Sunday, April 29, 2012

Leaving Our Familiar Paths

By Allen White

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
Matthew 24:1-2

Taken out of context, Jesus’ claims seem a bit ridiculous. Who was going to destroy the temple? Who would even have the chance? If someone started dismantling the temple, certainly a guard or a priest would stop them. What did Jesus have against the temple?

Jesus didn’t have anything against the temple. This was the sacred place where people came to meet God. This was the place where sinners came for atonement. But, Jesus is the fulfillment of all of that.

This section of Matthew contains many passages with a double meaning or even a double fulfillment. In the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, it wasn’t Jesus coming to an end, it was the temple system facing its end.

The curtain separating the ordinary person from the tangible presence of God would be torn in two (Matthew 27:51). No longer would people need an intermediary. With Jesus tearing down that wall of separation, believers from then until now have direct access to the throne room.

The place of worship became irrelevant at this point. Any time, any place believers can enter into God’s presence. They don’t need a priest or a preacher, a worship leader or a band, they just need hearts focused on God Himself.

The dual prediction in Jesus’ words also pointed to AD 70 when the temple was actually destroyed.  Jesus predicted these events about 40 years before the destruction would take place. He wasn’t saying these things to bait the religious leaders.

Jesus wanted His followers to understand massive change was ahead, and it would be okay. They would be losing a familiar path of worship, but would be gaining access to the Father like they’d never experienced before.

You and I must admit we have some familiar paths to worship. Often worship is a weekend service with believers gathered together, and we should worship this way. But, if we’re only focusing on God on Sunday, we are missing so much of what God has for us.

Think about the dark places you must go throughout the week – your work, your neighborhood, certain relationships, or maybe even your own home. The power and presence of God are available to you there. In a quiet way, you can focus on God’s presence even in difficult places.

Meeting God no longer calls for ideal circumstances. Any time, any place, He is there. Where are we?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Most Read Post #1: Emotions Are So Unreasonable

By Allen White

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:36-38

Death is not a normal thing to volunteer for. Jesus spoke of His mission on this earth over and over with His disciples. Jesus knew that the end of His mission would result in death. But, even for our All-Knowing God, Jesus had never personally experienced sin and death. His Divine mission was confronted with a strong human reaction.

Jesus took Peter, James and John, His inner circle, a little further into the garden. He knew that His betrayal would happen sooner rather than later. He asked them to keep watch while He prepared Himself in prayer.

Jesus was overwhelmed. The Son of God, the Master and Creator of the Universe, the Savior of the world was overwhelmed. And, He should have been.

Emotions are just so unreasonable. Our emotions motivate us toward things that defy our logic. Some of us were even taught that emotions were scary or bad or both. But, emotion is a part of who we are.

No one should feel okay at a loved one’s funeral. We should grieve. Everyone should feel overwhelming joy and excitement on their wedding day. And, there are days when the circumstances of our life are completely overwhelming. There’s only one place to go on those days.

Jesus, being fully human and also fully God, was overwhelmed. With His disciples keeping watch, He chose to go by Himself and to connect with the Father. No person would understand His plight. No amount of ranting and raving would cure what ailed Him that day. Only a connection with the One who completely understood Him and His circumstance would help.

Where do you go when you are overwhelmed? Do you escape into a bad habit? Do you go to bed? Do you go ballistic? There is only One Person in your life that can take what you’re dealing with, and it’s also the only Person who will fully understand – your Heavenly Father.

God is not surprised by your circumstance. God wired you to feel what you feel. When you are completely overwhelmed, He completely understands.

What are you feeling overwhelmed by today? It’s time to get alone with the One who understands.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Most Read Post #2: God Doesn't Want You to Worry

By Allen White

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27

We can’t add anything to our life by worrying. We might even shorten our lives by worrying.

When we worry about something, we put ourselves through the same physiological state as if the event was actually happening. Our brain knows the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined, but our nervous system does not. Worry puts our bodies in a state of emergency – fight or flight.

Our blood pressure goes up. Our heart races. Our palms begin to sweat. Our stomachs produce extra acid to digest what’s there. No wonder worriers end up with ulcers. The body doesn’t know the difference between a real emergency and an imagined one.

Our lives are in God’s hand. The length of our lives is determined by God Himself (Job 14:5). We can’t add to that. God is in control. We are not. So, what do we do when we’re overcome with worry?

The Bible says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Since God is in control, there is really no reason to be anxious about anything. But, when we do feel anxious, it means that we’re out of our depth. We are worrying about things that are well into the future and out of our hands. When that warning light pops up on the dashboard of our souls, we must take the next step.

Give our worry to God in prayer. If we’re still worried about it after we’ve prayed, then give it over to God again and again and again. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

God knows the resolution to every one of our problems. God knows what we’ll feel like when our current problem is resolved, so before the problem is even resolved, God gives us something that we don’t deserve. He gives us the peace that we will experience when everything is okay. But, He gives us the peace now, even though the resolution is still in process.

What are you worried about today? Stop and give the situation to God. Even if your prayer is “God, I don’t know what to do. Please take this over and help me.” He will help you.

Then, when you start worrying about it again (and you might), stop and pray again. If that warning light comes on again, stop and pray again.

I share a story in my stress management class about a woman who went to see a psychologist about worrying. The doctor prescribed a biblical remedy. He gave her a card with the word “STOP” on one side and Philippians 4:6-7 on the other side. He told her that every time she started to worry, she should get the card out and read it out loud.

The next week the patient was pleased to report that the first day she had to use the card 20 times, but by the end of the week she only had to use it twice a day.

What are you worried about right now? A worry is something you think about three times a day or more. What are those worries?

God doesn’t want you to worry. He’s got this one (and the next one). Place your worries into God’s hands, and He will give you His peace in return.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Most Read Posts #3: What If We Stopped Complaining?

By Allen White

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16

For some of us, these verses seem impossible. Grumbling and complaining might feel like breathing. Or, if it’s not a complaint, it comes out as sarcasm. Whether our snide remarks are resentful or recreational, they reflect the condition of our hearts.

Grumbling and complaining comes from the simple fact that the world is not as we think it should be. Whether our expectations are realistic or not, when our lives don’t measure up to our expectations, we grumble and complain. When our lives are less than what we think they should be, we grow resentful and sometimes angry.

The problem, according to this passage, is that grumbling and arguing are obstacles to becoming blameless and pure. The ugliness of our attitudes corrupts the purity of our souls. When we are saved, God declares us to be righteous (Romans 4:5) and purifies our hearts (Hebrews 10:21-22). Negative attitudes can pollute what God has purified.

Sometimes we excuse our attitudes, because of the world that we live in and what we have to deal with. The world is an unfair and an unjust place. Just watch the evening news – there’s plenty to be bitter about. Just look at how people treat each other – there’s plenty to resent.

Don’t you find it odd that the first century A.D. was regarded as “warped and crooked”? If that generation was warped and crooked, then what does that make our generation? They didn’t even have Lady Gaga back then.

Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians from prison. That wasn’t fair. Why wasn’t Paul bitter? Paul knew, as we know, that neither people nor evil are ultimately in charge of the universe. God is.

One day, every wrong will be righted (Revelation 19:11). One day, justice will prevail and evil will disappear (Revelation 20:10). Until that day, we must choose to trust that God loves us, He has a plan for us, and He knows what we’re dealing with. If we choose to trust rather than complain, then we “shine among them like stars in the sky.” 

What are you known for these days – the light of Christ or grumbling and complaining? Complaining is really just a bad habit. There are times to bring things up. But, if the person that we’re talking to is not part of the problem or part of the solution, then it’s just grumbling and gossip.

It’s our choice to either become blameless, pure and bright or grumbling, complaining and dull. God will help us shine like stars. If we choose the other path, we’re on our own, consequences and all.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Unbelieving Worshippers

By Allen White

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20

Could you imagine being one of the eleven disciples meeting Jesus after His resurrection? “ They worshipped him; but some doubted.” What a remarkable sentence. They all worship, but they didn’t all believe.

[Jesus and Disciples pic]

If you and I were in that group, you bet we would have believed. We would have written a bestselling book, worked the talk show circuit, and maybe even made a movie about it. There He was right in front of us, how could you doubt? And, how could you worship and doubt?

Maybe they didn’t trust themselves. Maybe their heads hadn’t caught up with their hearts. This event fell into a category completely of its own. There was no point of reference for something like this.

Jesus gave His disciples, including us, one of His last commands: the Great Commission. But, notice the Great Commission is bookended by two of Jesus’ divine attributes: “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This is omnipotence. God is all powerful. Then, Jesus adds at the end, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” This is His omnipresence. God is present everywhere all of the time.

With God’s power and God’s presence with us, Jesus commissions us to “go and make disciples.” Not just pastors. Not just evangelists. But, all of His disciples.

Now, for some this evokes the terror of knocking on a stranger’s door and asking, “If you were to die tonight, do you know where you’d spend eternity?” Door to door evangelism is not my cup of tea. But, don’t get me wrong, there are folks with the gift of evangelism, who can witness starting with any conversation.

But, how are you making disciples? How are you investing in the lives of others? Who are you taking under your wing and showing them the way?

This doesn’t need to be forced. You have friends, right? Why not invite your friends to a Bible study with you? Use a DVD curriculum. You don’t have to be the expert. The Bible scholar is on the DVD. Think about the people in your life – who would enjoy or benefit from this study. Then, invite them.

Your children, your neighbors and co-workers, maybe even your acquaintances are your mission field. Reach out to them. Show them kindness. Invite them over. Love them. Serve them. Help them. This is the heart of making disciples.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hush Money

By Allen White

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.  Matthew 28:11-15

Two days after their problem had gone away for good, the religious leaders’ worst nightmare appeared. Jesus’ body was missing without a trace. Guarded in a sealed tomb, the stone was moved, the soldiers were paralyzed, and Jesus was gone. This was no ordinary grave robbery.

In their heart of hearts, these men hoped this was a prank. But, the sick feeling in the pit of their stomachs betrayed the truth. Jesus was alive.

Pride overcame reason. The bottom line was simply if Jesus was resurrected, then they were sunk. Their stature, their wealth, and even their lives were at stake. Would the Romans arrest them for killing an innocent man? Or, more likely, would the crowd they worked into a frenzy against Jesus rise up against them? After all, they had just murdered the Messiah, and now He was back. Their reputations and everything  else was on the line.

Now their version of reality was completely detached from the truth. Since they couldn’t change the facts, they had to change the perception. Perception is reality, right?

They paid off the Roman soldiers, who also had a considerable amount of pride at stake. How could they have let their dead prisoner walk away? How could they have all slept while a small group of unarmed disciples carried the body away?

The soldiers collected their hush money, then spun a new version of the events. “Those tricky disciples stole the body.” I’m sure a number of them called in  sick that day.

Who are you in this story? Are you the soldiers who were easily persuaded to forget the supernatural and pursue financial gain? Are you the religious leaders who couldn’t fit God into their reality, so they denied reality? You can’t be Jesus. His role is taken. What would you have done with this situation?

What are you confronted with in your own life and you think, “Well, that can’t be true.” How are your behaviors and attitudes reflected back to you through other people? Do you like what you see? Are you prepared to allow God to transform you, or would you prefer to keep your head in the sand?

God wants to do a work in you. If you are willing to encounter the Truth, He will set you free. If you’re set on denying reality, prepare for an exhausting, uphill climb.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Redemption on the Reedy

By Allen White

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:1-10

On a warmer than average January day, I gathered our younger two, Timothy and Julia, and we headed out to Cedar Falls Park. Grateful for a beautiful day and thankful we weren’t hunkered down against our annual snow with our milk and bread, we went to explore this little known park in Upstate South Carolina.

Cedar Falls Park is the site of milling ruins and a waterfall on the Reedy River, which made milling possible back in the day. The Reedy is not a powerful river like the Mississippi or Missouri Rivers, but there was certainly enough current to turn a water wheel.

Everything was perfect. The sun was shining. A gentle warm, but not hot, breeze was blowing. The sunlight danced across the 200 foot wide water fall. I knew this was a day worthy of writing about. But, at the time I didn’t know why.

As the children played at water’s edge, I relaxed with one eye on the falls and another on my kids. The overprotective father in me wanted to warn them to stay clear, but I decided just to chill out and let them enjoy the day.

Timothy slipped and got a little wet. He removed his clothes to reveal his pajamas underneath. He had followed the instruction to get dressed, but apparently needed guidance in getting undressed first. It was okay. Nobody was around. He was back to play in no time.

Timothy and Julia hopped from rock to rock, then back to the shore. Their laughter filled the air and my heart as well.

Before I knew it, Timothy had slipped again. He had decided to stick a toe in, but got more than he bargained for. I jumped up to help him. I knew he would be unhappy with being more wet than he wanted to be. As I raced over to help him, the current swept him away.

My role immediately switched from helper to rescuer. I’m not a great swimmer. I was scared. He was scared. But, I reassured him, “Daddy’s here, Tim. I’m going to get you.” It didn’t matter what it took, I was going to get that boy out of this river.

Timothy dog paddled the best he could. He kept his little red head above the water. Finally, I reached him. He clung on for dear life. Now, the next problem – we had drifted far enough downstream, we were out of shoreline and faced only boulders.

Grabbing Timothy, we struggled against the current to move around the boulders and back to shore. Submerged rocks gashed our legs. We safely reached shore, where Julia waited safely, though a little freaked out.

We sat down together on the rock and thanked God for rescuing Timothy, helping Daddy, and protecting Julia. Then, we headed to the car, drenched from head to toe.

Fortunately, the only casualty that day was my cell phone. My children later lamented my other loss – the high scores on all of the games on my phone. Time well wasted, I suppose.

Driving home, wet and bleeding, I was grateful God  had watched over us – grateful He helped me rescue my son. I thank God for sparing my son’s life. I can’t imagine how God the Father felt to have lost His Son.

Every one of us is adrift. Every one of us needs a Father who will do anything to rescue us. Every one of us needs to know a God who will never give up on a single one – until we’re safely home.

God will do whatever it takes to save lost people. As long as there is breathe in our bodies, God will pursue us.

Some of us have found those strong arms to cling to. Some of us knew those arms once, but have decided to struggle on our own without God. We go to church. We play the part. But, we resist God and drift with the current.

God has so much more for you. When you ask for His help, He will help. When you question why He’s let you down or forsaken you, He’s right there, reaching out His arms, doing whatever it takes to bring you back.

If you’re tired from the struggle, it’s time to collapse into your Father’s arms.

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Friday, April 6, 2012

The People of Samanthapudi Darsi, India Now Have Water Because of You!

Dear Readers,

For my birthday last year (November 28th, in case you missed it), I invited you to join me in providing a well in India. Today, a village of over 800 people now has their own well providing fresh drinking water. The report below tells the story of this village and their people.

Thank you for joining me in raising over $2,500 to provide fresh water and Living Water for these people.

Thanks for reading,
Allen White

Fact Sheet

Samanthapudi Darsi, India

People Served:      800+
Date Completed:   January 28, 2012              

Summary of Village and previous water conditions:

The people of the village depend on different sources for drinking water.  Often it is dirty and contaminated. The village was badly in need of water well as they were struggling to find good and safe drinking water.

Samanthapudi Darsi is primarily a tribal village and the colony consists of outcasts and untouchables.  They depend on seasonal work and they go in search of work in agricultural fields and do menial jobs to support their family.

Putta Somaiah and Padma, husband and wife, were in total debt and were on the verge of committing suicide out of frustration. They were led to the prayer meeting by the believers; they joined in prayer and worship, and heard the Gospel of Christ being preached. The village pastor and Christian community prayed over this couple, and they felt peace and happiness and were determined to live.  On the suggestion of the pastor, they sold a piece of land belonging to them. By God’s grace that piece of land got a good bargain and got a good amount of money.  With that, they were able to pay off their debts and were able to buy another 3 pieces of land with the remaining money for cultivation.  The Lord brought peace in this family and a purpose for their lives.

There is a pastor in this village taking care of the community.  The community is very responsive to the message of Christ.  Many more souls can be won for Christ by providing water wells for drinking. As part of the well work, the people were taught how to be neat and practice good health hygiene methods in their daily life concerning water and sanitation.

Thank you for partnering with Water of Life to bring clean water to this village!
“And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” Rev 22:17

Thursday, April 5, 2012

One Dark Day Brought Life to Us All

By Allen White

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Matthew 27:45-56

The final sequence of events leading to Jesus’ death started with the Passover celebration with his disciples. Passover harkens back to the time of Moses and the exodus from Egypt. As a persecuted people, Jewish holidays celebrate God’s protection over and over again throughout time: Passover (Exodus), Purim (Esther), and Yom Kippur (Maccabees). God provided for His people then and will provide for His people again today.

Passover centers on the ten plagues inflicted on the Egyptians. The plagues are a bit curious. After all, frogs, locust, hail – was God just taking creative license? All ten plagues were purposeful in targeting a specific Egyptian god.

The final plague resulted in the death of the first born son in every family. While the first born son is often the heir, the first born son of the Pharaoh was regarded as divine. The final plague overcame the chief Egyptian deity, the Pharaoh himself.

To protect themselves, the Israelites were given instructions to sacrifice a lamb and paint the doorposts of their house using hyssop as a brush. God provided a way of escape using the blood of the lamb.

Jesus, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29) began His journey to the cross by celebrating Passover with His disciples. He wasn’t kissed by the angel of death, but He was kissed by Judas.

After He cried out on the cross, a sponge of sour vinegar or grog was raised to His mouth on a hyssop branch. You see, even the device used to apply the lamb’s blood to the door posts in Exodus was symbolic of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God and our salvation.

To each of us who have received Christ, we have passed from death over to life. This transaction is not humanly possible. Only God can turn the destiny of our souls.

Many phenomena occurred at Jesus’ death. The earth shook. The curtain in the temple separating ordinary people from the presence of God was torn in two. Temple priests were no longer necessary. Jesus is our Mediator. Through His death, we have direct access to God.

A Roman soldier, who more than likely worshipped pagan gods, realized he had witnessed something remarkable. He was not a proponent of Judaism, let alone Jesus, but what flowed out of his mouth came deep from his soul: Surely he was the Son of God!”

On that dark day, Jesus bore the sins of the world. Every evil ever committed. Every sinful, selfish act you and I have ever done or will ever do – it’s all covered through Christ’s death on our behalf.

Christian ideas and symbols are commonplace in American culture. We have become so familiar with the old, old story. Sometimes it seems like it’s getting old.

But, what would your life be like without Christ? What if you carried the weight of all of your guilt and shame? What if your future was uncertain? What if you were hopelessly lost and unable to find your way? We can be thankful for Our Savior and His sacrifice for us.

Take a moment right now and whisper a couple of sentences to Jesus thanking Him for the joy of His salvation.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Can Sin be God’s Will?

By Allen White

Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

 “You have said so,” Jesus replied.

When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

 “Barabbas,” they answered.

 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Matthew 27:11-26

Jesus’ death was motivated by politics, fueled by hatred, and appointed by God. This is hard to reconcile. These things shouldn’t go together. Two wrongs don’t make a right, right?

The mind of God is difficult to understand. God is not like us. The passion of the Christ is not just a clever screen play to unravel. It’s difficult to understand, yet the result is essential to salvation.

None of us wish to think about the torture of our Savior. Yet, none of us wish to think about our own torture in Hell. Jesus paid the price for our sins. In the most painful, humiliating way, God took our place. That’s hard to understand.

Why did Pilate wash his hands of innocent blood, then have Jesus flogged before he turned Him over to be crucified? Was Pilate proving he was tough on crime? Did he have an image to uphold with the crowd? Wasn’t crucifixion enough?

How could the wicked acts of people prove out the will of God? Did God insight this evil? Or, did He just use something that was already there? It’s difficult to understand.

Why did God require Jesus’ sacrifice in order to forgive our sins? After all, you and I can forgive someone without bloodshed. But, God is not like us.

Holiness and righteous are core to God’s Being. These aren’t character qualities God has developed over time. These are essential to Who He is along with love, goodness, and justice. Theologically, we refer to these as the “moral attributes of God.” To lack any of this would cause God not to be God according to Scripture.

Our sin violates God’s character. It doesn’t just offend Him. Sin puts people in direct opposition to a Holy God. We are His enemies. No amount of begging or self-improvement will ever satisfy our need for a Savior.

In His mercy, God sent His Son to take our place. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. He was the only perfect sacrifice for our sins.

But, God is a just God. Why didn’t He just reject human beings and move on? He could justifiably give us what we deserve.

God is also Love. By offering His Son for our sins, God created a situation where He accepts even those who reject Him. People don’t go to Hell because God sends them there. It’s our choice to accept or reject God’s forgiveness.

I don’t understand the pain of the cross. I don’t understand the love of God. But, I’m glad He does.

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

If I Had to Do It All Over Again

By Allen White

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

 “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.” Matthew 27:1-10

Regrets. For most they are plentiful. For the fortunate, they are few. If we had to do it over again, many things we would have done differently. Now what?

We can torture ourselves with regrets. We can play the scenarios over and over in our minds. We can meditate on how dumb we are. We can cringe with embarrassment with every thought. We can lead ourselves to a place where recovery seems impossible.

Regrets can cause us to die while we’re still alive. We hide ourselves behind a fa├žade. We create an image better than who we think we are. We live a pretend life, yet constantly endure real pain. Then, we wonder why we are drawn to things that aren’t good for us.

We feel bad about how we sooth ourselves. It’s just one more thing to feel bad about.
If we were born perfect and good and marred ourselves with sin, there would be plenty to regret. But, we were born into sin. We all fell short before we could even stand up. The curse of the human race is a sinful inheritance. Everybody sins. Everybody has regrets.

Judas’ regrets cost him his life. This wasn’t Jesus’ requirement. In fact, Jesus paid the price for Judas’ sin. If Judas had sought forgiveness, Jesus would have granted it. But, how could that be?

God is so much better than us. God loves His enemies. He has no desire to see anyone get hit by a bus, let alone, face eternal punishment. If Judas had cried out for forgiveness, even as Jesus was hanging from the cross, Judas would have been forgiven and free.

Sure, he would have thought about betraying His Savior. But, Judas would have understood the joy and peace from having your sins forgiven.

Sometimes we embarrass ourselves. We just want to die a thousand deaths. Jesus’ one death makes our wish unnecessary.

God will forgive you for whatever you’ve done. The question is will your pride allow you to seek His forgiveness?

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