Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Why We're Having Disturbing Conversations These Days...

 


There are times I wonder what is happening in our world...

If my mother were alive, she'd be saying her oft overheard, "The world is going to hell in a hand-basket."

Not sure the meaning behind that sentiment, but it always sounded ominous...

...and, ominous, isn't a bad description for our world these days. 

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I've repeated the following conversation in similar formats with many over the last few months:

The other: I just don't understand what is happening! Our world is so divided...and, not just politically, but theologically...

Me: I know! Seems it used to be that while different denominations arose because of worship style preferences, mixed with a little different interpretation of a few random Scriptures, for the most part we all KNEW that we agreed on the heart of the same Creed (i.e. see 1 Corinthians 15:1-3). 

The other: But, today, theology has gotten so mixed in with politics, we can't find common ground on which to stand in order to find unity. 

Me: I've never felt so lost and confused regarding God's Church. Many seem to be wandering away from the basic foundations of our faith...

What we need is a revival of truth...

What we need is not "my" rendition of truth...but, THE TRUTH from the One and Only Source of TRUTH: Jesus...THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE!

We need this anthem to rise out of our hearts, once more:

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Yet, should we be surprised that we are having these kinds of conversations?

Probably not. 

As the Lord spoke through Isaiah: 

"All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have wandered off God's paths to follow our own (NLT)."

So, in the middle of Jesus' "to do list" is this line item:

Good Shepherd.

There have always been plenty of examples of bad shepherds overseeing God's flock (Ezekiel 34). 

  • Shepherds who allowed the sheep to get scattered...
  • Shepherds who failed to protect, and let the wild animals inside the fold and to feed on the sheep, while doing nothing...
  • Shepherds who cared more for themselves than their flock...
  • Shepherds who neglected the grazing pastures...and, allowed the sheep to become weak and sickly...

The Lord spoke condemnation over these shepherds, declaring that He, Himself, would become the Shepherd (Ezekiel 34 and Psalm 23).

He would search for His sheep when they went astray....tirelessly!

He would care for them...compassionately!

He would tend them, bring healing to their wounds, and strengthen them, back to full health. 

He assures His flock that He will lead them to good pasture and still waters...and give them rest for their souls.

Lest we think otherwise, He will discipline with His rod and staff...in JUSTICE!

Then (in the fulness of time), the Father sends His Son to do the same...


And, in the middle of ministry, Jesus offers up to His followers a parable. 

A story about a ✅ Good Shepherd.

An overseer who leads his sheep, protects his sheep, counts his sheep, knows them by name, and is willing to lay down his life for just one.

Because the sheep have a tendency to wander off, leave the fold, and stop following the Shepherd to "go their own way, follow their own truth, live by their own conscience," a Good Shepherd prepares in advance to leave the rest of the flock to seek out the one who's in danger, always leaving them in care of an under shepherd!  

The Good Shepherd searches and searches, until he finds the lost one, and picking him up, putting him around his neck, the Shepherd carries the lost sheep home.  

The shepherd doesn't care where he must go to rescue the sheep, he doesn't look where his feet are trudging, he simply goes with one purpose in mind: rescue the one gone-missing.

Take note:
The sheep is a part of the Shepherd's flock. 

The sheep is no stranger to the Shepherd.

He knows the Shepherd's voice. 

He's intimately acquainted with the Shepherd.

He simply thought he knew better than the Shepherd where the "good pasture" was to be found.

So the sheep picked a different path...and, got himself in tRoUbLe!

Also, take note. 

The word for "sheep" in the Greek? 

It means "fully grown," "advanced in years," "of a great age..."

This guy/gal should know better...

...but, still...

...and, yet...JESUS.

Jesus goes after.

He's the Good Shepherd.

He's willing to lay His life down for the sheep.

And, when the Shepherd returns home with his lost sheep, He calls His neighbors together for a party.

"REJOICE, for I have found my sheep that was lost!"


Why so much rejoicing?

As the parable concludes, the key is shared: 

REPENTANCE.

The lost sheep has turned back to walk the SHEPHERD-PATH!

That's why we're having conversations like the one above...

There are far too many sheep who have wandered astray...

Grown up sheep.

Sheep who should, by now, know better...

Sheep who should know the Shepherd's voice, and long to follow His path...

But, don't...for one reason or another.

The Good Shepherd is longing for a return of these sheep, 180-degrees back, in repentance, to follow the SHEPHERD-PATH.

The path that is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE for those who walk that journey.


....to be continued......

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Grace, What Have You Done?

I've spent the past week in Isaiah 53. 

If you haven't read it recently, do so (no matter how familiar it seems to you).  

I've saved you the time, and linked you to it on Bible Gateway

With this freshly tucked away, consider the following...

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As I began writing this week's blog post, I sat with the theme of my study on the screen right in front of me (you see it above from an iPad drawing I created as a reminder). 

In light of this, the first line of a contemporary praise song just popped into mind:

"Grace, what have you done?"

(I think you see why I began humming that line after reading Isaiah 53...)

Here are the next few words (and if you want to listen, a YouTube link is attached: Scandal of Grace):

Grace, what have you done?

Murdered for me on that cross

Accused in absence of wrong

My sin washed away in your blood

Too much to make sense of it all

I know that your blood breaks my fall,

The scandal of grace - you died in my place

So my soul will live!!!! (emphasis mine)

From creation, the minute Jesus, the Son of God, spoke man into existence, a plan had to be in place.


The fall of mankind was seen even then.

The inability to keep a law? Known from the beginning of time.

The need for a sacrifice to cover sin? Already established.

Shed blood required? Determined IMMEDIATELY...

A temporary plan put into place....

...Until, in the fulness of time, Jesus came!

Once, for all time, He would become a permanent sacrifice

God's kids couldn't stay out of sin.

Their hearts - deceitfully wicked.

Can you imagine Jesus looking at His "to do" list so the plan could come together? 

  • Despised by men
  • Rejected and forsaken
  • A man of sorrows
  • Fully acquainted with grief
  • One from whom men would hide their face
  • Despised
  • Esteemed not
  • Bear the grief of mankind
  • Carry mankind's sorrows (once for all through all the ages)
  • Smitten/stricken by God
  • Afflicted
  • Beaten/scourged
  • Pierced
  • Crushed 
  • Chastised
  • Wounded
  • Treated harshly
  • Struck down
  • Unjustly condemned
  • The iniquity of all placed upon His back
  • Oppressed
  • Anguished of Soul - the word that is used is the most intense word that can be used for one "depressed;" and, not for Himself, but for those who would not RECEIVE what He accomplished (✅ done!)...
  • Meant to be destined for a criminal's grave (but, blessed by being given a rich man's tomb)
  • Bore the sins of many
  • Counted among the rebels

Why? 

For me!

For you!

That's what Grace has done ✅!

What a scandal!

A way of escape... 

A way out of the grave... 

A means so death would not have a final say...so, hell would never be an option!

Since about 2014, articles sneak in from time to time about "Divine Child Abuse" from God toward the Son...

A ploy of the enemy to twist and distort the gospel story.

Sadly, many "professing" Christians are taking note of this and curiously contemplating, and, some have already bought into the lie, turning their backs on the TRUE GOSPEL for another twisted gospel...

I don't understand how...

BUT, JESUS...

He made the choice...

He looked at His "to do list," and Isaiah 53 declares He saw (before it ever happened) that "the Lord's good plan would prosper..." (v. 10b)

He saw "the multitudes of His descendants (those who would become "children of God" - John 1:12)..." (v. 10a)

He saw "all that His anguish would accomplish...." (v. 11)

AND...He would be "satisfied...." (v. 11)

His joy in enduring the cross - FULL to the UTTERMOST!

Jesus' eyes focused on me at the end of His ✅ DONE, and it brought Him joy as He went to the cross.

From cradle to the cross...From cross to the grave...From grave to resurrection...and, resurrection to ascension...Jesus has had His eyes on me.

And, the best part of it all is that He's had His eyes on YOU, too!


Now, He asks that we fix our eyes on Him... BUT...

What have YOU done with Jesus?

We know what Grace had done for us!!! 

It's SCANDALOUS !!!!

If you aren't sure of your salvation...

If you ever wonder if you have taken care of all that Jesus has done for you...

Here are two more links to great messages (10 minutes & 20 minutes) from my husband! Take the time to know for sure where you are headed at the end of your earthly "to do list" ✅...

 How to Know That You Are Saved

Ultimate Trust Fall

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Over! Done! Finished! Accomplished! Complete! There's No Better Feeling!

Welcome to 2021!

To be honest, 2021 doesn't have a much different "feel" to it than 2020; but, last Thursday, we received a defined moment in time at 11:59 PM, to take a deep breath, let all the frustrations that built up inside us explode, right along with the fire works bursting about, and offer up a welcoming prayer of hope for whatever is in store for the next 365 days.

I didn't stay up for midnight and the dawn of the new year, but I did have my own defining few moments of letting go of the old and welcoming the unknown... I determined to be more thankful for each of the 365 new days...which will bring 365 new opportunities to view God's-new-morning-mercies...and, 365 chances to reflect His glory...AND, most of all, intentionally watching for the countless out-pourings out God's faithfulness, adding up all the holy moments He interjects in those 365 days...

I do love fresh starts and new beginnings. 

I'm driven to close out all the Quick Books Accounts for the previous year as fast as possible; clean out the closets; and, organize my world.

There's something very cathartic about doing so...

In order to feel ready for those 365 new days, I begin on January 1 making a to-do-list that will help me prepare fully for what's ahead.

If you've known me long, you know I thrive with a to-do-list.

I love checking the boxes.

Done!

Finished!

Over! 

Nothing elates me more than completing a list.

The problem is the list never really gets done, more is added before I ever get to that place.

There's not really a stopping point.

I'd truly like to be more like my nephew, Andrew, who stopped by one day not too long ago, and, emphatically (!!!!) declared to us that he was at least two weeks ahead of schedule! 

I was so jealous...(though I'm not sure he REALLY was...) 

BUT, this became a new "measuring stick" for Bay and I...we ask each other regularly how far ahead of schedule we are, or will we ever be? 

This got me thinking. 

Did Jesus have a to-do-list? 

I happen to think He did.

I also happen to think that He enjoyed putting the check in the box, too...and, I inherited that bit of this particular DNA from Him.

In the midst of contemplating this silly notion, I remembered a random verse I'd read as I was finishing up the Gospels in the midst of the Read-the-Bible-Through program I did last year. So, I looked it up...

In Luke 18:31 it reads, 

"And, taking the 12, He said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be completed..."

It's the word "completed" that rang in my ears...

The same Gk word, Jesus used on the cross when He breathed His last, saying, 

"It is finished! (John 19:30)" 

It's the word transliterated, "tetelestai."

DONE!

ACCOMPLISHED!

But, it's much more colorful and complex. 

Behind the word finished, isn't just a checked box...Behind the word is a lifetime of living with a set-out, defined goal that the DO-ER would fulfill to the UTTERMOST!  

When the word "tetelestai" is spoken, it means that the last, the very final, action in a long series of actions to be performed in succession has come to a close!

The aim, the goal, is DONE!  

The prophets (through the Word of the Lord) began Jesus' to-do-list for Him.

Then more came as God-the-Father spelled out the rest of the list during His life on earth as God-the-Son.

When Jesus said "it is finished" that day on the cross, EVERYTHING, absolutely EVERYTHING He needed to do on earth was ☑...

What was on His list?

That's where I'm heading in the next few blogs, at least. 

I doubt I'll cover it all (it's A WHOLE LOT! - some scholars say there are as many as 456 prophecies from the Old Testament that Jesus fulfilled)...but, I definitely want to hit a few highlights.  For now, ponder this passage:

 But, keep this in mind: 

Jesus? - Well, He's 2000 years ahead of schedule! 

(Sorry, Andrew, 2 weeks is NOTHING!)