Sunday, April 12, 2020

Resurrection Sunday: He Is Alive!!

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living One among the dead?  He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” {Luke 24: 1-7 NASB}.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3 NASB)

The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying’” (Matt. 28:5-6 NASB)

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See my series on the Jesus and fulfilled prophecy here
See my series on A Protestant's View on Stations of the Cross for Lent here

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sabbath Sanctuary: Crucible Hill—Living Through A Crucible

I intended to write a Lenten devotion, Crucible Hill to study and reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus leading up to Resurrection Sunday, yet I find myself in a crucible quite unexpected; my attention focused elsewhere {I am still penning Crucible Hill, just for the Lent season next}.

Oxford Dictionary defines crucible as a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new. I find myself in such a trial. 

My view from my husband’s hospital room is the magnificent Rocky Mountains which serve as a reminder of the Majesty and Awesomeness of God.

I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple” {Is. 6:1 NASB}.

I gaze out over the parking lot and the buildings toward the majestic peaks and it is peaceful, even though I know that the bustling world below 
continues to spin unaware of the pain from behind the window.

We have found ourselves in a place we never anticipated. My husband had a seizure for the first time in his fifty-six years on this earth. He was found at church unconscious, laying on the floor {he is the building superintendent at the church we attend}. I was there that day as well and ran to where he lay unconscious. Though his eyes would open intermittently, he was not home; he was completely unresponsive. He was rushed to the emergency room and the CT revealed a brain tumor. A brain tumor. This is something one hears happens to other people; one never imagines that this happens in their own family.

While having the seizure he somehow broke his left ankle. Surgery was imminent—within twenty-four hours. The tumor too, immediate removal. Two surgeries in two days. His left ankle cannot sustain any weight-bearing pressure (he can not use or walk on it) and the right is numb caused by the seizure, tumor, and surgery. T
he whole tumor could not be removed surgically, now radiation is next every day for six weeks.

Life can change in a day. There were no symptoms, no red flags, nothing indicating this was coming. One day he is fine, the next he is seizing and bed-ridden. Life can change in a moment. He was in a meeting one moment and feeling fine, and ten minutes later, unconscious on the floor. Our whole world turned upside down.

I don’t know how this happened—how we got here to this place. I don’t know why we had no warning and why our world changed so drastically. What I do know is that God is good; true; just; faithful; righteous; gracious; lovingkindness; sovereign; holy; merciful; patient; love; omnipotent; omniscient; omnipresent; omnibenevolent; all-powerful; all-mighty; and immutablethe same yesterday, today and forever {Heb. 13:8}. I know that we are in His strong hand and nothing can snatch us from Him. I know that to know that you have faith in God means that faith is tested—forged in fire to bring forth gold.

So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” {1 Pet. 1:7 NASB}

How do you know you have faith if you never have to fight? How do you know God as your healer if you are never sick?

I know that we live in a fallen world where sometimes bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.

“…for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” {Matt. 5:45 NASB}.

I may not understand everything this side of eternity but I can trust in His goodness and mercy which He poured out in abundance in all that transpired that day. The previous week he was on the roof fifty to sixty feet in the air in which he could have fallen from during the seizure or laid there for hours without anyone knowing where he was and without aid, and was also forty feet up in a lift changing light bulbs in the sanctuary. He made it to the top of the flight of stairs before having the seizure instead of half-way which would have incurred a brutal fall. Just an hour before, he drove both of us to church—thankfully it did not happen while driving. Numerous scenarios could have made this more tragic than it was. God is so good; we both felt His protection through and through—and now feel His grace more than ever.

I believe God is a healer. I pray for my husband’s healing every day. I prayed while awaiting the paramedics; I prayed in the car on the way to the ER; I prayed while waiting for the CT scan, MRI, X-rays, and blood tests. I prayed while waiting for surgeons to fix his broken body. I believed God that this was not a tumor but something small and that he would emerge from surgery with nothing on his brain baffling doctors. Though I did not receive the outcome I prayed for I know that whatever is ahead for us God will walk with us through this crucible of faith...The Lord is my Shepherd… God is good regardless of whether I receive the outcome I desire.

We await the pathology on the portion of the tumor the docs were able to remove, whether it is malignant or benign. I am believing that the tumor is not malignant and I stand on God’s healing power. I believe that though his healing is for our good, it is for His glory…to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Crucible; a severe trial…leading to the creation of something new.

Regardless of the path ahead and the news we receive, we are in the grip of His grace and He will strengthen us and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. I know that my Redeemer lives.

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him...” {Job. 15:15 KJV}

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See my series on the Jesus and fulfilled prophecy here
See my series on A Protestant's View on Stations of the Cross for Lent here

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Crucible Hill: A Lenten Devotion: That Stake of Wood

I have been writing as of late about Eve for a forthcoming publication and as I study and read Genesis 3: 15, the protoevangelium provokes me to reflect on the cross some thousands of years after Eden.

No theology is genuinely Christian which does not arise from and focus on the cross. – Martin Luther
Lent is now suddenly upon us and though I am not now of a denominational tradition that celebrates the liturgical calendar, I did as a child. I have a deep longing to study and keep many of the traditions for myself, so on today, Ash Wednesday, I am well aware of my shortcomings and even more so, my sin. I reduce to ashes my dried palm from Palm Sunday last as I pray for His forgiveness, thankful that He died for them—for me.  

The cross is beautiful to me. What Christ endured on the cross for my sake is unfathomable, His love is unfathomable; His love, body, and blood poured out for me.

When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride. Isaac Watts

Scripture—the blessed Holy Writ—makes clear that the death of Christ was necessary. It was part of God’s divine plan to redeem fallen, lost humanity. What a stiff-necked people we are in our fallenness. The Fall of creation was one of the most tragic occurrences the world has seen. It was a cosmic event of catastrophic proportions for which the remedy was beyond Adam and Eve’s power to repair. Though their sin was beyond their ability to mend God proved faithful in His promise to send the Messiah to restore what was broken.

 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” {Rom. 4:22-25 NASB}.

The cross of Christ is beautiful to the sinner. That is why I have been troubled recently (I posted on social media) by the trend in some circles of Christians who assert that Jesus did not actually die and that the account of His crucifixion was only a metaphor. They further claim that the cross is repulsive and that only a mean and angry God would require the blood of His Son to satisfy His anger for sin. Further still, I can barely stand to write the accusation, they claim that this would be cosmic child abuse for Him to require such a gruesome sacrifice. 

 “So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified” {John 19:16 NASB}.

I wish there had been another way. I wish that Christ did not have to endure such suffering on my behalf. Jesus too, prayed that the cup would pass from Him {Matt. 26:29 NASB}. But He came to do the will of the Father, it was not cosmic child abuse, He was the perfect Lamb of God, taking on the sin of the world, to reconcile God’s beloved creation back to Himself. He did not choose some random person in which to impose the requirement of sin upon, rather He took the payment of such sin on Himself as well.

Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.’” After saying above, ‘Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will.’ He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” {Heb. 10:7-10}.

The crucifixion was Jesus’ voluntary act of laying down His life and taking it up again {Jn. 10:18}. No one takes it from Him. He came to do the will of the one who sent Him. He was not taken against His will; He was not martyred; He was not assassinated. He laid down His life. He did really die for our sins. I cannot imagine faithful followers of Jesus (who were martyred and died very brutal, gruesome deaths themselves) defending, suffering, and dying for a metaphorical cross. It is unimaginable. If He did not literally die, He did not literally rise from the dead. If He did not rise, our faith is in vain, and our message is useless, and then it would follow, so is our faith in Him{1 Cor. 15:14}.

First, as the Lord shall help me (for who shall describe the cross without the help of Him that hung upon it) what did Paul mean by the cross? Did he not include under this term, first, the fact of the cross; secondly, the doctrine of the cross, and thirdly, the cross of the doctrine? I think he meant, first of all, the fact of the cross. Our Lord Jesus Christ did really die upon a gallows, the death of a felon. He was literally put to death upon a tree, accursed in the esteem of men.” Charles Spurgeon, The Cross Our Glory, Sermon No. 1859.

God is Holy. Sin required a sacrifice. Jesus was that perfect one-time sacrifice. These are biblical truths. Where would we all be if not for the cross? How can one look upon it with such contempt? Such venom? Would it have been better for Him to annihilate us that we be separated and suffer apart from Him for eternity? Would it better for Him to allow us to live depraved? God let it not be so! He would not let it be. That is not gruesome, it is beautiful. I pray for those who are veiled from the truth of the cross and are a stumbling block and deceiving others by their teaching. God have mercy on them. Paul spoke about those who claim Christ did not die in his letter to the Corinthians,

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” {1 Cor. 1:22-25 NASB}.

We could summarize all of this background to Bonhoeffer’s Christology in one sentence, albeit a complex one: The cross was a stumbling block to the Romans; the cross was a stumbling block to the Nazis; the cross was a stumbling block to moderns; and—unless we are humbled and brought low beneath the cross to see its power and beauty—the cross can be a stumbling block to us.” 

Stephen J. Nichols, Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the World

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See my series on the Jesus and fulfilled prophecy here
See my series on A Protestant's View on Stations of the Cross for Lent here

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Names of God: Everlasting Father

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” {Is. 9:6 NASB}.
When Isaiah the prophet spoke these wonderful words thousands of years ago, he could not have fully imaged the scope of what he was conveying to God’s people. He understood the redemptive and Messianic implications, but as with all prophecy, prophets saw only in part

“‘Everlasting Father’— How can this be the name of the child?
This child wants nothing for himself; he is no wunderkind in the human sense,
But an obedient child of his heavenly Father.
Born in time, he brings eternity with him to earth.
As the Son of God
He brings us all the love of the Father in heaven.
Go there, seek and find at the manger the eternal Father,
Who here has become your dear Father too.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Mystery of Holy Night

Indeed, it is unfathomable to our finite minds how a child can possibly be the Everlasting Father. But this is the wonder of the Incarnation; the miraculous clothed in human flesh. 

The word in the Hebrew is Strong’s ’Avi‘ad {5703}. It combines two words; the word for eternal or everlasting ‘ad with that for Father ’avi. Later in the verse ‘ad is joined with ‘olam to mean forever. The connotation in the beautiful Hebrew language is that Jesus is the author of all eternity; the very Creator Himself:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” {Jn. 1:1-5 NASB}.

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” {1 Cor. 8:6 NASB}.

The Messiah is the Everlasting Father, yet He is not The Father; He is not the Father, the Father is not Jesus, neither persons are interchangeable with the Holy Spirit. Jesus declared that He and the Father are one, yet they remain separate; they each are a distinct person of the Godhead. The Son and the Spirit were active in the Creation, but there is only One Father. Knowing this to be true, how then can the Messiah be the Everlasting Father?
Christ repeatedly referred to God as “Father” and prayed to Him; He was sent by the Father. Some things can be said of Christ that cannot be said of the Father, e.g., the Father did not clothe Himself with human flesh. The Messiah suffered and died for the redemption of humankind—the Father did not. The Father sent Him, anointed Him, gave Him authority, and filled Him with the Holy Spirit: 

You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” {Acts 10:38 NASB}.

Christ is a Father in respect to the men and women God gave Him; His children in the New Covenant whom He adopted and who carry His Name—you and me. He prayed to the Father on our behalf as those who will belong to Him through the disciple's faithful testimony about Christ {Jn. 17:20 NASB}. {Please read the entire High Priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17. It is some of the most beautiful prose every spoken and penned. Link marked}.

Christ is a Father to us who carry His name. There are many who are now without their earthly fathers. Some have passed away; others neglected or abandoned their children. However, Christ promises that He will never die, and that we shall never be left alone and fatherless. He will supply our every need and He clothes us with His everlasting raiment of salvation; He has given us all authority to be seated with Him.

The Everlasting Father or “Father of eternity”[1] is the author of eternal life and is the everlasting I AM, who was before all things, and enjoyed glory with Father before the world began. Lockyer recites a fascinating background to the idea of Father. When a Roman citizen had performed a deed of infinite value, soldiers would raise him on their shields and garlands of flowers were thrown at his feet and was hailed Pater Patriae— Father of his country.[2] This evokes Palm Sunday imagery in my mind—as Jesus was hailed and worshiped on that day and declared to be King.

Such an honorable title given to men can illustrate the idea associated with the words rendered Everlasting Father. Christ was certainly, the Father of His Country, for while on earth He declared that He came from heaven where he had been through the eternal past. For Him, whose Fatherland was the universe, and whose age is eternity, the glory is that He is the Christ of all ages.[3]

He will never leave or forsake us; that is His promise. Isaiah’s words foretell His First Advent, yet we watchfully anticipate His Second. The Septuagint and Vulgate both translate Everlasting Father as “Father of the age to come.”[4]

Christ is full of grace and truth {Jn. 1:14} and He is the Father or the author of the dispensation of Grace in which we now live…Glory to God, and He is the Father of the world to come in which we shall rule and reign with Him forever {Rev. 20: 4-6 NASB}.

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying,
‘What is man, that You remember him? Or the Son of Man, that you are
concerned about him? You have made him for a little while lower than
the angels; You have crowned Him with glory and honor, and
appointed him over the works of Your hands; You have put all things
under his feet.’

For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him  {Heb. 2: 1-8 NASB}.

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[1] Herbert Lockyer, All The Names And Divine Titles {Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975}, 148-149.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Names of God: Mighty God/El Gibbor

Another holiday season has come and gone. The Christmas-to-NewYear week escaped me; 
I blinked and it was over. As I was resting from the season, I realized I had not finished my posts on the Names of God in Isaiah 9:6.


I struggled with continuing to post the rest of the Names because Christmas is over. However, I had a thought; Christmas, too often, becomes just a day on the calendar to celebrate. The Spirit of Christmas should be kept all year. Christ came as a baby in a manger, but He also grew, ministered to this dark world for thirty-three years, died and rose again. He fulfilled every prophecy ever spoken concerning Him and is the essence of every Name given Him in Scripture.

Isaiah speaks concerning the promised Messiah,

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” {Isaiah 9:6 NASB}.

I wrote about the Wonderful Counselor a bit ago, so let’s look at His magnificent Name, Mighty God.

Mighty God or God-the-Mighty-One is His Name. Throughout Scripture and in ancient Hebrew thought, much meaning rests in a name. A name does not only serve to identify or distinguish a person, but it expresses the very nature of the one on which the name is bestowed.

Christ Jesus is Mighty God; He is not a hero or some illusive great ruler. He reigns in heaven and is Lord over all creation. He is fully God and fully man—distinguished from the Father, begotten of the Father, {unique and one of a kind} and worthy of our worship. Jesus Christ is the Messiah, “Mighty God” or “el gibbor.” He alone is the True, Living God. 

Jesus, in His first advent, came in meekness, but in His second advent will return in glory and majesty, as Mighty God, the divine Warrior who conquers every foe who dares to come against us for His Name’s sake.

Scripture mentions Mighty God and Almighty God, however, no distinction can be made. Both titles are used for Jesus and Yahweh. In Revelation 1:8 Jesus tells the Revelator that He is the Almighty.

Scripture again affirms the two natures of Christ; He is to come and was from the beginning. The Hebrew prophet uses the exact phrase when referring to Yahweh: He declares in Isaiah 10:21, “A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God” {NASB}. Isaiah is making clear the absolute deity of Jesus; the One born for our salvation would be mighty with the very might of God. He is mighty to save and strong to deliver a world full of His broken, sinful, loved creation. Remember to lift your eyes and watch for His return.

Titus also declares Him to be mighty, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” {Titus 2:13 NASB}. He is mighty and full of glory. He came from God as John in his Gospel confirms; He came from God and was God {Jn. 1:1}. John tells us again in the tenth chapter and Paul affirms in his letter to the Philippians, that Jesus did not consider it robbery to make the claim that He is equal with God the Father {Jn. 10:30, Phil. 2:6}.

Though Mighty God clearly applies to God, the Israelites weren’t expecting God to be born and live among them; they could not grasp the incarnation. Israel was looking for an immediate antidote to their physical and political malady. It would be centuries before the time was right for the Messiah to come, but He did come and He will reign for eternity.

John’s Gospel is an amazing book. He reveals to us the prophecies in the Old Covenant fulfilled in the New Covenant. It is in the pages of his gospel that we read the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. The babe who was born in a meek and humble manger bore the qualities foretold concerning His coming; He would not be merely human, but the incarnation of the living God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” {Jn. 1:14}.
Luke’s Gospel also avows that Jesus is God; the angel Gabriel directly alludes to this famous prophecy when he visits Mary:

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” {Lk. 1:32–33}.

Revisiting the writings of Moses we see that He refers to God as mighty and a Great God {Deut. 10:17}. Nehemiah declares that God is the Great, mighty, and terrible God {Neh. 9:32}. The weeping prophet refers to Him as the Great, the Mighty God {Jer. 32:19}.

Jesus Christ is the One True King. For a king to reign forever, he must live forever, Christ is that Mighty King, the only One who lives and will reign forever.

“Mighty God is the name of this child. The child in the manger is none other than God himself. Nothing greater could be said: God became a child. He lies in the manger, poor like us, wretched and helpless like us, a human of flesh and blood like us, our brother. And yet He is God, yet He is strength. Where is the divinity, where is the strength of this child? In the divine love, in which he became just like us. His poverty in the manger is his strength. In the strength of love he overcomes the chasm between God and humanity.” {Bonhoeffer, The Mystery of Holy Night}

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