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Perseverance Over Opposition

Opposition is expected from the enemy. Sword of Truth -- be ready!

Opposition is expected from the enemy. Sword of Truth — be ready!

At this time in our world the daily news reports are predominantly more bad news than good. The disregard for fellow human beings has superseded even basic consideration of others and “loving others as yourself”. In secular society the “Golden Rule” seemingly has been replaced with “MY way or the highway.”

It is terribly sad, but what if I told you… it’s NOT surprising.

Why is it that people (who endeavor to live ethically, morally as Christ did), are “shocked” when people who have not yet acknowledged God and His Sovereign Lordship? They do not fear God’s promise of just punishment for every sinful thought, word and deed. Why is it so shocking that the unprincipled people would live unrighteously?

That’s right, God has revealed in His Word and through recorded events throughout history, the curse of sin that plagues our world since the Fall continues to degrade our societies into not-so-civil civilizations. That same “cause” is at work today! The blame does not fall on guns, knives, drugs, or terroristic gangs of people. The root of our problem is SIN. That is truly something that we ALL share; each and every one of us cannot help but commit sin in our natural life. Transgressions are unavoidable. What we do about them is the decision that will either bring us everlasting peace or continuing turmoil.

I have not only heard growing severity and numbers of reports from other people about the encroachment of evil opposition into their daily lives,  but lately I have experienced personal attacks that leave me shaking my head in disbelief at what I am witnessing first-hand.

Given recent developments, I even more appreciate the wisdom of the leadership and pastors at our church in selecting the current series of messages in the Bible’s book of Nehemiah and Ezra which focus on our need to think differently about our mission in reaching a lost world with the message of salvation which is for all mankind… the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God does punish sin, but He SAVES sinners that genuinely seek His righteousness. Get that? It is Jesus’ righteousness (we could NEVER accomplish it on our own), but it is offered to ANYONE who will believe. How awesome is that!

.Today’s message was delivered by Curt Tyra and was entitled “Advancing God’s Work in an Antagonistic World”. He covered both chapters three and four of the book of Nehemiah in the Bible’s Old Testament.

Nehemiah Chapter Three — EVERY INDIVIDUAL MATTERS.

Did you ever notice how many times there are all these near unpronounceable names in the Old Testament? Why not just say “a bunch of people got together and this is what they did”?  I had thought it was because by recording actual names and lineages, individuals could be identified by their neighbors of the time and also be researched throughout history. Their individual testimonies and actions could be studied, challenged, and/or verified. Their witness mattered more because they were “named” individuals.

Curt stressed, “Names Matter: Individuals Matter!” There are individuals who were used by God and their participation mattered. Look at that participation:

  • Individuals of all kinds of people: one task, yet various skill sets, ages, societal status
  • Corporately working together: the phrase “next to him” pointed out the teamwork of the project and that they were a bunch of individuals that were “all in it together”.
    • Communication is VITAL. Whether it is a white picket fence or a stone wall we NEED to know the plan and be working together toward the same end.
  • Enthusiastic participation – they “set to work”. Didn’t just talk about it… they rolled up their sleeves and got things done.
  • Not always unanimous – even amongst their ranks, people didn’t always agree. The nobles would NOT stoop to chip in; they would not humble themselves to do the work of the Lord.
    • NOTE: The people did not stop progressing forward. They didn’t say “if they don’t work, then neither will I”. They persevered and continues the work!

Nehemiah Chapter Four — Persevering Over Opposition

The Enemy has a predictable and often repeatable pattern in of opposing us when we are working God’s plan.

  • ANGER – (4:1,7) as long as we are just talking about what we want to do, the enemy leaves us alone, but the moment we actually move into action the enemy unleashes his anger toward us. Being sucked into a battle of emotions (very primal, fleshly, “natural”) could stop progress.
  • JEERING – (4:1-3) the enemies anger will quickly turn into jeering and taunting. This is designed to cast doubt on our own contributions to the good mission. The Enemy says “who do you think YOU are? You CAN’T do that?!”

When neither the enemy’s anger nor taunting stopped their work, he involved others in his plan to thwart the mission…

  • PLOTTING — (4:8) How evil can someone get? Intentionally lying and acting in such ways as to do harm to others is bad enough, but to enlist the support of others via misleading them is especially heinous. As we get serious about actually doing the work of God, the enemy will gather others together to conspire and plot and CAUSE CONFUSION.
    • NOTE: remember that God is not a God of confusion… that is Enemy territory. That is the direct result of what happens when one does contrary to God’s sovereignty and best for us.
  • THREATS — (4:11)  Personal threats are a drastic attempt at the enemy to stop us from doing what we know to be right. The Enemy likes to use FEAR along with his lies to try to deter us from getting the job done. God’s Word says “Perfect Love casts out fear”… Jesus is that perfect love. As children of God, ours is not a spirit of fear. Rather, we have been given all we need to overcome; “victory in Jesus”.

OUR RESPONSE TO OPPOSITION: “The people of God persevere in the work of God for the glory of God.”

  • PRAY — (4:4, 5, 9) Look at Nehemiah’s prayer to God: “Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized the builders.”  Prayers of confessing our dependence upon God and that we may have His perspective. Not a call for personal vengeance, but for God’s perfect plan. Things like Jesus’ model prayer for us “THY kingdom come”.
  • REMEMBER — WHO God is. Is. 46:9 “I AM God and there is no other.” God is ours and we are His. No enemy is greater than He. “If God be for us, who can stand against us.?” The fear intended by the enemy can be overcome when we remember that GOD is in control, especially when we are feeling so “out of control”
  • PLAN — (4:13, 16-22) There were NOT unaware of the enemy’s scheme and plan accordingly. They continued the work by working together to protect AND work… a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.

The opposition came when they went to work (not just talk about it) in the midst of coming together and building the wall, the enemy’s opposition came quickly and it came fiercely!  His intent was to tear down that which was being built and to confuse and demoralize the workers BUT …

“The people of God persevere in the work of God for the glory of God.”

and they did so with prayer, remembrance, a plan and by each individual ACTING, and doing so in the unified spirit of building.

See Ephesians 6:10 > regarding our need to put on the FULL ARMOR of GOD.

 

That Pivotal Moment in Time (with #GoodFriday poem)

 

Torn Veil

Temple veil was torn from top to bottom at the very moment Jesus Christ died.

This Holy Week has afforded us with yet another chance to ponder just how remarkably profound these events truly were in the scope of all history and indeed eternity.

Think about the state of affairs of the apostles who had just witnessed the horrible beating, public humiliation and torturous crucifixion of there leader, teacher and friend. I wonder, can you imagine how it must have been?

While sharing in the solemnity and intimacy of celebrating Passover only nights before the disciples were stunned enough by having their esteemed leader strip himself of deserved dignity and stature to wash their feet. During the seder the elements that for centuries had always represented the lamb’s body and blood,  sacrificed and applied as necessary method of deliverance from death, were given NEW meaning. Jesus made a point of stressing that these elements now applied to Him. Jesus told them repeatedly that the Son of Man must suffer and would be going where they could not. But He continued to encourage them with [“I go to prepare a place for you. I will then call you to Myself. Until I return… Do this in remembrance of Me.”] His time was near.

What agony Jesus endured during the night in the garden of Gethsemane as He prayed to His Father God, can there be any other way? What utter loneliness must Jesus have felt as His very best friends and followers couldn’t even stay awake with Him at this dark time in His spirit.  Jesus was even at that time being betrayed by Judas Iscariot who literally “sold out” His mentor to the enemies for 33 pieces of silver. Jesus knew that. More prophecies being fulfilled. More yet to be met. He was in the waiting room of the torture quickly approaching. His time was still nearer.

The assembly of soldiers sent by the officials defended upon the garden, waking the sleeping friends and causing quite a stir. As a sign to the captors Judas kissed the Lord. “You betray Me with a Kiss?” More of the foretold prophesies received their tic. Peter slashed his sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers. Yet it was the captive Jesus who performed the miracle and miraculously reattached the ear while warning his disciple against fury and violence.

“Who do you seek?” WHAT a PROFOUND question… even today!  The words of Jesus inquired. The soldier responded “Are you Jesus of Nazareth?”  What happened next?  Jesus responded with “I AM”… those incredible words… the name of the ONE true God… the men fell on their faces in an instant!! Even though they didn’t worship any Jewish God these men couldn’t help fall prostrate before the Almighty. How shocking is that? Still Jesus went as their captive to be brought to a secret night time trial before the Sanhedrin who had already prepared their false witnesses. As He was seized the disciples realized that as Jesus followers they were likely also in danger. They fled. Jesus went still closer to the appointed time.

The mock trial was an agenda driven display of men who claimed to be righteous actually practicing all kinds of unrighteousness on the ONE who really was without sin. The irony. Just as the prophets had revealed the Messiah stood silent before His accusers. Then the next morning brought before Pontus Pilot so that the Religious Persecutors could convince the Roman official to get the government to do the dirty work of actually killing Jesus.  Next more prophesied events took place; He was severely scourged, mocked, cursed and spit upon, and received beatings such that Jesus scarcely resembled a man but more a hunk of bleeding stripped apart flesh. “by His stripes we are healed”… Isaiah’s revealed Words of God were happening. Oh dear God, were they ever!

And in the wings was Peter… close enough to see, but careful not to be seen or taken into custody himself. Just as Jesus had said, Peter denied he even knew Jesus not one, or twice but even with curses on the third time. A rooster crowed. Peter wept. This was the day Good Friday! Jesus appointed work was underway.

Pilot publicly announced he found no fault in Jesus and attempted to get him released during a release event in which public could choose one prisoner to be set free. But no… “Barrabus the murderer” was the one they chose. As for Jesus the crowd was incited and yelled “Crucify Him”!  Pilot after brief discourse with Jesus about truth and Lordship delivered Jesus to the executioners with instructions to place a sign “King of the Jews” at the head of Jesus cross. When someone tried to amend it with “do you mean that ‘he SAYS he is the King of the Jews”?  Pilot answered “no, I have stated it correctly”. The mockers placed a crown of thorns upon Jesus head and a woven robe to parade Him and add humiliation.

It was added torture Jesus carrying the beam of the cross that would be the instrument of His death through the Via de la Rosa. Large crowds of people who came this day to celebrate Passover were everywhere. Many actually saw Him… the Lamb who was being sacrificed for the sins of all. Jesus was getting even closer step by agonizing step.

Along the route Jesus fell and Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service to help carry the weight of the cross that Jesus human body simply couldn’t do anymore. A woman along the way used her scarf to wipe Jesus face. It is a relief to know there were still some kind hearted people not afraid to minister to Jesus as he approached certain death.

Golgotha — the place of the skull — just outside the wall of Jerusalem that only a week earlier this soon to be executed Jesus had rode into the city filled with throngs of people calling “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!”  O’ what a difference a week makes. There are a few more messianic prophecies being fulfilled in this Holy week!

Here we go… the CROSS!  THIS is IT!  The very purpose for which it was necessary that Jesus come to earth and live as a man. To offer Himself as the Perfect Lamb without blemish or spot — sinless — as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Jesus was the ONLY possible sacrifice that could suffice for eternity, because He is eternal. His particular sacrifice is the gift that KEEPS ON GIVING!  Only Eternal God could apply restitution to justice for all past, present and future sins. Only GOD could do that. Only MAN could die… Jesus humanity was a necessary stage of His existence for the sake of the redemption of sinful mankind. Jesus was all-inclusive in His offer.

Huge nails drove through his writs and ankles and Jesus was lifted up on the cross for all to see. Placed between two criminals who were also being crucified. One which was mocking Jesus, the other who recognized Jesus’ goodness and asked for Jesus’ consideration. “this day you will be with me in Paradise” said Jesus. Even a criminal status/reputation  can come out victorious if one has a repentant heart and one can face,  address, repent and receive forgiveness from the Lord.  Hanging on the cross, amidst criminals — more anticipated prophesy realized.

Even while suffering and struggling to breath Jesus focused on the needs of a caretaker for his mother. And asked aloud for God to forgive those who were killing Him. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Almost done now.

The sky grew dark. The Sun was up in the sky, it was high noon after all… it just wasn’t “ON”. No, not cloud cover, fog or haze . . .the sun just didn’t put forth it’s light. The miracles of God over nature would surely bring attention to the fact that this was no ordinary crucifixion event, wouldn’t you think?

The darkness of sin’s full weight fell upon Him. . . the Lamb of God . . .Jesus Christ came to deliver and that is what He was doing. All the punishment for sins was accepted by the one who could actually save people by restoring mankind to right relationship with His Father. Holy God requires perfect justice for the sins of man. The LAMB who was Slain was breathing His last. “Unto you do I commit my soul” Jesus said . . . then “IT IS FINISHED” !!!

THERE IT IS >>> THAT KEY MOMENT IN ALL OF HISTORY — the moment when the Perfect Lamb of God, Immanuel–God with Us, who had sacrificed His solely divine status to be born of a virgin and live in the flesh and now… NOW the time had come … he was dying so that others could live. Indeed it was finished!

50And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;… –Matthew 27:50-52

At that moment the ground quaked and the huge curtain in the Temple was torn… from Top to Bottom and the wall that separated the place of God’s presence was no longer barricaded or only accessible by a select few… Jesus had made a way where there used to be no way.  No priests or animal sacrifices would ever be needed to pay for the atonement of sins that Jesus had just made once and for all.

This year’s Good Friday Poem I wrote is called:

That Pivotal Moment in Time.

At that pivotal moment in time, ugliness of sin with bloodied flesh on the cross was displayed.

it’s long-standing curse, punishment and death upon Jesus had all been laid.

The transaction completed. Divine judgment meted.

Separation with God then tore for Jesus’ loving redemption, a new way made.

THAT PIVOTAL MOMENT IN TIME Had  arrived …. Jesus paid it all!

 

What Do We Know?

  
Consider knowledge. Is one who knows something better off than one who trusts that “ignorance is bliss”? Maybe the ignorant are blissful in not knowing what dangers and terrible consequences awaiting them due to their lack of knowledge. But does that make them “better off” living in the bliss of the moment without care? YOLO! Who knows? Can we know? How can we “know” anything?

With each passing year, I am learning that the key to learning is to understand there is so very much that I do not know so it is good to keep my eyes and ears open for all those teachable moments. In fact, I am fairly certain in saying that I don’t even know how much knowledge there is that I don’t even know, but I am certain I know less than I think that I know. 

The person who says “I know ALL about _______” (insert topic here)  just gave proof that they place more value on what they think they know than pursuing more of what there is yet to learn. The wise teacher is the one who first considers himself a perpetual student.

I am learning: It is not simply what I know, do, nor possess that really matters . Rather, my life is enriched because of knowing Whose I am, WHO I belong to; what God has done, is doing and will do; and that He loves me and others so very much He desires to be with us. God gives me life with passion and purpose. Where He leads me I will follow. He will make a way where there seems to be no way. He is sovereign, almighty, tender, righteous, holy, loving, merciful, forgiving, wrathful, gracious, generous, and so very much more! GOD does things that are for our own good and serve His purposes. ALL the glory is HIS! 

When it comes to knowledge, I think we have to consider the source…the base of our knowledge.

Since I know that God is the source of all things ever created on heaven and earth, I naturally use God’s Word written in the Holy Bible as my final authority as to whether something is truth or lie, good or evil, right or wrong (sin, error), something in which to engage or avoid, etc. Since God used His Word to reveal Himself to us it is one of my greatest treasures. Since there is only one truth and because we humans can even misinterpret our own motivations and limited perceptions, I look to the One who is Himself Truth- God is the ultimate authority. He has told us to test everything against the truth of scripture. 

If anything is proposed to run contrary to God’s word or a person fears being put to such a test, then I simply don’t accept it as being true or right. It’s really that simple. If God’s Word judges a matter, what man does in accepting that matter speaks to whether he places himself under the authority of Almighty God or not.

We are given the opportunity to be blessed because of God’s many good gifts to us: our very lives, His creation and nature, His Word, our Savior Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit which seals and empowers us with His strength, growth in His truth, grace and mercy. All of this abd blessings continue as we get to pray and relate with others throughout our daily living. 

We are also very blessed to know that although this world is full of diversity and different cultures and beliefs, we were ALL equal in the way in which God sees and deals with us: same predicament as it relates to sin and death or righteousness and life:

• ALL ARE GOD’S CREATION. We are ALL created by the One true God. Therefore our showing reverence and obedience is not an unexpected demand from God. Wouldn’t we be foolish and rebellious not to listen to the One who made us and knows what is best for us?

•ALL ARE BORN GUILTY. Since sin entered the world, we are ALL under the curse of sin. ALL of us who are able to act on our own have done or thought something wrong or been disobedient at some time. At least once. God has proclaimed that even one sin is enough to separate us from Him. We fall short of God’s perfection and are therefore under the penalty of death. But God’s grace is greater than all of our sin. Read on.

• ALL NEED SAVED. Therefore we ALL are in need of the Savior…the LORD Jesus Christ, who sent by the Father, offered Himself as THE perfect sacrifice, once and for ALL. He died on the cross & conquered death to atone for all the sins of anyone who will place their trust in what He has done on their behalf. Not only does Jesus take away our sins curse, but He also bestows upon us His perfect righteousness! So why is it that people reject that gracious gift of eternity?

• BELIEVE OR REJECT. Each one of us has to see our sins for ourself. We need to confess them, and realize that they are not just mistakes but a glaring offense to the Holy God. The guilt of even one tiniest of sins is still an indictment on us …making us God’s enemy. God gave us the Law (ten commandments) to demonstrate that even the most upright person cannot possibly ever be good enough to please God. God commanded specific sacrifices and procedures of worship to periodically atone for sins. That is, until God sent Jesus.

God’s wrath can only be overcome by His love…John 3:16.

That is the same for ALL of us.

Being a redeemed child of God and Christ-follower is a relationship and not a religion or tradition. Religions of works attempt to earn their way to heaven. GOD’s word states that is impossible –“there is none righteous, not even one.” And that “it is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by God’s grace, so that no one can boast”. In works based religion man relies on himself and looks for reward. As a born-again Christian I know that all praise rightly goes to the One who saved us and takes us as sinners, redeems us through His own goodness and keeps us as His beloved children. How awesome is that?!

RELYING ON SELF IS REJECTING JESUS. Every person who relies on what they themselves do is not coming to God through the only Way given by God. For Jesus said it of Himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6 God simplified our way to Him by being only One Way so we don’t need to be confused by all the false prophets and schemes of the devil. Again…looking at the Holy Bible as my proof text…by simply checking a false teaching 

EVEN PROPHETS KNOW. The blessed holy prophet Isaiah was selected by God as an instrument for telling God’s words to fellow men. Yet, even he was prostrating himself and knew that all mens’ righteousness is as filthy rags, that his own lips were unclean, etc. Why is it that we today who were not so directly summoned into God’s presence think we are without sin and somehow pleasing to Him?

WORTHY IS THE LAMB! It’s because the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb… Jesus…His blood washed away our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Worthy is the Lamb…to receive honor, and power, and praise, and adoration, and glory…and so much more…forever! *Go ahead and look into the book of Revelation to see that one day every nation, tribe & tongue; every king, power or ruler; every single soul will ALL bow down before Him and proclaim that Jesus Christ is LORD!

HE LIVES. He died so that I might live. So I died (to myself and sin) and now live for His glory .   

🎼 Just like the Gaither song, I too proclaim: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, life is worth the living… just because He lives!” 🎶

I know this, because I know Him and am getting to know Him more everyday for all eternity. This learning about God is not only for myself, but for sharing with others. My knowledge has an outlet for usage…my 5 E’s = exalting, equipping, edifying, examining and evangelizing. 

Knowledge, like Gold, is not valued because it is held in some vault as a possession. It effects no changeq or lasting purpose in such a state. Rather it its preciousness and its real value is only realized as it is shared with others.

“Thus says the LORD: “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD” -Jeremiah 9:23-24

True, there are many things that I don’t know and still more I may never know. However, this is one thing that I do know and drives me forward…the most important thing that I can know is that all of us need to tell of, hear and heed the ways of our Creator. His ways are far above our understanding, yet He has made a simple way for us to be able to come to Him as Abba Father and actually know Him more.

So, what do you know? How do you know that you know? Are you so excited by what you know (and Who God is) that you can’t help but share the Good News?

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