“Who Is This Man?”

Mark 4:35-41 (International Standard Version)

A powerful scene is depicted in Mark 4:35 through 41 (International Standard Version):

     That day, when evening had come, ...[Jesus] told [His disci-
     ples]..., “Let's cross to the other side.” So they...took 
     Him away in a boat without making any special preparations. 
     Other boats were with Him. A violent windstorm came up, and 
     the waves began breaking into the boat, so that the boat was 
     rapidly becoming swamped. But Jesus was in the back of the 
     boat, asleep on a cushion. So they woke Him up and asked Him, 
     “Teacher, don't you care that we're going to die?” Then He 
     got up, rebuked the wind, and told the sea, “Calm down! Be 
     still!” Then the wind stopped blowing, and there was a great 
     calm. He asked them, “Why are you such cowards? Don't you 
     have any faith yet?” Overcome with fear, they kept saying to 
     one another,“Who is this man? Even the wind and the sea obey 
     Him!”

Why were the disciples so afraid?

  • Yes, it was a powerful storm! The waves were washing over the gunnels of the boat, and, as we are told in verse 37, “…the boat was rapidly becoming swamped…!
  • At least four of the disciples were fishermen (see Mark 1:16-20), and possibly seven (see John 21:1-4). They plied their trade on the Sea of Galilee, so they knew that body of water well, including its violent storms!

From the website of The Deseret News, “Storms Are Common on the Sea of Galilee ”:

       Being about 680 feet below sea level, the body of water 
       becomes quite warm during certain times. Cold air rush-
       ing down from the sharply rising hills meets the warm 
       air rising from the water. The result is a sudden and 
       violent storm. 

• The disciples were fearful, thinking they would all drown!

Somewhere in my reading, I gleaned an argument that should have bolstered the disciples faith! Hadn’t Jesus told them, as they started out, “Let’s cross to the other side.?

  • He did not say, “Well, climb in the boat, fellas. We will try to make it to the other side – no guarantees though!No, He plainly told them,Let’s cross to the other side.
  • Jesus is the Son of God, God the Son! We are told in John 2:24, “…Jesus…knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” When He called Nathanael as His disciple in John 1:47 through 51, The Lord’s knowing was demonstrated in their interaction:
       Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, 
       “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” 
       Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus an-
       swered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when 
       you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael an-
       swered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! 
       You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to 
       him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig 
       tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than 
       these....Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you 
       shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending 
       and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Jesus even knew what Nathanael was contemplating as he sat under the fig tree! Nathanael was deeply thinking about Jacob’s dream as recorded in Genesis 28:12: “Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” How do I know that was what Nathaniel was thinking? Jesus told him in verse 51, “…you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.Same subject, same unusual order – angels first ascending, then descending!

All that to say, Jesus knew exactly what would happen on the Sea of Galilee!

  • He knew the storm was coming, and He knew its intensity!
  • He knew how the disciples would react!
  • And He knew they would…cross to the other side…,making it in spite of the storm!

And so the disciples were rebuked!Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith yet?

  • …faith that they would reach their destination, because Jesus had said so!
  • faith that the One they followed had the power and ability to handle any obstacle that arose!

I must say that I think I would have responded to the situation much as did the disciples! As they were, so am I – a work in progress!

But let’s see if we can understand His promises with a more positive and obedient mindset:

  • Jesus said, “I will never leave you or forsake you….I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20). Do you, do I, really know He is always here with us – with me?
  • He quieted His anxious followers eleven times in the gospels with words that included peace (see for instance Luke 24:36; John 16:33; 20:26). His presence should bring His followers peace!

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6 and 7 that if we give our hard situations over to God, …by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving….the peace of God…will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Do we believe that? Do we experience that?

  • The Lord tells us in Luke 6:38 (Easy-to-Read Version):
       “Give to others, and you will receive. You will be given 
       much. It will be poured into your hands--more than you 
       can hold. You will be given so much that it will spill 
       into your lap. The way you give to others is the way God 
       will give to you.”

Do we give abundantly and cheerfully (see I I Corinthians 9:6, 7) knowing that God will give back all that we need? (see Matthew 6:33; Philippians 4:19).

  • In Hebrews 4:14 through 16, we are assured that Jesus has, in one way or another, experienced every trial, every hard thing that can touch our lives! And He says, “…come boldly to the throne of grace, that [you]…may obtain favor and find grace to help in time of need.” But do we come to Him in those needy times? And do we come just in those needy times? For He wants us to talk with Him continually! (see Luke 18:1; I Thessalonians 5:17).
  • In Mark 12:30, Jesus plainly quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 as the great commandment:…you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And in John 14:15 the Lord equated such love to obedience! If you love Me, keep My commandments.We say that we love Him, but do we obey Him…with all…our heart, with all…our soul, with all…our mind, and with all…our strength…?

There are so many ways we are challenged to trust the Lord Jesus Christ! Don’t be like the disciples, scared out of their wits when a storm hit!

The Savior is with you!
And He controls
even the wind and the waves of life!

Be As “Dumb As A Rock!”

Luke 19:37-40

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

From the website of The Free Dictionary, I looked up the idiom, “…as dumb as a rock!” It means “Exceptionally foolish, dimwitted, or unintelligent.” But I take exception to this! According to the account of the triumphal entry in Luke 19:37 through 40, the rocks were smarter than Jerusalem’s religious leaders! Here are the first two verses of our featured Scripture:

     Then, as [Jesus]...was now drawing near the descent of the 
     Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began 
     to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the 
     mighty works they had seen, saying: “Blessed is the King 
     who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory 
     in the highest!” 

The religious leaders of Jerusalem were the Pharisees. They were legalists who insisted that, to be counted as righteous before God, one needed to keep the 613 laws the Pharisees found in the Old Testament! They increasingly opposed Jesus and His teachings, fearing they would lose their positions of influence in Jewish society.

On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus rode on a young donkey down the Mount of Olives, heading for Jerusalem’s Eastern Gate (also called The Golden Gate). The people jubilantly received Him as the Messiah, that is, their version of the Messiah, the One who would deliver them from Roman control and establish again the mighty kingdom of Israel!

  • Their excitement was based on their knowledge of the Messianic prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 and 10:
       Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of 
       Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just 
       and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, 
       the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Eph-
       raim And the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be 
       cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion 
       shall be 'from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends 
       of the earth. (Note: this is to be fulfilled in the future 
       Kingdom).
  • The Pharisees were upset! And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.’ ” (Luke 19:39 and 40).
  • Jesus would not shut the people up! And if He did, “…the stones would immediately cry out.It seems like the rocks (the stones) were smarter than the Pharisees!

Consider the donkey the Lord was riding: Zechariah prophesied that is would be “…a colt, the foal of a donkey.” That is confirmed in Luke 19:30 where Jesus instructed His disciples, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one had ever sat. Loose him and bring him here.” I grew up on a Connecticut dairy farm. I worked on a South Dakota ranch. I have been around horses and a few donkeys. An unbroken donkey’s colt, like an unbroken horse, will not welcome a rider for the first time! It first must be trained to accept someone on its back!

  • This is from a blog called, helpfulhorsehints.com:
       It is also vital that the donkey you intend to ride has 
       been properly taught how to be ridden. You cannot ride 
       a donkey that has not had any training; it may end badly 
       for both you and the donkey.

       While donkeys often excel at being ridden once they are 
       trained, they are not born with the ability or the desire 
       to have a person just hop on their backs. An untrained 
       donkey usually does not respond well to having a person 
       try to climb onto them.
  • But this young donkey, that had never been ridden docilely, accepted Jesus! It seems thisdumb asswas also smarter than the Pharisees!

Who else had the sense to bow before Jesus Christ?

  • Demons did! In Mark 5:1 through 13 is the record of Jesus healing the Gadarene demonic, a man so full of demons that they identified themselves as …Legion; for we are many.” (verse 9). The Lord simply commanded, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit.” (verse 8), and the demons had to obey! They, with Jesus’ permission, entered into 2,000 pigs, which promptly committed suicide by drowning in the sea!
  • The Sea of Galilee did! Jesus and His twelve disciples were dangerously rocked by a storm that was about to sink their boat. But Jesus stood and commanded, “‘Peace, be still.’ and the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39).
  • Fish did!
       Twice, at the beginning of the Lord’s public minis- 
           try, and during His forty-day resurrection ministry, 
           Jesus commanded a multitude of fish to hit the nets 
           of His disciples...and, much to their amazement, 
           they did! (see Luke 5:10; John 21:3-11). 

       ✞   What about the fish that Peter caught with a silver 
           coin in its mouth? (see Matthew 17:27). I can imagine 
           that fish swimming around thinking to itself (if fish 
           think), “What in the world is this thing in my mouth? 
           And why is it there?
  • A tree did! Even though it meant its death, the fig tree of Matthew 21:19 obeyed the curse of the Lord and withered away!
  • Bread and cooked fish did! On two occasions, Jesus fed thousands on just a couple of fish and a few small loaves of bread! (see Matthew 14:19-21; 15:35-38).
  • Sickness and disease bowed to Him 23 times, as recorded in the gospels. Whether it was One on one, or hundreds at the same occasion, no infirmity could stand against His command!
  • Even death had to obey the Lord! Three times in the gospels Jesus raised the dead:
       Luke 7:11 through 17 – He raised the widow of Nain’s 
           son!

       Mark 5:35 through 43 – By Jesus’ touch and command, 
           Jairus’ daughter awoke from death!

       John 11:41 through 44 – Lazarus, dead for four days, 
           was called alive from the grave!

       ...at the resurrection of the just...” (Luke 14:14), 
           at the trumpet call and Christ’s command, Come up 
           here...,” (Revelation 4:1)...

             ...the dead in Christ will arise first. Then we 
             who are alive and remain shall be caught up to-
             gether with them in the clouds to meet the Lord 
             in the air. And thus we will always be with the 
             Lord. (I Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
  • All creation, as well as re-creation came into being by Jesus, who is the powerful Word of God! (see Genesis chapters 1 and 2; Revelation 21:1).
       ✡   For we are told seven times in Genesis 1, “Then God 
            said...” (verses 3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26). 

       In John 1:1 and 14, Jesus is shown to be...the Wordof God. That is why it is written in...

             ➔   ...Colossians 1:16 – “For by Him all things 
                  were created that are in heaven and in earth, 
                  visible and invisible, whether thrones or 
                  dominions or principalities or powers. All 
                  things were created through Him and for Him.”

             ➔   ...Hebrews 1:1 and 2 – “God...through [Jesus] 
                  also...made the worlds.✞   And by that same Word, all creation is sustained! 
           (see Colossians 3:17; Hebrews 1:3).

Now, considering the power of the Lord Jesus Christ’s command, why is it that only people are not smart enoughto respond to Him?

  • It is because of sin! As Jesus said in John 3:19 and 20:
       “And this is the condemnation, that light has come into 
       the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, 
       because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing 
       evil hates the light and does not come to the light, 
       lest their deeds should be exposed.”
  • It is because of Satan! The Apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 4:4:
       ...the god of this age [referencing the devil] has blinded
       ...[the] minds [of those] who do not believe, lest the light 
       of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of 
       God, should shine on them [and they should be saved].

And so…

  • Take the counsel of the stones on Mount Olivet!
  • Take the counsel of all the rest of creation!
  • Do not take the counsel of the stubborn hearts and minds of human beings!

Be as smart as a rock, and all the rest of creation!
Proclaim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of Your life!

Holiness This Side of Heaven! – III Leviticus 11:44; Hebrews 12:14; I John 3:9; 5:18

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

In the last Gem we explored the two natures that every Christian has:

  • The sinful nature with which every mother’s child is born! It is inherited from our first parents, specifically from Adam, who knowingly disobeyed God and ate…of the tree of knowledge of good and evil…” (Genesis 2:17). That rebellious act caused spiritual death (separation from God – see Genesis 3:6-8). And that death was passed from Adam to all his progeny! (see Romans 5:12).
  • Only God could give the solution to this worldwide dilemma! As it says in perhaps the most popular verse of the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
     ✞   Jesus paid for our sins, dying on the cross!

     ✞   He ...was raised [from the dead] for our justification.” 
         (Romans 4:25). 

     By His Holy Spirit within us, He gives us a new Godly 
         nature! (see II Corinthians 5:17).
  • But we still have the corrupted sinful nature! And, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:16 and 17 (God’s Word to the nations):
       Live your life as your spiritual nature directs you. Then 
       you will never follow through on what your corrupt nature 
       wants. What your corrupt nature wants is contrary to what 
       your corrupt nature wants. They are opposed to each other. 
       As a result, you don't always do what you intend to do.

Let’s examine more closely these two natures that reside in every true Christian:

  • The old nature, often called the flesh in the New Testament. Out of the flesh flows nothing but sin! Paul gives a partial list of such output in Galatians 5:19 through 21 (International Standard Version):
       Now the actions of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, 
       impurity, promiscuity,  idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, rivalry, 
       jealousy, outbursts of anger, quarrels, conflicts, factions, 
       envy, murder, drunkenness, wild partying, and things like 
       that.   
  • The new Godly nature manifests these characteristics (Galatians 5:22 and 23 – English Standard Version): “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….

Which would you want to be manifested in your life?

With two opposing natures, Christians still struggle with sin! Paul describes this struggle in Romans 7:18 through 24:

     For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good 
     dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform 
     what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, 
     I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 
     Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do 
     it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil 
     is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I de-
     light in the law of God according to the inward man. But I 
     see another law in my members, warring against the law of my 
     mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which 
     is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver 
     me from this body of death?

I do not see willful rebellious sin here! But even such willful rebellion against God is forgiven if we sincerely repent before the Lord (see I John 1:9). What I see as Paul confesses it, and as I also experience it, is sinning against God unintentionally, and realizing how much I have messed up! In other words, Jesus’ payment for my sins does not give me the license to blatantly sin!

There are two more verses in our featured Scripture, both from John’s first epistle, that we have not yet explored.

  • I John 3:9 – “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
  • I John 5:18 – “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.

Born of God is a reference to the new nature the Lord gives us when we accept His Son Jesus as our Savior!

  • The nature He births within us is from His very essence. God is totally holy and that which He implants in us is also totally holy!
     ✞   No sin ever comes out of that new nature!

     As a matter of fact, that new nature does not have the 
         capacity to sin!

     ✞   Satan, who is called the wicked one (above) can’t even 
         leave his filthy fingerprint on that new nature!
  • All sin proceeds out of the flesh, that old sinful nature with which we are endowed at conception!

That is why, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 through 8, “You must be born again.It is by being born again that God implants His holy nature within us!

Now, does it make sense that Jesus told His followers in Luke 9:23, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me...”?

  • What we are crucifying, nailing to the cross, putting to death, is our old sinful nature!
  • And we are to do this daily, even moment by moment!
  • If we do this, the only nature left alive to manifest itself in us and through us is the new Godly nature that will not, cannot sin!

Now you decide…
Can holiness be manifested this side of heaven?

Holiness This Side of Heaven! – II Leviticus 11:44; Hebrews 12:14; I John 3:9; 5:18

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Is it possible to be totally holy (without sin) in our earthly life? That’s the question we are dealing with. In our last Gem we didn’t get to the main point, but focused especially on what Jesus said in Luke 9:23: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.Remember, and it is very important: the cross was a device invented for one purpose: execution – to deliver the crucified one to a torturous and humiliating death!

Focus on the second featured Scripture, Hebrews 12:14 (International Standard Version): “Pursue peace with everyone, as well as holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

  • To be holy means to have not only accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, but also to be set apart unto God as His son or daughter, answering in obedience to Him in all things!
  • But how do we accomplish being holy? This is where the cross comes in!

First, let’s explore why Jesus tells us to “…deny [ourselves]…, and take up his [or her] cross daily, and follow [Him]!

  • We are born with a sinful human nature! We inherited that from our ancestor, our first father, Adam!
     ✡   God told him not to eat “...of the tree of knowledge of 
          good and evil...for in the day that you eat of it you 
          shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17). 

     ✡   Adam ate (see Genesis 3:6), and Adam died! He didn’t die 
          physically right away (see Genesis 5:3-5). But he died 
          spiritually! He became dead to God, his Creator, and to 
          the things of God! For when the LORD came as usual to 
          the Garden of Eden to fellowship with His highest crea-
          tion, “...Adam and his wife hid themselves from the 
          presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” 
          (Genesis 3:8).

     ✡   And Adam passed that spiritual deadness unto all who 
          came after him! For it says in Romans 5:12, “Sin came 
          into the world through one person [Adam], and death 
          came through sin. So death spread to everyone, because 
          everyone sinned.” (God’s Word to the nations).
  • As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1 and 12, we are naturally …dead in trespasses and sins…having no hope and without God in the world.We are all sinners, estranged from God! That is our natural condition!
  • But Jesus revealed His ultimate purpose for His incarnation in Luke 19:10 (1965 Bible in Basic English): “…the Son of Man came to make search for those who are wandering from…[God’s] way, and to be their Savior.” How did He accomplish this?
     ✞   He voluntarily went to the cross (see John 10:17, 18). 
         And ...He...who knew no sin [was]...made sin for us
         ....” (II Corinthians 5:21), taking upon Himself “...
         the sins of the whole world...” (I John 2:2).

     Those who accept Him as Savior, are also called to 
         follow Him in obedience as Lord! And the most diffi-
         cult directive Jesus gives to those who follow is 
         “...take up [your] cross daily, and follow Me.”  
         (Luke 9:23).

God gives us a new nature when we come to His Son as our Savior. This is beautifully prophesied in several places in the Old Testament. Here is Ezekiel 36:25 through 27:

     ...I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be 
     clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from 
     all your idols. I will also give you a new heart and put a 
     new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out 
     of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My 
     Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and 
     you will keep My judgments and do them.

Yes, we have a new nature implanted within us by the Holy Spirit! But there is a problem – we still have the old Adamic sinful nature! And Paul writes about this in Galatians 5:16 and 17 (God’s Word to the nations):

     Live your life as your spiritual nature directs you. Then 
     you will never follow through on what your corrupt nature 
     wants. What your corrupt nature wants is contrary to what 
     your spiritual nature wants, and what your spiritual nature 
     wants is contrary to what your corrupt nature wants. They 
     are opposed to each other. As a result, you don't always do 
     what you intend to do.

The two natures are at war! And one of them must die! Obviously, the one God wants to die, the one any true Christian wants to die, is the old nature that always leads us into sin!

The only way to win the battle, the only way for Jesus Christ to be consistently manifested in your life and mine, is to…deny…[one’s] self, and take up his [or her] cross daily, and follow [the Lord Jesus].

  • We are going out to die – to nail that old sinful nature upon the cross, and keep it there until it breathes its last, and is dead!
  • The problem is, that old nature far too often comes down off the cross to tempt and to battle for the dominance of your life and mine!
     This is why we are told to “...take up...[our] cross 
         daily, and follow...Jesus out to die!

     Perhaps an even better understanding of the command 
         Jesus gave would be, “take up...[our] cross [moment by 
         moment]..., and follow...Jesus out to die! For it is 
         the usual case that we must make that decision as it 
         applies to any number of daily temptations!

And I believe that Jesus showed us the way to do this! Before He was arrested, He knew exactly what was going to happen to Him!

  • Jesus did not want to be loaded down with the world’s sin! It says in II Corinthians 5:21 that “…He knew no sin…before He went to the cross!
        He had never sinned! He was never separated from the 
         Father because of sin! But when the sins of all mankind 
         were thrown upon His shoulders, sin separated Him from 
         His heavenly Father! And He cried out,My God, My God, 
         why have you forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). 

     I believe that in the six hours the Lord was upon the 
         cross, time was compacted, and Jesus somehow experienced 
         eternal suffering in hell,...where their worm does not 
         die and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:44).

     In His humanity, Jesus didn’t want to suffer being man-
         handled and humiliated, being beaten, having His beard 
         pulled out by the roots (see Isaiah 50:6), being whipped 
         by the Romans to within an inch of His life, being nailed 
         to the cross to suffer and die!
  • And so He prayed: “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42).

This is how we crucify our sinful nature daily, even moment by moment:

…in every situation, in every temptation,
we cry out to God…

…nevertheless not my will, but Yours, be done…!

Holiness This Side of Heaven! – I Leviticus 11:44; Hebrews 12:14; I John 3:9; 5:18

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Being a Baptist for 54 years, I have been taught that complete holiness – perfection before God this side of heaven – is not obtainable! But in the last few years, a deepening friendship with a Free Methodist missionary couple, Jerry and Jan, has led me to examine again the doctrine of holiness. Hebrews 12:14 is one of the Scriptures I have reconsidered: “Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

But what does it mean to be holy?

  • In Leviticus 19:2, The LORD God told the Israelites, newly escaped from slavery in Egypt, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.Hundreds of times in the Old Testament He declared His holiness to the Israelites – and their holiness to Him in response! Here are just three examples:
     ✡   Leviticus 11:44 – “...I am the LORD your God. You shall 
          therefore sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy; for 
          I am holy.”

     ✡   Psalm 22:2 and 3 – “O my God...You are holy, who inhabit 
          the praises of Israel.”

     ✡   Isaiah 57:15 – “...thus says the High and Lofty One who 
          inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the 
          high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and hum-
          ble spirit...to revive...the humble, and...the heart of 
          the contrite ones.
  • To be holy means to be set apart to God! That is what God intended for the nation of Israel. But the Israelites failed miserably! As Paul wrote in Romans 2:24 (Good News Bible), “You boast about having God’s law — but do you bring shame on God by breaking His law? The scripture says, ‘Because of you Jews, the Gentiles speak evil of God.’
  • Ever since Pentecost (see Acts 2) God is building His holy Church through faith in Jesus Christ!
     The Church is made up of people, both Jews and Gentiles, 
         who have trusted the Son of God as the only Savior. Those 
         who “...received Him, to them He gave the right to become 
         children of God, to those who believe in His name...” 
         (John 1:12).

     ✞   Here is the Lord’s plan for His Church as described in 
         Ephesians 5:25 through 27: 

             Christ...loved the Church and gave Himself for her, 
             that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the wash-
             ing of water by the Word, that He might present her 
             to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or 
             wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be 
             holy and without blemish.

Being holy means to be sanctified, set apart for God, whether as a church or as an individual Christian! But, can we be completely holy in this earthly life? Some say “Yes!” and some say “No!

Paul, in I Corinthians 15:31, brings up an important and interesting point relating to this discussion, “…I die daily.” According to the context of his letter to the Corinthian church, he wrote this as he remembered his difficult ministry over the years bringing Christ to the Gentiles, especially concerning his labor for the Lord in the Asia Minor city of Ephesus. Often in his ministry, Paul was under the threat of death!

But I think Paul wrote, “I die daily…” as he called to mind what Jesus taught in Luke 9:23: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

  • What was the purpose of the cross? It was designed as a means of death – a very painful death! Jesus took up His cross because He was going out to die! He, being totally holy, was offering Himself as the sinner before God, paying the price for my sins and yours! As it is written in II Corinthians 5:21, “For He [the Father] made Him [the Son] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
  • So when we desire to follow Him, Jesus tells us that we must also “…take up…[our] cross…and follow Me…,and to do it daily!
  • We are going out to die! But…
     ✞   ...He already died for our sins!

     ✞   ...Why do we have to die? And why must we die daily?

Jesus was referring to a spiritual death! Being originally created “…in image of God…” (Genesis 1:27), humankind was endowed with a spirit that was vitally connected with the Creator. But God told Adam in Genesis 2:16 and 17, “Of every tree of the garden [of Eden] you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

  • Adam and Eve ate (see Genesis 3:6), and they died!
It was not a physical death right away, for we are 
          told in Genesis 5:3 through 5, that Adam lived hun-
          dreds of years after he sinned! But...

     ✡   They died spiritually! Their human spirit immediately 
          became dead to the LORD's spiritual things, especially 
          to God Himself! For when their Creator came as usual 
          to fellowship with His highest creation, “...Adam and 
          his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD 
          God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8).
  • That deadened human spirit was then passed down to their progeny – you and me included! For in Romans 5:12 Paul wrote, “Sin came into the world through one person, and death came through sin. So death spread to everyone, because everyone sinned.” (God’s Word to the nations). We are all spiritually dead because of sin!

To counteract this spiritual death that our first parents put in motion, the LORD carried out His bold plan of redemption!

  • Jesus (the Son of God, God the Son) gave us His statement of purpose in Luke 19:10 (1965 Bible in Basic English): “…the Son of Man came to make search for those who are wandering from…[God’s] way, and to be their Savior.
     To fulfill that purpose, the Savior voluntarily laid 
         down His life before the Father, becoming sin and sin-
         ner for all people through the ages!

     ✞   He paid the price for sin – separation from God (also 
         known as eternal death)! As it is written in II Corin-
         thians 5:21, “For He [the Father] made Him [the Son] 
         who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become 
         the righteousness of God through Him.
  • All sinners are called to put their trust in Him!…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9).

This is just the introduction to Holiness This Side of Heaven! In the next Gem we will continue this study.

The Walking Dead

Colossians 2:13-15

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The Walking Dead is an eleven-year TV series (2010 through 2022) filmed near Atlanta, Georgia. This horror series focuses on the events surrounding a worldwide Zombie Apocalypse. I have not seen one episode of The Walking Dead, nor do I plan to. I don’t care for horror entertainment. However, I am somewhat familiar with this series because my daughter and her husband were extras and/or stand-ins through several seasons.

Why, then, am I featuring this horror series to open this Gem? It is because the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:13 through 15 about the walking dead! No, Paul was not experiencing a Zombie apocalypse! He was addressing the condition afflicting every mother’s child born into this world!

     And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision 
     of your flesh, He [God the Father] has made alive together 
     with Him [Jesus the Son], having forgiven you all trespasses, 
     having wiped out the handwriting of the requirements that was 
     against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out 
     of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed 
     principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, 
     triumphing over them in [that public spectacle]....

But,” you might argue, “we aren’t dead! We have been alive since we were conceived in our mother’s womb! How can you say we are dead?Paul’s argument is from a spiritual perspective!…and you being [spiritually] dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh….”

  • When God created human beings, Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, for it says in Genesis 1:27, “…in the image of God He created…male and female….” One very important part of that image was that human beings were naturally connected to their Creator!
  • But that connection was broken when Adam sinned. We are told in Genesis 3:8 that when God came as usual to commune with His highest creation, Adam and Eve ran and hid!
  • It is written in Romans 5:12 (Lexham English Bible), “…just as sin entered the world through one man, and [spiritual] death [separation from God] through sin, so death spread to all people, because all sinned.
  • That universal human condition of spiritual death has afflicted everyone ever since Adam! We are…dead in trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1) before God, even though we have physical life! So spiritually speaking, “We are the walking dead!

But God didn’t leave us there! According to our featured Scripture, God “…has made [us] alive together with [Jesus], having forgiven…[us] all trespasses….” (Colossians 2:13). How did He do that? Back in April 3rd though the 15th, 2013, I wrote a series of six Gems called Forgiven and Free! Here is what I said in the fourth Gem:

Years ago I read a book by Hal Lindsey called Satan Is Alive And Well On Planet Earth. In it he explains how Colossians 2:13-15 works out in the lives of Christians, and I am indebted to Mr. Lindsey for his research. If you can find a copy of his book, read pages 201 through 204 to get his full explanation.

What is referred to above as “…the handwriting of requirements that was against us…” is called in the New American Standard Bible, “…the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us….” You see, when a prisoner was convicted under Roman law, the court scribe would prepare a certificate of debt listing every crime for which the convict was guilty. If incarcerated, this certificate of debt was hung on the cell door. It remained there until the person had served his full sentence. Upon release, the certificate was written over with the word meaning “It is finished”, then handed to the one set free. Under Roman law, the debt was fully paid, and that person could never be charged with those same crimes again!

When a man was condemned to death by the Roman court, the most cruel method of execution was crucifixion, reserved for slaves, pirates and enemies of the state, and later for lower, non-Roman citizens. When a man was so condemned, a certificate of debt was written out to be carried around his neck on the way to the crucifixion site. Once there, that certificate would be nailed to the cross above the condemned person’s head. All who passed by, could then read the crimes for which this one was being crucified.

Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, wrote out the certificate of debt for Jesus. Eerdmans, The New Bible Dictionary, article on ‘Superscription’, says, “…the superscription [certificate of debt] is the placard, consisting of a board smeared with white gypsum and bearing in black letters the name of the condemned criminal and the offense for which he was being executed.” Jesus’ certificate was written in three languages, Greek, Latin and Hebrew (see Luke 23:38; John 19:20) proclaiming the heinous crime of the condemned Lord. What was the crime? From the four gospels, the complete inscription was, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Jesus was (under official Roman law) crucified for treason against Caesar, the Lord having claimed to be King!

But there was another certificate of debt nailed to the cross, according to Colossians 2:14, and it was invisible to the human eye! On it were written all the crimes of every human being against God – sins against His holy standard of perfection – and the Father was acutely aware of every one! Being sins against God, they stood against us, separating us from the Father both now and forever! But it is written that Jesus, …having forgiven you all trespasses; having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us….He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Now here is the summation: Jesus died on the cross in our place! He paid for the crime of our sins against God! Those sins were and are paid in full! What words did Jesus cry out?  They are recorded in John 19:30. “It is finishedIt is finished is over-written on the certificate of debt that listed your sins and mine! Now, under Roman law (which, by the way, is the basis of western legal systems), no one – not us, not Jesus Christ, nor any other person – can be charged with those crimes again! Legally, before God, our sins are gone!

Colossians 2:15 states, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Anytime Satan tries to accuse us before the Father, Jesus simply has to wave that fully paid certificate of debt before his evil face! The devil has to slink away in defeat, a public spectacle to all the saints and angels in heaven!  He is a disarmed foe! Jesus has triumphed! The only way he can hinder you is if you don’t understand the victory Jesus won on your behalf!

It is finished! Why, on earth, should you or I be burdened down with sins that have been nailed to the cross and paid for? Think about it…

We are Forgiven and Free!
Quit acting like the Walking Dead!

A Divine Suicide!

John 10:15-18

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

If I had preached a sermon entitles “A Divine Suicide” in any one of the churches I pastored, I would probably have gotten into trouble over that title! But what is the definition of “suicide”? According to Webster’s New Dictionary, it is “One who kills himself intentionally, Does this apply to how Jesus died? Read on, and you decide!

The featured Scripture is John 10:15 through 18:

     As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay 
     down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are 
     not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they will hear 
     My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. There-
     fore, My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I 
     may take it again. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down 
     of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to 
     take it again. This command I have received from My Father.

Who killed Jesus? I have heard many answers to this question.

  • Some say the Jews sealed His fate, especially the priests, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees, when they stirred up the people to shout out “‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ …Pilate said to them ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ ” (John 19:15). According to Matthew 27:24 and 25, Pilate tried to absolve himself when “…he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Person.’ …And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’
  • Some say it was the Romans who condemned the Lord! For the governor Pontius Pilate was a Roman ruler. And under Roman law, when Jesus claimed to be King before Pilate (see John 18:37), and even before that, when He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (see Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1-5), He was seen under Roman law as attempting to displace Caesar’s kingship – a charge that demanded the death penalty! Officially, that was why the Christ was nailed to a cross – the charges against Him were spelled out on the plaque above His head, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” (see Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:25; Luke 23:38; John 19:19).
  • Some say it was all mankind! For it is written in I John 2:2, “…He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. Yes, we had a hand in His death, for in dying and rising again, He paid the price in full for all the sins of humankind!

But neither the Jews, nor the Romans, nor all people through history did not kill Jesus! Go back again and read our featured Scripture, especially verses 17 and 18: “…My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.

Who put Jesus on the cross? He, Himself, did! No one but Him was powerful enough to take His life! Think of the power that He possessed:

  • He created all that exists!
       Romans 11:36 – “For of Him and through Him and 
           to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. 
           Amen.Colossians 1:16 – “For by Him all things were 
           created that are in heaven and that are on earth, 
           visible and invisible, whether thrones or domin-
           ions or principalities or powers. All things were 
           created through Him and for Him.Hebrews 1:2 – God ...appointed [Jesus] heir of all
           things, through whom He also made the worlds....Hebrews 2:10 – Jesus,...for whom are all things 
           and by whom are all things....

Think about it…in Genesis 1, the story of creation, it says eight times “And God said….” (see Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, and 26). God spoke the word and what He spoke came into being! Four times in John chapter 1 (verses 1 and 14) Jesus is called the Word.In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us….” Do you see the relationship between God said and the Word? Everything that the Father did to bring creation into existance was of, by, and for Jesus Christ!

  • He sustains all that exists!
       Colossians 1:17 – “...and He is before all things, 
           and in Him all things consist.Hebrews 1:3 – Jesus is ...the brightness of His 
           [Father’s] glory and the express image of His per-
           son and [He is] upholding all things by the word 
           of His power....
  • John 18:3 through 6:
       ...Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and 
       officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came with 
       lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus...went forward and 
       said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, 
       “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jesus said to them, “I AM....” Then
       ...they drew back, and fell to the ground.

These hardened soldiers and proud Jews had no intention of being bowled over and knocked flat! But when Jesus uttered those powerful words – the name of God with which the LORD identied Himself to Moses at the burning bush (see Exodus 3:13-15), the arresting mob was knocked flat! Jesus could have just spoken the word, and that mob would have been permanently disabled!

  • Even if He didn’t use His great creative and sustaining power, Jesus said in Matthew 26:53, that He could …pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels….
       A Roman legion at full strength was made up of 
           6,000 men. “...more than twelve legions of angels
           ...would be more than 72,000 angels!One angel, in II Kings 19:35, killed 185,000 Assyr-
            ian soldiers in one night! What could...more than 
            twelve legions of angels...do? They would have no 
            trouble wiping out the entire Roman Empire!

Who carried out the death of Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ Himself did! I lay down My life that I may take it again. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17, 18). So while the death of the Lord could be called A Divine Suicide, it is vastly different from a human suicide in this old world! For three days later Jesus overcame death when He walked out of the tomb in a perfect, resurrected, glorious body! He not only overcame His own death, but Jesus won victory for all who claim Him as Savior and Lord of their lives – victory over…

  • …death! (see Isaiah 25:8; John 5:24; Romans 5:21, 6:23, 8:1, 2; I Corinthians 15:51-57; II Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 1:18, 21:4).
  • …the devil! (see Luke 10:18; Colossians 2:15; I John 3:8; Revelation 20:10).
  • …hell! (see Revelation 20:13, 14).
  • …the fear of death! (see Hebrews 2:14, 15).
  • …bondage to sin! (see John 1:29, 8:32, 34-36; Romans 6:16; II Corinthians 5:21; I John 1:7).
  • …the frailties of human life! (see I Corinthians 15:41-57; Philippians 3:21; I John 3:2).

This divine suicide is vastly different from what a worldly suicide presents! Rather than a tragedy…

…Jesus giving His life for humanity
has opened the prospect of a godly life now,
and the promise of the glories of heaven to come!

Pain Is God’s Megaphone! Hebrews 4:14-16

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

C. S. Lewis, English author and lay theologian, is best known for having authored The Chronicles of Narnia. But he wrote more than thirty other books, including The Problem of Pain, one of his Christian apologetic works. In chapter 6 of this book, Lewis writes,

     We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities; 
     and anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most 
     exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eat-
     ing, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain 
     insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our 
     pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: 
     it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

God has been shouting to me lately through the megaphone of pain!

  • A left knee replacement went well, and I have recovered ahead of schedule. Yes, there was post operative pain, but it was to be expected.
  • A month later I had back surgery to implant a spinal cord stimulation unit. Impulses from the stimulation unit travel through insulated wires (called leads) inserted into my spinal column from about my belt line half-way up my back. A rechargeble neurostimulator is placed in my back under the skin. The unit is designed to send impulses to nerves that would normally carry pain messages to the brain, blocking the sensation of pain.

After this implantation surgery, I have been experiencing pain – a lot of pain! It seems to originate in a spot just behind my left hip and below the belt line. The pain then seems to settle across my low back. I have been working with the stimulation unit technician who is trying different programs and settings in the unit to alleviate the pain. On a scale of 1 to 10, the level of pain I am experiencing is most often around 7 to 9!

God has been using the megaphone of pain to speak to me! His voice is not all that loud, just enough to be heard above the pain! But He has my attention! Here are some of the things He has been addressing:

  • Remember what God has done in the past! This is what the author of Hebrews told the believers in Hebrews 10:32 (Easy-to-Read Version), “Remember the days when you first learned the truth. You had a hard struggle with much suffering, but you continued strong.” I know He has been faithful in His presence and in the healing of past afflictions. So I am sure He will heal me of the painful struggles I am now experiencing!
  • In James 1:2 through 5, we are told…
       My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various 
       trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces 
       patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that 
       you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any 
       of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to 
       all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given 
       to him.

We are told that trials, if we go through them with the proper attitude, will produce patience! And through patience, God is making us…perfect and complete, lacking nothing.There is only One who is …perfect and complete, lacking nothing.That One is Jesus Christ! The Father’s design for every Christian (yes, for me also), is that I become more and more like my Savior and Lord! This is accomplished through the suffering of trials! (see II Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:15; I John 3:2).

  • Jesus has the power and authority to heal and restore the damage caused by any affliction!
       For He said in Matthew 28:18, “All authority 
           has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.In Luke 1 the angel Gabriel announced to Mary 
           that she would be the mother of the Messiah. 
           It seemed impossible, but Gabriel told Mary, 
           “...with God nothing will be impossible.” 
           (Luke 1:37). 

       ✞   No matter how serious the situation seems, 
           God is...able to do exceedingly abundantly 
           above all that we ask or think, according to 
           the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20 – 
           see Matthew 12:15, Luke 6:19).
  • Don’t give up asking the Lord for healing! In Luke 11:9 and 10, Jesus said this:
       “And I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; 
       seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened 
       to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who 
       seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

We are to keep on asking! We are to keep on seeking! We are to keep on knocking! That is the meaning of the three Greek words here translated, ask, seek, and knock.

In Luke 18, Jesus began the Parable of the Unjust Judge this way in verse 1, “…men always ought to pray and not to lose heart.” Then, in verses 2 through 5, the Lord told the story of “…a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.” (Luke 18:2). But because a widow kept pestering him, he finally gave in and judged in her favor, “…lest by her continual coming she weary me.” (Luke 18:5). Jesus then applied this lesson of the parable in verses 7 and 8: “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.

…He will avenge them speedily.” What is speedily in God’s eyes? Remember what is written in II Peter 3:8, “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Will God wait a thousand years or more to answer the petitions of His people – to answer my plea for healing? Not necessarily. But he waited with Job for quite awhile, perhaps a few weeks, while this man in great affliction learned what the Lord wanted to teach him.

  • A hard lesson to be learned in pain and suffering is found in three verses:
       Ephesians 5:20 – “...giving thanks always for 
           all things to God the Father in the name of 
           our Lord Jesus Christ.Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but 
           in everything by prayer and supplication, with 
           thanksgiving, let your requests be made known 
           to God....I Thessalonians 5:17 and 18 – “Pray without 
           ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this 
           is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It is not easy to give thanks and praise to the Lord when I am suffering in pain and unable to do daily activities! But this is what He wants me to learn! …for all things…,” and “…in everything…”! What happens when I do this? “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I found this to be true years ago when our daughter was born (see Finding God’s Perfect Peace, the Gem from May 22, 2021). “So God, please help me to remember what I learned back then. I need it now as I suffer from severe back pain!

  • Jesus understands any pain and suffering with which I am afflicted! We are told this in Hebrews 4:14 through 16:
       Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has 
       passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let 
       us hold fast our confession [of our faith in Him]. For 
       we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize 
       with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted 
       [tested] as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore 
       come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may ob-
       tain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  

Anything with which we might be tested, He has gone through it first! Consider…

       ✞   ...the physical agony of the cross! The Romans 
           practiced crucifixion for the most egregious 
           offenders because that form of capital punish-
           ment inflicted the most pain and suffering of 
           any other way to die! When people saw the pain 
           and suffering afflicted on the crucified one, 
           they would adhere to Roman law, lest they too 
           would die on a cross!

       ✞   ...the mental suffering! Beside the personal 
           suffering of being crucified, that one would 
           be exposed to the harassment, amusement, taunts, 
           and curses of those watching! 

       ✞   ...the spiritual torment! The sinless Savior was loaded down with 
                all the transgressions of all mankind 
                through the ages! (see II Corinthians 
                5:21; I Peter 2:24).

           ➔   Jesus felt the heavy hand of the Father’s 
                judgment fall upon Him as the Son became 
                the sinner before the Father. So God 
                turned away from His Son! And Jesus, feel-
                ing abandoned, cried out, “My God, My God, 
                why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

There is much more to learn concerning going through the pain and suffering of trials and tribulations. I have not yet shown a featured Scripture! But I believe that Hebrews 4:14 through 16 lends itself nicely to this theme:

       Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has 
       passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let 
       us hold fast our confession [of our faith in Him]. For 
       we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with 
       our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted [tested] 
       as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come bold-
       ly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and 
       find grace to help in time of need.

Right now I claim this promise!

And as I come before the Savior’s heavenly throne of grace,
I will obtain mercy and grace to help in MY time of need!

Encounters With Angels – V Daniel 12:1, 2

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Back in November I wrote a series of Gems entitled Encounters With Angels. There was one encounter I wanted to include, that which happened to Marlene, the daughter of Wilhemina, who was a member of our Bible study in Monessen, Pennsylvania. But I could not find the record that Marlene had written, which tells of an encounter with Michael the archangel! Recently I came across what I had been looking for, and so I will share this amazing story.

Marlene’s niece Kristin had some psychological health problems, very expensive to treat. Marlene was helping with a fund drive, collecting funds to help cover the cost of Kristin’s treatment. With permission, she had set up and was overseeing a collection center in the parking lot of Save-a-Lot, a grocery store in Perryopolis, Pennsylvania. Donations were being put in a can upon which was Kristin’s photo with a plea to help cover the cost of the expensive treatments required. In Marlene’s words, here is what happened (slightly edited).

     An eighteen wheeler truck pulled into the large parking lot 
     of Save-a-Lot. The driver stepped down from the truck cab, 
     and I thought he was dressed strangely – for a truck driver! 
     He had on white linen trousers with a white linen tunic tied 
     around his waist with a cloth belt. He walked over to me and 
     said, “I was headed for the mountains, but God told me to 
     drive instead in the opposite direction down this highway.” 
     When he saw me standing outside, he knew that this was where 
     the Lord wanted him to go. “I don’t have much money,” he 
     stated apologetically, “But I have this.” And he put two five-
     dollar bills in the can. Then he told me that for the last 
     three nights he had dreamt of a little girl who needed help. 
     The girl in his dream matched Kristin’s photo on the collec-
     tion can. He added, “Every day God has her in the palm of His 
     hand.” He went on to tell Marlene that in his dream Kristin 
     had a light shining around her, glowing like a halo. And even 
     though she was a little girl, he saw her teaching both adults 
     and children how to make Christian greeting cards. She was 
     insisting that every card include Scripture about the Lord 
     Jesus Christ. The man knew Kristin had accepted Jesus as her 
     personal Savior, and through the cards was trying to lead 
     people to faith in the Savior. He dreamt that people were 
     buying the greeting cards as quickly as they were produced. 
     And all the time this halo of light was shimmering around her! 
     “It is the light of the Lord,” he explained. As he prepared 
     to leave, the truck driver told Marlene, “God has mighty works 
     in and through your niece. He is not going to let her go from 
     the center of the palm of His hand!” He asked if he could pray 
     for Kristin, and for the healing of her mind. He then prayed 
     specifically for Kristin’s healing, naming the challenges the 
     girl was facing. There was no way he could have known the spe-
     cific problems and challenges that lay ahead. The man seemed 
     so ‘other’ than a trucker! So I asked him what he did for a 
     living. His answer: “I am a servant of the Lord!” The man 
     started to walk back to his truck. I then noticed the ‘shoes’ 
     he was wearing – Bible style sandals! I called out after him, 
     “What is your name?” He turned his head and smiling at me he  
     answered,“My name is Michael.”

     Michael then climbed back in his truck, turned the rig around, 
     and headed back toward the mountains. It seemed like in all 
     that he said and did, he was praising God!

     One more thing: upon receiving a donation for Kristin, I would 
     hug the giver and tell them, “God bless you.” But when I tried 
     to hug Michael, I couldn’t move! Something held me back, and I 
     felt like I was being told, “Don’t touch him!” 

There are only five verses in the entire Bible that mention Michael the archangel: Daniel 10:13; 10:21; 12:1; Jude 1:9; and Revelation 12:7. I chose Daniel 12:1 and 2 for our featured Scripture:

     At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who 
     stands watch over the sons of your [Daniel’s people, the 
     Jews]; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never 
     was since there was a nation [of Israel], even to that time. 
     And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one 
     who is found written in the book [of Life – see Revelation 
     3:5]. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth 
     shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and 
     everlasting contempt.

No, this does not seem to have anything to do with Marlene’s angelic experience. Might such a great prince of Israel as Michael the archangel be given the assignment of a truck driver to give a ten dollar donation to the cause of a young girl? But as it is written in Isaiah 55:8 and 9:

     “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My 
     ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the 
     earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts 
     than your thoughts.”

So if God wants the great prince of Israel to drive a truck and give both a donation and encouragement to lift the family of a little girl…

…That’s His prerogative!

New Wine in Old Bottles!

Mark 2:22 (1899 Douay-Rheims Bible)

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The photo above is of an exploding bottle of red wine! I chose this photo to illustrate a Bible verse which is our featured Scripture, Mark 2:22 (1899 Douay-Rheims Bible):

     And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: otherwise 
     the wine will burst the bottles, and both the wine will 
     be spilled and the bottles will be lost. But new wine 
     must be put into new bottles.

I chose this translation because it mentions bottles instead of wineskins which is the correct translation of the wine containers in use in Jesus’ day. Of the seventeen Bible translations on my computer Bible program, e-Sword, only two translate wineskins as bottles 1889 Douay-Rheims and the King James Version. But since today we are more familiar with bottles rather than wineskins, and since bottles of wine actually can explode, bottles it is!

But what is the point? The point is that what you are going to put into the container, especailly if the it is volital, that container must be able to withstand the pressure! How does this apply to what Jesus was teaching in Mark 2:22? For a better understanding, let’s look at the expanded record of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 5:36 through 38:

     Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from 
     a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, 
     and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not 
     match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; 
     or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, 
     and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put 
     into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Jesus main point in this teaching is not about wine, bottles, or wineskins. He is emphasizing the new teaching concerning His Father’s work through the Son, and the hearts and minds that must be prepared to receive it!

What is the new work (new wine) Jesus is emphasizing?

  • First, we must understand the old work (old wine) – that which Jewish people were told to accomplish by their religious leaders! They were instructed by the Pharisees to keep the Old Testament law given through Moses at Mount Sinai (as presented in Exodus through Deuteronomy). However not only were they to keep the 613 Biblical laws the legal experts found in the Pentateuch, but the rabbis and scribes through the centuries had added so many more requirrments to the Biblical laws that, by the time of Jesus, the Jews were expected…to adhere…also to…literally thousands of additional laws that had been formulated in order to elucidate the preexisting 613 commandments.” (https://bartleylaw office.com/the-main/how-many- laws-did-the-pharisees-add.html). Here are just a few examples from https://www.israeltoday.co.il/read/silly-rabbinical- rules-and-the-true-meaning-of-torah/
Hunchbacks must not bend near a church even if it hurts.Lice must not be killed on Shabbat [Sabbath].

     ✡   Hebrew newspapers must not be read on the toilet – 
          English is allowed.Jews must not donate organs to a Gentile – receiving is 
          allowed.It is permissible to degrade a woman on the kosher bus 
          lines.Violence may be used against those who distribute 
          material contrary to the Torah.

When my wife and I were in Israel years ago, we were warned not to take the Shabbat elevator on the Sabbath to or from our seventh floor room. This particular elevator was programmed to stop at every floor, doors then opened, and after three minutes they closed, and the elevator went to the next floor. This happened when the elevator was either ascending or descending. Why? According to Jewish Pharasaic law it is unlawful to light a fire on the sabbath. So an observant Jew is not permitted to press an elevator button on that day. This might cause an electrical spark, which is considered to be lighting a fire!

  • The new work (new wine) of Jesus freed the one who followed Him as Savior and Lord from trying to keep all the requirements of the law.
     Romans 3:20 (Easy-to-Read Version) – “...no one can 
         be made right with God by following the law. The law 
         only shows us our sin.Galatians 3:10 (Contemporary English Version) – 
         “Anyone who tries to please God by obeying the Law 
         is under a curse. The Scriptures say, ‘Everyone who 
         doesn't obey everything in the Law is under a curse.’Galatians 3:13 – “Christ has redeemed us from the 
         curse of the law, having been made a curse for us 
         (for it is written [in Deuteronomy 21:23], ‘Cursed 
         is everyone who hangs on a tree.’)” Here, the tree 
         means the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.
  • God prophesied the coming of the new work (new wine) twice in Ezekiel, more than five hundred years before it was actualized by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Here is Ezekiel 36:26 and 27 (see also Ezekiel 11:19, 20):
        I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within 
        you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and 
        give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit with-
        in you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will 
        keep My judgments and do them.

Back to Jesus’ parable of wine and bottles: New wine (that which is unfermented) will pressurize its container as it builds up fermentation gasses! That pressure can rip apart the wineskin container of Jesus’ day, and today occasionally explode a bottle (as shown above)!

If the Holy Spirit (the third Person of the all-powerful Trinitarian God) were to come in and abide in an unprepared person, that one would be destroyed! However, if by His coming, He prepares “…a new heart and puts a new spirit within …,that one becomes a new creation in Christ, forgiven of his sins, and enabled to obey the Lord, and live in the power and holiness of that indwelling Holy Spirit! As it is written in II Corinthians 5:17, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Now, what does this mean as the New Year approaches?

  • Will you, by your own power and ability, make a resolution or two, that will probably be broken before the end of January?

Or…

  • Will you open your heart to the Lord Jesus, and let His Holy Spirit come in as new wine poured into a prepared container…YOU!