The Message of the Cross

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Nothing in the history of the world has ever divided people as much as the cross of Christ. The cross separates the saint from the sinner, the saved from the unsaved. To the saved man the cross is the power of God, to the unsaved man it is foolishness. And God has chosen the message of the cross found throughout the Scriptures to proclaim salvation to sinners.

What is the message of the cross? Simply that sin separates the sinner from a holy God; but God has undertaken the forgiveness of sins through the death of Jesus in the place of sinners. Every sinner whose trust is placed in Christ alone to free them from the death-knell of sin will be saved.

The cross was rejected by the Jews as foolishness, who insisted that their ancestry, self-works, rituals, and traditions were enough to make them right with God.

Greeks demanded explanations based in science and reason. To them, a crucified Christ wasn’t a winner and His death wasn’t an evidence of triumph.

The message of the cross is foolishness to the world, but it is the full and tangible expression of God’s power to one who is being saved.

The Answer to Hate and Racism

Looting. Murder. Rioting. Stealing. Theft. Destruction. Anger. Burning. Violence. Fear-mongering. Hatred. Racism. Disregard for the rule of law. Race-war. Rage. Tearing down statues. Injustice. Inflammatory name-calling. Lawlessness.

These are all summed up in one foul word: S I N.

Whatever else you may want to call it – these are all acts and attitudes of evil men whose hearts are filled with the darkness of sin. Sin perpetuating more sin and then used as an excuse for even greater sin.

Don’t be mistaken. Don’t be detoured from what the Bible says. The answer is not found in tearing down monuments to the past, making laws restricting free speech or free assembly, violent attacks, or in shaming certain beliefs and political movements. Don’t look to laws or protests or penalties for answers to hate and racism. These same tools can be used to silence your beliefs … even your Christian beliefs.

As Christians, we are convinced that the answer to the evil in the heart is in the transformation of the human heart through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Light has coming into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light, lest His deeds should be exposed (John 3:19-20).

Dangerous Beds

Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11).

I confided in my pastor that I was struggling with thoughts of sexual immorality. He chuckled and answered, We all have those thoughts. As long as you don’t act on them it’s okay. That was the end of the conversation.

By my pastor’s reasoning, a man who is a unable to move any part of his body would be sinless. That’s not the testimony of the Word of God.

The sinful mind is enmity [hateful] against God (Romans 8:7). For as he thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7).

Our thoughts can be dangerous beds of sin. I would be unlikely to walk up to another person and plunge a knife into his back. I have no desire to spend my life in a prison cell or face the penalty of death, but I’d consider such a deed in my mind, an act of hateful murder so secret it is known only to myself and to God. In the hidden recesses of my heart I can ponder atrocious and abominable things yet appear to be moral and upstanding, all the while having my mind and conscience defiled (Titus 1:15).

Sin is more than an action. The act is just the final manifestation of what’s already taken place in the mind (Matthew 5:28; James 1:14).

The answer to a sinful mind in the Christian is two-fold. First, we must recognize and repent of our sinful thoughts, confessing these things to the Lord (1 John 1:9). Second, we must refuse to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). The continual renewing of the mind happens in the man of God by the Spirit of God working through the Word of God.

True Calamity

I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3, 5).

Sometimes bad things happen – not because we’ve sinned – but because we live in a world corrupted by sin.

Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Palestine from 26-36 AD. He was known to be arrogant, stubborn, and insensitive in a place where Jews and Romans lived in constant conflict.

On Pilate’s first day on the job, he marched Roman troops into Jerusalem carrying standards. A standard was a tall pole with a banner and carved image on top. The Jews considered any carved image to be an idol and violent rioting immediately broke out across the city.

We aren’t told the details, but in Luke 13:1-5, Jesus spoke of an event where Pilate slaughtered a group of Galilean men at the temple as they offered their sacrifices. The word on the street was that these Galileans were killed because they were more sinful than anyone else at the temple that day.

Popular Jewish theology of Christ’s day taught that suffering is always a sign of God’s judgment for sin. Catastrophes are always evidence of God’s displeasure.

Sometimes God judges individuals and nations because of their sin; but disasters can also be the consequence of living in a fallen world.

The man who thinks he’s in control of his liquor, drives home, and kills another driver has his own sin to blame for the accident; the sober man who was killed was not being punished by God.

Each day God spares the lives of guilty sinners because He is patient and compassionate. Really, that’s the only reason any of us are alive right now.

True calamity, Jesus said twice, is death apart from a saving faith in Him. Unless you repent you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3, 5).

Repentance is two-fold. First, it’s a God-caused change of mind about your sin. It’s acknowledging that you’re a sinner far from God, separated from Him by your personal disobedience to His law. Second, repentance is acknowledging and trusting in Jesus as the only Saviour from your sin (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

Are You Hungry?

where living begins

I sat down for lunch today with a can of tuna. Before I’d even plunged my fork into the can, the cat emerged from her hiding place and sat next to me. I hadn’t seen her since breakfast.

No sooner had I finished the last bite and she disappeared for her afternoon nap. Her only interest in me was what she thought she might get from me.

Do you ever act this way toward God?

I know people who run to Him only when they’re hungry for something; the rest of the time they give Him no mind.

Jesus said, You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled (John 6:26).

A Father of the Fatherless

Richard and Moses at Family of God Celebration Center, Mutalia, Kenya

Sunday was no different than usual. Moses is always one of the first to run to me when I arrive in the church in Mutalia.

I always make a careful effort to preach in a way so that everyone present – including the children – can understand the gospel message. When I finished my sermon, I was immediately rushed by the children, many of whom I’ve watched grow up these past four years. These children love me and I dearly love them. Half of this congregation consists of young children.

After a few minutes of hugs and fist-bumps, Moses, pulled me down and whispered in my ear, May I speak to you in private? His eyes were serious.

We walked to a secluded spot outside and I knelt in the dirt so this 9-year old boy and I could talk eye-to-eye. Will you take me back to America to live with you? I’ve asked my Mother and she says it is okay. What message shall I return to her?

A few hours later I met Moses’ humble and quiet mother. She and her two children live in the only place they can afford, a small room not bigger than the typical American’s bathroom. There they cook, eat, wash, play, sleep, do school work, and carry on the lives of a family.

I know my wife wouldn’t have minded had I arrived at the airport in Portland with Moses and another thousand children like him, but it was impossible. I’m thankful however, that God has given Moses and his little sister a godly mother who loves them, and that He watches over them when I cannot.

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation (Psalm 68:5).

Sin Isn’t the Leading Cause of Death

As Christians, we sometimes wonder why God doesn’t bring an end to the pain and suffering in this world caused by sin. We ask, “Where is God’s justice?” But God has done something: He sent Jesus to die for sinners.

Our real difficulty is accepting God’s patience. We want Him to do something now, something we can see today and know that justice is being served.

God’s justice, however, is bittersweet when we remember that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin isn’t the leading cause of death – it’s the only cause of death. God told Adam and Eve that in the day they disobeyed Him, you shall surely die (Genesis 2:17); and so it’s been ever since.

His justice means that the sin of every person must be punished. Every sinner must suffer the consequences of offending God. Crying out for God’s justice means that some of our own family members and friends will be forced to cash that check which brings eternal damnation.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

The Greatest Heist

In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two men identifying themselves as Boston police officers arrived at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. They said they were responding to a silent alarm that indicated the museum was being robbed. The guard on duty checked the officers’ credentials and let them into the museum.

The two uniformed policemen assembled all the private security officers in the museum, handcuffed them, and locked them in the basement. The police then roamed through the museum, stealing 13 works of art, including a Rembrandt, a Manet, and a few paintings by Degas. The estimated value of the paintings was $500 million dollars!

The next morning, when a new private security detail arrived for duty, 13 empty picture frames were discovered hanging from the museum walls. The theft remains unsolved.

When Jesus gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age (Galatians 2:4), the Bible says that the greatest heist of all time took place. At the very moment Jesus died on the cross, all whom God the Father elected to salvation were delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).

In broad daylight, under the noses of both Heaven and Earth, Rome and Palestine, angel and demon, Jesus rescued us from Satan’s kingdom unto Himself. It wasn’t some sneaky deception carried out by impostors, but an instant deliverance out from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of Heaven by the King of Glory.

Since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (Hebrews 11:28).

For more information on the greatest heist of all time, consult your local Bible and return to this website for additional daily updates.

 

A Garden Hose and Eternal Life

Ahhh, how I love these sweltering days of summer.

Growing up, we lived nearby my grandparent’s home. During the blistering hot days of summer, I’d turn on the old electric pump, find the end of the green garden hose lying somewhere among the beans, peace, cucumbers or carrots, and take a long drink of the cool well water. Hose water, watermelon, and fudgsicles were the unforgettable tastes of summer.

No matter how much of that cool hose water I’d drink, my thirst always returned.

In John 4, we’re told that Jesus became thirsty as He traveled through the area known as Samaria. The disciples went into a town to buy lunch which Jesus sat alone by a well dug by the patriarch Jacob centuries earlier.

In the heat of the day, a woman of ill-repute appeared at the well to pull up her daily supply of water. Jesus asked her for a drink and then offered her something amazing in return.

Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again. But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into eternal life (John 4:13-14).

Jesus said that once a person drinks from Him, that person will never thirst again. The one who is born again will never wander from Him in search of something else to satisfy the soul. Jesus saves, Jesus keeps, and Jesus satisfies those who are truly saved.

Anyone who wanders from the Water of Life in search of some other drink, has never really drunk from Him.

The Power of God at Work

The congregation a the Family of God Celebration Center, Matuu, Kenya.

Sunday morning, July 16th, I arrived in the village of Matuu, Kenya, and sat down in the front row of a tiny church building. As the time neared to begin the service, I looked at the handful of young children mingled with even fewer adults.

I opened my Bible and glanced at the notes I planned to preach from. My heart sank. The sermon based on 7 verses in Judges chapter ten would never work.

The music began, the congregation of less than a dozen stood and began singing, and I bowed my head and tearfully prayed, “Lord, I have nothing to say to these people. I have nothing for them. Unless You speak to them from Your Word, this time will be wasted.” It’s a prayer I’m left to desperately pray every time I stand before any of God’s people, but this time the need seemed even more desperate.

When I was called forward, I repeated my little prayer for the zillionth time, opened my Bible, and began my sermon about a Jewish judge named Jair, and a Saviour named Jesus who shed His blood to save sinners.

After I finished, a man sat down next to me. “Thank you for that sermon,” he tearfully said and began telling me why it was so meaningful to him. He then went on to recount my sermon from the previous year.

Later, another man recounted all four sermons I’ve preached in that church and how God has used them to change his life.

The power of God in Kenya is the same as anywhere else in the world. Neither His work nor power depends upon me. The power of the Gospel isn’t in me or any one of us, but in His Word. My inabilities are meaningless when compared to the Spirit-inspired Scriptures. The transforming power, life-changing influence, and to-the-point relevance have nothing to do with the speaker or the venue, but everything to do with God’s Word.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).