Thursday, April 24, 2014

He Did Not Die in Vain

You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. I Peter 1:18-19

As we celebrate the joyous commemoration of our Lord's resurrection, it is important to remind ourselves that He did not die in vain. Jesus fulfilled His purpose for which God sent Him to earth, and His death was not the end; it was just the beginning!

It was a dark day when He died - hope was crushed. But that was not the last chapter. For God had a redemptive plan for His people, and that included bringing Jesus back to life. Jesus conquered death once and for all.

For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. Hebrews 7:26-28

He did not die in vain because His death accomplished great things for us, His children. His humble obedience to His Father, even to death on a cross, brought us salvation.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. I Thess. 5:9-10

Salvation only comes through Jesus Christ. And it is only possible because He took our sins upon Himself.

He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:11-12

His grief and pain bought us peace.

For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:19-20

And not just peace in the sense of "I'm calm," but peace in the sense that we have peace with God, our Heavenly Father, and that there is no separation between us and Him.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

This certainly is wondrous news of life and love. Jesus lives and reigns above!

When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:3-4

He has made the path to glory plain - telling us over and over in the gospel of John that if we believe in Him, we will have eternal life.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

When we believe in Him, we have passed out of death and into life.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24

And when we are freed from sin through His atoning blood, we derive our benefit: eternal life!

But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. Romans 6:22

Jesus did not die in vain.

Lord, let me not live my life in vain, but let me live to glorify You and bring honor to Your name!

He Did Not Die in Vain
Words by Carrie Breck

My blessed Lord was crucified,
The day was dark, and grief was wide,
For hope was crushed and all seemed vain,
Until that Savior rose again.

Refrain
Ring out the blessed news again!
Oh! bear aloft the strain;
The mighty Lord is ris’n in power,
He died, but not in vain!

He brings His great salvation nigh,
And on His love bids us rely;
He bought our peace through grief and pain;
But oh! He did not die in vain!

O, wondrous news of life and love!
That Jesus lives and reigns above!
He made the path to glory plain;
Ah, no! He did not die in vain.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lenten Reflections: The Incomparable Christ

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach. Colossians 1:13-22

This is a passage that I am working to memorize, because it reminds me of wonderful Christ is, and what He has done for me.

First of all, look at Who He is.

He is the image of the invisible God.

He is the Creator. All things - whether in heaven, on earth, visible or invisible, were created through Him and for Him.

He is before all things, and He holds all things together.

He is the head of the church.

He is the beginning and He will have first place.

All fullness dwells in Him.

And now, look at what He does.

He rescued us from the domain of darkness.

He transferred us to His Kingdom.

He redeemed us and forgave our sins.

He has reconciled us to Himself.

He will present us to God holy, blameless and beyond reproach.

Wow. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by just these concepts, not to mention that this Christ, this Creator, Redeemer, Forgiver, Reconciler has chosen me. This passage sends me to my knees in thankfulness and praise, and I pray that it will do the same for you as you meditate on these profound, and blessed truths.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lenten Reflections: Run with Endurance

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

God has fulfilled His promise in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ! So let's look to Him as our example. Certainly if the folks mentioned in the "hall of faith" in Hebrews 11 endured what they did in obedience to God, we can endure for the sake of Jesus' name.

When we talk about running the race with endurance, it's important to look to Jesus as our example. The most important clause, to me at least, in the verses above is "who for the joy set before Him..." Jesus endured the cross because He knew what was coming -- life with the Father at His right hand.

We know what's coming too -- eternal life with our Father in Heaven -- and with our Lord Jesus Christ, when we run with endurance and are faithful in obedience to what we've been called to here on earth. This is the joy set before us! We must remember that earth is not our home - and that there is so much more to look forward to. As Paul reminds us,

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. II Corinthians 4:17-18

Our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison! We can't even comprehend our eternal glory. That is a good reason to run with endurance!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lenten Reflections: Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11 is such an encouragement to me for it reminds me that I am not alone in my striving to live by faith. And it reminds me of those who have gone before, and have lived their lives faithfully and received the reward. This "Hall of Faith" starts at creation and recounts many of the stories of the Old Testament, including Abraham and Sarah (who conceived "even beyond the proper time of life"), Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David and Samuel - all of whom never lived to see the promised Messiah. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that these examples:

by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. Hebrews 11:33-38

These men and women all lived out their faith, and lived by faith, before God sent His Son to be the Deliverer. They knew something better was coming, and they made decisions that showed that they believed God and followed Him in obedience.

And yet, God has provided for us better things - so much beyond what they received - in Christ Jesus! As a result, our obedience of faith, patience of hope, and labor of love, should be greater.

Join me in praying that our faith would increase, that we may follow these bright examples, "and be, with them, made perfect in holiness and happiness, so that we may shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father forevermore." (Matthew Henry)

Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lenten Reflections: Hold Fast

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25

Jesus, through the New Covenant, secured by His blood, inaugurated for us a new and living way - so now we have confidence to enter the holy place, we can draw near in full assurance of faith. And what else can we do? We can hold fast. We must hold fast the confession of our hope! We can do this because He who promised is faithful - He will keep His word. "Hold fast" is an important admonishment in Hebrews. The writer encourages us several times throughout the book to hold fast:

Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. Hebrews 3:5-6

For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. Hebrews 3:14

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Hebrews 4:14

Hold fast your confidence, hold fast your assurance, hold fast your confession.

Hold fast. Keep secure - don't lose it. Cling to the One who is faithful, in Whom we place our hope because He has promised.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lenten Reflections: Jesus is Better

The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. Hebrews 7:23-28

The writer of this book to the Hebrews was trying to make one main point in his letter: Jesus is better. Jesus, as our High Priest, is better than the priests appointed by man. Jesus, the Lamb of God, offered up Himself for the sins of the people. Jesus, the embodiment of the New Covenant, is better than the Old Covenant that came through Abraham. Jesus, personification of grace, is better than the Law. The Hebrews needed to be reminded so that they would not turn back to the old ways, forgetting the promise of the gospel and the truth that Jesus is better!

I need to be reminded, too.

I need to be reminded that Jesus is better than any material thing and that Jesus is better than having my needs met through my fleshly desires. I need to remember to choose Jesus when faced with a decision. Jesus is better than worldly success. Jesus is better than financial security. Jesus is better than accolades from colleagues. Jesus is better than acceptance from acquaintances. When I have to choose a way to think, behave, relate to others, I need to choose Jesus' way, because His is better.

Lord, keep this phrase at the forefront of my mind today and every day to come. Let my actions reveal that I believe Jesus is better!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lenten Reflections: The Supremacy of Christ

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:1-4

As I read in Hebrews this morning, I was again struck by the supremacy of Christ. I was overwhelmed when I considered that Jesus was appointed heir of all things, and that through Him the world was made. I was awestruck to remember that He upholds everything by the word of His power. And then I read more. This same Jesus is my high priest! And He can sympathize with me and with my weaknesses. When I am feeling insufficient, I only have to rely on Him who not only sympathizes with my weaknesses, but fills them up with His power. And it's all for the asking! The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we can go CONFIDENTLY to the throne of grace to find mercy in our time of need. That is good news, friends! Jesus, through whom the world was created, in whom all fulness of Deity dwells in human form, the One who holds all things together, invites us to approach him with confidence to find grace when we need it! Rejoice in that gift today. And rejoice in our Savior!

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

To Crucify Each Selfish Need

As Lent approaches this year, I am finding myself restless. I am feeling overwhelmed by all the responsibilities of this life (and most of them are self-imposed, mind you). I am needing a season of rest, of slowing, of listening for God's voice, seeking His direction, and being quiet at the feet of Jesus. I need to crucify my selfish needs and rely more on His leading, His grace, His power and His strength. I need to make time in His Word a priority, and be quiet before Him, waiting in anticipation for Him to speak.

Won't you join me? We may not have the same motivation, but Lent is a wonderful time to draw near to God and to wait for how He will move in you. I 'll use the next forty days to read, pray and reflect, and will share what He puts on my heart, here. It may not be daily, but I pray it will be an encouragement to you as you also crucify each selfish need in order to prioritize your relationship with Christ.

To Crucify Each Selfish Need
Words by Nannie Barnum

To crucify each selfish need,
And on the heavenly manna feed,
Is my desire;
A season spent at Jesus’ feet,
For such a life to be more meet
I do aspire.

Each idol cast from out my mind,
A priceless jewel to enshrine
Within my heart;
Nor let its radiance be confined
But shine to lighten human kind
From out the dark.

Not forty days, but year by year,
Until my Savior doth appear
In garments white.
To waken that glad Easter morn,
And to the courts of Heaven be borne
New and contrite.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Break, Newborn Year

As we reflect on the year that has just passed and the year that is to come, this beautiful hymn reminds of us what is constant: the Father loves, the Savior stays, the Spirit does not go away.

Even time, which goes by faster with each passing year, cannot make the Father cease to love.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. I John 3:1

The year that just passed went quickly, with winged feet as this hymn writer says. But even though it passed quickly, the Savior still stays. Indeed, He is our hope and stay!

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43:1-3

We now face a new year - but we can face it with confidence and hope because the Holy Spirit stays with us - He does not go away.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26

This past year probably brought both joy and sadness, in some degree. We can rejoice that even though our hearts may run over with tears, our Lord's smile still beams on us. And we can be encouraged that we have a Savior who has experienced the things that we face.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

And, even though are sin is swelling with each new year, God's pardoning grace still streams.

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. John 1:16

For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:19-21

So what can we offer to the Lord in this new year? I want Him to have from me, as this hymn says, more service, more glory, more delight. I want my hours to be less sad with sin and my days with Him more bright.

I want to saturate my life with the truth of His Word; that it would dwell in my heart and that my every decision would be in alignment with His will.

I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart. Psalm 40:8

I want to filled with the fruit of righteousness, so that He receives the praise and glory!

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11

I want to serve others in love.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

I want to have the right attitude about serving - I want to follow Jesus' example as a servant.

It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28

I want to serve in the strength that God supplies so that He is glorified.

Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. I Peter 4:11

I want to work for the Lord, remembering that I am serving Him in whatever I do.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:23-24

I want to meditate more on His word, so that I may not sin against Him.

Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You. Psalm 119:11

I want Him to shine in me so that others will see His glory.

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. II Corinthians 4:6

I want to have the attitude of Paul, that to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21) If the Lord blesses me with more time on earth, I want to be thankful for the earthly cheer. And if He chooses to take me home, I rejoice at being in His presence.

For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. Romans 14:8

So, let's look forward to this new year, and greet it with anticipation! For although we do not know what may be coming for us in the new year, we know Who is on the throne, and that He is in control.

So with happy melody, Thine opening grace we greet!

Break, Newborn Year
Words by Thomas Gill

Break, newborn year, on glad eyes break,
Melodious voices move;
On, rolling time; thou canst not make
The Father cease to love.

The parted year had wing├Ęd feet;
The Savior still doth stay;
The new year comes; but Spirit sweet,
Thou goest not away.

Our hearts in tears may oft run o’er;
But Lord, Thy smile still beams;
Our sins are swelling evermore,
But pardoning grace still streams.

Lord, from this year more service win,
More glory, more delight:
O make its hours less sad with sin,
Its days with Thee more bright.

Then we may bless its precious things
If earthly cheer should come,
Or gladsome mount on angel wings
If Thou wouldst take us home.

O golden then the hours must be;
The year must needs be sweet;
Yes, Lord, with happy melody
Thine opening grace we greet.