A More Excellent Sacrifice

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks to us today (Hebrews 11:4).

Like parents today, Adam and Eve shared everything they knew with their children. Certainly they re-told the story of God’s creation, the beauties of the Garden of Eden, their fellowship with God, their act of rebellion against Him, the consequences of their sin, and God’s provision of forgiveness through the sacrifice of an innocent substitute. Surely Cain and Abel knew from their parents that approaching God was possible by only one means.

We learn in Genesis 4:2-7 that Cain offered a sacrifice to God from the ground, something he planted, labored over, and cultivated with his own effort. He went through the motions of a ritual, bringing his self-produced offering to the Lord, full of his own work, absent of any faith in God’s provision alone.

Abel, however, brought the blood sacrifice of an innocent animal, his faith leaping across the centuries to touch the cross, the only sacrifice God would accept. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering (Genesis 4:4).

Cain trusted in himself; Abel trusted in God. Cain’s sacrifice was bloodless; Abel’s was the life of an innocent substitute. Cain gave of his own labor; Abel, by faith, accepted the death of another in his place. Angry that God did not respect Cain and his offering, Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:5, 8).

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).

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Fully Preventable

According to government statistics, 110 Americans die each day in car accidents. The three leading causes of traffic deaths are:

  • Distractions, like cell phones
  • Speeding
  • Substance intoxication

Each of these causes of death is completely preventable. The use of a phone is fully banned for drivers in 15 states, and 47 states ban texting while driving. Driving above the speed limit is illegal in all 50 states. Substance intoxication is against the law in all 50 states.

An eternity in Hell is also fully preventable.

The Bible says that Jesus surrendered His life on a cross, dying in the place of sinners. By trusting in Jesus alone to take your sins upon Himself, you can receive eternal life.

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Resurrection from the Dead

It was Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the American Republic, who wrote, Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

Death and taxes are two sure components of every human life, but there is a third: the resurrection from the dead.

In the Old Testament, a man named Job asked the question: If a man dies, shall he live again? (Job 14:14). The answer from Jesus was a resounding “YES!” Jesus said that all of the dead shall indeed live again (John 5:29).

Every human comes into this world physically alive, but at the same time is spiritually dead because of sin (Ephesians 2:1).

At the new birth, through faith in Jesus, the sinner is given spiritual life (Ephesians 2:5). Though his physical life will come to an end and his body will decompose into the dirt from which he came, there will be a physical resurrection for him (1 Corinthians 15:51-55; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). These resurrected physical bodies will be suited for eternity with God in the New Heaven and New Earth.

The Bible also promises a physical resurrection for the wicked (Revelation 20:11-15), whose physical bodies will be suited for eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire.

Jesus said, The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear My voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29).

You don’t just life today for this life; you are living and making decisions that will span eternity.

Doubly Secure

My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me (Psalm 63:8).

My wife laughed uncontrollably as she watched the video of the grandson taking his first steps. Isaac stood on his own like a pro and then wobbled and hobbled a few steps before jerking and teetering like the toy tin robot I had as a child. Unable to control his speed, he finally fell.

Spiritually, I feel strong, but I know how truly weak and feeble I really am. I know the sin that so easily sits under the surface of every moment, ready to knock me to the ground and bloody my lip. I’m aware of the pride and self-sufficiency that follows me through my day, and the lusts and doubts that haunt my nights.

Jesus promised to give His sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand (John 10:28). He holds me securely in His hand, and if that isn’t enough, as if His strength could ever fail or falter, I’m also held in the hand of the Father. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand (John 10:29). I’m kept doubly secure.

My faith, my hope, and my eternal soul are not secure because of any strength in me. I have none. But I do trust and rejoice that I am kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5).

Arrested in Kenya

We made our way home in a borrowed car after a lengthy day of ministry. It was late evening as we approached the often seen police barricades on the highway. Kenyan police usually wave passenger vehicles through, but not this night.

Two police officers with machine guns approached us; one to each side of the car. Looking at Matthew in the passenger seat and me in the back, an officer demanded to see our passports which we’d left at home. Pastor Mathembe was ordered out of the vehicle to a loud berating.

American police are commissioned to “protect and serve.” Unlike Americans, Kenyans live in fear of the police who are seldom friendly, helpful, or speak in gentle tones. They are paramilitary and prone at traffic stops to confiscate the vehicle, arrest the driver and his passengers, and ask questions later.

The female commander demanded Matthew provide his passport. Pastor Mathembe had already explained that our home was just a short distance away. He’d get the passports and return, but she wouldn’t hear of it; we might be terrorists who would flee.

Matthew explained who we were, what we’d been doing, and that we had the proper documents at the house. She yelled at Matthew, How do I know that I can trust you? 

Matthew answered as any good Calvinist preacher would: I guess you can’t. I’m a sinner just like you are. I later told him his reply was either the boldest or dumbest thing ever uttered; probably both. The gospel of Jesus isn’t seeker-friendly.

The officer pulled her head out of the car window and let us continue home.

The Bible condemns us all as sinners deserving the eternal wrath of God (Romans 3:23 and 6:23), but by personal faith in Jesus Christ, we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

In the Beginning was Not the Video

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

My 18-year old will watch any video or GIF I send him, but anything longer than a few sentences he refuses to read. Even in his high school literature and writing classes, reading has been replaced with watching videos.

Can you see the implications of this? Ravi Zacharis did when he said, “In the beginning was the Word, not the video.

There’s been a dramatic shift thanks in large part to social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat: the written word is becoming obsolete. Gone is researched data, reasoned argument, and logical conclusion; replaced by catchy images lasting milli-moments, creating emotioned response and experience, but conjuring no thought nor conveying truth. Pictures get “likes” but text is ignored.

The impact of the words, In the beginning was the Word, cannot be expressed with a catchy video clip.

Some argue that video didn’t exist in Jesus’ day. If it had …. We forget that they did have drawings, mosaics, paintings, and statues, yet God still chose to call Himself the Logos, the Word.

Video and picture have a place revealing information, but truth is different. Truth must be pondered, questioned, and internalized. The image of a rose may display beauty, but scant truth.

The living Truth in the Person of Jesus is revealed in the written Truth of God, the Bible. Yet in a world desperately seeking truth, God’s Word is ignored because we refuse to read. Eternal life is within the reach of our hands, but we can’t see it because of the video screen.

I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name (Psalm 138:2).

Have You Heard of Our Water?

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:16).

Last week we attended the annual Oregon State Fair in Salem. It’s always so much fun.

We enjoy looking at the dairy cows, draft horses, Asian chickens, old cars, pig races, and strangely dressed people from across our state. One fair venue houses hundreds of booths where people sell their wares, everything from hair chalk to snake jerky, bed mattresses to pickles the size of a football.

As we were wandering through the building, a young woman held out a cup of water. Have you heard of our water? It’s imported from Japan and it’s prolonging the lives of people all over the world. It’s been proven to extend your life, prevent cancer, and even cure diabetes. Would you like to try it?

I thanked her for the offer on such a hot day, but said, I’m a Christian and believe that God ordained the day of my birth, the day of my death, and everything in between. He’s in control of my life and none of your water is going to change that. 

She smiled and agreed. As we walked away a few minutes later, my son said, There you go again freaking people out. 

Jesus was offered a cup of water from a women. In return He offered her the water of life. He said to her, Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall given him will never thirst again. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:13-14).

Emancipation Proclamation

On January 1, 1863, at the height of the great American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. This executive order declared that more than 3 million slaves in the 10 rebellious southern states were free. As soon as a slave escaped his master, or a slave was met by Union troops, the slave was legally free. With this Proclamation, the ending of slavery in the United States became one of the goals of the War.

The Biblical word redemption is one of profound beauty. It describes a freedom bought by the payment of ransom. It was used in the ancient Roman world of the New Testament for a slave who was bought for the purpose of being set free. It’s the basis of our English word emancipation. 

In the Bible, redemption speaks of Christ’s freeing of His people from the power and penalty of sin through the shedding of His own blood. Guilty sinners who place their trust in Christ alone, receive pardon, and the Father casts away all of our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

The death of Jesus paid the price for our redemption. Upon Christ’s death, the Father forgave all our sins, delivered us from death unto life, and gave us an eternal inheritance in His household.

In Him, Jesus, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7).

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.

His Mercies are Great

substituteAll we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

Second Samuel 24 tells the story of when King David sinned and God gave him a choice of how he would be judged: seven years of famine for the land, three months of military defeat, or three days of plague upon Israel.

The choice put David in great distress (2 Samuel 24:14), but He put Himself in the hand of God whose mercies are great. He knew that God was both just and gracious. God sent a plague that killed 70,000 Israelites.

Some are appalled that God would kill 70,000 people for the sin of their leader; that one would bear the judgment for another. But consider that we pay for the sins of others each day, whether it’s the child hit by a drunk driver or the policeman killed by an angry protester. We must remember that none of us is “innocent” before God. We all have earned the wages for our sin (Romans 6:23) and how God pays those wages of death is up to Him.

At the cross, Jesus bore the sins of the world. He took upon Himself God’s judgment for your sins. The truly innocent Christ died in your place, for your sins, so you could live eternally.

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18). 

** Please keep us in prayer while we minister in Kenya. Thanks!