Do you believe in magic?

When my kids were young (think 4 or 5 years old), I could do magic tricks easily. Pulling quarters out of ears or making a penny disappear were standard. Throw in a few cards tricks and they would be amazed.

magic-tricks

As an adult, I enjoy a good magic show. It amazes me how these magicians can make big things disappear! How does a helicopter vanish into thin air!?!?

But all of that is just slight-of-hand or misdirection. The helicopter does not really vanish.

The Word – Magic

The Worth – God is magic. No, not Harry Potter magic or Gandalf the Grey type stuff. He really can make stuff disappear!

magician

If you have not read the post “What do you want?”, please click here. It will give you a context that will make more sense when reading this post.

In that post, I had written a line near the end;

He took action so we can take action.

Let me unpack that a little more.

2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

John 1 tells us to “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

This is God doing magic! He took away the sin of the world. He made it disappear! The action that God took was to make it possible for us to be sinless. We now can become the righteousness of God!

He loved us so much and was longing to be connected with us again. He wanted us so much that he took His son and used Him to take away our sin.

When I was 16, I got my first speeding ticket. This was 1989 so it probably was not too much of a fine. It was more embarrassing because I had three friends in the car with me!

I broke the law and deserved to pay the fine. But then my dad performed a magic trick.

He told that he would pay for the first one. He paid my ticket. That was both merciful and gracious all in one simple act.

God did a magic trick 2000 years ago. Jesus became our sin. See Isaiah 53:6

cross bridge

The Work – This part takes faith.

Understand that Jesus is the way back to God.

Jesus also took our sin upon Him.

Our part is to accept that payment. Just like my dad paying my speeding fine, we can accept this gift.

We can now live our life because of what has already been done.

Stop trying to earn salvation and enjoy the magic that God has performed!

Live to reflect your righteousness!

After all, God is not going to bring back your sin.

You are free. Go out and live it!

 

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Three Ps in a Pod. part 3

Pardon. Have you been enjoying the freedom that comes with being pardoned?

Have you ever felt guilty about something? That feeling of having made a mistake is stuck with you. Maybe after some time the feeling fades. But you still know that the guilt is there.

But God changed all that. Last week, we were able to see how “one died for all.” God gave Jesus as a sacrifice for us. If you ever wonder why Jesus had to die on the cross, read Leviticus. Perhaps the most dull book in the Bible, Levitcus explains and details all of the sacrifices, festivals, and rituals that the Israelites were supposed to follow.sacrifice-priests

 

What a bloody mess! Literally everyday, animals were being cut open; their blood being poured out and sprinkled on the furniture in the tabernacle. Some of the animals were eaten by the priests while others were completely consumed on the Altar of Burnt Offerings. Leviticus 17 mentions “the life of every creature is in the blood.” The blood was important.

priest-covered-in-blood.jpg

The blood of Jesus bought our pardon.

And because we are pardoned, we can have peace.

First the pardon and then the peace. Never the other way around.

Here are verses 17 and 18 from 2 Corinthians 5, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ,”

Verse 17 gives us the Pardon. Verse 18 contains the Peace.

We need to define reconciliation. Reconciliation is the result of Christ precisely exchanging His righteousness (his blood) for our guilt.

If someone is in Christ, that exchange has taken place.

That means that you and I stand before God completely free of guilt because our sins have been covered by the blood!

Can I end with a math equation?

math-beauty-equation

Actually, I was thinking of something considerably more simple.

Being guilt free = peace.

Three Ps in a Pod, part 2

You are pardoned. You are forgiven. And that is the first P! You already knew that though, if you read last week’s post, Three Ps in a Pod, part 1.

download

Even as I type, this biblical truth baffles me. It does not seem like it should be. Why can you or I be pardoned? My feelings tell me that I don’t deserve it. My actions certainly don’t warrant it either. I am not worthy. At all.

But am I going to let my feelings dictate my actions?

Am I going to let my circumstances guide my behavior?

Am I going to let the devil’s lies provoke me?

In short, am I giving permission to believe anything other than God’s holy, unwavering, encouraging, inspired, and truthful Word?

If we go back to 2 Corinthians 5, specifically verse 14, we can see why we can answer “No” to the previous question.

Here is the second part of verse 14, “…because we are convinced that one died for all,” 

Convinced…are you convinced? Or do you just have an opinion? Is what you believe just that or is it a deep conviction that motivates you to act accordingly? More on this later…

The first P in the Pod is Pardon. You and I can have a full pardon from sin. WHY?

Because ‘one died for all’.

Listen, this is the bottom line. You want the meaning of life? Jesus died for you. Why are we put on this earth? Jesus died so we can live.

There are so many scriptures that point us to the cross on which Jesus died. The Easter season is coming up soon. People will go to church for the first and perhaps, the only time this year. The point is that life (and everything else we seek answers for) is found in the cross.

I don’t fully understand how God loved me enough to let His son die for me. But I will accept the pardon. Anyone can.

I was originally planning on explaining some of the Old Testament sacrifices that God required. All the blood! Then, in Hebrews, Jesus is described as better than those sacrifices. He used His own blood! Maybe a series on the Blood?

Know that His death and shed blood obliterated sin. The penalty of sin is gone. Remember two posts back? A new creation? Yes, that is you and I. We have been forgiven.

Pardon (noun)-that action of forgiving or being forgiven for an error or offense.

Our sin was an offense to God. We were cut off from Him. He wanted to love us and wrap His arms as a father hugs his child. But the bars of sin prevented such expression.

prison-bars

 

Hey, no problem. Here is the key to open those bars:

God’s son will be born as a baby.

Jesus will live as a human.

He will be sentenced, beaten, broken, and finally crucified.

He will die on that cross.

They will bury his body in a borrowed tomb.

But then he will rise. He will ascend to heaven.

And then he will sit down because his work of salvation is complete.


Now we are free to be hugged by God because the bars of sin are no longer between us.

We have been pardoned.

Let God hug you right now. He is waiting.

 

Yep, you can tell that I wrapped that one.

Almost every Christmas since we got married, we have had the fortune (blessing) of waking up on Christmas day at my in-law’s house. No, that is not an opening line to a joke. =-)

There is a tree and plenty of decorations. And of course, gifts. As a follower of Christ, I know that Christmas is about the birth of a savior and not the presents under the tree. I do my best to teach that to my family as well. But let’s be honest, I like getting stuff. My mother-in-law always asks me for my Christmas (and birthday) list. So I oblige her and write one out. =-)

christmas list

Generally, my wife will wrap the gifts for our two children and mine as well. I only wrap the ones for my wife and occasionally, some gifts for the other family members. It seems that every year, my father-in-law makes a comment about the wrap job on a gift. By now, it is really simple to tell which presents I wrap and which ones are wrapped by my wife. Getting those corners so crisp is near impossible for me. I think I use way more tape than necessary as well. Every time, my wrapping paper is not very good, and it is obvious.


Let me share another little story. On Sunday, I saw my friend at church. We have shared many life experiences and have grown together in the Lord. There was a book, Lessons from a Venetian Vinedresser by Robert Scott Stiner, that I had read. I passed it along to my friend. Both of us agreed that we should re-read it. It really is a phenomenal book. But, in the past six months I lost my copy of the book. So I ordered two copies, one for me and one for my friend. I gave it to him as church this past weekend. He was really surprised but very grateful to receive his own copy of the book. It was a great joy to be able to give it to him.

vinedresser book


Do you know what a mash-up is? Take peanut butter and chocolate and mash them together. What do you get?

Reese's-PB-Cups-Wrapper-Small

That makes a fantastically tasty mash-up!

So take my first story about not wrapping presents very well. Mash that story with the second one about giving the book to my friend. What do you get?

jesus in manger

Luke 2:7 says, “and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,”

 

Jesus was a gift to the human race. God even had it wrapped! Sometimes I don’t feel worthy to accept the gift. Other times I just plain reject it. Sometimes I feel honored to have the gift. There are many moments when I feel I need the gift.

Whatever the case (my feelings being irrelevant), the gift has been offered to me and to you. It comes to us free of charge. Anyone can have it. You don’t need special credentials or status. Young or old; rich or poor, the gift is exactly the same for everyone. We are given the opportunity to unwrap the gift and then God can do the cleaning up. We don’t get right and then accept what God has done.

So, what gift will you be opening this year? 

Cinnamon Melts and Salvation

Twice a month, I meet my pastor for some mentoring time. We usually meet at a McDonald’s that is close to both of us. I would say that I eat breakfast maybe there once every 4 to 5 months. He usually gets coffee or water. It is not the food that draws us but our conversation.

McDonald's logo

But this post has nothing to do with talking to my pastor and everything to do with the food because yesterday, I decided to eat.

Baihley (Yes, she had an ‘H’ in her name) was the cashier yesterday. This conversation is not exactly word for word but pretty close.

 

Me: “Good morning! I would like a Bacon, Egg, Cheese Biscuit please.”

Baihley: “The meal or just the sandwich?”

Me: “Just the sandwich please. And a small orange juice. Oh wait, and the Cinnamon Melts please.”

Baihley: “Ok, the total comes to $7.21.”

Me: “Um….I only have $7. Change the…”

Baihley: “I got this, hold on.”

Me: “What?”

Baihley: “The total comes to $5.23.” (She had a big grin on her face at this point)

Me: “Thank you. Not necessary but thank you.”


 

I do not know if Baihley is a manager but she gave me Cinnamon Melts for free.

1 Bacon, Egg, Cheese Biscuit = $3.19

1 Small Orange Juice = $1.79

1 Cinnamon Melts = $0.00

 

I am no one special. I had no coupon. It was not a special item on the menu. In fact, as far as I could tell, there was absolutely nothing that should have allowed me to receive free Cinnamon Melts. I did not deserve it. I did not earn it. I did nothing. It was all Baihley. I just said ‘Thank you.’

Here is that same paragraph with two words changed:

I am no one special. I had no coupon. It was not a special item on the menu. In fact, as far as I could tell, there was absolutely nothing that should have allowed me to receive free Forgiveness. I did not deserve it. I did not earn it. I did nothing. It was all God. I just said ‘Thank you.’


 

God is so extensively rich and vast in His love and mercy. He already paid the price. I have accepted His gift and now follow Christ with all my heart. Get past your past. Stop trying to earn something that is un-earnable. Your works-based mentality can keep you from experiencing God. Live today for Him. Say ‘thank you’ by living for Him.

Your actions will never earn salvation, they will only display it.