God of Miracles: Part 1 - Desperation Is An Invitation

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God is good. 

When I say “God is good,” I mean at least three things:

1.     God isn’t mad at you.

2.     God is for you, not against you.

3.     God wants to bless you in every area of your life.

God is good.

And because He is good, He relates and responds to us based on His character, not our behavior. That’s good news… especially for someone like me.

God is good to one and all; everything he does is suffused with grace. —Psalm 145:9 MSG

Pay close attention to the word “suffused.” It’s a great word. Everything God does is “suffused” – that means “overspread” with grace.

Poet Robert Louis Stevenson described it like this: There’s nothing but God’s grace.  We walk upon it.  We breathe it.  We live it and we die by it.  It makes the nails and axles of the universe.

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You woke up this morning! That’s grace!

You take a breath! That’s grace!

A friend encourages you! That’s grace!

Someone smiles at you! That’s grace!

My grandson is happy to see me! That’s grace!

You walk around or jog outside! That’s grace!

You take your smart phone out and access your online version of God’s Word! That’s grace!

You walk into church where someone who cares about you says, “Hello!” That’s grace!

Every day — every moment — is filled with one gift of God’s unconditional, extravagant and amazing grace after another.

Our God is a God of POWER!  He has power over nature and circumstances. When seas and rivers needed to be crossed, He didn’t send a team of engineers to build a bridge, He just blasted a hole in the Red Sea and the Jordan River to bring His people out of danger and into their promise (Ex 14; Josh 3).

When God’s people were hungry and needed food, God didn’t open up a McDonald’s or Chick-fil-A, He just dropped loads of manna on the nation of Israel or multiplied a few biscuits and sardines from a kid’s first century Happy Meal and fed a crowd of at least fifteen thousand (Ex 16; John 6).

When Israel’s army needed more daylight to seal a military win over a coalition of Amorite kings, God didn’t send a container of flashlights with Duracell batteries, He just told Joshua to speak to the sun, “Sun stand still!” and somehow miraculously “the sun stopped in the middle of the sky” and God extended Daylight Savings Time and gave His people victory (Josh 10:12-14)!

When a storm threatened to take the lives of the disciples, God didn’t send out the coast guard, He spoke to the storm and it immediately settled down (Mark 4:35-41).

And, when Peter was put in jail and scheduled for execution by an evil dude named Herod, God didn’t send in Seal Team Six to bust Peter out of jail. He sent an angel — probably a first class private — who woke Peter up from a sound sleep and said, “Get up! Put some clothes on! We’re blowing this joint!” (Acts 12).

I love the fact that Acts 12:5 says that Peter’s release from prison was in response to the church going into “…a season of intense intercession.”

But while Peter was in prison, the church went into a season of intense intercession, asking God to free him. —Acts 12:5 TPT

The phrase “intense intercession” in The Passion Translation has a little mark beside it that indicates that the Greek phrase literally means, “to stretch tight in prayer.” The VOICE translation reads, “…the church prayed constantly and intensely.”

It emphasizes both the QUANTITY of the prayer offered —they prayed a lot. This wasn’t a “one and done” prayer. They prayed CONSTANTLY!

It also emphasizes the QUALITY of the prayer — it was focused, passionate and intense. This wasn’t an “I lay me down to sleep, pray the Lord my soul to keep” sort of prayer!

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The first century church was FOCUSED!

“Focused on WHAT?” you might ask. I don’t believe they were focused on the problem. I believe they were focused on the character of God: He’s good — He’s not mad. He’s for us, not against us! He wants to bless us!

I believe they focused on God’s promises! Promises like, “No weapon formed against us will prosper…” (Isa 54:17)

Sometimes we get so focused on our PROBLEMS and our PAIN that we forget to focus on GOD!  Instead of telling GOD about how BIG our PROBLEMS are, we may need to start telling our PROBLEMS how BIG our GOD is!

The church was not only FOCUSED in prayer, but they were INTENSE!

What does intensity look like? It looks like Rachel in Genesis 30:1 when she looked at Jacob and said, “Give me children, or I’ll die.” That’s INTENSITY! Jacob looked back at her and said, “Do I look like God?”

Intensity looks like Moses when He says to God, “If your presence doesn’t go with us, call the whole trip off now. I’m not taking another step without you!” (Ex 33:15)

It looks like this church in Acts 12 that said, “God, Herod just executed James. We’re not letting another leader go out like that. We’re believing you for a breakthrough and breakout for our brother, Peter. His story isn’t going to end in execution. It’s going to end in redemption!” The church went into a “season of intense intercession!” “…the church prayed constantly and intensely…”

INTENSE PRAYER IS DESPERATE PRAYER!

It’s prayer that doesn’t look to God as our LAST RESORT, but looks to God as our FIRST RESPONSE! It’s prayer that gets determined like Jacob and says, “I refuse to let you go until you bless me” (Gen 32:26-27).

INTENSE PRAYER turns off the TV. Lets Netflix go on vacation. Gives up Talenti Salted Caramel Ice Cream… not because this stuff isn’t good, but because it wants God even MORE!!!  Because it realizes that desperation and intensity are an INVITATION for God to show up and show out!

When the church went into a season of intense intercession, God dispatched an angel to Peter’s prison cell!  Chains fell off! Prison guards went into a daze. Prison doors flung open! Peter and an angel went on a prayer walk to Mary’s house, the mother of John Mark, and interrupted the church’s prayer gathering!

I don’t know what circumstance or situation you’re facing, but I do know that our God has power over nature and circumstances!

Maybe it’s your time to enter into a season of intense intercession.

It's All About Jesus - Part 3: From Genesis to Revelation

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The entire Bible was given so that we could KNOW Jesus, LOVE Jesus and LIVE for Jesus.  I love the way Josh Harris describes it: “Revelation is for relationship.”

The goal of the Bible isn’t to give us more INFORMATION, but to produce more TRANSFORMATION.

The most amazing thing about this is that God’s purpose in revealing Himself to us in Jesus, was not to give us a really neat set of rules, but to invite us into a DYNAMIC and PERSONAL relationship.

Every story whispers His name.

From the opening chapters of Genesis, to the closing chapter of Revelation, the story of Jesus is being told in this book:

Jesus is the true and better ADAM who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience gets credited to you and me.

Jesus is the true and better ABEL. Even though he was innocent, he was slain. And now his blood that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for redemption.

Jesus is the true and better ABRAHAM. He answered the call of God to leave all that was comfortable and familiar to come to earth so he could create a new people of God.

Jesus is the true and better ISAAC who didn’t just go up the mountain with his father, but was actually sacrificed for us all.

God looked at Abraham and said, “Now I know you love and revere me because you didn’t withhold your son…”

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Today, we can stand at the foot of the cross and look back up to God and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son…”

Jesus is the true and better JACOB who wrestled with God and took the blow of justice we deserved; so that we, like Jacob, could receive the wounds of grace that wake us up, discipline us and help us to become the prince or princess God had in mind when he created us!

Jesus is the true and better JOSEPH who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save and rescue them.

Jesus is the true and better MOSES who stands in the gap between the people and God and mediates a new covenant.

Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in our deserts.

Jesus is the true and better JOB. He’s the truly innocent sufferer, who intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

Jesus is the true and better DAVID whose victory becomes our victory.

Jesus is the true and better ESTHER who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace, but gave up the ultimate and heavenly one! He didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

Jesus is the true and better DANIEL. He was lowered into the Lion’s Den of Death, but came out of “His Lion’s Den” three days later victorious and vindicated by God!

Jesus is the true and better JONAH who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

Jesus is the true and better PASSOVER LAMB — innocent and perfect — slain so the angel of death will pass over us.

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Jesus is the true tabernacle, the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread. 

The Bible isn’t about ME and it’s not about YOU! It’s all about JESUS!!!!

In GENESIS Jesus is the “BREATH OF LIFE” and the “seed of woman” who will one day crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15).

In EXODUS Jesus is the “PASSOVER LAMB”  (Ex 12:13; Jn 1:29, 35).

In LEVITICUS Jesus is our “GREAT HIGH PRIEST” and Eternal Sacrifice (Leviticus 16; Hebrews 9:26b, 28).

In NUMBERS He is the “PILLAR OF CLOUD BY DAY” and the “PILLAR OF CLOUD BY NIGHT.”   He is the trusted guide… (Numbers 9)

In DEUTERONOMY, He is the PROPHET like Moses (Deut 18:15; 32:4).  

In Joshua, He is the captain of our SALVATION (Joshua 2:18) and the SCARLET THREAD hanging from RAHAB’s window.

In JUDGES He is the Great JUDGE and LAWGIVER.

In RUTH, He is our KINSMAN and REDEEMER (Ruth 3:9). 

In 1 SAMUEL He is our PROPHET, our KING and the CHAMPION who defeats our Goliath.

In 2 SAMUEL He is the ANOINTED King.

In 1 KINGS He is the WISE King.

In 2 KINGS He is the REIGNING King.

In 1 CHRONICLES He is the SOVEREIGN King.

In 2 CHRONICLES He is the GLORY of the Lord that fills the temple of Solomon.

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In EZRA He is the faithful SCRIBE and the RESTORER of the temple.

In NEHEMIAH He is the REBUILDER of the broken-down walls of human life.

In ESTHER He is our Mordecai. He is the hidden TEACHER.

In JOB He is the REDEEMER who lives and will stand upon the earth. (Job 19:25-27)

In PSALMS He is the “LORD OUR SHEPHERD” and He is the LORD OUR SONG. (Psalm 23)

In PROVERBS He is the “WISDOM OF GOD.” (Proverbs 8:35). 

In ECCLESIASTES He’s our only HOPE.

In SONG OF SOLOMON He is our LOVER and BRIDEGROOM.  He is the “rose of Sharon” and the “lily of the valley” (SOS 2:1).   He’s the fairest of 10,000.

In ISAIAH, He is the SUFFERING SERVANT and WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER and PRINCE OF PEACE. (Isaiah 53:4-5; Isaiah 9:6). 

In JEREMIAH, He is RIGHTEOUS BRANCH. (Jeremiah 23:5-6). 

In LAMENTATIONS He is the WEEPING PROPHET.

In EZEKIEL He is the SON OF MAN and the WIND that comes from the four corners of the earth resurrecting an entire valley of dry bones.

In DANIEL, He is the FOURTH MAN in the fiery furnace walking around with three Hebrew boys. He is also SON OF MAN coming in the clouds of heaven. (Daniel 3:25)

In HOSEA He is our FAITHFUL and LOVING HUSBAND.

In JOEL He is the BAPTIZER with the HOLY SPIRIT and the GOD who pours out the HOLY SPIRIT.

In AMOS, He is the BURDEN BEARER and the ARMS that CARRY US.

In OBADIAH, He is the MIGHTY TO SAVE. (Obadiah 1:17-21). 

In JONAH He is the GOD of the SECOND CHANCE – our FORGIVING GOD.

In MICAH He is the MESSENGER with beautiful feet.

In NAHUM He is our STRONGHOLD in the Day of Trouble. (Nahum 1:7)

In HABAKKUK He is the Great EVANGELIST crying out for REVIVAL!

In ZEPHANIAH He is the RESTORER of the remnant and the GLORY of Israel (Zephaniah 3:15) and the GOD who SINGS over His people (3:17). 

In HAGGAI He is the CLEANSING FOUNTAIN and the God who RESTORES our lost heritage.      

In ZECHARIAH He is the PIERCED SON.

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And in MALACHI He is the SON OF RIGHTEOUSNESS who rises with HEALING in His wings.(Malachi 4:2).

That’s just the Old Testament. Here’s the New Testament.

In MATTHEW, He is the PROMISED MESSIAH. (Matthew 1:23; 2:2, 6)

In MARK He is the MIRACLE WORKER. (Mark 10:45)

In LUKE He is the SON OF MAN. (Luke 19:10)

In JOHN He is the SON OF GOD and the WORD made flesh.

In ACTS He is the ASCENDED LORD who fills His followers with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8, 11; 2:1-4)

In ROMANS He is our JUSTIFIER who frees us from all condemnation. He is the GRACE OF GOD.

In 1 CORINTHIANS He is the last ADAM.

In 2 CORINTHIANS, He is our God of all COMFORT. (2 Corinthians 1:3)

In GALATIANS He’s our LIBERATOR – the one who sets us free from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3:13)

In EPHESIANS He is our glorious treasure.

In PHILIPPIANS He is our JOY and the God who MEETS ALL OUR NEEDS and the NAME ABOVE EVERY NAME. (Philippians 4:8; 2:9) 

In COLOSSIANS He is the FULLNESS of the Godhead in bodily form.

In 1 and 2 THESSALONIANS He is our SOON COMING KING. (1 Thessalonians 4)

In 1 and 2 TIMOTHY He is the MEDIATOR between God and man. (1 Timothy 2:5)

In TITUS He is our BLESSED HOPE and the FAITHFUL PASTOR. (Titus 2:13)

In PHILEMON He is a FRIEND who sticks closer than a brother.

In HEBREWS He is the BLOOD of the New Covenant that cleanses us from all our sin. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

In JAMES, He is the one who HEALS the sick. (James 5)

In 1 and 2 PETER He is CHIEF SHEPHERD. (1 Peter 2:25)

In 1, 2 and 3 JOHN He is EVERLASTING LOVE.

In JUDE He is ONLY WISE GOD, our SAVIOR and the LORD who will return with 10,000 of His Saints. (Jude 1:14, 24)

In REVELATION He is the ALPHA and OMEGA, the FIRST and the LAST, the BEGINNING and the END, the LAMB who was slain before the foundation of the world, the KING of KINGS and LORD of LORDS and the BRIGHT and MORNING STAR. (Revelation 1:8, 17; 21:6; 5:6; 19:13; 9:16; 22:16)

That’s it!!! This entire book is about Him!

It’s all about Jesus!

It’s all because of Jesus!

It all points to Jesus!

It's All About Jesus - Part 2: Every Story Whispers His Name

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The Bible mattered to Jesus and it’s got to matter to us. He’s the central theme. The goal of the Bible isn’t to give us more INFORMATION, but to produce more TRANSFORMATION. 

Jesus believed that the Bible is infallible, trustworthy, sure, indestructible and reliable. Not only that, Jesus DEPENDED ON GOD’S WORD to overcome the evil one!

When Jesus squared off against Satan during the wilderness temptation, each time the evil one came at him with a temptation or proposition, Jesus didn’t simply stand on His own authority, though He could do that! After all, He was and is the Son of God… But He didn’t do that! 

Jesus consistently pointed back to the WORD of GOD! (Matthew 4:3-10)

When the evil one said, “You don’t have to be hungry… You can turn these stones into bread… You don’t have to suffer… Jump off this temple, He’ll give His angels charge over you… You can be something spectacular… Just worship me, and I’ll give you the kingdom of this world…”

Jesus so loved, honored and depended on God’s Word, that He countered every attack of the evil one with three simple words: “IT IS WRITTEN…”

The Message reads, “Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.” (Matthew 4:4)

…a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.

Jesus not only believed that the Bible matters… Jesus depended on God’s Word to overcome and defeat the evil one. His heart and mind were so washed in the Word that He was able to see THROUGH the DECEPTION of the evil one and deal directly with it!

Jesus believed that the Bible is the last Word and the final authority. We believe that the Bible is the last Word and the final authority – not our feelings or our emotions.  Not our CIRCUMSTANCES or a particular SITUATION or EXPERIENCE. Not CULTURE or CONVENTIONAL WISDOM. God has given us His Word! He gave us this book!

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I love the way The Message reads in Matthew 4:18:

God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working. —Mt 4:18 MS

Hebrews 4:12 says it this way, “The word of God is alive and powerful…”

Isaiah 55:11 says it like this, “It is the same with my word. I send it out and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

The greatest battle you will fight is the battle you fight in your mind. But the Word of God renews our mind and reminds us that God’s Word is the final and last Word!

If the Bible matters to Jesus, shouldn’t it matter to you and me? If God cared enough to make certain we got a copy of this book, shouldn’t we make reading it and obeying it a priority?

So, what are some practical takeaways about the Bible:

•          READ it in a translation you can understand.

•          MEDITATE on it.

•          MEMORIZE it.

•          Information isn’t the goal, APPLICATION is. Always ask yourself:

            1. Is there a sin I need to confess?

            2. A promise for me to claim?

            3. An example for me to follow?

            4. A command I need to obey?

            5) Anything I need to be thankful for today?

JESUS is the central theme of the story of the BIBLE. Every story whispers His name!

Jesus said stuff that would be absolutely ridiculous for anyone else to say. For instance, in John 5:39 Jesus looked at a group of really religious people and said,

“You are busy analyzing the Scriptures, frantically poring over them in hopes of gaining eternal life. Everything you read points to me, yet you still refuse to come to me so I can give you the life you’re looking for—eternal life!” —John 5:39-40 TPT
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Ultimately, the Bible is one story – the story of God’s purpose to save sinners through the sacrifice of JESUS — God’s only Son — who died for our sins in our place!  And to use the words of The Jesus Storybook Bible, “Every page in the Bible, whispers Jesus’ name.”

The Bible is the story of Jesus! 

Jesus explained it like this to a group of religious know-it-alls…

You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you'll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren't willing to receive from me the life you say you want. — John 5:39-40 MSG

The entire Bible was given so that we could know Jesus, love Jesus and live for Jesus.

Every story whispers His name.

Every story.

From the opening chapters of Genesis, to the closing chapter of Revelation, the story of Jesus is being told in this book.

Join us tomorrow to see how Jesus is in EVERY book of the Bible. 

It's All About Jesus - Part 1: The Bible Matters to Jesus

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Have you ever heard someone say, “I love Jesus, but not the Bible”?

Sometimes I think I know what are people saying when they say that, and sometimes I’m not so sure.

I feel that making a strong distinction between loving God and loving the Bible is a lot like me saying about my wife, Janet: “You know, I love her so much… But when she OPENS her MOUTH… Mmmm? Not so much! I love her… Just not when she TALKS…”

I don’t know about you, but that wouldn’t go over well in my home. That kind of attitude doesn’t describe a healthy relationship.

When people say, “I love Jesus, but not the Bible,” it kind of feels the same! It sounds like these people “love” Jesus, just not when He talks! They love the “idea” of Jesus, but they don’t want a God that actually speaks and has an opinion.

Sometimes they’re saying, “Jesus died for me. Jesus rose again. Jesus forgave my sin and leads my life. I have a relationship with Jesus. Jesus is my Lord. Yes, the Bible is God’s inspired Word, but my faith and hope is in Jesus.”

But many times, I think people are saying something else.  Sometimes I think they’re saying, “It really doesn’t matter to me what the Bible says… me and Jesus are cool. I can live life the way I want, because I have relationship with Jesus. The Bible, on the other hand, is outdated, antiquated, quite ridiculous in places. I’m not going to subject my life to a 1,900 — 3,400-year-old book. But I’m cool with Jesus.”

That sounds a whole lot like, “I love my spouse, but not when she talks…”  And I don’t think that JIVES with God.

Matthew 5:17-20 is one of the most important sections in the Sermon On The Mount. If you get this, everything else starts to come together. If you miss this, everything else becomes an uphill battle.

The rest of the Sermon On The Mount flows out of these four verses. Everything that follows is basically Jesus elaborating on and applying what He believes about the Word of God:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 5:17-20 NIV

When Jesus tells us something, we should pay attention, right?  Well, when Jesus tells us the Bible mattered to Him, it’s got to matter to us!

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He’s the central theme. The goal of the Bible isn’t to give us more INFORMATION, but to produce more TRANSFORMATION

Because Jesus wasn’t neutral when it came to the Bible, He had some pretty radical beliefs about the Word of God.

When Jesus talked about “…the Law and the prophets…” He was specifically talking about the Old Testament. The “Law” refers to the first five books of the Bible. Jewish people call it the Torah. The “prophets” refers to the rest of the Old Testament.

Jesus said, “Do not think I’ve come to abolish the Law or the prophets…”

The word “abolish” means, demolish, tear apart, tear down, dismantle, destroy or to set aside as of no value.

Jesus said, “I didn’t come to demolish, tear down, dismantle, destroy or set aside this book… I didn’t come to make it irrelevant… I came to fulfill it.”

We’ll talk more about “fulfill” in just a moment, but right now, it’s critical to note that Jesus had a HIGH VIEW of the Bible.

In Verse 18, Jesus doubled down on what He actually thought about the Bible when He said, “For truly I tell you…”

In other words: “This is for real! You can take this to the bank!”

“…until heaven and earth disappear…” — Until the end of time!

“…not the smallest letter…”

In the Greek, the “smallest letter” is literally “iota.” It’s the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet. We’ve even picked up the word in English. In English, iota refers to a very small or an infinitesimal amount. For instance, we use it like this: “Nothing she said made an iota of sense…” Or, “There’s not an iota of truth in anything that dude said…”

In the Hebrew, the smallest letter is “yod” or “yodh” and it’s about the size of an apostrophe.

When Jesus talks, “smallest letter” He literally means SMALL. In the next statement, He clarifies it even more…

“…not the least stroke of a pen…"

The “stroke of a pen” refers to a serif, a minute mark at the end of a Hebrew letter. It’s not even the whole letter, it’s just a mark that’s part of the letter. Here’s what Jesus said about the dependability, reliability, relevance, authority and permanence of the Word of God.

 “…I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." —Matthew 5:18

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According to Jesus, not only are the words in the Bible reliable and true, you can even count on the smallest letter and most minute mark! It’s all reliable, dependable, permanent and authoritative!

In the four verses we just read (Matthew 5:17-20), Jesus lets us know exactly what he thinks about the Bible.

He affirmed that He believed it’s infallible — it’s without error and absolutely trustworthy and sure.

He believed that the Word of God is indestructible. It will never be destroyed.

He believed it was reliable.

Sometimes we struggle with what we believe about the Bible, but you need to know Jesus was “ALL IN” when it came to the Word of God. He believed that people like Adam, Eve, Noah and Jonah were actual, historical figures. He believed that the Bible could be trusted.

For instance, He talked about Adam and Eve (Matt 19:4-5). He talked about Abel and Zechariah (Lk 11:51). He referenced Noah (Matt 24:37-38), Abraham (Jn 8:56), Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt 10:15, 11:23-24), Lot (Lk 17:23-32), Isaac and Jacob (Matt 8:11), the manna Israel ate in the wilderness (Jn 6:31), and the serpent Moses raised on a pole (Jn 3:14).

Jesus talked about David (Matt 22:43), Solomon (Matt 6:29, 12:42), Elijah (Lk 4:25-26), Elisha (Lk 4:27), Jonah (Matt 12:39-41), and Moses (Matt 8:4).

And when Jesus talked about all of these places and people there was never the slightest hint or indication that He questioned their actuality or historicity. He talked about them like they were straight-up, straight-forward, historical fact!

If Jesus believed these people were historical, I believe they are historical! If He believed the Bible can be trusted, I believe it can be trusted! Why? Because any “man” who can predict His own DEATH, BURIAL and ultimate RESURRECTION, and then, PULL IT OFF; then I’M GOING WITH ANYTHING that guy SAYS!

Come back tomorrow as we continue this blog series.

Get Lit

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What can fill up an entire room without taking up any space?

This verse will give you a hint:

And you, beloved, are the LIGHT of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. Similarly it would be silly to LIGHT a lamp and then hide it under a bowl. When someone LIGHTS a lamp, she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair, and the LIGHT illumines the entire house. You are like that illuminating LIGHT. Let your LIGHT shine everywhere you go, that you may illumine creation, so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest, may see your devotion to Me, and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it.  — Matthew 5:14-16 The Voice, emphasis mine

You guessed it!  The answer is LIGHT.

If Jesus says, “You, beloved, are the light of the world…” then we ought to pay close attention to what that means!

Four Thoughts About Light: 

1. SIGHT is directly tied to LIGHT.  Without LIGHT, there is no SIGHT.

In other words, light makes vision possible.  It makes stuff visible.

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Sight is an incredible miracle! It’s a miracle based on light traveling from the outside world at around 186,000 miles per second. It travels through space and when it becomes visible to you, it first reaches your cornea, that clear layer in your eye that’s in charge of most of the focusing power of your eye.

The amount of light that enters your eye is controlled by something called the iris – a muscle in your eye that constricts or dilates depending on the surrounding light conditions.

Light continues to travel until it finally reaches the retina in your eye that’s in charge of transforming light energy from the outside world into chemical and electrical energy that gets transmitted through the nerve in your eye to the brain and so on. SIGHT an incredible miracle!

In fact, even Charles Darwin, was blown away by the complexity of the human eye and the miracle of sight. In a chapter in his book, Origin of Species, titled, "Difficulties with the Theory," Darwin wrote: 

“The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder... To suppose that the eye, with so many parts all working together...could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree... The belief that an organ as perfect as the eye could have formed by natural selection is more than enough to stagger anyone.” —Charles Darwin: Origin of Species - Difficulties With The Theory

The design of the eye points to the existence of a supreme designer. Sight is an incredible mircle! 

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus indicated when an individual or a group of people determine that they’re going to live a life in the presence of God and under the rule, reign, power and will of God... When an individual determines that he or she is going to live "in the kingdom of God." When a person starts living out the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), that person or group of people are not only going to be "salt," but they will be "LIGHT." They'll make God VISIBLE to a watching world. 

The Voice Translation says we will “ILLUMINE CREATION”.  We'll give people a glimpse of what God had in mind when He created PEOPLE, when He designed RELATIONSHIPS, when He dreamed up MARRIAGE, when He thought of FAMILY, when He created LOVE, COMPASSION, GOODNESS, KINDNESS and BEAUTY!

God created us to live in such a way that people look at us and say, “Wow! There must be a God. I can see Him in you.  You have given me a glimpse of His rock-solid faithfulness, His extravagant grace, reckless and relentless love and His mercy that meets people right where they are!”

When Jesus said, “You are the light of the world...” He was saying, “You make it possible for people to SEE GOD! To see BEAUTY... To see GRACE on display... To see what LOVE actually looks like...”

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2. Light always dispels DARKNESS.  Always.

Light always has an IMPACT.  Just a little light can make a huge DIFFERENCE.

Wherever you go, wherever you are, you carry LIGHT and light in the Bible is always a symbol of the PRESENCE OF GOD.

One of the things the Bible regularly points out is the CONTRAST between DARKNESS and LIGHT.  As far back as Genesis 1, “The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the face of the deep… Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and light appeared” (Genesis 1:2-3)

From the beginning, the moment God shows up light shows up and it starts driving back the darkness

In the Bible, darkness is often a symbol of death, powerlessness, deceit, destruction, sin and condemnation.

But light, on the other hand, is a symbol of LIFE, POWER, TRUTH, GUIDANCE, HOLINESS, GLORY and the PRESENCE OF GOD.

When Jesus said, “You’re the light of the world,” He was saying “You carry the PRESENCE, LIFE, TRUTH and GLORY of GOD with you wherever you go. When you show up carrying my LIGHT; darkness, death, powerlessness, shame, guilt and condemnation have to go because LIGHT ALWAYS DISPELS DARKNESS! Always!”

Sometimes people get upset because this world is so dark. You’re right! It is dark!  But when Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” those were our marching orders!

For instance, check out what God says about light in both the OT and the NT> 

I’m setting you up as a light for the nations so that my salvation becomes global! —Isaiah 49:6 MSG

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance. Look and see, for everyone is coming home! Your sons are coming from distant lands; your little daughters will be carried home...” —Isaiah 60:1-4 NIV, NLT
God says, “When you finally take your call seriously, and let my LIGHT fill up your LIFE; your spouse, kids, parents, aunts and uncles, the people you work with, the people you go to school with, are going to TAKE NOTICE and restoration and reconciliation will begin to take place.”
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You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. —1 Thessalonians 5:5-8 NIV
These are our marching orders! Be light! Shine! You've never encountered darkness that cannot be overwhelmed and overcome with light. When it's light versus darkness, LIGHT WINS every time! 

3. It ONLY takes a little LIGHT to make a BIG DIFFERENCE.

Judges 6-7 contains an incredible story about Gideon and an army of only 300 men overcoming an army of approximately 120,000 Midianites.

Gideon's army was anything but conventional. Instead of being equipped with weapons, they surrounded the camp of the Midianites armed with only rams horns, and blazing torches covered by clay jars. But at Gideon's signal the 300 men blew their rams horns, smashed the clay jars revealing the blazing torches inside and just a little bit of light made a big difference! God gave 300 Israel victory over an army of 120,000. 

NOTICE! It was only when the clay jars were BROKEN that the LIGHT could shine through!    

God is constanly looking for people who are willing to be BROKEN so that the LIGHT of HIS GLORY and GRACE can SHINE through.

Paul had to have the story of Gideon in mind when he wrote these words in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7.

The God who spoke light into existence, saying, “Let light shine from the darkness,” is the very One who sets our hearts ablaze to shed light on the knowledge of God’s glory revealed in the face of Jesus, the Anointed One. —2 Corinthians 4:6, The Voice

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. —2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT

Paul’s point: we are FRAGILE CLAY JARS!  The Gospel of Jesus and presence of God are a BLAZING TORCH! 

This world is filled with broken people and God says, “I love broken people because it’s in your brokenness that My light and life is most clearly revealed.”

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4. I’m not the SOURCE of the light. GOD is!

When it comes to you and me being “the light of the world,” it’s important to remember that we’re not the source, God is.

We are the “light of the world” not because of anything in ourselves, but because of our SPIRITUAL UNION with Jesus who IS “the light.”

Before Jesus ever said, “You are the light,” the Bible says this kind of stuff about Jesus and about light...

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” —John 1:4-5 NIV

Jesus: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” —John 8:12

The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine. —Proverbs 4:18 MSG

I love that! That’s God plan for every person who follows Jesus! We’re familiar with people who start off with a bang and then fizzle or burn out! It happens with diets, exercise plans, budgets and even in our relationship with God.

But God’s plan is for people to be SET ON FIRE.  Pardon the expression, but it’s for people to “get lit”.  Not in the way that leads to regret and shame, heartache, heartbreak and addiction; but to allow the light of God to so ILLUMINATE our lives that we become set on fire and for the rest of our lives get BRIGHTER and BRIGHTER and SALTIER and SALTIER the longer we walk with Jesus.

Based on Matthew 5:13-16, I think this might be a good theme for a2 Church: Stay Salty. Get Lit.

I’m kidding, but I’m not kidding...

You need salt where there’s decay. You need light where there is darkness. So… It's time for the church to...

Stay SALTY! Get LIT!

Stay Salty

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A Simple Plan for Making A Big Difference

Matthew 5 contains two incredible metaphors that give us a SIMPLE PLAN for making a BIG DIFFERENCE!

Last week we looked at the Beatitudes. Jesus opened the SOTM with eight principles that mark the lives of the people who choose to live life in "the kingdom of God" (See Matthew 4:17; 5:3-12). Right on the heels of these eight, radical, upside-down statements, Jesus basically says, "If you live the ‘blessed life’ I just described, your life is going to have an INFLUENCE and make an IMPACT.”

The first metaphor is described in Matthew 5:13

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.” —Matthew 5:13 NLT

Here's the same passage in The Message: 

Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”Matthew 5:13 MSG

We tend to love programs, systems, structures and complicated, often elaborate plans. But in Matthew 5:3-16, it’s almost like Jesus is saying, “My biggest priority for your life isn't in you doing all kinds of right things. I’m locked in on you being the right kind of person. Because when you become the right kind of person, you will do the right kind of things. In fact, you won’t be able to help it.”

In Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus gives us a glimpse of the nature of a life lived in the "kingdom of God" — a life lived in the "range of God's effective will, where what God wants done gets done" — and — a life lived "in the presence of God, and under the rule, reign and power of God." 

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Here's the big idea I hope you discover as you read these four verses: 

The Big Idea: "I was made to make a difference. A powerful and persuasive life that stays connected to people always has an influence and makes an impact." 

Let's start with the last part of the "Big Idea" and work forward: 1. You were meant to have an INFLUENCE and make an IMPACT.

Jesus said, You are salt.” 

Why would Jesus compare us to salt?  

There were at least eleven different uses for salt in the ancient world. In fact, salt had so many uses that it was highly valued.

It was so valuable that the Romans sometimes paid their soldiers with salt. The word “salary” was actually derived from the word, “salt.” Historically, salt was used as a method of trade, currency and commerce.

If you've ever heard the expression, "He's not worth his salt," this is where it came from. When a soldier was negligent in performing his duties, his commanding officer would say, "He's not worth his salt." In other words, "He hasn't done his job and shouldn't be paid."

Today, when we talk about somebody who embodies a life of beauty, grace, kindness, goodness, gentleness and generosity, we’ll sometimes say stuff like this: “She’s the salt of the earth…”

When Jesus called us "salt," He didn't have Morton’s Table Salt in mind that you can purchase at Target for $0.89 cents.  At the very least, Jesus was saying, “You are VALUABLE.  You have WORTH.  Your life has MEANING and PURPOSE.  You have a MISSION in this world.”

Here are just four thoughts about salt:

  • Salt creates THIRST.

That’s why bars serve salty pretzels and peanuts free of charge. They’re not being generous. They want people to drink more. 

I recently read a story about a young salesman was disappointed about losing a big sale. He was venting to his senior sales-manager about losing the sale and said, “Well, I guess it just proves you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

The wise, senior sales manager looked back at this young salesman and said, “If you want to be a great salesman, you need to learn this principle: Your job isn’t to make him drink. Your job is to MAKE HIM THIRSTY.”

This is part of what it means to be "salt." When we begin to live the kind of life Jesus described in the Beatitudes...  When we’re in tune and in step with the Holy Spirit, allowing the fruit of the Spirit to shape and  form the quality of our lives... That kind of life is beautiful and compelling. It actually creates SPIRITUAL THIRST in the people around us.  

Here's a question I've been asking myself: Are you making people thirsty?

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When we rub shoulders with people… when we spend time with people — on the job, at work, in our homes, with our roommates, family and friends — do people walk away thirsty for more of Jesus?

Recently, when I was meditating on this verse it occurred to me that we almost always think about this verse in the context of ministry, outreach, evangelism or some kind of ministry activity. That's not bad, but I think Jesus had more in mind than some seasonal evangelistic campaign. He was thinking about daily life! Salt was and is a household item. It was and is something people interacted with daily.

With that in mind, being "salt" is about the way we live in our home. It’s about the way we do our jobs. It’s about how we interact with our friends at school.  It’s about how we love our spouse and kids.

So, here's the question again: Are you making people thirsty? 

  • Salt adds FLAVOR and enhances the TASTE OF FOOD. 

When we eat anything that tastes a little bland, we instinctively read for salt to enhance its flavor. That’s one of the things salt does. It makes salty stuff taste better and it even makes sweet stuff taste better. If you don't believe me, try Talenti Sea Salt Caramel ice cream and you will become a believer! 

Titus 2:10 says that our character and the way we lives our lives should “…make the teaching of God our Savior ATTRACTIVE in every way.” (Cf. 1 Peter 3:3-4)

Wow! You may want to read that again!

In other words, when we live out our faith with the beauty described in the Beatitudes... When our lives are formed by things like humility, authenticity, integrity and peace... When we live our lives in vital relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we make the gospel ATTRACTIVE! We enhance its flavor! 

One of the interesting things about salt is that when we put it on our popcorn, watermelon, french-fries, or in sea-salt caramel ice cream, no one ever says, “That’s great salt!” They say, “That’s great popcorn, watermelon, fries or ice cream.”

The same thing is true with our lives. When we’re getting life right, our lives won’t make “US” look good, they’ll make JESUS look good! They’ll make the gospel compelling and attractive!

  • Salt PURIFIES and PRESERVES.

We refrigerate our food to preserve it. But in the first century, they didn’t have that option. So, salt was rubbed on meat and fish to prevent them from spoiling.

Salt prevented decay. It also purified. Salt was used as an antiseptic to kill germs.

The application is powerful! When we're really in tune with Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit, whenever we see infection, decay or deterioration; instead of running away from it, we will run to it!  Because we’ve experienced GRACE, we know the power of grace and the gospel to TRANSFORM and REDEEM. We know that when God's grace touches dead things, they come back to life! When God's graces touches broken, decaying or deteriorating things, they experience restoration and renovation! 

When Jesus said, “You are salt!” He was saying, “You are agents of redemption, renovation and preservation. You are an agent of reconciliation.”

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  • Salt is an agent of HEALING.

Do you realize that today people from around the world actually flock to the Dead Sea in the Middle East seeking relief from all kinds of physical ailments like chronic skin, respiratory and joint conditions? 

There are several minerals in the Dead Sea, but one of the main ingredients and healing properties in the Dead Sea is salt. It's an agent of HEALING.

 

I believe one of the things Jesus was saying when he said, You are the salt of the earth…” was that He wants us to be agents of His healing grace. He wants to use us to bring EMOTIONAL, RELATIONAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL HEALING to the lives of the people He places in our lives.

We called last Sunday a "Day of Healing" at a2 Church. Sunday night was a special, "Night of Healing." I loved both! God used all of our special guests in amazing ways! We will have them back! But I really believe healing isn’t something that’s supposed to be reserved or relegated to a designated day or night of the month! EVERY DAY can be a “Day of Healing” and EVERY NIGHT can be a “Night of Healing.”

I love the commission Jesus gave His followers in Matthew 10:8. It reads like this in The Message

Jesus: Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. —Matthew 10:8 MSG

If you're a follower of Jesus, this is part of His calling and commission upon your life! 

Can you imagine what would happen if we began to take the healing power of the finished work of Jesus into every sphere and aspect of our lives?  Can you imagine what would happen if we realized that God hasn't only commissioned and authorized a select few to be His agent, but that He has commissioned and authorized me and you? 

Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth." 

It's time to live like it! 

Stay salty! #StaySalty