Do You Pray with Persistence?

the_angelus“However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

Jesus is the person speaking in the passage above. He talks about a time just before He returns to earth, that the kind of faith and prayer that prevails will be a rare thing. The context of His words is from the Parable of the Persistent Widow, found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 18. The widow prevailed in her quest for justice from an unjust judge, by not giving up in her asking. Jesus uses the story to say that if an unjust judge gives in to a persistent widow, then how much more will the Holy God, who watches over all the affairs of men, grant the prayers of a prevailing woman of prayer!

It is my opinion that we are living in the time in which the Lord’s return is near, although how near, I would not like to predict. Many have made such claims in the past and have been proven to be wrong, to their embarrassment. However, there are some signs of the times which are obvious to any wise seeker of truth. The question is raised; “Will the Son of Man find faith on the earth?” We are living in a day when faith in Christ is under attack. In fact, people of faith in our Western culture are now being accused of being “politically incorrect.” Spirituality in our western worldview does not fit neatly, unless it is seen in an abstract way, or as a way of “self enlightenment or self improvement.” We are so consumed with our jobs and making a living, having so little time for anything else that we often do not have time for the really important things in life. We do not take the time to pray persistently as the widow did. The vast majority of the Church gets weary and gives up before God can reward their faith and prayer with the answer.

When Edmund Gravely died at the controls of his small plane while on the way to Statesboro, Georgia, from the Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport in North Carolina, his wife, Janice, kept the plane aloft for two hours. As the plane crossed the South Carolina/North Carolina border, she radioed for help: “Help, help, won’t someone help me? My pilot is unconscious.” Authorities who picked up her distress signal were not able to reach her by radio during the flight because she kept changing channels. Eventually, Mrs Gravely made a rough landing and had to crawl for forty five minutes to a farm house for help. How often God’s people cry out to him for help but switch channels before His message comes through! They turn to other sources for help, looking for human guidance. When you cry out to God for His intervention, don’t switch channels![1] Await His answer and keep looking to Him.

Keith Thomas

[1] 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Page 279, Edited by Michael Green, Baker Book House.

What Does the Word Passover Mean?

imagesOn this night of all nights, God told Moses that He would protect the Israelites if they would slay a lamb as a substitute and put the blood of the lamb upon the lintel and sides of the doorframes of their houses. It had to be a life for a life.

12“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt (Exodus 12:12-13).

God was requiring faith in the blood of the Passover lamb. Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The Israelites were to take a bunch of hyssop plant and dip the hyssop in a bowl of some of the blood from the sacrificed lamb. This was a foretelling of what would happen at the crucifixion of Christ:

A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips (John 19:29).

The blood of the innocent lamb was dipped into the bowl at the bottom of the door of the Israelite homes. The word that is translated into English as bowl is the word sap. It is a word rooted in the Egyptian language meaning the threshold or ditch that was dug in front of the doorways of houses in Egypt to avoid flooding. The blood of the sacrificial lamb was collected in the sap, the gulley or bowl at the foot of the door. The hyssop plant was dipped in the blood and used to strike the lintel and each side of the doorframe. It sure sounds like God wanted to leave the Israelites with an image of a cross over the door. Can you imagine the Hebrew children listening at the door at the screams from neighboring houses that had just lost their first-born? “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). There is more to this than first meets the eye. For a number of years, I thought that it was God who was passing by the household of those who had faith in the shed blood of an innocent sacrificial lamb, but this is not the case. The Lord uses another passage to describe what is actually happening. In Isaiah 31:5, the prophet says:

5Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will ‘pass over’ it and will rescue it” (Isaiah 31:5).

The context of this passage is one of protection to the city of Jerusalem. He describes Himself as hovering over the city and shielding them from harm. Ceil and Moishe Rosen, in their book Christ in the Passover has this to say about the word that is translated “pass over:”

“The verb “pass over” has a deeper meaning here than the idea of stepping or leaping over something to avoid contact. It is not the common Hebrew verb, a-bhar, or ga-bhar, which is frequently used in that sense. The word used here is pasah, from which comes the noun pasha, which is translated Passover. These words have no connection with any other Hebrew word, but they do resemble the Egyptian word pesh, which means “to spread wings over” in order to protect.”

The picture we are to hold on to is that of the Lord protecting us from harm. This brings new light to the passage where Jesus was grieving over the city of Jerusalem when He said: “O Jerusalem! Jerusalem…How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). The God we have come to know and love wants to bring us close to His heart and to wrap His arms around us as a hen would gather her chicks under her wings and protect them.

23When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down (Exodus 12:23).

God Himself is our protection and help. As a separate destroying angel goes through the land, God was hovering over the household—those who had faith in the innocent blood of the substitute lamb over the door. There had to be an element of obedience to God in what He had told them. He comes close, wrapping His arms around His people to protect them and bind them to Himself, not permitting the destroyer to enter their houses. This is what the Passover celebration meal is all about. It is to remind the Israelites of their deliverance from bondage and slavery. What happened in the book of Exodus was just a picture of what God wanted to do through Jesus becoming our Passover Lamb, the substitute that we are to place our faith in. Pharaoh is a picture of Satan, who has had us under cruel slavery to our sins. Egypt is a picture of the world system in which we live. Christ is our sacrificial Lamb who has lain down His life to deliver us, if we will place faith in His shed blood applied to the door of our hearts. God wants to presence Himself over the homes of our hearts and to live with us for eternity. Thank God for Jesus!

Keith Thomas

The God Who Graciously Stoops

crucifixion-worship-jesus-crossThe Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

The Great Creator God, who made all things, is a God of grace. He gives favor on those undeserving of it. It was His plan from the very beginning of the ages to bring forth a bride for His Son, the Lord Jesus. This bride is composed of all who are born-again of the Spirit, who bows the knee to receive God’s gift of complete pardon for rebellion and a life of sin. When one considers our rebellious and sinful nature and our corrupt hearts before God, this is wonderful grace.

To understand the full meaning of grace, we need to turn to its usage in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word chen means “to bend or stoop.” It has the idea of “condescending favor,” the kind of favor that a King has for one of his people.

Queen Victoria of England, when she was a girl and had just become queen, was asked to sign a death warrant for a person who, by court martial, had been condemned to death. It is said that she said to the Duke who brought her the warrant, “Cannot you find any reason why this man should be pardoned?” The Duke said, “No, it was a very great offense; he ought to be punished.” “But was he a good soldier?” The Duke said he was a shamefully bad soldier, and had always been noted as a bad soldier. “Well, cannot you invent for me any reason?” “Well,” he said, “I have every reason to believe from testimony that he was a good man, although a bad soldier.” “That will do,” she said, and she wrote across the warrant, “pardoned”—not because the man deserved it—but because she wanted a reason for having mercy.[1]

God has stooped down to you and me in grace and mercy bestowing His wonderful favor upon all those who receive the free gift of forgiveness, writing across our warrant, “pardoned.” This He did not do grudgingly, but lavishly and joyfully. It was what He purposed in His heart to do! That which we couldn’t do, that which was impossible for us, He has accomplished in Christ. This is self-sacrificing love, agape love. Justice demanded that the soul that sins must die, but God in His love for us came in the person of His Son, Jesus, to take our place, to die our death instead of us at the cross, to taste death for every man. “Jesus…by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).

Allow me to say something very important and let it sink into your soul: there is not one thing that you could do to make God love you more, and there is not one thing that you could do that could make Him love you less. Read that again and let it sink in. Paul, before he was converted, was a murderer. Worse than that, he murdered Christians and thought He was doing God a favor. Do you think that offended the Holy Spirit? I cannot think of anything worse. Yet, while he was self-righteous, and persecuting God’s saints, God the Father had mercy and extended grace to him while he was a murderer. He did not wait for Paul to clean himself up or even have a change of heart. God gave him a new heart! Don’t think that there is anything too terrible for God to look at or to forgive. Don’t think for a moment that there is any sin that could possibly hold you back from experiencing the grace of God. Let His grace break through to you, wherever you are, being aware of His favor upon you right now!

To read further about the God of All Grace, scroll to the series Grace + Holy Spirit = Power on the Homepage and download or read the first message called “The True Nature of Man.”

Keith Thomas

[1] Charles Spurgeon, Human Depravity and Divine Mercy, http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols10-12/chs615.pdf

What Does Your Conscience Say?

FSeveral years ago I was driving through France when a red light came on in the dashboard of my car. I had to stop and visit a garage to make sure that the engine was okay to travel further. Just as the red light is to the dashboard of my car, guilt is to the soul of a man. Guilt is like a red warning light that tells you to stop and correct the problem before going on. Where is the conscience? Can’t we just turn off the red light in our souls? Brain scientists have found no area of our physical makeup where the moral conscience is found, that part of our nature that tells us we have done something wrong. That is because it is part of our soul—our invisible nature that goes on beyond physical death. Dear reader, this is critical stuff—you must take care of guilt before this life finishes because this is what God says:

6“Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty (Exodus 23:6-7).

You may say to me that you have never sinned and do not feel guilty. Then let me ask you a question—Have you kept the Ten Commandments all your life? Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen something that belongs to another? The greatest commandment in the law is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Have you kept that commandment? If not, then even though you might not feel guilty, upon your death the Law of God and your conscience will stand and accuse you before God in the courtroom of heaven. Your conscience is just the early warning light. In the courtroom of heaven, the God of creation has seen and will see every act and every thought you have ever committed. You must make peace with guilt on this side of eternity. We cannot be wrong about these things. Each of us only has one life to live. There is no second chance after death. The Bible says, “It is appointed to man once to die and then to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We must make sure that the red warning light of guilt that shines on the inside of us, is satisfied and that the guilt has been washed away. The good news is that the God of heaven loves you with an everlasting love and has initiated a plan to save you from your guilt and eternal destiny without Him. This is what He has said to you:

“For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them (Isaiah 61:8).

“The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. 
27And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:26-27).

God has loved you so much that two thousand years ago, He came down in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, and took your place as the Sin Bearer. The God of justice cannot just weigh your good works beside your bad works—which sin would be the tipping point? All sin is an act of rebellion against a Holy God and His law. His justice demands payment of the life of the individual for even just one sin (James 2:10). His plan right from the beginning was to take away your sin by Himself taking the punishment for your sin. It would be a New Covenant or agreement between each of us that takes up His free offer of taking your guilt away and on to Himself. It was a covenant signed in the blood of a sacrificial lamb—Jesus, God in the flesh, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). God has made it so simple that even a child can know the joy of sins forgiven and cleansed. Turn to Him, repent (change the direction of your life before God), and believe the gospel (the good news about sin being paid for). Place your life into the hands of Christ and believe (trust) Him:

28Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29).

Keith Thomas