Psalm 146–The Lord is Our Help!

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

Recently I read Psalm 146 and was truly blessed by it. I thought I would share some of those blessings in this blog post. Psalm 146 is only 10 verses long but it’s so full of God’s blessings to us in those verses. It starts out with a familiar phrase in Psalms: PRAISE THE LORD!  But by the time you get to verse 5 it talks about His care for us and some of the reasons we should praise Him.

First, the Psalmist tells us who NOT put our trust in. In verse 3 and 4 it says don’t bother putting your trust in man, even “princes” which is another way of saying man at his best. Princes and kings were looked up to by the people in Biblical times. The truth is, at best, man is unreliable, mortal and fleeting. He will one day return to the earth and that is the end of him. There is no salvation in man. But in verse 5 the Psalmist tells us who we can put our trust in. “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” God is the God of the undeserving. Jacob was not a strong, god-following righteous man. He was a sneak and a plotter. But God had mercy on Him and used him to father the 12 tribes of Israel. God called Himself, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He works through imperfect people like Jacob, you and me. Praise God!

From here on I would like to look at a few things from 7-9: in verse 7 there are three aspects of God reveals to us that we should praise Him for:

  • He is an advocate to the Helpless-He sees that the righteous are vindicated. We may not see His vindication when we want it, but it will come. For us, when we come to the place where we admit to God that we are helpless, He will be our advocate. In other words, He has our backs. Indeed, Jesus is already our advocate to the Father on our behalf.
  • He is our Provider-Verse 7 says He gives food to the hungry. He not only gives physical to us but He also gives spiritual food. He is the only God who can fully satisfy. The Question we need to ask ourselves is, how hungry are we? Are we hungry enough to look to Him only for our needs?  He is the only One who can satisfy them.
  • God is the great Emancipator-He sets the captives free. He gives freedom from those under human oppression even while they may still be in prison. But He also gives us freedom from the chains of sin, from the world, from bondage of the devil and from selfish living. He gives complete and true freedom. If there is ever a verse for us in Regeneration, it is PS 146:7.

In verse 8, the Psalmist talks about two more areas that we should praise Him:

  • He is the Sight Giver-or said another way, He gives sight to the blind. Blindness can be physical, mental or spiritual. Some are born blind, some become blind by accident but of more importance for most of us, some are blind by choice. We are blind because we make a choice to be. God can be fully satisfying, but unless we make a choice to let him give us sight, it won’t happen. If I were to give any advice for this I would recommend that we spend time in His Word. We need to read His Word prayerfully, with repentance and with the desire to obey what we read. The world may mock at this, but that makes no difference. God’s Word needs to be our guide.
  • He is the lifter of those who are bowed down-we get weighted down by worry, affliction, trouble and sorrow. In my work at the ministry I receive phone calls and emails from people who are weighed down by afflictions and sorrows. Sometimes my heart breaks at what I hear or read. I always pray for those who contact me and add them to my prayer list. It continues to grow and in many ways, has become a side ministry for me. But I’m finding it not to be a burden but a privilege. God is the lifter, not me. I can only intercede to God on their behalf. My efforts are weak at best. But God lifts up!

So, we come to verse 9 that brings out a couple more aspects of God’s love and care for us. One part of this verse brought some thoughts that are personal to me because of some dear people who are in my opinion, God’s hands and arms to help exiles.

  • He is the protector of the Sojourner– You and I are sojourners here this earth. But also in our world today, we have sojourners all over the globe. They are fleeing for their lives from wars and persecution. Some are in Greece, Germany and other countries. Wherever they are, God is interested in their welfare. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 25, verse 35 where He says, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

I have several friends who work in this area. Some of their names are Melody, Micayla, Brenda, Rachel and Emily. Yes, I do have guy friends too but you know what, for the most part they don’t do what these young ladies are doing. I’m sure all of them would like to be married and are tempted at times to live the normal American Christian life. But they have made a choice to take a different path in their lives. Three of the five are past students at our school here at the ministry, one is the sister of a one of our graduates and one applied for our school but God called her elsewhere. These are all young ladies whom the Lord has called to show the love of Christ sojourners, and they have done that to His glory. Two have been working in Greece, one in a Middle East country, one in Germany and one in Cambodia. Through their humble service, they make me feel proud to know them and humbled to be considered their friend. I pray for them often.

  • He is a friend to the fatherless and widow (and all others who have no human help)-Some of us may find ourselves at least partly in this situation. In my job at GFA, I hear from a lot of widows and a few widowers. In their emails and phone calls, I can hear and feel their pain and loneliness. I pray for them but more importantly I know that God cares about them and by His grace He will take care of them.

Well, that takes us to the end of our quick journey through Psalm 146. Please take a few minutes to read this Psalm. Then just take time to praise and thank God for all His love and care for us. Blessings to you!!

A Hobbit’s Journey Into Humility

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

I don’t know about you but I feel like a Hobbit in my journey with the Lord at times. I like Hobbits. They are strange little guys and girls. Everything to them seemed to be twice as difficult as everyone else faced. Just staying on a horse was difficult because of their size. But they went on great adventures, fought evil demigods and even dragons.

My favorite character is Sam. He won me over in the first Lord of the Rings movie when he walked out in the river and almost drowned to stay with and help his friefrodosam32nd Frodo. Sam would have died for Frodo and remained his faithful, helpful and humble servant throughout their journey together. I like the character of Sam, but it’s all make believe for our entertainment. But our character and humility is very real. We need to have the heart of Sam.

Have you ever given thought to God’s Word when it comes to humility? Lately I’ve been struck time after time about how proud and vain I am. I keep thinking I’m making progress but then something else comes up to show me there is still much work to be done in that area of my life. Don’t get me wrong, please. I’m not making humility a project or anything. My only “project,” if I can call it that, is just to be as close to Christ as I possibly can.

The opposite of humility is pride. The problem with pride is that it can be very subtle at times and you don’t even know you have fallen into it until someone reminds you. That’s what happened to me this week. It happened over lunch with one of our leaders and we were talking about prayer. During the conversation, God showed me some wrong and prideful attitudes I had regarding prayer. To correct that, I would need not only to change my attitude and my heart but also make some changes in my daily life. Neither of these were particularly appealing to me, but I got with God and asked him to humble me and cause a change in my heart and actions. By His grace, that has begun to happen.

Here are a couple of verses that have a lot of meaning to me:

Thus says the Lord, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool, where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For my hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:1-2).

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in meekness of wisdom and wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. (James 3:13-14).

If there is one thing I would say to you today, it is this: Do everything in your power to humble yourself before the Lord. It is better to humble ourselves than have the Lord humble us. Why? Because as we humble ourselves God gets the glory. Pride steals the glory that is rightfully His. Humility is something God honors. Our sacrifices, works and service to Him are all good things and please God. But God honors our humility. He desires to change our hearts and our character. We need to be people of humble character.

I would like to leave you with a couple of quotes from some people you may have heard of:

You are not mature if you have a high esteem of yourself. He who boasts in himself is but a babe in Christ, if indeed he be in Christ at all. Young Christians may think much of themselves. Growing Christians think themselves nothing. Mature Christians know that they are less than nothing. The more holy we are, the more we mourn our infirmities, and the humbler is our estimate of ourselves.  C.H. Spurgeon

Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself one way or the other at all. —William Temple

The Bible says that Moses was the most humble or meek man on the earth (Numbers 12:3). You can see it all through the book of Exodus and Numbers. Yet he ended up not being able to enter the promised land, “because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel.” Deut. 32:51. God truly desires His people to be humble before Him. May we take this to heart and walk in humility before Him. James 4:10 indicates that the humble will be exalted. But how and when that happens is up to the Lord, not us. Our part is to BE HUMBLE AND LET GOD BE GOD. May God bless you all!!

 

Empty Hearts

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

Not long ago I made the following post on Facebook: “If God has created you for Himself and has set eternity in your heart to bring Him glory, then the only thing that will fill that eternal space is something eternal–God Himself. Temporary things will never fill an eternal void. You are powerless to fill an eternal need with anything this world has to offer.” (re:gen) I was a bit surprise when I saw the interest the post received, so I thought maybe I should write on it.

I can tell you that my journey in life and through my year re:generation, has been learning about emptiness and dissatisfaction with my life with the LORD. It took a few months for me to start putting this together. At times, I really disliked this “holy dissatisfaction” as I came to call it. Not that I was holy in all of what I was going through. I found overall, that I was selfish and self-centered. For some time, I would try to fill the emptiness I was feeling with things of the world. They were not bad or sinful things in themselves, but I was trying to fill my emptiness in ungodly ways or with things other than God Himself. While my struggle has been much improved since completing re:generation, I still battle with this “holy dissatisfaction.” I’m not giving God the glory in my life I should be.

Philippians chapter 3 has always intrigued me and it is this chapter that birthed the term holy dissatisfaction. The Apostle Paul talks about his credentials. He had everything to brag about and talks about them in verses 4-6. It seems like he had the best of everything in his day. Then in verses 7-8 he makes this astounding statement: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus My Lord. For His sake, I have suffered the of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ….It’s like, “WOW!!!! He made it!! He found the answer. Our only hope is Christ, and Christ alone!! But did he really make it?

I’m afraid he didn’t. Just a few verses later he says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus had made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” I tend to think of Paul as the epitome of a disciple, or Christ follower. But it appears that he had the same struggles that a lot of us do. It seems Paul had times of restlessness and emptiness just like us. It also seems like Paul had the answer to this that many of us do not have.

So, what do you and I do when we feel empty. My first thing is to go inside myself and become depressed and full of self-pity. I also withdraw from people and fill my time with mindless things like TV and DVDs. Some of us may even go further and slip back into old habits like drugs and alcohol. Whatever you do, there are ways to stop the downward spiral that we sometimes face.

First, I would suggest that we read and study Philippians chapter 3. One thing Paul did was that he kept looking ahead. I think that might be a bit difficult for some of us, because we don’t really know what is ahead. But we do know that one day we will be with Christ and will be transformed into His likeness (3:21)! Our struggles here will not compare to that.

Paul also did something else. He wanted to know Christ more than anything else. His desire was to not let anything else take the place of that. Everything else was loss. Can we give Christ first place in our hearts above family, friends, relationships, vacations, job promotions or anything else we might desire? These are all good things, but if they push Christ out of being first in our lives, then we face the possibility of taking His glory for ourselves. Only Jesus Christ can fill the eternal void we feel!

I want to end this with a true story about a person that I knew many years ago. Her name was Jane (don’t get excited, no romance here). I met Jane over 40 years ago when I worked for a year or so in a Christian Nursing Home in Denver. I was just out of college and needed a job immediately so I took a job as an orderly while I looked around for something else. But I really enjoyed that job although most people couldn’t how I could do such work.

Jane was probably one of the most beautiful girls I had seen up to that point in my life. She was also nearly a total quadriplegic. She had contracted polio just before Dr. Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine in the 1955. She had a little use of her arms and hands but that was about all. During the evening shifts when I worked, me and one of the nurse aides would help Jane with her “exercises” by holding her up and walking her up and down the hall. But what intrigued me most about Jane was this inner peace she seemed to have. I always wondered how that was possible in her situation. I never saw her angry or bitter. She always had this angelic smile about her as she sat in her wheel chair with her Bible.

Jane was also an artist. She could paint and do lettering freehand. Once I asked her if she would make me a small plaque with the phrase from one of the early church fathers, Augustine: “Thou has made us for thyself, Oh God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” I still have the plaque. It’s in a small plastic picture frame, all faded and ugly, but I still keep it around. I always liked that quote because it encouraged me to keep seeking and resting in the Lord. Jane was a picture of rest and contentment. All she had in her life was Jesus.

About 10 years later, I learned through my wife who was a volunteer for a time at the same nursing home, that Jane contracted pneumonia and died. I feel sad when I think about it but am also happy because I know she is with our Lord and can walk and run without help. She is now has true peace that she demonstrated to me in the short time I had the privilege of knowing her.

So, we have come to the end. I tried to make this post about our journey in this life and how to handle our difficulties. This may be simplifying things too much but the way to deal with our difficulties is to make a decision to look only to Jesus for everything. Nothing is this world satisfies or can solve the restlessness in our hearts. It starts with a decision to look to Him, forgetting our past and moving forward in our walks. May we make a decision today to give Jesus first place in our lives.

 

The Easter Experience- Day 6

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STATEMENT SEVEN

Brandon Bachtel, Lead Pastor

Christ’s final proclamation from the Cross is extremely significant.  Just prior, Jesus exclaimed loudly with a triumphant voice, “It is finished!”  Those words indicated that the end of His life drew near, while the beginning of a new life was available to all who would look to Him for salvation and transformation.  Yet, when He spoke this final statement is was also significant “And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46).

One of the most complex deaths in the history of mankind has been examined right before our eyes.  We see a group of zealous, yet wicked men lead people towards crucifying a perfect savior.  We see Jesus beaten, mocked, and rejected, yet Isaiah 53:10 says, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief”.  In one sense it looks like Jesus was murdered by wicked men, on the other it seemed like His Father sent Him to the Cross.  Then you recall the words of Jesus when He claims that no one could take His life, but that He willingly laid it down. (John 10:17-18) This perplexing examination of Jesus’ death and last words are a triumphal display from God to remind us that He has always had a plan to redeem humanity and our sin problem.  

As a matter of fact, it should also remind us that Jesus was always in total control.  Though He laid His life down for His friends, he always maintained His sovereign will, even until the very end.  In Jesus’ humanity, He suffered an agonizing and brutal death.  However, in Jesus’ deity, everything we see in the final days and hours happened just as He said it would.  As “He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30), Jesus took His final breath in submission.  He calmly, yet magnificently displayed His humble, yet sovereign nature to the very end.  Though He quietly left this earth, He shook the earth in what He accomplished.  Wicked pharisees were not in control.  Roman soldiers were not the victors.  Satan DID NOT WIN!  

1 Corinthians 15, 54-56 says, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As few looked on Jesus, a man of no comely appearance (Isaiah 53:2) as He hung lifeless on the Cross, the greatest moment in the history of mankind had taken place before their eyes.  In just a few short days, Jesus would shatter death and the grave.  His quiet moment of death will demolish sin, death, the grave, and be proclaimed loudly through a resurrection that brings life to all who look to Him.

1.  Have you ever thought about the complexity of Jesus’ death?  Take a few moments and ponder that the God of the universe allowed wicked men to brutally beat and kill Jesus to fulfill His plan perfectly.

2. Jesus died quietly and humbly, yet He arouse in splendor a few days later.  What is your favorite benefit of knowing the resurrection story?

The Easter Experience-Day 5

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STATEMENT FIVE

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

John’s narrative of the crucifixion, like everything else, stylistically in his book, takes a different tone than the Synoptic Gospels and, being an eyewitness, he adds some statements not found in the other books. John, standing at the foot of the cross saw firsthand the agony his Lord suffered, as the wrath of God and the sin of the world bore down on him.

Jesus had been on the cross for close to 6 hours at this time. Dehydrated, unable to catch a breath without pushing up from the nails in his feet, causing immense pain…in agony. He uses his request for something to moisten his parched lips to point the bystanders, and us, to a pivotal event in the Old Testament.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. (John 19:28-29)

Throughout his book, John loves details, but why note the type of branch used? What is the significance of a stick used to hold a sponge full of vinegar?

Remember the story of the Passover in the 12th chapter of Exodus? The children of Israel, called by God to leave Egypt under the leadership of Moses, prepared for the Angel of Death to visit the land this way:

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.

So John, very aware of his Jewish history, is saying “Israel, here is your true passover lamb.” He echoes the words of John the Baptist, “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” A spotless lamb sacrificed to temporarily save people from death in Egypt points directly to God’s spotless lamb sacrificed to save his people eternally at Calvary.

A hyssop branch is used to avoid death in the first Passover and used in the defeat of death in the final one.

1. How about you? What do you thirst for this week? Is it more of God, more time in His word, more time talking with him as you go about your routines in life? Or do you thirst for the things this world offers us? Temporary pleasures, fleeting things that dull our senses to the things above; things that, in the end, keep us from having the abundant life God wants for us.

2. The woman at the well in John, Chapter 4, came to draw water for her daily sustenance, and ended up with a living water from the source of all life, Jesus. Will you join me in taking a moment to pray that we all look past the day to day, focus on the eternal and see things, and, more importantly, see people from a heavenly perspective this week?

The Easter Experience-Day 4

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STATEMENT FOUR

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

Probably the most misunderstood phrase that Jesus uttered on the cross is found in Matthew 27:45-49

“And about the ninth hour (noon) Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.”

There is an unfathomable mystery overshadowing this text. Jesus was both God and man united in one divine Person. His deity could not suffer and die, but his humanity could, and in this instance, it suffered the agony of separation from the Father. And He died, that we might, through repentance from sin and faith in Him as our Savior and Lord, be forgiven of our sin and reconciled with God.

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray…and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

But God the Father, with the sins of the world, past, present and future laid upon His son, had to turn away, because sin cannot be in His divine presence. Jesus not only bore man’s sin but actually became sin on man’s behalf, in order that those who believe in Him might be saved from the penalty of our sin.

Habakkuk 1:13 declared of God, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong.” God turned His back when Jesus was on the cross because He could not look upon sin, even, or perhaps especially, in His own Son. Just as Jesus loudly lamented, God the Father had indeed forsaken Him.

But, as He Himself declared, the supreme reason for His coming to earth was not to teach or to be an example but “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus, as we will see again tomorrow, chose his words carefully despite his pain. The phrase “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” is also the first verse of Psalm 22.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

Psalm 22, written by King David, is prophetic in reference to the suffering that the Messiah would endure on the cross:

I am poured out like water,

    and all my bones are out of joint;

my heart is like wax;

    it is melted within my breast;

 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,

    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

    you lay me in the dust of death.

 For dogs encompass me;

    a company of evildoers encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and feet—

 I can count all my bones—

they stare and gloat over me;

they divide my garments among them,

    and for my clothing they cast lots.

So King David, over 1000 years before Jesus was born, is describing what eerily sounds like a crucifixion, at least 300 years before the Assyrians and Persians began the practice. David’s prophetic Psalm, known very well to the Jews at Golgotha, is being carried out in front of their eyes, yet they are unable to see it, even as Jesus points them to the scripture. He says “You were looking for a conquering King, but I came as a servant. But look at Psalm 22, this was all prophesied and fore-ordained by God to bring about the forgiveness that can only be found in the Messiah.”

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10

  1. We look back at the Jewish people of that era, adhering reverently to the customs and traditions set forth in the Old Testament, with wonder that they could miss the Messiah living (and ultimately dying) before their very eyes. But how often do we, as believers, see the handiwork of God playing out in front of us, and choose not to follow His leading? Where do you see God working, and how can you join in that work?
  2. Who in your circle of influence can you share the Good News of Jesus with today? Could you invite a friend to one of our four Easter Services this weekend?

The Easter Experience-Day 3

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STATEMENT THREE

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

In Luke 1, we see the story of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary in Nazareth to tell her that she would give birth to the Messiah, the one God would send to save His people from their sins.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

After the angel explains everything, how she would conceive the child miraculously through the Holy Spirit, Mary answers, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Some thirty three years later, at Golgotha, outside Jerusalem, standing at the foot of the cross, her son being crucified before her eyes, the full weight of her answer is realized.

Jesus’ third statement on the cross, “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother,” spoken to Mary and the disciple John, commits his beloved disciple to his mother’s care, and his mom to that disciple’s care. In some of his last moments on earth, in unfathomable agony, Jesus is concerned, not with his own condition, but with his mission and the welfare of those he is leaving behind.

Matthew Henry notes that Jesus calls her ‘woman,’ not mother, not out of any disrespect to her, but because calling her ‘mother’ would have only added to her already overwhelming grief. He directs her to look at John as her son: “Behold him as thy son, who stands there by you, and be as a mother to him.”

Henry goes on to say, “This was an honor put upon John, and a testimony both to his prudence and to his fidelity. If He who knows all things had not known that John loved Him, He would not have made him Mary’s guardian. It is a great honor to be employed for Christ and to be entrusted with any of His interest in the world.”

We as believers, have also been entrusted with a great honor from the Lord…the responsibility of sharing our faith with a lost and unbelieving world. It is not too late to invite someone to join you this Sunday for one of our Easter services. A simple text or phone call could be all the encouragement that someone needs to be shown the love of God, the care of His people and hear His saving word preached in simple terms, maybe for the first time ever.

Won’t you share the joy of your salvation with a friend today?

  1. Do you see yourself as entrusted by the Lord with a unique story of redemption? Or does the ‘eternal gravity’ of spiritual conversations keep you silent? Remember that we don’t ‘save’ people. Our job is to plant seeds, God is the gardener who makes spiritual conversion and growth happen. (Matthew 13:1-9; John 15:1-11)
  2. Who is the Lord leading you to have a faith conversation with today?

The Easter Experience-Day 2

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STATEMENT TWO

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:39-42)

Today, we look at the Jesus’ reply, the second statement he made on the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (verse 43)

The compassionate side of me loves this sentence. For one, it shows that a simple acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God got this man into heaven. After arguing with his cohort over Jesus’ innocence, he makes the simple request to Jesus, “remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” acknowledging that Jesus is holy and who he said he was. Jesus, though in great agony, responds with compassion, and offers the man eternal life, despite his sins.

But the part of me that still thinks i have to ‘do something’ to be in God’s good will looks at the thief on the cross, the pattern of sin that had defined his life up until this point and says ‘it shouldn’t be that easy.’ Those of us who grew up in church, and led relatively moral lives (at least on the outside) sort of despise the fact that this guy ‘slid in under the wire’ and that his ‘deathbed confessional’ was enough to get him into heaven.

But that’s the God we serve. His rules. His way.

Those of us who are irritated at the ease with which this man ‘slips in’ are, much like the Pharisees, saying ‘we keep (part of) the Law, so God should love us more than some wretched sinner’ We fail to see that any sin, any failure, any leaven in the bread is an abomination to a holy God.

Isaiah 64:6 says “We have all become like one who is unclean,

    and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”

Our ‘good enough’ is good for nothing—it is only through the sacrifice of the Son that we can be reconciled to God.

So, let’s celebrate the thief on the cross today, church…his realization that Jesus is who he said he is and that faith alone through God’s grace alone is what allows all of us into Paradise.

  1. Do you struggle with a ‘works-based’ salvation? Does your human mind find the idea ‘too simplistic’ that it’s by grace through faith alone that someone can be saved, and still feel that you have to ‘do something’ to earn your salvation? (Romans 10:9 and Ephesians 2:9 both put that idea to rest.)
  1. Is there someone in your life, who, much like the thief on the cross, has been written off by society, or worse, by the Christian community? How can you share the Good News with him that Jesus died for both the righteous and the unrighteous? (1 Peter 3:18)

The Easter Experience-Day 1

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INTRODUCTION

The crucifixion was and is known as one of the most heinous acts of death a person could face.  Due to the physical agony of the crucifixion, we know that a person would speak very little. Jesus chose His words wisely, although He only spoke seven simple, yet significant statements. As we prepare our hearts for our Easter Celebration, we will reflect on the seven statements that Jesus uttered from the Cross.

STATEMENT ONE

Brandon Bachtel, Lead Pastor

The crucifixion was known as one of the most heinous acts of punishment a person could face.  Due to the physical agony of the crucifixion, we know that a person would speak very little.  Jesus chose His words wisely, although He only spoke seven simple, yet significant statements.  As we prepare our hearts for our Easter Celebration, we will reflect on the seven statements that Jesus uttered from the Cross.

In the initial moments of Jesus hanging on the cross between two criminals, His beaten, ripped, mangled, and bloody body hung atop soldiers who gambled for His clothes, all the while they spit on Him, hurled insults, and defamed the person and work of God’s eternal Son, Jesus.  Even as this was taking place, the Great High Priest, Jesus began a Priestly prayer:

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)
As Jesus was High and lifted up on the Cross, His transgressors refused to look upon Him for salvation, matter of fact, they seemed to be crucifying Jesus out of sheer ignorance.  Jesus seems to be very clear in indicating that his oppressors did not realize the magnitude of their offense.

1 Corinthians 2:8 says, “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

All the while, Jesus is fulfilling prophecy and pouring Himself out on the cross for the very people who harmed Him.  In spite of their foolishness, Jesus is bearing the sins of ignorant men.

Isaiah 53:12 says, Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

On that hilltop of Calvary, Jesus offered a prayer aloud for the multitude to hear.  He desired that the criminals he was perched in the middle of, as well as the soldiers who looked on would recognized their sin, so that He could grant them divine forgiveness.  Interestingly enough, Jesus desires the same thing for us.

Romans 5:8 states,  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus endured the agony of the cross for repentant sinners.  He was beaten and killed for criminals, sinners, and zealous, ignorant people.  The catch?  Well, salvation is offered freely to those who seek forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.  Any who look to Christ, High and Lifted Up with find salvation.  Jesus offered hope to the criminals on His right and left.  He offered forgiveness to those who left eternal scars and temporary death.  If Jesus offers eternal life and hope to them in their heinous acts, He can offer a new life and forgiveness for us too.


1.  Read and consider the following verses. (1 John 1:9, Acts 17:30, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

2.  Read Isaiah 53 and consider all the ways that prophecy was fulfilled through Christ and His resurrection.

The Battle

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

I doubt if many of you will want to read this but I hope you do (kind of a bad way to start off a blog post). I’m not sure I even want to write it, but I have been convicted about some things in life lately and I think it is important to share them.

I heard a story the other while listening to David Platt teaching one of the Secret Church messages. The story was about a ship named the USS UNITED STATES. The story goes that this ship was built to transport American troops into battle anywSS_UnitedStates1-Ehere in the world. It was the biggest, fastest, most powerful ship of the day and could carry 15,000 troops and reach anywhere in the world in ten days. But the strange thing was it was never used for its original purpose, to transport troops to war. It was put on stand-by once during the Cuban Missile Crisis during the 60’s but never went to sea for its intended purpose. But what did happen was that it was re-fitted and used by presidents, heads of State and dignitaries as a luxury liner. So rather than being used for its intended purpose, to carry soldiers into battle, the ship became a source of feeding our opulence. I looked on the internet and found that now there is a battle over restoring the USS United States or just scrap it. Whoever wins this battle, the story is pretty sad over all.

After telling this story Pastor Platt asks a question. Are we as individuals, and the church today, on a troop carrier or a luxury liner? We need to make a choice. Are we even aware that we are in a battle? Do we know what the battle is about and who the enemy is? I look at my own life and realize that I rarely think about who our real enemy is. Oh, I know that Satan and his demons exist and I know that the Bible says he is the real enemy. But do I give it a second thought? I confess, most of the time, my answer is ‘NO.’  I’m too busy looking at what my eyes can see, my circumstances, my health, my money, my loneliness or my (put in your own struggle here). So, the question I need to ask myself is, am I on a luxury liner or a troop ship going into battle?

I would guess that most of you are familiar with Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Wow! If that verse is true, then I really need to change my thinking and my praying.

From what I have learned, Satan has two main goals. One is to blind the eyes of people so that they will not come to salvation in Jesus. John 10:10 puts it that “the thief comes to steal, and kill and destroy.” The second, is to make those who have had their eyes opened through salvation in Christ, are fruitless. But in the same verse Jesus says, “I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Satan’s goal is to not let that happen.

For the last three weeks at church, I have been fascinated with the messages that we have heard. Possibly, you tired of hearing pastors talk about serving and giving. But after listening and thinking about these messages, I realize the heart behind the messages is that men and women in Van Zandt and surrounding Counties and around the world for that matter, need to be saved. We, my friends, have been called to take part in that battle. Yes, it is a battle unlike any other and like it or not, we all need to have a soldier mentality and realize who our enemy is. In the messages from Pastor Platt, he made a comment about us being aware of the spiritual battle around us while we are sitting at our computers. That struck me, because that is exactly what I spend most of my day doing. But my eyes don’t see the battle going on around me. I don’t think about all the angels and demons hanging around my desk battling over my heart and mind. Yes, there is a war going on all around us in the spiritual realm, but we can’t see it and thus, we aren’t aware of it. The enemy wants me to sit around ant think thoughts like, “man, this is a drag” or “what is this possibly doing to reach the lost in Asia.” Then if I give into that, what happens? I feel guilty. Score one for Satan and his cohorts! But do I think about who is causing all this? Again, “no.” I just think about myself and what I want.

I feel like I am rambling so maybe I’d better wrap this up. Again, I need to ask myself some questions: So, what am I? Am I a soldier? Or am I a tourist on a luxury liner vacationing on earth while on my way to heaven. I appreciated (and laughed to myself) when Pastor B made a statement about 70 year olds (I’m nearly there) thinking that we are through or should retire or are just too old. The truth is, we are not released from God’s army until He says we are. We may not be able to serve how we would like. I have thoughts of what I would like the Lord to lead me into, but doubt if I could ever do it. The important thing is that we stay faithful to what God has called us to and leave it up to Him to do the leading if He wants us elsewhere.

One more quick thought. If we are soldiers what does that require of us. The Bible talks about a few things. One, it requires sacrifice and suffering. If you have ever watched a war movie, you know that soldiers suffer and die. Good soldiers follow order. Our orders come from the God’s Word. Do we obey His word, or do we go about doing our own thing (back to the hippie days)? A good soldier watches out for his comrades. Do we have a true love and concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ, even for those who have done harm to us in some way? Finally, a good soldier knows who his enemy and is aware of his schemes.

I have a quote from D.L. Moody at my desk. It says, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”  As individuals and as a church, we have the ability to succeed at many things. But what I have always liked about attending Stonepoint, is the emphasis to do what really matters. I believe what matters most to Christ, and it should to us also, is to snatch souls from the gates of Hell and make them true disciples of Christ. The spiritual battle going on around us is very real and is about life and death. May we examine our hearts in this area and do everything possible to bring about new life! Blessings to you all!!