Friday, May 29, 2015

FREELY REDEEMED



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
** Become a Follower of The Christian Walk at http://the-christian-walk.blogspot.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor, Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again.

Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now a captive. For this is what the Lord says:

“You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.”

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them. And now what do I have here?” declares the Lord. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares the Lord. “And all day long My name is constantly blasphemed. Therefore my people will know My name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.”

Isaiah 52:1-6

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Are you redeemed?

It’s a question that everyone needs to consider because the answer carries with it the very prediction of our respective futures and yet you rarely hear the subject discussed with any sense of urgency. I guess the world is too enticing for people who are looking for instant gratification in the here and now at the expense of whether or not they will live beyond their death and rest assured death will come to everyone.

So again I ask, are you redeemed?

Maybe the very question raises a secondary one such as:

What does it mean to be redeemed?

In other words, people may need a definition of the word redeemed in order to understand that it is critically important to them. With that, allow me to offer the following:

First, a look at the dictionary offers the following two definitions of redeemed:

1. to compensate for the faults or bad aspects of (something).

2. gain or regain possession of (something) in exchange for payment.

Now let me relate this to the matter of our human shortcomings and how redemption has offset those shortcomings.

We have to start at the truth that we are all sinners. There is no debating this for ever since Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), mankind has been afflicted with a disease of iniquity that placed them in direct odds with God their Creator. Without redemption, every person would be destined for destruction and annihilation.

So where does one find redemption where our faults and bad aspects (namely, our transgressions) are compensated for? And what is the price we have to pay to gain God’s favor, forgiveness, and mercy to avoid His wrath and judgment?

I’ll tackle the first question and then the second.

In answer to the first question, there is only one source of our redemption and His name is Jesus Christ. He is the only way we can be saved and He is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6). He compensates for the sins we have committed because He already paid the penalty we rightfully deserved when He was crucified on Calvary’s cross more that 2,000 years ago, bringing God’s salvation promise to anyone who would simply place their faith and belief in Him as Savior (John 3:16). Because Jesus died for us, we gain redemption when we accept Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer, acknowledging through that commitment that there is no way possible by which we can save and redeem ourselves. There is only one way and that is through Jesus.

And so with that, I think you can figure out the answer to the second question for there is no cost imposed on us to gain redemption. It is freely given to us even though it was far from free in being attained. Jesus suffered greatly in our place so that we might have the opportunity to be redeemed and saved. We must never forget that our free redemption came at a cost; our salvation was purchased with the shed blood of Jesus Himself who offered Himself as the Lamb of God, a living sacrifice to atone for mankind’s sinfulness once and for all.

As we look at our scriptures for today from the opening verses of Isaiah 52, we find the Lord speaking to His people about free redemption but in a different sense. Look again at these verses here:

Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor, Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again.

Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now a captive. For this is what the Lord says:

“You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.”

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them. And now what do I have here?” declares the Lord. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares the Lord. “And all day long My name is constantly blasphemed. Therefore my people will know My name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.”  Isaiah 52:1-6

Here the Lord is talking in reference to judgment but it is not the eternal judgment that is to come to every person in this world: past, present, and future. No, this is the seventy year judgment He had imposed on His people for their willful worship of idols and false gods in direct disobedience to His commandments. The people of Israel were sold to their captors, the Babylonians for nothing. God imposed no fee on them for doing His judgment work. And when the time came, God would not have to pay a cent to redeem His people and restore them to their homeland to rebuild their homes, their faith, and His temple in Jerusalem.

And so you have it. You know what redemption is, you know where it comes from, and you know it comes freely to you when you believe in Jesus who bore the punishment you deserved in order to bring you redemption.

So my friends, are you redeemed by the precious shed blood of Jesus?

Please don’t end this day without answering, “Yes.”

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A CUP WE SHOULD NEVER WANT TO DRINK FROM



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
** Become a Follower of The Christian Walk at http://the-christian-walk.blogspot.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

Awake, awake! Rise up, Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes people stagger.

Among all the children she bore there was none to guide her; among all the children she reared there was none to take her by the hand. These double calamities have come upon you— who can comfort you?—ruin and destruction, famine and sword—who can console you?

Your children have fainted; they lie at every street corner, like antelope caught in a net. They are filled with the wrath of the Lord, with the rebuke of your God. Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine.

This is what your Sovereign Lord says, your God, who defends His people:

“See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’ And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked on.”

Isaiah 51:17-23

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Go back to the day of Jesus’ arrest.

You’ll recall that He was in the garden of Gethsemane, not sitting around waiting for Judas to lead an armed crowd to take Him into custody but rather to pray. He gives us insight into His anguished state of mind when He says this to the disciples who were with Him:

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” Matthew 26:38

And with that, He went and prayed the following words:

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39

He then returned to His disciples only to find them sleeping, an act which drew His swift rebuke before He went back and began to pray again saying:

“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Matthew 26:42

Again, He went back to His disciples and once again they were sleeping, even though He had told them not to do so prior but instead of rebuking them again, He returned to where He was and the scriptures said He prayed the same prayer for the third time.

At the heart of those three prayers was the cup Jesus would have to drink from and as we gauge from His words, He wasn’t looking forward to it. This is because this was no ordinary cup He would drink from but rather the cup of salvation.

What does that cup look like?

Let’s look at our verses from Isaiah 51 as the Lord is addressing the exiled Israelites who were in the midst of their seventy year exile in Babylon, a penalty imposed on them by God after they willingly chose to worship idols and false gods:

Awake, awake! Rise up, Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes people stagger.

Among all the children she bore there was none to guide her; among all the children she reared there was none to take her by the hand. These double calamities have come upon you— who can comfort you?—ruin and destruction, famine and sword—who can console you?

Your children have fainted; they lie at every street corner, like antelope caught in a net. They are filled with the wrath of the Lord, with the rebuke of your God. Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine.  Isaiah 51:17-21

Note here that the Israelites had drunk from cup of judgment, full of God’s wrath. They were drunk with His consequences, staggered and disoriented, captives in a foreign land and under foreign authority and oppression. No one was there to aid them. All that they had was laid to waste, left in the ruins of destruction and desolation. They were afflicted by the punishment of the Lord God Almighty and there was no escape or pardon from His verdict, His people were going to be abducted and held for seventy years, the full content of His cup of judgment.

Now, back to Jesus.

Why would the perfect Son of God who had never sinned have to drink from the cup of His Father’s judgment?

Because it was God’s will for His Son that He bear the judgment that mankind deserved.

And so Jesus was crucified on Calvary’s cross, fully drinking all of what was in the cup of judgment so we wouldn’t have to. As we saw in His prayer, it was a cup He knew would carry excruciating pain and suffering as the wrath of His Father was poured out against the very sin that He despised.

Friends, I think you would agree that the cup of God’s judgment is one we should never want to drink from. Ever. We do have a choice.

For if you have placed your belief in Jesus as Savior, then you don’t have to worry about the cup because the price you owe for your sins has already been paid in full by Christ Himself. He has drunk for you and so you have been justified with eternal life awaiting.

But if you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior, then be warned. For you will one day drink all of what is in God’s cup of judgment and when you do, there will be no more life for you, only destruction and annihilation.  

I don’t know about you but I’m certainly glad that I will not have to partake of the cup of God’s judgment, giving thanks to Jesus for drinking from it for me. I pray you won’t have to partake of it either because only a fool would choose to do so.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

DON’T FORGET THE LORD IS WITH YOU



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
** Become a Follower of The Christian Walk at http://the-christian-walk.blogspot.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction?”

“For where is the wrath of the oppressor? The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread. For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord Almighty is His name. I have put My words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of My hand—who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”

Isaiah 51:12-16

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

I read an interview recently regarding a woman, Ingrid Betancourt, who had been abducted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) in 2002 and held captive for six and a half years before she was rescued. In the interview, she details how she wrote a book about her experience, Even Silence Has an End, which tells of her captivity experience in which she endured being mocked, chained by the neck, and drug through the Columbian jungle. The period of adverse treatment and abuse led her to a spiritual awakening that dispelled her fears and brought her the kind of comfort that only the Lord can bring. Here are a few excerpts from that interview by the Religion News Service:

Q: What was your prayer life like?
A: At the beginning it was very eclectic. I didn't really have a spiritual discipline, but once I accepted that this abduction was going to last for longer than I thought, after a year I began reading the Bible. For the first time in my life I read it from the first page to the last. It transformed my relationship with God.

My days would have two, three, sometimes more hours a day of just meditation. I was alone I could do a very thorough introspection. I discovered spirituality, something that meant something to me and was not the ritual of the religion. It changed my life.

Q: Was there ever a point where you felt like God didn't hear your prayers?

A: Probably during the first year, but it wasn't God not hearing my prayers, it was me not hearing him.
Q: What brought you comfort during your captivity?
A: My faith was my first source of comfort -- the understanding and trusting in God. The idea that even if I couldn't understand why I was there and that it seemed so unfair to be in that situation, there was this God who could see beyond my pain and that was taking care of me in a way that made my ordeal part of his project.
Q: Did you talk about God with your captors?
A: Yes, I talked about God a lot. I'm not skilled to spread the word of God; I don't know how to do it. I was facing communist people, which would be very adamant about making clear that they didn't believe in God.

Many of the guerillas who were acting as my guards and officially were not supposed to believe in God would come to me with words that were very astonishing. They would whisper things like "I am praying for you. I cannot say 'I believe in God,' but I truly believe in God and know that one day you will be free."

The time of bondage became a time of faith restoration and edification for Ingrid but also a time of faith discovery for her captors. The Lord was at work in the midst of her hardships, bringing her comfort while reaching into the hearts of those who were oppressing her.

Six and a half years is a long time but now imagine the Israelite people having to endure seventy years of oppressive exile in a foreign land. It was tough and the people needed the Lord to bring them the same kind of comfort that He had brought Ingrid more than 2,000 years later. As we see from our scriptures today, we find He does just that:

“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction?”

“For where is the wrath of the oppressor? The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread. For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord Almighty is His name. I have put My words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of My hand—who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” 
Isaiah 51:12-16

So what is the message the Lord is sending to His people in bondage?

I believe it is simply this: Don’t forget that I am the Lord God Almighty and have no fear for there is nothing beyond the work of My hands.

The Lord in speaking to the Israelites (as well as us) wants us to remember the following:

1. He is our comforter.

I, even I, am He who comforts you.

The Lord is our only true source of consolation during times of difficulty. No one gives us the encouragement and hope that He does.

2. We need not fear mere mortal human beings.

Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction?

If God is for us, who can stand against us? (Romans 8:31) Certainly no one in this world, that’s for sure. And yet we too often forget that we have an almighty Lord who is with us and is working things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). The Israelites feared their captors. We fear any other number of things that can come against us. Through His word, God reminds us that we are to stand firm in our faith and keep our trust in Him, the One who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth, the One that everything in the world is subordinate to, and the One who possesses the power and strength to bring all things to submission at the display of His power and strength.

3. He is our liberator.

“For where is the wrath of the oppressor? The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread. For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord Almighty is His name.

Ingrid Betancourt maintained her hope that the Lord would free her from the bondage of captivity and the Lord did just that. It was not His will that she die at the hands of her captors and although she was being held against her will, the Lord sustained her and kept her alive. Eventually, at the Lord’s appointed time, He arranged for Ingrid’s release, just as He did for the people of Israel, the cowering prisoners who were eventually released by King Cyrus and allowed to return to their homeland after the Persians overthrew the Babylonians

The Lord will liberate us as well from our circumstances at the time He so deems. In between, we only need to turn to Him in faithful prayer and allow Him to fortify our confidence and reliance in Him, the Lord God Almighty who can do all things.

4. He puts His words in our mouths.

I have put My words in your mouth.

God always gives us His words. We can either read them through the scriptures, receive them through the Holy Spirit, or have them imparted on us through a combination of those provisions. We really have no excuse for not receiving the words of the Lord and when we do, we find wisdom and encouragement and conviction and truth as to how we are to live this thing called life.

God wanted the Israelites to remember His words because they contained the promises they needed to sustain themselves in the midst of their circumstances. The same applies to us today and as we saw through Ingrid’s testimony, she did just that, clinging to the words of the Lord for hope during her abduction period.

5. He grants us protection.

I have covered you with the shadow of My hand.

Friends, God is our great Protector and very present help in times of trouble. Even in the midst of hardship, we need to find solace and shelter in the shadow of His mighty hand and know we are not alone for He is always with us. In the Lord, we can always find hope.

Friends, the Lord is speaking to us in a powerful way today and expecting we will put His message into action through the way we handle the difficulties of life, no matter how severe they might be. For in the end translation, we need to always remember that the Lord is with us and for us - providing us comfort, dispelling our fears, bringing us freedom, placing His words in our mouths, and providing protection, now and forever more.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com