Tag Archives: intercession

Judgment and the Love of God

 

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Judgment and the Love of God

The Christian servant must never forget that salvation is God’s idea, not man’s; therefore, it has an unfathomable depth. Salvation is the great thought of God, not an experience. Experience is simply the door through which salvation comes into the conscious level of our life so that we are aware of what has taken place on a much deeper level. Never preach the experience— preach the great thought of God behind the experience. When we preach, we are not simply proclaiming how people can be saved from hell and be made moral and pure; we are conveying good news about God.

In the teachings of Jesus Christ the element of judgment is always brought out— it is the sign of the love of God. Never sympathize with someone who finds it difficult to get to God; God is not to blame. It is not for us to figure out the reason for the difficulty, but only to present the truth of God so that the Spirit of God will reveal what is wrong. The greatest test of the quality of our preaching is whether or not it brings everyone to judgment. When the truth is preached, the Spirit of God brings each person face to face with God Himself.

If Jesus ever commanded us to do something that He was unable to equip us to accomplish, He would be a liar. And if we make our own inability a stumbling block or an excuse not to be obedient, it means that we are telling God that there is something which He has not yet taken into account. Every element of our own self-reliance must be put to death by the power of God. The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence upon Him will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power.

A Parent’s Pain

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

I’ll never forget meeting Nathan and Connie. With five sons, they loved the Lord and were busy going about His work. Suddenly, their world was decimated by an unthinkable tragedy. The three oldest boys were driving home from Wal-Mart when a drunk driver crossed the centerline, hitting them head-on. All three were killed as a result of the accident—snatched away in a cruel, horrible moment.

Connie told me that though the accident had happened three years ago, the pain was still fresh. “To this day, it’s wrenching,” she said. But then she continued, “I’ve often wondered if that’s how Mary felt when she looked at the excruciating and publicly humiliating death of Jesus as He hung on the cross.”

It’s a sobering thought. We have sung of the cross, put it on our steeples and on chains around our necks. But if we are not careful, we grow accustomed to the thought of the cross, forgetting the very real pain, real sorrow, and loss that it represents. And while we think of Mary’s agony and the torment of the cross for Jesus, I wonder if the pain wasn’t deepest in the heart of God. Think of the heartache for the One who willingly sent His only Son! No one knew more deeply what the crushing weight and torture of the sins of the world—your sins and my sins—would be like as they were embedded into the soul of the Savior. Think of how God must have felt in that moment.

The apostle John knew full well what that moment looked like. He was there at the foot of the cross, and from Christ’s words on the cross it seems apparent that he was an eyewitness to the grief of Mary (John 19:26). Years later he would describe this moment as the supreme expression of love. “This is love,” John writes, “not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

The marvel is not that we would love God or choose to offer our lives to Him. It is that He would choose to love us and offer His only Son on our behalf! He willingly endured that pain to bring us back into relationship with Him. This alone—even if God never did anything else for us—should stimulate our hearts to live in grateful love and adoration toward Him for the rest of our lives. The thought of this indescribable love should constantly remind us that we, though undeserving and unlovable in His sight, have been blessed beyond measure and loved like no one else could love us!

I love the words to the hymn penned by Stuart Townend (who clearly has not grown accustomed to impact of the cross):

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure,

That He should give His only Son, to make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away,

As wounds which mar the Holy One, bring many sons to glory.

Keeping the cross in mind with all of its heavy, yet joyful, implications may just be the most important thing we do in life!

God’s Man For That Hour

From: Through the Bible

Judges 7:20 (NIV) 20The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”

What a fascinating plan the LORD gave them. Each of the 300 men took a pitcher with a torch inside in one hand. In the other was a trumpet. On cue, they smashed the pitchers and the light shown out. With the other hand they blew their trumpets and then shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”

The enemy was thrown into a panic thinking that each light led a company of soldiers. Frightened in the dark, they killed one another. The dream Gideon had overheard came to pass. What sword were they shouting about? It was the word of the LORD that they were faithfully obeying.

We have a treasure in jars of clay. It is the Light of the world. We seem to be totally outnumbered at times. But we keep on obeying the word and believing. We become broken vessels and the light shines out. We blow the trumpet of the Gospel and the enemy (spiritual powers) is thrown into confusion. In the darkness, the enemy does not know who is a friend and who is a foe. He ends up defeating himself. It is not as if we did any great thing. God gets all the glory. We were outnumbered and outgunned, but we just obeyed and watched God work. If God was faithful to Gideon, to give Him the plan, and encourage Him that He would bring it to pass, will He be any different with you?

Trust God to bring the victory as you obey Him.

From: Through The Bible

May 5

Luke 8:16-18 (NIV) 16″No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”

What do you have? Only what you have received. You receive physical things and spiritual things. The physical will perish; the spiritual will last. The physical does not transform the soul; the spiritual does.

How do you receive the spiritual? It is usually through your ears. In Jesus’ day, when many could not read or afford to purchase a manuscript, it was almost entirely through the ears. What do you hear?

We are familiar with this illustration as it is used in Matthew, or in the song This Little Light of Mine. Those applications are about boldly letting the witness of Jesus in you be seen by others. In this evening’s passage, Jesus is using it for either good or evil. Others will see whatever you listen to and absorb. You can’t hide what you have become. Listening transforms you. The words go into your mind and heart and affect the way you see the world around you. Cults can transform a person’s perspective by merely isolating them from other points of view. That is why Jesus says, “Consider carefully how you listen.” He is telling us to consider not only what we listen to, but also how we listen. Do we listen with discernment? Are we sorting through what we hear to discard what is not according to the Word of God, and to cling to that which is of value? Do we sort the Spirit of truth from the spirit of error? That is not to criticize, but to discern what we will receive.

Why should we take such caution? Jesus is telling us that if we receive what is good, we will receive more of the same. Our light will be visible to all. If we receive vain words, what we have believed to be of substance will prove to be emptiness. People will see our lack of substance.

Consider: What do you listen to? Consider carefully HOW you hear.

 

Practice Intercessory Prayer

Vicarious Intercession

Beware of thinking that intercession means bringing our own personal sympathies and concerns into the presence of God, and then demanding that He do whatever we ask. Our ability to approach God is due entirely to the vicarious, or substitutionary, identification of our Lord with sin. We have “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.” Spiritual stubbornness is the most effective hindrance to intercession, because it is based on a sympathetic “understanding” of things we see in ourselves and others that we think needs no atonement. We have the idea that there are certain good and virtuous things in each of us that do not need to be based on the atonement by the Cross of Christ. Just the sluggishness and lack of interest produced by this kind of thinking makes us unable to intercede. We do not identify ourselves with God’s interests and concerns for others, and we get irritated with Him. Yet we are always ready with our own ideas, and our intercession becomes only the glorification of our own natural sympathies. We have to realize that the identification of Jesus with sin means a radical change of all of our sympathies and interests. Vicarious intercession means that we deliberately substitute God’s interests in others for our natural sympathy with them. Am I stubborn or substituted? Am I spoiled or complete in my relationship to God? Am I irritable or spiritual? Am I determined to have my own way or determined to be identified with Him?

Wake Him Up!

From: Get more Strength.org

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Elouise worked the cash register in the food court at Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute. She was, by far and away, one of my favorite people. I liked a lot of things about Elouise: her happy smile, helpful spirit, and love for everyone. But what I liked best was her down-home, streetwise wisdom that came out in some of the most memorable quips. I could give you a bunch of them, but here’s one that just might be a good word for you.

One morning, as I reached into my pocket to pull out the cash for my breakfast, I asked Elouise how she was doing, to which she replied, “Not all that great.”

“Really?” I asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Well,” she quipped, “I had to wake Him up this morning!”

I wasn’t quite getting where she was going with that, so I asked, “What do you mean? Wake who up?”

“Don’t you know your Bible?” she teasingly said with an obvious sense of joy at stumping the Moody president. To save me any further embarrassment, she went on to say, “When the disciples thought they were going to die in the storm at sea, they had to wake up Jesus so He would help them. I had to wake Him up this morning,” she said, “’cause I needed His help!”

See why she’s one of my favorite people?

What she didn’t say, though, was that it seems like Jesus was the last resort for those panicked disciples. Luke tells us that it wasn’t until the boat was nearly swamped, and it was clear that they were in great danger, that someone had the brilliant idea to wake up Jesus.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we are usually pretty slow as well to wake Him up. Well, actually, we don’t need to wake Him up since the God who watches over us neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:3)! In reality, we’re the ones who need to wake up. We need to wake up to the truth that we are not as capable as we think we are to deal with life’s challenges; that our wisdom and instincts are flawed; that trying to manage life by the seat of our pants usually gets us into a heap of trouble.

So, thankfully, the writer to the Hebrews assures us that we can come to Jesus with what the text literally says is “unstaggering confidence”—confidence that He understands our plight and is ready to help us in our time of need. And, in case you’re wondering how He will help you in your time of need, think about His grace that will help you endure, His mercy, His power to overcome, His wisdom to show you the way. And don’t forget His calming presence and His peace that passes understanding in the midst of life’s storms. They are all available for the asking!

So, next time you are overwhelmed with life and don’t know what to do, take a little advice from my friend Elouise: wake Him up! And don’t wait until He is your last resort. You’ll get exhausted and disheartened if you try to bail out your boat all by yourself!

Which reminds me of a wonderful old song that we used to sing in church when I was a boy. It goes, “I need thee, Oh, I need thee! Every hour I need thee! Oh, bless me now my Savior, I come to thee.” You’ll need Him sometime—probably today—so make that the theme song of your life.

He maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth and his hands make whole (Job 5:18). The Ministry of Great Sorrow From: Streams in the Desert   As we pass beneath the hills which have been shaken by the earthquake and torn by convulsion, we find that periods of perfect repose succeed those of destruction. The pools of calm water lie clear beneath their fallen rocks, the water lilies gleam, and the reeds whisper among the shadows; the village rises again over the forgotten graves, and its church tower, white through the storm twilight, proclaims a renewed appeal to His protection “in whose hand are all the corners of the earth, and the strength of the hills is his also.” –Ruskin   God ploughed one day with an earthquake, And drove His furrows deep! The huddling plains upstarted, The hills were all aleap!   But that is the mountains’ secret, Age-hidden in their breast; “God’s peace is everlasting,” Are the dream-words of their rest.   He made them the haunts of beauty, The home elect of His grace; He spreadeth His mornings upon them, His sunsets light their face.   His winds bring messages to them Wild storm-news from the main; They sing it down the valleys In the love-song of the rain.   They are nurseries for young rivers, Nests for His flying cloud, Homesteads for new-born races, Masterful, free, and proud.   The people of tired cities Come up to their shrines and pray; God freshens again within them, As He passes by all day.   And lo, I have caught their secret! The beauty deeper than all! This faith–that life’s hard moments, When the jarring sorrows befall,   Are but God ploughing His mountains; And those mountains yet shall be The source of His grace and freshness, And His peace everlasting to me. –William C. Gannett

Happy Endings

The first: “Houston, we have a problem.”

And then: “Hello, Houston . . . this is Odyssey. It’s good to see you again.”

Together, these two messages form the bookends to the real-life drama of NASA’s struggle to bring three astronauts safely back to earth. An explosion crippled their spacecraft partway into their April 1970 mission to the moon.

The minutes leading up to the second of the two radio transmissions were particularly dramatic as people the world over anxiously gathered around television sets and collectively held their breath to see if the crew survived reentry into the earth’s atmosphere. Cheers and tears of joy and relief exploded across the globe when the astronauts finally returned home unharmed.

Not every story has a thrilling, happy ending like Apollo 13. But the Bible reveals that those who believe in Jesus will experience one! Much as the crew of Apollo 13 endured, life as we know it can be an ordeal and it will inevitably break our hearts. Death and decay will take away our health and every person we love. But the sacrificial death and dramatic resurrection of Jesus Christ guarantees the happiest of endings.

This is the “happily ever after” that Paul wrote about in offering hope and comfort to those in need (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Quoting the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, Paul confidently declared the future resurrection of the dead when he wrote, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

Sometimes, all can seem lost, especially when death takes those we love. But the truth of the cross and the empty tomb emboldens us with the hope for a “happy ending” that is beyond description.

Tears Of Gratitude

From: Our Daily Bread
At a communion service my wife and I attended, the congregation was invited to come forward to receive the bread and cup from one of the pastors or elders. They told each one personally of Jesus’ sacrifice for him or her. It was an especially moving experience during what can often become just routine. After we returned to our seats, I watched as others slowly and quietly filed past. It was striking to see how many had tears in their eyes. For me, and for others I talked with later, they were tears of gratitude. The reason for tears of gratitude is seen in the reason for the communion table itself. Paul, after instructing the church at Corinth about the meaning of the memorial supper, punctuated his comments with these powerful words: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). With the elements of communion pointing directly to the cross and the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, that service was about so much more than ritual—it was about Christ. His love. His sacrifice. His cross. For us. How inadequate words are to convey the extraordinary worth of Christ! Sometimes tears of gratitude speak what words can’t fully express.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. —Watts
The love Christ showed for us on the cross is greater than words could ever express.

Insight

For centuries, the Jewish community of faith had called to memory God’s provision of their deliverance out of bondage in Egypt. This memorial was celebrated through the Passover meal (Ex. 12:1-28). A roasted lamb, unleavened bread, wine, bitter herbs, and other items helped them remember their salvation from slavery. In our reading today, we see how our Lord took that sacred feast and transformed it into a memorial of His own sacrificial death (see Luke 22:19).