A Manner Worthy

In Matthew 16, Christ made the prophetic declaration, “Upon this rock I will be my church.” Upon what rock? Upon the statement just uttered by Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is upon this truth, this foundation that the Church would be constructed. In times of grace, and through difficult times, Christ has faithfully continued to fulfill that promise.

“I will build my church.” Christ was building it for a reason. Obviously, the Church had a mission; even today the Church still has a mission. So, what is that purpose? Continue reading “A Manner Worthy”

Veneer (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

I love the beauty of wood. The providential symphony of rich textures. The divinely choreographed grains.  The celestial concert of variegated colors. What a privilege for the woodworker to take a solid chunk of this great material and turn it into a work of art, to sculpt from the palette of the Creator! What a pleasure it is for me to gaze upon furniture or cabinets that are demonstrations of God’s incredible creativity in the measure of wood.

Unfortunately the demand upon this beautiful resource has made these materials more and more scarce, and thus they are used more seldom. The solution has been to take a thin sheet, a veneer of this attractive wood and laminate it over a much less expensive base layer. The end result is a product, which on the surface appears to have the integrity of this valuable material through and through when it is in fact, only a façade.   Continue reading “Veneer (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Letters of Christ

Few if any will ever surpass the metaphoric and poetic genius of Paul in his masterful ability to paint a picture in mind of another. Through his epistles he draws upon and captures profound imagery to clarify the portrait of who we are in Christ. The letters to the Corinthians alone are loaded with them. The Body (1 Corinthians 12). Agrarianism (1 Corinthians 3). Architecture (1 Corinthians 3). Temple (1 Corinthians 3). Leven (1 Corinthians 5). Soldiering (1 Corinthians 9). Marriage (2 Corinthians 11). The Aroma of Christ (2 Corinthians 2). Stewards of the mysteries of Christ (2 Corinthians 4). Jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4). Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5). What beautiful illustrations of the intangible suspended upon the grid-work of our physical world.

Nowhere, is he more at the level of perfection than in the first verses of 2 Corinthians 3. The metaphor is the simple vision of quill and paper, upon which a letter is penned. Paul defines his mission as stewarding letters.

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts”(2 Corinthians 3:1-3).

Some felt that Paul still owed them some measure of validation of his apostolic calling–proof that the hand of God was upon him. They desired tangible evidences of his ministry! Paul had led them to Christ, founded their church, and had continued to foster growth in their spiritual walks.

Paul communicates they had to look no further than their own lives for commendations of his ministry. To Paul, those in Corinth whose hearts had been written upon bear the witness of the Divine; they have become living epistles, living letters of truth as testimonies to the world, and thus, validating the ministry of Paul.

These “letters” were the fruit of Paul’s efforts to communicate the transformational presence of Christ in a person’s life. In that these letters were observed, or read by people, these “epistles” communicated the presence of God which they could enjoy as well.

In reality though, the credit of authorship is ascribed to Christ; Paul was simply the “mailman” so to speak who was caring for the delivery of such correspondence. Christ is, was, and always will be the author of such transformation in any person’s heart. Christ is the Author of such amazing grace who continues doing such a good work in those whom He has called.

The metaphor indelibly prints this picture upon our minds. It is not a mere quill and paper, but the tablet written upon is the heart of the person, the essence of being, the very soul of any given individual. Even better than that, the ink employed is the Spirit of the living God–Wow! Let that soak in! Christ works in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to scribe such great missives.

How had Christ written upon their hearts? Buy delivering them. Healing them of hurts. Rescuing them from their sinful ways. And giving them such a sure and certain hope for the future. These letters affirm God’s grace upon each one. Maturing Christians are the true credentials of a healthy ministry.

God is the supreme author of life, and has allowed the powerful testimony of your life to be witnessed by all people. You are a letter to be read by the world for the glory of Christ.

Open up!

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Two Dollars Worth of God (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

I remember hearing a story as a young man. It was about a man who desired to buy two dollars worth of God. “I would like to buy two dollars worth of God, please. Not enough to disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk, or a snooze in the sunshine. I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy two dollars worth of God.” Unfortunately, this is a widely held desire. People want just enough of God to feel good. They want enough of God to “make it into Heaven.” They just don’t want too much of God, at least not so much that they need to change their beliefs or their behavior.

Truth is, God is an all or nothing offer. It is like marriage, pregnancy or life itself. You’re either all in or you’re not. You’re married or you’re not. You’re pregnant or you’re not. You are alive or you’re not. Continue reading “Two Dollars Worth of God (Shepherd’s Echo)”

God’s Good Order

I viewed a pretty spectacular demonstration of dominoes recently on the internet; a lady had spent “countless” hours setting up a labyrinth of dominoes that went up ramps, and around in circles, paralleling rows, “bells and whistles,” many levels and patterns, all leading to a grand finale. The menagerie presented in a very large area, like in a warehouse and apparently, the task numbered in the hundreds of thousands of dominoes. Though it was simply the fabric of toys, I must admit that it was a work of art. The crescendo of this effort was the toppling of just one domino that led to the falling of another, and another and so on. Multiple rows, careening in multiple directions. Wheels, and marbles leading up ramps and off cliffs; an amazing orchestration of dominoes all whirling, twirling, and clicking their way to the final fall. The finality of this amusement was a cluttered product of toppled little black pieces–a distant reminder of the perfect order it once displayed.

Yep, the result of this effort was the chaotic collapse of ingenuity, until all the players surrendered to the gravity of the initial domino felled.

The imagery is not lost on me, and although the work of creation is anything but “dominoes,” the illustration helps us see the effect of sin “in real time” in the physical world.

God’s created order is a wonder to behold. God sought to glorify Himself, and He did. He created the physical realm to present exactly as was His will. There were no aberrations, no hiccups. No Mistakes. No Compromises. The will of His sacred created order was manifested perfectly. The Planets. The plants and trees. The animals. Time. Space. And even the Imago Dei, humans were precisely constructed according to the blueprint of the divine mind. What a wonder it must have been to behold! He pronounces His creation as “Good!” and it is very good. It is Adam who affirms that the creation (Eve) made for him is “Very good!”

We could say that creation–time, space and matter were all in perfect sync with Heaven. It was the divinely appointed array of infinite “dominoes.” The cosmological system. The Periodic Table of elements. DNA. DNA! Life. And all systems were “go.”

It was a perfect world, and a perfect world order. And yet, how quickly did that curse of sin weave its way into the fabric of perfection. Satan successfully sought to disrupt that good order by bringing confusion, questioning the word of God. Luring. Enticing. Trapping. Tempting. By toppling that very first “domino” the ensuing collapse was devastating.

Yet, even in its post cursed state, we still have remnants of the glory, it’s true: the sheer magnitude of creation, the beauty of babies, the sounds and sights of animals, the brilliance of colors, knowledge, mathematics, tastes…and yes, pineapples (even in their broken state they are truly amazing. One must imagine the “majesty” they possessed in their perfect state–and may again someday!). And dare we not overlook the pinnacle of God’s created order–mankind; broken as it is, it still remains His greatest expression of creation for we are made in the image of God.

Satan tipped the very first “domino” over, and still strives to bring imbalance to any others he can. The “redefinition” of marriage, questioning the existence of God, introducing gender chaos, the demand for power, the struggle for greed, the “grifting” of our political system–by the citizenry, and by the leaders of this country–both sides. He undermines the order of life, the beginning of life, the value of life. He promotes hate. But that is Satan’s handiwork through his willing agencies. At times, the moral compass is set by Hollywood elites, sports figures, tech industries, and musicians with hot licks, business tycoons, the political elite, and sometimes the false “shepherds” of God’s sheep. Satan’s goal is to continue to disrupt dominoes, to challenge the world order, God’s good order.

It is hard to look at the world around us and not be dismayed. It is hard not to become jaded. In fact, it is difficult to maintain a Christian witness devoid of anger.

Yes, our broken world is messed up beyond description. Bodies hurt, things kill, relationships are damaged, and those thorns! (I hate thorns!). All kinds of things present in stark contrast to God’s perfect created order–they stand in opposition to His perfect will. Yes, we long for the day when that level of Edenic perfection will be restored and revisited again in Heaven.

But, there will be restored order in the Kingdom…One day.
Those dominoes will be restored to original condition.
On earth as it is in Heaven, so to speak.

We are not the ones who are going to get it there, however. Who are we to think the restoration of the world is our sole responsibility? This task is one reserved for the Sovereign God of all creation. He did it once; He will do it again…deliver perfection in His good creation, in His good time.

All of the chaos, all that which is opposed to God will be divinely dealt with…Sometimes I get the notion we think we are needed in order for that to happen, but it is God who privileges us to work with Him; He gets the glory.

We are reminded of that in Psalm 46:10:
“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Our tendency is to look around us at the destruction and mayhem, and grieve, as though God is somehow behind in points. Yes, our hearts are heavy, but we forget–He is working on something.

All those dominoes, in their right time, will be divinely restored to their correct position.

The words of Christ ring true in Revelation 21:5:
“And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” 

In the midst of all the “clicking” we tend to lose our composure and count things as lost. But, He is at work. He’s got a plan we cannot always see. And He has never once been the underdog. He has never lost control. We do listen to God. We seek to know our part. We do what we know He has called us to do. But let’s remember–It’s His world. He knows what He wants. It is His good order.

And He will be exalted!


Quasimodo Bride (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen].

Many of us have read Victor Hugo’s, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a classic, yet dark depiction of a physically deformed, socially rejected “orphan” whose name is Quasimodo. He is a grotesquely malformed person who has been relegated by society to merely ringing the bell at the great cathedral of Notre Dame, which subsequently caused his deafness. Of minimal verbal abilities, facial deformities, partial paralysis in his limbs and yes, the hunch in his back, he was abandoned as a baby, and lived out his days in the cathedral, as the public shunned him for his appearance. One of the rare excursions outside was to the Festival of Fools where he was elected Pope of Fools because of his perfect hideous “disguise,” a rare time of “acceptance” by the community.

Long etched upon my brain is the way a squinting Quasimodo holds his disobliging arm and drags his lifeless leg along behind him in an effort to ambulate an uncooperative body through a hostile environment. Physical disabilities of any nature are heartbreaking for sure, and yet a consequence to living in a fallen world, still it is hard to believe someone would choose to be that way. Continue reading “Quasimodo Bride (Shepherd’s Echo)”

A Brief Orthodoxy: The Bible

As a result of deep faith in the Godhead, I hold a high view of Scripture, as it is the eternal written Word of God (Isaiah 40:8), divinely breathed for the benefit of mankind (Psalm 119:9). 2 Timothy 3:16 affirms that, “All Scripture is inspired by God,” or God-breathed. God has given His Word, by the Spirit, through men who were moved, or inspired (2 Peter 1:21). Because God used humans to perform the act of writing, He also allowed them to write in their own individual styles, using their economy of words (Luke 1:1-4).

 I accept the Hebrew Bible as being the Word of God, the Old Covenant, or Old Testament as it was actually a compilation about Jesus, the coming Messiah (Matthew 1:22; Hebrews 1:1-2; Galatians 3:24). I also embrace the 27 books that make up the New Testament. The Bible has been written both by divine and human efforts, and compiled by God for the benefit of the Church. The EFCA has held strongly to the Word of God to the degree that the question, “Where stands it written?” has become the unofficial litmus test of our beliefs and practices. This reflects the desire and commitment to be a people dedicated to the authority of Scripture. Continue reading “A Brief Orthodoxy: The Bible”

Fixing Broken (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen].

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the King’s horses, and all the King’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

This odd little nursery rhyme is embedded in most of our minds, and yet most have no idea to what it refers. I would surmise that most of us imagine an odd egg-sort of fellow who reclines on a wall only to fall off into a broken yolky mess, though actually, nowhere in the original story is there any indication that Humpty was truly an egg. Continue reading “Fixing Broken (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Final Breath

As I inch ever closer to the end of my 6th decade on the face of the earth I realize with each passing week little reminders, new “bills” appear in my biological mailbox alerting me of some “overdue” malady. “You’re kidding me! I Thought I paid that!”

My eye sight is a skosh dimmer. My hearing a tad bit duller. An aching awareness of many more muscles and joints than I thought I had is brought to mind. And my hair is a hint more “pastoral” platinum than it was 5 years ago. My abilities to live as a teenager are indeed fading, and though I may be growing older, and I may not be able to perform in the way I did at 30, I still have the choice to grow in my character and my integrity, in my resoluteness to live for Christ. Continue reading “The Final Breath”

The Secret Things (Shepherd’s Echo)

Right down the middle! I had hit my golf ball right down the center of the fairway, and now I couldn’t find it. We had all seen it bounding toward the flagstick and to glory but, alas, it was nowhere to be found. After due time, I had to abandon the effort and concede the ball as lost to the fate shared by multitudes of socks surrendered in scandalous pirate dryers throughout the course of history.

As I ponder the fate of my golf ball, and the millions of other golf balls lost to the mystery of logic, I am reminded that there are questions to which we may never know the answers; is there formidable life beyond our solar system? Does Pi have a terminus? Who killed J.R.? And, of course, where do all those orphaned socks go? Continue reading “The Secret Things (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Letter to My Enemy

From my perspective, January 1st has come upon us like a freight train, and with it a slew of resolutions are surely dotting our horizons. “I am gonna lose a few pounds.” “I want to finally finish that project around my house.” “This is the year I get my raise!” Maybe you want to learn to speak another language, exercise more, invest in your grandkids, or spend more time with friends over coffee. What is high atop your list of things to resolve to accomplish this coming year? God has granted you possibly another 365 days to steward at will. Not to discourage any desires, but if history is any indicator, many of those “resolutions” will be tossed aside and discarded like New Year’s Eve confetti well before February…jus’ sayin’. Not that resolutions don’t have merit, but we need to choose them well–and follow through. Continue reading “Letter to My Enemy”

Ticking Towards Eternity (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen].

Many people may not remember the old TV commercial about the Timex watch that was tied to a boat or car tire and taken for a ride after which a spokesperson would pronounce, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” It was amazing. Still more amazing is the universes’ oldest chronograph – the Earth. Genesis tells us that the earth was the first planetary orb created. It was around before the sun. Time was being measured in days before the Sun helped us out.

God created the entire universe to attest to His glory. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork” – Psalm 19:1. What is interesting to contemplate is that time was not existent until God created it for the benefit of mankind. God is eternal, both in the past and the future. He had no need of time. On the fourth day, God created the sun, and the ultimate ‘timepiece’ was created. The earth rotated each day, clicking off the universal “minutes.” The Earth revolved around the sun clicking off the universal “hours.” And, as they say, it has never been the same. Continue reading “Ticking Towards Eternity (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Peace On Earth (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen].

As the legend goes, during the winter of 1914 in the midst of World War 1, along the Western Front on a battlefield in Flanders (Ypres, Belgium), the war raged on from the depths of the wet, muddy, cold trenches that extended for miles.  The Germans were engaged in battle against the British and the French, when at some point during the evening hours of December 24th the shooting ceased. Germans began placing Christmas trees on the ground outside their trenches, illuminating them with candles. The wintery air was still. Gradually the words, “Stille nacht, heilige nacht” (Silent night, holy night) rose softly from the trenches floating across “No Man’s Land” to the ears of the “enemies” some 100 yards away. In turn, the British responded with “O Come all ye Faithful.” Continue reading “Peace On Earth (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Politically Correct (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen].

Well, it’s that time of year again when we get caught up in the realm of political correctness.  In order for the general populace not to be offended, we need to use terms such as, “Turkey Day,” or “Harvest Dinner” instead of “Thanksgiving.” We must say, “Season Greetings,” or “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” We can say “Winter Break,” or “Spring Break,” but my goodness, we’re not allowed to say, “Christmas Break,” or “Easter Break.” Far be it to recognize a holiday honoring God the Creator of all. Incidentally, has anyone considered the fact that we are offending God by nudging Him out of the spotlight. Frankly, succumbing to this cultural tomfoolery is downright offensive. It is obvious that the culture wants to shove God aside because it is easier to assert that God does not exist if we don’t use words and phrases which point to Him. Continue reading “Politically Correct (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Best News Ever (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen]

What is the best news you have ever received? Was it the fact that you got the job? Or what is a call from your realtor telling you the escrow closed? Was it him telling you that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with you? Or her communicating that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with you? Maybe it was when you found out you were pregnant, or when a doctor called to tell you that the surgery was a total success.

All of these are incredible pieces of news, but none of them even comes close to the great news that God had sent a Savior for our benefit. Luke 2: 10-11 says, “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’”  The pinnacle of all redemptive history is when God sent His Son into the world to save fallen man. It is what is called the Incarnation – when God took on flesh. That is good news. Continue reading “Best News Ever (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Labor Ward (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen]

The labor ward – where the working of birthing takes place, a mother-to-be strains in agony to foster new life. And we have all seen those depictions of a man in the waiting room, outside the labor ward at the hospital where a father waits “patiently” for the birth of his child. He paces the floor anxiously awaiting the arrival of the offspring whom he has had the honor to sire. Nine months he has wondered. Nine months he has prepared. Nine months the growing excitement and love has captured his heart…And now after nine months the moment of truth has arrived.  His contemplation is broken with a cry.

Rewind to a labor ward in the southern portion of Palestine, in a small stable of a small town called Bethlehem. This would be the most obscure labor ward of the first century, perhaps of all time. The on-looking paternal unit is not a mere man but the Creator of the universe.  The long-awaited-for-child is not just any child of the day, but the long-promised Christ-child sent to heal mankind from their sins. Yet, there are no paparazzi to cover the affair. No pomp and circumstance. There is not even a coffee machine in a nearby lounge. No sterile white linens or medical aid. Perhaps, the musty smell of manure and straw sate the air – the most humble of circumstances. Continue reading “The Labor Ward (Shepherd’s Echo)”

An Imposition of Agendas

In years past, it seems as though when you desired to purchase a product you were simply purchasing a pair of sneakers, a hamburger, or maybe a record album. Over the years, we see that has changed drastically. Whether it’s a recording artist, an apparel venture, an internet concern, restaurant, or construction company, etc. it seems that there is an additional “gift” with purchase; it is an agenda. Every company, or group has an ethos they seek to push. Every single company or person is promoting something else besides the inherent product we think we are buying.

The press is not exempt either. More and more “news” pieces are nothing more than op-eds, or rants under the guise of journalism, yet intended to impose an agenda as well.  (For that matter journalism itself is dying if it is not dead already…but that is another article altogether-The Toxic Drip of Propaganda?). Let’s move on!

Today, it seems you have to decide your political affiliation, and your “to-die-for” causes before you buy that ball point pen, or chicken sandwich. Now, one must be thoroughly calculating, and ready to cross picket lines in order to demonstrate their capitalistic resolves.

The social climate is bubbling; tensions are mounting; everybody is on high alert to defend their precious ground.  A mob mentality is overtaking this land, one in which people resort to bullying, or shaming, manipulation or deceit in addition to the good old time-tested techniques of name calling and threats. Both sides of the political aisle.

“Would you like a side of totalitarianism with that order of fries.” “Can I get you some geo-political foil for your head along with that vote for senator?”

Any promoted postures of neutrality are feigned; we all have an agenda.

The truth is we have always had agendas…and we always will.

At the core we are people, people with opinions. We embrace values, causes, and passions. And our desire, intentional or otherwise, is to foist those upon those around us.

Agendas of the world are social justice, global warming, absolute equality, greed, free will, pleasure, hedonism, just to name a few.

The agenda of Hell (Satan) is to steal, kill and destroy.

Even Christian periodicals have a political agenda.

The divine agenda revealed by Christ was to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).

The agenda of the church in addition to the Shema, according to Christ, is the Great Commission-to make disciples.

Yes, there is a deluge of agendas a-swirling! Ready to knock us down and around, and to the ground.

Each day I have the opportunity to enter the world stuffed to the brim with opinions. The question is what will be my top agenda for the day. Why has God given me breath today?

God has given you and me HIS agenda.
Love God!
Love others!

Jesus spoke these very thoughts when approached by a scribe who asked Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

The response was a beautiful distillation of the Ten Commandments:

“‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

There is no better way to spend your time, than engaging relationally. Entirely. Tirelessly. Seems like our agenda should be to encourage others to do the same.

Time will tell. Many agendas are passing fads. Something new will capture the fickle hearts of the world tomorrow.

First and foremost, I am a Christian; God help me to graciously communicate your agenda.

So, what is on your agenda today?

The Arrival (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen]

Upon arrival to the airport, I was informed that I would be doing well if my flight were to leave on time. It seemed that everything was quite a stir around the airport as it was expected that the president of the United States would be arriving shortly. There were the warnings that flights would be pushed, that no landings would be allowed for a time, and therefore, connections would be missed.

Outside of our terminal was an army cargo plane which had ferried the presidential vehicles in from D.C. Security was increased. A Helicopter was hovering about. People were nervous about the thought of being stuck on planes, yet there was expectancy in the air as everyone anticipated the arrival of Air Force One and its occupant. Eventually, the motorcade (some 24 vehicles in all) whisked the president and his entourage to those awaiting his appearance at some distant location. Word had it that he was going to a university to participate in a graduation ceremony, presumably as an esteemed speaker with an important message to deliver. Continue reading “The Arrival (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Cloak of Righteousness

One of the most theologically packed verses in all of Scripture finds itself in 2 Corinthians 5:21 which reads:
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

It is in this verse we see the answer to Genesis 3:15-the Lord addressing Satan, “He shall bruise you on the head,  And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

It is in this verse we see the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:6:
“All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.”

It is in this verse that we see the words of John the Baptist echoing forth…”Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

And it is the work described in this verse for which we thank Christ for His obedience. For it is in this verse we see the work that separates those who once were doomed to death, given the opportunity for new life with God.

In this short verse we see what God has done by the work of Christ for our benefit.

Volumes could be written until the end of time about what is called the atonement…what was performed by Christ in order to bring us to a right standing before God, which was unable to be perfected through any other means. Christ was the agency of obedience. He was the object of the wrath of God. He is the reason we could possibly approach a pure and holy, sovereign God in restored relationship.

In the Levitical order, as a penitent soul was desiring to be “absolved” of his sin, he would bring a bull or a sheep or a goat, maybe a bird to the priest at the Temple. Hands would be laid upon the head of the animal in a gesture that “communicated” all of the sin of that penitent to be placed upon that “innocent” offering. The animal would then be slain upon the altar, at times by the penitent himself (Leviticus 1:1-5), for as Hebrews tells us, “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). This animal had borne the wrath of sin in order to place this repentant individual right before God.

The Levitical system then is a foreshadow of the work to eventually be executed in Christ. The altar would be the Cross upon Golgotha…Calvary. The Lamb of God perfect, pure, undefiled would have all of the sin of the world placed upon Him. The murders. The adulteries. The hatred. The gossip. The slander. The lack of forgiveness. All of the sin of the world, from the beginning of time to the end. The burden of Christ was exquisite. Who could bear it?

Only the Messiah for which He was sent.

Some of His last words upon the Cross are “My God, My God, what have you forsaken me?”

The wrath of sin was borne for sin. My sin. Your sin. In order that our broken relationship might be restored with our great Creator.

The Lamb of God shed His blood that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The mantle of sin which rested upon us was removed at the Cross. We are not righteous by any other means other than because we are now cloaked on the righteousness of Christ. God so loves us that He wrapped us up in the precious righteousness of Christ.

For those of us who are truly in Him, God looks not upon our sin, but upon the righteousness of Christ.

Behold! The Lamb of God!

Figgy Pudding and the World of Entitlements (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen]

Ah, the Christmas season is upon us and we can anticipate the celebration the birth of Christ, often times with the benefit of those great, meaningful carols of old. O Come, Let us Adore Him. Silent night. The First Noel. And, of course, Away in a Manger. Songs of deep reflection and encouragement. It seems like we just can’t get enough of them. But then there are those “other” songs that cause us to wonder how they ever made it into the cache of celebratory carols. The one that really gets me is, We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

It is a popular secular sixteenth-century English Christmas carol whose origin lies in the tradition that the wealthy people of the community would generously provide Christmas treats to the carolers such as figgy pudding- a custard-like pudding containing figs that may be baked, steamed in the oven, boiled or fried.  Yum! Continue reading “Figgy Pudding and the World of Entitlements (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Viking Pastor

Scandinavians, my people, were indeed a brutal lot who as a world power took to the global stage near the end of the eighth century. We went a-Viking!–horned helmets, and all (well, that part of the legend turns out to be a myth). But we did set out to see and conquer all of civilization. Some would say we were superior in our skills of navigation and negotiation, however any way you look at it we were brutes. Yes, we excelled in superior navigation of the seas in our long ships, and yes, our skills of metallurgy in weaponry were unsurpassed in the day, but we were a godless consortium of brutes; pagan, cultic brutes. 

Providentially. Thankfully, our reign of bloody force would endure for a relatively short 3 centuries of impressing our footprints in global terror. The sum total of Norsemen, as we were called, would be a mere million in a world population of 300 plus million, and yet, would strike unbridled dread until yielding to the next heir apparent of world dominance. 

Unlike other cultures, we would not concede, we would not surrender to another earthly suppressor. We would only bow the knee to the Divine; this invincible people, my people, would willingly be vanquished by the Spirit of God. Christianity, the Gospel was introduced and embraced in the 12th century. It was in our devotion to Christ that we could no longer reconcile our “negotiation techniques” with that of lives conceded to Christ. In light of submission to Christ world dominion is not all it’s cracked up to be. 

Still, our fierce legacy carries on; and though a thousand years have passed, and the nations of my people have lessened in their zeal toward Christ (and that is an understatement), I do pray we would not let go of Christ, but once again bow the knee to our true Sovereign.

And then, there’s me. My friend tells me that my diminutive stature betrays my Viking persona. True, the physical prowess has diminished somewhat over the course of a millennium, yet, I remain deeply genetically connected to these people…my people–I cannot get away from that. In the grander scheme of things my tribal identification is only incidental, though the common human depravity courses through my DNA. 

I, myself, have had my own time of brutish rebellion and desire for world dominance, well at least over my own life. It was not pretty, and I sought only to satisfy my own desires. I thank God that the major rebellion was only for a season (though too long of a season for sure). 

Providentially. Thankfully, I too in the tradition of my people bowed the knee to Christ. And though I struggle to keep Him foremost in my life, my calling is to serve Him.  The imagery is not lost to me…Lost to found. “Pagan” to believer. Dark to light. Death to new life. Rebel to follower. Viking to Pastor. And each of us who has responded to the call of Christ has this similar history–from rebellious soul to willing child and servant of God. 

I love my heritage–I do. And all of us have rich histories, which should be celebrated…in part. Many of our foods and words, cultures and traditions are amazing–though we do likely at some point need to apologize for lutefisk. More than that, we owe a world of apology for the many travesties we have committed. Most nations, if not all would be in a similar camp–we are brutes in what we have foisted upon others. Our worldly heritage is not always boastworthy. Our new life in Christ, however, is. Always!

We are in good company, after the likes of the Apostle Paul. In the book of Galatians after a long recitation of his religious pedigree, and his excellence in that heritage in the imposition of his zeal, he recounts the one person who needed to “die” in his life–Paul.  A Hebrew of Hebrews, and he was proud of that ancestry. He calls it, “my former manner of life in Judaism”. Yeah, it was! After persecuting believers, after persecuting Christ Himself; it was Paul who needed surrender. Paul was a bully; he was a brute. 

He writes of this willful surrender in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  

Paul’s heritage “earned” him nothing, in fact, in only brought him condemnation. But he yielded to new life in Christ.

We are not held captive to the sins of our forefathers. No matter what our DNA of broken depravity, we all have the choice to lay down arms before our true Sovereign. To live in Him and for Him.

From who we were, to who we are in Christ, we thank you Lord.

Apposite Thanks (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen]

If any culinary presentation is deserving of a blue ribbon, none is more so than the Thanksgiving Feast. Not the burger, shake and fries. Not a steak dinner. No sir. Art has its Mona Lisa. Auto racing has its Indy 500. Music has Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. And Hollywood the Oscars, but far and away the grand champion in food to be had is our Thanksgiving Meal. A Masterpiece. Turkey done just right. Mashed potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce, rolls and green beans; it may just be the meal of perfection.  Subtract one element, it would be incomplete. One additional element may just tip the scales to disaster, like an extra quart of fuchsia on the Mona Lisa, or 3 more miles on the Indy 500 (“The Indy 503”?). Surely the clear and distinct winner among rationally minded carnivores is this traditional holiday fare. Right? Continue reading “Apposite Thanks (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Sheep of His Pasture

By all rites Christians ought to be thankful. Psalm 100 tells us how to be thankful, and it tells us why we are to be thankful to begin with.

Psalm 100:1-5 says, “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God. It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name, for the Lord is good. His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.”

Immediately you can see that the Psalm tells us to whom we are to be thankful. The word there is Lord, it is the name of the Lord; it is Yahweh. It is communicating that there is only one to whom this thanks is to be directed, and that person is God–four times in these five short verses, but the Psalmist goes on and he addresses where we are as His people, and whose we are positionally. We are in His pasture and we are His people. I hope you can see that the psalmist is providing a model of worship. He is communicating how we are to worship? He is saying that the evidence of true worship is joy.

He’s saying that the key evidence of true joy is thanksgiving. Do you see the words? Many commands in these five verses, “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.” There’s a loudness that’s implied there, an excitement, an exuberance to the Lord. “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Not with sourness, but with joy. “Come before Him with joyful singing.” That’s a picture of worship, coming before God and ascribing to Him the glory that is His. Finally, he says, “Know, that the Lord Himself is God.” We really need to understand the picture, that God is God. Yahweh is God. He is sovereign over all. He is the one who deserves all of the glory.

Four commands and then the Psalmist tells us why we are to have that attitude, and why it is to be directed toward Yahweh alone; “It is he who has made us and not we ourselves.” It’s quite humbling, and it’s good for us to remember that God has made us. God has made each and every one of us, and everything that we have He has given to us. As the song says, “He’s got the whole world in his hands,” and He has made the whole world. The one who makes us, the one who created the whole world is God. It is God who makes the rules, and it is God who gets all the glory.

“It is He who made us and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of his pasture.” Those are such rich words. We do well to remember that God has made us to be the sheep of His pasture. God has ownership over us. God has ownership over what He has made. The place where we reside is in Him. The place where we reside is in His pasture, and in life with Him. We are his people and the sheep of His pasture. But, what is His pasture?

Can’t you just hear Psalm 23 pulsing through that verse?

His pasture is where green grass is provided for us. His pasture is where we have calm waters that are abundant and clean. His pasture is where He guides us in paths of righteousness. His pasture is where there is no fear. His pasture is where we have confidence in Him. His pasture is where are we are secure. His pasture is where we are protected. His pasture is where He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies. His pastures where He anoints our head with oil. He takes care of us. He nurtures us. His pasture is where our cups are running over. His pasture is where His grace and mercy pursue us all the way into the house of the Lord forever. He guides us in paths of righteousness to the foot of the throne.

The pasture is simply a relationship with God.

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. We have been chosen to hear the Shepherds’ call. And we are asked to respond and to become dependent upon Jesus. Do you understand the incredible blessing that has been extended to us? There are many other pastures out there and they’re not good pastures. But there’s one true pasture and that’s being in a relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Do you understand the amazing blessing that God has extended to us through Christ?

That entire darkness of sin has impeded us from having a good right forever relationship with God. But because God has sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross, we may celebrate; we celebrate the blood that flowed in order that our sins might not just be covered, but that our sins might be taken away, that we might have an eternal relationship with God through work of Jesus Christ.

We are a privileged people. “Shout joyfully to the Lord all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God. It is He who made us, and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of his pasture.”

Guys, we have it made. We have cars in our driveway, we have food in our refrigerators. We have homes, we have warm homes, we have clothes, we have family, we have friends, we have health. Most of all, we have a relationship with God, and we dwell in the shadow of the Most High in His pasture. No person should come into the halls of the Lord cold and unresponsive, passive and indifferent. Rather, we come into the house of the Lord, and we worship the Lord. We exalt the Lord with boldness. We serve Him willingly. We worship Him in spirit and in truth, and we understand His role as sovereign God in our lives and over all the earth. We do well to acknowledge that He is sovereign, and He alone is sovereign over our lives.

Thanks be to God.

#AlwaysChrist (Shepherd’s Echo)


[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen- An article I wrote concerning the 2016 election]

Across the landscape of humanity one would expect perhaps to see the depths of depravity in many areas of life, in the media, arts, in law, even in politics, but when the depths have so risen to the top it causes great concern and despair. We see that today America is at one of those points. The “options” for the chief office of the land did not affirm what they would, could do or should do, but only how their opponent failed, and how they did not. Sadly, the character of the candidates is disheartening. And so we stand looking anxiously into the murky abyss of future despair. And yet we seem to be slightly surprised that the depravity and hopelessness could have somehow crept its way into our country – depravity and corruption that would usually be reserved for third-world country dictatorships (no offense to third-world countries). How in the world did we find ourselves here?

This toxic porridge, this level of concern has bred much divide, divide among families, divide in households, in parties, marriages, schools, and even within the walls of the church. Somehow it seems that our foundations have been shaken to the core–there is an angst and uncertainly regarding our future. And yet, this age-old familiar pattern of failed leadership is endemic to mankind. The all too familiar words found in Scripture…“They did evil in the sight of the Lord.”

Look at a few examples…

“So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.” 1 Kings 11:6

 “Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than those who were before them had done.” 1 Kings 14:22

“But Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him.” 1 Kings 16:25

You get the point! At least 20 other times that phrase is used. Yet, God executed His will; did he not?

I believe it is important to RE-calibrate the importance or magnitude of this election, even the entire political condition of the US. Not to heighten it but to put it into perspective with God’s plan and what he has already done. You see, many nations have risen, many have fallen and not once was God concerned about his sovereign will being done. God has worked out his sovereign will in spite of people a lot more depraved than any of the candidates. Not once was his plan in jeopardy, in question. Fall of the Roman Empire – No. Atilla the Hun – No. Black Plague – No. Civil War – No. WWI, the Great Depression. WWII-No, No, No.  And His sovereign plan was not successfully challenged on November 8th, 2016.

In Matthew 16, Christ says, “I will build my Church”. He will build His Church. The Kingdom of God is in no way dependant upon the United States, its political system or even the American Church for that matter. But He privileges us to partner with him in the Gospel; the Gospel’s success was based upon nothing less than the blood of Christ and His righteousness.

You see it is not about any candidate or sovereign other than Jesus Christ. It’s not about a better form of government. It’s about Christ…Always Christ! The Greatest Kingdom is not the United States of America, Rome, Britain or any other manmade kingdom. Without question, the greatest kingdom is the Kingdom of God – The Kingdom of His beloved Son.

When it comes to Election 2016 we obviously did not know who would win or lose. Likely the greatest loser of this election will be our nation, as we continue to lose the favor of God. So, in that respect maybe a winner is Satan in his plan to foster chaos. But don’t forget, God has used a lot worse people than these two to build his kingdom. God is going to use the outcome to build his kingdom, one way or another.

Election 2016 is still about the mission of Christ- His agenda. John 18:36-37 reminds us, “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.’ Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’” What a simple yet, powerful purpose statement!

The Person through whom God looked to redeem the world is Christ. Not any man or woman!

The US has been influential along the way, but our citizenship, and our identity is in the Kingdom of Christ.

The agenda we embrace is truth, God’s truth. We are indeed privileged to be a part of that promotional process.

God’s agenda is unchanging.

God’s agenda is irrevocable.

God’s agenda is trustworthy.

God’s agenda is sure and certain.

A Church that will thrive:

Focuses on God and realizes the true implications of His sovereignty.

Is a people of God who are focused the work and mission of Christ!

It is about the magnitude and totality of the work of Christ…the primacy of Christ!

Seeks to love God entirely.

Seeks to love his neighbor.

AlwaysChrist. Always Christ!

A Brief Orthodoxy: The Human Condition

Humankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation masterpiece, yet we are a fallen race. In light of the Scriptures, mankind is able to understand his sin and thus, the need for a Savior. Mankind was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 11:7) though not in a physical sense as God is Spirit (John 4:24). This means that we are made in the image of the Trinity (Genesis 1:26); we are relational, rational (having the ability to choose), moral, loving and capable of a vast diversity of feelings (emotional).

In the beginning God had made it clear to Adam just what the parameters of obedience were. Genesis 2:16 reveals that, God had given all things to Adam to enjoy with the exception of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam’s nature had included the ability to choose whether or not to obey the word of the Lord. The Lord assured Adam that, “the day that you eat of the fruit, you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Unfortunately, he chose to rebel, to be disobedient and follow after his own desires. As a result of this moral evil, death was introduced to the human race (Romans 5:12). In addition, the punishment included the issuance of some forms of natural evil in that thorns and thistles were made a part of Adam’s world, nature would at times be the enemy of man (Genesis 3:17-19). As a consequence to Adam’s sin, the rest of mankind is left to deal with bodily deterioration and death, and also the natural external evils such as famine, earthquakes, storms, plagues and thorns, as well as spiritual death, or separation from God.

When presented with the opportunity to disobey God’s command, the free will that the Lord had given allowed Adam the freedom to choose sin (Genesis 3:1-6). The ensuing depravity is spelled out with the corresponding solution to eternal separation from God (Genesis 3:15; Romans 5:15). As a result, we find ourselves in the possession of a contaminated “gene pool,” under total depravity, separation from God, and physical death as a consequence (Romans 5:12). Our lot was identified in Genesis 6:5, “and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Before the fall, Adam had never known the experience of disobedience, nor the consequences, but something had caused him to cross the line. After all, what was the threat of death to a man who had never seen it? Apparently, this man had never suffered any punishment of any kind. Satan had enticed Eve to seek to become like God; he had challenged the authority and veracity of God’s words (Genesis 3:4-5). As all of mankind has emanated from the loins of Adam and Eve, we bear the penalty of that sin. Romans 5:12 confirms that, “through one man, sin entered into the world,” and ever since, every person in the history of mankind suffers the burden of that penalty, except Christ. Sin spread like a wildfire through all of mankind (Genesis 6:5). In Romans 5, Paul does not seem to be referring to actual sins committed on a daily basis by men, but the sin, or guilt that has been inherited by mankind because of the sin of Adam. This guilt of Adam was assigned, or imputed to us. It is original sin in that it originated from Adam, and we are born with it; even those who are unborn are laden with original sin (Psalm 51:5). Some may contest this imputation of sin upon us, and object that it is unfair for all of mankind to bear the guilt of one man. But even from birth, we have found ourselves efficient sinners, and therefore able to perform sins leading to death, in and of our own accord (Romans 7:14-25). These sins which we commit reveal our fallen nature. Perhaps, the best response to this is the argument that, through one man also, we are saved, as the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us as well if we believe on Him (Romans 5:15-17).

Adam was lost on the temporal fruit of the moment (James 1:14-15). It is not likely that he was concerned about damning the rest of humanity with the burden of sin nor its consequences; however, he definitely did not have his heart set on eternity. Much of this carries over today, as individuals gravitate toward fulfilling their own self-interests, even in the midst of plenty, they will seek out and protect their own interests first, while moral and reasonable rationalizations fall by the wayside. Yet, self-interest serves to put ourselves before others including God even when we suspect that it is leading to self-destruction. In light of this, all sin is illogical and irrational. How could Satan have expected to exalt himself above God (Ezekiel 28; Isaiah 14)? Why should Adam have felt he was lacking anything? They were foolish choices. The only explanation that we have when we sin is that we are illogically yielding to our own selfish desires (Romans 7:13-21). We are electing to place ourselves in a position of primacy above God. Consequently, we are choosing to separate ourselves from the will of God (James 4:4). When we are separated, we are not abiding in Christ. To the extent that we do not abide in Him, we lessen the degree of fruit that we produce (John 15:4).

Adam was enticed by the enemy (Genesis 3:1-7). He did not have to fight against his old sinful nature. He had free will to choose, but the opposing force was definitely the enemy. Ever since that first sin, mankind has been battling the enemy andthe old nature, or original sin. James 1:14-15 reminds us that we sin when we are carried away by our own lust. Just as with Adam we do have the option to say, “No!” and God will allow us a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). Adam let that lust for the fruit of the tree get a foothold and he finally succumbed to the temptation. It is likely that we are able to sin with greater ease now that we are innately filled with moral evil (Romans 7:21). As a result, we have the guilt, or “original sin” from Adam’s sin, and the predisposition to sin more easily due to the presence of our own sinful nature. We do, however, have the benefit of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and direct us away from temptation (Galatians 5:16-25).

As a result of this depravity mankind is indeed separated from God, fellowship has been interrupted. Death, including both physical and an eternity of separation awaits those who do not experience a life saving relationship with their Creator. Throughout the Old Testament, sacrifice was the model presented that produced a substitutionary atonement, which covered sin and allowed a holy God to commune with His people (Leviticus 8). Subsequently, Christ became the sacrifice that not merely covered our sins, but took them away completely (John 1:29) for those who have truly followed Him and kept His commandments (John 14:21). We are justified, or rescued, and seen as completely righteous in the eyes of God (Romans 5:1, 2, 10; Colossians 1:20). We have been reconciled to our righteous Creator, and are in the process of being transformed (renewed) into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:24;Colossians 3:10).

May God Bless You (Shepherd’s Echo)

(The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen)

We are indeed blessed. Minimally, we are all blessed with common grace, and the gift of life. To those of us who are walking in relationship with God, we know that we are ultimately and supremely blessed, and blessed for eternity. Only people who are washed in the blood of Christ are able to accurately claim this redemption. So, my guess is that it is not by accident that when the Hebrew words for bless were being translated into the English language that such a powerful and descriptive expression was selected.

One of my books says that it is a “bloody” word, because in the English language for us to capture that idea of blessed, the word which was harvested was the Old English word bledsian. What it meant was to be “reddened with blood,” “to be consecrated with blood, as in sacrifices.”

Over the years the word morphed into blessen, blessed, and ultimately bless, but it still meant to be consecrated by blood. When we add God to the equation, as in “God bless you,” it means, “God bathe you in blood.” “Be consecrated in blood.” “Be made righteous in blood.”

When we say “God bless you” in the English language then, what we’re really communicating is “would that you be reddened with blood.” And in the most Christian sense we are saying, “would you be consecrated, would that you would be among the redeemed!” When we place all the elements together in this phrase it becomes a beautiful prayer to the divine…” May you be consecrated by God in the blood of Christ! May God Bless You!”

It is this blood, and only this blood of Christ which is the agent that places us in right standing before God. This picture is vividly painted for us in Romans 6:3-7:

“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”

The person brought forth from this baptism is washed, reddened with the blood of Christ and freed from the eternal consequences of sin.

This simple phrase, “God bless you” is an invocation to the God of all life that the person of whom this divine solicitation is said would be cleansed of their sin and brought into right relationship with God through the sacrificial atonement of Christ. When we see someone, when we say goodbye to someone, even when somebody sneezes we plead divine redemption, salvation, restoration and peace.

Who would have thought that such a statement would be so infused with meaning? Now I am sure there are those who will charge me with romanticizing this for the sake of an article, but, check it out for yourself. I’ll admit, I am having fun with this, but hey! You gotta love this!

The question at hand then is for everyone…, “are you reddened with the blood of Christ?”

Perhaps, the song asks it best.

Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

There is a lot going on in our lives – a lot of things to address every day. But none is more important than this question. My prayer is that you face this issue head on and are absolutely certain today, that you stand before God, washed in the blood of Christ.

And for the record, one more time: May God Bless You!

Incomprehensible Divide

I have been pondering this week a couple of things which are incomprehensible to the fallen human mind. Number 1, the righteousness required to stand before a holy and pure Sovereign God; and Number 2, the vast devastation brought upon God’s creation because of sin, which produces the infinite divide between God and His perfect creation, man.

How often do we minimize that distance? How often do we think that Christ only had to give us a little help? When we lessen that distance, and devastation…we undervalue the divide Christ crossed in order to make a way for us to be reconciled to God.

Made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and given a mere one prohibition in the Garden, we (mankind) chose poorly and were subsequently cast out of the Garden (Genesis 3:22-24), out through an eastern gate protected by multiple cherubim with flaming swords. Our errant tendency is often to minimize that distance that sin caused between God and man. We may simply assert, God is only on the other side of that wall of flaming ninja swords, but we should know better; the divide is incalculable and incomprehensible.

As Scripture subsequently reveals, mankind would continue to degenerate, Genesis 6:5 says, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” Judges 21:25 adds, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

The Old Testament would continue to indict the decadent nature of man; the divide was infinitely apparent, and would remain, absent an intervention from a merciful God.

Our depraved lot is sorely identified in the simple, yet stark words of Paul in Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” The status is accurately diagnosed by Paul; humans are in a perpetual state of “deadness.” That means that we cannot do anything of our own merits to find a way out. We could not initiate our own salvation. And we were lost until a benevolent Sovereign determined to issue a way out. Yes, Paul is addressing the Ephesians specifically, but by extension this depraved state and future falls to the lot of mankind as well. The only fate merited is that of eternal separation from God.

Fortunately, for us, believers, the reality of deadness is referred to here in the past tense; Paul describes the journey we were on, and again by extension the journey all of mankind pursues. “In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Ephesians 2:2-3).

The wide road leading to destruction is painted here, the road filled with those walking under the influence of the dark prince of Hell. Those serving to excite their own minds and flesh who stand under the impending wrath of God. Every one of us has navigated that darkened road. So, do we get it then? Do we understand that the distance between God and man is great; the chasm of sin and death is insurmountable…that is unless, God intercedes.

Let’s read on.

Ephesians 2:4 begins, “But God.” What amazing words turn the course of doom! “But God.” These two words are the fulcrum upon which the destiny of man swings upward to life. “But God!” But God so loved the world that He intervened. But God was not willing that any should perish.  But God so loved the world that He offered a plan for this fallen man to be reconciled to Him. But God had this plan from before the foundations of the world. “But God” simply means that God, and only God was able to divert this river of death, toward life.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

The contrast between death and life is given, and a reminder of the effects of God’s grace, resulting in a new identity of life in Christ; and He will continue to pour out His grace of redemption upon us for eternity.

The incomprehensible divide, spanned only by the gift of Jesus Christ. One Source. One solution to the problem of sin. One bridge–Christ! The infinite divide is only able to be bridged by an infinite God.

He crossed the divide!

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

A Convenient Christ (Shepherd’s Echo)

(The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen)

Somewhere stuffed in the recesses of my closet is wad of keys dangling at the end of a brightly colored key fob. I see it every now and again, and am reminded of the hectic pace at which we do life. The keys are many, and of many sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are rusty, some shiny. Some have names on them; some have numbers – all reminders of days gone by. Pretty much all different, but what unifies them is that they are for the most part unidentifiable; I don’t know what they go to. Keys are given, or identify authority over some area; all of them used to unlock, activate, or grant access…to something.

Somewhere over the course of time, they have lost their identity. There is a lock out there…somewhere, but the answer is now unknown to me, and seemingly lost to time. With each passing year this mass of potential continues to grow, after all, the key is valuable, right? And you can’t just throw them away. Who knows? I just may come across some desperate lock that may be able to be heroically released due to the meticulous stewardship of my cache of keys. Continue reading “A Convenient Christ (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Nothing but the Blood

It strikes me that we may be a little desensitized nowadays. We might see movies in which we see blood and gore, and not be affected or even concerned about the horrendous loss of life. Or, we might just ask, “Is that really necessary?” and continue eating our popcorn. And yet, when it gets down to it, those movies are often only for gratuitous shock value.

But there was a purpose when God called for sacrifices at the Tabernacle or the Temple. I also believe there’s a very real purpose for God to have blood red; because it is very pronounced. You know when you have hurt yourself, your body begins alerting you immediately.

We get a very dramatic, yet intentional picture of blood in 1 Kings chapter 8. Solomon is consecrating the Temple here, as he’s bringing the Ark in.

Verse five of chapter eight in First Kings says, “Then King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who were assembled with him, were with him before the Ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered.”

“So many that they could not be counted or numbered.” What kind of number is that? What kind of number of oxen and sheep are such that they could not be counted?

Whatever that number is, may I suggest that it is a number greater than 22,000 oxen, and it’s greater than 120,000 sheep. Because at the end of the chapter in verse 62 through 64, we see that the offerings either continue, or are identified. Verses 62-63 says, “Now the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifice before the Lord. Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace offerings which he offered to the Lord 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep.” Here’s my point: those sacrifices were able to be numbered; pretty big numbers yet, they were still able to be numbered. May I suggest that in the beginning of the chapter if those sacrifices being offered were such that they could not be numbered, then they were in excess of 22,000 and 120,000 animals respsectively. I would even suggest that that number would be substantially greater than 22,000 bulls and greater than 120,000 sheep. Thus, at least doubling that amount of sacrifice that’s taking place in the whole realm of consecrating that temple.

The latter part of verse 63 and verse 64 communicate, “So the king and all the sons of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord. On the same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord, because there he offered the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings for the bronze altar that was before the Lord was too small to hold the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings; for the bronze altar that was before the LORD was too small to hold the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings.”

Now, try to get your mind around the thought that there was an area that was dedicated for the offerings, and it was entirely overwhelmed. That’s an understatement–120,000 sheep, and 22,000 bulls and then some! To get the perspective on this we need to understand that they are inviting a holy God to dwell in that Temple; the blood paves the way for the people to have a relationship with God. That blood had to be shed.

I did a little research this week. Twenty-two thousand bulls at six gallons of blood per bull. Six gallons! That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 132,000 gallons of blood. The number is staggering and it ends up being somewhere between eight and nine swimming pools full of blood–and that’s  just the bulls. The sheep, 120,000 sheep is just as staggering. Sheep run somewhere between two and a half and four gallons of blood per sheep. If we were to take the higher of four gallons, that comes in at 480,000 gallons of blood. Four hundred eighty thousand gallons of blood is somewhere around 30 average-sized swimming pools full of blood.

It gives you a pretty visual picture which speaks volumes. Remember, the blood is red, it’s coming off the altar area, and it’s flowing down as a river under the perimeter wall outside of the city; it’s flowing toward the Kidron. The blood of bulls and sheep, enough to fill nearly 39 swimming pools with blood is flowing as a reminder for all to see of the price paid for this relationship with the Sovereign.

You get the picture, the redness, the stickiness of blood all over everything because without the shedding of blood, there’s no remission of sin. But may I also point out that in the Old Testament, the sin was not taken away. That payment of blood was an “interest only” payment. It allowed the people to have fellowship with God. It invited the holy God to come and to dwell in that temple, but it did not take away the sin. It allowed a temporary fellowship with God, but it’s not until the true sacrifice of the Lamb of God is offered up that the principal of that debt is paid as well. In Hebrews, we get a clear picture, and with that vision in your mind of the Temple, and the blood flowing for a long time, however long it takes for that much blood to drain, we get that contrast when Christ makes a sacrifice of roughly one and a half gallons of divine blood upon the altar of the Cross.

Hebrews 9:11-12 says, “but when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, he entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Verses 13-14 say, “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctified for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

Is that an amazing picture? There was only one sufficient sacrifice, and it was not the blood of any animals. That’s what we celebrate today in the ordinance of communion. As we partake of a small vile, in essence, just a few drops of juice, of wine, we remember what Christ has done on our behalf, with blood so pure. The sacrifice was so great that Christ was able to offer to us an absolute remediation of our sins, and place us in right standing before God the father.

We remember the vast amounts of blood spilled over the many years for the temporary restoration of relationship with God. To think about that enormous amount of blood is astounding, and yet it pales in significance to the purity of the blood which flowed from the veins of Christ.

Reading from Hebrews chapter 9:15, “for this reason, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”

That blood, the blood of Christ was the currency, the only currency that would be accepted for the payment of our sin in order to offer to us eternal redemption and an eternal inheritance.

As you remember the Lord’s death, as we break the bread, and as we taste of the bread, remember the price that was paid on our behalf as we thank God for what He has done, take, eat, and praise God that the price was paid in full.

And also, enjoy the cup that inaugurated to us that open door of redemption should we choose to walk through. Let us thank God for the blood of Christ.

“What can take away my sin?”

“Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

Lord, in this culture, we cannot really fathom that amount of blood and yet when it is visualized in Hollywood or in our culture, it is just as a result of sin and mindlessness and hatred. But Lord, that blood that was shed on our behalf was the greatest act of grace that you have extended to us. We thank you Lord, for allowing us to reflect on that even for these few moments. But more than that, we thank you that as you have drawn us to yourself, you have built the bridge through Christ and His blood that we might enter into eternal redemption. We thank you for the blessings that are ours in the heavenly places, and we thank you for the inheritance that awaits, which we taste of even briefly now. We thank you lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Yeah…Not So Much (Shepherd’s Echo)

(The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen)

Is just me or has anyone else noticed that commodities at the super market are shrinking? I don’t mean the amounts that are made available overall; I mean the portions which are being sold. I mean, take for instance the coffee. What was sold as a “3 Pound” can of coffee years ago has been selling as a mere 33 ounces. And now it has been reduced to a 29 ounce size plastic container, but apparently I have gained a “Flavor lock Lid” or an “Easy Grip Handle” as though I had a problem with my can of coffee launching out of my hand and spilling all over the floor. Easy Grip? This thing is not a power tool or a repelling line- it’s a can for crying out loud. I guess they figured I would be better-off having an ironclad grip on the container and they would have an ironclad grip on my 4 ounces of coffee. Quite a trade-off, huh?

But, coffee is not the only culprit; diminished portions are pandemic. I bought a “gallon” container of milk that turned out to be 3 quarts! The revamped cereal boxes are the same size from the front but only about half as deep from front to back. There are less Oreos in the package than years ago but now the wrappers are not see-through so you can’t count ‘em as easily. Ice cream is now sold in 1.5 quarts rather than a half-gallon and candy wrappers weigh as much as the candy itself. What is up? I am wondering what they will do with eggs. Will 6 become the new dozen? What makes it even worse is that the prices if anything have risen.   Continue reading “Yeah…Not So Much (Shepherd’s Echo)”