13:1, 3; 18:4), and His knowing prompted His serving. So we can say that His foot-washing service was as much a reminder to Himself as it was to His followers. 

After they entered the garden to pray, events began to unfold at a fast pace, ultimately culminating in Jesus being crucified. 

But let us never forget that through all of this horrific, inhumane mistreatment and torture, Jesus remains the King of kings, the Son of God. In fact, very God Himself.

The Jewish religious leaders knew this too (John 8:54-59; 10:31-33). And without “knowing it” the soldiers that came to arrest Jesus knew it as well.

Just look at the absolute authority of the King of kings. Grown men—religious leaders and hardened soldiers—fall to their knees at just three words: “I am He.” 

Christ’s kingdom has overruling authority. It collects no taxes, it has no standing army, it requires no checks-and-balances because its Sovereign IS Truth and Love. This unequaled, unrivaled power was contained in Jesus—“You would have no authority over Me unless it was given you from above.” 

Which makes His submission to Pilate and others even more amazing! One word from Him could have crushed legions and toppled governments—yet for love’s sake, He submitted. Let that sink in—Sovereignty submitted.

What appeared to be the cruelty of man was the sovereignty of God. 

No one can take My life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what My Father has commanded. (John 10:18) 

“Christ’s death was not the death of a martyr, who sinks at last overwhelmed by enemies, but the death of a triumphant conqueror, who knows that even in dying He wins for Himself and His people a kingdom and a crown of glory.” —J.C. Ryle 

Christ has bought us out from under the doom of that impossible system by taking the curse for our wrongdoing upon Himself. For it is written in the Scripture, “Anyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed” (as Jesus was hung upon a wooden cross). (Galatians 3:13 TLB) 

Sovereign love submitted to the cruelty of man SO THAT you and I could be saved from the inescapable doom that will inevitably crash down on us. Jesus loved us so much that He allowed the Cross to happen to Him. 

The question now remains—what are you doing with this sovereign love? 

Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Have you received this gift He willingly, lovingly purchased for you on the Cross? 

If you have, let me ask you another question: Christian, are you living in a way that leads others to this sovereign love too (John 13:34-35)?

Anytime you see the Cross, remember what sovereign love did there for you. 

7 Quotes From “He Chose The Nails”

Max Lucado takes us in for a closer look at the Cross and all that Jesus did there for us. Please check out my full book review and then read this book—you will be glad you did! 

“Maybe you’ve never spit on anyone, but have you gossiped? Slandered? Have you ever raised your hand in anger or rolled your eyes in arrogance, have you ever blasted your high beams in someone’s rearview mirror? Ever made someone feel bad so you would feel good? That’s what the soldiers did to Jesus. When you and I do the same, we do it to Jesus too. ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’ (Matthew 25:40 NLT). How we treat others is how we treat Jesus. …

“Allow the spit of the soldiers to symbolize the filth in our hearts. And then observe what Jesus does with our filth. He carries it to the Cross. Through the prophet He said, ‘I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting’ (Isaiah 50:6). Mingled with His blood and sweat was the essence of our sin.” 

“‘He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s Cross’ (Colossians 2:14 NLT). Between His hands and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins. Dangling from the Cross is an itemized catalog of your sins. The bad decisions from last year. The bad attitudes from last week. There, in broad daylight for all of heaven to see, is a list of your mistakes. … The list God has made, however, cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by His hand; those down the list are covered by His blood. Your sins are ‘blotted out’ by Jesus (KJV). ‘He has forgiven you all your sins: He has utterly wiped out the written evidence of broken commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it to the Cross’ (Colossians 2:14 Phillips).” 

“Seats at God’s table are not available to the sloppy. But who among us is anything but. Unkempt morality. Untidy with truth. Careless with people. Our moral clothing is in disarray. Yes, the standard for sitting at God’s table is high, but the love of God for His children is higher. So He offers a gift.… a seamless robe… a robe worn by His Son, Jesus.” 

“What appeared to be the cruelty of man was actually the sovereignty of God. Matthew tells us: ‘And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn into from top to bottom’ (27:50-51). It’s as if the hands of heaven had been gripping the veil, waiting for this moment.” 

“Why is the Cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer look no farther than the Cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal—the other vertical. One reaches out—like God‘s love. The other reaches up—as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of His love; the other reflects the height of His holiness. The Cross is the intersection. The Cross is where God forgave His children without lowering His standards.” 

“‘Just look what they did to me!’ we defy and point to our hurts. ‘Just look what I did for you,’ Jesus reminds and points to the Cross. Paul said it this way: ‘If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you’ (Colossians 3:13). You and I are commanded—not urged, commanded—to keep no list of wrongs.” 

“Knowing His last deeds would be forever pondered, don’t you think Jesus chose them carefully? Deliberately? Of course He did. There were no accidents that day. Jesus’ last moments were not left up to chance. God chose the path; He selected the nails. Our Lord planted the trio of crosses and painted the sign. God was never more sovereign than in the details of the death of His Son. … The message: ‘I did it for you. I did it all for you.’” 

He Chose The Nails (book review)

Max Lucado has an inimitable style of writing that immediately draws us into his subject—in this book the focal point is what Jesus did for us on the Cross—gets us to look at it in a new light, and then helps us walk away with a fuller understanding. The title of this book is really the answer to the sub-title—Q: What did God do to win your heart? A: He Chose The Nails.

In keeping with the theme of God answering the book’s question of how He won your heart, all but two of the chapters use statements from God as their title. Statements like “I will bear your dark side,” and “I forgive you,” and “I understand your pain,” and “I will love you forever.” In each chapter, Max takes us nearer to the Cross and to the Savior who bled and died there to show us how much God loves us. 

This is a book that can easily be read together with your family or a group of friends; especially if you then utilize the study guide questions for each chapter at the back of the book. This is a book that could be read rather quickly, but because Max paints such a vivid picture of God’s unexpected love you will want to read slowly and savoringly. This is a book that could be read at any time, but I would recommend you read it during the days and weeks approaching Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. 

Whether reading alone or with friends, reading quickly or slowly, reading it during the Lenten season or at another time, I can promise you that your heart will beat more strongly with the assurance of God’s overwhelming, mind-blowing love for you. 

Love Securely

Jesus is journeying toward the Cross. On Thursday, it’s His last opportunity to impart His most important thoughts to His disciples. He is about to be arrested, and everything is about to go sideways for the disciples—“this isn’t the way this is supposed to happen!”—and Jesus needs to prepare them with the truth they will need to sustain them through this. 

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” Jesus says (Luke 22:15).  

So Peter and John are sent to make arrangements for the Passover meal, but one of the arrangements that they overlooked was the host duties—washing the feet of each guest, anointing them with perfume, and giving them a welcoming kiss. 

As they are eating dinner, Jesus makes four important statements:

  1. “One of you will betray Me”
  2. “All of you will abandon Me”
  3. “I will rise again and restore you”
  4. “I have prayed for you”

These statements get the disciples arguing about who’s going to betray Jesus—“It’s not me, is it?!”—and over how faithful they are—“I would never abandon Him!” Ultimately they begin to argue over who is the greatest disciple among them. 

Jesus not only explains to them how the servant is greater than the master in God’s sight (Luke 22:24-27), but He then becomes the living example of that when He washes their feet (John 13:1-5, 12-17). 

Here’s an important principle—Only secure people can lovingly serve others. 

Insecure people don’t like to serve others because they feel they are being misused, or taken advantage of, or that others will look down on them. 

Jesus “knew” (John 13:1, 3) how much power His Father had given Him, making Him secure enough to serve. Security really means, “I am loved by God, and I know who I am in Him.”

Jesus served out of love: the profound love that He knew His Father had for Him. He gave His disciples the same mandate: Serve others out of love for Me and show the world that you are My disciples (see John 13:34-35).

When Jesus ate this last supper with His disciples, He instituted a remembrance celebration that we now call Communion. The root word is “commune” which the dictionary defines as a “conversation with profound intensity and intimacy.” 

This is the type of intimate relationship Jesus had with His Father, and this is the type of relationship He calls us to with Him. The broken bread of Communion reminds us that Jesus can make whole any broken area that would keep us from communing with Him. The cup of Communion reminds us that Jesus can instantly and fully forgive any sin that would keep us from communing with Him. 

Jesus set the example—we are to commune with our Heavenly Father through the way He made by His broken body and His shed blood. It’s out of this communion that we are empowered by His love, and then feel secure enough to serve others in love too. 

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