The Real Triumphal Entry

Connecting Points

Friday, March 30, 2012

Today’s Topic: The Real Triumphal Entry

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 62:11 (NIV)   The LORD has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.’”

There’s a stir in the crowd. Respect for those who are praying keeps people silent for a while, but the news is too important so whispering begins. As more and more people hear the news vocal chords are activated, and soon, almost sacrilegiously, shouting begins. The decorum of the Temple is no longer considered, because news that the Messiah is coming has spread throughout the crowd. There can be no restraint of such enthusiasm.

In their hearts, the people expected this to be the day for which they have prayed throughout the centuries. Since the days of King David they have had a unified hope of national redemption under the reign of God’s chosen King. Finally, or so they thought, that day had arrived.

They rushed to the outskirts of the city to verify the route the Messiah was taking. Along the way they stopped to collect palm branches which they would use honor the arriving King. No King should have to walk on a dusty road. As they walked they began a mental review of the Scriptures they knew so well concerning the Messiah. Quickly the joy of the moment overwhelmed them and they began speaking the words out loud.

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Then suddenly, up ahead, they see another crowd of people coming towards them. They are already shouting the same words. Their voices begin to amplify and the surrounding countryside is filled with the stereophonic sounds of praise.

As they draw closer their pitch has been raised to fevered proportions. They began laying down their branches, and when they didn’t sufficiently cover the road they took off their cloaks and laid them down as well. As the newly proclaimed King passed by they joined in the procession with shouts of joy to the One who would finally set them free.

As they walked, no one really noticed that the King wasn’t riding a great white horse fit for such royalty. Instead, He was on a donkey, and the foal of that donkey. If only they would have asked the King for an explanation, they may have had the eyes of their spiritual understanding opened. But as it was, their thinking was dominated by their desire for personal and national prosperity. They were not thinking about their spiritual needs, and had interpreted all of the prophet’s words about the Messiah in light of a political agenda.

In the days ahead it would be revealed to them that the Messiah they thought would deliver them from Rome’s bondage had a different purpose in in heart. They would reject their King and put Him to death as an imposter. They had totally missed the point of the Son of God’s entrance into the human race and His entrance into Jerusalem. He was and still is primarily concerned with the redemption of people, not nations. That is why He was there, and that is why He died. When He enters the heart of a sinner and saves him by His grace He has made the real triumphal entry.

Someday the world will see another triumphal entry. Those of us who have already had Him march into our lives as King of Kings and Lord of Lords will be with Him when He returns to this earth to establish the physical Kingdom promised by the Father. For those who reject Him as King today it will be a horrifying day of eternal judgment.

The tables will be turned from His first entry. The people of earth will not be shouting “Hosanna”, but rather “Help!” We who are with Him will be the ones shouting “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.” The people of earth will not put Him to death, but He will sentence them to eternal death. The people who have rejected Him will not enjoy the rewards of the King in His kingdom, but will be separated from His presence forever.

We who are His, who understand the purpose of His first triumphal entry, and have experienced the real triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into our hearts, will reign with Him in glory forever and ever! Amen!

Pastor John

Be the Bride!

Connecting Points

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Today’s Topic: Be the Bride

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 62:4b (NIV)   …for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married.

Are you a bride?

There are several possible answers to that question, and if you give me some time, I will tell you how they apply to men as well.

  • “Nope, and I never want to be.”
  • “No, but I want to be.”
  • “Not yet, but I’m going to be soon.”
  • “YES!”
  • “I was once.”

The saddest answer that can be given to the question of “Are you a bride?” is the last one – “I was once.” The first answer sounds sad also, but in reality there are some people, according to God’s Holy Word, that are able to remain single all their life so as to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. But when a bride reaches the point of not considering herself a bride any longer, that is sad.

Sometimes that point is reached through the death of a husband, or through the God-hated practice of divorce. But the greatest tragedy is when a wife of any length of time, while married, loses the delight of being a bride.

Okay men, you’ve waited long enough: how does this apply to us? Well, according to the words of the angel in Revelation, all who come to Jesus Christ for salvation are considered the bride of Christ – male and female alike. God uses the picture of human marriage to depict our spiritual relationship with His Son Jesus. Even in this passage in Isaiah, in verse 5, the Lord God says, “So will your sons (as in the builder of the family name) marry you.” Jesus Christ, the son of Israel, the eternal Builder of the family name, will marry you. You are a bride.

Notice I said that you are a bride. If you are in Christ, saved by grace through faith, forgiven through the repentance of sin, you are the bride of Christ. The problem is that some of us give the saddest answer of all when asked if we are a bride – we say that we were once.

How tragic that the bride of Christ has lost the delight of being the bride. But you may wonder how you may know if that’s true of you. Here’s how, in Isaiah’s own words as he relates it from a national perspective for the people of Israel.

  • You may have lost the desire to constantly talk about the coming of the Groom. I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth. (verses 6-7) The Bride of Christ cannot help but look for the Groom and wait for His appearing.
  • You may be distracted by the world and giving your heart away to sinful practices. “Never again will I give your grain as food for your enemies, and never again will foreigners drink the new wine for which you have toiled; (verse 8). Once a marriage has occurred, all the attention of the Bride is to be focused on the Groom. Wandering eyes are not permitted. Thoughts of cheating are never present. Attempts to serve self are blanketed by the unconditional love of God which produces attitudes and actions of service to the Groom.

What is true of marriage is true for us in our relationship with Jesus. It is the promise of restoration for the nation of Israel. It is the present reality for the Bride of Christ. May the Lord Jesus Christ, in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit of God the Father, restore unto each of us the delight of being the Bride of Christ!

Pastor John

 

The Lion Growled

Connecting Points

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Today’s Topic: The Lion Growled

Today’s Text:  1 Peter 5:8-9a (NIV)   Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…

“The best evidence of God’s presence is the devil’s growl.”

As I drove in to work this morning I heard that quote from Charles Spurgeon on Ron Hutchcraft radio program called A Word for Today heard locally on WHEN radio at 7:30 a.m. I stayed in the car in front of the office to listen to what he had to say, because yesterday I heard the lion growl.

As he spoke, I connected and resonated with what he was describing. At the very moment when God is moving mightily and His purpose is being fulfilled, the enemy of God – Satan, the roaring lion – will seek to devour us. The fact that the lion is attacking is the best evidence that we are in the very center of God’s will and that God is about to break open the floodgates of heaven upon us. It is the very moment when we should be the most diligent about praying for God’s power, because it is about to be released.

That’s exactly what I felt yesterday. The ironic thing is that I asked for it – I literally asked God for something, expecting it to result in a victory for the Lion of Judah when in reality God turned it into a battle with the wrong lion.

The incident flabbergasted me at first. I was literally shaking after it occurred. I had remained cool and calm through some of it, but then an anger grew inside of me that I had never really felt before. I didn’t recognize it at first because it was different than the self-centered anger that I usually feel. This was a righteous anger that was surrounded by the glory of God. I took action based on the authority of God’s Word, and God protected me from the threats that were being thrown at me. Every growl and every fiery arrow was immediately suppressed by the shield of faith. My flesh was shaken, but my spirit was strong because of the Spirit of God upon me.

The decision that had to be made as a result of the incident was clear, and it was done. The growling got louder. The arrows came faster. But God, in His infinite love and grace, even while the attack was going on, directed my attention to one of the innocent children that was in the room at the time. The baby smiled at me, and I at her. Oh how I prayed at that moment that these children, being brought up in this satanic environment, would someday be rescued from it.

It was done. The agent of the enemy was gone. The grace of God began to restore my soul in preparation for the next attack. It will come, because I am walking in the Presence of God.

Pastor John

A New Name

Connecting Points

Monday, March 26, 2012

Today’s Topic: In These Last Days

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 62:2 (NIV)   The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.

Hallelujah! Our God is mighty to save! Following yesterday’s baptism service at church, the Lord spoke to our congregation in a very clear and precise way. As a result, one more person has entered the eternal Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!

As I read Isaiah 62:1-2 again this morning, I was drawn to one phrase – you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. For those of you who first think theologically, I know that these verses apply specifically to the restoration of the nation of Israel. But the truth of a new name expands into the church age as well.

When Jesus had the Apostle John write to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, to two of them He declared that those who overcome and remain faithful would receive a new name.

In Revelation 19, when Jesus returns to earth with the armies of heaven, He has on Him a Name known only to Himself – the Name given to Him upon His exaltation to the right hand of God following His resurrection. It is the Name above all names at which every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.

Every time a sinner repents and is saved there is a new name written in the Lamb’s book of life in heaven – a name that is written in the blood of the Lamb and can never be erased.

Yesterday, a new name was written down in glory. Personally, I see a lot more of that happening in the future of our church. I believe in these last days we are going to begin to see a clear separation of people from the world who are called to faith in Jesus Christ. I believe that in these last days, those of us who stand up and speak out the true Gospel will be blessed with an increasing harvest of souls saved from their sin by the power of the cross. Yes, there will be persecution. Yes, there will be suffering. But the blessing of praying with someone who is repenting of their sin, crucifying the old nature, and being reborn into eternal life in Jesus Christ is worth any hardship.

Do you believe that? Will you live that way?

I am reminded of one of my favorite old hymns of our faith. Let it minister to you as it does to me.

I was once a sinner, but I came
Pardon to receive from my Lord:
This was freely given, and I found
That He always kept His word.

I was humbly kneeling at the cross,
Fearing naught but God’s angry frown;
When the heavens opened and I saw
That my name was written down.

In the Book ’tis written, “Saved by Grace,”
O the joy that came to my soul!
Now I am forgiven, and I know
By the blood I am made whole.

There’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!
And the white robed angels sing the story,
“A sinner has come home.”
For there’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!
With my sins forgiven I am bound for Heaven,
Never more to roam.

Pastor John

I Spoke Up!

Connecting Points

Tuesday March 20, 2012

Today’s Topic: I Spoke Up! 

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 62:1 (NIV)   For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.

I love it when God puts to the test what He is teaching me. With permission to share this, here’s what happened. It’s a little long, but eternally worth the time you will spend to read it.

Last Sunday after church, a young lady from our church came by to give me a hug after the service. I have been praying for this teenager for a couple of years now. Occasionally I will ask her about her readiness to make a commitment to Christ, and I get a polite but cold response. The Holy Spirit directed me to ask her again on Sunday, and to put it into the context of the upcoming baptism service planned for this week.

As I looked in her eyes I challenged her again to consider her commitment to Christ, and she said she would, and that she would contact me later in the week. Now I really started praying.

Yesterday was this girl’s 16th birthday, and I sent her a note of congratulations. Last night at 8:30 my phone buzzed that I had a text message. It was her. She said this – “Hey Pastor John…I’ve been thinking about the baptism on Sunday n I wanna do it.” My heart leapt into my throat with excitement. I quickly texted her back and asked if I could call her, and she said yes.

At this point many pastors and even many parents would simply assume that the person is saved and ready for baptism or they wouldn’t ask for it, but that is completely and deceptively wrong! Am I ever glad I didn’t do that last night. I spoke up, and it resulted in an eternal transaction taking place. With absolutely no offense intended to this young lady, I have her permission to share the context of our conversation.

As we talked I discovered something very significant – she didn’t really understand the Gospel. I have been aware of the false Gospel being promoted in churches all over the world for a long time and have been trying to warn people about it, but when someone in my own church is not understanding salvation even though the truth is preached I realized the depth of the deception that is going on in our so called Christian community.

I asked her when she got saved, and she didn’t know what that meant. I asked her about her commitment to Christ, and she said she wanted to try harder to change her life. God was working on her heart, but she was putting everything into the context of her efforts rather than her unworthiness resulting in faith in Christ’s efforts on our behalf. Just as many others are, she had been deceived into thinking that knowing about God and following God are our responsibility, and if we work at it hard enough we will be successful and He will save us. HOW FALSE THIS IS! If you believe this, you are still lost. I’m only speaking up because I love you.

I took her back to the Garden of Eden and God’s original creation. I showed her how man sinned and rejected total intimacy with God and placed their trust in their own wisdom and understanding. With every new foundation of truth I asked her if she understood, and the Holy Spirit was opening her eyes and her heart as she said yes!

I asked her if there was anything in her of worth that she could offer to God as payment for her sin, and she said no. I proceeded to tell her that God so loves us that He wants to save us. So I asked her what God had given us so that our sins could be forgiven. She said “Baptism.” Ouch. My heart was pierced with the deception of the Gospel again. I simply said, that wasn’t right, and I asked the question again. This time she said, “Communion.” The knife twisted again in my heart. How many people all over the world are being led directly to an eternity in Hell because they believe that an activity of man can bring them forgiveness? It breaks my heart to think of it.

When I told her again that her answer was incorrect, I could hear the nervousness in her voice. I reassured her that this was all necessary so she would really know the truth and be saved, and we continued. I began quoting John 3:16 to her –  For so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…and I stopped. She immediately finished quoting the verse for me. I asked her if it said that whoever is baptized shall have eternal life, and she of course said no. I did the same with communion, and she again said no. I emphasized the truth to her that whoever believes on Him – Jesus Christ and His work on the cross – shall have everlasting life. The light of truth was being turned on for her.

I said very simply to her that there were three things she needed to believe:

  1.  That she is a sinner and incapable of ever doing enough to earn her salvation from sin. (See Romans 3:23 and Titus 3:3-7)
  2.  That God sent Jesus to the earth to completely pay the price for our sin by becoming our sin and dying voluntarily on the cross, and that God proved His  satisfaction with the sacrifice by raising Jesus from the dead and exalting Him to the right hand of God in Heaven, guaranteeing eternal life those who believe in Him. (Hebrews 10:11 – But when [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.)
  3. That all she needs to do is believe in her heart that Jesus died and was resurrected from the dead for her sins, and confess with her mouth that Jesus is Lord, she will be saved. (Romans 10:9-10) In that moment of belief and confession, your sins will be forgiven and you will be saved for all eternity.

I asked her if she was ready to do that and she said yes. YES!!! What a moment. We prayed and she confessed her need of forgiveness. She confessed that Jesus had died for her sins. She confessed she could do no works to earn salvation. She accepted God’s forgives and surrendered her life to Jesus Christ and asked Him to change her from the inside out. Hallelujah, it is finished! Her debt was paid by Jesus. She experienced another birthday on her birthday!

Now she will be baptized on Sunday as a believer, not to earn anything. She will be baptized as an expression of her personal faith in Jesus Christ, not as a means of entering into faith. She will be baptized because she already has sufficient grace for salvation, not to receive more grace.

That is the Gospel. Don’t be deceived any longer. That is the one and only truth of Scripture, and until I die I will rejoice in every opportunity to speak up about it.

Pastor John

Speak Up!

Connecting Points

Tuesday March 20, 2012

Today’s Topic: Speak Up!                                             

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 62:1 (NIV)   For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,  till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.

I love it when someone asks me to speak. I am a verbal person. Verbose maybe. Annoying sometimes. But I love to talk. The question is, why?

With sincere repentance in my heart I must admit that for much of my life the motivation for my communication was selfish. It is still a difficult struggle. I get to tell my stories. I get to watch people’s reactions and hear their responses, hoping that they might benefit me in some way. When I talk, the attention is on me, and I like that. Come on; look deep into your heart. It may be true of you too.

But why is it that when words will benefit someone else we find it difficult to speak them? It’s amazing how we speak when we should be silent and we are silent when we should speak. Personal benefit motivates our activity more than we dare to admit. Fear of rejection and fear of retribution cause us to go silent.

Isaiah was in a tough place. The nation to which he had been called as a prophet was rejecting the word of the Lord. He had two choices – shut up and stop telling the people what God wanted and thereby stay safe, or speak up and proclaim the truth no matter what the consequences. What would motivate any of us to do the latter?

The answer is…LOVE! What we love the most determines our activity. Isaiah loved the people that God loved, because he loved God. For the people’s sake he could not keep silent. If it was for his own sake, he would have run away and never been heard from again. But he had determined in his heart that his love for God and for God’s Word would produce a love for people who needed God, and he could not remain silent. Regardless of the consequences, love always dictates action, and Isaiah had God’s love for people, so he acted on it.

Oh that we would do the same! We who love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength cannot remain silent when surrounded by so many people who need to see and experience the love of God.

Today, for their sake, I will not keep silent until righteousness is revealed in their lives and their salvation has been accomplished.

Pastor John

 

Spring Up

Connecting Points

Tuesday March 20, 2012

Today’s Topic: Spring Up

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 61:11 (NIV)   For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

WOW! It’s been 19 days since I sat down to share with you what God teaches me in my personal devotions. Oh, I’ve been having devotions, but the schedule of personal time with good friends and the long trip to the Bayou has kept me from time at the computer.

What a surprise to return to the North Country of Wisconsin and find that summer has already arrived. While on the Bayou the temperatures there were only 3-5 degrees warmer than back home, but the humidity levels were a lot higher. I’m glad to have the warmth without the wetness.

As I look out over the back yard at my house, I see so much work that needs to be done. I know it’s way too early, but the open gate to my garden is inviting me to enter and begin preparing the soil for planting. As foolish as that would be, it is very tempting. I am amazed after all these years that I still get thrilled watching seeds that I’ve planted begin to germinate and grow, and that one day I will harvest a crop of delicious vegetables.

As I read through Isaiah 61 again this morning, my attention was drawn to the gardening metaphors.

  • We will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. Isn’t that exciting – we…you and me…are planted by the Lord so we can display His splendor to the world! How’s that going for you? Does the world see us despairing over the sufferings of life or displaying the splendor of the Lord?
  • For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. This metaphor confused me. I understand the soil part of causing a seed to germinate, but since when does a garden cause seeds to grow? Seeds will grow outside of gardens as well, won’t they? Then it hit me – the Lord is the soil; He is the garden. We are the seeds. When we are planted in Him, in the soil that He has prepared, and when we remain in Him, within the boundaries of His garden, then we spring up as righteousness before all the nations and praise Him.

I like that. Life started in a Garden, where everything was good and righteousness and praise continually sprung up. Even though that original physical garden is gone, destroyed by man’s sin, there is a spiritual garden in which each of us can be planted to spring up with righteousness and praise. I am reminded of the words of Psalm 1 – Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

I wonder if the reason we don’t spring up with righteousness and praise more often is that we are drawing our water from the wrong place. The water of the world will bring disease and death to any seed, but the water from the River of Life brings a harvest of spiritual prosperity.

God has prepared a garden for each of us in which we are to sprout up and spring up with the splendor of His grace. It is a well-watered garden, and in it we will flourish. The world has a garden also, but just beneath the soil that looks fertile is the blight of death. Enter into the open gate of the garden of God, and spring up with life.

Pastor John