The Innocent Punished

At Gabbatha

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

John 19:13  So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.

Matthew 27:26  Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Recently a quote from a famous preacher has been circulating on Facebook. It is a statement of truth from Chuck Swindoll, who said, When the consequences of sin are ignored rather than feared, we’re in deep trouble.

Every sin has a consequence. The only way to believe differently is to also believe that God is not perfectly pure, not perfectly holy, and not perfectly just, which in reality makes Him not God. The very nature of God demands that all activity contradictory to Him is punishable by Him.

When God sent His one and only Son to redeem sinful mankind, He sent Him to fully eradicate every aspect of sin. The agony Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane was the fearful response of man to the realization of sin’s consequences. Yet in the end, the deity of Jesus, His love for the Father, and His love for each one of us, motivated our Lord to stay true to the plan of redemption and endure every consequence of sin on our behalf. Hallelujah! What love the Father has shown for us!

The consequences of sin are numerous, and include alienation from God and friends, emotional agony, and physical suffering. When Jesus surrendered to the will of the Father in His garden prayer, He agreed to suffer all of the consequences of our sin. He had no sin of His own for which to suffer. The spotless Lamb of God became our scapegoat. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When Jesus was arrested, He stood before the religious authorities who mocked Him and then blindfolded Him while they beat Him with their fists. It amazes me what so called spiritual people will say and do in order to accomplish their own agenda.

After a visit to King Herod, their final stop was in front of the Roman procurator named Pilate. After a public and private conversation with Jesus, he determined that Jesus was innocent. But righteousness was not his priority – survival was. So Pilate caved in to the public demands to crucify Jesus. It amazes me what people will choose to do to preserve their status.

Before turning Jesus over the army to be crucified, Matthew tells us that Pilate had Jesus scourged. Scourging was the punishment decreed for criminal behavior not worthy of death. It was horrible. A leather whip with nine tails tipped with sharpened stone or steel was violently lashed across the bare back of the criminal, opening deep wounds in the flesh from which blood flowed profusely. The innocent Savior suffered the scourging of a sinner. The physical consequence of punishment for our sin was paid for by Jesus and is covered by the blood He shed at Gabbatha. Hallelujah! By His stripes we are healed from our sin.

Isaiah 53:3-6  He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.


Sweat Drops of Blood

In the Garden

Monday, March 30, 2015

Luke 22:44  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

As I mentioned yesterday, we are going to spend this week focused on the shed blood of Jesus, and look at the four specific instances where His blood was spilled. We begin today in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus has gone to pray after His Passover celebration with the disciples.

Judas the betrayer has already met with the enemies of Christ and divulged to them the location of the Lord. The soldiers and religious hypocrites were on their way to arrest the very One who would save them if they would just believe.

Jesus has asked His remaining disciples to pray with Him, and He even invited three of them to stay close to Him and pray with Him. Jesus then moves a short distance away and kneels down before the Father.

He is not alone with God. Satan has one last chance to defeat the redemptive plan of God. He begins an assault on our Lord by appealing to His human nature and the deep desire we all have for self-preservation. Jesus is in agony as He considers the pain and brutality of sin’s suffering. He passionately wants to fulfill the purpose of God, yet He powerfully wants to protect His own life. The agony of the temptation is excruciating. He begins to sweat as He considers all the physical implications of following the Father to the full expression of His grace. There must be a way to avoid the suffering.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never gone so far as to sweat drops of blood. I have been in situations that have caused me to sweat profusely, but I can’t imagine the agony that must be experienced to cause capillaries to burst beneath the skin and blood be carried out with the drops of sweat. I tend to slow way down or even stop when the pain begins to intensify to that level.

Blood and water were mixing together long before the poured out of Christ’s chest from a spear wound. The flesh (water) being infiltrated with the spirit (blood). The finite and the infinite combining to accomplish the eternal.

O the agony of sin’s temptation. Have you felt it? Have you experienced the anguish of the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit? As a follower of Christ, indwelt by the Spirit of God and determined to obey Him as His disciple, we must feel it. We must feel the agony of Christ even in the daily decisions with which we are faced to either serve self or serve God. We must know the struggle between the desires of the flesh for self-preservation and self-advancement and the desire of the Spirit for serving the Savior and glorifying God over self. How far have we fallen from the Spirit-filled life if we no longer experience such agony?

And yet Christ has already conquered that agony. His blood-sweat has already covered the agony of the struggle between self and the Spirit of God. The shedding of His blood in prayer resulted in surrender to the will of the Father, and Jesus has provided for us the way to serve Him without the agony. When we are in Christ, God’s commands are not burdens, but blessings. Decisions to follow Christ rather than follow the world are to be easy. If they are not, then we have not yet fully decided to serve Him. We have not surrendered to His will and are still negotiating for our own.

The agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane has provided a way for us to be released from the agony of sin’s temptations. When we are tempted to serve self, we now know that the blood of Jesus was already shed to pay for the agony we would feel whenever we put our will up against God’s. Our will is gone. God’s will be done!

There is no agony in doing God’s will.

Hebrews 9:11-14  But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Worshiping from Home

This is a very rare occurrence. I am sitting at home on the couch in an empty house on a Sunday morning while the church of Jesus Christ that meets at an Eau Claire location called Calvary gathers to worship.

I’m sick. I’ve got a bad cough from heavy nasal and chest congestion. I chose not to be with God’s people today for their benefit. Pastor Josh, with two days’ notice, is preaching today what may be his first Palm Sunday sermon ever. I can’t wait to watch it on live stream and worship from home with my family of Christ followers.

I came down with this virus last Monday night, the evening before we left on our mission trip to South Dakota with a crew of men and women who worked diligently to serve one of our supported mission organizations. It was a great trip, but for the second (or is it third now) year in a row I got sick for the trip. These spring colds hit me every year at the same time.

As I sit here the Lord is filling me with a desire to be productive, so I am writing this blog post today to introduce to you the next four days of devotionals the Holy Spirit has given me. We will be taking a one week break from our study of the Psalms to focus on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sin. Specifically, we will be looking at the blood of Jesus which was shed for our sins.

In preparation for the week, I want you to consider this interesting idea. During the last week of Christ’s life on the earth in His pre-eternal state, we have recorded for us in the Gospel accounts four times that Jesus shed His blood. Each of these occurrences has a specific application to an aspect of sin and its consequences. Starting tomorrow we will look at each of these events and discover some incredible truths about the precious and powerful blood of Jesus Christ. It will be a week of praise as we experience the freedom we now have because of the grace of God that was poured out on us through the shed blood of Jesus.

So go to your Bibles today and find the four places Jesus shed His blood, and let the Holy Spirit be your teacher as we prepare to dive into the subject of our total forgiveness and reconciliation to God made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the shedding of His blood.

Rules of Refuge

Rules of Refuge

Monday, March 23, 2015

Psalm 7:1  O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge;

Tomorrow I leave on a mission trip with a team of men and women from our church. We will travel to South Dakota to the home base of an international mission agency that spreads the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the Island of Mindanao in the Philippines. We will be doing some renovation work on the Bible Camp that sits on 20 acres of land on the edge of Watertown.

The director of the ministry will not be there. He is currently in the Philippines preparing to hand out diplomas to the graduates of the Bible College that we support there. He is also travelling to various tribal regions to visit churches and encourage pastors who live in some dangerous locations. You see, the enemies of the Gospel have chosen portions of Mindanao as their next land to conquer. Our director has already travelled through one area where insurgents attacked a military convoy and killed several soldiers.

But none of those dangers really matter when we truly know that God is our refuge and that He has called each one of us to risk everything, including life, to bring the priceless gift of grace to lost people. Not many of us will be martyred physically, but we are all called to be willing to be. Most of us cringe at verbal rejection and shy away from saying or doing anything that results in alienation from friends and family. Maybe we don’t really understand what it means to take refuge in God.

Psalm 7 is a response to a verbal attack on King David’s life that is recorded in 2 Samuel 16. Take a moment to read it. It will challenge us to consider how to respond with godliness to the attacks of people against the righteousness of God.

In response to this event, David lays out the rules of refuge if we are to truly rest in God’s righteousness.

  1. Turn to Him rather to our own solutions – vs. 1
  2. Recognize that our solutions don’t end well – vs. 2
  3. Take time for self-evaluation and make sure everything we have done is an honest reflection of God’s righteousness. David goes so far as to invite justice upon himself if he has done wrong – vs. 3-5
  4. Trust God’s justice – vs. 6-7
  5. Do everything in line with God’s righteousness, and let God constantly test our hearts and minds – vs. 8-9
  6. Let our emotional responses be absorbed into the emotional responses of God, who feels what we feel – vs. 10-11
  7. Trust God with the outcome, including any and all consequences that are deserved – vs. 12-16
  8. Praise the Lord and give Him thanks – vs. 17

Here’s a challenging thought: if we are not doing all of the above – if we are in any way breaking even one of these rules of refuge – can we really say that the Lord is our refuge?

Pastor John



Unexpected Grace

God is Gracious

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Psalm 6:2  Be gracious to me, O Lord…

Somewhere back in the 18th century a man named John Newton wrote one of the most beloved songs of the Christian church. It is simply entitled Amazing Grace. Three centuries later Chris Tomlin took that song and added a chorus to it. When sung together it is one of the most powerful expressions of worship based on God’s grace that I get to sing. Take a moment and listen to it.

Sometimes in the midst of trials we forget or ignore the grace of God. We do not recognize that even the trials of life are expression of God’s grace. John Newton recognized that truth when he wrote, Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise physician prescribes because we need them; and he proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires. Let us trust in his skill and thank him for his prescription.

When we are caught up in the emotions and pain of life’s trials, we can cry out to God, Be gracious to me, O Lord. But we will only do that if we first recognize some key principles of truth:

  1. That we are not deserving of God’s response. God’s graciousness is available only to those who confess their helplessness. (vs. 2a)
  2. That God is fully capable of bringing about a glorious outcome. (vs. 2b)
  3. That God is Sovereign and determines the conditions and terms of the outcome.
  4. That God determines the timing of the outcome. In Psalm 6:3 David asks, But you, O Lord – how long?
  5. That God’s steadfast love never ceases and is always working for our salvation. (vs. 4)

One of the great blessings of being a part of a church that understands the graciousness of God is that the members of Christ’s body minister to one another in times of need. Last night when I arrived at the church for our Wednesday night activities, there was a note shoved under my office door. Now I must confess that notes shoved under doors generally produce anxiety.

When I opened the note from one of my dear sisters in the Lord, it blessed my heart. It encouraged me to sing songs to chase the clouds away, and then quoted the words to a Psalm-Song.

  • I will call upon the Lord, Who is worthy to be praised. So shall I be saved from my enemies. I will call upon the Lord.

My mind immediately kept singing – The Lord liveth, and blessed be the Rock and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

I was so encouraged. The Lord had shown His amazing grace to me through a fellow member of His body. How blessed I am to be a part of a real church that understands the grace of God.

So call out to the Lord. But be prepared. The expression of His grace may come from an unexpected place.

Pastor John

A Panoramic View

The Whole Trip was Meaningful

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Psalm 5:11 (ESV)   But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

In case you’ve missed the pattern of the last week, we are taking little day trips through the Psalms, stopping at spiritual scenic overlooks along the way.

Today, the whole trip was a scenic overlook. The fifth Psalm is a panorama of the current circumstances of my life. I’m not going to share the details with you, but I am going to let you in on what God said to me.

First, when life makes us groan, it is to the Lord alone that we turn and to Him alone do we pray. (verse 2)

But prayer is so much more than just speaking words into the air. Prayer is motivated by the confidence we have that there is a God and that He cares to hear what we have to say. (“you hear my voice” – verse 3a)

And prayer is more than simply what we have to say; it is the relinquishing of our rights to control the outcome as we present the circumstances to God as a sacrifice, and then wait for Him to reveal His purpose. (“I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” – verse 3b)

When I pray, I am put in touch with the character of God. I am made keenly aware of the purity and holiness of His nature, and the contrast between those who know Him and those who don’t. Those who don’t know Him will not dwell in His presence.

  • For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. (vs. 4)
  • The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. (vs. 5)
  • You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. (vs. 6)

But those who know Him and have been transformed by His marvelous grace will enter His presence with joy.

  • But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. (vs. 7)

Those who know Christ will be led according to the righteousness of God when we are willing to walk in His ways even when we are opposed for doing it.

  • Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. (vs. 8)

I can trust God with the justice that is coming because of the sinful behavior of others.

  • For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (vs. 9-10)

Right now, in the middle of it all, because I take refuge in my God and not in the strength of my own life, I can rejoice and sing for joy, because God has me covered and He also has the outcomes covered. Not just covered – but covered with His favor!

  • But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (vs. 11-12)

I lift up my head to the Lord so the light of His face will shine on me.

Pastor John

God is Shining on Me

He’s Shining On Me

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Psalms 4:6 (NIV) Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.

One day many years ago – I mean MANY years ago – when I was in high school, I remember trying to encourage a friend who was going through a very difficult time. I only remember one part of the conversation, but it went like this: “Jim, keep your chin up,” to which he responded, “Why? Doesn’t that just make it easier for someone to hit?”

Yesterday in Psalm 3 we discovered the great truth that God is the shield around us and the lifter of our head. But many times we don’t want our head lifted because we are afraid it makes us a bigger target. Sometimes, in the midst of looking up and taking a public stand for God’s righteousness, we set ourselves up as targets for those who have a downward look at circumstances. But we must not be tempted to remove our focus from the face of God.

Look at what David says in Psalm 4.

  • God has given us relief in the past when we have been in distress, so we can call on Him again. (verse 1)
  • People with a downward look will always be around to turn what is honorable about looking at God into something shameful, and will find some form of satisfaction in vain words and lies. (verse 2)
  • But our confidence and security does not come from the way others look at us, but rather from God’s look at us. (verse 3)
  • Based on our confidence in God, when the false accusations of others cause us to be angry, we don’t have to respond in kind, but can instead be silent, fully trusting the faithfulness and righteousness of God. (verses 4-5)
  • When we maintain our upward look, we discover an incredible truth – God is looking at us and shining His light upon us, producing joy and peace! (verses 6-8)

In 1632, Alexander Grosse wrote a booklet entitled Enjoying Christ, and in it he says, “where Christ reveals himself there is satisfaction in the slenderest portion, and without Christ there is emptiness in the greatest fullness.”

No matter how much the world offers and provides, it never satisfies. But no matter how small the blessing of God, there is total satisfaction. “Look up, and let the light of the face of God shine upon you.”

When the many ask for good, they are asking in terms of human good. They want riches and pleasure, power and fame, protecting and personal gain. But of what value are any of those things unless there is peace and security in the soul? It has been said that it is better to be a wooden vessel filled with choice wine than to be a golden goblet that is empty.

“Look up, and let the light of the face of God shine upon you.”

When we look up and are overcome by the light of the face of God, we are filled with a glory that cannot be found in anything this world offers.

When the discouragement and despair of life’s circumstances have forced your focus downward and inward, “Look up, and let the light of the face of God shine upon you.” 

When hope has been dampened and destroyed by unfulfilled dreams and goals, “Look up, and let the light of the face of God shine upon you.”

When you reach the point of believing that nothing good will ever again show up in your life, “Look up, and let the light of the face of God shine upon you.”

When you feel as though you have no more strength to fight the battles of life, then listen to what David says in Psalm 44 – It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. 

So “Look up, and let the light of the face of God shine upon you.” If you have no peace in your soul, then receive the blessing God gave Aaron the High Priest for all the people – “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” 

“Look up, and let the light of the face of God shine upon you.” 

Pastor John