The Greatest News Ever

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We all like good news, don’t we. If we really grasp this news, it will change the way we respond to God.

We know that the Gospel is the Good news, that God became a man and died on a cross for our sins, and that God raised Jesus from the dead so that we could be reconciled with God if we put our faith in Jesus.

Easter weekend is at the core of the Gospel. In spite of this good news, many of us still struggle with completely trusting God.  

Romans 8 verses 31 to 39 has five profound promises that are really good news. If we grab a hold of these promises, we will have no problem trusting God for whatever He allows in our lives.  

Here are the five promises:

1: God is for us (Romans 8:31)

Our Heavenly Father is not distant or disconnected from us. The expense that God paid for our salvation is beyond what we can imagine. The cross is an outpouring of perfect, divine love (Romans 5:8).

If God displayed His love for us in such a way while we were sinners and separated from Him, now that we are reconciled to Him, how much more will he give us all we need (1 Peter 2:9).

2: God graciously gives us all things (Romans 8:32).  

God our Heavenly Father gave His son for us so that we could be in right standing before God.

As a result of our standing before God, He blesses us. He blesses us with the basic things we need and then even the things we don’t need. God loves to bless His children.

It is a good daily exercise to look for those lavish gifts from the Father, the unexplainable special events or things that are simply gifts from heaven.

The more you see those gifts, the more you will understand His nearness and the truth that the eye of your Heavenly Father is really on you!

3: No condemnation (Romans 8:34).

This incredible chapter begins and ends with a promise we all need to hear regularly (see Romans 8:1).

Who can possibly condemn us? Verse 33 says that it is God who justifies, He has declared us righteous in Christ. Satan is the accuser, but his accusations fall on deaf ears, for we are God’s chosen and beloved ones. Jesus has already paid the price for our salvation. There is no condemnation.

Does this mean that we can sin as much as we like?

Absolutely not, Paul addresses this in chapter 6:2, “By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

When we sin, we are convicted and we repent quickly, bringing it to the cross (see 1 John 1:9). Our sins are forgiven, there is no condemnation. Sometimes, our emotions have to catch up with reality.

4: Jesus is interceding for us (Romans 8:34b).

Because Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, he is talking to God the Father about you. More than talking, he is your advocate and perfect high priest.

But not only is Jesus our High priest and advocate interceding for us, we also have the Holy Spirit interceding for us (see Romans 8:27 and Hebrews 7:25). This intercession in heaven assures us that we are secure.

5: You are loved (Romans 8:35-39).

God loves us with an irresistible and unconquerable love. Do you know how much you are loved?

The reality of life is that there is hardship, sickness and pain. It is a lie of the prosperity Gospel teaching that our lives are supposed to be free from sickness, pain, and hardship. But God uses the pain and difficult circumstances for our good (Romans 8:28).

God does not shelter us from the difficulties of life because we need them for our spiritual growth. God assures us that the difficulties of this life are working for us and not against us. God permits trials to come that He might use them for our good and His glory.

When going through trials, it is tempting to feel that God has deserted us. But that is when He is nearest, just like a parent who picks up a child who has fallen and hurt himself.

Our Heavenly Father is nearest when we feel the most unworthy, because of His great love for us. Paul goes on to write that we have absolutely nothing to fear (Romans 8:39). This is not a conditional promise of God, rather it is based on the victory that Jesus won on the cross. His victory becomes our victory.

This security in Christ is an established fact, and we claim it for ourselves because we are in Christ. Nothing can separate you from His love. If God be for us, who can be against us!

To live in this knowledge is freedom, but it requires faith to believe these incredible promises.

Too often we walk by feelings. Our feelings and emotions dictate our perceived reality, but by walking in faith and believing that God loves you with an all-encompassing love, changes the way we live. It changes the way we respond to challenges in life. We no longer have to walk in fear, but rather we can walk in perfect love (See 1 John 4:18).

Warren Wiersbe wrote, “The more we love God, the more we understand the love of God. And the more we understand His love, the easier it is to trust Him. After all, when you know someone intimately and love him sincerely, you have no problem putting your confidence in him.”

What if God asks for it all?

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What would you do if God asked you to give it all up?

When God tested Abraham in Genesis 22, He gave us the clearest prophetic picture of what Jesus would have to endure on the cross.

At this point in his life, Abraham was a seasoned man of faith. He had accomplished much and given much to the Lord. In Genesis 12, he obeyed God and left his fathers household to move to an unknown land, going in faith and giving his all to God.

God blessed Abraham and made a special covenant with him in Genesis 15, but Abraham didn’t have any children?

Where it was impossible in the natural, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with Isaac, the son of the promise.

All seemed to be going well, God has blessed, Abraham has been faithful and now surely, he would rest in his old age. But God has one more test for Abraham as we read in Genesis 22:1-19.

This account is traditionally viewed in light of Abraham’s tremendous faith in response to the unthinkable request from God to sacrifice his only beloved son, the child of the promise.

At first glance, we gloss over those words, probably because we may have heard them many times. But this is a horrifying story. God asks Abraham to slaughter his own son, this is counter to everything we know about God. This is offensive and challenges our sense of decency and our understanding of God. But this is recorded as Abraham’s finest hour, his most glorious victory in a life filled with challenges.

We have the advantage of knowing how the story will unfold, but for Abraham it must have been the most difficult few days of his life. Maybe he suspected this was a test, but we cannot know for sure.

In Genesis 22:4 we read, “On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.” It appears that he had been walking for three days with his eyes on the ground before him, deep in thought and anguish. Abraham’s quick response and silence seems to indicate resigned numbness to God’s will, steeling himself against the emotions tearing through his heart.

God stopped the sacrifice of Isaac right at the point where there was no doubt that Abraham was going to go through with the act of killing his son. God showed that He never intended to allow Abraham to kill Isaac and went on to explain the test to him.

This picture of God is not the soft and benevolent Heavenly Father that our modern-day Christianity likes to portray. On the contrary, the picture of Abraham lowering the knife was, in God’s eyes, the passing grade of the test. We must come to grips with the fact that the God of the Old Testament is still the same today, He has not changed. But what has changed is our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ (see Isaiah 55:8).

Isaac was not a young child at this point, and he was fully aware of what took place. It must have been incredibly traumatic for him; his own father betrayed him and was about to kill him.

But according to a few ancient Jewish rabbinical documents, it is said that Isaac was so convinced that he needed to be sacrificed, that he asked to be bound tightly. Which is why the Hebrew speakers refer to this account as the “Akedah” or “binding”.  

This gives us a totally different picture of Isaac, one of a willing sacrifice. Isaac is a “type” or foreshadow of Jesus.

Leading up to Mt Moriah, Abraham is silent. So too, God the Father is silent in Gethsemane at the leading up to the crucifixion of His beloved Son.

The fact that the wood for the offering was laid on the back of Isaac is a symbol of the cross that Jesus would one day carry on his shoulders.

Leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus was unwavering in his path to the cross and he was silent during his trial.  In the same way, Isaac walked alongside his father and scripture seems to suggest that they were not engaged in much conversation.

This account in essence is the salvation of Israel.  Jesus was sacrificed to save people from all nations.

The crucifixion was a test.  A test that Jesus passed to save all who would put their faith in him.

So many parallels, however, on every level, Jesus is the greater one who accomplished much more by his own personal sacrifice.

What makes this account so horrifying, is that Abraham stood poised with a knife to slaughter his own son, the son of the promise. As we think about the crucifixion of Jesus, we should be even more offended. Because of our sins, God the Father required a perfect sacrifice. The only way we could be saved was by the perfect sacrifice of the spotless lamb of God, Jesus (See Isaiah 53:6 and 2 Corinthians 5:21).

We must never miss the horror of the cross, where God the Father inflicted His perfect wrath upon God the son. That is the offense of the cross that is impossible for us to fully comprehend.

This picture on Mount Moriah became reality on Mount Calvary.

As we begin to focus on Calvary in this season, let us never forget the unimaginable price that was paid for our salvation.

What would you do if God asked you to give it all up? Do I trust God enough to be obedient when he invites me to put something on the altar. Do I worship Him above all else, putting His will and plans above my own. As you walk with God, there are going to be times when God asks you to give it all to Him (Matthew 16:24-25).

There will be things, even good things, plans and dreams, that we need to be willing to sacrifice before God is able to use us as He intends.

Are you willing to give it all to him today?

Khayelitsha, South Africa – Report Back

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Last December, I was invited to join a ministry called Team Xtreme International, on an outreach to South Africa. I prayed about it and felt the Lord leading me to go. Little did I know how significant it would be.

We were primarily proclaiming the Gospel in a city of 2.4 million people called Khayelitsha, which is on the outskirts of Cape Town. It is an area that has suffered from unimaginably high unemployment rates and crime. The name Khayelitsha means, “New Home” in Xhosa and was established about 40 years ago during the height of Apartheid.

Many people warned us not to go into Khayelitsha and even locals told us to leave because they were afraid for our safety. But the Lord had His angels protecting us every day.

We spent most mornings touring schools and ministering during their assemblies. We also did after school programs and evening ministry from a truck bed stage.

The school assemblies were the most effective ministry. As we shared the Gospel, 90% of children responded. We were able to spend time praying with students and pointing them to freedom in Christ. It is hard to put into words the amount of pain that these children experience, including sexual abuse, violence, absent parents and rampant drug use.

For me this outreach was probably the most impactful of my life. I wrestled with feelings of shame and guilt from the years of apartheid and feeling that I did not have a right to speak in my own country.

The words of Jesus about a prophet not being welcomed in his own hometown rang in my ears (Matthew 13:57). But the Lord redeemed that and set me free as a wife of one of the pastors we served with, welcomed me, and released me of the burden of guilt. She reminded me that it has been thirty years and that I should stop carrying an unnecessary burden. After that I felt tremendous freedom to declare the hope of the Gospel to the people of Khayelitsha.

In the course of the 18 days of ministry and working with other organizations, over 23,000 people heard the Gospel and almost 18,000 responded to the message. In addition to the proclamation, partner churches were connected, and many discipleship groups are already under way. God moved powerfully and we saw many miraculous healings and powerful conversion encounters.

One school was even shut down for the day after the time of ministry because all the students were so impacted that they couldn’t get back to their work.

But what about us? These are amazing stories, but we need the power of the Gospel in our schools and streets in America.

In Matthew 10, Jesus called his twelve disciples and then sends them out on a mission trip. He throws them into the deep end and warns them that they will experience persecution as they go out and proclaim the kingdom.

Jesus sent his disciples out as his witnesses, witnesses of himself. They were the forerunners in missions, going and telling others about Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven.

We know from the Great Commission in Matthew 28, that Jesus sent all his followers to go and be his witnesses, ambassadors.

The disciples were ordinary men, tradesmen, humble and broken, but Jesus gave them authority and sent them out.

The Bible doesn’t tell us how long they went for, it was probably a short-term campaign. In Luke 9 verse 10 we read that they returned and reported back to Jesus all that had happened.

Now it is true, that the message they carried and the message that we have today is different. Jesus hadn’t gone to the cross or risen from the dead. The victory and the power of the cross hadn’t been accomplished yet.

We have a different and far more glorious message; our message is far more powerful.

In one of the school assemblies I noticed the kids not paying attention, so I said to them, “what I am about to tell you is the most important thing you will ever hear in your life.”  That got their attention.  Do you believe that? It will be reflected in how much we are willing to be obedient to the Great Commission.

If you read Matthew 10 carefully it is clear that Jesus is speaking to his disciples, but he is also speaking to all future ambassadors for the Gospel. He is speaking to us and to future generations of believers.

In fact, the language Jesus is using seems to parallel what he says later, on the mount of olives in Matthew 24 about the coming persecution before his return. In our current age, the emphasis on “fear not” in verse 26 onwards is particularly helpful.

We are surrounded by people telling us what we can and cannot say in the public square.

The principle of one of the schools we visited had put Bible verses all around the school on the pillars and notice boards – I asked her, if she would get into trouble with the administrators, she said, “probably, but our school needs Jesus”.

Yesterday in our men’s breakfast, we heard several examples of some of our men who boldly stood up for the truth of God’s word in spite of threats. And God was powerful to deliver.

You see, we are all missionaries; some get on a plane, others go to the office or workshop. A missionary is someone sent by the Spirit of God to a particular place, to be an ambassador for Christ. Where you are is your mission field.

Jesus ends his challenge to his disciples in Matthew 10:32-33,  “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

Being a Christian is not like being a secret agent in the CIA, it is public, we are called to be bold witnesses (see Romans 10:14).

How are you doing in being an ambassador for Christ?