“Seven”

“Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? (1 Corinthians 9:1).”

Screen Shot 2020-07-20 at 12.43.41 PMSamuel James Seymour (center)

 

“All of a sudden a shot rang out…and someone screamed.  I saw him slumped forward in his seat.”  An eyewitness is invaluable for proof, especially when that eyewitness is part of an historic murder.  On February 9, 1956, Samuel Seymour was 96 years old when he appeared on the television show, “I’ve Got A Secret.” He was just such a witness.

Five-year-old Seymour went to the theater in Washington, D.C. on April 14thand saw Abraham Lincoln murdered by John Wilkes Booth.  The last surviving eyewitness to this tragedy, he sat in the balcony across from the Presidential Box and saw Lincoln arrive, waving and smiling.

 

The murder scene

 

After the shot rang out, he was confused by all the commotion and concerned about Booth who tumbled “over the balcony rail and landed on the stage,” and broke his leg.  What luck to be there to see history, albeit horrible, but…imagine if…Lincoln came back to life and spoke to Seymour!  Would you still believe his story or think he’s a liar?

 

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At 96 a televison star

 

Saul of Tarsus, also known as Paul the Apostle, did just that when he met and talked with a murdered Jew from Nazareth (The Book of Acts, chapter 9). Paul was an expert teacher on Judaism, and before this remarkable encounter, he imprisoned Jews and murdered them for saying Jesus was alive and their Messiah.

Consider how Paul’s encounter with a dead man transformed his life’s direction, and if you’d do this for a lie:

  • He lost everything, endured hardships, ridicule, beatings, stoning, and imprisonments.
  • He told everyone he met, and traveled everywhere to do so (even risking dangerous shipwrecks).
  • He was so convincing that thousands gave up their lives (literally) on his testimony.
  • He started churches that made Christianity a worldwide force that affected billions.
  • He wrote most of the New Testament so we could scrutinize his claims about Jesus.
  • He gave his head to a Roman executioner for what he believed to be unequivocally true.

He lost everything on purpose; only a genuine “dead” Jesus encounter warrants that radical a change.  Mr. Seymour died two months after his television appearance, but if he had claimed to see Lincoln alive, several months later, and knew it was a lie, when threatened with death to tell the truth, he’d have recanted.  A man will die for a cause he believes in, but nobody would die for what they knew was a lie.

Paul gladly died for his eyewitness testimony that Jesus rose from the dead to prove he was God, in the flesh, the promised Jewish Messiah (Isaiah 53).

lincolncolor

The greatest President ever?

 

I was born in 1961 so I rely on these eyewitnesses, the former can be seen on YouTube, but Paul’s account must be read in the New Testament.  Both accounts are considered to be historically sound as primary sources.  If you take the time to read Paul’s letters and decide he’s a liar, then you’ve lost a few days.  But if you don’t, and he’s telling the truth, then Paul’s seven words may cost you everything, forever.  Why not check out what he said he saw and see for yourself.  Seven could be your lucky number, and you know what rhymes with seven?

Watch his testimony on TV

 

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“Myopic or Himopic?”

“…take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry (Luke 12:16-21).”

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Steve Taylor

 

In the 80’s, Steve Taylor sang ‘What is the Measure of Your Success?’  Most base success on stuff that doesn’t transfer into eternity…home, possessions, income, savings, education, looks, job, spouse, car, fame, personality, strength, title, family, talent, or intellect. We quietly boast in these, but it all stays when we leave.

Screen Shot 2020-06-16 at 2.15.31 PMJim had success…in this world. 

Jim Morrison’s Grave

 

Jesus warned that this “success” is shortsighted, even foolish.  True success involves God and souls.  “Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.’

“And He told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man was very productive.  And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’  Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.’”

Screen Shot 2020-06-16 at 2.20.11 PMMichael had it, and lost it all

Meltdown

 

Jeremiah described true success, something worth bragging about (chapter 9):  “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.”

Getting to know a person starts with learning what they think. Have you ever seriously read the Bible to see what God thinks?  It says that He loves you (John 3:1-21), but your sin separates you from Him (Isaiah 59:2) and your good deeds stink (Isaiah 64:6).  We’re so infected with sin that we can’t be near Him (Habakkuk 1:13), and we’re criminals (Romans 3:9-23) awaiting His justice (Nahum 1:3).  So until your sin is removed, you cannot know and understand Him (Ephesians 2:1).  Sadly, because of sin we’re fixated on ourselves, shortsighted, My-opic, but we should be Him-opic, focused on Him.  But how?

Steve on the fritz…live!

 

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Steve had some “success”

 

Steve Taylor’s Success

Don’t give up!

You’ve probably never heard of Steve Taylor, but knowing of Steve Taylor is not the same as knowing him, personally.  Knowing of Jesus isn’t the same as knowing Him either, but reading the Bible is how to know Him and His solution (2 Corinthians chapter 5). Stuff stays, but a soul transfers into eternity, so redeeming a soul is true success, being rich toward God. So let’s start there…with your soul.  Are you sure you know Jesus?  If not, I’d love to introduce you.

Here’s a good place to meet Jesus, Luke’s Gospel:

The Gospel of Luke

Luke Part 2

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“Kitchen Kisses”

“But only a few things are necessary, really only one… (Luke 10:42).”

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A thankful Julia Child  

 

“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”  What did the great preacher Charles Spurgeon mean by this?  Our answer is two miles from Jerusalem, in a small town called Bethany, where Luke, the Gentile doctor, probably the only Gentile author of a New Testament book, records a clue for us.

Jesus stayed in Bethany several times at the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary. Luke records it in his Gospel in chapter 10, and there’s a lot to glean, but the point to catch, the paramount lesson, is this…don’t be so busy and worried with life that you ignore Jesus.

The older sister, Martha, reproved Mary, who was not helping her with all the kitchen preparations for their important guest…appearing to be lazy for just sitting around “listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet.”  But Jesus corrected His hostess.  “You are worried and bothered about so many things,” Jesus told Martha.  “But Mary has chosen the good part” because she was quietly spending time with Jesus.

Back to Spurgeon, and being dashed against the rocks by the world’s problems. The great preacher meant that worries and busyness could have two results.  The first is natural…it’s a negative reaction; we get upset, anxious, and frustrated when the storms of life smash into us.  Like Martha, we miss the point, not kissing their push to Jesus.

Screen Shot 2020-05-18 at 11.53.38 PMCharles Haddon Spurgeon

 

Spurgeon commends his own spiritual growth with the second and preferred reaction, a supernatural response that drove him to his knees…talking with Him (in prayer) and listening to His words (reading the Bible).  Getting bashed with busyness and worries can be good if it drives you to the Rock of Ages, to worship Jesus Christ…Who is in control.

Whether you know Jesus or don’t, He is saying that only a few things are necessary today, really only one…and that is this––be with Him.  You can ready yourself each day for the world’s waves with His help, His comforting words, and not rush off unprepared and vulnerable.  Your bothers and worries can be positives, loving shoves into His arms.

Daily Devotions

Beware your “kitchen” distraction that keeps you from Him, the “really only one.” Is it your job, your family, or your tasks?  Identify it, and put it second to a daily time alone with Him, even 30 minutes can alter your view of the worst wave crashes, even death.

“Come Forth!”

Getting sick and dying is a real wave, and it happened to the brother of Martha and Mary.  Death-dashed, they sent for Jesus.  Four days later, Jesus arrived, and raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11).  They were driven to Him for help.  A reminder that “really only one” thing is necessary each day, to worship, which in the Greek means, “draw near to kiss.”  So leave the kitchen, and worship the One, Who controls even the waves (Matthew 8:27).

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U2 can worship

More Bono

 

 

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“Belly Button Theology”

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under Heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).”

 

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 1.00.22 PM Buddha…unfortunately still dead

 

Cassius Clay said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”  Truth tends to be that way.  Exclusive.  Your address is the same, two plus two equals four, north on a compass, a switch is on or off, and Jesus is the only way to Heaven (He said that, not me). I hear the brakes grinding to a halt on that one, but you knew it was coming.  Jesus is exclusive.

 

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 12.49.00 PMThe Beatles Beat Down

 

Before I became a Christian I figured there was one God and multiple ways to get to Him, like trails going up a mountain.  All of them lead to the same peak.  I was wrong.  Jesus squelched that when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through Me (John 14:6).”  You’re wrong too if you have my peak theology (only a friend tells you have broccoli in your teeth).

IMG_0510Switzerland…a tough climb

 

Our sense of fair play and justice screams this is wrong, arrogant, and intolerant, which it totally is…IF…it’s not true.  But…IF…it is true, that Jesus is God and proved it by rising from the dead, then it’s prolly a good idea to listen to Him because He “can back it up.” Another thing that’s exclusive is that there is only one way out of this world into the next.  We will all die.  So what does this have to do with your umbilicus (belly button)?

All of us have a navel, but whether it’s an “innie” or an “outie” is a matter of chance.  Most of us have an innie, about 96%, which is a similar division to what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “The way is narrow that leads to life and few are those who find it.” Most of you will be the 96% and ignore this truth because “Broad is the way that leads to destruction and many are those who enter by it.”

How to know for sure you’re “in” Christ

 

For Jesus to make these claims is exclusively exclusive, as truth always is, which is the “innie” theology…you must be “in” Christ.  That means repent of your selfish ways and sin, and surrender to Him to be your Master, and believe that God raised Him from dead to pay for your sin, and ask Him “in” to your heart (John 1:12).

Although Jesus is exclusive in His claims for salvation (disqualifying all other religions), the “outie” part is it is an “outward” invitation to all.  It’s not a private club.  All are welcome.  All can come to the cross.  The invitation to be saved is proclaimed out to the entire world. “For God so loved the world… (John 3:16).”

IMG_2780Jerusalem’s Garden Tomb

 

An empty grave backed it up; so it’s not arrogant to claim to be the only way to get to Heaven.  It’s like saying your belly button is arrogant for being so exclusive. There can be only one.

Clay Meets The Beatles

 

 

 

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“The 90 (Minute) Psalm”

“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8).”

 

IMG_0807 Time’s up…Oxford, England

 

What if…I told you it’s 9 o’clock and by 10:30 you’ll be dead?  How would you spend your 90 minutes, and what would really matter?  This is the gist of Peter’s life-changing verse above.

Peter’s quoting Moses who wrote Psalm 90, the oldest Psalm in the Old Testament, and warning us not to miss this one fact…in light of eternity, from where God views time (and us), our life is only about 90 minutes long.  Peter says this is a fact, and if true then King David ruled Israel three days ago (1,000 BC) and Jesus has only been gone for a weekend (33 AD).

The biblical math from eternity’s perspective is that a day equals 1,000 years so living to 100 is about two hours.  Psalm 90:10 says that 70 is average, but 80 if we’re healthy, so let’s say for simplicity’s sake that with modern medicine you live to be 90.  The math is personally unnerving since I’ll be 60 next March, so my 90 minutes is down to around half an hour or so on Earth.  And I’m excited about that!

In light of 90 minutes, it’s ironic, even stupid, that we fret about money, careers, mortgages, debt, possessions, health, diets, inheritances, retirement, and death.  If you believed Moses and Peter, and you thought you only had 90 minutes, minus your current age, how would you spend those precious minutes here with Jesus waiting to meet you there?

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Another 90 minutes

90 Minutes in Heaven trailer

 

Albert Einstein, a math genius, said of Time (foolishly), “I never think of the future, it comes soon enough.”  His 90 minutes were only 76 minutes (he died in 1955).  The Bible tells us to think about the future because we’re all headed there, and at the end of Time Jesus is there…alive, risen from the dead, and waiting as Friend or Judge.  You’ll see Him soon, in just a few minutes, so choose wisely how you use your remaining clock ticks.

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Albert Einstein

 

Jesus loves you and what you do with His death on the cross for your sin determines your relationship to Him, both now and at minute 91.  If you are not sure about Heaven, 100 percent positive that you’ll be greeted as a friend after your 90 minutes, you can be sure (1 John 5:11-13).  You can make your peace now by receiving Him (John 1:12), and extend your 90 minutes…forever.

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Einstein’s Office on the day of his death

 

Just give up; admit your sin, genuinely turn from it, and ask Jesus to forgive you (Romans 10:9).  It’s simple, but serious.  This is a life-changing verse because it’s an eternity-changing fact.  You have scant minutes to decide if it’s true because your life is just a smoky wisp.  I hope you won’t “let this one fact escape your notice,” and that you’re as excited to see Jesus in 5,400 seconds as I am, as Lord, Savior, and Friend.

My 90 Minutes PR film sermon

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“Flip It”  

“Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:43).”

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The Great Erik Weisz (Harry Houdini)

 

I saw a show at the Wharton Center at Michigan State on Saturday, “The Illusionists.”  These five Broadway magicians were absolutely incredible!  They took numerous impossible scenarios and magically flipped them into stunning miracles.  With absolute precision, they flipped it.  And even in the third row I could not tell how.

On the night of October 29th, 1978, my brother Jack got into his white Ford station wagon, dosed himself with a gallon of gasoline, and lit a match. He was 28.  On the night that he blew himself up in his car with gasoline, in the parking lot of the Irish Castle Bar in Los Angeles, I was 2,265 miles away in Livonia, Michigan asleep.

Jack by the poolJack in L.A. poolside 1976

 

More on my faith story and Jack 

That night changed lives in my family.  Eternity changed too.  At just 17 years old, it was the worst experience of my life.  Where do you go after something like that? Who do you talk to for solace and some perspective?  I went nowhere for about two years.

On the day of April 3rd, 33, God in the flesh was murdered in Jerusalem, probably naked, definitely whipped, beaten, and bloody, in a public execution on a cross.  Two thieves died with Him.  As you can imagine, like Jack’s death, it was nasty.

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The magic of film, Jim and Mel on the set of his epic

 

That night changed lives in Israel.  For those who knew Jesus, as the promised Old Testament Messiah, it was the absolute worst day of all time, ever.  And yet God took the very worst, and flipped it to be the very best, ever…because He didn’t stay dead.  He walked out of His own grave.  God took the worst and made it the best.  That’s no illusion.  It’s real magic.  His is the only empty grave on Earth.  Death died.

Jack always called me by a nickname.  As a baby I wouldn’t lie still.  Always squirming.  That name was Flipper, which he shortened to Flip.  That moniker would be a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts because Jesus flipped me.  Two years after Jack entered eternity, I heard the gospel.  Spiritually, I was asleep, until then.

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 4.36.13 PMMore Hollywood magic with Flipper the TV show I grew up with

 

“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation––having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).”

God flipped my despair and made it a stunning miracle.  I heard, believed, and the Holy Spirit entered my body. His seal is a down payment, a legal pledge that guarantees God will complete the “purchase” when I die. Like the thief, when Jesus took his worst day and made it his best, He flipped Flip.

Here’s an excellent overview of Paul’s letter to Rome:

The Book of Romans part 1

Romans part 2

Are you despairing?  Paul wrote Romans, the sixth book in the New Testament, to explain the gospel.  Give it a read, ask Him to wake you up to understand it, and He’ll flip your life too.  It’s no illusion.

Read Romans

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Jesus of Nazareth, my favorite movie magic version of Jesus

 

Ernie…The Roman Centurion

 

 

 

 

 

 

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E-logical E-zekiel 18

“…to set free those who were doomed to death (Psalm 102:20).”

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Dr. Francis and his nurse 

 

I love the new AT&T commercials “when just ok is not ok,” especially the one with Dr. Francis and his new surgery patient.  The patient’s wife asks the nurse in his room if she’s ever worked with him and she says, “Oh yeah…he’s okay.”  (Just okay?)

Dr. Francis appears in the doorway and unprofessionally yells down the hall, “Guess who just got re-instated!”  Once he’s inside the room, he quietly admits, “Well, not officially.” Then he asks the now visibly worried patient if he’s nervous about his surgery.  (Yes!)

“Yeah, me too.  Don’t worry about it. We’ll figure it out.”  As he abruptly leaves, the cavalier doctor tosses this over his shoulder, “I’ll see ya’ in there.”  (Say what?)

This patient is doomed and we laugh, but if it were real it’d be scary bad. Now suppose God had a commercial jingle, it might be, “when just good is not good enough.”  Why?  If you’re trusting in your good works to make you acceptable to a holy God, then you’re doomed (and actually insulting Jesus).

Consider Ezekiel chapter 18 and verse 20, which says, “The person who sins will die.”  We all justify our guilty conscience from wrong behavior with, “Well, I’m not that bad.  I’m really pretty good.”  But as Paul says, “All are under sin.  There is none who does good, there is not even one (Romans 3:9-12).”  Compared to a holy God, we’re doomed.

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Ezekiel’s Tomb, 80 miles south of Baghdad

 

If a perfect red balloon represents God’s holiness, as the standard for being with Him in Heaven, then how many pins are needed to break it?  James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”  It’s not being good.  It’s being totally perfect…holy.  That’s why just being good doesn’t cut it.  Just one sin breaks God’s Law, and our “nobody’s perfect” excuse is really a guilty plea.

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The Red Balloon film (1956)

 

If you care about your dead soul, read the Book of Romans, and note 11:6, which is the key.  “If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works.”  Grace means if you throw a brick through my living room window, I come to your house and wash all of your windows.  You get what you don’t deserve.  That’s grace, and it’s not logical.

Romans

Romans Part 2

 

That’s what Jesus did.  We all killed our souls with sin, and even one is fatal, and so we deserve punishment for breaking God’s Law…death, but instead He died for us. Why?

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“Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.”

 

In Ezekiel 18:23, God reveals His heart, “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked, rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?”  Again in verse 32, “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies (in their sins).  Therefore, repent and live.”  God loves you, but He can’t ignore your guilt.  So Jesus lovingly took your place.

Jesus Christ, when just good is not good enough.  That’s grace (Ephesians 2:1-9).

Ezekiel Explained

Dr. Francis is not okay

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“God in Skin!”

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).”

The Lamb of God An amazing work of art!

 

Sometimes familiarity makes it hard to see the astounding.  Hard to believe, but living next to the Grand Canyon can eventually become ho-hum.  We sometimes have that “canyon problem” with Christmas too.  Read that verse from Isaiah again, but this time very, very, slowly.

Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

Screen Shot 2019-12-16 at 2.09.49 PM.pngOtherworldly

 

About 2,700 years before Linus explained Christmas to Charlie Brown, Isaiah predicted a sign would be given to solve our sin problem.  It baffled the Jews…a sinful human (who never had sex) would birth a God-baby?  In Hebrew Immanuel means, “God with us.”  God in skin!  That’s some sign!

As amazing as that is, even kinda’ crazy, we realize now there was no other logical way to save us, but some still miss God’s Grand Canyon in Bethlehem. Christmas has become too commonplace.  Perhaps a glimpse into the Sign-giver’s conundrum will jolt your Christmas spirit with the supernatural crackle it so richly deserves.  Consider the problem:

 

  1. Nobody’s perfect. God knows we’ve made mistakes and done wrong (Romans 3:23).

 

  1. God is just. His righteousness demands an accounting for every wrong (Nahum 1:3).

 

  1. God is holy. He must execute justice to be a good and fair judge (Habakkuk 1:13).

 

  1. God loves us. We’re guilty, a death penalty, but a God-Man steps in (Romans 5:6-10).

 

Incarnation was the only logical solution for balancing His love, justice, holiness, and our sin.  God in skin, a drastic measure, bridged the spiritual chasm our sin created between us (Isaiah 59:2).

Screen Shot 2019-12-16 at 2.21.10 PM.pngCharles “veiled in flesh the Godhead see” Wesley wrote “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

 

Matthew then names Isaiah’s God-baby, “‘She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’  Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet (Isaiah):  Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us.’” Jesus means “Jehovah saves” in Hebrew.

And Micah identifies His birth location, “…as for you Bethlehem…one will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel, his goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”  An eternal king, “God with us,” will come from Bethlehem named “Jehovah saves.”  God and skin merged at Bethlehem; love and justice merged at Jerusalem’s cross (Isaiah 53).   What’s more, God told Micah all of this 700 years beforehand.  That’s some serious crackle!

IMG_2719.JPGThe Bethlehem grotto where God was born as a baby!

 

Bethlehem is God gifting Himself to you for free (Romans 6:23).  Who works for a Christmas gift?  You simply take it, but His present has even more crackle––it makes you as righteous as God Himself (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

This is Christmas…God in skin…removing sin…to make you as holy as Him…to reunite us.  Canyon problem solved, the just for the unjust.  It’s crazy-love-logic, but if that’s too hard to believe, then maybe just skin that gift and see for yourself (John 1:12).

Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

My visit to the spot in Bethlehem in 2016

 

Merry God-in-Skin Day, and a Happy New Life!

Micah explained

Isaiah explained

Isaiah Part Two

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“Gomer or Goner?”

“But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground (John 8:1-11).”

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Jim Nabors as Gomer

 

Did you know that General Washington made Thanksgiving an official holiday in 1777, long before Lincoln made it our national holiday in 1863?  Both men wanted to thank God for His blessings on America since 1620, but what about you?  What are you the most thankful for on this Thanksgiving?

lincolncolor

Number 16

 

For me, it’s doing nothing.  Let me explain.

With a Catholic father and an Episcopal mother I had a good religious foundation, but I thought forgiveness depended on my efforts.  If I did more good things than bad things, then God would let me into Heaven, kind of like a cosmic scale weighing out my life choices.

I was wrong.  Doing something for God to balance out my sins was delusional.  Imagine a contagious leper offering you a gift. Two examples show that we can do nothing to earn God’s favor.

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The General’s uniform in the Smithsonian

 

Remember what Jesus said to the thief crucified with Him in Luke 23? “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  What good works could he do in those final minutes to outweigh a lifetime of sins?

And the adulterous woman about to be stoned in John 8 (above) when Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.” What good works could she do in those few minutes to outweigh a lifetime of sins?

When you compare your works against His holiness, then we’re all goners, as Isaiah 64:6 says, “…all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment (which in Hebrew is likened to a menstrual cloth).”  Our best is worthless.

So what did Jesus write in the dirt?  Perhaps it was the name of the prophet Hosea’s wife.  She was a harlot too, but God told Hosea to marry her, symbolically depicting Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  Later on, she was redeemed and brought back to her husband. Her name was Gomer, which means, “complete” in Hebrew, and coincidentally Jesus’ last words on the cross, “It is finished (or complete).”

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What did He write?

 

Admitting that my sin separates me from God is the first step, guilty as charged (Isaiah 59:2), and that my salvation depends on what He completed on the cross––only His bloody sacrifice cancelled my debt (Colossians 2:13-14).  Nothing else.  My cosmic scale is demolished.

Like the adulterous woman and the dying thief, we’re all criminals, but as Ephesians 2:8-9 says, doing nothing is the key, “…by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works that no one should boast.”  You don’t work for a gift; you just receive it (John 1:12).

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The Thief on the Cross

 

This takes humility to do nothing, to admit guilt, and simply surrender, but that’s what a Gomer is…a desperate harlot or a convicted thief, helpless, only complete by His work on the cross (Galatians 2:16-21).

So on this Thanksgiving I’m most thankful for being a Gomer, one brought back to her husband who could do nothing to be redeemed from my harlotry, but no longer a Goner.

Screen Shot 2019-11-18 at 6.16.36 PM.pngThe adulterous woman and Jesus

 

“…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.  But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!  For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.  For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

–Galatians 2:16-21

Screen Shot 2019-11-18 at 6.24.33 PM.pngHosea’s redemption of Gomer

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

The Book of Hosea explained

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“The Koimeterion Hotel”

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51).”

Screen Shot 2019-10-14 at 12.30.27 PM.png“Remember the Maine!” 

 

I love a good mystery.  My wife and I are enjoying a British detective show called “Vera,” which is in its ninth season and has become wildly popular.  Contrast that popularity with another mystery folks work very hard to ignore…cemeteries.  Have you ever noticed that they are almost always deserted?

Screen Shot 2019-10-14 at 12.28.31 PM.pngD.C. I. Vera Stanhope

 

And yet there’s something about a whole life crammed into a headstone that fascinates me.  I can’t help it; I like cemeteries.  My favorite is in Key West, Florida.  A tombstone there simply reads, “I told you I was sick.”

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Be sure to see your doctor annually

 

The Apostle Paul wrote that we are all sick too (Romans 3:23), infected with a spiritual cancer that has not only deadened our soul (Ephesians 2:1), but also kills our body.  Sin is deadly (Romans 6:23).  Paul also said that even if you are born again–the Holy Spirit is literally inside of your body­–your physical death is inevitable, but that thankfully it’s no longer fatal for a genuine believer.  He likened it to sleep, just like an afternoon nap.

Paul chose a good metaphor.  Death looks like sleep, but sleep is only a temporary condition.  You will eventually wake up, whereas death is a permanent separation of soul and body.  Paul’s warning is that sin makes death inescapable, but that it doesn’t need to be permanent.  The “change” he references above is to the resurrection where real believers are changed into immortals with a new body, but without sin.

Screen Shot 2019-10-14 at 12.32.22 PMMiracle Max and “mostly dead.”

 

So why do we avoid cemeteries?  Perhaps ignoring death lessens our fear of it and the unknown, but the Bible says it’s good to go to funerals because they wake us up to this certain rendezvous (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2).  Like cemeteries, funerals remind us of our own transience, that we have an irrevocable appointment with God, and the supreme importance of not gambling with death (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Are you gambling?  Or are you one hundred percent positive, without a doubt, and absolutely certain that if you died tonight you’d go to Heaven?  The Bible was written for this very purpose (1 John 5:13).  Heaven isn’t guesswork, you can know for sure. Death can be just a nap!

Your fear of death can end today, and then you can join me for a cemetery stroll because they’re not only fascinating historical places, but literally restful. In fact, the Greek word Paul uses for cemetery, koimeterion, is also translated as hotel, a “rest house for strangers.”

XPosure_cover_FINAL copy.jpgA shameless plug (for Adrian Ashworth’s shot of an old graveyard)

 

So if He is inside of you, then death is more exciting than life, and no mystery at all.  As Paul said, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).” Although someone giving away the ending for a mystery is annoying, Paul’s spoiler-alert means comfort for our ending…an assured funeral hope…and Jesus’ empty tomb proves that hope. Death itself is quite literally dead.

A peek at Vera Stanhope: Vera Season 9 Trailer

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