…The Certainty Of Eternal Light

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

Even though Jesus explicitly told His followers about His crucifixion, it was clear on that Friday on Golgotha that they didn’t fully grasp what was going on. 

We see the same thing in Heman’s maskil of Psalm 88: The faint hope that his Savior would rescue him from death, but still not fully grasping what was happening. Just as Jesus cried out, “It is finished” and His disciples thought the darkness had fallen, Heman ends his psalm with, “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:18). 

There is the reality of darkness in this world—but it is only temporary darkness. This is why I entitled our look at Psalm 88 as “The reality of temporary darkness” because, in the second part of this couplet of maskil psalms, Ethan moves right into the light of Resurrection Sunday: “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever” (Psalm 89:1). 

Consider this Good Friday-to-Resurrection Sunday thought from Jesus: “…In the world you will have tribulation; BUT be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This tells us of both the temporary darkness and the conquering Light. But also notice that Jesus said our peace would come from knowing that both darkness and light are realities: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.” Whether we are in temporary darkness or looking forward to the eternal light, our peace is only found in Jesus. 

When the followers of Jesus came to His tomb on Sunday morning, the angels asked them a penetrating question, “Why are you looking for a living Person in a place where there are dead people?” Then they began to stimulate their memory to get them to recall Christ’s words. Finally, we read, “THEN they remembered” (Luke 24:5-8). Then they had to choose to obey the word of God. 

Ethan recalls God’s words and uses his “will” three in the opening two verses. 

The disciples also could bank on Christ’s words, just as Ethan chose to bank on Jehovah’s words. The central part of Psalm 89 is God speaking: Check out His assurance in the “I will” statements within the quotation marks in verses 19-37. Then we are called to Selah to let that soak in. 

Notice what radiates out from this foundational assurance:

  • Ethan uses the pronouns You/Your 20 times in reference to God to assure us that God is in sovereign control (vv. 8b-14). Then he tells us of the blessings of God’s favor on our obedience to His word (vv. 15-18). 
  • On the other side of the central quotation from God, Ethan again uses the pronouns You/Your 13 times in vv. 38-45, but then he tells us of the blessing of God’s discipline on our disobedience.
  • Radiating out further, Ethan asks seven questions—much like his brother Heman did in Psalm 88—in verses 5-8 and 46-48. 
  • Finally, we see the psalm both opening and closing with praising God as we remember His covenant word (vv. 1-4, 49-52). 

Remember we said the darkness cannot prevail. The darkness is temporary (Romans 8:18) but Ethan repeatedly reminds us of God’s foreverness (vv. 1, 2, 4, 29, 52). 

  • The Selah after v. 4 is to pause in wonder at God’s words and break into rejoicing!
  • The Selah after v. 37 is again to pause after remembering God’s covenant, and to reflect on our own obedience or disobedience. 
  • The Selah after v. 45 is a pause to mourn and repent from our disobedience. 
  • The Selah after v. 48 is to pause to reflect on the forgiveness purchased on Calvary and the eternal light and life that bought. 
  • Finally, v. 52 harkens back to v. 1 as the praise is restored and the cycle begins all over again. In fact, the praise of God’s light continues forever! 

Heman and Ethan both remind us of this important truth—

My dark days are meant to get my attention. Are they dark because I live in an evil world, or because I have sinned? In either case, my only remedy is to rely on God’s covenant promise fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find a complete list by clicking here.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Gift Paid For

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

On Resurrection Sunday we celebrate the greatest Gift ever—Jesus our Savior conquered sin and death!  

I don’t know about you, but many times when I’m given a gift, I feel like I need to give a gift back to the giver. I want this gift to seem appropriate for the gift I was given so that the other person knows that I really appreciated their thoughtfulness. But there is a danger if we try to do this with God’s Gift to us.  

One of the psalmists wondered how to repay God. After praising God for the salvation He worked, the psalmist asks, “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?” (Psalm 116:1-6, 12). 

As I said, not only is there a danger in trying to give God a gift that somehow reciprocates what He’s given to us, but how do you give a gift to the One who needs nothing (see Acts 17:25; Psalm 50:9-12)? 

Let me try to explain it this way. What if a rich friend gave me a house, all its furnishings, and all its food? He said, “I want to provide this place for you to live and not concern yourself with your housing or food needs. The house has no mortgage, I will pay for the utilities, and I will keep your kitchen stocked with food.” 

I would, of course, exclaim, “Wow! Thank you!” But what if I then began to make monthly mortgage payments, or started leaving money in the cupboard to pay for the groceries? Wouldn’t I really be saying to my friend, “I’m not sure you can afford this.” Or maybe even, “Let me give you something so you won’t think me ungrateful and then end up taking back your gift.” 

In my attempt to give back to my generous friend, I’m really questioning his resources that will allow this gift to continue or his motivation for blessing me. 

The psalmist in Psalm 116 gives us two ways we can express our gratitude to God for His Gift of Jesus (Psalm 116:13-14).  

  1. I will lift up my cup of salvation. This isn’t lifting up a cup to say, “Cheers,” but lifting it up for a continual refilling because He is the only Source that can refill it. 
  2. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord. One picture of our relationship with Jesus is a marriage, where Jesus is the Bridegroom and we are the bride. At almost any wedding you may attend, the bride and groom make vows to each other that essentially say, “I only have eyes for you. My heart is only longing for you. I’m devoted to you forever, no matter what!” 

In my Good Friday message, I said that Jesus IS the perfect Gift. When He said, “It is finished,” He left nothing undone. 

For me to then say, “Thank you for that Gift. Now I must do _____,” is to really say, “I don’t think the Gift was perfect. There are still some things needed to complete it.” 

Or it might be fear speaking that says, “If I don’t give something back, You may withdraw Your Gift from me!” 

I think these stem from two misconceptions: 

Misconception #1: “God does loving things.” Truth #1: Yes He does, but more than that God IS love.

God is love. He could never love you more than He already does, so stop trying to earn His love. And He could never love you less than He already does, so stop worrying. 

Misconception #2: “God supplies my needs.” Truth #2: Yes He does, but more than that God IS provision. 

God is provision. He never runs low. He is never dependent on someone else. He is never short-changed. He knows exactly what you need, and He can perfectly provide for you each and every moment. 

Don’t try to repay God for sending His Son Jesus, but celebrate God’s Perfect Gift by continuing to let Him fill your cup of salvation, honoring your vows to Him, and living securely and joyfully in His love and provision. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find a list of all of those messages here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Gift Promised

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

Have you ever seen kids tearing into a Christmas present and then being disappointed that what they got wasn’t what they wanted? They may say something like, “This isn’t what I put on my wish list!” 

From the response of the religious leaders in the Gospels, it appears that the gift of Jesus on that original “Christmas morning” was very similar. It’s almost like they were saying, “This isn’t the type of Messiah we wanted!” They wanted someone to give them freedom from the Romans, but their Heavenly Father wanted them to have something far bigger and greater: Eternal freedom from the penalty of sin. 

The first humans had the joy of being innocent in God’s presence, where they had everything they needed. But satan got Adam and Eve to focus on something they wanted, and that sin of disobedience brought an immediate separation. They now feared the nearness of God. 

There were immediate and painful consequences for their sin, but God wanted the heaviest of penalties to fall on Himself. To foreshadow this, God sacrificed an innocent animal to cover their nakedness, showing us what the gift of Jesus would do for us (Genesis 3:1-21). 

In The Holy War, John Bunyan tells the story of the town of Mansoul enslaved to Diabolus. The crafty serpent plays on their fears by reminding them how terrible it would be if they allowed Holy God to come near them while they were in their sinful state: 

“‘Gentlemen,’ quoth he, ‘and my faithful subjects, if it is true that this summoner hath said concerning the greatness of their King, by His terror you will always be kept in bondage, and so be made to sneak. Yea, how can you now, though He is at a distance, endure to think of such a Mighty One? And if not to think of Him while at a distance, how can you endure to be in His presence?’” 

Diabolus even tried to make their slavery to sin look like freedom: “I, your prince, am familiar with you, and you may play with me as you would with a grasshopper. Consider, therefore, what is for your profit, and remember the immunities that I have granted you.’”  

As John Piper reminds us, “Christmas is for freedom.” Indeed, that’s just what we see on the first “Christmas morning” in words like salvation, no fear, and great joy (Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:10-11). 

Turning again to The Holy War, here’s what the Father said to His Son: “Wherefore the King called to Him Emmanuel, His Son, who said, ‘Here am I, My Father.’ Then said the King, ‘Thou knowest, as I do Myself, the condition of the town of Mansoul, and what We have purposed, and what Thou hast done to redeem it. Come now, therefore, My Son, and prepare Thyself.’”  

Immanuel (or the Romanized spelling Emmanuel) is the One who removes the separation caused by our sin, and rejoins us to God. That prefix “im” means with, and the suffix “El” means God. The root word means God’s kinsmen. Immanuel comes to repair what was severed by taking sin’s penalty on Himself, and allowing us to once again enjoy the closeness of kinship with our Heavenly Father (Matthew 1:22-23; Galatians 4:4-7). 

When the people saw this Gift on Christmas morning, they said, “This isn’t what we wanted! We wanted a rich, powerful, conquering King. One who would send the Romans running in fear!” As a result, very few unwrapped this Heavenly Gift. But God reminded them, “That may be what you wanted, but I have given what you need. I want you to have not just temporary freedom from the Romans, but eternal freedom from your sin so that you can be forever in My presence!” 

This is what Jesus rejoiced to do for us with the Gift of His life, death, and resurrection. One more passage from The Holy War tells us, “Then said the King’s Son, ‘Thy law is within My heart: I delight to do Thy will. This is the day that I have longed for, and the work that I have waited for all this while. … I will go and will deliver from Diabolus, and from his power, Thy perishing town of Mansoul. My heart has been often pained within Me for the miserable town of Mansoul; but now it is rejoiced, but now it is glad.’” (The timing for the Incarnation of Jesus and even these words of Immanuel Himself are found in Hebrews 2:14-15; 10:5-7). 

God’s love is too great to be limited to just meeting our wants because in our immaturity and sinfulness we don’t know what we really need—but He does. So His love sent Immanuel to us. 

The Gift was given to us at Christmas, but in our immaturity and shortsightedness, we didn’t realize the full impact of this Gift until Jesus rose victoriously from the grave! Now by placing our faith in His completed work, we can be rejoined to God and live in unshakable hope of an eternity with Him! 

If you would like to follow along with all of the messages in this series called Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, please check out the links I’ve shared here.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Christmas Unwrapped At Easter

Remember as a kid when you would unwrap a gift and discover it wasn’t something you really wanted, but then your parents explained that it was something you needed? The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was a little like that—it wasn’t exactly what people were hoping for, but it was exactly what they needed. 

The real meaning of that Christmas gift wasn’t realized until after Jesus was crucified and resurrected back to life. 

Join us this Sunday as we begin a 4-part series called Christmas Unwrapped At Easter. We would love to have you join us either in person or online for this eye-opening time together. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, you can check them out here:

Resurrection Appearances Of Jesus

Jesus gave us ample evidence of His bodily resurrection. This is a recreation of a chart found in The Quest Study Bible:I also previously shared an infographic from The Infographic Bible. The historicity of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is firmly established making it a historically verifiable event.

Poetry Saturday—Easter

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

Break the box and shed the nard;

Stop not now to count the cost;
Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
Reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw all away:
Know ye, this is Easter Day.

Build His church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine—
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn:
Know ye not ‘tis Easter morn?

Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.

Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe,
Chaplets for dishevelled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.

Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer, and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls alway
Make each morn an Easter Day. —Gerard Manley Hopkins

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Where’s God When I Fear Death?

Is death the #1 fear people have? The simple and complicated answer is: It depends. Fear of dying is a BIG fear in those that statistically are the least likely to die: the young. But fear of dying is very LOW for those on death row, the elderly, and the terminally ill.

I hope to convince you of a fourth group that shouldn’t fear death. It’s a group that all of us can be a member of: Those who understand that physical death is not the end. 

In the Garden of Eden, God planted one tree that was off-limits, and He said that the penalty for eating from this tree was death (Genesis 2:16-17). satan tried to get Adam and Eve to doubt what God said, and after they ate the fruit, it appeared satan was correct—they didn’t die. At least not physically.

But their sin did something far, far worse—it separated them from God’s presence. Now when God appeared, Adam and Eve hid in fear. In fact, Jesus even told His followers that the greatest fear wasn’t physical death but spiritual death (Luke 12:4-5). 

Jesus came to lift our hope to something beyond this physical world. He said, “God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not die, but would have eternal life” (John 3:16). 

Famed atheist Bertrand Russell said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.” 

On the other hand, Jesus DID die for His beliefs and proved He was right by His resurrection! 

Friend, listen to me—We’re definitely not living our best life now. We are all terminal. Unless Jesus returns, the chances of our physical death are 1-in-1. 

But physical death is not the end! Death of the body means freedom for the soul. Jesus has defeated Death once for all! “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades,” Jesus said (Revelation 1:17-18) 

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) 

Invite Jesus into your life right this moment!! 

Once you have invited Jesus into your life, and your sins have been forgiven, and your destiny following your physical death is assured, this is how you should now live: 

  1. Live in joyful hope. Not optimism—that’s just the belief in what you think you can do. But hope is the belief in what you know Jesus has already done!
  1. Live free of all anxiety and the fear of death. Because nothing can separate you from God’s love and presence (Romans 8:38-39).  
  1. Live telling others about your Risen Savior. It’s the most loving thing that you could do for anyone. 

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that to be a Christian and to be fearful of death is a sin. A fearful Christian gives God no praise, robs Him of glory, and paints God in a bad light. A happy, secure Christian knows the Lord is his strength, his comfort, his supply. A happy Christian lifts God high and invites others to know this All-Good, All-Happy God too! 

We can live this way because Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins that separated you from God, and He was resurrected back to life to assure you that your eternal home in God’s presence is secure!

Dressed For Victory

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).

Not…

  • be strong in my own ability
  • be strong in the company of another warrior

But…

  • be strong in the Lord
  • be strong in the power of His might

The armor I wear has been battle-tested by the undefeated Champion. It’s armor emblazoned with the crimson red blood of Calvary. It’s armor gleaming brightly with the glow of Resurrection victory.

I wear Christ’s armor! 

  • The belt of truth—it’s the righteousness of Jesus (Isaiah 11:1-5)
  • The breastplate of righteousness—worn by the Messiah who defeated evil (Isaiah 59:15-17)
  • The helmet of salvation—worn by Jesus as He won salvation for us (Isaiah 59:16-17)
  • The shoes of the gospel of peace—worn by our Lord as He defeated our enemies (Isaiah 52:5-7)
  • The shield of faith—God says, “I am your shield” (Genesis 15:1)
  • The sword of the Spirit—what Jesus used to strike down satan’s temptations (Isaiah 49:1-2; Luke 4:4, 8, 12)

I must continually clothe myself in God’s armor. Then I keep the armor bright by prayer—

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight 
Prayer makes the Christian’s armor bright 
And satan trembles when he sees 
The weakest saint upon his knees. (William Cowper)

Holy God, may I be dressed in YOU at every moment. May I daily use YOUR battle-tested armor and weapons to strike a blow against satan! 

(Check out all the Scripture references above by clicking here.)

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)

Christ’s Passionate Journey

In some of our favorite action movies, when the crucial moment for our hero has finally arrived, filmmakers will often switch into slow motion filming. They want you to feel the tension. They want you to see the emotion etched on the face of our hero. They want to make sure you don’t miss a single detail of this pivotal moment in the story. 

The same thing happens in the life of Jesus.

The four Gospels record 3+ years of the life of Jesus on earth. But when Jesus is approaching the Cross—the crucial moment of His ministry—all the Gospel writers go into slow motion. 

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. The numbers are similar for Matthew and Luke, with John devoting almost one-half of his account to Christ’s Passion Week. 

Clearly, there is something happening here that the Gospel writers want to ensure that we don’t miss a single detail! 

Jesus knew all that was about to happen to Him. When Peter swung his sword at the soldiers that came to arrest Him, Jesus said, “Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way” (Matthew 26:53-54). 

Every step that Jesus took toward the Cross was a step of love. Every word He spoke in His final moments before His death was calculated to sink deep into the memories of all who observed this story. 

We are going to go into “slow motion” as well as we look closely at each day of Christ’s final week of ministry. From His dinner in Bethany to His resurrection, we’ll slow down and ponder deeply the love message Jesus is still conveying to us. 

Join me this Sunday as we begin this passionate journey. If you cannot join us in person, we will be broadcasting each message on Facebook Live.

Here are the days we explored on this journey:

%d bloggers like this: