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Wreck-ognize Truth

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“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).”

 

I love bumper stickers.  My favorite is, “God, make me the man my dog thinks I am.”  As funny as that one is, there’s another one that we’ve all seen that is a joke too, but in a farcical sense.  It’s the religious symbols that spell out COEXIST.

It’s a joke because these religions contradict each other with their own exclusive claims, but only one is corroborated by a resurrected Man; all the others are founded by dead men, who base their way to God on doing good works to appease Him for their sins (Galatians 2:21).  Truth cannot coexist with lies.  Jesus absolutely refutes them all.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 11.07.34 AM“Some times all the truth can add up to one big lie.”  –Dylan

 

And they completely deny that Jesus is God and the only way to Heaven, as He said, so the bumper sticker is not being intellectually honest.  Only Jesus rose from the dead to prove His statement to be “the truth.”  Christianity is based on Jesus being God and the only way to Heaven, which is either arrogant or true.  Two plus two equals four, every…single…time. Truth is always absolute, and it usually has evidence and witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

The Apostles saw Jesus live, die, and come back from the dead, and Peter said the same exclusive thing when arrested for this very truth, 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 2018-11-20 at 11.04.56 AM.png“And a few old fishermen….”

 

These eyewitnesses, who died for this truth and could have evaded execution had they said they made it up, claimed Jesus was the only way to Heaven.  Some may die for what they think is true, but no one would die for a lie.  “No other name”eliminates every other religion, no matter how sincere.

Just because Buddha, Confucius, or Mohammed are sincere doesn’t make their religion true.  Sincerity can be dead wrong if it’s not true.  Sincerely driving to Florida by heading west is the wrong way.  Jesus is absolutely exclusive by making this claim to be “the way,”but He is also inclusive by offering salvation to everyone.

Why does His brash claim bother us?  Because we want everyone to be saved from death and hope all religions lead to God.  If so, then mathematics is arrogant because two plus two equals four, and so is geography because Florida is due south, and Jesus is a bald-faced liar if He’s not “the life.”  Jesus made every religion false when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 10.58.51 AM.pngSometimes one lie can be fatal

 

So you can head west to Florida, and sincerely hit your brakes twice (and say it was four) to not rear-end the car in front of you (with the COEXIST bumper sticker), but if your brake line is cut…sincerity won’t save you.  The truth is you’ll wreck your car.  And the most loving thing you can do is to tell the truth, as Jesus said and did because He is the truth.

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“Thus it is Written … Kill Jesus”

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“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day (Matthew 16:21).”

 

According to the Old Testament, the Jewish Messiah must die.

It’s crazy to think that this is in the Bible, but the ancient prophets were clear that Messiah must be killed…centuries before Jesus was even born!

There are at least four specific references in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be killed.  Psalm 22 was written around 967 BC, Isaiah 53 about 740 BC, Zechariah 12:10 around 520 BC, and Daniel 9:26 in 164 BC.

For the Jews, this is a serious conundrum.  Their hope, the Messiah, must be cut off and die. So how then can He be a triumphant King like David and save Israel?

I was discussing this problem and Jesus as the answer with a Jewish man.  His difficulty with a Jewish carpenter’s claim to be God was that all men are sinners, and therefore a man from Nazareth could not possibly be God.  Pretty simple logic…at first glance.

“So the Almighty made everything, but can’t reveal Himself to us in any form He chooses…even as a man?” I asked.  He nodded, “All men are sinners.  Therefore, men cannot be God.”

 

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Bethlehem and the site of Jesus’ birth 

“But according to your Scriptures Messiah must die.  God’s power isn’t limited by what we think He should do,” I offered.  “He could appear as a talking kumquat if He wanted to, but if relating to us as humans is paramount, it seems logical He’d become a man and thus make this prophesied death possible.  After all, if He wanted to save ants, He’d have become an ant.”

His objection was sound–all sinners die because of sin (Ezekiel 18:20). This spiritual disease infects us all (Romans 6:23), and since God is holy and eternal then He cannot die, as humans must, right?  So how then can Messiah (God) die as it is written centuries beforehand?

 

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Jerusalem and the rock area where the crucifixion took place

It’s possible because He can choose to die…not because “of” sin like our curse requires, but “for” sin to rescue us.  The Old Testament is clear that the Messiah must die, and that can happen only if he’s human, and therefore He must remain sinless until He dies, just as it is written (Luke 24:46).  So why does this matter?  Because these four predictions came centuries before Jesus was born!

 

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One of two possible spots for the resurrection in Jerusalem

He even told His disciples before He gave up His life…and that He’d rise again. This predicted “before event” gives us confidence in the truth of the “after event.”  Jesus proved He is the God-Man, God-in-the-flesh, by being raised from the dead.  Therefore, He has power over sin and death…your death, and your sin.

Death is coming for us all. Jesus reversed the curse and made death a welcomed event.  If you’ll genuinely surrender and trust Him, your grave will be as empty as His.

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“How did you know…?”

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The King of Cool in The Great Escape

 

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).”

 

 I love movies, especially if it’s based on a true story.  A favorite is the Oscar winning “Papillon”with Steve McQueen as Henri Charriere, a convicted murderer who wrote about his imprisonment in French Guiana’s penal colonies.  Papillon (butterfly in French and Henri’s nickname from his tattoo) spent 14 years there and escaped eight times.

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The real Papillon

My favorite scene is when Papillon escapes and tries to get a boat from a leper colony.  The leper leader is reluctant to help an outsider and tests Steve, who cannot bear to look at his disfigured face.

“Why don’t you have the courtesy to look at me when you speak?” he asks.

Papillon raises his eyes to see a horrific face sucking on a cigar.

“Do you like cigars?”

“When I can get ‘em,” Papillon says.

“Try this one.”

The leper offers his gooey cigar and Steve puffs on it, and then hands it back.

“How did you know I have dry leprosy, and it isn’t contagious?”

McQueen replies, “I didn’t.”

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On set for Papillon

This scene is the quintessential example of genuine faith.  Steve acts on his belief.  It isn’t head knowledge or something he just says he believes. He does it.  Papillon steps out in faith and tugs on a gooey cigar that had just been on those rotting lips.  He took a chance and acted on his belief that freedom was worth the risk of leprosy.  Real faith, a real saving-eternal faith, is like that.  It involves action.  If your faith in Jesus is genuine, then you’ll act on it publicly (like getting baptized).

But if you’re not 100% sure about Heaven, you don’t have to take a chance like Papillon.  The Bible says you can be absolutely certain, and that’s precisely why it was written:

“And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:11-13).

Do you think God would make something as critical as your salvation hard to understand when it cost Him His only son?  He wants you to get it, figuratively and literally.  If you’re not 100% sure, try reading the New Testament.

Screenshot 2018-08-21 19.29.19.pngMel’s Jesus (Jim Caviezel)

Ironically, McQueen led a wild life with fast cars, motorcycles, and heavy partying, but six months before he died Steve got it…and accepted Christ!  He wanted to know for sure, and when he understood the Bible’s message of salvation, a free gift, the King of Cool knelt before the King of Kings.  How cool is that?  And the good news is you can know too, and as an added bonus…meet Steve McQueen.

Here’s a cool 12-minute doc on McQueen’s original version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_BORJtfo48

They’re also remaking it and will be released soon.  Here’s the trailer:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqj7XOv9mC8

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“Earn it!”

Screenshot 2018-07-16 11.49.55.pngSgt. Fritz Niland, 101st Airborne 

 

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

 

Chances are you’ve never heard of Frederick “Fritz” Niland, but you’ve seen the movie that his life inspired, “Saving Private Ryan.”  Sgt. Niland was sent home after the reported deaths of his three brothers (Edward shot down over Burma, Robert killed on D-Day, and Preston killed June 7thnear Utah Beach).

In the film, Captain Miller searches for Private Ryan to send him home and like Mrs. Niland, spare Ryan’s mother from losing all four sons.  After finding Ryan, and losing all of his men, a wounded Miller, seconds from eternity says, “Earn this.”  Then he draws Ryan closer and whispers,“Earn it!”

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Rest In Peace

This scene then morphs Ryan into an old man at Normandy Cemetery.  A tearful Ryan, aware of their sacrifice for him asks his wife, “Tell me I have led a good life. Tell me I’m a good man.” She reassures him, and then he stands back, and salutes Miller’s grave as the camera focuses on his white cross.

That cross and Miller’s last words always struck me as ironic because we cannot “earn” the salvation the cross represents by “being a good man.”  The whole point of the cross demonstrates how helpless we are as violators of God’s Law (Isaiah 59:2).  We can’t earn a right standing by our leper-like efforts to bridge the holy gap (Isaiah 64:6).

Yet, most of us think we are good, or at least good enough.  The Bible teaches just the opposite; we fall short. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23).”  It’s not being good, it’s being perfect.  “You are to be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).”  Any honest person knows they’re not good enough compared to His absolute perfection.  Sound like an unfair standard?

Consider two questions.  If you can get to Heaven by being good,“If righteousness comes through (keeping)the Law,” then why did Jesus die?  If your “good life” is enough, then Jesus died for nothing.

Secondly, even if you’re a “good man” like Ryan, have you ever broken one of the Ten Commandments?  The Bible is clear that one sin makes you guilty of every sin.  “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (James 2:10).”  God doesn’t weigh good and bad deeds.  His standard is perfection, and nobody’s perfect. Having to be perfect is not good news, but it makes sense if you want to be with a sinless God in a sinless Heaven.

The good news is you can become as righteous as God Himself and meet His standard of perfection through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  “He made Him (Jesus)who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).”  God sees you “in Him”through the Jesus filter.

His sacrifice (Miller) saved you (Ryan), and like Ryan, you did nothing to earn it. That’s grace, unearned favor.  “For 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 (Ephesians 2:8-9).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Over 700 Years Before Gettysburg

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The Greatest President 

 

“I am God, and there is no other;I am God, and there is none like me.  I make known the end from the beginning,from ancient times, what is still to come (Isaiah 46:9-10).

 

On November 19, 1863, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address explained the entire Civil War’s significance with just 272 words.  A miraculous feat, but Lincoln’s perfect speech pales beside Isaiah’s 405 words in chapter 53 (below). Why?  Because Isaiah wrote them 700 years before Jesus’ crucifixion!

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The receiving end of Pickett’s Charge at the 150th Anniversary

 

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Generals A.P. Hill and Marse Robert at the 150th Anniversary

 

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Moments after Pickett’s Charge reenactment at the 150th Anniversary

Here’s Isaiah’s 53rd chapter:

Who has believed what he has heard from us?  And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For he grew up before him like a young plant,and like a root out of dry ground;he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejectedby men,a man of sorrowsand acquainted withgrief;and as one from whom men hide their faceshe was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefsand carried our sorrows;yet we esteemed him stricken,smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,and with his wounds we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray;we have turned—every one—to his own way;and the Lord has laid on himthe iniquity of us all.

 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,yet he opened not his mouth;like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,so he opened not his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away;and as for his generation, who consideredthat he was cut off out of the land of the living,stricken for the transgression of my people?

 And they made his grave with the wickedand with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,and there was no deceit in his mouth.  Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;he has put him to grief;when his soul makesan offering for guilt,he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall seeand be satisfied;by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,make many to be accounted righteous,and he shall bear their iniquities.  Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,because he poured out his soul to deathand was numbered with the transgressors;yet he bore the sin of many,and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Imagine if Gettysburg was predicted with this detail in 1163.  Impossible, unless “I am God and there is no other,” saw Gettysburg (and the crucifixion) 700 years beforehand!  Which if He did, it also means He knew you’d read this today, and your response to Isaiah 53:1 with his first nine words.

Here’s those magical words of Lincoln and why they matter:  The Gettysburg Address

And some controversy too:  269 or 272?

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The Law (and Promise) of Return

IMG_1881.JPGThe amphitheater at Caesarea on the coast of Israel

“When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you (Deuteronomy 30:1-3).

 

On May 14, 2018, Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary.  In 1948, after 2,000 years of wandering, and many more under the rule of other nations, the Jews were back in their biblical homeland as the independent state of Israel.  This was a major turning point in history that cannot be underestimated, and it was also prophetic (Jeremiah 16:14-15).

Screenshot 2018-05-15 17.35.59.pngA little past 5PM on May 14, 1948, Israel is born!

Despite this statehood miracle, there were less than 725,000 Jews in Israel in 1948.  Today, however, there are over 8 million Jews in Israel, and in 2014, another landmark occurred––the number of Jews in Israel passed the number of Jews living in the rest of the world!  What fostered this dramatic population explosion that continues unabated today (Isaiah 11:11-12)?

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Ships packed with Jews coming home 

On July 5, 1950, the governing body of Israel, the Knesset, passed the Law of Return, which began with the remarkable words that would define the country’s core value:
“Every Jew has the right to immigrate to this country….”

Screenshot 2018-05-15 17.38.20.pngHome at last!

This law not only populated Israel, but it provided a safe haven from the anti-Semitism that peaked in Hitler’s Europe.  Despite overt opposition and wars, it’s been a remarkable catalyst to grow Israel and make her desert bloom around thriving, modern cities.  But can the Law of Return be solely responsible for this miracle?  Not hardly.  It was God, and His repeated promise in the Old Testament.

Watching these immigrants arrive at Ben Gurion Airport is like seeing a biblical prophecy unfold when you consider the prophecies of Jeremiah (16:15, 23:3,7-8, 30:1-11, 31:9, 33:7), Isaiah (43:5-6, 49:8-22, 54:7), and especially Ezekiel (11:17, 20:34, 28:25, 34:13, 37:21).

Screenshot 2018-05-15 17.43.42.pngA joyful arrival!

In chapter 37, Ezekiel had a vision of a valley filled with the dry bones of thousands of skeletons in open graves. These bones came together, grew flesh, and came to life.  God revealed that the dry bones symbolized Israel and her agonies of dispersion for rejecting Him.  The graves were gentile nations where they were banished, but they were only temporary, open graves.  The coming together of the resurrected bones is the prophetic restoration of the dispersed nation to its biblical homeland.

IMG_2923.JPGThe gates to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem

At the 65thanniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Benjamin Netanyahu ended his speech by quoting Ezekiel 37:11-13 as being fulfilled!  This physical restoration of Israel is amazing, but the next verse promises more…a spiritual restoration.

Screenshot 2018-05-15 17.56.45.pngEzekiel’s vision

The Law of Return is part of a major turning point in history, but verse 14 will be the consummation of God’s promise for Israel when they finally recognize their Messiah (Ezekiel 36:26-28).  I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord.’”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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155,000

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“…to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

That’s the number of people who died today.  A sobering statistic, and worth repeating to let the enormity of it soak in…155,000 people died this very day (just imagine if Grand Rapids emptied overnight).

It made me wonder how many people die each day after my neighbor had a massive heart attack and suddenly died!  We were shocked and saddened, especially since as far as we knew he never let Jesus be his master.  I invited him to church once and he declined saying, “The walls would fall down.”

Another friend just got diagnosed with ovarian cancer and will be part of that 155,000 soon.  Luckily, she accepted Jesus in 1981 and can’t wait to see Him.  As I prayed for her healing, I wondered what Jesus’ wanted for her. Was it really better to stay here in a broken world, or as Paul said, “to die is gain.”  Wouldn’t Jesus rather have her in unimaginable bliss, as soon as possible, to shower her with the blessings He’s planned for centuries?

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When I thought on that, I had a massive paradigm shift.  For her and Jesus, death will be a precious introduction of inexpressible joy as they exchange first smiles.  Considering her death from His viewpoint, wanting her home, changed my prayers for her.  So if we are 100% sure that Jesus will welcome us as His precious possession, as she is convinced of–and not in fear as one who’s rejected His salvation–then death is an incredible gain!  This changes everything!  But can you be that confident, and really know for sure?

The Apostle John said that that was precisely why the Bible was written.  “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).” So if Heaven can be a certainty, and is so much better, why not take her home yesterday?

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Peter answers, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  His followers remain here as a compass pointing to True North, Jesus.  Unfortunately, most of the 56 million people who will die this year, like my neighbor, will politely ignore Jesus, just as He said:

 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

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So…are you in today’s 155,000?  I’m sure my neighbor didn’t think so.  Today may be your last chance, so why risk that when you can know for sure (Luke 12:20)?  The Lord waits patiently, but He won’t wait forever.  Why not make today what He wants for you…a real gain changer (2 Corinthians 6:2)?

 

 

 

 

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