Have you ever stopped to consider this aspect of the crucifixion?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17 (ESV)

You know, in today’s culture we really can’t comprehend how extremely radical what Jesus said in John 3:16 would have been to the first century Jew. Jesus just said He loved the world … the entire world … that meant both His favored nation of Israel and all those filthy people of the Gentile nations. How could that be?

And yet as Romans 11 so clearly reveals, Gentiles were more receptive to the work of Christ Jesus than the nation of Israel …

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? Romans 11:11-15 (ESV)

But can you imagine the stumbling block that would have existed for the Gentile If Jesus had simply been killed, stoned, by His fellow Jews? His death would have simply been seen as some sort of Jewish martyrdom on behalf of his fellow Jews. But God had a different plan …

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Matthew 20:17-19 (ESV)

Note the hollow excuse the chief priests and scribes give Pilate as to why they won’t execute Jesus … and the reason the Romans instead needed to do it …

Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. John 18:31-32 (ESV)

Not lawful for them to put anyone to death … didn’t seem to matter when they were about to stone the adulteress to death … and that was according to the law … at least partially since the adulterer is MIA.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” John 8:3-5 (ESV)

Note what the Law states …

“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Leviticus 20:10 (ESV)

And let’s not forget how the deacon Stephen died as Saul (later to become Paul) watched …

Yes, Jesus loved the world … and the world … both Jew and Gentile … needed to put Jesus to death … according to the words of prophecy Jesus spoke.

God’s will, plan and purpose will not be denied and His prophecies will be fulfilled.

For that I am eternally grateful and thankful … praise God!!!

Bernie

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as Jesus approached death … beyond understanding

A few days ago I wrote about the intensity of the prayers of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Have you ever stopped to consider the fact that at that point Jesus knew that His time had come and He knew virtually every detail that would happen in the coming hours up to and including His burial?

How did he know those details?

First, He was intimately familiar with many of the very detailed Old Testament prophecies concerning his death. He was constantly referring to them as He taught and trained His disciples.

Second, multiple times He told His disciples exactly what would happen … consider this example, the third such foretelling of His death by Jesus …

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and HE WILL BE RAISED ON THE THIRD DAY.” Matthew 20:18-19 (ESV)

And that sequence of events is exactly what happened … including the concluding good news.

And finally, because of His intimate relationship with His heavenly Father and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, He knew that His time had come and everything would happen before the following day came to a close.

While mankind is typically blessed of God to know neither what will initiate their dying process nor the details of how they will die nor the timing of when they will die; Jesus was burdened … no I would say cursed … to know the intricate details of all three.   That is truly beyond my understanding and ability to comprehend what he must have gone through …

But I can imagine that resulting in extremely intense prayers as He approached His death.

Recently I asked God in prayer to reveal to me if I was dying, how I would die and when I would die … His response … or that of the enemy … proved to me over the next 24 hours of mental and emotional anguish that to be ignorant of those details is indeed a blessing of God (thanks for reminding me of that blessing Corban).

Something to consider, don’t you think?

Bernie

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visitors

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?‘ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV)

I believe in this modern era we live in, visiting can come in many variation others than just an in person appearance. As long as both sides can communicate back and forth instantaneously, IMHO that counts as a visit. So a visit could be …

  • A constantly by-your-side caregiver and companion
  • An in person and onsite visit
  • A phone call
  • Texting
  • Messaging
  • Skype

So I have a number of friends and family to thank for visiting:

  • My wife Sheryl and my grandson aka son Noah
  • My daughter Kerstyn and her fiancé Caleb
  • My daughter Cindy and her husband Jamey plus my granddaughters Mckenna and Chaney
  • My daughter Rebecca
  • My Mom and Dad
  • My sister Beth, my brother-in-law Jack and my niece Kate
  • My mentor and IN Christ small group … Corban, Joe and John
  • My brother-IN-Christ Jim D
  • My sister-IN-Christ Anne K
  • My long time fellow co-workers and brothers-IN-Christ Stacy and Steve
  • My co-workers Alan, Janet, Vichearo and Jamie
  • My loving boss Linda
  • My niece Christie
  • My hospice care workers Ellen, Nell, Savannah, Ashleigh
  • My chaplain Bob
  • My palliative pharmacy delivery team
  • Even my Aetna case worker Jose
  • Fill in the ______________ for those I’ve unintentionally omitted and those yet to visit

Thank you and note what Jesus stated about those who visit the sick above … reread it if you like.

Something we all need to realize and I think it is illustrated in the passage above, is that when we are sick we become a conduit for the love of God. What Jesus seems to be saying above is that as we do indeed visit the sick, the love shown for one another is a love for the body of Christ … a love for me is a love for the indwelling Christ Jesus … so it is indeed loving Jesus.  And I believe that as a conduit of love that love is bi-directional … you loving Jesus through me … and Jesus loving you through me … an unending circle of love.

Loving one another is loving Jesus.

Perhaps Andy Stanley says it best:

Your devotion to God is illustrated, demonstrated and authenticated by your love for others.

And I think that’s a wrap on this brief post.

Bernie

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as Jesus approached death … I can oh-so-relate

Since we all will face death of this temporary tent we live in at some point, it would seem we should look to the last 16 hours or so of Jesus life and see what we can learn as Jesus approached death. It seems like a good place to start would be in the Garden of Gethsemane …

As he goes to pray, Jesus tells the disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (NIV) One definition of sorrow is an emotion of great sadness associated with loss or bereavement while overwhelmed is defined as becoming filled with uncontrollable emotion.

I can oh-so-relate and suddenly this passage comes to mind …

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 (ESV)

So to be overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death does not reveal some failure on our part as a Christian … it reveals our humanity … one in which Jesus experienced our weaknesses.

Three times Jesus prayed the following in the Garden, “Abba Father (Daddy), if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as you will.” (NIV)

I can oh-so-relate to that prayer.

And His Abba Father knowing His Son needed to be strengthened …

“An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”

For Scripture to indicate Jesus needed to be strengthened suggest that as he approached death he felt some sense or degree of weakness and needed the strength that only His Father in heaven could provide… something I can oh-so-relate to …

Also recorded in the NIV of Jesus time in the Garden of Gethsemane …

“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

Anguish is defined as being in extreme distress of body and/or mind. Oh my Lord and Savior, I can oh-so-relate to that. And Jesus prayed His prayer even more earnestly, or in a more serious heartfelt manner … something I can also oh-so-relate to.

Now while I have wept and shed cups of tears, I honestly cannot say that my sweat is like drops of blood in the midst f my prayers.   What great intensity he must of lifted His prayer to His Abba Father!!!

I have notes suggesting these is even more to be written about how Jesus approached death … but this seems like a good stopping point for this morning.

Oh Lord, it is so comforting to know that as you approached death, you experienced so many of the emotions and weaknesses that I am experiencing, that our prayers sound so similar.  And to know that our Abba Fathers strengthened you in the midst to walk obediently in His will is such a comfort and assurance to me. May my response be a reflection of what you modeled for all of us as you approached death.

IN Jesus name … Amen!

Bernie

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so thankful

So thankful that Christ Jesus has/is/ and will be there every step of the way in the midst of this cancer ordeal.

So thankful for the love, companionship and care of my saintly wife Sheryl throughout our marriage and specifically throughout this ordeal.

So thankful that until recent weeks I have been able to work throughout the 8 years of this cancer battle.

So thankful for the last two chemo-free years, and for all the good memories my wife, Noah and the rest of my family experienced.

So thankful that my STD insurance claim was approved for 26 weeks instead of 12 and the approval process was completed in one week rather than two.

So thankful that I have LTD insurance that may kick in at the end of the STD.

So thankful for the excellent health insurance I have that I has covered such a huge portion of my healthcare over the last 8 years.

So thankful for the excellent medical care I have received through the last 8 years through hospitals, doctors, nurses, technicians, therapists, etc.

So thankful for the excellent palliative care I am now getting through In Home Hospice care through doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains.

So thankful that even though I am somewhat recliner-bound I can attend church each week via North Point Online.

So thankful for the love, care, calls and visits of my children, their spouses and fiancés and my grandkids.

So thankful for the love, care, calls, visits and support of my 87 yo Mom and 90 yo Dad.  So thankful they are alive and healthy and at a place they can both encourage and support me and my family.

So thankful for the love, care, calls, visits and support of my sister Beth, her husband Jack and my niece Kate.  Always there to help in every situation … what a huge, huge help and encouragement they are to our entire family!!!

So thankful for the love, care, calls, visits, texts and e-mails from my band of Christian brothers Corban, Joe, John and Jim D … so thankful to be surrounded by such spiritual giants and saints!

So thankful for the love, care, calls, visits, e-mails and cards of co-workers like Stacy, Steve, Lynn, Jamie, Alan, Janet, Vichearo and management like Linda, Madhu, Gail and Dennis … it’s nice to be valued and missed by people you have worked with for nearly 4 decades … and have them reach out to you in your time of need in such personal ways.

So thankful for all the family and friends that have reached out to my wife over her face book page.

So thankful for all the encouraging comments I have received from my online friends via this blog.

So thankful for all the prayers that are being lifted up on my behalf around the world … many days I am carried along on little more than the wings of those prayers … prayers that are answered by God in ways both big and small every day.

So thankful for the praise and worship music I watch and listen to … God seemingly lifts me up through music focused on his love, grace, mercy, character, works and promises.

So thankful for a limited diet of powerade, Kool-Aid, ensure, eggs, English muffins, Ego waffles and Orange Julius’ … the alternatives can be both worse and better.

So thankful that the weight has stabilized at a firm 185 lbs.

So thankful that yesterday, after almost 4 weeks, I could trim my beard and stop looking like a Duck Commander.

So thankful that the desire to read is returning.

So thankful that the desire to write has already returned.

So thankful that the newest sleeping pill finally helped me sleep virtually all night.

So thankful for today.

So thankful for the love of Jesus!

Give THANKS in ALL circumstances; for this is the WILL OF GOD IN Christ Jesus FOR you.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV)

Bernie

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bringing church into the homes of the afflicted

While there are both positive and negative effects of the world of technology we now live in, to me one of the positive aspects is that many churches are making their entire services or at least their pastor’s messages available to people online via the internet. We can watch and participate in church services online and even download messages to listen to over and over again … I usually need at least twice to make sure I haven’t missed something.

Now if your church is already doing this or you have a church you already attend this way, this post really isn’t for you … and I am indeed excited that you have such a divine technological gift available to you right inside your home on your computer … these are our electronic epistles of the 21st century.

Since the end of 2014, due to my cancer my health has been degenerating and going to church has just not been an option. Imagine my delight when we found the North Point Community Church with Andy Stanley in Alpharetta, GA makes their church services available both via my Roku player (Channel: North Point Online) and online via my computer on the Internet (http://northpointonline.tv ).

On Sunday, church services are broadcast at 9, 11, 2, 6 and 10 ET, Wednesdays at 8pm ET. Then sometime on Monday the entire service is made available on their messages section for on demand viewing and participation. My wife, my grandson and I usually participate in one of the live services on Sunday morning and then sometime during the week I watch again with pad, pen and remote in hand so I can take notes … hope I don’t wear out the pause button on my Roku remote.

This year we have really enjoyed all the series and the one off messages we have participated in. Both Andy Stanley and Clay Scroggins take their teaching to a depth on topics in the Bible that many choose to avoid … and they make it so easy to understand you can’t help but wonder, ‘Why Haven’t I heard these things before?’

We have been blessed by the following series in 2015 …

  • Re:solution
  • Brand: New
  • Now What?
  • The N Commandments (current series)

And while there are four series listed, it seems to me like the last three really all go together in teaching us all how Jesus intends life within the church and into the world around us to be for His followers.

Another interesting aspect of attending North Point Online (and in person) is that baptisms are a regular part of the service as needed. We get a brief video testimony of the person being baptized followed by the baptism itself. This, along with some of the worship music, takes me and my family into some of our most emotional moments of the service.

In April, we were fortunate enough to participate in a 90 minute Night of Worship via the Roku player. While watching that again on the Roku is not an option (hint … hint) it is available on the website. A number of the praise and worship songs at the Night of Worship as well as those sung each Sunday morning are North Point original written and composed by their seemingly unlimited team of talented praise and worship leaders. We find ourselves singing the songs all week and going back to listen to the worship music multiple times during the week … sometimes queing up specific songs for our family devotional time. Like Steve Fee said, “We love singing songs to Jesus!”

We love the fact that we can also get CDs of North Point Music and continue to sing these songs to Jesus in the car and wherever we go …

Finally I am just about finished reading Deep and Wide, a book where Andy Stanley provides the history of North Point Community Church and insights and background behind how they do church making it interesting and inviting for both the churched and the un-churched.   As we participate in online church, it provides many insights into how and why they do so many things differently … and I might add more engagingly.

So thanks @nponline for bringing church into the home of the afflicted … our family is indeed blessed by this divine gift!

Bernie

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awaiting the imminent miracle

I have really got this miracle thing all wrong.

Now that the doctors don’t have much hope for my recovery from the latest health crisis … the metastasized colon cancer is causing liver failure , I oftentimes say, ‘But we are still waiting for God to do a miracle’ … as if … the only miracle God could do in my life right now is one that would extend its duration in this temporal world …

Take a legal size piece of paper … a larger piece would be even better … and turn it landscape. Now draw a line the length of that paper horizontally. Despite the fact there is a beginning and end to this line, this represents eternity (yes, I know it’s a bad illustration … I’m all ears if you have a better way of illustrating it). Now somewhere in the middle of that line … draw a small dot. Now that dot represents your life in the temporal world.

Now what would be the greater miracle?

Would it be an event that extends my life inside the temporal line? Yes, Jesus can extend the life of this dying body for a bit more that I might continue to labor for Him and through me He might love others into the kingdom of God. To live is Christ …

Or would it be an event that moves my life outside of the temporal world into the alpha-omega line of eternity? Yes, I could join the sleeping saints awaiting the trumpet sound, arising in a resurrection body, meeting Jesus in the air, and living for eternity in the very presence of God. But could my death in this temporal world actually do more to draw others into the kingdom of God? To die is gain … if a grain of wheat falls to earth … it bears much fruit …

Both are miracles … and I would say the latter is greater than the former … nevertheless both are miracles at the hand of Almighty God.

And yet much like the Hebrews in Exodus, I find myself wanting to stay with my loved ones in Egypt … the temporal world I know and am comfortable with vs. embracing the step of faith that will take me into the Promised Land of eternity with Almighty God, trusting Him to care and provide for my loved ones.

So the question for me should not be if God does a miracle … faith should have me awaiting … no perhaps running toward … and expecting the imminent miracle Jesus is about to do … whatever it may be …

And that is probably enough food for thought today …

Bernie

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