Die Well to Live Well

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At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”  (Mark 15:33–39, NIV 1984).

My Musings – We do not know much about this Roman soldier.  He was a centurion, which means he had a command.  He was, at least ultimately, accountable to Pilate, who was accountable to the Emperor in Rome.  Publicly proclaiming that “surely this man was the Son of God,” could have possibly put his position, perhaps even his life, at risk as he should have had “no god but Caesar.” Certainly no rivaling allegiance.  Because of his position he was likely well-disciplined and not given to unguarded displays of sentimentality.   So what was it that made such an impression on this soldier?

He obviously had witnessed (actually oversaw) the nailing of Jesus to the cross.  He stood at the feet of a condemned man hanging between two criminals convicted of capital offenses.  He could hear the insults of the Jewish religious leaders being hurled at a man that they should have welcomed as Messiah, but that they refused to worship as their God.  Perhaps he was present at the trial, and saw the crowds turn against Jesus, refusing to follow Him as their King.  Preferring instead to have another capital criminal released instead of Jesus.  Was he also present at the scourging?  This man being flogged bled like a mere mortal.  Cried out in agony like beaten animal.  Displayed no intrinsic power to resist his torturers that one might expect of a powerful god.

But something profound happened on that hill that softened this hardened career warrior.  And not just him.  Remember, initially both of the criminals crucified with Jesus also hurled insults at Him (Mark 15:32).  Before the end, however, one of those hardened criminals saw in Jesus what the Roman centurion saw (Luke 23:40).  Jesus died (“when the centurion…saw how he died”) liked He lived.  Displaying unmistakable divinity through His unblemished humanity.  His living well (sinless and without defect), would have gone for naught if He had not died well (submissive to His Father’s will).  Yes indeed, “surely this man was the Son of God!

My Advice – Hardened criminal and hardened soldiers are able to recognize and respond to Christ.  Perhaps, for whatever reason, your heart has become hardened.  It is possible for it to become so hardened that it is no longer capable of responding to Christ.  Do not let that happen to you.  “For [our Heavenly] Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and [Christ] will raise him up at the last day.”  (John 6:40, NIV 1984). You will need to die to self (die well) and receive new life (live well) in Christ.  My “Born Again Experience” musings will show you how.

The Road Less Traveled

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Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”  (Genesis 1:26, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Humans are distinguished from the rest of the God’s “creatures.”  We have self-awareness (conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires).  We have imagination (the ability to form ideas, images or concepts that are not observable by our senses).  We have a conscience (an inner prompting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior).  We have an independent will (the ability to make decisions and choices and to act in accordance with those choices and decisions).  We have principles (fundamental truths or propositions that serve as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior). To name just a few.  This is, in part, what it means to be made in God’s image (not to mention the fact that we are more than just a physical creature).   The animal kingdom, for example, when confronted with a stimulus, can only respond to that stimulus (based on instinct, urges, conditioning, fight or flight, etc.).

Stimulus ——-> Response

Humans are different.  Because of things such as self-awareness, imagination, conscience, will, and principles, we have the freedom to choose how we respond to the stimulus.

Stimulus ——-> Freedom to Choose ——->Response

While we may be pre-disposed to certain “determined” responses due genetic determinism (your DNA or nature), psychic determinism (your upbringing, or nurture), and environmental determinism (something or someone in your environment that influences  you one way or another), in the final analysis we still have the freedom to choose.  Our choices cannot ultimately be blamed on these factors.  Our choices, our behavior (response), is a product conscious decisions that we make and that we are responsible for.

Despite all of this, from the very beginning, and all too often, our lives are characterized by so many wrong choices.

Stimulus – When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom,

Freedom to Choose

Response – she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

(Genesis 3:6, NIV 1984)

My Advice – Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some “magic” eraser that would let us start over with a clean slate?  The truth is, that there is.  There is a choice we can all make that will make up for all of our poor choices, as if we had never made them at all.  “In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Ephesians 1:7, NIV 1984).  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12, NIV 1984).

Stimulus – “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8, NIV 1984).

Freedom to Choose

Response – “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  (John 1:12–13, NIV 1984).

The Choice Is Yours.  Choose Wisely.

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Adapted from “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen R. Covey

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”

 

 

 

 

 

Short Time or Long

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Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.” He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs. Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”  (Acts 24:22–25, NIV 1984).

At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”  “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”  (Acts 26:24–29, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Putting off reception of the Gospel to when we “find it convenient” is a dangerous gamble.   As “short time” becomes “long” the heart can become hardened toward spiritual things and repentance and confession becomes harder and harder.  Such appears to be the case with Ron (see February 6, musing “The Turn of the Screw”).  He says he really does not believe in God as too many people suffer, especially children.  I remain hopeful, that since Ron has a soft heart for others, especially children (a soft spot for Jesus too), his heart will soften and God “will remove from [him his] heart of stone” and give him “a new heart” and “a new spirit.”

My Advice – Prayer changes things.  Please continue to pray for Ron, and others like him.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

The Turn of the Screw

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For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, NIV 1984).

Images – There’s inconvenient (image on the left) and there’s INCONVENIENT (image on the right).  This morning I had my new tire mounted.  I kept my $175 screw from my recent inconvenience (see yesterday’s musings).  While there, I ran into a friend (his name is Ron) of my brother that he graduated High School with in 1972.  My brother had witnessed to him numerous times over the years, but had lost contact with him several years ago.  I chatted with Ron for a few minutes and found out that he had numerous health issues.  In his own words, he is “surprised he’s still alive.”

Last week I wrote that there are three ways that to respond to the Gospel, accept it, reject it or postpone your response.  Ron falls into the last camp.  He has been close to accepting it, but has never committed.  I also wrote that postponing is not something that can be done indefinitely.  Eventually, refusing to commit is rejection.  For someone who is “surprised he’s still alive,” Ron is running out of time.

I was able to get Ron’s contact info and passed it along to my brother, who plan’s on calling him tonight (last night when this gets posted).  My brother is a natural at relational evangelism and I know the topic of salvation will come up.  So, re-thinking random, chance, coincidence and odds (yesterdays blog), who knows but that the screw found its way into my tire to permit my brother to reconnect with Ron “for a time such as this.

My Advice – For my readers who are believers – please pause right now and pray that Ron will be receptive to the Gospel message that he will undoubtedly hear once again from my brother.  To my readers who are not yet believers, allow the INCONVENIENCE of the cross into your heart.  There is no more convenient time than now.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

Forgiven Little, Forgiven Much

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Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”  (Luke 7:44–47, NIV 1984).

My Musings – How grateful are we really for God’s forgiveness of our sins?  How grateful should we be?  One sin is enough to separate us from a Holy God for all eternity.  No matter how “small” our forgiven sins are, we should be eternally grateful.

My Advice – Pause for a moment to thank God for your salvation (if you are saved).  If you are not saved, show your gratitude that your sins are not too great to be forgiven, by asking Christ into your heart.

Like Father, Like Son

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The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. From everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him.  (Psalm 103:8, 10–14, 17, NIV 1984).

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  (Matthew 9:36, NIV 1984).

My Musings – These verses are loaded!

Compassionate – A sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  (1 John 4:14, NIV 1984).  It was more than a desire to alleviate our sinful state that compelled the Father to allow His Son to bear our sin and shame on the cross.

Gracious – Unmerited divine favor given to mankind for their salvation.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV 1984).  Unmerited, not earned.  Not something you can work for.  It is a gift, freely given, freely received, if we are willing to accept it.

Slow to Anger – Lacking in readiness, promptness, or willingness to display His displeasure and judgement.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9, NIV 1984).  When He returns, those who have not repented, who have not accepted Christ will be judged and bear the full weight of His wrath.  But because He is reluctant for this to be the case for anyone, He delays to allow the unsaved more time to consider.

Abounding in Love – Abundantly supplied goodness and kindness.  A steadfast (not subject to change) love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  (John 3:16–17, NIV 1984).  It cannot be more abundant than for Him to send His only Son.  It cannot be more steadfast, that when we betray Him in sin, He still loves us enough to redeem us.

As High As the Heavens Are From the Earth – How high do you suppose that could possibly be?  Scientists estimate at least 93 billion light years (and still expanding).

As Far As the East Is From the West – No matter how far east (or west) you travel, you will never reach the west (or east).

From Everlasting to Everlasting – Enduring through all time.  No matter how far back in time you go, there was never a time He did not love us.  No matter how far into the future you go, there will never be a time when He stops loving us.

My Advice – How could you possibly turn away from such love? Why would you want to?

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

 

Think You’re The Worst?

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Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”  (1 Timothy 1:15–16, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Paul had good reason to believe he was “the worst” of sinners, for in a previous verse (v.13) he listed some of his offenses (“blasphemer and a persecutor [of Christians] and a violent man“).  If you need any evidence that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, you need look no further than Paul.  And this should be an encouragement to anyone that believes they are beyond saving.  For is God can save the “worst of sinners” He can certainly save you and me, or anyone “who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

My Advice – Typically, it is not a good thing to be made an example. In Paul’s case it was good, not only for him, but for all who might think that they are the worst.  And that includes you.  If you are among those who believe they are beyond the grace of God, think again.  If Paul could be saved, so can you. This “is a trustworthy [able to be relied on] saying that deserves full [complete] acceptance.”  Why not accept Christ now?

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”