The Holiest of Holidays

All holidays have purpose and value.  But not all holidays are created equal.  Some are not only holidays, some are holy-days.  Easter and Christmas are certainly two significant holy-days.  But the holiest of holy-days is rarely esteemed—Good Friday.

Our culture pays little attention to this holy-day.  And if we take our cues and our values from it, Good Friday will most likely come and go with little or no fanfare.  But let’s not overlook the mystery and wonder of this holiest of days this year!

I don’t believe it would be an overstatement to propose that the overarching message of the Bible is more profoundly illustrated on Good Friday than on any other day in human history!  This is not to take away from Christmas or Easter, but rather to see how these holy-days find their ultimate explanation in Good Friday.

I would also suggest that there is no topic known to us more poignant nor profound than Soteriology—the study of God’s gracious gift of salvation from our sin, and how Jesus Christ purchased it for us.  The Bible teaches this gracious gift will be the incomparable, inexplicable, and inexhaustible focal point of every man, woman, boy and girl who will spend the coming ages in the heavenly realms with Christ Jesus!

Accordingly, the mystery of the Son of God’s death on a cross, should be the most fascinating and compelling topic for our consideration in our earthly realm as well!  After all, there is only one Person in history who was so significant that our ancestors devised our calendar around His brief earthly pilgrimage.  And there is no other event in history so disturbing—and yet so encouraging, as Christ’s untimely and unjust death on a cross.

But don’t be mistaken.  Jesus didn’t die because Judas betrayed Him.  Jesus wasn’t condemned because the Jewish leaders lied about Him.  Jesus wasn’t sentenced to death because Pilate was a coward.  Jesus wasn’t killed by Roman soldiers.  Jesus didn’t die because He was powerless to save Himself.PassionOfTheChrist_2004_02

It was our sin—and God’s justice, that put Jesus on that cross to die…

The Bible makes it clear that there is no one righteous before God, for all of us have sinned and fallen short of our Creator’s expectation for us.  God’s Word also makes it plain: the wages of our sin is death.  Physical death, yes.  But far worse, spiritual death as well.  We understand that physical death occurs when our spirit is separated from our bodies.  Spiritual death, the second death, is when our spirit is separated from its Creator—forever. The consequence of our sin against our Creator is both physical and spiritual death.

Because God is just, someone had to pay the consequences of our sin.  Even though Jesus had never committed any sin (thoughts, words or deeds) He bore our sins, and He took our punishment for them.  He died because of us.  He died for us.  He died in place of us.  But there’s much more.

It was our sin—and God’s love, that put Jesus on that cross to die…

The Bible makes it equally clear that God the Father so loved us, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever would believe on Him would not have to die, but would have eternal life instead.  God’s Word also tells us that His Son Jesus so loved us, that He willingly laid down His life for us.

So on Good Friday, two thousand years ago, God’s grace was gloriously provided by Jesus’ death on a cross!  He who was rich became poor so that we through His poverty might become rich!  He who had no experience with sin became sin for us so that through Him we might gain the sinlessness of God!

God’s justice was perfectly satisfied on Good Friday.  God’s love was perfectly demonstrated on Good Friday.  God’s grace is freely offered to you because of Good Friday!  That is the Good News of Good Friday!  And because Jesus conquered death on Resurrection Day, if you will have faith in God’s grace, you too will be resurrected one day to marvel at the magnitude of His grace forever!  No wonder the holiest of holy-days has come to be known as Good Friday!

What Can We Know?

Hope series cover

One hundred and seventy years ago today marks the day that came to be known to many as “The Great Disappointment.”

William Miller was a well-known Baptist preacher and student of Bible prophecy.  After years of research, he concluded that Christ would return sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.  When that time period passed, further study convinced him and another preacher that the wrong Jewish calendar had been used and a new date was proposed, October 22, 1844.

The support for this prediction was compelling enough that up to 100,000 followers gathered in groups to await Christ’s return on that day.  When midnight passed without Christ’s return, most of the followers gave up their hopes and left; some even gave up their faith.

Fast forward one hundred and forty years or so.   Edgar C. Whisenant, a former NASA engineer and student of Bible prophecy predicted that the Rapture would occur sometime between September 11 and September 13, 1988.  His books, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988” and “On Borrowed Time” were very popular and hundreds of thousands of them were published and distributed.

Whisenant was so convinced of his research that he was quoted as saying, “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong…” and “If… I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on [my predictions].”

Since many of my Christian friends were convinced of his compelling arguments and conclusion, I too read “88 Reasons.”  While his research was flawed,  at least many complacent Christians began to witness and give as never before!

When his prediction failed to come to pass, Whisenant wrote more books with revised predictions for the Rapture specifying dates in 1989, 1993, 1994, and even as late as 1997.  Not surprisingly, his subsequent books received little attention.

Sadly, predictions like these are common.  It’s been well documented that those who will not learn from history will be condemned to repeat it.  Additionally, many well meaning Bible students over the years have made the error of focusing on certain scripture passages while ignoring or minimizing “the whole counsel of God.”

For instance, Jesus himself made it crystal clear in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but My Father only.”  Nevertheless, in verses 32-35 Jesus also warns that we can know “the season” of His return!  Therefore, His subsequent warning to “keep watch” for His return are especially relevant in light of the many Bible prophecies that continue to be fulfilled!

While the sincere predictions of Bible students like Miller and Whisenant never materialized, we would be remiss to miss another clear warning in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

What we can know for sure boils down to this; each passing day brings us one day closer to Christ’s return.  Be ready!

Afraid, But Not Enough

A few years ago we built an enclosed storage area near our house.  Not long afterward I was moving things around looking for something when this unpleasant thought crossed my mind: “Snakes would probably like to nest in this space!”  While I had never seen a snake, or any evidence of one in this area, just the possibility of it would quicken my heart rate, and my rummaging speed, every time I opened the door!blackratsnake040924-1479gate10z

It wasn’t too long before I decided I should do something to minimize the potential of encountering a slithering reptile in my storage area!  So after doing some research on the various methods and products available for repelling these repulsive creatures, I purchased a granular snake repellent at a local hardware store.

Now all I had to do was to spread the repellent around the walls of the storage space.  It was guaranteed that snakes would not cross it.  I immediately thought of two concerns: First, I would have to move all the items in storage away from the walls so that I could pour out the repellent as directed.  But what if I already had snakes hiding in the stuff I would be moving?  I wasn’t too excited about the idea of moving things around and raising the ire of any snakes that may have already made my storage area their home!

Secondly, what if I had snakes living in the center of the storage area?  I might not disturb them while moving the stuff around the perimeter, but what if the repellent ended up keeping them from escaping my building?  Worse, what if the repellent infuriated them to the point that my hypothetical snakes became more aggressive than normal?

A few days ago I noticed my snake repellent container sitting in a corner of my storage area.  I had never opened it!  I had feared snakes enough to buy the repellent, and to store it in my storage area, but I didn’t fear the slithering reptiles enough to use the repellent as directed!  Bottom line: Unless snakes can read what it says on the container, I might as well set out a liter of Dr. Pepper!

Before you take me to task on my vacillation, let me suggest this is a fairly common trait among us humans!  If not so much in buying snake repellents, I see it often in “buying fire insurance.”  It’s a term some folks use to describe doing religious practices intended to appease God and avoid hell.  Token activities like merely going to church, coming down to the altar, repeating a rote prayer, or even being baptized will not “buy” anyone anything!

If we really want to repel snakes, we are going to have to go all-in and follow the directions wholeheartedly having faith it will work!  Accordingly, if we want to appease God and avoid hell, we are going to have to go all-in and follow Jesus wholeheartedly having faith He will work!


Where Are You Going?

flight planning on chart           You will never get lost if you always know where you are and where you are going!  I used that statement often when I taught flying.  After all, present position is a simple extension of where one has been in the past, combined with the direction and speed one has traveled since the last known position.

For instance, pilots always know the airport they are departing from.  And as long as they kept track of their time in flight and the direction and speed they were heading, then they would always know their approximate position, even if they couldn’t always pinpoint it on a map.

Then each time they could positively identify their present position on the map, the navigating process would start all over again.  They were always a given number of minutes away from their last known position, and they had been flying a given direction and speed.  So even when they were in between positive identifications of their location on a map, they still had an approximate idea of where they were, and where they were going.

Unfortunately my students didn’t always know how the winds aloft would affect their direction and speed, and because they often wandered from their desired heading, they would get off course.  But once they determined how much they were off course, I would teach them how to make course corrections to get them back on course to ensure they would reach their ultimate destination; before running out of fuel.  Obviously, everything they were doing before the flight and during the flight, should be a means to getting them safely to their destination airport!

Have you ever been lost?  Do you know where you came from?  Do you know where you are?  Do you know where you are going?  Can you get where you want to go on the direction you are presently traveling?  If you want to go to the Atlantic Ocean, you must proceed on an easterly course.  If you are heading on a westerly course, you will never make it!

Some people tell me they want to go to heaven, yet they want to get there maintaining a  misguided course.  Sadly, if their present course is not heading in heaven’s direction, they will never make it!  They must make a course correction before they run out of fuel, or miss heaven forever.  Since heaven is God’s home, He alone has the prerogative to advise us on the required course to get there.

The only course that will take you to heaven is to aim for Jesus Christ!  He said that He was the only way to the Father, and the only way to the Father’s eternal home in heaven.  Reaching heaven will only be by God’s grace, through your faith in God’s Son alone.  Are you heading the wrong direction, or just off course?  Since your fuel is limited, get on course today by turning from anyone or anything, to Jesus alone!



God’s Story Meets Ours

god-touches-adam In the beginning—God created.  He created the heavens, the earth, and life; with all their complexity, diversity, and immensity.  Lastly, He created mankind; in His image, for His purposes.

God also spoke.  He spoke to Adam and Eve, to all the patriarchs, to Moses, and to dozens of others.  Some of what God spoke was also written down.  Over thousands of years God’s words were collected, copied and preserved.  They were eventually compiled into a common volume of 66 books, the Holy Bible, God’s written Word.

God also came down.  He came down briefly on special occasions, but once He came down for over a 30 year period.  When He came down, He also came as a Man.  His Father was God and His mother was a virgin named Mary.  He was fully God and fully Man; unique and without equal.  His life was the perfect example of the life God intends all mankind to emulate.  What may have been confusing and mysterious in the written Word of God, became crystal clear in the life and works of the Son of God.

God also recreated.  For the people who came to Him on His terms, through His Son’s provision, He gave them new life, abundant life, eternal life.  They were born again; this birth was a spiritual one, one that only God Himself could bring about.  Broken people were mended, discarded people were recycled and repurposed, sinners were transformed into saints, and the hateful were recreated as helpful.

In the beginning—God also revealed.   God reveals Himself in His creation.  He spoke the universe into existence from nothing.  Surely His infinite power, wisdom, and glory have been clearly seen in what He has made.  No other god can make such a claim.

God reveals Himself in His inspiration, His God-breathed words.  No other god has such a book as our Holy Bible.  This Owner’s Manual for the human race spells out the instructions for assembling and achieving a fulfilling and everlasting life.  Without question, the Bible has had a greater impact on mankind than any other book ever written.

God reveals Himself in the incarnation, by sending His One and Only Son.  This supernatural revealing of Himself is also unprecedented among any and all other religions.  Our calendars bear witness to the significance of Christ’s first appearance.  Jesus masterfully revealed His Father’s love, grace, compassion, holiness, justice; and so much more.

God reveals Himself in His transformation of human lives.  From a deceiving Jacob to the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, from a Saul who slandered Christ to a Paul who suffered for Christ, from a farmer boy to a preacher man, God still changes lives today; by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

In the end—God will reveal Himself once again.  And if you haven’t met your Maker yet, you certainly will then.  Without a doubt, that meeting will be better now than later.

The Winner Behind the Wager

blaise-pascal-happinessBorn into an upper-class French family on June 19, 1623, Blaise became one of the greatest intellectuals of his time.  He was an esteemed mathematician, physicist, writer, inventor and philosopher.   He taught himself geometry at the age of twelve and wrote a book on the geometry of cones when he was sixteen.

His concern over the long hours his tax collector father spent adding up revenues, motivated him to invent one of the first mechanical adding machines by the time he reached nineteen.   Initially called “calculators” they eventually came to be known as “Pascalines” and their technological principles were used for hundreds of years.

Possibly one of his most significant inventions was a horse carriage with multiple seats.  These carriages came to be widely used in moving people around Paris, perhaps establishing the very first form of mass transportation.

While he was renowned for his ground-breaking theories in mathematics and physics, he is also remembered for his significant contributions to philosophy and the defense of the Christian faith.  After his untimely death at the age of 39, numerous scraps of paper were found with his thoughts on the veracity of Christianity.  They were organized and published, and eventually titled, “Pensées” or “thoughts.”

This landmark book introduced “Pascal’s Wager,” a powerful philosophical argument concerning whether or not God exists.  He argued that by definition, an infinite God is beyond knowing by finite man.   Nevertheless, He either exists, or He does not exist.  Therefore, a wager must be made concerning His existence based on the potential consequences of His existence.

He argued if God does not exist, then how a person lives has no significance.  But if God does exist, then how a person lives will affect the consequences of this life, and especially the afterlife.  Accordingly, it is foolish to wager against the possibility of an eternal life of happiness, for the possibility of gaining little to nothing.

Therefore, Pascal’s Wager argues that the wisest decision a person can make is to believe in the existence of God!  This is the most reasonable wager, win or lose, because if you win, you gain all; if you lose, you lose little to nothing.   Conversely, if you wager against God’s existence, win or lose; you either win little to nothing, or you lose everything!

Pascal knew that many would struggle with a belief in God. He suggested they convince themselves of God’s existence, not by an increase in proofs of God, but by adopting a lifestyle befitting God.  He proposed this approach would often lead to a true faith in the existence of God!

Pascal’s Wager proposes that either by deliberate choice, or by neglect, every human being has already made a decision about the existence of God.  Ultimately, the way we live our lives determines how we have wagered.  So wager well.  You either have little to nothing to lose and everything to gain, or you have little to nothing to gain and everything to lose!