ABSOLUTELY

ABSOLUTELY

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2 Ti.4:3,4

I keep finding myself returning to this passage of scripture again and again in the last several weeks. There is something quite disturbing to me in these verses, something that seems to be pointing to the very season we are currently living in. Have you noticed the rejection of authority in this current generation? I am not talking about teenage rebellion or adolescent growing pains, I am talking about the rejection of the very foundations of truth that our culture is built upon. We live in a world of no absolutes, everyone’s opinion is just as valid as the next person’s, even the Word of God has been open to “private interpretation”. John Piper spoke about the importance of the written Word of God in his book “God’s Passion for His Glory”. Check out this excerpt from this powerful book.

“Evangelical Christians, who believe God reveals himself primarily through a book, the Bible, should long to be the most able readers they can be. This means that we should want to become clear, penetrating, accurate, fair-minded thinkers, because all good reading involves asking questions and thinking. This is one reason why the Bible teaches us, “Do not be children in your thinking; be babes in evil, but in thinking be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20 RSV). It’s why Paul said to Timothy, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything” (2 Tim. 2:7). God’s gift of understanding is through thinking, not instead of thinking.”

I believe it is time for us to search the scriptures for ourselves. Does this precious book have the very keys to life and the foundational truth for us to build our lives upon or is it just speculative, and not the final authority in all things? Is orthodox Christianity valid in our 21st century, relevant society, or are we going to cast ourselves adrift with the thousands of others who have lost their way in this life? There seems to be a swirl of activity in the world today, people taking another look at the endless stream of recirculated religious filth, the same lies that have been sold for hundreds of years, now being spun with a hip, relevant twist. Without an absolute authority in our lives, we are just treading water in an ocean of human philosophy. Only divine revelation found in the written word of God can provide the anchor for our souls in the midst of the raging storms of life.

THREE STRIKES YOUR OUT

Three Strikes your out!

Merry Monday by Parris Bailey

And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
Lk.18:18-23

The week before Jesus died was a week of weeks. He blessed the children, raised Lazarus from the dead, talked to some Greeks about eternal life, healed poor blind Bartimaeus, calls to Zachaeus to get out of the tree, cleanses the temple, gets anointed with oil by Mary, rides a donkey into Jerusalem, and washes the disciples feet just to name a few. I can’t help but to think that each one of those encounters mean something to us, but it’s the rich young ruler I want to focus on. He blew it, plain and simple. He reminds me of many of us today, clueless, blind and dumb. Let’s see how he struck out.
Mistake #1- “Good Teacher”- His first mistake was that he put Jesus into his religious little box by calling him “Good Teacher”. He reminds me of many who are ever seeking but never finding, always examining but never reaching the end. In 1994 Frank and I found ourselves returning to our first love, revival had swept through our church and our lives. Most of our friends just shrugged their shoulders and said, “oh, you needed that!” (Don’t we all need revival?) In other words this young man didn’t see who or what was in front of him. Do you?
Mistake#2- “What must I do?” His second mistake was he thought he had it figured out, that he just needed to do something and he could acquire eternal life. After all he was rich, probably from his dad working very hard in life and teaching him the same principles of success in life that he had learned. I am amazed that I meet the nicest unchurched people, they have great kids, great marriages, and just great everything! They have it all together, they too think Jesus was really a good man.
Mistake #3- “I have kept all the commandments”- that’s the problem with good people. They really believe in themselves and their ability. But Jesus finally laid it on the line. Look, buddy, you lack this one thing- “SELL ALL THAT THOU HAST, AND DISTRIBUTE UNTO THE POOR, AND THOU SHALT HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN, AND COME, FOLLOW ME.”
The rich man went away very sorrowful. Jesus hit the nail on the head all right. What lack I yet? Let’s step over and follow him to the fullest. The Rich young ruler has so much to gain but He left sorrowful with his pockets full. We come empty handed and he gives us joy! Which way will you choose?

RESURRECTION DAY

RESURRECTION

And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Mk.16:6-8

This is the first written account we have of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. John Mark wrote this gospel under the direction of Simon Peter. For all practical purposes, this could be called the gospel of Peter. Interestingly, Mark recorded something in this account that is not mentioned in the other gospels. His mentioning of the angel’s words, “Go tell the disciples and PETER” about the resurrection. Peter never forgot the words of this angel. After his bitter failure the night Jesus was betrayed, those words “and Peter”
became very important to him. Through these words, Peter realized God had not given up on him, God’s plan was still in place, Peter could be restored to his relationship with the Lord.
Maybe you feel like a failure today. Is it possible you were once filled with zeal for the Lord only to have your fire for God grow dim, and compromise began to seep into your life. Maybe you feel like Peter, you have let the Lord down and He has no use for you anymore. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Peter’s greatest days were just ahead, forgiveness and restoration had been purchased on the cross, there was a place of ministry waiting for Peter.
Many times we try to serve God in our own human effort, human effort alone, can never fulfill the purposes and plans of God. Peter found this out and learned the importance of the imparted life and strength of God. Actually this is what happened as a result of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ made the power of God available to us. This is exactly what Peter had in mind in his first letter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Peter remembered that horrible feeling of failure and loneliness after he had denied the Lord. That is why the angel’s words, “Go tell the disciples and Peter” were so important to him.

RESURRECTION

IN NEED OF RESURECTION

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.
Jn.11:25

All of us were dead, in the dead man’s tomb of our past lives, like Lazarus, until Jesus raised us from the dead. Just as Lazarus lay hopeless and helpless in his tomb, we were dead in our transgressions and in our sins. This resurrection season, it is good for us to reflect on the impact of Christ raising us from the dead through our spiritual birth. There is a powerful song in our Easter production called Resurection written by Nicol Sponberg. Enjoy this portion of the lyrics.

“I’m at a loss for words, there’s nothing to say
I sit in silence wondering what led me to this place
How did my heart become so lifeless and cold
Where did the passion go?
When all my efforts seem like chasing wind
I’ve used up all my strength and there’s nothing left to give
I’ve lost the feeling and I’m down to the core
I can’t numb it anymore.
Here I am at the end I’m in need of resurrection
Only You can take this empty shell and raise it from the dead
What I’ve lost to the world what seems far beyond redemption
You can take the pieces in Your hand and make me whole again, again
You speak and all creation falls to it’s knees
You raise Your hand and calm the waves of the raging sea
You have a way of turning winter to spring
Make something beautiful out of all this suffering”

Maybe you can relate to the words of this song, maybe you have tried your best, and still fall miserably short. Maybe you stand in need of resurrection. Just as Mary Magdalene wept outside of Jesus’ tomb that Easter morning, she had no idea of the power that had been made available to her. What did it take for Mary, one glimpse of the glory of the resurrected Son of God. Today, His power is not diminished. His resurrection power is still available to all that call upon His name. Are you in need of resurrection? Call upon His name, that same power that raised Jesus from the dead will bring life to every part of you.

Crucifixion

CRUCIFIXION

So Pilate delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”.
Jn.19:16-19

What an amazing God! He is sovereign, ruling all things to fulfill His pleasure, and He steps back to allow His Son such incredible mistreatment. When you think of the unjust beating, the whipping, the cursing, the spitting upon this innocent man, it all seems so unjust. Actually, His death is all about justice. Crimes had been committed against God, man had horribly offended His maker. We were hopelessly wandering in the results of our sinful behavior until the kindness of God appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. Actually the wrath of God was upon all of us, at least until this incredible display of justice and mercy at the cross. John says it best in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
The wrath of God? Nobody in this day and age talks about the wrath of God. God has been reinvented by modern man. He is so inclusive and never judgmental, or is He? Actually God is just and holy as well as merciful. The sins of all of mankind have to be dealt with, never overlooked. The options are only twofold, accept His offer of His sacrificial death or reject Him. If you reject Him the consequences are unspeakable, as John said, the wrath of God abides on you.
Many of us were deeply effected several years ago as we watched the suffering of Christ portrayed in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”. I will never forget the feelings I felt as Jesus was being beaten beyond recognition by the Roman soldiers, I wanted to stop them. I was so angry at their unthinkable treatment of our Lord, and then I remembered, it was God who bruised His Son, these wicked men were just pawns, fulfilling the plans of God. Actually, it was you and it was me that crucified Christ. My sins were the nails that were driven into His hands. God was displaying His love for me in the death of His Son. This Easter, take another trip to the hill called Golgotha. As you look again at His death on the cross, remember these words, “No greater love can a man have than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends”.

CRUCIFIXION

So Pilate delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”.
Jn.19:16-19

What an amazing God! He is sovereign, ruling all things to fulfill His pleasure, and He steps back to allow His Son such incredible mistreatment. When you think of the unjust beating, the whipping, the cursing, the spitting upon this innocent man, it all seems so unjust. Actually, His death is all about justice. Crimes had been committed against God, man had horribly offended His maker. We were hopelessly wandering in the results of our sinful behavior until the kindness of God appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. Actually the wrath of God was upon all of us, at least until this incredible display of justice and mercy at the cross. John says it best in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
The wrath of God? Nobody in this day and age talks about the wrath of God. God has been reinvented by modern man. He is so inclusive and never judgmental, or is He? Actually God is just and holy as well as merciful. The sins of all of mankind have to be dealt with, never overlooked. The options are only twofold, accept His offer of His sacrificial death or reject Him. If you reject Him the consequences are unspeakable, as John said, the wrath of God abides on you.
Many of us were deeply effected several years ago as we watched the suffering of Christ portrayed in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”. I will never forget the feelings I felt as Jesus was being beaten beyond recognition by the Roman soldiers, I wanted to stop them. I was so angry at their unthinkable treatment of our Lord, and then I remembered, it was God who bruised His Son, these wicked men were just pawns, fulfilling the plans of God. Actually, it was you and it was me that crucified Christ. My sins were the nails that were driven into His hands. God was displaying His love for me in the death of His Son. This Easter, take another trip to the hill called Golgotha. As you look again at His death on the cross, remember these words, “No greater love can a man have than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends”.

GETHSEMANE

GETHSEMANE

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Lk.22:39-44

What an amazing glimpse at the struggle Jesus endured as He faced the final chapter of His life and ministry on earth. All of His teaching, all of His miracles, all of His actions, would be in vain without this final act in the unfolding drama of the redemption of fallen man. What was the source of the tension that Jesus experienced in His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane? Was He just recoiling at the physical suffering that goes along with crucifixion or was it more than that? Actually, others have died a martyr’s death without the intense trauma that Jesus experienced. What exactly transpired that dark night as Jesus yielded His will to His heavenly Father? It seems as if Jesus was given the full awareness of what He was about to endure by His sacrificial death on the cross. There was more than physical suffering involved, much more. Christ was about to endure the wrath of God, the judgement of God on the sins of mankind. The spotless lamb of God was about to experience the horrors of God’s justice as the sins of humanity were judged at the cross. The significance of this is infinite, far beyond our ability to comprehend. The years of sin against a holy God were about to fall upon Jesus at the cross, this was the struggle that He faced. He willingly agreed to endure the horrors of God’s wrath so that I could go free. This is the demonstration of the greatest of all loves, the love of God for sinners displayed in the death of His Son.
This glimpse of mercy and justice revealed at the cross is the greatest of all mysteries. Natural man thinks that mercy is just overlooking sin, that is not the kind of mercy God offers. His mercy is the fruit of the justice of God being upheld at the cross. It pleased the Father to bruise His Son (Isa. 53:10). Christ’s death was not in vain, it was essential. Without this display of God’s justice, His mercy would have not been available to us. My idea of Gethsemane has changed, it was more than the physical pain, as horrific as that was, that was facing Jesus at the cross, it was the satisfaction of God’s justice, something only His spotless Son could perform. This passion season, take time to remember that special night in the garden, decisions were made that effected the rest of our lives. Glory to God!!!

THE LAST SUPPER

THE LAST SUPPER

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the* covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Matt.26:26-28

What a week! So much had happened, it seemed like just a blur of fast moving events. There was the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany, the foot washing performed by the Lord. But there was one event that stood out above all others. It started out as just another passover meal, something these jewish disciples had done every year all of their lives, but this time was different. Passover would never be the same again. As Jesus broke the bread, He said “This is my body, given for you.” The He took the wine and said, “This is is the new covenant in my blood”. No stranger words had ever been spoken. Somehow what He said reminded them of John the Baptist’s prophesy, “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” That week, thousands of lambs would be sacrificed for the sins of the people by the priests at the temple. Is that what Jesus was talking about? Was He somehow their sacrificial lamb? Was His death somehow connected to His strange phrase, the new covenant? So many questions, not many answers. They would not understand until after Jesus died and He began to open up their understanding. They, like the people of Jerusalem, had their focus on a messiah who would fix everything in this life, get rid of the Roman oppressors, heal their bodies, fix their economy. Nobody was thinking about a spiritual kingdom. Sound familiar? We have been bombarded over the past few years with “itching ears preachers” promising our best life now with no thought or preparation for the spiritual kingdom that Jesus came to establish. It would do us good to go back to this passover meal often. Let Him paint the picture of this scene on the tables of our heart. Remember the words of this, our sacrificed lamb. “Take, eat, this is my body given for you. Drink of it, all of you, for this is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.

FOOT WASHING

FOOT WASHING

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
Jn.13:3-5

There were many vivid pictures painted in the minds of the disciples, during the week of our Lord’s passion. There was the image of Mary breaking the alabaster box, and anointing Jesus with the expensive ointment. Then, there was the unforgettable passover meal, the incredible visual of the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus. And finally, there was this scene, how could these men ever forget the night Jesus dressed as a servant and washed their feet, this portrait was painted on the canvas of their souls for the rest of their lives. Mathew Henry says that it was actually a portrayal of the life of Jesus, Listen to his powerful words.

“Many interpreters consider Christ’s washing his disciples’ feet as a representation of his whole undertaking. He knew that he was equal with God, and all things were his; and yet he rose from his table in glory, laid aside his robes of light, girded himself with our nature, took upon him the form of a servant, came not to be ministered to, but to minister, poured out his blood, poured out his soul unto death, and thereby prepared a laver to wash us from our sins.”

This night was a picture of why Christ came. He stripped Himself of His heavenly garments and became one of us. All of us were without hope and without God and He came to our rescue, He became our heavenly high priest, the representative of the human race before the Father, this is the portrait being painted on the disciples’ hearts that night. Jesus did not come to be served, after all, what can I offer Him? He came as a servant, to minister to all that will humble themselves and receive His love. This week, as we remember the suffering of our Lord, let Him wash your feet. Like Peter, you might feel uncomfortable, but this is why He came, to seek and to save that which is lost.

A FAMILY THAT CAME BACK TO LIFE

A family that came back to life!

Merry Monday by Parris Bailey

Jn.12:1-6
“Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.”

It was Passover week, and just like this coming Easter most of our houses will be filled with Easter festivities, at my house we will roast lamb and gather all the grandchildren around. In this little town of Bethany the city was in a uproar. Jesus and the disciples were eating at Simon the leper’s house (who had probably gotten healed), Lazarus was there who had been raised from the dead, Mary, with her sister Martha, was there. In fact I guess you could say they all had been “raised from the dead”. But this house had other visitors, the bible says “Much of the people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there (Jesus); and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he raised from the dead.” It was a house filled with a bunch of “lookie loo’s”.
What is happening at your house? When you gather around your table this resurrection Sunday what stories will you tell? Mary sat there looking at the jar of ointment, maybe they had bought it when Lazarus had died? It was a memory of what Christ does in our lives. At that great day, she understood in her spirit that Jesus would be dying. So she took her precious ointment out and displayed spectacular love. It was loud, open, and very clear. Just like her brother, being released from those grave clothes, she too wanted the whole house to breathe in the touch that changed her life.
This Easter, when you stare at the empty tomb, are you willing to display your open love? Spurgeon writes “Let us be willing to “pour contempt on all our pride,” and “nail our glory to his cross.” Have you anything tonight that is dear to you? Resign it to him. Have you any costly thing like an alabaster box hidden away? Give it to the King; he is worthy, and when you have fellowship with him at his table, let your gifts be brought forth. Offer unto the King thanksgiving, and pay your vows unto the Most High.”

GOD IS MY GOOD

GOD IS MY GOOD

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Lam.3:24

We live in an incredibly man centered and self centered world. I thought I had become a God centered Christian, but several years ago I was radically challenged at the core of my beliefs and my teaching as a pastor. Two of the books that effected me were “God’s Passion for His Glory” by John Piper followed up by “The End for Which God Created the Earth” by Jonathan Edwards. As I read these two books, I began to realize how I had let the relevance of the world’s ideas for happiness and success infiltrate my ministry. That was about to change in a dramatic way. For the first time in many years, I was being confronted with a message that was totally God-centered. Here is one of the quotes from Piper’s book which consisted of observations on Edward’s book, “The End for Which God Created the Earth”.

“The love of God for sinners is not his making much of them, but his graciously freeing and empowering them to enjoy making much of him. As Edwards says, “God is their good.” Therefore if God would do us good, he must direct us to his worth, not ours. The truth that God’s glory and our joy in God are one radically undermines modern views of self-centered love. God-centered grace nullifies the gospel of self-esteem. Today, people typically feel loved if you make much of them and help them feel valued. The bottom line in their happiness is that they are made much of.”

That phrase challenged the very foundation of what I had preached for almost twenty years at that time. I had thought that freedom was me being the center of God’s universe when actually, I had it backwards. Only when He became the center of my life, then and then only could I begin to experience the love and joy that He offers me. My satisfaction does not come from the gifts and blessings He brings, my joy flows from God Himself. As Edwards says, “God is my good”. So if you have been listening to the itching ears message of self esteem, you are missing the whole point. God’s love for us, like Piper says, is not Him making much of us but Him freeing us to make much of Him. That is the place of true freedom and the place of pleasures evermore.