A REALLY BAD SKETCH

tom bradyOn August 12, 2015 Tom Brady was in court faced with the infamous “Deflategate” charges and the media vultures have been hovering in circles picking off the carcase of this story until there is nothing but bones, leaving us all deflated and confused.

But today we are hearing about Jane Rosenberg. Who is she? She is court sketch artist who made an unusual rendition of the New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady that caught everybody’s attention…and scorn. It went viral! Obviously, when people look at the sketch it does not resemble Tom Brady in the slightest. His head seems almost distorted in the picture as he looked down at his phone the whole time in court. So the media and comedians have had a field day with it. On the news we have seen pictures have come out with the photoshopped image of the head on “ET” wrapped up in a blanket on a bike; the famous painting of the Munch’s Scream of Nature and even a picture of his head was placed on the late Michael Jackson in his Thriller song.

The poor artist even apologized to everyone-protesting that sketching is not an easy job, and she did could not capture how handsome he was, but we are not here to question her talent even though his head looks deflated. One has to wonder if something Freudian was revealed in her sketch or opinion.

BUT do we as Christians accept the modern day sketches of Christ without even a remark? With all the caricatures of Christ that are being presented behind the church pulpits and media ministries-I am wondering-maybe we should apologize because they are not even close to sketching a right picture of Jesus Christ. It does not seem like there is any apology for the really horrendous impersonations of the Jesus of today’s Christianity!

God demands that we do not worship false images-even images we are tempted to11709676_1141906685825663_8640431874398809008_n ascribe to him (Deut. 4:15-20). Paul warns us that there is a counterfeit Jesus, a “Jesus other than the Jesus we preached.” (2 Cor. 11:4). The Jesus sketch drawn today does not demand repentance from sin and does not preach the Cross! The modern parody of Jesus makes him one way among many ways, one religious choice among many religious choices-because its all good!  For some he is a drippy, soft spoken, wishy washy boyfriend. Others masquerade him as a heavenly politician with his own party and news network concerned with legal and social issues. Others present him as a rock star and superhero with loud music, colorful lights and lots of excitement. Other present him as the successful CEO of heaven who wants you to buy stock in his company and be a “disciple employee.”

But all of these sketches are not Jesus.  Instead He is the indescribable King of kings and Lord of Lords. He poured out his blood to pay for the crimes of despicable sinners like us. He is able to save, heal and deliver the worst people utterly and completely.  In the Bible he evicted powerful demons out of people’s bodies, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and speech to the mute! He touched and healed the contagious, set free the addict, forgave his enemies and rescued the exploited.  He is the only Savior, all powerful Lord and genuine Messiah who is feared among demons, loved by those he saves.

John 17.17Get the picture? No? You will only find the right picture of Jesus in the Christian Bible. Jesus taught,  “Search the scriptures, for in them you hope that you have eternal life, and they testify concerning Me.” (John 5:39).  When Jesus taught his disciples, “He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:47). Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit lives in the heart of those that accept Jesus as their Savior (John 3:3-8).  The Holy Spirit gives a clear picture of Jesus Christ (John 15:26) and acts as our guide leading us to Jesus (John 16:13) as we see him as the Truth (John 14:6) in the truth of the scriptures (John 17: 17). Let the real picture of Jesus be seen today, so we do not need to make any apologies for a really bad sketch.

© 2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.

THE APOCALYPSE

ChristIsTheMystery“The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 1:1).   

The first word you cannot help noticing is revelation. The word revelation is the word apocalypse which has become identified with catastrophe, destruction and the end of the world. But that is not the meaning of the word revelation AT ALL.

To reveal means something like pulling back the curtains on a stage or opening a door and finding what is inside a room. It is discovering a secret. It is like solving a mystery. It is like finding treasure.

We are talking about God’s secret.

What is God’s big secret?

CHRIST.

Jesus our Lord was and is God’s secret, His mystery hidden for many ages and generations now revealed to us in the scriptures.

The gospel pulls back the great curtains on the stage of heaven and brings out into the open, JESUS.

So the question all the time has been, “Who is this?” (Matt. 21:10) has been answered. It is not some secret philosophy or the product of some wild imagination. It is Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:2-3NASB). 

Though the second person of the Trinity, the Word, Christ, the eternal Son existed before time began with the Father He was not always seen, he was not always known (Romans 16:25-26). God the Son, seen as the Word became a human being (John 1:14). Now Christ lives in us (Col 1:27). He is the wisdom and power of God in person (1 Cor 1:24). 

God wants us to know who he is. So he gave us Jesus.  The Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Jesus is Lord over Life and Death. He rules over Dawn and Dusk. Christ is the A to Z, the Start and the Finish, the Center and Circumference with absolute command over all time past, present and future. The angels spill out their worship of Christ their King and demons tremble in horror at the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

© 2014 Soul Health Care Ministries-if you use this material give credit where credit is due.

GOD IS OUR FRIEND

04psalm139_3-vi“My journeys and my rest you scrutinize with all my ways you are familiar.” (NAB)

How God knows us, He is familiar with us. We are of great interest to God. This is difficult to comprehend. God must be love, grace and mercy. All who put their faith in Christ are his friends. To the most boring and mundane person, to the most active and exciting. It is no matter. The all-seeing, all-knowing God is familiar with all our ways. He being familiar, does not mean he just knows us, but he associates with us.

The word “acquainted” in the KJV and familiarity in the NAB are colder than the Hebrew teaches. God is associated with us by friendship. He makes it a habit of being around us, being seen with us, talking to us. He has decided to be our friend and He enjoys our company. Jesus is the friend of sinners and the friend of saints. He likes us as friends and loves us as children. I mean we all have people who love us but do not like us. It seems crazy but it is true. When people like us they like being around us and being with us.

This verse three of Psalm 139 says he “scrutinizes.” us. The word in Hebrew is sift or winnow. He inspects our travels and rest closely. It would seem he looks closely at our activity and leisure. He likes being a part of what we do. He lives in us and his word lives in us. It is no wonder that he is our friend.

When he scrutinizes it teaches that God isolates that which is most important or useful and gets rid of that which is undesirable. This can be a reference to growing in holiness as he purifies our heart, very true.

But it would also indicate that God is not pettily criticizing every word, action and thought. He KNOWS us. He sees the big stuff, the deep stuff, the stuff that counts in our lives and he loves that about us.

After all, we reflect who he is as he gives us holy desires and abilities.

PLEADING THE BLOOD OF JESUS

966275223f“Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:9).

Blood has its massive theme in the scriptures. The scripture spends much time on the symbolism of the blood shed under the Old Covenant pointing to Jesus and his bloodstained old rugged cross on Golgotha’s hill. That is why the Blood of Jesus is always in the vocabulary of the Christian. The Cross and what happened on Calvary is central to their faith and the basis of their salvation.

Why do Christians talk so much about the blood of Jesus? Because the gracious act of his death on the cross is etched with laser heat in our minds and we are moved beyond expression as we read about the violence of the bloodshed of  Jesus on Calvary.

People ask, “Should we not phrase it another way? People will not understand.” God’s language is alien to ours but we should learn to speak it.  People should not come into the foreign country of Christianity just to be saved. But they need to learn its language and Bible words and concepts. They should become biblically literate not in, “the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (1 Cor. 2:13). We should teach them and explain it to them and not apologize to them for its truth.

Once a person starts reading the Bible as soon as they come into John chapter 6 they see how people misunderstood the blood and they still do not understand it now. yet, the scripture is insistent upon its wording concerning the blood of Jesus (Mt. 26:28; John 6:53; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 11:24-30; Col. 1:14, 20: Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Heb. 9:14; 10:19, 29; 13:20; 1 Pet. 1:2; 19; 1 John 1:7; 5:8; Rev. 1:5; 5:9; 7:14: Rev. 12:11: 22:14).  Blood is the scarlet thread (Joshua 2: 18-19) woven through its  pages. It is so important to God that blood is mentioned in the King James Version of the Bible, 447 times in 375 verses.

I first learned the centrality of the Cross and the phrase, “I plead the blood of Jesus!”

I heard people say it when they were praying for people to get the Holy Ghost. I saw them “plead the blood of Jesus” when they laid hands on the sick and saw them recover. I saw them “plead the blood of Jesus” when they were casting out devils. This taught me the importance of the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins for all time and that His blood washed not just covered my sins.  I ate the Lord’s supper in awe of the blood covenant.  I learned that it was the blood of Jesus that was the ransom paid to buy us back from Satan’s power and paid our sin debt and brought us in favor and closeness to God. The blood is the plea or legal grounds of our justification (Romans 5:9). We are justified by his blood. We are no longer helpless victims of the guilt, penalty and power of sin because of the blood of  Jesus Cross!

People take issue with the phrase, “I plead the blood of Jesus” or “Satan, the blood of Jesus is against you!” In their efforts to be theological sophisticates they rant that we should not treat the blood of Jesus as if it were “magical” or this phrase as if it were a magical formula.  Let me assure you, this is no magic or anything magical. Why because the mystery of Christ’s blood short circuits our understanding so we should stop using it? The Bible teaches that there is a mystery in and with and under the blood of Jesus that I do not think anyone will ever come to understand. But I do know that the blood of Christ must be treated with tearful gratefulness and fearful reverence. The blood of the new and everlasting covenant is God’s own blood and the blood of the Lamb of God (Acts 20:28).

The devil hates the blood of Christ and will stop at nothing to prevent people from preaching and applying it!  At Calvary, Satan was defeated by the blood of Jesus (Rev 12:11).  He is defeated in its application over and over and over again. We have rights as God’s adopted children (John 1:12) and should not let Satan take advantage of us. Christ gave us authority over all the works of the enemy (Luke 10:19).  Satan is the greatest thief around and constantly engages in identity theft making people who are truly saved feel like they are losers, filling them with guilt and shame. But when the child of God looks to Calvary and sees what their Lord and Savior has done they begin to walk in the Spirit and say, “Satan, the blood of Jesus is against you!”

Jack Hayford says, “Through the blood of Jesus Christ (we) enter a plea and to lay claim to the evidence (His slain body, His shed blood at the Cross) which is proven to neutralize the power of sin, the power of affliction, the power of death, and the power of hell…” (addition mine)

The children of Israel in Exodus 12 slaughtered a spotless lamb, drained its blood into a basin and took a hyssop branch and applied it to the top and sides of the door of their homes.  God promised, “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt…the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.”  (Exodus 12:13, 23). When I read this scripture what comes out to me is the protection the blood of Jesus gives. the blood keeps us safe, the blood shelters us and the blood defends us.  HIS BLOOD GIVES US THE VICTORY! Glory to God!

We “plead the blood of Jesus” by declaring with our words the power of the blood of Christ (Mk. 11:23).  We see it in the Lord’s supper and water baptism speaking to us of the forgiveness of sins! Many people wonder how they could apply the blood of Jesus to their body, home and family. Through the preached word-yes! Through worship both in and out church service? Yes! The Bible says when we speak it is like an offering or, “the calves of our lips.” (Hosea 14:12). Paul taught, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Heb 13:15).  In the New Covenant the words of our mouths in prayer in worship should agree with God’s Word. Declaring the truth of the gospel not only takes the place of all the liturgy and ceremony of the Old Covenant but declares the blood of the Lamb of God poured out on the cross for protection, healing, deliverance and salvation.

© 2013 Soul Health Care Ministries. I wrote this, not you-but feel free to share it and give credit where credit is due.

Christ’s Manifest Presence

IMG_2494The Bible teaches that Lord is enthroned and inhabits the praises of his people (Ps. 22:3).

This praise here is he Hebrew word  tĕhillah-an exuberant, spontaneous singing. The people here are the church, his saints who have been given grace to respond to the love of the Lord with all their hearts.

Only a real Christian who has the Lord on the throne of their heart will be aflame with the joy and rest of the Holy Spirit. Only that person desires to engage their Lord with exuberant joyful singing! Worship is never boring to them-that is why they sing with joy! 

First, biblical praise simply means worshiping God for who he is-his nature and character as revealed in the scriptures. That is why I love the old hymns, that focus on the loveliness of Jesus and the glory of our heavenly Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit.

When you hear the saint singing they do not ask him for anything they just sing loud and strong about him-that He is love; He is holy; He is faithful and He is powerful. Praise acknowledges the Lord Jesus who says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8). The saint counts on the fact that with him, I have no need!

Second, we worship God for his actions: for what he has done what he is doing and what he will do (Hab. 3:2).  Psalm 111 says that, “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.” We are thankful to God for his salvation and the forgiveness of sins; the sweet infilling of  the Holy Spirit and answered prayer. We thank God for his protection, provision and power over sin.  We thank God for giving us the strength to work, providing our needs, for physical health and well being. Thank God that he allows us to serve him by helping others, giving and encouraging others. There is something about thanking God in and above everything that brings joy!

Third, this sort of praise boldly responds to the involvement, even the invasive power of God that comes on the scene of our lives. When he is enthroned it is called “the throne of grace” where we can find mercy and help in the time of need (Heb 4:16). Praise him in the time of need!  Jesus is alive and real and ready to be there for us. He never changes, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8). He will come to you in power.  In this type of praise there is more than acknowledging that God is everywhere. This is talking specifically about the unique worship of the saints.  Jesus said that it is his manifest presence (John 14:21-23).  What is the manifest presence? 

AW Tozer puts it this way:  

“The Presence (of God) and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His Presence. On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work it is to show us the Father and the Son. If we co-operate with Him in loving obedience God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face…our pursuit of God is successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us. The revelation of God to any man is not God coming from a distance upon a time to pay a brief and momentous visit to the man’s soul. Thus to think of it is to misunderstand it all. The approach of God to the soul or of the soul to God is not to be thought of in spatial terms at all. There is no idea of physical distance involved in the concept. It is not a matter of miles but of experience.”

Ah there is no distance between us and God! He is ever seeking to show himself to us and rid us of that the misconception of distance!  Oh let us praise him with our whole hearts. May he be  joyfully enthroned in our lives and I believe that we will experience him more and more and that the light of Christ will be seen in our lives.  This praise declares that Jesus is here to save, deliver, heal and set free.  We will know him not only as dear, but near.

The Conveyor Belt of Guilt

The picture that you see is an X-ray of a unnamed 36 year old Norwegian man who passed out and curled up into a fetal position on a baggage claim belt at a very busy Rome airport in August 2012, and inadvertently received this full body scan in the process.

He had arrived at the international terminal with a backpack and a can of beer in his hand and when he went to check in for his flight he found nobody on duty at the airline desk. So, he jumped over the counter and went to sleep.

Eventually, the belt began to move and took the man for a ride. It is believed he traveled for 15 minutes before his body was spotted by shocked officials in an X-ray image on their screens.

Officials say it was difficult to wake up the snoozing traveler, who was still clutching his beer as he went through the scanner and traveled 164 feet on it before anyone noticed.

If you have any kind of sense of humor this is quite the story to tell around the office.

But as I heard about this story I immediately began to think of how we are laying in a fetal position on a conveyor belt of  another kind. Did you know that when a certain people suffer extreme trauma or distress, they resort to a fetal position. It seems this is a natural reaction of the brain and the body to protect itself  and when they are no longer able to cope-the mind just shuts down for a time. Drug addicts during withdrawal or even people suffering from extreme anxiety resort to a fetal position.

This is the dangerous conveyor belt of guilt and misguided self examination on which some believers in Jesus have been crippled and traumatized by the wrong view of God and sin.

Paul says this, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Cor. 7:10NIV 1984).

There is a godly sorrow. There is a worldly sorrow. There is a sorrow that results in repentance and salvation. There is a sorrow that results in death.

There is a healthy repentance and there is a toxic regret and remorse. Repentance is a special grace, a gift of tears, a result of seeing our sin in light of the Cross. Where sin abounds grace abounds even more. The gospel offers God to the ungodly and forgiveness to the unforgiven. Repentance is a God-kind of change. Your thinking changes and the direction of your life changes as a result. You were moving away from God and His love brings you back home.  It is the gift that God gives when He releases the human will from the confinement and chains of sin and enables a person to turn to Christ for salvation.  That is repentance after a godly manner. It is a change only God can bring about.

Many Christians due to bad teaching have a caricatured view of God, a distorted view of sin and a toxic view of obedience. They actually should repent of their thinking when it comes to who God is! That is the deepest repentance one can have. They way you see God must be through the scriptures especially in light of the finished work of the Cross and New Covenant. God loves you and it is not his will you walk about in sorrow all the time.  He has forgiven you and offers a clear conscience to you and complete open access to him and his gifts.

You do not have to live in regret and call yourself a sinner all the time. Do you think that pleases God? Walking around all day thinking how unworthy and undeserving you are? It does not please God at all  that you are going around and around on this conveyor belt with the baggage of guilt. God is not hostile to you, nor does he treat you like a stranger. You are a warmly welcomed, dearly loved child of your Heavenly Father.

All this is real change is it not. It is a changed life, with a changed heart and a changed destiny.

Sadly, some Christians are dominated by a guilty conscience and consciousness. They attempt to earn forgiveness and acceptance with God by saying, “I am sorry” over and over again confessing their sin as if they were an legal accountant and there is always simmering in their heart a sense of guilt and hurt because they think God will reject them when they fail. It seeks to make such an account of sin that it must name each individual sin specifically to satisfy their conscience and God. But can one confess sin perfectly? We always leave some sin out. We cannot even do this  correctly. I get exhausted just thinking about the way I used to confess sin. This so called form of repentance is “worldly”  it is spiritually suicidal  not Christ-centered nor founded on the biblical fact that God offers forgiveness at the point of failure and mercy when we crash and burn. He gives beauty in exchange for ashes. He takes off your dense heavy overcoat of sorrow and replaces it with the light linen fabric of joy! All you need do is ask and he has answered “forgiven” before the words are on your lips.

Some of the oldest “Christian” churches in their tradition are nothing more than a mill for legalism. The conveyor belt of guilt is incorporated in their rituals. They are taught to ask for God’ mercy over and over again as if by mere words and repetitive chanting God will hear them. Ever wonder why legalistic people are so mean? Because people who feel unloved get angry. Oh that they knew they were loved by God!

We may criticize the Roman Catholics for their sacrament of penance or Eastern Orthodox for their view of Penthos but we have our Protestant penance we call it revivalism. We think by our efforts we will bring the church back to life do we not? There is only one problem- we end up looking like we are trying to kill the people who are alive. We are attempting to satisfy God and please God by our own efforts and there is no need to do that. God is at rest and reposes on the work of Christ his perfect Son on the cross. He calls us to lean with all our soul on the cross and what Jesus did for us.

The sad truth is there are so many Christians who are alive but they are wrapped in a shroud of guilt, they are camouflaged in the legalistic uniforms of remorse and joyless living that must be unwrapped by the teaching of God’s generous grace. God is rich in mercy and he has thrown open the door to his throne room of grace! He has already shown it powerfully in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Son of God. Yet there are people who say they are saved and born again who never find any relief or rest in their hearts and they live in a fog of uncertainty about where they stand with God. It is a mindset that is hard to break and only understanding God’s generous grace can unravel the slavery of guilt fear and anxiety.

Don’t allow your guilt and disobedience to overshadow God’s grace! Repent!  You have become nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that you have been cleansed from your past sins  (see 2 Peter 1:9). You do not need to morbidly and constantly confess in the name of spirituality or godliness.  Your sin consciousness is working in reverse cornering you in sin and your attempts to keep the law is reinforcing sins grip over-making you feel dead. Like the shocked officials who found this man on the conveyor belt, may this article find those who are in the fetal position of guilt and wake you up out of this stupor of  remorse and regret!  Christ has given you a new life, a new heart and a new spirit.  It is time to move ahead.  God wants us to build on what he has started in us by grace! We mature spiritually not by riding in a helpless fetal position of the conveyor belt of keeping religious rules but by actively maturing and growing in the fruit of the Spirit.

© 2012 Soul Health Care Ministries. If you use this article tell people about us and where you found it. Don’t plagiarize.

When the Battle Seems to Go Badly

“They were helped in fighting them, and God handed the Hagrites and all their allies over to them, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him.” (1 Chr. 5:20).

Before there are battle cries of victory there are battle prayers. Please do not confuse what I am saying with all the spiritual warfare teachings being sold today.

There never seems to be a day that goes that there are challenges yet some setbacks are much worse than others. This may be a time for you to be where many things have gone sour all at once.  When the battle of life seems to be going badly and you think you are losing, begin to look to Christ your undefeated Heavenly Warrior and ask him for the victory and God will grant it.

In the midst of difficulty when God’s people cry out to him and when they, like Hezekiah, turn their face to the wall and weep bitterly, that is when God says, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears.” (Isa. 38:2-5).

There are no special formulas or methods. Ask for victory in prayer and one every that asks will receive victory, he that seeks for victory shall find victory and the one who knocks on the door of victory shall have it. (Mt. 7:7-8). These are not levels of prayer, or different kinds of prayer just different ways of saying the word prayer. If you take  the first letters of the words-Asking, Seeking and Knocking it spells ASK.

It is that clear.

It is so gracious of God our Father to extend his mercy and care to us. He says when we talk to him in prayer  is like requesting, discovering and gaining entrance to his answer. It is God’s will that you win for his glory.

Now once we pray for victory, Jesus tells us, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” (Mk. 11:24). Start acting like you have the victory. This is not being hypocritical, it is not pretending, it is quiet confidence. I have asked and God has heard. God’s credit always good with me. What Jesus says and he will do. He always tells the truth and when he says in his Word he will do it. He answers your prayers because you trust in him, his strength, his ability and his salvation. It is his gift!

God will give you the strength of heart and soul to say, “He has answered my prayer!”

He will calm your mind with it’s anxious thoughts. Throw off your sackcloth and heaviness and get back in the fight knowing you have already won though Jesus.

© 2012 Soul Health Care Ministries, If you share this article just let them know about us and where it came from.