Webster Bible Study Takes A Summer Vacation

Well, by the grace of God we completed another year of Bible study. We are very thankful to the Lord for His grace throughout the entire year of study. And Sue and I are thankful for all who attended. It has been and will always be our goal to glorify the Lord and lift Jesus up through prayer, worship, and study with the end result allowing us to be more aware of our great darkness and sinfulness, but His even greater love and grace, such  that we would willingly allow His Spirit to change us and make us more like the beloved Savior we worship.

We desire to be true follows of Christ and whatever our cross may be on any particular day, week, month, or year, to carry it for the sake of the Gospel.  May we not just be hearers of the word, but doers as well. (“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”) (KJV) James 1:22

So, we return, Lord willing, on the second Monday of September (September 10th, 2018) and begin the second major section of the book, Chapter 7 of the Book of Joshua.

Sue and I wish each of you a blessed and enjoyable summer and hope to see you at the picnic in June.

Please remember to keep our brothers and sisters in prayer (“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” Eph. 6:18 KJV) and should we receive any prayer requests throughout the summer, we will be sure to pass them along to all (“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” 1 Timothy 2:8 (KJV).

Little Children

Mark 10:14-16 (KJV) “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”

I was on the sidelines watching a dad play with her little girl in the water the other day while vacationing in Florida, and I watched as he played with her; they both had so much fun.

But it dawned on me as the dad was swinging his daughter above his head and above the water that the father was in total control of this girl’s happiness, joy, her well-being, and perhaps even her life. As he tossed her up in the air and spun her about, sometimes he let her feet go into the water, sometimes her hands and arms went into the water,  and even once or twice, her dad swooped her down just low enough that her head even went into the water just a bit.

He might have tossed her and missed catching her and she would have gone under the water. He might have tossed her and caught her awkwardly and bruised her or worse. If we think of all the possibilities of what might have happened to this little girl, we might get a bit nervous about how they were having fun. But the girl? Not one moment of thought passed through her mind that erupted in any sort of fear. Now she was certainly old enough to know about scrapes and pain and things that could hurt her body, but that wouldn’t happen; not now anyway. Why? Because it was her dad holding her. It was her dad tossing her. And as long as he was close to her, as long as he was the one playing with her, tossing and spinning her, as long as she could see and feel that she was safe in his arms, nothing else mattered.

And I thought: that’s exactly how the Lord demands that we enter into His kingdom. We are to trust in Him no matter what’s going on around us or to us. We are to keep our eyes fixed on Him:

(Hebrews 12:2 (KJV) “Looking unto Jesus [emphasis mine] the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God).

After all, His eyes are fixed on us, right?

Psalms 32:8 (KJV) “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go:
I will guide thee with mine eye.” [emphasis mine]

And then how are we to be? We are to know and understand that we are safe in His everlasting arms:

Deuteronomy 33:27 (KJV) “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.”

So then, how should we feel? Safe and secure, just like that little girl did in her daddy’s arms.

And what if something should happen that looks like it will be bad? Again, we remember where we are, who is holding us, and how strong and loving He is.

That dad in the pool would never do anything to hurt his daughter in any way. And that little girl, even though she has had less time on earth to learn that about her dad than many of us have had as born-again children to learn about our heavenly Father, nevertheless, she trusted him completely – without any fear whatsoever – with her welfare in all ways. Because there was something inside of her that she had gained through experience with her dad, that she knew completely there was no where else on this planet that she could feel so loved and so cared for as when she was with her dad.

Now, when was the last time you and I felt like that? Have we ever felt like that?  Perhaps in our first days of being part of His family we felt that way, but time and experience has led us to believe otherwise.

But think of it: the more the little girl (maybe 6 or 7 years old I think) learned about her father, the more she has come to trust him. And then think of this: if something bad were to happen to that little girl; even if it happened because her dad made a crucial mistake and an accident did occur, do you think she would love her dad less? Do you think she would think that he loved her any less? Of course not; as a matter of fact, she would want to be back in his arms just as quickly as she could. Because while there might be some pain and hurting, she would want him to hold her so that she knew in spite of her pain, her daddy still loved her (and would always love her) and would do anything he could to make her well again.

The great news for us is that unlike an earthly dad, our heavenly Father cannot make any mistakes. We don’t have to worry about something happening to us that He didn’t know about in advance. He will never be caught off guard and He will never be caught by surprise.  And He simply cannot do anything or allow anything to happen to us except that it is done out of His incredible, perfect, agapé, love for us. And what comfort that should bring to each of us. He loves us and is holding us with His powerful hands. Nothing shall shake us apart from His grip upon our lives. And nothing is able to pull His arms apart to let us fall.

Yes, He is ours and we are His; and in that we must take comfort at all times, good and bad, and give Him all the praise and glory He deserves for being our perfect Father. For no one else can provide for us the love, compassion, tenderness, and care that only He can give.

 It is time (probably past time) that we stop fearing so greatly when life comes at us and we see a dark sky and a hazy, uncertain horizon, and lift up our eyes and talk to Him, telling Him about our fears and letting Him remind us where we are (in His arms), and that we are safe and secure right there.

To God alone be the glory!

Accidents? No Such Thing.

When you and I pray for, among other things, traveling mercies for our families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers as they go to work, the store, soccer, or wherever their travels may take them, what exactly do we expect?

Yesterday, one of my co-workers was going home for the day and was T-Boned by another driver doing about 55 MPH. The car is a complete wreck. A picture of it is below.

Gregs Car

As it turns out, prayers were lifted in the morning for his safety on the road for that day. So, did the Lord not answer those prayers?

Some would say, your prayers were pretty worthless yesterday, weren’t they? Where was your God when this happened? Seems He was too busy to hear you or simply didn’t care. Or maybe He isn’t even there at all.

When we pray for someone’s health, safety, protection; to keep them out of danger or harm, and something that we wish didn’t happen to them occurs, what are our thoughts? Are they similar to the ones above? Or as we think about the outcome, are we thankful for the mercies of God in the midst of the tragedy.

My co-worker is doing fine. Bumps and bruises is all he is left with, and that is an incredible sign of the mercy of God.

But what about hurricane Harvey? Hurricane Irma? Tsunamis in other parts of the world? Other natural disasters? Is it the same before, during, and after these tragedies occur?

It is important to remember that when we go through the trouble that life can, and sometimes does, bring our way, that our God is always completely faithful.  The last part of Hebrews 13:5 says, “be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (KJV)

God did not leave my co-worker when the other driver ran into him. God was not not paying attention. God was not unaware of the collision. As a matter of fact, He knew it was going to happen before it ever did (while we call things like this “accidents”, there are no such things in God’s view).  So, why did He allow it? Perhaps that my coworker, his wife, and his family, would, in the midst of a close scrape with possible death, remember His mercies, be content with His faithfulness, and gladly receive His compassions that He so dearly enjoys giving.  Or perhaps it took place to remind all of us that should something like this should happen to us (or worse), that we would remember this “accident” (even in light of our prayers). But even more importantly, might it not be a reminder for us to not forget God’s love for us through it all, whether His mercies lead to life or death.

Remember what Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations? “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lam 3:22-23 KJV)

Jeremiah’s name shows he was chosen by God. It means “Jehovah has appointed.” Jeremiah is often called “the weeping prophet” because he shed tears over the sins of his people. Although he was God’s spokesman for many years, preaching and warning the people, he did not succeed in turning the people back to God. His own family rejected him. He was beaten and put in prison on several occasions (Jeremiah 20:2, 26:8-11; 32:1-3; 33:1; 37:13-15; 38:6-13). Jeremiah was taken to Egypt by the people who killed Gedaliah, Babylon’s governor over Judah (Jeremiah 41-43). When he continued to preach God’s Word, he was stoned to death, according to Jewish history.

And yet, read again what Jeremiah wrote: “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” WOW!

So when things don’t apparently go our way (and it’s been said many times that we’re either just coming out of trouble, going into it, or in the very midst of it right now), when our prayers seem to have gone unanswered, remember that God is working His good and perfect plan through us, for our good and His glory. And while there is probably no one that voluntarily steps up and says, “Lord, choose me, I want to suffer”, may we remember as we are chosen to suffer, whether it’s from our own sin, the sin of others, or simply the problem with, and result of, this fallen world, that nothing takes place in our lives without having been first allowed by the Lord to take place.

And this same God is the One who loves you and me so much that He died for our sins, making an eternity in heaven a sure-fired, positive, guaranteed reality for those who are called His own:

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8 KJV)

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 KJV)

I readily admit that I have no rock-solid, specific answers for much of what happens in life, but we have His word to help us through our darkest hours. And He is faithful. So, as I remind myself, “be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” And may that truth comfort each of us as we face whatever may come our way on any particular day.

Praise to His glorious Name!

The Incredible Love of Christ

As Christians go through life, all of us find ourselves in the middle of storms and dangers that have come raging our way. No one really wants to face them, but alas, we will need to be strong because it is inevitable that crises will strike us, for we are not exempt from the effects of sin and a fallen world.

These times that can try men’s souls teach us who we are and who God truly is. In whatever way you choose to examine us, we are frail.  In the physical realm, no matter how strong we are, no matter how hard we work at being a great athlete, any number of sundry diseases can damage our body for which we have no defense.

In the spiritual world, we are just as frail, if not more so. These same diseases that so negatively impact a person’s life, can also have a negative impact on our spiritual life as well. And as we find ourselves in physical, mental, or spiritual weakness, we can respond in one of two ways.

Christians have a great advantage during these times because our God and Father, Jehovah, is an all-powerful, all-loving, all-gracious, all-compassionate, all-understanding, all-healing God. And because every true Christian has had a ransom paid for their sins that allows entry into God’s true family, we can go directly to our loving, adoptive Father and lean on His promises knowing that they are forever true. And what God has pledged to one of His individual children is true for all of us. For His love is an everlasting, all-encompassing love,⁠1 and He never changes.⁠2

But what if these promises weren’t available to us? What if there was no promise of God never leaving us? What if He chose at some point in time to leave us?  What if He chose to forget about us? What if He chose to have a time in our lives where He would turn His face from us?

For Christians, who have leaned and rested on these promises, we would find ourselves alone and frightened. We would find ourselves wondering without God to turn to, just where can I go for what I daily need?  With our heavenly Father making Himself unavailable to us, we have lost our ultimate protection from all things that might attack us in this fallen world.  If we play this out in our minds, we would eventually find ourselves broken, dismayed, lonely, depressed, and alone. Ponder these thoughts for a moment. If God had decided to turn away from you, to whom would you go during times of crises in your life?  If God decided He would forget about you, how devastating would that be?  It would be this devastating: The very life that you knew would be turned completely upside down, if not totally destroyed.

After having received God’s free gift of salvation (that is, after having repented of your sins and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ), after having His mercy poured out into our lives again and again and again, after having been recipients of His grace time and time again, after having experienced His patience and long-suffering countless times, after personally knowing His goodness and kindness, now imagine that He willingly takes those things away. That is, quite frankly, truly unimaginable to me. In light of these thoughts, I, like Isaiah, would become undone. I would become unraveled and without hope. I would cry out, but He would not hear me?  I would turn, but He would not be there. I would look, but He would be nowhere to be found. I would need Him but I would be left on my own. I would be an orphan, lost, abandoned, with no where to turn, and no one to love me and take care of me.

Fortunately for you and me, as born-again children of God, according to Scripture, by His grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, these things will never happen. There will never be a moment in time or eternity where He will ever leave us or forsake us. There will never be a time when we will be alone, without Him by our side. There will never be a second where His love will not comfort us, forgive us, or accept us because in Jesus Christ, He has promised us these things. And in these promises we can and should take unlimited comfort. We should find complete and total rest in our God for that is what He has promised us.

But there is One who was abandoned. There was One who cried out to God and His face was turned against Him. There was One who received the blows of God’s wrath for something He had never done.  It was the God-Man whose name is Jesus.  When He cried out from the Cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Mark 15:34b (KJV), His Father was nowhere to be found.  For He had abandoned His Son so that He could pour out His wrath on Him for the sins of the whole world, to all who would believe.  Perfect in every way, as Jesus hung on that Cross on Calvary, looking for His loving Father, the One Jesus Himself loved so much, the Father had turned away from His Son. Truly cursed is the Man who hangs from a tree.⁠3

I cannot imagine what Jesus went through on the Cross. We think we know, but we do not.

There’s the incredible physical pain hanging from that Roman Cross. It was a torturous death. A depraved method of killing a man that would cause excruciating pain and suffering. Death on a cross usually took place from asphyxiation. As all the muscles in the body tire of trying to stay alive, in the end, because the diaphragm is so weakened by the pain and trauma, the body instinctively tries to expand the lungs through pushing up on the nails that are holding the feet in place on the cross. This continues, usually for hours, until finally the ability to do even that wains and death occurs. If life hangs on too long for the prescribed process, then the soldiers come and break the legs of the one hanging on the cross; since they are no longer capable of breathing, they die in minutes.

Jesus was so badly beaten before the first nail was even driven through His hands and feet, that there was no need to break His legs. Quite naturally, Scripture was fulfilled because of this.  Speaking of the Passover Lamb, we read in Numbers 9:12 (KJV)  “They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it [emphasis mine]: according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep it.” Even though the Israelites had no idea at the time why no bone was to be broken on the Passover Lamb they prepared (they did it simply because God told them to do so), it is now clear that it was to point the Jews and the world to Jesus, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. (“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”  John 1:29 (KJV))

Then there was the mocking.  Jesus would now hear the contempt and disdain while hanging there.⁠4 When we’re in pain, we yearn for understanding and comforting words just to know that someone cares, that someone loves us, that someone understands. It is consoling to us to know that even though we’re suffering through some pain, God has placed a friend in our midst to suffer with us to the extent that they can.  But Jesus heard no such words of compassion. He heard no words of empathy. He only heard and saw those for whom He came, mocking and reviling Him. How those hurtful words, spoken in disgust, disapproval, unbelief, and foolishness, that must have increased His torture. It is for them that He hung there, and all they could do was scorn and ridicule Him.  But even worse, Jesus cries out to His God with whom He has always had a perfect relationship, but His Father was nowhere to be found!  Jesus could take the ridicule and scorn from the people because the Father was by His side. But wait, His Father was not at His side during this moment of tragedy. And now where was Jesus to turn?

It was this abandonment of His God and His Father that I believe would cause so much torment in our Savior, a torment that Jesus surely experienced; the pain of which we simply cannot imagine. A faultless relationship; the Father and the Son having always enjoyed a perfect, loving association from eternity past, is now terribly broken.  This perfect love that surpasses anything we have ever known, experienced, or felt has now been smashed; the bond is severed, even if only temporarily, and it must have been unbearable to the Son. Jesus’ loving Father has willingly and knowingly abandoned His perfect Son to face the judgment and wrath of the Father all by Himself.

Imagine an incredibly loving mom or dad. They have always been there for you. They took care of you, nurtured you, fed you, clothed you, kept you safe and warm in a home provided by them for you. They played with you, they taught you, they corrected you, the caressed you, held your hand, comforted you, were always patient with you, never gave up on you, and loved you at all times, through thick and thin. One thing you could count on in life was their unconditional love; that was a given. It was certain. Beyond anything the world has to offer, the love your parents offered to you at all times, made life wonderful even in the face of difficulty or adversity. And you loved them with everything fiber of your being because they were so wonderful to you. You couldn’t imagine even a day without them. Even in your adulthood, you still found yourself talking to them, asking for their advice, wanting to hear that they are OK, and you felt their love in their voice and you were comforted by the fact that they were OK. And they too, were at ease knowing that you made it through another day with no problems or issues.

And then one day, you called them and they didn’t answer. You drove to their home and they were gone. You searched and searched, and you couldn’t find what happened to them. You wondered, you thought, “Where are they”?  As the days and weeks went by, you cried yourself to sleep so many nights, you were in pain that would not go away, and could not think straight. But you held out hope that one day you would find them. Then that day came; you found that they had moved but that they were all right. You had a rush of peace come over you. You drove to their new home only to find that upon answering the door, they would not see you or talk to you. You cried out, “Why!” “Why are you turning your back to me? What have I done?” We have loved each other so wonderfully, so perfectly, all the days of our lives, and now you are abandoning me? I don’t understand.”

But there is no response; the door shuts in your face. You pound on it but it will not open. You cry out loud, “Mom, dad, please, please come to me! Please comfort me! Please love me again, like you used to!”  But your cries are not heard. They are not to be found. You are devastated. Although you never wanted to know, you feel the pain, grief, and sorrow of being alone and what it means to have a truly broken heart. Now you know what mental anguish is and how it hurts so much more than a bruise or broken bone. You are inconsolable. Nothing you say to yourself, nothing you hear, nothing you read, has any positive impact on your hurt, pain, and grief. Life no longer seems worth living.

That scene doesn’t even begin to compare with what I believe Jesus went through. It is my feeble attempt to get us to think about the Father turning His ear from His Son’s pleas. It is a poor undertaking to get us to see what God the Son went through for us. Us: a sinful, wretched, evil people, so unworthy of love, so unworthy of mercy, so unworthy of grace, so unworthy of the Cross, so unworthy of becoming a child of God the Father. But that’s exactly what Jesus did on the Cross; for the joy set before Him, He endured the Cross.⁠5  And what was that joy?  What joy could possibly be so great in the Savior’s mind, that He would go through that anguish for you and for me? It was the joy of being true to His Father and to His love for mankind. It was the joy of knowing that once His mission on the Cross was fulfilled, heaven’s doors would be open to all who would believe. And that joy moved Jesus to what He and only He could do for a broken world and sinful man.

And that’s love; agape love. It’s simply beyond my mental capacity to fully understand all that was involved on the Cross that day.  We accept it and understand it only dimly now for we are in our fallen state. I cannot imagine when we see Him face to face, and understand fully what He has done for us, how we will respond. Will we ever get off our knees in worship? Will we ever stop cleaning His feet with our tears of thankfulness? Will we ever stop singing to Him in praise? Will we ever be able, even in heaven, to proclaim His praises and adore Him as He alone deserves? Scripture tells us that we will,⁠6 but it still remains incredible to me that I will ever fully comprehend my Savior’s love for me.

It is with these thoughts that I hope we celebrate Good Friday and Easter Sunday. (Or Atonement Friday and Resurrection Sunday, if you will.) But my hope, by God’s grace, is that these will be my thoughts each time I take communion. And I pray that through the days, what I have written will become my daily thoughts so that I would never forget, not even for a day, what my wonderful, precious Savior has done for such a wretch as me.

May I learn to praise Him more, adore Him more fully, and follow Him more completely.  For He is my God and He is my Savior. He willingly died for me and gave Himself for me that I might have eternal life.  May my song to my Savior ever be:

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.⁠7

Yes Lord, I present to you my life, may it ever, only, be all for Thee.

Pro Rege,

Bob Sierk

1 Jeremiah 31:3 (KJV)  “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”

Psalms 136:2 (ESV)  “Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Exodus 34:6 (ESV)  “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”

Ephesians 3:17 (KJV)  That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

Ephesians 3:18 (KJV)  May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

Ephesians 3:19 (KJV)  “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

Psalms 52:8b (ESV)  “I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.”

Psalms 36:5 (ESV)  Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Psalms 36:6 (ESV)  Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD.

Psalms 36:7 (ESV)  “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

2 Hebrews 13:8 (KJV)  “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

James 1:17 (KJV)  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

3 “His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”  (Deuteronomy 21:23, KJV)

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”  (Galatians 3:13, KJV)

4 “And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, Save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.”  (Mark 15:29-31, KJV)

5 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Hebrews 12:2, KJV)

6 “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”  (1 John 3:2, KJV)

7 “Take My Life And Let It Be”, Frances R. Havergal, 1874

Laying Down Your Life

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:13, KJV)

This is the love of Christ! It is amazing, it is unsearchable, it is fully unknowable, and it is beyond measure! It is unchangeable and it is free!

Exactly what kind of love is this? It is this love of Christ that caused Him to be willing to be made a curse; He took the punishment for our sins; He took the wrath of God that was stored up for us! This love made Jesus, the Holy Supreme Creator, Sustainer, and King of all things to die an ignoble, shameful, cruel, and accursed death!  For the wrath of God was put upon Him on the Cross.

David Clarkson asks in his book, The Practical Works of David Clarkson, Volume 3, 11-24,

“Was it not enough, dearest Savior, that you condescended to pray, sigh, and weep for us, but were willing also to bleed and die for us? Was it not enough that you were hated, slandered, and blasphemed, but also scourged, nailed, wounded, and crucified? Was it not enough that you felt the cruelty of many, but also underwent the wrath of God?  O the transcendent love of Christ! Heaven and earth are astonished at it. What tongue can express it? What heart can conceive it? The tongues, the thoughts of men and angels are far below it. O the height, depth, breadth, and length of the love of Christ!”

Saint, remember who you once were? Vile, wretched, unloving, hateful, prideful, criminal, base, liar, murderer, coveter, adulterer, hater of God and His Son, and fully unholy in every way? We had nothing, no beauty of thought, no beauty of soul, no beauty  of spirit that might draw Jesus to us. There was nothing lovely in us because there is nothing whatsoever pleasant or appealing in man. Nothing! I say again, there is nothing that man has, of the least amount of good, to bring to Jesus!

But Jesus was completely aware of this! He was fully aware of your depravity and sinfulness as well as mine even before we were formed in the womb. Jesus, throughout all eternity, was fully aware of our depravity. He saw every one of our sins, not in a line, one by one, but all at once. Each sin piled on top of the other. Think about that: every one of your sins or my sins piled up in front of Jesus. Honestly, in my case, it would take God Himself to see the height and breadth of the pyramid of my sins. This is not pretty. This is not petty. This is not trivial.  Our sin is profound and it is ugly. That pile of mine contains everything that God is against; everything that He hates; everything He abhors, everything that angers Him to the point of wrath; everything that He will not have before Him.

Now, ponder this scene of Jesus looking at your wickedness and vileness.  Holiness with purity, perfection, and  virtue known nowhere else and found in no other is looking at you and at me. And what does He do? He loves us, which, if we think about it, should add even more marvel at His love for us.

Again, David Clarkson in the same volume, says,

“He saw every perverse look, every unkind gesture, every rebellious motion, every disingenuous act. Every heart was visible from eternity. Here is the wonder of Christ’s love: it is fixed upon man, the worst of creatures. Consider his resolution, and wonder. I will give eternal life to those who have dishonored me.”

Sinner look up! Perfect love and Pure Light has looked at you, dissected your heart, read your mind, watched your actions, and as your Savior and Lover of your soul, has welcomed you into His home and into His arms.  He has cleansed you and made you white as snow.  He has traded your sinfulness for His sinlessness. He has traded your corruption for His perfection.  He has freely given His life for yours, that through His death, you may live in heaven for eternity. For His home, His love, His compassion, His safety, His surety, even His very Being, is now yours because you are now His.

His purchase of our life was at the greatest cost one could ever imagine. But His love for us and for His Father led Him down the Via De La Rosa all the way to Calvary where He laid down His life. Nothing could ever stop Him. Love put Him in Mary’s womb and that same love allowed Him to be nailed to the Cross. His life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension all took place because our Jesus was driven by His unmeasurable love for His enemies.

From the great hymn, “And Can It Be“, written by Charles Wesley in 1738, we read,

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

No greater love has this world ever known; and it is given freely to all those who ask.

To God be the glory, now and forever, Amen.

Crumbs From the Table

“Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”  (Matthew 15:21-28, KJV)

Jesus didn’t often leave the land of Israel when He walked the earth, but this is one occasion when He did. He had finished feeding five thousand people and had told His disciples to get into a boat, push off the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and go “before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away”. (Matt. 14:22b KJV)

When Jesus arrives at the other side of the sea, after having walked on it, and calming the wind and the waves, He winds up in Gennesaret in the area of Galilee. From there, Jesus travels northwest to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea up to Phoenicia where we find two coastal cities; one Tyre and the other Sidon both located in the Province of Syria.

While Tyre and Sidon did fall within the boundaries of the land promised to Israel from God, the tribe of Asher never really conquered all the people within this territory, and therefore it was even now inhabited by Gentiles. It is here somewhere in this area that we find our Lord having entered into a house where apparently He wanted to hide His presence, but alas, He could not do so. (Mark 7:24).

While inside this home, a woman of Canaan (also called a Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark 7:26 clearly indicating she was not a Jew, but a Gentile) finds Jesus there. How did she know He was there? Scripture doesn’t tell us. But what we do know is that this woman is in complete distress. Something has grabbed her emotionally and physically and she is a wreck.  As soon as she sees Jesus, she falls at His feet (Mark 7:25) and cries out, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” (v. 22)

And isn’t this how we are to come to Jesus when in trouble or distress? To fall at His feet and cry out to Him asking for His mercy upon us? That’s exactly what this Gentile woman did. And in addition, she cries out to Him by His rightful names: “O Lord, thou Son of David”, for He is both Lord and Son of David. But may I say that His response to her is quite amazing, even perhaps alarming when first read. For “He answered her not a word”.

What! A woman comes to the only One who can heal her young daughter (Mark 7:25), falls at His feet in a distinct form of humility, adoration, worship, and as a sign of her unworthiness, and Jesus answers her not? What must have been going through that woman’s mind right now? Might it have been, “Well He must not be God or He’d heal my daughter”, or perhaps, “He can heal her, but He simply doesn’t want to”, or “He’s not taking pity on me”, or perhaps she’s thinking  even He doesn’t have the kind of power needed to heal her daughter from this demon possession. Does she feel ashamed, hurt, embarrassed, disregarded, like a second class citizen, or some other feeling of being  disparaged by Him? We shall see.

In the meantime, the disciples essentially ask Jesus to do what she asks and send her away because she’s causing quite a disruption.  You see, her pleas on behalf of her daughter were not whispers; they were not even spoken to Jesus in a normal tone of voice. No, she was yelling, perhaps even screaming through her tears and torment, when she came to Him. And this scene that she was apparently causing, forced the disciples to want her to leave such that they would no longer be bothered or embarrassed by her erratic, frenetic behavior.

Now when the disciples asked Jesus to send her away, He answers them and says, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Ouch!   Jesus tells the disciples and the woman hears, that He came for the Jews.  And by the next verses we know that the woman knows exactly what Jesus is saying. He is saying that He came for His own people, and with that, the woman may have thought her case was hopeless. But again, quite to the contrary, she is neither undaunted nor discouraged  by the Lord’s reply to His disciples.

Verse 25 tells us, “Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.” Because of her faith, she does not give up. Quite the opposite, she came and worshipped Him. We don’t know exactly how she worshipped Him, because the verse doesn’t directly tell us, but I believe her worship consisted of the display of her incredible faith; a faith that led her to say once again, “Lord help me!”  (Notice this time she drops the “Son of David” label as that is primarily a Jewish term essentially meaning “Messiah” or the chosen One of Israel. She acknowledged that she was not a Jew and therefore calls Him only “Lord”. But indeed, that is who He truly is!)

You might be thinking, OK Jesus, she’s proved herself and her faith. Come on now, please save her daughter! But to prove again that His ways are not our ways, He replies, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” What!?  You mean Jesus is saying to her, well I’ve got the power but it is being reserved for the House of Israel?  And beyond that, did you catch that He is calling her a dog? Jesus? Calling anyone a dog? I don’t understand. I don’t comprehend. I’m even taken back a bit by all of this. Can this really be what the Lord said to this woman who is in such deep duress?

But Jesus knew exactly what He was saying and doing; we now find out why. It is her response and it is absolutely incredible and extraordinary. Read this carefully and meditate on it for a moment. Here it is: “And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”  She says, “Truth, Lord”! She exclaims, what you have said Lord is true; it is true that I am a dog.  I am unworthy to be in your presence. I am unworthy to be asking you this favor. I am unworthy to be at your feet. I am a dog. When I compare myself to you, calling me a dog is probably giving me more credit than I deserve!

Now let’s put ourselves in the woman’s shoes. Who wants to be called a dog? Whether it’s a family dog or a dog of the street, that’s a downright demeaning and degrading term. And I would suggest that we would take offense to anyone saying that about us. Our anger would rise, our emotions would take over, and we would almost immediately get into an emotional and physical pose as to be quite ready to fight back and fight back hard.

You see, in our sinfulness, we have a tendency to bring God down to be a little (or a lot) lower than He actually is and we also have a tendency to place ourselves a little (or a lot) higher than we really are. The end result of this sinfulness is that we think we are closer to God in our very being and in our ways than we truly are. In reality, we are worse than dogs in light of His holiness, majesty, power, omniscience, and character.

But not this woman. She knows exactly who she is and she tells Jesus, it is true Lord, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”  In other words, “Lord I am completely and utterly unworthy of your mercy or grace ever! I know that! But perhaps you might have some mercy left over after having dispensed what you determine to freely give to your people; and if so, I am here willing to take even the leftovers of your grace”.

This is unbelievable! This in incredible faith! This is undoubting faith! This is unwavering faith! This is “I’m digging my heels in and not moving” faith! This these are the words Jesus was looking for. Did He not know the profound faith she had before she exclaimed it? Certainly not! For He knows everything. No, this event was not for His ears, it was for the disciples and for all of those who have read this and will ever read it; to be certain of these truths: a) Jesus came for both the Jew and the Gentile, b) salvation is for both Jew and Gentile, c) both Jew and Gentile are welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven, d) that faith in Jesus, not faith in anything or anyone else, will bring us to Him and keep us with Him (solely by the grace of God), and e) anything that is asked in Jesus’ name, that is according to His will, shall be done.

Now that Jesus has worked with this woman to allow her to display the faith He knows she has, He responds to her by saying, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”  And true to His word, displaying His all-encompassing power and overarching love, “her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”

Wow! This is an absolutely amazing event that upon reading, studying, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, has opened my eyes to so many things about me (not good) and my precious Savior (who becomes even more and more incredible to me as I understand more and more of what He has done for me).

I am reminded that I too am a dog. I too am completely unworthy. I too have no business in His presence. I too have no right to ask Him anything. He is holy; I am a dirty dog. He is powerful; I am a weakling dog. He is majestic; I am a mangy dog. He is King; I am a lowly dog. He is sovereign; I am a dog in need of constant help. He is unchanging; I am an impressionable dog, ready to go in any evil direction that will comfort me.

As Isaiah said after seeing the Lord sitting on His throne, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”  (Isaiah 6:5, KJV) Yes, woe is me, for I am a dog in the presence of God Almighty!

Through this passage, I am reminded that in light of my evil, sinful, and disgusting mind and heart, Jesus came to save me from my sins. He came to set me free from the punishment that I so richly deserve. He came to give me the right to be called a child of God. He came, died, and rose again, that I might have life eternal in His Kingdom, with Him. How precious my Savior is to me!

And even if He has determined that I should only receive an amount of mercy that is “left over”, mercy that has “fallen to the floor” from what He has given to others, that intended amount is perfect, and right, and is exactly what I need, according to His love and grace for me.  I would be grateful for one morsel of mercy (or at least I hope I would!), but if each mercy would be measured as one molecule in this universe, the mercy He has provided for me fills more than the astronomers have discovered so far.

I know that I do not even deserve the crumbs that have fallen from the table. But in my Savior’s love for me,  He stored up grace and mercy for me from before the foundation of the world. And as He determines to lay them upon my head, I am forever taken back by His love for such a dog as I.

Flee to the Cross sinner! It is there you will find His grace and mercy unmeasurable! It is there where you will find salvation and life everlasting. Cry out to Him. See the blood He has shed for the remission of your transgressions! Repent of your sins and ask Him to be your Lord and Savior, and on the promise of Scripture, He will turn no one away. Oh what a God! Oh what a Savior!

Lord, I am so grateful for the mercy you have shed upon me in my life; in my past, in the present, in the future, and forever more. Your grace and mercy have simply never run out on me. And for that I am eternally in debt to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

To God be the glory; great things He has done!

The Intimacy of Christ

Around 700 years before Jesus walked the earth, the prophet Isaiah penned these words by and through God, in the Person of the Holy Ghost: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  (Isaiah 7:14, KJV)

And then in Matthew, we find these words as well, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”  (Matthew 1:23, KJV)

One of the amazing things to me is that our God is not a God that creates and departs. He is not a God that says, here you go guys and gals, do the best you can and I’ll see you later. He is not a God that is distant or remote. He is not a God that allows us to fend for ourselves. No, He is a God that came to this earth and became one of us. And He didn’t just come to observe. He didn’t come with His arms folded and look down upon His creation with a frown on His face, and with His head turning from side to side in disgust and disappointment. No, He came to be our servant. He came to be our friend, and He came to be our sin-bearer.  He came to be our Savior! He came to make a relationship with Him possible so that He could be deeply intimate with us wretched sinners. Oh, what a God we serve!

He came that we might enjoy fellowship and love with Him now and forever more. And only a God that is intimate WITH us can do that FOR us! It is this intimacy that allows us to thank Him, praise Him, extol Him, adore Him, run to Him, cry to Him, and trust Him intensely and intimately because He allows us to know Him so well. And it is this same intimacy that can be so befuddling because He continually pours Himself out for us and for our sakes, and does so knowing that we can never return the love back to Him in the same – or even close – manner.

Now we must consider what this intimacy of the Lord Jesus Christ really means to us. For when things are going well, it is quite easy for any of us to say, “I love my Lord Jesus. He is so good to me”.  And it is good when He blesses any of us in that way, and we quickly thank Him (and it is right and good to do so). It is sort of like being married when everything is going swimmingly well. The paychecks are big, the bank accounts are large, the retirement accounts will let you live comfortably for many years to come, the job is good, the house is big and paid for, the cars are luxurious and are owned outright, everybody is healthy, and the family is getting along quite well.

We may be (and of course should be) thanking the Lord for His incredible provision, but I’m not sure that under those extended circumstances, that we truly feel the intimacy that He wants to have with us. For we have this ugly tendency (a.k.a. sinfulness) to become happy, satisfied, maybe even joyful over what He has given us, instead of what He is to us. And so our love teeters and we may begin to “lose our first love”. And by doing so, we allow that intimacy that He wants with us to slowly ebb until we may not even miss it.

Intimacy allows us to rest in the Lover of our souls. For it is only when we desire to have and enjoy His true love, and care, and concern for us, that we can begin to truly rest and rely on Him alone.  You see, it’s only when you have lost most everything – or indeed, everything – and He alone is left, that you realize that He alone is all you need. And it is impossible to get there if we are not intimate with Him.

In our passage in Matthew, we read that Jesus shall be called Emmanuel which means God with us. How beautiful! Think about that: God with us. And while that certainly means that God had descended to earth and became a man, and dwelled with us for 30 some odd years, it means even more than that. It means that God, the second Person of the Trinity, is with each of His followers in such a special relationship, that he has become intimate with each of His beloved children.

Jesus came to have intimacy with us; God with us. He was crucified, died, and was buried for our sakes. He arose and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God and now everything except God Himself has been placed under the feet of Jesus. And for those who have placed their faith, by God’s amazing grace, in the work and Person of Jesus, we should be finding that His greatest desire is to be so close to us, so important to us, so loved by us, that no other relationship, no other thing this world has to offer, can come close to the love that we have for Him, because of the love that He demonstrated on the Cross for us. This only happens when we delight ourselves in the Lord. This only happens when we consider Him the greatest of all people and all things in our lives.

So as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, may we work hard at being intimate with Him (and make no mistake, it is hard work, for our flesh and the prince of this world fight against us, and neither our flesh or the devil wants us to have intimacy with our Lord). Like a bride hugging her new husband, may we desire to be so close to Him, clinging to His garment like our very lives depend on it. Like this new bride looking deeply into the eyes of her beloved, may we never let Him out of our mind. And like this devoted bride, who is fully and completely in love with her husband, may we live to please Him in all ways; and as we stare into His face, may we die to adore Him forever more.

It is because God became man and dwelt among us, that we can be so intimate with Him. And while enjoying that intimacy that we simply don’t deserve, may we joyfully, humbly, and through tears of indebtedness, whisper to our Beloved, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1 KJV)

Thank You Jesus! And Merry Christmas one and all!