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God Doesn’t Backspace

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18

Image result for backspaceIn His day, people were trying to figure Jesus out. False prophets were not uncommon in Israel in the past [Jeremiah 14:14 & 23:16; Lamentations 2:14; Ezekiel 13:9 & 22:28; Hosea 11:6; Matthew 7:15; Acts 5:26-29 & 13:6]. So was this guy from Galilee really a miracle-working prophet of God? Was He possibly even the promised Messiah?

And if Jesus was a prophet or the Messiah, what was God’s directive? Was He instituting a new order through this audacious preacher-prophet-teacher-healer?

Jesus knew their hearts and minds [Matthew 12:25; Luke 5:22, 6:8-10 & 11:17]. He answered their questions before they could ask them out loud. No, God is not changing His plan of redemption. Yes, the Law and the Prophets still matter in the eternal scheme of human history. Yes, I am the fulfillment of everything that you have studied and heard. No, this world will not last forever. No, God isn’t rewriting the game rules. Yes, everything God said would happen will happen.

The Law of Moses was more than just the ten commandments, though they get the most attention. There were people in Israel whose whole life’s work was to study and interpret the law–experts akin to modern day lawyers. But the Law was meant to show people their sinfulness [Romans 7:7-8 & 8:3]–not to redeem them from it. The Prophets also came to make people aware of their sin, yet they too were powerless to save anyone.

Jesus came to complete the work began in the Law and the Prophets. He came to redeem people from their sin. As long as the Creation endures–and it is going to pass away one day [Revelation 21:1]–the Law and the Prophets will still show people their sin and Jesus will still, by God’s grace through our faith, reconcile the repentant to Himself.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus refers to the alphabet in these verses. When He says the least letter, it is the Hebrew yodh or the Greek iota, both literally the smallest letters in their respective alphabets. And the least stroke refers to the horn a little letter flourish, like the bottom curve of a lowercase j. God didn’t change his mind or His plan on even the smallest detail.

As the author of life [Acts 3:15], God never needs to brainstorm, draft or revise. He never needs to eat His words or print a retraction or buy a bottle of whiteout. He doesn’t backspace or delete.

The Word of the Lord stands forever [Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:25]. Are you standing on that Word?

KCS

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Sticks and Stones

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.'” Matthew 5:10-12

Image result for sticks and stonesIt seems a contradiction to be extremely joyful while being persecuted. Yet, despite the trials of life and the adversity of fellow human beings, when we are filled with righteousness and living it, the joy of the Lord is our strength [Nehemiah 8:10]. We know by faith that the righteousness of Christ redeems us from death, reconciling us to God.

But those who deny God, don’t understand this joy in all things, this peace that passes understanding. It perplexes and incenses them, incites them to mistrust, and even hate, those who live by faith in Christ.

Even in this we can be extremely joyful, understanding that this life is temporary. And that by trying to save and promote ourselves in this temporary life, we lose out on eternal life [Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24].

It’s not just a cliche saying about sticks and stones. When we are persecuted, sticks and stones may truly break our bones. But we don’t have to let the insults and lies and persecution hurt us spiritually. We can find rest in Christ. We can accept the peace He gives. We can fix our eyes on the Lord our salvation. And we can take extreme joy in knowing that we join a great cloud of witnesses who have come before us–who lived and died by faith [Hebrews 12:1].

Are you facing difficult times because of your faith in God? Do others insult you or give you a hard time because you live by God’s Word? Take heart, Jesus has overcome this world [John 16:33]. Cast all your cares on Him and find rest [1 Peter 5:7].

KCS

A Series of Contradictions

“Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:1-3

Image result for juxtaposeJesus was not looking for the notoriety of the crowds. On the contrary, he knew that small group instruction was more effective. So before he speaks here, he goes up on a mountain–which create a natural amplification for his voice–and teaches his personal disciples. His attention was focused on them, though his words were not kept from the nearby crowds.

It is important to note here that the gospel writers didn’t use quotation marks in their original texts. Nor does any claim that they are quoting Jesus verbatim–or word for word. Rather, they are like a student recalling a class lecture that has preserved all of the integrity of the message substance.

Jesus opens the well known Sermon on the Mount with a series of nine somewhat contradictory admonitions known as the BeatitudesBeatitude simply means extremely blessed or joyful. And clearly, just as today, many were longing for blessings and joyfulness in their lives.

So how do we live a life of blessing according to the Son of God?

We start with recognizing the poverty of our spirit. We are all sinners [Romans 3:23]. Therefore, we all need–not just any savior but–Jesus Christ, God’s Son, to redeem us from our sins.

The devout Jewish leaders had become so filled with their own self-righteousness that they were blind to the truth of their eternal station. Later, Jesus called them whitewashed tombs–all spiffed up on the outside but dead souls on the inside [Matthew 23:27]. They kept the Law of Moses to the letter but they missed the point. They didn’t recognize the transcendence of the Almighty God or the fact that none of their deeds–no matter how earthly law abiding–attained to the glory of God.

But for those who weren’t so spiritually self-absorbed, they would find it much easier to come to the truth of their sin and repent. These so-called poor in spirit will find the gates of heaven open wide because they have accepted the riches of God’s grace on their behalf instead of trying to do the impossible work–to earn their own way in.

Do you desire a life of blessings and genuine joy? Live in contradiction with the world’s wisdom. Let the Holy Spirit examine your spirit and show you where you are wanting–because only God is perfect. Recognize the poverty of your own spirit man. And be made eternally rich.

KCS

Journey of the Torch

“When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulon and Naphtali–to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Land of Zebulon and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’ From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'” Matthew 4:12-17

Sweden Fire, Finn Candle, Sweden Torch, Hot-log

When Satan didn’t succeed in tempting Jesus, it appears he turned his attentions to attacking Jesus’ cousin, John. Maybe now he could force God’s Son to out Himself as the Messiah. Surely the Savior of the world would storm the prison and miraculously overthrow the government, decimating its army to free one of His beloved human beings.

But it’s still not God’s appointed time.

It was, however, God’s time to send His Son as a light to all nations.

So instead, Jesus moved to Capernaum from which most of His earthly ministry was soon to be based. This is the promised blessing for these two tribal territories whose trade routes connected Israel to the Mediterranean.

Capernaum was a sizable town in the Galilee region. Because of the Assyrian captivity, the people there were of mixed-culture descent–returning Jews and the pagan peoples that moved into the area during the captivity. Influence from all of the Gentile religions greatly diminished Jewish worship in Galilee.

They had become spiritually dark.

But Isaiah had foretold that God would send His Son as a light into this spiritual darkness [Isaiah 9:1-2]. The reason? Because it was always God’s intention to redeem the whole world, not just Israel [Genesis 12:2-3, 18:18 & 22:18; Acts 3:25].

Satan intended to silence John’s message, but God’s purposes prevailed. Jesus took up the torch of John’s message, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near [Matthew 3:2], and stepped into the way prepared by John’s ministry.

A torch that he passed to His disciples. A torch that has passed down through the generations and come to us. God’s light is still for everyone on the planet. His redemption for everyone who has, does and will ever live. The way has been prepared for you and I to take up the message.

Will you embark on the journey of the eternal torch? Making disciples of all nations? Teaching them to obey God’s Word? And baptizing them in the name of the Triune Godhead [Matthew 28:16-20]?

KCS

Darkest Before the Dawn

“Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” Matthew 4:11

landscape outdoor ocean horizon silhouette person mountain sky sunrise sunset sunlight morning hill dawn dark dusk standing evening shadow human darkness publicdomain atmospheric phenomenon mountainous landformsHow many of us give in at the first temptation that appeals to our appetites? Or at least the second which appeals to our sense of righteousness and holiness? But certainly, many of us fall to the temptation to increase our current advantage, our current position and status, even if just by a little bit. It’s the American Dream. A comfort that we’ve earned.

Our temptations are always darkest before the dawn. Right before the sunlight breaks, we do.

But Jesus kept His eyes on the prize of our hearts for eternity. And everything in this world paled to the nothingness that it truly is in light of His one goal. Redemption.

Having stood the test, Satan left Jesus. Most of us would be thankful just to have made it that far and to finally find some peace. Incredibly though, the angels–the heavenly host–came to attend Jesus. Did they attend Him on earth as they did in heaven? Worshiping Him as the Son of God He is. Perhaps they came to lift Him up in His physical weakness, though not because of a foot-flop contrived by the father of lies. Maybe they even delivered daily bread or manna from heaven.

We don’t know exactly, just that the angels of heaven tended to Jesus in His time of need.

God may or may not send angels to attend us in our times of need and triumph. But He has promised us His Holy Spirit. He never leaves us or forsakes us no matter how appetizing the worldly offer, no matter how murky the temptation shadow that drowns our thoughts.

And if we keep our eyes fixed on the Eternal, through the Holy Spirit we can overcome the darkness before sunrise, the steepest, craggiest mountain and the wolf-infested valley. If we are faithful to the end, we will receive the victor’s rewards in heaven [Revelation 2:10 & 3:4-5].

Are you struggling through something right now? Hold fast to your faith. Fix your eyes on God Almighty. He can bring you through if you trust Him. Does all of life seem darker than it’s ever been before? Hold on just a little while longer. The dawn is near.

KCS

Power and Wealth: Offering a Rotted Trash Heap

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”’ Matthew 4:8-10

Image result for cliffs near Jericho

Satan scrambles desperately here. He couldn’t tempt Jesus with physical weakness. And he couldn’t tempt Him with religious superiority. So now he tries tempting God’s Son with worldly splendor and sovereignty.

Skip the cross, JesusWe can settle this nasty business the easy wayI’m the prince of this world, after all [John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2]. You want your people back? I’ll give you every kingdom on the planetAll of their opulence? YoursJust bow down and say the words, buddy.

But, being fully God, all sovereignty already belonged to Jesus. Not to mention that the kingdoms of this world are temporary. All their wealth and honor and might will crumble in a heap of ashes when this world passes away. All their splendor is meaningless in the big picture of eternity.

The only thing Jesus wanted was the love of our hearts [Deuteronomy 5:29]. Love can’t be traded like a farm animal or a handcrafted furniture piece or a stock or even a gold bullion. Love can’t be demanded. It can’t be dictated or coerced into being. Love must spring from the genuine condition of the heart that eternally wills for good.

Satan might as well have offered a crumpled up piece of paper from a rotted trash heap. Authority over earthly land and law could in no way secure Jesus’ prized treasure, the apple of His eye, the redemption of humanity. How Jesus longed–in accord with Father and Spirit–to be reconciled to His creation. How He loved us and loves us still, yearning for our wayward hearts to find truth and rest in Him.

To find truth and to root and grow in it, so that our love will never grow cold [Matthew 24:12].

Do you recognize God Almighty alone as Sovereign? Have you accepted Jesus’ reconciliation for your sins? Are you resting in your Savior’s love?

KCS

Out of the Shadows of Our History

“David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.” Matthew 1:6b-11

silhouette light black and white white street photography photographer window atmosphere photo walk standing sitting shadow garage contrast darkness black monochrome art stripes photograph germany bavaria fine photowalk shape franconia nuremberg sonystreetphotographer n rnberg shaping monochrome photography film noir human positionsThroughout human history, God preserved a remnant through which to send His Son into the world–a remnant that fulfilled His promises to Adam and Eve, Abraham and David. But the people within the remnant were not sinless. In fact, many of them were bold-faced sinners.

Two kings of Israel–David, the man after God’s own heart, and his son Solomon, given wisdom by God. Six kings of Judah who did right in the eyes of the Lord. Seven kings who did wrong, though one repented. But even David and Solomon weren’t perfect or sinless.

David’s sin with Bathsheba is forever chronicled, not just in scripture, but in the very record of Jesus’ lineage. Is God condoning his adulterous and murderous behavior? Absolutely not! However, David sincerely repented before the Lord and, in God’s great mercy, the child born of a sinful relationship was made part of the line of the Messiah–the anointed one to come.

Solomon prayed for God’s wisdom to govern, which God granted [1 Kings 3:7-12; James 1:5-6]. But in regards to his personal life, he also allowed sin to creep in and, eventually, to divide his sons who then divided the kingdom [1 Kings 11:4].

Six different prophets spoke the Word of God throughout this part of Jesus’ genealogy. The evil kings set up Baals and Asherah poles for people to worship false gods on the high places of the Promised Land rather than the One True God in His Temple in Jerusalem. The good kings restored rightful worship in Judah, turning hearts back to God.

Even unto King Josiah who had never even heard God’s Law in his lifetime–though he followed the right ways of King David and loved God–until it was found in the Temple ten years into his reign. At age eighteen he heard the words of God’s Law and rightly responded [2 Kings 2:8-13]. And to the exile to Babylon.

Despite the fact that God’s own people sinned just like everyone else, it didn’t nullify God’s faithfulness. Though the Israelites suffered the natural consequences of their godless choices, God still kept His promise, He still loved and redeemed the whole world by sending His Son–fully God and fully man–into the world to save the world through Him [John 3:16].

There may be people in your own history who are not doing what is right in God’s eyes. Unbelievers love to question God’s goodness and faithfulness in these situations because He allows those who come before us to exercise their freewill every bit as much as we get to.

However, God is good. And He is faithful.

He preserves a remnant, a faithful witness, in your life and in every life. Though others sin against us, God asks us to break the cycle. To step out of the shadows of our human history and to choose to do right in His eyes.

Do you live by God’s Word? Are you among those through whom God can work to reach the world?

KCS