The Rain Falls on the Just and the Unjust

rainIt is a rainy morning in NW Georgia, just like it is in much of the South and just like it has been for many days. As a matter of fact it has rained every single day for the past week. That’s good for the water table and our farmers this summer but rain has never been my personal favorite.

I used to quote from Matthew, he makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust, to explain that some things are common to us all. Bad things sometimes happen to good people; the earth was affected by sin and the curse and is no longer perfect the way God made it. But that is a terrible application of that verse! A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and what i was really doing was misusing scripture to make it say something it does not say because I happen to not like rainy days. What Jesus was really saying is this:

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:43-45

The verse is about common grace. God the Father knows how to give his children good gifts. He sends sunshine and rain to all people, the good and evil, those that love him and those that do not. Just like a parent knows what is best for a child – from taking medicine to eating vegetables – God knows what his children need.

He Lives; Now What?

Romans 8 11“I serve a risen savior, he’s in the world today.” Those are the opening words to the hymn He Lives (Alfred Henry Ackley, 1933). Easter Sunday has come and gone, but Jesus is more than alive, he is risen! He was dead and became the firstborn of the resurrection. Jesus told Martha in John 11:25 that he is the resurrection. Death, hell and the grave have been defeated. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

I folded the purple and white linens and put them back in the plastic container yesterday, and took down the wooden cross from the front lawn of the church. Like packing up Christmas decorations they were put away until next year. For the true believer, Jesus is more than something we can put away until the next Christian holiday. Followers, disciples, just like those guys pictured above sitting at the table, “have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Galatians 2:20 Look at Romans 8:11 in the post image (click on it for full size if you need to). Ackley’s hymn goes on to say “You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart.”

If that’s really the case, if we are raised into new life in Christ, if the Holy Spirit dwells within, then Easter is only the beginning. 40 days after Easter on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell on those gathered in the upper room and they went out into the streets and changed the world. They didn’t organize a committee or have a big fund raiser, they went out and proclaimed the Gospel! Peter preached that Jesus, killed at the hands of lawless men, was raised by God from the dead because he could not be held by it. 3,000 souls were saved on that day and the New Testament Church Age began. Jesus is alive today and that same Spirit lives in the heart of every believer.

After the resurrection Jesus gave his disciples what we know today as the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (see Matthew 28:16-20) Gluing an ichthus emblem to the back of your car is a token gesture; we are called to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We certainly need to do more with Jesus than put him in a plastic container in a storage room. 

Satisfying the Crowd

Jesus before PilateAnd Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Mark 15:14-15

Pilate did not want to kill Jesus. Continue reading

Look Up and Live!

bronze serpent The Bronze Serpent
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. Numbers 21:4-9

So if you were bitten by a fiery serpent, all you had to do was look at the bronze serpent set on the pole in order to live and not die. We are not told how obedient Israel was in this matter but we can safely assume that some people did just that while others failed to believe it would make any difference… and died anyway. Like I say, we don’t know that for certain but we are given many, many examples of incomplete obedience. Now consider the parales: the fiery serpents represent sin. Because of our sin nature from birth we are all “bitten” by it and will die. All one must do to live is look in faith to the Lamb of God lifted up on the tree at Calvary. Look up and live, it’s as simple as that. And just in case it were possible to miss the symbolism of this Old Testament story, consider these words of Jesus:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15

God Will Provide Himself a Lamb

Abraham, IsaacGenesis 22 tells the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac. For clarity’s sake perhaps we should say almost sacrificing his son. Abraham was willing, able and just about to offer his son Isaac when he was stopped by the Angel of the Lord.

Abraham believed God and that belief was counted to him as righteousness in Genesis 15:6. Isaac had been born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, so Abraham had no reason to question God’s instructions. Hebrews 11 commends his faithfulness, so great that he believed God could restore Isaac to life. An interesting conversation took place as they hiked up the mountain together. Isaac noted they had wood and fire but asked about a lamb to sacrifice. Abraham said that “God will provide himself a lamb.” When Isaac was spared at the last moment, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns and sacrificed that as an offering of thanksgiving. He named the place Jehovah-jireh or the LORD will provide.

As we prepare to celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ it’s hard to miss the parallels. We have in the Genesis account a father that is willing to sacrifice the son that he loves. They walked up the mountain together. And even though Isaac is ultimately spared we see the ram serve as substitute sacrifice. It was guilty of nothing but its blood was poured out. Now consider the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and recall the words of Abraham; God will provide himself with a sacrifice.

The Life is In the Blood

Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. -Deut 12:23

In Deuteronomy 12 Moses reiterates some of the instructions to the Hebrews regarding where and how animals may be prepared and eaten. If they were killing the animal to be prepared as food then the blood was to be poured on the ground. If the animal was being offered on the altar then the flesh could be eaten but the blood was to spilled on the altar. Why? Because the life of an animal is in it’s blood. 

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. -Heb 9:22 

As we approach the Passion week it’s appropriate to think about some of those Old Testament lessons. Everything about the sacrificial system help us understand what Jesus did on the cross and does now seated at the right hand of God. The design of the tabernacle, the office of the High Priest, the altar, the sacrifice and the blood of atonement all speak to the ministry of Jesus. Read Hebrews 9 to tie it all together.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God,purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. -Hebrews 9:11-14

 

Aaron’s Golden Calf

golden calf“Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 

Begin by reading Exodus 32:1-6. The Hebrews demanded that Aaron make gods for them to worship and remarkably Aaron did so. Up until this point of the Exodus narrative Aaron had been as the spoken voice of God to the people of Israel. God would instruct Moses, Moses would share the commands with Aaron, and Aaron would in turn relay all that God had said to the people. They had all witnessed the plagues in Egypt, miraculously crossed the Red Sea, and trembled in fear as smoke and fire descended onto Mount Sinai. They had not yet received the written tablets but the words of the Ten Commandments had been spoken by God in Exodus 20. Before and after the commandments were listed all the congregation of Israel said together “All that you say we will do.” So why after all that would they risk provoking the anger of God by making an idol to worship? Continue reading