Better is One Day

Better is One Day

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
8:50 AM

Psalm 84:10 – “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

Three years ago today, my friend, my brother and my colleague, Phil Adcock won the victory and went home to be with the Lord. I originally wrote that three years ago today I lost…..but I had to change it because we didn’t lose Phil, the truth of the matter is that we will see him again. And the next time we see him will be in a far better place than where we are now.
He and I spent a lot of time together. We visited together, we prayed together, we studied God’s word together, we laughed together, we played basketball together (he only had one leg but several times he blocked my shot and just smiled), we ate together, and most importantly we worshipped together.
I miss those times and I miss that relationship. I am however thankful for the time that we had together. I only knew him for 3 years but it seemed as if we knew each other our whole lives. Before I came to pastor the church where I am now and Phil was preaching at the 9am service and handling a lot of the visitation and administration duties, we talked for 3 hours on the phone. 3 hours! I’m not a talking on the phone type of person, but he and I had an instant bond.
That conversation was followed by a few more before my wife and I moved to east Tennessee. After we got here those conversations happened almost every day. For that I am thankful. Shortly after moving here, Phil officially became our Associate Pastor. Our conversations became even deeper then.
And then the day that I will never forget, the day in which he was diagnosed with cancer. I was visiting at my mom and dad’s house and he called me on the phone and told me the news. We talked about it and we prayed, and I remember thinking everything was going to be ok.
That day marked the beginning of a battle that he won over a year later on February 27, 2010. When Phil and I talked about the battle and about what could happen, he always told me, “either way I win”. And of course what he meant was if I beat cancer I win, and if not I really win because I go home to be with the Lord.
He was right. 1 Corinthians 15:54 says, “then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory'”. On this date three years ago, Phil was given the victory by our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). I told him on the day he was diagnosed that he was going to be ok. I was wrong,because today he is far better than ok. He is alive and perfectly well not just ok. Death has been swallowed up as has sickness, and because Jesus is alive, Phil is alive.
Isaiah 25:8 has become one of my favorite verses in the Bible, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” We serve an amazing God, a God who destroys death and gives us life. That is His grace, the sin of our ancestors in Genesis 3 caused death to come into the world, and certainly we are sinners and guilty as well. We made death come in, but God in His grace gives us life. He swallows up death forever and through Jesus we become victorious even over death.
Phil used to passionately sing in worship, “better is one day in your courts better is one day in your house, better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere.” I can’t hear that song without thinking of him. I believe wholeheartedly the words of that song, but he fully knows them today doesn’t he?
He knows them because he is in that place. He is in the courts of Almighty God worshipping Him and praising Him and doing more than we can ever imagine. Fully healed, victorious, with a huge smile and a laugh. I miss him but I don’t wish him back here, because he has it far better than we do. His faith has now become sight and he has seen the Jesus who made it all possible. The Jesus who died on the cross to pay for Phil’s sins and mine (and yours). He is in the presence of God, and God says, “in my presence there is of joy.” Phil knows fullness of joy today.
We don’t do we? We get glimpses but we don’t know joy in all its fullness. We still struggle with sin and we still deal with difficulties and pain. We still weep, but all the while God in His Fatherly love is “wiping away every tear from our eyes.”
Phil is experiencing fullness of joy, we aren’t. But one day we will be as we too are given the victory and as we see death swallowed up forever. I look forward to that day. But while I am here I will sing and I will believe, Better is One Day in the presence of God, so let us live each day while we are here in the presence of God, the one who through His grace and love gives us the victory both now and forever.

Tickets to Where?

Tickets to Where?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
5:21 PM

Luke 23:43 – “And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.'”

Eddie Money passionately sang in the 1980s, “I’ve got 2 tickets to paradise.” Recently this song has had a revival of sorts even though it is over 20 years old. Ed Reed, safety for the Baltimore Ravens, sang it at his team’s pep rally before they departed Baltimore on their way to New Orleans and a Super Bowl title. And Travelocity (I believe) also uses the song in one of their recent travel commercials.
“I’ve got 2 tickets to paradise”. If you were the one singing the song what would the tickets say on them? Where would you be going? What do you consider paradise? Some people would say the Hawaii, others might say Alaska. For some it would be Florida and for others in might be a remote resort in the Caribbean. Others might say something simpler, just a trip to the beach or Gatlinburg, or just having a stress free night at home.
Other people would say that paradise for them is a place where their worries are gone. Or a place where they didn’t have to worry about sickness, or work problems, or relationship issues. Where is paradise to you?
Jesus promised the thief on the cross that “he would be with Him in paradise.” There has been a lot of debate over what Jesus meant, but I think the simpler approach is the best, He was telling the thief that he would be with Him in heaven. Heaven a place that is paradise.
That’s pretty amazing isn’t it? The thief got a ticket to paradise and he paid absolutely nothing for it. Go back and read that statement again: he paid absolutely nothing for it. The thief brought nothing to Jesus. He didn’t buy his ticket. He didn’t earn it. He didn’t deserve it. The only thing that he brought to Jesus that day was his sin. And in what reformed theologian Martin Luther called “the great exchange”, Jesus took his sin and gave him a robe of righteousness. The thief had to have that robe if he was going to get into paradise. He had to be ready and clothed for the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19). It was his ticket so to speak. He had one ticket to paradise, that he paid absolutely nothing for.
What is paradise like? We don’t know for sure, but we are told that it is a place of fullness of joy. Why? Because Jesus is there, and He tells us “in His presence there is fullness of joy.” It is a place where “there is no sickness” for there is a tree in the midst of it with fruit for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2). It is also a place where there is “no weeping, no crying, no mourning, no pain.” In other words heaven is a place where there is no sickness, death, temptation, sin, pain, or reason to cry. There are no problems and no relationship issues in heaven. Sin and its damaging effects does not dwell there.
It is also a place that is our home. Jesus says, “In His Father’s house there are many mansions,…..and I go there to prepare a place just for you.” It is a place where Jesus prepares us a place. What do we know about that place? What kind of house is it? A mansion? A room (as others translations render it)? I’m not sure it matters because it is a place where our Father is and because of that it is our HOME. We long for heaven because heaven is our home. We were created and redeemed for it.
The question becomes do we have a ticket? The thief did, he brought nothing, all he did was turn to Jesus in faith and repentance (repentance means to change your mind in one sense and the thief definitely changed his mind because earlier he had been mocking Jesus, now he turns to Jesus and cries out to Him for help). He obviously turns to Jesus in faith because He believes that Jesus has a kingdom and is thus a King. So he says, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” But because he turned to Jesus in that way, He was graciously given a ticket. He was given the promise of God, “today you will be with Me in paradise.”
What about you? Is your ticket “punched”? Have you repented of your sins and placed your faith in Jesus? If so you should sing with an even greater passion and joy than Eddie Money or Ed Reed did, as you belt out, “I’ve got a ticket to paradise.” It’s a place so wonderful that we can’t even begin to conceive what God has in store for us who love Him.

The Rescue Mission

The Rescue Mission

Monday, February 25, 2013
5:48 PM

John 19:30 – “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished’, and He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit.

I walked into my son’s room last night to spend a little time with him while he was going to sleep, and right away I noticed that he had been crying. It wasn’t a huge, full blown cry but instead a soft, truly sad whether you see me or not cry. I just looked at him and waited for him to begin the conversation, which he did.
“Daddy, is it going to rain tonight?” he said as he glanced out the window.
“I don’t think so,” I replied. Instantly I knew this was more than a weather related question. My son isn’t really scared of storms much less rain, so using my keen daddy detective skills I was able to deduce that something was wrong.
“Why are you worried about it raining,” I asked, hoping this would lead him to share the problem with me.
“Just wondering,” and then silence. Until he finally said, “I left my monk outside.” Monk is not a member of a Catholic monastery but rather his stuffed monkey. I had one when I was his age and I named it the exact same thing. Monk was left outside and he was worried about him.
I realized at that moment that I had a decision to make. It was late, it was dark, it was getting cold, and who knew where Monk was. It would have been easy to say, “its not going to rain, I’ll find Monk tomorrow.” But that isn’t what he needed. He needed Monk to be rescued. So I said, “don’t be upset, I’ll go find Monk.” As I said those words I was nervous, what if I can’t find him, then what? But out the door I went.
I turned on the flashlight on my phone and I began the search. I looked on the steps, on the walk, on the picnic table, on the patio, but I couldn’t find Monk. So I went into the grass and I searched high and low, still to no avail. One more place I thought, the swing set, and so I shined my light on the ladder leading to the swing set’s play house and there Monk sat. Honestly he was sitting on that ladder looking like he was waiting to be rescued. So I scooped him up with a smile on my face and brought him back in. Monk was rescued and so was the night as my son smiled from ear to ear and went to bed happy.
Later on that night I went to bed as well, and I thought about what had happened. I hadn’t done anything really but what little bit I did put a smile on my son’s face because Monk was rescued. It didn’t take long to complete but it was an important rescue mission because it made a difference to my son.
2000 years ago there was a much more important rescue mission (infinitely more important in fact), as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God come in the flesh went to the cross to redeem fallen humanity. It was an event that changed the course of history and it was an event that made an eternal and everyday difference in the lives of the children of God.
You and I were slaves to sin, to fear, to death, and to hell, that is until Jesus came and rescued us. The Bible uses many other terms to describe what happed; Jesus redeemed us, Jesus was the propitiation for our sins, Jesus forgave us, Jesus expiated our sins. He did all of that and more. He truly set us free, He truly rescued us.
When He bowed His head on the cross and said, “it is finished”, Jesus wasn’t admitting defeat. Instead He was proclaiming victory. Victory because He had fulfilled and finished God, the Father’s plan. Victory because He was getting ready to conquer death and hell. Victory because He had redeemed us and set us free.
Notice that the Bible says He gave up His Spirit. He gave it up willingly they didn’t take it from Him. At any moment Jesus could have rescued Himself and come down from the cross. In fact some of the soldiers mocked Him and said, “if you truly are the Christ then come down from the cross and save yourself.” But of course He didn’t. Why not? Because if He had rescued Himself He couldn’t have rescued us (D.A. Carson calls that one of the ironies of the cross).
Jesus could have been selfish. He could have chosen to save Himself, but He didn’t. Why not? Because saving us was that important.
One new theologian (I use the term loosely) said that Jesus dying on the cross amounted to “cosmic child abuse.” He would be 100% wrong. It wasn’t abuse because Jesus willingly chose to go to the cross, and He could have chosen to come down at any point. He chose the way of the cross, God the Father didn’t forcefully put Him there. Jesus went willingly. That is why the Bible says, “He endured the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him (my paraphrase)”
Jesus willingly chose to go to the cross. He willingly chose not to rescue Himself, so He could rescue you and me. Jesus is the Lamb of God who took away the “sins of the world” when He conducted the most important rescue mission in history and He redeemed us from our sins.

Gently

Gently

Sunday, February 24, 2013
6:04 PM

Hebrews 5:2 – “He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.”

It has been said of Christians that we are the only army in the world that shoots our own wounded. And sadly enough many times that is true. We are sometimes quick to condemn and quick to judge. We can be quick to listen to the sermon and say, “well the pastor let old so and so have it today didn’t he?” We are good at seeing the speck in other people’s eyes while ignoring the planks in ours. Or to be more truthful I am.
We are quick to point out others faults and we can be quick to deal harshly with other because of that. The Bible however says that a “high priest can deal gently with other people, since that high priest himself also deals with weakness.” The writer of Hebrews makes a good point doesn’t he? We should be graceful in our dealing with other Christians because we are sinners just like they are. We all are “beset by weaknesses” and therefore should come along beside of each other and encourage each other. We should pray for one another, love one another, and deal gently with one another.
Sometimes that is hard to do though isn’t it? And yet the writer of Hebrews says this is what a high priest did and he stood as an example to the entire congregation of Israel. Beyond that and more importantly however Jesus is our great high priest. He is not beset with weaknesses, in fact He is perfect, but He understands us because He has been through what we go through.
Hebrews 4:15 says, “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.” He has been through all that we go through, yet He went through it without sin. He has been through temptation, difficulties, relationship problems (see how His family treated Him at certain times). He has experienced pain and loss and all of that. He understands what we go through, so when we struggle on this journey of life He is able to deal gently with us.
Think about how He treated the thief on the cross. The thief looked at Him and said, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus said, “today you will be with me in paradise.” He dealt with him gently didn’t he? The thief just moments earlier had been mocking Jesus and making fun of Him, but now when he turns to Jesus, Jesus treats him gently.
Why? Not because of how good the thief was. Not because of the thief’s good deeds. Not because of all of the religious things the thief had done (presumably he wasn’t religious at all). Jesus treated him gently because of the grace of God.
A high priest had many duties in the Bible and one of those duties was to be a Godly example to the people. Jesus is our great high priest and what an example He is too us. He stands strong against sin, He loves, He heals, He prays, He encourages, He shows the importance of the word of God. He is our example and He deals gently with us, so we ought to deal gently with one another.
Sometimes that is hard to do isn’t it? Sometimes it means forgiving others, sometimes it means not arguing, sometimes it means loving when we don’t feel like loving. We must deal gently with one another. Why? Because Jesus did, and because Jesus taught us to, and because the Bible says “they will know we are Christians by our love.”
The world knows we are Christians by our love. Not by the fish magnets on our cars, not be our Christian T-shirts, not by the amount of money we spend at Lifeway. They won’t know we are Christians by our Chris Tomlin CDs or our church attendance. They won’t know we are Christians by us knowing every word to every hymn in the 1973 Baptist hymnal (even though that would be extremely impressive), they won’t know that we are Christians by any of those things. They will know we are Christians by our love, so we deal gently with one another, for the glory of God.

99.99%

99.99%

Saturday, February 23, 2013
10:24 AM

Luke 23:43 – “And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.'”

We are concerned with fairness aren’t we? How many of us have ever said, “well that’s just not fair,” or perhaps we said to someone who was struggling, “sometimes life is just not fair.” How about as a little child? Have you ever yelled, “no fair, no fair.” You have and I have, we are concerned with fairness.
That brings us to the cross, specifically it brings us to one of Jesus’ final words from the cross, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Those are beautiful words aren’t they? Spoken by Jesus on the cross to another man who was also dying this horrible death. “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Beautiful words, lovely words, to be sure, but they aren’t fair words are they? At least they don’t seem to be upon closer inspection.
Jesus is talking to a man who is a thief and not only a thief but presumably a life time criminal. A man who hasn’t done right, a man who has taken from other people, a man who has broken the 10 commandments (at least two of them – he had stolen, and earlier he was mocking Jesus, so he has not only stolen things but he has also taken God’s name in vain.) He is not a good man. He has spent 99.99% of his life doing his own thing and living life only for himself. Even just a few minutes earlier he is mocking Jesus and now with only minutes to live he cries out for Jesus to remember him when He comes in His kingdom.
He lived the entirety of his life for himself, all but the last few minutes. He was a ruthless lawbreaker, that was what he was known for. That was what he was arrested and killed for. That was his identity at least until the waning moments of his life.
And it was in those waning moments that he just simply cried out to Jesus and placed his faith in Him. There was no doing good things, no trying to undo bad things, no going to church, no giving to the poor, no reading his Bible, not even a whole lot of prayer. He did nothing good, and yet Jesus says to him, “today you will be with Me in paradise.”
When you really look at that it doesn’t seem fair does it? In fact its anything but fair. He didn’t deserve heaven but he is given heaven. He doesn’t deserve it but he is given the promise of God. It wasn’t fair, he certainly didn’t deserve it, he certainly didn’t earn it.
What did he deserve? What did he earn? The Bible says, “the wages of sin is death.” What he deserved was death and hell. After all he had lived almost all of his life totally ignoring God, he had done anything good, he was a lawbreaker and a thief. He certainly didn’t deserve heaven, but that is what he got.
God didn’t deal with him fairly, and I’m glad that He didn’t. Because it means that He doesn’t deal with us fairly either. If He did guess what we would get? We too would get death and hell. But because of His grace He gives us the same promise that He gave the thief on the cross. When we cry out to Him our sins are forgiven and we too are given the promise of eternal life.
It wasn’t about the good works that the thief did, and it’s not about the good works that we do. It wasn’t about the religious actions that the thief did, and it’s not about those religious works that we do either. It’s not about the thief, it’s not about us, it’s about the grace of God.
God was punishing the sins of the world (the thief’s and ours) in Jesus. So sin was punished. God who is a God of justice and righteousness and holiness did not turn His eyes away and permit sin. No God hates sin, and sin always must be punished. So Jesus willingly went to the cross and God punished sin on that cross. He punished sin by punishing Jesus. It was there that your sins, my sins, and the sins of a thief who lived 99.99% of life against God were punished. And it was there that your sins, my sins, and the thief’s sins were forgiven. It was there that gave Jesus the ability to say to that thief “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Through the cross God fairly punished sin. Through the cross God reached out in love to us, to offer us His forgiveness. Through the cross God says to us, “you can be with me in paradise.” The cross is where the righteousness and the love of God meet. His holiness and His grace are on display, and we are the beneficiaries. Our sins are punished, but we are forgiven. “Today we can be with Him in paradise.” That is grace.

Accusations Abound

Accusations Abound

Friday, February 22, 2013
9:10 AM

Revelation 12:10 – “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”

Accusations abound don’t they. Turn on the news, pick up a newspaper, check the internet, someone is always accusing someone else of something. Some of these accusations have merit, some don’t. In just the past week or so, we have read about Oscar Pistorius who is accused of killing his girlfriend, Drew Peterson was not only accused of killing his third wife, he was sentenced to 38 years for it. A man in our area was arrested and accused of driving drunk for the fourth time. Rush Limbaugh accuses our country of going down the tubes. Accusations are everywhere. Not even the sporting world is immune, for just a few weeks ago, 2 legendary wide receivers accused their coach of deliberately losing the Super Bowl 20 years ago. Accusations abound.
And for some reason we are fascinated by them. We watch, we listen, we read and we shake our head. We hear the accusations and we wonder how could anyone do that. How could they throw a Super Bowl, how could they kill someone they supposedly love, how could they allow our country to go down the tubes, how could they drive while intoxicated again. How dare they, we say and so we are proud of ourselves that we haven’t committed the same “mistakes”.
We watch and we smile and we are glad that we are not guilty. But we are aren’t we? We may not be guilty of the aforementioned sins or “mistakes”, but we are guilty. For “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We have all sinned. We are all guilty, and because of the one the Bible calls “the accuser of the brethren”, accusations abound. In fact we are told that he accuses us day and night before God. In other words the devil loves to accuse us. He loves to point out our sins and our problems. He loves to accuse and show our mistakes. That is depressing isn’t it? It is depressing because we know that we are guilty and it is painful to be accused over and over and over again.
In the face of those accusations however flies the good news of the Gospel. Like an explosion it demolishes the accusations with the triumphant word, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are guilty, but the price has been paid and now we are justified. It is just as if we had never sinned. We are free and free with no condemnation.
Still the accusations come don’t they? Even though we are forgiven, even though “our sins are washed away” as the hymn says, the accuser still likes to accuse us. And if we listen we end up getting depressed don’t we? We end up thinking thoughts like, “how could God ever love me? Or what if I lose my salvation? Or why do I keep making that mistake? Or …….” and we sink into despair.
It doesn’t have to be that way however, we don’t need to listen to the accusations. Instead we listen to the Gospel, we listen to Romans 8 that triumphantly proclaims, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” As some theologians of old put it, “we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves continually.” If we are believers we know that we cannot be condemned. Accused? Yes. Condemned? No way. The blood of Jesus has taken care of that. We are forgiven, free, justified, reconciled to God.
One day the blood of Jesus will also take care of the accusations. There is coming a day when Jesus returns, the Lamb of God who shed His blood to take away our sins, but also the roaring Lion who was victorious at the cross and who now returns in victory. When that day comes the accuser will be removed, he will be thrown down. He will be silenced forever. The accusations will end, and we will fall at the feet of Jesus worshipping Him for His deliverance, for His forgiveness, for His not condemning us, and for Him silencing the accuser. I long for that day, how about you?

Trying to Find the Right Clothes for the Feast

Trying to Find the Right Clothes

Thursday, February 21, 2013
7:06 AM

Revelation 19:12-13 – “His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself, He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God.”

Have you ever tried to find the right clothes? We all have haven’t we? When we are going to a special event we look and we look and we look because we want to make sure what we are wearing is exactly right. Maybe it was to a school event when we were younger, or on our first date with our spouse, or to our wedding, or to a job interview, or whatever we want to make sure that we wear exactly the right thing.
Jesus however didn’t spend a lot of time trying to decide what to wear did He? In fact He didn’t have a whole lot of choice because we are told that He didn’t even have a place to lay His head. Trying to find the right thing to wear wasn’t very high on His priority list.
When He was led away to be crucified, He was given a borrowed robe, so that soldiers might mock Him and make fun of Him and call Him a King (the irony was that He really was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords). Then they stripped Him down, hung Him on the cross, and in order to further humiliate Him they gambled for His clothes.
While He was on the earth what He wore wasn’t very high on His priority list. Jump forward though to Revelation 19, even though we aren’t given His name here we know exactly who John is writing about, He is writing about Jesus, the Living Word of God. He is returning here, but not just as the Lamb of God, but rather also as a roaring Lion. You can see that He is coming for battle, His eyes are a flame of fire, on His head are many diadems, and then there are His clothes, He is wearing a robe, but not just any robe, He is wearing a robe that is dipped in blood.
Presumably it is a robe that is stained with His blood, the blood that He shed on the cross to purchase victory for the people of God. The blood that He shed when He won the ultimate battle over sin, over death, over hell, and over Satan. His shed His blood, but not in defeat. He shed His blood in victory. And now He is returning, yes He is the Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world, but He is also the roaring, victorious Lion. His clothes remind us of both. He is the Living Word of God triumphant, so that we can individually be victorious, and so that collectively we can be the church of God triumphant.
The church is mentioned in Revelation 19, we are His bride triumphant and victorious coming to the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:7). Guess what else is mentioned? Clothes. The church has clothed herself with fine linen bright and pure. She is clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and through His blood made ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb. He imputes (gives) His righteousness to us so that we can be made ready for the feast. But it isn’t just any feast, it is THE feast. The marriage supper of the Lamb, the Redemption of history. The feast is coming, Jesus is ready, clothed in a robe dipped in His blood. The church is ready clothed in a robe of white, pure because of the blood of Jesus.
The feast is coming. The question becomes do you have your clothes on? You don’t need to waste time picking them out, Jesus has already given you the clothes, the robe if you will. All you need to do is put it on by repenting of your sins and putting your faith in Him. Are you clothed in the righteousness of Christ? Are you ready for the feast?