Justice For All

Justice is getting what you deserve.

So what do you deserve?

Coretta grew up in the back country of Virginia during the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. She was politically angry at what she perceived as injustice against herself, her family, and her black ancestors. She’d lived for the fight of justice.

One Sunday morning I was preaching from the Biblical Book of Philemon. It’s the story of a runaway slave in ancient Rome, being sent back to his master by the Apostle Paul, and how both men should act to reflect Christ Jesus.

In my sermon I stressed the fact that Paul never urged either man to demand justice, but to show mercy. Getting what we deserve from God means eternity in the Lake of Fire, for the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). As sinners, eternal death is what we deserve. But God, who is rich in mercy … made us alive together with Christ (Eph 2:4, 5). Mercy is compassion, pity, love-in-action.

Coretta interrupted my sermon. Standing, tears rolling down her face she said, “Pastor, all my life I’ve been angrily demanding justice from politicians and people, but what I’ve really been needing is mercy. May God have mercy on me, a sinner!

No matter who you are, you will never experience justice in this world; even in America. Do you really want what you deserve? Seek ye first justice instead of righteousness. Demand what you think you deserve. Stir up strife and hatred in the name of justice. After all is said and done, you’ll be let down because true justice only comes from God who will make it certain in His day of Judgment (Rev 20:11-15).

Desire mercy.

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Transfigured

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, brought them up on a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:1-2).

For 33 years, everyone only saw a man, until Jesus gave three of His disciples a small glimpse of His eternal glory.

The word transfigured comes from the Greek word metamorphosis, meaning to be changed from the inside out. Rather than a heavenly light shining upon Jesus, a bit of the glory from within Jesus and which belonged to Him from eternity was visible.

No one can free himself from himself, so we turn to outward pressures. We yearn for someone or something like a Marine Corps drill instructor to force us into a desired behavior. Weakness of spirit and character demands that someone control us by commands like: Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle (Colossians 2:21). We beg to be under the conforming thumb of a slave master with rules, regulations, pressure, fear of punishment, or promises of reward as a way to control our actions and thoughts.

God transforms from the inside; only He can change the inside of a person. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind … (Romans 12:2). The word transformed is the word metamorphosis or transfigured used in Matthew 17:2. God’s transformation of the sinner isn’t by outward pressure, but by an inward changing of the mind and heart.

The unconverted heart of man is corrupted incurably by sin; it can’t be mended or repaired, it must be made wholly new. A new heart comes only by a new birth, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23). From a new heart God transfigures us, transforming the way we think, talk, and act. From within He changes our goals, morals, and desires, fitting us for Heaven rather than this fallen world.

The Spirit of God works through the Scriptures transforming us from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), internally and not by slavery to an outside influence.

As the free children of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we don’t know all of what we’ll be like in the end, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2).

The Curse of Prosperity

Before God brought the people of Israel into the land of promise, He gave them a warning through Moses. He was taking them into a land that flowed with milk and honey. There would be prosperity of food, houses, health and wealth so that they would lack nothing (Deuteronomy 8:9).

Isn’t this the dream of so many people? Most people mistakenly think that the life of material prosperity is the definition of the “American Dream.” The American Dream isn’t prosperity served on a silver platter, but the opportunity to work for all these things that Israel was actually going to receive from God.

So where’s the danger? How can prosperity be a curse? Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God … when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 8:11 -14).

For the Jews, prosperity became a curse because they forgot God and that He is the provider of all things.

Prosperity creates pride. It lifts up the heart of human achievement and self-sufficiency, robbing God of the thanks due Him.

Prosperity concocts ways to get more and keep it. The prosperous become self-reliant rather than trusting in God’s provision of daily bread.

Prosperity causes worry. Those who have little have little worries, but the more you have, the more you have to worry over; there is little peace for those with much.

Prosperity conceives a sinful attachment to this short-lived life and its things, turning the heart from hope in Heaven’s eternal bliss.

Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

The Chief of Sinners

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to  believe on Him for everlasting life (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Pastors fear to preach the message of sin. They fear to preach even more so to their own congregations, that they – even after they are born again – are sinners. They cringe at the idea, but such an understanding is not only the beginning of the gospel, but the continuation of the gospel, because without sin there is no need for a Saviour.

Child of God, do you not still need the Saviour? Have you moved beyond and become independent of the cross? Do you recoil at the suggestion that you are a still a sinner in desperate need of the Saviour? Do you suppose you’ve reached an apex of spiritual superiority and are a perfected saint who doesn’t sin, aren’t a sinner, and your life is filled only with occasional mistakes because you’re a king’s kid?

Written near the end of his earthly life, the Apostle Paul called himself at that time the chief of sinners. He knew he needed that fresh and daily reminder that his sins were forgiven by the redemption in Christ’s blood. He relied upon the continuing firm assurance that his spiritual life was only each day by the grace through faith supplied by Jesus Christ. He rejoiced in hearing the same gospel he was preaching to the lost, that the death of Jesus is forever of eternal value, meaning, and power for every sinner called by God.

The chief of sinners kept continually at the cross so that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him.

A Christian never outgrows the cross! It is where living begins!

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.

Discomfort for Mr Macaroni

slow food pasta art workHeaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.”

Mr Macaroni boiled hearing Moody’s words. He’d always been something of a limp noodle, and today he was doubting his choice of employment. It had always been tough making decisions, but once made one he was left feeling deep regrets. When the clock struck 5, Macaroni was ready to get sauced.

Despite his constant indecision, Mr Macaroni was as true as a man could be. He was no impasta when it came to living, but his new job as a dental assistant was leaving him feeling a bit al dente.

He quickly exited the office on his way to the Meat Ball to dance with his sweetheart, a beautiful Italian gal named Penne. All dressed up, he straightened his little bow tie and slicked back his thick blonde angel hair with a bit of olive oil.

As he stepped from the sidewalk into the street, humming “On top of Old Smokey all covered with cheese,” Mr Macaroni was still steaming. A motorcycle with gleaming chrome twin-forks raced toward him. He never knew what hit him and instantly pasta way.

A moment later Mr Macaroni opened his eyes. Before him were the golden arches and beyond was the dazzling White Castle he’d always heard about. Macaroni was greeted by a choir of French guys singing, “Welcome to the realm of Burger King and Dairy Queen.”

A stout fellow calling himself Big Mac approached and laid a whopper of a story on him about being dead and forever living in the presence of the King. “If you’ll lettuce, tomater my friends and I will take you in-and-out through the kingdom.” It gave Mr Macaroni the shakes.

He hadn’t been at ease with people when he was alive, now an eternity with them was unbearable. He wasn’t made for a place like this. He hadn’t wanted anything to do with the king while he was alive and he didn’t want it now. He longed to have it his way and he wasn’t lovin’ it one bit. Mr Macaroni wondered, “Why did the King bring me here if I didn’t want him back when I was living?

If you don’t enjoy King Jesus today, what makes you think you’ll enjoy eternity with Him?

In My Father’s house are many mansions; it if were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3).

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).

If I had a Million Dollars

winning-a-million-dollarsWhen he was 13, Daniel asked what I’d do if I won the lottery. It wasn’t a difficult question to answer because I’ve never bought a lottery ticket – and never will, but I know what he was asking. He wondered how our lives would change with more money.

The answer was simple: my life wouldn’t change. There would be no new house; I’d stay in my old manufactured home which keeps me dry and warm. No new car; my little Yaris gets me from point A to point B just fine. There might have been a few new toys for Daniel, but the rest would be given away to those whose needs are much greater than my own.

Evangelist John Wesley said, Money never stays with me long; I give it away as fast as I get it lest it burn a hole through my pocket and into my heart. 

For me, giving to God’s work and investing in others is more important than having more for myself. Dr CI Scofield used to remind his students that God won’t judge us based on what percentage we give to Him, but on how much we keep for ourselves.  Americans are a very, very generous people, but we still spend far more on ourselves for lives that are quickly fading into eternity.

A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous  (Psalm 37:16-17).

God Was Lonely

god-was-lonelyGod was lonely, so He created man. He needed someone to love, and to be loved in return. At least that’s what I grew up thinking. The Bible tells a different story.

The Bible doesn’t say that Adam was lonely in the Garden of Eden, just alone (Genesis 2:18, 20) in that there was not yet another creature among all of the animals comparable with Adam. On the 6th day, God also created Eve so humanity could fulfill God’s command to be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:28).

Likewise, the Bible doesn’t say that God felt all alone and created man to fill His purposeless days and soothe His empty nights.

In His prayer the night He was arrested by the Jewish mob, Jesus prayed,

You have sent Me, and have loved them [the disciples] as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world (John 17:23, 24).

God is love and before the Earth was formed or Adam walked in the Garden, the Father loved His Son (1 John 4:8). Perfect love existed in eternity!

We weren’t created as a balm for a very needy God with an empty heart. The truth is, we have done everything but love Him, yet He has still made us the recipients of His great love. Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God (1 John 3:1).