Come; for Everything is Now Ready

16But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’…(Luke 14:16-18)

I was separated from my wife and two children for nearly three months in the year 2000 when I left them in England to start work as one of the pastors in a large mega church in Cincinnati, Ohio (I was born in England).  You bet I was counting the days for our reunion! How lonely I was without the ones I loved. It brought me to tears a number of times.  As the time grew closer for their coming and our reunion, I began to prepare everything for us to be close again.  I checked the flight times again and again, I planned where we would eat on the way from the airport, I cleaned the house meticulously where we would be staying, but most of all, I prepared myself. My time was spent in the days before their coming in much preparation.  What joy I had when they arrived, we hugged and kissed repeatedly.  I was so excited to show them around Cincinnati, the city where we would now be living.  My girlfriend (my wife of 37 years) and my two children were coming home to their own country after 18 or so years of serving God in England.  You cannot understand the joy I felt to bring them back to their family and country.

If you are a Christian this world is not your home.  Like me longing for my family, our Lord is longing for our reunion.  He has spent nearly 2000 years preparing a place for us so that where He is we shall be also (John 14:1-3).  What joy will flood His heart upon our reunion, how He longs to show us where we will be living together. It must be disappointing to Him that some would not even be watching for their reunion day–their hearts are not beating with the same passion that is in His.  There are some who are just not aware of the days in which we are living; they are asleep and are not lovingly watching for His return. These are days of preparation. Before Passover and deliverance from Egypt the Jewish people went through days of preparation (they still do) as the Passover lamb was brought into the house for four days before it was slaughtered (Exodus 12:3-6). The houses of the Israelites were swept completely clean before Passover because it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and every crumb of yeast or leaven was swept up and gotten rid of. Yeast or leaven speaks of sin. In the preparation time before our deliverance we are to get ourselves ready to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). We are to be ready and watching for His return. This is no time for sleeping spiritually. Turn off the TV! Forget the sports! People are dying without knowing the Savior! We must do what we can to reach them with the truth! Prepare yourself for eternity!

Prayer: Father, keep me awake in the midst of a world that wants to drug me to sleep.  I really want to be wide-awake and sensitive to you so that I may walk in eager anticipation for that great reunion day. Amen!

Keith Thomas

Did You Respond to the Invitation?

As a professional singer, it was not unusual to be asked to sing for a wedding, but it was a bit unusual to sing for the wedding of a millionaire. I knew the wedding would be picture-perfect and was pleased to be able to participate, but when the invitation to the reception arrived I knew it would be something exceptional.

The reception was held on the top two floors of Seattle’s Columbia Tower, the Northwest’s tallest skyscraper, and it was even more wonderful than I imagined. There were waiters wearing snappy black tuxedos who offered luscious hor d’oeuvres and exotic beverages for the most discriminating tastes. The atmosphere was one of grace and sophistication. After about an hour of merriment the bride and groom approached a beautiful glass and brass staircase that led to the top floor. A satin ribbon, which was draped across the bottom of the stairs, was cut and the announcement made that the wedding feast was about to begin. The bride and groom ascended the stairs and the guests followed. What a lavish event of which to be a part.

A gentleman with a lovely bound book greeted us as we reached the top of the stairs. “May I have your name please?” “I am Ruthanna Metzgar and this is my husband, Roy Metzgar,” I replied. The gentleman searched the Ms. “I’m not finding it. Would you spell it please?” I spelled it slowly and clearly. After searching throughout the book the gentleman looked up and said, “I’m sorry, but your name is not here. Without your name in this book you cannot attend this banquet.” “Oh, there must be some mistake,” I replied. “I am the singer. I sang for this wedding!” The gentleman calmly answered, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you did, without your name in the book you cannot attend this banquet.” As I looked around the room I thought briefly of running to the groom and trying to plead my case, but with a hundred guests on the stairs behind us and every place at the tables assigned according to the thoughtful choices of the bride and groom, I stood silent.

The gentleman with the book motioned to a waiter and said, “Show these people to the service elevator please.” We followed the waiter past beautifully decorated tables laden with shrimp, whole smoked salmon, even gracefully carved ice sculptures. And adjacent to the banquet area was an orchestra, its members all dressed in dazzling white tuxedos, preparing to fill the room with glorious music.We were led to the service elevator, stepped in, and the waiter himself pushed “G” for garage. My husband, thoughtfully, did not say a word, nor did I. As Roy drove out of the Columbia Tower garage, we both remained silent. After driving several miles in silence, Roy reached over and gently put his hand on my arm. “Sweetheart, what happened?”And then I remembered: “When the invitation arrived for the reception I was very busy and I never bothered to return the RSVP. Besides, I was the singer, surely I could go to the reception without returning the RSVP!”

As we drove on I began to weep. I was not weeping because I had just missed the most lavish banquet of my life, but I was weeping because suddenly I knew what it will be like someday for people as they stand before the entrance of heaven: People who were too busy to respond to Christ’s invitation to His heavenly banquet. People who assumed that the good things they had done, even perfect church attendance or singing in the choir, would be enough to gain entry to heaven. People who will look for their name in the Lamb’s Book of Life and not find it there. People who did not have time to respond to Christ’s gracious invitation to have their sins forgiven and accept Him into their hearts.

And then I wept again because I was so grateful that I had, many years earlier, received Christ as my personal Savior and can be confident that my name is written in the most important book of all: The Lamb’s Book of Life. Is Yours?

(Copyright Ruthanna Metzgar, excerpted in Heaven, by Randy Alcorn.)

This Man Welcomes Sinners

1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2).

The way the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were mouthing these words was with much venom and disgust. They muttered together about him. The Greek word diagongyzō is used, a stronger word than the simple Greek word gongyzō, which is used more often in scripture, and it meant to complain or grumble (aloud). They were voicing their disdain so much that those that He was seeking could hear them.  I’m sure Christ’s heart went out to the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ that he was seeking to reach, that they might know God’s heart towards them is one of love and mercy extended.

The Jews saw tax collectors as being turncoats. They were making money hand over fist working for the Romans in taxing their Jewish brothers and sisters. They were sometimes ranked with prostitutes (Matthew 21:32), being thought of as the lowest of the low. The religious elite uses the word ‘Sinners’ to describe those who were held in bondage to a sinful lifestyle. The Greek word translated is harmartolos. It speaks of one not careful at all about the observance of ceremonial duties, an irreligious person. The term was used of either an immoral person or a person whose occupation was not ceremonially clean.

There were many of the population that had given up on trying to keep all the rules and regulations that the Oral Law, the traditions of the elders, had imposed on the general populous. It is the same today in many countries—it is just different religions these days. The rules were so numerous and nonsensical that it became a heavy burden to the people. Many felt alienated and far away from God. When Jesus came preaching about God’s love for lost and unloved sinners, they were drawn to Him like flies to rotting fish. We don’t know what Jesus looked like, but his personality was and is attractive, He is altogether lovely (Song of Solomon 5:16). When those who were caught in their sin looked at the Scribes and Pharisees, their scowls showed no godliness or grace at all. There was no accepting attitude. They did not see God’s love in the religious leaders. People know when they are loved. When they looked at Christ, He had an inviting heart and welcomed sinners eagerly. The orthodox Jews had written off the tax collectors and sinners as worthy of the fires of hell, but God is gracious and extends kindness to men. He takes the initiative in seeking those that are alienated from Him.

But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him (2 Samuel 14:14).

What a beautiful truth the above passage communicates. The creator of the Universe has devised ways of reaching out to each of us.  I believe that God has arranged situations in your life and mine so that through the painful trials we undergo, God reveals Himself to us. The trials you are experiencing are used by God to shake you out of spiritual lethargy, forcing you to wake up to the reality of a God who is seeking to draw you closer to Himself. How far will you go before you turn to the One who welcomes sinners?

Keith Thomas

Why Did God Forsake Jesus?

45From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27:45-46).

Have you ever wondered why God could forsake Jesus, the Son of the Almighty God? If you have ever had the opportunity to read through the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, one is struck by the majesty of the purest person to ever walk this planet. Even those that lived with Jesus, His disciples for three years, tell us that they had never seen this man commit any sin (1 Peter 2:22). Is it possible that there was a person who walked this earth and was sinless? The Bible records that there is not a man that has not sinned:

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

How could Jesus be different from you and I and not sin? This was the very reason that He was born of a virgin. The Holy Spirit had come on His mother Mary, and she conceived in a different way to the rest of the Homo Sapiens race. Jesus was 100% God, but also 100% man. Adam, the one who first sinned, had passed on to all of us this default in our nature to be disobedient to our Creator, what the Bible calls sin. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they were told,

16And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die(Genesis 2:16-17).

This death that they were warned about was spiritual death, which is separation from God, and, of course, physical death too. After they ate the fruit Adam and Eve did not fall down dead, but something happened within their inner nature that made them hide from God when He came to enjoy their company (Genesis 3:8-10). Sin causes a barrier between God and us:

2But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2).

God has gone to extraordinary lengths to take this barrier of sin that separates Him from us. He came to this planet in the person of His Son being born of Mary in order to take upon Himself the payment of sin that we owed because of our sin. In His justice, God cannot weigh some in the scales and say one has done more good than another. The problem is deeper than that. All of us have sinned. There is not a person on Earth who is good enough to live with a Holy God. The wage that we receive for our life of sin is to be separated from God for eternity, what the Bible calls death. But God in His love for us chose to come to earth and pay our penalty of sin Himself:

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them (2 Corinthians 2:19).

When Christ hung on the cross, He was loaded down with your sin and mine, the just for the unjust to bring us to God, that was why He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He took your debt of sin, the very thing that separates you from God, upon Himself. The just punishment of your sin was paid for at the cross. That was why He could shout a victory shout right at death, “It is finished!” The Greek words that are translated into English as “It is finished” literally mean, “Paid in full.” This is the Good News! Your sin and mine has been paid for! To become a Christian is to receive the full pardon for your sin that was paid for by Christ. Will you give your life over to Him and believe the good news of your deliverance from the penalty of sin, and ask Him to come into your life? There’s no better day than today.

Keith Thomas

The Self-Substitution of God

What does self-substitution mean? In his book, Miracle on the River Kwai, Ernest Gordon tells the true story of a group of Prisoners of War working on the Burma Railway during World War Two. At the end of each day the tools were collected from the work party. On one occasion a Japanese guard shouted that a shovel was missing and demanded to know which man had taken it. He began to rant and rave, working himself up into a paranoid fury and ordered whoever was guilty to step forward. No one moved. “All die! All die!” he shrieked, cocking and aiming his rifle at the prisoners. At that moment one man stepped forward and the guard clubbed him to death with his rifle while he stood silently to attention. When they returned to the camp, the tools were counted again and no shovel was missing. That one man had gone forward as a substitute to save the others. In the same way Jesus went forward and satisfied justice by dying in place of us.

Jesus was our substitute. He endured crucifixion for us. Cicero described crucifixion as “the cruelest and hideous of tortures.” Jesus was stripped and tied to a whipping post. He was flogged with four or five thongs of leather interwoven with sharp jagged bone and lead. Eusebius, the third century church historian, described Roman flogging in these terms: “the sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and…the very muscles, sinews and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.” He was then taken to the Praetorium, the Roman courtyard inside the fortification, where a crown of thorns was thrust onto His head. He was mocked by a battalion of 600 men and hit about the face and head. He was then forced to carry a heavy cross bar on His bleeding shoulders until he collapsed, and Simon of Cyrene was press-ganged into carrying it for Him.

When they reached the site of crucifixion, He was again stripped naked. He was laid on the cross, and six-inch nails were driven into His forearms, just above the wrist. His knees were twisted sideways so that the ankles could be nailed between the tibia and the Achilles’ tendon. He was lifted up on the cross, which was then dropped into a socket in the ground. There He was left to hang in intense heat and unbearable thirst, exposed to the ridicule of the crowd. He hung there in unthinkable pain for six hours while His life slowly drained away. Yet the worst part was not the physical trauma, nor even the emotional pain of being rejected by the world and deserted by His friends, but the spiritual agony of being separated from the Father for us—as He carried our sins.

Because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross, in full payment for what your sins deserved, God is now able to grant those who will receive it, a full pardon. The Lord shows us that He is not aloof from suffering. He Himself has taken all and more than many of us deserved upon Himself. He died in place of us and for us. On the cross God revealed His love for us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

If you will believe the truth of what God has done for you, the gift of righteousness and peace along with the Holy Spirit, will flood your mind and heart. He is as near as a prayer. Can you simply speak to Him and tell Him that you need forgiveness for things you have done? Ask Him to come into your life, and receive the free gift of eternal life.

Keith Thomas

Taken from the study that is second from the top in the middle column, Why Did Jesus Die?