How Great Salvation

It was my wonderful joy and privilege earlier today (Saturday) to lead a new believer to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is always a profound experience to do so, and of course I’ve been thinking about it all day. 

As one recounts the simple plan of salvation, one has to be reminded of his own experience of coming to Christ in humility and gratitude. Saying the words, saying the verses (I like to use the Roman Road to Salvation) has to remind us of what Jesus did; of what God provided; that greater love has no man than this, to lay down His life for His friends. 

Here are the verses: 

Romans 3:10

Romans 3:23

Romans 5:12

Romans 5:8

Romans 6:23

Romans 10: 9, 10, and 13

Other verses I like to use:  I John 5:13, and John 10: 27-30. 

If we were capable of being good enough, by following rules, to achieve heaven, then Jesus didn’t have to die. 

But He did have to die, as the perfect, unblemished sacrifice to not only cover our sin, but to wash us clean. 

If He had died on the cross and been buried, that would not have been any different than the thousands of others who suffered a similar execution at the hands of the Romans. But He conquered sin and death and rose from the grave, and that’s what makes the difference. 

Because He lives, we can live also. 

If you would like to know more, please message me.  I will be more than glad to help you. 

“I Will Come and Heal Him”

Matthew 8:7-8. “AndJesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.”

This Gentile centurion stepped up to Jesus and showed complete, unquestioning faith in Him.  Wouldn’t you love to have been there?  To have seen the faces of the Jews who surrounded Jesus, walked with Him, and  had nothing but revulsion for this arrogant Roman? 

Maybe he wasn’t so arrogant. When Jesus offered to go and heal the servant, the centurion immediately said, “You don’t have to enter my home to do this.  I am not worthy that You should do so.  Only speak, and my servant will be healed.”

I’ve been thinking about this all week.  It’s simply amazing. I wonder if this centurion had been studying the Hebrew scriptures, or talking with people who had seen and heard Jesus. How did he have such unquestioning faith in Him? How did he understand, from his position of authority, that he was face to face with One Who was far above him? 

What a great foreshadowing of this Church Age in which we are privileged to live. This dispensation is characterized by the mercy God has shown to the gentile nations. Jesus is not physically with us, and yet it is by His Word that we are healed. We need to do nothing; only believe, as the centurion believed.



Anger: Unmet Expectations

Unmet expectations.  One of the biggest causes of anger  is when we have such high hopes, and then we come crashing down into reality.  We’re disappointed because we don’t get what we wanted, the way we wanted. We’re heartbroken because of failed relationships; we’re just plain angry at the loss of a job or perhaps something of value that was stolen from us.  We’re frustrated that we aren’t achieving financial goals while others seem to ride the winds of worldly success with very little effort.

Here’s the thing.  We want. We are born wanting.  We want food, sleep, and human contact.  Later, we want complete control of our toys, and maybe of everyone else’s as well.  Later still, we want control of our own lives even though we’re still living on our parents’ nickle. We want a car, we want all the electronic stuff, we want the cool clothes, we want a girlfriend or a boyfriend.

When the “wanter” that lives in each of us is allowed to dictate our behavior, we are bound to be angry quite a bit of the time.  See, other people mostly just don’t care if our wants are fulfilled, because they’re all focused on their own.  Parents, it’s very important to teach your little ones to have a spirit of gratitude, and not a spirit of discontent.

We are plagued with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:16). The lust of the flesh includes tasting, touching, smelling, and hearing. There is a strong appeal to our senses, and we crave to satisfy our senses. Our bodily appetites demand to be satisfied, and when they are not, we’re angry.

The lust of the eyes is seeing. It involves covetousness, a malicious desire for what other have that you do not.

The pride of life is thinking you are special because of who you are, what you have, what you know, or what you look like. Today, we call this a sense of entitlement.  We really do seem to believe we are somehow special, set apart, and that we deserve to have everything our own way.

Unmet expectations.

The Bible says we need to humble ourselves (James 4:5-8). We need to recognize that we are NOT above anyone else; that we do NOT deserve special treatment.  I’ve always found it interesting that we are told to humble ourselves; we are not encouraged to ask God to humble us. It is only when we deliberately choose to submit to His authority that true humility can grow in our hearts.

We are to draw near to God.  We do this by dying to ourselves every day (I Cor. 15:31), and allowing His Holy Spirit to control our wants.  We are to resist the devil, and he will flee from us.  To resist is not to chase or attack; it is to stand fast and firm in God’s strength.

So how dow we replace this cycle of anger?  The answer is in Ephesians 4:22-24. “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts: and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Let me give you my own paraphrase of that passage:  In order to become contented and filled with the Holy Spirit,  we need to take off our former behavior, which is the  old sin nature, as if we were taking off a garment. That garment , that behavior, is corrupt because it is based on deceitful cravings and appetites. We have to be made new in the spirit of our minds, our thinking. This can be done when, after taking off the old nature, we replace it with the new nature, which is the Spirit of God, created in righteousness and true holiness.

Set aside old habits, thoughts and behaviors.  Anger will go away right along with them. When we no longer allow ourselves, with the power of the Spirit, to dwell on unrealistic hopes, dreams, expectations–the anger, hurt and disappointment make a quiet exit out the back door.

We’re going to look at another aspect of unresolved anger next week, again in Ephesians 4.

The Centurion

Matthew 8:5-6. “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto Him a centurion, beseeching Him, and saying, Lord,my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously  tormented.”

We’re going to take at least a couple of days to walk through this one.  There are so many fascinating details that I don’t want to rush through this next story. 

Capernaum is on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  It was  the home town of the apostles Peter, James, Andrew and John, and the tax collector Matthew. Jesus spent a lot of time there, teaching in the synagogue and on the surrounding hillsides and shores. During Rome’s occupation of Israel, Capernaum was a major stop on the highway between Rome and Jerusalem.  It was probably at its most prosperous during this time, and a large synagogue was built in the center of the city to accommodate both the citizens and the travelers on the trade routes. As such, it was a perfect hub for Jesus’ ministry. 

A centurion was the captain over 100 men, which was in turn a 60th part of a Roman legion. The centurion had absolute authority over his men in every detail of their lives.  Understanding the power of his position, and that he was a gentile and probably a worshiper of the Roman pantheon of gods, it is more than a little surprising that, first, he sought out Jesus; and second, that he beseeched Him.  Centurions didn’t beseech anyone!

One wonders how the centurion heard of Jesus; how he knew what Jesus’ reputation already was at this period, and why he seems so readily to have believed what he had heard. Obviously, people were talking about Jesus.  Isn’t it amazing how that has never stopped?  People are still talking about Jesus, whether pro or con.  You simply cannot ignore the Son of God!

It would seem that God had already been working in the heart of this powerful centurion. He was looking for something, anything, that would help his servant–which brings me to look at the centurion’s character. 

He was that concerned for his servant?  Really?  That’s amazing! Apparently, this was a man of noble character; kindness, concern, sincere love for those who operated under his authority. No wonder Jesus so quickly agreed to help him. 

This centurion represents a turning of the tide in Jesus’ ministry.  To this point, He had spoken specifically to the Jews.  Many of the people followed His progress throughout the land, but the Jewish religious leaders rejected Him. Even those who physically followed His progress  turned their backs on Him in Jerusalem after His arrest. As a result, Jesus began to direct more of His ministry to the gentiles, making it clear beforehand that salvation was offered not just to Israel. 

The centurion described his servant as being sick with palsy, and “grievously tormented.”  Palsy was a paralytic condition often accompanied by involuntary tremors, spasms, and muscle seizures. It was painful and debilitating. It is likely that it was what we now know as Parkinson’s Disease. The Greek word used here for grievous is deinos, and denotes excessive, terrible pain. 

The thing that fascinates me at this point is that the centurion simply stated the problem.  He didn’t demand, order, command or force Jesus in any way.  I picture him as standing strong with all his authority clearly settled on his shoulders, but with an attitude of begging for help.  That’s what beseech means–to beg.  That a man of such power was begging Jesus for help certainly points to a kind heart and an innate humility.  Living in Israel, he would have surely learned that as a gentile he was owed no special treatment by this Jewish teacher Who could heal people of their diseases. 

Stay with me.  This story gets even better!


If Thou Will

Matthew 8: 2-4. “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if Thou will, Thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.”

Jesus showed Himself to be Jehovah, the King, when He healed. Jehovah alone could show Himself like this in mercy, healing and restoring. Later, in chapter 12, Jesus says, “If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?”  He said this in response to the Pharisees’ accusation that He healed by the power of Satan.

His healing power was seen, in the Old Testament  (Isaiah 35) in connection with the kingdom. But the King and the kingdom are rejected, and the kingdom is postponed, and the nations wait with a groaning creation for the glorious fulfilment of this chapter in Isaiah. Surely this old world is groaning today under the load of our sin and the evil of the Prince of the Power of the Air!

In that day, the evils of leprosy will no longer exist.  It is a horrible disease, disfiguring and defiling its victims as their bodies decompose  and waste away. What a picture leprosy is of the results of sin allowed to settle in our hearts and minds, crippling us from the inside out and rotting  us away at the core. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I look forward to being free of sin and its corruption!

In this miracle, Israel is represented by the leper. Leprosy is a type, or picture, of sin. There was no cure then, and it is still a dreaded disease. It is curable now, but the stigma and the dread are still there. In Jesus’ day, only Jehovah could heal the awful disease.

The man Jesus healed, we are told in Luke 5:12, was full of leprosy.  It seems to have been in its advanced stages.  He represents the condition of Israel described in Isaiah 1:5,6. The whole head is sick, the heart faint. From the sole of the foot to the head, it is unsound.  It has wounds, bruises  and putrid sores, not treated or bandaged. It’s a terrible picture, for sure. Worse, because of the disease, a leper was outcast and wandered from place to place, seeking shelter and finding only greater misery.

When the leper saw Jesus, he fell before Him and worshipped Him, acknowledging His power alone to heal the leprosy if He chose to do so. Jesus reached out, touched him, and spoke: “I will. Be thou clean.”

And the leper was clean! He was whole, completely healed, skin as fresh as a baby’s! No sign of the disease remained.  Jesus would do the same for Israel if only they asked. He showed Himself here as Jehovah-Rophe, the Lord Who heals.

Jesus sent the cleansed leper to the priest and told him to perform the offering (gift) that Moses had ordained, fulfilling the Law that Jesus had not yet fulfilled Himself. He warned the leper to tell no other person, because the priest was the only one who had the authority to pronounce the leper to be cleansed and thereby allow him back into the community.

Now, think for a moment with me.  What if you had been that priest, and a known leper in the advanced stages of the disease came to you, showing you that he was healed, cleansed, and whole.  Would you have looked, pronounced him clean, sent him away and simply gone back to your work?  Wouldn’t you have a million questions?  How, who, when, what, where?? Wouldn’t you have run out to see the One Who had done the miracle?  Wouldn’t you have called to everyone, “Come and see the Man Who healed the leper!  This is a miracle!”

No such thing is recorded.  We don’t know what the priest may have said or done in private, but he certainly is not recorded as having even so much as asked the leper how this had come to be.

So, are we any different today when we see God working among us?  When a soul is saved from endless torment, when a marriage is healed, when a child survives a dreaded cancer? Or when you missed being in a serious accident by no more than a whisper? Or the money is just always there when you need it?

We can’t point our fingers at the apparently unimpressed priest without having three other fingers pointing back at ourselves. We see miracles every day, but we fail to give the credit to God. We are without excuse.

A New Section of Matthew

Matthew 8:1. “When He was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.”

Chapters 8-12 tell the wonderful stories of Jesus’ ministry to His own people. Each story carries a specific significance as Jesus journies ever closer to the cross. He is making Himself plain as the divine King, the Jehovah and Messiah of the Old Testament.  It doesn’t take too long before those who should most have recognized Him began to revile Him, even accusing Him of working His miracle by the power of Beelzebub.  These five chapters tell the story of the full manifestation of Jehovah-Jesus among His own people, and their rejection of the King. 

I’ve heard people wonder, and have wondered myself:  If I had been there, would I have followed Him?  Would I have believed His words and His miracles and known Him for Who He was? Or would I have been skeptical and cast doubt on the veracity of His words and actions?  I don’t know.  I would like to think I would have known Him, but then I, we all, have the benefit of hindsight. 

I’m looking forward to these next five chapters.  So many wonderful events take place as Jesus reveals Himself to His chosen people.  I hope you’re excited about it, too.  We’ll hear all our favorite Sunday school stories, and I’ll be picturing the flannelgraph board in my mind. It’s really a shame that we tend to relegate these stories as “children’s stories.”  They’re so important for us, as well.

Our verse today tells us that after Jesus finished the Sermon on the Mount, He came back down into the areas of the towns and villages; also, we read that  “great multitudes” followed Him. No wonder.  What they had just heard was new, different, exciting and challenging. 

Truly, Jesus was something unusual. 

I’m Back!

Three cheers for the Verizon guy, who went above and beyond the call of duty.  He replaced some wiring, figured out that the problem is with my router, which is now not operating.  That means I don’t have internet on my laptop, but right now that’s not a big deal.  We’ll work on it, maybe just need to get a new one.  

So what I learned over this past several days is that I’m VERY dependent on my internet.  It was almost as bad as being without lights and water during Hurricane Sandy in November!  Well, ok, maybe not that bad, but when you’re used to something and take it for granted, it’s really,really nice to get it back. 

There may be a Bible study post later on, we’ll see how my time goes.  But for now, I’m just glad to be connected again 🙂

Friday Counseling Issues: Anger

It’s a good day for me to be writing about anger.  I’ve been working at getting my computer up and running since 8 a.m.  It is now almost noon.   Slow, slow internet; can’t access email; takes everything forever to load.  Computers.  Ya gotta love ’em.  They’re great when they work 🙂

Well, anyway.  I closed last week’s post by saying that anger can most certainly be controlled.  We do not have to be the victims of our anger.  I need to clarify that I’m talking about a normal person who has no underlying medical or mental health problems. There are some conditions that exacerbate anger.  If you are dealing with a truly uncontrollable anger, then you need to get to a medical doctor and/or a biblical counselor, post haste.  Don’t wait another minute.

In the meantime, those of us who just think we have the right to throw a temper fit whenever we want to need to understand what’s really going on.

First, I want to remind you of the personality study I’ve mentioned before.  There are four different temperaments, and each of them shows and processes anger differently. The choleric leader “get it done” person is capable of furious rage, and he can keep it going as long as he feels necessary to get the results he wants.  He’s intimidating.

The sanguine people-person, who loves attention and praise, has an explosive but short-lived temper.  He forgives easily.

The melacholy “get it right” person has a quiet, cold, removed anger with which he punishes people until he gets the desired results.

The phlegmatic “get along” person is rarely obviously angry.  He, too, clams up.  His anger tends to land in the passive-aggressive  category.  He just quietly resists until those who must deal with him throw up their hands in frustration and leave him alone.

Whichever mode you recognize in yourself, please also recognize that uncontrolled anger is simply a temper fit that you have decided to throw (and yes, clamming up and refusing to talk is a temper fit). How, you may ask, can I make such a blunt statement?  Well, let me see if I can answer it a couple of different ways.

Now and then, a man will come to my office and tell me he was sent to counseling for “anger issues.”  (Are you as tired of “issues” as I am?)  So I begin to interview him, and I discover, almost 100% of the time, that his anger is allowed full roar ONLY at home. He keeps it contained everywhere else.  Now, keep in mind that this guy has told me he can’t help it; that he just loses control and doesn’t even know what he’s doing; that people just need to quit annoying him.  When I quietly, in a gentle tone, point out to him that he seems able to control his anger when he knows he has to, he will go red in the face, his eyes will change, and I’m wondering if I need to make a quick exit.  Amazingly, though, he reins it in and tries to argue with me.  I have to be very confident, firm, and unmoveable in my position that he chooses when to allow his anger  to explode; and that he generally chooses for it to explode on his wife/family.

Once we get over that hurdle, we can begin to figure out exactly why he’s so angry, and gives his anger free rein at home.

Working with the cold, silent anger of the melancholy and the phlegmatic is more difficult. They won’t admit they’re angry.  They refuse to acknowledge that their silence is a control tactic, seeing it instead as a way to avoid unpleasant confrontation.  These folks truly hate unpleasant confrontation, and they see their withdrawal as a way to calm things down. They don’t like to admit that they’re angry because they tend to see anger as sinful, and they’re perfectionists.  It’s very hard for them to admit they’re not perfect. So it takes a lot more patience on my part, a lot more digging, to help them understand why they’re so miserable and why people tend to avoid them.

Can you imagine how difficult this whole process is for a hot-tempered, my-way-or-the-highway choleric/sanguine?I am quick to jump on bandwagons, to fight like a tiger for what I believe.  Keeping all that under the control of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing process.  I’m thankful to say that I don’t remember the last time I threw a wall-eyed hizzy fit.  I do know that the potential is there, and that it is my responsibility  to stay filled with the Spirit.

Next time, we’ll look at some specific causes of anger, and what to do about them.

He Taught with Authority

Mathew 7:28-29. “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine: For He taught them as One having authority, and not as the scribes.”

Did you know that our word doctor comes from the Latin, and means religious teacher, adviser, scholar?  It was not originally a reference to a medical practitioner, but to a teacher of the highest qualifications.  It is also the root of our word doctrine, which obviously refers to the teachings of a doctor. 

Isn’t it interesting that, although Jesus had no formal education in the sense that we think of it, He spoke with much more authority than the scribes?  Scribes were highly educated, and when they weren’t practicing their trade, they did a lot of debating with other religious leaders about the exact meanings of the Law.  They loved to have these debates in public, showing off their knowledge and impressing the common folks who stopped by to listen.  

Now, these same “common” people were left in slack-jawed amazement at the sermon they had just heard.  They’d never been taught anything like it before, and they were even more impressed that Jesus spoke with complete authority, not as the scribes but as One Who really knew what He was talking about. 

Imagine that. 

I don’t believe Jesus ranted and raved and pounded a pulpit.  I don’t believe He needed bells and whistles and dancing bears to attract the attention of those who passed by.  I do believe that He spoke simply, with the strength of Who He was. He spoke of things that only He knew. His teaching was radical, and got Him into a lot of trouble with the religious authorities. 

We can also speak with firm, quiet strength when we preach and teach the truths of God’s Word. We don’t need gimmicks.  We do need the power of the Holy Spirit; we need to know the Word of God thoroughly, and we need the heart to preach nothing but Christ, crucified and risen again in order to bring salvation to mankind. We simply need to lift up Christ. 

I met a young woman a few weeks ago who had recently been released from jail.  She was walking past a church when she heard the music coming clearly through the open doors. Intrigued, she walked in and sat down. For the first time in her life, she heard the clear preaching of the gospel.  She got saved that night, and is growing beautifully in the Lord. She has a whole new outlook on life because she heard the simple exposition of the Word of God. Even though she did not come from a background in which the Bible was taught, she understood what she heard that day and is now living for the Lord.

We need to simply lift up Jesus. In all we do and say, we are preaching/teaching something. Let it be He Who gives the only sure hope of salvation that others see and hear in our lives and words.