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52 THINKS

“Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him (Isaiah 52:15).”

My new book, 52 Thinks!

Can you remember something significant from 2016?  After the last two years, normal memories seem to be buried pretty deep, let alone six years ago, but for me it’s easy…that was the year I got paid to go to Israel to write 104 articles for the Israel Ministry of Tourism, and stood in Jerusalem (I’d have done it for free)!  

The remains of the Temple in Jerusalem

They say that’s a memory that you never forget, the first time you see Jerusalem.  It was in January, like today, cold, windy, and snowing.  That’s also how long I’ve been writing my newspaper column, six years, and last month I combined some articles into a published book, a weekly devotional for the year for those still seeking Him called “52 Thinks About God.”

And so, it seemed appropriate to find a passage with “52” in it for today.  Yesterday I read Isaiah chapter 52, which was divinely appropriate for mentioning a book about seeking God–who promises us He can be easily found (Jeremiah 29:12-13).  This chapter in Isaiah is remarkable.  It’s a prophecy written around 700 B.C. about the future Messiah.  It describes Him as a King, who will be badly beaten up (verses 13-15):

“Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted.  Just as many were astonished at you, My people (Israel), so His appearance was marred more than the sons of men.  Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; for what had not been told them they will see, and what they had not heard they will understand.”

The back cover of 52 Thinks

This is not news to us Gentiles.  The Christ will be a Jewish King who is rejected and killed, and “sprinkle many nations” with His blood.  We know that story well, even if most don’t believe it.  Jesus of Nazareth was that King who died for our sins, and rose again from the dead, but to the Jews to whom Isaiah was writing, it was just plain crazy!

The retaining wall to the Temple

This Jewish King of all Kings will be beaten to a bloody pulp, sprinkle other nations, and leave the rulers of the world dumbfounded?  Sprinkling blood for sin was an easy concept to grasp from their sacrificial animal system in Jerusalem’s Temple, but sprinkled with God’s blood, from being beat up, from their promised Messiah-King?  So wait, Isaiah, are you saying this God-King would have human blood?  Be fully human?  This boggled Jewish minds, and still does today!  

How can the God of Abraham be human, King, and die a bloody death, for all nations, even the Gentiles?  Isn’t He all-powerful?  Who could sucker punch God-in-the-flesh?  Isaiah explains it all in his next chapter, Isaiah 53, but first he says in 52:7, “How lovely are the feet of those who bring good news.”  That is the good news of “52 Thinks.”  

Part 2 of Isaiah explained (chapters 52-53)

Our suffering King came to save us all, to sprinkle our sins with His precious blood, and He will come again as the King of Kings.  That’s very good news, worthy of 52 Thanks!

Two of the 104 IMOT articles:

http://www.land-of-the-bible.com/The_Western_Wall

http://www.land-of-the-bible.com/The_Temple_Mount

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The Christmas Psalm

“And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities (Psalm 130:8).”

A Psalm from the Dead Sea Scrolls

How does Psalm 130 relate to celebrating the story of a Jewish baby’s birth in Israel over 2,000 years ago?  Good question.  Let’s look at a few choice words to see God’s plot.

The Hebrew word here for “redeem” is padah, which means to ransom or release, what we would define as “an outsider intervening to free someone from a bad situation.”  We’ve all seen the movie, the rich parent gives up millions to get their kidnapped child back.  That’s Hollywood, but God’s Christmas storyline is much more real, and personal.  

From beyond Eternity, viewing Earth from God’s perspective, you are that child, being held captive by unseen chains, and God is dropping off a bagful of cash.  At this time of year, a favorite Christmas carol comes to mind when we talk about a “ransom.”

The Lindbergh ransom note

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel…and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appears,” a desperate plea for God to come and rescue us, but from what?  “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.”  Our own sin and judgment.

This baby is God Himself, disguised in flesh and blood, who pierced Time and Space, for one purpose…our reclamation, an old Dickens-like word defined as “the process of claiming something back, or of reasserting a right,” like saving Ebenezer Scrooge’s soul.  

Jesus did just that…He came in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies to rescue Israel, to take back His own who were in exile, held captive by sin, powerless to stop a horrible outcome––a righteous judgment on our sin.  Thankfully, God loves not only Israel, but all of us too.  This is the Christmas story, a story of a helpless child being held captive and then rescued by another Child who dies for us.  Psalm 130 lays it all out.

Psalm 130

Read it for yourself, and then consider His Christmas gift to redeem your own soul.   

•  A desperate, nowhere to turn cry for help (verses 1-2).

•  Our chains of sin binding us, and preventing us from even standing up (verse 3).

•  But God is listening, more than ready to help, to forgive us (verse 4).

•  His Word, His faithful promises, are our only hope for rescue (verse 5).

•  We strain to see His arrival through our darkness (verse 6).

•  We hope in His great love and His overwhelming desire to save us (verse 7).

•  He will save us, He promised to come, and then He did come…to Bethlehem (verse 8).

The problem in this story is the ending­––the captive is unwilling to be saved.  That’s the part you play, be willing to be rescued, to repent (change your mind about running away from your Rescuer).  You have to give up, surrender, and believe in Jesus’ payment for your sins on the cross is enough, that His resurrection proved His bagful of cash was sufficient to bring you home to a heartbroken Father.  And that’s how Psalm 130 relates…for a Merry Christmas!.

The star of “Ransom” with the Ransom.

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Breadcrumbs in the Sky

“When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers (Psalm 8).”

Charles Darwin

Two college roommates disagreed on the origin of the universe.  Bob was a diehard Evolutionist, while Jerry was a devout Christian who believed in Creation.  Despite their different worldviews, they remained good friends and both respected true Science.  

They agreed that Evolution and Creation were theories, and not a fact since Science is based on two main pillars––Observation and Repetition.  Since no one was there to observe the birth of the Universe, and no one could repeat it, both were only theories.

After going round and round, they concluded that both theories required faith in the vast circumstantial evidence.  Beyond that, they were deadlocked.  They saw the evidences through their own bias.  The Evolutionist got behind in his classes because of a family emergency and had to go home often, and so Jerry tried to help him with his assignments.

Bob’s World Geography 403 class was especially challenging and being gone for several weeks meant he was flunking in his major’s most important class for graduation.  Only acing his final project, worth 75% of his final grade, could save him, so Jerry looked over his friend’s syllabus, and secretly got to work.  

Science & Faith

He made a huge globe out of papier-mâché to the exact scale with three dimensional topography, mountain ranges, oceans, and all the major rivers.  Jerry hand-painted the Earth, labeled the continents, identified each country, and all their capital cities.  As an Electrical Engineering major, he even wired it inside to light up these cities so that at night you could see it.  It was magnificent, and even more stunning in the dark! 

When Bob got back to the dorm, he saw the amazing work his friend had done for him over the last three weeks.  Jerry closed the blinds, and it streamed from within like a giant ballroom chandelier.  Bob was speechless, flabbergasted, but finally he had to know.

“Where did this come from?” he asked, seeing his name and class on the globe’s base.

“You won’t believe it, but while you were gone the paper, the wire, the glue, the electrical wires, and all the paint just appeared here in our room one day.  So I put it in a pile in the center of our room and shocked it with electricity every day, for 24 hours, for the last three weeks.  When I woke up this morning, there it was!  A miracle!  Something out of nothing, I can’t believe it, but I guess Darwin was right. ” 

His stunned friend didn’t say anything.  Bob looked mad.  Finally, he went to the window, opened the blinds and looked out at the storm clouds moving off, changing into a beautiful blue sky, and then Bob admitted, “Intelligent design implies….”

“Implies a Designer,” Jerry said smiling, and gave him the receipts for his materials.  “You owe the designer $74.87, and maybe even reconsider the work of His fingers?”

 

More Stephen Meyer

 

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Hasenpfeffer Hostage 

“You fool!  This very night your soul is demanded of you (Luke 12:20).”

Ralphie…also trapped!

Why is God so concerned with Death?  The Bible mentions Death 372 times, so you could say God cares about it a lot, even that He’s obsessed with it.  Since Halloween is only a week away it seemed like a good time to talk about our demise, like the dinner caught in our fence last week, it can be scary.

Our dinner was disguised as a rabbit, his front half outside of the fence with two feet on the ground.  His back legs were up in the air inside the fence, firmly stuck at his hips (which were rubbed raw and exposed from struggling to get free).  He was stuck all night.  

As I approached him the spiritual imagery was deafening; he was just like us.  Stuck, helpless, and dying.  He needed to be rescued.  The Bible says we are spiritually dead and need rescuing too (Ephesians 2:1-5).  We tend to ignore our plight, that is until a funeral arrives (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2), which like an alarm clock, wakes us up to our appointment.  

Rest In Peace?

So what is Death exactly?  The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.”  If you work at Sin, Inc. then your paycheck will be Death (Romans 6:23).  In the Bible, Sin and Death are linked together and you are fully employed as members of the human race.   

•  Death is physical and spiritual.  “The soul that sins shall surely die (Ezekiel 18:20).”

•  Universal.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).”

•  Divisive.  “Your sins have made a separation between you and your God (Isaiah 59:2).” 

•  Inescapable.  “It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).”

•  Finished.  Jesus killed Death for all of us by rising from the dead, but we have to accept His help (1 Corinthians 15:24-26; John 1:12).  Your death sentence can be pardoned.

An empty tomb in Jerusalem

But without Jesus, like my rabbit, you’re stuck…separated.  I could have shot the rabbit (the fence was to protect our apple tree), but out of mercy I freed the thief.  Are you exhausted, rubbed raw with guilt, the fear of death, and judgment?  Jesus offers mercy, release from your offenses.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners (stuck rabbits), Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”  

So why is God so obsessed with our Death problem?  The answer is in another word in the Bible, mentioned 541 times. God is also obsessed with the word Love…for you, to the point of His own death to rescue you from it, if you want His help (John 3:16). 

For those without mercy…here’s the recipe:

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Not Sure

“These things I have written to you…that you may know…(1 John 5:13).”

Hanging out in L.A.

The first rule in writing a movie is to be clear.  If the audience can’t follow your story, then game over.  How much more important is clarity in communicating spiritual truth to a world flooded with disinformation.  So who can you trust?  

How about the very first Writer?

God has written a movie called “Being 100% Sure You’re Going to Heaven.”  It’s playing in a Bible near you, and He lays out the logline in 1 John, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”  That’s pretty clear, but most people are still not sure.  

Most hope they’re good enough to go to Heaven because they haven’t done anything really bad and guess they’re between the 40-75% range, but the Bible says that you can be 100% certain.  That’s why God wrote “these things.”  So how can you be 100% sure?

First, realize nobody’s perfect.  Since God is perfect (holy), we cannot be with Him in Heaven or our sin would wreck it pretty quick.  “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God (Isaiah 59:2).”  Pretty clear, broken and alienated. 

Broken, but screwed and plated…hockey is fun!

Second, good works don’t work.  Would you accept a million bucks from a leper? It would be contaminated, just like our very best effort would be with a holy God.  “All our most righteous deeds are like a filthy rag to God (Isaiah 64:6).”  

And there is no scale to weigh our good deeds against our bad deeds.  “Whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (James 2:10).”  If a big, red balloon represents God’s Law, how many pins are needed to break it?  No matter how hard you try, you cannot make that balloon perfect again.  It’s not about being good; it’s about being perfect.

Good works vs Faith alone

Third, God’s holiness also means our sin must be punished.  A sin a day is over 25,000 in 70 years, and if He ignored it, then He’d be a crooked judge.  He solved this problem; loving us and punishing us, by taking it on Himself…only a perfect Person could pay our debt, so God became flesh.  “He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).”  His gift makes you holy, but it’s on His terms, and “believing” can be a confusing term.

“Sometimes Satan comes as a Man of Peace” –Bob Dylan

True faith is action, the plot-point most miss in His story (especially the religious who think their good works matter).  Believing is not just acknowledging a fact.  Demons believe, but they’re not going to Heaven (James 2:19), so what’s the difference between your belief and their belief?  True, saving faith is repentance, surrendering pride and will.  

Titus 3:5

This action, to take His free gift by faith, is enough to pay for all your sin.  Doing good works to gain righteousness is pride, and an insult to His sacrifice (Galatians 2:16, 21).  Genuine faith is a humble, thankful surrender, and receiving Him makes you as righteous as God because now He sees you through the camera lens of Jesus.  But the Holy Spirit will only come into your heart “theater” if you’re showing His other film:  “Jesus Alone.”

More on Titus

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“Bara”

“…who calls into being that which does not exist (Romans 4:17).”

Hemingway and some other guy

As a screenwriter, I “call into being that which does not exist” daily.  Every story begins with a blank page, which made me wonder about the all-time bestseller and how much of it you’ve seriously read.  Surprisingly, most have read less than 10 percent of the Bible.  

Despite corroboration by Archaeology, History, prophetic predictions (now past proofs), multiple eyewitness accounts, and staying intact and accurate for over 34 centuries, many scoff at its claim to be supernaturally written by chosen men, moved by God’s Spirit.

At the famous gate with Jack (not Warner)

You could argue against all of that, but you can’t contest that this book is unique and has changed millions of lives.  I’ve experienced this change, what Jesus called being born again by God’s Spirit (John 3:3).  That was over 40 years ago when His Spirit entered my body and started transforming me with His living words.  As a writer, I’ve even had glimpses of this Creator-inspiration that the Bible’s authors experienced.  

My innate gift with words has always been with me.  At a Parent-Teacher Conference, my 7th grade teacher told my Mother that my papers were so good that she thought my older brothers were writing them, so she cancelled her lesson-plan one day and made all of us write a paper at our desks…just to catch me!  My Mother was offended until she told her that she witnessed me write the best paper she’d ever read.

Mrs Theophanus’ English prodigy

I cannot take credit for this God-given gift and as I said, have had a sense of what the Bible’s authors felt when I write.  Nothing mystical or weird, and not on the same level of their inspiration, but definitely a clear sense of His leading me with crazy good story tie-ins, cute plot twists, unintended structure, and clever dialogue.  It’s wild, and sometimes I just look up and laugh because I know it wasn’t my idea at all.  It’s Him.

The trailer for my first screenplay Something Gray

Each time I look at a blank page that becomes a 120-page script, well, that’s God the Spirit who’s truly responsible for that.  A Hebrew word, bara, fits this act of creation.  It’s used only a few times in the Old Testament, and it means “to create something out of nothing,” like a seed “emerging” from the ground that bears fruit.  Something (a pear tree with roots, leaves and pears) comes out of nothing (a tiny hard seed).

Warner’s Watering Hole…green-lighting my next script

Granted, famous writers who are not Christians have penned great stuff, much better than me, but all creativity comes from our Creator (even if they take the credit).  It’s similar to John chapter 12, when God the Father spoke to God the Son, and some in the crowd only heard thunder.  Do you recognize God’s voice in your life or do you just hear rumbles of thunder?  The Bible says that this kind of intimacy is possible because of Jesus.

Mrs Theophanus, “You should be a writer.”

Jesus made a way back to God for us, the spiritually dead, when He died on the cross and rose again.  He is this living Word (John 1:1-14), will “bara” a new you, and “give life to the dead (Romans 4:17).”  An imperishable seed, the living and abiding Word of God, can be inside of you (1 Peter 1:23), and call into being a new life that doesn’t exist…yet.   

The amazing living Word of God and even more “bara

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“But I Think”

“I the Lord do not change…(Malachi 3:6).”

The W.W. Mayo family before John Lister‘s discovery

The mirror tells me I have changed; sometimes it shouts.  Time affects everything, except God.  We call this attribute Immutability, and it’s linked to His revealing Himself to us in a stunning Creation (Romans 1:20), His Word (Matthew 5:18), and the Incarnation–when our Creator became flesh and blood as Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1-4; Hebrews 13:8).

The weight of our differences from Him is not only that we change, but our opinions that are based on capricious authorities and influences fluctuate too, which affects how we see God’s truth, or even care to.  When discussing spiritual things, most folks have lots of opinions, so I like to ask, “What do you base that on?”  Invariably it’s, “But I think….”

Many years later…William Worrall Mayochanged

We, the fallible, become the authority, but can you trust yourself?  Truth varies with cultures.  Ancient Rome and Greece allowed sex with children and goats, Aztecs ate their heartless human sacrifices, Canaanites burnt babies, and scientists err (Copernicus critics, bleeding as a cure, Lister and sterile surgeries, Darwin’s theory as fact, or Pluto as our ninth planet).  Truth and authority are in flux because we are always changing.  

So what you base your opinion on, especially in spiritual matters, matters a great deal.  God (Jesus) should not be based on opinion or a mere man’s religious dogma.  So God gave us an absolute true north; an immutable authority that confirms what is objective, unchanging Truth, the Bible (not a religion or sect).

John’s Gospel, chapters 18-19, discusses this truth and authority.  Pontius Pilate, Rome’s authority in Jerusalem, asked Jesus, “What is truth?”  Later, Jesus told Pilate, “You would have no authority over Me unless it had been given to you from above.”  These were critical moments that revealed God’s absolute Truth, and the Authority behind it.

John’s eyewitness account

Your eternal destiny should not dangle on the thread of an opinion, but you can be sure, and have “true north” on this journey and not get lost, forever (1 John 5:13).  Is the Bible supernatural, God-inspired words to know Him?  Was Jesus God?  Did He rise from the dead to prove these claims?  Why won’t being good make you righteous (just knowing, without repentance, is not a saving faith, James 2:19)?  The Bible explains all of this. 

A friend told me, “My philosophy is to do good to people.”  I replied, “That’s great, but what about your sins?”  The Bible says that goodness won’t save you (James 2:10).  For God to be unchanging, He cannot ignore sin and must stay righteous in His immutability (or He’d be like a bribed judge).  So, He provided Himself, became sin to save us, and took the judgment we deserved.  Love and Justice met at the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Hanging by a thread...are you?

Truth came into History and conquered Death as proof of His absolute Authority.  Jesus ended “but I think” opinions when He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but through Me (John 14:6).”  Or maybe Jesus lied, but I’m human, been wrong before, so I’ll take His Immutability over what I think, every time.  

Jesus meets Rod Steiger

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“Remember When…?”

“God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death…(Acts 2:24).”

My Father and his Father at the Mule Barn

I don’t remember reading this verse in the Book of Acts.  I know I have, it’s underlined in my Bible, but it never hit me like it did until today.  It’s the whole Bible, in just 13 words.

At 60, I’m more forgetful, waxing nostalgic more and more, especially kid memories––building forts, rock fights, baseball games every day, trees climbed to scary heights, or playing Three Wishes…get a million bucks, meet Al Kaline, and become an astronaut.  

A wish granted in 1969

But now, as an adult, if we’re honest, what we really want is to cheat death, to be able to say, “Hey, remember when…I was dead?”  Our death in the past tense (was dead).  Doubt it?  I’ll prove it with your own Yes and No, respectively, to my next two questions.

First, think you’ll die someday?  And, knowing that you will die, do you think about it much?  That’s odd.  You know you’ll die, but you avoid considering the afterlife.  Why?

Solomon said, “It’s better to go to funerals than parties because death is the end of every man and the living take it to heart (Ecclesiastes 7:2).”  Funerals force you to ponder what you won’t think about…a kind of warning light.  And Jesus, who cheated death, proving He was God in the flesh, is also something we avoid giving any serious consideration.  See a weird pattern here?  We ignore our biggest problem and Jesus, the only solution.    

For some reason, we do not want to think about our death, or consider the one person who ended death when “God raised Him up again.”  Can you explain that avoidance?  There are a lot of answers, but I’ll throw one out from my own childhood.  Fear!

Fred and I on Christmas Day

One day, I got caught stealing some pretty significant items and I hid from my Father, knowing full well he’d punish me (and rightfully so).  I hid in the basement under our pool table.  I had to return the items, and it was embarrassing, but I cannot remember him punishing me.  My fear was unfounded.  The next day I was still his son!  Nothing changed, and for 70 years he was my Dad.  He never mentioned it ever, and loved a thief.

I submit that you know you’re guilty too, fear your Heavenly Father will punish you, and so you avoid facing Him…ignorance is bliss, but if your car’s brakes are broken you can be ignorant, in bliss, and dead.  Your brake light, like a funeral, is a warning to respond.

Grinning today, my Dad accepted Christ before his death

I further submit that you’re wrong about our Heavenly Father, just as I was about my Dad.  “For God so loved the world (that’s you, guilty), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever (you again) believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  Twenty-five words to say He loves you, almost twice those in Acts 2:24, which should make you think twice about responding.  Repent, believe and He’ll forgive you, and then 150 years from now you can wax nostalgic with, “Hey, remember when…I was dead?”  

Awaiting the Resurrection…Normandy, France

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“October is Coming”

“He found nothing but leaves (Mark 11:13).”

What Titus left of the Temple in 70 AD

October is a long way off, but I love that season because our apple trees make the best applesauce.  I protect those apples all year, but once the trees are picked I ignore them, and so do the pesky animals because now they have no real value.  Mark can relate.

Mark’s record here in chapter 11 is one of the two times that Jesus destroyed something in nature (the other was the demons He cast out into a herd of pigs that ran over a cliff).  This fig tree had no fruit, “nothing but leaves,” and He cursed it.  Seems extreme, but it was symbolic of what He had found in Israel…no spiritual fruit on the tree of Israel.  

With days before His death and the New Covenant, Jesus was done with their lip service (Mark 7:6), and wanted a heart change that He did not find (Mark’s next section is the second time He threw out the moneychangers from the Temple, which Israel’s leaders had turned from a worship center into big profits).  They had drifted too far from God.

Religious hypocrites are nothing new.  Good riddance to fakers with green leaves and no real value, but it’s also a good reminder…one day Jesus will inspect your life for fruit too.  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).”    

Not “fruit” like being good or going to church (Isaiah 64:6, Titus 3:5), but real repentance as Jesus’ baptizing cousin said in Matthew 3:8, “bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance.”  He wants a change of heart, a surrender of your rebellious attitude of indifference to your sin and His love for you.  Jesus wants you back, but your sin separates you from God (Isaiah 59:2).  

So who cares about fruit and repentance?  Well, you should care because you are going to meet Jesus and He won’t care a fig about church or being good.  His standard is perfection, absolute holiness, and the absence of sin (Habakkuk 1:13, Matthew 5:48).  It makes sense since Heaven has no sin, but no one is that pure, so is it even possible? 

All are infected and die, the great and the average

“Nobody’s perfect, and He can’t really expect me to be holy?  If I’m honest, I’ve lied, cheated, stolen, lusted, and busted just about every commandment in thought, word, or deed.  So if He wants to have an impossible standard, I don’t care.  I’m guilty, so be it, and if I’m honest, not really very good either…if ‘good’ means holy, then I’m lost.”   

God knew our broken-helplessness, His responsibility to be just and punish lawbreakers, and so He provided Himself…a lamb.  Only God can meet His holy standard, and that’s why God became a man.  Jesus, the sinless man, was that perfect payment for us.  God loved us, reconciled us, and remained just by having His Son die in our place.  His sacrifice made us as righteous as God (2 Corinthians 5:21).  This good news is free, but you must choose it.  Fall seems a long way off, but October is coming (Hebrews 9:27).  

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“Empty”

“If righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).” 

My brother pulled the trigger on this buck.

I was afraid to pull the trigger.  Older than dirt, this gifted shotgun looked like it had not been fired in 60 years, so I bravely did what any real guy would do…I took it to a gunsmith. After a few months, he said it was fixed and safe to fire.  Today, it’s still empty.  I have not pulled the trigger…yet.  

For me, it’s a matter of trust that this guy (who I don’t know) says it’s safe, but is it, really?  Popping a 20-gauge shell in the chamber, putting it up to my cheek, and pulling the trigger is a big step of faith on just his say-so.  Unlike a plastic surgeon, talk is cheap.  

If I really believe, I’ll act on his promise.  Believing is that simple, and that hard.  

The gun that Booth pulled the trigger on with Lincoln

And so it is with Jesus.  Faith to take Him at His word, believing that His death on the cross pays for your sins, and that His tomb is empty is easy…to say.  But is just “saying” real saving, eternal faith, or is it just an intellectual assent (like believing in Napoleon or Lincoln)? How can you be sure your faith is genuine and not just acknowledging a fact? 

The Apostle James, and half-brother of Jesus, said, “faith without works is dead.” If you really believe, they’ll be a transformation because the Holy Spirit enters your body, and good works will flow from your faith.  God uses outward and visible faith proofs of this inward and invisible change to tell the world, you “pulled the trigger.”  What proofs?  

In the Old Testament, circumcision was a faith proof, but Israel could not even keep the Ten Commandments, let alone the extensive Jewish Law.  The Law was really a spiritual thermometer to show how sin-sick we all are, that being right with God isn’t about doing good works.  Besides, if it made lawbreakers right and holy, why did Jesus have to die?   

The Jerusalem Temple where many circumcisions happened.

Do you know how to never break the Law?  The only way is to have no Law to break.  So that’s what Jesus did.  Jesus was the only one to keep the Law with a sinless life, and as a perfect man, and God, His sacrifice freed us from trying (to be good, keeping the Law), to instead just believing in His work.  But again, what is genuine pulling the trigger faith? 

Action. In the New Testament, baptism was faith proof of your unseen belief, but getting wet doesn’t save you anymore than circumcision made an Israelite a believer.  God has always operated on faith and grace; beginning with Abraham’s faith, long before the Law was given to Moses (Romans 4).  Again, what else constitutes saving faith? Repentance.  

The Dead Sea (near where the Scrolls were found).

James says, “Even the demons believe.”  If they believe in Jesus, and they aren’t going to Heaven, what’s the difference in your faith and theirs?  The answer is…surrendering your will (repent means to change your mind). So stop trying to be good (you can’t keep the 10 Commandments either).  Ask Him to forgive you, once and for all, based on His work. 

Inside The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

Now, I’ve changed my mind, and by faith…I’m going to go fire my gun.  Happy Easter! 

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