Home

Since. Not if.

Leave a comment

Crucifix Illustration

Devotional Thoughts from Luke 23:26-43

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

“IF” … such a tiny word, and yet so powerful.  In the strictest sense of the word it sets up a condition. (You can read a lot more about this little word’s use in the Bible, here).  The implication is that what follows the word may or may not be true.  If it is true, then further conclusions may be drawn.

Another way of looking at this word is that it expresses doubt.  What follows this two-letter conditional particle may or may not be true … the speaker, or reader, cannot assess with certainty.  This is doubt.

It is striking that people, including the Roman soldiers, so casually and boldly apply it to Jesus;  calling into question whether He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Chosen One, the king of the Jews by their use of this little word.  In fact, even one of the criminals asserts a similar doubt in a subtle, but related way:

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  (emphasis mine)

“Aren’t you?” … In other words: “If you were.”

We are looking at the Real. Present. God. on Sundays, and this will be the topic of the National Youth Gathering in less than two weeks.  The premise of these words is that even though the world is asking “If you are real, God…” or “If you are present, God…” or “If you are even God at all, God…” we assert them to all be true.  There is no conditional “if” for us people of faith. There are only statements:  Real. Present. God.  These have all been revealed to be true in the life and work of Jesus Christ. (You can read a bit more and listen to those sermons, here.) We have hindsight.  For us the condition has been resolved!

Isn’t there so much more power in seeing those conditions as all true?  How differently do we approach life when we understand that God *is* real.  He *is* present. And He *is* God.  How differently do we approach Jesus if we see that He *is* the Christ.  He *is* the Messiah.  He *is* the king of the Jews and even more – the Son of God.  May that be the case for us!

I suggest that instead of the word “if” we insert the word “since” into those verses.  While this may not be the most literal sense of the word, it is appropriate for us who now know those conditions to be true.  “Since you are the Messiah…” “Since you are Christ, the King…” then “… Save us, Jesus!”

And that is what He has done!  Ironically and poignantly, He *did* save us, and Himself, in His death on the cross.  What the soldiers, people and criminal were taunting Jesus with – He did.  In Jesus’ perfect and satisfactory death, He won for us victory over sin and the enemy.  So then, the Father raised Jesus from the dead, and He promises to raise us as well!

I pray that you and I will live our lives, not in doubt of the supreme nature and power of Christ, but rather in the recognition of it! … Amen.

Ascension Thursday

Leave a comment

Painting of Jesus Ascending into Heaven

Jesus’ ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775

On this Ascension Day, we celebrate that Jesus is not dead. It’s not just that He was once raised from the dead … but that He was resurrected, appeared to His disciples and many others, then was visibly taken up into heaven where He still resides today! Acts chapter 1 records for us:

“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”(Acts 1:9)

What a marvel it would have been to behold!  You can understand the disciples’ jaw-dropping awe as they stared up long after He was out of their sight.  (As an aside, we use the word “awesome” in so many lesser ways, don’t we?  This would have truly been an awe-inspiring moment!)  It’s no wonder that the men/angels/messengers looked at them and said:

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? …” (Acts 1:11a)

But here’s the part that not only inspires awe in us, but creates HOPE … the men continue:

“… This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11b)

Because Jesus did not stay dead, but was resurrected and ascended into heaven and is still living and reigning on His throne, at the right hand of the Father … and because He promised to return again, we have hope.  It’s as if we are living in the blink of eternity between Christ’s ascension and His return – which will be like a “reverse ascension” … He will return in the same way, visibly in the clouds.  Speaking of this event, Jesus himself said:

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 1:26)

And the Apostle John’s records his vision of this event in the book of Revelation this way:

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

Which is why we Christians are so adamant about telling people about Jesus – He lives. He reigns.  He will return!

As some have said, “it was Christ’s last command, so it ought to be our first concern.”  The very last words of Matthew’s gospel are what have been called the Great Commission – Jesus sending us into the world to make disciples:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

And ending where we began, Jesus last words to His disciples just before He ascended were:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

So this Ascension Day is all about witnessing and hope.  We have hope that Jesus is still alive!  And we have hope that Jesus will one day return to make all things right, and new.  And because of this, we witness to others what His life, death, resurrection, ascension and imminent return mean to everyone. We want this same hope for others … and so we tell of this great news – Jesus is not dead, He is alive and reigning on His throne in heaven!

When He returns will you welcome Him?

No Word From God Will Ever Fail!

Leave a comment

Six times in Scripture God did wondrous things through the wombs of unlikely women. In His mercy, He brought forth sons, born to women who had given up hope of ever having children:

  1. Isaac born to Sarah and Abraham (Gen. 11:30; 21:1-2).
  2. Jacob born to Rebekah and Isaac (Gen. 25:21).
  3. Joseph born to Rachel and Jacob (Gen. 29:31; 30:22).
  4. Samson born to the wife of Manoah (Judg. 13:1-3).
  5. Samuel born to Hannah and Elkanah (1 Sam. 1:5-6, 20).
  6. John born to Elizabeth and Zechariah the priest (Luke 1:5-25, 57) cf: Our God Remembers – Zechariah’s Hope.

Barrenness meant sadness, shame, and even ridicule for women in Bible times. Childlessness was even considered to be a curse. Yet in His mercy, the Lord did the seemingly impossible through these barren women. He opened their wombs and brought forth sons who were significant in the story of Israel. This is a reminder that there’s hope for you even when things seem impossible!

And God did something even more amazing, not through the womb of a barren woman, but through the blessed womb of a virgin, named Mary.  This would be even more miraculous than a birth to a barren womb, as this conception did not involve an earthly father, but would involve the power of the Holy Spirit.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” – Luke 1:35

God speaks His Word through the angel Gabriel, and Mary conceives an even greater Son.  What Child is This? the Christmas carol asks.  The answer is: this Child is The Greatest Son, not only in the history of Israel, but in the history of mankind!  Mary herself was amazed at the possibility of this occurrence, to which the angel responded with some of the most profound words in Scripture:

“For no word from God will ever fail.” – Luke 1:37

Wow, how true.  Then Mary’s response forever changed history as she humbly surrendered to God’s will saying …

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. – Luke 1:38

God had sent His people “redeemers” in the form of kings and judges throughout Israel’s history.  But as with all things earthly, their redemption was limited, and eventually faded.  But they did serve an important function at a critical time in history.  And, perhaps more importantly, they served the function of pointing to Jesus.  Theologians refer to this as “typology.”  In its most basic sense, this means that something in the Old Testament prefigured something that Jesus Christ would more completely and more thoroughly fulfill in the New Testament.  (For some examples of “types of Christ” in the Old Testament, see this BibleStudyTools.com article.)

One wonderful example of an Old Testament type of Christ is the judge Samson.  Samson was born to a mother who, being barren, should not have borne a child … just as Mary, being a Virgin, should not have borne a child.  And yet, by God’s mercy, Samson did some amazing things in his rescue of Israel! Similarly Christ did some amazing things in His rescue of God’s people.  Christ’s mighty acts, however, were not ones in which He displayed His power, but in which He withheld His power, in order to accomplish His Father’s greater will.  Here are some ways in which Christ did an even greater job of rescue than Samson, demonstrating His strength through sacrifice, rather than through might:

  • Where’s Samson ripped apart a lion, Jesus had the strength to rip apart Satan. But for our salvation, He allowed Satan to rip Him apart and pierce Him through on the cross, suffering God’s judgment in our place.
  • Whereas Samson used the jawbone of a donkey to kill the faithless Philistines, Christ had the strength to wipe out the countless people who scorned Him and rebelled against God – even calling down legions of angels if He desired; but instead, He allowed himself to be crucified by a makeshift cross, bearing all of humanity’s sin and dying for those who sinned against Him.
  • And whereas Samson was blindfolded, beaten and mocked, in his last act he demonstrated his strength stretching his arms out to bring down the ceiling on Israel’s enemies … He pointed to Christ, who also was beaten and mocked, but in His final act, He withheld His strength as He stretched out His arms on the cross! Nonetheless in that act, He did crush our enemies of sin, death and the devil and finished the work of our salvation.
  • And whereas Samson put the gates of the city on his back and brought them to the top of the hill, Christ put all of our rebellion and sin onto His back and took it up the hill of Calvary to atone for it.
  • But where we really see that Christ is the greater rescuer, is that after his work of rescue, Samson died. Christ, however, did not stay dead. He rose triumphantly over our sin and death on the third day. Christ is The Greater Rescuer indeed.

The comparison of Christ with Samson is particularly important when you consider that God chose to rescue His people, Israel, not through an army, and not through sophisticated weapons of war, but through the mighty acts of one man – Samson.  How similarly wonderful, and yet more remarkable, is how God chose to rescue His people of every nation, tribe and tongue throughout all the world and over every age, through the mighty acts of one man – His Son.

All of this was to fulfill the Word of God, as the Angel Gabriel said when he came to Mary, “For no word from God will ever fail.” – Luke 1:37

May you find strength and hope in knowing that even the impossible is possible with God.  He rescued His people, Israel, and He rescued you in Christ!  May your faith be strengthened, knowing NO WORD FROM GOD WILL EVER FAIL!

Trusting in God’s faithfulness,

Pastor Augie.

Our God Remembers – Zechariah’s Hope

Leave a comment

Often the names of characters in the Bible have a specific meaning, perhaps relevant to something in their lives.  Zechariah the priest, father of John the Baptist, is no exception.  Zechariah’s name means: “God Remembers.”  We see God “remembering” in two ways in Zechariah’s life.

First, God is remembering Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth who remain childless at what the Bible describes as a “very old” age (Luke 1:7), by giving them a son. The angel Gabriel meets Zechariah in an area of the Temple reserved for priests, and gives him a message:

But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.” – Luke 1:13

Secondly, we see God remembering His promise to His people to send them a Savior.  Zechariah knows his son John is being called to be the forerunner of Christ and to point people to Him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  So as soon as John is born, Zechariah proclaims a long “song” of praise extolling the faithfulness of God in remembering His people and fulfilling His promises.  This section of Scripture in Luke 1:68-79, is known as Zechariah’s Song and is sometimes used in the traditional liturgical service of Matins as the Benedictus.  Here’s a short excerpt where we see Zechariah proclaim how God has remembered His people:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. … and to remember his holy covenant” – Luke 1:68, 72

What’s interesting to note is what transpired between Luke 1:13 and Luke 1:68.  You see, when the angel told Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth was going to have a son, Zechariah responded in disbelief:

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” – Luke 1:18

For someone whose name means “God remembers,” he seems surprised, doesn’t he?  Has he forgotten how God brought children into the lives of the barren wives of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  God may have a long memory, but Zechariah’s seems short.

The truth is, we worship a God that always remembers.  More than that, when He remembers, He acts!  That’s important, right?  If I just remember our wedding anniversary, but do nothing about it, my wife doesn’t really consider that remembering.  And just as I would be insulted if my wife were surprised that I remembered our anniversary, God is not pleased when we act surprised at his faithfulness.

So the angel Gabriel takes away Zechariah’s ability to speak until John is born. But when John is born, Zechariah makes up for lost time, and uses his first mouthful of words to proclaim a beautiful song of praise!

Shouldn’t that be our response to our faithful God who not only remembers, but acts in faithfulness to His promises?  Rather than be surprised at God’s goodness, we should be anticipating it with a confident hope!  We should reflect our expectation of God’s faithful action in our prayers, in our words to others, and even in our own actions!  That’s why the Apostle Paul encourages the Christians at Rome, and us:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

Zechariah, once he’s able to speak, clearly expresses this confident hope in God’s faithfulness through the Holy Child who will be born to Mary.  May we do the same this Advent season, and always.

Trusting in God’s faithfulness,

Pastor Augie.

A Changeless GOD in a Changing World

Leave a comment

changelessgodsm

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Hebrews 13:8 was the theme verse for this year’s Pastors conference with the Pacific Southwest District. I was blessed to be able to attend this year’s conference (my 16th year in our district!) along with Rachelle and learn a number of things about how our God remains changeless even in a rapidly changing world.

It seems that with all the news about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump dominating the media (and our conversations) it is clear that we are living in a changing world. Our older members see this when they consider how the culture of our society has changed in a handful of decades. Our younger members see this when they witness new technology emerging day after day, week after week, and year after year. It does seem as though the rate of change is speeding up not slowing down, doesn’t it?

And so how does a Christian respond in these changing times? As we have been learning from the Apostle James in our “Faith That Works” message series, let me suggest that we put our faith into action, and let our thoughts and emotions be guided by our changeless God, rather than by the changing circumstances around us.   How does God direct us …

… In a changing WORLD? One trend that we must recognize globally is that the “West” (meaning Europe and North America) is no longer the epicenter of Christianity. One conference speaker said that in the 1800’s approximately 90% of Christians worldwide lived in Europe and North America.  In the 1990s 60% of Christians were living in Africa, South America Asia and the Pacific – and that trend is increasing.  This means that as Christians, we need to respond in humility, not seeing ourselves as “rescuers” of Christians around the world, but partnering with them as together we serve the same God – diverse in cultures, but united in His Spirit.  It also means that we must be careful that all of our ministry remains rooted in the Cross of Christ.  Anything else won’t transcend cultures, and ultimately won’t matter.

… In a changing NATION?  Trends in the business world have informed some church practices over the last several decades.  Interestingly, what we are learning now is that the business world has begun moving toward “values-driven” leadership. What this means is that today’s generation is more interested in what a company stands for than just the products they sell. This is a good thing for the Church because it means that this generation is interested in the deeper issues that drive our ministry rather than just the externals of our presentation. But truthfully, this raises the bar for us. Today’s younger worshippers are not attracted to simply a “slick presentation,” but are more concerned with what is really driving our faith underneath. They want to see the changeless God shining through us. They want to join a church where people are deeply transformed by their relationship with God and are filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit. They want to belong to a church where the friendships are deep, marriages are strong, and the people are full of joy and love. Unfortunately, when they look at the Church, they don’t see patterns of spiritual and relational health that are much different than the world. Quite simply we cannot have a faith that is divorced from our life. This generation is not interested in our knowledge.  They need someone to show them Jesus.  Let’s show them the unchanging God who is “making his appeal through us.”  (2 Corinthians 5:19)

… In a changing COMMUNITY? At Redeemer we want to “Join Jesus in our Community.”   This means that we actually need to get out into our community.  You will be seeing more opportunities at Redeemer to get the message of the Gospel out to our neighbors and friends.  But at the same time, you need to begin to expand your “invite list.” Ask God to reveal to you: Who are the people in the circles that you travel? Where is God already at work in their life? Where can you shine the light of Jesus into both their joys and their struggles? Who is God leading you to invite with you along your journey of loving and serving the Lord and His people?

… In a changing HOME? Unfortunately, the landscape of our homes has also changed in recent decades. Sadly, many children experience homes where faith is not evident. Perhaps even more sadly, though, many children grow up in Christian homes where the faith that is professed on Sunday somehow does not make it to the home on Monday. Too often our homes have “outsourced” the faith education of their children.  The message of the Church needs to be bolstered in our families as we continue to expose our children at all ages and stages of life to the unchanging God who is there for them, reaches down to them, loves them, saves them, and who calls them to Himself!

At Redeemer, we share a Changeless God in a Changing World – with people groups who don’t look like us – with a nation that desperately needs to see the faith of Christians expressed with authenticity and integrity – with a community that needs us as much as we need them – and with homes that are rich in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)!

Sharing the message and mission of Christ,

Pastor Augie

Confidence on Judgment Day!

Leave a comment

JesusReturns

Scripture:  “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” – Hebrews 9:28

Observation (Background): The Book of Hebrews is in many ways a discourse on how Jesus is the fulfillment of all things Jewish. (In fact, Hebrew is not only the language spoken by the Jews, but is another way to refer to the people themselves.)  In Chapter 1, the writer shows that Jesus is superior to the angels – He is the very Son of God.  Yet, in Chapter 2, He is also human, like His “brothers.”  In Chapter 3, He’s portrayed to be greater than even the great patriarch Moses – who in his prophet & priestly role was really just a type & foreshadow of the Christ who would come.  in Chapter 4 & 5, Jesus is compared to the great high priest who was chief among Israel’s priests – even greater than Melchizedek, the first high priest who predated the Hebrew people themselves! In Chapter 6, Jesus is shown to be the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham (the father & first of the entire Jewish nation) – through whom the world would be blessed.  In Chapter 7, by comparison again to Melchizedek, Jesus is shown to be even greater than the Jewish “Law” and the bearer of a new and “better covenant.” (7:22). Through Him, the old covenant now made obsolete (Chapter 8:13).  Now here in Chapter 9, Jesus is shown not only to be the high priest, but the sacrifice Himself – able to enter the Most Holy Place by his own blood, and in fact we, His people, are able to enter eternal life forgiven of all our sins by that one and the same blood!

Application:  I love how this verse (Hebrews 9:28) connects with the sermon I preached just this last Sunday “Who Will Escape Judgment.”  It states so clearly – and even more comfortingly – that while indeed Christ is going to appear a second time to judge the world, He is really returning to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him!  In other words, yes – Jesus is going to judge and remove all evil (see today’s Life Journal readings from Isaiah 13 to 15 – the judgment upon Babylon, Assyria, Philistine and Moab is but a “type” and foreshadow of the judgment that will come at the Last Day!)  And yes, the unrighteous will “face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).  But perhaps most importantly, God’s holy people will receive the reward of their faith – salvation!  We will not only be saved from our sins … but saved from a life of sin in this broken and hurting world!  For me, this is just confirmation that those who are in the faith, need not fear Jesus’ return, but rejoice at the promised fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation through Him.

Prayer: Lord, help me not to fear Christ’s return, but to look forward to it with hope knowing that my salvation is secure through faith in Jesus and my baptism into His Body.  Dear Jesus, come quickly.  Amen.

The Return of Jesus Christ

Leave a comment

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  –  Matthew 24:44

One of the highlights of this study on the book of Revelation for me will remain last Sunday’s Children’s Message at the 8:30 service, when I asked the children the question, “What can you do to get ready for Jesus to come back to earth?”  I expected the kids to say things like “pray.” “go to church.” “read the Bible.” “be good.” … or to just be confused and not know what to do to be ready.  That’s when little Maggie (who just turned 5!) raised her hand. After hemming and hawing a bit, she cautiously offered this response, “we could have a party?”

And I immediately thought, “what a great response!” So often we are encouraged to look for that day when Jesus returns with either fear or at least delay.  One time when I was a child, a preacher asked the congregation, “who wants Jesus to return?” And everybody’s hand went up! … Then he asked, “who wants Him to return tomorrow?” … and almost nobody raised their hand.  Why?  If we know that Jesus is going to come to bring us home with Him.  If we realize that once Jesus returns there will be no more sadness, evil, pain or brokenness.  If we realize that when Jesus returns we will spend forever content in the new heavens and new earth.  And if we realize that we are made ready for the coming judgment, not by how good we have been, but because God declares us righteous through our baptisms and our faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross … then why would we want to delay that reply?  Why wouldn’t we do just what Maggie suggested, and throw a party?

I hope and pray that in your heart, you are looking forward to Jesus return with the joy and anticipation you would look forward to a party.  And I hope and pray that when Jesus returns, He will feel received by us as the guest of honor at a party just for Him!  May it be so, for the sake of Christ!

Ready for Christ’s return with you,

Pastor Augie

Older Entries