Friday, October 28, 2011

The Great Rescue

"What does Jesus’ death have to do with working through past sin?  How can a gruesome crucifixion that happened two thousand years ago help when your past comes knocking today?  
The answer is that the Cross is God’s plan for freeing you from the guilt and punishment of your past sin.  At the Cross we see both the depths of our depravity and the heights of God’s amazing love for us.  We witness both the terrifying intensity of God’s just wrath for sin and His unspeakable mercy and love for sinners. 
Why the Cross?
Because sinners have no other hope.
Why the Cross?
Because it is the unassailable proof that we can be forgiven. 
Let’s gaze on it together.  As we draw close, don’t assume that you already know or understand what happened there.   Come to the Cross as if for the first time.  In the book When God Weeps Steven Estes and Joni Eareckson Tada give the following account of Christ’s death.  As you read, refuse to let the scene be familiar.  Let its reality shock you and break your heart.

‘The face that Moses had begged to see – was forbidden to see – was slapped bloody…Exodus 33:19-20.  The thorns that God had sent to curse the earth’s rebellion now twisted around his own brow…
                “On your back with you!”  One raises a mallet to sink in the spike.  But the soldier’s heart must continue pumping as he readies the prisoner’s wrist.  Someone must sustain the soldier’s life minute by minute, for no man has this power on his own.  Who supplies breath to his lungs?  Who gives energy to his cells?  Who holds his molecules together?  Only by the Son do “all things hold together”…Colossians 1:17.  The victim wills that the soldier live on – he grants the warriors continued existence.  The man swings.
                As the man swings, the Son recalls how he and the Father first designed the medial nerve of the human forearm – the sensations it would be capable of.  The design proves flawless – the nerves perform exquisitely.  “Up you go!”  They lift the cross.  God is on display in his underwear and can scarcely breathe. 
                But these pains are a mere warm-up to his other and growing dread.  He begins to feel a foreign sensation.  Somewhere during this day an unearthly foul odor began to waft, not around his nose, but his heart.  He feels dirty.  Human wickedness starts to crawl upon his spotless being – the living excrement from our souls.  The apple of his Father’s eye turns brown with rot. 
His Father!  He must face his Father like this!
From heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross.  Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt even the least of his hot breath.  But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky.  The Son does not recognize those eyes.
“Son of Man!  Why have you behaved so?  You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped – murdered, envied, hated, lied.  You have cursed, robbed, overspent, overeaten – fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled and blasphemed.  Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned!  Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name?  Have you ever held your razor tongue?  What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk – you, who molested young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques, and mock your parents.  Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons?  Does the list never end!?!  Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp – buying politicians, practicing exhortation, filming pornography, accepting bribes.  You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves – relishing each morsel and bragging about it all.  I hate, loathe these things in you!  Disgust for everything about you consumes me!  Can you not feel my wrath?”
Of course, the Son is innocent.  He is blamelessness itself.  The Father knows this.  But the divine pair have an agreement, and the unthinkable must now take place.  Jesus will be treated as if personally responsible for every sin ever committed. 
The Father watches his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of Himself, sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin.  Jehovah’s stored rage against human kind from every century explodes in a single direction.
“Father!  Father!  Why have you forsaken me?”
But heaven stops its ears.  The Son stares up at the one who cannot, who will not, reach down or reply. 
                The Trinity had planned it.  The Son endured it.  The Spirit enabled him.  The Father rejected the Son whom he loved.  Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished.  The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied.  The Rescue was accomplished.

Don’t move too quickly from this scene.  

Keep gazing.  The Rescue accomplished here was for you. 

John Stott writes, “Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship) we have to see it as something done by us, (leading us to repentance)…As we face the cross then, we can say to ourselves both,
‘I did it; my sins sent Him there’ and ‘He did it; His love took Him there.’                    
            Did you see your own offenses on the list of sins that necessitated the cross?  If not, name them yourself.  Name your darkest sin.  Now reflect on the fact that Christ bore the punishment for that sin.  He took the punishment you deserved.  Do you feel His passionate and specific love for you?  He died for you.  He was condemned and cursed so that you could go free - He was forsaken by God so that you would never be forsaken (Hebrews 13:5).
                That’s what Jesus’ death on the cross has to do with our past sin right now.”

Boy Meets Girl, by Joshua Harris


Friday, October 21, 2011

The Return of the Prodigal

Last Thursday night, I walked in the house and plopped down on the couch.  My whole family sat down too and all of them had huge smiles on their faces....I figured something was up.  Anna and Charlie were jumping up and down and saying, "Tell her the story Papa! Tell her!"  And my dad began to tell "the story."  Five minutes later, my heart was filled with joy as I heard him say, "....And at 9:25 this morning, Shane surrendered His life to Christ!"   I sat there, speechless.  Could it finally have happened?!  It was really for real?  That day had really come?!  

Wow guys, God is so incredible.  For over three years, I have prayed that my brother would come to know Jesus Christ as His Savior and Lord.  For three years, I watched him run to the world, and farther from God.  For three years I kept hoping that he would see the path that he was headed down and repent.  I also asked some close friends to pray with me for my brother.  In those years, where I couldn't see the whole picture, God was working in my brother's heart....and all that time He was calling Shane.

Last fall, God gave me a burden to pray that Shane would come to know Christ during our time at Ellerslie...and he gave my mom that same burden!  So we prayed...and watched as God softened his heart.  It was amazing.  However, graduation came, and Shane hadn't turned to God.   Then we thought we were going to move there and I was like, "Great God! We'll just move there and he can continue hearing about you and then he'll come to know you!"  Well....we didn't move...and the trials were more difficult - Satan was after Shane, big time. 

For some months I was confused, "God, why didn't Shane get saved at Ellerslie?!  We prayed.  Did we not pray hard enough or enough at all?  What went wrong?"  I asked my mom and she encouraged me to keep praying for my bother....God had given me a burden for him for a reason.  So, by the grace of God, I prayed diligently for my brother.   While at Ellerslie, Jesus had placed some verses on my heart to pray for him as well:  Isaiah 55   and Ezekiel 36:22-28.   Time went on, and through the ups and the downs, God was faithful. 

Fast forward to the end of September....Shane decided that he wanted to go to Ellerslie.  (WHOA!  Cool beans!!)  His girlfriend was/is attending YWAM in Montana, and while she was pursuing her relationship with Christ, he wanted to seek God as well.  the door was starting to open. He called Sandi at the office and they had room for him! the nob was turning.  he got a plane ticket for $70. the door was starting to open.  God provided the funds for him to go. And on September 10th, Shane got on plane headed for Windsor, Colorado.  God had opened the door!  and a mere number of days, and we got a call from my dear brother saying he had given his life to Christ!!  Praise the King!

You see, while God was working in Shane's life, drawing him closer to Himself, softening his heart, etc...God was working in my life as well:  teaching me to pray, to wait, to listen, to hope even amidst the darkest times, and most important of all, faith.  Faith to believe that God answers prayer, and accomplishes His Word.  It was a week ago that I heard of my brother's salvation, and I am still in awe of faithfulness of Jesus Christ!!

Before I'm done, and you can read what Shane wrote about his salvation, I want to say one more thing. 
God is alive and real.  His Word revives the soul and brings hope.  Jesus Christ is a faithful God....and if He can work in my brother's life, and bring him to salvation, than He will be faithful in your life as well, and can work out any situation for good and for His glory.  He is an amazing God, and does abundantly above all that we can ask, think or hope for (Eph 3), all He asks is that we trust Him. 
Trust Jesus. Cling to Him.  He alone is worthy of our life!

My Testimony

Last Wednesday night, October 12th, I went on a coffee date with Nick Thompson; he's a friend who went through Ellerslie with Papa last fall.  Now Nick is the kind of guy who, if he says he has a word from the Lord, you take it as pretty much as getting it straight from God Himself.  Nick is just super-filled with the Spirit and constantly prays; he knows his God.  Anyways, while we were sipping our coffee I told him about my life and what I've been up to this last year.  I told him about Jessika and how in love with her I was and how much we had done together this last summer.  I told Nick that she was the one that got me thinking about God again and wanting a relationship with Him.  I also explained to him why I am came to Ellerslie.  So for all of you who don't know, I came here because I knew there was something blocking me from fully embracing God - I wanted and needed an "experience'' with Him.  After I got done sharing all of this he said,
''I feel that God is wanting me to say this: I think that even though Jess was the one who pointed you back to God, that she is actually the one holding you back from fully committing to Him."

As soon as he said that, I knew in my heart that he was right.  I had given all my time, energy, attention, affection, thought-life, money, and love to her, not God. So, I knew what I needed to do: give up my relationship with Jessika to God.  Of course, I didn't want to because I knew that if I did, then there would be that possibility of God breaking us up.  So, Nick and I finished up and went back to the dorms.  Then, I talked with a few other guys about it all.  When I went to bed on Wednesday, I planned to get up early the next morning to really pursue God.  I woke up Thursday morning at 3:00 AM to the sound of my alarm clock going off.  I started praying, reading the Bible, and journaling.  Finally at about 6:30, I came to a place where I felt like I had done all I could at that point and there wasn't really anything more I could pray, read, or journal about. So, I got up and began to move on with the rest of my day.  I went back into my room, took a shower, went to breakfast, and then headed over to the chapel for Corporate Stillness. 

Corporate Stillness is a special quiet time to again read, pray, and/or journal.  It's just time to be still before God and be open to what He has for you.  During that time, I read Matthew 10:37: "He who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me; and he who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."  Now Jess isn't my father, mother, son or daughter but I was convicted that I had been loving her more than God.  And according to Him, I wasn't worthy of Him because I had been giving all my love to Jessika.  Well, Stillness ended and worship began.  After the third song,
God came down and just overwhelmed me.  I sat down and began to cry uncontrollably.  I knew that I needed to surrender all to Jesus. 

So, at 9:25am on Thursday, October 13, 2011, I gave my relationship with Jess up to God and fully surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.  I got up and found Nick.  We went into a backroom; I told him what happened and had him pray for me.  When we came out of the backroom, worship was still going on and the song being sung was one I had never heard before.  I came out during a verse that said something to the effect of, "The Devil has been defeated and Christ has won the victory!''  I went up shortly after and shared with the whole school what had just transpired. 

It was an amazing and freeing feeling to be able to fully surrender to God!  I am now so joyfilled and excited for what is going to happen in the next phase of my life.  As of this point, I have green lights from God to continue in my relationship with Jess; and actually He gave me two specific verses about us and our being together.  I have such a peace and joy from God about everything now. 

So, that is my testimony of the first week here at Ellerslie.  I expect more refining to be going on while I am here for the remainder eight weeks. 

Prayer requests: 
Pray that God would be my first love. 
And pray for Jess too, as she is also spending a set apart season pursuing her relationship with God through YWAM in Montana.
Also, be praying that God would direct me as of what to do after Ellerslie.
    Lastly, pray for finances. 

Thank you to everyone that has been praying for me.  Your prayers worked! :)  Thanks again to all of you.

From a newborn son of our Lord Jesus,