Friday, March 29, 2013

While on the Cross


While on the Cross

Matthew 27:45-46
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?  
Matthew 27:51-54
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;  And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,  And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.  Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. 

Jerusalem, on the day Christ would be crucified, was crowded with many people coming and going as they prepared to celebrate the Passover. God’s true Passover Lamb would give Himself to provide forgiveness for the sins of mankind and Scripture will record for us many supernatural phenomena which will occur while Jesus is hanging on the cross.

The darkening of the sky was the first miraculous sign that preceded Jesus’ death. Why darkness during this time on the cross? Did this have special meaning or was it an appropriate reminder that the cross was a place of judgment? Some say that it was an act of mercy toward Christ to cover His suffering and nakedness, like a veil, and others have suggested that it signifies God’s displeasure towards those who put Christ to death. In any case, Christ was taking our place as the wrath of God was being poured out on His Son, for our iniquities.

Before Christ’s last breath, He cried out with a strong and loud voice; not with a failing voice or  struggling tongue as is common to men that are dying from being crucified, but as a man in his full strength, to show that His life was not forced from Him, but was freely given and delivered into His Father’s hands. At the moment Christ died, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The veil, being made of extremely heavy material, blocked the entrance to the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was kept–––symbolizing the sacred presence of God. The renting of the veil from top to bottom signified that God had removed the barrier between God and sinful man, and the redeemed would be forgiven forever by the once-for-all sacrifice of the perfect Lamb. Note: At the moment of the tearing of the veil, the temple was crowed with worshippers who were there for the Passover and the killing of their Passover lambs. It was at the very hour Jesus died that thousands of lambs were being slain, that the true Passover Lamb died by divine design.

“And the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matthew 27:51). An earthquake, so powerful that it split rocks, would be a frightening experience for anyone. That’s exactly what happened the day Christ died. Earthquakes, like darkness, is sometimes used to signify God’s divine judgment or His wrath. Moses met with God on Mt. Sinai to receive the tables of the law, and the whole mount quaked greatly (Exodus 19:18b). According to Revelation 6:12-16, the final judgment of the earth will begin with a global earthquake more powerful than any other earthquake ever experienced. On the heels of the earthquake comes a second disaster, as the “sun became black as sackcloth made of hair”and the “moon became as blood.” The devastating natural disasters accompanying the sixth seal will be the most terrifying events ever to affect the earth. At the cross, we see the wrath of God poured out on His own Son, punctuated by the quaking, quivering  earth.

Another great miracle at the moment Christ died, was the dead being raised from their graves. And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many (Matthew 27:52-53). Not all, but many of the tombs around Jerusalem were opened and saints were raised from the dead. The Gospel of Matthew is the only book that mentions this event in the description of the death of Christ. Matthew does not say what happened to the risen saints, but, it did prove that Christ would conquer death, not only for Himself, but for all saints of all the ages in the final great resurrection.

Perhaps the most important miracle that occurred at the moment of Jesus’ death was the conversion of the centurion, overseeing the crucifixion of Christ. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54).  Christ’s death was unlike any crucifixion the Roman Centurion or others near by had witnessed. This man, Jesus, the One whom they called, “The King of the Jews,” was praying for those who crucified Him. Nobility is the word that can be used to define Jesus as He suffered on the cross. These are the words spoken by the centurion, upon Christ’s death, Certainly this was a righteous man, a true expression of his faith. The centurion, and his soldiers with him, were evidently the very first to believe He was the Christ, coming to faith at precisely the moment He died.

Thought: Salvation is still a wondrous miracle that occurs in the life of a sinner being “Saved by His wonderful grace.” This is why so much emphasis is placed upon the death of Christ and His triumphant Resurrection. Because of the death He died, suffering our penalty of sin, we are partakers of His glorious Resurrection as well. It is truly the cross that gives meaning to His Resurrection and we can be certain of being raised with Him in the likeness of His Resurrection.  Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him (Romans 6:8). The heart and soul of the Gospel message is this: Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (I Corinthians 15:3,4).

 If you don't know the Savior, if you've not come to Him for forgiveness, embraced Him as Lord, this is the day for that. See Him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world who died for your sins, accept Him by faith and trust Him as your Savior today.

Friday, March 22, 2013

"Fear"


“Fear”
1 Samuel 12:24 ~ Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. Psalms 118:6 ~ The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? Proverbs 29:25 ~ The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. Isaiah 51:12 ~ I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; Luke 12:5 ~ But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

The Definition of Fear:
An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. A feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety and well-being of someone.
[ intrans. ] ( fear for) feel anxiety or apprehension on behalf of : I fear for the city with this madman let loose in it.
[with infinitive ] avoid or put off doing something because one is afraid : they aim to make war so horrific that potential aggressors will fear to resort to it.
used to express regret or apology : I'll buy her book, though not, I fear, the hardback version.
archaic regard (God) with reverence and awe.

How often do we experience the crippling effect of fear? What circumstances or situations send us reeling about with uncontrollable waves of anxiety rushing over us? Has tension, worry or fear ever been productive in our quest for security and peace of mind? Can we let go of this overwhelming fear or, are we afraid of what might happen? Does the fear of man have power over our day to day life that it paralyses us to the point of despair? 

We are encouraged through the Word of God to depend upon the power of God which keeps us from the fear of man that has in it’s clutches either torment or temptation surrounding it. All of us face anxiety, fear, worry, or adversity in our lives in one form or another. Some face the dreaded word, “cancer,” a difficult reality accompanied by emotional pain as well as physical suffering.  Tragedy comes in the form of a broken marriage or the death of a loved one. We have shattered dreams and hopes, the sting of injustice or long nights of loneliness for which we see no end in sight. Some experience endless pain in the suffering of a severely handicapped child–––knowing it will never change. Such grief and heartache is multiplied when we read the newspaper or watch the news alerting viewers of terrorism, earthquakes, famine, murder, child abduction and many more adverse situations. Some may ask, “So, where is God in all of this?”

May I assure you that God is working in and through every aspect of your life. You can trust Him with all that He has allowed to come across your path. It is not easy to trust God in times of adversity because no one enjoys pain or suffering. Having such a relationship with a God that allows you to walk through any trial, fear, or hardship with confidence in knowing He is there, (JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH), gives strength in times of coping with the unknown. God does not walk away and leave us to chance or random circumstances, but moves in our lives to accomplish His purpose and bring to Himself, the glory due His name.

Thought: If God be our salvation, we can trust and not be afraid of any situation that may come our way. A holy confidence in God and His unlimited power encourages man to trust Him unequivocally. We are cautioned not to fear the power of man for the fear of man brings a snare or a trap that exposes him to many temptations. Abraham denied his wife and Peter his master  –––they lied about their relationships causing much grief from fear. 

We must not fear the unknown, nor sickness, nor the loss of life, nor any unfavorable experience laid at our feet–––for with all adversity comes a deeper relationship with our God. His constancy sustains His beloved creation for we are not independent of God but dependent upon His sustaining power to give us life and breath and have our being. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Testing Our Faith


Testing Our Faith
I Kings 17:8-13
And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,  Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.  So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.  And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.  And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.  And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.

There were no supermarkets in the days of Elijah, the people depended upon their farms and others that farmed for their food. Women and children depended greatly on the man of the house  to provide food and shelter for them. When the man died, the widow was left to care for her children as well as for herself. If the widow had no family living around her, she most likely would starve to death even in normal conditions. 

These were hard times because of God’s judgment upon the children of Israel–––a severe drought was ravaging the land. God told Elijah to go to Zarephath, where a widow was commanded to sustain him. This widow woman, with her young son, were very poor–––but her financial situation was not what distinguished her from all the rest of her neighbors, it was her faith. Her obedience and inspiring faith, provide for us today an example of how we are to trust God in the most difficult times of life. She exemplifies what hope and confidence in God looks like–––that we might follow and imitate her excellent spirit.

That this widow woman was commanded by God to care for the prophet Elijah, suggests that she was a follower of God and already obedient to His commands. The Lord asked her to obey by faith even though her obedience may cost her tremendously and potentially lead to starvation. Her first test was small, in that, Elijah might discern whether she was the one to whom God had sent him. He simply asked her for a drink of water. In days of drought, even a cup of water would have been highly valued, yet, she stopped gathering sticks for her fire and brought a thirsty stranger some water.

Elijah’s second request was more severe than the first. He asked the widow woman to bring him a cake. Elijah was asking this dear woman to give up her last provision and trust the Lord to take care of her. She said to him; “I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse:” He then spoke these words to her; “Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for they son.” How important it is to have courage in the life of faith–––the third request was the most difficult of all.  She was asked to make a cake for Elijah first and then make some for herself and her son.

She obeyed the prophet’s command willingly––-knowing the immense cost to herself and her boy. The Lord sometimes requires obedience before He sends His blessings. Because of her great faith, God poured out His blessing upon her and provided her with food and water during a time when the rest of the world was starving. Before God demonstrated His power, the widow woman of Zarephath, was required to demonstrate her faith to the people around her.

Thought: The widow woman of Zarephath understood that to acknowledge God in her life could bring either judgment or mercy and while the judgment and punishment of Israel was in full thrust, she trusted God. In His compassion and love for His own, He has promised to supply every need according to His riches in glory.  Philippians 4:19 ~ But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. The woman of Zarephath obeyed God in the hardest of times, not overcome by the temptations of her trial, but proved her faith.

We, dear friends, have need of strength from Christ, to enable us to do what He has asked us to do. We need his strength that teaches us to be content in every situation and trial and then know He renews our strength day by day that we may wholly depend upon Him. We, above all, are indebted to Him for the great riches He has lavished upon us according to, and because, of His infinite grace.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Me, Have An Attitude?



Me, Have An Attitude?
Numbers 11:1-3
And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched. And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them.

Definition of Attitude: a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person's behavior, a position of the body or implying an action or mental state : the boy was standing in an attitude of despair, his chin sunk on his chest.
• uncooperative behavior; a resentful, hostile, cocky, defiant, negative or arrogant manner : I asked the waiter for a clean fork, and all I got was attitude. 

Do we have an attitude similar to the definition mentioned above? Would we be willing to change our attitude if God convicted us of one or all? Is there an interest in knowing what God thinks about a complaining attitude? Let’s see what the word attitude means and then, what we can do to make a difference in reshaping, remodeling and altering our attitude.

Definition of a Complaining Attitude: to express dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event. The word murmur in the Hebrew language, ragan, means to grumble, i.e. to rebel. Could it be said, that to complain about what God is doing in your life is rebelling against His will? Is there something happening in your life that is beyond your control and you are expressing dissatisfaction or are extremely annoyed with the whole situation? 

The children of Israel were complaining of their adversity ––– “And the Lord heard it” and was displeased or angered by their attitude. We choose our attitudes and the Jews of course, chose theirs. God’s final judgment on their attitude held them accountable for the choices they made. Numbers 13 and 14 tell of the twelve spies that viewed the land of Canaan, two being eager to go forward into the land promised by God and ten who were apprehensive and afraid. It tells how He killed off a whole generation of His children because of their complaining and rebellious attitudes.

Numbers 14:26-30 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.  Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:  Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.

The children of Israel were just like us, who, without realizing it, chose attitudes moment by moment and day after day that eventually became a lifestyle. Complaining is a natural reaction that is chosen when things don’t go the way we want.  Sometimes, we don’t hear our own adverse reaction to unpleasant and unfavorable circumstances until it is drawn to our attention and we are confronted with the phrase: “You’ve got stinkin’ thinkin’!”   

Complaining, murmuring, grumbling, fussing, criticizing and griping is a true state of grievance that an unbeliever lives in but it should not be so for those who are called, Christians. God hears our grumbling, fault finding, rebellious attitude and is angered by it.  A critical spirit abuses His grace and breaks the heart of God. If it were not for grace, where would life have taken us? Doesn’t our memory recall the days before Christ and the sin cursed road we repeatedly traveled? What do we have to complain about–––when our God has been so merciful, so gracious, to bestow upon us such amazing love.

What kind of attitude will condemn and control a complaining attitude? The attitude of thankfulness, an expression of gratitude towards the One and True Living God. Replace a bad spirit, a grumbling spirit with words of praise and adoration to the One who is worthy of all honor and praise. Choose to turn from complaining and ask God to forgive your rebellious heart and transform you into the image He desires, a messenger of His grace.  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.  O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.  O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever (Psalm 136:1-3).

Thought: God has convicted my own heart while writing this devotional and encouraged me through His Word  to “put off continually” any complaining or critical attitude and Give thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:20). Also, In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (I Thessalonians 5:18). Thank You, Lord, for Your continuous transforming love that draws my heart to the One and Only, Almighty, and Unchangeable God! 




Friday, March 1, 2013

The Significance of Sacrifice



The Significance of Sacrifice 

Leviticus 1:1-5
And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,  Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.  If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.  And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.  And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

The Brazen Altar

The brazen altar was situated right inside the courtyard upon entering the gate of the tabernacle. The Hebrew root for altar means “to slay” or “slaughter.” The Latin word alta means “high.” An altar is a “high place for sacrifice/slaughter.” The altar stood raised on a mound of earth, higher than its surrounding furniture. This is a picture or projection of Christ, our sacrifice, lifted up on the cross, His altar, which stood on a hill called Golgotha.

The altar was the place for burning animal sacrifices. This showed the Israelites that the first step for sinful man to approach a holy God was to be cleansed by the blood of an innocent animal.  A person had to bring an animal for a sin offering — a male one without blemish or blemish from the flock or herd — to the priest at the gate of the tabernacle. The transaction at the altar wasn’t between the offerer and his conscience; it was between the offerer and the Lord. The worshiper could take his offering to one of the pagan temples which might have pleased a pagan god or priest, but this would not have brought the blessing of the Lord upon the offerer. The shedding of blood couldn’t change a person’s heart or even take away their sin (Hebrews 10:1-4) but, God did say that the sins of the worshiper were forgiven (Leviticus 4:20,28). 

By laying his hand upon the head of the offering, the person was identifying with the sacrifice. His sin and guilt was being moved from himself to the animal. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him (Leviticus 1:4) The priest would then slaughter the animal, sprinkle its blood in front of the veil of the Holy Place, burn the sacrifice, and pour the rest of it at the bottom of the altar. Blood is a significant agent of atonement found in the Old Testament –– for cleansing and the covering of sin. Atonement means that a price is paid and blood is shed, because life must be given for life.

The Significance of the Tabernacle Sacrifices

Although the blood of the sacrifices covered over the sins of the Israelites, they had to perform the sacrifices year after year, for no freedom was given permanently from a guilty conscience. However, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, came as the ultimate and final sacrifice for mankind when He offered up His own life. As Isaiah prophesied, the Christ would be brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7b). His blood was poured out at the cross for us. 

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;  But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

The horns of the animal were a symbol of power and strength in biblical times. When the sacrifice was made, blood was dabbed on the horns of the altar, signifying the power of the blood to atone for sins. In the same way, there is mighty power in the blood of Christ. Jesus is named as the “horn of our (my) salvation” (Psalm 18:2, Luke 1:69) –– The mighty power to save.

Thought: The significance of sacrifice for us is that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. If we have repented of our sins and have put our faith and trust in the only One who can ultimately forgive our sins, we have been rescued from eternal punishment. Without the shedding of His precious blood, there would be no remission or pardoning for our sin. He has covered our sin once and for all and there is now no more offering or sacrifice for sin.  We are free from the result of sin for there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. No sin a believer commits, past, present, or future, can be held against him. The penalty is paid by Christ and His righteousness has been recognized and accredited to our account. Nothing can reverse this –– for Christ alone is the One who justifies.